[In the first chapter of The Small House at Allington Trollope introduces us to Christophr Dale, the Squire and owner of both the great and small houses at Allington. After a sketch of family history, the narrator next explains his character with reference to two events. His summary of the man sounds very much like the words of Thomas Carlyle: “A constant, upright, and by no means insincere man was our Christopher Dale,—thin and meagre in his mental attributes, by no means even understanding the fulness of a full man, with power of eye-sight very limited in seeing aught which was above him, but yet worthy of regard in that he had realized a path of duty and did endeavour to walk therein” — George P. Landow]
He had fallen in love with a lady who obstinately refused his hand, and on her account he had remained single; that was his first accident. The second had fallen upon him with reference to his father's assumed wealth. He had supposed himself to be richer than other Dales of Allington when coming in upon his property, and had consequently entertained an idea of sitting in Parliament for his county. In order that he might attain this honour he had allowed himself to be talked by the men of Hamersham and Guestwick out of his old family politics, and had declared himself a Liberal. He had never gone to the poll, and, indeed, had never actually stood for the seat. But he had come forward as a liberal politician, and had failed; and, although it was well known to all around that Christopher Dale was in heart as thoroughly conservative as any of his forefathers, this accident had made him sour and silent on the subject of politics, and had somewhat estranged him from his brother squires.
In other respects our Christopher Dale was, if anything, superior to the average of the family. Those whom he did love he loved dearly. Those whom he hated he did not ill-use beyond the limits of justice. He was close in small matters of money, and yet in certain family arrangements he was, as we shall see, capable of much liberality. He endeavoured to do his duty in accordance with his lights, and had succeeded in weaning himself from personal indulgences, to which during the early days of his high hopes he had become accustomed. And in that matter of his unrequited love he had been true throughout. In his hard, dry, unpleasant way he had loved the woman; and when at last he learned to know that she would not have his love, he had been unable to transfer his heart to another. This had happened just at the period of his father's death, and he had endeavoured to console himself with politics, with what fate we have already seen. A constant, upright, and by no means insincere man was our Christopher Dale,—thin and meagre in his mental attributes, by no means even understanding the fulness of a full man, with power of eye-sight very limited in seeing aught which was above him, but yet worthy of regard in that he had realized a path of duty and did endeavour to walk therein. And, moreover, our Mr. Christopher Dale was a gentleman.
[After explaining the nature and history of the Squire's character, Trollope next describes him physically.
Such in character was the squire of Allington, the only regular inhabitant of the Great House. In person, he was a plain, dry man, with short grizzled hair and thick grizzled eyebrows. Of beard, he had very little, carrying the smallest possible gray whiskers, which hardly fell below the points of his ears. His eyes were sharp and expressive, and his nose was straight and well formed,—as was also his chin. But the nobility of his face was destroyed by a mean mouth with thin lips; and his forehead, which was high and narrow, though it forbad you to take Mr. Dale for a fool, forbad you also to take him for a man of great parts, or of a wide capacity. In height, he was about five feet ten; and at the time of our story was as near to seventy as he was to sixty. But years had treated him very lightly, and he bore few signs of age. Such in person was Christopher Dale, Esq., the squire of Allington, and owner of some three thousand a year, all of which proceeded from the lands of that parish. [Chapter 1, “The Squire of Allington”]
[Trollope again emphasizes Christopher Dale's constancy after he has been unable to convince Bell's mother to make her marry Bernard, his heir.]
And so they parted, the squire making his way back again through the drawing-room window. He was not above half pleased with his interview; but then he was a man for whom half-pleasure almost sufficed. He rarely indulged any expectation that people would make themselves agreeable to him. Mrs. Dale, since she had come to the Small House, had never been a source of satisfaction to him, but he did not on that account regret that he had brought her there. He was a constant man; urgent in carrying out his own plans, but not sanguine in doing so, and by no means apt to expect that all things would go smooth with him. He had made up his mind that his nephew and his niece should be married, and should he ultimately fail in this, such failure would probably embitter his future life;—but it was not in the nature of the man to be angry in the meantime, or to fume and scold because he met with opposition. He had told Mrs. Dale that he loved Bell dearly. So he did, though he seldom spoke to her with much show of special regard, and never was soft and tender with her. But, on the other hand, he did not now love her the less because she opposed his wishes. He was a constant, undemonstrative man, given rather to brooding than to thinking; harder in his words than in his thoughts, with more of heart than others believed, or than he himself knew; but, above all, he was a man who having once desired a thing would desire it always. [Chapter 19, “The Squire makes a visit to the small house”]
Trollope, Anthony. The Small House at Allington. Project Gutenberg E-text prepared by Andrew Turek and revised by Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D., and an anonymous Project Gutenberg volunteer.
Last modified 24 September 2013