From Stendhal’s Souvenirs d’egotisme (Memoirs of an Egotist in an English translation):
Si ce livre est ennuyeux, au bout de deux ans il enveloppera le beurre chez l’épicier ….
If this book is boring, two years from now it will be wrapping butter at the grocer’s ….
I would like a history of all such phrases – bad books as food wrappings. I know of three in Latin literature and a near parallel in English but I’m sure I’ve read others without retaining them:
But the Annals of Volusius will die by the river Padua where they were born, and will often furnish a loose wrapper for mackerels.
at Volusi annales Paduam morientur ad ipsamet laxas scombris saepe dabunt tunicas
Horace Epistles 2.1.265-70
Not for me attentions that are burdensome, and I want neither to be displayed anywhere in wax, with my features misshaped, nor to be praised in verses ill-wrought, lest I have to blush at the stupid gift, and then, along with my poet, outstretched in a closed chest, be carried into the street where they sell frankincense and perfumes and pepper and everything else that is wrapped in sheets of useless paper.
nil moror officium quod me gravat, ac neque ficto in peius voltu proponi cereus usquamnec prave factis decorari versibus opto,ne rubeam pingui donatus munere, et unacum scriptore meo, capsa porrectus operta, deferar in vicum vendentem tus et odores et piper et quidquid chartis amicitur ineptis
Is there anyone who would disown the desire to earn the praise of the people?—or, when he’s produced compositions good enough for cedar oil, to leave behind him poetry which has nothing to fear from mackerels or incense?
an erit qui velle recusetos populi meruisse et cedro digna locutuslinquere nec scombros metuentia carmina nec tus?
And – in a different vein – Lyly’s Euphues (To the Gentleman readers):
We commonly see the book that at Christmas lieth bound on the stationer’s stall at Easter to be broken in the haberdasher’s shop
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