The Old Bank House (1949)

Dust jacket picture on our page of references for terms found in The Old Bank House

References for the novel The Old Bank House by Angela Thirkell.

‘Relusions’ for the Hamish Hamilton 1949 edition.
Compiled by Penny Aldred.

Chapter 1

12 You can give me beef and ale – This sounds like a quotation. A response through the website suggests The European Magazine, and London Review, Volume 44: ‘But let me, von pauvre Frenchman, Always vith John Bull regale; Let me eat de Englifh roaft beef; Let me drink de Burton ale’.

13 Pagan in a Pecksniffian sense – Mr Pecksniff is a hypocritically benevolent-seeming character in Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit

20 Caldecott – Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) illustrated a series of nursery rhyme books, still reproduced today.

21 Borioboola Gha – The African country supported by Mrs Jellyby in Dickens’s Bleak House to the detriment of her own family.

23 Palafox – José de Palafox y Melzi defended Saragossa against Napoleon in the Peninsular Wars, and was the subject of a sonnet by Wordsworth. Gustavo Palafox was a tennis player who represented Mexico in the Davis Cup in 1948. He may well also have played at Wimbledon, though I have been unable to verify this. Since the novel must have been written in 1948, Angela Thirkell may well be referring to him, though she does have at least one other Wordsworth reference in this novel. Maybe she means both – but why use the name for a plant, unless it sounds like ‘phlox’?

24 Borealis – means of the north wind, Septentrionalis means of the north.

25 Brugglesmith – Miss Sowerby explains the “relusion” to Mr Adams as Kipling. It is the title of a short story of an amusing midnight adventure in the streets of London with a drunken man, who gives Brugglesmith as his address, which is eventually correctly interpreted by a policeman as ‘Brook Green, Hammersmith’.

26 Briareus – One of the sons of Uranus and Gaea, giants who had 100 arms and 50 heads.

27 Reverend Enoch Arden – borrowed from Tennyson’s poem of the same name, although his Enoch Arden was not a clergyman but a fisherman.

Chapter 2

35 Joseph Vance – William de Morgan’s first novel, his masterpiece, written when he was 70 (the de Morgans were family friends of the Mackails).

36 Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway – Angela Thirkell and Lance took this train and walked back to Coniston over the Wrynose and Hardknott passes when they were staying with Nanny Kirkbride (See Lance Thirkell’s Six Pembroke Gardens, p.24)

41 All the charm of all the Muses – Tennyson’s poem ‘To Virgil’: the following line is ‘often flowering in a lonely word.’

48 The New Look – much talked-about change in fashion introduced by Dior. A reaction against wartime austerity, with nipped-in waists, exaggerated hips and full, much longer skirts.

52 Double Summer Time – brought in from 1941 to 1947 to economise on electricity – an extra hour on to British Summer Time, making two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Chapter 3

65 PillicockKing Lear, Act 3, scene 4: Edgar is feigning madness in singing this old ballad.

69 rere-tea – A rere-supper is a meal following on to a normal supper, usually very late at night.

70 The Hobyahs – from a very nasty fairy tale. They were horrid imps who marauded by night. Little dog Turpie barked to warn the family, but the father saw nothing, and each night cut off more bits of Turpie until he was dead. The next night the Hobyahs came, destroyed the house, killed the farmer and his wife, and carried off their little girl, who was saved the next day by a neighbour’s dog, who ate all the Hobyahs.

Chapter 4

79 Mutual or common – much discussion used to take place over this, and the fact that Dickens was incorrect in his usage for Our Mutual Friend.

81 Mary Carter – Is she a character in Trollope? And is Mrs Grantly related to Everard Carter?

83 Mr Miacca, Drumikin and Lambikin – English Fairy Tales. Like the Hobyahs, all traceable on the internet.

90 Too, too Mary Rose – J M Barrie’s play of that name – a rather fey ghost story, written in 1920, about a girl who disappears and reappears unaware that time has passed.

91 Cortes in Darien – Keats poem ‘On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer’.

Hobo Gobo and the Fairy Joybell – This is probably meant to refer to Enid Blyton’s stories such as the Wishing Chair and the Faraway Tree.

95 Hermione Rivers – generally thought to be Ann Bridge, whose publishers were Chatto & Windus, but I can’t think of any connection with Bungay & Hobb, except that many books are printed in the town of Bungay, in Suffolk. Horace Walpole printed his own Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors in 1758 at Strawberry Hill.

97 Laocoön – he was a priest of Apollo whose two sons were attacked by two enormous serpents. He was squeezed to death trying to defend them. There is a famous statue depicting this in the Vatican, dating from the 2nd century BC. Also page 274.

Chapter 5

101 If Turnips were Watches – from an old rhyme. ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. If turnips were watches, I’d wear one by my side.’

Christian when he beheld the Celestial City – Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

Nunc Dimittis – Bible, St Luke chapter 2 verses 29-32. “Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word.” Also in the Book of Common Prayer, to be sung at Evensong in the Anglican Church

102 Strakey – Doris is confusing John Strachey, Minister of Food in the Labour Government of 1948, with Jack Strachey, who wrote the song ‘These Foolish Things’ in 1931. Angela Thirkell also mentions the song in Enter Sir Robert, page 140 (it’s included in Joan Evans and Valerie Ramsden’s musical tape).

103 Massacre of the Innocents – Slaughter of all male children of Bethlehem by order of Herod the Great (Bible, St Matthew chapter 2 verse16).

The Last of England – Painting by Ford Madox Brown, 1857 (in the City Art Gallery, Birmingham).

The Last Day in the Old Home – Painting by Robert Braithwaite Martineau, 1862 (in the Tate Gallery)

106 Queen of Sheba – (1 Kings chapter 10, verses 1-10) and Jezebel (2 Kings chapter 9 verse 30). Biblical temptresses.

108 The dreadful word fiancée – Angela Thirkell evidently thought this was a genteelism. In Love At All Ages Miss Merriman wonders “if she ought to remove herself and her affianced till things grew quieter”. Is this what one is supposed to say?

109 Greats – A degree in Classics at Oxford. The same thing is the Classical Tripos at Cambridge.

110 Gampishness – Mrs Gamp is the slovenly drunken nurse in Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit.

113 My child Grild…..you to Walp – After much fruitless search on my part, Sue J has found what she describes as a lesser-known (deservedly) Grimm tale something on the lines of ‘This is the House that Jack Built’, which ends: “My man Do-as-well-as-you-can, your man Do-as-well-as-you-can; my cradle Hippodadle, your cradle Hippodadle: my child Grild, your child Grild; my husband Cham, your husband Cham; I to Walpe, you to Walpe; so, so together we go.”

Chapter 6

120 Janissary’s walk – Janissaries were special troops recruited from Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire to serve the Sultan. They had their own distinctive marching step, to the rhythm of the words “Gracious God is good, God is compassionate”.

124 Florence Dombey and little Paul – from Dickens, Dombey and Son

Esther, Peepy, etc – from Dickens, Bleak House

135 Rooshians, Turks and Prooshians – Gilbert & Sullivan operetta HMS Pinafore.

I hate foreigners and black men begin at Calais” – In 1945, in a Commons debate about the Burmese, George Wigg said “The Rt Hon Member for Woodford (Churchill) thinks that the wogs begin at Calais”. Thanks to Andrew E for this.

Chapter 7

142 Hastings Pond – Many thanks again to Andrew E for tracing this film star to Arthur Lake (1905-1987) a handsome six-footer who played leading men in the thirties and forties – he may have some connection with Marion Davies, as he is buried in her mausoleum on Santa Monica Bvd. Similarly, Andrew thinks Glamora Tudor is Gloria Stuart, born 1910, in more than forty films in the thirties, and came into prominence again in 1997 when she played Old Rose in Titanic.

154 Between the clasp of his hand and hers… – from ‘The Poppy, to Monica’ by Francis Thompson. No longer in The Oxford Book of English Verse, but it was in the 1919 edition. “But you, who love nor know at all /The diverse chambers in Love’s guest-hall, /Where some rise early, few sit long: /In how differing accents hear the throng /His great Pentecostal tongue; /Who know not love from amity,/ Nor my reported self from me; /A fair fit gift is this, meseems, /You give – this withering flower of dreams.” And so on and so on: just the sort of poem to appeal to a romantic teenager.

155 The moth’s kiss – ‘In a Gondola’, poem by Robert Browning. Though why Grace wouldn’t have known it as it is also in The Oxford Book of English Verse, I don’t know. Possibly because it might be thought to be more explicitly erotic?

157 All would be gas and gaiters – from Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby

158 Catullus, translated by Hilary Grant – Don’t understand this, because in The Brandons Hilary is writing a book about the French poet Jehan le Capet. Is she confusing him with another lovesick young man? Not Richard Tebben and Mrs Dean, because Richard writes his own poetry.

160 Lemon on Running Powers – EJH Lemon was CME of the Great Northern Railway and chaired the Railway Companies Association from 1939. He wrote much about railways. Both Lance and Graham were railway enthusiasts, so Angela Thirkell would have heard much talk about this sort of thing.

163 The Garter – the highest order of knighthood that can be bestowed.

Chapter 8

169 Sloppy’s when attending Mr Wegg – Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend.

170 Calling a sofa a couch and the drawing-room the lounge – reminiscent of Nancy Mitford’s rules for U and non-U in her 1955 essay The English Aristocracy, later included with contributions by others in Noblesse Oblige.

171 I love my mill, it is to me, Like parent, child and wife” – Second verse of the old song The Miller of Dee.

173 Cutbush & Sepal – There was a rose breeder called Cutbush in the 1920s.

181 “tu Marcellus eris” – from Virgil’s Aeneid “alas, pitiable boy — if only you might break your cruel fate! — you are to be Marcellus. Give me lilies in armfuls.” Marcellus is the dead son of Octavia, the sister of the Emperor Augustus and this is Virgil’s tribute to him.

183 The Bullingdon – an exclusive club for wealthy Oxford undergraduates.

187 Morland – George Morland, 1763-1804. English painter who specialised in rustic scenes.

189 There’s a great text in Galatians” – Browning, Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister.

190 lounging and suffering – ‘”You don’t look sprucy like you did, Brer Tarrypin,” sez Brer Fox, sezee. “Lounjun ‘roun’ en suffer’n,” sez Brer Tarrypin, sezee.’ Joel Chandler Harris, Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, chapter 12.

191 The Cat and the Mouse – The Cat and the Mouse in Partnership, by the Brothers Grimm.

Titty-mouse and Tatty-mouse – Another gruesome old English story narrated by Joseph Jacobs, in which Titty is scalded to death, all the implements in the house start to function on their own in mourning, the walnut tree falls on the house which collapses and kills Tatty! Arthur Ransome fans may know that this was the story which gave Mavis Altounyan, the original for Titty, her nickname.

192 The Massacre of St Bartholomew – 24 August, 1572, when the extermination of French Protestants began in Paris.

Chapter 9

202 The Plumpudding Flea – Edward Lear, The History of the Seven Families of the Lake Pipple-Popple.

204 James and Horace Smith when masquerading…. – These two brothers wrote novels in imitation of Sir Walter Scott.

214 Girtin – Thomas Girtin, English romantic painter, 1775-1802. One of the founders of English watercolour painting and a friend and rival of J. M. W. Turner.

214 the land of lost content – Housman “A Shropshire Lad”, no.40

glad confident morning – Browning “The Lost Leader”

215 Highland Cattle at Bay – Descriptive of a genre of Victorian painting. Landseer’s painting is of The Stag at Bay – many others of the period feature Highland cattle.

216 Mr. Smallweed – a character in Dickens’ Bleak House.

217 An exposition of sleep – “I have an exposition of sleep come upon me” Bottom, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

As the mariner cast by Poseidon’s wrath…. -This mock-Homeric passage embraces both Poseidon, god of the sea, and Io, one of Jupiter’s conquests who was changed into a beautiful heifer.

220 On his sleeve for daws to peck at – Iago in Othello. Act 1 scene 1.

Dr Mesmer – An Austrian physician who popularised hypnotism in the 18th century.

221 Have we no cheers? – I think this must be a play on “cheers” and “chairs” in one of Pinero’s plays, but I can’t trace it.

221 Treue Schwesterliebe (Faithful Sister-love) – from Schiller’s ballad ‘Ritter Toggenburg’ (1797).

222 Out upon it, I have loved, one whole year together – Sir John Suckling, ‘The Constant Lover’: “Out upon it, I have loved/ Three whole days together.”

222 This close-compassioned, inarticulate hour” – From Silent Noon, sonnet by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. See also Jutland Cottage page 283.

232 Rejected Addresses – a book of parodies by James and Horace Smith, 1812 Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin William Gifford 1799

223 I am a rogue and vagabond and the Theatre is my master – This looks like a quotation but I can’t trace it.

Rogues and vagabonds – a term used since 1572 to denote beggars and vagrants. See also Enter Sir Robert page 172, What Did It Mean? page115.

224 Burnt Njal – From an Icelandic saga, a favourite with the Mackail and Thirkell children. Oddly enough this one is not from the William Morris translation but Sir George Dasent’s Njala.

226 Thomas Gray – was buried in Stoke Poges, and the Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is identified with it. It is written in a b a b form, not couplets.

228 The Transit of Venus – This is an astronomical phenomenon, a form of eclipse, but surely Angela Thirkell is referring to a painting. There is a painting of The Passing of Venus by Burne-Jones in the Junior Common Room of Exeter College, Oxford, showing Venus sitting on what looks like a coffin-shaped flying saucer supported by wings, which would fit the bill nicely. Another version appears to have been one of the late Sir Paul Getty’s favourite paintings, which he kept in his London home.

230 Mazzini – a 19th century Italian patriot active in the liberation of Italy.

231 “And in the course of one revolving moon….” – from Dryden’s satirical poem ‘Absalom and Achitophel’.

Chapter 10

241 Cerberus – three-headed dog which guarded the entrance to hell.

243 Muttoned into the infinite – Paul Verlaine, ‘Sagesse’: “L’échelonnement des haies moutonne à l’infinie.” Difficult to translate without sounding silly, but the nearest I can get is “hedges drawn up in ranks like flocks of clouds stretching away into infinity.”

244 Nandy – A Mr Nandy appears in Dickens’s Little Dorrit. See also Jutland Cottage page 56, page 231.

254 Northfield – Should be Northbridge.

256 Quickset Combination – Any significance in this?

Chapter 11

269 I rather fear my fate too much… – Poem ‘To his Mistress’ by James Graham, Marquis of Montrose.
He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That puts it not unto the touch
To win or lose it all.

76 the decent obscenity of a learned language – Edward Gibbon Autobiography: “all licentious passage are left in the decent obscurity of a learned language.”

270 SPQR – Senatus Populusque Romanus (Senate and People of Rome): used as an emblem by the Roman army on their battle standards

274 Sighed as a father and obeyed as a friend – “I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a son.” Edward Gibbon, Autobiography.

276 Annals of the Parish – Novel by John Galt, published 1821, chronicling the lives of villagers in Dalmeny, Ayrshire, from 1760-1810.

279 Croke Hoskiss – Any ideas on which Hollywood star is meant?

280 Polly, Lucy, Macheath – Characters in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, 1728.

280 both dear charmers – again Gay, The Beggars Opera:
“How happy could I be with either,
Were t’other dear charmer away!”

282 Morgan ap Kerrig country – Mrs Woodcourt used to tell Esther Summerson tales of Morgan ap Kerrig in Bleak House. See also What Did It Mean page 83.
Miss Best – This should of course be Miss Bent!

283 Tough meat and grey gravy – I can’t find this anywhere.
Forty feeding like one – “The cattle are grazing, Their heads never raising, There are forty feeding like one.” Wordsworth poem ‘Written in March’.

285 We could an if we would – Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 4 scene 7.

290 I like the hussy – Can’t find this but it appears to be Dickens.

Chapter 12

291 be a kitten and cry Mew – Shakespeare, Henry IV pt I, act 3 scene 1.
Suovetaurilia – The Romans had a form of sacrifice involving a pig (sus), a sheep (ovis) and a bull (taurus).

one who follows the Gleam – Tennyson ‘Merlin and the Gleam’.

293 Whirled round in earth’s diurnal course – “Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course, with rocks, and stones, and trees.” Wordsworth, ‘A Slumber did my Spirit Seal’.

294 The Great San Philip – Tennyson, ‘The Revenge, a Ballad of the Fleet’.

Moving as Etna may have moved when Enceladus turned – Enceladus another of the giant sons of Uranus and Gaea who conspired against Jupiter, who hurled a thunderbolt at him. He was buried under a piece of land which became Sicily. Every time he turns Mount Etna erupts.

295 Charles Fanshawe reading Virgil to the Australians – Could this be based on Dr. Mackail’s lectures to Australian universities in 1923?

299 Lucina – Roman goddess of childbirth.

300 St Grantly Chrysostom – St John Chrysostom (golden-mouthed) was so-called because of his eloquence.

The abomination of desolation – St Matthew chapter 24 verses 15-20, foretelling the coming of the Antichrist and the end of the world.

Fishpools of Hebron – Either the Pool of Hebron, 2 Samuel chapter 4 verse 12, or the fishpools of Heshbon, Song of Solomon chapter 7 verse 4. If you look these up you will see why Canon Bostock’s meaning was unclear.

301 Blind mouths – That scarce themselves know how to hold/A sheep-hook, or have learned aught else the least/That to the faithful herdsman’s art belongs. Milton, Lycidas

The grasshopper is a burden – Ecclesiastes chapter 12 verse 5.

eating the bread of idleness – Proverbs chapter 31 verse 27.

the bread of affliction – I Kings chapter 22 verse 27,

302 ingans – onions (Scottish dialect)

303 Ride your ways, Laird of Rushwater – “Ride your ways, Ellangowan”, said by Meg Merrilies the gypsy in Sir Walter Scott’s Guy Mannering. Interesting that AT brings in the Ellangowans as relations of Christopher Hornby.

305 As if one had swallowed an alarm clock – as with the crocodile in Peter Pan.

308 Man’s ingratitude – song in Shakespeare’s As You Like It: Blow, blow, thou winter wind.

310 and again and again and again – John and Robert are completing a limerick: There was a young lady of Spain
Who was horribly sick in a train,
Not once but again
And again and again
And again and again and again.

312 Only the actions of the just, Smell sweet and blossom in their dust – James Shirley (1596- 1666), ‘Death the Leveller’.

Chapter 13

315 When her ladyship took up enamelling – In Lady Mary Elcho’s sitting-room at Stanway there is an enamel commemorating the deaths of her sons in World War I, which may or may not have been by Ernestine Mills, the suffragette artist. Highly likely that Lady Mary, who was the original for Lady Emily, did take up enamelling herself.

a thousand years are like an evening gone – Isaac Watts’s version of Psalm 90: ”A thousand ages in Thy sight/ Are like an evening gone”.

317 like being drowned in a butt of Malmsey – George, Duke of Clarence, son of Richard Duke of York, was stabbed and allegedly pushed into a barrel holding 100 gallons of this sweet wine, though there is no evidence for the story.

321 How Mamma painted pictures in all the corners of the nursery so that if she was put in a corner for being naughty she would not feel dull – See Angela Thirkell’s description of Burne-Jones doing this for her at North End House in Three Houses.

325 ettling – (Scots) intending

Chapter 14

332 Emperor’s Gate or Observatory Gardens – Streets in Kensington, built of red brick similar to the Albert Hall. Victorian architecture had not yet come into fashion again when this was written in 1948.

333 Expertae crede, but I have forgotten my Latin as Miss Harriette Wilson once wrote – This means ‘believe one who has tried it’. Angela Thirkell wrote The Fortunes of Harriette, the life of the courtesan Harriette Wilson, in 1932.

334 triumph of hope over experience – There are several uses of this saying of Dr. Johnson’s concerning a man’s marrying a second time.

336 A laggard in love and a dastard in war – Sir Walter Scott poem ‘Young Lochinvar’.

337 St Aella’s Home for Stiff-necked Clergy – Is this in Trollope? Aella was a Saxon swineherd who refused to drive pigs in Lent, was slain by the monastery bailiff and canonised.

338 Were Your Public Activities Really Necessary – there was a poster in wartime with the slogan Is Your Journey Really Necessary.

339 The Wolf has gone to Devonsheer – An old children’s playground game. The players stand in a row at one end of the lawn while the shepherdess stands at the other. Half-way between the wolf must be concealed behind a bush. The shepherdess then calls out: “Sheep, sheep, come home!” One of the sheep replies: “I’m afraid of the wolf!” The shepherdess then says: “The wolf has gone to Devonshire and won’t be home for seven years; sheep, sheep, come home!” The sheep then singly try to reach the shepherdess without being caught by the wolf. And so the game continues till all the players have either been caught by the wolf or reached the shepherdess safely.

342 Bold-faced jig – from an old rhyme Cock Robin and Jenny Wren. The last verse reads: ‘Robin he was angry, And hopped upon a twig, Saying “Out upon you, fie upon you, Bold faced jig!”’

345 King Lear’s hysterica passio – “Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow, Thy element’s below”: King Lear, Act 2, Scene 4. Hysteria which causes choking, shortness of breath was thought to rise up from the stomach or womb; “hysterica passio” is the Latin medical term.

348 Yin, twa, three – Old Scottish nursery rhyme.

351 Ravenshoe – Novel by Henry Kingsley, younger brother of Charles.

353 Mother Goose – see Angela Thirkell Society booklet, Christmas 2003. Angela wrote Mother Goose, a Literary Review, for the London Mercury in May 1932. Continues on page 354.

355 the oak under which Anne Page met Master Fenton and Falstaff – Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor.

355 monstrous regiment – John Knox pamphlet ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment [rule] of Women’,1558.

358 HoratiusLays of Ancient Rome, by Lord Macaulay. It begins “Lars Porsena of Clusium, By the nine gods he swore”, and is a very long poem which precocious little prep-school boys tended to know by heart.

358 Romany Rye – Sequel to Lavengro, by George Borrow. It means “gipsy gentleman”.

358 I am more an antique Roman than a Dane – Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 5 scene 2.

359 Come here, Charlotte, and I’ll kiss yer! – Dickens, Oliver Twist Chapter 27. See also A Double Affair page 262.

360 Mr. and Mrs. John Browdie with the bridesmaid Miss Fanny Squeers – Characters from Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby.

Chapter 15

365 Sir Tunbelly Clumsy – a character in Vanbrugh’s The Relapse and Sheridan’s A Trip to Scarborough.

367 Cold Comfort Farm – a novel by Angela Thirkell’s friend Stella Gibbons. A parody of Mary Webb’s Shropshire novels such as Precious Bane.

375 Sparrowhill Camp – Larkhill is an army training camp on Salisbury Plain.

379 his thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportioned thought his act Hamlet Act 1 scene 3.

386 Ghost Stories of an Antiquary – by M R James.

Les Mohicans de Paris – The first French novelist who presented a police officer favourably was Alexandre Dumas when he wrote Les Mohicans de Paris in 1854/55. This book introduced police detective Monsieur Jackal, who was remarkable for his introduction into the language the phrase “Cherchez la femme!”

387 the opera Salome – by Richard Strauss

There are references passim to characters in or connected with Trollope’s Barsetshire. I will leave this to someone else to pursue.


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