Chapter 14 – Mr. Whittlestaff Is Going Out to Dinner

percontatorem fugito nam garrulus idem est

Mr. Whittlestaff, who has perfectly sized up Mr. Blake and the Halls’ state of information, quotes Horace’s epistle to Lollius on friendship to Mary: “Run away from an interrogator for the same man is also a chatterbox.” He notes that he has taught Mary enough Latin to know what it means (contrast Miss Hall and resurgam in Chapter 13). The Latin adjective garrulus (“chatterbox”, “talker”) from which the English adjective garrulous is taken directly, is never complimentary: it means talkative but further connotes a general absence of judgment in the talker; the garrulus man will exhaust his listener with endless words and will repeat to anyone whatever he has heard. See the notes on the use of garrulous in Chapter 13 and Chapter 24. [CMS 2018]

Sources: Horace, Epistle 1.18.69; cf. Horace Satires 1.4.12, 1.9.33, 2.5.90.

Chapter 13 – At Little Alresford

Miss Augusta Hall

One of Mr. Hall’s four daughters is named Augusta.  Augusta is the feminine form of the Latin adjective augustus, -a, -um, “venerable;” the masculine form Augustus was used for Roman emperors. The daughter’s Latinate name perhaps prepares us for Mr. Hall’s uses of Latin a little later in the chapter. [RR 2018]


spem gregis

“The hope of the flock” is a quotation from Vergil’s first Eclogue, and it is difficult to know how deeply to read Trollope’s meaning here. Vergil’s opening poem to the Eclogues is a heart-breaker: two shepherds exchange songs which tell how one is safe on his farm while the other is being driven off the land by the convulsions of civil war, and now must leave his dwindling flocks and his home. How dire the omens and his situation are is first made clear when his ewe struggles to give birth on bare rock to twin kids, “the hope of the flock”, who are destined to die. Mr. Hall’s suggestion that his daughter calls herself spem gregis, and her reply that she has no idea what that means, might simply suggest that Vergil’s phrase has stuck in the cultural milieu detached from its context, as Vergil’s phrases often have. Overtly in this case Mr. Hall is teasing his daughter, who like other women of her class and era would not know Latin, and the scene conjures a jocular relationship between the father and daughter. Whether Trollope is having a bigger joke on the infelicitous quotation from Vergil we can only speculate. Perhaps Trollope finds humor in thinking of this group of women in their thirties as Mr. Hall’s “flock.” [CMS 2018]

The infelicity of Mr. Hall’s quotation could contain elements of personal and social critique. Mr. Hall uses Latin as an expression of his individual identity and social standing, but his jokey application of spem gregis is heedless of its Vergilian context and so suggests that he values the gesture of using Latin over the light that Classical literature can cast on a situation. Trollope is consistently critical of uses of Classics that serve as assertions of status rather than expressions of (or means toward) a deeper understanding. [RR 2018]

Sources:  Vergil, Eclogue 1.15.
Entry on spem gregis in Dictionary of Quotations, compiled by Rev. James Wood, 1899, at



Because Mr. Harbottle the vicar has passed away, Mr. Blake will assume the living and be able to marry Kattie Forrester. In a questionable attempt at humor Mr. Hall remarks that Kattie “won’t wish to have [Mr. Harbottle’s] resurgam sung.” Resurgam is Latin for “I will rise again,” and here it refers to the title of an Episcopal hymn. Mr. Hall’s attempted witticism relies on a listener’s knowledge of Latin to land; Kattie both brushes off his invocation of Latin (“I don’t know much about resurgams”) and asserts her confidence that her intended will be a good vicar. Neither of Mr. Hall’s uses of Latin in this chapter proves apt. [RR 2018]



John Gordon calls the Reverend Blake “this garrulous young parson” at the point he recognizes it was a mistake to have told Blake of his disappointed hopes for Mary Lawrie (Gordon says to himself that he was “betrayed” into telling him). Mr. Blake’s subsequent greedy and unkind competition with John Gordon for top marks in the bridal category is a display of his worst nature. The Latin word garrulus will describe Mr. Blake in the next chapter; see the commentary for Chapter 14. [CMS 2018]


silence and assent

John Gordon remains quiet as Mr. Blake talks, giving “that assent which silence is intended to imply.” The notion that silence signals agreement can be found at least as far back as the 5th c. BCE; in Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides Clytemnestra explains to her husband Agamemnon that he needn’t give a long speech explaining or justifying his plan to sacrifice their daughter Iphigeneia since “being silent itself is a sign of your agreeing.” The sentiment is also conveyed in the Latin legal maxim qui tacet consentire videtur (“he who is silent seems to agree”). Here, John Gordon’s silence allows him to avoid voicing opinions concerning things he does not know about or may feel differently about. [RR 2018]

Sources: Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis 1142.
Carew Hazlitt, English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases. London: John Russell Smith, 1869, 337.

Chapter 12 – Mr. Blake’s Good News

contretemps or misadventure

Contretemps is from Latin via French meaning a “mishap,” or a “delay,” a “hitch”, and in English comes to include the sense of a “disagreement.” The Latin combines contra “against,” and tempus, “time,” thus “inopportune.”  Misadventure is a hybrid word, mis– being a Germanic prefix to indicate “badly”, or “wrongly,” combined with Latin adventus “chance” or “outcome,” so misadventure has a more pronounced sense of “bad luck.”

This phrase, “contretemps or misadventure,” alludes coyly to Mr. Blake’s encounter with Mr. Baggett in the stable, where, because the stableman Hayonotes was absent discussing the problem of Mr. Baggett with Thornybush, Mr. Blake has stabled his own horse. The two mostly synonymous words give some latitude to our interpretation of Blake’s response: a disagreement, French and humorously posh, or a disagreeable event for Blake being asked by Baggett to get him some cream (i.e., gin), or a misfortune that Mr. Blake had to stable his own horse?

The scene is a lead-in to Mr. Blake’s glorious narcissism, where he reflects anxiously on the “disagreeable incidents” (e.g. Baggett’s occupation of the stable) that might be his were he himself yet wealthier. [CMS 2018]

Sources: American Heritage Dictionary.
Oxford Concise English Dictionary.



Mr. Blake will receive the living at Little Alresford upon the death of the incumbent Mr. Harbottle. In anticipation of this event, Mr. Blake talks “frequently of the good things which Fortune was to do for him,” Fortuna (or Fortune) being the Roman goddess of luck. Although this is conveyed in the narrator’s voice and hence with some wryness, it seems to be reflecting Mr. Blake’s penchant for inflated, “educated” speech without ironic overtones. [RR 2018]


I wouldn’t for worlds that the train should come in

Mr. Blake’s diction here is formal and Latinate, in word order and word choice, a nutshell summary of his education and character as a privileged representative (a cohort widely satirized not only by Trollope) of the Church of England. Would is the conditional mood of will, and will is used with the archaic sense of “desire” or “wish for;” Blake attaches to would what grammar books call a noun-clause, “that the train should come in,” with a careful subjunctive verb (should come)—a perfect rendition of a Latin construction. (Contemporary English might say “I wouldn’t want the train to come….”) Blake’s resort to formal diction perhaps dramatizes his anxiety about Kattie Forrester, but also hints at his pomposity, and repeats his advertisement of his Oxford credentials which John Gordon has just teased him about (“‘The university and your society together’, suggested Gordon”). [CMS 2018]

Chapter 11 – Mrs. Baggett Trusts Only in the Funds

character and action

Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics that a person’s actions tell the character; that is, the only means of discerning character is through action. So says Trollope here, of Mr. Whittlestaff: “as was his character, so must he act.” The surprising consequence here is that Mr. Whittlestaff cannot take the clear route Mrs. Baggett commands him to take; he must “work it through” as we say, because his character is founded on that sort of action, and thus he has no choice. Whereas to Aristotle the character is based on chosen acts, to Trollope the character is formed and thus dictates the acts which are possible for Mr. Whittlestaff, whether chosen or not. He will soften. [CMS 2018]

Source:  Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics book 4.


by her means

“He had told himself that by her means might be procured some cure to the wound in his heart which had made his life miserable for so many years.” The adverbial phrase by her means is equivalent to, and works like, a Latin phrase grammatically known as the ablative of means: Mary might have been the instrument, the means, to relieve Mr. Whittlestaff of his sorrow. It seems possible that Trollope’s specific grammatical reference here hints at the problem: Mary cannot be an instrument to treat Mr. Whittlestaff’s heart, since she has her own heart. [CMS 2018]


procured some cure

Trollope’s wording here demonstrates polyptoton, a rhetorical device in which an author or speaker uses two or more words which share the same stem, in this case -cur- from Latin cura (“care”). This use of polyptoton perhaps underscores Mr. Whittlestaff’s need and desire for a cure for his cares. [RR 2018]

Chapter 10 – John Gordon Again Goes to Croker’s Hall

rush at his subject

John Gordon does not feel like he can delay talking with Mr. Whittlestaff about Mary Lawrie; indeed, “[h]e must rush at his subject.” Trollope’s phrasing may recall Horace’s description of Homer in the Ars Poetica: semper ad eventum festinat et in medias res…auditorem rapit (“Homer always hastens toward the issue and snatches a listener into the middle of things”). Although John Gordon might wish his approach to the sensitive topic could be otherwise, at least it is Classically approved. [RR 2018]