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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governors have lived in the same ages. Neither can
it otherwise be : for as, in man, tlie ripeness of the
strength of body and mind cometli mucli about an age,


save that tlic strciigtli of the body comctli somewhat
the more early; so, in states, arms and leaniing, where-
of the one correspoudeth to the body, the other to the
soul of man, have a concurrence or near sequence in

And for matter of policy and government, that
learning should rather liurt, tlian enable thereunto,
is a thing very im})robable : we see it is accounted
an error to commit a natural body to empiric physi-
cians, which commonly have a few pleasing receipts,
whereupon tliey are confident and adventurous, but
know neither the causes of diseases, nor the com-
plexions of patients, nor peril of accidents, nor the
true method of cures : we see it is a like error to rely
upon advocates or lawyers, which are only men of
practice, and not grounded in their books, who arc
many times easily surprised, when matter falleth out
besides tlicir experience, to the jH'ejudice of the causes
they handle : so, by like reason, it cannot be but a
matter of doubtful con segueu ce> if states be maji^ed
by empnic statesmen, not well mingled with njen
r^'^lllJjJi^'U"'^'^ But contrari\vise, it is almost
without instance contradictory, that ever any goveni-
meut was disastrous that was in the hands of learned
governors. For howsoever it hath been ordinary with
])olitic men to extenuate and disable learned men by
the names of pedants ; yet in the records of time it
appeareth, in many particulars, that the governments
of princes in minority (notwithstanding the infinite
disadvantage of that kind of state) have nevertheless
excelled the government of princes of mature age,
even for that reason which they seek to traduce,
which is, that by that occasion the state hath been
in the hands of pedants : for so was the state of
Rome for the first five years, which are so much mag-
nified, during the minority of Nero, in the hands of
Seneca, a pedant : so it was again for ten years space
or more during the minority of Gordianus the younger,
witli great applause and contentation in the hands of
Misitheus, a pedant : so was it before that, in the
minority of Alexander Severus, in like happiness, in


hands not much unhke, by reason of the rule of the
women, who were aided by the teachers and precep-
tors. Nay, let a man look into the government of
the bishops of Rome, as by name, into the government
of Pius Quintus, and Sextus Quintus, in our times,
who were both at their entrance esteemed but as
pedautical friars, and he shall find that such popes do
greater things, and proceed upon truer principles of
state, than those which have ascended to the papacy
from an education and breeding in affairs of state and
courts of princes ; for although men bred in learning
are perhaps to seek in points of convenience, and ac-
commodating for the present, wliich the Italians call
ragioni di stato, whereof the same Pius Quintus could
not hear spoken with patience, terming them inven-
tions against religion and the moral virtues ; yet on
the other side, to recompense that, they are perfect
in those same plain grounds of religion, justice, ho-
nour, and moral virtue, which if tliey be well and
watchfully pursued, there will be seldom use of those
other, no more than of physic in a sound or well-
dieted body. Neither can the experience of one
man's life furnish examples and precedents for the
events of one man's life : for as it happeneth some-
times that the grandchild, or other descendent, re-
sembleth the ancestor, more than the son ; so many
times occurrences of present times may sort better
with ancient examples, than with those of the later
or immediate times : and lastly, the wit of one man
can no more countervail learning, than one man's
means can hold way with a common purse.

And as for those particular seduccments, or indis-
positions of the mind for policy and government, which
learning is pretended to insinuate ; if it be granted
that any such tiling be, it must be remembered withal,
that learning miiiistcreth in every of them greater
strength of medicine or remedy, than it offereth cause
of indisposition or infirmity : for if, by a secret ope-
ration, it make men perplexed and irresolute, on the
other side, by plain precept, it teacheththem when, and
upon what ground, to resolve ; yea, and how to carry


things in suspense without prejudice, till they resolve :
if it make men positive and regular, it teacheth them
what things are in their nature demonstrative, and
what are conjectural ; and as well the use of distinc-
tions and exceptions, as tlic latitude of principles and
rules. If it mislead by disproportion, or dissimilitude
of examples, it teacheth men the force of circum-
stances, the errors of comparisons, and all the cau-
tions of application : so that in all these it doth rec-
tify more effectually than it can pervert. And these
medicines it conveyeth into mens minds much more
forcibly by the quickness and penetration of examples.
For let a man look into the errors of Clement the se-
venth, so lively described by Guicciardinc, who served
under him, or into the errors of Cicero, painted out
by his own pencil in his epistles to Atticus, and he will
fly apace from being irresolute. Let him look into the
errors of Phocion, and he will beware how he be ob-
stinate or inflexible. Let him but read the fable of
Ixion, and it will hold him from being vaporous or
imaginative. Let him look into the errors of Cato
the second, and he will never be one of the Anti-
podes, to tread opposite to the present world.

And e co nceit, that learning should dispose
men to leisure and jirivatencs^, and make men slothful ;
it were~arstrange thing if that, which accustometh
the mind to a perpetual motion and agitation, shoidd
induce slothfulness ; whereas contrariwise it may be
truly affirmed, that no kind of men love business for
itself but those that are learned : for other persons
love it lor profit ; as an hireling, that loves the work for
the wages ; or for honour, as because it beareth them
up in the eyes of men, and refresheth their reputa-
tions, which otherwise would wear ; or because it
putteth them in mind of their fortune, and giveth
them occasion to pleasure and displeasure; or because
it exerciseth some faculty wherein they take pride,
and so entertaineth them in good humour and pleas-
ing conceits toward themselves ; or because it ad-
vanceth any other their ends. 80 that, as it is said
of untrue valours, that some mens valoiu's are in the


eyes of them that look on : so such mens industries
are in the eyes of others, or at least in regard of their
OAvn designments : only learned men love business,
as an action according to nature, as agiejeaels^^to
health-jlL-KUiidj, as exercise is to health of body, tak-^
ing pleasure in the action itself, and not in the pur-
chase : so that of all men they are the most indefati-
gable, if it be towards any business which can hold
or detain their mind,
j And if any man be laborious in reading and study,
I and yet idle in business and action, it grovveth from
f some weakness of body, or softness of spirit ; such as
Seneca speaketh of: " Quidam tarn sunt umbratiles,
ut putent in turbido esse, quicquid in luce est;" and
not of learning : well may it be, that such a point of
a man's nature may make him give himself to learn-
ing, but it is not learning that breedeth any sucli
point in his nature.

And that learning should take up too much time or
leisure : I answer ; the most active or busy man, that
hath been or can be, hatli, no question, many vacant
times of leisure, while he expectcth the tides and re-
turns of business (except he be either tedious and of
no dispatch, or lightly and unworthily ambitious to
meddle in things that may be better done by others :)
and then the question is but, how those spaces and
times of leisure shall be filled and spent ; whether in
pleasures, or in studies ; as was well answered by De-
mosthenes to his adversary .^.schines, that was a man
given to pleasure, and told him, " that his orations did
smell of the lamp : " " Indeed," said Demosthenes,
" there is a great difference between the things that
you and I do by lamp-light." / So as no man need
doubt, that learning will expulscljusiness, but ra-
ther it will keep and defend the possession of the
mind against idleness and pleasure ; which otherwise,
at unawares, may enter to the prejudice of botli.

iVgain, for that other conceit, that learning should
undermine the reverence of laws and government,
it is assuredly a mere ~^cpravation and calumny, with-
out all shadow of truth. For to say, that a blind


custom of obedience sliould be a surer obligation,
than duty tauglit and understood ; it is to affirm, that
a blind num may tread surer by a guide, than a seeing
man can by a light. And it is without all contro-
versy, that learning doth make the minds of men
gentle, generous, maniable, and pliant to government ;
whereas ignorance makes them churlish, thwarting,
and mutinous : and the evidence of time doth clear
this assertion, considering that th.o most l)arl)arous, -y
rude, and unlearned, times have been most sul'ijdct
to tumults, seditions, and changes.

And as to tile judgment of Cato the Censor, he
was well punished for his blasphemy against learning,
in the same kind wherein he offended ; for when he
was past threescore years old, he was taken with an
extreme desire to go to school again, and to learn
the Greek tongue, to the end to peruse the Greek
authors, which doth well demonstrate, that his former
censure of the Grecian learning was rather an
affected gravity, than according to the inward sense
of his own opinion. And as for Mrgil's verses,
though it pleased him to brave the world, in taking to
the Romans the art of empire, and leaving to others
the arts of subjects ; yet so much is manifest, that the
Romans never ascended to that height of empire, till
the time they had ascended to the height of other
arts. For in the time of the two first Caesars, which
had the art of government in greatest perfection, there
lived the best poet, Virgilius Maro ; the best historio-
grapher, Titus Livius ; the best antiquary, Marcus
Varro ; and the best or second orator, ^larcus Cicero,
that to the memory of man are known. As for the
accusation of Socrates, the time must be remembered
when it was prosecuted ; which was under the thirty
tyrants, the most base, bloody, aud envious persons
that have governed ; which revolution of state was
no sooner over, but Socrates, whom they had made
a person criminal, was made a person heroical, and
his memory accumulate with honours divine and
human ; and those discourses of his, which were then
termed corrupting of manners, were after acknow-



ledged for sovereign medicines of the mind and man-
ners, and so have been received ever since, till this day.
Let this therefore serve for answer to politicians,
which, in their humorous severity, or in their feigned
gravity, have presumed to throw imputations upon
learning ; which redargution, nevertheless, (save that
we know not whether our labours may extend to
other ages) were not needful for the present, in
regard of the love and reverence towards learning,
which the example and countenance of two so
learned princes, queen Elizabeth and your majesty,
being as Castor and Pollux, lucida sidera, stars
of excellent light and most benign influence, hath
wrought in all men of place and authority in our
A^> Now therefore we come to th^t . third sort^f dis-
credit^ or diminution of credit, that groweth unto
learning from learned men themselves, which com-
monly cleaveth fastest : it is„either from their fortune,
or froni their manners, or from the nature oF. their
studies. For the first, it is not in their power ; and
the second is accidental ; the third only is proper
to be handled : but because we are not in hand with
true measure, but with popular estimation and con-
ceit, it is not amiss to speak somewhat of the two
former. The derogations therefore, which grow to
learning from the fortune or condition of learned
men, are either in respect of scarcity of means, or
in respect of privateness of life, and meanness of

Cojicerning want, and that it is the case of learned
men usually to Begin with little, and not to grow
'^'' ricli so fast as other men, by reason they convert nof
their laboiu-s cliiefly to lucre and increase : It were
good to leave the common place in commendation of
poverty to some frier to handle, to whom much
was attributed by Machiavel in this point ; when he
said, " that the kingdom of the clergy had been
long before at an end, if the reputation, and re-
verence towards the poverty of friers had not borne
out the scandal of the superfluities and excesses of


bishops and prelates." So a man niiglit say, that the
felicity and delicacy of princes and great persons had
long since turned to rudeness and barbarism, if the ,
poverty of learning had not kept up civility and "
lionourof life : but, without any such advantages, it is '
worthy the observation, what a reverend and honoured
thing poverty of fortune was, for some ages, in the
Roman state, which nevertheless was a state wdthout
paradoxes ; for we see what Titus Livius saith in his
introduction : " Caeterum aut me amor negotii suscepti
fallit, aut nulla unquam respublica nee major, nee
sanctior, nee bonis exemplis ditior fuit ; nee in quam
tarn serae avaritia luxuriaque immigraverint ; nee
ubi tantus ac tarn diu paupertati ac parsimonias
lionos fuerit." We see likewise, after that the state
of Rome was not itself, but did degenerate, how that
person, that took upon him to be counsellor to Julius
Ceesar, after his victory, where to begin his restoration
of the state, maketh it of all points the most summary
to take away the estimation of wealth : " Verum haec
et omnia mala pariter cum honore pecuniae desinent,
si neque magistratus, neque alia vulgo cupienda,
venalia erunt." To conclude this point, as it was
truly said, that " rubor est virtutis color," though some-
times it comes from vice : so it may be fitly said, that
" paupertas est virtutis fortuna ; " though sometimes it
may proceed from misgovernment and accident. Surely
Solomon hath pronounced it both in censure, " Qui
festinat ad divitias, non erit insons;" and in precept;
" Buy the truth and sell it uat4-" and so of wisdom
and knowledge ; judging that means were to be spent
upon learning, and not learning to be applied to
means. And as for the privateness, or obscureness (as
it may be in vulgar estimation accounted) of life of
contemplative men ; it is a theme so common, to extol
a private life, not taxed with sensuality and sloth, in
comparison, and to the disadvantage of a civil life, for
safety, liberty, pleasure, and dignity, or at least
freedom from indignity, as no man haudleth it, but
handleth it well : such a consonancy it hath to mens
conceits in the expressing, and to mens consents in the


allowing. This only I will add, that learned men,
forgotten in states, and not living in the eyes of men,
are like the images of Cassius and Brntus in the
funeral of Junia ; of which not being represented,
as many others were, Tacitus saith, " Eo ipso prsc-
fulgebant, quod non visebantur."

And for the meanness of employment, that which is
most traduced to contempt, is, that the government of
youth is commonly allotted to them ; wliich age, be-
cause it is the age of least authority, it is transferred
to the disesteeming of those employments wherein
youth is conversant, and which are conversant about
youth. But how unjust this traducement is (if you
will reduce things from popularity of opinion to
measure of reason) may appear in that we see men
are more curious what they put into a now vessel,
than into a vessel seasoned ; and what mould they lay
about a young plant, than about a plant corroborate ;
so as the weakest terms and times of all things use
to have the best applications and helps. And will you
hearken to the Hebrew Rabbins ? " Your young men
** shall see visions, and your old men shall dream
*' dreams;" say they,youthisthe w^orthierage, forthat
visions are nearer apparitions of God than dreams.
And let it be noted, that howsoever tlie condition of
life of pedants hath been scorned upon theatres, as the
ape of tyranny ; and that the modern looseness or
negligence hath taken no due regard to the choice of
schoolmasters and tutors ; yet the ancient wisdom of
the best times did always make a just complaint, that
states were too busy with their laws, and too negli-
genFlii point of education iwhicji a:^cellent part or
ancient discipline liath been in some sort revived, of
late times, by the colleges of the Jesuits ; of whom,
although in regard of tlieir superstition I may say
" quo mcliores, eo deteriores ;" yet in regard of this,
and some other points concerning human learning and
moral matters, I may say, as Agesilaus said to his
enemy Pharnabasus, " Talis quum sis, utinam noster
esses." And thus much touching tlie dircrcdits drawn
from the fortunes of learned men.


As touching the manners of learned men, i^ is a
thing personal and individual : and no doubt tHere be
amongst them, as in other professions, of all tempe-
ratures ; but yet so as it is not without truth, which
is said, that " abeunt studia in mores," studies have
an influence and operation upon the manners of those
that are conversant in them.

But upon an attentive and indifferent review, I, for
my part, cannot find any disgrace to learning can
proceed from the manners of learned men not inhe-
rent to them as they are learned; except it be a
fault (wliich was the supposed fault of Demosthenes,
Cicero, Cato the second, Seneca, and many more)
that, because the times they read of are commonly
better than the times they live in, and the duties
taught better than the duties practised, they contend
sometimes too far to bring things to perfection, and
to reduce the corruption of manners to honesty of
precepts, or examples of too great height. And yet
hereof they have caveats enough in their own walks.
For Solon, when he was asked whether he had given
his citizens the best laws, answered wisely, " Yea, of
" such as they would receive : " And Plato, finding that
his own heart could not agree with the corrupt man-
ners of his country, refused to bear place or office ;
saying, " That a man's country was to be used as his
parents were, that is, with humble persuasions, and
not with contestations." And Caesar's counsellor
put in the same caveat, " Non ad Vetera instituta revo-
cans, quae jampridem corruptis moribus ludibrio
sunt :" and Cicero noted this error directly in Cato the
second, when he writes to his friend Atticus ; " Cato
optime sentit, sed nocet interdum reipublicae ; loqui-
tur enim tanquam in republica Platonis, non tanquam
in fsDce Romuli." And the same Cicero doth excuse
and expound the philosophers for going too far, and
being too exact in their prescripts, when he saith, " Isti
ipsi prajceptores virtutis et magistri videntm* fines
officiorum paulo longius, quam natura vellet, protu-
lisse, ut cum ad ultimum animo contendissemus, ibi
tamen, ubi oportef, consisteremus : " and yet himself

VOL. L c


might have said, "Monitis sum minor ipse meis;" for it
was his o\Mi fault, though not in so extreme a degree.
Another fault likewise much of this kind hath
been incident to learned men ; which is, tha±_ihey
have esteemed the preservation, good, and lioiunuL.of
theu;_comi tries or masters, before their own fortunes
or safeties.. For so saith Demosthenes unto the
Athenians : " If it please you to note it, my counsels
unto you are not such, whereby I should grow great
amongst you, and you become little amongst the
Grecians: but they be of that nature, as they
are sometimes not good for me to give, but are
always good for you to follow." And so Seneca, after
he had consecrated that Quinquennium Neronis
to the eternal glory of learned governors, held on his
honest and loyal course of good and free counsel,
after his master grew extremely corrupt in his go-
vernment. Neither can this point otherwise be ; for
learning endueth mens minds with a true sense of
the frailty of their persons, the casualty of their
fortunes, and the dignity of their soul and vocation : so
that it is impossible for them to esteem that any great-
ness of their own fortune can be a true or worthy end
of their being and ordainment; and therefore are
desirous to give their account to God, and so like-
wise to their masters under God (as kings and the
states that they serve) in these words ; " Ecce tibi
lucrifeci," and not " Ecce mihi lucrifeci : " whereas
the corrupter sort of mere politicians, that have not
their thoughts established by learning in the love and
apprehension of duty, nor ever look abroad into uni-
versality, do refer all things to themselves, and thrust
themselves into the centre of the world, as if all lines
should meet in them and their fortunes ; never caring,
in all tempests, what becomes of the sliip of state, so
they may save themselves in the cock-boat of their
own fortune; whereas men that feel tlie weight of
duty, and know the limits of self-love, use to make
good their places and duties, though with peril. And
if they stand in seditious and violent alterations, it is
rather the reverence which manv times both adverse


l)arts do give to honesty, than any versatile advan-
tage of their own carriage. But for this point of
tender sense, and fast obhgation of duty, which learn-
ing doth endue the mind withal, howsoever fortune
may tax it, and many in the depth of their corrupt
principles may despise it, yet it will receive an open
allowance, and therefore needs the less disproof or

Another fault incident commonly to learned men,
which may be more probably defended than truly
denied, is, that they fail sometimes in applying them-
selves to particular persons : wTiTcli'^'ant of exact
application ariseth^frohiTvvt) causes ; the one, because
the larffcness of their mind can hardly confine itself
to dweU in tlic exquisite observation or examination
of the nature and customs of one person : for it is a
speech for a lover, and not for a wise man : " Satis
magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus." Nevertheless
I shall yield, that he that cannot contract the sight of
his mind, as well as disperse and dilate it, wanteth
great fliculty, But there is a second cause, which
is no inability, but a rejection upon choice and judg-
ment : for the honest and just bounds of observation,
by one person upon another, extend no farther, but
to understand him sufficiently, whereby not to give
him offence, or whereby to be able to give him faith-
ful counsel, or whereby to stand upon reasonable
guard and caution, in respect of a man's self. But to
be speculative into another man, to the end to know
how to work him, or wind him, or govern him, pro-
ceedeth from a heart that is double and cloven, and
not entire and ingenuous ; which, as in friendship, it
is want of integrity, so towards princes or superiors,
is want of duty. For the custom of the Levant,
which is, that subjects do forbear to gaze or fix their
eyes upon princes, is in the outward ceremony barba-
rous, but the moral is good : for men ought not, by
cunning and bent observations, to pierce and penetrate
into the hearts of kings, which the Scripture hath de-
clared to be inscrutable.

There is yet another fault (with which I will con
c 2


elude this part) which is often noted in learned men,
that they„do, many times fail to observe decency.^nd
discretion in their beliaxioiU'.aud ^carriage, .a^ti*SS^"
mit errors in small and ordinary points oLa^on,
so as the vnlgar sort of capacities do make a judg-
ment of them in greater matters, by that which they
find wanting in them in smaller. But this conse-
quence doth often deceive men, for which I do refer
them over to that which was said by Themistocles,

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 52)