Page images
PDF
EPUB

treasurers, ambassadors, generals, and other false and corrupt servants; which set a bias 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, an 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 respect they will abandon the good of their affairs.

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 somewhat before it 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," 1 are many times unfortunate ; and whereas they have all their times 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.

1“ Lovers of themselves without a rival.” --Ad. Qu. Fr. iii. 8.

XXIV.-OF INNOVATIONS. As the births of living creatures at first are illshapen, so are all innovations, which are the births of time; yet, notwithstanding, as those that first bring honor into their family are commonly, more worthy than most that succeed, so the first precedent (if it be good) is seldom attained by imitation ; for ill to man's nature as it stands perverted, hath a natural motion strongest in continuance, but good, as a forced motion, strongest at first. Surely, every medicine ? is an innovation, and he that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils, for time is the greatest innovator ; and if time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end ? It is true, that what is settled by custom, though it be not good, yet, at least, it is fit ; and those things which have long gone to gether, are, as it were, confederate within themselves; 2 whereas new things piece not so well; but, though they help by their utility, yet they trouble by their inconformity ; besides, they are like strangers, more admired and less favored. All this is true, if time stood still, which, contrariwise, moveth so round, that a froward retention of custom is as turbulent a thing as an innovation; and they that reverence too much old times are but a scorn to the new. It were good, therefore, that men in their innovations would follow the example of time itself, which indeed innovateth greatly, but quietly, and by degrees scarce to be perceived ; for, otherwise, whatsoever is new is unlooked for, and ever it mends

1 Remedy.

2 Adapted to each other.

some and pairs 1 other; and he that is holpen, takes it for a fortune, and thanks the time; and he that is hurt, for a wrong, and imputeth it to the author. It is good, also, not to try experiments in states, except the necessity be urgent, or the utility evident; and well to beware that it be the reformation that draweth on the change, and not the desire of change that pretendeth the reformation ; and lastly, that the novelty, though it be not rejected, yet be held for a suspect,and, as the Scripture saith, “ That we make a stand upon the ancient way, and then look about us, and discover what is the straight and right way, and so to walk in it.8

XXV.-OF DISPATCH. AFFECTED dispatch is one of the most dangerous things to business that can be ; it is like that which the physicians call predigestion, or hasty digestion, which is sure to fill the body full of crudities, and secret seeds of diseases. Therefore, measure not dispatch by the times of sitting, but by the advancement of the business; and as in races, it is not the large stride, or high lift, that makes the speed, so in business, the keeping close to the matter, and not taking of it too much at once, procureth dispatch. It is the care of some, only to come off speedily for the time, or to contrive some false periods of business, because they may seem men of dispatch; but it is one thing to abbreviate by contracting,' another by cutting off; and business so handled at several sittings, or meetings, goeth commonly backward and forward in an unsteady manner. I knew a wise man that had it for a byword, when he saw men hasten to a conclusion, “ Stay a little, that we may make an end the sooner.”

1 Injures or impairs.

2 A thing suspected. 8 He probably alludes to Jeremiah vi. 16: “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”

On the other side, true dispatch is a rich thing; for time is the measure of business, as money is of wares; and business is bought at a dear hand where there is small dispatch. The Spartans and Spaniards have been noted to be of small dispatch : “ Mi venga la muerte de Spagna ; ” “ Let my death come from Spain ; ” for then it will be sure to be long in coming.

Give good hearing to those that give the first information in business, and rather direct them in the beginning, than interrupt them in the continuance of their speeches ; for he that is put out of his own order will go forward and backward, and be more tedious while he waits upon his memory, than he could have been if he had gone on in his own course; but sometimes it is seen that the moderator is more troublesome than the actor.

Iterations are commonly loss of time; but there is no such gain of time as to iterate often the state of the question ; for it chaseth away many a frivolous speech as it is coming forth. Long and curious speeches are as fit for dispatch as a robe, or mantle, with a long train, is for a race. Prefaces, and passages, and excusations, and other speeches of reference to the person, are great wastes of time; and though they seem to proceed of modesty, they are bravery. Yet beware of being too material when there is any impediment, or obstruction in men's wills; for preoccupation of mind ? erer requireth preface of speech, like a fomentation to make the unguent enter.

1 That is, by means of good management.

2 It is supposed, that he here alludes to Sir Amyas Paulet, a : very able statesinan, and the ambassador of Queen Elizabeth to the court of France. 8 Quotations.

4 Apologies.

Above all things, order and distribution, and singling out of parts, is the life of dispatch, so as the distribution be not too subtile ; for he that doth not divide will never enter well into business; and he that divideth too much will never come out of it clearly. To choose time is to save time; and an unseasonable motion is but beating the air. There be three parts of business, — the preparation ; the debate, or examination; and the perfection. Whereof, if you look for dispatch, let the middle only be the work of many, and the first and last the work of few. The proceeding, upon somewhat conceived in writing, doth for the most part facilitate dispatch; for though it should be wholly rejected, yet that negative is more pregnant of direction than an indefinite, as ashes are more generative than dust.

XXVI.-OF SEEMING WISE.

It hath been an opinion, that the French are wiser than they seem, and the Spaniards seem wiser than they are ; but, howsoever it be between nations, certainly it is so between man and man; for, as the apostle saith of godliness, “Having a show

1 Boasting.

2 Prejudice.

« PreviousContinue »