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ment to perceive the combination, when it occurs, of wit with sound reasoning. The ivy-wreath conceals from his view the point of the Thyrsus. His is not the wisdom that can laugh at what is ludicrous, and, at the same time, preserve a clear discernment of sound and unsound reasoning.
Again—Some of these seeming wise men pride themselves on their scorn1 for all systematic knowledge, and on their reliance on what they call common sense and experience. They depend on their ' experience' and their' common sense' for everything, and are continually obtruding what may be called the pedantry of experience and common sense on the most abstruse subjects. They meet all scientific and logical argument with— 'Common sense tells me I am right,' and—' My every-day's experience confirms me in the opinion I have formed.' If they are spoken to of Political Economy, they will immediately reply, 'Ah, I know nothing of the dreams of Political Economy' (this is the very phrase I have heard used)—' I never studied it—I never troubled myself about it; but there are some points upon which I have made up my mind, such as the question of free trade and protection, and poor-laws.' 'I do not profess'—a man will perhaps say—'to know anything of Medicine, or Pharmacy, or Anatomy, or any of those things; but I know by experience that so and so is wholesome for sick people.'
In former times men knew by experience that the earth stands still, and the sun rises and sets. Common sense taught them that there could be no antipodes, since men could not stand with their heads downwards, like flies on the ceiling. Experience taught the King of Bantam that water can never become solid. And—to come to the case of human affairs— the experience and common sense of the most intelligent of the Roman historians, Tacitus, taught him that for a mixed government to be established, combining the elements of royalty, aristocracy, and democracy, would be next to impossible; and that if it were established, it must speedily be dissolved. Yet, had he lived to the present day, he would have learned that the establishment and continuance of such a form of government was not impossible. So much for experience! The experience of these wise men resembles the learning of a man who has turned over the pages of a great many books without ever having learned to read; and their so-called 'common sense' is often, in reality, nothing else than common prejudice.
Yet these very persons 'pass for wise, or, as Bacon expresses it,' get opinion,' by the oracular decisions they are continually pronouncing on the most difficult scientific questions. For instance, decisions on questions concerning taxation, tithes, the national debt, the poor-laws, the wages which labourers earn or ought to earn, the comparative advantages of different modes of charity, and numberless other questions of Political Economy, are boldly pronounced by them, while not only ignorant, but professedly ignorant, and designing to continue so, of the whole subject: neither haying, nor pretending to have, nor seeking for, any fixed principles by which to regulate their judgment on each point . That gentleman equals them in wisdom, while certainly surpassing them in the modesty of his doubt, who, on being asked whether he could play on the violin, made answer that he really did not know whether he could or not, because he had never tried.
It is somewhat remarkable that this claim to be thought wise, founded on the adherence to so-called common sense, should be so generally allowed as it is. For it is not consistent with the universal, though unconscious, and often unwilling, testimony of mankind—that systematic knowledge is preferable to conjectural judgments, and that common sense is only our secondbest guide. This testimony is borne in the fact that the sailor, the architect, the physician, and every other practitioner, each in his own department, gives the preference to unassisted common sense only in those points where he himself has nothing else to trust to, and invariably resorts to the rules of art wherever he possesses the knowledge of them.1 But most people are apt to give credit for wisdom to those, not whose views are, on the whole, most reasonable, but those whose common sense consists in common notions, and who are free from all errors, except vulgar errors.
Another mode in which men set up for being wise is, by being fastidious. They are so excessively acute at detecting imperfections, that in looking at a peacock's train, they would
1 Sec Elementt of Ixyic, Preface, p. xv.
fix on every spot where the feathers were worn, or the colours faded, and see nothing else.
Again—It is a characteristic of some of these seeming wise men, that not only are 'little things great' to them, as the poet says they are to 'little men,' but great things are little to them.
With writers of the 'seeming-wise' class, it is the commonest artifice to adopt that style of mysterious grandiloquence which was adverted to in the Preface to this volume. Let a writer on science—suppose, Logic, or Metaphysics—bring forward what knowledge he does possess, in dark hints, insiuuating that he has a vast store of wisdom unrevealed, and that great discoveries may be expected, some day or other, from himself or some of his disciples, when the world is ripe for them; and let him speak of all other writers on the subject with insolent contempt; and it is likely that a large portion of that numerous class, the credulous, will give him credit for being a great philosopher.
Such persons may remind one of a story told of a certain Banker who bequeathed to his son a flourishing business, together with a large and very strong iron chest, securely locked, and which had always been supposed full of gold. 'To tell you the truth,' said he,'the chest is empty: but if you keep the seeret, the secret will keep you.'
As to this, and other tricks by which men (in the modern phrase) 'puff themselves,' they might have been introduced by Bacon in the essay 'On Cunning.' But it is worth noticing, that those who assume an imposing demeanour, and seek to puff themselves off for something beyond what they are (and often succeed), are, not unfrequently, as much wntfer-rated by some, as they are over-rated by others. For, as a man (according to what Bacon says in the essay 'On Discourse') by keeping back some knowledge which he is believed to possess, may gain credit for knowing something of which he is really ignorant, so, if he is once or twice detected in pretending to know what he does not, he is likely to be set down as a men pretender, and as ignorant of what he does know.
'Silver gilt will often pass
Sec Froterle and Precept?, as Copy-pieces for National Schools.
'You were better take for business a man somewhat absurd than over-formal.'
By 'absurd' Bacon probably means what we express by 'inconsiderate'; what the French call ;etourdi.n
The 'over-formal' often impede, and sometimes frustrate, business by a dilatory, tedious, circuitous, and (what in colloquial language is called) fussy way of conducting the simplest transactions. They have been compared to a dog, which cannot lie down till he has made three circuits round the spot.
See Essay XLVII.
setting.1 With Julius Caesar, Decimus Brutus had obtained that interest, as he sot him down in his testament for heir in remainder after his nephew; and this was the man that had power with him to draw him forth to his death; for when Caesar would have discharged the senate, in regard of some ill presages. and especially a dream of Calpumia, this man lifted him gently by the arm out of his chair, telling him he hoped he would not dismiss the senate till his wife had dreamed a better dream;3 and it seemed his favour wa-s so great, as Antouius, in a letter, which is recited verbatim in one of Cicero's Philippics, called him 'venefica,' witch,—as if ho had enchanted Caesar.3 Augustus raised Agrippa, though of mean birth, to that height, as,4 when he consulted with Maecenas about the marriage of his daughter Julia, Maecenas took the liberty to tell him, that he must either marry his daughter to Agrippa, or take away his life,—there was no third way, he had made him so great. With Tiberius Caesar, Sejanus had ascended to that height as they two were termed and reckoned as a pair of friends. Tiberius, in a letter to him, saith, 'Haec pro amicitia nostra non occultavi;'5 and the whole senate dedicated an altar to Friendship, as to a goddess, in respect of the great dearness0 of friendship between them two. The like, or more, was between Septimus Severus and Plautianus; for he forced his eldest son to marry the daughter of Plautianus, and would often maintain Plautianus in doing affronts to his son; and did write also, in a letter to the senate, by these words,7 'I love the man so well, as I wish he may over-live8 me.' Now, if these princes had been as a Trajan, or a Marcus Aurelius, a man might have thought that this had proceeded of9 an abundant goodness of nature: but being men so wise, of such strength and severity of mind, and so extreme lovers of themselves, as all these were, it proveth, most plainly, that they found their own felicity, though as great as ever hap pened to mortal men, but as a half piece, except they might
1 Plut. Vit. l'omp. 19. 'Tlut. Vit. J. Cas. 64.
'Cic. Philip, xiii. n. * As. That. Pee page :6.
5 'On Recount of our friendship, I have not concealed these things.'—Tacit. Ann. iv. 40.
6 Dearness. Fondness. 'He must profess all the clearness and friendship.'—SwriA. 'Dion Cass. lxxv.
6 Overlive. Survive. 'Musidorus, who showed a mind not to ovetiive Proms, prevailed.'—Sir V. Sidney. 'Of. From. See page id*.