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and grave purpose, which is this in few words, that it will make learned men wise in the use and administration of learning. For it is not St. Augustine's nor St. Ambrose's works that will make so wise a divine, as ecclesiastical history thoroughly read and observed; and the same reason is of learning.
. HISTORY of Nature is of three sorts; of nature in course, of nature erring or varying, and of nature altered or wrought; that is, history of creatures, history of marvels, and history of arts.
The first of these, no doubt, is extant, and that in good perfection; the two latter are handled so weakly and unprofitably, as I am moved to note them as deficient.
For I find no sufficient or competent collection of Historia nathe works of nature, which have a digression and turæ errandeflexion from the ordinary course of generations, productions, and motions, whether they be singularities of place and region, or the strange events of time and chance, or the effects of yet unknown properties, or the instances of exception to general kinds : it is true, I find a number of books of fabulous experiments and secrets, and frivolous impostures for pleasure and strangeness: but a substantial and severe collection of the heteroclities, or irregulars of nature, well examined and described, I find not, especially not with due rejection of fables, and popular errors: for as things now are, if an untruth in nature be once on foot, what by reason of the neglect of examination and countenance of antiquity, and what by reason of the use of the opinion in similitudes and ornaments of speech, it is never called down.
The use of this work, honoured with a precedent in Aristotle, is nothing less than to give contentment to the appetite of curious and vain wits, as the manner of mirabilaries is to do; but for two reasons, both of great weight: the one, to correct the partiality of axioms and opinions, which are commonly framed only upon common and familiar examples; the other, because from the wonders of nature is the nearest
intelligence and passage towards the wonders of art: for it is no more, but by following, and, as it were, hounding nature in her wanderings, to be able to lead her afterwards to the same place again.
Neither am I of opinion, in this history of marvels, that superstitious narrations of sorceries, witchcrafts, dreams, divinations, and the like, where there is an assurance and clear evidence of the fact, be altogether excluded. For it is not yet known in what cases, and how far effects attributed to superstition do participate of natural causes: and, therefore, howsoever the practice of such things is to be condemned, yet, from the speculation and consideration of them, light may be taken, not only for the discerning of the offences, but for the farther disclosing of nature. Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering into these things for inquisition of truth, as your majesty hath shewed in your own example; who, with the two clear eyes of religion and natural philosophy, have looked deeply and wisely into these shadows, and yet proved yourself to be of the nature of the sun, which passeth through pollutions, and itself remains as pure as before.
But this I hold fit, that these narrations, which have mixture with superstition, be sorted by themselves, and not to be mingled with the narrations, which are merely and sincerely natural.
But as for the narrations touching the prodigies and miracles of religions, they are either not true, or not natural; and therefore impertinent for the story of nature.
For history of nature, wrought or mechanical, I find some collections made of agriculture, and likewise of manual arts, but commonly with a rejection of experiments familiar and vulgar.
For it is esteemed a kind of dishonour unto learning, to descend to inquiry or meditation upon matters mechanical, except they be such as may be thought secrets, rarities, and special subtilties; which humour of vain and supercilious arrogancy is justly derided in Plato; where he brings in Hippias, a
vaunting sophist, disputing with Socrates, a true and unfeigned inquisitor of truth; where the subject being touching beauty, Socrates, after his wandering manner of inductions, put first an example of a fair virgin, and then of a fair horse, and then of a fair pot well glazed, whereat Hippias was offended; and said, "More than for courtesy's sake, he did think "much to dispute with any that did allege such base "and sordid instances:" whereunto Socrates answered, "You have reason, and it becomes you well, being a man so trim in your vestments," etc. And so goeth on in irony.
But the truth is, they be not the highest instances that give the securest information; as may be well expressed in the tale so common of the philosopher, that while he gazed upwards to the stars fell into the water; for if he had looked down he might have seen the stars in the water, but looking aloft, he could not see the water in the stars. So it cometh often to pass, that mean and small things discover great, better than great can discover the small; and therefore Aristotle noteth well, "that the nature of every thing is best seen in his smallest portions.' And for that cause he inquireth the nature of a commonwealth, first in a family, and the simple conjugations of man and wife, parent and child, master and servant, which are in every cottage. Even so likewise the nature of this great city of the world, and the policy thereof, must be first sought in mean concordances and small portions. So we see how that secret of nature, of the turning of iron touched with the loadstone towards the north, was found out in needles of iron, not in bars of iron.
But if my judgment be of any weight, the use of History Mechanical is, of all others, the most radical and fundamental towards natural philosophy; such natural philosophy as shall not vanish in the fume of subtile, sublime, or delectable speculation, but such as shall be operative to the endowment and benefit of man's life for it will not only minister and suggest for the present many ingenious practices in all trades,
by a connexion and transferring of the observations of one art to the use of another, when the experiences of several mysteries shall fall under the consideration of one man's mind; but farther, it will give a more true and real illumination concerning causes and axioms than is hitherto attained.
For, like as a man's disposition is never well known till he be crossed, nor Proteus ever changed shapes till he was straitened and held fast; so the passages and variations of nature cannot appear so fully in the liberty of nature, as in the trials and vexations of art.
FOR Civil History, it is of three kinds, not unfitly to be compared with the three kinds of pictures or images for of pictures or images, we see, some are unfinished, some are perfect, and some are defaced. So of histories we may find three kinds, Memorials, Perfect Histories, and Antiquities; for memorials are history unfinished, or the first or rough draughts of history; and antiquities are history defaced, or some remnants of history which have casually escaped the shipwreck of time.
Memorials, or preparatory history, are of two sorts, whereof the one may be termed Commentaries, and the other Registers. Commentaries are they which set down a continuance of the naked events and actions, without the motives or designs, the counsels, the speeches, the pretexts, the occasions, and other passages of action; for this is the true nature of a Commentary, though Cæsar, in modesty mixed with greatness, did for his pleasure apply the name of a Commentary to the best history of the world. Registers are collections of public acts, as decrees of council, judicial proceedings, declarations and letters of state, orations and the like, without a perfect continuance or contexture of the thread of the narration.
Antiquities, or remnants of history, are, as was said, tanquam tabula naufragii, when industrious by an exact and scrupulous diligence and ob
servation, out of monuments, names, words, proverbs, traditions, private records and evidences, fragments of stories, passages of books that concern not story, and the like, do save and recover somwhat from the deluge of time.
In these kinds of imperfect histories I do assign no deficience, for they are tanquam imperfecte mista, and therefore any deficience in them is but their nature.
As for the corruptions and moths of history, which are epitomes, the use of them deserveth to be banished, as all men of sound judgment have confessed, as those that have fretted and corroded the sound bodies of many excellent histories, and wrought them into base and unprofitable dregs.
History, which may be called Just and Perfect History, is of three kinds, according to the object which it propoundeth, or pretendeth to represent: for it either representeth a time, or a person, or an action. The first we call Chronicles, the second Lives, and the third Narrations, or Relations.
Of these, although the first be the most complete and absolute kind of history, and hath most estimation and glory, yet the second excelleth it in profit and use, and the third in verity and sincerity. For history of times representeth the magnitude of actions, and the public faces and deportments of persons, and passeth over in silence the smaller passages and motions of men and matters.
But such being the workmanship of God, as he doth hang the greatest weight upon the smallest wires, maxima e minimis suspendens, it comes therefore to pass, that such histories do rather set forth the pomp of business than the true and inward resorts thereof. But Lives, if they be well written, propounding to themselves a person to represent, in whom actions both greater and smaller, public, and private, have a commixture, must of a necessity contain a more true, native, and lively representation. So again narrations and relations of actions, as the War of Peloponnesus, the Expedition of Cyrus Minor, the Conspiracy of Catiline, cannot but be more purely and