XIV-XVIII The Art of Worldly Wisdom


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Posted by wisdom Book on February 23, 2010 at 13:35:54:

xiv The Thing Itself and the Way it is done.
"Substance" is not enough: "accident" is also required, as the scholastics say. A bad manner spoils everything, even reason and justice; a good one supplies everything, gilds a No, sweetens truth, and adds a touch of beauty to old age itself. The how plays a large part in affairs, a good manner steals into the affections. Fine behavior is a joy in life, and a pleasant expression helps out of a difficulty in a remarkable way.

xv Keep Ministering Spirits.
It is a privilege of the mighty to surround themselves with the champions of intellect; these extricate them from every fear of ignorance, these worry out for them the moot points of every difficulty. íTis a rare greatness to make use of the wise, and far exceeds the barbarous taste of Tigranes, who had a fancy for captive monarchs as his servants. It is a novel kind of supremacy, the best that life can offer, to have as servants by skill those who by nature are our masters. íTis a great thing to know, little to live: no real life without knowledge. There is remarkable cleverness in studying without study, in getting much by means of many, and through them all to become wise. Afterwards you speak in the council chamber on behalf of many, and as many sages speak through your mouth as were consulted beforehand: you thus obtain the fame of an oracle by others' toil. Such ministering spirits distil the best books and serve up the quintessence of wisdom. But he that cannot have sages in service should have them for his friends.

xvi Knowledge and Good Intentions
together ensure continuance of success. A fine intellect wedded to a wicked will was always an unnatural monster. A wicked will envenoms all excellences: helped by knowledge it only ruins with greater subtlety. íTis a miserable superiority that only results in ruin. Knowledge without sense is double folly.

xvii Vary the Mode of Action;
not always the same way, so as to distract attention, especially if there be a rival. Not always from first impulse; they will soon recognize the uniformity, and by anticipating, frustrate your designs. It is easy to kill a bird on the wing that flies straight: not so one that twists. Nor always act on second thoughts: they can discern the plan the second time. The enemy is on the watch, great skill is required to circumvent him. The gamester never plays the card the opponent expects, still less that which he wants.


xviii Application and Ability.
There is no attaining eminence without both, and where they unite there is the greatest eminence. Mediocrity obtains more with application than superiority without it. Work is the price which is paid for reputation. What costs little is little worth. Even for the highest posts it is only in some cases application that is wanting, rarely the talent. To prefer moderate success in great things than eminence in a humble post has the excuse of a generous mind, but not so to be content with humble mediocrity when you could shine among the highest. Thus nature and art are both needed, and application sets on them the seal.




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