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 second likewise I may report ratlicr dispersed,
than deficient ; wliich manner of dispersed writing in
this kind of argument I acknowledge to be best : for


who can take upon him to write of the proper duty,
virtue, challenge, and right of every several vocation,
profession, and place? For although sometimes a looker
on may see more than a gamester, and there be a pro-
verb more arrogant than sound, " That the vale best
discovereth the hills ; " yet there is small doubt but
that men can write best, and most really and materially
in their own professions ; and that the writing of spe-
culative men of active matter, for the most part, doth
seem to men of ex})erience, as Phormio's argument of
the wars seemed to Hannibal, to be but dreams and
dotage. Only there is one vice which accompanieth
them that v/rite in their own professions, that they
magnify them in excess ; but generally it were to be
wished, as that which would make learning indeed
solid and fruitful, that active men would or could be-
come writers.

In which I cannot but mention, honoris causa, your
majesty's excellent book touching the duty of a king, a
work richly compounded of divinity, morality, and po-
licy, with great aspersion of all other arts ; and being
in mine opinion one of the most sound and healthful
writings that I have read, not distempered in the heat
of invention, nor in the coldness of negligence ; not
sick of business, as those are who lose themselves in
their order, nor of convulsions, as those which cramp
in matters impertinent ; not savouring of perfumes
and paintings, as those do who seek to please the reader
more than nature beareth ; and chiefly well disposed
in the spirits thereof, being agreeable to truth and apt
for action, and far removed from that natural infirmity
whereunto I noted those that write in their own pro-
fessions to be subject, wbich is, that they exalt it above
measure : for your majesty hath truly described, not a
king of Assyria, or Persia, in their extern glory, but
a Moses, or a David, pastors of their people. Neither
can I ever lose out of my remembrance, what I heard
your majesty in the same sacred spirit of government
deliver in a great cause of judicature, which was, " That
kings ruled by their laws as God did by the laws of na-
ture, and ought as rarely to put in use their supreme


prerogative, as God doth his power of working mira-
cles." And yet notwithstanding, in your book of a
free monarchy, you do well give men to understand,
that you know the plenitude of the power and right
of a king, as well as the circle of his office and duty.
Thus have I presumed to alledge this excellent writing
of your majesty, as aprime or eminent example of Trac-
tates concerning special and respective duties, wherein
I should have said as much if it had been written a
thousand years since : neither am I moved with cer-
tain courtly decencies, which esteem it flattery to praise
in presence ; no, it is flattery to praise in absence, that
is, when either the virtue is absent, or the occasion is
absent, and so the praise is not natural but forced, either
in truth or in time. But let Cicero be read in his ora-
tion pro Marcdlo, which is nothing but an excellent
table of Csesar's virtue, and made to his face ; besides
the example of many other excellent persons wiser a
great deal than such observers, and we will never doubt,
upon a full occasion, to give just praises to present or

But to return, there belongeth farther to the handling
of this part, touching the duties of professions and vo-
cations, a relative or opposite touching the frauds, cau-
tels, impostures, and vices of every profession, which
hath been likewise handled. But how? Rather in
a satire and cynically, than seriously and wisely ; for
men have rather sought by wit to deride and traduce
much of that which is good in professions, than witli
judgment to discover and sever that which is corrupt.
For, as Solomon saith, he that cometh to seek after
knowledge with a mind to scorn and censure, shall be
sure to find matter for his humour, but no matter for
his instruction : " Quaerenti derisori scicntiam, ipsasc
abscondit : sed studioso fit obviam." But the ma-
Dc cauuiis naging of this argument witli integrity and truth,
!!.;k?.'."* which I note as deficient, scemeth to me to be one of
the best fortifications for honesty and virtue that can
be planted. For, as the fable goeth of the basilisk,
that if he sec you first, you die for it ; but if you see
him first, he diieth : so is it with deceits and evil arts,


which, if they he first espied, lose their life ; b\it
if they prevent, they indangcr. So that we arc
much beholden to Machiavel and others, that write
what men do, and not what they ought to do : for it
is not possible to joiii serpentine wisdom with the co-
lumbine innocency, except men know exactly all the
conditions of the ser})cnt ; his baseness and going upon
his belly, his volubility and lubricity, his envy and
sting, and the rest ; that is, all forms and natures of
evil : for without this, virtue lieth open and unfenced.
Nay, an honest man can do no good upon those that
are wicked, to reclaim them, without the help of the
knowledge of evil : for men of corrupted minds pre-
suppose that honesty groweth out of simplicity of man-
ners, and believing of preachers, schoolmasters, and
mens exterior language. So as, except you can make
them perceive that you know the utmost reaches of
their own corrupt opinions, they despise all morality ;
" Non recipit stultus verba prudential, nisi ea dixeris,
qua} versantur in corde ejus."

Unto this part touching respective duty doth also
appertain the duties between husband and wife, parent
and child, master and servant : so likewise the laws of
friendship and gratitude, the civil bond of companies,
colleges, and politic bodies, of neighbourhood, and all
other proportionaie duties ; not as they are parts of
government and society, but as to the framing of the
mind of particular persons.

The knowledge concerning good respecting society
doth handle it also not simply alone, but comparatively,
whereunto belongcth the weighing of duties between
person and person, case and case, particular and pub-
lic : as we see in tlie proceeding of Lucius Brutus
against his own sons, which was so much extolled ;
yet what was said ?

Infelix, utcunque ferent oa t'nta niinores.

So the case was doubtful, and had opinion on both sides.
Again, we see when iM. Brutus and Cassius invited to a
supper cercaiu whose opinions they meant to feel, whe-
ther they were fit to be made their associates, and cast


forth the question touching the kilhng of a tyrant be-
ing an usurper, they were divided in opinion, some
holding that servitude was the extreme of evils, and
others that tyranny was better than a civil war ; and a
number of the like cases there are of comparative duty :
amongst which that of all others is the most frequent,
where the question is of a great deal of good to ensue
of a small injustice, which Jason of Thessalia deter-
mined against the truth : " Aliqua sunt injuste faci-
enda, ut multa juste fieri possint." But the reply is
good, " Auctorem praesentis justitiae habes, sponsorem
futurae non habes ; " men must pursue things which
are just in present, and leave the future to the divine
providence. So then we pass on from this general part
touching the exemplar and description of good.

Now therefore that we have spoken of this Iruit of

( ' 1 life, it remaincth to speak of the husbandry. tbiit_be-
lon^eth thereunto, without whicli part the former
seemeth to be no better than a fair image, or statua,
which is beautiful to contemplate, but is without life
and motion : whereunto Aristotle himself subscribeth in

De ciiitura thcsc words, " Ncccssc cst scilicct de virtute dicere,
et quid sit, et ex quibus gignatur. Inutile enim fere
fuerit, virtutem quidem nosse, acquirendaa autem ejus
modos et vias ignorare : non enim de virtute tantum,
qua specie sit, quEerendum est, sed et quomodo sui co-
piam faciat ; utrumque enim volumus, et rem ipsam
nosse et ejus compotes fieri : hoc autem ex voto non
succedet, nisi sciamus et ex quibus et quomodo." In
such full words and with such iteration doth he incul-
cate this part : so saith Cicero in great commendation
of Cato the second, that he had applied himself to i)hi-
losophy, " non ita disputandi causa, sed ita vivendi."
And although the neglect of our times, wherein fevvmen
do hold any consultations touching the retbrmation of
their life, as Seneca excellently saith, " De partibus
vitae quisque delibcrat, de summa nemo," may make
this part seem superfluous ; yet I must conclude with
that aphorism of Hippocrates, " Qui gravi morbo cor-
repti dolorcs non sentiunt, iis mens jcgrotat ; " they
need medicine not only to assuage the disease, but to
awake the sense. And if it be said, that the cure of



mens minds belongeth to sacred divinity, it is most
true : but yet moral philosophy may be preferred mito
her as a wise servantand humble handmaid For as the
Psalm saith, that " the eyes of the handmaid look per-
petually towards the mistress," and yet no doubt many
things are left to the discretion of the handmaid, to dis-
cern of the mistress's will ; so ought moral pliilosophy
to give a constant attention to the doctrines of divinity,
and yet so as it may yield of herself, within due limits,
many sound and profitable directions.

This part therefore, because of the excellency thereof,
I cannot but iiud exceeding strange that it is not re-
duced to written inquiry, the rather because it con-
sisteth of much matter, wherein both speech and action
is often conversant, and such wherein the common talk
of men, which is rare, but yet cometh sometimes to
pass, is wiser tlian their books. It is reasonable there-
fore that we propound it in the more particularity,
both for the worthiness, and because we may acquit
ourselves for reporting it deficient, which seemetli al-
most incredible, and is otherwise conceived and pre-
supposed by those themselves that have written. We
will therefore enumerate some heads or points thereof,
that it may appear the better what it is, and whether
it be extant.

Firstj^ therefore, in this, as in all things which are
practical, we oygli t to cast up our account, what is in
our power, and what not ; for the one may be dealt
witTi by way of alteration, but the other by way of ap-
plication only. The husbandman cannot command,
neither tlie nature of the earth, nor the seasons of the
weather, no more can the physician the constitution of
the patient, nor the variety of accidents. So in the
culture and cure of the mind of man, two things are
without our coiiimand ; points of nature, and points
of fortune ; for to the basis of the one, and the condi-
tions of the other, our work is limited and tied. In
these things therefore, it is left unto us to proceed by
application ;

Vincenda est oiiinis fortuna terendo :

and so likewise,

\'ini-cucl;i obl onuu> nalura Icicndo.


But when that we speak of suffering, we do not speak
of a dull and neglected suffering, but of a wise and in-
dustrious suflfering, which draweth and contriveth use
and advantage out of that which seemeth adverse and
contrary, which is that properly which we call accom-
modating or applying. Now the wisdom of applica-
tion resteth principally in the exact and distinct know-
ledge of the precedent state or disposition, unto which
we do apply ; for we cannot fit a garment, except we

,^ first take measure of the body.

' I So then the first article of this knowledge is to set
I downjound and true distributions, and descriptions of
' the several characters and tempers of mens natures and
_ dispositions, specially having regard to those differ-
I ences which are most radical, in being the fountains^
and causes of the rest, or most frequent in concurrence
or commixture ; wherein it is not the handling of a
few of them in passage, the better to describe the me-
diocrities of virtues, that can satisfy this intention :
for if it deserve to be considered, " that there are
minds which are proportioned to great matters, and
others to small," which Aristotle handleth or ought to
have handled by the name of magnanimity, doth it
not deserve as well to be considered, " that there are
ndnds proportioned to intend many matters, and
others to few ? " So that some can divide themselves,
others can perchance do exactly well, but it must be
but in few things at once ; and so there cometh to be
a narrowness of mind, as well as a pusillanimity. And
again, " that some minds are proportioned to that
which may be dispatched at once, or within a short
return of time ; others to that which begins afar ofl',
and is to be won with length of pursuit,"

.Jam tuni tenditque fovetque.

I So that there may be fitly said to be a longanimity,
which is commonly ascribed to God, as a magnanimity.
So farther deserved it to be considered by Aristotle,
" that there is a disposition in conversation, supposing
it in things which do in no sort touch or concern a
man's self, to sooth and please ; and a disposition
contrary to contradict and cross:" and deserveth it



not much better to be considered, " that there is a dis-
position, not in conversation or talk, but in matter of
more serious nature, and supposing it still in things
merely indifferent, to take pleasure in the good of
another, and a disposition contrariwise, to take dis-
taste at the good of another ? " which is that properly
which we call good-nature or ill-nature, benignity or
malignity. And therefore I cannot sufficiently mar-
vel, that this part of knowledge, touching the several
characters of natures and dispositions, should be omit-
ted botli in morality and policy, considering it is of
so great ministry and suppeditation to them both. A
man shall find in the traditions of astrology some
pretty and apt divisions of mens natures, according to
the predominances of the planets ; lovers of quiet,
lovers of action, lovers of victory, lovers of honour,
lovers of pleasure, lovers of arts, lovers of change, and
so forth. A man shall find in the wisest sort of these
relations, which the Italians make touching conclaves,
the natures of the several cardinals handsomely and
lively painted forth ; a man shall meet with, in every
day*s conference, the denominations of sensitive, dry,
formal, real, humourous, certain, " huomo di prima
impression c, huomo di ultima impressione," and the
like : and yet nevertheless this kind of observations
wandereth in words, but is not fixed in inquiry. For
the distinctions are found, many of them, but we con-
clude no precepts upon them : wherein our fault is the
greater, because both history, poesy, and daily experi-
ence, are as goodly fields where these observations grow;
whereof we make a few poesies to hold in our hands,
but no man bringeth them to the confectionary, that
receipts might be made of them for the use of life.

Of much like kind are those impressions of nature,
which are imposed upon the mind by the sex, by the
age, by the region, by health and sickness, by beauty
and deformity, and the like, which are inherent, and
not extern ; and again, those which are caused by ex-
tern fortune ; as sovereignty, nobility, obscure birth,
riches, want, magistracy, privatcness, prosperity, ad-
versity, constant fortune, variable fortune, rising per



saltum, per gradus, and the like. And therefore we
see that Plautus maketh it a wonder to see an old man
beneficent, " benignitas hujus ut adolescentuli est."
St. Paul concludeth, that severity of discipline was to
be used to the Cretans, " Increpa eos dure," upon the
disposition of their country, " Cretenses semper men-
daces, malae bestiae, ventres pigri." Sallust noteth,
that it is usual with kings to desire contradictories ;
" Sed plerumque regiae vokintates, ut vehementes sunt,
sic mobiles, saepeque ipsas sibi adversae." Tacitus ob-
/ serveth how rarely raising of the fortune mendeth the
disposition, " Solus Vespasianus mutatus in melius."
Pindarus maketh an observation, that great and sud-
den fortune for the most part defeateth men, " Qui
magnam felicitatem concoquere non possunt." So the
Psalm showeth it is more easy to keep a measure in the
enjoying of fortune, than in the increase of fortune :
" Divitiae si affluant, nolite cor apponere." These
observations, and the like, I deny not but are touched
a little by Aristotle, as in passage in his Rhetorics, and
: i^^ are handled in some scattered discourses ; but they
>rc r> were never incorporate into moral philosophy to which
they do essentially appertain ; as the knowledge of the
diversity of grounds and moulds doth to agriculture,
and the knowledge of the diversity of complexions and
' constitutions doth to the physician ; except we mean

to follow the indiscretion of empirics, which minister
the same medicines to all patients.

Another article of this knowledge, is the inquiry
touching the affections; for as in mcdicining of the
body, it is in order first to know the divers complexions
and constitutions ; secondly, the diseases ; and lastly,
tlic cures ; so in medicining of the mind, after know-
ledge of the divers characters of mens natures, it fol-
lowetli, in order, to know the diseases and infirinjiies
of the mind, which arc no other than the perturba-
tions and distempers of the affections. For as tlie
ancient ])oliticians in popular estates were wont to com-
pare the people to the sea, and the orators to the winds;
because as the sea would of itself be calm and quiet,
if the winds did not move and trouble it ; so the peo-


pie would be peaceable and tractable if the seditious
orators did not set them in working and agitation : so
it may be fitly said, that the mind in the nature there-
of would be temperate and stayed, if the affections, as
winds, did not put it into tumult and perturbation.
And here again I find strange as before, that Ads-
totle should have wi'itten divers volumes of Ethics,
and never handled the affections, which is the prin-
cipal subject thereof; and yet in his Rhetorics, where
they are considered but collaterally, and in a second
degree, as they may be moved by speech, he findeth
place for them, and handleth them well for the quan-
tity ; but w^here their true place is, he pretermitteth
them. For it is not his disputations about pleasure
and pain that can satisfy this inquiry, no more than
he that should generally handle the nature of light,
can be said to handle the nature of colours ; for plea-
sure and pain are to the particular affections, as light
is to particular coloiu's. Better travels, I suppose,
had the Stoics taken in this argument, as far as I can
gather by that which we have at second hand. But
yet, it is like, it w\as after their manner, rather in
subtility of definitions, which, in a subject of this na-
ture, are but curiosities, than in active and ample de-
scriptions and observations. So likewise I find some
particular writings of an elegant nature, touching some
of the affections ; as of anger, of comfort upon adverse
accidents, of tenderness, of countenance, and other.
But the poets and writers of histories are the best
doctors of this knowledge, where we may find painted
forth witli great life, how affections are kindled and
incited ; and how pacified and refrained ; and how
again contained from act, and farther degree : how
they disclose themselves ; how they work ; how they
vary ; how they gather and fortify ; how they are in-
wrapped one within another ; and how they do fight
and encounter one witli another ; and other the like
particularities. Amongst tlie which, this last is of
special use in moral and civil matters : how, I say, to
set affection against affection, and to master one by
another, even as we use to hunt Ix'ast with beast, and


180 advaN'cement of learning. [Book II.

fly bird with bird, which otherwise percase we could
not so easily recover : upon which foundation is erect-
ed that excellent use o^ prcemium and pos7ia, whereby
civil states consist, employing the predominant affec-
tions of fear and hope, for the suppressing and brid-
ling the rest. For as in the government of states, it
is sometimes necessary to bridle one faction with ano-
ther, so it is in the government within.

Now come we to those points which are within our
own command, and have force and operation upon the
mind, to affect the will and appetite, and io. alter
manners ; wherein they ought to have handled cus-
tom, exercise, habit, education, example, imitation,
emulation, company, friends, praise, reproof, exhorta-
tion, fame, laws, books, studies : these as they have
determinate use in moralities, for from these the mind
suffereth, and of these are such receipts and regiments
compounded and described, as may serve to recover or
preserve the health and good estate of the mind, as far
as pertaineth to human medicine ; of which number we
will insist upon some one or two, as an example of the
rest, because it were too long to prosecute all; and
therefore we do resume custom and habit to speak of.

The opinion of Aristotle seemeth to me a negligent
opinion, that of those things which consist by nature,
nothing can be changed by custom; using for example,
that if a stone be thrown ten thousand times up, it
will not learn to ascend, and that by often seeing or
hearing, we do not learn to hear or see the better.
For though this principle be true in things wherein
nature is peremptory, the reason whereof we cannot
now stand to discuss, yet it is otherwise in things
wherein nature admitteth a latitude. For he might
see tbat a strait glove will come more easily on with
use ; and that a wand will by use bend otlierwise tlian
it grew ; and that by use of the voice we speak louder
and stronger ; and that by use of enduring heat or
cold, we endure it the better, and the like : which lat-
ter sort have a nearer resemblance unto that subject
of manners hehandleth, than those instances which he
alledgeth. But allowing his conclusion, th at virt ues


and vices consist in habit, he ought so much the more
to TiaSOaught the manner of superinducing that ha-
bit : for there be many precepts of the wise ordering
the exercises of the mind, as there is of ordering the
exercises of the body, whereof we will recite a few.

Tlie,firjS.t_shall be, that we beware we take not at
the firsL-either too high a strain, or too weak : for if
too high in a diffident nature you discourage ; in a con-
fident nature you breed an opinion of facility, and so
a sloth : and in all natures you breed a farther expec-
tation than can hold out, and so an insatisfaction in
the end : if too weak of the other side, you may not
look to j)erform and overcome any great task.

Another precept is, to practise all things chiefly at
two several times, the one when the mind is best dis-
posed, the other when it is worst disposed ; that by the
one you may give a great step, by the other you may
work out the knots and stonds of the mind, and make
the middle times the more easy and pleasant.

Another precept is that which Aristotle mentioneth
by the way, which is, to bear ever towards the con-
trary extreme of that where unto we are by nature in-
clined : like unto the rowing against the stream, or
making a wand straight, by binding him contrary to
his natural crookedness.

Another precept is, that the mind is brought to any
thing better, and with more sweetness and happiness,
if that whereunto you pretend be not first in the in-
tention, but tanquam a/iud agefido, because of the natu-
ral hatred of the mind against necessity and constraint.
Many other axioms there are touching the managing
of exercise and custom ; which being so conducted, doth
prove indeed another nature ; but being governed by
chance, doth commonly prove but an ape of nature, and
bringetli forth that which is lame and counterfeit.

So if we should handle books aiid studies, and what
influence and operation they have upon manners, are
there not divers precepts of great caution and direc-
tion appertaining thereunto ? Did not one of the fa-

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 52)