Whose Body?


page v

The nickname of Sayers's friend Muriel Jaeger.

Chapter I, page 7

page 7
"Oh, damn!"

The very first words spoken by Wimsey, and the first words of Whose Body?(WHOS). They are also Wimsey's last words in Busman's Honeymoon.

Bunter spoke with "that throttled stridency peculiar to well-trained persons using the telephone."

These days it's good form to speak in normal conversational tones. But Sandy Kozinn points out,

Watch some fairly early talkies and listen to the butlers on the phone. One did indeed have to shout somewhat to be heard; a butler would try to adopt a loud but not yelling tone. Phones have indeed improved since the 20's.

But have they? To judge from the sound of people talking on cell phones in restaurants and other public places, we seem to have regressed to a point at which the stridency is not even well throttled.

page 10
If Wimsey goes in wearing a top hat, Thipps might overlook his trousers and take him for the undertaker.

This fact opens the prospect of a whole essay on English formal clothing, which someone else should write. Meanwhile, Elisabeth Sumpter has contributed,

If it were morning (which it was) and Wimsey were dressed formally (which he was) he would be wearing striped trousers to go with the top hat. An undertaker would be wearing all black, all the time, regardless.

Chapter II, page 20

page 20
We both have got a body in the bath

To what tune is this sung? There have been several speculations, but the prize goes to Deborah, who hears it sung to the tune of Katisha's and Koko's duet in the second act of The Mikado, "There is beauty in the bellow of the blast". The phrase "in spite of all temptations" is another Gilbert and Sullivan allusion, the song "For He Is an Englishman" from HMS Pinafore.

Gin a body meet a body

"Gin a body meet a body, comin' through the rye" is well enough known -- words by Robert Burns. Parodied by James Clerk Maxwell as "Gin a body meet a body, flyin' through the air; gin a body meet a body, will it fly? And where?"

Hauled before a beak

Hauled before a judge, as several people took time to explain to me.

page 21
Sugg of the evening, beautiful Sugg.

This, of course, is "Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup" as sung by the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland. Which in turn, as Martin Gardner informs us, is from "Star of the Evening, Beautiful Star", a popular Victorian tune that the Liddell children knew well. Now if one only had the tune to that...

page 22
...than Adolf Beck, poor devil, was John Smith.

Perhaps the first of Wimsey's many annals-of-crime comments. Dian de Momerie was probably the first to point out that the case is covered at http://www.users.bigpond.com/burnside/adolf_beck.htm. Bevis Benneworth contributes a summary of the case:

In 1895 a con man, Adolph Beck, was accused of fraudulently relieving a woman of her jewelry. Inspector Frank Forest thought the crime bore a distinct similarity to the crimes of one John Smith recently released on licence from prison. Thinking that Beck and Smith might be the same man he organised an identity parade in which several of Smith's victims identified Beck as being Smith. Even the police constable who arrested Smith was convinced as to his dual identity. Beck insisted he had been in Peru at the time of the offences but was not believed by the judge who sentenced him to seven years in prison. The odd thing is that "John Smith" was a Jew and Adolph Beck was an uncircumcised gentile, so the proof was to hand (I don't mean that the way it looks!). In 1904 Beck was arrested again and Chief Inspector Kane of the Yard, who had always believed that there had been a mix up in the identification previously, finally managed to sort the whole mess out. Beck was eventually given a free pardon and compensation.

(Compare, however, the less cheerful ending of Burnside's relation of the story,)

page 23
like the lady in the "Ingoldsby Legends".

Donna Goldthwaite informs us,

"The Ingoldsby Legends" by Richard Barham (1788-1845). According to The Oxford Companion to English Literature, a series of poems and stories, originally published in Bentley's Miscellany and The New Monthly Magazine, consisting of 'comic and grotesque treatment of medieval legends' and 'quaint narratives.' Collected in at least two editions (from a very quick search of the 'net).
And, from Betty Haniotakis,
The Ingoldsby Legends, which were supposedly written in the medieval period and transcribed by a member of the Ingoldsby family, would have been present in any well-stocked Victorian library. My impression is that children read them much in the way that they go to horror movies today as they were full of stories of dragons and ghostly appearances and other strange occurrences. Who the lady is, I couldn't say.

page 26

An Anglo-Irish word meaning approximately "dear heart". The OED invites one to compare it to the Irish cuisle mo chroidne: my heart's pulse, my darling. Or, as Mr. O'Malley used to say, Cushlamochree!

Chapter III, page 33

page 33
... Scarlatti wants a harpsichord.

Wimsey's remark might surprise those who see Original Instruments as a late-20th-century fad. In fact, it was in Wimsey's time that the modern revival of old music began. (This is not to be confused with the preceding revival, in the time of Mendelssohn, who got it from Goethe's friend Zelter, whom we'll encounter in a later footnote; or the one before that, in which Baron van Swieten introduced Mozart to the counterpoint of J. S. Bach.) The comment shows Wimsey's high aesthetic sensibilities -- not to mention how much he was up to date. Scarlatti, by the way, is Domenico (1685-1757), not his father Alessandro.

page 35

Hard rubber, of which telephones were made at that time; or is this a misnomer for some other material, like Bakelite?

Sugg, how art thou Suggified.

BENVOLIO: Here comes Romeo, here comes Romeo.
MERCUTIO: Without his roe, like a dried herring: flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified!
--Romeo & Juliet, Act II scene iv

page 36
Sugg and a subordinate Cerberus

The latter is the 3-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades.

Lord Beaconsfield

Alias Benjamin Disraeli.

page 37
I never said anything about your keeping out of the public

Wimsey's little joke here is to pretend that Sugg's "keep out the public" was "keep out of the public"; i.e., keep out of the pub. He comments that abstention, or pussyfoot, is good in principle, if not exaggerated.

The golden mean, Sugg, keeps you from bein' a golden ass.

The golden mean of Aristotle (moderation and all that) is here linked oddly with the Golden Ass of Apuleius.

But it's not odd, on second thought: in place of teetotal abstention from alcohol, he suggests moderation, as recommended by Aristotle, and the golden mean leads easily, in the presence of Sugg, to the golden ass.

It would take a whole rose-garden to cure me

In Apuleius' tale, the golden ass is finally restored to human form after eating a garland of roses and being initiated into the cult of Isis.

You are my garden of Beautiful roses,
My own rose, my one rose, that's you!

Gaude has run down this song. It's a popular song from 1918, to which there's a passing reference in Gilbert Seldes' The Seven Lively Arts. A bit of the music is said to be at http://www.victrola.com/popular1.html

The whole paragraph, from keeping out of the public to my one rose, is a free association worthy of the Dowager Duchess, if more accurate than most of hers.

that old catamaran

What does the deaf old woman have to do with a twin-hulled boat? Nothing, apparently. In the OED the third sense of catamaran is a cross-grained or quarrelsome person, possibly by association with cat.

page 38
I believe you are related to my late cousin, the Bishop of Carisbrooke

Here we see the ugliness of class warfare, red in tooth and claw. Experts on the Social Order will please correct me if I've got this wrong, but Lord Peter Wimsey is not related to anyone of rank lower than a Duke: other people are related to him if they're fortunate. Everyone in the room surely knows this; in his next speech, His Lordship shows us what happens when you deliver a deliberate slight to the Eton-and-Balliol son of a Duke.

page 39
I thank the goodness and the grace...

I thank the goodness and the grace
which on my birth have smiled,
and made me, in these Christian days,
A happy Christian child.
-- Ann and Jane Taylor: A Child's Hymn of Praise.
Thanks to Lindley Roff for the attribution.

...arrive in a friend's car at the Dower House

What, had he smashed his latest Daimler (alias Mrs. Merdle)? Come to think of it, there is no account of his driving, so far as I can recall, until Unnatural Death -- while on stage, anyway

Lord Mountweazle points out that Wimsey was able to drive himself around during World War I, and chased Cranton after the emerald theft, as recounted in NINE. Perhaps, as Mountweazle suggests, he and Mrs. T had taken a train to Denver and had someone meet them at the station with a car.

page 41
Peagreen Incorruptible

A corruption of sea-green incorruptible, a phrase that (as Karen M Frederickson was the first to point out) was used by Carlyle to describe Robespierre. On diving into the "Sea" entry in the OED, one notes, first, that this is a remarkably important word in the English language, which is hardly news; second, that the usage is listed under sea-green, a pale blue-green color. How a shade of green is connected with incorruptibility was long a mystery to me, as green usually has quite the opposite association.

Finally, Mark Edgley-Smith has made it all clear: "Robespierre's complexion really was so pale as to appear greenish; or perhaps he used too much face-powder." He goes on to say, of a recent presentation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, "An actor called Ronan Vibert did a frightening job of bringing Robespierre to life: very, very dandified, icy cold, and poisonous as a snake. And ever so slightly green."

page 42
That funny-sounding meat they have with the slang-sounding name.

The Duchess seems to think that `kosher' sounds like Cockney slang; and so do I, now that she mentions it. It just somehow has that quality, no?

We're all Jews nowadays.

What does the Duchess mean? That people have ceased to take Christianity seriously? That they're too money-mad? (The book's stereotype, not mine.)

Here's a little-known point, thanks to Fiona Marsden: "The Royal family at some point last century or early this century came up with this genealogy that puts them as descended from David's line and it was quite fashionable to consider oneself descended from Biblical characters. I assumed the Duchess was referring to this in the 'all Jews' quotes." The more I look at this, the more sense it makes when filtered through the convoluted mind of the Dowager Duchess.

Lord Mountweazle calls attention to another reference: "Her Grace echoes King Edward VII's remarks in a speech at Mansion House on 5 November 1895 when he was Prince of Wales: 'We are all socialists nowadays.' The remark, as 'We are all Socialists now,' was first made by Sir William Harcourt (1827-1904) many years earlier." The Duchess surely is recalling that remark; the association of the two ideas is one of her characteristic conceptual puns.

page 43
Everybody Ishmaels together.

Thanks to Darling Bungie, I now understand this reference. She noted,

"Abraham's wife Sarah was old and had borne no children. She urged Abraham to have a child with Hagar, her maidservant. The son she bore was named Ishmael. When Sarah later bore a son named Isaac, she did not want Ishmael to inherit anything, so she had Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away into the desert. God, however, preserved and blessed Ishmael." -- When she was pregnant with Ishmael, Hagar was told by God: "You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers." (Ishmael means "God hears.")
See http://bible.gospelcom.net/bible?genesis+16:1-16
So: in the City everyone's hand is against everyone, and they live in hostility towards all their brothers. That's what the Duchess means. The Duchess, by the way, it not showing any sort of anti-Semitic attitude here. The moment she has said it, she realizes that it would be unintentionally offensive to Sir Reuben as a proper Hebrew and not an Ishmaelite.

Chapter IV, page 45

page 53
...irradiated with almost a dim, religious light

And storied windows richly dight
Casting a dim, religious light
--Milton, "Il Penseroso"

page 55
There was an old man of Whitehaven

by Edward Lear.

page 58
No side.

No pretensions, no arrogance or pomposity.

Chapter V, page 65

page 69
keeps on sayin' nuthin' -- got the Tarbaby in his family tree

"Brer Rabbit keep on axin' 'im, en de Tar-Baby, she keep on sayin' nothin'..." from the Uncle Remus tale by Joel Chandler Harris at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG97/remus/tar-baby.html. Lord Peter may be making a pun here: the Tarbaby in the family tree can also mean a trace of African ancestry. But there's no apparent reason to attribute this to Scoot, the red-headed secretary.

page 74
A man-of-infinite-resource-and-sagacity

The English classic that Wimsey alludes to is "How the Whale Got His Throat". (Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling)

page 79
...the works of the late Charles Garvice.

Author, 1833-1920. American, I assume. Works include His Guardian Angel, The Coronet of Shame, Stella's Fortune, or, Love the Conqueror, and many others. The nature of the novels can, I suppose, be inferred from the titles and the from presence of His Guardian Angel in the Duke University dime novels collection. His work has not only been translated into Marathi, a language of India, but made into a movie, De Kroone der Schande (Netherlands, 1918). Sic transit gloria mundi.

page 80
He's tough, sir, tough, is old Joey Bagstock, tough and devilish sly.

"...but he's hard-hearted, Sir, is Joe - he's tough, Sir, tough, and de-vilish sly"
--Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son, Major Dombey talking of himself. As to Wimsey's odd comment that he is "quoting poetry", Elisabeth Sumpter contributes this gem:

Because he has just quoted this in front of the groom/valet/whatever [a waiter, in fact], who will think he is referring to the gentleman under discussion [Mr. Crimplesham] and wants to allay any possible suspicions or distrust. If he says "I'm quoting Charles Dickens" and the g/v/w says "Who dat?" (not that he would, but he would think it) and Peter says "A prolific author and social reformer who was raised in the Marshalsea" then that would really dish him in the eyes of the g/v/w who wants his gentry to be gentry and do understandable things, or at least familiarly strange things, like quote poetry that seems to mean nothing, and follow it up with money.

page 81
the aged spider sitting invisible in the centre of the vibrating web

He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson... He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.
--"The Final Problem"

...you may take such steps as your perspicuity may suggest.

PerspicUity? Surely Bunter's ability to express himself clearly is less likely to originate ideas for effective action than his ability to see clearly through the surface of things, or perspicACity. This is not, as I once suspected, another Avon misprint; it is the same in the first edition, both the American version, which came out first, and the English, in which she intended (letter of 5 June 1923) to correct various misprints.

As with a mention of Professor MoriarIty in UNPL, this lacks context to make it a witty deliberate error. The OED finds this usage, which it marks as Improper, as early as 1625 and in Dickens's Our Mutual Friend. (But what do you expect of a writer who'd use a phrase like "mutual friend"?) It seems an odd error in the almost repellently well-educated Lord Peter, or in his creatrix.

Chapter VI, page 86

page 86
...with the influenza about again an unventilated room was a death trap

Opening all the windows to let in a drizzling fog is a funny way of preserving everyone's health. On the other hand, consider the madly inadequate ventilation in 1990s passenger airplanes (one-third, I believe, of the amount required by law in American prisons) and the worries that it spreads contagion. There may be a golden mean somewhere around here, if we could just show it to the golden asses at the airlines.

page 106
Sie haben sich so weit darin eingeheimnisst...

The quote is from Goethe, writing to the musician Zelter, with whom he had a long correspondence. (I don't recall where this datum comes from, but it's on some good authority.) There was some debate on how it should be translated, but no one has yet come up with the full quote in context, to help determine the exact sense of it. Meanwhile, my best attempt is something like "They've buried themselves so deeply in their own secrets..." Thanks to Greg Lutz, Gudrun Schwarz, and others for the light cast on this so far.

The LPWC has "They have involved themselves most deeply in self-deception" which has met with approval from those with a proper knowledge of German.

(I may say, a couple of years later, that we are no closer to finding the original. I have (or my wife, who actually knows some German, has) drawn on the resources of the library at the University of California, as well as the San Francisco branch of the Goethe Institute, to no avail. I have gone through a fairly large volume of Goethe's correspondence in English translation, looking for a letter to Zelter containing anything that may be the English version of this line, which would give us a pointer to finding the German original. I have even shuffled through a volume of selections from the Goethe-Zelter correspondence in German; although my knowledge of German does not quite come up to the standard of "minimal", I'm pretty confident that it was not there. A few times I felt I was getting warm, when Goethe was railing against various fools; this happened mainly in connection with his response to critics of the Farbenlehre (his theory of colors), which I commend to the attention of anyone who tries to pursue the question. But no luck.)

Sludge the medium

The eponymous subject of a long poem by Robert Browning in which Sludge, having been caught cheating, defends himself and convinces at least one hearer: himself.

Chapter VII, page 110

page 110
Lethargic encephalitis

This is happening during a worldwide outbreak of sleeping sickness (about 1916-1927) that later would give rise to the events Oliver Sacks related in Awakenings. A rather frightening and inexplicable disease that would be much on people's minds.

page 111
vurry pleased to meet you

Does anyone perceive Milligan's accent as realistic? Can anyone but John Cleese do an American accent so well as to make an actual American uncomfortable? Still, there have been lots of Americans (Jack Dempsey was one) who said Amurrican or Amurrcan.

that game one used to play with cards

This appears to be the game called Pit, as [sorry, I need to look it up] points out.

page 115
The man who drowned three brides

George Joseph Smith, mentioned by name in a later chapter. Notorious case from several years before the story. He had the bad habit of marrying women who had a bit of money, insuring their lives, and drowning them in the bathtub.

page 118
Conybeare and Robertson and Drews and all

Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare (1856 - 1924); Archibald Robertson (1853 - 1931); Arthur Drews (1865 - 1935). According to the notes to Creed or Chaos? by John Barger, Conybeare wrote a revisionist book on the origins of Christianity, Myth, Magic, and Morals; Robertson was in the "Broad Church" tradition, which objected to positive definition in theology. It would be interesting to hear more about these gentlemen.

H T Carmichael writes, "F. J. Conybeare wrote a defense of the historicity of Jesus Christ, in which he denounced the writings of John M. Robertson (1856- 1933) and Arthur Drews (1865-1935), both of whom were anti-Christian writers."

page 120
... this playing-fields-of-Eton complex

The Duke of Wellington is supposed to have said that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. Some people (e.g. Bergen Evans) have cast doubt on this: Old School Ties and building men through team sports were distinctly a 19th-century craze. Bartlett has no better citation for the quote than Sir William Fraser's "Words on Wellington" from 1889. Note that Wellington had been dead 50-some years by then. Note also that the words are on and not of Wellington.

page 122
David dancing before the ark of the Lord

And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings.
And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.
--II Samuel 6:13-14

Chapter VIII, page 125

page 125
Where Alph the sacred river ran...

Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A fantastic poem that remains incomplete because while Coleridge was writing down his dream, a man from Porlock showed up for no particular reason and jawed at him till the rest of the poem had been driven from his mind. (The full story of the man from Porlock can be found in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, in which he also explains [spoiler deleted] which is slightly relevant here.)

Thanks to Dorothy Willis for making me get the title right. The text can be found at http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/stc/Coleridge/poems/Kubla_Khan.html with notes that include the author's own account of the man from Porlock.

page 126
Physiological Bases of the Conscience

Doctors can be sinister characters in DLS stories. Too much power to play God, perhaps. Not to mention a large supply of real-life murder cases that she cites frequently. And when you get a doctor who's also an American -- well, see the "Incredible Elopement". A reader of Wimsey may get a feeling of dejà vu when reading the views expressed by Dr. Kevorkian on the desirability of turning off worn-out human machines. (A comment not on politics or ethics, but on a psychology that reminds us that DLS wasn't just kidding.)

page 129
Credo quia impossibile.

I believe because it is impossible. Tertullian (160? - 240?), early Christian writer. The correct quote seems to be "Certum est, quia impossibile est": It is certain because it is impossible.


Knight Commander of the Bath, a very high honor conferred by the sovereign.


Fellow of the Royal College of [Physicians, Surgeons]


Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. Thanks to Mrs. Merdle and Burke's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage, 1928

page 130
They're mining us

Lord Peter imagines that he hears German sappers digging a tunnel under no-man's land to place an explosive charge under the British trenches. When this is set off, it makes a shambles of the front-line defenses, and a coordinated charge by infantry will take a great deal of ground. Sari Polvinen has informed us that "The Allies used this technique with great success at The Battle of the Messines, where 19 mines were exploded under German lines on 7 June 1917, and the enemy positions taken with relatively few casualties."

Of course, blowing up the trenches will bury a number of men alive: an experience that Lord Peter knows at first hand.

page 131
our own sappers at work in the communication trench

Sergeant Bunter assures the delirious Major Wimsey that the digging sounds -- so hard to make out with the din of guns or traffic or whatever -- are made by British sappers working on the covered trenches, perpendicular to the front, that connect the main trenches.

Chapter IX, page 132

page 132
noise like a police rattle

Before the whistle came into fashion, the device for sounding an alert was a rattle of a type still used as a New Year's noisemaker, described in a quote found by Nutrax: "Watchman's rattle, an instrument having at the end of a handle a revolving arm, which, by the action of a strong spring upon cogs, produces, when in motion, a loud, harsh, rattling sound." Picture, also found by Nutrax, at http://www.provalue.net/wood/MISC..htm, rattle in the upper left picture. This is the type of rattle that caused contention between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

page 136
...he smoked a cigar with it.

The cigars and port appear, I believe, three times, the others being in UNPL and FING.

page 140
(He chuckled ... He went on:)

It is pleasant to encounter a smiley, of the abbreviated form, in so early a context. :-) -- or more succinctly, :)

I have, regrettably, mislaid the chapter and verse of the smiley in the Bible (Authorized Version).

page 142
Professor Moriarty ... Leon Kestrel

Moriarty I will not explain here. Leon Kestrel is an arch-villain in the Sexton Blake stories (at least one of them). Good Decent Demons in Corduroy identified him as "Leon Kestrel, the 'Master Mummer'", whose skill at disguise was such that no living person knew his real features, and who successfully impersonated Blake for a time; see http://ratmmjess.topcities.com/blake.html

Chapter X, page 144

page 145
a funny way of talking about books, as if the author had confided in him...

DLS had recently run into, and emulated, some impressive work in literary analysis. Some day I'll find the reference I saw recently, probably in her letters.

page 147
half-a-crown to sixpence

Five-to-one odds, a half-crown being (before decimalization) two shillings and sixpence.

page 151
...like Socrates' slave.

The reference is to a dialogue of Plato, the Meno, in which Meno's slave (not Socrates') is induced via Socratic questioning to derive the Pythagorean theorem from first principles. The intent is to prove that we are born knowing things and merely need to remember them. The effect upon many young undergraduates, and many old graduates, has been to generate scorn for a dialogue that consists of leading questions on one side and "Yes, Socrates" "No, Socrates" on the other. (This is a regrettable distraction from Plato's serious question of the nature of knowledge, but arguably Plato's fault for not taking lessons from Sayers in constructing believable dialogue.)

The Last Days of Pompeii

Historical novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). This is considered B-W's best work; but his most famous is the opening of Paul Clifford: "It was a dark and stormy night..." This has given rise to the annual Bulwer-Lytton contest for the worst opening sentence for a (hypothetical) bad novel. In case those words sound like a potentially good opening (were they not by now a cliché), I reproduce the opening sentence in full:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents -- except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.


Dean, darling provides the information:

George Alfred Henty (1832-1902) wrote 99 novels of English and world history, exploration, and fine muscular, manly Christianity. He is apparently experiencing something of a renaissance these days; the 99 books have recently been collected on CD-ROMs, about which you may read more at http://www.henty.com; for a whiff of his appeal, check out http://www.qylm.com/henty/henty_story.html; and then, for a sense of the muscular, manly audience to whom he appeals, go back to the site's homepage http://www.qylm.com.

page 152
and play us the Beggar's Opera or something.

The Beggar's Opera, by John Gay (1685 - 1732) was a sort of mock opera based on recycled popular tunes, with an unedifying setting and plot among London's low-lifes. When produced in 1728, it was an immediate success and brought on a fashion for ballad-operas that made it nearly impossible to produce new conventional operas; Handel resorted at this time to dramatic oratorios, which were much the same as his operas but without the elaborate and expensive staging.

Parker's reference is less obscure than it may seem. The Beggar's Opera remained popular and was produced repeatedly, except when it was considered too naughty during Victorian and Edwardian times. There was a notable production at Hammersmith in 1920.

Its post-WHOS history includes a free adaptation by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill in 1928 as Die Dreigroschenoper, The Threepenny Opera. One of Weill's songs, "The Ballad of Mack the Knife", was a considerable hit in America when Louis Armstrong recorded it in the 1950s. (Also, a bit later, Bobby Darin or somebody.) It was banned by some radio stations on the grounds that it glorified violence and encouraged juvenile delinquency. Yes, the 50s were different.

page 154
Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.

John 20:29

page 155
Reg. v. Palmer

Regina [Queen] versus Palmer: any criminal prosecution was carried out in the name of the sovereign, at that time Queen Victoria.

page 156
Edmond de la Pommerais ... George Joseph Smith

Smith we have noted already. LPWC explains that Pommerais, a French physician, murdered his mother-in-law and his former mistress in the 1860s. He persuaded the latter to fake an illness in order to collect an insurance settlement, and to write a letter describing her phony problems; after which he poisoned her with digitalis.

Chapter XI, page 160

page 160
a family which had never shot a fox

The good Lord made foxes so that the gentry could put on red clothes and ride horses across the countryside, following the hounds that follow the fox and eventually run it down and shred it. To damage this sport by shooting a fox is unthinkable among the right sort of country families.

Dian de Momerie notes, though,

Although in context I think the reference is to the alleged sportingness of hunting a fox (thus giving it a 'sporting chance') and shooting it. Peter is trying to give Freke the chance of, perhaps not escape, but taking the honourable way out. The fact that being tried and hanged is more like being hunted and torn to be, and suicide is more like being more painlessly shot, may only be an irony to anti-hunt types like me...

page 162
Ah, monsieur, c'est un saint...

How to handle a bunch of mostly simple French, mixed into English conversation? Well, here goes:

The lady says of her and her daughter's sufferings that one learns not to think about it, and that when one is young, it all makes too strong an impression. After W says that Freke is a precious man, she says "He's a saint who works miracles. We pray for him every day, Natasha and I. Don't we, dear?" ... "and yet we're well born -- but alas, in Russia, as you know, sir, that just gets you insults -- atrocities." ... "He says-- ... I cure her for nothing--for her beautiful eyes, he added, joking. Ah, sir, he is a genuine saint."

Chapter XII, page 170

page 170
The dim people moving in front of you were like Brocken spectres.

Standing on a hill, with your shadow cast on a thick fog directly below, you get a very weird pyramidal shadow with impossibly long arms. This spooky phenomenon is often seen at Brocken in the Hartz Mountains of Germany. For an illustration, see figure 1.7 in Color and Light in Nature, by David Lynch and William Livingston, Cambridge University Press, 1995.

page 171
not to catch your elbow in the flex

In the electric cord.

page 175

Presumably Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750) and not one of his 20 children or dozens of relatives who made Bach almost a synonym for musician in Germany around 1700.

While there are a number of songs in WHOS, the three serious or "classical" composers all date from the 18th century; and they're not your avant-garde composers like Mozart.

Here's an oddity: Everyone knows that Bach and Scarlatti were born in the same year, 1685; but John Gay of The Beggar's Opera also was born in that year. Coincidence? Or was DLS up to something? I suppose that if she were, she'd have worked in a reference to Handel (1685-1759).


Parker's light reading is Origen (185? - 254?), early Christian scholar who did much to reconcile Christian thought with Greek, including neo-Platonism.

Chapter XIII, page 176

page 176
Henry Wainwright

See http://www.microwaredata.co.uk/murder-uk/bookhtml_w/wainwright_h00.html By the way, that looks like a pretty comprehensive source.

page 178
Michael Finsbury in Stevenson's entertaining romance

This, as Dian de Momerie was the first to point out, is The wrong Box, by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne.

page 179
the Mansion House

The traditional home of the Lord Mayor of London, located in the City of London (i.e., the financial district) opposite the Bank of England. Built in 1739-53 by George Dance the Elder. Thanks to Laura Wallace and Katharine Mills for information on it.

page 180
...heap coals of fire

Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
--Romans 12:20. St. Paul got it from Proverbs 25:21-22.

page 185
...that well-thought-out little work of Mr. Bentley's

Trent's Last Case by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (thanks to Elisabeth Sumpter for setting me straight here), creator of the clerihew, possibly the only verse form named after someone's middle name. An example, later cited by Wimsey, is

What I like about Clive
Is that he is no longer alive.
There is a great deal to be said
For being dead.
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