in Bertrams

Chapter 03 – The New Vicar

the Wilkinsons’ patron

Following the death of Arthur Wilkinson’s father the vicar, the Wilkinson family fears that they will be destitute.  However, Trollope explains that the living was conferred upon the late vicar by his patron, the marquis Lord Stapledean.  The marquis summons Arthur to his seat in the north of England and gives him the living–provided that most of the income goes into the direct control of the newly widowed Mrs. Wilkinson.  Here, “patron” takes on Classical coloring.  Patrons in ancient Rome would have a number of clients whom they would help support financially and through other means in return for loyalty and (often) votes.  Arthur is acting as the client of the marquis by receiving the living from him.  The Classical resonance here helps the reader to understand that the relationship is a two-way street; both of them need and gain something.  Arthur secures his family’s future, and the marquis fills the vacant seat and is able to provide for Mrs. Wilkinson.  [CMC 2012]


accept the goods the gods had provided

At this point, Arthur has decided to accept the marquis’ offer of the parish living, despite the stipulation that most of the income be under the control of his mother.  Trollope states that Arthur has resolved to “accept the goods the gods had provided him, clogged though they were with alloy, like so many other gifts of fortune.”  The notion of accepting the gifts of the gods recalls Paris in book 3 of the Iliad, who tells Hector to stop insulting his good looks (a divine gift) after Hector has told him that his womanizing has put the entire city in danger.  Both Paris and Arthur have complicated gifts from the gods, as both have the potential to cause significant trouble for their owners.  [CMC 2012]

A similar sentiment is voiced in a Roman comedy by Plautus:  habeas quod di dant boni (“keep that which the good gods give”).  Trollope’s phrasing here particularly echoes a verse from Dryden:  “Take the goods the gods provide thee.”  In Chapter 32 of The Last Chronicle of Barset, Mr. Toogood quotes this excerpt from Dryden directly.  [RR 2012]

Source:  Homer, Iliad 3.65.
Plautus, Rudens 1229.
Dryden, “Alexander’s Feast,” 106.