in Framley Parsonage

Chapter 37 – Mr. Sowerby without Company

Never did the old fury between the gods and giants rage higher

When the giants find themselves incapable of accomplishing their objectives with the current House, they decide on a general election.  Trollope says that the gods and giants’ rage had never been higher than at that time.  The giants, being the group in power, accused the gods of blocking their agenda, while the gods claimed that the giants’ bills were imprudent.  This is a continuation of the giants and gods allusion especially developed in Chapter 23.  The main importance of this specific event is that the Duke of Omnium chooses a candidate other than Mr. Sowerby to run in the election.  In this allusion there is something else of significance.  The gods claim that the giants have “Boeotian fatuity.”  Boeotia was the region of Greece that included Thebes and several lesser cities.  Trollope refers here to the story of the giants Otus and Ephialtes.  Their mother was Iphimedeia who was the wife of Aloeus.  She fell in love with Poseidon and gave birth to the twin giants Otus and Ephialtes, (referred to as the Aloadae).  In the Odyssey, Odysseus encountered Iphimedeia in the Underworld and she recounted the tale of how the Aloadae threatened to pile mount Ossa on top of mount Olympus and then pile mount Pelion on top of Ossa in hopes of reaching the gods.  However, before they grew to manhood they were killed by Apollo.  Another account in Apollodorus and the Iliad states that they succeeded and placed Ares in a bronze jar for thirteen months until he was rescued by Hermes.  Apollodorus also adds that they wooed Hera and Artemis.  Because of their presumption Artemis used a trick to kill them in Naxos.  She turned into a deer and when the Aloedae hurled their spears at her they missed and struck each other instead.  Pausanias claims they founded Ascra in Boeotia.  He also claims to have seen their tomb at Anthedon, also in Boeotia.  The gods are probably trying to compare the giants with Otus and Ephialtes because of their lack of subtlety.  That the Aloadae would openly pile mountains on top of one another in order to reach the gods shows that despite their strength they lack intelligence.  For more information on the gods and giants motif see the glosses in Chapter 23.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Odyssey 305-320.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology (which also provides references to the other authors).


myrmidons of the law

The Myrmidons were created when Aeacus, son of Zeus, was growing up on Aegina.  Zeus transformed the ants into people, and Aeacus’ son Peleus led them in a migration to Phthia.  Peleus’ son was Achilles.  He was a hero in the Trojan War and led an army of Myrmidons.  Trollope may call Sowerby’s creditors “myrmidons” because of their description in Book 16 of the Iliad:  Homer describes them as swarming wasps.  This image vividly shows how Sowerby will be pursued for his money owed.  [TH 2005]

Book 16 of the Iliad contains another image of the Myrmidons that may also be operative:  they ready themselves for battle like a pack of wolves.  It is worth noting, however, that the use of “myrmidons” for police and other officers of the law is not limited to Trollope–the OED provides instances of similar uses in English from the late 17th century on.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 16.155-167 and 25-267.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


harpies of the law

The very word “harpy” means “snatcher.”  The harpies were the daughters of Thaumas and Electra.  They were said by Hesiod to be winged beasts that could fly as swiftly as the winds and birds.  Later they are called “the hounds of Zeus.”  They are beasts known to swoop from the sky and steal people and things.  The most famous case is that of Phineus.  He was a Thracian King who was being attacked by the Harpies.  They would steal all of his food, leaving him hungry.  They were reputed to be rapacious and ferocious.  Here, much like the Myrmidons, they are used to describe the debt collectors pursuing Sowerby.  In this case it is the harpies’ role as thieves snatching whatever they could lay their hands upon that makes them an appropriate comparison with the creditors.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


antecedentem scelestum

Mr. Sowerby is shown at home, wandering the empty rooms of his estate and pondering his life.  Trollope says that we might imagine men like Mr. Sowerby to spend most of their days happy.  However, Mr. Sowerby is frequently unhappy.  Trollope says, “The feeling that one is an antecedentem scelestum after whom a sure, though lame, Nemesis is hobbling, must sometimes disturb one’s slumbers.”  This is a reference to some lines from one of Horace’s odes:  raro antecedentem scelestum / deseruit pede Poena claudo.  The literal translation reads “Nemesis (or Punishment) with lame foot has rarely left the guilty man going on ahead.”  Mr. Sowerby is a guilty man (antecedentem scelestum) who has become eminent.  Nemesis (Roman Poena) is the goddess of retribution and punishment.  The hobbling Nemesis has finally caught up with Sowerby who is besieged by men trying to collect his debts.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Horace, Ode 3.2.31-32.


cracked dryad

Trollope describes the garden at Chaldicotes as a dreary place.  Much as Mr. Sowerby’s life has fallen into disorder, so have his surroundings.  Trollope writes, “here and there a cracked dryad, tumbled from her pedestal and sprawling in the grass, gave a look of disorder to the whole place.”  The dryads in question are statues toppled from their pedestals.  Dryads are a variety of nymphs found in forests and associated with trees.  The fallen dryads are a symbol for how much the beauty of Chaldicotes has eroded due to Sowerby’s debts.  [TH 2005]


Dumbello as a patrician

Lord Dumbello is a marquis and one of the suitors of Griselda Grantly.  He is referred to as a patrician by Trollope.  The patricians were an elite social group in Rome.  Trollope says that as far as Mr. Sowerby is concerned Lord Dumbello or any other patrician could claim his seat in Parliament.  All Sowerby wants to do is disappear to a distant land and starve.  [TH 2005]