Hiram's Hospital According to Act of Parliament

It is hardly necessary that I should here give to the public any lengthened biography of Mr Harding, up to the period of the commencement of this tale. The public cannot have forgotten how ill that sensitive gentleman bore the attack that was made upon him in the columns of the Jupiter, with reference to the income which he received as warden of Hiram’s Hospital, in the city of Barchester. Nor can it be forgotten that a law–suit was instituted against him on the matter of that charity by Mr John Bold, who afterwards married his, Mr Harding’s, younger and then only unmarried daughter. Under the pressure of these attacks, Mr Harding had resigned his wardenship, though strongly recommended to abstain from doing so, both by his friends and his lawyers. He did, however, resign it, and betook himself manfully to the duties of the small parish of St. Cuthbert’s, in the city, of which he was vicar, continuing also to perform those of precentor of the cathedral, a situation of small emoluments which had hitherto been supposed to be joined, as a matter of course, to the wardenship of the hospital above spoken of.

When he left the hospital from which he had been so ruthlessly driven, and settled himself down in his own modest manner in the High Street of Barchester, he had not expected that others would make more fuss about it than he was inclined to do himself; and the extent of his hope was, that the movement might have been made in time to prevent any further paragraphs in the Jupiter. His affairs, however, were not allowed to subside thus quietly, and people were quite as much inclined to talk about the disinterested sacrifice he had made, as they had before been to upbraid him for his cupidity.

The most remarkable thing that occurred, was the receipt of an autographed letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which the primate very warmly praised his conduct, and begged to know what his intentions were for the future. Mr Harding replied that he intended to be rector of St. Cuthbert’s in Barchester; and so that matter dropped. Then the newspapers took up his case, the Jupiter among the rest, and wafted his name in eulogistic strains through every reading–room in the nation. It was discovered also, that he was the author of that great musical work, Harding’s Church Music,—and a new edition was spoken of, though, I believe, never printed. It is, however, certain that the work was introduced into the Royal Chapel at St James’s, and that a long criticism appeared in the Musical Scrutator, declaring that in no previous work of its kind had so much research been joined with such exalted musical ability, and asserting that the name of Harding would henceforward be known wherever the Arts were cultivated, or Religion valued.

This was high praise, and I will not deny that Mr Harding was gratified by such flattery; for if Mr Harding was vain on any subject, it was on that of music. But here the matter rested. The second edition, if printed, was never purchased; the copies which had been introduced into the Royal Chapel disappeared again, and were laid by in peace, with a load of similar literature. Mr Towers, of the Jupiter, and his brethren occupied themselves with other names, and the underlying fame promised to our friend was clearly intended to be posthumous.

Mr Harding had spent much of his time with his friend the bishop, much with his daughter Mrs Bold, now, alas, a widow; and had almost daily visited the wretched remnants of his former subjects, the few surviving bedesmen now left at Hiram’s Hospital. Six of them were still living. The number, according to old Hiram’s will, should always have been twelve. But after the abdication of their warden, the bishop had appointed no successor to him, and it appeared as though the hospital at Barchester would fall into abeyance, unless the powers that be should take some steps towards putting it once more into working order.

During the past five years the powers that be had not overlooked Barchester Hospital, and sundry political doctors had taken the matter in hand. Shortly after Mr Harding’s resignation, the Jupiter had very clearly shown what ought to be done. In about half a column it had distributed the income, rebuilt the building, put an end to all bickerings, regenerated kindly feeling, provided for Mr Harding, and placed the whole thing on a footing which could not but be satisfactory to the city and Bishop of Barchester, and to the nation at large. The wisdom of this scheme was testified by the number of letters which “Common Sense”, “Veritas”, and “One that loves fair play,” sent to the Jupiter, all expressing admiration and amplifying on

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