11 April 2013

Unprofitable Conversation

Joachimus Fortius Ringelbergius (c.1499 - c.1536), De Ratione Studii, tr. G. B. Earp (London: Simpkin & Marshall, 1830), pp. 64-65:
Should any one court your society, who is more desirous to embrace the follies and vanities of youth than to excel in literary pursuits, avoid his company and fly immediately to your studies; for it is better that such an one stigmatize you with a want of politeness, than that you should waste your time. Regard not what indolent or unthinking men may say of you; but always keep in view the opinion of posterity. How many useful volumes might we not write during those hours which are too often devoted to idle and unprofitable conversation! If we were to keep an account of the time so wasted but for a year, we should find it to amount to a very considerable portion of the whole. There is no portion of time so brief that we might not make some advancement towards excellence. The space of life remaining even to young men is but short, perhaps ten, twenty, or thirty years at most; and yet, they almost invariably live as though they were certain of surviving a thousand.
Thomas De Quincey did not think highly of Ringelberg's work. From a footnote to "Letters to a Young Man Whose Education Has Been Neglected," in The Art of Conversation and Other Papers (Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1863), p. 29:
It is one of those books which have been written most evidently not merely by a madman (as many thousands have), but by a madman under a high paroxysm of his malady; and, omitting a few instances of affectation and puerilty, it is highly affecting. It appears that the author, though not thirty years of age at the date of his book, was afflicted with the gravel — according to his belief, incurably; and much of the book was actually written in darkness (on waxen tablets, or on wooden tablets, with a stylus formed of charred bones), during the sleepless nights of pain consequent upon his disease.
Gravel: kidney stones