in Doctor Thorne

Chapter 10 – Sir Roger’s Will

Habit is second nature…

This sentiment is attributed to Diogenes who lived during the 5th and 4th centuries BCE and was a Cynic from Sinope. He moved to Athens after becoming involved in some legal trouble and became a student of the Greek philosopher Antisthenes.  Sir Roger Scatcherd uses this phrase to explain to Dr. Thorne why he drinks such large quantities of alcohol. Sir Roger goes on to say that even though this habit is second nature, it is actually a more powerful nature than the first nature, presumably the instinct we’re born with.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Volume 1.  Ed. William Smith.  Boston:  Little and Brown, 1849.


sowing wild oats

In Plautus’ Trinummus, the character Philto says something similar to our “wild oats” expression.  In Latin, the phrase is Em istic oportet opseri mores malos, / si in opserendo possint interfieri, and can be translated into English as: “Ah! bad habits should be sown right there, if in sowing they are able to be killed.”  Trollope uses the phrase “sow his wild oats,” in a conversation between Sir Roger Scatcherd and Dr. Thorne regarding Sir Roger’s son, Louis Philippe.  Sir Roger says to let him get rid of his bad habits (excessive drinking) while he is still young, in other words “sow his wild oats,” and he will straighten out by the time he’s older.  This seems to be the same idea to which Plautus is referring in Trinummus; get rid of one’s bad habits by sowing them into the earth so that they are no longer a burden.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Plautus, Trinummus 531-532.