Jun 9 2010
Sitting in the restaurant at my golf club this morning, having a late breakfast, I overheard a guy at another table telling a really bad joke, and at the end of it one of his buds, pretending to be shocked, said very loudly, “We are Not amused!” Made me think of just how easily we can be misquoted nowadays and how difficult it can be to set the record straight afterwards…
Most people attribute the comment, “We are not amused!”, to Queen Victoria, using it as an example of her celebrated lack of humour . . . or even humor, if you’re American. Well, they’re partially right, pretty well all around, but what they quote her as saying is not what Her Majesty actually said. Jimmy Cagney went to his grave denying that he ever actually said the words “You dirty rat,” in any of his movies, and it’s true. He never did. Somebody misquoted him, but the misquote sounded so right that it stuck and became part of the folklore. Same thing with Queen Victoria’s infamous comment.
There was dreadfully incompetent and embarrassingly awful Scots poet during the Victorian Era whose work was so bad that everyone thought it must be a joke. The man’s name was MacGonigall, and he signed himself (and referred to himself) as “William MacGonigall, Poet and Tragedian”. Anyway, this idiotic man actually published a volume of his own awful drivel and dedicated it to “Her Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria” who, he claimed, had been his Inspiration. When the Queen heard of it, she was scandalized and outraged at the man’s temerity to have dedicated a book to her without first having sought permission through the proper Channels. And what she actually said was, “We are not a Muse!”
I’ve been thinking along those lines because of what I’m going through now in preparation for starting the next book in my Guardians Trilogy. The novel deals with Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, and there really should be only one title for it… That title is the name given to Bruce by his closest friend and champion, his most brilliant general and the man who took the King’s heart on Crusade to Spain in a silver casket after Robert died without having had time to fulfill his oath to lead a Scots army against the invading Moors. That man was Sir James Douglas, and he will be the subject of the third and last novel of the trilogy. Known to the English as The Black Douglas, and to the Scots as The Good Sir James, Douglas was the man who, during the Bruce’s own lifetime, referred to the King as “The Brave Heart”. Of course, since then Hollywood (and screenwriter Randall Wallace) have usurped that name by changing it to one word, putting the emPHASis on a different sylLABle and transferring the title from Robert the Bruce to William Wallace… And in the eyes of the general public, it will stay that way forever. But that’s why I’ve included the thumbnail of the cover shown here. We’ll probably have to change the title, so this may never see the light of day on an actual book cover, but I really kinda love it and I wanted to put it on display anyway…
June 9, 2010 @ 7:19 pm
By way of comparison, a recent successful novel was released with the title The Outlander, with absolutely no connection at all to the Gabaldon series beginning with Outlander.
June 9, 2010 @ 7:54 pm
Maybe Penguin could print a double-sided dust jacket with the alternate title on the opposite side. Let people make up their own minds what title they want their book to display.
June 9, 2010 @ 11:25 pm
May 17, 2012 @ 3:04 pm