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clude this part) which is often noted in learned men, that they do many times fail to observe decency and discretion in their behaviour and carriage, and commit errors in small and ordinary points of action, so as the vulgar sort of capacities do make a judgment of them in greater matters, by that which they find wanting in them in smaller. But this consequence doth often deceive men, for which I do refer them over to that which was said by Themistocles, arrogantly and uncivilly being applied to himself out of his own mouth; but, being applied to the general state of this question, pertinently and justly; when, being invited to touch a lute, he said, “ He could “ not fiddle, but he could make a small town a great “ state.” So, no doubt, many may be well seen in the passages of government and policy, which are to seek in little and punctual occasions. I refer them also to that which Plato said of his master Socrates, whom he compared to the gally pots of apothecaries, which on the outside had apes and owls, and antiques, but contained within sovereign and precious liquors and confections; acknowledging, that to an external report he was not without superficial levities and deformities, but was inwardly replenished with excellent virtues and powers. And so much touching the point of manners of learned men.
But in the mean time I have no purpose to give allowance to some conditions and courses base and unworthy, wherein divers professors of learning have wronged themselves, and gone too far; such as were those trencher philosophers, which in the later age of the Roman state were usually in the houses of great persons, being little better than solemn parasites; of which kind, Lucian maketh a merry description of the philosopher that the great lady took to ride with her in her coach, and would needs have him carry her little dog, which he doing officiously, and yet uncomely, the page scoffed, and said, “ That “ he doubted, the philosopher of a Stoic would turn “ to be a Cynic.” But above all the rest, the gross and palpable flattery, whereunto many, not un
learned, have abased and abused their wits and pens, turning, as Du Bartas saith, Hecuba into Helena, and Faustina into Lucretia, hath most diminished the price and estimation of learning. Neither is the modern dedications of books and writings, as to patrons, to be commended : for that books, such as are worthy the name of books, ought to have no patrons but truth and reason. And the ancient custom was, to dedicate them only to private and equal friends, or to intitle the books with their names; or if to kings and great persons, it was to some such as the argument of the book was fit and proper for: but these and the like courses may deserve rather reprehension than defence.
Not that I can tax or condemn the morigeration or application of learned men to men in fortune. For the answer was good that Diogenes made to one that asked him in mockery, “ How it came to pass that
philosophers were the followers of rich men, and “ not rich men of philosophers ?” He answered soberly, and yet sharply, “ Because the one sort knew “ what they had need of, and the other did not.” And of the like nature was the answer which Aristippus made, when having a petition to Dionysius, and no ear given to him, he fell down at his feet ; whereupon Dionysius staid, and gave him the hearing, and granted it ; and afterward some person, tender on the behalf of philosophy, reproved Aristippus, that he would offer the profession of philosophy such an indignity, as for a private suit to fall at a tyrant's feet. But he answered, “ It was not his “ fault, but it was the fault of Dionysius, that he had “ his ears in his feet.” Neither was it accounted weakness, but discretion in him that would not dispute his best with Adrianus Cæsar; excusing himself, ' “ That it was reason to yield to him that “ commanded thirty legions.” These and the like applications, and stooping to points of necessity and convenience, cannot be disallowed : for though they may have some outward baseness, yet in a judgment truly made, they are to be accounted submissions to the occasion, and not to the person.
Now I proceed to those errors and vanities, which have intervened amongst the studies themselves of the learned, which is that which is principal and proper to the present argument; wherein my purpose is not to make a justification of the errors, but, by a censure and separation of the errors, to make a justification of that which is good and sound, and to deliver that from the aspersion of the other.
For we see, that it is the manner of men to scandalize and deprave that which retaineth the state and virtue, by taking advantage upon that which is corrupt and degenerate; as the heathens in the primitive Church used to blemish and taint the Christians with the faults and corruptions of hereticks. But nevertheless I have no meaning at this time to make any exact animadversion of the errors and impediments in matters of learning, which are more secret and remote from vulgar opinion, but only to speak unto such as do fall under, or near unto, a popular observation.
There be therefore chiefly three vanities in studies, whereby learning hath been most traduced. For those things we do esteem vain, which are either false or frivolous, those which either have no truth, or no use : and those persons we esteem vain, which are either credulous or curious; and curiosity is either in matter, or words: so that in reason, as well as in experience, there fall out to be these three distempers, as I may term them, of learning : the first, fantastical learning; the second, contentious learning; and the last, delicate learning ; vain imaginations, vain altercations, and vain affectations; and with the last I will begin.
Martin Luther, conducted no doubt by an higher providence, but in discourse of reason, finding what a province he had undertaken against the bishop of Rome, and the degenerate traditions of the church, and finding his own solitude, being no ways aided by the opinions of his own time, was enforced to awake all antiquity, and to call former times to his succour, to make a party against the present time. So that the ancient authors, both in divinity, and in humanity, which hail long time slept in libraries, began generally to be read and revolved. This by consequence did draw on a necessity of a more exquisite travel in the languages original, wherein those authors did write, for the better understanding of those authors, and the better advantage of pressing and applying their words. And thereof grew again a delight in their manner of style and phrase, and an admiration of that kind of writing; which was much furthered and precipitated by the enmity and opposition, that the propounders of those primitive, but seeming new, opinions had against the schoolmen, who were generally of the contrary part, and whose writings were altogether in a differing style and form, taking liberty to coin, and frame new terms of art to express their own sense, and to avoid circuit of speech, without regard to the pureness, pleasantness, and, as I may call it, lawfulness, of the phrase or word. And again, because the great labour then was with the people, of whom the Pharisees were wont to say, Execrabilis ista turba, quæ non novit legem ; for the winning and persuading of them, there grew of necessity in chief price and request, eloquence and variety of discourse, as the fittest and forciblest access into the capacity of the vulgar sort : so that these four causes concurring, the admiration of ancient authors, the hate of the schoolmen, the exact study of languages, and the efficacy of preaching, did bring in an affected study of eloquence, and copia of speech, which then began to flourish, This grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter; and more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgment. Then grew the flowing and watry vein of Osorius, the Portugal bishop, to be in price. Then did Sturmius spend such infinite and curious pains upon
Cicero the orator, and Hermogenes the rhetorician, besides his own books of periods, and imitation, and the like. Then did Car of Cambridge, and Ascham, with their lectures and writings, almost deify Cicero and Demosthenes, and allure all young men, that were studious, unto that delicate and polished kind of learning. Then did Erasmus take occasion to make the scoffing echo; Decem annos consumpsi in legendo Cicerone : and the echo answered in Greek, *Ovi, Asine. Then grew the learning of the schoolmen to be utterly despised as barbarous. In sum, the whole inclination and bent of those times was rather towards copia, than weight.
Here therefore is the first distemper of learning, when men study words, and not matter : whereof though I have represented an example of late times, yet it hath been, and will be secundum majus et minus in all time. And how is it possible but this should have an operation to discredit learning, even with vulgar capacities, when they see learned mens works like the first letter of a patent, or limned book which though it hath large flourishes, yet it is but det letter? It seems to me that Pygmalion's frenzy is an good emblem or portraiture of this vanity : for words are but the images of matter, and except they have life of reason and invention, to fall in love with them is all one, as to fall in love with a picture.
But yet, notwithstanding, it is a thing not hastily to be condemned, to clothe and adorn the obscurity, even of philosophy itself, with sensible and plausible elocution; for hereof we have great examples in Xenophon, Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, and of Plato also in some degree; and hereof likewise there is great use : for surely, to the severe inquisition of truth, and the deep progress into philosophy, it is some hindrance ; because it is too early satisfactory to the mind of man, and quencheth the desire of farther search, before we come to a just period : but then, if a man be to have any use of such knowledge in civil occasions, of conference, counsel, persuasion, discourse, or the like; then shall he find it