in Three Clerks

Chapter 03 – The Woodwards

queen and fawn

When Harry and Alaric first discuss their love interests in the novel, Norman describes Gertrude “as proud as a queen and yet as timid as a fawn.” Such a description of a beloved finds similarity in Vergil’s Dido, the proud queen of Carthage who didn’t seem likely to fall in love with Aeneas, and in Horace’s beloved Chloe, whom Horace describes as a frightful fawn clinging to its mother’s side. In regards to Dido, it appears that she fell in love with Aeneas too quickly, while the opposite can be said about the fawn who waits until she is completely ready. Harry seems to mention this dichotomy because in either sense Gertrude’s actions harm their love. [GZ 2016]

sources: Vergil, Aeneid books 1-4; Horace, Ode 1.23.


Gertrude as a goddess

Harry remarks that he “should as soon think of putting [his] arm round a goddess” as of giving Gertrude a caress. With this analogy Harry highlights his idealization of Gertrude and the off-putting distance that she maintains (and that is further reinforced by Harry’s idealization). Alaric, however, is less cowed at the prospect of embracing a goddess. [RR 2016]


Classical and Christian worship

When previously left to his own devices on weekends, Charley “paid his devotions at the shrine of some very inferior public-house deity,” but when he goes to Surbiton Cottage he attends Christian church services. Trollope heightens the contrast between Charley’s behavior on his own and with the Woodwards by figuring his partying as a kind of “pagan” worship and juxtaposing that with Charley’s church-going. The “infernal” navvy’s behavior changes when in the company of the “angels” of Surbiton Cottage. [RR 2016]