The Bishop of Elmham in The Way We Live Now — One Side of Victorian Religion
In the following description of Mr. Yeld, Bishop of Elmham, Trollope, who was famed for his astute, sympathetic presentation of Victorian religious denominations, presents an exemplar of a nondoctrinal yet devoted Church of England clergyman. As you read, see if you can determine the author's own sympathies and any possible influence of Carlyle's ideas. Ask yourself, too, why the novelist tell us Yeld's income and the fact he does not spend much time in London? What does that tell us about the bishop? In what sense does he resemble Roger Carbury?
The bishop was a man sixty years of age, very healthy and handsome, with hair just becoming grey, clear eyes, a kindly mouth, and something of a double chin. He was all but six feet high, with a broad chest, large hands, and legs which seemed to have been made for clerical breeches and clerical stockings. He was a man of fortune outside his bishopric; and, as he never went up to London, and had no children on whom to spend his money. he was able to live as a nobleman in the country. He did live as a nobleman, and was very popular. Among the poor around him he was idolized, and by such clergy of his diocese as were not enthusiastic in their theology either on the one side or on the other, he was regarded as a model bishop. Bv the very high and the very low. — by those rather who regarded ritualism as being either heavenly or devilish, — he was looked upon as a timeserver, because he would not put to sea in either of those boats. He was an unselfish man, who loved his neighbour as himself, and forgave all trespasses, and thanked God for his daily bread from his heart, and prayed heartily to be delivered from temptation. But I doubt whether he was competent to teach a creed. . . . He was diligent in preaching, — moral sermons that were short, pithy, and useful. He was never weary in furthering the welfare of his clergymen. His house was open to them and to their wives. The edifice of every church in his diocese was a care to him. He laboured at schools, and was zealous in improving the social comforts of the poor: but he was never known to declare to man or woman that the human soul must live or die for ever according to its faith. Perhaps there was no bishop in England rnore loved or more useful in his diocese than the Bishop of Elmham.Ó (Chapter 16, pp. 148-149)
Finally, what does Trollope accomplish by juxtaposing the Bishop of Elmham to the Roman Catholic convert proiest, John Barham?
Last modified 23 December 2006