in Small House at Allington

Chapter 07 – The Beginning of Troubles


The narrator refers to Crosbie as Apollo.  The narrator uses this name to denote Crosbie in order to show that Bernard, Bell, Lily, and Adolphus or “Apollo” are on a comfortable, even joking first name basis.  See the commentary on Chapter 2. [AM 2006]


a calf at the altar, ready for a knife, with blue ribbons round his horns and neck

This is a reference to animal sacrifices performed in antiquity. Crosbie feels that he is the sacrificial calf because it is so clear that he is engaged to be married; he feels more caught because he commited himself to be married without knowing if the squire was going to give Lily any money upon her marriage.  [AM 2006]

Sacrificial animals were sometimes decorated with ribbons for sacrificial processions in antiquity, but the color blue may have more Victorian than Classical resonance.  The OED notes that in the 19th century a blue ribbon marks a first prize; this sense develops out of the blue ribbon worn as a symbol of honor.  If the “blue ribbons” of this passage mark the Crosbie’s excellence, we have here the mixture of a Classical image (the sacrificial animal) and a contemporary one (the symbolism of blue ribbons).   [RR 2011]

Sources:  OED.



This word is referring to Hippocrates’ theory of the bodily humors which were four types of fluids thought to permeate the body and influence its health.  An imbalance in the humours was thought to affect personality.  Lily Dale asks her sister Bell why their mother should have to go to their uncle to please his humors.  The reference to Hippocrates’ humors conveys how Bell understands that the ill-ease of their uncle would be swayed into contentment by their mother’s influence.  [AM 2006]

Sources:  OCD.



Elysium, in Classical mythology, is the paradisiacal place where the blessed dead reside in the Underworld.  This allusion refers to what Mr. Crosbie’s life would not be like if he chose to marry Lily Dale with his small income.  Mr. Crosbie would have to give up his seemingly splendid life of London luxuries such as fashion and clubs in exchange for a domestic life in which he would live a humdrum existence in a small house full of babies and mouths to feed.  This idea of married life does not seem like a paradise to him.  [AM 2006]

Sources:  OED.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


Apollo of Beaufort

The narrator uses Apollo to contrast Crosbie’s usual social smoothness with the lack of finesse with which Crosbie tries to explain that his marriage to Lily would be delayed due to his small income.  [AM 2006]