in Claverings

Chapter 16 – The Rivals

drowsy Phoebe

Lady Ongar’s maid Phoebe grows tired as she waits for her mistress.  Her name means “shining one” in Greek and may recall either the sun or the moon:  Phoebus Apollo is the Classical god of the sun, and “Phoebe” (the feminine form of Phoebus and originally the name of a Titan) is often used as an alternate name for the moon or for Artemis, the sister of Apollo who is herself associated with the moon.  If the resonance with Phoebus is active here, the maid’s name aptly illustrates her difficulty retaining consciousness, since the sun which her name recalls has long since set.  If the connection to Phoebe is pursued, the maid’s name serves to underscore the lateness of the hour:  even the moon is tired.  [SH 2012 & RR 2013]


godlike Harry and his laughter like heavenly music

The concept of “music of the spheres” is of Pythagorean origin.  Pythagoras knew that vibrations and motions of various frequencies caused sound, so he concluded that the motion of planets and heavenly bodies must also create sounds; since nature is ordered and harmonious, those sounds must create harmonious heavenly music.  By likening Harry Clavering’s laughter to this perfect music and his appearance to that of the gods, Trollope vividly describes Florence’s view of Harry as a superhuman, glorious character.  [SH 2012]

Source:  Entry in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.