“To Have an Oar in Every Man’s Boat”

From Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy:

“I have lived a silent, sedentary, solitary, private life, mihi et musis in the University, as long almost as Xenocrates in Athens, ad senectam fere to learn wisdom as he did, penned up most part in my study. For I have been brought up a student in the most flourishing college of Europe, augustissimo collegio, and can brag with Jovius, almost, in ea luce domicilii Vacicani, totius orbis celeberrimi, per annos multa opportunaque didici; for thirty years I have continued (having the use of as good libraries as ever he had) a scholar, and would be therefore loath, either by living as a drone, to be an unprofitable or unworthy member of so learned and noble a society, or to write that which should be any way dishonourable to such a royal and ample foundation. Something I have done, though by my profession a divine, yet turbine raptus ingenii, as he said, out of a running wit, an unconstant, unsettled mind, I had a great desire (not able to attain to a superficial skill in any) to have some smattering in all, to be aliquis in omnibus, nullus in singulis, which Plato commends, out of him Lipsius approves and furthers, as fit to be imprinted in all curious wits, not to be a slave of one science, or dwell altogether in one subject, as most do, but to rove abroad, centum puer artium, to have an oar in every man’s boat, to taste of every dish, and sip of every cup, which, saith Montaigne, was well performed by Aristotle, and his learned countryman Adrian Turnebus. This roving humour (though not with like success) I have ever had, and like a ranging spaniel, that barks at every bird he sees, leaving his game, I have followed all, saving that which I should, and may justly complain, and truly, qui ubique est, nusquam est, which Gesner did in modesty, that I have read many books, but to little purpose, for want of good method; I have confusedly tumbled over divers authors in our libraries, with small profit, for want of art, order, memory, judgment.”

Phryne Seduces the Philosopher Xenocrates by Angelica Kauffman

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s