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His dress was as cynical as his repasts. A black doublet, which descended to his knees; large and long breeches; an old patched black cloak; an amorphous hat, very much worn, and the edges ragged; a large neckcloth of coarse cloth, begrimed with snuff; a dirty shirt, which he always wore as long as it lasted, and which the broken elbows of his doublet did not conceal; and, to finish this inventory, a pair of ruffles which did not belong to the shirt. Such was the brilliant dress of our learned Florentine; and in such did he appear in the public streets, as well as in his own house. Let me not forget another circumstance; to warm his hands, he generally had a stove with fire fastened to his arms, so that his clothes were generally singed and burnt, and his hands scorched. He had nothing otherwise remarkable about him. To literary men he was extremely affable, and a cynic only to the eye; anecdotes almost incredible are related of his memory. It is somewhat uncommon that as he was so fond of literary food, he did not occasionally dress some dishes of his own invention, or at least some sandwiches to his own relish. He indeed should have written CURIOSITIES OF LITERATURE. He was a living Cyclopaedia, though a dark lantern.[110]

Of such reading men, Hobbes entertained a very contemptible, if not a rash opinion. His own reading was inconsiderable; and he used to say, that if he had spent as much time in reading as other men of learning, he should have been as ignorant as they. He put little value on a large library, for he considered all books to be merely extracts and copies, for that most authors were like sheep, never deviating from the beaten path. History he treated lightly, and thought there were more lies than truths in it. But let us recollect after all this, that Hobbes was a mere metaphysician, idolising his own vain and empty hypotheses. It is true enough that weak heads carrying in them too much reading may be staggered. Le Clerc observes of two learned men, De Marcilly and Barthius, that they would have composed more useful works had they read less numerous authors, and digested the better writers.


[Footnote 1: He was remarkable for his memory of all that he read, not only the matter but the form, the contents of each page and the peculiar spelling of every word. It is said he was once tested by the pretended destruction of a manuscript, which he reproduced without a variation of word or line.]

[Footnote 2: He used to lie in a sort of lounging-chair in the midst of his study, surrounded by heaps of dusty volumes, never allowed to be removed, and forming a colony for the spiders whose society he so highly valued.]