in Three Clerks

Chapter 26 – Katie’s First Ball

the goods of the gods

Mrs. Val is socially resourceful, and to convey this Trollope says that she “understood well how to make the most of the goods with which the gods provided her.” This is a reference to a Classically themed poem by John Dryden which was also invoked by Undy Scott in Chapter 9; see that commentary for more information. [RR 2016]


loved so dearly, tenderly, loved

Trollope uses an artful ordering of words, one which can be found in Classical poetry and which is called chiasmus: elements are arranged A, B, B, A. Here: verb, adverb, abverb, verb. [RR 2016]


muse worshipped

As Katie approaches the ball at Mrs. Val’s house she grows increasingly nervous because she has never participated in a ball before. Trollope describes Katie by stating that she “had never yet seen the muse worshipped” in this way. This is a reference to the nine muses of ancient Greece, who were divine patrons of various disciplines and arts, such as literature, dance, and music. Referencing the muses is humorous but also highlights the social status of the ball and the significance of the night for Katie, and it recalls the earlier allusion to the muse Terpsichore in Chapter 25. Furthermore, Katie’s ignorance of the muses reminds us of her youth, her suburban naiveté, and the simple nature of the Woodwards. [GZ & RR 2016]


sweet and bitter

Love is famously called “bittersweet” in one of the fragments of Sappho, a famous Greek poet. Here Charley feels the sweetness of Katie’s love, but it is tinged with bitterness because it is motivated by Katie’s gratitude, which Charley feels is undue or exaggerated. [RR 2016]



When Katie scolds Charley for tricking Johnson into getting him a plate of food at Mrs. Val’s dance, it takes away Charley’s appetite. Charley cites this as an example of Nemesis, the principle of just punishment which Charley’s editor likes to see at work in fiction. Nemesis is the Greek goddess of retribution, and the editor’s penchant for literary nemesis has already been mentioned in Chapter 19. [RR 2016]