S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Those who believe a future state of rewards and punishments act very absurdly if they form their opinions of a mans merit from his successes. But certainly, if I thought the whole circle of our being was included between our births and deaths, I should think a mans good fortune the measure and standard of his real merit, since Providence would have no opportunity of rewarding his virtue and perfections, but in the present life. A virtuous unbeliever, who lies under the pressure of misfortunes, has reason to cry out, as they say Brutus did, a little before his death, O virtue, I have worshipped thee as a substantial good, but I find thou art an empty name.
To judge by the event is an error all abuse, and all commit; for, in every instance, courage, if crowned with success, is heroism; if clouded by defeat, temerity. When Nelson fought his battle in the Sound, it was the result alone that decided whether he was to kiss a hand at a court, or a rod at a court-martial.
Security is the bane of good success; it is no contemning of a foiled enemy: the shame of a former disgrace and miscarriage whets his valour and sharpens it to revenge: no power is so dreadful as that which is recollected from an overthrow.
All things religiously taken in hand are prosperously ended; because whether men in the end have that which religion did allow to desire, or that which it teacheth them contentedly to suffer, they are in neither event unfortunate.
If a man succeeds in any attempt, though undertook with never so much rashness, his success shall vouch him a politician, and good luck shall pass for deep contrivance: for give any one fortune, and he shall be thought a wise man.
Fortune is said to favour fools, because they trust all to fortune. When a fool escapes any danger, or succeeds in any undertaking, it is said that fortune favours him; while a wise man is considered to prosper by his own prudence and foresight. For instance, if a fool who does not bar his door escapes being robbed, it is ascribed to his luck; but the prudent man, having taken precautions, is not called fortunate. But a wise man is, in fact, more likely to meet with good fortune than a foolish one, because he puts himself in the way of it. If he is sending off a ship, he has a better chance of obtaining a favourable wind, because he chooses the place and season in which such winds prevail as will be favourable to him. If the fools ship arrives safely, it is by good luck alone; while both must be in some degree indebted to fortune for success.
One way in which fools succeed where wise men fail is, that through ignorance of the danger they sometimes go coolly about some hazardous business. Hence the proverb that The fairies take care of children, drunken men, and idiots.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Fortune.