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Dr Wortle's School
on 8 February 2015
I have read nearly all of Anthony Trollope’s books over the years, many of them multiple times. I find myself drawn back to them often by their wonderful stories, and by the economical yet telling prose of Trollope. Anthony Trollope lived from 1815 to 1882, and this book, first published in 1881 represents one of his later works. It is not a long book by his standards, at less than 300 pages, but every word is superbly chosen, no word or part of the narrative wasted.
Like many of Trollope’s books, the story revolves around the struggle between an individual and Society about morals or conventions that are acceptable. It offers a strong viewpoint on what one man, Dr. Wortle, believes is the right attitude to take towards a colleague whose marriage is shown to be invalid (this is not a spoiler, as it is made very clear right at the start of the book that Mr Peacocke’s marriage was made under strange circumstances). While Society takes its own view on Mr Peacocke and his ‘wife’, and Dr. Wortle’s subsequent actions, Dr. Wortle himself is equally strongly determined in his attitude towards all parties concerned. The thread of the narrative does force the reader to question their own attitudes (even if our current societal view is somewhat different towards Christian marriage than that of the late nineteenth century), and is sufficiently complex to engross the reader in a thrilling story of right, wrong and ultimate consequences.
As always, this is a wonderful novel by Trollope, and I recommend it highly.