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one of the greatest ornaments of the twelfth century, was born at

, one of the greatest ornaments of the twelfth century, was born at Old Sarum, whence he derived the name of Sarisburiensis, about 1116. After he had gone through a course of education in England, he went to the university of Paris in 1136, and attended upon the lectures of Abelard and other masters, with such industry and success, that he acquired an uncommon share of knowledge both in philosophy and letters. At an early period of life, his poverty obliged him to undertake the office of preceptor; yet amidst engagements of this kind, he found leisure to acquire a competent knowledge of dialectics, physics, and morals, as well as an acquaintance with the Greek, and (what was at that time a rare accomplishment) with the Hebrew, languages. He may justly be ranked among the first scholars of his age. After many years had elapsed, he resolved to revisit the companions of his early studies on Mount St. Genevieve, in order to confer with them on the topics on which they had formerlydisputed. His account of this visit affords a striking picture of the philosophical character of this age. “I found them,” says he, “the same men, and in the same place; nor had they advanced a single step towards resolving our antient questions, nor added a single proposition, however small, to their stock of knowledge. Whence I inferred, what indeed it was easy to collect, that dialectic studies, however useful they may be when connected with other branches of learning, are in themselves barren and useless.” Speaking in another place of the philosophers of his time, he complains, that they collected auditors solely for the ostentation of science, and designedly rendered their discourses obscure, that they might appear loaded with the mysteries of wisdom; and that though all professed to follow Aristotle, they were so ignorant of his true doctrine, that in attempting to explain his meaning, they often advanced a Platonic notion, or some erroneous tenet equally distant from the true system of Aristotle and of Plato. From these observations, and from many similar passages to be found in his writings, it appears, that John of Salisbury was aware of the trifling character both of the philosophy and the philosophers of his age; owing, probably, to the uncommon share of good sense which he possessed, as well as to the unusual extent and variety of his learning. Throughout his writings there are evident traces of a fruitful genius, of sound understanding, of various erudition, and, with due allowance for the age in which he lived, of correct taste.