Page 1. " The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard. "

From the Katha Upanishad. This quotation is the source of this novel's title.

Page 1. " Katha-Upanishad "

Katha Upanishad is one of the principal Upanishads, or Hindu scriptures. It presents a dualistic philosophy. The Buddhist ideas suggest it was written after the 5th century BCE. Katha Upanishad tells the story of a Brahmin who renounced all his possessions and his son, who condemns his behaviour.

Page 3. " I wrote a novel called The Moon and Sixpence "

The Moon and Sixpence
Public DomainThe Moon and Sixpence
W. Somerset Maugham wrote the novel The Moon and Sixpence based on the life of painter Paul Gauguin. It was published in 1919.

The Moon and Sixpence is not copyrighted in the United States and is available for download at Project Gutenberg.

Page 3. " Paul Gauguin "

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) was a French Post-Impressionist painter. He lived in Tahiti for many years and died in French Polynesia.

Page 4. " Henry James "

Henry James (1843–1916) was an American writer, a key figure of literary realism. He spent the last 40 years of his life in England.

Page 5. " In 1919 I happened to be in Chicago "

In 1919, Chicago was the second largest city in the United States. It is located in the Midwestern state of Illinois on the southewestern shore of Lake Michigan.

Page 5. " the Far East "

An inexact term, usually denoting Eastern Asia but having a cultural significance as much as a geographic one.

Page 6. " He got his haberdashery at Charvet's "

Founded in 1838 in Paris, France, Charvet has been the specialized supplier 0f shirts and haberdashery to royalty and heads of state.

Page 6. " He had an apartment in Paris on the Rive Gauche in the fashionable Rue St. Guillaume "


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Page 6. " a signed piece of Buhl "
Furniture featuring the marquetry work of French cabinetmaker André-Charles Boulle (1642–1732).
Page 6. " a writing-table made by Chippendale himself "

Thomas Chippendale (1718–1779) was a London cabinet-maker who designed furniture in the mid-Georgian, English Rococo, and Neoclassical styles.

Page 6. " Nous autres Américains "

French: "We Americans".

Page 6. " ducal landlord "
Page 6. " Watteau "

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), French painter.

Page 6. " Fragonard "

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), French painter.

Page 6. " Claude Lorraine "

Claude Gellée de Lorrain (1600–1682), French painter.

Page 6. " Savonnerie and Aubusson rugs "
Savonnerie was a prestigious manufactory of rugs; until 1768, products of the manufactory remained exclusively the property of the Crown. Aubusson is a commune in the Creuse department of the Limousin region in central France, well known for its production of tapestry and carpets.

Aubusson tapestry
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAubusson tapestry - Credit: Marcello.commons

Page 7. " Madame de Pompadour "

Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson (1721–1764), Marquise de Pompadour, member of the French court and official mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to 1750.

Page 7. " the impecunious great "

Likely referring to aristocracy who have lost their wealth.

Page 7. " ami de la maison "

French: "friend of the house"; the household pet.

Page 8. " The war of 1914 "

The Great War, now also known as World War I.

Page 8. " When it broke out he joined an ambulance corps and served first in Flanders and then in the Argonne; he came back after a year with a red ribbon in his buttonhole and secured a position in the Red Cross in Paris. "

Somerset Maugham served in France as an ambulance driver with the British Red Cross.

Page 8. " ce cher Elliott "

French: "this dear Elliott".

Page 8. " Claridge's "
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeClaridge's - Credit: LordRayden
A luxury hotel in central London. After the First World War, Claridge's flourished due to demand from aristocrats who no longer maintained a London house.
Page 9. " Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill "

A 1911 novel by Hugh Walpole about a conflict between two teachers at a boys' public school.

Page 9. " The Mollusc "

By Hubert Henry Davies. A 1907 play — a comedy of domestic politics.

Page 9. " Hugh Walpole "

Sir Hugh Seymour Walpole (1884–1941), English novelist. The character Alroy Kear in Somerset Maugham's 1930 novel is widely thought to be a caricature of Walpole.

Page 9. " Hubert Henry Davies "

Hubert Henry Davies (1869–1917), English playwright.

Page 10. " serviable "

French: "obliging".

Page 10. " I don't believe even Marcel Proust knew more of the inner life of the aristocracy than Elliott Templeton. "

Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust (1871–1922), French novelist, critic, and essayist. His masterpiece, the seven-volume À la recherche du temps perdu, is all about the inner life. 

Page 11. " abbé "

French: "priest".

Page 11. " though his family had always been Episcopalian, he had for long been interested in the Catholic Church. "

After the American revolution (late 18th century), the Episcopal Church was organized when forced to break with the Church of England on penalty of treason. The Episcopal Church considers itself "Protestant, yet Catholic".

Page 11. " Duchesse de Vendôme "

Princess Henriette Marie Charlotte Antoinette of Belgium (1870–1948) was Duchesse of Vendôme upon her marriage to the Duke of Vendôme, Philippe Emmanuel Maximilien Marie Eudes d'Orléans (1872–1931). The title "duc de Vendôme" is a courtesy title.

Page 12. " papal chamberlain "

One of the highest honours that could be bestowed on a Catholic layman by the Pope. The chamberlain served the Pope for one week per year during official ceremonies. The office was abolished by Pope Paul VI.

Page 12. " rewarded by the order of, I think, the Holy Sepulchre "

The Order of the Holy Sepulchre is a Catholic order of knighthood.

Page 12. " homme du monde "

French: "man of the world".

Page 12. " the crusader who had gone to the Holy Land with Saint Louis "

Louis IX (1214–1270), King of France, conducted two crusades.

Page 12. " the ancestor who had attended Henry the Eighth to the Field of the Cloth of Gold "

King Henry VIII of England met King Francis I of France on the Field of the Cloth of Gold, in Balinghem, in June of 1520. The meeting served to enhance goodwill after the Anglo-French treaty.

Page 12. " Almanach de Gotha "

A directory of Europe's royalty and nobility.

According to Wikipedia:

Following World War I and the fall of many royal houses, noble titles became easy to masquerade due to the lack of a central regulating authority on granting titles; this made inclusion in the incorruptible Almanach de Gotha even more essential. If a noble title was not listed in the almanach, it could be presumed that the title was self-created and therefore invalid. Inclusion of lower nobility was never even attempted, as that was seen as the task of each country's own nobility or corresponding institution.

Page 14. " a street that led off Lake Shore Drive "


Google Map


Page 15. " Queen Margherita "

Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna of Savoy (1851–1926), Queen consort of the Kingdom of Italy during the reign (1878–1900) of her husband, Umberto I.

Page 15. " the Quirinal "

Quirinal Hill is one of the Seven Hills of Rome and the location of the official residence of the Italian Head of State.

Quirinal Palace was the residence of the king of Italy until the monarchy was abolished in 1946.

Page 16. " Virgins of the school of Raphael "
Paintings of the Virgin Mary in the style of Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483–1520), Italian painter and architect.


Page 16. " Virgins of the school of Guido Reni "

Paintings of the Virgin Mary in the high-Baroque style of Guido Reni (1575–1642), Italian painter.

Page 16. " landscapes of the school of Zuccarelli "

Landscape paintings in the Rococo style of Francesco Zuccarelli (1702–1788), Italian painter.

Page 16. " ruins of the school of Pannini "

Paintings of Roman ruins in the style of Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1691–1765), Italian painter and architect.

Page 16. " their soujourn in Peking "

Metropolis located in northern China, capital of the People's Republic of China. Peking is the name for the city according to standards set for the romanization of Chinese place names in 1906. The city has been known as Beijing following the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

Google Map


Page 16. " huge cloissoné vases "

Chinese cloissoné vase
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeChinese cloissoné vase - Credit: Aka, Wikimedia Commons
Vases, probably metal, decorated with an ancient technique, common in China, for the application of enamel.

Page 16. " the purchases they had made in Chile or Peru, obese figures in hard stone and earthenware vases "
Page 18. " Lisbon, Peking, Quito, Rome "
Page 18. " Duchess of Olifant "

Mary, Duchess of Olifant, likely a fictional personage. On page 13 referred to simply as Mary Olifant.

Page 21. " a Philadelphian of old Quaker stock "

Pennsylvania was founded with the help of the Religious Society of Friends, whose members are known as Quakers.  Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania, was founded by William Penn, a noted Quaker. Quakers believe direct experience of God is available to all people. As such, they can be regarded as practicing group mysticism.

Page 21. " Elliott shrugged a Gallic shoulder. "

A shrug of indifference, a typically French gesture.

Page 22. " all the perfumes of Arabia "

"Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!"

Macbeth, Act V, Scene I.

Page 23. " a long, hobbled skirt "