Tuesday, October 15, 2013


A Pedant

Samuel Butler (1613-1680), Characters and Passages from Note-Books, ed. A.R. Waller (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1908), pp. 136-137 (ellipsis in original):
A Pedant is a dwarf Scholar, that never outgrows the Mode and Fashion of the School, where he should have been taught. He wears his little Learning, unmade-up, puts it on, before it was half finished, without pressing or smoothing. He studies and uses Words with the greatest Respect possible, merely for their own Sakes, like an honest Man, without any Regard of Interest, as they are useful and serviceable to Things, and among those he is kindest to Strangers (like a civil Gentleman) that are far from their own Country and most unknown. He collects old Sayings and Ends of Verses, as Antiquaries do old Coins, and is as glad to produce them upon all Occasions. He has Sentences ready lying by him for all Purposes, though to no one, and talks of Authors as familiarly as his Fellow-Collegiates. He will challenge Acquaintance with those, he never saw before, and pretend to intimate Knowledge of those, he has only heard of. He is well stored with Terms of Art, but does not know how to use them, like a Country-Fellow, that carries his Gloves in his Hands, not his Hands in his Gloves. He handles Arts and Sciences like those, that can play a little upon an Instrument, but do not know, whether it be in Tune or not. He converses by the Book; and does not talk, but quote. If he can but screw in something, that an ancient Writer said, he believes it to be much better than if he had something of himself to the Purpose. His Brain is not able to concoct what it takes in, and therefore brings things up as they were swallowed, that is, crude and undigested, in whole Sentences, not assimilated Sense, which he rather affects; for his Want of Judgment, like Want of Health, renders his Appetite preposterous. He pumps for affected and far-fet Expressions, and they always prove as far from the Purpose. He admires Canting above Sense. He is worse than one, that is utterly ignorant, as a Cock that sees a little, fights worse than one, that is stark-blind. He speaks in a different Dialect from other Men, and much affects forced Expressions, forgetting that hard Words, as well as evil ones, corrupt good Manners. He can do nothing, like a Conjurer, out of the Circle of his Arts, nor in it without canting and .... If he professes Physic, he gives his Patients sound hard Words for their Money, as cheap as he can afford; for they cost him Money and Study too, before he came by them, and he has Reason to make as much of them as he can.
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