Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
By Samuel Butler (16121680)
From the Remains
AN OPINIONATER is his own confidant, that maintains more opinions than he is able to support. They are all bastards commonly and unlawfully begotten; but being his own, he had rather, out of natural affection, take any pains, or beg, than they should want a subsistence. The eagerness and violence he uses to defend them argues they are weak, for if they were true, they would not need it. How false soever they are to him he is true to them; and as all extraordinary affections of love or friendship are usually upon the meanest accounts, he is resolved never to forsake them, how ridiculous soever they render themselves and him to the world. He is a kind of a knight errant, that is bound by his order to defend the weak and distressed, and deliver enchanted paradoxes, that are bewitched, and held by magicians and conjurors in invisible castles. He affects to have his opinions as unlike other mens as he can, no matter whether better or worse, like those that wear fantastic clothes of their own devising. No force of argument can prevail upon him; for, like a madman, the strength of two men in their wits is not able to hold him down. His obstinacy grows out of his ignorance; for probability has so many ways, that whosoever understands them will not be confident of any one. He holds his opinions as men do their lands, and, though his tenure be litigious, he will spend all he has to maintain it. He does not so much as know what opinion means, which always supposing uncertainty, is not capable of confidence. The more implicit his obstinacy is, the more stubborn it renders him; for implicit faith is always more pertinacious than that which can give an account of itself; and as cowards, that are well backed, will appear boldest, he that believes as the Church believes is more violent, though he knows not what it is, than he that can give a reason for his faith, and as men in the dark endeavour to tread firmer than when they are in the light, the darkness of his understanding makes him careful to stand fast wheresover he happens, though it be out of his way.