in Bertrams

Chapter 22 – Miss Todd’s Card-Party

invocation of Calliope

The narrator calls upon the Muse Calliope, who is the patron of epic poetry, to help him write the story of Miss Todd’s party.  The Muses were ancient goddesses who inspired poets to write, and epic poems usually began by asking the help of a Muse.  There is a humorous tension in the narrative between the narrator’s invocation of the Muse and his subject material.  Calliope is the Muse associated with epic poetry, which generally is grand and serious in its style, yet the narrator calls on her to describe a card-party.  There is a disconnect between the humor of the card-party and the seriousness that invoking Calliope suggests.  [CD 2012]


to conquer or to die

“To conquer or to die” is an English translation of a common Latin family motto, aut vincere aut mori.  It is used in mock seriousness describing Miss Ruff, one of the attendees of Miss Todd’s party, who is dedicated to winning in her games of whist.  [CD 2012]



“Hecatomb” comes from the Ancient Greek noun hekatombē, which denotes the religious practice of sacrificing a hundred cattle to a divinity.  Trollope here says that the Littlebath curate Mr. O’Callaghan does not receive “hecatombs of needlework” from his female parishioners.  Trollope uses a humorous conflation of ancient Greek and Christian religious practices to comment on Mr. O’Callaghan’s popularity as a religious figure:  he does not have very many handicrafts from the community because his parishioners find him severe.  [CD & RR 2012]


grammatical axiom

See the gloss on “two nominative cases” in the commentary for Chapter 21.


lovers always do quarrel, and always do make it up again

A variation of a passage from Terence’s  Andria, in which Miss Baker places great hope for the reconciliation of George and Caroline.  See commentary for Chapter 20.  [CD 2012]