Allusions and references made by Clorinda in her memoirs: Volume 7: Society Favourite | The Comfortable Courtesan
Being Memoirs
by Clorinda Cathcart


Allusions and references made by Clorinda in her memoirs: Volume 7: Society Favourite

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.

one might open a book upon which infant will be born first: take bets.

the latest revelations about body‑snatchers: or resurrection men, who would disinter the recently buried to sell their corpses to anatomists.

the fascinating question of the Bavarian constitution: a Constitution was proclaimed in Bavaria in 1818 but it set a very limited basis for the franchise and curbed hopes of more radical reforms.

as embarrassing to me to find ‘em suppos’d on myself as to find myself in some coarse Holywell Street satire: Holywell Street, off the Strand, was the centre of pornographic publishing. Well-known persons of the day were at the risk of being obscenely caricatured.

I give Juliet’s nurse: the Nurse to Juliet and her mother in Romeo and Juliet Act 1 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.

not just a matter of avoiding fornication and procreating children but aid and comfort: from the Form of the Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer: ’ It was ordained for the procreation of children…. for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication…. for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity’.

he may not make a settlement upon him: provision of an independent source of income such as a man might make for a mistress (and Lady J- proposed to make upon Miss A-).

I heard him speak well of the Hydrographickal Survey: which undertook to make accurate maritime charts for the Admiralty.

‘twould give him the utmost delight to undertake the anti‑slavery patrol. But Beaufoyle tells me that there are certain diplomatick matters that affect that business: the West Africa Squadron of the Royal Navy was set up in 1808, i.e. just after the abolition of the slave trade, in order to suppress the trade by patrolling the West African coast.

that curious fellow Dr Barry: Dr James Miranda Barry, renowned Army surgeon and hygienic reformer, revealed after death to have been a woman.

there are rumours concerning the Graf’s visits to Covent Garden: centre of the London sex trade at the period.

even was she turn’d out of the realm in her shift she had such qualities as would serve her in any part of the world: response of Elizabeth I to a Parliamentary delegation urging her to marry, 1566.

the approbation of Brummell himself: George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778–1840), noted arbiter of fashion and setter of style, one-time friend of the Prince Regent.

made the Hellfire Club seem like a Sunday School treat: it is hard to distinguish the reality of the Hellfire Club from sensationalist accounts, but there were certainly groups of elite males engaging in organised immoral and blasphemous activities and pagan rituals during the eighteenth century.

has talkt of radickal surgery: very extensive surgery getting to the root of the problem.

would object to using dice or playing cards that they consider the toys of Satan: Evangelicals would shy away from these appurtenances of gambling.

the raffle for Lady T‑’s fine lace and the other items: a form of lottery in which numbered tickets were sold in hopes of winning a prize.

her justly celebrat’d damson cheese: a relish made by cooking a puree of damsons until very thick, and cooling until set solid; sliced to serve with cheese, etc.

the course of true love never did run smooth: Lysander to Hermia, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act I, Scene 1.

the notion of dwindling 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’.

my dear mama having taken the prudent precaution of having me scratcht against the smallpox when I was but a child: vaccinated.

I did not even read that fine speech of Cleopatra in which she declares O happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony: Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, Scene 5.

I confide you fly some deceptive flag: a flag intended to deceive other ships as to the nature and allegiance of the vessel, e.g. with the intention of piracy.

the very stylish red cap of liberty: or Phrygian cap, as associated with the ardour of the French revolution and symbolic of revolutionary fervour.

the Roman mob on encountering Cinna the Poet: Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 3: Cinna the Poet, murdered by the aroused Roman mob in the place of Cinna the Conspirator.

the Consols that the dear late Marquess left me: consolidated annuities: Government securities.

with money gain’d, as might be, from the plantations in the West Indies: that would be, the profits from plantations run on slavery.

there is an outbreak of measles: a disease which even these days may have severe consequences.

does he have a good constitution he should pull round: the idea of native powers of recuperation and resistance.

quite Dido in the ruins of Carthage: deserted by Aeneas.

none of the noxious miasmas that we get in Town in summer: poisonous vapours proceeding from rotting organic matter.

treat the place quite as Liberty Hall: Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer (1773), Act II ‘This is Liberty-hall, gentlemen. You may do just as you please’.

‘tis the name of one that was a fine revolutionary fellow that fell foul of another faction and was guillotin’d, that was greatly admir’d by the de C‑s: Lucie Simplice Camille Benoît Desmoulins (1760-1794), journalist and politician, childhood friend of Robespierre, close friend and ally of Danton and a significant figure in the French Revolution, executed by the Committee of Public Safety.

gentlemen that scrutinize me thro’ their quizzing glasses: a single lens on a handle to peer through.

you become quite the Othello: i.e. consumed by jealousy.

the leaden casket in the Merchant of Venice: the riddle of the caskets posed for Portia’s suitors: gold, silver, and lead.

one of the childish things he should put away: allusion to 1 Corinthians 13:11.

the coarse behaviour of Launce’s dog Crab is only report’d: The Two Gentleman of Verona, Act IV, Scene 4: ‘When didst thou see me heave up my leg and make water against a gentlewoman’s farthingale?’

I am in some concern that he is going to most inauspicious cry out a certain line from the Scottish play: ‘Out, damned spot! Out, I say’: Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1.

somewhat of a strange congeries: a collection of things randomly massed together.

waltzes, that many still consider a most improper matter: the waltz only gradually achieved acceptance in English ballrooms following its introduction around 1813 from Vienna.

the next dance is a quadrille: a dance for four couples in rectangular formation, consisting of five parts or figures.

the hour consecrate to a little refreshment in the midst of the forenoon’s labours: eleven a.m., as indicated in the term ‘elevens’, later ‘elevenses’.

Or goes about to offer her carte blanche: to offer her an establishment as a mistress.

one may find much to criticize about the constitution and reforms that they are about there: the Bavarian constitution was very limited in its extension of power and it was very much a top-down initiative by the monarchy.

the unhappy situation of the Poles: Poland at this period was no longer a sovereign state but had been partitioned between Austria, Russia and Prussia, although the idea of Polish independence remained alive and there were several uprisings.

instead of the customary commission: dressmakers would show grateful to ladies’ maids who brought them custom.

‘tis not dissimilar from pantisocracy: this argued for setting up a utopian egalitarian community in the unspoilt wilderness; it is associated with the poets Coleridge and Southey.

a tale that indeed tempts me to the inauspicious matter of quoting from the Scottish Play: ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’, Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5.

that has PPC writ in the corner usual for such an announcement: ‘pour prendre congé’ = to take leave; the usual practice when someone was leaving town was for them to leave cards thus inscribed.

the folly in the Chinese style, the avenue with the statues, the water garden: grounds which have several characteristics of eighteenth-century aristocratic gardens.

Biffle has been about blackballing him from several clubs: excluding him from membership: from the use of black balls to record a negative vote.

I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than be oblig’d to listen to ‘em: Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing, Act I, Scene 1, ‘I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.’

the gazebo in the likeness of a Temple of the Winds: a domed structure held up by pillars.

an expression like unto Medusa: the snake-haired Gorgon whose gaze turned men to stone.

a glass of ratafia: a sweet liqueur flavoured with almonds and fruit kernels

altho’ an MP may not be su’d for debt, tradesmen are not oblig’d to extend credit: Parliamentary privilege means that MPs may not be arrested for civil matters.

What do you read, my lord? I call up./ Words, words, words, replies Sandy: Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2, dialogue between Polonius and Hamlet.

whether it should be tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral‑comical, historical‑pastoral, tragical‑historical, tragical‑comical‑historical‑pastoral or what: Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2, Polonius on the range of the players.

several of the ladies bring out albums: finely-bound blank volumes in which friends and acquaintances could write poems or prose extracts.

Heaven doth with us as we with torches do/ Not light ‘em for themselves: Measure for Measure, Act I, Scene 1, Duke Vincentio to Angelo.

I do not consider that the author rivals Mrs Radcliffe in the depiction of scenery: the novelist Ann Radcliffe was particularly noted for her painting of landscape in prose.

I know not how Leda could have been beguil’d: when seduced by Zeus disguised as a swan (a favourite motif in art of Mr Hacker’s).

her quite passionate admiration for Mrs Fry even tho’ she be a Quaker: Elizabeth Fry (1780 – 1845) sometimes referred to as the “angel of prisons”; a major driving force behind new legislation to make the treatment of prisoners more humane.

‘Tis give out that he swallow’d some of the lake water, that is deem’d most unwholesome, and is under the care of a physician that bleeds and purges him as a precaution: standard treatment for just about anything at the period.

Mrs Barbauld’s fine works: Anna Laetitia Barbauld nee Aikin (1743-1825), woman of letters who wrote poetry, essays, literary criticism, and works for children and compiled anthologies. She held politically radical views.

John Knox could not have lookt more dourly Calvinistickal: John Knox (1513-1572), follower of John Calvin and leader of the Scottish Reformation.

exit, pursu’d by a swan: allusion to the famous stage direction in The Winter’s Tale, Act III, Scene 3, ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’.

tis customary in these parts for the miners to live upon small‑holdings…. The women of the families, he goes on, take part in the business by crushing and grading the ore…. a deal of ‘em are Methodists, provident fellows that have a friendly society in case of sickness or accident: a good deal of information is available about the history of lead-mining in Shropshire; Shropshire Mines Trust maintains several former mines as heritage sites.

some lardy‑cake: made by dotting bread dough with lard and sugar and then rolling and folding it, sprinkling it with sugar and dried fruit, and then baking it.

a newer kind of steam‑pump to drain the mines so that they may be workt at deeper levels: the advances in steam technology at this time greatly enabled the exploitation of mineral deposits previously inaccessible to miners.

various matters to do with the smelting mill: the lead ore had to be smelted to turn it into usable pig-lead.

would not a dispensary be a fine idea: the equivalent of a General Practitioner’s clinic where medical advice and treatment could be provided.

by way of The merchant to secure his treasure: ‘The merchant to secure his treasure, conveys it in a borrow’d name’: Matthew Prior (1664-1721), The merchant, to secure his treasure:

The merchant, to secure his treasure,
Conveys it in a borrow’d name:
Euphelia serves to grace my measure,
But Cloe is my real flame.

Mr A‑ instructing a pupil about the business of pill‑making: a provincial surgeon-apothecary would probably add to his income by taking pupils in his profession: at this period, apothecaries made up their own prescriptions from the basic materials.

what he supposes one would require is a competent surgeon‑apothecary – and ‘twould be an excellent thing had he also study’d midwifery: many entrants to the medical profession could not aspire to the expensive elite education necessary to qualify as a physician, so they trained in surgery and acquired the licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries: these ‘surgeon-apothecaries’ were the original general practitioners. As such, they often found it useful to have acquired some knowledge of midwifery as well.

one hears of no new works from Madame D’Arblay: although the novelist Fanny Burney, Madame D’Arblay by marriage, lived until 1840, her final novel, The Wanderer: Or, Female Difficulties, appeared in 1814, eighteen years after her previous one.

there is already a friendly society in the place: a mutual aid society into which members would pay contributions in order to be entitled to benefits for sickness, funeral expenses, etc.

those that have been dressers for Mr H‑: surgeon’s assistants, who would have the task of dressing wounds.

the first step upon a Rake’s Progress. (Or indeed, thinks I, a Harlot’s Progress…. Harry smiles and says that once he is articl’d he intends to be the Industrious Apprentice rather than the idle one: series of paintings and prints by Hogarth in his Modern Moral Subjects series, depicting modern urban life and conveying a moral message.

instead of going back to his gallipots: the small glazed earthenware pots used by apothecaries for ointments and other medicines.

there was metal more attractive to him: Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2.

she dares say that I will soon be turning Quaker: the Society of Friends was noted for its resistance to militarism.

playing at cat’s cradle: a game making string figures by passing the loops between two players.

Optickal signalling is all very well, but you need the stations: the use of semaphore lines to communicate over distance.

upon a well‑kept turnpike: a road maintained by a Turnpike Trust supported by the collection of tolls.

about to go to Scarborough: a seaside town on the North Yorkshire coast, a spa and one of the first seaside resorts.

sure she is ready for her elevens: midmorning snack.

There are matters of artificial nipples: nipple shields to assist mothers having difficulties in breastfeedings, as in this case of sore cracked nipples, had been known for several centuries: they might be made of metal, wood, wax, bone and ivory: some historical images.

I have bespoke rooms in Worthing: a fashionable and elegant seaside resort in Sussex.

I fear’d that most were for a jig, or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps: Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2: Hamlet’s view of Polonius’s taste in theatre.

I am a raree‑show for the locality: a vulgar spectacle for the populace.

perchance your Papa already provid’d you with a few frankt covers: as an MP, Mr F- would be able to send letters franked with his signature, free of charge.

some fellow that is a friend of Mr D‑ that Harry may be articl’d to in Leeds: to enter into an apprenticeship to qualify as an engineer. Although the main industry in Leeds was textiles, this generated a need for engines and machinery and led to the development of engineering industry.

have manag’d to send dear Mutti for a month to Weymouth: one of the first Georgian seaside resorts.

there is a quite antient knot‑garden and a quaint pleacht alley: knot-gardens are very formally designed gardens within a square frame, usually featuring aromatic herbs and plants, and characteristic of the Tudor era; pleached alleys, in which living branches of trees were intertwined overhead to make a secluded walk, were a device of the same period (a pleached alley figures in Much Ado About Nothing). This suggests that the grounds at C- Castle had not undergone the horticultural and landscaping improvements so generally undertaken during the 18th century but had preserved these old-fashioned features.

some very pretty shell‑work: ornamented with seashells in patterns, a common eighteenth-century fashion for grottos.

even do the patronesses of Almacks concede to the fashion: the very exacting patronesses of this exclusive venue for Regency debutantes; the waltz had been permitted there from 1813 but it was by no means universally accepted or approved.

The Arabian Nights: Translations of the One Thousand and One Nights had been available for over a century.

some more improving work, perchance by Mrs Hannah More: writer on moral and religious subjects; in earlier life one of the Bluestocking circle, later became influenced by the Evangelical movement.

he hopes I employ the Family Shakspeare: the expurgated version of the works published by Thomas Bowdler in 1807 (but edited by his sister Henrietta Maria) meant to omit material unsuited for reading in mixed company and before children.

he was not of an age, but for all time: Ben Jonson, ‘To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare’.

Lord R‑ turn’d off one of his keepers for setting man‑traps: set against poachers and trespassers at this period, and could cause considerable injury. They were eventually banned.

on furlough from Upper Canada about some family matters: leave of absence from his military duties.

wearing the willow: a symbol of grief for a lost lover.

one would go cry Fie upon this quiet life, I want work!: Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 1, Act 2, Scene 4.

unless it might be a guide to the Turf: a guide to horse-racing.

they will emulate the Peripateticks: the Peripatetic School of philosophers, Aristotle and his pupils who informally gathered for instruction in the Lyceum at Athens.

the fine ice‑house: a well-insulated underground building in which blocks of ice would be placed in winter, to preserve a chill environment for several months.

he will go convey this fellow to the bridewell: a house of correction for petty offenders such as vagrants.

Bedlam would give him hospitality, or at least a stout straitjacket: the Hospital of St Mary Bethlehem, London psychiatric institution dating back to the Middle Ages, at this period located at Moorfields, just north of the City; straitjackets were used to confine violent lunatics to prevent them harming themselves or others.

less in the way of alarums and excursions: Elizabethan stage direction for military action.

one of the houses in Hoxton: Hoxton was noted for its private madhouses.

I am cloth’d and in my right mind: Gospel of St Mark, 5:5, Gospel of St Luke, 8:35; the man out of whom devils had been cast into the Gadarene swine.

Friday 29th June 2018

L.A. Hall, FRHistS