Essays of Francis Bacon
The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, of Francis Ld. Verulam Viscount St. Albans

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Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Of Adversity

IT WAS an high speech of Seneca (after the manner of the Stoics), that the good things, which belong to prosperity, are to be wished; but the good things, that belong to adversity, are to be admired. Bona rerum secundarum optabilia; adversarum mirabilia. Certainly if miracles be the command over nature, they appear most in adversity. It is yet a higher speech of his, than the other (much too high for a heathen), It is true greatness, to have in one the frailty of a man, and the security of a God. Vere magnum habere fragilitatem hominis, securitatem Dei. This would have done better in poesy, where transcendences are more allowed. And the poets indeed have been busy with it; for it is in effect the thing, which figured in that strange fiction of the ancient poets, which seemeth not to be without mystery; nay, and to have some approach to the state of a Christian; that Hercules, when he went to unbind Prometheus (by whom human nature is represented), sailed the length of the great ocean, in an earthen pot or pitcher; lively describing Christian resolution, that saileth in the frail bark of the flesh, through the waves of the world. But to speak in a mean. The virtue of prosperity, is temperance; the virtue of adversity, is fortitude; which in morals is the more heroical virtue. Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New; which carrieth the greater benediction, and the clearer revelation of God’s favor. Yet even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David’s harp, you shall hear as many hearse-like airs as carols; and the pencil of the Holy Ghost hath labored more in describing the afflictions of Job, than the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes; and adversity is not without comforts and hopes. We see in needle-works and embroideries, it is more pleasing to have a lively work, upon a sad and solemn ground, than to have a dark and melancholy work, upon a lightsome ground: judge therefore of the pleasure of the heart, by the pleasure of the eye. Certainly virtue is like precious odors, most fragrant when they are incensed, or crushed: for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.


Preface  •  Of Truth  •  Of Death  •  Of Unity  •  Of Revenge  •  Of Adversity  •  Of Simulation and Dissimulation  •  Of Parents  •  Of Marriage  •  Of Envy  •  Of Love  •  Of Great Place  •  Of Boldness  •  Of Goodness & Goodness of Nature  •  Of Nobility  •  Of Seditions  •  Of Atheism  •  Of Superstition  •  Of Travel  •  Of Empire  •  Of Counsel  •  Of Delays  •  Of Cunning  •  Of Wisdom Fo a Man’s Self  •  Of Innovations  •  Of Dispatch  •  Of Friendship  •  Of Expense  •  Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates  •  Of Regiment  •  Of Health  •  Of Suspicion  •  Of Discourse  •  Of Plantations  •  Of Riches  •  Of Prophecies  •  Of Ambition  •  Of Masques  •  Of Nature  •  Of Custom  •  Of Fortune  •  Of Usury  •  Of Beauty  •  Of Deformity  •  Of Building  •  Of Gardens  •  Of Negotiating  •  Of Followers and Friends  •  Of Suitors  •  Of Studies  •  Of Faction  •  Of Ceremonies and Respects  •  Of Praise  •  Of Vain-glory  •  Of Honor and Reputation  •  Of Judicature  •  Of Anger  •  Of Vicissitude of Things  •  Of Fame  •