But which is the better, to go beyond these bounds, or not to come up to them? I cannot venture to decide the question. Horace says,--
"Nulla est mihi religio!"
and it is the beginning of an ode in which he condemns philosophy for estranging him from religion.
Excess of every kind is bad.
I left Pesaro delighted with the good company I had met, and only sorry I had not seen the marquis's brother who was praised by everyone.
A Jew Named Mardocheus Becomes My Travelling Companion--He Persuades Me to Lodge in His House--I Fall in Love With His Daughter Leah-- After a Stay of Six Weeks I Go to Trieste
Some time elapsed before I had time to examine the Marquis of Mosca's collection of Latin poets, amongst which the 'Priapeia' found no place.
No doubt this work bore witness to his love for literature but not to his learning, for there was nothing of his own in it. All he had done was to classify each fragment in chronological order. I should have liked to see notes, comments, explanations, and such like; but there was nothing of the kind. Besides, the type was not elegant, the margins were poor, the paper common, and misprints not infrequent. All these are bad faults, especially in a work which should have become a classic. Consequently, the book was not a profitable one; and as the marquis was not a rich man he was occasionally reproached by his wife for the money he had expended.
I read his treatise on almsgiving and his apology for it, and understood a good deal of the marquis's way of thinking. I could easily imagine that his writings must have given great offence at Rome, and that with sounder judgment he would have avoided this danger. Of course the marquis was really in the right, but in theology one is only in the right when Rome says yes.
The marquis was a rigorist, and though he had a tincture of Jansenism he often differed from St. Augustine.
He denied, for instance, that almsgiving could annul the penalty attached to sin, and according to him the only sort of almsgiving which had any merit was that prescribed in the Gospel: "Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth."
He even maintained that he who gave alms sinned unless it was done with the greatest secrecy, for alms given in public are sure to be accompanied by vanity.
It might have been objected that the merit of alms lies in the intention with which they are given. It is quite possible for a good man to slip a piece of money into the palm of some miserable being standing in a public place, and yet this may be done solely with the idea of relieving distress without a thought of the onlookers.
As I wanted to go to Trieste, I might have crossed the gulf by a small boat from Pesaro; a good wind was blowing, and I should have got to Trieste in twelve hours. This was my proper way, for I had nothing to do at Ancona, and it was a hundred miles longer; but I had said I would go by Ancona, and I felt obliged to do so.
I had always a strong tincture of superstition, which has exercised considerable influence on my strange career.
Like Socrates I, too, had a demon to whom I referred my doubtful counsels, doing his will, and obeying blindly when I felt a voice within me telling me to forbear.
A hundred times have I thus followed my genius, and occasionally I have felt inclined to complain that it did not impel me to act against my reason more frequently. Whenever I did so I found that impulse was right and reason wrong, and for all that I have still continued reasoning.
When I arrived at Senegallia, at three stages from Ancona, my vetturino asked me, just as I was going to bed, whether I would allow him to accommodate a Jew who was going to Ancona in the chaise.
My first impulse made me answer sharply that I wanted no one in my chaise, much less a Jew.
The vetturino went out, but a voice said within me, "You must take this' poor Israelite;" and in spite of my repugnance I called back the man and signified my assent.