in Doctor Thorne

Chapter 08 – Matrimonial Prospects

Dr. Century

Dr. Century is one of the other doctors who work in the same region as Doctor Thorne, but who lives close to the town of Silverbridge.  Dr. Century’s name is probably a reference to his age and antiquated medical knowledge.  The word “century” comes from the Latin word centuria, which referred to 100 soldiers, objects, or a group of voters in ancient Rome. “Century” began being used to refer to the years of a person’s life as early as 1626, according to the OED.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.



Augusta is said to be “Argus-eyed” in this Classical allusion. Argus was a character in Greek mythology who was said to have at least a hundred eyes and was ordered to be a sentinel for Hera, the wife of Zeus.  Argus’ duty was to watch over Io, whom Zeus had turned into a cow and with whom he was committing adultery.  This allusion is fitting because Augusta has recently been warned by her aunt, Lady De Courcy, to keep her eyes open for the dangerous flirtations of young men and women who come from different classes.  Therefore, Augusta is the guard, Argus, for her aunt, Lady De Courcy, who is Hera in this allusion.  When Augusta intrudes upon Mary and her brother Frank, she is searching for clues to see what they are doing, and finds that this situation is exactly what her aunt was previously warning her about.  This reference could also be seen to be humorous, by the fact that Argus was a monster, not human, and Augusta could not possibly be as watchful as he was supposed to be.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.


St. Anthony

This is a reference to the Christian saint, Anthony, who is assumed to be the founder of the Christian monastic movement.  Anthony spent the majority of his life in either complete solitude or near-total isolation among a loosely-knit group of Christian hermits. He lived during the 3rd and 4th centuries CE in North Africa, primarily Egypt, in what was at the time a part of the Roman Empire. In this allusion, Mary Thorne presents Frank Gresham with her hand in a gesture of friendship as they are conversing on the Greshamsbury estate.  However, Frank holds on to her hand rather longer than is socially acceptable for two young people in their situation, suggesting that he has more affectionate feelings for her than merely those of a friend.  He is described as being “not a Saint Anthony,” and thus unable to constrain himself from a temptation such as holding Mary Thorne’s hand.  Presumably, if he were like St. Anthony, Frank would have no problem separating himself from human contact and would certainly be able to abstain from holding Mary’s hand.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia.