Lost Stories

A recent tweet from Edward Champion (picked up by GalleyCat) brought to light this lovely Wikipedia list of lost works throughout history. It's enough to make any book-lover weep, and swear, and gnash their teeth. Highlights that are particularly close to my heart:

  • The second volume of Aristotle's Poetics. The first volume (which amounts to student notes on one of Aristotle's lectures) deals with the structure of a tragedy, and is where we get all our ideas of catharsis and hubris and in medias res. The lost second volume dealt with comedy; I know some might object to the study of comedy on the theory that explaining a joke makes it less funny. That's like saying that knowing how to fix your car makes your car break more often. Studying comedy means you learn how to make better jokes. I would be interested to learn what Aristotle considered to be a good joke.

A photo of a bust of Aristotle, with a large and curly red mustache drawn on.

  • Augustus' autobiography, De Vita Sua.
  • Two-thirds of Livy's Ab Urbe Condita, a book on the history of Rome that is hugely inaccurate and fascinating and really useful from a critical standpoint and really trashy from a literary standpoint (bonus!).
  • Ovid's Medea, just about the only straight-up tragedy this naughty love poet wrote, and the very first thing he published. Having studied Latin for nearly seven years, I am a huge Ovid fan. If someone told me to cut off my right arm because this lost story would be found on a roll of papyrus in the center of my humerus bone (hee hee … humerus), I would do so quicker than James Franco trapped between two boulders with only a rusty Swiss Army knife and no painkillers.
  • Suetonius' Lives of Famous Whores. Can you think of anything more fun to read than a book about famous whores in ancient Rome? Me neither. Unless it's his Greek Terms of Abuse, also lost.
  • Anything by Sappho. We have two poems, mostly but not entirely complete, and a bunch of random lines like If you are squeamish, don't prod the beach rubble. Here is an awesome thing you can read about Sappho if you really want to see past all the hype.
  • The Gospel of Eve, which sounds delightfully filthy.
  • Shakespeare's Love's Labours Won. Obviously.
  • Mozart and Salieri's jointly composed (!) cantata for voice and piano.
  • Byron's memoirs.

What are your favorites on the list? Anything you'd give an arm for—or even a pinkie?