in Claverings

Chapter 41 – The Sheep Returns to the Fold

in such matters as these his wife, he knew, was imperative and powerful

The word “imperative” stems from the Latin verb impero, which means “command.”  Usually the English adjective is used to mean “urgent” or “obligatory,” but here Trollope activates its etymological meaning.  He describes Mrs. Clavering as “imperative” because in the matter of Harry’s marriage, she shuts down her husband’s whisperings about Harry marrying Julia Ongar rather than Florence, and essentially commands that it shall not be so.  The Reverend Clavering recognizes that to argue with such a commanding presence would be pointless.  [SH 2012]

Source:  OED.


convalescent invalid

In describing Harry as a “convalescent invalid,” Trollope pairs two words which share the Latin element val- “well” or “strong.”  Harry is an invalid because he is not strong; in- negates the val-.  Nevertheless he is also convalescent because he is getting stronger; -sc- signals a process underway.  [RR 2013]


a cupid in mosaic surrounded by tiny diamonds

At this point in the novel, Florence has decided to break her engagement with Harry, and she sends him a package containing all the letters and presents he has given her.  Harry, meanwhile, has been sick and under his mother’s heavy influence for several days, and she has convinced him to renew his commitment to Florence and forget the possibility of marrying Lady Ongar for good.  When the package from Florence arrives at the Clavering home, it is Mrs. Clavering who writes to Florence concerning Harry’s resolve to marry her, and it is she who instructs Harry about how he should repack Florence’s package and send it back.  It is fitting, then, that the woman who has worked so hard to keep the two lovers together should give Harry the image of a cupid to pass on to Florence.  Cupid was the Roman counterpart to the Greek god of love, Eros, who played a role in much mythological match-making.  The cupid Mrs. Clavering gives to Harry symbolizes the role of Cupid that she plays in Harry and Florence’s relationship.  In fact, even in giving this gift, she plays that role:  she knows that the extra gift in the package will win Florence’s heart.  [SH 2012]


peccavi sounds soft and pretty when made by sweet lips in a loving voice

This statement is part of Trollope’s explanation about confession being a feminine activity:  women enjoy confessing their wrongdoings and receiving forgiveness, while men hate to admit their failures.  Peccavi is a perfect form of the Latin verb pecco; peccavi means “I have sinned.”  The Latin language and confession of sins are tied up in the culture of the Christian church, particularly in the Catholic sacrament of confession.  Trollope conflates church hierarchy and societal gender hierarchy by using a Latin word to discuss the confession of a woman.  Combining the imagery of priest over parishioner and man over woman strengthens the demarcation of gender hierarchy.  [SH & RR 2012]


hours of one long ovation

The word “ovation” come from the Latin ovatio, which means “a minor triumph or processional entry.”  In Roman times, an ovatio was a less lavish honor than a triumph, but still a great acclamation celebrated with a parade into the city.  In this scene of the novel, Cecilia and Florence Burton welcome Harry Clavering back into their family with open arms after he has rejected a union with Lady Ongar and has renewed his commitment to Florence.  Harry’s journey to Onslow Terrace and his welcome there are a sort of “processional entry” back into the Burton clan.  [SH 2012]

Although Harry is treated as a conquering hero by Cecelia and Florence, there may be a disconnect between the way he is viewed by them and the way he is viewed by a reader.  To a reader, Harry’s “ovation” may be misplaced:  what has he done worth celebrating other than honor his promise at last?   By adding a Classical echo through the use of “ovation,” Trollope heightens the Burton women’s reception of Harry and potentially increases the distance between their treatment of Harry and a reader’s own assessment of his behavior and the recognition it is (or isn’t) due.  [RR 2013]

Source:  OED.