Chapter 24 – Conclusion

fixed as fate

Mary understands that once Mr. Whittlestaff has decided not to come to Little Alresford it is a determination as “fixed as fate.” Throughout the novel Mr. Whittlestaff’s decisions have had a determining power over the lives of others, and here Mary sees that what Mr. Whittlestaff decides stands immovable. See the note on fate in the Chapter 1 commentary. [RR 2018]


Blake-cum-Forrester marriage

Cum is the Latin preposition meaning “with,” and its use here in regard to Mr. Blake’s marriage with Kattie Forrester is simultaneously formal and playful. [RR 2018]



Once again Mr. Blake is garrulous, though less so, echoing the Latin quotation from Horace in Chapter 14 as well as John Gordon’s assessment in Chapter 13. Mr. Blake’s garrulity has had no small impact on the lives of the protagonists, although the trait is regarded as odious. That he is made timid by his upcoming marriage to Kattie Forrester, and that he is made quieter by it, may improve our view of Mr. Blake. [CMS 2018]

Chapter 23 – Again at Croker’s Hall


Trollope uses tantalised to denote Mr. Whittlestaff’s affect on Mary as he prepares to release her from her betrothal to him so that she can marry John Gordon. The English verb recalls the underworld punishment of the Greek mythological figure Tantalus, who forever reaches for fruit that he cannot grasp and bends down for water that he cannot drink. The connection to Tantalus underscores Mary’s suffering as well as Mr. Whittlestaff’s power. [RR 2018]


hymeneal altar

Mr. Blake explains that he went to London to procure “a new black suit, fit for the hymeneal altar.” This description of the wedding altar in terms of Hymen, the Greek god of marriage, is in accord with Mr. Blake’s other Classical turns of phrase. [RR 2018]


Mr. Blake’s patron

Mr. Hall is called Mr. Blake’s “patron,” echoing the Roman social institution of patron/client relationships in which Romans of higher and lower status were bound together by ties of mutual obligation and support. Here Mr. Blake somewhat presumptuously takes it upon himself to offer his patron’s hospitality to Mr. Whittlestaff. [RR 2018]


just a few books to read

Mr. Whittlestaff has in some sense come to this place in his life, and without Mary as a wife, in dialogue with his books, not so much directed by these writers as in active conversation with them. When he lost Catherine Bailey he filled his heart with books; if now he needs “just a few books to read,” perhaps his needs for comfort and instruction and dialogue with books is simpler, and he is a peace. The prospect of a place in Italy (however idle the thought), with a few books to read, is not so bleak, we might note, as he believed life would be without Mary. [CMS 2018]


the fates seem to have decided

See the note on fate in the Chapter 1 commentary.

Chapter 21 – The Green Park

sub dio

A Latin prepositional phrase meaning “under the open sky.” Mr. Whittlestaff prefers to speak to John Gordon about Mary Lawrie outdoors rather than in a men’s club. Although Mr. Whittlestaff eschews a social location that would reinforce gender and class, his use of Latin calls upon and reinforces the identity of educated gentlemen that he and John Gordon share. [RR 2018]


If I know what love is

In Vergil’s eighth Eclogue a goatherd sings a song of the girl Nysa, who once loved him, has jilted him, and is now marrying another; he remembers how they met as children, in an orchard picking apples, and Vergil’s verse is urgent and quick as the goatherd sings that he saw her, he died, and he was swept up by madness. And then the shepherd says nunc scio quid sit Amor, “now I know what Love is” (not what it was, he is in the moment of his memory), and he adumbrates that Love is a cruel god, born in desolation.  The goatherd’s song takes the pathos of pastoral love to an extreme. Does Mr. Whittlestaff in his own agitation speaking with John Gordon echo Vergil’s goatherd here? It is not the cruelty of Love nor of Mary that he laments, as the goatherd does, but still his narrative is that of the lover who loses, and here he faces the rival who will take her. Like the goatherd, as Mr. Whittlestaff knows his love he feels its loss. And the world he anticipates for himself is just as desolate as the goatherd’s god of Love is. [CMS 2018]

Source:  Vergil, Eclogue 8.43.

Chapter 20 – Mr. Whittlestaff Takes His Journey

Mr. Whittlestaff’s triumph

A triumph was a peculiar feature of historical Roman life, a great parade through the city of Rome to celebrate the victory of an exceptional general’s military campaign upon his return to Rome. The most familiar depictions come from writers in the late Roman Republic, in the 1st century BCE, when a triumph also indicated political power; later triumphs were only allowed to be conducted by the imperial family. The victorious general was allowed to retain his command inside the city of Rome, normally forbidden; he rode in a four-horse chariot and his soldiers were included in the procession, as well as the whole senate and all the magistrates, in procession to the Capitol. His retinue carried the spoils of war, led prisoners in chains along with animals for sacrifice, and advertised the absolute domination of a foreign land and people by this now-exalted general. So familiar a feature of life was the triumph that Roman poets often depict them to signal various modes of domination, victory, the value of public display; sometimes they also mock the practice of the triumph.

If Trollope is making any shorthand reference to this omnipresent Roman convention when he says “So far his triumph was complete,” then he is having us smile at Mr. Whittlestaff’s dilemma, perhaps at the ferocious loyalty of Mary and Mrs. Baggett and the soldier’s spirit required of him to fulfill Mary’s happiness, not his own (“a great deed,” in the next paragraph). And yet what Mr. Whittlestaff is doing has a strong heroic cast. Trollope then moves from the kindly, ironic depiction of Whittlestaff’s success in his evasion of “the two dominant women,” to note, deflatingly, that as Mr. Whittlestaff reflects on his purpose “he cannot be said to have been triumphant.” Indeed, it is a deep irony that Mr. Whittlestaff is rejecting the masculine, dominant, triumphant privilege that Mrs. Baggett so badly wants him to deploy, in order to enact his love for Mary. [CMS 2018]

Source: OCD.


robur et aes triplex

Although Mr. Whittlestaff has the strength of character to act unselfishly, he can nevertheless be stung by the opinions of others. Trollope quotes Horace—robur et aes triplex (“oak and three-fold bronze”)—to describe Mr. Whittlestaff’s deep commitment to doing the right thing. In its original context Horace uses this phrase to describe the bravery of the first man to travel on the sea. Trollope transfers it to Mr. Whittlestaff’s ethical fortitude. [RR 2018]

Source: Horace, Ode 1.3.9.



Latin per (“through”) and via (“path”) give us the adjective pervious meaning “with a path through,” “susceptible to a path through.” As a prefix per can also act as an intensifier, so that the force of the word’s meaning is enhanced. We know the word in the more usual negative form, impervious, meaning “unsusceptible (to a path through).”  Trollope’s use of the unusual, positive sense of the adjective “pervious” helps us feel keenly how terribly vulnerable Mr. Whittlestaff is to these “stings” of ridicule—he is built with a path through. [CMS 2018]


his favourite Horace

On the train to London Mr. Whittlestaff considers the point he has reached with respect to Mary and reviews the beginning when “he had brought this girl home to his house.” The novel observes that Mr. Whittlestaff had thought much about love, to be clear that he had understood the feelings he had about Mary, the flavor, “sweetness beyond all other sweetnesses.” He had thought with poets, interacted with their verses and sized up his own feelings against theirs. As we see in Chapter 18 and here, “he had told himself that Horace knew nothing of love”—he has taught himself to suspect his favourite poet, not to be so freely, maybe falsely, moved, it seems, by Horace’s gem-like verse. [CMS 2018]


Mary as docile

Mr. Whittlestaff reflects on Mary Lawrie: “She was there living in his house, subject to his orders, affectionate and docile, but, as far as he could judge, a perfect woman.” The meaning of docile here seems to recall its Latin origin—“able to be taught”—from the verb docēre (to teach). Like the phrase “subject to his orders,” the adjective “docile” underscores the degree to which Mr. Whittlestaff has power over Mary. [RR 2018]



Milton used Greek to coin this word for “the palace of Satan”, the place of all (pan) demons (demon). Trollope shows a sensitivity to the word’s Miltonian origin by contrasting the Mr. Whittlestaff’s current and future “misery of Pandemonium” with the “light and joy of Paradise” that a marriage with Mary Lawrie would offer. [RR 2018]

Source: Milton, Paradise Lost “argument” to book 1.