Writing for herself, Clorinda had no need to explain many of the passing allusions and references she made in writing her memoirs. As they may sometimes be a little opaque to the present reader, they are decoded – as far as possible – here.
I did not go sleepwalk or cry out upon chimerickal blood: unlike Lady Macbeth.
the most curious cards of that region, that are call’d tarocco: Tarocco cards were used for play, but also for divination, and are the basis for modern tarot cards.
how young Geoff may obtain a place at one of the Inns of Court: the professional associations for barristers in London where they obtained their legal training.
quite in the manner of the lady in the Scottish play: Lady Macbeth. Clorinda still adheres to the theatrical superstition against naming the play.
but is he not quite entirely Cherubino: the amorous page in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, who falls in love with every woman he sees.
Comes to that fine and moving aria, Dove sono: ‘Dove sono i bei momenti’, from Act 3 of Le Nozze di Figaro.
Would that one might take the cat o’ nine tails and make ‘em kiss the gunner’s daughter: be tied down to a cannon for flogging.
some in Mr S‑’s connexion adhere to the ancestral ways: are practising Jews.
what guinea‑pig does not: midshipman.
like unto Vauxhall or Ranelagh: Vauxhall Gardens, Kennington, on the south bank of the Thames, a significant venue for pleasure and entertainment from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century; Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens in Chelsea.
we should be best serv’d to take a water‑coach: passenger transport on the river Rhône was by coches d’eau (water coaches) drawn by men or horses.
have I not observ’d Mr W‑ play Sir John Brute?: the husband in Vanbrugh’s Restoration comedy The Provoked Wife (1697).
to go plead like Portia: : i.e. as effectively as Portia in The Merchant of Venice for Antonio’s life against Shylock’s demand for his pound of flesh.
I do not find myself consum’d with furor uterinus towards you: uterine frenzy, overwhelming female sexual desire.
so pick up Tristram Shandy: Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759). We observe that Clorinda is getting on with this most exceeding slowly.
I did once make some comparison ‘twixt you and the Marquise in Dangerous Connexions: the Marquise de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, first published 1782.
I have never told him Docket’s secret and why she may not be lookt over by medical fellows: i. e. that Docket is a transwoman.
some matter of an uprising against the French monarch that had been impos’d upon Sicily, some time in the Middle Ages: the Sicilian Vespers in the thirteenth century.
quite the return of the prodigal, and I confide that Seraphine has many fine receipts for fatt’d calf: allusion to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, in Luke 15:11-32.
I have been absent in the spring: Shakespeare, Sonnet 98.
return’d safe and bringing your sheaves with you: Psalms 126:6 ‘He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him’.
nothing that goes entire aft agley: Robert Burns, To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough (1785):
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley.
indulging like Mr W‑ Y‑ in laughing gas or bang: inhaling nitrous oxide for its intoxicating effects or consuming Indian hemp.
did they have one of the fairer sex draw their cork for ‘em: give them a bloody nose.
manifests Hector’s full tilth and husbandry: Measure for Measure, Act I, Scene 4: ‘her plenteous womb/ Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry’.
Lady Z‑ does not go wear the willow for her depart’d Neapolitan cavalier servente: she does not makes demonstrations of distress over the departure of her devoted suitor, perhaps lover.
has taken his congé, tho’ without leaving PPC cards: has taken his leave, though without the formality of leaving cards marked PPC, pour prendre congé, signifying departure from Town.
a like state to Hermione in The Winter’s Tale: in the opening scenes of A Winter’s Tale, Leontes takes a completely unjustified suspicion that Hermione and his friend Polixenes have been having an adulterous affair and that her pregnancy is the result. No protestations by either of them or members of his court can contradict his obsession. Supposed dead in childbirth as a result of the trauma this caused, in the final act what is introduced as a statue of Hermione is revealed to be the living Hermione, in a scene of reconciliation with Leontes and their recovered daughter Perdita, married to Polixenes’ son Florizel.
feeling entire like unto Pandora: allusion to the myth of Pandora and her box, which, opened, released a cloud of evils upon the world.
when Raoul was elect’d a Royal Academician: one of the select group of Members of the Royal Academy of Arts, f. 1768.
or bring a crim. con. action: ‘criminal conversation’: a case in which a husband sued another man for damages for the seduction of his wife, possibly as a prelude to obtaining a parliamentary divorce, but not always.
an ordinary license without the matter of banns: an ordinary license, obtainable from the bishop of the diocese (and much cheaper than the special license only obtainable from the Archbishop of Canterbury), would enable the couple to marry without the delay caused by the announcement of banns in their parish church over the period of three weeks.
we know what we are, but know not what we may be: Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5: Ophelia’s mad scene.
to the very early sparrowgrass: asparagus.
the Jupps will find their occupation gone: allusion to Othello. Act III, Scene 3.
the plays of Wycherley: William Wycherley, Restoration dramatist: author of Love in a Wood, or St James’ Park, The Gentleman Dancing-Master, The Plain Dealer, and The Country Wife. The Country Wife includes a famous double-entendre scene concerning Horner’s china-closet and gifts of ‘fine china’, which Clorinda has indicated had some bearing on the origins of her own china collection.
sure I thank heaven fasting: As You Like It, Act III, Scene 5: ‘thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love’.
some pretty lava trinkets from Naples: there was a long tradition In Naples of making curios out of volcanic lava.
the very fine rice pillow with almonds and raisins: a rice pillau.
I daresay she makes odorous caparisons: a conflation of Dogberry’s mangling of language in Much Ado About Nothing, Act III, Scene 5 - ‘comparisons are odorous’; and Mrs Malaprop’s assertion in Sheridan’s The Rivals, Act IV, Scene 2, ”No caparisons, miss, if you please. Caparisons don’t become a young woman.”
I must go improve the shining hour: hymn for children by Isaac Watts (1715):
How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
has took him a time or two to play goff at Blackheath: the Royal Blackheath Golf Club originated with Scottish courtiers of James I and VI when he succeeded to the English throne.
do you go have a youthfull cicisbeo: the recognized (supposedly platonic) gallant or cavalier servente of a married woman in eighteenth century Italian custom.
mind that Britons never shall be slaves: from the patriotic song ‘Rule, Britannia’ , words by James Thomson, set to music by Thomas Arne, 1740.
like that fellow in the song, How happy could he be with either, were t’other dear charmer away: in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, 1728: MacHeath’s predicament between Polly Peachum and Lucy Locket.
‘tis hardly Sheridan but ‘tis well enough: the dramatist and wit Richard Brinsley Sheridan, author of The Rivals and The School for Scandal.
a poor thing but mine own: allusion to As You Like It, Act V, Scene 4: ‘A poor virgin, sir, an ill-favored thing, sir, but mine own’.
as a parlour‑boarder: a boarding-school pupil treated as one of the family.
she runs quite a dame‑school now: an elementary school for young children.
whether he is suppos’d a wittol, or mayhap even a pander of his own wife: a complaisant cuckold, or even pimping his wife to another man.
was I ever to dwindle into a wife: Millamant in Congreve’s Restoration comedy The Way of the World, Act IV, Scene 5: ‘I may by degrees dwindle into a wife’.
Cissie B‑ is delighting the company with Voi che sapete: Cherubino’s aria from Act II of The Marriage of Figaro.
Her father shook the banyan tree in Bombay: made a fortune in East India Company service.
the wife in the tale that wants this and then ‘tis not enough and wants that: the folk-tale or fable of the Fisherman and his Wife and the magic fish.
a very Knight of Dolefull Countenance: Don Quixote is thus described by Sancho Panza in the eponymous seventeenth-century novel by Miguel de Cervantes.
‘tis a most Shakspearean end, and comes very pat upon Nan’s being brought to bed – now bless thyself – things dying, and things newborn: allusion to The Winter’s Tale, Act III, Scene 3, in which Antigonus, taking the child of Leontes and Hermione, which Leontes believes to be the child of adultery, to Bohemia, is eaten by a bear. The child is discovered by the Old Shepherd, just before his son, Clown, enters describing the death of Antigonus:
Heavy matters! heavy matters! but look thee here, boy. Now bless thyself: thou mettest with things dying, I with things newborn.
there is a hymn that Little Lou pickt up from being in the kitchens learning cooking from Arabella: my chains fell off, my heart was free: Charles Wesley’s ‘And can it be that I should gain’, fourth verse:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
by no means force her to marry some hideous old hunks: repulsive old man.
as the proverb goes, better an old man’s darling: ‘better an old man’s darling, than a young man’s slave’.
L.A. Hall, FRHistS