Friday, August 09, 2013


Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

James Howell (1594?–1666), Epistolae Ho-elianae: The Familiar Letters of James Howell, Historiographer Royal to Charles II, ed. Joseph Jacobs, Books II.-IV. (London: David Nutt, 1892), letter II.50 (March 17, 1639), "To my Hon. Friend, Sir C.C.", pp. 443-445 (at 445):
I fell also to think what advantage those innocent Animals had of Man, who, as soon as Nature cast them into the world, find their Meat dress'd, the Cloth laid, and the Table cover'd; they find their Drink brew'd, and the Buttery open, their Beds made, and their Cloaths ready: and tho' Man hath the faculty of Reason to make him a compensation for the want of those advantages, yet this Reason brings with it a thousand perturbations of mind and perplexities of spirit, griping cares and anguishes of thought, which those harmless silly creatures were exempted from. Going on, I came to repose myself upon the trunk of a Tree, and I fell to consider further what advantage that dull Vegetable had of those feeding Animals, as not to be so troublesome and beholden to Nature, nor to be subject to starving, to diseases, to the inclemency of the weather, and to be far longer-liv'd. Then I spied a great Stone, and sitting a-while upon't, I fell to weigh in my thoughts that that Stone was in a happier condition, in some respects, than either of those sensitive Creatures or Vegetables I saw before; in regard that that Stone, which propagates by assimilation, as the Philosophers say, needed neither grass nor hay, or any aliment for restauration of nature, nor water to refresh its roots, or the heat of the Sun to attract the moisture upwards, to increase growth, as the other did. As I directed my pace homeward, I spied a Kite soaring high in the Air, and gently gliding up and down the clear Region so far above my head, that I fell to envy the Bird extremely, and repine at his happiness, that he should have a privilege to make a nearer approach to Heaven than I.
James Howell reposing himself upon the trunk of a tree, as depicted by Abraham Bosse:

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