in Bertrams

Chapter 02 – Breakfast and Lunch

The Frogs

While Arthur is attempting to write to his father, George reads Aristophanes’ Frogs.  This play is a comedy in which Dionysus travels to the Underworld in order to retrieve the tragedian Euripides.  This play is the “light reading” mentioned by Trollope in the previous chapter.  [CMC 2012]


second in Classics

Unlike George Bertram, Arthur Wilkinson is not at the top of his university class.  Instead, he receives a second-class honors in the field of Classics, which neither he nor his father had hoped for.  Arthur is, because of this, one of the victi (“conquered”) Trollope talks about in the previous chapter.  [CMC 2012]


triumphed in the triumph of his son

Mr. Wilkinson is disappointed upon receiving the letter from his son Arthur which describes how he finished his studies.  Trollope states that the vicar would have taken joy in his son’s accomplishments, but that he was not capable of summoning sympathy for him in his current state.  The piling-on of “triumph” activates the Classical associations of the word.  A triumph was given to a victorious Roman general and consisted of a large parade, public celebration, and sacrifices.  Trollope here uses “triumph” in its negated form to show just how high the hopes of Mr. Wilkinson were for his son and how very disappointed he is now.  [CMC 2012]


a statue of George Bertram

As a joke, Harcourt states that there will be an alabaster statue made of George due to his double first.  Harcourt then says that he personally would rather have it be made of marble.  Though meant to be humorous, the image of a statue in marble of a triumphant individual is itself a very Classical image, a fitting tribute to someone whose success is in the field of Classics.  [CMC 2012]


dura ilia

The festivities revolving around George Bertram’s triumph involve a fair amount of drinking.  One of their companions suggests that they immediately leave Parker’s and continue on to dinner.  Harcourt remarks that they could do such a thing as freshmen, but no longer, since they no longer have the first-years’ dura ilia.  This Latin phrase, “tough stomachs,” is used humorously in Horace’s Epodes to describe the fortitude of those who harvest garlic.  Harcourt speaks among university-educated men who can be expected to notice and understand the reference.  [CMC & RR 2012]

Source:  Horace, Epodes 3.4.



George Bertram’s academic success is again described as a triumph.  In this instance, Harcourt describes the triumph as belonging to all those who went to Trinity, his college.  This could be seen as similar to the way in which the troops of a triumphant Roman general would share in his success.  [CMC 2012]


tide in the affairs of men

Bertram and Harcourt are discussing Wilkinson’s future prospects given that his academic career did not have a strong finish.  Trollope quotes Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to elaborate on this point.  This quotation is appropriate in both its content and its play of origin.  Julius Caesar is about the assassination of one of Rome’s most famous citizens.  In the context of the quotations, Brutus, one the assassins, states that they must act against the supporters of Caesar quickly, before Fate turns against them.  It is fitting that Trollope should use a play that is so very Classical in a discussion centering around two men who just finished their Classical university education.  [CMC 2012]

Source:  Shakespeare, Julius Caesar 4.3.218-219.


do at Rome as Romans do

Harcourt, in justifying the sometimes questionable behavior of barristers, states that he does in Rome as the Romans do.  Here, Rome is London and the actions of the Romans are the actions of the barristers.  Harcourt is trying to persuade Bertram follow in his footsteps and enter into the law profession, despite any ethical qualms Bertram might have.  Perhaps Harcourt is referring to Rome to appeal to the newly-minted first in Classics.  The sentiment can be found in a letter to Augustine from Ambrose.  [CMC & RR 2012]

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