in Bertrams

Chapter 16 – The New Member for the Battersea Hamlets


In jumping ahead two years within a single chapter, Trollope states that “unities” are no longer important.  Trollope is referencing Aristotle’s unities, which are circumscribed treatments of action, place, and time distinctive of tragedy.  As described in the Poetics, the action of a play does not typically take place over more than a day.  Trollope cannot keep to this convention, as he wishes to examine the development of his characters over the course of years.  Further, in Greek tragedy this would have been far more practical, as the story is often known by the audience from the beginning of the play.  By stating that he is not following a Classical ideal, Trollope is telling his readers that he will only use Classics when it is appropriate and not just for the sake of using Classics.  [CMC & RR 2012]

Source:  Aristotle, Poetics 1449b.


all men…said all manner of good things of him

Harcourt is doing very well at the bar.  Trollope states that after two years, all men said all manner of good things about him.  This recalls a line in a Roman comedy by Terence.  In the play, Simo, the father of the main character, Pamphilus, is concerned about his son’s relationship with a prostitute; nevertheless, Simo reports that people seem to have all sorts of good things to say about Pamphilus.  While the phrase in itself is good, it is possible that Trollope is also poking fun at Harcourt, who is seen in a less than ethically sound relationship with Caroline Waddington at this point.  [CMC 2012]

Source:  Terence, Andria 96-97.



Mr. Die is described again as an oracle, only this time it is with reference to Harcourt and not George Bertram.  Harcourt has gone to Die, asking about political strategy.  Die advises him to commit himself to the popular opinion about repealing a set of laws, but Die also implies that “committing” is not in reality binding.  According to Trollope, Harcourt is still young and thus does not quite understand the wisdom of Mr. Die’s advice.  This is similar to the oracles of ancient Greece, which were often not understood until after the events they foretold occurred.  [CMC 2012]