Notes to Volume 3: 1958


4 January 1958

Mr Pooter

Charles Pooter, central figure of The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith, is an accident-prone, lovably ridiculous figure.

Black Beauty

By Anna Sewell.                                    

At the Drop of A Hat

Written and performed by Michael Flanders (author) and Donald Swann (composer).

… dilly dilly

cf. 'Lavender Blue', an English folk song of the 17th century, which begins:

Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green,
When I am king, dilly, dilly, you shall be queen.

whether ill or well I know not

The Review of English Studies (April 1940) said of Milton: Complete Poetry and Selected Prose (1938), 'Mr Visiak and the Nonesuch Press have given us a Milton in one volume which … really should be the popular Milton for the next generation or so.'

Diana Cooper's book

The Rainbow Comes and Goes, published by RH-D in May 1958.

Comfort's stepmother

Margaret Turner.

no dogs, menservants or crests on our carriages

Licence fees imposed in the 1880s by Gladstone's government on carriages, menservants, dogs, horses and coats of arms were still in force in 1958.

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.


8 January 1958

Malcolm Sargent … 'Flash Harry'

The original 'Flash Harry' was Henry Field, a well-known Victorian thief. (See The Times 14 October 1865, p 11). The nickname had been attached to Sargent since his army service in the First World War.

Ah, Monsieur vous étudiez trop

Boswell, Life of Johnson, 1780 section:

His unjust contempt for foreigners was, indeed, extreme. One evening, at old Slaughter's coffee-house, when a number of them were talking loud about little matters, he said, 'Does not this confirm old Meynell's observation—For any thing I see, foreigners are fools'. He said, that once, when he had a violent tooth-ache, a Frenchman accosted him thus:—'Ah, Monsieur vous étudiez trop'.

Porson … hiccup Greek

Byron wrote in 1818:

Of all the disgusting brutes, sulky, abusive and intolerable, Porson was the most bestial … He used to recite or rather vomit pages of all languages, and could hiccup Greek like a Helot: and certainly Sparta never shocked her children with a grosser exhibition than this man's intoxication.

It was said to be a Spartan practice to get helots (serfs) drunk to show upper-class Spartan youth what an exhibition drunkards made of themselves.


cf. Galsworthy's 'A Stoic' (Five Tales): 'Cook's done a little spinach in cream with the Soubees.' Mutton or lamb cutlet soubise was a popular Victorian recipe; soubise is a creamed onion sauce.


Variant of ramekin. In 'A Stoic' cheese remmykin (a form of soufflé) is served as a savoury at the end of dinner.



The Library

The London Library, of which RH-D was chairman and leading fund-raiser.

The Lit Soc

The Literary Society, a London dining club, founded by William Wordsworth and others in 1807. Its members are generally either prominent figures in English literature or eminent people in other fields with a strong interest in literature. It meets monthly at the Garrick Club.


23 January 1958

Shakespearean hunch … whoreson

Shakespeare did not coin the word 'whoreson' (which dates from the fourteenth century or earlier) but he used it more than forty times in his plays—in Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, Cymbeline, Hamlet, Henry IV Parts I and II, Henry VIII, King Lear, Love's Labours Lost, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, Troilus and Cressida, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Clough's Bothie

Homeric pastoral by Arthur Hugh Clough, The Bothie of Toper-na-fuosich, later renamed Tober-na-Vuolich (1848).


Boswell, Life of Johnson, 1780 section, of Topham Beauclerk:

No man ever was so free when he was going to say a good thing, from a look that expressed that it was coming; or, when he had said it, from a look that expressed that it had come.

as Graves has Palmer

Robert Graves's 1957 novel They Hanged My Saintly Billy is a reconsideration of the Palmer case. Reviewing it in the Times Literary Supplement, Julian Symons wrote, 'Mr Graves has written a lively, amusing, perverse book, which may well convince us that Palmer had a far from perfect trial; but nothing in it is likely to move the Doctor from his place of eminence among the group of famous murderers in the Chamber of Horrors.' (TLS, 31 May 1957, p 336.)


Gabriel Utterson, Jekyll's lawyer in Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

A Duet

A Duet with an Occasional Chorus. 1899 novel on the theme of marriage.

An affection à la Plato …

Patience, Act 1. (Correctly, 'An attachment à la Plato … ')

Tea with Walter de la Mare

Published in 1957. An account of social encounters between the author and the poet.

Mr Wilkinson

Authorities remain divided on whether Tennyson or FitzGerald invented the mock-Wordsworthian line.

'Golden lads … '

From Cymbeline 4:2:

Fear no more the heat o' the sun
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

George Hurst

GWL's play on Hurst's name refers to George Hirst, (1871–1954), the only man in first-class cricket to achieve the 'double double' of 2000 runs and 200 wickets in a season (1906).

The Unfinished

Two movement symphony by Schubert (No 8).


26 January 1958


Punch was a humorous magazine founded in 1841; it ceased publication in 1992, was revived in 1996 and finally closed in 2002.

the Telegraph

Daily newspaper, established 1855. Originally Liberal in outlook, in the twentieth century it became a byword for right-wing views.

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.

'The Story of Chloe'

Correctly, 'The Tale of Chloe.' Subtitled 'An Episode in the History of Beau Beamish.'

Alan Moorehead

Alan Moorehead's book The Russian Revolution was published in 1959; excerpts had previously been printed in The Sunday Times.

Sunday Times

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


30 January 1958

Unlike Bolingbroke I find no difficulty in wallowing naked in December snow by thinking on fantastic summer's heat

Richard II, 1:3:

O, who can hold a fire in his hand
By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?
Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite
By bare imagination of a feast?
Or wallow naked in December snow
By thinking on fantastic summer's heat?

disgracefully reviewed … in the T.L.S.

TLS reviews were unsigned in the 1950s. The archives show that the reviewer was the Hon C M Woodhouse, later 5th Baron Terrington. His hostility to Eton may be explained by the fact that he was a Wykehamist.

'The Tale of Chloe' …

The story includes both the Duchess and the Duke of Dewlap. The other story mentioned by GWL is 'The Case of General Ople and Lady Camper'.

'between the stirrup and the ground'

Boswell, Life of Johnson (1783 section):

There is, in Camden's Remains, an epitaph upon a very wicked man, who was killed by a fall from his horse, in which he is supposed to say,
Between the stirrup and the ground,
I mercy ask'd, I mercy found.

Johnson slightly misquoted the original, which reads:

Betwixt the stirrup and the ground,
Mercy I asked, mercy I found.


2 February 1958

until the swallow dares

The Winter's Tale, 4:4.

can spring be far behind?

Shelley, 'Ode to the West Wind'.

article on publishing …

The article made specific reference to 'the arrangement whereby Secker & Warburg Ltd and Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd have recently become members of what is called the Heinemann Group'.


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.

the Duke of Argyll

Ian Douglas Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll.

trying to fish up a Spanish treasure-ship from the sands of Tobermory Bay

The San Juan de Silicia, one of the larger ships in the Spanish Armada, was sunk in Torbermory Bay on the isle of Mull in 1588. It was a troopship, and carried no bullion, but a popular myth grew to the contrary. (The Times, 31 October 2001, p 18)


Samuel Gurney Lubbock.

Faber's Jowett

Sir Geoffrey Faber's biography of Benjamin Jowett was published in 1957.


5 February 1958

'hailing far summer … '

Coventry Patmore: 'Winter' in The Unknown Eros: 

The buried bulb does know
The signals of the year,
And hails far Summer with his lifted spear.

It is perhaps surprising that RH-D could not track this quotation down: he was clearly fond of Patmore's works which appear three times in his collection A Beggar in Purple, based on his commonplace book.

The Faery Queen

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

They that endure to the end shall be saved

Mark 13:13: 'but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved'


Not identified, unless an elliptical reference to the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres.

as Laski described him—like a great actor playing a part

The Holmes-Laski Letters, Volume 2, p 940: 'I add an attractive dinner I gave at the [LSE] to introduce Churchill to some of my younger colleagues. He was like a great actor playing a part. He did it supremely well, and, I think, enchanted them.'


13 February 1958

a man who can neither speak with effect, nor be silent with dignity

Quoted by A L Rowse in Friends and Contemporaries (1989), p 145, recording that Henson deplored Welldon's 'insatiable loquacity: he cannot keep silent with dignity nor speak with effect'. In the 1990s the phrase was taken up in America by The Washington Post and others to apply to President Bush Sr.

'I cannot think that the conscientious and devoted governess method … '

Hensley Henson, Retrospect of an Unimportant Life, Volume 3 (1950), p 220


16 February 1958

Ventis Secundis

'With favourable winds'—motto associated with Admiral Hood. A familiar Latin motto, in full Ventis secundis, tene [or pl. tenete] cursum—The winds being favourable, hold the course.

magnificently reviewed by Alan P.-J. himself, I feel sure

The TLS archives confirm this supposition. Price-Jones's review, titled 'Grace after meat' occupied the whole of p 86 in the issue of 14 February.

National Review

Right-wing American magazine founded by William F Buckley Jr in 1955.

St Margaret's

St Margaret's, Westminster, the parish church of the House of Commons


19 February 1958


School form in which pupils spend an additional year preparing for examinations

Lucky Jim

By Kingsley Amis, published in 1954.

'unprofitably travelling towards the grave'

Wordsworth 'The Prelude', Book 1, line 267.


Form of evangelical protestantism propounded by Franklin Nathaniel Daniel Buchman (1878–1961) which developed into the Moral Rearmament movement. Bishop Henson disapproved of its authoritarian ways and what he called Buchman's 'oracular despotism'.

'She'll be knocking herself up one of these days, gadding about like that'

Galsworthy, Salvation of a Forsyte, Ch 1: James Forsyte rose … 'Rachel goes every morning: she overdoes it—she'll be laid up one of these days.'


23 February 1958

'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds … '

From Emerson's essay 'Self-Reliance' (1841)

The Potting Shed

Greene play depicting the interaction of a whiskey priest and a rationalist family, starring John Gielgud, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies and Irene Worth.

Time and Tide

Literary and political magazine founded in 1920 by Lady Rhondda. Ceased publication in 1977.


26 February 1958

Country Life

Weekly magazine founded in 1897 featuring articles about country houses and other rural matters.

Goldsmith, who once alleged that, though he never had sixpence in his pocket, he could draw for £1000

Washington Irving: Oliver Goldsmith: A Biography, Ch 41:

'It was a pity,' he [Boswell] said, 'that Goldsmith would, on every occasion, endeavor to shine, by which he so often exposed himself.' Langton contrasted him with Addison, who, content with the fame of his writings, acknowledged himself unfit for conversation; and on being taxed by a lady with silence in company, replied, 'Madam, I have but ninepence in ready money, but I can draw for a thousand pounds.' To this Boswell rejoined that Goldsmith had a great deal of gold in his cabinet, but was always taking out his purse. 'Yes, sir,' chuckled Johnson, 'and that so often an empty purse.'

'an inferior mind and spirit'

'so inferior a mind and spirit as Browning's could not provide the impulse needed to bring back into poetry the adult intelligence.' (Leavis, New Bearings in English Poetry, 1932, p 20) Leavis's misunderstanding of Browning was contradicted by T S Eliot's view. Leavis believed that Browning was 'concerned merely with simple emotions and sentiments'; Eliot, per contra, considered that both Browning and Tennyson were 'intellectual poets', who 'think, but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the odour of a rose.' (Eliot, The Metaphysical Poets, 1921).

'the weak point about good resolutions … '

Emerson's original version is shorter:

Of what use to make good resolutions if the resolution is to be kept by the old law-breaker?

GWL is quoting (with complete accuracy) Hensley Henson's paraphrase of Emerson's original, printed in The Oxford Group Movement (1933), p 40.

'the burlesque Duke of Newcastle'

Memoirs of Horace Walpole (ed. Eliot Warburton, 1851) Vol II, p 472:

This grave scene was fully contrasted by the burlesque Duke of Newcastle. He fell into a fit of crying the moment he came into the chapel, and flung himself back in the stall, the Archbishop hovering over him with a smelling bottle: but in two minutes, his curiosity got the better of his hypocrisy, and he ran about the chapel with his glass to spy who was or was not there, spying with one hand, and mopping his eyes with the other.

John o' London's Weekly, Truth

John O'London's Weekly: leading literary magazine, published from 1919 to 1954. Among its regular contributors were Winston Churchill, Rebecca West, Arnold Bennett, Max Beerbohm, and Somerset Maugham.

Truth: political and literary magazine, founded by Henry Labouchere, published from 1877 until 1957. The magazine's title was a misnomer: Labouchere's disregard for the truth was notorious.


2 March 1958

Purple hearts

Drinamyl, containing dextroamphetamine and amylobarbitone. Like Benzedrine, a stimulant.


6 March 1958


GWL took over the house in 1925 following Hubert Brinton's retirement in 1924.


Field in Eton.

P.L's T.L.S. reviews

Lubbock made fifteen contributions to the TLS between 1904 and 1955, of which three were letters. He reviewed The Greatness of Josiah Porlick and The Poet's Diary (1904), Georgian Poetry, 1911–1912 (1913), The Horrors of Wittenberg (1916), Zeppeline über England (1917), Rapports des Delegues du Government Espagnol sur leurs visites dans les camps de prissionniers francais en Allemagne, 1914–1917 (1918) and Georgian Stories (1922). He contributed articles on W S Gilbert's libretti (1907), Literature and science (1909), Francis Bacon (1910), Maitland and the amateur (1920) and Keats (1921).

It has superb things in it

Sartor Resartus:

  • Ch 3: passage beginning 'That stifled hum of Midnight, when Traffic has lain down to rest … '
  • Ch 6. A hundred and a hundred savage peaks, in the last light of Day; all glowing, of gold and amethyst, like giant spirits of the wilderness.
  • Ch 7: Had these men any quarrel? Busy as the Devil is, not the smallest!
  • Ch 9: You see two individuals … one dressed in fine Red, the other in coarse threadbare Blue: Red says to Blue, 'Be hanged and anatomised'; Blue hears with a shudder, and (O wonder of wonders!) marches sorrowfully to the gallows; is there noosed-up, vibrates his hour, and the surgeons dissect him, and fit his bones into a skeleton for medical purposes.


10 March 1958

we exhorted ice and snow to praise the Lord

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


13 March 1958

going through the vale of misery, use it for a well

Psalm 84 (Quam dilecta) in the BCP version. The AV renders the line as 'passing through the valley of Baca make it a well.'

Who was the man … conversational suicide

'A rough man in a blue jersey' in The History of Mr Polly, chapter IX

the dreadful reason why

Robespierre was in agony, having shot himself in the face during his arrest in a bungled attempt at suicide.

more feminarum

In the manner of women.

chorus of indolent reviewers

Tennyson, Hendecasyllabics:

Oh, you chorus of indolent reviewers,
Irresponsible, indolent reviewers.


Eliot's novel of 1872, set in a small provincial town, telling inter alia of the matrimonial difficulties of Dorothea Brooke.


This word is not in the OED, and has appeared in The Times only once – in a review of the Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters. Wigwam's article 'Scriptistics – An Introduction' appeared in The Twentieth Century, Vol CLXIII, January–June 1958. It seems that Virgil Wigwam, supposedly 'a Texan professor of creative writing and scourge of English poetic amateurism', was an invention of the Scottish poet Edwin Morgan (1920-2010).


15 March 1958

the Goddess Reason tottered on her throne

James Thomson (1700–1748). 'Liberty':

Thus human life, unhinged, to ruin reel'd,
And giddy Reason totter'd on her throne.

William Plomer's new book At Home

A second volume of autobiography, dealing with his return to England from Japan in 1929 and with his life from then to 1945.

Mr Britling

Mr Britling Sees It Through, 1919 novel.

'and still they come'

RH-D puts it in quotation marks, but the origin of this familiar phrase is uncertain. A possibility is Samuel Bamford's poem 'The Pass of Death' written to mark the death of George Canning in 1827:

And still they come—and still they go—
And still there is no end—
The hungry grave is yawning yet,
And who shall next descend?


20 March 1958

I wish R. Llewellyn would write a sequel to it, though I rather respect him for not doing so.

Llewellyn later published three sequels: Up into the Singing Mountain (1960); Down Where the Moon is Small (1966); Green, Green My Valley Now (1975).

any man who goes to bed before twelve is 'a scoundrel'

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

a grand bowler my father said his father was

Joseph Wells played for Kent in 1862 and 1863.

as G. Meredith regarded tailoring

Meredith's father and grandfather were naval outfitters; he was not proud of the connexion.

his 'cowshed'

The council's surveyor described the proposed building as looking like a cowshed; Humphrey Lyttelton agreed that it looked something like a farm building (The Times, 15 January 1958).

this merriment of parsons is mighty offensive

Boswell, Life of Johnson (1781 section):

Johnson, and his friend, Beauclerk, were once together in company with several clergymen, who thought that they should appear to advantage, by assuming the lax jollity of men of the world; which, as it may be observed in similar cases, they carried to noisy excess. Johnson, who they expected would be entertained, sat grave and silent for some time; at last, turning to Beauclerk, he said, by no means in a whisper, 'This merriment of parsons is mighty offensive.'


23 March 1958

Qu'est ce que vous pensez … ?

What do you think of Françoise Sagan? What do you think of the Angry Young Men.


Nowell-Smith and his wife lived at Hill House, Ewelme, Oxfordshire.

almost thou persuadest me

Acts 26:28: Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.


27 March 1958

our stout eupeptic secretary

Fletcher Moss, Folk-Lore – Old Customs and Tales of My Neighbours, 'Voters': 'a stout, eupeptic party, with a red face and a big blue tie spotted with white'.

that is the peccant part

Boswell, Life of Johnson (1768 section): 

'There is no arguing with Johnson; for when his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it.' He turned to the gentleman, 'Well, Sir, go to Dominicetti, and get thyself fumigated; but be sure that the steam be directed to thy head, for that is the peccant part.'

my beloved half-aunt Mrs Alington

GWL's father, Charles George Lyttelton, 8th Viscount Cobham and 5th Baron Lyttelton (1842–1922), was one of twelve children of the 4th Baron Lyttelton (1817–1876) by his first wife, Mary, née Glynne (1813–1857). Hester Margaret Alington, née Lyttelton (1874–1958) was the youngest of three daughters of the 4th Baron by his second wife, Sybella Harriet née Clive (1836–1900), whom he married in 1869.

haste stormfully across the astonished earth

Sartor Resartus Ch 8:

Thus, like a God-created, fire-breathing Spirit-host, we emerge from the Inane; haste stormfully across the astonished Earth; then plunge again into the Inane.


30 March 1958

It is recorded that for eighteen years he started the day by reading a French novel … Schreyvogel … '

Stephen Potter, The Muse in Chains (1937), p 130. The second extract from the book quotes from Saintsbury's A History of Criticism and Literary Taste in Europe from the Earliest Texts to the Present Day, Volume 3 (1904), p 573


Greek comedy  (Λυσιστράτη,  'Army-disbander') written in 411 BC by Aristophanes, and set during the Peloponnesian War. The women of the play withhold their sexual favours until the men agree to end the fighting.

My Fair Lady

Successful 1956 musical show based on Shaw's Pygmalion.


2 April 1958

Barmecide feast

In the Arabian Nights the story is told of a prince (Barmecide) who serves a succession of empty dishes pretending that they contain a sumptuous repast.

H.G. Wells's byeblow

Anthony West.

'Tartufe' (sic)

'Tartuffe' is more usual, but the OED admits 'Tartufe' also.

It is true that old George Moore called her intellectuality 'studied brag'

It is not, in fact, true: the phrase was coined by Samuel Butler, who wrote to Miss Savage in March 1873 that Middlemarch was 'a long-winded piece of studied brag, clever enough, I dare say, but to me at any rate singularly unattractive.' Quoted in The Correspondence of Samuel Butler with his Sister May (1962), p 61.

But what made Ruskin write 'that disgusting Mill on the Floss'? He may have been just about to go off his head—or have just gone.

Ruskin's first mental collapse was in 1878; he suffered a further attack in 1881. He called The Mill on the Floss 'disgusting' in a letter of 1879, and in 1881 called it 'a vile story' and 'the most striking instance extant of [a] study of cutaneous disease.' (Cynthia Gamble, Proust as Interpreter of Ruskin: The Seven Lamps of Translation, 2002, p 70.)

Lord Elton's biographical sketch of Bishop King of Lincoln

Edward King and Our Times (1958).

Bishop Paget

In 1904 when GWL was twenty-two, there were two bishops with the surname Paget. Details of both are given in the biographies, as it is not clear which is referred to here.

Seared is of course my heart …

From C S Calverley's poem 'Beer'.

Here is what Meredith said in a letter of old Carlyle …

Letters of George Meredith (1912), pp 173-74 and 200.


6 April 1958

Old Possum

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats: collection of light verse on a feline theme.


On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History: Six Lectures (1841).

'Of such sacred books … '

From Sartor Resartus, Chapter X

The Savile Club … quarts of liquor

Sixty years later, the food is a very great deal finer than 'not bad'; quarts of liquor continue to be dispensed at the bar.

The new Ian Fleming

Dr No was the sixth in the James Bond series.


9 April 1958

snell, blae, nirly, and scowthering

Stevenson, Edinburgh Picturesque Notes (1878 ), Chapter IX:

The Scotch dialect is singularly rich in terms of reproach against the winter wind. SNELL, BLAE, NIRLY, and SCOWTHERING are four of these significant vocables: they are all words that carry a shiver with them.


  • Snell—'bitter, severe' (OED)
  • Blae—'bleak, sunless' (OED)
  • Nirly is not in the OED but seems akin to nirl (v)—'to shrivel, shrink; to pinch with the cold'
  • Scowthering—not in the OED; other sources suggest 'wet and windy'.

a formal suet-pudding … a rat

Frank Swinnerton, Background with Chorus: A Footnote to Changes in English Literary Fashion Between 1901 and 1917 (1956), p 122

'The race is over'

Cambridge won by three lengths and a half.

Joseph and Potiphar's wife

Genesis 39.

Miss Bobby Bennett's mother

In the Irish RM stories of E ΠSomerville and Martin Ross.


House near Eton built for E L Vaughan and his wife after his retirement.


13 April 1958

Stephen Potter

Potter's new book was Supermanship, successor to Gamesmanship ('the art of winning games without actually cheating') 1947, followed by Lifemanship ('the art of getting away with it'), 1950; and One-upmanship, 1952. Some critics agreed with RH-D about the quality of the fourth book. The New Yorker commented, 'his methods and the point of view behind them don't seem as funny or as sharp as they once did, possibly because they are no longer surprising, or possibly because he is getting a little tired of his own joke.' But Edmund Wilson wrote of, 'the brevity and compactness of the presentation' and went on, 'As in any practical manual, the principles are stated and concisely illustrated. Nothing goes on too long.'

Kate Croy … Fleda Vetch

Charlotte Stant, Maggie Verver—The Golden Bowl 
Kate Croy, Milly Theale, Merton Densher—The Wings of a Dove 
Lambert Strether—The Ambassadors
George Stransom—The Altar of the Dead
Fleda Vetch—The Spoils of Poynton.


17 April 1958

Helvellyn … Skiddaw

Fells in the northern Lake District. GWL's hypothetical shepherd would be hard pressed to communicate from one to the other: they are eight miles apart, with the town of Keswick between them.

He looked like a young soldier on a battlefield

The last line of Owen Wingrave, describing the dead hero's corpse.


23 April 1958

This is Your Life

A long-running television programme; each week a famous person was without prior warning invited to take part in a celebration of his or her life, with contributions from family, colleagues and friends. In the early years it was broadcast live; later it was recorded.

Gordon Ray's Thackeray volumes

The Letters and Private Papers of William Makepeace Thackeray (collected and edited by Gordon N Ray) were published in four volumes in 1945-6. See also note for 11 May 1958.

'claret and Ecclesiastes melancholy, and nervous insistence on his gentlemanliness'

Hugh Kingsmill, 'Literary Notes', The New English Review, Volume 11, 1945, p 657

Motoring … And what of ten years hence?

The total number of vehicles on British roads rose at an average rate of 3½ per cent a year from 1960 onwards. By the time of RH-D's death in 1999 the number had quadrupled. (Joyce Dargay et al, Vehicle Ownership and Income Growth, Worldwide: 1960–2030, 2007.)

Sergeant Troy used his sword

In Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd.

Life with the Lyons

Radio and later television comedy show of the 1950s, featuring the American comedian Ben Lyon, his wife, Bebe Daniels, and their family.


27 April 1958

Handel's blacksmith …

Longfellow's 'The Village Blacksmith' begins

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;

Handel's 'Harmonious Blacksmith' is a 19th century nickname for the Air and Variations in his E major harpsichord suite (Book I, no 5, published in 1720).


Pre-xerographic form of photocopy.


30 April 1958

Some People

Subtitled 'Character sketches, fictions, and memoirs', published in 1927.

a letter of George Orwell's …

Orwell's essay on W B Yeats, published in Horizon in January 1943. Orwell quotes Yeats's lines:

How many centuries spent
The sedentary soul
In toils of measurement
Beyond eagle or mole,
Beyond hearing or seeing,
Or Archimedes' guess,
To raise into being
That loveliness?

Orwell comments, 'Here he does not flinch from a squashy vulgar word like "loveliness" and after all it does not seriously spoil this wonderful passage.'

Brekekekex, co-ax, co-ax

The sound made by the eponymous frogs in Aristophanes' play.


Not in the OED. The word, meaning 'a little house', occurs twice in The Playboy of the Western World, Act I.

T.S.E.'s latest essays

As well as Milton, Johnson, Kipling and Yeats, mentioned by GWL, On Poetry and Poets contains Eliot's thoughts on Virgil, Sir John Davies, Byron and Goethe.

ginger-nut … Huntley & Palmer

Crisp biscuit flavoured with ground ginger. Biscuit manufacturer, founded in 1822.


3 May 1958

Vanity Fair … Pendennis … Esmond … 'The Second Funeral of Napoleon' … The Rose and the Ring

Works by Thackeray: Vanity Fair (1847/48, originally published serially) Pendennis (1848/50, ib) The History of Henry Esmond (1852) 'The Second Funeral of Napoleon' (1841) The Rose and the Ring (1855).

British Council

Organisation established by the British government in 1934 to promote British culture, education, science and technology across the world.

thirty guineas

A guinea was £1/1- (one pound and one shilling—or, in decimals, £1.05). Though the guinea coin was replaced by the £1 sovereign coin in 1816 the term guinea remained in use for fees, prices etc until decimalisation in 1971. Using the retail price index, 30 guineas in 1958 would be worth a little over £700 at 2018 values.

the A P Herbert Committee on Obscenity

RH-D served on the committee chaired by A. P. Herbert for promoting the reform of the obscenity laws; its other members were Sir Gerald Barry, Roy Jenkins MP, Denys Kilham Roberts (Secretary General of the Society of Authors), and C R Hewitt (journalist, former senior policeman, and campaigner for social reform; wrote under the pen-name C H Rolph).

the strike ought not to affect me …

London bus crews struck from 5 May to 21 June 1958.

the British Museum

Until the British Library was created as a separate institution in 1973, the British Museum in Bloomsbury housed the national library. Its reading room was famous as a centre of research. The newspaper department at Colindale in North West London closed in 2013 and the collection is now housed in the main building at St Pancras.


8 May 1958

Forster clearly was dreadful

John Forster.

embalmment (spelling?)

The OED confirms GWL's spelling.

why call it a commonplace book … ?

Originally a 'book of common places' in which passages important for reference were collected together under subject headings. GWL's own commonplace book was arranged for publication under just such subject headings by its editor.

Sir, a cow is a very good animal in a field, but we turn her out of a garden

Boswell, Life of Johnson (1771 section): 'A cow is a very good animal in the field; but we turn her out of a garden'.

Gradidge, Gunn and Moore

Manufacturers of cricket bats, founded 1870 and 1885.

a certain kind of willow

Cricket-bat Willow (Salix alba 'Caerulea').

one about a judge

The Judge's Story (1947) tells of Sir William Gascony a retired judge and his relations with his ward (Vivien), a ruthless tycoon (Severidge), and Vivien's ineffectual husband.

a poor untidy thing

Deirdre of the Sorrows (Act 2): 'death should be a poor, untidy thing, though it's a queen that dies'.

Wasn’t his reputation abroad much higher than in England, and why?

In the ODNB, Tanis Hinchcliffe writes:

… in France his novels aroused some academic interest. Marius-François Guyard explained this by the French discovering in the novels their own idea of England, and pointed out that critics as varied as Paul Valéry and François Mauriac took notice of Morgan's work.

the surly advance of decrepitude

'But painting is a friend who makes no undue demands, excites no exhausting pursuits, keeps faithful pace even with feeble steps, and holds her canvas as a screen between us and the envious eyes of Time or the surly advance of Decrepitude.' (Churchill, 'Hobbies' in Thoughts and Adventures, 1932)


11 May 1958


The principal research library of the University of Oxford.

Gordon Ray's two volumes

Thackeray—The Uses of Adversity 1811–46 (1955) and ThackerayThe Age of Wisdom 1847–63 (1958).

my advertisement … Times

RH-D reproduced enthusiastic endorsements from Evelyn Waugh, Lord David Cecil, Anthony Powell and Raymond Mortimer. Waugh's ended with the words, 'a book for the library, to be read and reread, and loved for a lifetime.'

Nowadays all great men have disciples …

Wilde, The Critic as Artist (1891): 'Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes his biography.'


15 May 1958

Philip Sidneyish

Heroically self-sacrificing. (Mortally wounded in battle, Sidney is said to have given his water-bottle to another wounded soldier, saying, 'Thy necessity is yet greater than mine'. (Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, The Life of Sir Philip Sidney, 1652).

Ivor Brown … England

A Book of England (1958), an anthology, copiously illustrated with photographs from The Times.

'going rather too far, Algernon'

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.

The Stricken Deer

Biography of William Cowper by Lord David Cecil. Cowper suffered from mental illness, and though religion gave him some relief it also provoked in him the fear of eternal damnation.


17 May 1958

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.

Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame

Story in which a poor monk, formerly a juggler, unable to offer lavish offerings at the shrine of the Virgin Mary, secretly offers all he can: the best display he can give of his juggling.

Ora pro nobis

Pray for us.

trait des moeurs

Feature of social conduct.


21 May 1958

Chapter 2 (or 3)

Ch. 2. Passage beginning 'The lion heart, the splendid gestures—such heroic things were there, no doubt—visible to everybody; but their true significance in the general scheme of her character was remote and complicated.'

I treasure Housman's sentence …

The lecture was 'The Name and Nature of Poetry', the Leslie Stephen Lecture delivered at Cambridge on 9 May 1933. Housman quoted the cut sentence in a letter to his brother Laurence, 24 May 1933.

Mrs Humphry Ward wrote … to The Times

Mrs Ward was Thomas Arnold's granddaughter. She wrote persistently to The Times, but of the 38 letters that I can find of which she was sole signatory or co-signatory, none deals with Strachey or Dr Arnold.

I said that humility was an essential basis of greatness, and you wouldn't have it.

Letters of 13 and 16 December 1956. RH-D had not disputed GWL's contention, but had disagreed that humility was impossible without religious belief.

Miss Bogan

(Of Ezra Pound) 'The obsessed always lack that final ingredient of greatness, humility.'

I pause for a reply

Julius Caesar, 3:2.

M. Savant

Napoleon in His Time by Jean Savant, published in Katherine John's English translation, 1958.


26 May 1958

Home Life with Herbert Spencer

By 'Two' (pen name of the Misses M and D Baker) published 1906.

free, white and forty-one

An embellishment of an old (American?) saying, 'free, white and twenty-one'—referring to a free agent unconstrained by being under-age or enslaved.


28 May 1958

O Valiant Hearts

Hymn with words by John Arkwright, 1917, usually sung to the tune 'Ellers' by Edward Hopkins.

There is a fountain filled with blood …

Hymn with words by William Cowper, sung to several different tunes.


1 June 1958

The Glorious First of June

Old phrase referring not to the customary weather but to a naval battle of 1794 between the British and French fleets, hailed by both sides as a victory.

Glorious Fourth …

Eton gala day on or about 4 June.

a book on Mark Pattison

Mark Pattison and the Idea of a University, 1967, Cambridge University Press.

Sparrow … edited Donne's Devotions … Cowley … King

Donne's Devotions upon Emergent Occasions: Sparrow's edition was published by Cambridge University Press in 1923. His edition of The Poems of Bishop Henry King for the Nonesuch Press was published in 1925 and his collection of poems by Abraham Cowley in 1926.


4 June 1958

A chase

Originally a hunting-ground, a tract of unenclosed land reserved for breeding and hunting wild animals; unenclosed park-land (OED).

Mrs Knox

In the Somerville and Ross 'Irish R M' stories.

Stots, perhaps …

Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, General Prologue:

This Reve sat upon a ful good stot,
That was al pomely grey, and highte Scot.

a frigid and a calculating lie

Balfour used this phrase in 1909 to rebut the Liberals' charge that, if elected, Balfour's Conservative party would repeal the Old Age Pensions Act.

Birkett … pass degree

In fact Birkett obtained a second class degree.

The Letters of T.E. Lawrence 

Edited by David Garnett (1938).

Iras the beggar

Odyssey, 18:50–116. The beggar's name is Ἶρος (or  Ἀρναῖος) almost always given as 'Irus' in English. This is possibly a mistranscription of GWL's manuscript: as a classicist he seems unlikely to have used a non-standard spelling.

My God, I have it unto thee

Apparently another mistranscription of GWL's handwriting: Brown's poem 'Dora' ends:

And horror crept
Into her aching heart, and Dora wept.
If this is as it ought to be,
My God, I leave it unto Thee.


9 June 1958

not a po emptied

A po: a chamber pot

locusts … wild honey

Matthew 3:4—locusts and wild honey were the diet of John the Baptist in the wilderness.

silence coming like a poultice …

Oliver Wendell Holmes, 'The Music Grinders', 1836:

But hark! the air again is still,
The music all is ground,
And silence, like a poultice, comes
To heal the blows of sound

Possibly better known through P G Wodehouse's quotation of it in Pigs Have Wings (1952): 'For some moments after silence had come like a poultice to heal the blows of sound, all that occupied his mind was the thought of what pests the gentler sex were when they got hold of a telephone.'

Gibbon's superb footnote

Quoted verbatim in RH-D's letter of 13 July 1958.


Shyness; embarrassment.


The western half of a large expanse of playing fields at Eton.


10 June 1958

a mute inglorious Whymper

Gray's Elegy ('Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest') combined with Edward Whymper (1840–1911) famous for first climbing the Matterhorn, in 1865.


17 June 1958

The Sign of Four, A Study in Scarlet, The Memoirs, and The Hound of the Baskervilles

Sherlock Holmes books: novels, The Sign of Four (1890), A Study in Scarlet (1897), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) and a collection of short stories, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894).

Lente, lente, currite!

Run slowly!' Originally from Ovid's Amore (Liber I, XIII, Line 40: 'Lente currite noctis equi') wishing the horses pulling Time's chariot to go slowly to prolong the night. Quoted in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.


20 June 1958

Like judgment, honesty is fled to brutish beasts

Julius Caesar 3:2.

'Namus, namus'

Henry Adams, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Ch 14:

… when the volume of Abelard's Theology was produced and the clerk began to read it aloud, after the first few sentences the bishops ceased attention, talked, joked, laughed, stamped their feet, got angry, and at last went to sleep. They were waked only to growl 'Damnamus—namus', and so made an end.

quam diutissime

As long as possible.


23 June 1958

He who lives more lives than one

From 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol'


29 June 1958

in vacuo

'in emptiness'—in isolation, without reference to any related material.


King Arthur's last battle, in which he was mortally wounded.

'watch that little tent of blue, which prisoners call the sky'

'The Ballad of Reading Gaol':

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky.


29 June 1958

He had one son, now I believe in an asylum

Raymond Douglas, born 1902 was institutionalised 1927–32, 1932–44, and 1944 until his death in 1964.

Henley Regatta

Annual rowing event at Henley-on-Thames, lasting five days (Wednesday to Sunday) over the first weekend in July.


2 July 1958


The product of nocturnal study and meditation; often used to imply pedantry or excessive length.

'sweetness and light'

Phrase coined by Swift and popularised by Matthew Arnold, who regarded sweetness as beauty, and light as intelligence – together constituting 'the essential character of human perfection'.

Zu Dienstag!

Until Tuesday!


5 July 1958

a darlin' man

Quoting Seán O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock.

King Charles's head

Idée fixe of Mr Dick in Dickens's David Copperfield, Ch 14.


9 July 1958

his mother … Napoleon

Napoleon returned from Elba in 1815, and died in 1821. Belloc's grandmother – Anne-Louise, née Swanton (1796–1881) – might have seen him, but Belloc's mother – Elizabeth Rayner née Parkes (1829–1925) – could not.

un homme rompu

A broken man.

Edith Thompson was condemned …

In 1923 Thompson and her lover, Freddy Bywaters, were hanged for the murder of her husband. In 1988, Fiona MacCarthy called the case 'a trial in which male prejudice, dishonesty and sheer stupidity ran riot.' Bywaters confessed to the murder, but said that Edith did not know he intended to do it. MacCarthy calls Edith's conviction 'a miscarriage of justice' for which 'the moral climate of the period' was to blame.

rather commit adultery than drink a glass of port

This exists in many versions (the drink is variously port, whisky or beer, though the alternative to the drink always remains adultery). It is most often, on no known evidence, told of Lady Astor, vis-à-vis either Churchill or Oswald Mosley or a naval cadet, or an anonymous heckler at a public meeting. C S Lewis told a variant of the story in which a puritanical don, E E Jenner, said at High Table that he would rather commit adultery than drink a glass of wine, to which the Provost of Oriel, the Rev Lancelot Phelps, replied, 'So would we all, Jenner, but not at the table, if you please.' (Letter from Lewis to his brother, 5 November 1939.)

climbing the steep ascent to heaven …

Hymn, The Son of God Goes Forth To War by Bishop Reginald Heber: 'They climbed the steep ascent of heaven, through peril, toil and pain.'


15 July 1958

A Peck of Troubles

1936, 'An anatomy of woe, in which are collected by Daniel George Many Hundreds of Examples of those Chagrins and Mortifications which have beset, still beset, and ever will beset the human race and overshadow its journey through this earth'.

Alphabetical order

1949, 'A gallimaufry'.

Book of Anecdotes

1957, 'illustrating varieties of experience in the lives of the illustrious and the obscure'.

'the least thing worries me to death'

In the first chapter of the whole Saga:

'I'm very well in myself,' proceeded James, 'but my nerves are out of order. The least thing worries me to death. I shall have to go to Bath.'

the Shakespeare sonnet

Arnold's 1849 poem, which begins 'Others abide our question. Thou art free' contains the lines

'Self-school'd, self-scann'd, self-honour'd, self-secure'


For the loftiest hill
That to the stars uncrowns his majesty,
Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea.

Who prop, thou ask'st, in these bad days, my mind

Opening line of 'To a Friend' (1849).

that simile of Rustum eyeing S …

As some rich woman, on a winter's morn,
Eyes through her silken curtains the poor drudge
Who with numb blacken'd fingers makes her fire—
At cock-crow, on a starlit winter's morn,
When the frost flowers the whiten'd window-panes—
And wonders how she lives, and what the thoughts
Of that poor drudge may be; so Rustum eyed
The unknown adventurous youth …

Black leagues of forest roaring like the sea
And far lands dim with rains

Alexander Smith, City Poems (1857), 'A Boy's Poem'.

Petrarch's observation about his housekeeper

In a letter to Francesco Nelli, Petrarch wrote of his woman servant:

If you see her you would think you were gazing on the Libyan or Ethiopian desert, a face so dry within, so sunburnt, sustained by no vital juices. If Helen had had such a face, Troy would still be standing; if Lucretia, Tarquin would not have been banished from Rome; if Virginia, Appius would not have ended his life in prison. (Morris Bishop, ed, Letters from Petrarch, 1966, p 123)

Florence Nightingale: 'Rest! Rest!...

Originally much earlier than Florence Nightingale; Isaac D'Israeli, in his Curiosities of Literature (published in sections between 1791 and 1823) ascribes it to Antoine Arnauld (1612-94). See also note for 4 April 1956.

I doubt if any were among the spoils collected by that thief

The Times of 15 July reported that a thief had raided dormitories in Warre House, Eton College, stealing about £14 from ten wallets, some savings books, a Premium Bond, and driving licences.


20 July 1958

crise de nerfs

Attack of nerves.

Balder Dead

Poem by Matthew Arnold in the style of Norse mythology.


24 July 1958

With stupidity and sound digestion a man may front much

Sartor Resartus Book 2 Chapter 4. Correctly, 'man', not 'a man'.

the wasps at Harlech

Reference not identified.

a tale told by an idiot

Macbeth 5:5:

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

why are you not a life peer?

Life peerages, not heritable, had existed for, e.g., senior judges for many years but were introduced more generally by the Life Peerages Act, 1958. The first Life Peers under that Act were Baroness Wootton of Abinger and Barons Boothby, Fraser of Lonsdale, Geddes of Epsom, Granville-West, Shackleton, Stonham, Stopford of Fallowfield, Taylor, and Twining.


27 July 1958

Irma La Douce

Parisian musical comedy, music by Marguerite Monnot, book by Alexandre Breffort, English version by Julian More, David Heneker and Monty Norman, directed by Peter Brook; the cast included Elizabeth Seal (as Irma), Keith Michell, Clive Revill and Ronnie Barker. It ran in the West End until March 1962.

Ice Cold in Alex

Film directed by J Lee Thompson, starring John Mills, Sylvia Syms, Anthony Quayle and Harry Andrews, in which a group of soldiers and nurses make a dangerous crossing of North African desert during the second world war. The leader dreams of his ice cold beer when they reach Alexandria.


31 July 1958

Mrs Dalloway

Novel by Virginia Woolf, depicting—like Galsworthy's Forsyte novels—a largely upper class set, but employing a different, experimental narrative technique.

The Man of Property

The first of Galsworthy's Forsyte novels.

Miss Betjeman

Candida Lycett Green (b. 1942), née Paula Rose Betjeman.

and he committed suicide

It is now thought that Richardson's sudden death, aged 41, was from natural causes and not suicide. See Ralph Barker, Ten Great Bowlers, 1967, pp 123–126.

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.'

old Heythorp's dinner

In Galsworthy's 1916 short story A Stoic, 'Cook's done a little spinach in cream with the soubees.'


4 August 1958

to hear the old fool deliver his judgment

Sir William Fitzgerald QC, president of the Lands Tribunal.

Elephant Bill

J H Williams.


7 August 1958

his normal temperature, literally, was 92

92 degrees Fahrenheit, or 33.3 degrees Celsius. The normal temperature of a healthy, resting adult is generally held to be 98.6 degrees Farenheit (37 degrees Celsius).


Officer Training Corps

he would rather be Streicher or even Havelock Ellis

Hesketh Pearson and Hugh Kingsmill, Talking of Dick Whittington (1947), p 33:

Kingsmill, aware that Shelley, as the lyrical pioneer of Left Wing thought, was not congenial to Malcolm, said 'What about Shelley?' Throwing up his arms, Malcolm cried, 'I'd rather be Julius Streicher or even Havelock Ellis!'

Globe Boswell

The Globe edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, edited by Mowbray Morris and published in 1893.

Rumer … isn't a name at all.

Rumer is an old English name for a gypsy.

E Blunden's life of him

Blunden's Thomas Hardy was published by Macmillan in 1941.


10 August 1958

Recorder of Chichester

A recorder is a senior lawyer who sits as a part-time judge.

sweetbread: I wonder who brilliantly coined that name …

The term – used for a calf's or lamb's pancreas ('heart sweetbread') and thymus gland ('neck sweetbread') – dates back to the sixteenth century. The OED says of the etymology, 'apparently sweet adj. + bread n., but the reason for the name is not obvious.'

The Friend

Barbara Rooke's edition, part of the Bollingen complete Coleridge, was published in 1969.

George Moore et la France 

By George P Collet (1957).


13 August 1958


Eton prefects, formally known as The Eton Society.


C. E. Pascoe Everyday Life in our Public Schools: 

Scug, Et[on]. Har[row]. Negatively, a boy who is not distinguished in person, in games, or social qualities. Positively, a boy of untidy, dirty, or ill-mannered habits; one whose sense of propriety is not fully developed. 

In the context of this letter it evidently means a boy who has not been awarded any 'colours' – honours for sporting or other achievement.

William Temple's Christian Philosophy

Temple did not publish a book with that title. In 1906 he was a philosophy don at Oxford, not yet ordained,

If Winter Comes, Economic Consequences of the Peace, How Green was my Valley

By Arthur Stuart-Menteth Hutchinson (1922); John Maynard Keynes (1919); and Richard Llewellyn (1939).

Black Narcissus and A Fugue in Time

By Rumer Godden.


16 August 1958

Macaulay's History

History of England.

cui bono?

who benefits?


20 August 1958

Amor vincit omnia

Love conquers everything.


(Gr. Ναυσικάα), a young woman of great beauty, daughter of King Alcinous of the Phaeacians and his queen, Arete, in Homer's Odyssey, Book 6. Her name means, 'burner of ships'.

Queen of the Laestrygonians

The Odyssey, Book 10:

οἱ δ᾽ ἐπεὶ εἰσῆλθον κλυτὰ δώματα, τὴν δὲ γυναῖκα
εὗρον, ὅσην τ᾽ ὄρεος κορυφήν, κατὰ δ᾽ ἔστυγον αὐτήν.


One of Falstaff's henchmen in Henry IV pts 1 & 2 and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Falstaff calls him 'the knight of the burning lamp' because his nose is so red, and his face so 'full of meteors.'

Dr Arnold … burst into tears

In his Notebooks (ed. Gere and Sparrow, 1981) Geoffrey Madan quotes A C Benson:

A man who could burst into tears at his own dinner-table on hearing a comparison made between St Paul and St John to the detriment of the latter, and beg that the subject might never be mentioned again in his presence, could never have been an easy companion.


25 August 1958

Earthly Paradise

Phrase earlier than, but popularised by, William Morris's 1870 collection of his verses under this title.


Magazine and miscellany published between 1817 and 1980.


27 August 1958

'spoilt or drunk … '

Galsworthy, In Chancery, Pt 2 Ch 9:

In the wine from that cellar was written the history of the forty odd years since he had come to the Park Lane house with his young bride, and of the many generations of friends and acquaintances who had passed into the unknown; its depleted bins preserved the record of family festivity—all the marriages, births, deaths of his kith and kin. And when he was gone there it would be, and he didn't know what would become of it. It'd be drunk or spoiled, he shouldn't wonder!

'Nearer my God to Thee'

Though in the Church of England 'Nearer My God to Thee' is usually performed to the 1861 tune 'Horbury' by Dykes, Sir Arthur Sullivan did indeed compose not one but two tunes for the hymn: 'Propior Deo' and 'St Edmund'. In the 1958 Titanic film A Night to Remember the Dykes tune is played, as GWL correctly bet his colleague. Dykes also composed the tune to which Newman's 'Lead, Kindly Light' is usually sung.

British Guiana

Now called Guyana. Until 1966, when it was granted independence, a British colony, on the northern coast of South America.

'Lots o' people have made the mistake … '

W W Jacobs, The Nest Egg:

''When I met one of these 'ere artful ones I used fust of all to pretend to be more stupid than wot I really am.' He stopped and stared fixedly.

'More stupid than I looked,' he said. He stopped again.

'More stupid than wot they thought I looked,' he said, speaking with marked deliberation.


31 August 1958

Such lines as those on St Stephen …

From The Circle of Saints by K.E.V.:

Did ever man before so fall asleep?
A cruel shower of stones his only bed,
For lullaby the curses loud and deep
His covering with blood red.


4 September 1958

nihil est ab omni parte beatum

Horace, Odes 2:16, lines 27-28. Literally, nothing is good in every part.


7 September 1958

Aurora Leigh

Epic blank verse poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1856).

to work for Greats

Oxford classics degree, formally Literae Humaniores.

Moss Bros

Men's outfitters, leading hirers of formal clothes.


10 September 1958

'daunting' rhymes with 'mountain'

There is no such passage in the poem.

'Lady Macbeth said … '

Macbeth 1:7:

I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me.
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn
As you have done to this.

they have all been told to quote Goethe

John Peter Eckermann, Conversations of Goethe:

'Macbeth,' said Goethe, 'is Shakespeare's best acting play, the one in which he shows most understanding with respect to the stage.'

murmuring Nunc Dimittis

The opening in the Latin Vulgate of Luke 2:29-32; in the Authorised Version it reads:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace: according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.

'I ran up the stairs to my rooms, as usual, hoping to die at the top'.

There were forty-four steps to Housman's rooms at Trinity; Housman told his brother Laurence that he continued to run up them two steps at a time, in the hope of dropping dead at the top. (Tom Burns Haber, A E Housman, 1967, p 66.)


14 September 1958

Humphrey's second book

Second Chorus, published by Macgibbon and Key.


17 September 1958

Darby and Joan

Term for an aged and devoted married couple.

Mazarin Bible

Early printed version of the Latin Vulgate dating from c. 1455. Otherwise known as the Gutenberg Bible. Of the forty-eight surviving complete copies, seven are in the UK. Some copies were rebound in later centuries, but Eton College's copy is in a fifteenth century binding. It was presented in 1841 by John Fuller, of Rosehill, Sussex.


21 September 1958


A clergyman who is also the local squire.


24/25 September 1958

'Sir, you must not tell this story again … '

Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi, Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson (1786):

'I would advise you, sir,' said he, with a cold sneer, 'never to relate this story again; you really can scarce imagine how very poor a figure you make in the telling of it.'

va et vient

Coming and going.

cholecystotomy and cholecystectomy

Respectively, cutting of the gall-bladder (to remove gallstones) and removal of the gall-bladder.


Not in the OED or anywhere else that I can find. Some parts of the word have a passing resemblance to dextromethorphan and laevomenthol. which are ingredients of cough medicine.

squatina, squatina, squatina

Squatina squatina is the angel shark. South Kensington is presumably a reference to the Natural History Museum.

a perfectly rough insect

Mathematical problem beginning, 'A perfectly rough insect is moving with uniform speed on the surface of an elephant's trunk in the form of an equiangular spiral. The elephant is moving up a plane inclined at 30 degrees to the horizontal … '

mensa … vocative

Churchill My Early Life (1930):

'Then why does mensa also mean O table?' I inquired, 'and what does O table mean?'

 'Alema, O table, is the vocative case,' he replied.

'But why O table?' I persisted in genuine curiosity.

'O table—you would use that in addressing a table, in invoking a table.' And then seeing he was not carrying me with him, 'You would use it in speaking to a table.'

Manchester Guardian

Newspaper, founded in Manchester in 1821 by a group of nonconformist businessmen. The most liberal of the major daily newspapers. Since 1959 its title has been 'The Guardian' tout court. 

as Mr Gladstone did of the Bulgars

Gladstone was strong in support of the Bulgarians, roundly condemning Turkish atrocities against them in 1876, and denouncing Disraeli's government's support for the Turks.

Mr Dulles's sabre-rattling

America backed the Nationalist Chinese of Taiwan against the Communist Chinese of the mainland.

Horatius Cocles

Horatius Cocles ('Horatius the one-eyed') single-handedly defended the Pons Sublicius, the bridge that led across the Tiber to Rome, against Etruscan invaders. The (legendary) event is celebrated in Lays of Ancient Rome by Macaulay.


28 September 1958

the Symposium about him

T S Eliot: A Symposium for His Seventieth Birthday, published by RH-D, edited by Neville Braybrooke, with contributions from fifty writers, including John Betjeman, Charles Causley, Paul Jennings, Rose Macaulay, Iris Murdoch and Stevie Smith as well as some English schoolboys and girls.

Beycheville 1933

Properly Beychevelle, a Fourth Growth claret. 1933 was a good but not a great year, and RH-D was lucky that a twenty-five year old half-bottle was still 'terrifically good'.


Other widely accepted pronunciations are 'hackloot' and 'hacklout'


1 October 1958

How can anyone be above W.G. or Hobbs … Those lists in order of merit are silly

The practice continues: in 2000 Wisden published a list purporting to be the five leading cricketers of the twentieth century, as voted by a panel of 100 experts. Those selected were in descending order, D G Bradman, G S Sobers, J B Hobbs, S K Warne and I V A Richards.

there is no measuring the precedence between a louse and a flea

Boswell, Life of Johnson (1783 section): 

'Pray, Sir, (said he,) whether do you reckon Derrick or Smart the best poet?' Johnson at once felt himself roused; and answered, 'Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea.'


An abomination.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

1955 play by Thomas Lanier ('Tennessee') Williams.

Rebecca West and Senor Madariaga

Rebecca West typified Hamlet as 'a bad man' whom actors and audiences have persisted in romanticising. To Salvador de Madariaga, Hamlet was egotistical and Machiavellian.

'I'll lug the guts'

Hamlet 3:4


8 October 1958

K. E. Gransden

Correctly, K W Gransden.

Harrison Ainsworth

The Tower of London, historical novel published in 1840.

Macaulay's fine paragraph

History of England Vol I Ch 5 (1848):

In truth there is no sadder spot on the earth than that little cemetery. Death is there associated, not, as in Westminster Abbey and St Paul's, with genius and virtue, with public veneration and imperishable renown; not, as in our humblest churches and churchyards, with everything that is most endearing in social and domestic charities; but with whatever is darkest in human nature and in human destiny, with the savage triumph of implacable enemies, with the inconstancy, the ingratitude, the cowardice of friends, with all the miseries of fallen greatness and of blighted fame.


11 October 1958


Alluding to The Natural History of Selborne (1788) by Gilbert White, a pioneering naturalist and ornithologist.

this idiotic moon-rocket

The British rocket 'Black Knight' was being tested at Woomera, Australia.

some dim Cambridge don

'Myra Buttle' was Victor Purcell, a Cambridge lecturer.

diaries, which he thinks I'm just the chap to edit

Sassoon's diaries were edited by RH-D and published in three volumes between 1981 and 1985. See bibliography.

Shadow of Heroes

Directed by Peter Hall. The cast also included Emlyn Williams, Alan Webb and Stephen Murray. The play ran for only one month. A BBC production the following year starred Ashcroft, in her first performance on television.


19 October 1958

succès fou

A wild success

a Cézanne

Cézanne's 'Boy in a Red Waistcoat' had just sold at Sotheby's for a record-breaking £220,000. The sale aroused great interest, and those present included Lady Churchill, Somerset Maugham, Margot Fonteyn and Sir John Rothenstein, Director of the Tate Gallery.


23 October 1958


now generally known as fillet of beef

the Elek people

London publishing firm founded by Paul Elek (1906-76).

two horror films

Curse of the Faceless Man (described by GWL) was showing in a double bill at the London Pavilion with It! The Terror from Beyond Space. Both were written by Jerome Bixby and directed by Edward L Cahn.

quills upon the fretful porpentine

Hamlet 1:5:

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand an end
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.


26 October 1958

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

1952 film directed by Henry King, based on Hemingway's short story of the same title.


Philip Magnus, Kitchener: Portrait of an Imperialist. (1958).

Sir Charles Dilke

Roy Jenkins, Sir Charles Dilke: A Victorian Tragedy (1958).

The Abbey Theatre

Gerard Fay, The Abbey Theatre, Cradle of Genius (1958).

The Oxford Book of Irish Verse

The Oxford Book of Irish Verse, XVIIth Century-XXth Century, chosen by Donagh MacDonagh and Lennox Robinson (1958).


30 October 1958


Simpson's in the Strand, well-known London restaurant, founded in 1828, specialising in English cooking.

minded his belly very carefully

Boswell, Life of Johnson (1763 section)

'For my part, I mind my belly very studiously, and very carefully; for I look upon it, that he who does not mind his belly, will hardly mind any thing else.'

Does God like the Devil?' 'No, he hates him.' …

Robinson Crusoe, Ch 15

'Well,' says Friday, 'but you say God is so strong, so great; is He not much strong, much might as the devil?' 'Yes, yes,' says I, 'Friday; God is stronger than the devil—God is above the devil, and therefore we pray to God to tread him down under our feet, and enable us to resist his temptations and quench his fiery darts.' 'But,' says he again, 'if God much stronger, much might as the wicked devil, why God no kill the devil, so make him no more do wicked?'

these young Oxonians

A dispute among the rowing fraternity of the university, which threatened to deprive the Oxford team of some of its best oarsmen, received much coverage in The Times.

Thomas Lyttelton winning the Steeplechase

Thomas Glynne Lyttelton, captain of athletics (son of GWL's youngest brother), won the Eton College steeplechase (run over five miles) for the second successive year.

The lady … ended as a(n) R.C. of exceptional piety

Virginia Crawford accused Dilke of seducing her. In the ODNB Roy Jenkins writes:

But what prompted Mrs Crawford's false story? Cardinal Manning, who instructed her for her reception into the Roman Catholic church in 1889 and was amiably disposed towards Dilke, was said to know the whole truth, but never revealed it.

oratio obliqua

Indirect speech.

Mr Pecksniff

Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit, Ch 11:

'All hail to the vessel of Pecksniff the sire!
And favouring breezes to fan;
While Tritons flock round it, and proudly admire
The architect, artist, and man!'


2 November 1958

Henry James said of his T.L.S. article, 'an insensate step.'

James's contributions to the TLS were an unsigned review of Balzac (Grands Ecrivains Francais) by Emile Faguet, published in June 1913; a long, signed leader on The Younger Generation published in two parts in March and April 1914; and a signed leader on Refugees in Chelsea published posthumously in March 1916. (TLS archive.) He made the remark about the 'insensate step' apropos of the 1914 article in a letter to Hugh Walpole. (Rupert Hart-Davis, Hugh Walpole, 1952, pp 111–113)


5 November 1958

Patience … first for an Oscar expert

Patience satirises the aesthetic movement of the 1880s, and many people take the character Bunthorne to be a caricature of Wilde, though experts on W S Gilbert discount this.

me judice

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

our rector

The Rev R W Scofield.

Travels in the Cevennes with Sidney Colvin

Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes was dedicated to Colvin.


8 November 1958

Miss Reeves sang 'Under the wide and starry sky'

Stevenson's poem 'Requiem', set to music by several composers. The text is:

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill

The Abbé Liszt …

E C Bentley, Complete Clerihews (2008), p 78:

The Abbé Liszt
Hit the piano with his fist.
That was the way
He used to play.


UK magazine published between 1926 and 1974, specialising in short stories. Duff Hart-Davis's story In Cold Blood was published in the March 1959 issue, followed by two others, in 1960 and 1963.

Bumpus's new bookshop

The well-known Oxford Street bookshop relocated to the corner of Baker Street and Portman Square.

The Elder Statesman

The play was directed by E Martin Browne, with a cast including Paul Rogers, Anna Massey, William Squire and Alec McCowen. It ran at the Cambridge Theatre, London, from 25 September to 29 November 1958.


13 November 1958

Divorce coupled with Admiralty

The Judicature Act of 1873 rationalised the English court system, hitherto comprising numerous courts, most of them dating back to mediaeval times with overlapping judicial powers. The diminished functions of the existing Admiralty Courts were transferred to a new Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court, consisting of two judges, who, in addition to probate and divorce business, exercised the jurisdiction formerly exercised by the Admiralty Court.


GWL's reference is to a quatrain recited by A J Balfour:

When Nature made Phillimore
She made a most infernal bore
If she made a Phillimost
Nature would give up the ghost.

Quoted in The Coalition Diaries of H A L Fisher, 1916–1922 (2006)

like Goldsmith

Washington Irving, The Life of Oliver Goldsmith, Ch 35:

One relates to a venerable dish of peas, served up at Sir Joshua's table, which should have been green, but were any other color. A wag suggested to Goldsmith, in a whisper, that they should be sent to Hammersmith, as that was the way to turn-em-green (Turnham Green). Goldsmith, delighted with the pun, endeavored to repeat it at Burke's table, but missed the point. 'That is the way to make 'em green,' said he. Nobody laughed. He perceived he was at fault. 'I mean that is the road to turn 'em green.' A dead pause and a stare.

Mowcher Cecil

Lady Mary Alice Gascoyne-Cecil (1895–1988) m. 10th Duke of Devonshire. (Known as 'Moucher', rather than 'Mowcher'; the latter is a character in David Copperfield.)


16 November 1958

in the ablative plural—or isn't it?

It is.

'Better than nothing, sir'

Correctly, second to none.

Can you explain the meaning of 'run to and fro like sparks among the stubble'?

The Wisdom of Solomon, 3:1-7:

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. As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. And in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble.

And is it not rather hard on the beloved dead that we should pray for light perpetual to shine on them?

From the Book of Common Prayer, Burial of the Dead:

Father of all, we pray to you for N., and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Crazy Gang

A troupe of comedians popular from the 1930s to the 1950s.


19 November 1958

pax in bello

Peace in [the midst of] war.

'out of their bellies … '

John 7:38:

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

The judge rather pointedly said zēbra.

The OED prefers zēbra, but admits zĕbra. Professor J C Wells, of University College London, wrote in 1998 that younger people in Britain prefer the zĕbra form, although zēbra remains current in American usage.


23 November 1958

Dum Spiro Spero

While I breathe I hope.

Celia Johnson's new play

The Grass is Greener by Hugh and Margaret Williams.


Proserpine, daughter of Ceres, the goddess of corn, was abducted by Pluto, god of the Underworld. He allowed her to return to earth for half the year, but during the other half, when she was with Pluto, Ceres stopped everything growing: hence the winter.

Benjamin Britten's new opera

Curlew River: A Parable for Church Performance (Op 71), the first of three 'Church Parables' by Britten. The work is based on Sumidagawa a Japanese noh play, transformed by Plomer into a Christian parable. This was the second of four libretti Plomer wrote for Britten.


27 November 1958

ung Dieu, ung Roy

One god, one king

My great-greatgrandfather was Governor of Jamaica

Sir William Lyttelton, Governor from 1762 to 1766. Later first Baron Lyttelton when the barony was revived in 1794.

one Deeming solved it for a good many years, by burying wife after wife in his cement kitchen floor

Frederick Bailey Deeming (1853–1892) murdered one wife and four stepchildren in England and another wife in Australia, burying their bodies under cement or concrete floors. (Barry O. Jones, Australian Dictionary of Biography)


30 November 1958


See 'scug' above (13 August 1958)

Australian umpire

In the twentieth century Australian umpires had a reputation for favouring their national side. (Later, host countries ceased to provide Test umpires; umpires from non-participating countries were brought in.)

W. S. Maugham's last book

Points of View, a collection of essays.

He who lives more lives than one..

'The Ballad of Reading Gaol'.


4 December 1958

Marie Celeste

Correctly, Mary Celeste, a brigantine found in the Atlantic deserted but under full sail in 1872. The fate of the crew is unknown.

Wallace murder

William Herbert Wallace was convicted in 1931 of the murder of his wife in their home in Liverpool. After re-examination of evidence the conviction was later overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal. Public opinion was divided on the question of Wallace's innocence.


Probably a reference to the Tranby Croft gambling case (1891) in which the Prince of Wales was involved. The question was whether Sir William Gordon-Cumming had or had not cheated at baccarat.


7 December 1958

his male secretary

Alan Searle.


10 December 1958

Orphic myth

Variant of the standard Ancient Greek mythology, in which primaeval beings caused mists to form and solidify into a Cosmic Egg from which all life sprang.


14 December 1958

Golden Arrow

Known in France as Fleche d'or; luxury train between Paris and Calais, corresponding with the British Golden Arrow between Dover and London.

Theatre Royal

RH-D was wrong about the date of the building. The theatre was opened in 1884 and redesigned by the great theatre architect Frank Matcham in 1902.

The Hostage

Presented by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop company, with a cast including Howard Goorney, Avis Bunnage and Murray Melvin. The production later successfully played in the West End and also in Paris.

She has long been a close friend of Mr Gaitskell

'close friend' was a tactful understatement. Gaitskell's affair with Ann Fleming was widely known in political circles. In the wake of the Profumo affair it might have been a grave political liability had Gaitskell lived to fight the 1964 general election. For the Conservatives Quintin Hogg had already fired a shot across his bows: 'If you can tell me there are no adulterers on the front bench of the Labour Party, you can talk to me about Profumo.' (The New Statesman, 19 November 2009)

Austrian Ambassador

Prince Schwarzenberg.


18 December 1958


Whatever (Latin).


20 December 1958

cup's a cup for a' that

cf. Robert Burns, 'Is There For Honest Poverty': 'A man's a man for a' that'.

petit suisse

Normandy cheese, a fromage frais, unsalted, smooth and creamy, often eaten with sugar, jam or honey as a dessert.

West Side Story

1957 Broadway musical with music by Leonard Bernstein, book by Arthur Laurents and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

East Harrow

A by-election at Harrow East was precipitated by the resignation of the MP Ian Harvey following his arrest for gross indecency in St James's Park.


1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, notorious for its subject: the sexual obsession of the narrator Humbert Humbert with a far from innocent twelve-year-old girl.


31 December 1958

quam diutissime

As long as possible.