Page 402. " a series of hazardous cocktails called 'Blue Blazers' "

A Blue Blazer is a simple whisky punch made with whisky or brandy, boiling water, lemon peel and powdered sugar. However, it is mixed by setting the alcohol alight and then pouring it between two mugs, as Richard describes. The cocktail was invented by the famous nineteenth century bartender and author Jerry Thomas; the U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant is said to have been particularly impressed with it.

 

Page 403. " Because it's terrible luck to leave a body unburied. "

This comes from an ancient Roman superstition. In Virgil's Aeneid, Palinurus, the helmsman of a ship of the Trojan hero Aeneas, is murdered to ensure the ship's safe passage on their way back from the Trojan wars. When he is left unburied his spirit haunts the ship until he is given a proper burial.

Page 406. " some trembling Kassandra gibbering prophecies "

 In Ancient Greek myth, Kassandra (or Cassandra) was the daughter of King Priam of Troy, who was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo. However when she did not return Apollo's love for her he cursed her so that no one would believe her prophecies.

Cassandra appears in many Greek sources, including Homer's Iliad, Aeschylus' Agamemnon and Euripedes' Trojan Women and Electra.

Page 406. " Théophile Gautier, writing about the effects of Vigny's Chatterton on the youth of Paris "

The Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis
Public DomainThe Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis

 Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) was a French Romantic writer. During his prolific writing career he wrote a number of plays, poems, novels, short stories, various works of art and literary criticism and other articles. He was known as a champion of Romanticism in art and literature.

In 1835 Gautier's friend and fellow writer Alfred de Vigny produced a play, Chatterton, based on the life of the English Romantic poet Thomas Chatterton, who poisoned himself with arsenic, aged seventeen. Chatterton wrote a number of false 'Medieval' poems in Chaucerian English, which were published as genuine discoveries. He was an extremely gifted mimic of other people's styles of writing. After his death, however, suspicions arose as to the true origins of the works he claimed to have 'transcribed'. He came to be seen as an archetypal Romantic poet, a poverty-stricken genius unappreciated during his lifetime whose life was cut terribly short. Vigny's play about him is considered a masterpiece, and is still regularly performed today.

Page 414. " he was talking on and on in a low voice about Schliemann's Ilios "

The walls of the city of Troy
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe walls of the city of Troy - Credit: Dodo
 Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) was a German businessman and archaelogist, most famous for his discovery of the historical site of Troy, on the Turkish coast near Mount Ida. He advocated the idea that there was historical truth to Ancient Greek and Roman stories such as Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid.

Schliemann was an important influence on a young Donna Tartt, who decided to become an archaelogist after her grandmother gave her a book about him.

Page 421. " He used to send all this crank mail to Anwar Sadat "
 Anwar Sadat (1918-1981) was the third President of Egypt. He served from October 1970 until 6th October 1981, when he was assassinated by religious fundamentalists. He was hailed as a hero in the Arab world after the October War with Israel in 1973, but, although it won him the Nobel Peace Prize, his role in the Camp David Accords caused him to become extremely unpopular in the Arab world. His successor as President of Egypt was the recently ousted Hosni Mubarak.