Above Rubies: Allusions and References
Passing allusions and references which maybe a little opaque to the present reader, decoded – as far as possible – here.
Bath or Leamington Priors: Bath’s reputation as a spa since the Roman era is probably well-known; Leamington Priors is now Royal Leamington Spa, in Warwickshire, where a spa developed around supposedly healing waters during the eighteenth century.
some matter of a cozy pocket borough: a pocket borough was a parliamentary constituency which, before the 1832 Reform Act, had a very small electorate and was in the pocket of a patron who could bring about the election of whoever he wished.
Buxton is a very sanitive spaw: the geothermal springs at Buxton long made it a resort for those wishing to take the healthful waters but it became greatly developed in the later eighteenth century as a fashionable spa.
bleed her, and dose her with laudanum, and prescribe warm baths: the standard treatment of the day for post-natal depression. Bleeding was very widely used for numerous ailments.
the fine lying-in hospital that is now named for the Queen: founded in 1739 as a charitable infirmary for women in dire need. In 1752 moved to larger premises in Marylebone and known as the General Lying-In Hospital, became a teaching institution for midwifery. In 1809 Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, became its patron.
you are quite the Portia: i.e. one who can plead as effectively as Portia does in disguise as a lawyer in The Merchant of Venice.
exhorted in church about mutual aid and comfort, and having and holding for better for worse &C.: from the Form of the Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer.
Miss Gowing’s rumoured exploits in Carlsbad and Russia: the persistent tale of what happened to Abigail Gowing after her disappearance from her usual haunts (upon marrying the Reverend Mr Thorne and going to New South Wales), based on Clorinda’s own misdirecting account of going to Carlsbad to help her out of some predicament to conceal the fact that she was going into seclusion when she was pregnant with Flora, and elaborated upon when Clorinda’s anonymously published novel The Fateful Philtre was supposed to be based on Abby’s exploits.
O what a tangled web we weave/When first we practise to deceive: Sir Walter Scott, Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field in Six Cantos:
Oh! what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!
somewhat of Ackermann’s and such: Ackermann’s Repository of Arts was an illustrated periodical noted for its fashion plates.
cameos, and trinkets made from lava, and the quaintest figures that, Clorinda said, the natives of that place made for nativity scenes: Naples had a long tradition of making cameos and curios out of volcanic lava, and also of elaborate presepi or crib scenes of the Nativity.
the objects concerning worship of the generative principle: such as were described by Richard Payne Knight, in A discourse on the worship of Priapus, and its connection with the mystic theology of the ancients (1786): based on his observations in the region of Naples.
Dearest Scheherazade: Translations of the The Arabian Nights had been available for over a century.
a pretty little Hindoo book: a volume, possibly the Kama Sutra? bequeathed to Clorinda by General Yeomans: a selection of images, some of them possibly of around the right period, may be found here.
this odalisque: a sultan’s concubine.
somewhat in the way of elevens: midmorning break for refreshment.
marriage is an honourable estate, instituted of God: from the Form of the Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer.
the tinsel show of rank rather than honest gold: allusion to Robert Burns, A Man’s A Man for A’That.
All the parts of the harlequinade…how Mr Winch would present Pantaloon: an early form of pantomime based on characters from the Italian Commedia dell’arte.
the fellow that played the serpent: a musical instrument of brass and wood bent in a snake-like shape.
in the church quire afore the organ was put in: an ensemble of musicians and singers who traditionally provided church music before the installation of organs.
quite like unto the lady in Proverbs, riseth also while it is yet night: Proverbs 31:15: She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
the illustrations to Bewick: A History of British Birds, by Thomas Bewick.
concluded with the traditional snapdragon: a Christmas game with dried fruit, usually raisins, and sometimes almonds, placed in a bowl with brandy and the brandy set alight, the idea being to snatch the raisins out without being burnt.
How happy could he be with either?: MacHeath, in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728), between Polly Peachum and Lucy Locket.
clapped up as a Chancery lunatic: the Court of Chancery took charge of the affairs of wealthy lunatics.
advizing upon the prudence of vaccination: variolation for smallpox had been introduced to Britain from Turkey in the early eighteenth century; by the early nineteenth century this was beginning to be superseded by Edward Jenner’s discovery of vaccination.
Mr Abbott as having quite the finest way with croup: an inflammation of the breathing passageways in infants and children causing a characteristic cough and difficulty in breathing.
her ewe-lamb: a particularly cherished possession, from 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan rebuking David for taking Bathsheba from Uriah the Hittite.
a raree show: a vulgar popular spectacle.
Wine is a mocker, does it not say in the Bible?: Proverbs: 20:1: Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
casting my bread upon the waters: Ecclesiastes 11:1: Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
matters of tea and spices and mayhap the occasional length of fine chintz or muslin: all these were luxury goods coming in by way of the East India Company’s trade.
he will go about to blackball him: To exclude (a person) from society, a profession, etc.; to ostracize; from use of black balls to record a negative vote on admission to clubs etc.
for spunges and baudruches: sponges used for contraception, and skin condoms used for contraception and the prevention of sexually-transmitted infections, a prudent precaution in Clorinda’s former occupation.
her megrims: whims, fancies.
now the cat is out of the bag: to reveal, usually inadvertently, a secret previously hidden. The derivation is obscure.
the Wedgewood Am I not a man and a brother? sugar-bowl: the anti-slavery campaign, which included a boycott against slave-produced sugar, was manifested in abolitionist table-ware. Wedgewood’s Staffordshire works was particularly noted for this.
if to say so is not to tempt the fairies to come steal him: the folk belief that praising the looks of an infant would be overheard by the fairies, who would steal the child and leave a changeling in its place.
one never heard of any that was piskie-led in Hyde Park or St James: led astray and left lost and confused.
not like having to leave her at the Foundling Hospital with a token: mothers leaving their illegitimate children at the Foundling Hospital would leave with them some unique object – a token – as a means of identification if they were able to be reunited at some future time.
Eliza was at peek-a-boo: or peep-bo, hiding one’s face from an infant and then revealing it saying ‘peek-a-boo’.
a fine posset with a little brandy to’t: a hot spiced drink of milk with wine or ale, particularly given to invalids.
For richer, for poorer; for better, for worse: from the Form of the Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer.
may be a creaking gate: ‘a creaking gate hangs longest’, proverb signifying that someone in poor health might outlive the apparently healthier.
Lawks a’mercy, this is none of I!: allusion to the rhyme:
There was an old woman, as I’ve heard tell
She went to market, her eggs for to sell.
She went to market, all on a summer’s day
And she fell asleep upon the King’s Highway.
There came by a pedlar whose name was Stout,
He cut her petticoats all round about;
He cut her petticoats up to her knees,
Which made the old woman to shiver and sneeze.
When the old woman first did wake,
She began to shiver and she began to shake.
She began to shake, she began to cry,
Lawd a’mercy, lawks a’mercy, this is none of I!
their estate by the Afon Teifi: The River Teifi in Wales.
Her son being only just out of petticoats: i.e. recently breeched, at the age of 5 or so.
I daresay you can offer a character?: a written reference from a former employer.
somewhat startled to hear Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York, and all turned to observe Mr Winch contorting himself into a hunchback: the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Richard III.
that terrible old quiz: curious and eccentric character.
what a very elegant shawl — I fancy ’tis cashmere?: shawls made of the wool of Cashmere goats, traditionally woven in Kashmir were considered very stylish (and also warm) during the Regency period.
like unto the Marquise in that terrible French novel: the Marquise de Merteuil in Choderlos de Laclos’s 1782 epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
two Unitarian ladies:Unitarianism in Britain, growing in strength among dissenters, had begun to form organised churches in the later eighteenth century, and although the rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity was no longer penalised, its association with opposition to the state church and sympathy to the principles of the French Revolution caused it to be attacked by the orthodox and it did not become legal until 1813. It was associated with a rational approach to religion, sympathy towards science, and also, like the Society of Friends, with dedication to humanitarian causes.
a-yarning to the fellows from Jupp’s livery stable about his days on the turf: when he was a jockey.
the fruits of the famed pinery: the cultivation of pineapples, a very costly process, had become something of an aristocratic craze in the late eighteenth century, with the construction of ‘pineries’ on their estates.
the fellow will find that he has digged a pit and fallen therein himself: Psalm 57:6: ‘They have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves’.
still fine mutual aid and companionship: from the Form of the Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer.
shipshape and Bristol fashion: in good and seamanlike order. Bristol was the major west coast seaport and its harbour had very high tides which required ships’ cargoes to be very securely stowed.
the majesty of the law, that is very severe upon pretending to mystic powers to extract money from the gullible: the 1735 Witchcraft Act made a superstitious belief in magic powers an offence, and therefore it became a crime to pretend to magic powers to deceive the public.
have fellows come in and raise their quizzing-glasses: a single lens, usually in an ornate frame and on a chain or ribbon, lifted to the eye to examine some matter of interest.
I see your Wellington face: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, noted for his role in leading the allied forces to victory over Napoleon during the Peninsular Campaign, and then during the 100 Days culminating in the Battle of Waterloo.
presented Mrs Malaprop and Lady Wishfort: Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan’s The Rivals constantly and amusingly uses incorrect words of similar sound to the ones she intends, givethe term ‘malapropism’ to the language. Lady Wishfort is an amorously inclined elderly lady in Congreve’s Restoration comedy, The Way of the World:
“Well, and how shall I receive him? In what figure shall I give his heart the first impression? There is a great deal in the first impression. Shall I sit? No, I won’t sit, I’ll walk,—ay, I’ll walk from the door upon his entrance, and then turn full upon him. No, that will be too sudden. I’ll lie,—ay, I’ll lie down. I’ll receive him in my little dressing-room; there’s a couch—yes, yes, I’ll give the first impression on a couch. I won’t lie neither, but loll and lean upon one elbow, with one foot a little dangling off, jogging in a thoughtful way. Yes; and then as soon as he appears, start, ay, start and be surprised, and rise to meet him in a pretty disorder. Yes; oh, nothing is more alluring than a levee from a couch in some confusion. It shows the foot to advantage, and furnishes with blushes and re-composing airs beyond comparison.”
what was considered fair perquisites: customary rights to certain benefits - ladies’ maids and valets might come in for unwanted clothes, cooks might have the right to sell dripping or take commission from tradespeople, and so on.
the wicked flee where no man pursueth: Proverbs, 28:1: The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.
put a separation in hand: while women could not obtain divorces under the laws then pertaining (it was hard enough for men) it was possible to obtain separations in the ecclesiastical courts permitting a wife to live apart from her husband.
the laws were very brutal to the rights of mothers: until the passing of the Custody of Infants Act, 1839, husbands could refuse to give separating wives custody of the children of the marriage.
said something about peripatetic philosophers: the Peripatetic School of philosophy in Ancient Athens, associated with Aristotle, was so-called allegedly because of his habit of walking while lecturing.
no ladies of the like of Mrs Carter these days: Elizabeth Carter (1717-1806) was a leading member of the Bluestocking circle, a friend of Dr Johnson, and a scholar of Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic.
a Mrs Somerville that has done most remarkable things in mathematics: Mary Somerville (1780-1872) nee Fairfax, polymath and writer on science, noted mathematician and astronomer.
talent that is like to soothe savage breasts: ‘Music has charms to soothe a savage breast’, from William Congreve’s play, The Mourning Bride.
’twould be a crim. con. case in the making: a legal action in which a husband would sue his wife’s seducer for damages for ‘criminal conversation’. A staple of scandal-sheets. Also a necessary preliminary to the cumbersome procedure of obtaining a parliamentary divorce.
Miss Addington a-wearing of the willow: making demonstrations of grief over a departed or absent lover.
from his friends of The Trade: smugglers.
Gaskell’s desire to manufacture gas: the manufacture of gas, principally for street-lighting, was a growing industry at this time, based on coke.
did the town ladies have no objection to Unitarians: there was still some prejudice against Unitarianism.
a very fine cricketer, that plays at Lords: Marylebone Cricket Club was founded in 1787 when Thomas Lord set up a private ground in Dorset Fields, Marylebone; it moved to its present location in St John’s Wood in 1814.
where she might obtain a receipt for Welsh cakes: traditional sweet cakes with currants flavoured with mace and cooked on a griddle.
an arrangement with one of the local farms over a pig-bucket of scraps: kitchen-scraps would go to fatten the pigs; when a pig was killed, the household in question would received a portion of pork in return.
’tis like that they have now ended up in Siberia: Russian political exiles were sent to this vast chilly and inhospitable territory in Arctic Asia, colonised by Russia from the seventeenth century onwards.
I daresay there will be no Evangelicals present: Evangelicals would be unlikely to attend so frivolous an occasion as a ball for however good a cause.
imitating the action of a tiger to Quintus’s exceeding delight: Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 2, Scene 1: ‘Then imitate the action of the tiger’.
nigh on time to breech him, cut off his infant curls: the rite de passage for a little boy, around the age of 5 or so,
a-learning his horn-book: a child’s first learning primer of a sheet with the alphabet etc on it, in a frame with a handle, originally covered with horn, whence the name.
very excellent day-schools in London: there were day-schools of considerable antiquity in London such as Westminster and St Pauls.
church members or dissenters and even one or two Quakers but would work together: which would not always be the case.
to sell only East India sugar: as opposed to sugar from the West Indies produced by slave labour.
that fine passage from Measure for Measure about Heaven doth with us as we with torches do: Measure for Measure, Act I, Scene 1, Duke Vincentio to Angelo:
Heaven doth with us as we with torches do
Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, ‘twere all alike
As if we had them not.
I shall not essay Juliet’s Nurse: Clorinda’s rendering of the Nurse’s speech to Juliet and Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet Act 1 Scene 3 was very popular among her circle, but was not perhaps suited to all audiences:
And then my husband—God be with his soul!
He was a merry man—took up the child.
“Yea,” quoth he, “Dost thou fall upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit.
L.A. Hall, FRHistS