Notes to Volume 1: October 1955 to October 1956


23 October 1955

Bibliography of W.B. Yeats                   

A Bibliography of the Writings of W B Yeats, Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd, 1951; a second edition was published in 1958.


Autobiography in nine volumes of James Agate. A letter from GWL to Agate in 1943 led to GWL's appearance in the last four volumes of Ego. Volume 8 is dedicated to him (the first book, he averred, to be dedicated to a Lyttelton since Tom Jones). While completing the last of the Ego series, Agate told GWL that their correspondence would make a good pendant, and suggested the title Letters from Grundisburgh or Postscript to Ego (Agate, Ego 9, 14 October 1946).


The MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club), based at Lord's cricket ground, was the governing body of world cricket until 1993, when most of its functions were passed to the International Cricket Council. Overseas tours by the England team were under the official banner of 'MCC' until 1977.


Sunday newspaper, founded in 1791.


27 October 1955

my nephew Charles

Charles John Lyttelton, Lord Cobham

a Lytton Strachey essay on letters

Printed in The Athenaeum, 15 August 1919:

Among English writers, Swift and Carlyle, both of whom were anxious to be masculine, are disappointing correspondents; Swift's letters are too dry (a bad fault), and Carlyle's are too long (an even worse one).

his Irish Memories

Irish Reminiscences (1947).

your really excellent life of H. Walpole

RH-D's Hugh Walpole, A Biography, published by Macmillan in 1952, was, at the time of the Lyttelton/Hart-Davis letters, his only substantial publication as an author.

'that state of resentful coma which scholars attempt to dignify by calling research' ... Laski produced it—mendaciously—as his own.

Laski thought so well of the phrase that he used it five times in his correspondence with Mr Justice Holmes (Holmes–Laski Letters, Harvard University Press, 1953, pp 454, 488, 553, 716 and 1492). It appears to have been coined in the 1880s by Hensley Henson (later Bishop of Durham), according to Kenneth Rose in his biography of Lord Curzon (Superior Person: A Portrait of Curzon and his Circle in Late Victorian England, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969)

how immensely good that correspondence is

Harold J Laski first met Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr in 1916 when Holmes was 75 and Laski was 23. There ensued a correspondence that lasted until shortly before Holmes's death aged 93.

'You are glad he lived, but very grateful that you didn't know him'

Laski to Holmes, 5 April 1927

Virginia Woolf

Laski to Holmes, 30 September 1930:

I also went with Frida to a dinner to meet Virginia Woolf, the novelist. She tickled me greatly; it was like watching someone organise her immortality. Every phrase and gesture was studied. Now and again, when she said something a little out of the ordinary, she wrote it down herself in a notebook.

Don Juan

Byron's unfinished epic poem

Butler's budget

R A Butler, Chancellor of the Exchequer, presented a supplementary budget to Parliament on 26 October. It raised purchase tax by twenty per cent, extended its range to include household items previously exempt, increased the cost of postage and telephone calls, and cut the government's subsidies to local authorities. (The Times, 27 October, p 10.)

the Ancient of Days

A scriptural allusion to God; cf. Daniel 7:9.

more suo

In his (accustomed) way.

da capo

From the top—a direction at the end of a piece of music to repeat it from the beginning.

senza fine

Without end. The end of a 'da capo' repeat is often denoted by the word fine.

Andrea del Sarto

Lines spoken by the eponymous painter Andrea del Sarto in Browning's poem, lamenting his lack of inspiration to match his technical skill.

Hubert Parry is another example of brilliant promise ending in the merely accomplished and scholarly.

In 1887 Charles Stanford described Parry as the greatest English composer since Purcell. By the end of Parry's life his music (like Stanford's) was overshadowed by that of Elgar, although Parry's best-known piece, his setting of William Blake's 'Jerusalem' was a late work, composed in 1916.

'The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked'

Jeremiah 17:9.


30 October 1955        


To begin with; in the first place.

Dickens's Letters

Volume I (of a projected twelve) of The Letters of Charles Dickens, edited by Madeline House and Graham Storey was published by the Clarendon Press in 1965.

Pilgrim Trust

Charitable trust, founded in 1930, with a wide range of beneficiaries, including conservation, academic research, places of worship and social welfare.              

The Note-books of Gerard Manley Hopkins

House edited the first edition, published by the Oxford University Press in 1937. In 1959 the OUP published The Notebooks and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins (edited by House and completed by Graham Storey).

I got a classics don at Magdalen to vet and edit them

Aristotle's Poetics: A Course of Eight Lectures, edited by House and Colin Hardie, was published by Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd in 1958. A revised edition edited by Hardie was published by RH-D in 1966.

a cockney actor of great charm 

Charles Marford. His widow was the actress Molly Tapper.

Oscar Wilde's Letters

The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde was published by Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd in 1962. John Murray Ltd published a supplementary volume, edited by RH-D, in 1985. A consolidated and expanded edition under the supervision of Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland, was published by Henry Holt and Co in 2000.

Anatole France's old scholar

The eponymous hero of Le crime de Sylvestre Bonnard (1881), a bibliophile whose library in his Paris flat is dubbed the City of Books.

Time and Tide

Literary and political magazine founded in 1920 by Lady Rhondda. Ceased publication in 1977. RH-D used the pen name 'Norman Blood' for his reviews of detective fiction in the magazine.


3 November 1955

Hodder and Stoughton

Publishing firm, originally of religious books, founded in 1868 by Matthew Hodder and Thomas Wilberforce Stoughton in succession to Jackson, Walford and Hodder.

Whose love is given over well

Partial Comfort, correctly attributed but not quite accurately quoted. Correctly:

Whose love is given over-well
Shall look on Helen's face in hell,
Whilst they whose love is thin and wise
May view John Knox in paradise.

Old Boy Dinner

Annual reunion of former pupils. Those for GWL's ex-charges were held at various venues including the Café Royal (1949), Brown's Hotel (1950), Royal Automobile Club (1951, 1952) and 15 Grosvenor Square (1954, 1955, 1959, 1960). One of his old boys recalled him 'at his Old Boy Dinners, enveloped in a vast and aging dinner-jacket, delivering with commendable timing, a string of improbable stories about his large family or the more obscure annals of Suffolk agricultural life.' (The Times, 11 May 1962, p 19.)

Mr Chips

A sentimental portrait of a long-serving schoolmaster in James Hilton's 1934 novel, Goodbye, Mr Chips, and the 1939 film based on it, starring Robert Donat as Charles Edward Chipping, 'Mr Chips'.


6 November 1955

The Garrick

The Garrick Club in the West End of London, much favoured by actors and lawyers.

Horatian Society

London society, founded in 1933, celebrating the works and life of Quintus Horatius Flaccus. The meeting mentioned by RH-D was at the Savoy Hotel on 15 July 1953, chaired by Leo Amery.

The Wisdom of Solomon

Sixth book of the Apocrypha. Ch 3 verses 1-5 are an authorised alternative to the Old Testament lesson for the service of Burial of the Dead:

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself.


Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George. (Order of chivalry generally reserved for diplomats.)

My next book…

RH-D's memoirs were published in three volumes: The Arms of Time (1979), The Power of Chance (1991) and Halfway to Heaven (1998). The first of these was about his mother and his own youth.


Public school in Derbyshire, founded 1557. Fisher was the second of its headmasters to become Archbishop of Canterbury, succeeding William Temple in both posts (in 1914 and 1945).


9 November 1955

The late Bishop Brook of Ipswich

Late Bishop, rather than deceased. See Richard Brook in biographies.

'Sir, you may wonder'

Boswell's Life of Johnson (1766 section):

Boswell. 'But I wonder, Sir, you have not more pleasure in writing than in not writing.' Johnson. 'Sir, you may wonder.'

'Those who can, do; those who can't, teach'

Man and Superman, 'Maxims for Revolutionaries' include: 'He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.'

You lack the season of all natures, sleep

Macbeth 3:4.


Foreign Office. From 1968, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

'that sudden fits of inadvertency…'

From the preface to Johnson's Dictionary:

…what is obvious is not always known, and what is known is not always present; that sudden fits of inadvertency will surprize vigilance, slight avocations will seduce attention, and casual eclipses of the mind will darken learning; and that the writer shall often in vain trace his memory at the moment of need, for that which yesterday he knew with intuitive readiness, and which will come uncalled into his thoughts to-morrow.

the pen, like Kempenfelt's

William Cowper, Loss of The Royal George:

His sword was in its sheath,
His fingers held the pen,
When Kempenfelt went down
With twice four hundred men.

'wicked Lord Lyttelton'

Thomas, second Baron Lyttelton.

Horace W.

Horace Walpole.

Old Men Forget

Memoirs of Duff Cooper, published by RH-D in 1953.


Biography of Talleyrand by Duff Cooper, published by Jonathan Cape in 1932.

the Jordan blood

There is no previous reference to 'Jordan blood' in the published letters as edited by RH-D. Mrs Jordan, mistress of William IV, was RH-D's great-great-great-grandmother. Gladstone's wife, Catherine, née Glynne ('Aunty Pussie') was sister of GWL's grandmother Mary Glynne who married George William Lyttelton (4th Baron) in 1839.

ex cathedra

From the (papal or episcopal) chair: an authoritative official pronouncement.

the Mirror

The Daily Mirror, a leftward-leaning mass-circulation newspaper.

the Sketch

The Daily Sketch, a rightward-leaning, less successful, rival of The Daily Mirror. Ceased publication in 1971.

'Old Lang Swine'

This is a quotation from a 1936 verse by Gerald Bullett:

My Lord Archbishop, what a scold you are!
And when your man is down, how bold you are!
Of Christian charity how scant you are
And, auld Lang swine, how full of Cantuar!

the New Statesman

Weekly, left-leaning current affairs magazine founded in 1913 by Sidney and Beatrice Webb with the support of Bernard Shaw and other members of the Fabian Society.


Abolition of the status of the Church of England as the state religion of England.


13 November 1955

Mrs Leo Hunter

The Pickwick Papers, Ch 15. Mrs Hunter is thought to be a caricature of Mary, Countess of Cork and Orrery, a famous hostess and collector of celebrities.

the Record Office

Public Record Office, then in Chancery Lane, London, founded 1838. Merged with the Historical Manuscripts Commission in 2003 to form the National Archives.

Operation Cicero

By L C Moyzisch (1950), with a postscript by Franz von Papen: an account of the espionage in Ankara. Knatchbull-Hugessen confirmed that 'the backbone of the book is certainly true.' (TLS, 29 September 1950, p 616)

Shakespeare and the musical glasses

This is the first of two mentions of 'musical glasses' in letters by RH-D; the other is in his letter of 15 September 1959, in Volume 4. The reference seems to be to Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, Chapter 9: 'they would talk of nothing but high life, and high lived company; with other fashionable topics, such as pictures, taste, Shakespear, and the musical glasses'.

the new life of Kipling

Charles Carrington, Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work, Macmillan, 1955.

Brains Trust

BBC radio programme, originally and still (in 2023) officially called 'Any Questions', later transferred to TV; a panel discussion on topical questions. The term 'brains trust' (originally 'brain trust') originated in 1930s in America (OED).


15/16 November 1955


Longinus, On the Sublime (Περι Υψους).  The passage (IX:14) quoted by GWL appears to be his own translation rather than any of the published versions.

Old Ram

A B Ramsay.

Leslie Hotson … Twelfth Night

Hotson's The First Night of Twelfth Night (1954).



Vere de Vere

Tennyson Lady Clara Vere de Vere. Stanza 5. (Correctly, 'which stamps…')

Proofs of Holy Writ

Kipling's last story, completed too late for inclusion in his last collection in 1932. Published in the OUP's Mrs Bathurst and other Stories in 1991.

Go heavily as one that mourneth

Psalm 35:14: 'I went heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother' (Book of Common Prayer). GWL's scriptural quotations were often from the BCP rather than the Authorised Version of the Bible; the latter's version of the passage is, 'I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother'.

'Awful Memnonian countenances calm'

Tennyson: A Fragment, published in The Gem: a Literary Annual, 1831.


20 November 1955

O liberal and princely giver

From Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese, No 8:

What can I give thee back, O liberal
And princely giver, who hast brought the gold
And purple of thine heart, unstained, untold.

Johnson Club

London club founded in 1884 for admirers and scholars of the works of Samuel Johnson. GWL delivered a paper to the club in 1953; it is reproduced as an appendix to Volume 2 of the Letters.

the Graham Sutherland portrait

The Sutherland portrait of Churchill, commissioned by both houses of Parliament, was destroyed by Churchill's wife, Clementine, in 1956. She said her husband had always disliked it and it had preyed on his mind. Sutherland later described the destruction as 'an act of vandalism'. Studies made for the portrait have survived, however, and are displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

the other two Hotson books I published

Shakespeare's Sonnets Dated and other Essays (1949) and Shakespeare's Motley (1952).

The selection was made by Julian Symons

Carlyle: Selected Works, Reminiscences, and Letters, edited by Julian Symons, published by Hart-Davis in 1955.

'preached to death by wild curates'

Memoir of the Late Sydney Smith by his daughter Lady Holland (1855) p 384:
'Oh, the Dean of — deserves to be preached to death by wild curates.'

Hedda Gabler

Peggy Ashcroft played the title role in Peter Ashmore's production of Ibsen's play at the Lyric, Hammersmith, and later  at the Westminster Theatre in 1954.


23 November 1955

'which comforts while it mocks'

Browning, Rabbi-Ben-Ezra:

For thence,—a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks

'Sir, this is taking prodigious pains about a man'

Boswell's Life of Johnson (1784 section): 'He listened with much attention; then warmly said, "This is taking prodigious pains about a man."'



John Wain is producing…a small collection of difficult poems

Interpretations, 1955. Essays edited by Wain on understanding and appreciating 12 poems. Poems considered ranged from 'The Phoenix and the Turtle' to 'Christabel' to 'The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock'.

without any appeal to the bowels of Christ

A message from Oliver Cromwell to the Synod of the Church of Scotland on 5 August  1650 included the exhortation, 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.'

The Village that Voted

The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat;  story by Kipling, published in 1913.

'poor Poll' who wrote 'Of praise a mere glutton…'

From Oliver Goldsmith's Retaliation, A Poem, in the section on David Garrick.

what does 'to boot' mean?

'to the good' from Middle English 'boote' or 'boot', meaning 'advantage' or 'good'.

George Trevelyan compiled a vol. of extracts a few years ago, but I got the impression that he hadn't taken very much trouble over it; it was v. disappointing

Reviewing Trevelyan's volume in the TLS, Professor John Holloway commented on 'the cautious brevity of Dr Trevelyan's selection' and on the meagreness of extracts from Carlyle's letters. He also criticised Trevelyan's sources, sometimes 'erroneous, mis-punctuated or incomplete.' (TLS, 24 April 1953, p 266.)


Carlyle's History of Friedrich II of Prussia, called Frederick the Great, 21 volumes published between 1858 and 1865.

'investigate the parts of shame…'

'Thus, too, you will observe of dogs: two dogs, at meeting, run, first of all, to the shameful parts of the constitution; institute a strict examination, more or less satisfactory, in that department. That once settled, their interest in ulterior matters seems pretty much to die away, and they are ready to part again, as from a problem done'. Frederick the Great, XVI. Carlyle attributes the words to Diogenes.


27 November 1955

'When I see a number of "its"'

Cobbett's A Grammar of the English Language (1818), 196: 'Never put an it on paper without thinking well what you are about. When I see many its in a page I always tremble for the writer.'

assez lugubre

Gloomy enough.


London club. Its members, according to the club, are mainly professionals concerned with science, engineering or medicine, but lawyers, writers, artists, clergymen, civil servants and academics of all disciplines are also heavily represented on the roll, with a small number of businessmen and politicians. Women have been eligible to become members since January 2002. Its imposing premises in Pall Mall, designed by Decimus Burton, date from 1827.

W.H. Smith

British booksellers and stationers, founded in 1792.

The Queen and the Rebels

By Ugo Betti, translated by Henry Reed, starring Irene Worth and Leo McKern.

people never think their own home is far away

Putney is 10 kilometres from Soho Square.

in posse



30 November 1955


A boil, from Latin furunculus, lit. 'a little thief'.

'spell of the dry grins'

Not Mark Twain, but Joel Chandler Harris: 'Brer Rabbit'd bust out in er laff, en old Brer Fox, he'd git a spell er de dry grins.' (From the Uncle Remus story, Old Mr Rabbit, He's a Good Fisherman.) Also used, elsewhere in the stories, of Brer Wolf and Brer Rabbit. The term does not appear in the OED, but the American Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as 'smiling caused by a feeling of embarrassment'.

tire the sun with talking

William Cory, Heraclitus. '…how often you and I/Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.'


Hagley Hall, Worcestershire. GWL's birthplace. The last great English house to be built in the Palladian style, constructed for George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton, between 1754 and 1760 to the designs of Sanderson Miller. The Hall remains in the family's possession; at 2019 the owner is Christopher Charles Lyttelton, 12th Viscount Cobham.


School story by Kipling in which a formidable Classics master shows his human side. The story opens with Mr King taking the boys through Horace's Ode III:5, insisting that their translations should not merely be accurate but should convey in English 'the passion, the power … the essential guts' of Horace's Latin.

Craven Scholar

Oxford and Cambridge scholarships endowed by John, Lord Craven, first awarded in 1649.

the son of Oileus and not the son of Telamon

GWL's way of indicating that The Upton Letters did not represent Benson at his best: the son of Oileus was known as 'Ajax the lesser', the son of Telamon, 'Ajax the great'.

'La Belle Dame S.M'

La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Keats.

'Through the dear might of Him that walked the waves'

Milton, Lycidas.

Leavis on Lawrence

Later scholars such as Eugene Goodheart referred to Leavis's uncritical, even idolatrous, view of Lawrence, and criticised Leavis's English insularity in failing to see Lawrence in a broader context. (Goodheart, D H Lawrence: The Utopian Vision, 2006, pp ix-x)

Numb as a vane…

Hardy, She to Him, III.

Adam in Moonshine

Priestley's first novel (1927). The TLS, like GWL, praised the writing, though judging Priestley a born essayist rather than a born novelist. (TLS, 27 January 1927, p 58)

the paucity of human pleasures

'It is very strange, and very melancholy, that the paucity of human pleasures should persuade us ever to call hunting one of them.' (Mrs Piozzi's Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson, LL. D.)

This very evening my son is being interviewed on TV

One of a series of half-hour broadcasts under the title 'At Home'. Others featured in the series included the show-jumper Harry Llewellyn, James Thomas (First Lord of the Admiralty), and the actor John Mills and his wife.

'Sir, I abstracted my mind and thought of Tom Thumb'

'He [Fox] talked to me at club one day,' replies our Doctor, 'concerning Catiline's conspiracy, so I withdrew my attention, and thought about Tom Thumb.' (Mrs Piozzi, op cit)


4 December 1955

so much brilliance manifested in the children, and not a single grandchild to carry it on

Archbishop Benson's three sons were lifelong bachelors; it is not generally thought that any of the three was susceptible to the attractions of the opposite sex. (ODNB)

Margaret Duchess of Newcastle

Douglas Grant's Margaret the First: A Biography of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, 1623-1673, published by RH-D in 1957.

a short novel written in English by a Hungarian woman

The Mermaids by Eva Boros, published by RH-D in June 1956. 'A most attractive novel,' said The Times (7 June 1956), 'Miss Boros's touch is light and sensitive.'

'The Convergence of the Twain' … 'An Ancient to Ancients'

The first is subtitled 'Lines on the loss of the Titanic'; the second is a reflection on nostalgia

Paternosters Club

Paternoster Club: a London club for authors and journalists.


7 December 1955

As We Were…

As We Were: A Victorian Peep-Show, reminiscences, published 1930. Final Edition, autobiography, published 1940. Both by E F Benson.

An Average Man, The Conventionalists

Novels by R H Benson, published in 1913 and 1908 respectively.

'still small voice of coin'

cf. the hymn 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind', which contains the line 'O still, small voice of calm' after the 'still small voice' of 1 and 2 Kings, but probably an allusion to R L Stevenson's letter to Sidney Colvin, January 1875:

About my coming south, I think the still small unanswerable voice of coin will make it impossible until the session is over.

the reburnishing of the dove

From Tennyson's 'Locksley Hall':

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

'If there be any merit, think on these things'

From Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 4:8: '…if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things'.

Knurr and spell

Bat and ball game.

Wilkinson (not Lyttelton)

Reference to one of Wordsworth's less felicitous opening lines, 'Spade! with which Wilkinson hath tilled his lands,' ('To The Spade of a Friend (an Agriculturist) Composed while we were Labouring Together in his Pleasure-Ground').

the innermost recesses of Abraham's bosom

cf. Luke 16:22: Lazarus is carried to Abraham's bosom, representing bliss in heaven.

not going so far as Dr J.

Samuel Johnson: 'Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o'clock is a scoundrel.' Works, vol. 9, Apophthegms, ed. John Hawkins, 1787-1789.

as C. Lamb delightedly reported Wordsworth as saying

John Rogers Rees, The Brotherhood of Letters (1889):

However one may admire Wordsworth, his egotism occasionally rubs up very roughly against our sensibilities. He told Lamb one day in the course of conversation that he considered Shakespeare greatly overrated. 'There is,' said he, 'an immensity of trick in all Shakespeare wrote, and people are taken by it. Now, if I had a mind I could write exactly like Shakespeare.'  'Yes,' stuttered Lamb in reply, 'it is only the mind that is wanting.'

'The Men Who March Away'

Hardy's 1914 poem, 'Men Who March Away' subtitled 'Song of the Soldiers'. It begins:

What of the faith and fire within us
Men who march away
Ere the barn-cocks say
Night is growing grey,
To hazards whence no tears can win us;
What of the faith and fire within us
Men who march away!

Petition of Right

In 1628 both Houses of Parliament passed resolutions reaffirming the provisions of Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus, seeking to prevent the monarch from raising taxes without Parliamentary consent and to curtail other autocratic practices. The resolutions, known collectively as the Petition of Right, were forced on Charles I, who reluctantly ratified them.


11 December 1955

The Dynasts … the Third Pro­gramme broadcast

Henry Reed's radio adaptation of Hardy's epic verse drama set in the Napoleonic Wars was broadcast on six successive evenings in June 1951. Each part ran for ninety minutes. The large cast included Robert Harris as Napoleon and Stephen Murray as Wellington.

Napoleon … is taunted  by the spirits

Hardy invented various spirits (Spirit of the Years, Spirit of the Pities etc) as unifying narrative devices.

quorum pars minima fui

'Of which I was a small part'—possibly a play on Virgil: 'quaeque ipse miserrima vidi / et quorum pars magna fui.' (Aeneid, Book II, 5-6.)

Orleans Club

London club whose independent existence ended in 1945 when it merged with the Marlborough and Windham clubs.

Wine and Food Society

International association of gastronomes founded in 1933 by André Simon.

Waiting for Godot

This was the first London production of Beckett's masterpiece, which had been premiered in its original French version, En attendant Godot, in Paris in January 1953. The London production was directed by Peter Hall, with Paul Daneman as Vladimir, Peter Woodthorpe as Estragon, Peter Bull as Pozzo and Timothy Bateson as Lucky.


14 December 1955

de profundis

From the depths.

Prospero and Chauntecleer

In, respectively, The Tempest and Chaucer's The Nun's Priest's Tale.

Like John Wesley's friend…

The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, Volume 7 (1826), 'On Riches':

A gentleman of large fortune, while we were seriously conversing, ordered a servant to throw some coal on the fire; a puff of smoke came out; he threw himself back in his chair and cried out, 'O, Mr Wesley, these are the crosses I meet with every day!' I could not help asking, 'Pray, Sir John, are these the heaviest crosses you meet with?'

The Spectator

Current affairs and arts weekly founded in 1711 by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele and relaunched several times since. It has a right-of-centre bias.

How Green etc

How Green was my Valley, 1939 novel by Richard Llewellyn, set in a Welsh mining community in Victorian times.

I will not listen to…

Mrs Dale's Diary and The Archers were BBC radio soap operas. The Goon Show was an anarchic comedy. Vic Oliver was a comedian. Billy Bunter was a comic character based on a series of books set in a minor public school.


A glossy high-society magazine, with no connexion to Richard Steele's 1709 publication of the same name.


A monthly magazine of humour, short stories, photographs and the arts. Notwithstanding GWL's implied disdain it had distinguished contributors including C S Forester, Robert Graves, Nancy Mitford, Stephen Potter, V S Pritchett and Ronald Searle.


A game played on a billiard table with six coloured balls and one cue ball, with which players try to pocket the coloured balls in a prescribed order.

D Mail

The Daily Mail, a right-wing newspaper popular among sections of the lower middle classes.


Boer leader in South Africa, nearly as extravagantly bearded as W G Grace.

What line would he have taken about heroin?

At the end of 1955 there was controversy about a proposed ban on the manufacture of heroin for medical use. At that time Britain produced seventy per cent of the world supply of heroin. (The Times, 7 December 1955, p 6)


17 December 1955

the London Mag

The London Magazine, a review of literature and the arts, first published in 1732 and relaunched in 1820.

the life of Freud

Three-volume biography by Dr Ernest Jones. Described by The Times as 'masterly' and by The Times Literary  Supplement (29 November 1957) as 'an achievement … of which the author may be justly proud.'

La Plume de ma Tante

Revue with music by Gerard Calvi and English lyrics by Ross Parker, starring Robert Dhéry.

his new edition of Evelyn

E S de Beer's was the first complete edition of Evelyn's diaries to be published. It was in six volumes, totalling 3,296 pages, with more than 12,000 notes by de Beer.


The Times Literary Supplement, a weekly literary review. It first appeared in 1902 as a supplement to The Times, and became a separate publication in 1914.

Fancy a fifteen-guinea book

The £15/15/- was for all six volumes.

Northanger Abbey perhaps or Old Mortality

Novels by Jane Austen (1817) and Walter Scott (1816)


22 December 1955

George Hirst's 2000 runs and 200 wickets in 1906

Hirst's achievement remains unmatched in first class cricket.

 'So here it comes—the distinguished thing'

Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance (1933), 14.3:

He is said to have told his old friend Lady Prothero, when she saw him after the first stroke, that in the very act of falling (he was dressing at the time) he heard in the room a voice which was distinctly, it seemed, not his own, saying: 'So here it is at last, the distinguished thing!' The phrase is too beautifully characteristic not to be recorded.

'desperate tides of the great world's anguish…'

From St Paul by F W H Myers, referring to Christ's redeeming passion.

Ezra Pound's referring to him as 'the beastly Beethoven'

Ezra Pound, 'Civilisation', Polite Essays (1935):

The beastly Beethoven contributed to the development of opera. … Let us have the perfect rendering which leaves Ludwig no possible alibi. It is NOT a pleasant way of spending an evening but it is immeasurably instructive.

'go romancing through a roaring lifetime…'

The Playboy of the Western World, Act 3. Correctly, 'a romping lifetime'.


26 December 1955

Appendixes A and B

Appendix A, a brief history of the Walpoles takes only two pages, but Appendix B, Walpole's official account of the First Russian Revolution, runs from p 449 to p 469.


London club, in St James's Street.

The Times

England's oldest national newspaper, founded in 1785 as 'The Daily Universal Register', changed in 1788 to the present title. All other newspapers with 'Times' in their title, from The Times of India to The New York Times, derive their titles from the original.


30 December 1955

la crapule 

Sickness resulting from excess of food or drink.


This word is not in the Oxford English Dictionary. The context suggests that it may be an editorial mistranscription of 'duodenosis' which is not in the OED either but is elsewhere used as a synonym of 'duodenitis', an intestinal inflammation.


1 January 1956


Also 'Wykehamist' (GWL's preferred spelling)—pupil or former pupil of Winchester College (after the founder of the college, William of Wykeham.)

suaviter in modo

Soft in manner. The full line is 'suaviter in modo, fortiter in re'—firm in the matter. The iron fist in the velvet glove.

les douceurs de la vie

The sweet things of life.


3 January 1956

meliore lapillo

'With a better stone'—ancient Roman writers including Juvenal refer to the practice of putting a white stone into a box to mark every happy day, and a black stone for every unhappy one.

browsing and sluicing

Wodehouse's phrase for 'food and drink' appears in many of his books, including My Man Jeeves ('Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest'), Right Ho, Jeeves (ch 11) and no fewer than three times in Indiscretions of Archie (ch VII, XVIII and XXI)

'neutral-tinted haps and such'

Hardy, 'He never expected much'.


8 January 1956

All on a weeping Monday…

From Sir John Denham's verses 'To Sir John Mennes', subtitled 'Being invited from Calice to Bologne to Eat a Pig.'


Cyril Alington.


8 January 1956

as Swinburne did at his 'ultimate allowance…'

'He smiled only to himself, and to his plateful of meat, and to the small bottle of Bass's pale ale that stood before him—ultimate allowance of one who had erst clashed cymbals in Naxos. This small bottle he eyed often and with enthusiasm, seeming to waver between the rapture of broaching it now and the grandeur of having it to look forward to.' (Max Beerbohm, No 2, The Pines.)

black gloom and the dunnest smoke of Hell

cf. Macbeth 1:5:

Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell.

made my heart like a singing bird…

Christina Rossetti, A Birthday:

My heart is like a singing bird,
Whose nest is in a watered shoot.'


15 January 1956

Separate Tables

Rattigan's 1954 play, starring Phyllis Neilson-Terry, Margaret Leighton and Eric Portman. It is two separate but overlapping dramas set in the same small seaside hotel.

St. James's Club

London club established in 1857, amalgamated with Brooks's in 1978.

Society of Bookmen

A dining club founded by Hugh Walpole in 1921.


J & E Bumpus of 350 Oxford Street. Booksellers by royal appointment. The firm moved to 6 Baker Street in 1958 when the Oxford Street lease expired, and was taken over in 1963.

Salad Days

By Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade. It ran in the West End for a record-breaking 2,283 performances.


18 January 1956

Sir Henry's dignity, Sir Squire's eyeglass, and Sir Seymour's smile

Portraits of Irving, Bancroft and Hicks in the Garrick Club, by Millais, Hugh Goldwyn Riviere and Maurice Codner respectively.

'My work will never be better than third-rate…'

Letter from Bennett to George Sturt, 1901. Quoted in Arnold Bennett—the Critical Heritage, ed. James Heburn, 1971.


Charles Pooter, central figure of The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith, is an accident-prone, lovably ridiculous figure. RH-D's biography of Walpole refers to 'the Mr Pooter strain in his character.'


Trades Union Congress, the joint forum for British trade unions.

the correspondence about old Asquith and his bridge-game

Starting with a letter on 9 January from Violet Bonham-Carter contradicting the assertion in Robert Blake's biography of Bonar Law that Asquith kept Law waiting for an important meeting while Asquith finished a hand of bridge.

Cliveden set

Tag invented by the left-wing journalist Claud Cockburn for the 1930s circle of Nancy Astor, thought by some to be too far to the political right to be a good influence on British politics.

'Don't write about politics; I agree with you beforehand'

Postscript to a letter to Frederic Tennyson, 1852. The original omits the word 'about'.

'He was at Eton, and had therefore had no education'

In Walpole's The Thirteen Travellers (1934)

Cakes and Ale

Alroy Kear in Maugham's 1930 novel Cakes and Ale was a disobliging and barely disguised caricature of Hugh Walpole, though Maugham mendaciously assured Walpole that the character was not based on him.


22 January 1956


Romeo and Juliet 2:2: 'Too flattering-sweet to be substantial.'

faute de mieux

For lack of anything (or in this case anyone) better.

bien entendu

Of course.

Charley's Aunt

Revival of Brandon Thomas's 1892 farce at the Globe Theatre, starring Frankie Howerd as Lord Fancourt Babberley. The Times thought more highly of it than RH-D did. In The Manchester Guardian, Philip Hope-Wallace called Howerd's performance 'wonderfully funny' and 'gloriously vulgar.'

Wild Duck

At the Saville Theatre, with a cast including Dorothy Tutin, Emlyn Williams, Michael Gough and Angela Baddeley, directed by Murray MacDonald. The Times thought less highly of it than RH-D did.


25 January 1956

your tightrope achievement

Hart-Davis's 1952 biography of Hugh Walpole avoided stating explicitly that its subject was homosexual, but made it clear to any reader who chose to read between the lines. When the book was reissued in 1985 the TLS commented on RH-D's 'fastidiously selective' reticence: 'In 1952 this would have seemed like decent discretion; twenty years later it would have seemed like evasion; today, Hart-Davis's calculated restraint seems effectively to mirror Walpole's own mode and to be, in literary terms, paradoxically sophisticated.' (TLS, 9 August 1985, p 887)

But I grow old, Master Shallow

Henry IV Part 2, 3:2:

Doth she hold her own well?
Old, old, Master Shallow.
Nay, she must be old; she cannot choose but be old; certain she's old.

in articulo mortis

At the moment of death—i.e. until my last moments.

M. Arnold (quite rightly) said was the sine qua non of all real civilisation

In Culture and Anarchy, An Essay in Political and Social Criticism:

So while we praise and esteem the zeal of the Nonconformists in walking staunchly by the best light they have … we seek to add to this what we call sweetness and light, and develop their full humanity more perfectly.

laughter came upon me 'like a sudden glory'

Hobbes: 'Sudden glory is the passion which maketh those grimaces called laughter.' Leviathan Pt. I, Ch. 6.

He had a laugh like all the sons of God

Job 38:7: 'All the sons of God shouted for joy.'

Dorothy Parker

Not Dorothy Parker, but Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn. (Correctly 'golf-links lie', not 'golf-course lies'.)

Who was it described his smile as 'like sunshine on putty'?

The phrase seems to have been coined by the duo Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper who wrote under the joint pen-name Michael Field. In their journal for 1890, they wrote:

His smile is like sunshine on putty, his talk sticks to one with the intimate adhesiveness of the same material—it approaches the surface of one's personality softly and there it is, on one,

GWL included the quotation in his commonplace book, along with another description of Moore by Gertrude Atherton: 'Like a codfish crossed by a satyr.' (GWL, p 38)


29 January 1956


The Order of Merit. A greater honour than knighthood (though conferring no prenominal title), restricted to 24 members.

The present Abbess is writing a biography of her

In A Great Tradition (1956), study of Dame Laurentia McLachlan  by Dame Felicitas Corrigan.

I fear his last journey

Cockerell lived until May 1962, outliving GWL.

lovelier letter of condolence than the one to Mrs Stevenson

What can I say to you that will not seem cruelly irrelevant or vain? We have been sitting in darkness for nearly a fortnight, but what is our darkness to the extinction of your magnificent light? You will probably know in some degree what has happened to us—how the hideous news first came to us via Auckland, etc., and then how, in the newspapers, a doubt was raised about its authenticity—just enough to give one a flicker of hope; until your telegram to me via San Francisco—repeated also from other sources—converted my pessimistic convictions into the wretched knowledge. All this time my thoughts have hovered round you all, around you in particular, with a tenderness of which I could have wished you might have, afar-off, the divination. You are such a visible picture of desolation that I need to remind myself, that courage, and patience, and fortitude are also abundantly with you. The devotion that Louis inspired—and of which all the air about you must be full—must also be much to you. Yet as I write the word, indeed, I am almost ashamed of it—as if anything could be 'much' in the presence of such an abysmal void. To have lived in the light of that splendid life, that beautiful, bountiful thing—only to see it, from one moment to the other, converted into a fable as strange and romantic as one of his own, a thing that has been and has ended, is an anguish into which no one can enter fully and of which no one can drain the cup for you. You are nearest to the pain, because you were nearest to joy and the pride. But if it is anything to you to know that no woman was ever more felt with and that your personal grief is the intensely personal grief of innumerable hearts—know it well, my dear Fanny Stevenson, for during all these days there has been friendship for you in the very air. For myself, how shall I tell you how much poorer and shabbier the whole world seems, and how one of the closest and strongest reasons for going on, for trying and doing, for planning and dreaming of the future, has dropped in an instant out of life. I was haunted indeed with a sense that I should never again see him—but it was one of the best things in life that he was there, or that one had him, at any rate one heard of him, and felt him and awaited and counted him into everything one most loved and lived for. He lighted up one whole side of the globe, and was in himself a whole province of one's imagination. We are smaller fry and meaner people without him. I feel as if I know that there is nothing narrow or selfish in your sense of loss—for himself, however, for the happy name and his great visible good fortune, it strikes one as another matter. I mean that I feel him to have been as happy in his death (struck down that way, as by the gods, in a clean, glorious hour) as he had been in his frame of mind. And, with all the sad allowance in his rich full life, he had the best of it—the thick of the fray, the loudest of the music, the freshest and finest of himself. It isn't as if there had been no full achievement and no supreme thing. It was all intense, all gallant, all exquisite from the first, and the experience, the fruition, had something dramatically complete in them. He has gone in time not to be old, early enough to be so generously young and late enough to have drunk deep of the cup. There have been—I think—for men of letters few deaths more romantically right. Forgive me, I beg you, what may sound cold blooded in such words—or as if I imagined there could be anything for you 'right' in the rupture of such an affection and the loss of such a presence. I have in my mind in that view only the rounded career and the consecrated work. When I think of your own situation I fall into a mere confusion of pity and wonder, with the sole sense of your being as brave a spirit as he was (all of whose bravery you shared) to hold on by. Of what solutions or decisions you see before you we shall hear in time; meanwhile please believe that I am most affectionately with you … More than I can say, I hope your first prostration and bewilderment are over, and that you are feeling your way in feeling all sorts of encompassing arms—all sorts of outstretched hands of friendship. Don't, my dear Fanny Stevenson, be unconscious of mine, and believe me more than ever faithfully yours, Henry James.

'the unlit lamp and the ungirt loin'

Browning, 'The Statue and the Bust' which ends:

The counter our lovers staked was lost
As surely as if it were lawful coin:
And the sin I impute to each frustrate ghost
Is—the unlit lamp and the ungirt loin,
Though the end in sight was a vice, I say.
You of the virtue (we issue join)
How strive you? De te, fabula.


1 February 1956

the Listener

Weekly magazine published by the BBC between 1929 and 1991.

that majestic old libertine his great-uncle

Wilfred Scawen Blunt.

English Association

Association founded in 1906 to promote 'further knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the English language and its literatures and to foster good practice in its teaching and learning at all levels.'

The Times says A.A.M. wrote two detective stories…

Times obituary, 1 February 1956. The Times was wrong and GWL right.

American children 'fwowed up'

Under the pen name 'Constant Reader' in The New Yorker, Dorothy Parker, reviewing The House at Pooh Corner, wrote, 'Tonstant Weader fwowed up.'

than a similar situation is by Wycherley in The Country Wife

Horner in Wycherley's play has it put about that he is impotent so that local women will not be on their guard against him.

life as summed up by Hobbes…

Leviathan, XIII, on the effect of war: '… continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.'


5 February 1956


Beachcomber parodied Milne's collections of verse, When we were Very Young and Now we are Six as When we were Very Silly and Now we are Sick. Milne's 'Vespers', contains the lines 'Hush Hush! Whisper who dares! Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.' Beachcomber's version, slightly misquoted by RH-D, is:

Hush hush!
Nobody cares:
Christopher Robin
(The Best of Beachcomber, 1963, p. 60)

the transmogrified Mr Bultitude

In Vice Versa by F Anstey.

Janet Adam Smith … I'd love to publish the book

Janet Adam Smith's John Buchan and His World was published in 1979, long after RH-D's retirement, by Thames and Hudson.


9 February 1956

Bourchier's Macbeth

Quoted by Agate in Ego 2, p 319

as Joxer Daly would say

In O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock.


Cambridge University Athletic Club.


12 February 1956

the interview … duly appeared on Thursday morning

The piece, titled 'The Hazards of Publishing—Effect of changes on small firms', ran to 500 words, and set out RH-D's view that costs had risen so much that small, independent publishers were 'likely to have greater difficulties in the future.' (The Times, 9 February, p 5.)  The leader, two days later, began, 'This week an ineluctable process has been carried a step further: another young publishing house, high in reputation, has joined up with an older firm.' But the main emphasis of the leader was the effect that publishers' problems had on aspiring writers, whose chances of publication were steadily diminishing. (The Times, 11 February, p 7.)


15 February 1956


The Code of the Woosters (1937), Ch 1:

He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.

Marlovianly … that ghost of Conrad's

In Heart of Darkness, an unnamed narrator retells Marlow's telling of his journey.

Jedediah Cleishbottom

Jedediah Cleishbotham, pen name used by Sir Walter Scott.


Housman disguised himself under the name of Terence in his poetry.

like P.G.W's Russian novelist on his colleagues…

In P G Wodehouse's The Clicking of Cuthbert (1922):

Vladimir Brusiloff proceeded to sum up.
'No novelists any good except me. Sovietski—yah! Nastikoff—bah! I spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P G Wodehouse and Tolstoi not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any good except me.'

George Herbert's 'But oh Eternity's too short…'

From the hymn, 'When all Thy mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys'. Words not by Herbert but by Joseph Addison.

'Oh ye ice and snow, praise ye the Lord'

From the order of service for Morning Prayer, Benedicite, omnia opera: 'O ye Ice and Snow, bless ye the Lord: praise him, and magnify him for ever'.

'going rather too far'

E F Benson, As We Were, 1934:

'Shall I tell our visitor about the man of Peru?' he once asked Mr Watts-Dunton. But no. 'I think that goes a little too far, Algernon,' was the reply, and so the doings of the man of Peru remained shrouded in a discreet mystery.

That great man Judge Holmes surely hit the nail…

Holmes-Laski Letters, Vol 1, p 95 (Holmes to Laski, 1917):

I don't doubt the progress of the last 2000 years but have no convictions as to its indefinite continuance. I see sufficient reasons for doing my damnedest without demanding to understand the strategy or even the tactics of the campaign.

altering 'indifferently' to 'impartially' in that wonderful prayer of Cranmer's

The change, made despite many objections, was to the line 'And grant unto thy servant Elizabeth our Queen, and to all that are put in authority under her, that they may truly and indifferently administer justice …'   By the twentieth century to do something 'indifferently' had come in general usage to mean 'unimpressively', rather than 'impartially' as intended.


W E Gladstone.

when they altered 'charity' to 'love' in Corinthians

1 Corinthians13. There are nine mentions of 'charity' in the chapter, ending with, 'And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.' The change from 'charity' to 'love' was made in the Revised Version in 1881.

'All occasions invite His mercies…'

Donne, sermon preached on Christmas Day 1624.

'Many the ways, the little home is one'

From Thomas Lovell Beddoes's play Death's Jest Book, begun in 1828 and published posthumously in 1850.


19 February 1956

le dernier cri

'The latest cry'—the current fashion.



I expect it's in Agate somewhere

It is: in The Contemporary Theatre, 1944 and 1945 (1946):

They will remember that critic who, between the two wars, was pressed by his editor to make the journey to Barnes. He replied, 'Sir, I respectfully submit that I am your dramatic critic for London, not for Asia Minor.'

the caesura seems to shift disconcertingly

When psalms are sung in church the caesura is the central pause in each verse, at which the melody changes direction.

Landor's poem to Ianthe

'Well I remember'


23 February 1956


To toil.

'the ungodly, filled with guilty fears…'

From the hymn, 'Great God, what do I see or hear?', words by William Bengo Collyer and Thomas Cotterill.

'Man is least himself when he talks in his own person'

From Wilde's The Critic as Artist (1891)

Sinister Street

By Compton Mackenzie.

Tom Brown at Oxford

By Thomas Hughes. Sequel to Tom Brown's Schooldays.

Miss Tishy in Jonathan Wild

Story by Henry Fielding. The passage mentioned by GWL is in Chapter VII—'Matters preliminary to the marriage between Mr Jonathan Wild and the chaste Lætitia.'

'this pomp of worlds, this pain of birth'

Matthew Arnold: 'Resignation—to Fausta':

Enough, we live:—and if a life,
With large results so little rife,
Though bearable, seen hardly worth
This pomp of worlds, this pain of birth;

Do you remember how he proved to his brother the Colonel what a bad writer of English Newman was?

In Salve, one of Moore's three volumes of autobiography, he set out to debunk Newman's Apologia pro Vita sua for its poor prose, which Moore contended, revealed equally poor thinking. Colonel Maurice Moore, whom Moore portrays in the passage, is depicted as representative of the open-minded reader.

the new edition of A. and M.

Hymns Ancient and Modern, the standard hymnal in Anglican Churches in the 1950s. A revised edition was published in 1950.

his cook had been murdered

Woollcott's mention of the event (which occurred, as noted by RH-D, in 1912) was in 'Shouts And Murmurs', The New Yorker, 24 November 1934.

the hero of The Ballad of Reading Gaol

The ballad's dedication is, 'In memoriam C. T. W., Sometime trooper of the Royal Horse Guards, obiit H M Prison, Reading, Berkshire July 7, 1896'. Charles Thomas Wooldridge murdered his wife in a crime passionnel and was hanged, despite the jury's strong plea for clemency.

Coleridge saying L had 'never learnt to write simple and lucid English'

Table Talk of S T Coleridge, 1 January 1834:

…his poems, taken as wholes, are unintelligible; you have eminences excessively bright, and all the ground around and between them in darkness. Besides which, he has never learned, with all his energy, how to write simple and lucid English.

his announcement that Tennyson knew nothing about metre

Coleridge said  of Tennyson:

The misfortune is the he has begun to write verses without very well understanding what metre is. Even if you write in a known and approved metre, the odds are, if you are not a metrist yourself, that you will not write harmonious verses; but to deal in new metres without considering what metre means and requires, is preposterous.

This was written in 1833, near the start of Tennyson's career as a poet. (W Macneile Dixon, A Primer of Tennyson, 1892, p 52)


26 February 1956

Zuleika Dobson

By Max Beerbohm.

'Do you remember me? or are you proud?'

Landor: 'Ianthe's Question'.


1 March 1956

our A.V.

The Authorised Version of the Bible—the King James version of 1611.


In Swift's Stella. The OED defines the word as 'sloppy' or 'slushy'.


The OED does not know about 'stolchy'. Edmund Blunden used the word in his poem 'A Country God'; GWL copied these lines from it in his commonplace book (p 52):

When groping farms are lanterned up
And stolchy ploughlands hid in grief,
And glimmering by-roads catch the drop
That weeps from sprawling twig and leaf.

St Winifred's

Also by Dean Farrar.

Is Hone's Life good?

Joseph Hone's The Life of George Moore (1936) was favourably reviewed in The Manchester Guardian (23 October 1936) and with some reservations, in the TLS (9 October) and The Times (9 October).

sported his oak

Shut the outer door of his rooms.

'We are the music-makers'

'Ode' by Arthur O'Shaughnessy. Now possibly best known as the libretto of Elgar's cantata The Music Makers.

the verdict of the great Bentley

Richard Bentley:

From thence I dipped in his [Professor Joshua Barnes’s] fulsom ἐπίλογος, enough to make a man spew that sees the vanity and insolence of the writer. … But what a shame it is, for a man that pretends to have been, a teneris unguiculis, a great grammarian and a poet, not to know, that the second syllable of εὐπραγίης is long?
Quoted in James Henry Monk, The Life of Richard Bentley (1833), p. 295.

Bandmaster Barnacle

Marine Bandmaster Percy Barnacle, one of those involved in the 1928 court martial trials of Captain K G B Dewar and Commander H M Daniel, who were judged to have prejudiced naval discipline by complaining of the bullying by Rear Admiral Collard of his subordinates, including Barnacle. Pace GWL, The Times made no fun of the Bandmaster's name.


4 March 1956

the printing dispute

Printers' unions took industrial action in January-March 1956 in pursuance of a pay claim.

Dodson and Fogg

Mrs Bardell's lawyers in The Pickwick Papers.

an article of 1200-1400 words on Post-War Publishing for the Financial Times

Britain's leading financial daily paper; it has a substantial and serious arts page. RH-D's article appeared on 12 April under the title 'Problems of the Publisher'. It covered, in greater detail, the main points of his Times interview in February (see above).

the Lord Chief Justice

Lord Goddard.


Pratt's Club, St James's. One of several long-established London clubs for men.


8 March 1956

'those reverend vegetables'

Letter from Gray to Horace Walpole, 1737: 'Both vale and hill are covered with most venerable beeches, and other very reverend vegetables, that, like most other ancient people, are always dreaming out their old stories to the winds.'

'towery city…cuckoo-echoing…'

Hopkins, 'Duns Scotus's Oxford', 1878.

Ten Thousand a Year

Published 1841. Edgar Allan Poe reviewing it for Graham's Magazine, November 1841, called it 'shamefully ill-written' but it sold well.

Jephro Rucastle and Colonel Lysander Stark

In the Holmes stories 'The Copper Beeches' and 'The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb' respectively.


11 March 1956

'dear addicted artist'

From Auden's poem 'At the Grave of Henry James':

Startling the awkward footsteps of my apprehension
The flushed assault of your recognition is
The donnée of this doubtful hour:
O stern proconsul of intractable provinces,
O poet of the difficult, dear addicted artist
Assent to my soil and flower.

RH-D included these lines in the published version of his commonplace book, with the footnote: 'Auden later removed this admirable stanza from the poem. It is usually a mistake for elderly authors to mess about with their earlier works.' (A Beggar in Purple, p 104.)


14 March 1956

the real sin against the H.G. is teaching the young to sneer, not in saying 'Thou fool'

A mixture of biblical allusions. The sin against the Holy Ghost (Matthew 12:31-32—the one unforgivable sin) and Matthew 5:22, 'whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.'

the Provost

Professor S R K Glanville, who died suddenly the following month aged 56.

me judice

'I being judge'—in my opinion. (Ablative first person singular pronoun + ablative of iudex.)

Too much 'O Altitudo' is horrible

From Thomas Browne's Religio Medici (1643), indicating loftiness of feeling.

a look as of thunder asleep but ready

John Brown, Rab and His Friends (1861):

The same large, heavy, menacing, combative, sombre, honest countenance, the same deep inevitable eye, the same look—as of thunder asleep, but ready—neither a dog nor a man to be trifled with.

sans phrase

'Without phrases' i.e. without circumlocution.


GWL was confusing two different MPs called Gully. See Gully in the biography section.

Sunday Times

Newspaper founded in 1822; not connected with The Times until 1966.


Old Wykehamists.

'Charity suffereth long'

1 Corinthians 13:4.

the difference between 'deferred' and 'preferred' shares

Holders of preferred shares receive dividends before all other shareholders; holders of deferred shares are lower in the pecking order.


18 March 1956

a biography of him by an American called Watson.

A E Housman: A Divided Life by George L Watson. Published by RH-D in 1957.


21 March 1956

the young man in Kipling, who 'trod the ling like a buck in spring…'

Kamal's son in The Ballad of East and West (1889).

'I reminded him that he was a toothless ape…'

'I called him…a wrinkled and toothless baboon who, first hoisted into notoriety on the shoulders of Carlyle, now spits and sputters on a filthier platform of his own finding and fouling.' (quoted in The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse, 1931.) Elsewhere Swinburne is quoted as calling Emerson 'a gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape' (New York Daily Tribune 25 February 1874). Emerson had earlier described Swinburne as 'a perfect leper and a mere sodomite.'

'What mean ye by these stones'

Joshua 4:6; the stones are a memorial.

letters from the University to King George V on the death of his mother and at his jubilee

The addresses were first published in the Cambridge University Reporter, but the identity of the author was not disclosed. GWL transcribed the second (published 14 May 1935) in his commonplace book:

To the King's most excellent Majesty, We, the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge, desire to approach You with our loyal and dutiful congratulations on the completion of the twenty-fifth year of Your Majesty's reign.

The events of that reign, for greatness and moment, are such as have rarely been comprised within twenty-five years of human history. It has witnessed unexampled acceleration in the progress of man's acquaintance with the physical universe, his mastery of the forces of nature, and his skill in their application to the processes of industry and to the arts of life. No less to the contrivance of havoc and destruction has the advance of knowledge imparted new and prodigious efficacy; and it has been the lot of Your Majesty to confront at the head of your people the most formidable assault which has ever been delivered upon the safety and freedom of these realms. By exertion and sacrifice that danger was victoriously repelled; and Your Majesty's subjects, who have looked abroad upon the fall of states, the dissolution of systems, and a continent parcelled out anew, enjoy beneath your sceptre the retrospect of a period, acquainted indeed with anxieties even within the body politic and perplexed by the emergence of new and difficult problems, but harmoniously combining stability with progress and rich in its contribution of benefits to the health and welfare of the community 

Called suddenly to the throne in an hour of vehement political contention, Your Majesty gave early evidence of the qualities which have since proved equal to every occasion. Courage and composure, steadfast impartiality, wise judgement, and delicate feeling have ever been present and manifest; and a transparent openness of nature has knit Your Majesty to the affections of all your subjects, who, without respect of rank or condition, are conscious of what we may presume to call a fellow-feeling with their sovereign. That Your Majesty, with your august and beloved Consort at your side, may be granted long life and happy continuance of the blessings vouchsafed to your reign in the years already numbered is the earnest prayer of this University, even as it is the common hope of a people fortunate in their King and grateful for their fortune.

the Tudors

Possibly The Tudors by Christopher Morris (1955).

my brother-in-law Leconfield

GWL's elder sister Maud Mary (1880-1953) married Lord Leconfield in 1908. 


25 March 1956

'I am wr-riting a book about the Cr-rusades…'

The Crusades—The World's Debate, published 1937.


29 March 1956

'Who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him'

Macbeth 5:1.

Bat Masquerier

From Kipling's 'The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat'.


Local Government Board. MacCarthy recounted the exchange in Humanities (1954), p 19.

or even … B.M.'s creator

There seems a mistranscription here: the printed text reads 'or even of B.M.'s creator' but GWL is surely saying that Dr Johnson—who invented the phrase about the knot of little misses—is a greater man than Saltmarsh or even Kipling. Johnson's phrase is recorded in The Diary of Mrs Hester Lynch Thrale (Later Mrs Piozzi) 1776-1809.

'a million thousand times more beautiful than Milton'

Letter to Eddie Marsh, 17 December 1913.

Shaw, whose absurd will…

Shaw left the bulk of his £367,000 estate to be used for the reform of the English alphabet and spelling. The will was overturned in the courts after his death, and the bulk of Shaw's fortune went to the residuary legatees—the British Museum, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the National Gallery of Ireland. The courts allowed £8,300 to be spent on spelling reform; most of it went on a phonetic edition of Androcles and the Lion in the Shavian alphabet, published in 1962 to a largely indifferent reception.

some monarch was a little queasy…

From Beckford's Vathek:

The Caliph, nevertheless, remained in the most violent agitation. He sat down indeed to eat; but, of the three hundred dishes that were daily placed before him, he could taste of no more than thirty-two.

counting fish as nothing

Lamb, The Last Essays of Elia, 'To the Shade of Elliston':

One proud day to me he took his roast mutton with us in the Temple, to which I had superadded a preliminary haddock. After a rather plentiful partaking of the meagre banquet, not unrefreshed with the humbler sort of liquors, I made a sort of apology for the humility of the fare, observing that for my own part I never ate but of one dish at dinner. 'I too never eat but one thing at dinner'—was his reply—then after a pause—'reckoning fish as nothing.'

The Next Million Years

By Sir Charles Darwin, published by RH-D in 1952.

Micaiah the son of Imlah

In 2 Chronicles and 1 Kings; cf. 1 Kings 22:8: 

'There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.'


4 April 1956

'Have we not all eternity to rest (talk) in?'

From Sartor Resartus: 'A little while, and thou too shalt sleep no more, but thy very dreams shall be mimic battles; thou too, with old Arnauld, wilt have to say in stern patience: "Rest? Rest? Shall I not have all Eternity to rest in?"'

'Pray consider what your flattery is worth before you are so lavish with it.'

'Madam, before you flatter a man so grossly to his face, you should consider whether or not your flattery is worth his having.' (Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arbley, Part II—1778 (published 1842).

'Gad, Madam, you'd better!'

cf William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, Lecture II (1902):

'I accept the universe' is reported to have been a favorite utterance of our New England transcendentalist, Margaret Fuller; and when some one repeated this phrase to Thomas Carlyle, his sardonic comment is said to have been: 'Gad! She'd better!'

See also RH-D's letter of 20 May 1961, which gives another citation, closer to the wording used by GWL here.

'To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous'

I cannot find a reliable reference for this as by Goethe. If he wrote or said it he may have been quoting Voltaire: 'Le doute n'est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde'.  (Letter from Voltaire to Frederick the Great, 5 January 1767)

the last speech of Brother Martin in St Joan

I took this cross from the church for her that she might see it to the last: she had only two sticks that she put into her bosom. When the fire crept round us, and she saw that if I held the cross before her I should be burnt myself, she warned me to get down and save myself. My lord: a girl who could think of another's danger in such a moment was not inspired by the devil. When I had to snatch the cross from her sight, she looked up to heaven. And I do not believe that the heavens were empty. I firmly believe that her Savior appeared to her then in His tenderest glory. She called to Him and died. This is not the end for her, but the beginning.

Col. Bramble

The Silence of Colonel Bramble (Les silences du colonel Bramble) by André Maurois (1921)

'history blushes to name'

'…vices from which History averts her eyes, and which even Satire blushes to name…' Macaulay, 'Frederick the Great' in Critical and Historical Essays, Vol II, 1854.


8 April 1956

Leslie Hotson's fascinating piece on the back page of the current T.L.S.

Giving a novel interpretation of Falstaff's offstage deathbed scene. Hotson contended that 'His nose was as sharpe as a pen and a table of green fields' (as printed in the First Folio) is correct. It has long been given as "… a babbl'd of green fields", but Hotson contended that the original words meant that the emaciated Falstaff resembled a portrait of Admiral Sir Richard Grenville (otherwise Greenfield). RH-D's prediction that stage directors would pay no attention to Hotson has proved correct.


10-11 April 1956

I move about in worlds not realised

Wordsworth: 'Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood':

Blank misgivings of a Creature,
Moving about in worlds not realised.

Old Johnson did I think accept 'babbled'

Johnson was no admirer of Lewis Theobald, who proposed the amendment to the text, but he allowed that 'babbled of green fields' would be an 'uncommonly happy' reading, if it were not that he disapproved of conjectural emendation.

'The reading of the ancient books is probably true…'

From Johnson's Preface to Shakespeare (1765)

'the nubbly bits'

Galsworthy, The Silver Spoon, Chapter 8.

O.E. ties

Harris was educated at the Royal School in Armagh and then Ruabon grammar school in Denbighshire; Ford went to University College School, London. (ODNB).

'the face of an angel-sheep…'

Agate, Ego I, p. 332: 'And not far off the face of an angel-sheep turned into a kid's and grey with its baby old age—Max Beerbohm.'


Waste-paper basket

Petrarch's simple statement…

'A sharp youth is a beautiful sight; nothing is more hideous than an old schoolmaster.'  In a letter from Petrarch to his friend Zenobio, who was thinking of becoming a teacher. GWL's friend C D Fisher quoted the line in a lecture delivered at Oxford in 1912.

The man of one joke, like the G.O.M.

Gladstone lectured to the literary society at Eton in 1891. Maurice Baring recalled:

There was only one joke in the lecture, and that would have been better away. It was this: 'Some of you may have heard the old story of the moon being made of green cheese.' Pause for laughter and a dead silence. 'The moon might just as well,' continued Mr. Gladstone, 'be made of green cheese for all the purposes she serves in Homer.'
Baring, The Puppet Show of Memory (1922), p 108


19 April 1956

… all the spices and gums of Arabia

'All the rare and costly products of the world were collected in that celebrated mart: the shawls of Cashmere and the silks of Syria, the ivory, and plumes, and gold of Afric, the jewels of Ind, the talismans of Egypt, the perfumes and manuscripts of Persia, the spices and gums of Araby…' Disraeli, Alroy, Chapter 2


21 April 1956

petit maître

Minor master (usually of one of the fine arts). Often used slightingly, though not here.

Nought, as perhaps Shelley said, shall endure…

Indeed Shelley, from his 1816 poem 'Mutability', which ends,

Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.


29 April 1956

'the silence that is in the starry sky…'

Wordsworth, 'Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle', 1807.


2 May 1956

Mrs Gamp

In Martin Chuzzlewit, ch 52. Dickens frequently used the old cockney transposition of 'v' and 'w' with comic intent.

The Greek Ambassador in 1916

Joannes Gennadius, Greek Minister in London from 1910-32, of whom The Journal of Hellenic Studies said in 1932, 'no foreign diplomatist possessed such a complete knowledge of our language, which he wrote and spoke with elegance…'

Xmas Day in the First Lesson 'Wonderful, Counsellor, Prince of Peace' etc

In the Book of Common Prayer, the First (Old Testament) Lesson prescribed for Mattins on Christmas Day is from Isaiah 9:2-7. Verse 6 is 'For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.'

'S.B. always hits the nail on the head…'

Young (pp 74 and 179) quotes the phrase with no attribution other than 'a common saying of the time'

'almost impossible to exaggerate the complete unimportance of everything'

The only mentions I can find of this phrase (e.g. dictionaries of quotations) cite this letter of GWL's as their source; I have not discovered where he got it from.

'treading the ling like a buck in spring'

Kipling, 'The Ballad of East and West':

With that he whistled his only son, that dropped from a mountain crest
He trod the ling like a buck in spring, and he looked like a lance in rest.

'There was a hardness in his cheek…'

Wordsworth, 'Peter Bell'.

old Munnings is again protesting

Munnings had announced that he would not attend the annual banquet of the Royal Academy in protest against the Academy's increased showing of modern art.

'could neither speak with effect nor be silent with dignity'

Jan Piggot et al, Dulwich College—A History, 1616-2008 (2008), p. 170


7 May 1956

'And mighty poets in their misery dead'

Wordsworth, 'Resolution and Independence' (1807):

My former thoughts returned: the fear that kills;
And hope that is unwilling to be fed;
Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills;
And mighty Poets in their misery dead.


9 May 1956

'Kubla Khan' … Abora

In Coleridge's poem:

It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.

'The May Queen' and 'Dora'

also by Tennyson.

'Who drives fat oxen…'

Boswell's Life of Johnson (1784 section):

Johnson was present when a tragedy was read, in which there occurred this line: 'Who rules o'er freemen should himself be free.' The company having admired it much, 'I cannot agree with you (said Johnson:) It might as well be said, "Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat".'

'Doest thou well to be angry…'

Jonah 4:4: 'Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry? ...  And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.'


18 May 1956

when they began monkeying about with the game of bridge

During the 1920s auction bridge, popular when GWL was a young man, was developed into, and supplanted by, contract bridge.

'My mind to me a Kingdom is' could be claimed by him more justly, I suspect, than it was by George Wither.

'My Mind to me a Kingdom is' is by Sir Edward Dyer (1543-1607) and not George Wither (1588-1667).

Portrait of a Man with Red Hair

Novel by Hugh Walpole (1925).


Nautical poem by Masefield (1912). The lines mentioned possibly include:

Whirled all about—dense, multitudinous, cold—
Mixed with the wind's one devilish thrust and shriek,
Which whiffled out men's tears, deafened, took hold,
Flattening the flying drift against the cheek.
The yards buckled and bent, man could not speak.
The ship lay on her broadside; the wind's sound
Had devilish malice at having got her downed

Meg Merrilies' 'Ride your ways, Ellangowan'

Walter Scott, Guy Mannering. The passage beginning 'Ride your ways,' said the gipsy, 'ride your ways, Laird of Ellangowan,' is in Chapter 8.


22 May 1956

shall be in the Rover seats

Though RH-D was entitled, as an MCC member, to sit in the members' enclosure, women were not admitted there, and he and his guest (presumably Ruth Simon) had to sit elsewhere in the ground.

a paragraph or two of Bunyan, about the trumpets sounding for him on the other side

The Pilgrim's Progress. Part II, the Eighth Stage:

Then said he, I am going to my Father's, and though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the Trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My Sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my Pilgrimage, and my Courage and my Skill to him that can get it. My Marks and Scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his Battles who now will be my Rewarder. When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the River-side, into which as he went he said, Death, where is thy Sting? And as he went down deeper he said, Grave, where is thy Victory? So he passed over, and all the Trumpets sounded for him on the other side.

Avowals, Conversations in Ebury Street, Memoirs of my Dead Life and A Storyteller's Holiday

All by George Moore, published in 1919, 1924, 1921 and 1918.

amaranth and moly to prop myself on

Tennyson, 'Song of the Lotos-Eaters'.

But, propt on beds of amaranth and moly,
How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly)
With half-dropt eyelid still,
Beneath a heaven dark and holy,
To watch the long bright river drawing slowly
His waters from the purple hill


25 May 1956

ventre à terre

Lit. 'belly to the ground'—resembling old paintings of a horse at full gallop; hence at full speed. (Ventre à terre paintings showed galloping horses with their front legs stretched straight forwards, and their hind legs stretched straight back; slow motion photography in the 1880s revealed that this is not at all how horses gallop.)

Hensley Henson's lamenting the difficulty of finding good quills

Letters of Herbert Hensley Henson (1951), p 246:

If only I could obtain really good goose-quills, I should still be able to write tolerably. These hateful steel nibs reduce one to the level of an elementary school-boy. Lucidity is purchased at the cost of a revolting scribal scrupulosity!

How sorry one is about M.B.

Max Beerbohm died on 20 May (not 18 as stated in RH-D's note), aged 83.


In the (vehemently reactionary) manner of Charles Whibley.

that marvellous little message of Vanzetti's

Vanzetti's words, printed in The New York World, 17 May 1927, recorded by a reporter who visited  him in prison:

If it had not been for these thing, I might have live out my life talking at street corners to scorning men.  I might have die, unmarked, unknown, a failure.  Now we are not a failure.  This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life could we hope to do such work for tolerance, for joostice, for man's understanding of man as now we do by accident.  Our words—our lives—our pains—nothing!  The taking of our lives—lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish-peddler—all! This last moment belongs to us—that agony is our triumph.


27 May 1956

'sapient trouble-tombs'

From Lamb's 'Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading' (Essays of Elia):

The wretched Malone could not do worse, when he bribed the sexton of Stratford church to let him white-wash the painted effigy of old Shakspeare, which stood there, in rude but lively fashion depicted, to the very colour of the cheek, the eye, the eye-brow, hair, the very dress he used to wear — the only authentic testimony we had, however imperfect, of these curious parts and parcels of him. They covered him over with a coat of white paint. By —, if I had been a justice of peace for Warwickshire, I would have clapt both commentator and sexton fast in the stocks, for a pair of meddling sacrilegious varlets. I think I see them at their work — these sapient trouble-tombs.


31 May 1956

old laudatores temporis acti like myself

From Horace's laudator temporis acti se puero 'a praiser of time past when he himself was a boy' (Ars Poetica 173)—one who pines for the good old days.

My ancestor whose 'every limb was a blemish…'

George, 1st Baron Lyttelton. GWL had quoted this description in his paper on his ancestor read to the Johnson Club in 1953 and reproduced as an appendix to Volume 2 of the letters. He did not say whose words they are.

the second act of The Truth about Blayds (and what a good second act)

1921 comedy by A A Milne, in the second act of which Irene Vanbrugh's character, Isobel Blayds, reveals that the poems of her celebrated father, the recently-dead Oliver Blayds, were not by him but by a friend of his early years who died young.

quis rem decernet?

Who is to decide the matter?

a very fine side of suicidal cricketers

A book was published in 2001 giving accounts of more than a hundred cricketers who committed suicide. (Silence of the Heart by David Frith). The players mentioned by GWL are included, but see the biographical note on Tom Richardson.

Charles Morgan's hailing N.C's cricket reports as 'Meredithian'

Morgan wrote to The Times (8 January 1947):

Sir,—May a faithful reader of cricket reports be allowed to thank you and your Special Correspondent at Melbourne for the best he has read these 40 years? Who shall dare to say now that George Meredith is forgotten?
'Naturally the English players were now men uplifted; mercury bubbled in the blood … The issue was here a very ache of intensity; the arms of the deities above were stretching far beyond their reach as Miller went out of his ground to Wright.'

The Baconians are immensely boring about these cryptograms

cf P G Wodehouse, 'The Reverent Wooing of Archibald' (1928):

'These figure totals', she said, 'are always taken out in the Plain Cipher, A equalling one to Z equals twenty-four. A capital letter with the figures indicates an occasional variation in the name count. For instance A equals twenty-seven, B twenty-eight, until K equals ten is reached, when K, instead of ten, becomes one, and R or Reverse and so on, until A equals twenty-four is reached. The short or single digit is not used here. Reading the Epitaph in the light of this Cipher, it becomes, "What need Verulam for Shakespeare? Francis Bacon England's King be hid under a W Shakespeare? William Shakespeare. Fame, what needest Francis Tudor, King of England? Francis. Francis W Shakespeare. For Francis thy William Shakespeare hath England's King took W Shakespeare. Then thou our W Shakespeare Francis Tudor bereaving Francis Bacon Francis Tudor such a tomb William Shakespeare".'
   Wodehouse’s parody is lucid by comparison with the Baconian Ignatius Donnelly’s entirely serious exposition of the supposed cipher between pp 655 and 669 of his 1888 book The Great Cryptogram: Francis Bacon's Cipher in the So-called Shakespeare Plays, too long to quote here, or indeed anywhere.

Ronnie Knox's brilliant establishing of the real author of In Memoriam

1928 article in which Knox sent up the methods of Baconians and the lunatic fringe who insisted that Queen Elizabeth wrote Shakespeare's plays. Knox fabricated tortuous decipherings such as 'V.R.I. the poetess. Alf T. has no duties', to prove that Queen Victoria wrote In Memoriam as a lament for Lord Melbourne. Knox, 'The Authorship of In Memoriam', Essays in Satire (1928), pp 221–233.


3 June 1956

two hundred letters from Max Beerbohm to Reggie Turner … they'll need some editorial notes.

Edited and published by RH-D in 1964. Reviewing the book, the TLS said of his annotations, 'The work involved … must have been immense, and the greater the obscurity the more valuable the information. An occasional "Unidentified" or "Quotation untraced" is at once an earnest of candour in the editor and an incentive to the reader.' (TLS, 26 November 1964, p 1056.)


6 June 1956

meliore lapillo

'A better stone'. Persius, Satire no II: 'Hunc, Macrine, diem numera meliore lapillo'. The Romans used a white stone as a symbol of good days.

the late Duke of Devonshire

Probably the ninth duke: see biography.

When were you chipped from the blue bowl of air…

Quotation still unidentified.

Ivor Brown's version of the Lord's Prayer in officialese

In which, 'Give us this day our daily bread,' becomes, 'We should be obliged for your attention in providing for our own nutritional needs, and for so organising distribution that our daily intake of cereal filler be not in short supply,' (quoted by GWL in his letter of 30 November 1961), and 'lead us not into temptation' becomes 'avert from us all redundant opportunities for delinquency and ethical deviation.' (Brown, Say the Word, 1947, pp 7-8.)


10 June 1956

the cuckoo of a joyless June

From 'Midnight, June 30, 1879', by Tennyson, on the death of his brother, Charles Tennyson-Turner


Percy Lubbock's book about life as a boy at his family home, Earlham Hall, Norfolk. The ODNB says of it 'The portraits of family, the splendiferous descriptions of Earlham (worth reading for Lubbock's passion alone), and appreciation for neighbouring landscapes are conveyed with elegance. Above all, Earlham spoke to a generation that had been brought up Victorian but had been transfigured by war and social change.'

Maritime Museum … Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, who had sold them a Van de Velde seascape

The Battle of the Texel (1673), the Bombardment of the 'Royal Prince', by Willem van der Velde the elder and Willem van der Velde the younger. Sold to the National Maritime Museum in 1934, but from 2004 once more displayed at Felbrigg Hall, on loan from the NMM to the National Trust, to whom Ketton-Cremer bequeathed the house in 1969.


13 June 1956

ventre à terre

Full gallop—see note above for 25 May 1956.

'The Misers' by (in my day) Quentin Matsys

The National Gallery attributes the painting to Marinus van Reymerswale's studio. The 'wicked' Lord Lyttelton won it as a gambling debt. The picture was sold at Sotheby's in 2008 for more than £2m.

in Heaven above or the earth beneath or the waters under the earth

Exodus 20:4

like Housman's cheek as he thought of that verse

cf. Housman, The Name and Nature of Poetry: 'Experience has taught me, when I am shaving of a morning, to keep watch over my thoughts, because, if a line of poetry strays into my memory, my skin bristles so that the razor ceases to act.'


17 June 1956

'long live the weeds and the wilderness yet'

Gerald Manley Hopkins, 'Inversnaid':

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wilderness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

the Druce-Portland case

A Victorian furore when the late 5th Duke of Portland was posthumously accused of leading a double life as an upholsterer in Baker Street.


24 June 1956

panem et circenses

Bread and circuses, from Juvenal's Satires, X, lamenting that the People, who once handed out high offices and ran things, now just want to be fed and entertained:

…nam qui dabat olim imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et circenses.

verb sap

Abbreviation of verbum sapienti sat est—a word is enough to a wise person.


27 June 1956

a kilderkin

A cask for liquids, with a capacity of sixteen to eighteen gallons (OED).

as Benjamin was to Joseph

Genesis 43:34: Joseph served his brothers food, 'but Benjamin's mess was five times as much as any of theirs'.

Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own

In which (Chapter 1) the splendour of dinner at the old male colleges is contrasted with the modest and unappealing food at a fictional college for women:

Prunes and custard followed. And if anyone complains that prunes, even when mitigated by custard, are an uncharitable vegetable (fruit they are not), stringy as a miser's heart and exuding a fluid such as might run in misers' veins who have denied themselves wine and warmth for eighty years and yet not given to the poor, he should reflect that there are people whose charity embraces even the prune

signalled a leg-bye like a man testing himself for locomotor-ataxia

An umpire signals a leg bye by raising one knee and touching it with his hand.  Locomotor ataxia is the inability to control the movements of one's limbs. Sufferers may need to look—or feel—what their legs are doing.

That is why Trumper … liked cricket in England much better than in Australia.

In Trumper's day matches in Australia's domestic first-class cricket (the Sheffield Shield competition), had no time limit, and were played to their conclusion. After 1927 matches were limited to four days' duration. When touring England with the Australian side, Trumper played in three-day matches against the counties.

South Wind

1917 novel by Norman Douglas, set on Capri, considered shocking at the time, with its large cast of characters of assorted moral and sexual persuasions.


1 July 1956

the wretched Minister

Derick Heathcoat-Amory was Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food from October 1954 to January 1958.


4 July 1956

Made with eggs of course, not Bird's

Bird's: a commercial powder consisting of cornflour and salt, with added flavourings and colour, which when mixed with sugar and hot milk makes an ersatz custard sauce. Real custard is made with egg yolks, sugar and hot cream or milk.

Shades of the prison-house

Wordsworth: 'Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood':

'Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy'.

Wrench's editing strikes me as rather amateurish

In Wrench's Geoffrey Dawson and Our Times (1955).

Phroso or The Sowers

Phroso: novel by Anthony Hope (1897); The Sowers: novel by Seton Merriman (1895).

Trent's Last Case

By E C Bentley.

Father Browns

Series of short detective-stories by G K Chesterton, in which the problems are solved by the Roman Catholic priest, Father Brown.


8 July 1956

Caleb Balderston

Correctly 'Balderstone'.

What happened in the University Match?

It was drawn.


12 July 1956


General Certificate of Education. The 'Ordinary' level was the standard academic qualification for 16-year-olds from the 1950s to the 1980s.

those pundits at St John's Wood

Location of Lord's Cricket Ground and base of the MCC and the England selectors.


The Princess Casamassima, novel by Henry James (1886).

'stuffy little creatures, human beings', as Romain Rolland said

Quotation not traced

fighting with beasts at Ephesus

1 Corinthians 15:32: 'If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.'


15 July 1956

The Craft of Letters in England

Edited by John Lehmann (1956). In addition to Stewart on biography, the other eleven contributors were Paul Bloomfield (the Bloomsbury tradition), Maurice Cranston ('The Literature of Ideas'), G S Fraser ('The Poet and His Medium'), Roy Fuller ('Poetry, Tradition and Belief'), L D Lerner ('The New Criticism'), Erik de Mauny ('The Progress of Translation'), Alan Pryce-Jones (autobiography), Philip Toynbee ('Experiment and the Future of the Novel'), C V Wedgwood (historical writing), T C Worsley (drama), and Francis Wyndham (modern novels).


18 July 1956

old Ervine on Shaw

St John Ervine's Bernard Shaw: His Life, Work, and Friends (1956).

Shaw was charming with one person, fidgety with two, and stood on his head with four

Lord Baldwin, politics apart, had a pretty wit and a talent for phrase- making. In a recent interview (writes " K.") with two lively writers, Hesketh Pearson and Hugh Kingsmill, the former (as Shaw's biographer) asked Lord Baldwin if he had ever met Mr Bernard Shaw. Lord Baldwin said that he had. Shaw had sought an interview with him in some connection which he had by now forgotten, and so interesting was his conversation that the Prime Minister (as he then was) had kept him talking for a whole hour. Lord Baldwin added: "Shaw is charming with one man, fidgety with two, and stands on his head for four." The Guardian, 18 December 1947, p. 3

The same description of Shaw is attributed elsewhere to the designer and director Edward Gordon Craig. (Peter Vansittart, In the Fifties (1995), p 10.

God's conversation with His son in Paradise Lost

Book 3, in which God tells His Son how wonderful He (God) is.

saeva indignatio

Savage indignation—contemptuous, particularly Swiftian, anger at human folly.

as Sir G. Sitwell told Osbert it was to expose oneself to the Germans

In a letter dated 16 December 1914, Sir George Sitwell advised his son Osbert, who was en route to fight in France, 'Directly you hear the first shell, retire … and remain there quietly until all firing has ceased.'


A lowbrow weekly published by the Daily Mirror group.

there shall be no 'You will, Oscar, you will' against me

Frank Harris, Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions (1910), p 35:

Carried away by [Whistler's] witty fling, Oscar cried:
'I wish I had said that.'
'You will, Oscar, you will,' came Whistler's lightning thrust.

Peter Quint

Malevolent—perhaps imagined—ghost in The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.


22 July 1956


Hugh Walpole.


H G Wells.

Edmund B.

Edmund Blunden.


26 July 1956

walking delicately, like Agag

1 Samuel 15:32: 'And Agag came unto him delicately'.

The cello is a lovely thing…

GWL had been an aspiring cellist at Cambridge, though a university magazine observed: 'When George Lyttelton practises the 'cello, all the cats in the district converge upon his rooms in the belief that one of their number is in distress.' (Humphrey Lyttelton, It Just Occurred to Me, 2007, p 57.)


3 August 1956

the third verse of the Boating song …

Kingsmill spoke of it to a friend who was 'in the fortunate position of not knowing the Eton Boating Song'.

Thanks to the bounteous sitter
Who sat not at all on his seat.
Down with the beer that's bitter
Up with the wine that's sweet
And Oh that some generous 'critter'
Would give us more ducks to eat!

Hesketh Pearson and Hugh Kingsmill, Talking of Dick Whittington (1947), p 121.

Forty Years On

The Harrow school song; but Blunden was not a Harrovian.

What about Laker?

J C Laker took an unprecedented, and never subsequently matched, nineteen wickets in the Old Trafford test against the Australians.

'Cleopatra/ was the Egypt answer to Montmartre…'

From Salad Days: see RH-D's letter of 15 January 1956.


5 August 1956

Say but one prayer for me twixt thy closed lips.

William Morris: 'Summer Dawn':

Pray but one prayer for me 'twixt thy closed lips
Think but one thought of me up in the stars.


8 August 1956

fumum et opes strepitumque

Horace: An Invitation to Maecenas (Ode 3, 29): 'the fumes, the splendour and the noise' (of Rome).

The Lanchester Tradition

Novel by G F Bradby (1919) set in a fictitious school.

the President of the Swiss Republic, whose name was on the tip of every-body's tongue but never emerged any further.

Beerbohm's essay 'Porro Unum…':

A friend of mine, who was there lately, tells me that he asked one Swiss after another what was the name of the President, and that they all sought refuge in polite astonishment at such ignorance, and, when pressed for the name, could only screw up their eyes, snap their fingers, and feverishly declare that they had it on the tips of their tongues. This is just as it should be. In an ideal republic there should be no one whose name might not at any moment slip the memory of his fellows.

old Mike

R A H Mitchell.

all houses of which Philistia was manifestly glad

Psalm 60:8 in the Book of Common Prayer: 'Philistia, be thou glad of me.'

lowest forms of pond life

Possibly a Wodehousean echo, cf Right Ho, Jeeves, Ch 3:

'I wonder, Bertie,' she proceeded … 'if you have the faintest conception how perfectly loathsome you look? A cross between an orgy scene in the movies and some low form of pond life.  I suppose you were out on the tiles last night?'

Frank Swinnerton's Background with Chorus

Recently published memoir. The Bookseller called it 'The most enchanting volume of bookish table talk produced in our time.'

'Minds innocent and quiet take this for a Hermitage'

Quoting Lovelace's poem 'To Althea from Prison'. (Hermitage is one of the finest and most characteristic of Rhône wines, unlikely to be confused with a claret of any kind.)

'much it grieved my heart to think What man has made of man'

Wordsworth: 'Lines—Written in Early Spring'.

The Earthly Paradise

A sequence of twenty-four long narrative poems by William Morris, combining Greek and Norse legends.

The Faerie

Spenser's The Faerie Queen, which consists of six books, each comprising twelve cantos.

Saintsbury's phrase 'the purged considerate mind of age'

Saintsbury used the phrase but he evidently borrowed it from Matthew Arnold's 1867 poem 'Fragment of Chorus of a Dejaneira':

Thither in your adversity
Do you betake yourselves for light,
But strangely misinterpret all you hear.
For you will not put on
New hearts with the inquirer's holy robe,
And purged, considerate minds.

Saintsbury, writing of George Sand in A History of the French Novel‚ Vol. 2, wrote:

I admit, in coming to George Sand, that this famous novelist has not, as a novelist, ever been a favourite of mine, that I have generally experienced some, and occasionally great, difficulty in reading her. Even the 'purged considerate mind' (without, I venture to hope, much dulling of the literary palate) which I have brought to the last readings necessary for this book, has but partially removed this difficulty.


12 August 1956

How all occasions do conspire against me!

Correctly, 'How all occasions do inform against me.' Hamlet 4:4.


18 August 1956

except for not extravagantly numerous breaches of the Seventh Commandment, I don't know that his villainy amounted to much

According to Sotheby's website, Lyttelton was 'a notorious rake, a wanton gambler and one of the greatest profligates of the age'. Before he had reached his twenty-fourth birthday, his debts to money-lenders amounted to £100,000. He married a rich heiress, but ran off to Paris with a barmaid. His notoriety spread across Europe.


C R L Fletcher: see biographies.


19 August 1956

Why Bourbon, Kentucky, was so named for the moment escapes me

Bourbon County was founded in 1785 and named after the French royal house, which had helped the recent rebellion in Britain's American colonies.


26 August 1956

ipsissima verba

The exact words.

when they were taking the hat round for Laker

Professional cricketers were not extravagantly well paid, and longer-serving players could be awarded a 'benefit' year, in which fund-raising events would be held on their behalf. Laker was given a benefit in 1956.


27 August 1956

Conybeare's dame

The Eton term for matron of a house.

Thin Ice

The theme of the novel is concealed homosexuality.

Flawner Bannal was quite right (in Fanny's First Play)

In the epilogue of Shaw's 1911 play.

old Swithun

Referring to the old belief that the weather on St Swithin's Day (15 July) will persist, wet or fine, for forty days.

'The rain dripped ceaselessly down from the hat which I stole from a scarecrow'

From a haiku by Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959)

This old hat, stolen
From a scarecrow
How fiercely
The cold rain pelts it!


10 September 1956

'my fermenting and passionate youth'

Henry James, Notebooks: 'I have only to let myself go! So I have said to myself all my life—so I said to myself in the far-off days of my fermenting and passionate youth'.


27 September 1956

'Hazlitt's depth of taste'

Letter to B R Haydon, 10 January 1818.

Dryasdust in person

The Rev Dr Jonas Dryasdust was an invention of Walter Scott, personifying the tediously pedantic and unimaginative scholar. Carlyle took up the character and made extensive derisory reference to him.

Verrall … Shufflebotham … Sitwell

John E Littlewood, A Mathematician’s Miscellany, 1953:

It was the custom (c. 1905) to read the roll at lectures (in alphabetical order). Verrall came to Mr Shufflebottom, Mr Sitwell, burst into his crow of laughter, and never read the roll again.

Mr Cayenne

A character in Annals of the Parish, by John Galt (1779-1839):

I addressed myself to him again, saying that, 'I hoped he would soon be more at ease; and he should bear in mind that the Lord chasteneth whom he loveth.'
'The devil take such love!' was his awful answer, which was to me as a blow on the forehead with a mell.


This spelling of Sauternes was much used throughout the nineteenth century, and was seen in The Times as late as 1984.


29-30 September 1956

commiserate with him about the Bradman tragedy at Worcester

Both D G Bradman and C J Lyttelton had by this time retired from first class cricket. Possibly RH-D was talking of the 1938 match at Worcester in which Lyttelton's side dismissed all the Australians cheaply except for Bradman, who scored a match-winning 258.


3 October 1956

Weir of Hermiston

In Stevenson's unfinished novel of the same name.


6-7 October 1956

the piece about learning to smoke a pipe at Oxford

In My Aunt's Rhinoceros, and Other Reflections (1958), pp 216-218

The Iron King

By Maurice Druon.

he was expecting the Dalai Lama's brother to lunch

Thubten Norbu, elder brother of the Dalai Lama. RH-D published his autobiography Tibet is My Country in 1960.


10/11 October 1956

What do I know of Mrs Barbauld except 'Life we've been long together'?

From her 1825 poem 'Life':

Life! We've been long together,
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
'Tis hard to part when friends are dear;
Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear;
Then steal away, give little warning,
Choose thine own time;
Say not Good night, but in some brighter clime
Bid me Good morning.

'By the time a man gets well into the seventies…'

From Virginibus Puerisque.

Nanga Parbat

Paul Bauer, The Siege of Nanga Parbat 1856-1953 (1956).

till my day 'ringeth to evensong'

The phrase exists in various forms. GWL is probably quoting from An Epitaph by Stephen Hawes (d. 1523) which he mentions in a later letter (1 April 1959):

For though the daye be never so long,
At last the bells ringeth to evensong


13 October 1956

when the point caught in a mandrake root—perhaps one got with child

John Donne, 'Song'

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.


18 October 1956

careful pursy men

The OED defines 'pursy' as 'puckered' or 'wrinkled'

Mr Woodhouses

Henry Woodhouse is Emma's valetudinarian father in Jane Austen's novel.


21 October 1956


Marion Crawford.