Tricks and Traps: Allusions and References
Passing allusions and references which maybe a little opaque to the present reader, decoded – as far as possible – here.
forming a combination: i.e. a trade union; workplace combination and trades unions, to resist the oppression of workers under industrialisation, had been banned by the Combination Acts 1799/1800.
the new developments that one saw in landscape painting and depictions of peasant life — sure one grew tired of elaborate historical canvases!: Beauf is clearly taken by the Barbizon school in preference to the Romantic school of painting.
held many fine ridotti: masquerade balls.
quite a Nereid: one of the 50 sea-nymphs, daughters of the sea-goddess Doris, often accompanying the god Poseidon, and benign and helpful to seafarers.
to persuade him to eschew the use of 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.
that vigorous new institution in Bloomsbury: University College London, which had been founded on principles of religious toleration when other universities in England insisted on students and professors being communicants of the Church of England.
fulminated about agitation and unrest and Chartism: this was a period of a good deal of economic, social and political unrest, including the Chartist movement, the first mass movement driven by the working classes, following the failure of the 1832 Reform Act to extend the vote beyond those owning property.
the famed knot garden: knot-gardens are very formally designed gardens within a square frame, usually featuring aromatic herbs and plants, and characteristic of the Tudor era
not sporting his oak: had not closed the outer door to his rooms, which would signify that he did not wish to be disturbed.
sent his gyp to be about tea and muffins: ‘gyp’ was the Cambridge term for a college servant.
fighting for the freedom of the Poles: there were a number of movements for national liberation in Europe at this time: Poland at this time was not even a nation, its territory being divided up between Prussia, Austria and Russia, but there was internal rebellion and resistance, and conspiracy among exiles for its liberation. Why it might have particularly appealed to Lord Demington could have been due to the presence in their circles of ‘Dodo Brumpage’s Polish Count’, her husband whose name their English tongues fail to get around, a Polish composer and exiled revolutionary.
Hacker of Barts: St Bartholomew’s Hospital, the oldest hospital in London and a very distinguished medical institution.
We do not want you took up for fortune-telling contrary to the laws of the land: the 1735 Witchcraft Act made a superstitious belief in magic powers an offence, and therefore it became a crime to pretend to magic powers to deceive the public.
Sir Robert’s finest: the Metropolitan Police, the first professional police force in London had been f. 1829 by Sir Robert Peel (whence the names ‘bobbies’ and ‘peelers’).
he had made substantial investments in railway shares: Railway Mania was a stock market bubble of the 1840s. The price of railway shares increased, speculators invested more money, the price increased and ultimately fell drastically. Several companies either collapsed due to poor financial planning, were bought out by competitors before building the proposed lines, or turned out to be fraudulent.
Dr Darwin’s work upon The Loves of the Plants: Erasmus Darwin, physician, poet and scientist (grandfather of Charles): his poem The Loves of the Plants, presented the new Linnean system of botany, in particular its emphasis on sexual reproduction, in highly anthropomorphised form.
talking of the Linnean system: the important work in taxonomy and scientific nomenclature of eighteenth-century Swedish natural philosopher Carolus Linnaeus.
Somewhat in the fashion of that tale of Millenium Hall: A Description of Millenium Hall and the Country Adjacent, 1762 novel describing a utopian women’s community by Sarah Scott.
on parlour what-nots: an open stand with shelves one above the other, for displaying ornaments.
the horrors he had experienced when on the West Africa Squadron: 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.
Sydney was quite the fine city?: Governor (1810-1821) Laclan Macquarie’s vision for Sydney included construction of public buildings and institutions fit for a colonial capital. Macquarie Street took shape as a ceremonial thoroughfare of grand buildings. He founded the Royal Botanic Gardens and Hyde Park . Macquarie set aside a large portion of land for an Anglican Cathedral and laid the foundation stone for the first St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in 1821.
found herself quite in a silver-fork novel: the ‘silver-fork novel’ or novel of fashionable high life was a flourishing fictional genre from the 1820s to the 1840s, ‘promis[ing] tantalizing glimpses into highlife, expos[ing] its downsides’, but also revealing the effects of contemporary social mobility.
Captain Gold’s hydrographical survey: the survey work necessary to produce accurate charts for the Admiralty.
praising the squab that was served: young pigeons.
Let me take that and present Hebe: cupbearer to the gods and goddesses of Olympus.
indite telling matter for his newspaper upon lowlife: an expose of the criminal underworld.
you fell among thieves: Gospel of St Luke, 10:30, Parable of the Good Samaritan.
wasted my substance in riotous living: Gospel of St Luke, 15:13, Parable of the Prodigal Son.
need not be an Adamite: the Adamites were an early Christian sect that imitated Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by going naked: hence, a nudist.
the verse about digging a pit: and falling thereinto themselves: Psalm 57:6: ‘they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves’.
allude to the engineer hoist with his own petard: Hamlet, Act III, Scene 4: ‘For ’tis the sport to have the engineer/Hoist with his own petard’ - blown up by his own device.
another establishment north of the Park in Bayswater: speculative builders had been developing this area north of Kensington Gardens and west of Paddington since the early decades of the nineteenth century, increasing considerably from the 1840s with elegant housing.
a song-and-supper room, by no means a common free-and-easy: song and supper rooms at taverns were considered somewhat superior to the preceding rather rough and disreputable ‘free and easies’: they offered food and entertainment, and became the precursors of the later Victorian music halls.
replacing the drugget, for was growing very worn: coarse woollen floor covering.
a Dolly Mutton house out in the country: one of Clorinda’s comfortable refuges for former prostitutes.
the revels of the sisterhood: drag parties.
wearing the willow these many years for her sister Lady Emily: mourning a lost love.
like unto that Roman matron in the tale and declare that the children are our jewels: Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi: ‘When women friends questioned Cornelia about her mode of dress and personal adornment, which was far more simple and understated than was usual for a wealthy Roman woman of her rank and station, Cornelia indicated her two sons and said, haec ornamenta mea [sunt], i.e., “These are my jewels.”’
Or even — though ’tis not so easy as used to be — have their wives declared lunatic: the process of having a person certified lunatic and the licensing of madhouses were becoming increasingly regulated by the law.
that he was sporting a black armband: signifying mourning.
like finding oneself in the penny parts: ‘penny dreadfuls’: weekly penny papers, disposable booklets of sensational stories deriving from gothic tropes, true crime narratives, and stage melodramas, illustrated with lurid woodcuts.
the way it was with Harry: i.e. born somewhat soon after his parents’ marriage.
the reputation of a flat-catcher: a con-man taking advantage of innocents.
had observed his cogging during play: cheating.
do I go speak to a Mechanics’ Institute or such: institutions set up, some as top-down initiatives but some as 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.
advice about dressing ’em with bitter aloes: an extract from the leaves of the aloe plant, which had various medicinal and cosmetic uses. It is still recommended as a preventative treatment for nail-biting.
to be a rider at Astley’s: 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.
a fine historical tale, The Lady of the Vespers, setting ’em in a similar situation of the Middle Ages: the Sicilian Vespers, an uprising against the rule of the French-born king of Naples.
some Newgate novel: melodramatic stories set in the underworld, with romanticised criminal protagonists.
was a queen of England once said, I thank God I am endowed with such qualities that if I were turned out of the realm in my petticoat I were able to live in any place in Christendom: Elizabeth I to a Parliamentary delegation in 1566 on her marriage.
the Christmas rose that used to bloom in winter: Helleborus niger, commonly called Christmas rose, evergreen plant (not in fact of the rose family) that flowers at midwinter.
furor uterinus: uterine frenzy, overwhelming female sexual desire.
those phaenomena incident to the climacteric of life: i.e. menopausal symptoms.
quoted Ophelia, we know what we are, but know not what we may be: Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5, Ophelia’s mad scene.
L.A. Hall, FRHistS