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glories of them are chiefly in the chariots, wherein the challengers make their entry; especially if they be drawn with strange beasts: as lions, bears, camels, and the like; or in the devices1 of their entrance; or in the bravery of their liveries; or in the goodly furniture of their horses and armour. But enough of these toys.2


NATURE is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished. Force maketh nature more violent in the return; doctrine and discourse maketh nature less importune;3 but custom only doth alter and subdue nature. He that seeketh victory over his nature, let him not set himself too great nor too small tasks; for the first will make him dejected by often failings; and the second will make him a small proceeder, though by often prevailings. And at the first let him practise with helps, as swimmers do with bladders or rushes; but after a time let him practise with disadvantages, as dancers do with thick shoes. For it breeds great perfection, if the practice be harder than the use. Where nature is mighty, and therefore the victory hard, the degrees

1 Device. Something devised or fancifully invented for dramatic representation.

"The song is heard, the rosy garland worn;

Devices quaint, and frolics ever new,
Tread on each other's kibes."

Byron. Childe Harold. I. lxvii.

2 This Essay is not translated. S. Importune. Importunate; troublesome.

had need be,1 first to stay and arrest nature in time; like to him that would say over the four and twenty letters when he was angry; then to go less in quantity; as if one should, in forbearing wine, come from drinking healths to a draught at a meal; and lastly, to discontinue altogether. But if a man have the fortitude and resolution to enfranchise himself at once, that is the best:

Optimus ille animi vindex lædentia pectus

Vincula qui rupit, dedoluitque semel.2

Neither is the ancient rule amiss, to bend nature as a wand to a contrary extreme, whereby to set it right, understanding it, where the contrary extreme is no vice. Let not a man force a habit upon himself with a perpetual continuance, but with some intermission. For both the pause reinforceth the new onset; and if a man that is not perfect be ever in practice, he shall as well practise his errors as his abilities, and induce one habit of both; and there is no means to help this but by seasonable intermissions. But let not a man trust his victory over his nature too far; for nature will lay 3 buried a great time, and yet revive upon the occasion or temptation. •Like as it was with Æsop's damsel, turned from a

1 Had need be. Had, with following infinitive, means to be under obligation, to be necessitated, to do something; need in this idiom is the Middle English genitive, nede, 'of need, or necessity.'

2 He is the best assertor of the soul who bursts the bonds that gall his breast, and suffers all at once. P. Ovidii Nasonis Remedia Amoris. 293-294.

3 So in original, and also in Ed. 1639. I have not thought it right to substitute lie, as has been usually done; because it may be that the form of the word was not settled in Bacon's time; and the correction of obsolete forms tends to conceal the history of the language. S. Compare Natural History, Century I. 19. Aesop or Esop. According to tradition, a Greek fabulist of the 6th century, B.C., represented as a dwarf and originally a slave.

cat to a woman, who sat very demurely at the board's end, till a mouse ran before her.1 Therefore let a man either avoid the occasion altogether; or put himself often to it, that he may be little moved with it. A man's nature is best perceived in privateness,2 for there is no affectation; in passion, for that putteth a man out of his precepts; and in a new case or experiment, for there custom leaveth him. They are happy men whose natures sort with their vocations otherwise they may say, multum incola fuit anima mea 3 when they converse 4 in those things they do not affect.5 In studies, whatsoever a man commandeth upon himself, let him set hours for it; but whatsoever is agreeable to his nature, let him take no care for any set times; for his thoughts will fly to it of themselves; so as the spaces of other business or studies will suffice. A man's nature runs either to herbs or weeds; therefore let him seasonably water the one, and destroy the other.

1 Fables of Aesop and other Eminent Mythologists: with Morals and Reflexions. By Sir Roger L'Estrange, Kt. Fable LXI. A Cat and Venus.

2 Privateness.


3 Psalms cxx. 6. Vulgate. In the Douay Bible of 1610 this verse is translated "My soul hath long been a sojourner"; in the Authorized Version, it is, "My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace."

4 Converse. To deal with, or to be engaged in. 5 Affect. To like.

"In brief, sir, study what you most affect."

Shakspere. The Taming of the Shrew. i. 1.



MEN'S thoughts are much according to their inclination; their discourse and speeches according to their learning and infused opinions; but their deeds are after1 as they have been accustomed. And therefore, as Machiavel well noteth (though in an evil-favoured instance), there is no trusting to the force of nature nor to the bravery of words, except it be corroborate3 by custom. His instance is, that for the achieving of a desperate conspiracy, a man should not rest upon the fierceness of any man's nature, or his resolute undertakings; but take such an one as hath had his hands formerly in blood.4 But Machiavel knew not of a friar Clement, nor a Ravillac, nor a Jaureguy, nor a Baltazar Gerard; yet his rule holdeth still, that nature, nor the engagement of words, are not so forcible as custom. Only superstition is now so well advanced, that men




1 After. According to. "O Lord, deal not with us after our sins." The Litany.

2 As. That.
3 Corroborate.


Preterit participle, clipped form. Strengthened,

"Ye know my father was the rightful heir

Of England, and his right came down to me,
Corroborate by your acts of Parliament."

Tennyson. Queen Mary. ii. 2.

4 Discorsi di Niccolò Machiavelli Segretario e Citt. Fiorentino sopra La Prima Deca di T. Livio. III. 6. Delle Congiure. p. 40. Jacques Clément, 1555 (?)-1589, a fanatical monk who murdered Henry III., of France.

François Ravaillac, 1578 (?)-1610, assassinated Henry IV., of France, May 14, 1610.

John Jaureguy attempted to assassinate William the Silent, Prince of Orange, March 18, 1582. On July 10, 1584, William the Silent was shot by Balthazar Gérard.


of the first blood 1 are as firm as butchers by occupation; and votary 2 resolution is made equipollent 3 to custom even in matter of blood. In other things the predominancy of custom is every where visible; insomuch as a man would wonder to hear men profess, protest, engage, give great words, and then do just as they have done before; as if they were dead images, and engines moved only by the wheels of custom. We see also the reign or tyranny of custom, what it is. The Indians (I mean the sect of their wise men) lay themselves quietly upon a stack of wood, and so sacrifice themselves by fire. Nay the wives strive to be burned with the corpses of their husbands. The lads of Sparta, of ancient time, were wont to be scourged upon the altar of Diana, without so much as queching.5 I remember, in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's time of England, an Irish rebel condemned, put up a petition to the Deputy that he might be hanged in a with," and not in an halter; because it had been so used with former rebels. There be monks in Russia, for penance, that will sit a whole night in a vessel of water, till they be engaged with hard ice. Many examples may be put of the force of custom, both upon mind 1 The translation has primæ classis sicarii; (murderers of the first class) which seems to me to miss the meaning of the English. "Men of the first blood" must mean here, men whose hands have not been in blood before. S.

2 Votary. Consecrated by a vow.

3 Equipollent. Equivalent.



4 M. Tullii Ciceronis Tusculanarum Disputationum ad M. Bru tum Liber II. Caput 14.

5 Quech, or quitch, means to flinch, to shrink.

Elizabeth, 1533-1603, Queen of England, 1558-1603.

7 With, withe. A willow twig; a band of twigs. "And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man." Judges xvi. 7. 8 Engaged with. Held in.

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