"Your beloved large-print sagas of rags, riches and heartbreak were no camouflage against the mysteries trained on you by the tennis-ball launcher of life"
Title page of the Jacobean play by John Webster (1584-1634)
Public DomainTitle page of the Jacobean play by John Webster (1584-1634)

A reference to John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi in which appears the line: 'We are merely the stars' tennis balls, struck and banded which way please them.'  The title of Stephen Fry's thriller The Stars' Tennis Balls also borrows from the play. The Duchess of Malfi (first published 1623) explores the theme of misused power, a motif also explored by Mitchell.