in Small House at Allington

Chapter 09 – Mrs. Dale’s Little Party

calf-like victim caught for sacrifice and bound with ribbon at the altar

Greco-Roman sacrificial imagery is used again to convey the present and anxious state of mind of Mr. Crosbie.  In this section of the text, Crosbie has the “calf-like feeling” because in order for him to marry Lily Dale, he must give up his ambitions and the luxuries to which he had become accustomed.  Additionally, Crosbie feels like a sacrificial victim because by marrying Lily Dale, he is presenting himself as one who will loose his independence.  Even though giving up his own autonomy will make Lily Dale happy, Crosbie feels that it would be no benefit to him.  See the commentary for Chapter 7. [AM 2006]


slip between the cup and the lip

This is a proverbial phrase that implies that things can go wrong even if something appears to be sure to happen. The source of this quotation is Erasmus’ Adagia, a book of Classical proverbs. The mythical background of the proverb concerns Ancaeos, who was the helmsman of the Argo, and according to Robert Graves, the story is told in the scholia for Apollonius’ Argonautica.  Ancaeos was told by a slave that he would never taste the wine from his own vineyards.  When a bottle of it was sent to him, the same slave reminded him that “there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip.”  A messenger then arrived to inform Ancaeos that a boar was destroying his land.  Leaving the wine untasted, Ancaeos went out to face the boar and was killed.  This section of the text shows how Lily Dale is under the assumption that her love and matrimonial plans are in no danger of being thwarted. The Classical reference is used to contrast Lily’s idealism and naiveté with the fact that the most predictable things can go wrong and that nothing is sure unless it has already passed.  The allusion creates a parallel between Lily and Anacaeos. [AM & RR 2006]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.
The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.
Robert Graves, The Greek Myths:  Complete Edition.  London:  Penguin, 1992.


Crosbie came forward and shone like an Apollo

It is the narrator who states that Crosbie shines like the sun god Apollo. Trollope uses this reference to Apollo in order to illustrate the confidence that Crosbie exudes within a crowd of people.  See the commentary for Chapter 2.  [AM 2006]


like the moon?–well; I fancy I like the sun better

This is Crosbie’s response to Lily’s question if he likes the moon.  This is a fitting assertion, given the fact that Crosbie has been identified with Apollo, who is associated with the sun.  [AM & RR 2006]



The laurels that surround Crosbie and Lily Dale on the lawn invoke the myth of Apollo and Daphne from Book 1 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In this story, Daphne becomes the laurel tree in order to prevent Apollo from having her as his lover.  The laurel then becomes associated with Apollo.  For more on laurels, see the commentary for Chapter 2.  [AM 2006]

Sources:  Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.452-567.



This word evokes the Underworld punishments of Tantulus, eternally thirsty and leaning toward water and also eternally hungry and stretching toward fruit.  In a broader sense, “tantalize” means to present something that is desired but kept out of reach.  This image of Tantulus and alluring but ungraspable desires is used to show how the curate who attends Mrs. Dale’s party feels tortured and perhaps envious of the activities and pleasures experienced by the other guests at the party which he cannot partake in or enjoy.  [AM 20006]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


Greek Kalends

An expression used to refer to a time that will never come.  The humor of this phrase is derived from the fact that kalends was a Roman term which denoted the first day of the month in the Roman calendar, and the Greeks did not reckon time according to Roman kalends. Trollope uses this figure of speech when describing Mr. Crosbie’s unconscious desire “to postpone his marriage to some Greek kalends.”  This allusion is used to convey how Mr. Crosbie secretly wishes that the day of his marriage will never come.  [AM 2006]

Sources:  OED.