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ESSAY LV. OF HONOUR AND REPUTATION.
THE winning of honour is but the revealing of a man's virtue and worth without disadvantage; for some in their actions do woo and affect1 honour and reputation—which sort of men are commonly much talked of, but inwardly little admired— and some contrariwise,2 darken their virtue in the show of it, so as they be undervalued in opinion. If a man perform that which hath not been attempted before, or attempted and given over, or hath been achieved, but not with so good circumstance,3 he shall purchase more honour than by effecting a matter of greater difficulty, or virtue, wherein he is but a follower. If a man so temper his actions, as4 iu some one of them he doth content every faction or combination of people, the music will be the fuller. A man is an ill husband6 of his honour that entereth into any action, the failing wherein may disgrace him more than the carrying of it through can honour him. Honour that is gained and broken upon another6 hath the quickest reflection, like diamonds cut with fascets; and, therefore, let a man contend to excel any competitors of his honour, in outshooting them if he can, in their own bow. Discreet followers and servants help much to reputation: 'Omnis fama a domesticis emanat.'7 Envy, which is the canker of honour, is best extinguished8 by declaring a man's self, in his ends rather to seek merit than fame: and by attributing a man's successes rather to divine Providence and felicity, than to his own virtue or policy. The true marshalling of the degrees of sovereign honour are these: in the first place are 'conditores imperiorum/ founders of States and commonwealths; such as were Romulus, Cyrus, Caesar, Ottoman, Ismael: in the second place are ' legislatores/ lawgivers; which are also called second founders, or 'perpetui principes/1 because they govern by their ordinances after they are gone: such were Lycurgus, Solon, Justinian, Edgar, Alphonsus of Castile, the wise, that made the 'Siete partidas:'2 in third place are 'liberatores/ or 'salvatores f3 such as compound * the long miseries of civil wars, or deliver their countries from servitude of strangers or tyrants; as Augustus Caesar, Vespasianus, Aurelianus, Theodoricus, King Henry the Seventh of England, King Henry the Fourth of France: in the fourth place are ' propagatores/ or ' propugnatores imperii/5 such as in honourable wars enlarge their territories, or make noble defence against invaders: and in the last place, are 'patres patriae/6 which reign justly, and make the times good wherein they live; both which last kinds need no examples, they are in such number. Degrees of honour in subjects, are, first, 'participes curarum/7 those upon whom princes do discharge the greatest weight of their affairs; their right hands, as we may call them: the next are 'duces belli/ * great leaders; such as are princes' lieutenants, and do them notable9 services in the wars: the third are 'gratiosi/ favourites; such as exceed not this scantling,10 to be solace to the sovereign, and harmless to the people: and the fourth, 'negotiis pares;'" such as have great places under princes, and execute their places with sufficiency.1 There is an honour, likewise, which may be ranked amongst the greatest, which happeneth rarely; that is, of such as sacrifice themselves3 to death or danger for the good of their country; as was M. Regulus, and the two Decii.
1 Affect. To desire earnestly; to aim at. See page I.
2 Contrariwise. On the contrary. See page 93.
3 Circumstances. Adjuncts.
'The pomp and circumstance of glorious war.'—Shakespere. * As. That. See page 23.
6 Husband. An economist.
'You have scarce time To steal from spiritual leisure a brief span, To keep your earthly audit: sure, in that
I deem you an ill husband.—Shakespere.
8 Gained and broken upon another. (The Latin essay has, 'Honor qui com- parativus est, et alium pragravat.') Weighs down or depresses others.
7 'All fame emanates from domestics.'—Q. Cic. de Petit. Consul, v. 17.
8 Most editions have 'distinguished' instead of 'extinguished.' But the Latin essay has ' extinguitur'
1 'Perpetual rulers.'
2 The ' Siete Partidas.' An ancient Spanish code of laws, divided into seven parts; hence its name.
3 'Liberators' or 'preservers.'
4 Compound. To put an end to by adjustment of differences.
'I would to God all strifes were well compounded.'—Shakespere.'Who should compound the controversies ?'— Whitgift.
5 'Extenders' or ' defenders of the empire.' 6 * Fathers of their country.' 7 * Participators in cares.' 8 * Leaders in wars.'
* Notable. Remarkable. See page 526.
10 Scantling. A small proportion. 'In this narrow scantling of capacity we enjoy but one pleasure at once.'—Locke. 'A scantling of wit lay gasping for life and groaning beneath a heap of rubbish.'—Dryden.
"'Equal to the management of affairs;'
Bacon does not advert to the circumstance, that one man often gets the credit which is due to another; one being the ostensible and another principally the real author of something remarkable; according to the proverb, that 'little dogs find the hare, but the big ones catch it.' And sometimes, again, the thing itself that is the most difficult and the most important will be overlooked, while much admiration is bestowed on something else which was an easy, natural, and almost inevitable result of it.
There cannot be a more striking example of this than the vast importance attached to the iuvention of printing, and the controversies as to who was the inventor; when, in fact, it was the invention of a cheap paper that was the really important step, and which could not but be speedily followed by the use of printing. I say the use, because, when introduced, it could hardly be ealled a new invention. The loaves of bread found at Pompeii and Herculaneum were stamped with the baker's name. And, in fact, the seals used by the ancients were a stamp of the name, which was wetted with ink, and impressed on the parchment;. so that signing and sealing were one and the same. Now all this is, substantially, of the character of printing. Whether we use fixed types, like the Chinese, or moveable, is a mere matter of detail.
But the only cause why this was not applied by the ancients to books, handbills, &c., was the costliness of papyrus and
1 Sufficiency. Ability. See page 275.
parchment. This limited the sale to so small a number of copies, that printing would have cost more than transcribing. As soon as a cheap material for books was invented, it was likely to occur, and probably did occur, to many, that a lower price, and a wider sale, would be secured by some kind of stamp.
Then, as to the real performers of some great feat, or originators of some measure or institution, History would furnish many instances of mistakes that have prevailed. A poem has come down to us celebrating Harmodius and Aristogeiton as having slain the tyrant of Athens, and restored liberty to their country. And Thucydides, who lived among the grandchildren of those who remembered the transaction, complains that such was the prevalent belief in his own day; though Hipparchus, whom those men assassinated, was not the tyrant, but was brother of Hippias, the actual sovereign, and who continued to reign some years longer.
In our own day, three of the most important measures were brought about, ostensibly, by ministers who, so far from being the real authors of them, were, in their own judgment and inclination, decidedly opposed to them—the repeal of the Roman Catholic disabilities, the abolition of slavery, and the introduction of free trade in corn. The ministries of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel are well known to have been hostile to what was called Roman Catholic emancipation, and advocates of the corn laws, and to have been driven by necessity to take the steps they did. Yet it is possible that they may go down to posterity as the authors of those two great changes. It is not so generally known that Lord Melbourne, then one of the ministers, on going out of the House of Lords on the night that the bill passed for abolishing slavery, remarked to an acquaintance that if he could have had his own way in that matter, he would have left it quite alone.
It is remarkable that Bacon has said nothing about men's solicitude concerning posthumous reputation,—that delusion of the imagination (for it surely is such) of which there is perhaps no one quite destitute,—and which is often found peculiarly strong in those who disbelieve a Future State, and deride the believers. Yet granting that these latter are mistaken, and are only grasping at a shadow, still they are hoping for what they at least believe to be real. They expect—whether erroneously or not—to have an actual consciousness of the enjoyment they look forward to. The others are aware that, when they shall have attained the prize of posthumous glory, they shall have no perception of it. They know that it is a shade they are grasping at. Yet Hume had this solicitude about his posthumous fame. 'Knowing,' says the Edinburgh Review, 1 'from Pope what is meant by a ruling passion, it is a poor thing to set it on the die of literary fame. In one way, he made the most of it; for his prescience of his growing reputation certainly soothed him in his last illness. This was something; but it is surely singular. Delusion for delusion, the manes fabulaque of another world are at least an improvement on the after-life of posthumous renown. Immortality on earth fades away before the light of immortality in a future state. On the other hand, what is to be said but' vanity of vanities!' when a philosopher who has no expectation of a future state, and who is contemplating annihilation with complacency, is found, notwithstanding this, busied on his death-bed about his posthumous fame? —careful what men may be saying of his essays and his histories, after he himself is sleeping in the grave, where all things are forgotten \'
'. . . Which sort of men are commonly much talked of.'
'A sort of man' that is not only much talked of, but commonly admired, is a man who, along with a considerable degree of cleverness and plausible fluency, is what is called puzzleheaded :—destitute of sound, clear, cautious judgment. This puzzle-headedness conduces much to a very sudden and rapid rise to a (short-lived) celebrity.
Such was the description once given of an author, who was at that time more talked about than almost any individual in the empire, and whom many admired as a surpassing genius, who had fully confuted the doctrines of Malthus, and made prodigious discoveries in political science. One of the company took up the speaker very sharply; observing that it was strange
1 See an article on David Hume, Edinburgh Review, No. clxxt. January, 1847.