The Demon In The House (1934)

Dust cover image of The Demon In The House

References for the novel The Demon In The House, by Angela Thirkell.

‘Relusions’ for the Moyer Bell 1996 edition. Second page-references are for 1985 reprint of Hamish Hamilton 1934 edition (1985) which contains a note after the title-page: “Last year I wrote a book, High Rising, in which a little boy called Tony Morland appeared. I came to love and hate him so much that I had to write down anything else that came into my mind about him, but these stories can be read without having to read High Rising.


Compiled by Hazel Bell (2017), edited by Hilary Temple (2023)

Part 1

3 11 [Tony’s] three elder brothers were usually abroad or at sea – Indeed, Dick, Gerald and John Morland make no direct appearances throughout the Barsetshire sequence. Perhaps they represent Thirkell’s three real-life sons, and Tony is a compensatory dream child. [No, certainly not a dream child! Any mother of a small boy will recognise Tony as only too true to life. Tony is surely modelled on Mrs Thirkell’s youngest son, Lance. P. Aldred, 2022]

6 15 Rosebush – is a small village in Maenclochog community, north Pembrokeshire, Wales.

10 21 Tony had ridden, like John Gilpin

Now Mistress Gilpin when she saw
Her husband posting down
Into the country far away,
She pulled out half-a-crown.
– from poem ‘The diverting history of John Gilpin’ by William Cowper, 1785

12 24 Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)” – a popular song written in 1892 by Harry Dacre.

28 45 Oh, I die for food.
Here lie I down and measure out my grave
– lines spoken by Adam in As You Like It, Act 2 scene 6. Adam is an old servant, a small part.

29 47 Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty
For in my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood
Nor did not with unbashful forehead woo
The means of weakness and debility
– lines spoken by Adam in As You Like It, Act 2 scene 3.

Part 2

37 57 Wesendonck Richard Wagner composed music for five of Mathilde Wesendonck’s poems (1857) and Thirkell would have known these Wesendonck Lieder through her first husband, singer James Campbell McInnes. She would also have been enchanted by the comic effect the name has on English speakers.

5 1 77 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better – It has taken George Knox two pages of interruptions – his own and other people’s – from the time he mentioned Ecclesiastes to come up with the quotation, which is Ecclesiastes 10:11

53 80 the organer – A neologism by Angela Thirkell. Clearly the player of a mouth-organ cannot be called an organist, especially in a cathedral.

55 83 Isis, Mithra Etruria – Isis was the Egyptian goddess of fertility,
Mithra the Zoroastrian god of light and truth adopted by the Greeks and Romans,
Cybele the Great Mother of the [Greek and Roman] gods, Apollo the Greek god of almost everything including light, music and healing, Baal the Middle Eastern god of rain and fertility.
Ur was an ancient Sumerian city state in Mesopotamia.
Etruria in central Italy was named as the seventh region by the Emperor Augustus.

56 85 in silence and tears – Lord Byron’s poem ‘When We Two Parted’:

‘When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss.

57 86 Edgar Wallace – English writer of crime thrillers, 1875-1932

Part 3

66 99 The Dauphin in the Temple -The son of Louis XVI, Louis Charles (1785-95), was known as the lost dauphin, imprisoned in the Temple from 1792 until his death. A picture by this title was engraved by Meyer Heine after De La Charlerie from Histoire de la Révolution Française by Louis Blanc. Tony must have enjoyed putting on a remote expression, possibly leaning his head on his hand.

74 110 Prince Giglio – ‘… Without preparation, delivered a speech … all in blank verse…. It lasted for three days and three nights, during which not a single person who heard him was tired.’ The Rose and the Ring by William Makepeace Thackeray.

75 111 not Amurath an Amurath succeeds – George adds “but Laura Laura” rather than ‘But Harry Harry’, which is from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2, Act 5, scene 2. Henry V is persuading his brothers than on accession to the throne he will not have them killed as the Turkish Sultan Amurath did. Typical of George’s high-flown style.

75 111 the tender matron, as beautiful in her autumn, and as pure as virgins in their springThe History of Henry Esmond by W. M. Thackeray

78 116 Cheltenham is a sweetly pretty place – This Regency spa town and
borough is located on the edge of the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire. Tony is correct in pointing out the complexity of the railway lines there.
The first railway to Cheltenham was the broad-gauge Cheltenham and Great Western Union Railway which opened between Cheltenham and Gloucester in 1840. In the same year, the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway (B&GR) opened its line between Cheltenham and Bromsgrove, whence trains ran on mixed-gauge tracks to Gloucester. Both railways had their own stations. The B&GR station, which was then on the edge of the town was named Lansdown after a housing development in that area. It was renamed Cheltenham Spa (Lansdown) in 1925 by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and renamed again as Cheltenham Spa by British Railways at some point after 1 January 1948.

79 117 Thalassa! – The cry of joy uttered by the Greeks when they saw the Black Sea. Thalatta was the original form of Thalassa, the name of the Greek goddess of the sea.
digamma and iota subscript – Tony is bringing in the same sort of boring detail as he does with his railways and is moreover explaining Greek letters and diacritical marks to George Knox who got a first-class honours degree in classics (‘Greats’) at Oxford.

79 117 Mathilde Wesendonck See above, p. 37

80 118 Scotland’s Great Reformer – George Knox is referring to John Knox (1505-72), leader of the Protestant reformation in Scotland.

80 118 Sweeney Todd – “the demon barber of Fleet Street” is a fictional character who first appeared as the villain of the Victorian penny dreadful The String of Pearls (1846–47).

80 118 George Morland – (1763-1804) was an English painter of animals and rustic scenes.

80 119 Peveril of the Peak – (1823) is Sir Walter Scott’s longest novel. It includes “a subtle and conscienceless knave” by the name of Chiffinch; it is Nurse Chiffinch’s name that has reminded George of William Chiffinch (1602-91), Keeper of the King’s Private Closet to Charles II whom George is researching.

81 120 The Cornish Riviera ExpressThe Saltash Bridge **

89 131 Cromwell – Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War, the fourth Lord Stoke being a Royalist but ‘battered into honourable capitulation.’

91 134 Locmaria – Coastal site in Brittany where the peninsula of La Pointe has many caves.

91 34 Ovid – Publius Ovidius Naso, Latin poet, 43 BCE – 18 CE

91 134 Livy – Titus Livius, Roman historian, 59 BCE – 17 CE

93 137 Battle of Worcester – 1651. The possibility or impossibility of Charles II having slept at Rising Castle after this battle would interest George Knox.

94 138 Superstitions – In this ‘snipe-flight’ of Laura’s there are several:

The idea that peacock feathers are bad luck is traced to a superstition that began in the Mediterranean, where the eye-like markings on the end of peacock feathers are called the “evil eye.”

Friday the 13th of any month is supposed to be an unlucky day.

Change the name, but not the letter – ‘Change for the worse and not for the better!’– ie a woman who marries a man whose surname starts with the same letter as their maiden name. (Do we know Laura’s maiden name to have begun with M?). Angela Thirkell’s of course was Mackail, which she changed upon her first marriage to McInnes.

97 142 “cela n’empêche pas” – Dr Ford means “That won’t stop you!’ Tony’s reply ‘I know’ is his standard answer to being told anything at all.

110 159 “Semi virumque bovem, semi bovemque virum” – Ovid’s description of the Minotaur, a mythical monster ‘half man, half bull’, kept in a labyrinth at Knossos.

110 160 a howling Maenad – Maenads were the female followers of Dionysus and the most significant members of the Thiasus, the god’s retinue. Their name literally translates as ‘raving ones.’

110 160 He is a Burmese chap and he has two throats – Burmese is a tonal language and Tony has heard an example of this way of speaking.

117 170 tried to get Tony’s head into chancery – a wrestling move in which the attacker tucks the opponent’s head into their armpit and wraps their arm around the neck so that they can’t move their head.

118 171 Rose was bodkin in front between Laura and Sylvia – Thirkell is deliberately using an old-fashioned expression here: “He’s too big to travel bodkin between you and me.” is in Vanity Fair by W. M. Thackeray. Because Rose is thin she can squeeze between the two adults in a two-seat space.

119 173 Are you still the solitary-hearted? – ‘The Solitary-Hearted’ is a poem by Hartley Coleridge (1796–1849)

134 193 “Don’t you know specific gravity, mother? Archimedes discovered it.” – Archimedes of Syracuse in Sicily was a Greek mathematician born c. 287 BCE. He made the first discoveries of a number of important mathematical laws. Most famously, however, by observing and measuring how much water he displaced when getting into his bath he discovered the principle of specific gravity (relative density). Legend has it that he leapt out and ran down the street naked, shouting “Eureka” [I have found it], which fortunately Tony does not feel compelled to do.

135 195 Xenophon – Greek historian, 540-500 BCE. The imposition of writing out 100 lines from his work (for talking in class) is neatly turned into a positive benefit by Tony.

137 197 cum grano salto -Tony’s inaccurate version of the Latin ‘cum grano salis’, ie with a grain (or pinch) of salt: a metaphor for not taking a statement literally.

138 199 swinging in his walk like a janissary – Janissaries were elite infantry units that formed the Ottoman Sultan’s household troops and bodyguards. Also used of Lydia in **

139 201 “Haven’t you heard of L s d? The ells are the pounds. L stands for libra and s is for shillings and d for denarius – Latin, if you don’t know.” – Rose is probably very happy to disagree with Tony: “Daddy said s was for solidus” – unsurprisingly, the Vicar is correct.

141 203 the aorist of a Greek verb – Very mean of the vicar to test Tony on this aspect of grammar at the tea-table. It is a simple past tense, ie a completed action like a photo (rather than the perfect – which indicates that it still operates in the present – or the imperfect, like a video, which indicates something continuous that happened in the past).

142 205 “I was educated on Ancient and Modern” – Hymns Ancient and Modern was a hymn-book first published in 1861 for use in the Church of England. Prior to this hymn-singing was regarded as only for the nonconformist churches. Like Tony, Angela Thirkell was brought up on it and deprecated later hymnals such as Songs of Praise.

142 206 Sheraton sideboard – Tony is crashing his chair into an 18th century sideboard which was probably very valuable. (Thomas Sheraton, English furniture designer, 1751-1806)

Part 4

163 234-5 Tom Brown’s School Days – novel about a public school by Thomas Hughes, published 1857, which featured a great deal of bullying.

163 235 The Crofton Boys – novel about a prep school by Harriet Martineau, published 1844, which included bullying.

163 235 The Inquisition – a tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church formed to suppress heresy in 1233. It used judicial torture.

163 235 Newgate Prison – a prison in London, at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey, famous for its overcrowded, cruel and insanitary conditions. Demolished in 1904.

165 237 Brilliantine – a pomade to soften men’s hair and give it a glossy, well-groomed appearance. It was created at the turn of the 20th century by French perfumer Edouard Pinaud. Butygloss Hair Fixative is, alas, fictional, whereas the genuine Brylcreem is still in production.

166 238 what do you think about Hitler? – This novel was published in 1934, a year after the burning of the Reichstag.

166 239 Dr [Samuel] Johnson -Stoker would probably have approved of Dr Johnson’s dictum “I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government than another.” (1772)

167 239 no peace till the Kaiser was dead – Stoker is of course harking back to World War I: Kaiser William II was German Emperor, 1888-1918

170 244 “Well, I shall call them Frogs and Snails… and Puppy Dogs’ Tails” -“What are little boys made of?
Snips (or slugs) and snails, and puppy dogs’ tails
That’s what little boys are made of!”
What are little girls made of?
“Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!”
Traditional rhyme.

173 248 the lascivious mountain goat – “Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat / Offer’st me brass?” – Pistol in King Henry V Act 4 scene 4.

173 249 that fidus Achates – the faithful Achates was close friend of Aeneas throughout his adventures. Virgil, Aeneid.

176 253 “Do you mean Sylvia and you?” – however, a long period elapses during which she calls off the relationship. They finally get married in Three Score and Ten (1961).


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