Mistress in Her Household: Allusions and References
Passing allusions and references which maybe a little opaque to the present reader, decoded – as far as possible – here.
supposed journey to Carlsbad: now known as Karlovy Vary, a spa town in what is now the Czech Republic, then Bohemia, part of the Hapsburg Empire; where Clorinda had supposedly gone to rescue Abigail Gowing from some predicament when she was, in fact, concealing her increasing pregnancy at her Surrey house left to her by the General.
play little pigs with her adorable tiny toes: the rhyme ‘This Little Piggy’, traditionally counted out on a baby’s toes, dates back at least to the eighteenth century.
the Duke of Mulcaster’s frank: members of both Houses of Parliament had the privilege of sending letters by Royal Mail free under their signature (frank). This was a perk they often extended to family and friends by providing them with pre-franked covers. Before the introduction of the Universal Penny Post in 1840, except within areas where a penny post applied to local letters, postage was expensive - letters were charged by distance and numbers of sheets - and paid by the recipient.
How fortunate that 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).
a parish brat: a child - an orphan or a foundling - reared on the parish, i.e. the welfare system paid for out of poor rates, and put to work at an early age.
jobbing a carriage: hiring a carriage.
the funerary hatchment for the late Duchess: a panel or canvas with a deceased person’s armorial bearings, affixed to his or her house during the mourning period.
the crape-bedecked knocker: a further signifier of a house in mourning
lawks a’mercy, this is none of I!: allusion to the 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!
that had a fine escritoire: a writing desk with stationery.
forceps at ten paces, perchance: instead of the more usual pistols at ten paces in a duel of honour, the suggestion is that they will employ the tools of their own obstetric trade.
the Fair Rosamund to your Queen Eleanor: Rosamund Clifford was one of the mistresses of the Plantagenet King Henry II. A legend grew up that his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had found her in the place where she was concealed and offered her a dagger or a cup of poison.
the crocodile: Sir Barton Wallace’s mother is universally known as the Dreadful Crocodile, a creature she resembles both in feature and character.
to Leamington Priors: now Royal Leamington Spa, in Warwickshire, where a spa developed around supposedly healing waters during the eighteenth century.
the famous pinery: the cultivation of pineapples, a very costly process, had become something of an aristocratic craze in the late eighteenth century, with the construction of ‘pineries’ on their estates.
masquerade as a Handsome Cabin Boy: a song in which a young woman masquerades as a cabin boy in order to go to sea, attracts the amorous attention of the captain’s wife, and also of the captain, to whom she eventually bears a child.
a little shopping excursion to Oxford Street to buy presents for her family: Oxford Street was already a major shopping venue by this date.
his friends in Sussex: Mr Hacker’s ‘friends in Sussex’, like many inhabitants of the coastal parts there, were engaged in smuggling.
not to wait out to the quarter-day: the four days marking the beginning of each quarter of the year, traditionally regarded as the days for settling certain debts, such as rent, and for beginning or ending contracts of employment. In England, Wales and Ireland they are traditionally: 25 March, 24 June, 29 September and 25 December.
a fine set of dissected maps for the schoolroom: these, the precursors of jigsaw puzzles, consisting of maps pasted onto wood and then cut into sections, were used to teach geography.
our stock of spunges: female contraceptives.
have become Elsie Marley and grown so fine, I won’t get up to feed the swine: character in a folk-song, later a nursery-rhyme:
Elsie Marley’s grown so fine,
She won’t get up to feed the swine
But lies in bed till eight or nine.
some fine ice-house: ice-houses provided a means of preserving food, and also chilling food and drinks, before refrigeration.
Mrs Marcet’s excellent volume: 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.
no matter of Prussian monsters: allusion to ‘the Junker’, von Ehleben, whose vicious assault on Clorinda was only not mortal due to the fortunate intervention of Hector, by chance visiting Phoebe that evening.
that fine madhouse in Sussex: Ticehurst House, private lunatic asylum founded 1792 in extensive grounds.
a tidy sum in the Consols: consolidated annuities: Government securities.
no common tuppence-coloured matter of card: reference to toy theatres made of paperboard and the production of printed sheets of theatrical characters for such theatres, plain for a penny, coloured for twopence.
anything by Miss Edgeworth? Or perchance Mrs Hannah More: Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849), novelist and writer on education and social issues. Her fiction often had a somewhat didactic element. Her views were, for the day, progressive. 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.
feared the fairies will come steal her?: allusion to the superstition that one must not praise babies for fear that the fairies will overhear and come and steal the infant, leaving a changeling in its place.
improving the shining hour: Isaac Watts, ‘How Doth the Little Busy Bee’:
How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
The most generous pin-money: the money allotted to a woman for her clothing and other personal expenses, in particular the amount allocated to a wife for her own expenditure.
happen your fine friends have a borough or two in their pockets?: a borough in which the elections were controlled by one individual or family or a limited number.
the ecclesiastical separation obtained, evidence gathered up for a crim. con. suit: preliminaries to a divorce by Act of Parliament, which required a separation under ecclesiastical law and the wronged husband suing his wife’s seducer for damages (‘criminal conversation’).
quite as raree shows: vulgar side-shows.
I might have had to submit to inspection by a jury of twelve sober matrons: this was the strict requirement of the law for the determination of pregnancy, whether it was for a woman under death sentence (which would not be applied if a woman was with child) or in this case of inheritance. By the early nineteenth it was sometimes conceded that the opinion of selected medical professionals and/or trained midwives would be an adequate substitute.
I should go commend you to Wellington: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, noted for his role in leading the allied forces to victory over Napoleon during the Peninsular Campaign, and then during the 100 Days culminating in the Battle of Waterloo.
through her Hon Company connexions: The Honourable East India Company, originally set up to establish trade with the East Indies; during the 18th century it began to acquire and rule substantial territories within the subcontinent, maintaining a large private army of both European and native troops to maintain its power. In 1813 it finally began to license traders to engage in commerce with India but retained its monopoly over the trade with China.
These are the forgeries of jealousy: Titania to Oberon, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II, Scene 1.
Bewick’s Birds: A History of British Birds, by Thomas Bewick
emulate Mrs Trimmer: Sarah Trimmer, educationalist and author, pioneered the use of animals, birds and the natural world in children’s moral literature in her Fabulous Histories.
like unto that lady in Proverbs: Proverbs 31: 10-31 (King James Version):
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
play a little peep-bo: or peekaboo, hiding one’s face from an infant and then revealing it saying ‘peep-bo’.
would it not make very good sense to have our own coke-works?: coke (the solid substance left after mineral coal has been deprived by dry distillation of its volatile constituents, being a form of carbon of more compact texture, but with more impurities, than the charcoal obtained by a similar process from wood) being essential to the manufacture of iron.
a deal more to it than merely falling backwards: 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.
the crying up of variolation over this new-fangled business of vaccination: variolation for smallpox had been introduced to Britain from Turkey in the early eighteenth century; by the early nineteenth century this was beginning to be superseded by Edward Jenner’s discovery of vaccination.
in the matter of croup: an inflammation of the breathing passageways in infants and children causing a characteristic cough and difficulty in breathing.
Wonders if we might give a mind to gas: the manufacture of gas, principally for street-lighting, was a growing industry at this time, based on coke.
places where lunatics may receive humane treatment — is there not some establishment in York, run by Quakers?: The Retreat, York, f. 1796, pioneered the ‘moral treatment’ of mental health issues, both in reaction to the brutal treatment of the insane in institutions at that time and as a model of Quaker beliefs.
when a fellow of that rank became lunatic, ’twas a Chancery matter: the Court of Chancery took charge of the affairs of wealthy lunatics.
some fine fancy parterre with flowers one may not pick: an ornamental arrangement of flower-beds.
soon enough come the time to breech him, have his hair shorn: until the age of four or five, little boys wore dresses and their hair was not cut; being ‘breeched’, i.e. put into trousers, and having their hair cut, was therefore a rite de passage.
L.A. Hall, FRHistS