in Three Clerks

Chapter 34 – To Stand, or Not to Stand

Roman echoes

At various points in this chapter Trollope uses language which uses resonates with ancient Roman office-holding and other public honors. The acquisition of senate membership was part of the Roman cursus honorum (course of honors/offices), and Trollope refers to Alaric’s aspirations “to parliamentary honours.” The word ambition occurs, whose etymology reminds us of the Roman practice of going (it) around (ambi) to muster political support. Trollope also presents Alaric’s walk across the Park as an ironic solitary non-victory parade: despite his public successes, Alaric is beset by cares. [RR 2017]



Alaric’s Latin mantra—higher—pushes him on to seek a place in parliament, even as his financial goings-on have much that is not lofty about them. Mrs. Val, too, has “her ideas of ‘Excelsior,’” though her hopes are fixed on prominence in her social circle. [RR 2017]


When it first dawns on Alaric that he might be in trouble for abusing his powers as overseer of Clementina’s trust, he worries that he might be accosted by a “myrmidon.” The Myrmidons were a mythic people of ancient Greece who fought in the Trojan War alongside their leader Achilles. Trollope often uses this word to refer to policemen and henchmen, but here the reference to such a warrior underscores Alaric’s realization that misusing Clementina’s funds was a serious mistake. [GZ 2016 & RR 2017]


black Care behind him

As Alaric contemplates his recent successes—a job on the Examination Board and his coming participation in parliamentary elections—he is not free from worry. Trollope signals Alaric’s concerns with a personification of care: “black Care would sit behind him, ever mounted on the same steed.” This image is found in Horace’s Ode 3.1, in which Horace depicts Care as an entity looming vigilantly over people, whether they are in a trireme or on a horse. This ode is about how the troubles of life affect everyone. In effect, Trollope’s sentence cues the reader in to the fact that Alaric’s continual ascent throughout the narrative will likely soon plateau or perhaps even begin to descend. [GZ 2016]

source: Horace, Odes 3.1.38-40


patronized by Mrs. Val

The relationship between Mrs. Val and Gertrude seems to be a power play. Throughout the narrative Mrs. Val tries to “patronize” Gertrude. The meaning of this word in context comes from the ancient Roman sociopolitical construct of patrons and their clients. With their social, monetary, and political influences, patrons would reward their dutiful clients. It doesn’t seem that Gertrude wants to play the role of client to Mrs. Val, either because Gertrude doesn’t seem to think that Mrs. Val is a worthy patron or because Gertrude has never liked being told what to do. [GZ 2016]

head and chief

Trollope may be engaging in some etymological play here: Sir Gregory fears that Alaric will “climb above his head,” and Alaric is “more gracious than ever to his chief.” Chief is derived from the Latin word caput, which itself means head. [RR 2017]