Torches: Allusions and References
Passing allusions and references which maybe a little opaque to the present reader, decoded – as far as possible – here.
was on the West Africa Patrol: the West Africa Squadron of the Royal Navy was set up in 1808, following the abolition of the slave trade, in order to suppress the trade by patrolling the West African coast.
the old orangery: a room, usually with a south-facing aspect and large windows, designed for the cultivation of orange-trees and other fruit-trees and ornamental exotic plants - these characteristics would also make it suitable as an artist’s studio.
complaining upon the local vestry: until the mid-nineteenth century, local parish vestries constituted the basis of secular as well as ecclesiastical administration: the matters they regulated included public nuisances and good order as well as social welfare and public health.
the local peeler: police constable on the beat, from Sir Robert Peel, who had founded the first professional police force in the UK.
deep in blackbirding: the (by this date illicit) slave trade with Africa.
now in the Model Penitentiary: Pentonville Prison, which succeeded Millbank Penitentiary.
very telling lowlife tale: or ‘Newgate novel’, a popular genre of the day focusing on the activities of real or invented criminals.
she might not turn Queen’s Evidence against him: the ‘marital privilege’: in English law spouses cannot be forced to testify against one another; and in common law until 1853 a wife was not, under the doctrine of coverture, competent to give evidence against her husband (‘man and wife is one flesh’).
The Lord Chamberlain would quite forbid it! Did it pass his scrutiny the Vice Society would be up in arms! The Lord Chamberlain was the official tasked with licensing plays for theatrical performance. The Society for the Suppression of Vice was more concerned with print media but no doubt had the Lord Chamberlain ever nodded in his censorship duties concerning ‘the preservation of good manners [and] decorum’ in theatrical presentations they would no doubt have protested.
some famed French fellow died on the stage? the French playwright Molière did not actually die during a performance of his comedy Le Malade Imaginaire, although he suffered a coughing fit and tubercular haemorrhage and temporarily collapsed while playing the hypochondriac. However, he completed the performance but died a few hours later.
like the transformation scene in the pantomime: the traditional English pantomime usually included an elaborate and spectacular scene of transformation.
reading tales in the penny parts: ‘penny dreadfuls’, a term that only later came into use to describe this popular sensational cheap literature.
bloody tales at a penny a line or smut for Holywell Street: The somewhat breathless prose of penny dreadfuls - short sentences and brief paragraphs - has been attributed to this remuneration by the line. Holywell Street, off the Strand, was the headquarters of pornographic publishing at the period.
at present the manufacture of baudruches is an intricate and expensive process: baudruches, or condoms of animal-gut, were indeed intricate and expensive to manufacture. Quite shortly after the development of the vulcanisation of rubber the technology was applied to the manufacture of contraceptive devices.
whistled the tune of The 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.
reared in the nursery of the Raxdell House phalanstery: insinuation that the household at Raxdell House had been modeling itself on the utopian ideas of the socialist Charles Fourier, subversive of social and gender hierarchies.
said, were t’other dear charmers away, eh? song, How happy could I be with either, were t’other dear charmer away: in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, 1728: MacHeath’s predicament between Polly Peachum and Lucy Locket.
there is a new feeling — a new movement — one might speak of a revival: the Haskalah or Jewish Enlightenment movement, which both emphasised unique Jewish culture identity including a revival of Hebrew, and a modernising rationalism similar to the C18th Enlightenment.
Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure: or Fanny Hill, 1748 erotic novel by John Cleland.
was known as the Sorcerer Earl: the ‘High Magic’ of the Renaissance and early modern period, based in Neo-Platonist and Hermetic traditions, only gradually segued into the more ‘modern’ concepts of science as embodied by the Royal Society established in 1660. It depended on a complex theory, including astrological and alchemical elements, of the world as a mystically interconnected system which could be manipulated by the instructed magician.
the hardships of steerage: the part of the ship allotted to passengers paying the cheapest rate, especially emigrants.
the lady in All’s Well That Ends Well: Helena, a physician’s daughter, heals the King of France from a longstanding ailment that has defeated other practitioners; the reward she asks is the hand of Bertram, Count of Rossillion, son of her patroness, who considers her beneath him.
prize money from confiscated vessels: officers serving on the West Africa Squadron (see above) were entitled to prize money in respect of vessels captured in the course of their activities.
a matter of family grace-and-favour: i.e. rent-free.
most generous over pin-money: the sum of money allocated to a wife for her personal expenditure.
a mystery play performed in the diocese in the Middle Ages: mystery plays were cycles of plays on Biblical themes performed annually in towns and cities by local guilds (‘mysteries’) of craftsmen or merchants.
this college for women that is purposing to open in Harley Street: Queen’s College, Harley Street, founded by F. D. Maurice under the auspices of the Governesses’ Benevolent Institution.
selling gewgaws or dream-books: trifling cheap ornaments, books purporting to decode the significance of dreams.
never broke out into a crim. con. case: a legal case in which a husband sued his wife’s seducer for damages: usually as a preliminary to obtaining a separation or divorce.
Age cannot wither, nor custom stale, he murmured to himself: Enobarbus on Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra, Act II., Scene 2.
money in the Savings Bank: Savings banks, first established in the UK in 1799, were retail finance institutions set up under democratic and philanthropic principles with the aim of creating thrifty habits amongst small and medium-sized savers such as craftsmen and domestic servants.
their laws are a deal more enlightened: as a result of the French Revolution, and the influence of Enlightenment philosophy, same-sex activity between men was decriminalised in France. This continued to be the case under the Code Napoleon, to the extent that the laws did not punish private behaviour: ‘public indecency’ continued to be heavily policed.
some garment that in itself is not expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy: Polonius to Laertes, Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3.
the daguerreotype propped up upon her trunk: the first widely available photographic process, widely used during the 1840s and 50s.
Virtues going forth, he said: Measure for Measure Act I, Scene 1.
Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, twere all alike
As if we had them not.
the busy bee 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!
L.A. Hall, FRHistS