in Barchester Towers

Chapter 02 – Hiram’s Hospital According to Act of Parliament


A Latin word meaning “examiner,” “investigator,” or “scrutinizer.”  The OED cites instances of the word used in English as early as 1593. Trollope uses it here as a part of a newspaper or magazine’s name, the Musical Scrutator, which is dedicated to the topic of music. This publication is said to have commented on Mr. Harding’s musical work, Harding’s Church Music, and given it high praise.   [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.


undying fame

Used to describe the praise which Mr. Harding received in an article in the Musical Scrutator, this phrase is a classical reference.  Epic heroes like those in Homer’s Iliad desire “undying fame” or “undying glory,” and Trollope likens Mr. Harding to these classical epic heroes. This description could be seen to be humorous because Mr. Harding will probably never become as famous as any of the warriors in Homer’s Iliad.  [MD 2005]

There is also, of course, a humorous disparity between Homeric warriors and mild Mr. Harding.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 9.413 (for an example of the use of the phrase “undying fame”).



A Latin word meaning truth, the OED has no record of this word being introduced into standard English vocabulary. It is used in this instance as the alias of an anonymous person who has written a letter to The Jupiter in favor of the editors’ views. This individual has signed the letter with the name “Veritas,” which claims a significant amount of authority for the writer and the writer’s personal views.  Several other letters were said to have been written to the paper as well, which were signed by “Common Sense” and “One that loves fair play,” further establishing these authors’ beliefs in the superior value of their own opinions.  [MD 2005]

The authority claimed by “Veritas” is at least two-fold:  the authority derived from an assertion of truthfulness, and the cultural authority of asserting that truthfulness with a Latin pseudonym.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  OED.


Cassandra was not believed

In Greek mythology, Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, who was the King of Troy, was given the power to foresee future events by Apollo. However, when she would not be Apollo’s lover, Apollo cursed her to never be believed by anyone. We can see an example of this in Vergil’s Aeneid, when Cassandra foretells the destruction of Troy but is unheeded.  This is an interesting allusion because Trollope is likening the paper The Jupiter to the mythological figure of Cassandra; this publication is also able to know the future, but at times no one listens to it or trusts its ideas.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Aeneid 2.246-247.


woman as ivy, husband as tree

Trollope describes Eleanor Harding as being like the parasitic ivy, which attaches itself to trees and climbs up them, using the tree’s support to further its own growth.  John Bold, Eleanor’s husband, is described as the tree on which Eleanor climbs and secures herself. She is shown as one who worships her husband and who completely defends him in all of his decisions.  This imagery recalls that found in Catullus’ poem 61, written in the style of a marriage hymn.  [MD & RR 2005]

We find similar symbolism, but with a grape-vine and tree, in book 14 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses:  the god Vertumnus (in disguise) suggests to his beloved Pomona that a woman, like the grape-vine, needs a husband, like the tree, on which to grow.  For Ovid, ivy growing on a tree may be a more dire image:  in book 4 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses the nymph Salmacis tries to subdue the youth whom she desires, and she is likened to a snake attacking an eagle, a squid encompassing its prey, and ivy climbing up trees.  An ivy-like–suffocating–wife becomes a trope in British literature used by the likes of Shakespeare and Dryden; a quick example is Thomas’ Hardy’s “Ivy Wife.”  Trollope seems to use the idea of an ivy wife without any of the accumulated negative associations.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Catullus 61. 31-35.  Link to a side-by-side English-Latin version.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 14.661-668  and 4.361-367.
Hardy, “Ivy Wife.” Link to the poem at
Williams, Aubrey L., “The Decking of Ruins:  Dryden’s All for Love,” South Atlantic Review 49 (1984):  6-18.  (Williams doesn’t mention Trollope, but he discusses the tradition of the trope.)


an ever-running fountain of tears

This description recalls the mythological Niobe, whose seven sons and seven daughters are killed by the gods, and as a result she cries endless tears of sorrow over their deaths.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.146-312.