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for the booksellers. This Dictionary, with all its human faults, is a stupendous work, which must last with literature itself.
His other productions have claims on our attention : is it possible to read his “ Thoughts on Comets," and complain of lassitude ? His “ Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres” are a model of periodical criticism, lively, neat, and full of that attic salt which gives a piquancy to the disquisitions of criticism. The mind of Bayle is always acute; but, what is still more engaging, it communicates entertainment. His sceptre of criticism is embellished by flowers.
I find in the Segraisiana this authentic anecdote concerning the inimitable Cervantes.
Mr. du Boulay accompanied the French ambassador to Spain, when Cervantes was yet alive. He has told me, that the ambassador one day complimented Cervantes on the great reputation he had acquired by his Don Quixote; and that Cervantes whispered in his ear, “Had it not been for the Inquisition, I should have made my
book much more entertaining."
Cervantes, at the battle of Lepanto, was wounded and enslaved. He has given his own history in Don Quixote. He was known at the court of Spain, but he did not receive those favours which might have been expected; he was neglected.--His first volume is the finest; and his design was to have finished there; but he could not resist the importunities of his friends, who engaged him to make a second, which has not the same force, although it has many splendid passages.
We have lost many good things of Cervantes, and other writers, through the tribunal of religion and dulness. One Aonius Palearius was sensible of this; and said, “ that the Inquisition was a poniard aimed at the throat of literature.” The image is striking, and the observation just; but the ingenious observer was in consequence immediately led to the stake!
ANTHONY MAGLIABECHI, who died at the
age of eighty, was celebrated for his great knowledge of books. He has been called the Helluo, or the Glutton of Literature, as Peter Comestor received his nick-name from his amazing voracity for food he could never digest; which appeared when having fallen sick of so much false learning, he threw it all up in his “ Sea of Histories,” which proved to be the history of all things, and a bad history of every thing. Magliabechi's character is singular; for though his life was wholly passed in libraries, being librarian to the Duke of Tuscany, he never wrote himself. There is a medal which represents him sitting, with a book in one hand, and with a great number of books scattered on the ground. The candid inscription signifies, that “it is not sufficient to become learned to have read much, if we read without reflection." This is the only remains we have of his own composition that can be of service to posterity. A simple truth, which may however be inscribed in the study of every man of letters.
His habits of life were uniform. Ever among his books, he troubled himself with no other concern whatever; and the only interest he appeared to take for any living thing was his spiders; for whom, while sitting among his literary piles, he affected great sympathy; and perhaps in contempt of those whose curiosity appeared impertinent, he frequently cried out, “ to take care not to hurt his spiders!” Although he lost no time in writing himself, he gave considerable assistance to authors who consulted him. He was himself an universal index to all authors. He had one book, among many others, dedicated to him, and this dedication consisted of a collection of titles of works which he had had at different times dedicated to him, with all the eulogiums addressed to him in prose and verse. When he died, he left his vast collection of books for the
public use; they now compose the public library of Florence.
Heyman, a celebrated Dutch professor, visited this erudite librarian, who was considered as the ornament of Florence. He found him amongst his books, of which the number was prodigious. Twoor three rooms in the first story were crowded with them, not only along their sides, but piled in heaps on the floor; so that it was difficult to sit, and more so to walk. A narrow space was contrived, indeed, so that by walking sideways you might extricate yourself from one room to another. This was not all; the passage below stairs was full of books, and the staircase from the top to the bottom was lined with them. When you reached the second story, you saw with astonishment three rooms, similar to those below, equally full, so crowded, that two good beds in these chambers were also crammed with books.
This apparent confusion did not, however, hinder Magliabechi from immediately finding the books he wanted. He knew them all so well, that even to the least of them it was sufficient to see its outside, to say what it was; and indeed he read them day and night, and never lost sight of any. He eat on his books, he slept on his books, and quitted them as rarely as possible. During his whole life he only went twice from Florence ; once to see Fiesoli, which is not above
two leagues distant, and once ten miles further by order of the Grand Duke. Nothing could be more simple than his mode of life; a few eggs, a little bread, and some water, were his ordinary food. A drawer of his desk being open, Mr. Heyman saw there several eggs, and some money which Magliabechi had placed there for his daily use. But as this drawer was generally open, it frequently happened that the servants of his friends, or strangers who came to see him, pilfered some of these things; the money or the eggs.
His dress was' as cynical as his repasts. A black doublet, which descended to his knees; large and long breeches ; an old patched black cloak; an amorphous hat, very much worn, and the edges ragged; a large neckcloth of coarse cloth, begrimed with snuff; a dirty shirt, which he always wore as long as it lasted, and which the broken elbows of his doublet did not conceal; and, to finish this inventory, a pair of ruffles which did not belong to the shirt. Such was the brilliant dress of our learned Florentine; and in such did he appear in the public streets, as well as in his own house. Let me not forget another circumstance; to warm his hands, he generally had a stove with fire fastened to his arms, so that his clothes were generally singed and burnt, and his hands scorched. He had nothing otherwise remarkable about him. To literary men he was