A Fallen Idol

Notes on the text

By David Page. The page and line numbers below refer to the Authorised Edition of Abaft the Funnel published by Doubleday and Page, New York, in 1909.


[Page 79, title] “A Fallen Idol” is the title of a fantasy-novel by F. Anstey (pseudonym of Thomas Anstey Guthrie, 1856-1934), published in 1886. It is the tale of a Society artist who has his life disrupted by his possession of a malevolent Indian idol, in part a spoof on the Theosophists. [ORG]

[Page 79, line 5] Club a meeting place, usually for bachelors, where they could drink, dine, and otherwise amuse themselves.

[Page 79, line 9] Bougainvillea a flowering climbing vine discovered around 1768 in Brazil during a voyage by the French Admiral Louis Antoine, Comte de Bougainville (1729-1811).

[Page 79, line 15] thermantidote a mechanism for cooling the air in a building during hot weather. The principle on which it works is by fitting screens of cuscus grass (‘tatties’) to the windows which are then kept wet. Air is forced through the screens either by the wind or a mechanism such as a fan , and the evaporation of the water causes a reduction in the temperature of the air passing through the thermantidote. The device was first thought to have come into use about 1830-32. [Hobson-Jobson].

[Page 79, line 17] whist a card game for four players in two fixed partnerships. A standard pack of 52 cards is used.

[Page 80, line 5] Ananias see Acts of the Apostles, 5. It was he who, with his wife, Sapphira, tried to deceive the Early Christian Church by secretly keeping back part of the proceeds of the sale of some land. [ORG]

[Page 80, line 6] Prince’s Plungers The name of an imaginary regiment. [ORG]

[Page 80, line 10] made it over … on a card acknowledged the superiority of Trivey by writing it down on his visiting card.

[Page 80, line 13] frontier Northwest frontier between northern India (an area which is now part of Pakistan) and Afghanistan.

[Page 80, line 20, 21] Anungaracharlupillay in Madras Madras, now Tamil Nadu, is the most south-easterly State in India. The city of Madras was renamed Chennai in 1996. Anungaracharlupillay has not been identified – it may have changed its name or the spelling thereof, been the result of Kipling’s imagination, or of Kipling’s misspelling. [Any suggestions as to its identity will be welcomed by the Editor].

[Page 81, line 9] hamstrung the villagers cut the tendons of the rogue elephant behind the knee.

[Page 81, line 16] 80 rupees over £5 at the time. A considerable sum. [ORG]

[Page 82, line 15] subaltern a commissioned military officer below the rank of Captain.

[Page 82, line 15] “snooker” In 1875 the junior officers of the Devonshire Regiment serving at Jubblepore, India, became disenchanted with the game of billiards, and Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain decided to take the coloured balls from the game of ‘Pool’ (where every player has a different coloured ball) and placing these on different spots on the table. In 1882 the officers arranged a meeting at Ootacamund where precise rules were drawn up and published. With the constant movement of personnel both throughout India and Britain, the game was soon accepted throughout the British Empire, although the Billiards Association resisted formal acknowledgment of the game until 11th December 1900, when they officially recognised the game and published the rules. [https://www.thurston-games.co.uk/snooker/history.htm]

English Billiards was played with just one red ball and two white cue balls (one with a mark), as opposed to snooker which has 21 coloured balls and one white cue ball.

Both games are played on the same table which has six pockets, the cue balls being struck with a long tapering stick, or cue.

[Page 83, line 10] Tantalus-action a reference to the trough-shaped case for spirit decanters, at one time in general use but now rarely seen other than in antique shops. Normally it consisted of either a bar, hinged at one end and lockable at the other, or the carrying handle of the case was hinged and could be locked. When closed, the fastener(s) fitted over the tops of the stoppers of the decanters, thus preventing their removal from the Tantalus-case until it was unlocked.

The Tantalus is so named after the ancient Greek King Tantalus, who, having offended the Gods, was afflicted with a raging thirst and immersed up to his neck in a lake; but whenever he tried to drink, the waters receded from him. The case was introduced to prevent thieving butlers/other servants from getting at their master’s alcohol, and was so named because they could see it but couldn’t get at it.


©David Page 2006 All rights reserved