The Small House at Allington, by Anthony Trollope

Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles are mostly short, light novels of Barsetshire gentry and their tribulations. They’re pretty enjoyable books, modest in length and scope, and several of them, despite their inclusion in a series most known for its light mockery of the ecclesiastical world, have nothing at all to do with the doings of the Church of England. Small House is among these, exploring a few incidental characters developed in the previous books and a handful of new characters. There are a couple of features to distinguish it from its fellows. One is its considerably less pastoral tone: the two ecclesiastical novels are set more-or-less exclusively in the cathedral close (except for the enjoyable episode of Mr. Harding’s day in London); the next two are set in the Barchester community. A large section of Small House, by way of contrast, is caught up with the activities of civil servants in London, lending the story a rather different tone: it’s a little less gentrytastic, a bit more relevant to the workings of the common world. The other notable feature, of which any potential reader must be warned, is that it doesn’t really wrap up all its plotlines. There is at least one relationship left abruptly unresolved, and a few more that don’t get quite the closure they ought. Nonetheless, it’s a reasonably enjoyable book, continuing the gentle drama of Doctor Thorne and Framley Parsonage.

I would be remiss in writing up this book if I didn’t call attention to a bit of unlikely slang whose meaning has changed rather sharply in the century following this book’s publication. Accused of partiality to an unknown lady with initials L.D., John Eames laughs it off:

“L.S.D.,” said Johnny, attempting the line of a witty, gay young spendthrift. “That’s my love—pounds, shillings, and pence; and a very coy mistress she is.”

Just try that line in the ’60s. Or after decimalization at all, really. But decimalization is a plot-token in Trollope’s other six-book series.

See also: Project Gutenberg, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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