Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
One year after graduating and moving back home to my parents’ house I have finally unpacked all my belongings, and in doing so I have uncovered this forgotten gem of a book, which I think is a little oddment in itself and I’d recommend to anyone with an interest in literature, history, mythology, folklore or anything of that sort!
It was first published in the late 19th century, aimed at people without a university education who wanted to understand literary allusions and the origins of phrases, however, it also included an array of other more curious features that have been amended and added to over the past century.
There’s a whole section dedicated to the first lines in classical literature, for example, as well as explanations about all manner of fictional characters, historical figures and events; pages dedicated Zodiac signs and how to read palms, as well as an extensive list of the ‘Cries of Animals’. If you want to know the name of ‘Achilles’ wife,’ there’s an entry for that! Need a list of historical witches or court jesters? There are entries for those! Curious about ‘The Fat Boy of Peckham’? Fear not, there’s an entry for that too! Anyway, any dictionary that includes definitions of ‘Acid Bath Murders,’ ‘Quidditch,’ and ‘A Tub of Naked Children’ is doing it right as far as I’m concerned!
Concerning the first edition of the book, it has been said that “Some entries seem so trivial as to be hardly worth including”, and I think that’s still true of the later edition I have, but that’s exactly what makes it marvelous!