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Essays (1625)

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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 26

Of Seeming wise.
1 IT hath been an Opinion, that the French are wiser then they seeme; And the Spaniards seeme wiser then they are. But howsoeuer it be between Nations, Certainly it is so between Man and Man. For as the Apostle saith of Godlinesse; Hauing a shew of Godlinesse, but denying the Power thereof; So certainly, there are in Point of Wisedome, and Sufficiency, that doe Nothing or Little, very solemnly; Magno conatu Nugas. It is a Ridiculous Thing, and fit for a Satyre, to Persons of Iudgement, to see what shifts these Formalists haue, and what Prospectiues, to make Superficies to seeme Body, that hath Depth and Bulke. Some are so Close and Reserued, as they will not shew their Wares, but by a darke Light; And seeme alwaies to keepe backe somewhat; And when they know within themselues, they speake of that they doe not well know, would neuerthelesse seeme to others, to know of that which they may not well speake. Some helpe themselues with Countenance, and Gesture, and are wise by Signes; As Cicero saith of Piso, that when he answered him, he fetched one of his Browes, vp to his Forehead, and bent the other downe to his Chin: Respondes, altero ad Frontem sublato, altero ad Mentum depresso Supercilio; Crudelitatem tibi non placere. Some thinke to beare it, by Speaking a great Word, and being peremptory; And goe on, and take by admittance that, which they cannot make good. Some, whatsoeuer is beyond their reach, will seeme to despise or make light of it, as Impertinent, or Curious; And so would haue their Ignorance seeme Iudgement. Some are neuer without a difference, and commonly by Amusing Men with a Subtilty, blanch the matter; Of whom A. Gellius saith; Hominem delirum, qui Verborum Minutijs Rerum frangit Pondera. Of which kinde also, Plato in his Protagoras bringeth in Prodicus, in Scorne, and maketh him make a Speech, that consisteth of distinctions from the Beginning to the End. Generally, Such Men in all Deliberations, finde ease to be of the Negatiue Side; and affect a Credit, to obiect and foretell Difficulties: For when propositions are denied, there is an End of them; But if they be allowed, it requireth a New Worke: which false Point of Wisedome, is the Bane of Businesse. To conclude, there is no decaying Merchant, or Inward Beggar, hath so many Tricks, to vphold the Credit of their wealth, as these Empty persons haue, to maintaine the Credit of their Sufficiency. Seeming Wise-men may make shift to get Opinion: But let no Man choose them for Employment; For certainly, you were better take for Businesse, a Man somewhat Absurd, then ouer Formall.

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