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Sir Francis Bacon

Essay 7

Of Parents and Children.
1 THe Ioyes of Parents are Secret; And so are their Griefes, and Feares: They cannot vtter the one; Nor they will not vtter the other. Children sweeten Labours; But they make Misfortunes more bitter: They increase the Cares of Life; but they mitigate the Remembrance of Death. The Perpetuity by Generation is common to Beasts; But Memory, Merit, and Noble workes, are proper to Men: And surely a Man shall see, the Noblest workes, and Foundations, haue proceeded from Childlesse Men; which haue sought to expresse the Images of their Minds; where those of their Bodies haue failed: So the care of Posterity, is most in them, that haue no Posterity. They that are the first Raisers of their Houses, are most Indulgent towards their Children; Beholding them, as the Continuance, not only of their kinde, but of their Worke; And so both Children, and Creatures.
2 The difference in Affection, of Parents, towards their seuerall Children, is many times vnequall; And sometimes vnworthy; Especially in the mother; As Salomon saith; A wise sonne reioyceth the Father; but an vngracious sonne shames the Mother. A Man shall see, where there is a House full of Children, one or two, of the Eldest, respected, and the Youngest made wantons; But in the middest, some that are, as it were forgotten, who, man times, neuerthelesse, proue the best. The Illiberalitie of Parents, in allowance towards their Children, is an harmefull Errour; Makes them base; Acquaints them with Shifts; Makes them sort with meane Company; And makes them surfet more, when they come to Plenty: And therefore, the Proofe is best, when Men keepe their Authority towards their Children, but not their Purse. Men haue a foolish manner ( both Parents, and Schoole-masters, and Seruants ) in creating and breeding an Emulation between Brothers, during Childhood, which many times sorteth to Discord, when they are Men; And disturbeth Families. The Italians make little difference betweene Children, and Nephewes, or neere Kinsfolkes; But so they be of the Lumpe, they care not, though they passe not through their owne Body. And, to say Truth, in Nature, it is much a like matter; In so much, that we see a Nephew, sometimes, resembleth an Vncle, or a Kinsman, more then his owne Parent; As the Bloud happens. Let Parents choose betimes, the Vocations, and Courses, they meane their Children should take; For then they are most flexible; And let them not too much apply themselues, to the Disposition of their Children, as thinking they will take best to that, which they haue most Minde to. It is true, that if the Affection or Aptnesse of the Children, be Extraordinary, then it is good, not to crosse it, But generally, the Precept is good; Optimum elige, suaue & facile illud faciet Consuetudo. Younger Brothers are commonly Fortunate, but seldome or neuer, where the Elder are disinherited.

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