The Image in the Mirror

The page numbers are from “Lord Peter” published by Harper & Row. The excerpts are copyrighted 1972 by Harper & Row.

280 ~ explaining myself to the R.T.O.
R.T.O.: The Route Transportation Officer, whose job it was to monitor the traffic and make sure the soldiers get where they’re supposed to go.

281 ~ in the C.C.S. at Ypres
C.C.S.: The Casualty Clearing Station, where the wounded was taken to be assessed medically and sent on down the line.

284 ~ “The Student of Prague”
A silent horror movie, released in 1913, a turn on the Faust tale, in which Balduin sells his soul to the devil to win the love of a countess far above his station. Sayers is clever in tucking in this reference, because when the mysterious Scapinelli convinces Balduin to sign the contract, Scapinelli takes his image from the mirror. He turns this image into a doppelganger, who in turns wreaks havoc on the town. The movie is available on DVD. There is also a 1926 remake available.

285 ~ Dr. Caligari
A reference to “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” (1920) a silent horror movie from Germany. It tells the story of Dr. Caligari, a fairground showman who hypnotizes an innocent villager and turns him into a sleepwalking “zombie” and compels him to carry out fiendish murders. The movie was noted for its heavily stylized sets — heavily influenced by expressionistic painting — its antirealist acting, and evocative subjective camerawork. Two versions of the movie are available:the original and an unusual "remixed" version.

286 ~ gave me a Morgan to run about in
A sports car from the Morgan Motor Co., which is still in business.

291 ~ “No Savidgery”
Not traced. From the context, it seems to refer to a notorious case that led to restrictions on the police during interrogations, in the same way that “Miranda” would be used in the U.S.

292 ~ “Have I been led up the garden”
According to Brewer’s, the expression referring to be deceived may have originated at 19th century garden parties, in which swains with an eye for seduction would lead his intended among the rhododendrons, in view of the chaperones, until he could guide her into the rose bushes and risk a prick.

“The animals went in four by four, vive la compagnie”
At times of distraction, Wimsey has a habit of mixing his metaphors. In this case, the former is an old nursery song, about the animals being led into the ark, sung to the tune of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” The second half, roughly translated as “Long live the company,” comes from another song.

293 ~ “All, all are gone, the old familiar landmarks”
A reference to a poem by Charles Lamb (1775-1834).

The Old Familiar Faces

I have had playmates, I have had companions,
In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days,
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have been laughing, I have been carousing,
Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies,
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I loved a love once, fairest among women;
Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her —
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man;
Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly;
Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.

Ghost-like, I paced round the haunts of my childhood.
Earth seemed a desert I was bound to traverse,
Seeking to find the old familiar faces.

Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother,
Why wert not thou born in my father’s dwelling?
So might we talk of the old familiar faces —

How some they have died, and some they have left me,
And some are taken from me; all are departed;
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
Not surprisingly for a Sayers reference, murder most foul bubbles underneath this poem. Charles Lamb lived with his parents and his sister, Mary. The father was senile and the mother bedridden, and Mary was caring for them both while making a living with her needlework. On Sept. 22, 1796, in a fit of insanity — what Lamb’s biographers surmise was a manic-depressive episode, accelerated by stress — Mary stabbed her mother in the heart. She was saved from hanging by Charles, who agreed to care for Mary the rest of her life, which he did until his death in 1834.

Two years later, while composing “The Old Familiar Faces,” Charles began with this stanza, since deleted:

Where are they gone, the old familiar faces?
I had a mother, but she died, and left me,
Died prematurely in a day of horrors —
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

electric comb
A bit of marketing hogwash from the 1930s. White’s Electric Comb promised to invigorate your hair roots if you use it for five minutes twice a day.

295 ~ “‘Wad the gods the giftie gie us’ and all that”
A line from the poem “To A Louse” by Robert Burns.

Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho’, faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her-
Sae fine a lady?
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith! in some beggar’s haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi’ ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whaur horn nor bane ne’er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there, ye’re out o’ sight,
Below the fatt’rels, snug and tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye’ll no be right,
Till ye’ve got on it-
The verra tapmost, tow’rin height
O’ Miss’ bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an’ grey as ony groset:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I’d gie you sic a hearty dose o’t,
Wad dress your droddum.

I wad na been surpris’d to spy
You on an auld wife’s flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,
On’s wyliecoat;
But Miss’ fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do’t?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
An’ set your beauties a’ abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie’s makin:
Thae winks an’ finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

Somerset House
A grand government office building, built in the 18th century and occupied at times by the Royal Society, the offices of the Admiralty, Inland Revenue, and, the Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths. Somerset House also played a role in “Unnatural Death” (see page 22).

296 ~ Michaelmas
The feast of St. Michael, celebrated on Sept. 29. It is treated as a quarter day in England, when quarterly payments on rent or interest is due. Traditionally, renters moved in and out of their places on quarter days as well.

round about the New Cut
A major road in London, in particular the Lambeth and Southwark boroughs. From the 1800s to Wimsey’s time, it was known as an impoverished area, and a marketplace used by the very poorest of the poor. It is now known as simply The Cut.

“Chlorryform she said she ‘ad”
Better known as chloroform, a colorless, heavy liquid used as an anesthetic.

(c) 1995-2016 by Bill Peschel