..with deepest respects to Baldassare Castiglione & Giovanni Della Casa
Work in Progress, Begun on March 24, 1994
And that you may now more easily learn the way unto it, you must understand that it behooves you to frame and order your manners and doings, not according to your own mind and fashion, but to please those with whom you live, and so direct your doings.
There are others who claim that, as it is so difficult and almost impossible to find a man as perfect as I wish the courtier to be, what I have written is a waste of time, because it is pointless to teach what cannot be learned.
My answer to them is that I shall be quite content to have erred in the company of Plato, Xenophon and Cicero. For (leaving aside any dispute about the Intelligible World and the Ideas) just as, according to them, there exists the Idea of the perfect Republic, of the perfect King and the perfect Orator, so there exists that of the perfect Courtier. And if my language falls short of the ideal, then it will be all the easier for courtiers to approach in real life the end and goals set before them.
On the other hand, if they cannot achieve the perfection, such as it is, that I have endeavored to convey, in the same way as when a number of archers shoot at a target, though no one hits the bull's eye, the one who gets closest is certainly better than the rest. There are others who even allege that I had it in mind to offer myself as a model, being persuaded that all the qualities which I attribute to the courtier are my own.
To these critics I shall not deny that I have tried to write down all that I should want the courtier to know; and I think that anyone who did not have some knowledge of the things expounded in the book, however erudite he might be otherwise, would scarcely have been able to write about them. But I am not so lacking in judgment and self-knowledge as to presume to know all I wish to know.
-- The Courtier, Preface, Baldassare Castiglione(1478-1529)
Translated and with an introduction by George Bull, Penguin Books, 1967
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