Charles Dickens Glossary

ablutions a washing of the body. (Great Expectations)

Accoucheur policeman an Accoucheur was a male midwife or an obstetrical doctor. Because Pip's sister always acts as if Pip had insisted on being born, she treats him like a criminal. Pip concludes that since he was an "offender" at birth, he was delivered to his sister by an obstetrical policeman. (Great Expectations)

adamantine unyielding, firm, adamant about something. Pip adamantly refuses to answer his sister's questions when he returns from his first visit to Miss Havisham's. (Great Expectations)

adieu French for "farewell." (A Tale of Two Cities)

ague a chill or fit of shivering, often caused by malaria with its intermittent fevers. (Great Expectations)

alehouse a place where ale is sold and served; tavern. (A Tale of Two Cities)

all otherth ith Cag-Maggerth cagmag is garbage, like rotting flesh, and this comment indicates that the speaker considers all other lawyers useless compared to Jaggers. (Great Expectations)

ambuscade ambush. (A Tale of Two Cities)

anathematize to denounce or curse. (A Tale of Two Cities)

antipodes that is, through a trapdoor. The actual definition is any two places that are directly opposite each other on the earth. (Great Expectations)

apocryphal of doubtful authorship or authenticity; not genuine. (A Tale of Two Cities)

apostrophising the fowl the British spelling of the word "apostrophizing," which means the addressing of someone or something, as in a speech or play. Pumblechook is speaking to the chicken that he is about to eat, about Pip's good fortune. (Great Expectations)

arm-chest a chest containing weapons. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Bacchanalian propensities a tendency toward drinking alcohol. (A Tale of Two Cities)

bad courtier A courtier, originally an attendant at a royal court, refers here to someone who is adept at using flattery to get something or to win favor. Herbert's father is a bad courtier with Miss Havisham in that he does not flatter her but speaks the truth whether she likes it or not. (Great Expectations)

bagatelle board a slanted oblong table that was raised at one end and used to play a nineteenth century version of pinball with a wooden ball, a wooden cue, and numbered holes. (Great Expectations)

bank note a promissory note issued by a bank, payable to the bearer on demand and which can be used as money. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Barmecide room a room in which things are an illusion. Barmecide was a prince in the Arabian Nights who offered a beggar a feast and set an empty plate before him. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Bartholomew Close a narrow street near Bartholomew Church in the Smithfield area of London. (Great Expectations)

Bastille a state prison in Paris that held many prisoners indefinitely without trial; it was stormed and destroyed (1789) in the French Revolution: its destruction is commemorated on Bastille Day, July 14. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Battery, the a nearby fort or gun emplacement. (Great Expectations)

bear leader someone who lead a trained bear from place to place for money. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Beauvais a town in France north of Paris. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Bedlam the Hospital of St. (A Tale of Two Cities) Mary of Bethlehem, a London insane asylum, where Londoners went to watch the mentally unstable for entertainment. (A Tale of Two Cities)

being insured in some extraordinary Fire Office At that time, fire insurance companies put plaques on the buildings they insured. They also had their own fire engine companies. When the fire companies were racing to a fire, the emblem on the building let them know if it was one of their buildings to save. (Great Expectations)

black gaiters cloth or leather coverings for the insteps and ankles, and, sometimes, the calves of the legs; also, spats or leggings. (Great Expectations)

blunderbusses muskets with a large bore and a broad, flaring muzzle, accurate only at close range. (A Tale of Two Cities)

boot-jack a device to grip a boot heel, for helping a person to pull off boots. (Great Expectations)

Bounceable Here, Wemmick is talking to one of the plaster face casts and saying what a boaster and liar that client was. (Great Expectations)

bower a place enclosed by overhanging boughs of trees or by vines on a trellis. (Great Expectations)

bowsprit a large, tapered spar extending forward from the bow of a sailing vessel, to which stays for the masts are secured. (Great Expectations)

Bow-street men from London; extinct red waistcoated police there were two groups - the Bow Street Runners and the Bow Street Patrol. The latter wore red uniforms, worked as patrols in London, and were often confused with the former. The Runners were plainclothes detectives in London who often went out into the provinces to investigate serious crimes. (Great Expectations)

box the driver's seat of a coach. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a better a proverb meaning that silence is better than boasting. (Great Expectations)

brazen bijou a brass ring that holds a roasting jack. (Great Expectations)

bread-poultice, baize, rope-yarn, and hearthstone these references apply to the convicts that rode with Pip to the Hulks. Bread-poultice was bread soaked in hot water, put in cloth, and applied to bruises and swellings. Baize was a cheap, thick wool cloth probably used for prison clothes. Rope-yarn refers to the fact that prisoners were often put to work unraveling old rope. Hearthstone refers to stone broken up to use to whiten doorsteps and hearthstones. (Great Expectations)

Bridewells and Lock-Ups prisons. (Great Expectations)

Britannia metal cheap silverware made of tin and antimony and marked with an image of Britannia. (Great Expectations)

brought up by hand to spoon- or bottle-feed, rather than breast-feed. (Great Expectations)

Cain or the Wandering Jew Pip describes Orlick as a skulking, evil sort of person. He associates Orlick's appearance and mannerisms with the Bible character Cain, a fugitive and vagabond after killing his brother Abel, and with the Wandering Jew, a legendary medieval character who wandered the earth as punishment for his cruelty to Christ. (Great Expectations)

Calais a seaport in northern France, on the Strait of Dover; located across the English Channel from Dover. (A Tale of Two Cities)

came of age the age of majority, when Pip is now considered an adult. (Great Expectations)

cant word a term from the secret slang of beggars, thieves, and the like. (A Tale of Two Cities)

capacious dumb-waiter a piece of furniture with shelves to hold sauces, silverware, and other items for dinner. (Great Expectations)

capstan an apparatus around which cables or hawsers are wound for hoisting anchors, lifting weights, and so on. (Great Expectations)

Carmagnole a dance popular during the French Revolution. (A Tale of Two Cities)

cast was made in Newgate This term refers to the plaster face casts in Jaggers office, which were the death masks of two of his clients made right after they were hanged. These masks were often made after executions and sold to willing buyers. (Great Expectations)

Cataleptic having a condition in which consciousness and feeling seem to be temporarily lost and the muscles become rigid: the condition may occur in epilepsy, schizophrenia, and other such conditions. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Catechism a series of questions and answers children in the Church learn. When they are confirmed by the Bishop they must be able to answer these. In one part of the Catechism, the child promises to "keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of my life." Pip interprets this to mean he must walk home the same way every day of his life. (Great Expectations)

Catechist a person who teaches, especially the principles of a religion, by the method of questions and answers. (A Tale of Two Cities)

cavalier a gallant or courteous gentleman; originally, a knight. (A Tale of Two Cities)

certain movable framework that is, the guillotine. (A Tale of Two Cities)

chain of the shoe a chain beneath the carriage, attached to the brake. (A Tale of Two Cities)

chaise any of several kinds of lightweight carriage used for leisure, having two or four wheels and drawn by one or two horses. Some have a collapsible top. (A Tale of Two Cities)

chaise-cart a lightweight carriage with two to four wheels that is drawn by one or two horses. It sometimes has a collapsible top. (Great Expectations)

chandler's shop originally, a shop specializing in candles; here, it refers to a general store, which would also stock candles. A chandler was, originally, a maker or seller of candles. (Great Expectations)

change come so oncommon plump a change coming so suddenly and all at once. Joe is commenting on how the news of Pip's expectations just caught him off guard at first, but after a night's sleep he is dealing better with it. (Great Expectations)

Channel the English Channel. (A Tale of Two Cities)

chary wary, careful. (Great Expectations)

choused cheated, swindled. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Christian name the baptismal name or given name, as distinguished from the surname or family name; first name. (A Tale of Two Cities)

cistern a large receptacle for storing water; especially, a tank, usually underground in which rainwater is collected for use. (Great Expectations)

claret a dry, red wine, especially red Bordeaux. (A Tale of Two Cities)

close the eyes of the foolish Argus at Hummums, Pip cannot sleep any better than the Greek mythological giant, Argus. The giant had one hundred eyes, 50 of which were open even while he slept. (Great Expectations)

coach and six a coach drawn by six horses. (A Tale of Two Cities)

coal-whippers men who operated the whips or pulleys that raised coal onboard ships. (Great Expectations)

cocked-hat a three-cornered hat with a turned-up brim. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Cock-lane ghost a poltergeist phenomenon studied by Horace Walpole, Dr. Johnson, and Oliver Goldsmith. People greatly debated its authenticity. (A Tale of Two Cities)

cogitation serious, deep thought; meditation. (A Tale of Two Cities)

coiner a counterfeiter. (Great Expectations)

collation a light meal. (Great Expectations)

Collins' Ode on the Passions Mr. Wopsle is supposed to give periodic scholastic tests to the students in his great-aunt's school to see if they are learning. Instead, he makes them listen to his performances of great orations and poems. This one is the poem, "Ode on the Passions," by William Collins (1721-1759). Collins' odes were often on nature subjects or emotions, and here Mr. Wopsle plays the part of "Revenge." (Great Expectations)

comes the Mo-gul over us a Mogul is one of the Mongolian conquerors of India and Persia. Joe uses this term to describe Mrs. Joe's heavy-handed, despotic power over them as if she were some Far Eastern prince. (Great Expectations)

Commercials underneath . . . Tumbler's Arms When Mr. Wopsle does his "Ode on the Passions" performance at Pip's party, he throws his "sword down in thunder," making so much noise that the traveling salesmen in the rooms below complain. The waiter is telling Mr. Wopsle that the inn is not a place for circus performers as the Tumbler's Arms is, so quiet down. (Great Expectations)

compatriot a fellow countryman. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Conciergerie a prison in the Palais de Justice where many prisoners sentenced to die by the guillotine spent their last days. (A Tale of Two Cities)

congress of British subjects in America In January 1775, the American Continental Congress presented a petition of its grievances to the British Parliament. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Convulsionists members of a religious group with physical practices similar to the Shakers or the Holy Rollers. (A Tale of Two Cities)

copper-stick Pip has to stir the Christmas pudding and is using the stick usually used to stir the laundry, which is done in the largest copper pot in the house. (Great Expectations)

corn-chandler a corn merchant. (Great Expectations)

counting-house a building or office in which a firm keeps records, handles correspondence, and so on. (Great Expectations)

crag a steep, rugged rock that rises above others or projects from a rock mass. (A Tale of Two Cities)

cravat a neckerchief or scarf. (A Tale of Two Cities)

crimes in the Calendar this is a reference to the Newgate Calendar (1771), a series of true-crime stories. Pip is imaging that Magwitch's crimes were among these. (Great Expectations)

Cross Keys, the a real inn from the seventeenth century where coaches coming into London from the provinces would stop. (Great Expectations)

cutlass a short, curving sword, originally used by sailors. (A Tale of Two Cities)

dance a hornpipe lively dance played on a hornpipe, which is an obsolete wind instrument with a bell and mouthpiece made of horn. (Great Expectations)

debauched corrupted by drunkenness or sensuality; depraved. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Dervishes members of any of various Muslim religious groups dedicated to a life of poverty and chastity. Some dervishes practice whirling, chanting, and the like as religious acts. (A Tale of Two Cities)

descrying to discern, or think you see, something. (Great Expectations)

dock the place where the accused stands or sits in court. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Double Gloucester a thick, creamy cheese that is twice as large and old as regular Gloucester. Herbert's concern here is that the old man will hurt himself trying to cut through it. (Great Expectations)

dragoon trot the pace of a mounted military unit. (A Tale of Two Cities)

drawer a bartender; tapster. (A Tale of Two Cities)

dull blades a blade is an easy-going playboy. Dull would indicate that this student is not very smart. (Great Expectations)

dumb lacking the power of speech; speechless. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Dutch clock a cheap wooden clock that was imported from Germany. (Great Expectations)

Dutch doll a wooden doll with jointed legs, made in Germany. (Great Expectations)

Dying Gladiator Mr. Pocket, overwhelmed by the chaos in his house, drops down onto the sofa in this pose. It refers to "The Dying Gaul," a Roman copy of a Greek statue of a dying gladiator lying down propped up on one arm. (Great Expectations)

equipage a carriage, especially one with horses and liveried servants. (Great Expectations)

escutcheon the shield on which a family displays its crest. (A Tale of Two Cities)

eventide evening. (A Tale of Two Cities)

excrescence an ugly, abnormal, or disfiguring addition to something. At his party for his apprenticeship, Pip is miserable while the adults are having a great time. Thus, Pip is an excrescence on their fun. (Great Expectations)

execrating cursing. When the two convicts are captured, they fight and curse each other. (Great Expectations)

expectorating coughing up and spitting out. (Great Expectations)

expiation a making amends or reparation for guilt or a wrongdoing. (A Tale of Two Cities)

expostulatory having to do with an earnest objecting. (Great Expectations)

faces out of the Witches' caldron a reference to Act IV, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Macbeth visits the witches as they stir their caldron, and he demands an explanation of their prophecies about him. They ask if he wants the story from them or from their masters, and he asks to see their masters. The witches promptly work their magic and a number of apparitions arise from the boiling caldron. (Great Expectations)

fagged up a steep hill toiled up the hill slowly and strenuously. (A Tale of Two Cities)

farinaceous containing, consisting of, or made from flour or meal. Because Pumblechook is a corn and seed merchant, his home and place of business no doubt have a fair bit of corn meal or flour dust scattered about. (Great Expectations)

Farmer-General a member of a rich organization that made a living off of high taxes. (A Tale of Two Cities)

farrier a person who shoes horses. (A Tale of Two Cities)

fashionable crib . . . a shake-down Magwitch wants Pip to find him cheap lodging of the kind thieves are used to, often in disreputable public-houses where the beds are made up of straw on the floor. (Great Expectations)

fell among those thieves this is a biblical reference, referring to the unfortunate man in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:30-35, who fell among thieves, was beaten by them, and left for dead. Pip feels that numbers and arithmetic are about as vicious to him as the thieves were to the man in the parable. (Great Expectations)

fenders material, such as timber or old cables, hung over the side of a ship to protect it from banging around while in port. (Great Expectations)

fête days festival days or days with gala parties held outdoors. (Great Expectations)

finger post a sign post. (A Tale of Two Cities)

fired a rick set fire to a haystack. Pip's reference to this crime means people would have viewed him as a major criminal because at that time, children even as young as 7 were sometimes hanged for arson. (Great Expectations)

fit of the jerks an epileptic seizure. (A Tale of Two Cities)

flambeau a torch. (A Tale of Two Cities)

flint and steel Flint is a fine-grained, very hard rock that produces sparks when struck against a piece of steel. Before the invention of matches, people used flint and steel to start fires. (A Tale of Two Cities)

flowered-flounce a flounce is a wide ornamental ruffle, a cloth with pleats in it; here, the cloth has a flowered design. (Great Expectations)

fluey dusty. (Great Expectations)

footpad a highwayman who travels by foot. (A Tale of Two Cities)

forenoon morning; the part of the day before noon. (A Tale of Two Cities)

forest for the chase the wood where hunting took place. (A Tale of Two Cities)

freemasonry a natural sympathy and understanding among persons with like experiences. Pip and Joe share the freemasonry of abuse as victims of Pip's sister. The term refers to the Freemasons, a secret fraternal society begun in the early 1700s and having among its principles brotherliness and mutual aid among its members. (Great Expectations)

game at Bo-Peep Pip is referring to the plaster casts in Jaggers' office that, in the shadowy reflections of the fire, look as if they are playing peekaboo with him. This is another example of human actions or emotions ascribed to inanimate objects. (Great Expectations)

gaols British spelling of jails. (A Tale of Two Cities)

garden-mould dirt, soil, earth. (Great Expectations)

Gazette, The an English government publication that listed bankruptcy announcements. (A Tale of Two Cities)

gentlemanly Cove a gentlemanly chap or man. (Great Expectations)

Geographical chop-house . . . porter-pot a less-than-clean restaurant serving beefsteaks and mutton-chops and catering to clientele who are not concerned with neat eating habits. The porter-pot was a pot for holding cheap, bitter, dark-brown beer named for the people who drank it - porters and workingmen. (Great Expectations)

George Barnwell; meditating aloud in his garden at Camberwell; died amiably at Camberwell; game on Bosworth Field; and in the greatest agonies at Glastonbury after Pip visits Miss Havisham, he stops at Pumblechook's and listens to Wopsle perform the part of an uncle who is murdered in the play The London Merchant. Barnwell is the young hero in the story who kills the uncle. As Pip and Wopsle walk home from Pumblechook's, Wopsle continues his rendition of famous death scenes the Camberwell reference is still from the Barnwell tragedy, and the Bosworth Field reference is from Richard III; the Glastonbury reference is unclear because Dickens may have confused Glastonbury with Swinstead Abbey, from Shakespeare's play King John. (Great Expectations)

gewgaws things that are showy but useless; trinkets. (Great Expectations)

gibbet a structure similar to a gallows, from which bodies of criminals already executed were hung and exposed to public scorn. (Great Expectations)

ginger and sal volatile this was a form of smelling salts used then especially to revive ladies who passed out or became hysterical. It was a mixture of ammonium carbonate scented with dried ginger. This is used much by Raymond to calm Miss Camilla during the night when she gets so "nervous" worrying about relatives like Miss Havisham. (Great Expectations)

gold repeater Jaggers' watch. It repeats, meaning it chimes the last hour or quarter hour when a lever is pressed and thus it can be checked in the dark. Its use was not as important after sulfur matches became common. (Great Expectations)

Gorgon's head in Greek mythology, a Gorgon is one of three sisters with snakes for hair. They are so horrible that a beholder is turned to stone. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Gormandizing a British spelling of the word "gourmandising," which here means eating or devouring like a glutton. (Great Expectations)

Great Seal of England in plaited straw the Great Seal of England is an important symbol carried by the Lord Chancellor. Here, Mrs. Joe carries her plaited-straw basket importantly, like her own straw version of the Great Seal of England. (Great Expectations)

Grenadier wooden measure a tall, cylindrical measuring cup. (A Tale of Two Cities)

gridiron a framework of metal bars or wires on which to broil meat or fish. Joe is trying to use terms of his work to tell Pip there is nothing special he could make and bring to Miss Havisham that would be enough even if he were the best of craftsmen. Even the best cannot change a gridiron into something special. (Great Expectations)

Grinder a private tutor who prepares students for their examinations. (Great Expectations)

guineas, shillings, and bank-notes forms of British currency. (A Tale of Two Cities)

gunwale the upper edge of the side of a ship or boat. (Great Expectations)

hackney coach a coach for hire, oftentimes a six-seat carriage drawn by two horses. (A Tale of Two Cities)

hackney-coachman a hackney coach-driver. A hackney coach would be similar to a modern taxi in that you would hire it to take you somewhere, unlike the coaches coming into London from the provinces, which stopped at only certain stations or inns. (Great Expectations)

hair powder; shorts Magwitch's suggestions for a disguise are outdated, reflecting his many years away from England. Wigs were no longer used, hair powder was used only by the old-fashioned, and shorts or knee-breeches were worn only by some clergy members on ceremonial occasions. (Great Expectations)

hand-portmanteau a traveling case or bag. (Great Expectations)

Harmonious Blacksmith, the a piece of music by G. F. Handel (1685-1759) that was supposedly based on a blacksmith's song that the composer overheard. (Great Expectations)

he knew where I was to be found that is, "he knew what I meant." Pip is so upset when Drummle toasts Estella at a meeting of the Finches and tells everyone he is acquainted with her that Pip challenges him to a duel. The Finches arrange a bloodless way to resolve the fight with Drummle producing a certificate from the lady proving his acquaintance and Pip apologizing when he does. (Great Expectations)

head of the king...the head of his fair wife Louis XVI was executed on January 21, 1793. His wife, Marie Antoinette, was executed on October 18, 1793. (A Tale of Two Cities)

heavy drag a brake used to slow the carriage down as it descended the hill. (A Tale of Two Cities)

hempen hawsers rope cables. (Great Expectations)

Here is the green farthingale . . . and the blue solitaire a farthingale is a hooped petticoat worn by ladies in the early eighteenth century. The solitaire was a wide tie or cravat worn by men in the same period. These are no longer in fashion in Pip's time. This reference indicates the house is old and has seen its share of stately parties for many generations. (Great Expectations)

highwayman a man, especially one on horseback, who robbed travelers on a highway. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Hilary Term and Michaelmas the terms during which the courts heard cases. (A Tale of Two Cities) Hilary Term lasted from January 11-31, and Michaelmas term lasted from November 2-25. (A Tale of Two Cities)

horrors, the the last stage of alcoholism delirium tremens. (Great Expectations)

horsehair a stiff fabric made from the hair of the mane or tail of a horse. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Hulks, the dismantled wooden ships no longer fit for service that are moored in British ports, such as in the marsh area of Kent, to provide extra prison space. (Great Expectations)

Hummums in Covent Garden a place at the southeast corner of Covent Garden that was the site of one of England's earliest Turkish baths. During the eighteenth century, it was a combination steam bath, eatery, health center, and brothel; later it was a hotel. (Great Expectations)

Hymen the Greek god of marriage, the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite. (Great Expectations)

imbruing his hands in me Pip is worried that the young man will stain his hands with Pip's blood if Pip fails to bring the food. (Great Expectations)

immolate to offer or kill as a sacrifice. (A Tale of Two Cities)

in the books of a neighboring upholsterer . . . a boy in boots Pip is in debt to a local interior decorator and furniture dealer. He has also hired a servant. (Great Expectations)

In the Eastern story . . . the ceiling fell from a book Dickens read as a boy, Tales of the Genii, with stories similar to the Arabian Nights. The sixth tale in this book has the wise vizier for the sultan foiling the sultan's enemies with an elaborate trap like the one mentioned here. A stone crushes the enemies as they sleep. The point is that the enemies thought they were at the peak of their power having trapped the sultan, and suddenly their luck ran out. The same is about to happen to Pip. (Great Expectations)

injudicious showing poor judgment; not discreet or wise. (Great Expectations)

inveteracy persistence or tenaciousness. (A Tale of Two Cities)

It's death to come back These words spoken by the convict to Pip set the main danger and conflict for the rest of the novel. However, the direness of the convict's situation was most likely nowhere near as bad as Dickens makes it out to be in the book. The last time someone hanged for returning to England after being banished was in 1810. From 1827-1830, out of eight returned convicted transports, none was executed. By 1834, the death penalty for illegal reentry had been taken off the statute books. (Great Expectations)

ivory tablets a small notebook with two covers made from oblong pieces of ivory. Pencil marks could be wiped off of the ivory. (Great Expectations)

Izaak Walton (1593-1683); the author of The Compleat Angler, a fishing manual. (A Tale of Two Cities)

jackal someone who performs menial tasks for another. (A Tale of Two Cities)

jack-boots heavy, sturdy military boots that extend above the knees. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Jacobin journal the newspaper of a society of radical democrats in France during the French Revolution: so called because their meetings were held in the Jacobin friars' convent. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Jacques the use of the name Jacques to signify French peasants began in the peasant revolts in 1358. To maintain anonymity and to show solidarity, rebels called each other by the same name. The network of rebels using the Jacques appellation is referred to as the Jacquerie. (A Tale of Two Cities)

kind of Patience solitaire. (Great Expectations)

king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face on the throne of France King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. (A Tale of Two Cities)

king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face on the throne of England King George III and Queen Charlotte Sophia. (A Tale of Two Cities)

La Force a prison in Paris. (A Tale of Two Cities)

land of Arabian nights Egypt. (Great Expectations)

laudanum a solution of opium in alcohol or wine used as a painkiller or sleeping aid, or drunk as an intoxicant. (A Tale of Two Cities)

lee-dyed soaked with the dregs of the wine. (A Tale of Two Cities)

letter de cachet a document containing a royal warrant for the imprisonment without trial of a specified person. (A Tale of Two Cities)

lightermen bargemen. (Great Expectations)

like the Bull in Cock Robin pulling at the bell rope a nursery-rhyme reference about a bullfinch offering to toll the bell at Cock Robin's funeral. Here, the man speaking to Jaggers is pulling at a lock of his hair, often done by a country person as a sign of respect to a member of the gentry. (Great Expectations)

limekiln a furnace or kiln used to turn limestone into lime. Though Dickens places this near the sluice-house, it is unlikely a limekiln could have burned so close to water. It most likely was further inland. (Great Expectations)

linen things made of linen; in this case, shirts. (A Tale of Two Cities)

litter a stretcher for carrying the sick or wounded. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Little Britain street north of St. Paul's Cathedral with many law offices because of its proximity to the criminal courts. (Great Expectations)

Loadstone Rock a rock containing loadstone (or lodestone), a naturally magnetic mineral. (A Tale of Two Cities)

lower regions the area of a house where servants often resided and where one could find the kitchen. (A Tale of Two Cities)

mail, the short for "mail coach," a coach that carried mail and passengers. (A Tale of Two Cities)

mentally casting me and himself up Mrs. Joe tells Pip and Joe they cannot get along without her. Joe looks at himself and Pip as if adding the two of them together to see whether they would equal her. (Great Expectations)

Mentor of our young Telemachus . . . Quintin Matsys . . . VERB. SAP." The waiter at the Blue Boar, who assumes Pip owes everything to Pumblechook, hands Pip this newspaper article that Pumblechook has run. In Greek mythology, Telemachus was the young son of Odysseus who was guided during his father's absence by Athene, disguised as an old friend of his father's. Quintin Matsys was a Flemish painter who supposedly began his career as a blacksmith. VERB. SAP. is a Latin abbreviation for verbum satis sapienti, meaning "a hint is enough to the wise." Pumblechook is claiming to be the great mentor and first benefactor of someone and is saying that a good hint is all they need to figure out who the young man is. He provides the hint with the reference to the Flemish painter who was first a blacksmith. (Great Expectations)

merry Stuart who sold it Charles II. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Metaphysics speculative philosophy. The branch of philosophy that tries to explain the nature of being and reality, and the origin and structure of the universe. When Pip and Joe discuss Pip's feeling coarse and common at Miss Havisham's, Pip is speaking in abstract philosophical terms that are over Joe's head. Joe triumphs, however, by bringing the matter into simple realistic truths that even Pip concedes give him hope. (Great Expectations)

Mill Pond Bank, Chink's Basin; the Old Green Copper Rope-Walk these locations are likely fictitious. The last one means "the place where ropes used to be made out of oxidized copper wire." However, at this time, copper wire was not used in ropes yet. Another meaning is the long narrow shed or roofed over alley where ropemakers twisted hemp strands into rope. (Great Expectations)

Moses in the bullrushes . . . butter in a quantity of parsley the appearance of a bit of butter nestled in a quantity of parsley reminds Pip of the baby Moses hidden in the bullrushes to escape Pharaoh's soldiers. This is from the Bible, Exodus 2:3. (Great Expectations)

mount to the Woolsack or roof himself in with a mitre this reference is to Mr. Matthew Pocket's possible career choices when he was young - he could have become either a lawyer or clergyman. As a lawyer he could aspire to become Lord Chancellor of England and sit upon the Woolsack in the House of Lords. As a clergyman he could hope to become a bishop and wear a mitre (the British spelling of miter, which is the peaked hat worn by bishops). (Great Expectations)

mourning rings A custom at the time was to bequeath money to friends or relatives so that they could buy a ring to remember one by, usually inscribed with the initials of the deceased. (Great Expectations)

Mrs. Southcott Joanna Southcott (1750-1814), an English religious visionary. (A Tale of Two Cities)

musket a smoothbore, long-barreled firearm, used especially by infantry soldiers before the invention of the rifle. (A Tale of Two Cities)

myrmidons of Justice this is a reference to Homer's Iliad. The Myrmidons were followers of Achilles. Here Pip simply means "policemen." He is afraid he will be arrested for fighting with the pale young gentleman at Miss Havisham's. (Great Expectations)

necromantic work book of black magic or sorcery. (Great Expectations)

Negro-head tobacco strong black tobacco sweetened with molasses and pressed into square cakes that was popular with sailors and workingmen. (Great Expectations)

Newgate a London prison notorious for its inhumane conditions. (A Tale of Two Cities)

no getting light by easy friction In the 1820s, sulfur matches, which produced a flame when rubbed on a rough surface, were invented. This was easy friction. In this story, flames to light candles are still produced the old way by striking a flint stone with a piece of steel and igniting a splinter of wood. (Great Expectations)

nosegays small bouquets of flowers, such as for carrying in the hand. (Great Expectations)

Notre-Dame literally, "Our Lady." A famous, early Gothic cathedral in Paris; the full name is Notre-Dame de Paris. (A Tale of Two Cities)

O Lady Fair a popular song of the time, written and set to music by the Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852). (Great Expectations)

obtruded offered or forced upon others unasked. (Great Expectations)

Old Bailey London's historic main criminal court on Old Bailey Street. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Old Clem an early Pope, St. Clement (who died around the year 100), who was patron saint of blacksmiths. Blacksmiths sang a song about him. (Great Expectations)

One hundred and five, North Tower Doctor Manette's designation in the Bastille. (A Tale of Two Cities)

one low-spirited dip-candle and no snuffers dip candles were cheap, quickly burning candles that smoked a lot from the long-burned wick they left. To avoid the smoke, the wicks needed to be trimmed with a special tool called snuffers. Pip indicates that it is hard to study at Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's school even if you want to because the room is lit by only one of these candles, making a book hard to read. (Great Expectations)

ophthalmic steps ophthalmic means having to do with the eye in some way. The stranger in the Jolly Bargemen eyes Pip very closely and for some time. Pip does not recall anyone ever taking such ophthalmic steps with him, in other words, eyeing him so closely, before. (Great Expectations)

ostler a person who takes care of horses at an inn, stable, and so on. (Great Expectations)

outrunning the constable spending more money than you make. (Great Expectations)

over the broomstick a folk marriage ceremony, essentially one with no legal status. Because Estella's parents were married this way, she is illegitimate. (Great Expectations)

packet a boat that travels a regular route, as along a coast or river, carrying passengers, mail, and freight. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Palace of the Tuileries where the French king and queen lived in Paris. (A Tale of Two Cities)

pallet bed a small bed or pad filled as with straw and used directly on the floor. (A Tale of Two Cities)

pannikins small pans or metal cups. (Great Expectations)

pattens protective footgear for wet weather. They were wooden soles strapped on over the shoes. (Great Expectations)

peck of orange-peel Joe's comment here indicates the audience threw a lot of orange peels, essentially expressing their dislike of the performance. (Great Expectations)

pecuniary of or involving money. (A Tale of Two Cities)

personal board a person's daily meals. (A Tale of Two Cities)

perspective-glass any device that aids a person's vision, like opera glasses. (A Tale of Two Cities)

pervade to pass through or spread through. (Great Expectations)

pettishly peevishly, petulantly, crossly. (Great Expectations)

physiognomy the practice of trying to judge character and mental qualities by observation of bodily, especially facial, features. (Great Expectations)

pier glass a tall mirror set on a pier, or wall section, between two windows. (A Tale of Two Cities)

pikes weapons formerly used by foot soldiers, consisting of a metal spearhead and a long wooden shaft. (A Tale of Two Cities)

pillory a device consisting of a wooden board with holes for the head and hands, in which petty offenders were formerly locked and exposed to public scorn; the stocks. (A Tale of Two Cities)

piscatory flavor a fishy flavor. (A Tale of Two Cities)

plaister the British spelling of the word "plaster," which is a medicinal paste spread on a cloth and applied to a wound. (Great Expectations)

plaited the right leg of my trousers as a nervous twitch, Pip sits there pleating (folding) and unpleating the cloth of his pants leg. (Great Expectations)

plate tableware, often made of silver or covered with a layer of silver (plated). (A Tale of Two Cities)

plenipotentiary a person, especially a diplomatic agent, given full authority to act as representative of a government. (Great Expectations)

plummet something heavy. (Great Expectations)

Pool below Bridge the area downriver from, or east of, London Bridge. (Great Expectations)

potman; prisoners buying beer prisoners were allowed all the beer they wanted in prison so long as they could pay the potman, someone from a local tavern who came to the prison to sell beer. (Great Expectations)

pottle a small basket. It can also be a pot or tankard capable of holding a pottle or half gallon of liquid. In this case, Herbert is carrying a pottle of strawberries, so the basket reference is probably the correct one. (Great Expectations)

prevaricate to lie or to avoid telling the whole truth. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Prison of the Abbaye a prison in Paris that held many aristocrats during the French Revolution. (A Tale of Two Cities)

privilege of filling up blank forms members of the French aristocracy could issue warrants for the indefinite imprisonment of their enemies without a trial. (A Tale of Two Cities)

propitiate to appease someone. (Great Expectations)

provender food. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Provincial Amateur of Roscian renown . . . our National Bard Quintus Roscius Gallus (died 62 BC) was the greatest Roman comic actor of his time, so this reference indicates an actor of the same level of renown. Our National Bard refers to Shakespeare. Essentially, the playbill from the small theater is claiming Wopsle to be a great actor who is performing in a Shakespearean play. (Great Expectations)

publican a saloonkeeper or innkeeper (Great Expectations)

public-house an inn or tavern that provided food, drink, and rooms to travelers. (Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities)

pudding in the cloth a dinner made by putting a flour mixture in a pudding bag, sometimes adding meat or vegetables, and boiling it. (Great Expectations)

purloiner a thief. (A Tale of Two Cities)

quay a landing place along the bank of a river. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Ranelagh a competitor of Vauxhall Gardens, open from 1742 to 1803 and famous for its masquerades. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Rantipole Mrs. Joe sarcastically calls Pip this name and the reference has a couple possible meanings. There were two references in Dickens' time - one referred to a wicked child in a children's story of the time, the other to Napoleon III, who was much in the news in 1860 waging wars and generally disturbing things in Europe. In either case, the name is not a compliment. (Great Expectations)

reckoning, the the bill. (A Tale of Two Cities)

religious cross of the Ghost in Hamlet with Richard the Third Mr. Wopsle, who is a clerk in the church, says grace before they sit down to Christmas dinner. Between his desire to be a minister and thus, preach, and his love to perform in the theater, Mr. Wopsle's grace is like a religious performance of a Shakespearean play. Mr. Wopsle could be the Ghost in Hamlet or Richard III, but with a religious streak. (Great Expectations)

resurrection man a man who digs up corpses to sell to surgeons or medical schools for study. (A Tale of Two Cities)

rich man and the kingdom of Heaven Pip is uncomfortable because the clergyman in church reads this Bible passage right after Pip finds out he has come into wealth. The Bible reference is Matthew 19:24 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Great Expectations)

rider's horse was blown The horse was out of breath. (A Tale of Two Cities)

rimy morning a morning with frost all over anything that was damp the night before. (Great Expectations)

roasting-jack a device to turn a joint of meat on a spit over an open fire. (Great Expectations)

robing room the room where judges and lawyers put on their official robes. (A Tale of Two Cities)

run of confidence a large number of customers withdrawing their money from a bank. (A Tale of Two Cities)

rush-light a cheap candle made from the pith of the stem of a rush that has been dipped in grease and fat instead of wax. At Hummums, these were put in a perforated tin holder that left a dotted pattern of light on the walls. (Great Expectations)

sacristan a person responsible for the ceremonial equipment in a church. (A Tale of Two Cities)

sagacity the quality or an instance of being sagacious; penetrating intelligence and sound judgment; wisdom. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Sardanapalus's luxury Sardanapalus (also known as Assurbanipal) was an Assyrian king renowned for his lavish lifestyle. (A Tale of Two Cities)

savoury the British spelling of the word "savory," which means appetizing. (Great Expectations)

seers people with the supposed power to foretell events or a person's destiny; prophets. (A Tale of Two Cities)

sententious tending to use a lot of maxims or proverbs and often inclined to moralize more than is appreciated. (Great Expectations)

serpentine something that twists or coils like a snake. (Great Expectations)

Sessions, the meetings of legal officials to transact court business. (A Tale of Two Cities)

set fire to their prisons . . . improving the flavour of their soup prison conditions were terrible in the early 1800s and reform was years off. By 1861, the outrage and reform had gone in the other direction, with prisoners rioting because they did not like their food. This pun refers to the fact that, at the time of this story, everyone's food was bad, whether prisoner, soldier, or pauper, so prisoners had not gotten to the point of rioting to "improve the flavour of their soup." Flavour is the British spelling for the word "flavor." (Great Expectations)

settle a long wooden bench with a back and armrests. (Great Expectations)

shark-headed screws round-headed screws. (Great Expectations)

shroud a cloth used to wrap a corpse for burial; winding sheet. (A Tale of Two Cities)

sluice-keeper sluices were floodgates that controlled the flow of water through the marshes. The sluice-keeper was responsible for managing these gates. Orlick lodges with the sluice-keeper near the forge. (Great Expectations)

smelling salts an aromatic mixture of carbonate of ammonium and some fragrant scent used as an inhalant in relieving faintness, headaches, and the like. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Smithfield a large, open square that was London's main cattle-market until 1852. (Great Expectations)

Something of the awfulness Something of the impressiveness. "Awfulness" here means "inspiring awe" rather than "terrible. (A Tale of Two Cities)"

sons and daughters of Gaul that is, French men and women. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Spanish-liquorice-water a sweet drink of liquorice-flavored water. There is no alcohol in it. (Great Expectations)

spencer a short jacket that ends at the waist. (A Tale of Two Cities)

squally troubling or disturbing. (Great Expectations)

stand and deliver a highwayman's order to his victims to stand still and deliver their money and valuables. (A Tale of Two Cities)

state parlour a formal parlor that is never open at any time of year except Christmas. (Great Expectations)

stile a step or set of steps used in climbing over a fence or wall. Another definition is a turnstile or post with revolving horizontal bars, placed in an entrance to allow the passage of persons but not of horses, cattle, and so on. Pip and Biddy are walking on the marshes near the sluice-gate, which is a gate that controls the flow of water onto the marshes. Either definition - a turnstile or a wall with steps climbing over the wall - works here because either one may be used to prevent animals and unaware persons from getting hurt near the sluice-gate. (Great Expectations)

subterfuge any plan, action, or device used to hide one's true objective or evade a difficult or unpleasant situation. When Jaggers discounts Wopsle's conclusions about a murder Wopsle is discussing, the rest of the people listening start to question whether Wopsle has an ulterior motive in drawing the conclusions he has. (Great Expectations)

superscription something, such as an address or name, written at the top or on an outer surface of an envelope or similar item. (Great Expectations)

supposititious case hypothetical case. (Great Expectations)

surgeon someone who cared for external injuries such as broken bones or wounds. Surgeons were not physicians and were referred to as "Mr." rather than "Dr." (A Tale of Two Cities)

swab a lowly seaman. (Great Expectations)

Tag and Rag and Bobtail riff-raff or rabble. (Great Expectations)

taken Time by the forelock seize the opportunity and act. The reference is Greek, from the philosopher Thales of Miletus (around 624-546 BC). (Great Expectations)

Tar-water a mixture of tar and water used as a disinfectant or a nasty medicine. Mrs. Joe likes to give this generously to Pip and Joe, whether they need or deserve it. (Great Expectations)

tergiversation the use of evasions or subterfuge. (A Tale of Two Cities)

thowel primitive sort of rowlock or oarlock. (Great Expectations)

Timon of Athens and Coriolanus two of Shakespeare's plays. The hero of the first is known for speaking abusively and the hero of the second, the beadle, is known for arrogance. (Great Expectations)

toady fawning, overly interested and obedient to someone to the point of being obviously a liar and actually uncaring. (Great Expectations)

tobacco-stoppers used to push tobacco into the bowl of a pipe. (Great Expectations)

tocsin an alarm bell. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Tower, the the Tower of London, a fortress made up of several buildings on the Thames in London, where the English government held criminals charged with high crimes. (A Tale of Two Cities)

tract ornamented with a woodcut a tract was a pamphlet expounding on some topic, usually religious or political. Pictures were often applied by cutting a design into a block of wood, inking the wood, and then pressing it onto the paper. (Great Expectations)

trap a hinged or sliding door in a roof, ceiling or floor, which lifts or slides to cover an opening. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Traveller's Rest a place that tramps, convicts, or people in hiding (such as a deserting soldier) would have used for a shelter. (Great Expectations)

trenchant forceful and vigorous. Mrs. Joe has a uniquely forceful way of buttering their bread. (Great Expectations)

turnkey a person in charge of the keys of a prison; warder; jailer. (A Tale of Two Cities)

two men up into the Temple to pray reference to the biblical parable from Luke 18:10-13, in which a Pharisee and a publican go into the temple to pray. The Pharisee is proud, while the publican is humble and asks God to forgive him because he is a sinner. Pip is thinking of these verses as he stands at Magwitch's deathbed. Magwitch has just died, and Pip concludes that the best prayer he can make is "Oh Lord, be merciful to him, a sinner!" (Great Expectations)

two One-Pound notes one-pound notes went out of circulation in England in 1821 because they were so easily and so often forged. This piece of information sets the timing for this part of the novel before 1821. It is also interesting because later in the novel the reader learns that Compeyson and Magwitch were arrested for forgery, though Dickens never confirms if they forged these notes. (Great Expectations)

two score and twelve 52 (a score is 20). (A Tale of Two Cities)

Tyburn public hangings in London took place at gallows called the Tyburn Tree until 1783. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Vauxhall Gardens London's first amusement park; the gardens, located on the south bank of the Thames River, opened in 1660 and closed in 1859. Visitors enjoyed not only the natural setting, but also food, drink, musical performances, fireworks, and balloon launches. (A Tale of Two Cities)

vestry a room in a church where the clergy put on their vestments and the sacred vessels are kept. Pip is scared and wants to tell someone about the convict on the marshes. One possibility he thinks of is to wait for the minister to announce the banns of marriage - that is when they announce upcoming marriages and ask if anyone has any objections - and at that moment stand up and ask for a private conference in the vestry. However because it is Christmas, no banns are announced and Pip has no opportunity for help from the Church. (Great Expectations)

walk all the way to London from Pip's home area, this was a distance of about twenty-six miles. (Great Expectations)

weazen an obsolete word for weasand, meaning throat. (Great Expectations)

went upon 'Change the floor of the Royal Exchange - the London Stock Market. Lloyd's, a marine insurance business at the time, operated from this building. (Great Expectations)

Westminster Hall Westminster Hall, located in London, was the chief law court of England until 1870. (A Tale of Two Cities)

whist a card game that was the forerunner to bridge. (Great Expectations)

Whitefriars a district of central London between Fleet Street and the Temple area where criminals and fugitive debtors lived. (A Tale of Two Cities)

whitewash a mixture of lime, whiting, sizing, water, and so on for whitening walls. Whiting is a chalk-like material and sizing is similar to glue. It would have been the commonly used material for painting walls in Pip's time. (Great Expectations)

wicket a grated window in a door. (A Tale of Two Cities)

winding sheet a cloth in which the body of a dead person is wrapped for burial; shroud. Also refers to solidified candle drippings, signifying death. (A Tale of Two Cities)

window of dormer shape a window set vertically in a sloping roof. (A Tale of Two Cities)

wine-cooper someone involved in the retail wine trade, especially making, repairing, or filling wine barrels. This was Wemmick's first trade, a far cry from his current legal work. (Great Expectations)

wore a red cap now, in place of his blue one French revolutionaries wore red caps. (A Tale of Two Cities)

Year One of Liberty the new government of France created a new calendar, based on the inception of the French Republic in 1792 rather than on the birth of Christ. Consequently, 1792 was Year One. (A Tale of Two Cities)

young person in bed-furniture the person's clothes appear to be made from the curtains off of a four-poster bed. (Great Expectations)