J1.10 The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron

Annotations for Jerusalem by Alan Moore

Book 1 – The Boroughs
The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron

Minnie May Moore c.1912
Minnie May Moore c.1912

General: This chapter focuses on May Vernall, whose birth we saw last chapter, as a young woman dealing with her own first child from 1908 to 1909. We also learn about the curious Northampton custom of the deathmonger, a sort of combination midwife and undertaker. May is based on the real-life Minnie May Moore, Alan Moore’s paternal grandmother.

Page 270 – titled The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron

  • The title appears to be original, referring to the various deathmonger aprons mentioned.

paragraph 1

Fort Street area c.1950
Fort Street area c.1950
  • “Fort Street” – The real-life Vernon family, on whom the Vernalls are based, lived at 43 Fort Street at this time. Fort Street no longer exists, but there is a Fort Place in approximately its old location.
  • “deathmonger” – In a 2009 interview, discussing his family history, Moore stated:

    […] what we called around here a deathmonger, which was a phrase that I believe was used only in the Boroughs, though I stand to be corrected, they were the ones who were… because the people in the Burroughs couldn’t afford proper midwives or proper funeral directors, so they had a deathmonger who would travel around and would attend to births, attend to deaths and probably attend to a lot of the stuff in between as well. I get the impression that ‘deathmonger’, if you’d taken it back a couple of hundred years it would probably have been wisewoman or witch.

    The word does not seem to be attested to in this usage outside of Alan Moore.

  • “Mrs Gibbs” – Apparently a real person. In Living Memory quotes Northampton local Josephine Kent saying:

    When my Father died it was Mrs. Gibbs, lived down Scarletwell Street. She came to my Father. They used to go round, you see, and that was their job. It was to earn money. I don’t know how much they used to be paid. But I can remember my Mother saying to me, “Go on, run and fetch Mrs. Gibbs.” And I went down to the bottom of Scarletwell Street. Always put a clean pina on, she did. Spotlessly clean.

  • confinement” – Old-fashioned word for the process of giving birth.

paragraph 2

  • “It was still freezing” – The real-world birth that this is based on took place on January 22, 1911.

paragraph 3

Yorkshire Puddings (www.cannavistmag.com)
Yorkshire Puddings (www.cannavistmag.com)
  • “bake pudden” – Old-fashioned word for Yorkshire Pudding, a pastry similar to the American popover.
  • snuff” – Powdered tobacco used nasally. Common from the 17th century to the 19th; still used in the early 20th, though falling out of fashion by then. Often stored in small decorative “snuffboxes” such as the tin described here. See image below.

    Snuffbox with Queen Victoria (www.liveauctioneers.com)
    Snuffbox with Queen Victoria (www.liveauctioneers.com)

paragraph 4

  • “never seen a woman taking snuff before” – Snuff (and other tobacco products) have often been considered as “male” oriented, though there have always been some females who partook.

paragraph 5

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

Page 271

Typical 1890s rose wallpaper (william-morris.com)
Typical 1890s rose wallpaper (william-morris.com)

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • See image for some wallpaper similar to that described here.

paragraph 2

  • “May’s sister Cora, lately turned sixteen” – Hence, born in 1892. Aside from a brief mention in the chapter Eating Flowers (Pxxx), she does not reappear after this chapter.
  • “their Jim” – Not mentioned elsewhere, though possibly the namesake of “baby Jim” in the chapter Hark! The Glad Sound! Possibly 14 now, though that’s just a guess.
  • “Young Johnny, having reached the dirty age” – Johnny Vernall will have significant parts to play in the chapters Hark! The Glad Sound! and The Steps of All Saints, and small appearances or mentions in several other chapters. His inappropriate sexual urges will be a continuing theme. We learn below that he is currently 12.

paragraph 3 – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • “a painting done by Joseph Wright of Derby, like his air-pump or his forge” – Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797) was an English painter.  The “air-pump” painting is pictured below. He also had a painting titled “An Iron Forge” from 1772. Per Wikipedia:

    He has been acclaimed as “the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution“.[1] Wright is notable for his use of tenebrism effect, which emphasizes the contrast of light and dark, and for his paintings of candle-lit subjects.

    An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, by Joseph Wright, 1768, National Gallery, London
    An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, by Joseph Wright, 1768, National Gallery, London

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

Page 272

paragraph 1 (continued) – 7

  • No notes.

paragraph 8

  • frit” – UK dialect “frightened”.

paragraph 9 – 11

  • No notes.

Page 273

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “big ideas of him on stage or in the music hall” – For more on Johnny’s ambition (despite lack of talent), see the chapter Hark! The Glad Sound!

paragraph 2

  • No notes.

paragraph 3

  • “One in five mothers died in childbirth still” – This is, perhaps, misleading. At this time period, the maternal mortality ratio was approximately 1 in 20. But this is measuring mortality for an individual birth; as most women had several children, the overall chance of a woman eventually dying in childbirth was quite high.

paragraph 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • “She knew that she would die here in this room” – Incorrect. As her father observed during her birth, May Warren dies in an apartment building “more than eighty years into […] the future” (P266p3).
  • “not turned twenty yet” – May is 19 now.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

Looking up at St. Michael (Google Street View Apr 2019)
Looking up at St. Michael (Google Street View Apr 2019)
  • “that stone angel what’s up there” – The Archangel Michael; see image.
  • “Giles Street” – Technically “Saint Giles’s Square”.
  • “the old frescos round the edge” – The town hall (AKA Guildhall) does have a number of frescoes in its main hall; see image below.
Some of the Guildhall frescoes (Google Street View Sep 2014, Steve Brill)
Some of the Guildhall frescoes (Google Street View Sep 2014, Steve Brill)

Page 274

paragraph 1

  • “her barmy aunt” – This would be Snowy’s younger sister Thursa, spoken of briefly in the chapter Do as You Darn Well Pleasey and to be discussed more in the chapter Hark! The Glad Sound!.
  • “offered him a business partnership” – Moore related the following anecdote in a 2000 interview:

    Ginger Vernon […] was offered by a friend of his who was just setting up what would become, um, a very large, very successful company, er, he was offered a share in the directorship. If he would stay out of pubs for a week, then he would have been made a director of the company. This seemed to him to be artificial behaviour. This seemed to him to be a pretence, pretending if only for a week to be something other than what he was, so he politely declined the offer and, er, presumably for the rest of his life had to put up with his wife pointing out the fine three storey house that his former friend now lived in, which of course could have been theirs, but on a point of principle he had passed that up.

  • “up on the Billing Road” – A major road leading east out of the Boroughs.

paragraph 2

  • No notes.

paragraph 3

  • “he’s a Vernall” – For more discussion on the meaning of “Vernall”, refer back to the chapter Do as You Darn Well Pleasey (P263p2).
  • “You’d have been too well off to wed your Tom, and then where should this little baby be?” – Recounting the same anecdote in 2003, Moore adds: “[…] he declined being a millionaire. And I’m glad he did, or else I would’ve been born into a completely different family and none of this would probably have ever happened.”

paragraph 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • “the Smoke” – British slang for London.

Page 275

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “goats and monkeys” – Two animals associated with lechery.

paragraph 2 – 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • Jigsaw puzzles date to around 1760, though the name dates to around 1880.

paragraph 5 – 7

  • No notes.

Page 276

paragraph 1 (continued) – 8

  • No notes. (!)

Page 277

paragraph 1 (continued) – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

Medusa head 4th century BC (Pushkin museum, photo: shakko)
Medusa head 4th century BC (Pushkin museum, photo: shakko)
  • Medusa” – A mythological woman whose gaze could turn men to stone. Mrs Gibbs seemed briefly petrified above at P276p1.
  • “swear an oath they’d not do magic on the child” – There are a few examples of early modern midwife oaths in England. They do include language like “I will not use any kind of sorcery or incantation”
  • “say any words while it was being born” – I have not been able to find such admonishments in the oaths. They do, however, have language forbidding the use of any unapproved prayers or “profane words”.
  • “swap it for a fairy” – This refers to the folklore belief in changelings. I have been unable to find any historic midwife oaths that mention this.

paragraph 6 – 10

  • No notes.

Page 278

paragraph 1 – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • half cut” – British slang for drunk.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

  • “Oh, this is hard, gal” – This recalls Archangel Michael’s “This will be very hard for you” (P58p2-3), repeated in the chapter just previous by Snowy (P260p3). Snowy, like Mrs Gibbs, is aware of the short life this beautiful child will have.

paragraph 8-10

  • No notes.

Page 279

paragraph 1 – 2

  • No notes.

paragraph 3

  • “I want two girls, then after that I’ll stop” – The real-world Minnie May Vernon Moore had two daughters, of which the younger Minnie May was the second, not the first. She would not have another child for about 8 years after Minnie’s death.

paragraph 4 – 5

  • Mrs Gibbs is aware that this claim about the future, like most such claims in Jerusalem, is significantly mistaken.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

  • As will be firmly established in a few paragraphs, our scene is now Beckett’s Park, just south of the Boroughs.

    View from the bridge, looking west towards the Cattle Market (Google Street View Jun 2019 photo by Uy Hoang)
    View from the bridge, looking west towards the Cattle Market (Google Street View Jun 2019 photo by Uy Hoang)
  • “the wrought-iron bridge between the river island and the park” – While today there are three separate islands, old maps show them joined by narrow strips of land on their southern sides. They seem to have been separated some time in the 1940s. I’m guessing that the “wrought iron bridge” is not the railway bridge at the western end of the island(s), but one which old maps indicate near the northern tip of the island. There is a bridge there today, but I don’t know if it dates back to 1909.
  • “eighteen-month-old daughter” – We are now in September of 1909, on the same day as the chapters Blind, But Now I See and  Modern Times.

    Cattle Market and park bridge (Google Maps 2021)
    Cattle Market and park bridge (Google Maps 2021)
  • “the cattle market further up” – The Cattle Market is just west of Beckett’s Park. See map.

paragraph 8

  • “an ancient mariner with albatross” – referring to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. The titular character shoots an albatross, angering his crewmates who thought the bird was good luck. They eventually force the mariner to wear the dead albatross around his neck.
  • “Victoria Prom” – Victoria Promenade, AKA Cattlemarket Road, AKA A5123 forms the southeastern border of the Boroughs, and the northern border of Beckett’s Park.

paragraph 9

  • No notes.

Page 280

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • catkins” – A kind of plant bud.
  • “Ming vase” – The Ming Dynasty in China (1368-1644) is renowned to this day for the excellence of their porcelain vases. These being both delicate and very old, they are highly-valued treasures.
  • “the first of a new race” – Possible reference to Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1871 science fiction novel The Coming Race. The book was something of a craze in the 1890s, and has been referenced by Moore in other works, notably The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1969.

paragraph 2

  • No notes.

paragraph 3

  • half sharp” – British slang “stupid”.
  • squeeze-box ” – Slang for “accordion”.
  • “rainbow drop” – A type of candy, described more in the next paragraph. These appear to not be the puffed candy from the Swizzels company of the same name that dates from the 1930s, but an older name for what is now called a chocolate nonpareil.

paragraph 4

Mays' Walk part 1 (approx) (Google Maps 2022)
Mays’ Walk part 1 (approx) (Google Maps 2022)
  • “Gotch’s shop in Green Street” – Previously mentioned in the chapter Work in Progress. This is not the same as the modern Green Street, but one that used to run south of St. Peter’s Church. This data point allows us to plot May’s approximate route to here from her home in Fort Street; see map.
  • “chocolate drops” – Today, this term is mostly applied to what we now call chocolate chips. From context, these seem to be larger and flatter.

    "rainbow drops" (photo by deb)
    “rainbow drops” (photo by deb)
  • “hundreds-and-thousands” – Known in the US as “nonpareils“, these are small brightly-colored balls of sugar. When placed, as here, on some chocolate, the confection as a whole is now referred to as a “chocolate nonpareil”.
  • “little dots like the French painters used” – Pointillism, a technique pioneered by French artists in the late 19th century (previously mentioned last chapter, P261p2). It involved the creation of an image from many small discrete points of color.

paragraph 5

  • “the Nene forked around [the island] to its north, continuing as two streams that re-joined to form one river at the land’s south tip” – The Nene travels from west to east here, not north to south. From this and other references below (P282p3, P283p1), it would appear that Moore had a map in front of him while writing this chapter, but had it turned 90 degrees, so that what he sees as “north” is actually west!
  • “A foot-worn path” – This path is visible on the 1923 map excerpted below.
  • “marshy ground that was sometimes a pond” – Google Maps (in 2022) shows the central mass of the island as a pond with two smaller islands inside it.

Page 281

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “pavilion” – Probably in the sense “A light roofed structure used as a shelter in a public place.” Possibly a gazebo?

paragraph 3

  • “chaps renting boats” – Old maps show a boathouse there from at least 1923-1950; it could well have been there as early as 1909.

    Nene island, c.1923 (maps.nls.uk)
    Nene island, c.1923 (maps.nls.uk)
  • “The chimney-sweep from Green Street, Mr. Paine” – Not otherwise attested, as far as I can tell.
  • gramophones” – Early devices for playing music recordings. Originally a trademark of the Gramophone Company, the word “gramophone” became officially generic in 1910.

paragraph 4

Pinks (photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz)
Pinks (photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz)
  • “Pinks” – This is the name of a variety of flower. The color is named after the flower.
  • “one day her and Tom might find a decent house [on Green Street]” – The real-life couple that May and Tom are based on moved to Green Street sometime between 1912 and 1915, making this a rare prediction that comes true.
  • Eden” – In Biblical lore, the primordial Garden.

    A 1909 Victrola (www.icollector.com)
    A 1909 Victrola (www.icollector.com)
  • Victrola” – A brand of “Talking Machine” introduced in 1906. The term is sometimes used generically (see note to “gramophones” above), so this may or may not have been an actual Victrola.

paragraph 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

Page 282

paragraph 1 (continued) – 2

  • This episode is reminiscent of the scene in Frankenstein where Victor’s mother sees an unusually beautiful girl among peasants. Victor’s mother:

    prevailed on her rustic guardians to yield their charge to her. They were fond of the sweet orphan. Her presence had seemed a blessing to them; but it would be unfair to her to keep her in poverty and want, when Providence afforded her such powerful protection.

paragraph 2

  • “She’d look after little May better than some posh woman could have done.” – More dramatic irony. Little May will soon die of diphtheria. By 1909, both a vaccine and a treatment were available, though not yet widely used. A wealthy family might well have saved her life.

paragraph 3

  • “the island’s northern, cattle-market end […] towards Midsummer Meadow and the south” – As mentioned above (P280p5), Moore seems to have his map on its side. The cattle-market is, as previously mentioned, to the west of the island, not north, and Midsummer Meadow is located directly east, not south.

paragraph 4

  • “worms and maggots somehow grew on trees” – Possibly meant to evoke the image of silkworms on a mulberry bush from the chapter A Cold and Frosty Morning
    "Craven ‘A’ that had the black cat mascot"
    “Craven ‘A’ that had the black cat mascot”

    (Pxxx).

  • “Craven ‘A’” –  A brand of cigarette. The little information on them I could find claims that they were introduced in 1921, which would make their presence here an anachronism.

paragraph 5

  • “a pair of pants” – In British English, “pants” means underwear.

Page 283

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “the abbey out at Delapre” – Delapre Abbey is about half a mile south of the island.

    Battle of Northampton 1460 (unknown Victorian(?) artist)
    Battle of Northampton 1460 (unknown Victorian(?) artist)
  • Wars of the Roses” – A series of English civil wars between the families of Lancaster and York during the mid-to-late fifteenth century. There was a major battle in Northampton on 10 July 1460, during which King Henry VI was captured by the Yorkists. To claim that this “decided” the war depends on how you define the war(s). There was a pause in the fighting for several months after the Battle of Northampton, but I would regard the renewed hostilities in late 1460 to be part of the same war.
  • “curving round the isle’s south end” – Again, Moore has his map turned wrong, and clearly means the east end.

paragraph 2

  • Pied Piper” – A popular piece of folklore, dating back to around 1300.

    The Pied Piper by Maxfield Parrish, 1909 (en.wahooart.com)
    The Pied Piper by Maxfield Parrish, 1909 (en.wahooart.com)

paragraph 3

  • “Derngate and the hospital” – Derngate is the intersection at the north tip of Beckett’s Park. Northampton General Hospital is to the northeast of it.

paragraph 4

  • la-di-da” – Mostly British term indicating someone affecting airs of superiority.
  • “Dr. Forbes” – Not otherwise attested, as far as I can tell.
  • simple” – Here in a now outdated usage meaning “feeble-minded”.

paragraph 5

  • Dr. Forbes’ rant is an early example of what is now called the Hygiene Hypothesis. I haven’t been able to establish that this idea was current in 1909, but it’s not impossible.
  • “you’ve got to eat a peck of dirt before you die” – This has long been proverbial (dating back to at least 1738); sometimes metaphorically, but very often in a literal sense. A “peck” is a now-outdated dry measure equivalent to 8 quarts, though it was also used loosely to indicate “a large quantity”.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

Page 284

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

Miss Pears ad from 1959 (theprintedpast.blogspot.com)
Miss Pears ad from 1959 (theprintedpast.blogspot.com)
  • “Miss Pears” – Pears soap famously used images of beautiful children in their advertising. (See also the note to P5p4.) They eventually started holding a children’s beauty contest for an annual “Miss Pears” to be featured in their ads. Sadly, the reference is an anachronism, as the contest did not begin until 1958.
  • “towards the iron gas-holder” – Still a few blocks away, but it was large enough to be a prominent landmark. See map below.

    Mays' Walk part 2 (Google Maps 2022)
    Mays’ Walk part 2 (Google Maps 2022)

paragraph 3

First public demonstration of a Montgolfier balloon, 1783
First public demonstration of a Montgolfier balloon, 1783
  • Montgolfier” – The Montgolfier brothers were pioneers of the hot air balloon in the 1780s.
  • “the railway station yards” – At this time, the “yards” were about a quarter mile to the west, south of the river. They have since moved north of the river.
  • “Bellbarn” – A street, now missing, that ran diagonally between St Andrews Street and Grafton Street. It is about 0.4 miles due north of May’s current location. Unclear why May would refer to it, as it seems to be just one of many streets north of her. Perhaps there was at the time a large physical building which the street had been named after?

    The Artist's Daughters, Thomas Gainsboroug, c. 1759
    The Artist’s Daughters, Thomas Gainsboroug, c. 1759
  • “Gainsborough” – Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) English painter. Some of his paintings featured beautiful children.

paragraph 4

  • “fibrous olive smears” – Horse dung.
  • “where St. Gregory’s once stood” – This was the destination of the chapter X Marks the Spot. See map below.
Mays' Walk part 3 (Google Maps 2022)
Mays’ Walk part 3 (Google Maps 2022)

Page 285

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “The baby chuckled” – We are now seeing the events of the chapter Modern Times (P162p1ff) from May’s point of view. See that chapter for a fuller account of their dialogue.
  • “a slim young fellow” – Who is, of course, young Charlie Chaplin.

paragraph 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • “déjà vu” – It is unlikely, but possible, that May would know this term in 1909, it having only been coined in 1907.
  • “the chap” – Commenter Archie Keller suggests that this may be a pun on “Chaplin”.

paragraph 5

  • No notes

Page 286

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “he could see now that she were wed” – More explicitly, “Oatsie” sees her wedding ring on P163p1.

paragraph 2

  • “sincere, saying as how she’d end up on the stage” – Like most of Oatsie’s predictions, this will not come to pass.
  • “fag” – British slang for “cigarette”.

paragraph 3

  • “West Square off St. George’s Road” – See map, below.

    Oatsie & May's childhood homes (Google Maps 2021)
    Oatsie & May’s childhood homes (Google Maps 2021)
  • Sybil” – Religious oracles in Ancient Greece.

paragraph 4 – 5

  • No notes.

Page 287

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

Pike Lane c.late Victorian
Pike Lane c.late Victorian
  • “Pike Lane and Quart Pot Lane” – See map at right. A “Pike Lane” exists today, but now runs north of St. Mary’s Street. “Quart Pot Lane” appears to have been an earlier name for what is now Doddridge Street.

paragraph 3

  • “where the great fire had broke out” – For more on this, see the chapter Malignant, Refractory Spirits, Pxxx.

    Mays' Walk part 4 (Google Maps 2022)
    Mays’ Walk part 4 (Google Maps 2022)
  • “the Civil War” – The English Civil War was a series of conflicts running from 1642 to 1651. “Roundhead” was a slang term for the Parliamentarian side (as opposed to the “Cavalier” Royalists). Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was an important Roundhead general, and subsequently became Lord Protector of the British Isles; for more on him, see the notes to the chapter Sleepless Swords (Pxxx). Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671) was also a Roundhead general, though he later split from Cromwell, and gave his support to the Restoration.

    Oliver Cromwell, painted by Samuel Cooper, 1656
    Oliver Cromwell, painted by Samuel Cooper, 1656
  • “kipping” – UK slang for “sleeping”, with a connotation of makeshift arrangements out of necessity.
  • “in Marefair, parallel to Mary’s Street” – So, about a block south of May’s current location.
  • “Naseby” – Naseby is a small village about 14 miles north of Northampton. The Battle of Naseby (June 14, 1645) was a major victory for the Roundhead side, though “Charlie” (King Charles I) did not surrender until almost a year later.
  • pikes” are a type of spear. Whether Pike Lane takes its name from the weapon (as opposed to, say, the fish) is unknown.

    Burial Ground (1899 map detail)
    Burial Ground (1899 map detail)
  • “the burial ground” – 1899 maps mark this area as “Burial Ground (Disused)”.
  • “Chalk Place” – A puzzling reference. There is definitely a Chalk Lane here, dating back under that name to at least 1899, but I have found no reference to a Chalk Place.
  • “Reverend Doddridge” – Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) was an English clergyman who was prominent in the Nonconformist movement of English Protestantism. He is discussed at more length in the chapter Malignant, Refractory Spirits, Pxxx.

paragraph 4

  • “that queer door halfway up” – See image below.

    Doddridge Church (Google Street View Oct 2018)
    Doddridge Church (Google Street View Oct 2018)

paragraph 5

Mays' Walk part 5 (Google Maps 2022)
Mays’ Walk part 5 (Google Maps 2022)
  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • “Castle Terrace led to Bristol Street” – Neither of these exists today, though I have indicated in the map at right approximately where they were. Their former locations can also be seen in the 1899 map detail below.

    Fort Street area (detail of 1899 map)
    Fort Street area (detail of 1899 map)
  • Mr. Beery, the lamp-lighter, was previously encountered in the chapter Blind, but Now I See, P204p2. That passage also used a fish metaphor, though a different one.
  • Roman candle” – A type of firework.

paragraph 7

  • “Fort Street” – Another street that no longer exists, though there is now a “Fort Place” in the same general area.
  • “Why, Mrs. May and Missy May!” – We are now seeing the scene from the chapter Blind, but Now I See, P203p3ff, from May’s point of view.

Page 288

paragraph 1

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • sparklers” -A kind of firework, continuing May’s thought about the Roman candle from the previous page.
  • “Her dad and granddad and her barmy aunt” – John “Snowy” Vernall, Ernest “Ginger” Vernall, and Thursa (appearing in several chapters, but never as the viewpoint character).
  • “that old monk who’d brought the cross here from Jerusalem” – See chapter X Marks the Spot.
  • “angels would be snobs […] judging her” – In this, May is exactly wrong. See the chapter Clouds Unfold.

paragraph 3

  • “that funny creature of Newt Pratt’s” – Mentioned earlier in the chapter Blind, but Now I See, P204p3. Curiously, Moore never identifies this animal by name. In case there was any doubt, here’s a relevant snippet from Reg Tero in In Living Memory:

    Used to be a fellow called Newt Pratt […]. He was a horse dealer. There was a public house down Scarletwell Street called the Friendly Arms [… a]nd this fellow. Newt Pratt, used to bring a zebra down there on a Sunday dinner time. Used to tie it up outside and he used to give it beer. Bring a jug of beer out to it.

  • “the fever cart” – In Living Memory:

    John Short: Just along St. Andrews Road was the place where the ‘Fever Cart’ was kept. Anybody with diptheria or scarlet fever used to have to go away to the fever hospitals on the Welford Road. They had a special cart with windows in, which you couldn’t see through. Also, they used to have to take the bed and the bed linen to be (fumigated). When they had a house that was infested with lice they used to take the beds and treat them in this place too. It was horse drawn. Belonged to the Borough.

Page 289

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “number ten” – The real-world Vernons were living at 37 Fort Street at this time.

paragraph 3

  • “Johnny and Cora and her mam and dad” – Odd that there is no mention of Jim Vernall in this list. Perhaps he’s likely to be out? (Jim is about 15 now.)
  • “number twelve” – The real-world Minnie May Moore was then living at 43 Fort Street.
  • “potted meat” – Probably here referring to the older method of food preservation, not to the more modern use of “canned meat”.

    Tin pie safe c.1910s (www.redriverantiques.com)
    Tin pie safe c.1910s (www.redriverantiques.com)
  • “tin safe” – Probably a tin version of what Wikipedia calls a “pie safe“, an early form of food storage, before iceboxes. It kept food “safe” from insects or mice, but not especially from spoilage.
  • tea” – In this usage, a mid-afternoon or evening meal, often including sandwiches (from which May removes the crusts).
  • “liver and onion roll” – While liver and onions are fairly typical low-cost food ingredients, I am unsure exactly what form of preparation is implied here. Possibly related to this Indian dish, which is similar to an egg roll or a burrito? Suggest??

paragraph 4

  • “Tom got home from the brewery where he worked” – Tom’s real-world equivalent, Ernest Moore, listed his occupation in the 1911 census as “Bootmaker”; I have no record of him working in a brewery, but it’s not implausible that he would have done.
  • “up the apples and pears to Uncle Ned” – Two instances of Cockney rhyming slang here: “apples and pears” for “stairs”, and “Uncle Ned” for “bed”.
  • “that chap by Vint’s Palace” – Again, “chap” may be a sly reference to “Chaplin”.

paragraph 5

  • “Sunday afternoon” – Later on, May refers to this event happening on “Sat’day dinnertime” (P298p5). Given the severity of the symptoms described on Saturday, and May’s general solicitousness, I think this “Sunday” is an error.
  • “The child’s skin had took on a yellow cast” – This is not a common diphtheria symptom, at least not today.

paragraph 6 – 7

  • No notes.

Page 290

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “Egyptian beetles” – Presumably scarab beetles, which were sacred to Ancient Egyptians.

paragraph 3

From Suggestive Therapeutics and Hypnotism by Herbert A. Parkyn, 1900.
From Suggestive Therapeutics and Hypnotism by Herbert A. Parkyn, 1900.
  • “a mesmerist’s audience volunteer” – In this context, mesmerists were a kind of stage magician, who claimed to achieve their effects through hypnosis. One common effect was a levitation trick, which started with the “audience volunteer” (actually a confederate) lying stiffly between two chairs; see image.

paragraph 4

  • “it came in two parts” – I have been unable to find documentation of this, but have no reason to disbelieve it either. Suggest??
  • “it stopped their hearts” – One of the possible complications of diphtheria is “myocarditis (damage to the heart muscle)”
  • “Especially young children” – Exact statistics vary by time and place, but diphtheria was always significantly more deadly to children under 5, with mortality as high as 20%.

paragraph 5

  • “Pride came before a fall” – From the Biblical book of Proverbs, 16:18, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

paragraph 6

  • “Just eighteen months” – The real-life Minnie May Moore Jr. seems to have been born on Jan 22 1911 and died in Q4 1912.

Page 291

paragraph 1 (continued) – 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • “The door being as usual on the latch, May didn’t hear the deathmonger come in.” – Commenter Archie keller points out:

    Earlier in this chapter, Mrs. Gibbs, the deathmonger, after delivering baby May, stated that she didn’t need anyone to show her out. Here, she clearly doesn’t need anyone to show her in. This is fitting for a deathmonger, as they seem to be gatekeepers for life’s entrance as well as life’s exit. So it makes sense that Mrs. Gibbs needs no help entering or exiting mere doors!

  • spot the difference” – A popular game/puzzle that asks the player to identify a few differences in two very similar pictures. I haven’t been able to find any information on the history of this game, but it certainly could have been around by 1909.

paragraph 5 – 9

  • No notes.

Page 292

paragraph 1 – 7

  • No notes.

paragraph 8

  • “your daughter’s upstairs now” – See all of Book 2, but especially its first chapter, Upstairs.

Page 293

paragraph 1 (continued) – 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • jamrags” – Slang for a cloth to contain menstrual blood.

paragraph 7

  • No notes.

paragraph 8

  • frit” – UK dialect “frightened”.

paragraph 9

  • No notes.

Page 294

paragraph 1 (continued) – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

William Cowper by George Romney, 1792 (www.npg.org.uk)
William Cowper by George Romney, 1792 (www.npg.org.uk)
  • “God moved in mysterious ways” – The phrase apparently originates in a 1773 hymn by William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way“. This is the same Cowper who was a collaborator with John Newton, as discussed in the chapter Blind, but Now I See.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

Fort Street and St. Andrew's Road (detail of 1899 map)
Fort Street and St. Andrew’s Road (detail of 1899 map)
  • “off and down Bath Row” – Slightly puzzling, as Bath Row is north of Fort Street, and the fever camp is considerably to the south (as detailed in the chapter Rabbits, Pxxx.. But it may be that Bath Row is the simplest route to get to the nearest major north-south road (St. Andrew’s Road).

paragraph 8

  • No notes.

Page 295

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “our Cora and our Johnny” – Again, no mention of Jim. Was Jim perhaps a late addition to the chapter?

paragraph 3 – 13

  • No notes.

paragraph 14

A British postal order (postalheritage.files.wordpress.com)
A British postal order (postalheritage.files.wordpress.com)
  • postal-order” – A way of sending money through the mail in the UK.

Page 296

paragraph 1 (continued)

A 6-year-old admitted to Barnardo's in 1909 (www.dailymail.co.uk)
A 6-year-old admitted to Barnardo’s in 1909 (www.dailymail.co.uk)
  • Barnardo’s” – A British charity which cares for “vulnerable children”.

paragraph 2 – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • bab” – Uk slang, “baby”.

paragraph 6

  • “skirting board” – Per Wiktionary: “A panel, normally made of wood, between the floor and the interior wall of a structure, or placed in a position that is subject to repeated knocks.”

paragraph 7 – 8

  • No notes.

paragraph 9

  • “I fell pregnant just two weeks ago” – See notes at P302p8ff, below.

paragraph 10 – 13

  • No notes.

Page 297

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • cat” – In this sense, slang for “whore”.

paragraph 2 – 6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

  • “I’ll have one more and then that shall be it” – She will have one more daughter, but four more sons. See P302p8, below.

paragraph 8 – 9

  • No notes.

Page 298

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “knocked her for six” – UK idiom, derived from cricket jargon, meaning “To affect in a devastating way by some unexpected news.”

paragraph 2 – 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • brick” – In this context, UK slang for “A helpful and reliable person.”

paragraph 5

  • “listing flags” – Tilted paving stones.

paragraph 6 – 7

  • No notes.

Page 299

paragraph 1 (continued) – 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • “There’s justice up above the street” – See the chapter Mental Fights for more discussion.

paragraph 7

  • “Where had May heard those same words said before?” – The text doesn’t tell us, but it would make sense for her father to have been aware of this concept and have used the phrase in her hearing.

Page 300

paragraph 1 (continued) – 7

  • No notes.

Page 301

paragraph 1 (continued) – 7

  • No notes.

paragraph 8

  • “you can’t work with the dead, not lest you take a little pinch of snuff” – To mask the odor. A variety of similar substances are still used today.

paragraph 9

  • “Gingerly dipping her face forward May snorted raw lightning”  – Commenter Archie Keller points out that “Gingerly” recalls her grandfather “Ginger” Vernall, and that the reference to “lightning” suggests that this may be May’s equivalent to her grandfather’s moment of enlightenment in the chapter A Host of Angles.

paragraph 10

  • No notes.

paragraph 11

  • royal jelly” – Literally, a type of honey bee secretion used to create and feed queen bees. Here, of course, used metaphorically for “snot”.
  • “minor tremors” – Commenter Archie Keller points out that these “mirror her major contractions during baby May’s birth (also in the presence of Gibbs). Is this May being reborn in some way as a deathmonger?”

Page 302

paragraph 1 (continued) – 7

  • No notes.

paragraph 8

Louisa Moore c.1912
Louisa Moore c.1912
  • “another girl, 1909, little Louisa” – This would be Louisa Warren, based on Louisa Fanny Moore. Louisa Moore was born in 1909, but Louisa Warren was conceived in September or October of 1909, so had to be born in 1910, making this date an error.
    • In the actual Moore family, the ill-fated May was the second child, born in 1911.
  • “an Austrian Duke got shot” – Archduke Franz Ferdinand. His assassination in 1914 is generally held to be the inciting incident of World War I.
  • “Castle Station” – The railway station just west of the Boroughs.

paragraph 9

  • The boys’ real-world analogues are:
    • Tom: Ernest Thomas Moore (1920-1991)
    • Walter: Walter John Moore (1921-1979)
    • Jack: Jack Moore (1923-1944)
    • Frank: Less clear, but possibly Gordon Harry Moore (1925-2004)

      Green Street c.1950
      Green Street c.1950
  • “Green Street” – Just south of St. Peter’s Street, Green Street is another street that no longer exists. The real-world Moore family moved to 108 Green Street some time between 1912 and 1915. They moved to 89 Green Street some time prior to 1939, but there is a large gap in the census-taking, so I can’t pin it down more closely.
  • “Her father died in 1926” – See the chapter Eating Flowers.

Page 303

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “cornery” – Warren family slang for “insane”; see chapter Work in Progress, P12p3.

    Fort Street area (detail of 1899 map)
    Fort Street area (detail of 1899 map)
  • “Bristol Street” – Another street that no longer exists. It intersects with Fort Street, strongly suggesting that Louisa Warren still lived there.

paragraph 2

  • “two years after that” – this is ambiguous. It could mean 2 years after the last specific date, 1936, or it could mean 2 years after the last mentioned incident, with Louisa seeing cars. The real-world Ernest Moore seems to have lived until 1947.
    • 1938 would be about the right time for “they started talking of another war.” This suggests that the rest of the last paragraph is from the point of view of shortly after Tom’s death.
  • “Lou was grown and married” – The real-world Louisa Fanny Moore married Albert Goode in 1931.
  • “two little girls” – Presumably both Louisa’s daughters.
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7 thoughts on “J1.10 The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron”

  1. P.O.V. CHARACTER = (ADULT) MAY WARREN

    • She has previously appeared in Ch6 with Drake/Chaplin and Ch7 with Henry.

    • She is 19 years old (at the beginning of this chapter).

    • Her daughter is also named May Warren. Adult May gives birth to baby May in the beginning of this chapter, and then baby May dies at the end of this chapter at 18 months old.

    • Her father is John “Snowy” Vernall (POV character from Ch9). It’s noted that he dies in 1926.

    • Her mother is Luisa (who gave birth to her in Ch9). It is noted that she dies in 1936 after not having left the house for a “score” (20 years) (because of having “gone cornery”).

    • Her grandfather, Snowy’s father, is Ernest “Ginger” Vernall (POV character from Ch2).

    • Her siblings are Cora (16), Jim, and Johnny (12).

    • Her husband is Thomas “Tom” Warren, who eventually fights in, and survives, World War I. It is noted that he dies in 1938, and by then their daughter Louisa had two daughters of her own.

    • Following baby May’s death, she has five more children: Louisa (born in 1909, named after May’s mom), Tom (born in 1917), Walter (born in 1919), Jack, and Frank.

    ACT I DATE = 1908

    • This is baby May Warren’s day of birth.

    OBSERVATIONS AND QUESTIONS:

    • Mrs. Gibbs is the “deathmonger” who delivers baby May. A “deathmonger” is a term used for a midwife/coroner that (I believe) Moore has said in interviews is a real term that is/was unique to the Boroughs of Northampton.

    • Page 273, last par: It notes that Snowy has worked as an artist retouching ceilings from a scaffolding. This is exactly what his father, Ernest, was doing in Ch2 when he met the angel.

    • Page 277, par 5: Baby May’s “beautiful Medusa radiance” recalls the top of the previous page where Mrs. Gibbs, after seeing baby May for the first time, “stared wide-eyed, as if she’d been briefly transformed to stone.” The mythical character Medusa turned anyone who saw her face to stone.

    ACT II DATE = SEPTEMBER 1909

    • This is the same day as Ch6 with Drake and Ch7 with Henry.

    OBSERVATIONS AND QUESTIONS:

    • Page 284, par 3: “The world seemed so rich, so significant, like an oil painting.” This echoes her father Snowy’s painting metaphor from Ch9.

    • Page 284, last par: Peter’s stone cross from Ch5 is mentioned, noting that “it was a shrine where folk made pilgrimages and all that. ‘Rood in the Wall’ they called it.”

    • Page 285, par 2: This is May’s point of view of her and baby May’s interaction with Drake/Chaplin in Ch6.

    • Page 285, par 4: Adult May has “déjà vu, the feeling like something’s happened before” when seeing Drake’s face (although this is because it turns out that she had actually seen his face years earlier). Anyway, Ch9 notes that her father Snowy is in a constant state of “déjà vu,” and thinks it’s weird that other people occasionally get that feeling.

    • Page 185 p4: “Also, May’s daughter seemed to like the chap…” Chap/Chaplin pun? (Drake is referred to as a “chap” again later in this chapter as well.)

    • Page 287, par 3: More about Reverend Doddridge, “who had preached down here, while not a terrible destructive force like Old Oliver Cromwell or the fire was as incendiary in his own way, fighting for Nonconformists and the poor, and suited the spot’s troublemaker air.”

    Also, both adult May and baby May contemplate the weird door halfway up Doddridge Church.

    • Page 287, last par: This is May’s point of view of her and baby May’s interaction with Henry in Ch7.

    • Page 288, par 3: “There was that funny creature of Newt Pratt’s, on Sundays, drunk outside the Friendly Arms, but that weren’t what frit May about the street.” Drunken zebra mention!

    ACT III DATE = SEPTEMBER OR OCTOBER 1909 (a week or so after Act II)

    • Baby May dies of diphtheria, and adult May blames herself for not being a good enough mother, which is a result of 18 months of conditioning in the form of “fancy-dressed” assholes implying that her “sort” were unfit to be proper parents. This is so damn sad.

    • Page 290, par 3: Baby May’s “sleeping face looked grey…” Grey (or black-and-white) is the color of the ghosts like Freddy from Ch4.

    • Page 291, par 4: “The door being as usual on the latch, May didn’t hear the deathmonger come in.” Earlier in this chapter, Mrs. Gibbs, the deathmonger, after delivering baby May, stated that she didn’t need anyone to show her out. Here, she clearly doesn’t need anyone to show her in. This is fitting for a deathmonger, as they seem to be gatekeepers for life’s entrance as well as life’s exit. So it makes sense that Mrs. Gibbs needs no help entering or exiting mere doors!

    Mrs. Gibbs seems to have a similar ability to glimpse the block universe that Ernest, Snowy, and Thursa have. However, Gibbs seems to be able to function more harmoniously with regular people then those three, despite having this ability.

    • Page 297, par 3: Gibbs says this to reassure the grieving and guilty-feeling May: “I’ve heard worse, let me tell you. Anyway, it’s all included in my shilling, dear. Listening and talking, that’s the biggest part.” Deathmongers aren’t just midwives and coroners, they (Gibbs, at least) serve as someone who a new mother or a grieving loved one can confide in, outside of their family. A comfort of strangers, in a way, to paraphrase how May contemplates it.

    • Page 301, par 9: May, having decided to become a deathmonger, tries “snuff” for the first time, per Gibbs’ insistence, and it is described as such: “Gingerly dipping her face forward May snorted raw lightning halfway down her throat.” Is this a gingerly/Ginger Vernall pun? Is this a ceiling angel moment equivalent for May?

    Also, the “minor tremors” resulting from May’s “snuff” snort mirror her major contractions during baby May’s birth (also in the presence of Gibbs). Is this May being reborn in some way as a deathmonger?

    “EINSTEINIAN BLOCK UNIVERSE” MOMENTS:

    • Page 274, last par: Snowy “couldn’t have known that she’d marry Tom unless he was a fortune-teller too.” This is ironic because in Ch9 Snowy was able to see May’s entire life all at once at the moment of her birth…so yeah, “fortune-teller” doesn’t really do it justice!

    • Page 276, last par: “It was as thought the universe had shrunk down to the tube of a kaleidoscope, a gleaming well along the length of which, from each end, child and mother’s glances locked, adoring, mirrored and suspended in the amber of the moment for all time.”

    THESE LINES MADE ME LAUGH:

    • Page 272, par 5: “Mrs. Gibbs chuckled, a most pleasant sound, like several apples rolling down the stairs.” This line made me literally laugh, not because I found it funny, but because I was trying to figure out with my own voice what this apple-rolling laugh might sound like!

    • Page 278, par 5: Snowy paid for his beer with “caricatures and rude cartoons, the funny-looking drawings Snowy did of folk, insults for which they paid in ale.”

    • Page 281, par 5: “Head on her mother’s shoulder, little May was chattering fluently, unhindered by irrelevant concerns like sense or words.”

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    1. There’s an interview with Moore where he says that Snowy is basically his great-granddad: “How my Great Grandfather used to just run up walls. You’d be talking to him, then you’d look away, perhaps at something on the street and when you turned back he’d be gone and three stories above you, admiring a particularly nice piece of chimney breast.. and how he was once arrested for drunkenly haranguing the crowds from a rooftop – something reported in the local paper of the time – I’ve also heard other family rumours of how he had retouched the frescoes down at the Guildhall and made numerous other adjustments throughout the town.” This figures, given that Alma=Alan.
      Similarly with Audrey. It’s pretty much all true.
      http://internationaltimes.it/ode-to-the-eternalist-a-litera-matic-encounter-with-alan-moore/

      Like

  2. I’ll put my dramatis personae and index lists here.
    NOTES:
    Page referrers are for 3 volume paperback edition by Knockabout.
    Dramatis personae-characters in brackets are only mentioned but not in scene.

    Dramatis Personae
    A (10. March 1908)
    • May (Vernall) Warren: POV, 19 years old
    • Mrs. Gibbs: a deathmonger
    • Louise Vernall: Mays mother
    • Snowy Vernall: Mays father
    • Cora Vernall: Mays sister, 16 years old
    • Johnny ›Jim‹: Mays younger brother
    (• Thursa Vernall: Mays barmy aunt)
    • Tom Warren: Mays husband
    • baby May: just being born

    B (18 month later, September 1909)
    • May (Vernall) Warren, POV
    • baby May, 18 month old
    (• Snowy Vernall)
    • Thursa Vernall
    (• Mr. Paine, chimney sweep from Green Street)
    (• Tom Warren)
    (• well dressed couple shaming May in Beckett’s Park)
    (• Dr. Forbes)
    (• monk with stone cross = Peter, see X Maks The Spot)
    • Oatsie = Charlie Chaplin, see Modern Times
    • Mr. Beery, gaslight man
    • ›Black Charlie‹ = Henry George, see Blind, But Now I See
    (• Newt Pratt & his funny creature)
    (• Johnny)
    (• Cora)
    • Tom Warren
    • Uncle Ned
    • Dr. Forbes

    C (2 weeks later; end of September / begin of October 1909)
    • Mrs. Gibbs
    • May (Vernall) Warren, POV
    (• Tom Warren: died 1938)
    (• Louise Vernall: died 1936)
    (• Anne Burk: told May mystery of the facts of life when May was a girl)
    (• Snowy Vernall: died 1926)
    (• Dr. Forbes)
    (• Cora Vernall)
    (• Johnny Vernall)
    (• well dressed woman shaming in Beckett’s Park)
    (• Thursa Vernall)
    • Louisa Warren: *1909, daughter of May and Tom
    • Tom Warren: *1917, son of May and Tom
    • Walter Warren: *1919, son of May and Tom
    • Jack Warren: son of May and Tom
    • Frank Warren: son of May and Tom

    Index
    • Queen Victoria: 263, 291
    • Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797), English landscape and portrait painter: 264
    • Punch and Judy, traditional, popular, usually violent puppet show, associated with British seaside culture: 265
    • War of the Roses (1455-1487): 274
    • Lancasters, Yorks, rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet; enemies in the War of the Roses: 274
    • ›The King‹, presumbly Richard III., last king of the House of York, killed during Battle of Bosworth (22. August 1485): 274
    • Miss Pears = ›From the early 20th century Pears was famous for the annual “Miss Pears” competition in which parents entered their children into the high-profile hunt for a young brand ambassador to be used on packaging and in consumer promotions.‹ Source Wikipedia: 275
    • Montgolfier balloon, referring to Joseph-Michael Montgolfier (1740-1810) and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (1745-1799); first public demonstration of their hot air balloon took place on 4. June 1783: 276
    • Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), English portrait and landscape painter: 276
    • ›Rood in the Wall‹: 276
    • Sybil, oracle in ancient Greece: 277
    • English Civil War (1642-1651): 278
    • Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), English military and political leader, Lord Protector of the Commenwelath of England, Scotland and Ireland: 278
    • Roundheads (Parliamentarians), suporters of the Parliament of England during English Civil War; enemies of Cavaliers (Royalists): 278
    • Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671), Roundhead commander-in-chief during English Civil War; victorious over Royalists in Battle of Naseby (14. June 1645): 278
    • ›Reverend Doddridge‹ = Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), English Nonconformist leader, educator and hymnwriter: 278
    • Diphteria, bacterial infection: 280
    • ›Barnado’s woman‹, referring to Bernado’s Girls Village in Barkingside, Essex, home for children rescued from East End slums in London, founded in 1876: 286
    • ›Austrian Duke‹ = Franz Ferdiand Archduke of Austria (1863-1914): 292
    • ›First World War‹, World War I, The Great War (1914-1918): 292

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  3. One of May’s brothers is, I think, Aurdey Vernall’s father, who is an ongoing character with great significant to the novel.

    Like

  4. Audreys parents are Johnny ›Jim‹ Vernall and Celia, if I am not mistaken. Good a place as any to post my family tree sketch:

    Add: this is a work in progress. Includes info found up till chapter HARK! THAT GLAD SOUND.

    Liked by 1 person

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