Cicero is said to be the only wit that the people of Rome had equalled to their Empire. Ingenium par imperio. We have had many, and in their several ages (to take in but the former seculum) Sir Thomas More, the elder Wyatt, Henry Earl of Surrey, Chaloner, Smith, Elyot, B. Gardiner, were for their times admirable; and the more because they began eloquence with us. Sir Nicholas Bacon was singular and almost alone in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's times. Sir Philip Sidney and Mr. Hooker, in different matter, grew great masters of wit and language, and in whom all vigour of invention and strength of judgement met. The Earl of Essex, noble and high, and Sir Walter Raleigh, not to be condemned either for judgement or style; Sir Henry Savile, grave and truly lettered; Sir Edwin Sandes, excellent in both; Lord Egerton, the Chancellor, a grave and great orator, and best when he was provoked. But his learned and able, though unfortunate, successor is he who hath filled up all numbers, and performed that in our tongue which may be compared or preferred either to insolent Greece or haughty Rome. In short, within his view and about his times were all the wits born that could honour a language or help study. Now things daily fall; wits grow downward and eloquence grows backward: so that he may be named and stand as the mark and of our language.
I have ever observed it to have been the office of a wise patriot, among the greatest affairs of the state, to take care of the commonwealth of learning. For schools, they are the seminaries of state; and nothing is worthier the study of a statesman than that part of the republic which we call the advancement of letters. Witness the care of Julius Caesar, who in the heat of the civil war writ his books of Analogy, and dedicated them to Tully. This made the late Lord St. Albans entitle his work Novum Organum: which, though by the most of superficial men, who cannot get beyond the title of Nominals, it is not penetrated nor understood, it really openeth all defects of Learning whatsoever, and is a book
Qui longum noto scriptori porriget aevum.
|« NEXT »||« Classics »||« Library »||« Home »|