in Old Man's Love

Chapter 13 – At Little Alresford

Miss Augusta Hall

One of Mr. Hall’s four daughters is named Augusta.  Augusta is the feminine form of the Latin adjective augustus, -a, -um, “venerable;” the masculine form Augustus was used for Roman emperors. The daughter’s Latinate name perhaps prepares us for Mr. Hall’s uses of Latin a little later in the chapter. [RR 2018]

 

spem gregis

“The hope of the flock” is a quotation from Vergil’s first Eclogue, and it is difficult to know how deeply to read Trollope’s meaning here. Vergil’s opening poem to the Eclogues is a heart-breaker: two shepherds exchange songs which tell how one is safe on his farm while the other is being driven off the land by the convulsions of civil war, and now must leave his dwindling flocks and his home. How dire the omens and his situation are is first made clear when his ewe struggles to give birth on bare rock to twin kids, “the hope of the flock”, who are destined to die. Mr. Hall’s suggestion that his daughter calls herself spem gregis, and her reply that she has no idea what that means, might simply suggest that Vergil’s phrase has stuck in the cultural milieu detached from its context, as Vergil’s phrases often have. Overtly in this case Mr. Hall is teasing his daughter, who like other women of her class and era would not know Latin, and the scene conjures a jocular relationship between the father and daughter. Whether Trollope is having a bigger joke on the infelicitous quotation from Vergil we can only speculate. Perhaps Trollope finds humor in thinking of this group of women in their thirties as Mr. Hall’s “flock.” [CMS 2018]

The infelicity of Mr. Hall’s quotation could contain elements of personal and social critique. Mr. Hall uses Latin as an expression of his individual identity and social standing, but his jokey application of spem gregis is heedless of its Vergilian context and so suggests that he values the gesture of using Latin over the light that Classical literature can cast on a situation. Trollope is consistently critical of uses of Classics that serve as assertions of status rather than expressions of (or means toward) a deeper understanding. [RR 2018]

Sources:  Vergil, Eclogue 1.15.
Entry on spem gregis in Dictionary of Quotations, compiled by Rev. James Wood, 1899, at Bartleby.com.

 

resurgam

Because Mr. Harbottle the vicar has passed away, Mr. Blake will assume the living and be able to marry Kattie Forrester. In a questionable attempt at humor Mr. Hall remarks that Kattie “won’t wish to have [Mr. Harbottle’s] resurgam sung.” Resurgam is Latin for “I will rise again,” and here it refers to the title of an Episcopal hymn. Mr. Hall’s attempted witticism relies on a listener’s knowledge of Latin to land; Kattie both brushes off his invocation of Latin (“I don’t know much about resurgams”) and asserts her confidence that her intended will be a good vicar. Neither of Mr. Hall’s uses of Latin in this chapter proves apt. [RR 2018]

 

garrulous

John Gordon calls the Reverend Blake “this garrulous young parson” at the point he recognizes it was a mistake to have told Blake of his disappointed hopes for Mary Lawrie (Gordon says to himself that he was “betrayed” into telling him). Mr. Blake’s subsequent greedy and unkind competition with John Gordon for top marks in the bridal category is a display of his worst nature. The Latin word garrulus will describe Mr. Blake in the next chapter; see the commentary for Chapter 14. [CMS 2018]

 

silence and assent

John Gordon remains quiet as Mr. Blake talks, giving “that assent which silence is intended to imply.” The notion that silence signals agreement can be found at least as far back as the 5th c. BCE; in Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides Clytemnestra explains to her husband Agamemnon that he needn’t give a long speech explaining or justifying his plan to sacrifice their daughter Iphigeneia since “being silent itself is a sign of your agreeing.” The sentiment is also conveyed in the Latin legal maxim qui tacet consentire videtur (“he who is silent seems to agree”). Here, John Gordon’s silence allows him to avoid voicing opinions concerning things he does not know about or may feel differently about. [RR 2018]

Sources: Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis 1142.
Carew Hazlitt, English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases. London: John Russell Smith, 1869, 337.