Page 130. " And you think your assailant was a Percy Shelley? "

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1819
Public DomainPercy Bysshe Shelley 1819 - Credit: Alfred Clint
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was an English Romantic poet, critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets.  He was a close friend of poet Lord Byron, and was married to author Mary Shelly (his second wife). His body of work includes anthology verse, long visionary poems, dramatic plays, Gothic novels and prose. 

His adult life was short and turbulent.  His pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism, resulted in his expulsion from Oxford aged 18, in 1811, and a break with his father.  Four months later, he eloped to Scotland with 16-year-old Harriet Westbrook.  This turned out to be an unhappy and very short marriage.  Three years later, in 1814, Shelley abandoned Harriet, pregnant with their son Charles, and ran away to Switzerland with Mary Godwin, aged 16.  They returned home after 6 weeks, destitute, and in much trouble with their respective families.  Shelley and Mary married in 1816, following Harriet’s suicide. For six years, Shelley and Mary travelled extensively, spending much time in Italy with Lord Byron.  Shelley produced a number of major works in this period, although received limited critical acclaim in his lifetime.  In 1822, less than a month before his 30th birthday, Shelley drowned in a sudden storm while sailing in Italy, leaving Mary a widow at age 24.

Page 131. " I'm very sorry if you didn't like Titus Andronicus, madam. "

Titus Andronicus Title page
Public DomainTitus Andronicus Title page - Credit: John Danter (publisher)
Titus Andronicus, written between 1588 and 1593, is believed to be Shakespeare's first tragedy.  It is set during the last days of the Roman Empire, and tells the fictional story of Titus, a Roman general, who is engaged in a cycle of revenge with Tamora, Queen of the Goths.  There is a great deal of blood and violence. The play was extremely popular in its day, but fell out of favour during the Victorian era, which was much less approving of graphic violence for entertainment’s sake. 

Page 132. " that you won't even find in the Bodleian "

Bodleian Library Oxford
GNU Free Documentation LicenseBodleian Library Oxford - Credit: Roman Kirillov
The Bodleian library at Oxford University was first opened to scholars in 1602. It incorporates an earlier library, erected by the University in 1488 to house the manuscript collection of Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester.  Duke Humfrey’s library was destroyed in 1550, on the orders of King Edward VI, as part of a purge of Roman Catholic artefacts. 

Almost 50 years later, Sir Thomas Bodley (1545–1613) provided the funding to re-establish the library.  The old library was refurnished to house a new collection of 2,500 books, including Bodley’s own collection, and opened in 1602. In 1610 Bodley entered into an agreement with the Stationers’ Company of London, that a copy of every book published in England would be deposited in the new library (the agreement was incorporated into legislation and finally became effective from the mid-1800s).

The collections of manuscripts and books attracted scholars from all over Europe.  By 1849, there were estimated to be 220,000 books and some 21,000 manuscripts in the library’s collection, along with pictures, sculptures, coins and medals, and ‘curiosities.’  BY 1914, the books numbered one million. 

Over the years there have been a great many extensions and new building, to house the growing collection.  The original buildings have however remained in constant use. 

Page 132. " set Friedrich Nietzsche up as a fascist saint "

Friedrich Nietzsche, c.1869
Public DomainFriedrich Nietzsche, c.1869 - Credit: Studio Gebrüder Siebe, Leipzig
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist.  At the age of 24, he renounced his Prussian citizenship, and remained officially ‘stateless’ for the rest of his life. 

He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, culture, philosophy and science.  He is particularly influential in the fields of existentialism, nihilism, and postmodernism.  He questioned the value and objectivity of truth, and argued the importance of "life-affirmation", requiring an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life's energies, however socially entrenched they may be. 

Nietzsche associated the Jewish and Christian religion with ‘slave-morality’ – where value derives from the contrast between good (charity, piety, restraint, meekness, submissive) and evil (worldly, cruel, selfish, wealthy, aggressive).  ‘Slaves’ overcome their sense of inferiority by making their weakness a matter of choice. This results in individuals living in a hypocritical state.  Nietzsche calls for exceptional people to embrace their uniqueness and follow their own “inner law”, while leaving morality to the masses.

Page 134. " The man in overall charge of Swindon SpecOps is Commander Braxton Hicks "

Dr John Braxton Hicks, 1874
Public DomainDr John Braxton Hicks, 1874 - Credit: Barraud & Jerrard, Photographers
Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as false labour or practice contractions, are sporadic uterine contractions. They may start as early as 6 weeks into pregnancy, but usually occur from the second or third trimester.  They are usually painless, but can cause some confusion as they mimic the onset of labour.  They are named after the English doctor, John Braxton Hicks, who first described them, in 1872.

Page 147. " Have you ever heard of Edward De Vere? "

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
Public DomainEdward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford - Credit: Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) was an English peer and courtier of the Elizabethan era.  Edward’s father died when he was 12.  He became a ward of Queen Elizabeth, and was educated in the household of her Principal Secretary, Sir William Cecil. 

He grew up to be reckless, unpredictable, and violent, and drove his estate to ruin.  He was however a gifted playwright and lyric poet.  He was also a celebrated patron of the arts, and had several dozen works dedicated to him by famous writers and poets of the day.  In Shakespeare Identified (1920) English schoolteacher J. Thomas Looney proposes him as the real author of Shakespeare’s works, based on perceived analogies between Oxford's life and poetic techniques in Shakespeare's plays and sonnets.