Home  »  Apophthegms New and Old  »  Selected from a Common-Place Book in the Hand-Writing of Dr. Rawley

Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Apophthegms New and Old.  1857.

Some Additional Apophthegms

Selected from a Common-Place Book in the Hand-Writing of Dr. Rawley

[THE MANUSCRIPT 1 from which the following apophthegms are selected bears no date or title. But the contents show that it was a common-place book in which Dr. Rawley entered memoranda from time to time; and a few dates occur incidentally; the earliest of which is 8 September 1626, (five months after Bacon’s death,) and the latest is 25 May 1644. The memoranda are of various kinds, many of them relating to Bacon and his works, many to Dr. Rawley’s private affairs. Among them are a number of anecdotes, some very good, but not stated to be derived from Bacon or otherwise connected with him, and therefore not noticed here. It is true that several of the apophthegms printed by Tenison in the Baconiana, are set down in this manuscript without any hint that Bacon had anything to do with them. It is possible therefore that they too may have been of Dr. Rawley’s own selection; who seems to have had a taste for good stories, and seldom spoiled them. But judging by the style, I think it more probable that most of them were copied from Bacon’s own notes.]   1
  1. Apophthegms. My Lo.: 2 I was the justest judge that was in England these 50 yeares: But it was the justest censure in Parliament that was these 200 yeares.   2
  2. The same Mr. Bacon 3 went towards Finchley to take the air. There had been growing not long before a pretty shady wood. It was then missing: Said Mr. Bacon, Stay, I’ve not lost my thoughts in a wood, but methinks I miss a wood here. Saith a country fellow, It is newly cut down. Said Mr. Bacon, Sure he was but a churl that ought it, to cut down a wood of great pleasure and to reap but small profit into his purse. Said the fellow, It was the Bishop of London. 4 Then answered Mr. Bacon, Oh, was it he: he’s a learned man: it seems this was an obscure place before, and the Bishop hath expounded the text.   3
  3. A flattering courtier undertook to make a comparison betwixt my Lord St. Alban and Treasurer Cranfield. Said he, My Lord St. Alban had a pretty turning wit, and could speak well: but he wanted that profound judgment and solidity of a statesman that my Lord of Middlesex hath. Said a courtier that stood by: Sir I wonder you will disparage your judgment so much as to offer to make any parallel betwixt these two. I’ll tell you what: when these two men shall be recorded in our chronicles to after ages, men will wonder how my Lord St. Alban could fall; and they will wonder how my Lord of Middlesex could rise.   4
  4. There was one would say of one that he thought every man fit for every place. 5   5
  5. My Lord Chancellor told the King, that if he bestowed 7000l. upon Paul’s steeple, he could not lay out his money where it should be more seen.   6
  6. When they sat in commission about reedifying Paul’s steeple, some of the rich aldermen being there, it was motioned to build a new spire upon it. A rich alderman answered; My Lords, you speak of too much cost: Paul’s is old: I think a good cap would do well. My Lord Chancellor, who was for the spire, answered: Mr. Alderman, you that are citizens are for the cap; but we that are courtiers are for the hat and feather.   7
  7. [There was] an old woman whom the minister asked, How many commandments there were. She answered, it was above her learning: she was never taught it. Saith the minister, there are ten. Good Lord (said the old woman) a goodly company. He told them her particularly, and then asked her if she had kept them all? Kept them? (said she:) alas master, I am a poor woman: I have much ado to keep myself.   8
  8. Sir Harry Mountague came to my Lord Chancellor before he went to the court to Newmarket, and told him; My Lord, I come to do my service to your Lordship: I am even going to Newmarket and I hope to bring the staff 6 with me when I come back. My Lord (said my Lord Chancellor) take heed what you do: I can tell you wood is dearest at Newmarket of any place in England.   9
  9. When the said Lord lost his Treasurer’s place, he came to my Lord St. Alban, and told him how they had used him; that though they had taken away the Lord Treasurer’s place, yet they had made him Lord President of the Counsel: Why, saith my Lord St. Alban, the King hath made me an example and you a president. 7   10
  10. When Sergeant Heale who is known to be good in giving in evidence, but otherwise unlearned in the law, was made the Queen’s sergeant, Mr. Bacon said; The Queen should have a sergeant de facto et non de jure.   11
  11. At the King’s Bench bar, Sergeant Heale, before he was the Queen’s sergeant, contended with Mr. Bacon to be first heard; and said, Why I am your ancient: Mr. Bacon gently answered, Not in this place; for I staid here long, and you are come but right now.   12
  12. There was a tall gentleman and a low gentleman were saying they would go to the Shrive’s to dinner; Go, saith the one, and I will be your shadow. Nay, saith the other, I will be your shadow. Mr. Bacon standing by said, I’ll tell you what you shall do: Go to dinner and supper both; and at dinner when [the shadows are] shorter than the bodies, you shall be the shadow; and at supper you shall be the other’s shadow. 8   13
  13. He thought Moses was the greatest sinner that was, for he never knew any break both tables at once but he. 9   14
  14. He said he had feeding swans and breeding swans; but for malice, he thanked God, he neither fed it nor bred it. 10   15
  15. At the Parliament, when King James spied Mr. Gorge, one of my Lord Chancellor’s men, who was somewhat fantastical, and stood by there with one rose white and another black; the King called my Lord unto him, and said easily in his ear; My Lord Chancellor, why does your man yonder wear one rose white and another black? My Lord answered; In truth, Sir, I know not, unless it be that his mistress loves a colt with one white foot.   16
  16. Sir Walter Coape and Sir Francis Bacon were competitors for the Mastership of the Wards. Sir Francis Bacon certainly expecting the place had put most of his men into new cloaks. Afterward when Sir Walter Coape carried the place, one said merrily that Sir Walter was Master of the Wards, and Sir Francis Bacon of the Liveries.   17
  17. My Lord St. Alban said, that wise nature did never put her precious jewels into a garret four stories high: and therefore that exceeding tall men had ever very empty heads. 11   18
  18. My Lord St. Alban invited Sir Ed. Skory to go with him to dinner to a Lord Mayor’s feast. My Lord sate still and picked a little upon one dish only. After they returned to York-house, my Lord wished him to stay and sup with him: and told him he should be witness of the large supper he would make: telling him withal: Faith, if I should sup for a wager, I would dine with a Lord Mayor.   19
  19. Sir Robert Hitcham said, He cared not though men laughed at him: he would laugh at them again. My Lord St. Alban answered, If he did so he would be the merriest man in England.   20
  20. My Lord St. Alban would never say of a Bishop the Lord that spake last, but the Prelate that spake last. King James chid him for it, and said he would have him know that the Bishops were not only Pares, as the other Lords were, but Prælati paribus. 12   21
  21. He was a wise man 13 that gave the reason why a man doth not confess his faults. It is, Quia etiam nunc in illis est.   22
  22. Will you tell any man’s mind before you have conferred with him? So doth Aristotle in raising his axioms upon Nature’s mind.   23
  23. Old Lord Keeper Sir Nicholas Bacon had his barber rubbing and combing his head. Because it was very hot, 14 the window was open to let in a fresh wind. The Lord Keeper fell asleep, and awaked all distempered and in great sweat. Said he to his barber, Why did you let me sleep? Why, my Lord, saith he, I durst not wake your Lordship. Why then, saith my Lord, you have killed me with kindness. So removed into his bed chamber and within a few days died.   24
  24. Four things cause so many rheums in these days, as an old country fellow told my Lord St. Alban. Those were, drinking of beer instead of ale; using glass windows instead of lattice windows; wearing of silk stockings; missing of smoky chimneys.   25
  25. King James and Gondomar were discoursing in Latin. The King spoke somewhat of Tully’s Latin. Gondomar spoke very plain stuff. Gondomar laughed. The King asked him, Why he laughed? He answered, Because your Majesty speaks Latin like a scholar, and I speak Latin like a King.   26
  26. Gondomar said, Compliment was too hot for summer, and too cold in winter. He meant it against the French.   27
  27. King Henry the fourth of France having an oration offered him, and the orator beginning “Great Alexander,” said the King, Come let’s begone.   28
  28. The beggar, that instructed his son, when he saw he would not be handsome, said, You a beggar! I’ll make you a ploughman.   29
  29. Marquis Fiatt’s first compliment to my Lord St. Albans was, That he reverenced him as he did the angels, whom he read of in books, but never saw. 15   30
  30. My Lord Chancellor Ellesmere’s saying of a man newly married; God send him joy, and some sorrow too, as we say in Cheshire. The same my Lord St. Alban said of the Master of the Rolls.   31
  31. My Lord St. Alban said, when Dr. Williams, Dean of Westminster, was made Lord Keeper; I had thought I should have known my successor.   32
  32. My Lord St. Alban having a dog which he loved sick, put him to a woman to keep. The dog died. My Lord met her next day and said, How doth my dog? She answered in a whining tone, and putting her handkerchief to her eye, The dog is well, I hope.   33
  33. The physician that came to my Lord after his recovery, before he was perfectly well. The first time, he told him his pulse was broken-paced; the next time, it tripped; the third day, it jarred a little. My Lord said, he had nothing but good words for his money.   34
  34. Mr. Anthony Bacon chid his man (Prentise) for calling him no sooner. He said, It was very early day. Nay, said Mr. Bacon, the rooks have been up these two hours. He replied, The rooks were but new up: it was some sick rook that could not sleep.   35
  35. [The following is not given in any of these collections, but comes from a letter of Mr. John Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton, 11. Oct. 1617. See Court and Times of James I., ii. p. 38.]   36
  The Queen lately asked the Lord Keeper [Sir F. Bacon], What occasion the Secretary [Sir R. Winwood] had given him to oppose himself so violently against him: who answered prettily, “Madam, I can say no more, but he is proud, and I am proud.”   37
Note 1. See above, p. 322. [back]
Note 2. That is, “my Lord St. Alban said of himself.” This is the first entry in the book, and is set down in a kind of cipher; the consonants being written in Greek characters, and the six vowels represented by the six numerals; 1 = a; 2 = e; 3 = i; 4 = o; 5 = u; 6 = y. [back]
Note 3. In the MS. this follows the story of Bacon and the fishermen at Chelsea. Rawley’s Collection, No. 36. [back]
Note 4. Bishop Aylmer, probably; who died in 1594. See Nichols’s Progr. Eliz. iii. p. 369. [back]
Note 5. This sounds to me very like a note of Bacon’s; though his name is not mentioned. [back]
Note 6. The Lord Treasurer’s staff. [back]
Note 7. So precedent was usually spelt in those days. [back]
Note 8. So the MS. It should be “the other shall be your shadow.” But the thing is better told in a common-place book of Bacon’s own (Harl. MSS. 7017.). “The two that went to a feast both at dinner and supper, neither known, the one a tall, the other a short man; and said they would be one another’s shadows. It was replied, it fell out fit: for at noon the short man might be the long man’s shadow and at night the contrary.” [back]
Note 9. This is written in cipher. [back]
Note 10. This saying is alluded to by Rawley in his Life of Bacon. [back]
Note 11. I have seen this quoted somewhere as Bacon’s answer to King James when pressed for his opinion as to the capacity of a French ambassador who was very tall. [back]
Note 12. This I think must be misreported. It must have been Bacon who defended himself on this ground for preferring “Prelate” to “Peer:” for so Prelate would imply Peer, whereas Peer would not imply Prelate. [back]
Note 13. Seneca, Ep. 53. [back]
Note 14. “The 4 of February [21 Eliz. i. e. 1578–9] …. fell such abundance of snow, &c…. It snowed till the eight day and freezed till the tenth. Then followed a thaw, with continual rain a long time after…. The 20 of February deceased Sir Nicholas Bacon.”—Stowe’s Chronicle. [back]
Note 15. Bacon being ill and confined to his bed, so that though admitted to his room he could not see him. Compare Rawley’s Life of Bacon, Vol. I. p. 56. Tenison (Baconiana, p. 101.) makes Fiatt say, “Your Lordship hath been to me hitherto like the angels, of which I have often heard and read, but never saw them before:” (the words “hitherto” and “before” being his own interpolation, and entirely spoiling the story;) and proceeds, “To which piece of courtship he returned such answer as became a man in those circumstances, ‘Sir, the charity of others does liken me to an angel, but my own infirmities tell me I am a man;’” of which reply there is no hint in Rawley, either in the common-place book or in the life: an addition, I suspect, by a later hand. [back]