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introduction to L.B. Walton's 1953 Translation of Balthasar Gracian's (1601-1658) The Art of Worldly Wisdom / The Oracle - A Manual of the Art of Discretion (1647) as an Adobe PDF file of the JPG images
[Books by L.B. Walton]
[Title page and Painting of Baltasar Gracian]
[All Rights reserved and In memory to James Fitzmaurice-Kelly]
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In the case of the present rendering, I have made certain changes in punctuation where English usage seemed to demand them. When the interests of tolerable English have obliged me to depart very considerably from the original, I have called attention to the fact in the Notes at the end of this volume. I should like to express my indebtedness to the Edinburgh University Carnegie Research Fund for a travelling grant which enabled me to visit the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, in connection with the preparation of this edition; to Professor Michael Grant of the Chair of Humanity at Edinburgh University for some interesting comments on the Latin of the Epitaph which appears at the foot of the portrait of Gracian at one time exhibited in the Jesuit College at Calatayud and which is now the property of Sefior D. Filix Sanz de Larrea; to Senor D. Jose Maria de Campoamor, Spanish Consul-General in London, for a transcription of the Epitaph and information as to the present ownership of the portrait; and to the Mercure de France for permission to reproduce the illustration of the portrait.
L. B. WALTON. - Edinburgh, 1953.
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'Dabei ist es das Einzige seiner Art und nie ein anderes ober denselben Gegenstand geschrieben worden; denn nur ein Individuum aus der feinsten aller Nationen, der spanischen, konnte es versuchen . . . . Dasselbe lehrt die Kunst derer Alle sich befleissigen und ist daher for Jedermann. Besonders aber ist es geeignet das Handbuch aller derer zu werden, die in der grossen Welt leben, ganz vorzaglich aber Junge Leute, die ihr Glack darin zu machen bemaht sind und denen es mit Einem Mal und zum Voraus die Belehrung giebt die sie sonst erst durch lange Egf'ahrung erhalten.' A. Schopenhauer, Litterarische Notiz vor seine Ubersetzung.
' Taking the book as a guide, especially for those who intend to enter
public life, I have never chanced to meet with anything which seemed
to me even distantly to approach it. . . . It would possibly be rather
difficult to disprove the thesis that the Spanish nation has produced
the best maxims of practical wisdom, the best proverb, the best
epitaph, and the best motto in the world. If I had to sustain it, I
would point, with reference to the first head, to the Oraculo manual.'
Sir M. E. Grant Duff on 'Baltasar Gracian' in the Fortnightly Review, March 1877.
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For full details of Baltasar Gracian's family history and career, the reader of this brief Introduction should have recourse to Adolphe Coster's masterly study of this writer in the Revue
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Hispanique, vol. xxix, 1913, and to the other works mentioned in the bibliographical appendix. I should here like to express my especial indebtedness to M. Coster's study for much of the information recorded in the brief summary of Graciin's life given below.
Baltasar Graciin y Morales was born at Belmonte near Calatayud in 1601. In the baptismal register the name appears as 'galacian' and both forms, Gracian and Galacian, are found in the district to-day.
All Gracian's works, with two exceptions,(1) were published under the pseudonym of Lorenzo Gracian. His father Francisco Gracian, was a lawyer and may have been engaged in the administration of some great family estate in the neighbourhood, possibly that of the Luna family. The fact that he destined all his sons for the Church suggests that he was not overburdened with wealth.
Baltasar writes of his father with devotion and respect but says nothing of his mother, concerning whomwe have no information other than the fact that her maiden name was Angela Morales. We know that Francisco Graciin had a very poor opinion of women. ' The intelligence of the cleverest woman,' his son quotes him as saying, 'is no greater than that of any sensible youth of fourteen.'(2) Baltasar's experience, which, as a confessor, would not be inconsiderable, seems to have confirmed the views of his father who, like his uncle, Antonio Gracian, by whom Baltasar was educated at Toledo, was both a cynic and a wit.
Toledo, the ancient capital of the Visigoths, one of the most fascinating of Spanish cities, made a deep impression upon the youthful Gracidn and he accords it high praise in his allegorical novel, the Criticon.(3) El Greco was living there at this time, also the eminent preacher Hortensio Paravicino,(4) one of the pioneers of the school of preachers and writers whose style was destined to have a profound influence upon the work of Graciin. It is a
curious fact that the latter, who prided himself upon his know- ledge of the fine arts, never once mentions El Greco, although he refers to Bosch, Velazquez, Michael Angelo, and Rubens.(1)
He is, however, eloquent in his praise of Paravicino, whom he quotes freely in his Agude a y arte de ingenio, although he may not have been personally acquainted with him. He tells us that he met in Toledo the eminent poets Antonio Hurtado de Mendoza and Bartolomb Lupercio de Argensola.(2)
After his education at Toledo was concluded, Gracian probably returned to Aragon. He entered the Society of Jesus on 14th May 1619, taking the four vows on 25th July 1635. There is little documentary evidence concerning this period of Gracian's life, apart from the fact that he won a prize for Latin verse.(3) It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the influence which his upbringing as a Jesuit had upon the temperament and Weltanschauung of Gracian. To this matter we shall return later. The significance ofhis Jesuit education seems to have been overlooked even by so penetrating a critic as M. Coster. We are not sure whether Gracian actually taught in the Jesuit College at Calatayud, but we know that he was in that town in 1628.
It was not, however, in Calatayud, but in Huesca, that Graciin met the personalities who were destined to exercise the most profound influence upon his life and work. He was, we know, in Huesca from 1646 to 1648. He had, however, made friends there before that time.
Gracian's most important patron was Vincencio Juan de Lastanosa, a cultivated nobleman with a flair for turning epigrams. Lastanosa had established an art gallery and scientific museum at Huesca and was one of the leaders of a brilliant literary salon in that town. He divided his time between his great mansion at Figueruelas and his palace at Huesca, where his brother also lived. Here were all the requirements for a truly civilized life: art galleries, libraries, gardens; also unlimited opportunity and leisure for conversation.
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Those who still regard Spain as 'cut off from the light' during the Renaissance should dwell for a while upon the activities of the salons of Huesca in the age of Gracian.
Up to the time at which he took his vows Gracian had led an obscure life of intense intellectual activity. His ideas of men and things had yet to be tested in the crucible of experience, his knowledge of the world being still, in the main, theoretical. It was at this time that his El Heroe, dealing with the qualities of the ideal leader, appeared? A copy of it was presented to Philip IV and it ran into six editions within seven years.
In April 1640 Gracian, already a marked man in the world of letters, was in Madrid. He visited the Buen Retiro, which had been erected only eight years before, and was introduced to a number of important personages. He also had his first and disagreeable taste of court manners. He comments, especially, upon the impudence of the servants and lackeys who hung about the palaces of the aristocracy and whose main amusement seemed to consist in being offensive to strangers.(2)
In December 1640 Gracidn was again at Zaragoza in the household of the Duque de Nocera, whom he had chosen as his model for El Heroe. He also dedicated El Politico Don Fernando el Catolico,(3) his study of the ideal statesman, to Nocera.
He was not long in returning to Madrid, which he revisited in July 1641. He preached in that city with considerable success and there concluded one of his best-known works, the Arte de ingenio, tratado de la Agudega licensed for publication in November 1641. The work probably appeared in February 1642(4) and was dedicated to the Infante Baltasar Carlos. By this time Gracian's pseudonym did not serve to conceal his identity from those acquainted with current literary developments.
We find him again in Zaragoza on 11th March 1642. The Catalans, in constant revolt and always a source of trouble to the centralized government in Castile, had just recognized Louis XIII as Count of Barcelona and the French Army was marching in
On 6th March 1643, Graciin was appointed Rector of the Jesuit College at Tarragona. He did not, however, continue in this appointment for the normal three years.
In December 1644 he was in Valencia on a mission of which we know nothing. He visited the site of ancient Saguntum and sent some medallions and coins to his friend and patron Lastanosa. These included a seal upon which was engraved the head of Ovid. In 1646 there appeared, at Lastanosa's expense, a study by Graciin of the ideal courtier and man of the world, El Discreto, dedicated to the Infante Baltasar Carlos.
We have no information concerning Gracian's activities in Valencia, apart from the amusing and characteristic incident of his 'letter from hell.' He announced that he had received such a missive and that he proposed to read it out from the pulpit. The episode was obviously intended as a joke which would give Gracidn a chance to let off some verbal fireworks in the extravagant style of the pulpit oratory then in fashion. He was annoyed with the Valencians for taking him seriously and he condemns them, not without justification on this occasion, as 'credulous.'
His little joke and his resentment at the lack of appreciation accorded to it mark an early stage in the growing hostility to a Jesuit who was coming to be regarded by his colleagles in the Order as 'too clever by half'
Meanwhile, the French had occupied Lerida and the Marquis de Leganes appealed to the Valencian authorities for army chaplains. Gracian was sent out as an act of good riddance after the scandal excited by the 'letter from hell.' The regiment to which he was attached was commanded by Pablo de Parada.
He has left an account of one of the military expeditions of Parada.(1) He witnessed some frightful scenes of slaughter and a number of atrocities. Of these he writes in the objective manner one would expect of him. His chief interest was in the victory of the Spaniards and he was proud to have taken some part in it.
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In December 1646 we find him again in Huesca with Lastanosa. He was looking for poems for inclusion in a projected new edition of his Arte de ingenio, tratado de la Agudeza,(1) which he may have planned while in Valencia. It was almost certaint known in manuscript form before its official publication in 1648 The second edition appeared at Huesca in 1649, after which date we are uncertain of Gracian's whereabouts for a few years.
The decidedly unclerical and secular tone of his writings had excited the wrath of more conventional ecclesiastics. Fuel was added to the flames by the publication of El Oraculo manual y arte de prudencia, probably in 1647.(2) Much malicious gossip was abroad. That personal jealousy of Gracian's social success accounted to some extent for this attitude on the part of his colleagues in the Order can scarcely be doubted. He was moving in circles closed to the majority of his fellow clerics, many of whom, in any event, would have been incapable of appreciating the cultural atmosphere of the Lastanosa salon. From 1649 to 1651 he was probably engaged in preaching in various Aragonese towns. We find him at Pedrola in 1649 and at Zaragoza in 1651. At this juncture, possibly to disarm scandal, he published the Predicacion fructuosa (1652) of Fr. Jeronimo Continente, a former Rector of the College at Calatayud. The work consists of twenty-two sermons on religious topics such as death, confession, and so forth. Gracian wrote a short Preface to the work under his own name, addressed to the Bishop of Huesca.
At this time there also appeared the first part of his allegorical novel, El Critican.(3) He now adopted a new pseudonym, Garcia de Marlones, an anagram of the respective names of his parents. The work was dedicated to his old commander, Pablo de Parada, to whose regiment he had been chaplain. Gracian now occupied the post of Professor of Holy Scripture at Zaragoza and the Criticon, worldly, cynical, and pessimistic in tone, seemed an odd contribution to letters from the holder of a position obtained through the influence of the Bishop of Huesca, or as a reward for services in the army of Legaries. Graciin made a little money
Graciin could cope with the Aragonese ecclesiastics because he had Lastanosa and other powerful friends behind him. The General of the Order, a German, Goswin Nickel, was, however, quite a different proposition. He informed the then Aragonese Provincial, Jacinto Piquer, that Graciin had published, without authority and pseudonymously, certain 'frivolous works' quite out of keeping with his profession. A pretext for getting him out of Zaragoza was being sought. We find him at Graus in November 1652. What was he doing there? A project had been formed for the establishment of a Jesuit college in this town and it may be that, in order to cloak Gracian's literary misdoings, the Bishop of Huesca had sent him to Graus in connection with the new scheme. However, he soon returned to Zaragoza. The new Provincial, Fr. Diego de Alastuey, was a mild man but a second letter from Nickel forced him to tackle the case of Gracian. He had been ordered to make an inquiry and, if the outcome was unfavourable, to deprive the author of the Criticon of his post.
Nevertheless, Gracian seems to have held on to his job for a time in spite of this trouble and, in collaboration with a friend, Andres, produced a second edition of the Oraculo manual(1) and, at the same time, started work upon the second part of the Critiedn, which appeared at Huesca in 1653. This second part was published under the old pseudonym of Lorenzo Gracian and was dedicated to Don Juan de Austria. At the same time, he submitted for the approval of the Provincial a religious work entitled El Comulgatorio, dedicated to Elvira Ponce de Leon, Marquesa de Valdueza, chief lady-in-waiting to the queen. He obtained a licence from Alastuey in February 1655, in which year
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the book appeared under his own name. This may have been deliberate move to regain favour with the ecclesiastical authorities. In 1655 he sent some chapters of the third part of Critican to Lastanosa for comment. He mentions the hostilyty of his colleagues and also writes to Lastanosa's brother, a canon, for some masses to say, as he is in need of money. On 30th July 1655 he sent some chapters of the third part of the Critiedn to Lastanosa asking him to return them by the hand of some 'trust-worthy person,' a request which indicates that he was being watched at the time. In 1656 we again lose track of him. The third part of the Criticdn appeared in 1657 under the old pseudonym of Lorenzo Graci4n. It was dedicated to the Dean of Siguenza.
This third part was in the nature of a deliberate challenge, an act of open defiance. It was immediately denouncecl to the General of the Order and an inquiry was set afoot. The mild Alastuey had been replaced by the aforementioned Jacinto Piquer, now reinstated as Provincial of the Order. Piquer gave Graciin a public reprimand, sentencing him to a fast on bread and water. He also exiled him from Zaragoza to Graus and deprived him of his Chair of Holy Scripture. Goswin Nickel devoted a great deal of his time to this affair. Graciin, he ordered, must be closely watched, his rooms must be searched, and he must be allowed to keep nothing under lock and key. If necessary, he must be deprived of ink, pen, and paper.
The appearance of Pascal's Lettres provinciales (1656-7) had excited a good deal of hostility to the Jesuit Order and such a work as Graciin's Criticon was an additional menace and another stick in the hands of the Jansenists. Gracian was humiliated and hurt by the public reprimand and wrote directly to the General, recalling the services which he, Gracian, had rendered to the Order and asking permission to abandon it for a menclicant one. Nickel replied reproaching Gracian with his violation of the vow of obedience. In the sequel, however, the rebel was sent on a mission to Alagon, near Zaragoza. This was an honourable appointment, and he met with considerable success. Nothing, however, could appease Nickel, who maintained that Graciin must be inhibited from preaching in view of the fact that he had expressed a wish to leave the Order. Graciin was eventually silenced and sent to Tarazona. Disgraced, embittered, and in poor health, he died at Tarazona on 6th December 1658. In later years, his Order made amends by displaying his portrait in the cloister of their college at Calatayud.
In order to explain the significance of the Oraculo manual something must first be said concerning the works of which it is an epitome or anthology. Excluding El Comulgatorio (1655), which is no more than a guide to devotions, these works are five in number, El Hiroe (1637), El Politico Fernando (1640), El Discreto (1646), Agudera y arte de ingenio (1648) (revised ed. of El Arte de ingenio, tratado de la Agudeta),(1) and El Criticon (1651-7).
In ElHiroe Graciin gives us a kind of catalogue raisonni of the qualities, 'primores' he calls them, which should characterize the ideal leader and man of action.
The 'hero' of Gracian, be it noted, is no semi-mystical figure with the light of battle in his eyes, bearing a book and a sword. Nor is he a superman, nor a hurrianitarian philanthropist, nor yet an altruist. He is, first and foremost, an astute man of sound judgment, great-hearted, quick in action, and courageous. His most outstanding quality will be 'despejo,' a Spanish word which defies adequate English translation but which might be rendered, approximately, by 'ready wit combined with charm.' Some of the 'heroic' qualities enumerated by Gracian are of especial interest as revealing the author's own character and temperament. Moving, as he did, in a social circle superior to that in which he was born; dependent for success in his literary career upon the favours of the great, among whom, perhaps, he was never completely at his ease; an object of envy to his less cultured fellow priests, the quality most essential to him personally was discretion. He early came to realize that, as La Rochefoucauld
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was to put it later, 'il n'y a rien d'aussi difficile que le commerce des hommes.' Seeing around him everywhere the disastrous consequences of human stupidity, he was almost fanatical in his detestation of fools. Warmth is not a characteristic of GraciAn as a writer. It is, nevertheless, undoubtedly there when he is portraying an ass. We gather that he would have agreed up to a point with the proverbial division of mankind into 'knaves and fools' and there can also be little doubt that, in spite of his priestly office, he preferred the company of the former to that of the latter. The hero, says Graciin, must be continually on his guard against fools and the shallow judgments of the mob. He should not reveal all his good qualities at once but should keep some distinction up his sleeve as a surprise.(1) The multitude never respects a man whom it thinks it has completely fathomed. The hero must, above all, know how to hold his tongue and if he has been guilty of some foolish blunder he must know how to cover it up.(2)
He should avoid the company of poor or unfortunate persons and should deliberately parade some weakness in order to appease the envious. Also, says Gracian,(3) We must not forget that sheer luck plays a large part in the careers of the great. The fault is sometimes in our stars that we are underlings and the tide in the affairs of men is frequently missed owing to sheer ill fortune.' Pace the moralists, our own experience surely bears out this view of Gracian's. Most men whom fortune has favoured will, if they are honest, admit that the secret of their success is about twenty per cent hard work, five per cent ability, and seventy-five per cent sheer luck.
One recalls La Rochefoucauld's later comment: ' Quelques grands avantages que la nature donne, ce n'est pas elle mais la fortune qui fait les heros.'
These awkward facts of experience, ignored by Samuel Smiles ancl the majority of Puritan moralists, did not escape the keen and observant eye of the Jesuit priest. We must, however, bear in mind that, as a priest, the Spanish writer would probably equate
El Heroe is the child of a mind well stocked from the classics and Italian writers on political philosophy. Gracian may also owe something to the Honnite Homme (1630) of Nicolas Faret.(1) It is interesting to note that he explicitly condemns Machiavelli in the Criticon, I.7, as a 'falso politico' although in the Hiroe he may have intended to show that worldly success is not incompatible with Christian ethics. If so, he can scarcely be regarded as having attained his object.
El Politico Don Fernando el Catolico appeared at Zaragoza in 1640 and was dedicated to the Viceroy of Aragon, the Duque de Nocera. Its object was to depict a model ruler in the person of King Fernando 1, 'the Catholic,' and to expound his political theories. Fernando, says Graciin, founded an empire, a task for which destiny alone can supply the necessary qualities. The two essential virtues in a monarch are courage and prudence. He rnust also be astute and able to conceal his true motives, especially when he is preparing for war. He must surround himself with trustworthy and able ministers. Graciin calls attention to the disunity of the Spain of his own day ancl contrasts it with the unity achieved by Fernando I (Queen Isabella is not mentioned, possibly because she was a woman!) and the comparative stability of France. There is nothing original in the Politico, which is, indeed, inferior to the Italian political treatises of the time and to Quevedo's(2) political writings. Gracian's notion that
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distinctive ages of history produce distinctive types of ruler is interesting, if facile and unconvincing. In one era, he says, the monarch will be a statesman, in another a warrior, in another a voluptuary, and so on.
The Politico simply sets down the facts concerning Fernando's policy, accompanied, invariably, by eulogistic comment. There is no attempt to evolve a philosophy of history, no attempt at character analysis. Gracian, was, however, like so many authors, an exceedingly poor judge of his own works. He thought very highly of El Politico and in his Criticon ranks it with famous political treatises such as Machiavelli's Il Principe.
El Discreto (1646) is addressed to the ordinary man of the world. It is very difficult to find an appropriate English rendering of the title, which has also puzzled Gracian's French translators; Amelot de la Houssaie renders 'Discreto' by 'Discret,' while Fr. Courbeville paraphrases with 'L'Homme universel.' Graciin 'aimed at portraying what came to be regarded later as the distinguishing qualities of the eighteenth-century French 'honnete homme,' or of the English 'gentleman.'
As we have seen, prudence was a virtue much admired by Graciin and perhaps one need go no further than 'the man of discretion' in order to find his essential idea of the personality which he wishes to depict.
The qualities of the 'discreto' he calls 'realces' and each of the twenty-five chapters of the work deals with one of these. There is no fixed plan of composition. We find dialogues, letters, allegories, essays, all brought in to illustrate the virtues in question.
Some of the essays, which have as sub-title 'discurso academico,' may have been read at meetings of Lastanosa's salon.
The first chapter is important as throwing some light upon Gracian's use of the words 'genio' and 'ingenio.' One of the greatest difficulties which the translator has in dealing with Graciin is to be found in the variety of senses in which he uses certain quite common Spanish words. In El Heroe, 'ingenio' is used to indicate the intellectual faculties as opposed to 'agudeza,' 'finesse,' 'wit.' In El Discreto it also means 'aptitude for acquiring knowledge,' while 'genio' is used in the sense of 'innate tastes' and 'character.' Vagueness in the use of words is characteristic of Gracian. Nevertheless, generally speaking, one may say that 'genio' and 'ingenio' were employed during his age as in the sense of the French 'genie' and 'esprit,' respectively.
A certain assurance of manner is a mark of the 'discreto,' an assurance which, in fools, takes the form of insolence and arrogance, common also, says Graciin, among the wealthy. He must be 'galante' (another troublesome word for the translator), and the Conde de Aranda is quoted as a model of 'gallantry.' He must be consistent and of equable disposition, urbane and tolerant. Lastanosa is given as a model of urbanity. He must be 'quick in the uptake' and must divine, up to a point, unspoken thoughts. The idea that a man of the world should be something of a mind-reader is characteristic of Graciin and he returns to it in the Critiedn. He must have a sense of humour, but know when to stop joking.(1) He must have discrimination and must not be too easy-going.(2) He must know when he has gone far enough in a negotiation and be able to get out at the right moment; he must be able to display his merits without vulgar ostentation.(3) He must not give way to moods, nor be aggressive in conversation. 'He must,' says Gracian, employing a metaphor from the bullring, 'watch from behind the barrier of his wisdom the antics of the bulls of folly.'
Graciin's reputation as a cultivator of 'conceptismo' and 'culteranismo,' those often perverse forms of literary style so popular in Spain during the seventeenth century, is mainly due to his Agudera y arte de ingenio ' of which more will be said later. Here we need only comment on the curious fact that, while the Oraculo manual, so highly praised by Schopenhauer, has been neglected by the majority of Gracian's critics, the Agudeza was for long generally regarded as his only title to fame, or, perhaps we should say, infamy.
El Critican(5) is Gracian's most ambitious work and embodies a lifetime of reading and experience. It might well be described
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as a secular Pilgrim's Progress and one episode, the visit to the Fair of the World, recalls a similar incident in Bunyan's masterpiece. It is, incleed, true that both books are allegorical romances. There, however, the similarity ends. The two works differ from one another profoundly, as do the temperaments of their respective authors. Graciin is the aloof, objective observer of human folly and wickedness, while Bunyan is the burning enthusiast, proclaiming his 'message' on every page. Graciin approaches his theme in the spirit of a pagan philosopher and develops it as a cultured man of the world. It was less dangerous for him to attack social evils through the mouths of his characters than to inclulge in direct criticism. El Criticon, nevertheless, was a major cause of his ultimate downfall and disgrace. It is, indeed, an extraordinarily courageous book coming, as it did, from the pen of a Jesuit priest who did not hesitate to criticize, although but implicitly, his own Order. It is also an indisputably great book which, if it had been written in a less obscure and tortured style, might well have received as much attention as the world's other great allegorical and satirical romances. More will be said later concerning the translations of Graciin's works. It is, however, interesting to note here that Part I of the Critican appeared in an English version by Paul Rycaut as early as 1681 and it has been suggested that Defoe may have derived the conception of Robinson Crusoe from this rendering.(1)
The Oraculo manual y arte de prudencia (1647) is, as we have observed, a kind of compendium or anthology of the apothegms, maxims, epigrams, and general obiter dicta to be found scattered throughout the other works of the author.
It is the book by which Gracian is best known outside Spain and it has been translatecl into no less than eight modern European languages.(2) TO what extent may one regard it as the product of Graciin's unaided genius? The three hundred Maxims of which it consists are original in their mode of expression rather than in their content. As M. Coster rightly observes: 'On n'invente pas en morale.' Gracian has drawn upon the common stock of
What kind of work is the Oraculo? It is, as the author describes it, a 'handbook' and its object is severely practical. The literature of the period abounded in guides to heaven above; the Oraculo is strictly concerned with man's fortunes on the earth beneath. It may seem strange that such a book as this, an odd compound of shrewdness, cynicism, and moralizing, should be the work of a minister of religion. Gracian, however, was a very special kind of minister, a Jesuit priest, with no inconsiderable experience of men and things both clirectly, in the palaces of the aristocracy and on the battlefield, and indirectly, in the confessional.
Whatever faults Roman Catholic priests may have, they are rarely, if ever, what the Americans describe, in picturesque simile, as 'yellow-mouthecl.' The hearing of confessions over a long period must surely tend to eradicate any starry-eyed notions concerning human behaviour. It might be stretching the point rather far to say that the Oraculo could only have been written by a Catholic priest. It is, nevertheless, the kind of book which one might well expect from a cleric of Graciin's temperament, culture, and experience. As a priest, he was accustomed to advising penitents on spiritual matters. In the Oraculo he addresses his readers in his character of courtier and man of the world. He says to them, in effect: 'If you want to get on in life
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do what this book tells you, although I do not say that getting on in life should be your chief object, or even that it is a laudable object.' The approach of Samuel Smiles is very different. Graciin is nearer to Lord Chesterfield. His cynicism, however, goes deeper than that of the Englishman because the Spanish priest believed that 'getting on' in life was fundamentally unimportant. There is no cynicism more profound than that of the unworldly.
Apart from the deliberate opening gambit in which Gracian tells us that everything on earth has already been done as well as it possibly can be done, 'especially the job of being a great man,' the Oraculo is a book without a plan. The Maxims follow one another indiscriminately and there is no underlying conception to link them together. The same idea is frequently expressed in different forms. The quintessence of the advice which Gracian offers his readers might be summed up as follows: Know yourself, your weakness as well as your strength;(1) know also how to conceal shortcomings and make a discreet display of your merits.(2) Others, however, are at the same game, so they must be known as well. Penetrate behind their masks; be something of a clairvoyant, see through them and divine their thoughts.(3) Do not exaggerate, and remember, also, that truth itself can sometimes be used in order to deceive.(4) A wise man will have to deal, mainly, with fools because they are in the majority. He can, however, always get the better of them. Combine the subtlety of the serpent with the candour of the dove.(5) Think with the few and speak with the many.' Neither hate nor love on a permanent basis and remember that a friend turned enemy is the most dangerous of all foes, and that even the best friend may change.(7) One must, of course, have friends because they increase one's power, but do not trust them too far. One really good friend, and no more, is the ideal, but do not even venture to put all your eggs into that basket. Avoid poor and unlucky folk like the plague and cultivate those who can be of
The Ordculo produces an impression of almost complete secularity. Its atmosphere is almost entirely of this world and its pessimism and cynicism were, later, to find an echo in the thought of La Rochefoucauld, Schopenhauer, and, possibly, Nietzsche. Was Graciin, then, a hypocrite and a double-dealer? Some of his critics have thought as much. Their judgment in this respect is almost certainly erroneous ancl arises either from lack of knowleclge or from failure to appreciate the significance of Gracian's works. The Roman Catholic Church taught, and still teaches, that there are two orders of being, the natural and the supernatural; also that natural man, while not entirely corrupt, has but little to commend him. The Jesuits, while they believed in free will, regarded man's volition as enfeebled and perverted by original sin. While man is not altogether devoid of a certain natural benevolence, as distinct from supernatural charity, it would, frorn the Catholic point of view, be an occasion for surprise if people normally behavect well 'off their own bat,' so to speak. This, one feels, is the true explanation of Graciin's disarming observation at the end of the Oraculo to the effect that the best advice of all is: ' Be a saint.'
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the only task left to the erotic poet is to say the same things in a different way. When all possible topics for moral exhortation have been exhausted, the preacher must keep the interest of his congregation alive by varying his technique, a fact of which ministers of religion in later days have been as conscious as were the Catholic clergy in the age of Gracian.
Rhetorical extravagance, striving after effect, abuse of metaphor, love of antithesis, all these are to be found in the Latin writers of the Silver Age, notably in the work of those Romans whose native land was Spain. Medieval Latin writers, also, such as St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, delight in far-fetched parallelisms, antitheses, and, not infrequently, devastating puns. Graciin especially praises St. Augustine for his skill in the use of verbal fireworks and the Catholic clergy of his day did their best to live up to this tradition. A glance at some of the sermons preached, in all seriousness, by the ablest pulpit orators of the time leaves one amazed and sometimes, if not often, amused. 'Preciosity' throve in the sermon for many years and the pulpit became its last stronghold. The great preachers of the nineteenth century, both Protestant and Catholic, owed much of their success to sheer lung power but not a little, also, to the rhythmical structure of their periods which had an effect upon their congregations at once exciting and hypnotic. Volumes could be written upon the oratory of the pulpit which, in Spain, reached the nadir of sonorous absurdity in the eighteenth century and was ridiculed, if not to death, into temporary coma, by Fr. Isla's entertaining satire Fray Gerundio (1758).
In Spain, 'preciosity' took two forms. There was, on the one hand, 'culteranismo,' the art of playing with words, and, on the other, 'conceptismo,' the art of playing with ideas. Marini(1) in Italy, and Luis de Gongora(2) in Spain, were outstanding exponents of the first technique, while Quevedo(3) distinguished himself in the second, and Gracian in both. Quite apart from the influence of pulpit oratory and the general stylistic tendencies of his age, Gracian was temperamentally inclined towards highly
It is true that the Criticon abounds in obscure allusions to contemporary personalities and events, but so do the works of many non-Spanish writers who are hailed as geniuses. If' Luis de Gongora, a far more obscure and difficult writer than Gracian, is accepted to-day as the genius which he undoubteclly was, why should some critics jib at the complexities of Gracian ? It is possible to find fault with the Agudera y arte de ingenio on other and more serious grounds. While it is, professedly, a treatise on style, it has no clear plan and is replete with inconsistencies. With his head full of the writings of his greatly admired Alonso de Ledesma(2) and the sermons of Paravicino,(2) Graciin set out to produce a book of literary precepts for the guidance of would-be practitioners in the aforementioned styles. He does not even succeed in producing a satisfictory definition of either 'culteranismo' or 'conceptismo.' His theories concerning poetic diction, the use of neologisms and archaisms, are
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ill presented and confused. He praises the worst extravagancies of Ledesma, and exalts the second-rate Luis Carillo y Sotomayor(1) to the highest heaven of poesy. For Gracian he is the prince of Spanish 'cultistas.' Luis de Gongora, the greatest poet of that age, meets with slightly better treatment than his predecessor, Herrera. He is, says GraciAn, a 'swan in his conceits' but the most famous of all Gongora's 'cultista' poems, Las Soledades and El PoStimo, are dismissed with the briefest of mention. Quevedo is praised for his 'incessant puns' and Lope de Vega(2) is somewhat unjustifiably ranked as an outstanding 'conceptista.'
It has been suggested that the Agudera was a piece of plagiarism(3) and, whether this be the case or not, the work, which has often been regarded as the sole criterion of Gracian's merits as a writer, is not comparable in worth with either the Oraculo or the Criticcin.
Gracian's stylistic peculiarities may be summarized, very briefly, as follows.(4) The 'agudeza' is no new phenomenon in literature. The ancients knew it, although they had no theories about it. It is a 'beautiful concordance, an harmonious cor- relation between intelligible extremes expressed by an act of the intelligence.' 'What beauty is to the eyes and harmony to the ears, the "concepto" is to the understanding.' Another definition of the 'concepto' is 'an act of the understanding which expresses the correspondence which is to be found between objects.' Graciin goes on to distinguish two species of 'agudeza,' the second of which he subdivides into three varieties. Much has been written upon the precise nature of this treatise. Croce regards it as dealing with both 'conceptismo' and 'culteranismo' while Mene'ndez y Pelayo says that it is exclusively 'conceptista.' We shall not attempt to expound these arguments here but merely call attention to the fact that Gracian makes a clear distinction (one of the few such in the book) between 'natural' and 'mannered ' style ('estilo natural' and 'estilo artificioso') and observes that the 'natural' variety is like bread, in that one never wearies of it. He also states quite clearly that two things
Gracian belongs, in fact, to both schools and his style is characterized by the following outstanding features: (1) careful avoidance of the simple and obvious idea or word; (2) forced antitheses of ideas and/or words; (3) comparisons and parallelisms; (4) plays on words; (5) inversion (subject placed after the verb); (6) constant use of metaphors, many of them forced and obscure; (7) use of words in a different sense from the normal one; (8) use of neologisms; (9) Latinisms (e.g. suppression of the article); (10) use of ellipsis; (11) use of odd epithets.
In spite of these mannerisms, most of his works have a superficial and deceptive appearance of simplicity, owing to the brevity of the sentences as compared with the long, meandering clauses so common in Spanish literature of the ' Golden Centuries.'(2) Everywhere, except in the Criticon, we sense an effort towards extreme concision. A maxim of the Oraculo is rather like one of those Chinese boxes which were fashionable playthings in the
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Edwardian era. It appears to be a complete object in itself but on opening it another box is revealed, and on opening that, another, and so on until one reaches the core, a miniature so small that it can scarcely be handled. The miniature box might be compared to the ultimate idea of a Maxim of the Oraculo. It has taken a great deal of time and much intellectual effort to discover it and when it is at last found it is sometimes a mere platitude dressed up to look like an epigram. But the process of discovering it in the original Spanish is entertaining and a valuable piece of intellectual gymnastics.
That he should have made a special appeal to the French is not surprising. His realism, cynical wit, and love, if not of clarity, of concision, soon found a discriminating public in the land of La Bruyere and La Rochefoucauld. The points of contact between Gracian and the latter are interesting. It is not yet clear, however, to what extent direct influence may have been at work. The Maximes of La Rochefoucauld appeared in 1665, eighteen years after the Oraculo manual of Graciin, which was translated into French by Nicolas Amelot de la Houssaie in 1684. La Rochefoucauld's friend, Madame de Sabl6, certainly knew the Oraculo, and probably in the original, for she had some acquaintance with Spanish. Coster tells us that of the eighty-one Maxims, published later by l'Abbe d'Ailly as the work of Madame de Sabl6, sixteen are translations or paraphrases of Gracian.(3) The Caractires of La Bruybre appeared in 1688, four years after
It was not, however, the Oraculo which first attracted the interest of French men of letters. El Heroe was translated by Nicolas Gervaise and published in 1645. Gervaise's knowledge of Spanish was, however, inadequate for the performance of his task. In his Le Heros francais, of the same date, Ceriziers is directly inspirecl by Gracian, whom he mentions in his Preface. Some passages are free translations of Gracian's El Heroe, others follow the original word by word. The only real difference between the two works is that Ceriziers substitutes Henri de Lorraine, Comte d'Harcourt, as his ideal hero, in place of the personalities mentioned by Gracian.(1) In 1671, a French Jesuit, Fr. Bohours, imitated Gracian, while attacking him in his Entretiens d'Ariste et d'Eugine. The main credit for introducing Gracian to France and to Europe must, however, go to Nicolas Amelot de la Houssaie (1634-1706), the translator of Machiavelli's Il Principe. Amelot produced a French version, L'Homme de Cour, of the Oraculo, and also translated considerable portions of El Hiroe and El Discreto.(2) Bayle wrote a eulogistic article on Amelot's L'Homme de Cour for the Nouvelles de la Ripublique des Lettres in July 1685 the year in which the translation appeared at Paris and The Hague. It ran into fourteen editions between 1685 and 1716 and four editions between 1732 and 1808. Another translation of the Oraculo (Maximes & Baltazar Gracian) by Fr. Joseph de Courbeville, who had previously done El Discreto (L' Homme universel) (1723) and El Hiroe (Le Heros) (1725) into French, appeared in 1730. Courbeville was also responsible for a French version of El Politico Fernando in 1732. It is interesting to note that Voltaire came to know Gracian through Courbeville's rendering of El Heroe.(3)
We have, indeed, yet much to learn concerning the vogue and influence, direct and indirect, of Gracian in France. We have mentioned the case of La Rochefoucauld and that of La Bruyere. Coster suggests that Fenelon may owe something to Gracian in
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his conception of the character of Mentor in Lillmaque. In his Traird du vral mirite de l'Aomme, (1734) of which four editions appeared between 1734 and 1742, Le Maitre de Claville quotes Gracian from Amelot's version.(1) The opening passages of Rousseau's Amile recall the first paragraph of the Criticon and Vauvenargues seems to have been acquainted with the Oraculo manual. The majority of translations of Gracian into languages other than French were made from French renderings. In 1652 there appeared ' The Hero of Lorenzo Gracian, or the way to eminence and perfection. A piece of serious Spanish wit, originally in that language written, and, in English translated by Sir J. Skeffington.' This work is of special interest to English scholars for the Preface is by no less a person than Izaak Walton.(2)
Paul Rycaut's English rendering of Part I of the Criticon (' The Critick') was published in 1681. Rycaut tells us that he knew Spanish and that he had studied at Alcald, where his attention had been called to Gracian's allegorical romance. In 1694 there appeared The Courtier's Oracle, a translation based on Amelot's French version of the Oraculo. This translation was the basis of Savage's Art of Prudence (1702). In 1726 an English version of El Heroe was published, based on Courbeville's rendering, and El Discreto appeared as The Complete Gentleman (1726) (2nd ed.) in an English version by T. W. Salkeld. More than a hundred years were to elapse before Gracian again attracted attention in England through a translation by Mariana Monteiro of El Comulgatorio (Sanctuary Meditations). This translation was republished in 1876 and 1900. In 1892 there appeared a new translation of the Oracuk by Joseph Jacobs, The Art of Worldly Wisdom.
In Germany, Gracidn owes his fame mainly to Schopenhauer's rendering of the Oraculo.(3) As Coster observes, there can be no question as to the profound influence of Gracian upon Schopenhauer and, one might add, through Schopenhauer upon the European philosophy of pessimism in general. The opening passages of Nietzsche's Also Sprack Zarathustra recall a scene in
Karl Borinski cites Christian Weise's Die drei argsten Erznarren ancl its sequels Die drei klugsten Leute and Der politischer Nascher as imitations of Gracian's Criticon. Goethe in his Journal, dated 26th June 1810, notes that he has read Gracian's Homme de Cour.
El Politico appeared in a German version by Gaspar von Lohenstein as early as 1672, and the first German version of the Oraculo by Johannes Leonhard Sauter goes back to 1687.
There is an anonymous Italian translation (1679) of the Oraculo and an Italian translation of Amelot's French version by Francesco de Tosques, L'Uomo di Corte (1698). This latter rendering was reprinted five times. The Criticon was translated into Italian by Pietro Cattaneo in 1695 and ran into three further editions. There is an anonymous Italian translation (1675) of El Comulgatorio and Courbeville's French version of El Discreto was done into Italian in 1725.(2)
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factor of paramount importance in his intellectual formation and in order to understand him properly one must know something of the aims and methods of the Order. Its founder, Ignatius Loyola,(1) a former army officer of distinction, was by natural inclination a man of action. He was also a born psychologist or, perhaps one should say, psychiatrist, and had an intuitive understanding of human nature, its weakness and its strength His approach to the problem of training a corps of priests to defend and propagate what he regarded as the one true Faith was fundamentally practical. His methods were phenomenally successfial and their influence has been far-reaching, passing the bounds of the merely ecclesiastical and impinging upon the whole field of human activity. Foreshadowing views which have acquired a wide vogue in our own day, Loyola attached great importance to the function of the imagination in the determination of human behaviour. While the Jesuits espoused the cause of Free Will in the theological arguments of the age concerning Predestination, they taught, nevertheless, that man's will was corrupted by the Fall and inclined towards evil rather than good.
They did not, like Calvin and, later, the Scottish Church,(2) declare that man 'is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good.' They did, however, take a dismal view of the unaided human will as a means to salvation. By 'corresponding ' with the 'grace of God ' the will might be strengthened for the performance of good works and, from a purely human angle, might be used as an instrument for the direction and control of a more powerful natural incentive to action or contem- plation, the imagination. In no sense a formal philosopher, Loyola, nevertheless, anticipates Descartes and Kant in the importance which he attaches to what goes on within the cerebellum. He regarded the average man as tossed like a buoy without moorings upon the restless ocean of the confirsed and
His will enfeebled and corrupted, his powers of concentration almost non-existent, his mind a mass of confused and contra- dictory icleas, his errtotions unstable and uncontrolled, little. indeecl, could be expected of man in his unregenerate state, Nevertheless, by intense discipline of both mind and body, an ordered world of meaningful images, religious in character, could be brought into being from the comparatively formless void of 'everyday reality' and the 'world of common sense.' The view that man constructs, to some extent, his own world and that the latter is a reflection of his inner state and will, were, of course, to find their classic modern expression, in the philosophies of Kant, Schopenhauer, and von Hartmann. Loyola, however, was no metaphysician, no ambitious theorizer. He accepted the teachings of the Catholic Church upon the nature of God and man as unquestionable. He was concerned, merely, with the devising of aids to the cultivation of the supernatural life, which was far more significant, to him, than the 'realities' of everyday experience. His Spiritual Exercises aim at the conscious substitution, by an effort of the will and the imagination, of certain religious images in place of the normal impressions of daily life.
The 'science' of Loyola is a science of body and spirit conceived as a unity in action, of their dissociation, and of their subsequent synthesis by means of the will working upon the imagination.(1)
The new images created by the intellect and the imagination under the direction of the will are conceived by Loyola as existing in their own right. They are no mere products of mystical ecstasy or special illumination. They are actual experiences. In this emphasis upon the concrete, Loyola is typically Spanish. The devotion of the faithful in Spain is stimulated, to a notable extent, by material representations, by images, crucifixes, and so forth. For the initiate, Loyola endeavours to supply a stimulus of a higher order; actual experience of the events figured in the material images. There is nothing vague or nebulous about Spanish Christianity. To
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Loyola and his followers these things are as real as rain or the sun. One has to wait until Emanuel Swedenborg for an equally 'solid ' conception of the world of the spirit, more real, more solid, to both Swedenborg and Loyola, than the physical earth beneath their feet. This point is also emphasized by the late Miguel de Unamuno, in his Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Peoples,(1) where he says that an immortality which is not of 'carney hueso,' of 'flesh and bone,' is a meaningless abstraction.
The interior and exterior worlds are, then, conceived, in some sense, as one; but while Schopenhauer envisaged the former as the will of the species and desired it to be directed towards voluntary self-annihilation, Ignatius wished it to be dominated by the conceptions of Catholic orthodoxy and the supernatural life. From Loyola, Gracian gets his sense of the concrete and his idea of the training of the mind by the consideration of specific examples. The Maxims of the Oraculo are, so to say, secular, as contrasted with spiritual, 'Exercises.' That this indicates a revolt on the part of Gracian against the teaching of Loyola and its background is, one feels, very much open to doubt. He undoubtedly defied his superiors in proceeding with the Criticon but he had good reason to believe that the motives for the prohibition were dubious. True, he had taken the vow of obedience 'perinde ac cadaver,' and blind obedience to the direction of a superior in the Order is the king-pin of the Jesuit system. But a system of discipline is one thing and a system of belief quite another. Many Catholic priests found their vow of chastity extremely irksome and were not, in Gracian's age, over-scrupulous in its observance. Priestly celibacy is, however, not an article of belief, and the Roman Catholic Church does not invariably insist upon it.(1) Gracian may have found his vow of obedience intolerable. This is, however, no indication that he was an apostle of revolt and a forerunner, in the moral sphere, of Nietzsche. Much has been made of the secular and cynical atmosphere which pervades his works and it has been taken as revealing positive
'If you want to get on in the world,' he says, in effect, 'follow the advice of my Oracle. This is how successful people, in the worldly sense, behave.' The sting, however, is in the tail, in the last Maxim of the Oraculo, in the somewhat disarming advice to 'be a saint.' It is difficult to believe from a study of his works as a whole that Gracian attached great importance to worldly success, although he undoubtedly enjoyed the good things of life, good food, good wine, and, above all, good books and good conversation. Incidentally, Jesus Himself has been accused of hypocrisy a respect of his famous utterance concerning the children of Mammon' and the advisability of acquiring wisdom from them.
It is, indeed, somewhat difficult to understand the positively
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anti-Christian principles which Gracian appears at times to inculcate. To ignore Christian morality is one thing; to go out of one's way to attack it is another. The difficulty, however, is not insurmountable when one bears in mind the fact that Gracian's eyes are directed throughout the Orciculo, with the notable exception of the last Maxim, exclusively upon this world. There are, indeed, many who would regard the aforementioned counsels as pernicious even from a purely secular point of view. Nevertheless, the majority of successful people undoubtedly followed them in Gracian's day and continue to do so in our own, even though some of these would certainly 'profess and call themselves Christians.'
That truth has two facets, one material, one spiritual; that in order to combat 'the serpent' one must acquire some of his wisdom; that the 'children of Mammon are wiser in their generation than the children of light,' are all statements that have little meaning for, or relevance to, an increasingly secular and scientific age such as our own. They are, none the less, of significance in relation to the times of Graciin and do much to explain the inner content of his work and thought. While the beliefs of his Church and Order seem to mean less and less to the modern world, the techniques of obedience 'perinde ac cadaver,' physical austerity, and mental discipline, have been widely adopted by totalitarian states to-day. Loyola believed that human nature could be substantially changed or, rather, reorientated by rigid obedience to authority combined with severe mental and physical gymnastics. 'To serve humbly and without questioning' the purposes of the State is the ideal which has been substituted, in totalitarian countries, for Loyola's 'corpse-like' obedience to a religious Order and the humble service of an Almighty God. That both ideals should be repugnant to the scientific humanist is understandable. Nevertheless, their formidable dynamism must not, on that account, be underrated.
If the question of Gracian's sincerity is not so difficult of solution as might have been anticipated from the hostile comments of certain critics, the lack of recognition accorded to him by modern literary historians is indeed hard to understand. No less a person than Emile Faguet, for example, stresses the influence of La Rochefoucauld upon Schopenhauer, without any mention of Gracian, avowedly the latter's favourite author!(1) This in spite of the fact that the German philosopher does not content himself with an ocld passing reference to Gracian but goes out ofhis way to praise various aspects of his work, to call the Criticon the greatest allegorical romance ever written, and to make the translating of the Oraculo into German a major literary preoccupation. We have already referred to the possible influence of Gracian upon La Rochefoucauld, especially through Madame de Sable.(2) Its precise nature is open to doubt, but where Graciin and Schopenhauer are concerned there can be no room for any vestige of uncertainty. For Schopenhauer, Gracian was a major formative influence and, as M. Rouveyre has pointed out, there is a striking similarity in conception between Die Welt als Wille and Vorstellung and the Critiedn.3 Schopenhauer jettisons the metaphysico-religious ideas of Kant in favour of a return to the human creature as an organism, a whole rather than a perambulating cerebellum just as, in his Oraculo and the Criticon, Gracian subordinates the religious ideas of his Order to a study of the human mechanism for its own sake. That the results of his investigations should be gloomy, as gloomy as those of Schopenhauer, is not in the least surprising. There is, as we have seen, a strong vein of pessimism in Catholic Christianity which, in certain Spanish religious writers, seems to join hands with Buddhist thought. ' The greatest crime which man has committed is to have been born,' says Calderon in Life's a Dream ' and we are not surprised to learn that Calderon was also one of Schopenhauer's favourite authors. Catholic pessimism is, nevertheless, shot through with hope, and so is not a complete pessimism. Even with regard to this 'vale of tears,' Catholic thinkers do not altogether abanclon belief in the utility of human
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effort. As we have seen, man is not, for them, as for Calvin and the Scottish Church, wholly evil.(1) But what is one to make of the following extract from the Criticon(2) concerning the nature of human life?
'Nature has proceeded with cunning, if not with deception, where man is concerned, at the moment in which he comes into the world, by arranging that he should enter it without knowledge of any description so that he may not experience any hesitation. He arrives in darkness, and even still blind; he begins to live without realizing that he is alive and without knowing what life is. Then he becomes a small child, so simple that the merest trifle soothes him when he weeps and the smallest plaything suffices to give him pleasure. He imagines that he is being introduced into a kingdom of felicities when he is really in a fearful prison. And when the eyes of his soul open and he becomes aware of the deception, he finds himself committed without any way of escape, he finds himself caught in a swamp similar to the clay out of which he has come. From that time onwards, what is there for him to do but to walk in the morass, trying to get himself out of it as best as he may? I am convinced that nobody would desire to come into so deceitful a world without this universal lure, and that, once in it, few would agree to continue living in the world if they had known in advance what life really is. For who would knowingly desire to set foot in so false a kingdom, in reality a prison, to suffer there so many and various pains? In the physical realm, hunger, thirst, cold, heat, fatigue, grief, illness; in the moral sphere, deceit, persecution, envy, disdain, loss of reputation, sorrows, tribulations, fears, anger, despair, to come in the end to a wretched death losing everything that one has, home, wealth, dignities, friends, parents, regretting the loss of even life itself, for this is the moment in which one most loves it. Nature has known very well what she was doing and man has done very ill to accept the position. Let him who knows thee not esteem thee, O Life! The disillusioned man would prefer to have passed from the cradle to the grave, from the bed of childbirth to the tomb. A general presage of the miseries which await him is the fact that
man weeps on being born. Even the happiest of mortals has only a melancholy kind of bliss. The trumpet call which sounds the entrance of this Lord of Creation to the world is none other than his own groaning, a sign that his whole reign will be nothing but a series of sufferings. What can be expected of a life which begins with the groans of the mother who gives it and the tears of the infant who receives it? For, if he has not yet knowledge of the ills which await him, the new-born child has at least a presentiment of them. If he does not conceive them he divines them.'
Such a passage as this might well be taken from the works of a Buddhist mystic or from those of Schopenhauer and his disciples. There is nothing here of 'natural goodness or happiness,' no hint of consolations in a future existence. It were better not to have been born. Even when Graciin endeavours to portray a future state it is the 'isle of immortality' inhabited by the philosophers and sages, not the orthodox Christian heaven, with its angels and its saints.(1).
What is man to do in the dilemma in which he finds himself? Having realized that the only criterion of knowledge is within itself, and having gained control over its faculties in so far as it is able, to what should the disciplined ego devote itself? To the annihilation of the will to live, with Schopenhauer? To God, with Loyola? To the full and fearless development of the personality on the road to 'superhumanity,' with Nietzsche? If we look for answers to these questions in the works of Gracian we shall look in vain. He registers the facts and draws his limited conclusions from them. This is how things are, he says, and this is what you must do if you want to cope successfully with them. His analysis is cold, objective, calm. Only fools make him really angry. And after he has put 'economic man, political man,' 'ecclesiastical man,' and 'civilized man,' on the dissecting table, after he has explored and revealed to his satisfaction the innermost nerve and sinew of their moral mechanism, he goes back quietly to his job as preacher and confessor, or writes a pious treatise to salve his conscience, or, more probably, to appease his superiors. 'Schizophrenia,' 'split personality,'
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the psychologists may hiss. Gracian remains, nevertheless, a complete man, a man in the round, a true Spaniard who is, at the same time, an outstanding example of the homo europaeus whose very existence is threatened by the ant-heap 'civilization' of our own day.
To see in his maxim 'Behave as though you were under con- tinual observation'(1) a foreshadowing of the Kantian categorical imperative, or to hail him as a conscious forerunner of Nietzsche is, perhaps, unjustifiable. Such a view propounded, inter alios, by so discriminating a critic as M. Rouveyre(2) marks a sharp reaction from the unwarrantable neglect of Gracian and is certainly nearer to the truth than the assessment which would dismiss him as a mere coiner of extravagant phrases and inventor of what Voltaire called a 'style d'Arlequin.'(2) The concision of style which characterizes his Oraculo, quite apart from similarity of matter, makes him, as we have seen, unquestionably a forerunner of La Rochefoucauld and the latter's numerous imitators. It is surely time that the key-position of Baltasar Graciin in the history of European thought and letters met with more general recognition than that which it has hitherto been accorded.
The works of Gracian have suffered, and,more especially in this country, a different fate. We have already discussed the handicap under which he laboured in the matter of his translators. Nevertheless, the difficulty of his Spanish as compared, for example, with that of Cervantes, was probably less of a disadvantage to him in this country than his religious vocation and the idiosyncrasy of his thought. Mr. Joseph Jacobs's translation of the Oraculo manual(1) appeared at a time when prejudice against Roman Catholicism was rampant in this country and when the word 'Jesuit' automatically conjured up in the minds of the British Protestant pictures of activities as sinister as they were nefarious. Some years were to pass before these prejudices were crystallized, if not immortalized, in the novels of Mr. Joseph Hocking, but, outside a small group of aesthetes, many of whose members had leanings towards Rome, the mere fact that the Oraculo was the work of 'a Jesuit' was almost sufficient to condemn it out of hand. It may be replied that Cervantes, like the overwhelming majority of his countrymen, was also a Roman Catholic and that this did not interfere with the popularity of Don Quixote.
This is not the place to enter into a discussion concerning the precise nature of Cervantes's religious beliefs as revealed in his works.(2) He was, however, certainly not a Jesuit priest and it is almost impossible for this generation to realize the odium generally attached to the word ' Jesuit' by British citizens in the Victorian era.
Such prejudice was by no means confined to the uninstructed and unintelligent and it is a factor which any assessment of the vogue and value of Graciin must take into account. It is possible that, but for religious bigotry, Mr. Jacobs's rendering of the Oraculo would have been more widely known in this country and that the works of Gracian would have been as extensively read
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and translated as those of the classical or French moralists. (The deficiencies of his translation may have had something to do with this lack of interest.) Possible, but not, one thinks, probable. The general climate of opinion, which favourecl the idea of human perfectibility and endless progress, was decideclly unpropitious. If Gracidn had been widely studied by the exponents of perfectibility he would, doubtless, have been condemned as a decadent pessimist and cynic who did not even have the courage of his own erroneous convictions in religious matters. It must be borne in mind that the doctrine of the 'double truth' and the 'two orders,' natural and supernatural, was almost entirely unknown to Victorian critics of Catholicism. The whole sacramental conception of human life was, to most of them, 'mummery and superstition' and they did not even trouble to find out the facts about the religion for which they had a traditional, instinctive antipathy. Their hostility to Rome was ill-tempered and highly charged with emotion. They did not advance the many rational objections which can be maintained against the Catholic view of man and the universe because they simply did not understand what that view actually was. The notion that man is essentially a dual creature with a foot in two worlds, straddled, as it were, across the bridge (the Church) between the natural and the supernatural was quite foreign to Victorian Protestants, at least in its Catholic form. In spite of Newman's ingenious verbal juggling, the majority of Victorian members of the Church of England still regarded the cloctrine of Purgatory as a 'dangerous deceit' and conceived it as peculiar to Rome. British Protestantism had also taken over from Calvinism the idea that material prosperity was a sign of God's favour ancl the Catholic doctrine of 'holy poverty' meant nothing to the respectable Protestant church-goers of the nineteenth century. They had, indeed, not the slightest conception of Catholicism as a philosophy of life and would, in consequence, have been quite incapable of understanding Gracian or, for that matter, Calderon, if the works of these writets had been known to them.
Catholicism was, indeed, to a large extent a tabooed subject, except as a theme of abuse. The Victorian Protestants appeared, in the majority of cases, to have made no attempt to reconcile the general belief in progress and perfectibility which characterized their age with the Christian doctrine of the Fall of Man, a teaching which they, in common with Catholics and Calvinists, theoretically, at least, accepted. It may be argued that the belief in perfectibility was propagated by agnostics and rationalists rather than by Christians. There can be no doubt, however, that, in spite of the pessimistic view of human nature implied by the doctrine of the Fall, the Victorian Protestant tended to believe that this was the best of all possible worlds or, rather, that it was in rapid process of amelioration, mainly owing to the sound Protestantism and instinctive piety of the British race.
Apart from the few passing concessions to Christian teachings which we have already mentioned, the Oraculo of Gracian presents us, as we have seen, with a cynical and pessimistic conception of human nature. It would, indeed, be difficult to imagine any view less likely to flatter the illusions of Victorian perfectionists. It seems, therefore, probable that, quite apart from the almost universal antipathy towards the Jesuits, Gracian's secular philosophy would have met with but a poor response on the part of the Victorians if it had been more widely known to them.
The situation in our own day is quite different. Perfectionism of the nineteenth-century type is almost entirely discredited and a psychological approach to human problems which confines itself to registering modes of behaviour without passing moral judgments upon them renders us far more capable of understanding and appreciating the icleology of Gracian in its secular aspect than were our grandfathers. ' This,' says Gracian, in effect, 'is how men behave, whether you like their behaviour or ot.' And upon this purely psychological basis (for, as we ave seen, the religious element in his works, apart from El Comulgatorio, takes the form only of sporadic and somewhat inconsequential obiter dicta) Gracian proceeds to study concrete situations and tells us how a man wise in the ways of the world ould tackle them if he prefers to be, in the Goethean sense, a arnmer rather than an anvil.
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The cold objectivity of his method, which truly merits the frequently abused epithet 'scientific'; the extreme concision of his style; his avoidance of the opinionated and long-winded, all render him congenial to our contemporary climate of opinion and scientific cast of mind. The disingenuous opportunism which characterizes so much of his advice is also in keeping with the tastes of an age of 'realism' in politics, both foreign and domestic. The widespread feeling that the creative spirit, in the realm, at least, of the arts, has exhausted itself and that there is nothing new under sun, moon, and stars apart, possibly, from the atomic bomb, is in harmony with the first Maxim of the Oraculo, 'Everything has already reached its peak of perfection'; the third provides a succinct summing-up of contemporary diplomatic approaches; the fifth illustrates the methods invariably employed by rulers, be they 'hidalgos' or plutocrats; the seventh should be engraved upon the hearts of all young men who aim at the 'glittering prizes' of politics; the two hundred and sixty-fourth will be heartily endorsed in an age when liberty-loving nations are apt to neglect their defences; the ninety-fourth should find especial favour with the general public, which always distrusts any signs of unusual intelligence; and the two hundred and thirty-second should be appreciated by our 'nation of shop-keepers.'
'Platitudes' some may say, and not without justification. Surely, however, the distinguishing mark of genius is the ability to make commonplaces sound original and to cause wisdom 'ever ancient' to appear as 'ever new'? Shakespeare, Goethe, Molibre, La Bruybre, Saint-Simon, La Rochefoucauld, did not they all embellish platitucles? Genius might well be defined as the ability to make a platitude sound as though it were an original remark. Gracian excels in the renovation of platitudes and nearly all the goods in his second-hand store can pass as new. Perhaps the most important effect which the reading of the Oraculo can have upon a man of our age is to make him ask him- self whether the schizophrenia of the human race is really a permanent malady. Gracian, the courtier, often cites and approves conduct which Gracian, the Christian, must surely condemn. In this he resembles many ofour contemporary writers of leading articles and contributors of letters to the press. Machiavellianism, we are inclined to say, has provided no remedy for the ills of the world. Opportunism appears to be leading us precisely nowhere. Yet is orthodox Christianity in very much better case? Are its ideals impossible of realization in this workaday world and, if so, was Gracian right to seek human salvation in another sphere and to conclude his moralizings with the abrupt and somewhat disconcerting exhortation: 'Be a saint!' One must, however, bear in mind that his favourite counsel, one which he never tires of reiterating throughout his works, can be summed up both briefly and accurately, as: 'Don't be an ass!' Could there be any better advice ?
The task of rendering him into English is, in some respects, similar to that which confronts a would-be translator of an ancient classical author. The idiom of Gracian is so entirely remote from that of modern English that a literal rendering of the original is frequently impossible; impossible, that is, if the result is to be anything approaching tolerable English. This is not the place to deal with the controversial topic of translation in general. A case can, undoubtedly, be made out for the Italian maxim: 'To
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translate is to betray.' I would merely suggest here that a basic sine qua non which a reader has the right to expect of a translator into English is reasonably good English! A precise word-for-word translation of any foreign work into our language would, admittedly, be a rendering into, at best, bad English and, at worst, sheer gibberish. This fact has always been recognized in the case of translations from the ancient classics. Some of the finest renderings of, for example, Horace, have been anything but word-for-word construes.
A second basic requirement is, I would suggest, direct work by the translator upon his original. Many of the world's classics have been made known outside the country of their origin in translations done at second hand. Don Quixote has suffered in this way, as did the novels of Scott in Spain. The same lot has, on occasions, befallen Gracian. In the case of the English versions of the Orciculo manual, the 1694 and 1702 renderings were made from the French version of Amelot de la Houssaie. Savage's rendering of 1702 is hardly more than a paraphrase and it differs very materially from the original Spanish in many respects. The translator had, nevertheless, some happy inspirations. Joseph Jacobs, who produced an English version in 1892, was a corresponding member of the Royal Spanish Academy of History and worked, so he tells us, mainly on two Spanish editions.
The result is a combination of good, bad, indifferent, and nonsensical. I have adopted one or two of Jacobs's happiest turns of phrase and acknowledgment of these will be found in the Notes at the end of this volume. One would hesitate to say, however, that, taking his work as a whole, it is anything more than a paraphrase in, at times, badly tortured English. I am especially indebted to Jacobs for the quotations from Schopenhauer and Sir M. E. Grant Duff which appear on p. viii of this book.
For the benefit of those readers who have some knowledge of Spanish, T will mention here a few cases in which I have departed from the precise sense of the original. It is frequently preferable to render an abstract noun in the original Spanish by a common noun in English. For example, 'sagacidad,' 'sagacity, may sometimes best be rendered by 'a sagacious person.' Gracian continually uses the perfect, and sometimes the future tense, where English demands the present. It is often necessary to supply words phich, in the original Spanish, must be provided by the imagination of the reader. Graciin employs, indeed, a kind of mental shorthand which is, at first, somewhat confusing. The reader with a sound knowleclge of Spanish will quickly become accustomed to it. In view, however, of the fact that this book will be read by some who know little Spanish, or none, the English rendering has been made as explicit as is consistent with the meaning of the original.
In many instances, it is quite impossible to supply a literal rendering of Gracian's rather devastating puns. To give only one example, in the same sentence the word 'pecho' is used in the sense of 'breast,' and in its other meaning of 'tribute.' It is impossible to carry over this play upon words into an English rendering.
Gracian is extremely fond of words and phrases with a double meaning and indulges extensively in antitheses, antinomies, and neologisms. The binary rhythm of his phrasing will already be familiar to many English readers in the works of John Lyly and other English euphuists.
In conclusion, I would like to say here how conscious I am of the imperfections of this English rendering of the Oraculo manual. It is, I think, closer to the original than any of the other English versions and, I hope, not entirely formless, as so many translations are apt to be. If my rashness in making this attempt has not qualified me for inclusion in Gracian's hated category of 'necios,' I shall be content.
Those who may make use of this book in order to revive or improve their knowledge of the Spanish language are reminded that they should refer to the Notes at the end of the volume. In these a literal rendering is given where considerable departure frorn the original has been deemed necessary.
No reference to translations of the Oraculo manual would be complete without allusion to the late A. Morel-Fatio's analysis of a number of passages from Schopenhauer's rendering. These he discusses in an article published in the Bulletin Hispanique,
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vols. II, 12, 1909-10.(1) He queries the verdict of Karl Borinski, who refers, in his Balckasar Gracian and die Hofliteratur in Deutsckland (Halle, 1894) to 'Schopenhauers treue und sorgfaltige Verdeutschung des spanischen Originals des Oraculo.' While he agrees that Schopenhauer has, of all the translators, provided 'l'image la plus fidale,' he points out that the German philosopher frequently missed the mark and that he treats Amelot de la Houssaie 'avec un didain tout-a-fait injuste.' Morel-Fatio also surmises that the obscurity of some of the cruxes in the text is due to typographical errors in the 1653 edition carried over into the 1659 edition, upon which latter edition Schopenhauer worked. He points out that the Madrid edition of 1653 had never been properly collated with the Amsterdam edition of 1659 and suggests that the main differences between the two editions may be of a purely typographical nature. I have been able to collate these editions, both of which are to be found in the Library of the British Museum, and have found that Morel-Fatio's conjecture is correct. The faulty punctuation and mutilation of words which characterize the 1653 edition are frequently repeated in the edition of 1659, although the latter is less defective in these respects. I have, in the main, followed the text of the 1659 edition, but have made a number of changes in the punctuation, which is chaotic in both editions. I have also corrected the typographical errors, modernized the spelling, and italicized the opening sentence of each Maxim, following, in this last respect, the edition of the 1659 text by Dr. Alfonso Reyes (vide Bibliographical Note). Morel-Fatio's more important comments upon the text of the Oraculo and upon Schopenhauer's rendering of certain passages have been included in a brief Appendix following the Notes at the end of this volume. The latter contain a number of my own observations upon the translations made, respectively, by Amelot, Schopenhauer, and Jacobs. Morel-Fatio rightly observes that there is room for a good deal of further investigation into these renderings.
Oracvlo Manual y Arte/ de Prvdencial Sacada de los af forismos gue se discurren en/ las obras de Lorenco/ Gracian/. Publicala D. Vi / cencio juan de Lastanosa./ Y la ckdicaf al Excelentisimof Senor D. Luis Minded de Haro. Con licencia. En Madrid por Maria de Quinones ano de 1653. Vindese en casa de Francisco / Lamberto, en la Carrera / de San Gerdnimo.
In the censor's licence there is a reference to a prior edition with which the Madrid edition is said to correspond ('corresponde con el antes impresso . . . que otras vezes ha sido impresso'). This is in accordance with the date given by Latassa for the editio princeps but, as Jacobs points out, it makes it difficult to understand Lastanosa's reference to the 'twelve Graci4ns,' of which the Orciculo was the 'quintessence.' Four of these books only had appeared by that time and the two unpublished works would make up only half a dozen.(1) The date of the editio princeps must, then, be between 1647 and 1653. The Orciculo manual was reprinted at Amsterdam in 1659 anel from that time appeared in all the editions of the works of Graciin. Modern editions of the Orciculo are as follows: Rivadeneyra: Biblioteca de Autores Espanoles, vol. lxv; Biblioteca de Filosofia y Sociologia. Tom. XVIII (with El Politico) ; ed. Alfonso Reyes in the Casa Editorial Calleja series. Madrid, 1918.
L'Homme de Cour. Tradult de l'Espagnol de Baltasar Gracian. Par le sieur Amelot de la Houssaie. Avec des Notes.
Amelot's translation was reprinted fourteen times between 1685 and 1716 and, again, four times between 1732 and 1808. Coster writes of its 'exactitude et intelligence.' The former is, in fact, often dubious. Schopenhauer is more precise.
Fr. Joseph de Courbeville criticized Amelot's rendering of the title of the Oraculo manual as ' L'Homme & Cour' and undertook a new translation of the work in 1730: Maximes de Baltasar Gracian, Traduites de l'Espagnol, avec les reponses aux Critiques de l'Homme universel et de l'Heros, traduits ab meme auteur. A Paris, cher Rolin fils, quai des Augustins, a S. Athanase. M.DCC.XXX. Avec approbation & privilege du Roi.
In his preface to this translation, Courbeville makes scathing and unjustifiable attacks on Amelot's general accuracy. The new rendering did not meet with any great success and was not reprinted. The majority of translations from Gracian's works into languages other than French were made from French versions.
This version was revised by Savage in 1702 with the title: The Art of Prudence; or a Companion for a Man of Sense. Made English and illustrated with the Sieur Amelot de la Houssaie's notes, by Mr. Savage. London, 1702. Savage's rendering was reprinted in 1705 and 1714.
An English rendering of the Oraculo manual by Joseph Jacobs appeared in 1892: The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Balthasar Gracian. Translated from the Spanish by Joseph Jacobs . . . London, 1892. This was reprinted in 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, and 1950 (New York, The Macmillan Company).
Amelot de la Houssaie's French rendering was done into Italian by Francesco Tosques in 1698 with the title L'Uomo di Corte. This version was reprinted in 1708, 1718, 1730, 1734, and 1761.
Another rendering, by C. Weissbach (under the pseudonym of Selintes) appeared in 1711. This was based on Amelot's French version. It was followed by A. F. Miller's version (1715-17).(1) Tosques's Italian rendering was done into German by Christoph Freiesleben in 1723. Another anonymous rendering appeared in 1786, and, in 1804, a version by P. H. Heydenreich. In 1826 yet another anonymous rendering was published, and, in 1838, a version by Fr. Kolle.
The most famous German rendering is that of Arthur Schopenhauer (1861) : Balthasar Gracians Hcmd-Orakel and Kunst der Weltklugheit, aus dessen Werken gegogen von Don Vincencio fuan de Lastanosaf und aus dem spanischen Original treu und sorgfaltig abersety von Arthur Schopenhauer. This was republished in 1871, 1877, 1890, 1895, and 1910 (Kraner Verlag).
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J. Liftin y Heredia: Baltasar Gracian. 1902.
Maldonado, F.: Gracian como pesimista y politico. Salamanca, 19I6.
Bell, A. F. G.: Baltasar Gracian. Oxford, 1921.
Cossio, J. M. de: Gracian, critico literario. Madrid, >923*
Marone, G.: Moral y politica di B. Gracian. Naples, 1925.
Rouveyre, A.: Introduction to Baltasar Gracian: Pages caractiristiques, traduites par V. Bouillier. Paris, 1925).
Farinelli, A.: Estudio Critico (in his edition of El Heroe and El Discreto, Madrid, 1900).
Farinelli, A.: ' Gracian y la literatura de Corte an Alemania.' (Univ. de Madrid. Conferencias y trabajos, 1924-5. Madrid, 1926.)
Bouillier, V.: 'Gracian et Nietzsche.' Revue de litterature comparee. Paris, 1926.
Vossler, K.: 'Introduccion a Gracian.' Revista de Occidence, 1935.
Correa Calderon, E.: Introduccidn a las obras compleras de Gracian, 1945.
Garcia Lopez, J.: ' Baltasar Graciin,' Editorial Labor, Madride 1947.
'P. BALTHASAR GRACIAN, ut iam ab ortu emineret, in Bellomonte natus est prope Bilbilim, confinis Martiali patria, proximus ingento, ut profunderet adhuc xristianas argutias Bilbilis, quae poene exhaustae videbantur in aethnicis. Ergo augens natale mgernum innato acumine, scripsit ARTEM INGENII et arte fecit scibile quod scibile facit artes. Scripsit item ARTEM PRUDENTIAE et a se ipso artem didicit. Scripsit ORACULUM et voces suas protulit. Scripsit DISERTUM ut se ipsum describeret. Et ut scriberet HEROEM heroica patravit. Haec et alia eius scripta Mecenates(1) Reges habuerunt, ludicem Admirationem Lectorem Mundum, Typographum Aeternitatem. Philippus 4^8 saepe illius argutias inter prandium versabat, ne deficerent sales regiis dapibus. Sed qui plausus excitaverat calamo, deditus Missionibus excitavit planctus verbo, excitaturus desiderium in morte qua raptus est 6 Decemb. 1658, sed aliquando extinctus aeternum lucebit.'
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NI AL justo leyes, ni al sabio consejos; pero ninguno supo bastantemente para sf. Una cosa me has de perdonar, y otra agradecer, el Ilamar Oriculo a este epitome de aciertos del vivir; pues lo es en lo sentencioso, y lo conciso. El ofrecerte de un rasgo todos los doce Gracianes, tan estimado cada uno, que el Discreto apenas se vio en Espaila cuando se logro en Francia, traducido en su lengua, y impreso en su Corte: sirva iste de memorial en el banquete de sus sabios, en que registre los platos prudenciales, que le irin sirviendo en las demis obras para distribuir el gusto genialmente.
D. VINCENCIO JUAN DE ASTANOSA.
TO THE READER
NO LAWS for the just nor counsels for the wise: yet no one has known, on his own account, as much as he needed to know. You must forgive me for one thing and thank me for another: for calling this epitome of successful living an Oracle, since it is one in its sententiousness and concision; for introducing you all at once to all the twelve Gracians, each one of his works being so highly thought of that his Discreet Man had scarcely appeared in Spain when it achieved success in France, being translated into the language of that country, and printed in its capital: let this be Wisdom's bill of fare at the banquet of her sages, the menu in which she sets down the dishes of discernment which she will serve to you in the other works, so that delight may be distributed in a pleasing fashion.
D. VINCENCIO JUAN DE ASTANOSA.