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we see what Tacitus saith of Mutianus, who was the greatest politician of his time, Omnium, quæ 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 hæret; so except it be in a ridiculous degree of deformity, Audacter te vendita, semper aliquid hæret. 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 ingenuous 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 insolence; 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.
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 hæc te res parva, sicuti magna, delectat.
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,
Sæpe 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 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 shew 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 car
riage, he must take heed he shew not himself dismantled, and exposed to scorn and injury, by too much dulceness, goodness, and facility of nature, but shew some sparkles of liberty, spirit, and edge: which kind of fortified carriage, with a ready rescuing 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.
Another precept of this knowledge is, by all possible endeavour to frame the mind to be pliant and obedient to occasion; for nothing hindereth mens 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 viscous and inwrapped, and not easy to turn. 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 noteth wisely, how Fabius Maximus would have been temporizing 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 whatso
ever 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.
Another precept of this knowledge, which hath some affinity with that we last spake 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 shew of a perpetual felicity in all they undertake; which cannot but mightily increase reputation.
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 ipse ducendæ ; ut quæ ipsis videntur, ea gerantur, et non ipsi eventus tantum 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.
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 menées, 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 politicians 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 un"happy, as they stood his friends or enemies." So Cæsar, 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 Cæsar, non recusat, sed quodammodo postulat, ut, ut est, sic appelletur tyrannus. So we may see in a letter of Cicero to Atticus, that Augustus Cæsar, 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 Cæsar'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 end, 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 Cæsar'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 composita; for surely the continual habit of dissimulation is but a weak and sluggish cunning, and not greatly politic.