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not the only requisite in food,—that a certain degree of distension of the stomach is required to enable it to act with its full powers,—and that it is for this reason hay or straw must be given to horses as well as corn, in order to supply the necessary bulk. Something analogous to this takes place with respect to the generality of minds,—which are incapable of thoroughly digesting and assimilating what is presented to them in a very small compass.1 Many a one is capable of deriving that instruction from a moderate-sized volume, which he could not receive from a very small pamphlet, even more perspicuously written, and containing everything that is to the purpose. It is necessary that the attention should be detained for a certain time on the subject; and persons of unphilosophical mind, though they can attend to what they read or hear, are unapt to dwell upon it in the way of subsequent meditation.'
'True dispatch is a rich thing.'
It is a rare and admirable thing when a man is able both to discern which cases admit, and which not, of calm deliberation; and also to be able to meet both in a suitable manner. Such a character is most graphically described by Thucydides in his account of Themistocles; who, according to him, was second to none in forming his plans on cautious inquiry and calm reflection, when circumstances allowed him, and yet excelled most men in hitting off some device to meet some sudden emergency: [avTooxiSiaZuv ra Stovra-J
If you cannot find a counsellor who combines these two kinds of qualification (which is a thing not to be calculated on), you should seek for some of each sort; one, to devise and mature measures that will admit of delay; and another, to make prompt guesses, and suggest sudden expedients. A bow, such as is approved by our modern toxophilites, must be backed—that is, made of two slips of wood glued together: one a very elastic, but somewhat brittle wood; the other much less elastic, but very tough. The one gives the requisite spring, the other keeps it from breaking. If you have two such counsellors as are here spoken of, you are provided with a backed bow.
And if you yourself are of one of the two above-mentioned characters—the slow-hound or the grey-hound—you should
especially provide yourself with an adviser of the opposite class: one to give you warning of dangers and obstacles, and to caution you against precipitate decisions, if that be your tendency; or one to make guesses, and suggest expedients, if you are one of the slow and sure.
Those who are clever [in the proper sense—i.e. quick] are apt to be so proud of it as to disdain taking time for cautious inquiry and deliberation; and those of the opposite class are perhaps no less likely to pride themselves on their cautious wisdom. But these latter will often, in practice, obtain this advantage over those they are opposed to—that they will defeat them without direct opposition, by merely asking for postponement and reconsideration, in cases where (as Bacon expresses it) 'not to decide, is to decide. ' If you defer sowing a field till the seedtime is past, you have decided against sowing it. If you carry the motion that a Bill be read a second time this day six months, you have thrown it out.
ESSAY XXVI. OF SEEMING WISE.
IT hath been an opinion, that the French are wiser than they seem, and the Spaniards seem wiser than they are; but howsoever it be between nations, certainly it is so between man and man; for, as the Apostle saith of godliness,' Having a show of godliness, but denying the power thereof,"—so certainly there are, in points of wisdom and sufficiency,2 that do nothing or little, very solemnly, Magna conatu nugas.3 It is a ridiculous thing, and fit for a satire to persons of judgment, to see what shifts these formalists have, and what prospectives4 to make superficies to seem body that hath depth and bulk. Some are so close and reserved, as they will not show their wares but by a dark light, and seem always to keep back somewhat; and when they know within themselves they speak of that they do not well know, would nevertheless seem to others to know of that which they may not well speak. Some help themselves with countenance and gesture, and are wise by signs; as Cicero saith of Piso,jthat when he answered him he fetched one of his brows up to his forehead, and bent the other down to his chin; 'Respondes, altero ad frontem sublato, altero ad mentum depresso supercilio, crudelitatem tibi non placere.' Some think to bear" it by speaking a great word, and being peremptory; and go on, and take by admittance that which they cannot make good. Some, whatsoever is beyond their reach, will seem to despise, or make light of it, as impertinent7 or curious,8 and so would have their ignorance seem judgment. Some are never without a difference, 1 and commonly by amusing men with a subtlety, blanch2 the matter; of whom A. Gellius saith,' Hominem delirum, qui verborum minutiis rerum frangit pondera.'3 Of which kind also Plato, in his Protagoras,1 bringeth in Prodicus in scorn, and maketh him make a speech that consisteth of distinctions from the beginning to the end. Generally, such men, in all deliberations, find ease to be of the negative side, and affect a credit to object and foretell difficulties; for when propositions are denied, there is an end of them; but if they be allowed, it requireth a new work; which false point of wisdom is the bane of business. To conclude, there is no decaying merchant, or inward beggar,6 hath so many tricks to uphold the credit of their wealth, as these empty persons have to maintain the credit of their sufficiency. Seeming wise men may make shift to get opinion; but let no man chuse them for employment; for, certainly, you were better take for business a man somewhat absurd than over-formal.
1 2 Timothy iii. g.
2 Sufficiency. Ability; adequate power. 'Our sufficiency is of God.'—a Cor. iii. 5.
3 Trifles with great effort.
i Prospectivea. Perspective glasses.
'They speke of Alhazen and Vitellon, Of queinte mirrours, and of prospectives.'—Chaucer. » In Pis. 6. 8 Bear. To manage; to contrive.
'We'll direct her how 'tis best to bear it.'—Shakespere.
7 Impertinent. Irrelevant.
'Without the which, this story Were most impertinent.'—Shakespere.
8 Curious. Over-nice. See page 91.
'Seeming wise men may make shift to get opinion.'
There is a way in which some men seem, to themselves, and often to others also, to be much wiser than they are; by acting as a wise man does, only, on wrong occasions, and altogether under different circumstances. Such a man has heard that it is a wise thing to be neither too daring nor too timid; neither too suspicious nor too confiding; too hasty nor too slow, &c.,
1 Difference. A subtle distinction.
s Blanch. To evade. 'A man horribly cheats his own soul, who upon any pretence whatever, or under any temptation, forsakes or blanches the true principles of religion.'—Goodman's Conference.
5 'A senseless man who fritters away weighty matters by trifling with words.' (This expression not in Aulus Gellius. A passage like it occurs in Quintilian— ix. 1.)
* Plato, Protag. i. 337.
6 Inward beggar. One secretly a bankrupt.'To the sight unfold
and he ventures and holds back, trusts and distrusts, hastens and delays, spends and spares, &c., just in the same degree that a wise man does,—only, he is venturesome where there is real danger, and cautious where there is none; hasty where there is no cause, and dilatory when everything turns on dispatch; trusting those unworthy of confidence, and suspicious of the trustworthy; parsimonious towards worthy objects, and profuse towards the worthless; &c.
Such a character may be called 'the reflection of a wise man.' He is the figure of a wise man shown by a mirror; which is an exact representation, except that it is left-handed.
The German child's-story of Hans und Grettel, like many other childish tales, contains, under a surface of mere foolery, an instructive picture of real life. Hans stuck a knife in his sleeve, having been told that was the proper place for the needle; and put a kid in his pocket, because that was the place for a knife, &c.
It may be said, almost without qualification, that true wisdom consists in the ready and accurate perception of analogies. Without the former quality, knowledge of the past is uninstructive; without the latter, it is deceptive.
One way in which many a man aims at and pretends to wisdom, who 'has it not in him/ is this: he has heard that 'the middle course is always the best;' that' extremes are to be avoided,' &c.; and so he endeavours in all cases to keep at an equal distance from the most opposite parties. As was observed in 'Annotation' the second on Essay XI., he will never quite agree, nor very widely disagree with either: and thus, as almost always each party is right in something, he misses the truth on both sides; and while afraid of being guided by either party, he is in fact guided by both. His mimic wisdom consists in sliding alternately towards each extreme. But if your orbit be a true circle, independent of the eccentric elliptical orbits of others, this will make sundry nodes with theirs; sometimes falling within and sometimes without the same eccentric orbit. That is, in some points you will approach nearer to the one than to the other; in some you will wholly agree with one party, and in some with another; in some you will differ equally from both; and in some you will even go further from the one party than the opposite one does. For, true wisdom