[In chapter 18, “Courcy Castle” Trollope introduces us to the unpleasant de Courcy family, before the appearance of Alexandrina de Courcy, a beautiful woman who has been on the marriage market for more than a decade and who convinces Crosbie to jilt Lily Dale. Her father, the Earl, a mean-spirited, spendthrift with no affection for anyone, perfectly matches Thomas Carlyle's description of England's landed gentry as useless and irresponsible, men who when the country needs leadership are off “preserving their game.” He and his eldest son, Lord Porlock, “hated each other as only such fathers and such sons can hate,” but the second son, George has done his duty and “in having married a young woman with money.” The third son, the Honourable John, exemplifies a “thorough-going ne'er-do-well in the upper classes.” Then, there are the daughters, the Ladies Amelia, Rosina, Margaretta, and Alexandrina — “discreet, high-bred women, thinking, perhaps, a little too much of their own position in the world, and somewhat apt to put a wrong value on those advantages which they possessed, and on those which they did not possess.” Amelia has made a “substantial if not a brilliant match with Mr. Mortimer Gazebee, a flourishing solicitor” while Lady Rosina is “very religious” and the Lady Margaretta, her mother's favourite, “had been a good daughter, assisting her mother, as best she might, in all family troubles, and never repining at the cold, colourless, unlovely life which had been vouchsafed to her. The there is the Lady Alexandrina.” — George P. Landow]

Alexandrina was the beauty of the family, and was in truth the youngest. But even she was not very young, and was beginning to make her friends uneasy lest she, too, should let the precious season of hay-harvest run by without due use of her summer's sun. She had, perhaps, counted too much on her beauty, which had been beauty according to law rather than beauty according to taste, and had looked, probably, for too bounteous a harvest. That her forehead, and nose, and cheeks, and chin were well-formed, no man could deny. Her hair was soft and plentiful. Her teeth were good, and her eyes were long and oval. But the fault of her face was this,—that when you left her you could not remember it. After a first acquaintance you could meet her again and not know her. After many meetings you would fail to carry away with you any portrait of her features. But such as she had been at twenty, such was she now at thirty. Years had not robbed her face of its regularity, or ruffled the smoothness of her too even forehead. Rumour had declared that on more than one, or perhaps more than two occasions, Lady Alexandrina had been already induced to plight her troth in return for proffered love; but we all know that Rumour, when she takes to such topics, exaggerates the truth, and sets down much in malice. The lady was once engaged, the engagement lasting for two years, and the engagement had been broken off, owing to some money difficulties between the gentlemen of the families. Since that she had become somewhat querulous, and was supposed to be uneasy on that subject of her haymaking. Her glass and her maid assured her that her sun shone still as brightly as ever; but her spirit was becoming weary with waiting, and she dreaded lest she should become a terror to all, as was her sister Rosina, or an object of interest to none, as was Margaretta. It was from her especially that this message had been sent to our friend Crosbie; for, during the last spring in London, she and Crosbie had known each other well. Yes, my gentle readers; it is true, as your heart suggests to you. Under such circumstances Mr. Crosbie should not have gone to Courcy Castle. [Chapter 17, “Courcy castle”

. . . .

She was not possessed of strong affections, nor of depth of character, nor of high purpose; but she was no fool, nor was she devoid of principle. . . . She was not very much in love with Mr. Crosbie, but she thought that she could live with him comfortably, and that on the whole it would be a good thing to be married.

And she made certain resolves as to the manner in which she would do her duty by her husband. Her sister Amelia was paramount in her own house, ruling indeed with a moderate, endurable dominion, and ruling much to her husband's advantage. Alexandrina feared that she would not be allowed to rule, but she could at any rate try. She would do all in her power to make him comfortable, and would be specially careful not to irritate him by any insistence on her own higher rank. She would be very meek in this respect; and if children should come she would be as painstaking about them as though her own father had been merely a clergyman or a lawyer. She thought also much about poor Lilian Dale, asking herself sundry questions, with an idea of being high-principled as to her duty in that respect. Was she wrong in taking Mr. Crosbie away from Lilian Dale? In answer to these questions she was able to assure herself comfortably that she was not wrong. Mr. Crosbie would not, under any circumstances, marry Lilian Dale. He had told her so more than once, and that in a solemn way. [Chapter 27]

Related Material


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 23 September 2013