Page images
PDF
EPUB

professed, and with a manifest detestation of bribery, doth the other; and avoid not only the fault, but the suspicion. Whosoever is found variable, and changeth manifestly without manifest cause, giveth suspicion of corruption; therefore, always when thou changest thine opinion or course, profess it plainly, and declare it, together with the reasons that move thee to change, and do not think to steal it. A servant or a favorite, if he be inward, and no other apparent cause of esteem, is commonly thought but a by-way to close corruption. For roughness, it is a needless cause of discontent: severity breedeth fear, but roughness breedeth hate. Even reproofs from authority ought to be grave, and not taunting. As for facility, it is worse than bribery, for bribes come but now and then ; but if importunity or idle respects 2 lead a man, he shall never be without; as Solomon saith, “ To respect persons is not good; for such a man will transgress for a piece of bread.” 3

It is most true that was anciently spoken: “A place showeth the man; and it showeth some to the better, and some to the worse :” “Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset,” 4 saith Tacitus of Galba ; but of Vespasian he saith, “ Solus imperantium, Vespasianus mutatus in melius ;” 5 though the one was meant of sufficiency, the other of manners and affection. It is an assured sign of a worthy and generous spirit, whom honor amends; for honor is, or should be, the place of virtuc; and as in nature things move violently to their place, and calmly in their place, so virtue in ambition is violent, in authority settled and calm. All rising to great place is by a winding stair; and if there be factions, it is good to side a man's self whilst he is in the rising, and to balance himself when he is placed. Use the memory of thy predecessor fairly and tenderly ; for if thou dost not, it is a debt will sure be paid when thou art gone. If thou have colleagues, respect them; and rather call them when they look not for it, than exclude them when they have reason to look to be called. Be not too sensible or too remembering of thy place in conversation and private answers to suitors; but let it rather be said, “ When he sits in place, he is another man.”

1 Too great easiness of access.
2 Predilections that are undeserved.

3 Proverbs xxviii. 21. The whole passage stands thus in our version: “ He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. To have respect of persons is not good; for, for a piece of bread, that man will transgress.”

4" By the consent of all he was fit to govern, if he had not governed.”

5" Of the emperors, Vespasian alone changed for the better after his accession. Tac. Hist. i. 49, 50, (A. L. ii. xxii. 5.)

XII.—OF BOLDNESS. It is a trivial grammar-school text, but yet worthy a wise man's consideration. Question was asked of Demosthenes, what was the chief part of an orator? He answered, Action : what next? Action : what next again ?-Action. He said it that knew it best, and had, by nature, himself no advantage in that he commended. A strange thing, that that part of an orator which is but superficial, and rather the virtue of a player, should be placed so high above those other noble parts of invention, elocution, and the rest; nay, almost alone, as if it were all in all. But the reason is plain. There is in human nature generally more of the fool than of

1 Plut. vit. Demosth. 17. 18.

the wise ; and therefore those faculties by which the foolish part of men's minds is taken are most potent. Wonderful like is the case of boldness in civil business. What first ? — Boldness: what second and third — Boldness. And yet boldness is a child of ignorance and baseness, far inferior to other parts ; but, nevertheless, it doth fascinate, and bind hand and foot those that are either shallow in judgment or weak in courage, which are the greatest part, yea, and prevaileth with wise men at weak times ; therefore, we see it hath done wonders in popular states, but with senates and princes less, and more, ever upon the first entrance of bold persons into action than soon after; for boldness is an ill keeper of promise. Surely, as there are mountebanks for the natural body, so are there mountebanks for the politic body; men that undertake great cures, and perhaps have been lucky in two or three experiments, but want the grounds of science, and therefore cannot hold out; nay, you shall see a bold fellow many times do Mahomet's miracle. Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers for the observers of his law. The people assembled ; Mahomet called the hill to come to him again and again ; and when the hill stood still, he was never a whit abashed, but said, “ If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.” So these men, when they have promised great matters and failed most shamefully, yet, if they have the perfection of boldness, they will but slight it over, and make a turn, and no more ado. Certainly, to men of great judgment, bold persons are a sport to behold; nay, and to the vulgar also boldness hath somewhat of the ridiculous ; for if absurdity be the subject of laughter, doubt you not but great boldness is seldom without some absurdity ; especially it is a sport to see when a bold fellow is out of countenance, for that puts his face into a most shrunken and wooden posture, as needs it must; for in bashfulness the spirits do a little go and come, but with bold men, upon like occasion, they stand at a stay; like a stale at chess, where it is no mate, but yet the game cannot stir ; but this last were fitter for a satire than for a serious observation. This is well to be weighed, that boldness is ever blind, for it seeth not dangers and inconveniences; therefore it is ill in counsel, good in execution ; so that the right use of bold persons is, that they never command in chief, but be seconds and under the direction of others; for in counsel it is good to see dangers; and in execution not to see them except they be very great.

XIII.—OF GOODNESS, AND GOODNESS OF

NATURE.

I TAKE goodness in this sense, the affecting of the weal of men, which is that the Grecians call philanthropia ; and the word humanity, as it is used, is a little too light to express it. Goodness I call the habit, and goodness of nature the inclination. This, of all virtues and dignities of the mind, is the greatest, being the character of the Deity; and without it man is a busy, mischievous, wretched thing, no better than a kind of vermin. Goodness answers to the theological virtue charity, and admits no excess but error. The desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall ;? the desire of knowledge in excess caused man to fall; but in charity there is no excess, neither can angel or man come in danger by it. The inclination to goodness is imprinted deeply in the nature of man, insomuch that if it issue not towards men, it will take unto other living creatures; as it is seen in the Turks, a cruel people, who nevertheless are kind to beasts, and give alms to dogs and birds; insomuch, as Busbechius 2 reporteth, a Christian boy in Constantinople had like to have been stoned for gagging in a waggishness a long-billed fowl.: Errors, indeed, in this

1 It is not improbable that this passage suggested Pope's beautiful lines in the Essay on Man, Ep. i. 125 – 8.

“Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes,
Men would be angels, angels would be gods.
Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell,

Aspiring to be angels, men rebel.” 2 Auger Gislen Busbec, or Busbequius, a learned traveller, born at Comines, in Flanders, in 1522. He was employed by the Emperor Ferdinand as ambassador to the Sultan Solyman II. He was afterwards ambassador to France, where he died, in 1592. His “ Letters” relative to his travels in the East, which are written in Latin, contain much interesting information. They were the pocket companion of Gibbon, and are highly praised by him.

3 In this instance the stork or crane was probably protected, not on the abstract grounds mentioned in the text, but for reasons of state policy and gratitude combined. In Eastern climates the cranes and dogs are far more efficacious than human agency in removing filth and offal, and thereby diminishing the chances of pestilence. Superstition, also, may have formed another motive, as we learn from a letter written from Adrianople, by Lady Montagu, in 1718, that storks were “held there in a sort of religious reverence, because they are supposed to make every winter the pilgrimage to Mecca. To say truth, they are the happiest subjects under the Turkish government, and are so sensible of their privileges, that they walk the streets without fear, and generally build their nests in the lower parts of the houses. Happy are those whose houses are so distinguished, as the vulgar Turks are perfectly persuaded that they will not be that year attacked either by fire or pestilence." Storks are still

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »