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Title: Bacon's Essays and Wisdom of the Ancients
Author: Bacon, Francis
Language: English
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  _Copyright, 1884_,



In preparing the present volume for the press, use has been freely
made of several publications which have recently appeared in England.
The Biographical Notice of the author is taken from an edition of the
Essays, by A. Spiers, Ph. D. To this has been added the Preface to
Pickering’s edition of the Essays and Wisdom of the Ancients, by Basil
Montagu, Esq. Parker’s edition, by Thomas Markby, M. A., has furnished
the arrangement of the Table prefixed to the Essays, and also “the
references to the most important quotations.” The Notes, including the
translations of the Latin, are chiefly copied from Bohn’s edition,
the Wisdom of the Ancients contained in Bohn’s edition, in preference
to that “done by Sir Arthur Gorges,” although the last mentioned has a
claim upon regard, as having been made by a contemporary of Lord Bacon,
and published in his lifetime. Its language is in the style of English
current in the author’s age, and for this reason may resemble more
nearly what the philosopher himself would have used, had he composed
the work in his own tongue instead of Latin.


  Preface by B. Montagu, Esq.                                          xi

  Introductory Notice of the Life and Writings of Bacon, by
  A. Spiers, Ph. D.                                                     1



   1. Of Truth                          1625;                          57

   2. Of Death                          1612;  enlarged 1625           62

   3. Of Unity in Religion; Of Religion 1612;  rewritten 1625          65

   4. Of Revenge                        1625;                          73

   5. Of Adversity                      1625;                          75

   6. Of Simulation and Dissimulation   1625;                          78

   7. Of Parents and Children           1612;  enlarged 1625           82

   8. Of Marriage and Single Life       1612;  slightly enlarged 1625  84

   9. Of Envy                           1625;                          87

  10. Of Love                           1612;  rewritten 1625          95

  11. Of Great Place                    1612;  slightly enlarged 1625  98

  12. Of Boldness                       1625;                         103

  13. Of Goodness, and Goodness
        of Nature                       1612;  enlarged 1625          105

  14. Of Nobility                       1612;  rewritten 1625         110

  15. Of Seditions and Troubles         1625                          113

  16. Of Atheism                        1612;  slightly enlarged 1625 124

  17. Of Superstition                   1612;     ”        ”     1625 130

  18. Of Travel                         1625;                         132

  19. Of Empire                         1612;  much enlarged 1625     135

  20. Of Counsels                       1612;  enlarged 1625          143

  21. Of Delays                         1625;                         151

  22. Of Cunning                        1612;  rewritten 1625         153

  23. Of Wisdom for a Man’s Self        1612;  enlarged 1625          159

  24. Of Innovations                    1625;                         161

  25. Of Dispatch                       1612;                         163

  26. Of Seeming Wise                   1612;                         166

  27. Of Friendship                     1612;  rewritten 1625         168

  28. Of Expense                        1597;  enlarged 1612;
                                                 and again 1625       179

  29. Of the true Greatness of
        Kingdoms and Estates            1612;  enlarged 1625          181

  30. Of Regimen of Health              1597;  enlarged 1612;
                                                 again 1625           195

  31. Of Suspicion                      1625;                         197

  32. Of Discourse                      1597;  slightly enlarged 1612;
                                                 again 1625           199

  33. Of Plantations                    1625;                         202

  34. Of Riches                         1612;  much enlarged 1625     207

  35. Of Prophecies                     1625;                         212

  36. Of Ambition                       1612;  enlarged 1625          217

  37. Of Masques and Triumphs           1625;                         218

  38. Of Nature in Men                  1612;  enlarged 1625          223

  39. Of Custom and Education           1612;     ”      ”            225

  40. Of Fortune                        1612;  slightly enlarged 1625 228

  41. Of Usury                          1625;                         231

  42. Of Youth and Age                  1612;  slightly enlarged 1625 237

  43. Of Beauty                         1612;     ”         ”    1625 240

  44. Of Deformity                      1612;  somewhat altered 1625  241

  45. Of Building                       1625;                         243

  46. Of Gardens                        1625;                         249

  47. Of Negotiating                    1597;  enlarged 1612;
                                                 very slightly
                                                 altered 1625         259

  48. Of Followers and Friends          1597;  slightly enlarged 1625 261

  49. Of Suitors                        1597;  enlarged 1625          264

  50. Of Studies                        1597;      ”    1625          266

  51. Of Faction                        1597;  much enlarged 1625     269

  52. Of Ceremonies and Respects        1597;  enlarged 1625          271

  53. Of Praise                         1612;      ”    1625          273

  54. Of Vainglory                      1612;                         276

  55. Of Honor and Reputation           1597; omitted 1612;
                                                republished 1625      279

  56. Of Judicature                     1612;                         282

  57. Of Anger                          1625;                         289

  58. Of the Vicissitude of Things      1625;                         292


   1. Fragment of an Essay of Fame                                    301

   2. Of a King                                                       303

   3. An Essay on Death                                               307


  Preface                                                             317

   1. Cassandra, or Divination. Explained of too free and
       unseasonable Advice                                            323

   2. Typhon, or a Rebel. Explained of Rebellion                      324

   3. The Cyclops, or the Ministers of Terror. Explained
       of base Court Officers                                         327

   4. Narcissus, or Self-Love                                         329

   5. The River Styx, or Leagues. Explained of Necessity,
       in the Oaths or Solemn Leagues of Princes                      331

   6. Pan, or Nature. Explained of Natural Philosophy                 333

   7. Perseus, or War. Explained of the Preparation and
       Conduct necessary to War                                       343

   8. Endymion, or a Favorite. Explained of Court Favorites           348

   9. The Sister of the Giants, or Fame. Explained of
        Public Detraction                                             350

  10. Acteon and Pentheus, or a Curious Man. Explained
        of Curiosity, or Prying into the Secrets of Princes
        and Divine Mysteries                                          351

  11. Orpheus, or Philosophy. Explained of Natural and
        Moral Philosophy                                              353

  12. Cœlum, or Beginnings. Explained of the Creation,
        or Origin of all Things                                       357

  13. Proteus, or Matter. Explained of Matter and its
        Changes                                                       360

  14. Memnon, or a Youth too forward. Explained of the
        fatal Precipitancy of Youth                                   363

  15. Tythonus, or Satiety. Explained of Predominant
        Passions                                                      364

  16. Juno’s Suitor, or Baseness. Explained of Submission
        and Abjection                                                 365

  17. Cupid, or an Atom. Explained of the Corpuscular
        Philosophy                                                    366

  18. Diomed, or Zeal. Explained of Persecution, or Zeal
        for Religion                                                  371

  19. Dædalus, or Mechanical Skill. Explained of Arts and
        Artists in Kingdoms and States                                374

  20. Ericthonius, or Imposture. Explained of the improper
        Use of Force in Natural Philosophy                            378

  21. Deucalion, or Restitution. Explained of a useful Hint
        in Natural Philosophy                                         379

  22. Nemesis, or the Vicissitude of Things. Explained of
        the Reverses of Fortune                                       380

  23. Achelous, or Battle. Explained of War by Invasion               383

  24. Dionysus, or Bacchus. Explained of the Passions                 384

  25. Atalanta and Hippomenes, or Gain. Explained of the
        Contest betwixt Art and Nature                                389

  26. Prometheus, or the State of Man. Explained of an
        Overruling Providence, and of Human Nature                    391

  27. Icarus and Scylla and Charybdis, or the Middle Way.
        Explained of Mediocrity in Natural and Moral
        Philosophy                                                    407

  28. Sphinx, or Science. Explained of the Sciences                   409

  29. Proserpine, or Spirit. Explained of the Spirit included
        in Natural Bodies                                             413

  30. Metis, or Counsel. Explained of Princes and their
        Council                                                       419

  31. The Sirens, or Pleasures. Explained of Men’s Passion
        for Pleasures                                                 420


In the early part of the year 1597, Lord Bacon’s first publication
appeared. It is a small 12mo. volume, entitled “Essayes, Religious
Meditations, Places of Perswasion and Disswasion.” It is dedicated

  “_To M. Anthony Bacon, his deare Brother_.

  “Louing and beloued Brother, I doe nowe like some that have an
  Orcharde ill Neighbored, that gather their Fruit before it is
  ripe, to preuent stealing. These Fragments of my Conceites were
  going to print, To labour the staie of them had bin troublesome,
  and subiect to interpretation; to let them passe had beene to
  aduenture the wrong they mought receiue by vntrue Coppies, or
  by some Garnishment, which it mought please any that should set
  them forth to bestow vpon them. Therefore I helde it best as
  they passed long agoe from my Pen, without any further disgrace,
  then the weaknesse of the Author. And as I did euer hold, there
  mought be as great a vanitie in retiring and withdrawing mens
  conceites (except they bee of some nature) from the World, as
  in obtruding them: So in these particulars I haue played myself
  the Inquisitor, and find nothing to my vnderstanding in them
  contrarie or infectious to the state of Religion, or Manners, but
  rather (as I suppose) medecinable. Only I disliked now to put
  them out, because they will be like the late new Halfepence,
  which, though the Siluer were good, yet the Peeces were small.
  But since they would not stay with their Master, but would needes
  trauaile abroade, I haue preferred them to you that are next my
  selfe, Dedicating them, such as they are, to our Loue, in the
  depth whereof (I assure you) I sometimes wish your Infirmities
  translated vppon my selfe, that her Maiestie mought haue the
  Seruice of so actiue and able a Mind, and I mought be with
  excuse confined to these Contemplations and Studies for which I
  am fittest, so commend I you to the Preseruation of the Diuine
  Maiestie: From my Chamber at Graies Inne, this 30 of Januarie,
  1597. Your entire Louing Brother, FRAN. BACON.”

The Essays, which are ten in number, abound with condensed thought and
practical wisdom, neatly, pressly, and weightily stated, and, like
all his early works, are simple, without imagery. They are written in
his favorite style of aphorisms, although each essay is apparently a
continued work, and without that love of antithesis and false glitter
to which truth and justness of thought are frequently sacrificed by the
writers of maxims.

A second edition, with a translation of the _Meditationes Sacræ_, was
published in the next year; and another edition enlarged in 1612, when
he was solicitor-general, containing thirty-eight essays; and one still
more enlarged in 1625, containing fifty-eight essays, the year before
his death.

The Essays in the subsequent editions are much augmented, according
to his own words: “I always alter when I add, so that nothing is
finished till all is finished,” and they are adorned by happy and
familiar illustration, as in the essay of Wisdom for a Man’s Self,
which concludes, in the edition of 1625, with the following extract,
not to be found in the previous edition: “Wisdom for a man’s self is,
in many branches thereof, a depraved thing. It is the wisdom of rats,
that will be sure to leave a house somewhat before it fall. It is the
wisdom of the fox, that thrusts out the badger, who digged and made
room for him. It is the wisdom of crocodiles, that shed tears when they
would devour. But that which is specially to be noted is, that those
which (as Cicero says of Pompey) are _Sui Amantes sine Rivali_ are many
times unfortunate. And whereas they have all their time sacrificed
to themselves, they become in the end themselves sacrifices to the
inconstancy of Fortune, whose wings they thought, by their self wisdom,
to have pinioned.”

So in the essay upon Adversity, on which he had deeply reflected before
the edition of 1625, when it first appeared, he says: “The virtue of
prosperity is temperance; the virtue of adversity is fortitude; which
in morals is the more heroical virtue. Prosperity is the blessing of
the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New, which carrieth
the great benediction, and the clearer revelation of God’s favor. Yet,
even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David’s harp, you shall
hear as many hearse-like airs as carols; and the pencil of the Holy
Ghost hath labored more in describing the afflictions of Job than
the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not without many fears and
distastes, and adversity is not without comforts and hopes. We see in
needle-works and embroideries, it is more pleasing to have a lively
work upon a sad and solemn ground than to have a dark and melancholy
work upon a lightsome ground; judge, therefore, of the pleasure of the
heart by the pleasure of the eye. Certainly, virtue is like precious
odors, most fragrant when they are incensed, or crushed; for prosperity
doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.”

The Essays were immediately translated into French and Italian, and
into Latin, by some of his friends, amongst whom were Hacket, Bishop of
Lichfield, and his constant, affectionate friend, Ben Jonson.

His own estimate of the value of this work is thus stated in his
letter to the Bishop of Winchester: “As for my Essays, and some other
particulars of that nature, I count them but as the recreations of my
other studies, and in that manner purpose to continue them; though I
am not ignorant that these kind of writings would, with less pains and
assiduity, perhaps yield more lustre and reputation to my name than the
others I have in hand.”

Although it was not likely that such lustre and reputation would dazzle
him, the admirer of Phocion, who, when applauded, turned to one of his
friends, and asked, “What have I said amiss?” although popular judgment
was not likely to mislead him who concludes his observations upon the
objections to learning and the advantages of knowledge by saying:
“Nevertheless, I do not pretend, and I know it will be impossible for
me, by any pleading of mine, to reverse the judgment either of Æsop’s
cock, that preferred the barleycorn before the gem; or of Midas, that
being chosen judge between Apollo, president of the Muses, and Pan,
god of the flocks, judged for plenty; or of Paris, that judged for
beauty and love against wisdom and power. For these things continue
as they have been; but so will that also continue whereupon learning
hath ever relied and which faileth not, _Justificata est sapientia
a filiis suis_:” yet he seems to have undervalued this little work,
which for two centuries has been favorably received by every lover
of knowledge and of beauty, and is now so well appreciated that a
celebrated professor of our own times truly says: “The small volume to
which he has given the title of ‘Essays,’ the best known and the most
popular of all his works, is one of those where the superiority of his
genius appears to the greatest advantage, the novelty and depth of his
reflections often receiving a strong relief from the triteness of the
subject. It may be read from beginning to end in a few hours; and yet
after the twentieth perusal one seldom fails to remark in it something
overlooked before. This, indeed, is a characteristic of all Bacon’s
writings, and is only to be accounted for by the inexhaustible aliment
they furnish to our own thoughts and the sympathetic activity they
impart to our torpid faculties.”

During his life six or more editions, which seem to have been pirated,
were published; and after his death, two spurious essays, “Of Death,”
and “Of a King,” the only authentic posthumous essay being the Fragment
of an Essay on Fame, which was published by his friend and chaplain,
Dr. Rawley.

This edition is a transcript of the edition of 1625, with the
posthumous essays. In the life of Bacon[1] there is a minute account of
the different editions of the Essays and of their contents.

They may shortly be stated as follows:—

First edition, 1597, genuine.

There are two copies of this edition in the university library at
Cambridge; and there is Archbishop Sancroft’s copy in Emanuel Library;
there is a copy in the Bodleian, and I have a copy.

Second edition, 1598, genuine.

Third edition, 1606, pirated.

Fourth edition, entitled “The Essaies of Sir Francis Bacon, Knight, the
Kings Solliciter Generall. Imprinted at London by Iohn Beale, 1612,”
genuine. It was the intention of Sir Francis to have dedicated this
edition to Henry, Prince of Wales; but he was prevented by the death
of the prince on the 6th of November in that year. This appears by the
following letter:—

  _To the Most High and Excellent Prince, Henry, Prince of Wales,
  Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of Chester._

  It may please your Highness: Having divided my life into the
  contemplative and active part, I am desirous to give his Majesty
  and your Highness of the fruits of both, simple though they be.
  To write just treatises, requireth leisure in the writer and
  leisure in the reader, and therefore are not so fit, neither in
  regard of your Highness’s princely affairs nor in regard of my
  continual service; which is the cause that hath made me choose
  to write certain brief notes, set down rather significantly than
  curiously, which I have called Essays. The word is late, but the
  thing is ancient; for Seneca’s Epistles to Lucilius, if you mark
  them well, are but Essays; that is, dispersed meditations though
  conveyed in the form of epistles. These labors of mine, I know,
  cannot be worthy of your Highness, for what can be worthy of you?
  But my hope is, they may be as grains of salt, that will rather
  give you an appetite than offend you with satiety. And although
  they handle those things wherein both men’s lives and their
  persons are most conversant; yet what I have attained I know not;
  but I have endeavored to make them not vulgar, but of a nature
  whereof a man shall find much in experience and little in books;
  so as they are neither repetitions nor fancies. But, however, I
  shall most humbly desire your Highness to accept them in gracious
  part, and to conceive, that if I cannot rest but must show my
  dutiful and devoted affection to your Highness in these things
  which proceed from myself, I shall be much more ready to do it in
  performance of any of your princely commandments. And so wishing
  your Highness all princely felicity, I rest your Highness’s most
  humble servant,

  1612.             FR. BACON.

It was dedicated as follows:—

  _To my loving Brother, Sir John Constable, Knt._

  My last Essaies I dedicated to my deare brother Master Anthony
  Bacon, who is with God. Looking amongst my Papers this vacation,
  I found others of the same nature: which, if I myselfe 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 neare Alliance, and of straight
  Friendship and Societie, and particularly of communication in
  Studies. Wherein I must acknowledge my selfe beholding to you.
  For as my Businesse found rest in my Contemplations, so my
  Contemplations ever found rest in your loving Conference and
  Judgment. So wishing you all good, I remaine your louing Brother
  and Friend,


Fifth edition, 1612, pirated. Sixth edition, 1613, pirated. Seventh
edition, 1624, pirated. Eighth edition, 1624, pirated. Ninth edition,
entitled, “The Essayes or Covnsels, Civill and Morall, of Francis Lo.
Vervlam, Viscovnt St. Alban. Newly enlarged. London, Printed by Iohn
Haviland for Hanna Barret and Richard Whitaker, and are to be sold at
the Signe of the King’s Head in Paul’s Churchyard.” 1625, genuine.

This edition is a small quarto of 340 pages; it clearly was published
by Lord Bacon; and in the next year, 1626, Lord Bacon died. The
Dedication is as follows, to the Duke of Buckingham:—

  _To the Right Honorable my very good Lo. the Duke of Buckingham
  his Grace, Lo. High Admirall of England._

  EXCELLENT LO.:—Salomon saies, A good Name is as a precious
  Oyntment; and I assure myselfe, such wil your Grace’s Name bee,
  with Posteritie. For your Fortune and Merit both, haue beene
  eminent. And you haue planted things that are like to last. I
  doe now publish my Essayes; which, of all my other Workes, have
  beene most currant: for that, as it seemes, they come home to
  Mens Businesse and Bosomes. I haue 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
  Latine. For I doe conceiue, that the Latine Volume of them (being
  in the vniuersal language) may last as long as Bookes last. My
  Instauration I dedicated to the King: my Historie of Henry the
  Seventh (which I haue now also translated into Latine), and my
  Portions of Naturall History, to the Prince: and these I dedicate
  to your Grace: being of the best Fruits, that by the good
  encrease which God gives to my pen and labours, I could yeeld.
  God leade your Grace by the Hand. Your Graces most obliged and
  faithfull Seruant.


Of this edition, Lord Bacon sent a copy to the Marquis Fiat, with the
following letter:[2]—

  “MONSIEUR L’AMBASSADEUR MON FILZ: Voyant que vostre Excellence
  faict et traite Mariages, non seulement entre les Princes
  d’Angleterre et de France, mais aussi entre les langues (puis
  que faictes traduire mon Liure de l’Advancement des Sciences en
  Francois) i’ai bien voulu vous envoyer mon Liure dernierement
  imprimé que i’avois pourveu pour vous, mais i’estois en doubte,
  de le vous envoyer, pour ce qu’il estoit escrit en Anglois. Mais
  a’ cest’heure pour la raison susdicte ie le vous envoye. C’est un
  Recompilement de mes Essays Morales et Civiles; mais tellement
  enlargiés et enrichiés, tant de nombre que de poix, que c’est de
  fait un ouvre nouveau. Ie vous baise les mains, et reste vostre
  tres affectionée Ami, et tres humble Serviteur.


  MY LORD AMBASSADOR, MY SON: Seeing that your Excellency makes and
  treats of Marriages, not only betwixt the Princes of France and
  England, but also betwixt their languages (for you have caused
  my book of the Advancement of Learning to be translated into
  French), I was much inclined to make you a present of the last
  book which I published, and which I had in readiness for you. I
  was sometimes in doubt whether I ought to have sent it to you,
  because it was written in the English tongue. But now, for that
  very reason, I send it to you. It is a recompilement of my Essays
  Moral and Civil; but in such manner enlarged and enriched both in
  number and weight, that it is in effect a new work. I kiss your
  hands, and remain your most affectionate friend and most humble
  servant, &c.

Of the translation of the Essays into Latin, Bacon speaks in the
following letter:—

  “TO MR. TOBIE MATHEW: It is true my labors are now most set to
  have those works which I had formerly published, as that of
  Advancement of Learning, that of Henry VII., that of the Essays,
  being retractate and made more perfect, well translated into
  Latin by the help of some good pens which forsake me not. For
  these modern languages will, at one time or other, play the
  bankrupt with books; and since I have lost much time with this
  age, I would be glad, as God shall give me leave, to recover it
  with posterity. For the Essay of Friendship, while I took your
  speech of it for a cursory request, I took my promise for a
  compliment. But since you call for it, I shall perform it.”

In his letter to Father Fulgentio, giving some account of his writings,
he says:—

  “The _Novum Organum_ should immediately follow; but my moral and
  political writings step in between as being more finished. These
  are, the History of King Henry VII., and the small book, which,
  in your language, you have called _Saggi Morali_, but I give it a
  graver title, that of _Sermones Fideles_, or _Interiora Rerum_,
  and these Essays will not only be enlarged in number, but still
  more in substance.”

The nature of the Latin edition, and of the Essays in general, is thus
stated by Archbishop Tenison:—

  “The Essays, or Counsels Civil and Moral, though a by-work
  also, do yet make up a book of greater weight by far than the
  Apothegms; and coming home to men’s business and bosoms, his
  lordship entertained this persuasion concerning them, that
  the Latin volume might last as long as books should last. His
  lordship wrote them in the English tongue, and enlarged them as
  occasion served, and at last added to them the Colors of Good and
  Evil, which are likewise found in his book _De Augmentis_. The
  Latin translation of them was a work performed by divers hands:
  by those of Dr. Hacket (late Bishop of Lichfield), Mr. Benjamin
  Jonson (the learned and judicious poet,) and some others, whose
  names I once heard from Dr. Rawley, but I cannot now recall them.
  To this Latin edition he gave the title of _Sermones Fideles_,
  after the manner of the Jews, who called the words Adagies, or
  Observations of the Wise, Faithful Sayings; that is, credible
  propositions worthy of firm assent and ready acceptance. And
  (as I think), he alluded more particularly, in this title, to
  a passage in _Ecclesiastes_, where the preacher saith, that he
  sought to find out _Verba Delectabilia_ (as Tremellius rendereth
  the Hebrew), pleasant words; (that is, perhaps, his Book of
  Canticles;) and _Verba Fidelia_ (as the same Tremellius),
  Faithful Sayings; meaning, it may be, his collection of Proverbs.
  In the next verse, he calls them Words of the Wise, and so many
  goads and nails given _ab eodem pastore_, from the same shepherd
  [of the flock of Israel”].

In the year 1638, Rawley published, in folio, a volume containing,
amongst other works, _Sermones Fideles, ab ipso Honoratissimo Auctore,
præterquam in paucis, Latinitate donati_. In his address to the reader,
he says:—

  _Accedunt, quas priùs_ Delibationes Civiles _et_ Morales
  _inscripserat; Quas etiam in Linguas plurimas Modernas translatas
  esse novit; sed eas posteà, et Numero, et Pondere, auxit; In
  tantum, ut veluti Opus Novum videri possint; Quas mutato Titulo_,
  Sermones Fideles, _sive_ Interiora Rerum, _inscribi placuit_. The
  title-page and dedication are annexed: _Sermones Fideles sive
  Interiora Rerum. Per Franciscum Baconum Baronem de Vervlamio,
  Vice-Comitem Sancti Albani. Londini Excusum typis Edwardi
  Griffin. Prostant ad Insignia Regia in Cœmeterio D. Pauli,
  apud Richardum Whitakerum_, 1638.

  Illustri et Excellenti Domino _Georgio_ Duci _Buckinghamiæ_,
  Summo _Angliæ_ Admirallio.

  _Honoratissime Domine_, _Salomon_ inquit, _Nomen bonum est
  instar Vnguenti fragrantis et pretiosi_; Neque dubito,
  quin tale futurum sit _Nomen_ tuum apud Posteros. Etenim
  et Fortuna, et Merita tua, præcelluerunt. Et videris ea
  plantasse, quæ sint duratura. In lucem jam edere mihi visum
  est _Delibationes meas_, quæ ex omnibus meis Operibus fuerunt
  acceptissimæ: Quia forsitan videntur, præ cæteris, _Hominum_
  Negotia stringere, et in sinus fluere. Eas autem auxi, et
  Numero, et Pondere; In tantum, ut planè Opus Novum sint.
  Consentaneum igitur duxi, Affectui, et Obligationi meæ, erga
  _Illustrissimam Dominationem_ tuam, ut _Nomen_ tuum illis
  præfigam, tam in _Editione Anglicâ_, quam _Latinâ_. Etenim, in
  bonâ spe sum, Volumen earum in _Latinam_ (_Linguam_ scilicet
  universalem), versum, posse durare, quamdiù _Libri_ et _Literæ_
  durent. _Instaurationem_ meam _Regi_ dicavi: _Historiam
  Regni Henrici Septimi_ (quam etiam in _Latinum_ verti et
  Portiones meas _Naturalis Historiæ_, _Principi_): Has autem
  _Delibationes Illustrissimæ Dominationi_ tuæ dico, Cùm sint,
  ex Fructibus optimis, quos Gratia divinâ Calami mei laboribus
  indulgente, exhibere potui. _Deus illustrissimam Dominationem_
  tuam manu ducat. _Illustrissimæ Dominationis_ tuæ Servus
  Devinctissimus et Fidelis.


In the year 1618, the Essays, together with the Wisdom of the Ancients,
was translated into Italian, and dedicated to _Cosmo de Medici_, by
Tobie Mathew; and in the following year the Essays were translated into
French by Sir Arthur Gorges, and printed in London.


In the year 1609, as a relaxation from abstruse speculations, he
published in Latin his interesting little work, _De Sapientia Veterum_.

This tract seems, in former times, to have been much valued. The
fables, abounding with a union of deep thought and poetic beauty, are
thirty-one in number, of which a part of The Sirens, or Pleasures, may
be selected as a specimen.

In this fable he explains the common but erroneous supposition that
knowledge and the conformity of the will, knowing and acting, are
convertible terms. Of this error, he, in his essay of Custom and
Education, admonishes his readers, by saying: “Men’s thoughts are much
according to their inclination; their discourse and speeches according
to their learning and infused opinions, but their deeds are after as
they have been accustomed; Æsop’s Damsel, transformed from a cat to
a woman, sat very demurely at the board-end till a mouse ran before
her.” In the fable of the Sirens he exhibits the same truth, saying:
“The habitation of the Sirens was in certain pleasant islands, from
whence, as soon as out of their watchtower they discovered any ships
approaching, with their sweet tunes they would first entice and stay
them, and, having them in their power, would destroy them; and, so
great were the mischiefs they did, that these isles of the Sirens,
even as far off as man can ken them, appeared all over white with the
bones of unburied carcasses; by which it is signified that albeit the
examples of afflictions be manifest and eminent, yet they do not
sufficiently deter us from the wicked enticements of pleasure.”

The following is the account of the different editions of this work:
The first was published in 1609. In February 27, 1610, Lord Bacon wrote
to Mr. Mathew, upon sending his book _De Sapientia Veterum_:—

  “MR. MATHEW: I do very heartily thank you for your letter of the
  24th of August, from Salamanca; and in recompense therefore I
  send you a little work of mine that hath begun to pass the world.
  They tell me my Latin is turned into silver, and become current:
  had you been here, you should have been my inquisitor before it
  came forth; but, I think, the greatest inquisitor in Spain will
  allow it. But one thing you must pardon me if I make no haste to
  believe, that the world should be grown to such an ecstasy as
  to reject truth in philosophy, because the author dissenteth in
  religion; no more than they do by Aristotle or Averroes. My great
  work goeth forward; and after my manner, I alter even when I add;
  so that nothing is finished till all be finished. This I have
  written in the midst of a term and parliament; thinking no time
  so possessed, but that I should talk of these matters with so
  good and dear a friend. And so with my wonted wishes I leave you
  to God’s goodness.

  “From Gray’s Inn, Feb. 27, 1610.”

And in his letter to Father Fulgentio, giving some account of his
writings, he says: “My Essays will not only be enlarged in number, but
still more in substance. Along with them goes the little piece _De
Sapientia Veterum_.”

In the Advancement of Learning he says:—

  “There remaineth yet another use of poesy parabolical, opposite
  to that which we last mentioned; for that tendeth to demonstrate
  and illustrate that which is taught or delivered, and this other
  to retire and obscure it; that is, when the secrets and mysteries
  of religion, policy, or philosophy are involved in fables or
  parables. Of this in divine poesy we see the use is authorized.
  In heathen poesy we see the exposition of fables doth fall out
  sometimes with great felicity; as in the fable that the giants
  being overthrown in their war against the gods, the earth, their
  mother, in revenge thereof brought forth Fame,—

    _Illam Terra parens, irâ irritata Deorum,_
    _Extremam, ut perhibent, Cœo Enceladoque sororem_

  expounded, that when princes and monarchs have suppressed actual
  and open rebels, then the malignity of the people, which is the
  mother of rebellion, doth bring forth libels and slanders, and
  taxations of the State, which is of the same kind with rebellion,
  but more feminine. So in the fable, that the rest of the gods
  having conspired to bind Jupiter, Pallas called Briareus, with
  his hundred hands, to his aid; expounded, that monarchies need
  not fear any curbing of their absoluteness by mighty subjects,
  as long as by wisdom they keep the hearts of the people, who
  will be sure to come in on their side. So in the fable, that
  Achilles was brought up under Chiron, the centaur, who was part
  a man and part a beast, expounded ingeniously, but corruptly by
  Machiavel, that it belongeth to the education and discipline
  of princes to know as well how to play the part of the lion in
  violence, and the fox in guile, as of the man in virtue and
  justice. Nevertheless, in many the like encounters, I do rather
  think that the fable was first, and the exposition then devised,
  than that the moral was first, and thereupon the fable framed.
  For I find it was an ancient vanity in Chrysippus, that troubled
  himself with great contention to fasten the assertions of the
  stoics upon the fictions of the ancient poets; but yet that all
  the fables and fictions of the poets were but pleasure, and not
  figure, I interpose no opinion. Surely, of those poets which
  are now extant, even Homer himself (notwithstanding he was made
  a kind of Scripture by the latter schools of the Grecians), yet
  I should without any difficulty pronounce that his fables had no
  such inwardness in his own meaning; but what they might have upon
  a more original tradition, is not easy to affirm; for he was not
  the inventor of many of them.”

In the treatise _De Augmentis_ the same sentiments will be found, with
a slight alteration in the expressions. He says:—

  “There is another use of parabolical poesy opposite to the
  former, which tendeth to the folding up of those things, the
  dignity whereof deserves to be retired and distinguished, as
  with a drawn curtain; that is, when the secrets and mysteries of
  religion, policy, and philosophy are veiled and invested with
  fables and parables. But whether there be any mystical sense
  couched under the ancient fables of the poets, may admit some
  doubt; and, indeed, for our part, we incline to this opinion, as
  to think that there was an infused mystery in many of the ancient
  fables of the poets. Neither doth it move us that these matters
  are left commonly to school-boys and grammarians, and so are
  embased, that we should therefore make a slight judgment upon
  them, but contrariwise, because it is clear that the writings
  which recite those fables, of all the writings of men, next to
  sacred writ, are the most ancient; and that the fables themselves
  are far more ancient than they (being they are alleged by those
  writers, not as excogitated by them, but as credited and recepted
  before) seem to be, like a thin rarefied air, which, from the
  traditions of more ancient nations, fell into the flutes of the

Of this tract, Archbishop Tenison, in his _Baconiana_, says:—

  “In the seventh place, I may reckon his book _De Sapientia
  Veterum_, written by him in Latin, and set forth a second
  time with enlargement; and translated into English by Sir
  Arthur Gorges; a book in which the sages of former times are
  rendered more wise than it may be they were, by so dexterous an
  interpreter of their fables. It is this book which Mr. Sandys
  means, in those words which he hath put before his notes on the
  Metamorphosis of Ovid. ‘Of modern writers, I have received the
  greatest light from Geraldus, Pontanus, Ficinus, Vives, Comes,
  Scaliger, Sabinus, Pierius, and the crown of the latter, the
  Viscount of St. Albans.’

  “It is true, the design of this book was instruction in natural
  and civil matters, either couched by the ancients under those
  fictions, or rather made to seem to be so by his lordship’s wit,
  in the opening and applying of them. But because the first ground
  of it is poetical story, therefore, let it have this place till a
  fitter be found for it.”

The author of Bacon’s Life, in the _Biographia Britannica_, says:—

  “That he might relieve himself a little from the severity of
  these studies, and, as it were, amuse himself with erecting a
  magnificent pavilion, while his great palace of philosophy was
  building, he composed and sent abroad, in 1610, his celebrated
  treatise of the Wisdom of the Ancients, in which he showed
  that none had studied them more closely, was better acquainted
  with their beauties, or had pierced deeper into their meaning.
  There have been very few books published, either in this or any
  other nation, which either deserved or met with more general
  applause than this, and scarce any that are like to retain it
  longer, for in this performance Sir Francis Bacon gave a singular
  proof of his capacity to please all parties in literature, as
  in his political conduct he stood fair with all the parties in
  the nation. The admirers of antiquity were charmed with this
  discourse, which seems expressly calculated to justify their
  admiration; and, on the other hand, their opposites were no
  less pleased with a piece from which they thought they could
  demonstrate that the sagacity of a modern genius had found out
  much better meanings for the ancients than ever were meant by

And Mallet, in his Life of Bacon, says:—

  “In 1610 he published another treatise, entitled, Of the Wisdom
  of the Ancients. This work bears the same stamp of an original
  and inventive genius with his other performances. Resolving not
  to tread in the steps of those who had gone before him, men,
  according to his own expression, not learned beyond certain
  commonplaces, he strikes out a new tract for himself, and enters
  into the most secret recesses of this wild and shadowy region, so
  as to appear new on a known and beaten subject. Upon the whole,
  if we cannot bring ourselves readily to believe that there is all
  the physical, moral, and political meaning veiled under those
  fables of antiquity, which he has discovered in them, we must
  own that it required no common penetration to be mistaken with
  so great an appearance of probability on his side. Though it
  still remains doubtful whether the ancients were so knowing as
  he attempts to show they were, the variety and depth of his own
  knowledge are, in that very attempt, unquestionable.”

In the year 1619 this tract was translated by Sir Arthur Gorges.
Prefixed to the work are two letters; the one to the Earl of Salisbury,
the other to the University of Cambridge, which Gorges omits, and
dedicates his translation to the high and illustrious princess the Lady
Elizabeth of Great Britain, Duchess of Baviare, Countess Palatine of
Rheine, and chief electress of the empire.

This translation, it should be noted, was published during the life of
Lord Bacon by a great admirer of his works.

The editions of this work with which I am acquainted are:—

  Year.   Language.    Printer.      Place.     Size.

  1609     Latin,     R. Barker,    London,     12mo.
  1617       ”        J. Bill,         ”          ”
  1618     Italian,   G. Bill,         ”          ”
  1619     English,   J. Bill,         ”          ”
  1620       ”           ”             ”          ”
  1633     Latin,     F. Maire,     Lug. Bat.,    ”
  1634       ”        F. Kingston,  London,       ”
  1638       ”        E. Griffin,      ”        Folio.
  1691       ”        H. Wetstein,  Amsterdam,  12mo.
  1804     French,    H. Frantin,   Dijon,      8vo.




Francis Bacon, the subject of the following memoir, was the youngest
son of highly remarkable parents. His father, Sir Nicholas Bacon,
was an eminent lawyer, and for twenty years Keeper of the Seals and
Privy Counsellor to Queen Elizabeth. Sir Nicholas was styled by
Camden _sacris conciliis alterum columen_; he was the author of some
unpublished discourses on law and politics, and of a commentary on
the minor prophets. He discharged the duties of his high office with
exemplary propriety and wisdom; he preserved through life the integrity
of a good man, and the moderation and simplicity of a great one.
He had inscribed over the entrance of his hall, at Gorhambury, the
motto, _mediocria firma_; and when the Queen, in a progress, paid him
a visit there, she remarked to him that his house was too small for
him. “Madam,” answered the Lord Keeper, “my house is well, but it is
you that have made me too great for my house.” This anecdote has been
preserved by his son,[3] who, had he as carefully retained the lesson
of practical wisdom it contained, might have avoided the misfortunes
and sorrows of his checkered life.

Bacon’s mother, Anne Cooke, was the daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke,
tutor to King Edward the Sixth; like the young ladies of her time,
like Lady Jane Grey, like Queen Elizabeth, she received an excellent
classical education; her sister, Lady Burleigh, was pronounced by Roger
Ascham, Queen Elizabeth’s preceptor, to be, with the exception of Lady
Jane Grey, the best Greek scholar among the young women of England.[4]
Anne Cooke, the future Lady Bacon, corresponded in Greek with Bishop
Jewel, and translated from the Latin this divine’s _Apologia_; a task
which she performed so well that it is said the good prelate could not
discover an inaccuracy or suggest an alteration. She also translated
from the Italian a volume of sermons on fate and freewill, written by
Bernardo Ochino, an Italian reformer. Francis Bacon, the youngest of
five sons, inherited the classical learning and taste of both his

He was born at York House, in the Strand, London, on the 22d of
January, 1560-61. His health, when he was a boy, was delicate; a
circumstance which may perhaps account for his early love of sedentary
pursuits, and probably the early gravity of his demeanor. Queen
Elizabeth, he tells us, took particular delight in “trying him with
questions,” when he was quite a child, and was so much pleased with the
sense and manliness of his answers that she used jocularly to call him
“her young Lord Keeper of the Seals.” Bacon himself relates that while
he was a boy, the Queen once asked him his age; the precocious courtier
readily replied that he “was just two years younger than her happy
reign.” He is said, also, when very young, to have stolen away from his
playfellows in order to investigate the cause of a singular echo in St.
James’s Fields, which attracted his attention.

Until the age of thirteen he remained under the tuition of his
accomplished mother, aided by a private tutor only; under their care
he attained the elements of the classics, that education preliminary
to the studies of the University. At thirteen he was sent to Trinity
College, Cambridge, where his father had been educated. Here he studied
diligently the great models of antiquity, mathematics, and philosophy,
worshipped, however, but indevoutly at the shrine of Aristotle, whom,
according to Rawley, his chaplain and biographer, he already derided
“for the unfruitfulness of the way,—being only strong for disputation,
but barren of the production of works for the life of man.” He remained
three years at this seat of learning, without, however, taking a degree
at his departure.

When he was but sixteen years old he began his travels, the
indispensable end of every finished education in England. He repaired
to Paris, where he resided some time under the care of Sir Amyas
Paulet, the English minister at the court of France.

Here he invented an ingenious method of writing in cipher; an art which
he probably cultivated with a view to a diplomatic career.

He visited several of the provinces of France and of the towns of
Italy. Italy was then the country in which human knowledge in all its
branches was most successfully cultivated. It is related by Signor
Cancellieri that Bacon, when at Rome, presented himself as a candidate
to the Academy of the _Lincei_, and was not admitted.[5] He remained
on the continent for three years, until his father’s death, in 1580.
The melancholy event, which bereft him of his parent, at the age of
nineteen, was fatal to his prospects. His father had intended to
purchase an estate for his youngest son, as he had done for his other
sons; but he dying before this intention was realized, the money was
equally divided between all the children; so that Francis inherited
but one fifth of that fortune intended for him alone. He was the
only one of the sons that was left unprovided for. He had now “to
study to live,” instead of “living to study.” He wished, to use his
own language, “to become a true pioneer in that mine of truth which
lies so deep.” He applied to the government for a provision which his
father’s interest would easily have secured him, and by which he might
dispense with a profession. The Queen must have looked with favor
upon the son of a minister, who had served her faithfully for twenty
long years, and upon a young man whom, when he was a child, she had
caressed, she had distinguished by the appellation of her “young Lord
Keeper.” But Francis Bacon was abandoned, and perhaps opposed by the
colleague and nearest friend of his father, the brother-in-law of his
mother, his maternal uncle, Lord Burleigh, then Prime Minister, who
feared for his son the rivalry of his all-talented nephew. It is a
trick common to envy and detraction, to convert a man’s very qualities
into their concomitant defects; and because Bacon was a great thinker,
he was represented as unfit for the active duties of business, as “a
man rather of show than of depth,” as “a speculative man, indulging
himself in philosophical reveries, and calculated more to perplex than
to promote public business.”[6] Thus was the future ornament of his
country and of mankind sacrificed to Robert, afterwards Sir Robert
Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, of whose history fame has learned but little,
save the execution of Essex and Mary Queen of Scots, the name, and this
petty act of mean jealousy of his father! In the disposal of patronage
and place, acts and even motives of this species are not so unfrequent
as the world would appear to imagine. In all ages, it is to be feared,
many and great, as in Shakspeare’s time, are,

                                  the spurns
  That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes.

It is, however, but justice to the morals of Lord Burleigh, to add that
he was insensible to literary merit; he thought a hundred pounds too
great a reward to be given to Spenser for what he termed “an old song,”
for so he denominated the _Faery Queen_.

Bacon then selected the law as his profession; and in 1580 he was
entered of Gray’s Inn;[7] he resisted the temptations of his companions
and friends, (for his company was much courted), and diligently
pursued the study he had chosen; but he did not at this time entirely
lose sight of his philosophical speculations, for he then published
his _Temporis partus maximus_, or _The Greatest Birth of Time_. This
work, notwithstanding its pompous title, was unnoticed or rather fell
stillborn from the press; the sole trace of it is found in one of his
letters to Father Fulgentio.

In 1586, he was called to the bar; his practice there appears to have
been limited, although not without success; for the Queen and the Court
are said to have gone to hear him when he was engaged in any celebrated
cause. He was, at this period of his life, frequently admitted to the
Queen’s presence and conversation. He was appointed her Majesty’s
Counsel Extraordinary,[8] but he had no salary and small fees.

In 1592, his uncle, the Lord Treasurer, procured for him the reversion
of the registrarship of the Star Chamber, worth sixteen hundred pounds
(forty thousand francs) a year; but the office did not become vacant
till twenty years after, so that, as Bacon justly observes, “it might
mend his prospects, but did not fill his barns.”

A parliament was summoned in 1593, and Bacon was returned to the House
of Commons, for the County of Middlesex; he distinguished himself
here as a speaker. “The fear of every man who heard him,” says his
contemporary, Ben Jonson, “was lest he should make an end.” He made,
however, on one occasion a speech which much displeased the Queen and
Court. Elizabeth directed the Lord Keeper to intimate to him that he
must expect neither favor nor promotion; the repentant courtier replied
in writing, that “her Majesty’s favor was dearer to him than his

In the following year the situation of Solicitor-General[10] became
vacant. Bacon ardently aspired to it. He applied successively to Lord
Burleigh, his uncle, to Lord Puckering, his father’s successor, to
the Earl of Essex, their rival, and finally to the Queen herself,
accompanying his letters, as was the custom of the times, with a
present, a jewel.[11] But once more he saw mediocrity preferred, and
himself rejected. A Serjeant Fleming was appointed her Majesty’s
Solicitor-General. Bacon, overwhelmed by this disappointment, wished to
retire from public life, and to reside abroad. “I hoped,” said he in a
letter to Sir Robert Cecil, “her Majesty would not be offended that,
not able to endure the sun, I fled into the shade.”

The Earl of Essex, whose mind, says Mr. Macaulay, “naturally disposed
to admiration of all that is great and beautiful, was fascinated by
the genius and the accomplishments of Bacon,”[12] had exerted every
effort in Bacon’s behalf; to use his own language, he “spent all his
power, might, authority, and amity;” he now sought to indemnify him,
and, with royal munificence, presented him with an estate of the value
of nearly two thousand pounds, a sum worth perhaps four or five times
the amount in the money of our days. If anything could enhance the
benefaction, it was the delicacy with which it was conferred, or, as
Bacon himself expresses it, “with so kind and noble circumstances as
the manner was worth more than the matter.”

Bacon published his _Essays_ in 1597; he considered them but as the
“recreations of his other studies.” The idea of them was probably first
suggested by Montaigne’s _Essais_, but there is little resemblance
between the two works beyond the titles. The first edition contained
but ten Essays, which were shorter than they now are. The work was
reprinted in 1598, with little or no variation; again in 1606; and in
1612 there was a fourth edition, etc. However, he afterwards, he says,
“enlarged it both in number and weight;” but it did not assume its
present form until the ninth edition, in 1625, that is, twenty-eight
years after its first publication, and one year before the death of the
author. It appeared under the new title of _The Essaies or Covnsels
Civill and Morall, of Francis Lo. Vervlam,_ _Viscovnt St. Alban.
Newly enlarged._ This is not followed by the _Religious Meditations,
Places of Perswasion and Disswasion, seene and allowed_. The _Essays_
were soon translated into Italian with the title of _Saggi Morali del
Signore Francesco Bacono, Cavagliero Inglese, Gran Cancelliero d’
Inghilterra_. This translation was dedicated to Cosmo de Medici, Grand
Duke of Tuscany; and was reprinted in London in 1618. Of the three
Essays added after Bacon’s decease, two of them, _Of a King_ and _Of
Death_, are not genuine; the _Fragment of an Essay on Fame_ alone is

In this same year (1597) he again took his seat in Parliament. He soon
made ample amends for his opposition speech in the previous session;
but this time he gained the favor of the Court without forfeiting his
popularity in the House of Commons.

He now thought of strengthening his interest, or increasing his
fortune, by a matrimonial connection; and he sought the hand of a
rich widow, Lady Hatton, his second cousin; but here he was again
doomed to disappointment; a preference was given to his old rival,
the Attorney-General, Sir Edward Coke, notwithstanding the “seven
objections to him—his six children and himself.” But although Bacon
was perhaps unaware of it, the rejection of his suit was one of the
happiest events of his life; for the eccentric manners and violent
temper of the lady rendered her a torment to all around her, and
probably most of all to her husband. In reality, as has been wittily
observed, the lady was doubly kind to him; “she rejected him, and she
accepted his enemy.”

Another mortification awaited him at this period. A relentless
creditor, a usurer, had him arrested for a debt of three hundred
pounds, and he was conveyed to a spunging-house, where he was confined
for a few days, until arrangements could be made to satisfy the claim
or the claimant.

We now arrive at a painfully sad point in the life of Bacon; a dark
foul spot, which should be hidden forever, did not history, like the
magistrate of Egypt that interrogated the dead, demand that the truth,
the whole truth, should be told.

We have seen that between Bacon and the Earl of Essex, all was
disinterested affection on the part of the latter; the Earl employed
his good offices for him, exerted heart and soul to insure his success
as Solicitor-General, and, on Bacon’s failure, conferred on him a
princely favor, a gift of no ordinary value.

When Essex’s fortunes declined, and the Earl fell into disgrace, Bacon
endeavored to mediate between the Queen and her favorite. The case
became hopeless. Essex left his command in Ireland without leave,
was ordered in confinement, and after a long imprisonment and trial
before the Privy Council, he was liberated. Irritated by the refusal
of a favor he solicited, he was betrayed into reflections on the
Queen’s age and person, which were never to be forgiven, and he engaged
in a conspiracy to seize on the Queen, and to settle a new plan of
government. On the failure of this attempt, he was arrested, committed
to the Tower, and brought to trial for high treason before the House
of Peers. During his long captivity, who does not expect to see Bacon,
his friend, a frequent visitor in his cell? Before the two tribunals,
can we fail to meet Bacon, his counsel, at his side? We trace Bacon
at Court, where, he assures us, after Elizabeth’s death, that he
endeavored to appease and reconcile the Queen; but the place was too
distant from the prison: for he never visited there his fallen friend.

At the first trial, Bacon did indeed make his appearance, but as “her
Majesty’s Counsel extraordinary,” not for the defence, but for the
prosecution of the prisoner. But he may be expected at least to have
treated him leniently? He admits he did not, on account, as he tells
us, of the “superior duty he owed to the Queen’s fame and honor in a
public proceeding.” But hitherto, the Earl’s liberty alone had been
endangered; now, his life is at stake. Do not the manifold favors, the
munificent benefactions all arise in the generous mind of Bacon? Does
he not waive all thought of interest and promotion and worldly honor
to devote himself wholly to the sacred task of saving his patron,
benefactor, and friend? Her Majesty’s Counsel extraordinary appeared
in the place of the Solicitor-General, to reply to Essex’s defence;
he compared the accused first to Cain, then to Pisistratus. The Earl
made a pathetic appeal to his judges; Bacon showed he had not answered
his objections, and compared him to the Duke of Guise, the most odious
comparison he could have instituted. Essex was condemned; the Queen
wavered in her resolution to execute him; his friend’s intercession
might perhaps have been able to save Essex from an ignominious death.
Did Bacon, in his turn, “spend all his power, might, and amity?” The
Queen’s Counsel extraordinary might have offended his sovereign by
his importunity, and have been forgotten in the impending vacancy of
the office of Solicitor-General! Essex died on the scaffold. But the
execution rendered the Queen unpopular, and she was received with
mournful silence when she appeared in public. She ordered a pamphlet
to be written to justify the execution; she made choice of Bacon as
the writer; the courtier did not decline the task, but published _A
Declaration of the Practices and Treasons attempted and committed by
Robert, late Earle of Essex and his Complices, against her Maiestie and
her Kingdoms_. This faithless friend, to use the language of Macaulay,
“exerted his professional talents to shed the Earl’s blood, and his
literary talents to blacken the Earl’s memory.”

The memory of Essex suffered but little from the attack of the
pamphlet; the base pamphleteer’s memory is blackened forever, and
to his fair name of “the wisest, brightest,” has been appended the
“meanest of mankind.” But let us cast a pall over this act, this moral
murder, perpetrated by the now degraded orator, degraded philosopher,
the now most degraded of men.

Elizabeth died in 1601; and before the arrival of James, in England,
Bacon wrote him a pedantic letter, probably to gratify the taste of
the pedant king; but he did not forget in it, “his late dear sovereign
Mistress—a princess happy in all things, but most happy—in such a

Bacon solicited the honor of knighthood, a distinction much lavished at
this period. At the King’s coronation, he knelt down in company with
above three hundred gentlemen; but “he rose Sir Francis.” He sought
the hand of a rich alderman’s daughter, Miss Barnham, who consented to
become Lady Bacon.

The Earl of Southampton, Shakspeare’s generous patron and friend, who
had been convicted of high treason in the late reign, now received the
King’s pardon. This called to all men’s minds the fate of the unhappy
Earl of Essex, and of his odiously ungrateful accuser; the latter
unadvisedly published the _Sir Francis Bacon, his Apologie in certaine
imputations concerning the late Earle of Essex_; a defence which, in
the estimation of one of his biographers, Lord Campbell, has injured
him more with posterity than all the attacks of his enemies.

In the new Parliament, he represented the borough of Ipswich; he spoke
frequently, and obtained the good graces of the King by the support he
gave to James’s favorite plan of a union of England and Scotland; a
measure by no means palatable to the King’s new subjects.

The object of all his hopes, the price, perhaps, of his conduct to
Essex, seemed in 1606 to be within his reach; but he was once more to
be disappointed. His old enemy, Sir Edward Coke, prevented the vacancy.
The following year, however, after long and humiliating solicitation,
he attained the office to which he had so long aspired, and was
appointed Solicitor-General to the Crown.

Official advancement was now the object nearest his heart, and he
longed to be Attorney-General.[13]

In 1613, by a master stroke of policy, he created a vacancy for himself
as Attorney-General, and managed at the same time to disserve his old
enemy, Coke, by getting him preferred in rank, but at the expense of
considerable pecuniary loss.

After his new appointment, he was reëlected to his seat in the House
of Commons; he had gained so much popularity there, that the House
admitted him, although it resolved to exclude future Attorneys-General;
a resolution rescinded by later Parliaments.

The Attorney-General, as may be supposed, did not lack zeal in his
master’s service and for his master’s prerogative. One case, in
particular, was atrocious. An aged clergyman, named Peacham, was
prosecuted for high treason for a sermon which he had neither preached
nor published; the unfortunate old man was apprehended, put to the
torture in presence of the Attorney-General, and as the latter himself
tells us, was examined “before torture, between torture, and after
torture,” although Bacon must have been fully aware that the laws of
England did not sanction torture to extort confession. Bacon tampered
with the judges, and obtained a conviction; but the government durst
not carry the sentence into execution. Peacham languished in prison
till the ensuing year, when Providence rescued him from the hands of
human justice.

In 1616, Bacon was offered the formal promise of the Chancellorship, or
an actual appointment as Privy Councillor; he was too prudent not to
prefer an appointment to a promise, and he was accordingly nominated
to the functions of member of the Privy Council. His present leisure
enabled him to prosecute vigorously his _Novum Organum_, but he turned
aside to occupy himself with a proposition for the amendment of the
laws of England, on which Lord Campbell, assuredly the most competent
of judges, passes a high encomium.

At length, in 1617, Sir Francis Bacon attained the end of the ambition
of his life, he became Lord Keeper of the Seals, with the functions,
though not the title, of Lord High Chancellor of England. His promotion
to this dignity gave general satisfaction; his own university,
Cambridge, congratulated him; Oxford imitated the example; the world
expected a perfect judge, formed from his own model in his Essay of
Judicature. He took his seat in the Court of Chancery with the utmost
pomp and parade.

The Lord Keeper now endeavored to “feed fat the ancient grudge” he
bore Coke. He deprived him of the office of Chief Justice, and erased
his name from the list of privy councillors. Coke imagined a plan
of raising his falling fortunes; he projected a marriage between
his daughter by his second wife, a very rich heiress, and Sir John
Villiers, the brother of Buckingham, the King’s favorite. Bacon was
alarmed, wrote to the King, and used expressions of disparagement
towards the favorite, his new patron, to whom he was indebted for the
Seals he held. The King and his minion were equally indignant; and
they did not conceal from him their resentment. On the return of the
court, Bacon hastened to the residence of Buckingham; being denied
admittance, he waited two whole days in the ante-chamber with the Great
Seal of England in his hand. When at length he obtained access, the
Lord Keeper threw himself and the Great Seal on the ground, kissed the
favorite’s feet, and vowed never to rise till he was forgiven! It must
after this have been difficult indeed for him to rise again in the
world’s esteem or his own.

Bacon was made to purchase at a dear price his reinstatement in the
good graces of Buckingham. The favorite constantly wrote to the judge
in behalf of one of the parties, and in the end, says Lord Campbell,
intimated that he was to dictate the decree. Nor did Bacon once
remonstrate against this unwarrantable interference on the part of
the man to whom he had himself recommended “by no means to interpose
himself, either by word or letter in any cause depending on any court
of justice.” The Lord Keeper received soon after, in 1618, the reward
of his “many faithful services” by the higher title of Lord High
Chancellor of England, and by the peerage with the name of Baron of

The new Minister of Justice lent himself with his wonted complaisance
to a most outrageous act of injustice, which Macaulay stigmatizes as a
“dastardly murder,” that of the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh, under
a sentence pronounced sixteen years before; Sir Walter having been in
the interval invested with the high command of Admiral of the fleet.
Such an act it was the imperative duty of the first magistrate of the
realm not to promote, but to resist to the full extent of his power;
and the Chancellor alone could issue the warrant for the execution!

In 1620, he published what is usually considered his greatest work, his
_Novum Organum_ (New Instrument or Method), which forms the second part
of the _Instauratio Magna_ (Great Restoration of the Sciences). This
work had occupied Bacon’s leisure for nearly thirty years. Such was
the care he bestowed on it, that Rawley, his chaplain and biographer,
states that he had seen about twelve autograph copies of it, corrected
and improved until it assumed the shape in which it appeared. Previous
to the publication of the _Novum Organum_, says the illustrious Sir
John Herschel, “natural philosophy, in any legitimate and extensive
sense of the word, could hardly be said to exist.”[14]

It cannot be expected that a work destined completely to change
the state of science, we had almost said of nature, should not be
assailed by that prejudice which is ever ready to raise its loud but
unmeaning voice against whatever is new, how great or good soever it
may be. Bacon’s doctrine was accused of being calculated to produce
“dangerous revolutions,” to “subvert governments and the authority of
religion.” Some called on the present age and posterity to rise high
in their resentment against “the Bacon-faced generation,” for so were
the experimentalists termed. The old cry of irreligion, nay, even of
atheism, was raised against the man who had said: “I would rather
believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran,
than that this universal frame is without a mind.”[15] But Bacon had
to encounter the prejudices even of the learned. Cuffe, the Earl of
Essex’s secretary, a man celebrated for his attainments, said of the
_Instauratio Magna_, “a fool could not have written such a book, and a
wise man would not.” King James said, it was “like the peace of God,
that surpasseth all understanding.” And even Harvey, the discoverer
of the circulation of the blood, said to Aubrey: “Bacon is no great
philosopher; he writes philosophy like a Lord Chancellor.” Rawley, his
secretary and his biographer, laments, some years after his friend’s
death, that “his fame is greater and sounds louder in foreign parts
abroad than at home in his own nation; thereby verifying that divine
sentence: A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country and
in his own house.” Bacon was for some time without honor “in his own
country and in his own house.” But truth on this, as on all other
occasions, triumphs in the end. Bacon’s assailants are forgotten; Bacon
will be remembered with gratitude and veneration forever.

He was again, in 1621, promoted in the peerage to be Viscount
Saint-Albans; his patent particularly celebrating his “integrity in the
administration of justice.”

In this same year the Parliament assembled. The House of Commons first
voted the subsidies demanded by the Crown, and next proceeded, as was
usual in those times, to the redress of grievances. A committee of the
House was appointed to inquire into “the abuses of Courts of Justice.”
A report of this committee charged the Lord Chancellor with corruption,
and specified two cases; in the first of which Aubrey, a suitor in his
court, stated that he had presented the Lord Chancellor with a hundred
pounds; and Egerton, another suitor in his court, with four hundred
pounds in addition to a former piece of plate of the value of fifty
pounds; in both cases decisions had been given against the parties
whose presents had been received. (Lord Campbell asserts that in the
case of Egerton both parties had made the Chancellor presents.)[16] His
enemies, it is said, estimated his illicit gains at a hundred thousand
pounds; a statement which, it is more than probable, is greatly
exaggerated.[17] “I never had,” said Bacon in his defence, “bribe or
reward in my eye or thought when I pronounced sentence or order.” This
is an acknowledgment of the fact, and perhaps an aggravation of the
offence. He then addressed “an humble submission” to the House, a kind
of general admission, in which he invoked as a plea of excuse _vitia

How widely different from this is his own language! It is fair justice
to appeal from the judge to the tribunal of the philosopher and
moralist; it is appealing from Philip drunk to Philip sober; unhappily
it is likewise

            to have the engineer
  Hoist with his own petar.

He says, in his Essay of Great Place: “For corruption: do not only
bind thine own hands, or thy servant’s hands from taking, but bind
the hands of suitors from offering. For integrity used doth the one;
but integrity professed, and with a manifest detestation of bribery,
doth the other; and avoid not only the fault, but the suspicion.”[18]
He says again, in the same Essay: “Set it down to thyself, as well to
create good precedents as to follow them.”

But the allegation that it was a custom of the times requires
examination. It was a custom of the times in reality to make presents
to superiors. Queen Elizabeth received them as New Year’s gifts from
functionaries of all ranks, from her prime minister down to Charles
Smith, the dust-man (see note 1, page 7), and this custom probably
continued under her successor, and may have been applied to other high
functionaries, but it does not appear to have been in legitimate use
in the courts of judicature. Coke, himself Chief Justice, was Bacon’s
principal accuser; and, although an enemy, he has been said to have
conducted himself with moderation and propriety on this occasion only.
Lord Campbell, Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench, and author
of the _Lives of the Chancellors and Chief Justices of England_,
repels the plea, as inadmissible. It cannot be denied that if Bacon
extended the practice to the courts of justice, he has heaped coals
of fire on his head; for applied to his own case personally it would
be sufficiently odious; but what odium would not that man deserve who
should systematize, nay, legitimize a practice that must inevitably
poison the stream of justice at its fountain-head! What execration
could be too great, if that man were the most intelligent, the wisest
of his century, one of the most dignified in rank in the land, clad
in spotless ermine, the emblem of purity, in short, the Minister of

The Lords resolved that Bacon should be called upon to put in a
particular answer to each of the special charges preferred against
him. The formal articles with proofs in support were communicated to
him. The House received the “confession and humble submission of me,
the Lord Chancellor.” In this document, Bacon acknowledges himself to
be guilty of corruption; and in reply to each special charge admits in
every instance the receipt of money or valuable things from the suitors
in his court; but alleging in some cases that it was after judgment,
or as New Year’s gifts, a custom of the times, or for prior services.
A committee of nine temporal and three spiritual lords was appointed
to ascertain whether it was he who had subscribed this document. The
committee repaired to his residence, were received in the hall where
he had been accustomed to sit as judge, and merely asked him if the
signature affixed to the paper they exhibited to him was his. He
passionately exclaimed: “My lords, it is my act, my hand, my heart. I
beseech your lordships to be merciful to a broken reed.” The committee
withdrew, overwhelmed with grief at the sight of such greatness so

Four commissioners dispatched by the King demanded the Great Seal of
the Chancellor, confined to his bed by sickness and sorrow and want of
sustenance; for he refused to take any food. He hid his face in his
hand, and delivered up that Great Seal for the attainment of which he
“had sullied his integrity, had resigned his independence, had violated
the most sacred obligations of friendship and gratitude, had flattered
the worthless, had persecuted the innocent, had tampered with judges,
had tortured prisoners, had plundered suitors, had wasted on paltry
intrigues all the powers of the most exquisitely constructed intellect
that has ever been bestowed on any of the children of men.”[19]

All this he did to be Lord High Chancellor of England; and, had he not
been the unworthy minister of James, he might have been, to use the
beautiful language of Hallam, “the high-priest of nature.”

On the 3d of May, he was unanimously declared to be guilty, and he was
sentenced to a fine of forty thousand pounds, to be imprisoned in the
Tower during the King’s pleasure, to be incapable of holding any public
office, and of sitting in Parliament or of coming within the verge of
the court.[20] Such was the sentence pronounced on the man whom three
months before the King _delighted to honor_ for “his integrity in the
administration of justice.”

The fatal verdict affected his health so materially that the judgment
could not receive immediate execution; he could not be conveyed to
the Tower until the 31st of May; the following day he was liberated.
He repaired to the house of Sir John Vaughan, who held a situation in
the prince’s household.[21] He wished to retire to his own residence
at York House; but this was refused. He was ordered to proceed to his
seat at Gorhambury, whence he was not to remove, and where he remained,
though very reluctantly, till the ensuing spring.

The heavy fine was remitted. But as he had lived in great pomp, he had
economized naught from his legitimate or ill-gotten gains. As he was
now insolvent, a pension of twelve hundred pounds a year was bestowed
on him; from his estate and other revenues he derived thirteen hundred
pounds per annum more. On the 17th of October, his remaining penalties
were remitted. It cannot but strike the reader as a most remarkable
circumstance that, within eighteen months of the condemnation, all the
penalties were successively remitted. Would this induce the belief
that he was but the scape-goat of the court, that the condemnation was
purely political? It is, we believe, to be explained ostensibly by the
advanced age of Bacon, but really by the circumstance that the King’s
favorite, Buckingham, was an accomplice.

Bacon discovered, alas! when it was too late, that the talent God had
given him he had “misspent in things for which he was least fit;” or as
Thomson has beautifully expressed it:[22]—

                    Hapless in his choice,
  Unfit to stand the civil storm of state,
  And through the smooth barbarity of courts,
  With firm, but pliant virtue, forward still
  To urge his course; him for the studious shade
  Kind Nature form’d; deep, comprehensive, clear,
  Exact, and elegant; in one rich soul,
  Plato, the Stagyrite and Tully join’d.
  The great deliverer he!

It is gratifying to turn from the melancholy scenes exhibited by the
political life of Bacon, to behold him in his study in the deep search
of truth; no contrast is more striking than that between the chancellor
and the philosopher, or, as Macaulay has well termed it, “Bacon seeking
for truth, and Bacon seeking for the Seals—Bacon in speculation, and
Bacon in action.” From amidst clouds and darkness we emerge into the
full blaze and splendor of midday light.

We now find Bacon wholly devoting himself to the pursuits for which
nature adapted him, and from which no extent of occupation could
entirely detach him. The author redeemed the man; in the philosopher
and the poet there was no weakness, no corruption.

  Nothing is here for tears; nothing to wail
  Or knock the breast; no weakness, no contempt,
  Dispraise or blame, nothing but well and fair.

Here the writer yielded not to _vitia temporis_; but combated them with
might and main, with heart and soul.

In 1623, he published the _Life of Henry VII._ In a letter addressed
to the Queen of Bohemia with a copy, he says pathetically: “’Time was
I had honor without leisure, and now I have leisure without honor.”
But his honor without leisure had precipitated him into “bottomless
perdition;” his leisure without honor retrieved his name, and raised
him again to an unattainable height.

In the following year, he printed his Latin translation of the
_Advancement of Learning_, under the title of _De Dignitate et
Augmentis Scientiarum_.

This was not, however, a mere translation; for he made in it omissions
and alterations; and appears to have added about one third new matter;
in short, he remodelled it. His work, replete with poetry and beautiful
imagery, was received with applause throughout Europe. It was reprinted
in France in 1624, one year after its appearance in England. It was
immediately translated into French and Italian, and was published in
Holland, the great book-mart of that time, in 1645, 1650, and 1662.

In 1624, he solicited of the King a remission of the sentence, to the
end, says he, “that blot of ignominy may be removed from me and from
my memory with posterity.” The King granted him a full pardon. But he
never more took his seat in the House of Lords. When the new Parliament
met, after the accession of Charles the First, age, infirmity, and
tardy wisdom had extinguished the ambition of Baron Verulam, Viscount
St. Albans. When the writ of summons to the Parliament reached him, he
exclaimed: “I have done with such vanities!”

But the philosopher pursued his labor of love. He published new
editions of his writings, and translated them into Latin, from the
mistaken notion that in that language alone could they be rescued from
oblivion. His crabbed latinity is now read but by few, or even may be
said to be nearly forgotten; while his noble, majestic English is read
over the whole British empire, on which the sun never sets, is studied
and admired throughout the old world and the new, and it will be so by
generations still unborn; it will descend to posterity in company with
his contemporary, Shakspeare (whose name he never mentions), and will
endure as long as the great and glorious language itself; indeed, as he
foretold of his Essays, it “will live as long as books last.”

In the translation of his works into Latin, he was assisted by Rawley,
his future biographer, and his two friends, Ben Jonson, the poet, and
Hobbes, the philosopher.

He wrote for his “own recreation,” amongst very serious studies, a
_Collection of Apophthegms, New and Old_, said to have been dictated in
one rainy day, but probably the result of several “rainy days.” This
contains many excellent jocular anecdotes, and has been, perhaps, with
too much indulgence, pronounced by Macaulay to be the best jest-book in
the world.

He commenced a _Digest of the Laws of England_, but he soon
discontinued it, because it was “a work of assistance, and that which
he could not master by his own forces and pen.” James the First had not
sufficient elevation of mind to afford him the means of securing the
assistance he required.

He wrote his will with his own hand on the 19th of December, 1625. He
directs that he shall be interred in St. Michael’s Church, near St.
Albans: “There was my mother buried, and it is the parish church of
my mansion-house at Gorhambury.... For my name and memory, I leave it
to men’s charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and the next
ages.” This supreme act of filial piety towards his gifted mother is
affecting. Let no “uncharitable” word be uttered over his last solemn
behest; foreign nations and all ages will not refuse a tribute of
homage to his genius! Gassendi presents an analysis of his labors, and
pays a tribute of admiration to their author; Descartes has mentioned
him with encomium; Malebranche quotes him as an authority; Puffendorff
expressed admiration of him; the University of Oxford presented to him,
after his fall, an address, in which he is termed “a mighty Hercules,
who had by his own hand greatly advanced those pillars in the learned
world which by the rest of the world were supposed immovable.” Leibnitz
ascribed to him the revival of true philosophy; Newton had studied
him so closely that he adopted even his phraseology; Voltaire and
D’Alembert have rendered him popular in France. The modern philosophers
of all Europe regard him reverentially as the father of experimental

He attempted at this late period of his life a metrical translation
into English of the Psalms of David; although his prose is full of
poetry, his verse has but little of the divine art.

He again declined to take his seat as a peer in Charles’s second
Parliament; but the last stage of his life displayed more dignity and
real greatness than the “pride, pomp, and circumstance” of his high
offices and honors. The public of England and of “foreign nations”
forgot the necessity of “charitable speeches” and anticipated “the
next ages.” The most distinguished foreigners repaired to Gray’s Inn
to pay their respects to him. The Marquis d’Effiat, who brought over
to England the Princess Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles the
First, went to see him. Bacon, confined to his bed, but unwilling to
decline the visit, received him with the curtains drawn. “You resemble
the angels,” said the French minister to him, “we hear those beings
continually talked of; we believe them superior to mankind; and we
never have the consolation to see them.”

But in ill health and infirmity he continued his studies and
experiments; as it occurred to him that snow might preserve animal
substances from putrefaction as well as salt, he tried the experiment,
and stuffed a fowl with snow with his own hands. “The great apostle of
experimental philosophy was destined to become its martyr;” he took
cold. From his bed he dictated a letter to the Earl of Arundel, to
whose house he had been conveyed. “I was likely to have had the fortune
of Caïus Plinius the Elder, who lost his life by trying an experiment
about the burning of the Mount Vesuvius. For I was also desirous to
try an experiment or two touching the conservation and induration of
bodies. As for the experiment itself, it succeeded excellently well.”
He had, indeed, the fortune of Pliny the Elder; for he never recovered
from the effects of his cold, which brought on fever and a complaint of
the chest; and he expired on the 9th of April, 1626, in the sixty-sixth
year of his age. Thus died, a victim to his devotion to science,
Francis Bacon, whose noble death is an expiation of the errors of his
life, and who was, as has been justly observed, notwithstanding all his
faults, one of the greatest ornaments and benefactors of the human race.

No account has been preserved of his funeral; but probably it was
private. Sir Thomas Meautys, his faithful secretary, erected at his own
expense a monument to Bacon’s memory. Bacon is represented sitting,
reclining on his hand, and absorbed in meditation. The effigy bears the
inscription: _sic sedebat_.

The singular fact ought not to be omitted, that notwithstanding the
immense sums that had been received by him, legitimately or otherwise,
he died insolvent. The fault of his life had been that he never adapted
his expenses to his income; perhaps even he never calculated them.
To what irretrievable ruin did not this lead him? To disgrace and
dishonor, in the midst of his career; to insolvency at its end. His
love of worldly grandeur was uncontrollable, or at least uncontrolled.
“The virtue of prosperity is temperance,” says he himself; but this
virtue he did not possess. His stately bark rode proudly over the
waves, unmindful of the rocks; on one of these, alas! it split and

Bacon was very prepossessing in his person; he was in stature above
the middle size; his forehead was broad and high, of an intellectual
appearance; his eye was lively and expressive; and his countenance bore
early the marks of deep thought.

It might be mentioned here with instruction to the reader, that few
men were more impressed than Bacon with the value of time, the most
precious element of life. He assiduously employed the smallest portions
of it; considering justly that the days, the hours, nay minutes of
existence require the greatest care at our hands; the weeks, months,
and years have been wisely said to take care of themselves. His
chaplain, Rawley, remarks: “_Nullum momentum aut temporis segmentum
perire et intercidere passus est_,” he suffered no moment nor fragment
of time to pass away unprofitably. It is this circumstance that
explains to us the great things he accomplished even in the most busy
part of his life.

The whole of Bacon’s biography has been admirably recapitulated by Lord
Campbell[23] in the following paragraph:—

  “We have seen him taught his alphabet by his mother; patted
  on the head by Queen Elizabeth; mocking the worshippers of
  Aristotle at Cambridge; catching the first glimpses of his great
  discoveries, and yet uncertain whether the light was from heaven;
  associating with the learned and the gay at the court of France;
  devoting himself to Bracton[24] and the Year Books in Gray’s
  Inn; throwing aside the musty folios of the law to write a moral
  Essay, to make an experiment in natural philosophy, or to detect
  the fallacies which had hitherto obstructed the progress of
  useful truth; contented for a time with taking “all knowledge for
  his province;” roused from these speculations by the stings of
  vulgar ambition; plying all the arts of flattery to gain official
  advancement by royal and courtly favor; entering the House of
  Commons, and displaying powers of oratory of which he had been
  unconscious; being seduced by the love of popular applause, for
  a brief space becoming a patriot; making amends, by defending
  all the worst excesses of prerogative; publishing to the world
  lucubrations on morals, which show the nicest perception of what
  is honorable and beautiful as well as prudent, in the conduct
  of life; yet the son of a Lord Keeper, the nephew of the prime
  minister, a Queen’s counsel, with the first practice at the
  bar, arrested for debt, and languishing in a spunging-house;
  tired with vain solicitations to his own kindred for promotion,
  joining the party of their opponent, and after experiencing the
  most generous kindness from the young and chivalrous head of
  it, assisting to bring him to the scaffold, and to blacken his
  memory; seeking, by a mercenary marriage to repair his broken
  fortunes; on the accession of a new sovereign offering up the
  most servile adulation to a pedant whom he utterly despised;
  infinitely gratified by being permitted to kneel down, with three
  hundred others, to receive the honor of knighthood; truckling
  to a worthless favorite with the most slavish subserviency that
  he might be appointed a law-officer of the Crown; then giving
  the most admirable advice for the compilation and emendation
  of the laws of England, and helping to inflict torture on a
  poor parson whom he wished to hang as a traitor for writing an
  unpublished and unpreached sermon; attracting the notice of all
  Europe by his philosophical works, which established a new era
  in the mode of investigating the phenomena both of matter and
  mind; basely intriguing in the meanwhile for further promotion,
  and writing secret letters to his sovereign to disparage his
  rivals; riding proudly between the Lord High Treasurer and Lord
  Privy Seal, preceded by his mace-bearer and purse-bearer, and
  followed by a long line of nobles and judges, to be installed
  in the office of Lord High Chancellor; by and by, settling with
  his servants the account of the bribes they had received for
  him; a little embarrassed by being obliged, out of decency, the
  case being so clear, to decide against the party whose money
  he had pocketed, but stifling the misgivings of conscience by
  the splendor and flattery which he now commanded; struck to the
  earth by the discovery of his corruption; taking to his bed,
  and refusing sustenance; confessing the truth of the charges
  brought against him, and abjectly imploring mercy; nobly rallying
  from his disgrace, and engaging in new literary undertakings,
  which have added to the splendor of his name; still exhibiting
  a touch of his ancient vanity, and, in the midst of pecuniary
  embarrassment, refusing to ‘be stripped of his feathers;’[25]
  inspired, nevertheless, with all his youthful zeal for science,
  in conducting his last experiment of ‘stuffing a fowl with snow
  to preserve it,’ which succeeded ‘excellently well,’ but brought
  him to his grave; and, as the closing act of a life so checkered,
  making his will, whereby, conscious of the shame he had incurred
  among his contemporaries, but impressed with a swelling
  conviction of what he had achieved for mankind, he bequeathed
  his ‘name and memory to men’s charitable speeches, to foreign
  nations, and the next ages.’”

After this brilliant recapitulation of the principal facts of Bacon’s
eventful life, there remains the difficult task of examining his
character as a writer and philosopher; and then of presenting some
observations on his principal works. As these subjects have occupied
the attention of the master minds and most elegant writers of England,
we shall unhesitatingly present the reader with the opinions of these,
the most competent judges in each special department.

But first, let the philosopher speak for himself.

The end and aim of the writings of Bacon are best described by himself,
as these descriptions may be gleaned from his various works. He taught,
to use his own language, the means, not of the “amplification of the
power of one man over his country, nor of the amplification of the
power of that country over other nations; but the amplification of the
power and kingdom of mankind over the world.”[26] “A restitution of
man to the sovereignty of nature.”[27] “The enlarging the bounds of
human empire to the effecting of all things possible.”[28] From the
enlargement of reason, he did not separate the growth of virtue; for he
thought that “truth and goodness were one, differing but as the seal
and the print, for truth prints goodness.”[29]

The art which Bacon taught, has been well said to be “the art of
inventing arts.”

The great qualities of his mind, as they are exhibited in his works,
have been well portrayed by the pen of Sir James Mackintosh. We
subjoin the opinion of this elegant writer in his own words:

  “It is easy to describe his transcendent merit in general terms
  of commendation: for some of his great qualities lie on the
  surface of his writings. But that in which he most excelled all
  other men, was in the range and compass of his intellectual
  view—the power of contemplating many and distant objects
  together, without indistinctness or confusion—which he himself
  has called the discursive or comprehensive understanding. This
  wide-ranging intellect was illuminated by the brightest Fancy
  that ever contented itself with the office of only ministering
  to Reason: and from this singular relation of the two grand
  faculties of man, it has resulted, that his philosophy, though
  illustrated still more than adorned by the utmost splendor of
  imagery, continues still subject to the undivided supremacy of
  intellect. In the midst of all the prodigality of an imagination
  which, had it been independent, would have been poetical, his
  opinions remained severely rational.

  “It is not so easy to conceive, or at least to describe, other
  equally essential elements of his greatness, and conditions of
  his success. He is probably a single instance of a mind which,
  in philosophizing, always reaches the point of elevation whence
  the whole prospect is commanded, without ever rising to such
  a distance as to lose a distinct perception of every part of

Mr. Macaulay speaks of the following peculiarity of Bacon’s

  “With great minuteness of observation he had an amplitude
  of comprehension such as has never yet been vouchsafed to
  any other human being. The small fine mind of La Bruyère had
  not a more delicate tact than the large intellect of Bacon.
  The “Essays” contain abundant proofs that no nice feature of
  character, no peculiarity in the ordering of a house, a garden,
  or a court-masque, could escape the notice of one whose mind
  was capable of taking in the whole world of knowledge. His
  understanding resembled the tent which the fairy Paribanou gave
  to prince Ahmed. Fold it, and it seemed a toy for the hand of the
  lady. Spread it, and the armies of powerful sultans might repose
  beneath its shade.

  “In keenness of observation he has been equalled, though,
  perhaps, never surpassed. But the largeness of his mind was all
  his own. The glance with which he surveyed the intellectual
  universe, resembled that which the archangel, from the golden
  threshold of heaven, darted down into the new creation.

    “Round he surveyed and well might, where he stood
    So high above the circling canopy
    Of night’s extended shade—from eastern point
    Of Libra, to the fleecy star which bears
    Andromeda far off Atlantic seas
    Beyond the horizon.”

Bacon’s philosophy is, to use an expression of his own, “the servant
and interpreter of nature;” he cultivated it in the leisure left him by
the assiduous study and practice of the law and by the willing duties
of a courtier; it was rather the recreation than the business of his
life; “my business,” said he, “found rest in my contemplations;” but
his very recreations rendered him, according to Leibnitz, the father
of experimental philosophy, and, according to all, the originator of
all its results, of all later discoveries in chemistry and the arts, in
short, of all modern science and its applications.

Mr. Macaulay is of opinion that the two leading principles of his
philosophy are _utility_ and _progress_; that the ethics of his
inductive method are to do good, to do more and more good, to mankind.

Lord Campbell believes that a most perfect body of ethics might be made
out from the writings of Bacon.

The origin of his philosophy was the conviction with which he was
impressed of the insufficiency of that of the ancients, or rather of
that of Aristotle, which reigned with almost undisputed sway throughout
Europe. He reverenced antiquity for its great works, its great men;
but not because of its ancientness; he deemed its decrees worthy of
reverential consideration, but did not think they admitted of no
appeal; he was not a bigot to antiquity or a contemner of modern times.
He happily combated that undue and blind submission to the authority
of ancient times for the mere reason that they are older than our own,
alleging truly that “ANTIQUITAS SECULI JUVENTUS MUNDI, that our times
are the ancient times, when the world is ancient, and not those which
we account ancient, _ordine retrogrado_, by a computation backward from

Throwing off, then, all allegiance to antiquity, he appealed directly
from Aristotle to nature, from reasoning to experiment.

But let us invoke the testimony of an eminent philosopher, Sir John

  “By the discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, the
  errors of the Aristotelian philosophy were effectually overturned
  on a plain appeal to the facts of nature; but it remained to
  show, on broad and general principles, how and why Aristotle
  was in the wrong; to set in evidence the peculiar weakness of
  his method of philosophizing, and to substitute in its place a
  stronger and better. This important task was executed by Francis
  Bacon, Lord Verulam, who will therefore justly be looked upon in
  all future ages as the great reformer of philosophy, though his
  own actual contributions to the stock of physical truths were
  small, and his ideas of particular points strongly tinctured with
  mistakes and errors, which were the fault rather of the general
  want of physical information of the age than of any narrowness
  of view on his own part; of this he was fully aware. It has been
  attempted by some to lessen the merit of this great achievement,
  by showing that the inductive method had been practised in many
  instances, both ancient and modern, by the mere instinct of
  mankind; but it is not the introduction of inductive reasoning,
  as a new and hitherto untried process, which characterizes the
  Baconian philosophy, but his keen perception, and his broad
  and spirit-stirring, almost enthusiastic, announcement of its
  paramount importance, as the alpha and omega of science, as the
  grand and only chain for the linking together of physical truths,
  and the eventual key to every discovery and every application.
  Those who would deny him his just glory on such grounds would
  refuse to Jenner or to Howard their civic crowns, because a
  few farmers in a remote province had, time out of mind, been
  acquainted with vaccination, or philanthropists, in all ages, had
  occasionally visited the prisoner in his dungeon.”

  “It is to our immortal countryman Bacon,” says he, again,
  “that we owe the broad announcement of this grand and fertile
  principle; and the development of the idea, that the whole of
  natural philosophy consists entirely of a series of inductive
  generalizations, commencing with the most circumstantially
  stated particulars, and carried up to universal laws, or axioms,
  which comprehend in their statements every subordinate degree of
  generality and of a corresponding series of inverted reasoning
  from generals to particulars, by which these axioms are traced
  back into their remotest consequences, and all particular
  propositions deduced from them, as well those by whose immediate
  consideration we rose to their discovery, as those of which we
  had no previous knowledge....

  “It would seem that a union of two qualities almost opposite
  to each other—a going forth of the thoughts in two directions,
  and a sudden transfer of ideas from a remote station in one to
  an equally distant one in the other—is required to start the
  first idea of _applying science_. Among the Greeks, this point
  was attained by Archimedes, but attained too late, on the eve
  of that great eclipse of science which was destined to continue
  for nearly eighteen centuries, till Galileo in Italy, and Bacon
  in England, at once dispelled the darkness; the one, by his
  inventions and discoveries; the other, by the irresistible force
  of his arguments and eloquence.”[33]

His style is copious, comprehensive, and smooth; it does not flow
with the softness of the purling rill, but rather with the strength,
fulness, and swelling of a majestic river, and the rude harmony of the
mountain stream. His images are replete with poetry and thought; they
always illustrate his subject. Hallam is of opinion that the modern
writer that comes nearest to him is Burke. “He had,” said Addison,
“the sound, distinct, comprehensive knowledge of Aristotle, with all
the beautiful lights, graces, and embellishments of Cicero. One does
not know which to admire most in his writings, the strength of reason,
force of style, or brightness of imagination.”[34]

Bacon improved so much the melody, elegance, and force of English
prose, that we may apply to him what was said of Augustus with regard
to Rome: _lateritiam invenit, marmoream reliquit_; he found it brick,
and he left it marble. Mr. Hallam’s opinion differs somewhat from this;
it is as follows:—

  “The style of Bacon has an idiosyncrasy which we might expect
  from his genius. It can rarely indeed happen, and only in men
  of secondary talents, that the language they use is not, by
  its very choice and collocation, as well as its meaning, the
  representative of an individuality that distinguishes their
  turn of thought. Bacon is elaborate, sententious, often witty,
  often metaphorical; nothing could be spared; his analogies are
  generally striking and novel; his style is clear, precise,
  forcible; yet there is some degree of stiffness about it, and in
  mere language he is inferior to Raleigh.”[35]

It is a most remarkable characteristic of Bacon, and one in which Burke
resembled him, that his imagination grew stronger with his increasing
years, and his style richer and softer. “The fruit came first,” says
Mr. Macaulay, “and remained till the last; the blossoms did not appear
till late. In eloquence, in sweetness and variety of expression, and
in richness of illustration, his later writings are far superior to
those of his youth.” His earliest Essays have as much truth and cogent
reasoning as his latest; but these are far superior in grace and
beauty. A most striking illustration of this is afforded by one of the
last Essays, added a year before Bacon’s death, that of _Adversity_
(Essay V.), than which naught can be more graceful and beautiful.

The account of Bacon’s works will necessarily be very succinct, and,
we fear, imperfect. We shall, however, for each of them, call in the
aid of the most competent judges, whose award public opinion will not


Bacon published his _Essays_ in 1597. They were, in the estimation of
Mr. Hallam, the first in time and in excellence of English writings on
moral prudence. Of the fifty-eight Essays, of which the work is now
composed, ten only appeared in the first edition. But to these were
added _Religious Meditations, Places of Perswasion and Disswasion,
Seene and allowed_; many of which were afterwards embodied in the
Essays. These Essays were: 1. Of Studie; 2. Of Discourse; 3. Of
Ceremonies and Respects; 4. Of Followers and Friends; 5. Of Sutors; 6.
Of Expence; 7. Of Regiment of Health; 8. Of Honor and Reputation; 9. Of
Faction; 10. Of Negociating. In the edition of 1612, “The Essaies of
S^r Francis Bacon Knight, the King’s Atturny Generall,” were increased
to forty-one.

The new Essays added are: 1. Of Religion; 2. Of Death; 3. Of Goodnesse,
and Goodnesse of Nature; 4. Of Cunning; 5. Of Marriage and Single
Life; 6. Of Parents and Children; 7. Of Nobility; 8. Of Great Place;
9. Of Empire; 10. Of Counsell; 11. Of Dispatch; 12. Of Love; 13. Of
Friendship; 14. Of Atheism; 15. Of Superstition; 16. Of Wisedome for a
Man’s selfe; 20. Of seeming wise; 21. Of Riches; 22. Of Ambition; 23.
Of Young Men and Age; 24. Of Beauty; 25. Of Deformity; 26. Of Nature in
Men; 27. Of Custom and Education; 28. Of Fortune; 35. Of Praise; 36. Of
Judicature; 37. of Vaine-Glory; 38. Of Greatnesse of Kingdomes; 39. Of
the Publique; 40. Of Warre and Peace.

These forty-one Essays were afterwards again augmented to fifty-eight,
with the new title of _The Essaies or Covnsels, Civill and Morall_;
they were likewise improved by corrections, additions, and
illustrations. By the peculiarity of Bacon, already noticed, the later
Essays rise in beauty and interest.

Bacon considered his Essays but as “the recreations of his other
studies.” He has entitled them, in the Latin translation, _Sermones
fideles, sive Interiora rerum_. The idea of them, as has been already
mentioned, was suggested by those of Montaigne; but there is but
little resemblance between the two productions. Montaigne is natural,
ingenuous, sportive. Bacon’s “_Essays or Counsels, civil and moral_,”
“the fragments of his conceits,” as he styles them, are all study,
art, and gravity; but the reflections in them are true and profound.
Montaigne confessedly painted himself, declared that he was the matter
of his own book,[36] while with Bacon the man was merged in the author
and the philosopher, who propounded like Seneca, and somewhat in
Seneca’s style, the maxims of practical wisdom, that, to use Bacon’s
own language, “come home to men’s business and bosoms,” and clothed
them in a garb, new, elegant, and rich, hitherto unknown in England.
But our author, if we may judge by the matter and even manner of his
Essays, may have had in view, not so much Montaigne’s _Essais_ as
Seneca’s _Letters to Lucilius_. The Essay of _Death_ is obviously
founded on Seneca’s Epistles on this subject. That he was well
acquainted with Seneca’s _Letters_, is incontrovertible. He alludes
to them thus in the dedication to Prince Henry, in 1612: “The word
(Essays),” says he, “is late, but the thing is ancient; for Seneca’s
Epistles to Lucilius, if you mark them well, are but Essays, that is,
dispersed meditations, though conveyed in the form of epistles.” Bacon
justly foretold of his Essays that they “would live as long as books

The following is the opinion of Dugald Stewart, himself an eminent
philosopher and elegant writer:

  “His _Essays_ are the best known and most popular of all his
  works. It is also one of those where the superiority of his
  genius appears to the greatest advantage; the novelty and depth
  of his reflections often receiving a strong relief from triteness
  of the subject. It may be read from beginning to end in a few
  hours; and yet, after the twentieth perusal, one seldom fails
  to remark in it something unobserved before. This, indeed, is a
  characteristic of all Bacon’s writings, and only to be accounted
  for by the inexhaustible aliment they furnish to our own
  thoughts, and the sympathetic activity they impart to our torpid

The reader will, perhaps, be rather gratified than wearied with another
appreciation of this valuable production of our young moralist of
twenty-six. It is of no incompetent judge,—Mr. Hallam.

  “The transcendent strength of Bacon’s mind is visible in the
  whole tenor of these Essays, unequal as they must be from the
  very nature of such compositions. They are deeper and more
  discriminating than any earlier, or almost any later work in the
  English language, full of recondite observation, long matured and
  carefully sifted. It is true that we might wish for more vivacity
  and ease; Bacon, who had much wit, had little gayety; his Essays
  are consequently stiff and grave where the subject might have
  been touched with a lively hand; thus it is in those on Gardens
  and on Building. The sentences have sometimes too apophthegmatic
  a form and want coherence; the historical instances, though far
  less frequent than with Montaigne, have a little the look of
  pedantry to our eyes. But it is from this condensation, from this
  gravity, that the work derives its peculiar impressiveness.
  Few books are more quoted, and what is not always the case
  with such books, we may add that few are more generally read.
  In this respect they lead the van of our prose literature; for
  no gentleman is ashamed of owning that he has not read the
  Elizabethan writers; but it would be somewhat derogatory to a man
  of the slightest claim to polite letters, were he unacquainted
  with the Essays of Bacon. It is, indeed, little worth while to
  read this or any other book for reputation sake; but very few in
  our language so well repay the pains, or afford more nourishment
  to the thoughts. They might be judiciously introduced, with a
  small number more, into a sound method of education, one that
  should make wisdom, rather than mere knowledge, its object, and
  might become a text-book of examination in our schools.”[38]


The _Advancement of Learning_ was published in 1605. It has usually
been considered that the whole of Bacon’s philosophy is contained in
this work, excepting, however, the second book of the _Novum Organum_.
Of the _Advancement of Learning_ he made a Latin translation, under
the title of _De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum_, which, however,
contains about one third of new matter and some slight interpolations;
a few omissions have been remarked in it.

The _Advancement of Learning_ is, as it were, to use his own language,
“a small globe of the intellectual world, as truly and faithfully as I
could discover with a note and description of those facts which seem to
me not constantly occupate or not well converted by the labor of man.
In which, if I have in any point receded from that which is commonly
received, it hath been with a purpose of proceeding _in melius_ and
not _in aliud_, a mind of amendment and proficience, and not of change
and difference. For I could not be true and constant to the argument
I handle, if I were not willing to go beyond others, but yet not more
willing than to have others go beyond me.”

The _Advancement of Learning_ is divided into two parts; the former of
which is intended to remove prejudices against the search after truth,
by pointing out the causes which obstruct it; in the second, learning
is divided into history, poetry, and philosophy, according to the
faculties of the mind from which they emanate—memory, imagination, and
reason. Our author states the deficiencies he observes in each.

All the peculiar qualities of his style are fully developed in this
noble monument of genius, one of the finest in English, or perhaps any
other language; it is full of deep thought, keen observation, rich
imagery, Attic wit, and apt illustration. Dugald Stewart and Hallam
have both expressed their just admiration of the short paragraph on
poesy; but, with all due deference, we must consider that the beautiful
passage on the dignity and excellency of knowledge is surpassed by
none. Can aught excel the noble comparison of the ship? The reader
shall judge for himself.

  “If the invention of the ship was thought so noble, which
  carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, and
  consociateth the most remote regions in participation of their
  fruits; how much more are letters to be magnified, which,
  as ships, pass through the vast seas of time, and make ages
  so distant to participate of the wisdom, illuminations, and
  inventions, the one of the other?”


The _Wisdom of the Ancients_, or rather, _De sapientia veterum_ (for
it was written in Latin), is a short treatise on the mythology of
the ancients, by which Bacon endeavors to discover and to show the
physical, moral, and political meanings it concealed. If the reader is
not convinced that the ancients understood by these fables all that
Bacon discovers in them, he must at least admit the probability of it,
and be impressed with the penetration of the author and the variety and
depth of his knowledge.


The _Instauratio Magna_ was published in 1620, while Bacon was still

In his dedication of it to James the First, in 1620, in which he says
he has been engaged in it nearly thirty years, he pathetically remarks:
“The reason why I have published it now, specially being imperfect,
is, to speak plainly, because I number my days, and would have it
saved.” His country and the world participate in the opinion of the
philosopher, and would have deemed its loss one of the greatest to

Such was the care with which it was composed, that Bacon transcribed it
twelve times with his own hand.

It is divided into six parts. The first entitled _Partitiones
Scientiarum_, or the divisions of knowledge possessed by mankind, in
which the author has noted the deficiencies and imperfections of each.
This he had already accomplished by his _Advancement of Learning_.

Part 2 is the _Novum Organum Scientiarum_, or new method of studying
the sciences, a name probably suggested by Aristotle’s _Organon_
(treatises on Logic). He intended it to be “the science of a better
and more perfect use of reason in the investigation of things and of
the true end of understanding.” This has been generally denominated
the _inductive method_, i. e. the experimental method, from the
principle of _induction_, or bringing together facts and drawing from
them general principles or truths, by which the author proposes the
advancement of all kinds of knowledge. In this consists preëminently
the philosophy of Bacon. Not reasoning upon conjecture on the laws
and properties of nature, but, as Bacon quaintly terms it, “asking
questions of nature,” that is, making experiments, laboriously
collecting facts first, and, after a sufficient number has been brought
together, then forming systems or theories founded on them.

But this work is rather the summary of a more extensive one he
designed, the aphorisms of it being rather, according to Hallam, “the
heads or theses of chapters.” But some of these principles are of
paramount importance. An instance may be afforded of this, extracted
from the “Interpretation of Nature, and Man’s dominion over it.” It is
the very first sentence in the _Novum Organum_. “Man, the servant and
interpreter of nature, can only understand and act in proportion as he
observes and contemplates the order of nature; more, he can neither
know nor do.” This, as has justly been observed, is undoubtedly the
foundation of all our real knowledge.

The _Novum Organum_ is so important, that we deem it desirable to
present some more detailed accounts of it.

The body of the work is divided into two parts; the former of which is
intended to serve as an introduction to the other, a preparation of the
mind for receiving the doctrine.

Bacon begins by endeavoring to remove the prejudices and to obtain fair
attention to his doctrine. He compares philosophy to “a vast pyramid,
which ought to have the history of nature for its basis;” he likens
those who strive to erect by the force of abstract speculation to the
giants of old, who, according to the poets, endeavored to throw Mount
Ossa upon Pelion, and Olympus upon Ossa. The method of “anticipating
nature,” he denounces “as rash, hasty, and unphilosophical;” whereas,
“interpretations of nature, or real truths arrived at by deduction,
cannot so suddenly arrest the mind; and when the conclusion actually
arrives, it may so oppose prejudice, and appear so paradoxical as to
be in danger of not being received, notwithstanding the evidence that
supports it, like mysteries of faith.”

Bacon first attacks the “Idols of the Mind,” i. e. the great sources
of prejudice, then the different false philosophical theories; he
afterwards proceeds to show what are the characteristics of false
systems, the causes of error in philosophy, and lastly the grounds of
hope regarding the advancement of science.

He now aspires, to use his own language, “only to sow the seeds of pure
truth for posterity, and not to be wanting in his assistance to the
first beginning of great undertakings.” “Let the human race,” says he
further, “regain their dominion over nature, which belongs to them by
the bounty of their Maker, and right reason and sound religion will
direct the use.”

The second part of the _Novum Organum_ may be divided into three
sections. The first is on the discovery of forms, i. e. causes in
nature. The second section is composed of _tables_ illustrative of the
inductive method, and the third and last is styled the _doctrine of
instances_, i. e. facts regarding the discovery of causes.

Part the third of the _Instauratio Magna_ was to be a Natural History,
as he termed it, or rather a history of natural substances, in which
the art of man had been employed, which would have been a history of
universal nature.

Part 4, to be called _Scala intellectus_, or _Intellectual Ladder_, was
intended to be, to use his own words, “types and models which place
before our eyes the entire process of the mind in the discovery of
truth, selecting various and remarkable instances.”

He had designed in the fifth part to give specimens of the new
philosophy; a few fragments only of this have been published. It was to
be “the fragment of interest till the principal could be raised.”

The sixth and last part was “to display a perfect system of philosophy
deduced and confirmed by a legitimate, sober, and exact inquiry
according to the method he had laid down and invented.” “To perfect
this last part,” says Bacon, “is above our powers and beyond our hopes.”

Let us return, however, for a moment to the commencement, to remark
that he concludes the introduction by an eloquent prayer that his
exertions may be rendered effectual to the attainment of truth and
happiness. But he feels his own inability, for “his days are numbered,”
to conduct mankind to the hoped for goal. It was given to him to point
out the road to the promised land; but, like Moses, after having
descried it from afar, it was denied him to enter the land to which he
had led the way.


The _Life of Henry VII._, published in 1622, is, in the opinion of
Hallam, “the first instance in our language of the application of
philosophy to reasoning on public events in the manner of the ancients
and the Italians. Praise upon Henry is too largely bestowed; but it was
in the nature of Bacon to admire too much a crafty and selfish policy;
and he thought also, no doubt, that so near an ancestor of his own
sovereign should not be treated with severe impartiality.”[39]


His _Letters_ published in his works are numerous; they are written
in a stiff, ungraceful, formal style; but still, they frequently bear
the impress of the writer’s greatness and genius. Fragments of them
have been frequently quoted in the course of this notice; they have,
perhaps, best served to exhibit more fully the man in all the relations
of his public and private life.


Amongst his miscellaneous papers there was found after his death a
remarkable prayer, which Addison deemed sufficiently beautiful to be
published in the _Tatler_[40] for Christmas, 1710. We extract a passage
or two, that may serve to illustrate Bacon’s position or his character.

  “I have, though in a despised weed, procured the good of all
  men. If any have been my enemies, I thought not of them, neither
  hath the sun almost set upon my displeasure; but I have been as
  a dove, free from superfluity of maliciousness.”

  “Just are thy judgments upon me for my sins, which are more in
  number than the sands of the sea, but have no proportion to
  thy mercies; for what are the sands of the sea? Earth, heaven,
  and all these are nothing to thy mercies.”

Addison observes of this prayer, that for elevation of thought and
greatness of expression, “it seems—rather the devotion of an angel than
a man.”

In taking leave of the life and the works of the greatest of
philosophers, and alas! the least of men, we have endeavored to present
a succinct but faithful narrative—“his glory not extenuated wherein he
was worthy, nor his offences enforced, for which he suffered” merited
obloquy with his own contemporaries and all posterity. Our endeavor has

  Verba animi proferre et vitam impendere vero.

But his failings, great as they were, are forgotten through his
transcendent merit; his faults injured but few, and in his own time
alone; his genius has benefited all mankind. The new direction he gave
to philosophy was the indirect cause of all the modern conquests
of science over matter, or, as it were, over nature. What it has
already accomplished, and may yet effect for the whole human race, is
incalculable. Macaulay, the historian of England, has been likewise the
eloquent narrator of the progress, that owes its origin to the genius
of Francis Bacon.

  “Ask a follower of Bacon,” says Macaulay, “what the new
  philosophy, as it was called in the time of Charles the Second,
  has effected for mankind, and his answer is ready: ‘It hath
  lengthened life; it has mitigated pain; it has extinguished
  diseases; it has increased the fertility of the soil; it has
  given new securities to the mariner; it has furnished new arms
  to the warrior; it has spanned great rivers and estuaries with
  bridges of form unknown to our fathers; it has guided the
  thunderbolt innocuously from heaven to earth; it has lighted up
  the night with the splendor of the day; it has extended the range
  of the human vision; it has multiplied the power of the human
  muscle; it has accelerated motion; it has annihilated distance;
  it has facilitated intercourse, correspondence, all friendly
  offices, all dispatch of business; it has enabled man to descend
  to the depths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate
  securely into the noxious recesses of the earth, to traverse the
  land on cars which whirl along without horses, and the ocean in
  ships which sail against the wind. These are but a part of its
  fruits, and of its first-fruits. For it is a philosophy which
  never rests, which has never attained, which is never perfect.
  Its law is progress. A point which yesterday was invisible is its
  goal to-day, and will be its starting-post to-morrow.’”[41]



What is truth? said jesting Pilate;[42] and would not stay for an
answer. Certainly, there be that delight in giddiness; and count it
a bondage to fix a belief; affecting freewill in thinking as well as
in acting. And though the sects of philosophers of that kind be gone,
yet there remain certain discoursing wits which are of the same veins,
though there be not so much blood in them as was in those of the
ancients. But it is not only the difficulty and labor which men take in
finding out of truth: nor again, that, when it is found, it imposeth
upon men’s thoughts, that doth bring lies in favor; but a natural
though corrupt love of the lie itself. One of the later schools[43] of
the Grecians examineth the matter, and is at a stand to think what
should be in it that men should love lies; where neither they make
for pleasure, as with poets; nor for advantage, as with the merchant,
but for the lie’s sake. But I cannot tell; this same truth is a naked
and open daylight, that doth not show the masks, and mummeries, and
triumphs of the world, half so stately and daintily as candle-lights.
Truth may perhaps come to the price of a pearl, that showeth best by
day, but it will not rise to the price of a diamond or carbuncle,
that showeth best in varied lights. A mixture of a lie doth ever add
pleasure. Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of men’s
minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations
as one would, and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number
of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and
unpleasing to themselves? One of the fathers,[44] in great severity,
called poesy “vinum dæmonum,”[45] because it filleth the imagination,
and yet it is but with the shadow of a lie. But it is not the lie that
passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in, and settleth
in it, that doth the hurt, such as we spake of before. But howsoever
these things are thus in men’s depraved judgments and affections, yet
truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth that the inquiry of
truth, which is the love-making, or wooing of it, the knowledge of
truth, which is the presence of it, and the belief of truth, which
is the enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human nature. The
first creature of God, in the works of the days, was the light of the
sense;[46] the last was the light of reason;[47] and his sabbath work,
ever since, is the illumination of his Spirit. First, he breathed light
upon the face of the matter, or chaos; then he breathed light into
the face of man; and still he breatheth and inspireth light into the
face of his chosen. The poet[48] that beautified the sect,[49] that
was otherwise inferior to the rest, saith yet excellently well: “It
is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed upon
the sea; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a
battle, and the adventures thereof below; but no pleasure is comparable
to the standing upon the vantage-ground of truth” (a hill not to be
commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene), “and to
see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale
below;”[50] so always that this prospect be with pity, and not with
swelling or pride. Certainly it is heaven upon earth, to have a man’s
mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of

To pass from theological and philosophical truth to the truth of civil
business; it will be acknowledged, even by those that practise it not,
that clear and round dealing is the honor of man’s nature, and that
mixture of falsehood is like alloy in coin of gold and silver, which
may make the metal work the better, but it embaseth it. For these
winding and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent; which goeth
basely upon the belly, and not upon the feet. There is no vice that
doth so cover a man with shame, as to be found false and perfidious;
and therefore Montaigne[51] saith prettily, when he inquired the
reason why the word of the lie should be such a disgrace, and such an
odious charge: saith he, “If it be well weighed, to say that a man
lieth, is as much as to say that he is brave towards God and a coward
towards men. For a lie faces God, and shrinks from man;” surely, the
wickedness of falsehood and breach of faith cannot possibly be so
highly expressed, as in that it shall be the last peal to call the
judgments of God upon the generations of men: it being foretold, that,
when “Christ cometh,” he shall not “find faith upon the earth.”[52]


Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural
fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly,
the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin, and passage to another
world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due
unto nature, is weak. Yet in religious meditations there is sometimes
mixture of vanity and of superstition. You shall read in some of the
friars’ books of mortification, that a man should think with himself,
what the pain is, if he have but his finger’s end pressed or tortured;
and thereby imagine what the pains of death are, when the whole body
is corrupted and dissolved; when many times death passeth with less
pain than the torture of a limb, for the most vital parts are not
the quickest of sense. And by him that spake only as a philosopher
and natural man, it was well said, “Pompa mortis magis terret, quam
mors ipsa.”[54] Groans and convulsions, and a discolored face, and
friends weeping, and blacks[55] and obsequies, and the like, show death
terrible. It is worthy the observing, that there is no passion in
the mind of man so weak, but it mates and masters the fear of death;
and therefore death is no such terrible enemy when a man hath so many
attendants about him that can win the combat of him. Revenge triumphs
over death; love slights it; honor aspireth to it; grief flieth to it;
fear preoccupateth it; nay, we read, after Otho the emperor had slain
himself, pity (which is the tenderest of affections) provoked many
to die out of mere compassion to their sovereign, and as the truest
sort of followers.[56] Nay, Seneca[57] adds niceness and satiety:
“Cogita quamdiu eadem feceris; mori velle, non tantum fortis, aut
miser, sed etiam fastidiosus potest.”[58] A man would die, though he
were neither valiant nor miserable, only upon a weariness to do the
same thing so oft over and over. It is no less worthy to observe, how
little alteration in good spirits the approaches of death make: for
they appear to be the same men till the last instant. Augustus Cæsar
died in a compliment: “Livia, conjugii nostri memor, vive et vale.”[59]
Tiberius in dissimulation, as Tacitus saith of him, “Jam Tiberium
vires et corpus, non dissimulatio, deserebant:”[60] Vespasian in a
jest, sitting upon the stool,[61] “Ut puto Deus fio;”[62] Galba with
a sentence, “Feri, si ex re sit populi Romani,”[63] holding forth
his neck; Septimus Severus in dispatch, “Adeste, si quid mihi restat
agendum,”[64] and the like. Certainly, the Stoics[65] bestowed too much
cost upon death, and by their great preparations made it appear more
fearful. Better, saith he, “qui finem vitæ extremum inter munera ponit
naturæ.”[66] It is as natural to die as to be born; and to a little
infant, perhaps, the one is as painful as the other. He that dies in
an earnest pursuit, is like one that is wounded in hot blood, who,
for the time, scarce feels the hurt; and therefore a mind fixed and
bent upon somewhat that is good, doth avert the dolors of death; but,
above all, believe it, the sweetest canticle is “Nunc dimittis,”[67]
when a man hath obtained worthy ends and expectations. Death hath this
also, that it openeth the gate to good fame, and extinguisheth envy:
“Extinctus amabitur idem.”[68]


Religion being the chief band of human society, it is a happy thing
when itself is well contained within the true band of unity. The
quarrels and divisions about religion were evils unknown to the
heathen. The reason was, because the religion of the heathen consisted
rather in rites and ceremonies, than in any constant belief; for you
may imagine what kind of faith theirs was, when the chief doctors and
fathers of their church were the poets. But the true God hath this
attribute, that he is a jealous God; and therefore his worship and
religion will endure no mixture nor partner. We shall therefore speak
a few words concerning the unity of the church; what are the fruits
thereof; what the bounds; and what the means.

The fruits of unity (next unto the well-pleasing of God, which is all
in all), are two; the one towards those that are without the church,
the other towards those that are within. For the former, it is certain
that heresies and schisms are, of all others, the greatest scandals,
yea, more than corruption of manners; for as in the natural body a
wound or solution of continuity is worse than a corrupt humor, so
in the spiritual; so that nothing doth so much keep men out of the
church, and drive men out of the church, as breach of unity; and
therefore, whensoever it cometh to that pass that one saith, “Ecce
in Deserto,”[69] another saith, “Ecce in penetralibus;”[70] that is,
when some men seek Christ in the conventicles of heretics, and others
in an outward face of a church, that voice had need continually to
sound in men’s ears, “nolite exire,” “go not out.” The doctor of the
Gentiles (the propriety of whose vocation drew him to have a special
care of those without) saith: “If a heathen[71] come in, and hear
you speak with several tongues, will he not say that you are mad?”
and, certainly, it is little better: when atheists and profane persons
do hear of so many discordant and contrary opinions in religion, it
doth avert them from the church, and maketh them “to sit down in the
chair of the scorners.”[72] It is but a light thing to be vouched in
so serious a matter, but yet it expresseth well the deformity. There
is a master of scoffing, that, in his catalogue of books of a feigned
library, sets down this title of a book, “The Morris-Dance[73] of
Heretics;” for, indeed, every sect of them hath a diverse posture, or
cringe, by themselves, which cannot but move derision in worldlings and
depraved politicians, who are apt to contemn holy things.

As for the fruit towards those that are within, it is peace, which
containeth infinite blessings; it establisheth faith; it kindleth
charity; the outward peace of the church distilleth into peace of
conscience, and it turneth the labors of writing and reading of
controversies into treatises of mortification and devotion.

Concerning the bounds of unity, the true placing of them importeth
exceedingly. There appear to be two extremes; for to certain zealots
all speech of pacification is odious. “Is it peace, Jehu?”—“What hast
thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me.”[74] Peace is not the
matter, but following, and party. Contrariwise, certain Laodiceans[75]
and lukewarm persons think they may accommodate points of religion by
middle ways, and taking part of both, and witty reconcilements, as if
they would make an arbitrament between God and man. Both these extremes
are to be avoided; which will be done if the league of Christians,
penned by our Saviour himself, were in the two cross clauses thereof
soundly and plainly expounded: “He that is not with us is against
us;”[76] and again, “He that is not against us, is with us;” that is,
if the points fundamental, and of substance in religion, were truly
discerned and distinguished from points not merely of faith, but of
opinion, order, or good intention. This is a thing may seem to many a
matter trivial, and done already; but if it were done less partially,
it would be embraced more generally.

Of this I may give only this advice, according to my small model.
Men ought to take heed of rending God’s church by two kinds of
controversies; the one is, when the matter of the point controverted is
too small and light, not worth the heat and strife about it, kindled
only by contradiction; for, as it is noted by one of the fathers,
“Christ’s coat indeed had no seam, but the church’s vesture was of
divers colors;” whereupon he saith, “In veste varietas sit, scissura
non sit,”[77] they be two things, unity and uniformity; the other is,
when the matter of the point controverted is great, but it is driven
to an over-great subtilty and obscurity, so that it becometh a thing
rather ingenious than substantial. A man that is of judgment and
understanding shall sometimes hear ignorant men differ, and know well
within himself, that those which so differ mean one thing, and yet
they themselves would never agree; and if it come so to pass in that
distance of judgment, which is between man and man, shall we not think
that God above, that knows the heart, doth not discern that frail men,
in some of their contradictions, intend the same thing, and accepteth
of both? The nature of such controversies is excellently expressed by
St. Paul, in the warning and precept that he giveth concerning the
same: “Devita profanas vocum novitates, et oppositiones falsi nominis
scientiæ.”[78] Men create oppositions which are not, and put them
into new terms, so fixed as, whereas the meaning ought to govern the
term, the term in effect governeth the meaning. There be also two
false peaces, or unities; the one, when the peace is grounded but upon
an implicit ignorance; for all colors will agree in the dark; the
other, when it is pieced up upon a direct admission of contraries in
fundamental points; for truth and falsehood, in such things, are like
the iron and clay in the toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image;[79] they may
cleave, but they will not incorporate.

Concerning the means of procuring unity, men must beware that, in the
procuring or muniting of religious unity, they do not dissolve and
deface the laws of charity and of human society. There be two swords
amongst Christians, the spiritual and temporal, and both have their due
office and place in the maintenance of religion; but we may not take up
the third sword, which is Mahomet’s sword,[80] or like unto it; that
is, to propagate religion by wars, or, by sanguinary persecutions, to
force consciences; except it be in cases of overt scandal, blasphemy,
or intermixture of practice against the state; much less to nourish
seditions, to authorize conspiracies and rebellions, to put the sword
into the people’s hands, and the like, tending to the subversion of all
government, which is the ordinance of God; for this is but to dash the
first table against the second, and so to consider men as Christians,
as we forget that they are men. Lucretius the poet, when he beheld
the act of Agamemnon, that could endure the sacrificing of his own
daughter, exclaimed;—

  “Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.”[81]

What would he have said, if he had known of the massacre in France,[82]
or the powder treason of England?[83] He would have been seven times
more epicure and atheist than he was; for as the temporal sword is
to be drawn with great circumspection in cases of religion, so it
is a thing monstrous to put it into the hands of the common people;
let that be left unto the Anabaptists, and other furies. It was
great blasphemy when the devil said, “I will ascend and be like the
Highest;”[84] but it is greater blasphemy to personate God, and bring
him in saying, “I will descend, and be like the prince of darkness;”
and what is it better, to make the cause of religion to descend to
the cruel and execrable actions of murdering princes, butchery of
people, and subversion of states and governments? Surely, this is to
bring down the Holy Ghost, instead of the likeness of a dove, in the
shape of a vulture or raven; and to set out of the bark of a Christian
church a flag of a bark of pirates and assassins; therefore, it is most
necessary that the church by doctrine and decree, princes by their
sword, and all learnings, both Christian and moral, as by their Mercury
rod,[85] do damn and send to hell forever those facts and opinions
tending to the support of the same, as hath been already in good part
done. Surely, in counsels concerning religion, that counsel of the
apostle would be prefixed: “Ira hominis non implet justitiam Dei;”[86]
and it was a notable observation of a wise father, and no less
ingenuously confessed, that those which held and persuaded pressure of
consciences, were commonly interested therein themselves for their own


Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man’s nature runs
to, the more ought law to weed it out; for as for the first wrong, it
doth but offend the law, but the revenge of that wrong, putteth the
law out of office. Certainly, in taking revenge, a man is but even
with his enemy, but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a
prince’s part to pardon; and Solomon, I am sure, saith, “It is the
glory of a man to pass by an offence.” That which is past is gone and
irrevocable, and wise men have enough to do with things present and
to come; therefore they do but trifle with themselves that labor in
past matters. There is no man doth a wrong for the wrong’s sake, but
thereby to purchase himself profit, or pleasure, or honor, or the like;
therefore, why should I be angry with a man for loving himself better
than me? And if any man should do wrong merely out of ill-nature, why,
yet it is but like the thorn or briar, which prick and scratch, because
they can do no other. The most tolerable sort of revenge is for those
wrongs which there is no law to remedy; but then, let a man take heed
the revenge be such as there is no law to punish, else a man’s enemy is
still beforehand, and it is two for one. Some, when they take revenge,
are desirous the party should know whence it cometh. This is the more
generous; for the delight seemeth to be not so much in doing the hurt
as in making the party repent; but base and crafty cowards are like
the arrow that flieth in the dark. Cosmus, Duke of Florence,[87] had
a desperate saying against perfidious or neglecting friends, as if
those wrongs were unpardonable. “You shall read,” saith he, “that we
are commanded to forgive our enemies; but you never read that we are
commanded to forgive our friends.” But yet the spirit of Job was in a
better tune: “Shall we,” saith he, “take good at God’s hands, and not
be content to take evil also?”[88] and so of friends in a proportion.
This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds
green, which otherwise would heal and do well. Public revenges[89]
are for the most part fortunate; as that for the death of Cæsar;[90]
for the death of Pertinax; for the death of Henry the Third of
France;[91] and many more. But in private revenges it is not so; nay,
rather, vindictive persons live the life of witches, who, as they are
mischievous, so end they unfortunate.


It was a high speech of Seneca (after the manner of the Stoics), that
“the good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but
the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.” (“Bona
rerum secundarum optabilia, adversarum mirabilia.”)[92] Certainly, if
miracles be the command over nature, they appear most in adversity.
It is yet a higher speech of his than the other (much too high for a
heathen), “It is true greatness to have in one the frailty of a man,
and the security of a God.” (“Vere magnum habere fragilitatem hominis
securitatem Dei.”)[93] This would have done better in poesy, where
transcendencies are more allowed, and the poets, indeed, have been
busy with it; for it is, in effect, the thing which is figured in
that strange fiction of the ancient poets,[94] which seemeth not to
be without mystery; nay, and to have some approach to the state of a
Christian, “that Hercules, when he went to unbind Prometheus (by whom
human nature is represented), sailed the length of the great ocean in
an earthen pot or pitcher,” lively describing Christian resolution,
that saileth in the frail bark of the flesh through the waves of the
world. But to speak in a mean, the virtue of prosperity is temperance,
the virtue of adversity is fortitude, which in morals is the more
heroical virtue. Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament,
adversity is the blessing of the New, which carrieth the greater
benediction, and the clearer revelation of God’s favor. Yet even in the
Old Testament, if you listen to David’s harp, you shall hear as many
hearse-like airs[95] as carols; and the pencil of the Holy Ghost hath
labored more in describing the afflictions of Job than the felicities
of Solomon. Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes; and
adversity is not without comforts and hopes. We see, in needleworks and
embroideries, it is more pleasing to have a lively work upon a sad and
solemn ground, than to have a dark and melancholy work upon a lightsome
ground: judge, therefore, of the pleasure of the heart by the pleasure
of the eye. Certainly, virtue is like precious odors, most fragrant
when they are incensed, or crushed; for prosperity doth best discover
vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.[96]


Dissimulation is but a faint kind of policy, or wisdom; for it asketh
a strong wit and a strong heart to know when to tell truth, and to do
it; therefore it is the weaker sort of politicians that are the great

Tacitus saith, “Livia sorted well with the arts of her husband, and
dissimulation of her son;[97] attributing arts or policy to Augustus,
and dissimulation to Tiberius:” and again, when Mucianus encourageth
Vespasian to take arms against Vitellius, he saith, “We rise not
against the piercing judgment of Augustus, nor the extreme caution or
closeness of Tiberius.”[98] These properties of arts or policy, and
dissimulation or closeness, are indeed habits and faculties several,
and to be distinguished; for if a man have that penetration of judgment
as he can discern what things are to be laid open, and what to be
secreted, and what to be showed at half-lights, and to whom and when
(which indeed are arts of state, and arts of life, as Tacitus well
calleth them), to him a habit of dissimulation is a hinderance and a
poorness. But if a man cannot obtain to that judgment, then it is left
to him generally to be close, and a dissembler; for where a man cannot
choose or vary in particulars, there it is good to take the safest and
wariest way in general, like the going softly by one that cannot well
see. Certainly, the ablest men that ever were, have had all an openness
and frankness of dealing, and a name of certainty and veracity: but
then they were like horses well managed, for they could tell passing
well when to stop or turn; and at such times, when they thought the
case indeed required dissimulation, if then they used it, it came to
pass that the former opinion spread abroad, of their good faith and
clearness of dealing, made them almost invisible.

There be three degrees of this hiding and veiling of a man’s self: the
first, closeness, reservation, and secrecy; when a man leaveth himself
without observation, or without hold to be taken, what he is: the
second, dissimulation in the negative; when a man lets fall signs and
arguments, that he is not that he is: and the third, simulation in the
affirmative; when a man industriously and expressly feigns and pretends
to be that he is not.

For the first of these, secrecy, it is indeed the virtue of a
confessor; and assuredly the secret man heareth many confessions; for
who will open himself to a blab or a babbler? But if a man be thought
secret, it inviteth discovery, as the more close air sucketh in the
more open; and, as in confession, the revealing is not for worldly use,
but for the ease of a man’s heart, so secret men come to the knowledge
of many things in that kind; while men rather discharge their minds
than impart their minds. In few words, mysteries are due to secrecy.
Besides (to say truth), nakedness is uncomely, as well in mind as
body; and it addeth no small reverence to men’s manners and actions,
if they be not altogether open. As for talkers and futile persons,
they are commonly vain and credulous withal; for he that talketh what
he knoweth, will also talk what he knoweth not; therefore set it down,
that a habit of secrecy is both politic and moral: and in this part
it is good that a man’s face give his tongue leave to speak; for the
discovery of a man’s self by the tracts[99] of his countenance, is a
great weakness and betraying, by how much it is many times more marked
and believed than a man’s words.

For the second, which is dissimulation, it followeth many times upon
secrecy by a necessity; so that he that will be secret must be a
dissembler in some degree; for men are too cunning to suffer a man to
keep an indifferent carriage between both, and to be secret, without
swaying the balance on either side. They will so beset a man with
questions, and draw him on, and pick it out of him, that without an
absurd silence, he must show an inclination one way; or if he do not,
they will gather as much by his silence as by his speech. As for
equivocations, or oraculous speeches, they cannot hold out long: so
that no man can be secret, except he give himself a little scope of
dissimulation, which is, as it were, but the skirts or train of secrecy.

But for the third degree, which is simulation and false profession,
that I hold more culpable, and less politic, except it be in great and
rare matters; and, therefore, a general custom of simulation (which is
this last degree) is a vice rising either of a natural falseness, or
fearfulness, or of a mind that hath some main faults; which because a
man must needs disguise, it maketh him practise simulation in other
things, lest his hand should be out of use.

The advantages of simulation and dissimulation are three: first, to
lay asleep opposition, and to surprise; for, where a man’s intentions
are published, it is an alarum to call up all that are against them:
the second is, to reserve to a man’s self a fair retreat; for if a man
engage himself by a manifest declaration, he must go through or take
a fall: the third is, the better to discover the mind of another; for
to him that opens himself men will hardly show themselves adverse; but
will (fair) let him go on, and turn their freedom of speech to freedom
of thought; and therefore it is a good shrewd proverb of the Spaniard,
“Tell a lie, and find a troth;”[100] as if there were no way of
discovery but by simulation. There be also three disadvantages to set
it even; the first, that simulation and dissimulation commonly carry
with them a show of fearfulness, which, in any business, doth spoil the
feathers of round flying up to the mark; the second, that it puzzleth
and perplexeth the conceits of many, that, perhaps, would otherwise
coöperate with him, and makes a man walk almost alone to his own ends:
the third, and greatest, is, that it depriveth a man of one of the most
principal instruments for action, which is trust and belief. The best
composition and temperature is, to have openness in fame and opinion,
secrecy in habit, dissimulation in seasonable use, and a power to feign
if there be no remedy.


The joys of parents are secret, and so are their griefs and fears;
they cannot utter the one, nor they will not utter the other. Children
sweeten labors, but they make misfortunes more bitter; they increase
the cares of life, but they mitigate the remembrance of death. The
perpetuity by generation is common to beasts; but memory, merit, and
noble works, are proper to men: and surely a man shall see the noblest
works and foundations have proceeded from childless men, which have
sought to express the images of their minds where those of their bodies
have failed; so the care of posterity is most in them that have no
posterity. They that are the first raisers of their houses are most
indulgent towards their children, beholding them as the continuance,
not only of their kind, but of their work; and so both children and

The difference in affection of parents towards their several children
is many times unequal, and sometimes unworthy, especially in the
mother; as Solomon saith, “A wise son rejoiceth the father, but an
ungracious son shames the mother.”[101] A man shall see, where there
is a house full of children, one or two of the eldest respected, and
the youngest made wantons;[102] but in the midst some that are, as
it were, forgotten, who many times, nevertheless, prove the best.
The illiberality of parents, in allowance towards their children, is
a harmful error, makes them base, acquaints them with shifts, makes
them sort with mean company, and makes them surfeit more when they
come to plenty; and, therefore, the proof[103] is best when men keep
their authority towards their children, but not their purse. Men have
a foolish manner (both parents, and schoolmasters, and servants), in
creating and breeding an emulation between brothers during childhood,
which many times sorteth[104] to discord when they are men, and
disturbeth families.[105] The Italians make little difference between
children and nephews, or near kinsfolk; but so they be of the lump,
they care not, though they pass not through their own body; and, to
say truth, in nature it is much a like matter; insomuch that we see a
nephew sometimes resembleth an uncle or a kinsman more than his own
parent, as the blood happens. Let parents choose betimes the vocations
and courses they mean their children should take, for then they are
most flexible; and let them not too much apply themselves to the
disposition of their children, as thinking they will take best to that
which they have most mind to. It is true, that if the affection or
aptness of the children be extraordinary, then it is good not to cross
it; but generally the precept is good, “Optimum elige, suave et facile
illud faciet consuetudo.”[106]—Younger brothers are commonly fortunate,
but seldom or never where the elder are disinherited.


He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for
they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or
mischief. Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the
public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men, which,
both in affection and means, have married and endowed the public.
Yet it were great reason that those that have children should have
greatest care of future times, unto which they know they must transmit
their dearest pledges. Some there are who, though they lead a single
life, yet their thoughts do end with themselves, and account future
times impertinences; nay, there are some other that account wife and
children but as bills of charges; nay more, there are some foolish,
rich, covetous men, that take a pride in having no children, because
they may be thought so much the richer; for, perhaps they have heard
some talk, “Such an one is a great rich man,” and another except to
it, “Yea, but he hath a great charge of children;” as if it were an
abatement to his riches. But the most ordinary cause of a single life
is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous minds,
which are so sensible of every restraint, as they will go near to
think their girdles and garters to be bonds and shackles. Unmarried
men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not always best
subjects, for they are light to run away, and almost all fugitives are
of that condition. A single life doth well with churchmen, for charity
will hardly water the ground where it must first fill a pool.[107]
It is indifferent for judges and magistrates; for if they be facile
and corrupt, you shall have a servant five times worse than a wife.
For soldiers, I find the generals commonly, in their hortatives, put
men in mind of their wives and children; and I think the despising
of marriage amongst the Turks maketh the vulgar soldier more base.
Certainly, wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity; and
single men, though they be many times more charitable, because their
means are less exhaust, yet, on the other side, they are more cruel
and hard-hearted (good to make severe inquisitors), because their
tenderness is not so oft called upon. Grave natures, led by custom,
and therefore constant, are commonly loving husbands, as was said of
Ulysses, “Vetulam suam praetulit immortalitati.”[108] Chaste women are
often proud and froward, as presuming upon the merit of their chastity.
It is one of the best bonds, both of chastity and obedience, in the
wife, if she think her husband wise, which she will never do if she
find him jealous. Wives are young men’s mistresses, companions for
middle age, and old men’s nurses, so as a man may have a quarrel[109]
to marry when he will; but yet he was reputed one of the wise men that
made answer to the question when a man should marry, “A young man not
yet, an elder man not at all.”[110] It is often seen that bad husbands
have very good wives; whether it be that it raiseth the price of their
husbands’ kindness when it comes, or that the wives take a pride in
their patience; but this never fails, if the bad husbands were of their
own choosing, against their friends’ consent, for then they will be
sure to make good their own folly.


There be none of the affections which have been noted to fascinate or
bewitch, but love and envy. They both have vehement wishes; they frame
themselves readily into imaginations and suggestions, and they come
easily into the eye, especially upon the presence of the objects which
are the points that conduce to fascination, if any such thing there
be. We see, likewise, the Scripture calleth envy an evil eye;[111] and
the astrologers call the evil influences of the stars evil aspects;
so that still there seemeth to be acknowledged, in the act of envy, an
ejaculation, or irradiation of the eye; nay, some have been so curious
as to note that the times, when the stroke or percussion of an envious
eye doth most hurt, are, when the party envied is beheld in glory or
triumph, for that sets an edge upon envy; and besides, at such times,
the spirits of the person envied do come forth most into the outward
parts, and so meet the blow.

But, leaving these curiosities (though not unworthy to be thought on
in fit place), we will handle what persons are apt to envy others;
what persons are most subject to be envied themselves; and what is the
difference between public and private envy.

A man that hath no virtue in himself, ever envieth virtue in others;
for men’s minds will either feed upon their own good, or upon others’
evil; and who wanteth the one will prey upon the other; and whoso is
out of hope to attain to another’s virtue, will seek to come at even
hand[112] by depressing another’s fortune.

A man that is busy and inquisitive, is commonly envious; for to know
much of other men’s matters cannot be, because all that ado may concern
his own estate; therefore, it must needs be that he taketh a kind of
play-pleasure in looking upon the fortunes of others; neither can he
that mindeth but his own business find much matter for envy; for envy
is a gadding passion, and walketh the streets, and doth not keep home:
“Non est curiosus, quin idem sit malevolus.”[113]

Men of noble birth are noted to be envious towards new men when they
rise, for the distance is altered; and it is like a deceit of the eye,
that when others come on they think themselves go back.

Deformed persons and eunuchs, and old men and bastards, are envious;
for he that cannot possibly mend his own case, will do what he can to
impair another’s; except these defects light upon a very brave and
heroical nature, which thinketh to make his natural wants part of his
honor; in that it should be said, “That a eunuch, or a lame man, did
such great matters,” affecting the honor of a miracle; as it was in
Narses[114] the eunuch, and Agesilaus and Tamerlane,[115] that were
lame men.

The same is the case of men that rise after calamities and
misfortunes; for they are as men fallen out with the times, and think
other men’s harms a redemption of their own sufferings.

They that desire to excel in too many matters, out of levity and
vainglory, are ever envious, for they cannot want work; it being
impossible but many, in some one of those things, should surpass them;
which was the character of Adrian the emperor, that mortally envied
poets and painters, and artificers in works, wherein he had a vein to

Lastly, near kinsfolk and fellows in office, and those that have been
bred together, are more apt to envy their equals when they are raised;
for it doth upbraid unto them their own fortunes, and pointeth at them,
and cometh oftener into their remembrance, and incurreth likewise more
into the note[117] of others; and envy ever redoubleth from speech and
fame. Cain’s envy was the more vile and malignant towards his brother
Abel, because when his sacrifice was better accepted, there was nobody
to look on. Thus much for those that are apt to envy.

Concerning those that are more or less subject to envy: First, persons
of eminent virtue, when they are advanced, are less envied, for their
fortune seemeth but due unto them; and no man envieth the payment of
a debt, but rewards and liberality rather. Again, envy is ever joined
with the comparing of a man’s self; and where there is no comparison,
no envy; and therefore kings are not envied but by kings. Nevertheless,
it is to be noted, that unworthy persons are most envied at their first
coming in, and afterwards overcome it better; whereas, contrariwise,
persons of worth and merit are most envied when their fortune
continueth long; for by that time, though their virtue be the same, yet
it hath not the same lustre; for fresh men grow up that darken it.

Persons of noble blood are less envied in their rising; for it seemeth
but right done to their birth: besides, there seemeth not so much added
to their fortune; and envy is as the sunbeams, that beat hotter upon
a bank or steep rising ground, than upon a flat; and, for the same
reason, those that are advanced by degrees are less envied than those
that are advanced suddenly, and _per saltum_.[118]

Those that have joined with their honor great travels, cares, or
perils, are less subject to envy; for men think that they earn their
honors hardly, and pity them sometimes, and pity ever healeth envy.
Wherefore you shall observe, that the more deep and sober sort of
politic persons, in their greatness, are ever bemoaning themselves
what a life they lead, chanting a _quanta patimur_;[119] not that they
feel it so, but only to abate the edge of envy; but this is to be
understood of business that is laid upon men, and not such as they call
unto themselves; for nothing increaseth envy more than an unnecessary
and ambitious engrossing of business; and nothing doth extinguish envy
more than for a great person to preserve all other inferior officers in
their full rights and preëminences of their places; for, by that means,
there be so many screens between him and envy.

Above all, those are most subject to envy, which carry the greatness
of their fortunes in an insolent and proud manner; being never well
but while they are showing how great they are, either by outward pomp,
or by triumphing over all opposition or competition. Whereas wise men
will rather do sacrifice to envy, in suffering themselves, sometimes of
purpose, to be crossed and overborne in things that do not much concern
them. Notwithstanding, so much is true, that the carriage of greatness
in a plain and open manner (so it be without arrogancy and vainglory),
doth draw less envy than if it be in a more crafty and cunning fashion;
for in that course a man doth but disavow fortune, and seemeth to be
conscious of his own want in worth, and doth but teach others to envy

Lastly, to conclude this part, as we said in the beginning that the
act of envy had somewhat in it of witchcraft, so there is no other
cure of envy but the cure of witchcraft; and that is, to remove the
lot (as they call it), and to lay it upon another; for which purpose,
the wiser sort of great persons bring in ever upon the stage somebody
upon whom to derive the envy that would come upon themselves; sometimes
upon ministers and servants, sometimes upon colleagues and associates,
and the like; and, for that turn, there are never wanting some persons
of violent and undertaking natures, who, so they may have power and
business, will take it at any cost.

Now, to speak of public envy: there is yet some good in public
envy, whereas in private there is none; for public envy is as an
ostracism,[120] that eclipseth men when they grow too great; and
therefore it is a bridle also to great ones, to keep them within bounds.

This envy, being in the Latin word _invidia_,[121] goeth in the modern
languages by the name of discontentment, of which we shall speak in
handling sedition. It is a disease in a state like to infection; for as
infection spreadeth upon that which is sound, and tainteth it, so, when
envy is gotten once into a state, it traduceth even the best actions
thereof, and turneth them into an ill odor; and therefore there is
little won by intermingling of plausible actions; for that doth argue
but a weakness and fear of envy, which hurteth so much the more, as it
is likewise usual in infections, which, if you fear them, you call them
upon you.

This public envy seemeth to beat chiefly upon principal officers or
ministers, rather than upon kings and estates themselves. But this is a
sure rule, that if the envy upon the minister be great, when the cause
of it in him is small; or if the envy be general in a manner upon all
the ministers of an estate, then the envy (though hidden) is truly upon
the state itself. And so much of public envy or discontentment, and the
difference thereof from private envy, which was handled in the first

We will add this in general, touching the affection of envy, that,
of all other affections, it is the most importune and continual; for
of other affections there is occasion given but now and then; and
therefore it was well said, “Invidia festos dies non agit:”[122] for
it is ever working upon some or other. And it is also noted, that love
and envy do make a man pine, which other affections do not, because
they are not so continual. It is also the vilest affection, and the
most depraved; for which cause it is the proper attribute of the devil,
who is called “The envious man, that soweth tares amongst the wheat by
night;”[123] as it always cometh to pass that envy worketh subtilely,
and in the dark, and to the prejudice of good things, such as is the


The stage is more beholding[124] to love than the life of man; for as
to the stage, love is ever matter of comedies, and now and then of
tragedies; but in life it doth much mischief, sometimes like a Siren,
sometimes like a Fury. You may observe, that, amongst all the great
and worthy persons (whereof the memory remaineth, either ancient or
recent), there is not one that hath been transported to the mad degree
of love, which shows that great spirits and great business do keep out
this weak passion. You must except, nevertheless, Marcus Antonius,
the half partner of the empire of Rome, and Appius Claudius,[125] the
decemvir and lawgiver; whereof the former was indeed a voluptuous
man, and inordinate, but the latter was an austere and wise man; and
therefore it seems (though rarely) that love can find entrance, not
only into an open heart, but also into a heart well fortified, if watch
be not well kept. It is a poor saying of Epicurus, “Satis magnum alter
alteri theatrum sumus;”[126] as if man, made for the contemplation
of heaven and all noble objects, should do nothing but kneel before
a little idol, and make himself subject, though not of the mouth (as
beasts are) yet of the eye, which was given him for higher purposes.
It is a strange thing to note the excess of this passion, and how it
braves the nature and value of things, by this, that the speaking in
a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing but in love, neither is it
merely in the phrase; for whereas it hath been well said, “That the
arch flatterer, with whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence,
is a man’s self;” certainly, the lover is more; for there was never
proud man thought so absurdly well of himself as the lover doth of the
person loved; and therefore it was well said, “That it is impossible
to love and to be wise.”[127] Neither doth this weakness appear to
others only, and not to the party loved, but to the loved most of
all, except the love be reciprocal; for it is a true rule, that love
is ever rewarded, either with the reciprocal, or with an inward and
secret contempt; by how much the more men ought to beware of this
passion, which loseth not only other things, but itself. As for the
other losses, the poet’s relation[128] doth well figure them: “That
he that preferred Helena, quitted the gifts of Juno and Pallas;” for
whosoever esteemeth too much of amorous affection, quitteth both riches
and wisdom. This passion hath his floods in the very times of weakness,
which are, great prosperity and great adversity, though this latter
hath been less observed; both which times kindle love, and make it more
fervent, and therefore show it to be the child of folly. They do best
who, if they cannot but admit love, yet make it keep quarter, and sever
it wholly from their serious affairs and actions of life; for if it
check once with business, it troubleth men’s fortunes, and maketh men
that they can nowise be true to their own ends. I know not how, but
martial men are given to love; I think it is, but as they are given
to wine, for perils commonly ask to be paid in pleasures. There is in
man’s nature a secret inclination and motion towards love of others,
which, if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread
itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable, as it
is seen sometimes in friars. Nuptial love maketh mankind, friendly love
perfecteth it, but wanton love corrupted and embaseth it.


Men in great place are thrice servants—servants of the sovereign or
state, servants of fame, and servants of business; so as they have no
freedom, neither in their persons, nor in their actions, nor in their
times. It is a strange desire to seek power and to lose liberty; or to
seek power over others, and to lose power over a man’s self. The rising
unto place is laborious, and by pains men come to greater pains; and
it is sometimes base, and by indignities men come to dignities. The
standing is slippery, and the regress is either a downfall, or at least
an eclipse, which is a melancholy thing: “Cum non sis qui fueris, non
esse cur velis vivere.”[130] Nay, retire men cannot when they would,
neither will they when it were reason; but are impatient of privateness
even in age and sickness, which require the shadow; like old townsmen,
that will be still sitting at their street door, though thereby they
offer age to scorn. Certainly, great persons had need to borrow other
men’s opinions to think themselves happy; for if they judge by their
own feeling, they cannot find it; but if they think with themselves
what other men think of them, and that other men would fain be as they
are, then they are happy as it were by report, when, perhaps, they
find the contrary within; for they are the first that find their own
griefs, though they be the last that find their own faults. Certainly,
men in great fortunes are strangers to themselves, and while they are
in the puzzle of business, they have no time to tend their health
either of body or mind.

  “Illi mors gravis incubat,
  Qui notus nimis omnibus,
  Ignotus moritur.”[131]

In place, there is license to do good and evil, whereof the latter is a
curse; for in evil, the best condition is not to will, the second not
to can. But power to do good is the true and lawful end of aspiring;
for good thoughts, though God accept them, yet towards men are little
better than good dreams, except they be put in act; and that cannot be
without power and place, as the vantage and commanding ground. Merit
and good works are the end of man’s motion, and conscience of the same
is the accomplishment of man’s rest; for if a man can be partaker
of God’s theatre, he shall likewise be partaker of God’s rest. “Et
conversus Deus, ut aspiceret opera, quæ fecerunt manus suæ, vidit quod
omnia essent bona nimis;”[132] and then the Sabbath.

In the discharge of thy place, set before thee the best examples; for
imitation is a globe of precepts, and after a time set before thee
thine own example; and examine thyself strictly whether thou didst not
best at first. Neglect not also the examples of those that have carried
themselves ill in the same place; not to set off thyself by taxing
their memory, but to direct thyself what to avoid. Reform, therefore,
without bravery or scandal of former times and persons; but yet set it
down to thyself, as well to create good precedents as to follow them.
Reduce things to the first institution, and observe wherein and how
they have degenerated; but yet ask counsel of both times—of the ancient
time what is best, and of the latter time what is fittest. Seek to make
thy course regular, that men may know beforehand what they may expect;
but be not too positive and peremptory, and express thyself well when
thou digressest from thy rule. Preserve the right of thy place, but
stir not questions of jurisdiction; and rather assume thy right in
silence, and _de facto_,[133] than voice it with claims and challenges.
Preserve likewise the rights of inferior places; and think it more
honor to direct in chief than to be busy in all. Embrace and invite
helps and advices touching the execution of thy place; and do not drive
away such as bring thee information, as meddlers, but accept of them in
good part. The vices of authority are chiefly four: delays, corruption,
roughness, and facility. For delays, give easy access, keep times
appointed, go through with that which is in hand, and interlace not
business but of necessity. For corruption, do not only bind thine own
hands or thy servant’s hands from taking, but bind the hands of suitors
also from offering; for integrity used doth the one, but integrity
professed, and with a manifest detestation of bribery, doth the other;
and avoid not only the fault, but the suspicion. Whosoever is found
variable, and changeth manifestly without manifest cause, giveth
suspicion of corruption; therefore, always when thou changest thine
opinion or course, profess it plainly, and declare it, together with
the reasons that move thee to change, and do not think to steal it. A
servant or a favorite, if he be inward, and no other apparent cause
of esteem, is commonly thought but a by-way to close corruption. For
roughness, it is a needless cause of discontent: severity breedeth
fear, but roughness breedeth hate. Even reproofs from authority ought
to be grave, and not taunting. As for facility,[134] it is worse than
bribery, for bribes come but now and then; but if importunity or idle
respects[135] lead a man, he shall never be without; as Solomon saith,
“To respect persons is not good; for such a man will transgress for a
piece of bread.”[136]

It is most true that was anciently spoken: “A place showeth the man;
and it showeth some to the better, and some to the worse:” “Omnium
consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset,”[137] saith Tacitus of Galba;
but of Vespasian he saith, “Solus imperantium, Vespasianus mutatus in
melius;”[138] though the one was meant of sufficiency, the other of
manners and affection. It is an assured sign of a worthy and generous
spirit, whom honor amends; for honor is, or should be, the place of
virtue; and as in nature things move violently to their place, and
calmly in their place, so virtue in ambition is violent, in authority
settled and calm. All rising to great place is by a winding stair; and
if there be factions, it is good to side a man’s self whilst he is in
the rising, and to balance himself when he is placed. Use the memory of
thy predecessor fairly and tenderly; for if thou dost not, it is a debt
will sure be paid when thou art gone. If thou have colleagues, respect
them; and rather call them when they look not for it, than exclude
them when they have reason to look to be called. Be not too sensible
or too remembering of thy place in conversation and private answers
to suitors; but let it rather be said, “When he sits in place, he is
another man.”


It is a trivial grammar-school text, but yet worthy a wise man’s
consideration. Question was asked of Demosthenes, what was the chief
part of an orator? He answered, Action. What next?—Action. What next
again?—Action.[139] He said it that knew it best, and had, by nature,
himself no advantage in that he commended. A strange thing, that that
part of an orator which is but superficial, and rather the virtue
of a player, should be placed so high above those other noble parts
of invention, elocution, and the rest; nay, almost alone, as if it
were all in all. But the reason is plain. There is in human nature
generally more of the fool than of the wise; and therefore, those
faculties by which the foolish part of men’s minds is taken are most
potent. Wonderful like is the case of boldness in civil business. What
first?—Boldness: what second and third?—Boldness. And yet boldness is
a child of ignorance and baseness, far inferior to other parts; but,
nevertheless, it doth fascinate, and bind hand and foot those that are
either shallow in judgment or weak in courage, which are the greatest
part, yea, and prevaileth with wise man at weak times; therefore,
we see it hath done wonders in popular states, but with senates and
princes less, and more, ever upon the first entrance of bold persons
into action than soon after; for boldness is an ill keeper of
promise. Surely, as there are mountebanks for the natural body, so
are there mountebanks for the politic body; men that undertake great
cures, and perhaps have been lucky in two or three experiments, but
want the grounds of science, and therefore cannot hold out; nay, you
shall see a bold fellow many times do Mahomet’s miracle. Mahomet made
the people believe that he would call a hill to him, and from the top
of it offer up his prayers for the observers of his law. The people
assembled; Mahomet called the hill to come to him again and again;
and when the hill stood still, he was never a whit abashed, but said,
“If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.”
So these men, when they have promised great matters and failed most
shamefully, yet, if they have the perfection of boldness, they will
but slight it over, and make a turn, and no more ado. Certainly, to
men of great judgment, bold persons are a sport to behold; nay, and
to the vulgar also boldness hath somewhat of the ridiculous; for if
absurdity be the subject of laughter, doubt you not but great boldness
is seldom without some absurdity; especially it is a sport to see when
a bold fellow is out of countenance, for that puts his face into a most
shrunken and wooden posture, as needs it must; for in bashfulness the
spirits do a little go and come, but with bold men, upon like occasion,
they stand at a stay; like a stale at chess, where it is no mate, but
yet the game cannot stir; but this last were fitter for a satire than
for a serious observation. This is well to be weighed, that boldness
is ever blind, for it seeth not dangers and inconveniences; therefore,
it is ill in counsel, good in execution; so that the right use of bold
persons is, that they never command in chief, but be seconds and under
the direction of others; for in counsel it is good to see dangers; and
in execution not to see them except they be very great.


I take goodness in this sense, the affecting of the weal of men, which
is that the Grecians call _philanthropia_; and the word humanity, as
it is used, is a little too light to express it. Goodness I call the
habit, and goodness of nature the inclination. This, of all virtues
and dignities of the mind, is the greatest, being the character of
the Deity; and without it man is a busy, mischievous, wretched thing,
no better than a kind of vermin. Goodness answers to the theological
virtue charity, and admits no excess but error. The desire of power
in excess caused the angels to fall;[140] the desire of knowledge in
excess caused man to fall; but in charity there is no excess, neither
can angel or man come in danger by it. The inclination to goodness is
imprinted deeply in the nature of man, insomuch that if it issue not
towards men, it will take unto other living creatures; as it is seen
in the Turks, a cruel people, who nevertheless are kind to beasts, and
give alms to dogs and birds; insomuch, as Busbechius[141] reporteth,
a Christian boy in Constantinople had like to have been stoned for
gagging in a waggishness a long-billed fowl.[142] Errors, indeed, in
this virtue, of goodness or charity, may be committed. The Italians
have an ungracious proverb: “Tanto buon che val niente;” “So good, that
he is good for nothing;” and one of the doctors of Italy, Nicholas
Machiavel,[143] had the confidence to put in writing, almost in plain
terms, “That the Christian faith had given up good men in prey to those
that are tyrannical and unjust;”[144] which he spake, because, indeed,
there was never law, or sect, or opinion did so much magnify goodness
as the Christian religion doth; therefore, to avoid the scandal and the
danger both, it is good to take knowledge of the errors of a habit so
excellent. Seek the good of other men, but be not in bondage to their
faces or fancies; for that is but facility or softness, which taketh an
honest mind prisoner. Neither give thou Æsop’s cock a gem, who would
be better pleased and happier if he had had a barley-corn. The example
of God teacheth the lesson truly: “He sendeth his rain, and maketh his
sun to shine upon the just and the unjust;”[145] but he doth not rain
wealth, nor shine honor and virtues upon men equally; common benefits
are to be communicate with all, but peculiar benefits with choice. And
beware how, in making the portraiture, thou breakest the pattern; for
divinity maketh the love of ourselves the pattern, the love of our
neighbors but the portraiture: “Sell all thou hast, and give it to the
poor, and follow me;”[146] but sell not all thou hast, except thou
come and follow me; that is, except thou have a vocation wherein thou
mayest do as much good with little means as with great; for otherwise,
in feeding the streams thou driest the fountain. Neither is there only
a habit of goodness directed by right reason, but there is in some men,
even in nature, a disposition towards it; as, on the other side, there
is a natural malignity, for there be that in their nature do not affect
the good of others. The lighter sort of malignity turneth but to a
crossness, or frowardness, or aptness to oppose, or difficileness, or
the like; but the deeper sort to envy, and mere mischief. Such men in
other men’s calamities are, as it were, in season, and are ever on the
loading part; not so good as the dogs that licked Lazarus’s sores,[147]
but like flies that are still buzzing upon any thing that is raw;
misanthropi, that make it their practice to bring men to the bough, and
yet have never a tree for the purpose in their gardens, as Timon[148]
had. Such dispositions are the very errors of human nature, and yet
they are the fittest timber to make great politics of; like to knee
timber,[149] that is good for ships that are ordained to be tossed, but
not for building houses that shall stand firm. The parts and signs of
goodness are many. If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it
shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island
cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them; if he
be compassionate towards the afflictions of others, it shows that his
heart is like the noble tree that is wounded itself when it gives the
balm;[150] if he easily pardons and remits offences, it shows that
his mind is planted above injuries, so that he cannot be shot; if he
be thankful for small benefits, it shows that he weighs men’s minds,
and not their trash; but, above all, if he have St. Paul’s perfection,
that he would wish to be an anathema[151] from Christ for the salvation
of his brethren, it shows much of a divine nature, and a kind of
conformity with Christ himself.


We will speak of nobility, first, as a portion of an estate, then as a
condition of particular persons. A monarchy, where there is no nobility
at all, is ever a pure and absolute tyranny as that of the Turks; for
nobility attempers sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people
somewhat aside from the line royal: but for democracies they need it
not; and they are commonly more quiet and less subject to sedition than
where there are stirps of nobles; for men’s eyes are upon the business,
and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the
business sake, as fittest, and not for flags and pedigree. We see the
Switzers last well, notwithstanding their diversity of religion and of
cantons; for utility is their bond, and not respects.[152] The United
Provinces of the Low Countries[153] in their government excel; for
where there is an equality the consultations are more indifferent, and
the payments and tributes more cheerful. A great and potent nobility
addeth majesty to a monarch, but diminisheth power, and putteth life
and spirit into the people, but presseth their fortune. It is well
when nobles are not too great for sovereignty nor for justice; and yet
maintained in that height, as the insolency of inferiors may be broken
upon them, before it come on too fast upon the majesty of kings. A
numerous nobility causeth poverty and inconvenience in a state, for it
is a surcharge of expense; and besides, it being of necessity that many
of the nobility fall in time to be weak in fortune, it maketh a kind of
disproportion between honor and means.

As for nobility in particular persons, it is a reverend thing to
see an ancient castle or building not in decay, or to see a fair
timber-tree sound and perfect; how much more to behold an ancient noble
family, which hath stood against the waves and weathers of time! For
new nobility is but the act of power, but ancient nobility is the act
of time. Those that are first raised to nobility are commonly more
virtuous,[154] but less innocent than their descendants; for there is
rarely any rising but by a commixture of good and evil arts; but it
is reason the memory of their virtues remain to their posterity, and
their faults die with themselves. Nobility of birth commonly abateth
industry, and he that is not industrious, envieth him that is; besides,
noble persons cannot go much higher; and he that standeth at a stay
when others rise, can hardly avoid motions of envy.[155] On the other
side, nobility extinguisheth the passive envy from others towards them,
because they are in possession of honor. Certainly, kings that have
able men of their nobility shall find ease in employing them, and a
better slide into their business; for people naturally bend to them, as
born in some sort to command.


Shepherds of people had need know the calendars of tempests in state,
which are commonly greatest when things grow to equality; as natural
tempests are greatest about the equinoctia,[156] and as there are
certain hollow blasts of wind and secret swellings of seas before a
tempest, so are there in states:—

            “Ille etiam cæcos instare tumultus
  Sæpe monet, fraudesque et operta tumescere bella.”[157]

Libels and licentious discourses against the state, when they are
frequent and open; and in like sort false news, often running up and
down, to the disadvantage of the state, and hastily embraced, are
amongst the signs of troubles. Virgil, giving the pedigree of Fame,
saith she was sister to the giants:—

  “Illam Terra parens, irâ irritata Deorum,
  Extremam (ut perhibent) Cœo Enceladoque sororem

As if fames were the relics of seditions past; but they are no less
indeed the preludes of seditions to come. Howsoever, he noteth it
right, that seditious tumults and seditious fames differ no more but
as brother and sister, masculine and feminine; especially if it come
to that, that the best actions of a state, and the most plausible, and
which ought to give greatest contentment, are taken in ill sense, and
traduced; for that shows the envy great, as Tacitus saith, “Conflatâ
magnâ, invidiâ, seu bene, seu male, gesta premunt.”[159] Neither doth
it follow, that because these fames are a sign of troubles, that
the suppressing of them with too much severity should be a remedy
of troubles; for the despising of them many times checks them best,
and the going about to stop them doth but make a wonder long-lived.
Also that kind of obedience, which Tacitus speaketh of, is to be held
suspected: “Erant in officio, sed tamen qui mallent imperantium mandata
interpretari, quam exsequi;”[160] disputing, excusing, cavilling upon
mandates and directions, is a kind of shaking off the yoke, and assay
of disobedience; especially if, in those disputings, they which are for
the direction speak fearfully and tenderly, and those that are against
it audaciously.

Also, as Machiavel noteth well, when princes, that ought to be
common parents, make themselves as a party, and lean to a side; it
is as a boat that is overthrown by uneven weight on the one side, as
was well seen in the time of Henry the Third of France; for first
himself entered league[161] for the extirpation of the Protestants,
and presently after the same league was turned upon himself; for when
the authority of princes is made but an accessary to a cause, and that
there be other bands that tie faster than the band of sovereignty,
kings begin to be put almost out of possession.

Also, when discords, and quarrels, and factions are carried openly and
audaciously, it is a sign the reverence of government is lost; for the
motions of the greatest persons in a government ought to be as the
motions of the planets under “primum mobile,”[162] according to the old
opinion, which is, that every of them is carried swiftly by the highest
motion, and softly in their own motion; and therefore, when great
ones in their own particular motion move violently, and as Tacitus
expresseth it well, “liberius quam ut imperantium meminissent,”[163]
it is a sign the orbs are out of frame; for reverence is that
wherewith princes are girt from God, who threateneth the dissolving
thereof: “Solvam cingula regum.”[164]

So when any of the four pillars of government are mainly shaken or
weakened (which are religion, justice, counsel, and treasure), men
had need to pray for fair weather. But let us pass from this part of
predictions (concerning which, nevertheless, more light may be taken
from that which followeth), and let us speak first of the materials of
seditions; then of the motives of them; and thirdly of the remedies.

Concerning the materials of seditions, it is a thing well to be
considered, for the surest way to prevent seditions (if the times do
bear it), is to take away the matter of them; for if there be fuel
prepared, it is hard to tell whence the spark shall come that shall
set it on fire. The matter of seditions is of two kinds, much poverty
and much discontentment. It is certain, so many overthrown estates, so
many votes for troubles. Lucan noteth well the state of Rome before the
civil war:—

  “Hinc usura vorax, rapidumque in tempore fœnus,
  Hinc concussa fides, et multis utile bellum.”[165]

This same “multis utile bellum,”[166] is an assured and infallible
sign of a state disposed to seditions and troubles; and if this
poverty and broken estate in the better sort be joined with a want and
necessity in the mean people, the danger is imminent and great; for
the rebellions of the belly are the worst. As for discontentments,
they are in the politic body like to humors in the natural, which are
apt to gather a preternatural heat and to inflame; and let no prince
measure the danger of them by this, whether they be just or unjust;
for that were to imagine people to be too reasonable, who do often
spurn at their own good; nor yet by this, whether the griefs whereupon
they rise be in fact great or small; for they are the most dangerous
discontentments where the fear is greater than the feeling: “Dolendi
modus, timendi non item.”[167] Besides, in great oppressions, the same
things that provoke the patience, do withal mate[168] the courage;
but in fears it is not so; neither let any prince or state be secure
concerning discontentments, because they have been often or have been
long, and yet no peril hath ensued; for as it is true that every vapor
or fume doth not turn into a storm, so it is nevertheless true that
storms, though they blow over divers times, yet may fall at last; and,
as the Spanish proverb noteth well, “The cord breaketh at the last by
the weakest pull.”[169]

The causes and motives of seditions are, innovation in religion,
taxes, alteration of laws and customs, breaking of privileges, general
oppression, advancement of unworthy persons, strangers, dearths,
disbanded soldiers, factions grown desperate, and whatsoever in
offending people joineth and knitteth them in a common cause.

For the remedies, there may be some general preservatives, whereof we
will speak; as for the just cure, it must answer to the particular
disease, and so be left to counsel rather than rule.

The first remedy, or prevention, is to remove, by all means possible,
that material cause of sedition whereof we spake, which is, want and
poverty in the estate;[170] to which purpose serveth the opening and
well-balancing of trade; the cherishing of manufactures; the banishing
of idleness; the repressing of waste and excess by sumptuary laws;[171]
the improvement and husbanding of the soil; the regulating of prices of
things vendible; the moderating of taxes and tributes, and the like.
Generally, it is to be foreseen that the population of a kingdom
(especially if it be not mown down by wars) do not exceed the stock of
the kingdom which should maintain them; neither is the population to
be reckoned only by number; for a smaller number, that spend more and
earn less, do wear out an estate sooner than a greater number that live
lower and gather more. Therefore the multiplying of nobility and other
degrees of quality, in an over-proportion to the common people, doth
speedily bring a state to necessity; and so doth likewise an overgrown
clergy, for they bring nothing to the stock;[172] and in like manner,
when more are bred scholars than preferments can take off.

It is likewise to be remembered, that, forasmuch as the increase of any
estate must be upon the foreigner[173] (for whatsoever is somewhere
gotten is somewhere lost), there be but three things which one nation
selleth unto another; the commodity, as nature yieldeth it; the
manufacture; and the vecture, or carriage; so that, if these three
wheels go, wealth will flow as in a spring tide. And it cometh many
times to pass, that, “materiam superabit opus,”[174] that the work and
carriage is more worth than the material, and enricheth a state more;
as is notably seen in the Low Countrymen, who have the best mines[175]
above ground in the world.

Above all things, good policy is to be used, that the treasure and
moneys in a state be not gathered into few hands; for, otherwise,
a state may have a great stock, and yet starve. And money is like
muck,[176] not good except it be spread. This is done chiefly by
suppressing, or, at the least, keeping a strait hand upon the devouring
trades of usury, engrossing[177] great pasturages, and the like.

For removing discontentments, or, at least, the danger of them, there
is in every state (as we know) two portions of subjects, the nobles
and the commonalty. When one of these is discontent, the danger is not
great; for common people are of slow motion, if they be not excited by
the greater sort; and the greater sort are of small strength, except
the multitude be apt and ready to move of themselves; then is the
danger, when the greater sort do but wait for the troubling of the
waters amongst the meaner, that then they may declare themselves. The
poets feign that the rest of the gods would have bound Jupiter, which
he hearing of, by the counsel of Pallas, sent for Briareus, with his
hundred hands, to come in to his aid; an emblem, no doubt, to show how
safe it is for monarchs to make sure of the good-will of common people.

To give moderate liberty for griefs and discontentments to evaporate
(so it be without too great insolency or bravery), is a safe way; for
he that turneth the humors back, and maketh the wound bleed inwards,
endangereth malign ulcers and pernicious imposthumations.

The part of Epimetheus[178] might well become Prometheus, in the case
of discontentments, for there is not a better provision against them.
Epimetheus, when griefs and evils flew abroad, at last shut the lid,
and kept Hope in the bottom of the vessel. Certainly, the politic and
artificial nourishing and entertaining of hopes, and carrying men
from hopes to hopes, is one of the best antidotes against the poison
of discontentments; and it is a certain sign of a wise government and
proceeding, when it can hold men’s hearts by hopes, when it cannot by
satisfaction; and when it can handle things in such manner as no evil
shall appear so peremptory, but that it hath some outlet of hope; which
is the less hard to do, because both particular persons and factions
are apt enough to flatter themselves, or at least to brave that which
they believe not.

Also the foresight and prevention, that there be no likely or fit head
whereunto discontented persons may resort, and under whom they may
join, is a known but an excellent point of caution. I understand a fit
head to be one that hath greatness and reputation, that hath confidence
with the discontented party, and upon whom they turn their eyes, and
that is thought discontented in his own particular: which kind of
persons are either to be won and reconciled to the state, and that in
a fast and true manner; or to be fronted with some other of the same
party that may oppose them, and so divide the reputation. Generally,
the dividing and breaking of all factions and combinations that are
adverse to the state, and setting them at distance, or, at least,
distrust amongst themselves, is not one of the worst remedies; for it
is a desperate case, if those that hold with the proceeding of the
state be full of discord and faction, and those that are against it be
entire and united.

I have noted, that some witty and sharp speeches, which have fallen
from princes, have given fire to seditions. Cæsar did himself infinite
hurt in that speech—“Sylla nescivit literas, non potuit dictare,”[179]
for it did utterly cut off that hope which men had entertained, that
he would, at one time or other, give over his dictatorship. Galba
undid himself by that speech, “Legi a se militem, non emi;”[180] for
it put the soldiers out of hope of the donative. Probus, likewise,
by that speech, “Si vixero, non opus erit amplius Romano imperio
militibus;”[181] a speech of great despair for the soldiers, and many
the like. Surely princes had need, in tender matters and ticklish
times, to beware what they say, especially in these short speeches,
which fly abroad like darts, and are thought to be shot out of their
secret intentions; for as for large discourses, they are flat things,
and not so much noted.

Lastly, let princes, against all events, not be without some great
person, one or rather more, of military valor, near unto them, for the
repressing of seditions in their beginnings; for without that, there
useth to be more trepidation in court upon the first breaking out of
troubles than were fit, and the state runneth the danger of that which
Tacitus saith: “Atque is habitus animorum fuit, ut pessimum facinus
auderent pauci, plures vellent, omnes paterentur:”[182] but let such
military persons be assured, and well reputed of, rather than factious
and popular; holding also good correspondence with the other great men
in the state, or else the remedy is worse than the disease.


I had rather believe all the fables in the legends,[183] and the
Talmud,[184] and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is
without a mind; and, therefore, God never wrought miracle to convince
atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true, that a
little philosophy[185] inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in
philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion; for while the mind
of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest
in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them
confederate, and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and
Deity. Nay, even that school which is most accused of atheism, doth
most demonstrate religion: that is, the school of Leucippus,[186] and
Democritus,[187] and Epicurus; for it is a thousand times more credible
that four mutable elements, and one immutable fifth essence,[188] duly
and eternally placed, need no God, than that an army of infinite small
portions, or seeds unplaced, should have produced this order and beauty
without a divine marshal. The Scripture saith, “The fool hath said
in his heart, there is no God;”[189] it is not said, “The fool hath
thought in his heart;” so as he rather saith it by rote to himself,
as that he would have, than that he can thoroughly believe it, or be
persuaded of it; for none deny there is a God, but those for whom it
maketh[190] that there were no God. It appeareth in nothing more, that
atheism is rather in the lip than in the heart of man, than by this,
that atheists will ever be talking of that their opinion, as if they
fainted in it within themselves, and would be glad to be strengthened
by the consent of others; nay more, you shall have atheists strive
to get disciples, as it fareth with other sects; and, which is most
of all, you shall have of them that will suffer for atheism, and not
recant; whereas, if they did truly think that there were no such thing
as God, why should they trouble themselves? Epicurus is charged, that
he did but dissemble for his credit’s sake, when he affirmed there
were blessed natures, but such as enjoyed themselves without having
respect to the government of the world. Wherein they say he did
temporize, though in secret he thought there was no God; but certainly
he is traduced, for his words are noble and divine: “Non Deos vulgi
negare profanum; sed vulgi opiniones Diis applicare profanum.”[191]
Plato could have said no more; and, although he had the confidence to
deny the administration, he had not the power to deny the nature. The
Indians[192] of the west have names for their particular gods, though
they have no name for God; as if the heathens should have had the names
Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, &c., but not the word Deus, which shows that
even those barbarous people have the notion, though they have not the
latitude and extent of it; so that against atheists the very savages
take part with the very subtlest philosophers. The contemplative
atheist is rare; a Diagoras,[193] a Bion,[194] a Lucian,[195] perhaps,
and some others, and yet they seem to be more than they are; for
that all that impugn a received religion, or superstition, are, by
the adverse part, branded with the name of atheists. But the great
atheists indeed are hypocrites, which are ever handling holy things,
but without feeling, so as they must needs be cauterized in the end.
The causes of atheism are: divisions in religion, if they be many; for
any one main division addeth zeal to both sides, but many divisions
introduce atheism. Another is, scandal of priests, when it is come
to that which St. Bernard saith: “Non est jam dicere, ut populus,
sic sacerdos; quia nec sic populus, ut sacerdos.”[196] A third is,
custom of profane scoffing in holy matters, which doth by little and
little deface the reverence of religion: and lastly, learned times,
specially with peace and prosperity; for troubles and adversities do
more bow men’s minds to religion. They that deny a God destroy a man’s
nobility, for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and
if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble
creature. It destroys likewise magnanimity, and the raising of human
nature; for, take an example of a dog, and mark what a generosity and
courage he will put on when he finds himself maintained by a man, who,
to him, is instead of a God, or “melior natura;”[197] which courage is
manifestly such as that creature, without that confidence of a better
nature than his own, could never attain. So man, when he resteth and
assureth himself upon divine protection and favor, gathereth a force
and faith, which human nature in itself could not obtain; therefore,
as atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that it depriveth
human nature of the means to exalt itself above human frailty. As it
is in particular persons, so it is in nations: never was there such a
state for magnanimity as Rome. Of this state hear what Cicero saith:
“Quam volumus, licet, Patres conscripti, nos amemus, tamen nec numero
Hispanos, nec robore Gallos, nec calliditate Pœnos, nec artibus
Græcos, nec denique hoc ipso hujus gentis et terræ domestico nativoque
sensu Italos ipsos et Latinos; sed pietate, ac religione, atque hâc
unâ sapientiâ, quod Deorum immortalium numine omnia regi, gubernarique
perspeximus, omnes gentes, nationesque superavimus.”[198]


It were better to have no opinion of God at all, than such an
opinion as is unworthy of him; for the one is unbelief, the other is
contumely,[199] and certainly superstition is the reproach of the
Deity. Plutarch saith well to that purpose: “Surely,” saith he, “I
had rather a great deal men should say there was no such man at all
as Plutarch, than that they should say that there was one Plutarch
that would eat his children[200] as soon as they were born,” as the
poets speak of Saturn; and, as the contumely is greater towards God,
so the danger is greater towards men. Atheism leaves a man to sense,
to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation, all which may
be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not; but
superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute monarchy
in the minds of men. Therefore atheism did never perturb states; for
it makes men wary of themselves, as looking no further, and we see
the times inclined to atheism (as the time of Augustus Cæsar) were
civil times; but superstition hath been the confusion of many states,
and bringeth in a new _primum mobile_,[201] that ravisheth all the
spheres of government. The master of superstition is the people, and
in all superstition wise men follow fools; and arguments are fitted
to practice in a reversed order. It was gravely said by some of the
prelates in the Council of Trent,[202] where the doctrine of the
schoolmen bare great sway, that the schoolmen were like astronomers,
which did feign eccentrics[203] and epicycles,[204] and such engines of
orbs to save[205] the phenomena, though they knew there were no such
things; and, in like manner, that the schoolmen had framed a number
of subtle and intricate axioms and theorems, to save the practice of
the Church. The causes of superstition are, pleasing and sensual rites
and ceremonies; excess of outward and pharisaical holiness; over-great
reverence of traditions, which cannot but load the Church; the
stratagems of prelates for their own ambition and lucre; the favoring
too much of good intentions, which openeth the gate to conceits and
novelties; the taking an aim at divine matters by human, which cannot
but breed mixture of imaginations; and, lastly, barbarous times,
especially joined with calamities and disasters. Superstition, without
a veil, is a deformed thing; for, as it addeth deformity to an ape to
be so like a man, so the similitude of superstition to religion makes
it the more deformed; and as wholesome meat corrupteth to little worms,
so good forms and orders corrupt into a number of petty observances.
There is a superstition in avoiding superstition, when men think to
do best if they go furthest from the superstition formerly received;
therefore care would be had that (as it fareth in ill purgings) the
good be not taken away with the bad, which commonly is done when the
people is the reformer.


Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a
part of experience. He that travelleth into a country before he hath
some entrance into the language, goeth to school, and not to travel.
That young men travel under some tutor or grave servant, I allow well,
so that he be such a one that hath the language, and hath been in the
country before; whereby he may be able to tell them what things are
worthy to be seen in the country where they go, what acquaintances they
are to seek, what exercises or discipline the place yieldeth; for else
young men shall go hooded, and look abroad little. It is a strange
thing that, in sea voyages, where there is nothing to be seen but sky
and sea, men should make diaries; but in land travel, wherein so much
is to be observed, for the most part they omit it, as if chance were
fitter to be registered than observation. Let diaries, therefore, be
brought in use. The things to be seen and observed are, the courts of
princes, especially when they give audience to ambassadors; the courts
of justice, while they sit and hear causes; and so of consistories[206]
ecclesiastic; the churches and monasteries, with the monuments which
are therein extant; the walls and fortifications of cities and towns;
and so the havens and harbors, antiquities and ruins, libraries,
colleges, disputations, and lectures, where any are; shipping and
navies; houses and gardens of state and pleasure, near great cities;
armories, arsenals, magazines, exchanges, burses, warehouses, exercises
of horsemanship, fencing, training of soldiers, and the like; comedies,
such whereunto the better sort of persons do resort; treasuries of
jewels and robes; cabinets and rarities; and, to conclude, whatsoever
is memorable in the places where they go, after all which the tutors
or servants ought to make diligent inquiry. As for triumphs, masks,
feasts, weddings, funerals, capital executions, and such shows, men
need not to be put in mind of them; yet they are not to be neglected.
If you will have a young man to put his travel into a little room,
and in short time to gather much, this you must do: first, as was
said, he must have some entrance into the language before he goeth;
then he must have such a servant, or tutor, as knoweth the country,
as was likewise said; let him carry with him also some card or book,
describing the country where he travelleth, which will be a good key
to his inquiry; let him keep also a diary; let him not stay long in
one city or town, more or less, as the place deserveth, but not long;
nay, when he stayeth in one city or town, let him change his lodging
from one end and part of the town to another, which is a great adamant
of acquaintance; let him sequester himself from the company of his
countrymen, and diet in such places where there is good company of the
nation where he travelleth; let him, upon his removes from one place
to another, procure recommendation to some person of quality residing
in the place whither he removeth, that he may use his favor in those
things he desireth to see or know: thus he may abridge his travel
with much profit. As for the acquaintance which is to be sought in
travel, that which is most of all profitable, is acquaintance with the
secretaries and employed men[207] of ambassadors, for so in travelling
in one country he shall suck the experience of many; let him also see
and visit eminent persons in all kinds which are of great name abroad,
that he may be able to tell how the life agreeth with the fame. For
quarrels, they are with care and discretion to be avoided; they are
commonly for mistresses, healths,[208] place, and words; and let a man
beware how he keepeth company with choleric and quarrelsome persons,
for they will engage him into their own quarrels. When a traveller
returneth home, let him not leave the countries where he hath travelled
altogether behind him, but maintain a correspondence by letters with
those of his acquaintance which are of most worth; and let his travel
appear rather in his discourse than in his apparel or gesture, and in
his discourse let him be rather advised in his answers, than forward
to tell stories; and let it appear that he doth not change his country
manners for those of foreign parts, but only prick in some flowers of
that he hath learned abroad into the customs of his own country.


It is a miserable state of mind to have few things to desire, and
many things to fear; and yet that commonly is the case of kings, who,
being, at the highest, want matter of desire,[209] which makes their
minds more languishing; and have many representations of perils and
shadows, which makes their minds the less clear; and this is one
reason, also, of that effect which the Scripture speaketh of, “that
the king’s heart is inscrutable;”[210] for multitude of jealousies,
and lack of some predominant desire, that should marshal and put in
order all the rest, maketh any man’s heart hard to find or sound. Hence
it comes, likewise, that princes many times make themselves desires,
and set their hearts upon toys: sometimes upon a building; sometimes
upon erecting of an order; sometimes upon the advancing of a person;
sometimes upon obtaining excellency in some art or feat of the hand,—as
Nero for playing on the harp; Domitian for certainty of the hand with
the arrow; Commodus for playing at fence;[211] Caracalla for driving
chariots, and the like. This seemeth incredible unto those that know
not the principle, that the mind of man is more cheered and refreshed
by profiting in small things than by standing at a stay[212] in great.
We see, also, that kings that have been fortunate conquerors in their
first years, it being not possible for them to go forward infinitely,
but that they must have some check or arrest in their fortunes, turn
in their latter years to be superstitious and melancholy; as did
Alexander the Great, Diocletian,[213] and, in our memory, Charles the
Fifth,[214] and others; for he that is used to go forward, and findeth
a stop, falleth out of his own favor, and is not the thing he was.

To speak now of the true temper of empire, it is a thing rare and hard
to keep, for both temper and distemper consist of contraries; but it is
one thing to mingle contraries, another to interchange them. The answer
of Apollonius to Vespasian is full of excellent instruction. Vespasian
asked him, “What was Nero’s overthrow?” He answered, “Nero could touch
and tune the harp well; but in government sometimes he used to wind the
pins too high, sometimes to let them down too low.”[215] And certain
it is, that nothing destroyeth authority so much as the unequal and
untimely interchange of power pressed too far, and relaxed too much.

This is true, that the wisdom of all these latter times in princes’
affairs is rather fine deliveries, and shiftings of dangers and
mischiefs, when they are near, than solid and grounded courses to keep
them aloof; but this is but to try masteries with fortune, and let men
beware how they neglect and suffer matter of trouble to be prepared.
For no man can forbid the spark, nor tell whence it may come.
The difficulties in princes’ business are many and great; but the
greatest difficulty is often in their own mind. For it is common with
princes (saith Tacitus) to will contradictories: “Sunt plerumque regum
voluntates vehementes, et inter se contrariæ;”[216] for it is the
solecism of power to think to command the end, and yet not to endure
the mean.

Kings have to deal with their neighbors, their wives, their children,
their prelates or clergy, their nobles, their second nobles or
gentlemen, their merchants, their commons, and their men of war; and
from all these arise dangers, if care and circumspection be not used.

First, for their neighbors, there can no general rule be given (the
occasions are so variable), save one which ever holdeth; which is, that
princes do keep due sentinel, that none of their neighbors do overgrow
so (by increase of territory, by embracing of trade, by approaches,
or the like), as they become more able to annoy them than they were;
and this is generally the work of standing counsels to foresee and to
hinder it. During that triumvirate of kings, King Henry the Eighth of
England, Francis the First, King of France,[217] and Charles the Fifth,
Emperor, there was such a watch kept that none of the three could win
a palm of ground, but the other two would straightways balance it,
either by confederation, or, if need were, by a war; and would not,
in any wise, take up peace at interest; and the like was done by that
league (which Guicciardini[218] saith was the security of Italy) made
between Ferdinando, King of Naples, Lorenzius Medicis, and Ludovicus
Sforza, potentates, the one of Florence, the other of Milan. Neither is
the opinion of some of the schoolmen to be received, that a war cannot
justly be made, but upon a precedent injury or provocation; for there
is no question, but a just fear of an imminent danger, though there be
no blow given, is a lawful cause of a war.

For their wives, there are cruel examples of them. Livia is
infamed[219] for the poisoning of her husband; Roxolana, Solyman’s
wife,[220] was the destruction of that renowned prince, Sultan
Mustapha, and otherwise troubled his house and succession; Edward the
Second of England’s Queen[221] had the principal hand in the deposing
and murder of her husband.

This kind of danger is then to be feared chiefly when the wives have
plots for the raising of their own children, or else that they be

For their children, the tragedies likewise of dangers from them have
been many; and generally the entering of fathers into suspicion
of their children hath been ever unfortunate. The destruction of
Mustapha (that we named before) was so fatal to Solyman’s line, as the
succession of the Turks from Solyman until this day is suspected to be
untrue, and of strange blood; for that Selymus the Second was thought
to be supposititious.[223] The destruction of Crispus, a young prince
of rare towardness, by Constantinus the Great, his father, was in like
manner fatal to his house; for both Constantinus and Constance, his
sons, died violent deaths; and Constantius, his other son, did little
better, who died indeed of sickness, but after that Julianus had taken
arms against him. The destruction of Demetrius,[224] son to Philip the
Second of Macedon, turned upon the father, who died of repentance. And
many like examples there are; but few or none where the fathers had
good by such distrust, except it were where the sons were up in open
arms against them; as was Selymus the First against Bajazet, and the
three sons of Henry the Second, King of England.

For their prelates, when they are proud and great, there is also danger
from them; as it was in the times of Anselmus[225] and Thomas Becket,
Archbishops of Canterbury, who, with their crosiers, did almost try it
with the king’s sword; and yet they had to deal with stout and haughty
kings; William Rufus, Henry the First, and Henry the Second. The danger
is not from that state, but where it hath a dependence of foreign
authority; or where the churchmen come in and are elected, not by the
collation of the King, or particular patrons, but by the people.

For their nobles, to keep them at a distance it is not amiss; but to
depress them may make a king more absolute, but less safe, and less
able to perform anything that he desires. I have noted it in my History
of King Henry the Seventh of England, who depressed his nobility,
whereupon it came to pass that his times were full of difficulties and
troubles; for the nobility, though they continued loyal unto him, yet
did they not coöperate with him in his business; so that, in effect, he
was fain to do all things himself.

For their second nobles, there is not much danger from them, being
a body dispersed. They may sometimes discourse high, but that doth
little hurt; besides, they are a counterpoise to the higher nobility,
that they grow not too potent; and, lastly, being the most immediate
in authority with the common people, they do best temper popular

For their merchants, they are “vena porta:”[226] and if they flourish
not, a kingdom may have good limbs, but will have empty veins, and
nourish little. Taxes and imposts upon them do seldom good to the
king’s revenue, for that which he wins[227] in the hundred[228] he
loseth in the shire; the particular rates being increased, but the
total bulk of trading rather decreased.

For their commons, there is little danger from them, except it be where
they have great and potent heads; or where you meddle with the point of
religion, or their customs, or means of life.

For their men of war, it is a dangerous state where they live and
remain in a body, and are used to donatives; whereof we see examples in
the Janizaries[229] and Prætorian bands of Rome; but trainings of men,
and arming them in several places, and under several commanders, and
without donatives, are things of defence and no danger.

Princes are like to heavenly bodies, which cause good or evil times;
and which have much veneration, but no rest. All precepts concerning
kings are in effect comprehended in those two remembrances, “Memento
quod es homo;”[230] and “Memento quod es Deus,”[231] or “vice
Dei;”[232] the one bridleth their power and the other their will.


The greatest trust between man and man is the trust of giving counsel;
for in other confidences men commit the parts of life, their lands,
their goods, their children, their credit, some particular affair;
but to such as they make their counsellors they commit the whole; by
how much the more they are obliged to all faith and integrity. The
wisest princes need not think it any diminution to their greatness, or
derogation to their sufficiency to rely upon counsel. God himself is
not without, but hath made it one of the great names of his blessed
Son, “The Counsellor.”[233] Solomon hath pronounced that, “in counsel
is stability.”[234] Things will have their first or second agitation:
if they be not tossed upon the arguments of counsel, they will be
tossed upon the waves of fortune, and be full of inconstancy, doing and
undoing, like the reeling of a drunken man. Solomon’s son[235] found
the force of counsel, as his father saw the necessity of it; for the
beloved kingdom of God was first rent and broken by ill counsel; upon
which counsel there are set for our instruction the two marks whereby
bad counsel is forever best discerned, that it was young counsel for
the persons, and violent counsel for the matter.

The ancient times do set forth in figure both the incorporation and
inseparable conjunction of counsel with kings, and the wise and politic
use of counsel by kings; the one, in that they say Jupiter did marry
Metis, which signifieth counsel; whereby they intend that sovereignty
is married to counsel; the other in that which followeth, which was
thus: they say, after Jupiter was married to Metis, she conceived by
him and was with child; but Jupiter suffered her not to stay till
she brought forth, but eat her up; whereby he became himself with
child, and was delivered of Pallas armed, out of his head.[236] Which
monstrous fable containeth a secret of empire, how kings are to make
use of their council of state; that first, they ought to refer matters
unto them, which is the first begetting or impregnation; but when they
are elaborate, moulded, and shaped in the womb of their counsel, and
grow ripe and ready to be brought forth, that then they suffer not
their council to go through with the resolution and direction, as if
it depended on them; but take the matter back into their own hands,
and make it appear to the world, that the decrees and final directions
(which, because they come forth with prudence and power, are resembled
to Pallas armed), proceeded from themselves; and not only from their
authority, but (the more to add reputation to themselves) from their
head and device.

Let us now speak of the inconveniences of counsel, and of the remedies.
The inconveniences that have been noted in calling and using counsel
are three: first, the revealing of affairs, whereby they become less
secret; secondly, the weakening of the authority of princes, as if they
were less of themselves; thirdly, the danger of being unfaithfully
counselled, and more for the good of them that counsel than of him
that is counselled; for which inconveniences, the doctrine of Italy,
and practice of France, in some kings’ times, hath introduced cabinet
councils; a remedy worse than the disease.[237]

As to secrecy, princes are not bound to communicate all matters with
all counsellors, but may extract and select; neither is it necessary
that he that consulteth what he should do, should declare what he will
do; but let princes beware that the unsecreting of their affairs comes
not from themselves; and, as for cabinet councils, it may be their
motto, “Plenus rimarum sum:”[238] one futile person, that maketh it
his glory to tell, will do more hurt than many that know it their duty
to conceal. It is true, there be some affairs which require extreme
secrecy, which will hardly go beyond one or two persons besides the
king. Neither are those counsels unprosperous; for, besides the
secrecy, they commonly go on constantly in one spirit of direction
without distraction; but then it must be a prudent king, such as is
able to grind with a hand-mill;[239] and those inward counsellors
had need also to be wise men, and especially true and trusty to the
king’s ends; as it was with King Henry the Seventh of England, who,
in his greatest business, imparted himself to none, except it were to
Morton[240] and Fox.[241]

For weakening of authority, the fable[242] showeth the remedy; nay,
the majesty of kings is rather exalted than diminished when they are
in the chair of council; neither was there ever prince bereaved of
his dependencies by his council, except where there hath been either
an over-greatness in one counsellor, or an over-strict combination in
divers, which are things soon found and holpen.[243]

For the last inconvenience, that men will counsel with an eye to
themselves; certainly, “non inveniet fidem super terram,”[244] is meant
of the nature of times,[245] and not of all particular persons. There
be that are in nature faithful and sincere, and plain and direct, not
crafty and involved: let princes, above all, draw to themselves such
natures. Besides, counsellors are not commonly so united, but that one
counsellor keepeth sentinel over another; so that if any do counsel out
of faction or private ends, it commonly comes to the king’s ear; but
the best remedy is, if princes know their counsellors, as well as their
counsellors know them:—

  “Principis est virtus maxima nosse suos.”[246]

And on the other side, counsellors should not be too speculative
into their sovereign’s person. The true composition of a counsellor
is, rather to be skilful in their master’s business than in his
nature;[247] for then he is like to advise him, and not to feed his
humor. It is of singular use to princes, if they take the opinions of
their council both separately and together; for private opinion is
more free, but opinion before others is more reverend. In private,
men are more bold in their own humors; and in consort, men are more
obnoxious[248] to others’ humors; therefore it is good to take both;
and of the inferior sort rather in private, to preserve freedom; of
the greater, rather in consort, to preserve respect. It is in vain
for princes to take counsel concerning matters, if they take no
counsel likewise concerning persons; for all matters are as dead
images; and the life of the execution of affairs resteth in the good
choice of persons. Neither is it enough to consult concerning persons,
“secundum genera,”[249] as in an idea or mathematical description,
what the kind and character of the person should be; for the greatest
errors are committed, and the most judgment is shown, in the choice
of individuals. It was truly said, “Optimi consiliarii mortui:”[250]
“books will speak plain when counsellors blanch;”[251] therefore it
is good to be conversant in them, specially the books of such as
themselves have been actors upon the stage.

The councils at this day in most places are but familiar meetings,
where matters are rather talked on than debated; and they run too
swift to the order or act of council. It were better that in causes of
weight, the matter were propounded one day and not spoken to till the
next day; “In nocte consilium;”[252] so was it done in the commission
of union[253] between England and Scotland, which was a grave and
orderly assembly. I commend set days for petitions; for both it gives
the suitors more certainty for their attendance, and it frees the
meetings for matters of estate, that they may “hoc agere.”[254] In
choice of committees for ripening business for the council, it is
better to choose indifferent persons, than to make an indifferency
by putting in those that are strong on both sides. I commend, also,
standing commissions; as for trade, for treasure, for war, for suits,
for some provinces; for where there be divers particular councils, and
but one council of estate (as it is in Spain), they are in effect no
more than standing commissions, save that they have greater authority.
Let such as are to inform councils out of their particular professions
(as lawyers, seamen, mintmen, and the like) be first heard before
committees; and then, as occasion serves, before the council; and let
them not come in multitudes, or in a tribunitious[255] manner; for that
is to clamor councils, not to inform them. A long table and a square
table, or seats about the walls, seem things of form, but are things
of substance; for at a long table a few at the upper end, in effect,
sway all the business; but in the other form there is more use of
the counsellors’ opinions that sit lower. A king, when he presides in
council, let him beware how he opens his own inclination too much in
that which he propoundeth; for else counsellors will but take the wind
of him, and, instead of giving free counsel, will sing him a song of


Fortune is like the market, where, many times, if you can stay a
little, the price will fall; and again, it is sometimes like Sibylla’s
offer,[257] which at first offereth the commodity at full, then
consumeth part and part, and still holdeth up the price; for occasion
(as it is in the common verse) “turneth a bald noddle,[258] after she
hath presented her locks in front, and no hold taken;” or, at least,
turneth the handle of the bottle first to be received, and after the
belly, which is hard to clasp.[259] There is surely no greater wisdom
than well to time the beginnings and onsets of things. Dangers are no
more light, if they once seem light; and more dangers have deceived men
than forced them; nay, it were better to meet some dangers half-way,
though they come nothing near, than to keep too long a watch upon
their approaches; for if a man watch too long, it is odds he will
fall asleep. On the other side, to be deceived with too long shadows
(as some have been when the moon was low, and shone on their enemies’
back), and so to shoot off before the time; or to teach dangers to
come on by over early buckling towards them, is another extreme. The
ripeness or unripeness of the occasion (as we said) must ever be well
weighed; and generally it is good to commit the beginnings of all great
actions to Argus with his hundred eyes, and the ends to Briareus with
his hundred hands, first to watch and then to speed; for the helmet of
Pluto,[260] which maketh the politic man go invisible, is secrecy in
the council, and celerity in the execution; for when things are once
come to the execution, there is no secrecy comparable to celerity; like
the motion of a bullet in the air, which flieth so swift as it outruns
the eye.


We take cunning for a sinister, or crooked wisdom; and, certainly,
there is great difference between a cunning man and a wise man, not
only in point of honesty, but in point of ability. There be that can
pack the cards,[261] and yet cannot play well; so there are some that
are good in canvasses and factions, that are otherwise weak men. Again,
it is one thing to understand persons, and another thing to understand
matters; for many are perfect in men’s humors that are not greatly
capable of the real part of business, which is the constitution of one
that hath studied men more than books. Such men are fitter for practice
than for counsel, and they are good but in their own alley. Turn them
to new men, and they have lost their aim; so as the old rule, to know a
fool from a wise man, “Mitte ambos nudos ad ignotos, et videbis,”[262]
doth scarce hold for them; and, because these cunning men are like
haberdashers[263] of small wares, it is not amiss to set forth their

It is a point of cunning to wait upon[264] him with whom you speak with
your eye, as the Jesuits give it in precept; for there be many wise men
that have secret hearts and transparent countenances; yet this would be
done with a demure abasing of your eye sometimes, as the Jesuits also
do use.

Another is, that when you have any thing to obtain of present dispatch,
you entertain and amuse the party with whom you deal with some other
discourse, that he be not too much awake to make objections. I knew a
counsellor and secretary that never came to Queen Elizabeth of England,
with bills to sign, but he would always first put her into some
discourse of estate,[265] that she might the less mind the bills.

The like surprise may be made by moving things[266] when the party is
in haste, and cannot stay to consider advisedly of that is moved.

If a man would cross a business that he doubts some other would
handsomely and effectually move, let him pretend to wish it well, and
move it himself, in such sort as may foil it.

The breaking off in the midst of that one was about to say, as if he
took himself up, breeds a greater appetite in him with whom you confer
to know more.

And because it works better when any thing seemeth to be gotten from
you by question than if you offer it of yourself, you may lay a bait
for a question, by showing another visage and countenance than you are
wont; to the end, to give occasion for the party to ask what the matter
is of the change, as Nehemiah[267] did: “And I had not, before that
time, been sad before the king.”

In things that are tender and unpleasing, it is good to break the ice
by some whose words are of less weight, and to reserve the more weighty
voice to come in as by chance, so that he may be asked the question
upon the other’s speech; as Narcissus did, in relating to Claudius the
marriage[268] of Messalina and Silius.

In things that a man would not be seen in himself, it is a point of
cunning to borrow the name of the world; as to say, “The world says,”
or “There is a speech abroad.”

I knew one, that when he wrote a letter, he would put that which was
most material in a postscript, as if it had been a by-matter.

I knew another, that when he came to have speech,[269] he would pass
over that that he intended most; and go forth and come back again, and
speak of it as a thing that he had almost forgot.

Some procure themselves to be surprised at such times as it is like
the party that they work upon will suddenly come upon them, and to be
found with a letter in their hand, or doing somewhat which they are not
accustomed, to the end they may be apposed of[270] those things which
of themselves they are desirous to utter.

It is a point of cunning to let fall those words in a man’s own name,
which he would have another man learn and use, and thereupon take
advantage. I knew two that were competitors for the secretary’s place
in Queen Elizabeth’s time, and yet kept good quarter[271] between
themselves, and would confer one with another upon the business; and
the one of them said, that to be a secretary in the declination of a
monarchy was a ticklish thing, and that he did not affect it;[272]
the other straight caught up those words, and discoursed with divers
of his friends, that he had no reason to desire to be secretary in
the declination of a monarchy. The first man took hold of it, and
found means it was told the queen, who, hearing of a declination of a
monarchy, took it so ill, as she would never after hear of the other’s

There is a cunning, which we in England call “the turning of the cat in
the pan;” which is, when that which a man says to another, he lays it
as if another had said it to him; and, to say truth, it is not easy,
when such a matter passed between two, to make it appear from which of
them it first moved and began.

It is a way that some men have, to glance and dart at others by
justifying themselves by negatives; as to say, “This I do not;”
as Tigellinus did towards Burrhus: “Se non diversas spes, sed
incolumitatem imperatoris simpliciter spectare.”[273]

Some have in readiness so many tales and stories, as there is nothing
they would insinuate, but they can wrap it into a tale;[274] which
serveth both to keep themselves more in guard, and to make others carry
it with more pleasure.

It is a good point of cunning for a man to shape the answer he would
have in his own words and propositions; for it makes the other party
stick the less.

It is strange how long some men will lie in wait to speak somewhat
they desire to say; and how far about they will fetch,[275] and how
many other matters they will beat over to come near it. It is a thing
of great patience, but yet of much use.

A sudden, bold, and unexpected question doth many times surprise a
man, and lay him open. Like to him, that, having changed his name, and
walking in Paul’s,[276] another suddenly came behind him and called him
by his true name, whereat straightways he looked back.

But these small wares and petty points of cunning are infinite, and it
were a good deed to make a list of them; for that nothing doth more
hurt in a state than that cunning men pass for wise.

But certainly, some there are that know the resorts[277] and falls[278]
of business that cannot sink into the main of it;[279] like a house
that hath convenient stairs and entries, but never a fair room.
Therefore you shall see them find out pretty looses[280] in the
conclusion, but are noways able to examine or debate matters; and yet
commonly they take advantage of their inability, and would be thought
wits of direction. Some build rather upon the abusing of others, and
(as we now say) putting tricks upon them, than upon soundness of their
own proceedings; but Solomon saith: “Prudens advertit ad gressus suos;
stultus divertit ad dolos.”[281]


An ant is a wise creature for itself, but it is a shrewd[282] thing
in an orchard or garden; and certainly, men that are great lovers of
themselves waste the public. Divide with reason between self-love and
society; and be so true to thyself as thou be not false to others,
specially to thy king and country. It is a poor centre of a man’s
actions, himself. It is right earth; for that only stands fast upon
his own centre;[283] whereas all things that have affinity with the
heavens, move upon the centre of another, which they benefit. The
referring of all to a man’s self is more tolerable in a sovereign
prince, because themselves are not only themselves, but their good and
evil is at the peril of the public fortune; but it is a desperate evil
in a servant to a prince, or a citizen in a republic; for whatsoever
affairs pass such a man’s hands, he crooketh them to his own ends,
which must needs be often eccentric to the ends of his master or state.
Therefore, let princes or states choose such servants as have not this
mark; except they mean their service should be made but the accessary.
That which maketh the effect more pernicious is, that all proportion
is lost. It were disproportion enough for the servant’s good to be
preferred before the master’s; but yet it is a greater extreme, when
a little good of the servant shall carry things against a great good
of the master. And yet that is the case of bad officers, treasurers,
ambassadors, generals, and other false and corrupt servants; which
set a bias upon their bowl, of their own petty ends and envies, to
the overthrow of their master’s great and important affairs; and, for
the most part, the good such servants receive is after the model of
their own fortune; but the hurt they sell for that good is after the
model of their master’s fortune. And certainly, it is the nature of
extreme self-lovers, as they will set a house on fire, an it were but
to roast their eggs; and yet these men many times hold credit with
their masters, because their study is but to please them, and profit
themselves; and for either respect they will abandon the good of their

Wisdom for a man’s self is, in many branches thereof, a depraved
thing. It is the wisdom of rats, that will be sure to leave a house
somewhat before it fall; it is the wisdom of the fox, that thrusts
out the badger who digged and made room for him; it is the wisdom of
crocodiles, that shed tears when they would devour. But that which is
specially to be noted is, that those which (as Cicero says of Pompey)
are “sui amantes, sine rivali,”[284] are many times unfortunate; and
whereas they have all their times sacrificed to themselves, they become
in the end themselves sacrifices to the inconstancy of fortune, whose
wings they thought by their self-wisdom to have pinioned.


As the births of living creatures at first are ill-shapen, so are
all innovations, which are the births of time; yet, notwithstanding,
as those that first bring honor into their family are commonly more
worthy than most that succeed, so the first precedent (if it be good)
is seldom attained by imitation; for ill to man’s nature as it stands
perverted, hath a natural motion strongest in continuance, but good,
as a forced motion, strongest at first. Surely, every medicine[285]
is an innovation, and he that will not apply new remedies must expect
new evils, for time is the greatest innovator; and if time, of course,
alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter
them to the better, what shall be the end? It is true, that what is
settled by custom, though it be not good, yet, at least, it is fit;
and those things which have long gone together, are, as it were,
confederate within themselves;[286] whereas new things piece not so
well; but, though they help by their utility, yet they trouble by their
inconformity; besides, they are like strangers, more admired and less
favored. All this is true, if time stood still, which, contrariwise,
moveth so round, that a froward retention of custom is as turbulent
a thing as an innovation; and they that reverence too much old times
are but a scorn to the new. It were good, therefore, that men in their
innovations would follow the example of time itself, which indeed
innovateth greatly, but quietly, and by degrees scarce to be perceived;
for, otherwise, whatsoever is new is unlooked for, and ever it
mends some and pairs[287] other; and he that is holpen, takes it for
a fortune, and thanks the time; and he that is hurt, for a wrong, and
imputeth it to the author. It is good, also, not to try experiments in
states, except the necessity be urgent, or the utility evident; and
well to beware that it be the reformation that draweth on the change,
and not the desire of change that pretendeth the reformation; and
lastly, that the novelty, though it be not rejected, yet be held for
a suspect,[288] and, as the Scripture saith, “That we make a stand
upon the ancient way, and then look about us, and discover what is the
straight and right way, and so to walk in it.”[289]


Affected dispatch is one of the most dangerous things to business
that can be; it is like that which the physicians call predigestion,
or hasty digestion, which is sure to fill the body full of crudities,
and secret seeds of diseases. Therefore, measure not dispatch by the
times of sitting, but by the advancement of the business; and as in
races, it is not the large stride, or high lift, that makes the speed,
so in business, the keeping close to the matter, and not taking of it
too much at once, procureth dispatch. It is the care of some, only to
come off speedily for the time, or to contrive some false periods of
business, because they may seem men of dispatch; but it is one thing to
abbreviate by contracting,[290] another by cutting off; and business so
handled at several sittings, or meetings, goeth commonly backward and
forward in an unsteady manner. I knew a wise man[291] that had it for
a byword, when he saw men hasten to a conclusion, “Stay a little, that
we may make an end the sooner.”

On the other side, true dispatch is a rich thing; for time is the
measure of business, as money is of wares; and business is bought at
a dear hand where there is small dispatch. The Spartans and Spaniards
have been noted to be of small dispatch: “Mi venga la muerte de
Spagna;” “Let my death come from Spain;” for then it will be sure to be
long in coming.

Give good hearing to those that give the first information in business,
and rather direct them in the beginning, than interrupt them in the
continuance of their speeches; for he that is put out of his own order
will go forward and backward, and be more tedious while he waits upon
his memory, than he could have been if he had gone on in his own
course; but sometimes it is seen that the moderator is more troublesome
than the actor.

Iterations are commonly loss of time; but there is no such gain of time
as to iterate often the state of the question; for it chaseth away many
a frivolous speech as it is coming forth. Long and curious speeches
are as fit for dispatch as a robe, or mantle, with a long train, is
for a race. Prefaces, and passages,[292] and excusations,[293] and
other speeches of reference to the person, are great wastes of time;
and though they seem to proceed of modesty, they are bravery.[294]
Yet beware of being too material when there is any impediment, or
obstruction in men’s wills; for preoccupation of mind[295] ever
requireth preface of speech, like a fomentation to make the unguent

Above all things, order and distribution, and singling out of parts,
is the life of dispatch, so as the distribution be not too subtile;
for he that doth not divide will never enter well into business; and
he that divideth too much will never come out of it clearly. To choose
time is to save time; and an unseasonable motion is but beating the
air. There be three parts of business,—the preparation; the debate, or
examination; and the perfection. Whereof, if you look for dispatch, let
the middle only be the work of many, and the first and last the work of
few. The proceeding, upon somewhat conceived in writing, doth for the
most part facilitate dispatch; for though it should be wholly rejected,
yet that negative is more pregnant of direction than an indefinite, as
ashes are more generative than dust.


It hath been an opinion, that the French are wiser than they seem,
and the Spaniards seem wiser than they are; but howsoever it be
between nations, certainly it is so between man and man; for, as the
apostle saith of godliness, “Having a show of godliness, but denying
the power thereof,”[296] so certainly there are, in points of wisdom
and sufficiency, that do nothing, or little very solemnly,—“magno
conatu nugas.”[297] It is a ridiculous thing, and fit for a satire to
persons of judgment, to see what shifts these formalists have, and
what prospectives to make superficies to seem body, that hath depth
and bulk. Some are so close and reserved, as they will not show their
wares but by a dark light, and seem always to keep back somewhat; and
when they know within themselves they speak of that they do not well
know, would nevertheless seem to others to know of that which they may
not well speak. Some help themselves with countenance and gesture, and
are wise by signs; as Cicero saith of Piso, that when he answered him,
he fetched one of his brows up to his forehead, and bent the other
down to his chin: “Respondes, altero ad frontem sublato, altero ad
mentum depresso supercilio; crudelitatem tibi non placere.”[298] Some
think to bear it by speaking a great word, and being peremptory; and
go on, and take by admittance that which they cannot make good. Some,
whatsoever is beyond their reach, will seem to despise or make light of
it as impertinent or curious, and so would have their ignorance seem
judgment. Some are never without a difference, and commonly by amusing
men with a subtilty, blanch the matter; of whom A. Gellius saith,
“Hominem delirum, qui verborum minutiis rerum frangit pondera.”[299]
Of which kind also Plato, in his Protagoras, bringeth in Prodicus in
scorn, and maketh him make a speech that consisteth of distinctions
from the beginning to the end.[300] Generally such men, in all
deliberations, find ease to be[301] of the negative side, and affect a
credit to object and foretell difficulties; for when propositions are
denied, there is an end of them, but if they be allowed, it requireth
a new work; which false point of wisdom is the bane of business. To
conclude, there is no decaying merchant, or inward beggar,[302] hath
so many tricks to uphold the credit of their wealth, as these empty
persons have to maintain the credit of their sufficiency. Seeming wise
men may make shift to get opinion, but let no man choose them for
employment; for certainly, you were better take for business a man
somewhat absurd than over-formal.


It had been hard for him that spake it, to have put more truth and
untruth together in few words than in that speech: “Whosoever is
delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god:”[303] for it
is most true, that a natural and secret hatred and aversion towards
society in any man hath somewhat of the savage beast; but it is most
untrue, that it should have any character at all of the divine nature,
except it proceed, not out of a pleasure in solitude, but out of a love
and desire to sequester a man’s self for a higher conversation; such
as is found to have been falsely and feignedly in some of the heathen;
as Epimenides,[304] the Candian; Numa, the Roman; Empedocles, the
Sicilian; and Apollonius, of Tyana; and truly and really in divers of
the ancient hermits and holy fathers of the church. But little do men
perceive what solitude is, and how far it extendeth; for a crowd is
not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a
tinkling cymbal, where there is no love. The Latin adage meeteth with
it a little: “Magna civitas, magna solitudo:”[305] because in a great
town friends are scattered, so that there is not that fellowship, for
the most part, which is in less neighborhoods: but we may go further,
and affirm most truly, that it is a mere and miserable solitude to want
true friends, without which the world is but a wilderness; and even in
this sense also of solitude, whosoever in the frame of his nature and
affections is unfit for friendship, he taketh it of the beasts, and not
from humanity.

A principal fruit of friendship is the ease and discharge of the
fulness and swellings of the heart, which passions of all kinds do
cause and induce. We know diseases of stoppings and suffocations are
the most dangerous in the body, and it is not much otherwise in the
mind. You may take sarza[306] to open the liver, steel to open the
spleen, flower of sulphur for the lungs, castoreum[307] for the brain,
but no receipt openeth the heart but a true friend, to whom you may
impart griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsels, and whatsoever
lieth upon the heart to oppress it, in a kind of civil shrift or

It is a strange thing to observe how high a rate great kings and
monarchs do set upon this fruit of friendship whereof we speak; so
great, as they purchase it many times at the hazard of their own safety
and greatness; for princes, in regard of the distance of their fortune
from that of their subjects and servants, cannot gather this fruit,
except (to make themselves capable thereof) they raise some persons to
be as it were companions, and almost equals to themselves, which many
times sorteth to inconvenience. The modern languages give unto such
persons the name of favorites, or privadoes, as if it were matter of
grace or conversation; but the Roman name attaineth the true use and
cause thereof, naming them “participes curarum;”[308] for it is that
which tieth the knot. And we see plainly that this hath been done, not
by weak and passionate princes only, but by the wisest and most politic
that ever reigned, who have oftentimes joined to themselves some of
their servants, whom both themselves have called friends, and allowed
others likewise to call them in the same manner, using the word which
is received between private men.

L. Sylla, when he commanded Rome, raised Pompey (after surnamed
the Great) to that height, that Pompey vaunted himself for Sylla’s
overmatch; for when he had carried the consulship for a friend of
his, against the pursuit of Sylla, and that Sylla did a little resent
thereat, and began to speak great, Pompey turned upon him again, and,
in effect, bade him be quiet; for that more men adored the sun rising
than the sun setting.[309] With Julius Cæsar, Decimus Brutus had
obtained that interest, as he set him down in his testament for heir
in remainder after his nephew; and this was the man that had power
with him to draw him forth to his death; for when Cæsar would have
discharged the senate, in regard of some ill presages, and specially a
dream of Calphurnia, this man lifted him gently by the arm out of his
chair, telling him he hoped he would not dismiss the senate till his
wife had dreamt a better dream;[310] and it seemeth his favor was so
great, as Antonius, in a letter which is recited verbatim in one of
Cicero’s Philippics, calleth him _venefica_, “witch,” as if he had
enchanted Cæsar.[311] Augustus raised Agrippa (though of mean birth) to
that height, as, when he consulted with Mæcenas about the marriage of
his daughter Julia, Mæcenas took the liberty to tell him, that he must
either marry his daughter to Agrippa, or take away his life; there was
no third way, he had made him so great. With Tiberius Cæsar, Sejanus
had ascended to that height, as they two were termed and reckoned
as a pair of friends. Tiberius, in a letter to him, saith, “Hæc pro
amicitiâ nostrâ non occultavi;”[312] and the whole senate dedicated
an altar to Friendship, as to a goddess, in respect of the great
dearness of friendship between them two. The like, or more, was between
Septimius Severus and Plautianus; for he forced his eldest son to
marry the daughter of Plautianus, and would often maintain Plautianus
in doing affronts to his son; and did write, also, in a letter to the
senate, by these words: “I love the man so well, as I wish he may
over-live me.”[313] Now, if these princes had been as a Trajan, or a
Marcus Aurelius, a man might have thought that this had proceeded of
an abundant goodness of nature; but being men so wise,[314] of such
strength and severity of mind, and so extreme lovers of themselves,
as all these were, it proveth most plainly that they found their own
felicity (though as great as ever happened to mortal men) but as an
half-piece, except they might have a friend to make it entire; and yet,
which is more, they were princes that had wives, sons, nephews; and yet
all these could not supply the comfort of friendship.

It is not to be forgotten what Comineus[315] observeth of his first
master, Duke Charles the Hardy,[316] namely, that he would communicate
his secrets with none, and, least of all, those secrets which troubled
him most. Whereupon he goeth on, and saith, that towards his latter
time, that closeness did impair and a little perish his understanding.
Surely, Comineus might have made the same judgment, also, if it had
pleased him, of his second master, Louis the Eleventh, whose closeness
was indeed his tormentor. The parable of Pythagoras is dark, but true:
“Cor ne edito,” “eat not the heart.”[317] Certainly, if a man would
give it a hard phrase, those that want friends to open themselves unto
are cannibals of their own hearts; but one thing is most admirable
(wherewith I will conclude this first fruit of friendship), which
is, that this communicating of a man’s self to his friend works two
contrary effects, for it redoubleth joys, and cutteth griefs in halves;
for there is no man that imparteth his joys to his friend, but he
joyeth the more; and no man that imparteth his griefs to his friend,
but he grieveth the less. So that it is, in truth, of operation upon a
man’s mind of like virtue as the alchemists used to attribute to their
stone for man’s body, that it worketh all contrary effects, but still
to the good and benefit of nature. But yet, without praying in aid of
alchemists, there is a manifest image of this in the ordinary course of
nature; for, in bodies, union strengtheneth and cherisheth any natural
action; and, on the other side, weakeneth and dulleth any violent
impression; and even so it is of minds.

The second fruit of friendship is healthful and sovereign for the
understanding, as the first is for the affections; for friendship
maketh indeed a fair day in the affections from storm and tempests,
but it maketh daylight in the understanding, out of darkness and
confusion of thoughts. Neither is this to be understood only of
faithful counsel, which a man receiveth from his friend; but before
you come to that, certain it is, that whosoever hath his mind fraught
with many thoughts, his wits and understanding do clarify and break
up in the communicating and discoursing with another; he tosseth his
thoughts more easily; he marshalleth them more orderly; he seeth how
they look when they are turned into words; finally, he waxeth wiser
than himself; and that more by an hour’s discourse than by a day’s
meditation. It was well said by Themistocles to the king of Persia:
“That speech was like cloth of Arras,[318] opened and put abroad,
whereby the imagery doth appear in figure; whereas in thoughts they lie
but as in packs.”[319] Neither is this second fruit of friendship, in
opening the understanding, restrained only to such friends as are able
to give a man counsel (they indeed are best), but even without that a
man learneth of himself, and bringeth his own thoughts to light, and
whetteth his wits as against a stone, which itself cuts not. In a word,
a man were better relate himself to a statue or picture, than to suffer
his thoughts to pass in smother.

Add now, to make this second fruit of friendship complete, that other
point which lieth more open, and falleth within vulgar observation;
which is faithful counsel from a friend. Heraclitus saith well, in
one of his enigmas, “Dry light is ever the best;”[320] and certain it
is, that the light that a man receiveth by counsel from another, is
drier and purer than that which cometh from his own understanding and
judgment, which is ever infused and drenched in his affections and
customs. So, as there is as much difference between the counsel that a
friend giveth, and that a man giveth himself, as there is between the
counsel of a friend and of a flatterer; for there is no such flatterer
as is a man’s self, and there is no such remedy against flattery of a
man’s self, as the liberty of a friend. Counsel is of two sorts,—the
one concerning manners, the other concerning business; for the first,
the best preservative to keep the mind in health, is the faithful
admonition of a friend. The calling of a man’s self to a strict account
is a medicine sometimes too piercing and corrosive; reading good books
of morality is a little flat and dead; observing our faults in others
is sometimes improper for our case; but the best receipt (best, I say,
to work, and best to take), is the admonition of a friend. It is a
strange thing to behold what gross errors and extreme absurdities many
(especially of the greater sort) do commit for want of a friend to
tell them of them, to the great damage both of their fame and fortune;
for, as St. James saith, they are as men “that look sometimes into a
glass, and presently forget their own shape and favor.”[321] As for
business, a man may think, if he will, that two eyes see no more than
one; or, that a gamester seeth always more than a looker-on; or, that
a man in anger is as wise as he that has said over the four and twenty
letters;[322] or, that a musket may be shot off as well upon the arm as
upon a rest;[323] and such other fond and high imaginations, to think
himself all in all; but when all is done, the help of good counsel is
that which setteth business straight. And if any man think that he
will take counsel, but it shall be by pieces, asking counsel in one
business of one man, and in another business of another man; it is well
(that is to say, better, perhaps, than if he asked none at all); but he
runneth two dangers,—one, that he shall not be faithfully counselled;
for it is a rare thing, except it be from a perfect and entire friend,
to have counsel given, but such as shall be bowed and crooked to some
ends which he hath that giveth it; the other, that he shall have
counsel given, hurtful and unsafe (though with good meaning), and
mixed partly of mischief, and partly of remedy; even as if you would
call a physician, that is thought good for the cure of the disease you
complain of, but is unacquainted with your body; and, therefore, may
put you in a way for a present cure, but overthroweth your health in
some other kind, and so cure the disease and kill the patient.
But a friend, that is wholly acquainted with a man’s estate, will
beware, by furthering any present business, how he dasheth upon other
inconvenience; and, therefore, rest not upon scattered counsels; they
will rather distract and mislead, than settle and direct.

After these two noble fruits of friendship (peace in the affections,
and support of the judgment), followeth the last fruit, which is like
the pomegranate, full of many kernels; I mean aid, and bearing a part
in all actions and occasions. Here the best way to represent to life
the manifold use of friendship, is to cast and see how many things
there are which a man cannot do himself; and then it will appear that
it was a sparing speech of the ancients to say, “that a friend is
another himself,” for that a friend is far more than himself. Men have
their time, and die many times in desire of some things which they
principally take to heart; the bestowing of a child, the finishing of
a work, or the like. If a man have a true friend, he may rest almost
secure that the care of those things will continue after him; so that
a man hath, as it were, two lives in his desires. A man hath a body,
and that body is confined to a place; but where friendship is, all
offices of life are, as it were, granted to him and his deputy, for he
may exercise them by his friend. How many things are there, which a
man cannot, with any face or comeliness, say or do himself? A man can
scarce allege his own merits with modesty, much less extol them; a
man cannot sometimes brook to supplicate, or beg, and a number of the
like; but all these things are graceful in a friend’s mouth, which are
blushing in a man’s own. So, again, a man’s person hath many proper
relations which he cannot put off. A man cannot speak to his son but as
a father; to his wife but as a husband; to his enemy but upon terms;
whereas, a friend may speak as the case requires, and not as it sorteth
with the person. But to enumerate these things were endless; I have
given the rule, where a man cannot fitly play his own part. If he have
not a friend, he may quit the stage.


Riches are for spending, and spending for honor and good actions;
therefore, extraordinary expense must be limited by the worth of the
occasion; for voluntary undoing may be as well for a man’s country as
for the kingdom of heaven; but ordinary expense ought to be limited
by a man’s estate, and governed with such regard, as it be within his
compass, and not subject to deceit and abuse of servants, and ordered
to the best show, that the bills may be less than the estimation
abroad. Certainly, if a man will keep but of even hand, his ordinary
expenses ought to be but to the half of his receipts; and, if he think
to wax rich, but to the third part. It is no baseness for the greatest
to descend and look into their own estate. Some forbear it, not upon
negligence alone, but doubting to bring themselves into melancholy, in
respect they shall find it broken; but wounds cannot be cured without
searching. He that cannot look into his own estate at all, had need
both choose well those whom he employeth, and change them often; for
new are more timorous, and less subtle. He that can look into his
estate but seldom, it behooveth him to turn all to certainties. A man
had need, if he be plentiful in some kind of expense, to be as saving
again in some other: as, if he be plentiful in diet, to be saving in
apparel; if he be plentiful in the hall, to be saving in the stable;
and the like. For he that is plentiful in expenses of all kinds, will
hardly be preserved from decay. In clearing[324] of a man’s estate,
he may as well hurt himself in being too sudden, as in letting it run
on too long; for hasty selling is commonly as disadvantageable as
interest. Besides, he that clears at once will relapse; for, finding
himself out of straits, he will revert to his customs; but he that
cleareth by degrees induceth a habit of frugality, and gaineth as
well upon his mind as upon his estate. Certainly, who hath a state
to repair, may not despise small things; and, commonly, it is less
dishonorable to abridge petty charges, than to stoop to petty
gettings. A man ought warily to begin charges, which once begun will
continue; but in matters that return not, he may be more magnificent.


The speech of Themistocles, the Athenian, which was haughty and
arrogant, in taking so much to himself, had been a grave and wise
observation and censure, applied at large to others. Desired at a feast
to touch a lute, he said, “He could not fiddle, but yet he could make
a small town a great city.”[325] These words (holpen a little with a
metaphor) may express two different abilities in those that deal in
business of estate; for if a true survey be taken of counsellors and
statesmen, there may be found (though rarely) those which can make a
small state great, and yet cannot fiddle: as, on the other side there
will be found a great many that can fiddle very cunningly, but yet
are so far from being able to make a small state great, as their gift
lieth the other way,—to bring a great and flourishing estate to ruin
and decay. And certainly, those degenerate arts and shifts, whereby
many counsellors and governors gain both favor with their masters and
estimation with the vulgar, deserve no better name than fiddling;
being things rather pleasing for the time, and graceful to themselves
only, than tending to the weal and advancement of the state which they
serve. There are also (no doubt) counsellors and governors which may
be held sufficient, “negotiis pares,”[326] able to manage affairs,
and to keep them from precipices and manifest inconveniences; which,
nevertheless, are far from the ability to raise and amplify an estate
in power, means, and fortune. But be the workmen what they may be,
let us speak of the work; that is, the true greatness of kingdoms
and estates, and the means thereof. An argument fit for great and
mighty princes to have in their hand; to the end, that neither by
overmeasuring their forces, they lose themselves in vain enterprises:
nor, on the other side, by undervaluing them, they descend to fearful
and pusillanimous counsels.

The greatness of an estate, in bulk and territory, doth fall under
measure; and the greatness of finances and revenue doth fall under
computation. The population may appear by musters, and the number and
greatness of cities and towns by cards and maps; but yet there is not
anything amongst civil affairs more subject to error than the right
valuation and true judgment concerning the power and forces of an
estate. The kingdom of heaven is compared, not to any great kernel, or
nut, but to a grain of mustard-seed;[327] which is one of the least
grains, but hath in it a property and spirit hastily to get up and
spread. So are there states great in territory, and yet not apt to
enlarge or command; and some that have but a small dimension of stem,
and yet apt to be the foundations of great monarchies.

Walled towns, stored arsenals and armories, goodly races of horse,
chariots of war, elephants, ordnance, artillery, and the like; all this
is but a sheep in a lion’s skin, except the breed and disposition of
the people be stout and warlike. Nay, number itself in armies importeth
not much, where the people is of weak courage; for, as Virgil saith,
“It never troubles a wolf how many the sheep be.”[328] The army of
the Persians in the plains of Arbela was such a vast sea of people,
as it did somewhat astonish the commanders in Alexander’s army, who
came to him, therefore, and wished him to set upon them by night; but
he answered, “He would not pilfer the victory;” and the defeat was
easy.[329]—When Tigranes,[330] the Armenian, being encamped upon
a hill with four hundred thousand men, discovered the army of the
Romans, being not above fourteen thousand, marching towards him, he
made himself merry with it, and said, “Yonder men are too many for an
ambassage, and too few for a fight;” but before the sun set, he found
them enow to give him the chase with infinite slaughter. Many are the
examples of the great odds between number and courage; so that a man
may truly make a judgment, that the principal point of greatness in any
state is to have a race of military men. Neither is money the sinews
of war (as it is trivially said), where the sinews of men’s arms,
in base and effeminate people, are failing: for Solon said well to
Crœsus (when in ostentation he showed him his gold), “Sir, if any
other come that hath better iron than you, he will be master of all
this gold.” Therefore, let any prince or state, think soberly of his
forces, except his militia of natives be of good and valiant soldiers;
and let princes, on the other side, that have subjects of martial
disposition, know their own strength, unless they be otherwise wanting
unto themselves. As for mercenary forces (which is the help in this
case), all examples show that, whatsoever estate or prince doth rest
upon them, he may spread his feathers for a time, but he will mew them
soon after.

The blessing of Judah and Issachar[331] will never meet; that the
same people, or nation, should be both the lion’s whelp and the ass
between burdens; neither will it be, that a people overlaid with taxes
should ever become valiant and martial. It is true that taxes, levied
by consent of the estate, do abate men’s courage less; as it hath been
seen notably in the excises of the Low Countries, and, in some degree,
in the subsidies[332] of England; for, you must note, that we speak now
of the heart, and not of the purse; so that, although the same tribute
and tax, laid by consent or by imposing, be all one to the purse, yet
it works diversely upon the courage. So that you may conclude, that no
people overcharged with tribute is fit for empire.

Let states that aim at greatness take heed how their nobility and
gentlemen do multiply too fast; for that maketh the common subject grow
to be a peasant and base swain, driven out of heart, and, in effect,
but the gentleman’s laborer. Even as you may see in coppice woods; if
you leave your staddles[333] too thick, you shall never have clean
underwood, but shrubs and bushes. So in countries, if the gentlemen
be too many, the commons will be base; and you will bring it to that,
that not the hundred poll will be fit for a helmet, especially as
to the infantry, which is the nerve of an army; and so there will be
great population and little strength. This which I speak of, hath been
nowhere better seen than by comparing of England and France; whereof
England, though far less in territory and population, hath been,
nevertheless, an overmatch; in regard, the middle people of England
make good soldiers, which the peasants of France do not. And herein
the device of King Henry the Seventh (whereof I have spoken largely
in the history of his life) was profound and admirable; in making
farms and houses of husbandry of a standard, that is, maintained with
such a proportion of land unto them as may breed a subject to live in
convenient plenty, and no servile condition, and to keep the plough in
the hands of the owners, and not mere hirelings; and thus, indeed, you
shall attain to Virgil’s character, which he gives to ancient Italy:—

  “Terra potens armis atque ubere glebæ.”[334]

Neither is that state (which, for anything I know, is almost peculiar
to England, and hardly to be found anywhere else, except it be,
perhaps, in Poland), to be passed over; I mean the state of free
servants and attendants upon noblemen and gentlemen, which are noways
inferior unto the yeomanry for arms; and, therefore, out of all
question, the splendor and magnificence, and great retinues, and
hospitality of noblemen and gentlemen received into custom, do much
conduce unto martial greatness; whereas, contrariwise, the close and
reserved living of noblemen and gentlemen causeth a penury of military

By all means, it is to be procured that the trunk of Nebuchadnezzar’s
tree of monarchy[335] be great enough to bear the branches and the
boughs; that is, that the natural subjects of the crown, or state, bear
a sufficient proportion to the stranger subjects that they govern.
Therefore, all states that are liberal of naturalization towards
strangers are fit for empire; for to think that a handful of people
can, with the greatest courage and policy in the world, embrace too
large extent of dominion, it may hold for a time, but it will fail
suddenly. The Spartans were a nice people in point of naturalization;
whereby, while they kept their compass, they stood firm; but when
they did spread, and their boughs were becoming too great for their
stem, they became a windfall upon the sudden. Never any state was, in
this point, so open to receive strangers into their body as were the
Romans; therefore, it sorted with them accordingly, for they grew to
the greatest monarchy. Their manner was to grant naturalization (which
they called “jus civitatis”),[336] and to grant it in the highest
degree, that is, not only “jus commercii,”[337] “jus connubii,”[338]
“jus hæreditatis;”[339] but, also, “jus suffragii,”[340] and “jus
honorum;”[341] and this not to singular persons alone, but likewise to
whole families; yea, to cities and sometimes to nations. Add to this
their custom of plantation of colonies, whereby the Roman plant was
removed into the soil of other nations, and, putting both constitutions
together, you will say, that it was not the Romans that spread upon
the world, but it was the world that spread upon the Romans; and
that was the sure way of greatness. I have marvelled sometimes at
Spain, how they clasp and contain so large dominions with so few
natural Spaniards;[342] but sure the whole compass of Spain is a very
great body of a tree, far above Rome and Sparta at the first; and,
besides, though they have not had that usage to naturalize liberally,
yet they have that which is next to it; that is, to employ, almost
indifferently, all nations in their militia of ordinary soldiers;
yea, and sometimes in their highest commands; nay, it seemeth at
this instant they are sensible of this want of natives, as by the
pragmatical sanction,[343] now published, appeareth.

It is certain that sedentary and within-door arts, and delicate
manufactures (that require rather the finger than the arm), have in
their nature a contrariety to a military disposition; and, generally,
all warlike people are a little idle, and love danger better than
travail; neither must they be too much broken of it, if they shall be
preserved in vigor. Therefore, it was great advantage in the ancient
states of Sparta, Athens, Rome, and others, that they had the use
of slaves, which commonly did rid those manufactures; but that is
abolished, in greatest part, by the Christian law. That which cometh
nearest to it is, to leave those arts chiefly to strangers (which, for
that purpose, are the more easily to be received), and to contain the
principal bulk of the vulgar natives within those three kinds, tillers
of the ground, free servants, and handicraftsmen of strong and manly
arts; as smiths, masons, carpenters, &c., not reckoning professed

But, above all, for empire and greatness, it importeth most, that
a nation do profess arms as their principal honor, study, and
occupation; for the things which we formerly have spoken of are but
habilitations[344] towards arms; and what is habilitation without
intention and act? Romulus, after his death (as they report or feign),
sent a present to the Romans, that, above all, they should intend[345]
arms, and then they should prove the greatest empire of the world. The
fabric of the state of Sparta was wholly (though not wisely) framed
and composed to that scope and end; the Persians and Macedonians had
it for a flash;[346] the Gauls, Germans, Goths, Saxons, Normans, and
others, had it for a time; the Turks have it at this day, though in
great declination. Of Christian Europe, they that have it are in effect
only the Spaniards; but it is so plain, that every man profiteth in
that he most intendeth, that it needeth not to be stood upon. It is
enough to point at it, that no nation which doth not directly profess
arms, may look to have greatness fall into their mouths; and, on the
other side, it is a most certain oracle of time, that those states that
continue long in that profession (as the Romans and Turks principally
have done), do wonders; and those that have professed arms but for an
age have, notwithstanding, commonly attained that greatness in that age
which maintained them long after, when their profession and exercise of
arms had grown to decay.

Incident to this point is, for a state to have those laws or customs
which may reach forth unto them just occasions (as may be pretended)
of war; for there is that justice imprinted in the nature of men,
that they enter not upon wars (whereof so many calamities do ensue),
but upon some, at the least specious grounds and quarrels. The Turk
hath at hand, for cause of war, the propagation of his law or sect, a
quarrel that he may always command. The Romans, though they esteemed
the extending the limits of their empire to be great honor to their
generals when it was done, yet they never rested upon that alone to
begin a war. First, therefore, let nations that pretend to greatness
have this, that they be sensible of wrongs, either upon borderers,
merchants, or politic ministers; and that they sit not too long upon
a provocation: secondly, let them be pressed,[347] and ready to give
aids and succors to their confederates, as it ever was with the Romans;
insomuch, as if the confederate had leagues defensive with divers other
states, and, upon invasion offered, did implore their aids severally,
yet the Romans would ever be the foremost, and leave it to none other
to have the honor. As for the wars, which were anciently made on the
behalf of a kind of party, or tacit conformity of estate, I do not see
how they may be well justified: as when the Romans made a war for the
liberty of Græcia; or, when the Lacedæmonians and Athenians made wars
to set up or pull down democracies and oligarchies; or when wars were
made by foreigners, under the pretence of justice or protection, to
deliver the subjects of others from tyranny and oppression, and the
like. Let it suffice, that no estate expect to be great, that is not
awake upon any just occasion of arming.

Nobody can be healthful without exercise, neither natural body nor
politic; and, certainly, to a kingdom, or estate, a just and honorable
war is the true exercise. A civil war, indeed, is like the heat of a
fever; but a foreign war is like the heat of exercise, and serveth to
keep the body in health; for, in a slothful peace, both courages will
effeminate and manners corrupt. But, howsoever it be for happiness,
without all question for greatness, it maketh to be still, for the
most part, in arms; and the strength of a veteran army (though it be a
chargeable business) always on foot, is that which commonly giveth the
law, or, at least, the reputation amongst all neighbor states, as may
well be seen in Spain,[348] which hath had, in one part or other, a
veteran army, almost continually, now by the space of sixscore years.

To be master of the sea is an abridgment of a monarchy. Cicero, writing
to Atticus, of Pompey’s preparation against Cæsar, saith, “Consilium
Pompeii plane Themistocleum est; putat enim, qui mari potitur, eum
rerum potiri;[349] and, without doubt, Pompey had tired out Cæsar, if
upon vain confidence he had not left that way. We see the great effects
of battles by sea. The battle of Actium decided the empire of the
world: the battle of Lepanto arrested the greatness of the Turk. There
be many examples where sea-fights have been final to the war; but this
is when princes, or states, have set up their rest upon the battles.
But thus much is certain, that he that commands the sea is at great
liberty, and may take as much and as little of the war as he will;
whereas, those that be strongest by land are many times, nevertheless,
in great straits. Surely, at this day, with us of Europe, the vantage
of strength at sea (which is one of the principal dowries of this
kingdom of Great Britain) is great; both because most of the kingdoms
of Europe are not merely inland, but girt with the sea most part of
their compass; and because the wealth of both Indies seems, in great
part, but an accessary to the command of the seas.

The wars of latter ages seem to be made in the dark, in respect of
the glory and honor which reflected upon men from the wars in ancient
time. There be now, for martial encouragement, some degrees and orders
of chivalry, which, nevertheless, are conferred promiscuously upon
soldiers and no soldiers; and some remembrance, perhaps, upon the
escutcheon, and some hospitals for maimed soldiers, and such like
things; but in ancient times, the trophies erected upon the place of
the victory; the funeral laudatives,[350] and monuments for those
that died in the wars; the crowns and garlands personal; the style of
emperor which the great kings of the world after borrowed; the triumphs
of the generals upon their return; the great donatives and largesses
upon the disbanding of the armies; were things able to inflame all
men’s courages. But, above all, that of the triumph amongst the
Romans was not pageants or gaudery, but one of the wisest and noblest
institutions that ever was; for it contained three things: honor to the
general, riches to the treasury out of the spoils, and donatives to
the army. But that honor, perhaps, were not fit for monarchies, except
it be in the person of the monarch himself, or his sons; as it came
to pass in the times of the Roman emperors, who did impropriate the
actual triumphs to themselves and their sons, for such wars as they did
achieve in person, and left only for wars achieved by subjects, some
triumphal garments and ensigns to the general.

To conclude. No man can by care-taking (as the Scripture saith) “add
a cubit to his stature,”[351] in this little model of a man’s body;
but in the great frame of kingdoms and commonwealths, it is in the
power of princes, or estates, to add amplitude and greatness to
their kingdom; for, by introducing such ordinances, constitutions,
and customs, as we have now touched, they may sow greatness to their
posterity and succession: but these things are commonly not observed,
but left to take their chance.


There is a wisdom in this beyond the rules of physic. A man’s own
observation, what he finds good of, and what he finds hurt of, is the
best physic to preserve health; but it is a safer conclusion to say,
“This agreeth not well with me, therefore I will not continue it;” than
this, “I find no offence of this, therefore I may use it;” for strength
of nature in youth passeth over many excesses which are owing[352] a
man till his age. Discern of the coming on of years, and think not to
do the same things still; for age will not be defied. Beware of sudden
change in any great point of diet, and, if necessity enforce it, fit
the rest to it; for it is a secret both in nature and state, that it
is safer to change many things than one. Examine thy customs of diet,
sleep, exercise, apparel, and the like; and try, in any thing thou
shalt judge hurtful, to discontinue it by little and little; but so, as
if thou dost find any inconvenience by the change, thou come back to
it again; for it is hard to distinguish that which is generally held
good and wholesome, from that which is good particularly,[353] and fit
for thine own body. To be free-minded and cheerfully disposed at hours
of meat, and of sleep, and of exercise, is one of the best precepts of
long lasting. As for the passions and studies of the mind, avoid envy,
anxious fears, anger fretting inwards, subtle and knotty inquisitions,
joys, and exhilarations in excess, sadness not communicated. Entertain
hopes, mirth rather than joy, variety of delights, rather than surfeit
of them; wonder and admiration, and therefore novelties; studies that
fill the mind with splendid and illustrious objects, as histories,
fables, and contemplations of nature. If you fly physic in health
altogether, it will be too strange for your body when you shall need
it; if you make it too familiar, it will work no extraordinary effect
when sickness cometh. I commend rather some diet, for certain seasons,
than frequent use of physic, except it be grown into a custom; for
those diets alter the body more, and trouble it less. Despise no new
accident[354] in your body, but ask opinion[355] of it. In sickness,
respect health principally; and in health, action; for those that put
their bodies to endure in health, may, in most sicknesses which are
not very sharp, be cured only with diet and tendering. Celsus could
never have spoken it as a physician, had he not been a wise man withal,
when he giveth it for one of the great precepts of health and lasting,
that a man do vary and interchange contraries, but with an inclination
to the more benign extreme. Use fasting and full eating, but rather
full eating;[356] watching and sleep, but rather sleep; sitting and
exercise, but rather exercise, and the like; so shall nature be
cherished, and yet taught masteries.[357] Physicians are some of them
so pleasing and conformable to the humor of the patient, as they
press not the true cure of the disease; and some other are so regular
in proceeding according to art for the disease, as they respect not
sufficiently the condition of the patient. Take one of a middle temper;
or, if it may not be found in one man, combine two of either sort; and
forget not to call as well the best acquainted with your body, as the
best reputed of for his faculty.


Suspicions amongst thoughts are like bats amongst birds, they ever
fly by twilight. Certainly they are to be repressed, or at the least
well guarded; for they cloud the mind, they lose friends, and they
check with business, whereby business cannot go on currently and
constantly. They dispose kings to tyranny, husbands to jealousy, wise
men to irresolution and melancholy. They are defects, not in the heart
but in the brain; for they take place in the stoutest natures, as in
the example of Henry the Seventh of England. There was not a more
suspicious man, nor a more stout, and in such a composition they do
small hurt; for commonly they are not admitted, but with examination,
whether they be likely or no; but in fearful natures they gain ground
too fast. There is nothing makes a man suspect much, more than to know
little; and, therefore, men should remedy suspicion by procuring to
know more, and not to keep their suspicions in smother. What would men
have? Do they think those they employ and deal with are saints? Do they
not think they will have their own ends, and be truer to themselves
than to them? Therefore, there is no better way to moderate suspicions,
than to account upon such suspicions as true, and yet to bridle them
as false:[358] for so far a man ought to make use of suspicions as to
provide, as if that should be true that he suspects, yet it may do him
no hurt. Suspicions that the mind of itself gathers are but buzzes; but
suspicions that are artificially nourished, and put into men’s heads by
the tales and whisperings of others, have stings. Certainly, the best
mean, to clear the way in this same wood of suspicions, is frankly to
communicate them with the party that he suspects: for thereby he shall
be sure to know more of the truth of them than he did before; and,
withal, shall make that party more circumspect, not to give further
cause of suspicion. But this would not be done to men of base natures;
for they, if they find themselves once suspected, will never be true.
The Italian says, “Sospetto licentia fede;”[359] as if suspicion did
give a passport to faith; but it ought rather to kindle it to discharge


Some in their discourse desire rather commendation of wit, in being
able to hold all arguments,[360] than of judgment, in discerning what
is true; as if it were a praise to know what might be said and not
what should be thought. Some have certain commonplaces and themes,
wherein they are good, and want variety; which kind of poverty is for
the most part tedious, and, when it is once perceived, ridiculous. The
honorablest part of talk is to give the occasion,[361] and again to
moderate and pass to somewhat else; for then a man leads the dance.
It is good in discourse, and speech of conversation, to vary and
intermingle speech of the present occasion with arguments, tales with
reasons, asking of questions with telling of opinions, and jest with
earnest; for it is a dull thing to tire, and, as we say now, to jade
any thing too far. As for jest, there be certain things which ought
to be privileged from it; namely, religion, matters of state, great
persons, any man’s present business of importance, and any case that
deserveth pity; yet there be some that think their wits have been
asleep, except they dart out somewhat that is piquant, and to the
quick; that is a vein which would be bridled:[362]—

  “Parce, puer, stimulis, et fortius utere loris.”[363]

And, generally, men ought to find the difference between saltness and
bitterness. Certainly, he that hath a satirical vein, as he maketh
others afraid of his wit, so he had need be afraid of others’ memory.
He that questioneth much, shall learn much, and content much, but
especially if he apply his questions to the skill of the persons whom
he asketh: for he shall give them occasion to please themselves in
speaking, and himself shall continually gather knowledge; but let
his questions not be troublesome, for that is fit for a poser.[364]
And let him be sure to leave other men their turns to speak; nay, if
there be any that would reign and take up all the time, let him find
means to take them off, and to bring others on, as musicians used to
do with those that dance too long galliards.[365] If you dissemble
sometimes your knowledge of that you are thought to know, you shall be
thought, another time, to know that you know not. Speech of a man’s
self ought to be seldom, and well chosen. I knew one was wont to say
in scorn, “He must needs be a wise man, he speaks so much of himself;”
and there is but one case wherein a man may commend himself with good
grace, and that is in commending virtue in another, especially if it
be such a virtue whereunto himself pretendeth. Speech of touch[366]
towards others should be sparingly used; for discourse ought to be as
a field, without coming home to any man. I knew two noblemen, of the
west part of England, whereof the one was given to scoff, but kept
ever royal cheer in his house; the other would ask of those that had
been at the other’s table, “Tell truly, was there never a flout[367]
or dry blow[368] given?” To which the guest would answer, “Such and
such a thing passed.” The lord would say, “I thought he would mar a
good dinner.” Discretion of speech is more than eloquence; and to speak
agreeably to him with whom we deal, is more than to speak in good
words, or in good order. A good continued speech, without a good speech
of interlocution, shows slowness; and a good reply, or second speech,
without a good settled speech, showeth shallowness and weakness. As
we see in beasts, that those that are weakest in the course, are yet
nimblest in the turn; as it is betwixt the greyhound and the hare. To
use too many circumstances, ere one come to the matter, is wearisome;
to use none at all, is blunt.


Plantations are amongst ancient, primitive, and heroical works. When
the world was young, it begat more children; but now it is old, it
begets fewer; for I may justly account new plantations to be the
children of former kingdoms. I like a plantation in a pure soil;
that is, where people are not displanted,[370] to the end to plant
in others; for else it is rather an extirpation than a plantation.
Planting of countries is like planting of woods; for you must make
account to lose almost twenty years’ profit, and expect your recompense
in the end; for the principal thing that hath been the destruction
of most plantations, hath been the base and hasty drawing of profit
in the first years. It is true, speedy profit is not to be neglected,
as far as may stand with the good of the plantation, but no further.
It is a shameful and unblessed thing[371] to take the scum of people
and wicked condemned men, to be the people with whom you plant; and
not only so, but it spoileth the plantation; for they will ever live
like rogues, and not fall to work; but be lazy, and do mischief, and
spend victuals, and be quickly weary, and then certify over to their
country to the discredit of the plantation. The people wherewith you
plant ought to be gardeners, ploughmen, laborers, smiths, carpenters,
joiners, fishermen, fowlers, with some few apothecaries, surgeons,
cooks, and bakers. In a country of plantations, first look about what
kind of victual the country yields of itself to hand; as chestnuts,
walnuts, pine-apples, olives, dates, plums, cherries, wild honey,
and the like, and make use of them. Then consider what victual, or
esculent things there are, which grow speedily, and within the year; as
parsnips, carrots, turnips, onions, radish, artichokes of Jerusalem,
maize, and the like. For wheat, barley, and oats, they ask too much
labor; but with pease and beans you may begin, both because they ask
less labor, and because they serve for meat as well as for bread;
and of rice, likewise, cometh a great increase, and it is a kind of
meat. Above all, there ought to be brought store of biscuit, oatmeal,
flour, meal, and the like, in the beginning, till bread may be had. For
beasts, or birds, take chiefly such as are least subject to diseases,
and multiply fastest; as swine, goats, cocks, hens, turkeys, geese,
house-doves, and the like. The victual in plantations ought to be
expended almost as in a besieged town, that is, with certain allowance;
and let the main part of the ground employed to gardens or corn, be to
a common stock; and to be laid in, and stored up, and then delivered
out in proportion; besides some spots of ground that any particular
person will manure for his own private use. Consider, likewise, what
commodities the soil where the plantation is doth naturally yield, that
they may some way help to defray the charge of the plantation; so it be
not, as was said, to the untimely prejudice of the main business, as
it hath fared with tobacco in Virginia.[372] Wood commonly aboundeth
but too much; and therefore timber is fit to be one. If there be iron
ore, and streams whereupon to set the mills, iron is a brave commodity
where wood aboundeth. Making of bay-salt, if the climate be proper for
it, would be put in experience; growing silk, likewise, if any be, is
a likely commodity; pitch and tar, where store of firs and pines are,
will not fail; so drugs and sweet woods, where they are, cannot but
yield great profit; soap-ashes, likewise, and other things that may
be thought of; but moil[373] not too much under ground, for the hope
of mines is very uncertain, and useth to make the planters lazy in
other things. For government, let it be in the hands of one, assisted
with some counsel; and let them have commission to exercise martial
laws, with some limitation; and, above all, let men make that profit
of being in the wilderness, as they have God always, and his service,
before their eyes. Let not the government of the plantation depend upon
too many counsellors and undertakers in the country that planteth,
but upon a temperate number; and let those be rather noblemen and
gentlemen, than merchants, for they look ever to the present gain. Let
there be freedoms from custom, till the plantation be of strength; and
not only freedom from custom, but freedom to carry their commodities
where they may make their best of them, except there be some special
cause of caution. Cram not in people, by sending too fast company
after company; but rather hearken how they waste, and send supplies
proportionably; but so as the number may live well in the plantation,
and not by surcharge be in penury. It hath been a great endangering to
the health of some plantations, that they have built along the sea and
rivers, in marish[374] and unwholesome grounds; therefore, though you
begin there, to avoid carriage and other like discommodities, yet
build still rather upwards from the streams than along. It concerneth,
likewise, the health of the plantation, that they have good store of
salt with them, that they may use it in their victuals when it shall
be necessary. If you plant where savages are, do not only entertain
them with trifles and gingles,[375] but use them justly and graciously,
with sufficient guard, nevertheless; and do not win their favor by
helping them to invade their enemies, but for their defence it is not
amiss; and send oft of them over to the country that plants, that they
may see a better condition than their own, and commend it when they
return. When the plantation grows to strength, then it is time to plant
with women as well as with men; that the plantation may spread into
generations, and not be ever pieced from without. It is the sinfullest
thing in the world, to forsake or destitute a plantation once in
forwardness; for, besides the dishonor, it is the guiltiness of blood
of many commiserable persons.


I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue; the Roman word
is better, “impedimenta;” for as the baggage is to an army, so is
riches to virtue; it cannot be spared nor left behind, but it hindereth
the march; yea, and the care of it sometimes loseth or disturbeth
the victory. Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in
the distribution; the rest is but conceit. So saith Solomon: “Where
much is, there are many to consume it; and what hath the owner, but
the sight of it with his eyes?”[376] The personal fruition in any man
cannot reach to feel great riches: there is a custody of them, or a
power of dole and donative of them, or a fame of them, but no solid use
to the owner. Do you not see what feigned prices are set upon little
stones and rarities? and what works of ostentation are undertaken,
because there might seem to be some use of great riches? But then you
will say, they may be of use to buy men out of dangers or troubles;
as Solomon saith: “Riches are as a strong-hold in the imagination of
the rich man;”[377] but this is excellently expressed, that it is in
imagination, and not always in fact; for, certainly, great riches have
sold more men than they have bought out. Seek not proud riches, but
such as thou mayest get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully,
and leave contentedly; yet have no abstract nor friarly contempt of
them, but distinguish, as Cicero saith well of Rabirius Posthumus:
“In studio rei amplificandæ apparebat, non avaritiæ prædam, sed
instrumentum bonitati quæri.”[378] Hearken also to Solomon, and beware
of hasty gathering of riches: “Qui festinat ad divitias, non erit
insons.”[379] The poets feign, that when Plutus (which is riches) is
sent from Jupiter, he limps, and goes slowly; but when he is sent from
Pluto, he runs, and is swift of foot; meaning, that riches gotten by
good means and just labor pace slowly; but when they come by the death
of others[380] (as by the course of inheritance, testaments, and the
like), they come tumbling upon a man. But it might be applied likewise
to Pluto, taking him for the devil; for when riches come from the devil
(as by fraud and oppression, and unjust means), they come upon speed.
The ways to enrich are many, and most of them foul: parsimony is one
of the best, and yet is not innocent; for it withholdeth men from works
of liberality and charity. The improvement of the ground is the most
natural obtaining of riches; for it is our great mother’s blessing, the
earth’s, but it is slow; and yet, where men of great wealth do stoop
to husbandry, it multiplieth riches exceedingly. I knew a nobleman,
in England, that had the greatest audits[381] of any man in my time,
a great grazier, a great sheep-master, a great timber-man, a great
collier, a great corn-master, a great lead-man, and so of iron, and a
number of the like points of husbandry; so as the earth seemed a sea
to him in respect of the perpetual importation. It was truly observed
by one, “That himself came very hardly to a little riches, and very
easily to great riches;” for when a man’s stock is come to that, that
he can expect the prime of markets,[382] and overcome those bargains,
which for their greatness are few men’s money, and be partner in the
industries of younger men, he cannot but increase mainly. The gains of
ordinary trades and vocations are honest, and furthered by two things,
chiefly: by diligence, and by a good name for good and fair dealing;
but the gains of bargains are of a more doubtful nature, when men shall
wait upon others’ necessity: broke by servants and instruments to draw
them on; put off others cunningly that would be better chapmen; and
the like practices, which are crafty and naught. As for the chopping
of bargains, when a man buys not to hold, but to sell over again,
that commonly grindeth double, both upon the seller and upon the
buyer. Sharings do greatly enrich, if the hands be well chosen that
are trusted. Usury is the certainest means of gain, though one of the
worst; as that whereby a man doth eat his bread, “in sudore vultûs
alieni;”[383] and, besides, doth plough upon Sundays; but yet certain
though it be, it hath flaws, for that the scriveners and brokers do
value unsound men to serve their own turn. The fortune, in being the
first in an invention, or in a privilege, doth cause sometimes a
wonderful overgrowth in riches, as it was with the first sugar-man[384]
in the Canaries; therefore, if a man can play the true logician, to
have as well judgment as invention, he may do great matters, especially
if the times be fit. He that resteth upon gains certain, shall hardly
grow to great riches; and he that puts all upon adventures, doth
oftentimes break and come to poverty; it is good, therefore, to
guard adventures with certainties that may uphold losses. Monopolies,
and coemption of wares for resale, where they are not restrained, are
great means to enrich; especially if the party have intelligence what
things are like to come into request, and so store himself beforehand.
Riches gotten by service, though it be of the best rise, yet when they
are gotten by flattery, feeding humors, and other servile conditions,
they may be placed amongst the worst. As for fishing for testaments
and executorships (as Tacitus saith of Seneca, “Testamenta et orbos
tanquam indagine capi”),[385] it is yet worse, by how much men submit
themselves to meaner persons than in service. Believe not much them
that seem to despise riches, for they despise them that despair of
them; and none worse when they come to them. Be not penny-wise; riches
have wings, and sometimes they fly away of themselves, sometimes they
must be set flying to bring in more. Men leave their riches either to
their kindred, or to the public; and moderate portions prosper best in
both. A great state left to an heir, is as a lure to all the birds of
prey round about to seize on him, if he be not the better stablished
in years and judgment; likewise, glorious gifts and foundations are
like sacrifices without salt, and but the painted sepulchres of alms,
which soon will putrefy and corrupt inwardly. Therefore, measure not
thine advancements by quantity, but frame them by measure, and defer
not charities till death; for, certainly, if a man weigh it rightly, he
that doth so is rather liberal of another man’s than of his own.


I mean not to speak of divine prophecies, nor of heathen oracles,
nor of natural predictions; but only of prophecies that have been of
certain memory, and from hidden causes. Saith the Pythonissa[386] to
Saul, “To-morrow thou and thy sons shall be with me.” Virgil hath these
verses from Homer:—

  “Hic domus Æneæ cunctis dominabitur oris,
  Et nati natorum, et qui nascentur ab illis.”[387]

A prophecy, as it seems, of the Roman empire. Seneca the tragedian hath
these verses:—

  “Venient annis
  Sæcula seris, quibus Oceanus
  Vincula rerum laxet, et ingens
  Pateat Tellus, Tiphysque novos
  Detegat orbes; nec sit terris
  Ultima Thule.”[388]

A prophecy of the discovery of America. The daughter of
Polycrates[389] dreamed that Jupiter bathed her father, and Apollo
anointed him; and it came to pass that he was crucified in an open
place, where the sun made his body run with sweat, and the rain washed
it. Philip of Macedon dreamed he sealed up his wife’s belly, whereby
he did expound it, that his wife should be barren; but Aristander the
soothsayer told him his wife was with child, because men do not use
to seal vessels that are empty.[390] A phantasm that appeared to M.
Brutus in his tent, said to him, “Philippis iterum me videbis.”[391]
Tiberius said to Galba, “Tu quoque, Galba, degustabis imperium.”[392]
In Vespasian’s time, there went a prophecy in the East, that those
that should come forth of Judea, should reign over the world; which,
though it may be was meant of our Saviour, yet Tacitus expounds it of
Vespasian.[393] Domitian dreamed, the night before he was slain, that a
golden head was growing out of the nape of his neck;[394] and, indeed,
the succession that followed him, for many years, made golden times.
Henry the Sixth of England said of Henry the Seventh, when he was a
lad, and gave him water, “This is the lad that shall enjoy the crown
for which we strive.” When I was in France, I heard from one Dr. Pena,
that the queen mother,[395] who was given to curious arts, caused the
king her husband’s nativity to be calculated under a false name; and
the astrologer gave a judgment, that he should be killed in a duel; at
which the queen laughed, thinking her husband to be above challenges
and duels; but he was slain upon a course at tilt, the splinters of the
staff of Montgomery going in at his beaver. The trivial prophecy which
I heard when I was a child, and Queen Elizabeth was in the flower of
her years, was,

  “When hempe is spunne,
  England’s done;”

whereby it was generally conceived, that after the princes had reigned
which had the principal letters of that word hempe (which were Henry,
Edward, Mary, Philip, and Elizabeth), England should come to utter
confusion; which, thanks be to God, is verified only in the change of
the name; for that the king’s style is now no more of England, but
of Britain.[396] There was also another prophecy before the year of
eighty-eight, which I do not well understand.

  “There shall be seen upon a day,
  Between the Baugh and the May,
  The black fleet of Norway.
  When that that is come and gone,
  England build houses of lime and stone,
  For after wars you shall have none.”

It was generally conceived to be meant of the Spanish fleet that came
in eighty-eight; for that the king of Spain’s surname, as they say, is
Norway. The prediction of Regiomontanus,

  “Octogesimus octavus mirabilis annus,”[397]

was thought likewise accomplished in the sending of that great fleet,
being the greatest in strength, though not in number, of all that
ever swam upon the sea. As for Cleon’s dream,[398] I think it was
a jest; it was, that he was devoured of a long dragon; and it was
expounded of a maker of sausages, that troubled him exceedingly. There
are numbers of the like kind, especially if you include dreams,
and predictions of astrology; but I have set down these few only of
certain credit, for example. My judgment is, that they ought all to
be despised, and ought to serve but for winter talk by the fireside;
though, when I say despised, I mean it as for belief; for otherwise,
the spreading or publishing of them is in no sort to be despised,
for they have done much mischief; and I see many severe laws made
to suppress them. That that hath given them grace, and some credit,
consisteth in three things. First, that men mark when they hit, and
never mark when they miss;[399] as they do, generally, also of dreams.
The second is, that probable conjectures, or obscure traditions, many
times turn themselves into prophecies; while the nature of man, which
coveteth divination, thinks it no peril to foretell that which indeed
they do but collect, as that of Seneca’s verse; for so much was then
subject to demonstration, that the globe of the earth had great parts
beyond the Atlantic, which might be probably conceived not to be all
sea; and adding thereto the tradition in Plato’s Timæus, and his
Atlanticus,[400] it might encourage one to turn it to a prediction.
The third and last (which is the great one), is, that almost all of
them, being infinite in number, have been impostures, and, by idle and
crafty brains, merely contrived and feigned, after the event past.


Ambition is like choler, which is a humor that maketh men active,
earnest, full of alacrity, and stirring, if it be not stopped; but if
it be stopped, and cannot have its way, it becometh adust,[401] and
thereby malign and venomous. So ambitious men, if they find the way
open for their rising, and still get forward, they are rather busy
than dangerous; but if they be checked in their desires, they become
secretly discontent, and look upon men and matters with an evil eye,
and are best pleased when things go backward; which is the worst
property in a servant of a prince or state. Therefore, it is good
for princes, if they use ambitious men, to handle it so, as they be
still progressive, and not retrograde; which, because it cannot be
without inconvenience, it is good not to use such natures at all;
for if they rise not with their service, they will take order to make
their service fall with them. But since we have said, it were good
not to use men of ambitious natures, except it be upon necessity, it
is fit we speak in what cases they are of necessity. Good commanders
in the wars must be taken, be they never so ambitious; for the use
of their service dispenseth with the rest; and to take a soldier
without ambition, is to pull off his spurs. There is also great use
of ambitious men in being screens to princes in matters of danger and
envy; for no man will take that part, except he be like a seeled[402]
dove, that mounts and mounts, because he cannot see about him. There
is use, also, of ambitious men, in pulling down the greatness of any
subject that overtops; as Tiberius used Macro[403] in the pulling
down of Sejanus. Since, therefore, they must be used in such cases,
there resteth to speak how they are to be bridled, that they may
be less dangerous. There is less danger of them if they be of mean
birth, than if they be noble; and if they be rather harsh of nature,
than gracious and popular; and if they be rather new raised, than
grown cunning and fortified in their greatness. It is counted by some
a weakness in princes to have favorites; but it is, of all others,
the best remedy against ambitious great ones; for when the way of
pleasuring and displeasuring lieth by the favorite, it is impossible
any other should be over-great. Another means to curb them, is, to
balance them by others as proud as they; but then there must be some
middle counsellors, to keep things steady, for without that ballast,
the ship will roll too much. At the least, a prince may animate and
inure some meaner persons to be, as it were, scourges to ambitious
men. As for the having of them obnoxious to[404] ruin, if they be of
fearful natures, it may do well; but if they be stout and daring, it
may precipitate their designs, and prove dangerous. As for the pulling
of them down, if the affairs require it, and that it may not be done
with safety suddenly, the only way is, the interchange continually of
favors and disgraces, whereby they may not know what to expect, and be,
as it were, in a wood. Of ambitions, it is less harmful the ambition to
prevail in great things, than that other to appear in every thing; for
that breeds confusion, and mars business; but yet, it is less danger to
have an ambitious man stirring in business, than great in dependencies.
He that seeketh to be eminent amongst able men, hath a great task, but
that is ever good for the public; but he that plots to be the only
figure amongst ciphers, is the decay of a whole age. Honor hath three
things in it: the vantage-ground to do good; the approach to kings and
principal persons; and the raising of a man’s own fortunes. He that
hath the best of these intentions, when he aspireth, is an honest man;
and that prince that can discern of these intentions in another that
aspireth, is a wise prince. Generally, let princes and states choose
such ministers as are more sensible of duty than of rising, and such as
love business rather upon conscience than upon bravery; and let them
discern a busy nature from a willing mind.


These things are but toys to come amongst such serious observations;
but yet, since princes will have such things, it is better they should
be graced with elegancy, than daubed with cost. Dancing to song is a
thing of great state and pleasure. I understand it that the song be in
choir, placed aloft, and accompanied with some broken music, and the
ditty fitted to the device. Acting in song, especially in dialogues,
hath an extreme good grace; I say acting, not dancing (for that is
a mean and vulgar thing); and the voices of the dialogue would be
strong and manly (a base and a tenor, no treble), and the ditty high
and tragical, not nice or dainty. Several choirs, placed one over
against another, and taking the voices by catches anthem-wise, give
great pleasure. Turning dances into figure is a childish curiosity;
and, generally, let it be noted, that those things which I here set
down are such as do naturally take the sense, and not respect petty
wonderments. It is true, the alterations of scenes, so it be quietly
and without noise, are things of great beauty and pleasure: for they
feed and relieve the eye before it be full of the same object. Let the
scenes abound with light, specially colored and varied; and let the
masquers, or any other that are to come down from the scene, have some
motions upon the scene itself before their coming down; for it draws
the eye strangely, and makes it with great pleasure to desire to see
that it cannot perfectly discern. Let the songs be loud and cheerful,
and not chirpings or pulings;[405] let the music, likewise, be sharp
and loud, and well placed. The colors that show best by candlelight,
are white, carnation, and a kind of sea-water green; and ouches,[406]
or spangs,[407] as they are of no great cost, so they are of most
glory. As for rich embroidery, it is lost and not discerned. Let the
suits of the masquers be graceful, and such as become the person
when the vizors are off; not after examples of known attires, Turks,
soldiers, mariners, and the like. Let anti-masques[408] not be long;
they have been commonly of fools, satyrs, baboons, wild men, antics,
beasts, sprites, witches, Ethiopes, pigmies, turquets,[409] nymphs,
rustics, Cupids, statues moving, and the like. As for angels, it is
not comical enough to put them in anti-masques; and any thing that
is hideous, as devils, giants, is, on the other side, as unfit; but,
chiefly, let the music of them be recreative, and with some strange
changes. Some sweet odors suddenly coming forth, without any drops
falling, are, in such a company as there is steam and heat, things of
great pleasure and refreshment. Double masques, one of men, another of
ladies, addeth state and variety; but all is nothing, except the room
be kept clear and neat.

For justs, and tourneys, and barriers, the glories of them are chiefly
in the chariots, wherein the challengers make their entry; especially
if they be drawn with strange beasts, as lions, bears, camels, and the
like; or in the devices of their entrance, or in the bravery of their
liveries, or in the goodly furniture of their horses and armor. But
enough of these toys.


Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished. Force
maketh nature more violent in the return; doctrine and discourse maketh
nature less importune, but custom only doth alter and subdue nature.
He that seeketh victory over his nature, let him not set himself too
great nor too small tasks; for the first will make him dejected by
often failings, and the second will make him a small proceeder, though
by often prevailings. And at the first, let him practise with helps,
as swimmers do with bladders, or rushes; but, after a time, let him
practise with disadvantages, as dancers do with thick shoes; for it
breeds great perfection, if the practice be harder than the use. Where
nature is mighty, and therefore the victory hard, the degrees had need
be, first, to stay and arrest nature in time; like to him that would
say over the four and twenty letters when he was angry; then to go less
in quantity: as if one should, in forbearing wine, come from drinking
healths to a draught at a meal; and, lastly, to discontinue altogether;
but if a man have the fortitude and resolution to enfranchise himself
at once, that is the best:—

  “Optimus ille animi vindex lædentia pectus
  Vincula qui rupit, dedoluitque semel.”[410]

Neither is the ancient rule amiss, to bend nature as a wand to a
contrary extreme, whereby to set it right; understanding it where
the contrary extreme is no vice. Let not a man force a habit upon
himself with a perpetual continuance, but with some intermission, for
both the pause reinforceth the new onset; and if a man that is not
perfect be ever in practice, he shall as well practise his errors as
his abilities, and induce one habit of both; and there is no means to
help this but by seasonable intermissions. But let not a man trust his
victory over his nature too far; for nature will lie buried a great
time, and yet revive upon the occasion or temptation; like as it was
with Æsop’s damsel, turned from a cat to a woman, who sat very demurely
at the board’s end till a mouse ran before her. Therefore, let a man
either avoid the occasion altogether, or put himself often to it, that
he may be little moved with it. A man’s nature is best perceived in
privateness, for there is no affectation; in passion, for that putteth
a man out of his precepts; and in a new case or experiment, for there
custom leaveth him. They are happy men whose natures sort with their
vocations; otherwise they may say, “Multum incola fuit anima mea,”[411]
when they converse in those things they do not affect. In studies,
whatsoever a man commandeth upon himself, let him set hours for it: but
whatsoever is agreeable to his nature, let him take no care for any set
times; for his thoughts will fly to it of themselves, so as the spaces
of other business or studies will suffice. A man’s nature runs either
to herbs or weeds; therefore, let him seasonably water the one, and
destroy the other.


Men’s thoughts are much according to their inclination;[412] their
discourse and speeches according to their learning and infused
opinions; but their deeds are, after, as they have been accustomed;
and, therefore, as Machiavel well noteth (though in an evil-favored
instance), there is no trusting to the force of nature, nor to the
bravery of words, except it be corroborate by custom.[413] His instance
is, that, for the achieving of a desperate conspiracy, a man should
not rest upon the fierceness of any man’s nature, or his resolute
undertakings, but take such a one as hath had his hands formerly
in blood; but Machiavel knew not of a Friar Clement,[414] nor a
Ravaillac,[415] nor a Jaureguy,[416] nor a Baltazar Gerard;[417] yet
his rule holdeth still, that nature, nor the engagement of words, are
not so forcible as custom. Only superstition is now so well advanced,
that men of the first blood are as firm as butchers by occupation; and
votary[418] resolution is made equipollent to custom, even in matter
of blood. In other things, the predominancy of custom is everywhere
visible, insomuch as a man would wonder to hear men profess, protest,
engage, give great words, and then do just as they have done before,
as if they were dead images and engines, moved only by the wheels of
custom. We see, also, the reign or tyranny of custom, what it is.

The Indians[419] (I mean the sect of their wise men) lay themselves
quietly upon a stack of wood, and so sacrifice themselves by fire;
nay, the wives strive to be burned with the corpses of their husbands.
The lads of Sparta, of ancient time, were wont to be scourged upon
the altar of Diana, without so much as quecking.[420] I remember, in
the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s time of England, an Irish rebel
condemned, put up a petition to the deputy that he might be hanged in
a withe, and not in a halter, because it had been so used with former
rebels. There be monks in Russia for penance, that will sit a whole
night in a vessel of water, till they be engaged with hard ice. Many
examples may be put of the force of custom, both upon mind and body;
therefore, since custom is the principal magistrate of man’s life,
let men, by all means, endeavor to obtain good customs. Certainly,
custom is most perfect when it beginneth in young years: this we call
education, which is, in effect, but an early custom. So we see, in
languages, the tongue is more pliant to all expressions and sounds, the
joints are more supple to all feats of activity and motions in youth,
than afterwards; for it is true, that late learners cannot so well take
the ply, except it be in some minds that have not suffered themselves
to fix, but have kept themselves open and prepared to receive continual
amendment, which is exceeding rare. But if the force of custom, simple
and separate, be great, the force of custom, copulate and conjoined
and collegiate, is far greater; for there example teacheth, company
comforteth, emulation quickeneth, glory raiseth; so as in such places
the force of custom is in his exaltation. Certainly, the great
multiplication of virtues upon human nature resteth upon societies well
ordained and disciplined; for commonwealths and good governments do
nourish virtue grown, but do not much mend the seeds; but the misery
is, that the most effectual means are now applied to the ends least to
be desired.


It cannot be denied, but outward accidents conduce much to fortune;
favor, opportunity, death of others, occasion fitting virtue; but,
chiefly, the mould of a man’s fortune is in his own hands: “Faber
quisque fortunæ suæ,”[421] saith the poet; and the most frequent
of external causes, is that the folly of one man is the fortune of
another; for no man prospers so suddenly as by others’ errors. “Serpens
nisi serpentem comederit non fit draco.”[422] Overt and apparent
virtues bring forth praise: but there be secret and hidden virtues that
bring forth fortune; certain deliveries of a man’s self, which have no
name. The Spanish name, “disemboltura,”[423] partly expresseth them,
when there be not stonds[424] nor restiveness in a man’s nature, but
that the wheels of his mind keep way with the wheels of his fortune;
for so Livy (after he had described Cato Major in these words, “In
illo viro, tantum robur corporis et animi fuit, ut quocunque loco
natus esset, fortunam sibi facturus videretur,”)[425] falleth upon
that, that he had “versatile ingenium:”[426] therefore, if a man look
sharply and attentively, he shall see Fortune; for though she be
blind, yet she is not invisible. The way of Fortune is like the milky
way in the sky; which is a meeting, or knot, of a number of small
stars, not seen asunder, but giving light together; so are there a
number of little and scarce discerned virtues, or rather faculties
and customs, that make men fortunate. The Italians note some of them,
such as a man would little think. When they speak of one that cannot
do amiss, they will throw in into his other conditions, that he hath
“Poco di matto;”[427] and, certainly, there be not two more fortunate
properties, than to have a little of the fool, and not too much of
the honest; therefore, extreme lovers of their country, or masters,
were never fortunate; neither can they be, for when a man placeth
his thoughts without himself, he goeth not his own way. A hasty
fortune maketh an enterpriser and remover (the French hath it better,
“entreprenant,” or “remuant”); but the exercised fortune maketh the
able man. Fortune is to be honored and respected, and it be but for her
daughters, Confidence and Reputation; for those two Felicity breedeth;
the first within a man’s self, the latter in others towards him. All
wise men, to decline the envy of their own virtues, use to ascribe them
to Providence and Fortune; for so they may the better assume them;
and, besides, it is greatness in a man to be the care of the higher
powers. So Cæsar said to the pilot in the tempest, “Cæsarem portas,
et fortunam ejus.”[428] So Sylla chose the name of “Felix,”[429] and
not of “Magnus;”[430] and it hath been noted, that those who ascribe
openly too much to their own wisdom and policy, end unfortunate. It
is written, that Timotheus[431] the Athenian, after he had, in the
account he gave to the state of his government, often interlaced his
speech, “and in this Fortune had no part,” never prospered in any
thing he undertook afterwards. Certainly there be, whose fortunes are
like Homer’s verses, that have a slide[432] and easiness more than
the verses of other poets; as Plutarch saith of Timoleon’s fortune in
respect of that of Agesilaus or Epaminondas; and that this should be,
no doubt it is much in a man’s self.


Many have made witty invectives against usury. They say that it is pity
the devil should have God’s part, which is the tithe; that the usurer
is the greatest Sabbath-breaker, because his plough goeth every Sunday;
that the usurer is the drone that Virgil speaketh of:—

  “Ignavum fucos pecus a præsepibus arcent;”[434]

that the usurer breaketh the first law that was made for mankind
after the fall, which was, “in sudore vultûs tui comedes panem
tuum;”[435] not, “in sudore vultûs alieni;”[436] that usurers should
have orange-tawny[437] bonnets, because they do Judaize; that it is
against nature for money to beget money, and the like. I say this only,
that usury is a “concessum propter duritiem cordis;”[438] for, since
there must be borrowing and lending, and men are so hard of heart as
they will not lend freely, usury must be permitted. Some others have
made suspicious and cunning propositions of banks, discovery of men’s
estates, and other inventions; but few have spoken of usury usefully.
It is good to set before us the incommodities and commodities of usury,
that the good may be either weighed out, or culled out; and warily to
provide, that, while we make forth to that which is better, we meet not
with that which is worse.

The discommodities of usury are, first, that it makes fewer merchants;
for were it not for this lazy trade of usury, money would not lie
still, but would, in great part, be employed upon merchandising,
which is the “vena porta”[439] of wealth in a state. The second, that
it makes poor merchants; for as a farmer cannot husband his ground
so well if he sit at a great rent, so the merchant cannot drive his
trade so well if he sit[440] at great usury. The third is incident to
the other two; and that is, the decay of customs of kings, or states,
which ebb or flow with merchandising. The fourth, that it bringeth the
treasure of a realm or state into a few hands; for the usurer being at
certainties, and others at uncertainties, at the end of the game most
of the money will be in the box; and ever a state flourisheth when
wealth is more equally spread. The fifth, that it beats down the price
of land; for the employment of money is chiefly either merchandising or
purchasing, and usury waylays both. The sixth, that it doth dull and
damp all industries, improvements, and new inventions, wherein money
would be stirring, if it were not for this slug. The last, that it is
the canker and ruin of many men’s estates, which, in process of time,
breeds a public poverty.

On the other side, the commodities of usury are, first, that, howsoever
usury in some respect hindereth merchandising, yet in some other
it advanceth it; for it is certain that the greatest part of trade
is driven by young merchants upon borrowing at interest; so as if
the usurer either call in, or keep back his money, there will ensue
presently a great stand of trade. The second is, that, were it not for
this easy borrowing upon interest, men’s necessities would draw upon
them a most sudden undoing, in that they would be forced to sell their
means (be it lands or goods), far under foot; and so, whereas usury
doth but gnaw upon them, bad markets would swallow them quite up. As
for mortgaging or pawning, it will little mend the matter; for either
men will not take pawns without use, or, if they do, they will look
precisely for the forfeiture. I remember a cruel moneyed man in the
country, that would say, “The devil take this usury, it keeps us from
forfeitures of mortgages and bonds.” The third and last is, that it is
a vanity to conceive that there would be ordinary borrowing without
profit; and it is impossible to conceive the number of inconveniences
that will ensue, if borrowing be cramped. Therefore, to speak of the
abolishing of usury is idle; all states have ever had it in one kind
or rate, or other; so as that opinion must be sent to Utopia.[441]

To speak now of the reformation and reglement[442] of usury, how the
discommodities of it may be best avoided, and the commodities retained.
It appears, by the balance of commodities and discommodities of usury,
two things are to be reconciled; the one, that the tooth of usury be
grinded, that it bite not too much; the other, that there be left
open a means to invite moneyed men to lend to the merchants, for the
continuing and quickening of trade. This cannot be done, except you
introduce two several sorts of usury, a less and a greater; for if you
reduce usury to one low rate, it will ease the common borrower, but
the merchant will be to seek for money; and it is to be noted that the
trade of merchandise being the most lucrative, may bear usury at a good
rate; other contracts not so.

To serve both intentions, the way would be briefly thus: that there
be two rates of usury; the one free and general for all; the other
under license only to certain persons, and in certain places of
merchandising. First, therefore, let usury in general be reduced to
five in the hundred, and let that rate be proclaimed to be free and
current; and let the state shut itself out to take any penalty for the
same. This will preserve borrowing from any general stop or dryness;
this will ease infinite borrowers in the country; this will, in good
part, raise the price of land, because land purchased at sixteen years’
purchase will yield six in the hundred, and somewhat more, whereas
this rate of interest yields but five. This, by like reason, will
encourage and edge industrious and profitable improvements, because
many will rather venture in that kind, than take five in the hundred,
especially having been used to greater profit. Secondly, let there be
certain persons licensed to lend to known merchants upon usury, at a
higher rate, and let it be with the cautions following: Let the rate
be, even with the merchant himself, somewhat more easy than that he
used formerly to pay; for, by that means, all borrowers shall have some
ease by this reformation, be he merchant, or whosoever; let it be no
bank or common stock, but every man be master of his own money; not
that I altogether mislike banks, but they will hardly be brooked, in
regard of certain suspicions. Let the state be answered[443] some small
matter for the license, and the rest left to the lender; for if the
abatement be but small, it will no whit discourage the lender; for he,
for example, that took before ten or nine in the hundred, will sooner
descend to eight in the hundred, than give over his trade of usury, and
go from certain gains to gains of hazard. Let these licensed lenders
be in number indefinite, but restrained to certain principal cities
and towns of merchandising; for then they will be hardly able to color
other men’s moneys in the country, so as the license of nine will not
suck away the current rate of five; for no man will send his moneys far
off, nor put them into unknown hands.

If it be objected, that this doth in a sort authorize usury, which
before was in some places but permissive; the answer is, that it is
better to mitigate usury by declaration, than to suffer it to rage by


A man that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have lost no
time; but that happeneth rarely. Generally, youth is like the first
cogitations, not so wise as the second; for there is a youth in
thoughts as well as in ages; and yet the invention of young men is
more lively than that of old, and imaginations stream into their minds
better, and, as it were, more divinely. Natures that have much heat,
and great and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for
action till they have passed the meridian of their years: as it was
with Julius Cæsar and Septimius Severus; of the latter of whom it is
said, “Juventutem egit erroribus, imo furoribus plenam;”[445] and yet
he was the ablest emperor, almost, of all the list; but reposed natures
may do well in youth, as it is seen in Augustus Cæsar, Cosmus Duke of
Florence, Gaston de Foix,[446] and others. On the other side, heat
and vivacity in age is an excellent composition for business. Young
men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for
counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business; for
the experience of age, in things that fall within the compass of it,
directeth them; but in new things abuseth them. The errors of young
men are the ruin of business; but the errors of aged men amount but to
this, that more might have been done, or sooner.

Young men, in the conduct and manage of actions, embrace more than
they can hold, stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end, without
consideration of the means and degrees; pursue some few principles
which they have chanced upon absurdly; care not to innovate, which
draws unknown inconveniences; use extreme remedies at first; and that,
which doubleth all errors, will not acknowledge or retract them,
like an unready horse, that will neither stop nor turn. Men of age
object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too
soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content
themselves with a mediocrity of success. Certainly, it is good to
compound employments of both; for that will be good for the present,
because the virtues of either age may correct the defects of both;
and good for succession, that young men may be learners, while men
in age are actors; and, lastly, good for externe accidents, because
authority followeth old men, and favor and popularity youth; but, for
the moral part, perhaps, youth will have the preëminence, as age hath
for the politic. A certain rabbin, upon the text, “Your young men shall
see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams,”[447] inferreth
that young men are admitted nearer to God than old, because vision
is a clearer revelation than a dream; and, certainly, the more a man
drinketh of the world, the more it intoxicateth; and age doth profit
rather in the powers of understanding, than in the virtues of the will
and affections. There be some have an over-early ripeness in their
years, which fadeth betimes; these are, first, such as have brittle
wits, the edge whereof is soon turned; such as was Hermogenes[448] the
rhetorician, whose books are exceedingly subtle; who afterwards waxed
stupid. A second sort is of those that have some natural dispositions,
which have better grace in youth than in age; such as is a fluent and
luxuriant speech, which becomes youth well, but not age; so Tully saith
of Hortensius: “Idem manebat, neque idem decebat.”[449] The third is of
such as take too high a strain at the first, and are magnanimous more
than tract of years can uphold; as was Scipio Africanus, of whom Livy
saith, in effect, “Ultima primis cedebant.”[450]


Virtue is like a rich stone, best plain set; and surely virtue is best
in a body that is comely, though not of delicate features, and that
hath rather dignity of presence than beauty of aspect; neither is it
always most seen, that very beautiful persons are otherwise of great
virtue; as if nature were rather busy not to err, than in labor to
produce excellency; and therefore they prove accomplished, but not of
great spirit, and study rather behavior than virtue. But this holds
not always; for Augustus Cæsar, Titus Vespasianus, Philip le Bel of
France, Edward the Fourth of England,[451] Alcibiades of Athens, Ismael
the Sophy of Persia, were all high and great spirits, and yet the most
beautiful men of their times. In beauty, that of favor is more than
that of color; and that of decent and gracious motion, more than that
of favor.[452] That is the best part of beauty, which a picture cannot
express; no, nor the first sight of the life. There is no excellent
beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. A man cannot
tell whether Apelles, or Albert Durer, were the more trifler; whereof
the one would make a personage by geometrical proportions; the other,
by taking the best parts out of divers faces to make one excellent.
Such personages, I think, would please nobody but the painter that made
them: not but I think a painter may make a better face than ever was;
but he must do it by a kind of felicity (as a musician that maketh an
excellent air in music), and not by rule. A man shall see faces, that,
if you examine them part by part, you shall find never a good, and yet
altogether do well. If it be true that the principal part of beauty is
in decent motion, certainly it is no marvel, though persons in years
seem many times more amiable; “Pulchrorum autumnus pulcher;”[453] for
no youth can be comely but by pardon,[454] and considering the youth
as to make up the comeliness. Beauty is as summer fruits, which are
easy to corrupt, and cannot last; and, for the most part, it makes
a dissolute youth, and an age a little out of countenance; but yet
certainly again, if it light well, it maketh virtues shine, and vices


Deformed persons are commonly even with nature; for, as nature hath
done ill by them, so do they by nature, being for the most part (as
the Scripture saith) “void of natural affection;”[455] and so they
have their revenge of nature. Certainly, there is a consent between the
body and the mind, and where nature erreth in the one, she ventureth
in the other: “Ubi peccat in uno, periclitatur in altero.”[456]
But because there is in man an election, touching the frame of his
mind, and a necessity in the frame of his body, the stars of natural
inclination are sometimes obscured by the sun of discipline and virtue;
therefore, it is good to consider of deformity, not as a sign which is
more deceivable, but as a cause which seldom faileth of the effect.
Whosoever hath any thing fixed in his person that doth induce contempt,
hath also a perpetual spur in himself to rescue and deliver himself
from scorn; therefore, all deformed persons are extreme bold; first,
as in their own defence, as being exposed to scorn, but, in process
of time, by a general habit. Also, it stirreth in them industry, and
especially of this kind, to watch and observe the weakness of others,
that they may have somewhat to repay. Again, in their superiors, it
quencheth jealousy towards them, as persons that they think they may
at pleasure despise; and it layeth their competitors and emulators
asleep, as never believing they should be in possibility of advancement
till they see them in possession; so that upon the matter, in a great
wit, deformity is an advantage to rising. Kings in ancient times (and
at this present in some countries) were wont to put great trust in
eunuchs, because they that are envious towards all are more obnoxious
and officious towards one; but yet their trust towards them hath rather
been as to good spials,[457] and good whisperers, than good magistrates
and officers; and much like is the reason of deformed persons. Still
the ground is, they will, if they be of spirit, seek to free themselves
from scorn, which must be either by virtue or malice; and, therefore,
let it not be marvelled, if sometimes they prove excellent persons; as
was Agesilaüs, Zanger, the son of Solyman,[458] Æsop, Gasca president
of Peru; and Socrates may go likewise amongst them, with others.


Houses are built to live in, and not to look on, therefore, let use be
preferred before uniformity, except where both may be had. Leave the
goodly fabrics of houses, for beauty only, to the enchanted palaces
of the poets, who build them with small cost. He that builds a fair
house upon an ill seat,[459] committeth himself to prison; neither do I
reckon it an ill seat only where the air is unwholesome, but likewise
where the air is unequal. As you shall see many fine seats set upon
a knap[460] of ground environed with higher hills round about it,
whereby the heat of the sun is pent in, and the wind gathereth as in
troughs; so as you shall have, and that suddenly, as great diversity of
heat and cold as if you dwelt in several places. Neither is it ill air
only that maketh an ill seat; but ill ways, ill markets, and, if you
will consult with Momus,[461] ill neighbors. I speak not of many more:
want of water, want of wood, shade, and shelter, want of fruitfulness,
and mixture of grounds of several natures; want of prospect, want of
level grounds, want of places at some near distance for sports of
hunting, hawking, and races; too near the sea, too remote; having
the commodity of navigable rivers, or the discommodity of their
overflowing; too far off from great cities, which may hinder business;
or too near them, which lurcheth[462] all provisions, and maketh every
thing dear; where a man hath a great living laid together, and where he
is scanted; all which, as it is impossible perhaps to find together, so
it is good to know them, and think of them, that a man may take as many
as he can; and if he have several dwellings, that he sort them so, that
what he wanteth in the one he may find in the other. Lucullus answered
Pompey well, who, when he saw his stately galleries and rooms so large
and lightsome, in one of his houses, said, “Surely, an excellent place
for summer, but how do you do in winter?” Lucullus answered, “Why,
do you not think me as wise as some fowls are, that ever change their
abode towards the winter?”[463]

To pass from the seat to the house itself, we will do as Cicero doth in
the orator’s art, who writes books De Oratore, and a book he entitles
Orator; whereof the former delivers the precepts of the art, and the
latter the perfection. We will therefore describe a princely palace,
making a brief model thereof; for it is strange to see, now in Europe,
such huge buildings as the Vatican and Escurial,[464] and some others
be, and yet scarce a very fair room in them.

First, therefore, I say, you cannot have a perfect palace, except you
have two several sides; a side for the banquet, as is spoken of in
the book of Esther,[465] and a side for the household; the one for
feasts and triumphs, and the other for dwelling. I understand both
these sides to be not only returns, but parts of the front, and to be
uniform without, though severally partitioned within; and to be on both
sides of a great and stately tower in the midst of the front, that, as
it were, joineth them together on either hand. I would have, on the
side of the banquet in front, one only goodly room above stairs, of
some forty foot high; and under it a room for a dressing or preparing
place, at times of triumphs. On the other side, which is the household
side, I wish it divided at the first into a hall and a chapel, (with a
partition between), both of good state and bigness; and those not to go
all the length, but to have at the further end a winter and a summer
parlor, both fair; and under these rooms a fair and large cellar sunk
under ground; and likewise some privy kitchens, with butteries, and
pantries, and the like. As for the tower, I would have it two stories,
of eighteen foot high apiece above the two wings; and a goodly leads
upon the top, railed, with statues interposed; and the same tower to
be divided into rooms, as shall be thought fit. The stairs likewise to
the upper rooms, let them be upon a fair open newel,[466] and finely
railed in with images of wood cast into a brass color, and a very fair
landing-place at the top. But this to be, if you do not point any of
the lower rooms for a dining-place of servants; for, otherwise, you
shall have the servants’ dinner after your own; for the steam of it
will come up as in a tunnel.[467] And so much for the front; only I
understand the height of the first stairs to be sixteen foot, which is
the height of the lower room.

Beyond this front is there to be a fair court, but three sides of it
of a far lower building than the front; and in all the four corners of
that court fair staircases, cast into turrets on the outside, and not
within the row of buildings themselves; but those towers are not to
be of the height of the front, but rather proportionable to the lower
building. Let the court not be paved, for that striketh up a great
heat in summer, and much cold in winter; but only some side alleys
with a cross, and the quarters to graze, being kept shorn, but not
too near shorn. The row of return on the banquet side, let it be all
stately galleries; in which galleries let there be three or five fine
cupolas in the length of it, placed at equal distance, and fine colored
windows of several works; on the household side, chambers of presence
and ordinary entertainments, with some bedchambers; and let all three
sides be a double house, without thorough lights on the sides, that you
may have rooms from the sun, both for forenoon and afternoon. Cast it,
also, that you may have rooms both for summer and winter; shady for
summer, and warm for winter. You shall have sometimes fair houses so
full of glass, that one cannot tell where to become[468] to be out of
the sun or cold. For imbowed[469] windows, I hold them of good use; (in
cities, indeed, upright[470] do better, in respect of the uniformity
towards the street;) for they be pretty retiring places for conference;
and, besides, they keep both the wind and sun off; for that which
would strike almost through the room doth scarce pass the window: but
let them be but few, four in the court, on the sides only.

Beyond this court, let there be an inward court, of the same square
and height, which is to be environed with the garden on all sides;
and in the inside, cloistered on all sides upon decent and beautiful
arches, as high as the first story; on the under story towards the
garden, let it be turned to grotto, or place of shade, or estivation;
and only have opening and windows towards the garden, and be level
upon the floor, no whit sunk under ground to avoid all dampishness;
and let there be a fountain, or some fair work of statues in the
midst of this court, and to be paved as the other court was. These
buildings to be for privy lodgings on both sides, and the end for
privy galleries; whereof you must foresee that one of them be for an
infirmary, if the prince or any special person should be sick, with
chambers, bedchamber, “anticamera,”[471] and “recamera,”[472] joining
to it; this upon the second story. Upon the ground story, a fair
gallery, open, upon pillars; and upon the third story, likewise, an
open gallery upon pillars, to take the prospect and freshness of the
garden. At both corners of the further side, by way of return, let
there be two delicate or rich cabinets, daintily paved, richly hanged,
glazed with crystalline glass, and a rich cupola in the midst, and all
other elegancy that can be thought upon. In the upper gallery, too,
I wish that there may be, if the place will yield it, some fountains
running in divers places from the wall, with some fine avoidances.[473]
And thus much for the model of the palace, save that you must have,
before you come to the front, three courts: a green court plain, with
a wall about it; a second court of the same, but more garnished with
little turrets, or rather embellishments, upon the wall; and a third
court, to make a square with the front, but not to be built, nor yet
inclosed with a naked wall, but inclosed with terraces leaded aloft,
and fairly garnished on the three sides, and cloistered on the inside
with pillars, and not with arches below. As for offices, let them stand
at distance, with some low galleries to pass from them to the palace


God Almighty first planted a garden; and, indeed, it is the purest of
human pleasures; it is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man;
without which buildings and palaces are but gross handyworks; and a
man shall ever see, that, when ages grow to civility and elegancy, men
come to build stately, sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening
were the greater perfection. I do hold it, in the royal ordering of
gardens, there ought to be gardens for all the months in the year, in
which, severally, things of beauty may be then in season. For December,
and January, and the latter part of November, you must take such things
as are green all winter: holly, ivy, bays, juniper, cypress-trees,
yew, pineapple-trees;[474] fir-trees, rosemary, lavender; periwinkle,
the white, the purple, and the blue; germander, flags, orange-trees,
lemon-trees, and myrtles, if they be stoved;[475] and sweet marjoram,
warm set. There followeth, for the latter part of January and February,
the mezereon-tree, which then blossoms; crocus vernus, both the yellow
and the gray; primroses, anemones, the early tulip, the hyacinthus
orientalis, chamaïris fritellaria. For March, there come violets,
especially the single blue, which are the earliest; the yellow
daffodil, the daisy, the almond-tree in blossom, the peach-tree in
blossom, the cornelian-tree in blossom, sweet-brier. In April, follow
the double white violet, the wall-flower, the stock-gillyflower,
the cowslip, flower-de-luces, and lilies of all natures; rosemary
flowers, the tulip, the double peony, the pale daffodil, the French
honeysuckle, the cherry-tree in blossom, the damascene[476] and
plum-trees in blossom, the white thorn in leaf, the lilac-tree. In May
and June come pinks of all sorts, especially the blush-pink; roses
of all kinds, except the musk, which comes later; honeysuckles,
strawberries, bugloss, columbine, the French marigold, flos Africanus,
cherry-tree in fruit, ribes,[477] figs in fruit, rasps, vine-flowers,
lavender in flowers, the sweet satyrian, with the white flower; herba
muscaria, lilium convallium, the apple-tree in blossom. In July come
gillyflowers of all varieties, musk-roses, the lime-tree in blossom,
early pears, and plums in fruit, genitings,[478] codlins. In August
come plums of all sorts in fruit, pears, apricots, barberries,
filberts, musk-melons, monks-hoods, of all colors. In September come
grapes, apples, poppies of all colors, peaches, melocotones,[479]
nectarines, cornelians,[480] wardens,[481] quinces. In October, and the
beginning of November, come services, medlars, bullaces, roses cut or
removed to come late, hollyoaks, and such like. These particulars are
for the climate of London; but my meaning is perceived, that you may
have “ver perpetuum,”[482] as the place affords.

And because the breath of flowers is far sweeter in the air (where
it comes and goes, like the warbling of music), than in the hand,
therefore nothing is more fit for that delight, than to know what be
the flowers and plants that do best perfume the air. Roses, damask
and red, are fast flowers[483] of their smell, so that you may walk by
a whole row of them, and find nothing of their sweetness; yea, though
it be in a morning’s dew. Bays, likewise, yield no smell as they grow,
rosemary little, nor sweet marjoram; that which, above all others,
yields the sweetest smell in the air, is the violet, especially the
white double violet, which comes twice a year, about the middle of
April, and about Bartholomew-tide. Next to that is the musk-rose;
then the strawberry leaves dying, with a most excellent cordial smell;
then the flower of the vines, it is a little dust like the dust of a
bent,[484] which grows upon the cluster in the first coming forth; then
sweet-brier, then wall-flowers, which are very delightful to be set
under a parlor or lower chamber window; then pinks and gillyflowers,
specially the matted pink and clove gillyflower; then the flowers of
the lime-tree; then the honeysuckles, so they be somewhat afar off.
Of bean-flowers[485] I speak not, because they are field-flowers; but
those which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the
rest, but being trodden upon and crushed, are three; that is, burnet,
wild thyme, and water-mints; therefore you are to set whole alleys of
them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread.

For gardens (speaking of those which are indeed prince-like, as we
have done of buildings), the contents ought not well to be under thirty
acres of ground, and to be divided into three parts; a green in the
entrance, a heath, or desert, in the going forth, and the main garden
in the midst, besides alleys on both sides; and I like well that four
acres of ground be assigned to the green, six to the heath, four and
four to either side, and twelve to the main garden. The green hath two
pleasures: the one, because nothing is more pleasant to the eye than
green grass kept finely shorn; the other, because it will give you a
fair alley in the midst, by which you may go in front upon a stately
hedge, which is to inclose the garden. But because the alley will be
long, and in great heat of the year, or day, you ought not to buy the
shade in the garden by going in the sun through the green; therefore
you are, of either side the green, to plant a covert alley, upon
carpenter’s work, about twelve foot in height, by which you may go in
shade into the garden. As for the making of knots or figures, with
divers colored earths, that they may lie under the windows of the house
on that side which the garden stands, they be but toys; you may see
as good sights many times in tarts. The garden is best to be square,
encompassed on all the four sides with a stately arched hedge: the
arches to be upon pillars of carpenter’s work, of some ten foot high,
and six foot broad, and the spaces between of the same dimension with
the breadth of the arch. Over the arches let there be an entire hedge
of some four foot high, framed also upon carpenter’s work; and upon the
upper hedge, over every arch a little turret, with a belly enough to
receive a cage of birds; and over every space between the arches some
other little figure, with broad plates of round colored glass gilt,
for the sun to play upon; but this hedge I intend to be raised upon
a bank, not steep, but gently slope, of some six foot, set all with
flowers. Also, I understand that this square of the garden should not
be the whole breadth of the ground, but to leave on either side ground
enough for diversity of side alleys, unto which the two covert alleys
of the green may deliver you;[486] but there must be no alleys with
hedges at either end of this great inclosure; not at the hither end,
for letting[487] your prospect upon this fair hedge from the green; nor
at the further end for letting your prospect from the hedge through the
arches upon the heath.

For the ordering of the ground within the great hedge, I leave it to
variety of device; advising, nevertheless, that whatsoever form you
cast it into first, it be not too bushy, or full of work; wherein I,
for my part, do not like images cut out in juniper or other garden
stuff; they be for children. Little low hedges, round like welts, with
some pretty pyramids, I like well; and in some places fair columns,
upon frames of carpenter’s work. I would also have the alleys spacious
and fair. You may have closer alleys upon the side grounds, but none
in the main garden. I wish, also, in the very middle, a fair mount,
with three ascents and alleys, enough for four to walk abreast;
which I would have to be perfect circles, without any bulwarks or
embossments; and the whole mount to be thirty foot high, and some fine
banqueting-house, with some chimneys neatly cast, and without too much

For fountains, they are a great beauty and refreshment; but pools mar
all, and make the garden unwholesome, and full of flies and frogs.
Fountains I intend to be of two natures; the one that sprinkleth or
spouteth water; the other, a fair receipt of water, of some thirty
or forty foot square, but without fish, or slime, or mud. For the
first, the ornaments of images, gilt or of marble, which are in use,
do well; but the main matter is so to convey the water, as it never
stay, either in the bowls or in the cistern; that the water be never by
rest discolored, green, or red, or the like, or gather any mossiness
or putrefaction; besides that, it is to be cleansed every day by the
hand; also, some steps up to it, and some fine pavement about it,
doth well. As for the other kind of fountain, which we may call a
bathing-pool, it may admit much curiosity and beauty, wherewith we
will not trouble ourselves: as, that the bottom be finely paved, and
with images; the sides likewise; and, withal, embellished with colored
glass, and such things of lustre; encompassed, also, with fine rails
of low statues. But the main point is the same that we mentioned in
the former kind of fountain; which is, that the water be in perpetual
motion, fed by a water higher than the pool, and delivered into it by
fair spouts, and then discharged away under ground, by some equality of
bores, that it stay little; and for fine devices, of arching water[488]
without spilling, and making it rise in several forms (of feathers,
drinking-glasses, canopies, and the like), they be pretty things to
look on, but nothing to health and sweetness.

For the heath, which was the third part of our plot, I wish it to be
framed as much as may be to a natural wildness. Trees I would have none
in it, but some thickets made only of sweet-brier and honeysuckle, and
some wild vine amongst; and the ground set with violets, strawberries,
and primroses; for these are sweet, and prosper in the shade, and
these to be in the heath here and there, not in any order. I like
also little heaps, in the nature of molehills (such as are in wild
heaths), to be set, some with wild thyme, some with pinks, some with
germander, that gives a good flower to the eye; some with periwinkle,
some with violets, some with strawberries, some with cowslips, some
with daisies, some with red roses, some with lilium convallium,[489]
some with sweet-williams red, some with bear’s-foot, and the like
low flowers, being withal sweet and sightly; part of which heaps to
be with standards of little bushes pricked upon their top, and part
without; the standards to be roses, juniper, holly, barberries (but
here and there, because of the smell of their blossom), red currants,
gooseberries, rosemary, bays, sweetbrier, and such like; but these
standards to be kept with cutting, that they grow not out of course.

For the side grounds, you are to fill them with variety of alleys,
private, to give a full shade; some of them wheresoever the sun be.
You are to frame some of them likewise for shelter, that when the wind
blows sharp, you may walk as in a gallery: and those alleys must be
likewise hedged at both ends, to keep out the wind; and these closer
alleys must be ever finely gravelled, and no grass, because of going
wet. In many of these alleys, likewise, you are to set fruit-trees of
all sorts, as well upon the walls as in ranges;[490] and this should be
generally observed, that the borders wherein you plant your fruit-trees
be fair, and large, and low, and not steep; and set with fine flowers,
but thin and sparingly, lest they deceive[491] the trees. At the end
of both the side grounds I would have a mount of some pretty height,
leaving the wall of the inclosure breast high, to look abroad into the

For the main garden, I do not deny but there should be some fair
alleys ranged on both sides with fruit-trees, and some pretty tufts of
fruit-trees and arbors with seats, set in some decent order; but these
to be by no means set too thick, but to leave the main garden so as it
be not close, but the air open and free. For as for shade, I would have
you rest upon the alleys of the side grounds, there to walk, if you be
disposed, in the heat of the year or day; but to make account[492] that
the main garden is for the more temperate parts of the year, and in the
heat of summer for the morning and the evening or overcast days.

For aviaries, I like them not, except they be of that largeness as they
may be turfed, and have living plants and bushes set in them; that the
birds may have more scope and natural nestling, and that no foulness
appear in the floor of the aviary. So I have made a platform of a
princely garden, partly by precept, partly by drawing; not a model,
but some general lines of it; and in this I have spared for no cost.
But it is nothing for great princes, that, for the most part, taking
advice with workmen, with no less cost set their things together, and
sometimes add statues and such things for state and magnificence, but
nothing to the true pleasure of a garden.


It is generally better to deal by speech than by letter; and by the
mediation of a third, than by a man’s self. Letters are good, when a
man would draw an answer by letter back again; or when it may serve
for a man’s justification afterwards to produce his own letter, or
where it may be danger to be interrupted or heard by pieces. To deal
in person is good, when a man’s face breedeth regard, as commonly with
inferiors; or in tender cases, where a man’s eye upon the countenance
of him with whom he speaketh, may give him a direction how far to go;
and, generally, where a man will reserve to himself liberty, either to
disavow or to expound. In choice of instruments, it is better to choose
men of a plainer sort, that are like to do that that is committed to
them, and to report back again faithfully the success, than those that
are cunning to contrive out of other men’s business somewhat to grace
themselves, and will help the matter in report, for satisfaction
sake. Use also such persons as affect[493] the business wherein they
are employed, for that quickeneth much; and such as are fit for the
matter, as bold men for expostulation, fairspoken men for persuasion,
crafty men for inquiry and observation, froward and absurd men for
business that doth not well bear out itself. Use also such as have
been lucky and prevailed before in things wherein you have employed
them; for that breeds confidence, and they will strive to maintain
their prescription. It is better to sound a person with whom one deals
afar off, than to fall upon the point at first, except you mean to
surprise him by some short question. It is better dealing with men in
appetite,[494] than with those that are where they would be. If a man
deal with another upon conditions, the start of first performance is
all; which a man cannot reasonably demand, except either the nature of
the thing be such, which must go before; or else a man can persuade the
other party, that he shall still need him in some other thing; or else
that he be counted the honester man. All practice is to discover, or to
work. Men discover themselves in trust, in passion, at unawares; and,
of necessity, when they would have somewhat done, and cannot find an
apt pretext. If you would work any man, you must either know his nature
and fashions, and so lead him; or his ends, and so persuade him; or his
weakness and disadvantages, and so awe him; or those that have interest
in him, and so govern him. In dealing with cunning persons, we must
ever consider their ends, to interpret their speeches; and it is good
to say little to them, and that which they least look for. In all
negotiations of difficulty, a man may not look to sow and reap at once;
but must prepare business, and so ripen it by degrees.


Costly followers are not to be liked, lest, while a man maketh his
train longer, he make his wings shorter. I reckon to be costly,
not them alone which charge the purse, but which are wearisome and
importune in suits. Ordinary followers ought to challenge no higher
conditions than countenance, recommendation, and protection from
wrongs. Factious followers are worse to be liked, which follow not
upon affection to him with whom they range themselves, but upon
discontentment conceived against some other; whereupon commonly ensueth
that ill intelligence, that we many times see between great personages.
Likewise glorious[495] followers, who make themselves as trumpets of
the commendations of those they follow, are full of inconvenience,
for they taint business through want of secrecy; and they export
honor from a man, and make him a return in envy. There is a kind of
followers, likewise, which are dangerous, being indeed espials; which
inquire the secrets of the house, and bear tales of them to others;
yet such men, many times, are in great favor, for they are officious,
and commonly exchange tales. The following, by certain estates[496] of
men, answerable to that which a great person himself professeth (as of
soldiers to him that hath been employed in the wars, and the like),
hath ever been a thing civil and well taken even in monarchies, so it
be without too much pomp or popularity. But the most honorable kind of
following, is to be followed as one that apprehendeth to advance virtue
and desert in all sorts of persons; and yet, where there is no eminent
odds in sufficiency, it is better to take with the more passable, than
with the more able; and, besides, to speak truth in base times, active
men are of more use than virtuous. It is true, that, in government,
it is good to use men of one rank equally; for to countenance some
extraordinarily, is to make them insolent, and the rest discontent,
because they may claim a due: but, contrariwise, in favor, to use men
with much difference and election is good: for it maketh the persons
preferred more thankful, and the rest more officious, because all is
of favor. It is good discretion not to make too much of any man at the
first, because one cannot hold out that proportion. To be governed,
as we call it, by one, is not safe, for it shows softness,[497] and
gives a freedom to scandal and disreputation; for those that would not
censure, or speak ill of a man immediately, will talk more boldly of
those that are so great with them, and thereby wound their honor; yet
to be distracted with many is worse, for it makes men to be of the last
impression, and full of change. To take advice of some few friends is
ever honorable; for lookers-on many times see more than gamesters,
and the vale best discovereth the hill. There is little friendship in
the world, and least of all between equals, which was wont[498] to be
magnified. That that is, is between superior and inferior,[499] whose
fortunes may comprehend the one the other.


Many ill matters and projects are undertaken; and private suits do
putrefy the public good. Many good matters are undertaken with bad
minds; I mean not only corrupt minds, but crafty minds, that intend not
performance. Some embrace suits, which never mean to deal effectually
in them; but if they see there may be life in the matter, by some other
mean they will be content to win a thank, or take a second reward, or,
at least, to make use, in the mean time, of the suitor’s hopes. Some
take hold of suits only for an occasion to cross some other, or to make
an information, whereof they could not otherwise have apt pretext,
without care what become of the suit when that turn is served; or,
generally, to make other men’s business a kind of entertainment to
bring in their own: nay, some undertake suits with a full purpose to
let them fall, to the end to gratify the adverse party, or competitor.
Surely, there is in some sort a right in every suit; either a right of
equity, if it be a suit of controversy, or a right of desert, if it be
a suit of petition. If affection lead a man to favor the wrong side
in justice, let him rather use his countenance to compound the matter
than to carry it. If affection lead a man to favor the less worthy in
desert, let him do it without depraving[500] or disabling the better
deserver. In suits which a man doth not well understand, it is good
to refer them to some friend of trust and judgment, that may report
whether he may deal in them with honor; but let him choose well his
referendaries,[501] for else he may be led by the nose. Suitors are so
distasted[502] with delays and abuses, that plain dealing in denying to
deal in suits at first, and reporting the success barely,[503] and in
challenging no more thanks than one hath deserved, is grown not only
honorable, but also gracious. In suits of favor, the first coming ought
to take little place;[504] so far forth[505] consideration may be had
of his trust, that if intelligence of the matter could not otherwise
have been had but by him, advantage be not taken of the note,[506] but
the party left to his other means, and in some sort recompensed for his
discovery. To be ignorant of the value of a suit is simplicity; as well
as to be ignorant of the right thereof, is want of conscience. Secrecy
in suits is a great mean of obtaining; for voicing them to be in
forwardness may discourage some kind of suitors, but doth quicken and
awake others. But timing of the suit is the principal; timing, I say,
not only in respect of the person that should grant it, but in respect
of those which are like to cross it. Let a man, in the choice of his
mean, rather choose the fittest mean, than the greatest mean; and
rather them that deal in certain things, than those that are general.
The reparation of a denial is sometimes equal to the first grant, if
a man show himself neither dejected nor discontented. “Iniquum petas,
ut æquum feras,”[507] is a good rule, where a man hath strength of
favor; but otherwise a man were better rise in his suit; for he that
would have ventured at first to have lost the suitor, will not, in the
conclusion, lose both the suitor and his own former favor. Nothing is
thought so easy a request to a great person as his letter: and yet if
it be not in a good cause, it is so much out of his reputation. There
are no worse instruments than these general contrivers of suits; for
they are but a kind of poison and infection to public proceedings.


Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief
use for delight, is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is
in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of
business; for expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars
one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling
of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much
time in studies, is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is
affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of
a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience; for
natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study;
and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large,
except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies,
simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not
their own use; but that is a wisdom without them and above them, won
by observation. Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and
take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and
consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some
few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only
in parts; others to be read, but not curiously;[509] and some few to be
read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be
read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be
only in the less important arguments and the meaner sort of books; else
distilled books are, like common distilled waters, flashy[510] things.
Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact
man; and, therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great
memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if
he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that
he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics,
subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric,
able to contend: “Abeunt studia in mores;”[511] nay, there is no stand
or impediment in the wit, but may be wrought out by fit studies.
Like as diseases of the body may have appropriate exercises, bowling
is good for the stone and reins, shooting for the lungs and breast,
gentle walking for the stomach, riding for the head and the like; so,
if a man’s wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in
demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must
begin again; if his wit be not apt to distinguish or find difference,
let him study the schoolmen, for they are “Cymini sectores.”[512] If he
be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and
illustrate another, let him study the lawyers’ cases; so every defect
of the mind may have a special receipt.


Many have an opinion not wise, that for a prince to govern his
estate, or for a great person to govern his proceedings, according
to the respect of factions, is a principal part of policy; whereas,
contrariwise, the chiefest wisdom is, either in ordering those things
which are general, and wherein men of several factions do nevertheless
agree, or in dealing with correspondence to particular persons, one
by one; but I say not, that the consideration of factions is to be
neglected. Mean men in their rising must adhere; but great men, that
have strength in themselves, were better to maintain themselves
indifferent and neutral; yet, even in beginners, to adhere so
moderately, as he be a man of the one faction, which is most passable
with the other, commonly giveth best way. The lower and weaker faction
is the firmer in conjunction; and it is often seen, that a few that
are stiff, do tire out a great number that are more moderate. When
one of the factions is extinguished, the remaining subdivideth; as
the faction between Lucullus and the rest of the nobles of the senate
(which they called “optimates”), held out a while against the faction
of Pompey and Cæsar; but when the senate’s authority was pulled down,
Cæsar and Pompey soon after brake. The faction or party of Antonius
and Octavianus Cæsar, against Brutus and Cassius, held out likewise
for a time; but when Brutus and Cassius were overthrown, then soon
after Antonius and Octavianus brake and subdivided. These examples are
of wars, but the same holdeth in private factions; and, therefore,
those that are seconds in factions do many times, when the faction
subdivideth, prove principals; but many times also they prove ciphers,
and cashiered, for many a man’s strength is in opposition; and when
that faileth, he groweth out of use. It is commonly seen, that men once
placed, take in with the contrary faction to that by which they enter;
thinking, belike, that they have the first sure, and now are ready for
a new purchase. The traitor in faction lightly goeth away with it; for
when matters have stuck long in balancing, the winning of some one man
casteth them,[513] and he getteth all the thanks. The even carriage
between two factions proceedeth not always of moderation, but of a
trueness to a man’s self, with end to make use of both. Certainly, in
Italy, they hold it a little suspect in popes, when they have often
in their mouth, “Padre commune;”[514] and take it to be a sign of one
that meaneth to refer all to the greatness of his own house. Kings
had need beware how they side themselves, and make themselves as of a
faction or party; for leagues within the state are ever pernicious to
monarchies; for they raise an obligation paramount to obligation of
sovereignty, and make the king “tanquam unus ex nobis,”[515] as was
to be seen in the League of France. When factions are carried too high
and too violently, it is a sign of weakness in princes, and much to the
prejudice both of their authority and business. The motions of factions
under kings, ought to be like the motions (as the astronomers speak) of
the inferior orbs, which may have their proper motions, but yet still
are quietly carried by the higher motion of “primum mobile.”[516]


He that is only real, had need have exceeding great parts of virtue;
as the stone had need to be rich that is set without foil; but if a
man mark it well, it is in praise and commendation of men, as it is in
gettings and gains; for the proverb is true, that “Light gains make
heavy purses;” for light gains come thick, whereas great come but now
and then. So it is true, that small matters win great commendation,
because they are continually in use and in note; whereas the occasion
of any great virtue cometh but on festivals; therefore it doth much
add to a man’s reputation, and is (as Queen Isabella[517] said) like
perpetual letters commendatory, to have good forms. To attain them, it
almost sufficeth not to despise them; for so shall a man observe them
in others; and let him trust himself with the rest; for if he labor
too much to express them, he shall lose their grace, which is to be
natural and unaffected. Some men’s behavior is like a verse, wherein
every syllable is measured; how can a man comprehend great matters,
that breaketh his mind too much to small observations? Not to use
ceremonies at all, is to teach others not to use them again, and so
diminisheth respect to himself; especially they be not to be omitted to
strangers and formal natures; but the dwelling upon them, and exalting
them above the moon, is not only tedious, but doth diminish the faith
and credit of him that speaks; and, certainly, there is a kind of
conveying of effectual and imprinting passages amongst compliments,
which is of singular use, if a man can hit upon it. Amongst a man’s
peers, a man shall be sure of familiarity, and, therefore, it is good a
little to keep state; amongst a man’s inferiors, one shall be sure of
reverence, and therefore it is good a little to be familiar. He that is
too much in any thing, so that he giveth another occasion of satiety,
maketh himself cheap. To apply one’s self to others, is good, so it
be with demonstration that a man doth it upon regard, and not upon
facility. It is a good precept, generally in seconding another, yet to
add somewhat of one’s own; as, if you will grant his opinion, let it be
with some distinction; if you will follow his motion, let it be with
condition; if you allow his counsel, let it be with alleging further
reason. Men had need beware how they be too perfect in compliments; for
be they never so sufficient otherwise, their enviers will be sure to
give them that attribute to the disadvantage of their greater virtues.
It is loss, also, in business, to be too full of respects, or to be too
curious in observing times and opportunities. Solomon saith, “He that
considereth the wind shall not sow, and he that looketh to the clouds
shall not reap.”[518] A wise man will make more opportunities than he
finds. Men’s behavior should be like their apparel, not too strait or
point device,[519] but free for exercise or motion.


Praise is the reflection of virtue; but it is glass, or body, which
giveth the reflection. If it be from the common people, it is commonly
false and naught, and rather followeth vain persons than virtuous;
for the common people understand not many excellent virtues. The
lowest virtues draw praise from them, the middle virtues work in them
astonishment or admiration, but of the highest virtues they have
no sense or perceiving at all; but shows and “species virtutibus
similes,”[520] serve best with them. Certainly, fame is like a river,
that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and
solid; but if persons of quality and judgment concur, then it is (as
the Scripture saith), “Nomen bonum instar unguenti fragrantis:”[521]
it filleth all round about, and will not easily away; for the odors
of ointments are more durable than those of flowers. There be so many
false points of praise, that a man may justly hold it a suspect. Some
praises proceed merely of flattery; and if he be an ordinary flatterer,
he will have certain common attributes, which may serve every man; if
he be a cunning flatterer, he will follow the arch-flatterer, which is
a man’s self, and wherein a man thinketh best of himself, therein the
flatterer will uphold him most. But if he be an impudent flatterer,
look wherein a man is conscious to himself that he is most defective,
and is most out of countenance in himself, that will the flatterer
entitle him to, perforce, “spretâ conscientiâ.”[522] Some praises come
of good wishes and respects, which is a form due in civility to kings
and great persons, “laudando præcipere;”[523] when, by telling men what
they are, they represent to them what they should be; some men are
praised maliciously to their hurt, thereby to stir envy and jealousy
towards them: “Pessimum genus inimicorum laudantium;”[524] insomuch as
it was a proverb amongst the Grecians, that “he that was praised to
his hurt, should have a push[525] rise upon his nose;” as we say that
a blister will rise upon one’s tongue that tells a lie; certainly,
moderate praise, used with opportunity, and not vulgar, is that which
doth the good. Solomon saith: “He that praiseth his friend aloud,
rising early, it shall be to him no better than a curse.”[526] Too much
magnifying of man or matter doth irritate contradiction, and procure
envy and scorn. To praise a man’s self cannot be decent, except it be
in rare cases; but to praise a man’s office[527] or profession, he may
do it with good grace, and with a kind of magnanimity. The cardinals
of Rome, which are theologues,[528] and friars, and schoolmen, have
a phrase of notable contempt and scorn towards civil business; for
they call all temporal business of wars, embassages, judicature, and
other employments, sbirrerie, which is under-sheriffries, as if they
were but matters for under-sheriffs and catchpoles; though many times
those under-sheriffries do more good than their high speculations.
St. Paul, when he boasts of himself, he doth oft interlace, “I speak
like a fool:”[529] but speaking of his calling, he saith, “Magnificabo
apostolatum meum.”[530]


It was prettily devised of Æsop, the fly sat upon the axle-tree of the
chariot-wheel, and said, “What a dust do I raise!” So are there some
vain persons, that, whatsoever goeth alone, or moveth upon greater
means, if they have never so little hand in it, they think it is they
that carry it. They that are glorious, must needs be factious; for all
bravery[531] stands upon comparisons. They must needs be violent, to
make good their own vaunts; neither can they be secret, and therefore
not effectual; but, according to the French proverb, “Beaucoup de
bruit, peu de fruit;”—“much bruit,[532] little fruit.” Yet, certainly,
there is use of this quality in civil affairs: where there is an
opinion[533] and fame to be created, either of virtue or greatness,
these men are good trumpeters. Again, as Titus Livius noteth, in the
case of Antiochus and the Ætolians,[534] there are sometimes great
effects of cross lies; as if a man that negotiates between two princes,
to draw them to join in a war against the third, doth extol the forces
of either of them above measure, the one to the other; and sometimes
he that deals between man and man, raiseth his own credit with both,
by pretending greater interest than he hath in either; and in these,
and the like kinds, it often falls out, that somewhat is produced of
nothing; for lies are sufficient to breed opinion, and opinion brings
on substance. In military commanders and soldiers, vainglory is an
essential point; for as iron sharpens iron, so by glory one courage
sharpeneth another. In cases of great enterprise upon charge[535]
and adventure, a composition of glorious natures doth put life into
business; and those that are of solid and sober natures, have more of
the ballast than of the sail. In fame of learning, the flight will be
slow without some feathers of ostentation: “Qui de contemnendâ gloriâ
libros scribunt, nomen suum inscribunt.”[536] Socrates, Aristotle,
Galen, were men full of ostentation: certainly, vainglory helpeth to
perpetuate a man’s memory; and virtue was never so beholden to human
nature, as it received its due at the second hand. Neither had the fame
of Cicero, Seneca, Plinius Secundus,[537] borne her age so well if it
had not been joined with some vanity in themselves; like unto varnish,
that makes ceilings not only shine, but last. But all this while, when
I speak of vainglory, I mean not of that property that Tacitus doth
attribute to Mucianus, “Omnium, quæ dixerat feceratque, arte quâdam
ostentator;”[538] for that[539] proceeds not of vanity, but of natural
magnanimity and discretion; and, in some persons, is not only comely,
but gracious; for excusations,[540] cessions,[541] modesty itself, well
governed, are but arts of ostentation; and amongst those arts there is
none better than that which Plinius Secundus speaketh of, which is
to be liberal of praise and commendation to others, in that wherein a
man’s self hath any perfection. For, saith Pliny, very wittily, “In
commending another, you do yourself right;[542] for he that you commend
is either superior to you in that you commend, or inferior: if he be
inferior, if he be to be commended, you much more; if he be superior,
if he be not to be commended, you much less.” Glorious[543] men are the
scorn of wise men, the admiration of fools, the idols of parasites, and
the slaves of their own vaunts.


The winning of honor is but the revealing of a man’s virtue and worth
without disadvantage; for some in their actions do woo and affect honor
and reputation; which sort of men are commonly much talked of, but
inwardly little admired; and some, contrariwise, darken their virtue
in the show of it, so as they be undervalued in opinion. If a man
perform that which hath not been attempted before, or attempted and
given over, or hath been achieved, but not with so good circumstance,
he shall purchase more honor than by affecting a matter of greater
difficulty or virtue, wherein he is but a follower. If a man so temper
his actions, as in some one of them he doth content every faction
or combination of people, the music will be the fuller. A man is an
ill husband of his honor that entereth into any action, the failing
wherein may disgrace him more than the carrying of it through can honor
him. Honor that is gained and broken upon another hath the quickest
reflection, like diamonds cut with facets; and therefore let a man
contend to excel any competitors of his in honor, in outshooting them,
if he can, in their own bow. Discreet followers and servants help much
to reputation: “Omnis fama a domesticis emanat.”[544] Envy, which is
the canker of honor, is best extinguished by declaring a man’s self in
his ends, rather to seek merit than fame; and by attributing a man’s
successes rather to Divine providence and felicity, than to his own
virtue or policy. The true marshalling of the degrees of sovereign
honor are these. In the first place are “conditores imperiorum,”[545]
founders of states and commonwealths; such as were Romulus, Cyrus,
Cæsar, Ottoman,[546] Ismael: in the second place are “legislatores,”
lawgivers, which are also called second founders, or “perpetui
principes,”[547] because they govern by their ordinances after they
are gone; such were Lycurgus, Solon, Justinian, Edgar,[548] Alphonsus
of Castile, the Wise, that made the “Siete Partidas:”[549] in the third
place are “liberatores,” or “salvatores,”[550] such as compound the
long miseries of civil wars, or deliver their countries from servitude
of strangers or tyrants, as Augustus Cæsar, Vespasianus, Aurelianus,
Theodoricus, King Henry the Seventh of England, King Henry the Fourth
of France: in the fourth place are “propagatores,” or “propugnatores
imperii,”[551] such as in honorable wars enlarge their territories, or
make noble defence against invaders: and, in the last place are “patres
patriæ,”[552] which reign justly, and make the times good wherein they
live; both which last kinds need no examples, they are in such number.
Degrees of honor in subjects are, first, “participes curarum,”[553]
those upon whom princes do discharge the greatest weight of their
affairs, their right hands, as we call them; the next are “duces
belli,”[554] great leaders, such as are princes’ lieutenants, and do
them notable services in the wars; the third are “gratiosi,” favorites,
such as exceed not this scantling,[555] to be solace to the sovereign,
and harmless to the people; and the fourth, “negotiis pares,”[556]
such as have great places under princes, and execute their places with
sufficiency. There is an honor, likewise, which may be ranked amongst
the greatest, which happeneth rarely; that is, of such as sacrifice
themselves to death or danger for the good of their country; as was M.
Regulus, and the two Decii.


Judges ought to remember that their office is “jus dicere,”[557] and
not “jus dare;”[558] to interpret law, and not to make law, or give
law; else will it be like the authority claimed by the Church of Rome,
which, under pretext of exposition of Scripture, doth not stick to
add and alter, and to pronounce that which they do not find, and, by
show of antiquity, to introduce novelty. Judges ought to be more
learned than witty, more reverend than plausible, and more advised than
confident. Above all things, integrity is their portion and proper
virtue. “Cursed (saith the law)[559] is he that removeth the landmark.”
The mislayer of a mere stone is to blame; but it is the unjust judge
that is the capital remover of landmarks, when he defineth amiss of
lands and property. One foul sentence doth more hurt than many foul
examples; for these do but corrupt the stream, the other corrupteth
the fountain: so saith Solomon, “Fons turbatus et vena corrupta est
justus cadens in causâ suâ coram adversario.”[560] The office of judges
may have reference unto the parties that sue, unto the advocates that
plead, unto the clerks and ministers of justice underneath them, and to
the sovereign or state above them.

First, for the causes or parties that sue. “There be (saith the
Scripture) that turn judgment into wormwood;”[561] and surely there be,
also, that turn it into vinegar; for injustice maketh it bitter, and
delays make it sour. The principal duty of a judge is to suppress force
and fraud; whereof force is the more pernicious when it is open, and
fraud when it is close and disguised. Add thereto contentious suits,
which ought to be spewed out, as the surfeit of courts. A judge ought
to prepare his way to a just sentence, as God useth to prepare his way,
by raising valleys and taking down hills; so when there appeareth on
either side a high hand, violent prosecution, cunning advantages taken,
combination, power, great counsel, then is the virtue of a judge seen
to make inequality equal, that he may plant his judgment as upon an
even ground. “Qui fortiter emungit, elicit sanguinem;”[562] and where
the wine-press is hard wrought, it yields a harsh wine, that tastes of
the grape-stone. Judges must beware of hard constructions and strained
inferences; for there is no worse torture than the torture of laws.
Especially in case of laws penal, they ought to have care that that
which was meant for terror be not turned into rigor; and that they
bring not upon the people that shower whereof the Scripture speaketh,
“Pluet super eos laqueos;”[563] for penal laws pressed,[564] are a
shower of snares upon the people. Therefore let penal laws, if they
have been sleepers of long, or if they be grown unfit for the present
time, be by wise judges confined in the execution: “Judicis officium
est, ut res, ita tempora rerum,” &c.[565] In causes of life and death,
judges ought (as far as the law permitteth) in justice to remember
mercy, and to cast a severe eye upon the example, but a merciful eye
upon the person.

Secondly, for the advocates and counsel that plead. Patience[566] and
gravity of hearing is an essential part of justice, and an overspeaking
judge is no well-tuned cymbal. It is no grace to a judge first to find
that which he might have heard in due time from the bar; or to show
quickness of conceit in cutting off evidence or counsel too short,
or to prevent information by questions, though pertinent. The parts
of a judge in hearing are four: to direct the evidence; to moderate
length, repetition, of impertinency of speech; to recapitulate,
select, and collate the material points of that which hath been said;
and to give the rule or sentence. Whatsoever is above these is too
much, and proceedeth either of glory, and willingness to speak, or of
impatience to hear, or of shortness of memory, or of want of a staid
and equal attention. It is a strange thing to see that the boldness
of advocates should prevail with judges; whereas, they should imitate
God in whose seat they sit, who represseth the presumptuous, and
giveth grace to the modest; but it is more strange, that judges should
have noted favorites, which cannot but cause multiplication of fees,
and suspicion of by-ways. There is due from the judge to the advocate
some commendation and gracing, where causes are well handled and fair
pleaded, especially towards the side which obtaineth not;[567] for that
upholds in the client the reputation of his counsel, and beats down
in him the conceit[568] of his cause. There is likewise due to the
public a civil reprehension of advocates, where there appeareth cunning
counsel, gross neglect, slight information, indiscreet pressing, or an
over-bold defence; and let not the counsel at the bar chop[569] with
the judge, nor wind himself into the handling of the cause anew after
the judge hath declared his sentence; but, on the other side, let not
the judge meet the cause half-way, nor give occasion to the party to
say, his counsel or proofs were not heard.

Thirdly, for that that concerns clerks and ministers. The place of
justice is a hallowed place; and, therefore, not only the bench,
but the foot-pace and precincts, and purprise thereof, ought to be
preserved without scandal and corruption; for, certainly, “Grapes (as
the Scripture saith) will not be gathered of thorns or thistles;”[570]
neither can justice yield her fruit with sweetness amongst the briers
and brambles of catching and polling[571] clerks and ministers. The
attendance of courts is subject to four bad instruments: first, certain
persons that are sowers of suits, which make the court swell, and
the country pine: the second sort is of those that engage courts in
quarrels of jurisdiction, and are not truly “amici curiæ,”[572] but
“parasiti curiæ,”[573] in puffing a court up beyond her bounds for
their own scraps and advantage: the third sort is of those that may be
accounted the left hands of courts; persons that are full of nimble
and sinister tricks and shifts, whereby they pervert the plain and
direct courses of courts, and bring justice into oblique lines and
labyrinths: and the fourth is the poller and exacter of fees; which
justifies the common resemblance of the courts of justice to the bush,
whereunto while the sheep flies for defence in weather, he is sure to
lose part of his fleece. On the other side, an ancient clerk, skilful
in precedents, wary in proceeding, and understanding in the business of
the court, is an excellent finger of a court, and doth many times point
the way to the judge himself.

Fourthly, for that which may concern the sovereign and estate. Judges
ought, above all, to remember the conclusion of the Roman Twelve
Tables,[574] “Salus populi suprema lex;”[575] and to know that laws,
except they be in order to that end, are but things captious, and
oracles not well inspired; therefore it is a happy thing in a state,
when kings and states do often consult with judges; and again, when
judges do often consult with the king and state: the one, when there
is matter of law intervenient in business of state; the other, when
there is some consideration of state intervenient in matter of law;
for many times the things deduced to judgment may be “meum”[576]
and “tuum,”[577] when the reason and consequence thereof may trench
to point of estate. I call matter of estate, not only the parts of
sovereignty, but whatsoever introduceth any great alteration, or
dangerous precedent, or concerneth manifestly any great portion of
people; and let no man weakly conceive, that just laws and true policy
have any antipathy, for they are like the spirits and sinews, that one
moves with the other. Let judges also remember, that Solomon’s throne
was supported by lions[578] on both sides; let them be lions, but yet
lions under the throne, being circumspect that they do not check or
oppose any points of sovereignty. Let not judges also be so ignorant of
their own right, as to think there is not left to them, as a principal
part of their office, a wise use and application of laws; for they
may remember what the apostle saith of a greater law than theirs: “Nos
scimus quia lex bona est, modo quis eâ utatur legitime.”[579]


To seek to extinguish anger utterly is but a bravery[580] of the
Stoics. We have better oracles: “Be angry, but sin not; let not the sun
go down upon your anger.”[581] Anger must be limited and confined, both
in race and in time. We will first speak how the natural inclination
and habit, “to be angry,” may be attempered and calmed; secondly,
how the particular motions of anger may be repressed, or, at least,
refrained from doing mischief; thirdly, how to raise anger, or appease
anger in another.

For the first, there is no other way but to meditate and ruminate well
upon the effects of anger, how it troubles man’s life; and the best
time to do this is, to look back upon anger when the fit is thoroughly
over. Seneca saith well, “that anger is like ruin, which breaks itself
upon that it falls.”[582] The Scripture exhorteth us “to possess our
souls in patience;”[583] whosoever is out of patience, is out of
possession of his soul. Men must not turn bees:—

  “animasque in vulnere ponunt.”[584]

Anger is certainly a kind of baseness; as it appears well in the
weakness of those subjects in whom it reigns, children, women, old
folks, sick folks. Only men must beware that they carry their anger
rather with scorn than with fear; so that they may seem rather to be
above the injury than below it; which is a thing easily done, if a man
will give law to himself in it.

For the second point, the causes and motives of anger are chiefly
three. First, to be too sensible of hurt, for no man is angry that
feels not himself hurt; and therefore tender and delicate persons must
needs be oft angry, they have so many things to trouble them, which
more robust natures have little sense of: the next is, the apprehension
and construction of the injury offered, to be, in the circumstances
thereof, full of contempt; for contempt is that which putteth an edge
upon anger, as much, or more, than the hurt itself; and therefore,
when men are ingenious in picking out circumstances of contempt,
they do kindle their anger much: lastly, opinion of the touch[585]
of a man’s reputation doth multiply and sharpen anger; wherein the
remedy is, that a man should have, as Gonsalvo was wont to say, “Telam
honoris crassiorem.”[586] But in all refrainings of anger, it is the
best remedy to win time, and to make a man’s self believe that the
opportunity of his revenge is not yet come; but that he foresees a time
for it, and so to still himself in the mean time, and reserve it.

To contain anger from mischief, though it take hold of a man, there be
two things whereof you must have special caution: the one, of extreme
bitterness of words, especially if they be aculeate and proper,[587]
for “communia maledicta”[588] are nothing so much; and, again, that in
anger a man reveal no secrets, for that makes him not fit for society:
the other, that you do not peremptorily break off in any business in a
fit of anger; but, howsoever you show bitterness, do not act any thing
that is not revocable.

For raising and appeasing anger in another, it is done chiefly by
choosing of times when men are frowardest and worst disposed to incense
them; again, by gathering (as was touched before) all that you can
find out to aggravate the contempt: and the two remedies are by the
contraries; the former to take good times, when first to relate to a
man an angry business, for the first impression is much; and the other
is, to sever, as much as may be, the construction of the injury from
the point of contempt; imputing it to misunderstanding, fear, passion,
or what you will.


Solomon saith, “There is no new thing upon the earth;”[589] so
that as Plato[590] had an imagination that all knowledge was but
remembrance, so Solomon giveth his sentence, “That all novelty is but
oblivion;”[591] whereby you may see, that the river of Lethe runneth
as well above ground as below. There is an abstruse astrologer that
saith, if it were not for two things that are constant (the one is,
that the fixed stars ever stand at like distance one from another, and
never come nearer together, nor go further asunder; the other, that
the diurnal motion perpetually keepeth time), no individual would last
one moment; certain it is, that the matter is in a perpetual flux, and
never at a stay. The great winding-sheets that bury all things in
oblivion, are two,—deluges and earthquakes. As for conflagrations and
great droughts, they do not merely dispeople, but destroy. Phaeton’s
car went but a day; and the three years’ drought in the time of
Elias,[592] was but particular,[593] and left people alive. As for the
great burnings by lightnings, which are often in the West Indies,[594]
they are but narrow;[595] but in the other two destructions, by deluge
and earthquake, it is further to be noted, that the remnant of people
which happen to be reserved, are commonly ignorant and mountainous
people, that can give no account of the time past; so that the oblivion
is all one, as if none had been left. If you consider well of the
people of the West Indies, it is very probable that they are a newer,
or a younger people than the people of the old world; and it is much
more likely that the destruction that hath heretofore been there, was
not by earthquakes, (as the Egyptian priest told Solon, concerning the
Island of Atlantis,[596] that it was swallowed by an earthquake), but
rather that it was desolated by a particular deluge, for earthquakes
are seldom in those parts; but, on the other side, they have such
pouring rivers, as the rivers of Asia, and Africa, and Europe, are but
brooks to them. Their Andes, likewise, or mountains, are far higher
than those with us; whereby it seems, that the remnants of generations
of men were in such a particular deluge saved. As for the observation
that Machiavel hath, that the jealousy of sects doth much extinguish
the memory of things,[597] traducing Gregory the Great, that he did
what in him lay to extinguish all heathen antiquities, I do not find
that those zeals do any great effects, nor last long; as it appeared in
the succession of Sabinian,[598] who did revive the former antiquities.

The vicissitude, or mutations, in the superior globe, are no fit matter
for this present argument. It may be, Plato’s great year,[599] if the
world should last so long, would have some effect, not in renewing
the state of like individuals (for that is the fume[600] of those
that conceive the celestial bodies have more accurate influences upon
these things below, than indeed they have), but in gross. Comets, out
of question, have likewise power and effect over the gross and mass
of things; but they are rather gazed, and waited upon[601] in their
journey, than wisely observed in their effects, especially in their
respective effects; that is, what kind of comet for magnitude, color,
version of the beams, placing in the region of heaven, or lasting,
produceth what kind of effects.

There is a toy,[602] which I have heard, and I would not have it given
over, but waited upon a little. They say it is observed in the Low
Countries (I know not in what part), that every five and thirty years
the same kind and suit of years and weather comes about again; as great
frosts, great wet, great droughts, warm winters, summers with little
heat, and the like; and they call it the prime. It is a thing I do
the rather mention, because, computing backwards, I have found some

But to leave these points of nature, and to come to men. The greatest
vicissitude of things amongst men, is the vicissitude of sects and
religions; for those orbs rule in men’s minds most. The true religion
is built upon the rock; the rest are tossed upon the waves of time. To
speak, therefore, of the causes of new sects, and to give some counsel
concerning them, as far as the weakness of human judgment can give stay
to so great revolutions.

When the religion formerly received is rent by discords, and when the
holiness of the professors of religion is decayed and full of scandal,
and, withal, the times be stupid, ignorant, and barbarous, you may
doubt the springing up of a new sect; if then, also, there should arise
any extravagant and strange spirit to make himself author thereof; all
which points held when Mahomet published his law. If a new sect have
not two properties, fear it not, for it will not spread. The one is the
supplanting or the opposing of authority established, for nothing is
more popular than that; the other is, the giving license to pleasures
and a voluptuous life; for as for speculative heresies (such as were in
ancient times the Arians, and now the Arminians),[603] though they work
mightily upon men’s wits, yet they do not produce any great alterations
in states, except it be by the help of civil occasions. There be three
manner of plantations of new sects: by the power of signs and miracles;
by the eloquence and wisdom of speech and persuasion; and by the
sword. For martyrdoms, I reckon them amongst miracles, because they
seem to exceed the strength of human nature; and I may do the like of
superlative and admirable holiness of life. Surely, there is no better
way to stop the rising of new sects and schisms, than to reform abuses;
to compound the smaller differences; to proceed mildly, and not with
sanguinary persecutions; and rather to take off the principal authors,
by winning and advancing them, than to enrage them by violence and

The changes and vicissitude in wars are many, but chiefly in three
things: in the seats or stages of the war, in the weapons, and in the
manner of the conduct. Wars, in ancient time, seemed more to move from
east to west; for the Persians, Assyrians, Arabians, Tartars (which
were the invaders), were all eastern people. It is true the Gauls
were western; but we read but of two incursions of theirs, the one to
Gallo-Græcia, the other to Rome: but east and west have no certain
points of heaven; and no more have the wars, either from the east or
west, any certainty of observation; but north and south are fixed; and
it hath seldom or never been seen that the far southern people have
invaded the northern, but contrariwise: whereby it is manifest that
the northern tract of the world is in nature the more martial region,
be it in respect of the stars of that hemisphere,[604] or of the great
continents that are upon the north; whereas, the south part, for aught
that is known, is almost all sea; or (which is most apparent) of
the cold of the northern parts, which is that which, without aid of
discipline, doth make the bodies hardest, and the courage warmest.

Upon the breaking and shivering of a great state and empire, you may be
sure to have wars; for great empires, while they stand, do enervate and
destroy the forces of the natives which they have subdued, resting upon
their own protecting forces; and then, when they fail also, all goes
to ruin, and they become a prey. So was it in the decay of the Roman
empire, and likewise in the empire of Almaigne,[605] after Charles
the Great,[606] every bird taking a feather, and were not unlike to
befall to Spain, if it should break. The great accessions and unions
of kingdoms do likewise stir up wars; for when a state grows to an
over-power, it is like a great flood, that will be sure to overflow,
as it hath been seen in the states of Rome, Turkey, Spain, and others.
Look when the world hath fewest barbarous people, but such as commonly
will not marry or generate, except they know means to live (as it is
almost everywhere at this day, except Tartary), there is no danger of
inundations of people; but when there be great shoals of people, which
go on to populate, without foreseeing means of life and sustenation,
it is of necessity that once in an age or two they discharge a portion
of their people upon other nations, which the ancient northern people
were wont to do by lot; casting lots what part should stay at home,
and what should seek their fortunes. When a warlike state grows soft
and effeminate, they may be sure of a war, for commonly such states are
grown rich in the time of their degenerating; and so the prey inviteth,
and their decay in valor encourageth a war.

As for the weapons, it hardly falleth under rule and observation, yet
we see even they have returns and vicissitudes; for certain it is that
ordnance was known in the city of the Oxidraces, in India, and was that
which the Macedonians[607] called thunder and lightning, and magic;
and it is well known that the use of ordnance hath been in China above
two thousand years. The conditions of weapons, and their improvements
are, first, the fetching[608] afar off, for that outruns the danger,
as it is seen in ordnance and muskets; secondly, the strength of the
percussion, wherein, likewise, ordnance do exceed all arietations,[609]
and ancient inventions; the third is, the commodious use of them, as
that they may serve in all weathers, that the carriage may be light and
manageable, and the like.

For the conduct of the war: at the first, men rested extremely upon
number; they did put the wars likewise upon main force and valor,
pointing days for pitched fields, and so trying it out upon an even
match; and they were more ignorant in ranging and arraying their
battles. After they grew to rest upon number, rather competent than
vast, they grew to advantages of place, cunning diversions, and the
like, and they grew more skilful in the ordering of their battles.

In the youth of a state, arms do flourish; in the middle age of a
state, learning; and then both of them together for a time; in the
declining age of a state, mechanical arts and merchandise. Learning
hath its infancy when it is but beginning, and almost childish; then
its youth, when it is luxuriant and juvenile; then its strength of
years, when it is solid and reduced; and, lastly, its old age, when
it waxeth dry and exhaust. But it is not good to look too long upon
these turning wheels of vicissitude, lest we become giddy; as for the
philology of them, that is but a circle of tales, and therefore not fit
for this writing.



The poets make fame a monster; they describe her in part finely and
elegantly, and in part gravely and sententiously; they say, Look, how
many feathers she hath, so many eyes she hath underneath, so many
tongues, so many voices, she pricks up so many ears!

This is a flourish: there follow excellent parables; as that she
gathereth strength in going; that she goeth upon the ground, and yet
hideth her head in the clouds; that in the daytime she sitteth in a
watch-tower, and flieth most by night; that she mingleth things done
with things not done; and that she is a terror to great cities; but
that which passeth all the rest is, they do recount that the Earth,
mother of the giants that made war against Jupiter, and were by him
destroyed, thereupon in anger brought forth Fame; for certain it is,
that rebels, figured by the giants, and seditious fames and libels,
are but brothers and sisters, masculine and feminine. But now, if
a man can tame this monster, and bring her to feed at the hand and
govern her, and with her fly other ravening fowl, and kill them, it is
somewhat worth; but we are infected with the style of the poets. To
speak now in a sad and serious manner, there is not in all the politics
a place less handled, and more worthy to be handled, than this of fame.
We will, therefore, speak of these points. What are false fames, and
what are true fames, and how they may be best discerned; how fames may
be sown and raised; how they may be spread and multiplied; and how they
may be checked and lay dead; and other things concerning the nature
of fame. Fame is of that force, as there is scarcely any great action
wherein it hath not a great part, especially in the war. Mucianus
undid Vitellius by a fame that he scattered, that Vitellius had in
purpose to remove the legions of Syria into Germany, and the legions
of Germany into Syria; whereupon the legions of Syria were infinitely
inflamed.[611] Julius Cæsar took Pompey unprovided, and laid asleep his
industry and preparations by a fame that he cunningly gave out, how
Cæsar’s own soldiers loved him not; and being wearied with the wars,
and laden with the spoils of Gaul, would forsake him as soon as he came
into Italy.[612] Livia settled all things for the succession of her son
Tiberius, by continually giving out that her husband Augustus was upon
recovery and amendment;[613] and it is a usual thing with the bashaws
to conceal the death of the Grand Turk from the janizaries and men of
war, to save the sacking of Constantinople, and other towns, as their
manner is. Themistocles made Xerxes, king of Persia, post apace out
of Græcia, by giving out that the Grecians had a purpose to break his
bridge of ships which he had made athwart Hellespont.[614] There be a
thousand such like examples, and the more they are, the less they need
to be repeated, because a man meeteth with them everywhere; therefore,
let all wise governors have as great a watch and care over fames, as
they have of the actions and designs themselves.


1. A king is a mortal God on earth, unto whom the living God hath lent
his own name as a great honor; but withal told him, he should die like
a man, lest he should be proud and flatter himself, that God hath, with
his name, imparted unto him his nature also.

2. Of all kind of men, God is the least beholden unto them; for he doth
most for them, and they do, ordinarily, least for him.

3. A king that would not feel his crown too heavy for him, must wear
it every day; but if he think it too light, he knoweth not of what
metal it is made.

4. He must make religion the rule of government, and not to balance the
scale; for he that casteth in religion only to make the scales even,
his own weight is contained in those characters: “Mene, mene, tekel,
upharsin: He is found too light, his kingdom shall be taken from him.”

5. And that king that holds not religion the best reason of state, is
void of all piety and justice, the supporters of a king.

6. He must be able to give counsel himself, but not rely thereupon;
for though happy events justify their counsels, yet it is better that
the evil event of good advice be rather imputed to a subject than a

7. He is a fountain of honor, which should not run with a waste-pipe,
lest the courtiers sell the water, and then, as Papists say of their
holy wells, it loses the virtue.

8. He is the life of the law, not only as he is _Lex loquens_ himself,
but because he animateth the dead letter, making it active towards all
his subjects _præmio et pœna_.

9. A wise king must do less in altering his laws than he may; for new
government is ever dangerous. It being true in the body politic, as in
the corporal, that _omnis subita immutatio est periculosa_; and though
it be for the better, yet it is not without a fearful apprehension;
for he that changeth the fundamental laws of a kingdom, thinketh there
is no good title to a crown, but by conquest.

10. A king that setteth to sale seats of justice, oppresseth the
people; for he teacheth his judges to sell justice; and _pretio parata
pretio venditur justitia_.

11. Bounty and magnificence are virtues very regal, but a prodigal king
is nearer a tyrant than a parsimonious; for store at home draweth not
his contemplations abroad, but want supplieth itself of what is next,
and many times the next way. A king therein must be wise, and know what
he may justly do.

12. That king which is not feared, is not loved; and he that is well
seen in his craft, must as well study to be feared as loved; yet not
loved for fear, but feared for love.

13. Therefore, as he must always resemble Him whose great name he
beareth, and that as in manifesting the sweet influence of his mercy on
the severe stroke of his justice sometimes, so in this not to suffer
a man of death to live; for, besides that the land doth mourn, the
restraint of justice towards sin doth more retard the affection of
love, than the extent of mercy doth inflame it; and sure, where love is
[ill] bestowed, fear is quite lost.

14. His greatest enemies are his flatterers; for though they ever speak
on his side, yet their words still make against him.

15. The love which a king oweth to a weal public should not be
overstrained to any one particular; yet that his more especial favor do
reflect upon some worthy ones, is somewhat necessary, because there are
few of that capacity.

16. He must have a special care of five things, if he would not have
his crown to be but to him _infelix felicitas_.

First, that _simulata sanctitas_ be not in the church; for that is
_duplex iniquitas_.

Secondly, that _inutilis æquitas_ sit not in the chancery; for that is
_inepta misericordia_.

Thirdly, that _utilis iniquitas_ keep not the exchequer; for that is
_crudele latrocinium_.

Fourthly, that _fidelis temeritas_ be not his general; for that will
bring but _seram pœnitentiam_.

Fifthly, that _infidelis prudentia_ be not his secretary; for that is
_anguis sub viridi herbâ_.

To conclude: as he is of the greatest power, so he is subject to the
greatest cares, made the servant of his people, or else he were without
a calling at all.

He, then, that honoreth him not is next an atheist, wanting the fear of
God in his heart.


1. I have often thought upon death, and I find it the least of all
evils. All that which is past is as a dream; and he that hopes or
depends upon time coming, dreams waking. So much of our life as we have
discovered is already dead; and all those hours which we share, even
from the breasts of our mothers, until we return to our grandmother the
earth, are part of our dying days, whereof even this is one, and those
that succeed are of the same nature, for we die daily; and, as others
have given place to us, so we must, in the end, give way to others.

2. Physicians, in the name of death, include all sorrow, anguish,
disease, calamity, or whatsoever can fall in the life of man, either
grievous or unwelcome. But these things are familiar unto us, and we
suffer them every hour; therefore we die daily, and I am older since I
affirmed it.

3. I know many wise men that fear to die, for the change is bitter,
and flesh would refuse to prove it; besides, the expectation brings
terror, and that exceeds the evil. But I do not believe that any man
fears to be dead, but only the stroke of death; and such are my hopes,
that if Heaven be pleased, and nature renew but my lease for twenty-one
years more without asking longer days, I shall be strong enough to
acknowledge without mourning, that I was begotten mortal. Virtue walks
not in the highway, though she go _per alta_; this is strength and the
blood to virtue, to contemn things that be desired, and to neglect that
which is feared.

4. Why should man be in love with his fetters, though of gold? Art thou
drowned in security? Then I say thou art perfectly dead. For though
thou movest, yet thy soul is buried within thee, and thy good angel
either forsakes his guard, or sleeps. There is nothing under heaven,
saving a true friend (who cannot be counted within the number of
movables), unto which my heart doth lean. And this dear freedom hath
begotten me this peace, that I mourn not for that end which must be,
nor spend one wish to have one minute added, to the uncertain date of
my years. It was no mean apprehension of Lucian, who says of Menippus,
that in his travels through hell, he knew not the kings of the earth
from other men but only by their louder cryings and tears, which were
fostered in them through the remorseful memory of the good days they
had seen, and the fruitful havings which they so unwillingly left
behind them. He that was well seated, looked back at his portion, and
was loath to forsake his farm; and others, either minding marriages,
pleasures, profit, or preferment, desired to be excused from death’s
banquet. They had made an appointment with earth, looking at the
blessings, not the hand that enlarged them, forgetting how unclothedly
they came hither, or with what naked ornaments they were arrayed.

5. But were we servants of the precept given, and observers of the
heathens’ rule, _Memento mori_, and not become benighted with this
seeming felicity, we should enjoy it as men prepared to lose, and
not wind up our thoughts upon so perishing a fortune. He that is not
slackly strong (as the servants of pleasure), how can he be found
unready to quit the vail and false visage of his perfection? The
soul having shaken off her flesh, doth then set up for herself, and
contemning things that are under, shows what finger hath enforced her;
for the souls of idiots are of the same piece with those of statesmen,
but now and then nature is at a fault, and this good guest of ours
takes soil in an imperfect body, and so is slackened from showing her
wonders, like an excellent musician, which cannot utter himself upon a
defective instrument.

6. But see how I am swerved, and lose my course, touching at the soul
that doth least hold action with death, who hath the surest property in
this frail act; his style is the end of all flesh, and the beginning of

This ruler of monuments leads men, for the most part, out of this world
with their heels forward, in token that he is contrary to life, which
being obtained, sends men headlong into this wretched theatre, where,
being arrived, their first language is that of mourning. Nor, in my own
thoughts, can I compare men more fitly to any thing than to the Indian
fig-tree, which, being ripened to his full height, is said to decline
his branches down to the earth, whereof she conceives again, and they
become roots in their own stock.

So man, having derived his being from the earth, first lives the life
of a tree, drawing his nourishment as a plant, and made ripe for death,
he tends downwards, and is sown again in his mother the earth, where he
perisheth not, but expects a quickening.

7. So we see death exempts not a man from being, but only presents
an alteration; yet there are some men (I think) that stand otherwise
persuaded. Death finds not a worse friend than an alderman, to whose
door I never knew him welcome; but he is an importunate guest, and will
not be said nay.

And though they themselves shall affirm that they are not within, yet
the answer will not be taken; and that which heightens their fear is,
that they know they are in danger to forfeit their flesh, but are not
wise of the payment-day, which sickly uncertainty is the occasion that
(for the most part) they step out of this world unfurnished for their
general account, and, being all unprovided, desire yet to hold their
gravity, preparing their souls to answer in scarlet.

Thus I gather, that death is unagreeable to most citizens, because they
commonly die intestate; this being a rule, that when their will is
made, they think themselves nearer a grave than before. Now they, out
of the wisdom of thousands, think to scare destiny, from which there is
no appeal, by not making a will, or to live longer by protestation of
their unwillingness to die. They are, for the most part, well made in
this world (accounting their treasure by legions, as men do devils).
Their fortune looks towards them, and they are willing to anchor at it,
and desire (if it be possible) to put the evil day far off from them,
and to adjourn their ungrateful and killing period.

No, these are not the men which have bespoken death, or whose looks are
assured to entertain a thought of him.

8. Death arrives gracious only to such as sit in darkness, or lie heavy
burdened with grief and irons; to the poor Christian, that sits bound
in the galley; to despairful widows, pensive prisoners, and deposed
kings; to them whose fortune runs back, and whose spirits mutiny: unto
such, death is a redeemer, and the grave a place for retiredness and

These wait upon the shore of death, and waft unto him to draw near,
wishing above all others to see his star, that they might be led to his
place; wooing the remorseless sisters to wind down the watch of their
life, and to break them off before the hour.

9. But death is a doleful messenger to a usurer, and fate untimely cuts
their thread; for it is never mentioned by him, but when rumors of war
and civil tumults put him in mind thereof.

And when many hands are armed, and the peace of a city in disorder,
and the foot of the common soldiers sounds an alarm on his stairs,
then perhaps such a one (broken in thoughts of his moneys abroad, and
cursing the monuments of coin which are in his house) can be content
to think of death, and (being hasty of perdition) will perhaps hang
himself, lest his throat should be cut; provided that he may do it in
his study, surrounded with wealth, to which his eye sends a faint and
languishing salute, even upon the turning off; remembering always, that
he have time and liberty, by writing, to depute himself as his own heir.

For that is a great peace to his end, and reconciles him wonderfully
upon the point.

10. Herein we all dally with ourselves, and are without proof of
necessity. I am not of those, that dare promise to pine away myself in
vainglory, and I hold such to be but feat boldness, and them that dare
commit it, to be vain. Yet, for my part, I think nature should do me
great wrong, if I should be so long in dying, as I was in being born.

To speak truth, no man knows the lists of his own patience, nor can
divine how able he shall be in his sufferings, till the storm come (the
perfectest virtue being tried in action); but I would (out of a care to
do the best business well) ever keep a guard, and stand upon keeping
faith and a good conscience.

11. And if wishes might find place, I would die together, and not
my mind often, and my body once; that is, I would prepare for the
messengers of death, sickness, and affliction, and not wait long, or be
attempted by the violence of pain.

Herein I do not profess myself a Stoic, to hold grief no evil, but
opinion, and a thing indifferent.

But I consent with Cæsar, that the suddenest passage is easiest, and
there is nothing more awakens our resolve and readiness to die than
the quieted conscience, strengthened with opinion that we shall be
well spoken of upon earth by those that are just, and of the family
of virtue; the opposite whereof is a fury to man, and makes even life

Therefore, what is more heavy than evil fame deserved? Or, likewise,
who can see worse days, than he that, yet living, doth follow at the
funerals of his own reputation?

I have laid up many hopes, that I am privileged from that kind of
mourning, and could wish the like peace to all those with whom I wage

12. I might say much of the commodities that death can sell a man;
but, briefly, death is a friend of ours, and he that is not ready to
entertain him, is not at home. Whilst I am, my ambition is not to
foreflow the tide; I have but so to make my interest of it as I may
account for it; I would wish nothing but what might better my days,
nor desire any greater place than the front of good opinion. I make
not love to the continuance of days, but to the goodness of them; nor
wish to die, but refer myself to my hour, which the great Dispenser
of all things hath appointed me; yet, as I am frail, and suffered for
the first fault, were it given me to choose, I should not be earnest to
see the evening of my age; that extremity, of itself, being a disease,
and a mere return into infancy; so that, if perpetuity of life might be
given me, I should think what the Greek poet said; “Such an age is a
mortal evil.” And since I must needs be dead, I require it may not be
done before mine enemies, that I be not stript before I be cold; but
before my friends. The night is even now: but that name is lost; it is
not now late, but early. Mine eyes begin to discharge their watch, and
compound with this fleshly weakness for a time of perpetual rest; and
I shall presently be as happy for a few hours, as I had died the first
hour I was born.



The earliest antiquity lies buried in silence and oblivion, excepting
the remains we have of it in sacred writ. This silence was succeeded by
poetical fables, and these, at length, by the writings we now enjoy; so
that the concealed and secret learning of the ancients seems separated
from the history and knowledge of the following ages by a veil, or
partition-wall of fables, interposing between the things that are lost
and those that remain.[615]

Many may imagine that I am here entering upon a work of fancy, or
amusement, and design to use a poetical liberty, in explaining poetical
fables. It is true, fables, in general, are composed of ductile
matter, that may be drawn into great variety by a witty talent or an
inventive genius, and be delivered of plausible meanings which they
never contained. But this procedure has already been carried to excess;
and great numbers, to procure the sanction of antiquity to their own
notions and inventions, have miserably wrested and abused the fables of
the ancients.

Nor is this only a late or unfrequent practice, but of ancient date
and common even to this day. Thus Chrysippus, like an interpreter of
dreams, attributed the opinions of the Stoics to the poets of old;
and the chemists, at present, more childishly apply the poetical
transformations to their experiments of the furnace. And though I
have well weighed and considered all this, and thoroughly seen into
the levity which the mind indulges for allegories and allusions,
yet I cannot but retain a high value for the ancient mythology.
And, certainly, it were very injudicious to suffer the fondness and
licentiousness of a few to detract from the honor of all ego and
parable in general. This would be rash, and almost profane; for, since
religion delights in such shadows and disguises, to abolish them were,
in a manner, to prohibit all intercourse betwixt things divine and

Upon deliberate consideration, my judgment is, that a concealed
instruction and allegory was originally intended in many of the ancient
fables. This opinion may, in some respect, be owing to the veneration
I have for antiquity, but more to observing that some fables discover
a great and evident similitude, relation, and connection with the
thing they signify, as well in the structure of the fable as in the
propriety of the names whereby the persons or actors are characterized;
insomuch, that no one could positively deny a sense and meaning to
be from the first intended, and purposely shadowed out in them. For
who can hear that Fame, after the giants were destroyed, sprung up as
their posthumous sister, and not apply it to the clamor of parties
and the seditious rumors which commonly fly about for a time upon the
quelling of insurrections? Or who can read how the giant Typhon cut out
and carried away Jupiter’s sinews—which Mercury afterwards stole, and
again restored to Jupiter—and not presently observe that this allegory
denotes strong and powerful rebellions, which cut away from kings
their sinews, both of money and authority; and that the way to have
them restored is by lenity, affability, and prudent edicts, which soon
reconcile, and, as it were, steal upon the affections of the subject?
Or who, upon hearing that memorable expedition of the gods against
the giants, when the braying of Silenus’s ass greatly contributed in
putting the giants to flight, does not clearly conceive that this
directly points at the monstrous enterprises of rebellious subjects,
which are frequently frustrated and disappointed by vain fears and
empty rumors?

Again, the conformity and purport of the names is frequently manifest
and self-evident. Thus Metis, the wife of Jupiter, plainly signifies
counsel; Typhon, swelling; Pan, universality; Nemesis, revenge, &c.
Nor is it a wonder, if sometimes a piece of history or other things
are introduced, by way of ornament; or, if the times of the action are
confounded; or, if part of one fable be tacked to another; or, if the
allegory be new turned; for all this must necessarily happen, as the
fables were the inventions of men who lived in different ages, and had
different views; some of them being ancient, others more modern; some
having an eye to natural philosophy, and others to morality or civil

It may pass for a further indication of a concealed and secret meaning,
that some of these fables are so absurd and idle in their narration,
as to show and proclaim an allegory, even afar off. A fable that
carries probability with it may be supposed invented for pleasure, or
in imitation of history; but those that could never be conceived or
related in this way must surely have a different use. For example,
what a monstrous fiction is this, that Jupiter should take Metis to
wife, and as soon as he found her pregnant eat her up, whereby he also
conceived, and out of his head brought forth Pallas armed. Certainly no
mortal could, but for the sake of the moral it couches, invent such an
absurd dream as this, so much out of the road of thought!

But the argument of most weight with me is this, that many of these
fables by no means appear to have been invented by the persons who
relate and divulge them, whether Homer, Hesiod, or others; for if I
were assured they first flowed from those later times and authors that
transmit them to us, I should never expect any thing singularly great
or noble from such an origin. But whoever attentively considers the
thing, will find that these fables are delivered down and related by
those writers, not as matters then first invented and proposed, but
as things received and embraced in earlier ages. Besides, as they are
differently related by writers nearly of the same ages, it is easily
perceived that the relators drew from the common stock of ancient
tradition, and varied but in point of embellishment, which is their
own. And this principally raises my esteem of these fables, which I
receive, not as the product of the age, or invention of the poets, but
as sacred relics, gentle whispers, and the breath of better times,
that from the traditions of more ancient nations came, at length,
into the flutes and trumpets of the Greeks. But if any one shall,
notwithstanding this, contend that allegories are always adventitious,
or imposed upon the ancient fables, and no way native or genuinely
contained in them, we might here leave him undisturbed in that gravity
of judgment he affects (though we cannot help accounting it somewhat
dull and phlegmatic), and, if it were worth the trouble, proceed to
another kind of argument.

Men have proposed to answer two different and contrary ends by the
use of parable; for parables serve as well to instruct or illustrate
as to wrap up and envelop; so that though, for the present, we drop
the concealed use, and suppose the ancient fables to be vague,
undeterminate things, formed for amusement, still, the other use must
remain, and can never be given up. And every man, of any learning,
must readily allow that this method of instructing is grave, sober,
or exceedingly useful, and sometimes necessary in the sciences, as
it opens an easy and familiar passage to the human understanding,
in all new discoveries that are abstruse and out of the road of
vulgar opinions. Hence, in the first ages, when such inventions and
conclusions of the human reason as are now trite and common were
new and little known, all things abounded with fables, parables,
similes, comparisons, and allusions, which were not intended to
conceal, but to inform and teach, whilst the minds of men continued
rude and unpractised in matters of subtilty and speculation, or even
impatient, and in a manner incapable of receiving such things as did
not fall directly under and strike the senses. For as hieroglyphics
were in use before writing, so were parables in use before arguments.
And even to this day, if any man would let new light in upon the
human understanding, and conquer prejudice, without raising contests,
animosities, opposition, or disturbance, he must still go in the same
path, and have recourse to the like method of allegory, metaphor, and

To conclude, the knowledge of the early ages was either great or happy;
great, if they by design made this use of trope and figure; happy,
if, whilst they had other views, they afforded matter and occasion to
such noble contemplations. Let either be the case, our pains, perhaps,
will not be misemployed, whether we illustrate antiquity or things

The like, indeed, has been attempted by others; but, to speak
ingenuously, their great and voluminous labors have almost destroyed
the energy, the efficacy, and grace of the thing; whilst, being
unskilled in nature, and their learning no more than that of
commonplace, they have applied the sense of the parables to certain
general and vulgar matters, without reaching to their real purport,
genuine interpretation, and full depth. For myself, therefore, I expect
to appear new in these common things, because, leaving untouched such
as are sufficiently plain and open, I shall drive only at those that
are either deep or rich.





The poets relate, that Apollo, falling in love with Cassandra, was
still deluded and put off by her, yet fed with hopes, till she had got
from him the gift of prophesy; and, having now obtained her end, she
flatly rejected his suit. Apollo, unable to recall his rash gift, yet
enraged to be outwitted by a girl, annexed this penalty to it, that
though she should always prophesy true, she should never be believed;
whence her divinations were always slighted, even when she again and
again predicted the ruin of her country.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems invented to express the insignificance
of unseasonable advice. For they who are conceited, stubborn, or
intractable, and listen not to the instructions of Apollo, the god of
harmony, so as to learn and observe the modulations and measures of
affairs, the sharps and flats of discourse, the difference between
judicious and vulgar ears, and the proper times of speech and silence,
let them be ever so intelligent, and ever so frank of their advice, or
their counsels ever so good and just, yet all their endeavors, either
of persuasion or force, are of little significance, and rather hasten
the ruin of those they advise. But, at last, when the calamitous event
has made the sufferers feel the effect of their neglect, they too late
reverence their advisers, as deep, foreseeing, and faithful prophets.

Of this, we have a remarkable instance in Cato of Utica, who discovered
afar off, and long foretold, the approaching ruin of his country,
both in the first conspiracy, and as it was prosecuted in the civil
war between Cæsar and Pompey, yet did no good the while, but rather
hurt the commonwealth, and hurried on its destruction, which Cicero
wisely observed in these words: “Cato, indeed, judges excellently, but
prejudices the state; for he speaks as in the commonwealth of Plato,
and not as in the dregs of Romulus.”



The fable runs, that Juno, enraged at Jupiter’s bringing forth Pallas
without her assistance, incessantly solicited all the gods and
goddesses, that she might produce without Jupiter; and having by
violence and importunity obtained the grant, she struck the earth, and
thence immediately sprung up Typhon, a huge and dreadful monster, whom
she committed to the nursing of a serpent. As soon as he was grown
up, this monster waged war on Jupiter, and taking him prisoner in the
battle, carried him away on his shoulders, into a remote and obscure
quarter; and there, cutting out the sinews of his hands and feet, he
bore them off, leaving Jupiter behind miserably maimed and mangled.

But Mercury afterwards stole these sinews from Typhon, and restored
them to Jupiter. Hence, recovering his strength, Jupiter again pursues
the monster; first wounds him with a stroke of his thunder, when
serpents arose from the blood of the wound; and now the monster being
dismayed, and taking to flight, Jupiter next darted Mount Ætna upon
him, and crushed him with the weight.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems designed to express the various fates
of kings, and the turns that rebellions sometimes take, in kingdoms.
For princes may be justly esteemed married to their states, as Jupiter
to Juno; but it sometimes happens, that, being depraved by long
wielding of the sceptre, and growing tyrannical, they would engross
all to themselves, and, slighting the counsel of their senators and
nobles, conceive by themselves; that is, govern according to their own
arbitrary will and pleasure. This inflames the people, and makes them
endeavor to create and set up some head of their own. Such designs
are generally set on foot by the secret motion and instigation of the
peers and nobles, under whose connivance the common sort are prepared
for rising; whence proceeds a swell in the state, which is appositely
denoted by the nursing of Typhon. This growing posture of affairs is
fed by the natural depravity and malignant dispositions of the vulgar,
which to kings is an envenomed serpent. And now the disaffected,
uniting their force, at length break out into open rebellion, which,
producing infinite mischiefs, both to prince and people, is represented
by the horrid and multiplied deformity of Typhon, with his hundred
heads, denoting the divided powers; his flaming mouths, denoting
fire and devastation; his girdles of snakes, denoting sieges and
destruction; his iron hands, slaughter and cruelty; his eagle’s talons,
rapine and plunder; his plumed body, perpetual rumors, contradictory
accounts, &c. And sometimes these rebellions grow so high, that kings
are obliged, as if carried on the backs of the rebels, to quit the
throne, and retire to some remote and obscure part of their dominions,
with the loss of their sinews, both of money and majesty.

But if now they prudently bear this reverse of fortune, they may, in a
short time, by the assistance of Mercury, recover their sinews again;
that is, by becoming moderate and affable; reconciling the minds and
affections of the people to them, by gracious speeches and prudent
proclamations, which will win over the subject cheerfully to afford
new aids and supplies, and add fresh vigor to authority. But prudent
and wary princes here seldom incline to try fortune by a war, yet do
their utmost, by some grand exploit, to crush the reputation of the
rebels; and if the attempt succeeds, the rebels, conscious of the wound
received, and distrustful of their cause, first betake themselves to
broken and empty threats, like the hissings of serpents; and next, when
matters are grown desperate, to flight. And now, when they thus begin
to shrink, it is safe and seasonable for kings to pursue them with
their forces, and the whole strength of the kingdom; thus effectually
quashing and suppressing them, as it were by the weight of a mountain.



It is related that the Cyclops, for their savageness and cruelty,
were by Jupiter first thrown into Tartarus, and there condemned to
perpetual imprisonment; but that afterwards Tellus persuaded Jupiter it
would be for his service to release them, and employ them in forging
thunderbolts. This he accordingly did; and they, with unwearied pains
and diligence, hammered out his bolts, and other instruments of terror,
with a frightful and continual din of the anvil.

It happened, long after, that Jupiter was displeased with Æsculapius,
the son of Apollo, for having, by the art of medicine, restored a
dead man to life; but concealing his indignation, because the action
in itself was pious and illustrious, he secretly incensed the Cyclops
against him, who, without remorse, presently slew him with their
thunderbolts: in revenge whereof, Apollo, with Jupiter’s connivance,
shot them all dead with his arrows.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems to point at the behavior of princes,
who, having cruel, bloody, and oppressive ministers, first punish
and displace them; but afterwards, by the advice of Tellus, that is,
some earthly-minded and ignoble person, employ them again, to serve
a turn, when there is occasion for cruelty in execution, or severity
in exaction; but these ministers being base in their nature, whet by
their former disgrace, and well aware of what is expected from them,
use double diligence in their office; till, proceeding unwarily, and
over-eager to gain favor, they sometimes, from the private nods, and
ambiguous orders of their prince, perform some odious or execrable
action: when princes, to decline the envy themselves, and knowing they
shall never want such tools at their back, drop them, and give them
up to the friends and followers of the injured person; thus exposing
them, as sacrifices to revenge and popular odium: whence, with great
applause, acclamations, and good wishes to the prince, these miscreants
at last meet with their desert.


Narcissus is said to have been extremely beautiful and comely, but
intolerably proud and disdainful; so that, pleased with himself, and
scorning the world, he led a solitary life in the woods; hunting only
with a few followers, who were his professed admirers, amongst whom the
nymph Echo was his constant attendant. In this method of life, it was
once his fate to approach a clear fountain, where he laid himself down
to rest, in the noonday heat; when, beholding his image in the water,
he fell into such a rapture and admiration of himself, that he could by
no means be got away, but remained continually fixed and gazing, till
at length he was turned into a flower, of his own name, which appears
early in the spring, and is consecrated to the infernal deities, Pluto,
Proserpine, and the Furies.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems to paint the behavior and fortune of
those, who, for their beauty, or other endowments, wherewith nature
(without any industry of their own) has graced and adorned them,
are extravagantly fond of themselves: for men of such a disposition
generally affect retirement, and absence from public affairs; as a
life of business must necessarily subject them to many neglects and
contempts, which might disturb and ruffle their minds: whence such
persons commonly lead a solitary, private, and shadowy life: see little
company, and those only such as highly admire and reverence them; or,
like an echo, assent to all they say.

And they who are depraved, and rendered still fonder of themselves by
this custom, grow strangely indolent, inactive, and perfectly stupid.
The Narcissus, a spring flower, is an elegant emblem of this temper,
which at first flourishes, and is talked of, but, when ripe, frustrates
the expectation conceived of it.

And that this flower should be sacred to the infernal powers, carries
out the allusion still further; because men of this humor are perfectly
useless in all respects: for whatever yields no fruit, but passes, and
is no more, like the way of a ship in the sea, was by the ancients
consecrated to the infernal shades and powers.



The only solemn oath, by which the gods irrevocably obliged themselves,
is a well known thing, and makes a part of many ancient fables. To this
oath they did not invoke any celestial divinity, or divine attribute,
but only called to witness the River Styx, which, with many meanders,
surrounds the infernal court of Dis. For this form alone, and none
but this, was held inviolable and obligatory; and the punishment of
falsifying it, was that dreaded one of being excluded, for a certain
number of years, the table of the gods.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems invented to show the nature of the
compacts and confederacies of princes; which, though ever so solemnly
and religiously sworn to, prove but little the more binding for it: so
that oaths, in this case, seem used rather for decorum, reputation, and
ceremony, than for fidelity, security, and effectuating. And though
these oaths were strengthened with the bonds of affinity, which are
the links and ties of nature, and again, by mutual services and good
offices, yet we see all this will generally give way to ambition,
convenience, and the thirst of power: the rather, because it is easy
for princes, under various specious pretences, to defend, disguise,
and conceal their ambitious desires and insincerity, having no judge
to call them to account. There is, however, one true and proper
confirmation of their faith, though no celestial divinity, but that
great divinity of princes, Necessity; or, the danger of the state; and
the securing of advantage.

This necessity is elegantly represented by Styx, the fatal river that
can never be crossed back. And this deity it was, which Iphicrates the
Athenian invoked in making a league; and because he roundly and openly
avows what most others studiously conceal, it may be proper to give
his own words. Observing that the Lacedæmonians were inventing and
proposing a variety of securities, sanctions, and bonds of alliance,
he interrupted them thus: “There may, indeed, my friends, be one bond
and means of security between us; and that is, for you to demonstrate
you have delivered into our hands, such things as that, if you had the
greatest desire to hurt us, you could not be able.” Therefore, if the
power of offending be taken away, or if, by a breach of compact, there
be danger of destruction or diminution to the state or tribute, then
it is that covenants will be ratified, and confirmed, as it were by
the Stygian oath, whilst there remains an impending danger of being
prohibited and excluded the banquet of the gods; by which expression
the ancients denoted the rights and prerogatives, the affluence and the
felicities, of empire and dominion.



The ancients have, with great exactness, delineated universal nature
under the person of Pan. They leave his origin doubtful; some asserting
him the son of Mercury, and others the common offspring of all
Penelope’s suitors. The latter supposition doubtless occasioned some
later rivals to entitle this ancient fable Penelope; a thing frequently
practised when the earlier relations are applied to more modern
characters and persons, though sometimes with great absurdity and
ignorance, as in the present case; for Pan was one of the ancientest
gods, and long before the time of Ulysses; besides, Penelope was
venerated by antiquity for her matronal chastity. A third sort will
have him the issue of Jupiter and Hybris, that is, Reproach. But
whatever his origin was, the Destinies are allowed his sisters.

He is described by antiquity, with pyramidal horns reaching up to
heaven, a rough and shaggy body, a very long beard, of a biform figure,
human above, half brute below, ending in goat’s feet. His arms, or
ensigns of power, are, a pipe in his left hand, composed of seven
reeds; in his right a crook; and he wore for his mantle a leopard’s

His attributes and titles were the god of hunters, shepherds, and all
the rural inhabitants; president of the mountains; and, after Mercury,
the next messenger of the gods. He was also held the leader and ruler
of the Nymphs, who continually danced and frisked about him, attended
with the Satyrs and their elders, the Sileni. He had also the power
of striking terrors, especially such as were vain and superstitious;
whence they came to be called panic terrors.[618]

Few actions are recorded of him; only a principal one is, that he
challenged Cupid at wrestling, and was worsted. He also catched the
giant Typhon in a net, and held him fast. They relate further of him,
that when Ceres, growing disconsolate for the rape of Proserpine, hid
herself, and all the gods took the utmost pains to find her, by going
out different ways for that purpose, Pan only had the good fortune
to meet her, as he was hunting, and discovered her to the rest. He
likewise had the assurance to rival Apollo in music, and in the
judgment of Midas was preferred; but the judge had, though with great
privacy and secrecy, a pair of ass’s ears fastened on him for his

There is very little said of his amours; which may seem strange among
such a multitude of gods, so profusely amorous. He is only reported to
have been very fond of Echo, who was also esteemed his wife; and one
nymph more, called Syrinx, with the love of whom Cupid inflamed him for
his insolent challenge; so he is reported once to have solicited the
moon to accompany him apart into the deep woods.

Lastly, Pan had no descendant, which also is a wonder, when the male
gods were so extremely prolific; only he was the reputed father of
a servant-girl called Iambe, who used to divert strangers with her
ridiculous prattling stories.

This fable is perhaps the noblest of all antiquity, and pregnant
with the mysteries and secrets of nature. Pan, as the name imports,
represents the universe, about whose origin there are two opinions,
viz: that it either sprung from Mercury, that is, the divine word,
according to the Scriptures and philosophical divines, or from the
confused seeds of things. For they who allow only one beginning of
all things, either ascribe it to God, or, if they suppose a material
beginning, acknowledge it to be various in its powers; so that the
whole dispute comes to these points, viz: either that nature proceeds
from Mercury, or from Penelope and all her suitors.[620]

The third origin of Pan seems borrowed by the Greeks from the Hebrew
mysteries, either by means of the Egyptians, or otherwise; for it
relates to the state of the world, not in its first creation, but
as made subject to death and corruption after the fall; and in this
state it was and remains, the offspring of God and Sin, or Jupiter and
Reproach. And therefore these three several accounts of Pan’s birth
may seem true, if duly distinguished in respect of things and times.
For this Pan, or the universal nature of things, which we view and
contemplate, had its origin from the divine word and confused matter,
first created by God himself, with the subsequent introduction of sin,
and, consequently, corruption.

The Destinies, or the natures and fates of things, are justly made
Pan’s sisters, as the chain of natural causes links together the rise,
duration, and corruption; the exaltation, degeneration, and workings;
the processes, the effects, and changes, of all that can any way happen
to things.

Horns are given him, broad at the roots, but narrow and sharp at the
top, because the nature of all things seems pyramidal; for individuals
are infinite, but being collected into a variety of species, they
rise up into kinds, and these again ascend, and are contracted into
generals, till at length nature may seem collected to a point. And no
wonder if Pan’s horns reach to the heavens, since the sublimities of
nature, or abstract ideas, reach in a manner to things divine; for
there is a short and ready passage from metaphysics to natural theology.

Pan’s body, or the body of nature, is, with great propriety and
elegance, painted shaggy and hairy, as representing the rays of things;
for rays are as the hair or fleece of nature, and more or less worn by
all bodies. This evidently appears in vision, and in all effects and
operations at a distance; for whatever operates thus, may be properly
said to emit rays.[621] But particularly the beard of Pan is exceeding
long, because the rays of the celestial bodies penetrate, and act to a
prodigious distance, and have descended into the interior of the earth,
so far as to change its surface; and the sun himself, when clouded on
its upper part, appears to the eye bearded.

Again, the body of nature is justly described biform, because of the
difference between its superior and inferior parts, as the former, for
their beauty, regularity of motion, and influence over the earth, may
be properly represented by the human figure, and the latter, because of
their disorder, irregularity, and subjection to the celestial bodies,
are by the brutal. This biform figure also represents the participation
of one species with another; for there appear to be no simple natures,
but all participate or consist of two: thus, man has somewhat of the
brute, the brute somewhat of the plant, the plant somewhat of the
mineral; so that all natural bodies have really two faces, or consist
of a superior and an inferior species.

There lies a curious allegory in the making of Pan goat-footed, on
account of the motion of ascent which the terrestrial bodies have
towards the air and heavens; for the goat is a clambering creature,
that delights in climbing up rocks and precipices; and in the same
manner the matters destined to this lower globe strongly affect to rise
upwards, as appears from the clouds and meteors.

Pan’s arms, or the ensigns he bears in his hands, are of two kinds—the
one an emblem of harmony, the other of empire. His pipe, composed of
seven reeds, plainly denotes the consent and harmony, or the concords
and discords of things, produced by the motion of the seven planets.
His crook, also, contains a fine representation of the ways of nature,
which are partly straight and partly crooked; thus the staff, having
an extraordinary bend towards the top, denotes that the works of
Divine Providence are generally brought about by remote means, or in
a circuit, as if somewhat else were intended rather than the effect
produced, as in the sending of Joseph into Egypt, &c. So likewise in
human government, they who sit at the helm, manage and wind the people
more successfully by pretext and oblique courses, than they could by
such as are direct and straight; so that, in effect, all sceptres are
crooked at the top.

Pan’s mantle, or clothing, is with great ingenuity made of a leopard’s
skin, because of the spots it has; for in like manner the heavens are
sprinkled with stars, the sea with islands, the earth with flowers, and
almost each particular thing is variegated, or wears a mottled coat.

The office of Pan could not be more livelily expressed than by making
him the god of hunters; for every natural action, every motion and
process, is no other than a chase. Thus arts and sciences hunt out
their works, and human schemes and counsels their several ends; and all
living creatures either hunt out their aliment, pursue their prey, or
seek their pleasures, and this in a skilful and sagacious manner.[622]
He is also styled the god of the rural inhabitants, because men in this
situation live more according to nature than they do in cities and
courts, where nature is so corrupted with effeminate arts, that the
saying of the poet may be verified:—

  —pars minima est ipsa puella sui.[623]

He is likewise particularly styled President of the Mountains, because
in mountains and lofty places the nature of things lies more open and
exposed to the eye and the understanding.

In his being called the messenger of the gods, next after Mercury, lies
a divine allegory, as next after the Word of God, the image of the
world is the herald of the Divine power and wisdom, according to the
expression of the Psalmist: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and
the firmament showeth his handiwork.”[624]

Pan is delighted with the company of the Nymphs, that is, the souls of
all living creatures are the delight of the world; and he is properly
called their governor, because each of them follows its own nature, as
a leader, and all dance about their own respective rings, with infinite
variety and never-ceasing motion. And with these continually join the
Satyrs and Sileni, that is, youth and age; for all things have a kind
of young, cheerful, and dancing time; and again their time of slowness,
tottering, and creeping. And whoever, in a true light, considers the
motions and endeavors of both these ages, like another Democritus, will
perhaps find them as odd and strange as the gesticulations and antic
motions of the Satyrs and Sileni.

The power he had of striking terrors contains a very sensible doctrine;
for nature has implanted fear in all living creatures, as well to
keep them from risking their lives, as to guard against injuries and
violence; and yet this nature or passion keeps not its bounds, but with
just and profitable fears always mixes such as are vain and senseless;
so that all things, if we could see their insides, would appear full
of panic terrors. Thus mankind, particularly the vulgar, labor under a
high degree of superstition, which is nothing more than a panic-dread,
that principally reigns in unsettled and troublesome times.

The presumption of Pan in challenging Cupid to the conflict denotes
that matter has an appetite and tendency to a dissolution of the world,
and falling back to its first chaos again, unless this depravity and
inclination were restrained and subdued by a more powerful concord
and agreement of things, properly expressed by Love, or Cupid: it is
therefore well for mankind, and the state of all things, that Pan was
thrown and conquered in the struggle.

His catching and detaining Typhon in the net receives a similar
explanation; for whatever vast and unusual swells, which the word
typhon signifies, may sometimes be raised in nature, as in the sea,
the clouds, the earth, or the like, yet nature catches, entangles, and
holds all such outrages and insurrections in her inextricable net,
wove, as it were, of adamant.

That part of the fable which attributes the discovery of lost Ceres to
Pan whilst he was hunting—a happiness denied the other gods, though
they diligently and expressly sought her—contains an exceeding just
and prudent admonition; viz: that we are not to expect the discovery
of things useful in common life, as that of corn, denoted by Ceres,
from abstract philosophies, as if these were the gods of the first
order,—no, not though we used our utmost endeavors this way,—but only
from Pan; that is, a sagacious experience and general knowledge of
nature, which is often found, even by accident, to stumble upon such
discoveries whilst the pursuit was directed another way.

The event of his contending with Apollo in music affords us a useful
instruction, that may help to humble the human reason and judgment,
which is too apt to boast and glory in itself. There seem to be two
kinds of harmony,—the one of Divine providence, the other of human
reason; but the government of the world, the administration of its
affairs, and the more secret Divine judgments, sound harsh and
dissonant to human ears or human judgment; and though this ignorance
be justly rewarded with asses’ ears, yet they are put on and worn, not
openly, but with great secrecy; nor is the deformity of the thing seen
or observed by the vulgar.

We must not find it strange if no amours are related of Pan besides his
marriage with Echo; for nature enjoys itself, and in itself all other
things. He that loves, desires enjoyment, but in profusion there is no
room for desire; and therefore Pan, remaining content with himself,
has no passion unless it be for discourse, which is well shadowed
out by Echo, or talk, or, when it is more accurate, by Syrinx, or
writing.[625] But Echo makes a most excellent wife for Pan, as being no
other than genuine philosophy, which faithfully repeats his words, or
only transcribes exactly as nature dictates; thus representing the true
image and reflection of the world without adding a tittle.

It tends, also, to the support and perfection of Pan, or nature, to be
without offspring; for the world generates in its parts, and not in
the way of a whole, as wanting a body external to itself wherewith to

Lastly, for the supposed or spurious prattling daughter of Pan, it is
an excellent addition to the fable, and aptly represents the talkative
philosophies that have at all times been stirring, and filled the
world with idle tales; being ever barren, empty, and servile, though
sometimes indeed diverting and entertaining, and sometimes again
troublesome and importunate.



“The fable relates, that Perseus was dispatched from the east, by
Pallas, to cut off Medusa’s head, who had committed great ravage upon
the people of the west; for this Medusa was so dire a monster, as to
turn into stone all those who but looked upon her. She was a Gorgon,
and the only mortal one of the three, the other two being invulnerable.
Perseus, therefore, preparing himself for this grand enterprise, had
presents made him from three of the gods: Mercury gave him wings for
his heels; Pluto, a helmet; and Pallas, a shield and a mirror. But,
though he was now so well equipped, he posted not directly to Medusa,
but first turned aside to the Greæ, who were half-sisters to the
Gorgons. These Greæ were grayheaded, and like old women, from their
birth, having among them all three but one eye, and one tooth, which,
as they had occasion to go out, they each wore by turns, and laid them
down again upon coming back. This eye and this tooth they lent to
Perseus, who now judging himself sufficiently furnished, he, without
further stop, flies swiftly away to Medusa, and finds her asleep.
But not venturing his eyes, for fear she should wake, he turned his
head aside, and viewed her in Pallas’s mirror, and thus directing his
stroke, cut off her head; when immediately, from the gushing blood,
there darted Pegasus winged. Perseus now inserted Medusa’s head into
Pallas’s shield, which thence retained the faculty of astonishing and
benumbing all who looked on it.”

This fable seems invented to show the prudent method of choosing,
undertaking, and conducting a war; and, accordingly, lays down three
useful precepts about it, as if they were the precepts of Pallas.

The first is, that no prince should be over-solicitous to subdue a
neighboring nation; for the method of enlarging an empire is very
different from that of increasing an estate. Regard is justly had to
contiguity, or adjacency, in private lands and possessions; but in
the extending of empire, the occasion, the facility, and advantage of
a war, are to be regarded instead of vicinity. It is certain that the
Romans, at the time they stretched but little beyond Liguria to the
west, had by their arms subdued the provinces as far as Mount Taurus to
the east. And thus Perseus readily undertook a very long expedition,
even from the east to the extremities of the west.

The second precept is, that the cause of the war be just and honorable;
for this adds alacrity both to the soldiers, and the people who
find the supplies; procures aids, alliances, and numerous other
conveniences. Now there is no cause of war more just and laudable than
the suppressing of tyranny; by which a people are dispirited, benumbed,
or left without life and vigor, as at the sight of Medusa.

Lastly, it is prudently added, that, as there were three of the
Gorgons, who represent war, Perseus singled her out for this expedition
that was mortal; which affords this precept, that such kind of wars
should be chose as may be brought to a conclusion without pursuing vast
and infinite hopes.

Again, Perseus’s setting-out is extremely well adapted to his
undertaking, and in a manner commands success; he received dispatch
from Mercury, secrecy from Pluto, and foresight from Pallas. It also
contains an excellent allegory, that the wings given him by Mercury
were for his heels, not for his shoulders; because expedition is not so
much required in the first preparations for war, as in the subsequent
matters, that administer to the first; for there is no error more
frequent in war, than, after brisk preparations, to halt for subsidiary
forces and effective supplies.

The allegory of Pluto’s helmet, rendering men invisible and secret,
is sufficiently evident of itself; but the mystery of the shield and
the mirror lies deeper; and denotes, that not only a prudent caution
must be had to defend, like the shield, but also such an address and
penetration as may discover the strength, the motions, the counsels,
and designs of the enemy; like the mirror of Pallas.

But though Perseus may now seem extremely well prepared, there still
remains the most important thing of all; before he enters upon the
war, he must of necessity consult the Greæ. These Greæ are treasons;
half, but degenerate sisters of the Gorgons; who are representatives of
wars; for wars are generous and noble; but treasons base and vile. The
Greæ are elegantly described as hoary-headed, and like old women from
their birth; on account of the perpetual cares, fears, and trepidations
attending traitors. Their force, also, before it breaks out into
open revolt, consists either in an eye or a tooth; for all faction,
alienated from a state, is both watchful and biting; and this eye and
tooth are, as it were, common to all the disaffected; because whatever
they learn and know is transmitted from one to another, as by the hands
of faction. And for the tooth, they all bite with the same: and clamor
with one throat; so that each of them singly expresses the multitude.

These Greæ, therefore, must be prevailed upon by Perseus to lend him
their eye and their tooth; the eye to give him indications, and make
discoveries; the tooth for sowing rumors, raising envy, and stirring up
the minds of the people. And when all these things are thus disposed
and prepared, then follows the action of the war.

He finds Medusa asleep; for whoever undertakes a war with prudence,
generally falls upon the enemy unprepared, and nearly in a state of
security; and here is the occasion for Pallas’s mirror: for it is
common enough, before the danger presents itself, to see exactly into
the state and posture of the enemy; but the principal use of the glass
is, in the very instant of danger, to discover the manner thereof, and
prevent consternation; which is the thing intended by Perseus’s turning
his head aside, and viewing the enemy in the glass.[627]

Two effects here follow the conquest: 1. The darting forth of Pegasus;
which evidently denotes fame, that flies abroad, proclaiming the
victory far and near. 2. The bearing of Medusa’s head in the shield,
which is the greatest possible defence and safeguard; for one grand and
memorable enterprise, happily accomplished, bridles all the motions and
attempts of the enemy, stupefies disaffection, and quells commotions.



The goddess Luna is said to have fallen in love with the shepherd
Endymion, and to have carried on her amours with him in a new and
singular manner; it being her custom, whilst he lay reposing in his
native cave, under Mount Latmus, to descend frequently from her sphere,
enjoy his company whilst he slept, and then go up to heaven again.
And all this while, Endymion’s fortune was no way prejudiced by his
unactive and sleepy life, the goddess causing his flocks to thrive,
and grow so exceeding numerous, that none of the other shepherds could
compare with him.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems to describe the tempers and dispositions
of princes, who, being thoughtful and suspicious, do not easily admit
to their privacies such men as are prying, curious, and vigilant, or,
as it were, sleepless; but rather such as are of an easy, obliging
nature, and indulge them in their pleasures, without seeking anything
further; but seeming ignorant, insensible, or, as it were, lulled
asleep before them.[628] Princes usually treat such persons familiarly;
and quitting their throne, like Luna, think they may, with safety,
unbosom to them. This temper was very remarkable in Tiberius, a prince
exceedingly difficult to please, and who had no favorites but those
that perfectly understood his way, and, at the same time, obstinately
dissembled their knowledge, almost to a degree of stupidity.

The cave is not improperly mentioned in the fable; it being a common
thing for the favorites of a prince to have their pleasant retreats,
whither to invite him, by way of relaxation, though without prejudice
to their own fortunes; these favorites usually making a good provision
for themselves.

For though their prince should not, perhaps, promote them to dignities,
yet, out of real affection, and not only for convenience, they
generally feel the enriching influence of his bounty.



The poets relate, that the giants, produced from the earth, made war
upon Jupiter, and the other gods, but were repulsed and conquered by
thunder; whereat the earth, provoked, brought forth Fame, the youngest
sister of the giants, in revenge for the death of her sons.

EXPLANATION.—The meaning of the fable seems to be this: the earth
denotes the nature of the vulgar, who are always swelling, and rising
against their rulers, and endeavoring at changes. This disposition,
getting a fit opportunity, breeds rebels and traitors, who, with
impetuous rage, threaten and contrive the overthrow and destruction of

And when brought under and subdued, the same vile and restless nature
of the people, impatient of peace, produces rumors, detractions,
slanders, libels, &c., to blacken those in authority; so that
rebellious actions and seditious rumors, differ not in origin and
stock, but only, as it were, in sex; treasons and rebellions being the
brothers, and scandal or detraction the sister.



The ancients afford us two examples for suppressing the impertinent
curiosity of mankind, in diving into secrets, and imprudently longing
and endeavoring to discover them. The one of these is in the person
of Acteon, and the other in that of Pentheus. Acteon, undesignedly
chancing to see Diana naked, was turned into a stag, and torn to pieces
by his own hounds. And Pentheus, desiring to pry into the hidden
mysteries of Bacchus’s sacrifice, and climbing a tree for that purpose,
was struck with a frenzy. This frenzy of Pentheus caused him to see
things double, particularly the sun, and his own city, Thebes, so that
running homewards, and immediately espying another Thebes, he runs
towards that; and thus continues incessantly, tending first to the one,
and then to the other, without coming at either.

EXPLANATION.—The first of these fables may relate to the secrets of
princes, and the second to divine mysteries. For they who are not
intimate with a prince, yet, against his will, have a knowledge of
his secrets, inevitably incur his displeasure; and therefore, being
aware that they are singled out, and all opportunities watched against
them, they lead the life of a stag, full of fears and suspicions. It
likewise frequently happens that their servants and domestics accuse
them, and plot their overthrow, in order to procure favor with the
prince; for whenever the king manifests his displeasure, the person it
falls upon must expect his servants to betray him, and worry him down,
as Acteon was worried by his own dogs.

The punishment of Pentheus is of another kind; for they who, unmindful
of their mortal state, rashly aspire to divine mysteries, by climbing
the heights of nature and philosophy, here represented by climbing a
tree,—their fate is perpetual inconstancy, perplexity, and instability
of judgment. For as there is one light of nature, and another
light that is divine, they see, as it were, two suns. And as the
actions of life, and the determinations of the will, depend upon the
understanding, they are distracted as much in opinion as in will; and
therefore judge very inconsistently, or contradictorily; and see, as
it were, Thebes double; for Thebes being the refuge and habitation of
Pentheus, here denotes the ends of actions; whence they know not what
course to take, but remaining undetermined and unresolved in their
views and designs, they are merely driven about by every sudden gust
and impulse of the mind.



INTRODUCTION.—The fable of Orpheus, though trite and common, has never
been well interpreted, and seems to hold out a picture of universal
philosophy; for to this sense may be easily transferred what is said
of his being a wonderful and perfectly divine person, skilled in all
kinds of harmony, subduing and drawing all things after him by sweet
and gentle methods and modulations. For the labors of Orpheus exceed
the labors of Hercules, both in power and dignity, as the works of
knowledge exceed the works of strength.

FABLE.—Orpheus having his beloved wife snatched from him by sudden
death, resolved upon descending to the infernal regions, to try if, by
the power of his harp, he could reobtain her. And, in effect, he so
appeased and soothed the infernal powers by the melody and sweetness
of his harp and voice, that they indulged him the liberty of taking
her back, on condition that she should follow him behind, and he not
turn to look upon her till they came into open day; but he, through
the impatience of his care and affection, and thinking himself almost
past danger, at length looked behind him, whereby the condition was
violated, and she again precipitated to Pluto’s regions. From this
time Orpheus grew pensive and sad, a hater of the sex, and went into
solitude, where, by the same sweetness of his harp and voice, he first
drew the wild beasts of all sorts about him; so that, forgetting their
natures, they were neither actuated by revenge, cruelty, lust, hunger,
or the desire of prey, but stood gazing about him, in a tame and gentle
manner, listening attentively to his music. Nay, so great was the power
and efficacy of his harmony, that it even caused the trees and stones
to remove, and place themselves in a regular manner about him. When
he had for a time, and with great admiration, continued to do this,
at length the Thracian women, raised by the instigation of Bacchus,
first blew a deep and hoarse-sounding horn, in such an outrageous
manner, that it quite drowned the music of Orpheus. And thus the power
which, as the link of their society, held all things in order, being
dissolved, disturbance reigned anew; each creature returned to its own
nature, and pursued and preyed upon its fellow, as before. The rocks
and woods also started back to their former places; and even Orpheus
himself was at last torn to pieces by these female furies, and his
limbs scattered all over the desert. But, in sorrow and revenge for his
death, the River Helicon, sacred to the Muses, hid its waters under
ground, and rose again in other places.

EXPLANATION.—The fable receives this explanation. The music of Orpheus
is of two kinds; one that appeases the infernal powers, and the other
that draws together the wild beasts and trees. The former properly
relates to natural, and the latter to moral philosophy, or civil
society. The reinstatement and restoration of corruptible things is
the noblest work of natural philosophy; and, in a less degree, the
preservation of bodies in their own state, or a prevention of their
dissolution and corruption. And if this be possible, it can certainly
be effected no other way than by proper and exquisite attemperations of
nature; as it were by the harmony and fine touching of the harp. But
as this is a thing of exceeding great difficulty, the end is seldom
obtained; and that, probably, for no reason more than a curious and
unseasonable impatience and solicitude.

And, therefore, philosophy, being almost unequal to the task, has cause
to grow sad, and hence betakes itself to human affairs, insinuating
into men’s minds the love of virtue, equity, and peace, by means of
eloquence and persuasion; thus forming men into societies; bringing
them under laws and regulations; and making them forget their unbridled
passions and affections, so long as they hearken to precepts and submit
to discipline. And thus they soon after build themselves habitations,
form cities, cultivate lands, plant orchards, gardens, &c. So that they
may not improperly be said to remove and call the trees and stones

And this regard to civil affairs is justly and regularly placed after
diligent trial made for restoring the mortal body; the attempt being
frustrated in the end—because the unavoidable necessity of death, thus
evidently laid before mankind, animates them to seek a kind of eternity
by works of perpetuity, character, and fame.

It is also prudently added, that Orpheus was afterwards averse to women
and wedlock, because the indulgence of the married state, and the
natural affections which men have for their children, often prevent
them from entering upon any grand, noble, or meritorious enterprise for
the public good; as thinking it sufficient to obtain immortality by
their descendants, without endeavoring at great actions.

And even the works of knowledge, though the most excellent among human
things, have their periods; for after kingdoms and commonwealths have
flourished for a time, disturbances, seditions, and wars, often arise,
in the din whereof, first the laws are silent, and not heard; and then
men return to their own depraved natures—whence cultivated lands and
cities soon become desolate and waste. And if this disorder continues,
learning and philosophy is infallibly torn to pieces; so that only
some scattered fragments thereof can afterwards be found up and down,
in a few places, like planks after a shipwreck. And barbarous times
succeeding, the River Helicon dips under-ground; that is, letters are
buried, till things having undergone their due course of changes,
learning rises again, and shows its head, though seldom in the same
place, but in some other nation.[629]



The poets relate, that Cœlum was the most ancient of all the gods;
that his parts of generation were cut off by his son Saturn; that
Saturn had a numerous offspring, but devoured all his sons, as soon
as they were born; that Jupiter at length escaped the common fate;
and when grown up, drove his father Saturn into Tartarus; usurped the
kingdom; cut off his father’s genitals, with the same knife wherewith
Saturn had dismembered Cœlum, and throwing them into the sea, thence
sprung Venus.

Before Jupiter was well established in his empire, two memorable wars
were made upon him; the first by the Titans, in subduing of whom, Sol,
the only one of the Titans who favored Jupiter, performed him singular
service; the second by the giants, who being destroyed and subdued by
the thunder and arms of Jupiter, he now reigned secure.

EXPLANATION.—This fable appears to be an enigmatical account of the
origin of all things, not greatly differing from the philosophy
afterwards embraced by Democritus, who expressly asserts the eternity
of matter, but denies the eternity of the world; thereby approaching to
the truth of sacred writ, which makes chaos, or uninformed matter, to
exist before the six days’ works.

The meaning of the fable seems to be this: Cœlum denotes the concave
space, or vaulted roof that incloses all matter, and Saturn the matter
itself, which cuts off all power of generation from his father; as one
and the same quantity of matter remains invariable in nature, without
addition or diminution. But the agitations and struggling motions of
matter, first produced certain imperfect and ill-joined compositions
of things, as it were so many first rudiments, or essays of worlds;
till, in process of time, there arose a fabric capable of preserving
its form and structure. Whence the first age was shadowed out by the
reign of Saturn; who, on account of the frequent dissolutions, and
short durations of things, was said to devour his children. And the
second age was denoted by the reign of Jupiter; who thrust, or drove
those frequent and transitory changes into Tartarus—a place expressive
of disorder. This place seems to be the middle space, between the
lower heavens and the internal parts of the earth, wherein disorder,
imperfection, mutation, mortality, destruction, and corruption, are
principally found.

Venus was not born during the former generation of things, under the
reign of Saturn; for whilst discord and jar had the upper hand of
concord and uniformity in the matter of the universe, a change of
the entire structure was necessary. And in this manner things were
generated and destroyed, before Saturn was dismembered. But when this
manner of generation ceased, there immediately followed another,
brought about by Venus, or a perfect and established harmony of things;
whereby changes were wrought in the parts, whilst the universal fabric
remained entire and undisturbed. Saturn, however, is said to be thrust
out and dethroned, not killed, and become extinct; because, agreeably
to the opinion of Democritus, the world might relapse into its old
confusion and disorder, which Lucretius hoped would not happen in his

But now, when the world was compact, and held together by its own
bulk and energy, yet there was no rest from the beginning; for first,
there followed considerable motions and disturbances in the celestial
regions, though so regulated and moderated by the power of the Sun,
prevailing over the heavenly bodies, as to continue the world in its
state. Afterwards there followed the like in the lower parts, by
inundations, storms, winds, general earthquakes, &c., which, however,
being subdued and kept under, there ensued a more peaceable and lasting
harmony, and consent of things.

It may be said of this fable, that it includes philosophy; and again,
that philosophy includes the fable; for we know, by faith, that all
these things are but the oracle of sense, long since ceased and
decayed; but the matter and fabric of the world being justly attributed
to a creator.



Proteus, according to the poets, was Neptune’s herdsman; an old man,
and a most extraordinary prophet, who understood things past and
present, as well as future; so that besides the business of divination,
he was the revealer and interpreter of all antiquity, and secrets of
every kind. He lived in a vast cave, where his custom was to tell over
his herd of sea-calves at noon, and then to sleep. Whoever consulted
him, had no other way of obtaining an answer, but by binding him with
manacles and fetters; when he, endeavoring to free himself, would
change into all kinds of shapes and miraculous forms; as of fire,
water, wild beasts, &c.; till at length he resumed his own shape again.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems to point at the secrets of nature, and
the states of matter. For the person of Proteus denotes matter, the
oldest of all things, after God himself;[631] that resides, as in a
cave, under the vast concavity of the heavens. He is represented as the
servant of Neptune, because the various operations and modifications
of matter are principally wrought in a fluid state. The herd, or flock
of Proteus, seems to be no other than the several kinds of animals,
plants, and minerals, in which matter appears to diffuse and spend
itself; so that after having formed these several species, and as it
were finished its task, it seems to sleep and repose, without otherwise
attempting to produce any new ones. And this is the moral of Proteus’s
counting his herd, then going to sleep.

This is said to be done at noon, not in the morning or evening; by
which is meant the time best fitted and disposed for the production of
species, from a matter duly prepared, and made ready beforehand, and
now lying in a middle state, between its first rudiments and decline;
which, we learn from sacred history, was the case at the time of the
creation; when, by the efficacy of the divine command, matter directly
came together, without any transformation or intermediate changes,
which it affects; instantly obeyed the order, and appeared in the form
of creatures.

And thus far the fable reaches of Proteus, and his flock, at liberty
and unrestrained. For the universe, with the common structures, and
fabrics of the creatures, is the face of matter, not under constraint,
or as the flock wrought upon and tortured by human means. But if any
skilful minister of nature shall apply force to matter, and by design
torture and vex it, in order to its annihilation, it, on the contrary,
being brought under this necessity, changes and transforms itself
into a strange variety of shapes and appearances; for nothing but the
power of the Creator can annihilate, or truly destroy it; so that
at length, running through the whole circle of transformations, and
completing its period, it in some degree restores itself, if the force
be continued. And that method of binding, torturing, or detaining, will
prove the most effectual and expeditious, which makes use of manacles
and fetters; that is, lays hold and works upon matter in the extremest

The addition in the fable that makes Proteus a prophet, who had the
knowledge of things past, present, and future, excellently agrees with
the nature of matter; as he who knows the properties, the changes, and
the processes of matter, must, of necessity, understand the effects and
sum of what it does, has done, or can do, though his knowledge extends
not to all the parts and particulars thereof.



The poets made Memnon the son of Aurora, and bring him to the
Trojan war in beautiful armor, and flushed with popular praise;
where, thirsting after further glory, and rashly hurrying on to the
greatest enterprises, he engages the bravest warrior of all the
Greeks, Achilles, and falls by his hand in single combat. Jupiter,
in commiseration of his death, sent birds to grace his funeral, that
perpetually chanted certain mournful and bewailing dirges. It is also
reported, that the rays of the rising sun, striking his statue, used to
give a lamenting sound.

EXPLANATION.—This fable regards the unfortunate end of those promising
youths, who, like sons of the morning, elate with empty hopes and
glittering outsides, attempt things beyond their strength; challenge
the bravest heroes; provoke them to the combat; and, proving unequal,
die in their high attempts.

The death of such youths seldom fails to meet with infinite pity; as no
mortal calamity is more moving and afflicting, than to see the flower
of virtue cropped before its time. Nay, the prime of life enjoyed to
the full, or even to a degree of envy, does not assuage or moderate
the grief occasioned by the untimely death of such hopeful youths;
but lamentations and bewailings fly, like mournful birds, about their
tombs, for a long while after; especially upon all fresh occasions, new
commotions, and the beginning of great actions, the passionate desire
of them is renewed, as by the sun’s morning rays.



It is elegantly fabled by Tythonus, that being exceedingly beloved by
Aurora, she petitioned Jupiter that he might prove immortal, thereby to
secure herself the everlasting enjoyment of his company; but through
female inadvertence she forgot to add, that he might never grow old; so
that, though he proved immortal, he became miserably worn and consumed
with age, insomuch that Jupiter, out of pity, at length transformed him
to a grasshopper.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems to contain an ingenious description of
pleasure; which at first, as it were in the morning of the day, is so
welcome, that men pray to have it everlasting, but forget that satiety
and weariness of it will, like old age, overtake them, though they
think not of it; so that at length, when their appetite for pleasurable
actions is gone, their desires and affections often continue; whence
we commonly find that aged persons delight themselves with the
discourse and remembrance of the things agreeable to them in their
better days. This is very remarkable in men of a loose, and men of a
military life; the former whereof are always talking over their amours,
and the latter the exploits of their youth; like grasshoppers, that
show their vigor only by their chirping.



The poets tell us, that Jupiter, to carry on his love-intrigues,
assumed many different shapes; as of a bull, an eagle, a swan, a golden
shower, &c.; but when he attempted Juno, he turned himself into the
most ignoble and ridiculous creature,—even that of a wretched, wet,
weather-beaten, affrighted, trembling and half-starved cuckoo.

EXPLANATION.—This is a wise fable, and drawn from the very entrails of
morality. The moral is, that men should not be conceited of themselves,
and imagine that a discovery of their excellences will always render
them acceptable; for this can only succeed according to the nature
and manners of the person they court, or solicit; who, if he be a man
not of the same gifts and endowments, but altogether of a haughty
and contemptuous behavior, here represented by the person of Juno,
they must entirely drop the character that carries the least show
of worth or gracefulness; if they proceed upon any other footing,
it is downright folly; nor is it sufficient to act the deformity of
obsequiousness, unless they really change themselves, and become abject
and contemptible in their persons.



The particulars related by the poets of Cupid, or Love, do not properly
agree to the same person, yet they differ only so far, that if the
confusion of persons be rejected, the correspondence may hold. They
say, that Love was the most ancient of all the gods, and existed before
every thing else, except Chaos, which is held coeval therewith. But
for Chaos, the ancients never paid divine honors, nor gave the title
of a god thereto. Love is represented absolutely without progenitor,
excepting only that he is said to have proceeded from the egg of
Nox; but that himself begot the gods, and all things else, on Chaos.
His attributes are four; viz: 1, perpetual infancy; 2, blindness; 3,
nakedness; and 4, archery.

There was also another Cupid, or Love, the youngest son of the
gods, born of Venus; and upon him the attributes of the elder are
transferred, with some degree of correspondence.

EXPLANATION.—This fable points at, and enters, the cradle of nature.
Love seems to be the appetite, or incentive, of the primitive matter;
or, to speak more distinctly, the natural motion, or moving principle,
of the original corpuscles, or atoms; this being the most ancient
and only power that made and wrought all things out of matter. It is
absolutely without parent, that is, without cause; for causes are as
parents to effects; but this power or efficacy could have no natural
cause; for, excepting God, nothing was before it; and therefore it
could have no efficient in nature. And as nothing is more inward with
nature, it can neither be a genus nor a form; and therefore, whatever
it is, it must be somewhat positive, though inexpressible. And if it
were possible to conceive its modus and process, yet it could not be
known from its cause, as being, next to God, the cause of causes, and
itself without a cause. And, perhaps, we are not to hope that the modus
of it should fall, or be comprehended, under human inquiry. Whence it
is properly feigned to be the egg of Nox, or laid in the dark.

The divine philosopher declares, that “God has made every thing
beautiful in its season; and has given over the world to our disputes
and inquiries; but that man cannot find out the work which God has
wrought, from its beginning up to its end.” Thus the summary or
collective law of nature, or the principle of love, impressed by God
upon the original particles of all things, so as to make them attack
each other and come together, by the repetition and multiplication
whereof all the variety in the universe is produced, can scarce
possibly find full admittance into the thoughts of men, though some
faint notion may be had thereof. The Greek philosophy is subtile, and
busied in discovering the material principles of things, but negligent
and languid in discovering the principles of motion, in which the
energy and efficacy of every operation consists. And here the Greek
philosophers seem perfectly blind and childish; for the opinion of the
Peripatetics, as to the stimulus of matter, by privation, is little
more than words, or rather sound than signification. And they who refer
it to God, though they do well therein, yet they do it by a start, and
not by proper degrees of assent; for doubtless there is one summary, or
capital law, in which nature meets, subordinate to God, viz: the law
mentioned in the passage above quoted from Solomon; or the work which
God has wrought from its beginning to its end.

Democritus, who further considered this subject, having first supposed
an atom, or corpuscle, of some dimension or figure, attributed thereto
an appetite, desire, or first motion simply, and another comparatively,
imagining that all things properly tended to the centre of the world;
those containing more matter falling faster to the centre, and thereby
removing, and in the shock driving away, such as held less. But this
is a slender conceit, and regards too few particulars; for neither
the revolutions of the celestial bodies, nor the contractions and
expansions of things, can be reduced to this principle. And for the
opinion of Epicurus, as to the declination and fortuitous agitation of
atoms, this only brings the matter back again to a trifle, and wraps it
up in ignorance and night.

Cupid is elegantly drawn a perpetual child; for compounds are larger
things, and have their periods of age; but the first seeds or atoms of
bodies are small, and remain in a perpetual infant state.

He is again justly represented naked; as all compounds may properly
be said to be dressed and clothed, or to assume a personage; whence
nothing remains truly naked, but the original particles of things.

The blindness of Cupid contains a deep allegory; for this same Cupid,
Love, or appetite of the world, seems to have very little foresight,
but directs his steps and motions conformably to what he finds next
him, as blind men do when they feel out their way; which renders the
divine and overruling Providence and foresight the more surprising;
as by a certain steady law, it brings such a beautiful order and
regularity of things out of what seems extremely casual, void of
design, and, as it were, really blind.

The last attribute of Cupid is archery, viz: a virtue or power
operating at a distance; for every thing that operates at a distance
may seem, as it were, to dart, or shoot with arrows. And whoever allows
of atoms and vacuity, necessarily supposes that the virtue of atoms
operates at a distance; for without this operation, no motion could be
excited, on account of the vacuum interposing, but all things would
remain sluggish and unmoved.

As to the other Cupid, he is properly said to be the youngest son
of the gods, as his power could not take place before the formation
of species, or particular bodies. The description given us of him
transfers the allegory to morality, though he still retains some
resemblance with the ancient Cupid; for as Venus universally excites
the affection of association, and the desire of procreation, her
son Cupid applies the affection to individuals; so that the general
disposition proceeds from Venus, but the more close sympathy from
Cupid. The former depends upon a near approximation of causes, but the
latter upon deeper, more necessitating and uncontrollable principles,
as if they proceeded from the ancient Cupid, on whom all exquisite
sympathies depend.



Diomed acquired great glory and honor at the Trojan war, and was highly
favored by Pallas, who encouraged and excited him by no means to spare
Venus, if he should casually meet her in fight. He followed the advice
with too much eagerness and intrepidity, and accordingly wounded that
goddess in her hand. This presumptuous action remained unpunished
for a time, and when the war was ended he returned with great glory
and renown to his own country, where, finding himself embroiled with
domestic affairs, he retired into Italy. Here also at first he was
well received and nobly entertained by King Daunus, who, besides other
gifts and honors, erected statues for him over all his dominions.
But upon the first calamity that afflicted the people after the
stranger’s arrival, Daunus immediately reflected that he entertained
a devoted person in his palace, an enemy to the gods, and one who had
sacrilegiously wounded a goddess with his sword, whom it was impious
but to touch. To expiate, therefore, his country’s guilt, he, without
regard to the laws of hospitality, which were less regarded by him
than the laws of religion, directly slew his guest, and commanded his
statues and all his honors to be razed and abolished. Nor was it safe
for others to commiserate or bewail so cruel a destiny; but even his
companions in arms, whilst they lamented the death of their leader,
and filled all places with their complaints, were turned into a kind
of swans, which are said, at the approach of their own death, to chant
sweet melancholy dirges.

EXPLANATION.—This fable intimates an extraordinary and almost singular
thing, for no hero besides Diomed is recorded to have wounded any of
the gods. Doubtless we have here described the nature and fate of a man
who professedly makes any divine worship or sect of religion, though,
in itself vain and light, the only scope of his actions, and resolves
to propagate it by fire and sword. For although the bloody dissensions
and differences about religion were unknown to the ancients, yet so
copious and diffusive was their knowledge, that what they knew not by
experience they comprehended in thought and representation. Those,
therefore, who endeavor to reform or establish any sect of religion,
though vain, corrupt, and infamous (which is here denoted under the
person of Venus), not by the force of reason, learning, sanctity of
manners, the weight of arguments, and examples, but would spread or
extirpate it by persecution, pains, penalties, tortures, fire, and
sword, may, perhaps, be instigated hereto by Pallas, that is, by a
certain rigid, prudential consideration, and a severity of judgment,
by the vigor and efficacy whereof they see thoroughly into the
fallacies and fictions of the delusions of this kind; and through
aversion to depravity and a well-meant zeal, these men usually for
a time acquire great fame and glory, and are by the vulgar, to whom
no moderate measures can be acceptable, extolled and almost adored,
as the only patrons and protectors of truth and religion, men of any
other disposition seeming, in comparison with these, to be lukewarm,
mean-spirited, and cowardly. This fame and felicity, however, seldom
endures to the end; but all violence, unless it escapes the reverses
and changes of things by untimely death, is commonly unprosperous
in the issue; and if a change of affairs happens, and that sect
of religion which was persecuted and oppressed gains strength and
rises again, then the zeal and warm endeavors of this sort of men
are condemned, their very name becomes odious, and all their honors
terminate in disgrace.

As to the point that Diomed should be slain by his hospitable
entertainer, this denotes that religious dissensions may cause
treachery, bloody animosities, and deceit, even between the nearest

That complaining or bewailing should not, in so enormous a case, be
permitted to friends affected by the catastrophe without punishment,
includes this prudent admonition, that almost in all kinds of
wickedness and depravity men have still room left for commiseration,
so that they who hate the crime may yet pity the person and bewail his
calamity, from a principle of humanity and good-nature; and to forbid
the overflowings and intercourses of pity upon such occasions were
the extremest of evils; yet in the cause of religion and impiety the
very commiserations of men are noted and suspected. On the other hand,
the lamentations and complainings of the followers and attendants of
Diomed, that is, of men of the same sect or persuasion, are usually
very sweet, agreeable, and moving, like the dying notes of swans, or
the birds of Diomed. This also is a noble and remarkable part of the
allegory, denoting that the last words of those who suffer for the sake
of religion strongly affect and sway men’s minds, and leave a lasting
impression upon the sense and memory.



The ancients have left us a description of mechanical skill, industry,
and curious arts converted to ill uses, in the person of Dædalus, a
most ingenious but execrable artist. This Dædalus was banished for the
murder of his brother artist and rival, yet found a kind reception in
his banishment from the kings and states where he came. He raised many
incomparable edifices to the honor of the gods, and invented many new
contrivances for the beautifying and ennobling of cities and public
places, but still he was most famous for wicked inventions. Among the
rest, by his abominable industry and destructive genius, he assisted
in the fatal and infamous production of the monster Minotaur, that
devourer of promising youths. And then, to cover one mischief with
another, and provide for the security of this monster, he invented
and built a labyrinth; a work infamous for its end and design, but
admirable and prodigious for art and workmanship. After this, that
he might not only be celebrated for wicked inventions, but be sought
after, as well for prevention, as for instruments of mischief, he
formed that ingenious device of his clue, which led directly through
all the windings of the labyrinth. This Dædalus was persecuted by Minos
with the utmost severity, diligence, and inquiry; but he always found
refuge and means of escaping. Lastly, endeavoring to teach his son
Icarus the art of flying, the novice, trusting too much to his wings,
fell from his towering flight, and was drowned in the sea.

EXPLANATION.—The sense of the fable runs thus. It first denotes envy,
which is continually upon the watch, and strangely prevails among
excellent artificers; for no kind of people are observed to be more
implacably and destructively envious to one another than these.

In the next place, it observes an impolitic and improvident kind of
punishment inflicted upon Dædalus—that of banishment; for good workmen
are gladly received everywhere, so that banishment to an excellent
artificer is scarce any punishment at all; whereas other conditions of
life cannot easily flourish from home. For the admiration of artists
is propagated and increased among foreigners and strangers; it being
a principle in the minds of men to slight and despise the mechanical
operators of their own nation.

The succeeding part of the fable is plain, concerning the use of
mechanic arts, whereto human life stands greatly indebted, as receiving
from this treasury numerous particulars for the service of religion,
the ornament of civil society, and the whole provision and apparatus of
life; but then the same magazine supplies instruments of lust, cruelty,
and death. For, not to mention the arts of luxury and debauchery, we
plainly see how far the business of exquisite poisons, guns, engines of
war, and such kind of destructive inventions, exceeds the cruelty and
barbarity of the Minotaur himself.

The addition of the labyrinth contains a beautiful allegory,
representing the nature of mechanic arts in general; for all ingenious
and accurate mechanical inventions may be conceived as a labyrinth,
which, by reason of their subtilty, intricacy, crossing, and
interfering with one another, and the apparent resemblances they have
among themselves, scarce any power of the judgment can unravel and
distinguish; so that they are only to be understood and traced by the
clue of experience.

It is no less prudently added, that he who invented the windings of the
labyrinth, should also show the use and management of the clue; for
mechanical arts have an ambiguous or double use, and serve as well to
produce as to prevent mischief and destruction; so that their virtue
almost destroys or unwinds itself.

Unlawful arts and indeed frequently arts themselves, are persecuted by
Minos, that is, by laws, which prohibit and forbid their use among the
people; but notwithstanding this, they are hid, concealed, retained,
and everywhere find reception and skulking-places; a thing well
observed by Tacitus of the astrologers and fortune-tellers of his time.
“These,” says he, “are a kind of men that will always be prohibited,
and yet will always be retained in our city.”

But lastly, all unlawful and vain arts, of what kind soever, lose
their reputation in tract of time; grow contemptible and perish,
through their overconfidence, like Icarus; being commonly unable to
perform what they boasted. And to say the truth, such arts are better
suppressed by their own vain pretensions, than checked or restrained by
the bridle of laws.[632]



The poets feign that Vulcan attempted the chastity of Minerva, and
impatient of refusal, had recourse to force; the consequence of which
was the birth of Ericthonius, whose body from the middle upwards was
comely and well-proportioned, but his thighs and legs small, shrunk,
and deformed, like an eel. Conscious of this defect, he became the
inventor of chariots, so as to show the graceful, but conceal the
deformed part of his body.

EXPLANATION.—This strange fable seems to carry this meaning. Art is
here represented under the person of Vulcan, by reason of the various
uses it makes of fire; and nature, under the person of Minerva, by
reason of the industry employed in her works. Art, therefore, whenever
it offers violence to nature, in order to conquer, subdue, and bend
her to its purpose, by tortures and force of all kinds, seldom obtains
the end proposed; yet upon great struggle and application, there
proceed certain imperfect births, or lame abortive works, specious in
appearance, but weak and unstable in use; which are, nevertheless,
with great pomp and deceitful appearances, triumphantly carried about,
and shown by impostors. A procedure very familiar, and remarkable in
chemical productions, and new mechanical inventions; especially when
the inventors rather hug their errors than improve upon them, and go on
struggling with nature, not courting her.



The poets tell us, that the inhabitants of the old world being totally
destroyed by the universal deluge, excepting Deucalion and Pyrrha,
these two, desiring with zealous and fervent devotion to restore
mankind, received this oracle for answer, that “they should succeed by
throwing their mother’s bones behind them.” This at first cast them
into great sorrow and despair, because, as all things were levelled by
the deluge, it was in vain to seek their mother’s tomb; but at length
they understood the expression of the oracle to signify the stones of
the earth, which is esteemed the mother of all things.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems to reveal a secret of nature, and correct
an error familiar to the mind; for men’s ignorance leads them to
expect the renovation or restoration of things from their corruption
and remains, as the phœnix is said to be restored out of its ashes;
which is a very improper procedure, because such kind of materials
have finished their course, and are become absolutely unfit to supply
the first rudiments of the same things again; whence, in cases of
renovation, recourse should be had to more common principles.



Nemesis is represented as a goddess venerated by all, but feared by the
powerful and the fortunate. She is said to be the daughter of Nox and

She is drawn with wings, and a crown; a javelin of ash in her right
hand; a glass containing Ethiopians in her left; and riding upon a stag.

EXPLANATION.—The fable receives this explanation. The word Nemesis
manifestly signifies revenge, or retribution; for the office of this
goddess consisted in interposing, like the Roman tribunes, with an “I
forbid it,” in all courses of constant and perpetual felicity, so as
not only to chastise haughtiness, but also to repay even innocent and
moderate happiness with adversity; as if it were decreed, that none
of human race should be admitted to the banquet of the gods, but for
sport. And, indeed, to read over that chapter of Pliny wherein he has
collected the miseries and misfortunes of Augustus Cæsar, whom, of
all mankind, one would judge most fortunate,—as he had a certain art
of using and enjoying prosperity, with a mind no way tumid, light,
effeminate, confused, or melancholic,—one cannot but think this a
very great and powerful goddess, who could bring such a victim to her

The parents of this goddess were Oceanus and Nox; that is, the
fluctuating change of things, and the obscure and secret divine
decrees. The changes of things are aptly represented by the Ocean, on
account of its perpetual ebbing and flowing; and secret providence
is justly expressed by Night. Even the heathens have observed this
secret Nemesis of the night, or the difference betwixt divine and human

Wings are given to Nemesis, because of the sudden and unforeseen
changes of things; for, from the earliest account of time, it has been
common for great and prudent men to fall by the dangers they most
despised. Thus Cicero, when admonished by Brutus of the infidelity
and rancor of Octavius, coolly wrote back: “I cannot, however, but be
obliged to you, Brutus, as I ought, for informing me, though of such a

Nemesis also has her crown, by reason of the invidious and malignant
nature of the vulgar, who generally rejoice, triumph, and crown her,
at the fall of the fortunate and the powerful. And for the javelin in
her right hand, it has regard to those whom she has actually struck
and transfixed. But whoever escapes her stroke, or feels not actual
calamity or misfortune, she affrights with a black and dismal sight
in her left hand; for doubtless, mortals on the highest pinnacle of
felicity have a prospect of death, diseases, calamities, perfidious
friends, undermining enemies, reverses of fortune, &c., represented
by the Ethiopians in her glass. Thus Virgil, with great elegance,
describing the battle of Actium, says of Cleopatra, that “she did not
yet perceive the two asps behind her;”[636] but soon after, which way
soever she turned, she saw whole troops of Ethiopians still before her.

Lastly, it is significantly added, that Nemesis rides upon a stag,
which is a very long-lived creature; for though perhaps some, by an
untimely death in youth, may prevent or escape this goddess, yet they
who enjoy a long flow of happiness and power, doubtless become subject
to her at length, and are brought to yield.



The ancients relate, that Hercules and Achelous being rivals in the
courtship of Deianira, the matter was contested by single combat;
when Achelous having transformed himself, as he had power to do, into
various shapes, by way of trial; at length, in the form of a fierce
wild bull, prepares himself for the fight; but Hercules still retains
his human shape, engages sharply with him, and in the issue broke off
one of the bull’s horns; and now Achelous, in great pain and fright, to
redeem his horn, presents Hercules with the cornucopia.

EXPLANATION.—This fable relates to military expeditions and
preparations; for the preparation of war on the defensive side, here
denoted by Achelous, appears in various shapes, whilst the invading
side has but one simple form, consisting either in an army, or perhaps
a fleet. But the country that expects the invasion is employed infinite
ways, in fortifying towns, blockading passes, rivers, and ports,
raising soldiers, disposing garrisons, building and breaking down
bridges, procuring aids, securing provisions, arms, ammunition, &c. So
that there appears a new face of things every day; and at length, when
the country is sufficiently fortified and prepared, it represents to
the life the form and threats of a fierce fighting bull.

On the other side, the invader presses on to the fight, fearing to be
distressed in an enemy’s country. And if after the battle he remains
master of the field, and has now broke, as it were, the horn of his
enemy, the besieged, of course, retire inglorious, affrighted, and
dismayed, to their stronghold, there endeavoring to secure themselves,
and repair their strength; leaving, at the same time, their country a
prey to the conqueror, which is well expressed by the Amalthean horn,
or cornucopia.



The fable runs, that Semele, Jupiter’s mistress, having bound him
by an inviolable oath to grant her an unknown request, desired he
would embrace her in the same form and manner he used to embrace
Juno; and the promise being irrevocable, she was burnt to death with
lightning in the performance. The embryo, however, was sewed up, and
carried in Jupiter’s thigh till the complete time of its birth; but
the burden thus rendering the father lame, and causing him pain, the
child was thence called Dionysus. When born, he was committed, for
some years, to be nursed by Proserpina; and when grown up, appeared
with so effeminate a face, that his sex seemed somewhat doubtful. He
also died, and was buried for a time, but afterwards revived. When a
youth, he first introduced the cultivation and dressing of vines, the
method of preparing wine, and taught the use thereof; whence becoming
famous, he subdued the world, even to the utmost bounds of the Indies.
He rode in a chariot drawn by tigers. There danced about him certain
deformed demons called Cobali, &c. The Muses also joined in his train.
He married Ariadne, who was deserted by Theseus. The ivy was sacred to
him. He was also held the inventor and institutor of religious rites
and ceremonies, but such as were wild, frantic, and full of corruption
and cruelty. He had also the power of striking men with frenzies.
Pentheus and Orpheus were torn to pieces by the frantic women at his
orgies; the first for climbing a tree to behold their outrageous
ceremonies, and the other for the music of his harp. But the acts of
this god are much entangled and confounded with those of Jupiter.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems to contain a little system of morality,
so that there is scarce any better invention in all ethics. Under
the history of Bacchus, is drawn the nature of unlawful desire or
affection, and disorder; for the appetite and thirst of apparent good
is the mother of all unlawful desire, though ever so destructive, and
all unlawful desires are conceived in unlawful wishes or requests,
rashly indulged or granted before they are well understood or
considered, and when the affection begins to grow warm, the mother
of it (the nature of good) is destroyed and burnt up by the heat.
And whilst an unlawful desire lies in the embryo, or unripened in
the mind, which is its father, and here represented by Jupiter, it
is cherished and concealed, especially in the inferior part of the
mind, corresponding to the thigh of the body, where pain twitches and
depresses the mind so far as to render its resolutions and actions
imperfect and lame. And even after this child of the mind is confirmed,
and gains strength by consent and habit, and comes forth into action,
it must still be nursed by Proserpina for a time; that is, it skulks
and hides its head in a clandestine manner, as it were under ground,
till at length, when the checks of shame and fear are removed, and
the requisite boldness acquired, it either assumes the pretext of
some virtue, or openly despises infamy. And it is justly observed,
that every vehement passion appears of a doubtful sex, as having the
strength of a man at first, but at last the impotence of a woman.
It is also excellently added, that Bacchus died and rose again; for
the affections sometimes seem to die and be no more; but there is no
trusting them, even though they were buried, being always apt and ready
to rise again whenever the occasion or object offers.

That Bacchus should be the inventor of wine, carries a fine allegory
with it; for every affection is cunning and subtle in discovering a
proper matter to nourish and feed it; and of all things known to
mortals, wine is the most powerful and effectual for exciting and
inflaming passions of all kinds, being, indeed, like a common fuel to

It is again, with great elegance, observed of Bacchus, that he subdued
provinces, and undertook endless expeditions, for the affections never
rest satisfied with what they enjoy, but with an endless and insatiable
appetite thirst after something further. And tigers are prettily
feigned to draw the chariot; for as soon as any affection shall, from
going on foot, be advanced to ride, it triumphs over reason, and exerts
its cruelty, fierceness, and strength against all that oppose it.

It is also humorously imagined, that ridiculous demons dance and frisk
about this chariot; for every passion produces indecent, disorderly,
interchangeable and deformed motions in the eyes, countenance, and
gesture, so that the person under the impulse, whether of anger,
insult, love, &c., though to himself he may seem grand, lofty, or
obliging, yet in the eyes of others appears mean, contemptible, or

The Muses also are found in the train of Bacchus, for there is scarce
any passion without its art, science, or doctrine to court and flatter
it; but in this respect the indulgence of men of genius has greatly
detracted from the majesty of the Muses, who ought to be the leaders
and conductors of human life, and not the handmaids of the passions.

The allegory of Bacchus falling in love with a cast mistress, is
extremely noble; for it is certain that the affections always court
and covet what has been rejected upon experience. And all those who
by serving and indulging their passions immensely raise the value of
enjoyment, should know, that whatever they covet and pursue, whether
riches, pleasure, glory, learning, or anything else, they only pursue
those things that have been forsaken and cast off with contempt by
great numbers in all ages, after possession and experience.

Nor is it without a mystery that the ivy was sacred to Bacchus, and
this for two reasons: first, because ivy is an evergreen, or flourishes
in the winter; and secondly, because it winds and creeps about so
many things, as trees, walls, and buildings, and raises itself above
them. As to the first, every passion grows fresh, strong, and vigorous
by opposition and prohibition, as it were by a kind of contrast or
antiperistasis, like the ivy in the winter. And for the second, the
predominant passion of the mind throws itself, like the ivy, round all
human actions, entwines all our resolutions, and perpetually adheres
to, and mixes itself among, or even overtops them.

And no wonder that superstitious rites and ceremonies are attributed
to Bacchus, when almost every ungovernable passion grows wanton and
luxuriant in corrupt religions; nor again, that fury and frenzy should
be sent and dealt out by him, because every passion is a short frenzy,
and if it be vehement, lasting, and take deep root, it terminates in
madness. And hence the allegory of Pentheus and Orpheus being torn to
pieces is evident; for every headstrong passion is extremely bitter,
severe, inveterate, and revengeful upon all curious inquiry, wholesome
admonition, free counsel, and persuasion.

Lastly; the confusion between the persons of Jupiter and Bacchus will
justly admit of an allegory, because noble and meritorious actions
may sometimes proceed from virtue, sound reason, and magnanimity, and
sometimes again from a concealed passion and secret desire of ill,
however they may be extolled and praised, insomuch that it is not easy
to distinguish betwixt the acts of Bacchus and the acts of Jupiter.



Atalanta, who was exceedingly fleet, contended with Hippomenes in
the course, on condition that, if Hippomenes won, he should espouse
her, or forfeit his life if he lost. The match was very unequal, for
Atalanta had conquered numbers, to their destruction. Hippomenes,
therefore, had recourse to stratagem. He procured three golden apples,
and purposely carried them with him; they started; Atalanta outstripped
him soon; then Hippomenes bowled one of his apples before her, across
the course, in order not only to make her stoop, but to draw her out
of the path. She, prompted by female curiosity, and the beauty of the
golden fruit, starts from the course to take up the apple. Hippomenes,
in the mean time, holds on his way, and steps before her; but she, by
her natural swiftness, soon fetches up her lost ground, and leaves him
again behind. Hippomenes, however, by rightly timing his second and
third throw, at length won the race, not by his swiftness, but his

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems to contain a noble allegory of the
contest betwixt art and nature. For art, here denoted by Atalanta, is
much swifter, or more expeditious in its operations than nature, when
all obstacles and impediments are removed, and sooner arrives at its
end. This appears almost in every instance. Thus, fruit comes slowly
from the kernel, but soon by inoculation or incision; clay, left to
itself, is a long time in acquiring a stony hardness, but is presently
burnt by fire into brick. So again, in human life, nature is a long
while in alleviating and abolishing the remembrance of pain, and
assuaging the troubles of the mind; but moral philosophy, which is the
art of living, performs it presently. Yet this prerogative and singular
efficacy of art is stopped and retarded to the infinite detriment of
human life, by certain golden apples; for there is no one science or
art that constantly holds on its true and proper course to the end,
but they are all continually stopping short, forsaking the track, and
turning aside to profit and convenience, exactly like Atalanta.[638]
Whence it is no wonder that art gets not the victory over nature,
nor, according to the condition of the contest, brings her under
subjection; but, on the contrary, remains subject to her, as a wife to
a husband.[639]



The ancients relate that man was the work of Prometheus, and formed of
clay; only the artificer mixed in with the mass, particles taken from
different animals. And being desirous to improve his workmanship, and
endow, as well as create, the human race, he stole up to heaven with
a bundle of birch-rods, and kindling them at the chariot of the Sun,
thence brought down fire to the earth for the service of men.

They add that, for this meritorious act, Prometheus was repayed with
ingratitude by mankind, so that, forming a conspiracy, they arraigned
both him and his invention before Jupiter. But the matter was otherwise
received than they imagined; for the accusation proved extremely
grateful to Jupiter and the gods, insomuch that, delighted with the
action, they not only indulged mankind the use of fire, but moreover
conferred upon them a most acceptable and desirable present, viz:
perpetual youth.

But men, foolishly overjoyed hereat, laid this present of the gods
upon an ass, who, in returning back with it, being extremely thirsty,
strayed to a fountain. The serpent, who was guardian thereof, would
not suffer him to drink, but upon condition of receiving the burden he
carried, whatever it should be. The silly ass complied, and thus the
perpetual renewal of youth was, for a drop of water, transferred from
men to the race of serpents.

Prometheus, not desisting from his unwarrantable practices, though now
reconciled to mankind, after they were thus tricked of their present,
but still continuing inveterate against Jupiter, had the boldness to
attempt deceit, even in a sacrifice, and is said to have once offered
up two bulls to Jupiter, but so as in the hide of one of them to wrap
all the flesh and fat of both, and stuffing out the other hide only
with the bones; then, in a religious and devout manner, gave Jupiter
his choice of the two. Jupiter, detesting this sly fraud and hypocrisy,
but having thus an opportunity of punishing the offender, purposely
chose the mock bull.

And now giving way to revenge, but finding he could not chastise the
insolence of Prometheus without afflicting the human race (in the
production whereof Prometheus had strangely and insufferably prided
himself), he commanded Vulcan to form a beautiful and graceful woman,
to whom every god presented a certain gift, whence she was called
Pandora.[640] They put into her hands an elegant box, containing all
sorts of miseries and misfortunes; but Hope was placed at the bottom
of it. With this box she first goes to Prometheus, to try if she
could prevail upon him to receive and open it; but he being upon his
guard, warily refused the offer. Upon this refusal, she comes to his
brother Epimetheus, a man of a very different temper, who rashly and
inconsiderately opens the box. When finding all kinds of miseries and
misfortunes issued out of it, he grew wise too late, and with great
hurry and struggle endeavored to clap the cover on again; but with all
his endeavor could scarce keep in Hope, which lay at the bottom.

Lastly, Jupiter arraigned Prometheus of many heinous crimes; as that he
formerly stole fire from heaven; that he contemptuously and deceitfully
mocked him by a sacrifice of bones; that he despised his present,[641]
adding withal a new crime, that he attempted to ravish Pallas; for all
which, he was sentenced to be bound in chains, and doomed to perpetual
torments. Accordingly, by Jupiter’s command, he was brought to Mount
Caucasus, and there fastened to a pillar, so firmly that he could no
way stir. A vulture or eagle stood by him, which in the daytime gnawed
and consumed his liver; but in the night the wasted parts were supplied
again; whence matter for his pain was never wanting.

They relate, however, that his punishment had an end; for Hercules
sailing the ocean, in a cup, or pitcher, presented him by the Sun,
came at length to Caucasus, shot the eagle with his arrows, and set
Prometheus free. In certain nations, also, there were instituted
particular games of the torch, to the honor of Prometheus, in which
they who ran for the prize carried lighted torches; and as any one of
these torches happened to go out, the bearer withdrew himself, and gave
way to the next; and that person was allowed to win the prize, who
first brought in his lighted torch to the goal.

EXPLANATION.—This fable contains and enforces many just and serious
considerations; some whereof have been long since well observed,
but some again remain perfectly untouched. Prometheus clearly and
expressly signifies Providence; for of all the things in nature, the
formation and endowment of man was singled out by the ancients, and
esteemed the peculiar work of Providence. The reason hereof seems,
1. That the nature of man includes a mind and understanding, which
is the seat of Providence. 2. That it is harsh and incredible to
suppose reason and mind should be raised, and drawn out of senseless
and irrational principles; whence it becomes almost inevitable, that
providence is implanted in the human mind in conformity with, and by
the direction and the design of the greater overruling Providence.
But, 3. The principal cause is this: that man seems to be the thing in
which the whole world centres, with respect to final causes; so that
if he were away, all other things would stray and fluctuate, without
end or intention, or become perfectly disjointed, and out of frame;
for all things are made subservient to man, and he receives use and
benefit from them all. Thus the revolutions, places, and periods, of
the celestial bodies, serve him for distinguishing times and seasons,
and for dividing the world into different regions; the meteors afford
him prognostications of the weather; the winds sail our ships, drive
our mills, and move our machines; and the vegetables and animals of all
kinds either afford us matter for houses and habitations, clothing,
food, physic; or tend to ease, or delight, to support, or refresh us so
that everything in nature seems not made for itself, but for man.

And it is not without reason added, that the mass of matter whereof
man was formed, should be mixed up with particles taken from different
animals, and wrought in with the clay, because it is certain, that of
all things in the universe, man is the most compounded and recompounded
body; so that the ancients, not improperly, styled him a Microcosm,
or little world within himself. For although the chemists have
absurdly, and too literally, wrested and perverted the elegance of the
term microcosm, whilst they pretend to find all kind of mineral and
vegetable matters, or something corresponding to them, in man, yet it
remains firm and unshaken, that the human body is, of all substances,
the most mixed and organical; whence it has surprising powers and
faculties; for the powers of simple bodies are but few, though certain
and quick; as being little broken, or weakened, and not counterbalanced
by mixture; but excellence and quantity of energy reside in mixture and

Man, however, in his first origin, seems to be a defenceless, naked
creature, slow in assisting himself, and standing in need of numerous
things. Prometheus, therefore, hastened to the invention of fire, which
supplies and administers to nearly all human uses and necessities,
insomuch that, if the soul may be called the form of forms, if the hand
may be called the instrument of instruments, fire may, as properly, be
called the assistant of assistants, or the helper of helps; for hence
proceed numberless operations, hence all the mechanic arts, and hence
infinite assistances are afforded to the sciences themselves.

The manner wherein Prometheus stole this fire is properly described
from the nature of the thing; he being said to have done it by applying
a rod of birch to the chariot of the Sun; for birch is used in striking
and beating, which clearly denotes the generation of fire to be from
the violent percussions and collisions of bodies; whereby the matters
struck are subtilized, rarefied, put into motion, and so prepared to
receive the heat of the celestial bodies; whence they, in a clandestine
and secret manner, collect and snatch fire, as it were by stealth, from
the chariot of the Sun.

The next is a remarkable part of the fable, which represents that
men, instead of gratitude and thanks, fell into indignation and
expostulation, accusing both Prometheus and his fire to Jupiter,—and
yet the accusation proved highly pleasing to Jupiter; so that he, for
this reason, crowned these benefits of mankind with a new bounty.
Here it may seem strange that the sin of ingratitude to a creator and
benefactor, a sin so heinous as to include almost all others, should
meet with approbation and reward. But the allegory has another view,
and denotes, that the accusation and arraignment, both of human nature
and human art among mankind, proceeds from a most noble and laudable
temper of the mind, and tends to a very good purpose; whereas the
contrary temper is odious to the gods, and unbeneficial in itself.
For they who break into extravagant praises of human nature, and the
arts in vogue, and who lay themselves out in admiring the things they
already possess, and will needs have the sciences cultivated among
them, to be thought absolutely perfect and complete, in the first
place, show little regard to the divine nature, whilst they extol their
own inventions almost as high as his perfection. In the next place,
men of this temper are unserviceable and prejudicial in life, whilst
they imagine themselves already got to the top of things, and there
rest, without further inquiry. On the contrary, they who arraign and
accuse both nature and art, and are always full of complaints against
them, not only preserve a more just and modest sense of mind, but are
also perpetually stirred up to fresh industry and new discoveries.
Is not, then, the ignorance and fatality of mankind to be extremely
pitied, whilst they remain slaves to the arrogance of a few of their
own fellows, and are dotingly fond of that scrap of Grecian knowledge,
the Peripatetic philosophy; and this to such a degree, as not only to
think all accusation or arraignment thereof useless, but even hold it
suspect and dangerous? Certainly the procedure of Empedocles, though
furious—but especially that of Democritus (who with great modesty
complained that all things were abstruse; that we know nothing; that
truth lies hid in deep pits; that falsehood is strangely joined and
twisted along with truth, &c.)—is to be preferred before the confident,
assuming, and dogmatical school of Aristotle. Mankind are, therefore,
to be admonished, that the arraignment of nature and of art is pleasing
to the gods; and that a sharp and vehement accusation of Prometheus,
though a creator, a founder, and a master, obtained new blessings and
presents from the divine bounty, and proved more sound and serviceable
than a diffusive harangue of praise and gratulation. And let men be
assured that the fond opinion that they have already acquired enough,
is a principal reason why they have acquired so little.

That the perpetual flower of youth should be the present which mankind
received as a reward for their accusation, carries this moral; that
the ancients seem not to have despaired of discovering methods, and
remedies, for retarding old age, and prolonging the period of human
life; but rather reckoned it among those things which, through sloth
and want of diligent inquiry, perish and come to nothing, after having
been once undertaken, than among such as are absolutely impossible,
or placed beyond the reach of the human power. For they signify
and intimate from the true use of fire, and the just and strenuous
accusation and conviction of the errors of art, that the divine bounty
is not wanting to men in such kind of presents, but that men indeed
are wanting to themselves, and lay such an inestimable gift upon the
back of a slow-paced ass; that is, upon the back of the heavy, dull,
lingering thing, experience; from whose sluggish and tortoise-pace
proceeds that ancient complaint of the shortness of life, and the
slow advancement of arts. And certainly it may well seem, that the
two faculties of reasoning and experience are not hitherto properly
joined and coupled together, but to be still new gifts of the gods,
separately laid, the one upon the back of a light bird, or abstract
philosophy, and the other upon an ass, or slow-paced practice and
trial. And yet good hopes might be conceived of this ass, if it were
not for his thirst and the accidents of the way. For we judge, that if
any one would constantly proceed, by a certain law and method, in the
road of experience, and not by the way thirst after such experiments as
make for profit or ostentation, nor exchange his burden, or quit the
original design for the sake of these, he might be an useful bearer of
a new and accumulated divine bounty to mankind.

That this gift of perpetual youth should pass from men to serpents,
seems added by way of ornament, and illustration to the fable; perhaps
intimating, at the same time, the shame it is for men, that they, with
their fire, and numerous arts, cannot procure to themselves those
things which nature has bestowed upon many other creatures.

The sudden reconciliation of Prometheus to mankind, after being
disappointed of their hopes, contains a prudent and useful admonition.
It points out the levity and temerity of men in new experiments,
when, not presently succeeding, or answering to expectation, they
precipitantly quit their new undertakings, hurry back to their old
ones, and grow reconciled thereto.

After the fable has described the state of man, with regard to arts
and intellectual matters, it passes on to religion; for after the
inventing and settling of arts, follows the establishment of divine
worship, which hypocrisy presently enters into and corrupts. So that by
the two sacrifices we have elegantly painted the person of a man truly
religious, and of an hypocrite. One of these sacrifices contained the
fat, or the portion of God, used for burning and incensing; thereby
denoting affection and zeal, offered up to his glory. It likewise
contained the bowels, which are expressive of charity, along with
the good and useful flesh. But the other contained nothing more than
dry bones, which nevertheless stuffed out the hide, so as to make it
resemble a fair, beautiful, and magnificent sacrifice; hereby finely
denoting the external and empty rites and barren ceremonies, wherewith
men burden and stuff out the divine worship,—things rather intended for
show and ostentation than conducing to piety. Nor are mankind simply
content with this mock-worship of God, but also impose and further it
upon him, as if he had chosen and ordained it. Certainly the prophet,
in the person of God, has a fine expostulation, as to this matter of
choice: “Is this the fasting which I have chosen, that a man should
afflict his soul for a day, and bow down his head like a bulrush?”

After thus touching the state of religion, the fable next turns to
manners, and the conditions of human life. And though it be a very
common, yet is it a just interpretation, that Pandora denotes the
pleasures and licentiousness which the cultivation and luxury of
the arts of civil life introduce, as it were, by the instrumental
efficacy of fire; whence the works of the voluptuary arts are properly
attributed to Vulcan, the God of Fire. And hence infinite miseries and
calamities have proceeded to the minds, the bodies, and the fortunes
of men, together with a late repentance; and this not in each man’s
particular, but also in kingdoms and states; for wars, and tumults, and
tyrannies, have all arisen from this same fountain, or box of Pandora.

It is worth observing, how beautifully and elegantly the fable has
drawn two reigning characters in human life, and given two examples,
or tablatures of them, under the persons of Prometheus and Epimetheus.
The followers of Epimetheus are improvident, see not far before them,
and prefer such things as are agreeable for the present; whence they
are oppressed with numerous straits, difficulties, and calamities, with
which they almost continually struggle; but in the mean time gratify
their own temper, and, for want of a better knowledge of things, feed
their minds with many vain hopes; and as with so many pleasing dreams,
delight themselves, and sweeten the miseries of life.

But the followers of Prometheus are the prudent, wary men, that look
into futurity, and cautiously guard against, prevent, and undermine
many calamities and misfortunes. But this watchful, provident temper,
is attended with a deprivation of numerous pleasures, and the loss of
various delights, whilst such men debar themselves the use even of
innocent things, and what is still worse, rack and torture themselves
with cares, fears, and disquiets; being bound fast to the pillar of
necessity, and tormented with numberless thoughts (which for their
swiftness are well compared to an eagle), that continually wound,
tear, and gnaw their liver or mind, unless, perhaps, they find some
small remission by intervals, or as it were at nights; but then
new anxieties, dreads, and fears, soon return again, as it were in
the morning. And, therefore, very few men, of either temper, have
secured to themselves the advantages of providence, and kept clear of
disquiets, troubles, and misfortunes.

Nor indeed can any man obtain this end without the assistance of
Hercules; that is, of such fortitude and constancy of mind as stands
prepared against every event, and remains indifferent to every change;
looking forward without being daunted, enjoying the good without
disdain, and enduring the bad without impatience. And it must be
observed, that even Prometheus had not the power to free himself,
but owed his deliverance to another; for no natural inbred force and
fortitude could prove equal to such a task. The power of releasing him
came from the utmost confines of the ocean, and from the sun; that is,
from Apollo, or knowledge; and again, from a due consideration of the
uncertainty, instability, and fluctuating state of human life, which
is aptly represented by sailing the ocean. Accordingly, Virgil has
prudently joined these two together, accounting him happy who knows the
causes of things, and has conquered all his fears, apprehensions, and

It is added, with great elegance, for supporting and confirming the
human mind, that the great hero who thus delivered him sailed the ocean
in a cup, or pitcher, to prevent fear, or complaint; as if, through
the narrowness of our nature, or a too great fragility thereof, we
were absolutely incapable of that fortitude and constancy to which
Seneca finely alludes, when he says: “It is a noble thing, at once to
participate in the frailty of man and the security of a god.”

We have hitherto, that we might not break the connection of things,
designedly omitted the last crime of Prometheus—that of attempting
the chastity of Minerva—which heinous offence it doubtless was, that
caused the punishment of having his liver gnawed by the vulture. The
meaning seems to be this,—that when men are puffed up with arts and
knowledge, they often try to subdue even the divine wisdom and bring
it under the dominion of sense and reason, whence inevitably follows a
perpetual and restless rending and tearing of the mind. A sober and
humble distinction must, therefore, be made betwixt divine and human
things, and betwixt the oracles of sense and faith, unless mankind had
rather choose an heretical religion, and a fictitious and romantic

The last particular in the fable is the Games of the Torch, instituted
to Prometheus, which again relates to arts and sciences, as well as the
invention of fire, for the commemoration and celebration whereof these
games were held. And here we have an extremely prudent admonition,
directing us to expect the perfection of the sciences from succession,
and not from the swiftness and abilities of any single person; for
he who is fleetest and strongest in the course may perhaps be less
fit to keep his torch alight, since there is danger of its going
out from too rapid as well as from too slow a motion.[644] But this
kind of contest, with the torch, seems to have been long dropped and
neglected; the sciences appearing to have flourished principally in
their first authors, as Aristotle, Galen, Euclid, Ptolemy, &c.; whilst
their successors have done very little, or scarce made any attempts.
But it were highly to be wished that these games might be renewed,
to the honor of Prometheus, or human nature, and that they might
excite contest, emulation, and laudable endeavors, and the design meet
with such success as not to hang tottering, tremulous, and hazarded,
upon the torch of any single person. Mankind, therefore, should be
admonished to rouse themselves, and try and exert their own strength
and chance, and not place all their dependence upon a few men, whose
abilities and capacities, perhaps, are not greater than their own.

These are the particulars which appear to us shadowed out by this trite
and vulgar fable, though without denying that there may be contained
in it several intimations that have a surprising correspondence with
the Christian mysteries. In particular, the voyage of Hercules, made
in a pitcher, to release Prometheus, bears an allusion to the word of
God, coming in the frail vessel of the flesh to redeem mankind. But we
indulge ourselves no such liberties as these, for fear of using strange
fire at the altar of the Lord.



Mediocrity, or the holding a middle course, has been highly extolled in
morality, but little in matters of science, though no less useful and
proper here; whilst in politics it is held suspected, and ought to be
employed with judgment. The ancients described mediocrity in manners by
the course prescribed to Icarus; and in matters of the understanding
by the steering betwixt Scylla and Charybdis, on account of the great
difficulty and danger in passing those straits.

Icarus, being to fly across the sea, was ordered by his father neither
to soar too high nor fly too low, for, as his wings were fastened
together with wax, there was danger of its melting by the sun’s heat in
too high a flight, and of its becoming less tenacious by the moisture
if he kept too near the vapor of the sea. But he, with a juvenile
confidence, soared aloft, and fell down headlong.

EXPLANATION.—The fable is vulgar, and easily interpreted; for the path
of virtue lies straight between excess on the one side, and defect on
the other. And no wonder that excess should prove the bane of Icarus,
exulting in juvenile strength and vigor; for excess is the natural vice
of youth, as defect is that of old age; and if a man must perish by
either, Icarus chose the better of the two; for all defects are justly
esteemed more depraved than excesses. There is some magnanimity in
excess, that, like a bird, claims kindred with the heavens; but defect
is a reptile, that basely crawls upon the earth. It was excellently
said by Heraclitus: “A dry light makes the best soul;” for if the soul
contracts moisture from the earth, it perfectly degenerates and sinks.
On the other hand, moderation must be observed, to prevent this fine
light from burning, by its too great subtility and dryness. But these
observations are common.

In matters of the understanding, it requires great skill and a
particular felicity to steer clear of Scylla and Charybdis. If the ship
strikes upon Scylla, it is dashed in pieces against the rocks; if upon
Charybdis, it is swallowed outright. This allegory is pregnant with
matter; but we shall only observe the force of it lies here, that a
mean be observed in every doctrine and science, and in the rules and
axioms thereof, between the rocks of distinctions and the whirlpools
of universalities: for these two are the bane and shipwreck of fine
geniuses and arts.



They relate that Sphinx was a monster, variously formed, having the
face and voice of a virgin, the wings of a bird, and the talons of a
griffin. She resided on the top of a mountain, near the city Thebes,
and also beset the highways. Her manner was to lie in ambush and seize
the travellers, and having them in her power, to propose to them
certain dark and perplexed riddles, which it was thought she received
from the Muses, and if her wretched captives could not solve and
interpret these riddles, she, with great cruelty, fell upon them, in
their hesitation and confusion, and tore them to pieces. This plague
having reigned a long time, the Thebans at length offered their kingdom
to the man who could interpret her riddles, there being no other way
to subdue her. Œdipus, a penetrating and prudent man, though lame
in his feet, excited by so great a reward, accepted the condition, and
with a good assurance of mind, cheerfully presented himself before the
monster, who directly asked him: “What creature that was, which, being
born four-footed, afterwards became two-footed, then three-footed, and
lastly four-footed again?” Œdipus, with presence of mind, replied it
was man, who, upon his first birth and infant state, crawled upon all
fours in endeavoring to walk; but not long after went upright upon his
two natural feet; again, in old age walked three-footed, with a stick;
and at last, growing decrepit, lay four-footed confined to his bed;
and having by this exact solution obtained the victory, he slew the
monster, and, laying the carcass upon an ass, led her away in triumph;
and upon this he was, according to the agreement, made king of Thebes.

EXPLANATION.—This is an elegant, instructive fable, and seems invented
to represent science, especially as joined with practice. For science
may, without absurdity, be called a monster, being strangely gazed
at and admired by the ignorant and unskilful. Her figure and form
is various, by reason of the vast variety of subjects that science
considers; her voice and countenance are represented female, by
reason of her gay appearance and volubility of speech; wings are
added, because the sciences and their inventions run and fly about
in a moment, for knowledge like light communicated from one torch
to another, is presently caught and copiously diffused; sharp and
hooked talons are elegantly attributed to her, because the axioms and
arguments of science enter the mind, lay hold of it, fix it down, and
keep it from moving or slipping away. This the sacred philosopher
observed, when he said: “The words of the wise are like goads or nails
driven far in.”[645] Again, all science seems placed on high, as it
were on the tops of mountains that are hard to climb; for science is
justly imagined a sublime and lofty thing, looking down upon ignorance
from an eminence, and at the same time taking an extensive view on all
sides, as is usual on the tops of mountains. Science is said to beset
the highways, because through all the journey and peregrination of
human life there is matter and occasion offered of contemplation.

Sphinx is said to propose various difficult questions and riddles to
men, which she received from the Muses; and these questions, so long
as they remain with the Muses, may very well be unaccompanied with
severity, for while there is no other end of contemplation and inquiry
but that of knowledge alone, the understanding is not oppressed, or
driven to straits and difficulties, but expatiates and ranges at large,
and even receives a degree of pleasure from doubt and variety; but
after the Muses have given over their riddles to Sphinx, that is, to
practice, which urges and impels to action, choice, and determination,
then it is that they become torturing, severe, and trying, and, unless
solved and interpreted, strangely perplex and harass the human mind,
rend it every way, and perfectly tear it to pieces. All the riddles of
Sphinx, therefore, have two conditions annexed, viz: dilaceration to
those who do not solve them, and empire to those that do. For he who
understands the thing proposed, obtains his end, and every artificer
rules over his work.[646]

Sphinx has no more than two kinds of riddles, one relating to the
nature of things, the other to the nature of man; and correspondent to
these, the prizes of the solution are two kinds of empire,—the empire
over nature, and the empire over man. For the true and ultimate end of
natural philosophy is dominion over natural things, natural bodies,
remedies, machines, and numberless other particulars, though the
schools, contented with what spontaneously offers, and swollen with
their own discourses, neglect, and in a manner despise, both things and

But the riddle proposed to Œdipus, the solution whereof acquired
him the Theban kingdom, regarded the nature of man; for he who has
thoroughly looked into and examined human nature, may in a manner
command his own fortune, and seems born to acquire dominion and rule.
Accordingly, Virgil properly makes the arts of government to be the
arts of the Romans.[647] It was, therefore, extremely apposite in
Augustus Cæsar to use the image of Sphinx in his signet, whether this
happened by accident or by design; for he of all men was deeply versed
in politics, and through the course of his life very happily solved
abundance of new riddles with regard to the nature of man; and unless
he had done this with great dexterity and ready address, he would
frequently have been involved in imminent danger, if not destruction.

It is with the utmost elegance added in the fable, that when Sphinx was
conquered, her carcass was laid upon an ass; for there is nothing so
subtile and abstruse, but after being once made plain, intelligible,
and common, it may be received by the slowest capacity.

We must not omit that Sphinx was conquered by a lame man, and impotent
in his feet; for men usually make too much haste to the solution of
Sphinx’s riddles; whence it happens, that she prevailing, their minds
are rather racked and torn by disputes, than invested with command by
works and effects.



They tell us, Pluto having, upon that memorable division of empire
among the gods, received the infernal regions for his share, despaired
of winning any one of the goddesses in marriage by an obsequious
courtship, and therefore through necessity resolved upon a rape.
Having watched his opportunity, he suddenly seized upon Proserpine,
a most beautiful virgin, the daughter of Ceres, as she was gathering
narcissus flowers in the meads of Sicily, and hurrying her to his
chariot, carried her with him to the subterraneal regions, where she
was treated with the highest reverence, and styled the Lady of Dis.
But Ceres, missing her only daughter, whom she extremely loved, grew
pensive and anxious beyond measure, and taking a lighted torch in her
hand, wandered the world over in quest of her daughter,—but all to no
purpose, till, suspecting she might be carried to the infernal regions,
she, with great lamentation and abundance of tears, importuned Jupiter
to restore her; and with much ado prevailed so far as to recover and
bring her away, if she had tasted nothing there. This proved a hard
condition upon the mother, for Proserpine was found to have eaten three
kernels of a pomegranate. Ceres, however, desisted not, but fell to
her entreaties and lamentations afresh, insomuch that at last it was
indulged her that Proserpine should divide the year betwixt her husband
and her mother, and live six months with the one and as many with the
other. After this, Theseus and Perithous, with uncommon audacity,
attempted to force Proserpine away from Pluto’s bed, but happening
to grow tired in their journey, and resting themselves upon a stone
in the realms below, they could never rise from it again, but remain
sitting there forever. Proserpine, therefore, still continued queen of
the lower regions, in honor of whom there was also added this grand
privilege, that though it had never been permitted any one to return
after having once descended thither, a particular exception was made,
that he who brought a golden bough as a present to Proserpine, might
on that condition descend and return. This was an only bough that
grew in a large dark grove, not from a tree of its own, but like the
mistletoe from another, and when plucked away a fresh one always shot
out in its stead.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems to regard natural philosophy, and
searches deep into that rich and fruitful virtue and supply in
subterraneous bodies, from whence all the things upon the earth’s
surface spring, and into which they again relapse and return. By
Proserpine, the ancients denoted that ethereal spirit shut up and
detained within the earth, here represented by Pluto,—the spirit being
separated from the superior globe, according to the expression of
the poet.[648] This spirit is conceived as ravished, or snatched up
by the earth, because it can in no way be detained, when it has time
and opportunity to fly off, but is only wrought together and fixed
by sudden intermixture and comminution, in the same manner as if one
should endeavor to mix air with water, which cannot otherwise be done
than by a quick and rapid agitation, that joins them together in froth
whilst the air is thus caught up by the water. And it is elegantly
added, that Proserpine was ravished whilst she gathered narcissus
flowers, which have their name from numbedness or stupefaction; for the
spirit we speak of is in the fittest disposition to be embraced by
terrestrial matter when it begins to coagulate, or grow torpid as it

It is an honor justly attributed to Proserpine, and not to any other
wife of the gods, that of being the lady or mistress of her husband,
because this spirit performs all its operations in the subterraneal
regions, whilst Pluto, or the earth, remains stupid, or as it were
ignorant of them.

The ether, or the efficacy of the heavenly bodies, denoted by Ceres,
endeavors with infinite diligence to force out this spirit, and restore
it to its pristine state. And by the torch in the hand of Ceres, or
the ether, is doubtless meant the sun, which disperses light over
the whole globe of the earth, and if the thing were possible, must
have the greatest share in recovering Proserpine, or reinstating
the subterraneal spirit. Yet Proserpine still continues and dwells
below, after the manner excellently described in the condition betwixt
Jupiter and Ceres. For first, it is certain that there are two ways
of detaining the spirit, in solid and terrestrial matter,—the one by
condensation or obstruction, which is mere violence and imprisonment;
the other by administering a proper aliment, which is spontaneous
and free. For after the included spirit begins to feed and nourish
itself, it is not in a hurry to fly off, but remains as it were fixed
in its own earth. And this is the moral of Proserpine’s tasting the
pomegranate; and were it not for this, she must long ago have been
carried up by Ceres, who with her torch wandered the world over, and
so the earth have been left without its spirit. For though the spirit
in metals and minerals may perhaps be, after a particular manner,
wrought in by the solidity of the mass, yet the spirit of vegetables
and animals has open passages to escape at, unless it be willingly
detained, in the way of sipping and tasting them.

The second article of agreement, that of Proserpine’s remaining
six months with her mother and six with her husband, is an elegant
description of the division of the year; for the spirit diffused
through the earth lives above-ground in the vegetable world during the
summer months, but in the winter returns under ground again.

The attempt of Theseus and Perithous to bring Proserpine away, denotes
that the more subtile spirits, which descend in many bodies to the
earth, may frequently be unable to drink in, unite with themselves, and
carry off the subterraneous spirit, but on the contrary be coagulated
by it, and rise no more, so as to increase the inhabitants and add to
the dominion of Proserpine.[649]

The alchemists will be apt to fall in with our interpretation of the
golden bough, whether we will or no, because they promise golden
mountains, and the restoration of natural bodies from their stone,
as from the gates of Pluto; but we are well assured that their theory
had no just foundation, and suspect they have no very encouraging or
practical proofs of its soundness. Leaving, therefore, their conceits
to themselves, we shall freely declare our own sentiments upon this
last part of the fable. We are certain, from numerous figures and
expressions of the ancients, that they judged the conservation, and
in some degree the renovation, of natural bodies to be no desperate
or impossible thing, but rather abstruse and out of the common road
than wholly impracticable. And this seems to be their opinion in the
present case, as they have placed this bough among an infinite number
of shrubs, in a spacious and thick wood. They supposed it of gold,
because gold is the emblem of duration. They feigned it adventitious,
not native, because such an effect is to be expected from art, and not
from any medicine or any simple or mere natural way of working.



The ancient poets relate that Jupiter took Metis to wife, whose name
plainly denotes counsel, and that he, perceiving she was pregnant by
him, would by no means wait the time of her delivery, but directly
devoured her; whence himself also became pregnant, and was delivered in
a wonderful manner; for he from his head or brain brought forth Pallas

EXPLANATION.—This fable, which in its literal sense appears monstrously
absurd, seems to contain a state secret, and shows with what art kings
usually carry themselves towards their council, in order to preserve
their own authority and majesty not only inviolate, but so as to have
it magnified and heightened among the people. For kings commonly
link themselves, as it were, in a nuptial bond to their council, and
deliberate and communicate with them after a prudent and laudable
custom upon matters of the greatest importance, at the same time justly
conceiving this no diminution of their majesty; but when the matter
once ripens to a decree or order, which is a kind of birth, the king
then suffers the council to go on no further, lest the act should seem
to depend upon their pleasure. Now, therefore, the king usually assumes
to himself whatever was wrought, elaborated, or formed, as it were, in
the womb of the council (unless it be a matter of an invidious nature,
which he is sure to put from him), so that the decree and the execution
shall seem to flow from himself.[650] And as this decree or execution
proceeds with prudence and power, so as to imply necessity, it is
elegantly wrapped up under the figure of Pallas armed.

Nor are kings content to have this seem the effect of their own
authority, free will, and uncontrollable choice, unless they also take
the whole honor to themselves, and make the people imagine that all
good and wholesome decrees proceed entirely from their own head, that
is, their own sole prudence and judgment.



INTRODUCTION.—The fable of the Sirens is, in a vulgar sense, justly
enough explained of the pernicious incentives to pleasure; but the
ancient mythology seems to us like a vintage ill-pressed and trod; for
though something has been drawn from it, yet all the more excellent
parts remain behind in the grapes that are untouched.

FABLE.—The Sirens are said to be the daughters of Achelous and
Terpsichore, one of the Muses. In their early days they had wings,
but lost them upon being conquered by the Muses, with whom they
rashly contended; and with the feathers of these wings the Muses made
themselves crowns, so that from this time the Muses wore wings on their
heads, except only the mother to the Sirens.

These Sirens resided in certain pleasant islands, and when, from their
watch-tower, they saw any ship approaching, they first detained the
sailors by their music, then, enticing them to shore, destroyed them.

Their singing was not of one and the same kind, but they adapted their
tunes exactly to the nature of each person, in order to captivate and
secure him. And so destructive had they been, that these islands of
the Sirens appeared, to a very great distance, white with the bones of
their unburied captives.

Two different remedies were invented to protect persons against them,
the one by Ulysses, the other by Orpheus. Ulysses commanded his
associates to stop their ears close with wax; and he, determining to
make the trial, and yet avoid the danger, ordered himself to be tied
fast to a mast of the ship, giving strict charge not to be unbound,
even though himself should entreat it; but Orpheus, without any binding
at all, escaped the danger, by loudly chanting to his harp the praises
of the gods, whereby he drowned the voices of the Sirens.

EXPLANATION.—This fable is of the moral kind, and appears no less
elegant than easy to interpret. For pleasures proceed from plenty and
affluence, attended with activity or exultation of the mind.[651]
Anciently their first incentives were quick, and seized upon men
as if they had been winged, but learning and philosophy afterwards
prevailing, had at least the power to lay the mind under some
restraint, and make it consider the issue of things, and thus deprived
pleasures of their wings.

This conquest redounded greatly to the honor and ornament of the
Muses; for after it appeared, by the example of a few, that philosophy
could introduce a contempt of pleasures, it immediately seemed to be a
sublime thing that could raise and elevate the soul, fixed in a manner
down to the earth, and thus render men’s thoughts, which reside in the
head, winged as it were, or sublime.

Only the mother of the Sirens was not thus plumed on the head, which
doubtless denotes superficial learning, invented and used for delight
and levity; an eminent example whereof we have in Petronius, who,
after receiving sentence of death, still continued his gay frothy
humor, and as Tacitus observes, used his learning to solace or divert
himself, and instead of such discourses as give firmness and constancy
of mind, read nothing but loose poems and verses.[652] Such learning as
this seems to pluck the crowns again from the Muses’ heads, and restore
them to the Sirens.

The Sirens are said to inhabit certain islands, because pleasures
generally seek retirement, and often shun society. And for their songs,
with the manifold artifice and destructiveness thereof, this is too
obvious and common to need explanation. But that particular of the
bones stretching like white cliffs along the shores, and appearing afar
off, contains a more subtile allegory, and denotes that the examples of
others’ calamity and misfortunes, though ever so manifest and apparent,
have yet but little force to deter the corrupt nature of man from

The allegory of the remedies against the Sirens is not difficult, but
very wise and noble; it proposes, in effect, three remedies, as well
against subtile as violent mischiefs, two drawn from philosophy and one
from religion.

The first means of escaping is to resist the earliest temptation in
the beginning, and diligently avoid and cut off all occasions that may
solicit or sway the mind; and this is well represented by shutting up
the ears, a kind of remedy to be necessarily used with mean and vulgar
minds, such as the retinue of Ulysses.

But nobler spirits may converse, even in the midst of pleasures, if
the mind be well guarded with constancy and resolution. And thus some
delight to make a severe trial of their own virtue, and thoroughly
acquaint themselves with the folly and madness of pleasures, without
complying or being wholly given up to them; which is what Solomon
professes of himself when he closes the account of all the numerous
pleasures he gave a loose to, with this expression: “But wisdom still
continued with me.” Such heroes in virtue may, therefore, remain
unmoved by the greatest incentives to pleasure, and stop themselves on
the very precipice of danger; if, according to the example of Ulysses,
they turn a deaf ear to pernicious counsel, and the flatteries of their
friends and companions, which have the greatest power to shake and
unsettle the mind.

But the most excellent remedy, in every temptation, is that of Orpheus,
who, by loudly chanting and resounding the praises of the gods,
confounded the voices, and kept himself from hearing the music of the
Sirens; for divine contemplations exceed the pleasures of sense, not
only in power but also in sweetness.


[1] By B. Montagu. Appendix, note 3, 1.

[2] Baconiana, 201.

[3] Bacon’s Apophthegms.

[4] It is not surprising that ladies then received an education rare
in our own times. It should be remembered that in the sixteenth
century Latin was the language of courts and schools, of diplomacy,
politics, and theology; it was the universal language, and there was
then no literature in the modern tongues, except the Italian; indeed
all knowledge, ancient and modern, was conveyed to the world in the
language of the ancients. The great productions of Athens and Rome
were the intellectual all of our ancestors down to the middle of the
sixteenth century.

[5] _Prospetto delle Memorie aneddote dei Lincei da_ F. Cancellieri.
Roma, 1823. This fact is quoted by Monsieur Cousin, in a note to his
_Fragments de Philosophie Cartésienne_.

[6] Sir Robert Cecil.

[7] Gray’s Inn is one of the four Inns or companies for the study of

[8] King’s or Queen’s Counsel are barristers that plead for the
government; they receive fees but no salary; the first were appointed
in the reign of Charles II. Queen’s Counsel extraordinary was a title
peculiar to Bacon, granted, as the patent specially states, _honoris

[9] Letter to Lord Burleigh.

[10] The Solicitor-General is a law-officer inferior in rank to the
Attorney-General, with whom he is associated in the management of the
law business of the crown. He pleads also for private individuals, but
not against government. He has a small salary, but very considerable
fees. The salary in Bacon’s time was but seventy pounds.

[11] Bacon was, like other courtiers, in the habit of presenting the
Queen with a New Year’s gift. On one occasion, it was a white satin
petticoat embroidered with snakes and fruitage, as emblems of wisdom
and beauty. The donors varied in rank from the Lord Keeper down to the

[12] Essays.

[13] The Attorney-General is the public prosecutor on behalf of the
Crown, where the state is actually and not nominally the prosecutor.
He pleads also as a barrister in private causes, provided they are not
against the government. As he receives a fee for every case in which
the government is concerned, his emoluments are considerable; but he
has no salary. His official position secures to him the best practice
at the bar. The salary was, in Bacon’s time, but 81_l._ 6_s._ 8_d._ per
annum; but the situation yielded him six thousand pounds yearly.

[14] Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy.

[15] Essay xvi.

[16] Decisions being given against the parties is no proof of
uncorruptness; it is always the party who loses his suit that
complains; the gainer receives the price of his bribe, and is silent.

[17] The exactions of his servants appear to have been very great;
their indulgence in every kind of extravagance, and the lavish
profuseness of his own expenses, were the principal causes of his ruin.
Mallet relates that one day, during the investigation into his conduct,
the Chancellor passed through a room where several of his servants were
sitting; as they arose from their seats to greet him, “Sit down, my
masters,” exclaimed he, “your rise hath been my fall.”

[18] Essay xi.

[19] Macaulay’s Essays.

[20] He was not, as has been erroneously supposed, stripped of his
titles of nobility; this was proposed; but it was negatived by the
majority formed by means of the bishops.

[21] The Prince of Wales, afterwards Charles the First, was before he
ascended the throne the patron of Bacon, who said of him in his will,
“my most gracious sovereign, who _ever when he was prince_ was my

[22] The Seasons.

[23] Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of

[24] Bracton is one of the earliest writers of English law. He
flourished in the thirteenth century. The title of his work is _De
Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliæ_, first printed in 1569.

[25] The woods on his estate of Gorhambury.

[26] Of the Interpretation of Nature.

[27] Ibid.

[28] New Atlantis.

[29] Advancement of Learning.

[30] Edinburgh Review.

[31] Essays.

[32] Advancement of Learning.

[33] Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy.

[34] Tattler, No. 267.

[35] Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the fifteenth,
sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries.

[36] Montaigne says, in his author’s address to the reader:—

“_Ie veulx qu’on m’y veoye en ma façon simple, naturelle et ordinaire,
sans estude et artifice; car c’est moi que je peinds._” He says again
elsewhere: “_Ie n’ay pas plus faict mon livre, que mon livre m’a faict;
livre consubstantiel à son aucteur, d’une occupation propre, membre de
ma vie, non d’une occupation et fin tierce et estrangiere, comme touts
aultres livres_.” (Livre ii. ch. xviii.)

[37] Introduction to the Encyclopædia.

[38] Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the fifteenth,
sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries.

[39] Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the 15th, 16th, and
17th centuries.

[40] No. 267.

[41] Essays.

[42] He refers to the following passage in the Gospel of St. John,
xviii. 38: “Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said
this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in
him no fault at all.”

[43] He probably refers to the “New Academy,” a sect of Greek
philosophers, one of whose moot questions was, “What is truth?” Upon
which they came to the unsatisfactory conclusion, that mankind has no
criterion by which to form a judgment.

[44] Perhaps he was thinking of St. Augustine.—See _Aug. Confess._ i.
25, 26.

[45] “The wine of evil spirits.”

[46] Genesis i. 3: “And God said, Let there be light, and there was

[47] At the moment when “The Lord God formed man out of the dust of
the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man
became a living soul.”—_Genesis_ ii. 7.

[48] Lucretius, the Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher, is alluded
to.—_Lucret._ ii. _init._ Comp. _Adv. of Learning_, i. 8, 5.

[49] He refers to the sect which followed the doctrines of Epicurus.
The life of Epicurus himself was pure and abstemious in the extreme.
One of his leading tenets was, that the aim of all speculation should
be to enable men to judge with certainty what course is to be chosen,
in order to secure health of body and tranquillity of mind. The
adoption, however, of the term “pleasure,” as denoting this object,
has at all periods subjected the Epicurean system to great reproach;
which, in fact, is due rather to the conduct of many who, for their own
purposes, have taken shelter under the system in name only, than to
the tenets themselves, which did not inculcate libertinism. Epicurus
admitted the existence of the Gods, but he deprived them of the
characteristics of Divinity, either as creators or preservers of the

[50] Lord Bacon has either translated this passage of Lucretius from
memory or has purposely paraphrased it. The following is the literal
translation of the original: “’Tis a pleasant thing, from the shore,
to behold the dangers of another upon the mighty ocean, when the
winds are lashing the main; not because it is a grateful pleasure
for any one to be in misery, but because it is a pleasant thing to
see those misfortunes from which you yourself are free: ’tis also
a pleasant thing to behold the mighty contests of warfare, arrayed
upon the plains, without a share in the danger; but nothing is there
more delightful than to occupy the elevated temples of the wise, well
fortified by tranquil learning, whence you may be able to look down
upon others, and see them straying in every direction, and wandering in
search of the path of life.”

[51] Michael de Montaigne, the celebrated French Essayist. His _Essays_
embrace a variety of topics, which are treated in a sprightly and
entertaining manner, and are replete with remarks indicative of strong
native good sense. He died in 1592. The following quotation is from
the second book of the _Essays_, c. 18: “Lying is a disgraceful vice,
and one that Plutarch, an ancient writer, paints in most disgraceful
colors, when he says that it is ‘affording testimony that one _first_
despises God, and then fears men;’ it is not possible more happily to
describe its horrible, disgusting, and abandoned nature; for, can we
imagine anything more vile than to be cowards with regard to men, and
brave with regard to God?”

[52] St. Luke xviii. 8: “Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh,
shall he find faith upon the earth?”

[53] A portion of this _Essay_ is borrowed from the writings of Seneca.
See his _Letters to Lucilius_, B. iv. Ep. 24 and 82.

[54] “The array of the death-bed has more terrors than death itself.”
This quotation is from Seneca.

[55] He probably alludes to the custom of hanging the room in black
where the body of the deceased lay, a practice much more usual in
Bacon’s time than at the present day.

[56] Tacit. Hist. ii. 49.

[57] Ad Lucil. 77.

[58] “Reflect how often you do the same things; a man may wish to die,
not only because either he is brave or wretched, but even because he is
surfeited with life.”

[59] “Livia, mindful of our union, live on, and fare thee well.”—_Suet.
Aug. Vit._ c. 100.

[60] “His bodily strength and vitality were now forsaking Tiberius, but
not his duplicity.”—_Ann._ vi. 50.

[61] This was said as a reproof to his flatterers, and in spirit is not
unlike the rebuke administered by Canute to his retinue.—_Suet. Vespas.
Vit._ c. 23.

[62] “I am become a Divinity, I suppose.”

[63] “If it be for the advantage of the Roman people, strike.”—_Tac.
Hist._ i. 41.

[64] “If aught remains to be done by me, dispatch.”—_Dio Cass._ 76, _ad

[65] These were the followers of Zeno, a philosopher of Citium, in
Cyprus, who founded the Stoic school, or “School of the Portico,” at
Athens. The basis of his doctrines was the duty of making virtue the
object of all our researches. According to him, the pleasures of the
mind were preferable to those of the body, and his disciples were
taught to view with indifference health or sickness, riches or poverty,
pain or pleasure.

[66] “Who reckons the close of his life among the boons of nature.”
Lord Bacon here quotes from memory; the passage is in the tenth Satire
of Juvenal, and runs thus:—

  “Fortem posce animum, mortis terrore carentem,
  Qui spatium vitæ extremum inter munera ponat

“Pray for strong resolve, void of the fear of death, that reckons the
closing period of life among the boons of nature.”

[67] He alludes to the song of Simeon, to whom the Holy Ghost had
revealed, “that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s
Christ.” When he beheld the infant Jesus in the temple, he took
the child in his arms and burst forth into a song of thanksgiving,
commencing, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”—_St.
Luke_ ii. 29.

[68] “When dead, the same person shall be beloved.”—_Hor. Ep._ ii. 1,

[69] “Behold, he is in the desert.”—_St. Matthew_ xxiv. 26.

[70] “Behold, he is in the secret chambers.”—_Ib._

[71] He alludes to 1 Corinthians xiv. 23: “If, therefore, the whole
church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and
there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not
say that ye are mad?”

[72] Psalm i. 1: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel
of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the
seat of the scornful.”

[73] This dance, which was originally called the Morisco dance is
supposed to have been derived from the Moors of Spain; the dancers in
earlier times blackening their faces to resemble Moors. It was probably
a corruption of the ancient Pyrrhic dance, which was performed by
men in armor, and which is mentioned as still existing in Greece, in
Byron’s “Song of the Greek Captive:”—

  “You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet.”

Attitude and gesture formed one of the characteristics of the dance. It
is still practised in some parts of England.—_Rabelais, Pantag._ ii. 7.

[74] 2 Kings ix. 18.

[75] He alludes to the words in Revelation, c. iii. v. 14, 15, 16: “And
unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things
saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the
creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor
hot.—I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Laodicea was a city of Asia
Minor. St. Paul established the church there which is here referred to.

[76] St. Matthew xii. 30.

[77] “In the garment there may be many colors, but let there be no
rending of it.”

[78] “Avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science,
falsely so called.”—1 _Tim._ vi. 20.

[79] He alludes to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, significant of the
limited duration of his kingdom.—See _Daniel_ ii. 33, 41.

[80] Mahomet proselytized by giving to the nations which he conquered,
the option of the Koran or the sword.

[81] “To deeds so dreadful could religion prompt.” The poet refers
to the sacrifice by Agamemnon, the Grecian leader, of his daughter
Iphigenia, with the view of appeasing the wrath of Diana.—_Lucret._ i.

[82] He alludes to the massacre of the Huguenots, or Protestants, in
France, which took place on St. Bartholomew’s day, August 24, 1572,
by the order of Charles IX. and his mother, Catherine de Medici. On
this occasion about 60,000 persons perished, including the Admiral De
Coligny, one of the most virtuous men that France possessed, and the
main stay of the Protestant cause.

[83] More generally known as “The Gunpowder Plot.”

[84] Isa. xiv. 14.

[85] Allusion is made to the “caduceus,” with which Mercury, the
messenger of the Gods, summoned the souls of the departed to the
infernal regions.

[86] “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”—_James_
i. 20.

[87] He alludes to Cosmo de Medici, or Cosmo I., chief of the Republic
of Florence, the encourager of literature and the fine arts.

[88] Job ii. 10.—“Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall
we not receive evil?”

[89] By “public revenges,” he means punishment awarded by the state
with the sanction of the laws.

[90] He alludes to the retribution dealt by Augustus and Anthony to the
murderers of Julius Cæsar. It is related by ancient historians, as a
singular fact, that not one of them died a natural death.

[91] Henry III. of France was assassinated in 1599, by Jacques Clement,
a Jacobin monk, in the frenzy of fanaticism. Although Clement justly
suffered punishment, the end of this bloodthirsty and bigoted tyrant
may be justly deemed a retribution dealt by the hand of an offended
Providence; so truly does the Poet say:—

             “neque enim lex æquior ulla
  Quam necis artifices arte perire suâ.”

[92] Sen. Ad Lucil. 66.

[93] Ibid. 53.

[94] Stesichorus, Apollodorus, and others. Lord Bacon makes a similar
reference to this myth in his treatise “On the Wisdom of the Ancients.”
“It is added with great elegance, to console and strengthen the minds
of men, that this mighty hero (Hercules) sailed in a cup or ‘urceus,’
in order that they may not too much fear and allege the narrowness
of their nature and its frailty; as if it were not capable of such
fortitude and constancy; of which very thing Seneca argued well, when
he said, ‘It is a great thing to have at the same time the frailty of a
man, and the security of a God.’”

[95] Funereal airs. It must be remembered that many of the Psalms of
David were written by him when persecuted by Saul, as also in the
tribulation caused by the wicked conduct of his son Absalom. Some of
them, too, though called “The Psalms of David,” were really composed
by the Jews in their captivity at Babylon; as, for instance, the 137th
Psalm, which so beautifully commences, “By the waters of Babylon there
we sat down.” One of them is supposed to be the composition of Moses.

[96] This fine passage, beginning at “Prosperity is the blessing,”
which was not published till 1625, twenty-eight years after the first
Essays, has been quoted by Macaulay, with considerable justice, as a
proof that the writer’s fancy did not decay with the advance of old
age, and that his style in his later years became richer and softer.
The learned critic contrasts this passage with the terse style of the
Essay of Studies (Essay 50), which was published in 1597.

[97] Tac. Ann. v. 1.

[98] Tac. Hist. ii. 76.

[99] A word now unused, signifying the “traits,” or “features.”

[100] A truth.—_A. L._ II. xxiii. 14.

[101] Proverbs x. 1: “A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish
son is the heaviness of his mother.”

[102] Petted—spoiled.

[103] This word seems here to mean “a plan,” or “method,” as proved by
its results.

[104] Ends in.

[105] There is considerable justice in this remark. Children should be
taught to do what is right for its own sake, and because it is their
duty to do so, and not that they may have the selfish gratification of
obtaining the reward which their companions have failed to secure, and
of being led to think themselves superior to their companions. When
launched upon the world, emulation will be quite sufficiently forced
upon them by stern necessity.

[106] “Select _that course of life_ which is the most advantageous;
habit will soon render it pleasant and easily endured.”

[107] His meaning is, that if clergymen have the expenses of a family
to support, they will hardly find means for the exercise of benevolence
toward their parishioners.

[108] “He preferred his aged wife Penelope to immortality.” This
was when Ulysses was entreated by the goddess Calypso to give up
all thoughts of returning to Ithaca, and to remain with her in the
enjoyment of immortality.—_Plut. Gryll._ 1.

[109] “May have a pretext,” or “excuse.”

[110] Thales, _Vide_ Diog. Laert. i. 26.

[111] So prevalent in ancient times was the notion of the injurious
effects of the eye of envy, that, in common parlance, the Romans
generally used the word “_præfiscini_,”—“without risk of enchantment,”
or “fascination,” when they spoke in high terms of themselves. They
supposed that they thereby averted the effects of enchantment produced
by the evil eye of any envious person who might at that moment possibly
be looking upon them. Lord Bacon probably here alludes to St. Mark vii.
21, 22: “Out of the heart of men proceedeth—deceit, lasciviousness, an
evil eye.” Solomon also speaks of the evil eye, Prov. xxiii. 6, and
xxviii. 22.

[112] To be even with him.

[113] “There is no person a busybody, but what he is ill-natured too.”
This passage is from the Stichus of Plautus.

[114] Narses superseded Belisarius in the command of the armies of
Italy, by the orders of the Emperor Justinian. He defeated Totila, the
king of the Goths (who had taken Rome), in a decisive engagement, in
which the latter was slain. He governed Italy with consummate ability
for thirteen years, when he was ungratefully recalled by Justin the
Second, the successor of Justinian.

[115] Tamerlane, or Timour, was a native of Samarcand, of which
territory he was elected emperor. He overran Persia, Georgia,
Hindostan, and captured Bajazet, the valiant Sultan of the Turks, at
the battle of Angora, 1402, whom he is said to have inclosed in a
cage of iron. His conquests extended from the Irtish and Volga to the
Persian Gulf, and from the Ganges to the Grecian Archipelago. While
preparing for the invasion of China, he died, in the 70th year of his
age, A. D. 1405. He was tall and corpulent in person, but was maimed in
one hand, and lame on the right side.

[116] Spartian Vit. Adrian, 15.

[117] Comes under the observation.

[118] “By a leap,” _i. e._ over the heads of others.

[119] “How vast _the evils_ we endure.”

[120] He probably alludes to the custom of the Athenians, who
frequently ostracized or banished by vote their public men, lest they
should become too powerful.

[121] From _in_ and _video_,—“to look upon;” with reference to the
so-called “evil eye” of the envious.

[122] “Envy keeps no holidays.”

[123] See St. Matthew xiii. 25.

[124] Beholden.

[125] He iniquitously attempted to obtain possession of the person of
Virginia, who was killed by her father Virginius, to prevent her from
falling a victim to his lust. This circumstance caused the fall of the
Decemviri at Rome, who had been employed in framing the code of laws
afterwards known as “The Laws of the Twelve Tables.” They narrowly
escaped being burned alive by the infuriated populace.

[126] “We are a sufficient theme for contemplation, the one for the
other.”—_Sen. Epist. Mor._ 1. 7. (A. L. l. iii. 6.) Pope seems,
notwithstanding this censure of Bacon, to have been of the same opinion
with Epicurus:—

  “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
  The proper study for mankind is man.”

  _Essay on Man_, Ep. ii. 1. 2.

Indeed, Lord Bacon seems to have misunderstood the saying of Epicurus,
who did not mean to recommend man as the sole object of the bodily
vision, but as the proper theme for mental contemplation.

[127] Amare et sapere vix Deo conceditur.—_Pub. Syr. Sent._ 15. (A. L.
ii. proœ. 10.)

[128] He refers here to the judgment of Paris, mentioned by Ovid in his
Epistles, of the Heroines.

[129] Montaigne has treated this subject before Bacon, under the title
of _De l’incommodité de la Grandeur_. (B. iii. ch. vii.)

[130] “Since you are not what you were, there is no reason why you
should wish to live.”

[131] “Death presses heavily upon him, who, well known to all others,
dies unknown to himself.”—_Sen. Thyest._ ii. 401.

[132] “And God turned to behold the works which his hands had made, and
he saw that everything was very good.”—See _Gen._ i. 31.

[133] “As a matter of course.”

[134] Too great easiness of access.

[135] Predilections that are undeserved.

[136] Proverbs xxviii. 21. The whole passage stands thus in our
version: “He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. To
have respect of persons is not good; for, for a piece of bread, that
man will transgress.”

[137] “By the consent of all he was fit to govern, if he had not

[138] “Of the emperors, Vespasian alone changed for the better _after
his accession_.”—_Tac. Hist._ i. 49, 50 (A. L. ii. xxii. 5).

[139] Plut. vit. Demosth. 17, 18.

[140] It is not improbable that this passage suggested Pope’s beautiful
lines in the _Essay on Man_, Ep. i. 125-28.

  “Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes,
  Men would be angels, angels would be gods.
  Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell,
  Aspiring to be angels, men rebel.”

[141] Auger Gislen Busbec, or Busbequius, a learned traveller, born at
Comines, in Flanders, in 1522. He was employed by the Emperor Ferdinand
as ambassador to the Sultan Solyman II. He was afterwards ambassador to
France, where he died, in 1592. His “Letters” relative to his travels
in the East, which are written in Latin, contain much interesting
information. They were the pocket companion of Gibbon, and are highly
praised by him.

[142] In this instance the stork or crane was probably protected, not
on the abstract grounds mentioned in the text, but for reasons of state
policy and gratitude combined. In Eastern climates the cranes and dogs
are far more efficacious than human agency in removing filth and offal,
and thereby diminishing the chances of pestilence. Superstition, also,
may have formed another motive, as we learn from a letter written from
Adrianople, by Lady Montagu, in 1718, that storks were “held there in
a sort of religious reverence, because they are supposed to make every
winter the pilgrimage to Mecca. To say truth, they are the happiest
subjects under the Turkish government, and are so sensible of their
privileges, that they walk the streets without fear, and generally
build their nests in the lower parts of the houses. Happy are those
whose houses are so distinguished, as the vulgar Turks are perfectly
persuaded that they will not be that year attacked either by fire or
pestilence.” Storks are still protected, by municipal law, in Holland,
and roam unmolested about the market-places.

[143] Nicolo Machiavelli, a Florentine statesman. He wrote “Discourses
on the first Decade of Livy,” which were conspicuous for their
liberality of sentiment, and just and profound reflections. This work
was succeeded by his famous treatise, “Il Principe,” “The Prince;”
his patron, Cæsar Borgia, being the model of the perfect prince there
described by him. The whole scope of this work is directed to one
object—the maintenance of power, however acquired. Though its precepts
are no doubt based upon the actual practice of the Italian politicians
of that day, it has been suggested by some writers that the work was
a covert exposure of the deformity of the shocking maxims that it
professes to inculcate. The question of his motives has been much
discussed, and is still considered open. The word “Machiavellism” has,
however, been adopted to denote all that is deformed, insincere, and
perfidious in politics. He died in great poverty, in the year 1527.

[144] _Vide_ Disc. Sop. Liv. ii. 2.

[145] St. Matthew v. 45. “For he maketh his sun rise on the evil and on
the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

[146] This is a portion of our Saviour’s reply to the rich man who
asked him what he should do to inherit eternal life: “Then Jesus
beholding him, loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest:
go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou
shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow
me.”—_St. Mark_ x. 21.

[147] See St. Luke xvi. 21.

[148] Timon of Athens, as he is generally called (being so styled by
Shakspeare in the play which he has founded on his story), was surnamed
the “Misanthrope,” from the hatred which he bore to his fellow-men.
He was attached to Apemantus, another Athenian of similar character
to himself, and he professed to esteem Alcibiades, because he foresaw
that he would one day bring ruin on his country. Going to the public
assembly on one occasion, he mounted the rostrum, and stated that he
had a fig-tree, on which many worthy citizens had ended their days
by the halter; that he was going to cut it down for the purpose of
building on the spot, and therefore recommended all such as were
inclined, to avail themselves of it before it was too late.

[149] A piece of timber that has grown crooked, and has been so cut
that the trunk and branch form an angle.

[150] He probably here refers to the myrrh-tree. Incision is the method
usually adopted for extracting the resinous juices of trees; as in the
India-rubber and gutta-percha trees.

[151] “A votive,” and, in the present instance, a “vicarious offering.”
He alludes to the words of St. Paul in his Second Epistle to Timothy
ii. 10: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they
may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal

[152] Consideration of, or predilection for, particular persons.

[153] The Low Countries had then recently emancipated themselves from
the galling yoke of Spain. They were called the Seven United Provinces
of the Netherlands.

[154] This passage may at first sight appear somewhat contradictory;
but he means to say, that those who are first ennobled will commonly be
found more conspicuous for the prominence of their qualities, both good
and bad.

[155] Consistent with reason and justice.

[156] The periods of the Equinoxes.

[157] “He often warns, too, that secret revolt is impending, that
treachery and open warfare are ready to burst forth.”—_Virg. Georg._ i.

[158] “Mother Earth, exasperated at the wrath of the Deities, produced
her, as they tell, a last birth, a sister to the giants Cœus, and
Enceladus.”—_Virg. Æn._ iv. 179.

[159] “Great public odium once excited, his deeds, whether good or
whether bad, cause his downfall.” Bacon has here quoted incorrectly,
probably from memory. The words of Tacitus are (_Hist._ B. i. C. 7):
“Inviso semel principe, seu bene, seu male, facta premunt,”—“The ruler
once detested, his actions, whether good or whether bad, cause his

[160] “They attended to their duties; but still, as preferring rather
to discuss the commands of their rulers, than to obey them.”—_Tac.
Hist._ ii. 39.

[161] He alludes to the bad policy of Henry the Third of France, who
espoused the part of “The League,” which was formed by the Duke of
Guise and other Catholics for the extirpation of the Protestant faith.
When too late he discovered his error, and finding his own authority
entirely superseded, he caused the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal De
Lorraine, his brother, to be assassinated.

[162] “The primary motive power.” He alludes to an imaginary centre of
gravitation, or central body, which was supposed to set all the other
heavenly bodies in motion.

[163] “Too freely to remember their own rulers.”

[164] “I will unloose the girdles of kings.” He probably alludes here
to the first verse of the 45th chapter of Isaiah: “Thus saith the Lord
to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue
nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before
him the two-leaved gates.”

[165] “Hence devouring usury, and interest accumulating in lapse
of time; hence shaken credit, and warfare, profitable to the
many.”—_Lucan. Phars._ i. 181.

[166] “Warfare profitable to the many.”

[167] “To grief there is a limit, not so to fear.”

[168] “Check,” or “daunt.”

[169] This is similar to the proverb now in common use: “’Tis the last
feather that breaks the back of the camel.”

[170] The state.

[171] Though sumptuary laws are probably just in theory, they have been
found impracticable in any other than infant states. Their principle,
however, is certainly recognized in such countries as by statutory
enactment discountenance gaming. Those who are opposed to such laws
upon principle, would do well to look into Bernard Mandeville’s
“Fable of the Bees,” or “Private Vices Public Benefits.” The Romans
had numerous sumptuary laws, and in the Middle Ages there were many
enactments in this country against excess of expenditure upon wearing
apparel and the pleasures of the table.

[172] He means that they do not add to the capital of the country.

[173] At the expense of foreign countries.

[174] “The workmanship will surpass the material.”—_Ovid, Met._ B. ii.
l. 5.

[175] He alludes to the manufactures of the Low Countries.

[176] Like manure.

[177] Sometimes printed _engrossing, great pasturages_. By
_engrossing_, is meant the trade of _engrossers_—men who buy up all
that can be got of a particular commodity, then raise the price. By
_great pasturages_ is meant turning corn land into pasture. Of this
practice great complaints had been made for near a century before
Bacon’s time, and a law passed to prevent it.—See _Lord Herbert of
Cherbury’s History of Henry VIII._

[178] The myth of Pandora’s box, which is here referred to, is related
in the _Works and Days_ of Hesiod. Epimetheus was the personification
of “Afterthought,” while his brother Prometheus represented
“Forethought,” or prudence. It was not Epimetheus that opened the box,
but Pandora—“All-gift,” whom, contrary to the advice of his brother, he
had received at the hands of Mercury, and had made his wife. In their
house stood a closed jar, which they were forbidden to open. Till her
arrival, this had been kept untouched; but her curiosity prompting her
to open the lid, all the evils hitherto unknown to man flew out and
spread over the earth, and she only shut it down in time to prevent the
escape of Hope.

[179] “Sylla did not know his letters, _and so_ he could not dictate.”
This saying is attributed by Suetonius to Julius Cæsar. It is a play
on the Latin verb _dictare_, which means either “to dictate,” or “to
act the part of Dictator,” according to the context. As this saying was
presumed to be a reflection on Sylla’s ignorance, and to imply that by
reason thereof he was unable to maintain his power, it was concluded
by the Roman people that Cæsar, who was an elegant scholar, feeling
himself subject to no such inability, did not intend speedily to yield
the reins of power.—_Suet. Vit. C. Jul. Cæs._ 77, i. and _Cf._ _A. L._
i. vii. 12.

[180] “That soldiers were levied by him, not bought.”—_Tac. Hist._ i. 5.

[181] “If I live, there shall no longer be need of soldiers in the
Roman empire.”—_Flav. Vop. Vit. Prob._ 20.

[182] “And such was the state of feeling, that a few dared to
perpetrate the worst of crimes; more wished to do so; all submitted to
it.”—_Hist._ i. 28.

[183] He probably alludes to the legends or miraculous stories of the
saints; such as walking with their heads off, preaching to the fishes,
sailing over the sea on a cloak, &c. &c.

[184] This is a book that contains the Jewish traditions, and the
rabbinical explanations of the law. It is replete with wonderful

[185] This passage not improbably contains the germ of Pope’s famous

  “A little learning is a dangerous thing;
  Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.”

[186] A philosopher of Abdera; the first who taught the system of
atoms, which was afterwards more fully developed by Democritus and

[187] He was a disciple of the last-named philosopher, and held the
same principles; he also denied the existence of the soul after death.
He is considered to have been the parent of experimental philosophy,
and was the first to teach, what is now confirmed by science, that the
Milky Way is an accumulation of stars.

[188] Spirit.

[189] Psalm xiv. 1, and liii. 1.

[190] To whose (seeming) advantage it is; the wish being father to the

[191] “It is not profane to deny _the existence of_ the deities of the
vulgar; but, to apply to the divinities the received notions of the
vulgar, is profane.”—_Diog. Laert._ x. 123.

[192] He alludes to the native tribes of the continent of America and
the West Indies.

[193] He was an Athenian philosopher, who, from the greatest
superstition, became an avowed atheist. He was proscribed by the
Areiopagus for speaking against the gods with ridicule and contempt,
and is supposed to have died at Corinth.

[194] A Greek philosopher, a disciple of Theodorus the atheist, to
whose opinions he adhered. His life was said to have been profligate,
and his death superstitious.

[195] Lucian ridiculed the follies and pretensions of some of the
ancient philosophers; but though the freedom of his style was such as
to cause him to be censured for impiety, he hardly deserves the stigma
of atheism here cast upon him by the learned author.

[196] “It is not for us now to say, ‘Like priest like people,’ for
the people are not even so _bad_ as the priest.” St. Bernard, abbot
of Clairvaux, preached the second Crusade against the Saracens, and
was unsparing in his censures of the sins then prevalent among the
Christian priesthood. His writings are voluminous, and by some he has
been considered as the latest of the fathers of the Church.

[197] “A superior nature.”

[198] “We may admire ourselves, conscript fathers, as much as we
please; still, neither by numbers _did we vanquish_ the Spaniards,
nor by bodily strength the Gauls, nor by cunning the Carthaginians,
nor through the arts the Greeks, nor, in fine, by the inborn and
native good sense of this _our_ nation, and this _our_ race and soil,
the Italians and Latins themselves; but through our devotion and
our religious feeling, and this, the sole _true_ wisdom, the having
perceived that all things are regulated and governed by the providence
of the immortal Gods, have we subdued all races and nations.”—_Cic. de.
Harus. Respon._ 9.

[199] The justice of this position is, perhaps, somewhat doubtful. The
superstitious man _must_ have _some_ scruples, while he who believes
not in a God (if there is such a person), _needs_ have _none_.

[200] Time was personified in Saturn, and by this story was meant its
tendency to destroy whatever it has brought into existence.—_Plut. de
Superstit._ x.

[201] The primary motive power.

[202] This Council commenced in 1545, and lasted eighteen years.
It was convened for the purpose of opposing the rising spirit of
Protestantism, and of discussing and settling the disputed points of
the Catholic faith.

[203] Irregular or anomalous movements.

[204] An epicycle is a smaller circle, whose centre is in the
circumference of a greater one.

[205] To account for.

[206] Synods, or councils.

[207] At the present day called _attachés_.

[208] He probably means the refusing to join on the occasion of
drinking healths when taking wine.

[209] Something to create excitement.

[210] “The heart of kings is unsearchable.”—_Prov._ v. 3.

[211] Commodus fought naked in public as a gladiator, and prided
himself on his skill as a swordsman.

[212] Making a stop at, or dwelling too long upon.

[213] After a prosperous reign of twenty-one years, Diocletian
abdicated the throne, and retired to a private station.

[214] After having reigned thirty-five years, he abdicated the thrones
of Spain and Germany, and passed the last two years of his life in
retirement at St. Just, a convent in Estremadura.

[215] Philost. vit. Apoll. Tyan. v. 28.

[216] “The desires of monarchs are generally impetuous and conflicting
among themselves.”—Quoted rightly, _A. L._ ii. xxii. 5, from _Sallust_
(B. J. 113).

[217] He was especially the rival of the Emperor Charles the Fifth,
and was one of the most distinguished sovereigns that ever ruled over

[218] An eminent historian of Florence. His great work, which is here
alluded to, is, “The History of Italy during his own Time,” which is
considered one of the most valuable productions of that age.

[219] Spoken badly of. Livia was said to have hastened the death of
Augustus, to prepare the accession of her son Tiberius to the throne.

[220] Solyman the Magnificent was one of the most celebrated of the
Ottoman monarchs. He took the Isle of Rhodes from the Knights of St.
John. He also subdued Moldavia, Wallachia, and the greatest part of
Hungary, and took from the Persians Georgia and Bagdad. He died A. D.
1566. His wife Roxolana (who was originally a slave called Rosa or
Hazathya), with the Pasha Rustan, conspired against the life of his
son Mustapha, and by their instigation this distinguished prince was
strangled in his father’s presence.

[221] The infamous Isabella of Anjou.

[222] Adulteresses.

[223] He, however, distinguished himself by taking Cyprus from the
Venetians in the year 1571.

[224] He was falsely accused by his brother Perseus of attempting to
dethrone his father, on which he was put to death by the order of
Philip, B. C. 180.

[225] Anselm was Archbishop of Canterbury in the time of William Rufus
and Henry the First. Though his private life was pious and exemplary,
through his rigid assertion of the rights of the clergy he was
continually embroiled with his sovereign. Thomas à Becket pursued a
similar course, but with still greater violence.

[226] The great vessel that conveys the blood to the liver, after it
has been enriched by the absorption of nutriment from the intestines.

[227] This is an expression similar to our proverb, “Penny-wise and

[228] A subdivision of the shire.

[229] The Janizaries were the body-guards of the Turkish sultans, and
enacted the same disgraceful part in making and unmaking monarchs, as
the mercenary Prætorian guards of the Roman Empire.

[230] “Remember that thou art a man.”

[231] “Remember that thou art a God.”

[232] “The representative of God.”

[233] Isaiah ix. 6: “His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor,
The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

[234] Prov. xx. 18: “Every purpose is established by counsel: and with
good advice make war.”

[235] The wicked Rehoboam, from whom the ten tribes of Israel revolted,
and elected Jeroboam their king.—See 1 _Kings_ xii.

[236] Hesiod, Theog. 886.

[237] The political world has not been convinced of the truth of this
doctrine of Lord Bacon; as cabinet councils are now held probably by
every sovereign in Europe.

[238] “I am full of outlets.”—_Ter. Eun._ I. ii. 25.

[239] That is, without a complicated machinery of government.

[240] Master of the Rolls and Privy Councillor under Henry VI., to
whose cause he faithfully adhered. Edward IV. promoted him to the See
of Ely, and made him Lord Chancellor. He was elevated to the See of
Canterbury by Henry VII., and in 1493 received the Cardinal’s hat.

[241] Privy Councillor and Keeper of the Privy Seal to Henry VII.,
and, after enjoying several bishoprics in succession, translated to
the See of Winchester. He was an able statesman, and highly valued by
Henry VII. On the accession of Henry VIII. his political influence was
counteracted by Wolsey; on which he retired to his diocese, and devoted
the rest of his life to acts of piety and munificence.

[242] Before mentioned, relative to Jupiter and Metis.

[243] Remedied.

[244] “He shall not find faith upon the earth.” Lord Bacon probably
alludes to the words of our Saviour, St. Luke xviii. 8: “When the Son
of man cometh, shall he find faith upon the earth?”

[245] He means to say, that this remark was only applicable to a
particular time, namely, the coming of Christ. The period of the
destruction of Jerusalem was probably referred to.

[246] “’Tis the especial virtue of a prince to know his own men.”

[247] In his disposition, or inclination.

[248] Liable to opposition from.

[249] “According to classes,” or, as we vulgarly say, “in the lump.”
Lord Bacon means that princes are not, as a matter of course, to take
counsellors merely on the presumption of talent, from their rank and
station; but that, on the contrary, they are to select such as are
tried men, and with regard to whom there can be no mistake.

[250] “The best counsellors are the dead.”

[251] “Are afraid” to open their mouths.

[252] “Night-time for counsel.”—ἐν νυκτὶ βουλή. _Gaisf. Par. Gr._ B.

[253] On the accession of James the Sixth of Scotland to the throne of
England in 1603.

[254] A phrase much in use with the Romans, signifying, “to attend to
the business in hand.”

[255] A tribunitial or declamatory manner.

[256] “I’ll follow the bent of your humor.”

[257] The Sibyl alluded to here is the Cumæan, the most celebrated, who
offered the Sibylline Books for sale to Tarquin the Proud.

“At this time, an unknown woman appeared at court, loaded with nine
volumes, which she offered to sell, but at a very considerable price.
Tarquin refusing to give it, she withdrew and burnt three of the nine.
Some time after she returned to court, and demanded the same price for
the remaining six. This made her looked upon as a mad woman, and she
was driven away with scorn. Nevertheless, having burnt the half of what
were left, she came a third time, and demanded for the remaining three
the same price which she had asked for the whole nine. The novelty of
such a proceeding, made Tarquin curious to have the books examined.
They were put, therefore, into the hands of the augurs, who, finding
them to be the oracles of the Sybil of Cumæ, declared them to be an
invaluable treasure. Upon this the woman was paid the sum she demanded,
and she soon after disappeared, having first exhorted the Romans to
preserve her books with care.”—_Hooke’s Roman History._

[258] Bald head. He alludes to the common saying: “Take time by the

[259] Phæd. viii.

[260] Hom. Il. v. 845.

[261] Packing the cards is an admirable illustration of the author’s
meaning. It is a cheating exploit, by which knaves, who, perhaps, are
inferior players, insure to themselves the certainty of good hands.

[262] “Send them both naked among strangers, and _then_ you will see.”

[263] This word is used here in its primitive sense of “retail
dealers.” It is said to have been derived from a custom of the
Flemings, who first settled in this country in the fourteenth century,
stopping the passengers as they passed their shops, and saying to them,
“Haber das, herr?”—“Will you take this, sir?” The word is now generally
used as synonymous with linen-draper.

[264] To watch.

[265] State.

[266] Discussing matters.

[267] He refers to the occasion when Nehemiah, on presenting the wine,
as cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes, appeared sorrowful, and, on being
asked the reason of it, entreated the king to allow Jerusalem to be
rebuilt.—_Nehemiah_ ii. 1.

[268] This can hardly be called a marriage, as, at the time of the
intrigue, Messalina was the wife of Claudius; but she forced Caius
Silius, of whom she was deeply enamored, to divorce his own wife,
that she herself might enjoy his society. The intrigue was disclosed
to Claudius by Narcissus, who was his freedman, and the pander to his
infamous vices; on which Silius was put to death. Vide _Tac. Ann._ xi.
29, _seq._

[269] To speak in his turn.

[270] Be questioned upon.

[271] Kept on good terms.

[272] Desire it.

[273] “That he did not have various hopes in view, but solely the
safety of the emperor.” Tigellinus was the profligate minister of Nero,
and Africanus Burrhus was the chief of the Prætorian Guards.—_Tac.
Ann._ xiv. 57.

[274] As Nathan did, when he reproved David for his criminality with
Bathsheba.—2 _Samuel_ xii.

[275] Use indirect stratagems.

[276] He alludes to the old Cathedral of St. Paul, in London, which, in
the sixteenth century, was a common lounge for idlers.

[277] Movements, or springs.

[278] Chances, or vicissitudes.

[279] Enter deeply into.

[280] Faults, or weak points.

[281] “The wise man gives heed to his own footsteps; the fool turneth
aside to the snare.” No doubt he here alludes to Ecclesiastes xiv. 2,
which passage is thus rendered in our version: “The wise man’s eyes are
in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness.”

[282] Mischievous.

[283] It must be remembered that Bacon was not a favorer of the
Copernican system.

[284] “Lovers of themselves without a rival.”—_Ad. Qu. Fr._ iii. 8.

[285] Remedy.

[286] Adapted to each other.

[287] Injures or impairs.

[288] A thing suspected.

[289] He probably alludes to Jeremiah vi. 16: “Thus saith the Lord,
Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the
good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”

[290] That is, by means of good management.

[291] It is supposed that he here alludes to Sir Amyas Paulet, a very
able statesman, and the ambassador of Queen Elizabeth to the court of

[292] Quotations.

[293] Apologies.

[294] Boasting.

[295] Prejudice.

[296] 2 Tim. iii. 5.

[297] “Trifles with great effort.”

[298] “With one brow raised to your forehead, the other bent downward
to your chin, you answer that cruelty delights you not.”—_In Pis._ 6.

[299] “A foolish man, who fritters away the weight of matters by
finespun trifling on words.”—Vide _Quint._ x. 1.

[300] Plat. Protag. i. 337.

[301] Find it easier to make difficulties and objections than to

[302] One really in insolvent circumstances, though to the world he
does not appear so.

[303] He here quotes from a passage in the _Politica_ of Aristotle,
book i. “He who is unable to mingle in society, or who requires
nothing, by reason of sufficing for himself, is no part of the state,
so that he is either a wild beast or a divinity.”

[304] Epimenides, a poet of Crete (of which Candia is the modern name),
is said by Pliny to have fallen into a sleep which lasted 57 years.
He was also said to have lived 299 years. Numa pretended that he was
instructed in the art of legislation by the divine nymph Egeria, who
dwelt in the Arician grove. Empedocles, the Sicilian philosopher,
declared himself to be immortal, and to be able to cure all evils.
He is said by some to have retired from society that his death might
not be known, and to have thrown himself into the crater of Mount
Ætna. Apollonius of Tyana, the Pythagorean philosopher, pretended to
miraculous powers, and after his death a temple was erected to him at
that place. His life is recorded by Philostratus; and some persons,
among whom are Hierocles, Dr. More, in his Mystery of Godliness, and
recently Strauss, have not hesitated to compare his miracles with those
of our Saviour.

[305] “A great city, a great desert.”

[306] Sarsaparilla.

[307] A liquid matter of a pungent smell, extracted from a portion of
the body of the beaver.

[308] “Partakers of cares.”

[309] Plutarch (_Vit. Pomp._ 19) relates that Pompey said this upon
Sylla’s refusal to give him a triumph.

[310] Plut. Vit. J. Cæs. 64.

[311] Cic. Philip. xiii. 11.

[312] “These things, by reason of our friendship, I have not concealed
_from you_.”—Vide _Tac. Ann._ iv. 40.

[313] Dio Cass. lxxv.

[314] Such infamous men as Tiberius and Sejanus hardly deserve this

[315] Philip de Comines.

[316] Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, the valiant antagonist of
Louis XI. of France. De Comines spent his early years at his court,
but afterwards passed into the service of Louis XI. This monarch was
notorious for his cruelty, treachery, and dissimulation, and had all
the bad qualities of his contemporary, Edward IV. of England, without
any of his redeeming virtues.

[317] Pythagoras went still further than this, as he forbade his
disciples to eat flesh of any kind whatever. See the interesting
speech which Ovid attributes to him in the fifteenth book of the
Metamorphoses. Sir Thomas Browne, in his Pseudoxia (_Browne’s Works_,
Bohn’s Antiq. ed. vol. i. p. 27, _et seq._), gives some curious
explanations of the doctrines of this philosopher.—_Plut. de Educat.
Puer._ 17.

[318] Tapestry. Speaking hypercritically, Lord Bacon commits an
anachronism here, as Arras did not manufacture tapestry till the middle

[319] Plut. Vit. Themist. 28.

[320] Ap. Stob. Serm. v. 120.

[321] James i. 23.

[322] He alludes to the recommendation which moralists have often
given, that a person in anger should go through the alphabet to
himself, before he allows himself to speak.

[323] In his day, the musket was fixed upon a stand, called the “rest,”
much as the gingals or matchlocks are used in the East at the present

[324] From debts and incumbrances.

[325] Plut. Vit. Themist. ad init.

[326] “Equal to business.”

[327] He alludes to the following passage, St. Matthew xiii. 31:
“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven
is like to a grain of mustard-seed, which a man took and sowed in his
field; which indeed is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown, it
is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of
the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

[328] Virg. Ecl. vii. 51.

[329] Vide. _A. L._ i. vii. 11.

[330] He was vanquished by Lucullus, and finally submitted to
Pompey.—_Plut. Vit. Lucull._ 27.

[331] He alludes to the prophetic words of Jacob on his death-bed,
Gen. xlix. 9, 14, 15: “Judah is a lion’s whelp; ... he stooped down,
he couched as a lion, and as an old lion.... Issachar is a strong ass
couching down between two burdens: And he saw that rest was good, and
the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and
became a servant unto tribute.”

[332] Sums of money voluntarily contributed by the people for the use
of the sovereign.

[333] Young trees.

[334] “A land strong in arms and in the richness of the soil.”—_Virg.
Æn._ i. 535.

[335] He alludes to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, which is mentioned
Daniel iv. 10; “I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and
the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the
height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end
of all the earth: the leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof
much, and in it was meat for all; the beasts of the field had shadow
under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and
all flesh was fed of it.”

[336] “Right of citizenship.”

[337] “Right of trading.”

[338] “Right of intermarriage.”

[339] “Right of inheritance.”

[340] “Right of suffrage.”

[341] “Right of honors.”

[342] Long since the time of Lord Bacon, as soon as these colonies
had arrived at a certain state of maturity, they at different periods
revolted from the mother country.

[343] The laws and ordinances promulgated by the sovereigns of Spain
were so called. The term was derived from the Byzantine empire.

[344] Qualifications.

[345] Attend to.

[346] For a short or transitory period.

[347] Be in a hurry.

[348] It was its immense armaments that in a great measure consumed the
vitals of Spain.

[349] “Pompey’s plan is clearly that of Themistocles; for he believes
that whoever is master of the sea will obtain the supreme power.”—_Ad
Att._ x. 8.

[350] Encomiums.

[351] St. Matthew vi. 27; St. Luke xii. 25.

[352] The effects of which must be felt in old age.

[353] Of benefit in your individual case.

[354] Any striking change in the constitution.

[355] Take medical advice.

[356] Incline rather to fully satisfying your hunger.

[357] Celsus _de Med._ i. 1.

[358] To hope the best, but be fully prepared for the worst.

[359] “Suspicion is the passport to faith.”

[360] A censure of this nature has been applied by some to Dr. Johnson,
and possibly with some reason.

[361] To start the subject.

[362] Requires to be bridled.

[363] He quotes here from Ovid: “Boy, spare the whip, and tightly grasp
the reins.”—_Met._ ii. 127.

[364] One who tests or examines.

[365] The galliard was a light active dance, much in fashion in the
time of Queen Elizabeth.

[366] Hits at, or remarks intended to be applied to, particular

[367] A slight or insult.

[368] A sarcastic remark.

[369] The old term for colonies.

[370] He perhaps alludes covertly to the conduct of the Spaniards in
extirpating the aboriginal inhabitants of the West India Islands,
against which the venerable Las Casas so eloquently but vainly

[371] Of course, this censure would not apply to what is primarily
and essentially a convict colony; the object of which is to drain the
mother country of its impure superfluities.

[372] Times have much changed since this was penned, tobacco is now the
staple commodity, and the source of “the main business” of Virginia.

[373] To labor hard.

[374] Marshy; from the French _marais_, a marsh.

[375] Gewgaws, or spangles.

[376] He alludes to Ecclesiastes v. 11, the words of which are somewhat
varied in our version: “When goods increase, they are increased that
eat them; and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the
beholding of them with their eyes?”

[377] “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city.”—_Proverbs_ x. 15;
xviii. 11.

[378] “In his anxiety to increase his fortune, it was evident that not
the gratification of avarice was sought, but the means of doing good.”

[379] “He who hastens to riches will not be without guilt.” In our
version the words are: “He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be
innocent.”—_Proverbs_ xxviii. 22.

[380] Pluto being the king of the infernal regions, or place of
departed spirits.

[381] Rent-roll, or account taken of income.

[382] Wait till prices have risen.

[383] “In the sweat of another’s brow.” He alludes to the words of
Genesis iii. 19: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.”

[384] Planter of sugar-canes.

[385] “Wills and childless persons were caught _by him_, as though with
a hunting-net.”—_Tacit. Ann._ xiii. 42.

[386] “Pythoness,” used in the sense of witch. He alludes to the witch
of Endor, and the words in Samuel xxviii. 19. He is, however, mistaken
in attributing these words to the witch: it was the spirit of Samuel
that said, “To-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me.”

[387] “But the house of Æneas shall reign over every shore, both his
children’s children, and those who shall spring from them.”—_Æn._ iii.

[388] “After the lapse of years, ages will come in which Ocean shall
relax his chains around the world, and a vast continent shall appear,
and Tiphys shall explore new regions, and Thule shall be no longer the
utmost verge of earth.”—_Sen. Med._ ii. 375.

[389] He was king of Samos, and was treacherously put to death by
Orœtes, the governor of Magnesia, in Asia Minor. His daughter, in
consequence of her dream, attempted to dissuade him from visiting
Orœtes, but in vain.—_Herod._ iii. 124.

[390] Plut. Vit. Alex. 2.

[391] “Thou shalt see me again at Philippi.”—_Appian Bell. Civ._ iv.

[392] “Thou, also, Galba, shalt taste of empire.”—_Suet. Vit. Gall._ 4.

[393] Hist. v. 13.

[394] Suet. vit. Domit. 23.

[395] Catherine de Medicis, the wife of Henry II. of France, who died
from a wound accidentally received in a tournament.

[396] James I. being the first monarch of Great Britain.

[397] “The eighty-eighth will be a wondrous year.”

[398] “Aristophanes, in his Comedy of the Knights, satirizes Cleon, the
Athenian demagogue. He introduces a declaration of the oracle, that
the Eagle of hides (by whom Cleon was meant, his father having been a
tanner), should be conquered by a serpent, which Demosthenes, one of
the characters in the play, expounds as meaning a maker of sausages.
How Lord Bacon could for a moment doubt that this was a mere jest, it
is difficult to conjecture. The following is a literal translation of a
portion of the passage from The Knights (l. 197): “But when a leather
eagle with crooked talons shall have seized with its jaws a serpent,
a stupid creature, a drinker of blood, then the tan-pickle of the
Paphlagonians is destroyed; but upon the sellers of sausages the deity
bestows great glory, unless they choose rather to sell sausages.”

[399] This is a very just remark. So-called strange coincidences, and
wonderful dreams that are verified, when the point is considered, are
really not at all marvellous. We never hear of the 999 dreams that are
not verified, but the thousandth that happens to precede its fulfilment
is blazoned by unthinking people as a marvel. It would be a much more
wonderful thing if dreams were not occasionally verified.

[400] Under this name he alludes to the Critias of Plato, in which an
imaginary “terra incognita” is discoursed of under the name of the “New
Atlantis.” It has been conjectured from this by some, that Plato really
did believe in the existence of a continent on the other side of the

[401] Hot and fiery.

[402] With the eyes closed or blindfolded.

[403] He was a favorite of Tiberius, to whose murder by Nero he was
said to have been an accessary. He afterwards prostituted his own wife
to Caligula, by whom he was eventually put to death.

[404] Liable to.

[405] Chirpings like the noise of young birds.

[406] Jewels or necklaces.

[407] Spangles, or O’s of gold or silver. Beckmann says that these were
invented in the beginning of the seventeenth century. See Beckmann’s
Hist. of Inventions (Bohn’s Stand. Lib.), vol. i. p. 424.

[408] Or antic-masques. These were ridiculous interludes dividing the
acts of the more serious masque. These were performed by hired actors,
while the masque was played by ladies and gentlemen. The rule was,
the characters were to be neither serious nor hideous. The “Comus” of
Milton is an admirable specimen of a masque.

[409] Turks.

[410] “He is the best asserter _of the liberty_ of his mind, who bursts
the chains that gall his breast, and at the same moment ceases to
grieve.”—This quotation is from _Ovid’s Remedy of Love_, 293.

[411] “My soul has long been a sojourner.”

[412] “The wish is father to the thought,” is a proverbial saying of
similar meaning.

[413] _Vide_ Disc. Sop. Liv. iii. 6.

[414] Jacques Clement, a Dominican friar, who assassinated Henry III.
of France, in 1589. The sombre fanatic was but twenty-five year of
age; and he had announced the intention of killing with his own hands
the great enemy of his faith. He was instigated by the Leaguers, and
particularly by the Duchess of Montpensier, the sister of the Duke of

[415] He murdered Henry IV. of France, in 1610.

[416] Philip II. of Spain having, in 1582, set a price upon the head
of William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, the leader of the Protestants,
Jaureguy attempted to assassinate him, and severely wounded him.

[417] He assassinated William of Nassau, in 1584. It is supposed that
this fanatic meditated the crime for six years.

[418] A resolution prompted by a vow of devotion to a particular
principle or creed.

[419] He alludes to the Hindoos, and the ceremony of Suttee, encouraged
by the Brahmins.

[420] Flinching.—_Vide_ Cic. Tuscul. Disp. ii. 14.

[421] “Every man is the architect of his own fortune.” Sallust, in his
letters “De Republicâ Ordinandâ,” attributes these words to Appius
Claudius Cæcus, a Roman poet whose works are now lost. Lord Bacon,
in the Latin translation of his Essays, which was made under his
supervision, rendered the word “poet” “comicus;” by whom he probably
meant Plautus, who has this line in his “Trinummus” (Act ii, sc. 2):
“Nam sapiens quidem pol ipsus fingit fortunam sibi,” which has the same
meaning, though in somewhat different terms.

[422] “A serpent, unless it has devoured a serpent, does not become a

[423] Or “desenvoltura,” implying readiness to adapt one’s self to

[424] Impediments, causes for hesitation.

[425] “In that man there was such great strength of body and mind,
that, in whatever station he had been born, he seemed as though he
should make his fortune.”

[426] “A versatile genius.”

[427] “A little of the fool.”

[428] “Thou carriest Cæsar and his fortunes.”—_Plut. Vit. Cæls._ 38.

[429] “The Fortunate.” He attributed his success to the intervention of
Hercules, to whom he paid especial veneration.

[430] “The Great.”—_Plut. Syll._ 34.

[431] A successful Athenian general, the son of Conon, and the friend
of Plato.

[432] Fluency, or smoothness.

[433] Lord Bacon seems to use the word in the general sense of “lending
money upon interest.”

[434] “Drive from their hives the drones, a lazy race.”—_Georgics_, b.
iv. 168.

[435] “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.”—_Gen._ iii.

[436] “In the sweat of the face of another.”

[437] In the middle ages the Jews were compelled, by legal enactment,
to wear peculiar dresses and colors; one of these was orange.

[438] “A concession by reason of hardness of heart.” He alludes to the
words in St. Matthew xix. 8.

[439] See note to Essay xix.

[440] Hold.

[441] The imaginary country described in Sir Thomas More’s political
romance of that name.

[442] Regulation.

[443] Be paid.

[444] Our author was one of the earliest writers who treated the
question of the interest of money with the enlightened views of a
statesman and an economist. The taking of interest was considered, in
his time, immoral.

Laws on this matter are extremely ancient. Moses forbids the Jews to
require interest of each other. “Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy
brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is
lent upon usury:

“Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou
shalt not lend upon usury.”—_Deut._ xxiii. 19, 20.

Among the Greeks, the rate of interest was settled by agreement between
the borrower and the lender, without any interference of the law. The
customary rate varied from ten to thirty-three and one third per cent.

The Romans enacted laws against usurious interest; but their legal
interest, admitted by the law of the Twelve Tables, was, according to
some, twelve per cent., or, to others, one twelfth of the capital, i. e.
eight and one third per cent. Justinian reduced it to six per cent.

In England, the legal rate of interest was, in Henry the Eighth’s
reign, ten per cent. It was reduced, in 1624, to eight per cent. It
was further diminished, in 1672, to six per cent. And definitively, in
1713, fixed at five per cent., the ordinary rate of interest throughout
Europe. In France, the rates of interest have been nearly similar at
the same periods.

[445] “He passed his youth full of errors, of madness even.”—_Spartian.
Vit. Sev._

[446] He was nephew of Louis the Twelfth of France, and commanded the
French armies in Italy against the Spaniards. After a brilliant career,
he was killed at the battle of Ravenna, in 1512.

[447] Joel ii. 28, quoted Acts ii. 17.

[448] He lived in the second century after Christ, and is said to have
lost his memory at the age of twenty-five.

[449] “He remained the same, but _with the advance of years_ was not so
becoming.”—_Cic. Brut._ 95.

[450] “The close was unequal to the beginning.” This quotation is not
correct; the words are: “Memorabilior prima pars vitæ quam postrema
fuit,”—“The first part of his life was more distinguished than the
latter.”—_Livy_ xxxviii. ch. 53.

[451] By the context, he would seem to consider “great spirit” and
“virtue” as convertible terms. Edward IV., however, has no claim to be
considered as a virtuous or magnanimous man, though he possessed great
physical courage.

[452] Features.

[453] “The autumn of the beautiful is beautiful.”

[454] By making allowances.

[455] Rom. i. 31; 2 Tim. iii. 3.

[456] “Where she errs in the one, she ventures in the other.”

[457] Spies.

[458] Solyman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Turks.

[459] Site.

[460] Knoll.

[461] Have a liking for cheerful society. Momus being the god of mirth.

[462] Eats up.

[463] Plut. Vit. Lucull. 39.

[464] A vast edifice, about twenty miles from Madrid, founded by Philip

[465] Esth. i. 5; “The King made a feast unto all the people that were
present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days,
in the court of the garden of the king’s palace.”

[466] The cylinder formed by the small end of the steps of winding

[467] The funnel of a chimney.

[468] Where to go.

[469] Bow, or bay, windows.

[470] Flush with the wall.

[471] Antechamber.

[472] Withdrawing-room.

[473] Watercourses.

[474] Pine trees.

[475] Kept warm in a greenhouse.

[476] The damson, or plum of Damascus.

[477] Currants.

[478] An apple that is gathered very early.

[479] A kind of quince, so called from “cotoneum,” or “cydonium,” the
Latin name of the quince.

[480] The fruit of the cornel-tree.

[481] The warden was a large pear, so called from its keeping well.
Warden-pie was formerly much esteemed in this country.

[482] Perpetual spring.

[483] Flowers that do not send forth their smell at any distance.

[484] A species of grass of the genus argostis.

[485] The blossoms of the bean.

[486] Bring or lead you.

[487] Impeding.

[488] Causing the water to fall in a perfect arch, without any spray
escaping from the jet.

[489] Lilies of the valley.

[490] In rows.

[491] Insidiously subtract nourishment from.

[492] To consider or expect.

[493] Love, are pleased with.

[494] It is more advantageous to deal with men whose desires are not
yet satisfied, than with those who have gained all they have wished
for, and are likely to be proof against inducements.

[495] In the sense of the Latin “gloriosus,” “boastful,” “bragging.”

[496] Professions or classes.

[497] Weakness, or indecision of character.

[498] He probably alludes to the ancient stories of the friendship
of Orestes and Pylades, Theseus and Pirithoüs, Damon and Pythias,
and others, and the maxims of the ancient philosophers. Aristotle
considers that equality in circumstances and station is one requisite
of friendship. Seneca and Quintus Curtius express the same opinion.
It seems hardly probable that Lord Bacon reflected deeply when
he penned this passage, for between equals, jealousy, the most
insidious of all the enemies of friendship, has the least chance of
originating. Dr. Johnson says: “Friendship is seldom lasting but
between equals, or where the superiority on one side is reduced by some
equivalent advantage on the other. Benefits which cannot be repaid,
and obligations which cannot be discharged, are not commonly found
to increase affection; they excite gratitude indeed, and heighten
veneration, but commonly take away that easy freedom and familiarity of
intercourse, without which, though there may be fidelity, and zeal, and
admiration, there cannot be friendship.”—_The Rambler_, No. 64.

[499] In such a case, gratitude and admiration exist on the one hand,
esteem and confidence on the other.

[500] Lowering, or humiliating.

[501] Referees.

[502] Disgusted.

[503] Giving no false color to the degree of success which has attended
the prosecution of the suit.

[504] To have little effect.

[505] To this extent.

[506] Of the information.

[507] “Ask what is exorbitant, that you may obtain what is moderate.”

[508] This formed the first essay in the earliest edition of the work.

[509] Attentively.

[510] Vapid: without taste or spirit.

[511] “Studies become habits.”

[512] “Splitters of cummin-seeds;” or, as we now say, “splitters of
straws,” or “hairs.” Butler says of Hudibras:—

  “He could distinguish and divide
  A hair ’twixt south and southwest side.”

[513] Causes one side to preponderate.

[514] “The common father.”

[515] “As one of us.” Henry the Third of France, favoring the league
formed by the Duke of Guise and Cardinal De Lorraine against the
Protestants, soon found that, through the adoption of that policy, he
had forfeited the respect of his subjects.

[516] See a note to Essay 15.

[517] Of Castile. She was the wife of Ferdinand of Arragon, and was the
patroness of Columbus.

[518] The words in our version are: “He that observeth the
wind shall not sow, and he that regardeth the clouds shall not
reap.—_Ecclesiastes_ xi. 1.

[519] Exact in the extreme. Point-de-vice was originally the name of a
kind of lace of very fine pattern.

[520] “Appearances resembling virtues.”

[521] “A good name is like sweet-smelling ointment.” The words
in our version are, “A good name is better than precious
ointment.—_Ecclesiastes_ vii. 1.

[522] “Disregarding _his own_ conscience.”

[523] “To instruct under the form of praise.”

[524] “The worst kind of enemies are those who flatter.”

[525] A pimple filled with “pus,” or “purulent matter.” The word is
still used in the east of England.

[526] The words in our version are: “He that blesseth his friend with a
loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to
him.”—_Proverbs_ xxvii. 14.

[527] In other words, to show what we call an _esprit de corps_.

[528] Theologians.

[529] 2 Cor. xi. 23.

[530] “I will magnify my apostleship.” He alludes to the words in
Romans xi. 13: “Inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify
mine office.”

[531] Vaunting, or boasting.

[532] Noise. We have a corresponding proverb: “Great cry and little

[533] A high or good opinion.

[534] _Vide_ Liv. xxxvii. 48.

[535] By express command.

[536] “Those who write books on despising glory, set their names in
the title-page.” He quotes from Cicero’s “Tusculanæ Disputationes,”
b. i. c. 15, whose words are; “Quid nostri philosophi? Nonne in
his libris ipsis, quos scribunt de contemnendâ gloriâ, sua nomina
inscribunt.”—“What do our philosophers do? Do they not, in those very
books which they write on despising glory, set their names in the

[537] Pliny the Younger, the nephew of the elder Pliny, the naturalist.

[538] “One who set off every thing he said and did with a certain
skill.” Mucianus was an intriguing general in the times of Otho and
Vitellius.—_Hist._ xi. 80.

[539] Namely, the property of which he was speaking, and not that
mentioned by Tacitus.

[540] Apologies.

[541] Concessions.

[542] Plin. Epist. vi. 17.

[543] Boastful.

[544] “All fame emanates from servants.”—_Q. Cic. de Petit. Consul._ v.

[545] “Founders of empires.”

[546] He alludes to Ottoman, or Othman I., the founder of the dynasty
now reigning at Constantinople. From him, the Turkish empire received
the appellation of “Othoman,” or “Ottoman” Porte.

[547] “Perpetual rulers.”

[548] Surnamed the Peaceful, who ascended the throne of England A. D.
959. He was eminent as a legislator, and a rigid assertor of justice.
Hume considers his reign “one of the most fortunate that we meet with
in the ancient English history.”

[549] These were a general collection of the Spanish laws, made by
Alphonso X. of Castile, arranged under their proper titles. The work
was commenced by Don Ferdinand his father, to put an end to the
contradictory decisions in the Castilian courts of justice. It was
divided into seven parts, whence its name “Siete Partidas.” It did not,
however, become the law of Castile till nearly eighty years after.

[550] “Deliverers,” or “preservers.”

[551] “Extenders,” or “defenders of the empire.”

[552] “Fathers of their country.”

[553] “Participators in cares.”

[554] “Leaders in war.”

[555] Proportion, dimensions.

[556] “Equal to their duties.”

[557] “To expound the law.”

[558] “To make the law.”

[559] The Mosaic law. He alludes to Deuteronomy xxvii. 17. “Cursed be
he that removeth his neighbor’s landmark.”

[560] “A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled
fountain and a corrupt spring.”—_Proverbs_ xxv. 26.

[561] “Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in
the earth.”—_Amos_ v. 7.

[562] “He who wrings the nose strongly brings blood.” _Proverbs_ xxx.
33: “Surely, the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the
wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood; so the forcing of wrath
bringeth forth strife.”

[563] “He will rain snares upon them.” Psalm xi. 6: “Upon the wicked he
shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible tempest.”

[564] Strained.

[565] “It is the duty of a judge to consider not only the facts, but
the circumstances of the case.”—_Ovid. Trist._ I. i. 37.

[566] Pliny the Younger, Ep. B. 6, E. 2, has the observation:
“Patientiam ... quæ pars magna justitiæ est;” “Patience, which is a
great part of justice.”

[567] Is not successful.

[568] Makes him to feel less confident of the goodness of his cause.

[569] Altercate, or bandy words with the judge.

[570] “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles!”—_St.
Matthew_ vii. 16.

[571] Plundering.

[572] “Friends of the court.”

[573] “Parasites,” or “flatterers of the court.”

[574] Which were compiled by the decemvirs.

[575] “The safety of the people is the supreme law.”

[576] “Mine.”

[577] “Yours.”

[578] He alludes to 1 Kings x. 19, 30: “The throne had six steps, and
the top of the throne was round behind; and there were stays on either
side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays.
And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the
six steps.” The same verses are repeated in 1 Chronicles ix. 18, 19.

[579] “We know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.”—1
_Timothy_ i. 8.

[580] A boast.

[581] In our version it is thus rendered: “Be ye angry, and sin not;
let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”—_Ephesians_ iv. 26.

[582] Sen. De Ira i. 1.

[583] “In your patience possess ye your souls.”—_Luke_ xvi. 19.

[584] “And leave their lives in the wound.” The quotation is from
Virgil’s Georgics, iv. 238.

[585] Susceptibility upon.

[586] “A thicker covering for his honor.”

[587] Pointed and peculiarly appropriate to the party attacked.

[588] “Ordinary abuse.”

[589] “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and
that which is done, is that which shall be done; and there is no
new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said,
See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before
us.”—_Ecclesiastes_ i. 9, 10.

[590] In his Phædo.

[591] “There is no remembrance of former things: neither shall there be
any remembrance of things that are to come, with those that shall come
hereafter.”—_Ecclesiastes_ i. 11.

[592] “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead,
said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand,
there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my
word.”—1 _Kings_ xvii. 1. “And it came to pass after many days, that
the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show
thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.”—1 _Kings_
xviii. 1.

[593] Confined to a limited space.

[594] The whole of the continent of America then discovered is included
under this name.

[595] Limited.

[596] _Vide_ Plat. Tim. iii. 24, seq.

[597] Mach. Disc. Sop. Liv. ii. 2.

[598] Sabinianus of Volaterra was elected Bishop of Rome on the death
of Gregory the Great, A. D. 604. He was of an avaricious disposition,
and thereby incurred the popular hatred. He died in eighteen months
after his election.

[599] This Cicero speaks of as “the great year of the mathematicians.”
“On the Nature of the Gods,” B. 4, ch. 20. By some it was supposed to
occur after a period of 12,954 years, while, according to others, it
was of 25,920 years’ duration.—_Plat. Tim._ iii. 38, seq.

[600] Conceit.

[601] Observed.

[602] A curious fancy or odd conceit.

[603] The followers of Arminius, or James Harmensen, a celebrated
divine of the 16th and 17th centuries. Though called a heresy by Bacon,
his opinions have been for two centuries, and still are, held by a
large portion of the Church of England.

[604] A belief in astrology, or at least the influence of the stars was
almost universal in the time of Bacon.

[605] Germany.

[606] Charlemagne.

[607] When led thither by Alexander the Great.

[608] Striking.

[609] Application of the “aries,” or battering-ram.

[610] This fragment was found among Lord Bacon’s papers, and published
by Dr. Rawley in his Resuscitatio.

[611] Tac. Hist. ii. 80.

[612] Cæs. de Bell. Civ. i. 6.

[613] Tac. Ann. i. 5.

[614] _Vide_ Herod. viii. 108, 109.

[615] Varro distributes the ages of the world into three periods; viz:
the unknown, the fabulous, and the historical. Of the former, we have
no accounts but in Scripture; for the second, we must consult the
ancient poets, such as Hesiod, Homer, or those who wrote still earlier,
and then again come back to Ovid, who, in his Metamorphoses, seems,
in imitation perhaps of some ancient Greek poet, to have intended a
complete collection, or a kind of continued and connected history of
the fabulous age, especially with regard to changes, revolutions, or

[616] Most of these fables are contained in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and
Fasti, and are fully explained in Bohn’s Classical Library translation.

[617] Homer’s Hymn to Pan.

[618] Cicero, Epistle to Atticus, 5.

[619] Ovid, Metamorphoses, b. ii.

[620] This refers to the confused mixture of things, as sung by Virgil:—

  “Namque canebat uti magnum per inane coacta
  Semina terrarumque animæque marisque fuissent;
  Et liquidi simul ignis; ut his exordia primis
  Omnia, et ipse tener mundi concreverit orbis.”—

  _Ecl._ vi. 81.

[621] This is always supposed to be the case in vision, the
mathematical demonstrations in optics proceeding invariably upon the
assumption of this phenomenon.


  “Torva leæna lupum sequitur, lupus ipse capellam:
  Florentem cytisum sequitur lasciva capella.”

  _Virgil_, _Ecl._ ii. 63.

[623] Ovid, Rem. Amoris, v. 343. Mart. Epist.

[624] Psalm xix. 1.

[625] Syrinx, signifying a reed, or the ancient pen.

[626] Ovid, Metam. b. iv.

[627] Thus it is the excellence of a general, early to discover what
turn the battle is likely to take; and looking prudently behind, as
well as before, to pursue a victory so as not to be unprovided for a

[628] It may be remembered that the Athenian peasant voted for the
banishment of Aristides, because he was called the Just. Shakspeare
forcibly expresses the same thought:—

  “Let me have men about me that are fat;
  Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights:
  Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
  He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”

If Bacon had completed his intended work upon “Sympathy and Antipathy,”
the constant hatred evinced by ignorance of intellectual superiority,
originating sometimes in the painful feeling of inferiority, sometimes
in the fear of worldly injury would not have escaped his notice.

[629] Thus we see that Orpheus denotes learning; Eurydice, things,
or the subject of learning; Bacchus, and the Thracian women, men’s
ungoverned passions and appetites, &c. And in the same manner all the
ancient fables might be familiarly illustrated, and brought down to the
capacities of children.


  “Quod procul a nobis flectat Fortuna gubernans;
  Et ratio potius quam res persuadeat ipsa.”

[631] Proteus properly signifies primary, oldest, or first.

[632] Bacon nowhere speaks with such freedom and perspicuity as under
the pretext of explaining these ancient fables; for which reason they
deserve to be the more read by such as desire to understand the rest of
his works.

[633] As she also brought the author himself.


  “—————cadit Ripheus, justissimus unus,
  Qui fuit ex Teucris, et servantissimus æqui:
  Diis aliter visum.”—_Æneid_, lib. ii.

[635] Te autem mi Brute sicut debeo, amo, quod istud quicquid est
nugarum me scire voluisti.


  “Regina in mediis patrio vocat agmina sistro;
  Necdum etiam geminos a tergo respicit angues.”

  _Æneid_, viii. 696.

[637] Ovid’s Metamorphoses, b. iii., iv., and vi.; and Fasti, iii. 767.

[638] “Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit.”

[639] The author, in all his physical works, proceeds upon this
foundation, that it is possible, and practicable, for art to obtain the
victory over nature; that is, for human industry and power to procure,
by the means of proper knowledge, such things as are necessary to
render life as happy and commodious as its mortal state will allow. For
instance, that it is possible to lengthen the present period of human
life; bring the winds under command: and every way extend and enlarge
the dominion or empire of man over the works of nature.

[640] “All-gift.”

[641] Viz: that by Pandora.


  “Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,
  Quique metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
  Subjecit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari.”

  _Georg._ ii. 490.

[643] _De Augmentis Scientiarum_, sec. xxviii. and supplem. xv.

[644] An allusion which, in Plato’s writings, is applied to the
rapid succession of generations, through which the continuity of
human life is maintained from age to age; and which are perpetually
transferring from hand to hand the concerns and duties of this fleeting
scene. Γεννῶντες τε καὶ ἐκτρέφοντες παῖδας, κάθαπερ λαμπάδα τὸν βίον
παραδιδόντες ἄλλοις ἐξ ἄλλων—Plato, Leg. b. vi. Lucretius also has the
same metaphor:—

  “Et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradunt.”

[645] Eccles. xii. 11.

[646] This is what the author so frequently inculcates in the _Novum
Organum_, viz: that knowledge and power are reciprocal; so that to
improve in knowledge is to improve in the power of commanding nature,
by introducing new arts, and producing works and effects.


  “Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento:
  Hæ tibi erunt artes.”

  _Æneid_, vi. 851.


  “Sive recens tellus, seductaque nuper ab alta
  Æthere, cognati retinebat semina cœli.”—_Metam._ i. 80.

[649] Many philosophers have certain speculations to this purpose.
Sir Isaac Newton, in particular, suspects that the earth receives its
vivifying spirit from the comets. And the philosophical chemists and
astrologers have spun the thought into many fantastical distinctions
and varieties.—See Newton, _Princip._ lib. iii. p. 473, &c.

[650] This policy strikingly characterized the conduct of Louis XIV.,
who placed his generals under a particular injunction, to advertise
him of the success of any siege likely to be crowned with an immediate
triumph, that he might attend in person and appear to take the town by
a _coup de main_.

[651] The one denoted by the river Achelous, and the other by
Terpsichore, the muse that invented the cithara and delighted in


  “Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus;
  Rumoresque senum severiorum
  Omnes unius estimemus assis.”—_Catull. Eleg._ v.

And again—

  “Jura senes norint, et quod sit fasque nefasque
  Inquirant tristes; legumque examina servent.”

  _Metam._ ix. 550.

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