Discovering Dickens - A Community Reading Project

 Discovering Dickens

 Hard Times



 Historical Glossary


 Household Words


 Biographical Context


 Historical Context

 Archived Novels







the scene of his decease, Calais

Calais, situated on the French coast overlooking the narrowest point of the English Channel, was a major ferry crossing point from England to France. Its proximity to England made it an easy escape for English people trying to escape from creditors, legal problems, and or loss of reputation, so much so that retreating to live in Calais had in itself a disreputable air. Calais had been English territory until 1558, when the French retook the town from Queen Mary I.

Why here she is at a hundred a year (I give her a hundred, which she is pleased to term handsome)

Bounderby's boast for once is justified. A salary of £100 a year was well above the standard for a housekeeper at the time. As room and board were included in the post, more typical salaries ranged from £20 to £45 per annum—the figures recommended by Mrs. Beeton in her Book of Household Management "when no allowance is made for tea, sugar, and beer." If an allowance was made, a slight reduction in wages was suggested.

The housekeeper's duties included supervising the domestic staff, ordering food, and maintaining household accounts. In most homes, she functioned as second-in-command to the mistress; in Mr. Bounderby's bachelor establishment, however, she would have probably taken on a greater range of duties, including deciding on menus, serving as hostess, and the like. Either this or Mrs. Sparsit's aristocratic pretensions may account for her large salary.

They made him out to be the Royal Arms, the Union-Jack, Magna Charta, John Bull, Habeas Corpus, the Bill of Rights, An Englishman's house is his castle, Church and State, and God save the Queen, all put together.

Mr. Bounderby's admirers, in other words, proudly see him as a true Briton. All of these items symbolize British patriotism or the British constitution. The Royal Arms are those borne by the king or queen of Great Britain. The Union Jack is of course the British flag. The Magna Charta (generally spelled Carta) guarantees the liberty of the English people; it was signed by King John in 1215, under great pressure from his barons. John Bull is the slang name for the average Englishman. Habeas corpus is the legal principle that guarantees certain basic rights to those accused of crimes, in particular the right to a speedy trial and the necessity of producing prisoners rather than holding them in secret. The Bill of Rights reestablished the constitutional monarchy in 1689 and guarantees certain rights to citizens and to Parliament. The saying "An Englishman's house is his castle" had become proverbial, but it is also a tenet of English common law. "Church and State" refers to the establishment of the Church of England as the state religion. "God Save the Queen" is, of course, the national anthem of Great Britain.

You were coming out of the Italian Opera, ma'am, in white satin and jewels, a blaze of splendor, when I hadn't a penny to buy a link to light you.

Her Majesty's Theatre in the Haymarket, first opened as a theater in 1705 and then as an opera house in 1711, was known as Her Majesty's Theatre, Italian Opera House, since the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. In 1847, the title moved to Covent Garden, but here the reference is to a time before the change.

The reference to "a link to light" Mrs. Sparsit places Bounderby's youth early in the century; gas lighting was first introduced in London in 1807, and became widespread thereafter. Before that time, "linkboys" carried hand-held torches to light the city streets.

This illustration of the interior of the Italian Opera House at Haymarket appeared in the Illustrated London News on July 22, 1843.



Copyright © 2005 Stanford University. All rights reserved. Stanford, CA 94305, (650)723-2300. Terms of Use