Christ's church. But Pico all these things with equal study hath so received that they
might seem by heaps as a plenteous theme to have flowen into him. For he was not of
the condition of some folk (which to be excellent in one thing set all other aside) but
he in all sciences profited so excellently: that which of them soever he had considered,
in him ye would have thought that he had taken that one for his only study. And all
these things were in him so much the more marvellous in that he came thereto by
himself with the strength of his own wit for the love of God and profit his church
without masters, so that we may say of him that Epicure the philosopher said of him
that he was his own master.
FIVE CAUSES THAT IN SO SHORT TIME BROUGHT HIM TO SO
To the bringing forth of so wonderful effects in so small time I consider five
memory, thirdly great substance by the which to the buying of his books as well Latin
as Greek & other tongues he was especially holpen. VIJ.M. ducats he had laid out in
the gathering together of volumes of all manner of literature. The fourth cause was his
busy and infatigable study. The fifth was the contempt despising of all earthly things.
OF HIS CONDITIONS AND HIS VIRTUE.
But now let us pass over those powers of his soul which appertain to
noble acts, let us as we can declare his excellent conditions that his mind inflamed to
Godward may appear, and his riches given out to poor folk may be understood,
th'intent that they which shall hear his virtue may have occasion thereby to give
especial laud & thanks to almighty God, of whose infinite goodness all grace and
OF THE SALE OF HIS LORDSHIPS AND ALMS.
Three year before his death (to th'end that all the charge & business of rule or
this earthly honour & worldly dignity cometh) all his patrimony and dominions: that
is to say: the third part of th'earldom of Mirandola and of Concordia: unto Giovanni
Francesco his nephew he sold, and that so good cheap that it seemed rather a gift than
a sale. All that ever he received of this bargain partly he gave out to poor folk,
partly he bestowed in the buying of a little land, finding of him & his household. And
over that: much silver vessel & plate with other precious & costly utensils of
household he divided among poor people. He was content with mean fare at his table,
howbeit somewhat yet retaining of the old plenty in dainty viand & silver vessel.
Every day at certain hours he gave himself to prayer. To poor men always if any came
he plenteously gave out his money: & not content only to give that he had himself
ready: he wrote over it to one Hierom Benivenius  a Florentine, a well lettered
man (whom for his great love toward him & the integrity of his conditions he
singularly favoured) that he should with his own money ever help poor folk: & give
maidens money to their marriage: and alway send him word what he had laid out that
easily by him as by a faithful messenger relieve the necessity & misery of poor needy
people such as himself haply could not come by the knowledge of.
OF THE VOLUNTARY AFFLICTION & PAINING OF HIS OWN BODY.
Over all this: many times (which is not to be kept secret) he gave alms of his
to poor folk: but with the pleasure of the flesh they be overcome: but he many days
(and namely those days which represent unto us the passion & death that Christ
suffered for our sake) beat and scourged his own flesh in the remembrance of that
great benefit and for cleansing of his old offences.
OF HIS PLACABILITY OR BENIGN NATURE.
He was of cheer always merry & of so benign nature that he was never
there never so great misadventure) he could never as him thought be moved to wrath
but if his chests perished in which his books lay that he had with great travail & watch
compiled: but forasmuch as he considered that he laboured only for the love of God &
profit of his church: & that he had dedicate unto him all his works, his studies & his
doings: & sith he saw that sith God is almighty they could not miscarry but if it were
either by his commandment or by his sufferance: he verily trusted: sith God is all
good: that he would not suffer him to have that occasion of heaviness. O very happy
mind which none adversity might oppress, which no prosperity might enhance: not the
cunning of all philosophy was able to make him proud, not the knowledge of the
Hebrew, Chaldee & Arabic language beside Greek and Latin could make him
vainglorious, not his great substance, not his noble blood, could blow up his heart, not
the beauty of his body, not the great occasion of sin were able to pull him back into
the voluptuous broad way that leadeth to hell: what thing was there of so marvellous
strength that might overturn that mind of him: which now (as Seneca saith) was gotten
above fortune as he which as well her favour as her malice hath set at nought, that
he might be coupled with a spiritual knot unto Christ and his heavenly citizens.
HOW HE ESCHEWED DIGNITIES.
When he saw many men with great labour & money desire & busily purchase
bought & sold) himself refused to receive them when two kings offered them: when
another man offered him great worldly promotion if he would go to the king's court:
he gave him such an answer, that he should well know that he neither desired worship
ne worldly riches but rather set them at nought that he might the more quietly give
himself to study & the service of God: this wise he persuaded, that to a philosopher
and him that seeketh for wisdom it was no praise to gather riches but to refuse them.
OF THE DESPISING OF WORLDLY GLORY.
All praise of people and all earthly glory he reputed utterly for nothing: but in