in Barchester Towers

Chapter 20 – Mr. Arabin


This Latinate word meaning “unlucky” or “unfavorable” is an adjective which comes from the Latin noun auspicium which referred to bird divination.  Something “auspicious” would have been a favorable omen from the birds.  The “in-” prefix of course negates the word.  [JC 2005]


Labor vincit omnia improbus

“Persistent work conquers all things.”  This comes from book 1 of Vergil’s Georgics.  Trollope uses this quotation to describe how Mr. Arabin has gotten to his current position.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Georgics 1.145-146.


Greek accents

“[Mr. Arabin laughed] down a species of pedantry which, at the age of twenty-three, leaves no room in a man’s mind for graver subjects than conic sections or Greek accents.”  This mention of Greek accents refers to the practice of learning the fine points of Greek accentuation at the university.  [JC 2005]



This word means “melancholy” or “sullen” according to the American Heritage Dictionary.  This comes from the astrological influence that the planet Saturn was thought to have on people’s temperaments.  The planet itself is named after the Roman god Saturn, who was the god of agriculture.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  AHD.


sixteen implicitly acceded to the dictum of seventeen

Here Trollope pokes gentle fun at the triviality of the Misses Grantly by employing a Latinate word where such high language is obviously (obvious to the reader and to himself, that is) not necessary.  The difference of a year is a great one when a person is of such a young age, so what the elder sister said would certainly have had all the authority of a formal “dictum” as the girls saw it.  [JC 2005]


Reverend Augustus Green

The name Augustus recalls the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar.  It is no wonder (and perhaps a source of amusement) that Augustus Green, who comes from such a wealthy family that he is able to “devote the whole proceeds of his curacy to violet gloves and unexceptionable neck ties,” would have been named after such high-status classical figure.  [JC & RR 2005]


Stoicism, modern and ancient

Stoicism was a philosophy started in ancient Greece which held that nothing external was important, and so should be considered with indifference.  Wealth and poverty were equally unimportant and were to be held with equal indifference.  The philosopher Zeno was considered one of Stoicism’s main founders.  The “modern stoicism” to which Trollope refers is that which inspired Mr. Arabin (in his younger days) to give up the types of things that would have made his life comfortable, such as a wife and family.  It is the belief “that joy and sorrow were matters which here should be held as perfectly indifferent” because all that matters is the afterlife.  Trollope rejects both forms of stoicism as “an outrage on human nature.”  It was wrong of Mr. Arabin to preach that joy and sorrow should be taken with indifference because “these things were not indifferent to him.”  They are no more indifferent to Mr. Arabin than to anyone else, which is why such stoicism “can find no believing pupils and no true teachers.”  [JC 2005]