by Francis Bacon
There be none of the affections, which have been noted
to fascinate or bewitch, but love and envy. They both have vehement wishes;
they frame themselves readily into imaginations and suggestions; and they
come easily into the eye, especially upon the present of the objects;
which are the points that conduce to fascination, if any such thing there
be. See likewise, the Scripture calleth envy an evil eye; and the astrologers,
call the evil influences of the stars, evil aspects; so that still there
seemeth to be acknowledged, in the act of envy, an ejaculation or irradiation
of the eye. Nay, some have been so curious, as to note, that the times
when the stroke or percussion of an envious eye doth most hurt, are when
the party envied is beheld in glory or triumph; for that sets an edge
upon envy: and besides, at such times the spirits of the person envied,
do come forth most into the outward parts, and so meet the blow.
But leaving these curiosities (though not unworthy to be thought on, in
fit place), we will handle, what persons are apt to envy others; what
persons are most subject to be envied themselves; and what is the difference
between public and private envy.
A man that hath no virtue in himself, ever envieth virtue in others. For
men's minds, will either feed upon their own good, or upon others' evil;
and who wanteth the one, will prey upon the other; and whoso is out of
hope, to attain to another's virtue, will seek to come at even hand, by
depressing another's fortune.
A man that is busy, and inquisitive, is commonly envious. For to know
much of other men's matters, cannot be because all that ado may concern
his own estate; therefore it must needs be, that he taketh a kind of play-pleasure,
in looking upon the fortunes of others. Neither can he, that mindeth but
his own business, find much matter for envy. For envy is a gadding passion,
and walketh the streets, and doth not keep home: Non est curiosus, quin
idem sit malevolus.
Men of noble birth, are noted to be envious towards new men, when they
rise. For the distance is altered, and it is like a deceit of the eye,
that when others come on, they think themselves, go back.
Deformed persons, and eunuchs, and old men, and bastards, are envious.
For he that cannot possibly mend his own case, will do what he can, to
impair another's; except these defects light upon a very brave, and heroical
nature, which thinketh to make his natural wants part of his honor; in
that it should be said, that an eunuch, or a lame man, did such great
matters; affecting the honor of a miracle; as it was in Narses the eunuch,
and Agesilaus and Tamberlanes, that were lame men. The same is the case
of men, that rise after calamities and misfortunes. For they are as men
fallen out with the times; and think other men's harms, a redemption of
their own sufferings.
They that desire to excel in too many matters, out of levity and vain
glory, are ever envious. For they cannot want work; it being impossible,
but many, in some one of those things, should surpass them. Which was
the character of Adrian the Emperor; that mortally envied poets, and painters,
and artificers, in works wherein he had a vein to excel.
Lastly, near kinsfolks, and fellows in office, and those that have been
bred together, are more apt to envy their equals, when they are raised.
For it doth upbraid unto them their own fortunes, and pointeth at them,
and cometh oftener into their remembrance, and incurreth likewise more
into the note of others; and envy ever redoubleth from speech and fame.
Cain's envy was the more vile and malignant, towards his brother Abel,
because when his sacrifice was better accepted, there was no body to look
on. Thus much for those, that are apt to envy .
Concerning those that are more or less subject to envy: First, persons
of eminent virtue, when they are advanced, are less envied. For their
fortune seemeth, but due unto them; and no man envieth the payment of
a debt, but rewards and liberality rather. Again, envy is ever joined
with the comparing of a man's self; and where there is no comparison,
no envy; and therefore kings are not envied, but by kings. Nevertheless
it is to be noted, that unworthy persons are most envied, at their first
coming in, and afterwards overcome it better; whereas contrariwise, persons
of worth and merit are most envied, when their fortune continueth long.
For by that time, though their virtue be the same, yet it hath not the
same lustre; for fresh men grow up that darken it.
Persons of noble blood, are less envied in their rising. For it seemeth
but right done to their birth. Besides, there seemeth not much added to
their fortune; and envy is as the sunbeams, that beat hotter upon a bank,
or steep rising ground, than upon a flat. And for the same reason, those
that are advanced by degrees, are less envied than those that are advanced
suddenly and per saltum.
Those that have joined with their honor great travels, cares, or perils,
are less subject to envy. For men think that they earn their honors hardly,
and pity them sometimes; and pity ever healeth envy. Wherefore you shall
observe, that the more deep and sober sort of politic persons, in their
greatness, are ever bemoaning themselves, what a life they lead; chanting
a quanta patimur! Not that they feel it so, but only to abate the edge
of envy. But this is to be understood, of business that is laid upon men,
and not such, as they call unto themselves. For nothing increaseth envy
more, than an unnecessary and ambitious engrossing of business. And nothing
doth extinguish envy than for a great person to preserve all other inferior
officers, in their full rights and pre-eminences of their places. For
by that means, there be so many screens between him and envy.
Above all, those are most subject to envy, which carry the greatness of
their fortunes, in an insolent and proud manner; being never well, but
while they are showing how great they are, either by outward pomp, or
by triumphing over all opposition or competition; whereas wise men will
rather do sacrifice to envy, in suffering themselves sometimes of purpose
to be crossed, and overborne in things that do not much concern them.
Notwithstanding, so much is true, that the carriage of greatness, in a
plain and open manner (so it be without arrogancy and vain glory) doth
draw less envy, than if it be in a more crafty and cunning fashion. For
in that course, a man doth but disavow fortune; and seemeth to be conscious
of his own want in worth; and doth but teach others, to envy him.
Lastly, to conclude this part; as we said in the beginning, that the act
of envy had somewhat in it of witchcraft, so there is no other cure of
envy, but the cure of witchcraft; and that is to remove the lot (as they
call it) and to lay it upon another. For which purpose, the wiser sort
of great persons, bring in ever upon the stage somebody upon whom to derive
the envy, that would come upon themselves; sometimes upon ministers and
servants; sometimes upon colleagues and associates; and the like; and
for that turn there are never wanting, some persons of violent and undertaking
natures, who, so they may have power and business, will take it at any
Now, to speak of public envy. There is yet some good in public envy, whereas
in private, there is none. For public envy, is as an ostracism, that eclipseth
men, when they grow too great. And therefore it is a bridle also to great
ones, to keep them within bounds.
This envy, being in the Latin word invidia, goeth in the modern language,
by the name of discontentment; of which we shall speak, in handling sedition.
It is a disease, in a state, like to infection. For as infection spreadeth
upon that which is sound, and tainteth it; so when envy is gotten once
into a state, it traduceth even the best actions thereof, and turneth
them into an ill odor. And therefore there is little won, by intermingling
of plausible actions. For that doth argue but a weakness, and fear of
envy, which hurteth so much the more, as it is likewise usual in infections;
which if you fear them, you call them upon you.
This public envy, seemeth to beat chiefly upon principal officers or ministers,
rather than upon kings, and estates themselves. But this is a sure rule,
that if the envy upon the minister be great, when the cause of it in him
is small; or if the envy be general, in a manner upon all the ministers
of an estate; then the envy (though hidden) is truly upon the state itself.
And so much of public envy or discontentment, and the difference thereof
from private envy, which was handled in the first place.
We will add this in general, touching the affection of envy; that of all
other affections, it is the most importune and continual. For of other
affections, there is occasion given, but now and then; and therefore it
was well said, Invidia festos dies non agit: for it is ever working upon
some or other. And it is also noted, that love and envy do make a man
pine, which other affections do not, because they are not so continual.
It is also the vilest affection, and the most depraved; for which cause
it is the proper attribute of the devil, who is called, the envious man,
that soweth tares amongst the wheat by night; as it always cometh to pass,
that envy worketh subtilly, and in the dark, and to the prejudice of good
things, such as is the wheat.