in Three Clerks

Chapter 30 – Easy is the Slope of Hell

Easy is the Slope of Hell

The title of this chapter is a translation of a phrase from Vergil’s Aeneid already invoked by Trollope in Latin in Chapter 10—facilis descensus Averni—though here Trollope substitutes Hell for the Latin mention of Avernus, which was often used to refer to the Classical underworld. In Chapter 10 the quotation did double-duty, referring to the descent into the actual mine as well as the start of Alaric’s ethical decline. Now it is employed to describe the ease with which Alaric misappropriates Clementina’s fortune for his own purposes. The repetition of the phrase in the chapter, as well as the substitution of Christian Hell, adds pointed force to the sentiment. [RR 2016]

source: Vergil, Aeneid 6.126.


not a little elated

In the last chapter Trollope used litotes to describe Charley’s state of mind; here he uses it to depict Undy Scott’s reaction to being elected as the member for Tillietudlem. Again, the circumspection possible in litotes is apt. While Undy is pleased to have won, he owes money to his manager and knows that the outcome of the race will be contested. [RR 2016]


meum and tuum

As Undy attempts to convince Alaric to use more of Clementina’s trust money for their own advantage, he claims that Alaric, having already divested so much of the trust, has little reason to not use more of her money. Although Undy does not say so outright, Trollope presents him as arguing, in effect, against the “inviolable distinction” between meum and tuum—Latin for “my thing and your thing.” If Latin is seen as a language appropriate for the expression of trans-historical truths, Trollope here shows Undy as implicitly attacking such a truth. [GZ & RR 2016]



A defender of Sir Robert Peel, the politician whose views about corn laws changed to suit political ends, is referred to by the narrator as an “apologist.” The English word apologist comes from the ancient Greek word apologia, meaning defense speech. We are meant to understand the English word apologist in the Classical sense here. See the commentary for Chapter 4. [GZ 2016]


worshipper at the altar of expediency

Trollope describes the way in which Peel’s shifting position about the corn laws will lead him to be cast as a “pagan” worshipper of a non-Christian god. Such imagery underscores the judgement of history which pushes Peel away from sympathy. [RR 2016]



The Latin mantra “higher!” contrasts sharply with Alaric’s moral descent. [RR 2016]