Chapter 01 – Who will be the New Bishop?

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preparing his thunder

Here Trollope paints a picture of an outgoing prime minister very active in his correspondence, sending letters forth like Jupiter might send his thunderbolts.  But then Trollope proceeds to explain that, in reality, the outgoing prime minister is no father of the gods, and rather than readying thunderbolt missives he is to be found lounging in his office, reading a list of racehorses, and a French novel is open on the table beside him.  [JM 2005]


nolo episcopari

Latin “I do not wish to be a bishop.” Said by someone who wishes to accept the office of bishop, having first appeared to modestly or honourably refuse it.  Here Trollope discusses how contrary to the normal behaviour of career men such a practice is:  men of other professions do not feel compelled to turn down offices they actually desire, yet clergymen are expected to be piously unambitious.  Such is not the case with Dr. Grantly, who wishes the office but does not receive it, and in losing the chance of it, grieves for it.  [JM 2005]

Chapter 02 – Hiram’s Hospital According to Act of Parliament

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A Latin word meaning “examiner,” “investigator,” or “scrutinizer.”  The OED cites instances of the word used in English as early as 1593. Trollope uses it here as a part of a newspaper or magazine’s name, the Musical Scrutator, which is dedicated to the topic of music. This publication is said to have commented on Mr. Harding’s musical work, Harding’s Church Music, and given it high praise.   [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.


undying fame

Used to describe the praise which Mr. Harding received in an article in the Musical Scrutator, this phrase is a classical reference.  Epic heroes like those in Homer’s Iliad desire “undying fame” or “undying glory,” and Trollope likens Mr. Harding to these classical epic heroes. This description could be seen to be humorous because Mr. Harding will probably never become as famous as any of the warriors in Homer’s Iliad.  [MD 2005]

There is also, of course, a humorous disparity between Homeric warriors and mild Mr. Harding.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 9.413 (for an example of the use of the phrase “undying fame”).



A Latin word meaning truth, the OED has no record of this word being introduced into standard English vocabulary. It is used in this instance as the alias of an anonymous person who has written a letter to The Jupiter in favor of the editors’ views. This individual has signed the letter with the name “Veritas,” which claims a significant amount of authority for the writer and the writer’s personal views.  Several other letters were said to have been written to the paper as well, which were signed by “Common Sense” and “One that loves fair play,” further establishing these authors’ beliefs in the superior value of their own opinions.  [MD 2005]

The authority claimed by “Veritas” is at least two-fold:  the authority derived from an assertion of truthfulness, and the cultural authority of asserting that truthfulness with a Latin pseudonym.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  OED.


Cassandra was not believed

In Greek mythology, Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, who was the King of Troy, was given the power to foresee future events by Apollo. However, when she would not be Apollo’s lover, Apollo cursed her to never be believed by anyone. We can see an example of this in Vergil’s Aeneid, when Cassandra foretells the destruction of Troy but is unheeded.  This is an interesting allusion because Trollope is likening the paper The Jupiter to the mythological figure of Cassandra; this publication is also able to know the future, but at times no one listens to it or trusts its ideas.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Aeneid 2.246-247.


woman as ivy, husband as tree

Trollope describes Eleanor Harding as being like the parasitic ivy, which attaches itself to trees and climbs up them, using the tree’s support to further its own growth.  John Bold, Eleanor’s husband, is described as the tree on which Eleanor climbs and secures herself. She is shown as one who worships her husband and who completely defends him in all of his decisions.  This imagery recalls that found in Catullus’ poem 61, written in the style of a marriage hymn.  [MD & RR 2005]

We find similar symbolism, but with a grape-vine and tree, in book 14 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses:  the god Vertumnus (in disguise) suggests to his beloved Pomona that a woman, like the grape-vine, needs a husband, like the tree, on which to grow.  For Ovid, ivy growing on a tree may be a more dire image:  in book 4 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses the nymph Salmacis tries to subdue the youth whom she desires, and she is likened to a snake attacking an eagle, a squid encompassing its prey, and ivy climbing up trees.  An ivy-like–suffocating–wife becomes a trope in British literature used by the likes of Shakespeare and Dryden; a quick example is Thomas’ Hardy’s “Ivy Wife.”  Trollope seems to use the idea of an ivy wife without any of the accumulated negative associations.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Catullus 61. 31-35.  Link to a side-by-side English-Latin version.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 14.661-668  and 4.361-367.
Hardy, “Ivy Wife.” Link to the poem at
Williams, Aubrey L., “The Decking of Ruins:  Dryden’s All for Love,” South Atlantic Review 49 (1984):  6-18.  (Williams doesn’t mention Trollope, but he discusses the tradition of the trope.)


an ever-running fountain of tears

This description recalls the mythological Niobe, whose seven sons and seven daughters are killed by the gods, and as a result she cries endless tears of sorrow over their deaths.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.146-312.

Chapter 03 – Dr. and Mrs. Proudie

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rarae aves

The Latin phrase means “rare birds.”  Trollope says that in recent memory liberal clergymen would have been considered rarae aves.  That is to say that liberal clergymen were rare.  Dr. Proudie is considered a liberal clergyman.  However, by the time this story takes place it was not so abnormal or disdainful to be so.  Also see gloss in commentary for Doctor Thorne Chapter 18.  [TH 2005]


regius professor

Regius is the Latin word for “royal.”  Trollope claims that it was a sign of change for liberal clergymen when Dr. Hampden was made regius professor.  A regius professor is one who holds a position created by the crown.   The position was originally created by King Henry VIII.  Since the monarch must approve each regius professor it is a sign of change to see a liberal clergyman receiving royal approval.  [TH 2005]

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


regium donum

Latin for “royal gift.”  Dr. Proudie is said to have “something to do” with the regium donum.  The regium donum was an annual grant issued to Presbyterian ministers in Ireland.  After his conflict with King James II, William III used the regium donum to reward his supporters amongst the Ulster Protestants.  Barchester Towers was published in 1857 but the grants were not abolished until 1871.  Its appearance in association with Dr. Proudie seems to indicate his level of religious tolerance and reflect the respect of his peers who put him in such an important position. [TH 2005]

Sources:  Entry at
Entry at


eyes of Argus

Argus was a monster from Greek mythology with multiple eyes.  Mrs. Proudie is considered Argus-eyed in reference to Sabbath offenders.  It marks her superhuman level of vigilance.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

Chapter 04 – The Bishop’s Chaplain

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the power to assume the tyrant

Here Trollope seems to be using the word “tyrant” in its more classical sense of a usurper of power rather than the more modern sense of an oppressive ruler.  Trollope never implies that Mr. Slope would be an unjust or cruel ruler, but it is very clear that his aim is to take control of the bishop and use him as a puppet while Slope himself maneuvers the strings.  [JC 2005]


fresh authority of the New Testament

This is a slight reference to the Greek adjective kainos which means “fresh” or “new” and which is the source of our translation of “new” in the name of the New Testament.  Trollope would have known this word and may probably have been thinking of it when he described the “fresh” authority that Slope could not draw from the “Fresh” Testament.  [JC 2005]

Chapter 05 – A Morning Visit

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that little god upon earth

The idea of gods going in disguise among humans, or of humans becoming gods, is a common one in Classical myth.  Of course, Trollope is not actually implying that the women view baby Johnny as an actual deity; this is an example of using ancient language or ideas to playfully poke fun at how seriously a character is taking something.  This baby is the center of Eleanor’s life, to the point that describing him as a god is almost appropriate, and we can’t fault her for making him such.  We can, however, laugh good-naturedly at the baby’s aggrandizement by his mother.  [JM 2005]


Venus to his Juno

Trollope is setting up Grantly and Proudie’s rivalry as equaling that between Venus and Juno after Paris’ judgment of a beauty contest between the goddesses Juno, Venus, and Minerva; the youth judged in favor of Venus, who was offering as a bribe the greatest beauty, Helen.  Paris’ decision enraged the ever-jealous Juno.  Comparing the feelings of two staid men to those of angered female deities shows both the virulence and pettiness of their wrath towards each other.  [JM 2005]


wished-for apple

Continuing the Venus/Juno motif, the “apple” in this case is basically control of religious life in Barchester, which Grantly has and Proudie wants.  In the myth of the Paris’ judgment, the apple was the prize awarded to the most beautiful goddess.  [JM 2005]


had I the pen of a might poet, would I sing in epic verse the noble wrath of the archdeacon

Clearly and humorously borrowing a technique called recusatio (Latin, “refusal”) in which an author makes an elaborate refusal to speak on a subject, or otherwise expresses anxiety regarding his own ability to write about a particular thing.  Trollope may be echoing the opening book of the Aeneid, which mentions the wrath of Juno, or he may be echoing the beginning of Homer’s Iliad, which opens with mention of Achilles’ wrath.  Achilles may be a more appropriate parallel, since Grantly’s pride has been offended as Achilles was by Agamemnon.  Keep in mind, however, that Grantly has been compared to Juno once already in this chapter.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Aeneid 1.11.
Homer, Iliad, 1.1.

Chapter 06 – War

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Te Deum

These two Latin words mean “You God,” and refer to a Latin hymn of praise often sung in morning church services.  The OED cites the use of this term as early as 961 CE.  [MD & TH 2005]

Sources:  OED.


no slight tact

This is an example of Trollope’s use of litotes, a classical construction often seen in his writing; with litotes an author asserts something by negating its opposite. “No slight tact” means that in this case Mr. Slope actually has a lot of tact.  [MD 2005]


the penalties of Hades

Hades was the land of the dead or the Underworld in Greek mythology, and is often equated with Hell by Christian writers. The word is recorded as having occurred as early as 1599 in English writing.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.

Chapter 07 – The Dean and Chapter Take Counsel

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Te Deum

See gloss in commentary for Chapter 6.

Chapter 08 – The Ex-Warden Rejoices in His Probable Return to the Hospital

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Trollope may have used this word to recall its classical heritage (an apologia in ancient Greek is a speech of defence).  He could just as easily have used the word “defender” which, though derived from Latin, is a more thoroughly Anglicized word.  [JC 2005]


omnipotent Parliament

In Trollope’s delineation of the difference between government and Parliament, he equates Parliament with the divine by employing a word which was brought into English with the implication of godly power.  [JC 2005]

Chapter 09 – The Stanhope Family

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She had fallen, she said, in ascending a ruin…

Having married a disreputable Italian man named Neroni, Madeline Stanhope goes with him to Rome.  She returns to her family not long afterwards, crippled for life.  She says that her injury was sustained while climbing a Roman ruin, but it is a distinct possibility that she was maimed through some fault of her husband’s.  This would be in keeping with the way that she continues to use Roman history as a more pretentious and less mundane background for herself, thereby hiding her nuptial mistake and its effect on her current life.  She is a single mother, a permanent cripple, and a husbandless yet married woman, but through adopting and circulating certain Roman ideas about herself, she covers up or even gilds the evidence of her mistakes.  [JM 2005]


Grecian bandeaux

A hairstyle emulating that seen on many ancient statues, with the hair put up in plaits around the head instead of flowing freely.  “Bandeaux” refers to headbands.   [JM & RR 2005]


eyes bright at Lucifer’s

Lucifer, in Latin, means “bearer of light.”  When Trollope compares Madeline’s eyes to those of the devil Lucifer, he is making an obvious reference to their brightness but he is also making a subtle implication about the Signora’s character.  Her eyes are not just beautifully bright, they are also “dreadful” and contain no love, but rather mischief and cunning.   [JM 2005]



The basilisk is a mythical beast with widely varying descriptions.  Many descriptions, including that of Pliny the Elder, include a lethal gaze.  The name “basilisk” comes from the Greek basileus “king,” or basiliskos “little king;” the basilisk was considered the king of serpents.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.
Pliny, Natural History 8.33.



Latin, “having been born.”  Madeline Stanhope adds rather a lot to her title as it appears on her cards; with the gilding, the fancy coronet, and her insertion of a bit of Latin, Madeline is seriously playing up her own nobility and birth.  Taking her father’s given name Vesey is a little strange, and she has no more reason to make a point of what her maiden name was than does any other married woman.  The whole episode with the visiting cards serves to show what lengths Madeline is putting herself to in order to appear more grand and less pathetic.  [JM 2005]


referring Neroni’s extraction to the old Roman family from which the worst of the Caesar’s sprang

Madeline does not speak of her husband or her marriage, except to make mysterious references and call her daughter the “last of the blood of the emperors,” implying that her husband Neroni is somehow related to the classical Nero.  Such is surely not the case, but again the Signora is making the most of her sad state, and doing it well; few seem to realize her pretentiousness, least of all the men she besots.  [JM 2005]

Chapter 10 – Mrs. Proudie’s Reception – Commenced

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An English word which is made up of two Latin words: fac, which is an imperative meaning “make” or “do” and totum which means “everything.”  Thus, the word has come to refer to a person who does everything for someone else, almost like a servant or an employee. In this case it refers to Mr. Slope, the Bishop’s chaplain, who does all of Bishop Proudie’s work for him, and is basically his do-everything employee. It is cited by the OED as being in use in English by 1566.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.


Cupid in mosaic

This is a description of Cupid’s picture in mosaic form, which appears on one of Madeline Stanhope’s pieces of jewelry. Madeline is extremely flirtatious with men, and thus her having the god of love on one of her feminine decorations symbolizes her own interests.  Madeline is kind of like Cupid herself, because she attracts men to fall in love with her, but without the traditional bow and arrow of the god of love.  [MD 2005]

Chapter 11 – Mrs. Proudie’s Reception – Concluded

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wrath of Juno and the passions of celestial minds

“We know what was the wrath of Juno when her beauty was despised.  We know to what storms of passion even celestial minds can yield,” says Trollope about Ms. Proudie when Ethelbert tore her dress.  The first part of the quotation is a reference to the judgment of Paris.  The allusion is continued when Trollope says “As Juno may have looked at Paris on Mount Ida, so did Mrs. Proudie look on Ethelbert Stanhope when he pushed the leg of the sofa into her lace train.”  The judgement of Paris is the event that started the Trojan War.  When Paris, a young Trojan prince, is asked by Juno, Venus, and Minerva to judge which is the most beautiful, he chooses Venus.  Venus gives him Helen as a prize, and Paris seizes her from her husband.  This event sparks the Trojan War, but it is Juno who most vehemently asserts that Troy should be destroyed.  The second half of the quotation is reminiscent of Aeneid 1.11 where Vergil (in reference to Juno) writes tantaene animis caelestibus irae or “are there such great feelings of anger in celestial minds?”  Mrs. Proudie is being compared to a raging Juno.  Invoking the image of this goddess and applying it to Mrs. Proudie achieves comic effect.  It also effectively conjures an image of Mrs. Proudie who is probably glaring at Ethelbert as though he were her inferior.  Bertie is then shown kneeling, and Trollope says it were as though “he were imploring pardon from a goddess.”  The use of Juno to describe Mrs. Proudie’s reaction is useful in that it makes light of the scene, helps the reader visualize the scene, and increases the overall tension of the scene.  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology. [TH & RR 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Aeneid 1.11.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


the blood of Tiberius and the last of the Neros

Tiberius was the second emperor of Rome.  He inherited his position from his uncle Augustus Caesar.  Tiberius was the step-son of Augustus, the founder of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.  Nero was another Julio-Claudian emperor.  He was accused of setting fire to Rome and persecuting Christians afterwards.  He was also the last emperor in Augustus’ line.  When Madeline claims her child has the blood of Tiberius, she is suggesting that he is descended from the imperial family of ancient Rome and thus a successor to Caesar.  It is unlikely that she can actually trace her child’s descent to Tiberius.   Madeline was in this case probably not referring to the truth of the matter but in keeping with her character she uses Tiberius to add to her over-the-top presentation of herself.  Her classical references reinforce the impression that most of her words and behaviors are only a grandiose façade.  [TH 2005]


a Nero and yet a Christian

The signora says to the bishop, “But you might speak to her; you might let her hear from your consecrated lips, that she is not a castaway because she is a Roman; that she may be a Nero and yet a Christian; that she may owe her black locks and dark cheeks to the blood of the pagan Caesars, and yet herself be a child of grace.”  In the midst of Mrs. Proudie’s reception the signora speaks to the bishop about the confirmation of her daughter.  The bishop responds that at seven years old her daughter is much too young.  Madeline then issues the above speech in an attempt to persuade him that he should confirm her daughter or at least speak to her.  By relating her daughter’s supposed blood-tie with Nero to the question of whether she can be a Christian, Madame Neroni is likely alluding to Nero’s persecution of the Christians.  The Julio-Claudian line was a “pagan” line and so having identified herself with this symbol she is now attempting to emphasize her Christian piety in front of the bishop.  Also, she may be thinking to end the conversation on a positive note seeing that her initial request far exceeded the range of what the bishop would be willing to grant.  The reference adds even more to her over-the-top image when she asks the bishop to confirm her daughter at such a young age.  The question allows her to dwell upon and make a show of her daughter’s exotic origins.  [TH 2005]


mother of the last of the Neros

As the bishop leaves the side of Madame Neroni, Trollope refers to her as the “mother of the last of the Neros.”  This is a continuation of the preceding reference to Tiberius.  When Trollope refers to the Neros he means the entire imperial family.  [TH 2005]


fortiter in re…suaviter in modo

The Latin phrases fortiter in re and suaviter in modo are normally found together.  But in a clever tactic Trollope chooses to separate them.  Dr. Proudie’s strategy in Barchester is to let Mr. Slope be the one who behaves fortiter in re, (Latin for “strongly in action”) and he would be the one who acts suaviter in modo, (“agreeably in manner”).  Taken together the phrases could be interpreted as meaning that one should be strong in action and agreeable in manner at the same time.  In this case, though, one character is taking on the first aspect and another is taking on the second.  Dr. Proudie intends to let Mr. Slope take on himself the burden of attack and dislike, but when coupled with the bishop’s gentle demeanor the two make for an excellent power couple.  While Mr. Slope may be disliked, many will find it harder to show any disrespect to the bishop.  [TH 2005]

The entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable puts suaviter in modo before fortiter in re.  If that ordering of the phrases was common, Trollope inverts it to effect here:  Mr. Slope forges ahead, and the bishop smooths things over afterward.  [RR 2011]

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


omnium gatherum

This pseudo-Latin phrase means “gathering of all things.”  Omnium is the genitive plural form of omnis, “every,” “all.”  “Gatherum” is only a Latin sounding version of the word “gather.”  The phrase suggests a gathering of all sorts.  The bishop refers to the reception as an “omnium gatherum.”  With the mix of clergy, aristocracy, and such diverse personalities as Ethelbert and the Signora, it seems an apt description.  One must wonder if there is a double edge to the phrase.  Perhaps he means to indicate that the company is not entirely of the exact sort he would have preferred.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OED.

Chapter 12 – Slope versus Harding

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Mr. Harding is opposed to the contra-assumption of grandeur

Mr. Harding here is annoyed with “the air of superiority which [Mr. Slope] assumed,” but is too meek to respond by acting in a similar fashion (which, as we see, is often the archdeacon’s line of defense).  Trollope infuses a bit of classicism here when he describes the position that Mr. Harding cannot take as a “contra-assumption,” using the Latin word where the Anglicized version “counter” would have been just as useful.  [JC 2005]


casting away useless rubbish of past centuries

With his use of the word “centuries” here Mr. Slope implies that he is getting rid of what he sees as the “rubbish” of the Classical past as well as the more recent English past.  Mr. Slope makes the point that this is going on all around the country.  When one considers how Trollope keeps recycling the stuff of past centuries, it is clear that he’s certainly not in favor of casting it away as Mr. Slope does.  It is also worth questioning whether the disregard that Mr. Slope has for the past is a way of marking him as a villain.  Because Trollope uses Classics as a way of connecting with the audience in a meaningful way, does Trollope condemn Mr. Slope by putting him in opposition to this connecting device?  [JC 2005]

Chapter 13 – The Rubbish Cart

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St. Bartholomew and St. Sebastian

St. Bartholomew was one of the apostles, known in ancient times for preaching the Christian gospel in less-than-civilized areas.  He is said to have suffered martyrdom by being flayed alive or crucified.  St. Sebastian was executed by the emperor Diocletian around the year 284 CE; he was sentenced to be shot with arrows until dead.  However, he survived this and surprised the emperor by showing up alive to preach to him, at which point Diocletian had him beaten to death.  (St. Lorenzo, who is also mentioned by Trollope in this passage, does not have Classical connections.)  [JM 2005]


carting away the useless rubbish of past centuries

See gloss in commentary for Chapter 12.

Chapter 14 – The New Champion

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the frogs and the mice

This is a reference to an ancient Greek mock epic poem, Batrachomyomachia, or The Battle of Frogs and Mice.  This work parodies the ancient heroic epics with a battle fought between these two species of small animals.  Eventually, the frogs begin struggling against the forces of the mice, and the gods dispatch a large group of crabs to help the losing frogs.  In this instance, this is a reference to the future war between Mr. Slope and Mr. Arabin and the argument of words and actions which will ensue as a result.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  The New Century: Classical Handbook. Ed. Catherine B. Avery.  New York:  Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1972.


the angers of Agamemnon and Achilles

Homer’s Iliad begins with a quarrel between these two men; Agamemnon is the commander of the Greek forces fighting in the Trojan War, and Achilles is the most powerful Greek warrior. They get into an argument over two captured maidens, and Achilles turns the argument into an all-out refusal to work with Agamemnon.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 1.

Chapter 15 – The Widow’s Suitors

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In English, “sophistry” is used to refer to an argument that, though persuasive, is actually false.  Trollope tries to convince his audience that Mr. Slope is not entirely bad.  Mr. Slope simply has a strong devotion to his concept of religion and a high opinion of himself.  This mix leads him to thinking that actions which are good for his advancement are also good for his church.  Trollope describes this argument as sophistry because it uses a form of logic that sounds appealing but is merely deceptive.  The Greek sophists were traveling teachers and philosophers.  Some sophists are presented as believing that there existed no certain truth but that all truth is only opinion, a stance refuted by Socrates and his students.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OED.

Chapter 16 – Baby Worship

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object of idolatry

By referring to Eleanor’s baby as an object of her idolatry, Trollope compares him to a “pagan” (i.e. Classical) god.  [JC 2005]


fields of asphodel

Trollope compares the company of Eleanor and Signora Neroni, making it quite obvious that Eleanor’s company is the more pleasurable.  Madeline’s company is “like falling into a pit,” while being with Eleanor is like walking through pleasant fields of asphodel found in the Underworld.  Asphodel in the Underworld is mentioned in book 24 of Homer’s Odyssey.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Odyssey 24.13.


Mrs. Quiverful, supplicant

“…[Mrs. Quiverful] had all but embraced the knees of her patroness and had promised that the prayers of fourteen unprovided babes…should be put up to heaven ….”  The image of a supplicant embracing the knees of the patron is a very Classical one.  Compare Thetis’ supplication of Zeus in book 1 of Homer’s Iliad.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 1.500-502.


Rome was not built in a day

Though this is a common saying, it clearly recalls the long history of the rise of ancient Rome.  [JC 2005]

Here, Slope’s use of the proverb discordantly likens his pursuit of Eleanor to the building of the great city and its empire.  [RR 2011]

Chapter 17 – Who shall be Cock of the Walk?

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 18 – The Widow’s Persecution

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Comes from the Latin word magnanimitas, “greatness of soul.”  Although this word in English now describes a person’s great compassion or generosity, Trollope uses its more literal meaning to denote the great-spirited Mrs. Proudie.  It is cited by the OED as having occurred in English as early as 1340.  [MD & RR 2005]

Sources:  OED.

Chapter 19 – Barchester by Moonlight

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Trollope describes the Stanhope’s reaction to unhappy times.  They seem almost unphased by any tragedy or loss.  He says of their stoicism:  “if not stoical, (it) answered the end at which the stoics aimed.”  Stoicism was a Greco-Roman philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno.  It was popular from 300 BC to 300 CE.  Stoic ethics discouraged attachment to material things and displays of emotion.  Stoics were not supposed to react out of anger or passion but were expected to act in accordance with reason.  Although Trollope does not consider the Stanhopes to be true stoics, he calls upon the Classical stoics for a characterization of the Stanhope family.  When adverse circumstances strike, the Stanhope family does not act as though anything has happened at all.  Instead they continue as before.  However, unlike the ancient Stoics, they are definitely worldly.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OCD.


the chaste goddess

This reference is likely referring to Artemis.  Selene was the Greek personification of the moon.  Although she was certainly not chaste, some Classical authors did often confuse her with the virgin goddess Artemis who came at times to personify the moon, as well.  It is likely that Trollope is making the same link in describing the moon as a chaste goddess.  Charlotte is thinking that the chaste moon will doubtlessly (if somewhat ironically) aid her cause by sparking romance between Ethelbert and Eleanor.  Charlotte is hoping that a moonlight stroll will bring the two closer together.  [TH & RR 2005]

Sources: Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

Chapter 20 – Mr. Arabin

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This Latinate word meaning “unlucky” or “unfavorable” is an adjective which comes from the Latin noun auspicium which referred to bird divination.  Something “auspicious” would have been a favorable omen from the birds.  The “in-” prefix of course negates the word.  [JC 2005]


Labor vincit omnia improbus

“Persistent work conquers all things.”  This comes from book 1 of Vergil’s Georgics.  Trollope uses this quotation to describe how Mr. Arabin has gotten to his current position.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Georgics 1.145-146.


Greek accents

“[Mr. Arabin laughed] down a species of pedantry which, at the age of twenty-three, leaves no room in a man’s mind for graver subjects than conic sections or Greek accents.”  This mention of Greek accents refers to the practice of learning the fine points of Greek accentuation at the university.  [JC 2005]



This word means “melancholy” or “sullen” according to the American Heritage Dictionary.  This comes from the astrological influence that the planet Saturn was thought to have on people’s temperaments.  The planet itself is named after the Roman god Saturn, who was the god of agriculture.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  AHD.


sixteen implicitly acceded to the dictum of seventeen

Here Trollope pokes gentle fun at the triviality of the Misses Grantly by employing a Latinate word where such high language is obviously (obvious to the reader and to himself, that is) not necessary.  The difference of a year is a great one when a person is of such a young age, so what the elder sister said would certainly have had all the authority of a formal “dictum” as the girls saw it.  [JC 2005]


Reverend Augustus Green

The name Augustus recalls the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar.  It is no wonder (and perhaps a source of amusement) that Augustus Green, who comes from such a wealthy family that he is able to “devote the whole proceeds of his curacy to violet gloves and unexceptionable neck ties,” would have been named after such high-status classical figure.  [JC & RR 2005]


Stoicism, modern and ancient

Stoicism was a philosophy started in ancient Greece which held that nothing external was important, and so should be considered with indifference.  Wealth and poverty were equally unimportant and were to be held with equal indifference.  The philosopher Zeno was considered one of Stoicism’s main founders.  The “modern stoicism” to which Trollope refers is that which inspired Mr. Arabin (in his younger days) to give up the types of things that would have made his life comfortable, such as a wife and family.  It is the belief “that joy and sorrow were matters which here should be held as perfectly indifferent” because all that matters is the afterlife.  Trollope rejects both forms of stoicism as “an outrage on human nature.”  It was wrong of Mr. Arabin to preach that joy and sorrow should be taken with indifference because “these things were not indifferent to him.”  They are no more indifferent to Mr. Arabin than to anyone else, which is why such stoicism “can find no believing pupils and no true teachers.”  [JC 2005]

Chapter 21 – St. Ewold’s Parsonage

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A pagan, too, with his multiplicity of gods…

Eleanor has rebuked Mr. Arabin for quarreling with men of his own church.  Arabin goes on to point out that a Muslim would likely make the same rebuke to him for disagreeing with Catholic doctrine.  Then Arabin says that a pagan would allow even less cause for disagreement between a Muslim and a Christian, seeing as they both have only one God where pagans have many.  In classical Latin, paganus merely gives the sense of “rustic, rural, with a later connotation of “not enrolled in the military.”  Since early Christians referred to themselves as soldiers in the army of Christ, someone by contrast not “in the army” would be paganus, a non-believer in Christianity, and thus probably a follower of the pre-Christian Roman polytheistic traditions.  Perhaps Trollope is using a very subtle means to comment on his own views of Church dissensions, that since the differences would be so slight as to be unimportant to Classical pagans, Trollope himself finds them a bit tiresome.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.


to thunder forth accusations

Mr. Arabin is speaking to Eleanor about contention between factions of Christianity, and he goes on to say that it is easy to condemn others as politicians and newspaper-writers do.  This mention of newspaper-writers might be referring to The Jupiter and its tendency to fire off media “thunderbolts.”  Trollope has established a long-running comparison between this newspaper and the king of the Roman gods, Jupiter, and between the articles in the paper and the lightning bolts of the god, with which he strikes his enemies.  It is as Arabin is saying; newspapers have complete power to vilify someone, a power that Trollope plays up as godlike.  [JM 2005]

Chapter 22 – The Thornes of Ullathorne

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as men who have Sophocles at their fingers’ end regard those who know nothing of Greek

Trollope uses a simile here to describe the extreme emphasis which Mr. Thorne places on people’s family history.  He is said to view individuals of less noble blood in a condescending manner much like highly educated people (who would be able to read and understand Sophocles, a Greek tragic playwright) might look down on and even pity those with less education.  [MD 2005]

Trollope here likens two expressions of cultural clout:  that coming from birth, and that coming from a Classical education.  [RR 2011]


genuine as ichor

Ichor is described in Homer’s Iliad as the immortal blood of the gods.  Mr. Thorne is here likening the blood of his family to the blood of the gods, comparing his nobility to that of a separate, higher race of beings.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad, 5.339-340


fifty-three Trojan

Trollope here refers to fifty-three members of the British Parliament, who are unflinchingly stubborn, as Trojans. I think that this is a reference to the warriors of the ancient city of Troy who fought the invading Greeks up until the very end.  [MD 2005]


Eleusinian mysteries

Eleusis, a city in Attica, was the site of these religious rites performed by the ancient Greeks. We know that the initiates were honoring the Greek goddess Demeter, but less is known about the procedures themselves.  The Homeric Hymn to Demeter provides a mythological explanation for the foundation of the rites.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  The Homeric Hymn to Demeter.
The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.



According to the OED, this word refers to a statue of the Greek goddess Athena, specifically the one which guarded the city of Troy because she was the patron goddess of the Trojan people.  When this statue was stolen, Troy fell, and that is what Trollope is referring to here.  When free trade opened up in England and the Corn Laws were repealed in 1846 by a member of the Tory party, Mr. Thorne felt betrayed by his own political party, the only ones he believed would uphold his views.  Free trade and the Corn Laws, then, were Mr. Thorne’s own personal palladium, which he believed had helped stabilize England and sustain it from economic ruin.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.


the feeling of Cato

Marcus Porcius Cato (95-46 BCE) was a Roman politician who became involved in the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey.  In 52 BCE, he resigned his position as praetor and supported Pompey’s election as sole consul.  In the war, he served in Sicily and Asia, and after the conflict went to Africa to placate many of Pompey’s supporters.  In April 46 BCE Cato committed suicide rather than accept a pardon from Caesar.  He became a martyr with this act and was highly respected for it; therefore, he was an inspiration to many later political martyrs, and this is the context in which Trollope uses his name.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OCD.


St. Augustine

A reference to St. Augustine, first a priest and later a bishop, who lived during the fourth and fifth centuries CE.  St. Augustine was a very popular Christian writer, who wrote such works as the Confessiones (Confessions) and De Civitate Dei (The City of God), which would influence Christian doctrine for centuries.  [MD 2005]


Miss Thorne armed for battle

This scene may humorously recall the depiction of Hera in Homer’s Iliad when she dresses up in order to seduce Zeus. Although she is not actually readying herself to fight, Hera’s toilette is presented as equivalent to men’s preparations for battle; her clothing and jewelry is equal to their armor and weapons.  Trollope describes Miss Thorne, after she is dressed, as being “armed” head-to-foot, as though she herself was getting ready to fight, though her battle is one of hospitality rather than one of seduction.  Trollope also compares twenty-nine of Miss Ullathorne’s skirts to twenty-nine shields of Scottish heroes and describes them as being just as protective.  [MD & RR 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad, 14.166-186.


the ruins of the Colosseum

The Colosseum was a massive structure built in Rome by the Flavian emperors (begun by Vespasian and finished under his son Titus) and was used to house gladiatorial games and other contests. The worldwide popularity of the now somewhat debilitated structure is what Trollope is referring to here, and it is mentioned alongside the names of other famous landmarks.  [MD 2005]


fawns, nymphs, satyrs, and a whole tribe of Pan’s followers

Pan was the god of shepherds and their flocks, and he had the legs and horns of a goat himself.   Myth has him living in the mountains, dancing, singing, and playing his pipes with the nymphs who were his companions.  Pan is often grouped with satyrs in Classical depictions, and this is a result of their similar physical appearances.  [MD 2005]

Sources: .  The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.


fawns and satyrs

A continuation of the above.

Chapter 23 – Mr. Arabin Reads Himself in at St. Ewold’s

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incipient masticator

Johnny Bold is cutting teeth.  Using such elevated, Latinate language to describe this event allows Trollope simultaneously to suggest the grandness of the event from the perspective of Johnny’s mother and Miss Thorne and to poke gentle fun at it.  [TH & RR 2005]


naiads and dryads

Mr. Arabin explains to Mrs. Bold the difference between naiads and dryads and talks of other classical subjects.  Given the education of Mr. Arabin, it is appropriate to his character to talk of such things, but–in addition–the inclusion of various types of nymphs somewhat foreshadows the blooming romantic relationship developing between the two.  [TH 2205]

Chapter 24 – Mr. Slope Manages Matters Very Cleverly at Puddingdale

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clouded brow

“Could she have seen his brow once clouded, she might have learnt to love him.”  This is said of Eleanor Bold regarding Mr. Arabin after they have spent three weeks in each other’s company, but neither is in love with the other.  The image of a clouded brow may turn on a line from Horace’s Epistles where Horace writes, “take the cloud from your brow” (deme supercilio nubem).  Of course, Horace’s line could be reflecting a common turn of phrase.  Eleanor needs to see a cloud on Mr. Arabin’s brow to ensure that he can feel passion in some form or other.  [RR & JC 2005]

Sources:  Horace, Epistle 1.18.94.



The word “factotum” comes from a combination of the Latin words fac (which is the imperative form of facere, which means “to do” or “to make”) and totum (meaning “the whole”).  Therefore it is literally a person who is a “do-everything.”  In Mr. Slope’s case, he is in a position where he must “do everything” that Mrs. Proudie commands.  He is dissatisfied with this position and begins his escape from it by acting against her on the nomination of the warden of Hiram’s Hospital (he supports Mr. Harding while Mrs. Proudie supports Mr. Quiverful).  [JC 2005]


slip between cup and lip

This saying is recorded in Latin by Erasmus as multa cadunt inter calicem supremaque labra (“many things fall between the cup and the last lips”).  The saying may refer to the death of the mythological figure Ancaeos.  It had been prophesied that Ancaeos would not live to drink wine made from a vineyard which he planted.  After returning safely from the voyage with Jason and the Argonauts, he was on the verge of drinking wine made from his own grapes.  However, he was interrupted by a wild boar terrorizing the vineyard, and in trying to kill the boar, Ancaeos himself was killed. [JC & RR 2005]

Sources:  Erasmus, Adagia 1.5.1.
Entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

Chapter 25 – Fourteen Arguments in Favour of Mr. Quiverful’s Claims

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Medea and her children

An odd reference; Medea ended up killing her two children by the Argonaut Jason, whom she married after helping him win the Golden Fleece and flee from Colchis.  Euripides presents Medea as wildly despairing of Jason’s infidelity and all the things she gave up to follow him (such as a place in her country and her father’s household), and then, after having been offered sanctuary by a king, she decides to kill her children rather than allow her deserting husband to have the benefit of them.  Mrs. Quiverful would not stoop to killing her children, but she is as scheming as Medea was, and has the same habit of appealing to authorities for mercy, as Medea appealed to King Creon and King Aegeus.  However, it should be pointed out that the two women’s motivation is very different:  Medea is concerned most with her own dishonour at the hands of her husband, while Mrs. Quiverful’s main worry is honestly the welfare of her large family.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  Euripides, Medea.


under the rose

Translated directly from Latin sub rosa, an idiomatic way of saying “secretly, clandestinely,” stemming from the Roman practice of hanging a rose as a symbol of secrecy.  Cupid, the child of Venus, the goddess of love, used a rose to bribe the god of silence so that he would keep silent on the matter of Venus’ love affairs.  Hence it became a symbol of secrecy, and was sculpted into the ceilings of banquet halls, and much later placed above confessionals.  [JM 2005]

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



From Latin sesqui- “one and a half times” + ped “foot,” so “a foot and a half long.”  In his Ars Poetica, Horace sets out to describe the proper ways to go about writing poetry, beginning and continuing at length with the idea that a good poem is consistent and uniform.  So he adjures authors to avoid switching between comic and tragic tones, and between high speech and low, unless necessary; it is at this point that the word “sesquipedalian” comes up (sesquipedalia verba), referring to the higher mode of speaking as in a tragic performance.  Trollope describes one of Mrs. Proudie’s house-servants this way, but as he never speaks that we hear of, it seems less than apt.  Trollope could be using “sesquipedalian” to refer to the man’s greater than average height.  In Chapter 3 of Barchester Towers, one of Mrs. Proudie’s attendants is described as “a six-foot hero.”  [JM & RR 2005]

Sources:  OED.
Horace, Ars Poetica 97.


Triumph sat throned upon her brow

Trollope here treats Triumph as almost a divine entity, in a very Roman manner; Mrs. Proudie’s expression shows triumph, perhaps almost as though she herself is Triumph.  As often, Trollope is aggrandizing something trivial (in this case, a marital squabble between the bishop and his wife, in which she emerges the victor) by means of a Classical reference.  [JM 2005]



Such wording may recall ancient Roman patron/client relationships, though the British had developed their own system of patronage–in which case, we might be invited to see a continuity between practices.  [RR 2011]


Theseus and an Amazon

Theseus was a hero-king in Greek myth, well-known for many adventures.  One of these was the capture of an Amazon bride, Hippolyta, while he was fighting the Amazons with Heracles.  He sired a child with her, and she died soon after.  Trollope compares an ideally meek woman to the more aggressive, Amazonian woman Mrs. Quiverful is about to become.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OCD.


Priam’s curtain

Trollope quotes from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 2.  Priam was the king of Troy and the father of Hector, who fought Achilles during the Trojan War. He also had numerous children by several wives, making him apt for comparison with Mr. Quiverful. [JM 2005]

Sources:  Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 2 1.1.72.

Chapter 26 – Mrs. Proudie Wrestles and Gets a Fall

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divine anger

The “divine” anger of Mrs. Proudie is reminiscent of Hera’s anger described by Zeus at in the Iliad. Hera becomes upset when she thinks that her husband, Zeus, takes the side of the Trojans in the Greek War, instead of her side with the Greeks.  Mrs. Proudie is upset that her husband the biship seems to have taken Mr. Slope’s side in their small war. [MD 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 1.518-521.


As Achilles warmed at the sight of his armor…

Achilles is a hero in Homer’s Iliad, who is famous for his superiority on the battlefield, but also for his immense anger.  This Classical allusion refers to a passage in book 19 of Homer’s Iliad.  Achilles is upset about the death of his close friend Patroclus, and while he is grieving, his mother brings him arms made by the immortal god Hephaestus so that he may avenge his friend.  At the sight of the weapons, Achilles’ anger flares up as he anticipates avenging the death of his friend.  In a similar way, Mrs. Proudie becomes energized when she sees her own weapons which she can use in her war against Mr. Slope for control of her husband.  When she looks upon the pillow of their bed, Mrs. Proudie knows that she will be able to convince the bishop to do what she wants as soon as he goes to bed.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad, 19.15-20.


nolo episcopari

A Latin phrase meaning “I do not wish to be bishop.” This is the appropriate response with which an individual should reply if he is offered the position of bishop in the church, even if he wishes to accept it. Trollope implies here that any other person, besides Bishop Proudie, would probably not want to be the bishop if he had to deal with Mrs. Proudie and her constant meddling; and thus, this person would actually mean nolo episcopari when saying the phrase.  [MD 2005]

Chapter 27 – A Love Scene

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two strings to Cupid’s bow

Cupid is the God who makes mortals fall in and out of love.  In this case Cupid’s arrows have sparked two attractions rather than just one.  [TH 2005]


second book of Euclid

Euclid was a Greek mathematician.  Euclid’s second book is a book of geometry that was likely used in education during the 19th century.  [TH 2005]


Venus and her Adonis

Adonis was a god of fertility and vegetation.  He was also famous as one of Venus’ lovers.  According to Ovid, Venus fell in love with Adonis when he was a young man.  Adonis was an avid hunter, and Venus warned him against hunting boars–but he didn’t listen.  In the end he was killed by a boar while hunting.  Madeline enjoys having men at her feet.  She is trying to control Mr. Slope as though it were all a game.  Trollope describes her behavior around Mr. Slope as being “graceful as a couchant goddess, and, moreover, as self-possessed as Venus must have been when courting Adonis.”  Madeline enjoys having power over men.  Venus is the goddess of love and, much like Madeline; she is often depicted manipulating men’s passions.  The comparison with Venus courting Adonis adds to Madeline’s exotic and over-the-top persona.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Ovid, Metamorphoses, 10.519-739.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


Dido and Cleopatra

Madeline has an interesting conversation with Mr. Slope when she compares Dido and Cleopatra.  In Vergil’s Aeneid, Dido was the founder of Carthage who was a lover of Aeneas.  Dido’s sister built a pyre for her to burn all reminders of Aeneas after he abandoned her, but instead Dido kills herself using Aeneas’ sword and hurls herself onto the pyre.  Cleopatra was the lover of Julius Caesar and later Marc Antony.  She sailed her fleet with Marc Antony into battle against Octavian.  In this reference, Mr. Slope introduces the name of Dido presumably because he wants it to convey some romantic notions, but Madeline counters by naming another North African woman, Cleopatra.  Madeline favors Cleopatra on the grounds that she, unlike Dido, insisted on bringing out her ships and going with her man.  (Although Madeline faults Dido for mixing “love and business,” Cleopatra could be as guilty as Dido of that charge.)  Mr. Slope’s mention of Dido may merit a bit more consideration.  He claims that he does not throw away Madeline’s letters, but rather has them “burnt on a pyre, as Dido was of old.”  Madeline’s letters may be analogous to the reminders of Aeneas out of which Dido’s pyre was built–Mr. Slope’s allusion thus casts Madeline in the role of Aeneas and himself in the role of Dido.  [TH & RR 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Aeneid 4.630-705.



Madeline says:  “Never mind love.  After all, what is it?  The dream of a few weeks.  That is all its joy.  The disappointment of a life is its Nemesis.”  Nemesis was a force of divine vengeance.  She punished mortals for pride and law-breaking and also presided over good and bad fortune.  Perhaps Madeline is saying that love is a sort of pride so outrageous that Nemesis is right to destroy such happiness.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


Troilus and Cressida

This reference is tied in with that of Nemesis (above).  Troilus was the son of Priam who was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War.  He is described in the Iliad as a warrior charioteer.  In a later medieval rendition, Achilles killed Troilus over the love Troilus felt for Cressida (Chryseis).  This is used as an example demonstrating that love meets retribution.  The reference to Cressida a few lines down (saying all women are not Cressidas) is related to post-antique versions of the story (such as the play by Shakespeare).  In Shakespeare’s play, Cressida betrays Troilus.  [TH & RR 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 24.257.
Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

Chapter 28 – Mrs. Bold is Entertained by Dr. and Mrs. Grantly at Plumstead

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particeps criminis

Latin, “partner of crime.”  [JC 2005]


Lucretia and Tarquin

Mr. Harding’s fondness for his daughter overrides his distaste for the wedding of Eleanor and Mr. Slope which Mr. Harding believes is imminent.  Eleanor is here likened to Lucretia, a paragon of Roman female virtue, who committed suicide in the presence of her husband and her father after being raped by Sextus Tarquinius, the son of the Roman king Tarquinius Superbus.  In Livy’s account, Lucretia’s father and husband try to persuade her that she is not at fault for Sextus’ violation of her.  Livy’s Lucretia dies by her own choice.  Perhaps Trollope here conflates the story of Lucretia with that of Verginia, a Roman maiden whose father Verginius kills her to keep her free from the machinations of the decemvir Appius.  At the outset of his account of Verginia, Livy himself acknowledges similarities between the stories of Lucretia and Verginia.  Mr. Harding would not have the heart of a Roman father like Verginius.  [RR 2005]

Sources:  Livy, History of Rome 1.57-59 (on Lucretia) and 3.44-48 (on Verginia).

Chapter 29 – A Serious Interview

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This is a description of Mr. Harding and the role which he plays while mediating between his two daughters, Eleanor Harding and Mrs. Grantly.  He is portrayed as Mercury, who was the Roman messenger god and the son of Jupiter.  Mercury’s duties consisted primarily of delivering messages, which were often from his father Jupiter, to other gods and goddesses as well as to humans on earth.  The effect of calling Mr. Harding “Mercury'” is that it makes us think of him as being at his daughters’ disposal and that it is his main duty to relay messages between the two women.  Of course, Mr. Harding has many more duties which he has to perform as the rector of St. Cuthbert’s than managing affairs between his two daughters, so this allusion can be viewed humorously.  [MD 2005]


tragic muse

In Greek mythology the Muses are the nine daughters of Memory and Zeus, and they provide poetic inspiration.  Here, Trollope maintains that because he does not have the patronage of the tragic muse he cannot truly describe Eleanor’s face when Dr. Grantly talks of her as the future Mrs. Slope.  [RR 2005]

Chapter 30 – Another Love Scene

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 31 – The Bishop’s Library

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 32 – A New Candidate for Ecclesiastical Honours

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Mercury was the messenger god on Olympus.  His name is often used as a synonym for messengers, as Trollope has Mr. Slope use it in his letter to Tom Towers here.  [JC 2005]

Chapter 33 – Mrs. Proudie Victrix

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In the title of this chapter, we can see a Latin word, victrix, which means “conqueress” or “female victor.” This title refers to the unofficial war which has existed between Mrs. Proudie and Mr. Slope over the ultimate authority to govern Bishop Proudie. We can therefore infer that she has already won or is about to win this war, and will therefore effectively be ruling behind the scenes. Cited as being used in English as early as 1651 by the OED.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.


Mrs. Proudie as the Medea of Barchester

This is a comparison between Mrs. Proudie and Medea from Greek mythology.  Medea fell in love with and married Jason of the Argonauts; however, after several years he wanted to marry the daughter of the King of Corinth. Medea was so enraged that she sent a fatal gift to the princess which burned her alive; Medea then proceeded to kill her own children and flee to Athens. The legendary vindictiveness and ferocity which is associated with Medea is attributed here to Mrs. Proudie, who is described as being harsh enough to eat Mr. Slope for interfering in her ecclesiastical affairs.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Euripides, Medea.

Chapter 34 – Oxford – the Master and Tutor of Lazarus

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Trollope here treats the concept of fate in a Classical manner as a deity, with a capitalized name.  Mr. Harding has made up his mind to relinquish any idea of going back to his comfortable job at the hospital; he will instead take whatever comes to him, and stay in his little room in Barchester.  [JM 2005]


deux ex machina

Latin, “god from the machine,” meaning the device used to suspend gods over the stage during Greek plays; comes to mean an unexpected and providential circumstance that solves a problem.  Dr. Gwynne is potentially the deus ex machine who can act against Slope and save Barchester from his actions, yet he may not be able to act in this capacity because “the avenging god is laid up with the gout.”  Dr. Gwynne is unfit for this battle, and thus may not be able to serve as the deus ex machina.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.


status quo

Latin, “state in which,” the currently accepted way of doing things.  [JM 2005]


alma mater

Latin, “nourishing mother.”  This phrase referred to several Roman goddesses, especially Cybele and Ceres, and has been used in English to refer to schools or universities that act almost as mothers to their students and alumni.  [JM 2005]

Chapter 35 – Miss Thorne’s Fête Champêtre

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sub dio

sub dio is a Latin phrase meaning “under the open sky.”  Here it is used to describe the banquet at Ullathorne.  The lower classes were placed outside the main house.  They were fed sub dio.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OED.


Mark Antony

Mark Antony was a military commander under Julius Caesar.  He was promoted until finally reaching the rank of consul.  After Julius Caesar was assassinated by the Roman senate, Mark Antony, still consul, claimed the authority of Caesar’s final papers to increase his own power and rally the people against Caesar’s assassins.  Soon Octavian, Julius Caesar’s adopted son, became a rival of Mark Antony.  Octavian’s forces defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra in the naval battle of Actium, and Mark Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide thereafter.  It is somewhat humorous to see Mr. Thorne’s horse being given this name. Perhaps it is an example of how Classics can be a plaything for the elite of Trollope’s time.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OCD.

Chapter 36 – Ullathorne Sports – Act I

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quid pro quo

Literally “something for something” in Latin.  Here Trollope is discussing the laborious effort that people go through in the name of “entertaining.”  He suggests that the venture is somewhat useless as neither party (the host nor the guest) seems to enjoy the entertainment, so rather than quid pro quo in this case, there seems to be great effort for nothing.  [JC 2005]


an elysium of servants

Elysium is the section of the Underworld set aside for the especially fortunate people.  Many heroes and other mortals beloved of the gods are sent to rest there.  Trollope uses this word somewhat satirically here, making the possession of livery servants into something much greater than it is.  [JC 2005]


Augustus Lookaloft

The Lookalofts are part of the tenantry of Ullathorne who, as their name suggests, think themselves of much higher status than the rest of the tenantry.  It is fitting then, that they would name their eldest son after one of the great Roman emperors.  [JC 2005]

There is humor in the very juxtaposition of the Latin first name and the straightforward English surname–which itself reveals the pretension of the first name.  [RR 2011]



Although never an actual word in ancient Greek, “toxophilites” comes from the Greek toxo meaning “bow” and philos meaning “lover,” thus a “lover of the bow” or an archer.  The OED cites Ascham as the creator of the proper name “Toxophilus” in the 16th century.   Trollope uses “toxophilites” (itself a playful word) in a playful manner, describing the young girls whom Miss Thorne enlists to play at archery at her party.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  OED.


daughters of Diana

Diana (the Greek Artemis) is the goddess of the hunt and her special weapon is the bow and arrow.  “Daughters of Diana” would then be devotees of hers who would also be skilled at archery.  Trollope is still being playful here in his depiction of the girls who grudgingly accede to Miss Thorne’s urging to take part in the sports she has prepared for her guests.  [JC 2005]

Chapter 37 – The Signora Neroni, the Countess De Courcy, and Mrs. Proudie Meet Each Other at Ullathorne

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the mother of the last of the Neros

This phrase refers to Madeline Stanhope, whose child (she says) is the last survivor of the ancient blood-line of the Neros. The most famous member of the Nero family was the Roman emperor, Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar, who came to be known more commonly as Nero, and who ruled Rome from 54 to 68 CE.  Nero’s reign started off well for the first few years, but he is notorious for chaotic events during the last few years of his reign. After a fire which devastated much of Rome, as well as multiple governing failures on Nero’s part, several Roman generals defected and Nero was forced to flee Rome.  He was finally forced to commit suicide and had no known legitimate heir. The claim that Madeline Stanhope is still connected to the Nero family is, of course, ridiculous, and might be a humorous reference to the fact that several Nero imposters showed up in the Greek provinces within twenty years of Nero’s suicide, all claiming to be the man himself.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OCD.


the last of the Neros

See above.


like a Hercules, still climbing trees in the Hesperides

This is a Shakesperean reference to Hercules’ labor to retrieve the golden apples of the Hesperides.  Love is compared here to Hercules on this adventure, particularly in respect to his undying spirit to succeed and capture that which he truly wants. [MD 2005]

Sources:  Shakespeare, Love’s Labor’s Lost 4.3.359-360.



This is an abbreviation of the Latin word aetatis, which literally means “of age.” It is cited by the OED as occurring in the abbreviated form in English as early as 1681.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.



See gloss in commentary for Chapter 9.


Mr. Slope as Charybdis, Bertie Stanhope as Scylla

This is an analogy between Slope, Bertie, and Eleanor and several of the dangers which we see in Homer’s Odyssey.  During his travels, Odysseus encounters two monsters, each of which occupies one side of the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Italy, and both of which present very bad options. One of the monsters was Charybdis, creating a whirlpool three times a day which would suck water, ships, and everything else nearby down into the ocean.  The other creature was Scylla, who was hideous with twelve feet and six heads.  In this allusion, Charybdis is likened to Mr. Slope, Scylla is Bertie Stanhope, and Odysseus, his crew, and his ship is Eleanor Harding. In the Odyssey, Odysseus sails quickly past Scylla, losing six crew members in the process, but continuing on his journey; he avoids Charybdis altogether. This is also what happens to Eleanor in Barchester Towers, in a manner of speaking. She avoids Mr. Slope entirely as far as the topic of marriage is concerned and stays well away from him; he tries to make her ship crash and to stay in one place with him, but he fails. However, she is at least forced to discuss the topic of marriage with Bertie Stanhope, who is a better option than Mr. Slope. In the Odyssey, Scylla is a better option, as is Bertie, and although Eleanor still gets hurt by Bertie (as Odysseus loses six men), she does not lose him completely as a friend and still manages to escape (as Odysseus continues on his journey home and doesn’t wreck).  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Odyssey 12.

Chapter 38 – The Bishop Breakfasts, and the Dean Dies

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 39 – The Lookalofts and the Greenacres

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Stubbs the plasterer in the Ullathorne Elysium

This sequence contains one of the more extended Classical allusions in Barchester Towers.  Stubbs enters the party at what Trollope calls the “Ullathorne Elysium.”  Elysium was the location in the Underworld where divinely favored or virtuous people entered after their deaths.  It was a location characterized by bliss and enjoyment.  Having entered into such a heavenly space, Stubbs proceeds to whisper soft nothings into the ear of a young lady.  Trollope refers to her as a forest nymph and a dryad.  The image of the nymph is used by Trollope to show an innocent and playful flirtation.  Before the food (which is referred to as ambrosia and nectar, the food of the gods) is served, Stubbs is discovered by the rural potentate Mr. Plomacy.  He directs him to exit the gate on the basis that Stubbs is a city-dweller.  He is not a resident of the countryside and thus not invited to the party.  Mr. Barell, the coachman who should catch anyone sneaking into the party uninvited, is then referred to as a false Cerberus.  Cerberus was the beast under the control of Hades (in this case Mr. Plomacy).  Cerberus guarded the gates into the Underworld against the intrusion of the living.  Just when it seems Mr. Plomacy is about to expel Stubbs, Mr. Greenacre enters onto the scene.  He is called “the Goddess Mercy” by Trollope.  Much like the ending to a Greek play, a divinity descends to resolve the conflict in this episode of Barchester Towers.  In a humorous fashion Trollope plays with the character of Mr. Greenacre by relating him to a female character from Classical mythology.  Such playfulness helps deflate the tension of the story.  The use of so many Classical references in this passage adds to the satire.  It can seem as though the events are monumental in scope or earth-shaking with gods and goddesses and multi-headed beasts entering onto the scene.  However, it is merely a minor altercation at a party attended by tenants of the Thorne family.  The participants are humble tenants and journeymen, not great pillars of the universe.  Stubbs is raised to the level of a hero defying the gods, like Heracles, who himself fooled Cerberus, and Mr. Plomacy becomes a ruler of his domain and observer alert to anything which might cast his domain into disorder. The exaggerated treatment of the scene highlights the triviality of the events.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

Chapter 40 – Ullathorne Sports – Act II

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assistance of Bacchus

Bacchus is the Roman god of wine, whom Mr. Slope has “called in” by drinking in order to make himself bold enough to propose to Eleanor.  [JC 2005]


the wrath of Mr. Slope

“But how shall I sing the divine wrath of Mr. Slope, or how to invoke the tragic muse to describe the rage which swelled the celestial bosom of the bishop’s chaplain?”  Here Trollope openly employs a mock-epic style to poke fun at Mr. Slope, who is angry at Eleanor for having boxed him on the ear.  This passage is a clear echo of the opening of an epic.  Compare with the opening lines of Homer’s Iliad: “Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles…”  Also compare this question posed in the opening section of Vergil’s Aeneid:  “Are there such great feelings of anger in celestial minds?”  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 1.1.
Vergil, Aeneid 1.11.


modern fiction’s low-heeled buskin

Actors in tragedies often wore a type of high-heeled shoe called a buskin (the Greek word is kothurnos); by metonymy, the buskin came to represent the entire genre of tragedy.  Trollope explains his inability to write of Mr. Slope’s rage as due to the fact that his vehicle is not as high an art-form.  Thus its low-heeled buskin.  [JC 2005]

Horace uses the buskin as a marker of genre in the Ars Poetica.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Horace, Ars Poetica 80 and 280.


Agamemnon’s veil

Trollope here describes an extant ancient wall painting illustrating Agamemnon veiled in grief at the prospect of the sacrifice of his daughter.  An extended analogy between the Iphigenia story and Eleanor’s crisis involving John Bold is made in The Warden.  [JC 2005]


punishing the rebellious winds

This is a reference to an episode in Virgil’s Aeneid, in which Juno persuades Aeolus to incite the winds in order to crash Aeneas’ ships.  When Neptune realizes what is happening, he becomes very angry with the winds and makes them stop.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Aeneid 1.50-156.


pains and punishments of Hades

Mr. Slope is thinking of the less pleasant parts of Hades.  While the Underworld does contain Elysium, to which Trollope makes frequent references, it also contains the place where the evil are punished, which is the place to which Mr. Slope would like to send Eleanor after she has so gravely insulted him.  [JC 2005]


Mr. Thorne’s laurels

Mr. Slope changes from thinking of Underworld punishments to thinking of earthly punishments that he could inflict on Eleanor while alive.  He is so keen on the tactic of preaching a sermon directed at her that he has begun considering the obstacles.  The first of these obstacles is Mr. Thorne’s high status, which is represented figuratively through his laurels.  In ancient Rome laurel wreaths were given as prizes to those who excelled in contests, but were also worn by people of note, including members of the government.  [JC 2005]


Fortune favoured him

Trollope follows the lead of the ancients by personifying Fortune and making her into an anthropomorphic deity.  [JC 2005]

Perhaps there is an echo here of the Latin proverb, “Fortune favors the brave/bold.”  Mr. Slope has been bold (if misguided) in approaching Eleanor.  Fortune did not yield him the ultimate prize of Eleanor’s hand in marriage, but it at least favored him by keeping him out of sight as he recovers from Eleanor’s slap in the face.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  The phrase is found at Terence, Phormio 203, and Vergil, Aeneid 10.284.

Chapter 41 – Mrs. Bold Confides Her Sorrow to Her Friend Miss Stanhope

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In this allusion, Bertie Stanhope is being likened to the mythological winged horse Pegasus, which was famous in ancient Greek mythology for aiding humans in difficult situations, particularly Bellerophon in his adventures.  Charlotte Stanhope plans on making her brother, Bertie, the Pegasus who will help Eleanor out of her present social predicament.  Mr. Slope has just asked Eleanor to marry him, and she refused; however, they had ridden together in the same carriage on the way to the Thorne’s party, and Eleanor certainly doesn’t want to have to ride home with him in the same vehicle.  Bertie is going to help arrange another ride home for Eleanor, and in Charlotte’s plan, will himself ride home in a carriage with her.  [MD 2005]



This is a reference to the Sirens, who make an appearance in Homer’s Odyssey.  The Sirens are creatures with beautiful voices, but they attempt to call men to their ruin and own deaths.  Madeline Stanhope is very Siren-like by the fact that she likes to flirt with multiple men, drawing them in, and then when they have fallen in love, dropping them and letting them crash by themselves. This is precisely what she has already done to Mr. Slope and is now doing to Mr. Arabin as well.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Odyssey, 12.


Mount Ida, Juno, and the offspring of Venus

This is a reference to a beauty contest (held on Mount Ida) between Minerva, Juno, and Venus, of which Paris was the judge. He chose Venus as the most beautiful, making the other two goddesses his enemies in the process; however, he only did this in order to have Venus help him seize Helen as his wife, thereby beginning the Trojan War.  Juno continues to persecute Venus’ offspring, Aeneas, after the Trojan War has ended.  Mr. Slope proposes to Madeline Stanhope that if she had been at this contest, she would have been judged by Paris to be the most beautiful woman of them all, even triumphing over Venus.  This flirtation, however, seems to be much too over-the-top for Madeline Stanhope, who respects the less aggressive approach of Mr. Arabin much more than she does that of Mr. Slope.  Madeline ultimately helps Mr. Arabin marry his true love, Eleanor Bold, while she helps bring about the downfall of Mr. Slope, who was trying too hard to win her over.  [MD 2005]

Chapter 42 – Ullathorne Sports – Act III

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Usually refers to wine or other drink poured upon the ground to honour a god or gods, but can be used jokingly to refer to alcoholic drinking in general.  Trollope is using libations here as a humorous expression for drinking; the men’s libations had been “moderate” and thus they weren’t drunk or rowdy.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.



Latin auditor, “listener” or “student.”  Bertie is engaged in talking to a younger man about his travels, and teaching him to smoke cigars; thus the youth is both listener and student to Bertie.  [JM 2005]



From Latin hymenaeus, “belonging to wedlock, marriage.”  Hymen was a god charged with presiding over weddings.  Bertie is thinking more about his work as a sculptor in Italy than about the marriage to Eleanor which Charlotte is trying to arrange for him.  [JM & RR 2005]

Sources:  OED.
The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.


a dead lady with a Grecian nose, a bandeau, and an intricate lace veil

Bertie Stanhope is mocking the nature of any sculpting commissions he might take in Barchester, saying that at best he would end up making a tomb for some clergyman’s wife in a faux-Greek style of sculpture, posthumously attributing to her a large, straight nose and pulled-back hair as seen on Grecian sculptures.  [JM 2005]


as Dannecker put Ariadne on her lion

A contemporary work of sculpture featuring nude Ariadne riding on a large feline, sculpted by Johann Heinrich von Dannecker.  Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete.  She agreed to help the hero Theseus get through the labyrinth containing the Minotaur, and she sailed with him from her home.  Rather than sailing all the way back to Athens with him, however, she was left on an island part-way there, to marry the god Dionysus; varying myths have it that Theseus either abandoned her or was commanded to leave her for the god.  Dionysus arrived in his panther-drawn chariot to take her as his bride; thus Ariadne is depicted sometimes as riding on a lion or panther.  Bertie Stanhope is flirtatiously offering to sculpt Eleanor in her pony-drawn carriage like Ariadne riding the lion, but since he is as half-hearted about his sculpting business as he is about any other sort of real work, this is just an elaborate (and empty) sort of compliment.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.


converting “tuum” into “meum”

Latin, “your thing” and “my thing” respectively.  Eleanor has just realized that her friends the Stanhopes were scheming against her fortune, and is made aware for the first time that her money has the ability to attract untrustworthy individuals.  [JM 2005]

Chapter 43 – Mr. and Mrs. Quiverful are Made Happy. Mr. Slope is Encouraged by the Press

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detur digniori

A Latin phrase meaning “Let it be given to the more worthy.”  The phrase occurs in the context of Mr. Harding and Mr. Quiverful’s competing claims to the appointment at Hiram’s Hospital.  Trollope explains:  “There were fourteen of them–fourteen of them living–as Mrs. Quiverful had so powerfully urged in the presence of the bishop’s wife. As long as promotion cometh from any human source, whether north or south, east or west, will not such a claim as this hold good, in spite of all our examination tests, detur digniori‘s and optimist tendencies?  It is fervently to be hoped that it may. Till we can become divine we must be content to be human, lest in our hurry for change we sink to something lower.”  As much as the ideal might be that promotions should go to the more worthy, in the case of Mr. Quiverful, need seems as fair a qualification for promotion as any, in Trollope’s opinion.  [TH 2005]


terra firma

Terra firma is a Latin phrase meaning “solid dry land.”  Terra firma can also refer to a landed estate.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OED.


Hiram Redivivus

Redivivus is a Latin adjective meaning “alive again.”  The phrase “Hiram Redivivus” simply means that the hospital will be fully operational again.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OED.


Greek play bishops

Editing a Greek play could put a clergyman in line for an appointment as bishop.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Trollope, Barchester Towers.  Ed. Robin Gilmour.  London:  Penguin, 2003.  See Gilmour’s note on p. 524.



Virago is a Latin term meaning “female warrior.”  In English this term means “bold or impudent woman.”  It can also be used as a synonym for a scold–that is, a woman with offensive language or who has a habit of scolding her neighbors.  Mr. Slope now considers Eleanor a virago because of her reaction to his marriage proposal.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OED.

Chapter 44 – Mrs. Bold at Home

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Mary Bold as Mentor

Eleanor is reflecting on the fact that her sister-in-law had given her good advice regarding the Stanhopes (i.e., that she should stay away from them), which she had wrongly ignored.  Mentor is a character from Homer’s Odyssey who was Odysseus’ friend of old.  Athena adopts his guise to give Odysseus’ son Telemachus advice and help.  It is from this character that we get the English word “mentor” to refer to an advisor.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Odyssey 2.

Chapter 45 – The Stanhopes at Home

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 46 – Mr. Slope’s Parting Interview with the Signora

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the last of the Neros

Julia was ever the favorite name with the ladies of that family

the interview between Mr. Thorne and the last of the Neros

Madeline, in an attempt to aggrandize herself and her nuptial misfortune, immensely plays up her alleged connection to the emperors of ancient Rome via her Italian husband.  Her husband’s last name is Neroni, a name similar to that of Nero, the last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which produced the most famous rulers of Rome.  Nero was indeed the last of his line, as he kicked his pregnant wife to death before she could bear him a child, making it quite improbable that Madeline’s daughter or husband bear any relation, however diluted, to that ancient family, as she frequently claims and as she implies by naming her daughter “Julia,” a name appearing quite frequently throughout the Julio-Claudian genealogy.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OCD.


infernal gods

The gods of the world below.  Slope has just been humiliated by Madeline Stanhope, with whom he was previously infatuated.  The experience changes her in his eyes from a heavenly angel to a demonic being.  It seems likely that Trollope makes reference more to a Classical idea (of the Underworld) than to a Christian one (of Hell) in light of Madeline’s frequent self-characterisations as both unreligious and almost a relic of pagan imperial Rome.  [JM 2005]

Chapter 47 – The Dean Elect

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Trollope says that “Rumour, when she has contrived to sound the first note on her trumpet, soon makes a loud peal audible enough.”  This is an example of the personification used by Classical authors wherein a thing (victory or passion) that normally has no agency of its own is attributed with human-like or god-like qualities.  [TH 2005]

Rumor (Latin Fama) is personified in Vergil’s Aeneid.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Vergil, Aeneid 4.173-177.


to have the cup so near his lips

See gloss in commentary for Chapter 24.  When Mr. Harding tells the archdeacon that he is intent upon declining a proposed promotion to dean, Trollope says that the archdeacon couldn’t stand “to have the cup so near his lips and to loose the drinking of it.”  The archdeacon would have desired to see Mr. Harding become the new dean but is disappointed after coming so close to having an ally in the deanery.  [TH 2005]

Chapter 48 – Miss Thorne Shows Her Talent at Match-Making

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Again Trollope puts an object of Eleanor’s affection into the position of a pagan (i.e. Greco-Roman) god.  Instead of her son, it is this time Mr. Arabin, to whom she has just become engaged.  For Eleanor’s baby worship, see gloss in commentary for Chapter 16.  [JC 2005]

Chapter 49 – The Belzebub Colt

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 50 – The Archdeacon is Satisfied with the State of Affairs

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nil admirari

Latin, “to be surprised at nothing.”  The archdeacon is asked by Mr. Harding whether he will be surprised at the coming revelation regarding Eleanor; Dr. Grantly, who still believes her to be in love with Mr. Slope, is surprised when it turns out that she is not, in fact, engaged to him.  Nil admirari is an attitude advocated by Horace as the best manner of remaining happy, by refusing to marvel at anything.  [JM 2005]

Sources: Horace, Epistles 1.6.1.

Chapter 51 – Mr. Slope Bids Farewell to the Palace and its Inhabitants

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facile princeps

Mrs. Proudie is referred to as facile princeps.  It is a Latin phrase literally meaning “easily first.”  In the conflict between Ms. Proudie and Mr. Slope over Hiram’s Hospital, Mrs. Proudie came out the winner.  Princeps was one title used by the Roman emperors, including Augustus, who triumphed over Mark Antony in a civil war.  Perhaps this title is Mrs. Proudie’s reward for being victorious in the civil war she had just fought with Mr. Slope.  It could also show that she has proven herself to be her husband’s emperor.  The phrase gives Mrs. Proudie a prestigious stature that reinforces her presentation as a triumphant victor.  [TH 2005]


gods above and below

The divinites of Olympus and of the Underworld, celestial and chthonic.  [RR 2011]

Chapter 52 – The New Dean Takes Possession of the Deanery, and the New Warden of the Hospital

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 53 – Conclusion

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This word comes from ancient Greece and refers to a song of victory or a song which invoked victory.  It was also adapted into Latin as paean, and retained the same meaning as a hymn or chant of victory. It is used here to describe Archdeacon Grantly’s song of triumph over Mr. Slope, since he has won their battle over religious power in Barchester. This word is cited by the OED as occurring in English literature as early as 1589.  [MD 2005]

The word has a Classical flavor, which can be humorously juxtaposed with its Christian context here.  Perhaps it is slightly unseemly for Dr. Grantly to take “pagan” glee in his religious victory?  [RR 2011]

Sources:  OED.



This Greek word, adopted into English, is used here as an exclamation, condemning those people who might disagree with Eleanor Bold’s religious views and practices in her new station as the wife of Dean Arabin.  [MD 2005]

Barchester Towers

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