Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Comparing Framley Parsonage to Pride and Prejudice

A few years ago, my regional JASNA organization had a meeting in which we looked at how Jane Austen influenced other writers.  I tackled Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and blogged about my thoughts in these posts:

A friend of mine and fellow Janeite, Maxene, gave a paper comparing Trollope’s Framely Parsonage with Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  After finishing Framely Parsonage and posting about it, I reread Maxene’s paper and thought it so good that I got her permission to post it on my blog.

So, for your reading pleasure, courtesy of Maxene…
[Spoiler alert - Maxene does summarize the plot in her paper below]


Attributing literary influence is always difficult. We’ve seen that even with all the similarities between North and South and Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Gaskell never did acknowledge being influenced by Jane Austen.

With Anthony Trollope, it’s a far different matter. Trollope’s novelist mother, Fanny Trollope, loved to read Austen’s works and they were widely read in the Trollope household by the entire family.

When Anthony was nineteen, he stated that Pride and Prejudice was the best novel in the English language. He retained his high opinion of Jane Austen throughout his life. So, we may very well ask: was Trollope thinking of Pride and Prejudice when he wrote Framley Parsonage  in 1859-60?

Framley Parsonage, fourth novel in Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles, is typically Victorian with multiple interconnecting plots. I’ll give a summary before turning to an analysis. One plot in the novel involves Mark Robarts, a young vicar living at Framley Parsonage with his wife, Fanny. Mark was given the living by his school friend, Lord Ludovic Lufton, who lives at Framley Park with his mother, Lady Lufton, the reigning social matriarch of the neighborhood. Mark, trying to climb the social ladder, foolishly signs a guarantee for the villainous Mr. Sowerby, the local MP. He eventually faces financial ruin and social scandal when he cannot pay this debt.

The second plot concerns Lucy Robarts, Mark’s sister, a petite, rather plain young woman, who comes to live with Mark and Fanny at the Parsonage. Lord Lufton, after some initial hesitancy,  falls in love with Lucy, seriously displeasing his mother, Lady Lufton, who has already made an arrangement with the Archdeacon’s wife, Mrs. Grantley, whereby Ludovic would marry Griselda Grantley, beautiful, but shallow and insipid.  Lady Lufton tells her son: “She (Lucy) is not of that class from which I would have you choose.” Ludovic, however, proposes to Lucy and she, knowing of his mother’s hostility, refuses him, for his sake, and lies to him about her love for him. Lucy declares that she will marry Ludovic only if his mother asks her to do so.

It isn’t until Lucy has shown her real mettle by caring for the critically-ill Mrs. Crawley, wife of a poverty-stricken curate, thus endangering her own life to save that poor woman’s, that Lady Lufton realizes Lucy’s strength of character and her worthiness to marry Ludovic. Lady Lufton then goes to the Crawley cottage and asks Lucy to marry her son.

Just from this short summary, we can see some similarities with Pride and Prejudice.

When we look further, we can see that there are similarities in the financial positions of the two heroines. Both Lucy and Lizzy are poor, Lucy even poorer than Lizzy and also an orphan. And note the similar names as well. Neither young woman is considered to be a beauty, Lizzy being compared unfavorably to her much prettier sister,  Jane,  and Lucy to the elegant but heartless Griselda Grantley.

Secondly, there is a putative pre-arranged marriage in both novels. Lady Catherine and Lady Anne Darcy supposedly had committed their progeny “while in their cradles” to a life together while Lady Lufton and Mrs. Grantley have decided that their children should wed.

Thirdly, unequal marriages play a part in both novels. Lord Lufton is aristocratic and wealthy, and we know that Mr. Darcy has at least 10,00 pounds a year. But here is where there is a great difference between the two novels. Trollope, the Victorian, acceded to his era’s conventional wisdom that an unequal marriage, based on social position and wealth, would lead to misery since the young lady would never be able to fit into an elevated society and to fulfill her social responsibilities. To that conventional wisdom, Austen would say: “Ha!” Austen’s idea of an unequal marriage is inequality of intellect. Conventional wisdom would applaud Lucy’s refusal of Ludovic’s proposal as well as Lizzy’s of Mr. Darcy’s first, but, as we know, Austen did not have Elizabeth refuse Darcy because of any perceived social inequality, but rather because of his treatment of Jane and Wickham.

The real difference between the novels is expressed in the two scenes between Lady Lufton and Lucy  on the one hand and of Lady Catherine and Lizzy on the other.  We recall that Lizzy rejects Lady Catherine’s attempts to paint her as a polluter of the shades of Pemberley.”He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter,” she affirms and she refuses to promise never to enter into a betrothal with Mr. Darcy. Lizzy also says these important words: “And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment’s concern—and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.”

But in Lucy’s scene with Lady Lufton, she says the following: “ I could not endure to come into this house as your son’s wife, and be coldly looked on by your son’s mother. Much as I loved him, much as I do love him, dearly as I prize the generous offer which he came down here to repeat to me, I could not live with him to be made the object of your scorn. I sent him word, therefore, that I would have him when you would ask me, and not before.”   The narrator states that Lady Lufton:  “did sympathize with her, and admire her, and to a certain extent like her….and to feel that but for certain unfortunate concomitant circumstances the girl before her might have made a fitting Lady Lufton.” Lucy acts out of pride, yes, but a different type of pride from Lizzy’s. As the narrator states: “strong as her love was yet her pride was perhaps stronger.” Lucy bows down to social convention—She will not go where she is not welcomed.

Fourthly, both Lizzy  and Lucy underestimate their lovers. When Darcy leaves the inn at Lambton, Lizzy believes she will never see him again.  With Lydia’s situation resolved without scandal, she regrets Darcy’s having known about it since she thinks he would never renew his offer to someone related to Wickham. However, as we know, Darcy has raced to the rescue for Lizzy’s sake and done so altruistically, not wishing her to know what he has done.

In Framley Parsonage, Ludovic, too, acts faithfully and heroically. He, unfortunately, must suffer another rejected proposal by Lucy, but he also rescues a family member. He redeems Mark’s debts, blaming himself for not warning Mark about Sowerby’s machinations, and thus saves Mark from financial ruin.

In both novels, there is a theme of indebtedness, albeit less strong in Pride and Prejudice. Darcy, in trying to keep from Lizzy knowledge of his part in saving Lydia, doesn’t want her to incur any debt to him. When he renews his proposal, he wishes her acceptance to be free and open and not clouded by her gratitude. Lucy, by insisting that Lady Lufton ask her to marry Ludovic, wants to be welcomed into her new family without feeling indebted.

With Ludovic’s paying of Mark’s debts, the two plots of Framley Parsonage—the church-related and the courtship, come together. Pamela Regis, in her History of the Romance Novel, writes that the “Lucy-Ludovic plot reproduces the thematic concerns of the church plot with the elements of the romance novel.” Both plots hinge on the unpayable debt.

In her Persuasions article: Pride and Prejudice and Framley Parsonage: A StructuralResemblance, Barbara Horwitz summarizes the similarities between the two novels: “the lovers’ unequal social and economic situations, their initial disdain for each other, an overbearing and interfering older female relative, a sibling in need of rescue, the initial proposal and refusal, the heroine’s surprise at the moral worth and constancy of the hero, a second, more favorably received proposal, suspicion that the heroine’s motives are mercenary, and the eventual marriage and settling down happily on the family property.”

The basic difference between the two novels is in their respective heroines.  Trollope wrote in the Victorian period. His heroine is more restricted, as is the period in which she was created. Elizabeth Bennet is a product of the  less strait-laced Regency society as well as being the creation of a more socially rebellious author who, in Pride and Prejudice, defies the accepted social conventions.

After Trollope’s death, an article in the Spectator linked the two authors: “The loss of Mr. A. Trollope makes us turn back from his long series of elaborate pictures of English society…to those in which Miss Austen painted the rural society of England during the end of the last and beginning of the present century.” In a Persuasions article by Pamela Neville-Sington: Jane Austen and the Trollopes, the author concludes: “Anthony Trollope was his mother’s son, but he preferred to be thought of as Jane Austen’s literary successor.”


Thank you, Maxene, for that terrific article.  Now let's go back to reading Austen!


  1. Thanks for this. It is a superb article.

    I have been comparing Austen and Trollope for some time. I think that Trollope was enormously influenced by Austen. He is often compared to Dickens but the Austen comparison seems much more valid.

    Though I do find Trollope to be more nuanced, detailed and complex, but he had the luxury of building upon Austen's brilliance.

  2. I love Austen, so perhaps that explains why I've found Trollope so appealing. I'm halfway through Doctor Thorne now and will begin Framley Parsonage in July... will come back to this later in the summer.

  3. Great analysis! I love Trollope as well, but it has been years since I've read one of his novels. I definitely need to read him again!

  4. Great article! I've also thought Doctor Thorne was very Austen-ish also. But Trollope always seems to have these selfless females who will give up the man they love because they're too afraid of hurting his reputation or relationship with his family. That irks me after awhile.

  5. Well, I do love Pride and Prejudice so this makes a great selling point for Trollope's book.

  6. In Jane Austen's juvenile works, marriage was a casual and unemotional transaction – an absurdity of adulthood. She mocked sexual passion as depicted in sentimental novels.