Page 226. " or to the lectures at the Athenaeum Hall "
The Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, London
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, London - Credit: DAVID ILIFF, Wikimedia Commons

In Ancient Greece, Athenaeum was the name given to buildings dedicated to the goddess Athena; in particular, it was the name of a temple in Athens where poets, philosophers and orators gathered to discuss their work.

During the Victorian era,  the term was used for various kinds of academy and learned societies.

There is a gentlemen's club on Pall Mall in London called the Athenaeum, but this is unlikely to be the venue referred to.  More probably, it is a reference to the Athenaeum Club which was opened in the Vale of Health in north Hampstead in 1877. This was frequented by political radicals and foreigners, and its upper hall was leased to the Salvation Army in 1882.

It also appears that there was a ladies-only club known as the Ladies Athenaeum in existence at one time in London (possibly between 1913 and 1925).

Page 228. " the Queen might be assaulted while I was strolling by Buckingham Palace "

Buckingham Palace
Creative Commons AttributionBuckingham Palace - Credit: Francesco Gasparetti, Flickr


As noted in bookmark, p.205, the role of guardsmen was (and is) to protect the Sovereign and her properties.

Buckingham Palace Guard
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBuckingham Palace Guard - Credit: geraldford, Flickr
In London the guardsmen are responsible for the security of Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace, and the Tower of London


Page 229. " from Piccadilly to Seven Dials "

Fortnum and Mason, Piccadilly
GNU Free Documentation LicenseFortnum and Mason, Piccadilly - Credit: Michel wal, Wikimedia Commons
Location of Seven Dials:

Google Map


Piccadilly is a street in London; it runs from Hyde Park Corner to Piccadilly Circus and is the location of many up-market businesses, including the Ritz Hotel and Fortnum and Mason department store.

Seven Dials is a road junction in Covent Garden where seven roads converge; it is also the name given to the surrounding area.

Page 229. " in St James's Square "

William lll statue in St. James's Square
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeWilliam lll statue in St. James's Square - Credit: Martin Belam, Flickr
 St. James's Square is situated in the St. James's area of London.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries St James's was one of the most fashionable residential areas in London.

Its central feature is an equestrian statue of William III, erected in 1808.


Google Map


Page 230. " I had not earned so much as a threepenny-bit "
1936 threepenny bit
Creative Commons Attribution1936 threepenny bit - Credit: Mrs Logic, Flickr
1943 threepenny bit
Public Domain1943 threepenny bit - Credit: Welkinridge, Wikimedia Commons

The threepence, generally known as the threepenny (pronounced thrupenny) bit, was a British coin.

It was first produced in the 16th Century and continued to be minted until the decimalisation of the currency in 1971.

Originally a small, slim, silver coin, from the reign of Edward Vlll onwards it was a chunkier, twelve-sided coin made from a mixture of brass and nickel.

Page 231. " the pale, silent mass of the British Museum "
The British Museum in 1852
Public DomainThe British Museum in 1852 - Credit: W. Simpson after E. Walker

The British Museum, a museum of history and culture, is situated on Great Russell Street in the Bloomsbury area of London.


Google Map
Page 231. " which would lead me by the Foundling Hospital "


Drawing of the Foundling Hospital Chapel (1808-11)
Public DomainDrawing of the Foundling Hospital Chapel (1808-11) - Credit: Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin


The Foundling Hospital, an orphanage, was established in 1742 on Bloomsbury Fields, north of Great Ormond Street and west of Gray's Inn Lane. Its founder was Thomas Coram, a retired sea captain.

Although a foundling, strictly speaking, was a deserted or abandoned child of unknown parentage, the hospital was for illegitimate children who would otherwise have spent their lives in the workhouse; they were, therefore, often brought to the hospital by their own mothers.

The hospital remained in use until 1926, when it was relocated to Hertfordshire.

Today, memories of the Foundling Hospital are kept alive in the Foundling Museum which is situated adjacent to the original hospital site in Brunswick Square.


Google Map
Page 237. " She took me to her home, in St. John's Wood; "

St. John's Wood is a leafy area of northwest London, close to Regent's Park; it is a highly desirable residential district, just as it was in the 19th Century.


Google Map
Page 238. " two armless, ladder-backed chairs "
Modern ladder-back chair
Creative Commons AttributionModern ladder-back chair - Credit: Yandle, Flickr
Antique ladder-back chair (date unknown)
GNU Free Documentation LicenseAntique ladder-back chair (date unknown) - Credit: sailko, Wikimedia Commons
A Ladder-backed chair is one whose back consists of two upright posts joined by two or more horizontal slats; thus creating the effect of a ladder.

The style has certainly been in existence since the 17th Century, and continues to be popular today.

Page 239. " 'If you were King of Pleasure,' she said, 'and I were Queen of Pain ...' "
'Le rêve d'un flagellant'
Public Domain'Le rêve d'un flagellant' - Credit: Georges Topfer, Wikimedia Commons
This is a reversal of a couplet from the poem A Match by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909):


If you were queen of pleasure,

And I were king of pain,

We'd hunt down love together,

Pluck out his flying-feather

And teach his feet a measure,

And find his mouth a rein,

If you were queen of pleasure

And I were king of pain.

Full text


In this context, the words have a strongly sadomasochistic tone, and indeed it is known that Swinburne was an algolagniac (someone who derives sexual pleasure from the experience of physical pain).

Page 241. " There was a cheval-glass there, big as a door "

A cheval glass or cheval mirror is a free-standing mirror which swings in a vertical frame; it is designed to reflect a full length figure.

Page 241. " an unlikely Pandora "
'Pandora' by Lefebvre (1882)
Public Domain'Pandora' by Lefebvre (1882) - Credit: Jules Joseph Lefebvre
Pandora, in Greek mythology, was the first woman.

Out of curiosity, she is said to have opened a jar (often wrongly translated as a box) which led to all the evils of the world being released.

Metaphorically speaking, then, to open Pandora's box is to start something that will lead to innumerable troubles; the equivalent of opening a can of worms.

Page 241. " It was, in short, a dildo "
Dildo with harness
GNU Free Documentation LicenseDildo with harness - Credit: Bushytails, Wikimedia Commons
A dildo is an object designed to simulate an erect penis.

The word has been in use in English since the 16th Century, and dildo-like objects have existed since prehistoric times.

Sometimes dildos may be battery-powered, in which case they are known as vibrators.

Page 242. " the laces of her corset "
Corset advertisement (1896)
Public DomainCorset advertisement (1896) - Credit: Thomson

During the Victorian era, women's underwear was a complicated business.

Underneath a dress, a woman would wear drawers, a chemise, a corset, and a petticoat (or petticoats). Chemise and drawers could also be worn combined, in a garment known as combinations.

Corsets were worn over the chemise and drawers, and either above or below the petticoat/s. They were made of cloth, stiffened with boning (sometimes known as ribs or stays) which were made out of whalebone (also known as baleen*), cane or steel.

The purpose of corsets was to support the breasts and constrict the size of the waist. They could be laced at the back (which required help from someone else) or fastened at the front.

Click here to view a selection of 'hour-glass' corsets.

* material obtained from the upper jaw of the baleen whale




Page 242. " the hundred tiny creases of her chemise "

The chemise (sometimes known as a shift) was worn under the corset.

By the end of the 19th Century, it had evolved into a simply cut sleeveless garment with a round, square or v-shaped neckline. It was made from cotton, linen or silk, and was often decorated with lace or embroidery. 

Page 242. " but retained her drawers "

Drawers (the early version of knickers) were worn by Victorian women from about 1850 onwards.

Initially, drawers were open at the crotch and extended below the knee. Later on, they were closed at the crotch and gathered onto a band at the knee; these were known as knickerbockers. Towards the end of the 19th Century, and during the Edwardian period, drawers became wide-legged and flared.

A picture of Victorian Drawers      

Page 245. " that long second toe that you sometimes see on the statues done by the Greeks "
Greek statue known as the 'Thermae boxer' (300-200 BC)
Public DomainGreek statue known as the 'Thermae boxer' (300-200 BC) - Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons
Foot of the 'Thermae boxer'
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeFoot of the 'Thermae boxer' - Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons

Making the second toe longer than the big toe was the norm in Greek Sculpture, and it later became the accepted form for Roman and Renaissance Sculptors.

Although 10-25% (estimates vary) of the world's population have this characteristic, it is generally viewed as a potential problem and is given the medical name Morton's Toe.

The Statue of Liberty suffers from Morton's Toe!



Morton's toe
Public DomainMorton's toe - Credit: Jonnystahl, Wikimedia Commons
Page 248. " 'There is a Persian story I read as a girl, about a princess and a beggar, and a djinn. "

Illustration from 'The Thousand and One Nights'
Public DomainIllustration from 'The Thousand and One Nights' - Credit: Sani ol-Molk
Perhaps a reference to one of the stories from The Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights), a collection of Arabian folk tales.

Forty two of the folk tales were translated into English by Edward William Lane, and published in 1840 and 1859.

Does anybody know which story this refers to? 

Page 249. " Did you think you could play at Ganymede, for ever? "
Ganymede serving Zeus
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeGanymede serving Zeus - Credit: David Moran, Flickr

In Greek mythology Ganymede, or Ganymedes, was the son of a King of Troy, with whom Zeus fell in love.

The word catamite, meaning a boy kept for sexual pleasure by a paedophile, is derived from the name Ganymede.

Ganymede is also the name given to Rosalind, the heroine of Shakespeare's play As You Like It, when she is disguised as a boy.

Sarah Waters might have had either, or both, of these characters in mind at this particular point in the text.


Public Domain'Rosalind' - Credit: Robert Walker Macbeth