When Frank is gloomy over his situation with Mary, Trollope uses this expression to describe his mood. Horace uses the same image in a different way in book 1 of his Epistles when he says, “take the cloud from your brow.” Trollope uses the image of the clouded brow repeatedly in his novels. [JC 2005]
Sources: Horace, Epistle 1.18.94.
the Spartan matron
Trollope is referring here to a particular story in book 3 of Plutarch’s Moralia in which a grandmother whose grandson has died in battle notes that it is better that he has died honorably than if he had survived through cowardice. Trollope compares this story with Lady Arabella’s wish for Frank to marry money. It is an apt comparison in that in both cases it is a case of quid pro quo where the quid is family honor (which the Greshams stand to lose along with their property if Frank fails to marry money) and the quo is, in a sense, the son himself (although Frank’s situation is certainly more figurative than the Spartan soldier’s). The reference to returning home on the shield is from another story also recorded by Plutarch in which the mother tells her son to either come back with his shield or on it. [JC 2005]
Sources: Plutarch, Moralia 3.240f and 3.241f.