I see a better path, and know how good it is, but I follow ever the worse
Trollope plants this paraphrase from Medea’s soliloquy in Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the mind of the Rev. Henry Clavering. In the Ovidian scene containing this quotation, Medea has just seen Jason and is instantly lovestruck. She knows that aiding him against her father’s will would be a betrayal of her duty as a daughter and a princess; nevertheless she is tempted beyond her ability to resist. Likewise, Rev. Clavering disregards his duties as rector, instead allowing the enthusiastic and industrious curate Mr. Saul to do the work of the parish. [SH 2012]
Source: Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.20-21.
the old story of the fox who had lost his tail
Fanny Clavering references this fable from the Aesopian tradition in a conversation with her brother Harry. It tells the story of a fox who lost his tail in a trap and, after enduring much ridicule, tried to convince the other foxes that being tailless was more convenient and attractive; the fable counsels readers not to heed advice given out of self-interest. In the Greek version of the fable, the fox is female, making the comparison to Mary Clavering even more fitting. Fanny and Harry’s sister Mary, who is engaged to a clergyman, is upset with Harry for deciding not to enter the clergy despite their father’s wishes. By comparing Mary to the fox in Aesop’s fable, Fanny suggests that Mary has lost the ability to give unbiased advice concerning Harry’s profession. Mary’s engagement to a reverend constitutes “losing her tail” in this context. [SH 2012]