Francis Bacon (15611626). Advancement of Learning. 1857.
The First Book
THERE were under the Law (excellent King) both daily sacrifices and freewill offerings; the one proceeding upon ordinary observance, the other upon a devout cheerfulness. In like manner there belongeth to kings from their servants both tribute of duty and presents of affection. In the former of these I hope I shall not live to be wanting, according to my most humble duty, and the good pleasure of your Majestys employments: for the later, I thought it more respective to make choice of some oblation which might rather refer to the propriety and excellency of your individual person, than to the business of your crown and state.
Wherefore representing your Majesty many times unto my mind, and beholding you not with the inquisitive eye of presumption to discover that which the Scripture telleth me is inscrutable, but with the observant eye of duty and admiration; leaving aside the other parts of your virtue and fortune, I have been touched, yea and possessed with an extreme wonder at those your virtues and faculties which the philosophers call intellectual; the largeness of your capacity, the faithfulness of your memory, the swiftness of your apprehension, the penetration of your judgment, and the facility and order of your elocution: and I have often thought that of all the persons living that I have known, your Majesty were the best instance to make a man of Platos opinion, that all knowledge is but remembrance, and that the mind of man by nature knoweth all things, and hath but her own native and original notions1 (which by the strangeness and darkness of this tabernacle of the body are sequestered) again revived and restored: such a light of nature I have observed in your Majesty, and such a readiness to take flame and blaze from the least occasion presented, or the least spark of anothers knowledge delivered. And as the Scripture saith of the wisest king, That his heart was as the sands of the sea; which though it be one of the largest bodies yet it consisteth of the smallest and finest portions; so hath God given your Majesty a composition of understanding admirable, being able to compass and comprehend the greatest matters, and nevertheless to touch and apprehend the least; whereas it should seem an impossibility in nature for the same instrument to make itself fit for great and small works. And for your gift of speech, I call to mind what Cornelius Tacitus saith of Augustus Cæsar; Augusto profluens, et quæ principem deceret, eloquentia fuit; [that his style of speech was flowing and prince-like:2] for if we note it well, speech that is uttered with labour and difficulty, or speech that savoureth of the affectation of art and precepts, or speech that is framed after the imitation of some pattern of eloquence, though never so excellent,all this has somewhat servile, and holding of the subject. But your Majestys manner of speech is indeed prince-like, flowing as from a fountain, and yet streaming and branching itself into natures order, full of facility and felicity, imitating none, and inimitable by any. And as in your civil estate there appeareth to be an emulation and contention of your Majestys virtue with your fortune; a virtuous disposition with a fortunate regiment; a virtuous expectation (when time was) of your greater fortune, with a prosperous possession thereof in the due time; a virtuous observation of the laws of marriage, with most blessed and happy fruit of marriage; a virtuous and most Christian desire of peace, with a fortunate inclination in your neighbour princes thereunto: so likewise in these intellectual matters, there seemeth to be no less contention between the excellency of your Majestys gifts of nature and the universality and perfection of your learning. For I am well assured that this which I shall say is no amplification at all, but a positive and measured truth; which is, that there hath not been since Christs time any king or temporal monarch which hath been so learned in all literature and erudition, divine and human. For let a man seriously and diligently revolve and peruse the succession of the emperors of Rome, of which Cæsar the dictator, who lived some years before Christ, and Marcus Antoninus were the best learned; and so descend to the emperors of Græcia, or of the West, and then to the lines of France, Spain, England, Scotland, and the rest; and he shall find this judgment is truly made.3 For it seemeth much in a king, if by the compendious extractions of other mens wits and labours he can take hold of any superficial ornaments and shews of learning, or if he countenance and prefer learning and learned men: but to drink indeed of the true fountains of learning, nay to have such a fountain of learning in himself, in a king, and in a king born, is almost a miracle. And the more, because there is met in your Majesty a rare conjunction as well of divine and sacred literature as of profane and human; so as your Majesty standeth invested of that triplicity which in great veneration was ascribed to the ancient Hermes; the power and fortune of a King, the knowledge and illumination of a Priest, and the learning and universality of a Philosopher. This propriety inherent and individual attribute in your Majesty deserveth to be expressed not only in the fame and admiration of the present time, nor in the history or tradition of the ages succeeding; but also in some solid work, fixed memorial, and immortal monument, bearing a character or signature both of the power of a king and the difference and perfection of such a king.
Therefore I did conclude with myself, that I could not make unto your Majesty a better oblation than of some treatise tending to that end; whereof the sum will consist of these two parts: the former concerning the excellency of learning and knowledge, and the excellency of the merit and true glory in the augmentation and propagation thereof; the later,4 what the particular acts and works are which have been embraced and undertaken for the advancement of learning, and again what defects and undervalues I find in such particular acts; to the end that though I cannot positively or affirmatively advise your Majesty, or propound unto you framed particulars, yet I may excite your princely cogitations to visit the excellent treasure of your own mind, and thence to extract particulars for this purpose agreeable to your magnanimity and wisdom.
IN the entrance to the former of these,to clear the way, and as it were to make silence to have the true testimonies concerning the dignity of learning to be better heard without the interruption of tacit objections,I think good to deliver it from the discredits and disgraces which it hath received; all from ignorance; but ignorance severally disguised; appearing sometimes in the zeal and jealousy of divines, sometimes in the severity and arrogancy of politiques, and sometimes in the errors and imperfections of learned men themselves.
I hear the former sort say, that knowledge is of those things which are to be accepted of with great limitation and caution; that the aspiring to over-much knowledge was the original temptation and sin, whereupon ensued the fall of man; that knowledge hath in it somewhat of the serpent, and therefore where it entereth into a man it makes him swell,Scientia inflat, [knowledge puffeth up;] that Salomon gives a censure, That there is no end of making books, and that much reading is weariness of the flesh; and again in another place, That in spacious knowledge there is much contristation, and that he that increaseth knowledge increaseth anxiety; that St. Paul gives a caveat, That we be not spoiled through vain philosophy; that experience demonstrates how learned men have been arch-heretics, how learned times have been inclined to atheism, and how the contemplation of second causes doth derogate from our dependence upon God, who is the first cause.
To discover then the ignorance and error of this opinion and the misunderstanding in the grounds thereof, it may well appear these men do not observe or consider that it was not the pure knowledge of nature and universality, a knowledge by the light whereof man did give names unto other creatures in Paradise, as they were brought before him, according unto their proprieties, which gave the occasion to the fall; but it was the proud knowledge of good and evil, with an intent in man to give law unto himself and to depend no more upon Gods commandments, which was the form of the temptation. Neither is it any quantity of knowledge how great soever that can make the mind of man to swell; for nothing can fill, much less extend, the soul of man, but God and the contemplation of God; and therefore Salomon speaking of the two principal senses of inquisition, the eye and the ear, affirmeth that the eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing; and if there be no fulness, then is the continent greater than the content: so of knowledge itself and the mind of man, whereto the senses are but reporters, he defineth likewise in these words, placed after that calendar or ephemerides which he maketh of the diversities of times and seasons for all actions and purposes; and concludeth thus: God hath made all things beautiful, or decent, in the true return of their seasons: Also he hath placed the world in mans heart, yet cannot man find out the work which God worketh from the beginning to the end: declaring not obscurely that God hath framed the mind of man as a mirror or glass capable of the image of the universal world, and joyful to receive the impression thereof, as the eye joyeth to receive light; and not only delighted in beholding the variety of things and vicissitude of times, but raised also to find out and discern the ordinances and decrees which throughout all those changes are infallibly observed. And although he doth insinuate that the supreme or summary law of nature, which he calleth the work which God worketh from the beginning to the end, is not possible to be found out by man; yet that doth not derogate from the capacity of the mind, but may be referred to the impediments, as of shortness of life, ill conjunction of labours, ill tradition of knowledge over from hand to hand, and many other inconveniences, whereunto the condition of man is subject. For that nothing parcel of the world is denied to mans inquiry and invention he doth in another place rule over, when he saith, The spirit of man is as the lamp of God, wherewith he searcheth the inwardness of all secrets. If then such be the capacity and receit of the mind of man, it is manifest that there is no danger at all in the proportion or quantity of knowledge, how large soever, lest it should make it swell or out-compass itself; no, but it is merely the quality of knowledge, which be it in quantity more or less, if it be taken without the true corrective thereof, hath in it some nature of venom or malignity, and some effects of that venom, which is ventosity or swelling. This corrective spice, the mixture whereof maketh knowledge so sovereign, is Charity, which the apostle immediately addeth to the former clause; for so he saith, knowledge bloweth up, but charity buildeth up; not unlike unto that which he deilvereth in another place: If I spake (saith he) with the tongues of men and angels, and had not charity, it were but as a tinkling cymbal; not but that it is an excellent thing to speak with the tongues of men and angels, but because if it be severed from charity, and not referred to the good of men and mankind, it hath rather a sounding and unworthy glory than a meriting and substantial virtue. And as for that censure of Salomon concerning the excess of writing and reading books and the anxiety of spirit which redoundeth from knowledge, and that admonition of St. Paul, That we be not seduced by vain philosophy; let those places be rightly understood, and they do indeed excellently set forth the true bounds and limitations whereby human knowledge is confined and circumscribed; and yet without any such contracting or coarctation, but that it may comprehend all the universal nature of things. For these limitations are three. The first, that we do not so place our felicity in knowledge, as we forget our mortality. The second, that we make application of our knowledge to give ourselves repose and contentment, and not distaste or repining. The third, that we do not presume by the contemplation of nature to attain to the mysteries of God. For as touching the first of these, Salomon doth excellently expound himself in another place of the same book, where he saith; I saw well that knowledge recedeth as far from ignorance as light doth from darkness, and that the wise mans eyes keep watch in his head, whereas this fool roundeth about in darkness: but withal I learned that the same mortality involveth them both. And for the second, certain it is, there is no vexation or anxiety of mind which resulteth from knowledge otherwise than merely by accident; for all knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself: but when men fall to framing conclusions out of their knowledge, applying it to their particular, and ministering to themselves thereby weak fears or vast desires, there groweth that carefulness and trouble of mind which is spoken of: for then knowledge is no more Lumen siccum [a dry light], whereof Heraclitus the profound said, Lumen siccum optima anima,5 [the dry light is the best soul;] but it becometh Lumen madidum, or maceratum, [a light charged with moisture,] being steeped and infused in the humours of the affections. And as for the third point, it deserveth to be a little stood upon and not to be lightly passed over: for if any man shall think by view and inquiry into these sensible and material things to attain that light whereby he may reveal unto himself the nature or will of God, then indeed is he spoiled by vain philosophy: for the contemplation of Gods creatures and works produceth (having regard to the works and creatures themselves) knowledge; but having regard to God, no perfect knowledge, but wonder, which is broken knowledge. And therefore it was most aptly said by one of Platos school, That the sense of man carrieth a resemblance with the sun, which (as we see) openeth and revealeth all the terrestrial globe; but then again it obscureth and concealeth the stars and celestial globe: so doth the sense discover natural things, but it darkeneth and shutteth up divine. And hence it is true that it hath proceeded that divers great learned men have been heretical, whilst they have sought to fly up to the secrets of the Deity by the waxen wings of the senses. And as for the conceit that too much knowledge should incline a man to atheism, and that the ignorance of second causes should make a more devout dependence upon God which is the first cause; first, it is good to ask the question which Job asked of his friends: Will you lie for God, as one man will do for another, to gratify him? For certain it is that God worketh nothing in nature but by second causes; and if they would have it otherwise believed, it is mere imposture, as it were in favour towards God; and nothing else but to offer to the author of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie. But farther, it is an assured truth and a conclusion of experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of man to atheism, but a farther proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion; for in the entrance of philosophy, when the second causes, which are next unto the senses, do offer themselves to the mind of man, if it dwell and stay there, it may induce some oblivion of the highest cause; but when a man passeth on farther, and seeth the dependence of causes and the works of Providence; then, according to the allegory of the poets, he will easily believe that the highest link of natures chain must needs he tied to the foot of Jupiters chair. To conclude therefore, let no man, upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of Gods word or in the book of Gods works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both; only let men beware that they apply both to charity, and not to swelling; to use, and not to ostentation; and again, that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together.
And as for the disgraces which learning receiveth from politiques, they be of this nature; that learning doth soften mens minds, and makes them more unapt for the honour and exercise of arms; that it doth mar and pervert mens dispositions for matter of government and policy, in making them too curious and irresolute by variety of reading, or too peremptory or positive by strictness of rules and axioms, or too immoderate and overweening by reason of the greatness of examples, or too incompatible and differing from the times by reason of the dissimilitude of examples; or at least that it doth divert mens travails from action and business, and bringeth them to a love of leisure and privateness; and that it doth bring into states a relaxation of discipline, whilst every man is more ready to argue than to obey and execute. Out of this conceit Cato surnamed the Censor, one of the wisest men indeed that ever lived, when Carneades the philosopher came in embassage to Rome, and that the young men of Rome began to flock about him, being allured with the sweetness and majesty of his eloquence and learning, gave counsel in open senate that they should give him his dispatch with all speed, lest he should infect and inchant the minds and affections of the youth, and at unawares bring in an alteration of the manners and customs of the state. Out of the same conceit or humour did Virgil, turning his pen to the advantage of his country and the disadvantage of his own profession, make a kind of separation between policy and government and between arts and sciences, in the verses so much renowned, attributing and challenging the one to the Romans, and leaving and yielding the other to the Grecians; Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento, Hæ tibi erunt artes, &c.
[Be thine, O Rome,
With arts of government to rule the nations.]
So likewise we see that Anytus, the accuser of Socrates, laid it as an article of charge and accusation against him that he did with the variety and power of his discourses and disputations withdraw young men from due reverence to the laws and customs of their country; and that he did profess a dangerous and pernicious science, which was to make the worse matter seem the better, and to suppress truth by force of eloquence and speech.
But these and the like imputations have rather a countenance of gravity than any ground of justice: for experience doth warrant that both in persons and in times there hath been a meeting and concurrence in learning and arms, flourishing and excelling in the same men and the same ages. For as for men, there cannot be a better nor the like instance, as of that pair, Alexander the Great and Julius Cæsar the dictator; whereof the one was Aristotles scholar in philosophy, and the other was Ciceros rival in eloquence; or if any man had rather call for scholars that were great generals than generals that were great scholars, let him take Epaminondas the Theban, or Xenophon the Athenian; whereof the one was the first that abated the power of Sparta, and the other was the first that made way to the overthrow of the monarchy of Persia. And this concurrence is yet more visible in times than in persons, by how much an age is greater object than a man. For both in Ægypt, Assyria, Persia, Græcia, and Rome, the same times that are most renowned for arms are likewise most admired for learning; so that the greatest authors and philosophers and the greatest captains and governors have lived in the same ages. Neither can it otherwise be: for as in man the ripeness of strength of the body and mind cometh much about an age, save that the strength of the body cometh somewhat the more early; so in states, arms and learning, whereof the one correspondeth to the body, the other to the soul of man, have a concurrence or near sequence in times.
And for matter of policy and government, that learning should rather hurt than enable thereunto, is a thing very improbable. We see it is accounted an error to commit a natural body to empiric physicians, which commonly have a few pleasing receits whereupon they are confident and adventurous, but know neither the causes of diseases, nor the complexions of patients, nor peril of accidents, nor the true method of cures. We see it is a like error to rely upon advocates or lawyers which are only men of practice and not grounded in their books, who are many times easily surprised when matter falleth out besides their experience, to the prejudice of the causes they handle. So by like reason it cannot be but a matter of doubtful consequence, if states be managed by empiric statesmen, not well mingled with men grounded in learning. But contrariwise, it is almost without instance contradictory, that ever6 any government was disastrous that was in the hands of learned governors. For howsoever it hath been ordinary with politic men to extenuate and disable learned men by the names of Pedantes; yet in the records of time it appeareth in many particulars, that the governments of princes in minority (notwithstanding the infinite disadvantage of that kind of state) have nevertheless excelled the government of princes of mature age, even for that reason which they seek to traduce, which is, that by that occasion the state hath been in the hands of Pedantes: for so was the state of Rome for the first five years, which are so much magnified, during the minority of Nero, in the hands of Seneca, a Pedanti: so it was again for ten years space or more, during the minority of Gordianus the younger, with great applause and contentation in the hands of Misitheus, a Pedanti: so was it before that, in the minority of Alexander Severus, in like happiness, in hands not much unlike, by reason of the rule of the women, who were aided by the teachers and preceptors. Nay let a man look into the government of the bishops of Rome, as by name into the government of Pius Quintus and Sextus Quintus in our times, who were both at their entrance esteemed but as pedantical friars, and he shall find that such popes do greater things, and proceed upon truer principles of estate, than those which have ascended to the papacy from an education and breeding in affairs of estate and courts of princes; for although men bred in learning are perhaps to seek in points of convenience and accommodating for the present, which the Italians call ragioni di stato, whereof the same Pius Quintus could not hear spoken with patience, terming them inventions against religion and the moral virtues; yet on the other side, to recompense that, they are perfect in those same plain grounds of religion, justice, honour, and moral virtue; which if they be well and watchfully pursued, there will be seldom use of those other, no more than of physic in a sound or well-dieted body. Neither can the experience of one mans life furnish examples and precedents for the events of one mans life: for as it happeneth sometimes that the grandchild or other descendant resembleth the ancestor more than the son; so many times occurrences of present times may sort better with ancient examples than with those of the later or immediate times: and lastly, the wit of one man can no more countervail learning than one mans means can hold way with a common purse.
And as for those particular seducements or indispositions of the mind for policy and government, which learning is pretended to insinuate; if it be granted that any such thing be, it must be remembered withal, that learning ministereth in every of them greater strength of medicine or remedy, than it offereth cause of indisposition or infirmity. For if by a secret operation it make men perplexed and irresolute, on the other side by plain precept it teacheth them when and upon what ground to resolve; yea, and how to carry things in suspense without prejudice till they resolve. If it make men positive and regular, it teacheth them what things are in their nature demonstrative, and what are conjectural; and as well the use of distinctions and exceptions, as the latitude of principles and rules. If it mislead by disproportion or dissimilitude of examples, it teacheth men the force of circumstances, the errors of comparisons, and all the cautions of application; so that in all these it doth rectify more effectually than it can pervert. And these medicines it conveyeth into mens minds much more forcibly by the quickness and penetration of examples. For let a man look into the errors of Clement the seventh, so lively described by Guicciardine, who served under him, or into the errors of Cicero painted out by his own pencil in his epistles to Atticus, and he will fly apace from being irresolute. Let him look into the errors of Phocion, and he will beware how he be obstinate or inflexible. Let him but read the fable of Ixion, and it will hold him from being vaporous or imaginative. Let him look into the errors of Cato the second, and he will never be one of the Antipodes, to tread opposite to the present world.
And for the conceit that learning should dispose men to leisure and privateness, and make men slothful; it were a strange thing if that which accustometh the mind to a perpetual motion and agitation should induce slothfulness; whereas contrariwise it may be truly affirmed that no kind of men love business for itself but those that are learned; for other persons love it for profit, as an hireling that loves the work for the wages; or for honour, as because it beareth them up in the eyes of men, and refresheth their reputation which otherwise would wear; or because it putteth them in mind of their fortune, and giveth them occasion to pleasure and displeasure; or because it exerciseth some faculty wherein they take pride, and so entertaineth them in good humour and pleasing conceits toward themselves; or because it advanceth any other their ends. So that as it is said of untrue valours that some mens valours are in the eyes of them that look on, so such mens industries are in the eyes of others, or at least in regard of their own designments;7 only learned men love business as an action according to nature, as agreeable to health of mind as exercise is to health of body, taking pleasure in the action itself, and not in the purchase: so that of all men they are the most indefatigable, if it be towards any business which can hold or detain their mind.
And if any man be laborious in reading and study and yet idle in business and action, it groweth from some weakness of body or softness of spirit, such as Seneca speaketh of; Quidam tam sunt umbratiles, ut putent in turbido esse quicquid in luce est, [there are some men so fond of the shade, that they think they are in trouble whenever they are in the light;] and not of learning. Well may it be that such a point of a mans nature may make him give himself to learning, but it is not learning that breedeth any such point in his nature.
And that learning should take up too much time or leisure: I answer, the most active or busy man that hath been or can be hath (no question) many vacant times of leisure, while he expecteth the tides and returns of business, (except he be either tedious and of no dispatch, or lightly and unworthily ambitious to meddle in things that may be better done by others;) and then the question is but how those spaces and times of leisure shall be filled and spent; whether in pleasures or in studies; as was well answered by Demosthenes to his adversary Æschines,8 that was a man given to pleasure, and told him that his orations did smell of the lamp: Indeed (said Demosthenes) there is a great difference between the things that you and I do by lamp-light. So as no man need doubt that learning will expulse business; but rather it will keep and defend the possession of the mind against idleness and pleasure, which otherwise at unawares may enter to the prejudice of both.
Again, for that other conceit that learning should undermine the reverence of laws and government, it is assuredly a mere depravation and calumny without all shadow of truth. For to say that a blind custom of obedience should be a surer obligation than duty taught and understood, it is to affirm that a blind man may tread surer by a guide than a seeing man can by a light. And it is without all controversy that learning doth make the minds of men gentle, generous, maniable, and pliant to government; whereas ignorance makes them churlish, thwart, and mutinous: and the evidence of time doth clear this assertion, considering that the most barbarous, rude, and unlearned times have been most subject to tumults, seditious, and changes.
And as to the judgment of Cato the Censor, he was well punished for his blasphemy against learning, in the same kind wherein he offended: for when he was past threescore years old, he was taken with an extreme desire to go to school again and to learn the Greek tongue, to the end to peruse the Greek authors; which doth well demonstrate, that his former censure of the Grecian learning was rather an affected gravity, than according to the inward sense of his own opinion. And as for Virgils verses, though it pleased him to brave the world in taking to the Romans the art of empire, and leaving to others the arts of subjects; yet so much is manifest, that the Romans never ascended to that height of empire till the time they had ascended to the height of other arts; for in the time of the two first Cæsars, which had the art of government in greatest perfection, there lived the best poet, Virgilius Maro; the best historiographer, Titus Livius; the best antiquary, Marcus Varro; and the best, or second orator, Marcus Cicero, that to the memory of man are known. As for the accusation of Socrates, the time must be remembered when it was prosecuted; which was under the thirty tyrants, the most base, bloody, and envious persons that have governed; which revolution of state was no sooner over, but Socrates, whom they had made a person criminal, was made a person heroical, and his memory accumulate with honours divine and human; and those discourses of his, which were then termed corrupting of manners, were after acknowledged for sovereign medicines of the mind and manners, and so have been received ever since till this day. Let this therefore serve for answer to politiques, which in their humorous severity or in their feigned gravity have presumed to throw imputations upon learning; which redargution nevertheless (save that we know not whether our labours may extend to other ages) were not needful for the present, in regard of the love and reverence towards learning which the example and countenance of two so learned princes, queen Elizabeth and your Majesty, being as Castor and Pollux, lucida sidera, stars of excellent light and most benign influence, hath wrought in all men of place and authority in our nation.
Now therefore we come to that third sort of discredit or diminution of credit, that groweth unto learning from learned men themselves, which commonly cleaveth fastest. It is either from their fortune, or from their manners, or from the nature of their studies. For the first, it is not in their power; and the second is accidental; the third only is proper to be handled. But because we are not in hand with true measure, but with popular estimation and conceit, it is not amiss to speak somewhat of the two former. The derogations therefore which grow to learning from the fortune or condition of learned men, are either in respect of scarcity of means, or in respect of privateness of life and meanness of employments.
Concerning want, and that it is the case of learned men usually to begin with little and not to grow rich so fast as other men, by reason they convert not their labours chiefly to lucre and increase; it were good to leave the common place in commendation of povery to some friar to handle,9 to whom much was attributed by Machiavel in this point, when he said, That the kingdom of the clergy had been long before at an end, if the reputation and reverence towards the poverty of friars had not borne out the scandal of the superfluities and excesses of bishops and prelates. So a man might say that the felicity and delicacy of princes and great persons had long since turned to rudeness and barbarism, if the poverty of learning had not kept up civility and honour of life. But without any such advantages, it is worthy the observation what a reverend and honoured thing poverty of fortune was for some ages in the Roman state, which nevertheless was a state without paradoxes. For we see what Titus Livius saith in his introduction: Cæterum aut me amor negotii suscepti fallit, aut nulla unquam respublica nec major, nec sanctior, nec bonis exemplis ditior fuit; nec in quam tam seræ avaritia luxuriaque immigraverint; nec ubi tantus ac tam diu paupertati ac parsimoniæ honos fuerit: [that if affection for his subject did not deceive him, there was never any state in the world either greater or purer or richer in good examples; never any into which avarice and luxury made their way so late; never any in which poverty and frugality were for so long a time held in so great honour]. We see likewise, after that the state of Rome was not itself but did degenerate, how that person that took upon him to be counsellor to Julius Cæsar after his victory, where to begin his restoration of the state, maketh it of all points the most summary to take away the estimation of wealth: Verum hæc et omnia mala pariter cum honore pecuniæ desinent; si neque magistratus, neque alia vulgo cupienda, venalia erunt: [but these and all other evils (he says) will cease as soon as the worship of money ceases; which will come to pass when neither magistracies nor other things that are objects of desire to the vulgar shall be to be had for money]. To conclude this point, as it was truly said that rubor est virtutis color, [a blush is virtues colour,] though sometime it come from vice; so it may be fitly said that paupertas est virtutis fortuna, [poverty is virtues fortune,] though sometime it may proceed from misgovernment and accident. Surely Salomon hath pronounced it, both in censure, Qui festinat ad divitias non erit insons, [he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent;] and in precept, Buy the truth, and sell it not; and so of wisdom and knowledge; judging that means were to be spent upon learning, and not learning to be applied to means. And as for the privateness or obscureness (as it may be in vulgar estimation accounted) of life of contemplative men; it is a theme so common to extol a private life, not taxed with sensuality and sloth, in comparison and to the disadvantage of a civil life, for safety, liberty, pleasure, and dignity, or at least freedom from indignity, as no man handleth it but handleth it well; such a consonancy it hath to mens conceits in the expressing and to mens consents in the allowing. This only I will add, that learned men forgotten in states, and not living in the eyes of men, are like the images of Cassius and Brutus in the funeral of Junia; of which not being represented, as many others were, Tacitus saith, Eo ipso præfulgebant, quod non visebantur; [they had the preeminence over allin being left out].
And for meanness of employment, that which is most traduced to contempt is that the government of youth is commonly allotted to them; which age, because it is the age of least authority, it is transferred to the disesteeming of those employments wherein youth is conversant, and which are conversant about youth. But how unjust this traducement is (if you will reduce things from popularity of opinion to measure of reason) may appear in that we see men are more curious what they put into a new vessel than into a vessel seasoned, and what mould they lay about a young plant than about a plant corroborate; so as this weakest terms and times of all things use to have the best applications and helps. And will you hearken to the Hebrew Rabbins? Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; say they10 youth is the worthier age, for that visions are nearer apparitions of God than dreams. And let it be noted, that howsoever the conditions of life of Pedantes have11 been scorned upon theatres, as the ape of tyranny; and that the modern looseness or negligence hath taken no due regard to the choice of school-masters and tutors; yet the ancient wisdom of the best times did always make a just complaint that states were too busy with their laws and too negligent in point of education: which excellent part of ancient discipline hath been in some sort revived of late times by the colleges of the Jesuits; of whom, although in regard of their superstition I may say, quo meliores, eo deteriores,12 [the better the worse;] yet in regard of this, and some other points concerning human learning and moral matters, I may say, as Agesilaus said to his enemy Pharnabazus, talis quum sis, utinam noster esses, [they are so good that I wish they were on our side]. And thus much touching the discredits drawn from the fortunes of learned men.
As touching the manners of learned men, it is a thing personal and individual: and no doubt there be amongst them, as in other professions, of all temperatures: but yet so as it is not without truth which is said, that abeunt studia in mores, studies have an influence and operation upon the manners of those that are conversant in them.13
But upon an attentive and indifferent review, I for my part cannot find any disgrace to learning can proceed from the manners of learned men; not inherent to them as they are learned;14 except it be a fault (which was the supposed fault of Demosthenes, Cicero, Cato the second, Seneca, and many more) that because the times they read of are commonly better than the times they live in, and the duties taught better than the duties practised, they contend sometimes too far to bring things to perfection, and to reduce the corruption of manners to honesty of precepts or examples of too great height. And yet hereof they have caveats enough in their own walks. For Solon, when he was asked whether he had given his citizens the best laws, answered wisely, Yea, of such as they would receive: and Plato, finding that his own heart could not agree with the corrupt manners of his country, refused to bear place or office; saying, That a mans country was to be used as his parents were, that is, with humble persuasions, and not with contestations: and Cæsars counsellor put in the same caveat, Non ad vetera instituta revocans quæ jampridem corruptis moribus ludibrio sunt: [not to attempt to bring things back to the original institution, now that by reason of the corruption of manners the ancient simplicity and purity had fallen into contempt:] and Cicero noteth this error directly in Cato the second, when he writes to his friend Atticus; Cato optime sentit, sed nocet interdum reipublicæ; loquitur enim tanquam in republica Platonis, non tanquam in fæce Romuli: [Cato means excellently well; but he does hurt sometimes to the state; for he talks as if it were Platos republic that we are living in, and not the dregs of Romulus:] and the same Cicero doth excuse and expound the philosophers for going too far and being too exact in their prescripts, when he saith, Isti ipsi præceptores virtutis et magistri videntur fines officiorum paulo longius quam natura vellet protulisse, ut cum ad ultimum animo contendissemus, ibi tamen, ubi oportet, consisteremus: [that they had set the points of duty somewhat higher than nature would well bear; meaning belike to allow for shortcomings, and that our endeavours aiming beyond the mark and falling short, should light at the right place:] and yet himself might have said, Monitis sum minor ipse meis, [that he fell short of his own precepts]; for it was his own fault, though not in so extreme a degree.
Another fault likewise much of this kind hath been incident to learned men; which is, that they have esteemed the preservation, good, and honour of their countries or masters before their own fortunes or safeties. For so saith Demosthenes unto the Athenians: If it please you to note it, my counsels unto you are not such whereby I should grow great amongst you, and you become little amongst the Grecians: but they be of that nature, as they are sometimes not good for me to give, but are always good for you to follow. And so Seneca, after he had consecrated that Quinquennium Neronis to the eternal glory of learned governors, held on his honest and loyal course of good and free counsel, after his master grew extremely corrupt in his government. Neither can this point otherwise be; for learning endueth mens minds with a true sense of the frailty of their persons, the casualty of their fortunes, and the dignity of their soul and vocation; so that it is impossible for them to esteem that any greatness of their own fortune can be a true or worthy end of their being and ordainment; and therefore are desirous to give their account to God, and so likewise to their masters under God (as kings and the states that they serve), in these words; Ecce tibi lucrefeci, and not Ecce mihi lucrefeci, [Lo, I have gained for thee, not Lo, I have gained for myself:] whereas the corrupter sort of mere politiques, that have not their thoughts established by learning in the love and apprehension of duty, nor never look abroad into universality, do refer all things to themselves, and thrust themselves into the centre of the world, as if all lines should meet in them and their fortunes; never caring in all tempests what becomes of the ship of estates, so they may save themselves in the cockboat of their own fortune; whereas men that feel the weight of duty, and know the limits of self-love, use to make good their places and duties, though with peril. And if they stand in seditious and violent alterations, it is rather the reverence which many times both adverse parts do give to honesty, than any versatile advantage of their own carriage. But for this point of tender sense and fast obligation of duty, which learning doth endue the mind withal, howsoever fortune may tax it and many in the depth of their corrupt principles may despise it, yet it will receive an open allowance, and therefore needs the less disproof or excusation.
Another fault incident commonly to learned men, which may be more properly defended than truly denied, is that they fail sometimes in applying themselves to particular persons; which want of exact application ariseth from two causes; the one, because the largeness of their mind can hardly confine itself to dwell in the exquisite observation or examination of the nature and customs of one person: for it is a speech for a lover and not for a wise man, Satis magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus, [each is to other a theatre large enough]. Nevertheless I shall yield, that he that cannot contract the sight of his mind as well as disperse and dilate it, wanteth a great faculty. But there is a second cause, which is no inability but a rejection upon choice and judgment. For the honest and just bounds of observation by one person upon another extend no farther but to understand him sufficiently, whereby not to give him offence, or whereby to be able to give him faithful counsel, or whereby to stand upon reasonable guard and caution in respect of a mans self: but to be speculative into another man, to the end to know how to work him or wind him or govern him, proceedeth from a heart that is double and cloven, and not entire and ingenuous; which as in friendship it is want of integrity, so towards princes or superiors is want of duty. For the custom of the Levant, which is, that subjects do forbear to gaze or fix their eyes upon princes, is in the outward ceremony barbarous; but the moral is good: for men ought not by cunning and bent observations to pierce and penetrate into the hearts of kings, which the Scripture hath declared to be inscrutable.
There is yet another fault (with which I will conclude this part) which is often noted in learned men, that they do many times fail to observe decency and discretion in their behaviour and carriage, and commit errors in small and ordinary points of action; so as the vulgar sort of capacities do make a judgment of them in greater matters by that which they find wanting in them in smaller. But this consequence doth oft deceive men; for which I do refer them over to that which was said by Themistocles, arrogantly and uncivilly being applied to himself out of his own mouth, but being applied to the general state of this question pertinently and justly; when being invited to touch a lute, he said he could not fiddle, but he could make a small town a great state. So no doubt many may be well seen in the passages of government and policy, which are to seek in little and punctual occasions. I refer them also to that which Plato said of his master Socrates, whom he compared to the gallypots of apothecaries, which on the outside had apes and owls and antiques, but contained within sovereign and precious liquors and confections; acknowledging that to an external report he was not without superficial levities and deformities, but was inwardly replenished with excellent virtues and powers. And so much touching the point of manners of learned men.
But in the mean time I have no purpose to give allowance to some conditions and courses base and unworthy, wherein divers professors of learning have wronged themselves and gone too far; such as were those trencher philosophers, which in the later age of the Roman state were usually in the houses of great persons, being little better than solemn parasites; of which kind, Lucian maketh a merry description of the philosopher that the great lady took to ride with her in her coach, and would needs have him carry her little dog, which he doing officiously and yet uncomely, the page scoffed, and said, That he doubted the philosopher of a Stoic would turn to be a Cynic. But above all the rest, the gross and palpable flattery whereunto many (not unlearned) have abased and abused their wits and pens, turning (as Du Bartas saith) Hecuba into Helena and Faustina into Lucretia, hath most diminished the price and estimation of learning. Neither is the moral15 dedications of books and writings, as to patrons, to be commended: for that books (such as are worthy the name of books) ought to have no patrons but truth and reason; and the ancient custom was to dedicate them only to private and equal friends, or to intitle the books with their names; or if to kings and great persons, it was to some such as the argument of the book was fit and proper for. But these and the like courses may deserve rather reprehension than defence.
Not that I can tax or condemn the morigeration or application of learned men to men in fortune. For the answer was good that Diogenes made to one that asked him in mockery, How it came to pass that philosophers were the followers of rich men, and not rich men of philosophers? He answered soberly, and yet sharply, Because the one sort knew what they had need of, and the other did not. And of the like nature was the answer which Aristippus made, when having a petition to Dionysius and no ear given to him, he fell down at his feet, whereupon Dionysius staid and gave him the hearing and granted it; and afterward some person tender on the behalf of philosophy, reproved Aristippus that he would offer the profession of philosophy such an indignity, as for a private suit to fall at a tyrants feet: but he answered, It was not his fault, but it was the fault of Dionysius, that had his ears in his feet. Neither was it accounted weakness, but discretion, in him that would not dispute his best with Adrianus Cæsar; excusing himself, That it was reason to yield to him that commanded thirty legions. These and the like applications and stooping to points of necessity and convenience cannot be disallowed; for though they may have some outward baseness, yet in a judgment truly made they are to be accounted submissions to the occasion and not to the person.
Now I proceed to those errors and vanities which have intervened amongst the studies themselves of the learned; which is that which is principal and proper to the present argument; wherein my purpose is not to make a justification of the errors, but, by a censure and separation of the errors, to make a justification of that which is good and sound, and to deliver that from the aspersion of the other. For we see that it is the manner of men to scandalize and deprave that which retaineth the state and virtue, by taking advantage upon that which is corrupt and degenerate: as the Heathens in the primitive church used to blemish and taint the Christians with the faults and corruptions of heretics. But nevertheless I have no meaning at this time to make any exact animadversion of the errors and impediments in matters of learning which are more secret and remote from vulgar opinion; but only to speak unto such as do fall under, or near unto, a popular observation.
There be therefore chiefly three vanities in studies, whereby learning hath been most traduced. For those things we do esteem vain, which are either false or frivolous, those which either have no truth or no use: and those persons we esteem vain, which are either credulous or curious; and curiosity is either in matter or words: so that in reason as well as in experience, there fall out to be these three distempers (as I may term them) of learning; the first, fantastical learning; the second, contentious learning; and the last, delicate learning; vain imaginations, vain altercations, and vain affectations; and with the last I will begin.16 Martin Luther, conducted (no doubt) by a higher Providence, but in discourse of reason finding what a province he had undertaken against the Bishop of Rome and the degenerate traditions of the church, and finding his own solitude, being no ways aided by the opinions of his own time, was enforced to awake all antiquity, and to call former times to his succours to make a party against the present time; so that the ancient authors, both in divinity and in humanity, which had long time slept in libraries, began generally to be read and revolved. This by consequence did draw on a necessity of a more exquisite travail in the languages original wherein those authors did write, for the better understanding of those authors and the better advantage of pressing and applying their words. And thereof grew again a delight in their manner of style and phrase, and an admiration of that kind of writing; which was much furthered and precipitated by the enmity and opposition that the propounders of those (primitive but seeming new) opinions had against the schoolmen; who were generally of the contrary part, and whose writings were altogether in a differing style and form; taking liberty to coin and frame new terms of art to express their own sense and to avoid circuit of speech, without regard to the pureness, pleasantness, and (as I may call it) lawfulness of the phrase or word. And again, because the great labour then17 was with the people, (of whom the Pharisees were wont to say, Execrabilis ista turba, quæ non novit legem,) [the wretched crowd that has not known the law,] for the winning and persuading of them, there grew of necessity in chief price and request eloquence and variety of discourse, as the fittest and forciblest access into the capacity of the vulgar sort. So that these four causes concurring, the admiration of ancient authors, the hate of the schoolmen, the exact study of languages, and the efficacy of preaching, did bring in an affectionate study of eloquence and copie of speech, which then began to flourish. This grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter; more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgment. Then grew the flowing and watery vein of Osorius, the Portugal bishop, to be in price. Then did Sturmius spend such infinite and curious pains upon Cicero the orator and Hermogenes the rhetorician, besides his own books of periods and imitation and the like. Then did Car of Cambridge, and Ascham, with their lectures and writings, almost deify Cicero and Demosthenes, and allure all young men that were studious unto that delicate and polished kind of learning. Then did Erasmus take occasion to make the scoffing echo; Decem annos consumpsi in legendo Cicerone, [I have spent ten years in reading Cicero:] and the echo answered in Greek, one, Asine. Then grew the learning of the schoolmen to be utterly despised as barbarous. In sum, the whole inclination and bent of those times was rather towards copie than weight.
Here therefore [is] the first distemper of learning, when men study words and not matter: whereof though I have represented an example of late times, yet it hath been and will be secundum majus et minus in all time. And how is it possible but this should have an operation to discredit learning, even with vulgar capacities, when they see learned mens works like the first letter of a patent or limned book; which though it hath large flourishes, yet it is but a letter? It seems to me that Pygmalions frenzy is a good emblem or portraiture of this vanity: for words are but the images of matter; and except they have life of reason and invention, to fall in love with them is all one as to fall in love with a picture.
But yet notwithstanding it is a thing not hastily to be condemned, to clothe and adorn the obscurity even of philosophy itself with sensible and plausible elocution. For hereof we have great examples in Xenophon, Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, and of Plato also in some degree; and hereof likewise there is great use; for surely to the severe inquisition of truth, and the deep progress into philosophy, it is some hinderance; because it is too early satisfactory to the mind of man, and quencheth the desire of further search, before we come to a just period; but then if a man be to have any use of such knowledge in civil occasions, of conference, counsel, persuasion, discourse, or the like; then shall he find it prepared to his hands in those authors which write in that manner. But the excess of this is so justly contemptible, that as Hercules, when he saw the image of Adonis, Venus minion, in a temple, said in disdain, Nil sacri es, [you are so divinity;] so there is none of Hercules followers in learning, that is, the more severe and laborious sort of inquirers into truth, but will despise those delicacies and affectations, as indeed capable of no divineness.18 And thus much of the first disease or distemper of learning.
The second, which followeth, is in nature worse than the former; for as substance of matter is better than beauty of words, so contrariwise vain matter is worse than vain words: wherein it seemeth the reprehension of St. Paul was not only proper for those times, but prophetical for the times following; and not only respective to divinity, but extensive to all knowledge: Devita profanas vocum novitates, et oppositiones falsi nominis scientiæ: [shun profane novelties of terms and oppositions of science falsely so called]. For he assigneth two marks and badges of suspected and falsified science; the one, the novelty and strangeness of terms; the other, the strictness of positions, which of necessity doth induce oppositions, and so questions and altercations. Surely, like as many substances in nature which are solid do putrefy and corrupt into worms, so it is the property of good and sound knowledge to putrefy and dissolve into a number of subtile, idle, unwholesome, and (as I may term them) vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind of quickness and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter or goodness of quality. This kind of degenerate learning did chiefly reign amongst the schoolmen; who having sharp and strong wits, and abundance of leisure, and small variety of reading; but their wits being shut up in the cells of a few authors (chiefly Aristotle their dictator) as their persons were shut up in the cells of monasteries and colleges; and knowing little history, either of nature or time; did out of no great quantity of matter, and infinite agitation of wit, spin out unto us those laborious webs of learning which are extant in their books. For the wit and mind of man, if it work upon matter, which is the contemplation of the creatures of God, worketh according to the stuff, and is limited thereby; but if it work upon itself, as the spider worketh his web, then it is endless, and brings forth indeed cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fineness of thread and work, but of no substance or profit.
This same unprofitable subtility or curiosity is of two sorts; either in the subject itself that they handle, when it is a fruitless speculation or controversy, (whereof there are no small number both in divinity and philosophy,) or in the manner or method of handling of a knowledge; which amongst them was this; upon every particular position or assertion to frame objections, and to those objections, solutions; which solutions were for the most part not confutations, but distinctions: whereas indeed the strength of all sciences is, as the strength of the old mans faggot, in the bond. For the harmony of a science, supporting each part the other, is and ought to be the true and brief confutation and suppression of all the smaller sort of objections; but on the other side, if you take out every axiom, as the sticks of the faggot, one by one, you may quarrel with them and bend them and break them at your pleasure: so that as was said of Seneca, Verborum minutiis rerum frangit pondera, [that he broke up the weight and mass of the matter by verbal points and niceties;] so a man may truly say of the schoolmen, Quæstionum minutiis scientiarum frangunt soliditatem; [they broke up the solidity and coherency of the sciences by the minuteness and nicety of their questions]. For were it not better for a man in fair room to set up one great light, or branching candlestick of lights, than to go about with a small watch candle into every corner? And such is their method, that rests not so much upon evidence of truth proved by arguments, authorities, similitudes, examples, as upon particular confutations and solutions of every scruple, cavillation, and objection; breeding for the most part one question as fast it solveth another; even as in the former resemblance, when you carry the light into one corner, you darken the rest: so that the fable and fiction of Scylla seemeth to be a lively image of this kind of philosophy or knowledge; which was transformed into a comely virgin for the upper parts; but then Candida succinctam latrantibus inguina monstris, [there were barking monsters all about her loins:] so the generalities of the schoolmen are for a while good and proportionable; but then when you descend into their distinctions and decisions, instead of a fruitful womb for the use and benefit of mans life, they end in monstrous altercations and barking questions. So as it is not possible but this quality of knowledge must fall under popular contempt, the people being apt to contemn truth upon occasion of controversies and altercations, and to think they are all out of their way which never meet: and when they see such digladiation about subtilities and matter of no use nor moment, they easily fall upon that judgment of Dionysius of Syracusa, Verba ista sunt senum otiosorum, [it is the talk of old men that have nothing to do].
Notwithstanding certain it is, that if those schoolmen to their great thirst of truth and unwearied travail of wit had joined variety and universality of reading and contemplation, they had proved excellent lights, to the great advancement of all learning and knowledge. But as they are, they are great undertakers indeed, and fierce with dark keeping19; but as in the inquiry of the divine truth their pride inclined to leave the oracle of Gods word and to vanish in the mixture of their own inventions, so in the inquisition of nature they ever left the oracle of Gods works and adored the deceiving and deformed images which the unequal mirror of their own minds or a few received authors or principles did represent unto them. And thus much for the second disease of learning.
For the third vice or disease of learning, which concerneth deceit or untruth, it is of all the rest the foulest; as that which doth destroy the essential form of knowledge, which is nothing but a representation of truth: for the truth of being and the truth of knowing are one, differing no more than the direct beam and the beam reflected. This vice therefore brancheth itself into two sorts; delight in deceiving, and aptness to be deceived; imposture and credulity; which, although they appear to be of a diverse nature, the one seeming to proceed of cunning, and the other of simplicity, yet certainly they do for the most part concur: for as the verse noteth,
Percontatorem fugito, nam garrulus idem est,
an inquisitive man is a prattler, so upon the like reason a credulous man is a deceiver: as we see it in fame, that he that will easily believe rumours will as easily augment rumours and add somewhat to them of his own; which Tacitus wisely noteth, when he saith, Fingunt simul creduntque, [as fast as they believe one tale they make another:20] so great an affinity hath fiction and belief.
This facility of credit, and accepting or admitting things weakly authorized or warranted, is of two kinds, according to the subject: for it is either a belief of history (as21 the lawyers speak, matter of fact), or else of matter of art and opinion. As to the former, we see the experience and inconvenience of this error in ecclesiastical history; which hath too easily received and registered reports and narrations of miracles wrought by martyrs, hermits, or monks of the desert, and other holy men, and their relics, shrines, chapels, and images:22 which though they had a passage for a time, by the ignorance of the people, the superstitious simplicity of some, and the politic toleration of others, holding them but as divine poesies; yet after a period of time, when the mist began to clear up, they grew to be esteemed but as old wives fables, impostures of the clergy, illusions of spirits, and badges of antichrist, to the great scandal and detriment of religion.
So in natural history, we see there hath not been that choice and judgment used as ought to have been; as may appear in the writings of Plinius, Cardanus, Albertus, and divers of the Arabians; being fraught with much fabulous matter, a great part not only untried but notoriously untrue, to the great derogation of the credit of natural philosophy with the grave and sober kind of wits. Wherein the wisdom and integrity of Aristotle is worthy to be observed; that having made so diligent and exquisite a history of living creatures, hath mingled it sparingly with any vain or feigned matter; and yet on the other side23 hath cast all prodigious narrations which he thought worthy the recording into one book; excellently discerning that matter of manifest truth, such whereupon observation and rule was to be built, was not to be mingled or weakened with matter of doubtful credit; and yet again that rarities and reports that seem uncredible are not to be suppressed or denied to the memory of men.
And as for the facility of credit which is yielded to arts and opinions, it is likewise of two kinds; either when too much belief is attributed to the arts themselves, or to certain authors in any art. The sciences themselves, which have had better intelligence and confederacy with the imagination of man than with his reason, are three in number; Astrology, Natural Magic, and Alchemy; of which sciences nevertheless the ends or pretences are noble. For astrology pretendeth to discover that correspondence or concatenation which is between the superior globe and the inferior: natural magic pretendeth to call and reduce natural philosophy from variety of speculations to the magnitude of works: and alchemy pretendeth to make separation of all the unlike parts of bodies which in mixtures of natures are incorporate. But the derivations and prosecutions to these ends, both in the theories and in the practices, are full of error and vanity; which the great professors themselves have sought to veil over and conceal by enigmatical writings, and referring themselves to auricular traditions, and such other devices to save the credit of impostures. And yet surely to alchemy this right is due, that it may be compared to the husbandman whereof Æsop makes the fable, that when he died told his sons that he had left unto them gold buried under ground in his vineyard; and they digged over all the ground, and gold they found none, but by reason of their stirring and digging the mould about the roots of their vines, they had a great vintage the year following: so assuredly the search and stir to make gold hath brought to light a great number of good and fruitful inventions and experiments, as well for the disclosing of nature as for the use of mans life.
And as for the overmuch credit that hath been given unto authors in sciences, in making them dictators, that their words should stand, and not counsels24 to give advice; the damage is infinite that sciences have received thereby, as the principal cause that hath kept them low, at a stay without growth or advancement. For hence it hath comen that in arts mechanical the first deviser comes shortest, and time addeth and perfecteth; but in sciences the first author goeth furthest, and time leeseth and corrupteth. So we see, artillery, sailing, printing, and the like, were grossly managed at the first, and by time accommodated and refined; but contrariwise, the philosophies and sciences of Aristotle, Plato, Democritus, Hippocrates, Euclides, Archimedes, of most vigour at the first, and by time degenerate and imbased; whereof the reason is no other, but that in the former many wits and industries have contributed in one; and in the later many wits and industries have been spent about the wit of some one, whom many times they have rather depraved than illustrated. For as water will not ascend higher than the level of the first spring-head from whence it descendeth, so knowledge derived from Aristotle, and exempted from liberty of examination, will not rise again higher than the knowledge of Aristotle. And therefore, although the position be good, Oportet discentem credere, [a man who is learning must be content to believe what he is told,] yet it must be coupled with this, Oportet edoctum judicare, [when he has learned it he must exercise his judgment and see whether it be worthy of belief;] for disciples do owe unto masters only a temporary belief and a suspension of their own judgment until they be fully instructed, and not an absolute resignation or perpetual captivity: and therefore to conclude this point, I will say no more but, so let great authors have their due, as time which is the author of authors be not deprived of his due, which is further and further to discover truth. Thus have I gone over these three diseases of learning; besides the which, there are some other rather peccant humours than formed diseases, which nevertheless are not so secret and intrinsic but that they fall under a popular observation and traducement, and therefore are not to be passed over.
The first of these is the extreme affecting of two extremities; the one Antiquity, the other Novelty: wherein it seemeth the children of time do take after the nature and malice of the father. For as he devoureth his children, so one of them seeketh to devour and suppress the other; while antiquity envieth there should be new additions, and novelty cannot be content to add but it must deface. Surely the advice of the prophet is the true direction in this matter, State super vias antiquas, et videte quænam sit via recta et bona, et ambulate in ea: [stand ye in the old ways, and see which is the good way, and walk therein]. Antiquity deserveth that reverence, that men should make a stand thereupon, and discover what is the best way; but when the discovery is well taken, then to make progression. And to speak truly, Antiquitas sæculi juventus mundi. These times are the ancient times, when the world is ancient, and not those which we account ancient ordine retrogrado, by a computation backward from ourselves.
Another error, induced by the former, is a distrust that any thing should be now to be found out, which the world should have missed and passed over so long time; as if the same objection were to be made to time that Lucian maketh to Jupiter and other the heathen gods, of which he wondereth that they begot so many children in old time and begot none in his time, and asketh whether they were become septuagenary, or whether the law Pappia, made against old mens marriages, had restrained them. So it seemeth men doubt lest time is become past children and generation; wherein contrariwise we see commonly the levity and unconstancy of mens judgments, which, till a matter be done, wonder that it can be done; and as soon as it is done, wonder again that it was no sooner done; as we see in the expedition of Alexander into Asia, which at first was prejudged as a vast and impossible enterprise; and yet afterwards it pleaseth Livy to make no more of it than this, Nil aliud quàm bene ausus vana contemnere: [it was but taking courage to despise vain apprehensions]. And the same happened to Columbus in the western navigation. But in intellectual matters it is much more common; as may be seen in most of the propositions of Euclid, which till they be demonstrate, they seem strange to our assent; but being demonstrate, our mind accepteth of them by a kind of relation (as the lawyers speak) as if we had known them before.
Another error, that hath also some affinity with the former, is a conceit that of former opinions or sects, after variety and examination, the best hath still prevailed and suppressed the rest; so as if a man should begin the labour of a new search, he were but like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection brought into oblivion: as if the multitude, or the wisest for the multitudes sake, were not ready to give passage rather to that which is popular and superficial than to that which is substantial and profound; for the truth is, that time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and solid.
Another error, of a diverse nature from all the former, is the over-early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature; so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth; but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be further polished and illustrate,25 and accommodated for use and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.
Another error, which doth succeed that which we last mentioned, is that after the distribution of particular arts and sciences, men have abandoned universality, or philosophia prima; which cannot but cease and stop all progression. For no perfect discovery can be made upon a flat or a level: neither is it possible to discover the more remote and deeper parts of any science, if you stand but upon the level of the same science, and ascend not to a higher science.
Another error hath proceeded from too great a reverence, and a kind of adoration of the mind and understanding of man; by means whereof men have withdrawn themselves too much from the contemplation of nature and the observations of experience, and have tumbled up and down in their own reason and conceits. Upon these intellectualists, which are notwithstanding commonly taken for the most sublime and divine philosophers, Heraclitus gave a just censure, saying, Men sought truth in their own little worlds, and not in the great and common world; for they disdain to spell and so by degrees to read in the volume of Gods works; and contrariwise by continual meditation and agitation of wit do urge and as it were invocate their own spirits to divine and give oracles unto them, whereby they are deservedly deluded.
Another error that hath some connexion with this later is, that men have used to infect their meditations, opinions, and doctrines, with some conceits which they have most admired, or some sciences which they have most applied; and given all things else a tincture according to them, utterly untrue and unproper. So hath Plato intermingled his philosophy with theology, and Aristotle with logic, and the second school of Plato, Proclus and the rest, with the mathematics. For these were the arts which had a kind of primogeniture with them severally. So have the alchemists made a philosophy out of a few experiments of the furnace; and Gilbertus, our countryman, hath made a philosophy out of the observations of a loadstone. So Cicero, when, reciting the several opinions of the nature of the soul, he found a musician that held the soul was but a harmony, saith pleasantly, Hic ab arte sua non recessit, &c. [he was constant to his own art]. But of these conceits Aristotle speaketh seriously and wisely, when he saith, Qui respiciunt ad pauca de facili pronunciant: [they who take only few points into account find it easy to pronounce judgment].
Another error is an impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken of by the ancients; the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even. So it is in contemplation; if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
Another error is in the manner of the tradition and delivery of knowledge, which is for the most part magistral and peremptory, and not ingenuous and faithful; in a sort as may be soonest believed, and not easiliest examined. It is true that in compendious treatises for practice that form is not to be disallowed. But in the true handling of knowledge, men ought not to fall either on the one side into the vein of Velleius the Epicurean, Nil tam metuens quàm ne dubitare aliqua de re videretur, [who feared nothing so much as the seeming to be in doubt about anything,] nor on the other side into Socrates his ironical doubting of all things; but to propound things sincerely, with more or less asseveration, as they stand in a mans own judgment proved more or less.
Other errors there are in the scope that men propound to themselves, whereunto they bend their endeavours; for whereas the more constant and devote26 kind of professors of any science ought to propound to themselves to make some additions to their science, they convert their labours to aspire to certain second prizes; as to be a profound interpreter or commenter, to be a sharp champion or defender, to be a methodical compounder or abridger; and so the patrimony of knowledge cometh to be sometimes improved, but seldom augmented.
But the greatest error of all the rest is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or furthest end of knowledge. For men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of men: as if there were sought in knowledge a couch, whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace, for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground, for strife and contention; or a shop, for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse, for the glory of the Creator and the relief of mans estate. But this is that which will indeed dignify and exalt knowledge, if contemplation and action may be more nearly and straitly conjoined and united together than they have been; a conjunction like unto that of the two highest planets, Saturn the planet of rest and contemplation, and Jupiter the planet of civil society and action. Howbeit, I do not mean, when I speak of use and action, that end before-mentioned of the applying of knowledge to lucre and profession: for I am not ignorant how much that diverteth and interrupteth the prosecution and advancement of knowledge; like unto the golden ball thrown before Atalanta, which while she goeth aside and stoopeth to take up, the race is hindered,
Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit.
Neither is my meaning, as was spoken of Socrates, to call philosophy down from heaven to converse upon the earth; that is, to leave natural philosophy aside, and to apply knowledge only to manners and policy. But as both heaven and earth do conspire and contribute to the use and benefit of man, so the end ought to be, from both philosophies to separate and reject vain speculations and whatsoever is empty and void, and to preserve and augment whatsoever is solid and fruitful; that knowledge may not be as a courtesan, for pleasure and vanity only, or as a bond-woman, to acquire and gain to her masters use; but as a spouse, for generation, fruit, and comfort.
Thus have I described and opened, as by a kind of dissection, those peccant humours (the principal of them) which have27 not only given impediment to the proficience of learning, but have given also occasion to the traducement thereof: wherein if I have been too plain, it must be remembered Fidelia vulnera amantis, sed dolosa oscula malignantis: [faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful]. This I think I have gained, that I ought to be the better believed in that which I shall say pertaining to commendation, because I have proceeded so freely in that which concerneth censure. And yet I have no purpose to enter into a laudative of learning, or to make a hymn to the muses, (though I am of opinion that it is long since their rites were duly celebrated:) but my intent is, without varnish or amplification, justly to weigh the dignity of knowledge in the balance with other things, and to take the true value thereof by testimonies and arguments divine and human.
First therefore, let us seek the dignity of knowledge in the arch-type or first platform, which is in the attributes and acts of God, as far as they are revealed to man and may be observed with sobriety; wherein we may not seek it by the name of learning; for all learning is knowledge acquired, and all knowledge in God is original: and therefore we must look for it by another name, that of wisdom or sapience, as the Scriptures call it.
It is so then, that in the work of the creation we see a double emanation of virtue from God; the one referring more properly to power, the other to wisdom; the one expressed in making the subsistence of the matter, and the other in disposing the beauty of the form. This being supposed, it is to be observed, that for any thing which appeareth in the history of the creation, the confused mass and matter of heaven and earth was made in a moment, and the order and disposition of that chaos or mass was the work of six days; such a note of difference it pleased God to put upon the works of power and the works of wisdom; wherewith concurreth, that in the former it is not set down that God said, Let there be heaven and earth, as it is set down of the works following; but actually, that God made heaven and earth: the one carrying the style of a manufacture, and the other of a law, decree, or counsel.
To proceed to that which is next in order, from God to spirits; we find, as far as credit is to be given to the celestial hierarchy of that supposed Dionysius the senator of Athens,28 the first place or degree is given to the angels of love, which are termed Seraphim; the second to the angels of light, which are termed Cherubim; and the third and so following places to thrones, principalities, and the rest, which are all angels of power and ministry; so as the angels of knowledge and illumination are placed before the angels of office and domination.
To descend from spirits and intellectual forms to sensible and material forms; we read the first form that was created was light, which hath a relation and correspondence in nature and corporal things, to knowledge in spirits and incorporal things.
After the creation was finished, it is set down unto us that man was placed in the garden to work therein; which work so appointed to him could be no other than work of contemplation; that is, when the end of work is but for exercise and experiment, not for necessity; for there being then no reluctation of the creature, nor sweat of the brow, mans employment must of consequence have been matter of delight in the experiment, and not matter of labour for the use. Again, the first acts which man performed in Paradise consisted of the two summary parts of knowledge; the view of creatures, and the imposition of names. As for the knowledge which induced the fall, it was, as was touched before, not the natural knowledge of creatures, but the moral knowledge of good and evil; wherein the supposition was, that Gods commandments or prohibitions were not the originals of good and evil, but that they had other beginnings, which man aspired to know, to the end to make a total defection from God, and to depend wholly upon himself.
To pass on: in the first event or occurrence after the fall of man, we see (as the Scriptures have infinite mysteries, not violating at all the truth of the story or letter,) an image of the two estates, the contemplative state and the active state, figured in the two persons of Abel and Cain, and in the two simplest and most primitive trades of life; that of the shepherd, (who, by reason of his leisure, rest in a place, and living in view of heaven, is a lively image of a contemplative life,) and that of the husbandman: where we see again the favour and election of God went to the shepherd, and not to the tiller of the ground.
So in the age before the flood, the holy records within those few memorials which are there entered and registered have vouchsafed to mention and honour the name of the inventors and authors of music and works in metal. In the age after the flood, the first great judgment of God upon the ambition of man was the confusion of tongues; whereby the open trade and intercourse of learning and knowledge was chiefly imbarred.
To descend to Moses the lawgiver, and Gods first pen: he is adorned by the Scriptures with this addition and commendation, that he was seen in all the learning of the Egyptians; which nation we know was one of the most ancient schools of the world: for so Plato brings in the Egyptian priest saying unto Solon: You Grecians are ever children; you have no knowledge of antiquity, nor antiquity of knowledge. Take a view of the ceremonial law of Moses; you shall find, besides the prefiguration of Christ, the badge or difference of the people of God, the exercise and impression of obedience, and other divine uses and fruits thereof, that some of the most learned Rabbins have travelled profitably and profoundly to observe, some of them a natural, some of them a moral, sense or reduction of many of the ceremonies and ordinances. As in the law of the leprosy, where it is said, If the whiteness have overspread the flesh, the patient may pass abroad for clean; but if there be any whole flesh remaining, he is to be shut up for unclean; one of them noteth a principle of nature, that putrefaction is more contagious before maturity than after: and another noteth a position of moral philosophy, that men abandoned to vice do not so much corrupt manners, as those that are half good and half evil. So in this and very many other places in that law, there is to be found, besides the theological sense, much aspersion of philosophy.
So likewise in that excellent book of Job, if it be revolved with diligence, it will be found pregnant and swelling with natural philosophy; as for example, cosmography and the roundness of the world; Qui extendit aquilonem super vacuum, et appendit terram super nihilum; [who stretcheth out the north upon the empty space, and hangeth the earth upon nothing;] wherein the pensileness of the earth, the pole of the north, and the finiteness or convexity of heaven are manifestly touched. So again matter of astronomy; Spiritus ejus ornavit clos, et obstetricante manu ejus eductus est Coluber tortuoses: [by his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked Serpent]. And in another place; Nunquid conjungere valebis micantes stellas Pleiadas, aut gyrum Arcturi poteris dissipare? [canst thou bring together the glittering stars of the Pleiades, or scatter the array of Arcturus?] where the fixing of the stars, ever standing at equal distance, is with great elegancy noted. And in another place, Qui facit Arcturum, et Oriona, et Hyadas, et interiora Austri; [which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Hyades, and the secrets of the South;] where again he takes knowledge of the depression of the southern pole, calling it the secrets of the south, because the southern stars were in that climate unseen. Matter of generation; Annon sicut lac mulsisti me, et sicut caseum coagulasti me? &c. [hast thou not drawn me forth like milk, and curdled me like cheese?] Matter of minerals; Habet argentum venarum suarum principia: et auro locus est in quo conflatur, ferrum de terra tollitur, et lapis solutus calore in æs vertitur: [surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it. Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone:] and so forwards in that chapter.
So likewise in the person of Salomon the king, we see the gift or endowment of wisdom and learning, both in Salomons petition and in Gods assent thereunto, preferred before all other terrene and temporal felicity. By virtue of which grant or donative of God, Salomon became enabled not only to write those excellent parables or aphorisms concerning divine and moral philosophy, but also to compile a natural history of all verdure,29 from the cedar upon the mountain to the moss upon the wall, (which is but a rudiment between putrefaction and an herb,) and also of all things that breathe or move. Nay, the same Salomon the king, although he excelled in the glory of treasure and magnificent buildings, of shipping and navigation, of service and attendance, of fame and renown, and the like, yet he maketh no claim to any of those glories, but only to the glory of inquisition of truth; for so he saith expressly, The glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the king is to find it out; as if, according to the innocent play of children, the Divine Majesty took delight to hide his works, to the end to have them found out; and as if kings could not obtain a greater honour than to be Gods playfellows in that game, considering the great commandment of wits and means, whereby nothing needeth to be hidden from them.
Neither did the dispensation of God vary in the times after our Saviour came into the world; for our Saviour himself did first shew his power to subdue ignorance, by his conference with the priests and doctors of the law, before he shewed his power to subdue nature by his miracles. And the coming of the Holy Spirit was chiefly figured and expressed in the similitude and gift of tongues, which are but vehicula scientiæ, [carriers of knowledge].
So in the election of those instruments which it pleased God to use for the plantation of the faith, notwithstanding that at the first he did employ persons altogether unlearned otherwise than by inspiration, more evidently to declare his immediate working, and to abase all human wisdom or knowledge; yet nevertheless that counsel of his was no sooner performed, but in the next vicissitude and succession he did send his divine truth into the world waited on with other learnings as with servants or handmaids: for so we see St. Paul, who was only learned amongst the apostles, had his pen most used in the scriptures of the New Testament.
So again we find that many of the ancient bishops and fathers of the Church were excellently read and studied in all the learning of the heathen; insomuch that the edict of the emperor Julianus, (whereby it was interdicted unto Christians to be admitted into schools, lectures, or exercises of learning,) was esteemed and accounted a more pernicious engine and machination against the Christian faith, than were all the sanguinary prosecutions of his predecessors; neither could the emulation and jealousy of Gregory the first of that name, bishop of Rome, ever obtain the opinion of piety or devotion; but contrariwise received the censure of humour, malignity, and pusillanimity,30 even amongst holy men; in that he designed to obliterate and extinguish the memory of heathen antiquity and authors. But contrariwise it was the Christian Church, which amidst the inundations of the Scythians on the one side from the north-west, and the Saracens from the east, did preserve in the sacred lap and bosom thereof the precious relics even of heathen learning, which otherwise had been extinguished as if no such thing had ever been.
And we see before our eyes, that in the age of ourselves and our fathers, when it pleased God to call the church of Rome to account for their degenerate manners and ceremonies, and sundry doctrines obnoxious and framed to uphold the same abuses; at one and the same time it was ordained by the Divine Providence that there should attend withal a renovation and new spring of all other knowledges:31 and on the other side we see the Jesuits, who partly in themselves and partly by the emulation and provocation of their example, have much quickened and strengthened the state of learning,we see (I say) what notable service and reparation they have done to the Roman see.
Wherefore to conclude this part, let it be observed that there be two principal duties and services, besides ornament and illustration, which philosophy and human learning do perform to faith and religion. The one, because they are an effectual inducement to the exaltation of the glory of God: For as the Psalms and other Scriptures do often invite us to consider and magnify the great and wonderful works of God, so if we should rest only in the contemplation of the exterior of them as they first offer themselves to our senses, we should do a like injury unto the majesty of God as if we should judge or construe of the store of some excellent jeweller by that only which is set out toward the street in his shop. The other, because they minister a singular help and preservative against unbelief and error: For our Saviour saith, You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God; laying before us two books or volumes to study, if we will be secured from error; first the Scriptures, revealing the will of God, and then the creatures expressing his power; whereof the later is a key unto the former; not only opening our understanding to conceive the true sense of the Scriptures, by the general notions of reason and rules of speech; but chiefly opening our belief, in drawing us into a due meditation of the omnipotency of God, which is chiefly signed and engraven upon his works. Thus much therefore for divine testimony and evidence concerning the true dignity and value of learning.
As for human proofs, it is so large a field, as in a discourse of this nature and brevity it is fit rather to use choice of those things which we shall produce, than to embrace the variety of them. First therefore, in the degrees of human honour amongst the heathen it was the highest, to obtain to a veneration and adoration as a God. This unto the Christians is as the forbidden fruit. But we speak now separately of human testimony: according to which that which the Grecians call apotheosis, and the Latins relatio inter divos, was the supreme honour which man could attribute unto man; specially when it was given, not by a formal decree or act of state, as it was used among the Roman emperors, but by an inward assent and belief; which honour being so high, had also a degree or middle term; for there were reckoned above human honours, honours32 heroical and divine; in the attribution and distribution of which honours we see antiquity made this difference: that whereas founders and uniters of states and cities, lawgivers, extirpers of tyrants, fathers of the people, and other eminent persons in civil merit, were honoured but with the titles of worthies or demi-gods; such as were Hercules, Theseus, Minos, Romulus, and the like; on the other side, such as were inventors and authors of new arts, endowments, and commodities towards mans life, were ever consecrated amongst the gods themselves, as was Ceres, Bacchus, Mercurius, Apollo, and others; and justly; for the merit of the former is confined within the circle of an age or a nation; and is like fruitful showers, which though they be profitable and good, yet serve but for that season, and for a latitude of ground where they fall; but the other is indeed like the benefits of heaven, which are permanent and universal. The former again is mixed with strife and perturbation; but the later hath the true character of divine presence, coming33 in aura leni, without noise or agitation.
Neither is certainly that other merit of learning, in repressing the inconveniences which grow from man to man, much inferior to the former, of relieving the necessities which arise from nature; which merit was lively set forth by the ancients in that feigned relation of Orpheus theatre; where all beasts and birds assembled, and forgetting their several appetites, some of prey, some of game, some of quarrel, stood all sociably together listening unto the airs and accords of the harp; the sound whereof no sooner ceased, or was drowned by some louder noise, but every beast returned to his own nature: wherein is aptly described the nature and condition of men; who are full of savage and unreclaimed desires, of profit, of lust, of revenge, which as long as they give ear to precepts, to laws, to religion, sweetly touched with eloquence and persuasion of books, of sermons, of harangues, so long is society and peace maintained; but if these instruments be silent, or that sedition and tumult make them not audible, all things dissolve into anarchy and confusion.
But this appeareth more manifestly, when kings themselves, or persons of authority under them, or other governors in commonwealths and popular estates, are endued with learning. For although he might be thought partial to his own profession, that said Then should people and estates be happy, when either kings were philosophers, or philosophers kings; yet so much is verified by experience, that under learned princes and governors there have been ever the best times: for howsoever kings may have their imperfections in their passions and customs, yet if they be illuminate by learning, they have those notions of religion, policy, and morality, which do preserve them and refrain them from all ruinous and peremptory errors and excesses; whispering evermore in their ears, when counsellors and servants stand mute and silent. And senators or counsellors, likewise which be learned, do proceed upon more safe and substantial principles than counsellors which are only men of experience; the one sort keeping dangers afar off, whereas the other discover them not till they come near hand, and then trust to the agility of their wit to ward or avoid them.
Which felicity of times under learned princes (to keep still the law of brevity, by using the most eminent and selected examples) doth best appear in the age which passed from the death of Domitianus the emperor until the reign of Commodus; comprehending a succession of six princes,34 all learned or singular favourers and advancers of learning; which age, for temporal respects, was the most happy and flourishing that ever the Roman empire (which then was a model of the world) enjoyed: a matter revealed and prefigured unto Domitian in a dream the night before he was slain; for he thought there was grown behind upon his shoulders a neck and a head of gold, which came accordingly to pass in those golden times which succeeded: of which princes we will make some commemoration; wherein although the matter will be vulgar, and may be thought fitter for a declamation than agreeable to a treatise infolded as this is, yet because it is pertinent to the point in hand, neque semper arcum tendit Apollo, [and Apollo does not keep his bow always bent,] and to name them only were too naked and cursory, I will not omit it altogether.35
The first was Nerva; the excellent temper of whose government is by a glance in Cornelius Tacitus touched to the life: Postquam divus Nerva res olim insociabiles miscuisset, imperium et libertatem: [he united and reconciled two things which used not to go togethergovernment and liberty].36 And in token of his learning, the last act of his short reign left to memory was a missive to his adopted son Trajan, proceeding upon some inward discontent at the ingratitude of the times, comprehended in a verse of Homers;
Trajan, who succeeded, was for his person not learned: but if we will hearken to the speech of our Saviour, that saith, He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall have at prophets reward, he deserveth to be placed amongst the most learned princes: for there was not a greater admirer of learning or benefactor of learning; a founder of famous libraries, a perpetual advancer of learned men to office, and a familiar converser with learned professors and preceptors, who were noted to have then most credit in court. On the other side, how much Trajans virtue and government was admired and renowned, surely no testimony of grave and faithful history doth more lively set forth, than that legend tale of Gregorius Magnus, bishop of Rome, who was noted for the extreme envy he bare towards all heathen excellency: and yet he is reported, out of the love and estimation of Trajans moral virtues, to have made unto God passionate and fervent prayers for the delivery of his soul out of hell; and to have obtained it, with a caveat that he should make no more such petitions.37 In this princes time also the persecutions against the Christians received intermission, upon the certificate of Plinius Secundus, a man of excellent learning and by Trajan advanced.
Adrian, his successor, was the most curious man that lived, and the most universal inquirer; insomuch as it was noted for an error in his mind, that he desired to comprehend all things, and not to reserve himself for the worthiest things; falling into the like humour that was long before noted in Philip of Macedon, who when he would needs over-rule and put down an excellent musician in an argument touching music, was well answered by him again, God forbid, Sir, (saith he,) that your fortune should be so bad, as to know these things better than I.38 It pleased God likewise to use the curiosity of this emperor as an inducement to the peace of his church in those days. For having Christ in veneration, not as a God or Saviour, but as a wonder or novelty, and having his picture in his gallery matched with Apollonius (with whom in his vain imagination he thought he had some conformity), yet it served the turn to allay the bitter hatred of those times against the Christian name; so as the church had peace during his time.39 And for his government civil, although he did not attain to that of Trajans40 in glory of arms or perfection of justice, yet in deserving of the weal of the subject he did exceed him. For Trajan erected many famous monuments and buildings; insomuch as Constantine the Great in emulation was wont to call him Parietaria, wall flower, because his name was upon so many walls; but his buildings and works were more of glory and triumph than use and necessity. But Adrian spent his whole reign, which was peaceable, in a perambulation or survey of the Roman empire; giving order and making assignation where he went for re-edifying of cities, towns, and forts decayed, and for cutting of rivers and streams, and for making bridges and passages, and for policing41 of cities and commonalties with new ordinances and constitutions, and granting new franchises and incorporations; so that his whole time was a very restoration of all the lapses and decays of former times.
Antoninus42 Pius, who succeeded him, was a prince excellently learned; and had the patient and subtile wit of a schoolman; insomuch as in common speech (which leaves no virtue untaxed) he was called cymini sector, a carver or divider of cummin seed, which is one of the least seeds; such a patience he had and settled spirit to enter into the least and most exact differences of causes; a fruit no doubt of the exceeding tranquillity and serenity of his mind; which being no ways charged or incumbered either with fears, remorses, or scruples, but having been noted for a man of the purest goodness, without all fiction or affectation, that hath reigned or lived, made his mind continually present and entire. He likewise approached a degree nearer unto Christianity, and became, as Agrippa said unto St. Paul, half a Christian; holding their religion and law in good opinion, and not only ceasing persecution, but giving way to the advancement of Christians.
There succeeded him the first Divi fratres, the two adoptive brethren, Lucius Commodus Verus, son to Ælius Verus, who delighted much in the softer kind of learning, and was wont to call the poet Martial his Virgil; and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus; whereof the later, who obscured his colleague43 and survived him long, was named the Philosopher: who as he excelled all the rest in learning, so he excelled them likewise in perfection of all royal virtues; insomuch as Julianus the emperor, in his book intitled Cæsares, being as a pasquil or satire to deride all his predecessors, feigned that they were all invited to a banquet of the gods, and Silenus the jester sat at the nether end of the table and bestowed a scoff on every one as they came in; but when Marcus Philosophus came in, Silenus was gravelled and out of countenance, not knowing where to carp at him; save at the last he gave a glance at his patience towards his wife. And the virtue of this prince, continued with that of his predecessor, made the name of Antoninus so sacred in the world, that though it were extremely dishonoured in Commodus, Caracalla, and Heliogabalus, who all bare the name, yet when Alexander Severus refused the name because he was a stranger to the family, the Senate with one acclamation said, Quomodo Augustus, sic et Antoninus: [let the name of Antoninus be as the name of Augustus:] in such renown and veneration was the name of these two princes in those days, that they would have it as a perpetual addition in all the emperors style. In this emperors time also the church for the most part was in peace; so as in this sequence of six princes we do see the blessed effects of learning in sovereignty, painted forth in the greatest table of the world.
But for a tablet or picture of smaller volume, (not presuming to speak of your Majesty that liveth,) in my judgment the most excellent is that of queen Elizabeth, your immediate predecessor in this part of Britain; a prince that, if Plutarch were now alive to write lives44 by parallels, would trouble him, I think, to find for her a parallel amongst women. This lady was endued with learning in her sex singular, and rare45 even amongst masculine princes; whether we speak of learning of46 language or of science; modern or ancient; divinity or humanity. And unto the very last year of her life she accustomed to appoint set hours for reading, scarcely any young student in a university more daily or more duly. As for her47 government, I assure myself I shall not exceed if I do affirm that this part of the island never had forty-five years of better times; and yet not through the calmness of the season, but through the wisdom of her regiment. For if there be considered of the one side, the truth of religion established; the constant peace and security; the good administration of justice; the temperate use of the prerogative, not slackened, nor much strained; the flourishing state of learning, sortable to so excellent a patroness; the convenient estate of wealth and means, both of crown and subject; the habit of obedience, and the moderation of discontents; and there be considered on the other side, the differences of religion, the troubles of neighbour countries, the ambition of Spain, and opposition of Rome; and then that she was solitary and of herself: these things I say considered, as I could not have chosen an instance so recent and so proper, so I suppose I could not have chosen one more remarkable or eminent, to the purpose now in hand; which is concerning the conjunction of learning in the prince with felicity in the people.48
Neither hath learning an influence and operation only upon civil merit and moral virtue, and the arts or temperature of peace and peaceable government; but likewise it hath no less power and efficacy in enablement towards martial and military virtue and prowess; as may be notably represented in the examples of Alexander the Great and Cæsar the Dictator, mentioned before, but now in fit place to be resumed; of whose virtues and acts in war there needs no note or recital, having been the wonders of time in that kind; but of their affections towards learning, and perfections in learning, it is pertinent to say somewhat.
Alexander was bred and taught under Aristotle the great philosopher, who dedicated divers of his books of philosophy unto him. He was attended with Callisthenes and divers other learned persons, that followed him in camp, throughout his journeys and conquests. What price and estimation he had learning in doth notably appear in these three particulars: first, in the envy he used to express that he bare towards Achilles, in this that he had so good a trumpet of his praises as Homers verses; secondly, in the judgment or solution he gave touching that precious cabinet of Darius, which was found among his jewels, whereof question was made what thing was worthy to be put into it, and he gave his opinion for Homers works; thirdly, in his letter to Aristotle, after he had set forth his books of nature, wherein he expostulateth with him for publishing the secrets or mysteries of philosophy, and gave him to understand that himself esteemed it more to excel other men in learning and knowledge than in power and empire. And what use he had of learning doth appear, or rather shine, in all his speeches and answers, being full of science and use of science, and that in all variety.
And herein again it may seem a thing scholastical, and somewhat idle, to recite things that every man knoweth; but yet since the argument I handle leadeth me thereunto, I am glad that men shall perceive I am as willing to flatter (if they will so call it) an Alexander or a Cæsar or an Antoninus, that are dead many hundred years since, as any that now liveth: for it is the displaying of the glory of learning in sovereignty that I propound to myself, and not an humour of declaiming in any mans praises.49 Observe then the speech he used of Diogenes, and see if it tend not to the true state of one of the greatest questions of moral philosophy; whether the enjoying of outward things or the contemning of them be the greatest happiness; for when he saw Diogenes so perfectly contented with so little, he said to those that mocked at his condition, Were I not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes. But Seneca inverteth it, and saith, Plus erat quod hic nollet accipere, quàm quod ille posset dare. There were more things which Diogenes would have refused, than those were which Alexander could have given or enjoyed.
Observe again that speech which was usual with him, That he felt his mortality chiefly in two things, sleep and lust; and see if it were not a speech extracted out of the depth of natural philosophy, and liker to have comen out of the mouth of Aristotle or Democritus than from Alexander.50
See again that speech of humanity and poesy; when upon the bleeding of his wounds, he called unto him one of his flatterers that was wont to ascribe to him divine honour, and said, Look, this is very blood; this is not such a liquor as Homer speaketh of, which ran from Venus hand when it was pierced by Diomedes.
See likewise his readiness in reprehension of logic, in the speech he used to Cassander upon a complaint that was made against his father Antipater; for when Alexander happened to say, Do you think these men would have come from so far to complain, except they had just cause of grief? and Cassander answered, Yea, that was the matter, because they thought they should not be disproved; said Alexander, laughing, See the subtilties of Aristotle, to take a matter both ways, pro et contra, &c.
But note again how well he could use the same art which he reprehended, to serve his own humour, when bearing a secret grudge to Callisthenes because he was against the new ceremony of his adoration, feasting one night where the same Callisthenes was at the table, it was moved by some after supper, for entertainment sake, that Callisthenes who was an eloquent man might speak of some theme or purpose at his own choice; which Callisthenes did; choosing the praise of the Macedonian nation for his discourse, and performing the same with so good manner as the hearers were much ravished; whereupon Alexander, nothing pleased, said, It was easy to be eloquent upon so good a subject: but saith he, Turn your style, and let us hear what you can say against us: which Callisthenes presently undertook, and did with that sting and life, that Alexander interrupted him, and said, The goodness of the cause made him eloquent before, and despite made him eloquent then again.
Consider further, for tropes of rhetoric, that excellent use of a metaphor or translation, wherewith he taxed Antipater, who was an imperious and tyrannous governor: for when one of Antipaters friends commended him to Alexander for his moderation, that he did not degenerate, as his other lieutenants did, into the Persian pride, in use of purple, but kept the ancient habit of Macedon, of black; True, (saith Alexander,) but Antipater is all purple within. Or that other, when Parmenio came to him in the plain of Arbella, and shewed him the innumerable multitude of his enemies, specially as they appeared by the infinite number of lights, as it had been a new firmament of stars, and thereupon advised him to assail them by night: whereupon he answered, That he would not steal the victory.
For matter of policy, weigh that significant distinction, so much in all ages embraced, that he made between his two friends Hephæstion and Craterus, when he said, That the one loved Alexander, and the other loved the king; describing the principal difference of princes best servants, that some in affection love their person, and other in duty love their crown.
Weigh also that excellent taxation of an error ordinary with counsellors of princes, that they counsel their masters according to the model of their own mind and fortune, and not of their masters; when upon Darius great offers Parmenio had said, Surely I would accept these offers, were I as Alexander; saith Alexander, So would I, were I as Parmenio.
Lastly, weigh that quick and acute reply which he made when he gave so large gifts to his friends and servants, and was asked what he did reserve for himself, and he answered, Hope; weigh, I say, whether he had not cast up his account aright, because hope must be the portion of all that resolve upon great enterprises. For this was Cæsars portion when he went first into Gaul, his estate being then utterly overthrown with largesses. And this was likewise the portion of that noble prince, howsoever transported with ambition, Henry Duke of Guise, of whom it was usually said, that he was the greatest usurer in France, because he had turned all his estate into obligations.
To conclude therefore: as certain critics are used to say hyperbolically, That if all sciences were lost, they might be found in Virgil; so certainly this may be said truly, there are the prints and footsteps of learning in those few speeches which are reported of this prince: the admiration of whom, when I consider him not as Alexander the Great, but as Aristotles scholar, hath carried me too far.
As for Julius Cæsar, the excellency of his learning needeth not to be argued from his education, or his company, or his speeches; but in a further degree doth declare itself in his writings and works; whereof some are extant and permanent, and some unfortunately perished. For first, we see there is left unto us that excellent history of his own wars, which he intitled only a Commentary, wherein all succeeding times have admired the solid weight of matter, and the real passages and lively images of actions and persons, expressed in the greatest propriety of words and perspicuity of narration that ever was; which that it was not the effect of a natural gift, but of learning and precept, is well witnessed by that work of his intitled De Analogia, being a grammatical philosophy, wherein he did labour to make this same vox ad placitum to become vox ad licitum, and to reduce custom of speech to congruity of speech; and took as it were the picture of words from the life of reason.51
So we receive from him, as a monument both of his power and learning, the then reformed computation of the year; well expressing, that he took it to be as great a glory to himself to observe and know the law of the heavens as to give law to men upon the earth.
So likewise in that book of his Anti-Cato, it may easily appear that he did aspire as well to victory of wit as victory of war; undertaking therein a conflict against the greatest champion with the pen that then lived, Cicero the orator.
So again in his book of Apophthegms which he collected, we see that he esteemed it more honour to make himself but a pair of tables to take the wise and pithy words of others, than to have every word of his own to be made an apophthegm or an oracle; as vain princes, by custom of flattery, pretend to do. And yet if I should enumerate divers of his speeches, as I did those of Alexander, they are truly such as Salomon noteth, when he saith, Verba sapientum tanquam aculei, et tanquam clavi in altum defixi: [the words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fixed deep in:] whereof I will only recite three, not so delectable for elegancy, but admirable for vigour and efficacy.
As first, it is reason he be thought a master of words, that could with one word appease a mutiny in his army; which was thus. The Romans, when their generals did speak to their army, did use the word Milites; but when the magistrates spake to the people, they did use the word Quirites. The soldiers were in tumult, and seditiously prayed to be cashiered; not that they so meant, but by expostulation thereof to draw Cæsar to other conditions; wherein he being resolute not to give way, after some silence, he began his speech, Ego, Quirites; which did admit them already cashiered; wherewith they were so surprised, crossed, and confused, as they would not suffer him to go on in his speech, but relinquished their demands, and made it their suit to be again called by the name of Milites.
The second speech was thus: Cæsar did extremely affect the name of king; and some were set on, as he passed by, in popular acclamation to salute him king; whereupon, finding the cry weak and poor, he put it off thus in a kind of jest, as if they had mistaken his surname; Non Rex sum, sed Cæsar: [I am not King, but Cæsar:] a speech, that if it be searched, the life and fulness of it can scarce be expressed: for first it was a refusal of the name, but yet not serious: again it did signify an infinite confidence and magnanimity, as if he presumed Cæsar was the greater title; as by his worthiness it is come to pass till this day: but chiefly it was a speech of great allurement towards his own purpose; as if the state did strive with him but for a name, whereof mean families were vested; for Rex was a surname with the Romans, as well as King is with us.
The last speech which I will mention, was used to Metellus; when Cæsar, after war declared, did possess himself of this city of Rome; at which time entering into the inner treasury to take the money there accumulate, Metellus being tribune forbade him: whereto Cæsar said, That if he did not desist, he would lay him dead in the place; and presently taking himself up, he added, Young man, it is harder for me to speak it than to do it. Adolescens, durius est mihi hoc dicere quàm facere. A speech compounded of the greatest terror and greatest clemency that could proceed out of the mouth of man.
But to return and conclude with him: it is evident himself knew well his own perfection in learning, and took it upon him; as appeared when upon occasion that some spake what a strange resolution it was in Lucius Sylla to resign his dictature, he scoffing at him, to his own advantage, answered, That Sylla could not skill of letters, and therefore knew not how to dictate.
And here it were fit to leave this point, touching the concurrence of military virtue and learning; (for what example would come with any grace after those two of Alexander and Cæsar?) were it not in regard of the rareness of circumstance that I find in one other particular, as that which did so suddenly pass from extreme scorn to extreme wonder; and it is of Xenophon the philosopher, who went from Socrates school into Asia, in the expedition of Cyrus the younger against king Artaxerxes. This Xenophon at that time was very young, and never had seen the wars before; neither had any command in the army, but only followed the war as a voluntary, for the love and conversation of Proxenus his friend. He was present when Falinus came in message from the great king to the Grecians, after that Cyrus was slain in the field, and they a handful of men left to themselves in the midst of the kings territories, cut off from their country by many navigable rivers, and many hundred miles. The message imported that they should deliver up their arms, and submit themselves to the kings mercy. To which message before answer was made, divers of the army conferred familiarly with Falinus; and amongst the rest Xenophon happened to say, Why Falinus, we have now but these two things left, our arms and our virtue; and if we yield up our arms, how shall we make use of our virtue? Whereto Falinus smiling on him, said, If I be not deceived, young gentleman, you are an Athenian; and I believe you study philosophy, and it is pretty that you say; but you are much abused if you think your virtue can withstand the kings power. Here was the scorn; the wonder followed: which was, that this young scholar or philosopher, after all the captains were murdered in parley by treason, conducted those ten thousand foot through the heart of all the kings high countries from Babylon to Græcia in safety, in despite of all the kings forces, to the astonishment of the world, and the encouragement of the Grecians in time succeeding to make invasion upon the kings of Persia; as was after purposed by Jason the Thessalian, attempted by Agesilaus the Spartan, and achieved by Alexander the Macedonian; all upon the ground of the act of that young scholar.
To proceed now from imperial and military virtue to moral and private virtue: first, it is an assured truth which is contained in the verses,
Scilicet ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes
Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros;
[a true proficiency in liberal learning softens and humanises the manners]. It taketh away the wildness and barbarism and fierceness of mens minds: but indeed the accent had need be upon fideliter: [it must be a true proficiency:] for a little superficial learning52 doth rather work a contrary effect. It taketh away all levity, temerity, and insolency, by copious suggestion of all doubts and difficulties, and acquainting the mind to balance reasons on both sides, and to turn back the first offers and conceits of the mind, and to accept of nothing but examined and tried. It taketh away vain admiration of any thing, which is the root of all weakness. For all things are admired, either because they are new, or because they are great. For novelty, no man that wadeth in learning or contemplation thoroughly, but will find that printed in his heart Nil novi super terram: [there is nothing new under the sun]. Neither can any man marvel at the play of puppets, that goeth behind the curtain and adviseth well of the motion. And for magnitude, as Alexander the Great after that he was used to great armies and the great conquests of the spacious provinces in Asia, when he received letters out of Greece of some fights and services there, which were commonly for a passage or a fort or some walled town at the most, he said, It seemed to him that he was advertised of the battles of the frogs and the mice, that the old tales went of: so certainly if a man meditate much upon the universal frame of nature, the earth with men upon it (the divineness of souls except) will not seem much other than an ant-hill, whereas some ants carry corn, and some carry their young, and some go empty, and all to and fro a little heap of dust. It taketh away or mitigateth fear of death or adverse fortune; which is one of the greatest impediments of virtue and imperfections of manners. For if a mans mind be deeply seasoned with the consideration of the mortality and corruptible nature of things, he will easily concur with Epictetus, who went forth one day and saw a woman weeping for her pitcher of earth that was broken, and went forth the next day and saw a woman weeping for her son that was dead; and thereupon said, Heri vidi fragilem frangi, hodie vidi mortalem mori: [yesterday I saw a brittle thing broken, to-day a mortal dead]. And therefore Virgil did excellently and profoundly couple the knowledge of causes and the conquest of all fears together, as concomitantia.
It were too long to go over the particular remedies which learning doth minister to all the diseases of the mind; sometimes purging the ill humours, sometimes opening the obstructions, sometimes helping digestion, sometimes increasing appetite, sometimes healing the wounds and exulcerations thereof, and the like; and therefore I will conclude with that which hath rationem totius; which is, that it disposeth the constitution of the mind not to be fixed or settled in the defects thereof, but still to be capable and susceptible of growth and reformation. For the unlearned man knows not what it is to descend into himself or to call himself to account, nor the pleasure of that suavissima vita, indies sentire se fieri meliorem, [to feel himself each day a better man than he was the day before]. The good parts he hath he will learn to shew to the full and use them dexterously, but not much to increase them: the faults he hath he will learn how to hide and colour them, but not much to amend them; like an ill mower, that mows on still and never whets his scythe: whereas with the learned man it fares otherwise, that he doth ever intermix the correction and amendment of his mind with the use and employment thereof. Nay further, in general and in sum, certain it is that veritas and bonitas differ but as the seal and the print; for truth prints goodness, and they be the clouds of error which descend in the storms of passions and perturbations.
From moral virtue let us pass on to matter of power and commandment, and consider whether in right reason there be any comparable with that wherewith knowledge investeth and crowneth mans nature. We see the dignity of the commandment is according to the dignity of the commanded: to have commandment over beasts, as herdsmen have, is a thing contemptible; to have commandment over children, as school-masters have, is a matter of small honour; to have commandment over galley-slaves is a disparagement rather than an honour. Neither is the commandment of tyrants much better, over people which have put off the generosity of their minds: and therefore it was ever holden that honours in free monarchies and commonwealths had a sweetness more than in tyrannies; because the commandment extendeth more over the wills of men, and not only over their deeds and services. And therefore when Virgil putteth himself forth to attribute to Augustus Cæsar the best of human honours, he doth it in these words:
Per populos dat jura, viamque affectat Olympo:
[Moving in conquest onward, at his will
To willing peoples he gives laws, and shapes
Through worthiest deeds on earth his course to Heaven.]
But yet the commandment of knowledge is yet higher than the commandment over the will; for it is a commandment over the reason, belief, and understanding of man, which is the highest part of the mind, and giveth law to the will itself. For there is no power on earth which setteth up a throne or chair of estate in the spirits and souls of men, and in their cogitations, imaginations, opinions, and beliefs, but knowledge and learning. And therefore we see the detestable and extreme pleasure that arch-heretics and false prophets and impostors are transported with, when they once find in themselves that they have a superiority in the faith and conscience of men; so great, that if they have once tasted of it, it is seldom seen that any torture or persecution can make them relinquish or abandon it. But as this is that which the author of the Revelation calleth the depth or profoundness of Satan; so by argument of contraries, the just and lawful sovereignty over mens understanding, by force53 of truth rightly interpreted, is that which approacheth nearest to the similitude of the divine rule.
As for fortune and advancement, the beneficence of learning is not so confined to give fortune only to states and commonwealths, as it doth not likewise give fortune to particular persons. For it was well noted long ago, that Homer hath given more men their livings than either Sylla or Cæsar or Augustus ever did, notwithstanding their great largesses and donatives and distributions of lands to so many legions. And no doubt it is hard to say whether arms or learning have advanced greater numbers. And in case of sovereignty, we see that if arms or descent have carried away the kingdom, yet learning hath carried the priesthood, which ever hath been in some competition with empire.
Again, for the pleasure and delight of knowledge and learning, it far surpasseth all other in nature: for shall the pleasures of the affections so exceed the senses, as much as the obtaining of desire or victory exceedeth a song or a dinner; and must not of consequence the pleasures of the intellect or understanding exceed the pleasures of the affections? We see in all other pleasures there is satiety, and after they be used, their verdure54 departeth; which sheweth well they be but deceits of pleasure, and not pleasures; and that it was the novelty which pleased, and not the quality. And therefore we see that voluptuous men turn friars, and ambitious princes turn melancholy. But of knowledge there is no satiety, but satisfaction and appetite are perpetually interchangeable; and therefore appeareth to be good in itself simply, without fallacy or accident. Neither is that pleasure of small efficacy and contentment to the mind of man, which the poet Lucretius describeth elegantly,
Suave mari magno, turbantibus æquora ventis, &c.
It is a view of delight (saith he) to stand or walk upon the shore side, and to see a ship tossed with tempest upon the sea; or to be in a fortified tower, and to see two battles join upon a plain. But it is a pleasure incomparable, for the mind of man to be settled, landed, and fortified in the certainty of truth; and from thence to descry and behold the errors, perturbations, labours, and wanderings up and down of other men.
Lastly, leaving the vulgar arguments, that by learning man excelleth man in that wherein man excelleth beasts; that by learning man ascendeth to the heavens and their motions, where in body he cannot come; and the like; let us conclude with the dignity and excellency of knowledge and learning in that whereunto mans nature doth most aspire; which is immortality or continuance; for to this tendeth generation, and raising of houses and families; to this buildings, foundations, and monuments; to this tendeth the desire of memory, fame, and celebration; and in effect the strength of all other human desires. We see then how far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable than the monuments of power or of the hands. For have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which time infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished? It is not possible to have the true pictures or statuaes of Cyrus, Alexander, Cæsar, no nor of the kings or great personages of much later years; for the originals cannot last, and the copies cannot but leese of the life and truth. But the images of mens wits and knowledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in succeeding ages. So that 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? Nay further, we see some of the philosophers which were least divine and most immersed in the senses and denied generally the immortality of the soul, yet came to this point, that whatsoever motions the spirit of man could act and perform without the organs of the body they thought might remain after death; which were only those of the understanding, and not of the affection; so immortal and incorruptible a thing did knowledge seem unto them to be. But we, that know by divine revelation that not only the understanding but the affections purified, not only the spirit but the body changed, shall be advanced to immortality, do disclaim in55 these rudiments of the senses. But it must be remembered both in this last point, and so it may likewise be needful in other places, that in probation of the dignity of knowledge or learning I did in the beginning separate divine testimony from human; which method I have pursued, and so handled them both apart.
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 Æsops 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; or of Agrippina, occidat matrem, modo imperet, [let him kill his mother so he be emperor,] that preferred empire with condition never so detestable; or of Ulysses, qui vetulam prætulit immortalitati, [that preferred an old woman to an immortality,] being a figure of those which prefer custom and habit before all excellency; or of a number of the like popular judgments. 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: [wisdom is justified of her children].
Note 2. Observe that the translations within brackets are not in the original, but inserted by myself. My reasons for adopting this plan, and the principle upon which I have proceeded in translating, are explained in the preface. [back]
Note 3. In the translation the reference to the particular dynasties is omitted; he only says,Percurrat qui voluerit imperatorum et rerum seriem, et juxta mecum sentiet. [back]
Note 4. I have observed elsewhere, that it was only the latter part which entered into the original scheme of the Instauration Magna. And though in adapting the Advancement of Learning to it, he retained the former part, yet he marks it in the translation as comparatively unimportant; adding with regard to the first, quæ levior est, neque tamen ullo modo prætermittenda, and with regard to the second, quod caput rei est. [back]
Note 5. [Greek]: a corruption, according to the conjecture of Professor W.H. Thompson, of [Greek] having been first inserted by one commentator, to explain the unusual word [Greek], and so passed into the text; [Greek] having been turned into [Greek] by another, to make sense. See Remains of Professor Archer Butler, vol. i. p. 314. [back]
Note 12. This parenthesis is omitted in the translation, no doubt as offensive to the Roman Catholics. Several other passages of the same kind occur in the Advancement, and they are all treated in the same way. The motive for which is sufficiently explained by Bacon himself in the letter which he sent to the King along with the De Augmentis. I have been also (he says) mine own Index Expurgatorius, that it may be read in all places. For since my end of putting it into Latin was to have it read everywhere, it had been an absurd contradiction to free it in the language and to pen it up in the matter. Mr. Ellis made a list of these passages, which will be noticed in their places. The word enemy in the next clause is omitted, probably from the same motive. [back]
Note 13. And that learning (the translation adds), unless the mind into which it enters be much depraved, corrects the natural disposition and changes it for the better. [back]
Note 14. i. e. not [I mean, from such manners as are] inherent, &c. (nullum occurrit dedecus literis, ex literatorum moribus, quatenus sunt literati, adhærens.) [back]
Note 15. i. e. customary. Morem illum receptum libros patronis nuncupandi.De Aug. Ed. 1629 has moderne. [back]
Note 16. The passage which follows is much curtailed in the translation; no doubt for the reason mentioned in note 12. All allusion to the higher Providence, the degenerate traditions of the church, the study of the ancient authors, and the primitive but seeming new opinions is left out; and we are only told that this distemper of luxuriance of speech (though in former times it had been occasionally in request) began to prevail very much about the time of Luther; chiefly on account of the demand for fervour and efficacy of preaching, &c. The remarks on the style of the schoolmen, and the hatred which at that time began to be conceived against them are retained. [back]
Note 17. So edd. 1629 and 1633. The original has that then. [back]
Note 18. In the translation he mentions another vanity of style, though not of so bad a kind, as commonly succeeding the last in point of time,a style in which all the study is to have the words pointed, the sentences concise, and the whole composition rather twisted into shape than allowed to flow (oratio denique potius versa quam fusa): a trick which has the effect of making everything seem more ingenious than it really is. Such a style (he says) is found largely in Seneca, less in Tacitus and the second Pliny, and has found favour of late with the ears of our own time; but though it is agreeable to ordinary understandings and so procures some respect for literature, yet to more exact judgments it is deservedly distasteful, and may be set down among the distempers of learning, being, as well as the other, a kind of hunting after words and verbal prettiness. [back]
Note 19. That is, fierce from being kept in the dark; the allusion being, as we see more clearly from a corresponding passage in an early Latin fragment [ferocitatem autem et confidentiam quæ illos qui pauca norunt sequi solet, (ut animalia in tenebris educata,) &c.Cog. de Sci. Hum. 1st fragm. § 10.], to the effect of darkness on the temper of animals.R. L. E. The rest of this sentence, from but as they are is omitted in the translation. See note 12. [back]
Note 20. I think this is the sense in which Bacon must have understood these words; but it is not the sense in which Tacitus employs them (An. v. 10.). He meant that they at once invented the tale and believed it: they credited their own lie.J. S. [back]
Note 28. quæ Dionysii Areopagitæ nomine evulgatur, are the words of the translation: the insinuation implied in the word supposed, being withdrawn, or at least not so strongly expressed. See note 12. [back]
Note 29. verdor in edd. 1605, 1629, 1633; which perhaps ought to be retained, as another form of the word rather than another way of spelling it. [back]
Note 30. This clause is omitted in the translation; and the words cætera viri egregii are introduced after the name of Gregory. See note 12. [back]
Note 31. All this, from the beginning of the paragraph, is omitted in the translation. See note 12. [back]
Note 33. commonly in edd. 1629 and 1633. In the original, com- ends a line and the rest of the word has accidentally dropped out. [back]
Note 34. So edd. 1629 and 1633. The original has sciences. [back]
Note 35. In the De Augmentis he merely says de quibus, i. e. the golden times, sigillatim sed brevissime verba faciam. And the next five paragraphs are condensed into one. [back]
Note 36. Agric. 3.: Quanquam. Nerva Cæsar res alin dissociabiles miscuerit, principutum ac libertatem. This quotation is omitted in the translation, where nothing is said of the character of Nervas government except that he was clementissimus imperator, quique, si nihil aliud, orbi Trajanum dedit; from which it would almost seem that Bacon thought it hardly deserved the praise which Tacitus bestows upon it. In evidence of his learning he adds that he was the friend, and as it were the disciple, of Apollonius the Pythagorean. [back]
Note 37. To this story Dante alludes in the tenth canto of Purgatory; taking it apparently from the life of Gregory by Paul the Deacon. It seems first to have been mentioned by John Damascene in his discourse De iis qui in fide dormierunt; form whom St. Thomas Aquinas quotes it in his Supplementary Questions, 7l. 5. The hymn sung in the fourteenth century in the Cathedral of Mantua on St. Pauls day, is another curious instance of the appreciation of Heathen worth in the middle ages. It is there said of St. Paul, Ad Maronis mausoleum Ductus fudit super eum Piæ rorem lacrymæ; Quem te, inquit, reddidisæm Si te vivum invenisæm Poetarum maxime! See Schlls Histoire de la Littérature Romaine.R. L. E. This whole passage is omitted in the translation. [back]
Note 39. There seems here a confusion of two stories. It was Alexander Severus who according to Lampridius had a picture of our Saviour matched with Apollonius and with some others. Hadrian however did honour Apollonius and is said to have thought of dedicating a temple to Christ, which, if I remember rightly, Alexander actually did.R. L. E. [back]
Note 43. In the translation he says that Lucius though not so good as his brother was better than most of the other emperors. (Fratri quidem bonitate cedens, reliquos imperatores plurimos superans.) [back]
Note 48. This paragraph is entirely omitted in the De Augmentis; no doubt as one which would not be allowed at Rome and might lead to the proscription of the book. See note 12. [back]
Note 49. All this from the beginning of the paragraph is omitted in the translation. [back]
Note 50. cum tam indigentia tam redundantia naturæ, per illa duo designata, mortis sin, tanquam arrhabones; the two opposite imperfections of nature, deficiency and superfluity, exhaustion and incontinence, being as it were earnests of mortality. [back]
Note 51. This passage is translated without addition or alteration. But Bacon seems to have changed his opinion afterwards upon the point in question. For in the sixth book of the De Augmentis, c. 1., he intimates a suspicion that Cæsars book was not a grammatical philosophy, but only a set of precepts for the formation of a pure, perfect, and unaffected style. See Vol. I. p. 654. [back]