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Amusements Of The Learned
by [?]

Among the Jesuits it was a standing rule of the order, that after an application to study for two hours, the mind of the student should be unbent by some relaxation, however trifling. When Petavius was employed in his Dogmata Theologica, a work of the most profound and extensive erudition, the great recreation of the learned father was, at the end of every second hour, to twirl his chair for five minutes. After protracted studies Spinosa would mix with the family-party where he lodged, and join in the most trivial conversations, or unbend his mind by setting spiders to fight each other; he observed their combats with so much interest, that he was often seized with immoderate fits of laughter. A continuity of labour deadens the soul, observes Seneca, in closing his treatise on “The Tranquillity of the Soul,” and the mind must unbend itself by certain amusements. Socrates did not blush to play with children; Cato, over his bottle, found an alleviation from the fatigues of government; a circumstance, Seneca says in his manner, which rather gives honour to this defect, than the defect dishonours Cato. Some men of letters portioned out their day between repose and labour. Asinius Pollio would not suffer any business to occupy him beyond a stated hour; after that time he would not allow any letter to be opened, that his hours of recreation might not be interrupted by unforeseen labours. In the senate, after the tenth hour, it was not allowed to make any new motion.

Tycho Brahe diverted himself with polishing glasses for all kinds of spectacles, and making mathematical instruments; an employment too closely connected with his studies to be deemed an amusement.

D’Andilly, the translator of Josephus, after seven or eight hours of study every day, amused himself in cultivating trees; Barclay, the author of the Argenis, in his leisure hours was a florist; Balzac amused himself with a collection of crayon portraits; Peirese found his amusement amongst his medals and antiquarian curiosities; the Abbe de Marolles with his prints; and Politian in singing airs to his lute. Descartes passed his afternoons in the conversation of a few friends, and in cultivating a little garden; in the morning, occupied by the system of the world, he relaxed his profound speculations by rearing delicate flowers.

Conrad ab Uffenbach, a learned German, recreated his mind, after severe studies, with a collection of prints of eminent persons, methodically arranged; he retained this ardour of the Grangerite to his last days.

Rohault wandered from shop to shop to observe the mechanics labour; Count Caylus passed his mornings in the studios of artists, and his evenings in writing his numerous works on art. This was the true life of an amateur.

Granville Sharp, amidst the severity of his studies, found a social relaxation in the amusement of a barge on the Thames, which was well known to the circle of his friends; there, was festive hospitality with musical delight. It was resorted to by men of the most eminent talents and rank. His little voyages to Putney, to Kew, and to Richmond, and the literary intercourse they produced, were singularly happy ones. “The history of his amusements cannot be told without adding to the dignity of his character,” observes Prince Hoare, in the life of this great philanthropist.

Some have found amusement in composing treatises on odd subjects. Seneca wrote a burlesque narrative of Claudian’s death. Pierius Valerianus has written an eulogium on beards; and we have had a learned one recently, with due gravity and pleasantry, entitled “Eloge de Perruques.”

Holstein has written an eulogium on the North Wind; Heinsius, on “the Ass;” Menage, “the Transmigration of the Parasitical Pedant to a Parrot;” and also the “Petition of the Dictionaries.”

Erasmus composed, to amuse himself when travelling, his panegyric on Moria, or folly; which, authorised by the pun, he dedicated to Sir Thomas More.