A Lifetime Behind One Negation

Mark Pattison, Isaac Casaubon:

“From Casaubon’s commentaries we see that the style of his work demanded nothing less than a complete collection of the classical remains. He wants to found his remarks, not on this or that passage, but on a complete induction. It seems easy for Bentley to say, ‘Astypaltea of Crete does not once occur in ancient authors.’ But a lifetime is behind this negation. It is noticeable, how early in his career Casaubon had begun to transcend the sphere of printed greek. In the ‘Notes on Diogenes,’ aet. 25, we find that he had managed to beg, borrow, or buy many anecdota— Polyaenus; Photius; a fragment of Theocritus; a Theodoret ‘De servandis affectibus,’ lent him by Pacius; Scholia on Euripides, given him by Galesius. It must not be supposed that Casaubon could at this, or any time, buy ancient greek mss. What he bought were transcripts made for sale. These were manufactured by Darmarius. Darmarius was one of the last of the calligraphs, a race who long survived the invention of printing. Darmarius—’homo graecus,’ says Casaubon, with a tinge of bitterness at the recollection of some of his bargains— had, it should seem, access to the library at Venice, and went about Europe to sell his copies. His transcripts are no ‘livres de luxe,’ like the productions of the pen of a Vergecio or a Rhosus — true works of art, made to adorn the collections of princes and cardinals. Darmarius’ books are hasty transcripts, on poor paper, of any inedita he could get hold of in Bessarion’s library. Casaubon may naturally have preferred, with S. Jerome, correct books to ornamental books, but this he did not get from Darmarius. The transcripts of Darmarius do not make up for their want of external beauty by accuracy of text; for the transcriber does not seem to have known even the grammar of classical greek.”

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Let Aeneas Bee Worne in the Tablet of Your Memorie

Philip Sydney, Defence of Poesie: 

“The incomparable Lacedemonians, did not onelie carrie that kinde of Musicke ever with them to the field, but even at home, as such songs were made, so were they all content to be singers of them: when the lustie men were to tell what they did, the old men what they had done, and the yoong what they would doo. And where a man may say that Pindare many times praiseth highly Victories of small moment, rather matters of sport then vertue, as it may be answered, it was the fault of the Poet, and not of the Poetrie; so indeed the chiefe fault was, in the time and custome of the Greekes, who set those toyes at so high a price, that Philip of Macedon reckoned a horse-race wonne at Olympus, among his three fearfull felicities. But as the unimitable Pindare often did, so is that kind most capable and most fit, to awake the thoughts from the sleepe of idlenesse, to embrace honourable enterprises. Their rests the Heroicall, whose verie name I thinke should daunt all backbiters. For by what conceit can a tongue bee directed to speake evil of that which draweth with him no lesse champions then Achilles, Cirus, Aeneas, Turnus, Tideus, Rinaldo, who doeth not onely teache and moove to a truth, but teacheth and mooveth to the most high and excellent truth: who maketh magnanimitie and justice, shine through all mistie fearfulnesse and foggie desires.

Who if the saying of Plato and Tully bee true, that who could see vertue, woulde be woonderfullie ravished with the love of her bewtie. This man setteth her out to make her more lovely in her holliday apparell, to the eye of anie that will daine, not to disdaine untill they understand. But if any thing be alreadie said in the defence of sweete Poetrie, all concurreth to the mainteining the Heroicall, which is not onlie a kinde, but the best and most accomplished kindes of Poetrie. For as the Image of each Action stirreth and instructeth the minde, so the loftie Image of such woorthies, moste enflameth the minde with desire to bee woorthie: and enformes with counsaile how to bee woorthie. Onely let Aeneas bee worne in the Tablet of your memorie, how hee governeth himselfe in the ruine of his Countrey, in the preserving his olde Father, and carrying away his religious Ceremonies, in obeying Gods Commaundment, to leave Dido, though not onelie all passionate kindeness, not even the humane consideration of vertuous gratefulnesse, would have craved other of him: how in stormes, how in sports, how in warre, how in peace, how a fugitive, how victorious, how besieged, how beseiging, how to straungers, how to Allies, how to enemies, how to his owne. Lastly, how in his inwarde selfe, and how in his outwarde government, and I thinke in a minde moste prejudiced with a prejudicating humour, Hee will bee founde in excellencie fruitefull.”

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“Today I Have Truly Lived”

Mark Pattison, Isaac Casaubon:

“If we are tempted to turn away from Casaubon’s journal in disappointment at its barrenness of events, we must remember that it was undertaken by him with one special object in view. It was not written, like the contemporary ‘Registre-journal’ of Pierre Lestoile, for the instruction of posterity ; not even of his own family. Casaubon had no autobiographical purpose in view. He thus states his own motive in opening the diary. ‘ ‘The expenditure of time being the most costly of all those we make, and considering the truth of what is said by the latin stoic that ‘there is one reputable kind of avarice, viz. to be avaricious of our time,’ I have this day resolved to begin this record of my time, in order that I may have by me an account of my spending so precious a commodity. Thus, when I look back, if any of it hath been well laid out, I may rejoice and give almighty God thanks for his grace; if again any of it hath been idle or ill spent, I may be aware thereof, and know my fault or misfortune therein.’ This purpose of noting how the time goes is the paramount purpose of the Ephemerides. If we find them more barren of events than we could wish, we must call to mind that they were not destined to be a record of events, but a register of time. Casaubon anxiously compares the hours spent in his study with those bestowed on any other occupation. Unless the first greatly preponderate, he is unhappy. When the claims of business or society have taken up any considerable part of the day, his outcries are those of a man who is being robbed; When he has read continuously a whole day, from early morning till late at night, ‘noctem addens operi,’ he enters a satisfactory ‘to-day, I have truly lived,’ ‘ hodie vixi.’ Taking some entries of the first period, we have such as the following : —

‘ To-day I began my work very early in the morning, notwithstanding my having kept it up last night till very late.’

‘ Nearly the whole morning, and quite all the afternoon perished, through writing letters. Oh ! heavy loss, more lamentable than loss of money ! ‘

‘To-day I got six hours for study. When shall I get my whole day? Whenever, O my Father, it shall be thy will ! ‘

‘This morning not to my books till 7 o’clock or after; alas me ! and after that the whole morning lost; nay, the whole day. O God of my salvation, aid my studies, without which life is to me not life.’

‘This morning, reading, but not without interruption. After dinner, however, as if they had conspired the destruction of my studies, friends came and broke them off.’

‘This morning a good spell of study. After dinner friends, and trifling talk, but very bothering; at last got back to my books.’

‘To-day, though far from well, got eight hours for my books.’

Such is the general character of the entries during the first period. The simple ‘studuimus et viximus’ is the short expression of the feeling of this time.”

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If Only I Could Read Homer!

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, LXVI:

“The most learned Italians of the fifteenth century have confessed and applauded the restoration of Greek literature, after a long oblivion of many hundred years. Yet in that country, and beyond the Alps, some names are quoted; some profound scholars, who in the darker ages were honorably distinguished by their knowledge of the Greek tongue; and national vanity has been loud in the praise of such rare examples of erudition. Without scrutinizing the merit of individuals, truth must observe, that their science is without a cause, and without an effect; that it was easy for them to satisfy themselves and their more ignorant contemporaries; and that the idiom, which they had so marvellously acquired was transcribed in few manuscripts, and was not taught in any university of the West. In a corner of Italy, it faintly existed as the popular, or at least as the ecclesiastical dialect. The first impression of the Doric and Ionic colonies has never been completely erased: the Calabrian churches were long attached to the throne of Constantinople: and the monks of St. Basil pursued their studies in Mount Athos and the schools of the East. Calabria was the native country of Barlaam, who has already appeared as a sectary and an ambassador; and Barlaam was the first who revived, beyond the Alps, the memory, or at least the writings, of Homer. He is described, by Petrarch and Boccace, as a man of diminutive stature, though truly great in the measure of learning and genius; of a piercing discernment, though of a slow and painful elocution. For many ages (as they affirm) Greece had not produced his equal in the knowledge of history, grammar, and philosophy; and his merit was celebrated in the attestations of the princes and doctors of Constantinople. One of these attestations is still extant; and the emperor Cantacuzene, the protector of his adversaries, is forced to allow, that Euclid, Aristotle, and Plato, were familiar to that profound and subtle logician.  In the court of Avignon, he formed an intimate connection with Petrarch, the first of the Latin scholars; and the desire of mutual instruction was the principle of their literary commerce. The Tuscan applied himself with eager curiosity and assiduous diligence to the study of the Greek language; and in a laborious struggle with the dryness and difficulty of the first rudiments, he began to reach the sense, and to feel the spirit, of poets and philosophers, whose minds were congenial to his own. But he was soon deprived of the society and lessons of this useful assistant: Barlaam relinquished his fruitless embassy; and, on his return to Greece, he rashly provoked the swarms of fanatic monks, by attempting to substitute the light of reason to that of their navel. After a separation of three years, the two friends again met in the court of Naples: but the generous pupil renounced the fairest occasion of improvement; and by his recommendation Barlaam was finally settled in a small bishopric of his native Calabria. The manifold avocations of Petrarch, love and friendship, his various correspondence and frequent journeys, the Roman laurel, and his elaborate compositions in prose and verse, in Latin and Italian, diverted him from a foreign idiom; and as he advanced in life, the attainment of the Greek language was the object of his wishes rather than of his hopes. When he was about fifty years of age, a Byzantine ambassador, his friend, and a master of both tongues, presented him with a copy of Homer; and the answer of Petrarch is at one expressive of his eloquence, gratitude, and regret. After celebrating the generosity of the donor, and the value of a gift more precious in his estimation than gold or rubies, he thus proceeds: ‘Your present of the genuine and original text of the divine poet, the fountain of all inventions, is worthy of yourself and of me: you have fulfilled your promise, and satisfied my desires. Yet your liberality is still imperfect: with Homer you should have given me yourself; a guide, who could lead me into the fields of light, and disclose to my wondering eyes the spacious miracles of the Iliad and Odyssey. But, alas! Homer is dumb, or I am deaf; nor is it in my power to enjoy the beauty which I possess. I have seated him by the side of Plato, the prince of poets near the prince of philosophers; and I glory in the sight of my illustrious guests. Of their immortal writings, whatever had been translated into the Latin idiom, I had already acquired; but, if there be no profit, there is some pleasure, in beholding these venerable Greeks in their proper and national habit. I am delighted with the aspect of Homer; and as often as I embrace the silent volume, I exclaim with a sigh, Illustrious bard! with what pleasure should I listen to thy song, if my sense of hearing were not obstructed and lost by the death of one friend, and in the much-lamented absence of another. Nor do I yet despair; and the example of Cato suggests some comfort and hope, since it was in the last period of age that he attained the knowledge of the Greek letters.'”

My Friends Are the Enemies of My Studies

Mark Pattison, Isaac Casaubon:

“The diary begins again to echo with groans over time running to waste. He tells Lipsius that he is driven to do his translation of Polybius as the sheets pass through the press, ‘from want of time. The greater part of my day is wasted upon wretched nothings in this busy capital, busy because all the men have nothing to do.’ Day after day the entry in the diary is, ‘This day, too, my friends have made me lose! amici studiorum meorum inimici.‘ [My friends are the enemies of my studies.]‘ Aug. 3, 1601, O woe, O wretchedness, all study is at an end for me, how much of each day do I spend in reading, each day do I say, a whole week is gone, a whole month, and I can hardly get to look at a book.’ The wailngs of Montpellier are revived, but upon a greater stage. Being a sort of court pensioner, Casaubon too is part of the court. He has to wait upon the king; to wait, a good deal, upon Rosny; upon various grands seigneurs, a little in his own affairs, much in those of his friends. He began to experience the annoyances which await one who is supposed to stand well with men in power. ‘This morning my friends ad proceres me rapuerunt negotiorum suorum causa!’ [They took me away to see some aristocrats for the sake of their advancing their own affairs.]”

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Werewolves and Sun-Worship

Giovanni Boccaccio, Genealogia Deorum Gentilium 1.5:

“The younger authors, being fond of novelty, called Pan ‘Lyceus.’ Others scrapped the name of Pan altogether, and simply called him ‘Lyceus’. There are a few even who call Jupiter ‘Lyceus’, thinking that it is due either to the intercession of Nature or of Jupiter that wolves were removed from the flocks which rarely saw them. It seemed that he merited the name from the flight of the wolves, since the word lycos in Greek means ‘wolf’. Augustine writes, in his City of God, that it Jupiter was called ‘Lyceus’ for another reason, namely the frequent mutation of humans into wolves, which happened in Arcadia. They used to think that this was impossible without some divine power bringing it about.

It seems that Macrobius took up his idea that Pan was not Jupiter but the Sun by reasoning along these lines: since the Sun is the father of mortal life, and because at sunrise wolves usually abandon their attacks against the flocks and return to the wolves, the ancients called the Sun ‘Lyceus’ in commemoration of his service.”

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“Bring Back Some Books!”

Francesco Petrarch, Epistulae Seniles 16.1:

“But already I have rubbed against my wounds and injuries enough – now I return to Cicero. Known by some little reputation for my talent (though false) and by far the greatest favor of such masters, I had contracted various friendships through diverse circumstances, since I was in a place to which people came from every region. When my friends were leaving, they would ask (as is usual) whether I would like them to bring me anything from their homeland. I would respond: ‘nothing but books, and Cicero above all others.’ I used to give them notes to help them, and would press them hard in my letters and conversation. How often do you think that I sent my prayers and money, not just through Italy where I happened to be well-known, but even through France and Germany, even to Spain and Britain? I will tell you something incredible: I even sent to Greece, and where I expected Cicero, I found Homer. Homer came to me in Greek, but through strenuous effort and labor I rendered him into Latin, and now he happily lives with me among my Latin books.”

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Sed iam satis vulnera mea doloresque refricui. Nunc ad Ciceronem redeo. Itaque iam aliquali fama ingenii, falsa licet, sed multo maximo favore cognitus talium dominorum, varias amicitias per diversa contraxeram, quod essem in loco, ad quem fieret ex omni regione concursus. Abeuntibus demum amicis, et ut fit petentibus, numquid e patria sua vellem, respondebam: nichil preter libros. Ciceronis ante alios. dabam memorialia, scriptoque et verbis instabam. Et quotiens putas preces, quotiens pecuniam misi, non per Italiam modo, ubi eram notior, sed per Gallias atque Germaniam, et usque ad Hispanias atque Britanniam? Dicam quod mireris, et in Greciam misi, et unde Ciceronem exspectabam, habui Homerum, quique Grecus ad me venit, mea ope et impensa factus est Latinus, et nunc inter Latinos volens mecum habitat. Et quid tibi vis,

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