Page 266. " what they, like Diana, called Sapphic Passion "
Sapphic passion
Public DomainSapphic passion - Credit: Édouard-Henri Avril (1843-1928)

The term Sapphism is derived  from Sappho, an Ancient Greek female lyrical poet born on the Island of Lesbos some time between 630BC and 612BC.

Because she wrote love poetry to both men and women, her name and the island of her birth have become associated with female homosexuality.

Sapphist has been used as a word for a lesbian since the 18th Century, and the term Sapphic passion was used in a London magazine in 1773 to describe sex between women.

Although considered old-fashioned terms for most of the 20th Century, sapphist and sapphic have become popular again amongst the LGBT community.

Page 266. " They contained, as I guessed very early on, some fragrant French tobacco that was mixed with hashish "
Public DomainHashish - Credit: U.S. Federal Government

 Hashish is a paste-like substance, usually light to dark brown in colour, which is made from the cannabis plant.

Like other preparations of cannabis, it is used as a recreational drug for its psychoactive effects; it may be smoked in joints (mixed with tobacco or herbs) or in pipes, or cooked in food.

During the 19th Century, hashish was used by the poets, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud and Pierre Gautier (often known as Théophile Gautier); both Gautier and Baudelaire were members of the Paris-based group known as the Club des Hashischins, who experimented with hashish use between 1844 and 1849.

Cannabis preparations were available for medicinal use in 19th Century Britain, and could be obtained without a prescription.

Page 269. " a creamy homburg with a trim "
Painting of Hugo Reisinger holding a Homburg (1907)
Public DomainPainting of Hugo Reisinger holding a Homburg (1907) - Credit: Anders Zorn (1860-1920)
A homburg is a felt hat with a soft dented crown and a fixed upturned brim; typically, it has a hatband and trim made out of grosgrain. A feather on the brim is optional.

The homburg originated in 1890 after Prince Edward (later King Edward VII) had a hat of this type made for himself whilst on holiday in Bad Homburg in Germany.

During the 1930s, the Conservative cabinet minister Anthony Eden (who served as British Prime Minister between 1955 and 1957) favoured a black homburg, resulting in the hat being known as an 'Anthony Eden'. It is also sometimes known as 'the godfather hat' because of its association with American gangster films.

Homburgs are generally black, grey or brown, so Nan King's cream homburg, as befitted her special status, was distinctively different.

Page 270. " 'It should be narcissi, I did not think of it' "
Narcissus poeticus
GNU Free Documentation LicenseNarcissus poeticus - Credit: Tigerente, Wikimedia Commons
 Narcissus is a genus of spring-flowering bulbs in the Amaryllis family; daffodils belong to this genus.


It is named after the figure from Greek mythology (see bookmark, p.132), as such flowers are said to have bloomed at the spot where Narcissus died; in particular, the species Narcissus poeticus is associated with the myth.


Diana is, of course, being facetious about the fact that Nan is besotted by her own reflection in the mirror.


Page 270. " the flowers were violets "

In the Victorian era, particular flowers or floral arrangements were used as a means of communicating feelings which could not, for various reasons, be put into words; this system of coded messages was known as the language of flowers, or floriography.

Not surprisingly, the Narcissus symbolised egotism, as well as formality, and the message: Stay as sweet as you are;

The blue violet symbolised watchfulness, faithfulness, and the message: I'll always be true; the white violet carried the coded message: Let's take a chance on happiness.

It would be interesting to know whether the violets given by Diana were white or blue!

Flowers meant to 'speak' were often presented in little posies or nosegays known as tussie-mussies.

Learn to speak the language of flowers here


'Violets' (1904)
Public Domain'Violets' (1904) - Credit: Henry Meynell Rheam


Page 270. " The Cavendish Ladies' Club it was called; and it was situated in Sackville Street. "

There does not appear to have been a ladies' club known as The Cavendish in London in the late 19th Century.

However, in Tipping the Velvet The Cavendish Ladies' Club is presented as a very discreet institution, as gay clubs of the period, for men or women, would no doubt have needed to be; it is now accepted that prejudice has prevented accurate documentation of many aspects of LGBT history

Sackville Street is situated off Piccadilly, not far from Jermyn Street, the site of a hotel known as The Cavendish.


Google Map
Page 273. " 'This is the new Callisto then, is it?' "

Jupiter in the guise of Diana and the nymph Callisto (1759)
Public DomainJupiter in the guise of Diana and the nymph Callisto (1759) - Credit: François Boucher
 Callisto, in Greek mythology, was a nymph of Artemis, the goddess of hunting.

Like all Artemis's nymphs, Callisto had taken a vow to remain a virgin, but she was raped by the god Zeus (disguised as Artemis) and became pregnant.

As a punishment, she was turned into a bear.

Nan King may be equated with Callisto in that she is the 'handmaid' of Diana Lethaby; in Roman mythology, Diana the huntress was the Roman equivalent of Artemis, and Jupiter was the equivalent of Zeus.

Page 274. " 'To both ends of the busk!' she said, and gave me a wink. "
This is how busk is defined in Francis Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue:

a piece of whalebone or ivory, formerly worn by women, to stiffen the forepart of their stays*, hence the toast - Both ends of the busk.


Page 275. " he plans to rename the estate New Lesbos "

As noted in bookmark, p.266, Lesbos was the island on which the Greek poetess, Sappho, was born.


Google Map


Page 275. " Was it some rookery, where you must sleep ten to a bed with your sisters? "
Commemorative plaque
Creative Commons AttributionCommemorative plaque - Credit: tpholland, Flickr


Rookery is slang for an overcrowded and squalid slum building or cluster of buildings.


Jacob's Island was a famous rookery that featured in Oliver Twist.