President Neverbend is describing how Mrs. Neverbend has been constantly at Jack Neverbend’s side, urging him on with regards to pursuing Eva Crasweller. He states that he “had known that for the last month Jack’s mother had been instant with him to induce him to speak out to Eva.” However, Jack has proven too bashful in Eva’s presence to say anything of substance. Trollope uses the word “instant” here, relying on its original Latin meaning of “close at hand, pressing.” [CMC 2012]
a girl…shouldn’t get herself talked about
Mrs. Neverbend is expressing dismay that all of Gladstonopolis is discussing Eva Crasweller and Sir Kennington Oval. She states emphatically that no woman should be so talked about. This mirrors what Pericles says during his funeral oration in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Pericles states that the highest praise of the women of Athens comes in the fact that the men simply do not discuss them. The domestic sphere and the women who occupy it should not enter into the public discourse of Athens or Brittanula. [CMC & RR 2012]
Source: Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 2.45.2.
Minerva and Pallas
During the cricket match, players on both teams are described as “Minervas” and Jack Neverbend’s helmet is described as his “Pallas helmet.” Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and warfare, while Pallas Athena was her Greek counterpart. Like the cricket players in The Fixed Period, Minerva and Athena are depicted in armor with helmets. In addition to enlisting this image as a visual aid, Trollope may be employing humor in using a cross-gendered reference. When Trollope uses female mythological figures to describe male characters, it is usually done to poke fun at the character (as, for instance, the presentation of Dr. Grantly as Juno in Barchester Towers). Here, Trollope may be suggesting that it is a bit ridiculous to take the cricket match as seriously as the British and Brittanulans are by likening their “warriors” to a female goddess. [CMC & RR 2012]
the mother’s true Roman feeling
Mrs. Neverbend has come to the cricket match, saying “with true Roman feeling” that she is determined to watch her son, whether he win or lose. This phrase could be a reference to the mother of Euryalus in Vergil’s Aeneid. Euryalus’ mother continues to Italy with her son instead of staying behind in Sicily with the other women. Like her, Mrs. Neverbend goes willingly to see her son fight in a “battle” instead of remaining at home. Unlike Eurylaus’ mother, Mrs. Neverbend does not have the misfortune of seeing her son die. Indeed, Jack is victorious and elevated to the level of national hero by the Brittanulans. [CMC 2012]
A similar maternal sentiment is famously expressed in Plutarch’s Moralia, where a Spartan mother is recorded as telling her son to return home with his shield (victorious) or on it (wounded or dead)–but if Trollope were mustering his readers’ recollection of this dictum, he should have had Neverbend write “the mother’s true Spartan feeling.” Neverbend perhaps refers to a strong Roman mother as part of a consistent tendency in The Fixed Period to compare his familial dynamics to Roman ones. [RR 2012]
Source: Vergil, Aeneid 9.
Plutarch, Moralia 241f.
cocks fighting on our own dunghill
After the cricket match, the Brittanulans are overjoyed at having beaten Britain. Jack, while at first sharing in their jubilation, later moderates his joy. While many are treating the simple cricket match as if it were a military victory, Jack reminds them that they are simply cocks fighting on their own dunghills. This image is taken from Seneca, who uses it to illustrate that every man is most confident and successful upon their own ground (regardless of whether or not they are successful in absolute terms). [CMC 2012]
Source: Seneca, Apocolocyntosis 7.