Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Microcosmography or A Piece of the World Discovered in Essays & Characters by John Earle

I'm looking at a little book called Microcosmography or A Piece of the World Discovered in Essays & Characters by John Earle.
John Earle
I found it second hand years ago and I have to confess that I'd never heard of it. The splendid Gutenberg Project has a copy
Microcosmography
To whet your appetite I offer this typical essay which might be subtitled A Caution to Bloggers and Moodlers-at-Large:

XI.
A SELF-CONCEITED MAN
Is one that knows himself so well, that he does not know himself. Two excellent well-dones have undone him, and he is guilty of it that first commended him to madness. He is now become his own book, which he pores on continually, yet like a truant reader skips over the harsh places, and surveys only that which is pleasant. In the speculation of his own good parts, his eyes, like a drunkard's, see all double, and his fancy, like an old man's spectacles, make a great letter in a small print. He imagines every place where he comes his theater, and not a look stirring but his spectator; and conceives men's thoughts to be very idle, that is, [only] busy about him. His walk is still in the fashion of a march, and like his opinion unaccompanied, with his eyes most fixed upon his own person, or on others with reflection to himself. If he have done any thing that has past with applause, he is always re-acting it alone, and conceits the extasy his hearers were in at every period. His discourse is all positions and definitive decrees, with thus it must be and thus it is, and he will not humble his authority to prove it. His tenent is always singular and aloof from the vulgar as he can, from which you must not hope to wrest him. He has an excellent humour for an heretick, and in these days made the first Arminian. He prefers Ramus before Aristotle, and Paracelsus before Galen,[22] [and whosoever with most paradox is commended.] He much pities the world that has no more insight in his parts, when he is too well discovered even to this very thought. A flatterer is a dunce to him, for he can tell him nothing but what he knows before: and yet he loves him too, because he is like himself. Men are merciful to him, and let him alone, for if he be once driven from his humour, he is like two inward friends fallen out: his own bitter enemy and discontent presently makes a murder. In sum, he is a bladder blown up with wind, which the least flaw crushes to nothing.

FOOTNOTES:

[22] and Lipsius his hopping stile before either Tully or Quintilian. First edit.

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