The Advancement of Learning
Francis Bacon

Part 1 out of 5

Transcribed from the 1893 Cassell & Company edition by David Price,



"The TVVOO Bookes of Francis Bacon. Of the proficience and
aduancement of Learning, divine and humane. To the King. At
London. Printed for Henrie Tomes, and are to be sould at his shop
at Graies Inne Gate in Holborne. 1605." That was the original
title-page of the book now in the reader's hand--a living book that
led the way to a new world of thought. It was the book in which
Bacon, early in the reign of James the First, prepared the way for a
full setting forth of his New Organon, or instrument of knowledge.

The Organon of Aristotle was a set of treatises in which Aristotle
had written the doctrine of propositions. Study of these treatises
was a chief occupation of young men when they passed from school to
college, and proceeded from Grammar to Logic, the second of the
Seven Sciences. Francis Bacon as a youth of sixteen, at Trinity
College, Cambridge, felt the unfruitfulness of this method of search
after truth. He was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Queen
Elizabeth's Lord Keeper, and was born at York House, in the Strand,
on the 22nd of January, 1561. His mother was the Lord Keeper's
second wife, one of two sisters, of whom the other married Sir
William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burleigh. Sir Nicholas Bacon had six
children by his former marriage, and by his second wife two sons,
Antony and Francis, of whom Antony was about two years the elder.
The family home was at York Place, and at Gorhambury, near St.
Albans, from which town, in its ancient and its modern style, Bacon
afterwards took his titles of Verulam and St. Albans.

Antony and Francis Bacon went together to Trinity College,
Cambridge, when Antony was fourteen years old and Francis twelve.
Francis remained at Cambridge only until his sixteenth year; and Dr.
Rawley, his chaplain in after-years, reports of him that "whilst he
was commorant in the University, about sixteen years of age (as his
lordship hath been pleased to impart unto myself), he first fell
into dislike of the philosophy of Aristotle; not for the
worthlessness of the author, to whom he would ascribe all high
attributes, but for the unfruitfulness of the way, being a
philosophy (as his lordship used to say) only strong for
disputatious and contentions, but barren of the production of works
for the benefit of the life of man; in which mind he continued to
his dying day." Bacon was sent as a youth of sixteen to Paris with
the ambassador Sir Amyas Paulet, to begin his training for the
public service; but his father's death, in February, 1579, before he
had completed the provision he was making for his youngest children,
obliged him to return to London, and, at the age of eighteen, to
settle down at Gray's Inn to the study of law as a profession. He
was admitted to the outer bar in June, 1582, and about that time, at
the age of twenty-one, wrote a sketch of his conception of a New
Organon that should lead man to more fruitful knowledge, in a little
Latin tract, which he called "Temporis Partus Maximus" ("The
Greatest Birth of Time").

In November, 1584, Bacon took his seat in the House of Commons as
member for Melcombe Regis, in Dorsetshire. In October, 1586, he sat
for Taunton. He was member afterwards for Liverpool; and he was one
of those who petitioned for the speedy execution of Mary Queen of
Scots. In October, 1589, he obtained the reversion of the office of
Clerk of the Council in the Star Chamber, which was worth 1,600
pounds or 2,000 pounds a year; but for the succession to this office
he had to wait until 1608. It had not yet fallen to him when he
wrote his "Two Books of the Advancement of Learning." In the
Parliament that met in February, 1593, Bacon sat as member for
Middlesex. He raised difficulties of procedure in the way of the
grant of a treble subsidy, by just objection to the joining of the
Lords with the Commons in a money grant, and a desire to extend the
time allowed for payment from three years to six; it was, in fact,
extended to four years. The Queen was offended. Francis Bacon and
his brother Antony had attached themselves to the young Earl of
Essex, who was their friend and patron. The office of Attorney-
General became vacant. Essex asked the Queen to appoint Francis
Bacon. The Queen gave the office to Sir Edward Coke, who was
already Solicitor-General, and by nine years Bacon's senior. The
office of Solicitor-General thus became vacant, and that was sought
for Francis Bacon. The Queen, after delay and hesitation, gave it,
in November, 1595, to Serjeant Fleming. The Earl of Essex consoled
his friend by giving him "a piece of land"--Twickenham Park--which
Bacon afterwards sold for 1,800 pounds--equal, say, to 12,000 pounds
in present buying power. In 1597 Bacon was returned to Parliament
as member for Ipswich, and in that year he was hoping to marry the
rich widow of Sir William Hatton, Essex helping; but the lady
married, in the next year, Sir Edward Coke. It was in 1597 that
Bacon published the First Edition of his Essays. That was a little
book containing only ten essays in English, with twelve
"Meditationes Sacrae," which were essays in Latin on religious
subjects. From 1597 onward to the end of his life, Bacon's Essays
were subject to continuous addition and revision. The author's
Second Edition, in which the number of the Essays was increased from
ten to thirty-eight, did not appear until November or December,
1612, seven years later than these two books on the "Advancement of
Learning;" and the final edition of the Essays, in which their
number was increased from thirty-eight to fifty-eight, appeared only
in 1625; and Bacon died on the 9th of April, 1626. The edition of
the Essays published in 1597, under Elizabeth, marked only the
beginning of a course of thought that afterwards flowed in one
stream with his teachings in philosophy.

In February, 1601, there was the rebellion of Essex. Francis Bacon
had separated himself from his patron after giving him advice that
was disregarded. Bacon, now Queen's Counsel, not only appeared
against his old friend, but with excess of zeal, by which, perhaps,
he hoped to win back the Queen's favour, he twice obtruded violent
attacks upon Essex when he was not called upon to speak. On the
25th of February, 1601, Essex was beheaded. The genius of Bacon was
next employed to justify that act by "A Declaration of the Practices
and Treasons attempted and committed by Robert late Earle of Essex
and his Complices." But James of Scotland, on whose behalf Essex
had intervened, came to the throne by the death of Elizabeth on the
24th of March, 1603. Bacon was among the crowd of men who were made
knights by James I., and he had to justify himself under the new
order of things by writing "Sir Francis Bacon his Apologie in
certain Imputations concerning the late Earle of Essex." He was
returned to the first Parliament of James I. by Ipswich and St.
Albans, and he was confirmed in his office of King's Counsel in
August, 1604; but he was not appointed to the office of Solicitor-
General when it became vacant in that year.

That was the position of Francis Bacon in 1605, when he published
this work, where in his First Book he pointed out the discredits of
learning from human defects of the learned, and emptiness of many of
the studies chosen, or the way of dealing with them. This came, he
said, especially by the mistaking or misplacing of the last or
furthest end of knowledge, as if there were sought in it "a couch
whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace for
a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair
prospect; or a tower of state for a proud mind to raise itself upon;
or a fort or commanding ground for strife and contention; or a shop
for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse for the glory of the
Creator and the relief of man's estate." The rest of the First Book
was given to an argument upon the Dignity of Learning; and the
Second Book, on the Advancement of Learning, is, as Bacon himself
described it, "a general and faithful perambulation of learning,
with an inquiry what parts thereof lie fresh and waste, and not
improved and converted by the industry of man; to the end that such
a plot made and recorded to memory may both minister light to any
public designation and also serve to excite voluntary endeavours."
Bacon makes, by a sort of exhaustive analysis, a ground-plan of all
subjects of study, as an intellectual map, helping the right
inquirer in his search for the right path. The right path is that
by which he has the best chance of adding to the stock of knowledge
in the world something worth labouring for; and the true worth is in
labour for "the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's

H. M.


To the King.

There were under the law, excellent King, both daily sacrifices and
freewill offerings; the one proceeding upon ordinary observance, the
other upon a devout cheerfulness: in like manner there belongeth to
kings from their servants both tribute of duty and presents of
affection. In the former of these I hope I shall not live to be
wanting, according to my most humble duty and the good pleasure of
your Majesty's employments: for the latter, I thought it more
respective to make choice of some oblation which might rather refer
to the propriety and excellency of your individual person, than to
the business of your crown and state.

Wherefore, representing your Majesty many times unto my mind, and
beholding you not with the inquisitive eye of presumption, to
discover that which the Scripture telleth me is inscrutable, but
with the observant eye of duty and admiration, leaving aside the
other parts of your virtue and fortune, I have been touched--yea,
and possessed--with an extreme wonder at those your virtues and
faculties, which the philosophers call intellectual; the largeness
of your capacity, the faithfulness of your memory, the swiftness of
your apprehension, the penetration of your judgment, and the
facility and order of your elocution: and I have often thought that
of all the persons living that I have known, your Majesty were the
best instance to make a man of Plato's opinion, that all knowledge
is but remembrance, and that the mind of man by Nature knoweth all
things, and hath but her own native and original notions (which by
the strangeness and darkness of this tabernacle of the body are
sequestered) again revived and restored: such a light of Nature I
have observed in your Majesty, and such a readiness to take flame
and blaze from the least occasion presented, or the least spark of
another's knowledge delivered. And as the Scripture saith of the
wisest king, "That his heart was as the sands of the sea;" which,
though it be one of the largest bodies, yet it consisteth of the
smallest and finest portions; so hath God given your Majesty a
composition of understanding admirable, being able to compass and
comprehend the greatest matters, and nevertheless to touch and
apprehend the least; whereas it should seem an impossibility in
Nature for the same instrument to make itself fit for great and
small works. And for your gift of speech, I call to mind what
Cornelius Tacitus saith of Augustus Caesar: Augusto profluens, et
quae principem deceret, eloquentia fuit. For if we note it well,
speech that is uttered with labour and difficulty, or speech that
savoureth of the affectation of art and precepts, or speech that is
framed after the imitation of some pattern of eloquence, though
never so excellent; all this hath somewhat servile, and holding of
the subject. But your Majesty's manner of speech is, indeed,
prince-like, flowing as from a fountain, and yet streaming and
branching itself into Nature's order, full of facility and felicity,
imitating none, and inimitable by any. And as in your civil estate
there appeareth to be an emulation and contention of your Majesty's
virtue with your fortune; a virtuous disposition with a fortunate
regiment; a virtuous expectation (when time was) of your greater
fortune, with a prosperous possession thereof in the due time; a
virtuous observation of the laws of marriage, with most blessed and
happy fruit of marriage; a virtuous and most Christian desire of
peace, with a fortunate inclination in your neighbour princes
thereunto: so likewise in these intellectual matters there seemeth
to be no less contention between the excellency of your Majesty's
gifts of Nature and the universality and perfection of your
learning. For I am well assured that this which I shall say is no
amplification at all, but a positive and measured truth; which is,
that there hath not been since Christ's time any king or temporal
monarch which hath been so learned in all literature and erudition,
divine and human. For let a man seriously and diligently revolve
and peruse the succession of the Emperors of Rome, of which Caesar
the Dictator (who lived some years before Christ) and Marcus
Antoninus were the best learned, and so descend to the Emperors of
Graecia, or of the West, and then to the lines of France, Spain,
England, Scotland, and the rest, and he shall find this judgment is
truly made. For it seemeth much in a king if, by the compendious
extractions of other men's wits and labours, he can take hold of any
superficial ornaments and shows of learning, or if he countenance
and prefer learning and learned men; but to drink, indeed, of the
true fountains of learning--nay, to have such a fountain of learning
in himself, in a king, and in a king born--is almost a miracle. And
the more, because there is met in your Majesty a rare conjunction,
as well of divine and sacred literature as of profane and human; so
as your Majesty standeth invested of that triplicity, which in great
veneration was ascribed to the ancient Hermes: the power and
fortune of a king, the knowledge and illumination of a priest, and
the learning and universality of a philosopher. This propriety
inherent and individual attribute in your Majesty deserveth to be
expressed not only in the fame and admiration of the present time,
nor in the history or tradition of the ages succeeding, but also in
some solid work, fixed memorial, and immortal monument, bearing a
character or signature both of the power of a king and the
difference and perfection of such a king.

Therefore I did conclude with myself that I could not make unto your
Majesty a better oblation than of some treatise tending to that end,
whereof the sum will consist of these two parts: the former
concerning the excellency of learning and knowledge, and the
excellency of the merit and true glory in the augmentation and
propagation thereof; the latter, what the particular acts and works
are which have been embraced and undertaken for the advancement of
learning; and again, what defects and undervalues I find in such
particular acts: to the end that though I cannot positively or
affirmatively advise your Majesty, or propound unto you framed
particulars, yet I may excite your princely cogitations to visit the
excellent treasure of your own mind, and thence to extract
particulars for this purpose agreeable to your magnanimity and

I. (1) In the entrance to the former of these--to clear the way and,
as it were, to make silence, to have the true testimonies concerning
the dignity of learning to be better heard, without the interruption
of tacit objections--I think good to deliver it from the discredits
and disgraces which it hath received, all from ignorance, but
ignorance severally disguised; appearing sometimes in the zeal and
jealousy of divines, sometimes in the severity and arrogancy of
politics, and sometimes in the errors and imperfections of learned
men themselves.

(2) I hear the former sort say that knowledge is of those things
which are to be accepted of with great limitation and caution; that
the aspiring to overmuch knowledge was the original temptation and
sin whereupon ensued the fall of man; that knowledge hath in it
somewhat of the serpent, and, therefore, where it entereth into a
man it makes him swell; Scientia inflat; that Solomon gives a
censure, "That there is no end of making books, and that much
reading is weariness of the flesh;" and again in another place,
"That in spacious knowledge there is much contristation, and that he
that increaseth knowledge increaseth anxiety;" that Saint Paul gives
a caveat, "That we be not spoiled through vain philosophy;" that
experience demonstrates how learned men have been arch-heretics, how
learned times have been inclined to atheism, and how the
contemplation of second causes doth derogate from our dependence
upon God, who is the first cause.

(3) To discover, then, the ignorance and error of this opinion, and
the misunderstanding in the grounds thereof, it may well appear
these men do not observe or consider that it was not the pure
knowledge of Nature and universality, a knowledge by the light
whereof man did give names unto other creatures in Paradise as they
were brought before him according unto their proprieties, which gave
the occasion to the fall; but it was the proud knowledge of good and
evil, with an intent in man to give law unto himself, and to depend
no more upon God's commandments, which was the form of the
temptation. Neither is it any quantity of knowledge, how great
soever, that can make the mind of man to swell; for nothing can
fill, much less extend the soul of man, but God and the
contemplation of God; and, therefore, Solomon, speaking of the two
principal senses of inquisition, the eye and the ear, affirmeth that
the eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing;
and if there be no fulness, then is the continent greater than the
content: so of knowledge itself and the mind of man, whereto the
senses are but reporters, he defineth likewise in these words,
placed after that calendar or ephemerides which he maketh of the
diversities of times and seasons for all actions and purposes, and
concludeth thus: "God hath made all things beautiful, or decent, in
the true return of their seasons. Also He hath placed the world in
man's heart, yet cannot man find out the work which God worketh from
the beginning to the end"--declaring not obscurely that God hath
framed the mind of man as a mirror or glass, capable of the image of
the universal world, and joyful to receive the impression thereof,
as the eye joyeth to receive light; and not only delighted in
beholding the variety of things and vicissitude of times, but raised
also to find out and discern the ordinances and decrees which
throughout all those changes are infallibly observed. And although
he doth insinuate that the supreme or summary law of Nature (which
he calleth "the work which God worketh from the beginning to the
end") is not possible to be found out by man, yet that doth not
derogate from the capacity of the mind; but may be referred to the
impediments, as of shortness of life, ill conjunction of labours,
ill tradition of knowledge over from hand to hand, and many other
inconveniences, whereunto the condition of man is subject. For that
nothing parcel of the world is denied to man's inquiry and
invention, he doth in another place rule over, when he saith, "The
spirit of man is as the lamp of God, wherewith He searcheth the
inwardness of all secrets." If, then, such be the capacity and
receipt of the mind of man, it is manifest that there is no danger
at all in the proportion or quantity of knowledge, how large soever,
lest it should make it swell or out-compass itself; no, but it is
merely the quality of knowledge, which, be it in quantity more or
less, if it be taken without the true corrective thereof, hath in it
some nature of venom or malignity, and some effects of that venom,
which is ventosity or swelling. This corrective spice, the mixture
whereof maketh knowledge so sovereign, is charity, which the Apostle
immediately addeth to the former clause; for so he saith, "Knowledge
bloweth up, but charity buildeth up;" not unlike unto that which he
deilvereth in another place: "If I spake," saith he, "with the
tongues of men and angels, and had not charity, it were but as a
tinkling cymbal." Not but that it is an excellent thing to speak
with the tongues of men and angels, but because, if it be severed
from charity, and not referred to the good of men and mankind, it
hath rather a sounding and unworthy glory than a meriting and
substantial virtue. And as for that censure of Solomon concerning
the excess of writing and reading books, and the anxiety of spirit
which redoundeth from knowledge, and that admonition of St. Paul,
"That we be not seduced by vain philosophy," let those places be
rightly understood; and they do, indeed, excellently set forth the
true bounds and limitations whereby human knowledge is confined and
circumscribed, and yet without any such contracting or coarctation,
but that it may comprehend all the universal nature of things; for
these limitations are three: the first, "That we do not so place
our felicity in knowledge, as we forget our mortality;" the second,
"That we make application of our knowledge, to give ourselves repose
and contentment, and not distaste or repining;" the third, "That we
do not presume by the contemplation of Nature to attain to the
mysteries of God." For as touching the first of these, Solomon doth
excellently expound himself in another place of the same book, where
he saith: "I saw well that knowledge recedeth as far from ignorance
as light doth from darkness; and that the wise man's eyes keep watch
in his head, whereas this fool roundeth about in darkness: but
withal I learned that the same mortality involveth them both." And
for the second, certain it is there is no vexation or anxiety of
mind which resulteth from knowledge otherwise than merely by
accident; for all knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of
knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself; but when men fall
to framing conclusions out of their knowledge, applying it to their
particular, and ministering to themselves thereby weak fears or vast
desires, there groweth that carefulness and trouble of mind which is
spoken of; for then knowledge is no more Lumen siccum, whereof
Heraclitus the profound said, Lumen siccum optima anima; but it
becometh Lumen madidum, or maceratum, being steeped and infused in
the humours of the affections. And as for the third point, it
deserveth to be a little stood upon, and not to be lightly passed
over; for if any man shall think by view and inquiry into these
sensible and material things to attain that light, whereby he may
reveal unto himself the nature or will of God, then, indeed, is he
spoiled by vain philosophy; for the contemplation of God's creatures
and works produceth (having regard to the works and creatures
themselves) knowledge, but having regard to God no perfect
knowledge, but wonder, which is broken knowledge. And, therefore,
it was most aptly said by one of Plato's school, "That the sense of
man carrieth a resemblance with the sun, which (as we see) openeth
and revealeth all the terrestrial globe; but then, again, it
obscureth and concealeth the stars and celestial globe: so doth the
sense discover natural things, but it darkeneth and shutteth up
divine." And hence it is true that it hath proceeded, that divers
great learned men have been heretical, whilst they have sought to
fly up to the secrets of the Deity by this waxen wings of the
senses. And as for the conceit that too much knowledge should
incline a man to atheism, and that the ignorance of second causes
should make a more devout dependence upon God, which is the first
cause; first, it is good to ask the question which Job asked of his
friends: "Will you lie for God, as one man will lie for another, to
gratify him?" For certain it is that God worketh nothing in Nature
but by second causes; and if they would have it otherwise believed,
it is mere imposture, as it were in favour towards God, and nothing
else but to offer to the Author of truth the unclean sacrifice of a
lie. But further, it is an assured truth, and a conclusion of
experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may
incline the mind of men to atheism, but a further proceeding therein
doth bring the mind back again to religion. For in the entrance of
philosophy, when the second causes, which are next unto the senses,
do offer themselves to the mind of man, if it dwell and stay there
it may induce some oblivion of the highest cause; but when a man
passeth on further and seeth the dependence of causes and the works
of Providence; then, according to the allegory of the poets, he will
easily believe that the highest link of Nature's chain must needs he
tied to the foot of Jupiter's chair. To conclude, therefore, let no
man upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation
think or maintain that a man can search too far, or be too well
studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works,
divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless
progress or proficience in both; only let men beware that they apply
both to charity, and not to swelling; to use, and not to
ostentation; and again, that they do not unwisely mingle or confound
these learnings together.

II. (1) And as for the disgraces which learning receiveth from
politics, they be of this nature: that learning doth soften men's
minds, and makes them more unapt for the honour and exercise of
arms; that it doth mar and pervert men's dispositions for matter of
government and policy, in making them too curious and irresolute by
variety of reading, or too peremptory or positive by strictness of
rules and axioms, or too immoderate and overweening by reason of the
greatness of examples, or too incompatible and differing from the
times by reason of the dissimilitude of examples; or at least, that
it doth divert men's travails from action and business, and bringeth
them to a love of leisure and privateness; and that it doth bring
into states a relaxation of discipline, whilst every man is more
ready to argue than to obey and execute. Out of this conceit Cato,
surnamed the Censor, one of the wisest men indeed that ever lived,
when Carneades the philosopher came in embassage to Rome, and that
the young men of Rome began to flock about him, being allured with
the sweetness and majesty of his eloquence and learning, gave
counsel in open senate that they should give him his despatch with
all speed, lest he should infect and enchant the minds and
affections of the youth, and at unawares bring in an alteration of
the manners and customs of the state. Out of the same conceit or
humour did Virgil, turning his pen to the advantage of his country
and the disadvantage of his own profession, make a kind of
separation between policy and government, and between arts and
sciences, in the verses so much renowned, attributing and
challenging the one to the Romans, and leaving and yielding the
other to the Grecians: Tu regere imperio popules, Romane, memento,
Hae tibi erunt artes, &c. So likewise we see that Anytus, the
accuser of Socrates, laid it as an article of charge and accusation
against him, that he did, with the variety and power of his
discourses and disputatious, withdraw young men from due reverence
to the laws and customs of their country, and that he did profess a
dangerous and pernicious science, which was to make the worse matter
seem the better, and to suppress truth by force of eloquence and

(2) But these and the like imputations have rather a countenance of
gravity than any ground of justice: for experience doth warrant
that, both in persons and in times, there hath been a meeting and
concurrence in learning and arms, flourishing and excelling in the
same men and the same ages. For as 'for men, there cannot be a
better nor the hike instance as of that pair, Alexander the Great
and Julius Caesar, the Dictator; whereof the one was Aristotle's
scholar in philosophy, and the other was Cicero's rival in
eloquence; or if any man had rather call for scholars that were
great generals, than generals that were great scholars, let him take
Epaminondas the Theban, or Xenophon the Athenian; whereof the one
was the first that abated the power of Sparta, and the other was the
first that made way to the overthrow of the monarchy of Persia. And
this concurrence is yet more visible in times than in persons, by
how much an age is greater object than a man. For both in Egypt,
Assyria, Persia, Graecia, and Rome, the same times that are most
renowned for arms are, likewise, most admired for learning, so that
the greatest authors and philosophers, and the greatest captains and
governors, have lived in the same ages. Neither can it otherwise
he: for as in man the ripeness of strength of the body and mind
cometh much about an age, save that the strength of the body cometh
somewhat the more early, so in states, arms and learning, whereof
the one correspondeth to the body, the other to the soul of man,
have a concurrence or near sequence in times.

(3) And for matter of policy and government, that learning, should
rather hurt, than enable thereunto, is a thing very improbable; we
see it is accounted an error to commit a natural body to empiric
physicians, which commonly have a few pleasing receipts whereupon
they are confident and adventurous, but know neither the causes of
diseases, nor the complexions of patients, nor peril of accidents,
nor the true method of cures; we see it is a like error to rely upon
advocates or lawyers which are only men of practice, and not
grounded in their books, who are many times easily surprised when
matter falleth out besides their experience, to the prejudice of the
causes they handle: so by like reason it cannot be but a matter of
doubtful consequence if states be managed by empiric statesmen, not
well mingled with men grounded in learning. But contrariwise, it is
almost without instance contradictory that ever any government was
disastrous that was in the hands of learned governors. For
howsoever it hath been ordinary with politic men to extenuate and
disable learned men by the names of pedantes; yet in the records of
time it appeareth in many particulars that the governments of
princes in minority (notwithstanding the infinite disadvantage of
that kind of state)--have nevertheless excelled the government of
princes of mature age, even for that reason which they seek to
traduce, which is that by that occasion the state hath been in the
hands of pedantes: for so was the state of Rome for the first five
years, which are so much magnified, during the minority of Nero, in
the hands of Seneca, a pedenti; so it was again, for ten years'
space or more, during the minority of Gordianus the younger, with
great applause and contentation in the hands of Misitheus, a
pedanti: so was it before that, in the minority of Alexander
Severus, in like happiness, in hands not much unlike, by reason of
the rule of the women, who were aided by the teachers and
preceptors. Nay, let a man look into the government of the Bishops
of Rome, as by name, into the government of Pius Quintus and Sextus
Quintus in our times, who were both at their entrance esteemed but
as pedantical friars, and he shall find that such Popes do greater
things, and proceed upon truer principles of state, than those which
have ascended to the papacy from an education and breeding in
affairs of state and courts of princes; for although men bred in
learning are perhaps to seek in points of convenience and
accommodating for the present, which the Italians call ragioni di
stato, whereof the same Pius Quintus could not hear spoken with
patience, terming them inventions against religion and the moral
virtues; yet on the other side, to recompense that, they are perfect
in those same plain grounds of religion, justice, honour, and moral
virtue, which if they be well and watchfully pursued, there will be
seldom use of those other, no more than of physic in a sound or
well-dieted body. Neither can the experience of one man's life
furnish examples and precedents for the event of one man's life.
For as it happeneth sometimes that the grandchild, or other
descendant, resembleth the ancestor more than the son; so many times
occurrences of present times may sort better with ancient examples
than with those of the later or immediate times; and lastly, the wit
of one man can no more countervail learning than one man's means can
hold way with a common purse.

(4) And as for those particular seducements or indispositions of the
mind for policy and government, which learning is pretended to
insinuate; if it be granted that any such thing be, it must be
remembered withal that learning ministereth in every of them greater
strength of medicine or remedy than it offereth cause of
indisposition or infirmity. For if by a secret operation it make
men perplexed and irresolute, on the other side by plain precept it
teacheth them when and upon what ground to resolve; yea, and how to
carry things in suspense, without prejudice, till they resolve. If
it make men positive and regular, it teacheth them what things are
in their nature demonstrative, and what are conjectural, and as well
the use of distinctions and exceptions, as the latitude of
principles and rules. If it mislead by disproportion or
dissimilitude of examples, it teacheth men the force of
circumstances, the errors of comparisons, and all the cautions of
application; so that in all these it doth rectify more effectually
than it can pervert. And these medicines it conveyeth into men's
minds much more forcibly by the quickness and penetration of
examples. For let a man look into the errors of Clement VII., so
lively described by Guicciardini, who served under him, or into the
errors of Cicero, painted out by his own pencil in his Epistles to
Atticus, and he will fly apace from being irresolute. Let him look
into the errors of Phocion, and he will beware how he be obstinate
or inflexible. Let him but read the fable of Ixion, and it will
hold him from being vaporous or imaginative. Let him look into the
errors of Cato II., and he will never be one of the Antipodes, to
tread opposite to the present world.

(5) And for the conceit that learning should dispose men to leisure
and privateness, and make men slothful: it were a strange thing if
that which accustometh the mind to a perpetual motion and agitation
should induce slothfulness, whereas, contrariwise, it may be truly
affirmed that no kind of men love business for itself but those that
are learned; for other persons love it for profit, as a hireling
that loves the work for the wages; or for honour, as because it
beareth them up in the eyes of men, and refresheth their reputation,
which otherwise would wear; or because it putteth them in mind of
their fortune, and giveth them occasion to pleasure and displeasure;
or because it exerciseth some faculty wherein they take pride, and
so entertaineth them in good-humour and pleasing conceits towards
themselves; or because it advanceth any other their ends. So that
as it is said of untrue valours, that some men's valours are in the
eyes of them that look on, so such men's industries are in the eyes
of others, or, at least, in regard of their own designments; only
learned men love business as an action according to nature, as
agreeable to health of mind as exercise is to health of body, taking
pleasure in the action itself, and not in the purchase, so that of
all men they are the most indefatigable, if it be towards any
business which can hold or detain their mind.

(6) And if any man be laborious in reading and study, and yet idle
in business and action, it groweth from some weakness of body or
softness of spirit, such as Seneca speaketh of: Quidam tam sunt
umbratiles, ut putent in turbido esse quicquid in luce est; and not
of learning: well may it be that such a point of a man's nature may
make him give himself to learning, but it is not learning that
breedeth any such point in his nature.

(7) And that learning should take up too much time or leisure: I
answer, the most active or busy man that hath been or can be, hath
(no question) many vacant times of leisure while he expecteth the
tides and returns of business (except he be either tedious and of no
despatch, or lightly and unworthily ambitious to meddle in things
that may be better done by others), and then the question is but how
those spaces and times of leisure shall be filled and spent; whether
in pleasure or in studies; as was well answered by Demosthenes to
his adversary AEschines, that was a man given to pleasure, and told
him "That his orations did smell of the lamp." "Indeed," said
Demosthenes, "there is a great difference between the things that
you and I do by lamp-light." So as no man need doubt that learning
will expel business, but rather it will keep and defend the
possession of the mind against idleness and pleasure, which
otherwise at unawares may enter to the prejudice of both.

(8) Again, for that other conceit that learning should undermine the
reverence of laws and government, it is assuredly a mere depravation
and calumny, without all shadow of truth. For to say that a blind
custom of obedience should be a surer obligation than duty taught
and understood, it is to affirm that a blind man may tread surer by
a guide than a seeing man can by a light. And it is without all
controversy that learning doth make the minds of men gentle,
generous, manageable, and pliant to government; whereas ignorance
makes them churlish, thwart, and mutinous: and the evidence of time
doth clear this assertion, considering that the most barbarous,
rude, and unlearned times have been most subject to tumults,
seditious, and changes.

(9) And as to the judgment of Cato the Censor, he was well punished
for his blasphemy against learning, in the same kind wherein he
offended; for when he was past threescore years old, he was taken
with an extreme desire to go to school again, and to learn the Greek
tongue, to the end to peruse the Greek authors; which doth well
demonstrate that his former censure of the Grecian learning was
rather an affected gravity, than according to the inward sense of
his own opinion. And as for Virgil's verses, though it pleased him
to brave the world in taking to the Romans the art of empire, and
leaving to others the arts of subjects, yet so much is manifest--
that the Romans never ascended to that height of empire till the
time they had ascended to the height of other arts. For in the time
of the two first Caesars, which had the art of government in
greatest perfection, there lived the best poet, Virgilius Maro; the
best historiographer, Titus Livius; the best antiquary, Marcus
Varro; and the best or second orator, Marcus Cicero, that to the
memory of man are known. As for the accusation of Socrates, the
time must be remembered when it was prosecuted; which was under the
Thirty Tyrants, the most base, bloody, and envious persons that have
governed; which revolution of state was no sooner over but Socrates,
whom they had made a person criminal, was made a person heroical,
and his memory accumulate with honours divine and human; and those
discourses of his which were then termed corrupting of manners, were
after acknowledged for sovereign medicines of the mind and manners,
and so have been received ever since till this day. Let this,
therefore, serve for answer to politiques, which in their humorous
severity, or in their feigned gravity, have presumed to throw
imputations upon learning; which redargution nevertheless (save that
we know not whether our labours may extend to other ages) were not
needful for the present, in regard of the love and reverence towards
learning which the example and countenance of two so learned
princes, Queen Elizabeth and your Majesty, being as Castor and
Pollux, lucida sidera, stars of excellent light and most benign
influence, hath wrought in all men of place and authority in our

III. (1) Now therefore we come to that third sort of discredit or
diminution of credit that groweth unto learning from learned men
themselves, which commonly cleaveth fastest: it is either from
their fortune, or from their manners, or from the nature of their
studies. For the first, it is not in their power; and the second is
accidental; the third only is proper to be handled: but because we
are not in hand with true measure, but with popular estimation and
conceit, it is not amiss to speak somewhat of the two former. The
derogations therefore which grow to learning from the fortune or
condition of learned men, are either in respect of scarcity of
means, or in respect of privateness of life and meanness of

(2) Concerning want, and that it is the case of learned men usually
to begin with little, and not to grow rich so fast as other men, by
reason they convert not their labours chiefly to lucre and increase,
it were good to leave the commonplace in commendation of povery to
some friar to handle, to whom much was attributed by Machiavel in
this point when he said, "That the kingdom of the clergy had been
long before at an end, if the reputation and reverence towards the
poverty of friars had not borne out the scandal of the superfluities
and excesses of bishops and prelates." So a man might say that the
felicity and delicacy of princes and great persons had long since
turned to rudeness and barbarism, if the poverty of learning had not
kept up civility and honour of life; but without any such
advantages, it is worthy the observation what a reverent and
honoured thing poverty of fortune was for some ages in the Roman
state, which nevertheless was a state without paradoxes. For we see
what Titus Livius saith in his introduction: Caeterum aut me amor
negotii suscepti fallit aut nulla unquam respublica nec major, nec
sanctior, nec bonis exemplis ditior fuit; nec in quam tam sero
avaritia luxuriaque immigraverint; nec ubi tantus ac tam diu
paupertati ac parsimoniae honos fuerit. We see likewise, after that
the state of Rome was not itself, but did degenerate, how that
person that took upon him to be counsellor to Julius Caesar after
his victory where to begin his restoration of the state, maketh it
of all points the most summary to take away the estimation of
wealth: Verum haec et omnia mala pariter cum honore pecuniae
desinent; si neque magistratus, neque alia vulgo cupienda, venalia
erunt. To conclude this point: as it was truly said that Paupertas
est virtutis fortuna, though sometimes it come from vice, so it may
be fitly said that, though some times it may proceed from
misgovernment and accident. Surely Solomon hath pronounced it both
in censure, Qui festinat ad divitias non erit insons; and in
precept, "Buy the truth, and sell it not; and so of wisdom and
knowledge;" judging that means were to be spent upon learning, and
not learning to be applied to means. And as for the privateness or
obscureness (as it may be in vulgar estimation accounted) of life of
contemplative men, it is a theme so common to extol a private life,
not taxed with sensuality and sloth, in comparison and to the
disadvantage of a civil life, for safety, liberty, pleasure, and
dignity, or at least freedom from indignity, as no man handleth it
but handleth it well; such a consonancy it hath to men's conceits in
the expressing, and to men's consents in the allowing. This only I
will add, that learned men forgotten in states and not living in the
eyes of men, are like the images of Cassius and Brutus in the
funeral of Junia, of which, not being represented as many others
were, Tacitus saith, Eo ipso praefulgebant quod non visebantur.

(3) And for meanness of employment, that which is most traduced to
contempt is that the government of youth is commonly allotted to
them; which age, because it is the age of least authority, it is
transferred to the disesteeming of those employments wherein youth
is conversant, and which are conversant about youth. But how unjust
this traducement is (if you will reduce things from popularity of
opinion to measure of reason) may appear in that we see men are more
curious what they put into a new vessel than into a vessel seasoned;
and what mould they lay about a young plant than about a plant
corroborate; so as this weakest terms and times of all things use to
have the best applications and helps. And will you hearken to the
Hebrew rabbins? "Your young men shall see visions, and your old men
shall dream dreams:" say they, youth is the worthier age, for that
visions are nearer apparitions of God than dreams? And let it be
noted that howsoever the condition of life of pedantes hath been
scorned upon theatres, as the ape of tyranny; and that the modern
looseness or negligence hath taken no due regard to the choice of
schoolmasters and tutors; yet the ancient wisdom of the best times
did always make a just complaint, that states were too busy with
their laws and too negligent in point of education: which excellent
part of ancient discipline hath been in some sort revived of late
times by the colleges of the Jesuits; of whom, although in regard of
their superstition I may say, Quo meliores, eo deteriores; yet in
regard of this, and some other points concerning human learning and
moral matters, I may say, as Agesilaus said to his enemy
Pharnabazus, Talis quum sis, utunam noster esses. And that much
touching the discredits drawn from the fortunes of learned men.

(4) As touching the manners of learned men, it is a thing personal
and individual: and no doubt there be amongst them, as in other
professions, of all temperatures: but yet so as it is not without
truth which is said, that Abeunt studua in mores, studies have an
influence and operation upon the manners of those that are
conversant in them.

(5) But upon an attentive and indifferent review, I for my part
cannot find any disgrace to learning can proceed from the manners of
learned men; not inherent to them as they are learned; except it be
a fault (which was the supposed fault of Demosthenes, Cicero, Cato
II., Seneca, and many more) that because the times they read of are
commonly better than the times they live in, and the duties taught
better than the duties practised, they contend sometimes too far to
bring things to perfection, and to reduce the corruption of manners
to honesty of precepts or examples of too great height. And yet
hereof they have caveats enough in their own walks. For Solon, when
he was asked whether he had given his citizens the best laws,
answered wisely, "Yea, of such as they would receive:" and Plato,
finding that his own heart could not agree with the corrupt manners
of his country, refused to bear place or office, saying, "That a
man's country was to be used as his parents were, that is, with
humble persuasions, and not with contestations." And Caesar's
counsellor put in the same caveat, Non ad vetera instituta revocans
quae jampridem corruptis moribus ludibrio sunt; and Cicero noteth
this error directly in Cato II. when he writes to his friend
Atticus, Cato optime sentit, sed nocet interdum reipublicae;
loquitur enim tanquam in republica Platonis, non tanquam in faece
Romuli. And the same Cicero doth excuse and expound the
philosophers for going too far and being too exact in their
prescripts when he saith, Isti ipse praeceptores virtutis et
magistri videntur fines officiorum paulo longius quam natura vellet
protulisse, ut cum ad ultimum animo contendissemus, ibi tamen, ubi
oportet, consisteremus: and yet himself might have said, Monitis
sum minor ipse meis; for it was his own fault, though not in so
extreme a degree.

(6) Another fault likewise much of this kind hath been incident to
learned men, which is, that they have esteemed the preservation,
good, and honour of their countries or masters before their own
fortunes or safeties. For so saith Demosthenes unto the Athenians:
"If it please you to note it, my counsels unto you are not such
whereby I should grow great amongst you, and you become little
amongst the Grecians; but they be of that nature as they are
sometimes not good for me to give, but are always good for you to
follow." And so Seneca, after he had consecrated that Quinquennium
Neronis to the eternal glory of learned governors, held on his
honest and loyal course of good and free counsel after his master
grew extremely corrupt in his government. Neither can this point
otherwise be, for learning endueth men's minds with a true sense of
the frailty of their persons, the casualty of their fortunes, and
the dignity of their soul and vocation, so that it is impossible for
them to esteem that any greatness of their own fortune can be a true
or worthy end of their being and ordainment, and therefore are
desirous to give their account to God, and so likewise to their
masters under God (as kings and the states that they serve) in those
words, Ecce tibi lucrefeci, and not Ecce mihi lucrefeci; whereas the
corrupter sort of mere politiques, that have not their thoughts
established by learning in the love and apprehension of duty, nor
never look abroad into universality, do refer all things to
themselves, and thrust themselves into the centre of the world, as
if all lines should meet in them and their fortunes, never caring in
all tempests what becomes of the ship of state, so they may save
themselves in the cockboat of their own fortune; whereas men that
feel the weight of duty and know the limits of self-love use to make
good their places and duties, though with peril; and if they stand
in seditious and violent alterations, it is rather the reverence
which many times both adverse parts do give to honesty, than any
versatile advantage of their own carriage. But for this point of
tender sense and fast obligation of duty which learning doth endue
the mind withal, howsoever fortune may tax it, and many in the depth
of their corrupt principles may despise it, yet it will receive an
open allowance, and therefore needs the less disproof or excuse.

(7) Another fault incident commonly to learned men, which may be
more properly defended than truly denied, is that they fail
sometimes in applying themselves to particular persons, which want
of exact application ariseth from two causes--the one, because the
largeness of their mind can hardly confine itself to dwell in the
exquisite observation or examination of the nature and customs of
one person, for it is a speech for a lover, and not for a wise man,
Satis magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus. Nevertheless I shall
yield that he that cannot contract the sight of his mind as well as
disperse and dilate it, wanteth a great faculty. But there is a
second cause, which is no inability, but a rejection upon choice and
judgment. For the honest and just bounds of observation by one
person upon another extend no further but to understand him
sufficiently, whereby not to give him offence, or whereby to be able
to give him faithful counsel, or whereby to stand upon reasonable
guard and caution in respect of a man's self. But to be speculative
into another man to the end to know how to work him, or wind him, or
govern him, proceedeth from a heart that is double and cloven, and
not entire and ingenuous; which as in friendship it is want of
integrity, so towards princes or superiors is want of duty. For the
custom of the Levant, which is that subjects do forbear to gaze or
fix their eyes upon princes, is in the outward ceremony barbarous,
but the moral is good; for men ought not, by cunning and bent
observations, to pierce and penetrate into the hearts of kings,
which the Scripture hath declared to be inscrutable.

(8) There is yet another fault (with which I will conclude this
part) which is often noted in learned men, that they do many times
fail to observe decency and discretion in their behaviour and
carriage, and commit errors in small and ordinary points of action,
so as the vulgar sort of capacities do make a judgment of them in
greater matters by that which they find wanting in them in smaller.
But this consequence doth oft deceive men, for which I do refer them
over to that which was said by Themistocles, arrogantly and
uncivilly being applied to himself out of his own mouth, but, being
applied to the general state of this question, pertinently and
justly, when, being invited to touch a lute, he said, "He could not
fiddle, but he could make a small town a great state." So no doubt
many may be well seen in the passages of government and policy which
are to seek in little and punctual occasions. I refer them also to
that which Plato said of his master Socrates, whom he compared to
the gallipots of apothecaries, which on the outside had apes and
owls and antiques, but contained within sovereign and precious
liquors and confections; acknowledging that, to an external report,
he was not without superficial levities and deformities, but was
inwardly replenished with excellent virtues and powers. And so much
touching the point of manners of learned men.

(9) But in the meantime I have no purpose to give allowance to some
conditions and courses base and unworthy, wherein divers professors
of learning have wronged themselves and gone too far; such as were
those trencher philosophers which in the later age of the Roman
state were usually in the houses of great persons, being little
better than solemn parasites, of which kind, Lucian maketh a merry
description of the philosopher that the great lady took to ride with
her in her coach, and would needs have him carry her little dog,
which he doing officiously and yet uncomely, the page scoffed and
said, "That he doubted the philosopher of a Stoic would turn to be a
Cynic." But, above all the rest, this gross and palpable flattery
whereunto many not unlearned have abased and abused their wits and
pens, turning (as Du Bartas saith) Hecuba into Helena, and Faustina
into Lucretia, hath most diminished the price and estimation of
learning. Neither is the modern dedication of books and writings,
as to patrons, to be commended, for that books (such as are worthy
the name of books) ought to have no patrons but truth and reason.
And the ancient custom was to dedicate them only to private and
equal friends, or to entitle the books with their names; or if to
kings and great persons, it was to some such as the argument of the
book was fit and proper for; but these and the like courses may
deserve rather reprehension than defence.

(10) Not that I can tax or condemn the morigeration or application
of learned men to men in fortune. For the answer was good that
Diogenes made to one that asked him in mockery, "How it came to pass
that philosophers were the followers of rich men, and not rich men
of philosophers?" He answered soberly, and yet sharply, "Because
the one sort knew what they had need of, and the other did not."
And of the like nature was the answer which Aristippus made, when
having a petition to Dionysius, and no ear given to him, he fell
down at his feet, whereupon Dionysius stayed and gave him the
hearing, and granted it; and afterwards some person, tender on the
behalf of philosophy, reproved Aristippus that he would offer the
profession of philosophy such an indignity as for a private suit to
fall at a tyrant's feet; but he answered, "It was not his fault, but
it was the fault of Dionysius, that had his ears in his feet."
Neither was it accounted weakness, but discretion, in him that would
not dispute his best with Adrianus Caesar, excusing himself, "That
it was reason to yield to him that commanded thirty legions." These
and the like, applications, and stooping to points of necessity and
convenience, cannot be disallowed; for though they may have some
outward baseness, yet in a judgment truly made they are to be
accounted submissions to the occasion and not to the person.

IV. (1) Now I proceed to those errors and vanities which have
intervened amongst the studies themselves of the learned, which is
that which is principal and proper to the present argument; wherein
my purpose is not to make a justification of the errors, but by a
censure and separation of the errors to make a justification of that
which is good and sound, and to deliver that from the aspersion of
the other. For we see that it is the manner of men to scandalise
and deprave that which retaineth the state and virtue, by taking
advantage upon that which is corrupt and degenerate, as the heathens
in the primitive Church used to blemish and taint the Christians
with the faults and corruptions of heretics. But nevertheless I
have no meaning at this time to make any exact animadversion of the
errors and impediments in matters of learning, which are more secret
and remote from vulgar opinion, but only to speak unto such as do
fall under or near unto a popular observation.

(2) There be therefore chiefly three vanities in studies, whereby
learning hath been most traduced. For those things we do esteem
vain which are either false or frivolous, those which either have no
truth or no use; and those persons we esteem vain which are either
credulous or curious; and curiosity is either in matter or words:
so that in reason as well as in experience there fall out to be
these three distempers (as I may term them) of learning--the first,
fantastical learning; the second, contentious learning; and the
last, delicate learning; vain imaginations, vain altercations, and
vain affectations; and with the last I will begin. Martin Luther,
conducted, no doubt, by a higher Providence, but in discourse of
reason, finding what a province he had undertaken against the Bishop
of Rome and the degenerate traditions of the Church, and finding his
own solitude, being in nowise aided by the opinions of his own time,
was enforced to awake all antiquity, and to call former times to his
succours to make a party against the present time. So that the
ancient authors, both in divinity and in humanity, which had long
time slept in libraries, began generally to be read and revolved.
This, by consequence, did draw on a necessity of a more exquisite
travail in the languages original, wherein those authors did write,
for the better understanding of those authors, and the better
advantage of pressing and applying their words. And thereof grew,
again, a delight in their manner of style and phrase, and an
admiration of that kind of writing, which was much furthered and
precipitated by the enmity and opposition that the propounders of
those primitive but seeming new opinions had against the schoolmen,
who were generally of the contrary part, and whose writings were
altogether in a differing style and form; taking liberty to coin and
frame new terms of art to express their own sense, and to avoid
circuit of speech, without regard to the pureness, pleasantness, and
(as I may call it) lawfulness of the phrase or word. And again,
because the great labour then was with the people (of whom the
Pharisees were wont to say, Execrabilis ista turba, quae non novit
legem), for the winning and persuading of them, there grew of
necessity in chief price and request eloquence and variety of
discourse, as the fittest and forciblest access into the capacity of
the vulgar sort; so that these four causes concurring--the
admiration of ancient authors, the hate of the schoolmen, the exact
study of languages, and the efficacy of preaching--did bring in an
affectionate study of eloquence and copy of speech, which then began
to flourish. This grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt
more after words than matter--more after the choiceness of the
phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the
sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of
their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of
matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention,
or depth of judgment. Then grew the flowing and watery vein of
Osorius, the Portugal bishop, to be in price. Then did Sturmius
spend such infinite and curious pains upon Cicero the Orator and
Hermogenes the Rhetorician, besides his own books of Periods and
Imitation, and the like. Then did Car of Cambridge and Ascham with
their lectures and writings almost deify Cicero and Demosthenes, and
allure all young men that were studious unto that delicate and
polished kind of learning. Then did Erasmus take occasion to make
the scoffing echo, Decem annos consuumpsi in legendo Cicerone; and
the echo answered in Greek, One, Asine. Then grew the learning of
the schoolmen to be utterly despised as barbarous. In sum, the
whole inclination and bent of those times was rather towards copy
than weight.

(3) Here therefore [is] the first distemper of learning, when men
study words and not matter; whereof, though I have represented an
example of late times, yet it hath been and will be secundum majus
et minus in all time. And how is it possible but this should have
an operation to discredit learning, even with vulgar capacities,
when they see learned men's works like the first letter of a patent
or limited book, which though it hath large flourishes, yet it is
but a letter? It seems to me that Pygmalion's frenzy is a good
emblem or portraiture of this vanity; for words are but the images
of matter, and except they have life of reason and invention, to
fall in love with them is all one as to fall in love with a picture.

(4) But yet notwithstanding it is a thing not hastily to be
condemned, to clothe and adorn the obscurity even of philosophy
itself with sensible and plausible elocution. For hereof we have
great examples in Xenophon, Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, and of Plato
also in some degree; and hereof likewise there is great use, for
surely, to the severe inquisition of truth and the deep progress
into philosophy, it is some hindrance because it is too early
satisfactory to the mind of man, and quencheth the desire of further
search before we come to a just period. But then if a man be to
have any use of such knowledge in civil occasions, of conference,
counsel, persuasion, discourse, or the like, then shall he find it
prepared to his hands in those authors which write in that manner.
But the excess of this is so justly contemptible, that as Hercules,
when he saw the image of Adonis, Venus' minion, in a temple, said in
disdain, Nil sacri es; so there is none of Hercules' followers in
learning--that is, the more severe and laborious sort of inquirers
into truth--but will despise those delicacies and affectations, as
indeed capable of no divineness. And thus much of the first disease
or distemper of learning.

(5) The second which followeth is in nature worse than the former:
for as substance of matter is better than beauty of words, so
contrariwise vain matter is worse than vain words: wherein it
seemeth the reprehension of St. Paul was not only proper for those
times, but prophetical for the times following; and not only
respective to divinity, but extensive to all knowledge: Devita
profanas vocum novitates, et oppositiones falsi nominis scientiae.
For he assigneth two marks and badges of suspected and falsified
science: the one, the novelty and strangeness of terms; the other,
the strictness of positions, which of necessity doth induce
oppositions, and so questions and altercations. Surely, like as
many substances in nature which are solid do putrefy and corrupt
into worms;--so it is the property of good and sound knowledge to
putrefy and dissolve into a number of subtle, idle, unwholesome, and
(as I may term them) vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind
of quickness and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter or
goodness of quality. This kind of degenerate learning did chiefly
reign amongst the schoolmen, who having sharp and strong wits, and
abundance of leisure, and small variety of reading, but their wits
being shut up in the cells of a few authors (chiefly Aristotle their
dictator) as their persons were shut up in the cells of monasteries
and colleges, and knowing little history, either of nature or time,
did out of no great quantity of matter and infinite agitation of wit
spin out unto us those laborious webs of learning which are extant
in their books. For the wit and mind of man, if it work upon
matter, which is the contemplation of the creatures of God, worketh
according to the stuff and is limited thereby; but if it work upon
itself, as the spider worketh his web, then it is endless, and
brings forth indeed cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fineness
of thread and work, but of no substance or profit.

(6) This same unprofitable subtility or curiosity is of two sorts:
either in the subject itself that they handle, when it is a
fruitless speculation or controversy (whereof there are no small
number both in divinity and philosophy), or in the manner or method
of handling of a knowledge, which amongst them was this--upon every
particular position or assertion to frame objections, and to those
objections, solutions; which solutions were for the most part not
confutations, but distinctions: whereas indeed the strength of all
sciences is, as the strength of the old man's faggot, in the bond.
For the harmony of a science, supporting each part the other, is and
ought to be the true and brief confutation and suppression of all
the smaller sort of objections. But, on the other side, if you take
out every axiom, as the sticks of the faggot, one by one, you may
quarrel with them and bend them and break them at your pleasure: so
that, as was said of Seneca, Verborum minutiis rerum frangit
pondera, so a man may truly say of the schoolmen, Quaestionum
minutiis scientiarum frangunt soliditatem. For were it not better
for a man in fair room to set up one great light, or branching
candlestick of lights, than to go about with a small watch-candle
into every corner? And such is their method, that rests not so much
upon evidence of truth proved by arguments, authorities,
similitudes, examples, as upon particular confutations and solutions
of every scruple, cavillation, and objection; breeding for the most
part one question as fast as it solveth another; even as in the
former resemblance, when you carry the light into one corner, you
darken the rest; so that the fable and fiction of Scylla seemeth to
be a lively image of this kind of philosophy or knowledge; which was
transformed into a comely virgin for the upper parts; but then
Candida succinctam latrantibus inguina monstris: so the
generalities of the schoolmen are for a while good and
proportionable; but then when you descend into their distinctions
and decisions, instead of a fruitful womb for the use and benefit of
man's life, they end in monstrous altercations and barking
questions. So as it is not possible but this quality of knowledge
must fall under popular contempt, the people being apt to contemn
truths upon occasion of controversies and altercations, and to think
they are all out of their way which never meet; and when they see
such digladiation about subtleties, and matters of no use or moment,
they easily fall upon that judgment of Dionysius of Syracusa, Verba
ista sunt senum otiosorum.

(7) Notwithstanding, certain it is that if those schoolmen to their
great thirst of truth and unwearied travail of wit had joined
variety and universality of reading and contemplation, they had
proved excellent lights, to the great advancement of all learning
and knowledge; but as they are, they are great undertakers indeed,
and fierce with dark keeping. But as in the inquiry of the divine
truth, their pride inclined to leave the oracle of God's word, and
to vanish in the mixture of their own inventions; so in the
inquisition of nature, they ever left the oracle of God's works, and
adored the deceiving and deformed images which the unequal mirror of
their own minds, or a few received authors or principles, did
represent unto them. And thus much for the second disease of

(8) For the third vice or disease of learning, which concerneth
deceit or untruth, it is of all the rest the foulest; as that which
doth destroy the essential form of knowledge, which is nothing but a
representation of truth: for the truth of being and the truth of
knowing are one, differing no more than the direct beam and the beam
reflected. This vice therefore brancheth itself into two sorts;
delight in deceiving and aptness to be deceived; imposture and
credulity; which, although they appear to be of a diverse nature,
the one seeming to proceed of cunning and the other of simplicity,
yet certainly they do for the most part concur: for, as the verse
noteth -

"Percontatorem fugito, nam garrulus idem est,"

an inquisitive man is a prattler; so upon the like reason a
credulous man is a deceiver: as we see it in fame, that he that
will easily believe rumours will as easily augment rumours and add
somewhat to them of his own; which Tacitus wisely noteth, when he
saith, Fingunt simul creduntque: so great an affinity hath fiction
and belief.

(9) This facility of credit and accepting or admitting things weakly
authorised or warranted is of two kinds according to the subject:
for it is either a belief of history, or, as the lawyers speak,
matter of fact; or else of matter of art and opinion. As to the
former, we see the experience and inconvenience of this error in
ecclesiastical history; which hath too easily received and
registered reports and narrations of miracles wrought by martyrs,
hermits, or monks of the desert, and other holy men, and their
relics, shrines, chapels and images: which though they had a
passage for a time by the ignorance of the people, the superstitious
simplicity of some and the politic toleration of others holding them
but as divine poesies, yet after a period of time, when the mist
began to clear up, they grew to be esteemed but as old wives'
fables, impostures of the clergy, illusions of spirits, and badges
of Antichrist, to the great scandal and detriment of religion.

(10) So in natural history, we see there hath not been that choice
and judgment used as ought to have been; as may appear in the
writings of Plinius, Cardanus, Albertus, and divers of the Arabians,
being fraught with much fabulous matter, a great part not only
untried, but notoriously untrue, to the great derogation of the
credit of natural philosophy with the grave and sober kind of wits:
wherein the wisdom and integrity of Aristotle is worthy to be
observed, that, having made so diligent and exquisite a history of
living creatures, hath mingled it sparingly with any vain or feigned
matter; and yet on the other side hath cast all prodigious
narrations, which he thought worthy the recording, into one book,
excellently discerning that matter of manifest truth, such whereupon
observation and rule was to be built, was not to be mingled or
weakened with matter of doubtful credit; and yet again, that
rarities and reports that seem uncredible are not to be suppressed
or denied to the memory of men.

(11) And as for the facility of credit which is yielded to arts and
opinions, it is likewise of two kinds; either when too much belief
is attributed to the arts themselves, or to certain authors in any
art. The sciences themselves, which have had better intelligence
and confederacy with the imagination of man than with his reason,
are three in number: astrology, natural magic, and alchemy; of
which sciences, nevertheless, the ends or pretences are noble. For
astrology pretendeth to discover that correspondence or
concatenation which is between the superior globe and the inferior;
natural magic pretendeth to call and reduce natural philosophy from
variety of speculations to the magnitude of works; and alchemy
pretendeth to make separation of all the unlike parts of bodies
which in mixtures of natures are incorporate. But the derivations
and prosecutions to these ends, both in the theories and in the
practices, are full of error and vanity; which the great professors
themselves have sought to veil over and conceal by enigmatical
writings, and referring themselves to auricular traditions and such
other devices, to save the credit of impostures. And yet surely to
alchemy this right is due, that it may be compared to the husbandman
whereof AEsop makes the fable; that, when he died, told his sons
that he had left unto them gold buried underground in his vineyard;
and they digged over all the ground, and gold they found none; but
by reason of their stirring and digging the mould about the roots of
their vines, they had a great vintage the year following: so
assuredly the search and stir to make gold hath brought to light a
great number of good and fruitful inventions and experiments, as
well for the disclosing of nature as for the use of man's life.

(12) And as for the overmuch credit that hath been given unto
authors in sciences, in making them dictators, that their words
should stand, and not consuls, to give advice; the damage is
infinite that sciences have received thereby, as the principal cause
that hath kept them low at a stay without growth or advancement.
For hence it hath come, that in arts mechanical the first deviser
comes shortest, and time addeth and perfecteth; but in sciences the
first author goeth furthest, and time leeseth and corrupteth. So we
see artillery, sailing, printing, and the like, were grossly managed
at the first, and by time accommodated and refined; but
contrariwise, the philosophies and sciences of Aristotle, Plato,
Democritus, Hippocrates, Euclides, Archimedes, of most vigour at the
first, and by time degenerate and imbased: whereof the reason is no
other, but that in the former many wits and industries have
contributed in one; and in the latter many wits and industries have
been spent about the wit of some one, whom many times they have
rather depraved than illustrated; for, as water will not ascend
higher than the level of the first spring-head from whence it
descendeth, so knowledge derived from Aristotle, and exempted from
liberty of examination, will not rise again higher than the
knowledge of Aristotle. And, therefore, although the position be
good, Oportet discentem credere, yet it must be coupled with this,
Oportet edoctum judicare; for disciples do owe unto masters only a
temporary belief and a suspension of their own judgment till they be
fully instructed, and not an absolute resignation or perpetual
captivity; and therefore, to conclude this point, I will say no
more, but so let great authors have their due, as time, which is the
author of authors, be not deprived of his due--which is, further and
further to discover truth. Thus have I gone over these three
diseases of learning; besides the which there are some other rather
peccant humours than formed diseases, which, nevertheless, are not
so secret and intrinsic, but that they fall under a popular
observation and traducement, and, therefore, are not to be passed

V. (1) The first of these is the extreme affecting of two
extremities: the one antiquity, the other novelty; wherein it
seemeth the children of time do take after the nature and malice of
the father. For as he devoureth his children, so one of them
seeketh to devour and suppress the other; while antiquity envieth
there should be new additions, and novelty cannot be content to add
but it must deface; surely the advice of the prophet is the true
direction in this matter, State super vias antiquas, et videte
quaenam sit via recta et bona et ambulate in ea. Antiquity
deserveth that reverence, that men should make a stand thereupon and
discover what is the best way; but when the discovery is well taken,
then to make progression. And to speak truly, Antiquitas saeculi
juventus mundi. These times are the ancient times, when the world
is ancient, and not those which we account ancient ordine
retrogrado, by a computation backward from ourselves.

(2) Another error induced by the former is a distrust that anything
should be now to be found out, which the world should have missed
and passed over so long time: as if the same objection were to be
made to time that Lucian maketh to Jupiter and other the heathen
gods; of which he wondereth that they begot so many children in old
time, and begot none in his time; and asketh whether they were
become septuagenary, or whether the law Papia, made against old
men's marriages, had restrained them. So it seemeth men doubt lest
time is become past children and generation; wherein contrariwise we
see commonly the levity and unconstancy of men's judgments, which,
till a matter be done, wonder that it can be done; and as soon as it
is done, wonder again that it was no sooner done: as we see in the
expedition of Alexander into Asia, which at first was prejudged as a
vast and impossible enterprise; and yet afterwards it pleaseth Livy
to make no more of it than this, Nil aliud quam bene ausus vana
contemnere. And the same happened to Columbus in the western
navigation. But in intellectual matters it is much more common, as
may be seen in most of the propositions of Euclid; which till they
be demonstrate, they seem strange to our assent; but being
demonstrate, our mind accepteth of them by a kind of relation (as
the lawyers speak), as if we had known them before.

(3) Another error, that hath also some affinity with the former, is
a conceit that of former opinions or sects after variety and
examination the best hath still prevailed and suppressed the rest;
so as if a man should begin the labour of a new search, he were but
like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection
brought into oblivion; as if the multitude, or the wisest for the
multitude's sake, were not ready to give passage rather to that
which is popular and superficial than to that which is substantial
and profound for the truth is, that time seemeth to be of the nature
of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light
and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and

(4) Another error, of a diverse nature from all the former, is the
over-early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and
methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no
augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly,
do seldom grow to a further stature, so knowledge, while it is in
aphorisms and observations, it is in growth; but when it once is
comprehended in exact methods, it may, perchance, be further
polished, and illustrate and accommodated for use and practice, but
it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.

(5) Another error which doth succeed that which we last mentioned
is, that after the distribution of particular arts and sciences, men
have abandoned universality, or philosophia prima, which cannot but
cease and stop all progression. For no perfect discovery can be
made upon a flat or a level; neither is it possible to discover the
more remote and deeper parts of any science if you stand but upon
the level of the same science, and ascend not to a higher science.

(6) Another error hath proceeded from too great a reverence, and a
kind of adoration of the mind and understanding of man; by means
whereof, men have withdrawn themselves too much from the
contemplation of nature, and the observations of experience, and
have tumbled up and down in their own reason and conceits. Upon
these intellectualists, which are notwithstanding commonly taken for
the most sublime and divine philosophers, Heraclitus gave a just
censure, saying: --"Men sought truth in their own little worlds, and
not in the great and common world;" for they disdain to spell, and
so by degrees to read in the volume of God's works; and contrariwise
by continual meditation and agitation of wit do urge and, as it
were, invocate their own spirits to divine and give oracles unto
them, whereby they are deservedly deluded.

(7) Another error that hath some connection with this latter is,
that men have used to infect their meditations, opinions, and
doctrines with some conceits which they have most admired, or some
sciences which they have most applied, and given all things else a
tincture according to them, utterly untrue and improper. So hath
Plato intermingled his philosophy with theology, and Aristotle with
logic; and the second school of Plato, Proclus and the rest, with
the mathematics; for these were the arts which had a kind of
primogeniture with them severally. So have the alchemists made a
philosophy out of a few experiments of the furnace; and Gilbertus
our countryman hath made a philosophy out of the observations of a
loadstone. So Cicero, when reciting the several opinions of the
nature of the soul, he found a musician that held the soul was but a
harmony, saith pleasantly, Hic ab arte sua non recessit, &c. But of
these conceits Aristotle speaketh seriously and wisely when he
saith, Qui respiciunt ad pauca de facili pronunciant.

(8) Another error is an impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion
without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of
contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken
of by the ancients: the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and
in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the
entrance, but after a while fair and even. So it is in
contemplation: if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end
in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall
end in certainties.

(9) Another error is in the manner of the tradition and delivery of
knowledge, which is for the most part magistral and peremptory, and
not ingenuous and faithful; in a sort as may be soonest believed,
and not easiest examined. It is true, that in compendious treatises
for practice that form is not to be disallowed; but in the true
handling of knowledge men ought not to fall either on the one side
into the vein of Velleius the Epicurean, Nil tam metuens quam ne
dubitare aliqua de revideretur: nor, on the other side, into
Socrates, his ironical doubting of all things; but to propound
things sincerely with more or less asseveration, as they stand in a
man's own judgment proved more or less.

(10) Other errors there are in the scope that men propound to
themselves, whereunto they bend their endeavours; for, whereas the
more constant and devote kind of professors of any science ought to
propound to themselves to make some additions to their science, they
convert their labours to aspire to certain second prizes: as to be
a profound interpreter or commentor, to be a sharp champion or
defender, to be a methodical compounder or abridger, and so the
patrimony of knowledge cometh to be sometimes improved, but seldom

(11) But the greatest error of all the rest is the mistaking or
misplacing of the last or furthest end of knowledge. For men have
entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a
natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain
their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and
reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and
contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom
sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason to the
benefit and use of men: as if there were sought in knowledge a
couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a
terrace for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a
fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself
upon; or a fort or commanding ground, for strife and contention; or
a shop, for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse for the glory
of the Creator and the relief of man's estate. But this is that
which will indeed dignify and exalt knowledge, if contemplation and
action may be more nearly and straitly conjoined and united together
than they have been: a conjunction like unto that of the two
highest planets, Saturn, the planet of rest and contemplation; and
Jupiter, the planet of civil society and action, howbeit, I do not
mean, when I speak of use and action, that end before-mentioned of
the applying of knowledge to lucre and profession; for I am not
ignorant how much that diverteth and interrupteth the prosecution
and advancement of knowledge, like unto the golden ball thrown
before Atalanta, which, while she goeth aside and stoopeth to take
up, the race is hindered,

"Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit." {1}

Neither is my meaning, as was spoken of Socrates, to call philosophy
down from heaven to converse upon the earth--that is, to leave
natural philosophy aside, and to apply knowledge only to manners and
policy. But as both heaven and earth do conspire and contribute to
the use and benefit of man, so the end ought to be, from both
philosophies to separate and reject vain speculations, and
whatsoever is empty and void, and to preserve and augment whatsoever
is solid and fruitful; that knowledge may not be as a courtesan, for
pleasure and vanity only, or as a bond-woman, to acquire and gain to
her master's use; but as a spouse, for generation, fruit, and

(12) Thus have I described and opened, as by a kind of dissection,
those peccant humours (the principal of them) which have not only
given impediment to the proficience of learning, but have given also
occasion to the traducement thereof: wherein, if I have been too
plain, it must be remembered, fidelia vulnera amantis, sed dolosa
oscula malignantis. This I think I have gained, that I ought to be
the better believed in that which I shall say pertaining to
commendation; because I have proceeded so freely in that which
concerneth censure. And yet I have no purpose to enter into a
laudative of learning, or to make a hymn to the Muses (though I am
of opinion that it is long since their rites were duly celebrated),
but my intent is, without varnish or amplification justly to weigh
the dignity of knowledge in the balance with other things, and to
take the true value thereof by testimonies and arguments, divine and

VI. (1) First, therefore, let us seek the dignity of knowledge in
the archetype or first platform, which is in the attributes and acts
of God, as far as they are revealed to man and may be observed with
sobriety; wherein we may not seek it by the name of learning, for
all learning is knowledge acquired, and all knowledge in God is
original, and therefore we must look for it by another name, that of
wisdom or sapience, as the Scriptures call it.

(2) It is so, then, that in the work of the creation we see a double
emanation of virtue from God; the one referring more properly to
power, the other to wisdom; the one expressed in making the
subsistence of the matter, and the other in disposing the beauty of
the form. This being supposed, it is to be observed that for
anything which appeareth in the history of the creation, the
confused mass and matter of heaven and earth was made in a moment,
and the order and disposition of that chaos or mass was the work of
six days; such a note of difference it pleased God to put upon the
works of power, and the works of wisdom; wherewith concurreth, that
in the former it is not set down that God said, "Let there be heaven
and earth," as it is set down of the works following; but actually,
that God made heaven and earth: the one carrying the style of a
manufacture, and the other of a law, decree, or counsel.

(3) To proceed, to that which is next in order from God, to spirits:
we find, as far as credit is to be given to the celestial hierarchy
of that supposed Dionysius, the senator of Athens, the first place
or degree is given to the angels of love, which are termed seraphim;
the second to the angels of light, which are termed cherubim; and
the third, and so following places, to thrones, principalities, and
the rest, which are all angels of power and ministry; so as this
angels of knowledge and illumination are placed before the angels of
office and domination.

(4) To descend from spirits and intellectual forms to sensible and
material forms, we read the first form that was created was light,
which hath a relation and correspondence in nature and corporal
things to knowledge in spirits and incorporal things.

(5) So in the distribution of days we see the day wherein God did
rest and contemplate His own works was blessed above all the days
wherein He did effect and accomplish them.

(6) After the creation was finished, it is set down unto us that man
was placed in the garden to work therein; which work, so appointed
to him, could be no other than work of contemplation; that is, when
the end of work is but for exercise and experiment, not for
necessity; for there being then no reluctation of the creature, nor
sweat of the brow, man's employment must of consequence have been
matter of delight in the experiment, and not matter of labour for
the use. Again, the first acts which man performed in Paradise
consisted of the two summary parts of knowledge; the view of
creatures, and the imposition of names. As for the knowledge which
induced the fall, it was, as was touched before, not the natural
knowledge of creatures, but the moral knowledge of good and evil;
wherein the supposition was, that God's commandments or prohibitions
were not the originals of good and evil, but that they had other
beginnings, which man aspired to know, to the end to make a total
defection from God and to depend wholly upon himself.

(7) To pass on: in the first event or occurrence after the fall of
man, we see (as the Scriptures have infinite mysteries, not
violating at all the truth of this story or letter) an image of the
two estates, the contemplative state and the active state, figured
in the two persons of Abel and Cain, and in the two simplest and
most primitive trades of life; that of the shepherd (who, by reason
of his leisure, rest in a place, and lying in view of heaven, is a
lively image of a contemplative life), and that of the husbandman,
where we see again the favour and election of God went to the
shepherd, and not to the tiller of the ground.

(8) So in the age before the flood, the holy records within those
few memorials which are there entered and registered have vouchsafed
to mention and honour the name of the inventors and authors of music
and works in metal. In the age after the flood, the first great
judgment of God upon the ambition of man was the confusion of
tongues; whereby the open trade and intercourse of learning and
knowledge was chiefly imbarred.

(9) To descend to Moses the lawgiver, and God's first pen: he is
adorned by the Scriptures with this addition and commendation, "That
he was seen in all the learning of the Egyptians," which nation we
know was one of the most ancient schools of the world: for so Plato
brings in the Egyptian priest saying unto Solon, "You Grecians are
ever children; you have no knowledge of antiquity, nor antiquity of
knowledge." Take a view of the ceremonial law of Moses; you shall
find, besides the prefiguration of Christ, the badge or difference
of the people of God, the exercise and impression of obedience, and
other divine uses and fruits thereof, that some of the most learned
Rabbins have travailed profitably and profoundly to observe, some of
them a natural, some of them a moral sense, or reduction of many of
the ceremonies and ordinances. As in the law of the leprosy, where
it is said, "If the whiteness have overspread the flesh, the patient
may pass abroad for clean; but if there be any whole flesh
remaining, he is to be shut up for unclean;" one of them noteth a
principle of nature, that putrefaction is more contagious before
maturity than after; and another noteth a position of moral
philosophy, that men abandoned to vice do not so much corrupt
manners, as those that are half good and half evil. So in this and
very many other places in that law, there is to be found, besides
the theological sense, much aspersion of philosophy.

(10) So likewise in that excellent hook of Job, if it be revolved
with diligence, it will be found pregnant and swelling with natural
philosophy; as for example, cosmography, and the roundness of the
world, Qui extendit aquilonem super vacuum, et appendit terram super
nihilum; wherein the pensileness of the earth, the pole of the
north, and the finiteness or convexity of heaven are manifestly
touched. So again, matter of astronomy: Spiritus ejus ornavit
caelos, et obstetricante manu ejus eductus est Coluber tortuoses.
And in another place, Nunquid conjungere valebis micantes stellas
Pleiadas, aut gyrum Arcturi poteris dissipare? Where the fixing of
the stars, ever standing at equal distance, is with great elegancy
noted. And in another place, Qui facit Arcturum, et Oriona, et
Hyadas, et interiora Austri; where again he takes knowledge of the
depression of the southern pole, calling it the secrets of the
south, because the southern stars were in that climate unseen.
Matter of generation: Annon sicut lac mulsisti me, et sicut caseum
coagulasti me? &c. Matter of minerals: Habet argentum venarum
suarum principia; et auro locus est in quo conflatur, ferrum de
terra tollitur, et lapis solutus calore in aes vertitur; and so
forwards in that chapter.

(11) So likewise in the person of Solomon the king, we see the gift
or endowment of wisdom and learning, both in Solomon's petition and
in God's assent thereunto, preferred before all other terrene and
temporal felicity. By virtue of which grant or donative of God
Solomon became enabled not only to write those excellent parables or
aphorisms concerning divine and moral philosophy, but also to
compile a natural history of all verdure, from the cedar upon the
mountain to the moss upon the wall (which is but a rudiment between
putrefaction and an herb), and also of all things that breathe or
move. Nay, the same Solomon the king, although he excelled in the
glory of treasure and magnificent buildings, of shipping and
navigation, of service and attendance, of fame and renown, and the
like, yet he maketh no claim to any of those glories, but only to
the glory of inquisition of truth; for so he saith expressly, "The
glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the king is to
find it out;" as if, according to the innocent play of children, the
Divine Majesty took delight to hide His works, to the end to have
them found out; and as if kings could not obtain a greater honour
than to be God's playfellows in that game; considering the great
commandment of wits and means, whereby nothing needeth to be hidden
from them.

(12) Neither did the dispensation of God vary in the times after our
Saviour came into the world; for our Saviour himself did first show
His power to subdue ignorance, by His conference with the priests
and doctors of the law, before He showed His power to subdue nature
by His miracles. And the coming of this Holy Spirit was chiefly
figured and expressed in the similitude and gift of tongues, which
are but vehicula scientiae.

(13) So in the election of those instruments, which it pleased God
to use for the plantation of the faith, notwithstanding that at the
first He did employ persons altogether unlearned, otherwise than by
inspiration, more evidently to declare His immediate working, and to
abase all human wisdom or knowledge; yet nevertheless that counsel
of His was no sooner performed, but in the next vicissitude and
succession He did send His divine truth into the world, waited on
with other learnings, as with servants or handmaids: for so we see
St. Paul, who was only learned amongst the Apostles, had his pen
most used in the Scriptures of the New Testament.

(14) So again we find that many of the ancient bishops and fathers
of the Church were excellently read and studied in all the learning
of this heathen; insomuch that the edict of the Emperor Julianus
(whereby it was interdicted unto Christians to be admitted into
schools, lectures, or exercises of learning) was esteemed and
accounted a more pernicious engine and machination against the
Christian Faith than were all the sanguinary prosecutions of his
predecessors; neither could the emulation and jealousy of Gregory,
the first of that name, Bishop of Rome, ever obtain the opinion of
piety or devotion; but contrariwise received the censure of humour,
malignity, and pusillanimity, even amongst holy men; in that he
designed to obliterate and extinguish the memory of heathen
antiquity and authors. But contrariwise it was the Christian
Church, which, amidst the inundations of the Scythians on the one
side from the north-west, and the Saracens from the east, did
preserve in the sacred lap and bosom thereof the precious relics
even of heathen learning, which otherwise had been extinguished, as
if no such thing had ever been.

(15) And we see before our eyes, that in the age of ourselves and
our fathers, when it pleased God to call the Church of Rome to
account for their degenerate manners and ceremonies, and sundry
doctrines obnoxious and framed to uphold the same abuses; at one and
the same time it was ordained by the Divine Providence that there
should attend withal a renovation and new spring of all other
knowledges. And on the other side we see the Jesuits, who partly in
themselves, and partly by the emulation and provocation of their
example, have much quickened and strengthened the state of learning;
we see (I say) what notable service and reparation they have done to
the Roman see.

(16) Wherefore, to conclude this part, let it be observed, that
there be two principal duties and services, besides ornament and
illustration, which philosophy and human learning do perform to
faith and religion. The one, because they are an effectual
inducement to the exaltation of the glory of God. For as the Psalms
and other Scriptures do often invite us to consider and magnify the
great and wonderful works of God, so if we should rest only in the
contemplation of the exterior of them as they first offer themselves
to our senses, we should do a like injury unto the majesty of God,
as if we should judge or construe of the store of some excellent
jeweller by that only which is set out toward the street in his
shop. The other, because they minister a singular help and
preservative against unbelief and error. For our Saviour saith,
"You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God;" laying
before us two books or volumes to study, if we will be secured from
error: first the Scriptures, revealing the will of God, and then
the creatures expressing His power; whereof the latter is a key unto
the former: not only opening our understanding to conceive the true
sense of the Scriptures by the general notions of reason and rules
of speech, but chiefly opening our belief, in drawing us into a due
meditation of the omnipotency of God, which is chiefly signed and
engraven upon His works. Thus much therefore for divine testimony
and evidence concerning the true dignity and value of learning.

VII. (1) As for human proofs, it is so large a field, as in a
discourse of this nature and brevity it is fit rather to use choice
of those things which we shall produce, than to embrace the variety
of them. First, therefore, in the degrees of human honour amongst
the heathen, it was the highest to obtain to a veneration and
adoration as a God. This unto the Christians is as the forbidden
fruit. But we speak now separately of human testimony, according to
which--that which the Grecians call apotheosis, and the Latins
relatio inter divos--was the supreme honour which man could
attribute unto man, specially when it was given, not by a formal
decree or act of state (as it was used among the Roman Emperors),
but by an inward assent and belief. Which honour, being so high,
had also a degree or middle term; for there were reckoned above
human honours, honours heroical and divine: in the attribution and
distribution of which honours we see antiquity made this difference;
that whereas founders and uniters of states and cities, lawgivers,
extirpers of tyrants, fathers of the people, and other eminent
persons in civil merit, were honoured but with the titles of
worthies or demigods, such as were Hercules, Theseus, Minus,
Romulus, and the like; on the other side, such as were inventors and
authors of new arts, endowments, and commodities towards man's life,
were ever consecrated amongst the gods themselves, as was Ceres,
Bacchus, Mercurius, Apollo, and others. And justly; for the merit
of the former is confined within the circle of an age or a nation,
and is like fruitful showers, which though they be profitable and
good, yet serve but for that season, and for a latitude of ground
where they fall; but the other is, indeed, like the benefits of
heaven, which are permanent and universal. The former again is
mixed with strife and perturbation, but the latter hath the true
character of Divine Presence, coming in aura leni, without noise or

(2) Neither is certainly that other merit of learning, in repressing
the inconveniences which grow from man to man, much inferior to the
former, of relieving the necessities which arise from nature, which
merit was lively set forth by the ancients in that feigned relation
of Orpheus' theatre, where all beasts and birds assembled, and,
forgetting their several appetites--some of prey, some of game, some
of quarrel--stood all sociably together listening unto the airs and
accords of the harp, the sound whereof no sooner ceased, or was
drowned by some louder noise, but every beast returned to his own
nature; wherein is aptly described the nature and condition of men,
who are full of savage and unreclaimed desires, of profit, of lust,
of revenge; which as long as they give ear to precepts, to laws, to
religion, sweetly touched with eloquence and persuasion of books, of
sermons, of harangues, so long is society and peace maintained; but
if these instruments be silent, or that sedition and tumult make
them not audible, all things dissolve into anarchy and confusion.

(3) But this appeareth more manifestly when kings themselves, or
persons of authority under them, or other governors in commonwealths
and popular estates, are endued with learning. For although he
might be thought partial to his own profession that said "Then
should people and estates be happy when either kings were
philosophers, or philosophers kings;" yet so much is verified by
experience, that under learned princes and governors there have been
ever the best times: for howsoever kings may have their
imperfections in their passions and customs, yet, if they be
illuminate by learning, they have those notions of religion, policy,
and morality, which do preserve them and refrain them from all
ruinous and peremptory errors and excesses, whispering evermore in
their ears, when counsellors and servants stand mute and silent.
And senators or counsellors, likewise, which be learned, to proceed
upon more safe and substantial principles, than counsellors which
are only men of experience; the one sort keeping dangers afar off,
whereas the other discover them not till they come near hand, and
then trust to the agility of their wit to ward or avoid them.

(4) Which felicity of times under learned princes (to keep still
the law of brevity, by using the most eminent and selected examples)
doth best appear in the age which passed from the death of
Domitianus the emperor until the reign of Commodus; comprehending a
succession of six princes, all learned, or singular favourers and
advancers of learning, which age for temporal respects was the most
happy and flourishing that ever the Roman Empire (which then was a
model of the world) enjoyed--a matter revealed and prefigured unto
Domitian in a dream the night before he was slain: for he thought
there was grown behind upon his shoulders a neck and a head of gold,
which came accordingly to pass in those golden times which
succeeded; of which princes we will make some commemoration;
wherein, although the matter will be vulgar, and may be thought
fitter for a declamation than agreeable to a treatise infolded as
this is, yet, because it is pertinent to the point in hand--Neque
semper arcum tendit Apollo--and to name them only were too naked and
cursory, I will not omit it altogether. The first was Nerva, the
excellent temper of whose government is by a glance in Cornelius
Tacitus touched to the life: Postquam divus Nerva res oluim
insociabiles miscuisset, imperium et libertatem. And in token of
his learning, the last act of his short reign left to memory was a
missive to his adopted son, Trajan, proceeding upon some inward
discontent at the ingratitude of the times, comprehended in a verse
of Homer's -

"Telis, Phoebe, tuis, lacrymas ulciscere nostras."

(5) Trajan, who succeeded, was for his person not learned; but if we
will hearken to the speech of our Saviour, that saith, "He that
receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall have a prophet's
reward," he deserveth to be placed amongst the most learned princes;
for there was not a greater admirer of learning or benefactor of
learning, a founder of famous libraries, a perpetual advancer of
learned men to office, and familiar converser with learned
professors and preceptors who were noted to have then most credit in
court. On the other side how much Trajan's virtue and government
was admired and renowned, surely no testimony of grave and faithful
history doth more lively set forth than that legend tale of
Gregorius Magnum, Bishop of Rome, who was noted for the extreme envy
he bare towards all heathen excellency; and yet he is reported, out
of the love and estimation of Trajan's moral virtues, to have made
unto God passionate and fervent prayers for the delivery of his soul
out of hell, and to have obtained it, with a caveat that he should
make no more such petitions. In this prince's time also the
persecutions against the Christians received intermission upon the
certificate of Plinius Secundus, a man of excellent learning and by
Trajan advanced.

(6) Adrian, his successor, was the most curious man that lived, and
the most universal inquirer: insomuch as it was noted for an error
in his mind that he desired to comprehend all things, and not to
reserve himself for the worthiest things, falling into the like
humour that was long before noted in Philip of Macedon, who, when he
would needs overrule and put down an excellent musician in an
argument touching music, was well answered by him again--"God
forbid, sir," saith he, "that your fortune should be so bad as to
know these things better than I." It pleased God likewise to use
the curiosity of this emperor as an inducement to the peace of His
Church in those days; for having Christ in veneration, not as a God
or Saviour, but as a wonder or novelty, and having his picture in
his gallery matched with Apollonius (with whom in his vain
imagination he thought its had some conformity), yet it served the
turn to allay the bitter hatred of those times against the Christian
name, so as the Church had peace during his time. And for his
government civil, although he did not attain to that of Trajan's in
glory of arms or perfection of justice, yet in deserving of the weal
of the subject he did exceed him. For Trajan erected many famous
monuments and buildings, insomuch as Constantine the Great in
emulation was wont to call him Parietaria, "wall-flower," because
his name was upon so many walls; but his buildings and works were
more of glory and triumph than use and necessity. But Adrian spent
his whole reign, which was peaceable, in a perambulation or survey
of the Roman Empire, giving order and making assignation where he
went for re-edifying of cities, towns, and forts decayed, and for
cutting of rivers and streams, and for making bridges and passages,
and for policing of cities and commonalties with new ordinances and
constitutions, and granting new franchises and incorporations; so
that his whole time was a very restoration of all the lapses and
decays of former times.

(7) Antoninus Pius, who succeeded him, was a prince excellently
learned, and had the patient and subtle wit of a schoolman, insomuch
as in common speech (which leaves no virtue untaxed) he was called
Cymini Sector, a carver or a divider of cummin seed, which is one of
the least seeds. Such a patience he had and settled spirit to enter
into the least and most exact differences of causes, a fruit no
doubt of the exceeding tranquillity and serenity of his mind, which
being no ways charged or encumbered, either with fears, remorses, or
scruples, but having been noted for a man of the purest goodness,
without all fiction or affectation, that hath reigned or lived, made
his mind continually present and entire. He likewise approached a
degree nearer unto Christianity, and became, as Agrippa said unto
St. Paul, "half a Christian," holding their religion and law in good
opinion, and not only ceasing persecution, but giving way to the
advancement of Christians.

(5) There succeeded him the first Divi fratres, the two adoptive
brethren--Lucius Commodus Verus, son to AElius Verus, who delighted
much in the softer kind of learning, and was wont to call the poet
Martial his Virgil; and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus: whereof the
latter, who obscured his colleague and survived him long, was named
the "Philosopher," who, as he excelled all the rest in learning, so
he excelled them likewise in perfection of all royal virtues;
insomuch as Julianus the emperor, in his book entitled Caersares,
being as a pasquil or satire to deride all his predecessors, feigned
that they were all invited to a banquet of the gods, and Silenus the
jester sat at the nether end of the table and bestowed a scoff on
everyone as they came in; but when Marcus Philosophus came in,
Silenus was gravelled and out of countenance, not knowing where to
carp at him, save at the last he gave a glance at his patience
towards his wife. And the virtue of this prince, continued with
that of his predecessor, made the name of Antoninus so sacred in the
world, that though it were extremely dishonoured in Commodus,
Caracalla, and Heliogabalus, who all bare the name, yet, when
Alexander Severus refused the name because he was a stranger to the
family, the Senate with one acclamation said, Quomodo Augustus, sic
et Antoninus. In such renown and veneration was the name of these
two princes in those days, that they would have had it as a
perpetual addition in all the emperors' style. In this emperor's
time also the Church for the most part was in peace; so as in this
sequence of six princes we do see the blessed effects of learning in
sovereignty, painted forth in the greatest table of the world.

(9) But for a tablet or picture of smaller volume (not presuming to
speak of your Majesty that liveth), in my judgment the most
excellent is that of Queen Elizabeth, your immediate predecessor in
this part of Britain; a prince that, if Plutarch were now alive to
write lives by parallels, would trouble him, I think, to find for
her a parallel amongst women. This lady was endued with learning in
her sex singular, and rare even amongst masculine princes--whether
we speak of learning, of language, or of science, modern or ancient,
divinity or humanity--and unto the very last year of her life she
accustomed to appoint set hours for reading, scarcely any young
student in a university more daily or more duly. As for her
government, I assure myself (I shall not exceed if I do affirm) that
this part of the island never had forty-five years of better tines,
and yet not through the calmness of the season, but through the
wisdom of her regiment. For if there be considered, of the one
side, the truth of religion established, the constant peace and
security, the good administration of justice, the temperate use of
the prerogative, not slackened, nor much strained; the flourishing
state of learning, sortable to so excellent a patroness; the
convenient estate of wealth and means, both of crown and subject;
the habit of obedience, and the moderation of discontents; and there
be considered, on the other side, the differences of religion, the
troubles of neighbour countries, the ambition of Spain, and
opposition of Rome, and then that she was solitary and of herself;
these things, I say, considered, as I could not have chosen an
instance so recent and so proper, so I suppose I could not have
chosen one more remarkable or eminent to the purpose now in hand,
which is concerning the conjunction of learning in the prince with
felicity in the people.

(10) Neither hath learning an influence and operation only upon
civil merit and moral virtue, and the arts or temperature of peace
and peaceable government; but likewise it hath no less power and
efficacy in enablement towards martial and military virtue and
prowess, as may be notably represented in the examples of Alexander
the Great and Caesar the Dictator (mentioned before, but now in fit
place to be resumed), of whose virtues and acts in war there needs
no note or recital, having been the wonders of time in that kind;
but of their affections towards learning and perfections in learning
it is pertinent to say somewhat.

(11) Alexander was bred and taught under Aristotle, the great
philosopher, who dedicated divers of his books of philosophy unto
him; he was attended with Callisthenes and divers other learned
persons, that followed him in camp, throughout his journeys and
conquests. What price and estimation he had learning in doth
notably appear in these three particulars: first, in the envy he
used to express that he bare towards Achilles, in this, that he had
so good a trumpet of his praises as Homer's verses; secondly, in the
judgment or solution he gave touching that precious cabinet of
Darius, which was found among his jewels (whereof question was made
what thing was worthy to be put into it, and he gave his opinion for
Homer's works); thirdly, in his letter to Aristotle, after he had
set forth his books of nature, wherein he expostulateth with him for
publishing the secrets or mysteries of philosophy; and gave him to
understand that himself esteemed it more to excel other men in
learning and knowledge than in power and empire. And what use he
had of learning doth appear, or rather shine, in all his speeches
and answers, being full of science and use of science, and that in
all variety.

(12) And herein again it may seem a thing scholastical, and somewhat
idle to recite things that every man knoweth; but yet, since the
argument I handle leadeth me thereunto, I am glad that men shall
perceive I am as willing to flatter (if they will so call it) an
Alexander, or a Caesar, or an Antoninus, that are dead many hundred
years since, as any that now liveth; for it is the displaying of the
glory of learning in sovereignty that I propound to myself, and not
a humour of declaiming in any man's praises. Observe, then, the
speech he used of Diogenes, and see if it tend not to the true state
of one of the greatest questions of moral philosophy: whether the
enjoying of outward things, or the contemning of them, be the
greatest happiness; for when he saw Diogenes so perfectly contented
with so little, he said to those that mocked at his condition, "were
I not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes." But Seneca inverteth
it, and saith, "Plus erat, quod hic nollet accipere, quam quod ille
posset dare." There were more things which Diogenes would have
refused than those were which Alexander could have given or enjoyed.

(13) Observe, again, that speech which was usual with him,--"That he
felt his mortality chiefly in two things, sleep and lust;" and see
if it were not a speech extracted out of the depth of natural
philosophy, and liker to have come out of the mouth of Aristotle or
Democritus than from Alexander.

(14) See, again, that speech of humanity and poesy, when, upon the
bleeding of his wounds, he called unto him one of his flatterers,
that was wont to ascribe to him divine honour, and said, "Look, this
is very blood; this is not such a liquor as Homer speaketh of, which
ran from Venus' hand when it was pierced by Diomedes."

(15) See likewise his readiness in reprehension of logic in the
speech he used to Cassander, upon a complaint that was made against
his father Antipater; for when Alexander happened to say, "Do you
think these men would have come from so far to complain except they
had just cause of grief?" and Cassander answered, "Yea, that was the
matter, because they thought they should not be disproved;" said
Alexander, laughing, "See the subtleties of Aristotle, to take a
matter both ways, pro et contra, &c."

(16) But note, again, how well he could use the same art which he
reprehended to serve his own humour: when bearing a secret grudge
to Callisthenes, because he was against the new ceremony of his
adoration, feasting one night where the same Callisthenes was at the
table, it was moved by some after supper, for entertainment sake,
that Callisthenes, who was an eloquent man, might speak of some
theme or purpose at his own choice; which Callisthenes did, choosing
the praise of the Macedonian nation for his discourse, and
performing the same with so good manner as the hearers were much
ravished; whereupon Alexander, nothing pleased, said, "It was easy
to be eloquent upon so good a subject; but," saith he, "turn your
style, and let us hear what you can say against us;" which
Callisthenes presently undertook, and did with that sting and life
that Alexander interrupted him, and said, "The goodness of the cause
made him eloquent before, and despite made him eloquent then again."

(17) Consider further, for tropes of rhetoric, that excellent use of
a metaphor or translation, wherewith he taxeth Antipater, who was an
imperious and tyrannous governor; for when one of Antipater's
friends commended him to Alexander for his moderation, that he did
not degenerate as his other lieutenants did into the Persian pride,
in uses of purple, but kept the ancient habit of Macedon, of black.
"True," saith Alexander; "but Antipater is all purple within." Or
that other, when Parmenio came to him in the plain of Arbela and
showed him the innumerable multitude of his enemies, specially as
they appeared by the infinite number of lights as it had been a new
firmament of stars, and thereupon advised him to assail them by
night; whereupon he answered, "That he would not steal the victory."

(18) For matter of policy, weigh that significant distinction, so
much in all ages embraced, that he made between his two friends
Hephaestion and Craterus, when he said, "That the one loved
Alexander, and the other loved the king:" describing the principal
difference of princes' best servants, that some in affection love
their person, and other in duty love their crown.

(19) Weigh also that excellent taxation of an error, ordinary with
counsellors of princes, that they counsel their masters according to
the model of their own mind and fortune, and not of their masters.
When upon Darius' great offers Parmenio had said, "Surely I would
accept these offers were I as Alexander;" saith Alexander, "So would
I were I as Parmenio."

(20) Lastly, weigh that quick and acute reply which he made when he
gave so large gifts to his friends and servants, and was asked what
he did reserve for himself, and he answered, "Hope." Weigh, I say,
whether he had not cast up his account aright, because hope must be
the portion of all that resolve upon great enterprises; for this was
Caesar's portion when he went first into Gaul, his estate being then
utterly overthrown with largesses. And this was likewise the
portion of that noble prince, howsoever transported with ambition,
Henry Duke of Guise, of whom it was usually said that he was the
greatest usurer in France, because he had turned all his estate into

(21) To conclude, therefore, as certain critics are used to say
hyperbolically, "That if all sciences were lost they might be found
in Virgil," so certainly this may be said truly, there are the
prints and footsteps of learning in those few speeches which are
reported of this prince, the admiration of whom, when I consider him


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