in Barchester Towers

Chapter 21 – St. Ewold’s Parsonage

A pagan, too, with his multiplicity of gods…

Eleanor has rebuked Mr. Arabin for quarreling with men of his own church.  Arabin goes on to point out that a Muslim would likely make the same rebuke to him for disagreeing with Catholic doctrine.  Then Arabin says that a pagan would allow even less cause for disagreement between a Muslim and a Christian, seeing as they both have only one God where pagans have many.  In classical Latin, paganus merely gives the sense of “rustic, rural, with a later connotation of “not enrolled in the military.”  Since early Christians referred to themselves as soldiers in the army of Christ, someone by contrast not “in the army” would be paganus, a non-believer in Christianity, and thus probably a follower of the pre-Christian Roman polytheistic traditions.  Perhaps Trollope is using a very subtle means to comment on his own views of Church dissensions, that since the differences would be so slight as to be unimportant to Classical pagans, Trollope himself finds them a bit tiresome.  [JM 2005]

Sources:  OED.


to thunder forth accusations

Mr. Arabin is speaking to Eleanor about contention between factions of Christianity, and he goes on to say that it is easy to condemn others as politicians and newspaper-writers do.  This mention of newspaper-writers might be referring to The Jupiter and its tendency to fire off media “thunderbolts.”  Trollope has established a long-running comparison between this newspaper and the king of the Roman gods, Jupiter, and between the articles in the paper and the lightning bolts of the god, with which he strikes his enemies.  It is as Arabin is saying; newspapers have complete power to vilify someone, a power that Trollope plays up as godlike.  [JM 2005]