Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Francis Bacon

English Scientist, Author, Philosopher

"As it asketh some knowledge to demand a question not impertinent, so it requireth some sense to make a wish not absurd."

"Atheism is rather in the life than in the heart of man."

"As threshing separates the corn from the chaff, so does affliction purify virtue."

"Crafty men condemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them."

"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."

"Discretion of speech is more than eloquence; and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal is more than to speak in good words or in good order."

"But little do men perceive what solitude is, and how far its extendeth. For a crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures; and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love."

"Bashfulness is a great hindrance to a man, both in uttering his sentiments and in understanding what is proposed to him; it is therefore good to press forward with discretion, both in discourse and company of the better sort."

"Custom is the most perfect when it beginneth in young years: this we call education; which is, in effect, but an early custom."

"Duty is subdivided into two parts: the common duty of every man, as a man or member of a state; the other, the respective or special duty of every man, in his profession, vocation, and place."

"For truth is rightly named the daughter of time, not of authority."

"Goodness answers to the theological virtue charity, and admits no excess but error. The desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall; the desire of knowledge in excess caused man to fall. But in charity there is no excess; neither can angel or man come in danger by it."

"He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other."

"He that defers his charity until he is dead is, if a man weighs it rightly, rather liberal of another man’s good than his own."

"I cannot call riches by a better name than the "baggage" of virtue; the Roman word is better, "impediment." For as the baggage is to an army, so are riches to virtue. It cannot be spared or left behind, and yet it hindereth the march; yea, and the care of it sometimes loseth or disturbeth the victory. Of great riches there is no real use, except in the distribution; the rest is but conceit."

"In taking revenge a man is but equal to his enemy, but in passing it over he is his superior."

"In terms of religion, it is man’s duty to continue his quest for truth, especially with regard to the afterlife."

"Is the ultimate purpose of life on Earth to evolve spirit out of matter?"

"It is a mere and miserable solitude to want true friends, without which the world is but a wilderness; and even in this scene also of solitude, whosoever in the frame of his nature and affections is unfit for friendship he taketh it of the beast, and not from humanity."

"If vices were profitable, the virtuous man would be the sinner."

"Love is ever rewarded with the reciprocal, or with an inward and secret contempt."

"It is good discretion not to make too much of any man at the first; because one cannot hold out that proportion."

"Men’s thoughts are as much according to their inclination; their discourse and speeches according to their learning and infused opinions; but their deeds are after as they have been accustomed."

"Lucid intervals and happy pauses."

"No Man prospers so suddenly as by others' Errours."

"No man is angry that feels not himself hurt."

"Nothing is terrible, except fear itself... revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to week it out... Certainly, in taking revenge a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince's part to pardon. This is certain, the man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well."

"Silence is the virtue of a fool."

"Our humanity were a poor thing but for the divinity that stirs within us."

"The folly of one man is the fortune of another. For no man prospers so suddenlyu a by others’ errors."

"The deceiving of the senses is one of the pleasures of the senses."

"The commandment of knowledge is yet higher than the commandment over the will: for it is a commandment over the reason, belief, and understanding of man, which is the highest part of the mind, and giveth law to the will itself. For there is no power on earth which setteth up a throne or chair of estate in the spirits and souls of men, and in their cogitations, imaginations, opinions, and beliefs, but knowledge and learning."

"The human understanding, from its peculiar nature, easily supposes a greater degree of order and equality in things than it really finds."

"The mind is far from the nature of a clear and equal glass, wherein the beams of things should reflect according to their true incidence; nay, it is rather like an enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture, if it be not delivered and reduced."

"The joys of parents are secret; and so are their griefs and fears. They cannot utter the one; nor they will not utter the other. Children sweeten labors; but they make misfortunes more bitter. They increase the cares of life; but they mitigate the remembrance of death. The perpetuity by generation is common to beasts; but memory, merit, and noble works are proper to men."

"The Virtue of Prosperity is Temperance; the Virtue of Adversity is Fortitude: which in Morals is the more Heroical Virtue."

"There is nothing that makes a man suspect much, more than to know little; and, therefore, men should remember suspicion by procuring to know more, and not to keep their suspicions to smother."

"They that deny a God destroy man’s nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and, if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature."

"There is 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 within bounds."

"To seek to extinguish anger utterly is but a bravery of the Stoics."

"There is this difference between happiness and wisdom: he that thinks himself the happiest man is really so; but he that thinks himself the wisest is generally the greatest fool."

"A prudent question is one-half of wisdom."

"A healthy body is a guest-chamber for the soul; a sick body is a prison."

"A little philosophy inclineth a man to atheism. Depth in philosophy brings a man back to God."

"Virtue, being a transcendent gem, is better set without much gold and ornament."

"All must respect those who respect themselves."

"Anger makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor."

"An angry man who suppresses his passions thinks worse than he speaks; and an angry man that will chide speaks worse than he thinks."

"All motion or natural action takes place in time, more or less rapidly, but still in determined moments well ascertained by nature. Even those actions which appear to take effect suddenly, and in the twinkling of an eye (as we express it), are found to admit of greater or less rapidity."

"All the crimes on earth do not destroy so much of the human race, nor alienate so much property as drunkenness."