Tuesday, 18 March 2008

V ~ is for Vittoria

"Valkyrie, The"  ~  after her disappointing weekend at "The Hurst" with her smart cosmopolitan friends, Lucia was driving back to London, where she intended to make herself a busy week. There would be two nights at the opera, on the second of which Olga Bracely was singing in "The Valkyrie."

First performed in Munich in June 1870, "The Valkyrie" ("Die Walkure") is the second of the four operas comprising Richard Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung" ("Der Ring Des Nibelungen".)   The plot is based on Norse Mythology from the Volsunga Saga and Poetic Edda.  It premiered at Bayreuth as part of the complete cycle in August 1876.   See Olga Bracely and Wagner

Vandals ~ See Goths and Vandals and Mrs Grundy.  
Vanderbilt conventions ~ prior to taking up his summer's lease of Mallards Cottage in Tilling, Georgie Pillson was very busy preparing for his role as Drake in the Riseholme Elizabethan Pageant, playing duets, consulting Foljambe about linen and plate, packing his bibelots and sending them to the bank, sketching and learning Vanderbilt conventions used in bridge. 

Vanderbilt Club opening bids were devised, revised and developed by Mr Harold S Vanderbilt in the early days of the game of bridge. He addressed the game of Auction Bridge and Contract Bridge and not Duplicate Contract Bridge. The principles of the Schenken Club were based upon these opening bids. His publications included "Contract Bridge: Bidding and the Club Convention" in 1929 and "The New Contract Bridge Club Convention: Bidding and Forcing Overbids" of 1930.   
Vandyk ~ other wise van Dyck - and several other variant spellings - Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599 - 1641) was a Flemish artist who became the leading court painter in England. Famed portrait painter who also addressed biblical and mythological subjects, prints and etching. Lucia owned a coloured print of his study of Gelasius. See Gelasius.     
Vecchia ~ in Italian, old woman. In Vittoria's first communication with Lucia and Georgie via the planchette, she wrote "I am Vittoria. I come to Riseholme. For proof there is a dog and a Vecchia who is angry". Vittoria went on to tell of "fire and water." The reference to an angry old woman and dog were interpreted to mean Lady Ambermere and her late Pug. Fire and water were later seen to predict the fire at Riseholme Museum.   Lucia came to use the term to identify Lady Ambermere dismissively, as when drafting a letter for the Museum Committee to see off  her outrageous claim for £50 compensation for the cremation of Queen Charlotte's mittens on the event of the unfortunate fire: "I think that will settle it. If there's any more  trouble with the Vecchia, let me know."    see Lady Ambermere, Riseholme Museum and Queen Charlotte's mittens.
Vegetable marrow jam ~ see Marrow jam

Venetian School, The ~  when Lucia was waxing lyrical to Georgie regarding a biography of  Antonio Caporelli, she gushed " I never understood the rise of the Venetian School before. I can smell the salt tide creeeping up over the lagoon and see the campanile of dear Torcello."

Reseach has not yest revealed conclusive evidence as to the identity of Antonio Caporelli, who might even be an invention of the learned and widely-read author. Even the reference to the rise of the Venetian School is not conclusive evidence regarding Signor Caporelli, since there appears to be more than one "School".

Typified by Bellini, the Vivarinis, Georgione, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, Venetian painting developed in the fifteenth century with influence from the Paduan school and the work in oils of Antonella Messina. By the beginning of the sixteenth century Venetian painting could be regarded as the most important school in Italy, along with that of Florence. A final flowering famously took place in the eighteenth century with Tiepolo, Guardi and Canaletto.

Given the sensory references to the lagoon and Torcello and the sheer fame of Venetian  fine art, Lucia appears most likely to be speaking of the School of Painting, but one should mention that the Venetian School (in contrast to the Roman School) is also a term used to describe the composers working in Venice from about 1550 to 1610 and their music. It is recognised to have reached its peak in the 1580s when Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli composed major works for multiple choirs, brass and strings and organ.  See Antonio Caporelli.   

Vermouth ~ favourite drink of prima donna Olga Bracely, who said to Georgie Pillson, "Vermouth always makes me brilliant, unless it makes me idiotic, but we'll hope for the best."  Olga and Georgie drank vermouth when successfully plotting how best to bring about the marriage of Jane Weston and Jacob Boucher.  
Vermouth was also a favourite tipple of Elizabeth Mapp-Flint whilst on honeymoon in Monte Carlo and drunk to celebrate a notable success at the tables of the Casino there. Her new husband Major Benjy preferred an absinthe.

Before dinner at "Mallards House," Algernon Wyse remarked,  "It occurred to me that perhaps we men were assembling here  according to that pretty Italian custom, for a glass of vermouth..."   
First produced in the late 18th/early 19th centuries in France and Italy, it was initially primarily medicinal until in the late 19th century it came into use in classic cocktails, such as the martini. Principally either sweet or dry, red or pale, Vermouth is a fortified wine flavoured with various dry ingredients, such as aromatic herbs. 
Versy-visa ~ a somewhat Spooneristic phrase of Diva Plaistow in which the conventional vice versa was transposed. We do not know if this utterance ever appeared in the book maintained by Isabel Poppit to record such humorous linguistic solipsisms.

Arguing with Elizabeth Mapp-Flint as to whether she was determined to do the opposite of what Lucia had recommended over shares in Siriami, Diva cried, "But you did. You said that if she bought Siriami, you would sell and versy-visa."  We do not know if this was simple error, stemming from Diva's invariably staccato delivery or a charming "Tillingism."  
"Very pulse of the machine, The"  ~ whilst in London,  Lucia was attending a private view of the remarkable Post-Cubists with her well-connected new friend - the tall, weird, intense and bird-of-paradise-caught-in-a-gale-like, Mrs. Sophy Alingsby. Lucia was particularly enthusiastic over a picture of Waterloo Bridge, but she had mistaken the number in the catalogue, and it proved to be a portrait of the artist's wife. Luckily, she had not actually read out to Sophy that it was Waterloo Bridge, though she said something about the river, but this was easily covered up in appreciation.    
"Too  wonderful," Lucia said, "How they get to the very soul of things! What is it Wordsworth says? 'The very pulse of the machine' Pulsating is it not?"    

Lucia was quoting from "She was a Phantom of Delight" a poem written by William Wordsworth  (1770 -1850)  in 1807, probably about his wife Mary Hutchinson. The third and final stanza of this very romantic poem expounding various qualities of his ideal woman begins:
And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine; 
A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller between life and death     
Other than applauding Lucia's accuracy in ascribing the line to Wordsworth , it is difficult to consider the comment particularly apt or more than a shallow display of her generally superficial and brittle literary grounding - unlike that of Benson, which, as ever, was the point he was elegantly seeking to make.   See Sophy Alingsby  

Veuve Clicquot ~ champagne favoured by Georgie Pillson and stocked in his cellar. His sisters Hermy and Ursy helped themselves to a bottle to accompany their midnight feast when arriving late at their brother's home in Riseholme after impetuously cycling a hundred and twenty miles instead of catching the train.

Georgie also served Veuve Clicquot to his sisters on the evening after they had recognised the guru as the curry cook from the Calcutta Restaurant in Bedford Street and threatened to spread word of the ease with which his pretence had been swallowed by Georgie, Lucia and their circle in Riseholme. Mellowed by the champagne and Georgie's persuasion, the sisters relented and left next morning without dropping this bombshell.     
Via Dolorosa  ~  when Elizabeth Mapp had dramatically returned to Tilling after spending several months stranded on a fishing trawler on the Gallagher Banks with Lucia, she was outraged to find that her heir, Major Benjy had unilaterally taken up residence in her property, "Mallards." Major Benjy was summarily evicted and all his belongings thrown out into the street to his acute embarrassment. He was forced to make many humiliating journeys to and from his home, picking up and carrying away household and personal items and garments. Again he had to make the passage of his Via Dolorosa to glean the objects which had dropped from his overburdened arms.

Located within the Old City of Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa (Latin: way of grief or suffering) is a celebrated place of pilgrimage, held to be the path that Jesus walked bearing his cross on the way to crucifixion. Today it is marked by the Stations of the Cross. 
Victoria, Queen ~ when excavations for Roman remains were being carried out in the garden of the newly-acquired "Mallards House," a coin was discovered. The most minute scrutiny could not reveal any sort of image or superscription on its corroded surface: it might belong to the age of Melchizedeck or Hadrian or Queen Victoria.  

Queen Victoria (1818 - 1901) ruled from June 1837 until her death. She was the first Empress of India and her reign is the longest of any British female monarch. Married to Prince Albert with 9 children and 42 grandchildren. Victoria was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover. Her son and successor, King Edward VII belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. See Melchizedeck and Hadrian.    
Victoria,  Queen, the death of  ~  when Georgie Pillson was dining with Lucia at "The Hurst" shortly after the sad, if not entirely unexpected, death of Pepino's Aunt Amy, she "was dressed in deep mourning, and Georgie thought he recognised the little cap she wore as being that which had faintly expressed her grief over the death of Queen Victoria."     
At her death on 22nd January 1901, at the age of 81 years, Queen Victoria was the longest reigning British monarch.  We can well believe that loyal subject, Lucia should have wished to express her personal grief - however "faint" - in this manner.  It is interesting to note that Georgie recognised the little cap,  from which we can infer that he knew Lucia in 1901 - unless Lucia chose to express her faint grief over the passing of the Victorian Era by her choice of  headgear in later years, which seems most unlikely. Since "Lucia in London" was published in 1927 and seems to have been set more or less in that year, it would seem that Georgie has been sufficiently acquainted with Lucia to note her choice of cap for twenty six years. Since at the beginning of this book, Georgie is stated to be aged 48, we can calculate that he knew Lucia when he was a tres jeune premier of  22 years.  
The reader is told that the Lucases moved to Riseholme from Onslow Gardens on Pepino's retirement from his lucrative practice at the Bar. They then effectively reconstructed "The Hurst," combining three cottages and adding a wing and many Tudorbethan features. If Lucia and Georgie were acquainted as long ago as in 1901,  it is possible that this took place somewhere other than Riseholme.  Riseholme is assumed to be based upon Broadway in Worcestershire and we are told that Lucia was "a Warwickshire Smythe."  Sadly it seems we do not have any conclusive information upon the young-er Miss Smythe and  Master Pillson.  See Riseholme.     
Victorian eyes  ~ when Lucia had broached with Georgie the difficult issue of Foljambe's impending marriage to Cadman, Georgie was traumatised and only recovered when Lucia proposed that Flojambe continue her duties for Georgie during the day and assumed the role of Mrs Cadman afterwards. Georgie was happy to give them a charwoman to do the housework, continuing,"Of course there may be periods when she'll have to be away, but I shan't mind that as long as I know she's coming back. Besides, she's rather old  for that, isn't she?"   
The narrative continues, "It was no use counting the babies before they were born, and Lucia glided along past this slightly indelicate subject with Victorian eyes."
Despite her fashionable phase when spending most of a Season at 25, Brompton Square in "Lucia in London" and desire to be perceived as a worldy and sophisticated "mondaine" Luica was generally quite demure and proper in her moral stance and sense of propriety, as were most of her circle in both Riseholme and Tilling - particually Georgie Pillson.      
When Luica was viewing "Grebe" outside Tilling with Quaint Irene Coles, the developing relationship of Lucia's chauffeur Cadman and Georgie's peerless parlourmaid, Foljambe arose. Bohemian to her core, Irene asked  "Oh, are they going to marry? Or do they just live together? How interesting!"   
Quite sharply, the basically conservative and moralistic Lucia replied, "Dear Irene, do not be so modern. Marriage of course, and banns first."     
 "Violet crowned, the"  ~  when Lucia was recovering from the sad loss of her husband, she increased her social, musical, artistic and intellectual pastimes and also made plans for the future. She had a plan for visiting Athens in the spring ('the violet crowned,' is not that a lovely epithet, Georgie?) and in compliment to Queen Anne,  regaled her guests with rich thick chocolate.    

Classicist Benson, here quotes a surviving fragment in which the lyric poet Pindar wrote of Athens:

City of light, with thy violet crown, beloved of poets, thou art the bulwark of Greece.

Virgil ~ following her safe return from the Gallagher Bank,  Lucia immersed herself in many activities, including duets on the piano, callisthenics, sketching, hospital visiting, singing in the church choir and perusing the masterpieces of Aristophanes, Virgil and Horace with the help of a crib. Virgil, or more fully Publius Vergilius Maro (70 - 19 BC), was a classical Roman poet of the Augustn periodbest known for the "Eclogues" (or Bucolics), the "Georgics" and the "Aeneid."    

Villeggiatura  ~  from her bow window, Elizabeth Mapp had noted Mrs Poppit waddling down the street and disappearing around the corner on her way to the dentist or Mr Wyse's house.  Having recently seen Mr Wyse's housemaid cleaning his windows, she had concluded that Mr Wyse was probably expected home. He usually came  back about mid-October, and let ship allusions to his enjoyable visits to Scotland and his  villeggiatura (so he was pleased to express it) with his sister the Contessa di Faraglione at Capri.

The term "villeggiatura" means a country holiday or stay at a country seat.   See   "Children dear, was it yesterday?"  
Virginal  ~  The Smoking Parlour at “The Hurst” in Riseholme was so earnestly authentic that "you had to be in a fanatically Elizabethan frame of mind to be at ease there. But Mrs Lucas often spent rare leisure moments there playing the virginal that stood in the window, or kippering herself in the smoke of the wood fire as with streaming eyes she deciphered an Elzevir Horace,, rather late for inclusion under the rule, but an undoubted bargain.” 
The virginal or virginals is a small, rectangular, legless keyboard instrument of the harpsichord family, popular in Europe during the late Rennaisance and early Baroque periods. It is a simpler form of the harpsichord with only one string per note running parallel to the keyboard on the long side of the case. In England, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries any stringed keyboard instrument was often described as a "virginals" and could equally well apply to a harpsichord or possibly even a clavichord or spinet.

 Vittoria ~ spirit guide to Lucia in Riseholme - as Abfou was to Daisy Quantock. Considered by many to have foretold the destruction by fire of Riseholme Museum. See Abfou, Nicostratus, Annabel , Jamifleg and Vecchia.

"Voice that breathed o'er Eden, The" ~  Olga Bracely and Georgie Pillson were discussing how best to bring about the union of their friends and neighbours Jane Weston and Jacob Boucher. Olga asserted that the pair would be much happier married and will live happily together for an extraordinary number of years. She went on to suggest  "And you and I will sing 'the Voice that breathed o'er Eden' and in the middle our angel-voices will crack and we will sob into our handkerchief."   

In Tilling, the title of this hymn was very much shorthand for nuptials, as when Captain Puffin mischieviously quizzed Major Flint as to why he had been led about the High Street by Miss Mapp earlier in the day, dressed in his best  formal attire, "But why top-hat and frock coat, Major? Another visit of the Prince of Wales, I asked myself, or the Voice that Breath'd o'er Eden? Have a drink - one of mine, I mean? I owe you a drink for the good laugh you gave me."   
Written in 1857, "The Voice that breathed o'er Eden" is a hymn by John Keble (1792-1866). It begins:
. The voice that breathed o'er Eden,
  That earliest wedding-day,

  The primal marriage blessing,-
  It hath not passed away.
  Still in the pure espousal
  Of Christian man and maid
  The Triune God is with us,
  The threefold grace is said.
Celebrating the sacrament of marriage, it is sung at weddings and was Olga's short-hand reference to the nuptials of Mrs Weston and Colonel Boucher when her well-intentioned machinations had succeeded.   
Vox humana ~ Lucia and Georgie were in Tilling church practising the slow movement of the "Moonlight Sonata" which they were to perform at the recital during the service of dedication of the organ, rebuilt at Lucia's expense. Lucia said " Now with one hand I shall play the triplets on the swell, and the solo tune with the other on the vox humana." The plaintive throaty bleating of the vox humana was enervatingly lovely.    
The vox humana is a reed stop on an organ supposedly imitative of the human voice. See Bourdon, Diapason and Cor anglais.

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