Home Up

Authors born between 1450 and 1500 CE

Erasmus ] Machiavelli ] Wang Yang-ming ] Copernicus ] More ] Vives ] [ Rabelais ]

Click Up For A  Summary Of Each Author




In Praise of Debtors and Borrowers

Further Praise of Borrowers and Lenders

Abhorrence of Debtors and Borrowers

Trial of a Judge Using Dice

Why Law Papers Should be Looked Over




Francois Rabelais (about 1494-1553 CE) was born in Chinon, France. He was ordained a priest and embarked on a life of study in a Franciscan monastery. There he developed a strong interest in humanism, exploring Greek philosophy and literature. This got him into trouble with his superiors, who at one point confiscated his Greek books. He subsequently transferred to the Benedictine order and continued his studies there for several years. In 1530 he left the monastery to study medicine at the University of Montpellier, where he received a bachelor’s degree. He became a physician at Lyon but his interests turned increasingly to literature. He then began his series of satirical books on the giants Gargantua and Pantagruel, for which he is most famous.

Published under the anagrammatic pseudonym Alcofribas Nasier, his first two books were condemned by the Sorbonne and by the church for their mockery of religious practices and for their unorthodox ideas. He published his third book under his own name. After this was banned by the Sorbonne, Rabelais left France to become the city physician of Metz. After the death of Francis I and the assumption of Henry II to the throne, Rabelais returned to France. He published the fourth volume of his work in 1552. It was censured by the Sorbonne, and its sale was suspended by parliament in the King’s absence. The suspension was lifted shortly after.

Extracts from Chapters in Book 3 follow, providing contrary views of lending and borrowing, and a satire on the arbitrariness of legal proceedings.


In Praise of Debtors and Borrowers

1    But, said Pantagruel, when will you be out of debt? At the next ensuing term of the Greek kalends, answered Panurge, when all the world shall be content, and when it is your fate to become your own heir. The Lord forbid that I should be out of debt, as if, indeed, I could not be trusted. Who leaves not some leaven over night, will hardly have paste the next morning.

2    Be still indebted to somebody or other, that there may be somebody always to pray that the giver of all good things may grant you a blessed, long, and prosperous life. Fearing, if fortune should deal crossly with you, that he might come short of being paid, he will always speak good of you in every company, always be ready to purchase new creditors for you, with the aim that through them you might get along by borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, and with other folk’s earth fill up his ditch.

3    For against the opinion of most philosophers that out of nothing arises nothing—and without having touched on so much as that which is called the First Matter—I out of nothing became such a maker and creator that I have created—what?—a lively number of fair and jolly creditors. Not only that, creditors, I will maintain even to the very fire itself without exclusion, are fair and goodly creatures. Who lends nothing is an ugly and wicked creature, and an accursed imp of the infernal Old Nick.

 4   A world without lending will be no better than a dog-kennel, a place of contention and wrangling, more unruly and irregular than that of the rector of Paris; a devil of a hurly-burly and more disordered confusion than that of the plagues of Delay. Men will not then greet one another. It will be hopeless to expect aid or succor from any, or to cry fire, water, murder, for none will put to his helping hand. Why? Because he lent no money: there is nothing due to him. Nobody is concerned in his burning, in his shipwreck, in his ruin, or in his death; and that because he hitherto had lent nothing, and would never thereafter have lent any thing. In short, Faith, Hope and Charity would be quite banished from such a world. Whereas for men are born to relieve and assist one another; in their stead there would be Defiance, Disdain and Rancor, with the most execrable troop of all evils, all imprecations, and all miseries.

5    These fellows, I vow, do I hate with a perfect hatred; and if you take the pattern of this grievous, peevish, and perverse world which lends nothing and you apply it to the little world that is man, you will find in him a terrible jostling, tangle and clutter. The head will not lend the sight of his eyes to guide the feet and hands; the legs will refuse to bear up  the body; the hands will leave off working any more for the rest of the members; the heart will be weary of its continual motion for the beating of the pulse, and will no longer lend his assistance; the lungs will withdraw the use of their bellows; the liver will desist from conveying any more blood through the veins for the good of the whole; the bladder will not be indebted to the kidneys, so that the urine thereby will be totally stopped. The brains, in the interim, considering this unnatural course, will fall into a raving dotage, and withhold all feeling from the sinews, and motion from the muscles. Briefly, in such a world without order and array, owing nothing, lending nothing, and borrowing nothing, you would see a more dangerous conspiracy than that which Aesop exposed in his Apologue. Such a world will perish undoubtedly; and not only perish, but perish very quickly.

                                                                        From Chapter 3


Further Praise of Borrowers and Lenders

6     Now let our microcosm be fancied to conform to the model in all its members of lending, borrowing, and owing, that is to say, according to its own nature. For nature has not created man for any other end than to owe, borrow, and lend. No greater harmony is found among the heavenly spheres than that founded on this well-ordered policy. The intention of the founder of this microcosm is to have a soul therein to be entertained. It is lodged there, as a guest with its host, that it may live there for awhile. Life consists in blood; blood is the seat of the soul; therefore the chiefest work of the microcosm is, to be making blood continually.

7    At this forge are exercised all the members of the body; none is exempted from labor, each operates apart, and carries out its proper office. And such is their hierarchy, that perpetually one borrows from another, the one lends the to another, and the one is the other’s debtor. The stuff and matter to hand that nature gives to be turned into blood is bread and wine. All kinds of nourishing victuals are understood to be comprehended in those two, and for this reason in the Gothic tongue is called companage. To find out this meat and drink, to prepare and boil it, the hands are put to work, the feet walk and bear up the whole bulk of the body's mass; the eyes guide and conduct all; the appetite in the orifice of the stomach, by means of a little sourish black humor, called melancholy (which is transmitted thereto from the spleen) gives warning to shut in the food. The tongue takes the first action, and tastes it; the teeth to break it down, and the stomach receives, digests, and chills it. The mesaraie veins suck out of it what is good and fit, leaving behind the excrements, which are through special purpose conduits voided by an expulsive faculty. Thereafter the nourishment is carried to the liver, where being changed again it by that new transmutation becomes blood.

8    Each parcel of the body draws it then into itself, and after its own fashion is cherished and nourished by it—feet, hands, thighs, arms, eyes, ears, back, breasts, yes, all. And then it is that who before were lenders now become debtors. The heart doth in its left side ventricle so thins the blood that it thereby obtains the name of spiritual. This, being sent through the arteries to all the members of the body, serves to warm and winnow the other blood which runs through the veins. The lungs never cease with its valves and bellows to cool and refresh it; in acknowledgment of which good the heart, through the arterial vein, imparts unto it the choicest of its blood. At last the blood is made so fine and subtle within the rete mirabile, that it becomes those animal spirits by means which imagination, discourse, judgment, resolution, deliberation, ratiocination, and memory have their rise, action, and operation.

9    Corporal body, I sink, I drown, I perish, I wander astray, and quite fly out of my self when I enter into the consideration of the profound depths of this world, thus lending, thus owing. Believe me, it is a divine thing to lend; to owe, a heroic virtue. Yet is not this all. This little world thus lending, owing, and borrowing, is so good and charitable, that no sooner is the above-specified alimentation finished, but that it forthwith considers, and already perceives, how it will lend to those who are not yet born, and by that loan endeavor to do what it can to eternalize itself, and generate images according to a pattern, that is, children. To this end every member takes the choicest and most precious of its nourishment, pares and cuts off a portion, then instantly dispatches it downwards to that place where nature has prepared for it very fit vessels and receptacles, through which descending to the genitals by long circumambulations, circuits and winding pathways, it receives a competent form, and rooms apt enough both in the man and woman for its future conservation and perpetuating of human kind. All this is done by loans and debts of the one to the other; and hence have we this word, the debt of marriage. Nature delivers pain to one who refuses to lend, with a most grievous vexation of his members and an outrageous fury amidst his senses. But, on the other hand, delivers to the lender a set reward accompanied with pleasure, joy, solace, mirth, and merry glee.

                                                                        From Chapter 4


Abhorrence of Debtors and Borrowers

10  I understand you very well, said Pantagruel, and take you to be very good at disputation, and thoroughly in love with your own cause. But preach it and justify it, prattle on about it and defend it as much as you will—even from now to the next Whitsuntide if you please—yet in the end will you be astonished to find that you shall have gained no ground at all upon me. Nor will you have persuaded me by your fair speeches and smooth talk to enter one jot into the thraldom of debt. You shall owe nothing, said the Holy Apostle, nothing but love, friendship, and a mutual benevolence.

11  You serve me here, I confess, with fine Graphides and Diatyposes, descriptions and figures, which truly please me very well. But let me tell you, if you will picture in your imagination an impudent blustering bully and importunate borrower, entering newly into a town already cognizant of his manners, you will  find that at his ingress the citizens will be more hideously affrighted and amazed, and in a greater terror and fear, dread and trembling, than if the plague itself should step into it, in the very same garb and accoutrement wherein the Tyanean philosopher found it within the city of Ephesus. And I am fully confirmed in the opinion that the Persians erred not when they said that the second vice was to lie, the first being that of owing money. For, in very truth, debts and lying are ordinarily joined together. Nevertheless, I will not from now on infer that none must owe any thing, or lend any thing. For who can be so rich that sometimes may not owe? Or who can be so poor that sometimes may not lend?  

12  Let the occasion, notwithstanding, in that case, as Plato very wisely says and ordains in his Laws, be such that none be permitted to draw any water out of his neighbor’s well until first they by continual digging and delving into their own proper ground shall have hit upon a kind of potter’s earth which is called Ceramite, and there have found no source or drop of water; for that sort of earth, by reason of its substance, which is fat, strong, firm and close, so retains its humidity, that it does not easily evaporate it by any outward excursion or evaporation.  

      In truth, it is a great shame to choose rather to be still borrowing in all places from every one, than to work and win. Then, in my judgment, one should only lend when the diligent, toiling, and industrious person is no longer able by his labor to make any purchase for himself; or otherwise, when by mischance he has suddenly fallen into an unexpected loss of his goods.

13  However, let us leave this discourse and from now on do not hang upon creditors, nor tie yourself to them. I will settle the past accounts to rid you freely of them, and deliver you from their bondage. Panurge replied, the least I should do at this point is to thank you, though it is also the most I can do. And if gratitude and giving thanks are to be estimated and prized by the affection of the benefactor, that is to be done infinitely and sempiternally; for the love which you bear me of your own accord and free grace, without any merit of mine, goes far beyond the reach of any price or value. It transcends all weight, all number, all measure; it is endless and everlasting. Therefore, if I should offer to commensurate and adjust it, either to the size and proportion of your own noble and gracious deeds or yet to the contentment and delight of the obliged receivers, I would come off but very faintly and flaggingly. You have truly done me a great deal of good, and multiplied your favors to me more frequently than was fitting to one of my condition. I must confess you have been more bountiful towards me than I have deserved, and your courtesies have by far surpassed the extent of my merits.

                                                                        From Chapter 5


Trial of Judge Bridlegoose for Using Dice

14  On the following day, precisely at the hour appointed, Pantagruel came to Myrelingues. At his arrival the presidents, senators, and counselors prayed him to do them the honor of entering in with them to hear the resolution of all the causes, arguments, and reasons that Bridlegoose in his own defense would produce on why he had pronounced a certain sentence, against the subsidy assessor, Toucheronde, which did not seem very equitable to that centumviral court.

15  Pantagruel very willingly condescended to their desire and. accordingly, entering in found Bridlegoose sitting within the middle of the enclosure of the said court of justice. He, immediately upon the entry of Pantagruel accompanied by the senatorian members of that worshipful judicatory, arose, went to the bar, had his indictment read, and for all his reasons, defenses, and excuses, answered nothing else, but that he was become old, and that his sight of late was very much failed, and become dimmer than it was wont to be; instancing therewithal many miseries and calamities which old age brings along with it, and are concomitant to wrinkled elders, as found in not. per Archid. d. 1. Ixxxvi. c. tanta. By reason of this infirmity he was not able so distinctly and clearly to discern the points and blots on the dice, as formerly he had been accustomed to do. From this, it might very well have happened, said he, that Ias old dim-sighted Isaac took Jacob for Esauafter the same manner, while deciding the causes and controversies in law, should have been mistaken in taking a four for a five, or three for a deuce.

16  This, said he, I beseech your worships to take into your serious consideration and to have the more favorable opinion of my uprightness (notwithstanding the pre­varication  I am accused of, in the matter of Toucheronde’s sentence), for that at the time of that decree’s pronouncing I only had made use of my small dice. And your worships, said he, know very well, how by the most authentic rules of the law it is provided, that the imperfections of nature should never be mistaken for crimes and transgressions, as appears in ff. de re milit. I. qui cum uno. ff. de reg. Jur. I. fere. ff. de oedil. edict. per totum. ff. de term. mod. I. Divus Adrianus, resolved by Lud. Rom. in 1. si vero. f. Sol. Matr. [these bogus legal quotations are omitted from here on.] And who would offer to do otherwise should not thereby accuse the man, but nature and the all-seeing providence of God, as is evident in this and other legal precedents I pass to you.

17  What kind of dice, said Trinquamelle, grand president of the said court, do you mean, my friend Bridlegoose?  
The dice, said Bridlegoose, of sentences at law, decrees, and peremptory judgments, mentioned in many legal precedents, and which your worships, as well as I, use, in this glorious sovereign court of yours. So do all other righteous judges in their decision of processes, and final determination of legal differences, observing that which has been said thereof by D. Henri. Ferrandat. Mark, that chance and fortune are good, honest, profitable, and necessary for ending of, and putting a final closure to, dissensions and debates in suits at law. The same has more clearly been declared by other legal precedents I will cite.

18  But how is it that you do these things? asked Trinquamelle. I shall answer you very briefly, said Bridlegoose, according to approved doctrine and instructions. My practice in this matter is the same as that of your other worships, as the custom of the judicatory requires, to which our law commands us to have due regard and by the rule thereof to still direct and regulate our actions and procedures. For having well and exactly seen, surveyed, overlooked, reviewed, recognized, read, and read over again, turned and tossed over, seriously perused and examined the bills of complaint, accusations, impeachments, indictments, warnings, citations, summonings, comparisons, appearances, mandates, commissions, delegations, instructions, informations, inquests, preparatories, productions, evidences, proofs, allegations, depositions, cross speeches, contradictions, supplications, requests, petitions, inquiries, instruments of the deposition of witnesses, rejoinders, replies, confirmations of former assertions, duples, triples, answers to rejoinders, writings, deeds, reproaches, disabling of exceptions taken, grievances, salvation-bills, re-examination of witnesses, confronting of them together, declarations, denunciations, libels, certificates, royal missives, letters of appeal, letters of attorney, instruments of compulsion, declinatories, anticipatories, evocations, messages, dimissions, issues, exceptions, dilatory pleas, demurs, compositions, injunctions, reliefs, reports, returns, confessions, acknowledgements, exploits, executions, and other such like confects and spiceries, both from the one and the other side, as a good judge ought to do, conform to what has been noted thereupon—I position on the end of a table in my closet, all the satchels and bags of the defendant, and then allow him the first hazard of the dice, according to the usual manner of your other worships. That being done, I thereafter lay down upon the other end of the same table the bags and satchels of the plaintiff, as your other worships are accustomed to do, visum visu, just over against one another. Then I likewise and in the same way throw the dice for him, and forthwith deliver him his chance.

19  But said Trinquamelle, my friend, how come you to know, understand and resolve, the obscurity of these various and seeming contrary passages in law which are laid claim to by the suitors and pleading parties? Even just, said Bridlegoose, after the fashion of your other worships: to wit, when there are many bags on the one side and on the other, then I use my little small dice, after the customary manner of your other worships, in obedience to the law. I have other large dice, fair and goodly ones, which I employ in the fashion that your other worships use, when the matter is more plain, clear, and liquid; that is to say, when there are fewer bags. 

     But when you have done all these fine things, said Trinquamelle, how do you, my friend, award your decrees and pronounce judgment? 

     Even as your other worships, answered Bridlegoose; for I give out sentence in his favor of the one who has receieved the best throw of the dice, judiciary, tribunian, pretorial, what comes first. So our laws command.

                                                                        From Chapter 39


Why Law Papers Should be Looked Over

  20  Yes, said Trinquamelle, but, my friend, seeing it is by the lot, chance, and throw of the dice that you award your judgments and sentences, why do not you deliver up these fair throws and chances, the very same day and hour that the controverting party­pleaders appear before you without any further procrastination or delay? To what use can those writings serve you, those papers, and other procedures contained in the bags and satchells of the law-suitors?

      To the very same use, said Bridlegoose, that they serve your other worships. They are of benefit to me, and serve my turn in three things very exquisite and authentic. First, for formality’s sake, which if omitted makes all, whatever is done, to be of no force nor value, as excellently well proved in law. Besides that, it is not unknown to you, who have had much more experience of this than I, how oftentimes in judicial proceedings the formalities utterly destroy the material and substance of the causes and matters agitated.

21  Secondly, They are useful and functional to me, even as to your other worships, in lieu of some other honest and healthful exercise. The late Master Othoman Vadat, a prime physician, as you would say, has frequently told me that the lack and default of bodily exercise is the chief, if not the sole and only, cause of the little health and short lives of all officers of justice, such as your worships and I am. Which observation was singularly well, before him, noted and remarked by Bartholus. Therefore the practice of such-like exercise is appointed to be laid hold on by your other worships, and consequently not to be denied unto me, who am of the same profession. Let certain honest and recreative sports and plays of corporeal exercises be allowed and approved of, as is recommended by many legal authorities.

22  I should say, according to the style and phrase of your other worships, that there is no exercise, sport, game, play, nor recreation in all this paladine, palatine, or parliamentary world more aromatizing and fragrant than to empty and void bags and purses—turn over papers and writings—add quotes to margins and backs of scrolls and rolls, fill panniers, and take inspection of causes.

23  Thirdly, I consider, as your own worships used to do, that time ripens and brings all things to maturity—that by time everything comes to be made manifest and patent—and that time is the father of truth and virtue. It is for this reason that, after the manner and fashion of your other worships, I defer, protract, delay, prolong, intermit, surcease, pause, linger, suspend, prorogate, drive out, wire-draw, and shift off the time of giving a definitive sentence to the end that the suit or process, being well fanned and winnowed, tossed and canvassed to and fro, narrowly, precisely, and nearly garbelled, sifted, searched, and examined, and on all hands exactly argued, disputed, and debated, may, by succession of time, come at last to its full ripeness and maturity. By this means, when the fatal hazard of the dice ensues, the parties cast or condemned by the said aleatory chance will with much greater patience, and more mildly and gently, endure and bear up the disastrous load of their misfortune, than if they had been sentenced at their first arrival at the court.

                                                                        From Chapter 40  



Adapted from The Complete Works of Doctor Francois Rabelais, faithfully rendered into  English by Sir Thomas Urquart and Peter Motteux (this is available from several publishers.) An electronic text version is available from Project Gutenberg via FTP.

      Adaptation and selection Copyright © Rex Pay 2000