Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Travels in the Isle of Man

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.77 (March 3, 1646), "To Sir K.D., at Rome", pp. 507-509 (at 507-508):
I have travell'd the Isle of Man, I mean this little World, which I have carried about me and within me so many years: For as the wisest of Pagan Philosophers said, that the greatest Learning was the knowledge of one's self, to be his own Geometrician; if one do so, he need not gad abroad to see Fashions, he shall find enough at home, he shall hourly meet with new fancies, new humours, new passions within doors.

This travelling o'er of one's self is one of the paths that leads a Man to Paradise: It is true, that 'tis a dirty and dangerous one, for it is thick set with extravagant Desires, irregular Affections, and Concupiscences, which are but odd Comrades, and oftentimes do lie in Ambush to cut our Throats: There are also some melancholy companions in the way, which are our Thoughts, but they turn many times to be good Fellows, and the best company; which makes me, that among these disconsolate walls I am never less alone than when I am alone; I am oft-times sole, but seldom solitary. Some there are who are over-pestered with these companions, and have too much mind for their bodies; but I am none of those.
"Among these disconsolate walls": Howell was imprisoned in the Fleet for eight years, "on his account purely for his allegiance to the king, but more likely because of the insolvency to which he confesses in Familiar Letters," according to D.R. Woolf, "Howell, James (1594?–1666)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

"I am never less alone than when I am alone": An echo of Cicero, De Officiis 3.1.1 (tr. Walter Miller):
Cato, who was of about the same years, Marcus, my son, as that Publius Scipio who first bore the surname of Africanus, has given us the statement that Scipio used to say that he was never less idle than when he had nothing to do and never less lonely than when he was alone.

P. Scipionem, Marce fili, eum, qui primus Africanus appellatus est, dicere solitum scripsit Cato, qui fuit eius fere aequalis, numquam se minus otiosum esse, quam cum otiosus, nec minus solum, quam cum solus esset.

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