The Long and the Short of It

In which we look at old novels with much longer original titles than the short title they are usually known by, often extending to several sentences, that effectively give the plot away and even, on occasion, the ending, so you are left wondering if you should even read the book in the first place because, well, isn’t half the fun in not knowing the ending? Or is it more about the nature of the journey? And there are six examples, but one doesn’t really count and is only there because it’s got a dog in it, and we’ll conclude by saying ‘And there endeth today’s blog post. Fare thee well until next time.’

But… why?

There isn’t really an answer to this. We’re talking about a time when novels were a new obsession, hence the name which means ‘novelty’, or ‘something new’. Because they were so new, the writers and publishers were making up the rules as they went along. Perhaps they thought that, the more they revealed, the more their readers would be enticed into reading.

Here are a few long title picks – note the first one, which was in the competition for first ever novel published in English the other week 🙂

“The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.”

Otherwise known as ROBINSON CRUSOE | Daniel Defoe (1719)

“The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders Who was born in Newgate, and during a life of continu’d Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Years a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her brother) Twelve Years a Thief, Eight Years a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv’d Honest and died a Penitent.”

Otherwise known as MOLL FLANDERS | Daniel Defoe (1722)

“The Travels Of Hildebrand Bowman, Esquire, Into Carnovirria, Taupiniera, Olfactaria, And Audinante, In New-Zealand; And In The Powerful Kingdom Of Luxo-Voluptot. Written By Himself; Who Went On Shore In The Adventure’s Large Cutter; And Escaped Being Cut Off, And Devoured, With The Rest Of The Boat’s Crew, By Happening To Be A-Shooting In The Woods; Where He Was Afterwards, Unfortunately Left Behind By The Adventure.”

Otherwise known as THE TRAVELS OF HILDEBRAND BOWMAN | Lance Bertelson (1778)

“The Spectres, Or, Lord Oswald And Lady Rosa, Including An Account Of The Marchioness Of Cevetti Who Was Basely Consigned To A Dungeon Beneath Her Castle By Her Eldest Son, Whose Cruel Avarice Plunged Him Into The Commission Of The Worst Of Crimes, That Stains The Annals Of The Human Race.”

Otherwise known as THE SPECTRES OF LORD OSWALD AND LADY ROSA | Sarah Wilkinson (1814)

“Love And Madness. A Story Too True. In A Series Of Letters Between Parties Whose Names Would Perhaps Be Mentioned Were They Less Well Known Or Less Lamented.”

Otherwise known as LOVE AND MADNESS | Herbert Croft (1780)

“The History Of A Dog. Written By Himself, And Published By A Gentleman Of His Acquaintance. Translated From The French.”

Otherwise known as THE HISTORY OF A DOG | Pigault le Brun (1804)

And there endeth today’s blog post. Fare thee well until next time.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels


    1. Defoe must have been a bit of a superstar back in his time, writing books that are still famous today. His ‘Journal of a Plague Year’ was really interesting. I haven’t read Moll Flanders yet, but I found a great essay about it:

      And I loved ‘The Hay Bale’, Priscilla!!! Really spooky and entertaining. I’m not a big spender on Amazon so wasn’t allowed to review there, but I popped a review on Goodreads. Well done!

      Liked by 1 person

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