Notes to Volume 4: 1959


4 January 1959

Russian projectiles are 'orbiting'…

Moscow Radio announced on 2 January that Russia had launched a rocket 'towards the moon'.

Our cricketers are a laughing-stock

In the second test against Australia at Melbourne, England lost three wickets for seven runs in the first twenty minutes.

Our Foreign Secretary has lost his tonsils

Selwyn Lloyd underwent a tonsillectomy on 1 January.

There is no health in us.

From the General Confession, Morning Prayer (Book of Common Prayer):

We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.

Philip Astley's memorial service

Philip Astley died on Christmas Eve. The service was held in the chapel of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

Free Forester

Free Foresters—amateur cricket club, founded in 1856.


By Vladimir Nabokov.


8 January 1959

the board I am on

Several examining boards awarded the General Certificate of Education, including the Oxford and Cambridge and the Northern University Joint Matriculation Boards. An examiner commented. 'There was a multiplicity of boards with differing styles … the elegant history essay that went down well with Oxford and Cambridge was lightweight and facile in the stern eyes of the Northern Joint Matriculation Board, whose preferred rigorous, detailed response would be regarded by O and C as pedantic, dull and failing to see the wood for the trees.' (Letter to The Times, 27 August 2001.)

Marquez mes mots

Mark my words.

laudator temporis acti

Praiser of times past.

Reith lecture

By Sir Bernard Lovell (1913–2012), Professor of Radio Astronomy at Manchester University and Director of Jodrell Bank radio telescope 1951–1980.

I saw Eternity the other night

Opening lines of The World by Henry Vaughan.

me judice

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

Talk to all women as if you were in love with them, and all men as if bored.

A Woman of No Importance, Act 3:

Oh! talk to every woman as if you loved her, and to every man as if he bored you, and at the end of your first season you will have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact.


It is to be hoped.


10 January 1959

The Curse of the Misbegotten

By Crosswell Bowen. RH-D published it in 1960; it ran to 384 pages.


18 January 1959

Third Programme talk on African Art

By Dennis Duerden.

'an insensate step'

In a letter to Hugh Walpole, Henry James so described his agreement to contribute an article to the Times Literary Supplement in March 1914. Quoted by RH-D in chapter eight of his Hugh Walpole.


26 January 1959

That idiotic and gratuitous letter in The Times

Letter in The Times on 22 January, deploring any attempt to ban the publication of Lolita, signed by J R Ackerley, Walter Allen, A Alvarez, Isaiah Berlin, Maurice Bowra, Storm Jameson, Frank Kermode, Allen Lane, Margaret Lane, Rosamund Lehmann, Compton Mackenzie, Iris Murdoch, William Plomer, V S Pritchett, Alan Pryce Jones, Peter Quennell, Herbert Read, Stephen Spender, Philip Toynbee, Bernard Wall and Angus Wilson.


30 January 1959

'proudly eminent'

Paradise Lost, Book 1:

Thir dread commander: he above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent
Stood like a Towr


Preparatory school, attended by the young GWL.

C.E. Montague observed that even murder wasn't as serious as all that

According to James Agate it was not Montague but his Manchester Guardian colleague Allan Monkhouse who said this of Bourchier's Macbeth. (Brief Chronicles, 1943, p 241.)

Bradley on 'What, in our house?'

Bradley comments that in speaking thus of being told of Duncan's murder, Lady Macbeth shows her lack of sensibility, to which Banquo's response, 'Too cruel anywhere' is, in Bradley's phrase 'almost a reproof'.

cats on hot tin roofs

See note for 1 October 1958.

a profound and manly dislike for the book we have not read

Chesterton, Robert Browning, Ch 5:

We all have a dark feeling of resistance towards people we have never met, and a profound and manly dislike of the authors we have never read.


Main character of a series of humorous books by Herbert, drawing on his contributions to Punch. Topsy is a superficially flighty but shrewd young woman of the 1930s.

Charing Cross Road

London thoroughfare known for its second-hand book shops.

where things are done you'd not believe in Soho Square on Xmas eve

Rupert Brooke, The Old Vicarage, Grantchester (1912)

And Barton men make Cockney rhymes,
And Coton's full of nameless crimes,
And things are done you'd not believe
At Madingley, on Christmas Eve.


1 February 1959

the iron tongue of midnight has tolled goodness knows what

A Midsummer Night's Dream, 5:1: 'The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve'.


4 February 1959

the east wind is abroad in the land like Bright's angel of death

John Bright, speech made on 23 February 1855: 'The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings'.


Quasi-religious sect seeking Divine Wisdom—a state of consciousness in which the sage or mystic goes beyond his or her mind and gets a revelation of pure Truth.

Lamb's with Quakers

'A Quakers' Meeting' (Essays of Elia) reveals Lamb's mixed feelings about Quakers.

Bishop Leadbeter … Helbert … Sligger

There is no lack of evidence in re Leadbeter and Urquhart, but if Helbert had an irregular private life posterity seems unaware of it.


7 February 1959


General Certificate of Education. The 'Ordinary' level was the standard academic qualification for 16-year olds in the 1950s—80s.

Stephen Potter's autobiography

Steps to Immaturity (1959). The Times Literary Supplement, called it 'this sympathetic, beguiling book' and looked forward to a sequel, and other papers from The Daily Express to The New Statesman praised it in their reviews.


12 February 1959

an unconscionable time a-dying

Charles II is said to have apologised to his courtiers, 'I have been a most unconscionable time dying, but I beg you to excuse it.'


15 February 1959

Mr Butler, Sir John Wolfenden and the musical glasses

Butler, as Home Secretary, sponsored the Wolfenden Committee on homosexual offences and prostitution. The reference to musical glasses seems to be to Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, Chapter 9, in which two ladies of the town ‘would talk of nothing but high life, and high lived company; with other fashionable topics, such as pictures, taste, Shakespear, and the musical glasses'.


19 February 1959

I should like Housman to have seen it.

Housman, A Shropshire Lad II:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough.


Acetone diethyl sulphone, a hypnotic, not associated with the treatment of leprosy. GWL probably meant sulfonamides—antibacterial drugs developed in the 1930s.


22 February 1959

three and sixpence

17½p. Worth about £7 in 2017 using average earnings as a multiplier.


29 February

you will always find ascribed to Jowett

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography correctly ascribes it to Thompson.

Where can one find L.H.'s. Echo de Paris?

Echo de Paris: A Study from Life was published in a limited edition by Jonathan Cape in 1923.

Didn't he write something good about Gray not long ago?

Thomas Gray: A Biography, published by the Cambridge University Press in 1955.

Freyberg who I believe was a dentist

He was: see biography section.

that vicar who wants flogging back

The Rev A W Butterworth's remarks from the pulpit were reported in The Times (23 February) under the headline 'Corporal punishment plea at Much Birch.'

that tremendous epitaph

Samuel Wesley, quoted by Johnson in his Dictionary:

Beneath this tomb an infant lies,
To earth whose body lent
Hereafter shall more glorious rise,
But not more innocent.
When the archangel's trump shall blow,
And souls to bodies join,
What crowds shall wish their lives below
Had been as short as thine!


1 March 1959

Seven Years in Tibet

By Heinrich Harrer, published by RH-D in 1953.

a book on Yugoslavia

The Iron Gate of Illyria by Torgny Sommelius, translated by Naomi Walford.

Be secret and exult

Correctly quoted except that 'this' should read 'that'.


5 March 1959

Wilfred Feinburgh

Correctly Fienburgh: see biographies section.

Stand on the right and let the rest pass you

On the London Underground by long custom travellers stand on the right-hand side of escalators so that those in haste, or of an athletic disposition, can run unimpeded up or down the left hand side.


8 March 1959

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Celebrated self-help book by Dale Carnegie, published in 1937.

the wife of Jonathan Cape's partner

Eileen Howard, wife of George Wren Howard since 1915, described in The Times as 'a charming and popular hostess.'

his life of Kenneth Grahame

Kenneth Grahame 1859—1932 (1959).


12 March 1959

'Little Orphant Annie'

By James Whitcomb Riley (1849—1916), 'Inscribed with all faith and affection to all the little children: the happy ones; and sad ones; the sober and the silent ones; the boisterous and glad ones; the good ones—yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely bad ones.' It begins:

Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep.


Archaic name of Brighton.

Blanco White's sonnet

'To Night'

Mysterious Night! when our first parent knew
Thee from report divine, and heard thy name,
Did he not tremble for this lovely frame,
This glorious canopy of light and blue?
Yet 'neath a curtain of translucent dew,
Bathed in the rays of the great setting flame,
Hesperus with the host of heaven came,
And lo! Creation widened in man's view.
Who could have thought such darkness lay concealed
Within thy beams, O Sun! or who could find,
Whilst fly and leaf and insect stood revealed,
That to such countless orbs thou mad'st us blind!
Why do we then shun Death with anxious strife?
If Light can thus deceive, wherefore not Life?

the finest and most grandly conceived

Coleridge (correctly quoted by GWL) was the dedicatee of the sonnet, so possibly parti-pris.

genus irritabile

Genus irritabile [vatum]: Horace, Epistles 2.2.102—the touchy tribe [of poets].


15 March 1959

dim religious light

Milton, Il Penseroso:

And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light:
There let the pealing organ blow
To the full voiced choir below.


19 March 1959

Burnham scale

National pay scale for schoolteachers, named after Harry Lawson, 1st Viscount Burnham (1862—1933), who chaired the standing joint committee on teachers' pay.


25 March 1959

Brahms, who wrote to someone

To Joseph Joachim, November 1878.

Gallstones by Milesworthy

The spoonerism is marred by the fact that Milestones is not by Galsworthy but by Arnold Bennett, with Edward Knoblock.

some rather dreary reminiscences of Galsworthy

'Portrait of John Galsworthy' on the BBC Home Service, which included contributions from members of his family, his housekeeper, chauffeur, and friends including St John Ervine, R H Mottram and others. The BBC thought it undreary enough to rebroadcast in 1967 as a centenary tribute.


29 March 1959

marching from Aldermaston

The Berkshire village of Aldermaston became synonymous with the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment located there. Opponents of atomic weapons frequently made protest marches to or from it in the 1950s and 60s.

Report and Third Reading

A parliamentary bill originating in the Commons goes through various stages. The First Reading is a formality, presenting the bill to the House; the Second considers the bill in principle; the Committee stage, usually away from the main debating chamber, deals with the details of the bill; the Report stage considers the bill as amended in committee; the Third Reading is the final look at the finished bill before it is sent to the House of Lords.

Next Friday is said to be Neville Cardus's seventieth birthday

In fact Cardus was born in 1888.


1 April 1959

Une des plus grandes preuves de médiocrité… 

One of the greatest proofs of mediocrity is not recognising superiority when it is found.

The Reluctant Debutante

1958 film directed by Vincente Minnelli based on William Douglas-Home's play of the same name.


5 April 1959

music critic of the Daily Telegraph

Martin Cooper (1910–1986), chief music critic of the Telegraph from 1954 to 1976, was a Wykehamist. Donald Mitchell (1925–2017) junior music critic from 1959 to 1964, was at Dulwich College.

the tall bearded Levantine was Felix Aprahamian …

Probably not: Aprahamian was short and almost perfectly spherical. He was memorably described by Bernard Levin as 'bearded like the pard and with a waistline that has often been mistaken for the QE2 sailing sideways, but a man who knows more about music than a hundred other experts in the subject.'


9 April 1959

O evening sun of July

O evening sun of July, how, at this hour, thy beams fall slant on reapers amid peaceful woody fields; on old women spinning in cottages; on ships far out in the silent main; on Balls at the Orangerie of Versailles, where high-rouged Dames of the Palace are even now dancing with double-jacketted Hussar-Officers;—and also on this roaring Hell porch of a Hotel-de-Ville! Babel Tower, with the confusion of tongues, were not Bedlam added with the conflagration of thoughts, was no type of it. One forest of distracted steel bristles, endless, in front of an Electoral Committee; points itself, in horrid radii, against this and the other accused breast. It was the Titans warring with Olympus; and they scarcely crediting it, have conquered: prodigy of prodigies; delirious,—as it could not but be. Denunciation, vengeance; blaze of triumph on a dark ground of terror: all outward, all inward things fallen into one general wreck of madness!


11 April 1959

Macaulay's schoolboy

The phrase 'every schoolboy knows …' recurs in many variants in Macaulay's writings.


15 April 1959

'The earliest pipe of half-awakened birdseye'

From Tennyson's 'Tears, Idle Tears':

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds

Reportedly, Tennyson told Harcourt that his morning pipe after breakfast was the best in the day, to which Harcourt responded, 'The earliest pipe of half-awakened bards.' The variant 'The earliest pipe of half-awakened birdseye' appeared in The Oxford Magazine in 1890. (Birdseye is a type of tobacco).

The Miracle

In 1923, the director Max Reinhardt offered Diana Cooper the important role of the Madonna in Karl Vollmöller's mime play The Miracle, in which she made a huge success in America and Europe in the 1920s and 30s.


28 April 1959

the long hairy ears of any jackass

Froude, Life of Carlyle, Ch 5: 

'A long hairy-eared jackass,' as he called some eminent Edinburgh physician.

Southey's Madoc

In fact Porson's remark was about another Southey poem, Thalaba.


4 May 1959

The Bostonians … one of the hard ones?

The Bostonians, published in 1886, is not generally reckoned among James's more intractable texts.

The Upton Letters

Published in 1905, a series of fictional letters supposedly written by an English schoolmaster to an expatriate friend.


Excessive enthusiasm.


13 May 1959

va et vient

Coming and going.

All the letters about Latin

There was a proposal to make Latin an optional rather than, as hitherto, a compulsory subject in the qualifying examinations for entry to Oxford University. The correspondence columns of The Times carried many letters on both sides of the debate during early May 1959.

every woman being at heart a rake

Pope, 'Epistle to a Lady'

Men, some to Bus'ness, some to Pleasure take;
But ev'ry Woman is at heart a Rake:
Men, some to Quiet, some to public Strife;
But ev'ry Lady would be Queen for life.


21 May 1959

like the young lady late for dinner, as recorded by Cherry-Garrard

Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Antarctic 1910—1913:

A young lady was so late that the party sat down to dinner without waiting longer. Soon she arrived covered with blushes and confusion. 'I'm so sorry,' she said, 'but that horse was the limit, he ...' 'Perhaps it was a jibber,' suggested her hostess to help her out. 'No, he was a ****. I heard the cabby tell him so several times.'

old Heythorp's dinner

In Galsworthy's A Stoic.

Mad Margaret in Ruddigore

By Gilbert and Sullivan. Margaret, a reclaimed madwoman, becomes joint head of a National School.

Swinnerton's last novel

A Tigress in Prothero (1959).

the new D.N.B. volume just out

The new volume of the Dictionary of National Biography covered people who had died between 1941 and 1950.

Do you ever contribute?

In the current Oxford DNB (2021) there are articles by RH-D on Jonathan Cape, Peter Fleming, Roger Fulford, Humphry House and Siegfried Sassoon.


Ranjitsinhji, who was not only a great cricketer but also Maharajah of Nawangar.


25 May 1959

Michael Sadleir's article on Hugh Walpole … Harold Nicolson's article on my Uncle Duff

Neither article has survived in the current DNB (now the ODNB), that on Hugh Walpole being by Elizabeth Steele and that on Duff Cooper by Philip Ziegler.

Dulles's death

John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of State (foreign minister), resigned on health grounds on 15 April and died on 24 May.


27 May 1959

Sir Anthony Absolute

In Sheridan's The Rivals.

Gunther on Inside Russia.

Inside Russia Today (1958), one of a series written by the American journalist John Gunther; the first was Inside Europe (1936) and the last, Inside Australia and New Zealand (1972).


29 May 1959


Etonian jargon for a boys who devote themselves to land-sports—cricket, football, etc.; 'wet-bobs' are the boys who go in for rowing.

scored a bump

The impact of the stem of a boat against the stern or side of another boat in front of it: in boat-racing the making of a 'bump' is the technical proof of one boat's overtaking and beating another. (OED)


The boat that rows in two divisions of the bumping races at Oxford and Cambridge, occupying the last position in a higher division and the first position in a lower division.


Brasenose College.


3 June 1959



more suo

In its (usual) way.

Who the devil is Eisenstein …

The article, 'Artist in Celluloid', was about the Russian film director, Sergei Eisenstein.

But John Carter was good on some egregious Yank professor who seems to have been tampering with Housman's text

In a letter about A E Housman – Complete Poems, Centennial Edition, John Carter listed many alterations made by  Tom Burns Haber, and commented on 'how careful a professor in Ohio needs to be in emending the language of a Westcountryman' and on factual errors in the introduction. (TLS 29 May 1959, p 321.)

te absente

In your absence.


8 June 1959

paralysis agitans

Now more commonly known as Parkinson's disease.


10 June 1959

It may have a certain amount of form and finish and perhaps a fake air of ease, but there is an awful history behind it.

In telling his brother how troublesome he found writing, Housman added that he was referring only to prose because 'poetry is either easy or impossible.'


18 June 1959

Medes and Persians

The laws of the Medes and Persians were unalterable.

McVitie & Price

Bakers founded in 1830 in Edinburgh. Inventors of the digestive biscuit. Despite GWL's scorn their ginger nuts had, and have, their admirers.

shredded marmalade

Possibly Robertson's Golden Shred, an inexpensive brand of marmalade; Cooper's Oxford marmalade is a touchstone of excellence.


29 June 1959

Laus Deo

Praise be to God.

Nelson's sevenpennies

Series of low-priced reprints of classics, initiated in 1907 by John Buchan as chief literary adviser to the publishers Thomas Nelson and Son. A full-priced novel typically cost ten times as much. Using the index of retail prices, the two sums would be £2 and £21 in 2006 prices.


Extensive range of fiction and non-fiction paperbacks, launched by Allen Lane in 1935. The first issues sold for 6d; by 1959 most Penguins cost 2/6 (12½p)—respectively £1.20 and £2 in 2006 terms.

Dogleech Marat

Carlyle dubbed Marat 'dogleech', though Marat had a moderately distinguished career as a physician. (The notes to the 2001 single volume selection of the Letters wrongly state that 'dogleech' was a misquotation; in fact Carlyle used both 'dogleech' and 'horseleech' several times in referring to Marat).


2 July 1959

his father's eulogy of W.G.'s neck

Alfred Lyttelton said of E M Grace, 'the dirtiest neck I ever kept wicket behind.' The Times's version of the story (29 June 1959) erred also in ascribing the story to an uncle of Oliver Lyttelton, rather than his father.

what one of the old Forsytes termed a 'rum-ti-too' lot

Commonplace. The Forsyte Saga. In Chancery: 'At Timothy's':

He [Soames] was feeling more strongly than ever that Timothy's was hopelessly 'rum-ti-too' and the souls of his aunts dismally mid-Victorian.

Galsworthy also used the variant 'rumpty-too' (The Man of Property I. i. 22).

the channel glittered like a blue mantle…

The Nigger of the 'Narcissus', Ch 5.


5 July 1959


The National Society of Operative Printers' Assistants, formed in 1889 as the Printers' Labourers' Union. 


12 July 1959

Lord Birkett

Independent chairman of the talks between the employers and the unions in the printing strike.


19 July 1959


Possibly Lt Col Charles Waley-Cohen (1878—1963), a member of the Légion d'honneur.


23 July 1959

'the older and more splendid university'

If this reference to Oxford is a quotation, as it seems to be, I cannot trace it.

Father-like He tends and spares us.

From the hymn, 'Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven' by H F Lyte (1793—1847)

the train which puffed fifteen miles to Felixstowe, followed by a fire engine

The Times reported on 6 July, 'A passenger train travelling between Ipswich and Felixstowe was followed by three fire engines, and not without good reason, for it started six grass fires on its 12-mile journey.'

the heavens are as brass

Deuteronomy 28:23:

And thy heavens which are over thy head have been brass, and the earth which is under thee iron.

that handful of supple earth and long white stones with sea-water running in its veins

See the following two letters.

'About things on which the public thinks long it commonly attains to think right'

Johnson, on Addison's tragedy, Cato:

Of a work so much read, it is difficult to say any thing new. About things on which the public thinks long, it commonly attains to think right.

The prayers of those who mourned Sir John Moore—'few and short'

Charles Wolfe, 'The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna':

Few and short were the prayers we said,
And we spoke not a word of sorrow.

unavailing as the tears and sighs of the ungodly

Hymn, 'Great God, what do I see and hear?' by William B Collyer (1782—1854) after a German original of Luther's day:

The ungodly, filled with guilty fears,
behold his wrath prevailing.
In woe they rise, but all their tears
and sighs are unavailing.


3 August 1959

Someone has blundered

Tennyson, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'

Forward, the Light Brigade!
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd.


6 August 1959

Je le regrette tout les jours; je m'en félicite toutes les nuits

It regret it every day; I welcome it every night.

ad rem

To [the point of] the matter

how good Ivor is in the new D.N.B. on old Agate

Ivor Brown's article remains in the Oxford DNB at 2021, extensively revised by Marc Brodie.


9 August 1959

the new Noel Coward play

Look After Lulu, an adaptation of Feydeau's Occupe-toi d'Amélie

the Marconi scandal

1912 allegations of insider trading in shares in the Marconi company by members of the Liberal government, including Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; Sir Rufus Isaacs, the Attorney General; and Herbert Samuel, Postmaster General. Isaacs's brother was managing director of Marconi.


16 August 1959

the Iliad and the Odyssey weren't written by Homer, but by another man of the same name

The joke pre-dates Maurice Baring. It was reported as a schoolboy howler in English as She is Taught, an American book published in 1887, and was ascribed in another American book, published in 1882 to ‘one of our witty British brethren’. (W. H. McElroy, An Overture to William Tell, p. 9), possibly referring to an unnamed Oxford don reported as making the joke in 1875. (The Shotover Papers, Or, Echoes from Oxford, Volume 1, p. 112)

pari passu

'with equal step'—with equal force.


21 August 1959

on a Tripos standard

Cambridge honours degree standard.

Father Damien and the Stevenson letter

In 1889 a Presbyterian minister, the Rev C M Hyde, wrote disparagingly of the recently-dead 'Apostle to the Lepers', Father Damien. Stevenson wrote an open letter reproaching Hyde for his inaccuracy, uncharity and sectarian malice. Stevenson prophesied that Father Damien would be made a saint; this was done by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.

Carlyle's description of Coleridge at Highgate

Coleridge sat on the brow of Highgate Hill, in those years, looking down on London and its smoke-tumult, like a sage escaped from the inanity of life's battle; attracting towards him the thoughts of innumerable brave souls still engaged there. His express contributions to poetry, philosophy, or any specific province of human literature or enlightenment, had been small and sadly intermittent; but he had, especially among young inquiring men, a higher than literary, a kind of prophetic or magician character. He was thought to hold, he alone in England, the key of German and other Transcendentalisms; knew the sublime secret of believing by 'the reason' what 'the understanding' had been obliged to fling out as incredible; and could still, after Hume and Voltaire had done their best and worst with him, profess himself an orthodox Christian, and say and print to the Church of England, with its singular old rubrics and surplices at Allhallowtide, Esto perpetua. A sublime man; who, alone in those dark days, had saved his crown of spiritual manhood; escaping from the black materialisms, and revolutionary deluges, with 'God, Freedom, Immortality' still his: a king of men. The practical intellects of the world did not much heed him, or carelessly reckoned him a metaphysical dreamer: but to the rising spirits of the young generation he had this dusky sublime character; and sat there as a kind of Magus, girt in mystery and enigma; his Dodona oak-grove (Mr Gilman's house at Highgate) whispering strange things, uncertain whether oracles or jargon.

in the Quiller-Couch sense of 'reading'

Quiller-Couch delivered a series of twelve lectures between 1916 and 1918, published in 1920 as On The Art of Reading.


24 August 1959

married another young girl

Shirley, Lady Beecham.

'Chippendale, the cabinet-maker…'

Birrell, Obiter Dicta,' Actors', quoted by Wilde in his 'Stage Memoirs'


27 August 1959

I am like the psalmist, poured out like water.

Psalm 22:14: I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.

Wilson … Froude … Garnett

  • David Alec Wilson's biography of Carlyle, published by Kegan Paul 1923—34 in six volumes.
  • James Anthony Froude's biography in two parts:
  • Thomas Carlyle: A History of the First Forty Years of Life, 1795—1835, (1882)
  • Thomas Carlyle: A History of His Life in London, 1834—1881 (1884).
  • Richard Garnett's Life of Thomas Carlyle (1887).

that Geraldine Jewsbury association

Jane Carlyle's intense friendship with Geraldine Jewsbury has prompted speculation that they were lovers, though no evidence exists to show it.


30 August 1959

ah well, the tide's out here

This line for Mrs Madigan is not in the play, but is an interpolation in Hitchcock's film of Juno and the Paycock.


2 September 1959

who played for England at Edgbaston in 1902

A C MacLaren, C B Fry, K S Ranjitsinhji, F S Jackson, Johnny Tyldesley, Dick Lilley, George Hirst, G L Jessop, Len Braund, Bill Lockwood and Wilfred Rhodes. Hirst and Rhodes bowled Australia out for 36 runs in the first innings—their lowest total in any Test innings, before or since. The tourists were saved by rain, and the match was drawn.

Lamplough's Pyretic Saline

Advertised as 'a safe and reliable antidote to all diseases arising from disordered stomach, indigestion, and liver troubles and may be had of chemists everywhere'. W S Gilbert celebrated it in verse:

There was a far-famed individdle
Who had a bad pain in his middle,
But a gentle emetic
With Lamplough's Pyretic
Soon made him as fit as a fiddle.


A ball that pitches directly underneath the bat.

Old fashioned in 1959: common in the previous century: 'a stupid, dilatory, inactive, and generally amiable young man' (James Redding Ware: Passing English of the Victorian era: a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase (1909) dating the term from 1840).

Reading … biscuits

Huntley and Palmer's biscuit factory in Reading was, in the early 20th century, the largest biscuit factory in the world.

our member is much the stupidest man in the country

Sir James Harwood Harrison.


6 September 1959

Mrs Brooke

Mary Ruth Brooke, mother of Rupert Brooke, appointed Sir Edward Marsh as her dead son's literary executor.

The Aspern Papers

Adaptation of Henry James's story of the same name. Dramatised by and starring Michael Redgrave. The cast also included Beatrix Lehmann and Flora Robson.


9 September 1959

the misquote

Stevenson's original reads 'home from sea'. The Times (9 September) reported that Lord Cobham had offered £50 to have the misquotation on the stone corrected.

that ass among the apostles

All the apostles, according to Matthew 26:8-9; Judas Iscariot according to John 12:5.

per contra

on the other hand.


16 September 1959

ultra vires

Beyond [legal] power—unauthorised.

Hinc illae lacrimae

Hence these tears. (Terence, Andria, line 126).


23 September 1959

Mary Magdalene

John 12:3.

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

The Craft of Letters

The Craft of Letters in England: A Symposium edited by John Lehmann (1956). Mentioned by RH-D in his letter of 15 July 1956.


27 September 1959

a rubbishy book of memoirs

All That I Have Met, London, Cassell and Co, 1929.


1 October 1959


Mediaeval noun of assembly for ducks.

Lucky Jim

Novel by Kingsley Amis, published in 1954. Regarded by many as amusing.


4 October 1959

çi devant


my True Blue vote

Colour adopted by the right-wing Conservative Party.

The Complaisant Lover

Directed by John Gielgud. Other members of the cast were Paul Scofield and Phyllis Calvert. It ran at the Globe (now the Gielgud) theatre from 18 June 1959 to 28 May 1960.


7 October 1959

the chorus of indolent reviewers

Tennyson, Hendecasyllabics:

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

Board of Education

The Board of Education was abolished in 1944 and replaced by a Ministry.


15 October 1959


See note for 23 September 1959, above. Possibly Sargent was thinking of Matthew 26, where a similar incident is described, with an unnamed woman who poured 'very precious ointment' on Jesus' head.


22 October 1959

A slightly less momentous one from me

In the Oval Test of 1902 a last-wicket stand between Hirst and Rhodes secured the narrowest of wins for England against Australia. Rhodes, coming in at ninth wicket down, joined Hirst at the crease with 15 runs needed. Hirst was said to have greeted Rhodes, 'We'll get 'em in singles'. A subsequent Times correspondent stated that Rhodes, like Hirst, denied the truth of the old story

In The Times of 21 October, GWL's letter read:

With regard to the famous legendary remark attributed to George Hirst, I think it should be recorded that Hirst, when at Eton, told me in answer to my direct question that he had no recollection whatever of saying to Rhodes: 'We'll get 'em in singles.'
   Mr Walkden may say that this supports his contention in his letter today, and that if I had said 'wuns' instead of singles Hirst would have remembered it.

light such a candle, Master Ridley…

Allusion to Foxe's Book of Martyrs:

Then they brought a faggot, kindled with fire, and laid it down at Dr Ridley's feet. Master Latimer spake to him in this manner: 'Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.'

Tom Richardson at Old Trafford in 1896

Richardson took 13 wickets for 244 runs but the Australians won. Cardus's version of the end of the match is:

His body still shook from the violent motion. He stood there like some fine animal baffled at the uselessness of great strength and effort in this world...A companion led him to the pavilion, and there he fell wearily to a seat.

Cardus was, however, only seven at the time and was not present.

'poor Dorothy'

Allusion not identified. The phrase occurs twice in Austin Dobson's Vignette in Rhyme, 'Dorothy', but his Dorothy is neither physically or mentally lacking as the one whom GWL has in mind evidently is.


25 October 1959

Queen Mum

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.


29 October 1959

Cobden's match

Robert Lyttelton's account of the match was later included in The Oxford Book of English Prose, selected by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.

'saw Shelley plain'

Browning, 'Memorabilia':

Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you?
And did you speak to him again?
How strange it seems, and new!

Room at the Top 

1957 novel by John Braine, telling the sometimes sordid story of the rise of an ambitious young man of humble origins.

Je ne vois à (dit Poussin) … 

'I do not see,' said Poussin, 'anything but colours confusedly piled up and contained by a multitude of odd lines which form a wall of paint.'


1 November 1959

Patience, with its Oscarian allusions

Patience is about the rivalry of two pretentious aesthetic poets. The player of the poet Bunthorne, George Grossmith, adopted the velvet jacket of Swinburne, the hairstyle and monocle of Whistler, and knee-breeches similar to those worn by Wilde and others. Wilde is often held to be the principal target of Gilbert's satire, but Gilbert specialists discount this.

breaking a few butterflies on the wheel

Alexander Pope, 'Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot': 'Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?'

Bishop of Manchester

William Derrick Lindsay Greer


5 November 1959

These are the times that try men's souls

The opening words of the series of pamphlets The American Crisis, by Thomas Paine, begun in late 1776, fomenting rebellion in the colonies:

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot may, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.'

'fine confused feeding'

Description applied both to a haggis and a sheep's head; author unknown, though sometimes attributed to Dr Johnson without citation. Possibly derived from Latin coena dubia, 'a doubtful dinner'—one so lavish that one does not know what to eat first.


7 November 1959

we petty men

Julius Caesar 1:2

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.


12 November 1959

the food is 'muck'

George Lyttelton had been on the receiving end of such complaints. In the 1930s Simon Phipps (later Bishop of Lincoln 1974—86) was deputed by his classmates to complain to GWL about the declining standard of food in his house. Phipps always remembered his housemaster's look of 'appalled contrition'. (The Daily Telegraph, 22 November 2001).


22 November 1959


Writer to the Signet. A distinction awarded to some senior Scottish lawyers

Go forth upon thy journey

A strikingly familiar valediction comes in Newman's The Dream of Gerontius:

Proficiscere, anima Christiana, de hoc mundo!
Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul!
Go from this world! Go, in the name of God
The omnipotent Father, who created thee!
Go, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Son of the living God, who bled for thee!
Go, in the name of the Holy Spirit, who
Hath been poured out on thee!

my Dickens book

Dickens Incognito by Felix Aylmer.


25 November 1959

'ails from the prime foundation'

A Shropshire Lad, XLVIII

Ay, look: high heaven and earth ail from the prime foundation;
All thoughts to rive the heart are here, and all are vain:
Horror and scorn and hate and fear and indignation—
Oh why did I awake? when shall I sleep again?

all Etonians should copy?

Presumably the question mark is a typographical error.


28 November 1959

Prix Goncourt

French literature prize given to the author of the best and most imaginative prose work of the year ('le meilleur ouvrage d'imagination en prose, paru dans l'année') endowed by the writer Edmond de Goncourt in memory of his brother and collaborator, Jules de Goncourt.

Regent Street after dark

Famous shopping street in central London. The Christmas lights had been switched on on 26 November, attracting large crowds.


10 December 1959

Cholmondeley = Chumley

Respectively, the spelling and the pronunciation of an old English surname.


12 December 1959

story… in the Christmas number of Argosy

'Dig This!' published in the January 1960 issue of Argosy.

'il m'a giflé'

He slapped me.


17 December 1959

'intestine stone or ulcer, colic pangs' or any species of 'wide-wasting pestilence'

Paradise Lost, IX, line 479ff:

A lazar-house it seemed; wherein were laid
Numbers of all diseased; all maladies
Of ghastly spasm, or racking torture, qualms
Of heart-sick agony, all feverous kinds,
Convulsions, epilepsies, fierce catarrhs,
Intestine stone and ulcer, colic-pangs,
Dæmoniac frenzy, moping melancholy,
And moon-struck madness, pining atrophy,
Marasmus, and wide-wasting pestilence

the right treatment of Mrs Humphry Ward's heroines

Arnold Bennett, 'Mrs Humphry Ward's Heroines' in Books and Persons: Being Comments on a Past Epoch 1908—1911 (1917)

I have invented a destiny for Mrs Humphry Ward's heroines. It is terrible, and just. They ought to be caught, with their lawful male protectors, in the siege of a great city by a foreign army. Their lawful male protectors ought, before sallying forth on a forlorn hope, to provide them with a revolver as a last refuge from a brutal and licentious soldiery. And when things come to a crisis, in order to be concluded in our next, the revolvers ought to prove to be unloaded. I admit that this invention of mine is odious, and quite un-English, and such as would never occur to a right-minded subscriber to Mudie's. But it illustrates the mood caused in me by witnessing the antics of those harrowing dolls.


19 December 1959


Political novel by Disraeli (1844)


Sybil, or The Two Nations: 1845 novel by Disraeli, expounding the plight of the working classes in England.

Trellised with intertwining charities

Lines 16—20:

I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followed,
Yet was I sore adread…)

Those two lines about Mantua

From Chapter 32 of Baring's novel C, published in 1924.


31 December 1959

phossy jaw

Necrosis of the jawbone often accompanied by osteomyelitis, caused by exposure to white phosphorus in workers engaged in making matches. Also called phosphorus necrosis.

Great Expectations

Presumably the 1946 film directed by David Lean, with John Mills as Pip. Mrs Gargery was played by Freda Jackson. No other film of the novel was released between 1946 and 1959.

God in his wisdom made the fly…

Ogden Nash, 'The Fly'