the fox and the tail
A reference to one of Aesop’s fables, in which a fox loses her tail to a trap. The fox then tries to convince other foxes that they should remove their tails likewise, having deemed tails unnecessary now that she lacks one herself. The title of this chapter is an allusion to this story, and there are references to it within the chapter, as well. This is the chapter in which Mary comes to find out about her inheritance, and thus she “finds a tail,” unlike the fox in the story. Mary compares herself and her uncle to the fox in the fable, suggesting that maybe they only disdain wealth in others because they lack it themselves. Dr. Thorne in turn wonders if he and Mary, should they suddenly find themselves wealthy, would not be as boastful of their newfound money as the fox would be of a tail. Trollope asserts that all people are foxes looking for tails, i.e. wealth, either honestly or not; all foxes, says Trollope, would be happy to find a tail, no matter how much they may have despised or pretended to despise them before. [JM 2005]
Sources: A translation of the fable at Laura Gibbs’ Aesop site.
how the drop of water hollows the stone
Referencing Ovid, Gutta cavat lapidem, “a drop hollows a stone.” Frank Gresham persuades his father to a sort of implicit consent, not by one eloquent speech, but by often repeating his appeals. Thus his father is persuaded not all at once, but rather over time, bit by bit. [JM 2005]
Sources: Ovid, Epistulae Ex Ponto 4.10.5 (though Ovid may be repeating a common proverb).