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The Warden is the first novel in Anthony Trollope's series known as the "Chronicles of Barsetshire", published in 1855. It was the fourth novel that Trollope wrote.
The Warden concerns Mr Septimus Harding, elderly warden of Hiram's Hospital and Precentor of Barchester Cathedral. Hiram's Hospital is an alms house supported by the income from a medieval charitable bequest to the Diocese of Barchester. Mr Harding has been appointed to the position of Warden through the patronage of his old friend the Bishop of Barchester, who is also the father of Archdeacon Grantly to whom Harding's older daughter, Susan, is married. The warden lives with his remaining child an unmarried younger daughter Eleanor.
The story concerns the impact upon Harding and his circle when a zealous young reformer, John Bold, launches a campaign to expose the disparity in the apportionment of the charity's income between its object, the bedesmen, and its officer, Mr Harding. John Bold embarks on this campaign out of a spirit of public duty despite his romantic involvement with Eleanor and previously cordial relations with Mr Harding. Bold attempts to enlist the support of the press and engages the interest of The Jupiter (a newspaper representing The Times) whose editor, Tom Towers, pens editorials supporting reform of the charity, and presenting a portrait of Mr Harding as being selfish and derelict in his conduct of his office. This image is taken up by the commentators Dr Pessimist Anticant, and Mr Popular Sentiment, who have been seen as caricatures of Thomas Carlyle and Charles Dickens respectively.
Ultimately, despite much browbeating by his son-in-law, the Archdeacon, and the legal opinion solicited from the barrister, Sir Abraham Haphazard, Mr Harding concludes that he cannot in good conscience continue to accept such generous remuneration and resigns the office. John Bold, who has appealed in vain to Tom Towers to redress the injury to Mr Harding, returns to Barchester where he marries Eleanor.
Those of the bedesmen of the hospital who have allowed their appetite for greater income to estrange them from the warden are reproved by their senior member, Bunce, who has been constantly loyal to Harding whose good care and understanding heart are now lost to them.