Coming to Terms: Allusions and References
Passing allusions and references which maybe a little opaque to the present reader, decoded – as far as possible – here.
NB: the general background to this narrative, occasionally mentioned, is the widespread political and social upheavals of 1848. A good overview is Mike Rapport’s 1848: Year of Revolution (2008).
those sharpster flat-catchers … cogging play: cheaters taking in the innocent with tricks.
the various oeconomic problems about: at this period the idea of the self-regulating free market was being queried: ‘railway mania’ of the mid 1840s had led to a crash with generally adverse effects on the economy.
worn drugget: coarse woollen floor covering.
gin-hot: a mixture of gin, hot water and sugar.
could no longer in all conscience subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles and mayhap should renounce his college fellowship: defining statements of doctrines and practices of the Church of England, assent to which was a necessary precondition to holding a position in Oxbridge colleges.
that dreadful travesty, 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.
Josiah Ferraby had, most unusually, made settlements upon all his daughters that came to them when they were of age, and were not contingent upon marriage, and would support them in independence: this was done by the MP Benjamin Leigh Smith for his illegitimate family, who included the artist and women’s rights activist Barbara Bodichon; while this is usually taken to have been in view of the very adverse position their illegitimacy placed them in, it gave his daughters a remarkable and enviable degree of independence.
Beatrice indeed had her own settlement, and she could not suppose that Johnny and Miranda’s fathers would wish to see their children in want: it was not uncommon for men to provide for their illegitimate offspring (if they could afford to do so): the late Lord Raxdell no doubt made a settlement on Beatrice besides leaving family jewels to Clorinda to eventually be passed on to her; Josh Ferraby and Sandy are also in a position to provide for their offspring.
regarded by the laws in entirely the same way as the lowest and vilest acts of that kind, as a capital crime — though ’tis a deal of a while since any were executed for it, they are mostly transported or sent to a penitentiary: sodomy remained on the books as a capital crime until the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861. However, the last executions took place in 1834.
the Biblical tale of her namesake at the well: Genesis 29: Jacob meets Rachel, a shepherdess, as she brings her father Laban’s sheep to a well, and agrees to serve Laban seven years for her.
it might have been felo de se: one who puts an end to his own existence.
exceeding taken with the Tractarians’ arguments, that His Lordship considers barely less than Papistical idolatry: later known as the Oxford Movement, a movement among the High Church wing of the Church of England in the direction of Anglo-Catholicism, initially known as Tractarianism after a series of Tracts for the Times published by leading figures, 1833-41
this new feeling among the Jewry of the Continent: the Haskalah or Jewish Enlightenment movement, which both emphasised unique Jewish cultural identity including a revival of Hebrew, and a modernising rationalism similar to the C18th Enlightenment.
to depart to Bloomsbury: to lecture at the ‘godless institution in Gower Street’, University College London.
Highbury, a genteel suburb: the early nineteenth century development of this north London suburb adjacent to Islington and Canonbury was of a smart residential nature - large Italianate villas. It would be very convenient for the City, lying just north of it.
the flocks that go graze in the parks: areas of Hyde Park were grazed by sheep until the 1950s.
not so very long after the Manchester Massacre: i.e. Peterloo.
like to write to Malvern to tell ’em to reserve places: Malvern had been famed for the purity of its waters since the 17th century but in the 1840s it became a centre for hydropathic treatment or the Cold Water Cure popular with many Victorian notabilities.
on active duty in the Punjab at present: the 1840s saw considerable strife in the Punjab following the death of the powerful expansionist ruler of the Sikh Empire, Ranjit Singh. The British East India Company was also extending its influence in this direction. Growing tensions led to the First Anglo-Sikh War, 1845-6, and the Second Anglo-Sikh War, 1848-9, followed by the annexation of the Punjab to the British sphere.
observe what was ado a deal more covert than any peelers…. the bobby on the beat: a professional police force had been introduced to London by Sir Robert Peel in 1829: they were therefore known as ‘peelers’ or ‘bobbies’.
to take an omnibus: horse-drawn omnibuses had been plying the streets of London since 1829.
past Oxford Street to Bayswater: the area north of Hyde Park and east of Edgware Road, undergoing residential development at this period.
matters of ken-cracking: house-breaking.
this projected college for women: either Queen’s College, Harley Street, founded by F. D. Maurice under the auspices of the Governesses’ Benevolent Institution, essentially on Anglican principles, which opened in 1848; or possibly the Ladies College in Bedford Square which opened in 1849, on a liberal and non-sectarian basis.
a deal of Mechanics Institutes &C: institutions set up, some as top-down initiatives but some as mutual improvement bodies, in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution to provide adult education to the working classes, initially on technical subjects but expanding to include the sciences and arts; they provided lectures, libraries and even laboratories and museums.
quite the Mrs Somerville: Mary Somerville (1780-1872) nee Fairfax, polymath and writer on science, noted mathematician and astronomer.
quite got into a Newgate novel: a fictional genre of the day featuring melodramatic stories set in the underworld, with romanticised criminal protagonists.
a few bars of See, the Conquering Hero Comes: chorus from Handel’s ’Judas Maccabaeus’.
A Daniel come to judgement: The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1; allusion to the Biblical Daniel of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha famed for his wise judgement, e.g. in the case of Susanna and the Elders , a popular subject for artists.
at her slate a-making of pothooks: a curved stroke in handwriting, especially as made by children learning to write.
to give entertaining backchat to the bench, that one could sometimes work up a little into a character: though it is unlikely that there were many characters like Jane Cakebread who appeared nearly 300 times in London police courts and was a gift to reporters with her ‘amusing and verbose’ repartee with magistrates.
some question of national pride: tensions between immigrants/refugees of various nationalities exacerbated by the events currently in progress on the continent.
was ever woman in this humour wooed? Was ever woman in this humour won?: Richard III, Act I, Scene 2: Richard’s wooing of Lady Anne over the bier of Henry VI.
I am not Clarissa Harlowe: the virginal and verbosely epistolary heroine of Samuel Richardson’s lengthy 1748 novel, Clarissa; or, The History of a Young Lady
a soothing posset: a hot spiced drink of milk with wine or ale, particularly given to invalids.
at last became a parliamentary borough and Papa might stand there: following the 1832 Reform Act a number of new parliamentary constituencies were created, as rotten boroughs were disenfranchised, as well as putting the parliamentary franchise on a more uniform basis.
may present a sundial aspect in correspondence: i.e. only showing ‘the sunny hours’.
matters about Naples were like to become somewhat troublesome: the whole of the Italian peninsula, like most of Europe, was convulsed by the revolutionary upheavals of 1848.
one of those traditional unions of some acquaintance of her family in Bombay: i.e. between a British man and his Indian mistress. These were becoming somewhat less accepted at this period.
a nobleman’s daughter in Sicily, conspiring against the tyrannical French rulers: the Sicilian Vespers was the opening event in the 1282 rebellion against French-born Charles I, who had ruled Sicily since 1266.
o, I would make me a willow cabin at your gate: Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 5: Viola, disguised as Cesario, declaring to Olivia how passionately she would woo her, were she Orsino.
I can be a tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide: King Henry VI, Part 3, Act I, Scene 4, the Duke of York to Queen Margaret.
Were I laid on Greenland’s coast,…. Over the hills and far away: the duet between MacHeath and Polly Peachum in John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera (1728)
intending take orders and is a Puseyite: a follower of Edward Bouverie Pusey, a leading Tractarian and probably foremost figure in the Oxford Movement after John Henry Newman had gone over to Rme.
must be entire wigs on the green: an expression, Irish in origin, meaning a quarrel or altercation - said to date from the time when men wore wigs, and if a brawl started, these would soon fall off.
He cometh not, she said: we may observe that Clorinda, while retaining her adoration for the Swan of Avon, does not neglect modern poetry: this line is from Tennyson’s Mariana (1830)
some concern about Chartist rioting in Town: the Chartist movement was the first mass movement driven by the working classes, following the failure of the 1832 Reform Act to extend the vote beyond those owning property. In 1848 the Chartists’ third petition was presented to Parliament and a mass meeting organised on Kennington Common. The authorities feared rioting and unrest and had the military on standby but the disorder anticipated did not occur.
His gracious silence: Coriolanus thus addresses his wife Virgilia, in Coriolanus, Act II, Scene 1.
today is my dispensary day: providing the equivalent of a general practice clinic for the poor.
recruit in the Nilgherries: the Nilgiri hills were the hill resort for the Madras Presidency at this period, considered a healthful retreat.
some lovely dark-eyed creature in the bibi-khana: the women’s quarters. It was by this period becoming less of a practice for servants of the East India Company to openly keep Indian mistresses,
A punkah moved the sultry air about: a large swinging fan hung from the ceiling, moved about by a servant dedicated to the task (punkah-wallah).
more than her pin-money will cover: the money assigned to a wife for matters of personal expenditure.
feel that they were seeing low-life: there was a tradition for dashing young men to explore the rougher and more louche sides of city life, as depicted in Pierce Egan’s Real Life In London, Volumes I. and II. Or, The Rambles And Adventures Of Bob Tallyho, Esq., And His Cousin, The Hon. Tom Dashall, Through The Metropolis; Exhibiting A Living Picture Of Fashionable Characters, Manners, And Amusements In .High And Low Life (1821),
We know what we are, but not what we may be: Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5, Ophelia’s mad scene.
an Indian boy that one might quite imagine causing strife between the Fairy King and Queen: the cause of contention between Oberon and Titiania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the son of the latter’s votaress.
carrying a set of ivory tablets: writing tablets - more likely bone than ivory! - upon which notes could be made and then erased.
had the Vice Society quite up in arms: one of the main concerns of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, f. 1802, was preventing the dissemination of blasphemous, licentious and obscene books and prints.
L.A. Hall, FRHistS