…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 endeavours 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 a special 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.
— From Anthony Trollope’s 1855 novel, The Warden
John Bold, the character to whom Trollope refers here, is a physician and in many ways an admirable, romantic man. But he is also remorseless in his zeal to rectify what he views — maybe correctly — as a wrong, and he causes great pain to Mr. Harding, the gentle elderly warden of the title who, because of his own high moral conviction and integrity, voluntarily leaves the position he has held honorably and happily for many years.
Trollope is remarkable, to me, in making characters of lifelike human complexity. In The Warden, both John Bold and Mr. Harding are heroic, staunch, thoughtful, emotionally resonant…and infuriating. I find myself sympathetic to each argument and then sympathetic to each argument’s contradiction.
The Trollope passage I quoted above reminded me immediately of our own John Bolds, the impeachment zealots who are not wrong, but whose agitated and somewhat simplistic attacks upon the “honest purposes” and integrity of long-time progressives rile me greatly. I agree with them, I disagree with them, I admire them, and they piss me off.
More I can’t say.