He Lives Well Who Lays Well Hidden, bene qui latuit bene vixit

“He who writes lays bare his soul.”

I’m sure this isn’t entirely original, though since it doesn’t show up in Google, I’ve probably improved it. I think it might be from Nietzsche. Another possible version, with alliteration,

“He who writes lays bare his heart.”

I just used the quote in the following colloquy

1. Harvard Law Professor Bruce Hay: “The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge”.
2. In re Flynn
3. George Floyd.
4. Rule 48 Dismissal of Charges
5. Bostock Fraud
6. ghjghjghj

2 replies on “Law”
Aaron says:
August 11, 2020 at 12:38 pm • Edit
Assuming you’re right handed, and you typed “ghj…” with one hand (likely your right hand), does that mean you rifle your fingers from index to pinky?
I wish I had something more insightful to say, but that’s the best up with which I could come.

Eric Rasmusen says:
August 13, 2020 at 2:26 pm • Edit
He who writes, lays bare his soul. Or at least, his pinky finger.

The quote pairs well with one that I think is from Descartes:

He lives well who lays well hidden.

Obviously, I disagree completely with weasels like Descartes, though he had some excuse, living as he did under both the Edict of Nantes and the king who revoked it.

The Descartes quote is a little hard to track down. It was in Latin— further covering the tracks, since only the wise could read it then:

Bene vixit, bene qui latuit.

There are lot of possibilities for translation. My Latin is bad, but even I can see that this says something to the effect of “He lives well, who well lays hidden.” Which of my two versions is better?

Descartes wrote this in a 1634 letter to Mersenne. In the English translation I found (I’ll have to track down the French at some point):

Doubtless you know that Galileo was recently censured by the Inquisition and that his views about the movement of the earth were condemned as heretical. Now, all the things I explained in my treatise, including the thesis that the earth moves, were so interdependent that the discovery that one of them is false shows that all the arguments I was using are unsound. I thought they were based on very certain and evident proofs, but I wouldn’t wish, for anything in the world, to maintain them against the Church’s authority. ‘Not everything that the Roman Inquisitors decide is automatically an article of faith, but must first be approved by a General Council’— well, perhaps, but I’m not so fond of my own opinions as to want to maintain them by splitting hairs. I want to live in peace and to continue the life I have begun under the motto Bene vixit, bene qui latuit [Latin, by Ovid, meaning ‘He lives well who is well hidden’]. So I’m more happy to be delivered from the fear that this work would make my social circle larger than I wanted it to be than I am unhappy at having lost the time and trouble I spent on its composition..

I found the French online only at Wikisource, Œuvres de Descartes/Édition Adam et Tannery/Tome 1/Texte entier, not in French Gutenberg or linked in the French Wikipedia entry on Descartes or googling anywhere else, but it apparently was scanned in with very poor text recognition and no proofreading, and my corrections may not be correct since I don’t know French very well, especially archaic French:

Vous fçauez sans doute que Galilée a eité repris depuis peu par les Inquisiteurs de la Foy, & que son opinion touchant le movement de la Terre a esté condamnée comme hérétique. Or je vous diray que toutes les choses que il’expliquois en mon Traitté, entre lesquelles estoit aussi cette opinion du movement de la Terre, dépendoient tellement les unes des autres, que c’est allez de fçauoir qu’il y en ait une qui soit fausse, pour connoittre que toutes les raisons ao dont je me servois n’ont point de force; et quoy que je pensasse qu’elles sussent appuyées sur des démonstrations très-certaines, & tres-évidentes, je ne voudrois toutesfois pour rien du monde les soustenir contre l’authorité de l’Eglise. le fçay bien qu’on pourroit dire que tout ce que les Inquisiteurs de Rome ont décidé, n’est pas incontinent article de soy pour cela, & qu’il faut premièrement que le Concile y ait paslé. Mais je ne suis point si amoureux de mes pensées, que de me vouloir servir de telles exceptions, pour avoir moyen de les maintenir; & le desir que j’ay pour avoir moyen de les maintenir; & le desir que j’ay de vivre en repos & de continuer la vie que j’ay commencée en prenant pour ma devise: benè vixit, benè qui latuit, sait que je suis plus ase d’estre delivréde la crainte que j’avois d’acquérir plus de connoissances que je ne desire, par le moyen de mon Ecrit, que je ne suis sasché d’avoir perdu le temps & la peine que j’ay employée à le composer.

It certainly works better in French to say, “la crainte que j’avois d’acquérir plus de connoissances que je ne desire,”; I wonder if a better English translation is “the fear I have of acquiring more acquaintances than I desire”.

Descartes Letter Found, Therefore It Is

It was the Great Train Robbery of French intellectual life: thousands of treasured documents that vanished from the Institut de France in the mid-1800s, stolen by an Italian mathematician. Among them were 72 letters by René Descartes, the founding genius of modern philosophy and analytic geometry. Now one of those purloined letters has turned up at a small private college in eastern Pennsylvania….
It turns out the letter had been donated in 1902 to Haverford’s library by Lucy Branson Roberts, whose husband, Charles Roberts, was an avid autograph collector. He had bought the letter without knowing that it was stolen.
As soon as Haverford’s president, Stephen G. Emerson, understood the letter’s history, he contacted the Institut de France (coincidentally on Feb. 11, the anniversary of Descartes’ death in 1650) and offered to return the item. …
France has recovered only 45 of the 72 stolen Descartes letters, Mr. de Broglie explained. One was offered at an auction in Switzerland in 2006 and 2009. “After I protested vociferously and publicly on both occasions in the name of the Institut, the letter didn’t find a buyer,” Mr. de Broglie wrote, “but it proved impossible for us to raise the very large sum that the seller demanded, and even though it can’t be sold, this 1638 letter remains in private hands.”
The letters were among thousands of documents stolen by Guglielmo Libri, an Italian count and mathematician who served as secretary of the Committee for the General Catalog of Manuscripts in French Public Libraries in the 1840s. After learning that he might be arrested, Libri fled to London in 1848 with a collection of 30,000 books and manuscripts, including those by Descartes, Galileo, Fermat, Leibniz, Copernicus and Kepler and other scientific and mathematical giants.
Claiming to be a political refugee, Libri was welcomed in Britain even though French courts eventually convicted him in absentia in 1850 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Libri raised money by selling his collection, and put a total of 7,628 lots up for sale at two auctions in 1861.

The Ovid poem can be found here, with obnoxious use of “u” for “v”. Descartes misrembered or improved it, changing the word order. Fixed, we get

Quid fuit, ut tutas agitaret Daedalus alas,
Icarus inmensas nomine signet aquas?
Nempe quod hic alte, demissius ille volabat:
nam pennas ambo non habuere suas.
Crede mihi, bene qui latuit bene vixit, et intra
fortunam debet quisque manere suam.
Non foret Eumedes orbus, si filius eius
stultus Achilleos non adamasset equos:
nec natum in flamma vidisset, in arbore natas,
cepisset genitor si Phaethonta Merops.

I find the Ovid quote has been used cleverly elsewhere, via Bestiaria Latina: Brevissima – Latin Distich Poetry, October 28, 2011:

Ad D.B.
Si “bene qui latuit, bene vixit,” tu bene vivis:
Ingeniumque tuum grande latendo patet.

TO D. B.
Thou livest well, if one well hid well lives:
And thy great wit conceal’d more splendour gives.

Here is today’s distich by John Owen, with an English translation by Thomas Harvey, 2.35. In this epigram, Owen is playing with a sentiment from Ovid’s Tristia 3.4:
“Crede mihi, bene qui latuit bene vixit, et intra /
fortunam debet quisque manere suam.”
Owen follows up on Ovid’s idea with a paradox: by hiding (latendo), the genius of Owen’s addressee is revealed to all. Poor Ovid, of course, did not do such a good job of lying low! The identity of Owen’s addressee is not known – which I guess is part of lying low. 🙂

What a rabbit hole is this quotation! The image is from Malcolm Jones, who says “Inscription on banderole reads “Bene Qui latuit bene vixit” [“He who hid well, lived well” — Ovid, Tristia] — is he a fashionably melancholic Elizabethan gentleman getting away from the hurly-burly of court lfe in some sylvan retreat?”

A very nice use of the quotation is by TROELS PETER RØRDAMat at The inventor’s right to waive being mentioned – or Bene qui latuit bene vixit.

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