Of Studies

By Francis Bacon

Edited by Jack Lynch

The text comes from The Essayes or Counsels, Ciuill and Morall, of Francis Lo. Verulam, Viscount St. Alban (London, 1625). The text still has to be proofread against the original, and I hope to add commentary as time permits.

Of Studies.

Studies serue for Delight, for Ornament, and for Ability. Their Chiefe Vse for Delight, is in Priuatenesse and Retiring; For Ornament, is in Discourse; And for Ability, is in the Iudgement and Disposition of Businesse. For Expert Men can Execute, and perhaps Iudge of particulars, one by one; But the generall Counsels, and the Plots, and Marshalling of Affaires, come best from those that are Learned. To spend too much Time in Studies, is Sloth; To vse them too much for Ornament, is Affectation; To make Iudgement wholly by their Rules is the Humour of a Scholler. They perfect Nature, and are perfected, by Experience: For Naturall Abilities, are like Naturall Plants, that need Proyning by Study: And Studies themselues, doe giue forth Directions too much at Large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty Men Contemne Studies; Simple Men Admire them; and Wise Men Vse them: For they teach not their owne Vse; But that is a Wisdome without them, and aboue them, won by Obseruation. Reade not to Contradict, and Confute; Nor to Beleeue and Take for granted; Nor to Finde Talke and Discourse; But to weigh and Consider. Some Bookes are to be Tasted, Others to be Swallowed, and Some Few to be Chewed and Digested: That is, some Bookes are to be read onely in Parts; Others to be read but not Curiously; And some Few to be read wholly, and with Diligence and Attention. Some Bookes also may be read by Deputy, and Extracts made of them by Others: But that would be, onely in the lesse important Arguments, and the Meaner Sort of Bookes: else distilled Bookes, are like Common distilled Waters, Flashy Things. Reading maketh a Full Man; Conference a Ready Man; And Writing an Exact Man. And therefore, If a Man Write little, he had need haue a Great memory; If he Conferre little, he had need haue a Present Wit; And if he Reade litle, he had need haue much Cunning, to seeme to know that, he doth not. Histories make Men Wise; Poets Witty; The Mathematicks Subtill; Naturall Philosophy deepe; Morall Graue; Logick and Rhetorick Able to Contend. Abeunt studia in Mores. Nay there is no Stond or Impediment in the Wit, but may be wrought out by Fit Studies: Like as Diseases of the Body, may haue Appropriate Exercises. Bowling is good for the Stone and Reines; Shooting for the Lungs and Breast; Gentle Walking for the Stomacke; Riding for the Head; And the like. So if a Mans Wit be Wandring, let him Study the Mathematicks; For in Demonstrations, if his Wit be called away neuer so little, he must begin again: If his Wit be not Apt to distinguish or find differences, let him Study the Schoole-men; For they are Cymini sectores. If he be not Apt to beat ouer Matters, and to call vp one Thing, to Proue and Illustrate another, let him Study the Lawyers Cases; So euery Defect of the Minde, may haue a Speciall Receit.