Literary and Philosophic Essays HTML version

printed exhibits the author in a variety of moods, easy, serious,
and, in the essay on ”Friendship,” as nearly impassioned as his
philosophy ever allowed him to become.
Reader, be here a well -meaning Booke. It doth at the ?rth entrance
forewarne thee, that in contriving the same I have proposed unto my
selfe no other than a familiar and private end: I have no respect or
consideration at all, either to thy service, or to my glory: my
forces are not capable of any such desseigne. I have vowed the same
to the particular commodity of my kinsfolks and friends: to the end,
that losing me (which they are likely to doe ere long), they may
therein ?nd some lineaments of my conditions and humours, and by
that meanes reserve more whole, and more lively foster the knowledge
and acquaintance they have had of me. Had my intention beene to
forestal and purchase the world’s opinion and favour, I would surely
have adorned myselfe more quaintly, or kept a more grave and solemne
march. I desire therein to be delineated in mine owne genuine,
simple and ordinarie fashion, without contention, art or study; for
it is myself e I pourtray. My imperfections shall therein be read to
the life, and my naturall forme discerned, so farre-fo rth as publike
reverence hath permitted me. For if my fortune had beene to have
lived among those nations which yet are said to live under the sweet
liberty of Nature’s ?rst and uncorrupted lawes, I assure thee, I
would most willingly have pourtrayed my selfe fully and naked. Thus,
gentle Reader, myself I am the groundworke of my booke: it is then
no reason thou shouldest employ thy time about so frivolous and
vaine a sub ject.
Therefore farewell.
The First of March, 1580.
scilicet ultima semper
Expectanda dies homini est, dicique beatus
Ante obitum nemo, supremaque funera debat.
[Footnote: Ovid. Met. 1, iii. 135.]
We must expect of man the lat est day,
Nor ere he die, he’s happie, can we say.
The very children are ac quainted with the storie of Croesus to this
purpose: who being taken by Cyrus, and by him condemned to die, upon
the point of his execution, cried out aloud: ”Oh Solon, Solon!”
which words of his, being reported to Cyrus, who inquiring what he
meant by them, told him, hee now at his owne cost veri?ed the
advertisement Solon had before times given him; which was, that no
man, what cheerefull and blandishing countenance soever fortune
shewed them, may rightly deeme himselfe happie, till such time as he
have passed the last day of his life, by reas on of the uncertaintie
and vicissitude of humane things, which by a very light motive, and
slight occasion, are often changed from one to another cleane
contrary state and degree. And therefore Agesilaus ans wered one that
counted the King of Persia happy, because being very young, he had
gotten the garland of so mightie and great a dominion: ”yea but said
he, Priam at the same age was not unhappy.” Of the Kings of Macedon
that succeeded Alex ander the Great, some were afterward seene to
become Joyners and Scriveners at Rome: and of Tyrants of Sicilie,
Schoolemasters at Corinth. One that had conquered halfe the world,