Christmas at High Rising (2013)


7 short stories and an essay (Shakespeare Did Not Dine Out)

1. Pantomime

11 as clean as Bishop Hatto – Robert Southey’s poem ‘God’s judgment on a Wicked Bishop’ was based on a German folk tale

Christmas at High Rising 2013 Angela Thirkell

14 Master Wesendonck – a name chosen for its capacity to form schoolboy nicknames such as Donkey and Donk, but also the name of Mathilde Wesendonck, composer of five poems set to music in 1857-8 by Richard Wagner.

15 drunk with the Widow – ostensibly referring to Widow Twankey in the pantomime Aladdin but possibly with a side-glance towards Veuve Clicquot champagne.

22 before the gas was lighted – i.e. the house had gas lighting. See also page 27.

2. Christmas at Mulberry Lodge

the seaside with a large white house on the village green – sounds rather like Rottingdean and the holiday home of the Burne-Joneses.

23 Here we go round the mulberry bush – nursery rhyme for children to sing dancing in a circle.

24 a piece of bread with butter then one with jam but no butter – mentioned in E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children, though as an economy measure.

25 Christmas decorations being put up on Christmas Eve – common at this era rather than, as nowadays, in early December.

27 the waits – carol-singers going from door to door. Mentioned by AT in her autobiographical Three Houses.

33 a dormouse as a present – Another authentic biographical detail from AT, which makes the mind boggle now. Also pages 38-40, where the dormouse is drowned, is given a funeral and has its picture painted, as Angela’s father did, with wings to fly away.

3. St Valentine’s Holiday

44 as Christian did carrying his burden – John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

50 the confusion between grip and grippe – grippe being French for flu!

52 the B.M.A. – the British Medical Association.

55 Qui craint le grand méchant loup? – Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

Ah, quant à mal élevée, je ne dis pas ca … Elle est plutot enfantine. Quand je vous dis, Tony … – Well, as for being badly brought up, I wouldn’t say that. Rather, she’s childish. When I tell you, Tony …

56 Valentine, Reine des Patines … – Queen of Roller-Skates.

58 Vous etes un sot – You’re a fool.

4. High Voltage at Low Rising

62 George Sand – the pen name of the popular French writer Amantine Dupin de Francueil (1804-1876) who wrote 70 novels as well as plays and political texts.

63 the author of Fantasio – the bitter clown portrayed by Alfred de Musset whose text was set to music by Offenbach. George finally remembers the name on page 73. Also Jutland Cottage page **

The bow of Odysseus – famous for being ‘palintonos’, that is bent backwards. This made it difficult for his wife Penelope’s suitors to string it which was another excellent delaying tactic.

64 rolled about like Dr Johnson – there is an anecdote that Samuel Johnson walked to the top of a steep hill and announced that he was going to roll down it, first removing items such as keys and penknife from his pockets. (H. D. Beste, Personal and Literary Memorials pp 64-65).

65 croyante not to say pratiquante – a believer though not practising.

66 The Mother of Churches, the Scarlet Woman, the Whore of Babylon – ie the Roman Catholic Church.

I fight with wild beasts at Ephesus – Bible, 1 Corinthians chapter 15 verse 32: “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.”

67 a National or Regional broadcast – BBC regions were set up in the 1920s: North, Midlands and East Anglia, South and West; and London which produced only national programming.

Droitwich wavelength – the town in Worcestershire was, and still is, useful as a site for radio transmission because of its height, requiring the masts to carry aircraft warning lights.

What you need is a super hetsuperheterodyne being the type of receiver that combines amplification with frequency mixing.

68 the continued Brocken performance of the wireless – this was a mountain in Germany celebrated for its role in legends of witchcraft. Goethe used it in Faust.

70 purge the mind with pity and contempt – The function of tragedy, as enunciated by Aristotle in his Poetics, is to arouse terror and pity in an audience and thus purify their emotions.

72 il faut qu’une porte soit ouverte ou fermée – Alfred de Musset wrote this as a one-act comedy in 1845. (A door has to be either open or closed.)

Wigan Trocette cinema – The original Troc-Ette cinema opened in Bermondsey, south-east London, in 1929, being extended to 2,500 seating capacity in 1932. As cinema-going became less popular it finally closed in 1956. We are unsure if there was one in Wigan, however.

73 Alfred de Musset – see above, page 63.

5. The Private View

77 a genuine Mantegna – Italian painter and engraver (1431-1506). Copied by Edward Burne-Jones on his third visit to Italy, and illegally on a visit to the Louvre. His painting of King Cophetua and the Beggarmaid especially shows Mantegna’s influence.

78 Charles Wilson – Charles Edward Wilson (191-1936) was a real painter of works such as ‘Girl and kitten at a cottage doorway’, though we cannot trace ‘Wide-eyed innocence’. But is Amelia an invention?

79 Gunter’s – a tea shop in Berkeley Square started by Italian Domenico Negri in 1757. James Gunter became his partner in 1777. It was noted for its ice-creams and sorbets, moving to Curzon Street in 1937 and closing down in 1956. Wedding cakes were a speciality. Frequently mentioned in the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer.

80 painting Wide-Eyed Innocence – suggesting inexperience, that the person portrayed may be easily duped.

83 Signorelli – the ‘Master Illustrator’. Burne-Jones was influenced by his frescos in Orvieto Cathedral including The Resurrection.

89 their souls were in their names – A quotation? One would rather expect “their souls were in their eyes”.

90 couramment – fluently

94 Kensal Rise/Kensal Green – in the north Kensington area of London: the names are almost interchangeable. Kensal Green is famous for its cemetery which is Grade 1 Listed: Anthony Trollope and W. M. Thackeray are buried there.

6. Shakespeare Did Not Dine Out

101 Beerbohm guests – According to Max Beerbohm people are either born hosts or born guests. Benjamin Franklin is said to have claimed that “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

Old Capulet – the stern father of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.

103 Macbeth’s dinner party – in Act 3 scene 4 of Shakespeare’s play, he shows Macbeth as hallucinating about Banquo’s ghost through guilt at his murder. Macduff does not attend the banquet because he has gone to England, being suspicious of Macbeth.

disappear and reappear like the Cheshire cat – appears to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and has a noticeable grin. When he fades away, the grin is the last feature to disappear.

104 King Claudius’s party – Few critics consider the position of the lesser characters in Hamlet, nor the detail of what the visiting players present to the court. And introducing Cressida (from Troilus and Cressida) would make the play more sociable but spoil the tragedy. See also page 106.

Grand Guignol – graphic horror plays of a type shown at a theatre in the Pigalle area of Paris. Titus Andronicus is a good example from Shakespeare. In Timon of Athens Timon is very generous to his friends but impoverishes himself. He asks them to help him out but they refuse. So he invites them to a different kind of dinner, of rocks and lukewarm water.

106 “Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern” – an exploitation of the comic possibilities, further developed by Tom Stoppard in his 1966 play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

the dinner party in Cymbeline – Certainly one of Shakespeare’s Problem Plays, with an impossible plot, which AT has fun in mocking.

108 at the Boar’s Head, or at Justice Shallow’s house Henry IV parts 1 and 2 are strengthened by Falstaff’s appearance in both, first as almost purely comic and second as sad.

109 Henry VIII – thought to be Shakespeare’s last play and possibly not entirely written by him, hence the reference to the dramatists John Fletcher (the most likely co-writer) and Francis Beaumont.

Tut, that’s a foolish observation – Warwick’s reply when Richard asks not to be made Duke of Gloucester, “For Gloucester’s dukedom is too ominous” (Henry VI part 3 Act 3 scene 6).

7. The Great Art of Riding

113 Jane’s Fighting Ships – Originally published by Fred T. Jane in London in 1898 as Jane’s All The World’s Fighting Ships for naval officers and those interested in war games.

114 five little ships exquisitely carved, – this edition omits ‘with masts and’ before ‘and guns’.

121 riding uneasily – misprint for ‘rising’.

“He might fall off.” – This edition omits the sentence that follows: But Jenkins, unperturbed, explained to Mrs Knox that Tony was perfectly safe.

122 One day Mr Prothero spoke to him, and he said Tunk, and… – This edition ends the sentence ‘Mr Prothero’ instead of ‘old Prothero’.

124 Gilpin-wise – In the comic ballad ‘The diverting history of John Gilpin’ by William Cowper (1782) he rides a runaway horse, but gets home safely.

manège; haute école – riding school; high-level dressage.

8. A Nice Day in Town

First published in London Calling: a Salute to America, edited by Storm Jameson, published by Harper & Row 1942. It was an anthology aimed at showing Americans what war conditions were like to influence the US to join in the war. Other contributors included H. E. Bates, Rose Macaulay and Rebecca West.

142 ARP Wardens – Volunteers who carried out the Air Raid Precautions in support of civilians during the war, including enforcing the blackout.

143 the sticky stuff that Mr Guppy and Mr Weevle touched at Mr Krook’s house – Dickens, Bleak House.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *