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for in tracing the analogy between cases which, at the first glance, seem very different—in observing the workings of the same human nature under all its various disguises,—in recognizing, as it were, the same plant in different stages of its growth, and in all the varieties resulting from climate and culture, soil and season. For, so far as any fault or folly is peculiar to any particular age or country, its effects may be expected to pass away soon, without spreading very widely; but so far as it belongs to human nature in general, we must expect to find the evil effects of it reappearing, again and again, in various forms, in all ages, and in various regions. Plants brought from a foreign land, and cultivated by human care, may often be, by human care, extirpated, or may even perish for want of care; but the indigenous product of the soil, even when seemingly eradicated, will again and again be found springing up afresh:
'Sponte su& quffi se tollunt in luminis oras
If we would be really safe from the danger of committing faults of a like character with those which we regard with abhorrence in men removed from us either by time or place, we must seek that safety in a vigilant suspicion of the human heart. We can be secured from the recurrence of similar faults in some different shapes, only by the sedulous cultivation of that christian spirit, whose implantation is able to purify, to renovate, to convert that nature—in short, to 'CREATE THE NEW MAN.' Christian principle only can overthrow the ' idols of the race' (idola tribus), as Bacon elsewhere calls them;—the errors springing out of man's nature.1
1 See Essays, 3rd series.
ESSAY XXXIX. OF CUSTOM AND
MEN'S thoughts are much according to their inclination; their discourse and speeches according to their learning and infused opinions; but their deeds are after1 as* they have been accustomed: and, therefore, as Machiavel well noteth (though in an evil-favoured instance), there is no trusting to the force of nature, nor to the bravery of words, except it be corroborate3 by custom. His instance is, that for the achieving of a desperate conspiracy, a man should not rest upon the fierceness of any man's nature, or his resolute undertakings, but take such a one as hath had his hands formerly in blood: but Machiavel knew not of a friar Clement, nor a Ravillac, nor a Jaureguy, nor a Baltazar Gerard; yet his rule holdeth still, that nature, nor the engagement of words, are not4 so forcible as custom. Only, superstition is now so well advanced, that men of the first blood are as firm as butchers by occupation; and votary* resolution is made equipollent to custom, even in matter of blood. In other things, the predominancy of custom is everywhere visible, insomuch as a man would wonder to hear men profess, protest, engage, give great words, and then do just as they have done before, as if they were dead images and engines, moved only by the wheels of custom. We see also the reign or tyranny of custom, what it is. The Indians (I mean the sect of their wise men) lay themselves quietly upon a stack of wood, and so sacrifice themselves by fire: nay, the wives strive to be burned with the corpse of their husbands. The lads of Sparta,1 of ancient time, were wont to be scourged upon the altar of Diana, without so much as queching.3 I remember, in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's time of England, an Irish rebel condemned, put up a petition to the deputy that he might be hanged in a withe,3 and not in a halter, because it had been so used with former rebels. There be monks in Russia, for penance, that will sit a whole night in a vessel of water, till they be engaged with hard ice.
1 After. According to. 'That ye seek not after your own heart.'—Num. xv. 39. 'He who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh.'—Oal. iv. 23. 'Deal not with us after our sins.'—Litany.
* As. That. See page 23.
* Corroborate. Corroborated; strengthened; made firm.'His heart is corroborate.'—Shakespere.
* Nor—are not. This double negative is used frequently by old writers.'Nor to no Roman else.'—Shakespere.'Another sort there be, that will
Many examples may be put of the force of custom, both upon mind and body : therefore, since custom is the principal magistrate of man's life, let men by all means endeavour to obtain good customs. Certainly, custom is most perfect when it beginneth in young years : this we call education, which is, in effect, but an early custom. So we see in languages, the tone is more pliant to all expressions and sounds, the joints are more supple to all feats of activity and motions in youth than afterwards; for it is true, the late learners cannot so well take up the ply, except it be in some minds, that have not suffered themselves to fix, but have kept themselves open and prepared to receive continual amendment, which is exceeding rare: but if the force of custom, simple and separate, be great, the force of custom, copulate and conjoined, and collegiate, is far greater; for there example teacheth, company comforteth,4 emulation quickeneth, glory raiseth; so as in such places the force of custom is in his5 exaltation. Certainly, the great multiplication6 of virtues upon human nature resteth upon societies well ordained and disciplined; for commonwealths and good governments do nourish virtue grown, but do not much mend the seeds: but the misery is, that the most effectual means are now applied to the ends least to be desired.
1 Cic. Tuscul. Dial. ii. 14.
* Quech (properly quich). To move; to stir.
'Undcrre her feet, there as she sate,
* Withs. Twigs, or bands of twigs. 'If they bind me with seven green withs, then shall I he weak.'—Judges xvi. 7.
* Comfort. To strengthen as an auxiliary; to help. (The meaning of the original Latin word, Conforlo.) 'Now we exhort you brethren, comfort the feebleminded.'—1 Thess. v. 14.
'His. Its. 'But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body.'—1 Cor. xv. 38.
6 Multiplication upon. 'Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy.'—Collect for the 4th Sunday after Trinity.
'Men's thoughts are much according to their inclinations: their discourse and speeches according to their learning and infused opinions, but their deeds are after as they have been accustomed.'
This remark, like many others, Bacon has condensed in Latin into the very brief and pithy apophthegm which I have given in the 'Antitheta on Nature in Men.' 'Cogitamus secundum naturam; loquimur secundum praecepta; sed agimus secundum consuetudinem.' Of course, Bacon did not mean his words to be taken literally in their utmost extent, and without any exception or modification; as if natural disposition and instruction had nothing to do with conduct. And, of course, he could not mean anything so self-contradictory as to say that all action is the result of custom: for it is plain that, in the first instance, it must be by actions that a custom is formed.
But he uses a strong expression, in order to impress it on our mind that, for practice, custom is the most essential thing, and that it will often overbear both the original disposition, and the precepts which have been learnt: that whatever a man may inwardly think, and (with perfect sincerity) say, you cannot fully depend on his conduct till you know how he has been accustomed to act. For, continued action is like a continued stream of water, which wears for itself a channel that it will not easily be turned from. The bed which the current had gradually scooped at first, afterwards confines it.
Bacon is far from meaning, I conceive, when he says that 'men speak as they have learned'—to limit himself to the case of insincere professions; but to point out how much easier it is to learn to repeat a lesson correctly, than to bring it into practice, when custom is opposed to it.
This is the doctrine of one whom Bacon did not certainly regard with any undue veneration—Aristotle; who, in his Ethics, dwells earnestly on the importance of being early accustomed to right practice, with a view to the formation of virtuous habits. And he derives the word 'ethics' from a Greek word signifying custom; even as the word 'morality' is derived from the corresponding Latin word 'mos.'
It is to be observed that, at the present day, it is common to use the words 'custom' and 'habit' as synonymous, and often to employ the latter where Bacon would have used the former. But, strictly speaking, they denote respectively the cause and the effect. Repeated acts constitute the 'custom;' and the 'habit' is the condition of mind or body thence resulting. For instance, a man who has been accustomed to rise at a certain hour, will have acquired the habit of waking and being ready to rise as soon as that hour arrives. And one who has made it his custom to drink drams will have fallen into the habit of craving for that stimulus, and of yielding to that craving; and so of the rest.
Those are, then, in error who disparage (as Mrs. Hannah More does) all practice that does not spring from a formed habit. For instance, they censure those who employ children as almoners, handing them money or other things to relieve the poor with. For, say they, no one can give what is not his own: there is no charity unless you part with something that you might have kept, and which it is a self-denial to part with. The answer is, that if the child does this readily and gladly, he has already learnt the virtue of charity; but if it is a painful self-denial which you urge him to, as a duty, you are creating an association of charity with pain. On the contrary, if you accustom him to the pleasure of seeing distress relieved, and of being the instrument of giving pleasure, and doing good, the desire of this gratification will lead him, afterwards, to part with something of his own rather than forego it. Thus it is—to use Horace's comparison—that the young hound is trained for the chase in the woods, from the time that he barks at the deerskin in the hall.1
1 'Venaticus, ex quo
Tempore cervinam pellam latravit in aula,
Militat in silvis catulus.'—Horace, Book i. ep. 2, 1. 65.