Tag Archives: literary oddities

Devil’s Dictionary: Actor

“Actor, n. One who peddles ready-made emotion, and who, despising us for the qualities on which he feeds, is by us despised for the unwholesome character of his diet.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000. 

Annus Mirabilis

“A long poem (1997) by John Dryden (1631-1700). The annus mirabilis (wonderful year) was 1666, the year of the Fire of London and of continuing war with the Dutch. Queen Elizabeth II alluded to the phrase in a speech at the Guildhall, London, when she referred to 1992 and ‘annus horribilis’ (a coinage that had been suggested to her by a ‘sympathetic correspondent’); this was the year when fire caused extensive damage to the royal residence at Windsor Castle, Princess Anne was divorced, and the Duke of York separated from the Duchess of York, topless photos of whom appeared in the tabloids.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

G.M. Young on the Oxford University Press

“Being published by the Oxford University Press is rather like being married to a duchess: the honor is almost greater than the pleasure.”

G.M. Young (Quoted in Rupert Hart-Davis, Letter to George Lyttleton, 29 Apr. 1956)

Excerpted from: Shapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Rotten Rejections: The Visits of Elizabeth

[This deals with the novel by Elinor Glyn.]

“All the men, married and single, make love to her in various ways, and she comments naively on their behavior, squeezing here arms, holding her hands, kissing her, etc…. At the end one has the uncomfortable feeling of having been a spectator of the operation of rubbing the bloom off a girl by a lot of worldly and more or less vulgar people.”

Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

Devil’s Dictionary: Bribe

“Bribe, n. That which enables a member of the California Legislature to live on his pay without any dishonest economies.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000. 

Rotten Reviews: Lie Down in Darkness

“What is evident in this first novel is an eagerness and a sincerity which ought to have been served by an able and understanding editor. Mr. Styron however had no Maxwell Perkins to guide him, with the result that he has written here a serious work of fiction which should not have exceeded 300 pages in length, and which need not have been done in so turgid and often confused a manner…Mr. Styron leaves his readers curiously unsympathetic.”

August Derleth, Chicago Tribune

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998. 

The Algonquin Wits: Ring Lardner

“He gave her a look that you could have poured on a waffle.”

Ring Lardner

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.