Page 201. " because Ulysses told a set of foolish lies to the Phaecians "
Odysseus and Nausicaa
Public DomainOdysseus and Nausicaa - Credit: Pieter Lastman, 1619

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus's (Ulysses) raft is torn apart by storms and he washes up naked on Scheria, the country of the Phaeacians.  The Phaeacians are blessed and god-like people. Their remarkable ships are imbued with intelligence and are able to navigate themselves anywhere, and travel to ‘the furthest of any place’ and back on the same day.

The goddess Athena contrives to get Princess Nausicaa, the daughter of King Alcinous, to go to the seashore where she meets the shipwrecked Odysseus and directs him to her father’s palace.  Odysseus tells King Alcinous and his court the story of his adventures since the Trojan War.  They are deeply moved by his experiences, and provide him with a swift transport home to Ithaca, thus ending his 20-year odyssey.


The Odyssey on Book Drum

Page 201. " I wish Polypheme had confined himself to his milk diet "
Odysseus in the Cave of Polyphemus
Public DomainOdysseus in the Cave of Polyphemus - Credit: Jakob Jordaens, 17th Century

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus lands on the Island of the Cyclopes during his journey home from the Trojan War.  The Cyclopes were giants who lived in caves and kept sheep and goats for their milk and cheese.

Odysseus and his men enter the cave of the cyclopes Polyphemus. When the latter returns from the fields and finds the men in his cave, he traps them there, and over the next few days eats six of them.  Odysseus and his remaining men manage to escape Polyphemus, by driving a burning stake into his eye and blinding him. 

Unfortunately for Odysseus, Polyphemus asks his father Poseidon for help exacting revenge.  The latter sends storms and contrary winds down on Odysseus as he sails for home, making his journey considerably more treacherous. 

Page 201. " when his companions were turned into swine by Circe "

Public DomainCirce - Credit: Wright Barker, 1889
Circe was the daughter of the sun, described in Homer’s Odyssey as ‘the loveliest of all immortals.’  She was a powerful sorceress, who used her arts to turn people into animals. When Odysseus and his companions arrive at the Eaean isle, they find that the only sign of habitation is right in the centre of the island, in an area surrounded by trees.  Odysseus sends half his crew, under the command of Eurylochus, to investigate.  They find a palace surrounded by wolves, lions and tigers – all of whom used to be men.  They are lured inside by Circe, who wines and dines them, and then turns them all into swine. Eurylochus alone escapes, and returns to Odysseus to tell him the tale.  Odysseus resolves to confront Circe and rescue his men.  He receives assistance from Mercury, who provides him with a protection against Circe’s magic.  Odysseus successfully resists Circe’s spell, and demands that she restore his men to human form. She consents, and Odysseus and his men sail forth once again, with valuable advice from Circe about how to resist the sirens’ call – the next peril they will face on their journey. 

Page 202. " Such was the successless armament of Xerxes, described by Herodotus "

Xerxes I
Public DomainXerxes I - Credit: Guillaume Rouille (1518?-1589)
Xerxes I of Persia, also known as Xerxes the Great (519 BC-465 BC), was the fourth king of the Achaemenid Empire. In 480 BC he led an attack on the Greek mainland.  His army has been estimated at about a million men, with 10,000 elite warriors named the Persian Immortals.  He captured Sparta and Athens.  It is not clear whether he purposefully burned Athens to the ground, or whether the fire was started by accident, or even purposefully, by the fleeing citizens. 

Despite these military successes, trouble was brewing at home, and Xerxes was forced to return with his army to prevent a revolt in Babylon.  The army he left behind in Greece was attacked and defeated, and the Persians were forced to retreat.

Page 202. " the successful expedition of Alexander related by Arran "

Lucius Flavius Arrianus 'Xenophon' (ca. AD 86 - 160), known in English as Arrian, was an historian, public servant, military commander and philosopher in 2nd century Rome.  Anabasis of Alexander is his best known work, generally considered one of the best sources on the campaigns of Alexander the Great.  Arrian was able to use sources which are now mostly lost, including contemporary works by authors such as Callisthenes, the nephew of Alexander's tutor Aristotle.  Arrian also had the biography of Alexander by Ptolemy, one of Alexander's leading generals and allegedly his half-brother.

Page 202. " the victory of Agincourt obtained by Harry the Fifth "

Morning of the Battle of Agincourt, 25 October 1415
Public DomainMorning of the Battle of Agincourt, 25 October 1415 - Credit: Sir John Gilbert, 1884
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years’ War.  The battle took place on 25 October 1415, near modern-day Azincourt in northern France.  Henry V led his men into battle and participated in hand-to-hand fighting. The French king, Charles VI, was rather more distant from the battlefield - he suffered severe illness and moderate mental incapacitation.  The English longbow played a key part in the battle – English and Welsh archers formed a large component of Henry’s army. 

Page 202. " that of Narva won by Charles the Twelfth of Sweden "
Battle of Narva 1700
Public DomainBattle of Narva 1700 - Credit: Alexander von Kotzebue

In late 1700, an alliance comprising Russia, Denmark-Norway, and Poland-Lithuania, simultaneously attacked Sweden from several directions.  Charles XII of Sweden, assisted by the Dutch Navy, won an early victory against Denmark-Norway, forcing them out of the alliance.  During November, Russian troops surrounded and laid siege to the Swedish city of Narva, in Estonia.  On 19 November Charles XII positioned his 8,000 men opposite the besieging Russian army of about 33,000 troops. While the Swedish army was commanded personally by Charles XII, Peter the Great of Russia had left Narva days before to return to Russia.  For much of the day, a blizzard engulfed both armies, making attacks impossible. However, at midday, the winds changed and the snowstorm blew directly into the eyes of the Russians. Charles advanced on the Russian army under cover of the weather, broke through the Russian lines, and rounded them up.  A bridge over the Narova river collapsed under retreating Russian troops. That and the resulting stampede led to losses of 6,000 to 18,000 Russians. The remaining troops surrendered.

Page 202. " that memorable story of the ghost of George Villiers "

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Public DomainGeorge Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham - Credit: Peter Paul Rubens
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592 - 1628) was the favourite, and some claim the lover, of King James I of England.  He was introduced to the King in 1614.  James referred to Villiers as his ‘sweet child and wife,’ lavishing him with affection and rewards, and Villiers reciprocated the King's love.  James knighted him in 1615, and thereafter he rose rapidly through the peerage, becoming Duke of Buckingham in 1623, at that time the highest-ranking subject outside the royal family.  Villiers orchestrated a number of military campaigns, none of which went particularly well.  In 1628 he was assassinated by John Felton, an army officer who had been wounded in one of Villiers’ military forays, and then passed over for promotion.  Felton stabbed Villiers to death at the Greyhound Pub in Portsmouth. 

Various tales circulated in the period after Villiers’ murder, that his father, Sir George Villiers, had appeared to an old servant of his, and warned him that Buckingham would be murdered.  The ghost apparently appeared several times to this servant, warning that the Duke would be stabbed to death.  While the Duke was probably informed of the ghost’s warning, it did nothing to prevent his murder. 

Page 202. " to have kept the ghost of Mrs. Veale company "

The Grim Reaper
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Grim Reaper - Credit: Trish Steel
The ghost of Mrs Veale was immortalized by Daniel Defoe in a pamphlet titled A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal the Next Day after her Death to One Mrs. Bargrave at Canterbury the 8th of September, 1705.  The pamphlet deals with interaction between the spiritual realm and the physical realm. It was written in support of Charles Drelincourt’s The Christian Defense against the Fears of Death: with seasonable directions how to prepare ourselves to die well (1651).

Page 202. " Thus a Trajan and an Antoninus, a Nero and a Caligula "

These titles refer to four Roman Emperors. History records that two of them were great and wise, and two were cruel and self-indulgent.  

Trajan was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD, best known for his extensive public building program which reshaped the city of Rome.  He annexed several countries and expanded the Roman Empire to its greatest territorial extent.  Every new emperor after him was honored by the Senate with the wish felicior Augusto, melior Traiano ("luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan").

Antoninus Pius was Emperor from 138 to 161 AD. He built temples, theaters, and mausoleums, promoted the arts and sciences, and bestowed honours and financial rewards upon the teachers of rhetoric and philosophy.  His reign was the most peaceful during the first period of the Roman Empire (27BC to 284 AD). 


Nero was Emperor from 54 to 68 AD. He focused his attention on diplomacy, trade, and enhancing the cultural life of the Empire. But his rule is often associated with tyranny and extravagance.  He ordered many executions, including his mother’s, and possibly his stepbrothers, and had Christians captured and killed in various imaginative ways.  He famously ‘fiddled’ while most of Rome was destroyed in a great fire, which many Romans believed Nero himself had started in order to clear land for his planned palace complex.  In 68, rebellions in Gaul and Hispania drove him from the throne. Facing assassination, he committed suicide. 

Caligula was Emperor from 37 to 41 AD. He is described as a noble and moderate ruler during the first two years of his rule. After this, he seems to have descended into cruelty, extravagance, and sexual perversity. During his brief reign, he worked to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor.  He was assassinated in 41 AD, as part of a conspiracy involving officers of the Praetorian Guard and members of the Roman Senate. 

Page 202. " in his 5th chapter of the Bathos "
Alexander Pope
Public DomainAlexander Pope - Credit: Jean-Baptiste van Loo c.1742

Bathos is an abrupt transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect. The term was introduced by Alexander Pope in his essay Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry (1727).  While contemporary writers had detailed the ways in which poetry could ascend or be awe-inspiring, Pope offered a long discussion of how authors might ‘sink’ in poetry.  The work described various methods for writing poorly, but the one that is best remembered is the act of combining very serious matters with very trivial ones i.e. bathos. 

Pope offered as an example Master of a Show in Smithfield, who wrote in large Letters, over the Picture of his Elephant:

"This is the greatest Elephant in the World, except Himself."

Page 217. " brother to the great preacher Whitefield "

George Whitefield preaching
Public DomainGeorge Whitefield preaching - Credit: Joseph Belcher
George Whitefield (1714- 1770) was an English Anglican priest and a founder of Methodism, and the evangelical movement more broadly.  He became one of the best-known preachers in Britain and America in the 18th century.  He traveled throughout the American colonies.  In both England and America he favoured open-air preaching, and drew great crowds.  Travelling across North America in 1740, he preached a series of revivals that came to be known as the Great Awakening of 1740, addressing large crowds of sometimes several thousand people, nearly every day for several months.  He was known for his charisma, and it is reported that his voice could be heard over five miles.  He used print media to great advantage, sending advance men to put up posters and distribute handbills announcing his sermons, and publishing his sermons and distributing them widely. 

Page 220. " Milton, who hath certainly excelled all other poets in his description of the heavenly luminaries "

Paradise Lost, John Milton’s epic poem, describes the moon and stars as ‘bright luminaries:’

The night sky, and some heavenly luminaries
Creative Commons AttributionThe night sky, and some heavenly luminaries - Credit: George Groutas
Till night; then in the east her turn she shines,

Revolved on Heaven's great axle, and her reign

With thousand lesser lights dividual holds,

With thousand thousand stars, that then appeared

Spangling the hemisphere: Then first adorned

With their bright luminaries that set and rose,

Glad evening and glad morn crowned the fourth day

(Book 7)

The poem was originally published in 1667 in ten books.  It concerns the Biblical story of the Fall of Man, which followed Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. 

Page 222. " though Briareus himself was to rise again with his hundred thumbs "

Enter password
Public DomainEnter password - Credit: Zlatko Vasic
Briareus, also called Aegaeon, in Greek mythology, is one of three 100-armed, 50-headed Hecatoncheires (from the Greek words for “hundred” and “hands”), the sons of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth).   The Hecatoncheires may have represented the gigantic forces of nature, manifested in earthquakes and other seismic events, or the motion of ocean waves.

Page 222. " like Ward's pill, flies at once to that particular part of the body on which you desire to operate "

Joshua Ward
Public DomainJoshua Ward - Credit: Carlini
Joshua Ward was an English quack in the 1700s. His famous Ward’s Pill and Ward’s Drop comprised balsam and antimony, a toxin which produced violent sweating and other symptoms. At the time, this was perceived to be a good thing.  Ward claimed that his products could cure everything from cancer and gout to scurvy and syphilis. 

He made a great deal of money from his dubious cures, which were sought after among London’s high society.  His most famous patients included King George II and Horace Walpole. 

Ward was extremely generous with the fortune he made from his ‘medicines.’  He bought three houses in Pimlico and converted them into a hospital for his poor patients.  Large crowds resorted to him daily, and it became the habit of many ladies of fashion to sit before his doors distributing his medicine to all comers.

He was however devoid of any medical learning, and his pill and drop remedies quite likely killed as many as they cured. Nonetheless, when the 1748 apothecaries act was introduced into parliament to restrain unlicensed persons from compounding medicines, a clause was inserted specially exempting Ward by name from the restrictions imposed.


Page 224. " that picture drawn by Otway in his Orphan "

Elizabeth Barry
Public DomainElizabeth Barry - Credit: Godfrey Kneller
The Orphan, or The Unhappy Marriage is a domestic tragedy written by Thomas Otway in 1680. It has been suggested that the play was inspired by Otway’s unrequited love for his leading actress, Mrs Elizabeth Barry.

Page 224. " if this woman had lived in the reign of James the First, her appearance alone would have hanged her "

James VI, King of Scots (1566 - 1625) subsequently James I King of England and Ireland, was a vehement witch hunter.

This passion appears to have arisen from an unfortunate period of bad weather, which forced the fleet of ships carrying James’ new bride, Princess Anne, from Copenhagen to Scotland, to shelter in Norway for several weeks.  The storm was blamed on witchcraft.  More than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick, Scotland, were arrested.  Many confessed under torture to having met with the Devil and devoted themselves to doing evil against the King. 

The North Berwick witch trial was the first major persecution of witches in Scotland under the Witchcraft Act 1563.  James was actively involved in the trial, and personally supervised the torture of women accused of being witches.

In 1597 he wrote the Daemonologie, a tract opposing the practice of witchcraft and endorsing witch hunting. 

Some historians have indicated that as many as 3,000 to 4,000 accused witches may have been killed in Scotland in the years 1560-1707.