[In reading The Small House at Allington, one cannot help but notice how many times Trollope's narrator urges us to sympathize with his characters as part of the moral education the novel provides. Like other novelists, he makes us sympathize with his main characters, especially the good ones — in this case Bell, Lily, and Mrs. Dale and the young John Eames — but Trollope goes out of his way to show us the shreds of conscience or the difficult lives of both his less attractive and least important ones as well. Here the narrator makes us understand the difficult, economically fragile position of Mrs. Roper, the landlady of the boarding house in which John Eames resides. — George P. Landow]

Mrs. Roper they found seated at her place at the dining-table, and Eames could perceive the traces of her tears. Poor woman! Few positions in life could be harder to bear than hers! To be ever tugging at others for money that they could not pay; to be ever tugged at for money which she could not pay; to desire respectability for its own sake, but to be driven to confess that it was a luxury beyond her means; to put up with disreputable belongings for the sake of lucre, and then not to get the lucre, but be driven to feel that she was ruined by the attempt! How many Mrs. Ropers there are who from year to year sink down and fall away, and no one knows whither they betake themselves! One fancies that one sees them from time to time at the corners of the streets in battered bonnets and thin gowns, with the tattered remnants of old shawls upon their shoulders, still looking as though they had within them a faint remembrance of long-distant respectability. With anxious eyes they peer about, as though searching in the streets for other lodgers. Where do they get their daily morsels of bread, and their poor cups of thin tea,—their cups of thin tea, with perhaps a pennyworth of gin added to it, if Providence be good! Of this state of things Mrs. Roper had a lively appreciation, and now, poor woman, she feared that she was reaching it, by the aid of the Lupexes. On the present occasion she carved her joint of meat in silence, and sent out her slices to the good guests that would leave her, and to the bad guests that would remain, with apathetic impartiality. [Chapter 51, “John Eames Does Things he Ought Not to Have Done”]

References

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.


Victorian Web Overview Authors Anthony Trollope

Last modified 26 September 2013