in Three Clerks

Chapter 07 – Mr. Fidus Neverbend

Mr. Fidus Neverbend

Fidus Neverbend is the name of a civil servant in the Office of Woods and Forests who accompanies Alaric on his trip to the mine. Fidus, whose first name is a Latin adjective meaning faithful, is a meticulous, upright, and dutiful man, and his last name, Neverbend, underscores his rigid moral integrity. Just as Alaric begins to entwine himself with the questionable Undecimus Scott, Alaric meets Fidus, who thus serves as a convenient moral foil to the character that Alaric becomes. [GZ 2016]


setting the Thames on fire

Trollope invokes a Latin saying (Tiberim accendere nequaquam potest, “he is not at all able to ignite the Tiber”) traditionally domesticated to a British context with the substitution of London’s famous river for Rome’s. [RR 2016]

See entry at Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.


philosopher’s porch

We are told that Mr. Neverbend “was not a disciple of Sir Gregory’s school.  He had never sat in that philosopher’s porch, or listened to the high doctrines prevalent at the Weights and Measures.” The mention of a “philosopher’s porch” recalls the Stoa Poikile (a portico or “porch”) in the Athenian agora where the philosopher Zeno taught and from which the philosophical school known as Stoicism draws its name. Here Sir Gregory and his particular views about civil service examination are humorously likened to a branch of ancient philosophy. [RR 2016]


per annum

Just as earlier the use of the Latin phrase ne plus ultra and an increase in income for Mr. Hardlines signified his elevated status, the narrator similarly builds on Alaric’s character, although only in Linda’s mind. It is her hope that his promotion, which would secure “an income of £600 per annum,” would ease his financial burden enough so as to permit Alaric to marry her sooner. [GZ 2016]


frog and cow

As Alaric and Harry discuss the former’s potential for success on his journey to the mine and on the upcoming examination, Alaric claims that Harry’s compliments are an attempt to inflate his ego. Alaric says this by alluding to Aesop’s fable of the frog and the cow. In this story, the frog, which is jealous of the cow’s size, inhales air to make herself larger. In the end, the frog puffs herself up so much that she explodes. The discussion between Alaric and Harry following the reference of the frog and the cow is about the importance of education. Thus, it seems fitting that Alaric (whose education has been less traditional than Harry’s) references a folktale with Classical resonance instead of a form of “higher” Classical literature, like poetry. [GZ 2016]

source: translation by Laura Gibbs of “The Frog and the Ox” by Aesop.


infernal mass of papers

After they arrive in Plymouth, Alaric says to Fidus that he will “go through this infernal mass of papers,” referring to the documents and readings concerned with the mine. “Infernal” here has a dual meaning. The first, perhaps more apparent, meaning is its use as a curse word. The second meaning derives from the Latin adjective infernus, meaning of Hell or of the lower regions, which refers to the fact that the mines are underground. This second meaning also alludes to Alaric’s moral descent as it pertains to his participation in the speculation on the Mary Jane Wheal. [GZ 2016]