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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 54

Of Vaine-Glory.
1 IT was prettily Deuised of AEsope; The Fly sate vpon the Axle-tree of the Chariot wheele, and said, What a Dust doe I raise? So are there some Vaine Persons, that whatsoeuer goeth alone, or moueth vpon greater Means, if they haue neuer so little Hand in it, they thinke it is they that carry it. They that are Glorious, must needs be Factious; For all Brauery stands vpon Comparisons. They must needs be Violent, to make good their owne Vaunts. Neither can they be Secret, and therefore not Effectuall; but according to the French Prouerb; Beaucoup de Bruit, peu de Fruit: Much Bruit, little Fruit. Yet certainly there is Vse of this Qualitie, in Ciuill Affaires. Where there is an Opinion, and Fame to be created, either of Vertue, or Greatnesse, these Men are good Trumpetters. Again, as Titus Liuius noteth, in the Case of Antiochus, and the AEtolians; There are sometimes great Effects of Crosse Lies; As if a Man, that Negotiates between Two Princes, to draw them to ioyne in a Warre against the Third, doth extoll the Forces of either of them, aboue Measure, the One to the Other: And sometimes, he that deales between Man and Man, raiseth his owne Credit, with Both, hy pretending greater Interest, then he hath in Either. And in these, and the like Kindes, it often falls out, that Somewhat is produced of Nothing: For Lies are sufficient to breed Opinion, and Opinion brings on Substance. In Militar Commanders and Soldiers, Vaine-Glory is an Essentiall Point; For as Iron sharpens Iron, so by Glory one Courage sharpneth another. In Cases of great Enterprise, vpon Charge and Aduenture, a Composition of Glorious Natures, doth put Life into Businesse; And those that are of Solide and Sober Natures, haue more of the Ballast, then of the Saile. In Fame of Learning, the Flight will be slow, without some Feathers of Ostentation. Qui de contemnendâ Gloriâ Libros scribunt, Nomen suum inscribunt. Socrates, Aristotle, Galen, were Men full of Ostentation. Certainly Vaine-Glory helpeth to Perpetuate a Mans Memory; And Vertue was neuer so Beholding to Humane Nature, as it receiued his due at the Second Hand. Neither had the Fame of Cicero, Seneca, Plinius Secundus, borne her Age so well, if it had not been ioyned, with some Vanity in themselues: Like vnto Varnish, that makes Seelings not onely Shine, but Last. But all this while, when I speake of Vaine-Glory, I meane not of that Property, that Tacitus doth attribute to Mucianus; Omnium, quæ dixerat, feceratque, Arte quadam Ostentator: For that proceeds not of Vanity, but of Naturall Magnanimity, and discretion: And in some Persons, is not onely Comely, but Gracious. For Excusations, Cessions, Modesty it selfe well Gouerned, are but Arts of Ostentation. And amongst those Arts, there is none better, then that which Plinius Secundus speaketh of; which is to be Liberall of Praise and Commendation to others, in that, wherein a Mans Selfe hath any Perfection. For saith Pliny very Wittily; In commending Another, you doe your selfe right: For he that you Commend, is either Superiour to you, in that you Commend, or Inferiour. If he be Inferiour, if he be to be Commended, you much more: If he be Superiour, if he be not to be commended, you much lesse. Glorious Men are the Scorne of Wise Men; the Admiration of Fooles; the Idols of Parasites; And the Slaues of their own Vaunts.

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