Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) online

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the Grecians call " apotheosis," and the Latins, " re-
latio inter divos," was the supreme honour which man
could attribute luito man; especially when it was given,


not by a formal decree or act of state, as it was used
among the Roman Emperors, but by an inward assent
and belief. AVhich honour being so high had also a
degree or middle term ; for there were reckoned above
human honours, honours heroical and divine : in the
attribution and distribution of which honours, we see,
antiquity made this difference : that whereas founders
and uniters of states and cities, lawgivers, extirpers of
tyrants, fathers of the people, and other eminent per-
sons in ci\il merit, were honoured but with the titles
of worthies or demigods, such as were Hercules, The-
seus, j\Iinos, Romulus, and the like : on the other
side, such as were inventors and autljors^of new .^t^
endowments and commodities towards man's life^ were
ever consecrated amongst tlie gods themselves : as
we re"'Cere srT^acchus, i\rercurius, Apollo, and others ;
and~ justly : 1of"lhe iiici it of Theloraier is confined
within the circle of an age or a nation ; and is like
fruitful showers, which though they be profitable and
good, yet serve but for that season, and for a latitude
of ground where they fall ; but the other is indeed
like the benefits of heaven, which are permanent and
universal. The former, again, is mixed with strife
and perturbation ; but the latter hath the true cha-
racter of divine presence, coming in aura leni, with-
out noise or agitation.

Neither is certainly that other merit of learning, in
repressing the inconveniencies which grow from man
to man, much inferior to the former, of relieving the
necessities which arise from nature ; which merit was
lively set forth by the ancients in that feigned relation
of Orpheus's theatre, where all beasts and birds assem-
bled, and, forgetting their several appetites, some of
prey, some of game, some of quarrel, stood all socia-
bly together, listening to the airs and accords of the
harp ; the sound whereof no sooner ceased, or was
drowned by some louder noise, but every beast returned
to his own nature : wherein is aptly described the
nature and condition of men, wlio are full of savage
and unreclaimed desires of profit, of lust, of revenge ;
which as long as they give ear to precepts, to laws, to


religion, sweetly touched with eloquence and persua-
sion of books, of sermons, of harangues, so long is
society and peace maintainerl ; butif these instruments
be silent, or that sedition and tumult make them
not audible, all things dissolve into anarchy and con-

But this appeareth more manifestly, when kings
themselves, or persons of authority under them, or
other governors in commonwealths and popular estates,
are endued with learning. For although he might be
thought partial to his own profession, that said,
" Then should people and estates be happy, when
either kings were philosophers, or philosophers kings ; "
yet so much is verified by experience, that u nder wise
and learned princes and governors there hayiT)efiILexer,
the best times : for howsoever kings may have their
imperfection's" in their passions and customs ; yet if
they be illuminate by learning, they have those
notions of religion, policy, and morality, which do
preserve them ; and refrain them from all ruinous and
peremptory errors and excesses, whispering evermore
in their ears, when counsellors and servants stand
mute and silent. And senators, or counsellors like-
wise, which be learned, do proceed upon more safe
and substantial principles, than counsellors which are
only men of experience ; the one sort keeping dangers
afar off, whereas the other discover them not till they
come near hand, and then trust to the agility of their
wit to ward or avoid them.

Which felicity of times under learned princes, to
keep still the law of brevity, by using the most emi-
nent and selected examples, doth best appear in the
age which passed from the death of Domitianus the
emperor, until the reign of Commodus ; comprehend-
ing a succession of six princes, all learned, or singular
favourers and advancers of learning ; which age,
for temporal respects, was the most happy and flou-
rishing that ever the Roman empire, which then was
a model of the world, enjoyed ; a matter revealed and
prefigured unto Domitian in a dream the night
before he was slain ; for lie thought there was grown



behind upon his shoulders a neck and a head of gold :
which came accordingly to pass in those golden times
which succeeded ; of which princes we will make some
commemoration : wherein although the matter will
be vulgar, and may be thought fitter for a declama-
tion, than agreeable to a treatise enfolded as this is; yet
because it is pertinent to the point in hand, "neque sem-
per arcum tendit Apollo," and to name them only were
too naked and cursory, I will not omit it altogether.

The first was Nerva, the excellent temper of whose
government, is by a glance in Cornelius Tacitus touched
to the life : " Postquam divus Nerva res olim insocia-
biles miscuisset, imperium et libertatem." And in to-
ken of his learning, the last act of his short reign, left to
memory, was a missive to his adopted son Trajan, pro-
ceeding upon some inward discontent at the ingratitude
of the times, comprehended in a verse of Homer's.
Telis, Phoebe, tuis lacrymas ulciscere nostras.

Trajan, who succeeded, was for his person not
learned : but if we will hearken to the speech of our
Saviour, that saith, '•' He that receiveth a prophet in
the name of a prophet, shall have a prophet's reward,"
he deserveth to be placed amongst the most learned
princes ; for there was not a greater admirer of learn-
ing, or benefactor of learning ; a founder of famous
libraries, a perpetual advancer of learned men to office,
and a familiar converser with learned professors and
preceptors, who were noted to have then most credit
in court. On the other side, how much Trajan's virtue
and government was admired and renowned, surely
no testimony of grave and faithful history doth more
lively set forth, than that legend tale of Gregorius
]\Iagnus, bishop of Rome, who was noted for the
extreme envy he bore towards all heathen excellency ;
and yet he is reported, out of the love and estimation
of Trajan's moral virtues, to have made unto God
passionate and fervent prayers for the delivery of his
soul out of hell; and to have obtained it, with a caveat,
that he should make no more such petitions. In this
prince's time also, the persecutions against the Chris-
tians received intermission, upon the certificate of Pli-


nius Secundus, a man of excellent learning, and by
Trajan advanced.

Adrian, his successor, was the most curious man
that lived, and the most universal inquirer ; insomuch
as it was noted for an error in his mind, that he de-
sired to comprehend all things, and not to reserve
himself for the worthiest things ; falling into the like
humour that was long before noted in Philip of Ma-
cedon, who, when he would needs over-rule and put
down an excellent musician, in an argument touching-
music, was well answered by him again, " God
forbid. Sir," saith he, " that your fortune should be
so bad, as to know these things better than I.** It
pleased God likewise to use the curiosity of this
emperor, as an inducement to the peace of his Churcli
in those days. For having Christ in veneration, not
as a God or Saviom*, but as a wonder or novelty ;
and having his picture in his gallery, matched with
Apollonius, with whom, in his vain imagination, he
thought he had some conformity, yet it served the
turn to allay the bitter hatred of those times against
the Christian name, so as the Church had peace
during his time. And for his government civil,
although he did not attain to that of Trajan's,
in the glory of arms, or perfection of justice ; yet in
deserving of the weal of the subject he did exceed him.
For Trajan erected many famous monuments and
buildings, insomuch as Constantine the Great in emu-
lation was wont to call him " Parietaria," wall-flower,
because his name was upon so many walls: but his build-
ings and works were more of glory and triumph than
use and necessity. But Adrian spent his whole reign,
which was peaceable, in a perambulation, or survey of
the Roman empire, giving order, and making as.signa-
tion where he went, for re-edifying of cities, towns, and
forts decayed, and for cutting of rivers and streams,
and for making bridges and passages, and for policy-
ing of cities and commonalties with new ordinances
and constitutions, and granting new franchises and
incorporations ; so that his whole time was a very re-
stauration of all the lapses and decavs of former times.


Antoninus Pius, vvlio succeeded him, was a prince
excellently learned ; and had the patient and subtle
wit of a schoolman ; insomuch as in common speech,
which leaves no virtue untaxed, he was called " Cymini
sector," a carver, or a divider of cumin seed, which is
one of the least seeds ; such a patience he had and
settled spirit, to enter into the least and most exact
differences of causes, a fruit no doubt of the exceed-
ing tranquillity and serenity of his mind ; which being
no ways charged or encumbered, either with fears,
remorses, or scruples, but having been noted for a
man of the purest goodness, without all fiction or affec-
tation, that hath reigned or lived, made his mind
continually present and entire. He likewise approached
a degree nearer unto Christianity, and became, as
Agrippa said unto St. Paul, " half a Christian ; " hold-
ing their religion and law in good opinion, and not only
ceasing persecution, but giving way to the advance-
ment of Christians.

There succeeded him the first divijratres, the two
adoptive brethren, Lucius Commodus Verus, son to
yf'lius Verus, who delighted much in the softer kind of
learning, and was wont to call the poet JMartial his
Virgil : and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, whereof the
latter, who obscured his colleague, and survived him
long, was named the philosopher ; who, as he excelled
all the rest in learning, so he excelled them likewise
in perfection of all royal virtues ; insomuch as Julia-
nus the emperor, in his book, intitled " Cassares," being
as a pasquil or satire to deride all his predecessors,
feigned, that they were all invited to a banquet of the
gods, and Silenus the jester sat at the nether end of
the table, and bestowed a scoff on every one as they
came in ; but when Marcus Philosophus came in,
Silenus was gravelled, and out of countenance, not
knowing where to carp at him, save at the last he gave a
glance at his patience towards his wife. And the
virtue of this prince, continued with that of his pre-
decessor, made the name of Antoninus so sacred in
the world, that though it were extremely dishonoured
in Commodus, Caracalla, and Heliogabalus,who all bore


the name ; yet when Alexander Severus refused the
name, because he was a stranger to the family, the
Senate with one acclamation said, " Quo modo Au-
gustus, sic et Antoninus." In such renown and vene-
ration was the name of these two princes in those days,
that they would have had it as a perpetual addition
in all the emperors stile. In this emperor's time also,
the Church for the most part was in peace ; so as in
this sequence of six princes, we do see the blessed
effects of learning in sovereignty, painted forth in the
greatest table of the world.

But for a tablet, or picture of smaller volume, not
presuming to speak of your majesty that liveth, in
my judgment, the most excellent is ,that of jg^ueen
Elizabeth, jour immediate predecessor in this part of
Bfitam ; a princess that if Plutarch were now alive
to write lives by parallels, would trouble him, I think,
to find for her a parallel amongst women. This lady
'^'' was eiidued with -learning in her sex siii^iTar,Hnd
rare even amongst masculine princes ; whether we
speak of learning of language, or of science, modern
or ancient, divinity or humanity : and unto the very
last year of her life, she accustomed to appoint set
hours for reading ; scarcely any young student in an
university, more daily, or more duly. As for her govern-
ment, I assure myself, I shall not exceed, if I do affirm,
that this part of the island never had forty-five years
of better times ; and yet not through the calmness of
the season, but through the wisdom of her regiment.

For if there be considered, of the one side, the
truth of religion established ; the constant peace and
security; the good administration of justice; the tem-
perate use of the prerogative, not slackened, nor much
strained ; the flourishing state of learning, sortable to
so excellent a patroness ; the convenient estate of
wealth and means, botli of crown and subject ; the
habit of obedience, and the moderation of discontents ;
and there be considered, on the other side, the differ-
ences of religion, the troubles of neighbour countries,
the ambition of Spain, and opposition of Rome :
and then, that she was solitary, and of herself: these


things, I say, considered ; as I could not have chosen
an instance so recent and so proper, so, I suppose, I
could not have chosen one more remarkable, or emi-
nent, to the purpose now in hand, which is concern-
ing the conjunction of learning in the prince, with
felicity in the people.

Neither hath learning an influence and operationN
only upon civil merit and moral virtue, and the arts
or temperature of peace and peaceable government ; (
but likewise it hath no less power and cilicacy in '
enablcaaaiLjtfiAiaids^anartiaL aaid railitaiy -vklue,^ I
prowgss-;- .as may be notably represented in the exam- \
pies of Alexander the great, and Cajsar the dictator, I
mentioned before, but now in fit place to be resumed;
of whose virtues and acts in war there needs no note
or recital, having been the wonders of time in that
kind : but of their affections towards learning, and
perfections in learning, it is pertinent to say somewhat.

Alexander was bred and taught under Aristotle
the great philosopher, who dedicated divers of his
boo£s of philosophy unto him : he was attended with
Callisthenes, and divers other learned persons, that
followed him in camp, throughout his journeys and
conquests. What price and estimation he had learn-
ing in, doth notably appear in these three particulars:
first, in the envy he used to express that he bore to-
wards Achilles, in this, that he had so good a trum-
pet of his praises as Homer's verses : secondly, in the
judgment or solution he gave touching that precious
cabinet of Darius, which was found amongst his jewels,
■whereof question was made what thing was worthy to
be put into it, and he gave his opinion for Homer's
works : thirdly, in his letter to Aristotle, after he had
set forth his books of nature, wherein he expostulateth
with him for publishing the secrets or mysteries of
philosophy, and gave him to understand that himself
esteemed it more to excel other men in learning and
knowledge, than in power and empire. And what
use he had of learning doth appear, or rather shine,
in all his speeches and answers, being full of science
and use of science, and that in all variety.




And here again it may seem a thing scholastical,
and somewhat idle, to recite things that every man
knoweth; but yet, since the argument I handle leadeth
me thereunto, I am glad that men shall perceive 1 am
as willing to flatter, if they will so call it, an Alexander,
or a Caesar, or an Antoninus, that are dead many
hundred years since, as any that now liveth : for it is
the displaying of the glory of learning in sovereignty
that J propound to myself, and not an humour of
declaiming any man's praises. Observe then the
speech he used of Diogenes, and see if it tend not to
the true estate of one of the greatest questions of moral
philosophy : whether the enjoying of outward things,
or the contemning of them, be the greatest happi-
ness : for when he saw Diogenes so perfectly contented
with so little, he said to those that mocked at his
condition ; " Were I not Alexander, I would wish to
be Diogenes." But Seneca ^inverteth it, and saith ;
" Plus erat, quod hie nollet accipere, quam quod illc
l)0sset dare." " There were more things which Dio-
genes would have refused, than those were, which
Alexander could have given or enjoyed."

Observe again that speech which was usual with
him, " That he felt his mortality chiefly in two
things, sleep and lust ; " and see if it were not a
speech extracted out of the depth of natural philo-
sophy, and liker to have come out of the mouth of
Aristotle, or Democritus, than from Alexander.

See again that speech of humanity and poesy; when
upon the bleeding of his wounds, he called unto him
one of his flatterers, that was wont to ascribe to him
divine honour, and said, " Look, this is very blood ; this
is not such liquor as Homer speaketh of, which ran from
Venus's hand, when it was j)icrccd by Diomedes."

See likewise his readiness m reprehension of logic,
in the speech he used to Cassander, upon a complaint
that was made against his father Antipater : for when
Alexander happened to say, " Do you think these men
would have come from so far to complain, except they
had just cause of grief?" And ('assander answered,
" Yea, that was the matter, because they thought


they should not be disproved." Said AleXcandcr
laughing : " See tlie subtilties of Aristotle, to take a
matter both ways, pro et contra^^ etc.

But note again how well he could use the same art,
which he reprehended, to serve his own humour, when
beaiing a secret grudge to Callisthenes, because he was
against the new ceremony of his adoration : feasting
one night, where the same Callisthenes was at the
table, it was moved by some, after supper, for entertain-
ment sake, that Callisthenes, who was an eloquent man,
might speak of some theme or purpose at his own
clioice : which Callisthenes did ; choosing the praise
of the ISIacedonian nation for his discourse, and per-
forming the same with so good manner, as the hearers
were much ravished : whereupon Alexander, nothing
pleased, said, "It was easy to be eloquent upon so
good a subject. " But," saith he, " turn your stile,
and let us hear what you can say against us : " which
Callisthenes presently undertook, and did with that
sting and life, that Alexander interrupted him, and
said, " The goodness of the cause made him eloquent
before, and despite made him eloquent then again."

Consider farther, for tropes of rhetoric, that excel-
lent use of a metaphor or translation, wherewith he
taxed Antipater, who was an imperious and tyrannous
governor : for when one of Antipater's friends com-
mended him to Alexander for his moderation, that he
did not degenerate, as his other lieutenants did, into
the Persian pride in use of purple, but kept the ancient
habit of Macedon, of black : " True," saith Alexander,
" but Antipater is all purple within." Or that other,
when Parmenio came to him in the plain of Arbela,
and shewed him the innumerable multitude of his
enemies, especially as they appeared by the infinite
number of lights, as it had been a new firmament of
stars, and thereupon advised him to assail them by
night : whereupon he answered, " That he would not
steal the victory."

For matter of policy, weigh that significant dis-
tinction, so much in all ages embraced, that he made
between his two friends, Hephaestion and Craterus,

E 2


when he said, '* That the one loved Alexander, and
the other loved the king : " describing the principal
difference of princes best servants, that some in affec-
tion love their person, and others in duty love their

Weigh also that excellent taxation of an error ordi-
nary with counsellors and princes, that they counsel their
masters according to the model of their own mind and
fortune, and not of their masters ; when, upon Da-
rius's great offers, Parmenio had said, " Surely I would
accept these offers, were I as Alexander ; " saith
Alexander, " So would I, were I as Parmenio."

Lastly, weigh that quick and acute reply, which he
made when he gave so large gifts to his friends and
servants, and was asked what he did reserve for him-
self, and he answered, " Hope : " weigh, I say, whether
he had not cast up his account right, because hope
must be the portion of all that resolve upon great
enterprises. For this was Caesar's portion when he
went first into Gaul, his estate being then utterly over-
thrown wih largesses. And this was likewise the por-
tion of that noble prince, howsoever transported with
ambition, Henry duke of Guise, of whom it was usually
said, that he was the greatest usurer in France, because
he had turned all his estate into obligations.

To conclude therefore : as certain critics are used
to say hyperbolically, " That if all sciences were lost,
they might be found in Virgil ; " so certainly this
may be said truly, there are the prints and footsteps of
all learning in those few speeches which are reported
of this prince : the admiration of whom, when I con-
sider him not as Alexander the great, but as Aristotle's
scholar, hath carried me too far.
^\ T As for Julius Caesar, the excellency of his learning

needeth not to be argued from his education, or his
company, or his speeches ; but in a farther degree doth
declare itself in his writings and works ; wliereof some
are extant and permanent, and some unfortunately
perished. For, first, we see, there is left unto us that
excellent history of his own wars, which he intitled
only a coniinentary, wlierein all succeeding times have


admired the solid weight of matter, and the real pas-
sages, and lively images of actions and persons, ex-
pressed in the greatest propriety of words and perspi-
cuity of narration that ever was ; which that it was not
the effect of a natural gift, but of learning and precept,
is well witnessed by that work of his, intitled " De
Analogia," being a grammatical philosophy, wherein
he did labour to make this same vo,v ad placitum to
become vox ad liciftwi, and to reduce custom of speech
to congruity of speech ; and took, as it were, the pic-
ture of words from the life of reason.

So we receive from him, as a monument both of his
power and learning, the then reformed computation of
the year; well expressing that he took it to be as great
a glory to himself to observe and know the law of the
heavens, as to give law to men upon the earth.

So likewise in that book of his, " Anti-Cato," it
may easily appear that he did aspire as well to victory
of wit as victory of war; undertaking therein a con-
flict against the greatest champion with the pen that
then lived, Cicero the orator.

So again in his book of " Apophthegms," which he
collected, we see that he esteemed it more honour to
make himself but a pair of tables, to take the wise and
pithy words of others, than to have every word of his
own to be made an apophthegm, or an oracle; as
vain princes, by custom of flattery, pretend to do.
And yet if I should enumerate divers of his speeches,
as I did those of Alexander, they are truly such as
Solomon noteth, when he saith, " Verba sapientuni
tanquam aculei, et tanquam clavi in altum defixi : "
whereof I will only recite three, not so delectable for
elegancy, but admirable for vigour and efficacy.

As first, it is reason he be thought a master of words,
that could with one word appease a mutiny in his
army, which was thus : The Romans, when their ge-
nerals did speak to their army, did use the word
AJilites, but when the magistrates spake to the people,
they did use the word Quiritcs. The soldiers were in
tumult, and seditiously prayed to be cashiered ; not
that they so meant, but by expostulation thereof to


draw Caesar to other conditions ; wherein he being re-
sokite not to give way, after some silence, he began his
speech, " Ego, Quirites:" which did admit them ah-eady
cashiered : wherewith they were so surprised, crossed,
and confused, as they would not suffer him to go on in
his speech, but relinquished their demands, and made

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 52)