NOTES ON ISSUE 6: ALLUSIONS
He who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage existed
This line refers to the story of the biblical twins Jacob and Esau, related in Genesis 25:29-34. Esau, the older twin, came in hungry from working in the fields, and his favored younger brother, Jacob, give him a portion of his pottage (lentil soup) in exchange for his birthright. Esau's foolish choice was alluded to in songs and placards used by striking workers in Preston, as a warning not to give up their valuable rights to feed their hunger temporarily.
"Judas Iscariot existed"
The story of Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, is related in Matthew
26:14-16. It reads: "Then one of the twelve, called Judas
Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What
will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted
with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he
sought opportunity to betray him."
a grace in it that Lord Chesterfield could not have taught his son in a century
Lord Chesterfield wrote the popular Letters to His Son (published posthumously in 1774), a manual on acquiring social graces and succeeding in society that stressed the importance of appearances. Dickens despised the hypocrisy of these letters and satirized them and Lord Chesterfield in Barnaby Rudge and Bleak House.
the poor you will have always with you
This phrase, in common usage at the time, derives from Matthew 26:11. The speaker is Jesus: "For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always."