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Delahunty - The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions (2001).pdf
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Humphrey in fact aims to run things behind the scenes as Whitehall deems appropriate.

It is good to know that Sir Humphrey survived the fallout on 1 May and that policy is still in the same old safe pair of hands.

The Observer, 1997

Svengali Svengali is a musician in George du Maurier's novel Trilby (1894) who trains Trilby's voice and makes her a famous singer. His control over her is so great that when he dies, she loses her ability to sing. The name Svengali has come to be used of someone who establishes considerable or near-total influence over someone else.

The idea of the hypnotist as an all-powerful demon, like Svengali, who could make

anybody do anything, he pooh-poohed. ROBERTSON DAviES World of Wonders, 1975

Suddenly the spirit of that evil man is haunting this house. He has become your Svengali!

JOHN KENNEDY TOOLE A Confederacy of Dunces, 1980

Academics like myself are labelled as trendy progressives, not believing in structure, the Svengali figures to whom thousands of poor dears in the teaching profession are in ideological thrall, a patronising and laughable view.

The Observer, 1997

Thought Police In George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the thought police are the secret police whose job is to control and change the thoughts of anyone who dares to think independently, using brainwashing and torture.


In several of the allusions below the idea of pride was originally associated

with offence against God, though they can also be applied in more general

contexts. • See also Ambition, Humility Vanity.

Ahab In the Bible, Ahab (c.875-54 BC) was the king of Israel who married Jezebel and converted to the worship of the pagan god Baal. When he was finally killed, 'the dogs licked up his blood' (1 Kgs. 22: 38). Ahab can be alluded to for his wicked pride in refusing to believe in God but choosing rather to worship Baal.

'Does Judith or either of the boys ever come down to hear you preach?' . . . 'Nay, they struts like Ahab in their pride, and their eyes drip fatness, nor do they see the pit digged beneath their feet by the Lord.'

STELLA GIBBONS Cold Comfort Farm, 1932

hubris In Greek tragedy, hubris was excessive pride or defiance of the gods, which led to total failure or destruction, brought about by the avenging goddess Nemesis.


In both Japan

and the West, the fall of the tiger economies has been read as a

simple tale of

hubris and nemesis.

The Observer,


Lucifer According to Christian tradition, Lucifer, also known as Satan or the Devil, was cast out of heaven for his pride in daring to rebel against God. Lucifer represents pride that leads to one's own destruction.

The shining Bull's Eye of the Court was gone, or it would have been the mark for a

hurricane of national

bullets. It had never been a good eye to see with—had long

had the

mote in it


Lucifer's pride.



Tale of Two Cities, 1859

She knows now what it was. It was Pride, deadliest of the Seven Deadlies; the sin of Lucifer, the wellspring of all the others.

MARCARET ATWOOD The Robber Bride, 1993

But the Fontclairs are an old Norman family, and proud as Lucifer.

KATE ROSS Cut to the Quick, 1993

Ozymandias Ozymandias is the name of an imaginary ancient king in Shelley's poem Ozymandias (1819). He enjoyed great power in his lifetime, but his power and works have all decayed over time. The inscription on the remains of a great stone carving of him warns others not to fall into the trap of pride in their earthly achievements because all will crumble to dust after their death:

'My name is Ozymandias, king of king: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

Ozymandias can be used to represent hubris.

Maybe he [Orson Welles] suffered from an Ozymandias complex—he wanted to bequeath the world a vast, scattered ruin in order to imply a lost glory. It's true that no ruins were ever so magisterially bewildering.

The Guardian, 1997


The names of such 20th-century prisons as ALCATRAZ, COLDITZ, the GULAG

ARCHIPELAGO, and ROBBEN ISLAND have entered common usage to describe

not only another prison but also any institution that resembles a prison in

its regime or level of security. • See also Captives, Escape and Survival.

Alcatraz Alcatraz was a notorious American prison on the island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. Built in 1868, it was originally a prison for military offenders, but was later used for civilian prisoners. From 1934 it held the most dangerous criminals, including the gangster Al Capone. Alcatraz was closed in 1963. Its name has come to symbolize a prison from which escape is impossible.


Conditions are awful inside a new £3m unit designed to hold the country's most dangerous prisoners, says Sir David Ramsbotham, the Chief Inspector of Prisons. The Close Supervision Centre at Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes was labelled Britain's Alcatraz when it opened earlier this year.

The Independent, 1998

Andersonville Andersonville is a village in SW Georgia in the United States. It was the site of a notorious Confederate prison, where dreadful conditions led to the death of over 12,000 Union soldiers.

Bastille The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, built as a royal castle by Charles V, and completed in 1383. Used as a prison in the 17th and 18th centuries, it became a symbol of repression. It was stormed and sacked by the Parisian mob in 1789 on 14 July, now commemorated as Bastille Day, marking the beginning of the French Revolution.

I would fain unite the duties of existence and have my mother at home with me, but alas, fate has arranged it otherwise, and here we are imprisoned as completely as if we were in the Bastille.

CELIA THAXTER Letters, 1873

Black Hole of Calcutta The Black Hole of Calcutta was a dungeon in Fort William, Calcutta. In June 1756, Siraj-ud-Dawlah, nawab of Bengal, reputedly imprisoned some 146 British prisoners there in a narrow cell, 6m square. Only twenty-three people survived, all the others suffocating. The expression is now used to refer to any small, cramped place in which people are trapped.

As I passed Erskine-Brown's open door I could see his room was bursting at the seams, and, as I hung up my hat and coat in the hallway, I heard the voice of the Erskine-Brown say he supposed they'd have to hang on in that Black Hole of Calcutta a little longer.

JOHN MORTIMER Rumpole of the Bailey, 1978

Bloody Tower The Bloody Tower is a nickname for a part of the Tower of London, built 1377-99. It derived its name from the belief that it was the place where the Princes in the Tower were murdered. It also housed famous prisoners such as Sir Walter Ralegh.

Colditz Colditz is a medieval castle near Leipzig in eastern Germany. It was used as a top-security prison camp during the Second World War, particularly for prisoners who were known as likely escapees, and became famous as a camp from which escape was considered almost impossible.

Former residents described Bryn Estyn as the 'Colditz of residential care!

The Observer, 1996

Dartmoor Dartmoor is a high-security prison on Dartmoor, a moorland district in Devon, originally built to hold French prisoners of war during the Napoleonic Wars.

Devil's Island Devil's Island is a small island off the coast of French Guiana. It was used as a convict settlement, initially for prisoners with contagious diseases but later for political prisoners. Its most famous prisoner was Albert


Dreyfus (1859-1935), the French army officer of Jewish descent who was falsely accused of passing secrets to the Germans. His trial, imprisonment, and eventual release caused a major political crisis in France.

Each of these transgressions isolated the club and its devotees further and further from the lip-pursing, right-thinking, Arsenal-hating mainland; Highbury became a Devil's Island in the middle of north London, the home of no-goods and miscreants.

NICK HORNBY Fever Pitch, 1993

Gulag Archipelago The Gulag Archipelago is the name of the system of forced-labour camps in the Soviet Union, specifically in the period 1930-55, in which hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, died. The term can be now be used in a more general sense.

Much has been made by commentators about Delia's celebrated dullness. We are told repeatedly that she was once exiled to the TV equivalent of the Gulag Archipelago because she wasn't 'sexy enough!

The Guardian, 1995

Newgate Newgate is London's famous historic prison. Originally the gatehouse of one of the city gates, Newgate was first used as a prison in the early Middle Ages, and the last prison on the site was closed in 1880 and demolished in 1902. The prison housed many notorious criminals as well as debtors, and became notorious in the eighteenth century for the wretched conditions in which the inmates lived.

The Royal Palace . . . resembles Newgate whitewashed and standing on a sort of

mangy desert.


Reading Gaol Oscar Wilde spent time in Reading Gaol (1895-7) for homosexual offences, and wrote his poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol based on his experiences there. The poem highlights the harsh conditions in the prison and the despair of the prisoners.

And by the end of the evening, Reading Gaol would have felt like the George V.

JULIAN BARNES Talking It Over, 1991

Robben Island A small island off the coast of South Africa, Robben Island is the site of a prison in which political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, were formerly held.

Sun City Sun City was the name given by political prisoners to Diepkloof Prison, near Johannesburg in South Africa. Sun City is actually a South African casino resort.

It's a better place than Sun City. Better conditions.

NADINE CORDIMER My Son's Story, 1990

Tower of London The Tower of London is a fortress in central London, used as a royal residence and later as a state prison.

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