High Rising (1933)

Front cover of the novel High Rising by Angela Thirkell

References for the novel High Rising, by Angela Thirkell.

‘Relusions’ for the Hamish Hamilton 1949 edition.
Compiled by Penny Aldred and Hilary Temple (2007).

Chapter 1

11 Wesendonck – Like Humperdinck, a name bound to cause mirth in the English, hence his nickname “Donkey”. Angela Thirkell would have known about Richard Wagner’s obsession with Mathilde Wesendonck and perhaps thought that the name was better suited to a silent schoolboy than a figure of romance.

12 Bill – in later novels Bill Birkett becomes and remains Henry.

The time and the place … came together – “Never the time and the place and the loved one together”. Robert Browning poem ‘Never the time and the place’.

13 Just look at the maze in the house – Lord Castlewood is drunk and is trying to say “did you ever see such maids in the house”. William Makepeace Thackeray, Henry Esmond, chapter 8. Also What Did It Mean? p.131.

14 Eton suit/collar – black school uniform (later adopted as “best” suits for schoolboys in general) consisting of tight short collarless 3-buttoned jacket (a “bum-freezer”) worn with waistcoat, white shirt and huge stiff collar: so not very appropriate for a messy child like Tony.

16 Like Apollyon – in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress this foul fiend “straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way” in the Valley of Humiliation. Also Happy Returns p.169.

enlisted at sixteen – This would have been in World War I, of course.

26 her real public, made flesh in Anne – parody of St John’s Gospel ch.1 v.14. “and the Word was made flesh”.

29 prop of her declining years – in Virgil’s Aeneid, part 4,
“Thus, then, my lov’d Euryalus appears!/Thus looks the prop of my declining years/And could’st thou leave me, cruel, thus alone?”

Chapter 2

30 determination of words to the mouth – here “determination” means moving in a fixed direction; Robert Louis Stevenson uses the expression “determination of blood to the head”.

GWR and LMS – The Great Western and the London, Midland and Scottish were both railway companies.

35 Mrs T – Is this a slip – surely it should be Mrs M? Perhaps Lance called his mother Mrs T. She certainly signed herself thus in her letters to her secretary Margaret Bird. Just to confuse matters, in some editions it appears as Mrs M.

neither to hold nor to bind – a traditional saying, used by Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Quiller-Couch and Rudyard Kipling among others.

36 Bethel I’ll raise – a little-sung verse from the hymn ‘Nearer my God to thee’ by Sarah F. Adams. “Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise”, Bethel meaning House of God.

37 till death her did part – Stoker is perhaps trying to make the event sound more solemn; “till death us do part” is from the Book of Common Prayer marriage service.

38 There’s many a slip between does and did – again Stoker is inventing, the proverb being “there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip”.

41 Soon after she first decided that she must try and earn money by writing, she had met him at dinner – This is exactly how Angela Thirkell met her publisher, Jamie Hamilton!

Chapter 3

52 long in prison pent – from a poem in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Kenilworth, ch.10, “a wretched wearish elf,
With hollow eyes and rawbone cheeks forspent,
As if he had been long in prison pent”.

53 Harrington Portable Typewriter [which seems to have a stand!] – The name, better known as a make of baby’s nappy, is reminiscent of Remington.

54 Bertillon fan – Alphonse Bertillon, 1853-1914: Frenchman who developed a system of identifying criminals by their measurements, which presumably included fingerprints.

58 Wardour Street ways – This London street used to be full of antique shops, hence the expression is used of a pseudo-archaic style of writing or (here) furnishing. Also County Chronicle p. 237.

60 read your Malory – Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, telling stories from the legend of King Arthur, was finished in 1470.

61 the more I see of uncles, the better I like aunts – parody of “the more I see of people, the better I like my dog”, variously attributed to Madame de Stael, Frederick the Great and Blaise Pascal.

62 a race inhuman, set apart, flourishing in wickedness, doomed to eternal fires – allusions rather than quotations, apparently.

64 making himself a motley to the view – Shakespeare Sonnet 110: “Alas! “tis true I have gone here and there,/And made myself a motley to the view,/Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear”. Also Marling Hall p.114, Peace Breaks Out p.81, Jutland Cottage p.266, What Did It Mean p.100, Love At All Ages p.166.

Chapter 4

73 the uses of advertisement – pun on “sweet are the uses of adversity” (Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 2 sc.1)

75 last rose of summer
“Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone”.
Thomas Moore (1779-1852) popular song from Irish melodies.

Chapter 5

94 an ungodly afternoon – many people at this era thought it sinful to play cards on a Sunday.

99 let us now praise famous men – Ecclesiasticus ch.44 v.1.

sceptred pall – Milton poem ‘Il Penseroso’: “Sometime let gorgeous Tragedy/In sceptred pall come sweeping by” i.e. mourning robes of rich fabric.

100 Mrs Crummles – wife of the manager of a travelling theatre company in Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby. Also Enter Sir Robert p.98 (“dead as old Crummles”).

106 he is all the brothers of his father’s house – Rosalind in Twelfth Night Act 2 sc.4 says:
“I am all the daughters of my father’s house,
And all the brothers too”.

112 the Blue Ribbon Army – i.e. the temperance movement.

114 Miss Skiffins – in Dickens’s Great Expectations she is considered “a good sort of fellow” who showed high regard for Mr Wemmick’s Aged Parent and later married Mr Wemmick, but wouldn’t tolerate embraces before marriage. Also Love Among the Ruins p.340, Jutland Cottage p.149.

116 that will clear your mind of cant – Dr Johnson was quoted by Boswell as saying, “My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may talk as other people do: you may say to a man, “Sir, I am your very humble servant.” You are not his very humble servant, don’t think foolishly”.

Chapter 6

120 an exhaustion to the spirit – a saying rather than a quotation, sometimes appears as “of the spirit”, eg Sir Walter Scott in a letter, “worry and exhaustion of spirit upon all the family”. Also The Old Bank House p.334.

123 assisting in the Gallic sense – in French assister means being present at. Also **

126 the solitary-hearted – title of a poem by Hartley Coleridge that appeared in the first Oxford Book of English Verse about a woman who “hath felt the touch of sorrow,/No love hath she, no understanding friend”.

Chapter 7

139 who frightened Cock Robin? I, said the Laura, with my feminine aura – parody of “Who killed Cock Robin? I, said the sparrow, with my bow and arrow” etc.

Dotheboys Hall – the dreadful boys’ school run by Mr Squeers in Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby.

one and indivisible – allusion to the United States Pledge of Allegiance: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

143 Leeks come before the swallow comes – parody of “daffodils,
That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty”:
– Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, Act 4 sc.3.

nor demons under the sea – possibly a reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘Annabel Lee’ (“nor demons down under the sea”);

Dante, denial of their national emblem – Cannot find this in the Divine Comedy. Dante reference also in Private Enterprise p.140.

147 Vernon Whitford – a character in George Meredith’s novel The Egoist , a sensitive and intelligent observer of the other characters including the egoist Willoughby. (Also contains references to “a dainty rogue in porcelain” and “my Egeria” favourites of Angela Thirkell.)

Like that quotation from that horrible Milton – “A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit” (‘Areopagitica’), used as the motto for Dent’s Everyman Library series.

151 I mayn’t have bells on my toes, but I have a ring on my finger – nursery rhyme:
“Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady ride on a white horse.
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes.”

Chapter 8

153 Man, man, it would be no step at all – sounds like a quotation.

154 Parsifal – (Parzifal/Perceval), one of King Arthur’s knights who sought the holy grail. Wagner based his opera on a 13th century romance by Wolfram von Eschenbach.

157 primrose paths – “the primrose path of dalliance” (Hamlet, Act 1 sc.3).

“It’s always like Heine every spring” – for instance “I hear a thousand nightingales. Spring hath sent them to awaken Earth from her morning slumber and Earth trembles in ecstasy, her flowers are hymns.”

159 Testament of Beauty – long, not to say tedious, philosophical poem by Robert Bridges (1844-1930)

till the conversion of the Jews – from Andrew Marvell (1621-78) poem ‘To his Coy Mistress’:
“And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.”

Sonnets from the Portuguese – Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s successful 1870 volume of poems.

160 She came to curse and remained to dance – parody of Oliver Goldsmith poem ‘The Deserted Village’. “And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.”

163 drowned his speaking – Robert Browning poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin, where the rats “…even spoiled the women’s chats/By drowning their speaking/With shrieking and squeaking/In fifty different sharps and flats”.

166 Trooper George in Bleak House (Dickens) – a noble soul who is wrongly imprisoned.

Chapter 9

172 strong, slightly half-witted, primitive men were darkly breathing in the tidal earth-force… bodies – Summary of the more self-conscious features of fiction by writers such as D. H. Lawrence.

177 would have suckled fools – Shakespeare, Othello Act 2 sc.1: Iago’s comment to Desdemona on a deserving woman, that she would only be fit “To suckle fools and chronicle small beer”. Also Love Among the Ruins p.139

178 make double fortune – not so much an allusion as Mrs Knox’s French way of speaking English.

Chapter 10

189 walking up and down like a grampus – unlikely, since a grampus is a kind of dolphin better known for puffing and blowing.

Chapter 11

191 Flaming Sword – placed at the east of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.24 to protect the tree of life. Also Love Among the Ruins p.293.

193 As pants the hart – Nahum Tate (1652-1715)’s metrical version of Psalm 42: “As pants the hart for cooling streams
When heated in the chase,
So longs my soul, O God, for Thee
And Thy refreshing grace.”

the iron has entered into my soul – in the Bible this happened to Joseph when in the stocks after being sold into slavery (Psalm 105).

194 a John Roe or Richard Doe – made-up names used in law-courts for plaintiff and accused.

195 Petrarch and another Laura – the Italian poet Petrarch (1304-74) addressed love poems to Laura.

197 Foul and stagnant fen – Sounds like an allusion: possibly Wordsworth’s poem ‘London, 1802’ :
“Milton! Thou should’st be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters”.

198 go down to posterity on the hem of her robe – said by Sir Joshua Reynolds when signing his portrait of the actress Mrs Siddons as The Tragic Muse on the garment in question.

199 Zeus dethrones Chronos – Zeus, god of the weather, defeated his father Cronus (which in Thirkell’s spelling “Chronos” suggests “Time”) in the battle against the Titans.

Ragnarok swallows up the Gods – in Norse myth the last battle, in which men and gods are defeated by monsters.

Seven cities have been built where once Troy Town stood – Is this a quotation? The site of Troy contains 9 cities in 47 layers, the seventh level of which would have been in Homer’s time.

207 slippered ease – poem ‘The summing up’ by Robert Service (1874-1958), who was strongly influenced by Kipling.
“When you have sailed the seven seas
And looped the ends of earth,
You’ll long at last for slippered ease
Beside a bonny hearth.”

Chapter 12

209 210 downwards fall into a grovelling swine – in Milton’s poetic drama Comus any who drank from the enchantress Circe’s cup “lost his upright shape, and downward fell”.

211 Never had host such a guest – did Sir Richard Whittington entertain a king unawares? He certainly lent money to Henry IV and Henry V when Lord Mayor of London.

212 oiled and curled like an Assyrian bull – Tennyson in the poem ‘Maud’, “That jewelled mass of millinery,/That oiled and curled Assyrian bull”. He may have borrowed this from classical literature.

213 if all the trumpets had sounded – in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress Mr Valiant-for-Truth “passed over, and the trumpets sounded for him on the other side”.

214 King Lear references – here and page 219. Also Peace Breaks Out page 33, The Old Bank House page 65, page 345, Close Quarters page 194, page 201, page 250, page 257.

220 does dew fall? – Neither George nor Laura seems to have any idea. The answer is, moisture condenses as the air cools.

226 bed was a refuge from circling harms – Sounds like a quotation.

Chapter 13

230 like Medusa on a heavy washing-day – in Greek myth Medusa had writhing snakes for hair, so heavy work would presumably make them more writhesome.

233 But what avails the sceptred race? – Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), poem ‘Rose Aylmer’,
“Ah, what avails the sceptred race! /Ah, what the form divine!/ When every virtue, every grace,/Rose Aylmer, all were thine.” Also satirically of Rose Birkett in Summer Half page 125 Penguin ed.

237 Cuckoo, jug-jug – Song ‘Spring, the sweet spring’ from Thomas Nashe play Summer’s Last Will and Testament (1592)

238 the woodspurge was busy having a cup of three – Dante Gabriel Rossetti poem ‘The Woodspurge’
“One thing then learnt remained to me,
The woodspurge has a cup of three”.

241 This is as good a deed as drink -Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act 2 scene 3: “‘Twere as good a deed as to drink when a man’s a-hungry, to challenge him and then to break promise with him..” Also What Did It Mean page 63.

242 “There was I, waiting at the church” – music-hall song ‘Waiting at the church’ by Fred W. Leigh and Henry E. Pether, sung by Vesta Victoria (1874-1951)

245 Max Beerbohm and the problem of book-burning – Beerbohm wrote a huge number of essays, some of them aggressive in tone, for instance praising incendiaries and referring to ‘accidentally burning a book.’ Also Love At All Ages page 188.

Chapter 14

251 acharné – relentless, unremitting

252 What is electricity to me… – Parody of “What’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba?” Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2 scene 2

253 Tis well an old age is out“- John Dryden poem ‘The Secular Masque’:
“Thy wars brought nothing about;
Thy lovers were all untrue.
‘Tis well an old age is out,
And time to begin anew.”

259 First get rid of your hare, Mr Knox – A famous, perhaps apocryphal line attributed to Mrs Beeton’s cookery book: “First catch your hare”. [The instruction was actually “First case your hare” , ie skin it.]

263 Oath of Hypocrites – ie Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors.

Chapter 15

266 Caliban’s Guide to Letters – Book of essays by Hilaire Belloc. Caliban is the half-human, half-monster son of the witch Sycorax in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Also A Double Affair page 291.

270 “Nothing, darling, only darling, darling”: Cartoon in the magazine Punch, in which soppy lovers Edwin and Angelina sit on a park-bench near an old gentleman. Their exchange: “Darling!” “Yes, darling?” “Nothing, darling. Only darling, darling.” is followed by the comment: Old gentleman feels quite sick.

Chapter 16

292 just as if she was Marleen – ie Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992), actress, film actress and singer

295 heavenly fool – George Knox describes this as “an expression”, maybe the generalised one that there was something holy about what Thirkell would have called idiots.

any way understanded of you – the rationale for the translation of the Book of Common Prayer, variant of actual form “understanded of the people” used in Love Among the Ruins p.148.

296 fool enough to sit smiling on a monument – Like patience on a monument,/Smiling at grief (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night Act 2 scene 4)

301 the Salisbury curve where the accident happened – the double reverse curve of the track was the site of the famous 1906 Salisbury Train Accident to a boat-train.






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