in Warden

Chapter 06 – The Warden’s Tea Party

the consolation of a Roman

The ideal Roman citizen was one who was supposed to place the success of the state and fulfillment of duty above his own personal interests.  John Bold adheres to these ideals by pursing that which he believes is his own duty and which is also the best thing for the country.  He is determined to continue his case against the hospital, regardless of how this will affect his personal relationship with Eleanor Harding.  [MD 2005]



When Mary Bold urges her brother to give up his involvement in the debate about the warden’s position, she calls her brother’s investment in the situation “a chimera—a dream” and “a suicidal thing.”  Mary’s use of “chimera” refers to a fire-breathing mythological monster—part goat, part lion, part snake—eventually overcome by Bellerophon.  While the word “chimera” came to be used in English as a way to name a fanciful notion, perhaps its deployment here encourages some additional resonance:  Mary is criticizing her brother’s self-image as a heroic fighter and suggests that his battle with the imagined monster will be to his own detriment because it will endanger his relationship with Eleanor.  [RR 2014]


Barchester Brutus

This could be a reference to Lucius Junius Brutus who helped found the Roman Republic by overthrowing the ruling Tarquin kings.  Brutus also became a consul who had to condemn his own two sons to death for their conspiracy to try and restore the Tarquins to the throne.  If this is the case, then this allusion shows us that John Bold is entirely devoted to the laws and the system of the English government.  Even members, or potential members of his own family, such as Eleanor Harding, will not be an obstacle to his pursuit of justice.  However, this could also be an allusion to the later Roman, Marcus Junius Brutus, who helped assassinate Julius Caesar in what he claimed was a defense of the state and its systems. The methods used by Brutus to kill Caesar might be seen as a parallel to John Bold’s back-stabbing of Eleanor Harding and her father, Bold’s friend, Septimus Harding.  Brutus was an associate of Caesar for many years, yet was one of the main conspirators who helped plan the death of Caesar, and was actually one of the people who killed him.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Livy, History of Rome, end of book 1-beginning of book 2 (for the stories about Lucius Junius Brutus).


mock epic battle, Apollo, and a nymph

In this scene, Trollope describes a party at Mr. Harding’s home, and uses a number of different classical allusions.  The flirting of the young men and women in the room is compared to a battle between two armies advancing, retreating, and fighting.  Apollo (the god of music) is mentioned several times as a member of the party, who is in the corner playing music.  One of the young women with whom Eleanor is sitting at the piano is also referred to as a nymph.  These elements combine to make the entire scene seem like it has come straight out of ancient mythology.  The idea of presenting flirting between men and women in terms of battle imagery may also be seen as humorous and poking fun at epic battle scenes which classical authors described.  [MD 2005]


Eleanor’s heart as sacrifice

Mr. Harding is aware of Eleanor’s affection for Mr. Bold, and as contention over the warden’s position escalates Mr. Harding “tried to arrange in his own mind how matters might be so managed that his daughter’s heart should not be made the sacrifice to the dispute which was likely to exist between him and Bold.”  Trollope’s use of “sacrifice” here paves the way for the more developed references to the sacrifice of Iphigenia later.  Unlike Agamemnon, Mr. Harding would like not to sacrifice his daughter, even metaphorically, to defend his own position.  [RR 2014]


Mr. Harding apologises

Trollope tells us that when Mr. Harding spoke with his daughter, he “apologised” for Mr. Bold.  Trollope here uses “apologise” in a sense corresponding to the meaning of the ancient Greek verb to which it is related:  apologeisthai, “to defend.”  [RR 2014]


“I shall always judge my father to be right….”

Eleanor shows that she is staunchly behind her father and his decisions; she will believe that he is correct and his opposing party is wrong, no matter what the scenario. This sets Eleanor up to partake in a continuing allusion to Iphigenia in the following chapters.  [MD 2005]