Francis Bacon.

Obiter dicta of Bacon and Shakespeare on manners, mind, morals online

. (page 7 of 19)
Online LibraryFrancis BaconObiter dicta of Bacon and Shakespeare on manners, mind, morals → online text (page 7 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

strength with the rapier, and a French courtier in

Arm. : ". . . Thou art quick in answers. Thou heatest my
Uood. . . . I love not to be crossed. ... I would take
desire prisoner and ransom him to any French courtier for a new-
devised courtesy. ... I should out-swear Cupid. ...
well-knit Sampson ! strong-jointed Sampson ! I do excel thee in my
rapier as much as thou did'st me in carrying gates." Loves Labours
Lost i. 2.


" By the law of Nature, all men in the world are
naturalised one towards another; they were all made of
one lump of earth, of one breath of God, they all had the
same common parents." Case of Post nati.

" Strange it is that our bloods
Of colour, weight, and heat, pour'd all together,
Would confound distinction, yet stand off
In differences so mighty." A Ws Well ii. 3.

EQUALITY in Measure.

" What tell you me of equal measure, when to the
wise man all things are equal ? "


" The very mercy of the law cries out
Most audible, even from his proper tongue,
' An Angelo for Claudio, death for death ! '
Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure,
Like doth quit like, and measure still for measure."

M. V. v. 1.

EVIL a Foil to Good.

" We see in needle-works and embroideries, it is more
pleasing to have a lively work upon a sad and solemn
ground, than to have a dark and melancholy work on a
lightsome ground: judge, therefore, of the pleasure of the
heart by the pleasure of the eye." Ess. of Adversity.

" Like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly, and attract more eyes
Than that n-Jnt-h Inith no foil to set it off"

1 Hen. IV. i. 2.

EVIL in Contact with Good.

" Evil approacheth to good sometimes for concealment,
sometimes for protection, and good to evil for conversion
and reformation. So hypocrisy draweth near to religion
for covert, and, hiding itself, vice lurks in the neighbour-
hood of virtue." Colours of Good and Evil vii.

Cant. :

" Never came reformation in a flood,

. . . and scouring faults, as in this King . . .

It is a wonder how his Grace should glean such (learning)

Since his addiction was to courses vain :

His companies unlettered, rude, and shallow ;

His hours filled up with riots, banquets, sports, . . .'

" The strawberry grows underneath the nettle,

And wholesome berries thrive and ripen lest

Neighboured by fruit of baser quality ;


And so the prince obscured his contemplation
Under the veil of wildness : which no doubt
Grew, like the summer grass, fastest by night,
Unseen, yet crescive in his faculty." Hen. V.'\. 1.

" So may the outward shows be least themselves
The world is still deceived with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted or corrupt
But, jbeing seasoned with a gracious voice
Obscures the show of evil ? In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it, and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament ?
There is no vice so simple, but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts," &c.

Mer. Ven. iii. 2.

EXAMPLE for Imitation.

" In the discharge of thy place (or office) set before
thee the best examples, for imitation is a globe of pre-
cepts; and after a time set before thee thine own example ;
and examine thyself strictly whether thou didst best at
first. Neglect not also the examples of those that have
carried themselves ill ... to direct thyself what to
avoid." Ess. of Great Place.

" Be stirring as the time ; be fire with fire ;
Threaten the threatener, and outface the brow
Of bragging honour ; so shall inferior eyes.
That borrow their behaviours from the great,
Grow great by your example, and put on
The dauntless spirit of resolution."

King John v. i.

" Things done well

And with a care, exempt themselves from fear ;
Things done without example, in their issue
Are to be feared. Have you a precedent f
Had our General
Been what he knew himself, it had gone well.


he has given example for our flight
Most grossly, by his own." Ant. CL iii. 8.
" Some turned coward but by example."

Cyml. v. iii.

" Give me to know

How this foul rout began, who set it on ? . . .
. . . Cassio, I love thee,
But never more be officer of mine . . .
I'll make thee an example." Oth. ii. 3.
" The wars must make examples out of their best."

Oth. iii. 3.

" Of this commission ? I believe not any."

Hen. VIII. i. 2.

" No doubt he's noble. ... In him
Sparing would show a worse sin than ill-doctrine :
Men of his way should be most liberal,
They are set here for examples." Hen. VIII. i. 3.

" Tell me how he died,
If well, he stepped before me, happily,
For my example . . .
Of his own body he was ill, and gave
The clergy ill example." Hen. VIII. iv. 2.

" I cannot speak him home : he stopp'd the fliers,
And by his rare example made the coward
Turn terror into sport." Cor. ii. 2.

EXCESS. (See Extremes.)

" Too much, too little is an evil." Promus 1279a

" Too much of one thing is good for nothing."
Promus 487.

" So good that he is good for nothing." Promus 1147

" They are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve
with nothing" Mer. Ven. i. 2.


" love ! be moderate ; allay thy ecstacy ;
In measure rain thy joy ; scant this excess,
I feel too much thy blessing : make it less,
For fear I surfeit ! " Mer. Yen. iii. 2.

4< Whence comes this restraint ?
From too much liberty, my Lucio, liberty :
As surfeit is the father of much fast,
So every scope of the immoderate use,
Turns to restraint,'' &c. M. M. i. 3.

" More than a little is by much too much."

1 Hen. IV. iii. 2.

" Can we desire too much of a good thing ? " &c.

As You Like It iv. 1.

" Romeo shall thank thee, daughter, for us both
As much to him else in his thanks too much."

Rom. Jul. ii. 6.

" God hath lent us but this only child ;
And now I see this one is one too much."

Rom. Jul. iii. 5.

" The favours which, all too much, I have bestowed upon thee . . .
I have fed upon this woe already ; and now excess of it will
make me surfeit." Two Gent. Ver. iii. 2.

" The blood of youth burns not with such excess
As gravity's revolt to wantonness."

L. L. L. v. 2, 73.

" I neither lend nor borrow, by giving nor by taking of excess."

Mer. Yen. i. 3.

" To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess."

See John iv. 2, 916.

" If music is the soul of love, play on ;
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting
The appetite may sicken, and so die."

Twelfth Night i. 1.

" It was excess of wine that set him on."

Hen. V. ii. 2, 42.


" Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead ; excessive grief,

the enemy of the living.

If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon
mortal." A Ws Well i. 1.

"He ... cannot refrain from the excess of laughter."

Oth. iv. 1 ;

(and see Rom. JuL ii. 6, 915, 33 ; Lear iv. 1, 70 ; Tim. Ath. v. 5,
28, 29.)

(En the Preface of the "Great Instauration" [Spedding,
Works TV., pp. 20, 21] Bacon gives an admonition to all
those who read his book. It is, that they study the true
ends of knowledge and do not go into extremes of zeal
for learning at all costs, striving to be wise above
measure, but that they should cultivate truth in charity,
as well as for the benefit and use of life. From over
desire, or "lust of power, the angels fell; from lust of
knowledge, man fell; but of charity there can be no
excess, neither did angel or man come in danger by it."
This aversion from " Excess " is perceptible throughout
Bacon's writings, and it is at the bottom of much that he
says about " Contraries " and "Extremes." ^.v.).


" Riches are for spending, and spending for honour
and good actions ; therefore extraordinary expense must
be limited by the worth of the occasion, for ordinary
undoing may be as well for a man's country as for tlu>
kingdom of heaven ; but ordinary expense ought to be
limited by a man's estate, and governed with such
regard as it be within his compass." Ess. of Expense.

" What piles of wealth hath he accumulated
To his own portion ! And what expense by the hour
Seems to flow from him ! How i' the name of thrift

Extremes. MANNERS, MIND, MORALS. 105

Does he rake this together ? . . .

The several parcels of his plate, his treasure,

Rich stuffs, and ornaments of household, which

I find at such proud rate, that it outspeaks

Possession of a subject. ... I am afraid

His thinkings are not worth his serious considering."

Hen. VIII. iii. 2.
" Come, shall we in

And taste Lord Timon's bounty ? He outgoes
The very heart of kindness.
He pours it out: Plutus, the god of gold,
Is but his steward; no meed, but he repays
Seven-fold above itself: no gift to him,
But breeds the giver a return exceeding
All use of quittance. The noblest mind he carries,
That ever governed man. Long may he live in fortunes."

Tim. Ath. i. 1.

"No care, no stop ! so senseless of expense
That he will neither know how to maintain it,
Xor cease his flow of riot : takes no account
How things go from him, nor resumes no care
Of what is to continue.'' Tim. Ath. ii. 2.

(Note that in all cases in the Plays where extravagant
expenditure, or the amassing of wealth, is alluded to, the
" worthiness of the occasion" is allowed as an excuse,
while unworthy objects of lavish expense, or use of
money for merely selfish purposes, is always con-

EXTREMES. (See The Mean.)

"That thing of which the contrary is bad, is good;
that of which the contrary is good, is bad. This does not
hold of those things whose excellence or force consists in
degree and measure (e.g., the contrary of rashness is
cowardice a bad thing; yet cowardice is not good)."
Promus 1441, 1442.

106 MANNERS, MIND, MORALS. Extremes.

" For nought so vile that on earth doth live,
But to the earth some special good doth give;
Nor aught so good but strain'd from that fair use,
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse:
Virtue itself turns vice by being misapplied,
And vice sometimes by action dignified."

Rom. Jul. ii. 3.

"Always resolute in most extremes." 1 Hen. VI. iii. 4.

" Those that are in extremity of either (laughing or melancholy)
are abominable fellows." As You Like It iv. 1.

" For women's fear and love hold quantity
In neither aught, or in extremity."

Ham. iii. 2.

" The wisest beholder, that knew no more than seeing could not
say if the importance were joy or sorrow ; but in the extremity of
the one it must needs be." Winter's Tale v. 2.

" To chide at your extremes it not becomes me,
pardon that I name them."

Winters Taleiv. 3.

" 'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief
Burst smilingly." Lear v. 3.

" There is no middle way between these extremes."

Ant. Cl. iii. 4; and Tim. Ath, iv. 3, 300-345.

EXTREMES, or Extremities try a Man's Nature.

" The ill that a man brings on himself by his own
fault is greater; that which is brought on him from
without is less. The reason is because the sting and
remorse of the mind accusing itself, doubletk all adver-
sity : contrariwise, the considering and recording in-
wardly that a man is clear and free from fault and just
imputation doth attemper outward calamities. . . .
So the poets in tragedies do make the most passionate
lamentations, and those that forerun final despair, to be
accusing, questioning, and torturing of a man's self, . . ..


and consequently the extremities of worthy persons have
been annihilated in the consideration of their own good
deservings. . . . But where the evil is derived from a
man's own fault, there all strikes deadly inwards, and
suifocateth." Colours of Good and Evil viii.

" Where is your ancient courage ? You were used to say
Extremity is the trier of the spirits,
That common chances common men could bear," &c.

Cor. iv. 1.

Bru. : " Cassius ! I am sick of many griefs."
Cass. : " Of your philosophy you make no use
If you give way to accidental evils."
Bru.: " No man bears sorrow better: Portia is dead."

Jul. Gees. iv. 3.

" Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught: leave her to Heaven,
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her." Ham. i. 5.

(See of remorse, Rich. III. i. 4, 100130, and
Rich. III. ill. 7, 210. Also of the mind tortured by self-
accusation, Rich. III. v. 3, 180205; Ham. iii. 3, 36
72; Cymb. v. 5, 140150, &c., and Cymb. v. 5, 210
228; Winter's Tale v. 1, 119.)

FAME (Good) A Dead Man's Only Possession. (See

" In that style or form of words which is well appro-
priated to the dead ('of happy memory,' ' of pious
memory '), we seem to acknowledge that which Cicero
says (having borrowed it from Demosthenes), that ' good
fame is the only possession a dead man has.' I cannot
but note that, in our times, it lies in most part waste and
neglected." De Aug. ii. 7.


" Your grandfather of famous memory . . . and your great-uncle
Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, fought a most brave battle
here." Hen. V. iv. 7.

" "Pis Joan, not we, by whom the day is won . . .
(All) in procession sing her endless praise,
A statelier Pyramis to her I'll raise
Than Rhodope's or Memphis' ever was:
In memory of her, when she is dead," &c.

1 Hen. VI. i. 6.

" That ever-living man of memory, Henry the Fifth ! . . .
His fame lives in the world, his shame in you."

1 Hen. VI. iv. 4.

'* peers of England ! shameful is this league,
Fatal this marriage, cancelling your fame,
Blotting your name from books of memory
Razing the characters of your renown."

2 Hen. VI. i. 1.
" He lives in fame, that dies in virtue's cause."

Tit. And. i. 2 (rep.).

" I say, without characters, fame lives long.
That Julius Caesar was a famous man . . .
Death makes no conquest of this conqueror,
For now he lives in fame, though not in life."

Rich. III. iii. 1.

" Fame in time to come, canonise us." Tr. Cr. ii. 2.
" Death in guerdon of her wrongs
Gives her fame which never dies.
So the life which lived with shame,
Lives in death with glorious fame."

M. Ado v. 3.

" This lord of weak remembrance, this,
Who shall be of as little memory when
He's earthed . . . professes to persuade."

Temp. ii. 1.

FAME Would Rise from the Ground to the Clouds.

" Fame goeth upon the ground, yet hideth her head in
the clouds." Ess. of Fame.


" That gallant spirit hath aspired the clouds
Which too untimely here did scorn the earth."

Rom. Jul. iii. 1.

" My lord, 'tis but a base, ignoble mind
That mounts no higher than a bird could soar "
" I thought as much: he'd be above the clouds."

2 Hen. VI. ii. 1.

FAME and Fortune, Muffled or Blind.

" Fame muffles her head." Interpretation of Nature,

" Fortune is painted blind, with a muffler before her eyes."

Hen. V. iii. 6.

" I pray you, lead me to the caskets,
To try my fortune . . .
If Hercules and Lichas play at dice,
Which is the better man, the greater throw
May turn by fortune from the weaker hand : . . .
And so may I, Mind fortune leading me,
Miss that which one unworthier may attain."

Mer. Ver. ii. 1 .

Cel. : " Let us sit and mock the good housewife, Fortune, from
her wheel, that her gifts may henceforth be bestowed equally."

Ros. : " I would we could do so: for . . . the bountiful blind
woman doth most misplace her gifts to women," &c. As You Like
It i. 2.

FAME, or Rumour.

" The poets make Fame a monster. They describe her
in part finely and elegantly, and in part gravely and
sententiously; they say, Look how many feathers she
hath; so many eyes she hath underneath; so many
tongues ; so many voices ; she pricks up so many ears" - -
Ess. of Fame.

[Enter Rumour, painted full of tongues. ,]
Rumour: " Open your ears for which of you will stop

The vent of hearing, when loud Rumour speaks ?


I from the Orient to the drooping West
Making the wind my post-horse, still unfold
The acts begun upon this ball of earth.*
Upon my tongues continual slanders ride,
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.

" . . . . Rumour is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,
And of so easy and so plain a stop
That the blunt monster with uncounted head
The still discordant wavering multitude
Can play upon it. But what need I thus
My well-known body to anatomise
Among my household. 2 Hen. IV. (Induction).

" We will speak now in a sad and serious manner:
there is not in all the politics a place less handled f and
more worthy to be handled than this of Fame. We will
therefore speak of these points: What are false fames ?
and what are true fames ? and how they may be best
discerned; how fames may be sown and raised; how
they may be spread and multiplied; and how they may
be checked and laid dead, and other things concerning
the nature of Fame.'*

" The Emperor's Court is like the House of Fame,
The palace, full of tongues of eyes, of ears."

Tit. And. ii. 1.

"Kings have to deal with their neighbours, their
wives, their children, their prelates or clergy, their
nobles, their gentlemen, their merchants, their commons
and their men of war; and from all these arise dangers,
if care and circumspection be .not used/' Ess. of

* Compare: " Fame goeth upon the ground" (Ess. of Fame).
t This observation effectually disposes (in this case at least) of the common-
place remark that "of course everyone knew of such things as these."


FAMILIARITY Good only in Moderation. (See Ceremony.)

" It is good a little to be familiar. But he that is too
much in anything, so that he giveth another occasion of
satiety, maketh himself cheap." Ess. of Ceremonies.

" Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar."

Ham. i. 3.

" Be not too familiar with Poins, for he misuses thy favours so
much, that he swears thou art to marry his sister Nell. . . .
Thine as thou usest him, Jack Falstaff with my familiars, John with
my brothers." 2 Hen. IV. ii. 2.

FIGURES in All Things.

"In the first ages . . . all things abounded with
J'ables, parables, similes, comparisons, and allusions."
Wisdom of the Ancients (Pref.).

" For there's figures in all things"

Hen. V. iv. 7.

" I speak but in the figures and comparisons."

Hen. V. iv. 7.
:< I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, ' ? &c. J/. N. D. v. 1.

Dull : " What was a month old at Cain's birth which is not five

weeks old as yet ? . . ."
Hoi. : " The moon was a month old when Adam was no more:

And wrought not to five weeks when he came to five-

The allusion holds in the exchange."

Dull: "'Tis true, indeed: the collusion holds in the exchange."
Hoi. : " God comfort thy capacity ! I say, the allusion holds in

the exchange."
Dull : " And I say, the pollusion holds in the exchange."

L. L. L. iv. 2.

112 MANNERS, MIND, MORALS. Flattery.

(It is evident from the confusion made by Dull over
the word "allusion" that this word was new and
unfamiliar, for Dull is not stupid. It is he who asks
the riddle, and he presently makes a pun at the expense
of the " book-man : "

" If a talent be a claw, look how he claws him with a talent."

The word " parable " is only once used in the Shake-
speare Plays. It is in Two Gent. Ver. ii. 5, the scene
wherein there is an allusion to the story of a malefactor,
who, being brought before Sir Nicholas Bacon, desired
mercy on the plea that his name being Hog, he must be
of near kindred to Bacon. "Ay," replied the Judge,
" but Hog is not Bacon until it be well hanged " (see
ii. 5, 1. 2, 3). In this short scene the words Will Shake,
spear (lance or staff) are also found in combination with
a xecret, and the one and only mention of a parable:
" Thou shalt never ^et such a secret from me but by a
parable'' Cryptographers have little doubt that this
scene affords a practical illustration of the use of parable
and allusion in the conveyance of secret and traditional


44 Some praises proceed merely of flattery; and if he
be an ordinary flatterer, he will certainly have common
attributes, which may serve every man. If he be a
cunning flatterer, he will follow the arch-flatterer, which
is a man's self, and wherein a man thinketh best of him-
self, therein the flatterer will uphold him most. But if
he be an impudent flatterer, look wherein a man is con-
scious to himself that he is most defective, and is most
out of countenance in himself, that will the flatterer

Flattery. MANNERS, MIND, MORALS. 113

entitle him to, perforce disregarding his own conscience."
Ess. of Praise.

" There is flattery in friendship." Hen. V. iii. 7.
" 'Tis holy sport to be a little vain
When the sweet breath of flattery conquers strife."

Com. Err. iii. 1.

" flattering glass ! like to my followers in prosperity
Thou dost beguile me" Rich. II. iv. 1.

"It was young Hotspur's case at Shrewsbury,
. . . Who lined himself with hope,
Eating the air on promise of supply,
Flattering himself \vit\i project of a power
Much smaller than the smallest of his thoughts."

2 Hen. IV. 1, 3.

" Give me thy knife ; I will insult on him ;
Flattering myself aa if it were the Moor."

Tit. And. iii. 2.

" A thousand flatterers sit within thy crown,
Whose compass is no bigger than thy head."

Rich. II. ii. 1.

" No thought is contented. . . . Thoughts tending to content
flatter themselves." Rich. II. v. 5.

" I dare not swear that thou lovest me ; yet my blood begins to
flatter me that thou dost." Hen. V. 5, 2.

" Alack, / love myself. Wherefore ? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself ? . . .
I am a villain. Yet I lie ; I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well : fool, do not flatter.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues," &c.

See Rich. III. v. 3, 180202.
" Lay not that flattering unction to your soul,
That not your trespass, but my madness speaks."

Ham. iii. 4.

" I am bid forth to supper. . . . Wherefore shall I go ?
I am not bid for love ; they flatter me :
But yet I'll go in hate, and feed upon
The prodigal Christian." Mer. Ven. ii. 5.



FOOL, More, than Wise in Man.

" There is in human nature generally more of the fool
than cf the wise ; and, therefore, those faculties by which
the foolish part of men's minds is taken are most
potent/' Ess. of Boldness.

Mar. : " . . . That may you be bold to say in your foolery."

do. : " God give them wisdom that have it : and those that are
fools, let them use their talents. . . . Wit, an 't be thy will,
put me into good fooling ! Those wits that think they have thee,
do very oft prove fools ; and I, that am sure 1 lack thee, may pass
for a wise man : for what says Quinapalus ? Better a witty fool
than a foolish wit." Twelfth Night i. 5.

Clo. : "Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb, like the sun, it
shines everywhere. I should be sorry, sir, but the fool should be as
oft with your master, as with my mistress. I think I saw your
wisdom there."

Vio.: "This fellow's wise enough to play the fool,
And to do that well craves a kind of wit.

. . . This is a practice
As full of labour as a wise man's art ;
For folly that he wisely shows is fit,
But wise men folly-fallen, taint their wit."

Twelfth Night iii. 1.

" ' Vent my folly ! ' he has heard that word of some great man,
and now applies it to a fool," &c. Twelfth Night iv. 1.

" These wise men that give fools money."

Twelfth Night iv. 1.

Mai. : " I am as much in my wits, fool, as thou art."
Clo.: "But as well? Then you are mad indeed, if you be no
better in your wits than a fool." Twelfth Night iv. 2.

" Lord ! what fools these mortals be."

M. N. D. iii. 2 (Puck).

" One of the philosophers was asked, What a wise
man differed from a fool? He answered: Send them


both naked to those that know them not, and you shall
perceive." Apophthegms 255, 189.

FOOL, Wise.

" Cato Major would say, that wise men learn more by
fools, than fools by wise men." Apophthegms 167, 226.

" J do much wonder, that one man, seeing how much another man
is a fool when he dedicates his behaviours to love, will, after he has
laughed at such shallow follies in others, become the argument of
his own scorn by falling in love. . . . He shall never make me
such a fool! " 31. Ado ii. '6.

" I have deceived your very eyes. What your learned wisdoms

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryFrancis BaconObiter dicta of Bacon and Shakespeare on manners, mind, morals → online text (page 7 of 19)