Page images
PDF
EPUB

ESSAYS OR COUNSELS

CIVIL AND MORAL.

TO MR. ANTHONY BACON, HIS DEAR BROTHER.

LOVING AND BELOVED BROTHER, I do now like some that have an orchard ill neighboured, that gather their fruit before it is ripe, to prevent stealing. These fragments of my conceits were going to print; to labour the stay of them had been troublesome, and subject to interpretation; to let them pass had been to adventure the wrong they might receive by untrue copies, or by some garnishment which it might please any that should set them forth to bestow upon them. Therefore I held it best discretion to publish them myself, as they passed long ago from my pen, without any farther disgrace than the weakness of the author. And as I did ever hold, there might be as great a vanity in retiring and withdrawing men's conceits, except they be of some nature, from the world, as in obtruding them ; so in these particulars I have played myself the inquisitor, and find nothing to my understanding in them contrary or infectious to the state of religion or manners, but rather, as I suppose, medicinable. Only I disliked now to put them out, because they will be like the late new half-pence, which though the silver were good, yet the pieces were small. But since they would not stay with their master, but would needs travel abroad, I have preferred them to you that are next myself; dedicating them, such as they are, to our love, in the depth whereof, I assure you, I sometimes wish your infirmities translated upon myself, that her majesty might have the service of so active and able a mind; and I might be with excuse confined to these contemplations and studies, for which I am fittest: so commend I you to the preservation of the divine Majesty.

Your entire loving Brother, From my chamber at Gray's-Inn,

FRAN, BACON. this 30th of January, 1597.

TO MY LOVING BROTHER, SIR JOHN CONSTABLE, KNIGHT.

[ocr errors]

My last Essays I dedicated to my dear brother, Mr. Anthony Bacon, who is with God. Looking amongst my papers this vacation, I found others of the same nature: which if I myself shall not suffer to be lost, it seemeth the world will not, by the often printing of the former. Missing my brother, I found you next; in respect of bond both of near alliance, and of strait friendship and society, and particularly of communication in studies : wherein I must acknowledge myself beholden to you. For as my business found rest in my contemplations, so my contemplations ever found rest in your loving conference and judgment. So wishing you all good, I remain 1612.

Your loving brother and friend,

FRAN. BACON.

TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MY VERY GOOD LORD THE DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM,

HIS GRACE, LORD HIGH ADMIRAL OF ENGLAND.

EXCELLENT LORD, Solomon says,

“A good name is as a precious ointment;" and I assure myself such will your Grace's name be with posterity. For your fortune and merit both have been eminent: and you have planted things that are like to last. I do now publish my Essays; which of all my other works have been most current: for that, as it seems, they come home to men's business and bosoms. I have enlarged them both in number and weight; so that they are indeed a new work. I thought it therefore agreeable to my affection and obligation to your Grace, to prefix your name before them both in English and in Latin : for I do conceive, that the Latin volume of them, being in the universal language, may last as long as books last. My Instauration I dedicated to the king: my History of Henry the Seventh, which I have now also translated into Latin, and my portions of Natural History, to the prince: and these I dedicate to your Grace; being of the best fruits, that by the good increase which God gives to my pen and labours I could yield. God lead your Grace by the hand. 1625.

Your Grace's most obliged and faithful servant,

FRAN. ST. ALBAN.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

What is truth ? said jesting Pilate ; and would self, teacheth, that the inquiry of truth, which is the not stay for an answer. Certainly there be that love-making, or wooing of it; the knowledge of delight in giddiness; and count it a bondage to fix truth, which is the presence of it; and the belief a belief; affecting free-will in thinking, as well as of truth, which is the enjoying of it ; is the sovein acting. And though the sects of philosophers of reign good of human nature. The first creature of that kind be gone, yet there remain certain discours-God, in the works of the days, was the light of the ing wits, which are of the same veins, though there sense; the last was the light of reason ; and his be not so much blood in them as was in those of sabbath work ever since is the illumination of his the ancients. But it is not only the difficulty and Spirit. First he breathed light upon the face of labour which men take in finding out of truth; nor the matter or chaos; then he breathed light into the again, that when it is found, it imposeth upon men's face of man; and still he breatheth and inspireth thoughts ; that doth bring lies in favour: but a na- light into the face of his chosen. The poet that tural though corrupt love of the lie itself. One of beautified the sect, that was otherwise inferior to the later schools of the Grecians examineth the mat- the rest, saith yet excellently well : “ It is a pleater, and is at a stand to think what should be in it, sure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed that men should love lies; where neither they make upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of for pleasure, as with poets; nor for advantage, as a castle, and to see a battle, and the adventures with the merchant; but for the lie's sake. But I thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to the cannot tell : this same truth is a naked and open standing upon the vantage ground of truth, a hill day-light, that doth not show the masks, and mum- not to be commanded, and where the air is always meries, and triumphs of the world, half so stately clear and serene; and to see the errors, and wanand (daintily as candle-lights.) Truth may perhaps derings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below :" come to the price of a pearl, that showeth best by so always, that this prospect be with pity, and not day ; but it will not rise to the price of a diamond with swelling or pride. Certainly it is heaven upor carbuncle, that showeth best in varied lights. on earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure. Doth rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of any man doubt, that if there were taken out of truth. men's minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false To pass from theological and philosophical truth, valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like; to the truth of civil business; it will be acknowbut it would leave the minds of a number of men ledged, even by those that practise it not, that clear poor shrunken things; full of melancholy and in- and round dealing is the honour of man's nature; disposition, and unpleasing to themselves ? One of and that mixture of falsehood is like allay in coin the fathers, in great severity, called poesy, vinum of gold and silver; which may make the metal work dæmonum ; because it filleth the imagination, and the better, but it embaseth it. For these winding and yet it is but with the shadow of a lie. But it is not crooked courses are the goings of the serpent; which the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie goeth basely upon the belly, and not upon the feet. that sinketh in, and settleth in it, that doth the There is no vice that doth so cover a man with hurt, such as we spake of before. But howsoever shame, as to be found false and perfidious. And these things are thus in men's depraved judgments therefore Montagne saith prettily, when he inquired and affections, yet truth, which only doth judge it the reason, why the word of the lie should be such

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a disgrace, and such an odious charge ? Saith he, preparations made it appear more fearful. Better “ If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth, is saith he, “ qui finem vitæ extremum inter munera as much as to say, that he is brave towards God, ponit naturæ.” It is as natural to die, as to be and a coward towards men. For a lie faces God, born; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as and shrinks from man.” Surely the wickedness of painful as the other. He that dies in an earnest falsehood, and breach of faith, cannot possibly be pursuit, is like one that is wounded in hot blood; so highly expressed, as in that it shall be the last who, for the time, scarce feels the hurt; and therepeal to call the judgments of God upon the genera- fore a mind fixt and bent upon somewhat that is tions of men : it being foretold, that when Christ good, doth avert the dolours of death : but above cometh “ he shall not find faith upon the earth." all, believe it, the sweetest canticle is, “ Nunc di

mittis;" when a man hath obtained worthy ends II. OF DEATH.

and expectations. Death hath this also; that it

openeth the gate to good fame, and extinguisheth Men fear death, as children fear to go in the envy.—“Extinctus amabitur idem.” dark : and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly, the

III. OF UNITY IN RELIGION. contemplation of death, as the wages of sin, and passage to another world, is holy and religious ; Religion being the chief band of human society, but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is it is a happy thing, when itself is well contained weak. Yet in religious meditations, there is some- within the true band of unity. The quarrels and times mixture of vanity and of superstition. You divisions about religion were evils unknown to the shall read in some of the friars' books of mortifica- heathen. The reason was, because the religion of tion, that a man should think with himself, what the heathen consisted rather in rites and ceremothe pain is, if he have but his finger's end pressed nies, than in any constant belief. For you may or tortured; and thereby imagine what the pains of imagine what kind of faith theirs was, when the death are, when the whole body is corrupted and chief doctors and fathers of their church were the dissolved; when many times death passeth with less poets. But the true God hath this attribute, that pain than the torture of a limb: for the most vital he is a jealous God; and therefore his worship and parts are not the quickest of sense. And by him religion will endure no mixture nor partner. We that spake only as a philosopher, and natural man, shall therefore speak a few words concerning the it was well said, “Pompa mortis magis terret, quam unity of the church: what are the fruits thereof; mors ipsa.” Groans, and convulsions, and a dis- what the bounds; and what the means. coloured face, and friends weeping, and blacks, and The fruits of unity, next unto the well-pleasing of obsequies, and the like, show death terrible. It is God, which is all in all, are two; the one towards worthy the observing, that there is no passion in those that are without the church; the other to the mind of man so weak, but it mates and masters wards those that are within. For the former; it is the fear of death : and therefore death is no such certain, that heresies and schisms are of all others terrible enemy, when a man hath so many attendants the greatest scandals; yea more than corruption of about him, that can win the combat of him. Re- manners. For as in the natural body, a wound, or venge triumphs over death; love slights it; honour solution of continuity, is worse than a corrupt aspireth to it; grief Alieth to it; fear pre-occupateth humour; so in the spiritual. So that nothing doth it; nay, we read, after Otho the emperor had slain so much keep men out of the church, and drive himself, pity, which is the tenderest of affections, men out of the church, as breach of unity: and provoked many to die, out of mere compassion to therefore, whensoever it cometh to that pass, that their sovereign, and as the truest sort of followers. one saith, “ecce in deserto ;” another saith, “ecce Nay, Seneca adds, niceness and satiety ; “ cogita in penetralibus;" that is, when some men seek Christ quamdiu eadem feceris ; mori velle, non tantum in the conventicles of heretics, and others in an outfortis, aut miser, sed etiam fastidiosus potest.” A ward face of a church, that voice had need conman would die, though he were neither valiant nor tinually to sound in men's ears, " nolite exire,” go miserable, only upon a weariness to do the same not out. The doctor of the gentiles, the propriety thing so oft over and over. It is no less worthy to of whose vocation drew him to have a special care observe, how little alteration in good spirits the ap- of those without, saith ; " If a heathen come in, proaches of death make; for they appear to be the and hear you speak with several tongues, will he not same men till the last instant.

Augustus Cæsar say that you are mad ?” And certainly it is little died in a compliment; “ Livia, conjugii nostri me- better, when atheists, and profane persons, do hear mor vive, et vale." Tiberius in dissimulation, as of so many discordant and contrary opinions in reliTacitus saith of him; “ Jam Tiberium vires et cor- gion; it doth avert them from the church, and pus, non dissimulatio, deserebant." Vespasian in a maketh them “ to sit down in the chair of the jest, sitting upon the stool ; “ Ut puto, deus fio." scorners." It is but a light thing to be vouched in Galba with a sentence; “ Feri, si ex re sit populi so serious a matter, but yet it expresseth well the Romani ;" holding forth his neck. Septimius deformity : there is a master of scoffing; that in his Severus in despatch; “ Adeste, si quid mihi restat catalogue of books of a feigned library sets down agendum :” and the like. Certainly the Stoics be- this title of a book; “ The Morris-dance of Herestowed too much cost upon death, and by their great tiques." For indeed every sect of them hath a

66

[ocr errors]

diverse posture or cringe by themselves, which can the one, when the peace is grounded but upon an not but move derision in worldlings and depraved implicit ignorance ; for all colours will agree in the politics, who are apt to contemn holy things. dark : the other, when it is pieced up upon a direct

As for the fruit towards those that are within, it admission of contraries in fundamental points. For is peace; which containeth infinite blessings : it truth and falsehood, in such things, are like the iron establisheth faith; it kindleth charity; the outward and clay in the toes of Nebuchadnezzar's image; peace of the church distilleth into peace of con- they may cleave, but they will not incorporate. science ; and it turneth the labours of writing and Concerning the means of procuring unity; men reading of controversies into treatises of mortification must beware, that in the procuring or muniting of and devotion.

religious unity, they do not dissolve and deface the Concerning the bounds of unity ; the true placing laws of charity, and of human society. There be of them importeth exceedingly. There appear to be two swords amongst christians, the spiritual and temtwo extremes. For to certain zealots all speech of poral; and both have their due office and place in pacification is odious. " Is it peace, Jehu ? What the maintenance of religion. But we may not take hast thou to do with peace ? turn thee behind me." up the third sword, which is Mahomet's sword, or Peace is not the matter, but following the party. like unto it; that is, to propagate religion by wars, or Contrariwise, certain Laodiceans, and lukewarm by sanguinary persecutions to force consciences ; expersons, think they may accommodate points of re- cept it be in cases of overt scandal, blasphemy, or ligion by middle ways, and taking part of both, and intermixture of practice against the state ; much witty reconcilements; as if they would make an ar- less to nourish seditions ; to authorize conspiracies bitrement between God and man. Both these ex- and rebellions; to put the sword into the people's tremes are to be avoided ; which will be done, if hands, and the like, tending to the subversion of all the league of christians, penned by our Saviour government, which is the ordinance of God. For himself, were, in the two cross clauses thereof, this is but to dash the first table against the second ; soundly and plainly expounded : " he that is not with and so to consider men as christians, as we forget us is against us:" and again, “he that is not against that they are men. Lucretius the poet, when he us is with us :" that is, if the points fundamental, beheld the act of Agamemnon, that could endure the and of substance, in religion, were truly discerned sacrificing of his own daughter, exclaimed ; and distinguished from points not merely of faith,

“Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum." but of opinion, order, or good intention. This is a thing may seem to many a matter trivial, and done | What would he have said, if he had known of the already; but if it were done less partially, it would massacre in France, or the powder-treason of Engbe embraced more generally.

land? He would have been seven times more epicure Of this I may give only this advice, according to and atheist than he was : for as the temporal sword my small model. Men ought to take heed of rend is to be drawn with great circumspection, in cascs ing God's church by two kinds of controversies. of religion ; so it is a thing monstrous to put it into The one is, when the matter of the point controverted the hands of the common people. Let that be left is too small and light, not worth the heat and strife unto the anabaptists, and other furies. It was great about it, kindled only by contradiction. For as it is blasphemy, when the devil said, “ I will ascend, and noted by one of the fathers, Christ's coat indeed had be like the Highest ;" but it is greater blasphemy no seam; but the church's vesture was of divers to personate God, and bring him in saying, “ I will colours :

: whereupon he saith, “in veste varietas sit, descend, and be like the prince of darkness.” And scissura non sit;" they be two things, unity, and what is it better to make the cause of religion to deuniformity. The other is, when the matter of the scend to the cruel and execrable actions of murtherpoint controverted is great ; but it is driven to an ing princes, butchery of people, and subversion of over-great subtilty and obscurity ; so that it becom- states and governments ? Surely, this is to bring eth a thing rather ingenious than substantial. A down the Holy Ghost, instead of the likeness of a man that is of judgment and understanding, shall | dove, in the shape of a vulture or raven ; and to set, sometimes hear ignorant men differ, and know well out of the bark of a christian church, a flag of a bark within himself, that those which so differ mean one of pirates and assassins. Therefore it is most necesthing, and yet they themselves would never agree. sary, that the church by doctrine and decree ; And if it come so to pass in that distance of judgment princes by their sword; and all learnings, both which is between man and man, shall we not think christian and moral, as by their mercury rod; do that God above, that knows the heart, doth not discern damn and send to hell for ever those facts and opinthat frail men, in some of their contradictions, intend | ions, tending to the support of the same ; as hath the same thing, and accepteth of both ? The nature been already in good part done. Surely in counsels of such controversies is excellently expressed by St. concerning religion, that counsel of the apostle Paul, in the warning and precept that he giveth con- would be prefixed ; " Ira hominis non implet justicerning the same ; "devita profanas vocum novita- tiam Dei.” And it was a notable observation of a tes, et oppositiones falsi nominis scientiæ.Men wise father, and no less ingenuously confessed ; create oppositions which are not; and put them into That those which held and persuaded pressure of new terms so fixed, as whereas the meaning ought consciences, were commonly interested therein themto govern the term, the term in effect governeth the selves for their own ends. meaning. There be also two false peaces or unities;

a

66

magnum, habere fragilitatem hominis, securitatem

Dei.” This would have done better in poesy, where IV. REVENGE.

transcendencies are more allowed. And the poets Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more indeed have been busy with it; for it is in effect man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed the thing which is figured in that strange fiction of it out. For as for the first wrong, it doth but offend the ancient poets, which seemeth not to be without the law; but the revenge of that wrong putteth the mystery ; nay, and to have some approach to the law out of office. Certainly in taking revenge, a state of a christian : that Hercules, when he went man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it to unbind Prometheus, by whom human nature is over, he is superior: for it is a prince's part to par- represented, sailed the length of the great ocean in don. And Solomon, I am sure, saith, It is the an earthen pot or pitcher; lively describing chrisglory of a man to pass by an offence.” That which tian resolution, that saileth in the frail bark of the is past is gone and irrevocable, and wise men have flesh through the waves of the world. But to speak enough to do with things present and to come : in a mean : the virtue of prosperity is temperance; therefore they do but trifle with themselves that the virtue of adversity is fortitude ; which in molabour in past matters. There is no man doth a rals is the more heroical virtue. Prosperity is the wrong for the wrong's sake; but thereby to pur- blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the chase himself profit, or pleasure, or honour, or the blessing of the New, which carrieth the greater like. Therefore why should I be angry with a man benediction, and the clearer revelation of God's fafor loving himself better than me? And if any man

vour.

Yet, even in the Old Testament, if you listen should do wrong, merely out of ill-nature, why? yet to David's harp, you shall hear as many hearse-like it is but like the thorn or brier, which prick or airs as carols: and the pencil of the Holy Ghost scratch, because they can do no other. The most hath laboured more in describing the afflictions of tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which Job than the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not there is no law to remedy: but then let a man take without many fears and distastes; and adversity is heed the revenge be such as there is no law to not without comforts and hopes. We see in needle. punish; else a man's enemy is still beforehand, and works and embroideries, it is more pleasing to have it is two for one. Some, when they take revenge, a lively work upon a sad and solemn ground, than are desirous the party should know whence it com- to have a dark and melancholy work upon a lighteth: this is the more generous ; for the delight some ground : judge therefore of the pleasure of the seemeth to be not so much in doing the hurt, as in heart by the pleasure of the eye. Certainly virtue making the party repent: but base and crafty cow- is like precious odours, most fragrant when they ards are like the arrow that flieth in the dark. are incensed or crushed; for prosperity doth best Cosmus, duke of Florence, had a desperate saying discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue. against perfidious or neglecting friends, as if those wrongs were unpardonable. “ You shall read,"

VI. OF SIMULATION AND DISSIMULATION. saith he, “ that we are commanded to forgive our enemies; but you never read, that we are commanded Dissimulation is but a faint kind of policy, or to forgive our friends.” But yet the spirit of Job wisdom ; for it asketh a strong wit, and a strong was in a better tune; "Shall we,” saith he, “ take heart, to know when to tell truth, and to do it. good at God's hands, and not be content to take Therefore it is the weaker sort of politicians that evil also ?" And so of friends in a proportion. are the great dissemblers. This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge, Tacitus saith, Livia sorted well with the arts of keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would her husband, and dissimulation of her son ; attributheal, and do well. Public revenges are for the ing arts or policy to Augustus, and dissimulation to most part fortunate: as that for the death of Cæsar; Tiberius. And again, when Mucianus enco

courageth for the death of Pertinax; for the death of Henry Vespasian to take arms against Vitellius, he saith ; the Third of France; and many more: but in pri- We rise not against the piercing judgment of Augus vate revenges it is not so; nay rather, vindictive tus, nor the extreme caution or closeness of Tiberius. persons live the life of witches; who as they are These properties of arts or policy, and dissimulation mischievous, so end they unfortunate.

or closeness, are indeed habits and faculties several

and to be distinguished. For if a man have that V. OF ADVERSITY.

penetration of judgment as he can discern what

things are to be laid open, and what to be secreted, It was an high speech of Seneca, after the man- and what to be showed at half-lights, and to whom ner of the Stoics, that the good things which belong and when, which indeed are arts of state, and arts to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things of life, as Tacitus well calleth them, to him a habit that belong to adversity are to be admired : “ Bona of dissimulation is a hinderance and a poorness. rerum secundarum optabilia, adversarum mirabilia.” But if a man cannot obtain to that judgment, then Certainly, if miracles be the command over nature, it is left to him, generally, to be close and a dissemthey appear most in adversity. It is yet a higher bler. For where a man cannot choose, or vary in speech of his than the other, much too high for a particulars, there it is good to take the safest and heathen, It is true greatness to have in one the wariest way in general; like the going softly by one frailty of a man, and the security of a God: “Vere that cannot well see. Certainly the ablest men that

« PreviousContinue »