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

I fix on four celebrated Scribleri to give their secret history; our Prynne, Gaspar Barthius, the Abbe 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,

and } his imprisonment .

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![1]

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 Celebres.” 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.