in Bertrams

Chapter 19 – Richmond


In this instance, Fate is personified by Trollope, which is reminiscent of the Classical conception of Fate as an uncontrollable agent in the lives of humans.  Despite George’s attempts to practice law, Fate has decided that he must be an author.  [KS 2012]



George is pursuing an answer from Henry Harcourt about the circumstances under which Henry read George’s letter to Caroline.  Although Harcourt’s reading of the private correspondence does not show discretion, Trollope presents an “apology” for him.  Here, “apology” is used in a Classical sense; apologia in Greek–from which our “apology” comes–refers to a speech in one’s defense.  Trollope realizes, however, that his apology for Harcourt will not completely exonerate him.  [KS & RR 2012]


black, white, and brown

Trollope mentions that the defense of Harcourt will not turn his questionable actions white; even with the defense, some may consider them brown or still black.  Trollope here applies and extends a motif, borrowed from Juvenal’s Satires, which he has already used to describe the attempts of the legal profession to turn black to white.  See commentaries for Chapter 5 and Chapter 12.  [KS & RR 2012]

Source: Juvenal, Satires 3.30.



George is baffled by Henry’s apology for reading his letter to Caroline.  George states that “it is incredible.”  Henry interprets “incredible” with reference to its Latin etymological meaning, “not believable.”  However, George meant the phrase to paint the situation as being extraordinary or astounding.  Trollope tells us that Henry attempts to redirect George by “purposefully” misunderstanding him.  [KS 2012]