New Brooms

Notes on the text

Notes 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 84, lines 1-4] “If seven maids with seven mops . . . This heading is a four line verse from “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, in Alice Through the Looking Glass (1865) by Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson, 1832-1898). [ORG]

[Page 84, line 5] Aryan Hobson-Jobson defines this word as: ‘coming from the Sanskrit word ‘noble’, a term frequently used to include all the races (Indo-persic, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Sclavonic [sic], etc) which speak languages belonging to the same family as Sanskrit.’ It should not confused with the later use of the word in Nazi propaganda.

[Page 84, line 8 & 9] green and smelly tank Hobson-Jobson describes a tank as: ‘a reservoir, an artificial pond or lake, made by excavation or damming.’ It can be filled from streams or by rainwater depending on the location. The water, particularly in the latter case, is liable to become stagnant, with rotting vegetation in it and an algal bloom that can also decompose. The tanks can be used for bathing as well as supplying cooking and drinking water, with the consequences that are vividly described in this story.

[Page 84, line 11] charpoy the light Indian bed, usually consisting of a simple frame bedstead with strings or ribbons as supports for the body.

[Page 84, lines 15 & 16] cardamons, capsicums, gingelly-oil, cloves Cardamons, capsicums and cloves are spices only. Gingelly (or Gingili) oil is Sesame oil, derived from the Sesame plant. Its uses are as an emollient or nutrient, a substitute for olive oil, and in pharmacy as a vehicle for various substances to be injected into the body. [ORG]

[Page 85, line 1] burned him slightly cremation is the usual Hindu way of disposing of the dead and afterwards putting the remains into the nearest river.

[Page 85, line 6] Lethe a river in the (Ancient Greek) underworld, from which the shades of the dead drank, and thus obtained forgetfulness of the past.

[Page 85, line 13] typhus see the general article by Dr Gillian Sheehan on “Kipling and Medicine”. Typhus is generally transmitted by lice, whereas the disease described here is water-borne and would nowadays be called typhoid.

[Page 85, line 14] zenana derived from the Persian zanana from zan for ‘woman’. The apartments of a house in which the women of a family are secluded. This Mahommedan custom has been largely adopted by the Hindus of Bengal and the Mahrattas. (Hobson-Jobson).

[Page 85, line 16] Faquir or fakeer An indigent person, but specially ‘one poor in the sight of god,’ applied to a Mahommedan religious mendicant, and then, loosely and inaccurately, to Hindu devotees and naked ascetics. And this last is the most ordinary Anglo-Indian use. (Hobson-Jobson).

[Page 85, line 19] smallpox see the article by Dr Gillian Sheehan on “Kipling and Medicine”.

[Page 86, lines 12 to 15] fever . . . cholera . . . smallpox . . . dysentery see the article by Dr Gillian Sheehan on “Kipling and Medicine”.

[Page 86, line 15] mohulla a neighbourhood, district, or sub-division of an Indian town. More details can be found at

[Page 87, line 2] “pestilence that walketh . . .” see Psalm 91, verse 6. [ORG]

[Page 87, line 8, & page 88, line 4] “Jenab!” an Urdu interjection, meaning “Sir!” or “Your Honour!”. Sometimes spelled Janaab!).

[Page 88, line 1] midden a dung-heap for household refuse. [ORG]

[Page 88, line 2] Sirkar a term used in India for the Government or supreme authority.

[Page 88, line 17] bower-bird an Australian bird of the starling family which builds bowers or runs, adorning them with feathers, shells, etc. using them, not as nests, but as places of resort. [ORG]

[Page 89, line 4] Sanitary Engineer an engineer who specialises projects for improvements to public health such as the supply of clean water, wastewater disposal, and drainage.

[Page 89, line 10] The liberty of the subject is sacred The [ORG] comments: who first said this ? Nobody in particular, probably. The phrase ‘the liberty of the subject’ occurs in various political statements, one for example being Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan: The Matter, Form and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil, published in April 1651.


©David Page 2006 All rights reserved