in Barchester Towers

Chapter 11 – Mrs. Proudie’s Reception – Concluded

wrath of Juno and the passions of celestial minds

“We know what was the wrath of Juno when her beauty was despised.  We know to what storms of passion even celestial minds can yield,” says Trollope about Ms. Proudie when Ethelbert tore her dress.  The first part of the quotation is a reference to the judgment of Paris.  The allusion is continued when Trollope says “As Juno may have looked at Paris on Mount Ida, so did Mrs. Proudie look on Ethelbert Stanhope when he pushed the leg of the sofa into her lace train.”  The judgement of Paris is the event that started the Trojan War.  When Paris, a young Trojan prince, is asked by Juno, Venus, and Minerva to judge which is the most beautiful, he chooses Venus.  Venus gives him Helen as a prize, and Paris seizes her from her husband.  This event sparks the Trojan War, but it is Juno who most vehemently asserts that Troy should be destroyed.  The second half of the quotation is reminiscent of Aeneid 1.11 where Vergil (in reference to Juno) writes tantaene animis caelestibus irae or “are there such great feelings of anger in celestial minds?”  Mrs. Proudie is being compared to a raging Juno.  Invoking the image of this goddess and applying it to Mrs. Proudie achieves comic effect.  It also effectively conjures an image of Mrs. Proudie who is probably glaring at Ethelbert as though he were her inferior.  Bertie is then shown kneeling, and Trollope says it were as though “he were imploring pardon from a goddess.”  The use of Juno to describe Mrs. Proudie’s reaction is useful in that it makes light of the scene, helps the reader visualize the scene, and increases the overall tension of the scene.  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology. [TH & RR 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Aeneid 1.11.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


the blood of Tiberius and the last of the Neros

Tiberius was the second emperor of Rome.  He inherited his position from his uncle Augustus Caesar.  Tiberius was the step-son of Augustus, the founder of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.  Nero was another Julio-Claudian emperor.  He was accused of setting fire to Rome and persecuting Christians afterwards.  He was also the last emperor in Augustus’ line.  When Madeline claims her child has the blood of Tiberius, she is suggesting that he is descended from the imperial family of ancient Rome and thus a successor to Caesar.  It is unlikely that she can actually trace her child’s descent to Tiberius.   Madeline was in this case probably not referring to the truth of the matter but in keeping with her character she uses Tiberius to add to her over-the-top presentation of herself.  Her classical references reinforce the impression that most of her words and behaviors are only a grandiose façade.  [TH 2005]


a Nero and yet a Christian

The signora says to the bishop, “But you might speak to her; you might let her hear from your consecrated lips, that she is not a castaway because she is a Roman; that she may be a Nero and yet a Christian; that she may owe her black locks and dark cheeks to the blood of the pagan Caesars, and yet herself be a child of grace.”  In the midst of Mrs. Proudie’s reception the signora speaks to the bishop about the confirmation of her daughter.  The bishop responds that at seven years old her daughter is much too young.  Madeline then issues the above speech in an attempt to persuade him that he should confirm her daughter or at least speak to her.  By relating her daughter’s supposed blood-tie with Nero to the question of whether she can be a Christian, Madame Neroni is likely alluding to Nero’s persecution of the Christians.  The Julio-Claudian line was a “pagan” line and so having identified herself with this symbol she is now attempting to emphasize her Christian piety in front of the bishop.  Also, she may be thinking to end the conversation on a positive note seeing that her initial request far exceeded the range of what the bishop would be willing to grant.  The reference adds even more to her over-the-top image when she asks the bishop to confirm her daughter at such a young age.  The question allows her to dwell upon and make a show of her daughter’s exotic origins.  [TH 2005]


mother of the last of the Neros

As the bishop leaves the side of Madame Neroni, Trollope refers to her as the “mother of the last of the Neros.”  This is a continuation of the preceding reference to Tiberius.  When Trollope refers to the Neros he means the entire imperial family.  [TH 2005]


fortiter in re…suaviter in modo

The Latin phrases fortiter in re and suaviter in modo are normally found together.  But in a clever tactic Trollope chooses to separate them.  Dr. Proudie’s strategy in Barchester is to let Mr. Slope be the one who behaves fortiter in re, (Latin for “strongly in action”) and he would be the one who acts suaviter in modo, (“agreeably in manner”).  Taken together the phrases could be interpreted as meaning that one should be strong in action and agreeable in manner at the same time.  In this case, though, one character is taking on the first aspect and another is taking on the second.  Dr. Proudie intends to let Mr. Slope take on himself the burden of attack and dislike, but when coupled with the bishop’s gentle demeanor the two make for an excellent power couple.  While Mr. Slope may be disliked, many will find it harder to show any disrespect to the bishop.  [TH 2005]

The entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable puts suaviter in modo before fortiter in re.  If that ordering of the phrases was common, Trollope inverts it to effect here:  Mr. Slope forges ahead, and the bishop smooths things over afterward.  [RR 2011]

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


omnium gatherum

This pseudo-Latin phrase means “gathering of all things.”  Omnium is the genitive plural form of omnis, “every,” “all.”  “Gatherum” is only a Latin sounding version of the word “gather.”  The phrase suggests a gathering of all sorts.  The bishop refers to the reception as an “omnium gatherum.”  With the mix of clergy, aristocracy, and such diverse personalities as Ethelbert and the Signora, it seems an apt description.  One must wonder if there is a double edge to the phrase.  Perhaps he means to indicate that the company is not entirely of the exact sort he would have preferred.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OED.