As an instance of this it is recorded of Diophantus,5 the son of Themistocles, that he often used to say to various people "that he could do what he pleased with the Athenian people, for what he wished his mother wished, and what she wished Themistocles wished, and what Themistocles wished all the Athenians wished." All praise also ought we to bestow on the Lacedæmonians for their loftiness of soul in fining their king Archidamus for venturing to marry a small woman, for they charged him with intending to furnish them not with kings but kinglets.
§ Next must we mention, what was not overlooked even by those who handled this subject before us, that those who approach their wives for procreation must do so either without having drunk any wine or at least very little.
§ To speak generally, what we are wont to say about the arts and sciences is also true of moral excellence, for to its perfect development three things must meet together, natural ability, theory, and practice.
By theory I mean training, and by practice working at one's craft.
But if anyone thinks that those who have not good natural ability cannot to some extent make up for the deficiencies of nature by right training and practice, let such a one know that he is very wide of the mark, if not out of it altogether.
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For good natural parts are impaired by sloth; while inferior ability is mended by training: and while simple things escape the eyes of the careless, difficult things are reached by painstaking.And are these the only things that teach the power of diligence? A soil naturally good becomes by neglect barren, and the better its original condition, the worse its ultimate state if uncared for.On the other hand a soil exceedingly rough and sterile by being farmed well produces excellent crops.For, not to mention the wonderful way in which the famous Jeremy Taylor has taken the cream of "Conjugal Precepts" in his Sermon called "The Marriage Ring," or the large and copious use he has made in his "Holy Living" of three other Essays in this volume, namely, those "On Curiosity," "On Restraining Anger," and "On Contentedness of Mind," proving conclusively what a storehouse he found the Moralia, we have evidence that that most delightful poet, Robert Herrick, read the Moralia, too, when at Cambridge, so that one cannot but think it was a work read in the University course generally in those days.For in a letter to his uncle written from Cambridge, asking for books or money for books, he makes the following remark: "How kind Arcisilaus the philosopher was unto Apelles the painter, Plutark in his Morals will tell you."2 In 1882 the Reverend C. King, Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, translated the six "Theosophical Essays" of the Moralia, forming a volume in Bohn's Classical Library.And what trees do not by neglect become gnarled and unfruitful, whereas by pruning they become fruitful and productive?And what constitution so good but it is marred and impaired by sloth, luxury, and too full habit?Paley "to be practically almost unknown to most persons in Britain, even to those who call themselves scholars."1 Habent etiam sua fata libelli. Montaigne, who was a great lover of Plutarch, and who observes in one passage of his Essays that "Plutarch and Seneca were the only two books of solid learning he seriously settled himself to read," quotes as much from the Moralia as from the Lives.And in the seventeenth century I cannot but think the Moralia were largely read at our Universities, at least at the University of Cambridge.The wonderful efficacy and power of long and continuous labour you may see indeed every day in the world around you.6 Thus water continually dropping wears away rocks: and iron and steel are moulded by the hands of the artificer: and chariot wheels bent by some strain can never recover their original symmetry: and the crooked staves of actors can never be made straight.But by toil what is contrary to nature becomes stronger than even nature itself.