The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope

“Of course there was a Great House at Allington.”

Lily (Lilian), Bell (Isabella), and their mother, Mrs. Dale, live in a cottage on the estate of her brother-in-law, Squire Dale.  The squire, their benefactor, is a stern implacable man who feels a responsibility to the family, yet does not exhibit affection or understanding towards them or their plight.  In spite of the strained relations, the Dale women live a contented, happy life.  However, their cousin, Bernard, one day brings his friend, Adolphus Crosbie home to visit and an attachment grows between him and Lily.  Crosbie is a charming young man, without name or fortune, but with a charisma that captures Lily’s heart, despite his flaws of selfishness and worldliness.  Does Crosbie love Lily?  He certainly convinces himself that he does and as he proposes he anticipates a respectable dowry that he assumes will be bestowed upon Lily by Squire Dale.  But assumptions can go awry and when Crosbie learns that Lily will be the benefactress of nothing but goodwill, her charms begin to diminish in his materialistic eyes.  All attempts to convince himself that love will overcome practicalities fail and he is lured away by a daughter of an earl, Alexandrina deCourcy, of whom he once was an admirer.  Weak and irresolute, Crosbie soon finds himself engaged to the girl despite his own misgivings and the threat of censure that he is certain to receive from various aspects of society.

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Johnny Eames, who is initially introduced to us as a hobbledyhoy, loves Lily with a quiet, unwavering devotion, however her attachment to Crosbie appears insurmountable in spite of his abominable treatment of her. Even Eames’ preferment by the honourable Lord de Guest does not seem to sway Lily’s heart in his favour.  Meanwhile, her sister, Bell, refuses the proposal of her cousin, Bernard, who is influenced by their uncle, Squire Dale.  The Squire’s desire for the union overrides both parties, and he nearly drives his family away, physically and emotionally.  Yet there is another suitor waiting in the wings, Dr. Crofts, and the pair display a long-standing bond that is quiet and endurable.  Love puts on many faces in this book, yet happiness can be elusive in spite of good intentions.

Lily Dale is a character that is both frustrating and pitiful.  Her devotion to a man of questionable character and weak will is truly appalling.  One can understand her love and finally her disappointment, but it is beyond conceivability that she could maintain such an unwavering allegiance to such a scoundrel.  There are few characters I could claim to fully dislike in classic fiction, but I would have to say, Lily Dale is one of them.

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During the Barset Chronicles series, one gets accustomed to Trollope’s palate of numerous multi-faceted characters, that populate his pages with a kaleidescope of colourful behaviours and a weaving of personal happenings.  However, with this book, I was somewhat disappointed.  The story itself was  more simplified than the other books of the Chronicles, which is not a detriment in itself, but the major focus on the love story of Lily and its many pitfalls left one with a disquieted feeling.  Because there is little commitment, deep feeling, or love on one side, and an excess of it on the other, there is an inequality of sentiment produced that colours the whole book.  Blindness is a factor in many circumstances and, in spite of Trollope’s lighthearted treatment of some of the characters, there is perhaps a more damning conviction against society at large for its inability to see what is in front of its face, for its lack of motivation to change circumstances, and perhaps even for its helplessness at the hands of fate.

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0 thoughts on “The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope

  1. " One can understand her love and finally her disappointment, but it is beyond conceivability that she could maintain such an unwavering allegiance to such a scoundrel."

    Except we still see that going on today, every day, every where.

    And this review sounds like Trollope is a good author for me to stay away from. I'm not sure I could have finished this, from your descriptions.

  2. Yes, depressing, isn't it? Don't read this book but I would HIGHLY recommend The Warden to you (the first book in the series). I think you'd like it very much. There is a depth to it that is missing in many of the other books in the series, and it gives a more serious treatment to certain issues. And Septimus Harding is one of the truly great heroes in classic fiction, a humble parson with depth and integrity. He's right up there with M. Myriel from Les Miserables. Honestly, The Warden is one of my favourites!

  3. i've read the Barchester Chronicle(s) and overall enjoyed the experience.. except… for one thing, he does take a character trait and drive it into the ground: over and over in fact, and it did get rather tedious… but that may have not been the way it was experienced by readers in the nineteenth c….
    i don't know enough to say whether they might have liked that sort of thing or not…

  4. Sadly, I do know what you mean. I think if I read one per year, I would be thrilled with them, but reading one after the other really makes their little flaws stand out.

    I'm interested in reading his Palliser series next. I have a feeling I'm going to either love them or hate them with no in-between.

  5. I'm curious. what do you mean. what character trait do you see over and over again in Trollope's novels. I have only read a few of his books so I don't know. I still get his characters confused with Thackery's Vanity Fair.

  6. Sorry, I keep hitting the publish button before I'm finished. Long day.

    I was going to comment that on the few books I have read I have notice that he does create multi-faceted characters, although you say this one does not measure up. Maybe I'll save this one for last.

  7. Perhaps I was just tired of people making poor choices and then not learning from them. Lily is completely blind all through the book. I've heard the last book, The Last Chronicle of Barset is much better. It would be nice to end well!

  8. This was my Gran's favourite book so I tried very hard with it but unfortunately I feel the same way as you. In my mind this was the weakest of the Barchester series. But at least you've read it, and now you're ready for my second favourite of the series (the first being The Warden)! 😀

  9. You know I love Trollope..I am utterly and absolutely devoted to him. But this is one of his few books I just could not get going on….I never managed beyond like 50-60 odd pages! I guess I will hold off on it until I am desperate!

  10. I totally agree–Lily Dale made Marianne Dashwood seem sensible. I ended up feeling so frustrated with this novel as well–I've not started the last in the series because of my reaction to this story. I will, of course, but Trollope has much to answer for.

    >it is beyond conceivability that she could maintain such an unwavering allegiance to such a scoundrel.


  11. Love your first sentence! So true! 😀 I hope you feel able to begin the Last Chronicle soon …. only one more to go! I do want to read his Palliser series but I might need a little break. As much as I like Trollope, he can lull me into a little bit of a reading coma at times. Lol!

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