Dr Thorne Audio Drama BBC Radio 4 1996

Dr Thorne is the third novel in Anthony Trollope’s series known as the Chronicles of Barset or Barsetshire to give it is proper name.

We more or less leave behind The Warden, Mr Harding, Arch Deacon Grantly, The Bishop and the stern Mrs Proudie.

This story revolves around Mary Thorne who is the niece of the good Doctor Thomas Thorne, indeed relative of the Wilfred Thorne from the previous novel Barchester Towers and the local Squires son, one Frank Gresham.

We have several families to contend with, we have Franks family. Mr Francis Newbold Gresham the senior that who is the current the squire of Greshambury. with his wife Lady Arabella his wife (formerly De Courcy), she is aware of the estate poor economies, in fact the Gresham estate is heavily in debt. Frank himself and two sisters, Augusta the youngest and Beatrice Mary Thorne’s best friend.

We also have the De Courcy’s. Earl De Courcy Lady Arabella’s brother, Lady De Courcy and their eldest daughter.

Then we have the Thornes starting with the good Doctor himself, Mary’s uncle Dr Thomas Thorne, He is a great friend of both Squire Gresham senior and Sir Roger Scatcherd, Mary Thorne his niece and that of Sir Roger.

And The Scratcheds and the aforementioned Sir Roger Scatcherd (played here by the excellent Leo Mckern) a Baronet and a self-made man building railways in the country. Then there his wife Lady Scatcherd and the son Sir Louis Philippe Scatcherd who sadly shares his penchant for alcohol like his father.

We have the Oriels, Caleb Oriel is a clergyman who later marries Beatrice Gresham and Patience, good friend of Beatrice…and not forgetting the awful Duke of Omnium and the lovely Martha Dunstable, wealthy and a  good friend and confidant of Franks.

Anyway back to Mary, she grows up with the Gresham children and becomes a close friend of the whole family. But she ends up falling in love with Frank the heir of the squire of Greshamsbury and nephew of the Earl and Countess De Courcy.

One problem…the Gresham estate is heavily in debt and his family need him to marry money of which Mary has none.

Frank is pushed to marry a thirty-year-old, not very good-looking and also nine years older than him yet intelligent wealthy heiress, Martha Dunstable. She is very aware of his plan but t hey become good friends and she offers him some sound advice.

The alcoholic Sir Roger is dying and in his will he leaves the bulk of the estate to his equally drunken son Louis Philippe with Dr Thorne as executor. If Louis dies before his 25th Birthday the estate go to his sister Mary’s eldest child which forces Dr Thorne to tell Mary’s story to Sir Roger.

Louis dies and Mary inherits a fortune and marries Frank and the estate is saved and the family can once again hold it’s head up high.

Martyn Wade does such a good job on this and the actors are great…it’s  shame more Trollope has not been done as his works are quite considerable.

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Barchester Towers Audio Drama BBC 1995

Grantly and HardingFirst broadcast on BBC Radio 1995 Barchester Towers continues where The Warden left off.

Again a stellar cast including Rosemary Leach, Michael Cochrane, Stephen Critchlow,
Stephen Moore, Jonathan Keeble, Peter Howell, David Horovitch, Patience Tomlinson,
Simon Beale, Alec Mccowen, Belinda Lang, Jilly Bond and Juliet Aubrey.

Alec Mccowen as the ever affable Warden or now ‘not’ Warden as he is and the brilliant Stephen Moore’s blustering, frustrated but kind Archdeacon Grantly.

The bishop is ill and the expectation that Archdeacon Grantly but it’s not to be and there is a wonderful scene of Dr Grantly sweating it out. On the one hand his father, the bishop is dying which he doesn’t want, on the other hand it’snot quick enough as the government is about to change and he won’t get the patronage of the current Prime Minister.

But it’s not to be and incomes new Bishop Proudie and his domineering wife Mrs Proudie. Followed by the odius Mr Slope.

Mrs Proudie is an interfering old trout causing problems for both the former Warden, Mr Harding, and the Warden to be Mr Quiverfull (what a great name!) and on top of this we have the chaplain, he’s both a hypocrite and sycophant.

The sickly Slope takes a fancy to Eleanor Bold (Mr Bold has since died, of what we don’t know) and hopes by interfering in the appointment of the Wardenship to engratiate himself with Eleanor but manages to upset Mrs Proudie which comes to no good.

He also spends his time with Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni played by the great Belinda Lang and Mr Slope cannot help himself and cannot stay away.  Next up Bertie Stanhope trys his luck with Eleanor Bold but to no avail.

And we also have the rather pleasant and scholarly Mr Francis Arabina fellow of Lazarus College at Oxford and he is the next suitor for Mrs Bold.

With Dean of the Cathedral having died Mr Harding is offered the job with a beautiful house in the Close, 15 acres of garden and a wonderful income. However Mr Harding considers that Mr Arabin be made Dean and he and the Archdeacon arrange it.

And with all settled again in Barchester Mr Harding returns to his life of gentleness and music.

Great stuff indeed.

The Warden Audio Drama BBC 4

The Chronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope consist of The Warden (1855), Barchester Towers (1857), Doctor Thorne (1858), Framley Parsonage (1861), The Small House at Allington (1864), The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867).

This 12 year series was dramatised for radio by Martyn Wade for BBC Radio 4 between 1993 and 2005.

So here is the first in order of the published books. The Warden is  dramatised for radio in two episodes. It stars Alec McCowen as Septimus Harding who brings his character to life in such a wonderful fashion. Along with Juliet Aubrey as Eleanor Harding, Douglas Hodge as John Bold, With Stephen Moore, Janet Maw, Peter Howell and Jilly Bond.

Set in the fictional location of Barsetshire we meet the warm and gentle warden of the local Almshouse Hiram’s Hospital. A charity was set up some centuries ago and financially supports its twelve bedesmen and provides a comfortable abode and living for its warden.

Harding has two daughters one, Susan who is married to Archdeacon Grantly and an unmarried younger daughter Eleanor. It is when he is publicly accused by his future son-in-law, John Bold (out of public duty not spite) of receiving funds to which he may or may not be entitled. The Jupiter  a newspaper is involved publishing some personal attacks

This of course causes problems between Eleanor and John Bold the reformer but he relents after a heart felt plead from his wife to be.

Harding has the pressure from the archdeacon to fight but chooses not to eventually giving up the post to take a smaller living at St. Cuthbert’s, a small parish in the Cathedral Close, drawing a much lesser income than before.

This is a very gentle piece and takes a playful swipe at Charles Dickens or Mr Sentiment as he is called by Trollope…it is fun and is well worth a listen.


Christmas Day at Kirkby Cottage BBC Audio Drama

Trollope and Santa separated at birth!

‘Christmas Day at Kirkby Cottage’ was first published by Anthony Trollope in 1870 and first broadcast on Friday 25 Dec 2009 at 10:00pm on BBC Radio 7.

The story revolves around Bella (Finty Williams) , a young girl who is fairly strong willed and her parents (played amiably Chris Larkin and Julia McKenzieby) who are concerned for about their daughters  future.

Into their lives comes the Mr Darcy-type in the figure Mr. Archer (played by John Rhys Davies). A well to do chap who falls in love directly setting eyes upon Bella and saves her from a nasty fall from the pulpit of the church where on Christmas eve he is invited to help decorate. Although very polite and well-mannered he manages to upset Bella when he tells her Christmas is a ‘bore’, that’s the way to chat up a Vicars daughter isn’t!

The story unfolds and you can guess is what going to happen and it does. Archer and Bella really do love one another but cannot actually find the words to express it. A proposal is rejected as it came out of the blue (not the done thing back then you know!). Her attitude changes once she discovers how generous an old lady living alone on the family estate and you can guess the rest as true love takes it’s course.

Being only 30 minutes it delivers a rather amusing and gentle distraction and is one for Christmas (as the title rather suggests