that little god upon earth
The idea of gods going in disguise among humans, or of humans becoming gods, is a common one in Classical myth. Of course, Trollope is not actually implying that the women view baby Johnny as an actual deity; this is an example of using ancient language or ideas to playfully poke fun at how seriously a character is taking something. This baby is the center of Eleanor’s life, to the point that describing him as a god is almost appropriate, and we can’t fault her for making him such. We can, however, laugh good-naturedly at the baby’s aggrandizement by his mother. [JM 2005]
Venus to his Juno
Trollope is setting up Grantly and Proudie’s rivalry as equaling that between Venus and Juno after Paris’ judgment of a beauty contest between the goddesses Juno, Venus, and Minerva; the youth judged in favor of Venus, who was offering as a bribe the greatest beauty, Helen. Paris’ decision enraged the ever-jealous Juno. Comparing the feelings of two staid men to those of angered female deities shows both the virulence and pettiness of their wrath towards each other. [JM 2005]
Continuing the Venus/Juno motif, the “apple” in this case is basically control of religious life in Barchester, which Grantly has and Proudie wants. In the myth of the Paris’ judgment, the apple was the prize awarded to the most beautiful goddess. [JM 2005]
had I the pen of a might poet, would I sing in epic verse the noble wrath of the archdeacon
Clearly and humorously borrowing a technique called recusatio (Latin, “refusal”) in which an author makes an elaborate refusal to speak on a subject, or otherwise expresses anxiety regarding his own ability to write about a particular thing. Trollope may be echoing the opening book of the Aeneid, which mentions the wrath of Juno, or he may be echoing the beginning of Homer’s Iliad, which opens with mention of Achilles’ wrath. Achilles may be a more appropriate parallel, since Grantly’s pride has been offended as Achilles was by Agamemnon. Keep in mind, however, that Grantly has been compared to Juno once already in this chapter. [JM 2005]
Sources: Vergil, Aeneid 1.11.
Homer, Iliad, 1.1.