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and meat should not be sold beyond such and such a price, the result would be that every one would be driven—unless he would submit to be starved—to evade the law; and he would have to pay for his food more than he otherwise would, to cover (i) the cost of the contrivances for the evasion of the law, and (2) a compensation to the seller for the risk, and also for the discredit, of that evasion. Even so, a man who is in want of money, and can find no one to lend it him at legal interest, is either driven (as Bacon himself remarks), to sell his property at a ruinous loss, or else he borrows of some Jew, who contrives to evade the law; and he has to pay for that evasion. Suppose, for instance, he could borrow (if there were no usury laws) at eight per cent., he will have to pay, perhaps, virtually, twelve per cent., because (1) he has to resort to a man who incurs disgrace by his trade, and who will require a greater profit to compensate for the discredit; and (2) he will have to receive part of his loan in goods which he does not want, at an exorbitant price, or in some other way to receive less, really, than he does nominally.
ESSAY XLII. OP YOUTH AND AGE.
A MAN that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have lost no time; but that happeneth rarely. Generally, youth is like the first cogitations, not so wise as the second, for there is a youth in thoughts as well as in ages; and yet the invention of young men is more lively than that of old, and imaginations stream into their minds better, and, as it were, more divinely. Natures that have much heat, and great and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for action till they have passed the meridian of their years; as it was with Julius Caesar and Septimius Severus, of the latter of whom it is said, 'Juventutem egit, erroribus, imo furoribus plenam :'' and yet he was the ablest emperor almost of all the list; but reposed2 natures may do well in youth, as it is seen in Augustus Caesar, Cosmus Duke of Florence, Gaston de Fois, and others. On the other side, heat and vivacity in age is an excellent composition3 for business. Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business; for the experience of age, in things that fall within the compass of it, directeth them, but in new things abuseth4 them. The errors of young men are the ruin of business, but the errors of aged men amount but to this—that more might have been done, or sooner. Young men, in the conduct and manage5 of actions, embrace more than they can hold; stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end, without consideration of the means and degrees; pursue some few principles which they have chanced upon, absurdly; care not' to innovate, which worse, when no superior and purifying principle has been implanted. Some people fancy that a man grows good by growing old, without taking any particular pains about it. But 'The older the crab-tree, the more crabs it bears,' says the proverb. Unless a correcting principle be engrafted, though a man may, perhaps, outgrow the vices and follies of youth, other Vices, and even worse, will come in their stead. If, indeed, a wilding tree be grafted, when young, with a good fruit tree, then, the older it is, if it be kept well pruned, the more good fruit it will bear.
1 'His youth was not only full of errors, but of frantic passions.'—Spartian, Yit. Sev.
2 Reposed. Calm. 'With wondrous reposedness of mind, and gcutle words, Reputation answered.'—Trandation of Baccalini, 7626.
J Composition. Temperament. See page 354.
* Abuse. To deceive; to lead astray.
'Nor be with all those tempting words abused.'—Pope, 1 Muuagc. Management.
'The manage of my state.'—Shakespcre.
* Cure not. Are not cautious.
'A man that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have lost
Many are apt to overlook, with regard to mental qualifications, what Bacon has here said, that the junior in years may be the senior in experience. And this may be, not only from his having had better opportunities, but also from his understanding better how to learn from experience. 'Several different men, who have all had equal, or even the very same, experience,—that is, have been witnesses or agents in the same transactions,—will often be found to resemble so many different men looking at the same book: one, perhaps, though he distinctly sees black marks on white paper, has never learned his letters; another can read, but is a stranger to the language in which the book is written; another has an acquaintance with the language, but understands it imperfectly; another is familiar with the language, but is a stranger to the subject of the book, and lacks power or previous instruction to enable him fully to take in the author's drift; while another again perfectly comprehends the whole.
'The object that strikes the eye is to all of these persons the same; the difference of the impressions produced on the mind of each is referable to the differences in their minds.''
And this explains the fact, which I have already touched upon in the notes on the Essay 'Of seeming Wise,' namely, the great discrepancy that we find in the results of what are called Experience and Common-sense, as contradistinguished from Theory.
1 Political Economy, Leot. iii.
'Men are apt not to consider with sufficient attention, what it is that constitutes Exjierience in each point; so that frequently one man shall have credit for much Experience in what relates to the matter in hand, and another, who, perhaps, possesses as much, or more, shall be underrated as wanting it. The vulgar, of all ranks, need to be warned, first, that time alone does not constitute Experience ; so that many years may have passed over a man's head, without his even having had the same opportunities of acquiring it, as another, much younger: secondly, that the longest practice in conducting any business in one way, does not necessarily confer any experience in conducting it in a different way. For instance, an experienced Husbandman, or Minister of State, in Persia, would be much at a loss in Europe; and if they had some things less to learn than an entire novice, on the other hand they would have much to unlearn ; and, thirdly, that merely being conversant about a certain class of subjects, does not confer Experience in a case, where the Operations, and the End proposed, are different. It is said that there was an Amsterdam merchant, who had dealt largely in corn all his life, who had never seen a field of wheat growing: this man had doubtless acquired, by Experience, an accurate judgment of the qualities of each description of corn,—of the best methods of storing it,—of the arts of buying and selling it at proper times, &c.; but he would have been greatly at a loss in its cultivation; though he had been, in a certain way, long conversant about corn. Nearly similar is the Experience of a practised lawyer, (supposing him to be nothing more,) in a case of Legislation. Because he has been long conversant about Law, the unreflecting attribute great weight to his legislative judgment; whereas his constant habits of fixing his thoughts on what the law is, and withdrawing it from the irrelevant question of what the law ought to be ;—his careful observance of a multitude of rules, (which afford the more scope for the display of his skill, in proportion as they are arbitrary and unaccountable,) with a studied indifference as to that which is foreign from his business, the convenience or inconvenience of those Rules—may be expected to operate unfavourably on his judgment in questions of Legislation: and are likely to counterbalance the advantages of his superior knowledge, even in such points as do bear on the question.
'Again, a person who is more properly to be regarded as an Antiquarian than anything else, will sometimes be regarded as high authority in some subject respecting which he has perhaps little or no real knowledge or capacity, if he have collected a multitude of facts relative to it. Suppose for instance a man of much reading, and of retentive memory, but of unphilosophical mind, to have amassed a great collection of particulars respecting the writers on some science,—the times when they flourished,— the numbers of their followers,—the editions of their works, &c., it is not unlikely he may lead both others and himself into the belief that he is a great authority in that science; when perhaps he may in reality know—though a great deal about it—nothing of it. Such a man's mind, compared with that of one really versed in the subject, is like an antiquarian armoury, full of curious old weapons,—many of them the more precious from having been long since superseded,—as compared with a wellstocked arsenal, containing all the most approved warlike implements fit for actual service.
'In matters connected with Political-economy, the experience of practical men is often appealed to in. opposition to those who are called theorists; even though the latter perhaps are deducing conclusions from a wide induction of facts, while the experience of the others will often be found only to amount to their having been long conversant with the details of office, and having all that time gone on in a certain beaten track, from which they never tried, or witnessed, or even imagined a deviation.
'So also the authority derived from experience, of a practical miner,—i. e. one who has wrought all his life in one mine,—will sometimes delude a speculator into a vain search for metal or coal against the opinion perhaps of Theorists, i. e. persons of extensive geological observation.
'* It may be added, that there is a proverbial maxim which bears witness to the advantage sometimes possessed by an observant bystander over those actually engaged in any transaction: —' The looker-on often sees more of the game than the players.' Now the looker-on is precisely (in Greek &eiopb<;) the Theorist.
"When then you find any one contrasting, in this and in other subjects, what he calls 'experience,' with 'theory,' you will usually perceive, on attentive examination, that he is in reality