A Frolic of His Own

pp. 251--300
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) §

251.33 (285.11) Justice Learned Hand [...] apply the law’:  an often-told anecdote; Gaddis’s wording is close to the account given in Robert H. Bork’s The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law (NY: Free Press, 1989), p. 6.

252.23 (286.8) curator bonis: legal guardian.

252.31 (286.16) N.O.V.: non obstante verdicto: Lat., notwithstanding the verdict, a judgment reversing the decision of a jury.  

252.38 (286.23) Justice Holmes’ The Common Law Lecture V: an 1881 book, generally considered one of the most important contributions to American jurisprudence. Gaddis probably used the 1963 edition published by Harvard University Press, edited by Mark DeWolfe Howe (cited hereafter). The present quotation is found on p. 130.  

253.11 (286.35) ‘For the bailee […] Holmes op cit.: Common Law 135 and n.12.

  253.37 (287.22) (Wilcox […] 335): {this & following not in Prosser}  

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).

254.10 (287.37) (U.S. […] Utah):  

254.11 (287.38) (Moses […] 498):  

254.12 (287.39) (Helsel […] 792):  

254.13 (288.1) (Brown […] 1402):  

254.27 (288.15) (Holmes op cit., Lecture VI, Possession): Common Law 167.  

254.29 (288.17) the last act: as noted earlier, this was the working title of FHO.  

254.31 (288.19) Timon of Athens: an especially bitter drama by Shakespeare (ca. 1607). Judge Crease describes a "corpse littered stage" at the end of the play, which ends rather quietly with the announcement of Timon's death and Alcibiades's entry into Athens. [CL]

254.38 (288.27) (Knauer […] 701):  

254.40 (288.29) (Schoen Bros. [...] 265):  

255.6 (288.36) the dark commerce of the Resurrectionists Burke and Hare: R. L. Stevenson’s story “The Body-Snatchers” was based on the activities of two Irishmen named William Burke and William Hare in Edinburgh in 1827-28.

255.7 (288.37) corpus humanum non recipit aestimationem:   a human body is not susceptible of appraisement.

255.11 [289.2-3] 'Hiawatha's Magic Mittens' [...] Wear 'Em With The Furside Outside': from The Song of Milkanwatha(1856), a parody by Marc Antony Henderson (Rev. George A. Strong, 1832–1912), and reprinted in many humor anthologies:

He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside.
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That’s why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside. 
[John Soutter]

255.15 (289.6) ex mora:  from the delay; from the default.

255.20 (289.10) Baker […] 757: Prosser 497 n.49.  

255.28 (289.18) (Malernee […] 836):  

255.36 (289.26) (Pure Oil […] 401):  

255.41 (289.31) (Kelly […] 1042):  

256.2 (289.34) (Dickson […] 219):

256.6 289.38 State […] 638:  

256.8 (289.39) (Commonwealth […] 830):  

256.16 (290.9) Lord Chancellor Sir Francis Bacon: the famous essayist and philosopher (1561-1626) was lord chancellor from 1618-21. His legal writings include Maxims of the Law (1630)—the source of the Latin quotation that follows—and Reading on the Statute of Uses (1642).  

256.17 (290.10) in jure non remota causa, sed proxima, spectatur: Prosser traces the term “proximate” to Bacon and in a footnote gives this Latin sentence and translates it “In law the near case is looked to, not the remote one” (244 n.63).

 256.18 (290.11) Ockham’s razor: after William of Ockham (1300?-1349?), who rejected  universals in favor of particulars: “entities must not be unnecessarily multiplied” is the principle that became known as Ockham’s Razor and later influenced Bacon’s philosophy.

 256.19 (290.12) ‘Cause and effect [...] Judge Powell [...] a given cause and a given effect’:

 256.34 (290.27) (Blythe […] 702):

256.38 (290.31) (Louisville […] 1024):

256.42 (290.35) (Cachick … 15): Prosser 273 n.98, but probably found elsewhere.

257.1 (290.37) ‘Negligence [...] (Prosser, Law of Torts, 4th ed.):

257.8 (291.4) ‘when the negligence […] 529): Prosser 284 and n.17.

257.12 (291.8) causa causea est causa causati: Lat.: "The cause of the cause is the cause of the effect," meaning a cause more remote than the immediate one is the actual cause of the effect.

257.30 (291.26) ‘desire to protect […] 579:

257.36 (291.32) in toto: Lat.: “in full, completely.”

257.41 (291.37) excessive speed […] 563): from Prosser’s chapter on proximate cause: “if the defendant drives through the state of New Jersey at an excessive speed, and arrives in Philadelphia in time to be struck by lightning, his speed is a not unimportant cause of the accident, since without it he would not have been there in time” (237). Prosser’s footnote cites four cases; Gaddis cites the first and third.

258.3 (292.2) an appointment better kept in Samara: Appointment in Samarra (1934) is John O’Hara’s first novel, concerning the last three days in a suicide’s life.  

258.4 (292.3) ‘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

258.5 (292.4) the twilight of confusion [...] inter canem et lupum: Lat.: “between the dog and the wolf."

258.33: magic despaired and became religion: also used in The Recognitions at 12.1; see note there.

259.2 (293.3) E M Cioran [...] errors and confusion wherever you look!’: E. M. Cioran (1911-95), Rumanian-born French philosopher. The quotation is from his History and Utopia, trans. Richard Howard (NY: Seaver, 1987), 74. (Gaddis also used the quotation in “Old Foes with New Faces” [RSP 92].)

259.17 (293.20) He marks the sparrow’s fall: paraphrased from Matt 10.29.

268.12 (303.32) that old movie where she thinks Cary Grant did something to the brakes so she’ll go over the cliff?: Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion (1941), also starring Joan Fontaine.

268.16 (303.36) read someplace where they put this rattlesnake in this man’s mailbox: the same story that terrified Elizabeth Booth in CG (98.28).

268.36 (304.19) Gresham’s law: the tendency for money of lower intrinsic value to circulate more widely than that of higher value (e.g., paper dollars over silver dollars).

268.40 (304.23) drowned ceremony of innocence now the worse were filled with passionate intensity: from Yeats’s poem "The Second Coming": "The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity."

272.29 (308.37) Massapequa: Gaddis’s hometown on Long Island and the setting for J R .

274.26 (311.10) Mister Mohlenhoff: a character from J R: Herbert B. Mohlenhoff, head of Endo Appliance and Major Hyde’s boss. (His firm’s name is given on 318: Schriek Mohlenhoff & Shransky.)

276.9 (313.4) Nearer My God: "Nearer My God to Thee," a popular religious hymn.

276.37 (313.32) judge named Cooley coined the phrase: Thomas McIntyre Cooley (1824-98), American jurist.

277.32 (314.36) Lee Harvey’s widow: Lee Harvey Oswald, President Kennedy’s alleged assassin.

280.19 (318.3) Where had Maid Quiet gone to, nodding her russet hood?: see 88.13.

283.8 (321.14) full of passionate intensity [...] mere anarchy upon the world: also from Yeats’s "Second Coming."

284.27 (323.4) It seemed to me [...] as if the lake were slowly flooding: the italicized passages on 323-24 are from James Fox’s White Mischief (New York: Random, 1982)—as acknowledged on the copyright page—a book about the decadent English colony in Kenya during the 1930s. The italicized passages are taken from a paragraph on p. 260 where Fox describes Lake Naivasha in Kenya’s Rift Valley. (This is a book Gaddis apparently read when gathering African material for CG.)

285.17 (323.39) that time of year [...] when yellow leaves, or none, or few: from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, often quoted or alluded to in CG (originally called "That Time of Year," just as A Frolic was originally called "The Last Act").

285.30 (324.14) beauty nothing but beginning of terror it was still just able to bear: from the opening lines of Rilke’s first Duino Elegy.  See

285.38 (324.24) Minjekahwun [...] Omeme [...] Mudjekeewis [...] Wawa [...] Adjidaumo [...] Kenabeek: more names from "Hiawatha." more name from The Song of Hiawatha: “Minjekahwun” are Hiawatha’s magic mittens; the Omeme, Wawa, Adjidaumo, and the Kenebeek (plural) are animals mentioned often; “the heartless Mudjekeewis” is Hiawatha’s father, personified as the West Wind.

286.23 (325.14) John Brown’s mother and grandmother both died mad: American abolitionist (1800-1859); cf. 329.9 ff., where Oscar quotes the famous marching song about him.

289.36 (329.9) John Brown’s body lies amouldering in the grave: Catton explains how this 1850 gospel hymn was adapted as an abolitionist marching song before finally given new words by Julia Ward Howe to become “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” (39-40).

291.18 (331.3) Why, if ’tis dancing you would be [...] And carried: from "Terence, This is Stupid Stuff," the 62nd poem in A.E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad.  The passage Oscar cites is
Why, if 'tis dancing you would be,
There's brisker pipes that poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world's not.
And faith, 'tis pleasant till 'tis past:
The mischief is 'twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I've lain,
Happy till I woke again.       

292.40 (332.34) Sheridan’s School for Scandal: a comedy by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1777), often revived (but not, according to the New York Times, at the time FHO is set).

293.39 (333.38) REVEREND UDE: from CG.

295.12 (335.23) let’s part better strangers as the Bard says: from As You Like It (3.2.276: "I do desire that we may be better strangers").

297.32 (338.21) the battle of Shiloh: a battle at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, on 6-7 April 1862; Confederate forces made a successful surprise attack on Grant’s Union forces, which eventually repelled them. (The details are not from Catton; Gaddis obviously used several sources when writing Once at Antietam.)

298.4 (338.36) Babri Masjid mosque in far off Uttar Pradesh: in 1990 this Moslem mosque in Ayodhya, India, was stormed by fundamentalist Hindus, who wanted to build a shrine to the God Rama there. See "A Hindu Militant is Seized in India," New York Times, 30 October 1990, 6.

300.12 (341.20) things are in the saddle and ride mankind in Emerson’s voice: from Emerson’s "Ode (Inscribed to W. H. Channing)," ll. 50-51 (ODQ); first used in J R (400.41).

A Frolic of His Own
< 201--250
§ 301--350 >

All contents © 2000-2005 by the Gaddis Annotations site and the original authors, contributors, publishers, and publications.