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Viewing their rulers from afar,
ESSAY XII. OF BOLDNESS.
IT is a trivial grammar-school text, but yet worthy a wise man's consideration: question was asked of Demosthenes,1 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 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 there arc mountebanks for the politic2 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 sec 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 whit3 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 holdness, they will but slight it over,1 and make a turn, and no more ado.2 Certainly, to men of great judgment, bold persons are 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;3 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.
1 Pint. Fit. Demosth. 17, 18. 3 Politic. Political; civil.
3 Whit. The least degree; the smallest particle. 'Not a whit behind the very chiul'est Apostles.'—2 Cor. xi. 5.
'Boldness is a child of ignorance and baseness far inferior to
Bacon seems to have had that over-estimate of those who are called the 'prudent' which is rather common. One cause of the supposed superiority of wisdom often attributed to the over-cautious, reserved, non-confiding, non-enterprising characters, as compared with the more open, free-spoken, active, and daring, is the tendency to over-rate the amount of what is distinctly known. The bold and enterprising are likely to meet with a greater number of tangible failures than the overcautious: and yet if you take a hundred average men of each description, you will find that the bold have had, on the whole, a more successful career. But the failures—that is, the nonsuccess—of the over-cautious, cannot be so distinctly traced. Such a man only misses the advantages—often very great— which boldness and free-speaking might have gained. He who always goes on foot will never meet with a fall from a horse, or be stopped on a journey by a restive horse; but he who rides, though exposed to these accidents, will, in the end, have accomplished more journeys than the other. He who lets his land lie fallow, will have incurred no losses from bad harvests; but he will not have made so much of his land as if he had ventured to encounter such risks.
1 Slight over. To treat carelessly.
'His death, and your deliverance, Were themes that ought not to be slighted over.'—Dryden. 3 Ado. 'Much Ado about Nothing.'—Shakespere. 3 Stay. Stand; cessation of progression. 'Never to deeny Until his revolution was at stay.'—Milton.
The kind of boldness which is most to be deprecated—or at least as much so as the boldness of ignorance—is daring, unaccompanied by firmness and steadiness of endurance. Such was that which Tacitus attributes to the Gauls and Britons; 'Eadem in deposcendis periculis audacia; eadem in detrectandis, ubi advenerint, formido." This character seems to belong to those who have—in phrenological language—Hope, and Combativeness, large, and Firmness small.
1 ' The same daring in rushing into dangers, and the same timidity in shrinking from them when they come.'
ESSAY XIII. OF GOODNESS, AND GOODNESS OF NATURE.
I TAKE goodness in this sense,—the affecting1 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, give alms to dogs and birds; insomuch as Busbechius3 reporteth, a christian boy in Constantinople had liked to have been stoned for gagging, in a waggishness, a long-billed fowl. Errors, indeed, in this virtue, in goodness or charity, may be committed. The Italians have of it an ungracious proverb, 'Tanto buon che val niente," and one of the doctors of Italy, Nicholas Machiavel, had the confidence to put in writing, almost in plain terms, 'That the christian faith had given up good men in prey to those who are tyrannical and unjust:' which he spake, because, indeed, there was never law, or sect, or opinion, did so much magnify goodness as the christian religion doth; therefore, to avoid the scandal, and the danger both, it is good to take knowledge4 of the errors of a habit so excellent. Seek the good of other men, but be not in
1 Affecting, The being desirous of; aiming at. See page I. 2 Busbechius. A learned Fleming of the 16th century, in his Travels in the East.
3 ' So good that he is good for nothing.'
4 Take knowledge of. Take cognizance of. 'They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.'—Acts iv. 13.