I might here mention the Military Pedant who always talks in a Camp, and is storming Towns, making Lodgments and fighting Battles from one end of the Year to the other. Every thing he speaks smells of Gunpowder; if you take away his Artillery from him, he has not a Word to say for himself. I might likewise mention the Law-Pedant, that is perpetually putting Cases, repeating the Transactions of Westminster-Hall, wrangling with you upon the most indifferent Circumstances of Life, and not to be convinced of the Distance of a Place, or of the most trivial Point in Conversation, but by dint of Argument. The State-Pedant is wrapt up in News, and lost in Politicks. If you mention either of the Kings of Spain or Poland, he talks very notably; but if you go out of the Gazette, you drop him. In short, a meer Courtier, a meer Soldier, a meer Scholar, a meer any thing, is an insipid Pedantick Character, and equally ridiculous.
Of all the Species of Pedants, which I have [mentioned ], the Book-Pedant is much the most supportable; he has at least an exercised Understanding, and a Head which is full though confused, so that a Man who converses with him may often receive from him hints of things that are worth knowing, and what he may possibly turn to his own Advantage, tho’ they are of little Use to the Owner. The worst kind of Pedants among Learned Men, are such as are naturally endued with a very small Share of common Sense, and have read a great number of Books without Taste or Distinction.
The Truth of it is, Learning, like Travelling, and all other Methods of Improvement, as it finishes good Sense, so it makes a silly Man ten thousand times more insufferable, by supplying variety of Matter to his Impertinence, and giving him an Opportunity of abounding in Absurdities.
Shallow Pedants cry up one another much more than Men of solid and useful Learning. To read the Titles they give an Editor, or Collator of a Manuscript, you would take him for the Glory of the Commonwealth of Letters, and the Wonder of his Age, when perhaps upon Examination you find that he has only Rectify’d a Greek Particle, or laid out a whole Sentence in proper Commas.
They are obliged indeed to be thus lavish of their Praises, that they may keep one another in Countenance; and it is no wonder if a great deal of Knowledge, which is not capable of making a Man wise, has a natural Tendency to make him Vain and Arrogant.
[Footnote 1: in]
[Footnote 2: that]
[Footnote 3: that]
[Footnote 4: above mentioned]
* * * * *
No. 106. Monday, July 2, 1711. Addison.
Hinc tibi Copia
Manabit ad plenum, benigno
Ruris honorum opulenta cornu.’