Saturday, June 07, 2008


Homo Animal Querulum

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, VII:
"Homo animal querulum cupide suis incumbens miseriis." I wonder where that comes from. I found it once in Charron, quoted without reference, and it has often been in my mind—a dreary truth, well worded. At least, it was a truth for me during many a long year. Life, I fancy, would very often be insupportable, but for the luxury of self-compassion; in cases numberless, this it must be that saves from suicide. For some there is great relief in talking about their miseries, but such gossips lack the profound solace of misery nursed in silent brooding.
A footnote in Pierre Charron (1541-1603), De la Sagesse: Trois Livres, ed. Amaury Duval, Tome Premier (Paris: Rapilly, 1827), p. 284, attributes the Latin quotation to Apuleius, but I can't find it among the works of Apuleius.

Giovanni Alberto Colombo, Naturalis Philosophiae Elementa, Liber Primus (Physica Generalis) (Patavii: Typis Seminarii, Apud Joannem Manfrè, 1772), p. 435, gives a fuller quotation but no attribution:
Est enim homo animal querulum cupide suis incumbens miseriis, & ubi veris malis haud premitur suopte se macerans ingenio.

Man is a querulous animal, eagerly brooding on his own miseries, and, when he is not troubled by genuine evils, tormenting himself in his own imagination.

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