Wednesday, July 23, 2014


The Prince of All Scribaceous Authors

Desmond MacCarthy (1877-1952), "Robert Burton," Portraits (1931; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 52-58 (at 54):
He is the Prince of all scribaceous authors, men who read and read and read till learning must find vent, and they have to scribble, scribble, scribble.
Id., pp. 57-58:
There was really no hatred at all in Burton, so that even when he almost bursts himself in Herculean effort to express his abhorrence, he merely sends our spirits up. I believe that is the explanation. If there was any hatred in him, it hardly amounted to more than an endearing cantankerousness which was swamped in a love, not of men, but of words. Words. He lived like a king, a despot in the realm of words. Outside it he was a bewildered, innocent-eyed, single-hearted old scholar understanding little of the world, next to nothing of its wickedness, and only something of its miseries. Thus it comes about that his book, though it is an exposure of men's crimes, delusions, and follies, is a sweet-natured book; grand, absurd, profuse, and sweet.
Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. scribacious: "Given to, or fond of, writing," marked as rare, with no alternate form scribaceous and only one example, dated 1677. Scribacious can also be found in Carlyle and Emerson. Cf. modern Latin scribax.

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