"Prosaic Confessors": An Examination of the Medical and Legal Professions in Anthony Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire
Freeman, Heather Elizabeth
This article explores the rise of the legal and medical professions in some of the earlier novels of Anthony Trollope, focusing on the ways in which the roles of doctor and lawyer can blur, particularly during this time of professional revolution. These realms are united in opposition to the clerical profession most notably in their control over a de-mystified and therefore culturally problematic conception of death. The medical profession is particularly transgressive in this respect, while the realm of inheritance law remains slightly less disturbing, as its focus on the aftereffects of death partially elides the moment itself. In The Warden, the erstwhile surgeon John Bold unites with the local legal community against the formerly dominant clergy, though in this instance the nascent control of the upstart professions proves undirected and fleeting. Bold’s transgressive potential, partially stripped during his involvement with the central legal machinations surrounding a will, is soon fully curtailed by his marriage and consequent entry into the domestic sphere. The character of Dr. Thorne in Dr. Thorne undergoes a similar, albeit initially more empowered, narrative trajectory, as his role as a doctor first becomes relegated to the periphery, narratively speaking, as he takes on the role of will executor and then as he too enters into marriage in Framley Parsonage. In the end, any potential for transgressive narrative mastery gets redirected into the traditionally stable sphere of domesticity.