Engaged to the ambitious and self-serving Adolphus Crosbie, Lily Dale is devastated when he jilts her for the aristocratic Lady Alexandrina. Although crushed by his faithlessness, Lily still believes she is bound to her unworthy former fiance for life and therefore condemned to remain single after his betrayal. And when a more deserving suitor pays his addresses, she is unable to see past her feelings for Crosbie. Written when Trollope was at the height of his popularity, The Small House at Allington (1864) contains his most admired heroine in Lily Dale - a young woman of independent spirit who nonetheless longs to be loved - and is a moving dramatization of the ways in which personal dilemmas are affected by social pressures.
John Eames, for all his harped-upon ‘hobbledehoyhood’ makes a far more likeable young hero than Mark Robarts or Frank Gresham from other books – he has more contradictions and complexities, a mixture of human weaknesses and Victorian ‘manliness’. I believe at least some part of his character was based on Trollope himself. The two Earls (De Courcy and De Guest) are excellently done. The cattle-breeding Earl De Guest really lives, like anyone’s nice but sometimes misguided grandpa; as does the crusty Squire Dale (who has a heart of gold beneath his rough exterior – but he does live!). The Victorian public was most enamoured with Lily Dale – apparently Trollope was besieged with letters after the novel, as a serial, was fully published, begging Trollope to write more and change her destiny – and Trollope himself says that he made Lily more alive than any of his preceding heroines. This is no doubt true, but all the same I felt that her un-analytical, stubborn sister Bell was more fun to read about than brave, quick-spoken Lily.
Trollope scorned the idea that novel-writing is an art requiring inspiration, insisting stubbornly through his life that he would write the same number of words every day before breakfast and that it was all a matter of cobbler’s craft and hard discipline. I think it’s fairly plain that his books are centred more on character and plot than on ideas. But his books would not be classics if ideas didn’t make their way into them somehow, and the main idea I got out of this one was about how easy it is to gently slip sideways into making a ruinous and intractable decision without hardly thinking about it. Tied up with that is the way we tell ourselves we want one thing, and make excuses that seem so reasonable for the unscrupulous way we go about getting them – and then when it’s got we then want something completely different. This is describing the story of one of the characters in the book – but though this character is the villain of the piece, I for one could all too easily identify with it, which for me is a mark of a book that lives.
At one point in the book I had tears in my eyes, and I stopped and said to myself, ‘well, Trollope, I didn’t think you could do that to me.’ I look forward to reading The Last Chronicle of Barset which is by all accounts of similar quality to this one.
”There is a class of young men who never get petted, though they may not be the less esteemed, or perhaps loved. They do not come forth to the world as Apollos, nor shine at all, keeping what light they may have for inward purposes. Such young men are often awkward, ungainly, and not yet formed in their gait; they straggle with their limbs, and are shy; words do not come to them with ease, when words are required, among any but their accustomed associates. Social meetings are periods of penance to them, and any appearance in public will unnerve them. They go much about alone, and blush when women speak to them. In truth, they are not as yet men, whatever the number may be of their years; and, as they are no longer boys, the world has found for them the ungraceful name of hobbledehoy.” (Page 51)
John is in love with one of the daughters of Mrs. Dale, Lily Dale, who lives in the small house at Allington. She, unfortunately, considers him a good friend but has eyes only for the much more polished and worldly, Adolphus Crosbie, who is a rising star in the government, and as such, mingles with the upper crust. But he’s very fond of Lily and eventually proposes to her. That triangle, John, Lily and Adolophus, comprise the largest part of the story, and when Crosbie proposes to a (unknown to him) penniless Lily, the main theme of the book is set in motion. Money, money, money rules the day and definitely rules the country. Another theme of the book is unrequited love and the author gives us several examples of this to chew on. Trollope goes on to point up in great detail the class differences in the novel and how hard it is to move among the classes and to move anywhere without money, boatloads of it. Poor John seems to be left in the dust even as he overcomes his hobbledehoy and becomes a mature man. And I don’t know if Trollope meant Lily to be a sympathetic character but I found her to be absolutely annoying.
This is another winner from Trollope and one that covers a lot of ground as we even get our first glimpse of Mr. Plantagenet Palliser of The Paliser Novels. The best thing about Trollope is that he is such a sensitive observer of human psychology and of the world. He understands people so well. And he manages, time and again, to create a palpable sense of being someplace real and definite, whether we are in the country lanes near Allington, the drawing rooms of the earls and countesses, a seedy rooming house in the city, or in a government office in London, we are comfortably aware of our surroundings because of Trollope’s skillful drawing of the location.
I was happy to get a slice of Barchester life with the reappearance of Septimus Hardy, and Dr. and Mrs. Grantly. Just one novel left in this Barsetshire series and I will shed a tear when I am finally through the last of them, they’ve been that enjoyable. But then again, I can look forward to the Paliser novels and then, of course the many, many stand-alone novels. Sheer bliss.
2007, Blackstone Audiobooks, Read by Simon Vance
Lily and Bell Dale, along with their widowed mother, reside in the small house at Allington, as dependents of their uncle, old Squire Dale. As the novel opens, both girls are of age to marry. The Squire wishes Bell to marry his nephew and heir, Bernard Dale. But Bell will have none of it; she loves Bernard as a brother, nothing more. Lily, however, the younger of the two, falls hopelessly in love with Bernard’s London friend, Adolphus Crosbie. Mr. Crosbie, a government official, is stylish, charismatic, socially adept, and, as it turns out, a “confounded scoundrel.” Whilst engaged to Lily, his unapologetic social climbing leads him to also engage Lady Alexandrina De Courcy – a move he will justly live to rue. Before poor Lily has time to recover herself, well-meaning but hopelessly awkward Johnny Eames, declares his abiding love and asks for her hand. Johnny, foil to Crosbie’s suave charisma, is, as Trollope wittingly informs, “hobbledehoy”:
“Such young men are often awkward, ungainly, and not yet formed in their gait; they straggle with their limbs, and are shy; words do not come to them with ease, when words are required, among any but their accustomed associates. Social meetings are periods of penance to them, and any appearance in public will unnerve them. They go much about alone, and blush when women speak to them. In truth, they are not as yet men whatever the number may be of their years; and as they are no longer boys, the world has found for them the ungraceful name of hobbledehoy.” (Ch 4)
The Small House at Allington is completely endearing as the inexperience of youth navigates courtship and matrimony: the dilemma of romantic love versus practical match versus financial alliance. Indeed, where love is concerned, Trollope observes that, “It may almost be a question whether such wisdom as many of us have in our mature years has not come from the dying out of the power of temptation, rather than as the results of thought and resolution.” (Ch 14)
Each time I finish one of the Barsetshire novels, I think that it must be the best one yet, so delightful have I found this series. It is no different for me with The Small House at Allington. And Simon Vance as narrator continues to push the limits of excellence. Highly recommended!
I had some problems with the household at Allington, the widowed mother and the two young daughters that are courted by various men. Lily Dale are clearly the "heroine" but she was the most annoying of them all. So delicate, so hypersensitive a nature, but also manipulative in all her servility. Ok, I suppose she is to be pitied, but it's hard to really feel for her, when she responds as she does.
Johnny Eames are one of the suiters - but very wimpish - it's funny to follow his route from a young "hobbledehoy" to become a man. Specially when he's taking under the protection of Lord de Guest - also the old Squire Dale I finally loved more than all the others. These two elderly men offered a wonderful balance with their course manners and hard-headed approach to life. And the "scoundrel" Crosbie was perhaps the most interesting to follow - we almost pity him in his downfall.
I can't recommend the Barsetshire-series warmly enough - and the reading by Simon Vance. It's a wonderful "shire" to be brought back to.
Although Trollope's audience loved Lily, she was rather annoying. Of course her love for Crosbie was enduring, intense, pure and selfless - all the stuff that people usually praise - but in practice it came out extremely grating. At first, when they were happily engaged, her behavior was complete devotion. She came on so strong that she was practically setting herself up for a fall. For example, she told Crosbie that nothing he could do would destroy her trust in him. Even if he hadn't dumped her, it still seems like there would have been disappointment. Crosbie could never love her as much as she loved him and while she may have been fine with this - she wouldn't be happy with herself, thinking that she caused his social position to be tarnished. Marrying her, he would never again be the man about town and would presumably end up financially strapped, with many children and always a little resentful of his country wife. Even after he married, she still spouted some creepy ideas that her and Crosbie's engagement would be the one that was recognized in heaven.
Lily's reaction to Crosbie's treachery did contain some grief, but she also forgave him. Really, it happened almost immediately - not normal. She wouldn't even let anyone around her badmouth the jilter. In other non-Crosbie respects, Lily tended towards the light and flippant so she was sufficiently tolerable for a whole book.
Crosbie himself had plenty of that sweet self-delusion making him out to be better than he was. No one can especially like him, given his actions, but his second engagement and wedding proved extremely interesting. Everyone knows it won't work and he did deserve unhappiness that way. He'd made a bad bargain - marrying a penniless titled woman always more expensive than one without noble connections. Then it turned out that he hated his wife's father, the earl, but couldn't appropriately express it since he married her partly for the influence. All the slings and arrows to his checkbook are accounted and worried over by Crosbie. Alexandrina, as befitting her status, is a little distant and doesn't love him. Their end is not surprising.
Johnny starts out an awkward 'hobbledehoy' and apparently becomes a man at the end. His fanciful love for Lily is disrupted by her engagement to Crosbie and he later gets in trouble with Amelia Roper, his landlady's daughter. Amelia wants a husband - Trollope isn't too hard on her, she was neither the best or the worst - but Johnny clearly divides women into saints like Lily and lowly scum like Amelia.
Another subplot - one more related to the de Courcy world - revolves around a possible affair between Plantagenet Palliser and Lady Dumbello (the former Griselda Grantly). Both seem unlikely for one - the work-obsessed, uptight Parliament member/heir to the Duke of Omnium and the ultrafashionable, monosyllabic, cold but socially adept wife of dim Dumbello. Griselda is apparently in danger because she talks to Palliser. He rather lamely tries to pursue her. Still, important because it's the first introduction of Palliser, who will go on to be the main character in Trollope's next series.
Even though Lily is annoying, the usual good points about the novel - Trollope's superb prose and psychological characterization of people and relationships.
The plot is unspectacular in the extreme, but for lovers of Trollope, the ability to understand the drama and heroism of ordinary life, as well as its tedium, pettiness, and villainy, will always be his special appeal. This novel is slow, perhaps, to seize the reader's interest -- at least, so I found it -- but in the end the volume acquires a remarkable momentum from the progress of its various subplots and possesses in the final two hundred pages a sort of urgency in its narrative momentum that carries it briskly along. For me, the "hobbledehoyhood" of Johnny Eames is sometimes hard to bear. Trollope even says at the end of the novel that "I feel I have been in fault in giving such prominence to a hobbledehoy." But biographers tell us that such was Trollope in his youth, so a grateful reader is, I suppose, bound to cherish a special feeling for Johnny Eames also.
At one moment a character arrives at his sister-in-law's house in London and is obliged to wait several moments while the servant changes into livery before answering the knock at the door -- for it is thus that the daughter of an earl clings to the trappings of her rank. I love such glimpses into the ways of a vanished world, and they are one of the charms of reading Trollope. But the ways of the human heart have changed less than its outward customs, and the twenty-first-century reader will encounter the shock of recognition several dozen times in the course of reading The Small House at Allington.
The handsome Oxford University Press edition, a bargain at the price, has an insightful introduction by James R. Kincaid. If only it were presented as an afterword! Is there really any point in giving away the plot of a novel?
Most of the characters are flawed, and while this makes them seem more human, it also makes it hard to find one to really root for. It's clear from Crosbie's behavior that Lily Dale is much too good for him, but do readers really want her to settle for John Eames instead? Not this one.
Of the first five Barsetshire novels, this one seems to be the most domestic. The main object for most of the characters is securing domestic comfort, whether through marriage or simply through a change in residence. While church politics has had a prominent role in earlier Barsetshire novels, it is largely absent from this one. Differences of birth and class aren't a primary source of conflict, either. Most of the conflict revolves around money and the cost of happiness. Maybe the absence of larger concerns is why I liked this one less than the other Barsetshire novels I've read. It's still full of Trollope's insight into human character, and I wouldn't have wanted to miss passages like this:
We constantly talk of the thoughtlessness of youth. I do not know whether we might not more appropriately speak of its thoughtfulness. It is, however, no doubt, true that the thought will not at once produce wisdom. It may almost be a question whether such wisdom as many of us have in our mature years has not come from the dying out of the power of temptation, rather than as the results of thought and resolution.
While I never lost interest in it, and the book was filled with interesting, dramatic presentations of Victorian mores, upper class "twits of the year" and Horatio Algeresque expectations, the book as a whole just didn't hang together for me: after I was finished reading it, I was struck at how bloody artificial it all was. No, I don't expect my fictions, even my Victorian fictions, to be tied up with a nice pink bow at the end, but I could never lose sight of Trollope's grubby auctorial paws moving the characters about here. The Small House at Allington is better written than the first book in the series, The Warden (Trollope's attempt at an anti-Dickensian novel, which shared some characteristics with Dickens' style), but its net effect is very similar. Yes, the examples of bad nobility were amusing and plentiful; yes, I was amazed at how often characters even half-seriously contemplated becoming felos de se; but "Trollope's most charming heroine, the bewitching Lily Dale" (to quote the back-cover pitch), was anything but, and her devotion to the social-climbing git who jilted her, Adolphus Crosbie, while embodying the Victorian ideal of femininity, makes her look like a hopelessly narcissistic adolescent more in love with the idea of being in love than someone who is actually in love.
Lily's ego is quite strong -- as is the whole family's, and Trollope frequently remarks on the stubbornness of the Dale character, which does not always redound to a Dale's benefit -- and it is much to be doubted if her self-regard and self-involvement is less than that of her one-time fiancé. Supposedly even Trollope had begun to tire of Lily by the time he wrote the last book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series, The Last Chronicle of Barset; I find it nothing short of incredible that he ever thought that much of her in the first place. (I prefer the "Oil of Lebanon" heiress Martha Dunstable, from Doctor Thorne, Framley Parsonage and, I read, The Last Chronicle of Barset; but Mary Thorne from Doctor Thorne is a more congenial heroine than Lily Dale too.)
"Engaged to the ambitious and self-serving Adolphus Crosbie, Lily Dale is devastated when he jilts her for the aristocratic Lady Alexandrina. Although crushed by his faithlessness, Lily still believes she is bound to her unworthy former fiancé for life and therefore condemned to remain single after his betrayal. And when a more deserving suitor pays his addresses, she is unable to see past her feelings for Crosbie.”
The Dale women, Lily and her sister Bell and their mother, were wonderful. At their core all they want is for the others to find true happiness. They are fiercely protective of each other and their wishes. Some of my favorite scenes in the book are when they stand up for the decisions someone in their family has made, without asking any questions of each other. Lily talks to the local doctor, James Crofts, in an effort to secure happiness for her sister. Their mother talks to the girls’ uncle about a potential match but refuses to force or encourage her daughter to make the match against her will. They are strong women who refuse to betray each other for a shot at money or luxury.
I keep finding shades of Austen in all of the Trollope I read. Both authors share similar themes and styles, though Austen's work has a bit more bite. This one reminded me so much of Sense and Sensibility. Bell is like Eleanor, steady and logical. Lily is brasher and reminded me so much of Marianne. She falls in love with an unworthy man, turning down someone who would truly be a great match. Unfortunately for Lily, unlike Marianne she never quite recovers from that love.
The girls’ mother is an interesting character as well. She struggles with whether she's done right by her children, even though they love her dearly. She worries that they are possibly giving up opportunities out of a loyalty to her. It's the endless struggle of any parents, constantly asking yourself if you’re making the best choices for your kids.
The male characters in this novel are a mixed bag. Eames is a worthy man, I found myself rooting for him. The girls’ uncle is harsh and struggles to connect with them. He does love them, but that feeling is wrapped deep within his other layers of formality and stiffness. He has such a hard time conveying his feelings and his actions often come across as obligation instead of love. Crosbie is just a jerk, to put it nicely. I wanted to smack him and he deserved his fate.
Side note: We also get to see Griselda again and it’s a bit tragic to see what her life has become.
One of the books best lines comes from Lily’s mother’s reaction when her daughter is jilted by Crosbie:
“Mrs. Dale had felt in her heart that it would be well if Crosbie could be beaten until all his bones were sore.”
My only real complaint about this one was that I wanted something better for Lily. I wanted her to find love. I wanted her to realize that she deserved someone better than Crosbie. I wanted a happy ending for her because it seemed like the novel was begging for one! It’s definitely not that I think everyone needs to be married to be happy, but it felt like she gave up on pursuing any happiness in some misplaced sense of loyalty for a man that didn’t deserve her.
BOTTOM LINE: Another delightful read. It’s not my favorite of the series, but I once again enjoyed being lost in Trollope’s world of Barsetshire.
I still don't like Lily Dale!
Simon Vance does a marvelous job narrating this 5th entry in Trollope's Barsetshire series. Unfortunately, this novel is less amusing - more of a straightforward romance, with sickly sweet Lily Dale as the heroine.
Read Apr 2007
I liked the Bell and Dr Crofts storyline, but it was a bit underwritten. All the scenes with the despicable Crosbie and his appalling in-laws were enjoyable. Lily was extremely annoying and needs to wake up to the fact that you can't go on loving someone like Crosbie and retain your mental health. John Eames was also rather tiresome, so maybe in the next book they will end up together and that would suit me.
Otherwise, this is the second best of the Barchester novels so far. If it hadn't been written as the generic multi-volume monster, it might even have been the best: there's no cheery, happy ending but there's still plenty of Trollope's usual wit. The plot is very well done, and more interesting than Dr Thorne's- here you get all the lurv stuff, but also plenty of politics and property. The characters/caricatures are all pretty convincing. Also, I over-identified with Johnny Eames. I, too, went through a long period of hobbledehoyhood. Perhaps it continues.