Page 26. " slut's wool "
Slut's wool, also known as dust bunnies
Public DomainSlut's wool, also known as dust bunnies

Slut's wool would more commonly be called "dust bunnies" these days: it is the collection of hair, dust and fluff that gathers in corners.  To the Victorians, "slut" primarily meant a woman of untidy or unclean habits, and only by extension a woman of loose sexual morals.


Page 27. " a traditionally Low Church congregation "

Low Church denotes a variety of Anglican church that strives for simplicity in the decoration of churches and the style of worship, as well as greater liberalisation in the Church of England's doctrines.  Its opposite is (predictably) High Church, exemplified by the Oxford Movement.

Page 27. " the fourth great Cholera "

Cholera originated in India and first spread widely in 1817, during what is considered the first global cholera pandemic.  The disease was carried by merchants and British soldiers and sailors as far as China and Japan, from where cholera gained its reputation as an oriental disease.

The disease first arrived in Europe and London during the second global pandemic (1829-1851). The disease spread rapidly and was nearly always fatal: 10,000 people died in London alone in the outbreak of 1853-4.  It was during this outbreak that a London doctor, John Snow, discovered that cholera was spread by contaminated water.  Despite this significant discovery, there have been four further global cholera pandemics.

Page 27. " he had the face of the Duke of Wellington "
The Duke of Wellington, painted by Robert Home
Public DomainThe Duke of Wellington, painted by Robert Home

The Duke of Wellington (1796-1854) commanded the British forces in the Napoleonic wars, leading them to ultimate victory against Napoleon at Waterloo.  He went on to be Prime Minister and was a national hero to people of Mrs Poulteney's generation.


Page 27. " the parable of the widow's mite "

This parable appears in the New Testament books of Mark and Luke.

"As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in her two mites. "Truly I tell you," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)

Page 29. " a home for fallen women "

A common charitable endeavour in the Victorian period was to attempt to reform fallen women: women who had had pre-martial sex, frequently leading to pregnancy, and thus were (it was believed) at risk of becoming prostitutes. The attitude towards these women had not changed greatly since Jane Austen wrote "loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable, that one false step involves her in endless ruin" in Pride and Prejudice in 1813.

Fallen women were generally socially ostracised, but the homes run for them had such harsh regimes as to be scarcely a better option than the streets.

Page 31. " Tennyson, In Memoriam "

In Memoriam A. H. H.  is a book-length poem written by Alfred Tennyson in response to the premature death of a friend.  It was written and refined over a period of 17 years and runs to approximately 3,000 lines. The poem includes many famous lines, such as "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" and is the origin of the phrase "nature, red in tooth and claw".  The poem was a great favourite of Queen Victoria's after the death of her husband.

As well as musings on death, life after death and grief, In Memoriam includes reflections on the scientific theories beginning to emerge about the evolution of species and changing geology of the earth.

A recording of the section of the poem from which these lines are taken can be found at the Librivox project.

Page 31. " in Phiz's work, in John Leech's "

Phiz (real name: Hablot Knight Browne, 1815-1882) is best known for his illustrations for Charles Dickens' work.  John Leech (1817-1864) was a caricaturist and illustrator.  Examples of their delicate-featured, oval-faced women can be seen below.

Illustration from A Comic History of Rome, by John Leech
Public DomainIllustration from A Comic History of Rome, by John Leech
Illustration from Little Dorrit, by Phiz
Public DomainIllustration from Little Dorrit, by Phiz


Page 31. " that imperceptible hint of a Becky Sharp "

Becky Sharp is the heroine of Vanity Fair, William Thackaray's novel of the 1840s.  She is intelligent, witty, charming, ruthless and largely amoral - qualities which enable her to rise in society during the course of the novel.


Page 32. " the odious Prinny, George IV "

George IV painted during his regency by Thomas Lawrence
Public DomainGeorge IV painted during his regency by Thomas Lawrence

George IV (1762-1830) was Prince Regent during the madness of his father, King George III and ascended to the throne following his death in 1820.  His adulteries, extravagant lifestyle and illegal marriage to a Catholic shocked his subjects.  The Regency style of architecture and interior design is "light and graceful", as described here.

Page 33. " convinced she was consumptive "

Consumption, or pulmonary tuberculosis, was a widespread disease in Victorian times: just one London hospital treated between 6000 and 7000 cases a year in the 1860s (source).  It is a stereotypical cause of death for heroines of the 19th century: examples include Satine in the film Moulin Rouge; Mimi in the opera La Boheme; Fantine in Hugo's Les Miserables; Beth March in Little Women.  The symptoms include fainting, fatigue, paleness and coughing up blood.

Page 33. " Half Harley Street "

Harley Street is a street in London famed since the 19th century for its large number of medical specialists.  The doctors found on Harley Street tend to be those consulted by the fashionable and wealthy.  In 1860, 20 doctors are recorded as having offices on the street, rising to 80 by 1900 (source). 

Google Map
Page 34. " dimly glimpsed Laocoön embrace of naked limbs "

Laocoön and His Sons
Public DomainLaocoön and His Sons
Laocoön was a Trojan priest killed in the course of the Trojan war by being strangled by sea serpents.  The story is the subject of an marble statue carved in the first or second centuries BCE, which shows the serpents entwined with the bodies of Laocoön and his two sons.

Page 36. " Treitschke's sarcastic formulation "

Heinrick von Treitschke (1834-1896), a German historian, in fact said that the English believe civilisation is soap.

Page 37. " She was trained to be a governess "

The role of Governess was perhaps the only respectable profession in the 1860s for a woman of the middle or upper working classes with education but without the means to support herself or a family to support her.  Consequently, there were always women willing to work as governesses, despite the poor wages and difficult work.  Cassell's Household Guide (1880s) describes governesses thus:

There is no class of female labourers whose vocation is generally so little appreciated, and respecting whose position in a family so many differences of opinion exist, as that of the resident governess. [...] Many well-informed people - liberal in other respects - seek to secure the constant supervision of their children in intellectual knowledge, health, and moral guidance, at a salary which they know it would be folly to offer as wages to any good cook or upper domestic servant. The deplorable part of this state of things is that situations of the kind, on the terms named, still find many candidates.

Page 39. " a pure Patmos "
John of Patmos, by Jean Fouquet
Public DomainJohn of Patmos, by Jean Fouquet

Patmos can refer both to an island in the Aegean Sea and to John of Patmos, believed to be the author of the Book of Revelations in the Bible.  Many Christians believe this man to be the same as the apostle Saint John, the companion of Jesus. 

Google Map
Page 41. " Psalm 119 "

Psalms are Christian religious songs found in the Old Testament book of Psalms.  They are sung in the Church of England but also recited in services or in private worship. 

The full text of Psalm 119 can be found here; the full text of Psalm 140 here.

Page 41. " the egregious McLuhan "

Marshall McLuhan was a highly influential media theorist of the twentieth century, best known for his pronouncement that "the medium is the message".

Here Fowles refers to McLuhan's prediction (made in The Gutenberg Galaxy, published 1962) that the book would become obsolete in the electronic age.

Page 43. " a kind of Proustian richness of evocation "

Marcel Proust's seven-volume semi-autobiographical novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) is full of precise, luminous detail bringing to life the society of late 19th and early 20th century France.  One example of this extraordinarily vivid evocation is the whole series of memories awakened in the narrator by the taste of a madeleine dipped in tea.

In Search of Lost Time on Book Drum


Page 44. " gaufer-stitched smocks "

Man wearing a smock, from Country Life (1902)
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumMan wearing a smock, from Country Life (1902) - Credit: Museum of English Rural Life
Smocks were long over-shirts worn by rural workers in the 18th century.  The practice began to die out as the 19th century progressed. More information and images can be found at the Museum of English Rural Life.


Page 45. " born in a gin-palace "

Gin Palaces were large, ostentatiously-decorated bars where gin was bought and drunk, mainly by the urban working class.  Their gaudy decoration (see the examples pictured), with plenty of etched mirrors, gilding and bright lights, and the seedy reputation of gin made the other strata of Victorian society consider gin palaces vulgar.

The Red Lion
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Red Lion - Credit: Steve Cadman
Crown Liquor Saloon
Creative Commons AttributionCrown Liquor Saloon - Credit: Chad K


Page 46. " the immortal Weller "
Sam Weller (L) pictured on the frontispiece to The Pickwick Papers. Illustration by Phiz.
Public DomainSam Weller (L) pictured on the frontispiece to The Pickwick Papers. Illustration by Phiz.

Sam Weller is a savvy cockney character in Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers (1837), the personal servant to the less worldly Mr Pickwick.


Page 46. " Beau Brummell "
Caricature of Beau Brummell by Robert Dighton
Public DomainCaricature of Beau Brummell by Robert Dighton

Beau Brummell (1778-1840) was a leader of fashion in the very late 18th and early 19th century.  He popularised an elegant style of dress as well as the habits of bathing and shaving daily.  His name became a byword for dandies.


Page 47. " a mod of the 1960s "
Scooter and outfit from a exhibition of mod culture
Creative Commons AttributionScooter and outfit from a exhibition of mod culture - Credit: Matt Gibson

Mods were a 1960s subculture with a distinctive style of dress, believed to have originated with the working class youth of London's east end - the same area where Sam would have been born.  Some of the hallmarks of the mod scene include sharply-tailored suits, Italian scooters, the music of bands like The Who and The Small Faces.  The film Quadrophenia centres around a group of mods.

Listen on Spotify:    Quadrophenia (The Who)    All Or Nothing (The Small Faces)


Page 47. " Sancho Panza "

Sancho Panza is the peasant sidekick of Don Quixote in the 17th century novel of that name.  His role in the novel is to puncture the elevated, chivalric bombast of his companion with earthier concerns and crude humour.  While less educated than Quixote, Panza frequently displays a canniness and common sense his social superior lacks.  Despite disagreements, he is loyal to Quixote, although this is perhaps motivated by Quixote's promise to make Panza the governor of an island in return for his assistance.

Don Quixote on Book Drum

Page 50. " Stonebarrow, Black Ven, Ware Cliffs "
Scelidosaurus skeleton
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeScelidosaurus skeleton - Credit: Ballista

Stonebarrow, Black Ven and Ware Cliffs are cliffs in the coastal area around Lyme Regis.  They are renowned for the rich store of fossils found in them, including the first fossilised Scelidosaurus skeleton (shown to the left), discovered in Black Ven by James Harrison in 1858. In 2001 a large part of the coast was declared the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Black Ven
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBlack Ven - Credit: Nigel Chadwick



Page 50. " a tendency to slide "

Lyme Regis is one of the most active landslip areas in Europe to this day, suffering its most recent serious landslips in 2008.  The videos below record the smaller after-effects of these major slips.

Page 50. " twelve miles or so of blue lias "

Blue lias cliffs at Lyme Regis
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBlue lias cliffs at Lyme Regis - Credit: Michael Maggs
  Blue Lias is a kind of rock formed of layers limestone and shale, famous for its fossil content.

Page 50. " the remarkable Mary Anning "

Plesiosaurus macrocephalus
Public DomainPlesiosaurus macrocephalus" discovered by Mary Anning
Mary Anning (1799-1847) was a geologist, palaeontologist and the owner of a fossil shop in the early 19th century in Lyme Regis.   She is called "the greatest fossil hunter ever known" in her Natural History Museum biography but her gender, class and non-confirmist religious beliefs meant that she received little credit for her work during her lifetime.

Her life is the subject of a 2009 novel by Tracy Chevalier, called Remarkable Creatures.

Page 50. " echinoderm, or petrified sea urchin "

A modern image of a
Public DomainA modern image of a "snapper biscuit" test
The animal phylum Echinodermata includes sea urchins, sea cucumbers and star fish.  All echinoderms are marine, and most have a fivefold symmetry.

More information on echinoderms can be found here.