Wild Strawberries (1934)

Front cover of the book Wild Strawberries
Wild Strawberries currently published by Virago Modern Classics

References (Relusions) for the novel Wild Strawberries, by Angela Thirkell. Page numbers are those of the Hamish Hamilton collected edition 1948.

Chapter 1

7 Lady Emily Leslie – Modelled on Lady Mary Elcho, with whom Angela Thirkell often stayed at Stanway.

7 the War – World War 1 of course, ‘the war to end war’.

9 chapel – A place of prayer or worship in the Christian faith, but in this case a non-conformist church.

9 Thy will not Mine – Capitalisation presumably reflects godlike nature of Nannies! ‘Not my will, but thine, be done’ is from St Luke chapter 22 verse 42.

the ones that wish to escape – i.e. leave church before communion: not done nowadays.

11 Venite – a canticle based on Psalm 95. The word is Latin for come.

number of the Beast – No: the Golden Number, a system to label years (‘the Sunday letter’) in order to calculate when Easter Sunday falls (Book of Common Prayer). The Number of the Beast is in the Book of Revelation, chapter 13 verse 18: the number comes to 666.

14 praenomen – Latin for forename, appropriate to dignity of bulls

Chapter 2

18 conk – Slang expression for nose.

19 to empyrean heights – something of a cliché, but occurs in a poem ‘The Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar’ which contains the phrase “to empyrean heights”. Author unknown.

20 the fabled claw in its tail – Some lions have a hard spur in their tails previously believed to be the remnants of a claw which locked onto its prey, which had disappeared with evolution.

21 more than one kind of personal pronoun – Presumably pronouns such as ‘ille’ and ‘hic’ that differentiate one person from another, like ‘the former’ and ‘the latter’.

24 like something out of the Wallace Collection – Delightful London museum containing furniture, porcelain etc. as well as paintings.

Buhl – elaborate inlay of tortoiseshell, ivory and metal, usually to decorate furniture. The original designer was actually called Boulle, which Thirkell presumably knew when she invented this family.

25 Capes Castle – Apparently disappeared from the storyline: though it was only half an hour hour from Rushwater and Norton Hall is halfway between Capes Castle and Rushwater.

Weevle, Creevey, Greville, Jobling – An odd grouping, apart from the euphony! Tony Weevle and Jobling are the same person (in Dickens’s Bleak House he helps solve the mystery of Krook’s death). Thomas Creevey is famous for the Creevey Papers in which he recorded the Duke of Wellington’s comment on the battle of Waterloo: “It was a near run thing”, Charles Greville was also famed for memoirs, and it was said of him bitterly by his cousin “If you want a secret known, write it in confidence to your intimate friend”. Also page 39.

Chapter 3

28 Whit Monday – the Monday after Pentecost (Whitsunday) is 50 days after Easter and 10 days after Ascension.

28 fought and worsted – Kipling, Second Jungle Book, ‘The King’s Ankus’ – “There has been too much talk of killing. We will go now. I take the thorn-pointed thing, Thuu, because I have fought and worsted thee.” The more amusing because it refers to abstract concepts.

31 difference between a cable and a telegram – a cable is from overseas (i.e. via the transatlantic cable) and a telegram is within the country. Telegraph is the means to send and receive.

32 the lark so high about me in the sky – “And hear the larks so high/About us in the sky” A.E. Housman poem ‘A Shropshire Lad’.

Seccotine – a very glutinous glue, dark yellow and with a strong smell. Also page 77.

33 beak – i.e. magistrate

34 The Esk was swollen – Egerton village, near Whitby in North Yorkshire, was famous for a lover who could not cross the “deep swollen Esk, that rolled rapidly past” and fulfilled his vow to build the existing narrow Beggar’s Bridge. Steve MacDonald lyric ‘A Hundred Pipers an’ aw an’ aw’ (1852), 5th stanza, commemorating the Jacobite Rising of 1745.
The Esk was swollen so red, so deep
Yet side by side the brave lads keep.
Twa’ a thousand swam to fell English ground
And danced them dry to the pibroch sound.

34 Ave – Latin for Hail. Though Martin should probably have said “Avete” since there were several hikers.

35 Father Tiber – “The Syrian Orontes has now for long been pouring into the Tiber with its own language and ways of behaving” : Juvenal, satirist (c. AD 60 – c. AD 130). Also Private Enterprise p. 230, Happy Returns p. 204, Enter Sir Robert p. 6, A Double Affair p.182 . Also Thomas Babington Macaulay poem ‘Horatius at the Bridge’: “Oh Tiber, Father Tiber, to whom the Romans pray,/ a Roman’s life, a Roman’s arms, take thou in charge this day!”

Touaregs – North African Muslim peoples who speak Berber.

36 we are all madAlice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Chapter 2, said by the Cheshire Cat.

Bricks without straw… – A task without appropriate resources, but the rhyme has not been traced.

37 David drew up under the portico – A portico is a porch covering a pedestrian walkway held up by columns or an opposing wall. A porte-cochère is a portico that allows vehicles to arrive at the doorway or courtyard undercover. i.e. one is for people and the other for vehicles. David pulled into a porte-cochère, not a portico.

38 no ninefold Styx could bind them – “Water binds them and ninefold Styx confines them” Virgil’s Aeneid book 6, translated by A. S. Kline.

the bitter waters of memory – ‘Dawn’ by Mrs. Harriet Adams 1868.

41 the belted motor of his lordship – Until 17th century the sword used by the sovereign to invest a new earl was then girded round his waist, so a belted earl was one whose title was superior to those of later date. Lord Capes’s car would reflect this status!

42 his chariot of fire – “Bring me my chariot of fire”: William Blake poem ‘Jerusalem’. From 2 Kings chapter 2 verse 11: “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”

Pegasus – the winged white horse of Greek mythology.

43 tant soit peu – a tiny bit.

45 Queensberry Rules – for boxing, invented by Lord Queensberry 1867.

Chapter 4

46 Hobo-Gobo and the Fairy Joybell – Recur as symbols of mawkish children’s tales, possibly a reference to Enid Blyton’s fairytale characters. Both Angela Thirkell and Enid Blyton lived in Beaconsfield during World War 2. It is not recorded whether they acknowledged each other’s existence!

47 fritillaries – a spring flowering lily with a bell-shaped flower: bloom in the southern half of the UK in mid to late April. But this is June 5, 1933, when Pentecost was June 4 and Easter was April 16.

48 ₤200 a year and £600 a year – respectively about £11,500 and £34,500 in 2023.

51 sitting between heaven and earth – in The Koran this is where the angel Gabriel sits.

52 Steel true, blade straight – “Steel true, blade straight, the Great Artificer made my mate” Poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘My Wife’ Also Love At All Ages 81

something accomplished, something done – “something accomplished, something done, /Has earned a night’s repose” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem ‘The Village Blacksmith’.

53 those of tender years – Expression used in Dickens’s David Copperfield.

54 Green fish – Emmy is meant to be 5 but speaks more like a two year-old.

56 emphasis on the word ‘her‘ – Thirkell means ‘you’, she has forgotten this is indirect speech!

57 Euterpe’s art – Euterpe was the Greek goddess of music.

Polyphone – Polyphon Musikwerke in Leipzig produced these early gramophones from 1897. Use this link to see how one works.

58 old Graphics – The Graphic was a high-class weekly illustrated magazine 1869-1932.

Lord Kitchener, Lord Roberts, General Buller – Heroes of the Boer War.

59 What is the fascination of seeing babies bathed? It seems to occur not only in Thirkell but in other authors’ works and movies of that era.

63 League of Nations – founded in 1920 following World War 1, after the Paris Peace Conference.

stillroom maid – The stillroom was the part of the house where the ale was produced in the days when clean water wasn’t usually available to drink; and later for any other food requiring preparation other than meals, such as preserves.

Chapter 5

67 Owbridge’s lung tonic – a genuine medicine in its original Victorian packaging. Somehow the name made it seem more dependable.

P.G. – i.e. paying guest

72 Bist du bei mir…Ruh – “Be thou with me and I’ll gladly go/To death and to my repose” short song by G. H. Stoelzel, adopted by J. S. Bach (BWV508). Also page 184.

linked sweetness – linked sweetness long drawn out…/Untwisting all the chains that tie/The hidden soul of harmony” Milton, L’Allegro.

quiet waters flowed into his heart – Bible, St John chapter 7 verse 38

73 I’ll read some Milton” – John Milton ‘Paradise Lost’. Not Angela Thirkell’s favourite poet! Also Pomfret Towers p. 55, Before Lunch p. 24, p. 205, The Old Bank House p. 301, Enter Sir Robert p. 89, p. 228, Never Too Late p.127

74 David claims that he can sing like a negro spiritual singer because he drinks rum and treacle, swiftly turning it into a song, accompanying himself on the piano. The use of words like ‘nigger’ and ‘black mammy’ though unacceptable today was perfectly normal for the time (1930s). But Mr Leslie picks David up on the use of the word ‘treacle’ for ‘molasses’ – which of course wouldn’t scan.

75 Mary Preston is 23 and, to John Leslie, she is a child – he is 34. (David is 26.)

Chapter 6

79 eyes gleaming with lack of intelligence – David’s idea of listeners to the BBC sounds like Mr. Carton’s description of students in The Headmistress.

81 Coventry Patmore – Victorian poet best known for ‘The Angel in the House’, his poem on a happy marriage which idealised traditional feminine virtues.

82 Heir of Redclyffe – Best-known novel of Charlotte M. Yonge (1823-1901), the doomed hero of which adored his mother. Many people recognise the title because Jo March in Little Women wept over it. Also Growing Up p. 59, Happy Returns p. 221, A Double Affair p. 210, p. 256, Love At All Ages p.70.

bone selfish – interesting variant of the more usual ‘bone idle’ Note that Martin’s father was possibly even more unselfish than John Leslie.

Chapter 7

88 [David] should have fallen a charred corpse – probably a reference to Bible, Acts chapter 28 verse 6

Mary’s lunch with Joan Stevenson – These six pages show a different side to Mary’s character, as so far she has been merely naïve. In later books she is described as boring.

110 a fine – a brandy. David also has one with his coffee which scores Mary a point!

115 splinter of glass in one’s heart – in Hans Andersen’s fairy story ‘The Snow Queen’ it is a splinter of ice that prevents Kay from recognising his sister. Also August Folly 162, Love Among The Ruins 220

116 writhing and fainting – A touch of satire to describe the otherwise rather maudlin scene: reeling, writhing and fainting in coils [reading, writing and painting in oils] were subjects taught at the Mock Turtle’s school in Alice in Wonderland.

120 Abernethy biscuit – a digestive biscuit invented in Scotland, similar to shortbread but having caraway seeds.

123 Brightness falls
“Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy upon us.”
Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) poem ‘Summer’s Last Will and Testament‘.

123 Clive Newcome – Hero of Thackeray’s The Newcomes whose wife dies in childbirth.

123 David Copperfield – The childish wife of the eponymous hero of Dickens’s novel also dies, which releases him to marry Agnes Wickfield.

125 Wumpton Pifford (for Westhampton Pollingford) – good parody of the strange pronunciation given to some English proper nouns: e.g. Featherstonehaugh really is pronounced Fanshaw: Angela Thirkell uses each of these, for the captain of rowing at Southbridge School (Summer Half) and the Oxford don Charles Fanshawe.

Chapter 8

132 I am the mashed fireman – another indication of Mary’s hidden depths, speaking with bitter gaiety as she imagines her death. Is this a parody of “I am ashes where once I was fire”? (Byron’s poem ‘To the Countess of Blessington’).

the UK racquet ball court is 31 feet long by 21 feet wide, so presumably rather claustrophobic for a concert.

134 ‘The Body in the Bag’ – a genuine music-hall song written by Charles O’Hegarty.

139 clarionet – Variant of clarinet, though The Devil’s Dictionary defines clarionet as “an instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears”.

140 Paderooski – Mr. Leslie pronounces Paderewski, the celebrated pianist and president of Poland, as he is written.

146 Children’s Hour – A BBC radio magazine programme broadcast after school. Angela Thirkell was not to know that it later became a lifeline to children during World War 2.

147 petits soupers – “Little suppers”, intimate cultural evenings begun in the reign of Louis XV.

Chapter 9

153 tu m’expliqueras tout cela plus tard, mon petit… – You can explain all that to me later, can’t you, dear

154 Droitwich – a spa town (as is Aix) near Birmingham and Worcester.

155 when you are married and have a home of your own you can do what you like… – Reminiscent of Louisa M. Alcott’s comment on French young women in Good Wives, that American brides became restricted to home-life.

155 Sir Leslie – Mme. Boulle is confused by Emily Leslie being Lady (by virtue of her father’s rank). Even if Martin were to have a title, which he won’t, he would have to be Sir Martin Leslie or Lord Leslie. The BBC got this wrong in their adaptation of Wild Strawberries, referring in the cast list to “Leslie” instead of Mr. Leslie.

157 Bearing the particule – The particle ‘de’ before the surname that indicates noble antecedents in France. Also p. 135

160 Merci – On its own in answer to a question means ‘no thank you’ in French (otherwise you have to say “Oui, merci”) Also p. 131

164 the price of chocolate already remounts to … – Mme Boulle has anglicised the French word ‘remonte’, meaning ‘has risen to’.

168 like Niobe – Niobe in Greek mythology was very proud of her fourteen children, but boasted that they were lovelier than Diana or Apollo. The children were murdered and Niobe was turned to stone, but continued to weep tears.

169 O toi qui – Oh thou who…

170 a pneumonia, a bronchitis – in French these are specific conditions, like “a cold”, so Mme. Boulle uses the same construction, presumably to demonstrate the inadequacy of English.

171 toilette de bal – ball-gown

172 Belle éploreé – Beautiful tearful one

172 Pierre, tu ne tousses pastranspires? – You’re not coughing, are you? You haven’t got a temperature, have you? You’re not feeling chilly? – No, mother I’m in bed. If you’re in bed, are you sweating?

173 he sought his couch – Bible, Job chapter 7 verse 13: “When I say, my bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint”.

Chapter 10

175 slank – obsolete past tense of ‘slink’ and somehow more expressive than ‘slunk’.

184 zum Sterben und zu meiner Ruh – to die and to my rest. Also above, page 72.

188 ding dong bell, /Fraulein goes to hell – for Ding dong bell, Pussy’s in the well. Earliest documented version of this nursery rhyme is 1580.

189 et pourtant son regard me trouble étrangement – And yet the look she gives me I find strangely disturbing

189 alors, fais ton devoir – All right, do your duty.

190 A bas la République – Down with the Republic!

190 camelots du roi – youth wing of the French royalist movement, l’action française, (see below) popular between the two world wars.

190 L’Action Française – Magazine from the French royalist movement of the same name, founded 1905, banned 1944.

191 Vive le roi – Long live the king

Chapter 11

196 Le Chêne et le Roseau – La Fontaine fable ‘The Oak and the Reed’: children were expected to learn the more accessible ones by heart.

197 by the pricking of my thumbs – Continues “Something wicked this way comes” 2nd Witch in Macbeth, Act 4 scene 1.

199 Yeats… melancholy about Deirdre – W.B. Yeats, in his poem ‘Deirdre’ and the dramatist J.M. Synge made Deirdre of the Sorrows into a symbol of the oppression of the Irish people.

201 the Greek gift – one to be feared, like the Trojan horse. (Virgil in The Aeneid has:”Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”, that is “I fear the Greeks when they bring gifts”)

202 la langue des oiseaux, des chevaux – bird-speech, horse-speech

je te conseille d’éviter ce dernier – I don’t advise you to use the latter pronunciation

Swift and the Houyhnhnms -This onomatopoeic race of beings occurs in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels: pronounced who’·an·uhmz. The suggested BBC pronunciation, despised of course by Thirkell, is “Winnim”.

206 Geoffroy Rudel with the Princesse Lointaine – a troubadour of Blaye in the second crusade (12th century). He loved the ‘distant princess’ Hodierna of Tripoli, who inspired many of his songs because of her great beauty, though he had never seen her. He went on the crusade to meet her, only to die in her arms on arrival. See also p. 210.

Dieu pluvial! – God of the rain!

ce doux agneau – this sweet lamb.

Chapter 12

210 Moi, j’aime la lointaine/Princesse – As for me, I love the distant princess: From the play La Princesse Lointaine by Edmond Rostand.

companionate marriage – a marriage where the parties agree not to have children and can be divorced by mutual consent.

221 time devours everything – Tempus edax rerum, literally “Time, the eater of things” Ovid, Metamorphoses.

225 Beautiful tyrant, fiend angelical – “Beautiful tyrant, fiend angelical! /Dove-feather’d raven! Wolfish-ravening lamb!” Juliet in Romeo and Juliet on learning of the killing of her cousin Tybalt. An extreme description of David!

225 Herbals and Perennials – Clearly Mary is not interested in gardening, as a herbal is a book, not a plant.

236 entrainement – conduct.

Mais, écoute que je te dise – Echo of Lucy Marling’s ‘I’ll tell you what…”

239 beggar-my-neighbour – children’s card game also known as Strip Jack Naked in which players win cards from their neighbour if they turn up a court card.

241 Moonlight lay on the world – ‘The Extra Day’, story by Algernon Blackwood (1915) “the light was dim; it seemed the sun had set, and moonlight lay upon the world.”

bring forth its own fruits – St Matthew’s Gospel chapter 3 verse 8

245I’d let my girls go out with him, but I don’t know that I’d let my boys. Lionel Harvest of the BBC is gay.

246 Lady Dorothy’s father was a duke, and Lady Emily’s merely an earl -Not everyone is as confident as Mr Holt about the order of precedence:

249 a thousand swords sprang from their scabbards – Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, about the attack on Marie-Antoinette.

252 pay him out in his own coin – Aesop, Fables: The Fox and the Stork.

253 the minster clock…moon – “The minster clock has just struck two,/And yonder is the moon” Wordsworth poem ‘Lucy Gray’. Also Happy Returns p. 94, Jutland Cottage p. 207.

256 mégère – From Megaira, the Fury representing Hate, thus a malevolent woman

Ventre saint gris! – Favourite oath of Henri IV, where ‘gris’ is corruption of ‘Christ’, so ‘Christ’s body!'[stomach]

true courage rises higher in the face of misfortune – probably paraphrased from Seneca’s Antigone.

257 Je ne peux pas…de ça – “I can’t! This blasted flag. Get it off me, Martin.”

258 merde…saletés – “Shit!” “Good heavens, Jean-Claude, your language is appalling. Where did you learn bad words like that?”

Chapter 14

273 Enoch Arden – The hero of this poem by Tennyson is forced to go to sea and returns many years later from shipwreck to find his wife has (reluctantly) married their friend Philip. The couple are happy, so Enoch remains anonymous and dies of a broken heart. The Old Bank House p. 27.

David Garrick – Brilliant naturalistic actor and director whose death in 1779 “eclipsed the gaiety of nations” (though he went in for exaggerated gestures). Typical David Leslie conceitedness!






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