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born at Mutford, in Suffolk, probably in 1602, and his middle life was involved in the quarrel between King and Parliament, in which he sided warmly with the King. He died in Northamptonshire in 1668. Aside from its own interest, his prose is so obviously a result of the same forces which evolved the Shakespearean cycle of poets, that on this account, if no other, he would deserve the most careful study. But for those who have listened long to the «tumult of discourse » from great nineteenth-century apostles of higher criticism, Felltham's highly moral method of getting at, around, and to the end of his subject when he moralizes cannot fail to be a relief and a refreshment.
method of getting at, alouceste
OF LOQUACITY AND TEDIOUSNESS IN DISCOURSE
PRATING barber came to trim King Archelaus, and said to him, “How will you please to have me cut your hair ? ” —
Said the king, «Silently.” And, certainly, though a man has nothing to do, but to hear and answer, yet a boundless tongue is a strange unbridled beast to be worried with. And the misery is, that those who speak much seldom speak well: it is a sign of ignorance not to know that long speeches, though they may please the speaker, are the torture of the hearer. Horace, I think, was to be pitied when he was put into a sweat, and almost slain in the Via Sacra, by the accidental detention of a prating tongue. There is nothing tires one more than words, when they clatter, like a loose window shaken by the wind. A talkative fellow may be compared to an unbraced drum, which beats a wise man out of his wits. Surely, nature did not guard the tongue with the double fence of teeth and lips, without meaning that it should not move too nimbly. When a scholar full of words applied to Isocrates for instruction, the latter de. manded of him a double fee: one, to teach him to speak well; another, to teach him to hold his peace. Those who talk too much to others, I fear, seldom speak enough with themselves; and then, for want of acquaintance with their own bosoms, they may well be mistaken and exhibit foolishness when they think they are displaying wisdom. Loquacity is the fistula of the mind,- ever running and almost incurable. Some are blabbers of secrets, and these are traitors to society; they are vessels unfit for use, for they are bored in their bottoms.
There are others, again, who will cloy you with their own inventions, and this is a fault of poets. He who in his epigram invited his friend to supper made him promise that he
-ano verses would repeat.”
Some will preamble a tale impertinently, and cannot be delivered of a jest, till they have traveled an hour in trivials; as if they had taken the whole particulars in shorthand, and were reading from their notes:— thus they often spoil a good dish with improper sauce and unsavory farcements. Some are addicted to counseling, and will pour it in, even till they stop the ear. Tedious admonitions stupefy the advised, and make the giver contemptible. It is the short reproof which stays like a stab in the memory, that tells; and oftentimes three words do more good than an idle discourse of three hours. Some have varieties of stories, even to the wearing out of an auditor; and this is frequently the grave folly of old persons, whose unwatched tongues stray into the waste of words, and give us cause to blame their memories, for retaining so much of their youth. There are others also who have a leaping tongue, to jig into the tumult of discourse; and unless you have an Aristius to take you off, you are in great danger of a deep vexation. A rook yard in a spring morning is not a greater nuisance than one of these. Doubtless, the best is to be short, plain, and material. Let me hear one wise man sentence it, rather than twenty fools, garrulous in their lengthened tattle.- Est tempus quando nihil, est tempus quando aliquid; nullum autem est tempus, in quo dicenda sunt omnia. (Hug. Vict.) There is a time when we ought to be silent, and there is a time when we may speak; but there is no time in which all things should be spoken.
Complete. From «Resolves, Divine,
Moral, and Political. »
OF IDLE BOOKS
DLE books are the licensed follies of the age. Some are simple; I and these, though they render the author ridiculous, seldom
hurt the reader more than by loss of time; for, if he hath any sense, he will grow wiser by the folly that is presented to him: as drunkards are often cured by seeing the beastliness of others who are so. The least caution is necessary to be given of such books; for man will no more dwell in one of these than a traveler of quality will lodge in an alehouse or a booth. It was Cicero who said, Lectionem sine ulla delectatione negligo,– he hated reading where no pleasure dwelt. There is another kind of books which are wanton and licentious, and these like rank flesh un. salted carry a taint which poisons. It is true, wit is in general readier at such productions than at any other; yet, the best are never obscene. Vicious or vulgar is his character, at best, who deals in licentious thoughts and expressions. Decency is the corrective of manners; and even although such works be refined in point of language, yet are they then but as unsavory breaths perfumed; there is only a more precious stink, which certainly shows either what the conversation hath been, or what the inclination is, for the pen is more the mind's interpreter than speech. Yet, as it regards society, writings which are scandalous are worse. They are a kind of barbarousness in death unto the dead; for printing gives perpetuity and carries to future ages both the author's malice and the infamy of the party that is traduced. It is unworthy to traduce the absent, even though provoked by passion; but to display a man's malice in writing is deliberate wickedness; to which (with his own disgrace) he sets his hand and seal, and does an injury for which he cannot make amends sufficient; for admit he does retract in public, he is not sure that all who saw his first book shall come to read his last. A spiteful pen picks out only the vices and corruptions of men, and leaves their virtues buried and untouched, which, if justly attended to, might be found to balance all their failings. But, above all, to abuse the dead is most deadly. The dead is as the fatherless and widow, whose cause, because they want defenders, God himself will vindicate. How much below the gallantry of man is it to tyrannize over the defenseless! The brave soul scorns advantages. Is it reasonable in arms to fight against the naked ? To meet my enemy without a weapon is his protection, if I be provided. The dead are tamely passive; and, should the dishonor of them be tolerated, what fame could rest unblasted in the grave ? When Agesilaus was presented Lysander's treasonable letters, and was about to read them at the head of his army, he was told Lysander was dead; and this made him abandon his purpose. Next to scandalous books are heretical; these fill the world with tares, which like ill plants in a good ground, if they be let grow
to seed, they sow themselves, and perpetuate their corruptions to future generations. The heretic must needs be obstinate and arrogant; for by presuming on his own sense, he grows incorrigible. He is the highest papal man in the world; for he sets himself up above the church and all her doctors. While he cries down others for infallible, he acts as if he were so. His presumption must needs be vast, who builds more on his own tenet than upon the mature judgment of all the successive fathers; as if God had revealed more to him than to all the pillars and propagators of his church. St. Augustin tells us that he is an heretic, qui pro alicujus temporalis commodi, et maxime gloriæ principatusque sui gratia, falsas ac novas opiniones gignit, aut sequitur; who for some temporal profit, and for his own pre-eminence, either authors or persists in some new and false opinions. Usually, it is for private ends and interest; and then how infinitely does he offend who will bias God's truths and accommodate them to his corrupted benefit ? He raises himself above God, under the pretense of serving him, and sins more in his grave, and dead, than when he was alive; for he poisons from generation to generation; — and, which is worst of all, he offends till the world's end, in a book which cannot repent. But, above all, profane works are to be avoided. The very reading of them is an unhappiness, but a second perusal guilt and reprobation. The heretic misunderstands religion, but the profane one scorns it. Such, the very heathen admitted not to sacrifice. The profane is he, qui nihil habet sacri, qui sacra negligit, violat, conculcat; who has nothing of religion in him, but neglects, destroys, and spurns all that is sacred. He is, indeed, the practical atheist, who condemning heaven, hath, more than the mere pagan, forgot himself to be man. If man, made up of infirmities, be so jealous of his honor, that, with the hazard of his life, he dares duel him that stains it, how will God, who made man with this jealousy, be zealous of his own honor, by punishing such as wildly despise it ? Shall the clay grow insolent against the potter, or the worm affect to hold up its head at the face of man? Beware of the profane and scorner. He who neglects God will make no scruple of betraying man. If he sit loose to heaven he will never hold firm to earth; but for himself will forsake his friends, having done so already as to God, to whom he is indebted for all he has.
The vicious author cannot offend alone. A corrupt book is an amphisbæna: a serpent headed at both ends, one of which
bites him that reads, the other stings him that writes; for if I be corrupted by his pen the guilt grows his, as well as mine. I will not write so as to hurt myself and posterity. I will not read so as to hurt myself and predecessors. A foolish sentence dropped upon paper sets folly on a hill, and is a monument to make infamy eternal.
Complete. From «Resolves, Divine,
Moral, and Political.»
OF VIOLENCE AND EAGERNESS
THE too eager pursuit of a thing hinders enjoyment; for it I makes men take indirect ways, which, though they some
times prosper, are never blessed. The covetous man, being mad for riches, practices injurious courses, which, God cursing, brings him to a speedy poverty. Oppressions will bring a consumption upon thy gains. Wealth amassed by unjust and improper means, like a rotten sheep, will infect thy healthful flock. We think by wrong to secure ourselves from want, when it is that only which unavoidably brings it on us. He that longs for heaven with such impatience as to kill himself, that he may be there the sooner, may by that act be excluded thence; nay, though we be in the right way, our haste will make our stay the longer. He that constantly rides upon the spur tires his horse ere his journey ends, and so is there the later for making such unusual speed. He is like a giddy messenger, who runs away without his errand, and so loses time notwithstanding his nimbleness. When God has laid out man a way, in vain he seeks a nearer one. We see the things we aim at, as travelers do towns in hilly countries; we judge them near, at the eye's end, because we do not see the valleys and the brook that interpose. So, thinking to take shorter courses, we are led about through ignorance and incredulity. We go surest when we do not post precipitately. Sudden risings have seldom sound foundations. We might toil less and avail more. What jealous and envious furies gnaw the burning breast of the ambitious fool! What fears and cares affright the starting sleeps of the covetous! If anything happen to warrant them, it crushes him ten times more heavily than it would do the mind of the well-tempered man. All who affect things over-violently do over-violently grieve in the disappointment. Whatsoever I