Chapter 42 – Mrs. Wilkinson’s Troubles

the more prudent Sophia

Now that Arthur has returned home with renewed strength and resolve, he prepares to face his mother and pursue his love for Adela.  Arthur asks his sisters if they think that Adela would come to visit them if invited.  While Mary thinks she would, the “more prudent” Sophia doesn’t.  “Sophia” comes from the Greek word, sophia, “wisdom.” Sophia seems to know that Adela has affection for Arthur and for that reason would not come to visit.  [KS & RR 2012]



Arthur receives Adela’s acceptance letter and arms himself with it against his mother, but he is afraid of Mrs. Wilkinson’s “Stapledean panoply.”  The notion of arming oneself resonates with the cry of vae victis and Classical theme of battle established in the opening chapter.  Although Arthur started the novel as one of the “conquered,” he ultimately prevails in his desire to marry Adela and in his contest with his mother.  [KS & RR 2012]

Chapter 41 – I Could Put a Codicil

all the Sir Omicrons in Europe

George is about to visit Mr. Bertram after his trip to Egypt, and he has been told that Mr. Bertram’s condition is so poor that all the “Sir Omicrons” could visit him and it would do no good.  Sir Omicron is a character used by Trollope in other novels as a doctor of some standing.  Sir Omicron’s name derives from the name of a letter of the Greek alphabet.  [KS 2012]


maddening folly

As George settles himself at Hadley, he must regularly face Caroline, but they never mention nor repeat their moment of “maddening folly” in Eaton Square.  “Maddening folly” is reminiscent of the Latin aphorism used in Chapter 33, Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat, “Those whom God wishes to destroy he first makes crazy.”  Trollope first invoked this sentiment in reference to Harcourt and his desire to invite George to dinner, but its application broadens to include Caroline and George, as well.  See commentary for Chapter 33.  [KS & RR 2012]

Chapter 40 – Reaching Home


Mrs. Cox is weighing the possibility of being married to a poor man again.  Trollope states that she knows very little about money, but she does know what happened to her last husband when his debts were called in.  She remembers that Jewish “harpies” descended on him, forcing him to pay his bills.  In Classical mythology harpies were monsters of hybrid form–part female, part bird–and their name literally means “grabbers.”  They were notoriously relentless as well as “grabby,” which seems to be the image Trollope is going for in his depiction of Jewish money-lenders of the time.  [CMC 2012]

We might want to note the cross-gendered nature of this reference:  while the mythological harpies are always female, the Jewish money-lenders are presumably male.  Trollope emphasizes the otherness of the money-lenders by identifying them as non-Christian and using an image which distances them from notions of masculinity.  [RR 2012]



Mrs. Cox is lamenting her life to George during their last dinner.  She says that Fate has ever been against her.  Trollope is using the Classical idea of Fate here, as something that Mrs. Cox believes she cannot escape from.  Trollope appears to be humorous, since Mrs. Cox is exaggerating and the reader, in fact, is aware that Mrs. Cox is largely responsible for her own current state.  [CMC 2012]


hate the very idea of home

Mrs. Cox expresses dislike at the prospect of returning to England, which brings with it distance from George and a loss of the freedom they have enjoyed on the boat.  The phrasing echoes the way in which the Romans’ ancient dislike of monarchy was expressed in the 19th century:  the Romans were said to “hate the very name of king.”  George earlier used similar phrasing to express his own distaste of the repeated mention of his uncle’s money; see commentary for Chapter 25.  [RR 2012]



George has resolved to not marry Mrs. Cox, and his steps away from her are described by Trollope as sounding triumphant.  Trollope is using the military sense of the word here (as he is so often when talking about triumphs of various sorts during the novel).  It is being used in an ironic sense, as one can hardly call resolving to not ask a widow to marry as being equal to the victory that would grant a Roman general a triumph.  [CMC 2012]

Chapter 39 – The Two Widows

clouded brows

On their return voyage George and Arthur have met two widows, Mrs. Cox and Mrs. Price.  The two women had previously been attached to two other gentlemen.  The two gentlemen now displaced are said to have clouded brows.  This turn of phrase references an epistle by Horace and was used earlier in the novel by Trollope (see commentary for Chapter 25).  In the epistle, Horace tells his addressee Lollius to remove the cloud from his brow.  By using this reference, Trollope calls the reader’s attention back to the previous instance of this reference, in which George is upset at the news of the marriage of Caroline to Harcourt.  Here, George is humorously the cause of another presumed lover’s clouded brow.  [CMC 2012]

Source:  Horace, Epistle 1.18.94.


divinely perfect Mrs. Cox

The major and captain to whom Mrs. Cox and Mrs. Price had been attached prior to the arrival of Arthur and George had been bragging to their friends on the ship about their lady friends.  Mrs Cox is said to be divinely perfect.  This is an echo of earlier descriptions of Caroline, though not nearly as extended.  Here, Trollope appears to be using the description in jest, as it is presumed that Major Biffin and Captain M’Gramm have exaggerated to their friends.  The humor extends beyond the two men, as the reader is invited to contrast this description of George’s current female companion with that of Caroline, with whom he really belongs.  [CMC 2012]


hinc illae lacrymae

Prior to the arrival of George and Arthur, passengers on the boat had assumed that Major Biffin and Mrs. Cox were engaged.  Major Biffin had boasted about the favour he found with Mrs. Cox but had not confirmed their engagement–and so Mrs. Cox felt free to transfer her attention and affections to George, leaving Major Biffin on his own.  “From this source those tears”–a quotation taken from Terence’s comedy Andria.  The fact that Trollope’s source-text here is a Roman comedy reinforces Trollope’s humorous presentation of the on-ship romances.  [CMC & RR 2012]

Source:  Terence, Andria 1.1.126.



George compares Mrs. Cox to Hebe, daughter of Zeus/Jupiter and Hera/Juno, the goddess of youthful beauty.  As they approach England, however, George sees Mrs. Cox less as a goddess and more as a widow who has acted inappropriately.  Trollope is using the comparison to Hebe for comedic effect and to make a point to his readers that outside of England, people often appear not as they truly are.  The rules and codes that govern behavior and social interactions within England itself are relaxed when characters travel outside of England.  [CMC 2012]

Trollope gives Mrs. Cox only the illusion of goddess-hood, while he has bestowed on Caroline more solidly divine characteristics and bearing.  Perhaps it is no mistake, then, that Trollope has George liken Mrs. Cox to a lesser divinity, Hebe, while Trollope connects Caroline to a major goddess, Juno.  As the goddesses differ in magnitude, so do the women differ in beauty and character–so also do the depths of George’s attachment to them:  his attraction to Mrs. Cox is passing, but his love for Caroline cannot be overcome.  [RR 2012]

Chapter 38 – Cairo

the Sir Omicron of the Hurst Staple district

At the beginning of this chapter, it is revealed that Arthur’s health is in decline.  In order to remedy this, his physician tells him that he should travel to Egypt.  Trollope names the doctor only as the “Sir Omicron of the Hurt Staple district.”  Sir Omicron was the physician Harcourt cited in the previous chapter as having recommended that Caroline quit London for the sake of her health. As previously discussed, Omicron is a Greek letter that serves to associate the physician with the prestige of Classical (and specifically Greek) medicine.  [CMC 2012]

No doubt there is some humor intended by so referring to a country doctor, even a well-respected one.  [RR 2012]


so we will pass on

Trollope chooses to skip over a description of the journey that George and Arthur take to get to Alexandria, instead inserting the reader directly into a description of the city.  The technique of mentioning something only to state that it will not be mentioned is called praeterito.  Given the expansive nature of the plot both geographically and temporally, this is of useful practical significance to Trollope.  Further, it allows him to progress immediately into a description of Egypt and its cities.  [CMC 2012]



Trollope begins the Egyptian portion of the novel with a lengthy lamentation regarding the modern state of the city of Alexandria.  Founded by Alexander the Great, Alexandria was once the center of the Hellenistic world.  It was known all over the Mediterranean as a nexus of science, learning, and culture.  Trollope contrasts this with the current city.  This supports the Victorian image of England as the successor to the Hellenistic and Roman world.  If London is the new center of the world, than it makes sense for the previous cities which occupied this seat to have decayed.  [CMC 2012]

Source:  OCD.


auri sacra fames

In describing modern Alexandria, Trollope states that the motto of modern Greece is auri sacra fames, “the cursed greed of gold.”  This is part of a line from the Aeneid, where Vergil points out that a lust for gold will drive men to the worst things.  Trollope is using this quotation to contrast the virtue of ancient Greece, to which England sees itself as the successor, and modern Greece, which according to Trollope is beset by greedy men.  [CMC 2012]

The adjective sacra can be translated as either “cursed” or “holy,” and both meanings are at play in the Latin phrase:  the inordinate desire for gold as if it were holy leads becomes a terrible trouble.  Trollope imagines his modern Greeks as seeing gold as sacred, while Trollope himself suggests that a driving desire for it is accursed.  [RR 2012]

Source:  Vergil, Aeneid 3.56.


auri sacrissima fames

Trollope uses a play on part of a line from the Aeneid to describe the foreigners that live in modern Alexandria.  Trollope modifies the adjective in the original line (sacra) to its superlative form (sacrissima).  It can now be rendered into English as “most accursed [or most holy] greed of gold.”   Trollope highlights the utter moral decay of modern Alexandria when compared to its illustrious (idealized) past.  It is this past, and not the greedy modern incarnation, that Trollope’s Victorian audience would have identified with and seen themselves as heirs to.  [CMC 2012]


Pharos, Pompey’s Pillar, Cleopatra’s Needle

In describing Alexandria, Trollope lingers on some of the better-known physical landmarks of the city.  Pharos was the island in the harbor at Alexandria that had once held the great lighthouse, a marvel of Hellenistic engineering and a testament to the city’s mercantile importance.  It is also considered one of the Wonders of the Ancient World.  Pompey’s Pillar is a large triumphal column.  Pompey was a contemporary of Caesar and friend of the Ptolemys of Egypt; he was eventually killed in Egypt on the orders of Ptolemy XIII during the Civil War that ended the Roman Republic.  Cleopatra’s Needle is an obelisk:  a square column topped with a pyramid and carved with hieroglyphics.  All of these physical landmarks have strong associations with the grand Classical past of the city.  They are used by Trollope as a contrast to the modern state of the city.  It is Alexandria’s Classical past that Trollope’s audience would have identified with.  [CMC 2012]



George and Arthur are reminiscing on their past few years while viewing the pyramids.  George asks Arthur to remember back to when they had just completed their university degrees and he had been so full of triumph while Arthur had been in despair.  Triumph here is the being used in the Roman sense of the word, as the language Trollope used to describe George at that point in the novel had military connotations.  Here, George is anything but triumphant, and that characterization is heightened by the contrast the character himself draws with his past, care-free self.  [CMC 2012]


Lucifer and Pandemonium

George and Arthur are observing a whirling dervish, a member of the Muslim Sufi sect involved in a mystical relationship with Allah.  Part of Sufi ritual involves spinning until the point of exhaustion.  The groans of the participants are described as being like the legions of Lucifer within the bowels of Pandemonium.  Lucifer is another name for Satan, used by John Milton in Paradise Lost.  Pandemonium is literally “the place of all demons,” a word coined by Milton using Greek elements.  In Paradise Lost, Milton closely associated the Classical past with the forces of Satan.  Here, Trollope is tapping into that same idea, only he is conflating Classics, Satan, and Islam.  [CMC & RR 2012]



As George and Arthur watch the climax of the ritual, Trollope describes the sounds that the participants make as coming from Tartarus itself.  Tartarus was the deepest part of the Greek Underworld.  This reference continues Trollope’s association of Islam with Classics and the Christian Hell.  It is a very tidy way of communicating to his audience what one Victorian attitude toward Islam was.  [CMC 2012]