The hero of Framley Parsonage, Mark Robarts, is a young vicar, newly arrived in the village of Framley in Barsetshire. This "living" has come into his hands through Lady Lufton, the mother of his childhood friend Ludovic, Lord Lufton. Mark has ambitions to further his career and begins to seek connections in the county's high society. He is soon preyed upon by local Member of Parliament Mr Sowerby to guarantee a substantial loan, which Mark in a moment of weakness agrees to, even though he does not have the means and knows Sowerby to be a notorious debtor. The consequences of this blunder play a major role in the plot, with Mark eventually being publicly humiliated when bailiffs begin to confiscate the Robarts' furniture. At the last moment, Lord Lufton forces a loan on the reluctant Mark.
Another plot line deals with the romance between Mark's sister Lucy and Lord Lufton. The couple are deeply in love and the young man proposes, but Lady Lufton is against the marriage. She would prefer that her son instead choose the coldly beautiful Griselda Grantly, daughter of Archdeacon Grantly, and fears that Lucy is too "insignificant" for such a high honour. Lucy herself recognizes the great gulf between their social positions and declines. When Lord Lufton persists, she agrees only on condition that Lady Lufton ask her to accept her son. Lucy's conduct and charity (especially towards the family of poor curate Josiah Crawley) weaken her ladyship's resolve. In addition, Griselda becomes engaged to Lord Dumbello. But it is the determination of Lord Lufton that in the end vanquishes the doting mother.
The book ends with Lucy and Ludovic's marriage as well as three other marriages of minor characters. Two of these involve the daughters of Bishop Proudie and Archdeacon Grantly. The rivalry between Mrs Proudie and Mrs Grantley over their matrimonial ambitions forms a significant comic subplot, with the latter triumphant. The other marriage is that of the outspoken heiress, Martha Dunstable, to Doctor Thorne, the eponymous hero of the preceding novel in the series.
Power of Silent Will & Surrender
Life is a struggle. Conventional wisdom tells us that only those who aggressively fight for their fair share of the spoils advance in life. The truth behind this adage is that Life is a field of energy in which the results we achieve depend on our strength and effort, but the success achieved by the aggressive initiative of ambitious people is a lower and limited expression of this truth. Spiritually, Truthfulness, goodwill, self-giving and surrender are far greater powers than selfish, self-assertive and dynamism and they can accomplish what no amount of personal ambition can achieve. The power of a spiritual attitude in Life is marvelously illustrated by the inspiring story of Lucy Roberts in Anthony Trollope’s novel Framley Parsonage.
Lucy, the daughter of a gentleman physician, is living with her brother, Mark, and his wife, Fanny, in a comfortable parsonage where Mark is the Vicar of Framley. In his youth Mark became close friends with another young Englishman, Lord Ludovic Lufton, who lives at Framley with his widowed mother, Lady Lufton, and is heir to a considerable fortune. As a result of their friendship, Mark was appointed to a lucrative living as clergyman for Framley. After the death of his father, he brought his unmarried younger sister Lucy to life with him and Fanny.
Lucy is a young woman of no means, just a little over five feet tall, and of unexceptional appearance, but clear-headed, intelligent, a formed individual of strong and excellent character with a soft, feminine temperament. Lady Lufton is a very affectionate mother who aspires that the only child she adores marry the beautiful but brainless daughter of a very wealthy archdeacon. Because of Mark’s friendship with Lord Lufton, Lucy was brought into contact with the handsome Lord Lufton and could not help falling in love with him, though she knew very well that marriage between them was inconceivable and would be an anathema to his mother. Lucy often accused herself of foolishness for even contemplating such a union and conceals the fact of her love even from Mark and Fanny.
Her secret might have been safe, but it turns out that her silent love for Lord Lufton was requited by him. For he recognized behind Lucy’s quite, unassuming demeanor a woman of great inner strength and goodness. Despite her diminutive stature, he found her beautiful and came to deeply admire her. Unexpectedly Lord Lufton approaches Lucy one day with an offer of marriage. Conscious of the grief that such a marriage would bring to Lady Lufton, of the conflict it would generate between her and her son, and of the unlikelihood that Lord Lufton could really be happy marrying a person of much lower station in life, she demurely refuses his proposal. When he insists, she falsely tells him that she can never love him. It is a lie, but it is a lie told for his sake, not for her own, out of concern for his happiness and also out of pride, for she could not bear to see the scorn in Lady Lufton’s eyes when she learned of her son’s proposal. Lucy consoles herself that he will be soon realize how inappropriate his proposal was and be grateful to her for refusing. But, in fact, Lufton is feels broken-hearted over her refusal.
So great was the distance between them in class and wealth, that the possibility of their marrying never occurred to Lady Lufton, Mark or Fanny. When Mark and Fanny discover the truth, the vicar immediately thinks how disturbed and angry his benefactor, Lady Lufton, will be if she learns about it. Fanny realizes how nobly and selflessly Lucy has acted by refusing to accept the Lord’s proposal.
Lufton leaves for London and on his return he decides to make one more offer to Lucy. He tells Mark of his intention to call on Lucy at the parsonage the following day. When Mark informs his sister, Lucy refuses to meet the Lord and sends word back through her brother that she will not marry him unless Lady Lufton herself consents to the marriage and asks her to accept her son. Lord Lufton thinks Lucy’s response is quite absurd, since he is perfectly free to marry a respectable woman of his own choice without his mother’s permission, but Lucy is adamant. So Lufton goes to his mother and asks her view of such a marriage. Lady Lufton is shocked, feeling that while Lucy may be of good character, she was too deficient in the beauty, dignity of style and manner, education and worldly attributes to make her a suitable match for her son. Lady Lufton tells him she disapproves of the marriage. Silently she accuses Lucy for scheming deceitfully to steal her son away. The Lord informs his mother that he is going away to Norway for a few months, but he cannot bring himself to reveal Lucy’s condition that she would only accept his proposal if his mother asked her to.
After the Lord’s departure, Lady Lufton decides to speak with Lucy and lecture her on the inappropriateness of such an alliance. She counts on her social status and her role as benefactor to Lucy’s brother to impress on the young girl her unsuitability to be the Lord’s wife. When Lucy receives a note requesting her to call on Lady Lufton, she immediately understands the purpose of the request and strongly wishes to avoid the meeting. But realizing it is her duty to comply, she goes to Lady Lufton without even taking time to frame a response or defense. When Lady Lufton commences her sermon, Lucy interrupts her and forces her to acknowledge that Lucy’s reply to Lord Lufton had been entirely proper and considerate of the social distance between them. Lady Lufton praises Lucy’s good sense in not accepting his proposal and is compelled to admire her for her self-restraint, but still she feels an urge to sermonize to the young girl. Again Lucy interrupts her and tells her that she will never accept the Lord’s proposal unless Lady Lufton requests her to do so. In one stroke, Lucy hands over the entire control of her future destiny to the mother who is sworn to oppose her – a complete surrender. Then she promptly leaves before Lady Lufton can say anything further.
After her departure, Lady Lufton is forced to admit that Lucy has acted very properly and she admires the girl’s inner strength and character, which she had not perceived early. Lady Lufton senses that somehow Lucy maintained the high ground and superior position in their meeting, but she nevertheless congratulates herself that her son is safe, since the decision is left in her hands.
Lucy too reflects back on the meeting, but with a sense of regret. She has spoken truly and boldly in confessing her love to the Lord’s mother. She no longer doubts that she can make Lord Lufton happy, but she feels she has acted cowardly by surrendering the decision to her enemy, merely because she could not bear a mother-in-law’s disapproval. Lucy resigned herself to the loss of the man she very deeply loves.
Lufton returns a few months later, meets his mother and asks for her views on his marriage to Lucy. Lady Lufton is fearful of doing anything to alienate the son she loves so deeply, yet she would rather sacrifice her own happiness than encourage him to choose a wife she thinks would not make him happy. When Lufton demands to know his mother’s reservations about Lucy, she insists that Lucy’s lack of money is not her concern, since she would never advise her son to marry anyone merely for money. Finally she describes Lucy as ‘insignificant.’ Lufton insists that his mother does not know Lucy, reaffirms his intention of marrying her, and affectionately commands his mother to tell Lucy that she approves. Reflecting on her dilemma, Lady Lufton is forced to gradually recognize the positive elements in Lucy’s character that have attracted her son – the inner sense of self-respect, dignity, truthfulness, and a fire of determination blended with a willingness for self-sacrifice and self-effacement. With considerable reluctance and embarrassment, Lady Lufton goes in a carriage to where Lucy is staying, calls her out, apologizes warmly for her earlier opposition and requests Lucy to become the future Lady Lufton.
How did Lucy attain her highest aspiration and heart’s fulfillment without taking a single initiative on her own behalf? She spoke frankly and truthfully to both Lufton and his mother. Even when she concealed her love for him, she did it out of concern for his happiness, sacrificing her own. She never asserted or even allowed herself to dream of her love’s fulfillment, but she remained true to her deepest love for Lufton and ready to accept cheerfully the sacrifice of that love. Lucy is a formed individual with a deep sense of self-respect, a good character, and a genuine capacity to love another for his own sake, and not merely as a selfish fulfillment of her own need. Thus, she was more concerned about spoiling his relationship with his mother than securing him for herself. She was able to look at Lufton’s proposal from his point of view and think it unwise. She was able to understand and appreciate how Lady Lufton would feel about the marriage, though she never for a moment conceded that those grounds were really legitimate. She could take another person’s point of view, without mindlessly submitting to social pressure or social superstitions. And because she could do so, she attracted a man who also refused to be taken in by social expectations or appearances, who could recognize the strength and beauty in her character and act on that inner certitude rather than in conformity to social norms. Lucy acted on the truth of her love, which has the power to transform a negative situation into a positive one. She won Lord Lufton by the power of her silent will, truthfulness, selfless love and surrender.