Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Ivalunk
E. Nesbit's The Story of the Amulet (1906) is full of local and topical references that are fun to track down, but I'm currently stumped by this passage from the beginning of Chapter 14:

Nurse having gone to tea with a friend out Ivalunk way they were playing 'devil in the dark' (259)


Now, what or where is Ivalunk? Google is no help, and no more is the OED. It's possible that Nesbit is humorously adopting a phonetic spelling to reflect the Nurse's London pronunciation, but even then I'm having trouble seeing what the word behind it is. 'Ivalunk' doesn't bear much resemblance to any London district I can think of.

Quite possibly I'm missing something very obvious here: feel free to put me out of my misery.
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Any chance that its their mishearing of where she's going: "I've a long way"? (Just a thought.)

It's better than any thought I've come up with, at any rate!

(Deleted comment)
I can imagine a Fabian of Swedish extraction calling their house "Ivalunka", rather on the lines of "Dunroamin", etc.

And so, what's "devil in the dark," which sounds, well, suggestive as Hell!

The Briggs bio of E. Nesbit calls it a "screamy, scary version of hide-and-seek." One of the Bastable books says it is "a game girls pretend to like, and very few do really" (now THAT is scary).

Edited at 2015-10-05 11:33 pm (UTC)

The Briggs bio of E. Nesbit calls it a "screamy, scary version of hide-and-seek."

I've read it described as a version of blind man's buff played entirely in a darkened room, so that no one can see anyone. You cry "Devil" when someone catches you. Or vice versa. I do not believe I ever played it, but I have a very clear memory of finding it in one of those catalogues of children's folk songs and games. [edit] The Story of the Amulet is the "Five Children" book I have re-read the least, because everything I can remember about the chapter with the random horrific anti-Semitism is so bad, I've never subjected myself to it again. I know C.S. Lewis used it as a model for Jadis in London in The Magician's Nephew, but I'm pretty sure his version is better.

Edited at 2015-10-06 01:48 am (UTC)

Nesbit has a lot of that, unfortunately. Harding's Luck has a pawnshop owner who's meant to be basically quite nice, but, well, you can fill in the rest.

I was hoping Devil-in-the-dark would be in a Victorian book I have with a lot of games in it (The Girl's Home Book), but it isn't. I can hardly find anything online except Nesbit herself and the Star Trek episode. Possibly DITD had a different name in more religious circles?

Harding's Luck has a pawnshop owner who's meant to be basically quite nice, but, well, you can fill in the rest.

I don't think I've read Harding's Luck. I shall do so carefully if I decide to.

I can hardly find anything online except Nesbit herself and the Star Trek episode.

Well, this is definitely not the book I remember reading, but the detail about Cincinnati is fascinating! That was according to William Wells Newell in 1883. I am a little skeptical about all the mythological origins and connections, but the collection of variant names and rules is probably reliable.

IIRC, that passage in Harding's Luck is fairly marble-in-jam (that is, easily skipped without spoiling the whole, but could be nasty to encounter if you don't know it's there).

https://books.google.com/books?id=r14wAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA210 (scroll down past the mushy bit, on the left-hand side) has a good description of the game (and then, wow, its effect on a man with a phobia -- oh, man, this is definitely hurt/comfort stuff).

a good description of the game (and then, wow, its effect on a man with a phobia -- oh, man, this is definitely hurt/comfort stuff).

My idfic quota for the day has been met!

Do you think the Star Trek episode was named after the game?

I actually said idfic in my comment and then took it out again! There's a quotation about "playing blind man's buff with the Devil in the dark" (from a discussion about Cotton Mather and the Salem witchcraft trials), but I haven't found a definite source. (Now Google Books has just clammed up on me and refused to admit there are any 19C books containing the phrase whatsoever. Gah.)

I actually said idfic in my comment and then took it out again!

You were not wrong!

(Now Google Books has just clammed up on me and refused to admit there are any 19C books containing the phrase whatsoever. Gah.)

"Blind man's buff with the Devil" looks like it might be its own phrase: I can find it attested here in 1833 in the collected sermons of the Reverend William Howels, whom I've never heard of, and here in an 1818–19 issue of Blackwood's Magazine, describing the trickster Harlequin. "Blind man's buff with the Devil in the dark" comes from The North American Review and looks like the witch-trial history you were talking about. The quotation marks used by the author make it look like a well-known phrase, but I really can't tell. Availability on Google Books is not the most reliable documentation of historical popularity.

Edited at 2015-10-06 08:36 pm (UTC)

Yes, I'm afraid there's not much to redeem that passage.

Yes, I'm afraid there's not much to redeem that passage.

How's the rest of it?

Of that chapter? There's one really interesting bit when the Queen decides that all the Babylonian artefacts in the Museum belong to her, and uses magic to make them come out to her through its august portals, much to the annoyance of the Museum staff. I think that's a wonderful anticipation of debates about appropriation (e.g. the Elgin Marbles).

The book as a whole is marvellous - hence its crude anti-Semitism shocks all the more.

Isn't that the chapter with the great part about how the working classes of London don't rebel despite their awful conditions because they have the vote, and the Queen says "Oh, I see, it's a kind of toy"? It's to my memory a great socialist dismissal of suffrage.

I find the anti-Semitism in The Story of the Treasure-Seekers to be the most jarring and gratuitous, but I haven't read Amulet since I was a kid, so it may have dulled with age.

Oh yes, that's there too!

And of course the nice curator is Wallis Budge, isn't he? with whom Nesbit had an affair? I'm always reminded of the bit in I Capture the Castle, where Topaz is not at all reassured by the news that her husband is going to the British Museum rather than seeing Mrs. Cotton, because "People do nothing but use it for assignations -- I met him there myself once, in the mummy room."

Every time I see Budge's name, I can't help but think of Elizabeth Peters's assessment of him via Amelia Peabody Emerson and her husband.

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