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3. It grossly distorts and exaggerates truth.
1. It is most powerful in times of weakness (viz. great pros
perity and adversity). 2. When irresistible, it ought to be kept within proper limits. 3. Soldiers' love is the compensation for peril sought in
It is a
XI.-OF GREAT PLACE. (1612, slightly enlarged
1625.) Men in great place are thrice servants servants of the sovereign or state, servants of fame, and servants of business ; so as they have no freedom, neither in their persons, nor in their actions, nor in their times. strange desire to seek power and to lose liberty; or to seek power over others, and to lose power over a man's self.
The rising unto place is laborious, and by pains3 men come to greater pains; and it is sometimes base, and by indignities 4 men come to dignities. The standing is slippery, and the regress is either a downfall, or at least an eclipse, which is a melancholy thing : ‘Cum non sis qui fueris, non esse cur velis vivere.'5 Nay, retire men cannot when they would, neither will they when it were reason ;6 but are impatient' of privateness 8 even in age and sickness, which require the shadow ; like old townsmen, that will be stillo sitting at their street door, though thereby they offer age to scorn.
Certainly great persons had need to borrow other men's opinions to think themselves happy; for if they judge by their own feeling, they cannot find it: but if they think with themselves what other men think of them, and that other men would fain 10 be as they are, then they are happy-as it were by report 11—when, perhaps, they find the contrary within ; for they are the first that find their own griefs, though they be the last that find their own faults. Certainly men in great fortunes are strangers to themselves, and while they are in the puzzle 12 of business they have no time to tend their health either of body or mind. 'Ili mors gravis incubat, qui notus nimis omnibus, ignotus moritur sibi.'1
In place there is license to do good and evil; whereof the latter is a curse : for in evil the best condition is not to will, the second not to can.14 But power to do good is the true and lawful end of aspiring ; for good thoughts, though God accept them, yet towards men are little better than good dreams, except they be put in act; and that cannot be without power and place, as the vantage and commanding ground. Merit and good works is 15 the end of man's motion; and conscience 16 of the same is the accomplishment of man's rest: for if a man can be partaker of God's theatre, 17 he shall likewise be partaker of God's rest. · Et conversus Deus, ut aspiceret opera, quæ fecerunt manus suæ, vidit quod omnia essent bona nimis ;' and then the Sabbath.
In the discharge of thy place set before thee the best examples; for imitation is a globe of precepts ;18 and after a time set before thee thine own example; and examine thyself strictly whether thou didst not best at first. Neglect not also the examples of those that have carried themselves ill in the same place; not to set off thyself by taxing 19 their memory, but to direct thyself what to avoid.
Reform, therefore, without bravery 20 or scandal 21 of former times and persons; but yet set it down to thyself,22 as well to create good precedents as to follow them.
Reduce 23 things to the first institution, and observe wherein and how they have degenerate ;24 but yet ask counsel of both times—of the ancient time what is best, and of the latter time what is fittest.
Seek to make thy course regular,25 that men may know beforehand what they may expect; but be not too positive and peremptory; and express thyself well 26 when thou digressest from thy rule.
Preserve the right of thy place, but stir not questions of jurisdiction; and rather assume thy right in silence, and de facto, than voice it27 with claims and challenges. Preserve likewise the rights of inferior places ; and think it more honour to direct in chief than to be busy in all.
Embrace and invite helps and advices touching the execution of thy place; and do not drive away such as bring thee information as meddlers, but accept of them in good part.
The vices of authority are chiefly four : delays, corruption, roughness, and facility. For delays give easy access ;28 keep times appointed; go through with that which is in hand, and interlace not 29 business but of necessity. For corruption, do not only bind thine own hands or thy servant's hands from taking, but bind the hands of suitors also from offering ; for integrity used doth the one ; but integrity professed, and with a manifest detestation of bribery, doth the other; and avoid not only the fault, but the suspicion. Whosoever is found variable, and changeth manifestly without manifest cause, giveth suspicion of corruption: therefore, always when thou changest thine opinion or course, profess it plainly, and declare it, together with the reasons that move thee to change, and do not think to steal it.30 A servant or a favourite, if he be inward, 31 and no other apparent cause of esteem, is commonly thought but a by-way to close corruption.32 For roughness, it is a needless cause of discontent: severity breedeth fear, but roughness breedeth hate. Even reproofs from authority ought to be grave, and not taunting. As for facility, 33 it is worse than bribery; for bribes come but now and then; but if importunity or idle respects 34 lead a man, he shall never be without; as Solomon saith, ‘To respect persons is not good; for such a man will transgress for a piece of bread.'
It is most true that was anciently spoken: 'A place showeth the man ;'36 and it showeth some to the better
and some to the worse : ' Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset,' saith Tacitus of Galba ; but of Vespasian he saith : Solus imperantium, Vespasianus mutatus in melius ;'37 though the one was meant of sufficiency, the other of manners and affection. It is an assured sign of a worthy and generous spirit, whom honour amends ;38 for honour is, or should be, the place of virtue; and as in nature things move violently to their place, and calmly in their place, so virtue in ambition is violent, in authority settled and calm. All rising to great place is by a winding stair; and if there be factions, it is good to side a man's self 39 whilst he is in the rising, and to balance himself when he is placed. Use the memory of thy predecessor fairly and tenderly; for if thou dost not, it is a debt will sure be paid when thou art gone. If thou have colleagues, respect them; and rather call them when they look not for it, than exclude them when they have reason to look to be called. Be not too sensible 40 or too remembering of thy place in conversation and private answers to suitors; but let it rather be said, 'When he sits in place, he is another man.'
NOTES ON ESSAY XI. 1. thrice servants'-servants in three separate respects. The
words following exemplify this : in their persons they have to serve the sovereign; their actions cannot be free, for their reputation brings all they do under public criticism ; and the
claims of business engross every moment of their time. 2. so as '—so that. A usage common in Shakespeare :
'He finds the testy gentleman so hot
"You shall be so received, As you shall deem yourself lodg'd in my heart'-Love's Labour's Lost 3. "pains'—toils, labours. Great public men can enjoy no rest,
because everything they do imposes the necessity for doing something else ; every ascent they reach discloses another
ascent beyond. 4. "indignities '- unworthy means ; dignities’-positions of
honour. 5. When you are no longer what you have been, there is no longer
reason why you should wish to live.' The quotation is from
Cicero. Epist. Fam., vii, 3. 6. 'reason'-reasonable. So in Acts vi, 2: 'It is not reason that
we should leave the Word of God and serve tables.' 7. 'impatient'-unable to bear with composure; fretful, restless. 8. 'privateness '--private life, the quietude and retirement of
which is compared in the next sentence to shade. Public life is lived in a blaze of sunlight (Tennyson, Dedication of Idylls, 'That fierce light which beats upon a throne'); private life is like the cool grateful shade into which a man may
retire and find rest. 9. still'—always. See note 6, Essay IX. 10. •fain'-gladly: an adverb generally following the auxiliary
Wherein her face she often viewed fain'--Spenser's Faerie Queene.
experience; said to be happy, but not really happy. 12. 'puzzle'-embarrassment. Perhaps, like poser (=a question
which puzzles), from the verb pose. 13. • Death lies heavy on him who, too well-known to others, dies a
stranger to himself.' Quoted from Seneca, Thyest., ii, 401. 14. "to can'-used here as a notional verb for to be able.
• I've seen myself, and served against, the French,
And they can well on horseback'--Hamlet, 15. 'is'—the nominative is ‘end' (singular); merit and works are
in apposition. The number of the copulative verb is determined by that of its nominative; while the nominative in
apposition may be singular or plural. 16. conscience'-consciousness. 17. God's theatre '—God's contemplation of the works He had
finished. If a man works so as to be able to look back with satisfaction upon his work, as God did, then he has earned a right to participate in God's rest.' A theatre is, according to the derivation of its name (Dedo Bai, to see or view), a place for shows before spectators. We still speak of going to see a play, and the French call it spectacle. The
quotation is taken, but not accurately, from Gen. i, 31. 18. "globe of precepts '- -an embodiment and practical representa
tion of advice; a great deal of advice compressed into a small compass. The same meaning is contained in our common
saying that example is better than precept. 19. taxing' - traducing, charging, accusing. Cf. “They taxed
him with it.' Dryden says: 'Men's virtues I have commended as freely as I have taxed their crimes.'