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Sir Francis Bacon

Essay 53

Of Praise.
1 PRaise is the Reflection of Vertue. But it is as the Glasse or Bodie, which giueth the Reflection. If it be from the Common People, it is commonly False and Naught; And rather followeth Vaine Persons, then Vertuous: For the Common People vnderstand not many Excellent Vertues: The Lowest Vertues draw Praise from them; The middle Vertues worke in them Astonishment, or Admiration; But of the Highest Vertues, they haue no Sense, or Perceiuing at all. But Shewes, and Species virtutibus similes, serue best with them. Certainly, Fame is like a Riuer, that beareth vp Things Light and Swolne, And Drownes Things waighty and Solide: But if persons of Qualitie and Iudgement concurre, then it is, (as the Scripture saith) Nomen bonum instar vnguenti fragrantis. It filleth all round about, and will not easily away. For the Odours of Oyntments, are more Durable, then those of Flowers. There be so many False Points of Praise, that a Man may iustly hold it a Suspect. Some Praises proceed meerely of Flattery; And if hee be an Ordinary Flatterer, he will haue certaine Common Attributes, which may serue euery Man; If he be a Cunning Flatterer, he will follow the Arch-flatterer, which is Mans selfe; and wherein a Man thinketh best of himselfe, therein the Flatterer will vphold him most: But if he be an Impudent Flatterer, look wherin a Man is Conscious to himselfe, that he is most Defectiue, and is most out of Countenance in himselfe, that will the Flatterer Entitle him to, perforce, Spretâ Conscientiâ. Some Praises come of good Wishes, and Respects, which is a Forme due in Ciuilitie to Kings, and Great Persons, Laudando præcipere; When by telling Men, what they are, they represent to them, what they should be. Some Men are Praised Maliciously to their Hurt, therby to stirre Enuie and Iealousie towards them; Pessimum genus Inimicorum laudantium; In so much as it was a Prouerb, amongst the Grecians; that, He that was praised to his Hurt, should haue a Push rise vpon his Nose: As we say; That a Blister will rise vpon ones Tongue, that tell's a lye. Certainly Moderate Praise, vsed with Opportunity, and not Vulgar, is that which doth the Good. Salomon saith, He that praiseth his Frend aloud, Rising Early, it shall be to him, no better then a Curse. Too much Magnifying of Man or Matter, doth irritate Contradiction, and procure Enuie and Scorne. To Praise a Mans selfe, cannot be Decent, except it be in rare Cases: But to Praise a Mans Office or Profession, he may doe it with Good Grace, and with a Kinde of Magnanimitie. The Cardinals of Rome, which are Theologues, and Friars, and Schoole-men, haue a Phrase of Notable Contempt and Scorne, towards Ciuill Businesse: For they call all Temporall Businesse, of Warres, Embassages, Iudicature, & other Emploiments, Shirrerie; which is, Vnder-Sheriffries; As if they were but matters for Vnder-Sheriffes and Catchpoles; Though many times, those Vndersherifferies doe more good, then their High Speculations. S+t+. Paul, when he boasts of himselfe, he doth oft enterlace; I speake like a Foole; But speaking vf his Calling, he saith; Magnificabo Apostolatum meum.

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