in Old Man's Love

Chapter 11 – Mrs. Baggett Trusts Only in the Funds

character and action

Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics that a person’s actions tell the character; that is, the only means of discerning character is through action. So says Trollope here, of Mr. Whittlestaff: “as was his character, so must he act.” The surprising consequence here is that Mr. Whittlestaff cannot take the clear route Mrs. Baggett commands him to take; he must “work it through” as we say, because his character is founded on that sort of action, and thus he has no choice. Whereas to Aristotle the character is based on chosen acts, to Trollope the character is formed and thus dictates the acts which are possible for Mr. Whittlestaff, whether chosen or not. He will soften. [CMS 2018]

Source:  Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics book 4.


by her means

“He had told himself that by her means might be procured some cure to the wound in his heart which had made his life miserable for so many years.” The adverbial phrase by her means is equivalent to, and works like, a Latin phrase grammatically known as the ablative of means: Mary might have been the instrument, the means, to relieve Mr. Whittlestaff of his sorrow. It seems possible that Trollope’s specific grammatical reference here hints at the problem: Mary cannot be an instrument to treat Mr. Whittlestaff’s heart, since she has her own heart. [CMS 2018]


procured some cure

Trollope’s wording here demonstrates polyptoton, a rhetorical device in which an author or speaker uses two or more words which share the same stem, in this case -cur- from Latin cura (“care”). This use of polyptoton perhaps underscores Mr. Whittlestaff’s need and desire for a cure for his cares. [RR 2018]