in Doctor Thorne

Chapter 01 – The Greshams of Greshamsbury

Duke of Omnium

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



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


halcyon days

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

Sources:  Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.410-748


Gresham’s Classical daughters

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

Sources:  Mike Campbell’s Behind the Name site.


Venus and Apollo

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


savages with clubs

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


Doric columns

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