Page images


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 favourite, if he be inward, and no other apparent cause of esteem, is commonly thought but a by-way to close 2 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, it is worse than bribery; for bribes come but now and then; but if importunity or idle respects : 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.”

It is most true that was anciently spoken,-“A place showeth the man;" and it showeth some to the better and some to the

Oninium consensu cupux imperii, nisi imperasset, 4 saith Tacitus of Galba ; but of Vespasian he saith, Solus imperantium, Vespasianus mutatus in melius ; 5 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 honour amends; for honour is, or should be, the place of virtue; and as in Nat. ure 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.”

9 To steal is to do a thing secretly. So in The Taming of the Shrew, iii., 2: “ 'Twere good, methinks, to steal our marriage.”

1 Inward for intimate. So in King Richard the Third, iii., 4: “Who is most inward with the noble duke?"

Close in the sense of secret or hidden; a frequent usage. . 3 Respects for considerations ; also a frequent usage.

4 “All would have agreed in pronouncing him fit to govern, if he had not governed.”

“Of the emperors, Vespasian alone changed for the better after his acces. sion."

[ocr errors]




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 : hat next again ? action. 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 men 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: 6 but this last were fitter for a satire than for a serious observation. This is well to be weighed, that bold. ness 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; 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? reporteth, a Christian boy in Constantinople had like to have been stoned for gagging in a waggishness a long-billed fowl.8 Errors, indeed, in this virtue, of goodness or charity, may be committed. The Italians have an ungracious proverb, Tunto buon che val niente,—“So good, that he is good for nothing”; and one of the doctors of Italy, Nicholas Machiavel,' 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”; 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”; but He doth not rain wealth, nor shine honour 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 neighbours but the portraiture. “Sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor, and follow Me"; 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.

6 Stale-mate was a term in chess; used when the game was ended by the king being alone and unchecked, and then forced into a situation from which he was unable to move without going into check. A rather ignominious predicament.

7 A learned traveller, born in Flanders, in 1522. He was employed by the Emperor Ferdinand as ambassador to the Sultan Solyman II. His Letters relative to his travels in the East, which are written in Latin, contain much inter. esting information. They were the pocket companion of Gibbon.

8 In this instance the stork or crane was probably protected, not on the abstract grounds mentioned in the text, but for reasons of 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 that storks were held there in a sort of religious reverence, because they were supposed to make every Winter the pilgrimage to Mecca.

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

9 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, 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. The word Machiavelism has been adopted to denote all that is deformed, insincere, and perfidious in politics. He died in 1527.

1 This hard word comes pretty near meaning unreasonableness, or unper. suadableness.


are ever on the loading part; not so good as the dogs that licked Lazarus’ sores, 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? 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, 3 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: 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 5 from Christ for the salvation of his brethren, it shows much of a Divine nature, and a kind of conformity with Christ himself.





I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend,6 and the Talmud," and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind; and therefore God never wrought miracles to convince atheism, because His ordinary works convince it. It

2 Timon of Athens, as he is generally called, was surnamed the Misanthrope, from the hatred which he bore to his fellow-men. 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 them to avail themselves of it before it was too late.

A piece of timber that has grown crooked, and has been so cut that the trunk and branch form an angle.

4 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.

5 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.

6 The Legend was a collection of miraculous and wonderful stories; so called because the book was appointed to be read in churches on certain days.

7 This is the book that contains the Jewish traditions, and the Rabbinical explanations of the law. It is replete with wonderful narratives.

« PreviousContinue »