What Did It Mean? (1954)

Picture of the dust cover of "What Did It Mean"

References for the novel What Did It Mean? by Angela Thirkell.

Chapter 1

7 Great Jumping Jehoshophat – favourite expression of Jo March in Little Women. Jehoshophat was King of Judah from 872 BCE. No mention in the Bible of him jumping.

doesn’t know B from a bull’s foot – an expression meaning to be ignorant or illiterate – possibly because the letter B looks a bit like a bull’s foot.

Kamerad – Used by the Germans in World War I, meaning Comrade. Equivalent in English is “I surrender”. Often used in the novels though I think its use had largely died out by World War II.

Assist in the French sense – again, often used by Angela Thirkell. ‘Assister’ in French means ‘to be present at’.

Audit Ale – An audit ale is a special brew originally served at English colleges when examination results were announced following oral examinations (and also by landlords when rents were due), in order to soften the occasional hard feelings that such occasions fostered.

The English might merit a plaudit.
For inventing the ale they call audit.
This beer was ingested.
When students were tested;
Both winners and losers would laud it.
Tim Alborn, OEDILF, The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick.

8 Washington’s, Corbett’s, Holman’s – George Washington, Holman Hunt, perhaps, but why? What connects them to fertiliser?

Gampish – Mrs Gamp in Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit was a midwife, given to making such calculations.

Parish Councils lay down with Town Councils… nor were the Mothers’ Unions unheard – Old Testament: Isaiah chapter 11 verse 6 contains the famous phrase ‘The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.’ I think this is just Biblical phraseology rather than an actual allusion.

Mystery play – Mediaeval plays performed by members of a guild or mystery on a sacred theme.

The grasshopper is a burden – Old Testament: Ecclesiastes chapter 11 verse 6. See also The Old Bank House p. 301, The Duke’s Daughter p. 51

Porter SidusSidus = star.

Walden Concord – Henry Thoreau’s Walden, or Life in the Woods, was written while he was living at Walden Pond, near Concord, Mass.

Ride and Tie principle – Two travellers with one horse between them proceed by one riding ahead, tying the horse up and walking on, while the other takes his turn on the horse when he has reached it.

14 The Cat that walked by himself – from Kipling’s Just So Stories.

A thousand ages were but a morning wasted – “A thousand ages in thy sight are but a morning gone” from Isaac Watts’s 1719 hymn ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past’. Also page 64.

16 Sic itur ad astra – “Thus shall you go to the stars”, Virgil’s Aeneid Book 9, line 641.

18 Cardinal error … something to do with a hinge – Cardo is Latin for a hinge. Lydia is quite right, originally the adjective cardinalis meant ‘pertaining to a hinge’, hence ‘that on which something turns or depends’, thus ‘principal or chief’. However, not in this context.

Like the waters at Lodore – From Robert Southey’s poem ‘The Waters of Lodore’. His children ask him how do the waters come down at Lodore (one of the sights of the Lake District) and he answers with several verses, ending:
“And rushing and flushing and brushing and gushing,
And flapping and rapping and clapping and slapping,
And curling and whirling and purling and twirling,
And thumping and plumping and bumping and jumping,
And dashing and flashing and splashing and clashing;
And so never ending, but always descending,
Sounds and motions for ever and ever are blending,
All at once and all o’er, with a mighty uproar,
– And this way the water comes down at Lodore”.

21 Serbonian bog – A quagmire in Egypt in which armies were said to have been swallowed up. See Milton’s Paradise Lost Book 2 lines 592-594.

22 that peculiar church with its legs in the air – St John’s, Smith Square, known as “Queen Anne’s Footstool”. Now deconsecrated and used for concerts.

Marshal’s baton – Napoleon considered that every soldier carried a marshal’s baton in his knapsack, meaning that all were potential leaders.

23 in her pelicanish way – the female pelican was said to nourish its young with its own blood.

old Dodder, a well-known Law Lord – Does anyone have any ideas about whom she is referring to here?

26 Glamora Tudor – Andrew E suggests (see The Old Bank House p.142) this refers to Gloria Stuart, both being royal houses. Born 1910, she was in more than forty films in the ‘30s and came to prominence again in 1997 when she played Old Rose in the film Titanic.

Ptarn, Paythan – Mr Holden means a Pathan, a member of the Pashto-speaking people of Afghanistan, NW Pakistan and elsewhere. According to my dictionary his first attempt at pronunciation was nearer the mark.

27 licentious soldiery – “Your governor stimulates a rapacious and licentious soldiery to the personal search of women, lest these unhappy creatures should avail themselves of the protection of their sex to secure any supply for their necessities.” Edmund Burke: Speech on Fox’s East India Bill, 1 Dec. 1783 [of Warren Hastings in India]. [RB]

Benedictus, benedicat : (may the Blessed One give a blessing) short form of grace before a meal in common use at colleges and schools. Grace after the meal is “Benedicto, benedicatur” (Let a blessing be given by the Blessed One).

30 A.R.PAir Raid Precautions in World War II. An ARP Warden’s main task was to protect civilians during air raids, when enemy aircraft dropped bombs on towns and cities. Wardens also administered first aid and helped with firefighting.

30 Egeria – Roman goddess of fountains and childbirth, wife of Numia Pompilius, the second king of Rome. They used to meet in a sacred grove where she taught him wise legislation and forms of public worship. Also page 266.

32 past the plunge of plummet – From A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, 14, ‘There pass the careless people’:
Ah, past the plunge of plummet,
In seas I cannot sound,
My heart and soul and senses,
World without end, are drowned.

And so to bed – From the Diary of Samuel Pepys, 1633-1703

38 The Titfield Thunderbolt – Very popular Ealing Comedy film of 1953, starring John Gregson, Naunton Wayne, Stanley Holloway, Godfrey Tearle, George Relph, et al.

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. See The Old Bank House p.160 and elsewhere.

39 it would be military service before they knew where they were [for Ludovic] – From 1949, on reaching the age of 18 British men were expected to do National Service for 18 months. This period was extended to 2 years at the time of the Korean War. National Service ended in 1960.

Chapter 2

41 You Can’t Take It With You – it was indeed a Frank Capra film of 1938 starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Ann Miller.

A Legend of Something or Other – ‘Gold Hair: a Legend of Pornic’, by Robert Browning.

43 All the party became silent (as Virgil has put it far better than I can) – Jove speaks to the other gods in Virgil’s Aeneid Book 10:
Then thus to both replied th’imperial god,
Who shakes heav’n’s axles with his awful nod. (When he begins, the silent senate stand, With rev’rence, list’ning to the dread command: The clouds dispel; the winds their breath restrain; And the hush’d waves lie flatted on the main.)

44 Sent for me to stay at the TowersWho had come to the Towers on approval (page 46) – see Pomfret Towers.

46 A night of memories and of sighs. ‘Rose Aylmer, poem by Walter Savage Landor.

49 Giles’s knickers – Nobody at this date would have called a boy’s short trousers anything but shorts – Angela Thirkell is harking back to her youth when boys wore knickerbockers.

52 knew at least the sea-coast of Bohemia – Bohemia is the setting for a scene in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, but doesn’t have a sea-coast. Is this “situation” that the Mertons are of a suitable social station to mix with the Pomfrets, being friendly with people on the stage (Bohemians)?

54 they have a daughter called Sarah Siddons – Mrs Sarah Siddons (1755-1831), probably the one great tragedy queen that Britain ever produced.

56 the Monday country absolutely ruined – the part of the countryside used for fox-hunting on Mondays.

Chapter 3

56 Mr Nandy – No doubt related to Mr Nandy in Dickens’s Little Dorrit. See page 231 below, also The Old Bank House page 244.

Newgate frill – a beard which grows under the cheeks and jaw, where the hangman’s rope went on those hanged in Newgate gaol.

58 Spittin’ over the rail on board of the Crocodile – Kipling, Barrack Room Ballads.

61 we had proper pennies… with her back hair like an elephant: The ‘bun penny’ was minted in Queen Victoria’s reign from 1860-1894, introduced when bronze replaced copper coins.


62 He remembered that summer and his own part in making it a difficult one for Lydia – See Peace Breaks Out

63 found Committees as good a deed as drink – “I’ll starve ere I’ll rob a foot further. An ’twere not as good a deed as drink, to turn true man and to leave these rogues, I am the veriest varlet that ever chewed with a tooth.” Shakespeare: Henry IV, part 1, Act 2 scene 2 [Falstaff] [RB]

64 his shelter from the stormy blast – as above page 14, from the hymn Oh God Our Help in Ages Past.

65 People keeping women’s bodies in a cupboard for months – The notorious John Christie had been hanged in 1953 after murdering eight women and hiding the bodies in his house at 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London.

71 So Miss Pemberton’s brow was sad, Miss Pemberton’s speech was low… – But the Consul’s brow was sad,/And the Consul’s speech was low,/ And darkly looked he at the wall,/ And darkly at the foe./ “Their van will be upon us/Before the bridge goes down;/And if they once may win the bridge/What hope to save the town?” -Macaulay, Thomas Babington: The Lays of Ancient Rome (1842), Horatius, 26 [RB]

she had this day lighted a fire … – Hugh Latimer’s words to Nicholas Ridley at their martyrdom 1555 in Queen Mary’s reign, being burned at the stake in Oxford: “We shall this day light a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as shall never be put out.”

73 Saxon and Norman and Dane are we
Sea-Kings’ daughter from over the sea,
Alexandra!
Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,
But all of us Danes in our welcome of thee,
Alexandra! From Alfred Lord Tennyson poem, ‘A Welcome’ (1863) [RB] Princess Alexandra of Denmark married Queen Victoria’s eldest son, later Edward VII, in 1863.

75 appearing at the door like Retribution – meaning punishment comes limping, ie retribution comes slowly, but surely: in Latin, Pede poena claudo, Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65 BCE-8 BCE) Odes

76 Aubrey said he smelt a rat in the arras – easy to assume this comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet because of the arras (wall tapestry). But “I smell a rat” comes from Samuel Butler, Hudibras, whereas Hamlet (Act 3 scene 4, line 2) says “How now! A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!” and stabs Polonius, who is hiding behind the arras.

77 Miss Languish – Lydia Languish is the heroine of Sheridan’s play The Rivals, 1775. Anything less languishing than Lydia Merton cannot be imagined!

78 a-hollering and a-bellering – ‘What are you a hollaring and a bellaring for here, young man?’ says she. (The fat landlady) from Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring, Chapter 14. Thanks to RB for this. AlsoEnter Sir Robert page 133.

All was gas and gaiters – “She is come at last – at last- and all is gas and gaiters” says the gentleman in small-clothes in chapter 49 of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.

reculer pour mieux sauter – to draw back in order to make a better jump: to give way a little in order to take up a stronger position.

79 Romney – George Romney, 1734-1802, portrait painter. He did many portraits of Nelson’s Lady Hamilton. See also page 82.

82 Divers et ondoyant – ‘Certes, c’est un sujet merveilleusement vain, divers et ondoyant, que l’homme” – “Truly man is a vain, diverse and undulating character”. Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Book 1, chapter 1 (1580)

Lady Hamilton attitude – Lady Hamilton was famous for her ‘Attitudes’, performances where she posed as figures in classical mythology, but previously, when she was mistress to Sir Charles Greville, he introduced her to George Romney, who painted her many times, often as personifications of allegorical, religious or mythical subjects.

83 Crumlinwallinwer – Mewlinwillinwodd – Parodies of Welsh by Charles Dickens, Bleak House, Chapter 30, where Mrs Woodcourt recites Welsh poetry to Esther Summerson. See also The Old Bank House page 282

85 the bat between the birds and the animals – from Aesop’ s Fables. In the war between the birds and the beasts the bat always fought on the winning side, so he was banished from both and had to hide in dark places by day and fly alone by night.

88 Kamarad – see above, page 1.

Chapter 4

91 sub-deb – a girl who had not yet “come out”, ie been presented at Court, which still happened in those days.

93 one of those set in authority – ‘Let us pray for the King and all who are set in authority under him: from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

94 Juno-like wrath and indignation – Juno, the wife of Jupiter, and queen of heaven, was depicted as a war-goddess. Her wrath was one of the reasons for Aeneas’s difficulties in his voyage from Troy to Italy in the Aeneid.

Brassishine, Brassiglow, Brassglitter – Brasso, Glitto: anything else? Was there something called Shinio, or am I imagining it?

95 Sheepskins‘ – Woolworths …

give her thoughts a tongue – Give thy thoughts no tongue, Nor any unproportioned thought his act. Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 1 scene 3 line 59 [Polonius to Laertes]

96 She isn’t exactly out, but there isn’t much of that now. In 1953, even though presentation at Court still took place, people didn’t talk about being ‘out’. See also page 91.

I danced a galop – This was a 19th century dance. Here again, in 1953 it would have been most unlikely, though Angela might have danced it in her youth.

97 Jessica had gone like Alexander
O, saw ye bonnie Lesley, As she gaed o’er the border?
She’s gane like Alexander
To spread her conquests further,
To see her is to love her,
And love her but forever,
For Nature made her what she is,
And ne’er made sic anither.
Robert Burns, ‘Bonnie Lesley’ (1792) [RB]

98 “A heel-tap, a heel-tap, I never could bear it, said Jessica… emptying a thimbleful of sherry down her throat – an old toast was ‘No heel-taps’, ie the small amount of drink remaining at the bottom of a glass must be drunk. Comes in Thomas Love Peacock’s Headlong Hall (1816) chapter 5. The opposite is ‘No daylights’ as an instruction to the person pouring a drink to fill the glass to the rim.

the throat glowing when the red wine went down – Poem about someone having such delicate skin that one could see her throat glowing when the wine went down? (could it be Browning?)

Gold-beaters’ skin – membrane used to separate two sheets of gold that are being beaten into gold leaf.

99 Gagging, as we strollers say

100 make 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,/Gor’d mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,/Made old offences of affections new.’

101 rogue and vagabond – the Vagrancy Act 1824 was passed to empower the authorities to suppress “idle and disorderly Persons, Rogues and Vagabonds.” Also page 115 below.

one glance of that eye so bright and black
“For each glance of the eye so bright and black.
Though I keep with heart’s endeavour,–
Your voice, when you wish the snowdrops back,
Though it stay in my soul for ever!”
Robert Browning poem ‘The Lost Mistress’.

105 a world too wide for my shrunk shanks
“His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shanks” : Jacques’s ‘All the World’s a Stage’ speech from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Act 2 scene 7.

106 in Pythonic vein – in the manner of Pythia, the priestess who delivered oracles at Delphi in ancient Greece.

107 While they were all thus a merry-making – “But while they were all a merry-making/A cat and her kittens came tumbling in”. Nursery rhyme ‘A Frog he Would a Wooing Go’.

108 a belted earl . . . The rank was but the guinea stamp – ‘Belted’ refers to the belt and spurs given to knights at their investiture:

“The rank is but the guinea’s stamp;
The man’s the gowd for a’ that!…
A prince can mak a belted knight”
Robert Burns poem ‘For a’ that and a’ that’.

110 Visiting cards – Would have been going out of fashion at this era. See below page 300.

111 Not only in her step . . . was the goddess now truly manifest

“Dixit, et avertens rosea cervice refulsit,
Ambrosiaeque comae divinum vertice odorem
Spiravere, pedes vestis defluxit ad imos,
Et vera incessu patuit dea.
(She said no more and as she turned away there was a bright glimpse of the rosy glow of her neck, and from her ambrosial head of hair a heavenly fragrance wafted; her dress flowed down right to her feet, and in her walk it showed, she was in truth a goddess.) Virgil: Aeneid, Book 1.402. See also Jutland Cottage page 258.

to unpack our heart with words
“Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder’d,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion!”
Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2 scene 2 [RB]

Perhaps at the end of the term … He overlooked the solecism – Because at Eton a term is called a half. See also page 206. And of course Summer Half!

for tragedy, comedy and all the rest of that speech – “The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited.” Polonius, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 2 scene 2.

112 just to amuse the groundlings – Audience in the cheapest part of the theatre (standing on bare ground in front of the stage) in Shakespeare’s time.

the Peri – ‘Paradise and the Periis one of a series of oriental tales in verse in Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh, 1817.

Twill be but some dozen or sixteen lines which I would set down for you” – Hamlet and the First Player, again in Hamlet Act 2 scene 2.

115 Tertium Quid – A third party who shall be nameless.

Let the Bright Cherubim – the soprano aria ‘Let the Bright Seraphim’ from Handel’s oratorio Samson (1741)

Rogues and vagabonds – see above page 101. This term has been used since 1572 to denote beggars and vagrants.

116 Mr Frank Churchill, with a second, slightly but correctly taken – Jane Austen, Emma, chapter 26.

Up Guards, and at ‘em! – allegedly said by the Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo.

117 Nay come, let’s go together – Two Shakespeare sources: Hamlet, Act 1 scene 5 and Cymbeline, Act 1 scene .i

119 “Jenny kissed me”-
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say whatever else, but add,
Jenny kissed me. Leigh Hunt poem ‘Jenny Kissed Me’.

Chapter 5

126 Morlandesque – George Morland (1763-1804) specialised in rustic genre scenes and animals. He led a profligate life and died of drink.

127 Andrew Fairservice – from Sir Walter Scott’s novel Rob Roy, described as a sanctimonious, self-important, cowardly rascal, one of Scott’s great characters.

128 the Mede and Persian code of the nursery – unalterable laws, established of course by Nurse. Old Testament, Book of Daniel, chapter 6 verse 8: “according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.”

131 just look at the maze-in-the-house; jever see such maze – from Henry Esmond, Chapter 8, by William Makepeace Thackeray. Lord Castlewood is drunk and is trying to say “did you ever see such maids in the house”. Also High Rising page 13

132 have me up before the beak – Beak is slang for magistrate. Also **

136 silver cup, won three years running for the best-kept stretch of line – extensive story about the theft of this cup from the stationmaster’s office at Winter Overcotes in Growing Up.

141 ante-chapel – the partially enclosed western part of a chapel, leading to the chapel proper.

143 Minor … like the cigarettes – The De Reszke company’s Minors cigarettes were advertised with the slogan ‘Mine’s a Minor’.

144 several times a happy father made – “Younger than she are happy mothers made”. Said by the County Paris in Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act I scene 2. Also **

Gone, alas, like our youth, too soon – “Oh, for one of those hours of gladness/ Gone, alas, like our youth, too soon”: The Kerry Dance, Irish folksong.

145 noise was unconfined
“On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing Hours with flying feet.”
Byron, Lord: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1816) canto 3 stanza 22 [RB]

146 Great actress … used to have her words pinned up on the stage – this was Ellen Terry (1847-1928).

148 So the silence was, So was the hush – “Ah, so the quiet was! So was the hush!” ‘Bacchanalia, or The New Age’, by Matthew Arnold.

Chapter 6

150 Félibristes – Members of Le Félibrige, a movement begun in 1854 by a group of French writers and others for the restoration of Provençal as a living language.

Amitié par amour … – part of the tradition of courtly love followed by the troubadours in the south of France in the early 12th century.

Guibert le Biau – presumably biau = beau in modern French

153 wearing her old A.F.S. trousers – The Auxiliary Fire Service was formed in 1938 and mobilised on 1 September 1939. In 1941 it merged with regular fire services to form the National Fire Service.

154 Luke & Huxleys – Marks & Spencer: St Luke and St Mark, evangelists. Huxley/Spencer: I am indebted to Hilary T for explaining to me that Spencer and Huxley were both involved with Darwin in the great 19th century debate on evolution.

His old wounds bled…anew – And makes my old wounds bleed anew. From Edmund Waller’s poem ‘The Self Banished’ (1645) [RB]

155 Puss-in-the-Ring – a traditional children’s game, and thus quite appropriate for Mrs Turner, though I can only find rules for Puss in the Corner, which doesn’t involve sitting on the floor.

156 K.C.M.G. – Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George. At one time an honour for British subjects serving abroad or in British overseas territories, but now largely awarded to members of the Diplomatic and Foreign service and for administrative service in the Commonwealth.

160 Nothing I couldn’t repeat on the housetops – “What ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” New Testament, St Matthew chapter 10 verse 27.

162 British-Needler’s Society: Presumably something on the lines of pyramidology, but relating to Cleopatra’s Needle, the ancient Egyptian obelisk brought from Alexandria to the Thames Embankment. Also page 175.

163 Paladin – one of the twelve peers who accompanied Charlemagne, not one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. Presumably we are all meant to know that this is historically inaccurate, and that Miss Hopgood is also confusing both with the Crusaders, who wore tunics with a red cross, and were many hundreds of years later.

165 Langue d’Oc and Langue d’Oil – The former is the old Provençal language, spoken south of the River Loire, the latter the forerunner of modern French, spoken to the north. ‘Yes’ was ‘oc’ in Provençal, and ‘oil'(later oui) in the north.

166 a most interesting book – presumably Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time (truth is the daughter of time).

Victor Yugo – Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Mrs Dunsford’s French pronunciation leaves much to be desired.

Quilp – A hideous dwarf in Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop.

169 The Auld Folk at Hame – “of the absent ane they’re telling, the auld folk by the fire” in the Scottish ballad ‘My Ain Folk’? Or does she mean the Negro spiritual, ‘The Old Folks at Home’.

170 Poole Carey/Pole Caroo – Pole Carew is not pronounced as it is spelt. It is one of those names like Menzies, Cholmondeley and Marjoribanks! Even more confusing, several of his male descendants are called Carew Pole.

Dulce ridentem, dulce loquentem, LalagenDulce ridentem Lalagen amabo,/Dulce loquentem: Still shall I love Lalage and her sweet laughter, Lalage and her sweet prattle. Horace, Odes, xxii.1

Summer is a-coming in – ‘Sumer is icumen in, lhude sing cucu’. Mediaeval ballad, sung as a round or played on the recorder by most of us in our schooldays.

172 The hour has come and the man! – ‘The hour’s come, but not the man’; heading for chapter 3 of Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Heart of Midlothian (1818) [RB]
Fight, gentlemen of England! Fight, bold yeomen!
Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head!
Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in blood!”
– continues
“Amaze the welkin with your broken staves!” Shakespeare: Richard III, Act 5 scene 3. [RB]

174 Beefine, Oxone, Gravylene – Bovril, Oxo, and Gravylene is probably Bisto.

176 Puy des Stryges, Pays du Grand Gargou – A strix (or stryge in French) is a bird of ill-omen that feeds on human flesh: see www.stryges.com. Puy is a volcanic hill. Gargou is a gargoyle (from gargouiller to gurgle because gargoyles were originally waterspouts to pour water away from the wall of a building. All sounds very sinister, so hardly surprising that Ghismond Beaucilz (the Spiritual Helper with the Beautiful Eyelashes) was done to death there.

Nomen et praeterea nihil – A name with nothing attached to it.

177 Vinitono – the Wincarnis brand (literally wine of flesh) is a ‘tonic wine’ (literally wine of flesh). It used to be called Liebig’s Meat Extract, and was thought to be medicinal and suitable for teetotallers (though it wasn’t non-alcoholic). It now contains no meat.

179 Locum tenens – ‘holder of the place’, so someone acting temporarily for, eg, a doctor or a clergyman.

His bosom’s lord sitting sadly in his throne – “My bosom’s lord sits lightly in his throne/And all this day an unaccustom’d spirit/Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts.” Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act 5, scene 1.

Chapter 7

182 Much ado about nothing, and full of sound and a certain amount of fury signifying nothing – Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, of course, and “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5.

Cleopatra’s Needle – see page 175 above.

King Charles’s Head – an obsession: from Mr Dick in Dickens’ s David Copperfield, who couldn’ t say or write anything without King Charles’s Head coming into it.

183 Bishop at the Battle of Hastings – The Bayeux tapestry is supposed to have been commissioned by Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror’s half-brother, to commemorate the Norman victory.

184 At least an interdict – an ecclesiastical punishment in the Roman Catholic Church, restricting participation in or performance of certain sacraments and services. One step less serious than excommunication.

186 a thane or someone, like Ivanhoe -Thanes were hereditary landholders ranking below earls. Ivanhoe, in the novel of that name by Sir Walter Scott, was of noble Saxon birth.

Cassiopeia – mother of Andromeda and wife of the King of Ethiopia. She was sent to the heavens in punishment for boasting of her beauty, as a constellation which takes the form of a woman sitting in a chair and holding up both arms in supplication.

A believer in the starry heavens and man’s moral law – ‘Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily they are reflected on: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.’: Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Practical Reason, conclusion [These words are engraved on his grave – RB]

189 And the goose, Was a goose – In Johnny Crow’s garden. Children’s book of that name by L Leslie Brooke, 1903

191 Blacks’ – ie White’s, the first gentlemen’s club in St James’s, London, founded 1693.

Westminster Hall – The oldest part of the Palace of Westminster, built by William Rufus in 1097, and where the forerunner of Parliament sat.

192 Pre-Raphaelite discomfort; sofas apparently hewn from solid blocks of wood – see Angela Thirkell’s description of the furniture at her grandfather’s house in Three Houses.

194 The silence grows… – Verse 32 of the 53 verses of Robert Browning’s poem ‘By the Fire-Side’.

198 Brock’s benefit – A fireworks display held every Thursday night from 1865 until 1935 at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham by Brock’s, the fireworks manufacturer.

Albany – A block of bachelors’ chambers in Piccadilly.

The Second Mrs Tanqueray – a play, 1893, by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero.

Beechwood – a play on Broadwood, famous make of piano.

199 CasterbridgeThe Mayor of Casterbridge, novel by Thomas Hardy, 1886

201 Alles Wahn – meaning all illusion. Wagner was influenced by the philosophers Kant and Schopenhauer, and this has something to do with the latter. I think “that old bore” may be Parsifal.

The quickness of the ‘and deceives the heye – This can be found in Chapter 2 of Whose Body by Dorothy L Sayers, 1923, but I think she too may be quoting, possibly from a music-hall song?

Altogether, Boys, and a long pull and a strong pull – Dickens’s David Copperfield, Chapter 30, but it looks as if it is a quotation from a sea-shanty. Thomas Rowlandson made a print with this title (1813) which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

202 Lord Burleigh’s nod – Lord Burleigh is supposed to be too full of state affairs to utter a word; he shakes his head and Puff explains what he means. Sheridan’s play The Critic (1779), Act 3 scene 1 [RB]

203 Margaret – formerly Margaret Tebben – the story of her engagement to Laurence Dean is in August Folly.

206 Haff, harf – see page 111 above.

209 Tell the truth and shame the devil – “tell truth and shame the devil, “ Shakespeare Henry IV Pt I, Act 3 scene 1.

Pinching things from Kipling – Nearer he tottered and nearer, with paws like hands that pray/From brow to jaw that steel-shod paw, it ripped my face away! Rudyard Kipling, The Truce of the Bear (1898), verse 8 [Kipling’s answer to the proposal for European disarmament – RB] Visit the Kipling Society.

Progress of Poesy – an ode by Thomas Gray

Mow-Mow – The Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya took place in 1953.

210 Thou art too tall for my possessing – “Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing” Shakespeare, Sonnet 87.

211 The Ghost Goes West – Film, 1935, directed by René Clair, with Robert Donat, Elsa Lanchester, etc. An American businessman dismantles a Scottish castle and ships it to America together with its resident ghost.

Chapter 8

213 Gotha Almanac – Almanach de Gotha, a directory of European nobility published in French since 1763.

214 Infang and outfang – the right of the lord of the manor to hang his own or someone else’s man if caught committing a crime within his jurisdiction. See also County Chronicle page 214.

Cedric the Saxon’s thralls – Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (1820) [RB]

Custom of the country – Title of a 17th century play by Fletcher and Massinger, later used by Edith Wharton for the title of a novel in 1913.

Louts from the city who had tried to spoil the skating…. – a key chapter in The Headmistress.

217 must not sin his mercies – The phrase ‘to sin one’s mercies’ – to be ungrateful for one’s blessings or good fortune – is found in 19th century literature (beginning with Scott’s Redgauntlet (1824) and was familiar to Fowler (1926) and Gowers 1965) but now seems largely to have dropped out of use. [RB]

ceaseless round of unrelenting toil – sounds like Gray’s Elegy, but it isn’t

The fault is probably in ourselves, not in our stars – “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1 scene 2.

219 China ribbon bookmarkers – presumably a special type of ribbon used in bookbinding. I have searched sites for bookbinding suppliers but have only found Italian cotton ribbon.

219 The Monument – A column of Portland stone, 202 ft high, near London Bridge, designed by Sir Christopher Wren to commemorate the starting-point of the Great Fire of London of 1666. Not explained by Lady Pomfret on page 220!

Cleopatra’s needle – see pages 175, 182.

226 Professor Tristram, who goes hunting in churches to find frescoes that aren’t there – Ernest William Tristram (1882-1952) the wallpainting expert conservator who was Professor of Design at the Royal College of Art

Lovely baroque ante-chapel… – baroque OK, Victorian Gothic definitely not, in 1953. Angela Thirkell would probably be horrified at the way tastes have changed and at the subjects of some of our Angela Thirkell Society Outings.

some of the old notepaper – writing paper, surely! (see U and Non-U, Nancy Mitford, etc, etc)

228 Roger Hickson – Is he a character in Trollope?

Patronage – by Maria Edgeworth, 1814

231 Old Nandy – there is a character in Dickens’s Little Dorrit called John Edward Nandy.

Chapter 9

237 Many a poacher he’d restored To his friends and his relations – “Many a burglar I’ve restored To his friends and his relations” W S Gilbert, Trial by Jury

238 A slight Scene of Domestic Life – I thought this referred to George Eliot, Scenes of Clerical Life, 1858, but it could be ‘Scenes of Domestic Life’, Chapter 7 of Bureaucracy, by Honoré de Balzac.

241 Anubis – The jackal-headed Egyptian god of funerary practices and care of the dead: excellent choice of name for a boat!

244 Left undone one single thing … – We have left undone those things which we ought to have done. The General Confession, Book of Common Prayer.

245 Captive of her bow and spear – [From LPWC]: While this allusion has echoes of II Kings chapter 6 verse 22, “Whom thou has taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow”, the more direct link is to Sir Walter Scott’s (1771-1832) Ivanhoe (1819), Ch. 24, where Sir Brian de Bois-Gilbert responds to a rebuke from Rebecca: “The eyes of the Templar flashed fire at this reproof – ‘Hearken,’ he said, ‘Rebecca; I have hitherto spoken mildly to thee, but now my language shall be that of a conqueror. Thou art the captive of my bow and spear, subject to my will by the laws of all nations; nor will I abate an inch of my right, or abstain from taking by violence what thou refusest to entreaty or necessity’

Lohengrin – One of Wagner’s heroes. Son of Parsifal – he appears in a boat drawn by a swan.

Saddle of real mutton – Meat was still rationed at this date – no wonder no one liked to enquire into its provenance.

Dhoidreagh O’Seianmhe – This certainly doesn’t translate into Bert Hobson – more likely Derek (or Deirdre/?) Johnson.

246 Ich bin sehr leicht beleidigt – I am very easily offended.

The Only Way – A stage adaptation in 1906 of Dickens’s The Tale of Two Cities. But Lady Pomfret is probably thinking of the film, directed by Herbert Wilcox in 1926, starring Sir John Martin Harvey and Frederick Cooper.

247 Separators of Companions and Terminators of Delight – In the Arabian Nights this is death – in other Arabic literature it is Allah.

Mrs Joram turned everything she did in the needlework line to favour and to prettiness – “Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself, She turns to favour and to prettiness”: Shakespeare Hamlet, IV.v.[187] [Laertes, of Ophelia] [RB]

250 Red Tape and Sealing Wax Department – Popularly supposed to be invented by Dickens, but it’s Thackeray, see The Bedford-Row Conspiracy and The Book of Snobs.

251 mèche – forelock

de gustibus et coloribus non disputandum – one should not argue over matters of taste and colour.

254 Morland – see page 126 above.

255 dinner party here before the war – see Cheerfulness Breaks In

257 The words of a Shropshire lad – “Look not in my eyes, for fear
They mirror true the sight I see”
A E Housman, A Shropshire Lad, 15.

I know where I’m going
“I know where I’m going,I know who’s going with me
The Lord knows who I’ll love
But the de’il knows who I’ll marry” Traditional Scottish song.

There is always Friendliness – sounds like a 19th century novel?

Amitié carrée – literally ‘friendship squared’ – can’t trace the origin.

258 If ever I become a mourning widow– Is this a reference to something in particular? There is a variety of geranium called Mourning Widow, but of a much later date than this.

Chapter 10

262 Entering into the Sere – “my way of life Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf” (ie he has lost his reason for living): Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5 scene 3.

Bolton sheeting – cheap cotton from Bolton in Lancashire, presumably sold for making sheets. Bolton sheeting is mentioned in H G Wells The History of Mr Polly, and black Bolton sheeting was used for blackout material in World War Two.

265 half-quarter day – mid-way between the quarter days, ie in February, May, August and November, sometimes said to be Candlemas, May Day, Lammas and All Hallows.

Hemel Hempsted – more correctly, Hemel Hempstead.

266 his Egeria – see page 31.

267 Does truth sound bitter, As one at first believes? – from poem ‘The Lost Mistress’ by Robert Browning.

271 she could an if she would – “We could an if we would”, Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1 scene 5, line 274.

274 Time Recaptured – Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu can be translated as this.

band of rather elderly brothers – “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”, Shakespeare, Henry V Act 4 scene 2.

276 Clergyman before the war, somewhere in East Anglia – The Reverend Harold Davidson, Rector of Stiffkey in Norfolk, who to protest against being unfrocked for immorality exhibited himself in a barrel, killed by the lion at Skegness in 1937. But Mr Downing is wrong, he was not still a priest at that juncture.

High Tide on the Coast of Lincoln – Jean Ingelow’s poem High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire, 1895.

276 that quite dreadful play by the late M Maeterlinck … (continues on page 277) There are no Dead – Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird (1906) is about seeking for happiness, and as I remember from Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes, contains the line “There are no dead”.

statuary by the Serpentine -The Elfin Oak in Kensington Gardens, a 900-year-old tree stump carved and painted in 1930 with gnomes and small animals, now a listed building.

Grim Tyrant Mors – “Hell’s Grim Tyrant, Mors”, is from a translation of the Hymns of Aurelius Prudentius by Martin R Pope, 1905. Was Pope a friend of Professor Mackail, and could Aurelius Prudentius have anything to do with the Analects of Procrastinator?

Joined the majority – as well as being a euphemism for having died, this can also mean that someone has been made a major in the army. But as Angela Thirkell says, becoming a general is not referred to as generality.

278 felo de se – Anglo-Latin for suicide.

Bardell v Pickwick – Chapter 35 of Dickens’s Pickwick Papers relates the trial of Mr Pickwick, in which the chemist tries to get out of being a juror because he has nobody to run his shop except an apprentice who is going to get all the drugs muddled up.

Pity the ignorance of such a one and despise her – Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, Chapter 15. Fanny Squeers writes an untruthful and illiterate letter to Nicholas’s wicked uncle Ralph, finishing with the PS “I pity his ignorance and despise him”.

279 St Boscobel’s Home – Boscobel doesn’t appear on any list of saints, though he sounds plausible. But Boscobel House in Shropshire provided a safe haven for Charles II in the Civil War.

284 triumph of hope over not only experience but plain hard fact – The triumph of hope over experience: referring to a man who remarried immediately after the death of a wife with whom he had been very unhappy. Samuel Johnson in Boswell’s Life of Johnson 1770 [RB]

293 Gaily the Troubadour – title of a popular song of the 1820s by Thomas Haynes Bailey. Bear in mind that ‘gay’ didn’t have its present connotations either in the 1820s or in the 1950s.

Vidame des Egouts – My French dictionary helpfully translates Vidame as vidame, but another source informs me that vidames represented bishops in court; a vidame is to a bishop what a viscount is to a count. Hope that helps! An égout is a drain or sewer. In any case the Vidame des Egouts sounds thoroughly unpleasant.

Chapter 11

296 swift to chide and slow to bless – or rather “Slow to chide and swift to bless” from the hymn ‘Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven’, words by Henry Francis Lyte, tune by John Goss.

“iron-sleet of arrowy shower”– Thomas Gray’s poem ‘The Fatal Sisters’ is based on a Norse song to be found in Burnt Njal, a favourite of the Mackail and Thirkell children.

Iceland….Old Uncle Tom Fastnet and all – A combination of the radio weather forecast and Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer…. old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all: from the song Widdicombe Fair.

Bulldog breed – Britons, from a music-hall song, ‘Sons of the Sea, All British born’, by Arthur Reece.

The progress of Jean Baptiste Cavalletto through Bleeding Heart Yard – Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, Chapter 25 – and it’s actually John Baptist Cavalletto, known as Mr Baptist. Cavalletto is, incidentally, Italian for an easel.

299 Rest in the Lord – Oh! Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for him/And he shall give thee thy heart’s desires. Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah.

300 I’ve got the copperplate of my cards – She means visiting cards. It would have been very unlikely that these would have been used in 1953 unless she was very much higher on the social scale.

302 time galloped withal – Rosalind’s riddle to Orlando in Shakespeare’s As You Like It Act 3 scene 2. To which the answer is it gallops with a thief who is going to the gallows, perhaps not terribly suitable for the coronation.

303 Nothing common was or mean – “He nothing common did or mean/
Upon that memorable scene/But with his keener eye/The axe’s edge did try.” Andrew Marvell, ‘An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’.
Also unsuitable in the circumstances, as it describes the execution of Charles I.

Mistress of the Robes – Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire

A Queen from the far Pacific – Queen Salote of Tonga

Our Great Prime Minister – Winston Churchill

305 Bishop Hatto – the archbishop of Mainz who during a famine in 970 assembled a number of poor people in a barn and burnt them to death to save food for the rich. He was punished by being eaten to death by rats. Robert Southey poem ‘God’s Judgement on a Wicked Bishop’.
Rolling/roving eye – I think this must be a reference to Thomas Moore’s Irish Melodies: “My Lesbia hath a beaming eye,
But no one knows for whom it beameth;
Right and left its arrows fly;
But what they aim at no one dreameth.”

307 The dreamer Merlin and his prophecies … – Shakespeare’s Henry IV Pt I, Act 3 scene 1.

Slime draught – Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit, Chapter 25. Mrs Prig, the day nurse, hands over to Mrs Gamp, the night nurse, and says that the patient took his last slime draught at seven.

311 Slightly but correctly taken – See page 116 above.

Descant, (a word of whose meaning we are still not quite sure) – Collins dictionary has: a decorative counterpoint added above a basic melody.

312 Tales of Hoffman – At the end of Act III the courtesan’s lover arrives on the scene to find her escaping with another admirer. I think there may also be some business with camellias.

314 Funeral March of a Marionette – by Charles Gounod: soon after this to become known as the signature tune of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”.

315 Most high and disposedly – said by the Scottish Ambassador about Queen Elizabeth I’s dancing.
Atterleer – he means atelier, a craftsman’s workshop.

Quite in a fine frenzy as Shakespeare says
“The poet’s eye, In a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.” Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 5 scene 1.

If those lips could only speak
“If those lips could only speak,
If those eyes could only see
If those beautiful golden tresses
Were there in reality.
If you’d only take my hand
As you did when you took my name,
But it’s only a beautiful picture
In a beautiful golden frame.”
A music-hall song 1906, music by Charles Ridgewell, lyrics by Will Godwin. About time of this narrative it was being sung by Ronnie Ronalde (1923-2015) and others.

317 The Honeysuckle and the Bee – another old music hall song, Albert H Fitz, 1901.

The Magelonelieder – song cycle by Brahms, op.33, from poetry by Tiecke.

Homeward took his solitary way – A combination of Milton and Gray: Adam and Eve “Through Eden took their solitary way” in Milton’s Paradise Lost Bk.xii. (the end of the poem), and “The ploughman homeward plods his weary way” Gray, Thomas: Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard (1742-50), l. 320.

320 Wild surmise – from John Keats’s Sonnets (1816) On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.

England did win the Ashes in 1953, winning 4 Test Matches against Australia’s 1.


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