Barchester Towers HTML version
10. Mrs Proudie's Reception--Commenced
The bishop and his wife had only spent three or four days in Barchester on the occasion
of their first visit. His lordship had, as we have seen, taken his seat on his throne; but
his demeanour there, into which it had been his intention to infuse much hierarchical
dignity, had been a good deal disarranged by the audacity of his chaplain's sermon. He
had hardly dared to look his clergy in the face, and to declare by the severity of his
countenance that in truth he meant all that his factotum was saying on his behalf; nor
yet did he dare throw Mr Slope over, and show to those around him that he was no
party to the sermon, and would resent it.
He had accordingly blessed his people in a shambling manner, not at all to his own
satisfaction, and had walked back to his palace with his mind very doubtful as to what
he would say to his chaplain on the subject. He did not remain long in doubt. He had
hardly doffed his lawn when the partner of all his toils entered his study, and exclaimed
even before she had seated herself--
'Bishop, did you ever hear a more sublime, more spirit-moving, more appropriate
discourse than that?'
'Well, my love; ha-hum-he!' The bishop did not know what to say.
'I hope, my lord, you don't mean to say you disapprove?'
There was a look about the lady's eye which did not admit of my lord's disapproving at
that moment. He felt that if he intended to disapprove, it must be now or never; but he
also felt that it could not be now. It was not in him to say to the wife of his bosom that Mr
Slope's sermon was ill-timed, impertinent and vexatious.
'No, no,' replied the bishop. 'No, I can't say I disapprove--a very clever sermon and very
well intended, and I dare say will do a great deal of good.' This last praise was added,
seeing that what he had already said by no means satisfied Mrs Proudie.
'I hope it will,' said she. 'I am sure it was well deserved. Did you ever in your life, bishop,
hear anything so like play-acting as the way in which Mr Harding sings the litany? I shall
beg Mr Slope to continue a course of sermons on the subject till all that is altered. We
will have at any rate, in our cathedral, a decent, godly, modest morning service. There
must be no more play-acting here now;' and so the lady rang for lunch.
This bishop knew more about cathedrals and deans, and precentors and church
services than his wife did, and also more of the bishop's powers. But he thought it better
at present to let the subject drop.