Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
On the Education of a Prince
By James VI. and I. (15661625)
From Basilikon Doron
THE NEXT thing that ye have to take heed to, is your speaking and language; whereunto I join your gesture, since action is one of the chiefest qualities that is required in an orator: for as the tongue speaketh to the ears, so doth the gesture speak to the eyes of the auditor. In both your speaking and your gesture, use a natural and plain form, not fairded1 with artifice; for (as the Frenchmen say) Rien contrefait fin:2 but eschew all affectate forms in both.
In your language be plain, honest, natural, comely, clean, short, and sententious, eschewing both the extremities, as well in not using any rustical corrupt leide,3 as book-language and pen and ink-horn terms, and least of all, mignard4 and effeminate terms. But let the greatest part of your eloquence consist in a natural, clear and sensible form of the delivery of your mind, builded ever upon certain and good grounds; tempering it with gravity, quickness or merriness, according to the subject and occasion of the time; not taunting in theology, nor alleging and profaning the Scripture in drinking purposes, as over many do.
Use also the like form in your gesture; neither looking sillily, like a stupid pedant, nor unsettledly with an uncouth morgue5 like a new-come-over cavalier: but let your behaviour be natural, grave, and according to the fashion of the country. Be not over-sparing in your courtesies, for that will be imputed to incivility and arrogancy; nor yet over prodigal in jowking6 or nodding at every step, for that form of being popular becometh better aspiring Absaloms than lawful kings: framing ever your gesture according to your present actions: looking gravely and with a majesty when ye sit in judgment or give audience to ambassadors; homely, when ye are in private with your own servants; merrily, when ye are at any pastime or merry discourse; and let your countenance smell of courage and magnanimity when ye are at the wars. And remember (I say over again) to be plain and sensible in your language: for besides that it is the tongues office to be the messenger of the mind, it may be thought a point of imbecility of spirit in a King, to speak obscurely, much more untruly; as if he stood in awe of any in uttering his thoughts.
Remember also to put a difference betwixt your form of language in reasoning, and your pronouncing of sentences, or declarator of your will in judgment, or any other ways in the points of your office. For in the former case, ye must reason pleasantly and patiently, not like a king, but like a private man and a scholar; otherwise, your impatience of contradiction will be interpreted to be for lack of reason on your part. Where in the points of your office, ye should ripely advise indeed, before ye give forth your sentence; but fra it be given7 forth, the suffering of any contradiction diminisheth the majesty of your authority, and maketh the processes endless. The like form would also be observed by all your inferior judges and magistrates.
Now as to your writing, which is nothing else but a form of en-registrate speech; use a plain, short, but stately style, both in your proclamations and missives, especially to foreign princes. And if your engine8 spur you to write any works, either in verse or in prose, I cannot but allow you to practise it: but take no longsome works in hand, for distracting you from your calling.
Flatter not yourself in your labours, but before they be set forth, let them first be privily censured by some of the best skilled men in that craft that in these works ye meddle with. And because your writes will remain as true pictures of your mind to all posterities, let them be free of all uncomeliness and unhonesty; and according to Horace his counsel, Nonumque premantur in annum.9 I mean both your verse and your prose; letting first that fury and heat, wherewith they were written, cool at leisure; and then as an uncouth judge and censor, revising them over again before they be published, quia nescit vox missa reverti.10
If ye would write worthily, choose subjects worthy of you, that be not full of vanity, but of virtue; eschewing obscurity, and delighting ever to be plain and sensible. And if ye write in verse, remember that it is not the principal part of a poem to rhyme right, and flow well with many pretty words: but the chief commendation of a poem is, that when the verse shall be shaken sundry in prose, it shall be found so rich in quick inventions, and poetic flowers, and in fair and pertinent comparisons, as it shall retain the lustre of a poem, although in prose. And I would also advise you to write in your own language; for there is nothing left to be said in Greek or Latin already, and ynew of poor scholars would match you in these languages; and besides that, it best becometh a King to purify and make famous his own tongue, wherein he may go before all his subjects, as it setteth him well to do in all honest and lawful things.
And amongst all unnecessary things that are lawful and expedient, I think exercises of the body most commendable to be used by a young Prince, in such honest games or pastimes as may further ability and maintain health. For albeit I grant it to be most requisite for a King to exercise his engine, which surely with idleness will rust and become blunt; yet certainly bodily exercises and games are very commendable, as well for banishing of idleness (the mother of all vice) as for making his body able and durable for travel, which is very necessary for a King. But from this count I debar all rough and violent exercises, as the foot-ball; meeter for laming than making able the users thereof: as likewise such tumbling tricks as only serve for comedians and balladines,11 to win their bread with. But the exercises that I would have you to use (although but moderately, not making a craft of them) are running, leaping, wrestling, fencing, dancing, and playing at the catch or tennis, archery, palle maillé, and such like other fair and pleasant field-games. And the honourablest and most commendable games that ye can use, are on horseback: for it becometh a Prince best of any man, to be a fair and good horseman. Use therefore to ride and danton12 great and courageous horses; that I may say of you as Philip said of great Alexander his son, [Greek].13 And specially use such games on horseback, as may teach you to handle your arms thereon; such as the tilt, the ring, and low riding for handling of your sword.
I cannot omit here the hunting, namely with running hounds, which is the most honourable and noblest sort thereof; for it is a thievish form of hunting to shoot with guns and bows; and greyhound hunting is not so martial a game. But because I would not be thought a partial praiser of this sport, I remit you to Xenophon, an old and famous writer, who had no mind of flattering you or me in this purpose, and who also setteth down a fair pattern for the education of a young king, under the supposed name of Cyrus.
As for hawking I condemn it not, but I must praise it more sparingly, because it neither resembleth the wars so near as hunting doth, in making a man hardy, and skilfully ridden in all grounds, and is more uncertain and subject to mischances; and (which is worst of all) is therethrough an extreme stirrer up of passions. But in using either of these games, observe that moderation, that ye slip not therewith the hours appointed for your affairs, which ye ought ever precisely to keep; remembering that these games are but ordained for you, in enabling you for the office, for the which ye are ordained.