Barchester Towers, to which The Warden forms the prologue, is the story primarily of the contest between Mrs. Proudie, the Bishop’s wife, and Mr. Slope, his chaplain, for primacy in the diocese. As an incident in this battle the wardenship of Hiram’s Hospital was in question. Against the strenuous advice of his son-in-law Archdeacon Grantly, and following criticism of the administration of the hospital funds, Mr. Harding resigned as Warden. Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope united in warring against the high-church party that sought his reinstatement. Mr. Slope, without Mrs. Proudie’s knowledge, had rashly offered the wardenship to Mr. Quiverful, but, upon learning that Mr. Harding’s widowed daughter Eleanor Bold had an income of £1,200, with an eye to the widow’s favor he swung to the support of her father.
Not content with this demonstration of his independence, Mr. Slope secured the recall of the Rev. Dr. Vesey Stanhope, a prebendary of the Cathedral who had been living comfortably in Italy for the past twelve years on an income derived from parishes in the diocese. With Dr. Stanhope came his family, two daughters and a son, the latter a charming but worthless young man who joined in the quest for Eleanor Bold’s fortune. The second daughter, calling herself Signora Vesey Neroni, although a cripple was yet so attractive as to bewitch almost every man whom she met. Her conquest of Mr. Slope so infuriated Mrs. Proudie that she secured his dismissal, although the Bishop had earlier acquiesced in his ambition to become Dean of the Cathedral.
"It is not ...his greatest ... nevertheless it remains as perhaps the type novel of all the Trollope family. It is the one book of them all that you would give to someone who said to you, 'Now what is Trollope really like? What is the point about Trollope?' This book introduces and exults over one of the greatest figures in the Barsetshire Chronicles - Mrs. Proudie ...The theme, slender as it is, is one eternally attractive--the theme of the biter bit, the bully bullied, the war between tyrants." - Walpole