1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Isaac D'Israeli

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 1:158-59.



A gentleman of Jewish extraction, and one of the greatest Literary Speculators of the day. He published in 1790 A Defense of Poetry, addressed to Henry James Pye, Esq. with a specimen of a new version of Telemachus. He has also published Curiosities of Literature in two volumes octavo, a work which has experienced a very flattering reception: a Dissertation on Anecdotes: Miscellanies, or Literary Recreations in a crown octavo volume: and an Essay on the Manners and Genius of the Literary Character. It cannot but strike the reader of this latter performance, that he appears to decide in a manner too peremptory for so young an author, and so young a man, on the merits of men whose fame has been long established. In 1796 there appeared an anonymous publication, entitled A Dictionary of Literary Conversation, some of the materials of which were drawn from the same sources with those of the Curiosities of Literature. Upon this, Mr. D'Israeli, in a pompous card to the Monthly Reviewers, informed them, "it was one thing to collect materials from the vast body of Literature, to form literary Speculations: and another to transcribe from one writer and appropriate to ourselves the merit of the labour: the one is the production of years, and the other of a morning!!!" To which the Editor of the Dictionary replied, with just tartness and judgement, "That he perfectly coincided with Mr. D'Israeli in this opinion, though his practical knowledge of the difference was not so great as Mr. D'Israeli's." "My work (he added) is avowedly a compilation, I have not pretended to

Disguise the thing I am
By seeming otherwise."

Thus ended this correspondence; nor is this the only instance upon record of the petulance and conceit of this mighty Authorling.