Studies serve for delight1, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight, is in privateness and retiring2; for ornament, is in discourse3; and for ability, is in the judgment, and disposition of business4. For expert men5 can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots6 and marshalling7 of affairs, come best from those that are learned.
1. delight: personal satisfaction 2. privateness and retiring: solitude and retreat 3. discourse: conversation 4. disposition of business: the administration and management of the affairs of the world 5. expert men: men rich in practical experience 6. plots: plans 7. marshalling: arrangement 8. sloth: laziness
To spend too much time in studies, is sloth8; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation9; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humour10of a scholar11. They perfect12nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning13, by study;
8. sloth: laziness 9. affectation: unnatural manners or behavior10. humour: (archaic) temperament. Here it refers to peculiar character. 11. scholar: person who is scrupulous and critical in learning 12. perfect: make perfect 13. pruning: cultivation
and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large14, except15they be bounded in16 by experience. Crafty men17contemn18studies, simple men19admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use20; but that is a wisdom without them21, and above them, won by observation.
14. too much at large: too general and not to the point15. except: unless 16. bounded in: limited or restricted 17. crafty men: men with practical skill 18. contemn: despise 19. simple men: ignorant men, unlearned men 20. they teach not their own use: studies do not tell you how to use them 21. that is a wisdom without them: how to use studies is a wisdom that is gained outside studies. that: their own use; without: outside
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously22; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
22. curiously: carefully, attentively
Some books also may be read by deputy23, and extracts24made of them by others; but that would be25 only in the less important arguments26, and the meaner sort of books; else27distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy28things. Reading maketh a full man29; conference30a ready man31;
23. deputy: person appointed to act for another 24. extracts: excerpts 25. that would be: that ought to be 26. arguments: themes, subjects 27. else: or else 28. flashy: brilliant but empty 29. a full man: a man with rich knowledge 30. conference: conversation 31. a ready man: a witty man, a man who is quick and witty in conversation or writing
and writing32 an exact man33. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have34a great memory; if he confer35 little, he had need have a present wit36; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning37, to seem to know that he doth not38.
32. writing: taking notes33. an exact man: a man who is accurate in detail34. had need have: ought to have35. confer: converse36. present wit: ready mind37. cunning: cleverness in deceiving38. that he doth not: what he does not (know)
Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile39; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend: Abeunt studia in mores40. Nay, there is no stond41or impediment in the wit42, but43 may be wrought out44by fit studies: like as45 diseases of the body may have appropriate exercises. Bowling is good for the stone and reins46;
39. subtile: (archaic) subtle, able to make fine distinctions40. Abeut studia in mores: (Ovid: Heroides) Studies turn themselves into character. 41. stond: hindrance, stoppage 42. in the wit: in the mind43. but: but what 44. wrought out: got rid of, solved45. like as: as 46. stone and reins: testicles (or bladders) and kidneys
shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head; and the like. So if a man's wit be wandering47, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations48, if his wit be called away never49so little, he must begin again.
47. be wandering: can not concentrate on something48. demonstrations: process of proving certain conclusions from given premises in mathematics49. never: ever
If his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the schoolmen50; for they are cymini sectores51. If he be not apt to beat over matters52, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyers' cases. So every defect of the mind may have a special receipt53.
50. the schoolmen: scholastic scholars, who adhere to the method or subtleties of the Medieval schools51. cymini sectores: (Latin) hair-splitters52. beat over matters: make thorough study of matters 53. receipt: recipe