in Bertrams

Chapter 14 – Ways and Means

Sir Augustus

George is telling Harcourt about Caroline Waddington.  Harcourt is much more concerned with worldly matters than George, and as such is immediately interested in Caroline’s lineage.  Harcourt is attempting to make sure that any prospective bride will be appropriate for George’s station (present or future) in society.  His naming of a “Lord Augustus” conveys this concern through the title associated with the name and the name itself.  “Augustus” was an honorific reserved for the Roman emperors and carried with it enormous civil prestige and a quasi-religious significance.  This makes the hypothetical Lord Augustus the exemplum of an appropriate family for George to marry into, at least according to Harcourt.  [CMC 2012]


Hadley oracle

Mr. Bertram is the “Hadley oracle” to whom Miss Baker reports the news of George and Caroline’s engagement.  Trollope describes Mr. Bertram’s reaction as “like most oracle-answers…neither favourable nor unfavourable.”  Mr. Bertram is being presented as if he were akin to the ancient oracle at Delphi who delivered often cryptic messages from Apollo to inquiring visitors.  Trollope’s designation of Mr. Bertram as an oracle shows the importance he has in other characters’ lives because of his money; the ambiguity of his response emphasizes the uncertainty that often surrounds his emotions and attachments.  [RR 2012]


middle course

In deciding when to marry, George and Caroline are of two very different minds.  George wishes to marry right away and live on the four hundred pounds a year they will have.  Caroline, however, wishes to wait until he is called to the bar and secure in a much greater income.  Trollope states that Miss Baker favors a middle course of waiting until the two thousand pounds from Mr. Bertram become a reality and then marrying.  The concept of a “middle course” is derived from the ancient idea of moderation, mean, and the middle road (via media in Latin).  Aristotle extols the excellence of moderation with such statements as “And in all things the middle for us is best.”  This philosophical orientation relies on seeing the flaws inherent in two polar views and seeking a path somewhere between them, much as Miss Baker is doing with regards to the nuptials of Caroline and George.  [CMC & RR 2012]

Source:  Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics 2.1220b.



George and Harcourt have finally made plans for Harcourt to meet Caroline.  Harcourt has resolved not to find fault with her, despite his misgivings about her station.  George is able to discern this, at least on a superficial level.  George states that he knows Harcourt will not criticize Caroline, even if he thinks she is “as ugly as Hecate.”  Hecate was a goddess of magic and witchcraft associated with the Underworld and often depicted as having three faces.  It is for comic hyperbolic effect that Trollope has George suggest that even if a three-headed sorceress were presented as his betrothed, Harcourt would not speak ill of her to George.  [CMC & RR 2012]

Source:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.