A general thought about Doctor Thorne

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Although there is no specific allusion to make an explicit link, part of the plot of Doctor Thorne seems to follow the pattern of a Roman comedy.  Roman comedy deals in stock characters, one of whom is often a young boy in love, and another of whom is the boy’s beloved of questionable social status.  By the end of comedies using this device, the girl’s heritage is revealed to be respectable, and an impossible marriage becomes possible.  In Doctor Thorne, nothing changes about Mary’s being an illegitimate child, but her inheritance of a fortune allows for a happy ending:  her economic status substitutes for her social status by birth.

Chapter 01 – The Greshams of Greshamsbury

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Duke of Omnium

With “Omnium” translated from the Latin, his name becomes “Duke of All.”  Since the duke is first introduced as a sort of generic character rather than a developed one, it is fitting that his name reflects the one thing we know about him:  his high status and power.  [JC 2005]



Trollope names both Fate and the Duke of Wellington as the two beings most responsible for the passage of the Reform Bill (1832), which divided his fictional Barsetshire into two separate counties: East and West Barsetshire.  The personification of Fate here, though not extended, is classically rooted.  Classical literature often portrays Fate, Rumor, Strife and other such phenomena as deities with a great deal of influence over humans and sometimes other deities.  This is similar to the way in which Fate (aided by the Duke of Wellington, of course) is able to split Barsetshire into two separate counties.  [JC 2005]


halcyon days

In describing the history of Francis Gresham Sr., Trollope uses the phrase “halcyon days” to refer to the period before his financial troubles had begun, when his father was still alive, his son had just been born, and he served as the member for Barsetshire.  The phrase itself, used to refer to a period of tranquility, has a very interesting Classical heritage.  Myth recounts that when Ceyx, the husband of Alcyone, drowned to death, his wife was so distraught that she jumped into the ocean to drown herself as well.  The gods took pity on her and instead of letting her die, turned the couple into a pair of kingfishers (alkyōn in Greek).  The gods also stopped the winds for a fortnight over the winter solstice, which is the kingfisher’s breeding time.  As a result, any period of joyful calm can be referred to as “halcyon days.”  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.410-748


Gresham’s Classical daughters

Of Mr. Gresham’s six named daughters, five have names with Classical roots: Selina, Helena, Sophy, Beatrice, and Augusta.  “Selina” comes from the name of the Greek moon goddess, Selene.  “Helena” is the Latinate form of “Helen,” the name of the mythological character whose abduction started the Trojan War.  “Sophy” is a shortened form of “Sophia,” which comes from the Greek word for “wisdom.”  “Beatrice” is the Italian form of the Latin name Beatrix which is an altered form of the name Viatrix, meaning “voyager.”  “Augusta” is a feminine form of the name held by the first Roman emperor and means “venerable.”  While most of the girls’ names seems to be rather arbitrary, Augusta’s does seem to have been chosen to suit her personality.  She seems to have more of her mother’s De Courcy bearing than any of her other siblings, and certainly has an idea that her blood entitles her to respect.  She also has a very Roman attitude towards her engagement with Mr. Moffat, agreeing to it in order to do her duty to her family although she has no particular fondness for her fiancé.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Mike Campbell’s Behind the Name site.


Venus and Apollo

Trollope is discussing the lack of beauty in the De Courcy family.  He describes the family as people who are almost above being plain, but who are in possession of no great beauty, either.  As Venus and Apollo are the two deities most associated with beauty in women and men, respectively, he makes his point by noting that these two deities have had no hand in shaping whatever features the De Courcys have.  [JC 2005]


savages with clubs

The guardians of the Gresham estate seem to be figures based on images of Heracles, if they are not meant to be Heracles himself.  The mythical hero was often portrayed with a club, and, having existed in a time before Christianity could be thought of as a pagan or “savage.”  [JC 2005]


Doric columns

Doric is a simple column style found in early Greek temples.  Greek-style columns were (and still are, to some degree) a popular ornament for upper-class homes (as well as government buildings), so it is not surprising that the portal to the Gresham estate would include them.  It is significant, however, that they chose to use the simplest style as opposed to the significantly more ornate Ionic or Corinthian columns which one would probably expect to see on the De Courcy estate.  See the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 19 on the Ionic columns of Gatherum Castle.  [JC 2005]

Chapter 02 – Long, Long Ago

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Galen was an ancient physician from Pergamum.  He was born in 129 C.E. and likely died in the year 199 C.E.  He was well educated.  He studied in Smyrna and Alexandria before returning to practice medicine in Pergamum.  He settled in Rome around the year 161.  He served four emperors and wrote numerous treatises on medicine.  His knowledge acted as the foundation for subsequent medical learning in the Middle Ages.  Galen was a distinguished physician during his time.  Dr. Thorne is referred to as a Galen in a somewhat mocking but affectionate way by Trollope.  He is no Galen in truth but only a modest country doctor.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OCD.



Ichor is the blood of the gods in Greek mythology.  It is mentioned in Book 5 of Homer’s Iliad when Aphrodite is wounded in the wrist by Diomedes while she rescues her son, Aeneas.   Dr. Thorne has noble blood; his heritage sets him apart from others.  For this reason, Trollope uses the word “ichor” in describing his blood.  Ichor is also used in reference to the blood of the Ullathorne Thornes in Barchester Towers Chapter 22.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OED.
Homer, Iliad 5.339-340.


Omnium family

Dr. Thorne is described as having a purer ichor than the Omnium family.  Omnium in Latin means “of all people.”  If we understand omnium in its literal Latin sense, Trollope could be covertly saying that Dr. Thorne’s blood is purer than everyone else’s.  [TH 2005]


Scatcherd, his sister, and Henry Thorne

When Mary Scatcherd was supposedly engaged to a respectable tradesman, Roger Scatcherd bragged to his drinking companion, Henry Thorne, that his sister was beautiful and that the marriage suited his ambitions.  After such remarks about Mary Scatcherd, Henry Thorne decided to pursue her and even offered marriage.  In the end, he left her pregnant and without a husband.  In revenge for her being so publicly dishonored, Roger Scatcherd killed Henry Thorne.  This story follows a familiar pattern. In his History of Rome Livy gives an account of Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, who was dishonored by Sextus Tarquinius.  One night while at a party Collatinus bragged before the assemblage that his wife was more virtuous than all the rest.  The men set out to see if this was true.  While the other wives of the assembled men were found engaged in parties with acquaintances, Lucretia was found with wool-work and her maids around her.  Sextus Tarquinius later returned to Lucretia and through coercion slept with her.  She killed herself in front of her husband and family after explaining that Tarquin had forced her to have sex with him.  In addition, she exacted a pledge from those present that they take revenge for her on Sextus Tarquinius.  Like Lucretia, Mary Scatcherd is dishonored through dishonest means after her quality was established in the presence of a corrupt but prominent man.  Both women are then publicly placed in a position of dishonor which leads members of their families to take revenge upon the offending man.  Unlike Lucretia, though, Mary is not actually raped but is seduced by promises of marriage.  Mary, also, does not go to the extreme of killing herself when faced with potential shame nor does she desire her brother to take out revenge.  Instead, Roger Scatcherd does so on his own, and Mary Thorne moves to America.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Livy, History of Rome 1.57-59.

Chapter 03 – Dr. Thorne

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children of Aesculapius

Latin form of the name Asklepios, a Greek hero later revered as a god of medicine and healing.  He was the son of Apollo and a mortal woman named Coronis, but became immortal himself after being killed by Zeus for reviving the dead with his medicinal skill, something only a god should have been able to do.  Trollope refers to Dr. Thorne’s fellow doctors as the “children of Aesculapius.”  [JM 2005]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.
The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.


materia medica

Latin, “medical material.”  Dr. Thorne earns the disdain of his medical colleagues by actually making medicine rather than just experimenting with materia medica; he is seen as being more concerned with money than with the intellectual side of his career.  [JM 2005]


toga of silence

Trollope uses the quintessential garment of the Roman citizen to symbolize a dignified resistance to public attack.  Dr. Fillgrave, however, is unable to stayed wrapped in a toga of silence, and he engages in a public struggle with Dr. Thorne, conducted through newspaper letters.  [JM 2005]

The image may recall a detail from Plutarch’s account of the death of Caesar:  once he realized that Brutus was one of the attackers, he covered himself and submitted.  See the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 15 of The Warden.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Plutarch, Life of Brutus 17.6.



A genius for a Roman would have been a minor divinity charged with the guardianship of a person or place.  Mary Thorne is to be the genius of Dr. Thorne’s home, newly and pleasantly refurbished in preparation for her coming.  [JM 2005]


drops falling, if they fall constantly, will bore through a stone

In Latin:  Gutta cavat lapidem.  Mr. Gresham and Dr. Thorne are fast friends, despite Lady Arabella’s disdain for the doctor; but over time she manages to weaken their relationship, as drops hollow stone.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  Ovid, Epistulae Ex Ponto 4.10.5 (though Ovid may be repeating a common proverb).

Chapter 04 – Lessons from Courcy Castle

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lad of wax

This phrase can refer to a “proper man” or one who is very well formed.  Its origin may be found in some lines by Horace:  cerea Telephi / laudas bracchia, “you praise the waxen arms of Telephus.”  In Doctor Thorne, Frank Gresham’s cousin, the Honourable John, calls Frank a “lad of wax” in a sarcastic tone after the two have been discussing hereditary issues. The Honourable John thinks that Frank is a little bit too perfect in his opinions and in the close relationship which he has with his father, and John implies that Frank may have been shaped this way by his parents, in much the same way that a piece of warm wax can be easily formed. The OED cites this phrase as being able to be used to refer to male individuals of all ages, but especially young men, and has it listed as occurring as early as 1440.

Sources:  Horace, Ode 1.13.2-3.
Entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.


Resurgam, Requiescat in pace

Frank Gresham listens to a story which is being told to him by his cousin, Honorable John. It is about Fred Hatherly, whose father unexpectedly died, leaving Fred with a large fortune and title to call his own.  Apparently, the undertakers had written “Resurgam” on the father’s coat of arms placed above the door of the house; the word is Latin for “I will come back again,” and is translated by John for Frank’s benefit.  Keeping in mind his recently acquired fortune, Fred didn’t particularly want his father to return.  Therefore, Fred and a few of his friends one night replaced “Resurgam” with “Requiescat in pace.”  The translation which Honorable John gives for this phrase is “You’d a great deal better stay where you are,” but the actual Latin translation is closer to “Let him rest in peace'” or “May he rest in peace.”  It is interesting that the Honourable John insists on translating these simple Latin phrases for Frank, who is in the process of getting his degree from Cambridge and certainly knows what these Latin words mean.  Frank’s cousin seems to use any available opportunity to boost his own ego, while belittling Frank’s opinions; it is uncertain whether this is because he thinks that he knows more about life than Frank or that he is wiser because he comes from a more noble blood line.  [MD 2005]

Chapter 05 – Frank Gresham’s First Speech

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 06 – Frank Gresham’s Early Loves

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by Jove

An interjection used commonly in Victorian England.  Jove is another name for Jupiter, the greatest of the Roman gods; his name was used as an interjection or part of one in Classical Latin as well.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.

Chapter 07 – The Doctor’s Garden

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From Latin plebeius, pertaining to the plebs, the commoners of Rome.  Taken out of Classical usage it comes to mean “lacking noble birth or status, common” often with a disparaging connotation.  Trollope here speaks of a couple forming their engagement, and states that they are of a higher social class (and hence not plebeian).  [JM 2005]


by Jove

An interjection used commonly in Victorian England.  Jove is another name for Jupiter, the greatest of the Roman gods; his name was used as an interjection or part of one in classical Latin as well.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.

Chapter 08 – Matrimonial Prospects

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Dr. Century

Dr. Century is one of the other doctors who work in the same region as Doctor Thorne, but who lives close to the town of Silverbridge.  Dr. Century’s name is probably a reference to his age and antiquated medical knowledge.  The word “century” comes from the Latin word centuria, which referred to 100 soldiers, objects, or a group of voters in ancient Rome. “Century” began being used to refer to the years of a person’s life as early as 1626, according to the OED.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.



Augusta is said to be “Argus-eyed” in this Classical allusion. Argus was a character in Greek mythology who was said to have at least a hundred eyes and was ordered to be a sentinel for Hera, the wife of Zeus.  Argus’ duty was to watch over Io, whom Zeus had turned into a cow and with whom he was committing adultery.  This allusion is fitting because Augusta has recently been warned by her aunt, Lady De Courcy, to keep her eyes open for the dangerous flirtations of young men and women who come from different classes.  Therefore, Augusta is the guard, Argus, for her aunt, Lady De Courcy, who is Hera in this allusion.  When Augusta intrudes upon Mary and her brother Frank, she is searching for clues to see what they are doing, and finds that this situation is exactly what her aunt was previously warning her about.  This reference could also be seen to be humorous, by the fact that Argus was a monster, not human, and Augusta could not possibly be as watchful as he was supposed to be.  [MD 2005]

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


St. Anthony

This is a reference to the Christian saint, Anthony, who is assumed to be the founder of the Christian monastic movement.  Anthony spent the majority of his life in either complete solitude or near-total isolation among a loosely-knit group of Christian hermits. He lived during the 3rd and 4th centuries CE in North Africa, primarily Egypt, in what was at the time a part of the Roman Empire. In this allusion, Mary Thorne presents Frank Gresham with her hand in a gesture of friendship as they are conversing on the Greshamsbury estate.  However, Frank holds on to her hand rather longer than is socially acceptable for two young people in their situation, suggesting that he has more affectionate feelings for her than merely those of a friend.  He is described as being “not a Saint Anthony,” and thus unable to constrain himself from a temptation such as holding Mary Thorne’s hand.  Presumably, if he were like St. Anthony, Frank would have no problem separating himself from human contact and would certainly be able to abstain from holding Mary’s hand.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia.

Chapter 09 – Sir Roger Scatcherd

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rosy god

This phrase refers to Bacchus (or Dionysus in the Greek), the god of wine and merriment.  He is probably so denoted because of the rosiness of the face that can come from drinking wine.  [JC 2005]


divine frenzies

The worship of Bacchus was often presented as involving ecstatic fits or frenzies.  Here, of course, Trollope simply refers to Scatcherd’s periods of drunkenness.  [JC 2005]


his Eleusinian mysteries

A sacred and secret celebration in honor of the goddess Demeter, held at her temple at Eleusis, near Athens.  The details of the rites are largely unknown today because of the great degree of secrecy that was associated with them.  Participants were forbidden from describing the rites to the uninitiated.  [JC 2005]


symposiums and posiums

Greek symposiums were get-togethers in which a group of men would talk, drink, and engage in other forms of fraternization.  Because Scatcherd has taken to drinking alone, Trollope describes Scatcherd’s “parties of one” by taking off the prefix “sym-” which means “together,” or “with.”  [JC 2005]


son of Galen

See the gloss on Galen in the commentary for Chapter 2.
See the gloss on children of Aesculpaius in the commentary for Chapter 3.


Winterbones’ libations

A libation was a sacrifice of wine or other liquid given to honor a god or goddess.  Winterbones has been giving “libations” of gin to Scatcherd when he is supposed to be sobering up in bed.  This metaphor interestingly turns the former devotee of Bacchus into a god in his own right, with Winterbones as his most devoted (and only) follower.  [JC 2005]



This word comes from the name of Odysseus’ old friend and Telemachus’ advisor in the Odyssey.  In book 2 of the Odyssey, Athena disguises herself as Mentor and advises Telemachus to go off in search of news of his father.  By capitalizing the word “Mentor” Trollope seems to be making a stronger parallel between that character and Dr. Thorne than if he had simply used the word as a common noun.  Telemachus, who is only a boy, is much more willing to listen to the advice of his Mentor than is Sir Roger, though he is a grown man.  Perhaps he is unwilling to listen because he feels that he is old enough to do without a Mentor.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Odyssey 2.



“You think you can hector me….”  Sir Roger says this to Dr. Thorne when Sir Roger is ill, and the doctor tells him that he must either give up drinking or face death.  The word “hector” here is used in the sense of bullying, but it is actually derived from the name of a character in Homer’s Iliad:  Hector, the Trojan hero killed by Achilles.  It is interesting that the word should have a meaning of bullying since no one who has read the Iliad would think of Hector as a bully, though he does exhort others to fight.  He is presented as a virtuous man who defends his people with courage and dies honorably.  In fact, the earliest meaning of the word in English (in the 14th century), reflected these characteristics, and the word was used to refer to a gallant warrior.  The meaning shifted when, in the late 17th century, a gang of misfit youths calling themselves “the Hectors” after the mythical hero, caused a rampage in London.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Eric Partridge.  Name into Word: Proper Names That Have Become Common Property.  Secker and Warburg, London:  1949.

Chapter 10 – Sir Roger’s Will

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Habit is second nature…

This sentiment is attributed to Diogenes who lived during the 5th and 4th centuries BCE and was a Cynic from Sinope. He moved to Athens after becoming involved in some legal trouble and became a student of the Greek philosopher Antisthenes.  Sir Roger Scatcherd uses this phrase to explain to Dr. Thorne why he drinks such large quantities of alcohol. Sir Roger goes on to say that even though this habit is second nature, it is actually a more powerful nature than the first nature, presumably the instinct we’re born with.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Volume 1.  Ed. William Smith.  Boston:  Little and Brown, 1849.


sowing wild oats

In Plautus’ Trinummus, the character Philto says something similar to our “wild oats” expression.  In Latin, the phrase is Em istic oportet opseri mores malos, / si in opserendo possint interfieri, and can be translated into English as: “Ah! bad habits should be sown right there, if in sowing they are able to be killed.”  Trollope uses the phrase “sow his wild oats,” in a conversation between Sir Roger Scatcherd and Dr. Thorne regarding Sir Roger’s son, Louis Philippe.  Sir Roger says to let him get rid of his bad habits (excessive drinking) while he is still young, in other words “sow his wild oats,” and he will straighten out by the time he’s older.  This seems to be the same idea to which Plautus is referring in Trinummus; get rid of one’s bad habits by sowing them into the earth so that they are no longer a burden.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Plautus, Trinummus 531-532.

Chapter 11 – The Doctor Drinks His Tea

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 12 – When Greek Meets Greek, Then Comes Tug of War

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Greek meets Greek

A reference to a famous line from Nathaniel Lee’s Rival Queens:  “When Greeks joyn’d Greeks, then was the tug of war.”  Lee’s play treats the rivalry between two wives of Alexander the Great after his death.

Sources:  Lee, Rival Queens 4.2.


Barchester Galen

Dr. Fillgrave is referred to as a Galen.  Previously Dr. Thorne was referred to by this same title.  See the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 2.  [TH 2005]


frog and ox

Trollope describes Dr. Fillgrave’s attempt to carry himself with dignity by saying that “the effort would occasionally betray itself, and the story of the frog and the ox would irresistibly force itself into one’s mind at those moments when it most behoved Dr. Fillgrave to be magnificent.”  This is a reference to one of the fables of Aesop.  The story begins when a frog sees an ox.  The frog is seized by a jealous rage and tries to puff itself up to the size of the ox.  It asks its children which of them–the frog or the ox–is bigger, and each time the children answer, “the ox.”  Finally the frog explodes.  Dr. Fillgrave is compared to this frog because his injured pride leads him to try to act larger than he is.  He, like the frog, blows himself up to a large size only to end up looking far from dignified.  Dr. Fillgrave is upset because he is left waiting by Roger Scatcherd for 20 minutes and is then told that Roger won’t see him.  Lady Scatcherd offers him payment but he declines out of pride.  Finally he explodes with rage when he meets Dr. Thorne in the hallway.  Because Dr. Fillgrave is described as being short and plump, the imagery of a puffed up frog seems even more fitting for him.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  A translation of the fable at Laura Gibb’s Aesop site.


Achilles glaring at Hector

Achilles was a Greek hero in the Trojan War who is prominently placed in Homer’s Iliad.  Hector is the commander of the Trojan forces and the staunchest rival of Achilles.  Both meet in book 22 of the Iliad wherein Achilles triumphs over Hector.  Dr. Fillgrave, when trying to exit the residence of Roger Scatcherd, bumps into Dr. Thorne.  Dr. Fillgrave glares at him as Achilles might have at Hector.  Achilles and Hector seem a fitting pair for comparison with the intense rivals Dr. Fillgrave and Dr. Thorne.  [TH 2005]



Dr. Fillgrave is compared to Achilles.  Like Fillgrave, Achilles was offended by a person in power.  For Achilles, it was Agamemnon’s seizure of Briseis that provided the insult and the root of his anger.  For Dr. Fillgrave it is his belief that Dr. Thorne has publicly stolen his patient.  Dr.  Fillgrave is extremely hurt by this humiliation and thus retreats to make good on his threats against Dr. Thorne.  [Th 2005]

Sources: Homer, Iliad 1.



Latin, “in respect to.”  [RR 2005]

Chapter 13 – The Two Uncles

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 14 – Sentence of Exile

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the worship of Plutus and the worship of Venus

Plutus was the Roman god of wealth.  Venus was the Roman goddess of love.

Dr. Thorne mentally asserts that Frank Gresham is too young to understand how the two spheres of influence could be connected.  [JM 2005]


hymeneal altar

From Latin hymenaeus, “belonging to wedlock, marriage”.  Hymen was a Greek god who presided over weddings.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.
The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.

Chapter 15 – Courcy

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 16 – Miss Dunstable

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This alludes to the ancient Roman tradition of auspicium, literally meaning divination from the flight of birds, but actually referring to five different kinds of auspices:  from birds, from the sky, from pulli (holy chickens), from four-legged animals, and from unusual events or happenings.  Any individual was allowed to partake in the auspices, which told whether or not the gods approved of an action or event.  In this case, Frank Gresham is about to begin his courtship of Miss Dunstable, at his aunt Lady DeCourcy’s request, and it is said that in his own best interests, it would be fortunate if he could “do so under the best possible auspices,” so that he would have the best possible chance of success.   [MD 2005]

Sources:  OCD.


slow and sure

This sounds like a version of the maxim “slow and steady,” which is a phrase used in Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare.  In this story, a tortoise challenges an arrogant rabbit to compete with him in a race, to which challenge the hare agrees. However, the hare is so confident in his speed that he decides to take a nap while the tortoise plods toward the finish line. When the rabbit finally wakes and runs the length of the course, he find out that the tortoise has already finished; thus the phrase, “slow and steady wins the race.”  Trollope uses this expression as advice from the Lady DeCourcy, which she gives to her nephew, Frank Gresham, regarding his courtship of Miss Dunstable.  If Frank acts hastily, like the hare in Aesop’s story, he will share this animal’s fate and lose the race, or in Frank’s case, Miss Dunstable.  However, if he approaches the prospect of marriage with her at an even pace, he should ultimately succeed in wedding her, just like the tortoise which beat the hare.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  A translation of the fable at Laura Gibbs’ Aesop site.
Entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

Chapter 17 – The Election

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Mr. Moffat’s personal Elysium is his seat in Parliament.  See the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 1 of The Warden.  [JC 2005]



This word is the plural form of the Latin facetia, meaning “jest” or “joke.”  According to the OED the English word means “witticisms” or “humorous sayings,” which furthers the joke that Trollope is making here.  He uses this sophisticated word to describe the very unsophisticated taunts which the men toss at Mr. Moffat as he makes his speech.  Furthermore, he uses the word just as the most juvenile attack–the throwing of the rotten egg–is about to be committed.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  OED.


words flowing sweeter than honey

This phrase is a rendition of the word “mellifluous,” which is of Latin origin.  Mr. Moffat, by this point (after having been attacked with a rotten egg), has lost all faith in the mellifluousness of his speaking skills.  [JC 2005]

Chapter 18 – The Rivals

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daughter of Plutus

Plutus is the Roman god of wealth; the wealthy heiress Miss Dunstable, whom the Greshams desire Frank to court and marry, is referred to as a daughter of Plutus.  [JM 2005]


this bird, so rare in the land

Referring to Mr. Moffat, who is rare in that he is both young and precociously calculating.  This phrase recalls a line from a satire by Juvenal:  rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cycno.  “A rare bird on earth, most similar to a black swan,” spoken of a hypothetical ideal wife.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  Juvenal, Satire 6.165.


quid pro quo

Latin, “something for something,” one thing in exchange for another.  Mr. Moffat is speaking to Miss Dunstable of how the aristocracy expects something in return for their company.  In this case, they expect low-born but rich people to marry poor aristocrats and impart to them their wealth in exchange for induction into high society.  [JM 2005]

Chapter 19 – The Duke of Omnium

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Gatherum Castle

Gatherum is the home of the Duke of Omnium, and in naming the duke’s castle this way, Trollope is playing with the phrase “omnium gatherum,” which refers to an assemblage of different kinds of people or things.  Omnium is Latin for “of all,” but “gatherum” is not actually a Latin word but rather an English word with a Latin-sounding ending.  [TH & RR 2005]


Ionic columns

To increase the grandeur of Gatherum Castle the Duke of Omnium added a portico of Ionic columns to the front of his home.  Ionic columns were one type of ancient Greek column, especially identifiable by a fluted shaft and the volute decorating the top of the column.  The use of Greek architectural motifs is not unexpected in Victorian architecture, but their presence does indicate that the Duke of Omnium is possessed of great wealth and status.  The more ornate style of the Ionic order also contrasts with the simpler Doric columns of the Greshambury estate.  See the gloss on Doric columns in the commentary for Chapter 1.  [TH 2005]


melted ambrosia

Ambrosia is the food of the gods in Greek mythology.  When Mr. Apjohn, a guest at the Duke of Omnium’s dinner, asks a server for more sauce, the server fails to respond.  As the servant passes him, Mr. Apjohn tries to grab him by the coat tails, but instead falls backward himself.  Finally, Mr. Fothergill asks him if there is anything he can get for Mr. Apjohn and arranges for the sauce to be brought to him, which Trollope refers to as “melted ambrosia.”  By calling the sauce “ambrosia” Trollope exaggerates its qualities much as Mr. Apjohn’s behavior seems to demonstrate the inordinate importance he places on it.  Mr. Apjohn makes a spectacle of himself in pursuit of the sauce and he treats it as though it were divine sustenance.  [TH 2005]

Chapter 20 – The Proposal

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one who had already fought his battles, and fought them not without glory

This seems to be an allusion to some lines from one of Horace’s poems.  In Latin the lines read “Vixi puellis nuper idoneus / et militaui non sine gloria” and can be translated into English as “I have recently lived suitable for girls, and fought not without glory.”  [MD 2005]

Frank Gresham believes that he–like the speaker in Horace’s poem–is experienced in relations between men and women; consequently, he is frustrated when he feels that Miss Dunstable is talking to him as one might talk to an inexperienced youngster.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Horace, Ode 3.26.1-2.

Chapter 21 – Mr. Moffat Falls into Trouble

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hymeneal joys

From Latin hymenaeus, “belonging to wedlock, marriage”.  Hymen was a Greek god who presided over weddings.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.
The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.


the help of a goddess

As Frank prepares to attack Mr. Moffat, Trollope exclaims, “Oh Mr. Moffat! Mr. Moffat! If there be any goddess to interfere in thy favor, let her come forward now without delay; let her now bear thee off on a cloud if there be one to whom thou art sufficiently dear!”  The image of a goddess bearing a mortal away on a cloud recalls a scene in book 3 of Homer’s Iliad where Aphrodite carries Paris from the battlefield on a cloud just as Menelaus is about to kill him.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 3.380-382.



After being attacked by Frank Gresham, Mr. Moffat is said to be “sitting in a state of syncope.”  This word ultimately comes from Greek, although it went through Latin before being adopted into English.  Here it refers to a state of unconsciousness.  The Greek verb sunkoptein means “to cut short” and is a combination of the prefix syn- (meaning “with”) and the verb koptein (meaning “to strike”).  It is interesting that Trollope uses this word as Mr. Moffat has found himself in this state because he has been struck (repeatedly) by Frank.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  OED.

Chapter 22 – Sir Roger is Unseated

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halcyon years

The word “halcyon” comes from an ancient myth in which a woman named Alcyone, at the death of her husband Ceyx at sea, throws herself into the ocean out of grief, at which point the gods, taking pity on them both, change them into sea birds.  The sea bird which takes her name, the halcyon, nests on the shores, and Aeolus, the king of the winds, compassionately calms the winds during the birds’ nesting periods, giving rise to the phrase “halcyon days.”  The word “halcyon” itself has come to mean “calm” or “restful.”  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.410-748.



Latin quid “what” + nunc “now”.  Someone who is always asking, “What now?” and thus a newsmonger or gossip.  Used to describe Mr. Romer and his special skills.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.


the cup ravished from his lips

See the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 24 of Barchester Towers.  The cup in this instance is Sir Roger’s newly-won seat in the Parliament, so quickly snatched away from him.  [JM 2005]

Chapter 23 – Retrospective

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godlike men and all but goddesslike women

Trollope speaks of love between young people and the contrast between how society ordains that women and men in love should behave.  In describing the virtuous aspect of a woman loving with her whole heart, Trollope says there is no reason why Mary should love less than Frank.  Trollope suggests that it is appropriate for a woman to love those aspects of a man that God created “godlike” so that women “all but goddesslike, might love.”  Trollope uses the terms “god” and “goddess” to reflect the ideal forms of man and woman.  [TH 2005]

Chapter 24 – Louis Scatcherd

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This is an allusion to the ancient mythological figure of Aesculapius, who is believed to have been the son of Apollo and Coronis. When he was grown, Aesculapius was said to have acquired incredible healing powers and also the ability to raise humans from the dead; in order to prevent humanity’s eventual attempt to circumvent death altogether, Zeus killed Aesculapius and placed him as a star in the sky.  Aesculapius came to be worshipped as a god of healing and medicine.  He is used in this instance as a representation of the pinnacle of medical knowledge. Dr. Rerechild is said to have considered the opinions of his friend, Dr. Fillgrave, as “sure light from the lamp of Aesculapius.” In other words, he respects the medical assessments of his colleague as though they were delivered from the god of healing or medicine himself.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Volume 1.  Ed. William Smith.  Little and Brown. Boston:  1849.


Galen of Greshamsbury

Galen was an ancient physician from Pergamum.  He was born in 129 C.E. and likely died in the year 199 C.E.  He was well educated.  He studied in Smyrna and Alexandria before returning to practice medicine in Pergamum.  He settled in Rome around the year 161.  He served four emperors and wrote numerous treatises on medicine.  His knowledge acted as the foundation for subsequent medical learning in the Middle Ages.  Galen was a distinguished physician during his time.  Dr. Thorne is referred to as a Galen in a somewhat mocking but affectionate way by Trollope.  He is no Galen in truth but only a modest country doctor.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OCD.



This is a reference to Xantippe (or Xanthippe), the wife of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates.  Xantippe was known for her disagreeable and scolding nature, and this is the idea to which Trollope is alluding here. When discussing the coming death of Roger Scatcherd, Trollope describes his wife, Lady Scatcherd, as being extremely sorrowful and sad at the unfortunate event; however, he also mentions that she was ill-treated by her husband and therefore her extreme devotion to him is almost surprising.  Trollope then generalizes about how few women are cast in the Xantippe mold.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  The New Century: Classical Handbook. Ed. Catherine B. Avery. Appleton-Century-Crofts. New York: 1962.


toga virilis

A Latin phrase translated as “the toga of manhood.”  This white toga which boys were allowed to wear in ancient Rome after they had reached the age of fifteen came to identify them as men. The phrase is used here to describe the process of adolescents growing up and maturing into adults. However, instead of the actual wearing of a white toga, it is used metaphorically to refer to this ceremony of maturity. It is used specifically to describe students who have graduated from Eton and are now attending Cambridge University; they are becoming adults and feel that they should be more selective in choosing their companions than they had been in the past, when they allied themselves with the likes of Louis Scatcherd.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.


alma mater

A Latin phrase (translated literally as “nourishing mother”) which was used by the Romans to refer to several of their goddesses, it has been adapted into English to refer to schools and their roles of educating individuals.  The phrase is used here to refer specifically to Cambridge University, which Louis Scatcherd attended for eighteen months, but from which he was forced to withdraw as a result of his gambling habits.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.



See the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 16.

Chapter 25 – Sir Roger Dies

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omnipresent and omniscient information

“Omnipresent” and “omniscient” are words often used in describing ruling divinities, in this case recalling the all-powerful, all-knowing nature of The Jupiter, the newspaper named after the Roman king of the gods.  [JM 2005]


Habit is second nature…

Attributed to Diogenes.  See the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 10.  Sir Roger is belligerently arguing that his habit of drinking is now second nature, and thus he will die without alcohol; Dr. Thorne concedes and gives him brandy to drink.  [JM 2005]

Chapter 26 – War

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Gordian knot

When Mary is told she cannot see the Greshams because of Frank’s feelings for her, Mary believes that the situation is a “Gordion knot not to be cut.”  The Gordian knot was a knot tied by the king of Phrygia.  He became king after an oracle proclaimed that the man driving the wagon that next entered the square should rule.  He placed his wagon outside the temple of Zeus and tied it up so tightly that it was impossible to untie it.  Supposedly, when Alexander the Great approached the knot he choose to cut through it instead of untying it. Whereas Alexander could simply cut his knot, Mary has no easy way to untie her problems.  In this sense a Gordion knot is a perplexing conundrum for which Mary has no ready solution.  [TH 2005]

Source:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


fortune favours none but the brave

When Lady Arabella visits Dr. Thorne to discuss her concerns about Mary and her son, she is initially surprised by the vehemence of Dr. Thorne’s reaction.  However, “she soon recovered herself, remembering, doubtless, that fortune favours none but the brave.”  This recalls the Latin saying “Fortune favors the brave/bold.”  [TH 2005]

Sources:  The expression is found at Terence, Phormio 203, and Vergil, Aeneid 10.284.

Chapter 27 – Miss Thorne Goes on a Visit

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 28 – The Doctor Hears Something to His Advantage

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A libation is  bit of wine or other liqued given as an offering to the gods.  In this case Trollope uses the word somewhat mockingly to mean brandy, which is Sir Louis’ drink of choice.  [JC 2005]


alpha and omega

Dr. Thorne cannot imagine a marriage between Mary and Louis Scatcherd; he thinks the two are as disparate as a lamb and a wolf or an alpha and an omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  [JC 2005]

Chapter 29 – The Donkey Ride

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Hyperion compared to a satyr

Hyperion was a Titan and the father of the deities representing the sun, the dawn, and the moon.  The satyr was a woodland divinity.  Hyperion represents Frank who is both desirable and heavenly, while the satyr is Louis Scatchard who is low to the earth and undesirable.  Like the satyr, Louis is prone to vices and lacks self-control.  [TH 2005]

Shakespeare has Hamlet use the phrase “Hyperion to a satyr” when he compares his father to his uncle.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.
Shakespeare, Hamlet 1.2.140.


like some god come from the heavens

While Frank walks beside Mary on her donkey, Trollope says of the situation “Was he not to her like some god come from the heavens to make her blessed?  Did not the sun shine upon him with a halo, so that he was bright as an angel?”  This line refers to the motif in classical mythology and literature wherein gods descend from Mt. Olympus to love women.  (It may also have Biblical resonances.)  The sun-created halo continues the analogy between Frank and Hyperion.  [TH & RR 2005]

Chapter 30 – Post Prandial

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post prandial

Latin, post “after” and prandium “lunch.”  A joking way of saying “after dinner;” what happens after dinner is the subject of this chapter.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.

Chapter 31 – The Small End of the Wedge

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This is a reference to a particular style of carriage, which usually had two seats facing forward and was drawn by two horses.  In this case, it is said to have been ridden in by Dr. Century and is also described as being “old-fashioned,” which matches the characterization of Dr. Century himself.  The OED cites “phaeton” as being used in English as early as 1735 to refer to this type of carriage.  However, the word comes from the name of the son of Helios (the Sun god), Phaethon, in Greek mythology.  One day Phaethon asked his father if he could drive his chariot, which led the sun on its path across the sky. Helios was convinced to let him attempt this feat, but Phaethon was too weak to hold the horses’ reins and the chariot careened out of control, almost striking the Earth and nearly setting it on fire. Zeus was so outraged that he killed the boy.

Sources:  OED.
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology Ed. William Smith. Little and Brown. Boston: 1849.


little Galen

This is a phrase which Trollope uses to describe Dr. Fillgrave while the squire, Mr. Gresham, is conversing with him.  Mr. Gresham has just proposed that Dr. Fillgrave meet Dr. Thorne and confer with him about the best medical approach which they should take with Lady Arabella.  Dr. Fillgrave is an obstinate man and completely refuses to associate himself with Dr. Thorne as a result of a previous dispute between the two men. It is interesting that Dr. Fillgrave is referred to as a “Little Galen,” while his sometimes adversary Dr. Thorne was earlier depicted as the “Galen of Greshamsbury” (see the glosses in the commentary for Chapter 2 and Chapter 24).  Galen was a physician and philosopher in the Roman empire and one of the most important medical doctors of his time; it is from his writings that we have much of our understanding of earlier medical practices.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OCD.

Chapter 32 – Mr. Oriel

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enthusiasm and enthusiastic

This noun and adjective are ultimately Greek in origin, stemming from a verb, enthousiazein, meaning “to be inspired by a god.”  Trollope invokes this meaning of the word throughout this chapter to describe Mr. Oriel’s feelings towards the priesthood, and the feelings towards church which Miss Gushing exaggerates as she tries to win Mr. Oriel.  [JC 2005]

Perhaps Trollope is enjoying the way in which Miss Gushing gushes enthusiasm.  [RR 2011]


Chapter 33 – A Morning Visit

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 34 – A Barouche and Four Arrives at Greshamsbury

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 35 – Sir Louis Goes Out to Dinner

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This is an allusion to a type of social gathering which was held by the ancient Greeks and involved conversation and often the drinking of wine. In this reference, Trollope describes the meeting between Dr. Thorne, Squire Gresham, Frank Gresham, and Sir Louis Scatcherd as a symposium.  In their modern symposium, Sir Louis ends up getting excessively drunk on wine and making a spectacle, not only of himself but also of his legal guardian, Dr. Thorne.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.

Chapter 36 – Will He Come Again?

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beautiful as Apollo

Apollo, Greek god of light and music, is often used as a symbol of ideal male beauty.  It is not surprising that when Mary sees Frank for the first time after a long absence, he looks like an Apollo.  [JC 2005]

Chapter 37 – Sir Louis Leaves Greshamsbury

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in toto

Latin, “in all,” “in its entirety.”  In toto in English usage means “altogether” or “totally.”  Sir Louis makes a point of mentioning that he learned this phrase at Eton.  He is endeavoring to show that he was sent to a good school.  [TH 2005]

Chapter 38 – De Courcy Precepts and De Courcy Practice

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she saw at once that the fiat had gone against her

Fiat in Latin, “Let it be.”  In English, a command or decree.  Augusta is writing to Lady Amelia De Courcy, asking for Amelia’s approval of her proposed marriage to Mr. Gazebee, a lawyer.  Lady Amelia is a mentor of sorts for Augusta in situations such as these, and as such it is well within her authority to make such fiats.  Sadly for Augusta, Lady Amelia does not approve of the lawyer’s blood and means and so speaks out against such a match.  (Ironically, Lady Amelia herself ends up marrying Mr. Gazebee.)  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.



From Latin plebeius, pertaining to the plebs, the commoners of Rome.  Taken out of Classical usage it comes to mean “lacking noble birth or status, common” often with a disparaging connotation.  Augusta has tried to make Lady Amelia see her love interest, Mr. Gazebee, as at least a little above plebeian status, but has failed.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.



Referring to the noble blood of the De Courcys.  See the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 2.  [JM]

Chapter 39 – What the World Says About Blood

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tablets of his mind

Trollope is referring here to Mr. Gresham’s views on the subject of whether or not Frank needs to marry a person who is wealthy. The squire himself likes Mary Thorne, with whom Frank is in love, but the De Courcy relatives, along with Lady Arabella, feel that Frank needs to marry money in order to save the Greshamsbury estate. Trollope says that the De Courcy family has not engraved this idea on the tablets of Mr. Gresham’s mind–in other words, he does not share their beliefs on this subject.  We find this turn of phrase in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound.  Before Prometheus prophesizes to Io about her future, he tells her:  “write it in the tablets of your mind.”  [MD & RR 2005]

Sources:  Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 788-789.

Chapter 40 – The Two Doctors Change Patients

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 41 – Doctor Thorne Won’t Interfere

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(No uses of Classics identified.)

Chapter 42 – What Can You Give in Return?

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The word “halcyon” comes from an ancient myth in which a woman named Alcyone, at the death of her husband Ceyx at sea, throws herself into the ocean out of grief.  The gods, taking pity on them both, change them into sea birds.  The sea bird which takes her name, the halcyon, nests on the shores, and Aeolus, the king of the winds, compassionately calms the winds during the birds’ nesting periods, giving rise to the phrase “halcyon days.”  The word halcyon itself has come to mean “calm” or “restful.”  Mr. Oriel, the parson, is engaged to be married to Beatrice Gresham.  Domestic concerns are therefore keeping him occupied:  his morning church services have been put on hiatus, and he has had to take on a curate to see to his parish during this time.  Thus these are “halcyon days” for his parishioners, who no longer have to attend so many services, as well as for the couple in love, preparing for their wedding.  [JM 2011]

Sources:  OED.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.410-748.

Chapter 43 – The Race of Scatcherd Becomes Extinct

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dies non

A Latin phrase literally meaning “a day not,” it is used here by Trollope to refer to the day of Sunday in regard to the operations of the Greshamsbury post office. Since mail isn’t delivered on Sunday, it can be described as a “day without” mail, or a “dies non” in Latin.  [MD 2005]



Trollope uses the name of the ancient Roman messenger god to refer to the Greshamsbury post-boy.  [RR 2005]

Chapter 44 – Saturday Evening and Sunday Morning

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clouded brow

When Frank is gloomy over his situation with Mary, Trollope uses this expression to describe his mood.  Horace uses the same image in a different way in book 1 of his Epistles when he says, “take the cloud from your brow.”  Trollope uses the image of the clouded brow repeatedly in his novels.  [JC 2005]

Sources: Horace, Epistle 1.18.94.


the Spartan matron

Trollope is referring here to a particular story in book 3 of Plutarch’s Moralia in which a grandmother whose grandson has died in battle notes that it is better that he has died honorably than if he had survived through cowardice.  Trollope compares this story with Lady Arabella’s wish for Frank to marry money.  It is an apt comparison in that in both cases it is a case of quid pro quo where the quid is family honor (which the Greshams stand to lose along with their property if Frank fails to marry money) and the quo is, in a sense, the son himself (although Frank’s situation is certainly more figurative than the Spartan soldier’s).  The reference to returning home on the shield is from another story also recorded by Plutarch in which the mother tells her son to either come back with his shield or on it.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Plutarch, Moralia 3.240f and 3.241f.

Chapter 45 – Law Business in London

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into the middle

Horace in the Ars Poetica advises that epic poets should hurry to the middle of the story (in medias res) where the action itself happens.  Otherwise, the writer will fall short of the audience’s expectations.  When Frank goes to meet with Mr. Bideawhile, he intends to “rush into the middle of his subject”–that is to say that Frank intends to go directly into the events that have led to his current predicament.  Frank is trying to take the advice of Horace.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Horace, Ars Poetica 148.

Chapter 46 – Our Pet Fox Finds a Tail

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the fox and the tail

A reference to one of Aesop’s fables, in which a fox loses her tail to a trap.  The fox then tries to convince other foxes that they should remove their tails likewise, having deemed tails unnecessary now that she lacks one herself.  The title of this chapter is an allusion to this story, and there are references to it within the chapter, as well.  This is the chapter in which Mary comes to find out about her inheritance, and thus she “finds a tail,” unlike the fox in the story.  Mary compares herself and her uncle to the fox in the fable, suggesting that maybe they only disdain wealth in others because they lack it themselves.  Dr. Thorne in turn wonders if he and Mary, should they suddenly find themselves wealthy, would not be as boastful of their newfound money as the fox would be of a tail.  Trollope asserts that all people are foxes looking for tails, i.e. wealth, either honestly or not; all foxes, says Trollope, would be happy to find a tail, no matter how much they may have despised or pretended to despise them before. [JM 2005]

Sources: A translation of the fable at Laura Gibbs’ Aesop site.


how the drop of water hollows the stone

Referencing Ovid, Gutta cavat lapidem, “a drop hollows a stone.”  Frank Gresham persuades his father to a sort of implicit consent, not by one eloquent speech, but by often repeating his appeals.  Thus his father is persuaded not all at once, but rather over time, bit by bit.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  Ovid, Epistulae Ex Ponto 4.10.5 (though Ovid may be repeating a common proverb).

Chapter 47 – How the Bride was Received, and Who Were Asked to the Wedding

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For the classical meaning of Elysium, see the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 1 of The Warden.  This image is used here to describe the happy state of the squire’s mind when he goes to bed after discovering that Mary is the heir of the Scatcherd fortune. He has been troubled lately by pecuniary problems, and thus his relieved state is described in these exceptional terms.   [MD 2005]

Doctor Thorne

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