Let’s be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray

From The Taming of the Shrew (1.1.25-).

LUCENTIO
….
And therefore, Tranio, for the time I study,
Virtue and that part of philosophy
Will I apply that treats of happiness
By virtue specially to be achieved.
Tell me thy mind; for I have Pisa left
And am to Padua come, as he that leaves
A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep
And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst.
TRANIO
Mi perdonato, gentle master mine,
I am in all affected as yourself;
Glad that you thus continue your resolve
To suck the sweets of sweet philosophy.
Only, good master, while we do admire
This virtue and this moral discipline,
Let’s be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray;
Or so devote to Aristotle’s cheques
As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured:
Balk logic with acquaintance that you have
And practise rhetoric in your common talk;
Music and poesy use to quicken you;
The mathematics and the metaphysics,
Fall to them as you find your stomach serves you;
No profit grows where is no pleasure ta’en:
In brief, sir, study what you most affect.

I like the sentiment but there’s also an interesting pun here – one that John Lyly had used twice a few years earlier in Euphues. It is rooted in the near identical pronunciation at the time of ‘Stoic’ – as adherent of the philosophy – and ‘stock’ – as OED 1c ‘as the type of what is lifeless, motionless, or void of sensation. Hence, a senseless or stupid person.’ Lyly’s two uses are less compressed than Shakespeare’s (and better capture the continuing instability of spelling in both instances)

Who so severe as the Stoickes, which lyke stocks were moved with no melodie?

Thought he him a Stoycke, that he woulde not be moued, or a stocke that he could not?

For the bored, more of Shakespeare’s liftings from Lyly can be found here and the full (standardised spelling) text of Euphues here

If this book is boring, two years from now it will be wrapping butter at the grocer’s

From Stendhal’s Souvenirs d’egotisme (Memoirs of an Egotist in an English translation):

Si ce livre est ennuyeux, au bout de deux ans il enveloppera le beurre chez l’épicier ….

If this book is boring, two years from now it will be wrapping butter at the grocer’s ….

I would like a history of all such phrases – bad books as food wrappings. I know of three in Latin literature and a near parallel in English but I’m sure I’ve read others without retaining them:

Catullus XCV.9:

But the Annals of Volusius will die by the river Padua where they were born, and will often furnish a loose wrapper for mackerels.

at Volusi annales Paduam morientur ad ipsamet laxas scombris saepe dabunt tunicas


Horace Epistles 2.1.265-70

Not for me attentions that are burdensome, and I want neither to be displayed anywhere in wax, with my features misshaped, nor to be praised in verses ill-wrought, lest I have to blush at the stupid gift, and then, along with my poet, outstretched in a closed chest, be carried into the street where they sell frankincense and perfumes and pepper and everything else that is wrapped in sheets of useless paper.

nil moror officium quod me gravat, ac neque ficto in peius voltu proponi cereus usquamnec prave factis decorari versibus opto,ne rubeam pingui donatus munere, et unacum scriptore meo, capsa porrectus operta, deferar in vicum vendentem tus et odores et piper et quidquid chartis amicitur ineptis

Persius 1.40-45

 Is there anyone who would disown the desire to earn the praise of the people?—or, when he’s produced compositions good enough for cedar oil, to leave behind him poetry which has nothing to fear from mackerels or incense?

an erit qui velle recusetos populi meruisse et cedro digna locutuslinquere nec scombros metuentia carmina nec tus?

And – in a different vein – Lyly’s Euphues (To the Gentleman readers):

We commonly see the book that at Christmas lieth bound on the stationer’s stall at Easter to be broken in the haberdasher’s shop