in Dr. Wortle's School

Chapter 23 – Mr. Peacocke’s Return

Aristotle and Socrates

While earlier Lady Margaret had valued the soul above a Classical education (see commentary for Chapter 12), Mrs. Wortle is now concerned about the competing claims of a Classical education and affairs of the heart.  When Mrs. Wortle expresses a worry that seeking a degree will distract young Carstairs from romantic purposes, Trollope has her specifically reference Aristotle and Socrates, who might “put love out of his heart.” Aristotle and Socrates seem to represent Classical education in general, but the choice of Classical figures may not be arbitrary.  In Plato’s Symposium Socrates advocates for wisdom above romantic love.  And while Aristotle praises philia, love among friends, Mrs. Wortle worries about the possible detrimental influence of Carstairs’ peers.  For Mrs. Wortle, whose primary concern is her daughter, Socrates and Aristotle are enemies, since she fears philosophy and male camaraderie might lure Carstairs away from his engagement.  [JE & RR 2014]


Greek and Latin

It is suggested that Lord Carstairs will be too preoccupied with his Latin and Greek to think about Mary while he is at Oxford.  In this way, he would be valuing his cultural education over his romantic pursuits.  This is society’s expectation of what he should do.  However, by confessing his love to Mary, he has already shown defiance of these expectations.  [BL 2013]


triumphed in his own mind

Dr. Wortle has composed a letter defending himself, and he plans to send copies of it to the bishop and some other concerned parties.  Although he is proud of the letter, Mr. Puddicombe is less enthusiastic.  While Dr. Wortle “triumphed in his own mind” at his anticipated victory through words, he is deflated as he rides home from his meeting with Mr. Puddicombe, and he finally decides to burn the letters.  Dr. Wortle’s imagined Roman victory celebration is juxtaposed with a quiet return home and a less adversarial attitude—actuality subverts the imagery of a Roman triumphal procession.  [RR 2014]