Page images


A MAN that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have lost no time ; but that happeneth rarely. Generally, youth is like the first cogitations, not so wise as the second, for there is a youth in thoughts, as well as in ages; and yet the invention of young men is more lively than that of old, and imaginations stream into their minds better, and, as it were, more divinely. Natures that have much heat, and great and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for action till they have passed the meridian of their years; as it was with Julius Caesar and Septimius Severus, of the latter of whom it is said, Juventutem egit erroribus, imo furoribus plenam;4 and yet he was the ablest emperor, almost, of all the list: but reposed natures may do well in youth, as it is seen in Augustus Caesar, Cosmos duke of Florence, Gaston de Foix," and others. On the other side, heat and vivacity in age is an excellent composition for business. Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business; for the experience of age, in things that fall within the compass of it, directeth them ; but in new things abuseth them. The errors of young men are the ruin of business; but the errors of aged men amount but to this, that more might have been done, or sooner.

Young men, in the conduct and manage of actions, embrace more than they can hold ; stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end, without consideration of the means and degrees; pursue some few principles which they have chanced upon, absurdly; care not to innovate,” which draws unknown inconveniences; use extreme remedies at first, and, that which doubleth all errors, will not acknowledge or retract them ; like an unready horse, that will neither stop nor turn. Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success. Certainly it is good to compound employments of both ; for that will be good for the present, because the virtues of either age may correct the defects of both ; and good for succession, that young men may be learners, while men in age are actors; and, lastly, good for extern accidents, because authority followeth old men,

4 “His youth was full of errors, and even of frantic passions.” 5 A nephew of Louis the Twelfth: he commanded the French armies in Italy against the Spaniards, and was killed in the battle of Ravenna, in 1512.

6 That is, are not cautious in innovating, or are not careful how they innovate. This use of the infinitive was very common.

and favour and popularity youth: but, for the moral part, perhaps youth will have the prečminence, as age hath for the politic. A certain rabbin, upon the text, “Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams,” inferreth that young men are admitted nearer to God than old, because vision is a clearer revelation than a dream; and, certainly, the more a man drinketh of the world, the more it intoxicateth ; and age doth profit rather in the powers of understanding than in the virtues of the will and affections. There be some have an over-early ripeness in their years, which fadeth betimes: these are, first, such as have brittle wits, the edge whereof is soon turned ; such as was IHermogenes" the rhetorician, whose books are exceeding subtile, who afterwards waxed stupid: a second sort is of those that have some natural dispositions, which have better grace in youth than in age ; such as is a fluent and luxuriant speech, which becomes youth well, but not age: so Tully saith of Hortensius, Idem manebat, megue idem decebat: * the third is of such as take too high a strain at the first, and are magnanimous more than tract of years can uphold; as was Scipio Africanus, of whom Livy saith, in effect, Ultima primis cedebant.”


VIRTUE is like a rich stone, best plain set ; and surely virtue is best in a body that is comely, though not of delicate features, and that hath rather dignity of presence than beauty of aspect; neither is it almost seen that very beautiful persons are otherwise of great virtue, as if nature were rather busy not to err than in labour to produce excellency; and therefore they prove accomplished, but not of great spirit; and study rather behaviour than virtue. But this holds not always; for Augustus Caesar, Titus Vespasianus, Philip le Bel of France, Edward the Fourth of England, Alcibiades of Athens, Ismael the Sophy of Persia, were all high and great spirits, and yet the most beautiful men of their times. In beauty, that of favour is more than that of colour, and that of decent and gracious” motion more than that of favour. That is the best part of beauty which

7 He lived in the second century after Christ, and is said to have lost his memory at the age of twenty-five. 8 “He remained the same, but the same was no longer becoming to him.” 9 “His last deeds fell short of the first.” 1 Almost, here, has the force of generally. The usage was not uncommon. 2 Here decent and gracious are becoming and graceful.

a picture cannot express; no, nor the first sight of the life. There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. A man cannot tell whether Apelles or Albert IDurer were the more” trifler; whereof the one would make a personage by geometrical proportions, the other, by taking the best parts out of divers faces to make one excellent. Such personages, I think, would please nobody but the painter that made them ; not but I think a painter may make a better face than ever was ; but he must do it by a kind of felicity, (as a musician that maketh an excellent air in music,) and not by rule. A man shall see faces that, if you examine them part by part, you shall find never a good; and yet all together do well. If it be true that the principal part of beauty is in decent motion, certainly it is no marvel though persons in year; seem many times more amiable: I’ulchrorum autumnus pulcher:* for no youth can be comely but by pardon, and considering the youth as to make up the comeliness. Beauty is as summer-fruits, which are easy to corrupt, and cannot last ; and, for the most part, it makes a dissolute youth, and an age a little out of countenance; but yet certainly, again, if it light well, it maketh virtues shine, and vices blush.


DEFORMED persons are commonly even with Nature ; for as Nature hath done ill by them, so do they by Nature, being for the most part (as the Scripture saith) “void of natural affection”: and so they have their revenge of Nature. Certainly there is a consent between the body and the mind, and where Nature erreth in the one, she ventureth in the other: Ubi peccat in uno, periclitatur in altero: but, because there is in man an election touching the frame of his mind, and a necessity in the frame of body, the stars of natural inclination are sometimes obscured by the Sun of discipline and virtue ; therefore it is good to consider of deformity, not as a sign which is more deceivable," but as a cause which seldom faileth of the effect. Whosoever hath any thing fixed in his person that doth induce contempt, hath also a perpetual spur in himself to rescue and deliver himself from scorn; therefore all deformed persons are extreme bold;

3 More in the sense of greater. So Shakespeare, repeatedly.

4 “The Autumn of the beautiful is beautiful.”

5 Deceivable for deceptive; the passive form with the active sense. So in Ring Iēichard the Second, ii., 3: “Show me thy humble heast, and not thy knee, whose duty is deceivable and false. Also, in As You Like It, we have disputable for disputatious. s


first, as in their own defence, as being exposed to scorn, but in process of time by a general habit. Also it stirreth in them industry, and especially of this kind, to watch and observe the weakness of others, that they may have somewhat to repay. Again, in their superiors, it quencheth jealousy towards them, as persons that they think they may at pleasure despise ; and it layeth their competitors and emulators asleep, as never believing they should be in possibility of advancement till they see them in possession: so that upon the matter, in a great wit, an advantage to rising. Kings in ancient times (and at this present in some countries) were wont to put great trust in eunuchs, because they that are envious towards all are more obnoxious" and officious towards one ; but yet their trust towards them hath rather been as to good spials and good whisperers than good magistrates and officers; and much like is the reason of deformed persons. Still the ground is, they will, if they be of spirit, seek to free themselves from scorn, which must be either by virtue or malice; and therefore let it not be marvelled, if sometimes they prove excellent persons; as was Agesilaüs, Zanger the son of Solyman, AEsop, Gasca president of Peru; and Socrates may go likewise amongst them, with others.


STUDIEs serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse ; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business: for expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one ; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies, is sloth ; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation ; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humour of a scholar: they perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them ; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them and above them, won by observation. Itead not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some

6 Obnorious in the Latin sense of submissive or complying.

books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; 7 and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books; else distilled books are, like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man; and therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtile ; natural philosophy deep ; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend: A beunt studia in mores:* nay, there is no stand or impediment in the wit, but may be wrought out by fit studies: like as diseases of the body may have appropriate exercises, bowling is good for the stone and reins, shooting for the lungs and breast, gentle walking for the stomach, riding for the head and the like ; – so, if a man's wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics, for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again ; if his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the schoolmen, for they are Cymini sectores; * if he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyers' cases: so every defect of the mind may have a special receipt.


PRAISE is the reflection of virtue, but it is as the glass or body which giveth the reflection : if it be from the common people, it is commonly false and naught, and rather followeth vain persons than virtuous; for the common people understand not many excellent virtues: the lowest virtues draw praise from them, the middle virtues work in them astonishment or admiration ; but of the highest virtues they have no sense or perceiving at all ; but shows, and species virtutibus similes," serve best with them. Certainly fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid; but if

Curiously in the sense of attentirely or inquisitively.
“Studies pass up into manners and habits.”
“Splitters of cummin,” or, as we now say, “hair-splitters.”
“Appearances resembling virtues.” -

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »