in Last Chronicle of Barset

Chapter 13 – The Bishop’s Angel

Mr. Thumble as an angel

In this chapter, both Trollope and Mr. Crawley play with the etymology of “angel,” which is derived from the Greek word meaning messenger.  In an etymological sense, Mr. Thumble truly is the bishop’s angel in that he is the bishop’s messenger.  When Mr. Thumble thinks that Mr. Crawley is putting him down by punning on thumb/Thumble, Mr. Crawley assures Mr. Thumble that he thinks he is an angel.  Mr. Crawley is here drawing on the etymology of “angel,” but Mr. Thumble’s Greek is not up to the learned word-play, and Mr. Thumble is consequently bewildered by Mr. Crawley’s identification of him as an angel.  Mrs. Crawley seems to understand how her husband’s words were misunderstood, and she considers Mr. Thumble an “angel” in another sense:  to her Mr. Thumble is a god-send because his visit shakes Mr. Crawley out of his torpor.  [RR 2006]


To commence “The Seven Against Thebes”

This play by the ancient Greek author Aeschylus tells the story of Polynices, one of the two sons of Oedipus, who had agreed to rule Thebes with his brother by alternating the years of their reign.  Eteocles refused to give up the throne, causing Polynices to lead six other heroes to reclaim the city, but all were killed in the attempt except for Adrastus, the king of Argos.  It is particularly relevant that Crawley selects this story at this point in the novel, since he has just experienced “a certain manly delight in warfare against authority” when he stands up to Mr. Thumble.  [EB 2006]