Page 76. " my Liddell and Scott "

 This refers to the famous Greek-English Lexicon published by Oxford University Press and originally edited by Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie in the mid-nineteenth century. It is commonly referred to simply as 'Liddell and Scott', following the academic practice of referring to books by their author's or editor's names rather than by their titles.

The Liddell and Scott is still in print today. The ninth edition of the book, which was published in 1940, is freely available online via the Perseus Project. The most recent edition was published in 2007; the Supplement keeps readers abreast of changes and corrections made to the text.



Page 77. " looking at pictures of broken kouroi "
 A kouros (plural kouroi) is an Ancient Greek statue of a young man standing upright. They are typically made out of marble, and often thought to represent the Greek god Apollo. Kouroi are common to both Greek and Egyptian sculpture, although there are differences in style between the two.
Page 79. " I read The Great Gatsby. It is one of my favorite books "
 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a novel about a rich, mysterious man called Jay Gatsby and his love for a married woman, Daisy Buchanan. Set in 1922, it is a critique of Prohibition America, narrated by Gatsby's friend and neighbour, Nick Carraway. Richard's identification with Gatsby is ironic as most readers of The Secret History would identify him more closely with his fellow narrator, Nick, who is also an outsider looking in on the lives of rich, glamorous friends.

The Great Gatsby on Book Drum

Page 81. " Like they worship the fucking Devil "

Although Richard is right in that the Ancient Greek religion had no figure equivalent to the Devil in Christianity, this statement clearly hints at revelations to come. It is also a complex nod to Donna Tartt's friend, the writer Bret Easton Ellis.

Bret Easton Ellis was at Bennington College at the same time as Tartt. His first two novels, Less Than Zero and The Rules of Attraction, were both written whilst Tartt was working on The Secret History. In The Rules of Attraction passing mention is made of Tartt's then-unpublished novel when Ellis describes a group of Classics students: "those creepy Classics kids, off in the woods performing human sacrifice". Tartt returns the favour later in her own novel when she refers to the suicide of a freshman girl, an event which takes place in The Rules of Attraction.

Page 81. " And does he really piss on his paintings like Jackson Pollock? "


 Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was an American painter of the abstract expressionist movement. He is best known for his 'drip' paintings, which were composed between 1947 and 1950. He would drip and splatter liquid paint on to large canvasses laid on the floor of his Long Island studio, a technique which has become known as action painting. Rumour has it that Pollock would urinate on his paintings before delivering them to art dealers, if he didn't like the dealer in question. He is also famous for relieving himself into a fireplace at one of Peggy Guggenheim's elegant cocktail parties.

Page 84. " it was Chopin, one of the preludes, maybe "

 Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) was a Polish Romantic composer and pianist. He spent most of his life in Paris, where he conducted an affair with the French writer George Sand. His compositions all focus heavily on the piano.

Listen to Chopin's Prelude No. 4 in E Minor on Spotify.

Page 86. " the opening notes of a Scott Joplin rag "
 Scott Joplin (c. 1867-1917) was an American composer known for his Ragtime compositions. Ragtime is a form of music which blends European and African-American styles of melody and rhythm. Joplin's first hit, the 'Maple Leaf Rag', had an enormous influence on the development of this genre.

Listen to Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag on Spotify.

Page 88. " a mock tholos, Doric by way of Pompeii "

  'Tholos' is an Ancient Greek word for a round building with a conical roof. The Doric order is one of three Greek styles of architecture, alongside Ionic and Corinthian. The Parthenon in Athens is an example of the Doric order, which follows rules of harmony and offers simpler designs than the swirling Ionic or the elaborately carved Corinthian orders.

Page 89. " That day he was talking about Elizabeth and Leicester "

 Henry is discussing the relationship between Queen Elizabeth I of England and Lord Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. For a variety of complex personal and political reasons, Elizabeth I never married, and rumours persisted about the nature of her relationship with Leicester. Although it is clear that Leicester was the Queen's favourite, and she was probably in love with him, there is no evidence that they ever had an affair, and it is extremely unlikely that the shrewd and focused Elizabeth would have compromised herself in this way. For a long time after the death of Leicester's wife she considered marrying him, but widespread opposition in her royal court made the match impossible.

Page 89. " I came across this passage in The Waste-Land "

 The Waste Land is a famous Modernist poem by T.S. Eliot, first published in 1922. The whole text of the poem, with a useful selection of notes, can be read online here. Some commentators have suggested that Tartt's reference to this poem is nothing more than showing off; they are unable to see the point. However, a closer reading of this passage makes the reason for its presence obvious. Henry is moved to discuss Elizabeth and Leicester whilst rowing a boat in the lake at Francis's house; it seems clear that this activity reminds him of the scene in The Waste Land in which Elizabeth and Leicester are themselves in a rowing boat, a connection made explicit by Richard's quotation. This scene could also be read as a covert hint at the secret understanding between Henry and Camilla.

Page 92. " I was startled at this Holmes-like deduction "

 This is one of many references to classic crime literature. The famous detective Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Scottish writer who wrote four novel and 56 short stories featuring Holmes. His stories have been adapted into numerous television series and films, and are popular throughout the world. Interestingly, the phrase 'elementary, my dear Watson,' which is considered to be something of a Holmes catchphrase, never actually appears in any of the stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Page 94. " Henry quoted long passages about Emma Bovary and her greyhound "

Italian Greyhound
Creative Commons AttributionItalian Greyhound - Credit: madaise
 Madame Bovary is a novel by the nineteenth century French author Gustave Flaubert. It tells the story of the stifling life of the wife of a provincial doctor, the titular Madame Bovary, and her doomed attempts to escape the banality of her life through adultery. The novel was put on trial for obscenity when it was first published, making it and its author notorious; it is now considered Flaubert's masterpiece. In the novel, Emma Bovary is given a female Italian greyhound which she takes for long walks to escape boredom. The restless nature of the greyhound is comparable to Emma's own restlessness.

Page 99. " Bunny put away his copy of The Bride of Fu Manchu "

The Bride of Fu Manchu is one of a series of Fu Manchu novels written by the English author Sax Rohmer (1883-1959). Fu Manchu is a master criminal who eschews modern methods of carrying out his murderous plots in favour of more obscure weapons, such as poisonous spiders, secret societies of assassins, and poisonous mushrooms. The character of Fu Manchu has often been criticised as a case of racial stereotyping; Bunny's literary tastes seem to reflect his general xenophobia. The rather sensationalist and populist Fu Manchu novels would not appeal to Julian's more highbrow taste.