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.
been oblig’d to find a wet-nurse: i.e. some young woman who had recently borne a child and able to feed one not her own; a not uncommon practice at the time and much less risky than artificial feeding.
fie upon this quiet life, I want work: Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 1, Act 2, Scene 4.
such valuable work as the Quaker Mrs Fry is about: Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), prison reformer, social reformer and philanthropist.
The Quakers indeed are oft an example to us all: The Society of Friends, though numerically small, played a leading part in humanitarian and philanthropic work in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
what I hear of magdalene asylums : the first Magdalen Hospital for the Reception of Penitent Prostitutes was founded in London in 1758; the Lock Asylum for the Reception of Penitent Female Patients, founded in connection with the London Lock Hospital (for venereal diseases) in 1792 was a similar institution.
about her presentation at Court: the proper thing, as the wife of a Duke. This would actually take place at a Drawing-Room, and involve either Queen Charlotte (before her death in 1818) or one of the Regent’s sisters.
become an entire sans-culotte and go commit arson upon St James’ Palace: i.e. become a violent revolutionary on the lines of the Parisian mob during the French Revolution. St James’ Palace was technically the primary residence of the monarch and still being used for formal occasions although the royal family were increasingly taking up residence at the more commodious Buckingham House.
my courses: her menstrual period.
to act as her almoner: the person responsible for deal with charitable benefactions on her behalf.
a series of subscription concerts: a series of concerts for which subscribers would take up tickets in advance.
the tiresome business of bathing machines: conveyances wheeled out into the sea in which persons wishing to bathe could change into bathing costumes and then dip themselves into the water (in which they might be assisted by a ‘dipper’).
his new curricle: a smart light two-wheeled chaise drawn by two horses, large enough for a driver and a passenger.
and act the Iago: allusion to the villain in Shakespeare’s Othello who stirs up the hero’s jealousy at his wife.
the penalty of transportation: transportation to the penal colonies in Australia.
the Bow Street Runners: founded by Henry Fielding and considered the first formal London police force, attached to the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court, and had the authority of the magistrates to pursue and arrest offenders.
is in the trade or at least closely ally’d with the Gentlemen: involved in smuggling.
heavyly with laudanum: tincture of opium, used for its analgesic and anaesthetic effects.
sure a telling study of the position of a poor relation: we may presume that Clorinda was reading Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814).
a pitcht battle ‘twixt the Trade and the Coast Guard: a fight between the smugglers and the Coast Guard who were tasked with trying to prevent their activities.
a cat o’ nine tails: a whip consisting of nine knotted thongs, used for punishments in the Royal Navy.
to go the magistrate and swear a bastard upon him?: a woman who had been got with child outside of wedlock could bring an action to ‘swear a bastard’ upon the father in order to obtain maintenance. However, a woman in Clorinda’s position would be in the expectation that the father would make some provision for her lying-in, and possibly for the child, even if this was with the proviso that it should be fostered away.
the turnpike: a road maintained by a turnpike trust and paid for by tolls.
reading the novels of Richardson: the lengthy epistolary fictions of Samuel Richardson with an agenda of moral edification: Pamela, Or Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady (1747), The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753).
incline more to the Gothick: the Gothic novel, combining elements of romance, mystery, horror, and realism, usually in a historical setting, was a genre founded by Horace Walpole with The Castle of Otranto (1764). Among its most noted practitioners was Ann Radcliffe.
said to have all modern conveniences: including indoor water closets and a kitchen range rather than an open fire.
some meeting concerning the abolition of slavery in the West Indies: although the slave trade had been abolished, slavery itself was still practised in many British colonies, most notoriously the sugar plantations of the West Indies.
I am travelling to Carlsbad: now known as Karlovy Vary, a spa town in what is now the Czech Republic, then Bohemia, part of the Hapsburg Empire.
our Wakes Week was about to commence: during the Industrial Revolution the custom grew up of factories, mills and other enterprises closing for a week during the summer (this grew out of earlier religious celebrations).
reliable jobbers: jobbers: people who would job, i.e. hire, carriages.
suffering from jail-fever: a virulent form of typhus, endemic in crowded jail conditions.
going to, I think the tradition is, Calais?: this would be the obvious first point of exile across the Channel. Lady Hamilton died in Calais.
to have an opportunity to perform a Caesarian operation: successful Caesarian operations were still rare enough that a surgeon might well wish to have the cachet of having performed one.
‘tis all the crack for fine ladies to have a man-midwife deliver ‘em: it was regarded as fashionable in elite social circles for ladies to be attended by a male accoucheur rather than a midwife.
families that do not quite starve on the parish: i.e. families in receipt of parish poor relief.
various customary perquisites to which he is entitl’d: there were various household positions in which the servants had customary rights to certain benefits consequent upon that position - 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.
model cottages: building better accommodation for the workers in the town
whither thou goest I shall go: the book Ruth 1: 16 in the Bible, Ruth to Naomi.
putting him on board wages: wages paid to servants so that they could keep themselves when left in Town.
also supply letters of credit: i.e. authorities to banks that would mean she did not have to travel with quantities of gold.
whether the sugar supply’d to our establishments be from the West Indies: presumably so that they could stop purchasing ‘slave sugar’ and instead either do without or purchase East India sugar instead.
some very plain caps: as a presumed married woman, Clorinda would be obliged to wear a cap if receiving company.
there is a fine crop of blackberries comes on in the park, that should be pickt afore Michaelmas: according to British folklore, blackberries must be picked before the Feast of Michaelmas (29 September), as on that date, Lucifer fell from Heaven into a blackberry bush in hell, spat on it and cursed it.
the question of tithes, and the dreadfull spread of Methodism: tithes on agriculture were where the income of the living came from. A clergyman of the Church of England was more or less obliged to deplore the spread of Methodism.
a number of cards laid upon a silver tray left by those hoping to call upon me: i.e. the visiting cards of ladies in local society.
Would that there was some way of turning up the card that says, Mrs C- is living quiet and not expecting company: there were various accepted codes as to what turning particular corners of a visiting card signified.
As she writes from Port Jackson: the area around Sydney Harbour, late the city of Sydney.
I had not known that love-in-idleness grew in my garden: the reference is to Puck’s mischievous activities in A Midsummer Night’s Dream smearing sleepers’ eyelids with the herb love-in-idleness causing individuals to fall in love with the first thing they see upon waking
ty’d up my fortune so exceeding prudent that its disposal is entirely in my own hands and he cannot draw upon it as he will: a woman’s male relatives or guardians might take this precaution out of care for her or out of suspicion of her husband so that her property did not automatically become his upon marriage.
goes about covertly to get me declar’d lunatick: although there had been some improvement of the laws on lunacy, it was still by no means impossible to put away a spouse in this way for nefarious purposes.
the works of Mrs Hannah More: originally a member of the Bluestocking circle, Hannah More later moved towards the Evangelicals and became a writer on moral and religious topics. Her works were regarded as sober and edifying.
Ultima Thule: denoting a place in the very distant north, beyond the usual known world.
Mr S- will shortly be made a Fellow of the Royal Society: The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, or Royal Society, founded 1660.
to be towsell-mowsell together: sexually involved.
does not think ‘tis the green-sickness: a disease believed to afflict young women around the time of puberty, involving lack of energy, general malaise, and sometimes hysteria.
Lord R- has kindly provid’d me with a fine supply of franks: Members of both Houses of Parliament had the privilege of being able to send letters free, franked by their personal signature: this was an advantage that was often conveyed to family members and friends at a time when postal charges were high and charged to the recipient.
I may yet plead my belly against going to church: women who were convicted of capital crimes could ‘plead their belly’ against the death penalty if they were found to be pregnant.
reading Goethe with Sandy: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German polymath. The implication is that Viola and Sandy were reading his Romantic poetry or novels rather than his scientific treatises.
the latest La Belle Assemblée is arrived: La Belle Assemblée or, Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine Addressed Particularly to the Ladies: a women’s magazine of the period particularly noted for its fine fashion plates
have you ever read the French novel Dangerous Connexions? Allusion to Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, first published 1782, about the devious manipulations of their circle undertaken by the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont.
like to be hoist with her own petard: quotation from Hamlet, concerning the bomb-maker blown up by his own explosive device.
Mr H- has been heard muttering about furor uterinus: uterine frenzy, uncontrollable female sexual desire.
I do not at all like the mention of a surgeon: the implication being that she was being treated for venereal disease.
a well-reput’d surgeon, a Fellow of the College: i.e. the Royal College of Surgeons of England, originating with the medieval Guild of Surgeons, granted a Royal Charter in 1800. Thus a reputable practitioner, not a quack.
visits the surgeon for a clap rather than being struck with the pox: has the rather less threatening ailment of gonorrhoea, instead of syphilis.
the disorder that requires a surgeon’s attentions: venereal diseases were considered to be part of a surgeon’s, rather than a physician’s, practice.
compared to Miss A‑, I am Patience on a monument: reference to Viola’s speech in Twelfth Night: ‘she sat like Patience on a monument, smiling at grief’.
most extreme envious of the indoor accommodations in this house: indoor water closets.
like unto the tale of Joseph Andrews: Henry Fielding, The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of his Friend Mr. Abraham Adams (1742), originating as a comic riposte to Richardson’s Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, with the conceit of her brother Joseph, equally chaste and virtuous, being lustfully pursued by his mistress Lady Booby.
turn’d off without a character: without a testimonial to their good character: lacking this, a servant would have found it very difficult to obtain another place.
no trouble over perquisites, and the vails that visitors to the house have been pleas’d to give her: the customary matters that cooks would have been in anticipation of profiting from, and the tips that visitors would have given her.
John Wesley: founder of Methodism.
whether they might find a good log: for a Yule log, intended to keep burning during the 12 days of Christmas.
the hall has been deckt with greenery: traditional practice of the season.
someone has put up a kissing bunch: a bunch of evergreens, apples, mistletoe, sometimes candles and other decorations, under which kissing took place.
the waits are at the door: a group of locals who would go round singing carols for money.
wassail bowl: a warming seasonal drink of mulled ale or cider with cream, roasted apples, spices, and sometimes including eggs.
frumenty: a dish made of cracked wheat boiled in milk, and other ingredients which might be sweet - almonds, raisins, sugar - or savoury - meat, eggs - traditionally served at Christmas.
what religion and the law consider crimes against nature: homosexual acts.
would be consider’d unexceptionable manifestations of manly friendship: men would be permitted certain physical gestures of affection with members of the same social class.
he considers the Anglican rites next thing to Papistickal practices: the practice of the Church of Scotland being much more austere.
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.
to go distribute their boxes: presents given by the household to those who have provided goods and services throughout the year; also gifts given by the master or mistress of the household to the servants.
‘tis a sweet dish of oatmeal and cream and a little whisky: Atholl brose, a dish somewhere between a light dessert and a drink made of soaked oatmeal, honey, cream and whisky.
modern optickal science is indeed a miracle: the use of spectacles to correct myopia had been developing since the Renaissance.
the tokens for King and Queen of the Revels: the ‘King Cake’ served on Twelfth Night (Epiphany) had baked in it certain tokens: those who found them in their portion were deemed King and Queen of the Revels for the evening.
a well-reput’d surgeon-apothecary in the town: the precursor to the general practitioner: someone who had trained in surgery and was licensed as an apothecary - but had not undertaken the elite training of a physician.
there are such things as special licences and I will at once find out how one may be obtain’d, so that you need not be shout’d out in church: it was normal, when couples intended to marry, for the banns to be called in the church where they proposed to wed over the three preceding Sundays, so that any impediment known among the local community could be declared. However, it was possible to obtain both an ordinary licence, with which the couple could marry in any church during the canonical hours provided the clergyman agreed to marry them, and a (very expensive) special licence enabling the marriage to take place anywhere at any time of day (but it still had to be conducted by a clergyman of the Church of England).
the English law matrimonial compared to that of Scotland, and the tyranny of the Establisht Church: In Scotland it was possible to marry by declaration in front of witnesses; the Church did not have to be involved. Whereas in England only marriage in the Church of England rendered a marriage legitimate.
that speech of Juliet’s that goes Gallop apace, you fiery-foot’d steeds: Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene 2: in which Juliet impatiently anticipates the joys of her wedding-night to come.
I am not interest’d in that low trade of auctioning maidenheads: this was, alas, a thing in the Georgian and Victorian sex-trades: partly due to the supposition that it was possible to cure syphilis through intercourse with a virgin.
if they attend at the proper hour with the licence and two witnesses: before noon.
Wesley’s Chapel: in City Road, London EC1. Founded by John Wesley, the Mother Church of World Methodism.
the Regent could conceal himself: by this period, the Prince of Wales was grossly corpulent.
a sustaining posset: a hot spiced drink of milk with wine or ale, particularly given to invalids.
some beef-tea: the strained and skimmed liquid from boiled beef.
all readyness to untimely rip the child from me: to perform a Caesarian operation; the allusion is to Macbeth Act 5 Scene 8, in which Macduff reveals that he was not ‘of woman born’ but from his mother’s womb ‘untimely ripped’.
the entire College of Physicians: the Royal College of Physicians of London, f. 1518: the most elite medical practitioners in the nation.
There are no marks as of a lancet: which there would have been if she had been bled, which was the common practice of the time for almost every medical circumstance.
I am to go be churcht and have Flora baptiz’d: the ritual blessing of a woman after childbirth, once she had completed the lying-in period.
he was most sadly cut down by a native that had what they call run amuck: the phenomenon of amok had been reported by Western observers including Captain Cook.
Mr F- has enter’d her up in the big family Bible: it was customary to keep a record of family births, marriages and deaths in the front of the family Bible.
conducting a hydrographickal survey: undertaking nautical survey work in order to produce accurate charts.
come up to Town with prize money in his pockets: the monetary reward for capturing or sinking an enemy ship, distributed proportionately by rank.
my colours were struck: in war at sea, a ship’s battle ensign (colours) was hauled down (struck) as a sign of surrender.
the gentleman in question continues to follow ancestral ways: i.e. is still a practising Jew.
I need’d no push to fall backwards, as the Nurse puts it: the Nurse to Juliet and her mother in Romeo and Juliet Act I Scene 3:
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.
except being prentic’d as a climbing boy: the opportunities for an illegitimate child at this period were very sparse, and similarly there were few ways in which a single mother might earn a living sufficient to support her child and herself. They would very likely have had to go upon the parish (poor relief) and the child apprenticed as soon as he was old enough. Sweeps’ climbing boys were often taken on very young as smallness was a great advantage in sweeping out narrow chimneys. It was a harsh and brutal life.
L.A. Hall, FRHistS