Lily Dale, the bewitching heroine of The Small House at Allington, so endeared herself to the novel's first readers that they bombarded Trollope with letters begging him to give her story a happy ending. Lily is the niece of Squire Dale, an embittered old bachelor entrenched in the 'Great House' at Allington. His sister-in-law lives at the adjacent 'Small House' with her two daughters Lily and Bell, and the romantic entanglements of the two girls, and relations between the two houses, lie at the heart of the novel. The memorable cast of characters includes Sir Raffle Buffle, the bullying head of a government department, the heartless Lady Dumbello, and the shallow Adolphus Crosbie, who gets his just deserts in the form of the frigid Lady Alexandrina de Courcy. In what was to become the fifth of the six Barsetshire novels, Trollope develops his characteristic theme of the invasion of a pastoral, conservative world by brash and progressive forces from London. Gracious country living, with croquet and tea on the lawn, is vividly contrasted with the cut and thrust of London life in the 1860s.
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