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The fragment entitled Of the Colours of Good and Evil (the beginning of a collection of colourable arguments on questions of good and evil, with answers to them,) appears in a more perfect shape, though still a fragment, in the sixth book of the De Augmentis Scientiarum ; see Vol. I. p. 674. As it stands here, it formed part of Bacon's earliest publication; being printed in the same volume with the Essays and Meditationes Sacræ (1597), in the title of which it is called “ Places of persuasion and dissuasion ;” and was probably composed not long before.
In a bundle of manuscripts in the British Museum (of which a more particular account will be found, under the title of Promus of Formularies and Elegancies, further on in this volume), written in Bacon's hand and apparently about the years 1595 and 1596, there is a considerable collection of these “colours ;” but being set down without the explanations, and with only here and there a note to suggest the answer, they are valuable only as an example of his manner of working and of the activity of his industry. There are seventy or eighty altogether. The following are on a separate sheet, and may serve as a specimen of the least naked of them.
Semblances or popularities of good and evill, with their redargutions ;
for Deliberacions. Cujus contrarium malum bonum ; cujus bonum malum.
Non tenet in iis rebus quarum vis in temperamento et mensurâ sita est. Dum vitant stulti vitia in contraria currunt.
Media via nulla est quæ nec amicos parit nec inimicos tollit,
Solon's law that in states every man should declare himself of one faction. Neutralitye.
Utinam esses calidus aut frigidus : sed quoniam tepidus es eveniet ut te expuam ex ore meo.
Dixerunt fatui medium tenuere beati.
Cujus origo occasio bona, bonum : cujus mala malum.
Non tenet in iis malis quæ vel mentem informant, vel affectum corrigunt, sive resipiscentiam inducendo sive necessitatem, nec etiam in fortuitis.
No man gathereth grapes of thornes nor figges of thistells.
Ex malis moribus bonæ leges.
Many effects like the serpent that devoureth her moother, so they destroy their first cause, as inopia, luxuria &c.
The fashon of D. Hect. to the dames of Lond. your way is to be sicker.
Usque adeo latet utilitas.
Quod ad bonum finem dirigitur bonum, quod ad malum malum.'
The sheet on which this is written, and of which the rest is left blank, is docqueted in Bacon's hand, but apparently at a later period, Philologue, Colors of Good and Evill.
From the character of these “ redargutions," or hints for redargution, (and the rest are of the same kind, only rather less full,) compared with the more finished expositions which will be found in the fragment which follows, there can be little doubt that they are of earlier date. I suppose that Bacon shortly after selected a few of the Colours which he had thus gathered together, and finished them according to the form of the intended treatise.
The fragment was first published, and probably first printed, along with the first edition of the Essays ; for it begins on the same sheet which contains the last of the Meditationes Sacra, of which the first begins on the same sheet which contains the last essay. A copy of it appears however to have been sent separately (and probably in MS.) to Lord Mountjoy, to whom it was originally dedicated, or meant to be dedicated; for a manuscript volume in the library of Queen's College, Oxford, consisting of old copies of Bacon's early letters (the same apparently, or a copy of the same, from which Dr. Rawley printed his supplementary collection in the Resuscitatio), contains a letter to Lord Mountjoy, evidently referring to this fragment, in some form of it. In the common editions of Bacon's works this letter is stated to be “from the original draught in the library of Queen's College" &c. But this is a mistake. The copies in the volume to which I refer have been taken for original draughts because the copyist has been hasty and careless and had often to correct himself as he went on. But the hand is certainly not Bacon's; and if the order in which the letters succeed each other be examined, it will appear that they could not possibly be original draughts.
1 Harl. MSS. 7017. fo. 128.
The letter has no date, and runs thus :
“My very good Lord,
Finding by my last going to my lodge at Twicnam and tossing over my papers, somewhat that I thought mought like you, I had neither leisure to perfect them, nor the patience to expect leisure. So impatient was I to make demonstration of my honourable love towards you and to increase your good love towards me. And I would not have your Lordship conceive, though it bę my manner and rule to keep state in contemplative matters (si quis venerit nomine suo, eum recipietis), that I think so well of the collection as I seem to do; and yet I dare not take too much from it, because I have chosen to dedicate it to you. To be short, it is the honour I can do to you at this time. And so I commend me to your love and honourable friendship.”
Another paper headed “Mr. Francis Bacon of the Collors of good and evyll, to the Lo. Mountjoye” was found by Stephens among Lord Oxford's MSS. and printed in his “ second collection:” since which time it has commonly been prefixed to the tract itself, as if it formed part of the original edition ; which is not the case. Neither in the edition of 1597, nor in any of the many reprints of it which had appeared before, is there any separate dedication prefixed to this fragment. The manuscript however from which Stephens took it (Harl. MSS. 6797. No. 6.) is in a contemporary hand, and one which has been employed in transcribing other papers undoubtedly of Bacon's composition: and I have no doubt that the letter in question was written by Bacon with the intention (whether fulfilled or not) of prefixing it to the work — then perhaps meant only for private circulation in manuscript-by way of dedication. And here it is.
“MR. FRANCIS Bacon of the colours of good and evil, to
THE LORD MOUNTJOYE.
I send you the last part of the best book of Aristotle of Stagira, who (as your Lordship knoweth) goeth for the best author. But (saving the civil respect which is due to a received estimation) the man being a Grecian and of a basty wit, having hardly a discerning patience, much less a teaching patience, hath so delivered the matter, as I am glad to do the part of a good househen, which without any strangeness will sit upon pheasants' eggs. And yet perchance some that shall compare my lines with Aristotle's lines, will muse by what art, or rather by what revelation, I could draw these conceits out of that place. But I, that should know best, do freely acknowledge that I had my light from him; for where he gave me not matter to perfect, at the least he gave me occasion to invent. Wherein as I do him right, being myself a man that am as free from envying the dead in contemplation, as from envying the living in action or fortune: so yet nevertheless still I say, and I speak it more largely than before, that in perusing the writings of this person so much celebrated, whether it were the impediment of his wit, or that he did it upon glory and affectation to be subtile, as one that if he had seen his own conceits clearly and perspicuously delivered, perhaps would have been out of love with them himself; or else upon policy to keep himself close, as one that had been a challenger of all the world, and had raised infinite contradiction : to what cause soever it is to be ascribed, I do not find him to deliver and unwrap himself well of that he seemeth to conceive, nor to be a master of his own knowledge. Neither do I for my part also, (though I have brought in a new manner of handling this argument to make it pleasant and lightsome,) pretend so to have overcome the nature of the subject, but that the full understanding and use of it will be somewhat dark, and best pleasing the tastes of such wits as are patient to stay the digesting and soluting unto themselves of that which is sharp and subtile. Which was the cause, joined with the love and honour which I bear to your Lordship, as the person I know to have many virtues and an excellent order of them, which moved me to dedicate this writing to your Lordship; after the ancient manner : choosing both a friend, and one to whom I conceive the argument was agreeable.”
This fragment was never reprinted by Bacon himself, but is appended to most of the reprints of the Essays which were published by other people both during his life and for some years after. I have collated it with the original copy in the British Museum, and inserted translations of the Latin sentences.