Of Praise, Francis Bacon
Praise is the reflection of virtue; but it is as the glass or body which giveth the
reflection. If it be from the common people, it is commonly false and naught; and
rather followeth vain persons than virtuous. For the common people understand
not many excellent virtues. The lowest virtues draw praise from them; the middle
virtues work in them astonishment or admiration; but of the highest virtues they
have no sense of perceiving at all. But shows, and species virtutibus similes
[qualities resembling virtues], serve best with them.
Certainly fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swoln, and drowns
things weighty and solid. But if persons of quality and judgment concur, then it is
(as the Scripture saith) nomen bonum instar unguenti fragrantis [a good name like
unto a sweet ointment]. It filleth all round about, and will not easily away. For the
odors of ointments are more durable than those of flowers. There be so many
false points of praise, that a man may justly hold it a suspect.
Some praises proceed merely of flattery; and if he be an ordinary flatterer, he will
have certain common attributes, which may serve every man; if he be a cunning
flatterer, he will follow the arch-flatterer, which is a man’s self; and wherein a
man thinketh best of himself, therein the flatterer will uphold him most: but if he
be an impudent flatterer, look wherein a man is conscious to himself that he is
most defective, and is most out of countenance in himself, that will the flatterer
entitle him to perforce, spreta conscientia [in disdain of conscience].
Some praises come of good wishes and respects, which is a form due in civility to
kings and great persons, laudando præcipere [to teach in praising], when by
telling men what they are, they represent to them what they should be.
Some men are praised maliciously to their hurt, thereby to stir envy and jealousy
towards them: pessimum genus inimicorum laudantium [the worst kind of
enemies are they that praise]; insomuch as it was a proverb amongst the
Grecians, that he that was praised to his hurt should have a push rise upon his
nose; as we say, that a blister will rise upon one’s tongue that tells a lie. Certainly
moderate praise, used with opportunity, and not vulgar, is that which doth the
good. Solomon saith, He that praiseth his friend aloud, rising early, it shall be to
him no better than a curse. Too much magnifying of man or matter doth irritate
contradiction, and procure envy and scorn. To praise a man’s self cannot be
decent, except it be in rare cases; but to praise a man’s office or profession, he
may do it with good grace, and with a kind of magnanimity.
The cardinals of Rome, which are theologues, and friars, and Schoolmen, have a phrase of notable
contempt and scorn towards civil business: for they call all temporal business of
wars, embassages, judicature, and other employments, shirrerie, which is under-
sheriffries; as if they were but matters for under-sheriffs and catchpoles: though
many times those under-sheriffs do more good than their high speculations. St.
Paul, when he boasts of himself, he doth oft interlace, I speak like a fool; but
speaking of his calling, he saith, magnificabo apostolatum meum [I will magnify
Bacon, Francis. Renascence Editions. Comp. Judy Boss. U of Oregon, 1998. Renascence Editions. The University of Oregon, 1998. Web. 8 Aug. 2016.
As used in line 14, 'suspect' most nearly means ________________?
" There be so many false points of praise, that a man may justly hold it a suspect."