Page 27. " its many spires "

Oxford is sometimes referred to as the “city of dreaming spires.” This phrase, referring to the many architectural spires that fill the city’s skyline, was penned by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), a poet and former student of Balliol College.


Arnold, who later became a fellow of Oriel College, was the son of Thomas Arnold (1795-1842), the famed headmaster of Rugby School, fictionalized in the classic novel, Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857) by Thomas Hughes (1822-1896).


Interestingly, Hughes, who studied at Rugby School and Oriel College, Oxford, followed that novel with the less well known Tom Brown at Oxford (1861).




Page 28. " reading the same school "
“Reading” means studying; “school” refers to the subject of study.
Page 29. " Aristotle’s Politics "

The Greek philospher Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) was a student of Plato (c.427 BC – c.347 BC). Both men, along with Plato’s teacher Socrates (c.469 BC – 399 BC), are considered to be founding fathers of Western philosphy.


As teacher of Alexander the Great (356 BC – 323 BC), Aristotle directly shaped the mind of one of the foremost figures of history, and his works continue to influence modern thinking. Aristotle addressed the individual in his many works on the subject of ethics, and he addressed the city, which he considered to be a natural community, in his work Politics.

Page 31. " Last night’s nymph had become the Madonna of this morning. "

Nymphs, creatures from classical mythology, were often objects of great sexual desire, spirits with complete sexual freedom. The term nymphomania was inspired by the sexual behaviour of nymphs.


Thought to inhabit natural features such as springs and trees, they were free of the restrictions of chastity and were known for their playful dancing and singing. Perhaps thanks to their natural environment, nymphs came to be associated with lax morality.


By contrast, the ‘Madonna,’ also known as the Virgin Mary or the Virgin Mother, is the epitome of purity and the embodiment of a flawless female. Christian belief asserts that the Madonna was so sinless that she was the only human to ascend directly to Heaven.

Page 39. " My town-residence is in St. James’s Square "

St. James's Square in London
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSt. James's Square in London - Credit: David Iliff


St. James’s Square in London is located in the City of Westminster. It is a beautiful and exclusive residential area.


Page 39. " Juno’s chariot "
The ancient Roman goddess Juno drove a chariot pulled by lions.


Daughter of Saturn, she was both sister and wife of the king of the gods, Jupiter. She was also the mother of Mars and Vulcan.


Her role as a goddess is somewhat disputed, but protection of the state seems to be generally regarded as important.

Page 40. " At Tankerton there is a model farm which would at any rate amuse you "

Such model farms were particularly popular as the lavish playgrounds of French aristocratic women. The most famous was that of Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), which still exists within the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. The French queen's model farm community is known as the Hameau de la Reine.


Page 40. " the news of the Battle of Waterloo "

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 between the Armée du Nord of the French Emperor Napolean Bonaparte (1769-1821) and a coalition army under the British military chief, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852).


Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, located in present-day Belgium, raised the Irish-born soldier to legendary prominence. His pivotal military successes, his later political career, and his long lifespan all combined to make the Duke of Wellington an iconic figure.


Page 50. " But Oxford never pretended to be strong in mathematics "

Traditionally, Oxford University is thought to be stronger in the humanities, while its rival, Cambridge University, is considered to be the superior in mathematics and science.


The University of Cambridge boasts an especially impressive tradition in mathematics. The mathematical awards won by the university’s academics have included 8 Fields Medals, the International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics, and 2 Abel Prizes, awarded to outstanding mathematicians by the King of Norway since 2003.


William Oughtred (1574-1660), John Wallis (1616-1703), Augustus De Morgan (1806-1807), Godfrey Harold Hardy (1877-1947), and John Edensor Littlewood (1885-1977) are among the influential and renowned mathematicians to have studied at Cambridge University.