Page 176. " a means of petrifying the body after death, so as to preserve it, as hard as marble "
Girolamo Segato
Public DomainGirolamo Segato - Credit: G. Forino lithograph

Petrification is the process by which organic material is converted into stone.  Petrified wood is a common result of this process, but all organisms can be petrified.

In the early 1800s, Italian Girolamo Segato (1792 – 1836), a naturalist, cartographer, Egyptologist and anatomist, claimed to have successfully petrified human remains.

Segato had participated in several archaeological expeditions to Egypt, becoming an expert in the techniques of mummification.  Working in Florence in 1823, he developed a technique similar to mummification.  However, rather than removing water from cadavers, he seems to have managed to petrify them.  Word spread that Segato had acquired knowledge of Egyptian magic. He kept his method a closely guarded secret, and destroyed all his notes before his death. 

Segato's surviving petrified human remains can be found in the Museum of the Department of Anatomy in Florence.  Numerous studies and attempts to imitate his feat have failed. 

Page 181. " Nankeen trousers, displaying more white fancy-work over the ankles, and purple morocco slippers "

Nankeen Trousers 1818
Public DomainNankeen Trousers 1818 - Credit: Mary Evans
Nankeen is a kind of pale yellowish cloth, originally made at Nanjing, in Eastern China, from a yellow variety of cotton, and subsequently manufactured from ordinary cotton and then dyed.

Page 181. " singing Figaro's famous song in the Barber of Seville "

The Barber of Seville, or The Futile Precaution is an opera in two acts by Gioachino Rossini, with a libretto by Cesare Sterbini.  It premiered in 1816 in Rome.  It was one of the earliest Italian operas to be performed in America, premiering in New Orleans on in 1823 and in New York in 1825.

Page 181. " like a fat St Cecilia masquerading in male attire "

St Cecilia
Public DomainSt Cecilia - Credit: Guido Reni 1606
Saint Cecilia is the patroness of musicians.  The first recorded music festival in her honour was in Normandy in 1570.  The National Academy of Santa Cecilia is one of the oldest musical institutions in the world, founded by the papal bull in 1585. 

The legend of her martyrdom has it that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church.  The Church of St Cecilia in Trastevere, dating from the fourth century, is reputedly built on the site of her house. 

Page 183. " a curse on it like the Dead Sea "

Dead Sea, En Boqeq, Israel
GNU Free Documentation LicenseDead Sea, En Boqeq, Israel - Credit: xta11
The Dead Sea is a salt lake bordering Jordan, Israel and the West Bank.  Its surface and shores are 423 metres below sea level.  It is both earth's lowest elevation on land, and the deepest salt lake in the world.

Its high salt content (at almost 34% salinity, it is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean) makes it uninhabitable for most fish and aquatic plants.  

Page 185. " only invent a moral epigram "
Robert Hayman's 1628 book Quodlibets devotes much of its text to epigrams
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeRobert Hayman's 1628 book Quodlibets devotes much of its text to epigrams - Credit: Ambassador Neelix

An epigram is a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising or satirical statement.  The epigram originated in Greece, where it was often inscribed as a poem at sanctuaries, on statues, and on funerary monuments. 


Page 187. " john with the top-boots "
Riding boots
GNU Free Documentation LicenseRiding boots - Credit: Ealdgyth

Top boots are long boots that fully or partly cover the knee. They were originally created as a man’s riding boot in the 15th Century.  Top boots are similar to the dress boots that were worn at formal fox hunts, and to the boots worn by dressage riders and show-jumpers today.  Like these, they are traditionally black, but are distinguished by a tan cuff at the top.

Page 187. " John Bull does abhor the crimes of John Chinaman "

John Bull - World War I recruiting poster
Public DomainJohn Bull - World War I recruiting poster - Credit: Uk Government
John Bull is a national personification of the United Kingdom, and England in particular.  He is usually depicted as a stout, middle-aged, country-dwelling, jolly man. The shallow crown of his top hat indicates his middle class identity.

He was created by Dr John Arbuthnot in 1712, in his pamphlet Law is a Bottomless Pit.  William Hogarth and other British writers went on to make Bull a heroic archetype of the Englishman.  Later, the image was disseminated overseas by various illustrators and writers. 

As a literary figure, John Bull is well-intentioned, frustrated, and full of common sense.  He is definitively a yeoman, with no authority or patriarchal power.

Page 187. " John-Howard-Philanthropist "
John Howard 1789
Public DomainJohn Howard 1789 - Credit: Mather Brown

John Howard (1726 - 1790) was a philanthropist and the first English prison reformer. 

In 1773, he was appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire.  In this role he personally inspected the county prison, and was shocked by what he found.  He went on to visit several hundred prisons throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Europe.  In 1774 he was called to give evidence on prison conditions to a House of Commons select committee.  The committee members publicly thanked him for his 'humanity and zeal'.

He published The State of the Prisons in 1777, which included detailed instructions on necessary improvements. The work is credited with the establishment of single cell prisons in the UK and the US.  In 1789 he published The State of the Prisons in England, and An Account of the Principal Lazarettos of Europe

He died at the age of 63, from typhus contracted during a prison visit in Eastern Europe.  

In the 1850s, almost eighty years after his death, the Howard Association was formed in London, with the aim of "promotion of the most efficient means of penal treatment and crime prevention" and to promote "a reformatory and radically preventive treatment of offenders".

Page 187. " your dear, romantic, interesting Chatterton "

Thomas Chatterton (1752 - 1770) was an English poet and writer, and forger of medieval texts.  He made up an imaginary monk of the 15th century, called him Thomas Rowley, and wrote poetry and histories which he attempted to pass off as Rowley’s ancient writings.  He had some success, but when in 1769 he sent specimens of "Rowley's" poetry and histories to Horace Walpole, the truth came out.  When Walpole found out that Chatterton was only sixteen and that the alleged Rowley pieces were probably forgeries, he scornfully sent Chatterton away.

Chatterton continued to write political letters, lyrics, operas and satires, for various journals.  He won high praise for many of these pieces, and was making a name for himself, but remained extremely short of money – a lonely writer starving in his London garret. 

He committed suicide, using arsenic, at the age of 17.  As it turned out, he had been within days of securing a wealthy patron.

Page 188. " as your excellent Sheridan said, I go - and leave my character behind me "

Richard Sheridan
Public DomainRichard Sheridan - Credit: Sir Joshua Reynolds
Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan (1751 - 1816) was an Irish playwright and poet, and a long-time owner of London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.  For 32 years he was also a Whig Member of the House of Commons. 

His most famous play, The School for Scandal, is considered one of the greatest comedies of manners in English. Other big hits include The Rivals and A Trip to Scarborough. 

The quote above is from The School for Scandal – the line is said by Sir Peter in the Second Act, Scene 2. 

Page 188. " the youngest, the whitest, the most amiable of all - my Benjamin of mice "
The supposedly stolen cup is discovered by Joseph, in Benjamin's bag
Public DomainThe supposedly stolen cup is discovered by Joseph, in Benjamin's bag - Credit: Owen Jones 1869

In Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition, Benjamin was the last-born of Jacob’s twelve sons, and the favourite among all his brothers. 

The rather more famous Joseph was Jacob's favourite - making his brothers (except young Benjamin) jealous and vindictive.

Benjamin translates as son of right, as in son of my right hand, and the name is associated with strength and virtue. 

Page 191. " Dozens of photographs of this sort ... were completed before I left Cumberland "

Henry Fox Talbot took the first photograph in 1835. By 1871, it was recorded that one of the great comforts of the working class was to have a photo of a family member who was working a long way off. The first cheap camera was invented in 1888 by George Eastman.

Mr Fairlie's photographs would have been in black and white, as the first colour photograph was taken in 1861 by the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell. Experiments and improvements in photography continued throughout the 19th century.