Page 507. " A glorious order shall follow, when all races shall know &, aye, embrace, their place in God's ladder of civilization. "
Gliddon's 'Indigenous races of the earth' (1857), demonstrating that black people ranked between white people and chimpanzees intellectually.
Public DomainGliddon's 'Indigenous races of the earth' (1857), demonstrating that black people ranked between white people and chimpanzees intellectually.

This hierarchical notion of race was widely shared at the time and helped to justify the subjugation of darker skinned races to the European cause. This thinking was legitimized by pseudo-scientific publications like Arthur de Gobineau's An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, which postulated the idea that each race had sprung from a separate gene pool. This kind of scientific racism gave rise to human zoos or People Shows in which members of various races were showcased for the general scrutiny of a paying public.

A Human exhibit at the Bronx Zoo (1906) - A sign explained that 23 year old Ota Benga was 4' 11'' and weighed 103 pounds. He was exhibited each afternoon of September
Public DomainA Human exhibit at the Bronx Zoo (1906) - A sign informed the public that 23 year old Ota Benga was 4' 11'' and 103 pounds.
Page 511. " My friend is composing an epic in Byronic stanzas entitled 'True History of Autua, Last Moriori' "

Also known as ottava rima, the Byronic stanza pre-exists Byron by a few hundred years. It is described in the Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms as 'An eight-line iambic stanza ryhming abababcc'. As used by Byron, the rhyming couplet at the end of the stanza would often be comic in tone.

 

 

Page 518. " Bentnail had intimated to him that the unnatural crimes of Sodom were visited upon the boy by Boerhaave & his 'garter-snakes'. "

There are a surprising number of academic books and articles which explore the history of sodomy and homosexuality in the navy, which (at an official level at least) was heavily proscribed and potentially punishable my death. Generally heterosexual licentiousness in port was de rigueur, although to what extent homoerotic activity was tolerated onboard is a matter of some debate. Eighteenth-century British military naval records indicate that allegations made against high-ranking officers by cabin boys were usually dismissed. In Cloud Atlas the two cases of the rape of a minor occur within the context of a work that explores the theme of predation in its many forms.

 

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852.
Public DomainThe Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852.

His choice of insult 'garter snakes' is especially apt. The garter snake feeds on weaker animals, and is in some cases capable of giving out female pheromones, thus luring other males into attempting to mate with them.