Regretting a Life in Literature

Leon Battista Alberti,
On the Advantages and Disadvantages of Literature (Part V):

“I had often heard a great number of the most serious and most erudite men recalling those things about the study of literature which could not unjustly drive anyone away from literature and the desire of learning. Among their other many and various convictions which they adduced, they confessed openly that they were certainly not those sorts of people (though they had achieved much in the realm of literature) who, if their time were returned to them, would not think that it more profitable to undertake any other mode of life than to return to literature.

From this opinion, it was not only far from my opinion that I judged that they especially who left no time untouched by literature spoke otherwise than they truly felt, but it also happened that I judged them blameworthy for this. It seemed beyond their duty if these learned men were deterring the youth from literature, or if intelligent men were pursuing those things which they knew were hardly becoming. Thus it happened that, when I would question a large number of the educated with some diligence, it was clear that in almost all cases their very mind was dissociated from the study of literature, to which they had been in the greatest degree devoted.”

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Sepe audiveram plerosque gravissimos eruditissimosque viros de studiis litterarum ea referentes que non iniuria possent a litteris discendique cupiditate ununquenque avertere. Ceteras enim inter persuasiones, quas quidem multas ac varias adducebant, palam profitebantur se minime illos esse, quanquam litteris profecissent, qui, si tempora restituerentur, non quidvis aliud vite genus subire quam ad litteras redire commodius ducerent.

Qua ego sententia esse eos presertim qui nullum tempus vacuum litteris pretermitterent a mea tantum opinione aberat, ut non modo aliter quam sentirent dicere illos arbitrarer, sed eosdem etiam propemodum inculpandos existimarem. Nam preter officium videbatur si docti deterrerent iuvenes a litteris, vel si prudentes viri ea sequerentur que parum conducere intelligerent. Ea re fiebat, diligentius plurimos litteratos cum percunctarer, tum in omnibus fere hunc ipsum animum comperire alienum videlicet a studiis litterarum, quibus essent maximopere dediti.

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