It has been observed, that Men of Learning who take to Business, discharge it generally with greater Honesty than Men of the World. The chief Reason for it I take to be as follows. A Man that has spent his Youth in Reading, has been used to find Virtue extolled, and Vice stigmatized. A Man that has past his Time in the World, has often seen Vice triumphant, and Virtue discountenanced. Extortion, Rapine and Injustice, which are branded with Infamy in Books, often give a Man a Figure in the World; while several Qualities which are celebrated in Authors, as Generosity, Ingenuity and Good-Nature, impoverish and ruin him. This cannot but have a proportionable Effect on Men, whose Tempers and Principles are equally Good and Vicious.
There would be at least this Advantage in employing Men of Learning and Parts in Business, that their Prosperity would set more gracefully on them, and that we should not see many worthless Persons shot up into the greatest Figures of Life.
[Footnote 1: [Opportunities of exercising his]]
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No. 470. Friday, August 29, 1712. Addison.
’Turpe est difficiles babere nugas,
Et stultus est labor ineptiarum.’
I have been very often disappointed of late Years, when upon examining the new Edition of a Classick Author, I have found above half the Volume taken up with various Readings. When I have expected to meet with a learned Note upon a doubtful Passage in a Latin Poet, I have only been informed, that such or such Ancient Manuscripts for an et write an ac, or of some other notable Discovery of the like Importance. Indeed, when a different Reading gives us a different Sense, or a new Elegance in an Author, the Editor does very well in taking Notice of it; but when he only entertains us with the several ways of spelling the same Word, and gathers together the various Blunders and Mistakes of twenty or thirty different Transcribers, they only take up the Time of the learned Reader, and puzzle the Minds of the Ignorant. I have often fancied with my self how enraged an old Latin Author would be, should he see the several Absurdities in Sense and Grammar, which are imputed to him by some or other of these various Readings. In one he speaks Nonsense; in another, makes use of a Word that was never heard of: And indeed there is scarce a Solecism in Writing which the best Author is not guilty of, if we may be at Liberty to read him in the Words of some Manuscript, which the laborious Editor has thought fit to examine in the Prosecution of his Work.
I question not but the Ladies and pretty Fellows will be very curious to understand what it is that I have been hitherto talking of. I shall therefore give them a Notion of this Practice, by endeavouring to write after the manner of several Persons who make an eminent Figure in the Republick of Letters. To this end we will suppose that the following [Song ] is an old Ode which I present to the Publick in a new Edition, with the several various Readings which I find of it in former Editions, and in Ancient Manuscripts. Those who cannot relish the various Readings, will perhaps find their Account in the Song, which never before appeared in Print.