Transcribed from the 1893 Cassell & Company edition by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
"The TVVOO Bookes of Francis Bacon. Of the proficience and aduancement of Learning, divine and humane. To the King. At London. Printed for Henrie Tomes, and are to be sould at his shop at Graies Inne Gate in Holborne. 1605." That was the original title-page of the book now in the reader's hand—a living book that led the way to a new world of thought. It was the book in which Bacon, early in the reign of James the First, prepared the way for a full setting forth of his New Organon, or instrument of knowledge.
The Organon of Aristotle was a set of treatises in which Aristotle had written the doctrine of propositions. Study of these treatises was a chief occupation of young men when they passed from school to college, and proceeded from Grammar to Logic, the second of the Seven Sciences. Francis Bacon as a youth of sixteen, at Trinity College, Cambridge, felt the unfruitfulness of this method of search after truth. He was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Queen Elizabeth's Lord Keeper, and was born at York House, in the Strand, on the 22nd of January, 1561. His mother was the Lord Keeper's second wife, one of two sisters, of whom the other married Sir William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burleigh. Sir Nicholas Bacon had six children by his former marriage, and by his second wife two sons, Antony and Francis, of whom Antony was about two years the elder. The family home was at York Place, and at Gorhambury, near St. Albans, from which town, in its ancient and its modern style, Bacon afterwards took his titles of Verulam and St. Albans.
Antony and Francis Bacon went together to Trinity College, Cambridge, when Antony was fourteen years old and Francis twelve. Francis remained at Cambridge only until his sixteenth year; and Dr. Rawley, his chaplain in after-years, reports of him that "whilst he was commorant in the University, about sixteen years of age (as his lordship hath been pleased to impart unto myself), he first fell into dislike of the philosophy of Aristotle; not for the worthlessness of the author, to whom he would ascribe all high attributes, but for the unfruitfulness of the way, being a philosophy (as his lordship used to say) only strong for disputatious and contentions, but barren of the production of works for the benefit of the life of man; in which mind he continued to his dying day." Bacon was sent as a youth of sixteen to Paris with the ambassador Sir Amyas Paulet, to begin his training for the public service; but his father's death, in February, 1579, before he had completed the provision he was making for his youngest children, obliged him to return to London, and, at the age of eighteen, to settle down at Gray's Inn to the study of law as a profession. He was admitted to the outer bar in June, 1582, and about that time, at the age of twenty-one, wrote a sketch of his conception of a New Organon that should lead man to more fruitful knowledge, in a little Latin tract, which he called "Temporis Partus Maximus" ("The Greatest Birth of Time").
In November, 1584, Bacon took his seat in the House of Commons as member for Melcombe Regis, in Dorsetshire. In October, 1586, he sat for Taunton. He was member afterwards for Liverpool; and he was one of those who petitioned for the speedy execution of Mary Queen of Scots. In October, 1589, he obtained the reversion of the office of Clerk of the Council in the Star Chamber, which was worth 1,600 pounds or 2,000 pounds a year; but for the succession to this office he had to wait until 1608. It had not yet fallen to him when he wrote his "Two Books of the Advancement of Learning." In the Parliament that met in February, 1593, Bacon sat as member for Middlesex. He raised difficulties of procedure in the way of the grant of a treble subsidy, by just objection to the joining of the Lords with the Commons in a money grant, and a desire to extend the time allowed for payment from three years to six; it was, in fact, extended to four years. The Queen was offended. Francis Bacon and his brother Antony had attached themselves to the young Earl of Essex, who was their friend and patron. The office of Attorney- General became vacant. Essex asked the Queen to appoint Francis Bacon. The Queen gave the office to Sir Edward Coke, who was already Solicitor-General, and by nine years Bacon's senior. The office of Solicitor-General thus became vacant, and that was sought for Francis Bacon. The Queen, after delay and hesitation, gave it, in November, 1595, to Serjeant Fleming. The Earl of Essex consoled his friend by giving him "a piece of land"—Twickenham Park—which Bacon afterwards sold for 1,800 pounds—equal, say, to 12,000 pounds in present buying power. In 1597 Bacon was returned to Parliament as member for Ipswich, and in that year he was hoping to marry the rich widow of Sir William Hatton, Essex helping; but the lady married, in the next year, Sir Edward Coke. It was in 1597 that Bacon published the First Edition of his Essays. That was a little book containing only ten essays in English, with twelve "Meditationes Sacrae," which were essays in Latin on religious subjects. From 1597 onward to the end of his life, Bacon's Essays were subject to continuous addition and revision. The author's Second Edition, in which the number of the Essays was increased from ten to thirty-eight, did not appear until November or December, 1612, seven years later than these two books on the "Advancement of Learning;" and the final edition of the Essays, in which their number was increased from thirty-eight to fifty-eight, appeared only in 1625; and Bacon died on the 9th of April, 1626. The edition of the Essays published in 1597, under Elizabeth, marked only the beginning of a course of thought that afterwards flowed in one stream with his teachings in philosophy.
In February, 1601, there was the rebellion of Essex. Francis Bacon had separated himself from his patron after giving him advice that was disregarded. Bacon, now Queen's Counsel, not only appeared against his old friend, but with excess of zeal, by which, perhaps, he hoped to win back the Queen's favour, he twice obtruded violent attacks upon Essex when he was not called upon to speak. On the 25th of February, 1601, Essex was beheaded. The genius of Bacon was next employed to justify that act by "A Declaration of the Practices and Treasons attempted and committed by Robert late Earle of Essex and his Complices." But James of Scotland, on whose behalf Essex had intervened, came to the throne by the death of Elizabeth on the 24th of March, 1603. Bacon was among the crowd of men who were made knights by James I., and he had to justify himself under the new order of things by writing "Sir Francis Bacon his Apologie in certain Imputations concerning the late Earle of Essex." He was returned to the first Parliament of James I. by Ipswich and St. Albans, and he was confirmed in his office of King's Counsel in August, 1604; but he was not appointed to the office of Solicitor- General when it became vacant in that year.
That was the position of Francis Bacon in 1605, when he published this work, where in his First Book he pointed out the discredits of learning from human defects of the learned, and emptiness of many of the studies chosen, or the way of dealing with them. This came, he said, especially by the mistaking or misplacing of the last or furthest end of knowledge, as if there were sought in it "a couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground for strife and contention; or a shop for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate." The rest of the First Book was given to an argument upon the Dignity of Learning; and the Second Book, on the Advancement of Learning, is, as Bacon himself described it, "a general and faithful perambulation of learning, with an inquiry what parts thereof lie fresh and waste, and not improved and converted by the industry of man; to the end that such a plot made and recorded to memory may both minister light to any public designation and also serve to excite voluntary endeavours." Bacon makes, by a sort of exhaustive analysis, a ground-plan of all subjects of study, as an intellectual map, helping the right inquirer in his search for the right path. The right path is that by which he has the best chance of adding to the stock of knowledge in the world something worth labouring for; and the true worth is in labour for "the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate."
THE FIRST BOOK OF FRANCIS BACON; OF THE PROFICIENCE AND ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING, DIVINE AND HUMAN.
To the King.
There were under the law, excellent King, both daily sacrifices and freewill offerings; the one proceeding upon ordinary observance, the other upon a devout cheerfulness: in like manner there belongeth to kings from their servants both tribute of duty and presents of affection. In the former of these I hope I shall not live to be wanting, according to my most humble duty and the good pleasure of your Majesty's employments: for the latter, I thought it more respective to make choice of some oblation which might rather refer to the propriety and excellency of your individual person, than to the business of your crown and state.
Wherefore, representing your Majesty many times unto my mind, and beholding you not with the inquisitive eye of presumption, to discover that which the Scripture telleth me is inscrutable, but with the observant eye of duty and admiration, leaving aside the other parts of your virtue and fortune, I have been touched—yea, and possessed—with an extreme wonder at those your virtues and faculties, which the philosophers call intellectual; the largeness of your capacity, the faithfulness of your memory, the swiftness of your apprehension, the penetration of your judgment, and the facility and order of your elocution: and I have often thought that of all the persons living that I have known, your Majesty were the best instance to make a man of Plato's opinion, that all knowledge is but remembrance, and that the mind of man by Nature knoweth all things, and hath but her own native and original notions (which by the strangeness and darkness of this tabernacle of the body are sequestered) again revived and restored: such a light of Nature I have observed in your Majesty, and such a readiness to take flame and blaze from the least occasion presented, or the least spark of another's knowledge delivered. And as the Scripture saith of the wisest king, "That his heart was as the sands of the sea;" which, though it be one of the largest bodies, yet it consisteth of the smallest and finest portions; so hath God given your Majesty a composition of understanding admirable, being able to compass and comprehend the greatest matters, and nevertheless to touch and apprehend the least; whereas it should seem an impossibility in Nature for the same instrument to make itself fit for great and small works. And for your gift of speech, I call to mind what Cornelius Tacitus saith of Augustus Caesar: Augusto profluens, et quae principem deceret, eloquentia fuit. For if we note it well, speech that is uttered with labour and difficulty, or speech that savoureth of the affectation of art and precepts, or speech that is framed after the imitation of some pattern of eloquence, though never so excellent; all this hath somewhat servile, and holding of the subject. But your Majesty's manner of speech is, indeed, prince-like, flowing as from a fountain, and yet streaming and branching itself into Nature's order, full of facility and felicity, imitating none, and inimitable by any. And as in your civil estate there appeareth to be an emulation and contention of your Majesty's virtue with your fortune; a virtuous disposition with a fortunate regiment; a virtuous expectation (when time was) of your greater fortune, with a prosperous possession thereof in the due time; a virtuous observation of the laws of marriage, with most blessed and happy fruit of marriage; a virtuous and most Christian desire of peace, with a fortunate inclination in your neighbour princes thereunto: so likewise in these intellectual matters there seemeth to be no less contention between the excellency of your Majesty's gifts of Nature and the universality and perfection of your learning. For I am well assured that this which I shall say is no amplification at all, but a positive and measured truth; which is, that there hath not been since Christ's time any king or temporal monarch which hath been so learned in all literature and erudition, divine and human. For let a man seriously and diligently revolve and peruse the succession of the Emperors of Rome, of which Caesar the Dictator (who lived some years before Christ) and Marcus Antoninus were the best learned, and so descend to the Emperors of Graecia, or of the West, and then to the lines of France, Spain, England, Scotland, and the rest, and he shall find this judgment is truly made. For it seemeth much in a king if, by the compendious extractions of other men's wits and labours, he can take hold of any superficial ornaments and shows of learning, or if he countenance and prefer learning and learned men; but to drink, indeed, of the true fountains of learning—nay, to have such a fountain of learning in himself, in a king, and in a king born—is almost a miracle. And the more, because there is met in your Majesty a rare conjunction, as well of divine and sacred literature as of profane and human; so as your Majesty standeth invested of that triplicity, which in great veneration was ascribed to the ancient Hermes: the power and fortune of a king, the knowledge and illumination of a priest, and the learning and universality of a philosopher. This propriety inherent and individual attribute in your Majesty deserveth to be expressed not only in the fame and admiration of the present time, nor in the history or tradition of the ages succeeding, but also in some solid work, fixed memorial, and immortal monument, bearing a character or signature both of the power of a king and the difference and perfection of such a king.
Therefore I did conclude with myself that I could not make unto your Majesty a better oblation than of some treatise tending to that end, whereof the sum will consist of these two parts: the former concerning the excellency of learning and knowledge, and the excellency of the merit and true glory in the augmentation and propagation thereof; the latter, what the particular acts and works are which have been embraced and undertaken for the advancement of learning; and again, what defects and undervalues I find in such particular acts: to the end that though I cannot positively or affirmatively advise your Majesty, or propound unto you framed particulars, yet I may excite your princely cogitations to visit the excellent treasure of your own mind, and thence to extract particulars for this purpose agreeable to your magnanimity and wisdom.
I. (1) In the entrance to the former of these—to clear the way and, as it were, to make silence, to have the true testimonies concerning the dignity of learning to be better heard, without the interruption of tacit objections—I think good to deliver it from the discredits and disgraces which it hath received, all from ignorance, but ignorance severally disguised; appearing sometimes in the zeal and jealousy of divines, sometimes in the severity and arrogancy of politics, and sometimes in the errors and imperfections of learned men themselves.
(2) I hear the former sort say that knowledge is of those things which are to be accepted of with great limitation and caution; that the aspiring to overmuch knowledge was the original temptation and sin whereupon ensued the fall of man; that knowledge hath in it somewhat of the serpent, and, therefore, where it entereth into a man it makes him swell; Scientia inflat; that Solomon gives a censure, "That there is no end of making books, and that much reading is weariness of the flesh;" and again in another place, "That in spacious knowledge there is much contristation, and that he that increaseth knowledge increaseth anxiety;" that Saint Paul gives a caveat, "That we be not spoiled through vain philosophy;" that experience demonstrates how learned men have been arch-heretics, how learned times have been inclined to atheism, and how the contemplation of second causes doth derogate from our dependence upon God, who is the first cause.
(3) To discover, then, the ignorance and error of this opinion, and the misunderstanding in the grounds thereof, it may well appear these men do not observe or consider that it was not the pure knowledge of Nature and universality, a knowledge by the light whereof man did give names unto other creatures in Paradise as they were brought before him according unto their proprieties, which gave the occasion to the fall; but it was the proud knowledge of good and evil, with an intent in man to give law unto himself, and to depend no more upon God's commandments, which was the form of the temptation. Neither is it any quantity of knowledge, how great soever, that can make the mind of man to swell; for nothing can fill, much less extend the soul of man, but God and the contemplation of God; and, therefore, Solomon, speaking of the two principal senses of inquisition, the eye and the ear, affirmeth that the eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing; and if there be no fulness, then is the continent greater than the content: so of knowledge itself and the mind of man, whereto the senses are but reporters, he defineth likewise in these words, placed after that calendar or ephemerides which he maketh of the diversities of times and seasons for all actions and purposes, and concludeth thus: "God hath made all things beautiful, or decent, in the true return of their seasons. Also He hath placed the world in man's heart, yet cannot man find out the work which God worketh from the beginning to the end"—declaring not obscurely that God hath framed the mind of man as a mirror or glass, capable of the image of the universal world, and joyful to receive the impression thereof, as the eye joyeth to receive light; and not only delighted in beholding the variety of things and vicissitude of times, but raised also to find out and discern the ordinances and decrees which throughout all those changes are infallibly observed. And although he doth insinuate that the supreme or summary law of Nature (which he calleth "the work which God worketh from the beginning to the end") is not possible to be found out by man, yet that doth not derogate from the capacity of the mind; but may be referred to the impediments, as of shortness of life, ill conjunction of labours, ill tradition of knowledge over from hand to hand, and many other inconveniences, whereunto the condition of man is subject. For that nothing parcel of the world is denied to man's inquiry and invention, he doth in another place rule over, when he saith, "The spirit of man is as the lamp of God, wherewith He searcheth the inwardness of all secrets." If, then, such be the capacity and receipt of the mind of man, it is manifest that there is no danger at all in the proportion or quantity of knowledge, how large soever, lest it should make it swell or out-compass itself; no, but it is merely the quality of knowledge, which, be it in quantity more or less, if it be taken without the true corrective thereof, hath in it some nature of venom or malignity, and some effects of that venom, which is ventosity or swelling. This corrective spice, the mixture whereof maketh knowledge so sovereign, is charity, which the Apostle immediately addeth to the former clause; for so he saith, "Knowledge bloweth up, but charity buildeth up;" not unlike unto that which he deilvereth in another place: "If I spake," saith he, "with the tongues of men and angels, and had not charity, it were but as a tinkling cymbal." Not but that it is an excellent thing to speak with the tongues of men and angels, but because, if it be severed from charity, and not referred to the good of men and mankind, it hath rather a sounding and unworthy glory than a meriting and substantial virtue. And as for that censure of Solomon concerning the excess of writing and reading books, and the anxiety of spirit which redoundeth from knowledge, and that admonition of St. Paul, "That we be not seduced by vain philosophy," let those places be rightly understood; and they do, indeed, excellently set forth the true bounds and limitations whereby human knowledge is confined and circumscribed, and yet without any such contracting or coarctation, but that it may comprehend all the universal nature of things; for these limitations are three: the first, "That we do not so place our felicity in knowledge, as we forget our mortality;" the second, "That we make application of our knowledge, to give ourselves repose and contentment, and not distaste or repining;" the third, "That we do not presume by the contemplation of Nature to attain to the mysteries of God." For as touching the first of these, Solomon doth excellently expound himself in another place of the same book, where he saith: "I saw well that knowledge recedeth as far from ignorance as light doth from darkness; and that the wise man's eyes keep watch in his head, whereas this fool roundeth about in darkness: but withal I learned that the same mortality involveth them both." And for the second, certain it is there is no vexation or anxiety of mind which resulteth from knowledge otherwise than merely by accident; for all knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself; but when men fall to framing conclusions out of their knowledge, applying it to their particular, and ministering to themselves thereby weak fears or vast desires, there groweth that carefulness and trouble of mind which is spoken of; for then knowledge is no more Lumen siccum, whereof Heraclitus the profound said, Lumen siccum optima anima; but it becometh Lumen madidum, or maceratum, being steeped and infused in the humours of the affections. And as for the third point, it deserveth to be a little stood upon, and not to be lightly passed over; for if any man shall think by view and inquiry into these sensible and material things to attain that light, whereby he may reveal unto himself the nature or will of God, then, indeed, is he spoiled by vain philosophy; for the contemplation of God's creatures and works produceth (having regard to the works and creatures themselves) knowledge, but having regard to God no perfect knowledge, but wonder, which is broken knowledge. And, therefore, it was most aptly said by one of Plato's school, "That the sense of man carrieth a resemblance with the sun, which (as we see) openeth and revealeth all the terrestrial globe; but then, again, it obscureth and concealeth the stars and celestial globe: so doth the sense discover natural things, but it darkeneth and shutteth up divine." And hence it is true that it hath proceeded, that divers great learned men have been heretical, whilst they have sought to fly up to the secrets of the Deity by this waxen wings of the senses. And as for the conceit that too much knowledge should incline a man to atheism, and that the ignorance of second causes should make a more devout dependence upon God, which is the first cause; first, it is good to ask the question which Job asked of his friends: "Will you lie for God, as one man will lie for another, to gratify him?" For certain it is that God worketh nothing in Nature but by second causes; and if they would have it otherwise believed, it is mere imposture, as it were in favour towards God, and nothing else but to offer to the Author of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie. But further, it is an assured truth, and a conclusion of experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of men to atheism, but a further proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion. For in the entrance of philosophy, when the second causes, which are next unto the senses, do offer themselves to the mind of man, if it dwell and stay there it may induce some oblivion of the highest cause; but when a man passeth on further and seeth the dependence of causes and the works of Providence; then, according to the allegory of the poets, he will easily believe that the highest link of Nature's chain must needs he tied to the foot of Jupiter's chair. To conclude, therefore, let no man upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation think or maintain that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works, divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both; only let men beware that they apply both to charity, and not to swelling; to use, and not to ostentation; and again, that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together.
II. (1) And as for the disgraces which learning receiveth from politics, they be of this nature: that learning doth soften men's minds, and makes them more unapt for the honour and exercise of arms; that it doth mar and pervert men's dispositions for matter of government and policy, in making them too curious and irresolute by variety of reading, or too peremptory or positive by strictness of rules and axioms, or too immoderate and overweening by reason of the greatness of examples, or too incompatible and differing from the times by reason of the dissimilitude of examples; or at least, that it doth divert men's travails from action and business, and bringeth them to a love of leisure and privateness; and that it doth bring into states a relaxation of discipline, whilst every man is more ready to argue than to obey and execute. Out of this conceit Cato, surnamed the Censor, one of the wisest men indeed that ever lived, when Carneades the philosopher came in embassage to Rome, and that the young men of Rome began to flock about him, being allured with the sweetness and majesty of his eloquence and learning, gave counsel in open senate that they should give him his despatch with all speed, lest he should infect and enchant the minds and affections of the youth, and at unawares bring in an alteration of the manners and customs of the state. Out of the same conceit or humour did Virgil, turning his pen to the advantage of his country and the disadvantage of his own profession, make a kind of separation between policy and government, and between arts and sciences, in the verses so much renowned, attributing and challenging the one to the Romans, and leaving and yielding the other to the Grecians: Tu regere imperio popules, Romane, memento, Hae tibi erunt artes, &c. So likewise we see that Anytus, the accuser of Socrates, laid it as an article of charge and accusation against him, that he did, with the variety and power of his discourses and disputatious, withdraw young men from due reverence to the laws and customs of their country, and that he did profess a dangerous and pernicious science, which was to make the worse matter seem the better, and to suppress truth by force of eloquence and speech.
(2) But these and the like imputations have rather a countenance of gravity than any ground of justice: for experience doth warrant that, both in persons and in times, there hath been a meeting and concurrence in learning and arms, flourishing and excelling in the same men and the same ages. For as 'for men, there cannot be a better nor the hike instance as of that pair, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, the Dictator; whereof the one was Aristotle's scholar in philosophy, and the other was Cicero's rival in eloquence; or if any man had rather call for scholars that were great generals, than generals that were great scholars, let him take Epaminondas the Theban, or Xenophon the Athenian; whereof the one was the first that abated the power of Sparta, and the other was the first that made way to the overthrow of the monarchy of Persia. And this concurrence is yet more visible in times than in persons, by how much an age is greater object than a man. For both in Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Graecia, and Rome, the same times that are most renowned for arms are, likewise, most admired for learning, so that the greatest authors and philosophers, and the greatest captains and governors, have lived in the same ages. Neither can it otherwise he: for as in man the ripeness of strength of the body and mind cometh much about an age, save that the strength of the body cometh somewhat the more early, so in states, arms and learning, whereof the one correspondeth to the body, the other to the soul of man, have a concurrence or near sequence in times.
(3) And for matter of policy and government, that learning, should rather hurt, than enable thereunto, is a thing very improbable; we see it is accounted an error to commit a natural body to empiric physicians, which commonly have a few pleasing receipts whereupon they are confident and adventurous, but know neither the causes of diseases, nor the complexions of patients, nor peril of accidents, nor the true method of cures; we see it is a like error to rely upon advocates or lawyers which are only men of practice, and not grounded in their books, who are many times easily surprised when matter falleth out besides their experience, to the prejudice of the causes they handle: so by like reason it cannot be but a matter of doubtful consequence if states be managed by empiric statesmen, not well mingled with men grounded in learning. But contrariwise, it is almost without instance contradictory that ever any government was disastrous that was in the hands of learned governors. For howsoever it hath been ordinary with politic men to extenuate and disable learned men by the names of pedantes; yet in the records of time it appeareth in many particulars that the governments of princes in minority (notwithstanding the infinite disadvantage of that kind of state)—have nevertheless excelled the government of princes of mature age, even for that reason which they seek to traduce, which is that by that occasion the state hath been in the hands of pedantes: for so was the state of Rome for the first five years, which are so much magnified, during the minority of Nero, in the hands of Seneca, a pedenti; so it was again, for ten years' space or more, during the minority of Gordianus the younger, with great applause and contentation in the hands of Misitheus, a pedanti: so was it before that, in the minority of Alexander Severus, in like happiness, in hands not much unlike, by reason of the rule of the women, who were aided by the teachers and preceptors. Nay, let a man look into the government of the Bishops of Rome, as by name, into the government of Pius Quintus and Sextus Quintus in our times, who were both at their entrance esteemed but as pedantical friars, and he shall find that such Popes do greater things, and proceed upon truer principles of state, than those which have ascended to the papacy from an education and breeding in affairs of state and courts of princes; for although men bred in learning are perhaps to seek in points of convenience and accommodating for the present, which the Italians call ragioni di stato, whereof the same Pius Quintus could not hear spoken with patience, terming them inventions against religion and the moral virtues; yet on the other side, to recompense that, they are perfect in those same plain grounds of religion, justice, honour, and moral virtue, which if they be well and watchfully pursued, there will be seldom use of those other, no more than of physic in a sound or well-dieted body. Neither can the experience of one man's life furnish examples and precedents for the event of one man's life. For as it happeneth sometimes that the grandchild, or other descendant, resembleth the ancestor more than the son; so many times occurrences of present times may sort better with ancient examples than with those of the later or immediate times; and lastly, the wit of one man can no more countervail learning than one man's means can hold way with a common purse.
(4) And as for those particular seducements or indispositions of the mind for policy and government, which learning is pretended to insinuate; if it be granted that any such thing be, it must be remembered withal that learning ministereth in every of them greater strength of medicine or remedy than it offereth cause of indisposition or infirmity. For if by a secret operation it make men perplexed and irresolute, on the other side by plain precept it teacheth them when and upon what ground to resolve; yea, and how to carry things in suspense, without prejudice, till they resolve. If it make men positive and regular, it teacheth them what things are in their nature demonstrative, and what are conjectural, and as well the use of distinctions and exceptions, as the latitude of principles and rules. If it mislead by disproportion or dissimilitude of examples, it teacheth men the force of circumstances, the errors of comparisons, and all the cautions of application; so that in all these it doth rectify more effectually than it can pervert. And these medicines it conveyeth into men's minds much more forcibly by the quickness and penetration of examples. For let a man look into the errors of Clement VII., so lively described by Guicciardini, who served under him, or into the errors of Cicero, painted out by his own pencil in his Epistles to Atticus, and he will fly apace from being irresolute. Let him look into the errors of Phocion, and he will beware how he be obstinate or inflexible. Let him but read the fable of Ixion, and it will hold him from being vaporous or imaginative. Let him look into the errors of Cato II., and he will never be one of the Antipodes, to tread opposite to the present world.
(5) And for the conceit that learning should dispose men to leisure and privateness, and make men slothful: it were a strange thing if that which accustometh the mind to a perpetual motion and agitation should induce slothfulness, whereas, contrariwise, it may be truly affirmed that no kind of men love business for itself but those that are learned; for other persons love it for profit, as a hireling that loves the work for the wages; or for honour, as because it beareth them up in the eyes of men, and refresheth their reputation, which otherwise would wear; or because it putteth them in mind of their fortune, and giveth them occasion to pleasure and displeasure; or because it exerciseth some faculty wherein they take pride, and so entertaineth them in good-humour and pleasing conceits towards themselves; or because it advanceth any other their ends. So that as it is said of untrue valours, that some men's valours are in the eyes of them that look on, so such men's industries are in the eyes of others, or, at least, in regard of their own designments; only learned men love business as an action according to nature, as agreeable to health of mind as exercise is to health of body, taking pleasure in the action itself, and not in the purchase, so that of all men they are the most indefatigable, if it be towards any business which can hold or detain their mind.
(6) And if any man be laborious in reading and study, and yet idle in business and action, it groweth from some weakness of body or softness of spirit, such as Seneca speaketh of: Quidam tam sunt umbratiles, ut putent in turbido esse quicquid in luce est; and not of learning: well may it be that such a point of a man's nature may make him give himself to learning, but it is not learning that breedeth any such point in his nature.
(7) And that learning should take up too much time or leisure: I answer, the most active or busy man that hath been or can be, hath (no question) many vacant times of leisure while he expecteth the tides and returns of business (except he be either tedious and of no despatch, or lightly and unworthily ambitious to meddle in things that may be better done by others), and then the question is but how those spaces and times of leisure shall be filled and spent; whether in pleasure or in studies; as was well answered by Demosthenes to his adversary AEschines, that was a man given to pleasure, and told him "That his orations did smell of the lamp." "Indeed," said Demosthenes, "there is a great difference between the things that you and I do by lamp-light." So as no man need doubt that learning will expel business, but rather it will keep and defend the possession of the mind against idleness and pleasure, which otherwise at unawares may enter to the prejudice of both.
(8) Again, for that other conceit that learning should undermine the reverence of laws and government, it is assuredly a mere depravation and calumny, without all shadow of truth. For to say that a blind custom of obedience should be a surer obligation than duty taught and understood, it is to affirm that a blind man may tread surer by a guide than a seeing man can by a light. And it is without all controversy that learning doth make the minds of men gentle, generous, manageable, and pliant to government; whereas ignorance makes them churlish, thwart, and mutinous: and the evidence of time doth clear this assertion, considering that the most barbarous, rude, and unlearned times have been most subject to tumults, seditious, and changes.
(9) And as to the judgment of Cato the Censor, he was well punished for his blasphemy against learning, in the same kind wherein he offended; for when he was past threescore years old, he was taken with an extreme desire to go to school again, and to learn the Greek tongue, to the end to peruse the Greek authors; which doth well demonstrate that his former censure of the Grecian learning was rather an affected gravity, than according to the inward sense of his own opinion. And as for Virgil's verses, though it pleased him to brave the world in taking to the Romans the art of empire, and leaving to others the arts of subjects, yet so much is manifest— that the Romans never ascended to that height of empire till the time they had ascended to the height of other arts. For in the time of the two first Caesars, which had the art of government in greatest perfection, there lived the best poet, Virgilius Maro; the best historiographer, Titus Livius; the best antiquary, Marcus Varro; and the best or second orator, Marcus Cicero, that to the memory of man are known. As for the accusation of Socrates, the time must be remembered when it was prosecuted; which was under the Thirty Tyrants, the most base, bloody, and envious persons that have governed; which revolution of state was no sooner over but Socrates, whom they had made a person criminal, was made a person heroical, and his memory accumulate with honours divine and human; and those discourses of his which were then termed corrupting of manners, were after acknowledged for sovereign medicines of the mind and manners, and so have been received ever since till this day. Let this, therefore, serve for answer to politiques, which in their humorous severity, or in their feigned gravity, have presumed to throw imputations upon learning; which redargution nevertheless (save that we know not whether our labours may extend to other ages) were not needful for the present, in regard of the love and reverence towards learning which the example and countenance of two so learned princes, Queen Elizabeth and your Majesty, being as Castor and Pollux, lucida sidera, stars of excellent light and most benign influence, hath wrought in all men of place and authority in our nation.
III. (1) Now therefore we come to that third sort of discredit or diminution of credit that groweth unto learning from learned men themselves, which commonly cleaveth fastest: it is either from their fortune, or from their manners, or from the nature of their studies. For the first, it is not in their power; and the second is accidental; the third only is proper to be handled: but because we are not in hand with true measure, but with popular estimation and conceit, it is not amiss to speak somewhat of the two former. The derogations therefore which grow to learning from the fortune or condition of learned men, are either in respect of scarcity of means, or in respect of privateness of life and meanness of employments.
(2) Concerning want, and that it is the case of learned men usually to begin with little, and not to grow rich so fast as other men, by reason they convert not their labours chiefly to lucre and increase, it were good to leave the commonplace in commendation of povery to some friar to handle, to whom much was attributed by Machiavel in this point when he said, "That the kingdom of the clergy had been long before at an end, if the reputation and reverence towards the poverty of friars had not borne out the scandal of the superfluities and excesses of bishops and prelates." So a man might say that the felicity and delicacy of princes and great persons had long since turned to rudeness and barbarism, if the poverty of learning had not kept up civility and honour of life; but without any such advantages, it is worthy the observation what a reverent and honoured thing poverty of fortune was for some ages in the Roman state, which nevertheless was a state without paradoxes. For we see what Titus Livius saith in his introduction: Caeterum aut me amor negotii suscepti fallit aut nulla unquam respublica nec major, nec sanctior, nec bonis exemplis ditior fuit; nec in quam tam sero avaritia luxuriaque immigraverint; nec ubi tantus ac tam diu paupertati ac parsimoniae honos fuerit. We see likewise, after that the state of Rome was not itself, but did degenerate, how that person that took upon him to be counsellor to Julius Caesar after his victory where to begin his restoration of the state, maketh it of all points the most summary to take away the estimation of wealth: Verum haec et omnia mala pariter cum honore pecuniae desinent; si neque magistratus, neque alia vulgo cupienda, venalia erunt. To conclude this point: as it was truly said that Paupertas est virtutis fortuna, though sometimes it come from vice, so it may be fitly said that, though some times it may proceed from misgovernment and accident. Surely Solomon hath pronounced it both in censure, Qui festinat ad divitias non erit insons; and in precept, "Buy the truth, and sell it not; and so of wisdom and knowledge;" judging that means were to be spent upon learning, and not learning to be applied to means. And as for the privateness or obscureness (as it may be in vulgar estimation accounted) of life of contemplative men, it is a theme so common to extol a private life, not taxed with sensuality and sloth, in comparison and to the disadvantage of a civil life, for safety, liberty, pleasure, and dignity, or at least freedom from indignity, as no man handleth it but handleth it well; such a consonancy it hath to men's conceits in the expressing, and to men's consents in the allowing. This only I will add, that learned men forgotten in states and not living in the eyes of men, are like the images of Cassius and Brutus in the funeral of Junia, of which, not being represented as many others were, Tacitus saith, Eo ipso praefulgebant quod non visebantur.
(3) And for meanness of employment, that which is most traduced to contempt is that the government of youth is commonly allotted to them; which age, because it is the age of least authority, it is transferred to the disesteeming of those employments wherein youth is conversant, and which are conversant about youth. But how unjust this traducement is (if you will reduce things from popularity of opinion to measure of reason) may appear in that we see men are more curious what they put into a new vessel than into a vessel seasoned; and what mould they lay about a young plant than about a plant corroborate; so as this weakest terms and times of all things use to have the best applications and helps. And will you hearken to the Hebrew rabbins? "Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:" say they, youth is the worthier age, for that visions are nearer apparitions of God than dreams? And let it be noted that howsoever the condition of life of pedantes hath been scorned upon theatres, as the ape of tyranny; and that the modern looseness or negligence hath taken no due regard to the choice of schoolmasters and tutors; yet the ancient wisdom of the best times did always make a just complaint, that states were too busy with their laws and too negligent in point of education: which excellent part of ancient discipline hath been in some sort revived of late times by the colleges of the Jesuits; of whom, although in regard of their superstition I may say, Quo meliores, eo deteriores; yet in regard of this, and some other points concerning human learning and moral matters, I may say, as Agesilaus said to his enemy Pharnabazus, Talis quum sis, utunam noster esses. And that much touching the discredits drawn from the fortunes of learned men.
(4) As touching the manners of learned men, it is a thing personal and individual: and no doubt there be amongst them, as in other professions, of all temperatures: but yet so as it is not without truth which is said, that Abeunt studua in mores, studies have an influence and operation upon the manners of those that are conversant in them.
(5) But upon an attentive and indifferent review, I for my part cannot find any disgrace to learning can proceed from the manners of learned men; not inherent to them as they are learned; except it be a fault (which was the supposed fault of Demosthenes, Cicero, Cato II., Seneca, and many more) that because the times they read of are commonly better than the times they live in, and the duties taught better than the duties practised, they contend sometimes too far to bring things to perfection, and to reduce the corruption of manners to honesty of precepts or examples of too great height. And yet hereof they have caveats enough in their own walks. For Solon, when he was asked whether he had given his citizens the best laws, answered wisely, "Yea, of such as they would receive:" and Plato, finding that his own heart could not agree with the corrupt manners of his country, refused to bear place or office, saying, "That a man's country was to be used as his parents were, that is, with humble persuasions, and not with contestations." And Caesar's counsellor put in the same caveat, Non ad vetera instituta revocans quae jampridem corruptis moribus ludibrio sunt; and Cicero noteth this error directly in Cato II. when he writes to his friend Atticus, Cato optime sentit, sed nocet interdum reipublicae; loquitur enim tanquam in republica Platonis, non tanquam in faece Romuli. And the same Cicero doth excuse and expound the philosophers for going too far and being too exact in their prescripts when he saith, Isti ipse praeceptores virtutis et magistri videntur fines officiorum paulo longius quam natura vellet protulisse, ut cum ad ultimum animo contendissemus, ibi tamen, ubi oportet, consisteremus: and yet himself might have said, Monitis sum minor ipse meis; for it was his own fault, though not in so extreme a degree.
(6) Another fault likewise much of this kind hath been incident to learned men, which is, that they have esteemed the preservation, good, and honour of their countries or masters before their own fortunes or safeties. For so saith Demosthenes unto the Athenians: "If it please you to note it, my counsels unto you are not such whereby I should grow great amongst you, and you become little amongst the Grecians; but they be of that nature as they are sometimes not good for me to give, but are always good for you to follow." And so Seneca, after he had consecrated that Quinquennium Neronis to the eternal glory of learned governors, held on his honest and loyal course of good and free counsel after his master grew extremely corrupt in his government. Neither can this point otherwise be, for learning endueth men's minds with a true sense of the frailty of their persons, the casualty of their fortunes, and the dignity of their soul and vocation, so that it is impossible for them to esteem that any greatness of their own fortune can be a true or worthy end of their being and ordainment, and therefore are desirous to give their account to God, and so likewise to their masters under God (as kings and the states that they serve) in those words, Ecce tibi lucrefeci, and not Ecce mihi lucrefeci; whereas the corrupter sort of mere politiques, that have not their thoughts established by learning in the love and apprehension of duty, nor never look abroad into universality, do refer all things to themselves, and thrust themselves into the centre of the world, as if all lines should meet in them and their fortunes, never caring in all tempests what becomes of the ship of state, so they may save themselves in the cockboat of their own fortune; whereas men that feel the weight of duty and know the limits of self-love use to make good their places and duties, though with peril; and if they stand in seditious and violent alterations, it is rather the reverence which many times both adverse parts do give to honesty, than any versatile advantage of their own carriage. But for this point of tender sense and fast obligation of duty which learning doth endue the mind withal, howsoever fortune may tax it, and many in the depth of their corrupt principles may despise it, yet it will receive an open allowance, and therefore needs the less disproof or excuse.
(7) Another fault incident commonly to learned men, which may be more properly defended than truly denied, is that they fail sometimes in applying themselves to particular persons, which want of exact application ariseth from two causes—the one, because the largeness of their mind can hardly confine itself to dwell in the exquisite observation or examination of the nature and customs of one person, for it is a speech for a lover, and not for a wise man, Satis magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus. Nevertheless I shall yield that he that cannot contract the sight of his mind as well as disperse and dilate it, wanteth a great faculty. But there is a second cause, which is no inability, but a rejection upon choice and judgment. For the honest and just bounds of observation by one person upon another extend no further but to understand him sufficiently, whereby not to give him offence, or whereby to be able to give him faithful counsel, or whereby to stand upon reasonable guard and caution in respect of a man's self. But to be speculative into another man to the end to know how to work him, or wind him, or govern him, proceedeth from a heart that is double and cloven, and not entire and ingenuous; which as in friendship it is want of integrity, so towards princes or superiors is want of duty. For the custom of the Levant, which is that subjects do forbear to gaze or fix their eyes upon princes, is in the outward ceremony barbarous, but the moral is good; for men ought not, by cunning and bent observations, to pierce and penetrate into the hearts of kings, which the Scripture hath declared to be inscrutable.
(8) There is yet another fault (with which I will conclude this part) which is often noted in learned men, that they do many times fail to observe decency and discretion in their behaviour and carriage, and commit errors in small and ordinary points of action, so as the vulgar sort of capacities do make a judgment of them in greater matters by that which they find wanting in them in smaller. But this consequence doth oft deceive men, for which I do refer them over to that which was said by Themistocles, arrogantly and uncivilly being applied to himself out of his own mouth, but, being applied to the general state of this question, pertinently and justly, when, being invited to touch a lute, he said, "He could not fiddle, but he could make a small town a great state." So no doubt many may be well seen in the passages of government and policy which are to seek in little and punctual occasions. I refer them also to that which Plato said of his master Socrates, whom he compared to the gallipots of apothecaries, which on the outside had apes and owls and antiques, but contained within sovereign and precious liquors and confections; acknowledging that, to an external report, he was not without superficial levities and deformities, but was inwardly replenished with excellent virtues and powers. And so much touching the point of manners of learned men.
(9) But in the meantime I have no purpose to give allowance to some conditions and courses base and unworthy, wherein divers professors of learning have wronged themselves and gone too far; such as were those trencher philosophers which in the later age of the Roman state were usually in the houses of great persons, being little better than solemn parasites, of which kind, Lucian maketh a merry description of the philosopher that the great lady took to ride with her in her coach, and would needs have him carry her little dog, which he doing officiously and yet uncomely, the page scoffed and said, "That he doubted the philosopher of a Stoic would turn to be a Cynic." But, above all the rest, this gross and palpable flattery whereunto many not unlearned have abased and abused their wits and pens, turning (as Du Bartas saith) Hecuba into Helena, and Faustina into Lucretia, hath most diminished the price and estimation of learning. Neither is the modern dedication of books and writings, as to patrons, to be commended, for that books (such as are worthy the name of books) ought to have no patrons but truth and reason. And the ancient custom was to dedicate them only to private and equal friends, or to entitle the books with their names; or if to kings and great persons, it was to some such as the argument of the book was fit and proper for; but these and the like courses may deserve rather reprehension than defence.
(10) Not that I can tax or condemn the morigeration or application of learned men to men in fortune. For the answer was good that Diogenes made to one that asked him in mockery, "How it came to pass that philosophers were the followers of rich men, and not rich men of philosophers?" He answered soberly, and yet sharply, "Because the one sort knew what they had need of, and the other did not." And of the like nature was the answer which Aristippus made, when having a petition to Dionysius, and no ear given to him, he fell down at his feet, whereupon Dionysius stayed and gave him the hearing, and granted it; and afterwards some person, tender on the behalf of philosophy, reproved Aristippus that he would offer the profession of philosophy such an indignity as for a private suit to fall at a tyrant's feet; but he answered, "It was not his fault, but it was the fault of Dionysius, that had his ears in his feet." Neither was it accounted weakness, but discretion, in him that would not dispute his best with Adrianus Caesar, excusing himself, "That it was reason to yield to him that commanded thirty legions." These and the like, applications, and stooping to points of necessity and convenience, cannot be disallowed; for though they may have some outward baseness, yet in a judgment truly made they are to be accounted submissions to the occasion and not to the person.
IV. (1) Now I proceed to those errors and vanities which have intervened amongst the studies themselves of the learned, which is that which is principal and proper to the present argument; wherein my purpose is not to make a justification of the errors, but by a censure and separation of the errors to make a justification of that which is good and sound, and to deliver that from the aspersion of the other. For we see that it is the manner of men to scandalise and deprave that which retaineth the state and virtue, by taking advantage upon that which is corrupt and degenerate, as the heathens in the primitive Church used to blemish and taint the Christians with the faults and corruptions of heretics. But nevertheless I have no meaning at this time to make any exact animadversion of the errors and impediments in matters of learning, which are more secret and remote from vulgar opinion, but only to speak unto such as do fall under or near unto a popular observation.
(2) There be therefore chiefly three vanities in studies, whereby learning hath been most traduced. For those things we do esteem vain which are either false or frivolous, those which either have no truth or no use; and those persons we esteem vain which are either credulous or curious; and curiosity is either in matter or words: so that in reason as well as in experience there fall out to be these three distempers (as I may term them) of learning—the first, fantastical learning; the second, contentious learning; and the last, delicate learning; vain imaginations, vain altercations, and vain affectations; and with the last I will begin. Martin Luther, conducted, no doubt, by a higher Providence, but in discourse of reason, finding what a province he had undertaken against the Bishop of Rome and the degenerate traditions of the Church, and finding his own solitude, being in nowise aided by the opinions of his own time, was enforced to awake all antiquity, and to call former times to his succours to make a party against the present time. So that the ancient authors, both in divinity and in humanity, which had long time slept in libraries, began generally to be read and revolved. This, by consequence, did draw on a necessity of a more exquisite travail in the languages original, wherein those authors did write, for the better understanding of those authors, and the better advantage of pressing and applying their words. And thereof grew, again, a delight in their manner of style and phrase, and an admiration of that kind of writing, which was much furthered and precipitated by the enmity and opposition that the propounders of those primitive but seeming new opinions had against the schoolmen, who were generally of the contrary part, and whose writings were altogether in a differing style and form; taking liberty to coin and frame new terms of art to express their own sense, and to avoid circuit of speech, without regard to the pureness, pleasantness, and (as I may call it) lawfulness of the phrase or word. And again, because the great labour then was with the people (of whom the Pharisees were wont to say, Execrabilis ista turba, quae non novit legem), for the winning and persuading of them, there grew of necessity in chief price and request eloquence and variety of discourse, as the fittest and forciblest access into the capacity of the vulgar sort; so that these four causes concurring—the admiration of ancient authors, the hate of the schoolmen, the exact study of languages, and the efficacy of preaching—did bring in an affectionate study of eloquence and copy of speech, which then began to flourish. This grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter—more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgment. Then grew the flowing and watery vein of Osorius, the Portugal bishop, to be in price. Then did Sturmius spend such infinite and curious pains upon Cicero the Orator and Hermogenes the Rhetorician, besides his own books of Periods and Imitation, and the like. Then did Car of Cambridge and Ascham with their lectures and writings almost deify Cicero and Demosthenes, and allure all young men that were studious unto that delicate and polished kind of learning. Then did Erasmus take occasion to make the scoffing echo, Decem annos consuumpsi in legendo Cicerone; and the echo answered in Greek, One, Asine. Then grew the learning of the schoolmen to be utterly despised as barbarous. In sum, the whole inclination and bent of those times was rather towards copy than weight.
(3) Here therefore [is] the first distemper of learning, when men study words and not matter; whereof, though I have represented an example of late times, yet it hath been and will be secundum majus et minus in all time. And how is it possible but this should have an operation to discredit learning, even with vulgar capacities, when they see learned men's works like the first letter of a patent or limited book, which though it hath large flourishes, yet it is but a letter? It seems to me that Pygmalion's frenzy is a good emblem or portraiture of this vanity; for words are but the images of matter, and except they have life of reason and invention, to fall in love with them is all one as to fall in love with a picture.
(4) But yet notwithstanding it is a thing not hastily to be condemned, to clothe and adorn the obscurity even of philosophy itself with sensible and plausible elocution. For hereof we have great examples in Xenophon, Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, and of Plato also in some degree; and hereof likewise there is great use, for surely, to the severe inquisition of truth and the deep progress into philosophy, it is some hindrance because it is too early satisfactory to the mind of man, and quencheth the desire of further search before we come to a just period. But then if a man be to have any use of such knowledge in civil occasions, of conference, counsel, persuasion, discourse, or the like, then shall he find it prepared to his hands in those authors which write in that manner. But the excess of this is so justly contemptible, that as Hercules, when he saw the image of Adonis, Venus' minion, in a temple, said in disdain, Nil sacri es; so there is none of Hercules' followers in learning—that is, the more severe and laborious sort of inquirers into truth—but will despise those delicacies and affectations, as indeed capable of no divineness. And thus much of the first disease or distemper of learning.
(5) The second which followeth is in nature worse than the former: for as substance of matter is better than beauty of words, so contrariwise vain matter is worse than vain words: wherein it seemeth the reprehension of St. Paul was not only proper for those times, but prophetical for the times following; and not only respective to divinity, but extensive to all knowledge: Devita profanas vocum novitates, et oppositiones falsi nominis scientiae. For he assigneth two marks and badges of suspected and falsified science: the one, the novelty and strangeness of terms; the other, the strictness of positions, which of necessity doth induce oppositions, and so questions and altercations. Surely, like as many substances in nature which are solid do putrefy and corrupt into worms;—so it is the property of good and sound knowledge to putrefy and dissolve into a number of subtle, idle, unwholesome, and (as I may term them) vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind of quickness and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter or goodness of quality. This kind of degenerate learning did chiefly reign amongst the schoolmen, who having sharp and strong wits, and abundance of leisure, and small variety of reading, but their wits being shut up in the cells of a few authors (chiefly Aristotle their dictator) as their persons were shut up in the cells of monasteries and colleges, and knowing little history, either of nature or time, did out of no great quantity of matter and infinite agitation of wit spin out unto us those laborious webs of learning which are extant in their books. For the wit and mind of man, if it work upon matter, which is the contemplation of the creatures of God, worketh according to the stuff and is limited thereby; but if it work upon itself, as the spider worketh his web, then it is endless, and brings forth indeed cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fineness of thread and work, but of no substance or profit.
(6) This same unprofitable subtility or curiosity is of two sorts: either in the subject itself that they handle, when it is a fruitless speculation or controversy (whereof there are no small number both in divinity and philosophy), or in the manner or method of handling of a knowledge, which amongst them was this—upon every particular position or assertion to frame objections, and to those objections, solutions; which solutions were for the most part not confutations, but distinctions: whereas indeed the strength of all sciences is, as the strength of the old man's faggot, in the bond. For the harmony of a science, supporting each part the other, is and ought to be the true and brief confutation and suppression of all the smaller sort of objections. But, on the other side, if you take out every axiom, as the sticks of the faggot, one by one, you may quarrel with them and bend them and break them at your pleasure: so that, as was said of Seneca, Verborum minutiis rerum frangit pondera, so a man may truly say of the schoolmen, Quaestionum minutiis scientiarum frangunt soliditatem. For were it not better for a man in fair room to set up one great light, or branching candlestick of lights, than to go about with a small watch-candle into every corner? And such is their method, that rests not so much upon evidence of truth proved by arguments, authorities, similitudes, examples, as upon particular confutations and solutions of every scruple, cavillation, and objection; breeding for the most part one question as fast as it solveth another; even as in the former resemblance, when you carry the light into one corner, you darken the rest; so that the fable and fiction of Scylla seemeth to be a lively image of this kind of philosophy or knowledge; which was transformed into a comely virgin for the upper parts; but then Candida succinctam latrantibus inguina monstris: so the generalities of the schoolmen are for a while good and proportionable; but then when you descend into their distinctions and decisions, instead of a fruitful womb for the use and benefit of man's life, they end in monstrous altercations and barking questions. So as it is not possible but this quality of knowledge must fall under popular contempt, the people being apt to contemn truths upon occasion of controversies and altercations, and to think they are all out of their way which never meet; and when they see such digladiation about subtleties, and matters of no use or moment, they easily fall upon that judgment of Dionysius of Syracusa, Verba ista sunt senum otiosorum.
(7) Notwithstanding, certain it is that if those schoolmen to their great thirst of truth and unwearied travail of wit had joined variety and universality of reading and contemplation, they had proved excellent lights, to the great advancement of all learning and knowledge; but as they are, they are great undertakers indeed, and fierce with dark keeping. But as in the inquiry of the divine truth, their pride inclined to leave the oracle of God's word, and to vanish in the mixture of their own inventions; so in the inquisition of nature, they ever left the oracle of God's works, and adored the deceiving and deformed images which the unequal mirror of their own minds, or a few received authors or principles, did represent unto them. And thus much for the second disease of learning.
(8) For the third vice or disease of learning, which concerneth deceit or untruth, it is of all the rest the foulest; as that which doth destroy the essential form of knowledge, which is nothing but a representation of truth: for the truth of being and the truth of knowing are one, differing no more than the direct beam and the beam reflected. This vice therefore brancheth itself into two sorts; delight in deceiving and aptness to be deceived; imposture and credulity; which, although they appear to be of a diverse nature, the one seeming to proceed of cunning and the other of simplicity, yet certainly they do for the most part concur: for, as the verse noteth -
"Percontatorem fugito, nam garrulus idem est,"
an inquisitive man is a prattler; so upon the like reason a credulous man is a deceiver: as we see it in fame, that he that will easily believe rumours will as easily augment rumours and add somewhat to them of his own; which Tacitus wisely noteth, when he saith, Fingunt simul creduntque: so great an affinity hath fiction and belief.
(9) This facility of credit and accepting or admitting things weakly authorised or warranted is of two kinds according to the subject: for it is either a belief of history, or, as the lawyers speak, matter of fact; or else of matter of art and opinion. As to the former, we see the experience and inconvenience of this error in ecclesiastical history; which hath too easily received and registered reports and narrations of miracles wrought by martyrs, hermits, or monks of the desert, and other holy men, and their relics, shrines, chapels and images: which though they had a passage for a time by the ignorance of the people, the superstitious simplicity of some and the politic toleration of others holding them but as divine poesies, yet after a period of time, when the mist began to clear up, they grew to be esteemed but as old wives' fables, impostures of the clergy, illusions of spirits, and badges of Antichrist, to the great scandal and detriment of religion.
(10) So in natural history, we see there hath not been that choice and judgment used as ought to have been; as may appear in the writings of Plinius, Cardanus, Albertus, and divers of the Arabians, being fraught with much fabulous matter, a great part not only untried, but notoriously untrue, to the great derogation of the credit of natural philosophy with the grave and sober kind of wits: wherein the wisdom and integrity of Aristotle is worthy to be observed, that, having made so diligent and exquisite a history of living creatures, hath mingled it sparingly with any vain or feigned matter; and yet on the other side hath cast all prodigious narrations, which he thought worthy the recording, into one book, excellently discerning that matter of manifest truth, such whereupon observation and rule was to be built, was not to be mingled or weakened with matter of doubtful credit; and yet again, that rarities and reports that seem uncredible are not to be suppressed or denied to the memory of men.
(11) And as for the facility of credit which is yielded to arts and opinions, it is likewise of two kinds; either when too much belief is attributed to the arts themselves, or to certain authors in any art. The sciences themselves, which have had better intelligence and confederacy with the imagination of man than with his reason, are three in number: astrology, natural magic, and alchemy; of which sciences, nevertheless, the ends or pretences are noble. For astrology pretendeth to discover that correspondence or concatenation which is between the superior globe and the inferior; natural magic pretendeth to call and reduce natural philosophy from variety of speculations to the magnitude of works; and alchemy pretendeth to make separation of all the unlike parts of bodies which in mixtures of natures are incorporate. But the derivations and prosecutions to these ends, both in the theories and in the practices, are full of error and vanity; which the great professors themselves have sought to veil over and conceal by enigmatical writings, and referring themselves to auricular traditions and such other devices, to save the credit of impostures. And yet surely to alchemy this right is due, that it may be compared to the husbandman whereof AEsop makes the fable; that, when he died, told his sons that he had left unto them gold buried underground in his vineyard; and they digged over all the ground, and gold they found none; but by reason of their stirring and digging the mould about the roots of their vines, they had a great vintage the year following: so assuredly the search and stir to make gold hath brought to light a great number of good and fruitful inventions and experiments, as well for the disclosing of nature as for the use of man's life.
(12) And as for the overmuch credit that hath been given unto authors in sciences, in making them dictators, that their words should stand, and not consuls, to give advice; the damage is infinite that sciences have received thereby, as the principal cause that hath kept them low at a stay without growth or advancement. For hence it hath come, that in arts mechanical the first deviser comes shortest, and time addeth and perfecteth; but in sciences the first author goeth furthest, and time leeseth and corrupteth. So we see artillery, sailing, printing, and the like, were grossly managed at the first, and by time accommodated and refined; but contrariwise, the philosophies and sciences of Aristotle, Plato, Democritus, Hippocrates, Euclides, Archimedes, of most vigour at the first, and by time degenerate and imbased: whereof the reason is no other, but that in the former many wits and industries have contributed in one; and in the latter many wits and industries have been spent about the wit of some one, whom many times they have rather depraved than illustrated; for, as water will not ascend higher than the level of the first spring-head from whence it descendeth, so knowledge derived from Aristotle, and exempted from liberty of examination, will not rise again higher than the knowledge of Aristotle. And, therefore, although the position be good, Oportet discentem credere, yet it must be coupled with this, Oportet edoctum judicare; for disciples do owe unto masters only a temporary belief and a suspension of their own judgment till they be fully instructed, and not an absolute resignation or perpetual captivity; and therefore, to conclude this point, I will say no more, but so let great authors have their due, as time, which is the author of authors, be not deprived of his due—which is, further and further to discover truth. Thus have I gone over these three diseases of learning; besides the which there are some other rather peccant humours than formed diseases, which, nevertheless, are not so secret and intrinsic, but that they fall under a popular observation and traducement, and, therefore, are not to be passed over.
V. (1) The first of these is the extreme affecting of two extremities: the one antiquity, the other novelty; wherein it seemeth the children of time do take after the nature and malice of the father. For as he devoureth his children, so one of them seeketh to devour and suppress the other; while antiquity envieth there should be new additions, and novelty cannot be content to add but it must deface; surely the advice of the prophet is the true direction in this matter, State super vias antiquas, et videte quaenam sit via recta et bona et ambulate in ea. Antiquity deserveth that reverence, that men should make a stand thereupon and discover what is the best way; but when the discovery is well taken, then to make progression. And to speak truly, Antiquitas saeculi juventus mundi. These times are the ancient times, when the world is ancient, and not those which we account ancient ordine retrogrado, by a computation backward from ourselves.
(2) Another error induced by the former is a distrust that anything should be now to be found out, which the world should have missed and passed over so long time: as if the same objection were to be made to time that Lucian maketh to Jupiter and other the heathen gods; of which he wondereth that they begot so many children in old time, and begot none in his time; and asketh whether they were become septuagenary, or whether the law Papia, made against old men's marriages, had restrained them. So it seemeth men doubt lest time is become past children and generation; wherein contrariwise we see commonly the levity and unconstancy of men's judgments, which, till a matter be done, wonder that it can be done; and as soon as it is done, wonder again that it was no sooner done: as we see in the expedition of Alexander into Asia, which at first was prejudged as a vast and impossible enterprise; and yet afterwards it pleaseth Livy to make no more of it than this, Nil aliud quam bene ausus vana contemnere. And the same happened to Columbus in the western navigation. But in intellectual matters it is much more common, as may be seen in most of the propositions of Euclid; which till they be demonstrate, they seem strange to our assent; but being demonstrate, our mind accepteth of them by a kind of relation (as the lawyers speak), as if we had known them before.
(3) Another error, that hath also some affinity with the former, is a conceit that of former opinions or sects after variety and examination the best hath still prevailed and suppressed the rest; so as if a man should begin the labour of a new search, he were but like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection brought into oblivion; as if the multitude, or the wisest for the multitude's sake, were not ready to give passage rather to that which is popular and superficial than to that which is substantial and profound for the truth is, that time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and solid.
(4) Another error, of a diverse nature from all the former, is the over-early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature, so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth; but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may, perchance, be further polished, and illustrate and accommodated for use and practice, but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.
(5) Another error which doth succeed that which we last mentioned is, that after the distribution of particular arts and sciences, men have abandoned universality, or philosophia prima, which cannot but cease and stop all progression. For no perfect discovery can be made upon a flat or a level; neither is it possible to discover the more remote and deeper parts of any science if you stand but upon the level of the same science, and ascend not to a higher science.
(6) Another error hath proceeded from too great a reverence, and a kind of adoration of the mind and understanding of man; by means whereof, men have withdrawn themselves too much from the contemplation of nature, and the observations of experience, and have tumbled up and down in their own reason and conceits. Upon these intellectualists, which are notwithstanding commonly taken for the most sublime and divine philosophers, Heraclitus gave a just censure, saying: —"Men sought truth in their own little worlds, and not in the great and common world;" for they disdain to spell, and so by degrees to read in the volume of God's works; and contrariwise by continual meditation and agitation of wit do urge and, as it were, invocate their own spirits to divine and give oracles unto them, whereby they are deservedly deluded.
(7) Another error that hath some connection with this latter is, that men have used to infect their meditations, opinions, and doctrines with some conceits which they have most admired, or some sciences which they have most applied, and given all things else a tincture according to them, utterly untrue and improper. So hath Plato intermingled his philosophy with theology, and Aristotle with logic; and the second school of Plato, Proclus and the rest, with the mathematics; for these were the arts which had a kind of primogeniture with them severally. So have the alchemists made a philosophy out of a few experiments of the furnace; and Gilbertus our countryman hath made a philosophy out of the observations of a loadstone. So Cicero, when reciting the several opinions of the nature of the soul, he found a musician that held the soul was but a harmony, saith pleasantly, Hic ab arte sua non recessit, &c. But of these conceits Aristotle speaketh seriously and wisely when he saith, Qui respiciunt ad pauca de facili pronunciant.
(8) Another error is an impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken of by the ancients: the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even. So it is in contemplation: if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
(9) Another error is in the manner of the tradition and delivery of knowledge, which is for the most part magistral and peremptory, and not ingenuous and faithful; in a sort as may be soonest believed, and not easiest examined. It is true, that in compendious treatises for practice that form is not to be disallowed; but in the true handling of knowledge men ought not to fall either on the one side into the vein of Velleius the Epicurean, Nil tam metuens quam ne dubitare aliqua de revideretur: nor, on the other side, into Socrates, his ironical doubting of all things; but to propound things sincerely with more or less asseveration, as they stand in a man's own judgment proved more or less.
(10) Other errors there are in the scope that men propound to themselves, whereunto they bend their endeavours; for, whereas the more constant and devote kind of professors of any science ought to propound to themselves to make some additions to their science, they convert their labours to aspire to certain second prizes: as to be a profound interpreter or commentor, to be a sharp champion or defender, to be a methodical compounder or abridger, and so the patrimony of knowledge cometh to be sometimes improved, but seldom augmented.
(11) But the greatest error of all the rest is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or furthest end of knowledge. For men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason to the benefit and use of men: as if there were sought in knowledge a couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground, for strife and contention; or a shop, for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate. But this is that which will indeed dignify and exalt knowledge, if contemplation and action may be more nearly and straitly conjoined and united together than they have been: a conjunction like unto that of the two highest planets, Saturn, the planet of rest and contemplation; and Jupiter, the planet of civil society and action, howbeit, I do not mean, when I speak of use and action, that end before-mentioned of the applying of knowledge to lucre and profession; for I am not ignorant how much that diverteth and interrupteth the prosecution and advancement of knowledge, like unto the golden ball thrown before Atalanta, which, while she goeth aside and stoopeth to take up, the race is hindered,