The summer before I started college, I first read Anthony Trollope's The Warden and its sequel, Barchester Towers. Its depiction of Nineteenth Century clerical life was a delight to me, and the depth of the character-drawing made me a fan for life. (Still am!)
At the time, I somehow missed the BBC's adaptation of the two novels. Viewing it now, it holds up quite well--Donald Pleasence captures the goodness and naive quality of the Rev. Septimus Harding,and endows him with a gentle, pawky sense of humor; Nigel Hawthorne is funny and credible as his choleric son-in-law, Archdeacon Grantly, and a young Alan Rickman is superb as the slippery Mr. Slope. The women are excellent, too; Susan Hampshire is positively delicious as the charming but naughty Signorina Madeline Vesey Nata Stanhope, and And Geraldine McEwan shines as Mrs. Proudie, the bishop's domineering wife.
Trollope is unique in English literature, in that he can make the goodness and gentle good humor of Mr. Harding credible, and not cloying. (CP Snow thought that only Dostoevsky made goodness more believable). Admirable though Rev. Harding is, I regret that I often am more like the Archdeacon--quick-tempered if well meaning.
Enjoy, but be careful--one trip to Barchester is never enough, and there are four more novels after these. And, then, of course, there are the the Pallisers: