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  • Title: The Passions of the Mind (Modern)
  • Author: Thomas Wright
  • Editor: Jessica Slights

  • Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-proift purposes; for all other uses contact the Coordinating Editor.
    Author: Thomas Wright
    Editor: Jessica Slights
    Peer Reviewed

    The Passions of the Mind (Modern)

    0.1From Thomas Wright, The Passions of the Mind (1604)

    1[Thomas Wright (c.1561-1623) was a Catholic priest with strong royalist sympathies who was born in York to a recusant family then educated as a Jesuit on the continent, and who then returned to England in 1595 under the protection of the Earl of Essex to whom he provided intelligence regarding King Philip of Spain's plans to invade England. Although he was a marginal member of the Essex circle for a time, Wright had been imprisoned for recusant activity by 1596, and his book-length treatise on the passions was completed just before his escape from prison in 1600. Published first as Passions of the Mind (1601) and three years later in revised and expanded form as The Passions of the Mind in General, Wright's influential moral treatise argues that learning how to moderate "inordinate" emotions will allow all Christians to live quiet, prosperous, godly lives, and will enable the "civil gentleman and prudent politician" to "winneth a gracious carriage of himself, and rendreth his conversation most grateful to men" (5-6). The excerpts below trace Wright's general claims about the nature and function of the emotions, his argument for their use in the "service of virtue" (17), and his claims about how they affect people differently based on gender, nationality, and temperament.]

    What we understand by passions and affections

    Three sorts of actions proceed from men’s souls: some are internal and immaterial, as the acts of our wits and wills; others be mere external and material, as the acts of our senses: seeing, hearing, moving, etc.; others stand betwixt these two extremes and border upon them both, the which we may best discover in children because they lack the use of reason and are guided by an internal imagination, following nothing else but that pleaseth their senses, even after the same manner as brute beasts do. For as we see beasts hate, love, fear, and hope, so do children. Those actions, then, which are common with us and beasts we call passions and affections, or perturbations of the mind. Motus, saith Saint Augustine, animae quos Graeci παθη appelant ex Latinis quidam ut Cicero 3. Tuscul. pertubationes dixerunt, alii affectiones, alii affectus, alii expressas passiones vocaverunt. (The motions of the soul, called of the Greeks παθη, some Latins, as Cicero, called them “perturbations,” others “affections,” others “affects,” others more expressly name them “passions.”) They are called passions, although indeed they be acts of the sensitive power or faculty of our soul and are defined of Damascene: Motio sensualis appetetivae virtutis, ob boni vel mali imaginationem:

    Damascene De fide orthodoxa, ca. 22.

    (a sensual motion of our appetitive faculty through imagination of some good or ill thing), because when these affections are stirring in our minds they alter the humors of our bodies, causing some passion or alteration in them.

    Cicero in 3. Tusc.

    They are called perturbations for that—as afterwards shall be declared—they trouble wonderfully the soul, corrupting the judgment and seducing the will, inducing for the most part to vice and commonly withdrawing from virtue, and therefore some call them maladies or sores of the soul. They be also named affections because the soul by them either affecteth some good or, for the affection of some good, detesteth some ill.

    Zeno apud Cicero 4 Tusc. definit. pertubatio ceu pathos aversa a recto ratione contra naturam animi commoctio.

    These passions, then, be certain internal acts or operations of the soul bordering upon reason and sense, prosecuting some good thing or flying some ill thing, causing therewithal some alteration in the body.

    Here must be noted that albeit these passions inhabit the confines both of sense and reason, yet they keep not equal friendship with both. For passions and sense are like two naughty servants who oft-times bear more love to one another than they are obedient to their master; and the reason of this amity betwixt the passions and sense I take to be the greater conformity and likeness betwixt them than there is betwixt passions and reason. For passions are drowned in corporal organs and instruments as well as sense; reason dependeth of no corporal subject, but, as a princess in her throne, considereth the state of her kingdom. Passions and sense are determined to one thing, and as soon as they perceive their object sense presently receives it and the passions love or hate it. But reason, after she perceiveth her object, she stands in deliberation, whether it be convenient she should accept it or refuse it. Besides, sense and passions, as they have a league the longer, so their friendship is stronger; for all the time of our infancy and childhood, our senses were joint friends in such sort with passions that whatsoever delighted sense, pleased the passions, and whatsoever was hurtful to the one, was an enemy to the other. And so, by long agreement and familiarity the passions had so engaged themselves to sense, and with such bonds and seals of sensual habits confirmed their friendship, that as soon as reason came to possession of her kingdom, they began presently to make rebellion; for right reason oftentimes deprived sense of those pleasures he had of long time enjoyed, as by commanding continency and fasting, which sense most abhorred. Then passions repugned and very often haled her by force to condescend to that they demanded, which combat and captivity well perceived by him, who said, Video aliam legem in membris meis repugnantem legi mentis meae et captivantem me in lege peccati.

    Rom. 7.23.

    (I see another law in my members, repugning to the law of my mind and leading me captive in the law of sin.) Whereupon Saint Cyprian said, Cum Avaritia, etc. (We must content with avarice, with uncleanness, with anger, with ambition; we have a continual and molestful battle with carnal vices and worldly enticements.)

    Moreover, after that men, by reason, take possession over their souls and bodies, feeling this war so mighty, so continual, so near, so domestical that either they must consent to do their enemies’ will or still be in conflict. And withal, foreseeing by making peace with them they were to receive great pleasures and delights, the most part of men resolve themselves never to displease their sense or passions, but to grant them whatsoever they demand. What dainty meats the tongue will taste, they never deny it; what savors the nose will smell, they never resist it; what music the ears will hear, they accept it; and finally, whatsoever by importunity, prayer, or suggestion, sensuality requesteth, no sooner to reason the supplication is presented, but the petition is granted. Yet if the matter here were ended and reason yielded but only to the suits of sensuality, it were without doubt a great disorder to see the lord attend so basely upon his servants. But reason, once being entered into league with passions and sense, becometh a better friend to sensuality than the passions were before. For reason straightaways inventeth ten thousand sorts of new delights, which the passions never could have imagined. And therefore, if you ask now, who procured such exquisite arts of cookery, so many sauces, so many broths, so many dishes? No better answer can be given than reason, to please sensuality. Who found first such gorgeous attire, such variety of garments, such decking, trimming and adorning of the body that tailors must every year learn a new trade? But reason to please sensuality. Who devised such stately palaces, such delicious gardens, such precious canopies and embroidered beds? But reason to feed sensuality. In fine, discourse over all arts and occupations and you shall find men laboring night and day, spending their wit and reason to excogitate some new invention to delight our sensuality. In such sort, as a religious man once lamenting this ignominious industry of reason employed in the service of sense, wished with all his heart that godly men were but half so industrious to please God as worldly men to please their inordinate appetites. By this we may gather how passions stand so confined with sense and reason that for the friendship they bear to the one, they draw the other to be their mate and companion.

    . . .

    5How the passions may be well directed and made profitable

    . . . By this discourse may be gathered that passions are not only not wholly to be extinguished, as the Stoics seemed to affirm, but sometimes to be moved and stirred up for the service of virtue, as learnedly Plutarch teacheth,

    Plutarch in libro De virtute morale.

    for mercy and compassion will move us often to pity, as it did Job: Quia ab infantia mea mecum crevit miseratio. (Compassion grew with me from my infancy and it came with me out of my mother’s womb.) Therefore he declareth what succor he gave to the poor (Job 31.18). Ire and indignation will prick forward the friends of God to take his quarrel in hand and revenge him of his enemies. So Christ, moved with zeal—which is a passion of love bordering upon anger—cast the buyers and sellers out of the Temple of Jerusalem, because Zelus domus tuae commedit me. (The zeal of thy house did eat me.)

    John 2.

    The passions of shamefastness brideleth us of many loose affections, which would otherwise be ranging abroad. The appetite of honor, which followeth, yea, and is due unto virtue, encourageth often noble spirits to attempt most dangerous exploits for the benefit of their country:

    Eccles. 1.27; 2. Cor. 7.9.

    fear expelleth sin; sadness bringeth repentance; delight pricketh forward to keep God’s commandments; and, to be brief, passions are spurs that stir up sluggish and idle souls from slothfulness to diligence, from carelessness to consideration. Some questionless they almost by force draw to goodness, and others withdraw from vice. For if that many noble captains had not possessed by nature such vehement passions of glory and honor, they would never have achieved such excellent victories for the good of the commonweal. If many rare wits had not been pressed with the same affections, we should never have seen Homer’s poetry, nor Plato’s divinities, nor Aristotle’s philosophy, nor Pliny’s history, not Tully’s eloquence; for honor they aimed at. And although perhaps they took their aim too high, affecting more glory than their labor deserved, or compleasing themselves more in the opinions and fancies of men than reason required, yet no doubt but if they had leveled right and at no more than their works merited, nor more prized the opinions and honors given by men, then they in very deed had obtained more renown and their passions had been occasion of great good to all their posterity, as now they profit them although they proceeded from their authors’ vanity. I take it that shamefastness in women restraineth them from many shameful offences, and fear of punishment restaineth from theft, and the remorse of conscience calleth many sinners to the grace of God.

    Hereby we may conclude that passions well used many consist with wisdom, against the Stoics, and if they be moderated, to be very serviceable to virtue; if they be abused, and overruled by sin, to be the nursery of vices and pathway to all wickedness. And as I think, the Stoics were of this opinion, for they said that fear and heaviness was a egritudo quaedam, or animi adversante ratione contractio.

    Cicero, 4. Tuscul.

    What sort of persons be most passionate

    . . . I am not of Seneca’s opinion that Mulier amat aut odit, nihil est tertium (that a woman loveth or hateth, and nothing is third). For although in some sort of women I hold it very probable, yet I cannot allow it to be common to all, for only women that be of a hot complexion, and for the most part those that be black and brown, I take to be of that constitution, and indeed those have their affections most vehement, and perhaps little women have a smack therefore according to our English proverb:

    Fair and foolish, little and loud,
    Long and lazy, black and proud.
    Fat and merry, lean and sad,
    Pale and pettish, red and bad.

    By which saying we may gather that howbeit women commonly be subject to the aforesaid passions, yet because diverse women have sundry complexions, so they be subject to sundry passions. Even as in like sort, I could say of men, for some are more prone to one passion than another according to the Italian proverb:

    10Se l’huomini piccoli fufferi patienti
    Et l’huomini grandi fuffero valenti
    Et lirossi leali
    Tutto il mondo sarebbe uquale.

    That is,

    If little men were patient,
    And great men were valiant,
    And red men were loyal,
    All the world would be equal.

    To this seemeth not unlike another old saying of theirs:

    From a white Spaniard,
    A black German,
    And a red Italian,
    Liberanos Domine.

    15And we in English:

    To a red man, read thy reed:
    With a brown man break thy bread:
    At a pale man draw thy knife:
    From a black man keep thy wife.

    The which we explicate after this sort:

    The red is wise,
    The brown is trusty,
    The pale is peevish,
    The black lusty.

    By which ancient proverbs may be collected the verity of the assertion set down that divers complexions are inclined to divers passions, and in general I take them to be very true and verified in the most part, for that the same causes which concur to the framing of such a constitution serve also to the stirring up of such a passion. As for example, a little man having his heat so united and compacted together, and not dispersed into so vast a carcass as the great man, therefore he, by temperature, posesseth more spirits, and by them becommeth more nimble, lively, choleric, hasty and impatient.

    . . .

    20How passions seduce the will

    Without any great difficulty may be declared how passions seduce the will because the wit being the guide, the eye the stirrer and director of the will, which of itself, being blind and without knowledge, followeth that the wit representeth, propoundeth, and approveth as good, and as the sensitive appetite followeth the direction of imagination, so the will affecteth, for the most part, that the understanding persuadeth to be best. Wherefore the waves and billows of apparent reasons so shake the sandy shelf of a weak will that they mingle it with them and make all one. Besides, the sensitive appetite being rooted in the same soul with the will, if it be drawn or flieth from any object, consequently the other must follow. Even so, the object that haleth the sensitive appetite draweth withal the will, and, inclining her more to one part than another, diminisheth her liberty and freedom.

    Moreover, the will, by yielding to the passion, receiveth some little bribe of pleasure, the which moveth her to let the bridle loose unto inordinate appetites, because she hath ingrafted in her two inclinations: the one to follow reason, the other to content the senses—and this inclination, the other being blinded by the corrupt judgment caused by inordinate passions, here she feeleth satisfied. Finally, the will being the governess of the soul, and loathing to be troubled with much dissension among her subjects as an uncareful magistrate neglecteth the good of the commonwealth to avoid some particular men’s displeasure, so the will, being afraid to displease sense, neglecteth the care she ought to have over it, especially perceiving that the soul thereby receiveth some interest of pleasure or escheweth some pain.

    By this alteration which passions work in the wit and the will, we may understand the admirable metamorphosis and change of a man from himself when his affects are pacified and when they are troubled. Plutarch said they changed like Circe’s potions from men into beasts.

    Plutarch in Moralia.

    Or we may compare the soul without passions to a calm sea with sweet, pleasant, and crispling streams, but the passionate to the raging gulf swelling with waves, surging by tempests, menacing the stony rocks, and endeavoring to overthrow mountains. Even so, passions make the soul to swell with pride and pleasure; they threaten wounds, death, and destruction by audacious boldness and ire; they undermine the mountains of virtue with hope and fear; and in sum, never let the soul be in quietness, but ever either flowing with pleasure or ebbing with pain.

    . . .

    The fourth effect of passions, which is disquietness of the mind

    He that should see Hercules raging, Orestes trembling, Cain ranging, Amon pining, Dido consuming, Archimedes running naked would little doubt that passions mightily change and alter the quiet temper and disposition of the mind. For if peace be a concord or consort of our sensual soul with reason, if then the mind be quiet when the will ruled by prudence overruleth, moderateth, and governeth passions questionless, then the soul is troubled when passions arise up and oppose themselves against reason. Inordinate affections, as experience teacheth, many ways disquiet the mind and trouble the peaceable state of this petty commonwealth of our soul, but specially by five: by contradiction, by contrariety, by insatiability, by importunity, by impossibility.

    1. Contradiction

    25By two ways the subjects of every commonwealth usually disturb the state and breed civil broils therein: the first is when they rise up and rebel against their king; the second is when they brawl one with another and so cause riots and tumults. The former is called rebellion, the latter sedition. After the same manner, passions either rebel against reason their lord and king, or oppose themselves one against another, that I call “contradiction,” this “contrariety.” The former be well understood, that said Spiritus concupiscit adversus carnem, et caro adverdus Spiritum.

    Gal. 5.

    (The spirit affects against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit.) This internal combat and spiritual contradiction every spiritual man daily perceiveth, for inordinate passions, will he, nil he, cease not almost hourly to rise up against reason and so molest him, troubling the rest and quietness of his soul. It is related in the life of St. Anselm, our archbishop of Canterbury,

    In vita Anselmi.

    that walking into the fields he saw a shepherd’s little boy who had caught a bird and tied a stone to her leg with a thread, and ever as the bird mounted up to soar aloft, the stone drew her down again. The venerable old man, much moved at this sight, fell presently a-weeping, lamenting thereby the miserable condition of men who no sooner did endeavor to ascend to heaven by contemplation, but the flesh and passions haled the heart back again and drew it down to earth, enforcing the soul to lie there like a beast which should have soared in the heavens like an angel. For these rebellious passions are like crafty pioneers who, while soldiers live carelessly within their castle, or at least not much suspect, they undermine it and break so upon them that they can hardly escape. In like manner, these affections undermine the understandings of men. For while the wits are either careless or employed in other affairs, there creepeth up into their hearts some one or other perverse passion which transporteth the soul clean another way, in so much as that with extreme difficulty she can recall herself again and reduce her affections unto their former quietness and peaceable temper. Who seeth and feeleth not that oftentimes while reason attendeth to contemplation, a villainous passion of love withdraweth the attention and with an attoxicated delight imprisoneth the affections? Who perceiveth not that divers times reason would pardon all injuries and ire, opposeth itself, importuning revenge who experimenth not; that reason would willingly fast and abstain from delicacies, but inordinate delight will feast and endure no austerities; who knoweth not that reason often prescribeth, yea, urgeth to labor and pain for the service of God or to perform the affairs of the world, and sensuality would pass her time idly; and after this sort almost continually inordinate passions contradict right reason.

    2. Contrariety of Passions

    The Egyptians fought against the Egyptians, the east wind riseth often against the west, the south against the north, the wind against the tide, and one passion fighteth with another. The choleric cavalier would with death revenge an injury but fear of killing or hanging opposeth itself against this passion. Gluttony would have dainties, but covetousness prescribeth parsimony. Lechery would reign and domineer, but dreadfulness of infamy and fear of disease draw in the reigns of this inordinate affection. By which opposition we may easily perceive how unquiet is the heart of a passionate man tossed like the sea with contrary winds even at the same time and moment. Another disquietness there is also, which to many happeneth and that well nigh upon a sudden, for sometimes a man will be in the prime of his joy and presently a sea of grief overwhelmeth him. In what a world of joy lived Balthazar when, sitting at his supper with his minions and concubines,

    Dan. 5.

    he caused in a triumph to be set before him for a glimpse of his glory, the golden vessel which his father had by conquest brought from the Temple of Jerusalem and yet the hand which appeared writing upon the wall drowned all his pleasure in a gulf of fear and woe. Potiphar’s wife was inflamed with love when she allured chaste Joseph to violate both her and his fidelity unto her husband,

    Gen. 10.

    and presently the passion of hatred as vehemently vexed her as the passion of love had formerly tormented her.

    3. Insatiability of Passions

    Hell, earth, and a woman’s womb, saith Solomon, are insatiable,

    Prov. 30.15.

    and with these he might have numbered a number of passions. How insatiable was the lust of Solomon, who had no less queens and concubines than a thousand?

    3. Regs. 3.

    How increaseth the passion of covetousness with the increase of riches? Crescit amor nummi quantum ipsa pecunia crescit. (As riches flow, so love doth grow.) And herein we may resemble our passions to men affected with the dropsy, who the more they drink, the more they thirst, for drink causeth such a desire and increaseth it. Even so, a vehement inordinate passion inclineth vehemently the soul to embrace or fly the object propounded, and a stronger passion causeth a stronger propension and inclination, and consequently an insatiable desire of pleasure or an exorbitant abomination of pain. It is well known in Scotland how insatiable is the passion of ire and the appetite of revenge, for their deadly feud will never be quenched but with the blood of all their enemies and their adherents. In the city of Naples not many years since, the base passionate people wanting corn and imputing the dearth either to the negligence or avarice of a certain magistrate, came and beset his house, killed divers of his servants, and finally caught the master and by main force brought him into the marketplace, ripped his belly, pulled out his heart, and there, in the presence of all the city, ate it with salt. How the passions of pride and ambition, how insatiable they be in women and courtiers, all the world knoweth, and no man is ignorant but that knoweth nothing.

    304. Importunity of Passions

    Inordinate passions either prevent reason or are stirred up by a corrupt judgment, and therefore neither observe time nor place, but upon every occasion would be leaping into action, importuning execution. Let a man fall a-praying and studying, or be busy in any negotiation [of] importance, and very often he shall feel a headless passion rush in upon him, importuning him even then to leave all and prosecute revenge, lust, gluttony, or some other unbridled desire. It is well known how in the sack of sundry cities, when the unruly and passionate soldiers should have attended and employed all their forces to keep the gates, or win the marketplaces, or defend the common passages, contrariwise by the importunity of passions, either distracted with desire of spoil and riches, or drawn with appetite of private revenge, or haled with lust to violate virgins or honest matrons, leese in a moment all they won with extreme loss and labor, and perhaps also their lives withal. Sometimes you shall have a number of greedy passions like so many young crows, half starved, gaping and crying for food, every one more earnest than another to be satiated; to content them all is impossible, to content none is intolerable, to prosecute one and abandon the rest is to carry so many hungry vipers gnawing upon the heartstrings of the soul.

    Saint Basil saith that inordinate passions rise up in a drunkard like a swarm of bees, buzzing on every side,

    Basil, hom. in ebrietat. et luxur.

    or like wild horses drawing a coach, running with it headlong shaking, hurrying and hurling their master at their pleasure. For in such men a multitude of passions most apparently discover themselves, and in regard that reason in them is buried and cannot hold the reins of such savage and unreasonable beasts, therefore they break out deboistly, and never cease to range and revel till reason rise out of her cymerian darkness, grave of oblivion, and puddle of ignorance and senseless beastliness.

    5. Impossibility of Passions

    There is no man in this life which followeth the stream of his passions but expecteth and verily believeth to get at last a firm rest, contentation, and full satiety of all his appetites, the which is as possible as to quench fire with fuel, extinguish a burning ague with hot wines, drown an eel with water. Rachel well declared the impossible petitions of her passions when so importunely she demanded children of Jacob, or else that she would die,

    Gen. 30.1.

    as though it lay in his power to have children at his pleasure. That epicure who wished his throat as long as a crane (yet rather deserved a nose as long as a woodcock) that his dainty fare might longer feed his gluttonous taste and not pass away almost in a moment, well declared that passion's suits were not only senseless but also impossible to be granted. It is wonderful what passionate appetites reign in women when they be with child. I have heard it credibly reported that there was a woman in Spain which longest almost till death to have a mouth full of flesh out of an extreme fat man’s neck. I will not hear condemn all women who labor with such frantic fits, yet I cannot but approve a sage philosopher’s sentence, who was my master of philosophy, that most of these appetites proceeded from women extremely addicted to follow their own desires, and of such a froward disposition, as in very deed, if they were crossed of their wills, their passions were so strong as they undoubtable would miscarry of their children. For vehement passions alter vehemently the temper and constitution of the body, which cannot but greatly prejudice the tender infant lying in the womb. And the rather I am persuaded to this opinion, for that I never knew any woman very virtuous or well mortified subject to these fancies. Nevertheless, by these preposterous desires and sundry appetites for things impossible, or almost impossible to be accomplished, we may well conclude that passion's desires keep neither sense, order, nor measure.

    . . .

    35Policy in Passion

    Since men by nature are addicted to conversation, and one dependeth upon another, therefore it importeth much to know how to second or cross other men’s affections, how we may please or displease them, make them our friends or foes. But because this subject is infinite, I will only set down certain general rules whereby some small light may be had, how to live and deal with men to the intent that love, peace, and charity be conserved. For good Christians ought not only to procure an union with God, but also an amity with men. And the world being green in malice and withered in goodness, men more guided by passions than ruled by reason, therefore the wiser ought to provide a salve proportionated to the sore, and means to prevent malice, lest the children of darkness in prudence surpass the children of light, seeing our master taught us how the eye of a dove adorneth best the serpent’s head.

    Matt. 10.16.

    The first rule may be this: all men, commonly, are pleased with them whom they see affected with those passions whereunto they are subject and inclined. This rule both experience teacheth and reason proveth. We see that lions, tigers, and leopards, whose inclinations are most cruel, whose passions most fierce, yet one affecteth another and liveth in quiet society for the similitude of inclinations and likeness of passions. Alexander asked a pirate that was taken and brought before him how he durst be so bold to infest the seas and spoil the commerceries. He answered that he played the pirate but with one ship, and his majesty with a huge navy; the which saying so pleased Alexander that he pardoned his life and granted him liberty, so much could the similitude of action transport the king’s affection. The reason also of this rule may easily be delivered: because all likeliness causeth love, and as every one judgeth he doth the best, or at least approveth well, even so, he cannot disprove, but allow the same in others. Hereupon followeth that if thou wilt please thy master or friend, thou must apparel thyself with his affections, and love where he loveth, and hate where he hateth. And universally, to soothe other men’s humors plaineth the way to friendship and amity, and as this mean fostereth flattery if it be abused, so it nourisheth charity if it be well used.

    Out of this rule we may deduce the second, which ought no less to be observed in conversation than the former: that men commonly hate those whom they know to be of contrary passions. Whereupon proceedeth that common proverb: he that hateth whom I love, how can he love me? For as fire with fire do never jar, so fire and water can never agree. But in the next book, which shall be of love, I pretend to discuss better this rule, because as similitude causeth love, so dissimilitude breedeth hatred. Therefore I omit to declare how sometimes likeliness of passions engendreth contention, as we say, figulus figulum odit (one potter hateth another) and inter superbos semper sunt jurgia (among proud men there are ever brawlings). For if similitude of passions prejudicateth profit, then likeliness of affections causeth dissention.

    The third rule: be not too credulous to men in their own causes. For as self-love for the most part conceives what appertaineth to ourselves with a greater show of good and honesty that indeed the thing carrieth with it, so men moved therewith declare the matter as they conceive it. For words spring from conceits; these are the tree, those the flowers and leaves, which do follow by just proportion. Wherefore Alexander did wisely, as Plutarch recounteth, at the beginning of his reign, by shutting one of his ears with his hand when he heard any accuser in criminal causes, thereby reserving, as he said, audience for the defendant. Contrariwise, others men’s matters, which hinder our profit or cross our designs, for the most part we extenuate and abase. As in Italy once befell to a number of wise men who heard an oration wherein they were all well nigh persuaded, but the next day came up another orator and told a contrary tale, and changed their minds, persuading them all to the other part; for which cause we may adjoin the fourth rule.

    The fourth rule: when you are induced to anything by act, that is, by a tale well told in rhetorical manner, flexibility of voice, gestures, actions, or other oratorical persuasions, good I hold it a while for a man to suspend his judgment and not to permit his will follow too far his motion, more artificial than natural, grounded upon affection rather than reason. For that saying of Isocrates ought well to be weighed, who, being demanded what was rhetoric, answered: to make great things little and little great. Wherefore, after Aeschines was banished from Athens, coming to Rhodes he made an oration to the people in declaration of his cause of exile, they wondered at the Athenians who had banished him so undeservedly. “Oh,” quoth he, “you did not hear what Demosthenes answered to my reasons,” ascribing wholly the cause of his exile to the force and eloquence of Demosthenes’s oration. By this example we see proved that commonly wise rhetoricians affirm that rhetoric in an ill cause is a two-edged sword in the hand of a furious man. Yet I would not by this condemn the faculty of eloquence, which I confess, if it be well used, to be most profitable for the church and commonwealth. But because at this present it is sophisticated by many who cover stinking matters with fragrant flowers, and with a few sugared words temper the gall of their pernicious objects, therefore every wise man ought rather to examine the orator’s reasons than to follow his intent with seduced affection.

    . . .

    40Sowers of Dissention

    Other men more maliciously pretend friendship and use strange dealing, either to make friends or to breed dissention. Some I have found of such an humor that if they see two converse familiarly together and one to affect much another, they, under color of amity, will go secretly and reveal to the one of them what they know, or hear, or that the other person, his friend, secretly spoke or wrought to his discredit; yea, divers things they will relate by their own malice invented as by his friend discovered. Yet this they will not deliver but under oath that he should not detect them to the other. Whereby he of simplicity often revealeth all he knew of his friend because he believed his friend in very deed had betrayed him; whereas, for the most part, all was but a bait forged to catch the seely simple soul. Presently, after they convent the other, whom in secret they tell all they had fished out of his friend in his dispraise, and so learn what they can of the other, charging him withal in no case to manifest that he heard to the other. This stratagem I know many politic superiors to have frequented, and some persons of great policy but of most small conscience. Because this wicked invention proceeded from a most malicious, uncharitable, and envious mind, which hateth the peace and concord of friends, it argueth also a crafty politic wit apt to sift out other men’s actions. For he casteth the poor man into an inextricable labyrinth for forcing him to swear, he cannot examine whether his friend spoke so ill of him or no, left by the notice thereof he should incur the crime of perjury. Neither can he tolerate in his mind that his friend should so notoriously abuse him. Wherefore he resolveth himself either wholly to break friendship, or at least not to use his friend so familiarly as before.

    But how shall a man behave himself in such a case? At the beginning when he telleth thee thy friend’s defects, excuse them, supposing the relator to be ill-informed or that he mistook thy friend. For true friendship requireth that a friend should, in all cases, when evidently the contrary is not convinced, defend the good name and estimation of his friend, and thereby the sower of dissention shall be frustrated of his intention.

    Much more I could deliver about this subject, but to wise men it sufficeth to show the way, and they will follow further than I can direct them. Simple men, for as much as I can see, must first try and then trust; for their rule lieth in experience and practice more than in reason and speculation, because their own harms or their neighbors’ must school them; for few are capable for practical rules in universal, or at least, they cannot apply them to particular subjects.