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The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus

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Produced by Robert Shimmin and PG Distributed Proofreaders



Translated by John Wilson

to his friend
THOMAS MORE, health:

As I was coming awhile since out of Italy for England, that I might not
waste all that time I was to sit on horseback in foolish and illiterate
fables, I chose rather one while to revolve with myself something of our
common studies, and other while to enjoy the remembrance of my friends,
of whom I left here some no less learned than pleasant. Among these you,
my More, came first in my mind, whose memory, though absent yourself,
gives me such delight in my absence, as when present with you I ever
found in your company; than which, let me perish if in all my life I ever
met with anything more delectable. And therefore, being satisfied that
something was to be done, and that that time was no wise proper for any
serious matter, I resolved to make some sport with the praise of folly.
But who the devil put that in your head? you'll say. The first thing was
your surname of More, which comes so near the word _Moriae_ (folly) as
you are far from the thing. And that you are so, all the world will clear
you. In the next place, I conceived this exercise of wit would not be
least approved by you; inasmuch as you are wont to be delighted with such
kind of mirth, that is to say, neither unlearned, if I am not mistaken,
nor altogether insipid, and in the whole course of your life have played
the part of a Democritus. And though such is the excellence of your
judgment that it was ever contrary to that of the people's, yet such is
your incredible affability and sweetness of temper that you both can and
delight to carry yourself to all men a man of all hours. Wherefore you
will not only with good will accept this small declamation, but take upon
you the defense of it, for as much as being dedicated to you, it is now
no longer mine but yours. But perhaps there will not be wanting some
wranglers that may cavil and charge me, partly that these toys are
lighter than may become a divine, and partly more biting than may beseem
the modesty of a Christian, and consequently exclaim that I resemble the
ancient comedy, or another Lucian, and snarl at everything. But I would
have them whom the lightness or foolery of the argument may offend to
consider that mine is not the first of this kind, but the same thing that
has been often practiced even by great authors: when Homer, so many ages
since, did the like with the battle of frogs and mice; Virgil, with the
gnat and puddings; Ovid, with the nut; when Polycrates and his corrector
Isocrates extolled tyranny; Glauco, injustice; Favorinus, deformity and
the quartan ague; Synescius, baldness; Lucian, the fly and flattery; when
Seneca made such sport with Claudius' canonizations; Plutarch, with his
dialogue between Ulysses and Gryllus; Lucian and Apuleius, with the ass;
and some other, I know not who, with the hog that made his last will and
testament, of which also even St. Jerome makes mention. And therefore if
they please, let them suppose I played at tables for my diversion, or if
they had rather have it so, that I rode on a hobbyhorse. For what
injustice is it that when we allow every course of life its recreation,
that study only should have none? Especially when such toys are not
without their serious matter, and foolery is so handled that the reader
that is not altogether thick-skulled may reap more benefit from it than
from some men's crabbish and specious arguments. As when one, with long
study and great pains, patches many pieces together on the praise of
rhetoric or philosophy; another makes a panegyric to a prince; another
encourages him to a war against the Turks; another tells you what will
become of the world after himself is dead; and another finds out some new
device for the better ordering of goat's wool: for as nothing is more
trifling than to treat of serious matters triflingly, so nothing carries
a better grace than so to discourse of trifles as a man may seem to have
intended them least. For my own part, let other men judge of what I have
written; though yet, unless an overweening opinion of myself may have
made me blind in my own cause, I have praised folly, but not altogether
foolishly. And now to say somewhat to that other cavil, of biting. This
liberty was ever permitted to all men's wits, to make their smart, witty
reflections on the common errors of mankind, and that too without
offense, as long as this liberty does not run into licentiousness; which
makes me the more admire the tender ears of the men of this age, that can
away with solemn titles. No, you'll meet with some so preposterously
religious that they will sooner endure the broadest scoffs even against
Christ himself than hear the Pope or a prince be touched in the least,
especially if it be anything that concerns their profit; whereas he that
so taxes the lives of men, without naming anyone in particular, whither,
I pray, may he be said to bite, or rather to teach and admonish? Or
otherwise, I beseech you, under how many notions do I tax myself?
Besides, he that spares no sort of men cannot be said to be angry with
anyone in particular, but the vices of all. And therefore, if there shall
happen to be anyone that shall say he is hit, he will but discover either
his guilt or fear. Saint Jerome sported in this kind with more freedom
and greater sharpness, not sparing sometimes men's very name. But I,
besides that I have wholly avoided it, I have so moderated my style that
the understanding reader will easily perceive my endeavors herein were
rather to make mirth than bite. Nor have I, after the example of Juvenal,
raked up that forgotten sink of filth and ribaldry, but laid before you
things rather ridiculous than dishonest. And now, if there be anyone that
is yet dissatisfied, let him at least remember that it is no dishonor to
be discommended by Folly; and having brought her in speaking, it was but
fit that I kept up the character of the person. But why do I run over
these things to you, a person so excellent an advocate that no man better
defends his client, though the cause many times be none of the best?
Farewell, my best disputant More, and stoutly defend your _Moriae_.

From the country,
the 5th of the Ides of June.


An oration, of feigned matter,
spoken by Folly in her own person

At what rate soever the world talks of me (for I am not ignorant what an
ill report Folly has got, even among the most foolish), yet that I am
that she, that only she, whose deity recreates both gods and men, even
this is a sufficient argument, that I no sooner stepped up to speak to
this full assembly than all your faces put on a kind of new and unwonted
pleasantness. So suddenly have you cleared your brows, and with so frolic
and hearty a laughter given me your applause, that in truth as many of
you as I behold on every side of me seem to me no less than Homer's gods
drunk with nectar and nepenthe; whereas before, you sat as lumpish and
pensive as if you had come from consulting an oracle. And as it usually
happens when the sun begins to show his beams, or when after a sharp
winter the spring breathes afresh on the earth, all things immediately
get a new face, new color, and recover as it were a certain kind of youth
again: in like manner, by but beholding me you have in an instant gotten
another kind of countenance; and so what the otherwise great rhetoricians
with their tedious and long-studied orations can hardly effect, to wit,
to remove the trouble of the mind, I have done it at once with my
single look.

But if you ask me why I appear before you in this strange dress, be
pleased to lend me your ears, and I'll tell you; not those ears, I mean,
you carry to church, but abroad with you, such as you are wont to prick
up to jugglers, fools, and buffoons, and such as our friend Midas once
gave to Pan. For I am disposed awhile to play the sophist with you; not
of their sort who nowadays boozle young men's heads with certain empty
notions and curious trifles, yet teach them nothing but a more than
womanish obstinacy of scolding: but I'll imitate those ancients who, that
they might the better avoid that infamous appellation of _sophi_ or
_wise_, chose rather to be called sophists. Their business was to
celebrate the praises of the gods and valiant men. And the like encomium
shall you hear from me, but neither of Hercules nor Solon, but my own
dear self, that is to say, Folly. Nor do I esteem a rush that call it a
foolish and insolent thing to praise one's self. Be it as foolish as they
would make it, so they confess it proper: and what can be more than that
Folly be her own trumpet? For who can set me out better than myself,
unless perhaps I could be better known to another than to myself? Though
yet I think it somewhat more modest than the general practice of our
nobles and wise men who, throwing away all shame, hire some flattering
orator or lying poet from whose mouth they may hear their praises, that
is to say, mere lies; and yet, composing themselves with a seeming
modesty, spread out their peacock's plumes and erect their crests, while
this impudent flatterer equals a man of nothing to the gods and proposes
him as an absolute pattern of all virtue that's wholly a stranger to it,
sets out a pitiful jay in other's feathers, washes the blackamoor white,
and lastly swells a gnat to an elephant. In short, I will follow that old
proverb that says, "He may lawfully praise himself that lives far from
neighbors." Though, by the way, I cannot but wonder at the ingratitude,
shall I say, or negligence of men who, notwithstanding they honor me in
the first place and are willing enough to confess my bounty, yet not one
of them for these so many ages has there been who in some thankful
oration has set out the praises of Folly; when yet there has not wanted
them whose elaborate endeavors have extolled tyrants, agues, flies,
baldness, and such other pests of nature, to their own loss of both time
and sleep. And now you shall hear from me a plain extemporary speech, but
so much the truer. Nor would I have you think it like the rest of
orators, made for the ostentation of wit; for these, as you know, when
they have been beating their heads some thirty years about an oration and
at last perhaps produce somewhat that was never their own, shall yet
swear they composed it in three days, and that too for diversion: whereas
I ever liked it best to speak whatever came first out.

But let none of you expect from me that after the manner of rhetoricians
I should go about to define what I am, much less use any division; for I
hold it equally unlucky to circumscribe her whose deity is universal, or
make the least division in that worship about which everything is so
generally agreed. Or to what purpose, think you, should I describe myself
when I am here present before you, and you behold me speaking? For I am,
as you see, that true and only giver of wealth whom the Greeks call
_Moria_, the Latins _Stultitia_, and our plain English _Folly_. Or what
need was there to have said so much, as if my very looks were not
sufficient to inform you who I am? Or as if any man, mistaking me for
wisdom, could not at first sight convince himself by my face the true
index of my mind? I am no counterfeit, nor do I carry one thing in my
looks and another in my breast. No, I am in every respect so like myself
that neither can they dissemble me who arrogate to themselves the
appearance and title of wise men and walk like asses in scarlet hoods,
though after all their hypocrisy Midas' ears will discover their master.
A most ungrateful generation of men that, when they are wholly given up
to my party, are yet publicly ashamed of the name, as taking it for a
reproach; for which cause, since in truth they are _morotatoi_, fools,
and yet would appear to the world to be wise men and Thales, we'll even
call them _morosophous_, wise fools.

Nor will it be amiss also to imitate the rhetoricians of our times, who
think themselves in a manner gods if like horse leeches they can but
appear to be double-tongued, and believe they have done a mighty act if
in their Latin orations they can but shuffle in some ends of Greek like
mosaic work, though altogether by head and shoulders and less to the
purpose. And if they want hard words, they run over some worm-eaten
manuscript and pick out half a dozen of the most old and obsolete to
confound their reader, believing, no doubt, that they that understand
their meaning will like it the better, and they that do not will admire
it the more by how much the less they understand it. Nor is this way of
ours of admiring what seems most foreign without its particular grace;
for if there happen to be any more ambitious than others, they may give
their applause with a smile, and, like the ass, shake their ears, that
they may be thought to understand more than the rest of their neighbors.

But to come to the purpose: I have given you my name, but what epithet
shall I add? What but that of the most foolish? For by what more proper
name can so great a goddess as Folly be known to her disciples? And
because it is not alike known to all from what stock I am sprung, with
the Muses' good leave I'll do my endeavor to satisfy you. But yet neither
the first Chaos, Orcus, Saturn, or Japhet, nor any of those threadbare,
musty gods were my father, but Plutus, Riches; that only he, that is, in
spite of Hesiod, Homer, nay and Jupiter himself, _divum pater atque
hominum rex_, the father of gods and men, at whose single beck, as
heretofore, so at present, all things sacred and profane are turned
topsy-turvy. According to whose pleasure war, peace, empire, counsels,
judgments, assemblies, wedlocks, bargains, leagues, laws, arts, all
things light or serious--I want breath--in short, all the public and
private business of mankind is governed; without whose help all that herd
of gods of the poets' making, and those few of the better sort of the
rest, either would not be at all, or if they were, they would be but such
as live at home and keep a poor house to themselves. And to whomsoever
he's an enemy, 'tis not Pallas herself that can befriend him; as on the
contrary he whom he favors may lead Jupiter and his thunder in a string.
This is my father and in him I glory. Nor did he produce me from his
brain, as Jupiter that sour and ill-looked Pallas; but of that lovely
nymph called Youth, the most beautiful and galliard of all the rest. Nor
was I, like that limping blacksmith, begot in the sad and irksome bonds
of matrimony. Yet, mistake me not, 'twas not that blind and decrepit
Plutus in Aristophanes that got me, but such as he was in his full
strength and pride of youth; and not that only, but at such a time when
he had been well heated with nectar, of which he had, at one of the
banquets of the gods, taken a dose extraordinary.

And as to the place of my birth, forasmuch as nowadays that is looked
upon as a main point of nobility, it was neither, like Apollo's, in the
floating Delos, nor Venus-like on the rolling sea, nor in any of blind
Homer's as blind caves: but in the Fortunate Islands, where all things
grew without plowing or sowing; where neither labor, nor old age, nor
disease was ever heard of; and in whose fields neither daffodil, mallows,
onions, beans, and such contemptible things would ever grow, but, on the
contrary, rue, angelica, bugloss, marjoram, trefoils, roses, violets,
lilies, and all the gardens of Adonis invite both your sight and your
smelling. And being thus born, I did not begin the world, as other
children are wont, with crying; but straight perched up and smiled on my
mother. Nor do I envy to the great Jupiter the goat, his nurse, forasmuch
as I was suckled by two jolly nymphs, to wit, Drunkenness, the daughter
of Bacchus, and Ignorance, of Pan. And as for such my companions and
followers as you perceive about me, if you have a mind to know who they
are, you are not like to be the wiser for me, unless it be in Greek: this
here, which you observe with that proud cast of her eye, is _Philantia_,
Self-love; she with the smiling countenance, that is ever and anon
clapping her hands, is _Kolakia_, Flattery; she that looks as if she were
half asleep is _Lethe_, Oblivion; she that sits leaning on both elbows
with her hands clutched together is _Misoponia_, Laziness; she with the
garland on her head, and that smells so strong of perfumes, is _Hedone_,
Pleasure; she with those staring eyes, moving here and there, is _Anoia_,
Madness; she with the smooth skin and full pampered body is _Tryphe_,
Wantonness; and, as to the two gods that you see with them, the one is
_Komos_, Intemperance, the other _Eegretos hypnos_, Dead Sleep. These, I
say, are my household servants, and by their faithful counsels I have
subjected all things to my dominion and erected an empire over emperors
themselves. Thus have you had my lineage, education, and companions.

And now, lest I may seem to have taken upon me the name of goddess
without cause, you shall in the next place understand how far my deity
extends, and what advantage by it I have brought both to gods and men.
For, if it was not unwisely said by somebody, that this only is to be a
god, to help men; and if they are deservedly enrolled among the gods that
first brought in corn and wine and such other things as are for the
common good of mankind, why am not I of right the _alpha_, or first, of
all the gods? who being but one, yet bestow all things on all men. For
first, what is more sweet or more precious than life? And yet from whom
can it more properly be said to come than from me? For neither the
crab-favoured Pallas' spear nor the cloud-gathering Jupiter's shield
either beget or propagate mankind; but even he himself, the father of
gods and king of men at whose very beck the heavens shake, must lay by
his forked thunder and those looks wherewith he conquered the giants
and with which at pleasure he frightens the rest of the gods, and like
a common stage player put on a disguise as often as he goes about that,
which now and then he does, that is to say the getting of children: And
the Stoics too, that conceive themselves next to the gods, yet show me
one of them, nay the veriest bigot of the sect, and if he do not put off
his beard, the badge of wisdom, though yet it be no more than what is
common with him and goats; yet at least he must lay by his supercilious
gravity, smooth his forehead, shake off his rigid principles, and for
some time commit an act of folly and dotage. In fine, that wise man
whoever he be, if he intends to have children, must have recourse to me.
But tell me, I beseech you, what man is that would submit his neck to
the noose of wedlock, if, as wise men should, he did but first truly
weigh the inconvenience of the thing? Or what woman is there would ever
go to it did she seriously consider either the peril of child-bearing or
the trouble of bringing them up? So then, if you owe your beings to
wedlock, you owe that wedlock to this my follower, Madness; and what
you owe to me I have already told you. Again, she that has but once
tried what it is, would she, do you think, make a second venture if it
were not for my other companion, Oblivion? Nay, even Venus herself,
notwithstanding whatever Lucretius has said, would not deny but that
all her virtue were lame and fruitless without the help of my deity.
For out of that little, odd, ridiculous May-game came the supercilious
philosophers, in whose room have succeeded a kind of people the world
calls monks, cardinals, priests, and the most holy popes. And lastly,
all that rabble of the poets' gods, with which heaven is so thwacked
and thronged, that though it be of so vast an extent, they are hardly
able to crowd one by another.

But I think it is a small matter that you thus owe your beginning of life
to me, unless I also show you that whatever benefit you receive in the
progress of it is of my gift likewise. For what other is this? Can that
be called life where you take away pleasure? Oh! Do you like what I say?
I knew none of you could have so little wit, or so much folly, or wisdom
rather, as to be of any other opinion. For even the Stoics themselves
that so severely cried down pleasure did but handsomely dissemble, and
railed against it to the common people to no other end but that having
discouraged them from it, they might the more plentifully enjoy it
themselves. But tell me, by Jupiter, what part of man's life is that that
is not sad, crabbed, unpleasant, insipid, troublesome, unless it be
seasoned with pleasure, that is to say, folly? For the proof of which the
never sufficiently praised Sophocles in that his happy elegy of us, "To
know nothing is the only happiness," might be authority enough, but that
I intend to take every particular by itself.

And first, who knows not but a man's infancy is the merriest part of life
to himself, and most acceptable to others? For what is that in them which
we kiss, embrace, cherish, nay enemies succor, but this witchcraft of
folly, which wise Nature did of purpose give them into the world with
them that they might the more pleasantly pass over the toil of education,
and as it were flatter the care and diligence of their nurses? And then
for youth, which is in such reputation everywhere, how do all men favor
it, study to advance it, and lend it their helping hand? And whence, I
pray, all this grace? Whence but from me? by whose kindness, as it
understands as little as may be, it is also for that reason the higher
privileged from exceptions; and I am mistaken if, when it is grown up and
by experience and discipline brought to savor something like man, if in
the same instant that beauty does not fade, its liveliness decay, its
pleasantness grow flat, and its briskness fail. And by how much the
further it runs from me, by so much the less it lives, till it comes to
the burden of old age, not only hateful to others, but to itself also.
Which also were altogether insupportable did not I pity its condition, in
being present with it, and, as the poets' gods were wont to assist such
as were dying with some pleasant metamorphosis, help their decrepitness
as much as in me lies by bringing them back to a second childhood, from
whence they are not improperly called twice children. Which, if you ask
me how I do it, I shall not be shy in the point. I bring them to our
River Lethe (for its springhead rises in the Fortunate Islands, and that
other of hell is but a brook in comparison), from which, as soon as they
have drunk down a long forgetfulness, they wash away by degrees the
perplexity of their minds, and so wax young again.

But perhaps you'll say they are foolish and doting. Admit it; 'tis the
very essence of childhood; as if to be such were not to be a fool, or
that that condition had anything pleasant in it, but that it understood
nothing. For who would not look upon that child as a prodigy that should
have as much wisdom as a man?--according to that common proverb, "I do
not like a child that is a man too soon." Or who would endure a converse
or friendship with that old man who to so large an experience of things
had joined an equal strength of mind and sharpness of judgment? And
therefore for this reason it is that old age dotes; and that it does so,
it is beholding to me. Yet, notwithstanding, is this dotard exempt from
all those cares that distract a wise man; he is not the less pot
companion, nor is he sensible of that burden of life which the more manly
age finds enough to do to stand upright under it. And sometimes too, like
Plautus' old man, he returns to his three letters, A.M.O., the most
unhappy of all things living, if he rightly understood what he did in it.
And yet, so much do I befriend him that I make him well received of his
friends and no unpleasant companion; for as much as, according to Homer,
Nestor's discourse was pleasanter than honey, whereas Achilles' was both
bitter and malicious; and that of old men, as he has it in another place,
florid. In which respect also they have this advantage of children, in
that they want the only pleasure of the others' life, we'll suppose it
prattling. Add to this that old men are more eagerly delighted with
children, and they, again, with old men. "Like to like," quoted the Devil
to the collier. For what difference between them, but that the one has
more wrinkles and years upon his head than the other? Otherwise, the
brightness of their hair, toothless mouth, weakness of body, love of
mild, broken speech, chatting, toying, forgetfulness, inadvertency, and
briefly, all other their actions agree in everything. And by how much the
nearer they approach to this old age, by so much they grow backward into
the likeness of children, until like them they pass from life to death,
without any weariness of the one, or sense of the other.

And now, let him that will compare the benefits they receive by me, the
metamorphoses of the gods, of whom I shall not mention what they have
done in their pettish humors but where they have been most favorable:
turning one into a tree, another into a bird, a third into a grasshopper,
serpent, or the like. As if there were any difference between perishing
and being another thing! But I restore the same man to the best and
happiest part of his life. And if men would but refrain from all commerce
with wisdom and give up themselves to be governed by me, they should
never know what it were to be old, but solace themselves with a perpetual
youth. Do but observe our grim philosophers that are perpetually beating
their brains on knotty subjects, and for the most part you'll find them
grown old before they are scarcely young. And whence is it, but that
their continual and restless thoughts insensibly prey upon their spirits
and dry up their radical moisture? Whereas, on the contrary, my fat fools
are as plump and round as a Westphalian hog, and never sensible of old
age, unless perhaps, as sometimes it rarely happens, they come to be
infected with wisdom, so hard a thing it is for a man to be happy in all
things. And to this purpose is that no small testimony of the proverb,
that says, "Folly is the only thing that keeps youth at a stay and old
age afar off;" as it is verified in the Brabanders, of whom there goes
this common saying, "That age, which is wont to render other men wiser,
makes them the greater fools." And yet there is scarce any nation of a
more jocund converse, or that is less sensible of the misery of old age,
than they are. And to these, as in situation, so for manner of living,
come nearest my friends the Hollanders. And why should I not call them
mine, since they are so diligent observers of me that they are commonly
called by my name?--of which they are so far from being ashamed, they
rather pride themselves in it. Let the foolish world then be packing and
seek out Medeas, Circes, Venuses, Auroras, and I know not what other
fountains of restoring youth. I am sure I am the only person that both
can, and have, made it good. 'Tis I alone that have that wonderful juice
with which Memnon's daughter prolonged the youth of her grandfather
Tithon. I am that Venus by whose favor Phaon became so young again that
Sappho fell in love with him. Mine are those herbs, if yet there be any
such, mine those charms, and mine that fountain that not only restores
departed youth but, which is more desirable, preserves it perpetual. And
if you all subscribe to this opinion, that nothing is better than youth
or more execrable than age, I conceive you cannot but see how much you
are indebted to me, that have retained so great a good and shut out so
great an evil.

But why do I altogether spend my breath in speaking of mortals? View
heaven round, and let him that will reproach me with my name if he find
any one of the gods that were not stinking and contemptible were he not
made acceptable by my deity. Why is it that Bacchus is always a
stripling, and bushy-haired? but because he is mad, and drunk, and spends
his life in drinking, dancing, revels, and May games, not having so much
as the least society with Pallas. And lastly, he is so far from desiring
to be accounted wise that he delights to be worshiped with sports and
gambols; nor is he displeased with the proverb that gave him the surname
of fool, "A greater fool than Bacchus;" which name of his was changed to
Morychus, for that sitting before the gates of his temple, the wanton
country people were wont to bedaub him with new wine and figs. And of
scoffs, what not, have not the ancient comedies thrown on him? O foolish
god, say they, and worthy to be born as you were of your father's thigh!
And yet, who had not rather be your fool and sot, always merry, ever
young, and making sport for other people, than either Homer's Jupiter
with his crooked counsels, terrible to everyone; or old Pan with his
hubbubs; or smutty Vulcan half covered with cinders; or even Pallas
herself, so dreadful with her Gorgon's head and spear and a countenance
like bullbeef? Why is Cupid always portrayed like a boy, but because he
is a very wag and can neither do nor so much as think of anything sober?
Why Venus ever in her prime, but because of her affinity with me? Witness
that color of her hair, so resembling my father, from whence she is
called the golden Venus; and lastly, ever laughing, if you give any
credit to the poets, or their followers the statuaries. What deity did
the Romans ever more religiously adore than that of Flora, the foundress
of all pleasure? Nay, if you should but diligently search the lives of
the most sour and morose of the gods out of Homer and the rest of the
poets, you would find them all but so many pieces of Folly. And to what
purpose should I run over any of the other gods' tricks when you know
enough of Jupiter's loose loves? When that chaste Diana shall so far
forget her sex as to be ever hunting and ready to perish for Endymion?
But I had rather they should hear these things from Momus, from whom
heretofore they were wont to have their shares, till in one of their
angry humors they tumbled him, together with Ate, goddess of mischief,
down headlong to the earth, because his wisdom, forsooth, unseasonably
disturbed their happiness. Nor since that dares any mortal give him
harbor, though I must confess there wanted little but that he had been
received into the courts of princes, had not my companion Flattery
reigned in chief there, with whom and the other there is no more
correspondence than between lambs and wolves. From whence it is that the
gods play the fool with the greater liberty and more content to
themselves "doing all things carelessly," as says Father Homer, that is
to say, without anyone to correct them. For what ridiculous stuff is
there which that stump of the fig tree Priapus does not afford them? What
tricks and legerdemains with which Mercury does not cloak his thefts?
What buffoonery that Vulcan is not guilty of, while one with his
polt-foot, another with his smutched muzzle, another with his
impertinencies, he makes sport for the rest of the gods? As also that old
Silenus with his country dances, Polyphemus footing time to his Cyclops
hammers, the nymphs with their jigs, and satyrs with their antics; while
Pan makes them all twitter with some coarse ballad, which yet they had
rather hear than the Muses themselves, and chiefly when they are well
whittled with nectar. Besides, what should I mention what these gods do
when they are half drunk? Now by my troth, so foolish that I myself can
hardly refrain laughter. But in these matters 'twere better we remembered
Harpocrates, lest some eavesdropping god or other take us whispering that
which Momus only has the privilege of speaking at length.

And therefore, according to Homer's example, I think it high time to
leave the gods to themselves, and look down a little on the earth;
wherein likewise you'll find nothing frolic or fortunate that it owes not
to me. So provident has that great parent of mankind, Nature, been that
there should not be anything without its mixture and, as it were,
seasoning of Folly. For since according to the definition of the Stoics,
wisdom is nothing else than to be governed by reason, and on the contrary
Folly, to be given up to the will of our passions, that the life of man
might not be altogether disconsolate and hard to away with, of how much
more passion than reason has Jupiter composed us? putting in, as one
would say, "scarce half an ounce to a pound." Besides, he has confined
reason to a narrow corner of the brain and left all the rest of the body
to our passions; has also set up, against this one, two as it were,
masterless tyrants--anger, that possesses the region of the heart, and
consequently the very fountain of life, the heart itself; and lust, that
stretches its empire everywhere. Against which double force how powerful
reason is let common experience declare, inasmuch as she, which yet is
all she can do, may call out to us till she be hoarse again and tell us
the rules of honesty and virtue; while they give up the reins to their
governor and make a hideous clamor, till at last being wearied, he suffer
himself to be carried whither they please to hurry him.

But forasmuch as such as are born to the business of the world have some
little sprinklings of reason more than the rest, yet that they may the
better manage it, even in this as well as in other things, they call me
to counsel; and I give them such as is worthy of myself, to wit, that
they take to them a wife--a silly thing, God wot, and foolish, yet wanton
and pleasant, by which means the roughness of the masculine temper is
seasoned and sweetened by her folly. For in that Plato seems to doubt
under what genus he should put woman, to wit, that of rational creatures
or brutes, he intended no other in it than to show the apparent folly of
the sex. For if perhaps any of them goes about to be thought wiser than
the rest, what else does she do but play the fool twice, as if a man
should "teach a cow to dance," "a thing quite against the hair." For as
it doubles the crime if anyone should put a disguise upon Nature, or
endeavor to bring her to that she will in no wise bear, according to that
proverb of the Greeks, "An ape is an ape, though clad in scarlet;" so a
woman is a woman still, that is to say foolish, let her put on whatever
vizard she please.

But, by the way, I hope that sex is not so foolish as to take offense at
this, that I myself, being a woman, and Folly too, have attributed folly
to them. For if they weigh it right, they needs must acknowledge that
they owe it to folly that they are more fortunate than men. As first
their beauty, which, and that not without cause, they prefer before
everything, since by its means they exercise a tyranny even upon tyrants
themselves; otherwise, whence proceeds that sour look, rough skin, bushy
beard, and such other things as speak plain old age in a man, but from
that disease of wisdom? Whereas women's cheeks are ever plump and smooth,
their voice small, their skin soft, as if they imitated a certain kind of
perpetual youth. Again, what greater thing do they wish in their whole
lives than that they may please the man? For to what other purpose are
all those dresses, washes, baths, slops, perfumes, and those several
little tricks of setting their faces, painting their eyebrows, and
smoothing their skins? And now tell me, what higher letters of
recommendation have they to men than this folly? For what is it they do
not permit them to do? And to what other purpose than that of pleasure?
Wherein yet their folly is not the least thing that pleases; which so
true it is, I think no one will deny, that does but consider with
himself, what foolish discourse and odd gambols pass between a man and
his woman, as often as he had a mind to be gamesome? And so I have shown
you whence the first and chiefest delight of man's life springs.

But there are some, you'll say, and those too none of the youngest, that
have a greater kindness for the pot than the petticoat and place their
chiefest pleasure in good fellowship. If there can be any great
entertainment without a woman at it, let others look to it. This I am
sure, there was never any pleasant which folly gave not the relish to.
Insomuch that if they find no occasion of laughter, they send for "one
that may make it," or hire some buffoon flatterer, whose ridiculous
discourse may put by the gravity of the company. For to what purpose were
it to clog our stomachs with dainties, junkets, and the like stuff,
unless our eyes and ears, nay whole mind, were likewise entertained with
jests, merriments, and laughter? But of these kind of second courses I am
the only cook; though yet those ordinary practices of our feasts, as
choosing a king, throwing dice, drinking healths, trolling it round,
dancing the cushion, and the like, were not invented by the seven wise
men but myself, and that too for the common pleasure of mankind. The
nature of all which things is such that the more of folly they have, the
more they conduce to human life, which, if it were unpleasant, did not
deserve the name of life; and other than such it could not well be,
did not these kind of diversions wipe away tediousness, next cousin to
the other.

But perhaps there are some that neglect this way of pleasure and rest
satisfied in the enjoyment of their friends, calling friendship the most
desirable of all things, more necessary than either air, fire, or water;
so delectable that he that shall take it out of the world had as good put
out the sun; and, lastly, so commendable, if yet that make anything to
the matter, that neither the philosophers themselves doubted to reckon it
among their chiefest good. But what if I show you that I am both the
beginning and end of this so great good also? Nor shall I go about to
prove it by fallacies, sorites, dilemmas, or other the like subtleties of
logicians, but after my blunt way point out the thing as clearly as it
were with my finger.

And now tell me if to wink, slip over, be blind at, or deceived in the
vices of our friends, nay, to admire and esteem them for virtues, be not
at least the next degree to folly? What is it when one kisses his
mistress' freckle neck, another the wart on her nose? When a father shall
swear his squint-eyed child is more lovely than Venus? What is this, I
say, but mere folly? And so, perhaps you'll cry it is; and yet 'tis this
only that joins friends together and continues them so joined. I speak of
ordinary men, of whom none are born without their imperfections, and
happy is he that is pressed with the least: for among wise princes there
is either no friendship at all, or if there be, 'tis unpleasant and
reserved, and that too but among a very few 'twere a crime to say none.
For that the greatest part of mankind are fools, nay there is not anyone
that dotes not in many things; and friendship, you know, is seldom made
but among equals. And yet if it should so happen that there were a mutual
good will between them, it is in no wise firm nor very long lived; that
is to say, among such as are morose and more circumspect than needs, as
being eagle-sighted into his friends' faults, but so blear-eyed to their
own that they take not the least notice of the wallet that hangs behind
their own shoulders. Since then the nature of man is such that there is
scarce anyone to be found that is not subject to many errors, add to this
the great diversity of minds and studies, so many slips, oversights, and
chances of human life, and how is it possible there should be any true
friendship between those Argus, so much as one hour, were it not for that
which the Greeks excellently call _euetheian_? And you may render by
folly or good nature, choose you whether. But what? Is not the author and
parent of all our love, Cupid, as blind as a beetle? And as with him all
colors agree, so from him is it that everyone likes his own sweeter-kin
best, though never so ugly, and "that an old man dotes on his old wife,
and a boy on his girl." These things are not only done everywhere but
laughed at too; yet as ridiculous as they are, they make society
pleasant, and, as it were, glue it together.

And what has been said of friendship may more reasonably be presumed of
matrimony, which in truth is no other than an inseparable conjunction of
life. Good God! What divorces, or what not worse than that, would daily
happen were not the converse between a man and his wife supported and
cherished by flattery, apishness, gentleness, ignorance, dissembling,
certain retainers of mine also! Whoop holiday! how few marriages should
we have, if the husband should but thoroughly examine how many tricks his
pretty little mop of modesty has played before she was married! And how
fewer of them would hold together, did not most of the wife's actions
escape the husband's knowledge through his neglect or sottishness! And
for this also you are beholden to me, by whose means it is that the
husband is pleasant to his wife, the wife to her husband, and the house
kept in quiet. A man is laughed at, when seeing his wife weeping he licks
up her tears. But how much happier is it to be thus deceived than by
being troubled with jealousy not only to torment himself but set all
things in a hubbub!

In fine, I am so necessary to the making of all society and manner of
life both delightful and lasting, that neither would the people long
endure their governors, nor the servant his master, nor the master his
footman, nor the scholar his tutor, nor one friend another, nor the wife
her husband, nor the usurer the borrower, nor a soldier his commander,
nor one companion another, unless all of them had their interchangeable
failings, one while flattering, other while prudently conniving, and
generally sweetening one another with some small relish of folly.

And now you'd think I had said all, but you shall hear yet greater
things. Will he, I pray, love anyone that hates himself? Or ever agree
with another who is not at peace with himself? Or beget pleasure in
another that is troublesome to himself? I think no one will say it that
is not more foolish than Folly. And yet, if you should exclude me,
there's no man but would be so far from enduring another that he would
stink in his own nostrils, be nauseated with his own actions, and himself
become odious to himself; forasmuch as Nature, in too many things rather
a stepdame than a parent to us, has imprinted that evil in men,
especially such as have least judgment, that everyone repents him of his
own condition and admires that of others. Whence it comes to pass that
all her gifts, elegancy, and graces corrupt and perish. For what benefit
is beauty, the greatest blessing of heaven, if it be mixed with
affectation? What youth, if corrupted with the severity of old age?
Lastly, what is that in the whole business of a man's life he can do with
any grace to himself or others--for it is not so much a thing of art, as
the very life of every action, that it be done with a good mien--unless
this my friend and companion, Self-love, be present with it? Nor does she
without cause supply me the place of a sister, since her whole endeavors
are to act my part everywhere. For what is more foolish than for a man to
study nothing else than how to please himself? To make himself the object
of his own admiration? And yet, what is there that is either delightful
or taking, nay rather what not the contrary, that a man does against the
hair? Take away this salt of life, and the orator may even sit still with
his action, the musician with all his division will be able to please no
man, the player be hissed off the stage, the poet and all his Muses
ridiculous, the painter with his art contemptible, and the physician with
all his slip-slops go a-begging. Lastly, you will be taken for an ugly
fellow instead of youthful, and a beast instead of a wise man, a child
instead of eloquent, and instead of a well-bred man, a clown. So
necessary a thing it is that everyone flatter himself and commend himself
to himself before he can be commended by others.

Lastly, since it is the chief point of happiness "that a man is willing
to be what he is," you have further abridged in this my Self-love, that
no man is ashamed of his own face, no man of his own wit, no man of his
own parentage, no man of his own house, no man of his manner of living,
nor any man of his own country; so that a Highlander has no desire to
change with an Italian, a Thracian with an Athenian, nor a Scythian for
the Fortunate Islands. O the singular care of Nature, that in so great a
variety of things has made all equal! Where she has been sometimes
sparing of her gifts she has recompensed it with the more of self-love;
though here, I must confess, I speak foolishly, it being the greatest of
all other her gifts: to say nothing that no great action was ever
attempted without my motion, or art brought to perfection without my

Is not war the very root and matter of all famed enterprises? And yet
what more foolish than to undertake it for I know what trifles,
especially when both parties are sure to lose more than they get by the
bargain? For of those that are slain, not a word of them; and for the
rest, when both sides are close engaged "and the trumpets make an ugly
noise," what use of those wise men, I pray, that are so exhausted with
study that their thin, cold blood has scarce any spirits left? No, it
must be those blunt, fat fellows, that by how much the more they exceed
in courage, fall short in understanding. Unless perhaps one had rather
choose Demosthenes for a soldier, who, following the example of
Archilochius, threw away his arms and betook him to his heels e'er he had
scarce seen his enemy; as ill a soldier, as happy an orator.

But counsel, you'll say, is not of least concern in matters of war. In a
general I grant it; but this thing of warring is not part of philosophy,
but managed by parasites, panders, thieves, cut-throats, plowmen, sots,
spendthrifts, and such other dregs of mankind, not philosophers; who how
unapt they are even for common converse, let Socrates, whom the oracle of
Apollo, though not so wisely, judged "the wisest of all men living," be
witness; who stepping up to speak somewhat, I know not what, in public
was forced to come down again well laughed at for his pains. Though yet
in this he was not altogether a fool, that he refused the appellation of
wise, and returning it back to the oracle, delivered his opinion that a
wise man should abstain from meddling with public business; unless
perhaps he should have rather admonished us to beware of wisdom if we
intended to be reckoned among the number of men, there being nothing but
his wisdom that first accused and afterwards sentenced him to the
drinking of his poisoned cup. For while, as you find him in Aristophanes,
philosophizing about clouds and ideas, measuring how far a flea could
leap, and admiring that so small a creature as a fly should make so great
a buzz, he meddled not with anything that concerned common life. But his
master being in danger of his head, his scholar Plato is at hand, to wit
that famous patron, that being disturbed with the noise of the people,
could not go through half his first sentence. What should I speak of
Theophrastus, who being about to make an oration, became as dumb as if he
had met a wolf in his way, which yet would have put courage in a man of
war? Or Isocrates, that was so cowhearted that he dared never attempt it?
Or Tully, that great founder of the Roman eloquence, that could never
begin to speak without an odd kind of trembling, like a boy that had got
the hiccough; which Fabius interprets as an argument of a wise orator and
one that was sensible of what he was doing; and while he says it, does he
not plainly confess that wisdom is a great obstacle to the true
management of business? What would become of them, think you, were they
to fight it out at blows that are so dead through fear when the contest
is only with empty words?

And next to these is cried up, forsooth, that goodly sentence of Plato's,
"Happy is that commonwealth where a philosopher is prince, or whose
prince is addicted to philosophy." When yet if you consult historians,
you'll find no princes more pestilent to the commonwealth than where the
empire has fallen to some smatterer in philosophy or one given to
letters. To the truth of which I think the Catoes give sufficient credit;
of whom the one was ever disturbing the peace of the commonwealth with
his hair-brained accusations; the other, while he too wisely vindicated
its liberty, quite overthrew it. Add to this the Bruti, Casii, nay Cicero
himself, that was no less pernicious to the commonwealth of Rome than was
Demosthenes to that of Athens. Besides M. Antoninus (that I may give you
one instance that there was once one good emperor; for with much ado I
can make it out) was become burdensome and hated of his subjects upon no
other score but that he was so great a philosopher. But admitting him
good, he did the commonwealth more hurt in leaving behind him such a son
as he did than ever he did it good by his own government. For these kind
of men that are so given up to the study of wisdom are generally most
unfortunate, but chiefly in their children; Nature, it seems, so
providently ordering it, lest this mischief of wisdom should spread
further among mankind. For which reason it is manifest why Cicero's son
was so degenerate, and that wise Socrates' children, as one has well
observed, were more like their mother than their father, that is to
say, fools.

However this were to be born with, if only as to public employments they
were "like a sow upon a pair of organs," were they anything more apt to
discharge even the common offices of life. Invite a wise man to a feast
and he'll spoil the company, either with morose silence or troublesome
disputes. Take him out to dance, and you'll swear "a cow would have done
it better." Bring him to the theatre, and his very looks are enough to
spoil all, till like Cato he take an occasion of withdrawing rather than
put off his supercilious gravity. Let him fall into discourse, and he
shall make more sudden stops than if he had a wolf before him. Let him
buy, or sell, or in short go about any of those things without there is
no living in this world, and you'll say this piece of wisdom were rather
a stock than a man, of so little use is he to himself, country, or
friends; and all because he is wholly ignorant of common things and lives
a course of life quite different from the people; by which means it is
impossible but that he contract a popular odium, to wit, by reason of the
great diversity of their life and souls. For what is there at all done
among men that is not full of folly, and that too from fools and to
fools? Against which universal practice if any single one shall dare to
set up his throat, my advice to him is, that following the example of
Timon, he retire into some desert and there enjoy his wisdom to himself.

But, to return to my design, what power was it that drew those stony,
oaken, and wild people into cities but flattery? For nothing else is
signified by Amphion and Orpheus' harp. What was it that, when the common
people of Rome were like to have destroyed all by their mutiny, reduced
them to obedience? Was it a philosophical oration? Least. But a
ridiculous and childish fable of the belly and the rest of the members.
And as good success had Themistocles in his of the fox and hedgehog. What
wise man's oration could ever have done so much with the people as
Sertorius' invention of his white hind? Or his ridiculous emblem of
pulling off a horse's tail hair by hair? Or as Lycurgus his example of
his two whelps? To say nothing of Minos and Numa, both which ruled their
foolish multitudes with fabulous inventions; with which kind of toys that
great and powerful beast, the people, are led anyway. Again what city
ever received Plato's or Aristotle's laws, or Socrates' precepts? But, on
the contrary, what made the Decii devote themselves to the infernal gods,
or Q. Curtius to leap into the gulf, but an empty vainglory, a most
bewitching siren? And yet 'tis strange it should be so condemned by those
wise philosophers. For what is more foolish, say they, than for a
suppliant suitor to flatter the people, to buy their favor with gifts, to
court the applauses of so many fools, to please himself with their
acclamations, to be carried on the people's shoulders as in triumph, and
have a brazen statue in the marketplace? Add to this the adoption of
names and surnames, those divine honors given to a man of no reputation,
and the deification of the most wicked tyrants with public ceremonies;
most foolish things, and such as one Democritus is too little to laugh
at. Who denies it? And yet from this root sprang all the great acts of
the heroes which the pens of so many eloquent men have extolled to the
skies. In a word, this folly is that that laid the foundation of cities;
and by it, empire, authority, religion, policy, and public actions are
preserved; neither is there anything in human life that is not a kind of
pastime of folly.

But to speak of arts, what set men's wits on work to invent and transmit
to posterity so many famous, as they conceive, pieces of learning but the
thirst of glory? With so much loss of sleep, such pains and travail,
have the most foolish of men thought to purchase themselves a kind of
I know not what fame, than which nothing can be more vain. And yet
notwithstanding, you owe this advantage to folly, and which is the
most delectable of all other, that you reap the benefit of other
men's madness.

And now, having vindicated to myself the praise of fortitude and
industry, what think you if I do the same by that of prudence? But some
will say, you may as well join fire and water. It may be so. But yet I
doubt not but to succeed even in this also, if, as you have done
hitherto, you will but favor me with your attention. And first, if
prudence depends upon experience, to whom is the honor of that name more
proper? To the wise man, who partly out of modesty and partly distrust of
himself, attempts nothing; or the fool, whom neither modesty which he
never had, nor danger which he never considers, can discourage from
anything? The wise man has recourse to the books of the ancients, and
from thence picks nothing but subtleties of words. The fool, in
undertaking and venturing on the business of the world, gathers, if I
mistake not, the true prudence, such as Homer though blind may be said to
have seen when he said, "The burnt child dreads the fire." For there are
two main obstacles to the knowledge of things, modesty that casts a mist
before the understanding, and fear that, having fancied a danger,
dissuades us from the attempt. But from these folly sufficiently frees
us, and few there are that rightly understand of what great advantage it
is to blush at nothing and attempt everything.

But if you had rather take prudence for that that consists in the
judgment of things, hear me, I beseech you, how far they are from it that
yet crack of the name. For first 'tis evident that all human things, like
Alcibiades' Sileni or rural gods, carry a double face, but not the least
alike; so that what at first sight seems to be death, if you view it
narrowly may prove to be life; and so the contrary. What appears
beautiful may chance to be deformed; what wealthy, a very beggar; what
infamous, praiseworthy; what learned, a dunce; what lusty, feeble; what
jocund, sad; what noble, base; what lucky, unfortunate; what friendly, an
enemy; and what healthful, noisome. In short, view the inside of these
Sileni, and you'll find them quite other than what they appear; which, if
perhaps it shall not seem so philosophically spoken, I'll make it plain
to you "after my blunt way." Who would not conceive a prince a great lord
and abundant in everything? But yet being so ill-furnished with the gifts
of the mind, and ever thinking he shall never have enough, he's the
poorest of all men. And then for his mind so given up to vice, 'tis a
shame how it enslaves him. I might in like manner philosophize of the
rest; but let this one, for example's sake, be enough.

Yet why this? will someone say. Have patience, and I'll show you what I
drive at. If anyone seeing a player acting his part on a stage should go
about to strip him of his disguise and show him to the people in his true
native form, would he not, think you, not only spoil the whole design of
the play, but deserve himself to be pelted off with stones as a
phantastical fool and one out of his wits? But nothing is more common
with them than such changes; the same person one while impersonating a
woman, and another while a man; now a youngster, and by and by a grim
seignior; now a king, and presently a peasant; now a god, and in a trice
again an ordinary fellow. But to discover this were to spoil all, it
being the only thing that entertains the eyes of the spectators. And what
is all this life but a kind of comedy, wherein men walk up and down in
one another's disguises and act their respective parts, till the
property-man brings them back to the attiring house. And yet he often
orders a different dress, and makes him that came but just now off in the
robes of a king put on the rags of a beggar. Thus are all things
represented by counterfeit, and yet without this there was no living.

And here if any wise man, as it were dropped from heaven, should start up
and cry, this great thing whom the world looks upon for a god and I know
not what is not so much as a man, for that like a beast he is led by his
passions, but the worst of slaves, inasmuch as he gives himself up
willingly to so many and such detestable masters. Again if he should bid
a man that were bewailing the death of his father to laugh, for that he
now began to live by having got an estate, without which life is but a
kind of death; or call another that were boasting of his family ill
begotten or base, because he is so far removed from virtue that is the
only fountain of nobility; and so of the rest: what else would he get by
it but be thought himself mad and frantic? For as nothing is more foolish
than preposterous wisdom, so nothing is more unadvised than a forward
unseasonable prudence. And such is his that does not comply with the
present time "and order himself as the market goes," but forgetting that
law of feasts, "either drink or begone," undertakes to disprove a common
received opinion. Whereas on the contrary 'tis the part of a truly
prudent man not to be wise beyond his condition, but either to take no
notice of what the world does, or run with it for company. But this is
foolish, you'll say; nor shall I deny it, provided always you be so civil
on the other side as to confess that this is to act a part in that world.

But, O you gods, "shall I speak or hold my tongue?" But why should I be
silent in a thing that is more true than truth itself? However it might
not be amiss perhaps in so great an affair to call forth the Muses from
Helicon, since the poets so often invoke them upon every foolish
occasion. Be present then awhile, and assist me, you daughters of
Jupiter, while I make it out that there is no way to that so much famed
wisdom, nor access to that fortress as they call it of happiness, but
under the banner of Folly. And first 'tis agreed of all hands that our
passions belong to Folly; inasmuch as we judge a wise man from a fool by
this, that the one is ordered by them, the other by reason; and therefore
the Stoics remove from a wise man all disturbances of mind as so many
diseases. But these passions do not only the office of a tutor to such as
are making towards the port of wisdom, but are in every exercise of
virtue as it were spurs and incentives, nay and encouragers to well
doing: which though that great Stoic Seneca most strongly denies, and
takes from a wise man all affections whatever, yet in doing that he
leaves him not so much as a man but rather a new kind of god that was
never yet nor ever like to be. Nay, to speak plainer, he sets up a stony
semblance of a man, void of all sense and common feeling of humanity. And
much good to them with this wise man of theirs; let them enjoy him to
themselves, love him without competitors, and live with him in Plato's
commonwealth, the country of ideas, or Tantalus' orchards. For who would
not shun and startle at such a man, as at some unnatural accident or
spirit? A man dead to all sense of nature and common affections, and no
more moved with love or pity than if he were a flint or rock; whose
censure nothing escapes; that commits no errors himself, but has a lynx's
eyes upon others; measures everything by an exact line, and forgives
nothing; pleases himself with himself only; the only rich, the only wise,
the only free man, and only king; in brief, the only man that is
everything, but in his own single judgment only; that cares not for the
friendship of any man, being himself a friend to no man; makes no doubt
to make the gods stoop to him, and condemns and laughs at the whole
actions of our life? And yet such a beast is this their perfect wise man.
But tell me pray, if the thing were to be carried by most voices, what
city would choose him for its governor, or what army desire him for their
general? What woman would have such a husband, what goodfellow such a
guest, or what servant would either wish or endure such a master? Nay,
who had not rather have one of the middle sort of fools, who, being a
fool himself, may the better know how to command or obey fools; and who
though he please his like, 'tis yet the greater number; one that is kind
to his wife, merry among his friends, a boon companion, and easy to be
lived with; and lastly one that thinks nothing of humanity should be a
stranger to him? But I am weary of this wise man, and therefore I'll
proceed to some other advantages.

Go to then. Suppose a man in some lofty high tower, and that he could
look round him, as the poets say Jupiter was now and then wont. To how
many misfortunes would he find the life of man subject? How miserable, to
say no worse, our birth, how difficult our education; to how many wrongs
our childhood exposed, to what pains our youth; how unsupportable our old
age, and grievous our unavoidable death? As also what troops of diseases
beset us, how many casualties hang over our heads, how many troubles
invade us, and how little there is that is not steeped in gall? To say
nothing of those evils one man brings upon another, as poverty,
imprisonment, infamy, dishonesty, racks, snares, treachery, reproaches,
actions, deceits--but I'm got into as endless a work as numbering the
sands--for what offenses mankind have deserved these things, or what
angry god compelled them to be born into such miseries is not my present
business. Yet he that shall diligently examine it with himself, would he
not, think you, approve the example of the Milesian virgins and kill
himself? But who are they that for no other reason but that they were
weary of life have hastened their own fate? Were they not the next
neighbors to wisdom? among whom, to say nothing of Diogenes, Xenocrates,
Cato, Cassius, Brutus, that wise man Chiron, being offered immortality,
chose rather to die than be troubled with the same thing always.

And now I think you see what would become of the world if all men should
be wise; to wit it were necessary we got another kind of clay and some
better potter. But I, partly through ignorance, partly unadvisedness, and
sometimes through forgetfulness of evil, do now and then so sprinkle
pleasure with the hopes of good and sweeten men up in their greatest
misfortunes that they are not willing to leave this life, even then when
according to the account of the destinies this life has left them; and by
how much the less reason they have to live, by so much the more they
desire it; so far are they from being sensible of the least wearisomeness
of life. Of my gift it is, that you have so many old Nestors everywhere
that have scarce left them so much as the shape of a man; stutterers,
dotards, toothless, gray-haired, bald; or rather, to use the words of
Aristophanes, "Nasty, crumpled, miserable, shriveled, bald, toothless,
and wanting their baubles," yet so delighted with life and to be thought
young that one dyes his gray hairs; another covers his baldness with a
periwig; another gets a set of new teeth; another falls desperately in
love with a young wench and keeps more flickering about her than a young
man would have been ashamed of. For to see such an old crooked piece with
one foot in the grave to marry a plump young wench, and that too without
a portion, is so common that men almost expect to be commended for it.
But the best sport of all is to see our old women, even dead with age,
and such skeletons one would think they had stolen out of their graves,
and ever mumbling in their mouths, "Life is sweet;" and as old as they
are, still caterwauling, daily plastering their face, scarce ever from
the glass, gossiping, dancing, and writing love letters. These things are
laughed at as foolish, as indeed they are; yet they please themselves,
live merrily, swim in pleasure, and in a word are happy, by my courtesy.
But I would have them to whom these things seem ridiculous to consider
with themselves whether it be not better to live so pleasant a life in
such kind of follies, than, as the proverb goes, "to take a halter and
hang themselves." Besides though these things may be subject to censure,
it concerns not my fools in the least, inasmuch as they take no notice of
it; or if they do, they easily neglect it. If a stone fall upon a man's
head, that's evil indeed; but dishonesty, infamy, villainy, ill reports
carry no more hurt in them than a man is sensible of; and if a man have
no sense of them, they are no longer evils. What are you the worse if the
people hiss at you, so you applaud yourself? And that a man be able to do
so, he must owe it to folly.

But methinks I hear the philosophers opposing it and saying 'tis a
miserable thing for a man to be foolish, to err, mistake, and know
nothing truly. Nay rather, this is to be a man. And why they should call
it miserable, I see no reason; forasmuch as we are so born, so bred, so
instructed, nay such is the common condition of us all. And nothing can
be called miserable that suits with its kind, unless perhaps you'll think
a man such because he can neither fly with birds, nor walk on all four
with beasts, and is not armed with horns as a bull. For by the same
reason he would call the warlike horse unfortunate, because he understood
not grammar, nor ate cheese-cakes; and the bull miserable, because he'd
make so ill a wrestler. And therefore, as a horse that has no skill in
grammar is not miserable, no more is man in this respect, for that they
agree with his nature. But again, the virtuosi may say that there was
particularly added to man the knowledge of sciences, by whose help he
might recompense himself in understanding for what nature cut him short
in other things. As if this had the least face of truth, that Nature that
was so solicitously watchful in the production of gnats, herbs, and
flowers should have so slept when she made man, that he should have need
to be helped by sciences, which that old devil Theuth, the evil genius of
mankind, first invented for his destruction, and are so little conducive
to happiness that they rather obstruct it; to which purpose they are
properly said to be first found out, as that wise king in Plato argues
touching the invention of letters.

Sciences therefore crept into the world with other the pests of mankind,
from the same head from whence all other mischiefs spring; we'll suppose
it devils, for so the name imports when you call them demons, that is to
say, knowing. For that simple people of the golden age, being wholly
ignorant of everything called learning, lived only by the guidance and
dictates of nature; for what use of grammar, where every man spoke the
same language and had no further design than to understand one another?
What use of logic, where there was no bickering about the double-meaning
words? What need of rhetoric, where there were no lawsuits? Or to what
purpose laws, where there were no ill manners? from which without doubt
good laws first came. Besides, they were more religious than with an
impious curiosity to dive into the secrets of nature, the dimension of
stars, the motions, effects, and hidden causes of things; as believing it
a crime for any man to attempt to be wise beyond his condition. And as to
the inquiry of what was beyond heaven, that madness never came into their
heads. But the purity of the golden age declining by degrees, first, as I
said before, arts were invented by the evil genii; and yet but few, and
those too received by fewer. After that the Chaldean superstition and
Greek newfangledness, that had little to do, added I know not how many
more; mere torments of wit, and that so great that even grammar alone is
work enough for any man for his whole life.

Though yet among these sciences those only are in esteem that come
nearest to common sense, that is to say, folly. Divines are half starved,
naturalists out of heart, astrologers laughed at, and logicians slighted;
only the physician is worth all the rest. And among them too, the more
unlearned, impudent, or unadvised he is, the more he is esteemed, even
among princes. For physic, especially as it is now professed by most men,
is nothing but a branch of flattery, no less than rhetoric. Next them,
the second place is given to our law-drivers, if not the first, whose
profession, though I say it myself, most men laugh at as the ass of
philosophy; yet there's scarce any business, either so great or so small,
but is managed by these asses. These purchase their great lordships,
while in the meantime the divine, having run through the whole body of
divinity, sits gnawing a radish and is in continual warfare with lice and
fleas. As therefore those arts are best that have the nearest affinity
with folly, so are they most happy of all others that have least commerce
with sciences and follow the guidance of Nature, who is in no wise
imperfect, unless perhaps we endeavor to leap over those bounds she has
appointed to us. Nature hates all false coloring and is ever best where
she is least adulterated with art.

Go to then, don't you find among the several kinds of living creatures
that they thrive best that understand no more than what Nature taught
them? What is more prosperous or wonderful than the bee? And though they
have not the same judgment of sense as other bodies have, yet wherein has
architecture gone beyond their building of houses? What philosopher ever
founded the like republic? Whereas the horse, that comes so near man in
understanding and is therefore so familiar with him, is also partaker of
his misery. For while he thinks it a shame to lose the race, it often
happens that he cracks his wind; and in the battle, while he contends for
victory, he's cut down himself, and, together with his rider "lies biting
the earth;" not to mention those strong bits, sharp spurs, close stables,
arms, blows, rider, and briefly, all that slavery he willingly submits
to, while, imitating those men of valor, he so eagerly strives to be
revenged of the enemy. Than which how much more were the life of flies or
birds to be wished for, who living by the instinct of nature, look no
further than the present, if yet man would but let them alone in it. And
if at anytime they chance to be taken, and being shut up in cages
endeavor to imitate our speaking, 'tis strange how they degenerate from
their native gaiety. So much better in every respect are the works of
nature than the adulteries of art.

In like manner I can never sufficiently praise that Pythagoras in a
dunghill cock, who being but one had been yet everything, a philosopher,
a man, a woman, a king, a private man, a fish, a horse, a frog, and, I
believe too, a sponge; and at last concluded that no creature was more
miserable than man, for that all other creatures are content with those
bounds that nature set them, only man endeavors to exceed them. And
again, among men he gives the precedency not to the learned or the great,
but the fool. Nor had that Gryllus less wit than Ulysses with his many
counsels, who chose rather to lie grunting in a hog sty than be exposed
with the other to so many hazards. Nor does Homer, that father of
trifles, dissent from me; who not only called all men "wretched and full
of calamity," but often his great pattern of wisdom, Ulysses,
"miserable;" Paris, Ajax, and Achilles nowhere. And why, I pray but that,
like a cunning fellow and one that was his craft's master, he did nothing
without the advice of Pallas? In a word he was too wise, and by that
means ran wide of nature. As therefore among men they are least happy
that study wisdom, as being in this twice fools, that when they are born
men, they should yet so far forget their condition as to affect the life
of gods; and after the example of the giants, with their philosophical
gimcracks make a war upon nature: so they on the other side seem as
little miserable as is possible who come nearest to beasts and never
attempt anything beyond man. Go to then, let's try how demonstrable this
is; not by enthymemes or the imperfect syllogisms of the Stoics, but by
plain, downright, and ordinary examples.

And now, by the immortal gods! I think nothing more happy than that
generation of men we commonly call fools, idiots, lack-wits, and dolts;
splendid titles too, as I conceive them. I'll tell you a thing, which at
first perhaps may seem foolish and absurd, yet nothing more true. And
first they are not afraid of death--no small evil, by Jupiter! They are
not tormented with the conscience of evil acts, not terrified with the
fables of ghosts, nor frightened with spirits and goblins. They are not
distracted with the fear of evils to come nor the hopes of future good.
In short, they are not disturbed with those thousand of cares to which
this life is subject. They are neither modest, nor fearful, nor
ambitious, nor envious, nor love they any man. And lastly, if they should
come nearer even to the very ignorance of brutes, they could not sin, for
so hold the divines. And now tell me, you wise fool, with how many
troublesome cares your mind is continually perplexed; heap together all
the discommodities of your life, and then you'll be sensible from how
many evils I have delivered my fools. Add to this that they are not only
merry, play, sing, and laugh themselves, but make mirth wherever they
come, a special privilege it seems the gods have given them to refresh
the pensiveness of life. Whence it is that whereas the world is so
differently affected one towards another, that all men indifferently
admit them as their companions, desire, feed, cherish, embrace them, take
their parts upon all occasions, and permit them without offense to do or
say what they like. And so little does everything desire to hurt them,
that even the very beasts, by a kind of natural instinct of their
innocence no doubt, pass by their injuries. For of them it may be truly
said that they are consecrate to the gods, and therefore and not without
cause do men have them in such esteem. Whence is it else that they are in
so great request with princes that they can neither eat nor drink, go
anywhere, or be an hour without them? Nay, and in some degree they prefer
these fools before their crabbish wise men, whom yet they keep about them
for state's sake. Nor do I conceive the reason so difficult, or that it
should seem strange why they are preferred before the others, for that
these wise men speak to princes about nothing but grave, serious matters,
and trusting to their own parts and learning do not fear sometimes "to
grate their tender ears with smart truths;" but fools fit them with that
they most delight in, as jests, laughter, abuses of other men, wanton
pastimes, and the like.

Again, take notice of this no contemptible blessing which Nature has
given fools, that they are the only plain, honest men and such as speak
truth. And what is more commendable than truth? For though that proverb
of Alcibiades in Plato attributes truth to drunkards and children, yet
the praise of it is particularly mine, even from the testimony of
Euripides, among whose other things there is extant that his honorable
saying concerning us, "A fool speaks foolish things." For whatever a fool
has in his heart, he both shows it in his looks and expresses it in his
discourse; while the wise men's are those two tongues which the same
Euripides mentions, whereof the one speaks truth, the other what they
judge most seasonable for the occasion. These are they "that turn black
into white," blow hot and cold with the same breath, and carry a far
different meaning in their breast from what they feign with their tongue.
Yet in the midst of all their prosperity, princes in this respect seem to
me most unfortunate, because, having no one to tell them truth, they are
forced to receive flatterers for friends.

But, someone may say, the ears of princes are strangers to truth, and for
this reason they avoid those wise men, because they fear lest someone
more frank than the rest should dare to speak to them things rather true
than pleasant; for so the matter is, that they don't much care for truth.
And yet this is found by experience among my fools, that not only truths
but even open reproaches are heard with pleasure; so that the same thing
which, if it came from a wise man's mouth might prove a capital crime,
spoken by a fool is received with delight. For truth carries with it a
certain peculiar power of pleasing, if no accident fall in to give
occasion of offense; which faculty the gods have given only to fools. And
for the same reasons is it that women are so earnestly delighted with
this kind of men, as being more propense by nature to pleasure and toys.
And whatsoever they may happen to do with them, although sometimes it be
of the most serious, yet they turn it to jest and laughter, as that sex
was ever quick-witted, especially to color their own faults.

But to return to the happiness of fools, who when they have passed over
this life with a great deal of pleasantness and without so much as the
least fear or sense of death, they go straight forth into the Elysian
field, to recreate their pious and careless souls with such sports as
they used here. Let's proceed then, and compare the condition of any of
your wise men with that of this fool. Fancy to me now some example of
wisdom you'd set up against him; one that had spent his childhood and
youth in learning the sciences and lost the sweetest part of his life in
watchings, cares, studies, and for the remaining part of it never so much
as tasted the least of pleasure; ever sparing, poor, sad, sour, unjust,
and rigorous to himself, and troublesome and hateful to others; broken
with paleness, leanness, crassness, sore eyes, and an old age and death
contracted before their time (though yet, what matter is it, when he die
that never lived?); and such is the picture of this great wise man.

And here again do those frogs of the Stoics croak at me and say that
nothing is more miserable than madness. But folly is the next degree, if
not the very thing. For what else is madness than for a man to be out of
his wits? But to let them see how they are clean out of the way, with the
Muses' good favor we'll take this syllogism in pieces. Subtly argued, I
must confess, but as Socrates in Plato teaches us how by splitting one
Venus and one Cupid to make two of either, in like manner should those
logicians have done and distinguished madness from madness, if at least
they would be thought to be well in their wits themselves. For all
madness is not miserable, or Horace had never called his poetical fury a
beloved madness; nor Plato placed the raptures of poets, prophets, and
lovers among the chiefest blessings of this life; nor that sibyl in
Virgil called Aeneas' travels mad labors. But there are two sorts of
madness, the one that which the revengeful Furies send privily from hell,
as often as they let loose their snakes and put into men's breasts either
the desire of war, or an insatiate thirst after gold, or some dishonest
love, or parricide, or incest, or sacrilege, or the like plagues, or when
they terrify some guilty soul with the conscience of his crimes; the
other, but nothing like this, that which comes from me and is of all
other things the most desirable; which happens as often as some pleasing
dotage not only clears the mind of its troublesome cares but renders it
more jocund. And this was that which, as a special blessing of the gods,
Cicero, writing to his friend Atticus, wished to himself, that he might
be the less sensible of those miseries that then hung over the

Nor was that Grecian in Horace much wide of it, who was so far made that
he would sit by himself whole days in the theatre laughing and clapping
his hands, as if he had seen some tragedy acting, whereas in truth there
was nothing presented; yet in other things a man well enough, pleasant
among his friends, kind to his wife, and so good a master to his servants
that if they had broken the seal of his bottle, he would not have run mad
for it. But at last, when by the care of his friends and physic he was
freed from his distemper and become his own man again, he thus
expostulates with them, "Now, by Pollux, my friends, you have rather
killed than preserved me in thus forcing me from my pleasure." By which
you see he liked it so well that he lost it against his will. And trust
me, I think they were the madder of the two, and had the greater need of
hellebore, that should offer to look upon so pleasant a madness as an
evil to be removed by physic; though yet I have not determined whether
every distemper of the sense or understanding be to be called madness.

For neither he that having weak eyes should take a mule for an ass, nor
he that should admire an insipid poem as excellent would be presently
thought mad; but he that not only errs in his senses but is deceived also
in his judgment, and that too more than ordinary and upon all occasions--
he, I must confess, would be thought to come very near to it. As if
anyone hearing an ass bray should take it for excellent music, or a
beggar conceive himself a king. And yet this kind of madness, if, as it
commonly happens, it turn to pleasure, it brings a great delight not only
to them that are possessed with it but to those also that behold it,
though perhaps they may not be altogether so mad as the other, for the
species of this madness is much larger than the people take it to be. For
one mad man laughs at another, and beget themselves a mutual pleasure.
Nor does it seldom happen that he that is the more mad, laughs at him
that is less mad. And in this every man is the more happy in how many
respects the more he is mad; and if I were judge in the case, he should
be ranged in that class of folly that is peculiarly mine, which in truth
is so large and universal that I scarce know anyone in all mankind that
is wise at all hours, or has not some tang or other of madness.

And to this class do they appertain that slight everything in comparison
of hunting and protest they take an unimaginable pleasure to hear the
yell of the horns and the yelps of the hounds, and I believe could pick
somewhat extraordinary out of their very excrement. And then what
pleasure they take to see a buck or the like unlaced? Let ordinary
fellows cut up an ox or a wether, 'twere a crime to have this done by
anything less than a gentleman! who with his hat off, on his bare knees,
and a couteau for that purpose (for every sword or knife is not
allowable), with a curious superstition and certain postures, lays open
the several parts in their respective order; while they that hem him in
admire it with silence, as some new religious ceremony, though perhaps
they have seen it a hundred times before. And if any of them chance to
get the least piece of it, he presently thinks himself no small
gentleman. In all which they drive at nothing more than to become beasts
themselves, while yet they imagine they live the life of princes.

And next these may be reckoned those that have such an itch of building;
one while changing rounds into squares, and presently again squares into
rounds, never knowing either measure or end, till at last, reduced to the
utmost poverty, there remains not to them so much as a place where they
may lay their head, or wherewith to fill their bellies. And why all this?
but that they may pass over a few years in feeding their foolish fancies.

And, in my opinion, next these may be reckoned such as with their new
inventions and occult arts undertake to change the forms of things and
hunt all about after a certain fifth essence; men so bewitched with this
present hope that it never repents them of their pains or expense, but
are ever contriving how they may cheat themselves, till, having spent
all, there is not enough left them to provide another furnace. And yet
they have not done dreaming these their pleasant dreams but encourage
others, as much as in them lies, to the same happiness. And at last, when
they are quite lost in all their expectations, they cheer up themselves
with this sentence, "In great things the very attempt is enough," and
then complain of the shortness of man's life that is not sufficient for
so great an understanding.

And then for gamesters, I am a little doubtful whether they are to be
admitted into our college; and yet 'tis a foolish and ridiculous sight to
see some addicted so to it that they can no sooner hear the rattling of
the dice but their heart leaps and dances again. And then when time after
time they are so far drawn on with the hopes of winning that they have
made shipwreck of all, and having split their ship on that rock of dice,
no less terrible than the bishop and his clerks, scarce got alive to
shore, they choose rather to cheat any man of their just debts than not
pay the money they lost, lest otherwise, forsooth, they be thought no men
of their words. Again what is it, I pray, to see old fellows and half
blind to play with spectacles? Nay, and when a justly deserved gout has
knotted their knuckles, to hire a caster, or one that may put the dice in
the box for them? A pleasant thing, I must confess, did it not for the
most part end in quarrels, and therefore belongs rather to the Furies
than me.

But there is no doubt but that that kind of men are wholly ours who love
to hear or tell feigned miracles and strange lies and are never weary of
any tale, though never so long, so it be of ghosts, spirits, goblins,
devils, or the like; which the further they are from truth, the more
readily they are believed and the more do they tickle their itching ears.
And these serve not only to pass away time but bring profit, especially
to mass priests and pardoners. And next to these are they that have
gotten a foolish but pleasant persuasion that if they can but see a
wooden or painted Polypheme Christopher, they shall not die that day; or
do but salute a carved Barbara, in the usual set form, that he shall
return safe from battle; or make his application to Erasmus on certain
days with some small wax candles and proper prayers, that he shall
quickly be rich. Nay, they have gotten a Hercules, another Hippolytus,
and a St. George, whose horse most religiously set out with trappings and
bosses there wants little but they worship; however, they endeavor to
make him their friend by some present or other, and to swear by his
master's brazen helmet is an oath for a prince. Or what should I say of
them that hug themselves with their counterfeit pardons; that have
measured purgatory by an hourglass, and can without the least mistake
demonstrate its ages, years, months, days, hours, minutes, and seconds,
as it were in a mathematical table? Or what of those who, having
confidence in certain magical charms and short prayers invented by some
pious imposter, either for his soul's health or profit's sake, promise to
themselves everything: wealth, honor, pleasure, plenty, good health, long
life, lively old age, and the next place to Christ in the other world,
which yet they desire may not happen too soon, that is to say before the
pleasures of this life have left them?

And now suppose some merchant, soldier, or judge, out of so many rapines,
parts with some small piece of money. He straight conceives all that sink
of his whole life quite cleansed; so many perjuries, so many lusts, so
many debaucheries, so many contentions, so many murders, so many deceits,
so many breaches of trusts, so many treacheries bought off, as it were by
compact; and so bought off that they may begin upon a new score. But what
is more foolish than those, or rather more happy, who daily reciting
those seven verses of the Psalms promise to themselves more than the top
of felicity? Which magical verses some devil or other, a merry one
without doubt but more a blab of his tongue than crafty, is believed to
have discovered to St. Bernard, but not without a trick. And these are so
foolish that I am half ashamed of them myself, and yet they are approved,
and that not only by the common people but even the professors of
religion. And what, are not they also almost the same where several
countries avouch to themselves their peculiar saint, and as everyone of
them has his particular gift, so also his particular form of worship? As,
one is good for the toothache; another for groaning women; a third, for
stolen goods; a fourth, for making a voyage prosperous; and a fifth, to
cure sheep of the rot; and so of the rest, for it would be too tedious to
run over all. And some there are that are good for more things than one;
but chiefly, the Virgin Mother, to whom the common people do in a manner
attribute more than to the Son.

Yet what do they beg of these saints but what belongs to folly? To
examine it a little. Among all those offerings which are so frequently
hung up in churches, nay up to the very roof of some of them, did you
ever see the least acknowledgment from anyone that had left his folly, or
grown a hair's breadth the wiser? One escapes a shipwreck, and he gets
safe to shore. Another, run through in a duel, recovers. Another, while
the rest were fighting, ran out of the field, no less luckily than
valiantly. Another, condemned to be hanged, by the favor of some saint or
other, a friend to thieves, got off himself by impeaching his fellows.
Another escaped by breaking prison. Another recovered from his fever in
spite of his physician. Another's poison turning to a looseness proved
his remedy rather than death; and that to his wife's no small sorrow, in
that she lost both her labor and her charge. Another's cart broke, and he
saved his horses. Another preserved from the fall of a house. All these
hang up their tablets, but no one gives thanks for his recovery from
folly; so sweet a thing it is not to be wise, that on the contrary men
rather pray against anything than folly.

But why do I launch out into this ocean of superstitions? Had I a hundred
tongues, as many mouths, and a voice never so strong, yet were I not able
to run over the several sorts of fools or all the names of folly, so
thick do they swarm everywhere. And yet your priests make no scruple to
receive and cherish them as proper instruments of profit; whereas if some
scurvy wise fellow should step up and speak things as they are, as, to
live well is the way to die well; the best way to get quit of sin is to
add to the money you give the hatred of sin, tears, watchings, prayers,
fastings, and amendment of life; such or such a saint will favor you, if
you imitate his life--these, I say, and the like--should this wise man
chat to the people, from what happiness into how great troubles would he
draw them?

Of this college also are they who in their lifetime appoint with what
solemnity they'll be buried, and particularly set down how many torches,
how many mourners, how many singers, how many almsmen they will have at
it; as if any sense of it could come to them, or that it were a shame to
them that their corpse were not honorably interred; so curious are they
herein, as if, like the aediles of old, these were to present some shows
or banquet to the people.

And though I am in haste, yet I cannot yet pass by them who, though they
differ nothing from the meanest cobbler, yet 'tis scarcely credible how
they flatter themselves with the empty title of nobility. One derives his
pedigree from Aeneas, another from Brutus, a third from the star by the
tail of Ursa Major. They show you on every side the statues and pictures
of their ancestors; run over their great-grandfathers and the
great-great-grandfathers of both lines, and the ancient matches of their
families, when themselves yet are but once removed from a statue, if not
worse than those trifles they boast of. And yet by means of this pleasant
self-love they live a happy life. Nor are they less fools who admire
these beasts as if they were gods.

But what do I speak of any one or the other particular kind of men, as if
this self-love had not the same effect everywhere and rendered most men
superabundantly happy? As when a fellow, more deformed than a baboon,
shall believe himself handsomer than Homer's Nereus. Another, as soon as
he can draw two or three lines with a compass, presently thinks himself a
Euclid. A third, that understands music no more than my horse, and for
his voice as hoarse as a dunghill cock, shall yet conceive himself
another Hermogenes. But of all madness that's the most pleasant when a
man, seeing another any way excellent in what he pretends to himself,
makes his boasts of it as confidently as if it were his own. And such was
that rich fellow in Seneca, who whenever he told a story had his servants
at his elbow to prompt him the names; and to that height had they
flattered him that he did not question but he might venture a rubber at
cuffs, a man otherwise so weak he could scarce stand, only presuming on
this, that he had a company of sturdy servants about him.

Or to what purpose is it I should mind you of our professors of arts?
Forasmuch as this self-love is so natural to them all that they had
rather part with their father's land than their foolish opinions; but
chiefly players, fiddlers, orators, and poets, of which the more ignorant
each of them is, the more insolently he pleases himself, that is to say
vaunts and spreads out his plumes. And like lips find like lettuce; nay,
the more foolish anything is, the more 'tis admired, the greater number
being ever tickled at the worst things, because, as I said before, most
men are so subject to folly. And therefore if the more foolish a man is,
the more he pleases himself and is admired by others, to what purpose
should he beat his brains about true knowledge, which first will cost him
dear, and next render him the more troublesome and less confident, and
lastly, please only a few?

And now I consider it, Nature has planted, not only in particular men but
even in every nation, and scarce any city is there without it, a kind of
common self-love. And hence is it that the English, besides other things,
particularly challenge to themselves beauty, music, and feasting. The
Scots are proud of their nobility, alliance to the crown, and logical
subtleties. The French think themselves the only well-bred men. The
Parisians, excluding all others, arrogate to themselves the only
knowledge of divinity. The Italians affirm they are the only masters of
good letters and eloquence, and flatter themselves on this account, that
of all others they only are not barbarous. In which kind of happiness
those of Rome claim the first place, still dreaming to themselves of
somewhat, I know not what, of old Rome. The Venetians fancy themselves
happy in the opinion of their nobility. The Greeks, as if they were the
only authors of sciences, swell themselves with the titles of the ancient
heroes. The Turk, and all that sink of the truly barbarous, challenge to
themselves the only glory of religion and laugh at Christians as
superstitious. And much more pleasantly the Jews expect to this day the
coming of the Messiah, and so obstinately contend for their Law of Moses.
The Spaniards give place to none in the reputation of soldiery. The
Germans pride themselves in their tallness of stature and skill in magic.

And, not to instance in every particular, you see, I conceive, how much
satisfaction this Self-love, who has a sister also not unlike herself
called Flattery, begets everywhere; for self-love is no more than the
soothing of a man's self, which, done to another, is flattery. And though
perhaps at this day it may be thought infamous, yet it is so only with
them that are more taken with words than things. They think truth is
inconsistent with flattery, but that it is much otherwise we may learn
from the examples of true beasts. What more fawning than a dog? And yet
what more trusty? What has more of those little tricks than a squirrel?
And yet what more loving to man? Unless, perhaps you'll say, men had
better converse with fierce lions, merciless tigers, and furious
leopards. For that flattery is the most pernicious of all things, by
means of which some treacherous persons and mockers have run the
credulous into such mischief. But this of mine proceeds from a certain
gentleness and uprightness of mind and comes nearer to virtue than its
opposite, austerity, or a morose and troublesome peevishness, as Horace
calls it. This supports the dejected, relieves the distressed, encourages
the fainting, awakens the stupid, refreshes the sick, supplies the
untractable, joins loves together, and keeps them so joined. It entices
children to take their learning, makes old men frolic, and, under the
color of praise, does without offense both tell princes their faults and
show them the way to amend them. In short, it makes every man the more
jocund and acceptable to himself, which is the chiefest point of
felicity. Again, what is more friendly than when two horses scrub one
another? And to say nothing of it, that it's a main part of physic,
and the only thing in poetry; 'tis the delight and relish of all
human society.

But 'tis a sad thing, they say, to be mistaken. Nay rather, he is most
miserable that is not so. For they are quite beside the mark that place
the happiness of men in things themselves, since it only depends upon
opinion. For so great is the obscurity and variety of human affairs that
nothing can be clearly known, as it is truly said by our academics, the
least insolent of all the philosophers; or if it could, it would but
obstruct the pleasure of life. Lastly, the mind of man is so framed that
it is rather taken with the false colors than truth; of which if anyone
has a mind to make the experiment, let him go to church and hear sermons,
in which if there be anything serious delivered, the audience is either
asleep, yawning, or weary of it; but if the preacher--pardon my mistake,
I would have said declaimer--as too often it happens, fall but into an
old wives' story, they're presently awake, prick up their ears and gape
after it. In like manner, if there be any poetical saint, or one of whom
there goes more stories than ordinary, as for example, a George, a
Christopher, or a Barbara, you shall see him more religiously worshiped
than Peter, Paul, or even Christ himself. But these things are not for
this place.

And now at how cheap a rate is this happiness purchased! Forasmuch as to
the thing itself a man's whole endeavor is required, be it never so
inconsiderable; but the opinion of it is easily taken up, which yet
conduces as much or more to happiness. For suppose a man were eating
rotten stockfish, the very smell of which would choke another, and yet
believed it a dish for the gods, what difference is there as to his
happiness? Whereas on the contrary, if another's stomach should turn at a
sturgeon, wherein, I pray, is he happier than the other? If a man have a
crooked, ill-favored wife, who yet in his eye may stand in competition
with Venus, is it not the same as if she were truly beautiful? Or if
seeing an ugly, ill-pointed piece, he should admire the work as believing
it some great master's hand, were he not much happier, think you, than
they that buy such things at vast rates, and yet perhaps reap less
pleasure from them than the other? I know one of my name that gave his
new married wife some counterfeit jewels, and as he was a pleasant droll,
persuaded her that they were not only right but of an inestimable price;
and what difference, I pray, to her, that was as well pleased and
contented with glass and kept it as warily as if it had been a treasure?
In the meantime the husband saved his money and had this advantage of her
folly, that he obliged her as much as if he had bought them at a great
rate. Or what difference, think you, between those in Plato's imaginary
cave that stand gaping at the shadows and figures of things, so they
please themselves and have no need to wish, and that wise man, who, being
got loose from them, sees things truly as they are? Whereas that cobbler
in Lucian if he might always have continued his golden dreams, he would
never have desired any other happiness. So then there is no difference;
or, if there be, the fools have the advantage: first, in that their
happiness costs them least, that is to say, only some small persuasion;
next, that they enjoy it in common. And the possession of no good can be
delightful without a companion. For who does not know what a dearth there
is of wise men, if yet any one be to be found? And though the Greeks for
these so many ages have accounted upon seven only, yet so help me
Hercules, do but examine them narrowly, and I'll be hanged if you find
one half-witted fellow, nay or so much as one-quarter of a wise man,
among them all.

For whereas among the many praises of Bacchus they reckon this the chief,
that he washes away cares, and that too in an instant, do but sleep off
his weak spirits, and they come on again, as we say, on horseback. But
how much larger and more present is the benefit you receive by me, since,
as it were with a perpetual drunkenness I fill your minds with mirth,
fancies, and jollities, and that too without any trouble? Nor is there
any man living whom I let be without it; whereas the gifts of the gods
are scrambled, some to one and some to another. The sprightly delicious
wine that drives away cares and leaves such a flavor behind it grows not
everywhere. Beauty, the gift of Venus, happens to few; and to fewer gives
Mercury eloquence. Hercules makes not everyone rich. Homer's Jupiter
bestows not empire on all men. Mars oftentimes favors neither side. Many
return sad from Apollo's oracle. Phoebus sometimes shoots a plague among
us. Neptune drowns more than he saves: to say nothing of those
mischievous gods, Plutoes, Ates, punishments, favors, and the like, not
gods but executioners. I am that only Folly that so readily and
indifferently bestows my benefits on all. Nor do I look to be entreated,
or am I subject to take pet, and require an expiatory sacrifice if some
ceremony be omitted. Nor do I beat heaven and earth together if, when the
rest of the gods are invited, I am passed by or not admitted to the
stream of their sacrifices. For the rest of the gods are so curious in
this point that such an omission may chance to spoil a man's business;
and therefore one has as good even let them alone as worship them: just
like some men, who are so hard to please, and withall so ready to do
mischief, that 'tis better be a stranger than have any familiarity
with them.

But no man, you'll say, ever sacrificed to Folly or built me a temple.
And troth, as I said before, I cannot but wonder at the ingratitude; yet
because I am easily to be entreated, I take this also in good part,
though truly I can scarce request it. For why should I require incense,
wafers, a goat, or sow when all men pay me that worship everywhere which
is so much approved even by our very divines? Unless perhaps I should
envy Diana that her sacrifices are mingled with human blood. Then do I
conceive myself most religiously worshiped when everywhere, as 'tis
generally done, men embrace me in their minds, express me in their
manners, and represent me in their lives, which worship of the saints is
not so ordinary among Christians. How many are there that burn candles to
the Virgin Mother, and that too at noonday when there's no need of them!
But how few are there that study to imitate her in pureness of life,
humility and love of heavenly things, which is the true worship and most
acceptable to heaven! Besides why should I desire a temple when the whole
world is my temple, and I'm deceived or 'tis a goodly one? Nor can I want
priests but in a land where there are no men. Nor am I yet so foolish as
to require statues or painted images, which do often obstruct my worship,
since among the stupid and gross multitude those figures are worshiped
for the saints themselves. And so it would fare with me, as it does with
them that are turned out of doors by their substitutes. No, I have
statues enough, and as many as there are men, everyone bearing my lively
resemblance in his face, how unwilling so ever he be to the contrary. And
therefore there is no reason why I should envy the rest of the gods if in
particular places they have their particular worship, and that too on set
days--as Phoebus at Rhodes; at Cyprus, Venus; at Argos, Juno; at Athens,
Minerva; in Olympus, Jupiter; at Tarentum, Neptune; and near the
Hellespont, Priapus--as long as the world in general performs me every
day much better sacrifices.

Wherein notwithstanding if I shall seem to anyone to have spoken more
boldly than truly, let us, if you please, look a little into the lives of
men, and it will easily appear not only how much they owe to me, but how
much they esteem me even from the highest to the lowest. And yet we will
not run over the lives of everyone, for that would be too long, but only
some few of the great ones, from whence we shall easily conjecture the
rest. For to what purpose is it to say anything of the common people, who
without dispute are wholly mine? For they abound everywhere with so many
several sorts of folly, and are every day so busy in inventing new, that
a thousand Democriti are too few for so general a laughter though there
were another Democritus to laugh at them too. 'Tis almost incredible what
sport and pastime they daily make the gods; for though they set aside
their sober forenoon hours to dispatch business and receive prayers, yet
when they begin to be well whittled with nectar and cannot think of
anything that's serious, they get them up into some part of heaven that
has better prospect than other and thence look down upon the actions of
men. Nor is there anything that pleases them better. Good, good! what an
excellent sight it is! How many several hurly-burlies of fools! for I
myself sometimes sit among those poetical gods.

Here's one desperately in love with a young wench, and the more she
slights him the more outrageously he loves her. Another marries a woman's
money, not herself. Another's jealousy keeps more eyes on her than Argos.
Another becomes a mourner, and how foolishly he carries it! nay, hires
others to bear him company to make it more ridiculous. Another weeps over
his mother-in-law's grave. Another spends all he can rap and run on his
belly, to be the more hungry after it. Another thinks there is no
happiness but in sleep and idleness. Another turmoils himself about other
men's business and neglects his own. Another thinks himself rich in
taking up moneys and changing securities, as we say borrowing of Peter to
pay Paul, and in a short time becomes bankrupt. Another starves himself
to enrich his heir. Another for a small and uncertain gain exposes his
life to the casualties of seas and winds, which yet no money can restore.
Another had rather get riches by war than live peaceably at home. And
some there are that think them easiest attained by courting old childless
men with presents; and others again by making rich old women believe they
love them; both which afford the gods most excellent pastime, to see them
cheated by those persons they thought to have over-caught. But the most
foolish and basest of all others are our merchants, to wit such as
venture on everything be it never so dishonest, and manage it no better;
who though they lie by no allowance, swear and forswear, steal, cozen,
and cheat, yet shuffle themselves into the first rank, and all because
they have gold rings on their fingers. Nor are they without their
flattering friars that admire them and give them openly the title of
honorable, in hopes, no doubt, to get some small snip of it themselves.

There are also a kind of Pythagoreans with whom all things are so common
that if they get anything under their cloaks, they make no more scruple
of carrying it away than if it were their own by inheritance. There are
others too that are only rich in conceit, and while they fancy to
themselves pleasant dreams, conceive that enough to make them happy. Some
desire to be accounted wealthy abroad and are yet ready to starve at
home. One makes what haste he can to set all going, and another rakes it
together by right or wrong. This man is ever laboring for public honors,
and another lies sleeping in a chimney corner. A great many undertake
endless suits and outvie one another who shall most enrich the dilatory
judge or corrupt advocate. One is all for innovations and another for
some great he-knows-not-what. Another leaves his wife and children at
home and goes to Jerusalem, Rome, or in pilgrimage to St. James's where
he has no business. In short, if a man like Menippus of old could look
down from the moon and behold those innumerable rufflings of mankind, he
would think he saw a swarm of flies and gnats quarreling among
themselves, fighting, laying traps for one another, snatching, playing,
wantoning, growing up, falling, and dying. Nor is it to be believed what
stir, what broils, this little creature raises, and yet in how short a
time it comes to nothing itself; while sometimes war, other times
pestilence, sweeps off many thousands of them together.

But let me be most foolish myself, and one whom Democritus may not only
laugh at but flout, if I go one foot further in the discovery of the
follies and madnesses of the common people. I'll betake me to them that
carry the reputation of wise men and hunt after that golden bough, as
says the proverb. Among whom the grammarians hold the first place, a
generation of men than whom nothing would be more miserable, nothing more
perplexed, nothing more hated of the gods, did not I allay the troubles
of that pitiful profession with a certain kind of pleasant madness. For
they are not only subject to those five curses with which Home begins his
Iliads, as says the Greek epigram, but six hundred; as being ever
hunger-starved and slovens in their schools--schools, did I say? Nay,
rather cloisters, bridewells, or slaughterhouses--grown old among a
company of boys, deaf with their noise, and pined away with stench and
nastiness. And yet by my courtesy it is that they think themselves the
most excellent of all men, so greatly do they please themselves in
frighting a company of fearful boys with a thundering voice and big looks,
tormenting them with ferules, rods, and whips; and, laying about them
without fear or wit, imitate the ass in the lion's skin. In the meantime
all that nastiness seems absolute spruceness, that stench a perfume, and
that miserable slavery a kingdom, and such too as they would not change
their tyranny for Phalaris' or Dionysius' empire. Nor are they less happy
in that new opinion they have taken up of being learned; for whereas most
of them beat into boys' heads nothing but foolish toys, yet, you good
gods! what Palemon, what Donatus, do they not scorn in comparison of
themselves? And so, I know not by what tricks, they bring it about that
to their boys' foolish mothers and dolt-headed fathers they pass for such
as they fancy themselves. Add to this that other pleasure of theirs, that
if any of them happen to find out who was Anchises' mother, or pick out
of some worm-eaten manuscript a word not commonly known--as suppose it
bubsequa for a cowherd, bovinator for a wrangler, manticulator for a
cutpurse--or dig up the ruins of some ancient monument with the letters
half eaten out; O Jupiter! what towerings! what triumphs! what
commendations! as if they had conquered Africa or taken in Babylon.

But what of this when they give up and down their foolish insipid verses,
and there wants not others that admire them as much? They believe
presently that Virgil's soul is transmigrated into them! But nothing like
this, when with mutual compliments they praise, admire, and claw one
another. Whereas if another do but slip a word and one more quick-sighted
than the rest discover it by accident, O Hercules! what uproars, what
bickerings, what taunts, what invectives! If I lie, let me have the ill
will of all the grammarians. I knew in my time one of many arts, a
Grecian, a Latinist, a mathematician, a philosopher, a physician, a man
master of them all, and sixty years of age, who, laying by all the rest,
perplexed and tormented himself for above twenty years in the study of
grammar, fully reckoning himself a prince if he might but live so long
till he could certainly determine how the eight parts of speech were to
be distinguished, which none of the Greeks or Latins had yet fully
cleared: as if it were a matter to be decided by the sword if a man made
an adverb of a conjunction. And for this cause is it that we have as many
grammars as grammarians; nay more, forasmuch as my friend Aldus has given
us above five, not passing by any kind of grammar, how barbarously or
tediously soever compiled, which he has not turned over and examined;
envying every man's attempts in this kind, how to be pitied than happy,
as persons that are ever tormenting themselves; adding, changing, putting
in, blotting out, revising, reprinting, showing it to friends, and nine
years in correcting, yet never fully satisfied; at so great a rate do
they purchase this vain reward, to wit, praise, and that too of a very
few, with so many watchings, so much sweat, so much vexation and loss of
sleep, the most precious of all things. Add to this the waste of health,
spoil of complexion, weakness of eyes or rather blindness, poverty, envy,
abstinence from pleasure, over-hasty old age, untimely death, and the
like; so highly does this wise man value the approbation of one or two
blear-eyed fellows. But how much happier is this my writer's dotage who
never studies for anything but puts in writing whatever he pleases or
what comes first in his head, though it be but his dreams; and all this
with small waste of paper, as well knowing that the vainer those trifles
are, the higher esteem they will have with the greater number, that is to
say all the fools and unlearned. And what matter is it to slight those
few learned if yet they ever read them? Or of what authority will the
censure of so few wise men be against so great a cloud of gainsayers?

But they are the wiser that put out other men's works for their own, and
transfer that glory which others with great pains have obtained to
themselves; relying on this, that they conceive, though it should so
happen that their theft be never so plainly detected, that yet they
should enjoy the pleasure of it for the present. And 'tis worth one's
while to consider how they please themselves when they are applauded by
the common people, pointed at in a crowd, "This is that excellent
person;" lie on booksellers' stalls; and in the top of every page have
three hard words read, but chiefly exotic and next degree to conjuring;
which, by the immortal gods! what are they but mere words? And again, if
you consider the world, by how few understood, and praised by fewer! for
even among the unlearned there are different palates. Or what is it that
their own very names are often counterfeit or borrowed from some books of
the ancients? When one styles himself Telemachus, another Sthenelus, a
third Laertes, a fourth Polycrates, a fifth Thrasymachus. So that there
is no difference whether they title their books with the "Tale of a Tub,"
or, according to the philosophers, by alpha, beta.

But the most pleasant of all is to see them praise one another with
reciprocal epistles, verses, and encomiums; fools their fellow fools, and
dunces their brother dunces. This, in the other's opinion, is an absolute
Alcaeus; and the other, in his, a very Callimachus. He looks upon Tully
as nothing to the other, and the other again pronounces him more learned
than Plato. And sometimes too they pick out their antagonist and think to
raise themselves a fame by writing one against the other; while the giddy
multitude are so long divided to whether of the two they shall determine
the victory, till each goes off conqueror, and, as if he had done some
great action, fancies himself a triumph. And now wise men laugh at these
things as foolish, as indeed they are. Who denies it? Yet in the
meantime, such is my kindness to them, they live a merry life and would
not change their imaginary triumphs, no, not with the Scipioes. While yet
those learned men, though they laugh their fill and reap the benefit of
the other's folly, cannot without ingratitude deny but that even they too
are not a little beholding to me themselves.

And among them our advocates challenge the first place, nor is there any
sort of people that please themselves like them: for while they daily
roll Sisyphus his stone, and quote you a thousand cases, as it were, in a
breath no matter how little to the purpose, and heap glosses upon
glosses, and opinions on the neck of opinions, they bring it at last to
this pass, that that study of all other seems the most difficult. Add to
these our logicians and sophists, a generation of men more prattling than
an echo and the worst of them able to outchat a hundred of the best
picked gossips. And yet their condition would be much better were they
only full of words and not so given to scolding that they most
obstinately hack and hew one another about a matter of nothing and make
such a sputter about terms and words till they have quite lost the sense.
And yet they are so happy in the good opinion of themselves that as soon
as they are furnished with two or three syllogisms, they dare boldly
enter the lists against any man upon any point, as not doubting but to
run him down with noise, though the opponent were another Stentor.

And next these come our philosophers, so much reverenced for their furred
gowns and starched beards that they look upon themselves as the only wise
men and all others as shadows. And yet how pleasantly do they dote while
they frame in their heads innumerable worlds; measure out the sun, the
moon, the stars, nay and heaven itself, as it were, with a pair of
compasses; lay down the causes of lightning, winds, eclipses, and other
the like inexplicable matters; and all this too without the least
doubting, as if they were Nature's secretaries, or dropped down among us
from the council of the gods; while in the meantime Nature laughs at them
and all their blind conjectures. For that they know nothing, even this is
a sufficient argument, that they don't agree among themselves and so are
incomprehensible touching every particular. These, though they have not
the least degree of knowledge, profess yet that they have mastered all;
nay, though they neither know themselves, nor perceive a ditch or block
that lies in their way, for that perhaps most of them are half blind, or
their wits a wool-gathering, yet give out that they have discovered
ideas, universalities, separated forms, first matters, quiddities,
haecceities, formalities, and the like stuff; things so thin and bodiless
that I believe even Lynceus himself was not able to perceive them. But
then chiefly do they disdain the unhallowed crowd as often as with their
triangles, quadrangles, circles, and the like mathematical devices, more
confounded than a labyrinth, and letters disposed one against the other,
as it were in battle array, they cast a mist before the eyes of the
ignorant. Nor is there wanting of this kind some that pretend to
foretell things by the stars and make promises of miracles beyond
all things of soothsaying, and are so fortunate as to meet with people
that believe them.

But perhaps I had better pass over our divines in silence and not stir
this pool or touch this fair but unsavory plant, as a kind of men that
are supercilious beyond comparison, and to that too, implacable; lest
setting them about my ears, they attack me by troops and force me to a
recantation sermon, which if I refuse, they straight pronounce me a
heretic. For this is the thunderbolt with which they fright those whom
they are resolved not to favor. And truly, though there are few others
that less willingly acknowledge the kindnesses I have done them, yet even
these too stand fast bound to me upon no ordinary accounts; while being
happy in their own opinion, and as if they dwelt in the third heaven,
they look with haughtiness on all others as poor creeping things and
could almost find in their hearts to pity them; while hedged in with so
many magisterial definitions, conclusions, corollaries, propositions
explicit and implicit, they abound with so many starting-holes that
Vulcan's net cannot hold them so fast, but they'll slip through with
their distinctions, with which they so easily cut all knots asunder that
a hatchet could not have done it better, so plentiful are they in their
new-found words and prodigious terms. Besides, while they explicate the
most hidden mysteries according to their own fancy--as how the world was
first made; how original sin is derived to posterity; in what manner, how
much room, and how long time Christ lay in the Virgin's womb; how
accidents subsist in the Eucharist without their subject.

But these are common and threadbare; these are worthy of our great and
illuminated divines, as the world calls them! At these, if ever they fall
athwart them, they prick up--as whether there was any instant of time in
the generation of the Second Person; whether there be more than one
filiation in Christ; whether it be a possible proposition that God the
Father hates the Son; or whether it was possible that Christ could have
taken upon Him the likeness of a woman, or of the devil, or of an ass, or
of a stone, or of a gourd; and then how that gourd should have preached,
wrought miracles, or been hung on the cross; and what Peter had
consecrated if he had administered the Sacrament at what time the body of
Christ hung upon the cross; or whether at the same time he might be said
to be man; whether after the Resurrection there will be any eating and
drinking, since we are so much afraid of hunger and thirst in this world.
There are infinite of these subtle trifles, and others more subtle than
these, of notions, relations, instants, formalities, quiddities,
haecceities, which no one can perceive without a Lynceus whose eyes could
look through a stone wall and discover those things through the thickest
darkness that never were.

Add to this those their other determinations, and those too so contrary
to common opinion that those oracles of the Stoics, which they call
paradoxes, seem in comparison of these but blockish and idle--as 'tis a
lesser crime to kill a thousand men than to set a stitch on a poor man's
shoe on the Sabbath day; and that a man should rather choose that the
whole world with all food and raiment, as they say, should perish, than
tell a lie, though never so inconsiderable. And these most subtle
subtleties are rendered yet more subtle by the several methods of so many
Schoolmen, that one might sooner wind himself out of a labyrinth than the
entanglements of the realists, nominalists, Thomists, Albertists,
Occamists, Scotists. Nor have I named all the several sects, but only
some of the chief; in all which there is so much doctrine and so much
difficulty that I may well conceive the apostles, had they been to deal
with these new kind of divines, had needed to have prayed in aid of some
other spirit.

Paul knew what faith was, and yet when he said, "Faith is the substance
of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen," he did not
define it doctor-like. And as he understood charity well himself, so he
did as illogically divide and define it to others in his first Epistle to
the Corinthians, Chapter the thirteenth. And devoutly, no doubt, did the
apostles consecrate the Eucharist; yet, had they been asked the question
touching the "terminus a quo" and the "terminus ad quem" of
transubstantiation; of the manner how the same body can be in several
places at one and the same time; of the difference the body of Christ has
in heaven from that of the cross, or this in the Sacrament; in what point
of time transubstantiation is, whereas prayer, by means of which it is,
as being a discrete quantity, is transient; they would not, I conceive,
have answered with the same subtlety as the Scotists dispute and define
it. They knew the mother of Jesus, but which of them has so
philosophically demonstrated how she was preserved from original sin as
have done our divines? Peter received the keys, and from Him too that
would not have trusted them with a person unworthy; yet whether he had
understanding or no, I know not, for certainly he never attained to that
subtlety to determine how he could have the key of knowledge that had no
knowledge himself. They baptized far and near, and yet taught nowhere
what was the formal, material, efficient, and final cause of baptism, nor
made the least mention of delible and indelible characters. They
worshiped, 'tis true, but in spirit, following herein no other than that
of the Gospel, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship, must worship him
in spirit and truth;" yet it does not appear it was at that time revealed
to them that an image sketched on the wall with a coal was to be
worshiped with the same worship as Christ Himself, if at least the two
forefingers be stretched out, the hair long and uncut, and have three
rays about the crown of the head. For who can conceive these things,
unless he has spent at least six and thirty years in the philosophical
and supercelestial whims of Aristotle and the Schoolmen?

In like manner, the apostles press to us grace; but which of them
distinguishes between free grace and grace that makes a man acceptable?
They exhort us to good works, and yet determine not what is the work
working, and what a resting in the work done. They incite us to charity,
and yet make no difference between charity infused and charity wrought in
us by our own endeavors. Nor do they declare whether it be an accident or
a substance, a thing created or uncreated. They detest and abominate sin,
but let me not live if they could define according to art what that is
which we call sin, unless perhaps they were inspired by the spirit of the
Scotists. Nor can I be brought to believe that Paul, by whose learning
you may judge the rest, would have so often condemned questions,
disputes, genealogies, and, as himself calls them, "strifes of words," if
he had thoroughly understood those subtleties, especially when all the
debates and controversies of those times were rude and blockish in
comparison of the more than Chrysippean subtleties of our masters.
Although yet the gentlemen are so modest that if they meet with anything
written by the apostles not so smooth and even as might be expected from
a master, they do not presently condemn it but handsomely bend it to
their own purpose, so great respect and honor do they give, partly to
antiquity and partly to the name of apostle. And truly 'twas a kind of
injustice to require so great things of them that never heard the least
word from their masters concerning it. And so if the like happen in
Chrysostom, Basil, Jerome, they think it enough to say they are not
obliged by it.

The apostles also confuted the heathen philosophers and Jews, a people
than whom none more obstinate, but rather by their good lives and
miracles than syllogisms: and yet there was scarce one among them that
was capable of understanding the least "quodlibet" of the Scotists. But
now, where is that heathen or heretic that must not presently stoop to
such wire-drawn subtleties, unless he be so thick-skulled that he can't
apprehend them, or so impudent as to hiss them down, or, being furnished
with the same tricks, be able to make his party good with them? As if a
man should set a conjurer on work against a conjurer, or fight with one
hallowed sword against another, which would prove no other than a work to
no purpose. For my own part I conceive the Christians would do much
better if instead of those dull troops and companies of soldiers with
which they have managed their war with such doubtful success, they would
send the bawling Scotists, the most obstinate Occamists, and invincible
Albertists to war against the Turks and Saracens; and they would see, I
guess, a most pleasant combat and such a victory as was never before. For
who is so faint whom their devices will not enliven? who so stupid whom
such spurs can't quicken? or who so quick-sighted before whose eyes they
can't cast a mist?

But you'll say, I jest. Nor are you without cause, since even among
divines themselves there are some that have learned better and are ready
to turn their stomachs at those foolish subtleties of the others. There
are some that detest them as a kind of sacrilege and count it the height
of impiety to speak so irreverently of such hidden things, rather to be
adored than explicated; to dispute of them with such profane and
heathenish niceties; to define them so arrogantly and pollute the majesty
of divinity with such pithless and sordid terms and opinions. Meantime
the others please, nay hug themselves in their happiness, and are so
taken up with these pleasant trifles that they have not so much leisure
as to cast the least eye on the Gospel or St. Paul's epistles. And while
they play the fool at this rate in their schools, they make account the
universal church would otherwise perish, unless, as the poets fancied of
Atlas that he supported heaven with his shoulders, they underpropped the
other with their syllogistical buttresses. And how great a happiness is
this, think you? while, as if Holy Writ were a nose of wax, they fashion
and refashion it according to their pleasure; while they require that
their own conclusions, subscribed by two or three Schoolmen, be accounted
greater than Solon's laws and preferred before the papal decretals;
while, as censors of the world, they force everyone to a recantation that
differs but a hair's breadth from the least of their explicit or implicit
determinations. And those too they pronounce like oracles. This
proposition is scandalous; this irreverent; this has a smack of heresy;
this no very good sound: so that neither baptism, nor the Gospel, nor
Paul, nor Peter, nor St. Jerome, nor St. Augustine, no nor most
Aristotelian Thomas himself can make a man a Christian, without these

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