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It may be added that the cunning are often deceived by those who have no such intention. When a plain, straightforward man declares plainly his real motives or designs, they set themselves to guess what these are, and hit on every possible solution but the right; taking for granted that he cannot mean what he says. Bacon's remark on this we have already given in the 'Antitheta on Simulation and Dissimulation.' 'He who acts in all things openly, does not deceive the less; for most persons either do not understand, or do not believe him.'
'Nothing doth more hurt in a State than that cunning men jm*
for wise. '
Churchill thus describes the cunning man:—
'With that low cunning which in fools supplies,
It is indeed an unfortunate thing for the Public that the cunning pass for wise,—that those whom Bacon compares to' a house with convenient stairs and entry, but never a fair room' should be the men who (accordingly) are the most likely to rise to high office. The art of gaining power, and that of using it well, are too often found in different persons.
1 The Roeciad, 1. 117.
ESSAY XXIII. OF WISDOM FOR A MAN'S
AN ant is a wise creature for itself, but it is a shrewd1 thing in an orchard or garden; and certainly men that are great lovers of themselves waste* the public. Divide with reason between self-love and society; and be so true to thyself as thou be not false to others, especially to thy king and country. It is a poor centre of a man's actions, himself. It is right earth; for that only stands fast upon its own centre; whereas all ti'ings that-have affinity with the heavens move upon the centre of another, which they benefit. The referring of all to a man's self is more tolerable in a sovereign prince, because themselves are not only themselves, but their good and evil is at the peril of the public fortune: but it is a desperate evil in a servant to a prince, or a citizen in a republic; for whatsoever affairs pass such a man's hands, he crooketh3 them to his own ends, which must needs be often eccentric to the ends of his master or State: therefore, let princes or States choose such servants as have not this mark, except they mean their service should be made but the accessary. That which maketh the effect more pernicious is, that all proportion is lost. It were disproportion enough for the servant's good to be preferred before the master's; but yet it is a greater extreme, when a little good of the servant shall carry things against the great good of the master's: and yet that is the case of bad officers, treasurers, ambassadors, generals, and other false and corrupt servants, which set a bias4 upon their bowl, of their own petty ends and envies, to the overthrow of their master's great and important affairs. And for the most part, the good such servants receive is after the model of their own fortune, but the hurt they sell for that good is after the model of their master's fortune. And certainly it is the nature of extreme self-lovers, as' they will set a house on fire and2 it were but to roast their eggs; and yet these men many times hold credit with their masters, because their study is but to please them, and profit themselves; and for either respect3 they will abandon the good of their affairs.
1 Shrewd. Mischievous.
'Do my Lord of Canterbury
* Waste. To lay waste; to desolate.
'Peace to corrupt, no less than war to waste.'—Milton. 3 Crook. To pereert. 'St. Augustine sayeth himself that images be of more force to croohe an unhappye soulo than to teach and instruct him.'—Homilies— 'Sermon against Idolatry.'
* Bias. A weight lodged on one side, of the boiol, which turns it from the straight line.
'Madam, we'll play at bowls,—
Wisdom for a man's self is, in many branches thereof, a depraved thing: it is the wisdom of rats, that will be sure to leave a house some time before its fall: it is the wisdom of the fox, that thrusts out the badger, who digged and made room for him: it is the wisdom of crocodiles, that shed tears when they would devour. But that which is specially to be noted is, that those which (as Cicero says of Pompey) are 'sui amantes sine rivali'4 are many times unfortunate; and whereas they have all their time sacrificed to themselves, they become in the end themselves sacrifices to the inconstancy of fortune, whose wings they thought by their self-wisdom to have pinioned.
'An ant is a shrewd thing in a garden.'
This was probably the established notion in Bacon's time, as it is with some, perhaps, now. People seeing plants in a sickly state covered with ants, attributed the mischief to them; the fact being that the ants do them neither harm nor good, but are occupied in sucking the secretion of the aphides which swarm on diseased plants, and are partly the cause, partly the effect of disease. If he had carefully watched the ants, he would have seen them sucking the aphides, and the aphides sucking the plant.
1 As. That. See page 26.
a And. If. 'An' it like you.'— SlwJcespere.
'Respect . Consideration.
'There's the reaped That makes calamity of so long life.'—Shakespere. * 'Lovers of themselves without a rival.'—Cic. ad Q. F. m, 8.
But Bacon, though he had a great fancy for making observations and experiments in every branch of natural philosophy and natural history, was remarkably unskilful in that departs nient. His observations were slight and inaccurate, and his reasonings from them very rash. It is true we ought not to measure a man of those days by the standard of the present, when science has—partly through Bacon's means—made such advances. But he was below (in this point) what might have been attained, and was attained, in his own day. Copernicus' theory was not unknown in his day; yet he seems to have thought lightly of it. Also Gilbert the Magnetist he did not duly appreciate. And most remarkable of all, perhaps, is his error—noticed in the preface—respecting the Misselto; a trifling matter in itself; but the casting up of a sum is a test of one's arithmetic, whether the items be farthings or pounds.
Unlike Bacon, Socrates greatly discouraged all branches of natural philosophy. According to Xenophon, he derided those who inquired concerning the motions of the heavenly bodies, the tides, the atmosphere, &c., asking whether they expected to be able to control these things? or whether, again, they had so completely mastered all that related to human affairs, of which Man does possess the control, that they might afford to devote themselves to speculations remote from practice?
That nature can be controlled, by obeying (and only by obeying) her laws (' Naturae non imperatur, nisi parendo'), the maxim which Bacon so earnestly dwells on, and which furnishes the proper answer—though well worthy of that earnestness,— is what all mankind—even savages—have always in some degree acted on. For he who sows his corn at the season when he has observed that fertilizing rains may be expected, and so that by the time it approaches maturity the season of sunshine may be expected, does virtually command rain and sun. And the mariner commands the winds and tides, who so times his voyage, from observation, as to be likely to meet with favourable winds and tides. And so in an infinite number of other cases.
'Divide with reason1 between self-love and society; and be so true to thyself as thou be not false to others.'
The difference between self-love and selfishness has been well explained by Aristotle, though he has not accounted for the use of the word <f>i\avria. It is clear that selfishness exists only in reference to others, and could have no place in one who lived alone on a desert island, though he might have of course every degree of self-love; for selfishness is not an excess of self-love, and consists not in an over-desire of happiness, but in placing your happiness in something which interferes with, or leaves you regardless of, that of others.2 Nor are we to suppose that selfishness and want of feeling are either the same or inseparable. For, on the one hand, I have known such as have had very little feeling, but felt for others as much nearly as for themselves, and were therefore far from selfish; and, on the other hand, some of very acute feelings, feel for no one but themselves, and, indeed, are sometimes amongst the most cruel.
Under this head of the 'dividing between self-love and society' may be placed a distinction made hy Bishop Coplestou3 between two things which he says are occasionally confounded by Locke, as well as most other writers on education. 'Two things,' he remarks, 'ought to be kept perfectly distinct—viz., that mode of education which would be most beneficial, as a system, to society at large, with that which would contribute most to the advantage and prosperity of an individual. Now, the peculiar interest of the individual is not always the same, is seldom precisely the same, is even frequently at variance, with the interest of the Public. And he who serves the one most faithfully, always forgets, and often injures, the other. The latter is that alone which deserves the attention of a philosopher; the former—individual interest—is narrow, selfish, and mercenary. It is the mode of education which would fit for a specific employment, or contribute most to individual advantage and prosperity, on which the world are most eager to inform themselves; but the persons who instruct them, however they may deserve the thanks and esteem of those whom
1 With reason. Fairly. * See Lessons on Murals, L. xvi . § 3.
3 Memoir of Bishop Copleston, p. 307.