Julia and Rex
173 the blue-bird
a reference to The Blue Bird, a play by Maeterlinck, in which two children search for the blue-bird, a symbol of happiness
174 Bridey Marchmain
The elderly men and women call Lord Marchmain by the nickname by which they knew him when they were young, which was when his father was alive and he as son and heir was titled Earl of Brideshead.
174 the young princes
the sons of King George V, all surviving four of whom were unmarried at the beginning of 1923. The Prince of Wales (aged 29 in 1923, later King Edward VIII and then the Duke of Windsor) married Mrs Wallis Simpson in 1937; the Duke of York (aged 28, later King George VI) married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother; she died aged 101 in 2002) in 1923; the Duke of Gloucester (aged 23) married Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott (who died at the age of 102 in 2004) in 1935; and the Duke of Kent (aged 21) married Princess Marina of Greece (who died in 1968) in 1934.
175 she would go to hell
In the 1920s Catholic views on Heaven and Hell were clear and distinct. The system of recognition of sins meant that very few Catholics were unaware of the gravity or veniality of their sins.
175 younger sons
As explained in the note on page 30, younger sons had no right of inheritance of title or property.
a reference to the wife of the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses). While he was away fighting the Trojan Wars for ten years and then returning from them (a journey which itself lasted ten years and is the subject of the Odyssey), she was wooed by many suitors who passed the time in devastating Odysseuss property. She remained faithful to her husband by interminably delaying her decision as to which suitor she should marry; Odysseus finally returned and slew the lot of them. As at this point Julia has no husband to be faithful to, the relevance of the comparison is not wholly unimpeachable. EW means that Julia is not one to wait around for something to happen.
176 Embassy at Paris
For many years the highest diplomatic post in the British Foreign service - certainly until well after World War II - was the Embassy in France. EWs friend Lady Diana Cooper resided in this Embassy when her husband Alfred Duff Cooper, later Viscount Norwich, was Ambassador from 1944 to 1947.
The residence in the rue du Faubourg St Honoré was bought by the Duke of Wellington in 1814 and has recently been restored to its full glory.
176 yearly pregnancies
Because of the Catholic ban on artificial contraception, Catholic families were notoriously large. Wives had to be prepared to be pregnant at frequent intervals.
176 Cap Ferrat
a peninsula near Nice on the Riviera that is now the most expensive area of real estate in Europe. Somerset Maughams Villa Mauresque was sited at the tip of the peninsula.
176 Life Guards
one of the cavalry regiments in the royal guards
i.e. a bias towards older men
the restaurant in the famous hotel in Piccadilly. The hotel opened its doors on May 24th 1906. It was the first steel framed building of any significance in London, but it was in French Chateau style and had Louis XVI interiors, a nice combination of the historical and the up-to-date.
177 the second magnum
i.e. of champagne. A magnum is equal to two ordinary bottles (i.e. 1.5 litres).
177 Pont Street
i.e. tasteless though intended to be fashionable. Pont Street is actually in a fashionable area in London between Sloane Square and Knightsbridge, but architecturally in a flamboyant bourgeois Victorian style with much use of elaborate decoration. Osbert Lancaster damned it as Pont Street Dutch but the term has stuck as praise. It was then common to use the term Pont Street derogatively : John Betjeman mentions the street as part of the middle-class surroundings in The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel, Nancy Mitford used the phrase in a letter to EW in 1946 and in Love in a Cold Climate, and EW had used it already in Work Suspended. Only people living in beautiful surroundings, or aspiring to do so, could use it as a term of disparagement and even contempt.
178 strike the black ensign
i.e. lower the pirate flag (the Skull and Crossbones). There is of course no such recognised ensign in British maritime practice. In modern times the White Ensign is flown by the Royal Navy, the Red Ensign (the most senior of all) by merchant ships, and the Blue Ensign by the Royal Naval Reserve and certain ships whose masters are officers in the RNR.
one of the two major forms of the card game baccarat
another resort on the Riviera, nearer to Cannes
city in Austria, a popular holiday centre convenient for the Alps as well as culture
the Hispano-Suiza, a fashionable Spanish automobile in the 20s and 30s
a dated term for boxing matches
179 made love
This phrase almost certainly does not mean that Julia and Rex had sex - on this occasion.
The phrase to make love in novels of the nineteenth and the early years of the twentieth century means merely to approach with serious intention. The modern meaning of to have sex crept in from about 1900, encouraged by its use as a euphemism in the law courts, until it has now become the invariable meaning. Likewise the word lover has changed from suitor to sexual partner, whether love is involved or not.
I think it legitimate to think that EW was a little coy here. The effect of the incident on Julia seems great enough to have been actual sex. It is possible he is leaving the matter open to personal interpretation.
179 Charles Street
A street in Mayfair which runs into a corner of Berkeley Square
180 I regard him as entirely unsuitable as your husband
Lady Marchmains judgment proves only too just, but her reasons are squalid and unworthy. The ideas she expresses are characteristic of her class and time.
a ministerial position in the Government at the lowest rung on the ladder
an area of Berkshire near Ascot where living is expensive. It has a famous golf course.
181 Farm Street
the Jesuit-run parish of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, at that time a fashionable, literary-minded centre attractive to intelligent and sensitive Catholics, often from the upper and middle classes. EW went there frequently to hear Mass and to say his Confession. It was the headquarters of the English Province of the Society of Jesus (since 1985 known as the British Province). Today the church is still thriving but has a much broader congregation.
182 the swords of her dolours
an oblique reference to the Seven Dolours (or Sorrows) of the Virgin Mary, pictures of whom adorn Lady Marchmains rooms. Such a picture would show the Virgin with her heart pierced by seven swords. In Fez Sebastian will have a picture of the Seven Dolours in his hospital room at which he will look when he hears that his mother is dying.
The Seven Dolours are :
The prophecy of Simeon (Gospel of St Luke 2, 34-35);
The flight into Egypt (Gospel of St Matthew 2, 13-15);
The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple (Gospel of St Luke 2, 44-50);
Jesus and Marys meeting on the Way of the Cross (implied, Gospel of St Luke 23, 27-31);
The Crucifixion (all gospels);
The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross (all gospels);
The burial of Jesus (all gospels).
The point is not that Lady Marchmain is a modern type of the Virgin Mary, a thought she would consider blasphemous; but that she offers up her sorrows to God as a sacrifice in the way that Mary did.
i.e. attendant and confidante to Queen Mary, wife of King George V. If the Queen was interested, the family had to make a decision; she disapproved of secrecy and would make her views known in no uncertain tone.
Cartiers is the famous jewellers shop where rich people would be expected to buy engagement rings at prestigious prices. Rex instead makes a better deal directly with a dealer in Londons jewellery (and especially diamond) centre, and certainly gets a better ring for a lower price.
183 Hertford Street
a fashionable street just to the north of Piccadilly and so in Mayfair
183 marriage settlement
a legal procedure which defines the financial and legal responsibilities of the two parties. There are always considerations in it other than the happiness and comfort of the happy pair.
183 Julia refused to interest herself
This aristocratic attitude indicates how easily the family has lived on the wealth built up over generations which is now, Rex knows, in danger of diminution. It contrasts with Rexs minute and self-regarding interest.
183 trustee stock
part of the familys fortune tied into the family trust, and so not available for investment or speculation on the part of the beneficiary alone. Rex rejects it because he wants money that he can use as he likes.
183 fifteen, twenty per cent
enormous profits then (and now), available only to expert and knowledgeable people. There may be an implication of underhandedness about it - Rex may trade on insider knowledge, for example.
184 Its they who are doing the robbing.
Looked at from Rexs point of view, perhaps it is. But it is doubtful if a respectable firm of lawyers responsible for making prudent investments were actually raking in 15% p.a. profit as Rex suspects. They would see such investments as only an unjustified gamble.
Rex clearly still sees the settlement as a dowry, i.e. as his to use as he likes.
184 the agents commission
Rex does the work himself and so gets the commission from a compliant insurance firm which is only too pleased to issue the policy. This is an example of Rexs expert handling of money matters.
184 Only one, darling.
With the relatively small numbers of Catholics in the country, England has traditionally had only one Cardinal, the Archbishop of Westminster. In this period the Cardinal-Archbishop was Francis Bourne (1861-1935), who had been appointed archbishop in 1903 and was to occupy the position for 31 years.
184 mixed marriage
This unfortunate term still exists in informal conversation.
184 another courtship and another conversion
i.e. hers and Lord Marchmains
All converts to the Catholic faith in modern times go through a lengthy process of familiarisation, often at the hands of priests experienced in guiding prospective members. The process has been regularised since 1924, but even then was extensive.
Catechumen is the technical term for an applicant to join the church.
a simplified form of Catholic instruction which proceeded by question and answer (see note to page 273)
185 raining spiritually
This answer is appalling. It presupposes a whole array of natural effects given a supernatural dimension without reference to a fixed set of beliefs which are cherished and guarded by the faithful. It may be New Age to advocate spiritual rain but one might as well talk of spiritual dung.
185 he doesnt correspond to any degree of paganism known to the
Rex has absolutely no fixed point of reference in what we may loosely term his spiritual life. He has no curiosity about what lies outside the purely material. Perhaps many people are like that, especially now; but Father Mowbray had never before come across a man who will without a thought saddle himself with any beliefs that are suggested to him, however absurd. The point is comically reinforced when Cordelia peddles ridiculous spoofs.
186 Cloviss army
Julia is referring to the story of the conversion of Clovis I (c. 466-511, King of the Salian Franks from 481) as told by Saint Gregory of Tours. In brief, he was losing a battle with the Alemanni (Germans) in 496 when he remembered his Christian wife Saint Clotildas advice and prayed to God for help, and went on to win the battle. He was not satisfied with just his own conversion, however, and went on to proclaim the new God with considerable force to his army and all the people. Three thousand soldiers were baptised in one day. Julia rightly thinks that many of them must have done this from a sense of duty rather than through religious impulse.
186 modern education
the perennial complaint against the youth of today and their teachers. Father Mowbray goes on to mention his experience that, among those he met, only people over the age of 50 had a reliable education. He is speaking in 1924; these paragons would have been educated well before 1900!
187 have to sleep with your feet pointing East
This ridiculous precept (as well as the others that Cordelia offers) indicates Rexs essentially unreligious cast of mind. It also mocks the curious ideas that people sometimes do have about Catholicism and about Christianity in general - that believers are in a sort of mindless thrall.
187 Father Mowbray
consented to receive Rex a week before his
This is only Father Mowbrays intention. There is no evidence or likelihood that Rex did become a Catholic. Three weeks before the wedding came Brideys bombshell (when he revealed that Rex had already been married), after which a Protestant service is arranged. Father Mowbray would not have received Rex in such circumstances.
i.e. Chinese (slang)
188 She isnt a thing to me.
Rexs attitude that marriage is something to obtain and slough off at will is a product of an age of increasing secularisation. No commitments are binding; all may be bent to the will and to the present.
We learn the extent of Rexs unawareness. He must have learnt that the Catholic Church has strict rules on marriage, but he has not even considered that his previous marriage might be worthy of mention.
189 Ill get an annulment
Rex is convinced that money and influence will magically smooth his way, and that every principle and belief can be subverted with the appropriate words or (later) by conspiratorial silence.
189 plenary indulgences
A contentious issue throughout the last 500 years, plenary indulgences were (and still are) full remissions of punishment due to sin, attached by the Catholic Church to devout actions. They seem to have arisen as a means of associating the entire faithful with the supreme holy works of the Crusaders in the Holy Land in the Middle Ages (unholy as they proved to be), and many of them had the advantage of also raising money for holy purposes. This latter aspect was abolished by the Council of Trent, unfortunately long after Luther had initially inspired the Reformation by his resistance to the practice.
189 four last things
See the note to page 247.
190 Morning Post
a London daily paper bought, like The Times, by the upper and middle classes. It merged with the Daily Telegraph in 1937.
190 I can stop that, too
Lady Marchmains relentlessness is interesting. She is however right to say she could have stopped the marriage taking place in a Protestant church; though Catholics and Anglicans were not close, there was a sort of solidarity in the upper classes which would have operated in this situation. Low-church Protestants might not willingly have done her bidding, but at this time most of them were as much against divorce as the Catholics were.
191 an honest woman
i.e. in a respectable position recognised by society as a whole. Usually it implies being married in a way which everyone recognises as beyond reproach.
192 the Anchorages
Like the Chasms, these are families who appear in a number of EWs novels.