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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thers in great indignation call poesy vinum dcemunum,
because it increaseth temptations, pertiu-bations, and

VOL. 1. N


vain opinions ? Is not the opinion of Aristotle wor-
thy to be regarded, wherein he saith, " That young
men are no fit auditors of moral philosophy, because
they are not settled from the boiling heat of their af-
fections, nor attempered with time and experience?"
And doth it not hereof come, that those excellent
books and discourses of the ancient writers, whereby
they have persuaded unto virtue most effectually, by
representing her in state and majesty ; and popular
opinions against virtue in their parasites coats, fit to
be scorned and derided, are of so little effect towards
honesty of life, because they are not read, and revolv-
ed by men in their mature and settled years, but con-
fined almost to boys and beginners ? But is it not
true also, that much less young men are fit auditors of
matters of policy, till they have been tlioroughly sea-
soned in religion and morality, lest their judgments
be corrupted, and made apt to think that there are no
true differences of things, but according to utility and
fortune, as the verse describes it ?

Prosperum et felix scehis virtus vocatur.
And again,

lUe crucem pretium sceleris tulit, hie diadema :
which the poets do speak satirically, and in indigna-
tion on virtue's behalf: but books of policy do speak
it seriously and positively ; for it so pleaseth Machiavel
to say, " that if Caesar had been overthrown, he would
have been more odious than ever was Catiline : " as if
there had been no difference, but in fortune, between
a very fury of lust and blood, and the most excellent
spirit, his ambition reserved, of the world ? Again, is
there not a caution likewise to be given of the doc-
trines of moralities themselves, some kinds of them,
lest they make men too precise, arrogant, incompati-
ble, as Cicero saith of Cato in Marco Catone : " Haec
bona, quae videmus, divina et egrcgia, ipsius scitote esse
propria : qua? nonnunquam requirimus, ca sunt omnia
non a natura, sed a magistro ? " Many other axioms
and advices there are touching those proprieties and
effects, which studies do infuse and instil into manners.
And so likewise is there touching the use of all those


other points, of company, fame, laws, and the rest,
which we recited in the beginning in the doctrine of

But there is a kind of culture of the mind that
seemeth yet more accurate and elaborate than the
rest, and is built upon this ground : that the minds of
all men are sometimes in a state more perfect, and
at other times in a state more depraved. The purpose
therefore of this practice is, to fix and cherish the gooci
hours of the mind, and to obliterate and take forth
the^evil. The fixing of the good hath been practised
by two means, vows or constant resolutions, and obser-
vances or exercises ; which are not to be regarded so
much in themselves, as because they keep the mind
in continual obedience. The obliteration of the evil
hath been practised by two means, some kind of re-
demption or expiation of that which is past, and an
inception or account de?iovo, for the time to come: but
this part seemeth sacred and religious, and justly ; for
all good moral philosophy, as was said, is but an hand-
maid.JtP religipn.

Wherefore we will conclude with that last point,
which is of all other means the most compendious and
summary ; and, again, the most noble and effectual to
the reducing of the mind unto virtue and good estate ;
which is, the electing and propounding unto a man's
self good and virtuous ends of his life, such as may be
in a reasonable sort within his compass to attain. For
if thesetwo things be supposed, that a man set before
him Eonesf and good ends, and again that he be reso-
lute, constant, and true unto them ; it will follow,
that he shall mould himself into all virtue at once.
And this is indeed like the work of nature, w^hereas
the other course is like the work of the hand : for as
when a carver makes an image, he shapes only that
part whereupon heworketh, as if he be upon the face,
that part which shall be the body is but a rude stone
still, till such time as he comes to it: but, contrariw'ise,
when nature makes a flower or living creature, she
formeth rudiments of all the parts at one time : so in
obtaining virtue by habit, while a man practiseth tem-

N 2



perance, he doth not profit much to fortitude, nor the
like ; but when he dedicateth and appheth himself
to good ends, look, what virtue soever the pursuit and
passage towards those ends doth commend unto him,
he is invested of a precedent disposition to conform
himself thereunto. Which state of mind Aristotle
doth excellently express himself, that it ought not to
^ \^ ^ be called virtuous but divine : his words are these ;
y/ } S" " Immanitati autem consentaneum est, opponere earn,
.f^^/ quae supra humanitatem est, heroicam sive divinam

« virtutem." And a little after, " Nam ut ferae neque

vitium neque virtus est, sic neque Dei. Sed hie
r v V quidem status altius quiddam virtute est, ille aliud

J Y- ^^' quiddam a vitio." And therefore we may see what
celsitude of honour Plinius Secundus attributeth to
Trajan in his funeral oration ; where he said, " that
men needed make no other prayers to the gods, but
that they would continue as good lords to them as
Trajan had been ; " as if he had not been only an imi-
^^ tation of divine nature, but a pattern of it. But these

be heathen and profane passages, having but a shadow
of that divine state of mind, which religion and the holy
faith doth conduct men unto, by imprinting upon their
souls charity, which is excellently called the bond of
perfection, because it comprehendeth and fasteneth all
virtues together. And as it is elegantly said by Me-
nander, of vain love, which is but a false imitation of
divine love, " Amor melior sophista laevo ad huma-
nam vitam," that love teacheth a man to carry himself
better than the sophist or preceptor, which he calleth
left-handed, because, with all his rules and preceptions,
he cannot form a man so dexterously, nor with that
facility, to prize himself, and govern himself, as love
can do : So certainly if a man's mind be truly inflamed
with charity, it dotli work him suddenly into greater
perfection than all the doctrine of morality can do,
which is but a sophist in comparison of the other. Nay
farther, as Xenophon observed truly, that all other
affections, though they raise the mind, yet they doit
by distorting and uncomcliness of ecstasies or excesses ;
but only love doth exalt the mind, and nevertheless at


the same instant doth settle and compose it : so in all
other excellencies, though they advance nature, yet
they are subject to excess. Only charity admitteth
no excess ; for so wc see by aspiring to be like God in
power the angels transgressed and fell ; " Ascendam,
et ero similis Altissimo ;" by aspiring to be like God
in knowledge, man transgressed and fell ; " Eritis
sicut i)ii, scientes bonum et malum :" but by aspiring
to a similitude of God in goodness, or love, neither
man nor angel ever transgressed, or shall transgress.
For unto that imitation we are called ; " Diligite
inimicos vestros, benefacite eis qui oderunt vos, et
orate pro persequentibus et calumniautibus vos, ut
sitis filii Patris vestri, qui in coelis est, qui solem suum
oriri facit super bonos et males, et pluit super justos
et injustos." 80 in the first platform of the divine
nature itself, the heathen religion speaketh thus,
" Optimus Maximus;" and the sacred Scriptures thus,
" Misericordia ejus super omnia opera ejus."

Wherefore I do conclude this part of moral know-
ledge, concerning the culture and regiment of the mind;
wherein if any man, considering the parts thereof, which
I have enumerated, do judge that my labour is but to
collect into an art or science, that which hath been
pretermitted by others, as matters of common sense
and experience, he judgeth well : but as Philocrates
sported with Demosthenes, "You may not marvel, Athe-
nians, that Demosthenes and I do differ, for he drinketh
water, and I drink wine." And like as we read of an
ancient parable of the two gates of sleep.

Sunt geminae somni portae, quarum altera fertur
Cornea, qua veris facilis datur exitus utnbris:
Altera candenti perfecta nitens elephanto,
Sed falsa ad ccelum mittunt insomnia manes :

So if we put on sobriety and attention, we shall find it
a sure maxim in knowledge, that the more pleasant
liquor, of wine, is the more vaporous, and the braver
gate of ivory sendeth forth the falser dreams.

But we have now concluded that general part of
human philosophy, which con tcmplateth man segregate,
and as he consisteth of body and spirit. Wherein we


may farther note, that there seemeth to be a relation
or conformity between the good of the mind and the
good of the body. For as we divided the good of the
body into health, beanty, strength, and pleasure ; so
the good of the mind, inquired in rational and moral
knowledges, tendeth to this, to make the mind sound
and without perturbation ; beautiful and graced with
decency ; and strong and agile for all duties of life.
These three, as in the body, so in the mind, seldom
meet, and commonly sever. For it is easy to observe,
/ that many have strength of wit and covu'age, but have

neither health from perturbations, nor any beauty or
decency in their doings : some again have an elegancy
and fineness of carriage, which have neither sound-
ness of honesty, nor substance of sufficiency: and some
again have honest and reformed minds, that can nei-
( ther become themselves nor manage business. And
sometimes two of them meet, and rarely all three.
As for pleasure, we have likewise determined, that the
mind ought not to be reduced to stupid, but to retain
• > pleasvn*e ; confined rather in the subject of it, than in
the strength and vigour of it.

•^ 'Civi l Knowledge i s conversant about a subject
which of all others is most immersed in matter, and
hardlicst reduced to axiom. Nevertheless, as Cato
the Censor said, " that the Romans were like sheep,
for that a man might better drive a flock of them, than
one of them ; for in a flock, if you could get but
some few go right, the rest would follow:" so in that
respect moral philosophy is more difficile than policy.
Again, moral philosophy propoundeth to itself the
framing of internal goodness; but^ civil knowledge
requircth only an external goodness ; for that as Jo
society sufficcth. And therefore it cometh oft to pass
that there be evil times in good governments : for so
we find in the holy story, when the kings were good ;
yet it is added, " Sed adhuc populus non direxerat cor
suum ad Dominum Deum patrum suorum." Again,
states, as great engines, move slowly, and arc not so
soon put out of frame : for as in Egypt the seven


good years sustained the seven bad ; so governments
for a time well grounded, do bear out errors following.
But the resolution of particular persons is more sud-
denly subverted. These respects do somewhat qualify
the extreme difficulty of civil knowledge.

This k nowledg e hath three parts, according to the
three summary actions of sociely7wliJ£lLA^Qa Con ver- , ..

sation,JS[egQjtiatioii, and Government. -For man seek- '^

eth in society comfort, use, and protection : and they
be three wisdoms of divers natures, which do often
sever ; wisdom of beha\dour, wisdom of business, and
wisdom of state.

The wisdom of conve rsation ought not to be , oj'er
much affected, but much less despised : for it hath not
onlyTnriiTJTrSufin itself, but an influence also into
business and government. The poet saith, " Nee vultu
destrue verba tuo." A man may destroy the force of
his words with his countenance: so may he of his deeds,
saith Cicero, recommending to his brother affability
and easy access, " Nil interest habere ostium apertum,
vultum clausum." It is nothing won to admit men
with an open door, and to receive them mth a shut
and reserved countenance. So, we see, Atticus, be-
fore the first interview between Caesar and Cicero, the
war depending, did seriously advise Cicero touching
the composing and ordering of his countenance and
gesture. And if the government of the countenance
be of such effect, much more is that of the speech, and
other carriage appertaining to conversation ; the true
model whereof seemeth to me well expressed by Livy,
though not meant for this purpose ; " Ne aut arro-
gans videar, aut obnoxius ; quorum alterum est alienae
libertatis obliti, alterum suae : " " The sum of beha-
viour is to retain a man's own dignity, mthout intruding
upon the liberty of others." On the other side, if be-
haviour and outward carriage be intended too much,
first it may pass into affectation, and then " Quid de-
formius quam scenam in vitam transferre," to act a
man's life ? But although it proceed not to that ex-
treme, yet it consumeth time, and employeth the mind
too much. And therefore as we use to advise young


students from company keeping, by saying, ** Amici,
fares temporis ; " so certainly the intending of the
discretion of behaviour is a great thief of medi-
tation. Again, such as are accomplished in that
form of urbanity, please themselves in it, and sel-
dom aspire to higher virtue ; whereas those that
have defect in it, do seek comeliness by reputation ;
for where reputation is, almost every thing becometh ;
but where that is not, it must be supplied by puntos
and compliments. Again, there is no greater impe-
diment of action, than an over-curious observance of
decency, and the guide of decency, which is time and
season. For as Solomon saith, " Qui respicit ad ven-
tos, non seminat ; et qui respicit ad nubes, non metet : "
a man must make his opportunity as oft as find it. To
conclude ; behaviour seemeth to me as a garment of
t]ie_mind, and to have the conditions of a garment.
For it ought to be made in fashion ; it ought not to
be too curious ; it ought to be shaped so as to set forth
any good making of the mind, and hide any deformity ;
and above all, it ought not to be too strait, or restrained
for exercise or motion. But this part of civil know-
ledge hath been elegantly handled, and therefore I can-
not report it for deficient.
De nego- ~ The wisdom touching Negotiation or Business hath
rendis. "ot beeu hitherto collected into writing, to the great
derogation of learning, and the professors of learning.
For from this root springeth chiefly that note or opinion,
which by us is expressed in adage to this effect ; that
there is no great concurrence between learning and
wisdom. For of the three wisdoms which we have set
down to pertain to civil life, for wisdom of behaviour,
it is by learned men for the most part despised, as an
inferior to virtue, and an enemy to meditation ; for
wisdom of government, they acquit themselves well
when they are called to it, but that happeneth to few:
but for the wisdom of business, wherein man's life is
most conversant, there be no books of it, except some
few scattered advertisements, that have no proportion
to the magnitude of this subject. For if books were
written of this, as the other, I doubt not but learned
men, witli mean experience, would far excel men of


long experience, without learning, and outshoot them
in their own bow.

Neither needeth it at all to be doubted, that this
knowledge should be so variable, as it fallcth not un-
der precept ; for it is much less infinite than science
of government, which, we see, is laboured, and in some
part reduced. Of this wisdom, it seemeth, some of
the ancient Romans, in the saddest and wisest times,
were professors ; for Cicero reporteth, that it was then
in use for senators that had name and opinion for ge-
neral wise men, as Coruncunius, Curius, Laelius, and
many others, to walk at certain hours in the place, and
to give audience to those that would use their advice ;
and that the particular citizens would resortuuto them,
and consult with them of the marriage of a daughter,
or of the employing of a son, or of a purchase or bar-
gain, or of an accusation, and every other occasion inci-
dent to man's life. So as there is a wisdom of counsel
and advice even in private cases, arising out of an
universal insight into the affairs of the world ; which
is used indeed upon particular cases propounded, but
is gathered by general observation of cases of like na-
ture. For so we see in the book which Q. Cicero
writeth to his brother, " De petitione consulatus,**
being the only book of business, that I know, written
by the ancients, although it concerned a particular
action then on foot, yet the substance thereof consist-
eth of many wise and politic axioms, which contain not
a temporary, but a perpetual direction in the case of
po])ular elections. But chiefly we may see in those
aphorisms which have place amongst divine writings,
composed by Solomon the king, of whom the Scrip-
tm'cs testify, that his heart was as the sands of the
sea, encompassing the world and all worldly matters:
wc see, I say, not a few profound and excellent cautions,
precepts, positions, extending to much variety of occa-
sions ; whereupon we will stay a while, offering to con-
sideration some number of examples.

Sed el cunctis sermonibus, qui dicuntur, ne accoinniodes
aurem tuam, ne forte audias servum tuum maledicentem


Here is recommended the provident stay of inquiry
of that ^vhich we would be loath to find : as it was
judged great wisdom in Pompeius Magnus that he
burned Sertorius's papers unperused.

Vir sapiens, si cum stulto contenderit, sive irascatur, sive
rideat, non inveniet requiem.

Here is described the great disadvantage which a
wise man hath in undertaking a lighter person than
himself, which is such an engagement, as whether a
man turn the matter to jest, or turn it to heat, or how-
soever he change copy, he can no ways quit himself well
of it.

Qui delicate a pueritia nutrit servum suum, postea sentiet
eum contumacem.

Here is signified, that if a man begin too high a
pitch in his favours, it doth commonly end in unkind-
ness and unthankfulness.

Vidisti virum velocem in opere sue, coram regibus stabit,
nee erit inter ignobiles.

Here is observed, that of all virtues for rising to ho-
nour, quickness of dispatch is the best ; for superiors
many times love not to have those they employ too
deep or too sufficient, but ready and diligent.

Vidi cunctos viventes, qui ambulant sub sole, cum adoles-
cente secundo, qui consurgit pro eo.

Here is expressed that which was noted by Sylla
first, and after him by Tiberius ; "Plures adorant so-
lem orientem, quam occidentem vel meridianum."

Si spiritus potestatem habentis ascenderit super te, locum
tuum ne dimiseris, quia curatio faciet cessare peccata

Here caution is given, that upon displeasure, retiring
is of all courses the unfittcst ; for a man leaveth things
at worst, and depriveth himself of means to make them

Erat civitas parva, et pauci in ea viri ; venit contra earn rex
magnus, ct vadavit eam, instruxitquc munitiones per gy-
rum, et pcrfecta est obsidio; invcntusque est in ea vir
pauper ct sapiens, et liberavit eam per sapientiam suam,
ct nullus deinceps recordatus est hominis illius pauperis.


Here the corruption of states is set forth, that esteem
not virtue or merit longer than they have use of it.
Mollis responsio frangit iram.

Here is noted, that silence or rough answer exas-
peratcth ; hut an answer present and temperate pa-
cific th.

Iter pigroruni, quasi sepes spinarum.
Here is lively represented how laborious sloth
provcth in the end ; for when tilings are deferred to the
last instant, and nothing jjrcparcd beforehand, every
step findcth a brier or an impediment, which catcheth
or stoppcth.

MeHor est finis orationis, quani principium.
Here is taxed the vanity of formal speakers, that
study more about prefaces and inducements, than
upon the conclusions and issues of speech.

Qui cognoscit in judicio facieni, non bene facit; iste et pro
buccella panis deseret veritatem.

Here is noted, that a judge were better be a briber,
than a respecter of persons ; for a corrupt judge offend-
eth not so lightly as a facile.

Vir pauper calumnians pauperes, similis est imbri vehe-
nienti, in quo paratur fames.

Here is expressed the extremity of necessitous ex-
tortions, figured in the ancient fable of the full and
the hungry horse-leech.

Fens turbatus pede, et vena corrupta, est Justus cadens co-
ram impio.

Here is noted, that one judicial and exemplar ini-
quity in the face of the world, doth trouble the foun-
tains of justice more than many particvdar injuries
passed over by connivance.

Qui subtrahit aliquid a patre et a raatre, et dicit hoc non
esse peccatum, particeps est homicidii.

Here is noted, that whereas men in wronging their
best friends, use to extenuate their fault, as if they
might presume or be bold upon them, it doth contrari-
wise indeed aggravate their tault, and turneth it from
injury to impiety.


Noli esse amicus homini iracundo, nee ambulato cum ho-
mine furioso.

Here caution is given, that in the election of our
friends we do principally avoid those which are im-
patient, as those that will espouse us to many factions
and quarrels.

Qui conturbat domum suam, possidebit ventum.
Here is noted, that in domestical separations and
breaches men do promise to themselves quieting of
their mind and contentment, but still they are de-
ceived of their expectation, and it turneth to wind.

Filius sapiens laetificat patrem : filius vero stultus moestitia
est matri suae.

Here is distinguished, that fathers have most com-
fort of the good proof of their sons ; but mothers have
most discomfort of their ill proof, because women have
little discerning of virtue, but of fortune.

Qui celat delictum, quaerit amicitiam ; sed qui altero ser-
mone repetit, separat foetieratos.

Here caution is given, that reconcilement is better
managed by an amnesty, and passing over that which
is past, than by apologies and excusations.

In omni opere bono erit abundantia ; ubi autem verba sunt
plurima, ibi frequenter egestas.

Here is noted, that words and discourse abound
most, where there is idleness and want.

Primus in sua causa Justus; sed venit altera pars, et inqui-
rit in eum.

Here is observed that in all causes the first tale
possesseth much, in such sort, that the prejudice
thereby wrought will be hardly removed, except some
abuse or falsity in the information be detected.

Verba bilinguis quasi simplicia, et ipsa perveniunt ad inte-
riora ventris.

Here is distinguished, that flattery and insinuation,
which seemeth set and artificial, sinketh not far ; but
that entereth deep which hath show of nature, liberty,
and simplicity.
Qui crudit derisorem, ipse sibi injuriam facit; et qui arguit

mpium, sibi maculam gcnerat.


Here caution is given how we tender reprehension
to arrogant and scornful natures, whose manner is to
esteem it for contumely, and accordingly to return it.

Da sapienti occasionem, et addetur ci sapientia.
Here is distinguished the wisdom brought into ha-
bit, and that which is but verbal, and swimming only
in conceit ; for the one upon the occasion presented
is quickened and redoubled, the other is amazed and

Quomodo in aquis resplendent vultus prospicientium, sic

corda hominum manifesta sunt prudentibus. ^.

Here the mind of a wise man is compared to a
glass, wherein the images of all diversity of natures
and customs are represented, from which representa-
tion proceedeth that appHcation,

Qui sapit, innumeris moribus aptus erit.

Thus have I staid somewhat longer upon these sen-
tences politic of Solomon than is agreeable to the pro-
portion of an example, led with a desire to give au-
thority to this part of knowledge, which I noted as de-
ficient, by so excellent a precedent ; and have also
attended them with brief observations, such as to my
understanding offer no violence to the sense, though I
know they may be applied to a more divine use : but

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 24 of 52)