A Frolic of His Own
pp. 1--50
Annotations by Steven Moore except as [noted].

Page references are to the current Scribner softcover edition. 
References in parentheses are to first US edition (Poseidon Press) and to U.K. editions.

A Frolic of His Own
annotations for
softcover (hardcover & UK)
         1-50 (1-54) §
51-100 (56-112) §
101--150 (119--164) §
151-200 (174-224) §
201-250 (228-281) §
251-300 (285-341) §
301-350 (344-394) §
  351--400 (402-449) §
401--450 (465-516) §
  451--end (517-end) §

title) A Frolic of His Own: a legal phrase that Gaddis found in Prosser: "In 1834 Baron Parke uttered the classic phrase, that a master is not liable for the torts of his servant who is not at all on his master’s business, but is ‘going on a frolic of his own’" (461). Cf. Harry’s explanation (398) and Judge Crease’s comment on this phrase (429.34-35). Gaddis originally planned to call the novel The Last Act, but changed his mind shortly before the book was finished.

(dedication) For Muriel Oxenberg Murphy:
the woman Gaddis lived with until 1995; they knew each other in the early 1950s, lost touch, then were reunited in the late 1970s. Her country house in Wainscott (out on Long Island, part of the Georgica Settlement) is the model for the Creases’ home.

Abbreviated References
A. Gaddis’ Books

CG: Carpenter’s Gothic. 1985. New York: Penguin, 1999.
FHO: A Frolic of His Own.
New York: Poseidon, 1994.
JR: J R.
1975. New York: Penguin, 1993.
R: The Recognitions.
1955. New York: Penguin, 1993.
B. Gaddis’s Sources
Catton: Bruce Catton, The Army of the Potomac: Mr Lincoln's Army. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962.
EB: Encyclopædia Britannica. 14th ed., 1929.
ODQ: The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations,
1st ed., 6th impression, (London: Oxford University Press, 1949). Gaddis owned this particular impression, given to him by Ormande de Kay in Paris in 1950.
Plato: The Dialogues of Plato. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. New York: Random House, 1937. 2 vols.
Prosser: William L. Prosser, Handbook of the Law of Torts, 4th edition (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1971).
(epigraph) What you seek in vain for [...]  -- Thoreau, to Emerson: from the latter’s eulogy "Thoreau" (Atlantic Monthly, August 1862). Gaddis first used this passage in R (265).

The complete text is on a comprehensive Thoreau site, The Thoreau Reader, under Three Thoreaus; direct links to the two parts of the Emerson essay are:
http://www.eserver.org/thoreau/emerson1.html and
with the passage containing the epigraph at the end of the first paragraph on the second page.

13.7 (11.1) You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law: Gaddis describes this (in a 1992 letter to critic Gregory Comnes) as a "fine old saw." Its original form—"We will find justice in the next world; in this world we have the law"—appears as the opening sentence of Gaddis’s essay "This Above All" (RSP 110). Gaddis told interviewer Paul Ingendaay: "The idea arose from my first wife’s divorce lawyer, by the way. Whenever I was furious with her, I said to him: ‘Listen, just skin her alive and get the kids, which is simply not just.’ And he would say: ‘In the next life you can perhaps fight for justice, in this life you have the law’" ("Agent der Veränderung. Ein Gespräch mit William Gaddis," Rowohlt Literatur Magazin 39 [1997]).

13.6 (11.7) Make the trains run on time [...] fascism: Italian dictator Benito Mussolini defended his fascist regime by noting he had made the Italian trains run on time. 

13.23 (11.25) money’s just a yardstick isn’t it.
Money damages meant to compensate the plaintiff for the harm he has suffered constitute the principal remedy applied by modern courts.  "An economic loss can be compensated in kind by an economic gain; but recovery for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life rests on ‘the legal fiction that money damages can compensate for the victim’s injury.’ (Howard v. Lecher, 42 N.Y.2d 109, 111, 397 N.Y.S.2d 363, 366 N.E.2d 64). We accept this fiction, knowing that although money will neither ease the pain nor restore the victim’s abilities, this device is as close as the law can come in its effort to right the wrong.  We have no hope of evaluating what has been lost, but a monetary award may provide a measure of solace for the condition created."  McDougal v. Garber, 73 N.Y.2d 246, 538 N.Y.S.2d 937, 536 N.E.2d 372 (1989) (Wachtler, C.J.). [PF]

14.15 (12.20) the Szyrk case:
reminiscent of an incident near the end of J R (671-72), where a mammoth metal sculpture entitled Cyclone Seven traps a boy out on Long Island (see 33.21 below). This time it’s a dog in Virginia.  

15.15 (13.28) which opera [...] ‘true love defying family hatred’? a ‘tragic tale of family ties and supersitition’?: 
Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette (1867)? Verdi's Il Trovatore?

16.9 (14.28) cela va devenir une habitude Madame?: Fr.: "Is that going to become a habit, madam?"  ?: Fr.: “Is that going to become a habit, madam?” 

16.17 (14.37) Bailey’s  Bailey’s Beach, a private beach near the "summer cottages" built along the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island.  These 19th Century mansions were built and occupied as summer homes by the American elite.  [PF]

16.18 (14.38) peau-de-soie: a soft silk fabric of satin weave with a dull finish.  [MR]

16.22 (15.4) Gianni: Gianni Versace (1946-97), fashionable Italian designer of the ’80s and ’90s. 

17.3 (15.22) Bunker: Gaddis was a fan of the TV sitcom All in the Family, featuring lovable bigot Archie Bunker. 

17.6 (15.32) Harry Winston Exclusive jeweler, known for conservative designs that emphasize the gemstones themselves, and so another indicator of Trish's great wealth.  http://www.harrywinston.com  [CL]

17.12 (15.38) Mister Jheejheeboy: Edie Grimes’s ex-husband in Carpenter’s Gothic.

18.17 (17.9) Out, Damned Spot: from Macbeth (5.1.39). 

18.20 (17.13) Stars and Bars: the flag of the Confederate State of America. 

18.32 17.25 Kiester: see 50.14. 

19.41 (19.3) Res ipsa loquitur: Lat.: "the thing speaks for itself." (This, like most of the Latin in Frolic, is legal phraseology.) The phrase was first introduced into legal discourse by Baron Pollock (see 29.2 below). 

19.42 (19.3) like the chandelier falling on your head: from the case of Goldstein v. Levy (1911), in which a chandelier fell on a music hall patron’s head. The fact that the chandelier had been inspected recently was not enough, the court ruled, to overcome the presumption of negligence raised by res ipsa. [MR]

20.37 (20.7) that mysterious stranger calling on Mozart: Bast relates this incident in J R (41). 

A largely apocryphal tale, well in place by 1808 when Franz Xaver Niemetschek published a biography of Mozart in which he wrote:
"Shortly before the Coronation of the Emperor Leopold, and before Mozart received the commission to go to Prague, an unsigned letter was handed to him by an unknown messenger which, with many flattering remarks, contained the question whether Mozart would like to undertake the composition of a Requiem, for what price, and how soon he would be able to deliver it.
"Mozart, who was accustomed to take no step without consulting his wife, related to her this strange commission, and at the same time mentioned his desire to try his hand at this type of work too, the more so as the elevated and exalted style of church music was always close to his genius. She advised him to accept the commission. He therefore wrote to the unknown gentleman to say that he would write the Requiem for a certain sum; he could not exactly state the time he would require to complete it; but he would like to know the destination to which he was to deliver the work when it was finished. The same messenger shortly reappeared, bringing not only the agreed honorarium with him, but also the promise that, as he had been so reasonable in his price, he would receive a generous additional payment on handing over the work. He was moreover to write according to the mood and frame of his mind, but he was not to trouble to try and find out the name of his patron, for this search would certainly be in vain...."  

Further discussion of the aura surrounding the composition of the Requiem is available at The Mozart Project:

21.13 (20.29) The Magic Flute: written in the final year of Mozart’s life (1791). 

21.18 (20.34) Rousseau: Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), Swiss-born French philosopher and political theorist, who opposed 18th-century Enlightenment views. His social theories (from The Social Contract) are discussed in Oscar’s play (71, 79, 90, etc.) 

23.5 (22.37) John Knize: later identified as the first screenwriter of Blood in the Red White and Blue (see 405/354). [MR]

23.12 (23.6) the Holmes Court: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1902.  Catton notes that Holmes was wounded at both the battle of Ball’s Bluff (77) and at Antietam (287).

23.16 (23.11) Ball’s Bluff: site in northeast Virginia of a battle on 21 October 1861 in which the Federal force was severely defeated, a conflict of little military importance but that aroused much criticism by Northerners. As the copyright page indicates, Gaddis’s principal source for Civil War details was Bruce Catton’s book The Army of the Potomac: Mr. Lincoln’s Army (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962), which discusses the battle of Ball’s Bluff on pp. 73-78. See 412-13 (471-72) below for more on this battle.

23.17 (23.11) Antietam: small village in northern Maryland, site of one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War, treated extensively later in FHO.

27 (23.23) Queen of the Night: Pamina’s mother in Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

23.29 (23.25) Trying to frighten me when we were children: cf. the "Burial of the Dead" section of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, ll. 13ff: "And when we were children, staying at the archduke's/My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,/And I was frightened." [AZ]

23.34 (23.30) Where the sedge [...] Keats: from "La Belle Dame Sans Merci." http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/poems/keats15.html

24.9 (24.9) Heidelberg: a reference to the dueling scars students would acquire at the university in Heidelberg, Germany. 

24.16 (24.16) Trish Hemsley: cf. Leona Helmsley, a despotic rich woman in the news throughout the 1980s until convicted of tax evasion and sent to prison. 

27.34 (28.16) Res ipsa loquitur: see 19.3, 29.31. 

28.29 (29.15) A little dab’ll do you: a jingle from a 1960s advertisement for Brylcreem hair oil.

28.42 (29.30) Justice Cardozo in Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad: [PF] one of the classics of legal education, and referred to again at the end of the novel (579.35). A brief account of this opinion is at http://www.waukesha.tec.wi.us/busocc/law/palsgraf.html
and a collection of documents associated with it at http://www.indylaw.indiana.edu/instructors/wilkins/torts/palsgraf.htm

29.2 (29.31) Baron Pollack in Byrne v. Boadle: "The Latin phrase [res ipsa loquitur], which means nothing more than ‘the thing speaks for itself,’ is the offspring of a casual word of Baron Pollock [note correct spelling] during argument with counsel in a case [footnote: Byrne v. Boadle, 1863, 2 H. & C. 722, 159 Eng. Rep. 299] in 1863 in which a barrel of flour rolled out of a warehouse window and fell upon a passing pedestrian" –from William L. Prosser’s Law of Torts (1941; 4th ed., 1971), p. 213. This standard textbook for law students and lawyers was an important source book for Gaddis. (This edition is cited at 291.2.)   [PF]  Res ipsa loquitur is the conventional label applied to events that are in themselves so plainly the result of   negligence they are legally presumed, without further evidence of their causes, to establish liability.  "Negligence" is the failure of a person to conform to the standard of care a "reasonable person" would conform to in doing what he was doing.  Thus, for example, it is presumed that if a barrel of flour rolls out of a warehouse window, the person responsible for its handling was negligent (and therefore liable for the damage caused by his negligence).  Another classic example of an event that "speaks for itself" is the discovery of a surgical instrument inside someone’s body long after the surgery, which is alone sufficient to establish medical malpractice.

29.18 (30.8) Pee Dee: Rev. Ude’s hometown in Carpenter’s Gothic.

30.4 (30.32) ex parte: Lat.: "in the interests of one side (or party) only.

30.10 (30.2) ‘reality may not exist at all except in the words in which it presents itself’: as the copyright page acknowledges, from Larzer Ziff’s Literary Democracy (New York: Viking, 1982), specifically, from his discussion of Melville’s The Confidence-Man: "His theme drives toward pure wordplay; reality may not exist at all except in the words in which it presents itself" (294). 

30.24 (31.18) Judge Stanton in Steinberg v. Columbia Pictures et al. [...] 2509—11, 1986 ): from Judge Louis L. Stanton's opinion Steinberg v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., 663 F. Supp. 706 (S.D.N.Y. 1987), concerning cartoonist Saul Steinberg's suit against Columbia for copying his artwork for the movie poster for Moscow on the Hudson. Steinberg (1914-99) was a friend and neighbor of Gaddis's.

30.24 (31.19) Fed. R. Civ. P. 56: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 

30.42 (31.37) ad litem: Lat.: "for the suit (or action)." 

31.3 (32.1) ‘where my beasts [...] Kielwey 3b): from Prosser 496 and n.40. 

31.10 (32.8) more honored in the breach: from Hamlet (1.4.16). 

31.19 (32.17) mansuetae or ferae naturae: Lat.: "tame (domesticated)" or "of a wild nature (undomesticated)." 

31.24 (32.22) (Weaver […] 1903): from a paragraph in Prosser on dogs: 502 n.11 (Prosser cites five cases; Gaddis uses the first and third). 

31.27 (32.25) (Sanders […] 1939): Prosser 497 n.49; as above, Gaddis chooses two of Prosser’s several citations. 

32.6 (33.7) the pathetic fallacy: a trope that endows nature with human qualities (such as  mercy at 33.4). 

33.18 (34.21) Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter or counteract the work of nature: from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. [AZ]

33.23 (34.26) beauty synonymous with truth: from concluding lines of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn": "'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'" [AZ]

33.24 (34.27) Donatello’s David: a bronze by the Italian sculptor (1386?-1466), which EB praises as "the first nude statue of the Renaissance, the first figure conceived in the round, independent of any architectural surroundings—graceful, well-proportioned, superbly balanced, suggestive of Greek art in the simplification of form, and yet realistic, without any striving after ideal proportions" (7:523).

34.25 (34.28) the Milos Aphrodite: more familiarly known as the Venus of Milo, an anonymous work now in the Louvre. (Milo is the Italian form of Melos [not Milos], the Greek island where the statute was discovered in 1820). 

33.31 (34.33) Sir Arthur Eddington’s famous step ‘on a swarm of flies’: in the introduction to his The Nature of the Physical World, the British physicist speaks not of stepping but of placing a piece of paper on a table that (in physical terms of protons and electrons) can be described as "a swarm of flies and sustained in shuttlecock fashion by a series of tiny blows from the swarm underneath" ([New York: Macmillan, 1929], xii). 

35.6 in rem: Lat.: "against a thing." 

34.3 (35.8) ‘an obstruction […] 1933): from Prosser (slightly altered) 589 and n.91. 

34.10 (35.15) ‘which obstructs […] 1918): Prosser 583 and n.29. 

34.36 (36.2) (People […] 1940): Prosser 585 n.55. 

34.39 (36.5) (Holland […] 1954): Prosser 589 n.93. 

35.7 (36.16) (Restatement of the Law [...] Torts 2d, 822c): 

35.11 (36.20) pro tem: abbreviation of Latin pro tempore: "for the time being." 

35.18 (36.27) in situ: Lat.: "in its (original) place." 

35.27 (36.38) the National Arts Endowment: more correctly, the National Endowment for the Arts. 

36.27 (37.39) (Reiman […] 1966): Prosser 743 n.88.   

39.8/37.32] Bizet’s musical innovations [...] broken heart: Bizet died a few months after the premiere of Carmen, but the legend he died from disappointment at the opera’s poor reception—believed by Gibbs in J R (117.14)—is now considered untrue.

37.2 (38.16) (Restatement […] 559): Prosser 743 n.88. {check: same as above?}

37.16 (38.31) (Hartmann v. Winchell […] 1944): Prosser 753 n.7. Walter Winchell (1897-1972) was a popular and influential radio broadcaster. 

37.19 (38.34) Restatement […] (#568A): (should read §568A, not #568A) 

37.29 (39.5) Ruskin accusing Whistler of throwing a paint pot in the public’s face:  An account of this incident and its aftermath is in an illustrated article, "Portrait of the Critic as a Young Artist," on the 2000 Tate Gallery exhibition "Ruskin, Turner and the Pre- Raphaelites"  in The City Review, http://www.thecityreview.com/ruskin.html:  [VH]

In 1877, Whistler showed eight works at the Grosvenor Gallery, including "Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge," ... and "Nocturne in Black and Gold - The Falling Rocket" (The Detroit Institute of Arts, gift of Dexter M. Ferry). In Fors Clavigera, Ruskin wrote the following about the exhibition:
"Sir Coutts Lindsay ought not to have admitted works into the gallery in which the ill-educated conceit of the artist so nearly approached the aspect of wilful imposture. I have seen, and heard, much of Cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face."
Ruskin's comments were reprinted in the Spectator, and Whistler sued for libel. The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"The case did not come to court until November 1878. Ruskin had had his first mental collapse in February that year, and did not appear. His instructions to his defence counsel were unrepentant: Whistler was ill-educated because the price demanded was unjust, the analogy between painting and music was misunderstood, the work was not art but ornament, unfinished and empty of ideas. No work should leave an artist's hands 'which his diligence could further complete, or his reflection further improve.'...Whistler dominated the trial with his witticisms, arguing the case for art for art's sake....Nocture...Old Battersea Bridge, which shows the profound influence of Japanese woodcuts on Whistler's art, was produced in court. Asked if it was a 'correct representation,' Whistler answered: 'It was not my intent simply to make a copy of Battersea Bridge. The pier in the centre of the picture may not be like the piers of Battersea Bridge. I did not intend to paint a portrait of Battersea Bridge, but only a painting of a moonlight scene. As to what the picture represents, that depends upon who looks at it.'...Whistler won, but the derisory award of a farthing's damages without costs led to his bankruptcy. Ruskin resigned his Slade Professorship, partly in disgust, partly because of his mental depression."

More about Ruskin and his art and social views are found on the Victorian Web:

37.32 (39.8) Bizet’s musical innovations [...] broken heart: Bizet died a few months after the premiere of Carmen, but the legend he died from disappointment at the opera’s poor reception -- believed by Gibbs in J R (117.14) -- is now considered untrue.  [MR]
See http://kc-opera.org/bizet.html

37.34 (39.10) Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring: premiered 1913, to much public outcry. 

37.34 (39.10) Aristophanes […] bubble and squeak’: all of these examples come from Rotten Reviews, edited by Gaddis’s friend and neighbor Bill Henderson (Pushcart Press, 1986). Negative reviews of Gaddis’s novels are included in both it and the sequel, Rotten Reviews II.

38.8 (39.26) Horace, Pictoribus [...] potestas: "Poets and painters have always had an equal license in daring invention"—from the Roman poet’s Ars Poetica, 9 (Wickham trans.; ODQ). 

38.13 (39.31) ‘not to send peace, but a sword’: Matt. 10:34. 

38.22 39.39 Cuilibet in arte sua perito est credendum: Lat.: "Every skilled man is to be trusted in his own art." 

38.27 (40.6) that obituary upon our finest poet of the century [...] the superfluous ‘that’: the line is from T. S. Eliot’s "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" ("that" may be grammatically superfluous but is necessary for the meter); the obit in NYT? 

40.23 (42.15) The Marriage of Figaro: Mozart’s popular 1786 opera.

41.9 (43.9) Payne Whitney: a psychiatric clinic on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which catered largely to those from well-to-do families (cf. CG 13.10). 

43.35 (46.12) Justice Holmes’ dissent in the Black and White Taxicab case: a 1928 case in which a cab company had incorporated in a different state to take advantage of diversity jurisdiction. Holmes criticized the "fallacy" of lower courts that held "the parties are entitled to independent judgment on matters of general law."  [MR]

44.1 (46.21) praying hands thing of Durer’s:  

44.32 (47.17) Kallikak: the fictitious name (created from the Greek words
kallos [beauty] and kakos [bad]) American psychologist Henry H. Goddard gave to the most famous of some 300 families he studied for research on the causes of feeble-mindedness at the Vineland Training School at the beginning of the 20th century.[AZ]

45.10 (47.38) Fitzhugh’s Cannibals All!: see 107.19. 

45.39 (48.31) story by Stephen Crane? A Small Brown Dog?: that is, "A Dark Brown Dog," first published in Cosmopolitan in 1901. 

45.43 (48.36) The Red Badge of Courage [...] making that into a television special: 

46.3 (49.1) Patriotic Goretitle of a 1962 book by Edmund Wilson on Civil War literature. 

47.6 (50.14) Armageddon Blueplate Special [...] The Rotten Club: cf. Apocalypse Now (1979) and The Cotton Club (1984), both directed by Francis Ford Coppola. (The first title sounds like a Marx Brothers-type gag: "I’m a-gettin’ the pancakes; what are you gettin’?" "Armageddon the blue-plate special.") 

47.10 (50.18) Robert Bredford: obviously Robert Redford (born 1937). 

47.35 (51.6) France when the communists were acting up back in the eighteen forties: the upheavel in France in the 1840s, culminating in the overthrow of the monarchy in 1848, had more to do with popular unrest than with the new concept of communisme as it developed during that decade. 

48.19 (51.35) Anga Fricka: in Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung (cf. 57.20), Fricka is the name of Wotan’s wife. 

49.8 (52.29) Ziff Davis: also the name of a publisher of numerous magazines. [MR]

49.10 (52.32) God’s Little Acre:
Erskine Caldwell’s famous novel (1933) set in backwoods Georgia. 

49.22 (53.5) Clint Westwood in his first role since A Hatful of Sh*t: cf. Clint Eastwood, star of A Fistful of Dollars (1964). 

50.34 (54.25) the unswerving punctuality of chance: a phrase appearing near the end of Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel (1929)

"Then I of yours the seeming, Ben? Your flesh is dead and buried in these hills: my unimprisoned soul haunts through the million streets of life, living its spectral nightmare of hunger and desire. Where, Ben? Where is the world?"

"Nowhere,' Ben said. "You are your world."

Inevitable catharsis by the threads of chaos. Unswerving punctuality of chance. Apexical summation, from the billion deaths of possibility, of things done. (Scribner softcover edition, p. 520)

Gaddis told Steven Moore he heard the phrase used by a fellow Harvard classmate in the 1940s; it appears in all five of his novels: R 9.5, JR 486.1, CG 233.3, FHO 50.34, 258.4, AA 63.1. – Travis Dunn

Donatello's David

The Milos Aphrodite

Whister's "Nocturne:  Blue and Gold -- Old Battersea Bridge"

Durer's Praying Hands

A Frolic of His Own
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301-350 (344-394) §
  351--400 (402-449) §
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  451--end (517-end) §

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