in Old Man's Love

Chapter 18 – Mr. and Mrs. Tookey

fighting against the poet’s pretences

The chapter begins with John Gordon’s departure to London, and in describing his state of mind Trollope tells us that Gordon’s understanding of Mary’s feelings is accurate, but partial, while of Mr. Whittlestaff’s character John comprehends nothing. Trollope notes two arenas of Mr. Whittlestaff’s struggle, Horace and Mrs. Baggett, which John Gordon would never imagine. What are the poet’s pretences that Mr. Whittlestaff fights against? We know that Mrs. Baggett defines Mr. Whittlestaff’s social power as the reason for him to have whatever he wants, just as her social powerlessness means she herself cannot have what she wants; he rejects this as damnable, the teaching “by which the world was kept going in its present course” (Chapter 16). Horace too, perhaps, is too much of the world and not enough of the right. Did Horace, the Emperor Augustus’ poet of the Golden Mean, ever really love a girl? Probably not thinks Mr. Whittlestaff, and he probably did “care for jewels, marble, and ivory, as much as any one” (see the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 16). Horace has been one of Mr. Whittlestaff’s companions and sources of wisdom, we infer, since the crisis of Catherine Bailey, but the poet specifically now arises in Mr. Whittlestaff’s mind as one who also has indulged himself quite as much as the world would have it. Horace’s lessons, like Mrs. Baggett’s, perhaps do not “run smoothly with those of Jesus Christ” (Chapter 16), however much Mr. Whittlestaff enjoys picking to pieces the Rev. Lowlad’s Christian theology (Chapter 17). The Augustan poet pretends, Mr. Whittlestaff intuits, to a philosophy that he never practiced. Fighting with Horace’s pretentions, in his battle to find the just path with Mary Lawrie, seems to mean that Mr. Whittlestaff must even temper his love for his favorite poet. [CMS 2018]


gemmiferous dirt

In his description of earth that holds diamonds Trollope creates a playful contrast between the Latinate adjective gemmiferous (gem-bearing) and the more direct English noun dirt. [RR 2018]


Fitzwalker Tookey and Classics

Trollope tells us that Mr. Tookey received the “education of a gentleman,” which would have included the study of Classics. Mr. Tookey enlists that education and the bond between gentlemen which it presumes when he quotes an “old Roman saying” to John Gordon: “Never be conscious of anything within your own bosom.” This seems to refer to a passage from Horace’s Epistles used elsewhere by Trollope: nil conscire sibi (“be conscious of no wrong in oneself”). This sentiment appears in the context of Horace counseling against the valuation of money over ethics, and so Mr. Tookey’s invocation of it here seems reflective of its original context. And yet there is an irony in that Mr. Tookey is himself putting material profit over ethical considerations in trying to convince John Gordon that it’s his duty to sell his mining shares. [RR 2018]

Source: Horace, Epistle 1.1.61.