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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 12

Of Boldnesse.             
1 IT is a triuiall Grammar Schoole Text, but yet worthy a wise Mans Consideration. Question was asked of Demosthenes; What was the Chiefe Part of an Oratour? He answered, Action; what next? Action; what next again? Action. He said it, that knew it best; And had by nature, himselfe, no Aduantage, in that he commended. A strange thing, that that Part of an Oratour, which is but superficiall, and rather the vertue of a Player; should be placed so high, aboue those other Noble Parts, of Inuention, Elocution, and the rest: Nay almost alone, as if it were All in All. But the Reason is plaine. There is in Humane Nature, generally, more of the Foole, then of the Wise; And therfore those faculties, by which the Foolish part of Mens Mindes is taken, are most potent. Wonderfull like is the Case of Boldnesse, in Ciuill Businesse; What first? Boldnesse; What Second, and Third? Boldnesse. And yet Boldnesse is a Childe of Ignorance, and Basenesse, farre inferiour to other Parts. But neuerthelesse, it doth fascinate, and binde hand and foot, those, that are either shallow in Iudgment; or weake in Courage, which are the greatest Part; Yea and preuaileth with wise men, at weake times. Therfore, we see it hath done wonders, in Popular States; but with Senates and Princes lesse; And more, euer vpon the first entrance of Bold Persons into Action, then soone after; For Boldnesse is an ill keeper of promise. Surely, as there are Mountebanques for the Naturall Body: So are there Mountebanques for the Politique Body: Men that vndertake great Cures; And perhaps haue been Lucky, in two or three Experiments, but want the Grounds of Science; And therfore cannot hold out. Nay you shall see a Bold Fellow, many times, doe Mahomets Miracle. Mahomet made the People beleeue, that he would call an Hill to him; And from the Top of it, offer vp his Praiers, for the Obseruers of his Law. The People assembled; Mahomet cald the Hill to come to him, againe, and againe; And when the Hill stood still, he was neuer a whit abashed, but said; If the Hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet wil go to the hil. So these Men, when they haue promised great Matters, and failed most shamefully, ( yet if they haue the perfection of Boldnesse ) they will but slight it ouer, and make a turne, and no more adoe. Certainly, to Men of great Iudgment, Bold Persons, are a Sport to behold; Nay and to the Vulgar also, Boldnesse hath somewhat of the Ridiculous. For if Absurdity be the Subiect of Laughter, doubt you not, but great Boldnesse is seldome without some Absurdity. Especially, it is a Sport to see, when a Bold Fellow is out of Countenance; For that puts his Face, into a most Shruncken, and woodden Posture; As needes it must; For in Bashfulnesse, the Spirits doe a little goe and come; but with Bold Men, vpon like occasion, they stand at a stay; Like a Stale at Chesse, where it is no Mate, but yet the Game cannot stirre. But this last, were fitter for a Satyre, then for a serious Obseruation. This is well to be weighed; That Boldnesse is euer blinde: For it seeth not dangers, and Inconueniences. Therfore, it is ill in Counsell, good in Execution: So that the right Vse of Bold persons is, that they neuer Command in Chiefe, but be Seconds, and vnder the Direction of others. For in Counsell, it is good to see dangers; And in Execution, not to see them, except they be very great.

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Edited by Ian Lancashire (Dept. of English, University of Toronto) Assisted by Allison Hay.
As published in I. Lancashire, in collaboration with J. Bradley, W. McCarty, M. Stairs, and T. R. Wooldridge. Using TACT and Electronic Texts: Text-Analysis Computing Tools Vers. 2.1 for MS-DOS and PC DOS. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1996. CD-ROM.
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