« PreviousContinue »
stars not seen asunder, but giving light together: so are there a number of little and scarce discerned virtues, or rather faculties and customs, that make men fortunate: the Italians note some of them, such as a man would little think. When they speak of one that cannot do amiss, they will throw in into his other conditions, that he hath' Poco di matto;'1 and, certainly, there be not two more fortunate properties than to have a little of the fool, and not too much of the honest: therefore extreme lovers of their country, or masters, were never fortunate; neither can they be; for when a man plaeeth his thoughts without himself, he goeth not his own way. A hasty fortune maketh an enterpriser * and remover3 (the French hath it better, 'entreprenant,' or 'remuant'), but the exercised * fortune maketh the able man. Fortune is to be honoured and respected, and4 it be but for her daughters, Conscience and Reputation; for those two felicity breedeth; the first within a man's self, the latter in others towards him. All wise men, to decline6 the envy of thenown virtues, use to ascribe them to Providence and Fortune; for so they may the better assume them: and besides, it is greatness in a man to be the care of the higher powers. So Ca3sar said to the pilot in the tempest, 'Ccesarem portas, et fortunam ejus.'7 So Sylla chose the name of 'felix,' and not of 'magnus:'8 and it hath been noted, that those who ascribe openly too much to their own wisdom and policy, end unfortunate. It is written, that Timotheus the Athenian, after he had, in the account he gave to the State of his government, often interlaced this speech, * And in this fortune had no part,' never prospered in anything he undertook afterward. Certainly there be whose fortunes are like Homer's verses, that have a slide' and an easiness more than the verses of other poets; as Plutarch saith of Timoleon's2 fortune, in respect of that of Agesilaus, or Epaminondas; and that this should be, no doubt it is much in a man's self.
1 • A little of the fool.'
* Enterpriser. An adventurer; a bold projector.
'Wit makes an enterpriser, sense a man.'— Young. Remover. Agitator. 4 Exercised. Made familiar by use. 'A heart exercised with covetous practjes*.' -2 Pet. ii. 14. 6 And. If.
'Nay, and I suffer this, I may go craze.'—Beaumont and Fletcher. Decline. To avoid.
'Since tho Muses do invoke my power, I shall no more decline the sacral bower Where Gloriana, the great mistress, lies.'— Sir P. Sidney. 'You carry Caesar and his fortunes.'—Plut. Vit. Cxsar. 38. 8 'Fortunate,' (and not of) * great.'—Plut . SyU. 54.
ANTITHETA ON FOBTUNE.
'Virtutos apertio laudes pariunt; 00- 'Stultitia unius, fort una altcrius.
cultae fortunas. 'The fully of one is the good fortune
'Virtues that are openly seen obtain of another.' praise; but what is called luck is the result of unperceived virtues.'
'Fortuna veluti galaxia; hoc est,, nodus quarundam obscuiarum virtutum, sine nomine.
'Fortune is like a galaxy; that is to lay, a collection of certain unteen and nameless endowments'
'80 are there a number of little and scarce discerned faculties or customs, that make menfortunate.'
It is common to hear the lower orders speak of luck, either as their mode of expressing what Bacon here calls 'small faculties and customs,' or, as attributing to fortune what is a kind of indescribable and imperceptible skill. You may hear them speak of a woman who has good luck in her butter-making or in bread-making; of a gardener who is lucky or who is unlucky in grafting, or in raising melons, &c.
'When they (the Italians) speak of one that cannot do amiss, they will throw into his other conditions, that he hath 'Poco di matto' [a little of thefoot\'
This is in accordance with the proverb, 'Fortune favours fools;' and it would have been well if Bacon had said something more of it. Fortune is said to favour fools, because they trust all to fortune. When a fool escapes any danger, or succeeds in any undertaking, it is said that fortune favours him; while a wise man is considered to prosper by his own prudence and foresight. For instance, if a fool who does not bar his door, escapes being robbed, it is ascribed to his luck; but the prudent man, having taken precautions, is not called fortunate. But a wise man is, in tact, more likely to meet with good fortune than a foolish one; because he puts himself in the way of it . If he is sending off a ship he has a better chance of obtaining a favourable wind, because he chooses the place and season in which such winds prevail as will be favourable to him. If the fool's ship arrives safely, it is by good luck alone; while both must be in some degree indebted to fortune for success.1
1 Slide. Fluency. 'Often he had used to be an actor in tragedies, where he had learned, besides a didingnest of language, acquaintance with my passions.'— Sidney. . i Vii. Timol. 36.
One way in which fools succeed where wise men fail is, that, through ignorance of the danger, they sometimes go cooUy about some hazardous business. Hence the proverb that 'The fairies take care of children, drunken men, and idiots.'
A surgeon was once called in to bleed an apoplectic patient. He called the physician aside, and explained to him that in this particular subject the artery lay so unusually over the vein, that there was imminent risk of pricking it . 'Well, but he must lie bled at all hazards; for he is sure to die without.' 'I am so nervous,' said the surgeon, 'that my hand would be unsteady. But I know of a barber hard by who is accustomed to bleed; and as he is ignorant of anatomy, he will go to work coolly.' The barber was summoned, and performed the operation readily and safely. When it was over, the surgeon showed him some anatomical plates, and explained to him that he had missed the artery only by a hair's breadth. He never ventured to bleed again.
One sometimes meets with an ' ill-used man;' a man with whom everything goes wrong; who is always thinking how happy he should be to exchange his present wretched situation for such and such another; and when he has obtained it, finding that he is far worse off than before, and seeking a remove; and as soon as he has obtained that, discovering that his last situation was just the thing for him, and was beginning to open to him a prospect of unbroken happiness, far beyond his present state, &c. To him a verse of Shakespere well applies:—
1 Sec Pronerbs and Precept* for Copy-pieces.
'0 thoughts of men accurst!
One is reminded of a man travelling in the African desert, surrounded by mirage, with a (seeming) lake behind him, and another lake before him, which, when he has reached, he finds to be still the same barren and scorching sand. A friend aptly remarked, 'This man's happiness has no present tense.'
ESSAY XLI. OF USURY.1
MANY have made witty invectives against usury. They say, that it is a pity2 the devil should have God's part, which is the tithe; that the usurer is the greatest Sabbathbreaker, because his plough goeth every Sunday; that the usurer is the drone that Virgil speaketh of:
'Ignavum fucos pecus a prseaepibus arcent;' 5
that the usurer breaketh the first law that was made for mankind after the fall, which was, 'In sudore vultus tui comedes panem tuum,'4 not 'In sudore vultus alieni;'s that usurers should have orange-tawny bonnets, because they do judaize, that it is against nature for money to beget money; and the like. I say this only, that usury is a 'concessum propter duritiem cordis :'s for since there must be borrowing and lending, and men are so hard of heart as7 they will not lend freely, usury must be permitted. Some others have made suspicious and cunning propositions of banks, discovery of men's estates, and other inventions; but few have spoken of usury usefully. It is good to set before us the incommodities8 and commodities' of usury, that the good may be either weighed out or culled
1 Usury. Interest on money (not, as now, unlawful interest). 'Thou oughtest, therefore, to have put my money to the exchangers, and then, at my coming, I Bhould havo received mine own with usury.'—Matt. xsv. 2 7. 'Our angles are iiks money put to usury; they may still thrive, though we sit still, and do nothing.'— Isaak Walton.
2 It is pity. It is a pity.
'That ho is mad, 'tis true; 'tis true, 'tis pity;
8 'They drive from the hive the lazy swarm of drones.'—Georg. iv. 168.
* 'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.'—Gen. iii. 19.
5 'In the sweat of another's face.'
• 'A concession on account of hardness of heart.'—See Matt. six. 8.
7 As. That. See page 26.
8 Incommodity. Inconvenience; disadvantage. 'The .uncouth incommodity at my solitary life.'—Bishop HaU. • What incommodity have you conceived to be in the common law.'—Spenser.
9 Commodities. Advantages.
'I will turn diseases to commodity.'—Shakespcre.