Some short period after the above events, and Miss Rebecca Sharp still remaining at her patroness's house in Park Lane, one more hatchment might have been seen in Great Gaunt Street, figuring amongst the many which usually ornament that dismal quarter. It was over Sir Pitt Crawley's house; but it did not indicate the worthy baronet's demise. It was a feminine hatchment, and indeed a few years back had served as a funeral compliment to Sir Pitt's old mother, the late dowager Lady Crawley. Its period of service over, the hatchment had come down from the front of the house, and lived in retirement somewhere in the back premises of Sir Pitt's mansion. It reappeared now for poor Rose Dawson. Sir Pitt was a widower again. The arms quartered on the shield along with his own were not, to be sure, poor Rose's. She had no arms. But the cherubs painted on the scutcheon answered as well for her as for Sir Pitt's mother, and Resurgam was written under the coat, flanked by the Crawley Dove and Serpent. Arms and Hatchments, Resurgam.—Here is an opportunity for moralising!

(Vanity Fair, Chapter XIV)

I understand the context of this passage; I know what hatchment and scutcheon mean.

However I can't truly understand the sentence in bold letters. What does arms mean here? What does shield? (Is it synonymous with hatchment and scutcheon?) And what does quartered, in reference to arms, actually mean in this sentence?

If you will, please explain this sentence to me.

Also, what does answered mean in this context?

2 Answers 2


Sir Pitt Crawley's second wife, Rose, came from a lower middle class family which did not bear arms, i.e. did not have its own heraldic device. Normally a funeral hatchment for an upper-class woman would have the arms of the husband's family painted on one half and her own family on the other. (Sometimes there would be more than two divisions if there were connections with other aristocratic families.) Sir Pitt has re-used his mother's hatchment on which her family's heraldic device was 'quartered' with the Crawley family's. Thackeray says that this was just as appropriate for Rose.

Normally a man's heraldic arms would be shield-shaped, a woman's diamond-shaped. I suppose Thackeray used the word here to avoid repeating 'hatchment' too many times.

  • Thank you. Though my English is pretty good, I am not good at this kind of specialized idiom; nor do I had a coat of arms myself, etc. Apr 25, 2017 at 8:00

I believe the reference is to the term quartering, meaning

in heraldry... a method of joining several different coats of arms together in one shield by dividing the shield into equal parts and placing different coats of arms in each division.

The figurative implication that Rose's "arms" were not "quartered on his shield" could be that she was not his wife.


A coat of arms, quartered.

  • You don't need a figurative implication for her arms not being quartered with his when the text gives you a literal one. her arms were not quartered because 'She had no arms'. You can't quarter what you ain't got.
    – Spagirl
    Apr 25, 2017 at 9:57
  • @Spagirl I believe it could be a have both figurative and literal meaning. It could be symbolic. I don't really know the complete text though so I'm giving my best interpretation through context. Apr 25, 2017 at 10:02
  • @RaceYouAnytime It's a long time since I read Vanity Fair, but a very quick enquiry makes it clear that he didn't care much about or for her, but there is no doubt that she was his legal wife.
    – Spagirl
    Apr 25, 2017 at 10:12
  • @Spagirl I don't think I don't need a figurative meaning for this. Lady Crawley had both of her arms when she died. She was not an amputee. So the text must be understood only figuratively. Apr 25, 2017 at 10:14
  • @user26328 'Arms' in this context does not mean 'limbs', nor is it figurative. A dictionary will tell you other meanings. college-of-arms.gov.uk If you follow RaceYouAnytime's first link, that Wiki page also has a link to 'coat of arms'.
    – Spagirl
    Apr 25, 2017 at 10:16

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