« PreviousContinue »
hands not much unlike, by reason of the rule of the women, who were aided by the teachers and preceptors. Nay, let a man look into the government of the bishops of Rome, as by name, into the government of Pius Quintus, and Sextus Quintus, in our times, who were both at their entrance esteemed but as pedantical friars, and he shall find that such popes do greater things, and proceed upon truer principles of state, than those which have ascended to the papacy from an education and breeding in affairs of state and courts of princes; for although men bred in learning are perhaps to seek in points of convenience, and accommodating for the present, which the Italians call ragioni di stato, whereof the same Pius Quintus could not hear spoken with patience, terming them inventions against religion and the moral virtues; yet on the other side, to recompense that, they are perfect in those same plain grounds of religion, justice, honour, and moral virtue, which if they be well and watchfully pursued, there will be seldom use of those other, no more than of physic in a sound or welldieted body. Neither can the experience of one man's life furnish examples and precedents for the events of one man's life for as it happeneth sometimes that the grandchild, or other descendent, resembleth the ancestor, more than the son; so many times occurrences of present times may sort better with ancient examples, than with those of the later or immediate times: and lastly, the wit of one man can no more countervail learning, than one man's means can hold way with a common purse.
And as for those particular seducements, or indispositions of the mind for policy and government, which learning is pretended to insinuate; if it be granted that any such thing be, it must be remembered withal, that learning ministreth in every of them greater strength of medicine or remedy, than it offereth cause of indisposition or infirmity: for if, by a secret operation, it make men perplexed and irresolute, on the other side, by plain precept, it teacheth them when and upon what ground to resolve; yea, and how to carry
things in suspense without prejudice, till they resolve: if it make men positive and regular, it teacheth them what things are in their nature demonstrative, and what are conjectural; and as well the use of distinctions and exceptions, as the latitude of principles and rules. If it mislead by disproportion, or dissimilitude of examples, it teacheth men the force of circumstances, the errors of comparisons, and all the cautions of application: so that in all these it doth rectify more effectually than it can pervert. And these medicines it conveyeth into mens minds much more forcibly by the quickness and penetration of examples. For let a man look into the errors of Clement the seventh, so lively described by Guicciardine, who served under him, or into the errors of Cicero, painted out by his own pencil in his epistles to Atticus, and he will fly apace from being irresolute. Let him look into the errors of Phocion, and he will beware how he be obstinate or inflexible. Let him but read the fable of Ixion, and it will hold him from being vaporous or imaginative. Let him look into the errors of Cato the second, and he will never be one of the Antipodes, to tread opposite to the present world.
And for the conceit, that learning should dispose men to leisure and privateness, and make men slothful; it were a strange thing if that, which accustometh the mind to a perpetual motion and agitation, should induce slothfulness; whereas contrariwise it may be truly affirmed, that no kind of men love business for itself, but those that are learned: for other persons love it for profit; as an hireling, that loves the work for the wages; or for honour, as because it beareth them up in the eyes of men, and refresheth their reputation, which otherwise would wear; or because it putteth them in mind of their fortune, and giveth them occasion to pleasure and displeasure; or because it exerciseth some faculty wherein they take pride, and so entertaineth them in good humour and pleasing conceits toward themselves; or because it advanceth any other their ends. So that, as it is said of untrue valours, that some mens valours are in the
eyes of them that look on; so such mens industries are in the eyes of others, or at least in regard of their own designments: only learned men love business, as an action according to nature, as agreeable to health of mind, as exercise is to health of body, taking pleasure in the action itself, and not in the purchase: so that of all men they are the most indefatigable, if it be towards any business which can hold or detain their mind.
And if any man be laborious in reading and study, and yet idle in business and action, it groweth from some weakness of body, or softness of spirit; such as Seneca speaketh of: Quidam tam sunt umbratiles, ut putent in turbido esse, quicquid in luce est; and not of learning: well may it be, that such a point of a man's nature may make him give himself to learning, but it is not learning that breedeth any such point in his nature.
And that learning should take up too much time or leisure I answer; the most active or busy man, that hath been or can be, hath, no question, many vacant times of leisure, while he expecteth the tides and returns of business (except he be either tedious and of no dispatch, or lightly and unworthily ambitious to meddle in things that may be better done by others:) and then the question is but, how those spaces and times of leisure shall be filled and spent; whether in pleasures or in studies; as was well answered by Demosthenes to his adversary Æschines, that was a man given to pleasure, and told him that his orations did smell of the lamp: "Indeed," said Demosthenes, "there is a great difference between the things that
you and I do by lamp-light." So as no man need doubt that learning will expulse business; but rather it will keep and defend the possession of the mind against idleness and pleasure, which otherwise at unawares may enter, to the prejudice of both.
Again, for that other conceit, that learning should undermine the reverence of laws and government, it is assuredly a mere depravation and calumny, without all shadow of truth. For to say, that a blind
custom of obedience should be a surer obligation, than duty taught and understood; it is to affirm, that a blind man may tread surer by a guide, than a seeing man can by a light. And it is without all controversy, that learning doth make the minds of men gentle, generous, maniable, and pliant to government; whereas ignorance makes them churlish, thwarting, and mutinous: and the evidence of time doth clear this assertion, considering that the most barbarous, rude, and unlearned times have been most subject to tumults, seditions, and changes.
And as to the judgment of Cato the Censor, he was well punished for his blasphemy against learning, in the same kind wherein he offended; for when he was past threescore years old, he was taken with an extreme desire to go to school again, and to learn the Greek tongue, to the end to peruse the Greek authors; which doth well demonstrate, that his former censure of the Grecian learning was rather an affected gravity, than according to the inward sense of his own opinion. And as for Virgil's verses, though it pleased him to brave the world in taking to the Romans the art of empire, and leaving to others the arts of subjects; yet so much is manifest, that the Romans never ascended to that height of empire, till the time they had ascended to the height of other arts. For in the time of the two first Cæsars, which had the art of government in greatest perfection, there lived the best poet, Virgilius Maro; the best historiographer, Titus Livius; the best antiquary, Marcus Varro; and the best, or second orator, Marcus Cicero, that to the memory of man are known. As for the accusation of Socrates, the time must be remembered when it was prosecuted; which was under the thirty tyrants, the most base, bloody, and envious persons that have governed; which revolution of state was no sooner over, but Socrates, whom they had made a person criminal, was made a person heroical, and his memory accumulate with honours divine and human; and those discourses of his, which were then termed corrupting of manners, were after acknow
ledged for sovereign medicines of the mind and manners, and so have been received ever since till this day. Let this therefore serve for answer to politicians, which, in their humorous severity, or in their feigned gravity, have presumed to throw imputations upon learning; which redargution, nevertheless, (save that we know not whether our labours may extend to other ages) were not needful for the present, in regard of the love and reverence towards learning, which the example and countenance of two SO learned princes, queen Elizabeth, and your majesty, being as Castor and Pollux, lucida sidera, stars of excellent light and most benign influence, hath wrought in all men of place and authority in our
Now therefore we come to that third sort of discredit, or diminution of credit, that groweth unto learning from learned men themselves, which commonly cleaveth fastest: it is either from their fortune, or from their manners, or from the nature of their studies. For the first, it is not in their power; and the second is accidental; the third only is proper to be handled: but because we are not in hand with true measure, but with popular estimation and conceit, it is not amiss to speak somewhat of the two former. The derogations therefore, which grow to learning from the fortune or condition of learned men, are either in respect of scarcity of means, or in respect of privateness of life, and meanness of employments.
Concerning want, and that it is the case of learned men usually to begin with little, and not to grow rich so fast as other men, by reason they convert not their labours chiefly to lucre and increase: It were good to leave the common place in commendation of poverty to some frier to handle, to whom much was attributed by Machiavel in this point; when he said, "That the kingdom of the clergy had been
long before at an end, if the reputation, and re"verence towards the poverty of friers had not borne ❝out the scandal of the superfluities and excesses of