April 30, 2014

Quotable and Notable

Love the old-fashioned prose and Latinate asides of Richard Burton. It has that old-fashioned crypticness, like Shakespeare.

A winsome sample, talking in the 1700s about what could pass for today's pundit-"journalists":
And for those other faults of barbarism, Doric dialect, extemporanean style, tautologies, apish imitation, a rhapsody of rags gathered together from several dunghills, excrements of authors, toys and fopperies confusedly tumbled out, without art, invention, judgment, wit, learning, harsh, raw, rude, fantastical, absurd, insolent, indiscreet, ill-composed, indigested, vain, scurrile, idle, dull, and dry; I confess all (‘tis partly affected), thou canst not think worse of me than I do of myself.


There is no greater cause of melancholy than idleness, no better cure than business, as Rhasis holds: and howbeit, stultus labor est ineptiarum, to be busy in toys is to small purpose, yet hear that divine Seneca, aliud agere quam nihil, better do to no end, than nothing.

To this end I write, like them, saith Lucian, that recite to trees, and declaim to pillars for want of auditors: as Paulus Aegineta ingenuously confesseth, not that anything was unknown or omitted, but to exercise myself, which course if some took, I think it would be good for their bodies, and much better for their souls; or I might be of Thucydides’ opinion, to know a thing and not to express it, is all one as if he knew it not.

‘Tis most true, tenet insanabile multos scribendi cacoethes, and there is no end of writing of books, as the wiseman found of old, in this scribbling age, especially wherein the number of books is without number, (as a worthy man saith,) presses be oppressed, and out of an itching humour that every man hath to show himself, desirous of fame and honour (scribimus indocti doctique——) he will write no matter what, and scrape together it boots not whence. Bewitched with this desire of fame, etiam mediis in morbis, to the disparagement of their health, and scarce able to hold a pen, they must say something, and get themselves a name, saith Scaliger, though it be to the downfall and ruin of many others.

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