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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 40

Of Fortune.
1 IT cannot be denied, but Outward Accidents, c\-oduce much to Fortune: Fauour, Opportunitie, Death of Others, Occasion fitting Vertue. But chiefly, the Mould of a Mans Fortune, is in his owne hands. Faber quisque Fortunæ; suæ; saith the Poet. And the most Frequent of Externall Causes is, that the Folly of one Man, is the Fortune of Another. For no Man prospers so suddenly, as by Others Errours. Serpens nisi Serpentem comederit non fit Draco. Ouert, and Apparent vertues bring forth Praise; But there be Secret and Hidden Vertues, that bring Forth Fortune. Certaine Deliueries of a Mans Selfe, which haue no Name. The Spanish Name, Desemboltura, partly expresseth them: When there be not Stonds, nor Restiuenesse in a Mans Nature; But that the wheeles of his Minde keepe way, with the wheeles of his Fortune. For so Liuie (after he had described Cato Maior, in these words; In illo viro, tantum Robur Corporis & Animi fuit, vt quocunque loco natus esset, Fortunam sibi facturus videretur;) falleth vpon that, that he had, Versatile Ingenium. Therfore, if a Man looke Sharply, and Attentiuely, he shall see Fortune: For though shee be Blinde, yet shee is not Inuisible. The Way of Fortune, is like the Milken Way in the Skie; Which is a Meeting or Knot, of a Number of Small Stars; Not Seene asunder, but Giuing Light together. So are there, a Number of Little, and scarce discerned Vertues, or rather Faculties and Customes, that make Men Fortunate. The Italians note some of them, such as a Man would little thinke. When they speake of one, that cannot doe amisse, they will throw in, into his other Conditions, that he hath, Poco di Matto. And certainly, there be not two more Fortunate Properties; Then to haue a Little of the Foole; And not Too Much of the Honest. Therefore, Extreme Louers of their Countrey, or Masters, were neuer Fortunate, neither can they be. For when a Man placeth his Thoughts without Himselfe, he goeth not his owne Way. An hastie Fortune maketh an Enterpriser, and Remouer, (The French hath it better; Entreprenant, or Remuant) But the Exercised Fortune maketh the Able Man. Fortune is to be Honoured, and Respected, and it bee but for her Daughters, Confidence, and Reputation. For those two Felicitie breedeth: The first within a Mans Selfe; the Latter, in Others towards Him. All Wise Men, to decline the Enuie of their owne vertues, vse to ascribe them to Prouidence and Fortune; For so they may the better assume them: And besides, it is Greatnesse in a Man, to be the Care, of the Higher Powers. So Cæsar said to the Pilot in the Tempest, Cæsarem portas, & Fortunam eius. So Sylla chose the Name of Felix, and not of Magnus. And it hath beene noted, that those, that ascribe openly too much to their owne Wisdome, and Policie, end Infortunate. It is written, that Timotheus the Athenian, after he had, in the Account he gaue to the State, of his Gouernment, often interlaced this Speech; And in this Fortune had no Part, neuer prospered in any Thing he vndertooke afterwards. Certainly, there be, whose Fortunes are like Homers Verses, that haue a Slide, and Easinesse, more then the Verses of other Poets: As Plutarch saith of Timoleons Fortune, respect of that of Agesilaus, or Epaminondas. And that this should be, no doubt it is much, in a Mans Selfe.

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