Page 53. " Come live with me and be my loves "

This is a play on the first line of a famous poem by the English writer Christopher Marlowe, called 'The Passionate Shepherd to His Love'. Marlowe (1564-1593), a contemporary of Shakespeare, wrote poetry and plays. He was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer ten days after being arrested; the murky circumstances surrounding his death have encouraged many rumours about his life. Some think he wrote many of Shakespeare's plays, others that he was a spy.


 The Passionate Shepherd to His Love


Come live with me and be my love,

And we will all the pleasures prove

That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,

Woods, or steepy mountain yields.


And we will sit upon the rocks,

Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,

By shallow rivers to whose falls

Melodious birds sing madrigals.


And I will make thee beds of roses

And a thousand fragrant posies,

A cap of flowers, and a kirtle

Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;


A gown made of the finest wool

Which from our pretty lambs we pull;

Fair lined slippers for the cold,

With buckles of the purest gold;


A belt of straw and ivy buds,

With coral clasps and amber studs:

And if these pleasures may thee move,

Come live with me, and be my love.


The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing

For thy delight each May morning:

If these delights thy mind may move,

Then live with me and be my love.

Page 59. " a multi-volume biography of Winston Churchill and Tony Benn's diaries "

 Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was, of course, the famous and rather colourful Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Whilst fending off the forces of fascism he also had time to come up with a good number of witty off-the-cuff remarks such as "it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

Tony Benn (born 1925) is a left-wing Labour politician, formerly an MP and currently the leader of the Stop the War Coalition. His diaries, documenting his life at the heart of the British political system, have been published regularly: eight volumes are currently available.


Page 61. " I see an UNPROFOR force has been ambushed in Bosnia "
Norwegian UNPROFOR peacekeeper in Sarajevo
GNU Free Documentation LicenseNorwegian UNPROFOR peacekeeper in Sarajevo - Credit: Mikhail Evstafiev

 UNPROFOR stands for the United Nations Protection Force, a military body that existed from 1992 to 1995.  Drawn from dozens of countries around the world, the force acted as peacekeepers in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Croatia during the Yugoslav wars, which saw the former country of Yugoslavia violently broken up into its constituent parts. UNPROFOR was called upon to help enforce a ceasefire in Croatia, and to protect civilians, maintain safe areas and protect the free movement of humanitarian aid in Bosnia.

During the war, UNPROFOR was drawn into a number of conflicts with paramilitary forces in the area. In April 1994 Bosnian Serbs attacked Goražde, which had been designated a UN safe area, and abducted UN personnel. Later on, in May 1995, four hundred peacekeepers were taken hostage, also by the Bosnian Serbs. Out of a force of 39,000, a total of 320 were killed during the conflict.

Page 61. " Um. General Cot? "

General Jean Cot (born 1934) is a French army officer who was responsible for the UNPROFOR force in the former Yugoslavia during the Yugoslav wars. He also served in Algeria during the war for independence. 

He has been highly decorated during his career, receiving both the  Légion d'honneur and the Legion of Merit.

Page 62. " Um... PPE "

PPE stands for Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Oxford University was the first to offer this interdisciplinary degree, which is a popular choice among aspiring politicians. The current British Prime Minister, David Cameron, studied PPE at Oxford, as did the Labour leader Ed Miliband, his brother David (the former Foreign Secretary), William Hague (the Foreign Secretary), Peter Mandelson and many other current and former MPs.

Recently some people have begun to question whether electing large numbers of politicians with degrees in PPE is necessarily a good thing, or whether people with experience outside of politics should be encouraged to stand for the House of Commons.

Page 62. " And what did you make of the assassination of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and the aftermath? "

Burundi is considered to be the second or third poorest country in the world. Its population, like that of its neighbour Rwanda, is drawn from the three tribes that dominate this part of equatorial Africa: the Hutus, the Tutsis and the Twa.

In October 1993 the first democratically elected president of Burundi, Melchior Ndadaye, was assassinated during a failed military coup. He had only been in office for three months. His assassination sparked off an escalating series of bloody attacks that eventually became the Burundian Civil War, a decade-long battle for dominance between the tribes that is thought to have claimed around 30,000 lives.

At the same time, neighbouring Rwanda was suffering a similarly violent civil war after the (mainly Tutsi) Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded the country in 1990. Four years later, in 1994, a plane carrying both the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and the Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down in Kigali. This event led to the Rwandan Genocide, a three month period during which around half a million to a million people were killed by the interim government of Rwanda.

It is still unclear who shot down the plane carrying the presidents.


Google Map
Page 63. " 'Martyrs' Memorial,' he said "
Martyrs' Memorial
GNU Free Documentation LicenseMartyrs' Memorial - Credit: Kaihsu

 The Martyrs' Memorial is a stone monument in the centre of Oxford that was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the architect behind the magnificent frontage to St Pancras station in London as well as a great many other famous buildings.

It commemorates the deaths of the three Oxford martyrs, the Anglican bishops Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer, who were burnt at the stake in 1555, during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary).

Page 65. " Mark's father, Sir Mewan Winters "

As Joanna Briscoe points out in this Guardian review of The Lessons, Mark's surname is a single letter away from that of Henry Winter, one of the main characters in Donna Tartt's The Secret History, a novel which has had a clear influence on The Lessons. In both books a less privileged outsider is accepted into a group of affluent and charismatic undergraduates who gather together in a large, impressive yet dilapidated house. Mark's surname seems to be a direct reference to Tartt's book.


Page 73. " a childhood tune 'Au Clair de la Lune' "

Au Clair de la Lune is a French folk song dating from the eighteenth century. Once learnt by French children playing the glockenspiel, the tune also forms part of the earliest known recording of the human voice. It was recorded by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville in 1860, on a paper phonoautograph recording that was converted to a digital recording by American scholars in 2008.

Listen to Au Clair de la Lune sung by Yvonne Printemps