in Barchester Towers

Chapter 22 – The Thornes of Ullathorne

as men who have Sophocles at their fingers’ end regard those who know nothing of Greek

Trollope uses a simile here to describe the extreme emphasis which Mr. Thorne places on people’s family history.  He is said to view individuals of less noble blood in a condescending manner much like highly educated people (who would be able to read and understand Sophocles, a Greek tragic playwright) might look down on and even pity those with less education.  [MD 2005]

Trollope here likens two expressions of cultural clout:  that coming from birth, and that coming from a Classical education.  [RR 2011]


genuine as ichor

Ichor is described in Homer’s Iliad as the immortal blood of the gods.  Mr. Thorne is here likening the blood of his family to the blood of the gods, comparing his nobility to that of a separate, higher race of beings.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad, 5.339-340


fifty-three Trojan

Trollope here refers to fifty-three members of the British Parliament, who are unflinchingly stubborn, as Trojans. I think that this is a reference to the warriors of the ancient city of Troy who fought the invading Greeks up until the very end.  [MD 2005]


Eleusinian mysteries

Eleusis, a city in Attica, was the site of these religious rites performed by the ancient Greeks. We know that the initiates were honoring the Greek goddess Demeter, but less is known about the procedures themselves.  The Homeric Hymn to Demeter provides a mythological explanation for the foundation of the rites.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  The Homeric Hymn to Demeter.
The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.



According to the OED, this word refers to a statue of the Greek goddess Athena, specifically the one which guarded the city of Troy because she was the patron goddess of the Trojan people.  When this statue was stolen, Troy fell, and that is what Trollope is referring to here.  When free trade opened up in England and the Corn Laws were repealed in 1846 by a member of the Tory party, Mr. Thorne felt betrayed by his own political party, the only ones he believed would uphold his views.  Free trade and the Corn Laws, then, were Mr. Thorne’s own personal palladium, which he believed had helped stabilize England and sustain it from economic ruin.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.


the feeling of Cato

Marcus Porcius Cato (95-46 BCE) was a Roman politician who became involved in the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey.  In 52 BCE, he resigned his position as praetor and supported Pompey’s election as sole consul.  In the war, he served in Sicily and Asia, and after the conflict went to Africa to placate many of Pompey’s supporters.  In April 46 BCE Cato committed suicide rather than accept a pardon from Caesar.  He became a martyr with this act and was highly respected for it; therefore, he was an inspiration to many later political martyrs, and this is the context in which Trollope uses his name.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OCD.


St. Augustine

A reference to St. Augustine, first a priest and later a bishop, who lived during the fourth and fifth centuries CE.  St. Augustine was a very popular Christian writer, who wrote such works as the Confessiones (Confessions) and De Civitate Dei (The City of God), which would influence Christian doctrine for centuries.  [MD 2005]


Miss Thorne armed for battle

This scene may humorously recall the depiction of Hera in Homer’s Iliad when she dresses up in order to seduce Zeus. Although she is not actually readying herself to fight, Hera’s toilette is presented as equivalent to men’s preparations for battle; her clothing and jewelry is equal to their armor and weapons.  Trollope describes Miss Thorne, after she is dressed, as being “armed” head-to-foot, as though she herself was getting ready to fight, though her battle is one of hospitality rather than one of seduction.  Trollope also compares twenty-nine of Miss Ullathorne’s skirts to twenty-nine shields of Scottish heroes and describes them as being just as protective.  [MD & RR 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad, 14.166-186.


the ruins of the Colosseum

The Colosseum was a massive structure built in Rome by the Flavian emperors (begun by Vespasian and finished under his son Titus) and was used to house gladiatorial games and other contests. The worldwide popularity of the now somewhat debilitated structure is what Trollope is referring to here, and it is mentioned alongside the names of other famous landmarks.  [MD 2005]


fawns, nymphs, satyrs, and a whole tribe of Pan’s followers

Pan was the god of shepherds and their flocks, and he had the legs and horns of a goat himself.   Myth has him living in the mountains, dancing, singing, and playing his pipes with the nymphs who were his companions.  Pan is often grouped with satyrs in Classical depictions, and this is a result of their similar physical appearances.  [MD 2005]

Sources: .  The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology.


fawns and satyrs

A continuation of the above.