Clouds of Witness

Chapter I, page 1

page 1
Clouds of Witness

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
--Hebrews 12:1
Thanks to Menace and Darling, Beast, Angel, Vixen for the attribution.

The Battersea mystery

The obligatory plug for the author's previous work, Whose Body?, the first in the Corpus.

page 11
a Sahib

From a title of respect used for Europeans in India, it came in the 20th century to mean simply a gentleman. One of the examples of this usage in the OED is taken from The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.

page 12
...somewhere up near the sources of the Nile

Was Freeborn in Egypt, or near the sources of the Nile? There is an enormous distance between the two, not that it makes much difference here, least of all to the Duke.

page 18
sal volatile

Ammonium carbonate, or smelling salts. The whiff of ammonia that this gives off is an antidote for feeling faint.

Chapter II, page 28

page 28

Bloated herring, a smoked half-dried herring; I presume that kippered herring would be proper. The OED's description of the process is too good not to quote: "... leaving them in dry salt on a floor for 24 hours, washing in fresh water, spitting, and smoking them over an oak fire..." Spitting? We know that Homer nods, but for an editor of the OED to choose an ambiguous verb -- !

page 29
...who disciplined her hair and her children.

There is almost no other mention of her second child in the Corpus. Margaret Dean, Miss de Vine, and Elisabeth Sumpter pointed out that a daughter is mentioned, just barely, in Busman's Honeymoon, and has the name Winifred in Thrones, Dominations. Dean, darling has found another reference, when Lord St. George, in hospital with motoring injuries, mentions her.

Quaecunque honesta

Helen Ketcham, citing The Lord Peter Wimsey Companion, says, "'Whatever is honest' -- maybe derived from Philippians 4:8."

page 31
Methodists ... will not be at church

Not at the parish church of the Church of England, that is. They will rather be at chapel.

Mr. Parker reminded himself of a dictum of Lord Melbourne.

"Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of private life." Thanks to Laura Wallace and Joy Wotton for this.

page 33
bili-beastly weather

Bili- is a standard combining form for references to bile, as in bilirubin, but is Lord Peter calling the weather biliously bad, or is there an allusion to something that was current in 1927?

A London tenant suggests that "LPW stopped himself just too late while saying 'bloody', 'bili' being the aborted portion that escaped his lips, and beastly being the hasty substitute."

I note, though, that there is also the expression "raining like billy-ho", which I think appears in Nine Tailors.

page 34


page 38
bloody but unbowed

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud;
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
--William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

page 39
Attenbury diamond case

Either there were two Attenburys who lost gems, or these are emeralds according to the several other mentions in the Corpus. Attenbury himself will show up later in the book (as Dean, darling noted) to speak of the emeralds.

page 44
Then downwards from the steep hill's edge
They tracked the footmarks small.

From Wordsworth's "Ballad of Lucy Gray", text at as Dian de Momerie was first to point out.

They followed from the earthy bank
Those footsteps one by one,
Into the middle of the plank,
And farther there were none!


Chapter III, page 47

page 48
They're pukka stones.

Pukka: genuine, proper. From Hindi word meaning ripe or mature. Cf. pukka sahib.

There are many difficulties inherent in a teleological view of creation.

Viewing it in terms of purpose. Parker's view would be seconded with vehemence by biologists, among whom teleology is something of a swear word, because of its pre-Darwinian legacy of natural philosophy, in which one admires the wisdom of the Creator in making the polar regions cold and snowy so that the polar bears could live comfortably there. The modern equivalent among insufficiently clear-headed Darwinians is what one biologist calls "evolutionary just-so stories" which assign implausible powers of clear thinking to Evolution.

Chevaux de frise

Spiked fence

page 50
From such a ditch as this
When the soft wind did kiss the trees...

LORENZO: The moon shines bright: in such a night as this,
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees
And they did make no noise, in such a night
Troilus methinks mounted the Troyan walls
And sigh'd his soul toward the Grecian tents,
Where Cressid lay that night.
--Merchant of Venice, Act V scene i
(With thanks to Margaret Dean and Elisabeth Sumpter)


Counter-clockwise. To go in the opposite direction to the sun's motion carries an air of bad luck, most particularly around a graveyard. The term has no connection with either widows or shins (just as a forlorn hope is neither forlorn nor a hope); it means wrong direction, or even a seriously wrong direction.

So what's the proper way to walk around a churchyard in Australia?

page 51
The Lay of the Last Minstrel

By Sir Walter Scott. "Breathes there the man with soul so dead..."

page 52
...that elaborate passage of Bach which begins 'Let Zion's children.'

This is from the motet "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied", BWV 225 text from Psalm 149. "Die Kinder Zion sei'n frölich über ihrem Könige" is set to a fugue with a particularly long and elaborate subject. Thanks to Helen Ketcham and Laura Ann Wallace for the identification; also to Hans Krehbiel, who comments (in a newsgroup) that he used the passage as a whistling exercise before he had read the book.

page 56
...a bottle of benzene from the cupboard.

Was she using benzene (C6H6, currently a scare chemical because it's carcinogenic, though the scare tends to be exaggerated) or benzine (petroleum ether, a sort of extremely volatile gasoline)? At least, that's the distinction in the OED; but Miss Martin points out that the Merck Index currently uses -ene for both and has no benzine. Other editions of CLOU spell it benzine, according to Mrs. Merdle. My guess is that petroleum ether was the household cleaning liquid of the time. Either kind of benz*ne would remove grease stains like crazy, while being a fire hazard that would cause heart attacks among modern safety watchdogs.

page 59
Silver sand

A fine white sand used in horticulture.

page 56
another copy of Manon

Manon Lescaut, by the Abbé Prévost (1697-1763). Source for Massenet's Manon and Puccini's Manon Lescaut. Though both the operas are mainly about Manon, the book (actually Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut) is a sort of rake's progress about the decline of the chevalier des Grieux as a result of his infatuation with her.

Chapter IV, page 67

page 68
...there must have been some foreign blood somewhere.

Had the Wimsey family history sprung full-blown from the brow of Ms Sayers, the Duchess would presumably have known that there was foreign blood right in the Dowager's good Hampshire family. At this point in the Corpus the disreputably un-English Paul Delagardie apparently had not been thought of.

But by the time some later edition came out, this had been fixed. Dian de Momerie reports,
" copy of CLOU has a corrected version:
'Peter took after his mother. How that eccentric strain had got into the family her grace could easily guess; the Dowager came of a good Hampshire family, but there was foreign blood at the roots of her family tree.'"

a Caxton Confessio Amantis

William Caxton (1421-1491), the first printer in England, publisher of Malory's tales of King Arthur. Margaret Dean informs us, concerning Confessio Amantis, "It's by John Gower and is a long poem in the courtly love tradition. C. S. Lewis has (part of?) a chapter on it in The Allegory of Love.

page 69
Come unto these Yellow Sands

Song from The Tempest, Act I, scene ii, the invisible Ariel singing as he leads Ferdinand. Lord Peter apparently was singing the setting by Henry Purcell (1659-1695).

I attempt from Love's Fever to Fly

Song from The Indian Queen, by Henry Purcell; words by John Dryden and Sir Robert Howard. The actual title is "I attempt from Love's Sickness to Fly". Oddly enough, it's absent from the Purcell site cited above; see

like the heroine of Northanger Abbey

Concerning Jane Austen's (1775-1817) character, Elisabeth Sumpter relates, "... the heroine of Northanger Abbey was determined to find a sinister mystery in the lives of the family she was staying with, and in the night she finds a thoroughly mysterious and dreadful wad of manuscript in an old chest, which turns out, in the sober light of day, to be a laundry list."

page 73
Grimethorpe's fleeces
Never go to pieces.

Wimsey's sloganeering foreshadows his brilliant work in the advertising agency in Murder Must Advertise.

Good night...

Here's a veritable Cultural Literacy test, very little of which I could pass without reference works (and some of which I needed to have corrected anyway).

"Good night, sweet Prince [Horatio, of Hamlet], until the cows come home [Scornful Lady, by Beaumont & Fletcher] and the dogs eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel [ Kings 21:23] when the hounds of spring are on winter's traces [Atalanta in Calydon, by Swinburne]."

Compare, "I could dance with you till the cows come home. On second thought, I'd rather dance with the cows till you come home" -- Groucho Marx.

Chapter V, page 80

page 81
ominous entry ... on the credit side

I presume that this means the sudden appearance of 20,000 francs, which could only be the result of selling off some of the investments: dipping into capital. I'm not sure of pre-war exchange rates, but I think this is about $4,000 or 800 pounds, the amount that qualifies in Unnatural Death as a comfortable annual income for a retired person. The latter was after the massive inflation of the War, which makes 20,000 pre-war francs an even larger sum.

page 82
très comme il faut ... une jolie blonde

Very fashionable ... a pretty blonde. Query for the French experts: does this imply fashionable-correct as distinct from fashionable-trendy?

pied à terre

A foot on the ground: a base of operations, the place to stay when in town, rather than full-time residence.

un jeune homme très rangé

My old French dictionary makes this a very steady young man. Doesn't seem all that consistent with going away for weeks or months at a time. From something fugal and pre-Bach we get the suggestion that "well-organized" would be closer; this sounds reasonable.

sens dessus dessous


page 84
Parker rather inclined to the blackmailing theory

The astute Mr. Parker is woolgathering. The irregular cash outlays started long before the unexplained infusions of cash that could have been from cheating at cards.

page 85
taking fortune's tide at the flood

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
--Julius Caesar, Act IV scene iii.

page 86
Bonne fortune

Good luck.

page 87
5,000 francs

See comments above, concerning the value of 20,000 francs.

page 89
Mais oui, j l'ai vu, ce monsieur-là

Why yes, I've seen him, that gentleman.

pour porter bonheur

To carry good luck; or, I suppose, to bring him good luck.

Quel encore? Voyons--

What else? Let's see--

à merveille


a je ne sais quoi

An I-don't-know-what; something I can't quite identify.

page 90
Ah, mon Dieu...

Translating this perfectly simple bit of French into real English gives one a proper sense of inadequacy. Literally, something like, "Oh, good heavens, that's harder. The gentleman knows that the days follow one another and resemble one another."

This is a little more like English: "Well now, that's harder. You know how the days go along. One day's much like another."

page 92
I hadn't really grasped what a fuss it was to try peers. It's only happened about once in every sixty years ... They have to appoint a Lord High Steward for the occasion, and God knows what. They have to make it frightfully clear in the Commission that it is only for the occasion, because, somewhere about Richard III's time, the L.H.S. was such a terrifically big pot that he got to ruling the roost.

A regrettable example of Sayers's tendency to ramble about matters that are of no interest at the end of the century. So it's messy to impeach (accuse) a peer of the realm and to circumscribe the powers of a special prosecutor. What's that got to do with us? :-)

Chapter VI, page 93

page 96, footnote
Dr. Pritchard's case

Courtesy of Donna Goldthwaite, with her permission, here is an account of that famous murderer:

Pritchard was hanged for poisoning his wife and mother-in-law in 1865. His poisons of choice were antimony and aconite. Antimony (tartar emetic) is particularly nasty stuff and seems to have been the 19th-century's preferred alternative when arsenic was unavailable.

Pritchard started out as a naval surgeon, turning to private practice, at which he was unsuccessful because of his nasty temper, etc., when he married Mary Jane Taylor, a Scotswoman. It appears that he was able to move to a better house and location because of money from his mother-in-law. He had an affair with a 15-year-old girl, Mary M'Cleod, upon whom he performed an abortion, with the promise that he would marry her. Shortly thereafter, his wife became ill. His mother-in-law seems to have suspected him, at which time she became ill. Both died. His major mistake was to call in another physician, Dr. Patterson, to confirm his own diagnosis of gastric fever (there are reasons why doctors aren't supposed to treat their own family members!). Patterson is believed to be the person who sent an anonymous letter to the police after the deaths. After exhumation, antimony (the Duchess' anemones, one presumes) and aconite were found.

Pritchard has the dubious distinction of being the last person publicly executed in Scotland, on July 28, 1865, at Jail Square in Glasgow. He drew a crowd of 100,000, according to Jay Nash in his Encyclopedia of World Crime.

cut up and analysed by Dr. Spilsbury

The LPWC informs us that Dr. Sir Bernard Henry Spilsbury (1877 - 1947) was a pathologist for the Home Office and a highly respected figure, probably the prototype for Dr. Lubbock.

But what about "the poor little rabbits"? Miss Martin answered this:

The short answer is that toxicology tests in the 19th c weren't terribly quantitative; you could do a chemical test and prove it was antimony. Yet this leaves a second question, How Much? And is it sufficient to poison someone? (and thus convince a jury) The test was to prepare an extract of the suspected antimony, feed it to rabbits and see how much it took to kill them. Now days our testing is far more sophisticated.

page 97

An emetic extracted from the roots of a South American shrub related to cinchona (the source of quinine). Still recommended, by some authorities at least, as a thing to keep in the house in case of accidental poisoning. Also called simply ipecac.

threw paraffin about

Not the wax you seal jars of jam with, but paraffin oil, or kerosene.

page 98

Voluntary Aid Detachment. Lady Susan explains, "The V.A.D. was a quasi-military organization active during WWI. Society ladies joined it to do hospital and social work, and were often granted officer rank. Real nurses et al. tended to look down on them as unqualified, and put them to washing bottles. Many V.A.D. ladies had never done any work before joining and were totally undisciplined. During WWII, BTW, the V.A.D. was sucked into the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (sort of Mum's Army) and lost their officer status. See Stephan Clarke's LPW Companion."

ex abundantia cautelae

Out of an abundance of caution, a phrase widely used in legal documents, indicating things like "Don't think that our filing a request for an exemption from this rule means the rule legally applies to us; we're just being super-cautious."

page 103
Chateau Yquem -- it's rather decent

Château d'Yquem is by universal agreement the finest wine of the Sauternes district and one of the most expensive in the world. The 1986 (an excellent year) sold for around $200 a bottle when released a few years later; and that's the price when you start the 10 or 20 years of aging required for it to justify its existence. It goes up from there. The grapes are quite literally harvested one a time with small scissors; only thus can one assure that each grape is at the proper stage of over-ripeness and moldiness.

But to serve a person a bottle of it? Some would call this a properly aristocratic bit of wretched excess; not because of the expense, but because the wine is too rich to be appreciated in more than small quantities. (And not with dinner, but with dessert, or in place of it.)

Chapter VII, page 103

page 112
shock-headed Peter

Not Wimsey, but StruwwelPeter, the subject of a series of humorous poems written in the late 19th century by Heinrich Hoffmann and a great success both in the original German and in English translation. Thanks to Mango, we have a Web reference for them, including a Mark Twain translation:

Chapter VIII, page 114 [No notes. This page intentionally left blank, as the manuals say.]

Chapter IX, page 117

page 118
Free State

The Irish Free State, now the Republic of Ireland, and a new creation at the time the Duchess was speaking.

Orange Free State

In South Africa, one of the participants in the Boer War. The Dowager Duchess finds the similarity of names strange, given that orange is the color adopted by the Ulster Protestants and is anathema to the Irish Republicans.

...though at first stunned and dizzy from his brutal treatment by the fifteen veiled assassins all armed with meat-choppers

In Murder Must Advertise we'll have more parodies of Sexton Blake, who provided the epigraph for chapter VII.

page 122
[An orgy of Dowagerisms]

Trembling, I take keyboard in hand to try to disentangle some. It is clear where Peter got his skill at rambling.

What oft was thought and frequently much better expressed, as Pope says

"What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed" is by Alexander Pope (1688-1744), from An Essay on Criticism.

...Browning and those quaint metaphysical people, when you never know whether they mean their mistress or the Established Church, so bridegroomy and biblical...

Some of the metaphysical poets of the 17th century (John Donne and Andrew Marvell, for instance, though not George Herbert as far as I know) wrote enough fleshly poetry to leave the Duchess wondering when they were writing of the Bride of Christ and when of earthly, and earthy, brides.

...dear St. Augustine -- the Hippo man, I mean, not the one who missionised over here...

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), author of Confessions and The City of God, who before his conversion subscribed to the Manichean heresy; not to be confused with Saint Augustine of Canterbury (d. 605), an Italian monk who became the Apostle of the English and first Archbishop of Canterbury.

that mandrake

We're back to John Donne now:

Go, and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root...

the thing you had to get a big black dog for

Linda Fox and Margaret Dean have explained that according to magical lore a mandrake root (shaped sort of like a human being and possessed of all kinds of magical properties) would shriek when pulled out of the ground, so terribly that it would kill any hearer. So the recommended method was to tie a big black dog to it, and get the dog to pull it out.

What was his name? Was it Faustus?

This is not the Faustus of Marlowe and Goethe and Gounod's opera (and Sayers). With thanks to Mango and to her informant Kay Douglas for the key pieces that make sense of this passage, here's who Faustus was.

Saint Augustine of Hippo, as mentioned above, was at one time a follower of Manicheus (ca. 216-276), a dualist who taught that the soul was made by God, but the body, or at least the lower half of it, was the work of the Devil. Whether this was a Christian heresy or a separate religion that took some elements of Christianity depends on whom you ask.

The Duchess, who started trying to say something about pseudo-profundity, is now getting to the point. Augustine had some problems with the master's teachings, but he was assured that a sage named Faustus understood it all and would clear up his questions. When he finally met the man, "he proved to be half-educated and incapable of more than reciting a more complex set of slogans than his local disciples had known." For more detail, see

For capsule summaries of the major heresies, a subject in which Sayers took a strong interest, see

page 123
That's a fallacy

Thanks to some recent discussion by Antoine and ipecacuanha and Padgett, it's clear that there's a specific point to this remark. Lady Mary is alluding to the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, in which one tries to discredit an idea by attacking its advocates. What the Dowager Duchess is saying is formally very much like a textbook example of the fallacy. Lady Mary's claim is fallacious, however: her mother is here attacking, not socialist doctrine, but the character of Mr. Goyles; and against a person the ad hominem argument seems quite valid.

page 124
...sprouting a lily with anguish moist and fever-dew

Thanks to Laura Wallace and the cat in the bag for identifying Keats's La Belle Dame Sans Merci. The cat goes on, "in this highly swoony little verse by John Keats, he says in the third verse, of the unfortunate knight who has embraced the wicked siren fairy,

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.
The poem is supposed to be, I remember reading once, a metaphor for the consumption that was so wont to consume dedicated Romantics."

Chapter X, page 129

page 134
has not its fellow in the universe

"...the northern star
Of whose true-fixed and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament."
--Julius Caesar, Act III, scene i

page 135
Lafite '75

Lafite (a first-growth Bordeaux) must have been more durable in the 19th century; nowadays they can be expected to peak in less than 30 years, according to Jancis Robinson. A vintage approaching 50 years should probably be served soon, before it loses everything.

'47 port

On the other hand, the Taylor vintages of 1908 and 1912 were still alive in 1990; presumably Mr Murbles's late client's antiquity was not a Taylor, the longest-lived of ports.

the divine Sarah

Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), actress, who made farewell tours (plural) after her leg was amputated in 1915. 1915 - 1844 = 75.

page 137
What I like about Clive

This is a clerihew, probably the only verse form named after a man's middle name, specifically Edmund Clerihew Bentley, author of Trent's Last Case, a detective work much admired by Dorothy L Sayers. In honor of Manon, we may also cite

Never wrote a Mass in A.
It would have been bad
If he had.

Chapter XI, page 141

page 141
the imminent closing-down of Northallerton Gaol

Tyke on a motor cycle explained this for us:

The Northallerton jail was almost certainly an occasional (perhaps converted from other purposes) lock-up, brought into use wholly for people on remand for an Assize hearing. If no Assize courts were due to sit (or had no-one before them who had been remanded in custody)-- then no need for a local jail, as sentenced felons would be housed in permanent establishments elsewhere. If no Assize was due until the following Spring, and from memory I seem to remember they were held every six months or so, then, yes, the Northallerton nick might well be closing for the winter.

page 143
Time, gentlemen.

Would a warder in England really say this when the time for the interview is up? Or is Wimsey having a little joke by using the standard innkeeper's phrase for closing the bar? Compare Professor Peter Schickele's moving account of the last words of P. D. Q. Bach, lying on the floor of the bar in Wein Am Rhein after three days of continuous drinking.

page 144
Gertrude Rhead

Hannah Marryat tells us, "Gertrude Rhead was a character in a 1912 play called 'Milestones' by Arnold Bennett and E. Knoblock."

page 146
Brooks of Sheffield

A non-existent person named in the second chapter of David Copperfield. Again, thanks to Hannah M for the reference.

page 147

The place where Moses struck the rock and brought forth water, and a place of strife among the Israelites and disobedience to the Lord. Exodus 17:7 and multiple other places.

page 156

--who entered the Labyrinth to hunt the Minotaur, trailing string from a ball that Ariadne had given him so that he could find his way out.

page 158
"'Fraid I'm rooted to Australia."

But he is not rooted. The difficulty in budging him makes good drama, but is it good physics? The only hold that the mire has on him is viscosity, and as small a force as you like ought -- in principle -- to budge him and eventually get him out, however slowly. The analogy to heaving the Earth our of her course is quite apt, as that takes an arbitrarily small force applied for long enough in the right way; see Archimedes. Or, to get back to the subject, am I missing something about the physics of bogs?

page 160
medical miracle

Now that Lord Peter has been dragged out of the mire by a rope under his armpits, we may admire how well he has recovered from a bullet wound and broken collarbone.

The Goyles interview is on the second day after the night of the wound; directly after that, they go for lunch at Murbles's place, where LPW says he'll be getting back to Riddlesdale. In the next chapter, with no indication of delay, he visits the Duke in prison. Then the next day he goes to Stapley and to Peter's Pot.

I count day 0 (late evening) for the wound; 1 for the breakfast; 2 for Goyles and Murbles; 3 for York, gaol, and cathedral; 4 for Stapley and Peter's Pot.

Not having had the privilege of a broken clavicle, I'm not an authority, but I think the lifting out by great force on a rope under the armpits, less than 96 hours after the injury, has a Sexton Blake quality. Olga Kohn, speaking from personal experience (of a broken clavicle, not being pulled out of a mire), confirmed this for us.

Chapter XIII, page 169

page 169
"That one word, my dear Watson..."

From "The Crooked Man". To say what the word was would, of course, be a spoiler.

page 170
"The father weakens, but the governor is firm"

As the LPWC points out, this is from Richard Brinsley Sheridan's (1751 - 1868) play The Critic, or rather from a play within the play.

page 173
A blot upon the paper's rim a blotted paper was to him, and it was nothing more.

A primrose by a river's brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.
--Wordsworth, "Peter Bell"

signed his name ... or rather his title

He would sign a formal letter simply "Denver".

page 174
"He can hardly mean mischief," said Peter, "He signs his name like an honest man!"

"You must have meant some mischief, or else you'd have signed your name like an honest man," as the King of Hearts says to the Knave in Alice in Wonderland. At which, there is general applause, as it was the only clever thing he had said that day -- no application here to Lord Peter.

page 175
Not Pygmalion likely!

It was only about 10 years before (1914) that London audiences had been scandalized by George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion:

Freddy [opening the door for her]: Are you walking across the Park, Miss Dolittle? If so--
Liza [perfectly elegant diction]: Walk! Not bloody likely. [Sensation] I am going in a taxi.

Chapter XIV, page 177

page 179

Lord Attenbury's diamonds (p. 39) are now emeralds, as they will remain through the rest of the Corpus, I believe.

page 181
one thousand nine hundred and twenty--

The dash here is not punctuation that indicates a break before the next phrase, but rather a form of Nineteen Twenty-Blank. My excuse for having misread it for the past several years is the lousy typography of the Avon edition. The date, though, is clearly enough 1923; see below, in Cathcart's letter.

Chapter XV, page 191

page 193
Solvitur ambulando

It is to be solved by walking around (Lianne Hanson and Lady Susan); or, more generally, by action rather than by sitting and thinking. I'd still like to know the original source of the Latin phrase.

page 195
duBois-Gobey Houdin

Houdin is an interesting name for someone who apparently caught Cathcart cheating at cards. It was the name of a famous magician from whom an American named Eric Weiss took both inspiration and the stage name of Houdini. The latter was also a great debunker of fake psychics, a class of miscreant akin to cheaters at cards. DLS was surely aware of this, given her interest in spiritualist fakes (Strong Poison) and in Sherlock Holmes, whose creator was into spiritualism and yet was a friend of Houdini.

Chapter XVI, page 196

Chapter XVII, page 201

page 203
two pretty men

Lesley Simpson pointed out the lack of a note on this, and gave the attribution:

Robin and Richard were two pretty men.
They lay in bed till the clock struck ten
Then up starts Robin and looks at the sky
'Oh, brother Richard, the sun's very high.
You go before with the bottle and bag
And I will come after, with little Jack nag.'

I came across this on the Gilbert & Sullivan mailing list. Someone commented that the original name for Ruddigore was to have been Robin and Richard and quoted the rhyme. Apparently 'pretty men' in this case just meant 'fine fellows'.

Stapley, N. E. Yorks.
le 13 Octobre, 192-

192-? Gimme a break! In case there's any doubt about the date, "Eight years ago, before the war..." (p. 206) makes it no later than 1922. Whereas, on p. 82, "...during 1921 the income from the vineyard began to show signs of recovery." So we have both a terminus a quo and a terminus ad quem, as Lord Peter would say. (But it appears that there is a difference between editions in that matter of eight years. Perhaps some day we can resolve the matter using the definitive edition with all the variant readings.)

It pains me to report that October 13, 1922 was a Friday, not a Wednesday. To confirm this, you can consult the most remarkable Web page by means of which you can work this out in your head; or of course you could find a calendar. In 1920 it was a Wednesday, but of course that's impossible unless the reference to 1921 was a misprint for 1919. But that doesn't fit very well with the reference to December 1919.

page 204
Il y'a huit ans

Eight years ago. But wait -- is it really eight years as we count them in English? Certainly the French count days differently, calling a week eight days and a fortnight 15 days; I don't know if they do the same with years. Can we hear from those with a solid knowledge of French idiom?

Chapter XVIII, page 207

page 211
If my love swears that she is made of truth...

Shakespeare's Sonnet CXXXVII, "When my love swears that she is made of truth".

page 218
God send each man at his end
Such hawks, such hounds, and such a friend.

The standard verse is
"God send every noble man
Such hawks, such hounds, and such leman [lover]."
From the song "The Three Ravens", first appearing in a collection by Thomas Ravenscroft about 1600, but already an old song in his time. It concerns three ravens looking for some roadkill --

There were three ravens sat in a tree
(Down-a-down, hey down, hey down)
They were as black as black might be
(With a down)
The one of them said to his mate
"Where shall we our breakfast take?"
(With a down, derry, derry, derry, down down)
-- and finding a dying knight whose body they can't approach because of his loyal protectors.

It is not the balm, the sceptre, and the ball...

Henry V, Act IV scene i.

Chapter XIX, page 219

page 221
"Don't photograph that."
"They wouldn't like to see that, my Lord."

Ah, the good old days when sensational pictures of violent death would hurt sales.

page 223
...his official superior ... smiling a happy smile in his sleep

--while curled up in his overcoat (I presume), out of doors, in the middle of the night, in the middle of January. Mad dogs and Englishmen not only go out in the noonday sun, but survive a siesta in the midnight freeze.

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