in Small House at Allington

Chapter 28 – The Board

Why had his fate been so unkind to him?

In this reference to fate, Trollope personifies it, recalling Classical conceptions of Fate as an active but uncontrollable power directing human life.  Here, a distraught Crosbie blames the external force of fate for his difficult situation, suiting his character since he is unwilling to accept any fault himself in ending his engagement to Lily.  [EB 2006]


slips between the cups and lips

Trollope again refers to this famous, Classically inspired phrase about how nothing is certain until after it happens.  Here Butterwell uses the phrase to describe how it is better that Crosbie was surprised by his promotion.  This is ironic, since the phrase was previously used in Chapter 9 to describe Lily’s certainty of her marriage to Crosbie, which could have happened if Crosbie had known that his financial situation was about to change.  [EB 2006]


a turn in the wheel of fortune

The wheel of fortune is a symbol of the Roman goddess Fortuna, illustrating the unpredictability of luck.  Here Crosbie’s situation, which he caused by his own actions, is distinguished from a misfortune caused by chance events.  [EB 2006]

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


A man will dine, even though his heart be breaking

This phrase, used to describe the way that Crosbie attends a dinner even though he is preoccupied with the circumstances of his engagement to Alexandrina and his promotion, could recall a well-known incident in the Iliad.  When Priam comes to Achilles to reclaim Hector’s body, Achilles encourages him to eat despite his grief, referring to the myth of Niobe, where the grieving mother ate even though she was mourning the deaths of her many children.  Crosbie’s situation is more ironic, since a good deal of his sorrow is brought on by his inability to know his own feelings about Lily and Alexandrina. [EB 2006]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 24.600-620.