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A LETTER AND DISCOURSE
TO SIR HENRY SAVILL,
FOR THE INTELLECTUAL POWERS.
Sir, COMING back from your invitation at Eton, where I had refreshed myself with company
which I loved, I fell into a consideration of that part of policy, whereof philosophy speaketh too much and laws too little ; and that is of education of youth. Whereupon fixing my mind a while, I found straitways, and noted even in the discourses of philosophers which are so large in this argument, a strange silence concerning one principal part of that subject. For as touching the framing and seasoning of youth to moral virtue (as tolerance of labours, continency from pleasures, obedience, honour, and the like) they handle it ; but touching the improvement and help
; ing of the intellectual powers, as of conceit, memory, and judgment they say nothing. Whether it were that they thought it to be a matter wherein nature only prevailed ; or that they intended it as referred to the several and proper arts which teach the use of
reason and speech. But for the former of these two reasons, howsoever it pleaseth them to distinguish of habits and powers, the experience is manifest enough that the motions, and faculties of the wit and memory, may be not only governed and guided but also confirmed and enlarged by custom and exercise duly applied. · As if a man exercise shooting, he shall not only shoot nearer the mark but also draw a stronger bow. And as for the latter of comprehending these precepts within the arts of logic and rhetorick, if it be rightly considered, their office is distinct altogether from this point. For it is no part of the doctrine of the use or handling of an instrument to teach how to whet or grind the instrument to give it a sharp edge, or how to quench it or otherwise whereby to give it a stronger temper. Wherefore finding this part of knowledge not broken, I have but “ tanquam aliud agens” entered into it, and salute you with it, dedicating it after the ancient manner, first as to a dear friend; and then as to an apt person; for as much as you have both place to practice it, and judgment and leisure to look deeper into it, than I have done. Herein you must call to mind Aspectu pèy übap. Though the argument be not of great heighth and dignity, nevertheless it is of great and universal use; and yet I do not see why, to consider it rightly, that should not be a learning of 'heighth, which teacheth to raise the highest and worthiest part of the mind. But howsoever that be, if the world take
. any light and use by this writing, I will the gratulation be to the good friendship and acquaintance
And so I commend you to God's
between us two. divine protection.
A DISCOURSE TOUCHING HELPS FOR THE INTELLECTUAL
I did ever hold it for an insolent and unlucky saying, “ faber quisque fortunæ suæ,” except it be uttered only as an hortative or spur to correct sloth. For otherwise if it be believed as it soundeth; and that a man entereth into an high imagination that he can compass and fathom all accidents; and ascribeth all successes to his drifts and reaches, and the contrary to his errours and sleepings. It is commonly seen that the evening fortune of that man is not so prosperous as of him that without slackening of his industry attributeth much to felicity and providence above him. But if the sentence were turned to this, “faber quisque ingenii sui,” it were somewhat more true and much more profitable ; because it would teach men to bend themselves to reform those imperfections in themselves, which now they seek but to cover and to attain those virtues and good parts, which now they seek but to have only in shew and demonstration. Yet notwithstanding every man attempteth to be of the first trade of carpenters, and few bind themselves to the second : whereas nevertheless, the rising in fortune seldum amendeth the mind; but on the other side, the removing of the stondes and impediments of the mind, doth often clear the passage and current to a man's fortune. But certain it is, whether it be believed or no, that as the most excellent of metals, gold, is of all other the most pliant, and most enduring to be wrought ; so of all living and breathing substances, the perfectest man is the most susceptible of help, improvement, impression, and alteration, and not only in his body, but in his mind and spirit, and there again not only in his appetite and affection, but in his powers of wit and reason.
For as to the body of man, we find many and strange experiences, how nature is overwrought by custom, even in actions, that seem of most difficulty and least possible. As first in voluntary motion, which though it be termed voluntary, yet the highest degrees of it are not voluntary; for it is in my power and will to run; but to run faster than according to my lightness or disposition of body, is not in my power nor will. We see the industry and practice of tumblers and funambulos what effects of great wonder it bringeth the body of man unto. So for suffering of pain and dolour, which is thought so contrary to the nature of man, there is much example of penances in strict orders of superstition, what they do endure, such as may well verify the report of the Spartan boys, which were wont to be scourged upon the altar so bitterly, as sometimes they died of it and yet were never heard to complain. And to pass to those faculties which are reckoned more involuntary, as long fasting and abstinence, and the contrary extreme (voracity). The leaving and forbearing the use of drink for altogether, the enduring vehement cold and the like; there have not
wanted, neither do want divers examples of strange victories over the body in every of these. Nay, in respiration, the proof hath been of some, who by continual use of diving and working under the water, have brought themselves to be able to hold their breath an incredible time; and others that have been able without suffocation, to endure the stifling breath of an oven or furnace so heated as, though it did not scald nor burn, yet it was many degrees too hot for any man not made to it to breathe or take in. And some impostors and counterfeits likewise, have been able to wreath, and cast their bodies into strange forms and motions : yea, and others to bring themselves into trances and astonishments. All which examples do demonstrate how variously, and how to high points and degrees, the body of man may be (as it were) moulded and wrought. And if any man conceive that it is some secret propriety of nature that hath been in these persons which have attained to those points, and that it is not open for every man to do the like, though he had been put to it; for which cause such things come but very rarely to pass; it is true, no doubt, but some persons are apter than others ; but so as the more aptness causeth perfection, but the less aptness doth not disable ; so that for example, the more apt child, that is taken to be made a Funambulo, will prove more excellent in his feats; but the less apt will be Gregarius Funambulo also. And there is small question, but that these abilities would have been more common, and others of like sort not attempted would likewise