Louise Quinze is the name given to a style of decorative art which developed in France during the reign of Louis XV, which lasted from 1723 to 1774. Pieces from this period are characterised by an elegant rococo style, sometimes with an oriental theme; they are also renowned for their particularly high quality craftsmanship.
An escritoire is a writing desk with various drawers and compartments. It may have a hinged vertical section which drops down to create the writing surface; if so, it is described as fall front. Escritoires may also have a top section for holding books.
Escritoires are sometimes known as secretaires.
In the French court of the period, the King's chief mistress was known as maîtresse-en-titre, a semi-official position which had various specific privileges attached to it.
Fables Choisies de La Fontaine means 'Selected fables by La Fontaine'.
The Fables of Jean de la Fontaine were published in twelve volumes between 1668 and 1694; they are considered to be one of the principal works of French literature.
The writings of Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695) are traditionally divided into three categories: fables, contes ('tales'), and miscellaneous works; he is mainly remembered for the fables, stories in prose or verse which anthropomorphize animals, plants, mythical creatures, and forces of nature, and which are designed to teach a moral lesson.
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) was a highly popular and prolific English Victorian novelist.
He is probably best remembered for his Chronicles of Barsetshire (more commonly known as the Barchester Chronicles), a series of 6 novels published between 1855 and 1867.
The Way We Live Now is Anthony Trollope's longest novel. It was first published in 1875, after having previously appeared in serialised form.
The novel is a satire set in London. It was inspired by various financial scandals of the 1870s, and was intended to expose the greed and dishonesty which was prevalent in certain circles during that period of English history.
Click here to read some extracts.
PPE, which stands for Philosophy, Politics and Economics, is a course of study at the University of Oxford. It is traditionally chosen by those who wish to pursue a career in politics. The course originated at Balliol College in the 1920s, and was initially known as Modern Greats.
Well-known politicians who studied PPE at Oxford include David Cameron, Ed Balls, Anne Widdecombe, Roy Jenkins, Edwina Currie, and Barbara Castle.
Its main campus is situated in the Bloomsbury area of London, which is also home to various other important institutions including the British Museum, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Bloomsbury is also home to the University of London's administrative centre, the imposing Art Deco building on Malet Street known as Senate House.
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) was a novelist, short story writer, and essayist. He was born in what is now the Ukraine, and lived in Poland and France, before eventually settling in England. Conrad's first language was Polish, and he became fluent in French during his childhood. However, all his important literary works were written in English, a language he learnt as an adult.
Amongst his best known novels are Heart of Darkness (1899), Lord Jim (1900), Nostromo (1904), and The Secret Agent (1907).
George Meredith (1828-1909) was an English novelist and poet. His best-remembered novels include The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859), The Egoist (1879), and Diana of the Crossways (1885). Ralph Vaughan Williams' musical composition The Lark Ascending was inspired by Meredith's poem of the same name.
Listen here to The Lark Ascending on Spotify.
Arthur James Balfour was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1902 to 1905, and Foreign Secretary from 1916 to 1919. He signed the 1917 Balfour Declaration which supported the concept of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The Sassoons are a family of Iraqi Jewish origins, some members of which settled in England in the 19th century. Notable members of the family include the Conservative politician Sir Philip Sassoon (1888-1939) and his cousin, the World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967).
Goldsmid is the surname of a family of Anglo-Jewish bankers, descended from Aaron Goldsmid, a Dutch merchant who settled in England in the mid-18th century. Notable members of the family include Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid (1808-1878) and his nephew Sir Julian Goldsmid (1838-1896), both of whom were Members of Parliament.
Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria, was the British monarch between 1901 and 1910. He had spent a lengthy period as Prince of Wales, during which time he became notorious for his numerous mistresses and his hedonistic lifestyle.
Lady Fairlie and the Earl of Hexham appear to be fictional titles.
Click here to see a list of United Kingdom earldoms
Lillie Langtry (1853-1929) was born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton on the island of Jersey. She married the Irish landowner Edward Langtry in 1874, and was the mistress of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) between 1877 and 1880. In 1879, she also started affairs with the Earl of Shrewsbury and Prince Louis of Battenberg. In 1881 she made her acting debut in an amateur production in London, and went on to develop a career as an actress and vaudeville performer in Britain and the United States.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Henry James came to be known in literary circles as 'The Master'.
Leon Edel gave the title Henry James: The Master 1901-1916 to the final section of his five-part biography of the novelist, which was published in 1972.
The Master is also the title of a novel by Colm Tóibín which was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2004 (the year Alan Hollinghurst won the prize for The Line of Beauty). Tóibín's novel is a fictionalised account of Henry James' life during the last decade of the 19th century, and explores issues relating to his sense of identity and his sexuality.
Henry James himself wrote a novella entitled The Lesson of the Master which was published in 1888.
John Singer Sargent painted a portrait of Henry James 'with his thumb in his striped waistcoat'.
Click here to see Sargent's portrait.
The Face was a British monthly magazine which was launched in 1980 and wound up in 2004. Its main focus was fashion, music, and popular culture.
Click here to see a 1987 cover.
The Oxford Union Society, generally known just as the Union or the Oxford Union, is a debating society whose members are drawn primarily from Oxford University colleges. It has traditionally offered a platform to would-be politicians who wish to practise their presentation and debating skills.
The Oxford Union often invites eminent international figures and celebrities as guest speakers. Over the years, these have included Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, the Dalai Lama, Yasser Arafat, and Jerry Springer. The post of President of the Union is seen as particularly prestigious; former Presidents include Edward Heath, Benazir Bhutto, and Boris Johnson.
MCR stands for Middle Common Room. At Oxford colleges, undergraduates, postgraduates, and teaching staff are represented by bodies known as the Junior Common Room (JCR), the Middle Common Room (MCR), and the Senior Common Room (SCR) respectively. The terms are also used for actual rooms which are set aside in the colleges for the specific use of these three groups.
In the United Kingdom, civil servants are employees of the crown, and the employing body is known as Her Majesty's Civil Service or the Home Civil Service. In general use, the term civil servant tends to be reserved for those involved at the higher levels of policy administration.
Following the Northcote-Trevelyan report of 1854, Civil Service exams were administered by the Civil Service Commission, the purpose of the exams being to ensure that appointments were made on merit and in an impartial manner. However, since the Second World War, significant changes have been made to Civil Service procedures. Today, the United Kingdom Civil Service runs a Fast Stream programme designed to attract graduates with the potential to become future leaders.
Whitehall is a road in the City of Westminster in central London, stretching from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. It is the site of numerous government departments and ministries. Used figuratively, therefore, Whitehall refers to high-level central government administration.
Rowing has been a popular sport at Oxford University since the early 19th century. It takes place on the Isis, the section of the River Thames which flows through Oxford. Today, 36 colleges have rowing crews belonging to the Oxford University Rowing Clubs.
The title Captain of Boats is also given to individuals in overall charge of rowing matters at Oxford and Cambridge colleges.
The Martyrs' Club is fictional.
Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), usually known just as Dr Johnson, was a poet, essayist, literary critic, editor, and lexicographer. He is probably best known for having compiled A Dictionary of the English Language, which was first published in 1755, and took nine years to complete.
Johnson's poem which begins 'LONG-EXPECTED one and twenty' was originally entitled 'Improviso On A Young Heir's Coming Of Age'.
Click here for the full text.
Call the Betsies, Kates and Jennies,
All the names that banish care;
Lavish of your grandsire's guineas,
Show the spirit of an heir.
Dr Johnson was given the nickname the Great Cham of Literature by the Scottish poet and author Tobias George Smollett (1721-7771).
In Christopher Marlowe's play The Jew of Malta, the character Barabas says, ''Twas sent me for a present from the Great Cham'.
During the 1980s, individuals within the Conservative party who opposed Margaret Thatcher's more hard-line policies became known as wets. In public school slang, a wet was someone who was weak, feeble, or overly sentimental.
Consequently those who supported Thatcher's ideology became known as dries.
Well-known members of the wet camp included Edward Heath, Douglas Hurd and Norman St. John-Stevas; well-known members of the dry camp included Nigel Lawson, Norman Tebbit and Michael Howard.
John Enoch Powell (1912-1998) was a British politician who was elected to the House of Commons first as a Conservative MP (1950-1974), and later as an Ulster Unionist MP (1974-1987). He served as Minister of Health under Harold Macmillan.
Enoch Powell is infamous for a speech delivered in April 1968 in which he condemned Commonwealth immigration to Britain. His stance was perceived by many to be deeply racist, and the speech earned itself the title 'the Rivers of Blood' speech. The actual words he used were, 'As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood'.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was an English philosopher, scientist, and historian. He is known for his writing on political philosophy, particularly Leviathan (1651) in which he called for absolute sovereign rule to counter the natural state of "war of all against all" in which life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short".
A dormer is a projecting structure, built outwards from a sloping roof; a dormer window (sometimes known just as a dormer) is the window within such a structure.
Dormers come in a variety of shapes: for example, a gable dormer; a hip roof dormer, an eyebrow dormer, an arched dormer. A turret dormer is a dormer built in the form of a turret (a small tower).
Click here to see an image of a turret dormer.
Louis XVI was King of France between 1774 and 1791. Both he and his wife Marie Antoinette were executed during the French Revolution.
Louis Seize is used to describe architecture and furniture which is characteristic of Louis XVI's reign. The period is notable for a reaction against the frivolity of the Rococo style, and the adoption of Neo-classical styles based on the cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome.
John Dryden (1631-1700) was an English poet, translator, literary critic and playwright. He was appointed Poet Laureate by Charles II in 1668, but was dismissed from the post by William and Mary of Orange in 1688. His poems include 'The Hind and the Panther' (1687) and 'A Song for St. Cecilia's Day' (1687)
Anglo-Saxon riddles are verses from Anglo-Saxon literature which invite the listener or reader to guess what is being described. Many examples are to be found in the 10th century anthology of poetry known as the Exeter Book.
Riddle no. 23 from the Exeter Book, which appears in modern English translation below, may be interpreted as the description of either an onion or a penis.
I am wonderful help to women.
The hope of something to come. I harm
No citizen except my slayer.
Rooted I stand on a high bed.
I am shaggy below. Sometimes the beautiful
Peasant's daughter, an eager-armed
Proud woman grabs my body,
Rushes my red skin, holds me hard,
Claims my head. The curly-haired
Woman who catches me fast will feel
Our meeting. Her eyes will be wet.
Click here to see the lyrics.
Click here to listen on Spotify.
Country houses sometimes had a special section known as the Bachelors' Wing to accommodate single men. This wing of the house might also be the location of men-only areas such as the billiard room and the smoking room.