Doctor Thorne

Doctor Thorne
Doctor Thorne  
Dr Thorne.jpg
First edition title page.
Author(s) Anthony Trollope
Language English
Series Chronicles of Barsetshire
Publication date 1858
Media type Print
Preceded by Barchester Towers
Followed by Framley Parsonage

Doctor Thorne (1858) is the third novel in Anthony Trollope's series known as the "Chronicles of Barsetshire".

It is mainly concerned with the romantic problems of Mary Thorne, niece of Doctor Thomas Thorne (a member of a junior branch of the family of Mr Wilfred Thorne, who appeared in Barchester Towers), and Frank Gresham, the only son of the local squire, although Trollope as the omniscient narrator assures the reader at the beginning that the hero is really the doctor.

Major themes of the book are the social pain and exclusion caused by illegitimacy, the nefarious effects of the demon drink, and the difficulties of romantic attachments outside one's social class. The novel also gives a vivid picture of electioneering and all the just-legal shenanigans that accompany the event. Most of the action takes place in a village of Barsetshire and a country house not far off.

The idea of the plot was suggested to Trollope by his brother Thomas.

Plot summary

When their father dies, Doctor Thomas Thorne and his younger, ne'er-do-well brother Henry are left to fend for themselves. Doctor Thorne begins to establish a medical practice, while Henry seduces Mary Scatcherd, the sister of stonemason Roger Scatcherd. When Scatcherd finds out that Mary has become pregnant, he seeks out Henry and, in the ensuing fight, kills him.

While her brother is in prison, Mary gives birth to a girl. A former suitor offers to marry her and emigrate to start a new life, but refuses to take the baby. Doctor Thorne persuades her to accept the generous offer, promising to raise his niece. He names her Mary Thorne but, wishing neither to have her illegitimacy made public nor to have her associate with the uncouth Roger Scatcherd, he keeps her birth secret. He tells Scatcherd that the baby had died.

After his release, Scatcherd rises quickly in the world. In time, his skills make him extremely rich. When he completes a seemingly-impossible important project on time, he is created a baronet for his efforts. Throughout his career, he entrusts his financial affairs to Doctor Thorne. When Thorne becomes the family doctor to the Greshams, he persuades Scatcherd to loan ever growing sums to the head of the family, the local squire. Eventually, much of the Gresham estate is put up as collateral.

Meanwhile, Mary grows up with the Gresham children and becomes a great favorite with the whole family. As a result, Thorne feels obliged to tell his friend the squire her secret.

Mary falls in love with Frank Gresham, the son and heir of the squire of Greshamsbury and nephew of the Earl and Countess De Courcy, and he with her. However, his parents desperately need him to marry wealth, in order to rescue them from the financial distress resulting from the squire's expensive and fruitless campaigns for a seat in Parliament.

His snobbish mother and aunt wish him to marry an eccentric, if kind-hearted older heiress, Martha Dunstable. He reluctantly visits her at Courcy Castle and they become friends. He foolishly and playfully proposes. She demurs, knowing that he does not love her, and he tells her about his love for Mary.

Sir Roger is a drunkard, and Doctor Thorne tries in vain to get him to curtail his drinking. In his will, he stipulates that bulk of his estate go to his odious, dissolute only son Louis Philippe, but leaves Doctor Thorne in control of the inheritance until the heir reaches the age of twenty-five. Should Louis die before then, Scatcherd stipulates that the estate go to his sister Mary's eldest child. Thorne is forced to divulge Mary's history, but Scatcherd leaves the will unchanged.

Sir Roger eventually dies of his excesses, and Sir Louis inherits his vast wealth. The son proves just as much an alcoholic as the father, and his weaker constitution quickly brings him to the same end. After consulting with many lawyers, Doctor Thorne confirms that his Mary is the heiress, richer than even Miss Dunstable.

Unaware of these proceedings, the more-resolute Frank finally persuades his doting father to consent to his marriage to Mary. When all is revealed, everyone is elated, even Frank's mother and Countess De Courcy.

See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal

External links

  • Anthony Trollope - Comprehensive summaries of all of Trollope's plots and characters as well as information on all things Trollopian.
  • Doctor Thorne on Gutenberg Project

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