John William Donaldson, The New Cratylus (Preface):
Many people entertain strong prejudices against every thing in the shape of etymology, prejudices which would be not only just but inevitable, if etymology or the doctrine of words were such a thing as they suppose it to be. They consider it as amounting to nothing more than the derivation of words from one another; and as this process is generally confined to a perception of some prima facie resemblance of two words, it seldom rises beyond the dignity of an ingenious pun, and, though amusing enough at times, is certainly neither an instructive nor an elevated employment for a rational being.
The only real etymology is that which attempts a resolution of the words of a language into their ultimate elements by a comparison of the greatest possible number of languages of the same family. Derivation is, strictly speaking, inapplicable, farther than as pointing out the manner in which certain constant syllables, belonging to the pronominal or formative element of inflected languages, may be prefixed or subjoined to a given form for the expression of some secondary or dependent relation. In order to arrive at the primary origin of a word or a form, we must get beyond the narrow limits of a single idiom. Indeed, in many cases the source can only be traced by a conjectural reproduction based on the most extended comparison of all the cognate languages, for when we take some given variety of human speech, we find in it systems and series of words running almost parallel to one another, but presenting such resemblances in form and signification as convince us that, though apparently asymptotes, they must have converged in the form which we know would potentially contain them all. This reproduction of the common mother of our family of languages, by a comparison of the features of all her children, is the great general object to which the efforts of the philologer should be directed, and this, and not a mere derivation of words in the same language from one another, constitutes the etymology that is alone worthy of the name.
Isaac Disraeli, The Curiosities of Literature (Vol. II):
The grossness and multitude of Aristotle and Varro’s books were both a prejudice to the authors, and an hinderance to learning, and an occasion of the greatest part of them being lost. The largeness of Plutarch’s treatises is a great cause of his being neglected, while Longinus and Epictetus, in their pamphlet Remains, are every one’s companions. Origen’s 6,000 volumes (as Epiphanius will have it) were not only the occasion of his venting more numerous errors, but also for the most part of their perdition. Were it not for Euclid’s Elements, Hippocrates’s Aphorisms, Justinian’s Institutes, and Littleton s Tenures in small pamphlet volumes, young mathematicians, freshwater physicians, civilian novices, and les apprenticesen la ley d’Angleterre, would be at a loss and stand, and total disencouragement. One of the greatest advantages the Dispensary has over King Arthur is its pamphlet size. So Boileau’s Lutrin, and his other pamphlet poems, in respect of Perrault s and Chapelain’s St. Paulin and la Pucelle. These seem to pay a deference to the reader’s quick and great understanding; those to mistrust his capacity, and to confine his time as well as his intellect.
Notwithstanding so much may be alleged in favour of books of a small size, yet the scholars of a former age regarded them with contempt. Scaliger, says Baillet, cavils with Drusius for the smallness of his books; and one of the great printers of the time (Moret, the successor of Plantin) complaining to the learned Puteanus, who was considered as the rival of Lipsius, that his books were too small for sale, and that purchasers turned away, frightened at their diminutive size; Puteanus referred him to Plutarch, whose works consist of small treatises; but the printer took fire at the comparison, and turned him out of his shop, for his vanity at pretending that he wrote in any manner like Plutarch! a specimen this of the politeness and reverence of the early printers for their learned authors; Jurieu reproaches Colomies that he is a great author of little books!
At least, if a man is the author only of little books, he will escape the sarcastic observation of Cicero on a voluminous writer — that “his body might be burned with his writings,” -of which we have had several, eminent for the worthlessness and magnitude of their labours.
It was the literary humour of a certain Maecenas, who cheered the lustre of his patronage with the steams of a good dinner, to place his guests according to the size and thickness of the books they had printed. At the head of the table sat those who had published in folio, foliissimo; next the authors in quarto; then those in octavo. At that table Blackmore would have had the precedence of Gray. Addison, who found this anecdote in one of the Anas, has seized this idea, and applied it with his felicity of humour in No. 529 of the Spectator.
Your fragment is in Aulus Gellius; and both it and your Greek delicious. But why are you thus melancholy? I am so sorry for it, that you see I cannot forbear writing again the very first opportunity; though I have little to say except to expostulate with you about it. I find you converse much with the dead, and I do not blame you for that; I converse with them too, though not indeed with the Greek. But I must condemn you for your longing to be with them. What, are there no joys among the living? I could almost cry out with Catullus, “Alphene immemor, atque unanimis false sodalibus!” But to turn an accusation thus upon another, is ungenerous; so I will take my leave of you for the present with a “Vale et vive paulisper cum vivis.”
I was convinced there had been no common sense nor common honesty in the world for these last fifteen hundred years; but that they were totally extinguished with the ancient Greek and Roman governments. Homer and Virgil could have no faults, because they were ancient; Milton and Tasso could have no merit, because they were modern. And I could almost have said, with regard to the ancients, what Cicero, very absurdly and unbecomingly for a philosopher, says with regard to Plato, ‘Cum quo errare malim quam cum aliis recte sentire’. Whereas now, without any extraordinary effort of genius, I have discovered that nature was the same three thousand years ago as it is at present; that men were but men then as well as now; that modes and customs vary often, but that human nature is always the same. And I can no more suppose that men were better, braver, or wiser, fifteen hundred or three thousand years ago, than I can suppose that the animals or vegetables were better then than they are now.
I dare assert too, in defiance of the favorers of the ancients, that Homer’s hero, Achilles, was both a brute and a scoundrel, and consequently an improper character for the hero of an epic poem; he had so little regard for his country, that he would not act in defense of it, because he had quarreled with Agamemnon about a w—-e; and then afterward, animated by private resentment only, he went about killing people basely, I will call it, because he knew himself invulnerable; and yet, invulnerable as he was, he wore the strongest armor in the world; which I humbly apprehend to be a blunder; for a horse-shoe clapped to his vulnerable heel would have been sufficient. On the other hand, with submission to the favorers of the moderns, I assert with Mr. Dryden, that the devil is in truth the hero of Milton’s poem; his plan, which he lays, pursues, and at last executes, being the subject of the poem.
From all which considerations I impartially conclude that the ancients had their excellencies and their defects, their virtues and their vices, just like the moderns; pedantry and affectation of learning decide clearly in favor of the former; vanity and ignorance, as peremptorily in favor of the latter. Religious prejudices kept pace with my classical ones; and there was a time when I thought it impossible for the honestest man in the world to be saved out of the pale of the Church of England, not considering that matters of opinion do not depend upon the will; and that it is as natural, and as allowable, that another man should differ in opinion from me, as that I should differ from him; and that if we are both sincere, we are both blameless; and should consequently have mutual indulgence for each other.
Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son (Letter 30):
Some learned men, proud of their knowledge, only speak to decide, and give judgment without appeal; the consequence of which is, that mankind, provoked by the insult, and injured by the oppression, revolt; and, in order to shake off the tyranny, even call the lawful authority in question. The more you know, the modester you should be: and (by the bye) that modesty is the surest way of gratifying your vanity. Even where you are sure, seem rather doubtful; represent, but do not pronounce, and, if you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself.
Others, to show their learning, or often from the prejudices of a school education, where they hear of nothing else, are always talking of the ancients, as something more than men, and of the moderns, as something less. They are never without a classic or two in their pockets; they stick to the old good sense; they read none of the modern trash; and will show you, plainly, that no improvement has been made, in any one art or science, these last seventeen hundred years. I would by no means have you disown your acquaintance with the ancients: but still less would I have you brag of an exclusive intimacy with them. Speak of the moderns without contempt, and of the ancients without idolatry; judge them all by their merits, but not by their ages; and if you happen to have an Elzevir classic in your pocket neither show it nor mention it.
Some great scholars, most absurdly, draw all their maxims, both for public and private life, from what they call parallel cases in the ancient authors; without considering, that, in the first place, there never were, since the creation of the world, two cases exactly parallel; and, in the next place, that there never was a case stated, or even known, by any historian, with every one of its circumstances; which, however, ought to be known, in order to be reasoned from. Reason upon the case itself, and the several circumstances that attend it, and act accordingly; but not from the authority of ancient poets, or historians. Take into your consideration, if you please, cases seemingly analogous; but take them as helps only, not as guides. We are really so prejudiced by our education, that, as the ancients deified their heroes, we deify their madmen; of which, with all due regard for antiquity, I take Leonidas and Curtius to have been two distinguished ones. And yet a solid pedant would, in a speech in parliament, relative to a tax of two pence in the pound upon some community or other, quote those two heroes, as examples of what we ought to do and suffer for our country. I have known these absurdities carried so far by people of injudicious learning, that I should not be surprised, if some of them were to propose, while we are at war with the Gauls, that a number of geese should be kept in the Tower, upon account of the infinite advantage which Rome received IN A PARALLEL CASE, from a certain number of geese in the Capitol. This way of reasoning, and this way of speaking, will always form a poor politician, and a puerile declaimer.
There is another species of learned men, who, though less dogmatical and supercilious, are not less impertinent. These are the communicative and shining pedants, who adorn their conversation, even with women, by happy quotations of Greek and Latin; and who have contracted such a familiarity with the Greek and Roman authors, that they, call them by certain names or epithets denoting intimacy. As OLD Homer; that SLY ROGUE Horace; MARO, instead of Virgil; and Naso, Instead of Ovid. These are often imitated by coxcombs, who have no learning at all; but who have got some names and some scraps of ancient authors by heart, which they improperly and impertinently retail in all companies, in hopes of passing for scholars. If, therefore, you would avoid the accusation of pedantry on one hand, or the suspicion of ignorance on the other, abstain from learned ostentation. Speak the language of the company that you are in; speak it purely, and unlarded with any other. Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with. Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket: and do not pull it out and strike it; merely to show that you have one. If you are asked what o’clock it is, tell it; but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman.
Upon the whole, remember that learning (I mean Greek and Roman learning) is a most useful and necessary ornament, which it is shameful not to be master of; but, at the same time most carefully avoid those errors and abuses which I have mentioned, and which too often attend it. Remember, too, that great modern knowledge is still more necessary than ancient; and that you had better know perfectly the present, than the old state of Europe; though I would have you well acquainted with both.
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 1.2:
The fact that I have taken as my subject a thing that is noble, elevated, and useful to many will not, I think, require a great profusion of words for those who are not totally ignorant blockheads where history is concerned. For if one directs their attention to the reigns of cities and races of past time as they followed upon one another, and then considers each of them independently and then each one in comparison with the other; and if one wishes to determine which of them held the greatest power and which is famed for the noblest deeds in peace and war, then they will see that the power of the Romans by far outstripped that of the other empires which preceded it, not only in respect to the greatness of its sway and the nobility of its deeds (which no account has yet worthily put in order), but also respecting the length of time during which it has existed up to our own age.
For the Assyrian empire, though suitably ancient and extending back into the mythical past, still only controlled a small part of Asia. The empire of the Medes overtook that of the Assyrians, and surpassed it with even greater power, but it did not maintain that strength for much time, and instead dissolved in its fourth generation. The Persians, having defeated the Medes, held sway over almost all of Asia, but when they set out against European peoples, they did not defeat many of them, and they remained in power for not much more than two hundred years. The Macedonian dynasty overtook the Persian power in greatness, and surpassed all previous empires, but it did not blossom for long – after the death of Alexander, it took a turn for the worse. Immediately split among several rulers after the Diadochoi, and following them maintaining its strength for another two or three generations, it became weak under its own influence and was finally obliterated by the Romans. And not even Macedon made all of the land and sea its subject. For it held no sway over Libya, except a bit not far from Egypt, nor did it subject all of Europe, but went north only as far as Thrace, and in the west terminated at the Adriatic Sea.
Because you have asked me, Ioannes, my dearest companion in Christ, in what manner it is proper for you to study in acquiring a treasury of knowledge, such a plan is handed on from me to you: that you should choose to enter through little streams, and not suddenly into the sea, because it is proper that one come gradually through the easier things to the more difficult ones.
This is, therefore, my advice and your instruction. I order you to be slow in speech and slow in acceding to the mouthpiece. Embrace purity of conscience. Do not allow yourself to be free for speech. You should frequently esteem the wine cellar if you wish to be brought into it. Present yourself as lovable to everyone. Don’t look at all deeply into the deeds of others. Don’t show yourself as very familiar with anyone, because excessive familiarity breeds contempt and offers material for subtraction from study. Don’t in any way get yourself embroiled in secular words or deeds. Don’t forget to follow the footsteps of the holy and the good. Don’t consider from whom you are hearing something, but commend to memory whatever good is spoken.
Make sure that you understand what you read and hear. Make yourself certain about doubtful things. Try to store up whatever you can in the wardrobe of your mind as if you wanted to fill up a jar. Don’t seek things higher than your station. Following these steps, you will profer and lead forth the useful blooms and fruits on the vine of the God of Heavenly Hosts as long as you live. If you will have followed all of this eagerly, you will be able to attain what you affect.
Quia quaesisti a me, in Christo mihi carissime Ioannes, qualiter te studere oporteat in thesauro scientiae acquirendo, tale a me tibi traditur consilium: ut per rivulos, non statim in mare, eligas introire, quia per faciliora ad difficiliora oportet devenire. Haec est ergo monitio mea et instructio tua. Tardiloquum te esse iubeo et tarde ad locutorium accedentem; conscientiae puritatem amplectere. Orationi vacare non desinas; cellam frequenter diligas si vis in cellam vinariam introduci. Omnibus te amabilem exhibe; nihil quaere penitus de factis aliorum; nemini te multum familiarem ostendas, quia nimia familiaritas parit contemptum et subtractionis a studio materiam subministrat; de verbis et factis saecularium nullatenus te intromittas; discursus super omnia fugias; sanctorum et bonorum imitari vestigia non omittas; non respicias a quo audias, sed quidquid boni dicatur, memoriae recommenda; ea quae legis et audis, fac ut intelligas; de dubiis te certifica; et quidquid poteris in armariolo mentis reponere satage, sicut cupiens vas implere; altiora te ne quaesieris. Illa sequens vestigia, frondes et fructus in vinea Domini Sabaoth utiles, quandiu vitam habueris, proferes et produces. Haec si sectatus fueris, ad id attingere poteris, quod affectas
With the beginning of the Renaissance, the amazing strength and flexibility of Cicero’s style was recognized once more. It was copied by writers of Latin prose on almost every subject. For centuries the diplomacy of the European chanceries was carried on not only in the language, but in the precise vocabulary, and word order, and cadences of Cicero’s speeches. There was a long and fierce dispute between scholars who held that Cicero was an unchallengeable ‘authority’ and that no modern writer could use Latin words or constructions not found in his works, and those, more liberal, who pointed out that Latin was still a living language which modern authors could expand and alter to their own needs. Since this was a dispute about the use of the Latin language, it does not come within the scope of our book. But it was closely connected with another dispute which does.
Many writers in the vernacular languages felt that the ‘big bow-wow’ style of speaking and writing was bogus. All style is artificial, no doubt; but they held that prose should at least give the appearance of being natural. They therefore turned away from Cicero and most of the devices he had developed, and, as models for modem prose, picked Seneca and Tacitus. Some of them went farther back, to Demosthenes and Plato. The aim of them all was to be personal, to avoid formalism. On the models of Seneca’s moral essays and Tacitus’ histories — and, to a much smaller extent, Demosthenes’ plainer speeches and Plato’s quieter dialogues — they created the prose of most modem essays and character-sketches, the prose in which some great modem sermons have been written.
Claudius Tiberius, son of Livia, stepson of Octavian, ruled for twenty three years. Because he was called Claudius Tiberius Nero, the more jocular citizens wittily called him Caldius Biberius Mero (Warmius Drinkius Wino) because of his tippling tendencies. He was smart enough in battle, and fortunate enough before power was taken up under Augustus, so that the dominion over the republic was not undeservedly committed to him.
There was in him ample literary knowledge. He was fairly renowned for his speech, but had the worst mind – truculent, greedy, treacherous – pretending that he wanted things that he didn’t. He appeared to be opposed to those from whom he wanted counsel, and seemed totally benevolent to those whom he hated. He was better in his immediate responses and plans than in those which had been thought out.
When the principate was offered to him by the senators (which he had brought about with some cunning), he pretended to decline it, savagely asking each one individually what they had to say or what they thought about it. This ruined some good men. For they supposed that it was from his own mind that he declined the magnitude of imperial bother with a long speech, and when they offered opinions on this wish, they happened ultimately upon destruction.
He returned Cappadocia to the condition of a province by removing their king, Archelaus. He repressed the robberies of the Gaetuli. He cunningly circumvented Marobodus, the king of the Suebi. While he punished alike with savage fury both innocent and guilty, his own people and others, the strength of the military was sapped and Armenia was taken by the Parthians, Moesia by the Dacians, Pannonia by the Sarmatians, and Gaul by neighboring tribes. He himself was snuffed out by the treachery of Caligula in the fourth month of his eighty eighth year.
Claudius Tiberius, Liviae filius, Caesaris Octaviani privignus, imperavit annos viginti tres. Iste, quia Claudius Tiberius Nero dicebatur, eleganter a iocularibus Caldius Biberius Mero ob vinolentiam nominatus est. Satis prudens in armis satisque fortunatus ante sumptum imperium sub Augusto fuit, ut non immerito reipublicae dominatus ei committeretur. Inerat ei scientia litterarum multa. Eloquio clarior, sed ingenio pessimo truci avaro insidioso, simulans ea se velle quae nollet; his quasi infensus, quibus consultum cupiebat, his vero, quos oderat, quasi benivolus apparens. Repentinis responsionibus aut consiliis melior quam meditatis. Denique delatum a patribus principatum (quod quidem astu fecerat) ficte abnuere, quid singuli dicerent vel sentirent, atrociter explorans: quae res bonos quosque pessumdedit. Aestimantes enim ex animo eum longa oratione imperialis molestiae magnitudinem declinare, cum sententias ad eius voluntatem promunt, incidere exitia postrema. Iste Cappadocas in provinciam remoto Archelao rege eorum redegit. Gaetulorum latrocinia repressit. Marobodum, Suevorum regem, callide circumvenit. Cum immani furore insontes noxios, suos pariter externosque puniret, resolutis militiae artibus Armenia per Parthos, Moesia a Dacis, Pannonia a Sarmatis, Gallia a finitimis gentibus direptae suntIpse post octogesimum octavum annum et mensem quartum insidiis Caligulae exstinctus est.
It is so arranged by nature that nothing can achieve perfection or grow which is not composed, elaborated, and cultivated by many, especially when they are vying with each other in turn and competing for praise. What sculptor, or painter, or other artist could have stood out as perfect or at least great in their own art, if they had been the only practitioner of it? One person discovers one thing, and each person tries to imitate, emulate, and surpass whatever excellence they notice in the work of another. Thus is zeal kindled, thus is proficiency achieved, thus do the arts increase and reach the heights, indeed all the better and all the swifter when many people work toward the same thing, as in the case of creating a city, where completion is achieved faster and better if the hands of many, rather than of few, are applied to the task.
Nanque ita natura comparatum est, ut nihil admodum proficere atque excrescere queat quod non a plurimis componitur, elaboratur, excolitur, precipue emulantibus invicem et de laude certantibus. Quis enim faber statuarius, pictor item et ceteri in suo artificio perfectus aut etiam magnus extitisset, si solus opifex eius artificii fuisset? Alius aliud invenit et quod quisque in altero egregium animadvertit id ipse imitari, emulari, superare conatur. Ita studia incenduntur, profectus fiunt, artes excrescunt et in summum evadunt et eo quidem melius eoque celerius quo plures in eandem rem homines elaborant, veluti in extruenda aliqua urbe et citius et melius ad consumationem pervenitur, si plurimorum quam paucissimorum manus adhibeantur