The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face

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

212 ~ Bank Holiday
Special holidays in which banks were allowed to close for business, as set in the Bank Holidays Act of 1871. Four holidays per year were established in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five in Scotland.

A history of the Bank Holidays Act of 1871

214 ~ Gomorrah
The fellow was confusing the city God destroyed, along with Sodom, with the Camorra, which Lord Peter turned into a neat pun. The Camorra was a secret society of criminals that formed in Naples, Italy, in the early 1800’s and was effectively broken up for good in 1912.

Fascisti
The members of an Italian political organization that controlled Italy under the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini from 1922 to 1943.

221 ~ Negretti & Zambra’s rocketing thermometrical statistics
Henry Negretti (d. 1879) and Joseph Warren Zambra (d. 1877) were in partnership and sold scientific instruments. The company conducted business at different locations in London, beginning in 1850 and continuing to the end of the century. Thermometrical refers to observations made by means of a thermometer. One would guess, therefore, that Sayers was saying the newspapers were writing stories about how hot it was.

repairs to the magneto
One of several systems used at that time to start a car. Magnetos used magnets produced in a tiny generator to ignite the gas fumes in the engine and cause it to turn over. It was first patented in 1883 and — despite the introduction of batteries as early as 1910 — were still being installed in cars as late as 1935.

Golders Green
Notable cemetery in London, also the location of a crematorium, notable for its celebrity A-list of urns, including Kingsley Amis, Peter Sellers, Keith Moon and Anna Pavlova.

226 ~ old Homer nodding
A quotation from the Roman poet Horace (65-8 BCE) found in his Ars Poetics (I.359): “Sometimes even the noble Homer nods.”

231 ~ Then we’ll make the Savoy do
One of London’s premier hotels. Presumably, Miss Twitterton and Lord Peter dined in the Savoy Grill.

232 ~ examine the back teeth of a murdered man
Could be a reference to “Whose Body?” except that it was a cigarette case polished to a high sheen which Lord Peter used. Perhaps he was referring to another case.

235 ~ You take precedence
A mild joke on Wimsey’s title. Precedence is the ordering of nobles according to their rank, particularly used when they are being organized to march in a procession.

236 ~ a defective barrel-organ
If there’s an object, there’s websites about it.

238 ~ Passage in Greek
Lord Peter is quoting what he said in the previous paragraph (“innumerable laughter of the seas”), which comes from Aeschylus’ “Prometheus in Chains.” I presume the section comes from the part where our hero cries:

“Thou holy Sky, ye swift and winged Winds, And River Founts, and laughter of the seas Innumerable: Thou, Mother of all these, Earth, and thou Sun that seest all things, see What things, being god, the Gods have wrought on me!”

(Contributed by Marc van der Poel)

239 ~ I sing but as the throstle sings, / Amid the branches dwelling,
This is a quotation from Goethe’s novel “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship,” book II, chapter 11, in which William beseeches an old man at an inn to sing for him and his friends. The lines are from that song:

“I sing but as the linnet sings,
That on the green bough dwelleth
A rich reward his music brings,
As from his throat it swelleth:
Yet might I ask, I’d ask of thine
One sparkling draught of purest wine,
To drink it here before you.”

(Contributed by Paul Andinach)

241 ~ “What is Truth?” said jesting Pilate.
A quote from Francis Bacon’s essay “Of Truth”

(c) 1995-2016 by Bill Peschel