Page images
PDF
EPUB

there is not one that hath been transported to the mad degree of love, which shows that great spirits and great business do keep out this weak passion. You must except, nevertheless, Marcus Antonius, the half partner of the empire of Rome, and Appius Claudius," the decemvir and lawgiver; whereof the former was indeed a voluptuous man, and inordinate, but the latter was an austere and wise man; and therefore it seems (though rarely) that love can find entrance, not only into an open heart, but also into a heart well fortified, if watch be not well kept. It is a poor saying of Epicurus, “Satis magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus ;” 2 as if man, made for the contemplation of heaven and all noble objects, should do nothing but kneel before a little idol, and make himself subject, though not of the mouth (as beasts are) yet of the eye, which was given him for higher purposes. It is a strange thing to note the excess of this passion, and how it braves the nature and value of things, by this, that the speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in

He iniquitously attempted to obtain possession of the person of Virginia, who was killed by her father Virginius, to prevent her from falling a victim to his lust. This circumstance caused the fall of the Decemviri at Rome, who had been employed in framing the code of laws afterwards known as “ The Laws of the Twelve Tables.” They narrowly escaped being burnt alive by the infuriated populace.

2. We are a sufficient theme for contemplation, the one for the other.” — Sen. Epist. Mor. 1. 7. (A, L. ). iii. 6.) 'Pope seems, notwithstanding this censure of Bacon, to have been of the same opinion with Epicurus:

“ Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study for mankind is man."

Essay on Man, Ep. ii. 1, 2. Indeed, Lord Bacon seems to have misunderstood the saying of Epicurus, who did not mean to recommend man as the sole object of the bodily vision, but as the proper theme for mental contemplation.

nothing but in love, neither is it merely in the phrase ; for whereas it hath been well said, “ That the arch flatterer, with whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence, is a man's self;" certainly, the lover is more; for there was never proud man thought so absurdly well of himself as the lover doth of the person loved; and therefore it was well said, “That it is impossible to love and to be wise.” 1 Neither doth this weakness appear to others only, and not to the party loved, but to the loved most of all, except the love be reciprocal ; for it is a true rule, that love is ever rewarded, either with the reciprocal, or with an inward and secret contempt ; by how much the more men ought to beware of this passion, which loseth not only other things, but itself. As for the other losses, the poet's relation 2 doth well figure them: “ That he that preferred Helena, quitted the gifts of Juno and Pallas ; ” for whosoever esteemeth too much of amorous affection, quitteth both riches and wisdom. This passion hath his floods in the very times of weakness, which are, great prosperity and great adversity, though this latter hath been less observed; both which times kindle love, and make it more fervent, and therefore show it to be the child of folly. They do best who, if they cannot but admit love, yet make it keep quarter, and sever it wholly from their serious affairs and actions of life ; for if it check once with business, it troubleth men's fortunes, and maketh men that they can nowise be true to their own ends. I know not how, but martial men are given to love; I think it is, but as they are given

1 Amare et sapere vix Deo conceditur. — Pub. Syr. Sent. 15. (A. L. ii. proc. 10.) * 2 He refers here to the judgment of Paris, mentioned by Ovid in his Epistles, of the Heroines.

to wine, for perils commonly ask to be paid in . pleasures. There is in man's nature a secret inclination and motion towards love of others, which, if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable, as it is seen sometimes in friars. Nuptial love maketh mankind, friendly love perfecteth it, but wanton love corrupteth and embaseth it.

XI.-OF GREAT PLACE. 1 Men in great place are thrice servants — servants of the sovereign or state, servants of fame, and servants of business; so as they have no freedom, neither in their persons, nor in their actions, nor in their times. It is a strange desire to seek power and to lose liberty; or to seek power over others, and to lose power over a man's self. The rising unto place is laborious, and by pains men come to greater pains; and it is sometimes base, and by indignities men come to dignities. The standing is slippery, and the regress is either a downfall, or at least an eclipse, which is a melancholy thing : “ Cum non sis qui fueris, non esse cur velis vivere.” 2 Nay, retire men cannot when they would, neither will they when it were reason; but are impatient of privateness even in age and sickness, which require the shadow ; like old townsmen, that will be still sitting at their street door, though

1 Montaigne has treated this subject before Bacon, under the title of De l'incommodité de la Grandeur, (B. iii. ch. vii.)

2 “ Since you are not what you were, there is no reason why you should wish to live."

thereby they offer age to scorn. Certainly, great persons had need to borrow other men's opinions to think themselves happy; for if they judge by their own feeling, they cannot find it; but if they think with themselves what other men think of them, and that other men would fain be as they are, then they are happy as it were by report, when, perhaps, they find the contrary within ; for they are the first that find their own griefs, though they be the last that find their own faults. Certainly, men in great fortunes are strangers to themselves, and while they are in the puzzle of business, they have no time to tend their health either of body or mind.

Illi mors gravis incubat,
Qui notus nimis omnibus,

Ignotus moritur.1 In place, there is license to do good and evil, whereof the latter is a curse; for in evil, the best condition is not to will, the second not to can. But power to do good is the true and lawful end of aspiring; for good thoughts, though God accept them, yet towards men are little better than good dreams, except they be put in act; and that cannot be without power and place, as the vantage and commanding ground. Merit and good works are the end of man's motion, and conscience of the same is the accomplishment of man's rest; for if a man can be partaker of God's theatre, he shall likewise be partaker of God's rest. “Et conversus Deus, ut aspiceret opera, quæ fecerunt manus suæ, vidit quod omnia essent bona nimis; ” 2 and then the Sabbath.

In the discharge of thy place, set before thee the best examples ; for imitation is a globe of precepts, and after a time set before thee thine own example; and examine thyself strictly whether thou didst not best at first. Neglect not also the examples of those that have carried themselves ill in the same place; not to set off thyself by taxing their memory, but to direct thyself what to avoid. Reform, therefore, without bravery or scandal of former times and persons; but yet set it down to thyself, as well to create good precedents as to follow them. Reduce things to the first institution, and observe wherein and how they have degenerated ; but yet ask counsel of both times — of the ancient time what is best, and of the latter time what is fittest. Seek to make thy course regular, that men may know beforehand what they may expect; but be not too positive and peremptory, and express thyself well when thou digressest from thy rule. Preserve the right of thy place, but stir not questions of jurisdiction ; and rather assume thy right in silence, and de facto, than voice it with claims and challenges. Preserve likewise the rights of inferior places; and think it more honor to direct in chief than to be busy in all. Embrace and invite helps and advices touching the execution of thy place; and do not drive away such as bring thee information as meddlers, but accept of them in good part. The vices of authority are chiefly four: delays, corruption, roughness, and facility. For delays, give easy access, keep times appointed, go through with that which is in hand, and interlace not busi ness but of necessity. For corruption, do not only bind thine own hands or thy servant's hands from taking, but bind the hands of suitors also from offering; for integrity used doth the one, but integrity

1" Death presses heavily upon him, who, well known to all others, dies unknown to himself." - Sen. Thyest. ii. 401.

2“ And God turned to behold the works which his hands had made, and he saw that every thing was very good." --See Gen. 1“ As a matter of course."

« PreviousContinue »