in Bertrams

Chapter 35 – Can I Escape?

Hadley Croesus

See commentary for Chapter 11.  Harcourt’s ambitions require that he possess a large fortune, and he sees Mr. Bertram as his most likely chance of gaining that fortune.  Since he has cultivated a friendship with Mr. Bertram and now married his granddaughter, Harcourt hopes that he will be an obvious heir to the fortune of that “Croesus.”  [CD 2012]


Fortune favours the brave

Harcourt’s ambition and political position obligate him to spend large sums of money.  He doesn’t have a large, inherited fortune, which would decrease risk of incurring great debt.  However, Harcourt believes that his boldness in spending money will be rewarded.  This belief is expressed with reference to a Latin tag, audentes fortuna iuvat or fortis fortuna adiuvat–“fortune favors the bold/brave.”  Found in Terence’s Phormio and Vergil’s Aeneid, it came into general English usage as a proverb.  It describes the sentiment that bravery and daring will lead to favorable results.  Harcourt’s belief in this maxim lets him more easily spend great sums of money, because he thinks these expenses will be rewarded in the future.  [CD & RR 2012]

Sources:  Terence, Phormio 203.
Vergil, Aeneid 10.284.


punishment lame of foot

Caroline realizes that her loveless marriage to Harcourt was a mistake, and that the love she has for George outweighs her devotion to pride.  Her marriage, first a crime, is now a punishment.  Trollope, mixing the general and the particular as well as merging his narrative voice with Caroline’s internal monologue, remarks:  “Seldom, indeed, will punishment be so lame of foot as to fail in catching such a criminal as she had been.”  This is a reference to a poem by Horace, in which he states that “punishment, with limping foot, rarely abandons the advancing wicked man.”  Once again, Trollope uses a Classical literary quotation to express a universal sentiment.  In this case, the immoral person almost always will be punished in some way for their crime.  Caroline, in her miserable marriage, is being punished.  [CD & RR 2012]

Source:  Horace, Ode 3.2.31-32.


Mezentian embrace

Caroline’s marriage is described as a “Mezentian embrace.”  In Vergil’s Aeneid, Mezentius is an Etruscan king known for his perverse cruelty, such as binding together a living human and a corpse as a punishment.  In comparing her marriage to such an embrace, the narrator is describing Caroline’s extreme emotional response to Harcourt.  For Caroline, this is her punishment for rejecting her true love, George, in favor of the social status that Harcourt could provide.  Being bound to a creature that is dead to her and fills her with disgust is the punishing consequence for letting ambition choose her path in life.  [CD 2012]

Source:  Vergil, Aeneid, 8.485-488.