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The Advancement of Learning by Francis Bacon

Part 4 out of 5

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hath neither been well judged of, nor well inquired; for the good of
fruition or contentment is placed either in the sincereness of the
fruition, or in the quickness and vigour of it; the one superinduced
by equality, the other by vicissitude; the one having less mixture
of evil, the other more impression of good. Whether of these is the
greater good is a question controverted; but whether man's nature
may not be capable of both is a question not inquired.

(4) The former question being debated between Socrates and a
sophist, Socrates placing felicity in an equal and constant peace of
mind, and the sophist in much desiring and much enjoying, they fell
from argument to ill words: the sophist saying that Socrates'
felicity was the felicity of a block or stone; and Socrates saying
that the sophist's felicity was the felicity of one that had the
itch, who did nothing but itch and scratch. And both these opinions
do not want their supports. For the opinion of Socrates is much
upheld by the general consent even of the epicures themselves, that
virtue beareth a great part in felicity; and if so, certain it is,
that virtue hath more use in clearing perturbations then in
compassing desires. The sophist's opinion is much favoured by the
assertion we last spake of, that good of advancement is greater than
good of simple preservation; because every obtaining a desire hath a
show of advancement, as motion though in a circle hath a show of

(5) But the second question, decided the true way, maketh the former
superfluous. For can it be doubted, but that there are some who
take more pleasure in enjoying pleasures than some other, and yet,
nevertheless, are less troubled with the loss or leaving of them?
So as this same, Non uti ut non appetas, non appetere ut non metuas,
sunt animi pusilli et diffidentis. And it seemeth to me that most
of the doctrines of the philosophers are more fearful and cautious
than the nature of things requireth. So have they increased the
fear of death in offering to cure it. For when they would have a
man's whole life to be but a discipline or preparation to die, they
must needs make men think that it is a terrible enemy, against whom
there is no end of preparing. Better saith the poet:-

"Qui finem vitae extremum inter munera ponat

So have they sought to make men's minds too uniform and harmonical,
by not breaking them sufficiently to contrary motions; the reasons
whereof I suppose to be, because they themselves were men dedicated
to a private, free, and unapplied course of life. For as we see,
upon the lute or like instrument, a ground, though it be sweet and
have show of many changes, yet breaketh not the hand to such strange
and hard stops and passages, as a set song or voluntary; much after
the same manner was the diversity between a philosophical and civil
life. And, therefore, men are to imitate the wisdom of jewellers:
who, if there be a grain, or a cloud, or an ice which may be ground
forth without taking too much of the stone, they help it; but if it
should lessen and abate the stone too much, they will not meddle
with it: so ought men so to procure serenity as they destroy not

(6) Having therefore deduced the good of man which is private and
particular, as far as seemeth fit, we will now return to that good
of man which respecteth and beholdeth society, which we may term
duty; because the term of duty is more proper to a mind well framed
and disposed towards others, as the term of virtue is applied to a
mind well formed and composed in itself; though neither can a man
understand virtue without some relation to society, nor duty without
an inward disposition. This part may seem at first to pertain to
science civil and politic; but not if it be well observed. For it
concerneth the regiment and government of every man over himself,
and not over others. And as in architecture the direction of
framing the posts, beams, and other parts of building, is not the
same with the manner of joining them and erecting the building; and
in mechanicals, the direction how to frame an instrument or engine
is not the same with the manner of setting it on work and employing
it; and yet, nevertheless, in expressing of the one you incidently
express the aptness towards the other; so the doctrine of
conjugation of men in society differeth from that of their
conformity thereunto.

(7) This part of duty is subdivided into two parts: the common duty
of every man, as a man or member of a state; the other, the
respective or special duty of every man in his profession, vocation,
and place. The first of these is extant and well laboured, as hath
been said. The second likewise I may report rather dispersed than
deficient; which manner of dispersed writing in this kind of
argument I acknowledge to be best. For who can take upon him to
write of the proper duty, virtue, challenge, and right of every
several vocation, profession, and place? For although sometimes a
looker on may see more than a gamester, and there be a proverb more
arrogant than sound, "That the vale best discovereth the hill;" yet
there is small doubt but that men can write best and most really and
materially in their own professions; and that the writing of
speculative men of active matter for the most part doth seem to men
of experience, as Phormio's argument of the wars seemed to Hannibal,
to be but dreams and dotage. Only there is one vice which
accompanieth them that write in their own professions, that they
magnify them in excess. But generally it were to be wished (as that
which would make learning indeed solid and fruitful) that active men
would or could become writers.

(8) In which kind I cannot but mention, honoris causa, your
Majesty's excellent book touching the duty of a king; a work richly
compounded of divinity, morality, and policy, with great aspersion
of all other arts; and being in some opinion one of the most sound
and healthful writings that I have read: not distempered in the
heat of invention, nor in the coldness of negligence; not sick of
dizziness, as those are who leese themselves in their order, nor of
convulsions, as those which cramp in matters impertinent; not
savouring of perfumes and paintings, as those do who seek to please
the reader more than nature beareth; and chiefly well disposed in
the spirits thereof, being agreeable to truth and apt for action;
and far removed from that natural infirmity, whereunto I noted those
that write in their own professions to be subject--which is, that
they exalt it above measure. For your Majesty hath truly described,
not a king of Assyria or Persia in their extern glory, but a Moses
or a David, pastors of their people. Neither can I ever leese out
of my remembrance what I heard your Majesty in the same sacred
spirit of government deliver in a great cause of judicature, which
was, "That kings ruled by their laws, as God did by the laws of
nature; and ought as rarely to put in use their supreme prerogative
as God doth His power of working miracles." And yet notwithstanding
in your book of a free monarchy, you do well give men to understand,
that you know the plenitude of the power and right of a king, as
well as the circle of his office and duty. Thus have I presumed to
allege this excellent writing of your Majesty, as a prime or eminent
example of tractates concerning special and respective duties;
wherein I should have said as much, if it had been written a
thousand years since. Neither am I moved with certain courtly
decencies, which esteem it flattery to praise in presence. No, it
is flattery to praise in absence--that is, when either the virtue is
absent, or the occasion is absent; and so the praise is not natural,
but forced, either in truth or in time. But let Cicero be read in
his oration pro Marcello, which is nothing but an excellent table of
Caesar's virtue, and made to his face; besides the example of many
other excellent persons, wiser a great deal than such observers; and
we will never doubt, upon a full occasion, to give just praises to
present or absent.

(9) But to return; there belongeth further to the handling of this
part, touching the duties of professions and vocations, a relative
or opposite, touching the frauds, cautels, impostures, and vices of
every profession, which hath been likewise handled; but how? rather
in a satire and cynically, than seriously and wisely; for men have
rather sought by wit to deride and traduce much of that which is
good in professions, than with judgment to discover and sever that
which is corrupt. For, as Solomon saith, he that cometh to seek
after knowledge with a mind to scorn and censure shall be sure to
find matter for his humour, but no matter for his instruction:
Quaerenti derisori scientiam ipsa se abscondit; sed studioso fit
obviam. But the managing of this argument with integrity and truth,
which I note as deficient, seemeth to me to be one of the best
fortifications for honesty and virtue that can be planted. For, as
the fable goeth of the basilisk--that if he see you first, you die
for it; but if you see him first, he dieth--so is it with deceits
and evil arts, which, if they be first espied they leese their life;
but if they prevent, they endanger. So that we are much beholden to
Machiavel and others, that write what men do, and not what they
ought to do. For it is not possible to join serpentine wisdom with
the columbine innocency, except men know exactly all the conditions
of the serpent; his baseness and going upon his belly, his
volubility and lubricity, his envy and sting, and the rest--that is,
all forms and natures of evil. For without this, virtue lieth open
and unfenced. Nay, an honest man can do no good upon those that are
wicked, to reclaim them, without the help of the knowledge of evil.
For men of corrupted minds presuppose that honesty groweth out of
simplicity of manners, and believing of preachers, schoolmasters,
and men's exterior language. So as, except you can make them
perceive that you know the utmost reaches of their own corrupt
opinions, they despise all morality. Non recipit stultus verba
prudentiae, nisi ea dixeris quae, versantur in corde ejus.

(10) Unto this part, touching respective duty, doth also appertain
the duties between husband and wife, parent and child, master and
servant. So likewise the laws of friendship and gratitude, the
civil bond of companies, colleges, and politic bodies, of
neighbourhood, and all other proportionate duties; not as they are
parts of government and society, but as to the framing of the mind
of particular persons.

(11) The knowledge concerning good respecting society doth handle it
also, not simply alone, but comparatively; whereunto belongeth the
weighing of duties between person and person, case and case,
particular and public. As we see in the proceeding of Lucius Brutus
against his own sons, which was so much extolled, yet what was said?

"Infelix, utcunque ferent ea fata minores."

So the case was doubtful, and had opinion on both sides. Again, we
see when M. Brutus and Cassius invited to a supper certain whose
opinions they meant to feel, whether they were fit to be made their
associates, and cast forth the question touching the killing of a
tyrant being a usurper, they were divided in opinion; some holding
that servitude was the extreme of evils, and others that tyranny was
better than a civil war: and a number of the like cases there are
of comparative duty. Amongst which that of all others is the most
frequent, where the question is of a great deal of good to ensue of
a small injustice. Which Jason of Thessalia determined against the
truth: Aliqua sunt injuste facienda, ut multa juste fieri possint.
But the reply is good: Auctorem praesentis justitiae habes,
sponsorem futurae non habes. Men must pursue things which are just
in present, and leave the future to the Divine Providence. So then
we pass on from this general part touching the exemplar and
description of good.

XXII. (1) Now, therefore, that we have spoken of this fruit of life,
it remaineth to speak of the husbandry that belongeth thereunto,
without which part the former seemeth to be no better than a fair
image or statue, which is beautiful to contemplate, but is without
life and motion; whereunto Aristotle himself subscribeth in these
words: Necesse est scilicet de virtute dicere, et quid sit, et ex
quibus gignatur. Inutile enum fere fuerit virtutem quidem nosse,
acquirendae autem ejus modos et vias ignorare. Non enum de virtute
tantum, qua specie sit, quaerendum est, sed et quomodo sui copiam
faciat: utrumque enum volumeus, et rem ipsam nosse, et ejus
compotes fieri: hoc autem ex voto non succedet, nisi sciamus et ex
quibus et quomodo. In such full words and with such iteration doth
he inculcate this part. So saith Cicero in great commendation of
Cato the second, that he had applied himself to philosophy, Non ita
disputandi causa, sed ita vivendi. And although the neglect of our
times, wherein few men do hold any consultations touching the
reformation of their life (as Seneca excellently saith, De partibus
vitae quisque deliberat, de summa nemo), may make this part seem
superfluous; yet I must conclude with that aphorism of Hippocrates,
Qui gravi morbo correpti dolores non sentiunt, iis mens aegrotat.
They need medicine, not only to assuage the disease, but to awake
the sense. And if it be said that the cure of men's minds belongeth
to sacred divinity, it is most true; but yet moral philosophy may be
preferred unto her as a wise servant and humble handmaid. For as
the Psalm saith, "That the eyes of the handmaid look perpetually
towards the mistress," and yet no doubt many things are left to the
discretion of the handmaid to discern of the mistress' will; so
ought moral philosophy to give a constant attention to the doctrines
of divinity, and yet so as it may yield of herself (within due
limits) many sound and profitable directions.

(2) This part, therefore, because of the excellency thereof, I
cannot but find exceeding strange that it is not reduced to written
inquiry; the rather, because it consisteth of much matter, wherein
both speech and action is often conversant; and such wherein the
common talk of men (which is rare, but yet cometh sometimes to pass)
is wiser than their books. It is reasonable, therefore, that we
propound it in the more particularity, both for the worthiness, and
because we may acquit ourselves for reporting it deficient, which
seemeth almost incredible, and is otherwise conceived and
presupposed by those themselves that have written. We will,
therefore, enumerate some heads or points thereof, that it may
appear the better what it is, and whether it be extant.

(3) First, therefore, in this, as in all things which are practical
we ought to cast up our account, what is in our power, and what not;
for the one may be dealt with by way of alteration, but the other by
way of application only. The husbandman cannot command neither the
nature of the earth nor the seasons of the weather; no more can the
physician the constitution of the patient nor the variety of
accidents. So in the culture and cure of the mind of man, two
things are without our command: points of Nature, and points of
fortune. For to the basis of the one, and the conditions of the
other, our work is limited and tied. In these things, therefore, it
is left unto us to proceed by application

"Vincenda est omnis fertuna ferendo:"

and so likewise,

"Vincenda est omnis Natura ferendo."

But when that we speak of suffering, we do not speak of a dull and
neglected suffering, but of a wise and industrious suffering, which
draweth and contriveth use and advantage out of that which seemeth
adverse and contrary; which is that properly which we call
accommodating or applying. Now the wisdom of application resteth
principally in the exact and distinct knowledge of the precedent
state or disposition, unto which we do apply; for we cannot fit a
garment except we first take measure of the body.

(4) So, then, the first article of this knowledge is to set down
sound and true distributions and descriptions of the several
characters and tempers of men's natures and dispositions, specially
having regard to those differences which are most radical in being
the fountains and causes of the rest, or most frequent in
concurrence or commixture; wherein it is not the handling of a few
of them in passage, the better to describe the mediocrities of
virtues, that can satisfy this intention. For if it deserve to be
considered, that there are minds which are proportioned to great
matters, and others to small (which Aristotle handleth, or ought to
have bandied, by the name of magnanimity), doth it not deserve as
well to be considered that there are minds proportioned to intend
many matters, and others to few? So that some can divide
themselves: others can perchance do exactly well, but it must be
but in few things at once; and so there cometh to be a narrowness of
mind, as well as a pusillanimity. And again, that some minds are
proportioned to that which may be dispatched at once, or within a
short return of time; others to that which begins afar off, and is
to be won with length of pursuit:-

"Jam tum tenditqus fovetque."

So that there may be fitly said to be a longanimity, which is
commonly also ascribed to God as a magnanimity. So further deserved
it to be considered by Aristotle, "That there is a disposition in
conversation (supposing it in things which do in no sort touch or
concern a man's self) to soothe and please, and a disposition
contrary to contradict and cross;" and deserveth it not much better
to be considered. "That there is a disposition, not in conversation
or talk, but in matter of more serious nature (and supposing it
still in things merely indifferent), to take pleasure in the good of
another; and a disposition contrariwise, to take distaste at the
good of another?" which is that properly which we call good nature
or ill nature, benignity or malignity; and, therefore, I cannot
sufficiently marvel that this part of knowledge, touching the
several characters of natures and dispositions, should be omitted
both in morality and policy, considering it is of so great ministry
and suppeditation to them both. A man shall find in the traditions
of astrology some pretty and apt divisions of men's natures,
according to the predominances of the planets: lovers of quiet,
lovers of action, lovers of victory, lovers of honour, lovers of
pleasure, lovers of arts, lovers of change, and so forth. A man
shall find in the wisest sort of these relations which the Italians
make touching conclaves, the natures of the several cardinals
handsomely and lively painted forth. A man shall meet with in every
day's conference the denominations of sensitive, dry, formal, real,
humorous, certain, huomo di prima impressione, huomo di ultima
impressione, and the like; and yet, nevertheless, this kind of
observations wandereth in words, but is not fixed in inquiry. For
the distinctions are found (many of them), but we conclude no
precepts upon them: wherein our fault is the greater, because both
history, poesy, and daily experience are as goodly fields where
these observations grow; whereof we make a few posies to hold in our
hands, but no man bringeth them to the confectionary that receipts
might be made of them for use of life.

(5) Of much like kind are those impressions of Nature, which are
imposed upon the mind by the sex, by the age, by the region, by
health and sickness, by beauty and deformity, and the like, which
are inherent and not extern; and again, those which are caused by
extern fortune, as sovereignty, nobility, obscure birth, riches,
want, magistracy, privateness, prosperity, adversity, constant
fortune, variable fortune, rising per saltum, per gradus, and the
like. And, therefore, we see that Plautus maketh it a wonder to see
an old man beneficent, benignitas hujis ut adolescentuli est. Saint
Paul concludeth that severity of discipline was to be used to the
Cretans, increpa eos dure, upon the disposition of their country,
Cretensus semper mendaces, malae bestiae, ventres. Sallust noteth
that it is usual with kings to desire contradictories: Sed
plerumque regiae voluntates, ut vehementes sunt, sic mobiles,
saepeque ipsae sibi advers. Tacitus observeth how rarely raising of
the fortune mendeth the disposition: solus Vespasianus mutatus in
melius. Pindarus maketh an observation, that great and sudden
fortune for the most part defeateth men qui magnam felicitatem
concoquere non possunt. So the Psalm showeth it is more easy to
keep a measure in the enjoying of fortune, than in the increase of
fortune; Divitiae si affluant, nolite cor apponere. These
observations and the like I deny not but are touched a little by
Aristotle as in passage in his Rhetorics, and are handled in some
scattered discourses; but they were never incorporate into moral
philosophy, to which they do essentially appertain; as the knowledge
of this diversity of grounds and moulds doth to agriculture, and the
knowledge of the diversity of complexions and constitutions doth to
the physician, except we mean to follow the indiscretion of
empirics, which minister the same medicines to all patients.

(6) Another article of this knowledge is the inquiry touching the
affections; for as in medicining of the body, it is in order first
to know the divers complexions and constitutions; secondly, the
diseases; and lastly, the cures: so in medicining of the mind,
after knowledge of the divers characters of men's natures, it
followeth in order to know the diseases and infirmities of the mind,
which are no other than the perturbations and distempars of the
affections. For as the ancient politiques in popular estates were
wont to compare the people to the sea, and the orators to the winds;
because as the sea would of itself be calm and quiet, if the winds
did not move and trouble it; so the people would be peaceable and
tractable if the seditious orators did not set them in working and
agitation: so it may be fitly said, that the mind in the nature
thereof would be temperate and stayed, if the affections, as winds,
did not put it into tumult and perturbation. And here again I find
strange, as before, that Aristotle should have written divers
volumes of Ethics, and never handled the affections which is the
principal subject thereof; and yet in his Rhetorics, where they are
considered but collaterally and in a second degree (as they may be
moved by speech), he findeth place for them, and handleth them well
for the quantity; but where their true place is he pretermitteth
them. For it is not his disputations about pleasure and pain that
can satisfy this inquiry, no more than he that should generally
handle the nature of light can be said to handle the nature of
colours; for pleasure and pain are to the particular affections as
light is to particular colours. Better travails, I suppose, had the
Stoics taken in this argument, as far as I can gather by that which
we have at second hand. But yet it is like it was after their
manner, rather in subtlety of definitions (which in a subject of
this nature are but curiosities), than in active and ample
descriptions and observations. So likewise I find some particular
writings of an elegant nature, touching some of the affections: as
of anger, of comfort upon adverse accidents, of tenderness of
countenance, and other. But the poets and writers of histories are
the best doctors of this knowledge; where we may find painted forth,
with great life, how affections are kindled and incited; and how
pacified and refrained; and how again contained from act and further
degree; how they disclose themselves; how they work; how they vary;
how they gather and fortify: how they are enwrapped one within
another; and how they do fight and encounter one with another; and
other the like particularities. Amongst the which this last is of
special use in moral and civil matters; how, I say, to set affection
against affection, and to master one by another; even as we used to
hunt beast with beast, and fly bird with bird, which otherwise
percase we could not so easily recover: upon which foundation is
erected that excellent use of praemium and paena, whereby civil
states consist: employing the predominant affections of fear and
hope, for the suppressing and bridling the rest. For as in the
government of states it is sometimes necessary to bridle one faction
with another, so it is in the government within.

(7) Now come we to those points which are within our own command,
and have force and operation upon the mind, to affect the will and
appetite, and to alter manners: wherein they ought to have handled
custom, exercise, habit, education, example, imitation, emulation,
company, friends, praise, reproof, exhortation, fame, laws, books,
studies: these as they have determinate use in moralities, from
these the mind suffereth, and of these are such receipts and
regiments compounded and described, as may serve to recover or
preserve the health and good estate of the mind, as far as
pertaineth to human medicine: of which number we will insist upon
some one or two, as an example of the rest, because it were too long
to prosecute all; and therefore we do resume custom and habit to
speak of.

(8) The opinion of Aristotle seemeth to me a negligent opinion, that
of those things which consist by Nature, nothing can be changed by
custom; using for example, that if a stone be thrown ten thousand
times up it will not learn to ascend; and that by often seeing or
hearing we do not learn to see or hear the better. For though this
principle be true in things wherein Nature is peremptory (the reason
whereof we cannot now stand to discuss), yet it is otherwise in
things wherein Nature admitteth a latitude. For he might see that a
strait glove will come more easily on with use; and that a wand will
by use bend otherwise than it grew; and that by use of the voice we
speak louder and stronger; and that by use of enduring heat or cold
we endure it the better, and the like: which latter sort have a
nearer resemblance unto that subject of manners he handleth, than
those instances which he allegeth. But allowing his conclusion,
that virtues and vices consist in habit, he ought so much the more
to have taught the manner of superinducing that habit: for there be
many precepts of the wise ordering the exercises of the mind, as
there is of ordering the exercises of the body, whereof we will
recite a few.

(9) The first shall be, that we beware we take not at the first
either too high a strain or too weak: for if too high, in a
diffident nature you discourage, in a confident nature you breed an
opinion of facility, and so a sloth; and in all natures you breed a
further expectation than can hold out, and so an insatisfaction in
the end: if too weak, of the other side, you may not look to
perform and overcome any great task.

(10) Another precept is to practise all things chiefly at two
several times, the one when the mind is best disposed, the other
when it is worst disposed; that by the one you may gain a great
step, by the other you may work out the knots and stonds of the
mind, and make the middle times the more easy and pleasant.

(11) Another precept is that which Aristotle mentioneth by the way,
which is to bear ever towards the contrary extreme of that whereunto
we are by nature inclined; like unto the rowing against the stream,
or making a wand straight by bending him contrary to his natural

(12) Another precept is that the mind is brought to anything better,
and with more sweetness and happiness, if that whereunto you pretend
be not first in the intention, but tanquam aliud agendo, because of
the natural hatred of the mind against necessity and constraint.
Many other axioms there are touching the managing of exercise and
custom, which being so conducted doth prove indeed another nature;
but, being governed by chance, doth commonly prove but an ape of
Nature, and bringeth forth that which is lame and counterfeit.

(13) So if we should handle books and studies, and what influence
and operation they have upon manners, are there not divers precepts
of great caution and direction appertaining thereunto? Did not one
of the fathers in great indignation call poesy vinum daemonum,
because it increaseth temptations, perturbations, and vain opinions?
Is not the opinion of Aristotle worthy to be regarded, wherein he
saith, "That young men are no fit auditors of moral philosophy,
because they are not settled from the boiling heat of their
affections, nor attempered with time and experience"? And doth it
not hereof come, that those excellent books and discourses of the
ancient writers (whereby they have persuaded unto virtue most
effectually, by representing her in state and majesty, and popular
opinions against virtue in their parasites' coats fit to be scorned
and derided), are of so little effect towards honesty of life,
because they are not read and revolved by men in their mature and
settled years, but confined almost to boys and beginners? But is it
not true also, that much less young men are fit auditors of matters
of policy, till they have been thoroughly seasoned in religion and
morality; lest their judgments be corrupted, and made apt to think
that there are no true differences of things, but according to
utility and fortune, as the verse describes it, Prosperum et felix
scelus virtus vocatur; and again, Ille crucem pretium sceleris
tulit, hic diadema: which the poets do speak satirically and in
indignation on virtue's behalf; but books of policy do speak it
seriously and positively; for so it pleaseth Machiavel to say, "That
if Caesar had been overthrown, he would have been more odious than
ever was Catiline;" as if there had been no difference, but in
fortune, between a very fury of lust and blood, and the most
excellent spirit (his ambition reserved) of the world? Again, is
there not a caution likewise to be given of the doctrines of
moralities themselves (some kinds of them), lest they make men too
precise, arrogant, incompatible; as Cicero saith of Cato, In Marco
Catone haec bona quae videmus divina et egregia, ipsius scitote esse
propria; quae nonunquam requirimus ea sunt omnia non a natura, sed a
magistro? Many other axioms and advices there are touching those
proprieties and effects, which studies do infuse and instil into
manners. And so, likewise, is there touching the use of all those
other points, of company, fame, laws, and the rest, which we recited
in the beginning in the doctrine of morality.

(14) But there is a kind of culture of the mind that seemeth yet
more accurate and elaborate than the rest, and is built upon this
ground; that the minds of all men are at some times in a state more
perfect, and at other times in a state more depraved. The purpose,
therefore, of this practice is to fix and cherish the good hours of
the mind, and to obliterate and take forth the evil. The fixing of
the good hath been practised by two means, vows or constant
resolutions, and observances or exercises; which are not to be
regarded so much in themselves, as because they keep the mind in
continual obedience. The obliteration of the evil hath been
practised by two means, some kind of redemption or expiation of that
which is past, and an inception or account de novo for the time to
come. But this part seemeth sacred and religious, and justly; for
all good moral philosophy (as was said) is but a handmaid to

(15) Wherefore we will conclude with that last point, which is of
all other means the most compendious and summary, and again, the
most noble and effectual to the reducing of the mind unto virtue and
good estate; which is, the electing and propounding unto a man's
self good and virtuous ends of his life, such as may be in a
reasonable sort within his compass to attain. For if these two
things be supposed, that a man set before him honest and good ends,
and again, that he be resolute, constant, and true unto them; it
will follow that he shall mould himself into all virtue at once.
And this indeed is like the work of nature; whereas the other course
is like the work of the hand. For as when a carver makes an image,
he shapes only that part whereupon he worketh; as if he be upon the
face, that part which shall be the body is but a rude stone still,
till such times as he comes to it. But contrariwise when nature
makes a flower or living creature, she formeth rudiments of all the
parts at one time. So in obtaining virtue by habit, while a man
practiseth temperance, he doth not profit much to fortitude, nor the
like but when he dedicateth and applieth himself to good ends, look,
what virtue soever the pursuit and passage towards those ends doth
commend unto him, he is invested of a precedent disposition to
conform himself thereunto. Which state of mind Aristotle doth
excellently express himself, that it ought not to be called
virtuous, but divine. His words are these: Immanitati autem
consentaneum est opponere eam, quae supra humanitatem est, heroicam
sive divinam virtutem; and a little after, Nam ut ferae neque vitium
neque virtus est, swic neque Dei: sed hic quidem status altius
quiddam virtute est, ille aluid quiddam a vitio. And therefore we
may see what celsitude of honour Plinius Secundus attributeth to
Trajan in his funeral oration, where he said, "That men needed to
make no other prayers to the gods, but that they would continue as
good lords to them as Trajan had been;" as if he had not been only
an imitation of divine nature, but a pattern of it. But these be
heathen and profane passages, having but a shadow of that divine
state of mind, which religion and the holy faith doth conduct men
unto, by imprinting upon their souls charity, which is excellently
called the bond of perfection, because it comprehendeth and
fasteneth all virtues together. And as it is elegantly said by
Menander of vain love, which is but a false imitation of divine
love, Amor melior Sophista loevo ad humanam vitam--that love
teacheth a man to carry himself better than the sophist or
preceptor; which he calleth left-handed, because, with all his rules
and preceptions, he cannot form a man so dexterously, nor with that
facility to prize himself and govern himself, as love can do: so
certainly, if a man's mind be truly inflamed with charity, it doth
work him suddenly into greater perfection than all the doctrine of
morality can do, which is but a sophist in comparison of the other.
Nay, further, as Xenophon observed truly, that all other affections,
though they raise the mind, yet they do it by distorting and
uncomeliness of ecstasies or excesses; but only love doth exalt the
mind, and nevertheless at the same instant doth settle and compose
it: so in all other excellences, though they advance nature, yet
they are subject to excess. Only charity admitteth no excess. For
so we see, aspiring to be like God in power, the angels transgressed
and fell; Ascendam, et ero similis altissimo: by aspiring to be
like God in knowledge, man transgressed and fell; Eritis sicut Dii,
scientes bonum et malum: but by aspiring to a similitude of God in
goodness or love, neither man nor angel ever transgressed, or shall
transgress. For unto that imitation we are called: Diligite
inimicos vestros, benefacite eis qui oderunt vos, et orate pro
persequentibus et calumniantibus vos, ut sitis filii Patris vestri
qui in coelis est, qui solem suum oriri facit super bonos et malos,
et pluit super justos et injustos. So in the first platform of the
divine nature itself, the heathen religion speaketh thus, Optimus
Maximus: and the sacred Scriptures thus, Miscericordia ejus super
omnia opera ejus.

(16) Wherefore I do conclude this part of moral knowledge,
concerning the culture and regiment of the mind; wherein if any man,
considering the arts thereof which I have enumerated, do judge that
my labour is but to collect into an art or science that which hath
been pretermitted by others, as matter of common sense and
experience, he judgeth well. But as Philocrates sported with
Demosthenes, "You may not marvel (Athenians) that Demosthenes and I
do differ; for he drinketh water, and I drink wine;" and like as we
read of an ancient parable of the two gates of sleep -

"Sunt geminae somni portae: quarum altera fertur
Cornea, qua veris facilis datur exitus umbris:
Altera candenti perfecta nitens elephanto,
Sed falsa ad coelum mittunt insomnia manes:"

so if we put on sobriety and attention, we shall find it a sure
maxim in knowledge, that the more pleasant liquor ("of wine") is the
more vaporous, and the braver gate ("of ivory") sendeth forth the
falser dreams.

(17) But we have now concluded that general part of human
philosophy, which contemplateth man segregate, and as he consisteth
of body and spirit. Wherein we may further note, that there seemeth
to be a relation or conformity between the good of the mind and the
good of the body. For as we divided the good of the body into
health, beauty, strength, and pleasure, so the good of the mind,
inquired in rational and moral knowledges, tendeth to this, to make
the mind sound, and without perturbation; beautiful, and graced with
decency; and strong and agile for all duties of life. These three,
as in the body, so in the mind, seldom meet, and commonly sever.
For it is easy to observe, that many have strength of wit and
courage, but have neither health from perturbations, nor any beauty
or decency in their doings; some again have an elegancy and fineness
of carriage which have neither soundness of honesty nor substance of
sufficiency; and some again have honest and reformed minds, that can
neither become themselves nor manage business; and sometimes two of
them meet, and rarely all three. As for pleasure, we have likewise
determined that the mind ought not to be reduced to stupid, but to
retain pleasure; confined rather in the subject of it, than in the
strength and vigour of it.

XXIII. (1) Civil knowledge is conversant about a subject which of
all others is most immersed in matter, and hardliest reduced to
axiom. Nevertheless, as Cato the Censor said, "That the Romans were
like sheep, for that a man were better drive a flock of them, than
one of them; for in a flock, if you could get but some few go right,
the rest would follow:" so in that respect moral philosophy is more
difficile than policy. Again, moral philosophy propoundeth to
itself the framing of internal goodness; but civil knowledge
requireth only an external goodness; for that as to society
sufficeth. And therefore it cometh oft to pass that there be evil
times in good governments: for so we find in the Holy story, when
the kings were good, yet it is added, Sed adhuc poulus non direxerat
cor suum ad Dominum Deum patrum suorum. Again, states, as great
engines, move slowly, and are not so soon put out of frame: for as
in Egypt the seven good years sustained the seven bad, so
governments for a time well grounded do bear out errors following;
but the resolution of particular persons is more suddenly subverted.
These respects do somewhat qualify the extreme difficulty of civil

(2) This knowledge hath three parts, according to the three summary
actions of society; which are conversation, negotiation, and
government. For man seeketh in society comfort, use, and
protection; and they be three wisdoms of divers natures which do
often sever--wisdom of the behaviour, wisdom of business, and wisdom
of state.

(3) The wisdom of conversation ought not to be over much affected,
but much less despised; for it hath not only an honour in itself,
but an influence also into business and government. The poet saith,
Nec vultu destrue verba tuo: a man may destroy the force of his
words with his countenance; so may he of his deeds, saith Cicero,
recommending to his brother affability and easy access; Nil interest
habere ostium apertum, vultum clausum: it is nothing won to admit
men with an open door, and to receive them with a shut and reserved
countenance. So we see Atticus, before the first interview between
Caesar and Cicero, the war depending, did seriously advise Cicero
touching the composing and ordering of his countenance and gesture.
And if the government of the countenance be of such effect, much
more is that of the speech, and other carriage appertaining to
conversation; the true model whereof seemeth to me well expressed by
Livy, though not meant for this purpose: Ne aut arrogans videar,
aut obnoxius; quorum alterum est alienae libertatis obliti, alterum
suae: the sum of behaviour is to retain a man's own dignity,
without intruding upon the liberty of others. On the other side, if
behaviour and outward carriage be intended too much, first it may
pass into affectation, and then Quid deformius quam scenam in vitam
transferre--to act a man's life? But although it proceed not to
that extreme, yet it consumeth time, and employeth the mind too
much. And therefore as we use to advise young students from company
keeping, by saying, Amici fures temporis: so certainly the
intending of the discretion of behaviour is a great thief of
meditation. Again, such as are accomplished in that form of
urbanity please themselves in it, and seldom aspire to higher
virtue; whereas those that have defect in it do seek comeliness by
reputation; for where reputation is, almost everything becometh; but
where that is not, it must be supplied by puntos and compliments.
Again, there is no greater impediment of action than an over-curious
observance of decency, and the guide of decency, which is time and
season. For as Solomon saith, Qui respicit ad ventos, non seminat;
et qui respicit ad nubes, non metet: a man must make his
opportunity, as oft as find it. To conclude, behaviour seemeth to
me as a garment of the mind, and to have the conditions of a
garment. For it ought to be made in fashion; it ought not to be too
curious; it ought to be shaped so as to set forth any good making of
the mind and hide any deformity; and above all, it ought not to be
too strait or restrained for exercise or motion. But this part of
civil knowledge hath been elegantly handled, and therefore I cannot
report it for deficient.

(4) The wisdom touching negotiation or business hath not been
hitherto collected into writing, to the great derogation of learning
and the professors of learning. For from this root springeth
chiefly that note or opinion, which by us is expressed in adage to
this effect, that there is no great concurrence between learning and
wisdom. For of the three wisdoms which we have set down to pertain
to civil life, for wisdom of behaviour, it is by learned men for the
most part despised, as an inferior to virtue and an enemy to
meditation; for wisdom of government, they acquit themselves well
when they are called to it, but that happeneth to few; but for the
wisdom of business, wherein man's life is most conversant, there be
no books of it, except some few scattered advertisements, that have
no proportion to the magnitude of this subject. For if books were
written of this as the other, I doubt not but learned men with mean
experience would far excel men of long experience without learning,
and outshoot them in their own bow.

(5) Neither needeth it at all to be doubted, that this knowledge
should be so variable as it falleth not under precept; for it is
much less infinite than science of government, which we see is
laboured and in some part reduced. Of this wisdom it seemeth some
of the ancient Romans in the saddest and wisest times were
professors; for Cicero reporteth, that it was then in use for
senators that had name and opinion for general wise men, as
Coruncanius, Curius, Laelius, and many others, to walk at certain
hours in the Place, and to give audience to those that would use
their advice; and that the particular citizens would resort unto
them, and consult with them of the marriage of a daughter, or of the
employing of a son, or of a purchase or bargain, or of an
accusation, and every other occasion incident to man's life. So as
there is a wisdom of counsel and advice even in private causes,
arising out of a universal insight into the affairs of the world;
which is used indeed upon particular causes propounded, but is
gathered by general observation of causes of like nature. For so we
see in the book which Q. Cicero writeth to his brother, De petitione
consulatus (being the only book of business that I know written by
the ancients), although it concerned a particular action then on
foot, yet the substance thereof consisteth of many wise and politic
axioms, which contain not a temporary, but a perpetual direction in
the case of popular elections. But chiefly we may see in those
aphorisms which have place amongst divine writings, composed by
Solomon the king, of whom the Scriptures testify that his heart was
as the sands of the sea, encompassing the world and all worldly
matters, we see, I say, not a few profound and excellent cautions,
precepts, positions, extending to much variety of occasions;
whereupon we will stay a while, offering to consideration some
number of examples.

(6) Sed et cunctis sermonibus qui dicuntur ne accommodes aurem tuam,
ne forte audias servum tuum maledicentem tibi. Here is commended
the provident stay of inquiry of that which we would be loth to
find: as it was judged great wisdom in Pompeius Magnus that he
burned Sertorius' papers unperused.

Vir sapiens, si cum stulto contenderit, sive irascatur, sive rideat,
non inveniet requiem. Here is described the great disadvantage
which a wise man hath in undertaking a lighter person than himself;
which is such an engagement as, whether a man turn the matter to
jest, or turn it to heat, or howsoever he change copy, he can no
ways quit himself well of it.

Qui delicate a pueritia nutrit servum suum, postea sentiet eum
contumacem. Here is signified, that if a man begin too high a pitch
in his favours, it doth commonly end in unkindness and

Vidisti virum velocem in opere suo? coram regibus stabit, nec erit
inter ignobiles. Here is observed, that of all virtues for rising
to honour, quickness of despatch is the best; for superiors many
times love not to have those they employ too deep or too sufficient,
but ready and diligent.

Vidi cunctos viventes qui ambulant sub sole, cum adolescente secundo
qui consurgit pro eo. Here is expressed that which was noted by
Sylla first, and after him by Tiberius. Plures adorant solem
orientem quam occidentem vel meridianum.

Si spiritus potestatem habentis ascenderit super te, locum tuum ne
demiseris; quia curatio faciet cessare peccata maxima. Here caution
is given, that upon displeasure, retiring is of all courses the
unfittest; for a man leaveth things at worst, and depriveth himself
of means to make them better.

Erat civitas parva, et pauci in ea viri: venit contra eam rex
magnus, et vallavit eam, instruxitque munitones per gyrum, et
perfecta est obsidio; inventusque est in ea vir pauper et sapiens,
et liberavit eam per sapientiam suam; et nullus deinceps recordatus
est huminis illius pauperis. Here the corruption of states is set
forth, that esteem not virtue or merit longer than they have use of

Millis responsio frangit iram. Here is noted that silence or rough
answer exasperateth; but an answer present and temperate pacifieth.

Iter pigrorum quasi sepes spinarum. Here is lively represented how
laborious sloth proveth in the end; for when things are deferred
till the last instant, and nothing prepared beforehand, every step
findeth a briar or impediment, which catcheth or stoppeth.

Melior est finis orationis quam principium. Here is taxed the
vanity of formal speakers, that study more about prefaces and
inducements, than upon the conclusions and issues of speech.

Qui cognoscit in judicio faciem, non bene facit; iste et pro
buccella panis deseret veritatem. Here is noted, that a judge were
better be a briber than a respecter of persons; for a corrupt judge
offendeth not so lightly as a facile.

Vir pauper calumnians pauperes simils est imbri vehementi, in quo
paratur fames. Here is expressed the extremity of necessitous
extortions, figured in the ancient fable of the full and the hungry

Fons turbatus pede, et vena corrupta, est justus cadens coram impio.
Here is noted, that one judicial and exemplar iniquity in the face
of the world doth trouble the fountains of justice more than many
particular injuries passed over by connivance.

Qui subtrahit aliquid a patre et a matre, et dicit hoc non esse
peccatum, particeps est homicidii. Here is noted that, whereas men
in wronging their best friends use to extenuate their fault, as if
they might presume or be bold upon them, it doth contrariwise indeed
aggravate their fault, and turneth it from injury to impiety.

Noli esse amicus homini iracundo, nec ambulato cum homine furioso.
Here caution is given, that in the election of our friends we do
principally avoid those which are impatient, as those that will
espouse us to many factions and quarrels.

Qui conturbat domum suam, possidebit ventum. Here is noted, that in
domestical separations and breaches men do promise to themselves
quieting of their mind and contentment; but still they are deceived
of their expectation, and it turneth to wind.

Filius sapiens laetificat patrem: filius vero stultus maestitia est
matri suae. Here is distinguished, that fathers have most comfort
of the good proof of their sons; but mothers have most discomfort of
their ill proof, because women have little discerning of virtue, but
of fortune.

Qui celat delictum, quaerit amicitiam; sed qui altero sermone
repetit, separat faederatos. Here caution is given, that
reconcilement is better managed by an amnesty, and passing over that
which is past, than by apologies and excuses.

In omni opere bono erit abundantia; ubi autem verba sunt plurima,
ibi frequenter egestas. Here is noted, that words and discourse
aboundeth most where there is idleness and want.

Primus in sua causa justus: sed venit altera pars, et inquiret in
eum. Here is observed, that in all causes the first tale possesseth
much; in sort, that the prejudice thereby wrought will be hardly
removed, except some abuse or falsity in the information be

Verba bilinguis quasi simplicia, et ipsa perveniunt ad interiora
ventris. Here is distinguished, that flattery and insinuation,
which seemeth set and artificial, sinketh not far; but that entereth
deep which hath show of nature, liberty, and simplicity.

Qui erudit derisorem, ipse sibi injuriam facit; et qui arguit
impium, sibi maculam generat. Here caution is given how we tender
reprehension to arrogant and scornful natures, whose manner is to
esteem it for contumely, and accordingly to return it.

Da sapienti occasionem, et addetur ei sapientia. Here is
distinguished the wisdom brought into habit, and that which is but
verbal and swimming only in conceit; for the one upon the occasion
presented is quickened and redoubled, the other is amazed and

Quomodo in aquis resplendent vultus prospicientium, sic corda
hominum manifesta sunt prudentibus. Here the mind of a wise man is
compared to a glass, wherein the images of all diversity of natures
and customs are represented; from which representation proceedeth
that application,

"Qui sapit, innumeris moribus aptus erit."

(7) Thus have I stayed somewhat longer upon these sentences politic
of Solomon than is agreeable to the proportion of an example; led
with a desire to give authority to this part of knowledge, which I
noted as deficient, by so excellent a precedent; and have also
attended them with brief observations, such as to my understanding
offer no violence to the sense, though I know they may be applied to
a more divine use: but it is allowed, even in divinity, that some
interpretations, yea, and some writings, have more of the eagle than
others; but taking them as instructions for life, they might have
received large discourse, if I would have broken them and
illustrated them by deducements and examples.

(8) Neither was this in use only with the Hebrews, but it is
generally to be found in the wisdom of the more ancient times; that
as men found out any observation that they thought was good for
life, they would gather it and express it in parable or aphorism or
fable. But for fables, they were vicegerents and supplies where
examples failed: now that the times abound with history, the aim is
better when the mark is alive. And therefore the form of writing
which of all others is fittest for this variable argument of
negotiation and occasions is that which Machiavel chose wisely and
aptly for government; namely, discourse upon histories or examples.
For knowledge drawn freshly and in our view out of particulars,
knoweth the way best to particulars again. And it hath much greater
life for practice when the discourse attendeth upon the example,
than when the example attendeth upon the discourse. For this is no
point of order, as it seemeth at first, but of substance. For when
the example is the ground, being set down in a history at large, it
is set down with all circumstances, which may sometimes control the
discourse thereupon made, and sometimes supply it, as a very pattern
for action; whereas the examples alleged for the discourse's sake
are cited succinctly, and without particularity, and carry a servile
aspect towards the discourse which they are brought in to make good.

(9) But this difference is not amiss to be remembered, that as
history of times is the best ground for discourse of government,
such as Machiavel handleth, so histories of lives is the most
popular for discourse of business, because it is more conversant in
private actions. Nay, there is a ground of discourse for this
purpose fitter than them both, which is discourse upon letters, such
as are wise and weighty, as many are of Cicero ad Atticum, and
others. For letters have a great and more particular representation
of business than either chronicles or lives. Thus have we spoken
both of the matter and form of this part of civil knowledge,
touching negotiation, which we note to be deficient.

(10) But yet there is another part of this part, which differeth as
much from that whereof we have spoken as sapere and sibi sapere, the
one moving as it were to the circumference, the other to the centre.
For there is a wisdom of counsel, and again there is a wisdom of
pressing a man's own fortune; and they do sometimes meet, and often
sever. For many are wise in their own ways that are weak for
government or counsel; like ants, which is a wise creature for
itself, but very hurtful for the garden. This wisdom the Romans did
take much knowledge of: Nam pol sapiens (saith the comical poet)
fingit fortunam sibi; and it grew to an adage, Faber quisque
fortunae propriae; and Livy attributed it to Cato the first, In hoc
viro tanta vis animi et ingenii inerat, ut quocunque loco natus
esset sibi ipse fortunam facturus videretur.

(11) This conceit or position, if it be too much declared and
professed, hath been thought a thing impolitic and unlucky, as was
observed in Timotheus the Athenian, who, having done many great
services to the state in his government, and giving an account
thereof to the people as the manner was, did conclude every
particular with this clause, "And in this fortune had no part." And
it came so to pass, that he never prospered in anything he took in
hand afterwards. For this is too high and too arrogant, savouring
of that which Ezekiel saith of Pharaoh, Dicis, Fluvius est neus et
ego feci memet ipsum; or of that which another prophet speaketh,
that men offer sacrifices to their nets and snares; and that which
the poet expresseth,

"Dextra mihi Deus, et telum quod missile libro,
Nunc adsint!"

For these confidences were ever unhallowed, and unblessed; and,
therefore, those that were great politiques indeed ever ascribed
their successes to their felicity and not to their skill or virtue.
For so Sylla surnamed himself Felix, not Magnus. So Caesar said to
the master of the ship, Caesarem portas et fortunam ejus.

(12) But yet, nevertheless, these positions, Faber quisque fortunae
suae: Sapiens dominabitur astris: Invia virtuti null est via, and
the like, being taken and used as spurs to industry, and not as
stirrups to insolency, rather for resolution than for the
presumption or outward declaration, have been ever thought sound and
good; and are no question imprinted in the greatest minds, who are
so sensible of this opinion as they can scarce contain it within.
As we see in Augustus Caesar (who was rather diverse from his uncle
than inferior in virtue), how when he died he desired his friends
about him to give him a plaudite, as if he were conscious to himself
that he had played his part well upon the stage. This part of
knowledge we do report also as deficient; not but that it is
practised too much, but it hath not been reduced to writing. And,
therefore, lest it should seem to any that it is not comprehensible
by axiom, it is requisite, as we did in the former, that we set down
some heads or passages of it.

(13) Wherein it may appear at the first a new and unwonted argument
to teach men how to raise and make their fortune; a doctrine wherein
every man perchance will be ready to yield himself a disciple, till
he see the difficulty: for fortune layeth as heavy impositions as
virtue; and it is as hard and severe a thing to be a true politique,
as to be truly moral. But the handling hereof concerneth learning
greatly, both in honour and in substance. In honour, because
pragmatical men may not go away with an opinion that learning is
like a lark, that can mount and sing, and please herself, and
nothing else; but may know that she holdeth as well of the hawk,
that can soar aloft, and can also descend and strike upon the prey.
In substance, because it is the perfect law of inquiry of truth,
that nothing be in the globe of matter, which should not be likewise
in the globe of crystal or form; that is, that there be not anything
in being and action which should not be drawn and collected into
contemplation and doctrine. Neither doth learning admire or esteem
of this architecture of fortune otherwise than as of an inferior
work, for no man's fortune can be an end worthy of his being, and
many times the worthiest men do abandon their fortune willingly for
better respects: but nevertheless fortune as an organ of virtue and
merit deserveth the consideration.

(14) First, therefore, the precept which I conceive to be most
summary towards the prevailing in fortune, is to obtain that window
which Momus did require; who seeing in the frame of man's heart such
angles and recesses, found fault there was not a window to look into
them; that is, to procure good informations of particulars touching
persons, their natures, their desires and ends, their customs and
fashions, their helps and advantages, and whereby they chiefly
stand, so again their weaknesses and disadvantages, and where they
lie most open and obnoxious, their friends, factions, dependences;
and again their opposites, enviers, competitors, their moods and
times, Sola viri molles aditus et tempora noras; their principles,
rules, and observations, and the like: and this not only of persons
but of actions; what are on foot from time to time, and how they are
conducted, favoured, opposed, and how they import, and the like.
For the knowledge of present actions is not only material in itself,
but without it also the knowledge of persons is very erroneous: for
men change with the actions; and whilst they are in pursuit they are
one, and when they return to their nature they are another. These
informations of particulars, touching persons and actions, are as
the minor propositions in every active syllogism; for no excellency
of observations (which are as the major propositions) can suffice to
ground a conclusion, if there be error and mistaking in the minors.

(15) That this knowledge is possible, Solomon is our surety, who
saith, Consilium in corde viri tanquam aqua profunda; sed vir
prudens exhauriet illud. And although the knowledge itself falleth
not under precept because it is of individuals, yet the instructions
for the obtaining of it may.

(16) We will begin, therefore, with this precept, according to the
ancient opinion, that the sinews of wisdom are slowness of belief
and distrust; that more trust be given to countenances and deeds
than to words; and in words rather to sudden passages and surprised
words than to set and purposed words. Neither let that be feared
which is said, Fronti nulla fides, which is meant of a general
outward behaviour, and not of the private and subtle motions and
labours of the countenance and gesture; which, as Q. Cicero
elegantly saith, is Animi janua, "the gate of the mind." None more
close than Tiberius, and yet Tacitus saith of Gallus, Etenim vultu
offensionem conjectaverat. So again, noting the differing character
and manner of his commending Germanicus and Drusus in the Senate, he
saith, touching his fashion wherein he carried his speech of
Germanicus, thus: Magis in speciem adornatis verbis, quam ut
penitus sentire crederetur; but of Drusus thus: Paucioribus sed
intentior, et fida oratione; and in another place, speaking of his
character of speech when he did anything that was gracious and
popular, he saith, "That in other things he was velut eluctantium
verborum;" but then again, solutius loquebatur quando subveniret.
So that there is no such artificer of dissimulation, nor no such
commanded countenance (vultus jussus), that can sever from a feigned
tale some of these fashions, either a more slight and careless
fashion, or more set and formal, or more tedious and wandering, or
coming from a man more drily and hardly.

(17) Neither are deeds such assured pledges as that they may be
trusted without a judicious consideration of their magnitude and
nature: Fraus sibi in parvis fidem praestruit ut majore emolumento
fallat; and the Italian thinketh himself upon the point to be bought
and sold, when he is better used than he was wont to be without
manifest cause. For small favours, they do but lull men to sleep,
both as to caution and as to industry; and are, as Demosthenes
calleth them, Alimenta socordiae. So again we see how false the
nature of some deeds are, in that particular which Mutianus
practised upon Antonius Primus, upon that hollow and unfaithful
reconcilement which was made between them; whereupon Mutianus
advanced many of the friends of Antonius, Simul amicis ejus
praefecturas et tribunatus largitur: wherein, under pretence to
strengthen him, he did desolate him, and won from him his

(18) As for words, though they be like waters to physicians, full of
flattery and uncertainty, yet they are not to be despised specially
with the advantage of passion and affection. For so we see
Tiberius, upon a stinging and incensing speech of Agrippina, came a
step forth of his dissimulation when he said, "You are hurt because
you do not reign;" of which Tacitus saith, Audita haec raram occulti
pectoris vocem elicuere: correptamque Graeco versu admonuit, ideo
laedi quia non regnaret. And, therefore, the poet doth elegantly
call passions tortures that urge men to confess their secrets:-

"Vino torus et ira."

And experience showeth there are few men so true to themselves and
so settled but that, sometimes upon heat, sometimes upon bravery,
sometimes upon kindness, sometimes upon trouble of mind and
weakness, they open themselves; specially if they be put to it with
a counter-dissimulation, according to the proverb of Spain, Di
mentira, y sacar as verdad: "Tell a lie and find a truth."

(19) As for the knowing of men which is at second hand from reports:
men's weaknesses and faults are best known from their enemies, their
virtues and abilities from their friends, their customs and times
from their servants, their conceits and opinions from their familiar
friends, with whom they discourse most. General fame is light, and
the opinions conceived by superiors or equals are deceitful; for to
such men are more masked: Verior fama e domesticis emanat.

(20) But the soundest disclosing and expounding of men is by their
natures and ends, wherein the weakest sort of men are best
interpreted by their natures, and the wisest by their ends. For it
was both pleasantly and wisely said (though I think very untruly) by
a nuncio of the Pope, returning from a certain nation where he
served as lidger; whose opinion being asked touching the appointment
of one to go in his place, he wished that in any case they did not
send one that was too wise; because no very wise man would ever
imagine what they in that country were like to do. And certainly it
is an error frequent for men to shoot over, and to suppose deeper
ends and more compass reaches than are: the Italian proverb being
elegant, and for the most part true:-

"Di danari, di senno, e di fede,
C'e ne manco che non credi."

"There is commonly less money, less wisdom, and less good faith than
men do account upon."

(21) But princes, upon a far other reason, are best interpreted by
their natures, and private persons by their ends. For princes being
at the top of human desires, they have for the most part no
particular ends whereto they aspire, by distance from which a man
might take measure and scale of the rest of their actions and
desires; which is one of the causes that maketh their hearts more
inscrutable. Neither is it sufficient to inform ourselves in men's
ends and natures of the variety of them only, but also of the
predominancy, what humour reigneth most, and what end is principally
sought. For so we see, when Tigellinus saw himself outstripped by
Petronius Turpilianus in Nero's humours of pleasures, metus ejus
rimatur, he wrought upon Nero's fears, whereby he broke the other's

(22) But to all this part of inquiry the most compendious way
resteth in three things; the first, to have general acquaintance and
inwardness with those which have general acquaintance and look most
into the world; and specially according to the diversity of
business, and the diversity of persons, to have privacy and
conversation with some one friend at least which is perfect and
well-intelligenced in every several kind. The second is to keep a
good mediocrity in liberty of speech and secrecy; in most things
liberty; secrecy where it importeth; for liberty of speech inviteth
and provoketh liberty to be used again, and so bringeth much to a
man's knowledge; and secrecy on the other side induceth trust and
inwardness. The last is the reducing of a man's self to this
watchful and serene habit, as to make account and purpose, in every
conference and action, as well to observe as to act. For as
Epictetus would have a philosopher in every particular action to say
to himself, Et hoc volo, et etiam institutum servare; so a politic
man in everything should say to himself, Et hoc volo, ac etiam
aliquid addiscere. I have stayed the longer upon this precept of
obtaining good information because it is a main part by itself,
which answereth to all the rest. But, above all things, caution
must be taken that men have a good stay and hold of themselves, and
that this much knowing do not draw on much meddling; for nothing is
more unfortunate than light and rash intermeddling in many matters.
So that this variety of knowledge tendeth in conclusion but only to
this, to make a better and freer choice of those actions which may
concern us, and to conduct them with the less error and the more

(23) The second precept concerning this knowledge is, for men to
take good information touching their own person, and well to
understand themselves; knowing that, as St. James saith, though men
look oft in a glass, yet they do suddenly forget themselves; wherein
as the divine glass is the Word of God, so the politic glass is the
state of the world, or times wherein we live, in the which we are to
behold ourselves.

(24) For men ought to take an impartial view of their own abilities
and virtues; and again of their wants and impediments; accounting
these with the most, and those other with the least; and from this
view and examination to frame the considerations following.

(25) First, to consider how the constitution of their nature sorteth
with the general state of the times; which if they find agreeable
and fit, then in all things to give themselves more scope and
liberty; but if differing and dissonant, then in the whole course of
their life to be more close retired, and reserved; as we see in
Tiberius, who was never seen at a play, and came not into the senate
in twelve of his last years; whereas Augustus Caesar lived ever in
men's eyes, which Tacitus observeth, alia Tiberio morum via.

(26) Secondly, to consider how their nature sorteth with professions
and courses of life, and accordingly to make election, if they be
free; and, if engaged, to make the departure at the first
opportunity; as we see was done by Duke Valentine, that was designed
by his father to a sacerdotal profession, but quitted it soon after
in regard of his parts and inclination; being such, nevertheless, as
a man cannot tell well whether they were worse for a prince or for a

(27) Thirdly, to consider how they sort with those whom they are
like to have competitors and concurrents; and to take that course
wherein there is most solitude, and themselves like to be most
eminent; as Caesar Julius did, who at first was an orator or
pleader; but when he saw the excellency of Cicero, Hortensius,
Catulus, and others for eloquence, and saw there was no man of
reputation for the wars but Pompeius, upon whom the state was forced
to rely, he forsook his course begun towards a civil and popular
greatness, and transferred his designs to a martial greatness.

(28) Fourthly, in the choice of their friends and dependents, to
proceed according to the composition of their own nature; as we may
see in Caesar, all whose friends and followers were men active and
effectual, but not solemn, or of reputation.

(29) Fifthly, to take special heed how they guide themselves by
examples, in thinking they can do as they see others do; whereas
perhaps their natures and carriages are far differing. In which
error it seemeth Pompey was, of whom Cicero saith that he was wont
often to say, Sylla potuit, ego non potero? Wherein he was much
abused, the natures and proceedings of himself and his example being
the unlikest in the world; the one being fierce, violent, and
pressing the fact; the other solemn, and full of majesty and
circumstance, and therefore the less effectual.

But this precept touching the politic knowledge of ourselves hath
many other branches, whereupon we cannot insist.

(30) Next to the well understanding and discerning of a man's self,
there followeth the well opening and revealing a man's self; wherein
we see nothing more usual than for the more able man to make the
less show. For there is a great advantage in the well setting forth
of a man's virtues, fortunes, merits; and again, in the artificial
covering of a man's weaknesses, defects, disgraces; staying upon the
one, sliding from the other; cherishing the one by circumstances,
gracing the other by exposition, and the like. Wherein we see what
Tacitus saith of Mutianus, who was the greatest politique of his
time, Omnium quae dixerat feceratque arte quadam ostentator, which
requireth indeed some art, lest it turn tedious and arrogant; but
yet so, as ostentation (though it be to the first degree of vanity)
seemeth to me rather a vice in manners than in policy; for as it is
said, Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret; so, except it be
in a ridiculous degree of deformity, Audacter te vendita, semper
aluquid haeret. For it will stick with the more ignorant and
inferior sort of men, though men of wisdom and rank do smile at it
and despise it; and yet the authority won with many doth countervail
the disdain of a few. But if it be carried with decency and
government, as with a natural, pleasant, and ingenious fashion; or
at times when it is mixed with some peril and unsafety (as in
military persons); or at times when others are most envied; or with
easy and careless passage to it and from it, without dwelling too
long, or being too serious; or with an equal freedom of taxing a
man's self, as well as gracing himself; or by occasion of repelling
or putting down others' injury or insolency; it doth greatly add to
reputation: and surely not a few solid natures, that want this
ventosity and cannot sail in the height of the winds, are not
without some prejudice and disadvantage by their moderation.

(31) But for these flourishes and enhancements of virtue, as they
are not perchance unnecessary, so it is at least necessary that
virtue be not disvalued and embased under the just price, which is
done in three manners--by offering and obtruding a man's self,
wherein men think he is rewarded when he is accepted; by doing too
much, which will not give that which is well done leave to settle,
and in the end induceth satiety; and by finding too soon the fruit
of a man's virtue, in commendation, applause, honour, favour;
wherein if a man be pleased with a little, let him hear what is
truly said: Cave ne insuetus rebus majoribus videaris, si haec te
res parva sicuti magna delectat.

(32) But the covering of defects is of no less importance than the
valuing of good parts; which may be done likewise in three manners--
by caution, by colour, and by confidence. Caution is when men do
ingeniously and discreetly avoid to be put into those things for
which they are not proper; whereas contrariwise bold and unquiet
spirits will thrust themselves into matters without difference, and
so publish and proclaim all their wants. Colour is when men make a
way for themselves to have a construction made of their faults or
wants, as proceeding from a better cause or intended for some other
purpose. For of the one it is well said,

"Saepe latet vitium proximitate boni,"

and therefore whatsoever want a man hath, he must see that he
pretend the virtue that shadoweth it; as if he be dull, he must
affect gravity; if a coward, mildness; and so the rest. For the
second, a man must frame some probable cause why he should not do
his best, and why he should dissemble his abilities; and for that
purpose must use to dissemble those abilities which are notorious in
him, to give colour that his true wants are but industries and
dissimulations. For confidence, it is the last but the surest
remedy--namely, to depress and seem to despise whatsoever a man
cannot attain; observing the good principle of the merchants, who
endeavour to raise the price of their own commodities, and to beat
down the price of others. But there is a confidence that passeth
this other, which is to face out a man's own defects, in seeming to
conceive that he is best in those things wherein he is failing; and,
to help that again, to seem on the other side that he hath least
opinion of himself in those things wherein he is best: like as we
shall see it commonly in poets, that if they show their verses, and
you except to any, they will say, "That that line cost them more
labour than any of the rest;" and presently will seem to disable and
suspect rather some other line, which they know well enough to be
the best in the number. But above all, in this righting and helping
of a man's self in his own carriage, he must take heed he show not
himself dismantled and exposed to scorn and injury, by too much
dulceness, goodness, and facility of nature; but show some sparkles
of liberty, spirit, and edge. Which kind of fortified carriage,
with a ready rescussing of a man's self from scorns, is sometimes of
necessity imposed upon men by somewhat in their person or fortune;
but it ever succeedeth with good felicity.

(33) Another precept of this knowledge is by all possible endeavour
to frame the mind to be pliant and obedient to occasion; for nothing
hindereth men's fortunes so much as this: Idem manebat, neque idem
decebat--men are where they were, when occasions turn: and
therefore to Cato, whom Livy maketh such an architect of fortune, he
addeth that he had versatile ingenium. And thereof it cometh that
these grave solemn wits, which must be like themselves and cannot
make departures, have more dignity than felicity. But in some it is
nature to be somewhat vicious and enwrapped, and not easy to turn.
In some it is a conceit that is almost a nature, which is, that men
can hardly make themselves believe that they ought to change their
course, when they have found good by it in former experience. For
Machiavel noted wisely how Fabius Maximus would have been
temporising still, according to his old bias, when the nature of the
war was altered and required hot pursuit. In some other it is want
of point and penetration in their judgment, that they do not discern
when things have a period, but come in too late after the occasion;
as Demosthenes compareth the people of Athens to country fellows,
when they play in a fence school, that if they have a blow, then
they remove their weapon to that ward, and not before. In some
other it is a lothness to lose labours passed, and a conceit that
they can bring about occasions to their ply; and yet in the end,
when they see no other remedy, then they come to it with
disadvantage; as Tarquinius, that gave for the third part of
Sibylla's books the treble price, when he might at first have had
all three for the simple. But from whatsoever root or cause this
restiveness of mind proceedeth, it is a thing most prejudicial; and
nothing is more politic than to make the wheels of our mind
concentric and voluble with the wheels of fortune.

(34) Another precept of this knowledge, which hath some affinity
with that we last spoke of, but with difference, is that which is
well expressed, Fatis accede deisque, that men do not only turn with
the occasions, but also run with the occasions, and not strain their
credit or strength to over-hard or extreme points; but choose in
their actions that which is most passable: for this will preserve
men from foil, not occupy them too much about one matter, win
opinion of moderation, please the most, and make a show of a
perpetual felicity in all they undertake: which cannot but mightily
increase reputation.

(35) Another part of this knowledge seemeth to have some repugnancy
with the former two, but not as I understand it; and it is that
which Demosthenes uttereth in high terms: Et quemadmodum receptum
est, ut exercitum ducat imperator, sic et a cordatis viris res ipsae
ducendae; ut quaeipsis videntur, ea gerantur, et non ipsi eventus
persequi cogantur. For if we observe we shall find two differing
kinds of sufficiency in managing of business: some can make use of
occasions aptly and dexterously, but plot little; some can urge and
pursue their own plots well, but cannot accommodate nor take in;
either of which is very imperfect without the other.

(36) Another part of this knowledge is the observing a good
mediocrity in the declaring or not declaring a man's self: for
although depth of secrecy, and making way (qualis est via navis in
mari, which the French calleth sourdes menees, when men set things
in work without opening themselves at all), be sometimes both
prosperous and admirable; yet many times dissimulatio errores parit,
qui dissimulatorem ipsum illaqueant. And therefore we see the
greatest politiques have in a natural and free manner professed
their desires, rather than been reserved and disguised in them. For
so we see that Lucius Sylla made a kind of profession, "that he
wished all men happy or unhappy, as they stood his friends or
enemies." So Caesar, when he went first into Gaul, made no scruple
to profess "that he had rather be first in a village than second at
Rome." So again, as soon as he had begun the war, we see what
Cicero saith of him, Alter (meaning of Caesar) non recusat, sed
quodammodo postulat, ut (ut est) sic appelletur tyrannus. So we may
see in a letter of Cicero to Atticus, that Augustus Caesar, in his
very entrance into affairs, when he was a darling of the senate, yet
in his harangues to the people would swear, Ita parentis honores
consequi liceat (which was no less than the tyranny), save that, to
help it, he would stretch forth his hand towards a statue of
Caesar's that was erected in the place: and men laughed and
wondered, and said, "Is it possible?" or, "Did you ever hear the
like?" and yet thought he meant no hurt; he did it so handsomely and
ingenuously. And all these were prosperous: whereas Pompey, who
tended to the same ends, but in a more dark and dissembling manner
as Tacitus saith of him, Occultior non melior, wherein Sallust
concurreth, Ore probo, animo inverecundo, made it his design, by
infinite secret engines, to cast the state into an absolute anarchy
and confusion, that the state might cast itself into his arms for
necessity and protection, and so the sovereign power be put upon
him, and he never seen in it: and when he had brought it (as he
thought) to that point when he was chosen consul alone, as never any
was, yet he could make no great matter of it, because men understood
him not; but was fain in the end to go the beaten track of getting
arms into his hands, by colour of the doubt of Caesar's designs: so
tedious, casual, and unfortunate are these deep dissimulations:
whereof it seemeth Tacitus made this judgment, that they were a
cunning of an inferior form in regard of true policy; attributing
the one to Augustus, the other to Tiberius; where, speaking of
Livia, he saith, Et cum artibus mariti simulatione filii bene
compostia: for surely the continual habit of dissimulation is but a
weak and sluggish cunning, and not greatly politic.

(37) Another precept of this architecture of fortune is to accustom
our minds to judge of the proportion or value of things, as they
conduce and are material to our particular ends; and that to do
substantially and not superficially. For we shall find the logical
part (as I may term it) of some men's minds good, but the
mathematical part erroneous; that is, they can well judge of
consequences, but not of proportions and comparison, preferring
things of show and sense before things of substance and effect. So
some fall in love with access to princes, others with popular fame
and applause, supposing they are things of great purchase, when in
many cases they are but matters of envy, peril, and impediment. So
some measure things according to the labour and difficulty or
assiduity which are spent about them; and think, if they be ever
moving, that they must needs advance and proceed; as Caesar saith in
a despising manner of Cato the second, when he describeth how
laborious and indefatigable he was to no great purpose, Haec omnia
magno studio agebat. So in most things men are ready to abuse
themselves in thinking the greatest means to be best, when it should
be the fittest.

(38) As for the true marshalling of men's pursuits towards their
fortune, as they are more or less material, I hold them to stand
thus. First the amendment of their own minds. For the removal of
the impediments of the mind will sooner clear the passages of
fortune than the obtaining fortune will remove the impediments of
the mind. In the second place I set down wealth and means; which I
know most men would have placed first, because of the general use
which it beareth towards all variety of occasions. But that opinion
I may condemn with like reason as Machiavel doth that other, that
moneys were the sinews of the wars; whereas (saith he) the true
sinews of the wars are the sinews of men's arms, that is, a valiant,
populous, and military nation: and he voucheth aptly the authority
of Solon, who, when Croesus showed him his treasury of gold, said to
him, that if another came that had better iron, he would be master
of his gold. In like manner it may be truly affirmed that it is not
moneys that are the sinews of fortune, but it is the sinews and
steel of men's minds, wit, courage, audacity, resolution, temper,
industry, and the like. In the third place I set down reputation,
because of the peremptory tides and currents it hath; which, if they
be not taken in their due time, are seldom recovered, it being
extreme hard to play an after-game of reputation. And lastly I
place honour, which is more easily won by any of the other three,
much more by all, than any of them can be purchased by honour. To
conclude this precept, as there is order and priority in matter, so
is there in time, the preposterous placing whereof is one of the
commonest errors: while men fly to their ends when they should
intend their beginnings, and do not take things in order of time as
they come on, but marshal them according to greatness and not
according to instance; not observing the good precept, Quod nunc
instat agamus.

(39) Another precept of this knowledge is not to embrace any matters
which do occupy too great a quantity of time, but to have that
sounding in a man's ears, Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile
tempus: and that is the cause why those which take their course of
rising by professions of burden, as lawyers, orators, painful
divines, and the like, are not commonly so politic for their own
fortune, otherwise than in their ordinary way, because they want
time to learn particulars, to wait occasions, and to devise plots.

(40) Another precept of this knowledge is to imitate nature, which
doth nothing in vain; which surely a man may do if he do well
interlace his business, and bend not his mind too much upon that
which he principally intendeth. For a man ought in every particular
action so to carry the motions of his mind, and so to have one thing
under another, as if he cannot have that he seeketh in the best
degree, yet to have it in a second, or so in a third; and if he can
have no part of that which he purposed, yet to turn the use of it to
somewhat else; and if he cannot make anything of it for the present,
yet to make it as a seed of somewhat in time to come; and if he can
contrive no effect or substance from it, yet to win some good
opinion by it, or the like. So that he should exact an account of
himself of every action, to reap somewhat, and not to stand amazed
and confused if he fail of that he chiefly meant: for nothing is
more impolitic than to mind actions wholly one by one. For he that
doth so loseth infinite occasions which intervene, and are many
times more proper and propitious for somewhat that he shall need
afterwards, than for that which he urgeth for the present; and
therefore men must be perfect in that rule, Haec oportet facere, et
illa non imittere.

(41) Another precept of this knowledge is, not to engage a man's
self peremptorily in anything, though it seem not liable to
accident; but ever to have a window to fly out at, or a way to
retire: following the wisdom in the ancient fable of the two frogs,
which consulted when their plash was dry whither they should go; and
the one moved to go down into a pit, because it was not likely the
water would dry there; but the other answered, "True, but if it do,
how shall we get out again?"

(42) Another precept of this knowledge is that ancient precept of
Bias, construed not to any point of perfidiousness, but to caution
and moderation, Et ama tanquam inimicus futurus et odi tanquam
amaturus. For it utterly betrayeth all utility for men to embark
themselves too far into unfortunate friendships, troublesome
spleens, and childish and humorous envies or emulations.

(43) But I continue this beyond the measure of an example; led,
because I would not have such knowledges, which I note as deficient,
to be thought things imaginative or in the air, or an observation or
two much made of, but things of bulk and mass, whereof an end is
more hardly made than a beginning. It must be likewise conceived,
that in these points which I mention and set down, they are far from
complete tractates of them, but only as small pieces for patterns.
And lastly, no man I suppose will think that I mean fortunes are not
obtained without all this ado; for I know they come tumbling into
some men's laps; and a number obtain good fortunes by diligence in a
plain way, little intermeddling, and keeping themselves from gross

(44) But as Cicero, when he setteth down an idea of a perfect
orator, doth not mean that every pleader should be such; and so
likewise, when a prince or a courtier hath been described by such as
have handled those subjects, the mould hath used to be made
according to the perfection of the art, and not according to common
practice: so I understand it, that it ought to be done in the
description of a politic man, I mean politic for his own fortune.

(45) But it must be remembered all this while, that the precepts
which we have set down are of that kind which may be counted and
called Bonae Artes. As for evil arts, if a man would set down for
himself that principle of Machiavel, "That a man seek not to attain
virtue itself, but the appearance only thereof; because the credit
of virtue is a help, but the use of it is cumber:" or that other of
his principles, "That he presuppose that men are not fitly to be
wrought otherwise but by fear; and therefore that he seek to have
every man obnoxious, low, and in straits," which the Italians call
seminar spine, to sow thorns: or that other principle, contained in
the verse which Cicero citeth, Cadant amici, dummodo inimici
intercidant, as the triumvirs, which sold every one to other the
lives of their friends for the deaths of their enemies: or that
other protestation of L. Catilina, to set on fire and trouble
states, to the end to fish in droumy waters, and to unwrap their
fortunes, Ego si quid in fortunis meis excitatum sit incendium, id
non aqua sed ruina restinguam: or that other principle of Lysander,
"That children are to be deceived with comfits, and men with oaths:"
and the like evil and corrupt positions, whereof (as in all things)
there are more in number than of the good: certainly with these
dispensations from the laws of charity and integrity, the pressing
of a man's fortune may be more hasty and compendious. But it is in
life as it is in ways, the shortest way is commonly the foulest, and
surely the fairer way is not much about.

(46) But men, if they be in their own power, and do bear and sustain
themselves, and be not carried away with a whirlwind or tempest of
ambition, ought in the pursuit of their own fortune to set before
their eyes not only that general map of the world, "That all things
are vanity and vexation of spirit," but many other more particular
cards and directions: chiefly that, that being without well-being
is a curse, and the greater being the greater curse; and that all
virtue is most rewarded and all wickedness most punished in itself:
according as the poet saith excellently:

"Quae vobis, quae digna, viri pro laudibus istis
Praemia posse rear solvi? pulcherrima primum
Dii moresque dabunt vestri."

And so of the contrary. And secondly they ought to look up to the
Eternal Providence and Divine Judgment, which often subverteth the
wisdom of evil plots and imaginations, according to that scripture,
"He hath conceived mischief, and shall bring forth a vain thing."
And although men should refrain themselves from injury and evil
arts, yet this incessant and Sabbathless pursuit of a man's fortune
leaveth not tribute which we owe to God of our time; who (we see)
demandeth a tenth of our substance, and a seventh, which is more
strict, of our time: and it is to small purpose to have an erected
face towards heaven, and a perpetual grovelling spirit upon earth,
eating dust as doth the serpent, Atque affigit humo divinae
particulam aurae. And if any man flatter himself that he will
employ his fortune well, though he should obtain it ill, as was said
concerning Augustus Caesar, and after of Septimius Severus, "That
either they should never have been born, or else they should never
have died," they did so much mischief in the pursuit and ascent of
their greatness, and so much good when they were established; yet
these compensations and satisfactions are good to be used, but never
good to be purposed. And lastly, it is not amiss for men, in their
race towards their fortune, to cool themselves a little with that
conceit which is elegantly expressed by the Emperor Charles V., in
his instructions to the king his son, "That fortune hath somewhat of
the nature of a woman, that if she he too much wooed she is the
farther off." But this last is but a remedy for those whose tastes
are corrupted: let men rather build upon that foundation which is
as a corner-stone of divinity and philosophy, wherein they join
close, namely that same Primum quaerite. For divinity saith, Primum
quaerite regnum Dei, et ista omnia adjicientur vobis: and
philosophy saith, Primum quaerite bona animi; caetera aut aderunt,
aut non oberunt. And although the human foundation hath somewhat of
the sands, as we see in M. Brutus, when he broke forth into that

"Te colui (Virtus) ut rem; ast tu nomen inane es;"

yet the divine foundation is upon the rock. But this may serve for
a taste of that knowledge which I noted as deficient.

(47) Concerning government, it is a part of knowledge secret and
retired in both these respects in which things are deemed secret;
for some things are secret because they are hard to know, and some
because they are not fit to utter. We see all governments are
obscure and invisible:

"Totamque infusa per artus
Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet."

Such is the description of governments. We see the government of
God over the world is hidden, insomuch as it seemeth to participate
of much irregularity and confusion. The government of the soul in
moving the body is inward and profound, and the passages thereof
hardly to be reduced to demonstration. Again, the wisdom of
antiquity (the shadows whereof are in the poets) in the description
of torments and pains, next unto the crime of rebellion, which was
the giants' offence, doth detest the offence of futility, as in
Sisyphus and Tantalus. But this was meant of particulars:
nevertheless even unto the general rules and discourses of policy
and government there is due a reverent and reserved handling.

(48) But contrariwise in the governors towards the governed, all
things ought as far as the frailty of man permitteth to be manifest
and revealed. For so it is expressed in the Scriptures touching the
government of God, that this globe, which seemeth to us a dark and
shady body, is in the view of God as crystal: Et in conspectu sedis
tanquam mare vitreum simile crystallo. So unto princes and states,
and specially towards wise senates and councils, the natures and
dispositions of the people, their conditions and necessities, their
factions and combinations, their animosities and discontents, ought
to be, in regard of the variety of their intelligences, the wisdom
of their observations, and the height of their station where they
keep sentinel, in great part clear and transparent. Wherefore,
considering that I write to a king that is a master of this science,
and is so well assisted, I think it decent to pass over this part in
silence, as willing to obtain the certificate which one of the
ancient philosophers aspired unto; who being silent, when others
contended to make demonstration of their abilities by speech,
desired it might be certified for his part, "That there was one that
knew how to hold his peace."

(49) Notwithstanding, for the more public part of government, which
is laws, I think good to note only one deficiency; which is, that
all those which have written of laws have written either as
philosophers or as lawyers, and none as statesmen. As for the
philosophers, they make imaginary laws for imaginary commonwealths,
and their discourses are as the stars, which give little light
because they are so high. For the lawyers, they write according to
the states where they live what is received law, and not what ought
to be law; for the wisdom of a law-maker is one, and of a lawyer is
another. For there are in nature certain fountains of justice
whence all civil laws are derived but as streams; and like as waters
do take tinctures and tastes from the soils through which they run,
so do civil laws vary according to the regions and governments where
they are planted, though they proceed from the same fountains.
Again, the wisdom of a law-maker consisteth not only in a platform
of justice, but in the application thereof; taking into
consideration by what means laws may be made certain, and what are
the causes and remedies of the doubtfulness and uncertainty of law;
by what means laws may be made apt and easy to be executed, and what
are the impediments and remedies in the execution of laws; what
influence laws touching private right of meum and tuum have into the
public state, and how they may be made apt and agreeable; how laws
are to be penned and delivered, whether in texts or in Acts, brief
or large, with preambles or without; how they are to be pruned and
reformed from time to time, and what is the best means to keep them
from being too vast in volume, or too full of multiplicity and
crossness; how they are to be expounded, when upon causes emergent
and judicially discussed, and when upon responses and conferences
touching general points or questions; how they are to be pressed,
rigorously or tenderly; how they are to be mitigated by equity and
good conscience, and whether discretion and strict law are to be
mingled in the same courts, or kept apart in several courts; again,
how the practice, profession, and erudition of law is to be censured
and governed; and many other points touching the administration and
(as I may term it) animation of laws. Upon which I insist the less,
because I purpose (if God give me leave), having begun a work of
this nature in aphorisms, to propound it hereafter, noting it in the
meantime for deficient.

(50) And for your Majesty's laws of England, I could say much of
their dignity, and somewhat of their defect; but they cannot but
excel the civil laws in fitness for the government, for the civil
law was nonhos quaesitum munus in usus; it was not made for the
countries which it governeth. Hereof I cease to speak because I
will not intermingle matter of action with matter of general

XXIV. Thus have I concluded this portion of learning touching civil
knowledge; and with civil knowledge have concluded human philosophy;
and with human philosophy, philosophy in general. And being now at
some pause, looking back into that I have passed through, this
writing seemeth to me (si nunquam fallit imago), as far as a man can
judge of his own work, not much better than that noise or sound
which musicians make while they are in tuning their instruments,
which is nothing pleasant to hear, but yet is a cause why the music
is sweeter afterwards. So have I been content to tune the
instruments of the Muses, that they may play that have better hands.
And surely, when I set before me the condition of these times, in
which learning hath made her third visitation or circuit in all the
qualities thereof; as the excellency and vivacity of the wits of
this age; the noble helps and lights which we have by the travails
of ancient writers; the art of printing, which communicateth books
to men of all fortunes; the openness of the world by navigation,
which hath disclosed multitudes of experiments, and a mass of
natural history; the leisure wherewith these times abound, not
employing men so generally in civil business, as the states of
Graecia did, in respect of their popularity, and the state of Rome,
in respect of the greatness of their monarchy; the present
disposition of these times at this instant to peace; the consumption
of all that ever can be said in controversies of religion, which
have so much diverted men from other sciences; the perfection of
your Majesty's learning, which as a phoenix may call whole volleys
of wits to follow you; and the inseparable propriety of time, which
is ever more and more to disclose truth; I cannot but be raised to
this persuasion, that this third period of time will far surpass
that of the Grecian and Roman learning; only if men will know their
own strength and their own weakness both; and take, one from the
other, light of invention, and not fire of contradiction; and esteem
of the inquisition of truth as of an enterprise, and not as of a
quality or ornament; and employ wit and magnificence to things of
worth and excellency, and not to things vulgar and of popular
estimation. As for my labours, if any man shall please himself or
others in the reprehension of them, they shall make that ancient and
patient request, Verbera, sed audi: let men reprehend them, so they
observe and weigh them. For the appeal is lawful (though it may be
it shall not be needful) from the first cogitations of men to their
second, and from the nearer times to the times further off. Now let
us come to that learning, which both the former times were not so
blessed as to know, sacred and inspired divinity, the Sabbath and
port of all men's labours and peregrinations.

XXV. (1) The prerogative of God extendeth as well to the reason as
to the will of man: so that as we are to obey His law, though we
find a reluctation in our will, so we are to believe His word,
though we find a reluctation in our reason. For if we believe only
that which is agreeable to our sense we give consent to the matter,
and not to the author; which is no more than we would do towards a
suspected and discredited witness; but that faith which was
accounted to Abraham for righteousness was of such a point as
whereat Sarah laughed, who therein was an image of natural reason.

(2) Howbeit (if we will truly consider of it) more worthy it is to
believe than to know as we now know. For in knowledge man's mind
suffereth from sense: but in belief it suffereth from spirit, such
one as it holdeth for more authorised than itself and so suffereth
from the worthier agent. Otherwise it is of the state of man
glorified; for then faith shall cease, and we shall know as we are

(3) Wherefore we conclude that sacred theology (which in our idiom
we call divinity) is grounded only upon the word and oracle of God,
and not upon the light of nature: for it is written, Caeli enarrant
gloriam Dei; but it is not written, Caeli enarrant voluntatem Dei:
but of that it is said, Ad legem et testimonium: si non fecerint
secundum verbum istud, &c. This holdeth not only in those points of
faith which concern the great mysteries of the Deity, of the
creation, of the redemption, but likewise those which concern the
law moral, truly interpreted: "Love your enemies: do good to them
that hate you; be like to your heavenly Father, that suffereth His
rain to fall upon the just and unjust." To this it ought to be
applauded, Nec vox hominem sonat: it is a voice beyond the light of
nature. So we see the heathen poets, when they fall upon a
libertine passion, do still expostulate with laws and moralities, as
if they were opposite and malignant to nature: Et quod natura
remittit, invida jura negant. So said Dendamis the Indian unto
Alexander's messengers, that he had heard somewhat of Pythagoras,
and some other of the wise men of Graecia, and that he held them for
excellent men: but that they had a fault, which was that they had
in too great reverence and veneration a thing they called law and
manners. So it must be confessed that a great part of the law moral
is of that perfection whereunto the light of nature cannot aspire:
how then is it that man is said to have, by the light and law of
nature, some notions and conceits of virtue and vice, justice and
wrong, good and evil? Thus, because the light of nature is used in
two several senses: the one, that which springeth from reason,
sense, induction, argument, according to the laws of heaven and
earth; the other, that which is imprinted upon the spirit of man by
an inward instinct, according to the law of conscience, which is a
sparkle of the purity of his first estate: in which latter sense
only he is participant of some light and discerning touching the
perfection of the moral law; but how? sufficient to check the vice
but not to inform the duty. So then the doctrine of religion, as
well moral as mystical, is not to be attained but by inspiration and
revelation from God.

(4) The use notwithstanding of reason in spiritual things, and the
latitude thereof, is very great and general: for it is not for
nothing that the apostle calleth religion "our reasonable service of
God;" insomuch as the very ceremonies and figures of the old law
were full of reason and signification, much more than the ceremonies
of idolatry and magic, that are full of non-significants and surd
characters. But most specially the Christian faith, as in all
things so in this, deserveth to be highly magnified; holding and
preserving the golden mediocrity in this point between the law of
the heathen and the law of Mahomet, which have embraced the two
extremes. For the religion of the heathen had no constant belief or
confession, but left all to the liberty of agent; and the religion
of Mahomet on the other side interdicteth argument altogether: the
one having the very face of error, and the other of imposture;
whereas the Faith doth both admit and reject disputation with

(5) The use of human reason in religion is of two sorts: the
former, in the conception and apprehension of the mysteries of God
to us revealed; the other, in the inferring and deriving of doctrine
and direction thereupon. The former extendeth to the mysteries
themselves; but how? by way of illustration, and not by way of
argument. The latter consisteth indeed of probation and argument.
In the former we see God vouchsafeth to descend to our capacity, in
the expressing of His mysteries in sort as may be sensible unto us;
and doth graft His revelations and holy doctrine upon the notions of
our reason, and applieth His inspirations to open our understanding,
as the form of the key to the ward of the lock. For the latter
there is allowed us a use of reason and argument, secondary and
respective, although not original and absolute. For after the
articles and principles of religion are placed and exempted from
examination of reason, it is then permitted unto us to make
derivations and inferences from and according to the analogy of
them, for our better direction. In nature this holdeth not; for
both the principles are examinable by induction, though not by a
medium or syllogism; and besides, those principles or first
positions have no discordance with that reason which draweth down
and deduceth the inferior positions. But yet it holdeth not in
religion alone, but in many knowledges, both of greater and smaller
nature, namely, wherein there are not only posita but placita; for
in such there can be no use of absolute reason. We see it
familiarly in games of wit, as chess, or the like. The draughts and
first laws of the game are positive, but how? merely ad placitum,
and not examinable by reason; but then how to direct our play
thereupon with best advantage to win the game is artificial and
rational. So in human laws there be many grounds and maxims which
are placita juris, positive upon authority, and not upon reason, and
therefore not to be disputed: but what is most just, not absolutely
but relatively, and according to those maxims, that affordeth a long
field of disputation. Such therefore is that secondary reason,
which hath place in divinity, which is grounded upon the placets of

(6) Here therefore I note this deficiency, that there hath not been,
to my understanding, sufficiently inquired and handled the true
limits and use of reason in spiritual things, as a kind of divine
dialectic: which for that it is not done, it seemeth to me a thing
usual, by pretext of true conceiving that which is revealed, to
search and mine into that which is not revealed; and by pretext of
enucleating inferences and contradictories, to examine that which is
positive. The one sort falling into the error of Nicodemus,
demanding to have things made more sensible than it pleaseth God to
reveal them, Quomodo possit homo nasci cum sit senex? The other
sort into the error of the disciples, which were scandalised at a
show of contradiction, Quid est hoc quod dicit nobis? Modicum et
non videbitis me; et iterum, modicum, et videbitis me, &c.

(7) Upon this I have insisted the more, in regard of the great and
blessed use thereof; for this point well laboured and defined of
would in my judgment be an opiate to stay and bridle not only the
vanity of curious speculations, wherewith the schools labour, but
the fury of controversies, wherewith the Church laboureth. For it
cannot but open men's eyes to see that many controversies do merely
pertain to that which is either not revealed or positive; and that
many others do grow upon weak and obscure inferences or derivations:
which latter sort, if men would revive the blessed style of that
great doctor of the Gentiles, would be carried thus, ego, non
dominus; and again, secundum consilium meum, in opinions and
counsels, and not in positions and oppositions. But men are now
over-ready to usurp the style, non ego, sed dominus; and not so
only, but to bind it with the thunder and denunciation of curses and
anathemas, to the terror of those which have not sufficiently
learned out of Solomon that "The causeless curse shall not come."

(8) Divinity hath two principal parts: the matter informed or
revealed, and the nature of the information or revelation; and with
the latter we will begin, because it hath most coherence with that
which we have now last handled. The nature of the information
consisteth of three branches: the limits of the information, the
sufficiency of the information, and the acquiring or obtaining the
information. Unto the limits of the information belong these
considerations: how far forth particular persons continue to be
inspired; how far forth the Church is inspired; and how far forth
reason may be used; the last point whereof I have noted as
deficient. Unto the sufficiency of the information belong two
considerations: what points of religion are fundamental, and what
perfective, being matter of further building and perfection upon one
and the same foundation; and again, how the gradations of light
according to the dispensation of times are material to the
sufficiency of belief.

(9) Here again I may rather give it in advice than note it as
deficient, that the points fundamental, and the points of further
perfection only, ought to be with piety and wisdom distinguished; a
subject tending to much like end as that I noted before; for as that
other were likely to abate the number of controversies, so this is
likely to abate the heat of many of them. We see Moses when he saw
the Israelite and the Egyptian fight, he did not say, "Why strive
you?" but drew his sword and slew the Egyptian; but when he saw the
two Israelites fight, he said, "You are brethren, why strive you?"
If the point of doctrine be an Egyptian, it must be slain by the
sword of the Spirit, and not reconciled; but if it be an Israelite,
though in the wrong, then, "Why strive you?" We see of the
fundamental points, our Saviour penneth the league thus, "He that is
not with us is against us;" but of points not fundamental, thus, "He
that is not against us is with us." So we see the coat of our
Saviour was entire without seam, and so is the doctrine of the
Scriptures in itself; but the garment of the Church was of divers
colours and yet not divided. We see the chaff may and ought to be
severed from the corn in the ear, but the tares may not be pulled up
from the corn in the field. So as it is a thing of great use well
to define what, and of what latitude, those points are which do make
men mere aliens and disincorporate from the Church of God.

(10) For the obtaining of the information, it resteth upon the true
and sound interpretation of the Scriptures, which are the fountains
of the water of life. The interpretations of the Scriptures are of
two sorts: methodical, and solute or at large. For this divine
water, which excelleth so much that of Jacob's well, is drawn forth
much in the same kind as natural water useth to be out of wells and
fountains; either it is first forced up into a cistern, and from
thence fetched and derived for use; or else it is drawn and received
in buckets and vessels immediately where it springeth. The former
sort whereof, though it seem to be the more ready, yet in my
judgment is more subject to corrupt. This is that method which hath
exhibited unto us the scholastical divinity; whereby divinity hath
been reduced into an art, as into a cistern, and the streams of
doctrine or positions fetched and derived from thence.

(11) In this men have sought three things, a summary brevity, a
compacted strength, and a complete perfection; whereof the two first
they fail to find, and the last they ought not to seek. For as to
brevity, we see in all summary methods, while men purpose to
abridge, they give cause to dilate. For the sum or abridgment by
contraction becometh obscure; the obscurity requireth exposition,
and the exposition is deduced into large commentaries, or into
commonplaces and titles, which grow to be more vast than the
original writings, whence the sum was at first extracted. So we see
the volumes of the schoolmen are greater much than the first
writings of the fathers, whence the master of the sentences made his
sum or collection. So in like manner the volumes of the modern
doctors of the civil law exceed those of the ancient jurisconsults,
of which Tribonian compiled the digest. So as this course of sums
and commentaries is that which doth infallibly make the body of
sciences more immense in quantity, and more base in substance.

(12) And for strength, it is true that knowledges reduced into exact
methods have a show of strength, in that each part seemeth to
support and sustain the other; but this is more satisfactory than
substantial, like unto buildings which stand by architecture and
compaction, which are more subject to ruin than those that are built
more strong in their several parts, though less compacted. But it
is plain that the more you recede from your grounds, the weaker do
you conclude; and as in nature, the more you remove yourself from
particulars, the greater peril of error you do incur; so much more
in divinity, the more you recede from the Scriptures by inferences
and consequences, the more weak and dilute are your positions.

(13) And as for perfection or completeness in divinity, it is not to
be sought, which makes this course of artificial divinity the more
suspect. For he that will reduce a knowledge into an art will make
it round and uniform; but in divinity many things must be left
abrupt, and concluded with this: O altitudo sapientiae et scientiae
Dei! quam incomprehensibilia sunt juducua ejus, et non
investigabiles viae ejus. So again the apostle saith, Ex parte
scimus: and to have the form of a total, where there is but matter
for a part, cannot be without supplies by supposition and
presumption. And therefore I conclude that the true use of these
sums and methods hath place in institutions or introductions
preparatory unto knowledge; but in them, or by deducement from them,
to handle the main body and substance of a knowledge is in all
sciences prejudicial, and in divinity dangerous.

(14) As to the interpretation of the Scriptures solute and at large,
there have been divers kinds introduced and devised; some of them
rather curious and unsafe than sober and warranted.
Notwithstanding, thus much must be confessed, that the Scriptures,
being given by inspiration and not by human reason, do differ from
all other books in the Author, which by consequence doth draw on

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