Autodidact: self-taught

Dec
13
2012

III

by V. L. Craven

DEMOCRITUS JUNIOR TO THE READER

-0004- Quum vides velatam, quid inquiris in rem absconditam_? [Seek not after that which is hid; if the contents please thee. [Said by an Egyptian in a story told by Plutarch]
-0005- “Quicquid agunt homines, votum, timor, ira, voluptas,
Gaudia, discursus, nostri farrago libelli.”

“Whate’er men do, vows, fears, in ire, in sport,
Joys, wand’rings, are the sum of my report.”
-0006- _parvus sum, nullus sum, altum nec spiro, nec spero_. [I am insignificant, a nobody with little ambition and small prospects]
-0007- I have lived a silent, sedentary, solitary, private life, _mihi et musis_ [for myself and my studies]
-0008- I had a great desire (not able to attain to a superficial skill in any) to have some smattering in all, to be _aliquis in omnibus, nullus in singulis_, [a somebody in general knowledge, a nobody in any one subject] which Plato commends, out of him Lipsius approves and furthers, “as fit to be imprinted in all curious wits, not to be a slave of one science, or dwell altogether in one subject, as most do, but to rove abroad, _centum puer artium_, [one who can turn his hand to anything] to have an oar in every man’s boat, to taste of every dish, and sip of every cup,” which, saith Montaigne, was well performed by Aristotle, and his learned countryman Adrian Turnebus. This roving humour (though not with like success) I have ever had, and like a ranging spaniel, that barks at every bird he sees, leaving his game, I have followed all, saving that which I should, and may justly complain, and truly, _qui ubique est, nusquam est_, [he who is everywhere is nowhere] which Gesner did in modesty, that I have read many books, but to little purpose, for want of good method; I have confusedly tumbled over divers authors in our libraries, with small profit, for want of art, order, memory, judgment. I never travelled but in map or card, in which mine unconfined thoughts have freely expatiated, as having ever been especially delighted with the study of Cosmography.
-0009- I am not poor, I am not rich; _nihil est, nihil deest_, I have little, I want nothing: all my treasure is in Minerva’s tower.
-0010- Greater preferment as I could never get, so am I not in debt for it, I have a competence (_laus Deo_) from my noble and munificent patrons, though I live still a collegiate student, as Democritus in his garden, and lead a monastic life, _ipse mihi theatrum_, [sufficient entertainment to myself] sequestered from those tumults and troubles of the world, _Et tanquam in specula positus_, (as he said) in some high place above you all, like Stoicus Sapiens, _omnia saecula, praeterita presentiaque videns, uno velut intuitu_, [the Stoic philosopher, surveying with one sweep all ages down to the present]
-0011- aulia vanitatem, fori ambitionem, ridere mecum soleo_: [I laugh to myself at the vanities of the court, the intrigues of public life.]
-0012- I hear new news every day, and those ordinary rumours of war, plagues, fires, inundations, thefts, murders, massacres, meteors, comets, spectrums, prodigies, apparitions, of towns taken, cities besieged in France, Germany, Turkey, Persia, Poland, &c., daily musters and preparations, and such like, which these tempestuous times afford, battles fought, so many men slain, monomachies, shipwrecks, piracies and sea-fights; peace, leagues, stratagems, and fresh alarms. A vast confusion of vows, wishes, actions, edicts, petitions, lawsuits, pleas, laws, proclamations, complaints, grievances are daily brought to our ears. New books every day, pamphlets, corantoes, stories, whole catalogues of volumes of all sorts, new paradoxes, opinions, schisms, heresies, controversies in philosophy, religion, &c. Now come tidings of weddings, maskings, mummeries, entertainments, jubilees, embassies, tilts and tournaments, trophies, triumphs, revels, sports, plays: then again, as in a new shifted scene, treasons, cheating tricks, robberies, enormous villainies in all kinds, funerals, burials, deaths of princes, new discoveries, expeditions, now comical, then tragical matters. Today we hear of new lords and officers created, tomorrow of some great men deposed, and then again of fresh honours conferred; one is let loose, another imprisoned; one purchaseth, another breaketh: he thrives, his neighbour turns bankrupt; now plenty, then again dearth and famine; one runs, another rides, wrangles, laughs, weeps, &c. This I daily hear, and such like, both private and public news, amidst the gallantry and misery of the world; jollity, pride, perplexities and cares, simplicity and villainy; subtlety, knavery, candour and integrity, mutually mixed and offering themselves; I rub on _privus privatus_; [in complete privacy] as I have still lived, so I now continue, _statu quo prius_, left to a solitary life,
-0013- I did for my recreation now and then walk abroad, look into the world, and could not choose but make some little observation, _non tam sagax observator ac simplex recitator_, [less by way of shrewd remark than of simple statement of fact]
-0014- it is a kind of policy in these days, to prefix a fantastical title to a book which is to be sold; for, as larks come down to a day-net, many vain readers will tarry and stand gazing like silly passengers at an antic picture in a painter’s shop, that will not look at a judicious piece.
-0015- I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy. There is no greater cause of melancholy than idleness, “no better cure than business,” {PN: The opposite of what happened to Andrew Solomon when he wrote The Noonday Demon–he became more depressed}
-0016- _aliud agere quam nihil_, better do to no end, than nothing. [Seneca]
-0017- or peradventure as others do, for fame, to show myself (_Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter_). [Your own knowledge is nothing unless another knows you know.] I might be of Thucydides’ opinion, “to know a thing and not to express it, is all one as if he knew it not.” When I first took this task in hand, _et quod ait ille, impellents genio negotium suscepi_, [and, as he saith, I undertook the work fromm some inner impulse] this I aimed at; _vel ut lenirem animum scribendo_, [or] to ease my mind by writing; for I had _gravidum cor, foetum caput_, a kind of imposthume in my head, which I was very desirous to be unladen of, and could imagine no fitter evacuation than this. Besides, I might not well refrain, for _ubi dolor, ibi digitus_, one must needs scratch where it itches. I was not a little offended with this malady, shall I say my mistress Melancholy, my Aegeria, or my _malus genius_? [evil genius]
-0018-  Concerning myself, I can peradventure affirm with Marius in Sallust, “that which others hear or read of, I felt and practised myself; they get their knowledge by books, I mine by melancholising.”
_Experto crede Roberto_. Something I can speak out of experience, _aerumnabilis experientia me docuit_; [sorrowful experience has taught me]
-0019- No news here; that which I have is stolen, from others, _Dicitque mihi mea pagina fur es_. [my page cries out to me, You are a thief]
-0020-
 

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