in Barchester Towers

Chapter 40 – Ullathorne Sports – Act II

assistance of Bacchus

Bacchus is the Roman god of wine, whom Mr. Slope has “called in” by drinking in order to make himself bold enough to propose to Eleanor.  [JC 2005]


the wrath of Mr. Slope

“But how shall I sing the divine wrath of Mr. Slope, or how to invoke the tragic muse to describe the rage which swelled the celestial bosom of the bishop’s chaplain?”  Here Trollope openly employs a mock-epic style to poke fun at Mr. Slope, who is angry at Eleanor for having boxed him on the ear.  This passage is a clear echo of the opening of an epic.  Compare with the opening lines of Homer’s Iliad: “Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles…”  Also compare this question posed in the opening section of Vergil’s Aeneid:  “Are there such great feelings of anger in celestial minds?”  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 1.1.
Vergil, Aeneid 1.11.


modern fiction’s low-heeled buskin

Actors in tragedies often wore a type of high-heeled shoe called a buskin (the Greek word is kothurnos); by metonymy, the buskin came to represent the entire genre of tragedy.  Trollope explains his inability to write of Mr. Slope’s rage as due to the fact that his vehicle is not as high an art-form.  Thus its low-heeled buskin.  [JC 2005]

Horace uses the buskin as a marker of genre in the Ars Poetica.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  Horace, Ars Poetica 80 and 280.


Agamemnon’s veil

Trollope here describes an extant ancient wall painting illustrating Agamemnon veiled in grief at the prospect of the sacrifice of his daughter.  An extended analogy between the Iphigenia story and Eleanor’s crisis involving John Bold is made in The Warden.  [JC 2005]


punishing the rebellious winds

This is a reference to an episode in Virgil’s Aeneid, in which Juno persuades Aeolus to incite the winds in order to crash Aeneas’ ships.  When Neptune realizes what is happening, he becomes very angry with the winds and makes them stop.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Aeneid 1.50-156.


pains and punishments of Hades

Mr. Slope is thinking of the less pleasant parts of Hades.  While the Underworld does contain Elysium, to which Trollope makes frequent references, it also contains the place where the evil are punished, which is the place to which Mr. Slope would like to send Eleanor after she has so gravely insulted him.  [JC 2005]


Mr. Thorne’s laurels

Mr. Slope changes from thinking of Underworld punishments to thinking of earthly punishments that he could inflict on Eleanor while alive.  He is so keen on the tactic of preaching a sermon directed at her that he has begun considering the obstacles.  The first of these obstacles is Mr. Thorne’s high status, which is represented figuratively through his laurels.  In ancient Rome laurel wreaths were given as prizes to those who excelled in contests, but were also worn by people of note, including members of the government.  [JC 2005]


Fortune favoured him

Trollope follows the lead of the ancients by personifying Fortune and making her into an anthropomorphic deity.  [JC 2005]

Perhaps there is an echo here of the Latin proverb, “Fortune favors the brave/bold.”  Mr. Slope has been bold (if misguided) in approaching Eleanor.  Fortune did not yield him the ultimate prize of Eleanor’s hand in marriage, but it at least favored him by keeping him out of sight as he recovers from Eleanor’s slap in the face.  [RR 2011]

Sources:  The phrase is found at Terence, Phormio 203, and Vergil, Aeneid 10.284.