Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
 
Doctor Seaton
By Sir Thomas Urquhart (1611–1660)
 
From [Ekskybalauron]: or The discovery of a most exquisite jewel, more precious than diamonds … found in the kennel of Worcester streets, the day after the fight and six before the autumnal equinox, anno 1651, to frontal a Vindication of the Honour of Scotland … wherein the Presbyterian party … hath involved it

THERE was another called Doctor Seaton, not a Doctor of Divinity, but one that had his degrees at Padua, and was Doctor utriusque juris; for whose pregnancy of wit, and vast skill in all the mysteries of the civil and canon laws, being accounted one of the ablest men that ever breathed, he was most heartily desired by Pope Urbane the eighth to stay at Rome; and the better to encourage him thereto, made him chief Professor of the Sapience, a college in Rome so called; where, although he lived a pretty while with great honour and reputation, yet at last, as he was a proud man, falling at some odds with il Collegio Romano, the supremest seat of the Jesuits, and that wherein the general of that numerous society hath his constant residence, he had the courage to adventure coping with them where they were strongest, and in matter of any kind of learning to give defiance to their greatest scholars; which he did do with such a height of spirit, and in such a lofty and bravashing 1 humour, that, although there was never yet that ecclesiastical incorporation wherein there was so great universality of literature, or multiplicity of learned men, he nevertheless, misregarding what estimation they were in with others, and totally reposing on the stock or basis of his own knowledge, openly gave it out, that if those Teatinos, 2 his choler not suffering him to give them their own name of Jesuits, would offer any longer to continue in vexing him with their frivolous chat and captious argumentations, to the impugning of his opinions, and yet in matters of religion they were both of one and the same faith, he would, like a Hercules amongst so many myrmidons, fall in within the very midst of them, so besquatter them on all sides, and, with the granads 3 of his invincible arguments, put the brains of all and each of them in such a fire, that they should never be able, pump as they would, to find in all the cellules thereof one drop of either reason or learning wherewith to quench it.
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  This unequal undertaking of one against so many, whereof some were greater courtiers with his Papal Holiness than he, shortened his abode at Rome, and thereafter did him so much prejudice in his travels through Italy and France, that when at any time he became scarce of money, to which exigent his prodigality often brought him, he could not as before, expect an ayuda de costa, as they call it, or viaticum, from any Prince of the territories through which he was to pass, because the channels of their liberality were stopped, by the rancour and hatred of his conventual adversaries.  2
  When, nevertheless, he was at the lowest ebb of his fortune, his learning, and incomparable facility in expressing any thing with all the choicest ornaments of, and incident variety to the perfection of the Latin elocution, raised him to the dignity of being possessed with the chair of Lipsius, and professing humanity, in Italy called buone letere, in the famous university of Louvain; yet, like Mercury, unapt to fix long in any one place, deserting Louvain, he repaired to Paris, where he was held in exceeding great reputation for his good parts, and so universally beloved, that both laics and churchmen, courtiers and scholars, gentlemen and merchants, and almost all manner of people, willing to learn some new thing or other, for, as says Aristotle, every one is desirous of knowledge, were ambitious of the enjoyment of his company, and ravished with his conversation. For besides that the matter of his discourse was strong, sententious, and witty, he spoke Latin as if he had been another Livy or Salustius: nor, had he been a native of all the three countries of France, Italy, and Germany, could he have expressed himself, as still he did when he had occasion, with more selected variety of words, nimbler volubility of utterance, or greater dexterity for tone, phrase, and accent, in all the languages thereto belonging.  3
  I have seen him circled about at the Louvre with a ring of French lords and gentlemen, who hearkened to his discourse with so great attention, that none of them, so long as he was pleased to speak, would offer to interrupt him, to the end that the pearls falling from his mouth might be the more orderly congested in the several treasures of their judgments; the ablest advocates, barristers, or counsellors-at-law of all the Parliament of Paris, even amongst those that did usually plead en la chambre dorée, did many times visit him at his house, to get his advice in hard debatable points. He came also to that sublime pitch of good diction even in the French tongue, that there having past, by virtue of a frequent intercourse, several missives in that idiom, betwixt him and the Sieur de Balzak, who, by the quaintest Romancealists of France, and daintiest complimenters of all its luscious youth, was almost uncontrollably esteemed in eloquence to have surpassed Cicero; the strain of Seaton’s letters was so high, the fancy so pure, the words so well connexed, and the cadence so just, that Balzak, infinitely taken with its fluent yet concise oratory, to do him the honour that was truly due unto him, most lovingly presented him with a golden pen, in acknowledgement of Seaton’s excelling him both in rhetoric and the art of persuasion; which gift proceeding from so great an orator, and for a supereminency in that faculty wherein himself, without contradiction, was held the chiefest of this and all former ages that ever were born in the French nation, could not choose but be accounted honourable. Many learned books were written by this Seaton in the Latin tongue, whose titles, to speak ingenuously, I cannot hit upon.  4
 
Note 1. bravashing = swaggering, domineering. [back]
Note 2. Teatinos, the Theatines, a monkish order founded a few years earlier than the Jesuits. [back]
Note 3. granads = shot. [back]
 
 
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