Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book of English Epithets, Literal and Figurative

James Jermyn - Book of English Epithets, Literal and Figurative (1849)

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A collection of numerous epithets drawn from a couple of centuries of literature.  A first impression is this might be useful for writers but that's probably unlikely - maybe it's more a browser's book.  For instance, "moon" has dozens of epithets including "argent-horned" (Lovelace), "bent" (Chaucer), "clouded" (Shakespeare), "dull" (Sotheby), "humid" (Hogg), "lover-loving" (Byron), "timorous" (Darwin) and so many more.  There are four full pages for "nightingale", the result clearly of British poets' inexplicable fascination with the animal.  There's also "tiger", "smile", "zephyr", "jest", "drum", "beard", "gold", "hill", "yell" - I almost wish the book was longer.  In fact this was intended to raise interest in a much more extensive project and Jermyn had collected volumes of material but never went further when the world apparently expressed its disinterest.  (Notes and Queries, Jan 15, 1887, p55)

James Jermyn (d1852) was the son of a ship's captain who became a philologist.  "He was called to the bar, but being possessed of a private fortune did not practise."  (DNB, 1892 edition)