Chapter 02 – The Barchester Reformer

June 6th, 2011 § 0 comments

Sacerdos

The Latin word for “priest” is used here as the pseudonym on a pamphlet written by Dr. Grantly.  This term seems to claim for him a high degree of religious authority, since Dr. Grantly gave this name to himself.  The use of a Latin word for the title of a Victorian pamphlet also seems to give him a high degree of cultural authority, because Latin was a language which was learned by educated citizens.  [MD 2005]

 

Argus (and Plumstead Episcopi)

Dr. Grantly is said to “have as many eyes as Argus.” Argus was a giant in Greek mythology who had at least a hundred eyes and was ordered to be a sentinel for Hera, the wife of Zeus.  Argus’ duty was to watch over Io, whom Zeus had turned into a cow, and with whom he was committing adultery.  This allusion shows that Dr. Grantly’s character is always vigilant and commanding in both his own and others’ affairs.  However, this reference could also be seen to be humorous, in that Argus is a monster with superhuman abilities and Dr. Grantly cannot be more watchful than humanly possible.  [MD 2005]

Trollope’s identification of Dr. Grantly with many-eyed Argus resonates somewhat with the name of Dr. Grantly’s home, Plumstead Episcopi, since episcopi in Greek means “of the overseer” as well as “of the bishop.”  Not only is Dr. Grantly the son of the bishop, but he is also very vigilant about watching diocesan business.  [RR 2013]

 

dignity of an ancient saint

This phrase is used to describe Dr. Grantly and his typical, respectable demeanor.  It seems to be an allusion to the dutiful lives of Christian saints and clergymen, many of whom lived and worshipped during the time of the Roman Empire.  The idea of the noble lives which these men lived is what Trollope seems to be evoking here. However, this phrase is followed by the words “with the sleekness of a modern bishop.”  Together, these two descriptions seem to give Dr. Grantly the personality of one who knows how to work and survive in the modern church system, but who takes the job very seriously and has tremendous respect for his duties.  [MD 2005]

It may also suggest the degree to which Dr. Grantly is able to assume the external aspect of religious gravity to great effect.  [RR 2011]

 

Homer

Dr. Grantly is directly contrasted with Homer in the phrase “unlike Homer, he never nods.”  This is an allusion to the ancient Greek poet Homer, who is credited with composing the Iliad and the Odyssey. The English saying “even Homer nods” is drawn from the Roman poet Horace, who wrote aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus (“sometimes good Homer falls asleep”) in his Ars Poetica.  This phrase illustrates the point that even the famous Greek poet Homer must have made mistakes when composing his poems.  The description of Dr. Grantly as being very precise and not making mistakes seems to agree with his other character traits, through which he is presented as being very professional.  This reference almost makes it seem, perhaps satirically, that Dr. Grantly is above the mistakes of mere humans, even extraordinary talented ones like Homer, and is therefore placed in a more esteemed position than the rest of humankind.  [MD 2005]

Source:  Horace, Ars Poetica, 359.  The phrase is included on this list of tags from Horace’s Ars Poetica.

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