Erasmus, letter 125 Allen, tr. Francis Morgan Nichols, The Epistles of Erasmus
, Vol. I (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1901), pp. 240-241:
You want to know what I am doing. I devote myself to my friends, with whom I enjoy the most delightful intercourse. With them I shut myself in some corner, where I avoid the gaping crowd, and either speak to them in sweet whispers or listen to their gentle voices, talking with them as with myself. Can anything be more convenient than this? They never hide their own secrets, while they keep sacred whatever is entrusted to them. They speak when bidden, and when not bidden they hold their tongue. They talk of what you wish, as much as you wish and as long as you wish; do not flatter, feign nothing, keep back nothing, freely tell you of your faults, and take no man's character away. What they say is either amusing or wholesome. In prosperity they moderate, in affliction they console, do not vary with fortune, follow you in all dangers, and last out to the very grave. Nothing can be more candid than their relations with one another. I visit them from time to time, now choosing one companion and now another with perfect impartiality.
With these humble friends I bury myself in seclusion. What wealth or what scepters would I take in exchange for this tranquil life? If there is any obscurity in our metaphor, all that I have said about friends is to be understood of books, whose familiarity makes me a happy man, unlucky only in this, that I do not enjoy this felicity with you. Although there is no need to do so, I shall not cease to exhort you to cling with all your heart to noble studies. Do not admire anything that is vulgar or commonplace, but strive always to read what is highest.
The Latin, from P.S. Allen, Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami
, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906), pp. 288-289:
Quid rerum faciam rogas? Amicis operam do, horum consuetudine gratissima memet oblecto. 'Quos tu tandem amicos mihi iactitas,' inquis, 'homuncio leuissime? An quisquam te visum aut auditum velit?' Equidem non diffiteor fortunatorum amicos esse plurimos; at nec pauperibus desunt amici, et quidem istis non paulo tum certiores tum commodiores. Cum his me concludo in angulum aliquem, et turbam ventosam fugiens aut cum illis dulcia quaedam mussito, aut eos aliquid insusurrantes audio, cum his non secus ас mecum loquor. An quicquam his commodius? Arcana ipsi sua celant nunquam, commissa summa cum fide continent: nihil foris quae liberius inter familiares effundere solemus, renunciant: vocati praesto sunt, inuocati non ingerunt sese: iussi loquuntur, iniussi tacent: loquuntur quae voles, quantum voles, quoad voles: nihil assentantur, fingunt nihil, nihil dissimulant: vitia tua tibi libere indicant, nemini obtrectant: aut iucunda dicunt, aut salutaria: secundis in rebus moderantur, consolantur in afflictis, cum fortuna minime variantur: in omnia pericula te sequuntur, ad extremos usque rogos perdurant: nihil ipsis inter se candidius. Committo subinde, nunc hos, nunc illos mihi asciscens, omnibus aequus.
Cum his amiculis, optime N., sepultus delitesco. Quas ego tandem opes aut quae sceptra cum hac desidia commutauero? Verum ne nostra te fallat metaphora, quicquid de amiculis hactenus sum locutus, de libris dictum intelligas, quorum familiaritas me plane beatum effecit, hoc solo infortunatum quod non tecum mihi haec felicitas contigerit. Te, quanquam nihil opus, hortari non desinam vt toto animo praeclara studia complectaris, ne quid plebeium, ne quid mediocre mireris; ad summa semper enitere.
Thomas Wijck (1616–1677), A Scholar in His Study