Born Consumers

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy:

“The Egyptians of old, and many flourishing commonwealths since, have enjoined labour and exercise to all sorts of men, to be of some vocation and calling, and give an account of their time, to prevent those grievous mischiefs that come by idleness: for as fodder, whip, and burthen belong to the ass: so meat, correction, and work unto the servant, Ecclus. xxxiii. 23. The Turks enjoin all men whatsoever, of what degree, to be of some trade or other, the Grand Signior himself is not excused. In our memory (saith Sabellicus) Mahomet the Turk, he that conquered Greece, at that very time when he heard ambassadors of other princes, did either carve or cut wooden spoons, or frame something upon a table. This present sultan makes notches for bows. The Jews are most severe in this examination of time. All well-governed places, towns, families, and every discreet person will be a law unto himself. But amongst us the badge of gentry is idleness: to be of no calling, not to labour, for that’s derogatory to their birth, to be a mere spectator, a drone, fruges consumere natus, to have no necessary employment to busy himself about in church and commonwealth (some few governors exempted), but to rise to eat, &c., to spend his days in hawking, hunting, &c., and such like disports and recreations (which our casuists tax), are the sole exercise almost, and ordinary actions of our nobility, and in which they are too immoderate.”

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