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

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 “Bibliotheque curieuse de Livres difficiles a 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 Abbe 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 Wood[2] acquires some value from the faithful representation of men and manners.”