" P.G. Wodehouse, who I thought might cheer him up "
P.G. (Pelham Grenville) Wodehouse
(1881-1975) was an English writer most famous for his comic Jeeves and Wooster novels, in which the foolish, upper-class Bertie Wooster is constantly being bailed out of catastrophes by his valet Reginald Jeeves. For much of his life Wodehouse lived in both England and America, where his books were also enormously popular. He also had a house in France; when war broke out in 1939 he was caught by the Nazi invasion and interned for a year in Upper Silesia in Poland.
" It doesn't do to be too Spartan about these things "
Sparta was the main rival to Athens in Ancient Greece. The city-state had a unique moral and cultural society. Two hereditary kings ruled at a time, presiding over a war-obsessed culture that shunned any form of luxury and threw 'weakling' newborns down a nearby chasm. Boys were separated from the rest of society at the age of seven and brought up in a military school that emphasised physical toughness and encouraged stealing as a form of subsistence. They were taught to speak 'laconically': briefly and wittily. As the men of Sparta were often separated from the women to engage in war with Sparta's neighbours, the women enjoyed a greater degree of power and freedom than was found in other Ancient Greek states.
The peculiarities of the Spartan way of life has rendered it a continuing source of fascination from Classical times until the present day. Machiavelli, for example, was an admirer of Spartan culture, as was John-Jacques Rousseau, and, unfortunately, Adolf Hitler.
" Why so pale and wan, fond lover? "
Sir John Suckling
This is the opening line from a famous poem, 'Why So Pale and Wan?
' by the English poet and dramatist Sir John Suckling (1609-1642). The poem originally appeared in the 1637 play Aglaura,
set in Persia. Suckling is known for his witty writing, and also as the supposed inventor of the card game Cribbage (according to John Aubrey). For the first performance of Aglaura,
Suckling provided the lavish sets and costumes at his own expense; the actors' collars were adorned with real gold and silver.