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time, is often a monarch that never existed, and who seldom, whether real or supposititious, has any concern with the circumstances of the narrative."
The edition of the Gesta (that of 1488) which Warton reviews, and which is more comprehensive and complete than some published subsequently, contains a hundred and eighty-one chapters or stories. Others of the printed editions and manuscripts, however, though containing in the whole fewer stories than this edition, have several which it omits. The narratives in the ' Gesta Romunorum ' have furnished subjects to many of our poets from Chaucer down to Shakspere. The incident of the caskets in the Merchant of Venice, though not in the Latin edition which Warton has analysed, makes one of the chapters of the old English translation first printed by Wynkyn de Worde. It also occurs in a manuscript of the Latin Gesta preserved in the Harleian collection in the British Museum. Another of the stories is the original of Parnell's ' Hermit.'
Warton conceives that he has discovered the author of the ' Gesta Romanorum ' to be Petrus Berchorius, or Pierre Berchcur, a native of Poitou, who died prior of the Rcnedictine convent of St. Eloi, at Paris, in the year 1362; but this conclusion has since been controverted by Mr. Douce in his ' Illustrations of Shakspere,' where it is contended that the author must have been a German. Berchorius is the author of three other works, all of which bear a strong resemblance in character to the' Gesta Romanorum.' They are thus described by Warton: "The 'Reductorium super Bibliam,' in twenty-four books, contains all the stories and incidents in the Bible reduced into allegories. The 'Repertorium Morale,' in fourteen books, is a dictionary of things, persons, and places; all which are supposed to be mystical, and which are therefore explained in their moral or practical sense. The ' Dictionarium Morale' is in two parts, and seems principally designed to be a moral repertory for students in theology." In the ' Repertorium Morale ' are related several of the same stories which occur in the Gesta.
Warton thinks it probable that Berchorius, who was at one time grammatical preceptor to the novices of the Benedictine congregation, or monastery, at Cluni, for whose use he drew up a little tract on Latin prosody, compiled the ' Gesta Romanorum ' also for the use of his grammatical pupils. He adds, "Were there not many good reasons for that supposition, I should be induced to think that it might have been intended as a book of stories for the use of preachers. .... Soon after the age of Berchorius, a similar collection of stories, of the same cast, was compiled, though not exactly in the same form, professedly designed for sermon-writers, and by one who was himself an eminent preacher; for, rather before the year 1480, a Latin volume was printed in Germany, written by John Herolt, a Dominican friar of Basil, better known by the adopted and humble appellation of Discipulus, and who flourished about the year 1418. It consists of three parts: the first is entitled, 'Incipiunt Sermones pernotabiles Discipuh de Sanctis per Anni circulum ;' that is, A Set of Sermons on the Saints of the whole Year. The second part, and with which I am now wholly concerned, is a pROMPTDAKr, or ample repository of examples for composing sermons; and in the prologue to this part the author says that Saint Dominic always abundabat exemplis (abounded in examples) in his discourses, and that he constantly practised this popular mode of edification." The ' Promptuary of the Disciple,' therefore, is another old miscellany, essentially of the same description with our modern books of anecdote or table-talk. And many more might easily be mentioned.
The term Anecdote, which has recently become so common in the titles of works of this class, was scarcely used by the ancients in the sense in which we now employ it. It is a Greek word, and signifies properly anything not yet given forth. Among other things, the Greeks called an unmarried lady an anecdote. It appears also to have been used, by later writers at least, for a fact or piece of history which had not been published or put into a book. Thus Cicero, in more than one passage of his writings, speaks of a Book of Anecdotes on which he was engaged. In one place, writing to his friend Atticus, he talks of confiding it to him only, as if it was not intended to be ever published. The only ancient work however, we believe, which has come down to us bearing the title of a Book of Anecdotes, is that of the Greek historian Procopius of Caesarea, which passes under the name of his ' Anecdotes,' or ' AnecdoticaJ History.' Suidas, the lexicographer, refers to the work under this title, and some of the manuscripts of it are also said to be so inscribed, though those from which the printed copies have been taken are without any title. The 'Anecdotes of Procopius ' are in fact what we should now call a secret, or rather a scandalous, history of the court of the Emperor Justinian, in whose time the writer flourished, and the public transactions of whose reign he has detailed in eight other books. Whether he meant by the term Anecdotes (if the composition was so entitled by himself) simply to designate this ninth book as containing a miscellany of facts which had not been noticed in the preceding eight, or to announce it as a collection of things not hitherto published or generally known at all, may admit of doubt. The character of many of his details would certainly rather favour the latter supposition. Some passages, indeed, are of so atrocious a description, that successive editors of the original have (with an abstinence of which we suppose there is no other example among editors of the ancient classics) quietly omitted them, even without noticing their existence; and, in fact, they never have appeared in any edition of the work. The original Greek, however, has been published elsewhere, and accompanied too with a Latin translation, by a less scrupulous moralist, and more scrupulous reverer of the integrity of ancient texts. An English translation of the ' Anecdotes of Procopius,' under the title of 'The Secret History of the Court of the Emperor Justinian,' was published at London, in a duodecimo volume, in 1674.
Whatever the title Anecdotes may have been intended to express in this instance, it has repeatedly been used in modern times to designate merely matter of any kind which had not been previously published. Thus, in 1697 and 1698, the learned Italian antiquary and critic Muratori published, in four volumes quarto, a collection of theological pieces from manuscripts in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, to which he gave the title of ' Anecdote.' This collection is often mentioned as his ' Anecdote Latina,' to distinguish it from another of unpublished Greek pieces of a similar character, which he afterwards gave to the world (in four volumes 4to, 1709-13) under the title of 'Anecdote Graeca.' There are also the ' Anecdote Graeca' of John Christopher Wolf, a miscellany of writings both on sacred and profane subjects, extracted from ancient manuscripts, which appeared at Hamburgh, in 1722 and the following years, in four octavo volumes. But perhaps the most formidable masses of letterpress that have ever appeared under this title are the ' Thesaurus Novus Anecdotorum,' or New Treasury of Anecdotes, of the two Benedictine Fathers, Edmund Martene and Ursinus Durand, published at Paris, in five huge volumes folio, in 1717, and the 'Thesaurus Anecdotorum Novissimus,' or Latest Treasury of Anecdotes, of Bernard Pezius, published at Augsburg, in seven similar tomes, in 1721. Let the lover of Anecdotes In the modern sense beware of both the one and the other of these seductively inscribed collections ; they are, we can assure him, anything but light either to lift or to read. The anecdotes piled together in these ample storehouses, in fact, are merely, to use Father Martene's own expression, Vetera monumenta nondum edita—ancient documents never before published; and, with the exception of a few in the second collection, they are all ecclesiastical. It may be conceived therefore that they are more edifying than amusing. We may here also warn off in like manner all who are in quest only of the latter quality, from the French critic villoison's two quarto volumes of' Anecdote Graeca,' published at Venice in 1781. Villoison's Anecdotes are merely fragments of old Greek scholiasts and grammarians, extracted from manuscripts in the Royal Library of Paris, and the Library of St. Mark at Venice.
Within, however, a comparatively recent period, an anecdote, even when applied to a fact or incident, was always understood as intimating that the fact was an unpublished one, and generally (by a very common and natural transference or extension of meaning) that it was one which had not remained unnoticed from accident, but which there had been some reason for keeping secret. Anecdotes usually meant matters of some scandal; such secret history as that in which the book of Procopius already mentioned deals. Thus Anthony de Varillas, the French historian, published a little duodecimo volume at the Hague in 1685, which he entitled ' Anecdotes of Florence, or the Secret History of the House of Medici' (Les Anecdotes de Florence, ou l'Histoire Secrete de la Maison de Medici). The details which he here gives, the writer professes to have taken from old manuscripts preserved in various libraries; and some of them would be curious if we were sure they were true, upon which material point, however, there is much doubt. Of the manuscripts to which he refers, the principal, we believe, have eluded all who have since made search for them. In a preface to this book, Varillas has descanted at great length upon anecdote-writing, of which, he observes, the only one of the ancients who has left us an example is Procopius; and even he, although he has set before us his own practice as a model for our imitation, has laid down no rules for this particular species of composition. The art of writing anecdotical history, which he speaks of as the same thing with secret history, is therefore, he says, still unknown in almost its whole extent. While he professes, however, to develop and explain this new art, it is not very easy to understand what he means by it. He seems to consider it to be the business of the regular historian to occupy himself merely with great public transactions and to leave everything else to the writer of anecdotes. In support of this position he quotes a remark of the historian Marcellinus, that it belongs to an historian "discurrere per negotiorum celsitudines, non humilium minutias indagare causarum"—to take his course over the heights of affairs, and not to keep poking