in Doctor Thorne

Chapter 04 – Lessons from Courcy Castle

lad of wax

This phrase can refer to a “proper man” or one who is very well formed.  Its origin may be found in some lines by Horace:  cerea Telephi / laudas bracchia, “you praise the waxen arms of Telephus.”  In Doctor Thorne, Frank Gresham’s cousin, the Honourable John, calls Frank a “lad of wax” in a sarcastic tone after the two have been discussing hereditary issues. The Honourable John thinks that Frank is a little bit too perfect in his opinions and in the close relationship which he has with his father, and John implies that Frank may have been shaped this way by his parents, in much the same way that a piece of warm wax can be easily formed. The OED cites this phrase as being able to be used to refer to male individuals of all ages, but especially young men, and has it listed as occurring as early as 1440.

Sources:  Horace, Ode 1.13.2-3.
Entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.


Resurgam, Requiescat in pace

Frank Gresham listens to a story which is being told to him by his cousin, Honorable John. It is about Fred Hatherly, whose father unexpectedly died, leaving Fred with a large fortune and title to call his own.  Apparently, the undertakers had written “Resurgam” on the father’s coat of arms placed above the door of the house; the word is Latin for “I will come back again,” and is translated by John for Frank’s benefit.  Keeping in mind his recently acquired fortune, Fred didn’t particularly want his father to return.  Therefore, Fred and a few of his friends one night replaced “Resurgam” with “Requiescat in pace.”  The translation which Honorable John gives for this phrase is “You’d a great deal better stay where you are,” but the actual Latin translation is closer to “Let him rest in peace'” or “May he rest in peace.”  It is interesting that the Honourable John insists on translating these simple Latin phrases for Frank, who is in the process of getting his degree from Cambridge and certainly knows what these Latin words mean.  Frank’s cousin seems to use any available opportunity to boost his own ego, while belittling Frank’s opinions; it is uncertain whether this is because he thinks that he knows more about life than Frank or that he is wiser because he comes from a more noble blood line.  [MD 2005]