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XXXIX.—OF CUSTOM AND EDUCATION. Men's thoughts are much according to their inclination ;' their discourse and speeches according to their learning and infused opinions ; but their deeds are, after, as they have been accustomed ; and, therefore, as Machiavel well noteth, (though in an evil-favored instance,) there is no trusting to the force of nature, nor to the bravery of words, except it be corroborate by custom.? His instance is, that, for the achieving of a desperate conspiracy, a man should not rest upon the fierceness of any man's nature, or his resolute undertakings, but take such a one as hath had his hands formerly in blood; but Machiavel knew not of a Friar Clement, nor a Ravillac, 4 nor a Jaureguy, nor a Baltazar Gerard ; 6 yet his rule holdeth still, that nature, nor the engagement of words, are not so forcible as custom. Only superstition is now so well advanced, that men of the first blood are as firm as butchers by occupation; and votary resolution is made equipollent
1" The wish is father to the thought,” is a proverbial saying of similar meaning.
2 Vide Disc. Sop. Liv. iii. 6.
8 Jacques Clement, a Doininican friar, who assassinated Henry III. of France, in 1589. The sombre fanatic was but twenty-five years of age; and he had announced the intention of killing with his own hands the great enemy of his faith. He was instigated by the Leaguers, and particularly by the Duchess of Montpensier, the sister of the Duke of Guise.
4 He murdered Henry IV. of France, in 1610.
5 Philip II. of Spain having, in 1582, set a price upon the head of William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, the leader of the Protestants, Jaureguy attempted to assassinate him, and severely wounded him.
6 He assassinated William of Nassau, in 1584. It is supposed that this fanatic meditated the crime for six years.
7 A resolution prompted by a vow of devotion to a particular principle or creed.
to custom, even in matter of blood. In other things, the predominancy of custom is everywhere visible, insomuch as a man would wonder to hear men profess, protest, engage, give great words, and then do just as they have done before, as if they were dead images and engines, moved only by the wheels of custom. We see, also, the reign or tyranny of custom, what it is. The Indians 1 (I mean the sect of their wise men) lay themselves quietly upon a stack of wood, and so sacrifice themselves by fire ; nay, the wives strive to be burned with the corpses of their husbands. The lads of Sparta, of ancient time, were wont to be scourged upon the altar of Diana, without so much as quecking. I remember, in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's time of England, an Irish rebel condemned, put up a petition to the deputy that he might be hanged in a withe, and not in a halter, because it had been so used with former rebels. There be monks in Russia for penance, that will sit a whole night in a vessel of water, till they be engaged with hard ice. Many examples may be put of the force of custom, both upon mind and body; therefore, since custom is the principal magistrate of man's life, let men, by all means, endeavor to obtain good customs. Certainly, custom is most perfect when it beginneth in young years : this we call education, which is, in effect, but an early custom. So we see, in languages, the tongue. is more pliant to all expressions and sounds, the joints are more supple to all feats of activity and motions in youth, than afterwards; for it is true, that late learners cannot so well take the ply, ex
1 He alludes to the Hindoos, and the ceremony of Suttee, encouraged by the Brahmins.
2 Flinching. - Vide Cic. Tuscul. Disp. ii. 14.
cept it be in some minds that have not suffered themselves to fix, but have kept themselves open and prepared to receive continual amendment, which is exceeding rare. But if the force of custom, simple and separate, be great, the force of custom, copulate and conjoined and collegiate, is far greater; for there example teacheth, company comforteth, emulation quickeneth, glory raiseth ; so as in such places the force of custom is in his exaltation. Certainly, the great multiplication of virtues upon human nature resteth upon societies well ordained and disciplined; for commonwealthis and good governments do nourish virtue grown, but do not much mend the seeds; but the misery is, that the most effectual means are now applied to the ends least to be desired.
XL.-OF FORTUNE. It cannot be denied, but outward accidents conduce much to fortune; favor, opportunity, death of others, occasion fitting virtue; but, chiefly, the mould of a man's fortune is in his own hands : “ Faber quisque fortunæ suæ,” 1 saith the poet; and the most frequent of external causes is, that the folly of one man is the fortune of another ; for no man prospers so suddenly as by others' errors. “ Serpens nisi
1“ Every man is the architect of his own fortune.” Sallust, in his letters • De Republicâ Ordinandâ," attributes these words to Appius Claudius Cæcus, a Roman poet whose works are now lost. Lord Bacon, in the Latin translation of his Essays, which was made under his supervision, rendered the word “poet" “comicus;" by whom he probably meant Plautus, who has this line in his “ Trinummus," (Act ii, sc. 2:) “ Nam sapiens quidem pol ipsus fingit fortunam sibi," which has the same meaning, though in somewhat different terms.
serpentem comederit non fit draco.”i Overt and apparent virtues bring forth praise; but there be secret and hidden virtues that bring forth fortune; certain deliveries of a man's self, which have no name. The Spanish name, “disemboltura," 2 partly expresseth them, when there be not stonds 8 nor restiveness in a man's nature, but that the wheels of his mind keep way with the wheels of his fortune; for so Livy (after he had described Cato Major in these words, “ In illo viro, tantum robur corporis et animi fuit, ut quocunque loco natus esset, fortunam sibi facturus videretur,”) 4 falleth upon that, that he had “ versatile ingenium :"5 therefore, if a man look sharply and attentively, he shall see Fortune ; for though she be blind, yet she is not invisible. The way of Fortune is like the milky way in the sky; which is a meeting, or knot, of a number of small 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 ;” 6 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,
1“A serpent, unless it has devoured a serpent, does not become a dragon."
2 Or“ desenvoltura,” implying readiness to adapt one's self to circumstances.
3 Impediments, causes for hesitation.
4“ In that man there was such great strength of body and mind, that, in whatever station he had been born, he seemed as though he should make his fortune." 5" A versatile genius.”
6" A little of the fool.”
were never fortunate; neither can they be, for when a man placeth his thoughts without himself, he goeth not his own way. A hasty fortune maketh an enterpriser and remover; the French hath it better, “ entreprenant,” or “remuant;") but the exercised fortune maketh the able man. Fortune is to be honored and respected, and it be but for her daughters, Confidence and Reputation ; for those two Felicity breedeth ; the first within a man's self, the latter in others towards him. All wise men, to decline the envy of their own 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 Cæsar said to the pilot in the tempest, “ Cæsarem portas, et fortunam ejus.” i So Sylla chose the name of “Felix,” 2 and not of “ Magnus ; ” 8 and it hath been poted, that those who ascribe openly too much to their own wisdom and policy, end unfortunate. It is written, that Timotheus 4 the Athenian, after he had, in the account he gave to the state of his government, often interlaced his speech, “and in this Fortune had no part,” never prospered in any thing he undertook afterwards. Certainly there be, whose fortunes are like Homer's verses, that have a slide 5 and easiness more than the verses of other poets; as Plutarch saith of Timoleon's 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 “ Thou carriest Cæsar and his fortunes."— Plut. Vit. Cæs. 38.
2 “ The Fortunate.” He attributed his success to the intervention of Hercules, to whom he paid especial veneration.
8“ The Great." - Plut. Syll. 34.
4 A successful Athenian general, the son of Conon, and the friend of Plato.
5 Fluency, or smoothness.