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And even those who, out of a real hatred of wickedness, often happen to be surprised with anger, can abate the excess and vehemence of it so soon as they give up their excessive confidence in those with whom they converse. For of all causes this doth most increase anger, when one proves to be wicked whom we took for a good [p. 57] man, or when one who we thought had loved us falls into some difference and chiding with us.

As for my own disposition, thou knowest very well with how strong inclinations it is carried to show kindness to men and to confide in them; and therefore, like those who miss their step and tread on nothing, when I most of all trust to men's love and, as it were, prop myself up with it, I do then most of all miscarry, and, finding myself disappointed, am troubled at it. And indeed I should never succeed in freeing myself from this too great eagerness and forwardness in my love; but against excessive confidence perhaps I can make use of Plato's caution for a bridle. For he said that he so commended Helicon, the mathematician, because he thought him a naturally versatile animal; but that he had a jealousy of those who had been well educated in the city, lest, being men and the offspring of men, they should in something or other discover the infirmity of their nature. But when Sophocles says, If you search the deeds of mortals, you will find the most are base, he seems to insult and disparage us over much. Still even such a harsh and censorious judgment as this may make us more moderate in our anger; for it is the sudden and the unexpected which do most drive us to frenzy. But we ought, as Panaetius somewhere said, to imitate Anaxagoras; and as he said upon the death of his son, I knew before that I had begotten but a mortal, so should every one of us use expressions like these of those offences which stir up to anger: I knew, when I bought my servant, that I was not buying a philosopher; I knew that I did not get a friend that had no passions; I knew that I had a wife that was but a woman. But if every one would always repeat the question of Plato to himself, But am not I perhaps such a one myself? and turn his reason from abroad to look into himself, and put restraint upon his reprehension of others, he would not [p. 58] make so much use of his hatred of evil in reproving other men seeing himself to stand in need of great indulgence. But now every one of us, when he is angry and punishing, can bring the words of Aristides and of Cato: Do not steal, Do not lie, and Why are ye so slothful? And, what is most truly shameful of all, we do in our anger reprove others for being angry, and what was done amiss through anger we punish in our passion, therein not acting like physicians, who

Purge bitter choler with a bitter pill,
1
but rather increasing and exasperating the disease which we pretend to cure.

While therefore I am thus reasoning with myself, I endeavor also to abate something of my curiosity; because for any one over curiously to enquire and pry into every thing, and to make a public business of every employment of a servant, every action of a friend, every pastime of a son, every whispering of a wife, causes great and long and daily fits of anger, whereof the product and issue is a peevish and morose disposition. Wherefore God, as Euripides says,

Affairs of greatest weight himself directeth,
But matters small to Fortune he committeth.
2
But I think a prudent man ought not to commit any thing at all to Fortune, nor to neglect any thing, but to trust and commit some things to his wife, some things to his servants, and some things to his friends (as a prince to certain vicegerents and accountants and administrators), while he himself is employing his reason about the weightiest matters, and those of greatest concern.

For as small letters hurt the sight, so do small matters him that is too much intent upon them; they vex and stir [p. 59] up anger, which begets an evil habit in him in, reference to greater affairs. But above all the rest, I look on that of Empedocles as a divine thing, ‘To fast from evil.’ And I commended also those vows and professions made in prayers, as things neither indecent in themselves nor unbecoming a philosopher,—for a whole year to abstain from venery and wine, serving God with temperance all the while; or else again, for a certain time to abstain from lying, minding and watching over ourselves, that we speak nothing but what is true, either in earnest or in jest. After the manner of these vows then I made my own, supposing it would be no less acceptable to God and sacred than theirs; and I set myself first to observe a few sacred days also, wherein I would abstain from being angry, as if it were from being drunk or from drinking wine, celebrating a kind of Nephalia and Melisponda3 with respect to my anger. Then, making trial of myself little by little for a month or two, I by this means in time made some good progress unto further patience in bearing evils, diligently observing and keeping myself courteous in language and behavior, free from anger, and pure from all wicked words and absurd actions, and from passion, which for a little (and that no grateful) pleasure brings with itself great perturbations and shameful repentance. Whence experience, not without some divine assistance, hath, I suppose, made it evident that that was a very true judgment and assertion, that this courteous, gentle, and kindly disposition and behavior is not so acceptable, so pleasing, and so delightful to any of those with whom we converse, as it is to those that have it.

1 Sophocles, Frag. 769

2 Euripides, Frag. 964.

3 Nephalia (νήφω, to be sober) were wineless offerings, like those to the Eumen. ides. See Aesch. Eumen. 107: Χοάς τ᾽ ἀοίνους, νηφάλια μειλίγματα. Melisponda (μέλι) were offerings of honey. (G.)

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