'The Farmer in the Dell' is a children's nursery rhyme, probably originating in Germany. In England, the same tune accompanies the song 'The Farmer Wants a Wife.' The song begins:
The farmer in the dell
The farmer in the dell
Hi-ho, the derry-o
The farmer in the dell...
The Box Step is a form of dance so called because of the box or square shape made on the floor by the dancers' feet.
Prairie oysters are non-alcoholic drinks typically served as a hangover cure the morning after a particularly boisterous night before. They consist of a raw egg, cracked open carefully so as not to break the yolk, served in a glass with Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce or ketchup and salt and pepper.
This cure appears in a number of other books, including the James Bond novel Thunderball, P.G. Woodhouse's short story Jeeves Takes Charge and Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin.
Piquet is a card game that originates in the early 16th century. It is mentioned in in Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais as well as in Thackeray's 1848 novel Vanity Fair, where, as Charles mentions, it is played by Rawdon Crawley, a dissolute gambler who is heavily in debt.
Kiwanis International is an American social organisation dedicated to improving quality of life for the poor and to creating business opportunities among its members. It was first founded in Michigan in 1915, and has now spread to become an international society with around a quarter of a million members.
These are lines from 'The Whiffenpoof Song'.
The Whiffenpoofs are the oldest university a cappella choir in America, an all-male choir of fourteen singers established at Yale University in 1904. Cole Porter sang with the Whiffenpoofs in 1913; they still regularly perform his songs in honour of his time in the choir.
Another example of Bunny's ignorance. He and Henry will be spending Christmas in Rome, not Venice, so they will not be riding gondolas through the canals.
The Italian aperitif Campari is a bitter alcoholic drink, bright red in colour; the recipe is a closely guarded secret.
John Donne (1572-1631) was an English poet and theologian. He was born a Catholic, in a time when it was difficult to be so; he eventually left the Catholic Church in 1616, becoming a Dean of St Paul's Cathedral. He is a leading example of the Metaphysical school of poetry, famous in particular for his Holy Sonnets, such as number 10:
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy picture[s] be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'rt slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more, Death, thou shalt die.
Sadly, the brilliantly-titled Men of Thought and Deed does not exist. The World Book Encyclopedia is a multi-volume encyclopedia published in America, the equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica in the U.K. The first edition of The World Book Encyclopedia was published in 1917, and consisted of eight volumes; it has been updated almost every year since.
Izaak Walton (1593-1683) was an English writer, a friend of John Donne who wrote a short biography of him (which can be read online here). However the two men were quite different; whilst Donne is best known for his Metaphysical poems, Walton is known for his book The Compleat Angler, a celebration of the art of fishing. They are certainly not, as Bunny posits, deeply connected through 'metahemeralism', as this is not in fact a real word.
Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) was an English poet who is closely associated with the poetry of the First World War. He was a part of the Bloomsbury Group of writers and artists. He died of sepsis during the war in Greece whilst on his way towards what became the Battle of Gallipoli. His poetry is often recited on Remembrance Sunday, especially his poem The Soldier:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.