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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 23

Of Wisedome for a Mans selfe.
1 AN Ant is a wise Creature for it Selfe; But it is a shrewd Thing, in an Orchard, or Garden. And certainly, Men that are great Louers of Themselues, waste the Publique. Diuide with reason betweene Selfe-loue, and Society: And be so true to thy Selfe, as thou be not false to Others; Specially to thy King, and Country. It is a poore Center of a Mans Actions, Himselfe. It is right Earth. For that onely stands fast vpon his owne Center; Whereas all Things, that haue Affinity with the Heauens, moue vpon the Center of another, which they benefit. The Referring of all to a Mans Selfe, is more tolerable in a Soueraigne Prince; Because Themselues are not onely Themselues; But their Good and Euill, is at the perill of the Publique Fortune. But it is a desperate Euill in a Seruant to a Prince, or a Citizen in a Republique. For whatsoeuer Affaires passe such a Mans Hands, he crooketh them to his owne Ends: Which must needs be often Eccentrick to the Ends of his Master, or State. Therefore let Princes, or States, choose such Seruants, as haue not this marke; Except they meane their seruice should be made but the Accessary. That which maketh the Effect more pernicious, is, that all Proportion is lost. It were disproportion enough, for the Seruants Good, to be preferred before the Masters; But yet it is a greater Extreme, when a little Good of the Seruant, shall carry Things, against a great Good of the Masters. And yet that is the case of Bad Officers, Treasurers, Ambassadours, Generals, and other False and Corrupt Seruants; which set a Bias vpon their Bowle, of their owne Petty Ends, and Enuies, to the ouerthrow of their Masters Great and Important Affaires. And for the most part, the Good such Seruants receiue, is after the Modell of their own Fortune; But the Hurt they sell for that Good, is after the Modell of their Masters Fortune. And certainly, it is the Nature of Extreme Selfe-Louers; As they will set an House on Fire, and it were but to roast their Egges: And yet these Men, many times, hold credit with their Masters; Because their Study is but to please Them, and profit Themselues: And for either respect, they will abandon the Good of their Affaires.
2 Wisedome for a Mans selfe, is in many Branches thereof, a depraued Thing. It is the Wisedome of Rats, that will be sure to leaue a House, somewhat before it fall. It is the Wisedome of the Fox, that thrusts out the Badger, who digged & made Roome for him. It is the Wisedome of Crocodiles, that shed teares, when they would deuoure. But that which is specially to be noted, is, that those, which (as Cicero saies of Pompey) are, Sui Amantes sine Riuali, are many times vnfortunate. And whereas they haue all their time sacrificed to Themselues, they become in the end themselues Sacrifices to the Inconstancy of Fortune; whose Wings they thought, by their SelfWisedome, to haue Pinnioned.

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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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