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Do, some kind Christian, pump a stroke or two, just to wet my whistle. Thank you, sir! My dear hearers, when the world shall have been regenerated by my instrumentality, you will collect your useless vats and liquor casks into one great pile, and make a bonfire in honour of the Town Pump. And when I shall have decayed, like my predecessors, then, if you revere my memory, let a marble fountain, richly sculptured, take my place upon the spot. Such monuments should be erected everywhere, and inscribed with the names of the distinguished champions of my cause. Now listen; for something very important is to come next.
There are two or three honest friends of mine-and true friends I know they are-who, nevertheless, by their fiery pugnacity in my behalf, do put me in fearful hazard of a broken nose, or even a total overthrow upon the pavement, and the loss of the treasure which I guard. I pray you, gentlemen, let this fault be amended. Is it decent, think you, to get tipsy with zeal for temperance, and take up the honourable cause of the Town Pump, in the style of a toper fighting for his brandy bottle? Or can the excellent qualities of cold water be no otherwise exemplified than by plunging, slap dash, into hot water, and wofully scalding yourself and other people? Trust me, they may. In the moral warfare which you are to wage-and indeed in the whole conduct of your lives—you cannot choose a better example than myself, who have never permitted the dust and sultry atmosphere, the turbulent and manifold disquietudes of the world around me, to reach that deep calm well of purity, which may be called my soul. And whenever I pour out that soul, it is to cool earth's fever, or cleanse its stains.
One o'clock! Nay, then, if the dinner-bell begins to speak, I may as well hold my peace. Here comes a pretty young girl of my acquaintance, with a large stone pitcher for me to fill. May she draw a husband, while drawing her water, as Rachael did of old. Hold out your vessel, my dear! There it is, full to the brim; so now run home, peeping at your sweet image in the pitcher as you go; and forget not, in a glass of my own liquor, to drink-" SUCCESS TO THE TOWN PUMP!"
199.-ERRORS OF LEARNING.
LORD BACON. THERE be chiefly three vanities in studies, whereby learning hath been most traduced. For those things we do esteem vain, which are either false or frivolous, those which either have no truth, or no use; and those persons we esteem vain, which are either credulous or curious; and curiosity is either in matter or words: so that in reason, as well as in experience, there fall out to be these three distempers, as I may term them, of learning; the first, fantastical learning; the second, contentious learning; and the last, delicate learning; vain imaginations, vain altercations, and vain affectations; and with the last I will begin. Martin Luther, conducted no doubt by a higher Providence, but in discourse of reason, finding what a province he had undertaken against the Bishop of Rome and the degenerate traditions of the church, and finding his own solitude, being nowise aided by the opinions of his own time, was enforced to awake all antiquity, and to call former times to his succour, to make a party against the present time. So that the ancient authors, both in divinity and in humanity which had long time slept in libraries, began generally to be read and revolved. This by consequence did draw on a necessity of a more exquisite travail in the languages original, wherein those authors did write, for the better understanding of those authors, and the better advantage of pressing and applying their words. And thereof grew again a delight in their manner of style and phrase, and an admiration of that kind of writing; which was much furthered and precipitated by the enmity and opposition that the propounders of those primitive, but seeming new opinions, had against the schoolmen; who were generally of the contrary part, and whose writings were altogether in a different style and form; taking liberty to coin and frame new terms of art to express their own sense, and to avoid circuit of speech, without regard to the pureness, pleasantness, and, as I may call it, lawfulness of the phrase or word. And again, because the great labour that then was with the people, (of whom the Pharisees were wont to say, Execrabilis ista turba, quæ non novit legem,"*) for the winning and persuading of them,
*The vulgar crowd, which knows not the law, is accursed.
there grew of necessity in chief price and request eloquence and variety of discourse, as the fittest and forciblest access into the capacity of the vulgar sort; so that these four causes concurring, the admiration of ancient authors, the hate of the schoolmen, the exact study of languages, and the efficacy of preaching, did bring in an affectionate study of eloquence and copia" of speech, which then began to flourish. This. grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter; and more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgment. Then grew the flowing and watery vein of Osorius, the Portugal bishop, to be in price. Then did Sturmius spend such infinite and curious pains upon Cicero the orator, and Hermogenes the rhetorician, besides his own books of periods, and imitation, and the like. Then did Car of Cambridge, and Ascham, with their lectures and writings, almost deify Cicero and Demosthenes, and allure all young men that were studious, unto that delicate and polished kind of learning. Then did Erasmus take occasion to make the scoffing echo; "Decem annos consumpsi in legendo Cicerone;" and the echo answered in Greek "O," Asine."t Then grew the learning of the schoolmen to be utterly despised as barbarous. In sum, the whole inclination and bent of those times was rather towards "copia" than weight.
Here, therefore, is the first distemper of learning, when men study words and not matter! whereof though I have represented an example of late times, yet it hath been, and will be “secundum magus et minus" in all time. And how is it possible but this should have an operation to discredit learning, even with vulgar capacities, when they see learned men's works like the first letter of a patent or limned book; which though it hath large flourishes, yet it is but a letter? It seems to me that Pygmalion's frenzy is a good emblem or portraiture of this vanity; for words are but the images of matter; and except they have life of reason and invention, to fall in love with them is all one as to fall in love with a picture.
He is said to have fallen in love with a beautiful statue which he had himself sculptured.
But yet, notwithstanding, it is a thing not hastily to be condemned, to clothe and adorn the obscurity, even of philosophy itself, with sensible and plausible elocution; for hereof we have great examples in Xenophon, Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, and of Plato also in some degree ; and hereof likewise there is great use for surely, to the severe inquisition of truth, and the deep progress into philosophy, it is some hindrance; because it is too early satisfactory to the mind of man, and' quencheth the desire of further search, before we come to a just period: but then if a man be to have any use of such knowledge in civil occasions, of conference, counsel, persuasion, discourse, or the like ; then shall he find it prepared to his hands in those authors which write in that manner. But the excess of this is so justly contemptible, that as Hercules, when he saw the image of Adonis, Venus' minion, in a temple, said in disdain, "Nil sacri es ;"* so there is none of Hercules” followers in learning, that is, the more severe and laborious sort of inquirers into truth, but will despise those delicacies and affectations, as indeed capable of no divineness. And thus much of the first disease or distemper of learning.
The second, which followeth, is in nature worse than the former: for as substance of matter is better than beauty of words, so, contrariwise, vain matter is worse than vain words: wherein it seemeth the reprehension of St. Paul was not only proper for those times, but prophetical for the times following; and not only respective to divinity, but extensive to all knowledge: "Devita profanas vocum novitates, et oppositiones falsi nominis scientiæ." For he assigneth two marks and badges of suspected and falsified science: the one, the novelty and strangeness of terms; the other, the strictness of positions, which of necessity doth induce oppositions, and questions, and altercations. Surely, like as so many substances in nature, which are solid, do trify and corrupt into worms; so it is the property of good and sound knowledge to putrify and dissolve into a number of subtile, idle, unwholesome, and, as I may term them, vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind of quickness and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter or goodness of quality. This kind of degenerate learning did chiefly reign amongst the schoolmen: who having sharp and strong wits, and abundance of leisure, and small variety of reading, (but their * You possess no sanctity.
+ Avoid profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science, falsely so called.
wits being shut up in the cells of a few authors, chiefly Aristotle their dictator, as their persons were shut up in the cells of monasteries and colleges,) and knowing little history, either of nature or time, did, out of no great quantity of matter, and infinite agitation of wit, spin out unto us those laborious webs of learning which are extant in their books. For the wit and mind of man, if it work upon matter, which is the contemplation of the creatures of God, worketh according to the stuff, and is limited thereby; but if it work upon itself, as the spider worketh his web, then it is endless, and brings forth indeed cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fineness of thread and work, but of no substance or profit.
This same unprofitable subtilty or curiosity is of two sorts; either in the subject itself that they handle, when it is a fruitless speculation or controversy, whereof there are no small number both in divinity and philosophy, or in the manner or method of handling of a knowledge, which amongst them was this; upon every particular position or assertion to frame objections, and to those objections, solutions; which solutions were for the most part not confutations, but distinctions: whereas indeed the strength of all sciences is, as the strength of the old man's fagot, in the band. For the harmony of a science, supporting each part the other, is and ought to be the true and brief confutation and suppression of all the smaller sort of objections. But, on the other side, if you take out every axiom, as the sticks of the fagot one by one, you may quarrel with them, and bend them, and break them at your pleasure : so that, as was said of Seneca, "Verborum minutiis rerum frangit pondera;" so a man may truly say of the schoolmen, Quæstionum minutiis, scientiarum frangunt soliditatem." For were it not better for
a man in a fair room to set up one great light, or branching candlestick of lights, than to go about with a small watch candle into every corner? And such is their method, that rests not so much upon evidence of truth proved by arguments, authorities, similitudes, examples, as upon particular confutations and solutions of every scruple, cavillation, and objection; breeding for the most part one question as fast as it solveth another; even as in the former resemblance, when you carry the light into one corner you darken the rest; so that the
* He weakens the force of important matters by trifling verbal distinctions.