in Barchester Towers

Chapter 24 – Mr. Slope Manages Matters Very Cleverly at Puddingdale

clouded brow

“Could she have seen his brow once clouded, she might have learnt to love him.”  This is said of Eleanor Bold regarding Mr. Arabin after they have spent three weeks in each other’s company, but neither is in love with the other.  The image of a clouded brow may turn on a line from Horace’s Epistles where Horace writes, “take the cloud from your brow” (deme supercilio nubem).  Of course, Horace’s line could be reflecting a common turn of phrase.  Eleanor needs to see a cloud on Mr. Arabin’s brow to ensure that he can feel passion in some form or other.  [RR & JC 2005]

Sources:  Horace, Epistle 1.18.94.



The word “factotum” comes from a combination of the Latin words fac (which is the imperative form of facere, which means “to do” or “to make”) and totum (meaning “the whole”).  Therefore it is literally a person who is a “do-everything.”  In Mr. Slope’s case, he is in a position where he must “do everything” that Mrs. Proudie commands.  He is dissatisfied with this position and begins his escape from it by acting against her on the nomination of the warden of Hiram’s Hospital (he supports Mr. Harding while Mrs. Proudie supports Mr. Quiverful).  [JC 2005]


slip between cup and lip

This saying is recorded in Latin by Erasmus as multa cadunt inter calicem supremaque labra (“many things fall between the cup and the last lips”).  The saying may refer to the death of the mythological figure Ancaeos.  It had been prophesied that Ancaeos would not live to drink wine made from a vineyard which he planted.  After returning safely from the voyage with Jason and the Argonauts, he was on the verge of drinking wine made from his own grapes.  However, he was interrupted by a wild boar terrorizing the vineyard, and in trying to kill the boar, Ancaeos himself was killed. [JC & RR 2005]

Sources:  Erasmus, Adagia 1.5.1.
Entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.