S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[Francis Bacon, created Baron Verulam, and Viscount St. Albans, but commonly called Lord Bacon; born 1561; solicitor-general, 1607; attorney-general, 1613; lord keeper, 1617; lord chancellor, 1618; published the “Novum Organum,” 1620; impeached for corrupt practices, and sentenced to fine and imprisonment, 1621; imprisoned but two days, and the fine remitted; died 1626.]
Just two years younger than your majesty’s happy reign.
When asked by Queen Elizabeth how old he was, on her visit to his father in 1572. He was then eleven, and his ready answer caused the queen to call him her “little lord keeper,” from the office his father then held.He replied later in life to Elizabeth, who asked his opinion of enclosures in a case which had been referred to the judges, “Madam, my mind is known: I am against all enclosures, and especially against enclosed justice.” He said in introducing a bill into Parliament in 1597, “against enclosures and the depopulation of towns,” “I should be sorry to see within this kingdom that piece of Ovid’s verse prove true, ‘jam seges ubi Troja fuit;’ in England nought but green fields, a shepherd, and a dog.”He protested on one occasion to the queen, that he spoke from a sense of duty: “I am not so simple but I know the common beaten way to please.”When a change was proposed in the Church of England which Bacon thought fatal, he said, “The subject we talk of is the eye of England: if there be a speck or two in the eye, we endeavor to take them off; he would be a strange oculist, who should pull out the eye.”He remarked of the increase of windows in houses in 1567, “You shall have sometime your house so full of glass that we cannot tell where to come to be out of the sun or the cold.”Sir Henry Montague said he hoped to bring the staff from Newmarket where King James was, meaning that he wished to be made lord treasurer. “Take heed,” said Bacon, “what you do, my lord: wood is dearer at Newmarket than at any other place in England.” The office, with the title of Mandeville, cost him, says Dixon, twenty thousand pounds.—Life of Bacon.
Mr. Attorney, I respect you, I fear you not; and the less you speak of your own greatness, the more I will think of it.
To Coke, who presumed on his superior position as attorney-general, to say in court, “Mr. Bacon, if you have any tooth against me pluck it out, for it will do you more hurt than all the teeth in your head will do you good.”He wrote to Coke, “Rich soils are often to be weeded;” meaning that the latter, who had a large and fruitful mind, should not so much labor what to speak, as to find what to leave unspoken.Pope declares it to be as necessary in poetry as in oratory:—
“E’en copious Dryden wanted, or forgot,The last and greatest art, the art to blot.”
I beseech your lordships to be merciful to a broken reed.
Acknowledging the charge of corruption for which he was impeached. He said to James I. after his fall, “I would live to study, and not study to live; yet I am prepared for date obolum Belisario, and I that had borne a bag (that containing the great seal) can bear a wallet.”Belisarius, a Byzantine general of great ability, was born in Illyria about 505 A.D. He was appointed by Justinian general-in-chief of the army of the East, was employed against the Ostrogoths, and recovered Rome from their possession, but was recalled, 540. Having been accused of a conspiracy against the life of Justinian, his fortune was sequestered; but that he was deprived of sight, and reduced to beggary, sitting at the gate of the city and addressing the passers-by with the words quoted by Lord Bacon, “Give a penny to Belisarius,” is, says Gibbon, “a fiction of later times, which has obtained credit, or rather favor, as a strong example of the vicissitudes of fortune.”—Decline and Fall, IV. 286, note. (Marmontel first made the story popular.)In a private letter to James I., accompanying the “Novum Organum,” Bacon said, “I am persuaded that the work will gain upon men’s minds in ages.” He had this in view when he wrote in his last will and testament: “For my name and memory, I leave it to men’s charitable speeches, to foreign nations, and to the next ages.”