in Three Clerks

Chapter 28 – The Civil Service

Hercules of Reform and Augean stables

Trollope wonders if reform of the civil service should be commenced by someone of heroic proportions who will begin by focusing his efforts on the most privileged echelons of offices. Such a person would be akin to the mythological Hercules (Greek Heracles), one of whose famed labors involved cleaning out dung-filled stables of Augeas by diverting a river through them. [RR 2016]



Trollope declares that—from the time of their school-days—men are taught that merit is rewarded and the opposite punished, and he calls the school-boy’s choice of routes as “an election between prisoners’ base and prosody,” prosody being the study of metrical forms.  Trollope here uses an aspect of a Classical education to symbolize the sanctioned path supposed to lead to reward.  [RR 2016]


ex officio

Latin for “in accordance with their office;” this phrase is used to convey that an individual holds a particular position by virtue of another office or position they occupy. [RR 2016]


shades of Leeches and Langdales

Trollope exclaims with hyperbolic and archaic-sounding formality, addressing deceased barristers as “shades,” an ancient way of referring to the spirits of those past. [RR 2016]