Page 330. " I went to see The Stranger "

The Stranger by A.A.F. von Kotzebue is a German melodrama about crime and punishment. It was adapted by Richard Sheridan (1751-1816).

Page 330. " the expected return of his daughter from finishing her education at Paris "

Privileged young women would often complete their education and cultural development by spending time abroad.

Unlike their young gentlemen counterparts, who would travel Europe as part of the “Grand Tour,” young women would more usually attend a finishing school in Europe.

Page 333. " 'Dora!' I thought. 'What a beautiful name!' "

Charles and Catherine Dickens named their youngest daughter, Dora Dickens (1850-1851), in honour of the character Dora Spenlow. Sadly the real Dora did not live even as long as her short lived counterpart. Dickens was devastated by her death.

Page 333. " She was a Fairy, a Sylph, I don't know what she was—anything that no one ever saw, and everything that everybody ever wanted. "
Maria Beadnell
Public DomainMaria Beadnell

Dora Spenlow is thought to have been inspired by Dickens' first love Maria Beadnell, whom he met in 1830.

Fairies and sylphs are mythological creatures of fantasy, and as David sees Dora as a fantasized figure, so did Charles Dickens see Maria Beadnell.

Maria Beadnell was inconsistent in her treatment of her suitor. Maria's public shunning of Dickens and her parents’ disapproval of the courtship prompted them to send their daughter to a school in Paris.

Later the married Maria Winter wrote to her former suitor, and the two arranged to meet. Despite Maria’s warnings that she was greatly changed in appearance, Dickens was shocked by the alteration time had wrought on her. They met only once more after that, and she became the model for Flora Finching in Little Dorrit (1855-1857).

Page 334. " A passing thought occurred to me that Miss Murdstone, like the pocket instrument called a life-preserver, was not so much designed for purposes of protection as of assault. "

A life-preserver was so called because it claimed to be intended for self-defense, but because it was a truncheon weighted with lead, it had the ability to inflict severe injury.

Page 348. " that religious edifice immortalized by Chaucer "

Christians made pilgrimages to Canterbury to see the shrine of St. Thomas Becket. In the late 1300s, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a collection of stories entitled The Canterbury Tales. The tales themselves are told by the pilgrims as they make their way to  Canterbury.