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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 38

Of Nature in Men.
1 NAture is Often Hidden; Sometimes Ouercome; Seldome Extinguished. Force maketh Nature more violent in the Returne: Doctrine and Discourse maketh Nature lesse Importune: But Custome onely doth alter and subdue Nature. Hee that seeketh Victory ouer his Nature, let him not set Himselfe too great, nor too small Tasks: For the first, will make him deiected by often Faylings; And the Second will make him a small Proceeder, though by often Preuailings. And at the first, let him practise with Helps, as Swimmers doe with Bladders, or Rushes: But after a Time, let him practise with disaduantages, as Dancers doe with thick Shooes. For it breeds great Perfection, if the Practise be harder then the vse. Where Nature is Mighty, and therefore the Victory hard, the Degrees had need be; first to Stay and Arrest Nature in Time; Like to Him, that would say ouer the Foure and Twenty Letters, when he was Angry: Then to Goe lesse in Quantity; As if one should, in forbearing Wine, come from Drinking Healths, to a Draught at a Meale: And lastly, to Discontinue altogether. But if a Man haue the Fortitude, and Resolution, to enfranchise Himselfe at once, that is the best; Optimus ille Animi Vindex, led\-etia pectus Vincula qui rupit, dedoluitque semel, Neither is the Ancient Rule amisse, to bend Nature as a Wand, to a Contrary Extreme, whereby to set it right: Vnderstanding it, where the Contrary Extreme is no Vice. Let not a man force a Habit vpon himselfe, with a Perpetuall Continuance, but with some Intermission. For both the Pause, reinforceth the new Onset; And if a Man, that is not perfect, be euer in Practise, he shall as well practise his Errours, as his Abilities; And induce one Habite of both: And there is no Meanes to helpe this, but by Seasonable Intermissions. But let not a Man trust his Victorie ouer his Nature too farre; For Nature will lay buried a great Time, and yet reuiue, vpon the Occasion or Temptation. Like as it was with AEsopes Damosell, turned from a Catt to a Woman; who sate very demurely, at the Boards End, till a Mouse ranne before her. Therefore let a Man, either auoid the Occasion altogether; Or put Himselfe often to it, that hee may be little moued with it. A Mans Nature is best perceiued in Priuatenesse, for there is no Affectation; In Passion, for that putteth a Man out of his Precepts; And in a new Case or Experiment, for there Custome leaueth him. They are happie Men, whose Natures sort with their Vocations; Otherwise they may say, Multùm Incola fuit Anima mea: when they conuerse in those Things, they doe not Affect. In Studies, whatsoeuer a Man commandeth vpon himselfe, let him set Houres for it: But whatsoeuer is agreeable to his Nature, let him take no Care, for any set Times: For his Thoughts, will flie to it of Themselues; So as the Spaces of other Businesse, or Studies, will suffice. A Mans Nature runnes either to Herbes, or Weeds; Therefore let him seasonably Water the One, and Destroy the Other.

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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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