« AnteriorContinuar »
drown whole armies of men when it hath run long. In your being in the wars, think it better at the first to do a great deal too much than anything too little; for a young man's, especially a stranger's, first actions are looked upon, and reputation once gotten is easily kept, but an evil impression conceived at the first is not quickly removed.
The last thing that I am to speak of, but the first that you are to seek, is conceived knowledge. To praise knowledge, or to persuade your Lordship to the love of it, I shall not need to use many words ; I will only say, that where that wants the man is void of all good ; without it there can be po fortitude, for all other darings come of fury, and fury is a passion, and passions ever turn into their contraries; and therefore the most furious men, when their first blaze is spent, be commonly the most fearful; without it there can be no liberality, for giving is but want of audacity to deny, or of discretion to prize; without it there can be no justice, for giving to a man that which is his own is but chance, or want of a corrupter or seducer; without it there can be no constancy or patience, for suffering is but dulness or senselessness ; without it there can be no temperance, for we shall restrain ourselves from good as well as from evil, for that they that cannot discern cannot elect or choose; nay without it there can be no true religion, all other devotion being but blind zeal, which is as strong in heresy as in truth. To reckon
up of knowledge, and to show the way to attain to every part, is a work too great for me at any time, and too long to discourse at this; therefore I will only speak of such knowledge as your Lordship should have desire to seek, and shall have means to compass. I forbear also to speak of divine knowledge, which must direct your faith, both because I find my own constancy insufficiency, and also because I hope your Lordship doth still nourish the seeds of religion which during your education at Cambridge were sown in you. I will only say this; as the irresolute man can never perform any action well, so he that is not resolved in soul and conscience, can never be resolute in anything else. But that civil knowledge, which will make you do well by yourself, and do good unto others, must be sought by study, by conference, and by observation. Before I persuade your Lordship to study, I must look to answer an argument drawn from the nobility of all places of the world, which now is
utterly unlearned, if it be not some very few; and an authority of an English proverb, made in despite of learning, that the greatest clerks are not the wisest men. The first I answer, that this want of learning hath been in good countries ruined by civil wars, or in states corrupted through wealth or too great length of peace. In the one sort men's wits were employed in their necessary defence, in the other drowned in the study of artes luxurie. But in all flourishing states learning hath ever flourished. If it seem strange that I account no state flourishing but that which hath neither civil wars nor too long peace, I answer, that politic bodies are like our natural bodies, and must as well have some exercise to spend their humours, as to be kept from too violent or continual outrages which spend their best spirits. The proverb I take to be made in that age when the nobility of England brought up their sous but as they entered their whelps, and thought them wise enough if they could chase their deer; and I answer it with another proverb made by a wise man, Scientia non habet inimicum præter ignorantem. All men that live are drawn either by book or example, and in books your Lordship shall find (in what course soever you propound to yourself) rules prescribed by the wisest men, and examples left by the wisest men that have lived before us. Therefore knowledge is to be sought by your private study; and opportunity you shall have to study, if you do not often remove from place to place, but stay some time and reside in the best. In the course of your study and choice of your books, you must first seek to have the grounds of learning, which are the liberal arts; for without them you shall neither gather other knowledge easily, nor make use of that you have; and then use studies of delight but sometimes for recreation, and neither drown yourself in them, nor omit those studies whereof you are to have continual use. Above all other books be conversant in the Histories, for they will best instruct you in matter moral, military, and politic, by which and in which you must ripen and settle your judgment. In your
1 "For experience doth warrant that both in persons and in times there hath been a meeting and concurrence in learning and arms, flourishing and excelling in the same men and the same ages.”—iii. p. 269.
? “No body can be healthful without exercise ; neither natural body nor politic; and certainly to a kingdom or estate a just and honourable war is the true exercise. A civil war, indeed, is like the heat of a fever; but a foreign war is like the heat of exercise, and serveth to keep the body in health ; for in a slothful peace both courages will effeminate and manners corrupt.”—Essays, rü. p. 450.
study you are to seek two things : the first to conceive or understand; the second to lay up or remember; for as the philosopher saith, discere est tanquam recordari. To help you to conceive, you may do well in those things which you are to read to draw yourself to read with somebody that may give you help, and to that end you must either carry over with you some good general scholar," or make some abode in the universities abroad, where you may hear the professors in every art. To help you to remember, you must use writing, or meditation, or both; by writing I mean making of notes and abridgments of that which you would remember. I make conference the second help to knowledge in order, though I have found it the first and greatest in profiting, and I have so placed them because he that hath not studied knows not what to doubt nor what to ask : but when the little I had learned had taught me to find out mine own emptiness, I profited more by some expert man in half a day's conference, than by myself in a month's study. To profit much by conference, you must first choose to confer with expert men, I mean expert in that which you desire to know; next with many, for expert men will be of diverse and contrary opinions, and every one will make his own probable, so as if you hear but one you shall know in all questions but one opinion; whereas by hearing many, you shall, by seeing the reasons of one, confute the reasons of the other, and be able to judge of the truth. Besides, there is no one man that is expert in all things, but every great scholar is expert in some one, so as your wit shall be whetted with conversing with many great wits, and you shall have the cream and quintessence of every one of theirs. In conference be neither superstitious, nor believing all you hear (what opinion
you have of the man that delivereth it), nor too desirous to contradict. For of the first grows a facility to be led into all kind of error; since you shall ever think that he that knows all that you know, and somewhat more, hath infinite knowledge, because you cannot sound or measure it. Of the second grows such a carping humour, as you shall without reason censure all men, and want reason to censure yourself. I do conclude this point of conference with this advice, that your Lordship shall
" That young men travel under some tutor or grave servant, I allow well ; so that he be such an one that hath the language and hath been in the country before," etc.- Assay of Travel, vi. p. 417.
rather go a hundred miles out of the way to speak with a wise man, than five to see a fair town.
The third way to attain knowledge is observation, and not long life or seeing much; because, as he that rides a way often, and takes no care of marks or notes to direct him if he come the same again, or to make him know where he is if he come unto it, shall never prove a good guide ; so he that lives long and sees much, but observes nothing, shall never prove a wise man. The use of observation is in noting the coherence of causes and effects, counsels and successes, and the proportion and likeness between nature and nature, force and force, action and action, state and state, time past and time present. The philosopher did think that all knowledge doth much depend on the knowledge of causes; as he said, id demum scimus cujus causam scimus ; and therefore a private man cannot prove so great a soldier as he that commands an army, nor so great a politique as he that rules a state, because the one sees only the events and knows not the causes, the other makes the causes that govern the events. The observation of proportion or likeness between one person or one thing and another, makes nothing without example, nor nothing new and although exempla illustrant non probant, examples may make things plain that are proved, but prove not themselves; yet when circumstances agree, and proportion is kept, that which is probable in one case is probable in a thousand, and that which is reason once is reason ever.
Your Lordship now seeing that the end of study, conference, and observation, is knowledge ; you must know also that the true end of knowledge is clearness and strength of judgment, and not ostentation or ability to discourse; which I do the rather put your Lordship in mind of, because the most part of our noblemen and gentlemen of our time have no other use of their learning but their table-talk; and the reason is because they before setting down their journey's end ere they attain to it they rest," and travel not so far as they should ; but God knows they have gotten little that have only this discoursing gift; for though, like empty casks, they sound loud when a man knocks upon their outside, yet if you pierce into them you shall find them full of nothing but wind. This rule holds not only in knowledge, or
1 There is some blunder here, of which I cannot suggest the probable correction. The meaning must be that from not observing the true end of their journey, they stop short of it.
in the virtue of knowledge, or in the virtue of prudence, but in all other virtues; that is, that we should both seek and love virtue for itself, and not for praise ; for, as one said, turpe est proco ancillam sollicitare, est autem virtutis ancilla laus : it is a shame for him that woos the mistress to court the maid, for praise is the handmaid of virtue.
I will here break off, for I have both exceeded the convenient length of a letter, and come short of such a discourse as this subject doth deserve. Your Lordship may perhaps find in this paper many things superfluous, most things imperfect and lame; I will, as well as I can, supply that defect upon a second advertisement, if you call me to account. What confusion soever you find in my order or method, is not only my fault, whose wits are confounded with too much business, but the fault of this season, this being in written in Christmas, in which confusion and disorder hath by tradition not only been winked at but warranted. If there be but any one thing that your Lordship may make use of, I think my pain well bestowed in all ; and how weak soever my counsels be, my wishes shall be as strong as any man's for your Lordship’s happiness. And so I rest, your Lordship’s very affectionate cousin and loving friend,
E. Greenwich, Jan. 4.
POSTSCRIPT. My Lord,
If any curious scholar happening to see this discourse shall quarrel with my divisions of the gifts of the mind, because he findeth it not perhaps in his book, and says that health and even temper of the mind is a kind of strength, and so I have erred against the rule membra dividenda non debent confundi, I answer him the quality of health and strength, as I have set them down, are not only unlike but mere contrary, for the one binds in the minds and confines it, the other raises and enlarges it.”
An allusion to this letter by Essex's secretary, Edward Reynolds, writing on the 6th of May, 1596 (Birch's Mem. of Eliz. i. 478), coupled with the date of the Earl of Rutland's licence to travel, proves that it was written in January, 1595-6.
The next has no date, but belongs no doubt to the early part of
the same year.
MS. 813 (and the printed copy also) has “ this 4th of Jan., 1596."