Charm School for Women

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe, The Education of Women
Vol. 27, pp. 148-150 of The Harvard Classics

Lack of education, writes Defoe, makes a woman "turbulent, clamorous, noisy - " Defoe defied his generation and preached equal education for women. To-day we have co-education, but have we the benefits Defoe predicted?
(Defoe pilloried for defiance of public opinion, July 31, 1703.)

HAVE often thought of it as one of the most barbarous customs in the world, considering us as a civilized and a Christian country, that we deny the advantages of learning to women. We reproach the sex every day with folly and impertinence; while I am confident, had they the advantages of education equal to us, they would be guilty of less than ourselves.

  One would wonder, indeed, how it should happen that women are conversible at all; since they are only beholden to natural parts, for all their knowledge. Their youth is spent to teach them to stitch and sew or make baubles. They are taught to read, indeed, and perhaps to write their names, or so; and that is the height of a woman’s education. And I would but ask any who slight the sex for their understanding, what is a man (a gentleman, I mean) good for, that is taught no more? I need not give instances, or examine the character of a gentleman, with a good estate, or a good family, and with tolerable parts; and examine what figure he makes for want of education.

The First English Colony in North America

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Sir Humphrey Gilbert

Edward Haies (1550-1613), Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s Voyage to Newfoundland
Vol. 33, pp. 263-273 of The Harvard Classics

When the whole coast of America north of Florida was free to the first comer, Sir Humphrey Gilbert naïvely chose to settle on the rugged shores of Newfoundland. Read the glowing account of his great adventure "to plant Christian inhabitants in places convenient."
(Gilbert lands at Newfoundland near St. John's, July 30, 1583.)

REPORT of the VOYAGE and success thereof, attempted in the year of our Lord 1583, by SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT, KNIGHT, with other gentlemen assisting him in that action, intended to discover and to plant Christian inhabitants in place convenient, upon those large and ample countries extended northward from the Cape of FLORIDA, lying under very temperate climes, esteemed fertile and rich in minerals, yet not in the actual possession of any Christian prince. Written by MR. EDWARD HAIES, gentleman, and principal actor in the same voyage, 1 who alone continued unto the end, and, by God’s special assistance, returned home with his retinue safe and entire.

MANY voyages have been pretended, yet hitherto never any thoroughly accomplished by our nation, of exact discovery into the bowels of those main, ample, and vast countries extended infinitely into the north from thirty degrees, or rather from twenty-five degrees, of septentrional latitude, neither hath a right way been taken of planting a Christian habitation and regiment 2 upon the same, as well may appear both by the little we yet do actually possess therein, and by our ignorance of the riches and secrets within those lands, which unto this day we know chiefly by the travel and report of other nations, and most of the French, who albeit they cannot challenge such right and interest unto the said countries as we, neither these many years have had opportunity nor means so great to discover and to plant, being vexed with the calamities of intestine wars, as we have had by the inestimable benefit of our long and happy peace, yet have they both ways performed more, and had long since attained a sure possession and settled government of many provinces in those northerly parts of America, if their many attempts into those foreign and remote lands had not been impeached by their garboils at home.

Stonehenge - England's Unsolved Mysterysto

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

17th Century depiction of Stonehenge

Ralph Waldo Emerson. (1803–1882). Essays and English Traits.
Vol. 5, pp. 453-462 of The Harvard Classics

Stonehenge, that group of huge, rudely architectural stones on a vast plain in England, was erected no man knows when, nor why, nor how. Emerson, America's greatest thinker, visited this monument and was amazed at the "uncanny stones."

English Traits
XVI. Stonehenge

IT had been agreed between my friend Mr. C. and me, that before I left England we should make an excursion together to Stonehenge, which neither of us had seen; and the project pleased my fancy with the double attraction of the monument and the companion. It seemed a bringing together of extreme points, to visit the oldest religious monument in Britain, in company with her latest thinker, and one whose influence may be traced in every contemporary book. I was glad to sum up a little my experiences, and to exchange a few reasonable words on the aspects of England, with a man on whose genius I set a very high value, and who had as much penetration, and as severe a theory of duty, as any person in it. On Friday, 7th July, we took the South Western Railway through Hampshire to Salisbury, where we found a carriage to convey us to Amesbury. The fine weather and my friend’s local knowledge of Hampshire, in which he is wont to spend a part of every summer, made the way short. There was much to say, too, of the travelling Americans, and their usual objects in London. I thought it natural that they should give some time to works of art collected here, which they cannot find at home, and a little to scientific clubs and museums, which at this moment, make London very attractive. But my philosopher was not contented. Art and “high art” is a favorite target for his wit. “Yes,Kunst is a great delusion, and Goethe and Schiller wasted a great deal of good time on it:”—and he thinks he discovers that old Goethe found this out, and, in his later writings, changed his tone. As soon as men begin to talk of art, architecture, and antiquities, nothing good comes of it. He wishes to go through the British Museum in silence, and thinks a sincere man will see something, and say nothing. In these days, he thought, it would become an architect to consult only the grim necessity, and say, “I can build you a coffin for such dead persons as you are, and for such dead purposes as you have, but you shall have no ornament.” For the science, he had, if possible, even less tolerance, and compared the savans of Somerset House to the boy who asked Confucius “how many stars in the sky?” Confucius replied, “he minded things near him:” then said the boy, “how many hairs are there in your eyebrows?” Confucius said, “he didn’t know and didn't care.”

An Idyl of Agriculture

Monday, 28 July 2014

Abraham Cowley

Abraham Cowley (1618-1687), Of Agriculture.
Vol. 27, pp. 61-69 of The Harvard Classics

Cowley portrays the ideal life - that of a farmer, and blazons it forth in heraldry. "A plow in a field arable" - to him, the most honorable of all emblems.
(Abraham Cowley died July 28, 1667.)

THE FIRST wish of Virgil (as you will find anon by his verses) was to be a good philosopher, the second, a good husbandman: and God (whom he seem’d to understand better than most of the most learned heathens) dealt with him just as he did with Solomon; because he prayed for wisdom in the first place, he added all things else, which were subordinately to be desir’d. He made him one of the best philosophers and the best husbandmen; and, to adorn and communicate both those faculties, the best poet. He made him, besides all this, a rich man, and a man who desired to be no richer—

“O fortunatus nimium, et bona qui sua novit!” 1

To be a husbandman, is but a retreat from the city; to be a philosopher, from the world; or rather, a retreat from the world, as it is man’s, into the world, as it is God’s.

Once Surgeons Operated in Frock Coats

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Joseph Lister

Joseph Lister (1827–1912). On the Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery.
Vol. 38, pp. 257-267 of The Harvard Classics

The use of antiseptics in surgery is new. Hardly more than a half century ago surgeons operated in frock coats. Lord Lister, surgeon to Queen Victoria, was among the first to advocate scrupulous cleanliness in dressing wounds.
(Lister publishes paper on antiseptic treatment, July 27, 1867.)

IN THE COURSE of an extended investigation into the nature of inflammation, and the healthy and morbid conditions of the blood in relation to it, I arrived several years ago at the conclusion that the essential cause of suppuration in wounds is decomposition brought about by the influence of the atmosphere upon blood or serum retained within them, and, in the case of contused wounds, upon portions of tissue destroyed by the violence of the injury.

Peace Amid Strife

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Thomas van Kempen

Thomas à Kempis. (b. 1379 or 1380, d. 1471). The Imitation of Christ.
Vol. 7, pp. 205-211 of The Harvard Classics

While Europe was shaken with wars, Thomas à Kempis lived in happy seclusion in his convent. His writings convincingly reflect the serenity and happiness of a man who has found peace - a peace that surpasses all understanding.
(Thomas à Kempis died July 26, 1471.)

Book I: Admonitions Profitable for the Spiritual Life
I. Of the Imitation of Christ, and of Contempt of the World and all its Vanities

HE that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, 1 saith the Lord. These are the words of Christ; and they teach us how far we must imitate His life and character, if we seek true illumination, and deliverance from all blindness of heart. Let it be our most earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life of Jesus Christ.

  2. His teaching surpasseth all teaching of holy men, and such as have His Spirit find therein the hidden manna. 2 But there are many who, though they frequently hear the Gospel, yet feel but little longing after it, because they have not the mind of Christ. He, therefore, that will fully and with true wisdom understand the words of Christ, let him strive to conform his whole life to that mind of Christ.

  3. What doth it profit thee to enter into deep discussion concerning the Holy Trinity, if thou lack humility, and be thus displeasing to the Trinity? For verily it is not deep words that make a man holy and upright; it is a good life which maketh a man dear to God. I had rather feel contrition than be skilful in the definition thereof. If thou knewest the whole Bible, and the sayings of all the philosophers, what should all this profit thee without the love and grace of God? Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, save to love God, and Him only to serve. That is the highest wisdom, to cast the world behind us, and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom.

A Goddess and Her Mortal Lover

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs.
Vol. 49, pp. 391-395 of The Harvard Classics

Brynhild, Woden's daughter, carried the dead heroes to Valhalla where they could feast and fight without dying; until a sin divested her of divinity, and she fell in love with Sigurd.

Certain Songs from the Elder Edda which Deal with the Story of the Volsungs
Fragments of the Lay of Brynhild


What hath wrought Sigurd
Of any wrong-doing
That the life of the famed one
Thou art fain of taking?

Indian Sorcery Blamed for an Earthquake

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882). The Voyage of the Beagle.
Vol. 29, pp. 306-316 of The Harvard Classics

Darwin visited a South American city ruined by an earthquake. There he heard the superstitious account of the phenomenon. The ignorant people accused Indian women of bewitching the volcano. But Darwin has another explanation.

Chapter XIV


  A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations: the earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath our feet like a thin crust over a fluid;—one second of time has created in the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflection would not have produced. In the forest, as a breeze moved the trees, I felt only the earth tremble, but saw no other effect. Captain Fitz Roy and some officers were at the town during the shock, and there the scene was more striking; for although the houses, from being built of wood, did not fall, they were violently shaken, and the boards creaked and rattled together. The people rushed out of doors in the greatest alarm. It is these accompaniments that create that perfect horror of earthquakes, experienced by all who have thus seen, as well as felt, their effects. Within the forest it was a deeply interesting, but by no means an awe-exciting phenomenon. The tides were very curiously affected. The great shock took place at the time of low water; and an old woman who was on the beach told me that the water flowed very quickly, but not in great waves, to high-water mark, and then as quickly returned to its proper level; this was also evident by the line of wet sand. The same kind of quick but quiet movement in the tide happened a few years since at Chiloe, during a slight earthquake, and created much causeless alarm. In the course of the evening there were many weaker shocks, which seemed to produce in the harbour the most complicated currents, and some of great strength.

Friendship Above Love?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon. (1561–1626). Essays, Civil and Moral.
Vol. 3 pp. 65-72 of The Harvard Classics

There are styles in friendship as well as in clothes. The mode of friendship of Bacon's time went out with plumed hats and long hose. But Bacon knew the true test of a friend.
(Francis Bacon knighted, July 23, 1603.)

Of Friendship

IT had been hard for him that spake 1 it to have put more truth and untruth together in few words, than in that speech, Whatsoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god. For it is most true that a natural and secret hatred and aversation towards society in any man, hath somewhat of the savage beast; but it is most untrue that it should have any character at all of the divine nature; except it proceed, not out of a pleasure in soltitude, but out of a love and desire to sequester a man’s self for a higher conversation: 2 such as is found to have been falsely and feignedly in some of the heathen; as Epimenides the Candian, Numa the Roman, Empedocles the Sicilian, and Apollonius of Tyana; and truly and really in divers of the ancient hermits and holy fathers of the church. But little do men perceive what solitude is, and how far it extendeth. For a crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures; and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love. The Latin adage meeteth with it a little: Magna civitas, magna solitudo [A great town is a great solitude]; because in a great town friends are scattered; so that there is not that fellowship, for the most part, which is in less neighborhoods. But we may go further, and affirm most truly that it is a mere and miserable solitude to want true friends; without which the world is but a wilderness; and even in this sense also of solitude, whosoever in the frame of his nature and affections is unfit for friendship, he taketh it of the beast, and not from humanity.

Trapped in a Cave with a Frenzied Giant

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


Homer (fl. 850 B.C.). The Odyssey.
Vol. 22, pp. 120-129 of The Harvard Classics

Odysseus was wrecked with his men on an island inhabited by one-eyed giants. Trapped in the cave of a giant who gobbled up some of the crew for supper, the cunning Odysseus blinded the giant and rescued the survivors of his crew.

Book IX


  ‘Then I commanded the rest of my well-loved company to tarry there by the ship, and to guard the ship, but I chose out twelve men, the best of my company, and sallied forth. Now I had with me a goat-skin of the dark wine and sweet which Maron, son of Euanthes, had given me, the priest of Apollo, the god that watched over Ismarus. And he gave it, for that we had protected him with his wife and child reverently; for he dwelt in a thick grove of Phoebus Apollo. And he made me splendid gifts; he gave me seven talents of gold well wrought, and he gave me a mixing bowl of pure silver, and furthermore wine which he drew off in twelve jars in all, sweet wine unmingled, a draught divine; nor did any of his servants or of his handmaids in the house know thereof, but himself and his dear wife and one housedame only. And as often as they drank that red wine honey sweet, he would fill one cup and pour it into twenty measures of water, and a marvellous sweet smell went up from the mixing bowl: then truly it was no pleasure to refrain.

Scotland's Own Poet

Monday, 21 July 2014

Robert Burns

Robert Burns (1759–1796). Poems and Songs.
Vol. 6, pp. 70-79 of The Harvard Classics

The songs of Burns are the links, the watchwords, the symbols of the Scots. He is the last of the ballad singers. In his works are preserved the best songs of his people.
(Robert Burns died July 21, 1796.)

Holy Willie’s Prayer

“And send the godly in a pet to pray.”—POPE.

ARGUMENT.—Holy Willie was a rather oldish bachelor elder, in the parish of Mauchline, and much and justly famed for that polemical chattering, which ends in tippling orthodoxy, and for that spiritualized bawdry which refines to liquorish devotion. In a sessional process with a gentleman in Mauchline—a Mr.Gavin Hamilton—Holy Willie and his priest, Father Auld, after full hearing in the presbytery of Ayr, came off but second best; owing partly to the oratorical powers of Mr. Robert Aiken, Mr. Hamilton’s counsel; but chiefly to Mr. Hamilton’s being one of the most irreproachable and truly respectable characters in the county. On losing the process, the muse overheard him [Holy Willie] at his devotions, as follows:—

A Cobbler in Jail

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Pilgrim's Progress First Edition

John Bunyan (1628–1688). The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Vol. 15, pp. 59-69 of The Harvard Classics

John Bunyan, imprisoned for preaching without a license, gave to the world "Pilgrim's Progress," the greatest allegory in any language, second only to the Bible.

The Pilgrim’s Progress, in the Similitude of a Dream; The First Part


  Now he bethought himself of setting forward, and they were willing he should: but first, said they, let us go again into the Armory: So they did; and when they came there, they harnessed him from head to foot with what was of proof, lest perhaps he should meet with assaults in the way. He being therefore thus accoutred, walketh out with his friends to the Gate, and there he asked the Porter if he saw any Pilgrims pass by: Then the Porter answered, Yes.

  Chr.  Pray, did you know him? said he.
  Por. I asked his name, and he told me it was Faithful.
  Chr.  O, said Christian, I know him; he is my Townsman, my near Neighbor, he comes from the place where I was born: How far do you think he may be before?
  Por. He is got by this time below the Hill.
  Chr.  Well, said Christian, good Porter, the Lord be with thee, and add to all thy blessings much increase, for the kindness that thou hast shewed to me.

Whilst Christian is among his godly friends,
Their golden mouths make him sufficient mends
For all his griefs, and when they let him go,
He’s clad with northern Steel from top to toe.

  Then he began to go forward; but Discretion, Piety, Charity, and Prudence,would accompany him down to the foot of the Hill. So they went on together, reiterating their former discourses, till they came to go down the Hill. Then said Christian, As it was difficult coming up, so (so far as I can see) it is dangerous going down. Yes, said Prudence, so it is, for it is a hard matter for a man to go down into the Valley of Humiliation, as thou art now, and to catch no slip by the way; therefore, said they, are we come out to accompany thee down the Hill. So he began to go down, but very warily; yet he caught a slip or two.

She Wanted Heroes All to Herself

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618), The Discovery of Guiana
Vol. 33, pp. 311-320 of The Harvard Classics

The famous gallant who spread his gorgeous cloak so the dainty slipper of his queen would be unspotted, soon lost the high favor this action won for him. In spite of his glorious voyages, Raleigh condemned himself when he fell in love with another woman.
(Sir WaIter Raleigh imprisoned July 19, 1603.)

ON 1 2 Thursday, the sixth of February, in the year 1595, we departed England, and the Sunday following had sight of the north cape of Spain, the wind for the most part continuing prosperous; we passed in sight of the Burlings, and the Rock, and so onwards for the Canaries, and fell with Fuerteventura the 17. of the same month, where we spent two or three days, and relieved our companies with some fresh meat. From thence we coasted by theGrand Canaria, and so to Teneriffe, and stayed there for the Lion’s Whelp, your Lordship’s ship, and for Captain Amyas Preston and the rest. But when after seven or eight days we found them not, we departed and directed our course for Trinidad, with mine own ship, and a small barque of Captain Cross’s only; for we had before lost sight of a small galego on the coast of Spain, which came with us from Plymouth. We arrived at Trinidad the 22. of March, casting anchor at Point Curiapan, which the Spaniards call Punta de Gallo, which is situate in eight degrees or thereabouts. We abode there four or five days, and in all that time we came not to the speech of any Indian or Spaniard. On the coast we saw a fire, as we sailed from the Point Carao towards Curiapan, but for fear of the Spaniards none durst come to speak with us. I myself coasted it in my barge close aboard the shore and landed in every cove, the better to know the island, while the ships kept the channel. From Curiapan after a few days we turned up north-east to recover that place which the Spaniards call Puérto de los Españoles, 3and the inhabitants Conquerabia; and as before, revictualling my barge, I left the ships and kept by the shore, the better to come to speech with some of the inhabitants, and also to understand the rivers, watering-places, and ports of the island, which, as it is rudely done, my purpose is to send your Lordship after a few days. From Curiapan I came to a port and seat of Indians called Parico, where we found a fresh water river, but saw no people. From thence I rowed to another port, called by the naturals Piche, and by the Spaniards Tierra de Brea. In the way between both were divers little brooks of fresh water, and one salt river that had store of oysters upon the branches of ehe trees, and were very salt and well tasted. All their oysters grow upon those boughs and sprays, and not on the ground; the like is commonly seen in other places of the West Indies, and elsewhere. This tree is described by Andrew Thevet, in hisFrance Antarctique, and the form figured in the book as a plant very strange; and by Pliny in his twelfth book of his Natural History. But in this island, as also in Guiana, there are very many of them.

A Throne for Son or Stepson?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Title page of Phedre et Hippolyte

Jean Racine (1639–1699). Phædra.
Vol. 26, pp. 133-148 of The Harvard Classics

Phædre first persecuted Hippolytus, her handsome stepson, then loved him. Suddenly he and her own son became rivals for the throne. Should she push her son's claims or let Hippolytus take the crown?
(Racine elected to French Academy, July 17, 1673.)

Act I
Scene I



MY mind is settled, dear Theramenes,
And I can stay no more in lovely Trœzen.
In doubt that racks my soul with mortal anguish,
I grow ashamed of such long idleness.
Six months and more my father has been gone,
And what may have befallen one so dear
I know not, nor what corner of the earth
Hides him.

When Elizabeth Dined

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

William Harrison, A Description of Elizabethan England (Written for Holinshed's Chronicles)
Vol. 35, pp. 271-288 of The Harvard Classics

Meals in the houses of the gentry and noblemen in Elizabethan England were taken most seriously. No one spoke. Holinshed records the strange table etiquette of our ancestors.
(Queen Elizabeth entertained at Kenilworth, July 15, 1575.)

Chapter VI
Of the Food and Diet of the English
[1577, Book III., Chapter 1; 1587, Book II., Chapter 6.]

THE SITUATION of our region, lying near unto the north, doth cause the heat of our stomachs to be of somewhat greater force: therefore our bodies do crave a little more ample nourishment than the inhabitants of the hotter regions are accustomed withal, whose digestive force is not altogether so vehement, because their internal heat is not so strong as ours, which is kept in by the coldness of the air that from time to time (especially in winter) doth environ our bodies.

The French People Triumph

Monday, 14 July 2014

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke (1729–1797). Reflections on the French Revolution.
Vol. 24, pp. 268-273 of The Harvard Classics

(The Bastille surrendered, July 14, 1789.)
What the Fourth of July is to Americans, the Fourteenth of July is to Frenchmen. It commemorates an oppressive tyranny overthrown by a freedom-loving people.


  In the present disappearance of coin, no person could think it the same country, in which the present minister of the finances has been able to discover fourscore millions sterling in specie. From its general aspect one would conclude that it had been for some time past under the special direction of the learned academicians of Laputa and Balnibarbi. 1 Already the population of Paris has so declined, that M. Necker stated to the National Assembly the provision to be made for its subsistence at a fifth less than what had formerly been found requisite. 2 It is said (and I have never heard it contradicted) that a hundred thousand people are out of employment in that city, though it is become the seat of the imprisoned court and National Assembly. Nothing, I am credibly informed, can exceed the shocking and disgusting spectacle of mendicancy displayed in that capital. Indeed the votes of the National Assembly leave no doubt of the fact. They have lately appointed a standing committee of mendicancy. They are contriving at once a vigorous police on this subject, and, for the first time, the imposition of a tax to maintain the poor, for whose present relief great sums appear on the face of the public accounts of the year. 3 In the meantime the leaders of the legislative clubs and coffee houses are intoxicated with admiration at their own wisdom and ability. They speak with the most sovereign contempt of the rest of the world. They tell the people, to comfort them in the rags with which they have clothed them, that they are a nation of philosophers; and sometimes, by all the arts of quackish parade, by show, tumult, and bustle, sometimes by the alarms of plots and invasions, they attempt to drown the cries of indigence, and to divert the eyes of the observer from the ruin and wretchedness of the state. A brave people will certainly prefer liberty accompanied with a virtuous poverty to a depraved and wealthy servitude. But before the price of comfort and opulence is paid, one ought to be pretty sure it is real liberty which is purchased, and that she is to be purchased at no other price. I shall always, however, consider that liberty as very equivocal in her appearance, which has not wisdom and justice for her companions; and does not lead prosperity and plenty in her train.

Athenians Also Complained of Taxes

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Plutarch (A.D. 46?–c.A.D. 120). Plutarch’s Lives.
Vol. 12, pp. 47-57 of The Harvard Classics

Pericles used public money to beautify Athens. The citizens protested against the expense, as citizens in all ages do. By a clever stroke Pericles won their support to his ambitious plans.



  For, indeed, there was from the beginning a sort of concealed split, or seam, as it might be in a piece of iron, marking the different popular and aristocratical tendencies; but the open rivalry and contention of these two opponents made the gash deep, and severed the city into the two parties of the people and the few. And so Pericles, at that time more than at any other, let loose the reins to the people, and made his policy subservient to their pleasure, contriving continually to have some great public show or solemnity, some banquet, or some procession or other in the town to please them, coaxing his countrymen like children, with such delights and pleasures as were not, however, unedifying. Besides that every year he sent out three-score galleys, on board of which there went numbers of the citizens, who were in pay eight months, learning at the same time and practising the art of seamanship.

But He Walked!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walking.
Vol. 28, pp. 395-405 of The Harvard Classics

Thoreau's individuality was unique and original. He had no profession; he never married; he never went to church; he never voted or paid taxes; he never smoked; he never drank wine. His amusement was walking, to observe and meditate.
(Henry David Thoreau born July 12, 1817.)

WISH to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that.

  I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks,—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from “idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la Sainte Terre,” to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word form sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels.

Star Gazing - A Cure for Tired Minds

Friday, 11 July 2014

Simon Newcomb

Simon Newcomb, The Extent of the Universe
Vol. 30, pp. 311-321 of The Harvard Classics

The greatest spectacle offered man is a view of the magnificent vault of heaven. Under the stupendous arch of the Milky Way the cares of the world roll off.
(Newcomb died July 11, 1909.)

WE cannot expect that the wisest men of our remotest posterity, who can base their conclusions upon thousands of years of accurate observation, will reach a decision on this subject without some measure of reserve. Such being the case, it might appear the dictate of wisdom to leave its consideration to some future age, when it may be taken up with better means of information than we now possess. But the question is one which will refuse to be postponed so long as the propensity to think of the possibilities of creation is characteristic of our race. The issue is not whether we shall ignore the question altogether, like Eve in the presence of Raphael; but whether in studying it we shall confine our speculations within the limits set by sound scientific reasoning. Essaying to do this, I invite the reader’s attention to what science may suggest, admitting in advance that the sphere of exact knowledge is small compared with the possibilities of creation, and that outside this sphere we can state only more or less probable conclusions.

America's First Immigrants

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Voyages to Vinland (c. 1000)
Vol. 43, pp. 14-20 of The Harvard Classics

The shadow of a phantom cast upon the cradle of Snorri, the first white child born in America, was a warning of an Indian attack on the settlement of courageous Norsemen who had risked the terrors of unknown seas to visit "Wineland."

Of the Wineland Voyages of Thorfinn and His Companions

  THAT same summer a ship came from Norway to Greenland. The skipper’s name was Thorfinn Karlsefni. He was a son of Thord Horsehead, and a grandson of Snorri, the son of Thord of Hofdi. Thorfinn Karlsefni, who was a very wealthy man, passed the winter at Brattahlid with Leif Ericsson. He very soon set his heart upon Gudrid, and sought her hand in marriage. She referred him to Leif for her answer, and was subsequently betrothed to him; and their marriage was celebrated that same winter. A renewed discussion arose concerning a Wineland voyage; and the folk urged Karlsefni to make the venture, Gudrid joining with the others. He determined to undertake the voyage, and assembled a company of sixty men and five women, and entered into an agreement with his shipmates that they should each share equally in all the spoils of the enterprise. They took with them all kinds of cattle, as it was their intention to settle the country, if they could. Karlsefni asked Leif for the house in Wineland; and he replied that he would lend it, but not give it. They sailed out to sea with the ship, and arrived safe and sound at Leifs-booths, and carried their hammocks ashore there. They were soon provided with an abundant and goodly supply of food; for a whale of good size and quality was driven ashore there, and they secured it, and flensed it, and had then no lack of provisions. The cattle were turned out upon the land, and the males soon became very restless and vicious: they had brought a bull with them. Karlsefni caused trees to be felled and to be hewed into timbers wherewith to load his ship, and the wood was placed upon a cliff to dry. They gathered somewhat of all of the valuable products of the land,—grapes, and all kinds of game and fish, and other good things. In the summer succeeding the first winter Skrellings were discovered. A great troop of men came forth from out the woods. The cattle were hard by, and the bull began to bellow and roar with a great noise, whereat the Skrellings were frightened, and ran away with their packs, wherein were gray furs, sables, and all kinds of peltries. They fled towards Karlsefni’s dwelling, and sought to effect an entrance into the house; but Karlsefni caused the doors to be defended [against them]. Neither [people] could understand the other’s language. The Skrellings put down their bundles then, and loosed them, and offered their wares [for barter], and were especially anxious to exchange these for weapons; but Karlsefni forbade his men to sell their weapons, and, taking counsel with himself, he bade the women carry out milk to the Skrellings, which they no sooner saw than they wanted to buy it, and nothing else. Now the outcome of the Skrellings’ trading was that they carried their wares away in their stomachs, while they left their packs and peltries behind with Karlsefni and his companions, and, having accomplished this [exchange], they went away. Now it is to be told that Karlsefni caused a strong wooden palisade to be constructed and set up around the house. It was at this time that Gudrid, Karlsefni’s wife, gave birth to a male child, and the boy was called Snorri. In the early part of the second winter the Skrellings came to them again, and these were now much more numerous than before, and brought with them the same wares as at first. Then said Karlsefni to the women, “Do ye carry out now the same food which proved so profitable before, and nought else.” When they saw this, they cast their packs in over the palisade. Gudrid was sitting within, in the doorway, beside the cradle of her infant son, Snorri, when a shadow fell upon the door, and a woman in a black namkirtle entered. She was short in stature, and wore a fillet about her head; her hair was of a light chestnut color, and she was pale of hue, and so big-eyed that never before had eyes so large been seen in a human skull. She went up to where Gudrid was seated, and said, “What is thy name?” “My name is Gudrid, but what is thy name?” “My name is Gudrid,” says she. The housewife Gudrid motioned her with her hand to a seat beside her; but it so happened that at that very instant Gudrid heard a great crash, whereupon the woman vanished, and at that same moment one of the Skrellings, who had tried to seize their weapons, was killed by one of Karlsefni’s followers. At this the Skrellings fled precipitately, leaving their garments and wares behind them; and not a soul, save Gudrid alone, beheld this woman. “Now we must needs takes counsel together,” says Karlsefni; “for that I believe they will visit us a third time in great numbers, and attack us. Let us now adopt this plan. Ten of our number shall go out upon the cape, and show themselves there; while the remainder of our company shall go into the woods and hew a clearing for our cattle, when the troop approaches from the forest. We will also take our bull, and let him go in advance of us.” The lie of the land was such that the proposed meeting-place had the lake upon the one side and the forest upon the other. Karlsefni’s advice was now carried into execution. The Skrellings advanced to the spot which Karlsefni had selected for the encounter; and a battle was fought there, in which great numbers of the band of the Skrellings were slain. There was one man among the Skrellings, of large size and fine bearing, whom Karlsefni concluded must be their chief. One of the Skrellings picked up an axe; and, having looked at it for a time, he brandished it about one of his companions, and hewed at him, and on the instant the man fell dead. Thereupon the big man seized the axe; and, after examining it for a moment, he hurled it as far as he could out into the sea. Then they fled helter skelter into the woods, and thus their intercourse came to an end. Karlsefni and his party remained there throughout the winter; but in the spring Karlsefni announces that he is not minded to remain there longer, but will return to Greenland. They now made ready for the voyage, and carried away with them much booty in vines and grapes and peltries. They sailed out upon the high seas, and brought their ship safely to Ericsfirth, where they remained during the winter.

A Little Lying Now and Then

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon. (1561–1626). Essays, Civil and Moral.
Vol. 3, pp. 7-19 of The Harvard Classics

"What is Truth?" asked Pilate. For an answer Bacon discourses not on human nature as it should be, but as it is. These shrewd observations on making a life and a living admit occasional departures from truth.
(Bacon becomes Privy Councilor, July 9, 1616.)

Of Truth

WHAT is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. Certainly there be that delight in giddiness, and count it a bondage to fix a belief; affecting 1 free-will in thinking, as well as in acting. And though the sects of philosophers, of that kind 2 be gone, yet there remain certain discoursing 3 wits which are of the same veins, though there be not so much blood in them as was in those of the ancients. But it is not only the difficulty and labor which men take in finding out of truth, nor again that when it is found it imposeth upon 4 men’s thoughts, that doth bring lies in favor; but a natural though corrupt love of the lie itself. One of the later school 5 of the Grecians examineth the matter and is at a stand to think what should be in it, that men should love lies, where neither they make for pleasure, as with poets, nor for advantage, as with the merchant; but for the lie’s sake. But I cannot tell; this same truth is a naked and open day-light, that doth not show the masks and mummeries and triumphs of the world, half so stately and daintily as candle-lights. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a pearl, that showeth best by day; but it will not rise to the price of a diamond or carbuncle, that showeth best in varied lights. A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure. Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of men’s minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves?

Italy's Fair Assassin

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822). The Cenci.
Vol. 18, pp. 288-300 of The Harvard Classics

When the monstrous Cenci forced his daughter Beatrice into a horrible situation, she revolted and boldly struck for freedom. Shelley tells her pitiful story in one of his best works.
(Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned, July 8, 1822.)

Act I
Scene III

A Magnificent Hall in the Cenci Palace. A Banquet.


  Cenci.  Welcome, my friends and kinsmen; welcome ye,
Princes and Cardinals, pillars of the church,
Whose presence honours our festivity.
I have too long lived like an anchorite,
And in my absence from your merry meetings
An evil word is gone abroad of me;
But I do hope that you, my noble friends,
When you have shared the entertainment here,
And heard the pious cause for which ’tis given,
And we have pledged a health or two together,
Will think me flesh and blood as well as you;
Sinful indeed, for Adam made all so,
But tender-hearted, meek and pitiful.
  First Guest.  In truth, My Lord, you seem too light of heart,
Too sprightly and companionable a man,
To act the deeds that rumour pins on you.
(To his companion.) I never saw such blithe and open cheer
In any eye!

Scandal That Lurked Behind Lace and Powder

Monday, 7 July 2014

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816). The School for Scandal.
Vol. 18, pp. 115-128 of The Harvard Classics

The painted lips of the eighteenth century ladies and gallants vied with one another in whispering scathing gossip, in gleefully furthering the destruction of a good name. Sheridan depicts this gay world with a brilliant spicy pen.
(Sheridan buried in Westminster Abbey, July 7, 1816.)

Act First
Scene I

LADY SNEERWELL’S Dressing-room

LADY SNEERWELL discovered at her toilet; SNAKE drinking chocolate.
Lady Sneerwell
THE PARAGRAPHS, you say, Mr. Snake, were all inserted?
  Snake.  They were, madam; and, as I copied them myself in a feigned hand, there can be no suspicion whence they came.
  Lady Sneer.  Did you circulate the report of Lady Brittle’s intrigue with Captain Boastall?
  Snake.  That’s in as fine a train as your ladyship could wish. In the common course of things, I think it must reach Mrs. Clackitt’s ears within four-and-twenty hours; and then, you know, the business is as good as done.

The Origin of "Utopia"

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Sir Thomas More

Sir Thomas More (1478–1535). Utopia.
Vol. 36, pp. 135-142 of The Harvard Classics

When Europe was suffering from evil rulers, heavy taxes, and despair, Sir Thomas More dreamed of a happy land where an intelligently managed state perfected happiness.
(Sir Thomas More executed, July 6, 1535.)

The First Book
The First Book of the Communication of Raphael Hythloday, Concerning the Best State of a Commonwealth

THE MOST victorious and triumphant King of England, Henry the Eighth of that name, in all royal virtues, prince most peerless, had of late in controversy with the right high and mighty King of Castile, weighty matters and of great importance. For the debatement and final determination whereof, the King’s Majesty sent me ambassador into Flanders, joined in commission with Cuthbert Tunstall, a man doubtless out of comparison, and whom the King’s Majesty of late, to the great rejoicing of all men, did prefer to the office of Master of the Rolls.

  But of this man’s praises I will say nothing, not because I do fear that small credence shall be given to the testimony that cometh out of a friend’s mouth: but because his virtue and learning be greater, and of more excellency, than that I am able to praise them: and also in all places so famous and so perfectly well known, that they need not, nor ought not of me to be praised, unless I would seem to show and set forth the brightness of the sun with a candle, as the proverb saith. There met us at Bruges (for thus it was before agreed) they whom their Prince had for that matter appointed commissioners: excellent men all. The chief and the head of them was the Margrave (as they call him) of Bruges, a right honourable man: but the wisest and the best spoken of them was George Temsice, provost of Cassel, a man, not only by learning, but also by nature of singular eloquence, and in the laws profoundly learned; but in reasoning and debating of matters, what by his natural wit, and what by daily exercise, surely he had few fellows. After that we had once or twice met, and upon certain points or articles could not fully and thoroughly agree, they for a certain space took their leave of us, and departed to Brussels, there to know their Prince’s pleasure, I in the meantime (for so my business lay) went straight thence to Antwerp. Whiles I was there abiding, oftentimes among other, but which to me was more welcome than any other, did visit me one Peter Giles, a citizen of Antwerp, a man there in his country of honest reputation, and also preferred to high promotions, worthy truly of the highest. For it is hard to say, whether the young man be in learning, or in honesty more excellent. For he is both of wonderful virtuous conditions, and also singularly well learned, and towards all sorts of people exceeding gentle: but towards his friends so kind-hearted, so loving, so faithful, so trusty, and of so earnest affection, that it were very hard in any place to find a man, that with him in all points of friendship may be compared. No man can be more lowly or courteous. No man useth less simulation or dissimulation, in no man is more prudent simplicity. Besides this, he is in his talk and communication so merry and pleasant, yea and that without harm, that through his gentle entertainment, and his sweet and delectable communication, in me was greatly abated and diminished the fervent desire, that I had to see my native country, my wife and my children, whom then I did much long and covet to see, because that at that time I had been more than four months from them. Upon a certain day when I had heard the divine service in our Lady’s church, which is the fairest, the most gorgeous and curious church of building in all the city and also most frequented of people, and, the service being done, was ready to go home to my lodging, I chanced to espy this foresaid Peter talking with a certain stranger, a man well stricken in age, with a black sunburned face, a long beard, and a cloak cast homely about his shoulders, whom by his favour and apparel forthwith I judged to be a mariner. But when this Peter saw me, he cometh to me and saluteth me.

  And as I was about to answer him: see you this man, saith he (and therewith he pointed to the man, that I saw him talking with before); I was minded, quoth he, to bring him straight home to you.

  He should have been very welcome to me, said I, for your sake.

  Nay (quoth he) for his own sake, if you knew him: for there is no man this day living, that can tell you of so many strange and unknown peoples, and countries, as this man can. And I know well that you be very desirous to hear of such news.

  Then I conjectured not far amiss (quoth I) for even at the first sight I judged him to be a mariner.

  Nay (quoth he) there ye were greatly deceived: he hath sailed indeed, not as the mariner Palinure, but as the expert and prudent prince Ulysses: yea, rather as the ancient and sage philosopher Plato. For this same Raphael Hythloday (for this is his name) is very well learned in the Latin tongue: but profound and excellent in the Greek tongue. Wherein he ever bestowed more study than in the Latin, because he had given himself wholly to the study of philosophy. Whereof he knew that there is nothing extant in the Latin tongue that is to any purpose, saving a few of Seneca’s, and Cicero’s doings. His patrimony that he was born unto, he left to his brethren (for he is a Portugal born) and for the desire that he had to see, and know the far countries of the world, he joined himself in company with Amerigo Vespucci, and in the three last voyages of those four that be now in print and abroad in every man’s hands, he continued still in his company, saving that in the last voyage he came not home again with him. For he made such means and shift, what by entreatance, and what by importune suit, that he got licence of master Amerigo (though it were sore against his will) to be one of the twenty-four which in the end of the last voyage were left in the country of Gulike. He was therefore left behind for his mind sake, as one that took more thought and care for travelling than dying: having customably in his mouth these sayings: he that hath no grave, is covered with the sky: and, the way to heaven out of all places is of like length and distance. Which fantasy of his (if God had not been his better friend) he had surely bought full dear. But after the departing of master Vespucci, when he had travelled through and about many countries with five of his companions Gulikians, at the last by marvellous chance he arrived in Taprobane, from whence he went to Caliquit, where he chanced to find certain of his country ships, wherein he returned again into his country, nothing less than looked for.

  All this when Peter had told me, I thanked him for his gentle kindness, that he had vouchsafed to bring me to the speech of that man, whose communication he thought should be to me pleasant and acceptable. And therewith I turned me to Raphael. And when we had saluted each other, and had spoken these common words, that be customably spoken at the first meeting and acquaintance of strangers, we went thence to my house, and there in my garden upon a bench covered with green turf we sat down talking together. There he told us, how that after the departing of Vespucci, he and his fellows, that tarried behind in Gulike, began by little and little, through fair and gentle speech, to win the love and favour of the people of that country, insomuch that within short space, they did dwell amongst them, not only harmless, but also occupied with them very familiarly. He told us also, that they were in high reputation and favour with a certain great man (whose name and country is now quite out of my remembrance) which of his mere liberality did bear the costs and charges of him and his five companions. And besides that gave them a trusty guide to conduct them in their journey (which by water was in boats, and by land in waggons) and to bring them to other princes, with very friendly commendations. Thus after many days’ journeys, he said, they found towns and cities and weal publics, full of people, governed by good and wholesome laws. For under the line equinoctial, and of both sides of the same, as far as the sun doth extend his course, lieth (quoth he) great and wide deserts and wildernesses, parched, burned, and dried up with continual and intolerable heat. All things be hideous, terrible, loathsome, and unpleasant to behold: all things out of fashion and comeliness, inhabited with wild beasts and serpents, or at the leastwise, with people, that be no less savage, wild and noisome, than the very beasts themselves be. But a little farther beyond that, all things begin by little and little to wax pleasant; the air soft, temperate, and gentle; the ground covered with green grass; less wildness in the beasts. At the last shall ye come again to people, cities, and towns wherein is continual intercourse and occupying of merchandise and chaffer, not only among themselves and with their borderers, but also with merchants of far countries, both by land and water. There I had occasion (said he) to go to many countries of every side. For there was no ship ready to any voyage or journey, but I and my fellows were into it very gladly received. The ships that they found first were made plain, flat and broad in the bottom, though wise. The sails were made of great rushes, or of wickers, and in some places, of leather. Afterward they found ships with ridged keels, and sails of canvas, yea, and shortly after, having all things like ours. The shipmen also very expert and cunning, both in the sea and in the weather. But he said that he found great favour and friendship among them, for teaching them the feat and use of the load-stone, which to them before that time was unknown. And therefore they were wont to be very timorous and fearful upon the sea; nor to venture upon it, but only in the summer time. But now they have such a confidence in that stone, that they fear not stormy winter: in so doing farther from care than jeopardy; insomuch, that it is greatly to be doubted, lest that thing, through their own foolish hardiness, shall turn them to evil and harm, which at the first was supposed should be to them good and commodious.

  But what he told us that he saw in every country where he came, it were very long to declare; neither is it my purpose at this time to make rehearsal thereof. But peradventure in another place I will speak of it, chiefly such things as shall be profitable to be known, as in special be those decrees and ordinances, that he marked to be well and wisely provided and enacted among such peoples, as do live together in a civil policy and good order. For of such things did we busily inquire and demand of him, and he likewise very willingly told us of the same. But as for monsters, because they be no news, of them we were nothing inquisitive. For nothing is more easy to be found, then be barking Scyllas, ravening Celenos, and Loestrygonians devourers of people, and such like great, and incredible monsters. But to find citizens ruled by good and wholesome laws, that is an exceeding rare, and hard thing. But as he marked many fond, and foolish laws in those new found lands, so he rehearsed many acts, and constitutions, whereby these our cities, nations, countries, and kingdoms may take example to amend their faults, enormities, and errors. Whereof in another place (as I said) I will treat.

  Now at this time I am determined to rehearse only that he told us of the manners, customs, laws, and ordinances of the Utopians. But first I will repeat our former communication by the occasion, and (as I might say) the drift whereof, he was brought into the mention of that weal public.

  For, when Raphael had very prudently touched divers things that be amiss, some here and some there, yea, very many of both parts; and again had spoken of such wise and prudent laws and decrees, as be established and used, both here among us and also there among them, as a man so cunning, and expert in the laws, and customs of every several country, as though into what place soever he came guestwise, there he had led all his life: then Peter much marvelling at the man: Surely Master Raphael (quoth he) I wonder greatly, why you get you not into some king’s court. For I am sure there is no prince living, that would not be very glad of you, as a man not only able highly to delight him with your profound learning, and this your knowledge of countries, and peoples, but also are meet to instruct him with examples, and help him with counsel. And thus doing, you shall bring yourself in a very good case, and also be in ability to help all your friends and kinsfolk.

  As concerning my friends and kinsfolk (quoth he) I pass not greatly for them. For I think I have sufficiently done my part towards them already. For these things, that other men do not depart from, until they be old and sick, yea, which they be then very loath to leave, when they can no longer keep, those very same things did I being not only lusty and in good health, but also in the flower of my youth, divide among my friends and kinsfolks. Which I think with this my liberality ought to hold them contented, and not to require nor to look that besides this, I should for their sakes give myself in bondage to kings.

  Nay, God forbid (quoth Peter), it is not my mind that you should be in bondage to kings, but as a retainer to them at your pleasure. Which surely I think is the nighest way that you can devise how to bestow your time fruitfully, not only for the private commodity of your friends and for the general profit of all sorts of people, but also for the advancement of yourself to a much wealthier state and condition, than you be now in.

  To a wealthier condition (quoth Raphael) by that means, that my mind standeth clean against? No I live at liberty after my own mind and pleasure, which I think very few of these great states and peers of realms can say. Yea and there be enough of them that seek for great men’s friendships: and therefore think it no great hurt, if they have not me, nor two or three such other as I am.

  Well, I perceive plainly friend Raphael (quoth I) that you be desirous neither of riches nor of power. And truly I have in no less reverence and estimation a man that is of your mind, than any of them all that be so high in power and authority. But you shall do as it becometh you: yea, and according to this wisdom, and this high and free courage of yours, if you can find in your heart so to appoint and dispose yourself, that you may apply your wit and diligence to the profit of the weal public, though it be somewhat to your own pain and hindrance. And this shall you never so well do, nor with so great profit perform, as if you be of some great prince’s council, and put into his head (as I doubt not but you will) honest opinions and virtuous persuasions. For from the prince, as from a perpetual well spring, cometh among the people the flood of all that is good or evil. But in you is so perfect learning, that without any experience, and again so great experience, that without any learning you may well be any king’s councillor.

  You be twice deceived, Master More (quoth he), first in me, and again in the thing itself. For neither is in me that ability that you force upon me, and if it were never so much, yet in disquieting mine own quietness I should nothing further the weal public. For first of all, the most part of all princes have more delight in warlike matters and feats of chivalry (the knowledge whereof I neither have nor desire) than in the good feats of peace: and employ much more study, how by right or by wrong to enlarge their dominions, than how well and peaceably to rule and govern that they have already. Moreover, they that be councillors to kings, every one of them either is of himself so wise indeed, that he need not, or else he thinketh himself so wise, that he will not allow another man’s counsel, saving that they do shamefully and flatteringly give assent to the fond and foolish sayings of certain great men. Whose favours, because they be in high authority with their prince, by assentation and flattery they labour to obtain. And verily it is naturally given to all men to esteem their own inventions best. So both the raven and the ape think their own young ones fairest. Then if a man in such a company, where some disdain and have despite at other men’s inventions, and some count their own best, if among such men (I say) a man should bring forth anything, that he hath read done in times past, or that he hath seen done in other places: there the hearers fare as though the whole existimation of their wisdom were in jeopardy to be overthrown, and that ever after they should be counted for very fools, unless they could in other men’s inventions pick out matter to reprehend, and find fault at. If all other poor helps fail, then this is their extreme refuge. These things (say they) pleased our forefathers and ancestors; would God we could be so wise as they were: and as though they had wittily concluded the matter, and with this answer stopped every man’s mouth, they sit down again. As who should say, it were a very dangerous matter, if a man in any point should be found wiser than his forefathers were.

  And yet be we content to suffer the best and wittiest of their decrees to lie unexecuted: but if in anything a better order might have been taken, than by them was, there we take fast hold, and find many faults. Many times have I chanced upon such proud, lewd, overthwart and wayward judgments, yea, and once in England.

  I pray you sir (quoth I) have you been in our country?

  Yea forsooth (quoth he) and there I tarried for the space of four or five months together, not long after the insurrection, that the western Englishmen made against their king, which by their own miserable and pitiful slaughter was suppressed and ended. In the mean season I was much bound and beholden to the right reverend father, John Morton, Archbishop and Cardinal of Canterbury, and at that time also Lord Chancellor of England: a man, Master Peter (for Master More knoweth already that I will say), not more honourable for his authority, than for his prudence and virtue. He was of a mean stature, and though stricken in age, yet bare he his body upright. In his face did shine such an amiable reverence, as was pleasant to behold, gentle in communication, yet earnest, and sage. He had great delight many times with rough speech to his suitors, to prove, but without harm, what prompt wit and what bold spirit were in every man. In the which, as in a virtue much agreeing with his nature, so that therewith were not joined impudence, he took great delectation. And the same person, as apt and meet to have an administration in the weal public, he did lovingly embrace. In his speech he was fine, eloquent, and pithy. In the law he had profound knowledge, in wit he was incomparable, and in memory wonderful excellent. These qualities, which in him were by nature singular, he by learning and use had made perfect. The king put much trust in his counsel, the weal public also in a manner leaned unto him, when I was there. For even in the chief of his youth he was taken from school into the court, and there passed all his time in much trouble and business, and was continually tumbled and tossed in the waves of divers misfortunes and adversities. And so by many and great dangers he learned the experience of the world, which so being learned can not easily be forgotten. It chanced on a certain day, when I sat at his table, there was also a certain layman cunning in the laws of your realm. Which, I cannot tell whereof taking occasion, began diligently and busily to praise that strait and rigorous justice, which at that time was there executed upon felons, who, as he said, were for the most part twenty hanged together upon one gallows. And, seeing so few escaped punishment, he said he could not choose, but greatly wonder and marvel, how and by what evil luck it should so come to pass, that thieves nevertheless were in every place so rife and rank. Nay, sir, quoth I (for I durst boldly speak my mind before the Cardinal), marvel nothing hereat: for this punishment of thieves passeth the limits [of] justice, and is also very hurtful to the weal public. For it is too extreme and cruel a punishment for theft, and yet not sufficient to refrain men from theft. For simple theft is not so great an offence, that it ought to be punished with death. Neither there is any punishment so horrible, that it can keep them from stealing, which have no other craft, whereby to get their living. Therefore in this point, not you only, but also the most part of the world, be like evil schoolmasters, which be readier to beat, than to teach their scholars. For great and horrible punishments be appointed for thieves, whereas much rather provision should have been made, that there were some means, whereby they might get their living, so that no man should be driven to this extreme necessity, first to steal, and then to die. Yes (quoth he) this matter is well enough provided for already. There be handicrafts, there is husbandry to get their living by, if they would not willingly be nought. Nay, quoth I, you shall not ‘scape so: for first of all, I will speak nothing of them, that come home out of war, maimed and lame, as not long ago, out of Blackheath field, and a little before that, out of the wars in France: such, I say, as put their lives in jeopardy for the weal public’s or the king’s sake, and by the reason of weakness and lameness be not able to occupy their old crafts, and be too aged to learn new: of them I will speak nothing, because war like the tide ebbeth and floweth. But let us consider those things that chance daily before our eyes. First there is a great number of gentlemen, which cannot be content to live idle themselves, like drones, of that which other have laboured for: their tenants I mean, whom they poll and shave to the quick by raising their rents (for this only point of frugality do they use, men else through their lavish and prodigal spending, able to bring themselves to very beggary) these gentlemen, (I say), do not only live in idleness themselves, but also carry about with them at their tails a great flock or train of idle and loitering serving-men, which never learned any craft whereby to get their livings. These men as soon as their master is dead, or be sick themselves, be incontinent thrust out of doors. For gentlemen had rather keep idle persons, than sick men, and many times the dead man’s heir is not able to maintain so great a house, and keep so many serving-men as his father did. Then in the mean season they that be thus destitute of service, either starve for hunger, or manfully play the thieves. For what would you have them to do? When they have wandered abroad so long, until they have worn threadbare their apparel, and also impaired their health, then gentlemen because of their pale and sick faces, and patched coats, will not take them into service. And husbandmen dare not set them a work, knowing well enough that he is nothing meet to do true and faithful service to a poor man with a spade and a mattock for small wages and hard fare, which being daintily and tenderly pampered up in idleness and pleasure, was wont with a sword and a buckler by his side to strut through the street with a bragging look, and to think himself too good to be any man’s mate. Nay, by Saint Mary, sir (quoth the lawyer) not so. For this kind of men must we make most of. For in them as men of stouter stomachs, bolder spirits, and manlier courages than handicraftsmen and ploughmen be, doth consist the whole power, strength, and puissance of our host, when we must fight in battle. Forsooth, sir, as well you might say (quoth I) that for war’s sake you must cherish thieves. For surely you shall never lack thieves, whiles you have them. No, nor thieves be not the most false and faint-hearted soldiers, nor soldiers be not the cowardliest thieves: so well these two crafts agree together. But this fault, though it be much used among you, yet is it not peculiar to you, only but common also almost to all nations. Yet France besides this is troubled and infected with a much sorer plague. The whole realm is filled and besieged with hired soldiers in peace time (if that be peace) which be brought in under the same colour and pretence that hath persuaded you to keep these idle serving men. For these wise fools and very archdolts thought the wealth of the whole country herein to consist, if there were ever in a readiness a strong and a sure garrison, specially of old practiced soldiers, for they put no trust at all in men unexercised. And therefore they must be fain to seek for war, to the end they may ever have practiced soldiers and cunning manslayers, less that (as it is prettily said of Sallust) their hands and their minds through idleness or lack of exercise should wax dull. But how pernicious and pestilent a thing it is to maintain such beasts, the Frenchmen, by their own harms have learned, and the examples of the Romans, Carthaginians, Syrians, and of many other countries do manifestly declare. For not only the empire but also the fields and cities of all these, by divers occasions have been overrun and destroyed of their own armies beforehand had in a readiness. Now how unnecessary a thing this is, hereby it may appear: that the French soldiers, which from their youth have been practiced and inured in feats of arms, do not crack nor advance themselves to have very often got the upper hand and mastery of your new-made and unpracticed soldiers. But in this point I will not use many words, lest perchance I may seem to flatter you. No, nor those same handicraftsmen of your in cities, nor yet the rude and uplandish ploughmen of the country, are not supposed to be greatly afraid of your gentlemen’s idle serving-men, unless it be such as be not of body or stature correspondent to their strength and courage, or else whose bold stomachs be discouraged through poverty. Thus you may see, that it is not to be feared lest they should be effeminated, if they were brought up in good crafts and laboursome works, whereby to get their living, those stout and sturdy bodies (for gentlemen vouchsafe to corrupt and spoil none but picked and chosen men) now either by reason of rest and idleness be brought to weakness: or else by too easy and womanly exercises be made feeble and unable to endure hardness. Truly, howsoever the case standeth, this methinketh is nothing available to the weal public, for war’s sake, which you never have, but when you will yourselves, to keep and maintain an innumerable flock of that sort of men, that be so troublesome and annoyous in peace, whereof you ought to have a thousand times more regard than of war. But yet this is not only the necessary cause of stealing. There is another, which, as I suppose, is proper and peculiar to you Englishmen alone. What is that, quoth the Cardinal? forsooth (quoth I) your sheep that were wont to be so meek and tame, and so small eaters, now, as I hear say, be become so great devourers and so wild, that they eat up, and swallow down the very men themselves. They consume, destroy, and devour whole fields, houses, and cities. For look in what parts of the realm doth grow the finest and therefore dearest wool, there noblemen and gentlemen, yea and certain abbots, holy men God wot not contenting themselves with the yearly revenues and profits, that were wont to grow to their forefathers and predecessors of their lands, nor being content that they live in rest and pleasure nothing profiting, yea much annoying the weal public, leave no ground for tillage, they inclose all in pastures; they throw down houses; they pluck down towns, and leave nothing standing, but only the church to make of it a sheep-house. And as though you lost no small quantity of ground by forests, chases, lawns, and parks, those good holy men turn all dwelling-places and all glebeland into desolation and wilderness. Therefore that one covetous and insatiable cormorant and very plague of his native country may compass about and inclose many thousand acres of ground together within one pale or hedge, the husbandmen be thrust out of their own, or else either by cunning and fraud, or by violent oppression they be put besides it, or by wrongs and injuries they be so wearied, that they be compelled to sell all: by one means therefore or by other, either by hook or crook they must needs depart away, poor, silly, wretched souls, men, women, husbands, wives, fatherless children, widows, woeful mothers, with their young babes, and their whole households small in substance and much in number, as husbandry requireth many hands. Away they trudge, I say, out of their known and accustomed houses, finding no places to rest in. All their household stuff, which is very little worth, though it might well abide the sale: yet being suddenly thrust out, they be constrained to sell it for a thing of nought. And when they, have wandering about, soon spent that, what can they else do but steal, and then justly, God wot, be hanged, or else go about a begging. And yet then also they be cast in prison as vagabonds, because they go about and work not: whom no man will set a work, though they never so willingly offer themselves thereto. For one shepherd or herdsman is enough to eat up that ground with cattle, to the occupying whereof about husbandry many hands were requisite. And this is also the cause that victuals be now in many places dearer. Yea, besides this the price of wool is so risen, that poor folks, which were wont to work it and make cloth of it, be now able to buy none at all. And by this means very many be fain to forsake work, and to give themselves to idleness. For after that so much ground was inclosed for pasture, an infinite multitude of sheep died of the rot, such vengeance God took of their inordinate and insatiable covetousness, sending among the sheep that pestiferous murrain, which much more justly should have fallen on the sheepmasters’ own heads. And though the number of sheep increase never so fast, yet the price falleth not one mite, because there be so few sellers. For they be almost all come into a few rich men’s hands, whom no need driveth to sell before they lust, and they lust not before they may sell as dear as they lust. Now the same cause bringeth in like dearth of the other kinds of cattle, yea and that so much the more, because that after farms plucked down and husbandry decayed, there is no man that passeth for the breeding of young store. For these rich men bring not up the young ones of great cattle as they do lambs. But first they buy them abroad very cheap and afterward, when they be fatted in their pastures, they sell them again exceeding dear. And therefore (as I suppose) the whole incommodity hereof is not yet felt. For yet they make dearth only in those places where they sell. But when they shall fetch them away from thence where they be bred faster than they can be brought up: then shall there also be felt great dearth, when store beginneth to fail, there where the ware is brought. Thus the unreasonable covetousness of a few hath turned that thing to the utter undoing of your island, in the which thing the chief felicity of your realm did consist. For this great dearth of victuals causeth every man to keep as little houses and as small hospitality as he possible may, and to put away their servants: whether, I pray you, but a begging: or else (which these gentle bloods and stout stomachs will sooner set their minds unto) a stealing? Now to amend the matters, to this wretched beggary and miserable poverty is joined great wantonness, importunate superfluity, and excessive riot. For not only gentlemen’s servants, but also handicraftsmen: yea and almost the ploughmen of the country, with all other sorts of people, use much strange and proud newfangleness in their apparel, and too much prodigal riot and sumptuous fare at their table. Now bawds, queans, whores, harlots, strumpets, brothel houses, stews, and yet another stews, wine-taverns, ale houses and tippling houses, with so many naughty, lewd, and unlawful games, as dice, cards, tables, tennis, bowls, quoits, do not all these send the haunters of them straight a stealing when their money is gone? Cast out these pernicious abominations, make a law, that they, which plucked down farms and towns of husbandry, shall build them up again, or else yield and uprender the possession of them to such as will go to the cost of building them anew. Suffer not these rich men to buy up all, to engross and forestall, and with their monopoly to keep the market alone as please them. Let not so many be brought up in idleness, let husbandry and tillage be restored again, let clothworking be renewed, that there may be honest labours for this idle sort to pass their time in profitably, which hitherto either poverty hath caused to be thieves, or else now be either vagabonds, or idle serving men, and shortly will be thieves. Doubtless unless you find a remedy for these enormities, you shall in vain advance yourselves of executing justice upon felons. For this justice is more beautiful than just or profitable. For by suffering your youth wantonly and viciously to be brought up, and to be infected, even from their tender age, and little with vice: then a God’s name to be punished, when they commit the same faults after they be come to man’s state, which from their youth they were ever like to do: In this point, I pray you, what other thing do you, than make thieves and then punish them? Now as I was thus speaking, the lawyer began to make himself ready to answer, and was determined with himself to use the common fashion and trade of disputers, which be more diligent in rehearsing than answering, as thinking the memory worthy of the chief praise. Indeed, sir, quoth he, you have said well, being but a stranger and one that might rather hear something of these matters, than have any exact or perfect knowledge of the same, as I will incontinent by open proof make manifest and plain. For first I will rehearse in order all that you have said: then I will declare in what thing you be deceived, through lack of knowledge, in all our fashions, manners and customs: and last of all I will answer to your arguments and confute them every one. First therefore, I will begin where I promised. Four things you seemed to me. Hold your peace, quoth the Cardinal: for be like you will make no short answer, which make such a beginning. Wherefore at this time you shall not take the pains to make your answer, but keep it to your next meeting, which I would be right glad, that it might be even tomorrow next, unless either you or Master Raphael have any earnest let. But now, Master Raphael, I would very gladly hear of you, why you think theft not worthy to be punished with death, or what other punishment you can devise more expedient to the weal public. For I am sure you are not of that mind, that you would have theft escape unpunished. For if now the extreme punishment of death cannot cause them to leave stealing, then if ruffians and robbers should be sure of their lives; what violence, what fear were able to hold their hands from robbing, which would take the mitigation of the punishment, as a very provocation to the mischief? Surely my lord, quoth I, I think it not right nor justice, that the loss of money should cause the loss of man’s life. For mine opinion is, that all the goods in the world are not able to countervail man’s life. But if they would thus say: that the breaking of justice, and the transgression of the laws is recompensed with this punishment, and not the loss of the money, then why may not this extreme justice well be called extreme injury? For neither so cruel governance, so strait rules, and unmerciful laws be allowable, that if a small offence be committed, by-and-by the sword should be drawn: nor so stoical ordinances are to be borne withal, as to count all offences of such equality that the killing of a man, or the taking of his money from him were both a matter, and the one no more heinous offence than the other: between the which two, if we have any respect to equity, no similitude or equality consisteth. God commandeth us that we shall not kill. And be we then so hasty to kill a man for taking a little money? And if any man would understand killing by this commandment of God to be forbidden after no larger wise, than man’s constitutions define killing to be lawful, then why may it not likewise by man’s constitutions be determined after what sort whoredom, fornication and perjury may be lawful? For whereas, by the permission of God, no man hath power to kill neither himself, nor yet any other man: then if a law made by the consent of men, concerning slaughter of men, ought to be of such strength, force and virtue, that they which, contrary to the commandment of God, have killed those, whom this constitution of man commanded to be killed, be clean quit and exempt out of the bonds and danger of God’s commandment: shall it not then by this reason follow, that the power of God’s commandment shall extend no further than man’s law doth define, and permit? And so shall it come to pass, that in like manner man’s constitutions in all things shall determine how far the observation of all God’s commandments shall extend. To be short, Moses’ law, though it were ungentle and sharp, as a law that was given to bondmen; yea, and them very obstinate, stubborn, and stiff-necked; yet it punished theft by the purse, and not with death. And let us not think that God in the new law of clemency and mercy, under the which he ruleth us with fatherly gentleness, as his dear children, hath given us greater scope and license to execute cruelty, one upon another. Now, ye have heard the reasons whereby I am persuaded that this punishment is unlawful. Furthermore I think there is nobody that knoweth not how unreasonable, yea, how pernicious a thing it is to the weal public, that a thief and an homicide or murderer, should suffer equal and like punishment. For the thief seeing that man, that is condemned for theft in no less jeopardy, nor judged to no less punishment, than him that is convict of manslaughter; through this cogitation only he is strongly and forcibly provoked, and in a manner constrained to kill him whom else he would have but robbed. For the murder once done, he is in less care, and in more hope that the deed shall not be bewrayed or known, seeing the party is now dead and rid out of the way, which only might have uttered and disclosed it. But if he chance to be taken and discrived, yet he is in no more danger and jeopardy, than if he had committed but single felony. Therefore whiles we go about with such cruelty to make thieves afraid, we provoke them to kill good men. Now as touching this question, what punishment were more commodious and better; that truly in my judgment is easier to be found than what punishment were worse. For why should we doubt that to be a good and a profitable way for the punishment of offenders, which we know did in times past so long please the Romans, men in the administration of a weal public most expert, politic, and cunning? Such as among them were convict of great and heinous trespasses, them they condemned into stone quarries, and into mines to dig metal, there to be kept in chains all the days of their life. But as concerning this matter, I allow the ordinance of no nation so well as that I saw, whiles I travelled abroad about the world, used in Persia among the people that commonly be called the Polylerites. Whose land is both large and ample, and also well and wittily governed: and the people in all conditions free and ruled by their own laws, saving that they pay a yearly tribute to the great king of Persia. But because they be far from the sea, compassed and closed in almost round about with high mountains, and do content themselves with the fruits of their own land, which is of itself very fertile and fruitful: for this cause neither they go to other countries, nor other come to them. And according to the old custom of the land, they desire not to enlarge the bounds of their dominions: and those that they have, by reason of the high hills be easily defended: and the tribute which they pay to their chief lord and king setteth them quiet and free from warfare. Thus their life is commodious rather than gallant, and may better be called happy or lucky, than notable or famous. For they be not known as much as by name, I suppose, saving only to their next neighbours and borderers. They that in this land be attainted and convict of felony, make restitution of that they stole, to the right owner, and not (as they do in other lands) to the king: whom they think to have no more right to the thief-stolen thing, than the thief himself hath. But if the thing be lost or made away, then the value of it is paid of the goods of such offenders, which else remaineth all whole to their wives and children. And they themselves be condemned to be common labourers, and, unless the theft be very heinous, they be neither locked in prison nor fettered in gyves, but be untied and go at large, labouring in the common works. They that refuse labour, or go slowly and slackly to their work, be not only tied in chains, but also pricked forward with stripes. They that be diligent about their work live without check or rebuke. Every night they be called in by name, and be locked in their chambers. Beside their daily labour, their life is nothing hard or incommodious. Their fare is indifferent good, borne at the charges of the weal public, because they be common servants to the commonwealth. But their charges in all places of the land is not borne alike. For in some part that is bestowed upon them is gathered of alms. And though that way be uncertain, yet the people be so full of mercy and pity, that none is found more profitable or plentiful. In some places certain lands be appointed hereunto, of the revenues whereof they be maintained. And in some places every man giveth a certain tribute for the same use and purpose. Again in some parts of the land these serving-men (for so be these condemned persons called) do no common work, but as every private man needeth labourers, so he cometh into the market place, and there hireth some of them for meat and drink, and a certain limited wages by the day, somewhat cheaper than he should hire a free man. It is also lawful for them to chastise the sloth of these serving-men with stripes. By this means they never lack work, and besides their meat and drink, every one of them bringeth daily something into the common treasury. All and every one of them be apparelled in one colour. Their heads be not polled or shaven, but rounded a little above the ears. And the tip of the one ear is cut off. Every one of them may take meat and drink of their friends, and also a coat of their own colour: but to receive money is death, as well to the giver, as to the receiver. And no less jeopardy it is for a free man to receive money of a serving-man for any manner of cause: and likewise for serving-men to touch weapons. The serving-men of every several shire be distinct and known from other by their several and distinct badges: which to cast away is death: as it is also to be seen out of the precincts of their own shire, or to talk with a serving-man of another shire. And it is no less danger to them, for to intend to run away than to do it indeed. Yea and to conceal such an enterprise in a serving-man it is death, in a free man servitude. Of the contrary part, to him that openeth and uttereth such counsels, be decreed large gifts; to a free man a great sum of money, to a serving-man freedom: and to them both forgiveness and pardon of that they were of counsel in that pretence. So that it can never be so good for them to go forward in their evil purpose, as by repentance to turn back. This is the law and order in this behalf, as I have showed you. Wherein what humanity is used, how far it is from cruelty, and how commodious it is, you do plainly perceive: forasmuch as the end of their wrath and punishment intendeth nothing else, but the destruction of vices, and saving of men: with so using and ordering them, that they cannot choose but be good, and what harm soever they did before, in the residue of their life to make amends for the same. Moreover it is so little feared, that they should turn again to their vicious conditions, that wayfaring men will for their safeguard choose them to their guides before any other, in every shire changing and taking new. For if they would commit robbery, they have nothing about them meet for that purpose. They may touch no weapons: money found about them should betray the robbery. They should be no sooner taken with the manner, but forthwith they should be punished. Neither they can have any hope at all to ‘scape away by flying. For how should a man, that in no part of his apparel is like other men, fly privily and unknown, unless he would run away naked? Howbeit so also flying he should be discrived by his rounding and his ear-mark. But it is a thing to be doubted, that they will lay their heads together, and conspire against the weal public. No, no, I warrant you. For the serving-men of one shire alone could never hope to bring to pass such an enterprise, without soliciting, enticing, and alluring the serving-men of many other shires to take their parts. Which thing is to them so impossible, that they may not as much as speak or talk together, or salute one another. No, it is not to be thought that they would make their own countrymen and companions of their counsel in such a matter which they know well should be jeopardy to the concealer thereof, and great commodity and goodness to the opener of the same. Whereas on the other part, there is none of them all hopeless or in despair to recover again his freedom, by humble obedience, by patient suffering and by giving good tokens and likelihood of himself, that he will, ever after that, live like a true and an honest man. For every year divers be restored again to their freedom: through the commendation of their patience. When I had thus spoken, saying moreover that I could see no cause why this order might not be had in England with much more profit, than the justice which the lawyer so highly praised: Nay, quoth the lawyer, this could never be so established in England, but that it must needs bring the weal public into great jeopardy and hazard. And as he was thus saying, he shaked his head, and made a wry mouth, and so held his peace. And all that were there present, with one assent agreed to his saying. Well, quoth the Cardinal, yet it were hard to judge without a proof, whether this order would do well here or no. But when the sentence of death is given, if then the king should command execution to be deferred and spared, and would prove this order and fashion: taking away the privileges of all sanctuaries: if then the proof would declare the thing to be good and profitable, then it were well done that it were established; else the condemned and reprieved persons may as well and as justly be put to death after this proof, as when they were first cast. Neither any jeopardy can in the mean space grow hereof. Yea, and methinketh that these vagabonds may very well be ordered after the same fashion, against whom we have hitherto made so many laws, and so little prevailed. When the Cardinal had thus said, then every man gave great praise to my sayings, which a little before they had disallowed. But most of all was esteemed that which was spoken of vagabonds, because it was the Cardinal’s own addition. I cannot tell whether it were best to rehearse the communication that followed, for it was not very sad. But yet you shall hear it, for there was no evil in it, and partly it pertained to the matter beforesaid. There chanced to stand by a certain jesting parasite, or scoffer, which would seem to resemble and counterfeit the fool. But he did in such wise counterfeit, that he was almost the very same indeed that he laboured to represent: he so studied with words and sayings brought forth so out of time and place to make sport and move laughter, that he himself was oftener laughed at than his jests were. Yet the foolish fellow brought out now and then such indifferent and reasonable stuff, that he made the proverb true, which saith: he that shooteth oft at the last shall hit the mark. So that when one of the company said, that through my communication a good order was found for thieves, and that the Cardinal also had well provided for vagabonds, so that only remained some good provision to be made for them that through sickness and age were fallen into poverty, and were become so impotent and unwieldy, that they were not able to work for their living: Tush (quoth he) let me alone with them: you shall see me do well enough with them. For I had rather than any good, that this kind of people were driven some whether out of my sight, they have so sore troubled me many times and oft, when they have with their lamentable tears begged money of me: and yet they could never to my mind so tune their song, that thereby they ever got of me one farthing. For evermore the one of these two chanced: either that I would not, or else that I could not, because I had it not. Therefore now they be waxed wise. When they see me go by, because they will not lose their labour, they let me go and say not one word to me. So they look for nothing of me, no in good sooth no more, than if I were a priest. But I will make a law, that all these beggars shall be distributed and bestowed into houses of religion. The men shall be made lay brethren, as they call them, and the women nuns. Hereat the Cardinal smiled, and allowed it in jest, yea and all the residue in good earnest. But a certain friar, graduate in divinity, took such pleasure and delight in this jest of priests and monks, that he also being else a man of grisly and stern gravity, began merrily and wantonly to jest and taunt. Nay, quoth he, you shall not so be rid and despatched of beggars, unless you make some provision also for us friars. Why, quoth the jester, that is done already, for my lord himself set a very good order for you, when he decreed that vagabonds should be kept strait and set to work: for you be the greatest and veriest vagabonds that be. This jest also, when they saw the Cardinal not disprove it, every man took it gladly, saving only the friar. For he (and that no marvel) when he was thus touched on the quick, and hit on the gall, so fret, so fumed, and chafed at it, and was in such a rage, that he could not refrain himself from chiding, scolding, railing and reviling. He called the fellow ribald, villain, javel, back-biter, slanderer, and the son of perdition: citing therewith terrible threatening out of Holy Scripture. Then the jesting scoffer began to play the scoffer indeed, and verily he was good at it, for he could play a part in that play no man better. Patient yourself, good master friar, quoth he, and be not angry, for Scripture saith: in your patience you shall save your souls. Then the friar (for I will rehearse his own very words), No, gallows wretch, I am not angry (quoth he) or at the leastwise, I do not sin: for the Psalmist saith, be you angry, and sin not. Then the Cardinal spake gently to the friar, and desired him to quiet himself. No my lord, quoth he, I speak not but of a good zeal as I ought: for holy men had a good zeal. Wherefore it is said: the seal of the house hath eaten me. And it is sung in the church, the scorners of Helizeus, whiles he went up into the house of God, felt the zeal of the bald, as peradventure this scorning villain ribald shall feel. You do it (quoth the Cardinal) perchance of a good mind and affection: but methinketh you should do, I cannot tell whether more holily, certes more wisely, if you would not set your wit to a fool’s wit, and with a fool take in hand a foolish contention. No forsooth, my lord (quoth he) I should not do more wisely. For Solomon the wise saith: Answer a fool according to his foolishness, like as I do now, and do show him the pit that he shall fall into, if he take not heed. For if many scorners of Helizeus, which was but one bald man, felt the zeal of the bald, how much more shall one scorner of many friars feel, among whom be many bald men? And we have also the pope’s bulls, whereby all that mock and scorn us be excommunicate, suspended and accursed. The Cardinal, seeing that none end would be made, sent away the jester by a privy beck, and turned the communication to another matter. Shortly after, when he was risen from the table, he went to hear his suitors, and so dismissed us. Look, Master More, with how long and tedious a tale I have kept you, which surely I would have been ashamed to have done, but that you so earnestly desired me, and did after such a sort give ear unto it, as though you would not that any parcel of that communication should be left out. Which though I have done somewhat briefly, yet could I not choose but rehearse it, for the judgment of them, which when they had improved and disallowed my sayings, yet incontinent, hearing the Cardinal allow them, did themselves also approve the same: so impudently flattering him, that they were nothing ashamed to admit, yea almost in good earnest, his jester’s foolish inventions: because that he himself by smiling at them did seem not to disprove them. So that hereby you may right well perceive how little the courtiers would regard and esteem me and my sayings.


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