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9. The Stanhope Family
It is now three months since Dr Proudie began his reign, and changes had already been
affected in the diocese which show at least the energy of an active mind. Among other
things, absentee clergymen have been favoured with hints much too strong to be
overlooked. Poor dear old Bishop Grantly had on this matter been too lenient, and the
archdeacon had never been inclined to be severe with those who were absent on
reputable pretences, and who provided for their duties in a liberal way.
Among the greatest of the diocesan sinners in this respect was Dr Vesey Stanhope.
Years had now passed since he had done a day's duty; and yet there was no reason
against his doing duty except a want of inclination on his own part. He held a prebendal
stall in the diocese; one of the best residences in the close; and the two large rectories
of Crabtree Canonicorum, and Stogpingum. Indeed, he had the cure of three parishes,
for that of Eiderdown was joined to Stogpingum. He had resided in Italy for twelve
years. His first going there had been attributed to a sore throat; and that sore throat,
though never repeated in any violent manner had stood him in such stead, that it had
enabled him to live in easy idleness ever since.
He had now been summoned home,--not indeed, with rough violence, or by any
peremptory command, but by a mandate which he found himself unable to disregard.
Mr Slope had written to him by the bishop's desire. In the first place, the bishop much
wanted the valuable co-operation of Dr Vesey Stanhope in the diocese; in the next, the
bishop thought it his imperative duty to become personally acquainted with the most
conspicuous of his diocesan clergy; then the bishop thought it essentially necessary for
Dr Stanhope's own interests, that Dr Stanhope should, at any rate for a time, return to
Barchester; and lastly, it was said that so strong a feeling was at the present moment
evinced by the hierarchs of the church with reference to the absence of its clerical
members, that it behoved Dr Vesey Stanhope not to allow his name to stand among
those which would probably in a few months be submitted to the councils of the nation.
There was something so ambiguously frightful in this last threat that Dr Stanhope
determined to spend two or three summer months at his residence in Barchester. His
rectories were inhabited by his curates, and he felt himself from disuse to be unfit for
parochial duty; but his prebendal home was kept empty for him, and he thought it
probable that he might be able now and again to preach a prebendal sermon. He
arrived, therefore, with all his family at Barchester, and he and they must be introduced
to my readers.
The great family characteristic of the Stanhopes might probably be said to be
heartlessness; but the want of feeling was, in most of them, accompanied by so great
an amount of good nature that their neighbours failed to perceive how indifferent to
them was the happiness and well-being of those around them. The Stanhopes would
visit you in your sickness (provided it were not contagious), would bring you oranges,