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If with a stranger thou discourse, first learn
If he be wiser than thyself;-if so,
Be dumb, and rather choose by him to know;
Then do thou speak, that he may learn by thee.
DISCRETION of speech is more than eloquence, and to speak agreeable to him with whom we deal, is more than to speak in good words or in good order.
Speech of a man's self ought to be seldom and well chosen. I knew one was wont to say in scorn, "He must needs be a wise man, he speaks
so much of himself;" and there is but one case wherein a man may commend himself with good grace; and that is, in commending virtue in another; especially if it be such a virtue whereunto himself pretendeth.
Some in their discourse desire rather commendation of wit, in being able to hold all arguments, than of judgment in discerning what is true, as if it were a praise to know what might be said, and not what should be thought. Some have certain common places and themes, wherein they are good, and want variety, which kind of poverty is, for
the most part, tedious, and, when it is once perceived, ridiculous.
THE honourablest part of talk is, to give the occasion, and again to moderate and pass to somewhat else; for then a man leads the dance. good in discourse and speech of conversation to vary and intermingle speech of the present occasion with arguments; tales with reasons; asking of questions with telling of opinions; and jest with earnest for it is a dull thing to tire, and, as we say now, to jade any thing too far.
As for jest, there be certain things which ought to be privileged from it, namely, religion, matters of state, any man's present business of importance, and any case that deserveth pity: yet there be some that think their wits have been asleep, except they dart out somewhat that is piquant and to the quick. That is a vein which would be bridled.
Men ought to find the difference between saltness and bitterness. Certainly, he that hath a satirical vein, as he maketh others afraid of his wit, so he had need be afraid of others' memory.
HE that questioneth much shall learn much, and content much, but especially if he apply his questions to the skill of the persons whom he asketh, for he shall give them occasion to please
themselves in speaking, and himself shall continually gather knowledge. But let his questions not be troublesome, for that is fit for a poser, and let him be sure to leave other men their turns to speak.
TO use many circumstances ere you come to matter is wearisome, and to use none at all is but blunt.
BASHFULNESS is a great hinderance to a man, both of uttering his conceit, and understanding what is propounded unto him; wherefore it is good to press himself forward with discretion, both in speech and company of the better sort.
Usus promptus facit.
IN all kinds of speech, either pleasant, grave, severe, or ordinary, it is convenient to speak leisurely, and rather drawlingly than hastily, because hasty speech confounds the memory, and oftentimes (besides unseemliness) drives a man either to a non-plus or unseemly stammering, harping upon that which should follow; whereas, a slow speech confirmeth the memory, addeth a conceit of wisdom to the hearers, besides a seemliness of speech and countenance.
IT is necessary to use a steadfast countenance, not waving with action, as in moving the head or hand too much, which sheweth a fantastical, light, and fickle operation of the spirit, and consequently like mind as gesture: only it is sufficient, with leisure to use a modest action in either.
SPEAKING much is a sign of vanity, for he that is lavish in words, is a niggard in deeds;* and as Solomon saith, "The mouth of the wise
man is in his heart, the heart of a fool is in his "mouth," because what he knoweth or thinketh he uttereth; and by thy words and discourses men will judge thee: for, as Socrates saith, such as thy words are, such will thy affections be esteemed; and such thy deeds as thy affections, and such thy life as thy deeds. Therefore, be advised what thou dost discourse of, what thou maintainest, whether touching religion, state, or vanity; for if thou err in the first, thou shalt be accounted profane, if in the second, dangerous, if in the third, indiscreet and foolish.
SIR WALTER RALEGH.
HE that cannot refrain from much speaking, is like a city without walls, and less pains in the
* According to the old proverb, “Great talkers do the least."
world a man cannot take, than to hold his tongue; therefore, if thou observest this rule in all assem+ blies, thou shalt seldom err: restrain thy choler, hearken much, and speak little, for the tongue is the instrument of the greatest good and greatest evil that is done in the world.*
SIR WALTER RALEGH.
IF thou contend in discourse or argument, let it be with wise and sober men, of whom thou mayest learn by reasoning, and not with ignorant persons; for thou shalt thereby instruct those that will not thank thee, and utter what they have learned from thee for their own; but, if thou know more than other men, utter it when it may do thee honour, and not in assemblies of ignorant and common persons.
JEST not openly at those that are simple, but remember how much thou art bound to God, who hath made thee wiser.
Hear much, but little speak; a wise man fears,
Undone by hearing, but by speaking many.
The reason 's this; the ears, if chaste and holy,