History: This book is the final novel in Anthony Trollope's series known as the "Chronicles of Barsetshire", first published in 1867. Trollope did not have to look very far for a real-life model upon whom to base his portrait: noble-minded, religious, arrogantly revelling in his poverty in a half-mad way, Josiah Crawley was partly based on the author's own father.
Plot: The Rev. Josiah Crawley, impoverished curate of Hogglestock, has been accused of stealing a check for 20 pounds. Confused about how the check came into his possession, he has no defense to offer. Mrs. Proudie, shrewish tyrant over her husband, the Bishop, is determined to hound Crawley out of his meager position. Also caught up in the problem is young Henry Grantly, son of the aristocratic Archdeacon, who is in love with the beautiful and intelligent daughter of the accused man--a match that his father bitterly opposes.
The novel is notable for the non-resolution of a plot continued from the previous novel in the series, The Small House at Allington, involving Lily Dale and Johnny Eames. Johnny continues be hopelessly in love with Lily, and proposes to her numerous times, and she continually says no that she is still in love with Adolphus Crosbie, who betrayed her in the previous novel.
Another storyline features the courtship of the Rev. Mr Crawley's daughter, Grace, and Major Henry Grantly, son of the wealthy Archdeacon Grantly. The Archdeacon, although allowing that Grace is a lady, doesn't think her of high enough rank or wealth for his widowed son; his position is strengthened by the Reverend Mr Crawley's apparent crime. Almost broken by poverty and trouble, the Reverend Mr Crawley hardly knows himself if he is guilty or not; fortunately, the mystery is resolved, a distant relative did send Mr. Crawley a cheque, and the real thief was determined.
Through death or marriage, this final volume manages to tie up more than one thread from the beginning of the series. One subplot deals with the death of Mrs. Proudie, the virago wife of the Bishop of Barchester, and his subsequent grief and collapse. Mrs. Proudie, upon her arrival in Barchester in Barchester Towers, had increased the tribulations of the gentle Mr. Harding, title character of The Warden; he dies of a peaceful old age, mourned by his family and the old men he loved and looked after as Warden.
Review: “The Last Chronicle of Barset” is one of the great novels in the English language, and yet it is not widely read. The reason for this is obvious: it is the LAST novel in the Barsetshire series of novels, and a relatively small number make it all the way through the previous five volumes. This is a shame, because while all the previous novels are quite excellent and thoroughly entertaining, the final novel in the series is a work of an entirely different level of magnitude. This novel is also one of the darkest that Trollope wrote.”
Opening Line: “I can never bring myself to believe it, John,' said Mary Walker the pretty daughter of Mr George Walker, attorney of Silverbridge.”
Closing Line: “That I have been induced to wander among them too long by my love for old friendships, and by the sweetness of old faces, is a fault for which I may perhaps be more readily forgiven, when I repeat, with solemnity of assurance, that promise made in my title, that this shall be the last chronicle of Barset.”
Quotes: “She understood how much louder a cock can crow in his own farmyard than elsewhere . . .”