Chapter 38 – Is there Cause or Just Impediment?


This is the Latin word for “rich” or “wealthy,” which Trollope uses here to refer to a specific rich man from a story in Luke 16.  This rich man lived a lavish life, well-furnished and well-fed, but neglected a starving beggar named Lazarus who lay in front of the gate to his house.  One day Lazarus died and was carried by angels into the arms of Abraham to thrive forever in heaven; the rich man also died and was sent to burn for all eternity.  The wealthy man pleaded with Abraham and Lazarus to bring him a drink, but Abraham replied that he had already lived well during his life on earth and that it was now Lazarus’ turn to reap the rewards of splendor.  The man then asked Abraham to send Lazarus as a risen prophet to warn his five relatives to change their extravagant lifestyles; however, Abraham told him that if they didn’t already believe Moses and the other prophets, then they would believe no one. The rich man in the Vulgate version of  Luke 16 is called Dives; for Trollope, he is used to personify the wealthy lifestyle which is practiced by people in London, rather than to denote any specific person. This Biblical reference occurs during a conversation between Miss Dunstable and Mary Gresham in which they are discussing the pros and cons of the London sphere, which is far different from the country experience of Boxall Hill at which they are staying.  Miss Dunstable comments that Mary enjoys the extravagances which she experiences while dining with rich individuals in London and that her uncle, Dr. Thorne, is unable to even enjoy these earthly pleasures which are offered in the city.  Trollope likens Dr. Thorne to the poor beggar Lazarus, who is humble and lives meekly while on Earth, but who will reap the rewards of the afterlife.  Miss Dunstable herself has been a regular resident of the city for many years, and Mary voices her opinion that Miss Dunstable acts like a different person whenever she is in the city as opposed to when she is in the country.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Luke 16:19-31.


Magna est veritas

This is a Latin phrase which is translated as “Truth is great.” It was supposedly used by the bishop and is picked up from him by Miss Dunstable, who uses it more than once the novel.  When Bishop Proudie says it, the phrase presumably was meant to be taken seriously; however, when Miss Dunstable employs it she tends to make use of it in a joking manner, although she is none the less serious.  In this instance, Mary Gresham has made a slight suggestion to Miss Dunstable that she should in fact marry her uncle, Dr. Thorne.  This is Miss Dunstable’s reply to Mary, issued in the form of advice which playfully mocks the bishop, but which nevertheless urges her to continue her persuasive argument.  The phrase comes from the Vulgate version of 3 Esdras.  [MD & RR 2005]

Sources:  3 Esdras 4:41.  (Note: the Latin 3 Esdras is identified as 1 Esdras in English versions of the Bible.)



Trollope makes reference to Mentor from the Odyssey and switches the roles of the older and younger individuals.  Miss Dunstable is considerably older than Mrs. Mary Gresham and therefore she would traditionally be the one who would be mentoring, or giving advice to, the younger and less experienced person. However, Trollope derives a certain amount of humor from reversing the positions in this relationship, and we can also see this earlier, in Chapter 6, in an allusion involving Mentor and Mark Robarts.  [MD 2005]

Chapter 37 – Mr. Sowerby without Company

Never did the old fury between the gods and giants rage higher

When the giants find themselves incapable of accomplishing their objectives with the current House, they decide on a general election.  Trollope says that the gods and giants’ rage had never been higher than at that time.  The giants, being the group in power, accused the gods of blocking their agenda, while the gods claimed that the giants’ bills were imprudent.  This is a continuation of the giants and gods allusion especially developed in Chapter 23.  The main importance of this specific event is that the Duke of Omnium chooses a candidate other than Mr. Sowerby to run in the election.  In this allusion there is something else of significance.  The gods claim that the giants have “Boeotian fatuity.”  Boeotia was the region of Greece that included Thebes and several lesser cities.  Trollope refers here to the story of the giants Otus and Ephialtes.  Their mother was Iphimedeia who was the wife of Aloeus.  She fell in love with Poseidon and gave birth to the twin giants Otus and Ephialtes, (referred to as the Aloadae).  In the Odyssey, Odysseus encountered Iphimedeia in the Underworld and she recounted the tale of how the Aloadae threatened to pile mount Ossa on top of mount Olympus and then pile mount Pelion on top of Ossa in hopes of reaching the gods.  However, before they grew to manhood they were killed by Apollo.  Another account in Apollodorus and the Iliad states that they succeeded and placed Ares in a bronze jar for thirteen months until he was rescued by Hermes.  Apollodorus also adds that they wooed Hera and Artemis.  Because of their presumption Artemis used a trick to kill them in Naxos.  She turned into a deer and when the Aloedae hurled their spears at her they missed and struck each other instead.  Pausanias claims they founded Ascra in Boeotia.  He also claims to have seen their tomb at Anthedon, also in Boeotia.  The gods are probably trying to compare the giants with Otus and Ephialtes because of their lack of subtlety.  That the Aloadae would openly pile mountains on top of one another in order to reach the gods shows that despite their strength they lack intelligence.  For more information on the gods and giants motif see the glosses in Chapter 23.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Odyssey 305-320.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology (which also provides references to the other authors).


myrmidons of the law

The Myrmidons were created when Aeacus, son of Zeus, was growing up on Aegina.  Zeus transformed the ants into people, and Aeacus’ son Peleus led them in a migration to Phthia.  Peleus’ son was Achilles.  He was a hero in the Trojan War and led an army of Myrmidons.  Trollope may call Sowerby’s creditors “myrmidons” because of their description in Book 16 of the Iliad:  Homer describes them as swarming wasps.  This image vividly shows how Sowerby will be pursued for his money owed.  [TH 2005]

Book 16 of the Iliad contains another image of the Myrmidons that may also be operative:  they ready themselves for battle like a pack of wolves.  It is worth noting, however, that the use of “myrmidons” for police and other officers of the law is not limited to Trollope–the OED provides instances of similar uses in English from the late 17th century on.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 16.155-167 and 25-267.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


harpies of the law

The very word “harpy” means “snatcher.”  The harpies were the daughters of Thaumas and Electra.  They were said by Hesiod to be winged beasts that could fly as swiftly as the winds and birds.  Later they are called “the hounds of Zeus.”  They are beasts known to swoop from the sky and steal people and things.  The most famous case is that of Phineus.  He was a Thracian King who was being attacked by the Harpies.  They would steal all of his food, leaving him hungry.  They were reputed to be rapacious and ferocious.  Here, much like the Myrmidons, they are used to describe the debt collectors pursuing Sowerby.  In this case it is the harpies’ role as thieves snatching whatever they could lay their hands upon that makes them an appropriate comparison with the creditors.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


antecedentem scelestum

Mr. Sowerby is shown at home, wandering the empty rooms of his estate and pondering his life.  Trollope says that we might imagine men like Mr. Sowerby to spend most of their days happy.  However, Mr. Sowerby is frequently unhappy.  Trollope says, “The feeling that one is an antecedentem scelestum after whom a sure, though lame, Nemesis is hobbling, must sometimes disturb one’s slumbers.”  This is a reference to some lines from one of Horace’s odes:  raro antecedentem scelestum / deseruit pede Poena claudo.  The literal translation reads “Nemesis (or Punishment) with lame foot has rarely left the guilty man going on ahead.”  Mr. Sowerby is a guilty man (antecedentem scelestum) who has become eminent.  Nemesis (Roman Poena) is the goddess of retribution and punishment.  The hobbling Nemesis has finally caught up with Sowerby who is besieged by men trying to collect his debts.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Horace, Ode 3.2.31-32.


cracked dryad

Trollope describes the garden at Chaldicotes as a dreary place.  Much as Mr. Sowerby’s life has fallen into disorder, so have his surroundings.  Trollope writes, “here and there a cracked dryad, tumbled from her pedestal and sprawling in the grass, gave a look of disorder to the whole place.”  The dryads in question are statues toppled from their pedestals.  Dryads are a variety of nymphs found in forests and associated with trees.  The fallen dryads are a symbol for how much the beauty of Chaldicotes has eroded due to Sowerby’s debts.  [TH 2005]


Dumbello as a patrician

Lord Dumbello is a marquis and one of the suitors of Griselda Grantly.  He is referred to as a patrician by Trollope.  The patricians were an elite social group in Rome.  Trollope says that as far as Mr. Sowerby is concerned Lord Dumbello or any other patrician could claim his seat in Parliament.  All Sowerby wants to do is disappear to a distant land and starve.  [TH 2005]

Chapter 35 – The Story of King Cophetua

vis inertiae

Latin, “force of inactivity.”  Lady Lufton disapproves of Lucy for being too passionate and active; she believes that beauty is to be found in restraint and reticence.  Perhaps Trollope uses Latin as a reminder of Griselda (Lady Lufton’s favorite prospect for her son’s marriage), who with her passivity and coldness is reminiscent of a Classical statue.  See the commentary for Chapter 11.  [JM 2005]