Unhistoric Acts: Allusions and References
Passing allusions and references which maybe a little opaque to the present reader, decoded – as far as possible – here.
NB: the general background to this narrative is the widespread political and social upheavals of 1848. A good overview is Mike Rapport’s 1848: Year of Revolution (2008).
Jane Eyre by ‘Currer Bell’ was first published in October 1847.
that tale Millennium Hall: A Description of Millenium Hall and the Country Adjacent, 1762 novel describing a utopian women’s community by Sarah Scott.
a nice cooling sherbet: a refreshing fruit drink.
the Survey of India: f. 1767: one of the oldest survey and mapping agencies in the world, set up to survey and map the territories under the East India Company, later the Government of India.
an astronomical sampler: 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’.
the Bight of Benin, what one had noticed ashore was that a deal of the women of the place were quite the briskest of traders: there is a long tradition of women in West Africa participating in commercial activity.
a vial of laudanum: tincture of opium, one of the few forms of pain relief available at this period.
the Zoological Gardens: London Zoo, in Regents Park, established by the Zoological Society of London, first opened to fellows in 1828, granted a Royal Charter in 1829, and opened to the public in 1847.
Mrs Marcet’s Conversations on Chemistry: Jane Marcet (1769-1858)’s much reprinted Conversations on Chemistry, Intended More Especially for the Female Sex (1805) inspired the young Michael Faraday to seek a career in science.
this college in Montreal: McGill College, Quebec, received its Royal Charter in 1821, it was inactive until 1829 when the Montreal Medical Institution, which had been founded in 1823, became the college’s first academic unit and Canada’s first medical school.
staying in dawk bungalows: lodgings in East India Company-ruled areas providing accommodation for officials traveling on government business and also hospitality to other travelers for a modest fee.
composing a Newgate novel: a fictional genre featuring melodramatic stories set in the underworld, with romanticised criminal protagonists.
illicit blackbirding to South Carolina: by this date the Atlantic slave-trade with was illegal, but sufficiently remunerative that it was still clandestinely carried on.
the French, though to my mind their own troubles at present are such that they are unlike to go be at war: in 1848 the French monarchy was overthrown with the deposition of King Louis-Philippe, and after further revolutionary and counter-revolutionary events the Second Republic established under the presidency of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte.
Mechanics Institutes &C: 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 mermaid’s purse: the horny egg-case of a skate, ray, or shark.
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 old nabbing lay: former thieving ways.
two Bengali gentlemen that were part of a movement for reform among the Hindus: Brahmo Samaj, a monotheistic reform movement within Hinduism, emerging during the Bengali Renaissance of the early C19th, founded in Calcutta on 20 August 1828 by Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Dwarkanath Tagore.
by means of scientific ingenuity, the father of their beloved child Miranda: the possibility of artificial insemination had been put forward by the eminent eighteenth century surgeon and anatomist John Hunter: while this was not widely known about, Hannah discovered the posthumous report by his nephew and executor Sir Everard Home in 1799.
letters from Bentham: [Jeremy Bentham]() (1747-1832), the Utilitarian philosopher, of whom Sandy was a great admirer
a nurseryman out Kensington way: there were a significant number of plant nurseries in this area.
a daguerreotype: first commercially successful photographic process.
little better than a Deist if not an entire freethinker: Deists accepted the existence of a deity while rejecting revealed religion; freethinkers rejected the notion of a deity altogether on rationalist grounds.
he was now fighting the Sikhs: the Second Anglo-Sikh War, 1848-9.
getting up a combination: i.e. a trade union. Organising for the protection of labour had become legal with the repeal of the Combination Acts in the 1820s though was still very constrained.
neo-Malthusian philosophy: the argument that it was prudent and sensible to practice family limitation by such methods of contraception as were known at the time.
Westminster Hall, before the great fire: in 1834, as the result of burning obsolete tally sticks used for accounting by the Exchequer, both Houses of Parliament went up in flames and had to be extensively rebuilt.
the grand Chartist rally: the Chartist meeting held at Kennington Common on 10th April 1848 to present; the Government feared attempted revolution and made immense preparations, but the meeting passed off peacefully and the petition was taken to be delivered to Parliament.
the Manchester Massacre: better known as the Peterloo Massacre, 16 August 1819, when the local magistrates authorised the Yeomanry to attack a peaceful assembly including women and children.
reforms of the Parliamentary system: principally the 1832 Reform Act, creating new constituencies and abolishing some of the worse ‘pocket’ boroughs, extending the franchise and creating a uniform borough franchise.
The Corn Laws are at last repealed: these tariffs and other restrictions on corn and other imported foodstuffs in Britain between 1815 and 1846 favoured landowners at the cost of raising the price of food for the majority of the population: repeal was finally passed after lengthy campaigning in 1846, causing the fall of the Tory government.
this Public Health Bill that purposes a Central Board of Health: Edwin Chadwick, secretary to the Poor Law Commissioners, had observed that reasons to do with health, including infectious disease, often led to the poor seeking poor relief; he proposed various sanitary measures to improve public health. The campaigning of the Health of Towns Association, and the approach of a new cholera epidemic, led to the passing of the 1848 Public Health Act, which provided a framework for action but did not compel it.
dire news of the cholera approaching: a two year outbreak of cholera in England and Wales commenced in 1848; it was the worst outbreak in London’s history. It reached Ireland, already devastated by famine, in 1849.
some tale of Jack Sheppard: the original Jack Sheppard was an early C18th criminal and several times escapee from prison, whose tale became a staple of popular narrative. It was reworked as a Newgate novel, 1839, by W Harrison Ainsworth with illustrations by George Cruickshank.
Song and Supper Room annexed to the Beaufoyle Arms: offering food and entertainment, these became the precursors of the later Victorian music halls.
not in the least a free and easy: rather rough and disreputable places of entertainment in pubs and taverns.
barley-water… shrub: a soothing drink made by the decoction of pearl barley; a refreshing fruit drink.
figuring in a crim. con. 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.
new Model Penitentiaries: these, such as Millbank or Pentonville, kept prisoners in solitary confinement, in order that they might reflect on their crimes; their architecture was influenced by Jeremy Bentham’s theories of the panopticon.
the Consular Service in Peru: the Consular service dealt with the routine interests of British subjects in foreign countries, rather than high matters of diplomacy.
spectate at a hound trail: a race between hounds along an artificially laid scent trail.
as he sang Believe me, if all those endearing young charms: a popular song written by the Irish poet Thomas Moore, setting new lyrics to a traditional Irish air that can be traced back into the 18th century, published 1808. and allegedly written for his wife after she had been disfigured by smallpox.
the Hellfire Club: during the eighteenth century there were several reputed groups of aristocratic men devoted to obscenity, blasphemy and general debauchery going by this name.
Wilkes’ Essay on Woman: a pornographic parody of Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man by John Wilkes, eighteenth-century radical journalist and politician.
Mr Payne Knight’s work: Richard Payne Knight, author of A discourse on the worship of Priapus, and its connection with the mystic theology of the ancients (1786).
a similar system for the books they acquire: The Private Case (or ‘Cupboard’), a historical collection comprising printed books segregated from the main British Museum library collection in the 1850s on grounds of obscenity.
Holywell Street: Holywell Street, off the Strand, was the headquarters of pornographic publishing at this period.
some young Lochinvar exploit: Young Lochinvar was the character in Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion who abducted his true love at her wedding to his rival.
a very eligible railway connexion from Carlisle: the Caledonian Railway was a very recent innovation, directly connecting London to Glasgow by way of Lancaster and Carlisle.
married over the anvil by the blacksmith at Gretna: Gretna Green was one of the first places across the Border where it was possible to marry under the conditions of Scots law, i.e. by declaration before two witnesses, and the local blacksmiths became the traditional celebrants.
to quack himself at Malvern: Malvern had been famed for the purity of its waters since the 17th century but in the 1840s it became a centre for hydropathic treatment or the Cold Water Cure popular with many Victorian notabilities.
spectate upon some wrestling: matches in the distinctive Cumberland wrestling style.
she had her Wellington face on when she was about organizing some matter: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington was 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. Josiah Ferraby was wont to tease Eliza as planning family matters like military campaigns.
preparations should the cholera come: it did indeed reach the shores of Britain by the autumn of 1848 and the 1848-9 epidemic was the most severe experienced in the UK. See Underwood, The History of Cholera in Great Britain.
Jenner was quite his greatest hero: Edward Jenner had introduced the practice of vaccination with the mild disease of cowpox as a preventative of the serious and very prevalent disease of smallpox.
or mayhap Wakley: Thomas Wakley, surgeon, medical reformer, founder of The Lancet.
a lady, and no physician, that first brought the knowledge of variolation to these shores: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu discovered the practice of preventative infection with a mild strain of smallpox in Turkey and introduced it to England in the early 18th century.
some slum parish to study under a clergyman whose theological and liturgical principles accorded with his own: because Hughie was an adherent of the Oxford Movement, he was more likely to find a mentor in an urban working-class parish, as bishops were largely hostile to this movement and refused to present its followers to livings.
gazebo in the style of a Temple of the Winds: a domed structure held up by pillars.
advized to travel to Madeira for her health: it was believed that the mild climate of this Portguese archipelago was beneficial for ailments such as consumption.
Pharisees, alas: self-righteous hypocrites.
some Phoebe falling at your feet: a shepherdess in As You Like It who falls in love with ‘Ganymede’, the disguised Rosalind.
one does not even require the matter of a special license to be married in Scotland in Scotland it was possible for young people under 21 to marry without parental permission, simply by declaration in front of a witness.
she would have no more marryings: Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1.
quite like it said in the marriage service, discreetly, advisedly, soberly: the Form of the Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer
had entire longed to see Loch Lomond &C – Perth – Edinburgh –: the romantic sights that had become familiar through the novels and poems of Sir Walter Scott and the poetry of Robert Burns.
it would spike his guns: thwart his designs, a metaphor drawn from the rendering of a gun unserviceable by driving a spike into the touch-hole.
the Earl lies groaning abed with the megrim: a migraine.
without the mother is on the parish: in receipt of poor relief
A very fine theatre: the Theatre Royal was built in 1787 on one of Margate’s most fashionable squares and is one of the oldest working theatres in the UK. It was extensively remodelled in the Victorian era.
Punch and Judy: Punch and Judy is the traditional puppet show featuring Mr. Punch and his wife Judy. An archetypical and controversial British figure with his origins in the charismatic 16th century Italian puppet Pulcinella, Mr Punch has been performing in the UK for over 350 years.
The remarkable sight of the Shell Grotto: a curious and rather mysterious sight of the place.
the Sea-Bathing Infirmary: founded in 1791 to treat poor sufferers from scrofula in London.
afore they embarked on the steamer back to Town: while there was by now a railway connection to Margate, there had long been an efficient maritime service by way of the Thames which had enabled its development as a resort.
very like Martha in the Bible, careful and troubled about many things: The Gospel of Luke, 10:41, ’Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things’.
Over in the Borough, a-working in the factory: in Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames.
even worse than Bohemian: i.e. Czech.
quite a Haroun al Raschid proceeding: a number of the tales in the One Thousand and One Nights (also known as the Arabian Nights) feature this Caliph of Baghdad venturing out into the city in disguise.
the Qualling pinery is very fine: 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.
hopes he may call upon Lord Fendersham to discuss settlements &C: to discuss the making of a suitable independent provision for Scilla (there would usually be some portion set aside for a young woman of family in anticipation of her marriage).
I went and told the bees: a tradition of telling bees of important events in the keepers’ lives, with the fear that there might be an adverse outcome if they did not - the bees leaving, or ceasing to produce honey.
Jack will have Jill: proverbial, alluded to in Puck’s speech in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, Scene 2.
got his ticket of leave: a document of parole issued to transported convicts who could be entrusted with some freedoms, and work for themselves. They were permitted to marry, or bring their families from Britain. There were still certain constraints on them.
she would gather the rosebuds while she might: from the poem, To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, by Robert Herrick:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
L.A. Hall, FRHistS