Fatal illness

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Dalrymple provides a brief outline of the symptoms of the behavioural disorder, drawing attention to Dibdin’s 1809 work

I am the firste fole of all the hole nauy

To kepe the pompe, the helme and eke the sayle

For this is my mynde, this one pleasoure haue I

Of bokes to haue grete plenty and aparayle

I take no wysdome by them: nor yet auayle

Nor them preceyue nat: And then I them despyse

Thus am I a foole and all that sewe that guyse

That in this shyp the chefe place I gouerne

By this wyde see with folys wanderynge

The cause is playne, and easy to dyscerne

Styll am I besy bokes assemblynge

For to haue plenty it is a plesaunt thynge

In my conceyt and to haue them ay in honde

But what they mene do I nat vnderstonde

But yet I haue them in great reuerence

And honoure sauynge them from fylth and ordure

By often brusshynge, and moche dylygence

Full goodly bounde in pleasaunt couerture

Of domas, satyn, or els of veluet pure

I kepe them sure ferynge lyst they sholde be lost

For in them is the connynge wherin I me bost.

But if it fortune that any lernyd men

Within my house fall to disputacion

I drawe the curtyns to shewe my bokes then

That they of my cunnynge sholde make probacion

I kepe nat to fall in altercacion

And whyle they comon my bokes I turne and wynde

For all is in them, and no thynge in my mynde.

Tholomeus the riche causyd longe agone

Ouer all the worlde good bokes to be sought

Done was his commaundement anone

These bokes he had and in his stody brought

Whiche passyd all erthly treasoure as he thought

But neuertheles he dyd hym nat aply

Unto theyr doctryne, but lyued unhappely.

Lo in lyke wyse of bokys I haue store

But fewe I rede, and fewer understande

I folowe nat theyr doctryne nor theyr lore

It is ynoughe to bere a boke in hande

It were to moche to be it suche a bande

For to be bounde to loke within the boke

I am content on the fayre couerynge to loke.

(from Brant’s The Ship of Fools, Barclay trans.)

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