in Barchester Towers

Chapter 09 – The Stanhope Family

She had fallen, she said, in ascending a ruin…

Having married a disreputable Italian man named Neroni, Madeline Stanhope goes with him to Rome.  She returns to her family not long afterwards, crippled for life.  She says that her injury was sustained while climbing a Roman ruin, but it is a distinct possibility that she was maimed through some fault of her husband’s.  This would be in keeping with the way that she continues to use Roman history as a more pretentious and less mundane background for herself, thereby hiding her nuptial mistake and its effect on her current life.  She is a single mother, a permanent cripple, and a husbandless yet married woman, but through adopting and circulating certain Roman ideas about herself, she covers up or even gilds the evidence of her mistakes.  [JM 2005]


Grecian bandeaux

A hairstyle emulating that seen on many ancient statues, with the hair put up in plaits around the head instead of flowing freely.  “Bandeaux” refers to headbands.   [JM & RR 2005]


eyes bright at Lucifer’s

Lucifer, in Latin, means “bearer of light.”  When Trollope compares Madeline’s eyes to those of the devil Lucifer, he is making an obvious reference to their brightness but he is also making a subtle implication about the Signora’s character.  Her eyes are not just beautifully bright, they are also “dreadful” and contain no love, but rather mischief and cunning.   [JM 2005]



The basilisk is a mythical beast with widely varying descriptions.  Many descriptions, including that of Pliny the Elder, include a lethal gaze.  The name “basilisk” comes from the Greek basileus “king,” or basiliskos “little king;” the basilisk was considered the king of serpents.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.
Pliny, Natural History 8.33.



Latin, “having been born.”  Madeline Stanhope adds rather a lot to her title as it appears on her cards; with the gilding, the fancy coronet, and her insertion of a bit of Latin, Madeline is seriously playing up her own nobility and birth.  Taking her father’s given name Vesey is a little strange, and she has no more reason to make a point of what her maiden name was than does any other married woman.  The whole episode with the visiting cards serves to show what lengths Madeline is putting herself to in order to appear more grand and less pathetic.  [JM 2005]


referring Neroni’s extraction to the old Roman family from which the worst of the Caesar’s sprang

Madeline does not speak of her husband or her marriage, except to make mysterious references and call her daughter the “last of the blood of the emperors,” implying that her husband Neroni is somehow related to the classical Nero.  Such is surely not the case, but again the Signora is making the most of her sad state, and doing it well; few seem to realize her pretentiousness, least of all the men she besots.  [JM 2005]