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said, 'If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.' So these men, when they have promised great matters, and failed most shamefully, yet, if they have the perfection of boldness, they will but slight it over,1 and make a turn, and no more ado.2
Certainly, to men of great judgment, bold persons are sport to behold—nay, and to the vulgar also boldness hath somewhat of the ridiculous: for, if absurdity be the subject of laughter, doubt you not but great boldness is seldom without some absurdityEspecially it is a sport to see when a bold fellow is out of countenance; for that puts his face into a most shrunken and wooden posture, as needs it must—for in bashfulness the spirits do a little go and come—but with bold men, upon like occasion, they stand at a stay ;3 like a stale at chess, where it is no mate, but yet the game cannot stir. But this last were fitter for a satire than for a serious observation.
This is well to be weighed, that boldness is ever blind, for it seeth not dangers and inconveniences; therefore it is ill in counsel, good in execution; so that the right use of bold persons is, that they never commaud in chief, but be seconds and under the direction of others; for in counsel it is good to see dangers, and in execution not to see them, except they be very great.
'Boldness is a child of ignorance and baseness, far inferior to
Bacon seems to have had that over-estimate of those who are called the 'prudent' which is rather common. One cause of the supposed superiority of wisdom often attributed to the over-cautious, reserved, non-confiding, non-enterprising charactors, as compared with the more open, free-spoken, active, and daring, is the tendency to overrate the amount of what is distinctly known. The bold and enterprising are likely to meet with a greater number of tangible failures than the overcautious: and yet if you take a hundred average men of each description, you will find that the bold have had, on the whole, a more successful career. But the failures—that is, the nonsuccess—of the over-cautious, cannot be so distinctly traced. Such a man only misses the advantages—often very great— which boldness and free-speaking might have gained. He who always goes on foot will never meet with a fall from a horse, or be stopped on a journey by a restive horse; but he who rides, though exposed to these accideuts, will, in the end, have accomplished more journeys than the other. He who lets his land lie fallow, will have incurred no losses from bad harvests; but he will not have made so much of his land as if he had ventured to encounter such risks.
Slight over. To treat carelesdy.
'His death, and your deliverance, Were themes that ought not to be flighted over.'—Dryden. 1 Ado. 'Much Ado about Nothing.'—Shakespere. . Stay. Stand; cessation of progression.
'Never to decay
The kind of boldness which is most to be deprecated—or at least as much so as the boldness of ignorance—is daring, unaccompanied by firmness and steadiness of endurance. Such was that which Tacitus attributes to the Gauls and Britons; 'Eadem in deposcendis periculis audacia; eadem in detrectanclis, ubi advenerint, formido.'' This character seems to belong to those who have—in phrenological language—Hope, and Combativeness, large, and Firmness small.
1 'The samo daring in rnahing into dangers, and the same timidity in shrinking from them when they come.'
ESSAY XIII. OF GOODNESS, AND GOODNESS OF NATURE.
I TAKE goodness in this sense,—the affecting1 of the weal of men, which is that the Grecians call Philanthropia; and the word humanity, as it is used, is a little too light to express it. Goodness, I call the habit, and goodness of nature the inclination. This, of all virtues and dignities of the mind, is the greatest, being the character of the Deity; and without it, Man is a busy, mischievous, wretched thing, no better than a kind of vermin. Goodness answers to the theological virtue, Charity, and admits no excess but error. The desire of power, in excess, caused the angels to fall—the desire of knowledge, in excess, caused Man to fall; but in charity there is no excess, neither can angel or Man come in danger by it. The inclination to goodness is imprinted deeply in the nature of Man; insomuch, that if it issue not towards men, it will take unto other living creatures; as it is seen in the Turks, a cruel people, who, nevertheless, are kind to beasts, give alms to dogs and birds; insomuch as Busbechius2 reporteth, a christian boy in Constantinople had liked to have been stoned for gagging, in a waggishness, a long-billed fowl.
Errors, indeed, in this virtue, in goodness or charity, may be committed. The Italians have of it an ungracious proverb, 'Tanto buon che val niente:'3 and one of the doctors of Italy, Nicholas Machiavel, had the confidence to put in writing, almost in plain terms, 'That the christian faith had given up good men in prey to those who are tyrannical and unjust:' which he spake because, indeed, there was never law, or sect, or opinion, did so much magnify goodness as the christian religion doth; therefore, to avoid the scandal, and the danger both, it is good to take knowledge4 of the errors of a habit so excellent. Seek the good of other men, but be not in bondage to their faces or fancies; for that is hut facility or softness, which taketh an honest mind prisoner. Neither give thou iEsop's cock a gem, who would be better pleased and happier if he had a barleycorn. The example of God teacheth the lesson truly: 'He sendeth his rain, and maketh his sun to shine upon the just and the unjust;' but he doth not rain wealth nor shine honour and virtues upon men equally: common benefits are to be communicated with all, but peculiar benefits with choice. And beware how in making the portraiture thou breakest the pattern; for divinity maketh the love of ourselves the pattern —the love of our neighbours but the portraiture: 'Sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor, and follow me ;' but sell not all thou hast, except thou come and follow me—that is, except thou have a vocation' wherein thou mayest do as much good with little means as with great—for otherwise, in feeding the streams thou driest the fountain.
1 Affecting. The being desirous of; aiming at. See page i.
1 Busbechius. A learned Fleming of the iCth century, in his Travels in the East.
5 'So good that he is good for nothing.'
* Take knowledge of. Take cognizance of. 'They took knoiciedge of them, that they had been with Jesus.'—Acts iv. i j.
Neither is there only a habit of goodness directed by right reason; but there is in some men, even in nature, a disposition towards it, as, on the other side, there is a natural malignity; for there be that in their nature do not affect the good of others. The lighter sort of malignity turneth but to a crossness, or frowardness, or aptness to oppose, or difficileness,2 or the like; but the deeper sort to envy, and mere mischief. Such men, in other men's calamities, are, as it were, in season, and are ever on the loading3 part—not so good as the dogs that licked Lazarus' sores, but like flies that are still buzzing upon anything that is raw—misanthropi [men-haters], that make it their practice to bring men to the bough, and yet never have a tree for the purpose in their gardens, as Timon4 had: such dispositions are the very errors of human nature, and yet they are the fittest timber to make great ]Kiliticss of—like to knee-timber,6 that is good for ships that are ordained to be tossed, but not for building houses that shall stand firm.
1 Vocation. See page 23.
* Diffieiloness. Difficulty to be persuaded. 'The Cardinal, finding the Pope difficile in grunting the slisjiensotion.'— Bacon, Henry VII.
8 Loading. Loaden ; burdened.
* See an account of Timon in Plutarch's hife of Marc Antony. 5 Politics. Politicians. See page 24.
8 Knee-timber. A timber in the shape of the Itnee when bent.
The parts and signs of goodness are many. If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen ot the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them,—if he be compassionate towards the affliction of others, it shows that his heart is like the noble tree that is wounded itself when it gives the balm,—if he easily pardons and remits offences, it shows that his mind is planted above injuries, so that he cannot be shot,— if he be thankful for small benefits, it shows that he weighs men's minds, and not their trash; but, above all, if he have St. Paul's perfection, that he would wish to be an anathema from Christ,1 for the salvation of his brethren, it shows much of a divine nature, and a kind of conformity with Christ Himself.
'Goodness admits no excess, but error. '
In the present day, we employ the term 'good-nature' in reference to the smaller manifestations of kindness, on ordinary occasions. To speak of any one who devoted himself, like Howard, or Wilberforce, to the promotion of some great benefit to Mankind, as a good-natured man, would sound ridiculous. We should call him a philanthropist .
Bacon, however, is speaking, universally, of what is now called benevolence and beneficence; and his remark is very just, that it admits of no excess in quantity, though it may be misdirected and erroneous. For if your liberality be such as to reduce your family to poverty, or—like the killing of the hen that laid the golden eggs—such as to put it out of your power hereafter to be liberal at all; or if it be bestowed on the undeserving; this is rather to be accounted an unwise and misdirected benevolence than an excess of it in quantity. And we have here a remarkable instance of the necessity of keeping the whole character and
1 Itoman s ix. 3.