Chapter 01 – The Weights and Measures

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antipodistic of the Circumlocution Office

In describing the efficiency of the Office of Weights and Measures, the narrator claims that it is so well run that “it is exactly antipodistic of the Circumlocution Office.” The English adjective antipodistic, meaning opposite, derives from the Greek suffix anti-, meaning against, and the noun pous, meaning foot, conveying the idea of two diametrically opposed parties as if standing on opposite sides of the globe. The English noun circumlocution comes from the Latin preposition circum, meaning around, and the verb loquor, meaning speak. Using somewhat circumlocutory vocabulary itself, this sentence simply says that Weights and Measures is the opposite of the less efficient Circumlocution Office. Also, the juxtaposition of two relatively uncommon, Classically-derived words highlights the degree to which class and education are valued in the civil service. [GZ & RR 2016]


sport with Amaryllis in the shade

Clerks in Weights and Measures soon learn that their jobs are not conducive to great leisure. To convey this, Trollope quotes a line from Milton’s “Lycidas,” which evokes the Classical pastoral tradition; in three of Vergil’s Eclogues (1, 2, and 3) a love interest is named Amaryllis. Unlike pastoral lovers, clerks in Weights and Measure will not dally with their beloveds. [RR 2016]


touching his trembling ears

The narrator claims that the demanding nature of the jobs in Weights and Measures might cause some clerks to yearn for a place in a less demanding bureau. When a clerk thinks about that, however, Phoebus is said to “touch his trembling ears.” Phoebus Apollo similarly touches the ear of Tityrus, a poet and shepherd in Vergil’s Eclogues, when the young man begins to err from singing his usual songs. The chief clerk becomes humorously cast in the role of Apollo and redirects his underling not to pastoral poetry but to office work. [GZ & RR 2016]

source: Vergil, Eclogues 6.3-5.


Henry Norman and his education

Henry’s last name might echo the Latin noun norma, which refers to a carpenter’s square or any standard rule of measure (hence English norm and normal). Henry’s surname befits a clerk in Weights and Measures and more broadly suggests that Henry himself embodies gentlemanly norms. Not unsurprisingly Henry received the education expected of a gentleman, first at a public school and then for a year at Oxford, where Classics would have figured substantially in his curriculum. [RR 2016]


Alaric Tudor’s education

Unlike Henry’s education, Alaric Tudor’s was less systematic and did not follow the gentlemanly norm. He went to a private, not public, school, tutored at a German university, and claims only a “smattering of Latin and Greek.” Alaric’s less orthodox education marks him as somewhat of a social outsider and perhaps presages some of his less orthodox, ungentlemanly business dealings later in the novel. [RR 2016]


a hospital for idiots

When the Board suggests to Mr. Hardlines that his standards for testing candidates may be too harsh, he bitterly remarks: “If the Board chose to make the Weights and Measures a hospital for idiots, it might do so.” Trollope may be drawing on the etymology of idiot here. While we commonly use idiot as a word for a foolish or unthinking person, it is derived from the Greek idiotēs, a noun referring to someone who is involved in their own affairs rather than issues of public interest. As someone running an office of the civil service Mr. Hardlines is dismayed at the prospect of a staff of idiots and idiotēs. [RR 2016]

Chapter 02 – The Internal Navigation

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plebeian and vulgarity

Somerset House is described as “not so decidely plebeian” as other civil service buildings, while the Office of Internal Navigation within Somerset House is described as a “vulgarity.” The word plebeian comes from the Latin word plebs meaning common people, and the word vulgar comes from the Latin word vulgus meaning crowd or mass of people, in a lower-class sense. Both of these words clearly reinforce social hierarchy, and because they are Classically derived, their use further reinforces status and prestige. [GZ 2016]


“Infernal” Navigation, Shades, and elysium

The Internal Navigation Office is jokingly referred to as “Infernal” Navigation, a word-play which reflects the office’s lower status in the world of civil service as well as the more questionable behavior of its clerks. While “infernal” could call to mind the Christian hell, Trollope here draws on the word’s associations with the Classical underworld when he mentions that its clerks frequent an establishment named “Shades” and when he ironically calls the office an “elysium,” the pleasant region of the underworld in which the shades of the blessed reside. [RR 2016]


simpathy and sympathy

During the Internal Navigation examination, Charley must transcribe an article, in which he spells the words sympathy and sympathize as “simpathy” and “simpathize.” These misspellings suggest that Charley does not have a strong Classical foundation, particularly in ancient Greek, from which these two words derive: someone who knows Greek would know that the common prefix sym- contains an upsilon (borrowed into in English as a Y) rather than an iota (borrowed into English as an I). But although Charley cannot spell sympathy correctly, he doesn’t lack the capacity the word names. Later in the chapter Trollope tells us that Charley feels sympathy for the abuses which Mr. Oldeschole suffers at the hands of the younger clerks. Trollope makes sure we know that, despite his educational short-comings, Charley has a decent heart. [GZ & RR 2016]


a volume of Gibbon

At Harry and Alaric’s lodgings Charley uses a volume of Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire so that he can practice his transcription and penmanship, both of which are needed to pass the examination for the Internal Navigation Office. The title of Gibbon’s book alludes to Charley’s own “decline and fall” in the same chapter by becoming an “infernal navvy.” That Harry and Alaric have such a book on their shelves shows a level of education, and perhaps of aspiration, different from Charley’s. [GZ & RR 2016]


herculean labors

Before beginning his job at Internal Navigation, Charley is led to believe that the office “was a place of herculean labors.” This phrase refers to the grueling set of twelve tasks completed by the Classical hero Hercules. That the Office of Internal Navigation is exaggerated in this way, and then is downplayed later in the same paragraph, reveals to the reader how effortless is the work and how lazy are the workers who populate the office. [GZ 2016]


lapsus naturae

The narrator goes easy on Charley’s behavior due to the influence of his peers at the Internal Navigation, and he even says that only a lapsus naturae wouldn’t be shaped by his peers. This Latin phrase is translated as “slip of nature,” and in this context it means that it would be unnatural for such a young man as Charley to be above the influence of his friends. Through the narrator’s contrast of Charley and this cold and clinical phrase, something which he is not, the reader is made to feel warmer and more understanding of Charley’s situation. [GZ 2016]


facile princeps

This phrase, which is Latin for “easily foremost,” is used ironically to describe Charley’s excellence at doing no work in the Internal Navigation Office. This expression was used almost solely by Cicero and always as compliment. The use of Latin in this context inverts Cicero’s original intention of the phrase as a compliment. See commentary for Chapter 4 of Dr. Wortle’s School.


the lectures of Charley’s father

While we tend to think of lectures being delivered orally, the word lecture contains the Latin element lect- that refers to reading. It is apt, then, that the lectures Charley receives from his father are contained in letters that he reads. [RR 2016]



When Charley moves in with Harry and Alaric at the strong request of Charley’s mother, the narrator says that Charley was “domesticated.” This word derives from the Latin domus, meaning household. In a literal sense, this word simply refers to the fact that Charley moves into Harry and Alaric’s home. In a metaphorical sense, this word implies that Charley is made tame. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 03 – The Woodwards

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queen and fawn

When Harry and Alaric first discuss their love interests in the novel, Norman describes Gertrude “as proud as a queen and yet as timid as a fawn.” Such a description of a beloved finds similarity in Vergil’s Dido, the proud queen of Carthage who didn’t seem likely to fall in love with Aeneas, and in Horace’s beloved Chloe, whom Horace describes as a frightful fawn clinging to its mother’s side. In regards to Dido, it appears that she fell in love with Aeneas too quickly, while the opposite can be said about the fawn who waits until she is completely ready. Harry seems to mention this dichotomy because in either sense Gertrude’s actions harm their love. [GZ 2016]

sources: Vergil, Aeneid books 1-4; Horace, Ode 1.23.


Gertrude as a goddess

Harry remarks that he “should as soon think of putting [his] arm round a goddess” as of giving Gertrude a caress. With this analogy Harry highlights his idealization of Gertrude and the off-putting distance that she maintains (and that is further reinforced by Harry’s idealization). Alaric, however, is less cowed at the prospect of embracing a goddess. [RR 2016]


Classical and Christian worship

When previously left to his own devices on weekends, Charley “paid his devotions at the shrine of some very inferior public-house deity,” but when he goes to Surbiton Cottage he attends Christian church services. Trollope heightens the contrast between Charley’s behavior on his own and with the Woodwards by figuring his partying as a kind of “pagan” worship and juxtaposing that with Charley’s church-going. The “infernal” navvy’s behavior changes when in the company of the “angels” of Surbiton Cottage. [RR 2016]

Chapter 04 – Captain Cuttwater

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tremendous nose

When Captain Cuttwater is reintroduced to the Woodward family, Katie, who has never seen him before, is frightened by his nose. To describe Cuttwater’s nose, Trollope uses the word tremendous, which has a subtle double meaning. On the one hand, tremendous is a common English adjective conveying largeness, while on the other hand tremendous derives from the Latin adjective tremendus, “to be shuddered at,” which is exactly what Katie does when she see the nose. In this way, Trollope exercises his knowledge of Classics to provide a closer, humorous look at a situation. [GZ 2016]



Upon his arrival at Surbiton Cottage, Captain Cuttwater asks Mrs. Woodward about Harry and Alaric, whom she puts forth in a positive light as if needing to defend herself for allowing her daughters to be so close with the young men. Mrs. Woodward, halfway through her explanation of Harry and Alaric, realizes that she doesn’t need to “apologize” for what she does in her own home. Here Trollope draws on the meaning of the ancient Greek verb from which our apologize derives: apologeisthai means to defend, as in a courtroom. A famous example of a courtroom defense speech is Plato’s Apology, in which Socrates defends himself in trial, accused of corrupting the youth of Athens. [GZ & RR 2016]

Chapter 05 – Bushey Park

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philanthropist, democrat, vulgar

Uncle Bat considers himself a “philanthropist” (literally “lover of the people”) and “democrat” (literally “one who believes in rule by the people”) as he enjoys walking in the crowds at the park. Harry, however, thinks of the captain as “vulgar” (literally “pertaining to the crowd”). Trollope uses Greek-derived terms with a positive connotation to convey the captain’s self-image but a Latin-derived term with a negative one to convey Harry’s view of the captain. [RR 2016]


Norman and Gertrude as Mentor

While Harry and Gertrude are walking with each other through Bushey Park, Harry intimates that the arrival of Captain Cuttwater has changed the dynamics of Surbiton Cottage. Gertrude is quick to rebuke him, and the two of them have a back-and-forth, each one playing the role of Mentor. In book 2 of Homer’s Odyssey, Athena helps Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, while she is disguised as Mentor, Odysseus’ long-time friend. If both Harry and Gertrude act as Mentor, it is no wonder that they aren’t compatible. Additionally, it is ironic that they each take up the role of someone made wise by a long life, while they themselves are still young. [GZ 2016]


far-seeing, prudent

Trollope describes Alaric as “a far-seeing, prudent man” who knows that marrying a woman without a dowry would hamper his ambitions. Prudent is derived from Latin providens (literally, “seeing ahead”), so Trollope’s phrasing provides, in essence, parallel descriptors of Alaric, one English-based and the other Latin-based. [RR 2016]


conjugating the verb to love

Being short and regular, the Latin verb amo, amare (love) is often used to practice basic verb conjugation. Here Trollope uses the phrase “conjugating the verb to love” as a clever way of saying that Alaric–despite his prudence–cannot resist some love-making talk with Linda. Compare Trollope’s use of “amo in the evening” in Chapter 14 of Dr. Wortle’s School. [RR 2016]


the quarrels of lovers

When Alaric and Linda discuss Harry and Gertrude, Alaric suggests that the two are sharing a tender moment, but Linda counters that they are probably arguing instead. To that Alaric responds: “Oh! the quarrels of lovers–we know all about that, don’t we?” Here Alaric is invoking a well-known Latin phrase from Terence: amantium irae amoris integratio (“the quarrels of lovers are the renewal of love”). Trollope uses the full Latin phrase as the title of Chapter 5 of Framley Parsonage; see the commentary on that chapter for more information. In 19th c. British society the exchange of Classical quotations can be used to build community because they consolidate a sense of shared cultural ground, so Alaric’s partial quotation followed with the question “we know all about that, don’t we?” seems intended to create a sense of intimacy between himself and Linda. [RR 2016]


pelican feeding its young with its own blood

When it is made clear to readers that Alaric is not wholly committed to the idea of marrying Linda, the narrator chastises Mrs. Woodward for allowing her daughter to be mistreated. However, he is quick to call her “the pelican,” a comparison that draws on the traditional depiction of pelicans found in the ancient text of the Physiologus. This text—a collection of moralizations of animals and nature—has its roots in ancient Greek, and it was later translated into Latin in late antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its scope was expanded. In the Physiologus, the behavior of the pelican to feed its flesh and blood to its young was likened to an act of extreme motherly devotion. Here we witness one of many reminders of the magnitude of Mrs. Woodward’s love for her children. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 06 – Sir Gregory Hardlines

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ne plus ultra

The narrator makes use of this Latin phrase (“not more beyond”) when we learn that, beyond his promotion, Mr. Hardlines also receives a gift of £1,000. The use of Latin in this context, its meaning, and the monetary and social elevation of Mr. Hardlines all strengthen one another and reinforce the greatness of his change. [GZ 2016]


Undecimus Scott

Because he was selected as the right-hand man of Mr. Hardlines, Alaric becomes acquainted with the Honorable Undecimus Scott. Also known as Undy, he is the eleventh son of a noble family. Undecimus is a Latin adjective meaning eleventh. Numbering one’s children was an ancient Roman tradition, with two common examples being Quintus, meaning fifth, and Octavius, meaning eighth. However, the name Undecimus takes a Classical tradition to an exaggerated and humorous end. Although Undy comes from an influential family, it would have been customary at this time that only the first born son (and occasionally the first few sons) be fully supported financially—and his position as the eleventh son signals to us that Undy has to support himself. While we see that Undy comes from a privileged background, reinforced by his Latin name, we are simultaneously reminded that because of his generic name he is left to make his own name for himself. [GZ 2016]


men’s minds

Because mens is a Latin noun meaning mind, the phrase “men’s minds” becomes a subtle and playful juxtaposition of English and Latin. The fact that Trollope uses this phrase twice in adjacent sentences suggests that he was likely aware of it. Through what may have otherwise been an overlooked phrase, we are made aware of Trollope’s familiarity with both languages and his ability to weave Classics effortlessly into his writing. [GZ 2016]


detur digno, detur digniori

In scrutinizing the merits of civil service examinations, the narrator contrasts detur digno, Latin for “may it be given to the worthy one,” and detur digniori, “may it be given to the more worthy one.” The former phrase is used to describe the principle supported by the narrator that a position in the civil service ought to be given to a worthy person. The latter phrase describes a principle by which an employee is selected by competition with his peers. This is called “a fearful law” by the narrator. The use of Latin to express these philosophies of promotion makes them appear more abstract and law-like. [GZ & RR 2016]


Greek iambics

One of Trollope’s objections to the idea of detur digniori is based on the shifting standards for what might make someone more worthy than another: “It may one day be conic sections, another Greek iambics, and a third German philosophy.” Along with mathematics and philosophy Trollope includes a knowledge of Greek meter as one possible measure of worthiness, but in the next sentence Trollope implicitly contrasts knowledge of ancient languages with that of modern ones, when he mentions that “Rumour began to say that foreign languages were now very desirable.” That Classical knowledge is included in this list of possible standards shows Classics’ traditional place in British education, but we also see that its place may not be paramount. [RR 2016]


Mr. A. Minusex and Mr. Alphabet Precis

Before the process of the examination, the narrator introduces several characters who are likely candidates for the position of senior clerk. Mr. A. Minusex is an “arithmetician” whose name underscores his algebraic background: a minus x. Algebra is a branch of mathematics using letters to stand in for unsolved quantities, and the English word minus comes from the Latin adjective minus, meaning smaller or less. Mr. Alphabet Precis has a penchant for language and stylized writing, and his first name, which comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet (alpha and beta), similarly underscores his own characteristic strength. Trollope commonly uses a character’s name to self-reference particular traits. [GZ & RR 2016]



Mr. Precis is introduced to us with a description of his writing style, which would have been scorned by Paternoster Row but was esteemed at Downing Street and thought to be “superior to Gibbon.” Edward Gibbon, a master stylist, was the author of The History of the Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire, which was referenced already in Chapter 2. Paternoster Row refers to a street in London once known for its publishing houses (see Proper Names list), while Downing Street is known for its association with the government. Thus, Mr. Precis’ writing style becomes a way for Trollope to critique the writing conventions of the government rather than a way to praise Mr. Precis. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 07 – Mr. Fidus Neverbend

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Mr. Fidus Neverbend

Fidus Neverbend is the name of a civil servant in the Office of Woods and Forests who accompanies Alaric on his trip to the mine. Fidus, whose first name is a Latin adjective meaning faithful, is a meticulous, upright, and dutiful man, and his last name, Neverbend, underscores his rigid moral integrity. Just as Alaric begins to entwine himself with the questionable Undecimus Scott, Alaric meets Fidus, who thus serves as a convenient moral foil to the character that Alaric becomes. [GZ 2016]


setting the Thames on fire

Trollope invokes a Latin saying (Tiberim accendere nequaquam potest, “he is not at all able to ignite the Tiber”) traditionally domesticated to a British context with the substitution of London’s famous river for Rome’s. [RR 2016]

See entry at Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.


philosopher’s porch

We are told that Mr. Neverbend “was not a disciple of Sir Gregory’s school.  He had never sat in that philosopher’s porch, or listened to the high doctrines prevalent at the Weights and Measures.” The mention of a “philosopher’s porch” recalls the Stoa Poikile (a portico or “porch”) in the Athenian agora where the philosopher Zeno taught and from which the philosophical school known as Stoicism draws its name. Here Sir Gregory and his particular views about civil service examination are humorously likened to a branch of ancient philosophy. [RR 2016]


per annum

Just as earlier the use of the Latin phrase ne plus ultra and an increase in income for Mr. Hardlines signified his elevated status, the narrator similarly builds on Alaric’s character, although only in Linda’s mind. It is her hope that his promotion, which would secure “an income of £600 per annum,” would ease his financial burden enough so as to permit Alaric to marry her sooner. [GZ 2016]


frog and cow

As Alaric and Harry discuss the former’s potential for success on his journey to the mine and on the upcoming examination, Alaric claims that Harry’s compliments are an attempt to inflate his ego. Alaric says this by alluding to Aesop’s fable of the frog and the cow. In this story, the frog, which is jealous of the cow’s size, inhales air to make herself larger. In the end, the frog puffs herself up so much that she explodes. The discussion between Alaric and Harry following the reference of the frog and the cow is about the importance of education. Thus, it seems fitting that Alaric (whose education has been less traditional than Harry’s) references a folktale with Classical resonance instead of a form of “higher” Classical literature, like poetry. [GZ 2016]

source: translation by Laura Gibbs of “The Frog and the Ox” by Aesop.


infernal mass of papers

After they arrive in Plymouth, Alaric says to Fidus that he will “go through this infernal mass of papers,” referring to the documents and readings concerned with the mine. “Infernal” here has a dual meaning. The first, perhaps more apparent, meaning is its use as a curse word. The second meaning derives from the Latin adjective infernus, meaning of Hell or of the lower regions, which refers to the fact that the mines are underground. This second meaning also alludes to Alaric’s moral descent as it pertains to his participation in the speculation on the Mary Jane Wheal. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 08 – The Hon. Undecimus Scott

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Undecimus as an eleventh son

Undecimus Scott was briefly introduced in Chapter 6, but now Trollope confirms for us that Undy’s Latin first name is literally true: he is the eleventh son Lord Gaberlunzie. See commentary for Chapter 6 or the entry in the Proper Names list. [RR 2016]


res angusta domi

When the narrator provides us with a lengthier description of Undecimus, he begins by detailing his upbringing and the general atmosphere of his paternal home. Undy’s family is described as being “accustomed to the res angusta domi,” or “narrow circumstances at home.” This Latin phrase comes from Juvenal’s third Satire, in which the author’s friend Umbricius lists many reasons why Rome has become deplorable to him. Umbricius complains that straightened domestic resources prevent many Romans from attaining social prominence if they don’t come from affluent families. Trollope ironically applies this phrase to Undecimus’ family, who, despite not financially supporting him, provide him with a noble name with which he can claim and build social capital. Furthermore, the fact that the very phrase res angusta domi is used to refer to the Scotts’ “poverty” shows that they are genteel and suggests they don’t know what true “narrow circumstances” are—even the mention of their resourcelessness is described in the language of privilege. [GZ & RR 2016]

source: Juvenal, Satires 3.165.


Undecimus’ filial piety

When Undecimus sells himself in marriage, he is described as doing so with “filial piety” and having “taken his father exactly at his word.” The ancient Roman social construct of filial piety required children to obey and respect their father, the head of the household. Piety was an important and powerful motivating force for Romans, and its influence extended to the state and to the gods as well. Undy’s adherence to the principles of a Classical tradition and his subsequent ability to secure a large dowry for himself highlights the connection between the Classics and social prestige, though here there is also a humorous or ironic overtone, given that the father’s directive is so blatantly materialistic. [GZ & RR 2016]


sacrifice, altar, wings of Hansom, Treasury Argus, Morpheus

In the scene in which Undecimus, as the secretary of Mr. Vigil, fails to hold in check the man who advocates closing all parks on Sundays, we see the narrator using dramatic and Classical imagery to vivify the setting. The use of the words “sacrifice” and “altar” resonate with conceptions of religion in Classical antiquity, and the hansom cab and Mr. Vigil are transformed into mythological entities: “Hansom” becomes the winged horse Pegasus, and Mr. Vigil is figured as Argus. To refer to Mr. Vigil as Argus, an ancient mythological creature who was often depicted with 100 eyes, reveals his watchful and attentive nature. In the ancient mythology, Argus fell asleep and was killed by Hermes—likewise, Mr. Vigil is put to sleep by Morpheus, the god of dreams himself. Rather than dying, however, Mr. Vigil loses an important political battle. [GZ & RR 2016]


Mr. Whip Vigil

As the “whip-in-chief” of his party’s parliamentary members, Mr. Whip Vigil ensures the rallying of enough votes to accomplish the party’s goals. While his first name refers to his role in the story, his last name is a Latin word from which we get the adjective vigilant. In Latin, vigil can be an adjective meaning awake or alert as well as a noun meaning guard or watchman. Thus, Whip Vigil’s last name speaks to his ability to safeguard the interests of his party. Ironically, however, our introduction to the character of Mr. Whip Vigil details a scene in which he is not awake and fails to guard his party’s interests. [GZ & RR 2016]



Trollope uses this whimsical phrase to describe Mr. Vigil’s work to count and ensure his party’s votes. The prefix arch- comes from the Greek element arch-, found in such words as the Greek noun archon (ruler or chief) and archein (to rule), while number derives from the Latin numerus (number), and -er is an English suffix. The etymological hybridity of Trollope’s locution lends it a humorous texture. [RR 2016]


esoteric and exoteric

Undy has a thorough grasp of politics as it pertains to both the governmental elite and the general public, and Trollope explains this by saying that Undy “understood the esoteric and exoteric bearings of modern politics.” Here Trollope plays with Greek prefixes. Esoteric contains es- (in), and exoteric contains ex- (out): with this slight change in spelling these seemingly similar words take on opposite meanings. [RR 2016]


Elysium of public life

Although Undy lost his secretarial job under Mr. Vigil after his mistake in the parliament, Undy’s social rank grants him ways to remain visibly present in the public sector. The narrator states that he was able to stay connected to “the Elysium of public life.” In Classical mythology, Elysium is a place of peace in the underworld, reserved for heroes and glorified individuals. That the public sector is referred to as an Elysium underscores the social (and potentially financial) status of politicians in Trollope’s time and suggests the interconnected relationship of a privileged upbringing and education (including instruction in Classics) with the capacity to successfully participate in politics. [GZ 2016]


halcyon bliss

When Undy is appointed as the secretary to the examination review committee, the position gives him a “fleeting moment of halcyon bliss.” The adjective halcyon derives from the Classical myth of Alcyone and Ceyx: after the husband Ceyx is drowned at sea, his spouse Alcyone grieves until both are eventually turned into birds for whom the sea remains calm during their nesting period. Trollope often uses the adjective in the context of betrothal or marriage, which reinforces the word’s connection to the myth behind it. Here, however, “halcyon bliss” comes not from Undy’s actual marriage (which is a bit of a mystery to his associates) but from his governmental appointment, and this demonstrates the degree of Undy’s attachment to a life in politics. [RR 2016]

source: Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.410-748.


Alpha and Omega

Undecimus Scott and Fidus Neverbend are opposites in their attitudes about working for the government, and Trollope conveys this by designating them as the “Alpha and Omega”—the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. [RR 2016]

Chapter 09 – Mr. Manylodes

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Boeotian crew

When Alaric tells Undy about the nature of the miners with whom he has interacted at Devonshire, Undy responds by calling them a “Boeotian crew.” The adjective Boeotian refers to Boeotia, a region of Greece where the famous ancient city of Thebes is located. Boeotia was commonly thought to be inferior culturally and intellectually to its neighbor, Athens. When Undy refers to the “lowly” miners with his elevated language, he simultaneously heightens their inferiority and his own rank. [GZ 2016]

source: OED.



Undy also uses this word to describe the miners during a conversation with Alaric. Vandals were an ancient tribe from northwestern Europe, and their sacking of Rome in 455 CE is thought to be one of many factors that eventually led to the collapse of the Roman Empire. Although vandal is an English word that is used to describe individuals who damage or deface property, because it is here spelled with the uppercase V and because Undy has already used a Classical phrase to describe the miners (“a Boeotian crew”), we can infer that he similarly is using the Classical meaning of the word. That is, Undy is suggesting that these miners lack an appreciation for, and understanding of, Classics—and by extension, they don’t have a respectable education. Just like with the phrase “a Boeotian crew,” Undy is mocking the intelligence of the miners. [GZ 2016]


no faith in Fidus

In trying to convince Alaric that other civil service employees speculate, Undy declares that he has no faith in Fidus Neverbend’s integrity. The fact that Fidus’ first name in Latin means faithful or even trustworthy highlights Undy’s own lack of trustworthiness here. [RR 2016]



While Undy attempts to convince Alaric to speculate on the Mary Jane Wheal, he describes Mr. Manylodes—a stock-jobber and fellow speculator—as a “vulgar” individual. This adjective is related to the Latin noun vulgus, meaning common crowd or mob, and is clearly meant to remind us that Undy thinks that Mr. Manylodes’ status is inferior to his own and to Alaric’s. Mr. Manylodes’ clothes manifest his “vulgar” social position: we are told that he wears a “common hat” and that “no man alive could have mistaken him for a gentleman.” [GZ & RR 2016]


irritamenta malorum

This Latin phrase, which means “the incentives of evil things,” comes from book 1 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Ovid describes how early humans were compelled by wickedness to commit a variety of crimes against one another. In fact, this phrase is used by Ovid to refer specifically to the greed that accompanies the mining of rare minerals, such as gold and iron, and so its use in the narration in The Three Clerks becomes doubly applicable. Not only is one’s involvement in the excavation of minerals morally wrong (according to Ovid), but also speculation is itself immoral (according to the narrator). [GZ 2016]

source: Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.140.


genus homo

Undy uses the Latin-based scientific term genus homo to describe Mr. Manylodes to Alaric. Just like his earlier use of “Boeotian crew,” “Vandals,” and “vulgar,” Undy is again attempting to distance himself socially by highlighting others’ inferiority. Genus is a Latin word meaning class or kind, used in the scientific classification of organisms, and homo is Latin for man. Used together, and with the words “specimen” and “species” (which are nouns in Latin and have been taken up by English), Undy gives a scientific and removed description of Mr. Manylodes. This reminds us how Undy perceives Mr. Manylodes as being of a different social class and beneath himself. [GZ 2016]


the good the gods provide you

Undy urges Alaric to speculate on the mining stock and nearly quotes a line from the Classically situated poem “Alexander’s Feast” by John Dryden: “Take the goods the gods provide thee.” Dryden’s sentiment itself recalls one expressed by Paris in Homer’s Iliad. Alaric responds to Undy’s Classically laden chiding with a nod to Christianity: “The gods!—you mean the devils rather.” Undy returns to Classical ground by admitting that though misfortune may be considered a “devil,” “Fortune has generally been esteemed a goddess.” The tension between Classics and Christianity is enlisted in the tussle for Alaric’s integrity. [RR 2016]

sources:  Homer, Iliad 3.65.
Dryden, “Alexander’s Feast” 106.

Chapter 10 – Wheal Mary Jane

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the triumph of descending alone to the nether world

The morning after his meeting with Undy and Mr. Manylodes, Alaric is recovering from a hangover. Although Alaric knows that he needs to get out of bed and prepare to meet with the miners at the Wheal Mary Jane, he is in too much pain to get moving.  At one point, Alaric exclaims that he would rather let Neverbend have “the triumph of descending alone to the nether world” than leave the comfort of his bed. Also known as a katabasis, the descent into the underworld is associated with heroes of ancient Greek and Roman mythology. While use of this phrase shows how important it is for Alaric to inspect the Wheal Mary Jane, the fact that he would relinquish the task to Mr. Neverbend underscores the pain that Alaric must be experiencing. [GZ 2016]


the mine as underworld

Trollope’s depiction of the mine as the Classical underworld continues with the contrast between “upper air” and “lower world” and the mention of “infernal gods.” [RR 2016]


cock on a dunghill

After having donned the clothing and apparatus necessary to descend into the mine, Mr. Neverbend is described as “a cock who could no longer…claim the dunghill as his own.” This is a reference to Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis in which the Roman emperor Claudius realizes that his status does not have the same value outside Rome. Seneca uses the metaphor of a cock on a dunghill to tell readers that we are most powerful when on our own turf. Through this metaphor and the description of the hopeless Mr. Neverbend, we realize that in the mines he is out of his element. The reader is reminded that he is different from the miners with whom he interacts and that social “superiors” may occasionally find themselves beneath their “inferiors.” [GZ 2016 & RR 2017]

source: Seneca the Younger, Apocolocyntosis 7.


Facilis descensus Averni

This Latin phrase can be translated as “easy is the descent of Avernus.” One supposed route to the underworld was located near Lake Avernus in Italy, and the lake’s name was sometimes used to refer to the underworld itself. This Latin phrase appears in book 6 of Vergil’s Aeneid, when the poem’s hero, Aeneas, asks the sibyl of Cumae for help in journeying to the underworld to visit his father. The sibyl explains that, while the trip to the underworld is easy, returning is difficult. In our context, this phrase literally describes Mr. Neverbend’s quick descent into the mines.  However, eventually (and ironically) the descent does prove difficult, and Mr. Neverbend finds it easier to re-ascend rather than continue downward; Mr. Neverbend’s incomplete trip and quick return demonstrate his non-heroic status. Metaphorically, Trollope’s use of this phrase alludes to Alaric’s ethical transformation and moral descent—from upstanding to corrupt. [GZ & RR 2016]

source: Vergil, Aeneid 6.126.



Pandemonium is the name given to the capital of hell by John Milton in Paradise Lost. The word was coined by Milton and contains the Greek elements pan (all) and daimon (demon or spirit). Milton incorporates many mythological and Classical features into his depiction of Pandemonium, so Trollope’s invocation of “Pandemonium” continues the Classical underworld motif in this chapter. [RR 2016]


terra firma

“Solid ground” in Latin. When the miner suggests that Mr. Neverbend is “too thick and weazy” to continue his descent into the mine, Mr. Neverbend concurs with the assessment because it justifies his return to the surface. Trollope wonders, however, how Mr. Neverbend would receive such a comment in more stable circumstances, on terra firma. The use of the Latin phrase (rather than the equivalent in English) may subtly suggest that when on solid ground Mr. Neverbend’s sense of self and status would lead him to object to the miner’s description of him. [RR 2016]


dictator and charioteer

Trollope contrasts Mr. Neverbend’s confident trip to the mine in the morning with his less than glorious retreat from the depths of the mine later. Setting out for the mine, Mr. Neverbend held himself like a “great dictator” who “rebuked the slowness of his charioteer.” The mention of a dictator and charioteer seem to present Mr. Neverbend in the image of a commanding and triumphant ancient Roman, an image which Mr. Neverbend ultimately fails to live up to. [RR 2016]


Aequam memento

Trollope quotes the opening words of an ode by Horace. The entire first stanza of the ode is relevant here: “Remember to preserve a calm mind in difficult circumstances and also in good times a mind kept apart from excessive happiness, Dellius, you who are going to die.” Trollope follows his invocation of aequam memento with “&c., &c.,” prompting his readers to supply the rest. At the end of the paragraph he echoes the close of Horace’s stanza with “O Neverbend, who need’st must some day die.” Trollope acknowledges that, as is common, Mr. Neverbend is unable to remember this Horatian counsel in the heat of his disappointment, but Trollope’s quotation of it rehearses and reinforces it for his audience. [RR 2016]

source: Horace, Ode 2.3.1-4


nectar from the brewery of the gods

The narrator uses this phrase when describing the intensity with which Mr. Neverbend drinks the beer given to him once he has left the mines. In Classical mythology, nectar was the drink of choice for deities. The scene is a humorous depiction of Mr. Neverbend shamelessly downing an alcoholic beverage, something that he had been so ready to chide Alaric for earlier. [GZ 2016]


Pythagorean club

Alaric and Harry’s club in London is called the Pythagorean after the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras (c. 6th century BCE). Although the club has no ostensible connection to Pythagorean philosophy, its name draws on the cultural cachet of Classics. [RR 2016]

Chapter 11 – The Three Kings

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other Charleys to her bow

When Harry spends more time with Charley, the bar-maid with whom Charley flirts consequently sees him less. Trollope tells us that she doesn’t suffer in Charley’s absence because “she had other Charleys to her bow.” Trollope 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 employs it when talking about romantic relationships, which conflates the “bow” of the saying with Cupid’s love-inspiring weapon. [RR 2016]

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



The word prodigy comes from the Latin noun prodigium, which refers to an omen or sign that revealed a disruption of the normal order of things. While such prodigia were believed to portend dangerous consequences for ancient Romans, we are led to believe that Charley’s punctuality indicates an improvement of his character and that he is taking his job seriously (although it is in the Internal Navigation Office). [GZ 2016]


an infant Hercules

The narrator likens the Office of Weights and Measures to a “cradle” in which Sir Gregory Hardlines, as “an infant Hercules,” spent his time before being promoted to the civil service examination board. Hercules is the Roman spelling of the name of the Greek mythological hero Heracles. When Zeus sired Heracles with Alcmene, Hera (Zeus’ wife) became jealous and angry, sending a pair of snakes to kill the baby. Despite his age, Heracles easily killed the snakes and showed his strength. The image that the narrator employs reinforces the idea that Sir Hardlines was a powerful man when he was the head of Weights and Measures. Sir Hardlines is even more powerful now: his position on the examination board signifies that he has moved from the “cradle” to a mightier position. [GZ 2016]


viva voce and quantum

The narrator uses the Latin phrase viva voce (“with living voice”) four times in Chapter 11 in reference to Mr. Jobbles’ oral examinations. It is fitting that this phrase is used with Mr. Jobbles, who taught university students for many years, because use of the Latin language is a marker of privileged education. Furthermore, the fact that this phrase is used so frequently and always in regard to Mr. Jobbles underscores his stodgy attitude generally. [GZ 2016]

Later in the chapter, the phrase “a quantum of Mr. Jobbles’ viva voce” compounds Latinisms in describing Mr. Jobbles’ examination practices. [RR 2016]



In Classical mythology Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the inventor who made wings from feathers and wax for Icarus and himself so that they could escape from Minos’ labyrinth on the island of Crete. Daedalus warns Icarus not to fly too close to the sun because his wax will melt, causing the wings to fall apart. Icarus, seemingly deaf to his father’s worries, flies near the sun and then dies. The narrator mentions Icarus here to indicate the degree of hopelessness in the situation when someone writes to the Treasury lords and expects a quick response. A response will not be given quickly because “they are deafer than Icarus” to the concerns of the outside world. [GZ 2016]

source: Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.183-235.



Mr. Jobbles’ examinations are said to be difficult. Even though a candidate may think he is prepared to succeed because he has learned everything about the relation of the earth and the moon, Mr. Jobbles will instead quiz him on botany. The surprising lack of questions about the moon is as “if Luna were extinct.” Luna is the ancient Roman moon goddess and is itself the Latin word for moon. This Classical reference, along with questions pertaining to the planet Jupiter during the same examination, highlights the fact that a candidate is thought to need a strong educational background to be able to succeed on Mr. Jobbles’ examinations. It is ironic that Alaric succeeds despite the fact that he may have the weakest traditional education of all of the candidates. [GZ 2016]



Trollope summarizes Alaric’s ambition by saying that “his motto might well have been ‘Excelsior!'” Excelsior is a Latin adjective meaning higher. The word is also the title of a well-known poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, published in 1842. The poem tells the story of a youth hiking up a mountain who pushes himself higher and higher until he perishes with a banner bearing Excelsior still in his hands. A Latin motto would be apt for someone of Alaric’s ambition, and the allusion to Longfellow’s poem foreshadows Alaric’s later troubles. [RR 2016]

Chapter 12 – Consolation

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No uses of Classics identified.

Chapter 13 – A Communication of Importance

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Bacchus and the Paphian goddess

Harry is devastated by Gertrude’s rejection of his marriage proposal. The narrator says that in such a depressed state, nothing can console a person unless he prefers “the worship of Bacchus” to “that of the Paphian goddess.” Bacchus is the Roman deity of wine, and the Paphian goddess is Venus, who is referred to as Paphian because she is said to have gone to the city of Paphos on Cyprus right after her birth and was worshipped very devoutly there. A substitution of Bacchus for Venus is the exchange of love, embodied by the failed marriage proposal between Harry and Gertrude, for the consumption of alcohol—but this would only happen if Harry were such a person who would substitute Venus for Bacchus, and he isn’t. [GZ 2016]


descent to the infernal gods

Mr. Neverbend’s failed expedition into the mine is again presented as a trip to the Classical underworld. See commentary for Chapter 10. [RR 2016]

Chapter 14 – Very Sad

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a dog in the manger

Harry feels betrayed by Gertrude’s engagement to Alaric, even though Gertrude had already refused Harry’s proposal before Alaric’s courtship began. The narrator calls attention to Harry’s situation by comparing it to Aesop’s fable about a dog who eagerly defends his pile of hay from cows, even though dogs do not eat hay. Though Trollope is generally sympathetic toward Harry, here the fable implicitly critiques his reaction. Since Aesop’s fables have become associated with young audiences, the fact that Trollope uses a fable here rather than other forms of Classical literature (like poetry or philosophy) may suggest that Harry’s reaction is immature. [GZ & RR 2016]

source: translation by Laura Gibbs of “The Dog in the Manger.”

Chapter 15 – Norman Returns to Town

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In Chapter 11 Trollope suggested that “Excelsior” would be a fitting motto for Alaric; see commentary. Here Alaric exhorts himself with that Latin word for higher. It is ironic or paradoxical that Alaric’s ambition to move up in the world prompts him to buy shares in a mine, investing in something down beneath the earth’s surface—and Alaric’s efforts to rise in status lead to a moral movement downward. [RR 2016]


pro hac vice

This Latin phrase, which can be translated as “for this occasion,” is used to describe the nature of the circumstantial alliance between Alaric and Undy as they speculate on the Mary Jane Wheal. Their speculation itself is a secretive and exclusive activity, and the use of Latin serves to further remove Alaric and Undy from others, reinforcing their perceived superiority. [GZ 2016]


Damon and Pythias

The narrator compares the friendship of Harry and Alaric to that of Damon and Pythias, a pair of friends whose sacrifices for one another represent an ideal friendship. Pythias, who was supposedly condemned to death by the tyrant Dionysus I of Syracuse, asked if he could be granted temporary leave to make proper arrangements for his death. However, so that the punishment would still occur if Pythias had decided to run away instead of making preparations, Damon filled Pythias’ spot while Pythias was gone. Soon before Damon was set to be executed, Pythias returned and offered himself up. Dionysus I was so amazed by their friendship that he pardoned Pythias. (Note: some versions of the story place Damon and Pythias in the reverse roles.) However, Harry and Alaric let success come in the way of their friendship. The ironic application of this legendary tale to the friendship of Harry and Alaric highlights the surprising and devastating ruin of their relationship. [GZ 2016]

source: Cicero, De Officiis 3.45.


Mr. Embryo

Mr. Embryo is the name of a new worker at the office of Weights and Measures. His name comes from the ancient Greek en (in) and bryō (grow), which refers to his status as a newcomer. A junior clerk in the office, he gives to Alaric a sheet with many numbers and calculations on it. Although he is new to his job, he bears the eager and dedicated attitude associated with a beginner, just as his name suggests. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 16 – The First Wedding

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nymphs and Hymen

In Classical mythology nymphs are natural spirits taking the form of maidens. In Latin and ancient Greek, the words nympha (Latin) or nymphē (Greek) can refer to these spirits, as well to maidens generally and to brides specifically. Trollope’s description of bridesmaids as “nymphs” imparts to them a cloud of Classical resonance. Classics is more explicitly invoked in the next sentence, when Trollope refers to the marriage ceremony as a “sacrifice to Hymen,” the Greek god of marriage. The conflation of Classical imagery with Christian ritual here is lightly humorous and helps Trollope to gently critique the current practice of having a number of bridesmaids. [RR 2016]


cum tot sustineas, et tanta negotia solus

This Latin quotation, which comes from the opening of one of Horace’s Epistles, was meant to flatter Augustus, the first Roman emperor and one of Horace’s patrons. It can be translated as, “since you uphold so much, and, you alone, such great duties.” That such a phrase would be used by the author to describe Sir Gregory Hardlines underscores his high-ranking authority and involvement in civic affairs. And yet there is some satirical poking at Hardlines here: though important, and no matter how important he considers himself, he is certainly not a Roman emperor. [GZ & RR 2016]

source: Horace, Epistles 2.1.1.

Chapter 17 – The Honourable Mrs. Val and Miss Golightly

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not unhappy

Trollope describes the first months of Gertrude’s marriage to Alaric as “not unhappy,” and his phrasing makes use of the Classical rhetorical technique of litotes: asserting something by negating its opposite. The litotes here may give readers pause, since it stops short of characterizing Gertrude’s experience of marriage as unqualifiedly positive. [RR 2016]



At the end of the lengthy description of Clementina Golightly’s outward appearance, the narrator states that Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty, hadn’t deigned to place a dimple on Clementina. Along with the preceding depiction of her, this notion confirms that Clementina’s beauty is anything but special. However, what makes her attractive is not any extraordinary beauty, but rather her fortune, to which Trollope calls our attention in the following paragraph. [GZ 2016]


inner sancta

Trollope discusses the appeal of flower-shows “to ladies who cannot quite penetrate the inner sancta of fashionable life”: since the shows are open, ladies who do not usually mix with the elite may be seen alongside them. In describing the exclusive echelons of society Trollope uses sancta, an English word borrowed from Latin and referring to holy places. The transference of a religious word to high society indicates its importance to the ladies who do not have easy admittance to it. [RR 2016]



The Latin word genius can be thought of as referring to the divine essence of one’s own self. In this context, it seems apparent that Trollope does not mean to use the English definition of this word, namely intelligence, but rather he is using the ancient Roman concept to imply that a fondness for money-making can be found throughout “the present age,” not just in Alaric Tudor. Because genius refers to an inherent quality within oneself, Trollope’s phrase “genius of the present age” qualifies an entire period of humankind in which everyone is concerned with obtaining money. An understanding of the Latin word genius thus affords us a better grasp of the place of money-making in the world of The Three Clerks. [GZ 2016]


rem…quocunque modo rem

“Money…by whatever means money.” Trollope uses this Latin quotation from one of Horace’s Epistles to epitomize the attitude toward making money which is prevalent in the world and which Alaric is slowly adopting. Trollope abbreviates the quotation, which reads in full: “Make money; if you be able, make money rightly; if not, make money by whatever means” (rem facias, rem, / si possis, recte, si non, quocumque modo rem). Horace himself ultimately argues against this view, but puts it into the mouth of an anonymous person and asks if such advice is beneficial. In the sentence following the quotation Trollope signals to readers that it does not completely capture Horace’s sentiment: “The remainder of the passage was doubtless applicable to former times, but now is hardly worth repeating.” This sentence prompts readers to either recall Horace’s Epistle or seek it out its “true” wisdom, since the truncated Classical quotation is discredited by Trollope. [RR 2016]

source: Horace, Epistles 1.1.65-6.


infernal friends, an Elysium

Trollope’s description of Charley’s socializing is given underworld overtones. His friends are “infernal,” a reference to fellow clerks at the Internal/Infernal Navigation office (see commentary for Chapter 2) which makes them sound like denizens of the underworld, and one of his favored haunts is called Charley’s “Elysium in Fleet Street,” configuring it as the peaceful part of the underworld. This imagery helps us to see that Charley—not just Alaric—is undergoing a moral descent. [RR 2016]

Chapter 18 – A Day with One of the Navvies – Morning

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Charley as client making a morning visit to his “patron” Mr. M’Ruen

Charley Tudor is financially indebted to Mr. M’Ruen, a moneylender who provides money to Charley at usurious rates.  Just as Charley Tudor heads to the home of Mr. M’Ruen in the early morning so too did ancient Roman clients proceed to the homes of their own patrons at the crack of dawn. In the client-patron relationships of ancient Rome, a client was usually socially subservient and worked to earn the benefits that his powerful patron could afford him. In the case of Charley and Mr. M’Ruen, however, the dichotomy is destructive rather than beneficial. Charley is not in a place to responsibly pay back his debts, and Mr. M’Ruen is not a principled patron. Further, though Charley is financially indebted to Mr. M’Ruen, by birth he is in a higher social category than his patron.  [GZ & RR 2016]


Verax Corkscrew

Verax Corkscrew is a clerk at the Internal Navigation office and is introduced to us in a humorous episode. Planning to attend a party on Thursday instead of going to work, Verax drafts a letter to Mr. Snape on Wednesday evening, writing that he became ill on Thursday morning due a bad plate of pork chops the night before. However, the letter is delivered on the same day as it was written, and Mr. Snape realizes Verax’s plot. The name of this character fits nicely with the story: the Latin adjective verax means truthful, while his last name, Corkscrew, alludes to his tendency to bend the truth. [GZ 2016]


Fortune as blind

When describing the outcome of Mr. Verax Corkscrew’s lying, the narrator states that “Fortune on this occasion was blind.” Fortune was a personified ancient Roman deity, and her association with blindness—suggesting that she impartially doles out both the good and the bad—is mentioned in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder. While it was unfortunate for Verax that Mr. Snape received the letter before Verax had intended it to be delivered, it’s humorous that Fortune would have had no merits by which to judge Verax, even if she could. [GZ 2016]

source: Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 2.22.


senior and junior

Two Latin comparative adjectives are used to describe relative status in the office of Internal Navigation: senior (literally, older) and junior (literally, younger). Latin’s cultural status is enlisted to provide terms of bureaucratic status. [RR 2016]

Chapter 19 – A Day with One of the Navvies – Afternoon

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Meleager ab ovo

When Charley explains the literary fashion of not furnishing background information for a narrative until well into it, Harry responds: “Meleager ab ovo may be introduced with safety when you get as far as that.” With the Latin phrase, which translates as “Meleager from the egg,” Harry is referring to Horace’s Ars Poetica and a passage in which Horace recommends that an author not give extensive background information; a good poet will not include the death of Meleager when telling the story of Diomedes nor the egg from which Helen was born when telling the tale of the Trojan War. Harry conflates Horace’s two examples in his phrasing here.  Despite this possible mis-citation, the reference to this particular part of Horace’s Ars Poetica is apt. Just after the lines in which Horace mentions Meleager and the egg Horace says that a good poet “carries a reader into the middle of things (in medias res)”—which is the technique that Charley has been explaining to Harry as a contemporary innovation. Charley, whose Classical education has been less robust than Harry’s doesn’t quite understand Harry’s mention of Meleager and replies: “Yes, you may bring him in too, if you like.” [RR 2016]

source: Horace, Ars Poetica 146-149.


omne tulit punctum

In his conversation with Charley about Charley’s literary plans Harry again refers to Horace’s Ars Poetica, quoting a line in which Horace says that “he who has mixed the useful and the sweet carries every vote” (omne tulit punctum = “carries every vote”). This sentiment corresponds to Charley’s description of bringing useful information into a pleasing narrative, something which Charley says his editor “insists upon” for the sake of the “lower classes.” [RR 2016]

source: Horace, Ars Poetica 343.


censor morum

This Latin phrase, which can be translated as “magistrate of morals,” is used by Charley to elevate the press and perhaps his own participation in it. The censor morum was an ancient Roman official who, among other duties, determined the expected etiquette and moral behavior of Roman citizens. Charley jokes about the questionably moral press playing such a role in Victorian society. That Charley would call the press a censor morum is further interesting because his own participation in writing short stories for the press comes at the same time that he is undergoing a serious moral and ethical decline. [GZ & RR 2016]




Charley’s editor insists that each story contain a Nemesis or moral comeuppance. Nemesis (called Poena or Punishment by the Romans) is a Greek goddess of retribution, and Trollope himself often structures his novels so that characters meet with their fitting Nemesis by the end. For instance, see the invocation of this principle in Chapter 37 of Framley Parsonage. [RR 2016]



Just as in Chapter 5, we see Harry described as Mentor, a life-long friend of Odysseus in whose guise Athena helps Odysseus’ son Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey. However, unlike the older Mentor, Harry is still a young man—so Trollope’s comparison is playfully ironic. It seems to Harry that Charley’s present situation has called for him to assume this position of authority, although Harry feels that it would be more pleasant for them to relate on more similar terms. [GZ & RR 2016]



This Latin motto—Higher—has already been associated with Alaric, but now it is attached to Charley as well. While in Alaric’s case it refers to Alaric’s worldly ambitions, in Charley’s case it serves more as a moral reminder. [RR 2016]

Chapter 20 – A Day with One of the Navvies – Evening

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With the first word of this chapter Charley uses Latin to exhort himself, “Higher!” Charley later repeats the motto to himself in the course of his evening at the Cat and Whistle, and once Charley gets quasi-engaged to Norah Geraghty Trollope remarks: “there was now no ‘Excelsior’ left for him.” [RR 2016]


stoic resolution

As Charley determines to do the right thing, the narrator says that he adopts a “stoic resolution.” Stoicism was a popular philosophy in both ancient Greece and Rome and it was characterized by an unwavering commitment to logic and reason. It is ironic, however, that Charley loses his resolve in the same paragraph. There is a sad humor in this, and it highlights the behavior that we’ve come to expect from Charley. [GZ 2016]


tranquil shrines of Bacchus

The bar that Charley frequents, the Cat and the Whistle, is referred to by the narrator as one of the “tranquil shrines of Bacchus.” Bacchus was the Roman god of wine, and thus the association of the bar with this god is appropriate. With the idea that this bar is a sort of temple and the use of the word “tranquil,” Trollope seems to conjure up images of less famous and less frequented shrines of the deities of ancient Rome. Trollope is suggesting that the Cat and the Whistle isn’t a crowded or popular bar. In addition, the use of the word “tranquil” belies the future turmoil that Charley deals with at this bar. [GZ 2016]


ingress and egress

Trollope plays with Latinate prefixes by juxtaposing these words for entrance and exit: in- is “into,” e- is “out of,” and they are added to the same stem, gress or “go.” [RR 2016]



Trollope calls Charley’s alcoholic drink “Falernian” after Falernian wine, a vintage famous in ancient Italy. It is mentioned by Horace in one of his odes and is cited by Trollope in Chapter 22 of The Small House at Allington. [RR 2016]

Source: Horace, Ode 1.27.9-12.



The narrator states that the room in which Charley can more privately converse with Mrs. Davis and Norah Geraghty in the Cat and Whistle is an “elysium,” the mythological resting place of heroes. Such a description seems to be true for Charley at the moment—it provides him with a reprieve from the troubles of his life. However, it is ironic that later in the story this same room becomes such a heavy burden for Charley. [GZ 2016]



The English noun reptile derives from the neuter singular form of the Latin adjective reptilis, reptile; the neuter form can be used substantively to mean “creeping thing.” Trollope seems live to the word’s etymological meaning here, since he has Charley—the metaphorical reptile—think of himself as “creeping downwards.” There is a sad implicit juxtaposition of Charley’s “reptilian” status with his motto of Excelsior. [RR 2016]


In Classical mythology nymphs are natural spirits taking the form of maidens, and here Trollope jokingly identifies the barmaid of the Cat and Whistle as an “attendant nymph.” This contributes to Trollope’s gently mocking, Classicizing portrait of the Cat and Whistle as a “temple” and “elysium.” [RR 2016]


dolus an virtus

While Mrs. Davis, the owner of the Cat and Whistle, thinks about her role in getting Charley to marry Norah, she realizes that what she’s doing isn’t entirely ethical. Although aiding her friend Norah, Mrs. Davis necessarily hurts Charley’s social standing. The narrator describes the situation with the Latin phrase dolus an virtus, “trickery or virtue.” These words come from book 2 of Vergil’s Aeneid, during Aeneas’ account of the sacking of Troy by Greek warriors; Coroebus, one of the Trojans, dons the uniform of the enemy Greeks to disguise himself to fight them back more successfully. Coroebus defends his actions by claiming that in times of war the boundary between deceit and bravery becomes less clear or even completely obscured. Trollope carefully notes that Mrs. Davis herself has not studied Latin and so does not frame her thoughts in these exact terms: the Classical reference is Trollope’s “translation” of Mrs. Davis’ thought into a different register. [GZ & RR 2016]

source: Vergil, Aeneid 2.390.


pomatum etc.

In this sentence Trollope plays with the different prose rhythms available in English due to the influence of Old English, Latin, and Greek on English vocabulary: “He put his arms round her waist and kissed her; and as he caressed her, his olfactory nerves perceived that the pomatum in her hair was none of the best.” The first half of the sentence—describing the physical action—is rendered in words without Classical influence, but in the second half of the sentence—relating Charley’s mental processing—Latinate vocabulary (with caressed, olfactory, nerves, perceived, and pomatum) comes to the fore. [RR 2016]


Norah’s sanctum

Trollope uses Latinate vocabulary—“the sanctum of her feminine retirement”—to jokingly elevate Norah’s bedroom. [RR 2016]

Chapter 21 – Hampton Court Bridge

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No uses of Classics identified.

Chapter 22 – Crinoline and Macassar; or, My Aunt’s Will

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Trollope and Charley’s use of litotes

Trollope has Charley’s writing display some of the features of Trollope’s own, including a fondness for litotes, a Classical technique of expressing something by negating its opposite. For instance here, “no inconsiderable portion” and “no undue familiarity.” [RR 2016]


Charley the censor

When Mrs. Woodward is reading aloud Charley’s story of Crinoline and Macassar, Charley is called a censor. This is a reference to the magisterial censors of ancient Rome whose job involved many different functions of the state, including general oversight of the morality of Rome’s citizens. It’s ironic that Charley is called a censor because while perhaps he understands the morality of his own actions, he chooses to ignore them. See the gloss on censor morum in the Chapter 19 commentary. [GZ 2016]


pervading genius

Trollope here has Charley use the Roman sense of genius or abiding spirit of a person or place. Macassar embodies the genius of his office. [RR 2016]


a cloud came over his brow

Trollope has Charley use an expression which he often uses himself, and it has a possible Classical source. See the commentary for Chapter 11 of The Claverings.



Elevating his beloved in his song, Macassar describes her as looking like “a Goddess or Queen.” Although we may be amused by the hyperbole, it prepares the way for more Classical imagery following. [RR 2016]


altar of Hymen

Macassar, the hero of Charley’s story, is overcome by the stress of needing to wed someone in order fulfill the conditions of his late aunt’s will, and he wonders if he can convince Crinoline to marry him quickly. Instead of enlisting Christian imagery, Charley uses the phrase “altar of Hymen,” referring to the ancient Greek god of marriage. Trollope himself often invokes Hymen when referring to matrimonial matters. [GZ & RR 2016]


goddesses and ambrosia

When Macassar looks at his beloved Crinoline, “[i]t was as though all the goddesses of heaven were inviting him to come and eat ambrosia with them.” After multiplying Crinoline into “all the goddesses,” Macassar and Charley quickly reduce her to a single being, “one goddess, the most beautiful of them all,” thus recalling Macassar’s earlier song. Ambrosia was the food of choice of ancient Greek deities and was associated with immortality. At first, we may think that this exaggerated imagery is a depiction of the intensity of Macassar’s love for Crinoline. In the same paragraph, however, Macassar’s passion and divine vision are broken when he reaches for his watch to check the time. [GZ & RR 2016]

Chapter 23 – Surbiton Colloquies

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No uses of Classics identified.

Chapter 24 – Mr. M’Buffer Accepts the Chiltern Hundreds

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halcyon days

A Classically inspired phrased that Trollope often uses in the context of marriage or betrothal is again employed to underscore Undy Scott’s desire for political life. For more information, see the commentary for Chapter 8. [RR 2016]


being and seeming

Alaric wonders if the movers and shakers of his world are truly honest or only try to appear honest. In de Amicitia Cicero laments that some men of his time prefer the appearance of seeming good to actually being good: “in fact, not so many men wish to be  possessed of virtue itself than to seem to be.” [RR 2016]

source: Cicero, de Amicitia 98.



Alaric invokes his Latin motto—Higher—but Trollope immediately and explicitly presents the ironic possibility that some people lower themselves by trying to rise. The phrasing is such that Trollope may be suggesting that Alaric himself is considering the problem of this paradox. [RR 2016]


the names of the goddess money

Undy Scott delivers a litany of synonyms for money and concludes it with the blanket statement “or by what other name the goddess would be pleased to have herself worshipped.” Money’s elevation to the divine emphasizes Undy’s prioritization of it, and there are Classical precedents for calling a divinity by multiple names and even for including a blanket statement covering all possible names in an invocation (for instance, Catullus 34, a poem which takes the form of a hymn to Diana). [RR 2016]


pelican feeding her young

This is another reference to the moralized nature of the pelican, found in the ancient Greek work Physiologus. However, unlike the earlier comparison of Mrs. Woodward to the pelican (see the gloss in the Chapter 5 commentary), which the narrator makes with admiration, Undy Scott compares his father to the pelican with bitter sarcasm. To expect his own father to lend him money would be like expecting a goose to feed its own young like a pelican does—an unthinkable idea. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 25 – Chiswick Gardens

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Aristides and a god

Despite their dissimilar characters, Alaric and Fidus Neverbend maintain their acquaintance: Alaric considers the possible utility of an notoriously honest connection, and Fidus admires Alaric’s ambition and rise. To describe Fidus’ integrity Trollope calls him an “Aristides,” after the ancient Athenian politican Aristides the Just.  Legend gives this example of Aristides’ integrity: Aristides supposedly helped a fellow citizen write down his own name during a vote for ostracism! To describe Alaric’s elevation in Fidus’ eyes Trollope calls Fidus’ admiration “that reverence which a mortal always feels for a god.” Classics fuels hyperbole in both descriptions. [RR 2016]

source: Plutarch, Life of Aristides 7.


cui bono?

Trollope summarizes Lactimel Neverbend’s utilitarianism with the Latin principle cui bono?, which can be translated “to what good?” or “to what good for whom?” Trollope notes that Lactimel herself probably doesn’t frame her principles in Latin; we might compare this to Trollope’s crystallization of Mrs. Davis’ perspective in a Latin phrase in Chapter 20. Though in both case the female characters are noted as not using Latin to express their views, Trollope’s “translation” of their outlook into Latin imparts some of the force of an abstract principle. [RR 2016]


the cause of Terpsichore

The narrator refers to Monsieur Victoire Jaquêtanàpe, Clementina’s suitor, as her “labourer in the cause of Terpsichore.” One of the nine muses, Terpsichore was an ancient Greek deity of dance. Clementina is known for her dancing and admires the dancing of Monsieur Jaquêtanàpe, with whom she will partner at Mrs. Val’s evening party. [GZ & RR 2016]


bona fide

At the flower show, Katie Woodward worries that it is inappropriate for her to talk to her attendant Frenchman because she hasn’t yet been “bona fide introduced to him.” The use of this common Latin phrase, meaning “with/in good faith,” dignifies Katie’s actions and reminds us of her good upbringing. In turn, the reader may be reminded of her love for Charley, who didn’t have such a good upbringing, and the conflict that their different upbringings necessitate. [GZ 2016]

It is interesting to note that Trollope’s use of this phrase retains the literal force of the Latin ablatives: Trollope uses it as equivalent to an adverbial phrase, though we rarely do so anymore in English. [RR 2016]


temple of the roses

Trollope refers to an area of in the Chiswick Gardens as “the temple of the roses.” Though Trollope often humorously identifies Victorian sites as “temples” or “shrines” (e.g., the Cat and Whistle is so described in Chapter 20), here the architectural reference may be more literal since the Chiswick Gardens included many Classicizing features. [RR 2016]



Elysium is the name given to part of the underworld in which the dead existed in eternal paradise. Referring to Katie and Charley’s situation at the flower show as an Elysium is fitting not only because they’re in a very beautiful area but also because their time together is spiritually and emotionally fulfilling. However, the use of this Classical reference could imply that Katie and Charley may only truly be together in death—a point that is left in suspense until the novel’s conclusion. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 26 – Katie’s First Ball

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the goods of the gods

Mrs. Val is socially resourceful, and to convey this Trollope says that she “understood well how to make the most of the goods with which the gods provided her.” This is a reference to a Classically themed poem by John Dryden which was also invoked by Undy Scott in Chapter 9; see that commentary for more information. [RR 2016]


loved so dearly, tenderly, loved

Trollope uses an artful ordering of words, one which can be found in Classical poetry and which is called chiasmus: elements are arranged A, B, B, A. Here: verb, adverb, abverb, verb. [RR 2016]


muse worshipped

As Katie approaches the ball at Mrs. Val’s house she grows increasingly nervous because she has never participated in a ball before. Trollope describes Katie by stating that she “had never yet seen the muse worshipped” in this way. This is a reference to the nine muses of ancient Greece, who were divine patrons of various disciplines and arts, such as literature, dance, and music. Referencing the muses is humorous but also highlights the social status of the ball and the significance of the night for Katie, and it recalls the earlier allusion to the muse Terpsichore in Chapter 25. Furthermore, Katie’s ignorance of the muses reminds us of her youth, her suburban naiveté, and the simple nature of the Woodwards. [GZ & RR 2016]


sweet and bitter

Love is famously called “bittersweet” in one of the fragments of Sappho, a famous Greek poet. Here Charley feels the sweetness of Katie’s love, but it is tinged with bitterness because it is motivated by Katie’s gratitude, which Charley feels is undue or exaggerated. [RR 2016]



When Katie scolds Charley for tricking Johnson into getting him a plate of food at Mrs. Val’s dance, it takes away Charley’s appetite. Charley cites this as an example of Nemesis, the principle of just punishment which Charley’s editor likes to see at work in fiction. Nemesis is the Greek goddess of retribution, and the editor’s penchant for literary nemesis has already been mentioned in Chapter 19. [RR 2016]

Chapter 27 – Excelsior

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The title of this chapter is the Latin motto—Higher—which has already been used in regard to Alaric and Charley.  Now it is applied to the marriage hopes of both Clementina and Norah: for Clementina it is a lofty attainment to be engaged to the expert dancer M. Jaquêtànape, and Norah thinks of a marriage to Charley as a desirable rise in the world. Trollope makes it clear in Norah’s case that she does not herself invoke the Latin word but rather the equivalent translation “into excellent Irish.”

At the chapter’s close “Excelsior!” appears again in reference to Alaric and Charley. Alaric exhorts himself with the Latin when he envisions future advances in his career, and Charley’s thoughts of avoiding marriage with Norah and instead joining himself to Katie are accompanied by the motto. Charley, however, is immediately brought low by the bailiff’s hand.  [RR 2016]



When Katie wakes up feeling ill on the morning after the ball at Mrs. Val’s home, a family doctor is called to look at Katie. The doctor believed that Katie’s fall into the river is what prompted her symptoms, but as the narrator says, had the doctor known about the dancing episode at Mrs. Val’s home, he would “have acquitted the water-gods of the injury.” Invocation of such non-Christian deities gives a Classical yet humorous flavor to this passage and draws attention to the fact that as far as the doctor doesn’t understand Katie’s illness, perhaps the prescribed treatment won’t make her feel better either. [GZ 2016]



In contrast to the simplicity of the visitors’ waiting area at the Office of Internal Navigation, the luxurious and spacious sitting area at the Office of Weights and Measures is described by the narrator as “quite a little Elysium.” This reference to the Classical counterpart of the Christian heaven draws on earlier comparisons of these two offices and reinforces Charley Tudor’s lowly and morally questionable position. [GZ 2016]



Undy introduces Alaric to men “whom to know should be the very breath in the nostrils of a rising aspirant.” Trollope’s wording draws on the common use of English aspirant to name someone who is ambitious to attain a certain station or office, but it also activates the Latin etymology of the word—“breathing.” [RR 2016]


ancient customs

Sir Gregory Hardlines “may, perhaps, be supposed to have had some slight prejudice remaining in favour of ancient customs” in regard to obtaining a job with the civil service. The use of terms such as ancient, patronage, and candidates may together impart a Roman flavor to this passage, conflating practices of British preferment with the Roman patron/client system and Roman seekers of office. This connection to ancient history makes the Victorian practices which Mr. Jobbles would like to dismantle seem all the more entrenched in contemporary society. [RR 2016]


St. Peter and Elysium

According to the narrator, Sir Gregory Hardlines hypothetically likens himself to “St. Peter to whom are confided the keys of the Elysium,” in the sense that as a member of the Examination Board, Sir Gregory discriminates among the candidates who are trying to enter public service (the Elysium in this analogy). This combination of Christian and Classical imagery makes Sir Gregory seem doubly powerful (but the substitution of the Classical heaven for the Christian heaven prevents him from seeming blasphemous) while highlighting his moral rectitude (Christianity) and social influence (Classicism). [GZ 2016]



When Sir Gregory Hardlines recommends Alaric Tudor as a replacement for Mr. Jobbles’ position at the Examination Board, the relationship between Alaric and Sir Gregory seems like that of a client and patron in ancient Rome. In ancient Roman society, a client attended to his patron dutifully, just like Alaric was said to have “been Sir Gregory’s confidential man all through.” In return, the patron provided the client with connections and resources that only the patron usually had access to. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 28 – The Civil Service

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Hercules of Reform and Augean stables

Trollope wonders if reform of the civil service should be commenced by someone of heroic proportions who will begin by focusing his efforts on the most privileged echelons of offices. Such a person would be akin to the mythological Hercules (Greek Heracles), one of whose famed labors involved cleaning out dung-filled stables of Augeas by diverting a river through them. [RR 2016]



Trollope declares that—from the time of their school-days—men are taught that merit is rewarded and the opposite punished, and he calls the school-boy’s choice of routes as “an election between prisoners’ base and prosody,” prosody being the study of metrical forms.  Trollope here uses an aspect of a Classical education to symbolize the sanctioned path supposed to lead to reward.  [RR 2016]


ex officio

Latin for “in accordance with their office;” this phrase is used to convey that an individual holds a particular position by virtue of another office or position they occupy. [RR 2016]


shades of Leeches and Langdales

Trollope exclaims with hyperbolic and archaic-sounding formality, addressing deceased barristers as “shades,” an ancient way of referring to the spirits of those past. [RR 2016]

Chapter 29 – Outerman v. Tudor

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Cursitor Street

Cursitor Street is an actual street in London, but the etymological meaning of its Latin-derived components might be ironically deployed here. A cursitor is “someone who runs”—but Charley is taken to Cursitor Street so that he can no longer run from his debts. [RR 2016]


not without

As the bailiff escorts Charley to Cursitor Street, Charley is “not without some feeling of consolation.” The litotes—which asserts through negation—seems an apt way to convey Charley’s ambivalence: although he is not glad to be taken, he will no longer suffer from the anticipation of such a happening and he is also thus excused from visiting Norah. [RR 2016]

Chapter 30 – Easy is the Slope of Hell

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Easy is the Slope of Hell

The title of this chapter is a translation of a phrase from Vergil’s Aeneid already invoked by Trollope in Latin in Chapter 10—facilis descensus Averni—though here Trollope substitutes Hell for the Latin mention of Avernus, which was often used to refer to the Classical underworld. In Chapter 10 the quotation did double-duty, referring to the descent into the actual mine as well as the start of Alaric’s ethical decline. Now it is employed to describe the ease with which Alaric misappropriates Clementina’s fortune for his own purposes. The repetition of the phrase in the chapter, as well as the substitution of Christian Hell, adds pointed force to the sentiment. [RR 2016]

source: Vergil, Aeneid 6.126.


not a little elated

In the last chapter Trollope used litotes to describe Charley’s state of mind; here he uses it to depict Undy Scott’s reaction to being elected as the member for Tillietudlem. Again, the circumspection possible in litotes is apt. While Undy is pleased to have won, he owes money to his manager and knows that the outcome of the race will be contested. [RR 2016]


meum and tuum

As Undy attempts to convince Alaric to use more of Clementina’s trust money for their own advantage, he claims that Alaric, having already divested so much of the trust, has little reason to not use more of her money. Although Undy does not say so outright, Trollope presents him as arguing, in effect, against the “inviolable distinction” between meum and tuum—Latin for “my thing and your thing.” If Latin is seen as a language appropriate for the expression of trans-historical truths, Trollope here shows Undy as implicitly attacking such a truth. [GZ & RR 2016]



A defender of Sir Robert Peel, the politician whose views about corn laws changed to suit political ends, is referred to by the narrator as an “apologist.” The English word apologist comes from the ancient Greek word apologia, meaning defense speech. We are meant to understand the English word apologist in the Classical sense here. See the commentary for Chapter 4. [GZ 2016]


worshipper at the altar of expediency

Trollope describes the way in which Peel’s shifting position about the corn laws will lead him to be cast as a “pagan” worshipper of a non-Christian god. Such imagery underscores the judgement of history which pushes Peel away from sympathy. [RR 2016]



The Latin mantra “higher!” contrasts sharply with Alaric’s moral descent. [RR 2016]

Chapter 31 – Mrs. Woodward’s Request

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When Katie pleads with Linda to reveal to her why Mrs. Woodward won’t let Charley come to Surbiton Cottage any longer, the narrator says that Katie kneels, rests on her sister, and even cries. The narrator then refers to Katie as a “suppliant,” because her behavior and position in this scene are like those of suppliants in ancient literature. Physical supplication is a common gesture found in the mythological literature of ancient Greece and Rome involving someone begging a god or powerful figure for mercy or goodwill (e.g., Thetis begging Zeus in book 1 of Homer’s Iliad). The description of Katie in this scene shows both her desperation in her situation and her devotion to Charley. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 32 – How Apollo Saved the Navvy

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The title of this chapter alludes to Horace’s Satire 1.9, in which the poet is drawn into a long and unwanted conversation with someone he meets as he walks around Rome; he is finally rescued when he and his interlocutor are intercepted to appear in court—Horace as witness and his interlocutor as defendant. Horace attributes his deliverance to Apollo, patron god of poets. Charley feels similarly trapped by the idea of a marriage to Norah, but when he enters the Cat and Whistle he learns that, in Charley’s absence, Norah has married Mr. Peppermint. Charley thus feels the relief that Horace did, and freed from a marriage to Norah Charley recommits himself to his writerly aspirations. There is a somewhat ironic difference between the Horatian satire and Charley’s situation: while Charley’s position may be most like Horace’s, it also recalls that of Horace’s interlocutor, since both Charley and the interlocutor find themselves in legal straights, the interlocutor with the court case and Charley with his debts. In fact, Charley’s earlier run-in with the bailiff (see Chapter 27 commentary) becomes a kind of deliverance in retrospect, in that it saved him from cementing his betrothal to Norah. Viewed in this light, the bailiff’s hand upon Charley echoes the touch on Horace’s ear by which he is formally designated a witness and thus “saved” from his tedious conversation. [RR 2016]

Source: Horace, Satire 1.9, especially 73-78.


gifts of Bacchus

In Chapter 20 Trollope had described the Cat and Whistle as one of the “tranquil shrines of Bacchus,” the Roman god of wine. In celebration of Norah’s marriage, the “gifts of Bacchus” are being dispensed freely by Mrs. Davis as she mixes port punch for the gathered crowd. [RR 2016]



Sir Gregory does not understand why Alaric, whose position on the board is secure, would want to run for parliamentary office, but Alaric again exhorts himself to look beyond his current job with “Excelsior,” or “Higher.” [RR 2016]

Chapter 33 – The Parliamentary Committee

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As Undy Scott and Alaric Tudor draw up plans for the bridge with an engineer, the topic of patronage arises. In ancient Rome, the patronage system involved two parties: the client who was devoted to his patron, who in turn provided his client with access to various goods and services. In this case, it is revealed that “the Crown,” meaning the English government, is the patron and the engineer is the client. Alaric and Undy, as both supporters of the bridge and potential beneficiaries of its construction, can be seen as both patrons and clients. [GZ & RR 2016]

Chapter 34 – To Stand, or Not to Stand

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Roman echoes

At various points in this chapter Trollope uses language which uses resonates with ancient Roman office-holding and other public honors. The acquisition of senate membership was part of the Roman cursus honorum (course of honors/offices), and Trollope refers to Alaric’s aspirations “to parliamentary honours.” The word ambition occurs, whose etymology reminds us of the Roman practice of going (it) around (ambi) to muster political support. Trollope also presents Alaric’s walk across the Park as an ironic solitary non-victory parade: despite his public successes, Alaric is beset by cares. [RR 2017]



Alaric’s Latin mantra—higher—pushes him on to seek a place in parliament, even as his financial goings-on have much that is not lofty about them. Mrs. Val, too, has “her ideas of ‘Excelsior,’” though her hopes are fixed on prominence in her social circle. [RR 2017]


When it first dawns on Alaric that he might be in trouble for abusing his powers as overseer of Clementina’s trust, he worries that he might be accosted by a “myrmidon.” The Myrmidons were a mythic people of ancient Greece who fought in the Trojan War alongside their leader Achilles. Trollope often uses this word to refer to policemen and henchmen, but here the reference to such a warrior underscores Alaric’s realization that misusing Clementina’s funds was a serious mistake. [GZ 2016 & RR 2017]


black Care behind him

As Alaric contemplates his recent successes—a job on the Examination Board and his coming participation in parliamentary elections—he is not free from worry. Trollope signals Alaric’s concerns with a personification of care: “black Care would sit behind him, ever mounted on the same steed.” This image is found in Horace’s Ode 3.1, in which Horace depicts Care as an entity looming vigilantly over people, whether they are in a trireme or on a horse. This ode is about how the troubles of life affect everyone. In effect, Trollope’s sentence cues the reader in to the fact that Alaric’s continual ascent throughout the narrative will likely soon plateau or perhaps even begin to descend. [GZ 2016]

source: Horace, Odes 3.1.38-40


patronized by Mrs. Val

The relationship between Mrs. Val and Gertrude seems to be a power play. Throughout the narrative Mrs. Val tries to “patronize” Gertrude. The meaning of this word in context comes from the ancient Roman sociopolitical construct of patrons and their clients. With their social, monetary, and political influences, patrons would reward their dutiful clients. It doesn’t seem that Gertrude wants to play the role of client to Mrs. Val, either because Gertrude doesn’t seem to think that Mrs. Val is a worthy patron or because Gertrude has never liked being told what to do. [GZ 2016]

head and chief

Trollope may be engaging in some etymological play here: Sir Gregory fears that Alaric will “climb above his head,” and Alaric is “more gracious than ever to his chief.” Chief is derived from the Latin word caput, which itself means head. [RR 2017]

Chapter 35 – Westminster Hall

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in extenso

After the committee investigation about the Limehouse bridge, it is said that the testimony given by Mr. Blocks “was published in extenso” (Latin meaning “at full length”), leading to an increase in the price of the Limehouse bridge shares. Trollope’s use of Latin emphasizes the fact that those who read the full testimony had reason to believe that the construction of the bridge had been saved (for now). The use of Latin is a linguistic gesture that elevates the newspaper’s presentation of Mr. Blocks’ remarks. [GZ & RR 2017]


cent per cent

The Latin ending –um on centum is dropped in the phrase, but the meanings of the Latin words are retained: 100 for 100, or 100%. [RR 2017]


Fortune favoring Alaric

Alaric urges Undy to repay his share of the money “borrowed” from Clementina’s trust to buy stock. He explains to Undy that “Fortune has so far favoured” him in that the stock has risen in value, making repayment of the money possible. Trollope may here be recalling the Latin phrase audentes Fortuna iuvat (Fortune favors the bold), found in Vergil’s Aeneid. Though Fortune has so far favored Alaric’s audacity, it will not continue to do so, belying the Latin sentiment. [RR 2017]

source: Vergil, Aeneid 10.284.



Alaric’s Latin exhortation of Excelsior—higher—is in tension with several mentions of falling in this chapter and is explicitly contrasted with images of his own imprisonment and his family harmed by his actions. [RR 2017]

Chapter 36 – Mrs. Val’s New Carriage

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Mrs. Val patronizing Gertrude

See the gloss for “patronized by Mrs. Val” in Chapter 33. [GZ 2016]



As Gertrude, Mrs. Val, and company discuss Alaric’s desire to run for office, Ugolina says that Sir Gregory Hardlines “had put his veto” on Alaric’s participation in the election. In ancient Rome the veto was a special power of the tribune of the plebs to prevent an abuse of power by any other elected official. The association of Sir Gregory’s opinion with the inviolable power of the tribune of the plebs suggests that Sir Gregory will have his way and that Alaric will not run for office. Additionally it reinforces the strong and positive imagery that readers have likely come to associate with Sir Gregory. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 37 – Ticklish Stock

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Alaric as a god

Though Alaric’s aspirations to climb socially, economically, and politically may be in jeopardy, he has ascended the heights of his wife’s regard and undergone an apotheosis of sorts: Gertrude worships him as a “human god.” [RR 2017]

Chapter 38 – Tribulation

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halcyon notes

Harry and Linda must put off their wedding again, and Linda has to “counter-write those halcyon notes” which had announced their marriage. For more information on the Classical ties of the word halcyon see the commentary for Chapter 8. Here Trollope retains the marital connotations of the word. [RR 2017]


Pity personified

As we learn about the consequences of the delay of Harry and Linda’s wedding, the narrator invokes Pity personified, which singles out Linda with its “unpitying finger.” Beyond the many difficulties of the delay already known to Linda, she must also accept the pity of many people who wish to express their sadness for her situation. While these people may think that they are showing sympathy to Linda, it is as if she must re-encounter the delay and her grief about it over and over because of their pity. Ironically, however, because of this episode we as readers may now have more pity for Linda than we ever had before. [GZ 2016]


many slips between cup and lip

This phrase is used by the narrator to suggest that bad things can happen before the conclusion of an otherwise assured outcome. The delay of Harry and Linda’s wedding was unexpected by everyone, and the wording of this common saying in the plural here suggests that other surprises may await the couple before they are wed. For the Classical origin of this saying, see the gloss from Chapter 9 of Small House at Arlington. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 39 – Alaric Tudor Takes a Walk

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“It would be needless to describe”

Although the narrator asserts that “it would be needless to describe” all of the proceedings of Alaric’s commital, he gives a description of it nonetheless. This literary device, called praeteritio, calls special attention to something that the narrator has said that they won’t talk about. Ancient Greek and Roman authors regularly used this device which allowed them to make claims, yet, by asserting that they wouldn’t make them in the first place, enabled them to distance themselves from possibly negative connotations of such claims. In this passage in The Three Clerks, the narrator’s use of praeteritio lets him distance himself and readers from negative feelings and descriptions of Alaric on trial. Throughout the novel Trollope has tried to limit negative judgment about Alaric from the reader, and the use of praeteritio here is a continuation of this theme. [GZ 2016]


Excelsior and sic itur ad astra

Trollope contrasts two Latin expressions of ascendancy—“higher” and “thus a going is made to the stars”—with Alaric’s present situation. Sic itur ad astra is taken from a scene in book 9 of Vergil’s Aeneid in which the god Apollo addresses Iulus, Aeneas’ son who was just successful in battle. Iulus’ victory leads to glory and justifies his place in a family of gods and humans who will become gods; Alaric’s foray, however, has led him “in quite a different direction.” Though Alaric aimed high, his actions have brought him low. [RR 2017]

source: Vergil, Aeneid 9.641.


worse than Greek to Gertrude

When Alaric attempts to explain his exact financial situation to Gertrude, the narrator states that it “was worse than Greek to Gertrude.” By this the reader is led to believe that Gertrude had a difficult time understanding everything that Alaric just explained to her. “It’s all Greek to me” is a common saying that connotes a similar meaning. Furthermore, because she is a woman, Gertrude would not be expected to be involved in her husband’s finances—a comparison is thus made between two spheres, the academic and the economic, in which Victorian gentlewomen were not expected to be competent participants. The sentiment that she knows even less about Alaric’s money troubles than a difficult ancient language is humorous, albeit in a sad way. [GZ 2016 & RR 2017]

Chapter 40 – The Last Breakfast

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hero worship

Despite Alaric’s loss of status among others, Gertrude still idolizes him: she “looked up to him as though he were a hero whom she all but worshipped.” Hero worship was a common cultic practice in antiquity, and here Gertrude is presented as nearly having her own form of it. Compare this with her apotheosis of Alaric in Chapter 37. [RR 2017]

Chapter 41 – Mr. Chaffanbrass

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corpus delicti

The Latin phrase corpus delicti, translated as “body of crime,” is a common legal term used to indicate the material evidence of a crime. Alaric, having just begun his trial, says that he wouldn’t be surprised if he were found guilty because the corpus delicti was visible to everyone in the court. The use of the Latin in the passage directly follows a string of the various hurdles that Alaric will face in his trial, namely the many ways in which Alaric has blatantly misused Clementina’s trust money. Using Latin to punctuate this list of Alaric’s misdeeds adds to the severity of the situation. [GZ 2016]

source: Dictionary of Law (Oxford UP).


cock of this dunghill

Mr. Chaffanbrass, Alaric’s fierce defense lawyer, is described by the narrator as “the cock of this dunghill” when he enters the courtroom. This is a reference to a phrase used by the Roman author Seneca, and it refers to the idea that a person is most confident when they are in familiar territory. The court is Mr. Chaffanbrass’ territory, and his comfort in navigating such a space and Alaric’s defense give us hope for Alaric. See the gloss in Chapter 10 for more. [GZ 2016]

source: Seneca the Younger, Apocolocyntosis 7.


torture and truth

Though it’s likely not an intentional reference to ancient practices, Trollope’s conjunction of torture and truth while describing the rough handling of courtroom witnesses recalls ancient Greek trials, in which torture was sometimes a touchstone or guarantee of truthfulness. [RR 2017]

source: Page duBois, Torture and Truth (Routledge 1991).



Mr. Chaffanbrass, one of Alaric’s lawyers, is described by the narrator as a gladiator. In ancient Rome, gladiators were fighters and a source of entertainment, battling other gladiators or even animals in arenas like the Colosseum. To call Mr. Chaffanbrass a gladiator who continues to fight even when he doesn’t have to paints a vivid illustration of a bloodthirsty lawyer. Furthermore, it reinforces the idea that his defense of Alaric is a performance that eager spectators line the courtroom to watch, much like ancient Romans would have filled the Colosseum to observe gladiatorial games. [GZ 2016]



Mr. Chaffanbrass shines when he argues difficult cases in which Justice, Truth, and Mercy seem aligned against him. Trollope’s personification of these abstractions continues ancient practices and animates the principles opposing Mr. Chaffanbrass. [RR 2017]


black into white

Mr. Chaffanbrass takes pride in his career and in his ability to turn “black into white.” This refers to his ability to rescue his clients from a guilty verdict by arguing for their innocence (white) in spite of their apparent guilt (black). This phrase comes from one of Juvenal’s satires, in which the author’s friend decries the declining state of Rome and the Romans who turn “black into white,” referring to public men and their ability to influence popular opinion as they see fit. The irony is that we are made to delight in the possibility that Mr. Chaffanbrass can effect a not-guilty verdict for Alaric, while Juvenal expresses dislike for people who do this. [GZ & RR 2016]

Source: Juvenal, Satire 3.30.


basilisk eye

Trollope describes Mr. Chaffanbrass’ “basilisk eye” trained intently on a witness during questioning. According to Pliny the Elder, the basilisk is a reptile having the ability to kill with its sight; Mr. Chaffanbrass’ courtroom practices are thus given a gloss of the legendary. [RR 2017]

source: Pliny the Elder, Natural History 8.78.


domestic tyranny

While Mr. Chaffanbrass’ public performances in court are formidable, at home he is “devoid of any feeling of domestic tyranny.” In ancient Greece, a tyrant was a ruler above the laws; in contrast, at home Mr. Chaffanbrass “chooses to be ruled by his own children.” [RR 2017]

Chapter 42 – The Old Bailey

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yielding the palm

When Mr. Chaffanbrass says, “I yield the palm,” he means that he will concede victory to Alaric’s prosecutor (specifically in a contest of meanness). In ancient Rome and Greece, palm fronds were associated with the goddess of victory and were given to the winners of athletic competitions. In this context, yielding the palm gives Mr. Chaffanbrass the advantage of distinguishing himself morally from the prosecutors and making us feel negatively about the prosecuting party. [GZ 2016]


black and white

Mr. Chaffanbrass attempts to persuade the jury of the innocence of Alaric compared to Undy Scott, thereby lessening Alaric’s apparent guilt. To do this, Mr. Chaffanbrass must whiten the relative “blackness” of Alaric’s crimes by comparing them to the crimes of Undy. This notion, mentioned earlier in a gloss from Chapter 41, comes from the writing of the ancient Roman author Juvenal which laments the state of Roman affairs by mentioning Romans who turn “black into white.” Although we might wish that Alaric will be acquitted of his charges, the use of Classics, with its elevated moral associations, cues us in to the fact that acquitting Alaric would be problematic for the overarching moralized themes of the novel. For this reason, we are made subtly aware that his acquittal is unlikely. See the gloss in Chapter 41 for more detail. [GZ 2016]

source: Juvenal, Satire 3.30.


whitewash and Excelsior

During Mr. Chaffanbrass’ questioning of Undy Scott Alaric had begun to imagine that he would be “whitewashed” by Mr. Chaffanbrass’ blackening of Undy (see preceding gloss) and that he would once again urge himself on with the Latin motto Excelsior, or Higher. [RR 2017]

Chapter 43 – A Parting Interview

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not impossible

Trollope effectively uses litotes (the negation of an idea to communicate the opposite) to convey Mrs. Woodward’s cautious hope that Katie may recover. [RR 2017]

Chapter 44 – Millbank

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walk in the fashion of a god

Alaric’s upward amibitions are here described as if he desired to present himself like a god on earth, his Excelsior mantra aspiring almost to apotheosis. [RR 2017]



In the wake of Alaric’s conviction Gertrude sees England as offering no opportunity for the advancement of Excelsior ambitions: she and Alaric will aim their sights on rising higher elsewhere, in Australia. [RR 2017]

Chapter 45 – The Criminal Population is Disposed of

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meum and tuum

The narrator claims that Undy Scott knew the difference between “meum and tuum,” Latin for “mine and yours.” Because of his upperclass education, Undy would certainly have known how to translate the Latin; nevertheless, Undy rejects the principle behind “meum and tuum.” The use of Latin here allows us to make our own judgments about Undy’s moral character, since Classical phrases and sayings are often used to moralize. [GZ 2016]



Trollope acknowledges that he would like to hang Undy Scott, but “Fate…and the laws are averse.” Trollope here alludes to both cosmic and human forces that prevent him from delivering such a punishment. [RR 2017]


Castalian rill

When alluding to the downfall of Undy Scott, the narrator hints that perhaps he did not go far enough in punishing Undy. The narrator specifically refers to “the Castalian rill,” or the sacred fountain of the Muses that inspires poetry, and he claims that he didn’t drink enough from the fountain’s “dark waters” to ruin Undy as much as we would perhaps like. [GZ 2016]


Mr. Chaffanbrass on his own dunghill

Because Mr. Chaffanbrass publicly embarasses Undy during the trial, Undy is eager to fight back for his humiliated honor. The narrator states that the courthouse is Mr. Chaffanbrass’ “dunghill,” which means that he is most confident there. Undy realizes this and thus thinks that it would be easier to counter Mr. Chaffanbrass at Undy’s club, which is more familiar to him. This reference comes from the writing of the ancient Roman author Seneca the Younger and was also used in Chapters 10 and 41. See the gloss in Chapter 10 for more information. [GZ 2016]

source: Seneca the Younger, Apocolocyntosis 7.


idle Elysium

Trollope gives us a glimpse of Undy Scott’s future as a poor man amidst the gaming resorts of Europe, here described as the part of the mythological underworld reserved for heroes. Gambling houses may be an earthly Elysium for the idle rich who can afford to lose money, but in Undy’s case the “idle Elysium” becomes an ironic one: he cannot enjoy the pleasures offered, and his punishment becomes his permanent marginalization on the edges of wealthy society. [RR 2017]


dark as Erebus

On the morning on which Gertrude, Alaric, and their family depart, Paradise Row is “dark as Erebus.” Trollope ironically juxtaposes the “paradise” of the street’s name with a simile likening it to the darkness of the Classical underworld. Trollope follows up this paradox with another, related one: the light of the prison “only made darkness visible.” Trollope’s phrasing here recalls the phrase “darkness visible,” used by Milton in Paradise Lost to describe the effect of the absence of light in Hell.

source: Milton, Paradise Lost 1.63.

Chapter 46 – The Fate of the Navvies

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Hercules and the Augean stables

Because of its negative reputation in the network of offices that comprise the civil service, the Internal Navigation Office is likened to “the foulest in the whole range of the Augean stables.” This is a direct reference to the cleaning of the stables of King Augeas by the hero Hercules (Greek Heracles) as one of his twelve legendary labors. The stables were so foul that the hero rerouted the River Alpheus into the stables to clean them. The narrator says that Alaric’s replacement is a Hercules—that he is determined to make clean the civil service. Trollope had used the same image to characterize reform in his chapter on the civil service (see commentary for Chapter 28). On a minor note, it is ironic that such an office that deals with travel on rivers and waterways would be worried that it “was to be officially obliterated in the flood” of the redirected River Alpheus. [GZ & RR 2016]



Greek for “unmoved one.” This seems to be a reference to a character in the epic poem Orion, written by Richard Henry Horne and published in 1843. The poem takes its title from the Greek mythological hero, who is figured by Horne as a giant builder; Akinetos is another giant who sees no point in work. Once a mythological Hercules (see commentary for Chapter 11), Sir Gregory is now an epic Akinetos, sitting quietly unmoved by the zealous pursuits of the new commissioner. [RR 2017]


thundercloud and bolt

The dissolution of the Internal Navigation Office is announced from on high, and the news comes from the Lords of the Treasury as if a declaration from Jupiter, accompanied by his signature thunder and lightning. [RR 2017]


Cimmerian darkness

When the Internal Navigation Office is closed, its record are consigned to “Cimmerian darkness.” The Cimmerians are mentioned in book 11 of Homer’s Odyssey as living in a land at the edge of the earth where the sun does not shine. Odysseus and his companions travel there in order to talk with the spirits of the dead. Archival exile and bureaucratic oblivion are depicted in mythological terms. [RR 2017]


propitious fate and Elysium

The narrator says that Charley came to work at the Office of the Weights and Measures, “an Elysium,” by way of a “propitious fate.” Elysium was a location in the underworld that served as the final resting place of some of the greatest heroes of ancient mythology. In order to acquire entrance to Elysium, one would surely have to have “propitious fate,” and if one has “propitious fate,” it is likely that they would go to Elysium. In this way, Charley’s fate seems to be doubly safeguarded by a higher power. [GZ 2016]

Chapter 47 – Mr. Nogo’s Last Question

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When Charley is said to have been accepted to work at the Office of Weights and Measures, the narrator uses the words “better auspices” to describe such a positive turn of events for Charley’s life. Auspices are the divine signs of natural phenomena (bird patterns most commonly) interpreted by augurs, a select group of priests in ancient Rome. The use of the word “auspices” here suggests that Charley’s path is guided by a higher power. [GZ 2016]


&c., &c., &c.

An abbreviated form of the abbreviation etc., from the Latin et cetera (and the other things): the ampersand derives from a combination of the letters E and T. [RR 2017]


black into white

The ability of Mr. Chaffanbrass to turn “black into white” was mentioned by Trollope before in Chapters 41 and 42. Now, Mr. Whip Vigil is given the same ability. The notion of interchanging blackness and whiteness comes from Juvenal’s Satire, in which a character decries the current state of the city of Rome and foists the blame on public persons who turn “black into white.” Just as in a similar gloss from Chapter 41, we are made to feel glad that Mr. Whip Vigil can turn Charley’s “blackness” into whiteness. This is ironic because Juvenal in his Satire is complaining about the very people who can alter the perception of blackness and whiteness. See also the glosses from Chapters 41 and 42. [GZ 2016]

source: Juvenal, Satire 3.30.

Chapter 48 – Conclusion

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Literary Censor

Charley’s literary efforts are recognized by the Literary Censor, a periodical whose name recalls the Roman office of censor charged with overseeing public morals (among other things). The Classically resonant name adds authority to the journal’s stamp of approval. We might also want to remember that Charley referred to the press as a censor morum (censor of morals) in Chapter 19 (see commentary), and Trollope referred to Charley himself as a censor in Chapter 22 (see commentary). [RR 2017]


Lucina, a man-deity, and a rocking shrine

At the end of the novel, the narrator mentions Lucina, the Roman goddess of childbirth, and thereby intimates that Charley and Katie will soon increase their family. Echoes of ancient religion continue with Trollope’s playful identification of the cradle as a “rocking shrine” and the baby as a “man-deity.” [GZ 2016 & RR 2017]


Antipodes and Excelsior

Trollopes refers to Australia with this Classically derived name: Australia being opposite (anti-) the feet (podes) of people in the northern hemisphere. We might contrast Alaric’s desire to rise higher (Excelsior!) with his migration to a country often presented as “down under.” [RR 2017]


the heroism of a Roman

Trollope praises Gertrude’s fidelity by contrasting her (and any woman acting similarly) with the legendary Roman, Marcus Curtius. When a chasm opened in the Roman Forum and the gods required the Romans to dedicate their most valuable possession, Marcus Curtius lept into to the cleft with his horse, declaring that Rome’s most valuable possessions were its weapons and bravery. Trollope often uses the Romans as ethical exemplars, and here some women’s excellence trumps even theirs. [RR 2017]

source: Livy, History of Rome 7.6


nod and thunder

Trollope’s description of Alaric’s old self and ambition quietly channels imagery associated with the Roman king of the gods, Jupiter. Alaric’s “approving nod” may recall Jupiter’s numinous authority (see commentary for Chapter 1 of Dr. Wortle’s School), and the “thunder” Alaric imagines spreading through the Times links him to Jupiter via one of the god’s main attributes. This depiction underscores the heights of former aspirations. [RR 2017]



When Charley’s latest work is published his publisher identifies him as “the author of ‘Bathos’.” Bathos is a Greek word meaning depth or altitude, and the use of it here gently underscores the motif of highs and lows prevalent throughout the novel. [RR 2017]


aliter non fit, amice, liber

During the mock review of Charley’s latest book read aloud by the three Woodward women, Charley scoffs at the fact that the reviewer included large parts of Charley’s own text to add to the column. Essentially, the reviewer was stuffing his column to make it a more appropriate length. Harry is quick to reply to Charley in Latin: “aliter non fit, amice, liber,” which translates as “otherwise, friend, it does not become a book.” Harry’s Latin phrase is an adaptation of the Latin found in an epigram written by the Roman poet Martial. In his poem, Martial tells someone named Avitus that any book contains good, average, and bad things in it—“otherwise, Avitus, it does not become a book.” As elsewhere in the novel, Harry’s ties to Classical learning are stronger than the other characters’, and here his adaptation of Martial’s verse shows a quick substitution of amice (friend) for Avite (Avitus) that suits the current context without disrupting the meter of the original. [GZ 2016 & RR 2017]

source: Martial, Epigram 1.16.



Earlier in the novel Charley had reported his editor’s insistence that his story have a “Nemesis”—that is, some sort of righteous retribution, so-called after the Greek goddess; see commentary for Chapter 19. In the Woodward women’s mock review they take Charley to task for including no such Nemesis in his most current work, and this reveals their practical joke to Charley.  Trollope himself usually imparts a kind of moral balance or nemesis in his novels: characters often seem to get what they deserve. In The Three Clerks, however, Charley seems largely to escape punishment, so the charge of “no Nemesis” may be as fitting for Trollope’s novel as for Charley’s. [RR 2017]

Three Clerks

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