Enjoy this? Share it!

198 Works of Isaac Disraeli

Search Amazon for related books, downloads and more Isaac Disraeli

There has been a class of men whose patriotic affection, or whose general benevolence, have been usually defrauded of the gratitude their country owes them: these have been the introducers of new flowers, new plants, and new roots into Europe; the greater part which we now enjoy was drawn from the luxuriant climates of Asia, […]

A person whose history will serve as a canvass to exhibit some scenes of the arts of the money-trader was one AUDLEY, a lawyer, and a great practical philosopher, who concentrated his vigorous faculties in the science of the relative value of money. He flourished through the reigns of James I., Charles I., and held […]

There is such a thing as Literary Fashion, and prose and verse have been regulated by the same caprice that cuts our coats and cocks our hats. Dr. Kippis, who had a taste for literary history, has observed that “‘Dodsley’s Oeconomy of Human Life’ long received the most extravagant applause, from the supposition that it […]

Il est des gens de qui l’esprit guindeSous un front jamais derideNe souffre, n’approuve, et n’estimeQue le pompeux, et le sublime;Pour moi j’ose poser en faitQu’en de certains momens l’esprit le plus parfaitPeut aimer sans rougir jusqu’aux marionettes;Et qu’il est des tems et des lieux,Ou le grave, et le serieux,Ne valent pas d’agreables sornettes.Peau d’Ane. […]

It is a curiosity in the history of national genius to discover a people with such a native fund of comic humour, combined with such passionate gesticulation, that they could deeply interest in acting a Comedy, carried on by dialogue, intrigue, and character, all’ improvista, or impromptu; the actors undergoing no rehearsal, and, in fact, […]

The pantomimic characters and the extemporal comedy of Italy may have had some influence even on our own dramatic poets: this source has indeed escaped all notice; yet I incline to think it explains a difficult point in Massinger, which has baffled even the keen spirit of Mr. Gifford. A passage in Massinger bears a […]

The sovereignty of the seas, which foreigners dispute with us, is as much a conquest as any one obtained on land; it is gained and preserved by our cannon, and the French, who, for ages past, exclaim against what they call our tyranny, are only hindered from becoming themselves universal tyrants over laud and sea, […]

Men of genius have devoted some of their hours, and even governments have occasionally assisted, to render the people happier by song and dance. The Grecians had songs appropriated to the various trades. Songs of this nature would shorten the manufacturer’s tedious task-work, and solace the artisan at his solitary occupation. A beam of gay […]

M. Morin, a French academician, has amused himself with collecting several historical notices of this custom. I give a summary, for the benefit of those who have had the honour of kissing his majesty’s hand. It is not those who kiss the royal hand who could write best on the custom. This custom is not […]

Popes

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Valois observes that the Popes scrupulously followed, in the early ages of the church, the custom of placing their names after that of the person whom they addressed in their letters. This mark of their humility he proves by letters written by various Popes. Thus, when the great projects of politics were yet unknown to […]

To literary composition we may apply the saying of an ancient philosopher:–“A little thing gives perfection, although perfection is not a little thing.” The great legislator of the Hebrews orders us to pull off the fruit for the first three years, and not to taste them. He was not ignorant how it weakens a young […]

Tantus amor florum, et generandi gloria mellis.Georg. Lib. iv. v. 204. Such rage of honey in our bosom beats,And such a zeal we have for flowery sweets!DRYDEN. This article was commenced by me many years ago in the early volumes of the Monthly Magazine, and continued by various correspondents, with various success. I have collected […]

The manuscripts of Pope’s version of the Iliad and Odyssey are preserved in the British Museum in three volumes, the gift of David Mallet. They are written chiefly on the backs of letters, amongst which are several from Addison, Steele, Jervaise, Rowe, Young, Caryl, Walsh, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Fenton, Craggs, Congreve, Hughes, his mother Editha, […]

The memorable friendship of Beaumont and Fletcher so closely united their labours, that we cannot discover the productions of either; and biographers cannot, without difficulty, compose the memoirs of the one, without running into the life of the other. They pourtrayed the same characters, while they mingled sentiment with sentiment; and their days were as […]

Some have exercised this power of abstraction to a degree that appears marvellous to volatile spirits, and puny thinkers. To this patient habit, Newton is indebted for many of his great discoveries; an apple falls upon him in his orchard,–and the system of attraction succeeds in his mind! he observes boys blowing soap bubbles, and […]

Richardson

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The censure which the Shakspeare of novelists has incurred for the tedious procrastination and the minute details of his fable; his slow unfolding characters, and the slightest gestures of his personages, is extremely unjust; for is it not evident that we could not have his peculiar excellences without these accompanying defects? When characters are fully […]

What’s in a NAME? That which we call a rose,By any other name would smell as sweet. Names, by an involuntary suggestion, produce an extraordinary illusion. Favour or disappointment has been often conceded as the name of the claimant has affected us; and the accidental affinity or coincidence of a name, connected with ridicule or […]

Among the most interesting passages of history are those in which we contemplate an oppressed, yet sublime spirit, agitated by the conflict of two terrific passions: implacable hatred attempting a resolute vengeance, while that vengeance, though impotent, with dignified and silent horror, sinks into the last expression of despair. In a degenerate nation, we may, […]

Desmarets, the friend of Richelieu, was a very extraordinary character, and produced many effusions of genius in early life, till he became a mystical fanatic. It was said of him that “he was the greatest madman among poets, and the best poet among madmen.” His comedy of “The Visionaries” is one of the most extraordinary […]

As a literary curiosity, can we deny a niche to that “obliquity of distorted wit,” of Barton Holyday, who has composed a strange comedy, in five acts, performed at Christ Church, Oxford, 1630, not for the entertainment, as an anecdote records, of James the First? The title of the comedy of this unclassical classic, for […]

In the Memoirs of the French Academy, a little essay on this subject is sufficiently curious; the following contains the facts:– FIREWORKS were not known to antiquity.–It is certainly a modern invention. If ever the ancients employed fires at their festivals, it was only for religious purposes. Fire, in primaeval ages, was a symbol of […]

The following are the express words contained in the regulation of the popes to prohibit the use of the Bible. “As it is manifest, by experience, that if the use of the holy writers is permitted in the vulgar tongue more evil than profit will arise, because of the temerity of man; it is for […]

Crown, in his “City Politiques,” 1688, a comedy written to satirise the Whigs of those days, was accused of having copied his character too closely after life, and his enemies turned his comedy into a libel. He has defended himself in his preface from this imputation. It was particularly laid to his charge, that in […]

It is curious to observe the various substitutes for paper before its discovery. Ere the invention of recording events by writing, trees were planted, rude altars were erected, or heaps of stone, to serve as memorials of past events. Hercules probably could not write when he fixed his famous pillars. The most ancient mode of […]

The following circumstances probably gave rise to the tyranny of the feudal power, and are the facts on which the fictions of romance are raised. Castles were erected to repulse the vagrant attacks of the Normans; and in France, from the year 768 to 987, these places disturbed the public repose. The petty despots who […]

The Duke of Buckingham, in his bold and familiar manner, appears to have been equally a favourite with James I. and Charles I. He behaved with singular indiscretion both at the courts of France and Spain. Various anecdotes might be collected from the memoir writers of those countries, to convince us that our court was […]

Dr. Cayet is an old French controversial writer, but is better known in French literature as an historian. His Chronologie Novenaire is full of anecdotes unknown to other writers. He collected them from his own observations, for he was under-preceptor to Henry IV. The dreadful massacre of St. Bartholomew took place in the reign of […]

The Early Drama

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

“It is curious to trace the first rude attempts of the drama in various nations; to observe at that moment how crude is the imagination, and to trace the caprices it indulges; and that the resemblance in these attempts holds in the earliest essays of Greece, of France, of Spain, of England, and, what appears […]

If the golden gate of preferment is not usually opened to men of real merit, persons of no worth have entered it in a most extraordinary manner. Chevreau informs us that the Sultan Osman having observed a gardener planting a cabbage with some peculiar dexterity, the manner so attracted his imperial eye that he raised […]

Nobility

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Francis the First was accustomed to say, that when the nobles of his kingdom came to court, they were received by the world as so many little kings; that the day after they were only beheld as so many princes; but on the third day they were merely considered as so many gentlemen, and were […]

Felton, the assassin of the Duke of Buckingham, by the growing republican party was hailed as a Brutus, rising, in the style of a patriotic bard, Refulgent from the stroke.–AKENSIDE. Gibbon has thrown a shade of suspicion even over Brutus’s “god-like stroke,” as Pope has exalted it. In Felton, a man acting from mixed and […]

I shall preserve a literary curiosity, which perhaps is the only one of its kind. It is an original memorandum of Dr. Johnson’s, of hints for the Life of Pope, written down, as they were suggested to his mind, in the course of his researches. The lines in Italics Johnson had scratched with red ink, […]

When men, writes the philosophical compiler of “L’Esprit des Usages et des Coutumes,” salute each other in an amicable manner, it signifies little whether they move a particular part of the body, or practise a particular ceremony. In these actions there must exist different customs. Every nation imagines it employs the most reasonable ones; but […]

A new edition of Bayle in France is an event in literary history which could not have been easily predicted. Every work which creates an epoch in literature is one of the great monuments of the human mind; and Bayle may be considered as the father of literary curiosity, and of modern literature. Much has […]

To know Bayle as a man, we must not study him in the folio Life of Des Maizeaux, whose laborious pencil, without colour and without expression, loses, in its indistinctness, the individualising strokes of the portrait. Look for Bayle in his “Letters,” those true chronicles of a literary man, when they record his own pursuits. […]

Fuseli, in the introduction to the second part of his Lectures, has touched on the character of Cicero, respecting his knowledge and feeling of Art, in a manner which excites our curiosity. “Though Cicero seems to have had as little native taste for painting and sculpture, and even less than he had taste for poetry, […]

It is said that the frozen Norwegians, on the first sight of roses, dared not touch what they conceived were trees budding with fire: and the natives of Virginia, the first time they seized on a quantity of gunpowder, which belonged to the English colony, sowed it for grain, expecting to reap a plentiful crop […]

The congenial histories of literature and of art are accompanied by the same periodical revolutions; and none is more interesting than that one which occurs in the decline and corruption of arts, when a single mind returning to right principles, amidst the degenerated race who had forsaken them, seems to create a new epoch, and […]

Herbert, the faithful attendant of Charles the First during the two last years of the king’s life, mentions “a diamond seal with the king’s arms engraved on it.” The history of this “diamond seal” is remarkable; and seems to have been recovered by the conjectural sagacity of Warburton, who never exercised his favourite talent with […]

The secret history of Charles the First, and his queen Henrietta of France, opens a different scene from the one exhibited in the passionate drama of our history. The king is accused of the most spiritless uxoriousness; and the chaste fondness of a husband is placed among his political errors. Even Hume conceives that his […]

The ancient Bacchus, as represented in gems and statues, was a youthful and graceful divinity; he is so described by Ovid, and was so painted by Barry. He has the epithet of Psilas, to express the light spirits which give wings to the soul. His voluptuousness was joyous and tender; and he was never viewed […]

Richelieu was the greatest of statesmen, if he who maintains himself by the greatest power is necessarily the greatest minister. He was called “the King of the King.” After having long tormented himself and France, he left a great name and a great empire–both alike the victims of splendid ambition! Neither this great minister nor […]

“Had the Duke of Buckingham been blessed with a faithful friend, qualified with wisdom and integrity, the duke would have committed as few faults, and done as transcendent worthy actions as any man in that age in Europe.” Such was the opinion of Lord Clarendon in the prime of life, when, yet untouched by party […]

A writer of penetration sees connexions in literary anecdotes which are not immediately perceived by others: in his hands anecdotes, even should they be familiar to us, are susceptible of deductions and inferences, which become novel and important truths. Facts of themselves are barren; it is when these facts pass through reflections, and become interwoven […]

Condemned Poets

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

I flatter myself that those readers who have taken any interest in my volume have not conceived me to have been deficient in the elevated feeling which, from early life, I have preserved for the great literary character: if time weaken our enthusiasm, it is the coldness of age which creeps on us, but the […]

The memorable grand dinner given by the classical doctor in Peregrine Pickle, has indisposed our tastes for the cookery of the ancients; but, since it is often “the cooks who spoil the broth,” we cannot be sure but that even “the black Lacedaemonian,” stirred by the spear of a Spartan, might have had a poignancy […]

As a literary curiosity, and as a supplemental anecdote to the article of PREFACES,[1] I cannot pass over the suppressed preface to the “Acajou et Zirphile” of Du Clos, which of itself is almost a singular instance of hardy ingenuity, in an address to the public. This single volume is one of the most whimsical […]

The history of a race of singular mendicants, known by the name of Tom o’ Bedlams, connects itself with that of our poetry. Not only will they live with our language, since Shakspeare has perpetuated their existence, but they themselves appear to have been the occasion of creating a species of wild fantastic poetry, peculiar […]

The Stagyrite discovered that our nature delights in imitation, and perhaps in nothing more than in representing personages different from ourselves in mockery of them; in fact, there is a passion for masquerade in human nature. Children discover this propensity; and the populace, who are the children of society, through all ages have been humoured […]

In the south aisle of Westminster Abbey stands a monument erected to the memory of Lady Grace Gethin.[1] A statue of her ladyship represents her kneeling, holding a book in her hand. This accomplished lady was considered as a prodigy in her day, and appears to have created a feeling of enthusiasm for her character. […]

Robinson Crusoe

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Robinson Crusoe, the favourite of the learned and the unlearned, of the youth and the adult; the book that was to constitute the library of Rousseau’s Emilius, owes its secret charm to its being a new representation of human nature, yet drawn from an existing state; this picture of self-education, self-inquiry, self-happiness, is scarcely a […]

Literature, and the arts connected with it, in this free country, have been involved with its political state, and have sometimes flourished or declined with the fortunes, or been made instrumental to the purposes, of the parties which had espoused them. Thus in our dramatic history, in the early period of the Reformation, the Catholics […]

A period in our dramatic annals has been passed over during the progress of the civil wars, which indeed was one of silence, but not of repose in the theatre. It lasted beyond the death of Charles the First, when the fine arts seemed also to have suffered with the monarch. The theatre, for the […]

We are often perplexed to decide how the names of some of our eminent men ought to be written; and we find that they are even now written diversely. The truth is, that our orthography was so long unsettled among us, that it appears by various documents of the times which I have seen, that […]

Lord Orford has in one of his letters projected a curious work to be written in a walk through the streets of the metropolis, similar to a French work, entitled “Anecdotes des Rues de Paris.” I know of no such work, and suspect the vivacious writer alluded in his mind to Saint Foix’s “Essais Historiques […]

We converse with the absent by letters, and with ourselves by diaries; but vanity is more gratified by dedicating its time to the little labours which have a chance of immediate notice, and may circulate from hand to hand, than by the honester pages of a volume reserved only for solitary contemplation; or to be […]

The “true” modern critics on our elder writers are apt to thunder their anathemas on innocent heads: little versed in the eras of our literature, and the fashions of our wit, popular criticism must submit to be guided by the literary historian. Kippis condemns Sir Symonds D’Ewes for his admiration of two anagrams, expressive of […]

It is an odd circumstance in literary research, that I am enabled to correct a story which was written about 1680. The Aubrey Papers, recently published with singular faithfulness, retaining all their peculiarities, even to the grossest errors, were memoranda for the use of Anthony Wood’s great work. But beside these, the Oxford antiquary had […]

Prince Henry, the son of James I., whose premature death was lamented by the people, as well as by poets and historians, unquestionably would have proved an heroic and military character. Had he ascended the throne, the whole face of our history might have been changed; the days of Agincourt and Cressy had been revived, […]

In the history of literature, and perhaps in that of the human mind, the institution of the LICENSERS OF THE PRESS, and CENSORS OF BOOKS, was a bold invention, designed to counteract that of the Press itself; and even to convert this newly-discovered instrument of human freedom into one which might serve to perpetuate that […]

I have discovered a poem by this great poet, which has escaped the researches of all his editors. Prefixed to a translation, translation is the theme; with us an unvalued art, because our translators have usually been the jobbers of booksellers; but no inglorious one among our French and Italian rivals. In this poem, if […]

The Loves of “the Lady Arabella”[322] Where London’s towre its turrets showSo stately by the Thames’s side,Faire Arabella, child of woe!For many a day had sat and sighed. And as shee heard the waves arise,And as shee heard the bleake windes roare,As fast did heave her heartfelte sighes,And still so fast her teares did poure! […]

Of court-etiquette few are acquainted with the mysteries, and still fewer have lost themselves in its labyrinth of forms. Whence its origin? Perhaps from those grave and courtly Italians, who, in their petty pompous courts, made the whole business of their effeminate days consist in punctilios; and, wanting realities to keep themselves alive, affected the […]

Sir Edward Coke–or Cook, as now pronounced, and occasionally so written in his own times–that lord chief-justice whose name the laws of England will preserve–has shared the fate of his great rival, the Lord Chancellor Bacon; for no hand worthy of their genius has pursued their story. Bacon, busied with nature, forgot himself. Coke who […]

This great lawyer, perhaps, set the example of that style of railing and invective in the courts, which the egotism and craven insolence of some of our lawyers include in their practice at the bar. It may be useful to bring to recollection Coke’s vituperative style in the following dialogue, so beautiful in its contrast […]

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 […]

The year 1566 was a remarkable period in the domestic annals of our great Elizabeth; then, for a moment, broke forth a noble struggle between the freedom of the subject and the dignity of the sovereign. One of the popular grievances of her glorious reign was the maiden state in which the queen persisted to […]

Will a mind of great capacity be reduced to mediocrity by the ill choice of a profession? Parents are interested in the metaphysical discussion, whether there really exists an inherent quality in the human intellect which imparts to the individual an aptitude for one pursuit more than for another. What Lord Shaftesbury calls not innate, […]

A stroke of personal ridicule is levelled at Dryden, when Bayes informs us of his preparations for a course of study by a course of medicine! “When I have a grand design,” says he, “I ever take physic and let blood; for when you would have pure swiftness of thought, and fiery flights of fancy, […]

The Italians are a fanciful people, who have often mixed a grain or two of pleasantry and even of folly with their wisdom. This fanciful character betrays itself in their architecture, in their poetry, in their extemporary comedy, and their Improvisatori; but an instance not yet accounted for of this national levity, appears in those […]

Psalm-Singing

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The history of Psalm-singing is a portion of the history of the Reformation,–of that great religious revolution which separated for ever, into two unequal divisions, the establishment of Christianity. It has not, perhaps, been remarked that psalm-singing, or metrical psalms, degenerated into those scandalous compositions which, under the abused title of hymns, are now used […]

That great Original, the author of HUDIBRAS, has been recently censured for exposing to ridicule the Sir Samuel Luke, under whose roof he dwelt, in the grotesque character of his hero. The knowledge of the critic in our literary history is not curious; he appears to have advanced no further than to have taken up […]

The inimitable “School-Mistress” of Shenstone is one of the felicities of genius; but the purpose of this poem has been entirely misconceived. Johnson, acknowledging this charming effusion to be “the most pleasing of Shenstone’s productions” observes, “I know not what claim it has to stand among the moral works.” The truth is, that it was […]

Such a title might serve for a work of not incurious nor unphilosophical speculation, which might enlarge our general views of human affairs, and assist our comprehension of those events which are enrolled on the registers of history. The scheme of Providence is carrying oil sublunary events, by means inscrutable to us, A mighty maze, […]

Nearly six centuries have elapsed since the appearance of the great work of Dante, and the literary historians of Italy are even now disputing respecting the origin of this poem, singular in its nature and in its excellence. In ascertaining a point so long inquired after, and so keenly disputed, it will rather increase our […]

Parodies

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

A Lady of bas bleu celebrity (the term is getting odious, particularly to our scavantes) had two friends, whom she equally admired–an elegant poet and his parodist. She had contrived to prevent their meeting as long as her stratagems lasted, till at length she apologised to the serious bard for inviting him when his mock […]

Manuscripts are suppressed or destroyed from motives which require to be noticed. Plagiarists, at least, have the merit of preservation: they may blush at their artifices, and deserve the pillory, but their practices do not incur the capital crime of felony. Serassi, the writer of the curious Life of Tasso, was guilty of an extraordinary […]

“A false report, if believed during three days, may be of great service to a government.” This political maxim has been ascribed to Catharine de’ Medici, an adept in coups d’etat, the arcana imperii! Between solid lying and disguised truth there is a difference known to writers skilled in “the art of governing mankind by […]

[1] We have Royal Societies for philosophers, for antiquaries, and for artists–none for men of letters! The lovers of philological studies have regretted the want of an asylum since the days of Anne, when the establishment of an English Academy of Literature was designed; but political changes occurred which threw out a literary administration. France […]

Quotation

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

It is generally supposed that where there is no QUOTATION, there will be found most originality. Our writers usually furnish their pages rapidly with the productions of their own soil: they run up a quickset hedge, or plant a poplar, and get trees and hedges of this fashion much faster than the former landlords procured […]

Philip And Mary

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Houssaie, in his Memoires, vol. i. p. 261, has given the following curious particulars of this singular union:– “The second wife of Philip was Mary Queen of England; a virtuous princess (Houssaie was a good catholic), but who had neither youth nor beauty. This marriage was as little happy for the one as for the […]

From the MS. collection of Sir Thomas Browne, I shall rescue an anecdote, which has a tendency to show that it is not advisable to permit ladies to remain at home, when political plots are to be secretly discussed. And while it displays the treachery of Monk’s wife, it will also appear that, like other […]

Such a picture may be furnished by some unexpected materials which my inquiries have obtained of Oldys. This is a sort of personage little known to the wits, who write more than they read, and to their volatile votaries, who only read what the wits write. It is time to vindicate the honours of the […]

Accident has frequently occasioned the most eminent geniuses to display their powers. “It was at Rome,” says Gibbon, “on the 15th of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the bare-footed friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the Decline and Fall […]

Singular inequalities are observable in the labours of genius; and particularly in those which admit great enthusiasm, as in poetry, in painting, and in music. Faultless mediocrity industry can preserve in one continued degree; but excellence, the daring and the happy, can only be attained, by human faculties, by starts. Our poets who possess the […]

There are many sciences, says Menage, on which we cannot indeed compose in a florid or elegant diction, such as geography, music, algebra, geometry, etc. When Atticus requested Cicero to write on geography, the latter excused himself, observing that its scenes were more adapted to please the eye, than susceptible of the embellishments of style. […]

Legends

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Those ecclesiastical histories entitled Legends are said to have originated in the following circumstance. Before colleges were established in the monasteries where the schools were held, the professors in rhetoric frequently gave their pupils the life of some saint for a trial of their talent at amplification. The students, at a loss to furnish out […]

Every lover of letters has heard of this learned society, which contributed so greatly to establish in France a taste for just reasoning, simplicity of style, and philosophical method. Their “Logic, or the Art of Thinking,” for its lucid, accurate, and diversified matter, is still an admirable work; notwithstanding the writers had to emancipate themselves […]

Cicero’s Puns

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

“I should,” says Menage, “have received great pleasure to have conversed with Cicero, had I lived in his time. He must have been a man very agreeable in conversation, since even Caesar carefully collected his bons mots. Cicero has boasted of the great actions he has done for his country, because there is no vanity […]

Early Printing

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

There is some probability that this art originated in China, where it was practised long before it was known in Europe. Some European traveller might have imported the hint.[1] That the Romans did not practise the art of printing cannot but excite our astonishment, since they actually used it, unconscious of their rich possession. I […]

Errata

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Besides the ordinary errata, which happen in printing a work, others have been purposely committed, that the errata may contain what is not permitted to appear in the body of the work. Wherever the Inquisition had any power, particularly at Rome, it was not allowed to employ the word fatum, or fata, in any book. […]

Patrons

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Authors have too frequently received ill treatment even from those to whom they dedicated their works. Some who felt hurt at the shameless treatment of such mock Maecenases have observed that no writer should dedicate his works but to his FRIENDS, as was practised by the ancients, who usually addressed those who had solicited their […]

The scholastic questions were called Questiones Quodlibeticae; and they were generally so ridiculous that we have retained the word Quodlibet in our vernacular style, to express anything ridiculously subtile; something which comes at length to be distinguished into nothingness, “With all the rash dexterity of wit.” The history of the scholastic philosophy furnishes an instructive […]

Fame Contemned

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

All men are fond of glory, and even those philosophers who write against that noble passion prefix their names to their own works. It is worthy of observation that the authors of two religious books, universally received, have concealed their names from the world. The “Imitation of Christ” is attributed, without any authority, to Thomas […]

Nothing is so capable of disordering the intellects as an intense application to any one of these six things: the Quadrature of the Circle; the Multiplication of the Cube; the Perpetual Motion; the Philosophical Stone; Magic; and Judicial Astrology. “It is proper, however,” Fontenelle remarks, “to apply one’s self to these inquiries; because we find, […]

Imitators

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Some writers, usually pedants, imagine that they can supply, by the labours of industry, the deficiencies of nature. Paulus Manutius frequently spent a month in writing a single letter. He affected to imitate Cicero. But although he painfully attained to something of the elegance of his style, destitute of the native graces of unaffected composition, […]

Among the Jesuits it was a standing rule of the order, that after an application to study for two hours, the mind of the student should be unbent by some relaxation, however trifling. When Petavius was employed in his Dogmata Theologica, a work of the most profound and extensive erudition, the great recreation of the […]

With the ancients, it was undoubtedly a custom to place the portraits of authors before their works. Martial’s 186th epigram of his fourteenth book is a mere play on words, concerning a little volume containing the works of Virgil, and which had his portrait prefixed to it. The volume and the characters must have been […]

The literary treasures of antiquity have suffered from the malice of Men as well as that of Time. It is remarkable that conquerors, in the moment of victory, or in the unsparing devastation of their rage, have not been satisfied with destroying men, but have even carried their vengeance to books. The Persians, from hatred […]

Although it is the opinion of some critics that our literary losses do not amount to the extent which others imagine, they are however much greater than they allow. Our severest losses are felt in the historical province, and particularly in the earliest records, which might not have been the least interesting to philosophical curiosity. […]

It may, perhaps, be some satisfaction to show the young writer, that the most celebrated ancients have been as rudely subjected to the tyranny of criticism as the moderns. Detraction has ever poured the “waters of bitterness.” It was given out, that Homer had stolen from anterior poets whatever was most remarkable in the Iliad […]

Those who have laboured most zealously to instruct mankind have been those who have suffered most from ignorance; and the discoverers of new arts and sciences have hardly ever lived to see them accepted by the world. With a noble perception of his own genius, Lord Bacon, in his prophetic Will, thus expresses himself: “For […]

Fortune has rarely condescended to be the companion of genius: others find a hundred by-roads to her palace; there is but one open, and that a very indifferent one, for men of letters. Were we to erect an asylum for venerable genius, as we do for the brave and the helpless part of our citizens, […]

Imprisonment has not always disturbed the man of letters in the progress of his studies, but has unquestionably greatly promoted them. In prison Boethius composed his work on the Consolations of Philosophy; and Grotius wrote his Commentary on Saint Matthew, with other works: the detail of his allotment of time to different studies, during his […]

Libraries

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The passion for forming vast collections of books has necessarily existed in all periods of human curiosity; but long it required regal munificence to found a national library. It is only since the art of multiplying the productions of the mind has been discovered, that men of letters themselves have been enabled to rival this […]

The Bibliomania

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The preceding article is honourable to literature, yet even a passion for collecting books is not always a passion for literature. The BIBLIOMANIA, or the collecting an enormous heap of books without intelligent curiosity, has, since libraries have existed, infected weak minds, who imagine that they themselves acquire knowledge when they keep it on their […]

When writers were not numerous, and readers rare, the unsuccessful author fell insensibly into oblivion; he dissolved away in his own weakness. If he committed the private folly of printing what no one would purchase, he was not arraigned at the public tribunal–and the awful terrors of his day of judgment consisted only in the […]

Our ancient classics had a very narrow escape from total annihilation. Many have perished: many are but fragments; and chance, blind arbiter of the works of genius, has left us some, not of the highest value; which, however, have proved very useful, as a test to show the pedantry of those who adore antiquity not […]

Minute Writing

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The Iliad of Homer in a nutshell, which Pliny says that Cicero once saw, it is pretended might have been a fact, however to some it may appear impossible. AElian notices an artist who wrote a distich in letters of gold, which he enclosed in the rind of a grain of corn. Antiquity and modern […]

The learned, after many contests, have at length agreed that the numerical figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, usually called Arabic, are of Indian origin. The Arabians do not pretend to have been the inventors of them, but borrowed them from the Indian nations. The numeral characters of the Bramins, the […]

A belief in judicial astrology can now only exist in the people, who may be said to have no belief at all; for mere traditional sentiments can hardly be said to amount to a belief. But a faith in this ridiculous system in our country is of late existence; and was a favourite superstition with […]

Alchymy

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Mrs. Thomas, the Corinna of Dryden, in her Life, has recorded one of the delusions of alchymy. An infatuated lover of this delusive art met with one who pretended to have the power of transmuting lead to gold; that is, in their language, the imperfect metals to the perfect one. The hermetic philosopher required only […]

Titles Of Books

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Were it inquired of an ingenious writer what page of his work had occasioned him most perplexity, he would often point to the title-page. The curiosity which we there would excite, is, however, most fastidious to gratify. Among those who appear to have felt this irksome situation, are most of our periodical writers. The “Tatler” […]

Our Edward the Fourth was dissipated and voluptuous; and probably owed his crown to his handsomeness, his enormous debts, and passion for the fair sex. He had many Jane Shores. Honest Philip de Comines, his contemporary, says, “That what greatly contributed to his entering London as soon as he appeared at its gates was the […]

The Chinese language is like no other on the globe; it is said to contain not more than about three hundred and thirty words, but it is by no means monotonous, for it has four accents; the even, the raised, the lessened, and the returning, which multiply every word into four; as difficult, says Mr. […]

Medical Music

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

In the Philosophical Magazine for May, 1806, we find that “several of the medical literati on the continent are at present engaged in making inquiries and experiments upon the influence of music in the cure of diseases.” The learned Dusaux is said to lead the band of this new tribe of amateurs and cognoscenti. The […]

Some stones are preserved by the curious, for representing distinctly figures traced by nature alone, and without the aid of art. Pliny mentions an agate, in which appeared, formed by the hand of nature, Apollo amidst the Nine Muses holding a harp. At Venice another may be seen, in which is naturally formed the perfect […]

Huet has given a charming description of a present made by a lover to his mistress; a gift which romance has seldom equalled for its gallantry, ingenuity, and novelty. It was called the garland of Julia. To understand the nature of this gift, it will be necessary to give the history of the parties. The […]

Tragic Actors

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Montfleury, a French player, was one of the greatest actors of his time for characters highly tragic. He died of the violent efforts he made in representing Orestes in the Andromache of Racine. The author of the “Parnasse Reforme” makes him thus express himself in the shades. There is something extremely droll in his lamentations, […]

These preachers, whose works are excessively rare, form a race unknown to the general reader. I shall sketch the characters of these pious buffoons, before I introduce them to his acquaintance. They, as it has been said of Sterne, seemed to have wished, every now and then, to have thrown their wigs into the faces […]

There have been found occasionally some artists who could so perfectly imitate the spirit, the taste, the character, and the peculiarities of great masters, that they have not unfrequently deceived the most skilful connoisseurs. Michael Angelo sculptured a sleeping Cupid, of which having broken off an arm, he buried the statue in a place where […]

In a book entitled “Interets et Maximes des Princes et des Etats Souverains, par M. le duc de Rohan; Cologne, 1666,” an anecdote is recorded concerning the Jesuits, which neither Puffendorf nor Vertot has noticed in his history. When Sigismond, king of Sweden, was elected king of Poland, he made a treaty with the states […]

The following tale, recorded in the Historical Memoirs of Champagne, by Bougier, has been a favourite narrative with the old romance writers; and the principal incident, however objectionable, has been displayed in several modern poems. Howell, in his “Familiar Letters,” in one addressed to Ben Jonson, recommends it to him as a subject “which peradventure […]

The present learned and curious dissertation is compiled from the papers of an ingenious antiquary, from the “Present State of the Republic of Letters,” vol. x. p. 289.[1] The antiquity of this part of dress will form our first inquiry; and we shall then show its various uses in the several ages of the world. […]

When relics of saints were first introduced, the relique-mania was universal; they bought and they sold, and, like other collectors, made no scruple to steal them. It is entertaining to observe the singular ardour and grasping avidity of some, to enrich themselves with these religious morsels; their little discernment, the curious impositions of the vendor, […]

No. 379 of the Spectator relates an anecdote of a person who had opened the sepulchre of the famous Rosicrucius. He discovered a lamp burning, which a statue of clock-work struck into pieces. Hence, the disciples of this visionary said that he made use of this method to show “that he had re-invented the ever-burning […]

Wax-Work

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

We have heard of many curious deceptions occasioned by the imitative powers of wax-work. A series of anatomical sculptures in coloured wax was projected by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, under the direction of Fontana. Twenty apartments have been filled with those curious imitations. They represent in every possible detail, and in each successive stage […]

All the world have heard of these statues: they have served as vehicles for the keenest satire in a land of the most uncontrolled despotism. The statue of Pasquin (from whence the word pasquinade) and that of Marforio are placed in Rome in two different quarters. Marforio is an ancient statue of Mars, found in […]

The ladies in Japan gild their teeth; and those of the Indies paint them red. The pearl of teeth must be dyed black to be beautiful in Guzerat. In Greenland the women colour their faces with blue and yellow. However fresh the complexion of a Muscovite may be, she would think herself very ugly if […]

Erasmus, in his Age of Religious Revolution, expressed an alarm, which in some shape has been since realized. He strangely, yet acutely observes, that “literature began to make a great and happy progress; but,” he adds, “I fear two things–that the study of Hebrew will promote Judaism, and the study of philology will revive PAGANISM.” […]

A volume on this subject might be made very curious and entertaining, for our ancestors were not less vacillating, and perhaps more capriciously grotesque, though with infinitely less taste, than the present generation. Were a philosopher and an artist, as well as an antiquary, to compose such a work, much diversified entertainment, and some curious […]

M. Morin, in the Memoirs of the French Academy, has formed a little history of Poverty, which I abridge. The writers on the genealogies of the gods have not noticed the deity of Poverty, though admitted as such in the pagan heaven, while she has had temples and altars on earth. The allegorical Plato has […]

A Rabbin once told me an ingenious invention, which in the Talmud is attributed to Solomon. The power of the monarch had spread his wisdom to the remotest parts of the known world. Queen Sheba, attracted by the splendour of his reputation, visited this poetical king at his own court; there, one day to exercise […]

The Absent Man

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The character of Bruyere’s “Absent Man” has been translated in the Spectator, and exhibited on the theatre. It is supposed to be a fictitious character, or one highly coloured. It was well known, however, to his contemporaries, to be the Count de Brancas. The present anecdotes concerning the same person were unknown to, or forgotten […]

The etiquette, or rules to be observed in royal palaces, is necessary for keeping order at court. In Spain it was carried to such lengths as to make martyrs of their kings. Here is an instance, at which, in spite of the fatal consequences it produced, one cannot refrain from smiling. Philip the Third was […]

The terrific honours which these ferocious nations paid to their deceased monarchs are recorded in history, by the interment of Attila, king of the Huns, and Alaric, king of the Goths. Attila died in 453, and was buried in the midst of a vast champaign in a coffin which was inclosed in one of gold, […]

Vicars Of Bray

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The vicar of Bray, in Berkshire, was a papist under the reign of Henry the Eighth, and a Protestant under Edward the Sixth; he was a papist again under Mary, and once more became a Protestant in the reign of Elizabeth.[1] When this scandal to the gown was reproached for his versatility of religious creeds, […]

Douglas

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

It may be recorded as a species of Puritanic barbarism, that no later than the year 1757, a man of genius was persecuted because he had written a tragedy which tended by no means to hurt the morals; but, on the contrary, by awakening the piety of domestic affections with the nobler passions, would rather […]

Feudal Customs

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Barbarous as the feudal customs were, they were the first attempts at organising European society. The northern nations, in their irruptions and settlements in Europe, were barbarians independent of each other, till a sense of public safety induced these hordes to confederate. But the private individual reaped no benefit from the public union; on the […]

Gaming

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Gaming appears to be an universal passion. Some have attempted to deny its universality; they have imagined that it is chiefly prevalent in cold climates, where such a passion becomes most capable of agitating and gratifying the torpid minds of their inhabitants. The fatal propensity of gaming is to be discovered, as well amongst the […]

An Arabic chronicle is only valuable from the time of Mahomet. For such is the stupid superstition of the Arabs, that they pride themselves on being ignorant of whatever has passed before the mission of their Prophet. The Arabic chronicle of Jerusalem contains the most curious information concerning the crusades: Longuerue translated several portions of […]

In countries where despotism exists in all its force, and is gratified in all its caprices, either the intoxication of power has occasioned sovereigns to assume the most solemn and the most fantastic titles; or the royal duties and functions were considered of so high and extensive a nature, that the people expressed their notion […]

There is a curious dissertation in the “Memoires de l’Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres,” by the Abbe Mongault, “on the divine honours which were paid to the governors of provinces during the Roman republic;” in their lifetime these originally began in gratitude, and at length degenerated into flattery. These facts curiously show how far […]

Fortune never appears in a more extravagant humour than when she reduces monarchs to become mendicants. Half a century ago it was not imagined that our own times should have to record many such instances. After having contemplated kings raised into divinities, we see them now depressed as beggars. Our own times, in two opposite […]

The Maldivian islanders eat alone. They retire into the most hidden parts of their houses; and they draw down the cloths that serve as blinds to their windows, that they may eat unobserved. This custom probably arises from the savage, in early periods of society, concealing himself to eat: he fears that another, with as […]

Monarchs

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Saint Chrysostom has this very acute observation on kings: Many monarchs are infected with a strange wish that their successors may turn out bad princes. Good kings desire it, as they imagine, continues this pious politician, that their glory will appear the more splendid by the contrast; and the bad desire it, as they consider […]

The title of illustrious was never given, till the reign of Constantine, but to those whose reputation was splendid in arms or in letters. Adulation had not yet adopted this noble word into her vocabulary. Suetonius composed a book to record those who had possessed this title; and, as it was then bestowed, a moderate […]

The idea of describing characters under the names of Musical Instruments has been already displayed in two most pleasing papers which embellish the Tatler, written by Addison. He dwells on this idea with uncommon success. It has been applauded for its originality; and in the general preface to that work, those papers are distinguished for […]

We are indebted to the Italians for the idea of newspapers. The title of their gazettas was, perhaps, derived from gazzera, a magpie or chatterer; or, more probably, from a farthing coin, peculiar to the city of Venice, called gazetta, which was the common price of the newspapers. Another etymologist is for deriving it from […]

The strange trials to which those suspected of guilt were put in the middle ages, conducted with many devout ceremonies by the ministers of religion, were pronounced to be the judgments of God! The ordeal consisted of various kinds: walking blindfold amidst burning ploughshares; passing through fires; holding in the hand a red-hot bar; and […]

Some authors have practised singular impositions on the public. Varillas, the French historian, enjoyed for some time a great reputation in his own country for his historical compositions; but when they became more known, the scholars of other countries destroyed the reputation which he had unjustly acquired. His continual professions of sincerity prejudiced many in […]

The present anecdote concerning Cardinal Richelieu may serve to teach the man of letters how he deals out criticisms to the great, when they ask his opinion of manuscripts, be they in verse or prose. The cardinal placed in a gallery of his palace the portraits of several illustrious men, and was desirous of composing […]

No philosopher has been so much praised and censured as Aristotle: but he had this advantage, of which some of the most eminent scholars have been deprived, that he enjoyed during his life a splendid reputation. Philip of Macedon must have felt a strong conviction of his merit, when he wrote to him, on the […]

Abelard, so famous for his writings and his amours with Eloisa, ranks amongst the Heretics for opinions concerning the Trinity! His superior genius probably made him appear so culpable in the eyes of his enemies. The cabal formed against him disturbed the earlier part of his life with a thousand persecutions, till at length they […]

Physiognomy

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

A very extraordinary physiognomical anecdote has been given by De la Place, in his “Pieces Interessantes et peu Connues,” vol. iv. p. 8. A friend assured him that he had seen a voluminous and secret correspondence which had been carried on between Louis XIV. and his favourite physician, De la Chambre, on this science. The […]

The preceding article furnishes some of the more serious investigations to be found in the Talmud. Its levities may amuse. I leave untouched the gross obscenities and immoral decisions. The Talmud contains a vast collection of stories, apologues, and jests; many display a vein of pleasantry, and at times have a wildness of invention, which […]

It is probable that this custom, so universally prevalent, originated in some ancient superstition; it seems to have excited inquiry among all nations. “Some Catholics,” says Father Feyjoo, “have attributed the origin of this custom to the ordinance of a pope, Saint Gregory, who is said to have instituted a short benediction to be used […]

A happy art in the relation of a story is, doubtless, a very agreeable talent; it has obtained La Fontaine all the applause which his charming naivete deserves. Of “Bonaventure de Periers, Valet de Chambre de la Royne de Navarre,” there are three little volumes of tales in prose, in the quaint or the coarse […]

Grotius

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The Life of Grotius shows the singular felicity of a man of letters and a statesman, and how a student can pass his hours in the closest imprisonment. The gate of the prison has sometimes been the porch of fame. Grotius, studious from his infancy, had also received from Nature the faculty of genius, and […]

I offer to the contemplation of those unfortunate mortals who are necessitated to undergo the criticisms of lords, this pair of anecdotes:– Soderini, the Gonfaloniere of Florence, having had a statue made by the great Michael Angelo, when it was finished, came to inspect it; and having for some time sagaciously considered it, poring now […]

The Scuderies

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Bien heureux SCUDERY, dont la fertile plumePeut tous les mois sans peine enfanter un volume. Boileau has written this couplet on the Scuderies, the brother and sister, both famous in their day for composing romances, which they sometimes extended to ten or twelve volumes. It was the favourite literature of that period, as novels are […]

The maxims of this noble author are in the hands of every one. To those who choose to derive every motive and every action from the solitary principle of self-love, they are inestimable. They form one continued satire on human nature; but they are not reconcilable to the feelings of the man of better sympathies, […]

Were we to investigate the genealogy of our best modern stories, we should often discover the illegitimacy of our favourites; and retrace them frequently to the East. My well-read friend Douce had collected materials for such a work. The genealogies of tales would have gratified the curious in literature. The story of the ring of […]

A man of letters, more intent on the acquisitions of literature than on the intrigues of politics, or the speculations of commerce, may find a deeper solitude in a populous metropolis than in the seclusion of the country. The student, who is no flatterer of the little passions of men, will not be much incommoded […]

The Talmud

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The JEWS have their TALMUD; the CATHOLICS their LEGENDS of Saints; and the TURKS their SONNAH. The PROTESTANT has nothing but his BIBLE. The former are three kindred works. Men have imagined that the more there is to be believed, the more are the merits of the believer. Hence all traditionists formed the orthodox and […]

Of the pleasures derivable from the cultivation of the arts, sciences, and literature, time will not abate the growing passion; for old men still cherish an affection and feel a youthful enthusiasm in those pursuits, when all others have ceased to interest. Dr. Reid, to his last day, retained a most active curiosity in his […]

Spanish Poetry

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Pere Bouhours observes, that the Spanish poets display an extravagant imagination, which is by no means destitute of esprit–shall we say wit? but which evinces little taste or judgment. Their verses are much in the style of our Cowley–trivial points, monstrous metaphors, and quaint conceits. It is evident that the Spanish poets imported this taste […]

Saint Evremond

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The portrait of St. Evremond is delineated by his own hand. In his day it was a literary fashion for writers to give their own portraits; a fashion that seems to have passed over into our country, for Farquhar has drawn his own character in a letter to a lady. Others of our writers have […]

The student or the artist who may shine a luminary of learning and of genius, in his works, is found, not rarely, to lie obscured beneath a heavy cloud in colloquial discourse. If you love the man of letters, seek him in the privacies of his study. It is in the hour of confidence and […]

Vida

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

What a consolation for an aged parent to see his child, by the efforts of his own merits, attain from the humblest obscurity to distinguished eminence! What a transport for the man of sensibility to return to the obscure dwelling of his parent, and to embrace him, adorned with public honours! Poor Vida was deprived […]

Poets Laureat

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The present article is a sketch of the history of POETS LAUREAT, from a memoir of the French Academy, by the Abbe Resnel. The custom of crowning poets is as ancient as poetry itself; it has, indeed, frequently varied; it existed, however, as late as the reign of Theodosius, when it was abolished as a […]

Angelo Politian

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Angelo Politian, an Italian, was one of the most polished writers of the fifteenth century. Baillet has placed him amongst his celebrated children; for he was a writer at twelve years of age. The Muses indeed cherished him in his cradle, and the Graces hung round it their wreaths. When he became professor of the […]

Anne Bullen

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

That minute detail of circumstances frequently found in writers of the history of their own times is more interesting than the elegant and general narratives of later, and probably of more philosophical historians. It is in the artless recitals of memoir-writers, that the imagination is struck with a lively impression, and fastens on petty circumstances, […]

James The First

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

It was usual, in the reign of James the First, when they compared it with the preceding glorious one, to distinguish him by the title of Queen James, and his illustrious predecessor by that of King Elizabeth! Sir Anthony Weldon informs us, “That when James the First sent Sir Roger Aston as his messenger to […]

Peter Corneille

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Exact Racine and Corneille’s noble fireShow’d us that France had something to admire. POPE. The great Corneille having finished his studies, devoted himself to the bar; but this was not the stage on which his abilities were to be displayed. He followed the occupation of a lawyer for some time, without taste and without success. […]

Poets

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

In all ages there has existed an anti-poetical party. This faction consists of those frigid intellects incapable of that glowing expansion so necessary to feel the charms of an art, which only addresses itself to the imagination; or of writers who, having proved unsuccessful in their court to the muses, revenge themselves by reviling them; […]

Romances

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Romance has been elegantly defined as the offspring of FICTION and LOVE. Men of learning have amused themselves with tracing the epocha of romances; but the erudition is desperate which would fix on the inventor of the first romance: for what originates in nature, who shall hope to detect the shadowy outlines of its beginnings? […]

The Astrea

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

I bring the Astrea forward to point out the ingenious manner by which a fine imagination can veil the common incidents of life, and turn whatever it touches into gold. Honore D’Urfe was the descendant of an illustrious family. His brother Anne married Diana of Chateaumorand, the wealthy heiress of another great house. After a […]

Virginity

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

The writings of the Fathers once formed the studies of the learned. These labours abound with that subtilty of argument which will repay the industry of the inquisitive, and the antiquary may turn them over for pictures of the manners of the age. A favourite subject with Saint Ambrose was that of Virginity, on which […]

In the republic of letters the establishment of an academy has been a favourite project; yet perhaps it is little more than an Utopian scheme. The united efforts of men of letters in Academies have produced little. It would seem that no man likes to bestow his great labours on a small community, for whose […]

It will appear by the following anecdotes, that some men may be said to have died poetically and even grammatically. There must be some attraction existing in poetry which is not merely fictitious, for often have its genuine votaries felt all its powers on the most trying occasions. They have displayed the energy of their […]

Scarron

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Scarron, as a burlesque poet, but no other comparison exists, had his merit, but is now little read; for the uniformity of the burlesque style is as intolerable as the uniformity of the serious. From various sources we may collect some uncommon anecdotes, although he was a mere author. His father, a counsellor, having married […]

Literary Dutch

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Pere Bohours seriously asks if a German can be a BEL ESPRIT? This concise query was answered by Kramer, in a ponderous volume which bears for title, Vindiciae nominis Germanici. This mode of refutation does not prove that the question was then so ridiculous as it was considered. The Germans of the present day, although […]

When Crebillon, the French tragic poet, published his Catiline, it was attended with an honour to literature, which though it is probably forgotten, for it was only registered, I think, as the news of the day, it becomes one zealous in the cause of literature to preserve. I give the circumstance, the petition, and the […]

Critics

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Writers who have been unsuccessful in original composition have their other productions immediately decried, whatever merit they might once have been allowed to possess. Yet this is very unjust; an author who has given a wrong direction to his literary powers may perceive, at length, where he can more securely point them. Experience is as […]

It is an ingenious observation made by a journalist of Trevoux, on perusing a criticism not ill written, which pretended to detect several faults in the compositions of Bruyere, that in ancient Rome the great men who triumphed amidst the applauses of those who celebrated their virtues, were at the same time compelled to listen […]

Bayle

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Few philosophers were more deserving of the title than, Bayle. His last hour exhibits the Socratic intrepidity with which he encountered the formidable approach of death. I have seen the original letter of the bookseller Leers, where he describes the death of our philosopher. “On the evening preceding his decease, having studied all day, he […]

Cervantes

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

M. Du Boulay accompanied the French ambassador to Spain, when Cervantes was yet living. He told Segrais that the ambassador one day complimented Cervantes on the great reputation he had acquired by his Don Quixote; and that Cervantes whispered in his ear, “Had it not been for the Inquisition, I should have made my book […]

Magliabechi

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Anthony Magliabechi, who died at the age of eighty, was celebrated for his great knowledge of books. He has been called the Helluo, or the Glutton of Literature, as Peter Comestor received his nickname from his amazing voracity for food he could never digest; which appeared when having fallen sick of so much false learning, […]

Abridgers

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Abridgers are a kind of literary men to whom the indolence of modern readers, and indeed the multiplicity of authors, give ample employment. It would be difficult, observed the learned Benedictines, the authors of the Literary History of France, to relate all the unhappy consequences which ignorance introduced, and the causes which produced that ignorance. […]

Among the most singular characters in literature may be ranked those who do not blush to profess publicly its most dishonourable practices. The first vender of printed sermons imitating manuscript, was, I think, Dr. Trusler. He to whom the following anecdotes relate had superior ingenuity. Like the famous orator, Henley, he formed a school of […]

It would be no uninteresting literary speculation to describe the difficulties which some of our most favourite works encountered in their manuscript state, and even after they had passed through the press. Sterne, when he had finished his first and second volumes of Tristram Shandy, offered them to a bookseller at York for fifty pounds; […]

The Turkish Spy

Story type: Essay

Read this story.

Whatever may be the defects of the “Turkish Spy,” the author has shown one uncommon merit, by having opened a new species of composition, which has been pursued by other writers with inferior success, if we except the charming “Persian Letters” of Montesquieu. The “Turkish Spy” is a book which has delighted our childhood, and […]

The characters of these three great masters of English poetry are sketched by Fuller, in his “Worthies of England.” It is a literary morsel that must not be passed by. The criticisms of those who lived in or near the times when authors flourished merit our observation. They sometimes elicit a ray of intelligence, which […]

Ben Jonson, like most celebrated wits, was very unfortunate in conciliating the affections of his brother writers. He certainly possessed a great share of arrogance, and was desirous of ruling the realms of Parnassus with a despotic sceptre. That he was not always successful in his theatrical compositions is evident from his abusing, in their […]

It surprises one to find among the literary Italians the merits of Ariosto most keenly disputed: slaves to classical authority, they bend down to the majestic regularity of Tasso. Yet the father of Tasso, before his son had rivalled the romantic Ariosto, describes in a letter the effect of the “Orlando” on the people:–“There is […]

—-BENTLEY, long to wrangling schools confined,And but by books acquainted with mankind—-To MILTON lending sense, to HORACE wit,He makes them write, what never poet writ. DR. BENTLEY’S edition of our English Homer is sufficiently known by name. As it stands a terrifying beacon to conjectural criticism, I shall just notice some of those violations which […]

When L’Advocat published his concise Biographical Dictionary, the Jansenists, the methodists of France, considered it as having been written with a view to depreciate the merit of their friends. The spirit of party is too soon alarmed. The Abbe Barral undertook a dictionary devoted to their cause. In this labour, assisted by his good friends […]