Chapter 43 – Lady Ongar’s Revenge

short halcyon days

Trollope uses this phrase to describe the state of peace and happiness in which young lovers like Harry Clavering and Florence Burton live.  The word “halcyon,” which means “calm” or “restful,” comes from an ancient myth about a woman named Alcyone, whose beloved husband Ceyx was killed in a shipwreck.  Ceyx comes to Alcyone in a dream to tell her that he has died, and the next morning Alcyone goes to the shore and discovers that his drowned body has floated there.  Overcome with grief, she throws herself towards the sea, but at the last moment she is transformed into a bird and skims along the surface.  Ceyx’s body is also changed into a bird, and the two are reunited.  The days on which Alcyone broods are the calmest days of the sea, according to the story, hence the modern meaning of the word, which is employed here.  [SH 2012]

Source:  OED.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.410-748.


Constance Vane

Julia mentions Constance Vane to Harry as a type of a fashionable English girl not particular appealing to either of them, though neither says so explicitly.  Though Trollope does not tell us much about Constance, he tells us enough to realize that her name is partly ironic and partly fitting.  Her first name, “Constance,” is related to the Latin participle constans, meaning “standing firm” or even “remaining unchanged.”  But Constance has not been constant in her looks:  she has changed from “a waxen doll of a girl” to a “stout mother of two or three children.”  Her maiden name, “Vane,” recalls the Latin adjective vanus, meaning “empty” and is apt, since Trollope asserts that “she had never had a thought in her head, and hardly ever a word on her lips.”  By giving her this name, Trollope adds linguistic depth to an otherwise insubstantial character.  [RR 2013]



“Pandemonium” is a Classically based coinage used by John Milton as a name for the capital of hell in Paradise LostPan is Greek for “all,” and demon is Greek for “demon” or “spirit.”  The suffix is Latinate.  When Julia mentions pandemonium, she is aware of the word’s Miltonic heritage because she contrasts Harry’s current “paradise” (his relationship with Florence) and the “pandemonium” he has avoided with her.  [RR 2013]

Source:  OED.


Nil conscire sibi

Julia quotes this Latin phrase from one of Horace’s Epistles to Harry; it means “to be conscious of no guilt.”  According to Julia, Harry taught her this phrase when they were young lovers.  She has not lived her life in a way “to be conscious of no guilt,” and since Harry has betrayed Florence, neither has he.  Julia is explicitly applying the phrase to herself, but she also implicitly applies it to Harry.  She essentially re-teaches Harry, with a piercing commentary on his own behavior, the very phrase (and the ideal it expresses) which he taught her.  Harry, who taught both Julia and Florence bits of Latin, has now been turned into the student.  Julia humbles him with this switch of roles, teaching him his own lesson in turn.  [SH & RR 2012]

Source:  Horace, Epistle 1.1.61.


I have not poisoned the little ring, as the ladies would have done some centuries since

Julia Ongar makes this statement of the ring which she wishes Harry to pass on to Florence as a gift.  The “ladies…some centuries since” likely refers to Medea, the mythological woman who aided Jason in his quest for the golden fleece.  However, Jason abandoned Medea in order to marry the daughter of Creon, the king of Corinth.  Medea gives Creon’s daughter a dress as a wedding gift, but the dress is poisoned and catches fire when the girl wears it, killing both her and Creon as he tries to save her.  As Harry Clavering’s former lover who has been ultimately rejected for a new wife, Julia Ongar could consider herself in the position of Medea.  The possibility for cruel vengeance would be lost neither on Harry nor on Julia.  However, Julia wants to make it known to both Harry and Florence that, unlike Medea, she bears no ill will and poses no threat to her former lover’s new bride.  [SH & RR 2012]

Source:  OCD.

Chapter 42 – Restitution

chambers in the Adelphi

The conversation between Harry and Theodore Burton seems, on the surface, to be simply about their workplace at the Adelphi, from which Harry has been absent recently.  However, in this case, “Adelphi” refers not only literally to the building in which their office is housed, but also to their status as future family members.  The Greek word adelphoi means “brothers,” which is what Harry and Theodore will be if Harry marries Florence Burton.  Harry has only just been reconciled to Florence earlier in the evening, after she tried to end their engagement.  By asking Harry about his return to work, Theodore is, on another level, inquiring after how soon Harry is going to resume his familial position and duties as his future brother-in-law’s employee.  See commentary on the Adelphi in Chapter 7.  [SH 2012]


peculiar fold

Harry realizes that he should frequent the “sheepfold” of Theodore Burton’s house until he sets up “a small peculiar fold” with Florence.  Because “peculiar” contains the Latin pecu-, meaning “flock” or “herd,” Trollope’s phrase “peculiar fold” doubly expresses the image of Harry’s family-to-be as a little flock of its own.  [RR 2013]

Source:  OED.


dog in the manger

Trollope refers to one of Aesop’s fables here.  In the fable, a dog asleep in a manger is awakened by cows coming into the barn after a long day of work.  Even though the cows are tired and hungry, and even though the dog cannot eat hay, the dog will not let the cows anywhere near the hay in the manger.  Julia knows that since she cannot enjoy Ongar Park herself, she should not behave as the dog and keep it away from someone who could enjoy it.  Since her late husband’s relatives have expressed interest in the park, Julia makes the financially difficult but unselfish choice to give the park to Lord Ongar’s family for no charge.  [SH 2012]

Source:  Entry on the fable on Laura Gibbs’s Aesopica website.

Chapter 41 – The Sheep Returns to the Fold

in such matters as these his wife, he knew, was imperative and powerful

The word “imperative” stems from the Latin verb impero, which means “command.”  Usually the English adjective is used to mean “urgent” or “obligatory,” but here Trollope activates its etymological meaning.  He describes Mrs. Clavering as “imperative” because in the matter of Harry’s marriage, she shuts down her husband’s whisperings about Harry marrying Julia Ongar rather than Florence, and essentially commands that it shall not be so.  The Reverend Clavering recognizes that to argue with such a commanding presence would be pointless.  [SH 2012]

Source:  OED.


convalescent invalid

In describing Harry as a “convalescent invalid,” Trollope pairs two words which share the Latin element val- “well” or “strong.”  Harry is an invalid because he is not strong; in- negates the val-.  Nevertheless he is also convalescent because he is getting stronger; -sc- signals a process underway.  [RR 2013]


a cupid in mosaic surrounded by tiny diamonds

At this point in the novel, Florence has decided to break her engagement with Harry, and she sends him a package containing all the letters and presents he has given her.  Harry, meanwhile, has been sick and under his mother’s heavy influence for several days, and she has convinced him to renew his commitment to Florence and forget the possibility of marrying Lady Ongar for good.  When the package from Florence arrives at the Clavering home, it is Mrs. Clavering who writes to Florence concerning Harry’s resolve to marry her, and it is she who instructs Harry about how he should repack Florence’s package and send it back.  It is fitting, then, that the woman who has worked so hard to keep the two lovers together should give Harry the image of a cupid to pass on to Florence.  Cupid was the Roman counterpart to the Greek god of love, Eros, who played a role in much mythological match-making.  The cupid Mrs. Clavering gives to Harry symbolizes the role of Cupid that she plays in Harry and Florence’s relationship.  In fact, even in giving this gift, she plays that role:  she knows that the extra gift in the package will win Florence’s heart.  [SH 2012]


peccavi sounds soft and pretty when made by sweet lips in a loving voice

This statement is part of Trollope’s explanation about confession being a feminine activity:  women enjoy confessing their wrongdoings and receiving forgiveness, while men hate to admit their failures.  Peccavi is a perfect form of the Latin verb pecco; peccavi means “I have sinned.”  The Latin language and confession of sins are tied up in the culture of the Christian church, particularly in the Catholic sacrament of confession.  Trollope conflates church hierarchy and societal gender hierarchy by using a Latin word to discuss the confession of a woman.  Combining the imagery of priest over parishioner and man over woman strengthens the demarcation of gender hierarchy.  [SH & RR 2012]


hours of one long ovation

The word “ovation” come from the Latin ovatio, which means “a minor triumph or processional entry.”  In Roman times, an ovatio was a less lavish honor than a triumph, but still a great acclamation celebrated with a parade into the city.  In this scene of the novel, Cecilia and Florence Burton welcome Harry Clavering back into their family with open arms after he has rejected a union with Lady Ongar and has renewed his commitment to Florence.  Harry’s journey to Onslow Terrace and his welcome there are a sort of “processional entry” back into the Burton clan.  [SH 2012]

Although Harry is treated as a conquering hero by Cecelia and Florence, there may be a disconnect between the way he is viewed by them and the way he is viewed by a reader.  To a reader, Harry’s “ovation” may be misplaced:  what has he done worth celebrating other than honor his promise at last?   By adding a Classical echo through the use of “ovation,” Trollope heightens the Burton women’s reception of Harry and potentially increases the distance between their treatment of Harry and a reader’s own assessment of his behavior and the recognition it is (or isn’t) due.  [RR 2013]

Source:  OED.

Chapter 40 – Showing How Mrs. Burton Fought Her Battle

Florence sacrificed

Cecilia explains to Theodore her motivation for visiting Lady Ongar:  she wants to do her utmost to save the engagement of Florence and Harry.  In her words, “I could not bear that Florence should be sacrificed whilst anything remained undone that was possible.”  Florence as a bride would stand before a marriage altar; if Florence’s marriage is cancelled, she metaphorically stands before the sacrificial altar and becomes the sacrificial victim herself.  See commentary for Chapter 30 of The Bertrams for a different juxtaposition of sacrificial and marital altars.  [RR 2013]


Julia “not uncivil”

This double negation uttered by Cecilia Burton is an example of the Classical rhetorical phenomenon called litotes.  Litotes is a construction that renders a statement more emphatic by denying or negating the opposite of what is meant.  Cecilia chooses not to say positively that Lady Ongar was civil, but rather to say negatively that she was “not uncivil.”  This biting negative statement clues the reader into the fact that Cecilia’s dislike for Lady Ongar has not changed much since their interview.  In fact, Cecilia’s remark might stem from her dislike of Lady Ongar:  if she still thinks of Lady Ongar as immoral and bold, she might not believe her to be capable of true civility.  The closest Lady Ongar can come to receiving a positive reaction from those around her is in receiving a non-negative reaction.  [SH & RR 2012]

Chapter 39 – Farewell to Doodles

I think she’s a medium—or a media, or whatever it ought to be called

Doodles says this to Archie about Sophie Gordeloup just before Hugh and Archie depart for their yacht trip.  The Latin word medium is the neuter singular form of the adjective medius, media, medium; as a substantive, medium means “a thing in the middle.”  It can also refer to an intermediary or a means of communication.  In English the word can be used as a noun in the same sense, or to mean a substance through which an effect is transmitted, but here Doodles employs its meaning of a person who acts as an intermediary between dead spirits and the living.  [SH 2012]

Doodles knows enough about Latin to want to make the Latinate “medium” reflect Sophie’s gender, so he removes the Latin neuter ending -um and adds the Latin feminine ending -a.  The result is silly, since English “medium” in the sense of “spiritual intermediary” is used to refer to either a man or a woman.  Doodles is perhaps trying to show a certain amount of finesse and gentlemanly knowledge, but he ends up seeming inept.  [RR 2013]

Source:  OED.