in Bertrams

Chapter 37 – The Return to Hadley

Sir Omicron

Caroline has just left Harcourt to stay at the home of her grandfather, Mr. Bertram.  Harcourt is reluctant to tell his friends that she has gone due to a fight with him, so he invents a story about London disagreeing with her health.  In order to support this, he says that the famous physician Sir Omicron advised Caroline to quit London immediately.  Omicron is a letter of the Greek alphabet.  Trollope is calling upon general associations of Classics (and Greek in particular) with medical authority.  [CMC 2012]


grandpapa Croesus

In describing where Caroline has gone following their fight, Harcourt states that her health has caused her to quit London and visit her grandfather.  Harcourt refers to Mr. Bertram as “grandpapa Croesus.”  Croesus is an Anatolian king who features prominently in the first book of Herodotus’ History.  Eventually conquered by the Persians, he is known for his great wealth.  It is because of this great wealth that he is associated with Mr. Bertram.  [CMC 2012]

Harcourt had earlier referred to Mr. Bertram as a “Croesus” when talking with George in Chapter 12; here Harcourt uses the Classical reference while talking with another friend, Mr. Madden.  Harcourt assumes that his friend will understand the reference and the joking way in which it is being deployed; their shared understanding helps to consolidate their relationship.  [RR 2012]


iron fate

After leaving Harcourt and coming to Mr. Bertram’s house, Caroline lays aside all of the fine clothes and jewelry that she received during her engagement or after her marriage.  The only ring she keeps is her wedding ring, which “iron fate” will not let her take off (no matter how much she wishes she could).  The notion that fate is unbreakable and cast in iron is a Classical idea.  In the closing portion of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Venus laments that Julius Caesar must die according to the iron decree of the Fates.  Likewise, in the Thebaid of Statius the Fate Clotho is given the adjective ferrea, “iron.”  In Classical antiquity, Fate was considered both inescapable and often cruel, mirroring Caroline’s current predicament in her marriage.  Interestingly, we now see Caroline in a way more reminiscent of a tragic hero caught in the workings of Fate than an epic goddess.  [CMC & RR 2012]

Sources:  Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.781.
Statius, Thebaid 3.556.



Caroline is seen at the very church in which she married Harcourt seemingly “in triumph.”  Now, she is there obviously alone and sad.  Trollope introduces the image of a Roman military triumph here only to retract it, stating that Caroline never had any real triumph in her marriage, only wretchedness.  This is part of a large character shift for Caroline during this portion of the novel, in which the reader observes her transformation from a goddess to human woman.  [CMC & RR 2012]


Did a man ever behave so madly?

Adela and Caroline are talking about Caroline’s marriage difficulties.  Caroline’s rhetorical question refers to Harcourt’s decision to invite George to dinner at his and Caroline’s house.  This echoes an earlier Latin quotation which summarily states that the god first drives men mad before destroying them.  By using these references, Trollope gives this section of the novel an almost tragic feel.  The reader is unsure who the tragic hero is meant to be, Caroline or her husband–or both.  See commentary for Chapter 33.  [CMC & RR 2012]