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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 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 them
selves 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 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.
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 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 that 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 affectionate 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 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 consumpsi in legendo Cicerone:" and the “echo answered in Greek, "Oye, “ 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 men's works like the first letter of a patent or limned book; which though it hath large flourishes, yet it is but a letter? It seems to me that Pygmalion's frenzy is a 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 hinderance; because it is too early satisfactory to the mind of man, and quencheth the desire of further 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 prepared to his hands in those authors which write