BOOK I, CHAPTER X
find, in my opinion, more passable lawyers than preachers, at least in France.
(a) It would seem that it is more a characteristic of the wit to be ready and quick in operation, and more a characteristic of the judgement to be slow and sedate. But he who remains altogether dumb if he has no leisure to prepare himself, and he to whom leisure is of no help to better speech, are equally singular. It is said of Severus Cassius that he discoursed better without preparation; that he owed more to good fortune than to diligence; that it was an advantage to him to be disturbed when speaking, and that his opponents were afraid to harass him, lest wrath should increase his eloquence twofold. I know by experience that inborn disposition which cannot sustain eager and laborious premeditation; if it does not move joyously and freely, it does nothing that is worth while. We say of some works that they smell of the oil and the lamp, because of a certain harshness and roughness which labour imparts to those in which it has a large share; but, in addition to that, the anxiety to do well, and the struggling of the mind too con- strained and too intent upon its undertaking, bewilder it, interrupt and impede it, (b) as happens to water, which, by force of pressure from its violence and abundance, cannot vent itself in an open sluice. (a) In this sort of nature of which I am speaking, there is also, at the same time, this peculiarity, that it demands not to be set in motion and spurred on by strong passions, like the anger of Cassius (for that impulsion would be too violent); it requires not to be shaken, but to be solicited; it requires to be kindled and aroused by outward circumstances, immediate and accidental. If it moves by itself, it does but drag along and hang fire. Excitement is its life and is favourable to it.
(b) I do not well hold myself in my own possession and at my own disposition; chance has more to say therein
- See Seneca (the Rhetorician), Controversiæ, III, Pref.
- In the editions previous to 1588 this sentence read thus: Je cognois bien privement et par ordinaire experience, ceste condition de nature qui ne peut soustenir une vehemente premeditation, tant pour le defaut de la memoire et difficulté du chois des choses et de leur disposition, que pour le trouble qu’une attention vehemente luy apporte d’ailleurs.