One of the best things about reading the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde is getting all the inside jokes of literature. So what to do when you haven't read the work being referenced? It depends to a certain extent. I don't think it matters at all to the enjoyment of The Eyre Affair if you've read Dicken's The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, but it would be a problem if you hadn't read Jane Eyre. Still, the books are so much more enjoyable when you get all the references, so I try to look up anything that is clearly going over my head. In the case of The Well of Lost Plots (review), I had no idea who the Bellman was and why he (or she) would be in charge of Jurisfiction. Isn't a bellman the guy who carries your luggage for you at a hotel?
Thanks to Wikipedia, I found the strange and lovely poem by Lewis Carroll that features the Bellman, The Hunting of the Snark.
"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,Read the rest of The Hunting of the Snark at Literature.org.
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.
"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true."