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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 4

Of Reuenge.
1 REuenge is a kinde of Wilde Iustice; which the more Mans Nature runs to, the more ought Law to weed it out. For as for the first Wrong, it doth but offend the Law; but the Reuenge of that wrong, putteth the Law out of Office. Certainly, in taking Reuenge, A Man is but euen with his Enemy; But in passing it ouer, he is Superiour: For it is a Princes part to Pardon. And Salomon, I am sure, saith, It is the glory of a Man to passe by an offence. That which is past, is gone, and Irreuocable; And wise Men haue Enough to doe, with things present, and to come: Therefore, they doe but trifle with themselues, that labour in past matters. There is no man, doth a wrong, for the wrongs sake; But therby to purchase himselfe, Profit, or Pleasure, or Honour, or the like. Therfore why should I be angry with a Man, for louing himselfe better then mee? And if any Man should doe wrong, meerely out of ill nature, why? yet it is but like the Thorn, or Bryar, which prick, and scratch, because they can doe no other. The most Tolerable Sort of Reuenge, is for those wrongs which there is no Law to remedy: But then, let a man take heed, the Reuenge be such, as there is no law to punish: Else, a Mans Enemy, is still before hand, And it is two for one. Some, when they take Reuenge, are Desirous the party should know, whence it commeth: This is the more Generous. For the Delight seemeth to be, not so much in doing the Hurt, as in Making the Party repent: But Base and Crafty Cowards, are like the Arrow, that flyeth in the Darke. Cosmus Duke of Florence, had a Desperate Saying, against Perfidious or Neglecting Friends, as if those wrongs were vnpardonable: You shall reade ( saith he ) that we are commanded to forgiue our Enemies; But you neuer read, that wee are commanded, to forgiue our Friends. But yet the Spirit of Iob, was in a better tune; Shall wee ( saith he ) take good at Gods Hands, and not be content to take euill also? And so of Friends in a proportion. This is certaine; That a Man that studieth Reuenge, keepes his owne Wounds greene, which otherwise would heale, and doe well. Publique Reuenges, are, for the most part, Fortunate; As that for the Death of Cæsar; For the Death of Pertinax; for the Death of Henry the Third of France; And many more. But in priuate Reuenges it is not so. Nay rather, Vindicatiue Persons liue the Life of Witches; who as they are Mischieuous, So end they Infortunate.

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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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