Thursday, March 10, 2011

Small House At Allington

The Small House at Allington. Anthony Trollope. 1864. 752 pages.

Of course there was a Great House at Allington. How otherwise should there have been a Small House? Our story will, as its name imports, have its closest relations with those who lived in the less dignified domicile of the two; but it will have close relations also with the more dignified, and it may be well that I should, in the first instance, say a few words as to the Great House and its owner. 

The Small House at Allington is the fifth in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series by Anthony Trollope, my favorite bearded Victorian. It follows The Warden, Barchester Towers, Doctor Thorne, and Framley Parsonage. Did I love it? Yes! I just LOVED it. After my less than enthusiastic reading of Framley Parsonage, I was needing this one to be incredible, and it was! From start to finish, it was love--true love.

The Dales are the stars of this one. We're primarily focused on the two Dale sisters, Lily and Bell, and the men who for better or worse fall in love with them, John Eames, Adolphus Crosbie, Bernard Dale (cousin), and Dr. Crofts. Bernard brings his new acquaintance, Adolphus Crosbie, home one autumn, which changes their lives forever. Soon he's declared himself truly, madly, deeply in love with the young practically penniless girl, Lily. She's his soul mate and nothing will keep them apart. But is he worthy of her love? her respect? Or is he good for nothing? John Eames is also in love with Lily. Though he's never professed it privately or publicly. His love for her is sure and steady. If only she would see him as more than a friend...

As for Bell, there are two men who would have her for a wife. Bernard, her cousin, who has only recently discovered that his feelings are so in line with his uncle's wishes. If she says yes, they'll inherit nicely. But despite the promise of monetary gain, I do believe that Bernard is sincere in his devotion to Bell. Her other would-be suitor is Dr. Crofts, Trollope spends less time (at least as far as I can remember) with him, but Bell, unlike readers, is able to know him much better...

I loved this one. I loved the characters, the storytelling, the writing. It was charming. It was satisfying. It was entertaining. It was just a great, great read! There were characters that I just loved and adored. And there were characters that I loved to hate!
If the question was ever asked plainly, Bernard Dale had asked it plainly. Shall we be man and wife? Few men, I fancy, dare to put it all at once in so abrupt a way, and yet I do not know that the English language affords any better terms for the question. (75)

'Don't you like the moon?' she said, as she took his arm, to which she was now so accustomed that she hardly thought of it as she took it.
'Like the moon--well; I fancy I like the sun better. I don't quite believe in moonlight. I think it does best to talk about when one wants to be sentimental.'
'Ah; that is just what I fear. That is what I say to Bell when I tell her that her romance will fade as the roses do. And then I shall have to learn that prose is more serviceable than poetry, and that the mind is better than love. It's all coming, I know; and yet I do like the moonlight.'
'And the poetry--and the love?'
'Yes. The poetry much, and the love more. To be loved by you is sweeter even than any of my dreams--is better than all the poetry I have read.'
'Dearest Lily,' and his unchecked arm stole round her waist.
'It is the meaning of the moonlight, and the essence of the poetry,' continued the impassioned girl. 'I did not know then why I liked such things, but now I know. It was because I longed to be loved.'
'And to love.'
'Oh, yes. I would be nothing without that. But that, you know, is your delight--or should be. The other is mine. And yet it is a delight to love you; to know that I may love you.'
'You mean that this is the realization of your romance.'
'Yes; but it must not be the end of it, Adolphus. You must like the soft twilight, and the long evenings when we shall be alone; and you must read to me the books I love, and you must not teach me to think that the world is hard, and dry, and cruel--not yet. I tell Bell so very often; but you must not say so to me.'
'It shall not be dry and cruel, if I can prevent it.'
'You understand what I mean, dearest. I will not think it dry and cruel, even though sorrow should come upon us, if you--I think you know what I mean.'
'If I am good to you.'
'I am not afraid of that--I am not the least afraid of that. You do not think that I could ever distrust you? But you must not be ashamed to look at the moonlight, and to read poetry, and to--'
'To talk nonsense, you mean.'
But as he said it, he pressed her closer to his side, and his tone was pleasant to her.
'I suppose I'm talking nonsense now?' she said pouting. 'You liked me better when I was talking about the pigs, didn't you?'
'No; I like you best now.' (87-8)

'We all try, my dear, but many of us fail to try with sufficient energy of purpose. It is only by doing our duty that we can hope to be happy, whether in single life or in married.' (119)

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 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. (133)

Love does not follow worth, and is not given to excellence;--nor is it destroyed by ill-usage, nor killed by blows and mutilation. (306)

A sermon is not to tell you what you are, but what you ought to be, and a novel should tell you not what you are to get, but what you'd like to get. (422)

'I hate books I can't understand,' said Bell. 'I like a book to be clear as running water, so that the whole meaning may be seen at once.'
'The quick seeing of the meaning must depend a little on the reader, must it not?' said Mrs. Dale.
'The reader mustn't be a fool, of course,' said Bell.
'But then so many readers are fools,' said Lily. 'And yet they get something out of their reading.' (445)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Unknown said...

great review!!! I loved that long quote in the middle...I've never heard of this book, but I'm def. adding it to my TBR list....thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Your great review makes me want to read this one, thanks!