Group read: The Small House At Allington by Anthony Trollope

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Group read: The Small House At Allington by Anthony Trollope

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aug 9, 2013, 7:29am

The Small House At Allington by Anthony Trollope (1864)

Welcome, all, to the group read of the fifth of the Barsetshire novels.

In structure, The Small House At Allington perhaps most resembles Dr Thorne - it concentrates chiefly on a new group of characters, but also reintroduces the awful De Courcy family (with various references to the events of Dr Thorne). Along the way we see a fair amount of Lady Dumbello (the former Griselda Grantly) and something of the Archdeacon and Mrs Grantly; Mr Harding pops in for most of a chapter; and we get name-checks for Eleanor and Mrs Proudie. The Duke of Omnium also makes a reappearance.

I don't want to say too much about this novel, although there are a few things about the characters that warrants pointing out.

Over the years Lily Dale has become one of Trollope's more contentious characters, with a very wide range of reactions to her from readers---although perhaps not so much here as when her story is continued in a later novel. It will be interesting to see what this group makes of her.

In another of the main characters, John Eames, we have almost a "portrait of the artist as a young man", with Trollope giving a great many of the more unfortunate characteristics and tendencies of his own youth to the individual he refers to throughout as "a hobbledehoy". (Trollope was a late bloomer; so is John!)

In Framley Parsonage we saw a greater political interest on Trollope's part begin to creep into his novels. Here it is very apparent that the idea of a series of politically-centred novels has taken a firm hold on him, as he is already planning for the future: The Small House At Allington introduces Plantagenet Palliser, one of the two central characters of the "Palliser Novels". In addition, although it would be too much to say we are introduced to her, the other mainstay of that series, the Lady Glencora, has her back-story recounted here with rather brutal brevity.

With respect to the group read, we know that we will have people starting much later in the month, so as always please be very careful to head your posts with the chapter in question in bold, to avoid spoilers.

And while I always say this, it bears reiteration: do not read the introduction if your edition has one OR any endnotes---my edition for one repeatedly gives away the events of later novels in both. If you have any questions generally, or if you need any reminder of earlier events in the series, please ask here!

aug 9, 2013, 7:29am

Redigerat: aug 18, 2013, 11:28pm

The characters of The Small House At Allington

Christopher Dale, Squire of Allington
Mrs Mary Dale, his widowed sister-in-law
Isabella and Lilian Dale, her daughters

Bernard Dale, nephew to the Squire and cousin to Bell and Lily
Adolphus Crosbie, a friend of Bernard

John Eames, a neighbour of the Dales
Mrs Eames, his mother
Mary Eames, his sister

Dr James Crofts

aug 9, 2013, 7:33am

Have at it! :)

Who's in and where are we up to?

aug 9, 2013, 8:47am

I'm listening to an audio version of it. I'm up to Chapter 20 so won't say much about it. Can't wait to meet Planty Pall!

Redigerat: aug 9, 2013, 9:47am

I'm in! I'm up to Chapter 1011.

aug 9, 2013, 10:18am

This is a re-read for me and I shall be starting the audio version this weekend. If it's anything like the others I shall get more out of it by following this thread than I did when I read it alone.

aug 9, 2013, 12:03pm

Mostly along for the ride as I finished this quite some time ago. I'll be skimming back through as you all progress.

Thanks, Liz, for doing this again. Is there a target date for Last Chronicle, or will I be on my own?

aug 9, 2013, 12:48pm

Sigh. Not this month. I'm hoping for September so I'm going to star this thread for future reference.

aug 9, 2013, 1:17pm

I'm in! :-) Should be starting at some point over the weekend.

aug 9, 2013, 2:23pm

I'm in but reading about five pages a day!! Am into Chapter 2. I find these novels so relaxing that they have the unfortunate side-effect of making me go to sleep at the end of a long day of school.

Redigerat: aug 9, 2013, 5:34pm

I'm in! :-)

I should think so!! :D

Hello, Jean, Carrie, Kerry, Gail, Laura, Heather and Cushla - lovely to have you all here in whatever capacity!

Gail, we don't have a target date as yet. As has come up a couple of times, I have suggested stepping sideways to Can You Forgive Her?, the first of the Palliser novels, after The Small House At Allington: the two series overlap at this point and this order better maintains the chronology of events for the characters. If we go with that plan we would probably look to do Can You Forgive Her? towards the end of this year and The Last Chronicle Of Barset in the New Year.

Laura, whenever it suits you to join in is fine.

Oh dear, Cushla! - but at that rate, at least Laura will have some company when she starts!

aug 10, 2013, 5:14pm

I'm in - though I'm still finishing Framley so I won't start for a week or so...

Redigerat: aug 12, 2013, 6:57pm

Yike! Sorry, gang---my "free weekend" turned into a morass of aggravations and interruptions, and led to that unhappy condition known as thread neglect.

What I did want to say about the beginning of The Small House At Allington was---

Chapter 2

I can't think of another writer of this time who gives us scenes like these of young men and women simply being friends together - being silly and having fun. We saw this sort of thing in Dr Thorne, too. Perhaps it's because Trollope sets more of his scenes in the country, where behaviour was allowed to be less formal (and less chaperoned). But again, it strikes me as a mark of his realism and his tendency to depict the fabric of real life.

Mr Crosbie, finding the hay-pitching not much to his taste, threw himself under the same tree also, quite after the manner of Apollo, as Lily said to her mother late in the evening. Then Bernard covered Lily with hay, which was a great feat in the jocose way for him; and Lily returning the compliment, almost smothered Mr Crosbie---by accident.

aug 12, 2013, 10:20pm

That passed right by me the first time. Such a contrast to the bleak beauty of Hardy.

aug 13, 2013, 6:59am

#14 Thanks for highlighting that Liz. I was quite surprised at the informality of that scene.

I've started slowlly and read the first two chapters. I think I've figured out who's related to who.

I was interested in the description of the great house at Allington in Chapter 1:

And now I will speak of the Great House of Allington. After all, it was not very great; nor was it surrounded by much of that exquisite nobility of park appurtenance which graces the habitations of most of our old landed proprietors. But the house itself was very graceful. It had been built in the days of the early Stuarts, in that style of architecture to which we give the name of the Tudors. On its front it showed three pointed roofs, or gables, as I believe they should be called; and between each gable a thin tall chimney stood, the two chimneys thus raising themselves just above the three peaks I have mentioned. I think that the beauty of the house depended much on those two chimneys; on them, and on the mullioned windows with which the front of the house was closely filled. The door, with its jutting porch, was by no means in the centre of the house. As you entered, there was but one window on your right hand, while on your left there were three. And over these there was a line of five windows, one taking its place above the porch. We all know the beautiful old Tudor window, with its stout stone mullions and its stone transoms, crossing from side to side at a point much nearer to the top than to the bottom. Of all windows ever invented it is the sweetest. And here, at Allington, I think their beauty was enhanced by the fact that they were not regular in their shape. Some of these windows were long windows, while some of them were high. That to the right of the door, and that at the other extremity of the house, were among the former. But the others had been put in without regard to uniformity, a long window here, and a high window there, with a general effect which could hardly have been improved. Then above, in the three gables, were three other smaller apertures. But these also were mullioned, and the entire frontage of the house was uniform in its style.

I think these images show Tudor houses with mullioned windows:

aug 13, 2013, 7:03am

Chapter 2

I've come to really love Trollope's authorial comments about his characters and which ones will be our heroes:

I do not say that Mr. Crosbie will be our hero, seeing that that part in the drama will be cut up, as it were, into fragments. Whatever of the magnificent may be produced will be diluted and apportioned out in very moderate quantities among two or more, probably among three or four, young gentlemen—to none of whom will be vouchsafed the privilege of much heroic action.


Lilian Dale, dear Lily Dale—for my reader must know that she is to be very dear, and that my story will be nothing to him if he do not love Lily Dale

aug 13, 2013, 7:17am

I confess to not really liking Lily Dale. Odd, since I do love most of his young women characters, at least his heroines.

aug 13, 2013, 7:24am

I have to confess that I don't really like Lily either. Maybe I would have liked her better if I hadn't read this so close on the heels of Framley Parsonage. I liked Lucy Robarts much better than Lily.

aug 13, 2013, 7:25am

Yes, I think you might be right, Carrie. I did really like Lucy also.

aug 13, 2013, 7:29am

I like Lily but not Crosbie and when I read it before I really didn't like the way Trollope let the story unfold but, thinking about it afterwards, he was right of course.

aug 13, 2013, 7:38am

#18-21 Well, having only read up to Ch2 so far, I can't say whether I like her or not yet, but it's interesting to see so many strong opinions of her :-)

aug 13, 2013, 7:08pm

Of course, what's interesting is Trollope's own shifting opinion of Lily, influenced by how his readers reacted to her---but we'll discuss that later. :)


That's lovely, Heather, thank you.

aug 14, 2013, 2:23pm

#23 I look forward to it Liz!

Now up to the end of Chapter 6. This conversation from Chapter 3 made me smile:

"There's mamma," said Lily. "Mamma, Mr. Crosbie wants to play croquet by moonlight."

"I don't think there is light enough for that," said Mrs. Dale.

"There is light enough for him," said Lily, "for he plays quite independently of the hoops; don't you, Mr. Crosbie?"

"There's very pretty croquet light, I should say," said Mr. Crosbie, looking up at the bright moon; "and then it is so stupid going to bed."

"Yes, it is stupid going to bed," said Lily; "but people in the country are stupid, you know. Billiards, that you can play all night by gas, is much better, isn't it?"

"Your arrows fall terribly astray there, Miss Dale, for I never touch a cue; you should talk to your cousin about billiards."

"Is Bernard a great billiard player?" asked Bell.

"Well, I do play now and again; about as well as Crosbie does croquet. Come, Crosbie, we'll go home and smoke a cigar."

"Yes," said Lily; "and then, you know, we stupid people can go to bed. Mamma, I wish you had a little smoking-room here for us. I don't like being considered stupid."

aug 14, 2013, 5:25pm

I enjoyed that passage too!

aug 14, 2013, 5:27pm

I'm here and reading, but I'm entering the home stretch and should finish in the next day or so, so I will stay tuned and wait for people to catch up. I recall having some questions about the early chapters but I can't remember what they were.

aug 14, 2013, 7:02pm

Welcome, Anne! Please do look back over the early chapters and see if you can remember - the more discussion points, the better! :)

My own comment about these early chapters concerns the Squire, who I think represents one of Trollope's earliest efforts at "psychological profiling", that is, showing someone to the reader from a very internal point-of-view---and showing, too, the gap between someone's actual thoughts and motivations and how they are perceived by others.

It's a very sustained, and much more serious, instance of what we saw in embryo in Barchester Towers in the business of Eleanor and Mr Slope, with everyone effectively on the same page and yet at loggerheads because of their imperfect perceptions.

In time this sort of writing would become an extremely important component of Trollope's art---largely fueling some of his novels, in particular He Knew He Was Right (published in 1869), and best seen in his ongoing and increasingly intricate depiction of Plantagenet Palliser.

aug 15, 2013, 3:15pm

#27 Interesting comments - thanks Liz.

I'm now up to Chapter 10 and enjoying the way Trollope is developing the characters, especially Lily, Crosbie, Bell and my first meeting with Crofts. After the party at the Dale's I think I'm beginning to understand what happened between Bell and Crofts.

My quote of the day would be this one from Chapter 9:

Poor Lily! How little she understood as yet what was passing through his mind. Had she known his wish she would have wrapped up her love carefully in a napkin, so that no one should have seen it,—no one but he, when he might choose to have the treasure uncovered for his sight. And it was all for his sake that she had been thus open in her ways. She had seen girls who were half ashamed of their love; but she would never be ashamed of hers or of him. She had given herself to him; and now all the world might know it, if all the world cared for such knowledge. Why should she be ashamed of that which, to her thinking, was so great an honour to her? She had heard of girls who would not speak of their love, arguing to themselves cannily that there may be many a slip between the cup and the lip. There could be no need of any such caution with her. There could surely be no such slip! Should there be such a fall,—should any such fate, either by falseness or misfortune, come upon her,—no such caution could be of service to save her. The cup would have been so shattered in its fall that no further piecing of its parts would be in any way possible. So much as this she did not exactly say to herself; but she felt it all, and went bravely forward,—bold in her love, and careful to hide it from none who chanced to see it.

aug 15, 2013, 4:02pm

Well I thought I had starred this thread but apparently not. I just started the book and will not have a lot of time to read for a couple of days but it's certainly good to be back in Barsetshire again.

aug 15, 2013, 6:14pm

Welcome, Bonnie - it's good to have you here!

Redigerat: aug 15, 2013, 9:54pm

Chapter 6 becomes a matter of regret to me that the feminine world should be in such a hurry after matrimony. I have, however, no remedy to offer for the evil; and, indeed, am aware that the evil, if there be an evil, is not well expressed in the words I have used. The hurry is not for matrimony, but for love. Then, the love once attained, matrimony seizes it for its own, and the evil is accomplished.

One of the things I find both exasperating and fascinating about Trollope is his contradictory views on marriage. No-one wrote more devastatingly about unhappy marriage, yet he would never admit that a woman might be better off not married. He was perfectly capable of empathising deeply with *a* woman in *a* set of circumstances, yet completely resisted the idea of change or more alternatives for *women* generally. won't find too many other Victorian novelists using the word "evil" four times in a paragraph about marriage.

Maybe George Meredith*.

(*I threw that in just for Peggy, if she happens to be lurking!)

aug 16, 2013, 10:01pm

Chapter 7

Oh, dear:

To do the man justice, I must declare that in all these moments of misery he still did the best he could to think of Lily herself as of a great treasure which he had won,—as of a treasure which should, and perhaps would, compensate him for his misery. But there was the misery very plain. He must give up his clubs, and his fashion, and all that he had hitherto gained, and be content to live a plain, humdrum, domestic life, with eight hundred a year, and a small house, full of babies. It was not the kind of Elysium for which he had tutored himself. Lily was very nice, very nice indeed. She was, as he said to himself, "by odds, the nicest girl that he had ever seen." Whatever might now turn up, her happiness should be his first care. But as for his own,—he began to fear that the compensation would hardly be perfect. "It is my own doing," he said to himself, intending to be rather noble in the purport of his soliloquy, "I have trained myself for other things,—very foolishly. Of course I must suffer,—suffer damnably. But she shall never know it. Dear, sweet, innocent, pretty little thing!"

aug 16, 2013, 11:22pm

It doesn't bode well, does it?

aug 17, 2013, 8:18am

He's such a worm.

aug 17, 2013, 6:27pm

Cad. He personifies the word.

aug 17, 2013, 7:05pm

General spoilers for The Small House At Allington



True; but has any character in English literature ever been subjected to a more sustained punishment?? :)

aug 18, 2013, 6:14pm

I'm up to chapter 21 and it's reminding me quite a bit of Sense and Sensibility. So far I like Sense and Sensibility better, but I still have 2/3 of the book left to read.

Redigerat: aug 18, 2013, 8:17pm

Carrie, you're not the first to notice that, and it is almost certain that the allusions were intentional; in fact, a very close reading of TSHAA reveals even more points of comparison than appear at first glance. Trollope as we know was an unabashed novel-reader and a great admirer of Austen; he once called Pride And Prejudice the best English novel.

It is very likely he intended TSHAA as a kind of commentary upon S&S---the latter, but after fifty years of social change, and from a male perspective. The similarities are many, but it the differences, or the different interpretation and outcome of essentially the same events, that are really intriguing.

ETA: Trollope actually did the same sought of thing again - much more overtly, yet much less noticed (if that makes sense; I mean the novel in which he did it is far less known than The Small House At Allington) - The Bertrams is a commentary of sorts upon Mansfield Park, right down to the characters' surname.

aug 18, 2013, 10:16pm

I started reading today and am very much liking what I've read so far. I just finished Chapter 10.

I agree that 'worm' and 'cad' are good descriptors of Adolphus Crosbie, but I still think Lily may be better off with him than she would have been with John Eames who can't seem to stop professing his love for the devious Amelia Roper. I am curious to see if he can get out of that mess.

37, 38: That is interesting about Trollope and Austen. Well, they do say that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Redigerat: aug 18, 2013, 11:02pm

Welcome, Donna!

I see you're at Chapter 10, but I'm going back to Chapter 9 for a moment:

As Trollope says, the job of "hero" is divided up in this novel; which is to say, it really hasn't got one---

But here are the candidates, the only occasion upon which they are all in the same room:

After that Dr. Crofts got off towards the door, and stood there by himself, leaning against the wall, with the thumbs of both his hands stuck into the armholes of his waistcoat. People said that he was a shy man. I suppose he was shy, and yet he was a man that was by no means afraid of doing anything that he had to do. He could speak before a multitude without being abashed, whether it was a multitude of men or of women. He could be very fixed too in his own opinion, and eager, if not violent, in the prosecution of his purpose. But he could not stand and say little words, when he had in truth nothing to say. He could not keep his ground when he felt that he was not using the ground upon which he stood. He had not learned the art of assuming himself to be of importance in whatever place he might find himself. It was this art which Crosbie had learned, and by this art that he had flourished. So Crofts retired and leaned against the wall near the door; and Crosbie came forward and shone like an Apollo among all the guests. "How is it that he does it?" said John Eames to himself, envying the perfect happiness of the London man of fashion.

And on either side of this we get:

    "And I am told that he is well off. He is a very fortunate man,—very fortunate,—very fortunate."
    "Of course we think so," said Bell. "Not, however, because he is rich."
    "No; not because he is rich. But because, being worthy of such happiness, his circumstances should enable him to marry, and to enjoy it."
    "Yes, exactly," said Bell. "That is just it." Then she sat down, and in sitting down put an end to the conversation. "That is just it," she had said. But as soon as the words were spoken she declared to herself that it was not so, and that Crofts was wrong. "We love him," she said to herself, "not because he is rich enough to marry without anxious thought, but because he dares to marry although he is not rich." And then she told herself that she was angry with the doctor.


    And in that quadrille Crofts and Bell had been dancing together, and they also had been talking of Lily's marriage. "A man may undergo what he likes for himself," he had said, "but he has no right to make a woman undergo poverty."
    "Perhaps not," said Bell.
    "That which is no suffering for a man,—which no man should think of for himself,—will make a hell on earth for a woman."
    "I suppose it would," said Bell, answering him without a sign of feeling in her face or voice. But she took in every word that he spoke, and disputed their truth inwardly with all the strength of her heart and mind, and with the very vehemence of her soul. "As if a woman cannot bear more than a man!" she said to herself, as she walked the length of the room alone, when she had got herself free from the doctor's arm.

When enough people are up to it, the novel's only half joking insistence that Bell is a "radical" is something I'd like to hear opinions on.

aug 19, 2013, 2:54am

Sorry for not checking in over the last few days - I have been reading but rather distractedly. Still, I've enjoyed catching up with everyone's comments now.

#34-35 I'm up to chapter 26 now and can't really think of a better description of Crosbie than that!

#37-38 I had completely missed the similarities to S&S - thank you for mentioning that!

#40 So far Dr Crofts gets my vote but we've seen a lot less of him than Crosbie and Eames.

aug 19, 2013, 2:55am

Chapter 16

An old friend:

Crosbie's way from Guestwick lay, by railway, to Barchester, the cathedral city lying in the next county, from whence he purposed to have himself conveyed over to Courcy. There had, in truth, been no cause for his very early departure, as he was aware that all arrivals at country houses should take place at some hour not much previous to dinner. He had been determined to be so soon upon the road by a feeling that it would be well for him to get over those last hours. Thus he found himself in Barchester at eleven o'clock, with nothing on his hands to do; and, having nothing else to do, he went to church. There was a full service at the cathedral, and as the verger marshalled him up to one of the empty stalls, a little spare old man was beginning to chant the Litany. "I did not mean to fall in for all this," said Crosbie, to himself, as he settled himself with his arms on the cushion. But the peculiar charm of that old man's voice soon attracted him;—a voice that, though tremulous, was yet strong; and he ceased to regret the saint whose honour and glory had occasioned the length of that day's special service.

"And who is the old gentleman who chanted the Litany?" he asked the verger afterwards, as he allowed himself to be shown round the monuments of the cathedral.

"That's our precentor, sir; Mr. Harding. You must have heard of Mr. Harding." But Crosbie, with a full apology, confessed his ignorance.

"Well, sir; he's pretty well known too, tho' he is so shy like. He's father-in-law to our dean, sir; and father-in-law to Archdeacon Grantly also."

aug 19, 2013, 2:59am

I was also intrigued by Chapter 28, Mr Plantagenet Palliser. Is this where the Barsetshire series starts to link in to the Palliser novels?

aug 19, 2013, 3:04am


The start of Chapter 27 shows such a contrast between Alexandrina's thoughts about marriage to Crosbie and Lily's thoughts earlier in the novel.

aug 19, 2013, 3:45pm

I'm on SPOILERS Chapter 30 and can't say my opinion about Crosbie has changed at all. He's more of a cad than ever and he admits it readily. That's the interesting thing.

>42 souloftherose: When you think of the circumstances that led Harding, the dearest character in the series (to me anyway) to leave the hospital and his embarrassment over the whole thing and then compare his ethics to Crosbie, I have to think that is why Trollope placed the two of them together in this chapter. It's as if he said, "Here are these two men. Which is the better man? Which do you admire? Which is spineless?

Redigerat: aug 20, 2013, 7:46pm

Spoilers Chapter 16 onwards


Readers who have gone through the series to this stage are able to sit Trollope's analyses of his characters side-by-side, though they occur in different novels. At this point you can hardly find a starker contrast than between Mr Harding's personal agonies over what is the right and honourable way to act and Crosbie doing wrong with eyes wide open.


Yes. Many critics have pointed out that Trollope essentially "hit the ground running" with Planty Pal, would was obviously very clear in his own mind from the first moment he set the character on paper. One thing I would point out, though, is how young he really is - only twenty-five. There is a tendency for people to read Planty as older and much more experienced than he is, partly because he's so stuffy, but also I think because of the casting of Philip Latham in the TV adaptation.


Alexandrina personifies something some of the things I was saying about Trollope's attitudes to marriage. This is how many women were taught to think of it, though.


Typically, Trollope gets increasingly interested in the workings of Crosbie's mind and why and how he so deliberately chooses to do what he knows is wrong.

As well as Mr Harding, there is a rather poignant comparison of Crosbie with Dr Crofts (Chapter 20):

Crofts, as he rode home, could not keep his mind from thinking of the two girls at Allington. "He'll not marry her unless old Dale gives her something." Had it come to that with the world, that a man must be bribed into keeping his engagement with a lady? Was there no romance left among mankind,—no feeling of chivalry? "He's got another string to his bow at Courcy Castle," said the earl; and his lordship seemed to be in no degree shocked as he said it. It was in this tone that men spoke of women now-a-days, and yet he himself had felt such awe of the girl he loved, and such a fear lest he might injure her in her worldly position, that he had not dared to tell her that he loved her.

We saw back in Dr Thorne that at that time Trollope was content merely to expose hypocrisies, but from here he grew increasingly critical of society and what he saw as its increased selfishness and dishonour: what begins with Adolphus Crosbie culminates in The Way We Live Now.

aug 19, 2013, 10:09pm

46: When I read Crofts' thoughts in Ch. 20, I knew I had found my hero! And I was happy to "see" Mr. Harding again. I agree with Bonnie; he is a dear man.

Redigerat: aug 19, 2013, 10:43pm

Chapter 23

Possibly the most thoroughly character-defining first appearance in the whole of English literature:

"I don't see anything to laugh at," said Plantagenet Palliser

aug 20, 2013, 10:33am

#48 by lyzard> LOL. True!

Redigerat: aug 20, 2013, 8:13pm

Chapter 34

Never send to know for whom the bell tolls...

    But when Crosbie turned his back upon him, and walked out, it was absolutely necessary that he should do something. He was not going to let the man escape, after all that he had said as to the expediency of thrashing him. Any other disgrace would be preferable to that. Fearing, therefore, lest his enemy should be too quick for him, he hurried out after him, and only just gave Crosbie time to turn round and face the carriages before he was upon him. "You confounded scoundrel!" he screamed out. "You confounded scoundrel!" and seized him by the throat, throwing himself upon him, and almost devouring him by the fury of his eyes.
    The crowd upon the platform was not very dense, but there were quite enough of people to make a very respectable audience for this little play. Crosbie, in his dismay, retreated a step or two, and his retreat was much accelerated by the weight of Eames's attack. He endeavoured to free his throat from his foe's grasp; but in that he failed entirely. For the minute, however, he did manage to escape any positive blow, owing his safety in that respect rather to Eames's awkwardness than to his own efforts. Something about the police he was just able to utter, and there was, as a matter of course, an immediate call for a supply of those functionaries. In about three minutes three policemen, assisted by six porters, had captured our poor friend Johnny; but this had not been done quick enough for Crosbie's purposes. The bystanders, taken by surprise, had allowed the combatants to fall back upon Mr. Smith's book-stall, and there Eames laid his foe prostrate among the newspapers, falling himself into the yellow shilling-novel depot by the over fury of his own energy; but as he fell, he contrived to lodge one blow with his fist in Crosbie's right eye,—one telling blow; and Crosbie had, to all intents and purposes, been thrashed.
    "Con—founded scoundrel, rascal, blackguard!" shouted Johnny, with what remnants of voice were left to him, as the police dragged him off...

What's wonderful to me is how the very satisfactory blacking of Crosbie's eye does nothing whatsoever to dispel the general sense of Johnny's ineptness; talk about having it both ways!

By the way, do people understand the significance of this bit?---

The bystanders, taken by surprise, had allowed the combatants to fall back upon Mr. Smith's book-stall, and there Eames laid his foe prostrate among the newspapers, falling himself into the yellow shilling-novel depot by the over fury of his own energy...

aug 20, 2013, 9:37pm

Not this person.

aug 20, 2013, 10:19pm

Nor I.

Redigerat: aug 20, 2013, 11:31pm

Okay. Smith's was originally a news-vending business (and they still are, as well as booksellers and stationers), but their breakthrough success came with the development of the railways, when they had the idea to set up newsagencies at railway stations. Then they began setting up bookstands as well as newspaper stands on the stations---and then they created the "railway novel", which were editions of novels wholly intended, by their size, weight and price, to be carried in bags and read on trains---and of course, bought at stations. They were inexpensively produced books with a standard yellow cover, which Trollope references here.

Although they were the precursors of "airport novels", there was nothing derogatory about the term "railway novel": they were usually low-cost re-releases of popular novels, and Trollope was amongst the novelists whose books were re-issued in this way.

So from this paragraph we know that Paddington station had a wholly typical W. H. Smith's outlet, with both a newspaper stand and a selection of novels: Crosbie ends up sprawled in the former and Johnny ends up tangled in the latter. We can picture him covered in copies of Framley Parsonage if we like. :)

Fun fact: in more recent times, Smith's was responsible for the development of the ISBN.

Redigerat: aug 21, 2013, 1:38am

I didn't know Smith's had between around quite so long - or about the ISBN. What was the reason for their getting into that, do you know?

Redigerat: aug 21, 2013, 2:11am

Smith's has been around in one form or another since the end of the 18th century, but the business didn't really take off until the 1840s, with the railway idea.

I think the ISBN came about simply because they were among the first to start computerising their catalogue and wanted numerical identifiers for their books, which was something a lot of other people and organisations were thinking about but hadn't actually done. They partnered with some other relevant bodies and worked out an appropriate numbering method in 1966, which then got adopted into a Britain-wide system, the SBN, and then worldwide as the ISBN.

aug 21, 2013, 2:53am

#50 - 55 I spotted the reference to the yellow shilling novels but completely glossed over Mr Smith - thanks for explaining Liz.

There were a couple of sections further on in the book I wanted to ask about:

Chapter 41

Mr Lupex: "You may tell it to the marines!" I thought this was quite a modern saying (and an American one). Were the marines something to do with the Navy?

Chapter 42

(Of Lily) Sunday though it was, she had fully enjoyed the last hour of daylight, reading that exquisite new novel which had just completed itself, amidst the jarring criticisms of the youth and age of the reading public.

Is Trollope referring to a particular novel here?

I liked the conversation she then had with Bell about books:

"I am quite sure she was right in accepting him, Bell," she said, putting down the book as the light was fading, and beginning to praise the story.

"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."

"If so, then, I'd go back to the old school, and have the heroine really a heroine, walking all the way up from Edinburgh to London, and falling among thieves; or else nursing a wounded hero, and describing the battle from the window. We've got tired of that; or else the people who write can't do it now-a-days. But if we are to have real life, let it be real."

"No, Bell, no!" said Lily. "Real life sometimes is so painful." Then her sister, in a moment, was down on the floor at her feet, kissing her hand and caressing her knees, and praying that the wound might be healed.

Is that a reference to Scott's The Heart of Mid-Lothian?

Redigerat: aug 21, 2013, 10:34pm

The Royal Marines were formally established in the mid-18th century, though there had been sections of the navy with similar duties before that. They were the navy's "infantry", carrying battles onto enemy ships and onto land. They were responsible for shipboard security and discipline, and during battles had the unenviable task of drawing the enemy's fire. Unlike the glorification of the US marines we see today, the early British marines were poorly paid, socially shunned, and despised by the regular navy, which is the point of the phrase in question, which was originally, "Tell it to the marines because the sailors won't believe you." It first appeared in print at the beginning of the 19th century but was presumably coined earlier.

That is indeed a reference to The Heart Of Mid-Lothian, and the bit afterwards about the heroine describing the battle is a reference to Ivanhoe. We've seen before that Trollope very much admired Scott, and his giving Bell his own taste in novels (and heroines) is rather suggestive.

That other line is likely to be a reference to a real novel, though I don't think anyone's pinned it down. Given the time-frame, and the revelation that the novel was published amidst the jarring criticisms of the youth and age of the reading public, I want to say that it's Lady Audley's Secret, but "I am quite sure she was right in accepting him" doesn't fit with that, so my best guess would be Wilkie Collins' No Name. (Which is, by the way, a very inappropriate novel to be reading on a Sunday!)

Redigerat: aug 21, 2013, 6:44pm

Chapter 39

Bell the Radical:

    It was now dusk; and as they were sitting without other light than that of the fire, she knew that he could not discern the colour which covered her face as her cousin's name was mentioned. But, had the light of day pervaded the whole room, I doubt whether Crofts would have seen that blush, for he kept his eyes firmly fixed upon the fire.
    "Yes, about Bernard. I don't know whether I ought to ask you."
    "I'm sure I can't say," said Bell, speaking words of the nature of which she was not conscious.
    "There has been a rumour in Guestwick that he and you—"
    "It is untrue," said Bell; "quite untrue. If you hear it repeated, you should contradict it. I wonder why people should say such things."
    "It would have been an excellent marriage;—all your friends must have approved it."
    "What do you mean, Dr. Crofts? How I do hate those words, 'an excellent marriage.' In them is contained more of wicked worldliness than any other words that one ever hears spoken. You want me to marry my cousin simply because I should have a great house to live in, and a coach. I know that you are my friend; but I hate such friendship as that."
    "I think you misunderstand me, Bell. I mean that it would have been an excellent marriage, provided you had both loved each other."
    "No, I don't misunderstand you. Of course it would be an excellent marriage, if we loved each other. You might say the same if I loved the butcher or the baker."

aug 21, 2013, 8:21pm

#57 by lyzard> Just a comment, that the US Navy still dislikes the Marines (and vice versa). Dunno if that's true in England though.

Redigerat: aug 21, 2013, 10:06pm

Thanks, Jean. Our Britishers might be able to help us out on that point. :) I'm just conscious of the ubiquity of the marines in movies, TV, etc.

Redigerat: aug 22, 2013, 7:08pm

Chapter 43

Plantagenet Palliser: politician, statistician, ladies' man---

It was really very hard work. If the truth must be told, he did not know how to begin. What was he to say to her? How was he to commence a conversation that should end by being tender? She was very handsome certainly, and for him she could look interesting; but for his very life he did not know how to begin to say anything special to her. A liaison with such a woman as Lady Dumbello,—platonic, innocent, but nevertheless very intimate,—would certainly lend a grace to his life, which, under its present circumstances, was rather dry. He was told,—told by public rumour which had reached him through his uncle,—that the lady was willing. She certainly looked as though she liked him; but how was he to begin? The art of startling the House of Commons and frightening the British public by the voluminous accuracy of his statistics he had already learned; but what was he to say to a pretty woman?

Redigerat: aug 23, 2013, 5:46pm

Chapter 45


    It was very cold when they got to Folkestone, and Lady Alexandrina shivered as she stepped into the private-looking carriage which had been sent to the station for her use.
    "We shall find a good fire in the parlour at the hotel," said Crosbie.
    "Oh, I hope so," said Alexandrina, "and in the bedroom too."
    The young husband felt himself to be offended...

aug 23, 2013, 6:49pm

I finished the book and reviewed it HERE. Can I just say that I was completely annoyed by Lily?

Redigerat: aug 23, 2013, 8:07pm

You can, and we will discuss Lily later when more people are finished. :)

ETA: Lovely review, Bonnie---and again I have to stress that with the hobbledehoy John, Trollope is essentially describing himself at the same age!

aug 23, 2013, 11:18pm

I have been remiss at posting here because I have spent just about every spare moment I had this past week reading Trollope! I finished about an hour ago. I really liked the book but found myself shaking my head at many of the characters, including Lily.

I've been thinking about P. Paliser who seemed to have his life in order at the age of 25 until he was dumbstruck by the haughty Lady Dumbello. Another case of hobbledehoy?

aug 25, 2013, 7:07pm

Well done, Donna! I hope we can have some proper discussion here when more people are over the finishing line.

No, I wouldn't call Planty Pal a hobbledehoy - he's been too "petted" for that! - but his talents certainly don't lie in the direction of making himself agreeable to the opposite sex. :)

aug 25, 2013, 7:08pm

Chapter 49

Apologies to Heather and Genny, but I just couldn't resist quoting this again!---

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? Now-a-days people who understand the world, and have money commensurate with their understanding, have learned the way of shunning all these disasters, and of leaving the work to the hands of persons paid for doing it. The crockery is left in the cupboards, the books on the shelves, the wine in the bins, the curtains on their poles, and the family that is understanding goes for a fortnight to Brighton. At the end of that time the crockery is comfortably settled in other cupboards, the books on other shelves, the wine in other bins, the curtains are hung on other poles, and all is arranged. But Mrs. Dale and her daughters understood nothing of such a method of moving as this. The assistance of the village carpenter in filling certain cases that he had made was all that they knew how to obtain beyond that of their own two servants. Every article had to pass through the hands of some one of the family; and as they felt almost overwhelmed by the extent of the work to be done, they began it much sooner than was necessary, so that it became evident as they advanced in their work, that they would have to pass a dreadfully dull, stupid, uncomfortable week at last, among their boxes and cases, in all the confusion of dismantled furniture.

aug 25, 2013, 7:21pm

Sounds like he's moved a few times himself Liz;-)

Redigerat: aug 26, 2013, 7:20pm

Chapter 55

Some old friends in trouble:

    It will perhaps be remembered that terrible things had been foretold as about to happen between the Hartletop and Omnium families. Lady Dumbello had smiled whenever Mr. Plantagenet Palliser had spoken to her. Mr. Palliser had confessed to himself that politics were not enough for him, and that Love was necessary to make up the full complement of his happiness. Lord Dumbello had frowned latterly when his eyes fell on the tall figure of the duke's heir; and the duke himself,—that potentate, generally so mighty in his silence,—the duke himself had spoken. Lady De Courcy and Lady Clandidlem were, both of them, absolutely certain that the thing had been fully arranged. I am, therefore, perfectly justified in stating that the world was talking about the loves,—the illicit loves,—of Mr. Palliser and Lady Dumbello.
    And the talking of the world found its way down to that respectable country parsonage in which Lady Dumbello had been born, and from which she had been taken away to those noble halls which she now graced by her presence. The talking of the world was heard at Plumstead Episcopi, where still lived Archdeacon Grantly, the lady's father; and was heard also at the deanery of Barchester, where lived the lady's aunt and grandfather. By whose ill-mannered tongue the rumour was spread in these ecclesiastical regions it boots not now to tell. But it may be remembered that Courcy Castle was not far from Barchester, and that Lady De Courcy was not given to hide her lights under a bushel...


"Nothing on earth shall make me believe it," said Mrs. Grantly. But she sat alone in her drawing-room afterwards and trembled. Then came her sister, Mrs. Arabin, the dean's wife, over to the parsonage, and in half-hidden words told the same story. She had heard it from Mrs. Proudie, the bishop's wife. "That woman is as false as the father of falsehoods," said Mrs. Grantly.

aug 27, 2013, 6:35pm

Chapter 56

And that's that:

    "Of course I must pay my own expenses," said Alexandrina. But to this he made no answer on the moment. As soon as he had given his permission he had risen from his seat and was going, and her last words only caught him in the doorway. After all, would not this be the cheapest arrangement that he could make? As he went through his calculations he stood up with his elbow on the mantel-piece in his dressing-room. He had scolded his wife because she had been unhappy with him; but had he not been quite as unhappy with her? Would it not be better that they should part in this quiet, half-unnoticed way;—that they should part and never again come together? He was lucky in this, that hitherto had come upon them no prospect of any little Crosbie to mar the advantages of such an arrangement. If he gave her four hundred a year, and allowed Gazebee two more towards the paying off of encumbrances, he would still have six on which to enjoy himself in London. Of course he could not live as he had lived in those happy days before his marriage, nor, independently of the cost, would such a mode of life be within his reach. But he might go to his club for his dinners; he might smoke his cigar in luxury; he would not be bound to that wooden home which, in spite of all his resolutions, had become almost unendurable to him. So he made his calculations, and found that it would be well that his bride should go. He would give over his house and furniture to Gazebee, allowing Gazebee to do as he would about that. To be once more a bachelor, in lodgings, with six hundred a year to spend on himself, seemed to him now such a prospect of happiness that he almost became light-hearted as he dressed himself. He would let her go to Baden-Baden.
    There was nothing said about it at dinner, nor did he mention the subject again till the servant had left the tea-things on the drawing-room table. "You can go with your mother if you like it," he then said.
    "I think it will be best," she answered.
    "Perhaps it will. At any rate you shall suit yourself."
    "And about money?"
    "You had better leave me to speak to Gazebee about that."
    "Very well. Will you have some tea?" And then the whole thing was finished.

aug 27, 2013, 8:22pm

he really manages to make a mess of things. but such a civilized end to things.

aug 28, 2013, 12:54am

It's easy to be civilised when you don't care AT ALL.

Redigerat: aug 28, 2013, 12:55am

Chapter 60

Hopkins gets the final word:

    The marriage went off very nicely. The squire was upon his very best behaviour, and welcomed his guests as though he really enjoyed their presence there in his halls. Hopkins, who was quite aware that he had been triumphant, decorated the old rooms with mingled flowers and greenery with an assiduous care which pleased the two girls mightily. And during this work of wreathing and decking there was one little morsel of feeling displayed which may as well be told in these last lines. Lily had been encouraging the old man while Bell for a moment had been absent.
    "I wish it had been for thee, my darling!" he said; "I wish it had been for thee!"
    "It is much better as it is, Hopkins," she answered, solemnly.
    "Not with him, though," he went on, "not with him. I wouldn't 'a hung a bough for him. But with t'other one."

Redigerat: aug 28, 2013, 6:40pm

All righty---

I wanted to put this off a bit to see if we could get one or two more people over the line, but I think now that our other group readers are either just starting or not started yet, we might go ahead.

I am very interested in hearing people's opinions on this novel and the Lily / Crosbie section in particular, as that has been contentious since its first publication and has attracted an amazingly wide range of reactions over the years.

I look forward to hearing what this group has to say---but please, as always, be scrupulous with your spoiler warnings.

aug 28, 2013, 7:24am

I finished reading in the wee hours this morning. Reading has slowed for me this month since I had a tonsillectomy last week. I've been watching more TV than usual. The exception is when I wake up in the middle of the night and have to take more pain medicine. I've been reading Trollope until the medicine kicks in and I can go back to sleep. It's been a great late-night companion!

I'm still processing my thoughts about the book and I'll have more to say about it later!

aug 28, 2013, 4:59pm

Taking a small break from packing...

#61 The Palliser flirtation was one of the subplots in the book that really made me smile :-)

#67 Sigh, too true..!

Spoilers. Spoilers. Spoilers. Spoilers.

#74 I'll dive in....

I think I'm going to to be in the minority but I was more annoyed by the way everyone else behaved towards Lily after the engagement had been broken off than by Lily herself.

I don't know that I agree with her decision not to marry but I think it's her decision and it really annoyed me the way everyone around her was so eager to push her into another relationship so quickly. (I also think that if they'd left her alone she might well have come round to their point of view on her own.)

I didn't feel she was being a martyr about it - unrealistic and naive, yes. But she's 18 - when the first person you've been in love with tells you it's over, it feels like you'll never love anyone else ever again.

And I felt very troubled by John Eames' relationship with Amelia (or Miss Mealyer as I will forever think of her now!) To my mind it wasn't all that different to the way Crosbie treated Lily. Amelia was trying to entrap him but I don't think that excuses the fact that he made her promises about their relationship that he didn't keep. In a way, I find Eames' behaviour worse because he knew he loved Lily when he made the promises to Amelia whereas at least Crosbie meant his promises at the time.

Redigerat: aug 28, 2013, 7:08pm


Hi, Carrie! I saw you'd been in the wars with your tonsils - I hope you're feeling better! Please do post your thoughts when you're up to it.


You really should take more breaks from your packing... :)

This description of Planty Pal kills me:

The art of startling the House of Commons and frightening the British public by the voluminous accuracy of his statistics he had already learned...


Thank you for kicking off the conversation. I've got some things to say about Lily but I'd like to hear from the rest of you before I say too much. I will say I find the insistence on extrapolating from "getting over Crosbie" to "marrying John" quite infuriating, as if one must necessarily bring about the other.

I'm frankly glad to see some criticism of John here (Donna agrees with you, Heather), because since the novel was first published there's been an infuriatingly consistent chorus of, "Oh, poor John", as if he was completely blameless. He doesn't deserve a get out of jail free card just because Miss Mealyer isn't "a lady"!

aug 28, 2013, 7:33pm

SPOILERS Well I agree that John deserves some criticism but he still came off as a more sympathetic character than Lily for whom I never felt a lick of sympathy and Amelia just rubbed me the wrong way. She managed to push John into making commitments he didn't himself believe in because her personality was so strong and he was just a hobbledehoy haha. Once he outgrew his hobbledehoyness and became a man he was able to turn her away but at the same time, she was already carrying on with Cradall.

It actually doesn't make sense for me to be critical of Lily who was really just sticking to her guns in much the same way as her sister did by refusing to marry Bernard. But arranged marriages were not unheard of at this time either so the idea of the uncle trying to push for this did not strike me as being odd at all.

OK none of that made much sense but there you go.

Redigerat: aug 28, 2013, 10:41pm

I find a bit of contradictory unfairness in the presentation of Amelia: it's shown to us clearly how dreary and difficult life is for women in her and her mother's situation, and yet the text is still roundly critical of her for taking steps to survive. It's not like she has much choice---unlike John, who can move out and on at any time.

Redigerat: aug 28, 2013, 10:35pm

SPOILERS galore!

>76 souloftherose:: Yes, I do agree with you, Heather, except that I'm the one who accused Lily of "an attempt of martyrdom" in my review. I used the term rather loosely because of her insistence that she would never change her mind about loving that scalawag Crosbie. Never is a long time. Yes, she was very young, but she wasn't stupid. She knew she had been jilted and it was unnatural that she still "loved" the man who dumped her within two weeks of their engagement. I do wish, however, that she hadn't been pushed into John's arms so soon after the break-up.

I completely agree with your thoughts on John, Heather. "Boys will be boys" or hobbledehoyhood just doesn't excuse his behavior in this case. He was weak!

>77 lyzard:: "...extrapolating from "getting over Crosbie" to "marrying John"..."
Good point, Liz. There are other options. Actually, I wasn't as upset with Lily's insistence upon spinsterhood as I was about her repeated declarations of undying love for Crosbie. I guess Adonis did cast a spell on her!

>78 brenzi:: Bonnie, you made perfect sense to me. I didn't like Lily, John, or Amelia! I'm appalled when I read how the public reading the serial form of the book adored Lily. Have we really changed that much since those days?

>79 lyzard:: Liz, how kind of you to stick up for the underdog. You can't blame a girl for trying! Poor Cradall. I suspect his marriage will end up as loveless as did the unfortunate marriage of Crosbie and Alexandrina. The entire system was a mess. But then, look at the success rate of marriages today. If I hadn't gotten extremely lucky with my husband of 45 years, I might have joined Lily in the ranks of spinsterhood!

aug 28, 2013, 10:46pm


Yes, it's not her refusal to marry John, or even her refusal to "get over it", that's bothersome but her insistence that her feelings for Crosbie have not been changed at all by what he's done to her. I don't think that's natural - or healthy.

Trollope himself was first fascinated and then increasingly exasperated by his readers' obsession with Lily and her situation. He had a few tart words to say about her in after-years, in spite of that opening remark in the text about how we all have to love "dear Lily Dale", but his attitude to her was being shaped by the public response, I suspect.

aug 29, 2013, 2:53am

#78 Bonnie, despite my criticism of him I still liked John. I didn't think he was as weak as Crosbie, but I did hope he wouldn't persuade Lily to marry him - it didn't seem fair to Lily to land her with another man who breaks his promises...

Actually, I still liked Crobsie in a way too - with Trollope I always end up sympathising a lot with the 'bad guys'. What he did to Lily was awful but he certainly regretted it.

#79 Good point Liz.

#80 "I suspect his marriage will end up as loveless as did the unfortunate marriage of Crosbie and Alexandrina."

At times, it felt a bit like a book on unhappy marriages to me! Crosbie and Alexandrina, Cradall and Miss Mealyer, Mr and Mrs Lupex, the de Courcys (mother and father)...
Hopefully Bell and Dr Crofts will be ok.

#80 & #81 I hadn't realised Lily was such a favourite of the readers at the time. I can understand Trollope becoming exasperated with them!

#81 "her insistence that her feelings for Crosbie have not been changed at all by what he's done to her" Yes, I think it would have been much better for her if she could have realised he wasn't the Adonis she thought he was.

aug 29, 2013, 8:58am

I didn't find ANY of the young men worth a flip, personally. Even Planty Pal is presented as a total dingbat. Altho I will grant you the young women weren't much better.

aug 29, 2013, 5:34pm


What I found maddening about Lily's behavior was her refusal to think ill of Crosbie in light of the fact that she had offered to release him from their engagement. She obviously had an inkling of the doubts that were going through his mind. There would have been some awkward explanations since their engagement was already known, but nothing like the public humiliation she experienced when Crosbie became engaged to Lady Alexandrina while he was still engaged to Lily.

I'm not convinced that waiting longer to propose to Lily would have helped Johnny's cause. Lily's affection for him seemed to be more of the brotherly sort and I think she was right to refuse him.

I can't think of anyone who was offering Johnny advice who was actually married and had any experience with a successful romance. Am I forgetting someone?

The biggest takeaway for me is that the book illustrates that unhappiness comes in many forms.

Redigerat: aug 29, 2013, 8:24pm

Ouch, Jean! :)


Sez Carrie: I can't think of anyone who was offering Johnny advice who was actually married and had any experience with a successful romance.

NO, and that is an excellent point! On the contrary, we get this from the unmarried Lord De Guest, possibly illustrating why he is unmarried:

"Look here, Johnny. I have not a word to say against Miss Lily. I like her very much, and think her one of the nicest girls I know. When she's your wife, I'll love her dearly, if she'll let me. But she's made of the same stuff as other girls, and will act in the same way."

And of course, in his heart John knows perfectly well that he ought not to proceed, but having been put on the spot by his friends' conspiracy, he doesn't have the spine (or to be kinder, the ingratitude) to say no to them.

I think the real irony here is that the Squire is drawn into the conspiracy, after he is introduced to us thus:

And in that matter of his unrequited love he had been true throughout. In his hard, dry, unpleasant way he had loved the woman; and when at last he learned to know that she would not have his love, he had been unable to transfer his heart to another.

Also this:

He did not answer her, but took her hand and pressed it, and then she left him. "The Dales were ever constant!" he said to himself, as he walked up and down the terrace before his house. "Ever constant!"

And they are: the Squire, and Mrs Dale, and Bell - yet for some reason Lily is to be made "happy" by being pressured into another marriage.

Redigerat: aug 29, 2013, 6:27pm

>80 Donna828: SPOILERS

Never is a long time. That is for sure Donna and I think there were plenty of young women who were jilted in one way or another and went on to "settle" for someone who is not exactly Adonis but would make an acceptable mate. In those days, women were nowhere near as independent as they are today and to be a spinster was not at all desirable.

I think Trollope did a masterful job getting readers to sympathize with the dastardly Crosbie. The psychology of the man was fascinating. At once deserving of his unhappy life and then again, the poor guy. He made the wrong choice! It's happened many times but the way he did it was particularly distasteful but somehow, he tugged at the heartstrings. Anyone else feel that way?

Redigerat: aug 29, 2013, 7:15pm

Not really. :)

Trollope always stops and dissects out his "bad guys" like that, showing their mistakes and their mixed motives, so generally you do come away feeling less angry with them than you otherwise might. I have trouble feeling sorry for Crosbie, though, because it's all done so deliberately and clear-sightedly.


He spends his entire marriage pondering how happy he could have been with Lily, but I have to wonder whether he would feel that way if had kept his word and married her. Would he have had the same appreciation of Lily if he'd never had Alexandrina as a yardstick? Or would he have been exactly as discontented with his "600 pounds a year and a houseful of babies" as he expects to be---just because he did expect it?

aug 29, 2013, 7:17pm

Good point Liz. He would probably never be very happy, regardless of the circumstances.

aug 29, 2013, 7:31pm

Would he have had the same appreciation of Lily if he'd never had Alexandrina as a yardstick?

I tend to think not. I believe he would have been unhappy whichever choice he made.

Redigerat: aug 29, 2013, 8:30pm

Okay...I'm just going to put this out there:


Since this novel was published - or rather, since it was acceptable to say such things publicly - there has been a tendency amongst certain critics to "explain" Lily's inability to get over Crosbie, her persisting in thinking herself "married" to him, by arguing that the two of them had sex.

From the prevailing social attitudes towards engagements at the time and the creation of the breach of promise laws, we can infer that in reality it probably wasn't such an uncommon thing for engaged couples to sleep together---even if you couldn't say so outright in a novel.

On the other hand, when you read a lot of academic criticism, it becomes very evident that there are people out there who simply can't wrap their heads around the idea that anyone might NOT have sex. :) (Similarly, there's one critic out there who reads homosexuality into everything. And yeah, sometimes it's justified; but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, you know?)

The passage that sets off the alarm bells seems to be this:

    They were standing in the narrow pathway of the gate leading from the bridge into the gardens of the Great House, and the shadow of the thick-spreading laurels was around them. But the moonlight still pierced brightly through the little avenue, and she, as she looked up to him, could see the form of his face and the loving softness of his eye.
    "Because—," said he; and then he stooped over her and pressed her closely, while she put up her lips to his, standing on tip-toe that she might reach to his face.
    "Oh, my love!" she said. "My love! my love!"
    As Crosbie walked back to the Great House that night, he made a firm resolution that no consideration of worldly welfare should ever induce him to break his engagement with Lily Dale...

These critics tend to see the lapse in time between "My love! my love!" and "As Crosbie walked back to the Great House that night..." as acting like a fade-to-black in an old movie, and along with Crosbie's "firm resolution" (ha!), as suggesting things that couldn't be frankly declared.

The narrative then jumps back to earlier on, and we get this:

"But what will they say to us for staying away?" said Lily, recovering herself. "And I ought to be making the people dance, you know. Come along, and do make yourself nice. Do waltz with Mary Eames;—pray, do. If you don't, I won't speak to you all night!"

"Staying away" and "recovering herself" might also indicate illicit carryings-on...but somehow I can't imagine Lily simply shaking out her skirts and going straight back to her hostessing duties, let alone worrying over who Mary Eames is going to dance with.

We also get a "time-lapse" scene of sorts (or at least a fade-to-black) between Crosbie and Alexandrina, after they've gotten engaged:

Then the countess went away, and Alexandrina was left with her lover for half an hour. When the half-hour was over, he felt that he would have given all that he had in the world to have back the last four-and-twenty hours of his existence...

Granted, it's almost certainly referring to half an hour of Alexandrina's conversation...but still, it's written the same way.

My own reading of these passages is that they are written that way quite intentionally, and that Trollope, though not definitely intending us to know that sex has happened, leaves it open for the reader to think so if they like.

So---did anyone think while they were reading that this might be the cause of Lily's troubles?---or if not, what do you make of that idea now?

aug 30, 2013, 2:20am

I tend to think not, but I can buy that Trollope was intentionally ambiguous in writing that scene.

aug 30, 2013, 7:58am


I certainly never thought that, although I did think there was a lot more intimacy between them that was normal in those times, so I can see how, even without going all the way, she could feel compromised. But really, I don't see that as the reason for subsequent events.

In that society, girls, most of whom knew very little about their fiances (certainly by modern standards) were expected to show little attachment before a formal engagement, and then expected to suddenly be madly in love after the announcement. (At least this is how I read that era).

But given the above, Lily does know Crosbie quite a bit better than most of her contemporaries, so I understand she might have a real attachment, rather than the one required of her by convention. Even so, she knows, at some level, he's a cad, shown by the fact she offers him a way out. So I think she's an idiot when he does treat her like dirt and she decides to throw her life away for love.

Also, on a different note, Crosbie strikes me as the sort who is totally self-centered. He'd hate his marriage to Lily, every bit as much as he hated the one to Alexandrina (who, by the way, seems just as self centered as he is). Perhaps for different reason (poverty, at least in his view of things), but he'd still resent having to give up his illusions.

All this, of course, IMHO.

aug 31, 2013, 4:24pm

SPOILERSI certainly never saw it that way when I read those passages but I don't find it hard to believe that that could have happened between the two of them. I think Lily was so head over heels for Crosbie that she would have done just about anything he wanted.

Redigerat: sep 1, 2013, 9:41am


I did wonder the first time I read the book just how much Lily yielded to Crosbie. On the other hand, her own character throughout the book seems to indicate "not too far". On this second reading I had the same opinion, but I certainly can see how others would draw a different conclusion. I wondered the same thing about Amelia and Johnny.

Lady Dumbello (take off the "o" and what do you have?) came off rather well here. It seems she wanted a light flirtation and plenty of homage, but nothing further than perhaps a few stolen kisses. I can only imagine the Archdeacon's apoplectic reaction to it all. Notice how very quickly she comes to her senses after she gets a good talking-to.

Planty seems a bit drippy here, as well as being a (rather) young fool. I've not read the Palliser books, but now I can't wait to get to them.

Trollope says he's split the hero role into several parts. In this case, the parts are lesser than the whole; each of these men, except the good doctor, are pretty odious.

The second reading helped me to enjoy the book much more than I did the first time around. Sometimes knowing the ouotcome of the plotlines helps one to appreciate the humor and excellent characterizations of A.T.

The completely odious squire made me want to box his ears. What a pill!

And what may be next? Is it Can You Forgive Her? I'd like to get a head start on whatever it is.

sep 1, 2013, 7:03pm

We haven't definitely decided what book we're doing next, or when, but I'm happy to start taking suggestions...?


As I say, I think Trollope lets you think what you want, but I also don't believe that things went that far. I actually find the "they had sex" reading a bit simplistic, too straightforward an answer to a complex psychological kink.

I don't think Griselda even wanted kisses - she's so generally unresponsive - but homage, yes. I love the way she handles Dumbello in that final scene.

I tend to read Planty as having been buffered and protected for all of his life as the Duke's heir, and being very inexperienced for his age. He may understand politics, but he knows very little about women (as we shall see at close hand shortly...)

When Trollope says he splits his hero it means he hasn't got one. :)

sep 4, 2013, 7:27pm

While we do still have a couple of people yet to finish (Kerry? Laura? anyone else?) and I am hoping we will get some more comments when they do, I thought we might take the plunge and start discussing what we might do next.

(See how confident I am these days that there will be a 'next'??)

I have suggested previously that we might step sideways to Can You Forgive Her?, the first of the Palliser novels, rather than going on to The Last Chronicle Of Barset, as this sequence better maintains the overall chronology of Trollope's world. Also, The Last Chronicle Of Barset is a VERY LONG BOOK, and so might be more appropriate for the optimistic enthusiasm that tends to come with the New Year.

Can I please get input on this point, and also an indication of when people might like to proceed? November, December? Thanks.

sep 4, 2013, 8:19pm

I'm for Can You Forgive Her? in November.

sep 4, 2013, 9:28pm

>96 lyzard: See how confident I am these days that there will be a 'next'??

There will always be a "next" Liz. Well, not "always" but you know what I mean. Can You Forgive Her? in November sounds good to me:)

sep 5, 2013, 7:27am

Yes! On to Can You Forgive Her. We need to advertise in the Trollope group too.

sep 6, 2013, 2:17pm

Can You Forgive Her? certainly works for me as the next book. Liz, you know my sieve-like memory; please alert me to any starting date(s), okay?

I wish I'd discovered A.T. about 10 years earlier than I did. Still, there's something to be said for autumnal reading pleasures...

sep 6, 2013, 2:37pm

I'm only about 10% through my (re-)read of The Small House, but hope to pick up speed now that I have moved and settled into my new home. I have been following the thread and enjoying the comments and discussion. On previous reading this was my least favourite of the Barchester series - as much because it seemed too remote from most of the characters we have come to know and love, as because of any issues with Lily Dale or the lack of admirable heroes - but I do recall being somewhat annoyed with Lily last time. It's too early as yet in my re-reading to see what I think of her this time.

As I read Can You Forgive Her earlier this year, I may actually find Small House more enjoyable this time as I have now got to know 'Planty Pal' from that novel and look forward to reminding myself of his earlier exploits in this book. Also it works for me that the group read moves on to Can You Forgive Her, as it will give me time to catch up on Small House while you all go on to read that one.

sep 6, 2013, 2:42pm

I'd like to go on to Can you forgive her? and save Last Chronicle of Barset for later. I found Last Chronicle quite hard to get through last time I read the series, although I think that was because the actual book was hard to read. I got my first Kindle at that time and when I changed over to reading on that I found the story much easier!

sep 10, 2013, 6:45pm

Thank you for your responses - we will pencil in Can You Forgive Her? for November.

sep 10, 2013, 8:13pm


sep 14, 2013, 1:57pm

Here I am, a day late and several brain cells short...

Even though AT doesn't hesitate to portray women as something less than perfect, I'm beginning to see a pattern of sympathy for their extremely limited options. Even the most clever or kind of them always have to wait on some man's decisions and actions to determine the course of their (the women's) lives.

Of course I maintain the option of reversing my opinion when we start the Palliser books...

sep 14, 2013, 5:39pm

I would qualify that by saying that he can be sympathetic, but under certain circumstances. He takes it for granted that all women want marriage and as long as they show they do he can be extremely sympathetic with their struggles and disappointments and frustrations. However, as the demand for greater freedom and more choices for women grew more intense in reality, there were increasing examples in his novels of women being mocked for wanting "masculine" privileges and opportunities and/or for rejecting marriage.

So yeah, maintaining that option is a good idea. :)

sep 21, 2013, 9:00am

Hellooooo! I've been reading this book for what seems like ages, stopping by here every so often and reading until I reached comments on a chapter I hadn't read yet. Now I'm finished. Whew. Not my favorite of the series, but I still like settling into Barsetshire and seeing what everyone is getting up to.

I agree with so many of the comments made here, and there are too many to go back and cite them all. Suffice to say I didn't care for Lily and, in fact, there wasn't a single character that won my heart. Except maybe Hopkins, the gardener, for his excellent handling of manure at the end of the book. It cracked me up that Trollope introduced such a seemingly trivial conflict in the final chapter.

Anyway ... Spoilers
I kept thinking Trollope would wrap things up by having Lily marry John. It's kind of nice that he didn't, but at the same time I thought Lily's continued love for Crosbie was preposterous. I loved the scene when John gets revenge on Crosbie. I agree with previous comments that John was no saint either, but I still liked him more than Crosbie.

Interesting discussion of whether Lily & Crosbie had sex. I glossed right over that when I read the book. Reading those passages again, it's still debatable, IMO.

end spoilers

I applaud you all for sidestepping the last volume in the series. At this point, I'm not rushing to read it. But I am not sure yet whether I will move on to the Pallisers. We'll see. These threads definitely enhance the reading experience!

sep 29, 2013, 10:33am

Very overdue apologies for neglecting this thread for so long.

#87 On Crosbie: "He spends his entire marriage pondering how happy he could have been with Lily, but I have to wonder whether he would feel that way if had kept his word and married her. Would he have had the same appreciation of Lily if he'd never had Alexandrina as a yardstick? Or would he have been exactly as discontented with his "600 pounds a year and a houseful of babies" as he expects to be---just because he did expect it?"

Very good point Liz. I think Crosbie would have been as unhappy with Lily and would probably have ended up resenting her.

#90 Liz, that's an interesting analysis. I tend to think that wasn't what happened between Lily and Crosbie - if it had done, I would have expected Lily to have reproached herself more once the engagement was broken off (for having let things go too far), although something I read in one of John Sutherland's essays made me think that girls of that time wouldn't have known the risks around pregnancy so perhaps that explains why she wouldn't have been worried about that?

And on the subject of next books, Can You Forgive Her? in November sounds very good to me.

nov 12, 2013, 7:20pm

Better late than I am with my comments. There will be SPOILERS.

I guess I am in the minority, but actually liked Lily. She was silly a lot of the time, but I felt she acted very realistically for a young girl who was jilted in such a heartless way. There is no way she could just go right to Johnny and get married. I was more frustrated with her mother....what kind of mother in that time period allowed their daughters that kind of freedom and never contradicted what their children wanted? That seemed very unrealistic to me.

There were very few sympathetic characters in this novel for sure. Crosbie was a dirty rat, Johnny was pretty awful to Amelia, Planty was a boob....all the way down to the irritating postmistress!!

It did seem like Trollope wanted to say that marriage never ends in happiness. Even Bell and the doctor seemed to be settling rather than being head-over-heels in love.

I actually rather liked the Squire. I thought he was misunderstood throughout the novel because he wasn't able to speak his feelings very well. He was a big old softie at heart. I was hoping that he and Widow Dale would end up together.

I guess I was surprised that there were no happy endings (aside from Bell and the doctor which was a small part of the plot).

nov 13, 2013, 4:40pm

Heidi, thank you for stopping by to add your comments to your thread. I think The Small house At Allington marks the point in Trollope's career when he began writing longer, more complex and overall less "happy" works - more realistic works, if you like!

And likewise, whether you want to call his view of marriage realistic or cynical, certainly he had no romantic illusions about it. (I think it's at the end of Framley Parsonage that he suggests that the best part of life ends with the wedding, isn't it?) I think the suggestion here is that the calm, eyes-wide-open approach of Bell and Dr Crofts is more likely to result in long-term happiness than Lily's passionate devotion.

(We are currently having some discussion of Trollope's somewhat contradictory views on the subject of marriageover at Can You Forgive Her? - perhaps we can hope to see you there at some point??)

As for Lily, I think we've probably all been in the situation of feeling exasperated with a friend because they won't stop obsessing over a guy (or girl!) who doesn't deserve it. There's no question that's she better off without Crosbie (whether he is without her is another matter), but we were all absolutely in agreement that she was under no obligation to marry Johnny - or anyone else.

As we discussed up-thread, The Small House At Allington was Trollope's take on Sense And Sensibility, so Mrs Dale's behaviour here echoes that of Mrs Dashwood in the earlier novel. I don't think it's unlikely that in a household consisting just of a mother and her daughters there would be a greater tendency towards equity rather than a relationship of authory and obedience. It's an open question, though, how much parental interfeence in romantic relationships is warranted - Victorian literature is full of parents who ruin things by intruding too much, so there's certainly no right or wrong.

I think the Squire is a wonderful portrait of a difficult personality - he is very misunderstood, but I'm not sure that's the fault of the people who misunderstand him, since he always puts his worst foot forward. (There were both laws and social taboos surrounding the marriage of in-laws, however, so your particular "happy ending" would never have happened!)

nov 14, 2013, 12:55pm

Yes, I definitely plan to continue on to Can You Forgive Her? soon!

feeling exasperated with a friend because they won't stop obsessing over a guy (or girl!) who doesn't deserve it
Yes, you are so right about that! I was surprised that Lily has been a controversial character in that I thought she acted in a realistic way to both being engaged and being jilted. She was irritating, yes, but I actually liked that she stayed true to her feelings. Not to say that I didn't think her feelings misplaced! That Crosbie was a slimeball of the highest order!

There were both laws and social taboos surrounding the marriage of in-laws, however, so your particular "happy ending" would never have happened!
Of course! I never even thought of that. The Squire certainly was his own worst enemy most of the time.

aug 16, 2017, 7:57pm


sep 16, 2017, 7:59pm

bump again

sep 16, 2017, 8:20pm


sep 19, 2017, 10:20pm

I'm halfway through Liz on chapter 30. One thing that stands out for me in stark contrast to the previous 4 books is there aren't any spoilers. Trollope usually spills the beans a bit and then tells you the story.

sep 19, 2017, 10:43pm

He tends to do that in his more comedic (or at least, less serious) works, where it's more about the journey than the destination, the destination being obvious. As he begins to deal with darker material, he stops letting reader know where his stories are heading.

sep 23, 2017, 10:19am

I finished and I did enjoy this book, but it was very different from the preceding books.

I agree with >109 Cobscook: that Mrs. Dale was too free with her daughters. I understand giving them some freedom, but the girls ruled the roost. They felt their uncle was domineering over their mother, but they were more so in their own way.

I can't say I understand or admire Lily. She was too spoiled for my taste, but I think she was very fortunate financially, to be able to stand her ground.

As for the squire, I liked him. Of course we are privy to his innermost thoughts so that gives us a glimpse into his true character. He reminds me of my paternal grandfather. He was stern but everything he did was to provide for his family. He often looked like he was frowning, but that was just his look. Once the grandchildren came around, his demeanor softened up.

I liked Bell and Dr. Crofts relationship. I felt it was very true and I'm glad they able to get married.