in Bertrams

Chapter 13 – Littlebath

homely muse

Trollope begins Chapter 13 by stating that narrative surprises are not supported by his homely muse.  He contrasts his own straightforward style with that of the Gothic authors, who (according to Trollope) use secret passages and hidden plot devices.  Trollope states important facts plainly, in this case that Mr. George Bertram is Caroline’s grandfather.  In Classical mythology, the Muses were the personifications of the arts and inspired artists in their respective areas.  Indeed, poets in antiquity presented themselves as vessels by which the Muses could express themselves to the mortal world.  “Homely” in the British sense means “plain and simple but comfortable and cozy.”  Thus, Trollope is saying that while his plots and the Muse who inspires them may be simple, they are comfortable for himself and his readers.  [CMC 2012]



George is relating to Arthur how he has been taken under the wing of the barrister Mr. Neversay Die as an apprentice.  He describes himself as “one of the myrmidons.”  The Myrmidons were a people who lived in Phthia, the region of Greece from which Achilles hailed; Achilles’ soldiers in the Trojan War are referred to as the Myrmidons.  The name recalls the Greek noun for “ant,” myrmēx, and a mythological story told by Ovid accounts for the similarity by having the people originate from ants on an oak sacred to Jupiter.  If the “ant” resonance is active in Trollope’s use of the word, George is saying that he is now but one of many legal aspirants, industrious as ants; if the connection to Achilles is considered, we picture George as a legal soldier serving the renowned Mr. Die.  [CMC & RR 2012]

Sources:  Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.
Ovid,  Metamorphoses 7.517-660.



The “lighter fast set” of people who frequent Littlebath are described as “worshippers of Terpsichore.”  Terpsichore is one of the nine Muses, and she is associated with choral poetry and dance; her Littlebath followers are preoccupied with public balls.  Trollope’s religious language is humorously paired with his descriptions of the other two kinds of people in Littlebath:  those who are “the votaries of whist” and those who are pious in the Christian sense.  Trollope is poking fun at all three “religions” at once:  two pagan, one Christian.  [CMC & RR 2012]



In discussing the marriage of George and Caroline, Miss Baker says that it will be necessary to wait over a year.  George is anxious to wed Caroline, and Trollope states that if George could have, he would have vetoed such a long delay.  The word veto in Latin means “I forbid,” and in ancient Rome tribunes had veto power over proposals of the Senate, while the consuls could veto one another.  Trollope’s use of “veto” here has this almost legalistic force, as George is so anxious to marry that he wishes he had the power to forbid any prolonging of the engagement.  [CMC 2012]