The Courtesan and the Clergyman: Allusions and References

Passing allusions and references which maybe a little opaque to the present reader, decoded – as far as possible – here.

One that might have been another Mrs Somerville: Mary Somerville (1780-1872) nee Fairfax, polymath and writer on science, noted mathematician and astronomer.

the wombatt’s very curiously shaped faeces: The marsupial’s unique digestive tract forms square dung.

none of your enthusiastic fellows, no Evangelical: from the late eighteenth century there was a revival 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 and prying into the state of their parishioners’ souls did not make them universally popular.

a certain scriptural authority for keeping such company? would it not be Pharasaical to object? “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Gospel of St Matthew 9:10-13

in the wars with Mysore: The Anglo-Mysore Wars, 1769-1799.

would strike his colours: in war at sea, a ship’s battle ensign (colours) was hauled down (struck) as a sign of surrender.

swathed in a colourful silk banyan: a loose robe-like garment in the Oriental style, much favoured by gentlemen at the period.

mayhap Tunbridge Wells — Leamington Priors is give out very select: Tunbridge Wells had been a fashionable spa resort since the seventeenth century with the discovery of a chalybeate spring (water containing salts of iron) there; Leamington Priors is now Royal Leamington Spa, in Warwickshire, where a spa developed around supposedly healing waters during the eighteenth century.

a special licence in her reticule and a suborned parson concealed about their lodgings: i.e. everything ready to have a marriage solemnised without the usual delaying formalities.

the Royal Academy in the Strand: f. 1768, the Royal Academy of Arts was installed in purpose-built apartments in the first completed wing of New Somerset House, located in the Strand, in 1780, moving in 1837 to Trafalgar Square, before its final move to Burlington House on Piccadilly in 1868, where it remains.

the waterfowl in St James’ Park had since the days of the Merry Monarch from time to time included pelicans: the first pelican of St James Park was a gift from the Russian Ambassador in 1664, since when 40 pelicans have made it their home.

a most fascinating demonstration at the Royal Institution: an early organisation founded in London for what would now be considered public engagement with science and the diffusion of scientific discoveries.

a look that was terrible as an army with banners: Song of Solomon, 6:10.

the famed Miss Herschel that watched the skies: Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), sister of Sir William Herschel, Astronomer Royal, and noted astronomer in her own right.

to be most especial careful in the matter of spunges: i.e. an early form of barrier contraceptive, that Clorinda is particularly conscientious about employing.

I daresay there would be chairmen — I might find a link-boy: Sedan chairs were a means of transport through the filthy and often dangerous streets of London at the period in question; link-boys with flaming torches were for hire to guide pedestrians through the unlit streets at night.

some cogging work afoot: sharping or trickery.

mayhap a truckle-bed: A low bed on wheels or castors that could be stored under another bed.

going to reside in Canonbury: an area in Islington being developed as a residential suburb at this period.

I have some little qualms as to precisely how he came to do so well in Bombay, but I am assured that until lately ’twas entire possible to shake the banyan tree in entire licit fashion: profiting from time in East India Company service.

‘tis not as though his fortunes came from the West Indies: i.e. sugar and rum produced by slave-labour.

she complained upon the vaporous pall that hung about these parts: with the rise in the use of coal for heating in London, combined with the general atmospherics of its situation, this was an increasing problem throughout the nineteenth century.

some of the experiments from Mrs Marcet’s work:  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.

Trudie a-stitching away upon a sampler, but looking more closely ’twas no common affair of pious text and conventional flowers, but a depiction of the solar system: The Victoria and Albert Museum holds a sampler dated 1811 which is a rare example of astronomy in a needlework exercise. It shows the planets of the solar system, their relationships to the sun, and the ‘Orbit of the Comet’.

Indeed there are ladies have been and are daring travellers — for example Pitt’s niece in Arabia and the adjoining parts: Lady Hester Stanhope.

at the fine parish church in Islington:  the historic parish church of Islington, St Mary the Virgin.

Clo ever quoting from her beloved Bard of Avon upon the text, Men are April when they woo, December when they wed: As You Like It, Act IV, Scene 1, Rosalind to Orlando.

the clergyman might think it a little particular was there not some father or next friend, as allowed in the rubric: ‘Then shall the Minister say, Who giveth this Woman to be married to this Man? Then shall they give their troth to each other in this manner. The Minister, receiving the Woman at her father’s or friend’s hands, shall cause the Man with his right hand to take the Woman by her right handForm of the Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer.

one was obliged to have the business done in the Established Church, alas: It was obligatory even for Dissenters to be married according to the rites of the Church of England.

The rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys….: The Song of Solomon.

producing that crisis was very material to conception — had seen that in a copy of Aristotle: this was a common belief at the period:  Aristotle’s Masterpiece, also known as The Works of Aristotle, the Famous Philosopher, was a popular manual of advice on sex and reproduction, not by the ancient Greek philosopher although attributed to him.

could not be far from here that the hulks lay off the coast: worn-out vessels unfit for sea-service kept as prison-ships for convicts awaiting transportation.

There were a deal of observations they might make about Port Jackson: the area around Sydney Harbour, late the city of Sydney.

Here am I — send me: Isaiah 6:8: ‘I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me’.

I am about my meteorological observations: it is very probable that Mr Thorne and his circle were acquainted with the work of Luke Howard, if not personally acquainted with the ‘father of meteorology’ and ‘namer of clouds’.

having first made sure there were no spiders or such in the grass: some of the most venomous spiders in the world are native to Australia.


Friday 26th March 2021

L.A. Hall, FRHistS