in Small House at Allington

Chapter 21 – John Eames Encounters Two Adventures, and Displays Great Courage in Both

A man will talk of love out among the lilacs and roses….

Here Lily Dale tries to encourage Johnny Eames to come inside with her, since he is perhaps less likely to idealize his feelings for her in a more mundane setting.  Eames’ unrequited love is reminiscent of Classical pastoral poetry.  References to this poetic form help root Eames in a familiar tradition of lovelorn young men, making his fascination with Lily more recognizable, and making Johnny’s connection to this poetic form gently humorous.  [EB 2006]


rocks of adamant

Adamant is a legendary stone that was extremely hard and indestructible.  The name is derived from the Greek adamas meaning “invincible,” and throughout Classical literature it was used to refer to a variety of hard stones and metals.  Trollope refers to it when drawing a comparison between the bull that is turned away from pursuing Eames and Lord De Guest by brambles, and the way that humans will turn away from small obstacles but continue to “[break]…our hearts against rocks of adamant.”  The reference, and the comparison as a whole, has a humorous function here as the dramatic statement about human nature seems irrelevant in this anecdote about the bull.  [EB 2006]


sitting sternly to their long tasks

Mrs. Dale and Bell here help Lily prepare household items for her to take to her new home after marriage.  The Dales’ behavior parallels the ideal of the virtuous Roman woman who is dedicated to her household tasks.  This is exemplified by Livy’s story of Lucretia in Book 1 of History of Rome, who is considered the best of wives because she is working late in the night while other women feast with guests.  [EB 2006]

Sources:  Livy, History of Rome 1.57-59.


into the middle of his discourse

Here Eames rushes straight to the point of asking Lily about her impending marriage while trying to tell her how he feels.  This phrase is reminiscent of the Latin phrase used by Horace in his Ars Poeticain medias res, or “into the middle of things,” which often refers to the way that epics tend to begin in the middle of significant events in the plot and later explain them.  The use of this phrase draws a humorous contrast between the epic tradition and Eames’ unsuccessful attempts to articulate his feelings.  [EB 2006]

Sources:  Horace, Ars Poetica 145.


to carry off all the laurels of victory

This phrase describes the earl’s unwillingness to provoke the angry bull he is facing.  The laurel, previously mentioned in Chapter 2 and Chapter 9, was a plant associated with Apollo that was traditionally given to the winners in the Pythian games.  The inclusion of this phrase here is interesting since Eames proves himself deserving of “laurels” by assisting the earl, while “Apollo” Crosbie repeatedly shows his less worthy character.  [EB 2006]

Sources:  Entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.