Incalculable Diffusion: Allusions and References
Passing allusions and references which maybe a little opaque to the present reader, decoded – as far as possible – here.
Incalculable Diffusion: allusion to the final paragraph of George Eliot’s Middlemarch: ‘the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.’
Jane Marcet’s ‘Conversations on Chemistry’: Jane Marcet (1769-1858), author of highly influential works of science education: her much reprinted Conversations on Chemistry, Intended More Especially for the Female Sex (1805) inspired the young Michael Faraday to seek a career in science.
tales for children to rival Mrs Trimmer’s: Sarah Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories (1786) popularised ‘the use of animals as anthropomorphic models of good behaviour’.
in the grip of furor uterinus: uterine frenzy, overwhelming female sexual desire.
butter her paws for her: popularly supposed to settle a cat in a new and strange environment.
decked out like the Pavilion at Brighton: this edifice, commissioned by the Prince Regent, represents an eclectic Orientalist decorative style very different from the more restrained classical taste of the Regency period.
Prinny. Has a deal of acknowledged progeny, unlike his namesake. And maintains a far better figure for his kind: Prinny, a nickname for the Prince Regent, later George IV, who by the 1810s had become grossly corpulent (caricatured as the ‘Prince of Whales’). He had one legitimate child (Princess Charlotte) and several rumoured but unproven illegitimate offspring.
those vessels called Toby-jugs: pottery jugs in the form of a heavy-set jovial man, originating around the 1760s in Staffordshire.
the somewhat dusty music in the canterbury: a stand with light partitions to hold music-portfolios.
I kept his hortus siccus in order: collection of dried plant specimens.
even, perchance, a disciple of Rousseau: The Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who is considered to have had a significant influence on encouraging women of the more privileged classes to breastfeed their children themselves rather than handing them over to wet-nurses.
more like the Vice Society would bring a prosecution: 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.
such monsters as the Bourbon: the Spanish Bourbon dynasty had been restored in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Sicily and Naples) at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and were hostile to any hint of democratic reform.
to go play goff at Blackheath: the Royal Blackheath Golf Club originated with Scottish courtiers of James I and VI.
are Benedick the marry’d man themselves: reference to Much Ado About Nothing.
Intreat me not to leave thee: Book of Ruth: 1:16.
Kissing goes by favour: traditional proverb.
something about a ridotto: an entertainment consisting of music, dancing, and sometimes gambling, often in masquerade.
the famed ladies Ponsonby and Butler: The Ladies of Llangollen.
those two married ladies of rank, lately conducted themselves shocking indiscreet, came to an entire open scandal and vulgar prints: Lady Strachan and Lady Warwick.
that demonstration of electricity: part of the culture of the time of popular demonstrations of scientific advances.
whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: Book of Ruth: 1:16.
advanced to linen-maid: responsible for the care of household linen - sheets, pillow-cases, tablecloths and napery - mending, treating stains, ironing, storing appropriately.
a syllabub: a drink of milk or cream curdled with wine, sweetened and flavoured.
does not appear as a beggarmaid to his King Cophetua: a legend known at least since Shakespeare’s time; it became a popular motif in Victorian poetry and art.
cashmere shawls: made from the wool of Cashmere goats, traditionally woven in Kashmir; considered very stylish (and also warm) during the Regency period.
makes her a settlement: settled an income on her in her own right.
the lady in the ballad that cares no more for her goose-feather bed, but will be off with the raggle-taggle gypsy-o: traditional ballad about an aristocratic lady who runs away with the gypsy who sings at the gate of the castle.
the Lying-In Hospital, that is now called for the late Queen: founded in 1739 as a charitable infirmary for women in dire need. In 1752 moved to larger premises in Marylebone and known as the General Lying-In Hospital, became a teaching institution for midwifery. In 1809 Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, became its patron.
pretty chaney pots: china pots.
We must go alter your mannequin: personalised dressmaker’s dummy.
left his hussif of needles: ‘housewife’: a small case for needles, thread and other sewing implements.
these cases of crim. con.: ‘criminal conversation’: a legal suit in which a husband sued his wife’s lover for damages, possibly as the precursor to obtaining a parliamentary act of divorce. Extensively published and read for the details of scandalous doings among the upper classes.
perchance a party for Vauxhall might be made up: 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.
Or perchance they might visit a menagerie: There had been a Royal collection of exotic animals at the Tower of London since the Middle Ages to which the public were admitted. In the later eighteenth century a commercial menagerie operation was set up at the Exeter Exchange in the Strand.
might she have another suited to working days: as Beatrice says to Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing, Act II Scene 1: Don Pedro. Will you have me, lady?/Beatrice. No, my lord, unless I might have another for working-days: your grace is too costly to wear every day.
this tinsel show of rank: allusion to Robert Burns, A Man’s A Man for A’That.
the Industrious Apprentice: from the series of paintings and prints Industry and Idleness by Hogarth in his Modern Moral Subjects series, depicting modern urban life and conveying a moral message.
he keeps some fever bark about the dispensary: cinchona, source of quinine, the only effective treatment for malaria at this time.
some bear-leader to keep us out of mischief: a tutor or other older person conducting young men on their Grand Tour.
Padua, that Quintus considered a place of pilgrimage: Padua played an important role in the development of medicine during the Renaissance, in particular the study of anatomy through dissection, and its renown was such that it drew students from all over Europe, including William Harvey, who developed the theory of the circulation of the blood.
the drawing-room of Europe: this description of the Piazza San Marco is attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, on little evidence.
coming along the calle: one of the narrow streets of Venice.
the novel Millenium Hall: A Description of Millenium Hall and the Country Adjacent, 1762 novel describing a utopian women’s community by Sarah Scott.
port after stormy seas: from Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book 1.
to be counted, she reckoned, as quadroon: a person with one black grandparent and three white.
He smiled and said, For if our virtues did not go forth of us, ‘twere all alike, as if we had them not. I mind, said Hannah, that the gentleman to whom that exhortation was expressed showed one of very corrupted virtue: Measure for Measure, Act I, Scene 1, Duke Vincentio to Angelo, whose apparent austere character is revealed as otherwise by the action of the play.
settling an allowance on his daughters as well as his sons: as was done by the radical Unitarian politician Benjamin Leigh Smith, father of the women’s rights activitist and artist Barbara Bodichon, though in his case it may have been because he had not married their mother, and illegitimacy was a considerable social stigma at the period.
Mr MacDonald goes lecture at the college in Gower Street: University College London.
a woman – or her prudent advizers – may tie up any fortune she has, but there has to be that forethought took: while under Common Law all a woman’s property became, on her marriage, her husband’s, until the passing of the Married Women’s Property Acts much later in the nineteenth century, it was possible under Equity Law to tie up a woman’s property in such a way that her husband did not have unfettered access and she had the disposition of it - or at least, it might pass through her to her children and could not be frittered away by a wastrel spouse. Even under this circumstance, husbands might get round their wives by wheedling or violence.
not quite a truth universally acknowledged: allusion to the famous opening line of Pride and Prejudice.
a tiffin party: a midday meal featuring Indian food.
learnt all he may of veterinary science from studying at the colleges in London and Edinburgh: the Royal Veterinary College London was founded in 1791 in Camden Town and the Highland Society’s Veterinary School, Edinburgh, founded by William Dick, now known as the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, held its first formal courses in 1823.
go unsuspected among the people like Haroun al Raschid: a number of the tales in the One Thousand and One Nights (also known as the Arabian Nights) feature this Caliph of Baghdad venturing out into the city in disguise.
for I tempted him, and he did eat: allusion to the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:12-13
to be each other’s ever-fixed mark: Shakespeare, Sonnet 116, ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments’.
in such circumstance love might readily become a woman’s whole existence: alleged by Lord Byron in Don Juan: ‘Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart,/ ’Tis woman’s whole existence’.
had been a United Irishman: the Society of United Irishmen, initially founded during the later eighteenth century with Radical or liberal aims towards Parliamentary reform, inspired by the American and French examples evolved into a revolutionary republican organisation and launched the Irish Rebellion of 1798.
We must be lessoned by the sad case of Mrs Godwin: i.e. Mary Wollstonecraft. Her widower, William Godwin’s, tell-all posthumous biography of her, revealing her premarital affairs, illegitimate child, and views on free unions, as well as her radical views on politics and religion, led to some reformers, however inspired by her views on the rights of women, to wish to dissociate themselves from any too close identification with her for prudential and politic reasons.
I fear that be thou chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shall not escape calumny: Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1, Hamlet to Ophelia.
L.A. Hall, FRHistS