in Bertrams

Chapter 40 – Reaching Home


Mrs. Cox is weighing the possibility of being married to a poor man again.  Trollope states that she knows very little about money, but she does know what happened to her last husband when his debts were called in.  She remembers that Jewish “harpies” descended on him, forcing him to pay his bills.  In Classical mythology harpies were monsters of hybrid form–part female, part bird–and their name literally means “grabbers.”  They were notoriously relentless as well as “grabby,” which seems to be the image Trollope is going for in his depiction of Jewish money-lenders of the time.  [CMC 2012]

We might want to note the cross-gendered nature of this reference:  while the mythological harpies are always female, the Jewish money-lenders are presumably male.  Trollope emphasizes the otherness of the money-lenders by identifying them as non-Christian and using an image which distances them from notions of masculinity.  [RR 2012]



Mrs. Cox is lamenting her life to George during their last dinner.  She says that Fate has ever been against her.  Trollope is using the Classical idea of Fate here, as something that Mrs. Cox believes she cannot escape from.  Trollope appears to be humorous, since Mrs. Cox is exaggerating and the reader, in fact, is aware that Mrs. Cox is largely responsible for her own current state.  [CMC 2012]


hate the very idea of home

Mrs. Cox expresses dislike at the prospect of returning to England, which brings with it distance from George and a loss of the freedom they have enjoyed on the boat.  The phrasing echoes the way in which the Romans’ ancient dislike of monarchy was expressed in the 19th century:  the Romans were said to “hate the very name of king.”  George earlier used similar phrasing to express his own distaste of the repeated mention of his uncle’s money; see commentary for Chapter 25.  [RR 2012]



George has resolved to not marry Mrs. Cox, and his steps away from her are described by Trollope as sounding triumphant.  Trollope is using the military sense of the word here (as he is so often when talking about triumphs of various sorts during the novel).  It is being used in an ironic sense, as one can hardly call resolving to not ask a widow to marry as being equal to the victory that would grant a Roman general a triumph.  [CMC 2012]