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- The Advancement of Learning - 5/42 -


whereby I should grow great amongst you, and you become little amongst the Grecians; but they be of that nature as they are sometimes not good for me to give, but are always good for you to follow." And so Seneca, after he had consecrated that Quinquennium Neronis to the eternal glory of learned governors, held on his honest and loyal course of good and free counsel after his master grew extremely corrupt in his government. Neither can this point otherwise be, for learning endueth men's minds with a true sense of the frailty of their persons, the casualty of their fortunes, and the dignity of their soul and vocation, so that it is impossible for them to esteem that any greatness of their own fortune can be a true or worthy end of their being and ordainment, and therefore are desirous to give their account to God, and so likewise to their masters under God (as kings and the states that they serve) in those words, Ecce tibi lucrefeci, and not Ecce mihi lucrefeci; whereas the corrupter sort of mere politiques, that have not their thoughts established by learning in the love and apprehension of duty, nor never look abroad into universality, do refer all things to themselves, and thrust themselves into the centre of the world, as if all lines should meet in them and their fortunes, never caring in all tempests what becomes of the ship of state, so they may save themselves in the cockboat of their own fortune; whereas men that feel the weight of duty and know the limits of self-love use to make good their places and duties, though with peril; and if they stand in seditious and violent alterations, it is rather the reverence which many times both adverse parts do give to honesty, than any versatile advantage of their own carriage. But for this point of tender sense and fast obligation of duty which learning doth endue the mind withal, howsoever fortune may tax it, and many in the depth of their corrupt principles may despise it, yet it will receive an open allowance, and therefore needs the less disproof or excuse.

(7) Another fault incident commonly to learned men, which may be more properly defended than truly denied, is that they fail sometimes in applying themselves to particular persons, which want of exact application ariseth from two causes--the one, because the largeness of their mind can hardly confine itself to dwell in the exquisite observation or examination of the nature and customs of one person, for it is a speech for a lover, and not for a wise man, Satis magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus. Nevertheless I shall yield that he that cannot contract the sight of his mind as well as disperse and dilate it, wanteth a great faculty. But there is a second cause, which is no inability, but a rejection upon choice and judgment. For the honest and just bounds of observation by one person upon another extend no further but to understand him sufficiently, whereby not to give him offence, or whereby to be able to give him faithful counsel, or whereby to stand upon reasonable guard and caution in respect of a man's self. But to be speculative into another man to the end to know how to work him, or wind him, or govern him, proceedeth from a heart that is double and cloven, and not entire and ingenuous; which as in friendship it is want of integrity, so towards princes or superiors is want of duty. For the custom of the Levant, which is that subjects do forbear to gaze or fix their eyes upon princes, is in the outward ceremony barbarous, but the moral is good; for men ought not, by cunning and bent observations, to pierce and penetrate into the hearts of kings, which the Scripture hath declared to be inscrutable.

(8) There is yet another fault (with which I will conclude 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 oft 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 gallipots 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.

(9) But in the meantime 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, this gross and palpable flattery whereunto many not unlearned 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 dedication 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 entitle 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.

(10) 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 stayed and gave him the hearing, and granted it; and afterwards 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 had his ears in his feet." Neither was it accounted weakness, but discretion, in him that would not dispute his best with Adrianus Caesar, 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.

IV. (1) 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 scandalise 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 heretics. 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.

(2) 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 a 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 in nowise aided by the opinions of his own time, was enforced to awake all antiquity, and to call former times to his succours to make a party against the present time. So that the ancient authors, both in divinity and in humanity, which had long time slept in libraries, began generally to be read and revolved. This, by consequence, did draw on a necessity of a more exquisite travail 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, quae 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 affectionate study of eloquence and copy of speech, which then began to flourish. This grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter--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 watery 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 consuumpsi in legendo Cicerone; and the echo answered in Greek, One, 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 copy than weight.


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