in Old Man's Love

Chapter 09 – The Revd. Montagu Blake

per annum

The Latin prepositional phrase (meaning “by the year or annually”) has a crisp and formal ring, fitting for the description of Mr. Blake’s clerical compensation.  Compare the less elevated sound of “300 a year perhaps,” naming the amount of Mr. Blake’s personal fortune. [RR 2018]


crescit amor diamonds

John Gordon and Montagu Blake had known one another during their student days at Oxford. When the two reconnect after John Gordon’s time in the African diamond fields, John Gordon mentions that “a man is not easily contented who has been among diamonds.” Mr. Blake responds, “Crescit amor diamonds!” Mr. Blake is alluding to a line from Juvenal’s Satire 14: crescit amor nummi quantum ipsa pecunia crevit (“the love of cash increases as much as money itself has increased”). After establishing the connection to Juvenal with the first two words, Mr. Blake shifts to English and substitutes “diamonds” for the Latin genitive nummi (“of cash”) to make the quotation suit John Gordon’s particular circumstances. Mr. Blake uses Latin literature—a staple of an Oxford education at the time—to claim and reestablish his social link to John Gordon. While this is fitting, it is also strained: Mr. Blake’s insertion of “diamonds” disrupts the syntax of the Latin by making it sound like the object of crescit (“increases”) rather than an objective genitive after amor (“love”). Mr. Blake’s repetition of his exclamation might also signal some over-investment on his part in using Classical currency to connect to his former acquaintance. [RR 2018]

Juvenal rails against avarice in Satire 14—against the abstract idea of avarice as exemplified by types of people.  Mr. Blake paraphrases aptly when he observes that the problem with diamonds is that the appetite grows with the getting of them, but the novel also lets us see that Mr. Blake has his own appetite for wealth, and perhaps Trollope enjoys alluding to Juvenal’s direct, vivid condemnation in his own sly satire on Mr. Blake. [CMS 2018]

Source: Juvenal, Satire 14.149.


pecuniary distress

Mr. Blake explains to John Gordon that Mary Lawrie’s father “died in pecuniary distress.” The use of the two Latinate words pecuniary and distress have a euphemistic effect, softening the naming of money troubles, and also enact Mr. Blake’s predilection for inflated speech. [RR 2018]