in Last Chronicle of Barset

Chapter 41 – Grace Crawley at Home

Of all men most unfortunate

Crawley is described as feeling as though only a madness which would drive him to kill his family was lacking to make him the “most unfortunate” man.  This recalls the tragic fate of the hero Heracles, who killed his wife Megara and their children in a period of madness.  [EB 2006]

Sources:  Euripides, Heracles.


She was reading Greek to him

Grace immediately begins reading Greek to her father upon her return home to comfort him.  This scene demonstrates Grace’s extensive knowledge of Classical language and literature.  Crawley also begins to shout out passages from plays, suggesting that he is beginning to recover.  [EB 2006]


It’s the outside of them he cares for

Crawley discusses with Grace how Arabin’s books are gilded and beautiful in appearance, but that he “doubt[s] if he ever reads.”  The description of Arabin’s books are a sharp contrast to Crawley’s tattered and well-used books, indicating that Crawley has a true interest in the Classics, whereas Arabin uses Classical knowledge as a sign of status.  For Crawley’s books, see the commentary for Chapter 4.  [EB 2006]


And the Greek books were out again

Grace again reads to her father.  He comments that her sister Jane might soon surpass her in her understanding of Greek, which suggests both of the Crawley girls’ intellectual achievements.  [EB 2006]


The whole of “Antigone” by heart

Continuing the conversation above, Mr. Crawley comments that he once had memorized this entire play by the Greek author Sophocles, and says that his daughters should compete to see which of them can learn it first.  The use of this play is interesting, since Mr. Crawley is often reminiscent of the tormented, proud, and quick-to-anger protagonists of Sophocles’ plays.  [EB & RR 2006]


I cannot read Greek plays to him

Mrs. Crawley, who is unable to read Greek, praises Grace’s ability to comfort her father with Greek literature.  This demonstrates the importance of Classical learning to Mr. Crawley and his children.  [EB 2006]