The True Value of Scholars

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy:

“To say truth, ’tis the common fortune of most scholars, to be servile and poor, to complain pitifully, and lay open their wants to their respectless patrons, as Cardan doth, as Xilander and many others: and which is too common in those dedicatory epistles, for hope of gain, to lie, flatter, and with hyperbolical eulogiums and commendations, to magnify and extol an illiterate unworthy idiot, for his excellent virtues, whom they should rather, as Machiavel observes, vilify, and rail at downright for his most notorious villainies and vices. So they prostitute themselves as fiddlers, or mercenary tradesmen, to serve great men’s turns for a small reward. They are like Indians, they have store of gold, but know not the worth of it: for I am of Synesius’s opinion, King Hieron got more by Simonides’ acquaintance, than Simonides did by his; they have their best education, good institution, sole qualification from us, and when they have done well, their honour and immortality from us: we are the living tombs, registers, and as so many trumpeters of their fames: what was Achilles without Homer? Alexander without Arian and Curtius? who had known the Caesars, but for Suetonius and Dion?”

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