E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Merops Son or A son of Merops.
One who thinks he can set the world to rights, but can only set it on fire. Agitators and stump orators, demagogues and Nihilists, are sons of Merops. The allusion is to Phaeton, son of Merops, who thought himself able to drive the car of Phbus, but, in the attempt, nearly set the world on fire.