Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) was a scholar who proposed that population growth must be limited by how much food it was possible to produce on the earth. He wrote widely about the dangers of unthinking population expansion.
Mistletoe has been associated with Druid practices since Roman times, and is thought to have played a key role in rituals such as human sacrifices. Because of this, it was banned from most churches for many years.
A parasitic plant, it grows on other trees, particularly apple, lime, poplar and hawthorne trees.
A confirmation is a church service in which Christians confirm their commitment to their faith in front of a bishop. The rite is supposed to be an affirmation of the baptismal vows made on behalf of babies.
Alec here corrupts a quotation from Act II Scene 4 of Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night.
The original quotation is a description by Viola of her "friend" (really herself) sitting "like patience on a monument smiling at grief", an image which comes from the fact that many tombs of this era bore statues representing the virtue Patience.
A song from another Shakespeare play, Measure for Measure.
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