Page 1. " Never say you know the last word about any human heart "

Never say you know the last word about any human heart! I was once treated to a revelation which startled and touched me in the nature of a person with whom I had been acquainted--well, as I supposed--for years, whose character I had had good reasons, heaven knows, to appreciate and in regard to whom I flattered myself I had nothing more to learn.

 

The quote used by William Boyd to open his story comes from arguably the master of 19th century literary realism, Henry James Jr. It appears in his short story, 'Louisa Pallant', written in 1888.

American-born but an English citizen by the time of his death in 1916, Henry James was a champion of writing from a first person point of view.

Page 5. " Uruguay, my native land, is held as fleetingly in my head "

Uruguay is located in the southeast of South America, and now has a population of around 3.4 millon people.

The country is officially called the Oriental Republic of Uruguay. Its capital city is Montevideo, and the dominant language is Spanish.

Although  tiny compared to its neighbours, Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has successfully established itself as a strong economy, largely through agricultural exports and international trade.

 

Page 5. " Is this the view of a stretch of the Rio Negro where I used to fish as a child? "
Flooding of the Rio Negro
Public DomainFlooding of the Rio Negro - Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen

The Río Negro, or 'Black River', dominates the Uruguayan landscape.

It crosses the country, flowing west to east, naturally dividing it in two.

 

 

Page 6. " as he emerged naked from the Atlantic surf at Punta del Este "

Beach at Punta del Este
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBeach at Punta del Este - Credit: Daniela Mirner Eberl
The popular seaside resort of Punta del Este is located at the southern tip of Uruguay.

Attracting a more upmarket breed of tourist, the town boasts a collection of scenic beaches and coastline.

 

Page 8. " She claimed to be descended from the first European, Juan Diaz de Solis "
Juan Diaz de Solis
Creative Commons AttributionJuan Diaz de Solis - Credit: Enciclopédia
Ship of Juan Diaz de Solis
Creative Commons AttributionShip of Juan Diaz de Solis - Credit: Enciclopédia

Spanish explorer Juan Díaz de Solís was born c.1470, and was one of the first to enter the Río de la Plata estuary in South America.

Chief pilot of the Spanish navy, he was killed and eaten by the Charrua Indians, along with most of his crew, after sailing up the Uruguay River in the 1500s. He was attempting to make his way to the Indies via the Uruguay and Panama rivers.

Page 8. " most of his band of explorers were swiftly killed by Charrúa Indians "
A native American warrior (tribe of Charrúa).
Public DomainA native American warrior (tribe of Charrúa). - Credit: Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768–1848)

An indigenous people of Uruguay and southern Brazil, the Charrúa Indians lived in tents and survived through fishing and foraging for food.

The Charrúa were wiped out at an early stage in colonial history, so little is known about them.

Page 8. " Foley's Finest Corned Beef is their most famous brand "

Uruguay depends to this day on the wealth of meat and agricultural produce it exports.

During Logan Mountstuart’s time, corned beef production was one of the most lucrative parts of the industry. Foley & Cardogin’s Fresh Meat Company is likely based on The Liebig Extract of Meat Company, at the time Uruguay’s renowned corned beef producer.

Located northwest of Montevideo in the river port of Fray Bentos, the company produced corned beef on a grand scale during the two World Wars. ‘Fray Bentos’ Corned Beef’ became a household name in the early 1900s, and a staple of soldiers’ diets. Indeed, such was its popularity, soldiers would refer to something that was good as being ‘Fray Bentos’.

The corned beef industry filled Uruguayan pockets as well as plates at the time, and acted as a magnet for immigrants seeking work. Logan’s father, who later left his family a substantial monetary legacy, would no doubt have been comfortably well off as a result of his work.

The corned beef story began back in 1840, when Baron Justus von Liebig developed a concentrated beef extract as a cheap and nutritious meat substitute. Referred to as ‘Extractum carnis’, the meat derivative allowed those too poor to purchase expensive fresh meat the opportunity to include a form of beef in their diet. Indeed, the extract was distributed as a tonic by the Royal pharmacy during this period.  

Hearing of Liebig’s invention, a young engineer by the name of George Christian Giebert wrote to him with a business proposition. The result was The Liebig Extract of Meat Company (Lemco), launched in London on December 4, 1865.

The company was responsible for creating Liebig and Oxo meat extracts, and further down the road, the Oxo beef stock cube. Meanwhile, corned beef production began in earnest, with tinned corned beef launched under the label of ‘Fray Bentos Corned Beef’.

In 1924, at the time of Logan’s earlier journal writing, The Liebig Extract of Meat Company was renamed ‘El Anglo’, after it was bought by the Vestey Group. It eventually became part of Unilever.

In 2008, the Brazilian group Marfrig reopened the Liebig Factory in Fray Bentos to resume corned beef production – more than 30 years after it had closed.

Canned corned beef
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCanned corned beef - Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Eigene Aufnahme

 

 

So… what exactly is corned beef?

Also called 'Salt Beef', corned beef is a salt-cured beef product. It can be wet-cured in spiced brine, dry-cured with granular salt or take the form of canned minced salted meat.

Page 8. " but the bulk of their business was in the exporting of frozen beef carcasses to Europe from their huge frigorifico "
Frigorífico
Public DomainFrigorífico - Credit: Carlos Foresti

The main picture shows workers in 1920 waiting at a cold storage unit.

The more modern photograph depicts the Frigorifico Modelo cold storage unit in Montevideo, Uruguay.

 

Frigorifico Modelo cold storage unit
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeFrigorifico Modelo cold storage unit - Credit: Hoverfish
Page 9. " and make me fit for St Alfred's School, Warwick, Warwickshire, England "
Warwick School
Public DomainWarwick School - Credit: G N Frykman

The birthplace of William Shakespeare, who came from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire is located in the West Midlands of England.

Warwickshire, England
Public DomainWarwickshire, England - Credit: Jhamez84

The writers George Eliot and Rupert Brooke also called Warwickshire their home.

St Alfred's School appears to be a fictional institution created by Boyd. But Warwick School (pictured) gives an idea of what St Alfred's could have looked like. Warwick School is the oldest boy's school in England and the third-oldest surviving school in the country.

Page 9. " The Mountstuart family home was in Birmingham "

Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK after London.

Located in the West Midlands, it held the honour of being described as "the first manufacturing town in the world" by 1791.

Page 9. " The First World War began a week after we made landfall "
WW1 Poster
Public DomainWW1 Poster - Credit: Robert Baden-Powell

The First World War, also referred to as the Great War, began in 1914 and ended in 1918.

Described as ‘the war to end all wars’, WW1 saw the world’s great powers clash, with 70 million military personnel taking part.

Two opposing alliances formed: the Allies, also known as the Triple Entente, and comprising the UK, France and the Russian Empire;  and the Central Powers, or Triple Alliance, including the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires.

WW1 broke out following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in June 1914, a catalyst that brought to the surface a number of unresolved political and economic areas of dispute.

The Central Powers were ultimately defeated, with the result that the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires collapsed and the Soviet Union was born. In a vain bid to prevent such devastation from ever happening again, the League of Nations was formed.

Page 14. " Mr Holden-Dawes commended my essay on Dryden "

John Dryden (August 9, 1631 – May 1, 1700) was a playwright, poet, critic and translator whose career shaped the development of literature. Indeed, such was his influence during the Restoration period that it became known as 'The Age Of Dryden' within literary circles.

Although Dryden's career in the theatre got off to a shaky start (his debut play was poorly received), it went on to become his main source of income during the 1660s and 1670s. Among his Restoration comedies and tragedies are Marriage à la Mode (1672) and All for Love (1678).

Dryden
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDryden - Credit: Frédéric

Dryden experienced a certain level of dissatisfaction with his theatrical work however, and sought other outlets for his creativity. Branching into poetry, he produced the long historical work Annus Mirabilis in 1667. The poem, recounting the 1666 Great Fire of London and the English defeat of the Dutch naval fleet, was to have a major effect on Dryden's career. He was made poet laureate in the same year.

Another great achievement for Dryden was the translation of The Works of Virgil (1697) which, when published, was a national event.

Dryden died on May 1, 1700. He now lies in Westminster Abbey, where he was moved days after his death from St Anne's cemetery in Soho.

Dryden was the second cousin once removed of Jonathan Swift.

Page 16. " And we have a new car, an Armstrong-Siddeley "

Armstrong-Siddeley was created in 1919 when Armstrong-Whitworth and Siddeley-Deasy teamed up to take the market by storm. 

Armstrong-Siddeley
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeArmstrong-Siddeley - Credit: Malcolma

The Coventry-based company created remarkable cars, as well as aircraft and aircraft engines.

The Mountstuarts' choice of vehicle reflects the taste of many wealthy families at the time. During the 1920s, when the car industry was taking off, Armstrong-Siddeley models were very popular.

Nevertheless, Armstrong-Siddeley struggled to survive in an increasingly competitive market and finally stopped making cars in 1960.

Page 21. " After dinner Lucy and I played Splash "

SPLASH!
Public DomainSPLASH!
SPLASH! is a now vintage 'leap frog' board game for two players created by J W Spear & Sons Ltd, Enfield.

Instructions: Both players sit opposite one another, each placing a large water-lily leaf in front of them, with six smaller leaves spaced out in between.

Players have four numbered frogs (of one colour) and must try to be the first to transfer these from their own 'base leaf' to their opponent's.

The number on each frog dictates the amount of 'leaps' it can make on a turn.

As in Ludo, players can move only one frog at a time during their 'go' but may have more than one frog in play throughout the game.

Again, as in the more familiar Ludo board game, frogs must not land on the same place/leaf as another frog and must instead leap over it to the next free leaf.

Only if the last leap which can be made means jumping onto a leaf with another frog on it, can the leaping frog knock its opponent off that leaf. Also, if the last leap means jumping over a number of occupied adjacent leaves and the first leaf of the next set is also occupied, then the jumper can choose to dispel their opponent from the leaf.

All frogs knocked off their leaves must return to their 'base leaf' and begin the crossing again. To do so counts as a player's turn and can be taken when they wish.

The winner is the first to get all four frogs onto their opponent's base leaf and they can do so by making the full number of leaps available to them on their turn or less if necessary.

Page 22. " scholarships and exhibitions at Lincoln, Exeter and Jesus that he thought were well within my capabilities. "

 

Turl St: Jesus College (R), Exeter College (L)
Public DomainTurl St: Jesus College (R), Exeter College (L) - Credit: John Le Keux (1783-1846)

 

These three Oxford colleges are all located on historic Turl Street in the centre of the city. Also known as 'The Turl', the street in this sketch has Exeter College on its left and Jesus College on its right.

 

Exeter College Lodgings
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeExeter College Lodgings - Credit: Ozeye

 

Lincoln College
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeLincoln College - Credit: Lionel Leo
Jesus College
Creative Commons AttributionJesus College - Credit: John Ward