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Literary Projects

A MR. V. E. Loëscherus, in the year 1704, published a pamphlet of Literary Projects. The titles and descriptions will gratify the curious: it is probable, that these are the only parts which were executed of them. He appears to have had a most singular and happy head at literary speculation. There are many ingenious idlers; and I suspect our literary projector to have been one. To amuse the public with fine projects is often the artifice of some, who would attain to literary reputation, without literary exertion. With similar plans one Almeloucen, a learned Dutchman, has filled a volume, and which was even followed by a supplement. It is, however, amusing, and perhaps advantageous to literature, to attend to these schemes. When such works are sketched, and their plans published, the ingenious from all parts may assist the author, and contribute to the perfection of the work which is yet in hand. I shall give those of his projects which appear most curious or desirable.

He proposes a work which is to bear for title ARCANA LITTERARIA, or the Secrets of Literature. It is to be divided into eight books. In the first, to collect whatever appears singular and surprizing in every science; the second is to turn on what is incontestible and generally received; the third, on what is fabulous and evidently false; the fourth, on what is doubtful; the fifth, on what is impenetrable and unintelligible; the sixth, on what the sciences have most agreeable and delightful; the seventh, of what is less known, and to consist of concise abridgments of the most rare works; the eighth, to contain an explanation of the various mysteries of antiquity.

He also proposes the following works, of which the titles will be sufficient, and of which several have been attempted;—A Course of Erudition;—a System of Antiquity;—an Antiquarian Dictionary;—a Dictionary of Living Writers;—a Dictionary of Polite Literature; and another of General Philosophy.

The following seem to be more happily conceived: THE ART OF INVENTION, or, as he terms it, THE HEURETIC; a word which he forms, I suppose, from the Latin heuretes (a deviser or inventor). This work would be as novel as it would be useful. But he does not explain the manner in which it should be executed.—The HISTORY OF LITERATURE, by CENTURIES, where the genius of every nation and every age shall be displayed in whatever relates to letters; revolutions in the republic of letters; their origin and causes.—The JESTS or SPORTS of ANTIQUITY; that is, a collection of entertaining inscriptions, satyric and comic medals; in a word, all the scattered remains of the wit and humour of the ancients.—The HISTORY OF LITERARY WARS, or the differences which have arisen among men of letters. This has been ably executed by the Abbé Iraild in his anonymous work of Literary Quarrels.—The PARADOXES, or extraordinary opinions of various ages; particularly the two last:—And also a HISTORY OF GREAT DESIGNS, WHICH HAVE PROVED ABORTIVE; as those of cutting the isthmus of Corinth, and uniting the numerous sects of philosophy; or of Dr. Priestley’s project, of inviting the Jews to Christianity; and Mr. Taylor’s, of reviving Paganism amongst Christians.

On the whole, it would be a valuable acquisition to the republic of letters, if some ingenious and industrious writer would take two or three of the most curious of these schemes, and prosecute them with assiduity, taste, and ardour.

To this list I shall add another project, which Prosper Marchand sketched, but which his leisure did not permit him to execute. To literary amateurs it remains a desideratum.

A General Table of all the Literary
Journals of Europe.
By a dissertation on the utility of these journals, and by a chronological, historical, and critical list of all those which have been published, to the present day.
I. Of a slight sketch or abridgment of the lives of the authors, of whose works extracts are found in these Journals.
II. Of a correct catalogue of these works, and the various editions which have been made.
III. And finally, of a summary of the different opinions which the journalists have given, and occasionally of modest strictures on these opinions.
A general and methodical arrangement of all these works, according to the order of the matters which are treated; with an alphabetical index of these matters.

I have frequently (adds the laborious Prosper Marchand) proposed the execution of this plan to literary men, who wanted occupation; and even offered them the use of the journals for this purpose; but I never yet found any but idlers, who were frightened at the labour.

This curious and useful work might be conducted with ease by the united labours of a few. To shew what a fertile source this literary history would become of utility and entertainment, is superfluous.

Editor’s Notes

This article, and the four pieces that follow, were originally part of the Literature and Criticism section of the second edition of the second volume of the Curiosities.