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Page:Notes and Queries - Series 10 - Volume 12.djvu/130

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102


NOTES AND QUERIES. [io s. XIL AUG. 7,


The author quotes inaccurately from the Latin, much as Bacon does, and then pro- ceeds to translate his quotations. He illustrates his argument with many historical allusions, as, for instance, to Cincinnatus called to be dictator. He recalls a fable, and puts his own fanciful construction on it, much as Bacon does. He is fond of aphorisms, and they sound to us like those of the Lord Chancellor. Listen to this, for example :

" Such a nature can hardly hold friendship, that admitteth not the Filler thereof, which is Parity, but thinks himself superior to all, if not in Fortune (at which he therefore grudges, taunts her with her blindnesse, and rayles at her with Apothegmes), yet hi all other worth and desert."

Bacon realizes the principle of parity, and tells how princes craving friendship had found it necessary to elevate a subject nearly to their own estate.

Our parallel between Bacon and this unknown author becomes most striking when we come to the essay ' Of Ambition,' for here we have a similar essay by Bacon with which we may compare it. Here again we find many aphorisms, astonishing us with their pregnant meaning, and pointing unmistakingly to the name of their author. We find a fondness for curious simile, a love of balance, inaccurate quotation of Scripture, and many other Baconian cha- racteristics. Let me quote two or three passages :

" Phauorinus, speaking of these kind men, said they were eyther ridiculous, or hatefull, or miserable. Aspiring ambitiously to places beyond their worth makes them scorned : obtaining, hated : and missing of their hopes, wretched."

" If the current of their Ambition bee once stopped, like an impetuous torrent, it beates and breakes the banks, growes dangerous, and many times causes inundations. Therefore, Princes respects, if they be fixed upon such natures, are tyed, not only to a continuation, but service. So that these dispositions should bee avoyded, if discovered, sequestred from employment, as pernicious and incendiary."

Does not this sound very much like the way in which Bacon talks to King James in his essays about certain obnoxious Buckinghams and Somersets ? So the Lord Chancellor writes :

" Ambition, if it be stopped, cannot have his way, becometh adust, and thereby malign and venomous. So ambitious men, if they finde the way open for their rising, and still get forward, they are rather busy than dangerous ; but if they be check*t in their desires, they become secretly discontent, and looke upon Men and matters with an Evill Eye ; and are best pleased when things goe backward, which is the worst


propertie in a Servant of a Prince or State. Therefore, it is good for princes, if they use* ambitious men, to handle it so, as they be still retrograde ; which because it cannot be without Inconvenience, it is good not to use such natures at all."

The following sentence has, I think, the Baconian ring :

"It is a strange insinuating affection, for whosoever is once therewith possessed, neither Reason, nor Impediment, nor Impossibility, can stay his mad desires."

Our author proceeds to draw illustrations of this from Nebuchadnezzar, Sylla and Marius, Pompey and Caesar. All this is very characteristic of Bacon.

Here is a paragraph which shows a fond- ness for antithesis as great as Bacon's :

" It [Ambition] is in a kinde the ape or imitater of Charity, said a Father ; for Charity endures all things for Eternall, Ambition for Transitory happinesse. That is liberall to the poore, this to the rich. The one suffers for Verity, the other for Vanity. So they both believe all things, and hope for all things, but in a different kinde."

Is not a book which contains such gems as- this worthy of being reprinted ? Yet no- edition of it has been issued for three cen- turies.

The unknown author abhors selfishness- and conceit :

"It is a dangerous thing for men to love too- much, or think too well of themselves. The Self -lover is the Arch- flatterer."

This is intensely characteristic of Bacon. No one would call him an ardent lover who- read his essay ' Of Love,' and his words on self-love echo those of our anonymous philosopher. Thus Bacon writes in the essay ' Of Praise ' :

" If he be a cunning Flatterer, he will follow the Arch- flatterer, which is a Man's selfe."

And again :

" There is no such flatterer as a man's self." And once in the essay ' Of Love ' :

" The Arch-flatterer with whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence is a man's self."

Two more quotations from the essay must suffice us :

" If a man seeke or labour to attain favour,, and preferment, with this onely intention, that by that way, he may have better meanes to doe good, to reduce ill Custome to the most ancient and commendable formes, and to amend breaches,, or intrusions, or decayes, with particular respect to this, without the least tincture of vaineglory,. or any other self e -desire, this kind of Ambition I admit as a Vertue, and in this case, I allow it to be generous."

Was not this the way in which Bacon ever sought to justify his own ambition ? His aim was ever to attain power that he might use it for the reform of politics and the