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Titles Of Books
by [?]

The modern fanatics have had a most barbarous taste for titles. We could produce numbers from abroad, and at home. Some works have been called, “Matches lighted at the Divine Fire,”–and one “The Gun of Penitence:” a collection of passages from the fathers is called “The Shop of the Spiritual Apothecary:” we have “The Bank of Faith,” and “The Sixpennyworth of Divine Spirit:” one of these works bears the following elaborate title: “Some fine Biscuits baked in the Oven of Charity, carefully conserved for the Chickens of the Church, the Sparrows of the Spirit, and the sweet Swallows of Salvation.” Sometimes their quaintness has some humour. Sir Humphrey Lind, a zealous puritan, published a work which a Jesuit answered by another, entitled “A Pair of Spectacles for Sir Humphrey Lind.” The doughty knight retorted, by “A Case for Sir Humphrey Lind’s Spectacles.”

Some of these obscure titles have an entertaining absurdity; as “The Three Daughters of Job,” which is a treatise on the three virtues of patience, fortitude, and pain. “The Innocent Love, or the Holy Knight,” is a description of the ardours of a saint for the Virgin. “The Sound of the Trumpet,” is a work on the day of judgment; and “A Fan to drive away Flies,” is a theological treatise on purgatory.

We must not write to the utter neglect of our title; and a fair author should have the literary piety of ever having “the fear of his title-page before his eyes.” The following are improper titles. Don Matthews, chief huntsman to Philip IV. of Spain, entitled his book “The Origin and Dignity of the Royal House,” but the entire work relates only to hunting. De Chantereine composed several moral essays, which being at a loss how to entitle, he called “The Education of a Prince.” He would persuade the reader in his preface, that though they were not composed with a view to this subject, they should not, however, be censured for the title, as they partly related to the education of a prince. The world was too sagacious to be duped, and the author in his second edition acknowledges the absurdity, drops “the magnificent title,” and calls his work “Moral Essays.” Montaigne’s immortal history of his own mind, for such are his “Essays,” has assumed perhaps too modest a title, and not sufficiently discriminative. Sorlin equivocally entitled a collection of essays, “The Walks of Richelieu,” because they were composed at that place; “The Attic Nights” of Aulus Gellius were so called, because they were written in Attica. Mr. Tooke, in his grammatical “Diversions of Purley,” must have deceived many.

A rhodomontade title-page was once a great favourite. There was a time when the republic of letters was over-built with “Palaces of Pleasure,” “Palaces of Honour,” and “Palaces of Eloquence;” with “Temples of Memory,” and “Theatres of Human Life,” and “Amphitheatres of Providence;” “Pharoses, Gardens, Pictures, Treasures.” The epistles of Guevara dazzled the public eye with their splendid title, for they were called “Golden Epistles;” and the “Golden Legend” of Voragine had been more appropriately entitled leaden.

They were once so fond of novelty, that every book recommended itself by such titles as “A new Method; new Elements of Geometry; the new Letter Writer, and the new Art of Cookery.”

To excite the curiosity of the pious, some writers employed artifices of a very ludicrous nature. Some made their titles rhyming echoes; as this one of a father, who has given his works under the title of Scalae Alae animi; and Jesus esus novus Orbis. Some have distributed them according to the measure of time, as one Father Nadasi, the greater part of whose works are years, months, weeks, days, and hours. Some have borrowed their titles from the parts of the body; and others have used quaint expressions, such as–Think before you leapWe must all dieCompel them to enter. Some of our pious authors appear not to have been aware that they were burlesquing religion. One Massieu having written a moral explanation of the solemn anthems sung in Advent, which begin with the letter O, published this work under the punning title of La douce Moelle, et la Sauce friande des os Savoureux de l’Avent.[1]