Aulus Gellius desired to live no longer than he was able to exercise the faculty of writing; he might have decently added — and of finding readers! This would be a fatal wish for that writer who should spread the infection of weariness, without himself partaking of the epidemia. The mere act and habit of writing, without probably even a remote view of publication, has produced an agreeable delirium; and perhaps some have escaped from a gentle confinement by having cautiously concealed those voluminous reveries which remained to startle their heirs; while others again have left a whole library of manuscripts, out of the mere ardour of transcription, collecting and copying with peculiar rapture. I discovered that one of these inscribed this distich on his manuscript collection:
Plura voluminibus jungenda volumina nostris,
Nec mihi scribendi terminus ullus erit:
which, not to compose better verses than our original, may be translated,
More volumes with our volumes still shall blend;
And to our writing there shall be no end!
But even great authors have sometimes so much indulged in the seduction of the pen, that they appear to have found no substitute for the flow of their ink, and the delight of stamping blank paper with their hints, sketches, ideas, the shadows of their mind! Petrarch exhibits no solitary instance of this passion of the pen, “I read and I write night and day; it is my only consolation. My eyes are heavy with watching, my hand is weary with writing. On the table where I dine, and by the side of my bed, I have all the materials for writing; and when I awake in the dark, I write, although I am unable to read the next morning what I have written.” Petrarch was not always in his perfect senses.
The copiousness and the multiplicity of the writings of many authors have shown that too many find a pleasure in the act of composition which they do not communicate to others. Great erudition and every-day application is the calamity of that voluminous author, who, without good sense, and, what is more rare, without that exquisite judgment, which we call good taste, is always prepared to write on any subject, but at the same time on no one reasonably. At the early period of printing, two of the most eminent printers were ruined by the volumes of one author; we have their petition to the pope to be saved from bankruptcy. Nicholas de Lyra had inveigled them to print his interminable commentary on the Bible. Their luckless star prevailed, and their warehouse groaned with eleven hundred ponderous folios, as immovable as the shelves on which they for ever reposed! We are astonished at the fertility and the size of our own writers of the seventeenth century, when the theological war of words raged, spoiling so many pages and brains. They produced folio after folio, like almanacs; and Dr. Owen and Baxter wrote more than sixty to seventy volumes, most of them of the most formidable size. The truth is, however, that it was then easier to write up to a folio, than in our days to write down to an octavo; for correction, selection, and rejection were arts as yet unpractised. They went on with their work, sharply or bluntly, like witless mowers, without stopping to whet their scythes. They were inspired by the scribbling demon of that rabbin, who, in his oriental style and mania of volume, exclaimed that were “the heavens formed of paper, and were the trees of the earth pens, and if the entire sea run ink, these only could suffice” for the monstrous genius he was about to discharge on the world. The Spanish Tostatus wrote three times as many leaves as the number of days he had lived; and of Lope de Vega it is said this calculation came rather short. We hear of another who was unhappy that his lady had produced twins, from the circumstance that hitherto he had contrived to pair his labours with her own, but that now he was a book behindhand.
I fix on four celebrated Scribleri to give their secret history; our Prynne, Gaspar Barthius, the Abbé de Marolles, and the Jesuit Theophilus Raynaud, who will all show that a book might be written on “authors whose works have ruined their booksellers.”
Prynne seldom dined: every three or four hours he munched a manchet, and refreshed his exhausted spirits with ale brought to him by his servant; and when “he was put into this road of writing,” as crabbed Anthony telleth, he fixed on “a long quilted cap, which came an inch over his eyes, serving as an umbrella to defend them from too much light;” and then hunger nor thirst did he experience, save that of his voluminous pages. Prynne has written a library amounting, I think, to nearly two hundred books. Our unlucky author, whose life was involved in authorship, and his happiness, no doubt, in the habitual exuberance of his pen, seems to have considered the being debarred from pen, ink, and books, during his imprisonment, as an act more barbarous than the loss of his ears.1 The extraordinary perseverance of Prynne in this fever of the pen appears in the following title of one of his extraordinary volumes. “Comfortable Cordials against discomfortable Fears of Imprisonment; containing some Latin Verses, Sentences, and Texts of Scripture, written by Mr. Wm. Prynne, on his Chamber Walls, in the Tower of London, during his imprisonment there; translated by him into English Verse, 1641.” Prynne literally verified Pope’s description:
Is there, who locked from ink and paper, scrawls
With desperate charcoal round his darkened walls.
We have also a catalogue of printed books, written by Wm. Prynne, Esq., of Lincoln’s Inn, in these classes,
with this motto, “Jucundi acti labores,” 1643. The secret history of this voluminous author concludes with a characteristic event: a contemporary who saw Prynne in the pillory at Cheapside, informs us that while he stood there they “burnt his huge volumes under his nose, which had almost suffocated him.” Yet such was the spirit of party, that a puritanic sister bequeathed a legacy to purchase all the works of Prynne for Sion College, where many still repose; for, by an odd fatality, in the fire which happened in that library these volumes were saved, from the idea that folios were the most valuable!2
The pleasure which authors of this stamp experience is of a nature which, whenever certain unlucky circumstances combine, positively debarring them from publication, will not abate their ardour one jot; and their pen will still luxuriate in the forbidden page which even booksellers refuse to publish. Many instances might be recorded, but a very striking one is the case of Gaspar Barthius, whose “Adversaria,” in two volumes folio, are in the collections of the curious.
Barthius was born to literature, for Baillet has placed him among his “Enfans Célèbres.” At nine years of age he recited by heart all the comedies of Terence, without missing a line. The learned admired the puerile prodigy, while the prodigy was writing books before he had a beard. He became, unquestionably, a student of very extensive literature, modern as well as ancient. Such was his devotion to a literary life, that he retreated from the busy world. It appears that his early productions were composed more carefully and judiciously than his latter ones, when the passion for voluminous writing broke out, which showed itself by the usual prognostic of this dangerous disease — extreme facility of composition, and a pride and exultation in this unhappy faculty. He studied without using collections or references, trusting to his memory, which was probably an extraordinary one, though it necessarily led him into many errors in that delicate task of animadverting on other authors. Writing a very neat hand, his first copy required no transcript; and he boasts that he rarely made a correction: everything was sent to the press in its first state. He laughs at Statius, who congratulated himself that he employed only two days in composing the epithalamium upon Stella, containing two hundred and seventy-eight hexameters. “This,” says Barthius, “did not quite lay him open to Horace’s censure of the man who made two hundred verses in an hour, ‘stans pede in uno.’ Not,” adds Barthius, “but that I think the censure of Horace too hyperbolical, for I am not ignorant what it is to make a great number of verses in a short time, and in three days I translated into Latin the three first books of the Iliad, which amount to above two thousand verses.” Thus rapidity and volume were the great enjoyments of this learned man’s pen, and now we must look to the fruits.
Barthius, on the system he had adopted, seems to have written a whole library; a circumstance which we discover by the continual references he makes in his printed works to his manuscript productions. In the Index Authorum to his Statius, he inserts his own name, to which is appended a long list of unprinted works, which Bayle thinks, by their titles and extracts, conveys a very advantageous notion of them. All these, and many such as these, he generously offered the world, would any bookseller be intrepid or courteous enough to usher them from his press; but their cowardice or incivility was intractable. The truth is now to be revealed, and seems not to have been known to Bayle; the booksellers had been formerly so cajoled and complimented by our learned author, and had heard so much of the celebrated Barthius, that they had caught at the bait, and that the two folio volumes of the much referred-to “Adversaria” of Barthius had thus been published — but from that day no bookseller ever offered himself to publish again!
The “Adversaria” is a collection of critical notes and quotations from ancient authors, with illustrations of their manners, customs, laws, and ceremonies; all these were to be classed into one hundred and eighty books; sixty of which we possess in two volumes folio, with eleven indexes. The plan is vast, as the rapidity with which it was pursued: Bayle finely characterises it by a single stroke —“Its immensity tires even the imagination.” But the truth is, this mighty labour turned out to be a complete failure: there was neither order nor judgment in these masses of learning; crude, obscure, and contradictory; such as we might expect from a man who trusted to his memory, and would not throw away his time on any correction. His contradictions are flagrant; but one of his friends would apologise for these by telling us that “He wrote everything which offered itself to his imagination; to-day one thing, to-morrow another, in order that when he should revise it again, this contrariety of opinion might induce him to examine the subject more accurately.” The notions of the friends of authors are as extravagant as those of their enemies. Barthius evidently wrote so much, that often he forgot what he had written, as happened to another great book-man, one Didymus, of whom Quintilian records, that on hearing a certain history, he treated it as utterly unworthy of credit; on which the teller called for one of Didymus’s own books, and showed where he might read it at full length! That the work failed, we have the evidence of Clement in his “Bibliothèque curieuse de Livres difficiles à trouver,” under the article Barthius, where we discover the winding up of the history of this book. Clement mentions more than one edition of the Adversaria; but on a more careful inspection he detected that the old title-pages had been removed for others of a fresher date; the booksellers not being able to sell the book practised this deception. It availed little; they remained with their unsold edition of the two first volumes of the Adversaria, and the author with three thousand folio sheets in manuscript — while both parties complained together, and their heirs could acquire nothing from the works of an author, of whom Bayle says that “his writings rise to such a prodigious bulk, that one can scarce conceive a single man could be capable of executing so great a variety; perhaps no copying clerk, who lived to grow old amidst the dust of an office, ever transcribed as much as this author has written.” This was the memorable fate of one of that race of writers who imagine that their capacity extends with their volume. Their land seems covered with fertility, but in shaking their wheat no ears fall.
Another memorable brother of this family of the Scribleri is the Abbé de Marolles, who with great ardour as a man of letters, and in the enjoyment of the leisure and opulence so necessary to carry on his pursuits, from an entire absence of judgment, closed his life with the bitter regrets of a voluminous author; and yet it cannot be denied that he has contributed one precious volume to the public stock of literature; a compliment which cannot be paid to some who have enjoyed a higher reputation than our author. He has left us his very curious “Memoirs.” A poor writer indeed, but the frankness and intrepidity of his character enable him, while he is painting himself, to paint man. Gibbon was struck by the honesty of his pen, for he says in his life, “The dulness of Michael de Marolles and Anthony Wood3 acquires some value from the faithful representation of men and manners.”
I have elsewhere shortly noticed the Abbé de Marolles in the character of “a literary sinner;” but the extent of his sins never struck me so forcibly as when I observed his delinquencies counted up in chronological order in Niceron’s “Hommes Illustres.” It is extremely amusing to detect the swarming fecundity of his pen; from year to year, with author after author, was this translator wearying others, but remained himself unwearied. Sometimes two or three classical victims in a season were dragged into his slaughter-house. Of about seventy works, fifty were versions of the classical writers of antiquity, accompanied with notes. But some odd circumstances happened to our extraordinary translator in the course of his life. De l’Etang, a critic of that day, in his “Règles de bien traduire,” drew all his examples of bad translation from our abbé, who was more angry than usual, and among his circle the cries of our Marsyas resounded. De l’Etang, who had done this not out of malice, but from urgent necessity to illustrate his principles, seemed very sorry, and was desirous of appeasing the angried translator. One day in Easter, finding the abbé in church at prayers, the critic fell on his knees by the side of the translator: it was an extraordinary moment, and a singular situation to terminate a literary quarrel. “You are angry with me,” said De l’Etang, “and I think you have reason; but this is a season of mercy, and I now ask your pardon."—“In the manner,” replied the abbé, “which you have chosen, I can no longer defend myself. Go, sir! I pardon you.” Some days after, the abbé again meeting De l’Etang, reproached him with duping him out of a pardon, which he had no desire to have bestowed on him. The last reply of the critic was caustic: “Do not be so difficult; when one stands in need of a general pardon, one ought surely to grant a particular one.” De Marolles was subject to encounter critics who were never so kind as to kneel by him on an Easter Sunday. Besides these fifty translations, of which the notes are often curious, and even the sense may be useful to consult, his love of writing produced many odd works. His volumes were richly bound, and freely distributed, but they found no readers! In a “Discours pour servir de Préface sur les Poëtes, traduits par Michel de Marolles,” he has given an imposing list of “illustrious persons and contemporary authors who were his friends,” and has preserved many singular facts concerning them. He was indeed for so long a time convinced that he had struck off the true spirit of his fine originals, that I find he at several times printed some critical treatise to back his last, or usher in his new version; giving the world reasons why the versions which had been given of that particular author, “soit en prose, soit en vers, ont été si pen approuvées jusqu’ici.” Among these numerous translations he was the first who ventured on the Deipnosophists of Athenæus, which still bears an excessive price. He entitles his work, “Les quinze Livres de Deipnosophists d’Athenée, Ouvrage delicieux, agréablement diversifié et rempli de Narrations, sçavantes sur toutes Sortes de Matières et de Sujets.” He has prefixed various preliminary dissertations; yet, not satisfied with having performed this great labour, it was followed by a small quarto of forty pages, which might now be considered curious; “Analyse, en Déscription succincte des Choses conténues dans les quinzes Livres de Deipnosophistes.” He wrote, “Quatrains sur les Personnes de la Cour et les Gens de Lettres,” which the curious would now be glad to find. After having plundered the classical geniuses of antiquity by his barbarous style, when he had nothing more left to do, he committed sacrilege in translating the Bible; but, in the midst of printing, he was suddenly stopped by authority, for having inserted in his notes the reveries of the Pre-Adamite Isaac Peyrère. He had already revelled on the New Testament, to his version of which he had prefixed so sensible an introduction, that it was afterwards translated into Latin. Translation was the mania of the Abbé de Marolles. I doubt whether he ever fairly awoke out of the heavy dream of the felicity of his translations; for late in life I find him observing, “I have employed much time in study, and I have translated many books; considering this rather as an innocent amusement which I have chosen for my private life, than as things very necessary, although they are not entirely useless. Some have valued them, and others have cared little about them; but however it may be, I see nothing which obliges me to believe that they contain not at least as much good as bad, both for their own matter and the form which I have given to them.” The notion he entertained of his translations was their closeness; he was not aware of his own spiritless style; and he imagined that poetry only consisted in the thoughts, not in grace and harmony of verse. He insisted that by giving the public his numerous translations, he was not vainly multiplying books, because he neither diminished nor increased their ideas in his faithful versions. He had a curious notion that some were more scrupulous than they ought to be respecting translations of authors who, living so many ages past, are rarely read from the difficulty of understanding them; and why should they imagine that a translation is injurious to them, or would occasion the utter neglect of the originals? “We do not think so highly of our own works,” says the indefatigable and modest abbé; “but neither do I despair that they may he useful even to these scrupulous persons. I will not suppress the truth, while I am noticing these ungrateful labours; if they have given me much pain by my assiduity, they have repaid me by the fine things they have taught me, and by the opinion which I have conceived that posterity, more just than the present times, will award a more favourable judgment.” Thus a miserable translator terminates his long labours, by drawing his bill of fame on posterity, which his contemporaries will not pay; but in these cases, as the bill is certainly lost before it reaches acceptance, why should we deprive the drawers of pleasing themselves with the ideal capital?
Let us not, however, imagine that the Abbé de Marolles was nothing but the man he appears in the character of a voluminous translator; though occupied all his life on these miserable labours, he was evidently an ingenious and nobly-minded man, whose days were consecrated to literary pursuits, and who was among the primitive collectors in Europe of fine and curious prints. One of his works is a “Catalogue des Livres d’Estampes et de Figures en Taille-douce.” Paris, 1666, in 8vo. In the preface our author declares, that he had collected one hundred and twenty-three thousand four hundred prints, of six thousand masters, in four hundred large volumes, and one hundred and twenty small ones. This magnificent collection, formed by so much care and skill, he presented to the king; whether gratuitously given or otherwise, it was an acquisition which a monarch might have thankfully accepted. Such was the habitual ardour of our author, that afterwards he set about forming another collection, of which he has also given a catalogue in 1672, in 12mo. Both these catalogues of prints are of extreme rarity, and are yet so highly valued by the connoisseurs, that when in France I could never obtain a copy. A long life may be passed without even a sight of the “Catalogue des Livres d’Estampes” of the Abbé de Marolles.4
Such are the lessons drawn from this secret history of voluminous writers. We see one venting his mania in scrawling on his prison walls; another persisting in writing folios, while the booksellers, who were once caught, like Reynard who had lost his tail, and whom no arts could any longer practise on, turn away from the new trap; and a third, who can acquire no readers but by giving his books away, growing grey in scourging the sacred genius of antiquity by his meagre versions, and dying without having made up his mind, whether he were as woful a translator as some of his contemporaries had assured him.
Among these worthies of the Scribleri we may rank the Jesuit, Theophilus Raynaud, once a celebrated name, eulogised by Bayle and Patin. His collected works fill twenty folios; an edition, indeed, which finally sent the bookseller to the poor-house. This enterprising bibliopolist had heard much of the prodigious erudition of the writer; but he had not the sagacity to discover that other literary qualities were also required to make twenty folios at all saleable. Of these “Opera omnia” perhaps not a single copy can be found in England; but they may be a pennyworth on the continent. Raynaud’s works are theological; but a system of grace maintained by one work and pulled down by another, has ceased to interest mankind: the literature of the divine is of a less perishable nature. Beading and writing through a life of eighty years, and giving only a quarter of an hour to his dinner, with a vigorous memory, and a whimsical taste for some singular subjects, he could not fail to accumulate a mass of knowledge which may still be useful for the curious; and besides, Raynaud had the Ritsonian characteristic. He was one of those who, exemplary in their own conduct, with a bitter zeal condemn whatever does not agree with their own notions; and, however gentle in their nature, yet will set no limits to the ferocity of their pen. Raynaud was often in trouble with the censors of his books, and much more with his adversaries; so that he frequently had recourse to publishing under a fictitious name. A remarkable evidence of this is the entire twentieth volume of his works. It consists of the numerous writings published anonymously, or to which were prefixed noms de guerre. This volume is described by the whimsical title of Apopompæus; explained to us as the name given by the Jews to the scape-goat, which, when loaded with all their maledictions on its head, was driven away into the desert. These contain all Raynaud’s numerous diatribes; for whenever he was refuted, he was always refuting; he did not spare his best friends. The title of a work against Arnauld will show how he treated his adversaries. “Arnauldus redivivus natus Brixiæ seculo xii. renatus in Galliæ ætate nostra.” He dexterously applies the name of Arnauld by comparing him with one of the same name in the twelfth century, a scholar of Abelard’s, and a turbulent enthusiast, say the Romish writers, who was burnt alive for having written against the luxury and the power of the priesthood, and for having raised a rebellion against the pope. When the learned De Launoi had successfully attacked the legends of saints, and was called the Denicheur de Saints, — the “Unnicher of Saints,” every parish priest trembled for his favourite. Raynaud entitled a libel on this new iconoclast, “Hercules Commodianus Joannes Launoius repulsus,” &c.; he compares Launoi to the Emperor Commodus, who, though the most cowardly of men, conceived himself formidable when he dressed himself as Hercules. Another of these maledictions is a tract against Calvinism, described as a “religio bestiarum,” a religion of beasts, because the Calvinists deny free will; but as he always fired with a double-barrelled gun, under the cloak of attacking Calvinism, he aimed a deadly shot at the Thomists, and particularly at a Dominican friar, whom he considered as bad as Calvin. Raynaud exults that he had driven one of his adversaries to take flight into Scotland, ad pultes Scoticas transgressus — to a Scotch pottage; an expression which Saint Jerome used in speaking of Pelagius. He always rendered an adversary odious by coupling him with some odious name. On one of these controversial books where Casalas refuted Raynaud, Monnoye wrote, “Raynaudus et Casalas inepti; Raynaudo tamen Casalas ineptior.” The usual termination of what then passed for sense, and now is the reverse!
I will not quit Raynaud without pointing out some of his more remarkable treatises, as so many curiosities of literature.
In a treatise on the attributes of Christ, he entitles a chapter, Christus, bonus, bona, bonum: in another on the seven-branched candlestick in the Jewish temple, by an allegorical interpretation, he explains the eucharist; and adds an alphabetical list of names and epithets which have been given to this mystery.
The seventh volume bears the title of Mariolia: all the treatises have for their theme the perfections and the worship of the Virgin. Many extraordinary things are here. One is a dictionary of names given to the Virgin, with observations on these names. Another on the devotion of the scapulary, and its wonderful effects, written against De Launoi, and for which the order of the Carmes, when he died, bestowed a solemn service and obsequies on him. Another of these “Mariolia” is mentioned by Gallois in the Journal des Sçavans, 1667, as a proof of his fertility; having to preach on the seven solemn anthems which the Church sings before Christmas, and which begin by an O! he made this letter only the subject of his sermons, and barren as the letter appears, he has struck out “a multitude of beautiful particulars.” This literary folly invites our curiosity.
In the eighth volume is a table of saints, classed by their station, condition, employment, and trades: a list of titles and prerogatives, which the councils and the fathers have attributed to the sovereign pontiff.
The thirteenth volume has a subject which seems much in the taste of the sermons on the letter O! it is entitled Laus Brevitatis! in praise of brevity. The maxims are brief, but the commentary long. One of the natural subjects treated on is that of Noses: he reviews a great number of noses, and, as usual, does not forget the Holy Virgin’s . According to Raynaud, the nose of the Virgin Mary was long and aquiline, the mark of goodness and dignity; and as Jesus perfectly resembled his mother, he infers that he must have had such a nose.
A treatise entitled Heteroclita spiritualia et anomala Pietatis Cælestium, Terrestrium, et Infernorum, contains many singular practices introduced into devotion, which superstition, ignorance, and remissness, have made a part of religion.
A treatise directed against the new custom of hiring chairs in churches, and being seated during the sacrifice of the mass. Another on the Cæsarean operation, which he stigmatises as an act against nature. Another on eunuchs. Another entitled Hipparchus de Religioso Negotiatore, is an attack on those of his own company; the monk turned merchant; the Jesuits were then accused of commercial traffic with the revenues of their establishment. The rector of a college at Avignon, who thought he was portrayed in this honest work, confined Raynaud in prison for five months.
The most curious work of Raynaud connected with literature, I possess; it is entitled Erotemata de malis ac bonis Libris, deque justa aut injusta eorundem confixione. Lugduni, 1653, 4to, with necessary indexes. One of his works having been condemned at Rome, he drew up these inquiries concerning good and bad books, addressed to the grand inquisitor. He divides his treatise into “bad and nocent books; bad books but not nocent; books not bad, but nocent; books neither bad nor nocent.” His immense reading appears here to advantage, and his Ritsonian feature is prominent; for he asserts, that when writing against heretics all mordacity is innoxious; and an alphabetical list of abusive names, which the fathers have given to the heterodox is entitled Alphabetum bestialitatis Hæretici, ex Patrum Symbolis.
After all, Raynaud was a man of vast acquirement, with a great flow of ideas, but tasteless, and void of all judgment. An anecdote may be recorded of him, which puts in a clear light the state of these literary men. Raynaud was one day pressing hard a reluctant bookseller to publish one of his works, who replied —“Write a book like Father Barri’s, and I shall be glad to print it.” It happened that the work of Barri was pillaged from Raynaud, and was much liked, while the original lay on the shelf. However, this only served to provoke a fresh attack from our redoubtable hero, who vindicated his rights, and emptied his quiver on him who had been ploughing with his heifer.
Such are the writers who, enjoying all the pleasures without the pains of composition, have often apologised for their repeated productions, by declaring that they write only for their own amusement; but such private theatricals should not be brought on the public stage. One Catherinot all his life was printing a countless number of feuilles volantes in history and on antiquities, each consisting of about three or four leaves in quarto: Lenglet du Fresnoy calls him “grand auteur des petits livres.” This gentleman liked to live among antiquaries and historians; but with a crooked headpiece, stuck with whims, and hard with knotty combinations, all overloaded with prodigious erudition, he could not ease it at a less rate than by an occasional dissertation of three or four quarto pages. He appears to have published about two hundred pieces of this sort, much sought after by the curious for their rarity: Brunet complains he could never discover a complete collection. But Catherinot may escape “the pains and penalties” of our voluminous writers, for De Bure thinks he generously printed them to distribute among his friends. Such endless writers, provided they do not print themselves into an alms-house, may be allowed to print themselves out; and we would accept the apology which Monsieur Catherinot has framed for himself, which I find preserved in Beyeri Memoriæ Librorum Rariorum. “I must be allowed my freedom in my studies, for I substitute my writings for a game at the tennis-court, or a club at the tavern; I never counted among my honours these opuscula of mine, but merely as harmless amusements. It is my partridge, as with St. John the Evangelist; my cat, as with Pope St. Gregory; my little dog, as with St. Dominick; my lamb, as with St. Francis; my great black mastiff, as with Cornelius Agrippa; and my tame hare, as with Justus Lipsius.” I have since discovered in Niceron that this Catherinot could never get a printer, and was rather compelled to study economy in his two hundred quartos of four or eight pages: his paper was of inferior quality; and when he could not get his dissertations into his prescribed number of pages, he used to promise the end at another time, which did not always happen. But his greatest anxiety was to publish and spread his works; in despair he adopted an odd expedient. Whenever Monsieur Catherinot came to Paris, he used to haunt the quaies where books are sold, and while he appeared to be looking over them, he adroitly slided one of his own dissertations among these old books. He began this mode of publication early, and continued it to his last days. He died with a perfect conviction that he had secured his immortality; and in this manner had disposed of more than one edition of his unsaleable works. Niceron has given the titles of 118 of his things, which he had looked over.
1 Prynne was condemned for his “Histriomastix,” a book against actors and acting, in which he had indulged in severe remarks on female performers; and Henrietta Maria having frequently personated parts in Court Masques, the offensive words were declared to have been levelled at her. He was condemned to fine and imprisonment, was pilloried at Westminster and Cheapside, and had an ear cut off at each place.
2 Prynne, who ultimately quarrelled with the Puritans, was made Keeper of the Records of the Tower by Charles the Second, who was advised thereto by men who did not know how else to keep “busy Mr. Prynne” out of political pamphleteering. He went to the work of investigation with avidity, and it was while so employed that he followed the mode of life narrated in the preceding page.
3 I cannot subscribe to the opinion that Anthony Wood was a dull man, although he had no particular liking for works of imagination; and used ordinary poets scurvily! An author’s personal character is often confounded with the nature of his work. Anthony has sallies at times to which a dull man could not be subject; without the ardour of this hermit of literature where would be our literary history?
4 These two catalogues have always been of extreme rarity and price. Dr. Lister, when at Paris, 1668, notices this circumstance. I have since met with them in the very curious collections of my friend, Mr. Douce, who has uniques, as well as rarities. The monograms of our old masters in one of these catalogues are more correct than in some later publications; and the whole plan and arrangement of these catalogues of prints are peculiar and interesting.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07