« PreviousContinue »
weight by a live fish being put into it. While they were seeking for the cause, they forgot to ascertain the fact; and thus admitted, without suspicion, a mere fiction. So also, an eminent Scotch writer, instead of asserting that the advocates of logic have been worsted and driven from the field in every controversy,' (an assertion which, if made, would have been the more readily ascertained to be perfectly groundless) merely observes, that it is a circunstance not a little remarkable.'
• There be that can pack the cards, and yet cannot play well.'
Those whom Bacon here so well describes, are men of a clear and quick sight, but short-sighted. They are ingenious in particulars, but cannot take a comprehensive view of a whole. Such a man may make a good captain, but a bad general. IIe may be clever at surprising a piquet, but would fail in the management of a great army and the conduct of a campaign. He is like a chess-player who takes several pawns, but is checkmated.
One who is clever, but not wise—skilful in the details of any transaction, but erroneous in his whole system of conduct-resembles a clock whose minute-hand is in good order, but the hour-hand loose; so that while it measures accurately small portions of time, it is, on the whole, perhaps several hours wrong.
Goldsmith introduces, in The Vicar of Wakefield, a clever rogue, despising a plain straight-forward farmer, whom he generally contrives to cheat once a year; yet he confesses that, in spite of this, the farmer went on thriving, while he was always poor.
Indeed, it is a remarkable circumstance in reference to cunning persons, that they are often deficient, not only in comprehensive far-sighted wisdom, but even in prudent, cautious circumspection.
There was a man of this description, who delighted in taking in every one he had to deal with, and was most ingenious and successful in doing so. And yet his own estate, which was a very large one, he managed very ill; and he bequeathed it absolutely to his widow, whom he might have known to be in understanding a mere child, and who accordingly became the prey of fortune-hunters.
Numerous are the cases in which the cunning are grossly taken in by the cunning. Liars are often credulous.
Many travellers have given curious accounts of the subtilty of the North American Indians, in stealing upon their enemies so as to take them by surprise: how they creep silently through the bushes, and carefully cover up their footmarks, &c. But these writers take no notice of the most curious circumstance of all, which is, that the enemies they thus surprise are usually Indians of the same race-men accustomed to practise just the same arts themselves. The ingenuity and caution of these people is called forth, and admirably displayed, on the occasion of their setting out on a warlike expedition; but they have no settled habit of even ordinary prudence. When not roused to the exertion of their faculties by some pressing emergency, they are thoughtless and careless, and liable to be surprised, in their turn. To fortify their villages, so as to make a surprise impossible, or to keep up a regular patrol of sentries to watch for the approach of an enemy, has never occurred to them! A savage is often a cunning, but never a wise, or even a prudent Being. And even so, among us, many who are skilful in playing tricks on others are often tricked themselves.
Sometimes, indeed, the more crafty of two knaves will take in the other by calculating on his knavery, and thus knowing how to bait his hook. For instance, there is a story told of a merchant who applied to the Agent of an insurance-office to effect a Pollicy' on a ship. Immediately after, he heard of the loss of his ship; and suspecting that perhaps (as was the fact) the insurance might not be completed, he wrote off to the Agent desiring him not to proceed with the business, for that he had heard of that ship. The Agent, taking for granted that he had heard of its safety, hurried to the office, completed the business, and then wrote to the merchant by return of post, expressing bis concern that the countermand had arrived a few hours too late, and that the insurance had been effected. Thus the merchant obtained his payment, because he could prove that he had written to forbid the insurance.
"This is the right spelling of the word; which is evidently a contraction of pollicitum, a promise, and has no connexion with politics.
It may be added that the cunning are often deceived by those who have no such intention. When a plain, straightforward man declares plainly his real motives or designs, they set themselves to guess what these are, and hit on every possible solution but the right, taking for granted that he cannot mean what he says. Bacon's remark on this we have already given in the • Antitheta on Simulation and Dissimulation. He who acts in all things openly does not deceive the less; for most persons either do not understand, or do not believe him.'
'Nothing doth more hurt in a state than that cunning men pass
Churchill thus describes the cunning man:
• With that low cunning which in fools supplies,
It is indeed an unfortunate thing for the public that the cunning pass for wise,—that those whom Bacon compares to 'a house with convenient stairs and entry, but never a fair room' should be the men who (accordingly) are the most likely to rise to high office. The art of gaining power, and that of using it well, are too often found in different persons.
1 The Rosciad, l. 117.
ESSAY XXIII. OF WISDOM FOR A MAN'S
A N ant is a wise creature for itself, but it is a shrewd thing - in an orchard or garden; and certainly men that are great lovers of themselves waste the public. Divide with reason between self-love and society; and be so true to thyself as thou be not false to others, especially to thy king and country. It is a poor centre of a man's actions, himself. It is right earth; for that only stands fast upon his own centre; whereas all things that have affinity with the heavens move upon the centre of another, which they benefit. The referring of all to a man's self is more tolerable in a sovereign prince, because themselves are not only themselves, but their good and evil is at the peril of the public fortune: but it is a desperate evil in a servant to a prince, or a citizen in a republic; for whatsoever affairs pass such a man's hands, he crooketh' them to his own ends, which must needs be often eccentric, to the ends of his master or State: therefore, let princes or States chuse such servants as have not this mark, except they mean their service should be made but the accessary. That which maketh the effect more pernicious is, that all proportion is lost. It were disproportion enough for le servant's good to be preferred before the master's; but yet
is a greater extreme, when a little good of the servant shall carry things against the great good of the master's : and yet at is the case of bad officers, treasurers, ambassadors, generals, 1 other false and corrupt servants, which set a bias“ upon their wl, of their own petty ends and envies, to the overthrow of
Do my Lord of Canterbury
* Peace to corrupt, no less than war to waste.'--Milton.
e to crooke an unhappye sonle than to teach and instruct him.'— Homiliesermon against Idolatry.'
Bias. A weight lodged on one side of the bowl, which turns it from the straight
force to crook
4 Bias. 9 line,
Madam, we'll play at bowls,
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 and 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 some time before its fall: it is the wisdom of the fox, that thirusts 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” are many times unfortunate; and whereas they have all their time 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.
'An ant is a shrewd thing in a garden.'
This was probably the established notion in Bacon's time, as it is with some, perhaps, now. People seeing plants in a sickly state covered with ants, attributed the mischief to them; the fact being that the ants do them neither harm nor good, but are occupied in sucking the secretion of the aphides which swarm on diseased plants, and are partly the cause, partly the effect of disease. If he had carefully watched the ants, he
* As. That. See page 23.
“There's the respect