The page numbers are from “Lord Peter” published by Harper & Row. The excerpts are copyrighted 1972 by Harper & Row.
347 ~ diagrammatic furniture
diagrammatic furntiure: A descriptive word that refers not to any particular style, but modernistic furniture that is stark and probably very uncomfortable.
Crackers are a type of Christmas treat, consisting of a small cylinder wrapped at each end. Pulling the ends causes a little bit of gunpowder to go off (hence the name “cracker”), and revealing a small gift inside. At one time, it would be a piece of paper with a motto, saying, joke or bit of doggeral. Over time, these were replaced by small gifts, such as paper crowns and noisemakers.
Fortnum & Mason
A department store in England, which would be like calling the Taj Mahal a cottage. After all, what American department store had an “Expeditions” section that supplied 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of champagne to the 1922 Everest expedition. Archaeologist Howard Carter had F&M’s wine boxes on hand to store antiquities from King Tut’s tomb. In addition to the usual department store fare, F&M also sell expensive hampers filled with a variety of comestibles to suit every occasion.
“Charades” and “Clumps” and “Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral”
All three are party games involving guessing the name of a chosen object or phrase, of which clumps might be the least known. In it, everyone is divided up into two teams and sent to different parts of the room. One person from each team get together to pick an object and return to their team. Each member in turn asks questions which can only be answered yes or no. The trick to this game is that each clump tries to be as quiet as possible to keep the other clump from overhearing. The winning side adds the player from the other clump to their side, two more people are picked and a new game begins. The game ends when everyone is reunited.
348 ~ “Dumb Crambo”
A rhyming game in which one player thinks of a word and gives a word that rhymes with it. The players guess, not by suggesting the word, but describing it. For example, the first player (choosing “fold”) says, “I know a word that rhymes with gold.” Someone says “Is it ancient?” The first player says, “No, it is not old.” “Is it chilly?” “No, it is not cold.” In Dumb Crambo, the guessers have to perform the word, much as in charades.
349 ~ the new planet Pluto
Pluto: While its existence had been predicted by astronomer Percival Lowell, it was Clyde Tombaugh, hired by the Lowell Observatory’s directors to fulfill Lowell’s quest, who discovered the planet in 1930. Ironically, Tombaugh had also discovered that the observations Lowell had based his predictions on were completely erroneous. Nevertheless, Lowell got the glory, and Tombaugh was relegated to the dustbin of history.
354 ~ what Jane Austen liked to call “expensive and dissipated”
Wimsey is thinking of a scene in chapter 31 of “Sense and Sensibility”:
“Good heavens!” cried Elinor, “could it be — could Willoughby!”—
“The first news that reached me of her,” he continued, “came in a letter from herself, last October. It was forwarded to me from Delaford, and I received it on the very morning of our intended party to Whitwell; and this was the reason of my leaving Barton so suddenly, which I am sure must at the time have appeared strange to every body, and which I believe gave offence to some.Little did Mr. Willoughby imagine, I suppose, when his looks censured me for incivility in breaking up the party,that I was called away to the relief of one whom he had made poor and miserable; but HAD he known it, what would it have availed? Would he have been less gay or less happy in the smiles of your sister? No, he had already done that, which no man who CAN feel for another would do. He had left the girl whose youth and innocence he had seduced, in a situation of the utmost distress, with no creditable home, no help, no friends, ignorant of his address! He had left her, promising to return; he neither returned, nor wrote, nor relieved her.”
“This is beyond every thing!” exclaimed Elinor.
“His character is now before you; expensive, dissipated, and worse than both.”
frequently present at Epsom and Newmarket
Both are horse racing tracks of some repute.
A servant who ranks low the hierarchy of the country house, below both the housekeeper (the highest-ranking female servant) and the first housemaid.
A junior servant, at about the same rank as the second housemaid, who works at the direction of the butler.
356 ~ George having bet the other two ten shillings to a tanner
tanner: A pre-decimal currency coin worth six pennies. Since a shilling was worth 1/20th of a pound, in essence, George Comphrey was offering Lavinia Prescott and Richard Dennison half a pound to spare change that he’d beat them. No wonder they worked like demons.