On The Solitary Life

The scholar Petrarch once secured an audience with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who lived from 1316 to 1378.  His meeting with the emperor at Lombardy in 1354 is described in one of Petrarch’s luminous letters (Familiares XIX.3).  It was a charming custom of those days that kings and popes would occasionally seek out men of letters for the purpose of philosophical inquiry.  Perhaps kings preferred to talk with scholars because they were removed from the concerns of power, and could speak with a frankness that was lacking with the royal ministers and advisors.

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