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Essays (1625)

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Sir Francis Bacon

Essay 24

Of Innouations.
1 AS the Births of Liuing Creatures, at first, are ill shapen: so are all Innouations, which are the Births of Time. Yet notwithstanding, as Those that first bring Honour into their Family, are commonly more worthy, then most that succeed: So the first President (if it be good) is seldome attained by Imitation. For Ill, to Mans Nature, as it stands peruerted, hath a Naturall Motion, strongest in Continuance: But Good, as a Forced Motion, strongest at first. Surely euery Medicine is an Innouation; And he that will not apply New Remedies, must expect New Euils: For Time is the greatest Innouatour: And if Time, of course, alter Things to the worse, and Wisedome, and Counsell shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the End? It is true, that what is setled by Custome, though it be not good, yet at least it is fit. And those Things, which haue long gone together, are as it were confederate within themselues: Whereas New Things peece not so well; But though they helpe by their vtility, yet they trouble, by their Inconformity. Besides, they are like Strangers; more Admired, and lesse Fauoured. All this is true, if Time stood still; which contrariwise moueth so round, that a Froward Retention of Custome, is as turbulent a Thing, as an Innouation: And they that Reuerence too much Old Times, are but a Scorne to the New. It were good therefore, that Men in their Innouations, would follow the Example of Time it selfe; which indeed Innouateth greatly, but quietly, and by degrees, scarce to be perceiued: For otherwise, whatsoeuer is New, is vnlooked for; And euer it mends Some, and paires Other: And he that is holpen, takes it for a Fortune, and thanks the Time; And he that is hurt, for a wrong, and imputeth it to the Author. It is good also, not to try Experiments in States; Except the Necessity be Vrgent, or the vtility Euident: And well to beware, that it be the Reformation, that draweth on the Change; And not the desire of Change, that pretendeth the Reformation. And lastly, that the Nouelty, though it be not reiected, yet be held for a Suspect: And, as the Scripture saith; That we make a stand vpon the Ancient Way, and then looke about vs, and discouer, what is the straight, and right way, and so to walke in it.

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Edited by Ian Lancashire (Dept. of English, University of Toronto) Assisted by Allison Hay.
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