Henry Neville: Plato Redivivus (1681)


Political Discourses and Histories worth reading

[prefaced to the second edition of Plato Redivivus, 1681]

1. The Works of the famous Nicholas Machiavel, Citizen and Secretary of Florence, containing, 1. The History of Florence. 2. The Prince. 3. The Original of the Guelf and Ghibilin Factions. 4. The Life of Castruccio Castracani. 5. The Murther of Vitelli, &c. by Duke Valentino. 6. The State of France. 7. The State of Germany. 8. The Discourses on Titus Livius. 9. The Art of War. 10. The Marriage of Belphegor, a Novel. 11. Nicholas Machiavel's Letter, in Vindication of himself and his writings: All written in Italian, and from thence newly and faithfully Translated into English. In Folio, Price Bound, 16s. [Ed. H. Neville, 1675.]

2. I Ragguagli di Parnasso; or Advertisements from Parnassus, in two Centuries, with the Politick Touchstone, written Originally in Italian, By that Noble Roman Trajano Boccalini. Englished by the Earl of Monmouth: In Folio, Price bound 8s. [1674.]

3. The History of the Affairs of Europe, in this present age, but more particularly of the Republick of Venice, written in Italian, by Battista Nani, Cavalier and Procurator of St Mark: Englished by Sir Robert Honiwood, Knight; in Folio, price bound 12s. [1673.]

4. The History of the Government of Venice, wherein the Policies, Councils, Magistrates, and Laws of that State are fully related, and the use of the Balloting Box, exactly described: Written in the Year 1675, in Octav. Price bound 3s. [Abraham Nicolas Amelotte de la Houssaye, tr. 1677.]

5. The History of the Turkish Empire, from the year 1623, to the year 1677, containing the Reigns of the three last Emperours, viz. Sultan Morat, Sultan Ibrahim, and Sultan Mahomet 4th, his Son, the 13th Emperour now Reigning: By Paul Rycaut, Esq; late Consul of Smyrna. In Folio, Price bound 14s. [1680.]

6. The present State of the Ottoman Empire in 3 Books, containing the Maximes of the Turkish Polity, their Religion and Military Discipline, Illustrated with divers Figures. Written by Paul Rycaut, Esq; late Secretary to the English Ambassadour there, and since Consul of Smyrna. The Fourth Edition, in Octavo. Price bound 5s. [1672.]

7. The Memoires of Philip de Commines Lord of Argenton, containing the History of Lewis XI. and Charles VIII, Kings of France, with the most remarkable occurrences in their particular Reigns, from the Year 1464, to 1498, Revised and Corrected by Denis Godfrey, Councellour and Historiographer to the French King, and from his Edition lately Printed at Paris, newly Translated into English, in Octav. Price bound 5s. [1674.]

8. The History of France, under the Ministry of Cardinal Mazarine, viz. from the Death of King Lewes XIII, to the year 1664, wherein all the Affairs of State to that time are exactly Related: By Benjamine Priolo, and faithfully Englished, by Christopher Wase, Gent. in Octav. Price bound 4s. [1671.]

9. The Present State of the United Provinces of the Low Countries, as to the Government, Laws, Forces, Riches, Manners, Customes, Revenue, and Territory of the Dutch; Collected out of divers Authors:

By W. A. Fellow of the Royal Society, the Second Edition in twelves:
Price bound 2s. 6d. [Wm. Aglionby, 1670.]

10. The Present State of the Princes and Republicks of Italy, the Second Edition enlarged, with the manner of Election of Popes, and a Character of Spain. Written Originally in English by J. Gailhard, Gent. in twelves. Price bound 1s. 6d. [1668.]

11. The Policy and Government of the Venetians, both in Civil and Military Affairs: Written in French by the Sieur de la Hay, and faithfully Englished, in 12s. Price bound 1s. [1671.]

12. The Secret History of the Court of the Emperour Justinian, giving a true account of the Debaucheries thereof: Written in Greek, by Procopius of Caesarea; faithfully Englished, in Octav. Price bound 1s. 6d. [1674.]


The Publisher to the Reader

Courteous Reader,

All the account I can give thee of this piece, is; that about the middle of October last [2] it was sent to me; accompanied with a letter without a name, and written in a hand altogether unknown to me; though different from the character of the dialogue itself, and the argument. The letter was very short; and contained only, that the writer having the fortune to meet with this discourse, (of which he denied to be the author,) he thought it very fit to be sent to me, to the end if I thought it could be of any advantage to me and no prejudice, I might publish it if I pleased and make my best of it. When I had opened it, and perceived that it treated of government, and of the present times; I (supposing it to be something of the nature of those scurrilous libels, which the press spawns every day) was extremely displeased with my servant, for receiving in my absence and in these dangerous days, such a packet; without taking any account or notice of the messenger who brought it: till he, to appease me, assured me, that the bearer did look like a gentleman, and had a very unsuitable garb to a trepan, and that he did believe he had seen him often at my shop, and that I knew him well. When I had begun to read it, and found no harm; I was resolved to peruse it in the company of a gentleman, a worthy friend of mine; who, to his exact skill and learning in the laws of his country, has added a very profound knowledge in all other literature; and particularly the excellence of platonic philosophy. When we had jointly gone through it, he was clearly of opinion; that although some might be angry with certain passages in it, yet the discourse reflecting upon no particular person, was very incapable of bringing me into any danger for publishing it; either from the state, or from any private man. When I had secured myself against the resulting loss, we went about the consideration of the other part of the distinction of the schools, which is lack of profit: [3] and I made some objections against the probability of vending this dialogue to profit; which, in things of my trade, is always my design, as it ought to be. My first fear in that behalf was, that this author would disgust the reader, in being too confident and positive in matters of so high a speculation. My friend replied; that the assurance he showed was void of all sauciness, and expressed with great modesty: and that he verily believed, that he meant very faithfully and sincerely towards the interest of England. My next doubt was; that a considerable part of this treatise being a repetition of a great many principles and positions out of Oceana , the author would be discredited for borrowing from another and the sale of the book hindered. To that my friend made answer; that before ever Oceana came out, there were very many treatises and pamphlets which alleged the political principle, that empire was founded in property, and discoursed rationally upon it: amongst the rest, one entitled A Letter from An Officer in Ireland, to his Highness the Lord Protector (which he then showed me) printed in 1653, [4] as I remember; which was more than three years before Oceana was written; and yet, said he, no man will aver that the learned gentleman who writ that book had stolen from that pamphlet: for whosoever sets himself to study politics, must do it by reading history, and observing in it the several turns and revolutions of government; and then the cause of such change will be so visible and obvious, that we need not impute theft to any man that finds it out: it being as lawful and as easy for any person, as well as for the author of Oceana , or that pamphlet, to read Thucydides, Polybius, Livy or Plutarch; and if he do so with attentiveness, he shall be sure to find the same things there that they have found. And if this were not lawful, when that any one person has written in any science, no man must write after him; for in polity, the orders of government; in architecture, the several orders of pillars, arches, architraves, cornices, &c; in physic, the causes, prognostics and crisis of diseases, are so exactly the same in all writers, that we may as well accuse all subsequent authors to have been but plagiaries of the antecedent. Besides this the learned gentleman added: that Oceana was written (it being thought lawful so to do in those times) to evince out of these principles, that England was not capable of any other government than a democracy; and this author out of the same maxims or aphorisms of politics, endeavours to prove, that they may be applied naturally and fitly to the redressing and supporting one of the best monarchies in the world, which is that of England. I had but one doubt more, and that was an objection against the title; which I resolved, at the first, not to mention; because I could salve it by altering the title page: But since I had opportunity, I acquainted the gentleman with it and it was, that certainly no man would ever buy a book that had in the front of it so insolent and presumptuous a motto, as Plato Redivivus ; for that he must needs be thought not only vain in the highest degree, but void of sense and judgement too, who compares himself with Plato; the greatest philosopher, the greatest politician (I had almost said the greatest divine too) that ever lived. My counsellor told me, that he had as great a resentment of any injury done to Plato as I, as any man could have: but that he was hard to believe, that this man intended to compare himself to Plato, either in natural parts or learning; but only to show that he did imitate his way of writing, as to the manner of it, (though not the matter) as he has done exactly. For Plato ever writ these high matters in easy and familiar dialogues; and made the philosophers, and learned men of that age; as Simmias, Cebes, Timaeus, Callias, Phaedon, &c, yea and Socrates himself, the interlocutors; although they never heard anything of it till the book came out; and although talking of state-affairs in a monarchy must needs be more offensive, than it was in the democracy where Plato lived; therefore our author has forborne the naming the persons who constitute this dialogue: yet he does make a pretty near representation and character of some persons, who (I dare swear) never heard of this discourse, nor of the author's design. This convinced me, and made me suffer the title to pass. So that I have nothing more to say to thee, courteous reader, but to desire thee to pardon the faults in printing; and also the plainness and easiness of the style, and some tautologies: which latter I could easily have mended, but that I thought the author did not let them pass out of neglect, but design; and intended that both they, and the familiarity of the words and expressions, suited better with his purpose of disposing this matter to be treated in ordinary conversation amongst private friends, than full periods and starched language would have done; which might have been impropriety. The next request I have to thee is: that if thou do believe this discourse to be a very foolish one, as it may be for aught I know, (for I am no fit judge of such matters) that thou wilt yet vouchsafe to suspend thy censure of it for a while, till the whole impression is vended; that so, although neither the public nor thyself may ever reap any benefit or profit by it, I may be yet so fortunate by thy favour as to do it: which will make me study thy content hereafter in something better, and in the mean time remain,

Thy Friend and Servant.


The Argument

A Noble Venetian,[5] (not one of the young fry, but a grave, sober person who had born office and magistracy in his own commonwealth,) having been some years since in France, with a near relation of his who was ambassador at that court, and finding himself out of employment; resolved to divert himself, by visiting some part of the world which he had never seen: and so passing through Germany, Flanders, and Holland, arrived in England, about the beginning of May last; bringing letters of recommendation to several English gentlemen, who had been travellers, and made friendship in his country: a custom, usually practised amongst such who travel into any part, where they have no habitude or acquaintance. Amongst the rest, he was addressed to one of the gentlemen who acts a part in this dialogue. Who, after he had waited upon him and served him for near two months, had certain necessary occasions, which called him for some time into the country: where he had not been above three weeks, before he heard, by mere accident, that the gentleman of Venice was fallen dangerous sick of a malignant fever: which made him post away immediately to London, to assist and serve him in what he might. But he found him almost perfectly restored to his health, by an eminent physician[6] of our nation; as renowned for his skill and cures at home, as for his writings both here and abroad: and who (besides his profound knowledge in all learning as well in other professions as his own) had particularly arrived to so exact and perfect a discovery of the formerly hidden parts of human bodies; that every one, who can but understand Latin, may by his means know more of anatomy, than either Hippocrates, or any of the ancients or moderns, did or do perceive: and if he had lived in the days of Solomon, that great philosopher would never have said, the heart of man is inscrutable. This excellent doctor being in the sick man's chamber, when the other English gentleman newly alighted, came to visit him; after some compliments and conversation of course, they began to talk of political matters: as you will better understand, by the introduction and by the discourse itself.


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