Forget Literary Fame

Petrarch, de sua ipsius multorumque ignorantia (III):

So things go: my studies, labors, and late nights have come to this point, that I who as a young man was accustomed to be called learned by some people, shall be found by deeper judgment to be an idiot as an old man. Perhaps I should grieve about it – but I must bear it. Perhaps I shouldn’t grieve about it, but I nevertheless must bear it, as one must bear everything which happens in human life: loss, poverty, labor, sorrow, tedium, death, exile, disgrace. Which, if it be false, is to be condemned: for it will find people to contradict it, and will fail as it goes. If however the disgrace is true, it should not be refused, as are other punishments invented for human faults. Indeed, I for my part will laugh if the true ornament of knowledge is taken away from me with words. But if the glory is false, I will not only bear the loss, but rejoice in it, being freed from my baggage and the laborious preservation of undeserved fame. It is better with the robber, when he puts off his unjust spoils, than when he enjoys his theft unpunished. One who deprives others of unjust possession can be more unjust, even if the repossession itself is just. As I said, for what bears on me, I approve not only the just sentence but also the unjust one, nor do I refuse any judge or thief.

Fame is a laborious and difficult thing, especially in literature. Everyone is vigilant and armed against it. Even those who are unable to hope for it themselves strive to take it away from others who possess it. One must ever have a pen in one’s hands. One must ever stand with an intent mind and erect ears. Whoever liberates me from this cares and this office with any proposition will earn my gratitude as my champion. Gratefully do I set aside the title of man of letters, whether it be true or false (certainly it was laborious and full of anxiety), because I remember the words of Seneca: this praise is garnered from a great expense of time and the horrible vexation of others’ ears: ‘O, man of letters!’ I should instead be content with this slightly more rustic title: ‘O, good man!’

Sic res eunt: huc et studia, et labores nostri, nostreque vigilie pervenere, ut qui iuvenis doctus a quibusdam dici soleo, profundiore iudicio senex ydiota reperiar. Dolendum forsitan, sed ferendum; forsitan nec dolendum, ferendum sane, ut reliqua omnia que hominibus accidunt: damnum, pauperies, labor, dolor, tedium, mors, exilium, infamia. Que si falsa est, spernenda est; nam et contradictores inveniet, et eundo deficiet; si vera autem, recusanda non est, ut nec alia culpis hominum inventa supplitia. Equidem, si scientie verum decus michi verbis eripitur, ridebo. At si falsum, non feram modo, sed gaudebo, non meis sarcinis excussus et indebite fame laboriosa custodia liberatus. Melius cum predone agitur, dum iniustis spoliis exuitur, quam dum impune furto utitur. Iniusti possessoris exclusor iniustius esse potest, at exclusio utique iusta est. Quod ad me attinet, ut dixi, non iustam modo sententiam, sed iniustam probo, nec iudicem quemlibet nec raptorem renuo. Operosa ac difficilis res est fama, et precipue literarum. Omnes in eam vigiles atque armati sunt; etiam qui sperare illam nequeunt habentibus nituntur eripere; habendus calamus semper in manibus; intento animo erectisque auribus semper in acie standum est. Quisquis quocunque proposito me his curis atque hoc fasce liberaverit, assertori meo gratiam habeo, et seu falsum seu verum, certe laboriosum ac solicitum literati nomen, quietis atque otii avidus, libens pono, memorans illud Annei: magno impendio temporum, magna alienarum aurium molestia laudatio hec constat. O hominem literatum! simus hoc titulo rusticiore contenti: o virum bonum!

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