A Frolic of His Own

pp. 451--end

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) 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) §

451.36 (517.37) the Verklärte Nacht: Arnold Schoenburg’s "Transfigured Night," an 1899 tone poem.

457.1 (524.5) Bruckner [...] his ninth symphony:Anton Bruckner (1824-96), Austrian composer. His Eighth Symphony is heard in J R (608).

458.35 (526.10) Bachrach: a well-regarded and extremely expensive New York photographic studio founded in 1868, frequently used by firms for their top business executives. [MR]

460.27 (528.14) Regan and Goneril: Lear’s two scheming daughters in Shakespeare’s play.

462.7 (530.9) the last roe of shad: :  a phrase meaning the ultimate, or the final straw; in his Letters, Gaddis identifies it as a phrase his mother used (328). Roe are fish eggs, and shad a kind of fish.

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).


463.42 (532.13) juggernaut: see 328.8 (374.22)ff.

464.1 (532.15) some vast image out of Spiritus Mundi moving its slow thighs: from Yeats’s 1922 poem::

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of i{Spiritus Mundi}
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at laSt,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

464.30 (533.8) some Barmecidal feast:
an illusory feast (from a tale in The 1001 Arabian Nights).

467.39 (537.1) shores of Gitche Gumee [...] Laughing Water: more references to Longfellow’s Hiawatha (and further imitations of its meter). “Wenonah stooping down among the lilies” is from canto 3, and Hiawatha’s fight with Mudjekeewis and his wooing of the Dakotah maiden Minnehaha (meaning “Laughing Water”) are from canto 4: she is the daughter of an arrow-maker and is described thus: “With him dwelt his dark-eyed daughter, / Wayward as the Minnehaha [a waterfall], / With her moods of shade and sunshine, / Eyes that smiled and frowned alternate. . . .”

468.15-16 (537.19-20):I mean it was Al, he wanted me to have big ones it was Al all the time . . .  Lily echoes the lyrics of "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?"  by Edgar Harburg, music by Jay Gorney, written for the 1932 Broadway revue "Americana," and recorded by Bing Crosby later that year. 

Say, don't you remember, they called me 'Al'
It was 'Al' all the time
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal
Say buddy, can you spare a dime?"

(complete lyrics at:
www.11lyric.com/lyrics/english/v/rudyvallee/brother.htm  [JB

471.18 (541.1) Sikhs killing Hindus [...] Arabs killing Christians: a series repeated from CG (185-86).

471.33 (541.18) Mozart [...] sonata in D: a duet for two pianos (K.448).

472.13 (542.3) Henry the Fifth on television: probably Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film version rather than Laurence Olivier’s 1944 classic.

472.19 (542.9) Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more: King Henry’s opening lines at the beginning of act 3. (Gaddis used them in the dedication of the 1993 Penguin reissue of J R.)

472.24 (542.14) A little touch of Harry in the night: Henry V act 4, chorus, l. 47.

472.37 (542.29) the mills of the gods: from Longfellow’s adaptation (in "Retribution") of a line from the German poet Friedrich von Logau: "Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small" (ODQ). The mills of the gods is also quoted in the final chapter of Charles Kingsley's Hypatia, or New Foes with an Old Face (1853) [JS/SM]

474.37 (545.4) Montaigne [...] between us and other people:
a quotation (from "On the Inconstancy of Our Actions"; book 2, chap. 1 of the Essays) that Gaddis also used in his first two novels.

477.39 (548.26) Dale Carnegie [...] Socarides: see 220.22. Socrates here is being confused with Charles Socarides (1922-2005), a Harvard classmate of Gaddis’s, later a prominent psychiatrist and author.

480.33 (552.1) third John sixteen [...] everlasting life: that is, John 3:16.

480.38 (552.7) Mormon [...] out west somewhere: the Mormon church keeps extensive genealogical records in the Granite Mountain Records Vault about 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, not quite back to Methuselah but in many cases going back to the Middle Ages.

481.6 (552.17) a little wine for his stomach’s sake: from 1 Tim. 5:23.

481.16 (552.27) John is generally regarded as the least reliable of the gospels: so said Basil Valentine in R (338.13), echoing reliable biblical scholarship.

485.28 (557.30) John Dryden’s, sound the trumpet! beat the drum!: from "Alexander’s Feast": see 471.2.

492.37 (566.12) red [...] in tooth and claw: repeated from 502.25.

494.16 (568.6) cannibals all: cf. Cannibals All! (107.19).

496.4 (570.9) the wild goose Wawa, where Kahgagee [...] Sahwa: more animals from Longfellow’s Hiawatha.

499.13 (574.2) Justice Holmes he says, left most of his estate to the U.S. Treasury: a patriotic gift, not taxes as in Judge Crease’s case.

499.37 (574.27) knights of King Richard the Lionhearted [...] the kingdom of Jerusalem: the subject of the final volume of Runciman’s History of the Crusades: The Kingdom of Acre (1954).

502.15 (577.21) scream of a chainsaw: in a letter (13 February 1994), Gaddis described the conclusion as a "screaming parody of The Cherry Orchard," Anton Chekhov's final play (1904), which ends with the sounds of a family's orchard being chopped down.

504.18 (579.35) Cardozo’s opinion in Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad: see 28.42 (29.30).

506.30 (582.23) the Harry I knew: a pun (the hairy Ainu) that’s been waiting for hundreds of pages to appear

507.17 (583.17) a following shade of care: see 68.17 (75.5).

507.27 (583.27) who favour fire [...] From what I’ve: see 425.35 (487.31).

508.28/584.36] the North‑West wind [...] all alone went Hiawatha: more from Longfellow’s poem, except for the obvious intrusion of Disney’s Thumper and Bambi. The birch tree and “its white skin wrapper” (i.e., bark) are from Hiawatha’s canoe; “all alone went Hiawatha” echoes the final canto 22, where Hiawatha departs in his birch canoe for the west.

509.25/585.18] Ella Cinders: a comic strip by Bill Conselman and Charles Plumb that ran from 1925 to 1961, and the title of a 1926 silent movie starring Colleen Moore.  For the latter, see

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) §

A Frolic of His Own

< 401--450

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