I think it was in one of Arthur Machen’s memoirs that I first learned of Isaac D’Israeli’s book Curiosities of Literature. If I recall correctly, Machen mentioned it as one of the volumes in which he had found solace during his first, unhappy years in London. Several years later, during mine & my wife’s first trip to Stockholm, I stopped at an Antikvariat who just so happened to have a one-volume edition—bound in rather garishly-marbled boards trimmed with red leather—of the Curiosities on their shelves. I bought it and took it back to the cottage we were renting at Stavsnäs.
The first volume of Curiosities of Literature was published in 1791, and, over the following thirty-odd years, five further volumes appeared. The completed work comprises (if I counted them right) some two hundred and eighty-five separate essays, most of them quite brief, covering all manner of miscellaneous topics, such as, just to give some examples: Men of genius deficient in conversation; On the custom of saluting after sneezing; Metempsychosis; History of gloves; Literary blunders; and Drinking customs in England.
It’s such a richly diverting book, and one not to be found (to the best of my knowledge) anywhere on the internet, so I have decided to start up a separate weblog at this site specifically dedicated to serially re-publishing the Curiosties on-line, essay by essay. I’ve posted the first three essays already: Libraries, Bibliomania, and Literary Journals, and many more will follow (I hope), to appear at a rate of at least one essay per week (depending on my available time & enthiusiasm.)Posted by misteraitch at January 4, 2005 08:32 PM | TrackBack