Rescue Operations: Allusions and References
Passing allusions and references which maybe a little opaque to the present reader, decoded – as far as possible – here.
A couple of years have passed since the narrative of Unhistoric Acts. The cholera epidemic of 1848-9 is receding. Political stability is returning. The Great Exhibition is being planned.
St George’s Hanover Square: a fashionable London church for weddings.
for a jig, or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps: Hamlet, Act II, Scene 1: Hamlet on Polonius’ taste.
The new Palm House: at Kew Gardens, constructed in 1844 to Decimus Burton’s designs to provide a home for the tropical plants that Victorian explorers brought back: the world’s most important surviving Victorian glass and iron structure.
the Society of Apothecaries… garden in Chelsea: the Chelsea Physic Garden.
the Horticultural Society gardens at Chiswick: the nursery of the Horticultural Society for plants brought from all over the Empire,.
the Consular Service: the Consular service dealt with the routine interests of British subjects in foreign countries, rather than high matters of diplomacy.
his Evangelical leanings: a movement within the Church of England emphasising the conversion experience and rejecting ritualism and displaying a concern for the wider moral reform of society. Their earnestness and intensity did not make them universally popular.
what Solomon must have meant by black but comely: The Song of Solomon, 1:5.
I am Ovid among the Goths: the Roman poet Ovid was exiled by the Emperor Augustus to the remote town of Tomison the Black Sea, considered to be the edge of the civilized world of Rome.
took up in Hyde Park for unnatural offences: Hyde Park, particularly at night, was notorious as a site for sexual encounters of all kinds.
one of Mrs Fry’s Nursing Sisters: The Institution of Nursing Sisters, founded by Elizabeth Fry in 1840, to nurse and visit the sick and to comfort the afflicted in their homes.
the Alleged Lunatics’ Friends: a campaigning organisation which sought greater protection against wrongful confinement or cruel and improper treatment in lunatic asylums, and for reform of the lunacy laws, and also took up individual cases of wrongful confinement.
an entire Dahomey Amazon: The Mino were a Fon all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey in the present-day Republic of Benin, which lasted until the end of the 19th century. They were so named by Western observers and historians due to their similarity to the Amazons of classical mythology.
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.
Mudie’s acquire such a monopoly over the distribution of new works: Mudie’s lending library: ‘demanded fiction suited to the middle-class family… controlled the subject, scope, and morality of the novel for fifty years’.
snappers-up of unconsidered trifles: The Winter’s Tale Act 4, Scene 3.
the present conflict over Schleswig-Holstein: a complex set of diplomatic and other issues arising in the 19th century from the relations of two duchies, Schleswig and Holstein, to the Danish crown, to the German Confederation, and to each other. The First Schleswig War was in progress 1848-51 between Denmark and the Prussian Army.
taking a fiacre: a horse-drawn four-wheeled carriage for hire.
to go fight for The Cause in Italy: i.e. freeing the various Italian states from foreign and tyrannical rulers and unifying them into an independent nation.
the Underground Railroad: a network of secret routes by which enslaved African-Americans escaped to the free states and Canada assisted by abolitionists and other sympathisers, among whom Quakers were prominent.
a follower of Mazzini: Giuseppe Mazzini, an Italian politician, journalist, and activist for Italian unification, from a democratic and republican perspective.
an entire Galahad of chastity: the notedly chaste knight of King Arthur’s Round Table, son of Lancelot and Elaine of Astolat.
the parlous tale of Mrs Norton: Caroline Norton (1808- 1877), writer and campaigner on social issues. Having left her husband, she faced many problems: he claimed her earnings as his, instituted a case of crim. con. involving Lord Melbourne in which she was proved innocent, and abducted her children. Her campaigns as a result led, eventually, to the Custody of Infants Act, 1839, The Matrimonial Causes Act, 1857, and the Married Women’s Property Act, 1870.
among the peelers from his days as a police court reporter: ‘peelers’ after Sir Robert Peel who established the modern police force of London. The police courts dealt with a great deal of petty crimes and also were often the first court in which greater crimes were adjudicated and sent forward.
not troubled with many things: The Gospel of Luke, 10:41, ’Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things’.
born more or less within the sound of Bow Bells: i.e. in the city of London.
converted some generations back and he is somewhat of a freethinker, but their son Davey inclines to ancestral ways: the Samuels are a Jewish family who converted to the Church of England; Davey Samuels has been influenced by 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.
the Hydrographic Survey: the survey work necessary to produce accurate charts for the Admiralty.
was this Barty or his fetch: a ghost, a doppleganger.
new American-style, poker: this card-game spread from New Orleans via the Mississippi river-boats, and westwards with the California gold-rush.
in California during this gold-fever: the California Gold Rush following the discovery of gold in 1848.
before the mast: serving as an ordinary seaman in a sailing ship.
a champooing: a form of massage from India
ayah: an Indian maidservant or children’s nurse.
to concede to a separation: if a woman was in extreme danger from a husband’s violence, she might successfully petition in the ecclesiastical courts for a separation permitting her to live apart from her husband while being provided with a maintenance. It was also possible for couples to separate by mutual consent, by drawing up a a deed of separation. Neither expedient allowed of remarriage for either party. See Women and Marriage.
the heyday in the blood was tame: Hamlet, Act III, Scene 4.
the Malthusian arts: means to prevent conception - the Reverend Thomas Malthus had in fact not imagined any remedy for over-population but abstinence: however radicals from the early nineteenth century had considered and advocated practical methods.
Malvern: centre for the hydropathic ‘water cure’ based on that of Vincent Priessnitz of Gräfenberg, Silesia and many famous Victorians were treated there.
a silk-weaver in Spitalfields: an earlier wave of immigrants to London were Huguenot refugees from religious persecution in France in the 17th century, who settled in this area and were silk-weavers.
a very fine set of Vasari’s Lives: The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, considered the first influential work on art history, written in the 16th century by Italian painter and artist Vasari.
consult Bradshaw: Soon after the introduction of railways George Bradshaw began publishing compilations of timetables.
the world must be peopled: Much Ado About Nothing, Act II, Scene 3, in Benedick’s soliloquy in which, persuaded that Beatrice is secretly in love with him, he comes to a realisation of his own feelings for her and eschews his previous devotion to bachelorhood in favour of marriage.
the Royal Agricultural Society: founded to promote the scientific development of English agriculture, 1838.
Benedick the married man: Benedick’s scornful repudiation of marriage in Much Ado About Nothing, Act I, Scene 1, laughingly turned back on him by Don Pedro in Act V, Scene 4: ‘How dost thou, Benedick, the married man?’
lawks a’mercy, this is none of I!: 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!
had not made rash investments in ’em when there was that bubble: the Railway Mania of the 1840s.
a letter for a hospital: admission to voluntary hospitals, founded upon philanthropic grounds, was usually on the basis of a letter from one of the subscribers.
now a Royal Commission to discuss the question of divorce: the process of dissolving marriages was cumbersome and expensive and involved ultimately obtaining a private act of Parliament. The fact that it was essentially not an expedient available to women was not initially even in consideration, but the Act of 1857 brought in a (still limited) possibility for women to divorce their husbands.
fine humane measures passed respecting the animal creation in this country: The Protection of Animals Act 1835 had made made bull, bear and badger baiting, as well as cock and dog fighting, illegal, following Richard Martin’s 1822 Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle.
entirely outlawed the practice of suttee: Sati had been abolished in the territories in India under British rule in 1829: the practice had already been subject to criticism by Hindu reformers, e.g. those associated with Brahmo Samaj. A number of the independent princely states also began to abolish the practice.
the greatest sympathies for the Risorgimento and sure the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in the Two Sicilies was distressing: the Risorgimento was a movement aimed at freeing the various Italian states from foreign and tyrannical rulers and unifying them into an independent nation. While significant gains were made in 1848, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, in the course of 1848–1849, had been able to suppress the revolution and the attempt of Sicilian secession with their own forces, including hired Swiss guards. In spite of early intimations of reform under the restored Ferdinand II the regime soon became as oppressive if not more so as ever.
that Deacon Brodie: the historical Deacon Brodie was a respectable cabinetmaker of Edinburgh, Deacon of the craft guild and member of the town council. who by night was a housebreaker and thief and eventually hanged. This double life is said to have given Robert Louis Stevenson the germ of the idea for Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
one might still find Turkish baths: Hungary, like other areas of Eastern and Central Europe, had been under Ottoman rule for a significant period and even after they were driven out, the baths remained and were popular places of resort.
this new bridge: the Széchenyi Chain Bridge across the Danube, joining Buda and Pest.
Ruthenian. From Galicia: Galicia was annexed by the Habsburg Monarchy during the First Partition of Poland in 1772; a substantial proportion of the population was the Eastern Slav group, the Ruthenians or Ukrainians.
a protective device concealed about him: a condom.
epidemics such as they had lately endured: the devastating cholera epidemic of 1848/49
wont to take a snap to the works: a snack.
the tale of 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.
getting up some classes at the Mechanics’ Institute on technical subjects: : institutions set up, some as top-down initiatives but also as grass-roots 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.
a rider in Astley’s Amphitheatre: usually considered the first English circus. It began as a riding school at which equestrian tricks and fancy riding were displayed, but then evolved into a spectacular entertainment with many kinds of different acts.
these colleges for ladies: 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; the Ladies College in Bedford Square opened in 1849, on a liberal and non-sectarian basis.
the fate of Indian servants brought to this country and abandoned: this was particularly the fate of ayahs who had travelled to take care of their employers’ children on the voyage to England: the problem had been identified as early as 1825 with the foundation of the Ayahs’ Home in Aldgate.
demonstration at the Royal Institution: an early organisation for what would now be considered public engagement with science and the diffusion of scientific discoveries, f. in London 1799.
a prime example of a flash house: a pub or beer-house frequented by criminals and a centre for various forms of illicit activity.
one of these substances that surgeons have been using to render patients temporarily insensible: in spite of Sir Humphrey Davey’s early discovery of the potential of nitrous oxide (‘laughing gas’) in the 1790s, this was not taken up. However by the 1840s ether and chloroform were being successfully introduced for dental, surgical and obstetrical analgesia (in 1853 receiving the Royal accolade by being administered to Queen Victoria by Dr John Snow).
that grand and impressive sight, the London and North-Western Railway Terminus at Euston: ‘The entrance to the station is through a gateway beneath a lofty and apparently meaningless Doric temple…. possibly one of the largest porticoes in the world…. Passengers pass firstly into an immense and beautiful hall, on either side of which are entrances to the booking-offices. The hall was designed by Mr. P. C. Hardwick; it is about 140 feet in length by sixty in breadth, and between seventy and eighty feet high. A light and elegant gallery runs round three sides of the hall, guarded by bronze railings, on a level with the board-room, which is reached by a noble flight of thirty steps, surmounted by a range of Doric columns, the sculptured groups being emblematical of the progress of industry and science. Prominent in the hall is Baily’s colossal statue in marble of George Stephenson, “the father of railways.” Above the staircase and around the galleries are offices for the chief managers. In the angles of the hall, about fifty feet from the floor, are allegorical figures in relief, representing the counties travelled by the several railways of which this station is the terminus. The total length of platform for this terminus is upwards of a mile, and it is divided into three arrival and two departure platforms.’
the Nilgherrie Hills: The Nilgiri hills are one of the most biodiverse places in the Western Ghats with over 100 species of mammals.
have liked to eat his heart in the marketplace: Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, Scene 1.
volcanic soil from the region about Vesuvius: the rich soil produced as a result of volcanic activity is the reason that populations continue to reside in such vicinities.
hoisting in a fine grocer’s: shop-lifting.
a ‘commodation house: beds by the hour or other periods.
a crim. con. suit: a legal action in which a husband sued the seducer of his wife for damages, one of the preliminaries to obtaining a Private Act of Parliament of Divorce. These were widely reported in the contemporary equivalent of the tabloid press.
tinsel show: allusion to Robert Burns, A Man’s A Man for A’That.
antient public schools, that are quite dreadful places: they had a reputation for a reputation for rowdiness and sometimes serious disorderliness: between 1797 and 1832 there were several rebellions in schools, four at Eton, three at Winchester and three at Rugby and one each at Charterhouse, Harrow and Shrewsbury, as well generally abusive behaviour. Moreover the kind of education they provided, leaning heavily on an antiquated approach to the classical languages, was not such as to win Sandy’s approval.
mayhap personating Springheel Jack: a Victorian urban legend, first reported in London and its environs c. 1837-8 and for several decades following.
some spirit of the woods and wilds… Herne the Hunter: a terrifying folkloric figure first recorded in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, associated with Windsor Great Park and Forest in Berkshire; said to have antlers growing from his head. Also featured in W Harrison Ainsworth’s 1843 novel Windsor Castle.
my nature is subdued To what it works in, like the dyer’s hand: Shakespeare, Sonnet 111, O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide.
like unto Prospero burying his staff: The Tempest, Act V, Scene 1, in which Prospero abjures his magic: ‘I’ll break my staff,/Bury it certain fathoms in the earth’.
peelers informed and their Detective Branch put to investigation: the Detective Branch of the Metropolitan Police had been formed in 1842, the role previously undertaken by the Bow Street Runners.
she said, Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?: famous defiant line of Jane Eyre to Rochester in the eponymous novel by Charlotte Bronte.
that do women look upon certain things while they are increasing, will convey an impression: maternal impression theory, the idea that events or objects encountered during pregnancy will have an effect on the developing foetus.
how very eligible the steam packets to Halifax from Liverpool are: the British and North American Royal Mail Steamships service from Liverpool to Boston called at Halifax, cabin-passage with steward’s fee, £35. The voyage took around a fortnight and the service was noted for being safe and regular.
like King Midas and his asses’ ears: cursed with the ears of an ass by Apollo, King Midas endeavoured to hide them, but could not conceal them from his barber. Unable to bear the burden of the secret, he whispered it into a hole in the ground. Reeds grew up on the spot and began whispering the tale, ‘King Midas has asses’ ears’.
L.A. Hall, FRHistS