Allusions and References: The Ironmaster's Tale
Passing allusions and references which maybe a little opaque to the present reader, decoded – as far as possible – here.
Siddons: Mrs Sarah Siddons née Kemble (1755-1831), one of the most acclaimed actresses of the period, particularly famed for her tragic roles. She more or less retired from the stage in 1812 though made occasional appearances for several more years. One of the few non-royal women to have a statue in London. One of her most famous roles was Lady Macbeth.
Wedgwood china: Josiah Wedgwood and the family business he established had been making technical and aesthetic innovations in china and porcelain since the 1760s. The family were prominent abolitionists and some of their products had anti-slavery motifs.
baudruche: a condom; at this period would have been handmade from animal gut, reusable, and expensive. Employed for the avoidance of sexually transmitted infections, also advocated for contraceptive use.
Covent Garden Misses: Covent Garden was the centre of the London sex-trade, but Clorinda was of a higher class than the women who conducted their business there.
made a tidy settlement upon her: provided her with an independent income.
matters of private bills &C: obtaining facilitating Local Acts of Parliament was a necessity for those engaged upon civic improvements, and also would be helpful in the matter of promoting canals and similar projects.
truckle bed: A low bed running on castors, that could be pushed beneath a higher bed when not in use.
mantraps and spring-guns: often set against poachers and trespassers at this period, and could cause considerable injury. They were eventually banned.
ivory tablets: writing tablets - more likely bone than ivory! - upon which notes could be made and then erased.
excellent reports of the dissenting academy: academies run by dissenters. i.e. members of the various Nonconformist groups, provided a good modern education, often with much more emphasis on science, mathematics and modern languages than the traditional schools run by Anglican clergy, which continued to lean heavily upon the classics.
modern education and humane paedogogy: there were considerable ideas about this at the time and various experiments in what might be considered the beginnings of child-centered education.
endearing young charms: allusion to the popular song of the period with lyrics by the poet Thomas Moore.
slaveys: overworked maids-of-all-work.
rice pillow: a pillau, showing off Seraphine’s lessons in Indian cookery.
wearing the willow: ostentatiously mourning the departure of a lover.
Grub Street: proverbially the location of hack catchpenny writers.
we know what we are, but not what we may be: Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5: Ophelia’s mad scene.
sure the business of acquiring patents is most exceeding tedious: indeed the business of acquiring patents to protect useful discoveries of commercial and industrial value was an intricate process.
a Handsome Cabin Boy… Pretty Polly Oliver: popular songs on the exploits of young women who masqueraded as men.
your native woodnotes wild: John Milton, L’Allegro, referring to Shakespeare.
the very fine thought of that poem by Burns that you recited yestere’en: by implication Robert Burns, A Man’s A Man for A’That; as the later allusion to ‘the tinsel show of rank’ suggests.
the Company is now obliged to admit missionaries to the parts under their rule: the East India Company had long been reluctant to permit missionary activity in the areas in India under its governance, in order to preserve good diplomatic and trade relations with the native powers. In 1813, however, after much pressure, when the Company’s Charter was renewed it included a clause granting permission for missionaries to proceed to India.
late some outcry about patronage and ‘twas opened up somewhat more to merit: this was indeed the case.
a cashmere shawl: made from the wool of Cashmere goats, traditionally woven in Kashmir; considered very stylish (and also warm) during the Regency period.
a course of the waters at Harrogate to answer quite exceedingly: Harrogate was noted for its chalybeate waters (containing iron salts, thus likely to be beneficial in anaemic conditions).
lawks a’mercy, this is none of I!: like the lady in the nursery 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!
The Stray: an extensive area of parkland at the centre of Harrogate, preserved by Act of Parliament as a town amenity.
The Company’s College: the East India Company College at Haileybury, set up to provide appropriate training for civil administrators.
the exceeding melancholy predictions of the Reverend Mr Malthus: that the population would always tend to outrun the means to sustain it.
Excellent fellow, Thorne – Fellow of the Royal Society: i.e the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, to give it its full title, founded in 1660. At the period in question most Fellows would have been ‘gentlemen amateurs’: being a scientist was only just becoming a profession.
some notion that you go build a satanic chapel to revive the Hellfire Club and hold orgies: 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.
his fine heroic actions in the campaigns against Mysore: The Angl0-Mysore Wars, 1769-1799.
The British Museum: at that time based in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, and acquiring increasing collections of antiquities to add to the very miscellaneous objects and artefacts already accumulated.
for lascars: Indian seamen.
Am I not a man and a brother?: the motto on Josiah Wedgwood’s famous anti-slavery medallion , which was reproduced in numerous other formats.
some scene from The Harlot’s Progress: one of Hogarth’s Modern Moral Subjects series, depicting modern urban life and conveying a moral message; in this particular case, the downward trajectory of a young woman who falls into prostitution.
an action for seduction of a servant: under the rather curious law of seduction an employer could sue a seducer for the loss of a servant’s services.
that doats upon the creature as if ‘twere a dear gazelle: allusion to the notorious line ‘I never nurs’d a dear gazelle’ in Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh (1817) .
his own treasured copy of Bewick: Thomas Bewick’s A History of British Birds (1797/1804).
quite Benedick the married man: Benedick’s scornful repudiation of marriage in Much Ado About Nothing, Act I, Scene 1:
pluck off the bull’s horns and set them in my forehead, and let me be vilely painted, and in such great letters as they write “Here is good horse to hire” let them signify under my sign “Here you may see Benedick the married man”
laughingly turned back on him by Don Pedro in Act V, Scene 4: ‘How dost thou, Benedick, the married man?’
setting up a turnpike trust: authorised to collect tolls to maintain the road in good order.
dower-house: a house intended for the widow of the deceased lord of the property.
the Vice Society: the Society for the Suppression of Vice, a moral reforming body.
the game larder: a small outbuilding in which game-birds, deer, hare, etc, were hung up to mature.
the dangerous miasmas: disease-bearing vapours.
fairings: knickknacks, candies, etc, sold at fairs as presents.
syllabub: a drink of milk or cream mixed with wine or cider and other flavourings.
the local tradition in wrestling: the distinctive Cumberland wrestling style.
coarse Holywell Street prints: Holywell Street, off the Strand, was the centre of pornographic publishing. Well-known persons of the day were at the risk of being obscenely satirically caricatured.
one of the most admirable works by a female philosopher he knew: Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).
they talked of Bentham and Mill, the Comte de St-Simon, Mr Owen’s theories, model cottages, the evils of the truck system, &C: James Mill (the father of John Stuart Mill); Henri de St Simon, utopian socialist; Robert Owen, utopian socialist and founder of the cooperative movement; truck system – payment by tokens or vouchers redeemable at a company store.
‘twas in one of the languages of the Indies: but, sure, one did not need to make out the letters to tell what the pictures were about: possibly the Kama Sutra? a selection of images, some of them possibly of around the right period, may be found here.
in order to undergo a salivation: i.e. to have a syphilitic infection treated with mercury.
that thought no discoveries had been made since Galen: since classic antiquity. Galen of Pergamon was a Greek physician and surgeon active in the 2nd century CE.
they would be a-quizzing her upon Mangnall’s Questions: Richmal Mangnall’s Historical and Miscellaneous Questions for the Use of Young People (1798), extensively used in education during the early nineteenth century.
variolation was quite good enough in his day: i.e. the earlier practice (introduced by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu from Turkey) of infecting healthy patients with a mild strain of actual smallpox as a prophylactic, rather than with cowpox.
backboards: devices intended to improve girls’ posture.
do I ride St George upon you: i.e. in the woman on top position.
sufficient unto the day: ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof’. from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:34.
a case of furor uterinus: a condition causing excessive sexual desire.
now covered with drugget: coarse cloth used as floor-covering.
Was badly afflicted by the mala aria: malaria, long attributed to bad air, whence the name in Italian, before the discovery of its transmission by mosquitoes.
the tyrannical rule that has come about as a result of the Congress of Vienna and the maintenance of the Balance of Power – mayhap, ‘tis some Polish fellow that desires to free his nation: fear of revolution was the general governing theme of international relations following the fall of Napoleon, and the desire to maintain a Balance of Power that would prevent it. Poland had been divided between Russia, Prussia and the Hapsburg Empire and no longer had an independent existence as a nation.
homing pigeons: pigeons had long been used for the conveyance of messages of military, diplomatic or business importance.
she acquired the condition for which she was under a surgeon’s care: the implication being that she had a venereal disease.
the slave-trade that still went on from the ill-omened Bight of Benin: although the slave trade had been abolished in the British Empire in 1807 and slavery was illegal on English soil, slave-holding was still legal in certain parts of the Empire, in particular the West Indies, as well as in North and South America, and so the trade still continued, in spite of Royal Navy patrols against it.
even had he not walked the wards at Barts: i.e. not trained at one of the elite London hospitals.
‘tis writ by a woman, one Mrs Marcet: Jane Marcet (1769-1858), Conversations on Chemistry, Intended More Especially for the Female Sex (1805), a popular and influential textbook which inspired Michael Faraday.
‘twas some such matter as Glenarvon: 1816 roman a clef by Lady Caroline Lamb about her affair with Lord Byron; it was a great success but completed her ruin in Society.
such plays as The Recruiting Officer: George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer (1706), in which the heroine Sylvia not only disguises herself as a man in pursuit of Captain Plume, but protects the innocent country maid Rose from seduction. Miss Addington made a great impression upon Lady Jane in this role during their early acquaintance.
that volatility of the humours: medicine at the period was still very influenced by humoral theory.
be churched myself in order to show proper conduct: The Thanksgiving of Woman after Child-Birth Commonly Called The Churching of Woman.
that had what they call run amuk: reports of this had been known in Britain since the 17th century or earlier.
indeed run mad and be carried to Bedlam in a strait-waistcoat: Bedlam, or Bethlem, Hospital, St Mary Bethlehem, founded in 1247, at this period located at Moorfields just outside the City of London, for centuries the only public institution for the care of the insane in England; straitjackets were used to confine violent lunatics to prevent them harming themselves or others.
he took down the fine large family Bible, with the family table entered up in the front: it was a common practice to enter family pedigrees in the front of family Bibles.
L.A. Hall, FRHistS