A Frolic of His Own

pp. 151--200
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) §

154.40 (174.25) Roe v Wade: an epochal Supreme Court decision on abortion rights, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
Edited decision and opinions at
Complete text at

156.14 (176.8) 'must a man be scourged then, and racked, have his eyes burnt out and then be set up on a pole': Plato, Republic 2:361e. [PF]

157.4 (177.4) EREBUS ENTERTAINMENT, Inc., Ben B F Leva: appeared earlier in J R (471.9). Erebus: personification of darkness; in Greek mythology, the son of Chaos and brother of Night; also, a ship mentioned near the beginning of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  

157.9 (177.9) Once at Antietam: as Oscar admits later, an allusion to a line in Shakespeare’s Othello (see 193.11 ff.)  

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).

158.40 (179.5) Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: see 31.19.  

159.10 (179.17) Byron [...] he sued them:  

161.7 (181.21) words, words, words: perhaps an allusion to Hamlet’s response to Polonious: “What do you read, my Lord?” “Words, words, words” (2.2.195).  

162.8 (182.25) per stirpes: Lat.: “by family,” a method for distributing the estate of an individual who dies intestate, in which the greatest benefits go to the deceased’s closest relations. [MR]

171.30 [193.17] ‘And say besides, that in Aleppo once [...] smote him thus’: Othello 5.2.352-56. Nabokov likewise used “‘That in Aleppo Once . . .’” as the title for a short story (1943; full text here:
though Gaddis may not have known this; he did not care for Nabokov's fiction).

173.39 (195.36) van Gogh [...] fifty million dollars a few years ago:probably his Irises, which sold in 1987 for $53.9 million, the highest price ever paid for an artwork at auction at that time.

174.16 (196.16) Cézanne: Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), French painter.

175.41 (198.8) Break, on thy cold grey stones, O: from Tennyson’s poem “Break, Break, Break” (ODQ).  

176.23 (198.32) The great unwashed, yes. Sweep on, you fat and greasy citizens!: the first half is the title of a book that examined the London poor by Thomas Wright, The Great Unwashed (1868); the second half is from Shakespeare’s As You Like It (2.1.55). [JS/SM]  

178.26 (201.7) the Merchant of . . .: of Venice; Oscar’s information on Shakespeare’s business activities is accurate.  

179.5 (201.28) Rosalynde where he got As You Like It [...] Julius Caesar right out of Plutarch: again, Oscar’s information on Shakespeare’s sources is correct.  

179.20 (202.5) twice told tales: a phrase from Shakespeare’s King John: “Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale” (3.4.108).  

186.12 (209.22) ‘(Touching the bandage: this and the following quotations are identified on the next page as O’Neill’s (see 96.23).  

190.24 (214.12) ‘And to those [...] that may be true . . .’: identified later (223) as from Plato’s Republic, book 1 (330a-e). Socrates is questioning Cephalus about old age.  

191.3 (214.35) Thrasymachus [...] But of course you won’t’: Thrasymachus is an impatient auditor of the courteous dialogue between Socrates and Polimarchus, and interrupts as quoted at 336c-338c. (Jowett’s “sillybillies” was dropped in the revised 4th edition of his translation published in 1953.)  

196.3 (220.22) Dale Carnegie called the ‘Yes yes’ response: Gaddis used this line in R (500).    

198.30 (223.20) the English translation of Plato’s Republic by Benjamin Jowett [...] Oxford University Press in nineteen twenty: Jowett’s translation of Plato’s dialogues, still considered one of the best, first appeared in 1871. Gaddis probably used the 1937 2-volume Random House edition of Plato’s Dialogues.  

199.28 (224.23) Arabian Nights Entertainment: better (and more properly) known as A Thousand and One Nights—a vast collection of ancient Persian, Indian, and Arabian tales, collected in their present form in the fifteenth century.  

199.31 (224.26) as Aeschylus says wishing to be and not to seem good [...] Plato quoting Aeschylus: Republic 2:362a. (In the dialogue, Glaucon is the one who quotes Aeschylus—from Seven against Thebes.)  

199.39 (224.35) Camus: Albert Camus (1913-60), Algerian-born French philosopher and novelist whose works exerted enormous influence over writers in the 1940s and 1950s, especially his sense of the absurd.  

Madhar Pai probably has in mind The Rebel (1951; English trans. 1956), either Thomas's remark to his mother "it's as though you... cherish injustice" (72.37-38/80.17)--for which see the annotation to 351.37(402.11)--or William's remark "if life could be good at all then it had to be good for all men" (93.28-29/104.7-8) which echoes Camus on Ivan Karamazov's rejection of Christianity: "Ivan is the incarnation of the refusal  to be the only one saved. He throws in his lot with the damned and, for their sake, rejects eternity. If he had faith, he could, in fact, be saved, but others would be damned and suffering would continue. There is no possible salvation for the man who feels real compassion. Ivan will continue to put God in the wrong by doubly rejecting faith as he would reject injustice and privilege. One step more and from All or Nothing we arrive at Everyone or No One" (trans. Anthony Bower [NY: Vintage, 1959], pp. 56-57). The Rebel is one of two Camus books that were in Gaddis's library when he died; the other is The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays.


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