Archives for 17 June 2012

Francis Bacon on fortune

It cannot be denied, but outward accidents conduce much to fortune; favor, opportunity, death of others, occasion fitting virtue. But chiefly, the mould of a man’s fortune is in his own hands. Faber quisque fortunæ suæ,1 saith the poet. And the most frequent of external causes is, that the folly of one man is the fortune of another. For no man prospers so suddenly as by others’ errors. Serpens nisi serpentem comederit non fit draco.2 . . .

The way of fortune is like the Milken Way in the sky; which is a meeting or knot of a number of small stars; not seen asunder, but giving light together. So are there a number of little and scarce discerned virtues, or rather faculties and customs, that make men fortunate. The Italians note some of them, such as a man would little think. When they speak of one that cannot do amiss, they will throw in into his other conditions, that he hath Poco di matto3.

—Francis Bacon, ‘Of Fortune’


1Everyone is the architect of his own fortune.

2A serpent does not become a dragon unless he has eaten another serpent.

3A touch of the lunatic.