You may have noticed that I’m still talking about “the Victorian book,” rather than something with an actual name. This is because, while I have prospects for a title, none of them are quite right — none of them click and make me think, yes, I’ve found it. And while I’ve been speed-reading Victorian literature in a search for The Right One, the Victorians were a wordy bunch of bastards, and I can only get through so much on my own.
So. I’m offering up a complete signed set of the Onyx Court series — Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, an advance copy of A Star Shall Fall, and the Victorian book once I have it — to the person who points me at the right title. Suggestions can be posted in the comments here, or e-mailed to marie [dot] brennan [at] gmail [dot] com.
According to the model set by the previous titles, and arranged in generally descending importance, my criteria are:
- The title must be a quote from a work of more-or-less period British literature. (The book takes place circa 1884.) Earlier is better than later; the Romantics are fine, but one Kipling poem I found, dating to 1906, is not.
- It must be a short but evocative phrase, along the lines of preceding examples.
- It should, if at all possible, contain a verb.
- Bonus points if the verb is paired with an interesting noun (a la “midnight,” “ashes,” or “star”).
- I vaguely feel like it should come from a novel, because novels are such a characteristic 19c form of literature. This is, however, an optional restriction, which I’ll happily ditch if I find a good title from another source.
And one more thing, which is high in importance, but excluded from the list so I can put details behind a cut. If I keep to the previous pattern, the quote from which the title is drawn should be the epigraph for the final section of the novel. I know what kind of sentiment I want that to convey, and I can even give examples of quotes that come very close but haven’t given me a title. If you want to steer clear of even the vaguest spoilers as to where this book is going, though, don’t look behind the cut; just know that quotes which talk about London or cities are in the right vein.
The closest thing I’ve found is this, from Benjamin Disraeli’s novel Coningsby:
A great city, whose image dwells in the memory of man, is the type of some great idea. Rome represents conquest; Faith hovers over the towers of Jerusalem; and Athens embodies the pre-eminent quality of the antique world, Art. In modern ages, Commerce has created London; while Manners, in the most comprehensive sense of the word, have long found a supreme capital in the airy and bright-minded city of the Seine.
But it doesn’t include a phrase that clicks for me — In the Memory of Man and Whose Image Dwells are the foremost contenders, and neither one is right. Next up, we have a Wordsworth quote:
There was a time when whatsoe’er is feigned
Of airy palaces, and gardens built
By Genii of romance; or hath in grave
Authentic history been set forth of Rome,
Alcairo, Babylon, or Persepolis;
Or given upon report by pilgrim friars,
Of golden cities ten months’ journey deep
Among Tartarian wilds–fell short, far short,
Of what my fond simplicity believed
And thought of London–held me by a chain
Less strong of wonder and obscure delight.
From that, And Thought of London is the best prospect, but still not right. (Especially since I’ve been told “And” is a bad word to begin a title with.) In a slightly different vein, we have Dickens, in Martin Chuzzlewit:
Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.
What I want — what my subconscious remains convinced is out there, somewhere, in the vast ocean of Victorian literature — is a quote that talks about what London is, or any great city; the way it is composed of many different things, many different kinds of people, and the way it’s home to all of them. Something that evokes wonder in an urban context, might be the simplest way to put it.
Post your ideas here, or e-mail them to me at the address above. At this point I need specific suggestions more than general ones; not authors but individual works, and preferably actual quotes from those works. Toss out as many possibilities as you like. You will have my gratitude forever. And if you know anyone who’s spent a lot of time reading nineteenth-century material, or if you want to signal-boost this in places where such people might see it, please do pass this request along. Not having a title is starting to drive me crazy.
EDITED TO ADD: If you know the literature really well, and don’t mind an honest-to-god spoiler for the plot, e-mail me and I’ll tell you exactly what idea I’m trying to find a quote for. But that will mean knowing how the Victorian book is going to end, so don’t ask if you don’t want to know.