I can’t remember if I mentioned that I would be in New York visiting family this week—anyway, my uncle, who knows me well, took me to a used bookstore. My purchases:
The Secret History of the South Sea Bubble: the World’s First Great Financial Scandal by Malcolm Balen, about an 18th-century share scheme/fraud and the cover-up.
The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a Regency slang dictionary. I hear this one quoted all the time and have wanted it for a while without ever actually buying it, although I do have James Hardy Vaux’s Dictionary of the Flash Language, specifically about criminal cant, which I’m very fond of. Here are a couple of cool entries I’ve come across in my preliminary scanning:
HOB OR NOB. Will you hob or nob with me? a question formerly in fashion at polite tables, signifying a request or challenge to drink a glass of wine with the proposer: if the party challenged answered Nob, they were to chuse whether white or red. This foolish custom is said to have originated in the days of good queen Bess, thus: when great chimnies were in fashion, there was at each corner of the hearth, or grate, a small elevated projection, called the hob; and behind it a seat. In winter time the beer was placed on the hob to warm: and the cold beer was set on a small table, said to have been called the nob; so that the question, Will you have hob or nob? seems only to have meant, Will you have warm or cold beer? i.e. beer from the hob, or beer from the nob.
TO COAX. To fondle, or wheedle. To coax a pair of stockings; to pull down the part soiled into the shoe, so as to give a dirty pair of stockings the appearance of clean ones. Coaxing is also used, instead of darning, to hide the holes about the ancles.
PUSHING SCHOOL. A fencing school; also a brothel.
And my final purchase: The Dragon in the Sword by Michael Moorcock (whose name should probably have stopped being hilarious to me a long time ago, but hasn’t, because I’m secretly 12). Here is the back cover copy:
“I AM THE ETERNAL CHAMPION, THE HERO OF A THOUSAND WORLDS…”
Trapped by a timeless existence, doomed to fight forever, John Daker is the Eternal Champion. Boldly he ventures into spheres unknown to search for his lost love, the beautiful Ermizhad—and the key that will free him from his fate.
On a dark ship piloted by a blind captain…amid the slave stalls of the Cannibal Ghost Women…through the tunnels of doom and the planes of hope…the Eternal Champion must now confront the heart of evil itself—a man named Adolf Hitler…
Wow. Just wow.