Page 615. " reading the Jacobean dramatists, Webster and Middleton, Torneur and Ford "
Thomas Middleton
Public DomainThomas Middleton

 The Jacobean dramas known as 'revenge tragedies' formed a particularly bloody genre of English playwriting in the seventeenth century. Although Shakespeare's Hamlet is a prime example of a revenge tragedy, the genre is more associated with the later works of dramatists such as Thomas Middleton (1580-1627), who wrote such classics as The Revenger's Tragedy, Women Beware Women, and The Changeling (with William Rowley).

Revenge tragedies typically involve complex plots of betrayal and intrigue which see a murder or betrayal committed early on, for which the protagonist takes elaborate, equally violent revenge. By the end of the play the stage is usually littered with corpses including that of the vengeful protagonist, as in Hamlet, where few survive. Written during a particularly eventful time in British history, revenge tragedies provided catharsis by indulging in orgies of distruction which both glorify and condemn violence.

Page 616. " Mais, vrai, j'ai trop pleuré! Les Aubes sont navrantes "

This is a quote from Arthur Rimbaud's poem 'Le Bateau Ivre', 'The Drunken Boat': "But, truly, I have wept too much! The Dawns are heartbreaking." The rest of the hundred-line poem, in French and in an English translation, can be read here. The line Francis quotes comes from the following stanza:


Mais, vrai, j'ai trop pleuré ! Les Aubes sont navrantes.

Toute lune est atroce et tout soleil amer :

L'âcre amour m'a gonflé de torpeurs enivrantes.

Ô que ma quille éclate ! Ô que j'aille à la mer !


But, truly, I have wept too much! The Dawns are heartbreaking.

Every moon is atrocious and every sun bitter:

Sharp love has swollen me up with heady langours.

O let my keel split! O let me sink to the bottom!


For more on Rimbaud see the bookmark to Page 5. " A moi. L'histoire d'une de mes folies "

Page 619. " I'd been reading to Francis, Our Mutual Friend "

Our Mutual Friend is the last completed novel by the nineteenth century English writer Charles Dickens. The novel concerns the effect of money on human relations, and as such is an appropriate choice for Richard to read to Francis at this time. Our Mutual Friend has been described as 'detective fiction of sorts' as it revolves around murders, both real and apparent.

T.S. Eliot used a quote from Our Mutual Friend, "he do the Police in different voices", as a working title for The Waste Land, a poem that Tartt also refers to in The Secret History (see bookmark to Page 89. " I came across this passage in The Waste-Land ")


Page 624. " like poor Orpheus turning for a last backward glance "

Orpheus Lamenting Eurydice by Corot
Public DomainOrpheus Lamenting Eurydice by Corot

Orpheus is a figure from Ancient Greek legend, a gifted lyre player. When his wife Eurydice died, Orpheus played such sad music that even the gods wept with him. They advised him to travel to the Underworld to ask Hades and Persephone to return Eurydice to life. They agreed, telling Orpheus to walk back to earth, leading his wife, but on no account to look back at her until they had both left the Underworld. As soon as Orpheus reached the upper world he looked back but, as Eurydice was still beyond the gates behind him, in the Underworld, his glance made her disappear back into its depths, separating them forever.