Page images
PDF
EPUB

to cast and see how many things there are which a man can not do himself; and then it will appear that it was a sparing speech of the ancients to say “that a friend is another himself”; for that" a friend is far more than himself. Men have their time, and die many times in desire of some things which they principally take to heart ; the bestowing of a child, the finishing of a work, or the like. If a man have a true friend, he may rest almost secure that the care of those things will continue after him ; SO that a man hath, as it were, two lives in his desires. A man hath a body, and that body is confined to a place; but where friendship is, all offices of life are, as it were, granted to him and his deputy ; for he may exercise them by his friend. How many things are there, which a man cannot, with any face_ or comeliness, say or do himself A man can scarce allege his own merits, with modesty, much less extol them ; a man cannot sometimes brook to supplicate or beg, and a number of the like: but all these things are graceful in a friend's mouth, which are blushing in a man's own. So, again, a man's person hath many proper relations which he cannot put off. A man cannot speak to his son but as a father; to his wife but as a husband ; to his enemy but upon terms : whereas a friend may speak as the case requires, and not as it sorteth" with the person. But to enumerate these things were endless: I have given the rule, where a man can fitly play his own part; if he have not a friend, he may quit the stage.

OF EXPENSE.

RICHEs are for spending, and spending for honour and good actions; therefore extraordinary expense must be limited by the worth of the occasion : for voluntary undoing may be as well for a man's country as for the 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; and not subject to deceit and abuse of servants; and ordered to the best show, that the bills may be less than the estimation abroad. Certainly, if a man will keep but of even hand,” his ordinary expenses ought to be but to the half of his receipts; and if he think to wax rich, but to the third part. It is no baseness for the greatest to descend and look into their own estate. Some

6 Equivalent to because, or inasmuch as. A very frequent usage.

7 IIere sort is suit or accord. So in King Henry the Fifth, iv., 1, speaking of the name Pistol: “It sorts well with your fierceness.”

8 “Of even hand” is equivalent to in an equal balance.

[ocr errors]

forbear it, not upon negligence alone, but doubting * to bring themselves into melancholy, in respect they shall find it broken; but wounds cannot be cured without searching. He that cannot look into his own estate at all had need both choose well those whom he employeth, and change them often ; for new are more timorous and less subtle. He that can look into his estate but seldom, it behoveth him to turn all to certainties. A man had need, if he be plentiful in some kind of expense, to be as saving again in some other : as," if he be plentiful in diet, to be saving in apparel; if he be plentiful in the hall, to be saving in the stable, and the like; for he that is plentiful in expenses of all kinds will hardly be preserved from decay. In clearing of a man's estate, he may as well hurt himself in being

– too sudden, as in letting it run on too long; for hasty selling is commonly as disadvantageable as interest. Besides, he that clears at once will relapse; for, finding himself out of straits, he will revert to his customs; but he that cleareth by degrees induceth a habit of frugality, and gaineth as well upon his mind as upon his estate. Certainly, who hath a state to repair, may not despise small things: and, commonly, it is less dishonourable to abridge petty charges than to stoop to petty gettings. A man ought warily to begin charges which, once begun, will continue ; but in matters that return not he may be more magnificent.

OF SUSPICION.

SUSPICIONS amongst thoughts are like bats amongst birds,they ever fly by twilight: certainly they are to be repressed, or at the least well guarded ; for they cloud the mind, they lose friends, and they check” with business, whereby business cannot go on currently and constantly: they dispose kings to tyranny, husbands to jealousy, wise men to irresolution and melancholy: they are defects, not in the heart, but in the brain; for they take place in the stoutest natures, as in the example of Henry the Seventh of England. There was not a more suspicious man nor a more stout:” and in such a composition they do small hurt; for commonly they are not admitted, but with examination, whether they be likely or no; but in fearful natures they gain ground too fast. There is nothing makes a man suspect much, more than to know little ; and

9 To doubt was often used in the sense of to fear.
1 As here has the force of for instance. Often so.
2 That is, clash, or interfere.
3 Stout, in old language, is stubborn, or, sometimes, haughty.

therefore men should remedy suspicion by procuring to know more, and not to keep their suspicions in smother. What would men have P Do they think those they employ and deal with are saints? Do they not think they will have their own ends, and be truer to themselves than to them? Therefore there is no better way to moderate suspicions, than to account upon such suspicions as true, and yet to bridle them as false: for so far a man ought to make use of suspicions as to provide, as if that should be true that he suspects, yet it may do him no hurt. Suspicions that the mind of itself gathers are but buzzes; but suspicions that are artificially nourished, and put into men's heads by the tales and whisperings of others, have stings. Certainly, the best mean to clear the way in this same wood of suspicions, is frankly to communicate them with the party that he suspects: for thereby he shall be sure to know more of the truth of them than he did before ; and withal shall make that party more circumspect, not to give further cause of suspicion. But this would not be done to men of base natures; for they, if they find themselves once suspected, will never be true. The Italian says, Sospetto licentia fede; * as if suspicion did give a passport to faith; but it ought rather to kindle it to discharge itself.

OF DISCOURSE.

SOME in their discourse desire rather commendation of wit, in being able to hold all arguments, than of judgment, in discerning what is true; as if it were a praise to know what might be said, and not what should be thought. Some have certain commonplaces and themes wherein they are good, and want variety; which kind of poverty is for the most part tedious, and, when it is once perceived, ridiculous. The honourablest part of talk is to give the occasion; and again to moderate and pass to somewhat else; for then a man leads the dance. It is good in discourse, and speech of conversation, to vary, and intermingle speech of the present occasion with arguments, tales with reasons, asking of questions with telling of opinions, and jest with earnest; for it is a dull thing to tire, and, as we say now, to jade any thing too far. As for jest, there be certain things which ought to be privileged from it, namely, religion, matters of State, great persons, any man's present business of importance, and any case that deserveth pity; yet there be some that think their wits have been asleep, except they dart out somewhat that is piquant, and to the quick. That is a vein which would be bridled: Parce, puer,

4 “Suspicion dissolves the obligation to fidelity.”

stimulis, et fortius utere loris.” And, generally, men ought to find the difference between saltness and bitterness. Certainly, he that hath a satirical vein, as he maketh others afraid of his wit, so he had need be afraid of others’ memory. IIe that questioneth much shall learn much, and content much, but especially if he apply his questions to the skill of the persons whom he asketh ; for he shall give them occasion to please themselves in speaking, and himself shall continually gather knowledge: but let his questions not be troublesome, for that is fit for a poser;" and let him be sure to leave other men their turns to speak: nay, if there be any that would reign and take up all the tilne, let him find means to take them off, and to bring others on, as musicians use to do with those that dance too long galliards." If you dissemble sometimes your knowledge of that you are thought to know, you shall be thought, another time, to know that you know not. Speech of a man's self ought to be seldom, and well chosen. I knew one was wont to say in scorn, “IIe must needs be a wise man, he speaks so much of himself”; and there is but one case wherein a man may commend himself with good grace, and that is in commending virtue in another, especially if it be such a virtue whereunto himself pretendeth. Speech of touch” towards others should be sparingly used; for discourse ought to be as a field, without coming home to any man. I knew two noblemen, of the west part of England, whereof the one was given to scoff, but kept ever royal cheer in his house ; the other would ask of those that had been at the other's table, “Tell truly, was there never a flout or dry blow given o’’ To which the guest would answer, “Such and such a thing passed.” The lord would say, “I thought he would mar a good dinner.” Discretion of speech is more than eloquence; and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal, is more than to speak in good words, or in good order. A good continued speech, without a good speech of interlocution, shows slowness; and a good reply, or second speech, without a good settled speech, showeth shallowness and weakness. As we see in beasts, that those that are weakest in the course, are yet nimblest in the turn; as it is betwixt the greyhound and the hare. To use too many circumstances, ere one come to the matter, is wearisome ; to use none at all, is blunt.

5 “Boy, spare the spur, and more tightly hold the reins.”
6 A poser is one who tests or examines.
7 The galliard was a sprightly dance much used in Bacon's time.
8 Personal hits, or glances at particular individuals.

OF RICHES.

I CANNOT call riches better than the baggage of virtue: the Roman word is better, impedimenta; for as the baggage is to an army, so is riches to virtue; it cannot be spared nor left behind, but it hindereth the march ; yea, and the care of it sometimes loseth or disturbeth the victory. Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is but conceit: so saith Solomon, “Where much is, there are many to consume it ; and what hath the owner but the sight of it with his eyes?” The personal fruition in any man cannot reach to feel great riches: there is a custody of them, or a power of dole and donative of them, or a fame of them, but no solid use to the owner. Do you not see what feigned prices are set upon little stones and rarities? and what works of ostentation are undertaken, because” there might seem to be some use of great riches? But then you will say, they may be of use to buy men out of dangers or troubles; as Solomon saith, “Riches are as a stronghold in the imagination of the rich man”: but this is excellently expressed, that it is in imagination, and not always in fact; for, certainly, great riches have sold more men than they have bought out. Seek not proud riches, but such as thou mayest get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, and leave contentedly: yet have no abstract nor friarly contempt of them ; but distinguish, as Cicero saith well of Rabirius Posthumus, In studio rei amplificandae apparebat, non avaritiae praedam, sed instrumentum bomitati quaeri." Hearken also to Solomon, and beware of hasty gathering of riches: Qui festinat ad divitias, non erit insons.” The poets feign, that when Plutus (which is riches) is sent from Jupiter, he limps, and goes slowly; but when he is sent from Pluto, he runs, and is swift of foot; meaning, that riches gotten by good means and just labour pace slowly; but when they come by the death of others, (as by the course of inheritance, testaments, and the like,) they come tumbling upon a man: but it might be applied likewise to Pluto, taking him for the Devil; for when riches come from the Devil, (as by fraud and oppression, and unjust means,) they come upon speed. The ways to enrich are many, and most of them foul: parsimony is one of the best, and yet is not innocent; for it withholdeth men from works of liberality and charity. The improvement of the ground is the most natural obtaining of

9 IIere because is in order that. See page 573, note 1.

1 “In his anxiety to increase his fortune, it was evident that not the gratification of avarice was sought, but the means of doing good.”

2 “IIe who hastens to riches will not be without guilt.”

« PreviousContinue »