in Doctor Thorne

Chapter 24 – Louis Scatcherd


This is an allusion to the ancient mythological figure of Aesculapius, who is believed to have been the son of Apollo and Coronis. When he was grown, Aesculapius was said to have acquired incredible healing powers and also the ability to raise humans from the dead; in order to prevent humanity’s eventual attempt to circumvent death altogether, Zeus killed Aesculapius and placed him as a star in the sky.  Aesculapius came to be worshipped as a god of healing and medicine.  He is used in this instance as a representation of the pinnacle of medical knowledge. Dr. Rerechild is said to have considered the opinions of his friend, Dr. Fillgrave, as “sure light from the lamp of Aesculapius.” In other words, he respects the medical assessments of his colleague as though they were delivered from the god of healing or medicine himself.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Volume 1.  Ed. William Smith.  Little and Brown. Boston:  1849.


Galen of Greshamsbury

Galen was an ancient physician from Pergamum.  He was born in 129 C.E. and likely died in the year 199 C.E.  He was well educated.  He studied in Smyrna and Alexandria before returning to practice medicine in Pergamum.  He settled in Rome around the year 161.  He served four emperors and wrote numerous treatises on medicine.  His knowledge acted as the foundation for subsequent medical learning in the Middle Ages.  Galen was a distinguished physician during his time.  Dr. Thorne is referred to as a Galen in a somewhat mocking but affectionate way by Trollope.  He is no Galen in truth but only a modest country doctor.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  OCD.



This is a reference to Xantippe (or Xanthippe), the wife of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates.  Xantippe was known for her disagreeable and scolding nature, and this is the idea to which Trollope is alluding here. When discussing the coming death of Roger Scatcherd, Trollope describes his wife, Lady Scatcherd, as being extremely sorrowful and sad at the unfortunate event; however, he also mentions that she was ill-treated by her husband and therefore her extreme devotion to him is almost surprising.  Trollope then generalizes about how few women are cast in the Xantippe mold.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  The New Century: Classical Handbook. Ed. Catherine B. Avery. Appleton-Century-Crofts. New York: 1962.


toga virilis

A Latin phrase translated as “the toga of manhood.”  This white toga which boys were allowed to wear in ancient Rome after they had reached the age of fifteen came to identify them as men. The phrase is used here to describe the process of adolescents growing up and maturing into adults. However, instead of the actual wearing of a white toga, it is used metaphorically to refer to this ceremony of maturity. It is used specifically to describe students who have graduated from Eton and are now attending Cambridge University; they are becoming adults and feel that they should be more selective in choosing their companions than they had been in the past, when they allied themselves with the likes of Louis Scatcherd.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.


alma mater

A Latin phrase (translated literally as “nourishing mother”) which was used by the Romans to refer to several of their goddesses, it has been adapted into English to refer to schools and their roles of educating individuals.  The phrase is used here to refer specifically to Cambridge University, which Louis Scatcherd attended for eighteen months, but from which he was forced to withdraw as a result of his gambling habits.  [MD 2005]

Sources:  OED.



See the gloss in the commentary for Chapter 16.