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Balthasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) assumed his final vows of the Jesuits in 1635, having been raised by his uncle, a priest, and studying theology in Zaragoza, Spain. Gracián became quite famous as a preacher, and wrote a number of literary works concerning politics, practical advice for life, and philosophy. Today he is known as the most representative writer of the Spanish baroque style called Conceptismo (Conceptism), a literary style characterized by succinct and subtle expressions of witty, significant ideas. "The Art of Worldly Wisdom" is a collection of about three hundred maxims and advice with commentary. His poetic use of rhetoric made Gracián appealing to readers, but because he published much of his work without the permission of his superiors, he was chastised by the church, and eventually sanctioned and exiled. This book was Gracián's most internationally popular work, and was translated into German by Schopenhauer, and into English by Joseph Jacobs in 1892.

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