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THE PROJECTOR. N° 34.
“ Stultorum plena sunt omnia.”
August 1804. In a small club of Projectors to which I have the honour to belong, and which assembles at a certain house admirably adapted for the art of Projecting, in Great Russel-street, Bloomsbury, a very extraordinary piece of news was whispered a few days ago, namely, that a learned and ingenious member of our Society had been for some time employed on a work entitled, or to be entitled, “ The History and Biography of Fools.” I know not why it was, tainly this intelligence spread an unusual degree of consternation among us; and some of our number, who had often boasted of their intimacy with the learned Author of the
intended work, seemed now to wish they had never seen his face, or rather, that he had never seen theirs. One Gentleman in particular, a very rigid contender for the return of nods, hats, and other modes of salutation, and who had just complained that this uncommon Historian had affected not to know him when they met at Sir Joseph's a day or two ago, now hoped that he had really forgot him.
To what species of consciousness these alarms may be referred, I shall not now examine: I endeavoured to divert them, however, by making farther inquiries into the nature of a work with such an extraordinary title, and by collecting the opinions not only of my
bretlıren who were present, but of other friends to whom. I imparted the intelligence. But I am sorry to say that all I know at present rests on no better foundation than that of conjecture: the enterprising Author chooses to act on the reserve; and I know of no right we have to expect him to disclose particulars which he may not have definitely arranged, and which perhaps will be known soon enough when he is pleased to announce the appearance of his work, with the solemn preface of “This day is published.”
In this uncertainty, all I can surmise is, that. the Gentleman, who has undertaken - The
History and Biography of Fools,” is probably a person very
far advanced in years; such a work, although confined to the most reasonable compass, requiring the labour of the longest life. It
may also be conjectured, that his undertaking is of that vast and important kind which does not every day issue from the
and which, if well executed, will incline us to wish, for his sake, that it had been published in times more favourable to the interests of literature, with respect to the articles of
paper ing, not to speak of engraving, if it should be illustrated by portraits of the most eminent fools, which I shrewdly suspect will be the
But be this as it may; it is the opinion of some of our club that such a work cannot be the labour of one man, but that the Gentleman in question merely acts as Editor, after having secured the assistance of a number of learned men, who are not only men of great reading, but have very extensive acquaintance. Others think that it will not appear at one time, but periodically, in folio volumes, of about a thousand pages each, to be published monthly, by which means the whole might probably be completed in less than a dozen years, and, if the chronological order be preserved, the Author or Authors might in this way be able to include con
temporary information suited to the nature of the work, whether derived from a continental revolution, or a Brentford election, if two such pieces of folly should happen to be repeated within the time of publication.
But these conjectures, which are vague and wholesale, depend altogether on the contents of this work, and upon this subject I have not found any two opinions which agree. One thinks that it is intended as a species of Universal History; while another, considering the shortness of human life and labour, and how necessary it is for the longest livers and the most industrious men to confine themselves to one object, is of opinion that the Author means to restrict his inquiries to his own country; and indeed a gentleman, who pretends to be in the secret, insists that this is the fact, but that in consequence of recent events, he may devote an appendix of ten or twenty volumes, ac. cording to the encouragement he meets with, to the kingdom of Ireland. It has likewise been supposed that the work is entirely political, and will embrace, besides a very correct detail of wars, an account of those treaties of perpetual peace and amity which occur so often in history; but this I think improbable, because the parties concerned in those events do not so properly
come under the class of beings chiefly intended by the Author, but belong to another, which, as far as I can learn, is not to be the object of his immediate researches.
I ought not to conceal that some are of opinion the work will be made to have an irreligious tendency ; but this, from what I know of the Author, I may venture to refute, that is, in the sense intended. The only reason indeed for the supposition that he meant to meddle with religious controversy, and to exalt modern philosophy, was his being seen examining the prints of an eminent collector, for good heads of Chubb, Collins, Tindal, Bolingbroke, Vol
, taire, Hume, &c. But it is evident that a work like his could not have been complete without some account of these, and of their disciples. The lives of such men will certainly be interesting, and the learned Author may have access to good materials in various works already published. Their deaths, however, are somewhat veiled in obscurity, and a man very anxious about them is like one who seeks light
in the dark ages.
But I shall decline
farther notice of these supposes and surmises.
Since the Author has not thought proper to reveal his plan, I know not why we should induce the publick to expect