“Today I Have Truly Lived”

Mark Pattison, Isaac Casaubon:

“If we are tempted to turn away from Casaubon’s journal in disappointment at its barrenness of events, we must remember that it was undertaken by him with one special object in view. It was not written, like the contemporary ‘Registre-journal’ of Pierre Lestoile, for the instruction of posterity ; not even of his own family. Casaubon had no autobiographical purpose in view. He thus states his own motive in opening the diary. ‘ ‘The expenditure of time being the most costly of all those we make, and considering the truth of what is said by the latin stoic that ‘there is one reputable kind of avarice, viz. to be avaricious of our time,’ I have this day resolved to begin this record of my time, in order that I may have by me an account of my spending so precious a commodity. Thus, when I look back, if any of it hath been well laid out, I may rejoice and give almighty God thanks for his grace; if again any of it hath been idle or ill spent, I may be aware thereof, and know my fault or misfortune therein.’ This purpose of noting how the time goes is the paramount purpose of the Ephemerides. If we find them more barren of events than we could wish, we must call to mind that they were not destined to be a record of events, but a register of time. Casaubon anxiously compares the hours spent in his study with those bestowed on any other occupation. Unless the first greatly preponderate, he is unhappy. When the claims of business or society have taken up any considerable part of the day, his outcries are those of a man who is being robbed; When he has read continuously a whole day, from early morning till late at night, ‘noctem addens operi,’ he enters a satisfactory ‘to-day, I have truly lived,’ ‘ hodie vixi.’ Taking some entries of the first period, we have such as the following : —

‘ To-day I began my work very early in the morning, notwithstanding my having kept it up last night till very late.’

‘ Nearly the whole morning, and quite all the afternoon perished, through writing letters. Oh ! heavy loss, more lamentable than loss of money ! ‘

‘To-day I got six hours for study. When shall I get my whole day? Whenever, O my Father, it shall be thy will ! ‘

‘This morning not to my books till 7 o’clock or after; alas me ! and after that the whole morning lost; nay, the whole day. O God of my salvation, aid my studies, without which life is to me not life.’

‘This morning, reading, but not without interruption. After dinner, however, as if they had conspired the destruction of my studies, friends came and broke them off.’

‘This morning a good spell of study. After dinner friends, and trifling talk, but very bothering; at last got back to my books.’

‘To-day, though far from well, got eight hours for my books.’

Such is the general character of the entries during the first period. The simple ‘studuimus et viximus’ is the short expression of the feeling of this time.”

Image result for old man reading painting

Leave a Reply