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

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 42 – Ullathorne Sports – Act III


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 40 – Ullathorne Sports – Act II

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


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 39 – The Lookalofts and the Greenacres

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.