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"Gracian: A Selection of Wise, Witty, Moral and Satyrical Maxims, Pluck'd from the writings of the Spanish Philosopher and Monk - Baltasar Gracian Y Morales (1601-1658)" - 1938 - Printed for the Entertainment of the Friends of Dr. C. Charles Burlingame : New York and Hartford M. CM. XXXVIII as an Adobe PDF file of the JPG images
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Printed for the Entertainment of the Friends
of Dr. C. Charles Burlingame
New York and Hartford
M. CM. XXXVIII.
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SPECIAL CONTENTS COPYRIGHT 1938
BY DR. C. CHARLES BURLINGAME
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IT is a far cry from our modern critics-from our Dorothy Thompsons and Heywood Brounsback to a Spanish Monastery of the seventeenth century and a writer called Baltasar Gracian.
It was a different world, then, one that moved less quickly and perhaps less mysteriously-but it was a world of men very strangely like ourselves.
Rather than try to explain, I will simply recommend a bedtime sortie with these aphorisms of three centuries ago. Some few of my favorite selections together with illustrations of early Spanish and English editions have been printed here for your pleasure.
Do not err, however, in reading into Gracian a too accurate understanding of our current times. I, for one, have found his philosophy of social relations and even of government and business too apt.
"Friends" said Gracian "are a second existence." With this thought in mind, and my own hearty greetings, I commend him to you.
C. C. B.
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Baltasar Gracian y Morales was born in the village of Calatayud c. 1601. At eighteen he became a member of the Society of Jesus and embarked on a life of contemplation and study. The fruit of this life, most of which was passed at the Jesuit College in Tarragona, was a handful of volumes which he published one by one from about 1630 to 1655 under the pseudonym Lorenpo Gracian. The best known are El Heroe, El Politico Don Fernando El Catolico, Agudeza y Arte de Ingenio, El Discreto and El Criticon. On the appearance of the third part of El Criticon (an allegory much in the vein of "Pilgrim's Progress," which it antedated), the authorities lost their patience with the sharp-tongued paragrapher, the Chair of Scripture at Tarragona was taken from him, and he was banished into the provinces. Soon after, in 1658, harried and spied upon, he died in the village of Tarazona, far from his birth-place and his life-long home.
The Oraculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia, from which the following maxims are taken, is not an independent work, but itself a selection of 300 paragraphs (originally without titles) from the body of his work. It was first published in 1653,
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probably under Gracian's personal editorship. The title page illustrated (opposite Maxim I) is from what appears to be the second issue of the first edition. This work has been enormously popular and has had numerous translations in many languages. The translation used herein is from the first English translation, published anonymously in London in 1685 and reprinted in 1694. The illustration on page 6 is from the first signed English edition (1702). On page 12 is reproduced the title from the first collected edition of Gracian's works.
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Fascimile of the title page of the 1653 Edition of The Oraculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia
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There goes more to the making of one Wise Man now-a-days, than in Ancient Times of seven: And at present there is more sense required for treating with one single Person than heretofore with a whole Nation.
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IT is the Admiration of Novelty that makes events to be valued. There is neither pleasure nor profit in playing ones Games too openly. Not to declare immediately, is the way to hold minds in suspence, especially in matters of importance, which are the object of universal expectation. That makes everything to be thought a mystery, and the secret of that raises veneration. In the manner of expression one ought to have a care not to be too plain: and to speak with open heart is not always convenient in conversation. Silence is the Sanctuary of Prudence. A resolution made manifest was never esteemed. He that declares himself, is obnoxious to Censure: and if he succeeds not, he is doubly miserable. We ought then to imitate the method of God Almighty, who always holds Men in suspence.
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IT is not the Gilder but the Adorer that makes the God. A Man of Parts had rather meet with those who depend upon him, than that are thankful to him. To keep People in hope, is Civility; to trust to their Gratitude, Simplicity. For it is as common for Gratitude to be forgetful, as for Hope to be mindful. You get always more by this, than by the other. When one hath once drank, he turns his back upon the Well: so soon as the Orange is squeezed, it's thrown upon the ground. When Dependance ceaseth, there's an end of Correspondence, and of Esteem also. It is therefore a lesson of Experience, that a Man ought to endeavour always to render himself useful, nay even to his Prince; though he must not affect an excess of silence, to make others overshoot themselves, nor for his own interest render another Man's evil incurable.
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ALL superiority is odious, but in a Subject over his Prince, it is ever foolish, or fatal. An accomplished Man conceals vulgar advantages, as a modest Woman hides her Beauty under a negligent dress. There are many who will yield in good fortune, or in good humour; but no body will yield in Wit, and least of all a Sovereign. Wit is the King of Attributes, and by consequent, every offence against it, is no less a Crime than Treason. Sovereigns would be witty in all things that are most eminent. Princes are willing to be assisted, but not surpassed. Those who advise them, ought to speak, as if they put them in mind of what they forgot, and not as teaching them what they knew not. This is a lesson that the Stars read to us, which though they be the sparkling Children of the Sun, yet never appear in his presence.
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THe happiness of great Men consists in having witty Men about them, who clear them from the difficulties of ignorance, by disentangling their affairs. To entertain Wise Men, is a grandure surpassing the barbarous haughtiness of that same Tigranes, who prided himself in being served by Kings, whom he had conquered. It is a new kind of Dominion to make those our Servants by Art, whom Nature hath made our Masters. Man has much to know, and but a short while to live; and he lives not at all, if he know nothing at all. It is therefore a singular piece of skill to study without pains, and to learn much, by learning of all. When that is once done, you shall see a man speak in a publick Assembly with the wit of many; or rather, you hear as many Sages speaking by his mouth, as have before instructed him. Thus, the labours of others make him pass for an Oracle, seeing these Sages fit his lesson for him, and distil into him the quintessence of their knowledge. After all, let him who cannot have Wisdom for a Servant, endeavour at least to have it for a Companion.
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[Title page of the 1702 translation by Mr Savage]
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IT is good to vary, that you may frustrate the Curiosity, especially of those who envy you. For if they come to observe an uniformity in your actions, they will prevent your enterprizes, and by consequent make them miscarry. It is easie to shoot a Fowl that flies outright, but not a Bird which is irregular in its flight. Yet it is not good to be always upon the intrigue neither; for at second bound the cunning will be discovered. Jealousie is upon the watch; there is much skill required to guard against it. A cunning Gamester never plays the Card which his Adversary expects, and far less that which he desires.
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NO body can be eminent without both these. When those two parts concur, they make a great man. An ordinary Wit that applies it self, goes farther than a sublime mind without application. Reputation is got by indefatigable labour. What costs but little, is good for nothing. Some have wanted application even in the highest employments; so rare a thing it is to force ones Genius. To have rather be indifferent in a sublime employment, than excellent in an indifferent, is a desire rendered excusable by Generosity. But he is not to be pardoned who rests satisfied to be indifferent good in a small employment, when he might excel in a great. One must have Art and a Genius then, which he is to complete by application.
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IT is the usual misfortune of every thing that has been much talked of, always to come short of the perfection that men have imagined to themselves. Reality can never equal imagination, seeing it is as difficult to have all perfections, as it is easie to entertain a notion of them. Since desire is the Husband of imagination, it always conceives much more of things than they are in effect. How great soever perfections may be, they never match the Idea of them. And as men find themselves frustrated of their expectation, so they undeceive themselves instead of admiring. Hope always lessens the truth. And therefore Prudence ought to correct it, by qualifying it so, that the enjoyment may surpass the desire. Some beginnings of Credit serve to awaken the Curiosity, but not to endear the object of it. It is most honourable when the effect exceeds the notion and expectation. This rule holds not good in evil, wherein exaggeration serves to belye, calumny, and detraction with the greater applause, by making that appear tolerable which was thought to be abominable.
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PEople of extraordinary and eminent merit depend on the Times. All have not had the Age they deserved, and many who have met with that, have not had the happiness to make the best of it. Others have been worthy of a better Age; which is an argument, that everything that is good, does not always triumph. Things of this World have their seasons, and that which is most eminent, is obnoxious to the freakishness of Custom. But it is always the comfort of a Wise Man, that he is Eternal. For if his own age be ungrateful to him, those that come after do him Justice.
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A Gentile Education is the portion of men of Breeding. The knowledge of the Affairs of the Time, good sayings spoken to purpose, pleasant ways of doing things, make the man of fashion: and the more he excells in these things, the less he holds of the vulgar. Sometimes a sign or gesture makes deeper impression than all the documents of a severe Master. The art of conversing hath stood in greater stead to some, than the seven liberal Arts all together.
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[Title page of the 1664 Edition of the works of Baltazar Gracian]
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The true means of living happy, and of being always esteemed Wise, is either to correct it, or confine it. Otherwise it takes a Tyrannical Empire over us, and transgressing the limits of speculation, becomes so very absolute, that life is happy, or miserable, according to the different fancies that it imprints upon us. For to some it represents nothing but pains and trouble, and through their folly becomes their Domestick Executioner. Others there are again, to whom it proposes only pleasure and grandures, delighting to divert them in dreams. And these are the effects of imagination, when not curb'd by reason.
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TO understand the art of reasoning and discourse, was heretofore the Science of Sciences: but that alone will not do now a-days, we must guess and divine, and especially if we would undeceive ourselves. He that is not a good Pryer can never be a good Judge. There are Spies over the heart and intentions. The truths which import us most, are never told us but by halves. A man of Wit must dive into the meaning of thern, checking his credulity in what appear advantageous, and giving the reins to believe as to that which is odious!
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THat is the art of managing humours, and of gaining our ends upon men. It depends more upon skill than resolution to know how to win upon the minds of People. There is no will that hath not its predominant passion, and these passions are different according to the diversity of tempers. All men are Idolaters: some of honour, others of interest, and most part of their pleasures. The skill is then, to know aright these Idols, if we would hit the weak side of those who adore them. He that can do so, has the key of another man's will. We must move with the first mover; and that is not always the higher, but most commonly the lower faculty. For in this World the number of those who are irregular, is far greater than of those who are not. We are first to know the Character of the Person, next feel his Pulse, and then attack him by his strongest Passion, which is his weaker side. That is a sure way to gain the Party.
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HE was a Man of an excellent discerning, whom it displeased to please many: Wise men are never fond of vulgar applause. There are Camelions of so popular a Palace, that they take more pleasure to suck in a gross Air, than to smell the sweet Zephyres of Apollo. Be not dazled at the sight of the miracles of the Vulgar: Ignorants are always in a maze. That which makes the folly of the mobile admire, indeceives the dis- cerning of the Wise.
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IF it be a great art to know how to refuse Favours, it is a far greater to be able to deny one's self in Business and Visits. There are some troublesome Employments that corrode the most precious Time. It is better to do nothing at all, than to be busie to no purpose. It is not enough to be a prudent man, to make no Intrigues, but he must also avoid to meddle in them. We must not be so much at the devotion of others, as not to be more at our own. We are not to abuse Friends, nor to require more of them than they are willing to grant. Every thing that is excessive is vicious, especially in Conversation; and without that moderation, there is no preserving of the Goodwill and Esteem of others, on which Civil Decency depends. One should use all his liberty in chusing what is most excellent but so, as he never offend against Judgment and Discretion.
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IT is the only ruine of Fools, that they never consider. Seeing they do not comprehend things, they neither see the damage, and profit, nor by consequence trouble themselves not about them. Some set a great value upon that which is but of little worth, because they will take all things the backward way. Many for want of sense, feel not their distemper. There are some things on which one cannot think too much. The wise rnan reflects on all, but not on all alike. For he dives where there is any ground, and sometimes he thinks there is more in the thing than he thinks of : So that his reflection goes as far as his apprehension went.
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THis is the delicatest part in humane Conversation; it is the finest Probe of the Recesses of the heart of man. There are some malicious and angry jirks dipt in the gall of passion. And these are imperceptible Thunder-bolts, that strike down those whom they smite. Many times a word hath thrown down headlong from the Pinnacle of Favour, those whom the murmerings of a whole People combined against them could not so rnuch as shake. There are the Words, or Hints, which produce an effect quite contrary; that is to say, which support and encrease the Reputation of those to whom they are addressed. But seeing they are cunningly glanced, so also are they to be cautiously received; For the security consists in smelling out the intention, and the blow foreseen is always warded.
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IS the part of a good Gamester, when Reputation is at stake. A brave Retreat is as great as a brave Enter prize. When one hathacted great Exploits, he ought to secure the Glory of them, by drawing off in time. A continued Prosperity is always suspected. That which hath its interruptions is the surer. A little sharp with the sweet, makes it relish better. The more Prosperities crowd one upon another, the more slippery they are, and subject to a reverse. The quality of the pleasure, makes sometimes amends for the shortness of the enjoyment. Fortune is weary to carry one and the same man always upon her shoulders.