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discretion, Jovianus Pontanus caused this short sentence to be engraven on his tombe in Naples: Labour, sorrow, grief, sicknesse, want and woe, to serve proud masters, bear that superstitious yoke, and bury your dearest friends, &c. are the sawces of our life. If thy disease be continuate and painfull to thee, it will not surely last: and a light affliction, which is but for a moment, causeth unto us a far more excellent and eternall weight of glory (2 Cor. 4. 17): bear it with patience: women endure much sorrow in childbed, and yet they will not contain; and those that are barren, wish for this pain: be couragious: there is as much valour to be shewed in thy bed, as in an army or at a sea-fight: aut vincetur, aut vincet; thou shalt be rid at last. In the mean time, let it take his course; thy minde is not any way disabled. Bilibaldus Pirkimerus senator to Charles the fifth, ruled all Germany, lying most part of his days sick of the gout upon his bed. The more violent thy torture is, the lesse it will continue: and, though it be severe and hideous for the time, comfort thy self, as martyrs do, with honour and immortality. That famous philosopher Epicurus, being in as miserable paine of stone and collick, as a man might endure, solaced himself with a conceit of immortality; the joy of his soul for his rare inventions repelled the pain of his bodily torments.
Basenesse of birth is a great disparagement to some men, especially if they be wealthy, bear office, and come to promotion in a common-wealth: then, (as he observes) if their birth be not answerable to their calling, and to their fellowes, they are much abashed and ashamed of themselves. Some scorn their own father and mother, deny brothers and sisters, with the rest of their kindred and friends, and will not suffer them to come near them, when they are in their pomp, accounting it a scandal to their greatness, to have such beggarly beginnings. Simon, in Lucian, having now got a little wealth, changed his name from Simon to Simonides, for that there were so many beggars of his kin, and set the house on fire where he was born, because nobody should point at it. Others buy titles, coats of armes, and by all means screw themselves into ancient families, falsifying pedegrees, usurping scutchions, and all because they would not seem to be base. The reason is, for that this genti
a Nat. Chytræus, Europ. deliciis. Labor, dolor, ægritudo, luctus, servire superbis dominis, jugum ferre superstitionis, quos habet caros sepelire, &c. condimenta vitæ b Non tam mari quam prælio virtus, etiam lecto exhibetur : vincetur aut vincet; aut tu febrem relinques, aut ipsa te. Seneca. c Tullius, lib. 7. fam. ep. Vesica morbo laborans, et urinæ mittendæ difficultate tantâ, ut vix incrementum caperet; repellebat hæc omnia animi gaudium ob memoriam invenBoëth. lib. 2. pr. 4. Huic census exsuperat, sed est pudori degener
lity is so much admired by a company of outsides, and such honour attributed unto it, as amongst a Germans, Frenchmen, and Venetians, the gentry scorn the commonalty, and will not suffer them to match with them; they depresse, and make them as so many asses, to carry burdens. In our ordinary talk and fallings out, the most opprobrious and scurrile name we can fasten upon a man, or first give, is to call him base rogue, beggarly rascall, and the like: whereas, in my judgement, this ought, of all other grievances, to trouble men least. Of all vanities and fopperies, to brag of gentility is the greatest; for what is it they crack so much of, and challenge such superiority, as if they were demi-gods? Birth?
Tantane vos generis tenuit fiducia vestri?
It is non ens, a meer flash, a ceremony, a toy, a thing of nought. Consider the beginning, present estate, progresse, ending of gentry; and then tell me what it is. b Oppression, fraud, cosening, usury, knavery, baudery, murther and tyranny, are the beginning of many ancient families. One hath been a bloud-sucker, a parricide, the death of many a silly soul in some unjust quarrels, seditions, made many an orphan and poor widow; and for that he is made a lord or an earl, and his posterity gentlemen for ever after. Another hath been a bawd, a pander to some great men, a parasite, a slave, prostituted himself, his wife, daughter, to some lascivious prince; and for that he is exalted. Tiberius preferred many to honours in his time, because they were famous whore-masters and sturdy drinkers; many come into this parchment row (so one cals it) by flattery or cosening. Search your old families, and you shall scarce find, of a multitude, (as Æneas Sylvius observes) qui sceleratum non habent ortum, that have not a wicked beginning; aut qui vi et dolo eo fastigii non ascendunt (as that plebeian in Machiavel, in a set oration, proved to his fellows) that do not rise by knavery, force, foolery, villany, or such indirect means. They are commonly noble that are wealthy; vertue and riches seldome settle on one man who then sees not the base beginning of nobility? spoiles enrich one, usury an
Gasper Ens. polit. thes.
b Alii pro pecuniâ emunt nobilitatem, alii illam lenocinio, alii veneficiis, alii parricidiis; multis proditio nobilitatem conciliat; plerique adulatione, detractione, calumniis, &c. Agrip. de vanit. scien. c Ex homicidio sæpe orta nobilitas, et strenuâ carnificinâ. d Plures ob prostitutas filias, uxores, nobiles facti; multos venationes, rapinæ, cædes, præstigia, &c. e Sat. Menip. f Cum enim hos dici nobiles videmus, qui divitiis abundant, divitiæ vero raro virtutis sunt comites, quis non videt ortum nobilitatis degenerem? hunc usuræ ditârunt, illum spolia, proditiones; hic veneficiis ditatus, ille adulationibus; huic adulteria lucrum præbent, nonnullis mendacia; quidam ex conjuge quæstum faciunt, plerique ex natis, &c. Florent. hist. lib. 3.
other, treason a third, witchcraft a fourth flattery a fifth, lying, stealing, bearing false witness a sixth, adultery the seventh, &c. One makes a fool of himself to make his lord merry; another dandles my young master, bestowes a little nag on him; a third marries a crackt piece, &c. Now, may it please your good worship, your lordship, who was the first founder of your family? The poet answers,
a Aut pastor fuit, aut illud quod dicere nolo.
Are he or you the better gentleman? If he, then we have traced him to his form. If you, what is it of which thou boastest so much? That thou art his son. It may be, his heir, his reputed son, and yet indeed a priest or a serving man may be the true father of him; but we will not controvert that now; married women are all honest; thou art his sons sons son, begotten and born intra quatuor maria, &c. Thy great great great grandfather was a rich citizen, and then in all likelihood a usurer, a lawyer, and then a....; a courtier, and then a....; a country gentleman, and then he scraped it out of sheep, &c. and you are the heir of all his vertues, fortunes, titles; so then what is your gentry, but, as Hierom saith, opes antiquæ, inveterata divitia, ancient wealth? that is the definition of gentility. The father goes often to the divel, to make his son a gentleman. For the present, what is it? It began (saith ↳ Agrippa) with strong impiety, with tyranny, oppression, &c. and so it is maintained: wealth began it (no matter how got); wealth continueth and increaseth it. Those Roman knights were so called, if they could dispend, per annum, so much. the kingdome of Naples and France, he that buyes such lands, buyes the honour, title, barony together with it; and they that can dispend so much amongst us, must be called to bear office, to be knights, or fine for it, as one observes, nobiliorem ex censu judicant; our nobles are measured by their means. And what now is the object of honor? What maintaines our gentry, but wealth?
Nobilitas, sine re, projectâ vilior algâ: without means, gentry is naught worth; nothing so contemptible and base. f Disputare de nobilitate generis, sine divitiis, est disputare de nobilitate stercoris, saith Nevisanus the lawyer; to dispute of gentry, without wealth, is (saving your reverence) to discusse the originall of a mard. So that it is wealth alone. that denominates, money which maintaines it, gives esse to it, for which every man may have it. And what is their ordinary
a Juven. Ens. thesauro polit. lib. 4. num. III.
Gasper f Syl. nup.
b Robusta improbitas a tyrannide incepta, &c.
exercise? a sit to eat, drink, lie down to sleep, and rise to play: wherein lies their worth and sufficiency? in a few coats of armes, eagles, lions, serpents, bears, tygers, dogs, crosses, bends, fesses, &c. and such like bables, which they commonly set up in their galleries, porches, windowes, on boles, platters, coches, in tombs, churches, mens sleeves, &c. If he can hawk and hunt, ride an horse, play at cards and dice, swagger, drink, swear, take tobacco with a grace, sing, dance, wear his clothes in fashion, court and please his mistris, talk big fustian, insult, scorn, strut, contemn others, and use a little mimical and apish complement above the rest, he is a compleat, (Egregiam vero laudem) a well qualified gentleman: these are most of their imployments, this their greatest commendation. What is gentry, this parchment nobility then, but (as Agrippa defines it) a sanctuary of knavery and naughtines, a cloke for wickedness and execrable vices, of pride, fraud, contempt, boasting, oppression, dissimulation, lust, gluttony, malice, fornication, adultery, ignorance, impiety? A nobleman therefore, in some likelihood, (as he concludes) is an atheist, an oppressor, an epicure, a egull, a disard, an illiterate idiot, an outside, a gloworm, a proud fool, an arrant asse, ventris et inguinis mancipium, a slave to his lust and belly, soláque libidine fortis. And, as Salvianus observed of his countrymen the Aquitanes in France, sicut titulis primi fuêre, sic et vitiis; and Cabinet du Roy, their own writer distinctly of the rest-the nobles of Berry are most part leachers, they of Tourraine theeves, they of Narbone covetous, they of Guyenne coyners, they of Province atheists, they of Rhemes superstitious, they of Lions treacherous, of Normandy proud, of Picardy insolent, &c. we may generally conclude, the greater men, the more vicious. In fine, as Æneas Sylvius addes, they are most part miserable, sottish, and filthy fellows, like the walls of their houses, fair without, foul within. What dost thou vaunt of now? What dost thou gape and wonder at? admire him for his brave apparell, horses, dogs, fine houses, manors, orchards, gardens, walks? Why, a fool may be possessor of this as well as he; and he that accounts him a better
à Exod. 32. b Omnium nobilium sufficientia in eo probatur, si venatica noverint, si aleam, si corporis vires ingentibus poculis commons: rent, si naturæ robur numerosâ Venere probent, &c. c Difficile est, ut non sit superbus dives. Austin, ser. 24. d Nobilitas nihil aliud nisi improbitas, furor, rapina, latrocinium, homicidium, luxus, venatio, violentia, &c. e The fool took away my lord in the mask: 'twas apposite. f De miser. curial. Miseri sunt,
inepti sunt, turpes sunt; multi, ut parietes ædium suarum, speciosi. aureas vestes, equos, canes, ordinem famulorum, lautas mensas, ædes, villas, prædia, piscinas, sylvas, &c. hæc omnia stultus assequi potest. l'andalus noster lenocinio nobilitatus est.
man, a nobleman for having of it, he is a fool himself. Now go and brag of thy gentility. This is it, belike, which makes the a Turkes at this day scorn nobility, and all those huffing bumbast titles, which so much elevate their poles; except it be such as have got it at first, maintain it by some supereminent quality, or excellent worth. And, for this cause, the Ragusian commonwealth, Switzers, and the united Provinces, in all their aristocrasies, or democratical monarchies, (if I may so call them) exclude all these degrees of hereditary honours, and will admit of none to bear office, but such as are learned, like those Athenian Areopagites, wise, discreet, and well brought up. b The Chinenses observe the same customes; no man amongst them noble by birth; out of their philosophers and doctors they choose magistrates; their politick nobles are taken from such as be moraliter nobiles, vertuous noble; nobilitas, ut olim, ab officio, non a naturá, as in Israel of old; and their office was to defend and govern their country in war and peace, not to hawk, hunt, eat, drink, game alone, as too many do. Their Loysii, Manderini, literati, licentiati, and such as have raised themselves by their worth, are their noblemen only, thought fit to govern a state; and why then should any, that is otherwise of worth, be ashamed of his birth? why should not he be as much respected that leaves a noble posterity, as he that hath had noble ancestors? nay why not more? for plures solem orientem, we adore the sun rising most part; and how much better is it to say, Ego meis majoribus virtute præluxi, to boast himself of his vertues, then of his birth? Cathesbeius, sultan of Ægypt and Syria, was by his condition a slave, but, for worth, valour, and manhood, second to no king, and for that cause (as Jovius writes) elected emperour of the Mameluches that poor Spanish Pizarro, for his valour, made by Charles the fifth Marquess of Anatillo: the Turkie Bassas are all such. Pertinax, Philippus Arabs, Maximinus, Probus, Aurelius, &c. from common souldiers, became emperours; Cato, Cincinnatus, &c. consuls; Pius secundus, Sixtus quintus, Johan. secundus, Nicholas quintus, &c. popes. Socrates, Virgil, Horace, libertino patre natus. The kings of Denmark fetch their pedigree, as some say, from one Ulfo, that was the son of a bear. E tenui casa sæpe vir magnus exit ; many a worthy man comes out of a poor cottage. Hercules,
a Bellonius, observ. lib. 2.
b Mat. Riccius, lib. 1. cap. 3. Ad regendam Lib. 1. hist. Conditione
remp. soli doctores aut licentiati adsciscuntur, &c. servus, cæterum acer bello, et animi magnitudine maximorum regum nemini secundus : ob hæc a Mameluchis in regem electus. Olaus Magnus, lib. 18. Saxo
Grammaticus. A quo rex Sueno et cætera Danorum regum stemmata. de Contro. Philos. epist.