A Brief Note
Calatayud, properly called Kalat Ayoub, in the kingdom of Aragon.
"He was brought up in the house of his uncle, the licentiate Antonio
Gracian, at Toledo, from which we may gather that both his father
and his mother, a Morales, died in his early youth. He joined the
Company of Jesus in 1619." We do not know much about his life, "except
that he was a Jesuit, and engaged in teaching what passes with the
Order for philosophy and sacred literature, and became ultimately
Rector of the Jesuit College at Tarragona. Of his works only seven
are now available. "Nearly all these works of Gracian were translated
into most of the cultured languages of Europe, English not excepted.
Part of this ecumenical fame was doubtless due to the fact that
Gracian was a Jesuit, and brethren of his Order translated the works
of one of whom the Order was justly proud."
Notice of Attribution: Reproduced in parts from THE ART OF WORLDLY
WISDOM BY BALTHASAR GRACIAN TRANSLATED FROM THE SPANISH BY JOSEPH
JACOBS Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of History, Madrid.
PUBLISHED BY MACMILLAN &CO, St. Martin's Street, London, 1892.
While we have taken every precaution, we cannot guarantee the accuracy
of the reproduction. This text is not complete. It has been reproduced
in parts and suitably reformatted for the online version at selfhelpvision.com.
This text is in the public domain in the United States because it
was published prior to 1923.
I. Of Balthasar Gracian and his Works
WE may certainly say of Gracian what Heine by an amiable fiction
said of himself: he was one of the first men of his century. For
he was born 8th January 1601 N.S. 1 at Belmonte,
a suburb of Calatayud, in the kingdom of Aragon. Calatayud, properly
Kalat Ayoub, "Job's Town," is nearly on the site of the ancient
Bilbilis, Martial's birthplace. As its name indicates, it was one
of the Moorish settlements, and nearly one of the most northern.
By Gracian's time it had again been Christian and Spanish for many
generations, and Gracian himself was of noble birth. For a Spaniard
of noble birth only two careers were open, arms and the Church.
In the seventeenth century arms had yielded to the cassock, and
Balthasar and his three brothers all took orders. Felipe, his eldest,
joined the order of St. Francis; the next brother, Pedro, became
a Trinitarian during his short life; and the third, Raymundo, became
a Carmelite 1. Balthasar himself tells us (Agudeza,
c. xxv.) that he was brought up in the house of his uncle, the licentiate
Antonio Gracian, at Toledo, from which we may gather that both his
father and his mother, a Morales, died in his early youth. He joined
the Company of Jesus in 1619, when in its most flourishing state,
after the organising genius of Acquaviva had given solid form to
the bold counter-stroke of Loyola to the Protestant Revolution.
The Ratio Studiorum was just coming into full force, and Gracian
was one of the earliest men in Europe to be educated on the system
which has dominated the secondary education of Europe almost down
to our own days. This point is of some importance, we shall see,
in considering Gracian's chief work.
Once enrolled among the ranks of the Jesuits, the individual
disappears, the Jesuit alone remains. There is scarcely anything
to record of Gracian's life except that he was a Jesuit, and engaged
in teaching what passes with the Order for philosophy and sacred
literature, and became ultimately Rector of the Jesuit College at
Tarragona. His great friend was Don Vincencio Juan de Lastanosa,
a dilettante of the period, who lived at Huesca, and collected coins,
medals, and other archÃ¦ological bric-a-brac. Gracian appears to
have shared his tastes, for Lastanosa mentions him in his description,
of his own cabinet. A long correspondence with him was once extant
and seen by Latassa, who gives the dates and places where the letters
were written. From these it would seem that Gracian moved about
considerably from Madrid to Zarogoza, and thence to Tarragona. From
another source we learn that Philip III. often had him to dinner
to provide Attic salt to the royal table. He preached, and his sermons
were popular. In short, a life of prudent prosperity came to an
end when Balthasar Gracian, Rector of the Jesuit College at Tarragona,
died there 6th December 1658, at the age of nearly fifty-eight years.
Of Gracian's works there is perhaps more to say even while leaving
for separate consideration that one which is here presented to the
English reader and forms his chief claim to attention. Spanish literature
was passing into its period of swagger, a period that came to all
literatures of modern Europe after the training in classics had
given afresh the sense of style. The characteristic of this period
in a literature is suitably enough the appearance of "conceits"
or elaborate and far-fetched figures of speech. The process began
with Antonia Guevara, author of El Libro Aureo, from which, according
to some, the English form of the disease known as Euphuism was derived.
But it received a further impetus from the success of the stilo
culto of Gongora in poetry. 1 Gongorism drove
"conceit" to its farthest point: artificiality of diction could
go no farther in verse: it was only left for Gracian to apply it
He did this for the first time in 1630 in his first work, El
Heroe. This was published, like most of his other works, by his
lifelong friend Lastanosa, and under the name of Lorenzo Gracian,
a supposititious brother of Gracian's, who, so far as can be ascertained,
never existed. The whole of El Heroe exists, in shortened form,
in the OrÃ¡culo Manual. 1 The form, however,
is so shortened that it would be difficult to recognise the original
primores, as they are called, of El Heroe. Yet it is precisely in
the curtness of the sentences that the peculiarity of the stilo
culto consists. Generally elaborate metaphor and far-fetched allusions
go with long and involved sentences of the periodic type. But with
Gracian the aim is as much towards shortness as towards elaboration.
The embroidery is rich but the jacket is short, as he himself might
have said. As for the subject-matter, the extracts in the OrÃ¡culo
will suffice to give some notion of the lofty ideal or character
presented in El Heroe, the ideal indeed associated in the popular
mind with the term hidalgo. 2
A later book, El Discreto, first published in 1647, gives the
counterpoise to El Heroe by drawing an ideal of the prudent courtier
as contrasted with the proud and spotless hidalgo. This too is fully
represented in the book before us, but the curtailment is still
more marked than in the case of El Heroe. There is evidence that
Gracian wrote a similar pair of contrasts, termed respectively El
Galante and El Varon Atento, which were not published but were incorporated
in the OrÃ¡culo Manual by Lastanosa. The consequences of this utilisation
of contrasts will concern us later.
Reverting to Gracian's works somewhat more in their order, his
Ã©loge of Ferdinand, the Magus of Columbus' epoch, need not much
detain us. It is stilted and conventional and does not betray much
historical insight. Gracian's Agudeza y Arte de Ingenio is of more
importance and interest as the formal exposition of the critical
principles of Cultismo. It is concerned more with verse than prose
and represents the Poetics of Gongorism. A curious collection of
flowers of rhetoric in Spanish verse could be made from it. Of still
more restricted interest is the Comulgador or sacred meditations
for holy communion. I do not profess to be a judge of this class
of literature, if literature it can be called, but the fact that
the book was deemed worthy of an English translation as lately as
1876 seems to show that it still answers the devotional needs of
Catholics. It has a personal interest for Gracian, as it was the
only book of his that appeared under his own name.
There remains only to be considered, besides the OrÃ¡culo Manual,
Gracian's El Criticon, a work of considerable value and at least
historic interest which appeared in the three parts dealing with
Youth, Maturity, and Old Age respectively during the years 1650-53.
This is a kind of philosophic romance or allegory depicting the
education of the human soul. A Spaniard named Critilo is wrecked
on St: Helena, and there finds a sort of Man Friday,
1 whom he calls Andrenio. Andrenio, after learning
to communicate with Critilo, gives him a highly elaborate autobiography
of his soul from the age of three days or so. They then travel to
Spain, where they meet Truth, Valour, Falsehood, and other allegorical
females and males, who are labelled by Critilo for Andrenio's benefit
in the approved and frigid style of the allegorical teacher. Incidentally,
however, the ideals and aspirations of the Spaniard of the seventeenth
century are brought out, and from this point of view the book derives
the parallel with the Pilgrim's Progress which Ticknor had made
for it. 1 It is certainly one of the most characteristic
products of Spanish literature, both for style and subject-matter.
Nearly all these works of Gracian were translated into most of
the cultured languages of Europe, English not excepted.
2 Part of this ecumenical fame was doubtless
due to the fact that Gracian was a Jesuit, and brethren of his Order
translated the works of one of whom the Order was justly proud.
But this explanation cannot altogether account for the wide spread
of Gracian's works, and there remains a deposit of genuine ability
and literary skill involved in most of the works I have briefly
referred to--ability and skill of an entirely obsolete kind nowadays,
but holding a rank of their own in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, when didacticism was all the rage. It is noteworthy that
the Testimonia I have collected for the most part pass over the
OrÃ¡culo, the only work at which a modern would care to cast a second
glance, and go into raptures over El Criticon and its fellows, or
the reverse of raptures on Gracian's style, which after all was
the most striking thing about his works.
That style reaches its greatest perfection in the OrÃ¡culo Manual,
to which we might at once turn but for a preliminary inquiry which
it seems worth while to make. It is a book of maxims as distinguished
from a book of aphorisms, and it is worth while for several reasons
inquiring into maxims in general and maxim literature in particular
before dealing with what is probably the most remarkable specimen
of its class.
Before, however, doing this we may close this section of our
introductory remarks by "putting in," as the lawyers say, the Latin
inscription given by Latassa from the foot of the portrait of Gracian,
which once stood in the Jesuit College at Calatayud, a portrait
of which, alas! no trace can now be found. The lines sum up in sufficiently
forcible Latin all that need be known of Balthasar Gracian and his
P. BALTHASAR GRACIAN VT IAM AB ORTV EMINERET
IN BELLOMONTE NATVS EST PROPE BILBILIM
CONFINIS MARTIALIS PATRIA PROXIMVS INGENIO,
VT PROFVNDERET ADHVC CHRISTIANAS ARGVTIAS BILBILIS
QVÃ† PÅ’NE EXHAVSTA VIDEBATVR IN ETHNICIS.
ERGO AVGENS NATALE INGENIVM INNATO ACVMINE SCRIPSIT p. xxvi
ARTEM INGENII ET ARTE FACIT SCIBILE QVOD SCIBILES FACIT ARTES.
SCRIPSIT ITEM ARTEM PRVDENTIAE ET A SE IPSO ARTEM DIDICIT.
SCRIPSIT ORACVLVM ET VOCES SVAS PROTVLIT.
SCRIPSIT DISERTVM VT SE IPSVM DESCRIBERET
ET VT SCRIBERET HEROEM HEROICA PATRAVIT.
HÃ†C ET ALIA EIVS SCRIPTA MOECENATES REGES HABVERVNT
IVDICES ADMIRATIONEM LECTOREM MVNDVM
TYPOGRAPHVM Ã†TERNITATEM. PHILIPPVS III. SÃ†PE ILLIVS ARGVTIAS
INTER PRANDIVM VERSABAT NE DEFICERENT SALES
REGIIS DAPIBVS. SED QVI PLAVSVS EXCITAVERAT
CALAMO DEDITVS MISSIONIBVS EXCITAVIT PLANCTVS VERBO
EXCITATVRVS DESIDERIVM IN MORTE QVA RAPTVS FVIT
VI. DECEMBRIS AN. MDCLVIII SED ALIQVANDO EXTINCTV3 Ã†TERNVM LVCEBIT.
xvii:1 The ordinary authorities vary between
1594 and 1604. I follow Latassa y Ortin, Biblioteca nueva de los
escritores Aragoneses, Pamplona, 1799, iii. 267 seq., practically
the only original source for Gracian's life and works.
xviii:1 Gracian mentions his brothers in
xx:1 On Gongora and his relation to Cultismo
see Ticknor, Hist. Span. Lit. iii. 18 seq.; also Appendix G, "On
the origin of Cultismo." Ticknor is, however, somewhat prejudiced
against any form of Cultismo.
xxi:1 See Notes to Maxims xxvi, xxxviii,
xl, xlii, xliv, xl, lxiii, lxv, lxvii, xciv, xcviii, cvi, cxxvii.
xxi:2 See Notes to Maxims ii, xx, xxii, xxv,
xlix, li, liii, lv, lvi, lix, lxix, lxxi, lxxvi, lxxxvii, cxxii,
cxxvii, cclxxvii, ccxcv.
xxiii:1 It is not impossible that the English
translation of The Critick by Rycaut, 1681, may have suggested the
Friday incidents of Robinson Crusoe, which was intended to be a
more didactic book than it looks.
xxiv:1 Ticknor also suggests that the Criticon
was derived from the Euphormion of Barclay, the author of Argenis.
xxiv:2 See the details in the Bibliographical
Appendix to this Introduction.
The Art of Worldly Wisdom - Main Text
Notice of Attribution: Reproduced in parts
from THE ART OF WORLDLY WISDOM BY BALTHASAR GRACIAN TRANSLATED
FROM THE SPANISH BY JOSEPH JACOBS Corresponding Member of the
Royal Academy of History, Madrid. PUBLISHED BY MACMILLAN &CO,
St. Martin's Street, London, 1892. While we have taken every
precaution, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the reproduction.
This text is not complete. It has been reproduced in parts and
suitably reformatted for the ebook version. This text is in
the public domain in the United States because it was published
prior to 1923.