Day 321: Scouts in Bondage

Every so often, Laetitia contemplated that there was something odd about her employment situation. Each day when she walked into the kitchen, there was a packet of freshly roasted coffee beans waiting to be ground and brewed. It was as though the powers that be at Mind’s Eye Limerick Tours thought that freshly brewed coffee was essential for bringing out one’s muse. She had never been invited to visit the headquarters of Mind’s Eye Limerick Tours—wherever that was—but each day after she submitted the vignette and limerick, a payment appeared in her bank account. At first she had found it hard to understand how the company stayed afloat. They didn’t charge anything for the imaginary tours she conducted. However she soon became aware that her limericks and scenes from her tours began to appear on t-shirts, cups, and book bags in shops and catalogs and on people she met.

On this morning, when she climbed the wooden porch steps of the Emerald Victorian, Laetitia was ready for something different. She enjoyed the places with rude names from the Bailey and Hurst books, and would do many others before she left the UK, but she needed a change of pace. Since she was looking for something new, she browsed the collection in the library. The librarian, if such there was, seemed to have quirky tastes, since the book titles seemed eclectic and odd. Before she finished her first cup of coffee, she found what she wanted.

The book was entitled Scouts in Bondage and Other Violations of Literary Propriety. Essentially, the book is a collection of title pages of books that were mostly written during the first half of the twentieth century. The authors, for the most part, seemed unaware of the alternative slang meanings of their titles. The Resistance of Piles to Penetration is one such example. Michael Bell, the compiler and editor of the book, had an antiquarian bookshop in Lewes (pronounced “lewis”).

Lewes, which is located in East Sussex, has the distinction of celebrating every November 5 with a bonfire and fireworks. The event dates back to the time when Guy Fawkes Day became a national holiday commemorating the foiled gunpowder plot. From time to time, the rowdiness of the celebration got out of hand. It was banned by Cromwell and then brought back by Charles II.

Laetitia decided to meet in Lewes, do a few ordinary tourist activities, and then convene the group in front of the window of Mr. Bell’s shop on High Street, where the books are displayed. In the preface, Mr. Bell explains that he decided to compile the book because the crowds in front of his shop window often disrupted traffic. Ever since Simon and Schuster published his book, interested parties can enjoy the titles at home rather than being obliged to go to Lewes.

Laetitia met her group as planned and went first to the Anne of Cleaves House, one of the properties Anne acquired when her marriage to Henry VIII was annulled. Of all of Henry’s wives, Anne fared better than most; at least she managed to keep her head. Afterward the group visited Lewes Castle and the Harvey Brewery before going to the bookstore. That evening at dinner she presented a multiple-verse limerick to the group.

There’s a bookstore located in Lewes
With a window display that will shew us
Book titles naïve
That didn’t perceive
Slang meanings now apt to amuse us.

For how can a person be bored
When reading about How Nell Scored
Or have any quarrels
About Muffs and Morals
A title most likely adored.

‘Tis said that some girls walk the halls
In their search to find Memorable Balls
And men who may bargain
For Christie’s Old Organ
Say Invisible Dick just appalls.

And some folks won’t be quite the same
Since they read The Day Amanda Came
Or enjoyed, through and through
The book The Corpse Came Too
For a different twist on love’s game.

Last, The Art of Taking a Wife
May please those with marital strife
And some may well look
At the Little Organ Book
If they aren’t well endowed in real life.