Of Fortune by Francis Bacon

Story type: Essay

IT CANNOT be denied, but outward accidents conduce much to fortune; favor, opportunity, death of others, occasion fitting virtue. But chiefly, the mould of a man’s fortune is in his own hands. Faber quisque fortunae suae, saith the poet. And the most frequent of external causes is, that the folly of one man, is the fortune of another. For no man prospers so suddenly, as by others’ errors. Serpens nisi serpentem comederit non fit draco. Overt and apparent virtues, bring forth praise; but there be secret and hidden virtues, that bring forth fortune; certain deliveries of a man’s self, which have no name. The Spanish name, desemboltura, partly expresseth them; when there be not stonds nor restiveness in a man’s nature; but that the wheels of his mind, keep way with the wheels of his fortune. For so Livy (after he had described Cato Major in these words, In illo viro tantum robur corporis et animi fuit, ut quocunque loco natus esset, fortunam sibi facturus videretur) falleth upon that, that he had versatile ingenium. Therefore if a man look sharply and attentively, he shall see Fortune: for though she be blind, yet she is not invisible. The way of fortune, is like the Milken Way in the sky; which is a meeting or knot of a number of small stars; not seen asunder, but giving light together. So are there a number of little, and scarce discerned virtues, or rather faculties and customs, that make men fortunate. The Italians note some of them, such as a man would little think. When they speak of one that cannot do amiss, they will throw in, into his other conditions, that he hath Poco di matto. And certainly there be not two more fortunate properties, than to have a little of the fool, and not too much of the honest. Therefore extreme lovers of their country or masters, were never fortunate, neither can they be. For when a man placeth his thoughts without himself, he goeth not his own way. An hasty fortune maketh an enterpriser and remover (the French hath it better, entreprenant, or remuant); but the exercised fortune maketh the able man. Fortune is to be honored and respected, and it be but for her daughters, Confidence and Reputation. For those two, Felicity breedeth; the first within a man’s self, the latter in others towards him. All wise men, to decline the envy of their own virtues, use to ascribe them to Providence and Fortune; for so they may the better assume them: and, besides, it is greatness in a man, to be the care of the higher powers. So Caesar said to the pilot in the tempest, Caesarem portas, et fortunam ejus. So Sylla chose the name of Felix, and not of Magnus. And it hath been noted, that those who ascribe openly too much to their own wisdom and policy, end infortunate. It is written that Timotheus the Athenian, after he had, in the account he gave to the state of his government, often interlaced this speech, and in this, Fortune had no part, never prospered in anything, he undertook afterwards. Certainly there be, whose fortunes are like Homer’s verses, that have a slide and easiness more than the verses of other poets; as Plutarch saith of Timoleon’s fortune, in respect of that of Agesilaus or Epaminondas. And that this shoulld be, no doubt it is much, in a man’s self.

A Glossary
OF ARCHAIC WORDS
AND PHRASES

Abridgment: miniature
Absurd: stupid, unpolished
Abuse: cheat, deceive
Aculeate: stinging
Adamant: loadstone
Adust: scorched
Advoutress: adulteress
Affect: like, desire
Antic: clown
Appose: question
Arietation: battering-ram
Audit: revenue
Avoidance: secret outlet
Battle: battalion
Bestow: settle in life
Blanch: flatter, evade
Brave: boastful
Bravery: boast, ostentation
Broke: deal in brokerage
Broken: shine by comparison
Broken music: part music
Cabinet: secret
Calendar: weather forecast
Card: chart, map
Care not to: are reckless
Cast: plan
Cat: cate, cake
Charge and adventure: cost and
risk
Check with: interfere
Chop: bandy words
Civil: peaceful
Close: secret, secretive
Collect: infer
Compound: compromise
Consent: agreement
Curious: elaborate
Custom: import duties
Deceive: rob
Derive: divert
Difficileness: moroseness
Discover: reveal
Donative: money gift
Doubt: fear
Equipollent: equally powerful
Espial: spy
Estate: state
Facility: of easy persuasion
Fair: rather
Fame: rumor
Favor: feature
Flashy: insipid
Foot-pace: lobby
Foreseen: guarded against
Froward: stubborn
Futile: babbling
Globe: complete body
Glorious: showy, boastful
Humorous: capricious
Hundred poll: hundredth head
Impertinent: irrelevant
Implicit: entangled

In a mean: in moderation
In smother: suppressed
Indifferent: impartial
Intend: attend to
Knap:knoll
Leese: lose
Let: hinder
Loose: shot
Lot: spell
Lurch: intercept
Make: profit, get
Manage: train
Mate: conquer
Material: business-like
Mere-stone: boundary stone
Muniting: fortifying
Nerve: sinew
Obnoxious: subservient, liable
Oes: round spangles
Pair: impair
Pardon: allowance
Passable: mediocre
Pine-apple-tree: pine
Plantation: colony
Platform: plan
Plausible: praiseworthy
Point device: excessively precise
Politic: politician
Poll: extort
Poser: examiner
Practice: plotting
Preoccupate: anticipate
Prest: prepared
Prick: plant
Proper: personal
Prospective: stereoscope
Proyne: prune
Purprise: enclosure
Push: pimple
Quarrel: pretext
Quech: flinch
Reason: principle
Recamera: retiring-room
Return: reaction
Return: wing running back
Rise: dignity
Round: straight
Save: account for
Scantling: measure
Seel: blind
Shrewd: mischievous
Sort: associate
Spial: spy
Staddle: sapling
Steal: do secretly
Stirp: family
Stond: stop, stand
Stoved: hot-housed
Style: title
Success: outcome
Sumptuary law: law against
extravagance
Superior globe: the heavens
Temper: proportion
Tendering: nursing
Tract: line, trait
Travel: travail, labor
Treaties: treatises
Trench to: touch
Trivial: common
Turquet: Turkish dwarf
Under foot: below value
Unready: untrained
Usury: interest
Value: certify
Virtuous: able
Votary: vowed
Wanton: spoiled
Wood: maze
Work: manage, utilize

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