First sentence: Of course there was a Great House at Allington. How otherwise should there have been a Small House?
Premise/plot: The Small House at Allington is the fifth novel in the Barsetshire series by Anthony Trollope. It primarily focuses on the Dale family. Lily and Bell Dale are sisters--both worthy of being heroines. Mrs. Dale has done quite a good job raising them on her own since her husband's death. Of course they are not all alone in the world, the girls have an uncle--Christopher Dale--who is a squire. Also, one mustn't forget cousin Bernard.
Bernard and Bell would make quite a match of it--at least that's what the squire thinks. He'd LOVE to see these two marry and have children. (Bernard is his heir.) But Bell has different plans for her future--and marrying to please an uncle is decidedly not in her plans. Bell hasn't said NO NEVER to the idea of marriage in general, but she wants LOVE.
Lily. John Eames (aka JOHNNY) loves, loves, loves Lily with all his heart and soul. He has wanted to declare his love for her for years. But before he can speak to her from the depths of his heart, Bernard brings home a showy friend, Mr. Adolphus Crosbie. Crosbie makes a first great impression on a young and naive Lily. Soon the two are ENGAGED. Johnny is disappointed--broken-hearted.
When Crosbie realizes that Lily's dear old uncle has absolutely no intentions of blessing his niece financially--either now or at his passing--he reveals his true colors. CAN HE REALLY TRULY COMMIT TO MARRYING LILY KNOWING THAT SUCH A MARRIAGE WON'T MAKE HIM A DIME RICHER?!?! He is self-aware enough to know it's doubtful. But it's a doubt--not a certainty--so when she asks him if he wants out, if he wants his freedom, he doesn't speak honestly. He doesn't admit his doubts. He leaves her believing that the two will marry.
Within a week or two Crosbie finds himself with a choice to make. He has the opportunity to marry up--to marry a somebody. Or the daughter of a somebody. Though his engagement to Lily is known in some circles, he decides to propose to Alexandrina anyway. If she says yes, he can break it off with Lily. If she says no, well, there's always Lily.
When his engagement to Alexandrina is known or made known, it upsets a lot of people. (Including BERNARD and JOHNNY and the SQUIRE.) Lily is not without friends and family. She is beloved by all because she is an absolute angel of a girl. And like an angel, Lily, when she hears of his inconstancy, decides to forgive him wholeheartedly. She doesn't feel angry, lied to, betrayed. He is simply doing what will make him happy. And isn't his happiness more important than her own?! As long as he is being true to himself isn't that all that matters?! No. She loves, loves, loves him still. He is the husband of her heart; the vows may never have been spoken in church but she's keeping them all the same.
Meanwhile, life goes on. Bell is being courted by a local doctor...will she say yes?! Lily certainly hopes so! Johnny is moving up in the world and making new friends. But some of his old friends and acquaintances are getting into messes. (For that matter he gets into a few messes of his own.) Crosbie finds himself not moving up in the world but taking a few steps back. He wanted his marriage to bring him up and take him places...but it's having the opposite effect. (Do we pity him?! NO. This reader does not.)
This novel also--for whatever reason--introduces Plantagenet Palliser. I love him but he doesn't quite seem to belong in this novel.
My thoughts: I love Anthony Trollope. I do. He's a great author. He doesn't always stay "on task" in his writing. He rambles a bit. He has dozens of characters and perhaps not all of them "matter" in a particular novel. But his characters tend to be fully fleshed. He's peopled a community--a village or two--in this series. There are some characters that you want to boo, hiss. But other characters you absolutely want to spend time with because they are your friends.
- I would have women, and men also, young as long as they can be young. It is not that a woman should call herself in years younger than her father’s family Bible will have her to be. Let her who is forty call herself forty; but if she can be young in spirit at forty, let her show that she is so.
- “Ten minutes before the time named; and, of course, you must have understood that I meant thirty minutes after it!” That is my interpretation of the words when I am thanked for coming early.
- Such were his resolutions, and, as he thought of them in bed, he came to the conclusion that few men were less selfish than he was.
- It is very hard, that necessity of listening to a man who says nothing.
- When last days are coming, they should be allowed to come and to glide away without special notice or mention. And as for last moments, there should be none such.
- I have almost more to think of than I know how to manage.
- Nothing on earth can I ever love as I have loved you. But I have a God and a Saviour that will be enough for me.
- I enjoy a snooze after dinner; I do indeed; I like it; but then, when one comes to go to bed, one does it in such a sneaking sort of way, as though one were in disgrace!
- And my sister, she thinks it a crime — literally a sin, to go to sleep in a chair. Nobody ever caught her napping!
- There are deeds which will not bear a gloss, — sins as to which the perpetrator cannot speak otherwise than as a reptile; circumstances which change a man and put upon him the worthlessness of vermin.
- “What are we to do to him?” said Bernard, after a while. “Treat him as you would a rat. Throw your stick at him, if he comes under your feet; but beware, above all things, that he does not get into your house. That is too late for us now.” “There must be more than that, uncle.”
- A self-imposed trouble will not allow itself to be banished.
- Love does not follow worth, and is not given to excellence; — nor is it destroyed by ill-usage, nor killed by blows and mutilation.
- “I don’t know that any good would be got by knocking him over the head. And if we are to be Christians, I suppose we ought to be Christians.” “What sort of a Christian has he been?” “That’s true enough; and if I was Bernard, I should be very apt to forget my Bible lessons about meekness.”
- There are some things for which a man ought to be beaten black and blue.” “So that he shouldn’t do them again?” “Exactly.”
- My belief is that in life people will take you very much at your own reckoning.
- No one thinks of defending himself to a newspaper except an ass; — unless it be some fellow who wants to have his name puffed.
- “It was a matter of course,” said Bell. “It always is right in the novels. That’s why I don’t like them. They are too sweet.” “That’s why I do like them, because they are so sweet. 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.”
- But if we are to have real life, let it be real.
- The speech was respectable, dull, and correct. Men listened to it, or sat with their hats over their eyes, asleep, pretending to do so;
- “There are circumstances in which what we call Christianity seems to me to be hardly possible.”
- “All the books have got to be so stupid! I think I’ll read Pilgrim’s Progress again.” “What do you say to Robinson Crusoe?” said Bell. “Or Paul and Virginia?” said Lily. “But I believe I’ll have Pilgrim’s Progress. I never can understand it, but I rather think that makes it nicer.” “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.
- All holiday-making is hard work, but holiday-making with nothing to do is the hardest work of all.
- Who does not know how terrible are those preparations for house-moving; — how infinite in number are the articles which must be packed, how inexpressibly uncomfortable is the period of packing, and how poor and tawdry is the aspect of one’s belongings while they are thus in a state of dislocation?
- To have loved truly, even though you shall have loved in vain, will be a consolation when you are as old as I am.
- Statistics, he thought, might be made as enchanting as ever, if only they could be mingled with love.
- Ah! how I hate the smile of a woman who smiles by rote! It made Mr Palliser feel very uncomfortable, — but he did not analyse it, and persevered.
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews