Heraldic bookplate Ex Libris James Branch Cabell
James Branch Cabell’s bookplate
Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries

Epigraphs are brief quotations, typically appearing at the beginning of a book or chapter, that hint at themes within the work that follows. Epigraphs are puzzles, clues, teasers, peepholes, if you will especially in the hands of James Branch Cabell, who was both well-read and somewhat mischievous.

By looking at these brief texts as a group, one gains a sense of Cabell’s own reading his influences and aspirations; the writers in whose company he wanted to appear; and the writers with whom Cabell felt an affinity for their style or their concerns. We also sense his pleasure as he deftly wielded this literary device, and sometimes his sense of humor. Cabell quoted earlier writers in their original language, including Latin and Greek, and expected readers to either recognize or uncover the source of his pithy references, and further discover how the author may have manipulated the original material for his own purposes. In some cases, the epigraph is entirely fabricated only giving the appearance of connecting to earlier, weighty, tradition.

The following quotations are the epigraphs as they were printed in Cabell’s books. Quotations marks are the author’s. For each epigraph, the source is noted, insofar as is possible. While Cabell himself did not supply translations, they are given here for easier understanding when the original quotation was not in English. Please note that these may not be translations that were available during Cabell’s lifetime.

You can learn more about Cabell’s familiarity with these quoted sources by considering what books he may have had at hand. Because Cabell’s personal library of nearly 3,000 volumes has remained intact, and is held at VCU Libraries,  you can search Cabell’s books through VCU Libraries’ online catalog. Each catalog record is labelled “James Branch Cabell Collection (VCU).” Duke numbers can be found in the Description field. 

The Eagle’s Shadow (1904; revised 1923)

1923 revision: The Eagle’s Shadow: A Comedy of Purse-Strings

“Ad hanc, inquam, aquilae umbram illico pavitat omne vulgus, contrahit sese senatus, observit nobilitas, obsecundant judices, silent theologici, assentantur jurisconsulti, cedunt leges, cedunt instituta.”

“At this shadow of the eagle the people tremble, the senate shrinks, the nobility cringes, the judges concur, the divines are dumb, the lawyers assent, the laws and constitutions give way.”


This epigraph is a slightly altered quotation from Erasmus’ commentary on the classical proverb “Scarabaeus aquilam quaerit” [Adages III iv 1] Cabell changes the eagle’s scream to the eagle’s shadow. The latin word “theologici” is also substituted for Erasmus’ “theologi.”  

Erasmus begins his commentary on “Scarabaeus aquilam quaerit” with Aesop’s fable of the feud between the eagle and the dung beetle, in which the beetle destroys the eagle’s eggs. 


Let any physiognomist, not a blunderer in his trade, consider the look and features of an eagle, those rapacious and wicked eyes, that threatening curve of the beak, those cruel cheeks, that stern front, will he not at once recognise the image of a king, a magnificent and majestic king? Add to these a dark, ill-omened colour, an unpleasing, dreadful, appalling voice, and that threatening scream, at which every kind of animal trembles. Every one will acknowledge this type, who has learned how terrible are the threats of princes, even uttered in jest. At this scream of the eagle the people tremble, the senate shrinks, the nobility cringes, the judges concur, the divines are dumb, the lawyers assent, the laws and constitutions give way; neither right nor religion, neither justice nor humanity avail. And thus, while there are so many birds of sweet and melodious song, the unpleasant and unmusical scream of the eagle alone has more power than all the rest.

Source of translation: see Henry Hallam, Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries (Duke no. 1126)

The dung beetle, or tumblebug, would appear again in “The Judging of Jurgen.” 

decorative book binding The Line of Love
The Line of Love, binding, 1905
Image: Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell

The Line of Love (1905; revised 1921)

“Ludst amor sensus, oculos perstringit, et aufert
Libertatem animi, mira nos fascinat arte.
Credo aliquis daemon subiens praecordia flammam
Concitat, et raptam tollit de cardine mentem”

“Love mocks our senses, curbs our liberties / And doth bewitch us with his art and rings.
I think some devil gets into our entrails / And kindles coals, and heaves our souls from th’ hinges”


Here the Italian Neo-Latin poet Mantuan (Baptista Mantuanus) is quoted and cited as evidence in Anatomy of Melancholy Partition III, Sect. II, Mem. II, Subs. II (Robert Burton, 1621)The translation is provided by editor A. Richard Shilleto in the edition owned by James Branch Cabell. 

Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (full title: The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up)  is a tremendously influential, and much admired work of science, literature, and philosophy. The book is expansive, encyclopedic in its references, and pervaded by the author’s wit, including a satirical preface by Burton’s pseudonymous persona “Democritus Junior.” (Democritus was the Laughing Philosopher.)

allegorical frontispiece engraving
Frontispiece from Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, 1628.
Image: Public domain

First published in 1621, The Anatomy of Melancholy is filled with references to ancient and medieval authorities, many in Latin, and also Latin poetry. Over the next 17 years, Burton continued to rewrite his already lengthy book. Five extensively revised and expanded editions of The Anatomy of Melancholy were published.

James Branch Cabell, also known for satire and rewriting, owned the 3-vol. 1896 London: George Bell and Sons edition, edited by the Rev. A. R. Shilleto, M.A. with an introduction by A. H. Bullen. (Duke no. 357).


Additional note: In The Anatomy of Melancholy Robert Burton gives Augustine as the source for the phrase “Mundus vult decipi” which became a motto for Cabell. Burton says,  

“Au[gu]stin[e], lib. 4. de civitat. Dei, cap. 27. censures Scævola saying and acknowledging expedire civitates religione falli, that it was a fit thing cities should be deceived by religion, according to the diverbe, Si mundus vult decipi, decipiatur, if the world will be gulled, let it be gulled, ’tis good howsoever to keep it in subjection.” (Part III, Sect. IV., Mem. II., Subs. II.)

Cartouche from fantasy world map "Mundus vult decipi"
Mundus Vult Decipi
Detail of cartouche from Peter Koch’s map of Poictesme, Maps and Geospatial Data, Princeton University Library


Branchiana: Being a Partial Account of the Branch Family in Virginia (1907)

“Haec est
Vita solutorum misera ambitione gravique.”

“This is the life of those of us free from the weight of wretched ambition.”

Horace, Satires 1.6.129

The Satires is a collection of satirical poems written by the Roman poet Horace. The poems concern the search for happiness and the art of poetry. The Satires are social commentary on humanity’s enslavement to money, status and sex.

decorated title page of the book "Gallantry" by James Branch Cabell
Gallantry, First printing, 1907
Image: Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell

Gallantry; An Eighteenth Century Dizain in Ten Comedies, with an Afterpiece (1907; revised 1922)

“Sumite materiam vestris, qui scribitis, aquam
Viribus, et versate din, quid ferre recusant,
Quid valeant umeri.”

“Let those who write fix on a subject to which their force is equal, often try what weight you can bear, and what your shoulders cannot support”

Attributed to Horace. The first part of this quotation was frequently included in books of proverbs and sayings, and was quoted by writers: “Sumite materiam vestris, qui scribitis, aquam Viribus” (“Let those who write fix on a subject to which their force is equal”).


1922 revision: Gallantry; Dizain des Fêtes Galantes

 “Half in masquerade, playing the drawing-room or garden comedy of life, these persons have upon them, not less than the landscape among the accidents of which they group themselves with fittingness, a certain light that we should seek for in vain upon anything real.”

 Walter Pater, “A Prince of Court Painters,” from Imaginary Portraits (1887)

“And at last one has actual sight of his work — what it is. He has brought with him certain long-cherished designs to finish here in quiet. That charming Noblesse — can it be really so distinguished to the minutest point, so naturally aristocratic? Half in masquerade, playing the drawing-room or garden comedy of life, these persons have upon them, no less than the landscape he composes, and among the accidents of which they group themselves with such a perfect fittingness, a certain light we should seek for in vain upon anything real. For their framework they have around them a veritable architecture — a tree-architecture — to which those moss-grown balusters, termes, statues, fountains, are really but accessories. Only, as I gaze upon those windless afternoons, I find myself always saying to myself involuntarily, “The evening will be a wet one.” The storm is always brooding through the massy splendour of the trees, above those sun-dried glades or lawns, where delicate children may be trusted thinly clad; and the secular trees themselves will hardly outlast another generation.”

James Branch Cabell owned Imaginary Portraits and other books by Pater

ornate decorative book binding of Chivalry
Chivalry, First printing, 1909
Image: Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell

Chivalry (1909; revised 1921)

“And I, according to my copy, and after the simple cunning that God hath sent to me, have down set this in print, to the intent that noble men may see and learn the noble acts of chivalry.”

Excerpted from Prologue to Malory’s King Arthur. William Caxton (1485)


The Cords of Vanity (1909; revised 1920)

1920 revision The Cords of Vanity: A Comedy of Shirking

“Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity!…..their root shall be as rottenness and their blossom shall go up as dust.”

 Isaiah 5: 18a, 24c 


Branch of Abingdon, Being a Partial Account of the Ancestry of Christopher Branch of “Arrowhattocks” and “Kingsland” in Henrico County, and the Founder of the Branch Family in Virginia (1911)

“Volentem proelia me loqui
Victas et urbis increpuit lyra.”

“When I wanted to sing of battles and the conquest of cities, [he] banged on the lyre.
Of battles fought I fain had told, And conquer’d towns, when [he] smote His harp-string”

Horace Carmina [Odes], Book 4 Poem 15 See also: Odes. John Conington, editor. 

Cabell owned several volumes of Horace‘s works.


 The Soul of Melicent (1913); revised as Domnei: A Comedy of Woman-Worship (1920)

1920: Domnei: A Comedy of Woman-Worship  

“En cor gentil domnei per mort no passa.”

“Love never dies in a gentle devoted heart.” 

Ausiàs March, Poem XCII, 11-20. 

Ausiàs March was an important medieval Valencian poet and knight (15th century). The poem is about the death of a loved one.

En cor gentil          Amor per Mort no passa,
mas en aquell          qui per los vicis tira.
La quantitat          d’amor durar no mira,
la qualitat          d’amor bona no·s lassa.
Quant l’ull no veu          e lo toch no·s pratica,
mor lo voler,          que tot per ells se guanya.
Qui’n tal punt es          dolor sent molt estranya,
mas dura poch:          l’espert ho testifica.
Amor honest          los sants amants fan colrre:
d’aquest vos am,          e Mort no·l me pot tolrre.

Note:Domnei” is the Old Provençal ideal of courtly love and chivalrous devotion prevalent among the troubadours


The Majors and Their Marriages, with Collateral Accounts of the Allied Families of Aston, Ballard, Christian, Dancy, Hartwell, Hubard, Macon, Marable, Mason, Patterson, Piersey, Seawell, Stephens, Waddill, and Others (1915)

“Fortuna non mutat genus”

“Chance does not change our heritage.” or “Fortune does not change our nature.” 

This saying can have several meanings and has been used in heraldry and emblems and on war memorials.  For example, the Latin saying appears on the side of the Washington Light Infantry Monument in Washington Square, Charleston, S.C.  This obelisk was erected in 1892 to honor a pre-Civil War militia that supplied three full companies to the Confederate Army. 

The saying also appears in a famous 17th-century book of emblems (Otto van Veen’s emblem book, Quinti Horatii Flacci emblemata) with the image of “Blind Fortune Steering a Monkey King” titled ‘Fortuna non mutat genus’ indicating that all the gifts of Fortune cannot change the nature of a fool. 

dust jacket Rivet in Grandfathers Neck
The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck. A Novel of the Passing South, dust jacket, 1915
Image: Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell


The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck: A Comedy of Limitations (1915)

To this new South, who values her high past, in chief, as fit foundation of that edifice whereon she labors day by day, and with augmenting strokes.”

Adapted from “The New Virginia,” by James Branch Cabell, originally published in Julia Wyatt Bullard’s Jamestown Tributes and Toasts, 1907. (Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell )


From the Hidden Way: Being Seventy-Five Adaptations in Verse (1916; revised 1924 as From the Hidden Way: Dizain des Échoes); Sixteen of these ballads were reissued as Ballades from the Hidden Way (1928)

“Tell me now in what hidden way is Lady Flora, the lovely Roman? Where’s Hipparchia? where is Thais?”

The Ballad of Dead Ladies,” Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–82). Translation from François Villon, 1450. 


1924: From the Hidden Way: Dizain des Échoes

“Tell me now in what hidden way is Lady Flora, the lovely Roman? Where’s Hipparchia? and where is Thais?… Where is Echo?”

The Ballad of Dead Ladies,” Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–82). Translation from François Villon, 1450. 


The Certain Hour (Dizain des Poëtes) (1916)

“Criticism, whatever may be its pretensions, never does more than to define the impression which is made upon it at a certain moment by a work wherein the writer himself noted the impression of the world which he received at a certain hour.”

Jules Lemaître (27 April 1853 – 4 Aug. 1914), French critic and dramatist quoted in Henry Hazlitt’s The Anatomy of Criticism: A Trialogue (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1933. p. 80)  James Branch Cabell owned The Anatomy of Criticism (Duke no. 1177).

Cream of the Jest: A Comedy of Evasions. The Sigil of Scotia circle shown dust jacket 1917
The Cream of the Jest: A Comedy of Evasions, 1917, detail of dustjacket
Image: Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell

The Cream of the Jest: A Comedy of Evasions (1917)

“Le pays où je voulais aller, tu m’y as mené en songe, cette nuit, et tu étais belle … ah! Que tu étais belle! … Mais, comme je n’ai aimé que ton ombre, tu me dispenseras, chère tête, de remercier ta réalité.”

“The country I wanted to go to, you took me there in a dream last night, and you were beautiful … ah! How beautiful you were! … But, as I only loved your shadow, you will spare me, dear head, to thank your reality.” 

Pierre Louÿs, (1870 – 1925)  French poet and writer, known as a writer who sought to “express pagan sensuality with stylistic perfection.” He was also known for including lesbian and classical themes in some of his writings. This quotation is from Aphrodite: mœurs antiques  (Duke no. 1588) A sculptor rejects a courtesan in favor of his dream of her. Libertine scenes in this book caused a scandal. 

Cabell owned several books by Louÿs, including Aphrodite and a volume of collected works.


Beyond Life: Dizain des Demiurges (1919)

“Many a man lives a burden to the earth: but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”

Areopagitica, John Milton (1608-1674), English poet and intellectual

James Branch Cabell owned an 1894 edition of Prose of Milton (Duke no. 1762).


illustrated endpapers winged figure with a lance
Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice
Detail of illustrated endpapers by Frank C. Papé
Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries

Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice (1919; revised edition 1921)

“Of JURGEN eke they maken mencioun,
That of an old wyf gat his youthe agoon,
And gat himself a shirte as bright as fyre
Wherein to jape, yet gat not his desire
In any countrie ne condicioun.”

Middle English (pastiche)


The Judging of Jurgen (1920)

[no epigraph]

Jurgen and the Censor: Report of the Emergency Committee Organized to Protest Against the Suppression of James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen (1920)

[no epigraph]


Figures of Earth: A Comedy of Appearances (1921)

“Cascun se mir el jove Manuel,
Qu’era del mon lo plus valens dels pros.”  

“Let each one model himself on young Manuel,
Who, in the whole world, was the most valient of the worthy”

Cabell substitutes the name of the character “Manuel” for “rei engles” in this quotation from a lament for Henry the Young King attributed to troubadour Bertran de Born (Si tuit lo dol 29-30). Note: some scholars now attribute this lament to Rigaut de Berbezill, but this new attribution would not have been known by Cabell. Dante Alighieri portrayed Bertran as a sower of schism in the eighth circle of Hell, carrying his own severed head. 

See: XXII Klagelied aus den Tod des Prinzen Heinrich von England (Lament on the death of Prince Henry of England), Stanza 4, p. 137. The lament (or planh) may be found in Blumenlese aus den werken der troubadours in den originalen,nebst provenzalischer grammatik und glossarium, bearbeitet und hrsg.  by Eduard Brinckmeier. 

Cabell owned several volumes of troubadour or Old Provençal verse.


Decorated title page of The Inferno of Dante Alighieri
James Branch Cabell’s copy of The Inferno of Dante Alighieri
Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries

The Jewel Merchants: A Comedy in One Act (1921)

“Io non posso ritrar di tutti appieno:
Pero chi si mi caccia il lungo tema,
Che molte volte al fatto il dir vie meno.”

“Of all to speak at full were vain attempt;
For my wide theme so urges, that oft-times
My words fall short of what bechanced.”

Dante Alighieri – Divina Commedia, Inferno, Canto IV, lines 145-147 — Circle 1 of Hell. The Virtuous pagans

Cabell’s books by Dante Alighieri


Joseph Hergesheimer: An Essay in Interpretation (1921); later incorporated into Straws and Prayer-books

“And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he: we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.”

Genesis 41:11 — the cupbearer tells Pharaoh how Joseph interpreted dreams


Taboo: A Legend Retold From the Dighic of Saevius Nicanor, with Prolegomena, Notes, and a Preliminary Memoir (1921)

At Melius fuerat non scriber, namque tacere
Tutum semper erit.

It is better not to write, for silence is always a safe course. 

Attributed to Fabius, a Roman statesman and general. See, for example, Dictionary of quotations from various authors in ancient and modern languages, with English translations Hugh Moore (1831)


The Lineage of Lichfield: An Essay in Eugenics (1922)

…atavis edite regibus,
O et praesidium et dulce decus meum

 …born of monarch ancestors, / The shield at once and glory of my life! 

Horace Odes 1.1, 1-2.  From the opening lines of Horace’s address to Maecenas, his famous patron. This phrase “dulce decus” (glory) was used by Boswell in his Life of Samuel Johnson, a copy of which Cabell owned.


The High Place: A Comedy of Disenchantment (1923)

“Build on high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, and for horned Ashtoreth, the abomination of Zidon, and for Moloch, the abomination of the children of Ammon.”

This epigraph is a mashup of  1 Kings 11: 7 and 2 Kings 23: 13. These passages tell a story of King Solomon who “loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites.” Solomon had “seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines” and his wives turned his heart toward their gods, thus angering the Lord God of Israel.


Straws and Prayer-Books: Dizain des Diversions (1924)

“Behold the child, by Nature’s kindly law,
Pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw…
Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his riper stage,
And beads and prayer-books are the toys of age.”

 Alexander Pope. Essay on Man. Epistle ii. Line 274  

Cabell’s library included  The Poetical Works of Alexander Pope (Duke no. 1971).

British Tandem paperback Silver Stallion. Naked woman and knight on horseback
The Silver Stallion: A Comedy of Redemption,
1971 Tandem paperback, Mike Foreman, cover art
Image: Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell

The Silver Stallion (1926)

“Now, the redemption which we as yet await (continued Imlac), will be that of Kalki, who will come as a Silver Stallion: all evils and every sort of folly will perish at the coming of this Kalki: true righteousness will be restored, and the minds of men will be made clear as crystal.”

An invented quotation in the style of Samuel Johnson’s The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia (1759). Imlac in that work is the son of a merchant who has come to the Happy Valley only to find that life there is empty. Imlac is a philosopher, who travels with Rasselas, son of the King of Abyssinia, acting as Rasselas’ guide on a pilgrimage to discover the meaning of existence. 

Cabell’s library includes an 1886 edition of Voltaire’s Candide; or, The Optimist, and Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinis (Duke no. 2505) with Cabell’s bookplate.


The Music from Behind the Moon: An Epitome (1926)

Judge thou the lips of those that rose up against me, and their devices against me all the day. Behold their sitting down, and their rising up: I am their music.

 From Lamentations 3:59-63 (primarily v. 62-63).


Something About Eve: A Comedy of Fig-Leaves (1927)

“I was afraid, because I was naked: and I hid myself”

From Genesis 3:10 

And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 

And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. (v. 9-12)


The Works of James Branch Cabell. Storisende Edition. [an 18-volume collection, also known as Biography of the Life of Manuel re-ordered and published under the author’s supervision] 1927-1930)

[See individual titles]

title page illustration architectural frame
The White Robe: A Saint’s Summary, 1928, title page illustration
Image: Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell

The White Robe: A Saint’s Summary (1928); revised and incorporated in The Witch Woman (1948)

“Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins; and the wolf shall dwell with the lamb.”

 Isaiah 11:5-6a


Sonnets from Antan (1929/1930). Published in celebration of Cabell’s 50th birthday. Related to Something About Eve.

“Nothing is true anywhere in the Marches of Antan.
All is a seeming and an echo:
And through this superficies men come to know
the untruth which makes them free.”

“This title was issued as a celebration of James Branch Cabell’s 50th birthday, as noted in the dedication to James Wells. The portrait of “Gerald Musgrave” at the start of the editorial note, by William Cotton, bears Mr. Cabell’s likeness. The conceit of the work is that these six sonnets were written by Gerald Musgrave as he travelled toward Antan, as told in Something About Eve, (Hall Eve-A1). Each sonnet, except the first, is followed by a page or two of notes, written in a tongue-in-cheek academic style, complete with spurious references to Mr. Cabell’s usual ‘authorities.'” — Note from John Thorne and William Lloyd  An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell 


The Way of Ecben: A Comedietta Involving a Gentleman (1929)

“I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man; and keep the charge of thy god, to walk in his way and preserve his testimonies.”

 1 Kings 2: 2-3 

King David’s command to his son Solomon, as the time for David’s death drew near.


Between Dawn and Sunrise: Selections from the Writings of James Branch Cabell, Chosen with an Introduction and Initiatory Notes by John Macy (1930)

[no epigraph]


Some of Us: An Essay in Epitaphs (1930)

ΚΡΕ.  ώς ούχ ύπείξων ούδέ πιότεύόωυ λέγεις 

OID. * * * * * 

—  Soph. Oed. Tyr. 625

[Line 625] Creon,  Are you resolved not to yield or believe?
Oedipus, [Oedipus’ response is missing.]

This epigraph is from Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus,  

Townsend of Lichfield: Dizain des Adieux (1930)



These Restless Heads: A Trilogy of Romantics, as Branch Cabell (1932)

“Yet must there hover in these restless heads
One thought, one grace, one wonder, at the least,
Which into words no virtue can digest.”

From Tamburlaine the Great, Part 1 play by Christopher Marlowe (1587), These lines are spoken in Act 5. While laying siege to Damascus, Tamburlaine, who has just ordered the Vestal Virgins put to death, looks upon the face of his captive Egyptian princess, Zenocrate, and is troubled. 

Original text: “Yet should there hover in their restless heads / One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least, / Which into words no virtue can digest.” 


Special Delivery: A Packet of Replies, as Branch Cabell (1933)

“Heaven send thee a good delivery!”

Source as yet undetermined.


Ladies and Gentlemen: A Parcel of Reconsiderations, as Branch Cabell (1934)

“These, being dead, have been made the forgers of many lies, now that their memorable doings are proverbs of dust, and their defences are defences of clay.”

Related to but not a direct quotation of Job 13:12; perhaps through another source.


Smirt: An Urbane Nightmare, as Branch Cabell (1934)

“He accepts that middle world in which men take no side in great conflicts, and decide no great causes, and make great refusals. He thus sets for himself the limits within which art, undisturbed by any moral ambition, does its most sincere and surest work.”

Walter Pater writing on the painter Sandro Botticelli in The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry. (Cabell’s copy, Duke no. 1937) 

dustjacket Smirt: An Urbane Nightmare by Branch Cabell
Smirt: An Urbane Nightmare, 1934, detail of dustjacket
Image: Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell

Smith: A Sylvan Interlude, as Branch Cabell (1935)

“To look at the man is but to court deception…for no man lives in the external truth, among salts and acids, but in the warm, phantasmagoric chamber of his brain, with the painted windows and the storied walls.”

“To look at the man is but to court deception” from William James “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings.” James then goes on to quote at length from Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story, “The Lantern-Bearers” including the passage “for no man lives in the external truth…” 


Preface to the Past (1936)

“He dwells, with a gently lingering, long-drawn music of tone, upon old, faded things: philosophies once triumphant, fashions once thought final, airs and graces long passed away, and music never heard now.”

Lionel Johnson. “The Work of Mr. Pater” in The Fortnightly Review, Vol. 56, Iss. 333 (Sept 1894): 352-367. An essay written after Walter Pater’s death.


Smire: An Acceptance in the Third Person, as Branch Cabell (1937)

“He was of that small band, standing out as isolated figures far separated down the ages, who have the gift of speech; and who are not workers in this or that, not ploughman nor carpenters nor followers for gain of any craft; but who serve the Muses and the leader of their choir, the God of the Silver Bow.”

Reference to one who serves the Greek god, Apollo, patron god of music and poetry. This work was dedicated to writer and book reviewer Hunter Stagg. Cabell’s dedication includes an 11-line acrostic verse.


The Nightmare Has Triplets: An Author’s Note on Smire (1937)

[no epigraph]


Of Ellen Glasgow: An Inscribed Portrait by Ellen Glasgow and Branch Cabell (1938) Printed for private distribution by Glasgow and Cabell. Later incorporated into Let Me Lie.

[no epigraph]


The King was in His Counting House: A Comedy of Common-Sense, as Branch Cabell (1938)

[no epigraph]


Hamlet Had an Uncle: A Comedy of Honor, as Branch Cabell (1940)

“Even with the very comment of thy soul
Observe my uncle.”

William Shakespeare Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 2, 79-80 

dustjacket First Gentleman of America by Branch Cabell
The First Gentleman of Americaby Branch Cabell, 1942, detail of dustjacket
Image: Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell

The First Gentleman of America: A Comedy of Conquest, as Branch Cabell (1942); UK title: The First American Gentleman (1942)

“My country, ’tis of thee.”

America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” — American patriotic song. Lyrics of which were written by Samuel Francis Smith; The melody is “God Save the Queen,” the national anthem of the United Kingdom.


The St. Johns: A Parade of Diversities, as Branch Cabell, with A.J. Hanna (1943)

“And a voice heard from heaven said, Take the little book which is open.”

—The Revelation of St. John the Divine

 Revelation 10:8


There Were Two Pirates: A Comedy of Division (1946)

“Did ever pirate roll
His soul in guilty dreaming,
And wake to find that soul
With peace and virtue beaming?”

How Beautifully Blue the Sky” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance  

detail of dustjacket There Were Two Pirates
There Were Two Pirates: A Comedy of Division1946, detail of dustjacket
Image: Thorne and Lloyd, An Illustrated Bibliography of Works By and About James Branch Cabell

Let Me Lie, Being in the Main an Ethnological Account of the Remarkable Commonwealth of Virginia and the Making of its History (1947)

“Just take me back and let me lie…in old Virginia.”

“In Virginia” (1903) by Harry Curran Wilbur, of Pennsylvania. See this 1903 postcard, Nusbaum Book & Art Co. This poem is sometimes confused with and should be distinguished from the 1893 poem “In Old Virginia” written by fugitive poet Benjamin Batchelder Valentine of Richmond, Va.

The roses nowhere bloom so white as in Virginia; / The sunshine nowhere shines so bright as in Virginia;
The birds sing nowhere quite so sweet / And nowhere hearts so lightly beat,
For heaven and earth both seem to meet / Down in Virginia.

The days are never quite so long as in Virginia; / Nor quite as filled with happy song, as in Virginia;
And when my time has come to die,  / Just take me back and let me lie
Close where the James goes rolling by, / Down in Virginia.

There is nowhere a land so fair / as in Virginia;
So full of song, so free of care, / as in Virginia;
And I believe that Happy Land / The Lord’s prepared for mortal man
Is built exactly on the plan / of old Virginia. 


The Witch-Woman: A Trilogy About Her [includes The Music Behind the Moon, The White Robe, and The Way of Ecben with a new introductory essay “A Note as to Ettare”] (1948)

“Everywhere is rumored thus the story of the witch-woman, and of her ageless allure, and of her inevitable elusion at the last of all her lovers, whether crowned or cassocked or ink-stained, who are but mortal.”

James Branch Cabell Beyond Life: Dizain Des Demiurges, III, “The Witch-Woman” p. 71 


Caricature of James Branch Cabell with devil horns by H H Hart
The Devil’s Own Dear Son. James Branch Cabell,” by H. H. Hart
Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries

The Devil’s Own Dear Son: A Comedy of the Fatted Calf (1949)

“And when he came to himself, he said…
I will arise and go to my father.”

 From Luke: 15: 17a, 18a  The story of the Prodigal Son


Quiet, Please. An Upshot of All Dreaming (1952)



As I Remember It: Some Epilogues in Recollection (1955)

“I am a part of all that I have met.”

from Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The poem includes these famous lines:

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods….

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.