D’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature . . .


  The fact that this book has passed through seven editions, is sufficient evidence of its interest for the many; and the fact of its being now accessible in so cheap and convenient a form, need only be known to secure a new circle of readers and buyers.

  It is just the book for reading in the long, lonely winter evenings of the Western log-cabin or New England farm-house. It is in the most entertaining style of literary gossip, containing amusement for all and many clues and suggestions for the uncultured mind, eager to win some means of developing and exercising its latent powers.

  Not that the good, polished, gracefully garrulous old gentleman ever thinks to any depth himself, or has any power of classifying the facts he has heaped around him in rich abundance. He has no order or arrangement for them, and it is much if they be so strung on packthread that you can look at them in succession instead of having yourself to take apart the heaps of shining ores. Accordingly, as the mind craves in a collection an outward order, expressive of adequate principles in the mind of the collector, it would not be pleasant to read much here at a time. The book is one to dip into now and then; you will always find something good. Trying our luck at this moment we fish out these two pretty little things.

  “Camoens, when some hidalgo complained that he had not performed his promise in writing verses for him, replied, ‘When I wrote verses I was young, had sufficient food, was a lover, and beloved by many friends, and by the ladies; then I had no poetical ardor; now I have no spirits, no peace of mind. See there my Javanese, who asks me for two pieces to purchase firing, and I have them not to give him.’ The Portuguese, after his death, bestowed on the man of genius they had starved, the appellation of Great.”  *  *  *  *

  “The wife of Rohault, when her husband gave lectures on the Philosophy of Descartes, used to seat herself, on those days, at the door, and refused admittance to every one shabbily dressed, or who did not discover a genteel air. So convinced was she that, in order to be worthy of hearing the lectures of her husband, it was proper to appear fashionable. In vain our good lecturer exhausted himself in telling her that fortune does not always give fine clothes to philosophers.”

  The world is full of such piquant traits and passages, but the talent of seizing and preserving them is rare. Stupid people have no hooks to catch them with, no shelves to keep them on. Great and thinking minds often are deficient in a love for what is individual and retain only results. Here and there is a mind rich enough to buy, generous enough to show, and leisurely enough to explain the furniture of an “old curiosity shop” like that of our dear gossip here, who always seems to us like our own uncle.*

“D’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature. . . ,” New-York Daily Tribune, 25 February 1846, p. 1.