Pomfret Towers 1938

Picture of the dust cover of "Pomfret Towers"

References for the novel Pomfret Towers, by Angela Thirkell.

‘Relusions’ for the Hamish Hamilton edition 1938
Compiled by Hazel Bell (2017) and Hilary Temple

Chapter 1

14 Humphry Repton – landscape architect, 1752-1818. Also page 213.

Parthenon – chief temple of the Greek goddess Athena on the hill of the Acropolis at Athens, Greece.

15 He was joined almost immediately by his son Guy … who had narrowly escaped being christened Ippolito. – Ippolito de’ Medici: (1511 – 10 August 1535) was the illegitimate son of Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici. Presumably he was the subject of the biography Susan Barton was writing at the time.

17 A delicate child, she had never been able to go regularly to school, so that a natural timidity had been fostered by her semi-invalid life – Alice appears to be a forerunner of Anne Fielding in Miss Bunting.

27 you are like the great San Philip that of something thousand tons – from ‘The Revenge’ by Tennyson: Their mountain-like San Philip that, of fifteen hundred tons: /
And up-shadowing high above us with her yawning tiers of guns, /Took the breath from our sails, and we stay’d.”

28 so would the Medici have fed… – the Medici family of merchants and bankers ruled Florence from the 15th-18th centuries.

antiphonally – music that is performed turn and turn about by two semi-independent voices or choirs.

30 there’s a fellow called Wickfield in Dickens – Mr Wickfield is a lawyer in David Copperfield who drinks heavily.

31 No, Lord Pomfret … this is not Ancient Egypt – Several of the Egyptian Pharaohs married their siblings.

Chapter 2

21 Gobelin tapestry – The Manufacture des Gobelins was a tapestry factory located in Paris.

37 The furniture was in the highest style of Pre-Raphaelite discomfort – Compare this from Thirkell’s Three Houses: “As I look back on the furniture of my grandparents’ [Edward and Georgiana Burne-Jones] houses I marvel chiefly at the lack of comfort which the P-R Brotherhood succeeded in creating for itself. It was not, I think, so much that they actively despised comfort, as that the word conveyed absolutely nothing to them whatever. I can truthfully say that at neither was there a single chair that invited to repose … the sofas were simply long low tables with a little balustrade round two, or sometimes three sides … the best was too short to lie on … massive washing-stands apt to fall heavily forward on to a small child … beds … it can only have been the physical vigour and perfect health of their original designers that made them believe their work was fit to sleep in.”

42 Sydney Carton gives his life to save that of Lucie Manette’s husband – in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.

43 Sculpture on Assyrian imperial palaces – included colossal portal-figures of winged bulls.

Chapter 3

69 a couple of rare dogs called Bazoukis… specially trained for running down partridges – We have all heard of salukis which are indeed a kind of sighthound that hunt by sight rather than smell. Bazoukis would have difficulty doing this, as they are of course a kind of Greek lute.

74 a complete walking Baedeker – Verlag Karl Baedeker is a German publisher and pioneer in the business of worldwide travel guides.

Punch – English abbreviation for Punchinello, a hooknosed, humpbacked character, the most popular of marionettes and glove puppets and the chief figure in the Punch-and-Judy puppet show.

84 Antonio Canova – Italian sculptor, 1757-1822.

Casanova – his full name was Giovanni Giacomo Casanova de Seingalt (1725-98). He was a Venetian courtier.

85 Aunt Sally – a wooden dummy at which players throw sticks or balls at fairgrounds.

Guy Fawkes – 1570-1606, involved in the Gunpowder Plot. The only thing these two appear to have in common is that they are both used as images to ill-treat: Guy Fawkes was traditionally a dummy put on a bonfire on 5 November.

87 Hengist and Horsa – legendary Germanic brothers said to have led the Angles,
Saxons and Jutes in their invasion of Britain in the 5th century.

90 a bit of pure surrealism – Surrealism was an art movement begun in 1924 mingling rational vision with unconventional elements derived from the unconscious and dream-worlds.

91 Oh, lyric love, half angel and half bird – continues “And all a wonder and a wild desire” from The Ring and the Book , a verse novel of 21,000 lines by Robert Browning.

Chapter 4

105 Hypatia – 350-415 CE: a Greek mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher. She was murdered by a Christian mob.

Benjamin Disraeli – Conservative Prime Minister 1864-1880. 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, born 1804, died 1881.

115 since hansoms went out – the hansom cab was a kind of horse-drawn carriage designed and patented in 1834 by Joseph Hansom, a York architect. Its main feature was a low centre of gravity for safer cornering.

116 The Set of Five – Possibly the Group of Seven, Canadian landscape painters controversial in the 1920s and 30s. Mr Scatcherd in The Old Bank House is an admirer of this school. There was also The Seven and Five Society (seven painters and five sculptors) formed in 1919 in London which tried to preserve conservative artistic values. But with the advent of Ben Nicolson, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore they became modernistic and changed their name to the Seven and Five Abstract Group in 1935. This might have had greater appeal for Julian.

127 I did a bit of Dante once – Dante Alighieri, Italian poet (1265-1321) whose Divine Comedy is considered the greatest literary work in Italian.

Chapter 5

131 The Alhambra – a palace and fortress complex in Granada, Andalusia, Spain.

132 Edith Dombey and Mr. Carker – in Charles Dickens’s Dombey and Son Edith, who is Mr Dombey’s second wife, does not love him and eventually runs away with Mr Carker, one of the firm’s managers.

Lady Clara Newcome and Lord Highgate – in W. M.Thackeray’s novel The Newcomes: Memoirs of a Most Respectable Family (1855).

Clara Mowbray, Francis Tyrrel – Sir Walter Scott’s St Ronan’s Well is one of his less successful novels and is set in the 19th century. Clara and Francis are secretly engaged but had been prevented from marrying through the treachery of Francis’s half-brother, the Earl of Etherington. Scott obviously wanted the relationship to be ‘consummated’, as the archdeacon would say, but his publisher talked him out of it; although Scott kept the tragic end in which Clara dies.

John Ballantyne – (1774–1821) was an eccentric Scottish publisher with a chequered history, chiefly notable for his work with Walter Scott, who was evidently very fond of him despite his financial irresponsibility.

Chapter 6

156 Watts and Leighton – George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), British painter and sculptor. Somewhat like Burne-Jones he had very little formal art education despite being enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools. ‘Hope’ is probably his most famous painting, One of his pupils was Val Prinsep, a friend of Burne-Jones.

Frederic Leighton (1830-96), British painter and sculptor, President of the Royal Academy in 1878 and ennobled as Lord Leighton, Baron of Stretton. One of his most famous paintings is ‘Flaming June’. His former home is a museum, Leighton House in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

122 Punch – Subtitled The London Charivari it was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and ceased publication in 2002.

Chapter 7

192 Angkor Wat – the famous temple complex in Cambodia, providing a very romantic setting for Mrs Rivers’s heroine .

193 felt like a châtelaine – a woman who owns or controls a large house.

197 P. G. Wodehouse – English comic novelist (1881-1975) famous chiefly for the characters of Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves. Incidentally a good friend of Angela’s brother Denis Mackail.

the trial scene in Pickwick – Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, chapter 34.

Mrs Gamp and Mrs. Prig – the two drunken negligent nurses in Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit.

198 the Coliseum – the famous amphitheatre in Rome, more correctly called the Colosseum. Peter knows nothing of this, of course, only the London Coliseum, the largest theatre in the West End.

Leaves of Grass – volume of poems by Walt Whitman, 1819-92, published 1855, but modified and republished by him several times, increasingly expressing pleasure in sensual things. The archdeacon would doubtless have found the first edition disgusting enough.

204 Madame Récamier – 1777-1849, beautiful French socialite, famous for her portrait by Jacques-Louis David (1800) in which she is reclining on a chaise-longue. One design of this type of sofa was called a récamier in her honour.

206 Fair Rosamond – Rosamond Clifford was the mistress of Henry II, reputed to have been traced in a maze at Woodstock and murdered by his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

208 the work the firm had been doing on Hiram’s Hospital – At the end of Trollope’s The Warden, Hiram’s Hospital is empty of residents and “has become disordered and ugly”. How nice that Barton & Wicklow are restoring it.

210 the Nelson touch – Horatio Nelson told his friend Lord Sidmouth about his set of ideas for future sea battles which he named ‘the Nelson Touch’. Later he wrote in a private letter to Lady Hamilton about ‘the Nelson touch, which we say is warranted never to fail’, which could be seen as a private joke as well.

Chapter 8

221 bearing the Mark of Pain – And the Lord set a mark on Cain – Genesis chapter 4 verse15.

222 she wrote a handsome Collins – A thank-you letter for hospitality, named after the pompous Mr Collins of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Chapter 9

241 Bungay and Bacon, publishers – Are these plays on the name of real publishers? The description of Bungay could fit Murray, though Longman’s address was Paternoster Row. Johns & Fairfield? Their club, the Polyanthus, might be a reference to the Alpine Club, being a type of plant? Also the US publishers earlier, Vandermeer and Apfelbaum?

the agent, Hobb – probably untraceable.

Arthur Pendennis – hero of The History of Pendennis by W. M. Thackeray.

250 as violent delights often have violent ends – ‘These violent delights have violent ends” – Romeo and Juliet Act 2 scene 6.

Chapter 10

287 to meditate upon the Sins of Society – Capital letters may indicate the serious-mindedness of Horton, but is also the title of a published sermon by Jesuit priest Father Bernard Vaughan, 1915.

291 blue prints for Hiram’s Hospital – As above, page164.

293 Norman blood – “Kind hearts are more than coronets/ And simple faith than Norman blood”, from Tennyson’s poem ‘Lady Clara Vere de Vere’.

300 Boccafiume – Italian for the mouth of a river.

the Duke of Monte Cristo – one of the family of the Count of Monte Cristo, as in Alexandre Dumas’s 1845 novel of the same title, presumably.

310 Greatheart – Great-heart acts as a loyal companion and protector to Christiana in part 2 of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.






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