Monday, June 12, 2006

Library :: Curiosities of Literature

Here at MoD we are surprisingly fortunate in our correspondents. Unbidden, unpaid and inevitably inadequately recognised, they direct our attention to the truly dusty titbits that gather in the corners of the Internet. Joe Williams, for example, has brought us treasures for the library.

Curiosities of Literature by Isaac D’Israeli (1766-1848) includes a dusty lesson for us all : to wit – when money talks, play along. To illustrate this axiom, D’Isreali relates two examples from the arts: the artist Michelangelo salving his patron’s vanity with a little sleight of hand involving marble dust and the poet Pope paralleling this by using verbal dust to make his patron believe his advice was important to him… All designers know this trick of course, nodding and smiling agreement whilst the client suggests knucklehead changes – and then pretending to make them.

Read the anecdotes here

Curiosities of Literature is being incrementally published online and is a compendium of booklore first published in 1791. The book was revised and added to up until D’Israeli’s last years. It is full of fabulous and scurrilous opinions, anecdotes and trifles Once you start dipping into it, it’s hard to stop. Chocolate for the intellect.

The Six Follies of Science
>> for instance raises the very valid point that “NOTHING is so capable of disordering the intellects as an intense application to any one of these six things: the Quadrature of the Circle; the Multiplication of the Cube; the Perpetual Motion; the Philosophical Stone; Magic; and Judicial Astrology.” He goes on to relate the horrid effects of applying oneself to these lines of inquiry. And now I know, I’ve warned all my friends and vowed to steer well clear of them. No one should ever underestimate the disordering power of attempting to multiply cubes. It’s bad enough when Inky tries to explain Platonic Solids to me… >>

As well aas deeply understanding Real Politik D’Isreali also criticises the Romans, collects bon-mots and diatribes on the social failings of geniuses. He discourses on female beauty and adornment, Middle eastern literature, and he even describes our favourite anatomical waxworks (the collection in Florence’s La Specola). What’s not to love…

Index to Curiosities here >>

Isaac D'Israeli was the father of the British prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli. He had changed the spelling of his children's last name to make it less foreign-sounding, and he had them baptized as Christians in 1817, although he himself remained a Jew. This was what allowed his son to enter Parliament, years before Jews could sit in that legislature.
More about him at the Free Dictionary >>


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