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Secret History Of Authors Who Have Ruined Their Booksellers
by [?]

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.