in Claverings

Chapter 37 – What Lady Ongar Thought About It

whether that Phoebus in knickerbockers should or should not become lord of Ongar Park

Here Trollope continues the comparison between Harry Clavering and Phoebus/Apollo, the Greco-Roman god associated with the sun and young male beauty.  Knickerbockers were a kind of loose knee-length trousers gathered at the bottom, worn by boys and men for outdoor activities.  Trollope paints a comical image of the beautiful young Phoebus parading around his estate in knee pants in order to poke fun at Harry.  Harry is idealized by all the women in his life, especially his lovers, but Trollope and the reader both know that his fickleness and weak will do not become him, just as knickerbockers would not at all become the true Phoebus.  [SH 2012]

Of course, there is some humor simply in Trollope’s dressing of the ancient god in 19th c. clothing, and that humor also serves to detract somewhat from the divine status accorded Harry by the women around him.  We might want to compare Lily Dale’s depiction of Crosbie as an Apollo playing croquet; see commentary on Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of The Small House at Allington.  Both Harry and Crosbie are identified as Apollo figures, sometimes humorously by the author and sometimes sincerely by the women in their lives.  Harry is somewhat like Crosbie in that he engages the serious affections of two women simultaneously, but unlike Crosbie he will not finally jilt the woman to whom he is affianced.  [RR 2013]


gods laugh at the perjuries of lovers

In her conversation with Cecilia Burton, Julia excuses Harry’s fickleness by invoking an unnamed authority:  “Has not somebody said that the gods laugh at the perjuries of lovers?”  The “somebody” is Shakespeare, who has Juliet remark that “at lovers’ perjuries / They say Jove laughs.”  Julia’s paraphrase becomes stronger in context by not specifying Shakespeare or Jove.  The point becomes one of age-old wisdom not pinned down to a particular time, place, or divinity.  Near the end of the chapter Cecilia returns to this notion and admits to herself that, even though gods and men may excuse the perjuries of lovers, she hopes Harry is somehow punished if he permanently backs out of his engagement with Florence.  [RR 2013]

Source:  Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet 2.2.92-93.


not without something more than vehemence

Julia tells Cecelia that she considers the potential happiness of Harry as more weighty than the feelings of another woman.  In characterizing Julia’s tone, Trollope aptly uses litotes, the technique of expressing an idea by negating its opposite.  Litotes allows Trollope to convey Julia’s severity without calling it such outright and thereby potentially alienating readers from sympathizing with her.  [RR 2013]