« PreviousContinue »
ESSAY XXII. OF CUNNING.
WE take cunning for a sinister, or crooked wisdom; and certainly there is a great difference between a cunning man and a wise man, not only in point of honesty, but in point of ability. There be that can pack the cards, and yet cannot play well; so there are some that are good in canvasses and factions, that are otherwise weak men. Again, it is one thing to understand persons, and another thing to understand matters; for many are perfect in men's humours, that are not greatly capable of the real part of business; which is the constitution of one that hath studied men more than books. Such men are fitter for practice than for counsel, and they are good but in their own alley: turn them to new men, and they have lost their aim; so as' the old rule, to know a fool from a wise man, 'Mitte ambos nudos ad ignotos, et videbis,'2 doth scarce hold for them. And because these cunning men are like haberdashers of small wares, it is not amiss to set forth their shop.
It is a point of cunning to wait3 upon him with whom you speak, with your eye, as the Jesuits give it in precept—for there be many wise men that have secret hearts and transparent countenances; yet this would4 be done with a demure abasing of your eye sometimes, as the Jesuits also do use.
Another is, that when you have anything to obtain of present dispatch, you entertain and amuse the party with whom you deal with some other discourse, that he be not too much awake to make objections. I know a counsellor and secretary, that never came to Queen Elizabeth of England with bills to sign, but he would always first put her into some discourse of state, that she might the less mind the bills.
The like surprise may be made by moving5 things when the party is in haste, and cannot stay to consider advisedly of that' is moved.
1 As. That. See page 2 7.
1 'Send both naked to strangers, and thou sli.ilt know.' * * Wait upon him with your eye. To look watchfully to him. 'As the eyes of
servants look unto the hands of their masters so our eyes wail upon the
Lord our God.'—Pi. exxiii. 2.
•Let me but move one question to your daughter.'—Shakespere.
If a man would cross a business that he doubts some other would handsomely and effectually move, let him pretend to wish it well, and move it himself, in such sort as may foil it.
The breaking off in the midst of that one was about to say, as if he took himself up, breeds a greater appetite in him with whom you confer to know more.
And because it works better when anything seemeth to be gotten from you by question, than if you offer it of yourself, you may lay a bait for a question, by showing another visage and countenance than you are wont; to the end, to give occasion for the party to ask what the matter2 is of the change, as Nehemiah did,—'And I had not before that time been sad before the king.'3
In things that are tender and unpleasing, it is good to break the ice by some whose words are of less weight, and to reserve the more weighty voice to come in as by chance, so that he may be asked the question upon the other's speech; as Narcissus did, in relating to Claudius the marriage of Messalina and Silius.4
In things that a man would not be seen in himself, it is a point of cunning to borrow the name of the world; as to say, 'The world says,' or, 'There is a speech abroad.'
I knew one that, when he wrote a letter, he would put that which was most material in the postscript, as if it had been a bye matter.
I knew another that, when he came to have speech, he would pass over that he intended most, and go forth, and come back again, and speak of it as a thing he had almost forgot.
Some procure themselves to be surprised at such times as it is like the party, that they work upon, will suddenly come upon them, and be found with a letter in their hand, or doing somewhat which they are not accustomed, to the end they may be apposed1 of those things which of themselves they are desirous to utter.
1 That. That which, Soe page 83. - Matter. Cause.
'To your quick-conceiving discontent, I'll read you uiatler deep and dangerous.'—Shakopere, 3 Neluimiak ii. ;. 'Tacit. Ann.xL 29, uq.
It is a point of cunning to let fall those words in a man's own name which he would have another man learn and use, and thereupon take advantage. I knew two that were competitors for the secretary's place, in Queen Elizabeth's time, and yet kept good quarter2 between themselves, and would confer one with another upon the business; and the one of them said, that to be a secretary in the declination3 of a monarchy was a ticklish thing, and that he did not affect4 it; the other straight caught lip those words, and discoursed with diverss of his friends, that he had no reason to desire to be secretary in the declining of a monarchy. The first man took hold of it, and found means it was told the queen; who, hearing of a declination of monarchy, took it so ill, as * she would never after hear of the other's suit.
There is a cunning, which we in England call 'the turning of the cat in the pan;'' which is, when that which a man says to another, he lays it as if another had said it to him; and, to say truth, it is not easy, when such a matter passed between two, to make it appear from which of them it first moved and began.
It is a way that some men have, to glance and dart at others by justifying themselves by negatives; as to say, 'This I do not;' as Tigellinus did towards Burrhus, saying, 'Se non diversas spes, sed incolumitatem imperatoris simpliciter spectare.''
1 Apposed. Questioned. (From appono, Lat.J 'Whiles children of that age were playing in the streets, Christ was found sitting in the Temple, not to gaze on the outward glory of the house, or on the golden candlesticks, or tables, but to hear and appose the doctors.'—Bishop Hall.
(The office of ' Foreign Apposer' exists to this day in the Court of Exchequer.)
* Quarter. Amity; concord.
'Friends, all but now, In quarter.'—Sluikespere.
* Declination. Decay.
'Hope waits upon the flow*ry prime; And summer though it be less gay, Yet is not look'd on as a time Of declination or decay.'—Waller. 'Affect. Aim at; endeavour after. See page 1. 1 Divers. Several; more Hum one. 'Divers friends thought it strange.'—
6 As. Thai. See page 27.
'Cat' in the pan. Van-cake. (Cate—cake—pan-cake.) Usually turned by a dexterous toss of the cook. A pan-cake is, in Northamptonshire, still called a pan-cafe.
Some have in readiness so many tales and stories, as there is nothing they would insinuate but they can wrap it into a tale; which serveth both to keep themselves more in2 guard, and to make others carry it with more pleasure.
It is a good point of cunning for a man to shape the answer he would have, in his own words and propositions; for it makes the other party stick3 the less.
It is strange how long some men will lie in wait to speak somewhat they desire to say, and how far about they 'will fetch, and how many other matters they will beat over to come near it; it is a thing of great patience, but yet of much use.
A sudden, bold, and unexpected question, doth many times surprise a man, and lay him open. Like to him that, having changed his name, and walking in Paul's, another suddenly came behind him, and called him by his true name, whereat straightways * he looked back.
But those small wares and petty points of cunning are infinite, and it were a good deed to make a list of them; for that nothing doth more hurt in a State than that cunning men pass for wise.
But certainly some there are that know the resorts5 and falls6 of business, that cannot sink into the main of it; like a house that hath convenient stairs and entries, but never a fair room: therefore you shall see them find out pretty7 looses8 in the conelusion,1 but are no ways able to examine or debate matters; and yet commonly they take advantage of their inability, and would be thought wits of direction. Some build rather upon the abusing2 of others, and (as we now say) putting tricks upon them, than upon the soundness of their own proceedings; but Solomon saith, 'Prudens advertit ad gressus suos; stultus divertit ad dolos.'3
1 'He did not look to various hopes, but solely to the safety of the emperor.'— Tacit. Ann. xiv. 5 7.
* In. On. 'Let fowl multiply sn tho earth.'— Genesis i.
3 Stick. To hesitate; to sample. 'Rathcr than impute our miscarriages to <Known corruption, we do not stick to arraign Providence.'—South,
* Straightways. Immediately. b Resorts. Springs.
'Fortune, Whose dark resorts since prudence cannot know, In vain it would provide for what shall be.'—Dryden. 6 Falls. Chances. 'To resist the falls of fortune.'—Golden Book. < Pretty. Suitable ; fit; tolerable.
'My daughter's of a pretty age.'—Bomeo and Juliet. 8 Looses. Issues; escapes from restraint, such as is difficulty or perpleotj in deliberation.
'And shot they with the square, the round, or forket pile, (head of an arrow) The loose gave such a twang as might be heard a milo.'—Drayton.
[This This use of the word 'loose' seems to correspond with our use of the word 'solution,' from solvo, to Loose—'Solve the question:'
'We take cunning for a sinister or erooked wisdom.'
Those who are for making etymology decisive as to the actual meaning of words4 might maintain that, as the word is derived from 'ken'—i.e. 'know,'—it is properly to be applied, now (as it was formerly), to all knowledge and skill.
And, again, a plausible disquisition might be written on human depravity; the present use of the word being taken as a proof that all who possesss knowledge are likely to make an ill-use of it . Such disquisitions may be met with, by writers who either do not understand, or trust to their readers not understanding, the principles on which languages are formed and modified, and who would fain pass for profound moral philosophers.5
But, in truth, it is quite natural, and very common, to use softened expressions in speaking of anything odious. Most of
'He had red her riddle, which no wight Could ever loose.'—Spenser. 1 Conclusion. The close; the result of deliberation. 'I have been reasoning, and in cowiusion have thought it best to return to what Fortune had made my home.'—Swift.
Bacon's meaning in the use of the words taken together, ' Pretty looses in the conclusion,' is best explained by the orijrinnl Latin of this Essay—' Tales videtis in cimdiuionibw) deliberationum quosdam exitus reperire.' 3 Abuse. To deceive.
'The Moor's abused by some most villanous knave.'—Shaiespere. 3 "Die wise man looks to his steps; the fool turns aside to the snare.' * 8ee 'Annotations' on Essay L. • See English Synonyms: Preface.