Page images
PDF
EPUB

the learned editor of Rabelais; the' Santoliana,' to the Latin poet Santeul, or Santolius; the' Colomesiana,' and the ' Scaligerana.' The second volume is compiled from the' Menagiana,' the ' Chevraeana,' the ' Lutherana,' the 'St. Evremoniana,' the ' Huetiana,' and the ' Boiaeana' (relating to the poet Boileau). This list may serve for a sort of catalogue of the most famous of the Ana.

A publication professing to be a reprint of a number of the old French Ana without abridgment, appeared at Amsterdam in 1799, in ten octavo volumes. The first volume contains the ' Furetieriana ' and 'Poggiana;' the second, third, and fourth, the ' Menagiana;' the fifth and sixth, the ' Vigneul-Marvilliana ;' the seventh, the ' Carpenteriana' and ' Valesianathe eighth, the ' Huetiana;' the ninth, the ' Chevraeana;' and the tenth, what is designated the ' Sevigniana' (being merely a number of extracts from the letters of Madame de Sevigne), and the 'Boiaeana.' This collection appears to be but a catchpenny book, and we suspect that but little confidence is to be placed in the correctness, not to say the honesty, of the reprints it affects to give. In the case of the ' Menagiana,' for instance, the editor, in a short advertisement which he has prefixed, is very careful to inform us that he has made various additions even to De la Monnoye's corrections and other notes, which he has distinguished by a particular mark; but neither here, nor anywhere else, as far as we have been able to discover, does he give us any intimation of another kind of doctoring to which he has also subjected the book,—namely, the entire omission of various parts of it. For the curtailments themselves there might perhaps have been a sufficient reason ; but the fact of their having been made ought not to have been thus industriously concealed. The principle which may have directed the selection of the Ana reprinted in this publication is not very obvious. It seems also to have been brought to a close in haste; even the services of the index-maker, who had been employed for the first eight volumes, being dispensed with in the two last.

Mr. D israeli began his ' Curiosities of Literature' on the scheme of deriving a principal part of his mateterials from the various Ana, as he tells us in the preface to the original publication, which appeared in a single octavo volume in 1791. Subsequent additions enlarged the first series of the work to three volumes, the last of which appeared in 1817. A second series followed, in three volumes more, in 1823: and since then the two works have been incorporated, and published together in one series of six volumes. The popularity that has been enjoyed by the ' Curiosities of Literature' is sufficiently attested by the fact, that the last is the ninth edition of the book. It is indeed by far the most lively and exciting work of its kind in our language. In proceeding with his labours under the encouragement of the public approval, the author gradually extended his plan, and by both taking a wider range for his materials, and indulging in greater detail and excursiveness of observation, set before his readers a much richer and more attractive banquet than he ventured to treat them with when he began to cater for them. The second series, indeed, was a collection rather of essays than of detached anecdotes; the stories for the most part being strung together in illustration of some general observation or principle, and the

clothed with an application, or having new force and point given to it by some sharpening inuendo of the narrator. The author, though possessing no faculty of accumulating power and then discharging it in those grand massive efforts by which the highest effects are produced, has yet a very happy endowment of that fragmentary energy which is sufficient for a succession of such popgun explosions as we look for in an after-dinner practitioner of the art of pointing morals and adorning tales.

Another well-known publication of Mr. D'Israeli's, which may be mentioned in connexion with his ' Curiosities of Literature,' and indeed may be considered as a part of the same work, is his ' Calamities of Authors.' This appeared first in three volumes octavo, in 18)2— 13. The work, being much less miscellaneous than the other, has not enjoyed the same popularity; but to bookish minds it is fully as interesting. The subject, as Mr.

meagreness of the mere

[graphic]

most part D'Israeli himself notices, is one that had been repeatedly treated of. The best known of the old works is that of Valeriano Bolzani, or, as he called himself in Latin, Joannes Pierius Valerianus, entitled ' De Infelicitate Literatorum ' (On the Miseries of Literary Men), in two books. But this is a lifeless compilation, compared with Mr. D Israeli's work, consisting as it does, not like his for the most part of curious histories and facts not generally known, but rather of a mere accumulation of instances, the generality of which are of the most commonplace description, in proof of the position announced in the title. The work of Valerianus, who was an Italian, appeared first at Venice in 1620; and a supplement to it, by Cornelius Tollius, a Dutchman, was published at Amsterdam in 1647.

Mr. DTsraeli's 'Essay on the Manners and Genius of the Literary Character' (8vo. 1795), and his 'Miscellanies, or Literary Recreations' (8vo. 1796), are in the main the same kind of books with his ' Curiosities of Literature.' They may be all called collections of anecdotes. Such also, for the most part, is a slight and forgotten performance of this author, a ' Dissertation on Anecdotes,' which appeared in an octavo pamphlet in 1793. A portion of it has been since incorporated with the ' Curiosities of Literature.'

There is a work which contains a good deal of information, of a kind interesting to literary persons, entitled 'Anecdotes of Literature and Scarce Books,' by the late Reverend William Beloe, the translator of Herodotus and Aulus Gellius: it consists of six octavo volumes, the first two of which appeared in 1807, and the last in 1812. But Beloe had none of Mr. D'Israeli's vivacity and happy art of animating a dry subject by the manner of handling it; nor was his knowledge of any subject much more than skin-deep. The illustration of title-pages and rare editions has been since prosecuted in a much more imposing style (though not " with absolute wisdom ") by Dr. Dibdin in his ' Bibliographical Tour in France and Germany,' and other publications; while the ' Censnra Literaria' and the 'Restituta ' of Sir Egerton Brydges, and especially the volumes of the ' Retrospective. Review,' have presented to modern readers much more inviting as well as more valuable gleanings from the contents of curious old books than it belonged to Mr. Beloe's slender endowment of learning and tact to provide. But these are matters that scarcely come under our present subject.

Perhaps the best and most learnedly compiled collection of anecdotes we possessed before the appearance of Mr. D'Israeli's works was that entitled ' Anecdotes, &c., Ancient and Modern, with Observations,' by James Pettit Andrews, who is also known as the author of a curious and carefully drawn up chronological history of Great Britain. The work in question appeared in an octavo volume in 1789, and a supplement to it under the title of ' Addenda,' the following year. The whole has been reprinted, but the book is now rather a scarce one. The anecdotes are collected under heads, which are arranged in alphabetical order; and the book is also provided with an excellent index. Indeed, like everything Andrews did, it is distinguished by its accuracy, which, if it be its chief, is at the same time a very rare and high merit. A work which appeared at London in 1764, under the title of' Anecdotes of Polite Literature,' in five volumes 12mo., is merely a set of essays on pastoral poetry, comedy, tragedy, and other subjects of the same class.

The nine volumes entitled ' Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century,' published by the late Mr. John Nichols, with the addition of his three supplementary volumes entitled ' Illustrations of the Literature of the Eighteenth Century,' form a most valuable repository of facts relating to the writers of the last age and their works. The work having appeared in portions, as the materials for it accumulated, is, as might be expected, somewhat undigested and confused; but a copious index, which fills one of the volumes, makes the consultation of it sufficiently easy and expeditious. The stores collected in this publication derive a high value from being mostly original and previously unprinted.

The subject of other collections of anecdotes is the manners and customs df past times. Of this class are the late James Peller Malcolm's ' Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London,' and also, in great part, his other publication entitled ' Miscellaneous Anecdotes.' Few schemes admit of a greater or more interesting variety than that which thus associates the memory of by-gone events, usages, and characters, with the enduring and still present localities, and other memorials, which once formed the scenery of their living and moving drama. For this purpose, a great city, the work of human hands, and in whose dwellings and streets the pulse of human existence has for many ages beat high and hot, has the advantage over any rural spot or tract which great deeds may have illustrated, but on which man has not thus left the visible and continuing impression of his handiwork. Indeed, an old city is perhaps altogether the most solemn and affecting thing on this earth to every imaginative mind. One of the earliest anecdote-books of the present class, if not the very first, is still one of the best—the most lively as well as the most learned—Saint Foix's ' Essais Historiques sur Paris' (Historical Essays on Paris), in five, and in the latest editions in four duodecimo volumes. The four-volume edition, however, wants a good index, with which the earlier editions are furnished. There is an English translation of this work.

There is a curious old English book, which has been several times printed, called ' The Wonders of the little World; or, a General History of Man, in six books;' by the Reverend Nathaniel Wanley, who died Vicar of Trinity parish, in the city of Coventry, about the end of the seventeenth century. He was father of Humphrey Wanley, the compiler of the catalogue of Saxon manuscripts, which forms the third volume of Hickes's great work, the ' Thesaurus Linguarum Septentrionalium.' His book is commonly designated, for shortness and alliteration-sake, ' Wanley's Wonders.' The compilation was suggested, the author tells us in his preface, by the following passage in Bacon's' Advancement of Learning:'—" I suppose it would much conduce to the magnanimity and honour of man if a collection were made of the ultimates

« PreviousContinue »