Monday, August 12, 2013



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 III.8 (March 3, 1646), "To the Rt. Hon. my Lord of D.", pp. 523-527 (at 524):
But under Favour this Word Learning is taken in a narrower Sense among us than among other Nations; we seem to restrain it only to the Book; whereas, indeed, any Artisan whatsoever (if he know the Secret and Mystery of his Trade) may be called a learned Man: A good Mason, a good Shoemaker, that can manage St. Crispin's Lance handsomely, a skilful Yeoman, a good Shipwright, &c., may be all called learned Men; and indeed the usefullest sort of learned Men; for without the two first we might go barefoot, and lie abroad as Beasts, having no other Canopy than the wild Air; and without the two last we might starve for Bread, have no Commerce with other Nations, or ever be able to tread upon a Continent. These, with such-like dextrous Artisans, may be termed learned Men, and the more behoveful for the Subsistence of a Country, than those Polymathists that stand poring all Day in a Corner upon a Moth-eaten Author, and converse only with dead Men.
Id., p. 525:
The extravagant Humour of our Country is not to be altogether commended, that all Men should aspire to Booklearning: There is not a simpler Animal, and a more superfluous Member of State, than a mere Scholar, than only a self-pleasing Student; he is—Telluris inutile pondus.
Id., pp. 526-527:
There is an odd opinion among us, that he who is a contemplative Man, a Man who weds himself to his study, and swallows many books, must needs be a profound Scholar, and a great learned Man, tho' in reality he be such a dolt, that he hath neither a retentive faculty to keep what he hath read, nor wit to make any useful Application of it in common discourse; what he draws in lieth upon dead Lees, and never grows fit to be broach'd. Besides, he may want Judgment in the choice of his Authors, and knows not how to turn his hand either in weighing or winnowing the soundest opinions. There are divers who are cried up for great Clerks who want discretion. Others, tho' they wade deep into the causes and knowledge of things, yet they are subject to screw up their wits, and soar so high, that they lose themselves in their own Speculations; for thinking to transcend the ordinary pitch of Reason, they come to involve the common Principles of Philosophy in a Mist; instead of illustrating things, they render them more obscure; instead of a plainer and shorter way to the Palace of Knowledge, they lead us thro' briery, odd uncouth paths, and so fall into the fallacy call'd ignotum per ignotius. Some have the hap to be term'd learned Men, tho' they have gathered up but the scraps of Knowledge here and there, tho' they be but but smatterers, and mere sciolists, scarce knowing the Hoties of things; yet, like empty casks, if they can make a Sound, and have a Gift to vent with Confidence what they have suck'd in, they are accounted great Scholars.
Hoties, plural of hoti, i.e. "A cause, a reason; a statement introduced by ‘because’, or the fact denoted by such a statement" (Oxford English Dictionary), from Greek ὅτι.

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