Flattery and Deceit: The Road to Worldly Success

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy [2.3.7]:

“An illiterate fool sits in a man’s seat, and the common people hold him learned, grave and wise. One professeth (Cardan well notes) for a thousand crowns, but he deserves not ten, when as he that deserves a thousand cannot get ten. Salarium non dat multis salem, [the salary does not give salt to many]. As good horses draw in carts, as coaches. And oftentimes, which Machiavel seconds, Principes non sunt qui ob insignem virtutem principatu digni sunt [they are not princes who are worthy of the throne by their signal virtue] , he that is most worthy wants employment; he that hath skill to be a pilot wants a ship, and he that could govern a commonwealth, a world itself, a king in conceit, wants means to exercise his worth, hath not a poor office to manage, and yet all this while he is a better man that is fit to reign, etsi careat regno, though he want a kingdom, than he that hath one, and knows not how to rule it: a lion serves not always his keeper, but oftentimes the keeper the lion, and as Polydore Virgil hath it, multi reges ut pupilli ob inscitiam non regunt sed reguntur [many kings do not rule, but are ruled like schoolboys on account of their ignorance]. Hieron of Syracuse was a brave king, but wanted a kingdom; Perseus of Macedon had nothing of a king, but the bare name and title, for he could not govern it: so great places are often ill bestowed, worthy persons unrespected. Many times, too, the servants have more means than the masters whom they serve, which Epictetus counts an eyesore and inconvenient. But who can help it? It is an ordinary thing in these days to see a base impudent ass, illiterate, unworthy, insufficient, to be preferred before his betters, because he can put himself forward, because he looks big, can bustle in the world, hath a fair outside, can temporise, collogue, insinuate, or hath good store of friends and money, whereas a more discreet, modest, and better-deserving man shall lie hid or have a repulse. ‘Twas so of old, and ever will be, and which Tiresias advised Ulysses in the poet,—Accipe qua ratione queas ditescere [learn now how you can become rich], &c., is still in use; lie, flatter, and dissemble: if not, as he concludes,—Ergo pauper eris [therefore you will be a beggar], then go like a beggar as thou art.”

Image result for odysseus

Pieter Lastman, Odysseus and Nausicaa

2 responses

  1. oh….this hurts so much:

    “It is an ordinary thing in these days to see a base impudent ass, illiterate, unworthy, insufficient, to be preferred before his betters, because he can put himself forward, because he looks big, can bustle in the world, hath a fair outside, can temporise, collogue, insinuate, or hath good store of friends and money”

  2. Pingback: Flattery and Deceit: The Road to Worldly Success — SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE – Willy Martinez

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