in Three Clerks

Chapter 48 – Conclusion

Literary Censor

Charley’s literary efforts are recognized by the Literary Censor, a periodical whose name recalls the Roman office of censor charged with overseeing public morals (among other things). The Classically resonant name adds authority to the journal’s stamp of approval. We might also want to remember that Charley referred to the press as a censor morum (censor of morals) in Chapter 19 (see commentary), and Trollope referred to Charley himself as a censor in Chapter 22 (see commentary). [RR 2017]


Lucina, a man-deity, and a rocking shrine

At the end of the novel, the narrator mentions Lucina, the Roman goddess of childbirth, and thereby intimates that Charley and Katie will soon increase their family. Echoes of ancient religion continue with Trollope’s playful identification of the cradle as a “rocking shrine” and the baby as a “man-deity.” [GZ 2016 & RR 2017]


Antipodes and Excelsior

Trollopes refers to Australia with this Classically derived name: Australia being opposite (anti-) the feet (podes) of people in the northern hemisphere. We might contrast Alaric’s desire to rise higher (Excelsior!) with his migration to a country often presented as “down under.” [RR 2017]


the heroism of a Roman

Trollope praises Gertrude’s fidelity by contrasting her (and any woman acting similarly) with the legendary Roman, Marcus Curtius. When a chasm opened in the Roman Forum and the gods required the Romans to dedicate their most valuable possession, Marcus Curtius lept into to the cleft with his horse, declaring that Rome’s most valuable possessions were its weapons and bravery. Trollope often uses the Romans as ethical exemplars, and here some women’s excellence trumps even theirs. [RR 2017]

source: Livy, History of Rome 7.6


nod and thunder

Trollope’s description of Alaric’s old self and ambition quietly channels imagery associated with the Roman king of the gods, Jupiter. Alaric’s “approving nod” may recall Jupiter’s numinous authority (see commentary for Chapter 1 of Dr. Wortle’s School), and the “thunder” Alaric imagines spreading through the Times links him to Jupiter via one of the god’s main attributes. This depiction underscores the heights of former aspirations. [RR 2017]



When Charley’s latest work is published his publisher identifies him as “the author of ‘Bathos’.” Bathos is a Greek word meaning depth or altitude, and the use of it here gently underscores the motif of highs and lows prevalent throughout the novel. [RR 2017]


aliter non fit, amice, liber

During the mock review of Charley’s latest book read aloud by the three Woodward women, Charley scoffs at the fact that the reviewer included large parts of Charley’s own text to add to the column. Essentially, the reviewer was stuffing his column to make it a more appropriate length. Harry is quick to reply to Charley in Latin: “aliter non fit, amice, liber,” which translates as “otherwise, friend, it does not become a book.” Harry’s Latin phrase is an adaptation of the Latin found in an epigram written by the Roman poet Martial. In his poem, Martial tells someone named Avitus that any book contains good, average, and bad things in it—“otherwise, Avitus, it does not become a book.” As elsewhere in the novel, Harry’s ties to Classical learning are stronger than the other characters’, and here his adaptation of Martial’s verse shows a quick substitution of amice (friend) for Avite (Avitus) that suits the current context without disrupting the meter of the original. [GZ 2016 & RR 2017]

source: Martial, Epigram 1.16.



Earlier in the novel Charley had reported his editor’s insistence that his story have a “Nemesis”—that is, some sort of righteous retribution, so-called after the Greek goddess; see commentary for Chapter 19. In the Woodward women’s mock review they take Charley to task for including no such Nemesis in his most current work, and this reveals their practical joke to Charley.  Trollope himself usually imparts a kind of moral balance or nemesis in his novels: characters often seem to get what they deserve. In The Three Clerks, however, Charley seems largely to escape punishment, so the charge of “no Nemesis” may be as fitting for Trollope’s novel as for Charley’s. [RR 2017]