opinion. —Cicero, Tusc.
Quaes., iii. 28.] Opinion is a powerful party, bold, and without measure.
Who ever so greedily hunted after security and repose as Alexander and Caesar did after disturbance and difficulties? Teres, the father of Sitalces, was wont to say that when he had no wars, he fancied there was no difference betwixt him and his groom. Cato the consul, to secure some cities of Spain from revolt, only interdicting the inhabitants from wearing arms, a great many killed themselves: Ferox gens, nullam vitam rati sine armis esse. [ A fierce people, who thought there was no life without war. —Livy, “iv. 17.] How many do we know who have forsaken the calm and sweetness of a quiet life at home amongst their acquaintance, to seek out the horror of unhabitable deserts; and having precipitated themselves into so abject a condition as to become the scorn and contempt of the world, have hugged themselves with the conceit, even to affectation.
Cardinal Borromeo, who died lately at Milan, amidst all the jollity that the air of Italy, his youth, birth, and great riches, invited him to, kept himself in so austere a way of living, that the same robe he wore in summer served him for winter too; he had only straw for his bed, and his hours of leisure from affairs he continually spent in study upon his knees, having a little bread and a glass of water set by his book, which was all the provision of his repast, and all the time he spent in eating. I know some who consentingly have acquired both profit and advancement from cuckoldom, of which the bare name only affrights so many people. If the sight be not the most necessary of all our senses, ’tis at least the most pleasant; but the most pleasant and most useful of all our members seem to be those of generation; and yet a great many have conceived a mortal hatred against them only for this, that they were too pleasant, and have deprived themselves of them only for their value: as much thought he of his eyes that put them out.
The generality and more solid sort of men look upon abundance of children as a great blessing; I, and some others, think it as great a benefit to be without them.
And when you ask Thales why he does not marry, he tells you, because he has no mind to leave any posterity behind him. That our opinion gives the value to things is very manifest in the great number of those which we do, not so much prizing them, as ourselves, and never considering either their virtues or their use, but only how dear they cost us, as though that were a part of their substance; and we only repute for value in them, not what they bring to us, but what we add to them.
By which I understand that we are great economisers of our expense: as it weighs, it serves for so much as it weighs.
Our opinion will never suffer it to want of its value: the price gives value to the diamond; difficulty to virtue; suffering to devotion; and griping to physic.
A certain person, to be poor, threw his crowns into the same sea to which so many come, in all parts of the world, to fish for riches.
Epicurus says that to be rich is no relief, but only an alteration, of affairs.
In truth, it is not want, but rather abundance, that creates avarice.
I will deliver my own experience concerning this affair. I have since my emergence from childhood lived in three sorts of conditions.
The first, which continued for some twenty years, I passed over without any other means but what were casual and depending upon the allowance and assistance of others, without stint, but without certain revenue.
I then spent my money so much the more cheerfully, and with so much the less care how it went, as it wholly depended upon my overconfidence of fortune.
I never lived more at my ease; I never had the repulse of finding the purse of any of my friends shut against me, having enjoined myself this necessity above all other necessities whatever, by no means to fail of payment at the appointed time, which also they have a thousand times respited, seeing how careful I was to satisfy them; so that I practised at once a thrifty, and withal a kind of alluring, honesty.
I naturally feel a kind of pleasure in paying, as if I eased my shoulders of a troublesome weight and freed myself from an image of slavery; as also that I find a ravishing kind of satisfaction in pleasing another and doing a just action.
I except payments where the trouble of bargaining and reckoning is required; and in such cases; where I can meet with nobody to ease me of that charge, I delay them, how scandalously and injuriously soever, all I possibly can, for fear of the wranglings for which both my humour and way of speaking are so totally improper and unfit.
There is nothing I hate so much as driving a bargain; ’tis a mere traffic of cozenage and impudence, where, after an hour’s cheapening and hesitating, both parties abandon their word and oath for five sols’ abatement.
Yet I always borrowed at great disadvantage; for, wanting the confidence to speak to the person myself, I committed my request to the persuasion of a letter, which usually is no very successful advocate, and is of very great advantage to him who has a mind to deny.
I, in those days, more jocundly and freely referred the conduct of my affairs to the stars, than I have since done to my own providence and judgment.
Most good managers look upon it as a horrible thing to live always thus in uncertainty, and do not consider, in the first place, that the greatest part of the world live so: how many worthy men have wholly abandoned their own certainties, and yet daily do it, to the winds, to trust to the inconstant favour of princes and of fortune? Caesar ran above a million of gold, more than he was worth, in debt to become Caesar; and how many merchants have begun their traffic by the sale of their farms, which they sent into the Indies, Tot per impotentia freta. [ Through so many ungovernable seas. —Catullus, iv. 18.] In so great a siccity of devotion as we see in these days, we have a thousand and a thousand colleges that pass it over commodiously enough, expecting every day their dinner from the liberality of Heaven.
Secondly, they do not take notice that this certitude upon which they so much rely is not much less uncertain and hazardous than hazard itself.
I see misery as near beyond two thousand crowns a year as if it stood close by me; for besides that it is in the power of chance to make a hundred breaches to poverty through the greatest strength of our riches —there being very often no mean betwixt the highest and the lowest fortune: Fortuna vitrea est: turn, quum splendet, frangitur, [ Fortune is glass: in its greatest brightness it breaks. —Ex Mim.
Syrus.] and to turn all our barricadoes and bulwarks topsy-turvy, I find that, by divers causes, indigence is as frequently seen to inhabit with those who have estates as with those that have none; and that, peradventure, it is then far less grievous when alone than when accompanied with riches.
These flow more from good management than from revenue; Faber est suae quisque fortunae [ Every one is the maker of his own fortune. —Sallust, De Repub.
I.] and an uneasy, necessitous, busy, rich man seems to me more miserable than he that is simply poor. In divitiis mopes, quod genus egestatis gravissimum est. — There are defeats more triumphant than victories There are some upon whom their rich clothes weep There can be no pleasure to me without communication There is more trouble in keeping money than in getting it There is no allurement like modesty, if it be not rude There is no long, nor short, to things that are no more There is no merchant that always gains There is no reason that has not its contrary There is no recompense becomes virtue There is none of us who would not be worse than kings There is nothing I hate so much as driving a bargain There is nothing like alluring the appetite and affections There is nothing single and rare in respect of nature These sleepy, sluggish sort of men are often the most dangerous They (good women) are not by the dozen, as every one knows They begin to teach us to live when we have almost done living They better conquer us by flying They buy a cat in a sack They can neither lend nor give anything to one another They do not see my heart, they see but my countenance They err as much who too much forbear Venus They gently name them, so they patiently endure them (diseases) They have heard, they have seen, they have done so and so They have not one more invention left wherewith to amuse us They have not the courage to suffer themselves to be corrected They have yet touched nothing of that which is mine
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