Meanderings of Memory unknown source

A number of quotations in the OED derive from a book with the title Meanderings of Memory. However, we have been unable to trace this title in library catalogues or text databases. All these quotations have a date of 1852, and some cite the author as ‘Nightlark’.

The only evidence for this book’s existence that we have yet been able to find is a single entry in a bookseller’s catalogue:

Bookseller's catalogue listing for Meanderings of Memory

Have you ever seen a copy of this book? Can you identify the ‘well-known connoisseur’ mentioned by the bookseller?

UPDATE (20 May 2013): Below is a scan of one of the original citation slips for Meanderings of Memory, for the word ‘inscriptionless’. Note that the person who copied the text originally wrote ‘by Nighthawk’ after the title, but this is corrected (in a different hand) to ‘“Nightlark”’, in the usual place where OED shows the author.

Citation slip from the OED files.

Citation slip from the OED files.

UPDATE (4 June 2013): The handwriting on the original quotation slips from this book has now been identified. Peter Gilliver, an OED editor who is also working on a history of the Dictionary, recognized the hand as that of Edward Peacock (1831–1915), an antiquary who lived for most of his life at Bottesford Manor, near Brigg in Lincolnshire. He was one of the most durable contributors to the first edition of the OED: he began to collect quotations as early as 1857, and was still corresponding with the Dictionary’s Editor James Murray over fifty years later. He also published numerous books and articles on Lincolnshire topics, including a glossary of local dialect, as well as several novels. The OED’s archival files contain many quotations in his handwriting, many of which were printed in the Dictionary in due course; his own writings are also frequently quoted. The reliability of his other contributions makes it seem unlikely that the quotations from Meanderings of Memory are any less genuine.

It’s therefore tempting to regard Lincolnshire as now being the most likely place for a copy of the book to turn up. It’s also possible that Peacock’s own copy of the book survives; the staff at the John Rylands Library, where a large collection of his papers is now held, have drawn a blank, but other possibilities are being pursued.

Posted by OED_Editor on 3 May 2013 12.59
Comments: 32

  • Bryn_OED

    As Meanderings of Memory seems to have appeared in the [1854] Gancia Rare Books / Manuscripts listing , within two years of publication, I’d tried searching via the quotations that the OED attributes to Nightlark

    Interestingly, Mills, J. (1844) The English Fireside: a tale of the past [Vol.2], London, p.136, seems to have used slippery- bellied, some years before Nightlark:

    I could astonish the inhabitants—but what they are God only knows ! except they consist in a few slippery- bellied slugs, and some ill-fed crawling spiders

    • Bryn_OED

      Clarkson, E. (1830) Robert Montgomery and his
      , London, Ridgway, p.39, may well have used
      some years before Nightlark, as well:

      The sun-faced
      morn, ‘arrayed
      in clouds of crimson bloom,’ is very different from the surfaced moon,
      arranged, &c.

      • Bryn_OED

        The Complete Farmer , London, 1807, may
        well predate the use of sun-side, in Nightlark;
        although, post-dating Ramsay (1719):

        …tinged on the sun-side
        with red and brown …

        • hugo_oed

          Bryn, to find a list of 51 entries (from chapelled to width), try this link, or go to Advanced Search and search simply for “meanderings” in Quotation Title.

          If you want to just see those where Nightlark gives the first quotation, also include 1852 in First Quotation. There’s just seven: chapelled, cock-a-ˈbondy, couchward, goalward, revirginize, sanctuaried, vermined.

          • Bryn_OED

            Many thanks to Hugo, for the link; for completeness, here
            are some usages that, potentially, precede first-usages attributed to ”Meanderings of Memory”:

            For Cock-a-Bondy, the OEDseems to show a first usage with ”Meanderings …”

            Hansard, G.A., (1834) Trout and Salmon Fishing in Wales , London, Longman et al., p.169, has:

            Speaking generally, the flies found most successful at Tal y Llyn, are the March brown, the blue dun, the coch y bondy, and the black gnat…

            The Quarterly Review [Vol. LXVII], [December 1840 / March 1841], 1841, London, John Murray, p.193, has:

            … and in the Welsh lakes, where our friend fished, you might as well have thrown yourself in as anything but a coch y bon du (we write under Welsh correction)
            or, as it is uttered by the Saxon, cock-a-bondy.

            For Day-drowsiness, the OEDseems to show a first usage with ”Meanderings …”

            Ruckert, E.R. [translated by Hempel, C.J.] (1846) Therapeutics of Homeopathy , New York, Radde, p.351, has:

            Bloated abdomen; great appetite. Sluggish, sometimes diarrhoeic stool. Fetid night sweat. Faintness. Day-drowsiness. Sensitiveness inducing a ready flow of tears. In the evening chilliness, flushes

            Dudgeon, R.E. (1850) The Pathogenic Cyclopaedia – Part I, London, Hahnemann Society, p.389, has:

            Chininum – Headache with vertigo and loss of recollection, or with languor, relaxed feeling, yawning, day-drowsiness, moroseness, first in the forehead then in the occiput

            For Dike-side, the OED seems to show a first usage with ”Meanderings …”

            The title=” Scots Magazine …”> Scots Magazine …, Vol.65, 1803, September, p.638, has:

            He ne’er was sash’d wi’ paughty pride, Hale days he has been kent to bide Wi’ beggars at a lythe dyke
            , Syne wi’ them gae, An’ cuddle close down by side, ‘Mang sacks an’ strae

            Peck, W. (1815) A Topographical Account of the Isle of Axholme , Doncaster, App. iii, has:

            …westward as far as the first Rushy Close Dike on the west side the Slout Dike, and then all along by that dike side southward to the corner of Upper Rushy Close …

            More to follow …

          • Bryn_OED

            For Goalward, the OED seems to show a first usage with ”Meanderings …”

            Versions of the poem Nepenthe have:

            Goalward at length untired I flee
            Past the still Verdurous Isles, that be Oases of the herbless

            The “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography” indicates that:

            “In 1835, after his return to England, Darley published at his own expense, and distributed to his friends, the first two cantos of Nepenthe, the achievement on which his reputation now chiefly rests … the projected third canto was never completed.”

            That self-published version would seem to antedate ”Meanderings …”.

          • Bryn_OED

            For Chapelled, the OED seems to show a first usage with “Meanderings …”

            The “Leeds Mercury”, 17th April 1847 [via the 19th Century British Library Newspapers collection] has:

            He did not say that in this part of the town – which was churched, chapelled and schooled as no corner of any other town in Great Britain was …

            The “Manchester Times”, 6th June 1849 [via the 19th Century British Library Newspapers collection] has:

            …in the 19th century, amidst a people who were liberally churched, and chapelled, and bishoped, there were six millions of the population who could not read …

  • hugo_oed

    I checked the seven where Nightlark is the first quotation, and these are when the entry was first published:

    * OED First Edition (1889),
    * OED First Edition (1891),
    * OED First Edition (1893),
    * OED First Edition (1909)
    * OED First edition (1917),
    * OED Third Edition (December 2004) – new entry
    * OED Third Edition (March 2010) – new entry

    However, I get the impression from this New Yorker article that all these words were first submitted by the public in the late 19th century, and at least one biblographer didn’t recognise the handwriting of at least one slip.

  • hugo_oed
  • hugo_oed

    The actual words and their quoted sentences agree with this.

  • I agree with others that it’s probably pornographic.

    A copy was auctioned in Sotheby’s in 1854: photograph of the catalogue is here – it’s lot 673.

    • What attempt has been made to track that sale, if any was made?

  • Translated from Latin, the epigraph says something like “why should Philomel fancy my tears?”

  • harveyw26

    Found this…and may explain the author’s name:


    by James Hunter

    Philomela and Procne were the daughters of King Pandion of Athens. Procne was married to King Tereus of Thrace (one of the sons of Ares), and had a son by him, Itys.
    Tereus conceived an illicit passion for Philomela and contrived to get
    her sent to Thrace; he raped her, and then cut her tongue out and
    imprisoned her so that she could tell no one of his crime. However,
    Philomela wove a tapestry which revealed the facts of the matter to
    Procne. In order to get revenge, Procne killed Itys and cooked him, so
    that Tereus ate his own son for dinner. When Tereus discovered the
    ghastly trick, he pursued the two women, trying to kill them. Before the
    chase could end, all three were turned into birds–Tereus into a
    hoopoe, Procne into a swallow, and Philomela into a nightingale. (Hence
    the nightingale is often called a “Philomel” in poetry.)

    This may explain the name Nightlark…

    And a potential translation of the epigraph:

    “Why did tears please you more, my Philomela?”

  • Purely whimsical speculation, but Richard Monkton Milnes, a fairly popular poet who was part of the loose society of literary figures who discussed sexuality with freedom (he supposedly wrote a poem about flagellation anonymously), was a suitor of ‘Florence Nightingale’, who eventually turned him down for marriage.
    As we know ‘Nightingale’ translates as ‘Philomela’.

    Would be exciting anyway!

    • Bryn_OED

      Although you posted a “Purely whimsical speculation, [about the poet] Richard Monkton Milnes … a suitor of ‘Florence Nightingale’”, the recent post, from Mitch Fraas, about Meanderings of Memory emerging from the collection of Baron Christian Charles Josias Von Bunsen does bring several themes, from other postings, together.

      Hence, merely offering an hypothesis to be quickly dismantled, rather than seeking to fuel yet another literary conspiracy theory, and with apologies for repetition of some points:

      Veronica Hurst noted that “One theory is that it could be … a clandestine
      publication that didn’t get recorded in the normal way …”
      and that
      “It reads like poetry, it’s very flowery …”

      The Welsh wife of Baron Bunsen
      noted the couple’s friendship with Florence Nightingale, as did Nightgale’s biographers ; whilst
      the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography confirms that Richard Monkton Milnes was in Baron Bunsen’s social circle

      Myra Stark noted Nightingale’s tendency to identify
      herself in the masculine [e.g. `man of action’ or `man of business’]; which, along with speculation [that the ODNB refers to as unproven] about Richard Monkton Milnes’ own sexuality, might chime with the play on `Philomela’ that others have already noted

      The ODNB gives the courtship of Nightingale as 1849 and Richard Monkton Milnes’ marriage as 1851; so, any [1852] book reflecting on the end of a love affair would need a pseudonym; that rough translation of ‘why did my tears please you more, my Philomel?’ might fit with such a reflection and he might be classified as `a well-known connoisseur’

      Hence, your whimsical speculation might be something that is worth seeking to refute; any dissimilarity with the poetic style of Richard Monkton Milnes, or absence of corroborating evidence within the papers of Nightingale or himself should do it.

      • Bryn_OED

        Whilst the link to Edward Peacock [1831–1915] may make it
        “tempting to regard Lincolnshire as now being the most likely place
        for a copy of the book to turn up”
        , the text may never have been in
        his possession, as two links to Richard Monckton Milnes

        Firstly, Edward Peacock may have come across “Meanderings
        of Memory”
        , in passing, during his other works.

        Peacock edited the Monckton Papers ,
        for RMM’s nephew, the 7th Viscount Galway
        [who had notified his uncle of the 1876 fire that damaged Fryston
        ’s library and book collection]; hence, it is possible that Peacock may have had some form of access to RMM’s library collection, during that time.

        Secondly, Peacock may have mislaid other sources, as well.

        Richard Monckton Milnes contributed an article
        on the edited Monckton Papers, to the Philobiblon Society
        , he noted [ Vol.,15, p.vii ] that:

        The first article in the Appendix is an imprint of a transcript made by the editor of a printed tract of great rarity. He cannot now trace the copy which was for a short time in his hands, but examples of the original exist in more than one of our great libraries

  • Joe Turner

    I have been looking up ‘couchward’. “A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles: Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by the Philological Society” from 1893 gives this citation:

    1852 Meanderings of Mem. 1. 182. Care for your couchward path

    Are those page numbers? Does this imply that the work has several volumes?

    • Joe Turner

      maybe those are actually line numbers (I may have transcribed an L as a 1)

      • hugo_oed

        “A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles: Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by the Philological Society” was an early title of what became the Oxford English Dictionary.

        Looking up ‘couchward’ in the modern OED shows it’s an ‘I’ (a capital ‘i’).

        • Joe Turner

          OK, so what would I. 182 mean? Sounds like the first volume of something, no?

  • The first place I’d usually go to look up any pornographic text from
    that era is Pisanus Fraxi’s (alias for Henry Spencer Ashbee) Index Librorum Prohibitorum. I returned the set I had to my institution’s library last week and the online versions are incomplete. Anyone out there who has access to the 1962 Jack Brussel reprint could look it up.

  • Long comment here but thought I’d distill some notes on the only copy that seems visible in the historical record. In early1854, Baron Christian Charles Josias Von Bunsen owned a copy of Meanderings which was sold as part of his collection at Sotheby’s [hat tip to “Verstegan” over on mefi for looking at the Sotheby’s annotated
    copy in London. For more on Bunsen’s sale see Bunsen’s collection seems to have been acquired in masse by the bookseller Giovanni Gancia (1811-?) of Brighton who offered nearly all items from Bunsen’s collection including Meanderings in his catalogues of 1854. A large portion of Gancia’s library was sold at Sotheby’s in June 1856 ( and if someone has a chance to look at the catalogue it might show Meanderings appearing again in that sale. Gancia moved to Paris and had several subsequent catalogs and sales in the 1860s-70s none of which seem to have featured Meanderings.

    • Bryn_OED

      A most interesting post, thanks for moving it across from Twitter

      If I found the correct post from `Verstegan’, that you mention, it seems to indicate that `… Sotheby’s marked copy of the auction catalogue [shows that] Bunsen’s copy of Meanderings of Memory was sold for sixpence to a buyer named ‘Holmes’ or ‘Hoolmes’’; whom Verstegan
      feels might have been a bookseller, or `Just possibly … was the antiquary John Holmes, whose own library was sold at auction on 15 June 1854. It might be worth checking Holmes’s sale catalogue to see if Meanderings of
      Memory turns up again’

      Should both the Sotheby’s annotation and any potential link to John Holmes prove to be valid, Holmes’ entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has two items that might, then, prove of some use:

      After `Holmes died suddenly … on 1 April 1854. His library was sold by
      Puttick and Simpson on 15 June 1854’

      The British Museum bought his antiquarian papers from his widow in 1855 (BL, Add. MSS 20751–20777)

      These might help with confirming the likely timeline of sales [whether direct or indirect], from Baron Von Bunsen through to the [1854] Gancia Rare Books / Manuscripts listing, and might even hold some additional details about Meanderings itself.

      There do seem to be several [original and reprinted] versions of Holmes, J A Descriptive Catalogue of Books, in the Library of John Holmes, F.S.A., however, these may not cover the [1852-54] time-period required, to confirm whether, or not, he was involved.

      • I’m getting the Puttick and Simpson Holmes catalogue later this week and will check it out then. In the meantime, I’m hoping someone at the NYPL, Yale, or the BL will take a look at the June 1856 Gancia catalog to see if Meanderings is in there. In case anyone else is tempted I’ve also looked through the ms. and print registers of the Stationers co. for entries under N or M post-1842. Unsurprisingly, Meanderings was never submitted and there’s no Nightlark to speak of.

      • Forgot to add that there are two Gancia Sotheby’s catalogs. The annotated copies of both are at the BL. The June 1856 sale bearing Gancia’s name is S.C. Sotheby (415) [no.6] the June 22+23, 1858 sale does not include his name but nonetheless features the remainder of his collection: S.C. Sotheby (448) [no.2]

  • The scanned slip reveals at least a couple interesting things: 1). The inclusion of “vol.” and “p.” notations, ruling out the idea that the citations refer to something like poems (or stanzas) and line numbers, and suggesting that the “work” included more than one volume. 2). The author’s name given as “Nighthawk.” Do all the slips use “Nighthawk,” or do some use “Nightlark”? Now, to go off and find handwriting samples to see if we can identify the slip-writer!

    • Bryn_OED

      It might be useful if Veronica Hurst was able to offer a few insights, on your first point:

      Does “Vol. 1” imply multiple volumes, or could it mean a single-volume text ?

      Having seen this slip, which does seem to imply “p. 71”, what lead
      her to the hypothesis quoted in the Guardian article :

      is now leaning towards the hypothesis that the book could actually be a very
      small piece of work, possibly poetry, running to just five to 10 pages

      Good luck with the handwriting-hunt

  • Tim Kynerd

    I think you are mistaken.

  • Clara Stefanov-Wagner

    “8vo” stands for “octavo,” denoting a book size around A5 (or half a sheet of US Letter).
    “boards” indicates card-stock, which would most likely be used only for a short book due to the added weight and thickness.

  • Stephen Goranson

    Because the scanned slip (shown in the update, above) includes a
    correction from Nighthawk to Nightlark, I suggest that the slip-writer
    was not the author, who would be unlikely to make such a mistake. I
    assume it is a privately-published book, not originally intended for
    sale, but for distribution to friends, and that volume 1 may have been
    wishful thinking, volume 2 never to appear.

  • Tricia Roche McKinney

    I’m still curious about this months later, although I’m no help at all in the search. Is anyone still pursuing this?