Chapter 14 – Everybody’s Business

tuptō in the morning and amo in the evening

When a writer for the newspaper Everybody’s Business learns of the Peacockes’ story and Dr. Wortle’s defense of the couple, he submits a humorous article that sets off a chain of reactions among the characters in Dr. Wortle’s School.  In mocking Dr. Wortle, the author of the article uses the Greek tuptō (“I strike”) and the Latin amo (“I love”) to suggest the conjugation of verbs, a typical schoolboy exercise.  The article associates Greek (the more difficult of the two languages) with daily work in the school, and the choice of Greek verb reminds readers of the possibility of physical discipline meted out to students by teachers.  By contrast, the Latin verb is used to suggest romantic improprieties undertaken by Dr. Wortle with Mrs. Peacocke during Mr. Peacocke’s absence.  By using Classics in his article, the contributor to Everybody’s Business is perhaps elevating himself while also mocking the values of the higher classes.  [JE & RR 2014]

In discussing the use of these verbs, Mick Imlah further notes a possible play between verb conjugation and sexual “conjugation” or union.

Source:  Trollope, Dr. Wortle’s School. Ed. Mick Imlah.  London:  Penguin, 1999.  See note on p. 220.

 

vulgar and instant

In his letter to the bishop, Dr. Wortle calls the newspaper article a “scurrilous and vulgar attack.”  “Vulgar” seems to have a double resonance here, signifying both “crass” and “common.”  English “vulgar” is related to Latin vulgus, “the crowd,” “the common people,” and its deployment here resonates with the name of the newspaper which printed the offending article, Everybody’s Business.  Later in the letter, Dr. Wortle refers to the bishop’s letter “of the 12th instant.”  Such a use of “instant” to refer to the current month is derived from the Latin adjectival stem instant-, “present.”  Trollope has Dr. Wortle choose words which attest his Classical credentials.  [RR 2014]

Chapter 12 – The Stantiloup Correspondence

Latin and Greek vs. the soul

When Mrs. Stantiloup supposes that Mrs. Momson’s son will be withdrawn from Dr. Wortle’s School, Mrs. Momson responds negatively, excusing herself by citing her husband’s esteem of Dr. Wortle and their concern that Augustus do well at Eton.  In reply, Lady Margaret insists, “What is Latin and Greek as compared to his soul?”  Latin and Greek were the basis for a gentleman’s education in Trollope’s time, but—as Lady Margaret points out—intellectual pursuits do not necessarily align with spiritual ones.  Though Classical material had been somewhat harmonized with Christian doctrine in Trollope’s time, there were still fundamental differences.  While Lady Margaret is emphasizing the moral importance of the soul above education, Trollope might be noting a general tension between a Classical education and Christian religion.  [JE 2014]

 

morals of a Latin grammar teacher

Mr. Momson does not care about the morals of his son’s Latin teacher.  His view seems to be that since Mr. Peacocke is not in charge of his son’s moral education, Mr. Peacocke’s morals do not matter.  In Victorian England studying Classics was an important part of a privileged education.  Mr. Momson’s sentiment suggests that, in wanting to keep Augustus at Dr. Wortle’s school, Mr. Momson is concerned about his son’s cultural education and advancement.  Mr. Peacocke’s instruction is seen as a serviceable means to an end, akin to a hired woman’s maintenance of Augustus’ clothes.  [BL 2013 & RR 2014]

 

potential

Mrs. Stantiloup, doubting her own influence, hopes to carry out her schemes against Dr. Wortle through Lady Grogram, “who was supposed to be potential over those connected with her.”  Our current understanding of “potential” is related to possibility.  “Potential” is related to Latin potens, which can mean capable or powerful.  Trollope here uses “potential” with these other meanings in mind.  The Oxford English Dictionary shows this usage of the word as early as c. 1500 and as late as 1935, but it has since become rare.  [JE 2014]

 

as many sons as Priam

John Talbot sends Dr. Wortle a reaffirming, positive letter, assuring him of his support while other parents withdraw their children from the school or question Dr. Wortle’s choices.  In the letter, Talbot gives a ringing endorsement—that if he had “as many sons as Priam” he would “send them all” to Dr. Wortle.  Priam was the king of Troy during its fall and father of 50 sons, including the famous Hector and infamous Paris.  While Priam’s story is ultimately tragic, Talbot’s position is not, and Talbot seems to be employing the reference for comic juxtaposition instead, particularly when he mentions immediately following that “the cheques would be very long in coming.”  The reference to Priam also alludes to the Classical education and the gentlemanly friendship that Talbot and Dr. Wortle share.  The exchange of the Classical reference becomes equivalent to a handshake between peers.  The two refer to Mrs. Stantiloup as “Mother Shipton” (a British prognosticator), and the comparison of Mrs. Stantiloup to a homegrown British figure further excludes Mrs. Stantiloup from the gentlemen’s Classical circle.  [JE & RR 2014]

 

Classics in America

In a letter to John Talbot, Dr. Wortle states that Mr. Peacocke’s decision to teach Classics in America was rash.  The point here may be that Americans would not properly appreciate Mr. Peacocke’s scholarship.  Since Classics was considered an important part of a cultural education, Dr. Wortle may also be assuming that America is culturally deficient.  [BL 2013]

 

Fortune

In his letter to John Talbot, Dr. Wortle mentions that “Fortune had been most unkind” to Mr. Peacocke.  Dr. Wortle had earlier invoked personified Fortune when discussing Mr. Peacocke’s situation (see commentary for Chapter 9).  While that earlier reference to Fortune was contrasted with Mrs. Wortle’s Christian concern about sin, here Dr. Wortle’s Classical reference may not meet similar resistance, given the Classical background which Dr. Wortle and Talbot share.  [RR 2014]

Chapter 11 – The Bishop

quasi and arch

Lady Margaret is the aunt of Augustus Momson, a student at Dr. Wortle’s school; she is also the first cousin of Mrs. Stantiloup, Dr. Wortle’s antagonist.  Trollope reports that “There had been a question indeed about whether young Momson should be received at the school—because of the quasi connection with the arch-enemy.”  With quasi (Latin “as if,” “as it were”) and “arch-” (Greek “first,” “foremost”), Trollope gives a Classical inflection to the causal clause explaining the hesitation about admitting Augustus to the Classical school.  [RR 2014]

 

Augustus Momson

Augustus Momson, the worst behaved and dullest boy in Bowick, is named after the first emperor of Rome.  After the emperor’s death, Augustus (meaning “venerable,” “magnificent”) was passed on to later emperors as a title.  There is humor in the fact that the Latin honorific of one of the most celebrated emperors is given to such an unworthy recipient.  The use of the name here shows some arrogance in the family that has spoiled the boy.  [BL 2013; rev. RR 2014]

There may be further humor in that Augustus Momson’s last name recalls Theodor Mommsen, a noted Roman historian who lived and wrote in the 19th c.  It is ironic that the name of such an unpromising student is given a name with a doubly Classical resonance.  [RR 2014]