NOTES ON ISSUE 3: ALLUSIONS
Altogether, the Old Bailey, at that
date, was a choice illustration of the precept, that “Whatever is is
right”; an aphorism that would be as final as it is lazy, did it not
include the troublesome consequence, that nothing that ever was, was
The phrase “Whatever is, is right” comes from the first Epistle of
Alexander Pope’s 18th-century poem An Essay on Man (1735), the
first part of an “ethic work” in which he hoped to “vindicate the ways
of God to man” (Norton 2263). The First Epistle is chiefly
concerned with accounting for the existence of evil in the world
created by a benevolent deity, and “Whatever is, is right,” forms the
last line of the first Epistle, the closing portion of which runs as
Cease then, nor ORDER imperfection
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heaven bestows on thee.
Submit. – In this, or any other sphere,
Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear:
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power,
Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
All Nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And, spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,
One truth is clear: Whatever is, is RIGHT. (ll. 279-92)
Your lighter boxes of family papers
went upstairs into a Barmecide room…
“Barmecide” is the “[p]atronymic of a family of princes ruling at
Baghdad just before Haroun-al-Raschid, concerning one of whom the story
is told in the Arabian Nights, that he put a succession of
empty dishes before a beggar, pretending that they contained a
sumptuous repast – a fiction which the beggar humorously accepted.
Hence, [a Barmecide is] one who offers imaginary food or illusory
benefits” (Oxford English Dictionary).
A “Barmecide room” would be a room in which such figments of the
imagination or illusory benefits are supposed to appear. It is
interesting to note that the OED
uses a passage in Dickens’ American Notes (1842) – “It is a
Barmecide Feast; a pleasant field for the imagination to rove in” – to
illustrate the use and meaning of the word Barmecide. The story of the
Barmecides in the Arabian Nights was one of Dickens’ favorites
…as the ocean is one day to give up its dead.
This is an allusion to Revelations 20:13, which describes part of St.
John’s vision of Judgment Day: “And the sea gave up the dead that were
in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and
they were judged every man according to their works.”
…one of the greatest scoundrels on earth since accursed
Judas – which he certainly did look rather like.
The accursed Judas is, of course, Judas Iscariot, the apostle who
betrayed Christ (see, for an account of the betrayal, the gospels of
Matthew 10:4 and 26:14-56; Mark 3:19 and 14:10-50; Luke 6:16 and
22:3-53; John 6:71, 12:4, 13:2-30, and 18:2-11 for the story).