Chapter 38 – How to Dispose of a Wife

clouded brow

At Julia’s suggestion that Hermione could come and live with her, Sir Hugh’s brow again gets clouded.  For the possible Classical origin of this image, see commentary for Chapter 11.  [RR 2013]


postpone his anger to his prudence

Trollope again uses the English equivalent of an accusative and a dative with the Latinate “postpone.”  For an explanation of the Latin construction, see commentary for Chapter 28.  [RR 2013]

Chapter 37 – What Lady Ongar Thought About It

whether that Phoebus in knickerbockers should or should not become lord of Ongar Park

Here Trollope continues the comparison between Harry Clavering and Phoebus/Apollo, the Greco-Roman god associated with the sun and young male beauty.  Knickerbockers were a kind of loose knee-length trousers gathered at the bottom, worn by boys and men for outdoor activities.  Trollope paints a comical image of the beautiful young Phoebus parading around his estate in knee pants in order to poke fun at Harry.  Harry is idealized by all the women in his life, especially his lovers, but Trollope and the reader both know that his fickleness and weak will do not become him, just as knickerbockers would not at all become the true Phoebus.  [SH 2012]

Of course, there is some humor simply in Trollope’s dressing of the ancient god in 19th c. clothing, and that humor also serves to detract somewhat from the divine status accorded Harry by the women around him.  We might want to compare Lily Dale’s depiction of Crosbie as an Apollo playing croquet; see commentary on Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of The Small House at Allington.  Both Harry and Crosbie are identified as Apollo figures, sometimes humorously by the author and sometimes sincerely by the women in their lives.  Harry is somewhat like Crosbie in that he engages the serious affections of two women simultaneously, but unlike Crosbie he will not finally jilt the woman to whom he is affianced.  [RR 2013]


gods laugh at the perjuries of lovers

In her conversation with Cecilia Burton, Julia excuses Harry’s fickleness by invoking an unnamed authority:  “Has not somebody said that the gods laugh at the perjuries of lovers?”  The “somebody” is Shakespeare, who has Juliet remark that “at lovers’ perjuries / They say Jove laughs.”  Julia’s paraphrase becomes stronger in context by not specifying Shakespeare or Jove.  The point becomes one of age-old wisdom not pinned down to a particular time, place, or divinity.  Near the end of the chapter Cecilia returns to this notion and admits to herself that, even though gods and men may excuse the perjuries of lovers, she hopes Harry is somehow punished if he permanently backs out of his engagement with Florence.  [RR 2013]

Source:  Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet 2.2.92-93.


not without something more than vehemence

Julia tells Cecelia that she considers the potential happiness of Harry as more weighty than the feelings of another woman.  In characterizing Julia’s tone, Trollope aptly uses litotes, the technique of expressing an idea by negating its opposite.  Litotes allows Trollope to convey Julia’s severity without calling it such outright and thereby potentially alienating readers from sympathizing with her.  [RR 2013]

Chapter 36 – Captain Clavering Makes His Last Attempt

string to my bow

Archie and Doodles are discussing Archie’s chances with Julia, and they weigh Julia’s attachment to Harry.  Archie reckons that his new status as Hugh’s heir might be a point in his favor over Harry’s claims on Julia’s affections:  “It’s my son who’ll have the Clavering property and be the baronet, not his.  You see what a string to my bow that is.”  Archie here uses an English turn of phrase whose origin rests in the fact that an archer would carry an extra bowstring.  Although this image is not of Classical origin, Trollope often uses it in the context of courtship, which conflates the bow with Cupid’s love-inspiring weapon of choice.  [RR 2013]

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


as beautiful as a Phoebus

Phoebus is another name of Apollo, god of the sun and the ideal of young male beauty in ancient Greece.  Apollo was often associated with the higher intellectual parts of civilization, so the ongoing comparison between him and Harry Clavering, who is fit to be a gentleman and not a working man, is further apt.  This particular comparison to the god is made by Sophie Gordeloup in a letter to Lady Ongar.  After reading it, Lady Ongar considers Sophie’s argument and decides that Harry is indeed “qualified to shine” as Phoebus the sun god.  [SH 2012]


by Jove

This emphatic exclamation calls on Jove, another name for the Roman god Jupiter.  Although it has a literary pedigree (it occurs in Shakespeare and Pope), Trollope most often puts it in the mouths of non-literary male characters.  [SH 2012 & RR 2013]

Chapter 35 – Parting


In the wake of his son’s death, Sir Hugh resolves to do whatever he wants without justifying it to his spouse:  “There should be no plea put in by him in his absences, that he had only gone to catch a few fish, when his intentions had been other than piscatorial.”  The Latinate “piscatorial” (“pertaining to fish or fishing”), coming as it does at the end of the sentence and following the Germanic “fish,” strikes a humorous note.  The further combination of “piscatorial” with the also Latinate “intentions” casts a euphemistic veil as well as a linguistic raising of eyebrows at Sir Hugh’s anticipated activities.  [RR 2013]


intentions, intended, intended, intention

In detailing Sir Hugh’s thoughts, Trollope combines two Classical rhetorical devices:  polyptoton and chiasmus:  “There should be no plea put in by him in his absences, that he had only gone to catch a few fish, when his intentions had been other than piscatorial.  He intended to do as he liked now and always,—and he intended that his wife should know that such was his intention.”  Polyptoton is the use of etymologically related words in different forms or different parts of speech, such as “intentions” and “intended.”  Trollope presents the elements of his polyptoton in a chiasmus, or A-B-B-A word order:  “intentions…intended…intended…intention.”  Trollope is fond of both chiasmus and polyptoton; their combination here seems noteworthy and conveys the pointed, rhetorical force with which Sir Hugh frames his resolution.  [RR 2013]

Chapter 34 – Mr. Saul’s Abode

Fanny’s eulogium

While talking with her mother, Fanny defends Mr. Saul, his behavior, and his status as a gentleman.  Trollope reports Fanny’s words directly and calls them a “eulogium” or speech of praise.  Eulogium is a Latin word showing the influence of Greek eu- “well” and log- “word.”  Although the Classically derived word “eulogium” might seem to elevate Fanny’s utterance, Trollope combines his application of this lofty rhetorical term with his mention of Fanny’s sobs while speaking, and the direct speech of the “eulogium” itself is presented as broken by Fanny’s crying.  [RR 2013]