in Three Clerks

Chapter 04 – Captain Cuttwater

tremendous nose

When Captain Cuttwater is reintroduced to the Woodward family, Katie, who has never seen him before, is frightened by his nose. To describe Cuttwater’s nose, Trollope uses the word tremendous, which has a subtle double meaning. On the one hand, tremendous is a common English adjective conveying largeness, while on the other hand tremendous derives from the Latin adjective tremendus, “to be shuddered at,” which is exactly what Katie does when she see the nose. In this way, Trollope exercises his knowledge of Classics to provide a closer, humorous look at a situation. [GZ 2016]



Upon his arrival at Surbiton Cottage, Captain Cuttwater asks Mrs. Woodward about Harry and Alaric, whom she puts forth in a positive light as if needing to defend herself for allowing her daughters to be so close with the young men. Mrs. Woodward, halfway through her explanation of Harry and Alaric, realizes that she doesn’t need to “apologize” for what she does in her own home. Here Trollope draws on the meaning of the ancient Greek verb from which our apologize derives: apologeisthai means to defend, as in a courtroom. A famous example of a courtroom defense speech is Plato’s Apology, in which Socrates defends himself in trial, accused of corrupting the youth of Athens. [GZ & RR 2016]