Mr Slope bids farewell to the Palace and its inhabitants

We must now take leave of Mr Slope, and of the bishop, and of Mrs Proudie. These leave–takings in novels are as disagreeable as they are in real life; not so sad, indeed, for they want the reality of sadness; but quite as perplexing, and generally less satisfactory. What novelist, what Fielding, what Scott, what George Sand, or Sue, or Duncan, can impart an interest to the last chapter of his fictitious history? Promises of two children and superhuman happiness are of no avail, nor assurance of extreme respectability carried to an age far exceeding that usually allotted to mortals. The sorrows of our heroes and heroines, they are you delight, oh public! their sorrows, or their sins, or their absurdities; not their virtues, good sense, and consequent rewards. When we begin to tint our final pages with couleur de rose, as in accordance with fixed rule we must do, we altogether extinguish our own powers of pleasing. When we become dull we offend your intellect; and we must become dull or we should offend your taste. A late writer, wishing to sustain his interest to the last page, hung his hear at the end of the third volume. The consequence was, that no one should read his novel. And who can apportion out and dovetail his incidents, dialogues, characters, and descriptive morsels, so as to fit them all exactly into 439 pages, without either compressing them unnaturally, or extending them artificially at the end of his labour? Do I not myself know that I am at this moment in want of a dozen pages, and that I am sick with cudgelling my brains to find them? And then when everything is done, the kindest–hearted critic of them all invariably twit us with the incompetency and lameness of our conclusion. We have either become idle and neglected it, or tedious and over–laboured it. It is insipid or unnatural, over–strained or imbecile. It means nothing, or attempts too much. The last scene of all, as all last scenes we fear must be:

‘Is second childishness, and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’

I can only say that if some critic, who thoroughly knows his work, and has laboured on it till experience has made him perfect, will write the last fifty pages of a novel in the way they should be written. I, for one, will in future do my best to copy the example. Guided by my own lights only, I despair of success.

For the last week or ten days, Mr Slope had seen nothing of Mrs Proudie, and very little of the bishop. He still lived in the palace, and still went through his usual routine work; but the confidential doings of the diocese had passed into other hands. He had seen this clearly, and marked it well; but it had not much disturbed him. He had indulged in other hopes till the bishop’s affairs had become dull to him, and he was moreover aware that, as regarded the diocese, Mrs Proudie had checkmated him. It has been explained, in the beginning of these pages, how three or four were contending together as to who, in fact, should be bishop of Barchester. Each of them had now admitted to himself (or boasted to herself) that Mrs Proudie was victorious in the struggle. They had gone through a competitive examination of considerable severity, and she had come forth the winner, facile princeps. Mr Slope had, for a moment, run her hard, but it was only for a moment. It had become, as it were, acknowledged that Hiram’s hospital should be the testing point between them, and now Mr Quiverful was already in the hospital, the proof of Mrs Proudie’s skill and courage.

All this did not break Mr Slope’s spirit, because he had other hopes. But, alas, at last there came to him a note from his friend Sir Nicholas, informing him that the deanship was disposed of. Let us give Mr Slope his due. He did not lie prostrate, under this blow, or give himself to vain lamentations; he did not henceforward despair of life, and call upon gods above and gods below to carry him off. He sat himself down in his chair, counted out what monies he had in hand, for present purposes, and what others were coming to him, bethought himself as to the best sphere for his future exertions, and at once wrote off a letter to a rich sugar–refiner’s wife in Baker Street, who, as he well knew, was much given to the entertainment and encouragement of serious young evangelical clergymen. He was again, he said, ‘upon the world, having found the air of a cathedral town, and the very nature of cathedral services, uncongenial to his spirit’; and then he sat awhile, making firm resolves as to his manner of parting from the bishop, and also as to his future conduct.

‘At last he rose, and twitched his mantle blue,
To–morrow to fresh woods and pastures new.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.