Francis Bacon (15611626). Apophthegms New and Old. 1857.
Contained in the Second Edition of the Resuscitatio (1661), and Not in the Original Collection
3. HIS1 Majesty James the First, King of Great Britain, having made unto his Parliament an excellent and large declaration, concluded thus: I have now given you a clear mirror of my mind; use it therefore like a mirror; and take heed how you let it fall, or how you soil it with your breath.
5. His Majesty said to his Parliament at another time, finding there were some causeless jealousies sown amongst them; That the King and his people, (whereof the Parliament is the representative body,) were as husband and wife; and therefore that of all other things jealousy was between them most pernicious.
6. His Majesty, when he thought his counsel mought note in him some variety in businesses, though indeed he remained constant, would say; That the sun many times shineth watery; but it is not the sun which causeth it, but some cloud rising betwixt us and the sun: and when that is scattered, the sun is as it was, and comes to his former brightness.
7. His Majesty, in his answer to the book of the Cardinal of Evereux, (who had in a grave argument of divinity sprinkled many witty ornaments of poesy and humanity) saith; That these flowers were like blue and yellow and red flowers in the corn, which make a pleasant shew to those that look on, but they hurt the corn.
8. Sir Edward Cook, being vehement against the two Provincial Councils, of Wales and the North, said to the King; There was nothing there but a kind of confusion and hotch-potch of justice: one while they were a Star-Chamber; another while a Kings-bench; another, a Common-place; another, a Commission of Oyer and Terminer. His Majesty answered; Why, Sir Edward Cook, they be like houses in progress, where I have not, nor can have, such distinct rooms of state, as I have here at Whitehall, or at Hampton-court.
9. The Commissioners of the Treasure moved the King, for the relief of his estate, to disafforest some forests of his; explaining themselves of such forests as lay out of the way, not near any of the Kings houses, nor in the course of his progress; whereof he should never have use nor pleasure. Why, (saith the King) do you think that Salomon had use and pleasure of all his three hundred concubines?
10. His Majesty, when the committees of both Houses of Parliament presented unto him the instrument of Union of England and Scotland, was merry with them; and amongst other pleasant speeches, shewed unto them the laird of Lawreston, a Scotchman, who was the tallest and greatest man that was to be seen; and said; Well, now we are all one, yet none of you will say, but here is one Scotchman greater than any Englishman; which was an ambiguous speech; but it was thought he meant it of himself.
13. Queen Elizabeth was importuned much by my Lord of Essex, to supply divers great offices that had been long void; the Queen answered nothing, to the matter; but rose up on the sudden, and said; I am sure my office will not be long void. And yet at that time there was much speech of troubles and divisions about the crown, to be after her decease; but they all vanished; and King James came in, in a profound peace.
18. The said King Henry the fourth was moved by his Parliament to a war against the Protestants: he answered; Yes, I mean it; I will make every one of you captains; you shall have companies assigned you. The Parliament observing whereunto his speech tended, gave over, and deserted the motion.3
21. A great officer at court, when my Lord of Essex was first in trouble; and that he and those that dealt for him would talk much of my Lords friends and of his enemies; answered to one of them; I will tell you, I know but one friend and one enemy my Lord hath; and that one friend is the Queen, and that one enemy is himself.
27. The Lord Keeper, Sir Nicholas Bacon, was asked his opinion, by my lord of Leicester, concerning two persons whom the Queen seemed to think well of: By my troth, my Lord, (said he) the one is a grave counsellor; the other is a proper young man; and so he will be as long as he lives.
28. My Lord of Leicester, favourite to queen Elizabeth, was making a large chase about Cornbury-Park; meaning to inclose it with posts and rails; and one day was casting up his charge, what it would come to. Mr. Goldingham, a free spoken man, stood by, and said to my Lord, Methinks your Lordship goeth not the cheapest way to work. Why, Goldingham? said my Lord. Marry, my Lord, said Goldingham, count you but upon the posts, for the country will find you railing.
36. There were fishermen drawing the river at Chelsea: Mr. Bacon came thither by chance in the afternoon, and offered to buy their draught: they were willing. He asked them what they would take? They asked thirty shillings. Mr. Bacon offered them ten. They refused it. Why then, saith Mr. Bacon, I will be only a looker-on. They drew, and catched nothing. Saith Mr. Bacon; Are not you mad fellows now, that might have had an angel in your purse, to have made merry withal, and to have warmed you thoroughly, and now you must go home with nothing. Ay but (said the fishermen) we had hope then to make a better gain of it. Saith Mr. Bacon; Well, my masters, then Ill tell you, hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.4
36. A lady walking with Mr. Bacon in Grays Inn walks, asked him, Whose that piece of ground lying next under the walls was? He answered, Theirs. Then she asked him, if those fields beyond the walks were theirs too? He answered, Yes, Madam, those are ours, as you are ours, to look on, and no more.5
37. His Lordship, when he was newly made Lord Keeper, was in Grays Inn walks with Sir Walter Raleigh. One came and told him, that the Earl of Exeter was above. He continued upon occasion still walking a good while. At last when he came up, my Lord of Exeter met him, and said; My Lord, I have made a great venture, to come up so high stairs, being a gouty man. His Lordship answered; Pardon me, my lord, I have made the greatest venture of all;6for I have ventured upon your patience.
38. When Sir Francis Bacon was made the Kings Attorney, Sir Edward Cooke was put up from being Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, to be Lord Chief Justice of the Kings Bench; which is a place of greater honour, but of less profit; and withal was made Privy Counsellor. After a few days, the Lord Cooke meeting with the Kings Attorney, said unto him; Mr. Attorney, this is all your doing: It is you that have made this great stir. Mr. Attorney answered; Ah my Lord! your Lordship all this while hath grown in breadth; you must needs now grow in height, or else you would be a monster.7
39. One day Queen Elizabeth told Mr. Bacon, that my Lord of Essex, after great protestation of penitence and affection, fell in the end but upon the suit of renewing his farm of sweet wines. He answered; I read that in nature there be two kinds of motions or appetites in sympathy; the one as of iron to the adamant, for perfection; the other as of the vine to the stake, for sustentation; that her Majesty was the one, and his suit the other.8
40. Mr. Bacon, after he had been vehement in Parliament against depopulation and inclosures; and that soon after the Queen told him that she had referred the hearing of Mr. Mills cause to certain counsellors and judges; and asked him how he liked of it? answered, Oh, madam! my mind is known; I am against all inclosures, and especially against inclosed justice.9
41. When Sir Nicholas Bacon the Lord Keeper lived, every room in Gorhambury was served with a pipe of water from the ponds, distant about a mile off. In the lifetime of Mr. Anthony Bacon, the water ceased. After whose death, his Lordship coming to the inheritance, could not recover the water without infinite charge. When he was Lord Chancellor, he built Verulam House, close by the pond-yard, for a place of privacy when he was called upon to dispatch any urgent business. And being asked, why he built that house there; his Lordship answered, That since he could not carry the water to his house, he would carry his house to the water.10
42. When my Lord President of the Council came first to be Lord Treasurer, he complained to my Lord Chancellor of the troublesomeness of the place; for that the Exchequer was so empty. The Lord Chancellor answered; My Lord, be of good cheer, for now you shall see the bottom of your business at the first.11
43. When his Lordship was newly advanced to the Great Seal, Gondomar came to visit him. My Lord said; That he was to thank God and the King for that honour; but yet, so he might be rid of the burthen, he could very willingly forbear the honour; and that he formerly had a desire, and the same continued with him still, to lead a private life. Gondomar answered; That he would tell him a tale; of an old rat, that would needs leave the world; and acquainted the young rats that he would retire into his hole, and spend his days solitarily; and would enjoy no more comfort: and commanded them upon his high displeasure,12not to offer to come in unto him. They forbore two or three days; at last, one that was more hardy than the rest, incited some of his fellows to go in with him, and he would venture to see how his father did; for he might be dead. They went in, and found the old rat sitting in the midst of a rich Parmesan cheese. So he applied the fable after his witty manner.13
44. Rabelais tells a tale of one that was very fortunate in compounding differences. His son undertook the same course,14 but could never compound any. Whereupon he came to his father, and asked him, what art he had to reconcile differences?15 He answered, he had no other but this: to watch when the two parties were much wearied, and their hearts were too great to seek reconcilement at one anothers hands; then to be a means betwixt them, and upon no other terms. After which the son went home, and prospered in the same undertakings.16
62. There was an agent here for the Dutch, called Caroon; and when he used to move the Queen for further succours and more men, my lord Henry Howard would say; That he agreed well with the name of Charon, ferryman of hell; for he came still for more men, to increase regnum umbrarum.
63. They were wont to call referring to the Masters in Chancery, committing. My Lord Keeper Egerton, when he was Master of the Rolls, was wont to ask; What the cause had done, that it should be committed?
64. They feigned a tale, principally against Doctors reports in the Chancery; That Sir Nicholas Bacon, when he came to heaven gate, was opposed, touching an unjust decree which had been made in the Chancery. Sir Nicholas desired to see the order, whereupon the decree was drawn up; and finding it to begin Veneris, etc. Why, (saith he) I was then sitting in the Star-chamber; this concerns the Master of the Rolls; let him answer it. Soon after came the Master of the Rolls, Cordal, who died indeed a small time after Sir Nicholas Bacon; and he was likewise stayed upon it; and looking into the order, he found, that upon the reading of a certificate of Dr. Gibson, it was ordered, that his report should be decreed. And so he put it upon Dr. Gibson, and there it stuck.
65. Sir Nicholas Bacon, when a certain nimble-witted counsellor at the bar, who was forward to speak, did interrupt him often, said unto him; There is a great difference betwixt you and me: a pain to me to speak, and a pain to you to hold your peace.
66. The same Sir Nicholas Bacon, upon bills exhibited to discover where lands lay,upon proof that they had a certain quantity of land, but could not set it forth, was wont to say; And if you cannot find your land in the country, how will you have me find it in the Chancery?
67. Mr. Houland, in conference with a young student, arguing a case, happened to say; I would ask you but this question. The student presently interrupted him, to give him an answer. Whereunto Mr. Houland gravely said; Nay, though I ask you a question, yet I did not mean you should answer me; I mean to answer myself.
123. Titus Quinctius was in the counsel of the Achaians, what time they deliberated, whether in the war then to follow between the Romans and King Antiochus, they should confederate themselves with the Romans, or with King Antiochus? In that counsel the Ætolians, who incited the Achaians against the Romans, to disable their forces, gave great words, as if the late victory the Romans had obtained against Philip king of Macedon, had been chiefly by the strength and forces of the Ætolians themselves: And on the other side the embassador of Antiochus did extol the forces of his master; sounding what an innumerable company he brought in his army; and gave the nations strange names; As Elymæans, Caducians, and others. After both their harangues, Titus Quinctius, when he rose up, said; It was an easy matter to perceive what it was that had joined Antiochus and the Ætolians together; that it appeared to be by reciprocal lying of each, touching the others forces.
124. Plato was amorous of a young gentleman, whose name was Stella, that studied astronomy, and went oft in the clear nights to look upon the stars. Whereupon Plato wished himself heaven, that he mought look upon Stella with a thousand eyes.
153. Themistocles, after he was banished, and had wrought himself into great favour afterwards, so that he was honoured and sumptuously served; seeing his present glory, said unto one of his friends, If I had not been undone, I had been undone.
214. A certain countryman being at an Assizes, and seeing the prisoners holding up their hands at the bar, related to some of his acquaintance; That the judges were good fortune-tellers; for if they did but look upon a mans hand, they could tell whether he should live or die.
216. A seaman coming before the judges of the Admiralty for admittance into an office of a ship bound for the Indies, was by one of the judges much slighted, as an insufficient person for that office he sought to obtain; the judge telling him; That he believed he could not say the points of his compass. The seaman answered; That he could say them, under favour, better than he could say his Pater-noster. The judge replied; That he would wager twenty-shillings with him upon that. The seaman taking him up, it came to trial: and the seaman began, and said all the points of his compass very exactly: the judge likewise said his Pater-noster: and when he had finished it, he required the wager according to agreement; because the seaman was to say his compass better than he his Pater-noster, which he had not performed. Nay, I pray, Sir, hold, (quoth the seaman,) the wager is not finished: for I have but half done: and so he immediately said his compass backward very exactly; which the judge failing of in his Pater-noster, the seaman carried away the prize.
239. A certain friend of Sir Thomas Moores, taking great pains about a book, which he intended to publish, (being well conceited of his own wit, which no man else thought worthy of commendation,) brought it to Sir Thomas Moore to peruse it, and pass his judgment upon it; which he did; and finding nothing therein worthy the press, he said to him with a grave countenance; That if it were in verse, it would be/ more worthy. Upon which words, he went immediately and turned it into verse, and then brought it to Sir Thomas again; who looking thereon, said soberly; Yes, marry, now it is somewhat, for now it is rhyme; whereas before it was neither rhyme nor reason.
247. A gentleman that was punctual of his word, and loved the same in others, when he heard that two persons had agreed upon a meeting about serious affairs, at a certain time and place; and that the one party failed in the performance, or neglected his hour; would usually say of him, He is a young man then.17
249. His lordship when he had finished this collection of Apophthegms, concluded thus: Come, now all is well: they say, he is not a wise man that will lose his friend for his wit; but he is less a wise man that will lose his friend for another mans wit.18
Note 16. he would even be the means betwixt them. After which time the son prospered in the trade. Lamb. MS. [back]
Note 17. He broke his promise, said Sir Ralph, he is a young man, then, under twenty years old; and no exception to be taken.Lamb. MS. [back]
Note 18. When Sir John Finch and myself had gone over my lords apophthegms, he said, Now it is well: you know it is a common saying that he is an unwise man who will lose his friend for his jest: but he is a more unwise man who will lose his friend for another mans jest.Lamb. MS. p. 10. [back]