Trollope carefully positions his young reformer socially and economically by making him both the member of a profession that had little social prestige and a second-generation landlord and capitalist:
John Bold is a young surgeon, who passed many of his boyish years at Barchester. His father was a physician in the city of London, where he made a moderate fortune, which he invested in houses in that city. The Dragon of Wantly inn and posting-house, belonged to him, also four shops in the High Street, and a moiety of the new row of genteel villas (so called in the advertisements), built outside the town just beyond Hiram's Hospital. . . . Just as John Bold was entitled to write himself surgeon and apothecary, old Dr.Bold died, leaving his Barchester property to his son, and a certain sum in the three per cents. to his daughter Mary, who is some four, or five, years older than her brother.
In his possession of rental property and capital, Bold thus differs considerably from another reforming physician in Victorian fiction — Middlemarch's Lydgate. Trollope's providing his young doctor with financial resources permits him to show the complex relations among the prosperous classes. In particular, like many of the newly wealthy. Bold sees little to respect in the Church and other parts of the establishment.
John Bold is a clever man, and would, with practice, be a clever surgeon; but he has got quite into another line of life. Having enough to live on, he has not been forced to work for bread; he has declined to subject himself to what he calls the drudgery of the profession, by which, I believe, he means the general work of a practising surgeon; and has found other employment. He frequently binds up the bruises and sets the limbs of such of the poorer classes as profess his way of thinking — but this he does for love. Now I will not say that the archdeacon is strictly correct in stigmatizing John Bold as a demagogue, for I hardly know how extreme must be a man's opinions before he can be justly so called; but Bold is a strong reformer. His passion is the reform of all abuses; state abuses, church abuses, corporation abuses (he has got himself elected a town councillor of Barchester, and has so worried three consecutive mayors, that it became somewhat difficult to find a fourth), abuses in medical practice, and general abuses in the world at large. Bold is thoroughly sincere in his patriotic endeavors to mend mankind, and there is something to be admired in the energy with which he devotes himself to remedying evil and stopping injustice; but I fear that he is too much imbued with the idea that he has real mission for reforming. It would be well if one so young had a little more diffidence himself, and more trust in the honest purposes of others — if he could be brought to believe that old customs need not necessarily be evil, and that changes may possibly be dangerous but — no, Bold has all the ardour, and all the self-assurance of a Danton, and hurls his anathemas against time-honoured practices with the violence of a French Jacobin.
No wonder that Dr. Grantly should regard Bold as a firebrand, falling, as he has done, almost in the centre of the quiet ancient close of Barchester Cathedral. Dr. Grantly would have him avoided as the plague; but the old Doctor and Mr. Harding were fast friends. Young Johnny Bold used to play as a boy on Mr. Harding's lawn; he has many a time won the precentor's heart by listening with rapt attention to his sacred strains; and since those days, to tell the truth at once, he has nearly won another heart within the same walls. (Chapter 2, "The Barchester Reformer")
Is Trollope simply exaggerating when he compares the aptly named Bold to Danton, or did the French revolutionaries come from the same social and economic class?
Without the last paragraph that I have included in this passage, Trollope's portait of John Bold, Reformer, relies on sharply opposes economic and social classes. What does the last paragraph add, and what does the material added tell us about Trollope's conception of his novel?
Last modified 2000