The Art of Worldly Wisdom, by Balthasar Gracian, tr. by Joseph Jacobs, , at sacred-texts.com
cl Know to get your Price for Things.
Their intrinsic value is not sufficient; for all do not bite at the kernel or look into the interior. Most go with the crowd, and go because they see others go. It is a great stroke of art to bring things into repute; at times by praising them, for praise arouses desire at times by giving them a striking name, which is very useful for putting things at a premium, provided it is done without affectation. Again, it is generally an inducement to profess to supply only connoisseurs, for all think themselves such, and if not, the sense of want arouses the desire. Never call things easy or common: that makes them depreciated rather than made accessible. All rush after the unusual, which is more appetising both for the taste and for the intelligence.
cli Think beforehand.
To-day for to-morrow, and even for many days hence. The greatest foresight consists in determining beforehand the time of trouble. For the provident there are no mischances and
for the careful no narrow escapes. We must not put off thought till we are up to the chin in mire. Mature reflection can get over the most formidable difficulty. The pillow is a silent Sibyl, and it is better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterwards. Many act first and then think afterwards—that is, they think less of consequences than of excuses: others think neither before nor after. The whole of life should be one course of thought how not to miss the right path. Rumination and foresight enable one to determine the line of life.
clii Never have a Companion who casts you in the Shade.
The more he does so, the less desirable a companion he is. The more he excels in quality the more in repute: he will always play first fiddle and you second. If you get any consideration, it is only his leavings. The moon shines bright alone among the stars: when the sun rises she becomes either invisible or imperceptible. Never join one that eclipses you, but rather one who sets you in a brighter light. By this means the cunning Fabula in Martial was able to appear beautiful and
brilliant, owing to the ugliness and disorder of her companions. But one should as little imperil oneself by an evil companion as pay honour to another at the cost of one's own credit. When you are on the way to fortune associate with the eminent; when arrived, with the mediocre.
cliii Beware of entering where there is a great Gap to be filled.
But if you do it be sure to surpass your predecessor; merely to equal him requires twice his worth. As it is a fine stroke to arrange that our successor shall cause us to be wished back, so it is policy to see that our predecessor does not eclipse us. To fill a great gap is difficult, for the past always seems best, and to equal the predecessor is not enough, since he has the right of first possession. You must therefore possess additional claims to oust the other from his hold on public opinion.
cliv Do not Believe, or Like, lightly.
Maturity of mind is best shown in slow belief. Lying is the usual thing; then let belief be unusual. He that is lightly led away, soon falls into contempt. At the same
time there is no necessity to betray your doubts in the good faith of others, for this adds insult to discourtesy, since you make out your informant to be either deceiver or deceived. Nor is this the only evil: want of belief is the mark of the liar, who suffers from two failings: he neither believes nor is believed. Suspension of judgment is prudent in a hearer: the speaker can appeal to his original source of in-formation. There is a similar kind of imprudence in liking too easily, for lies may be told by deeds as well as in words, and this deceit is more dangerous for practical life.
clv The Art of getting into a Passion.
If possible, oppose vulgar importunity with prudent reflection; it will not be difficult for a really prudent man. The first step towards getting into a passion is to announce that you are in a passion. By this means you begin the conflict with command over your temper, for one has to regulate one's passion to the exact point that is necessary and no further. This is the art of arts in falling into and getting out of a rage. You should know how and when best to come to a stop: it is most difficult to halt while running at the double. It is a great
proof of wisdom to remain clear-sighted during paroxysms of rage. Every excess of passion is a digression from rational conduct. But by this masterly policy reason will never be transgressed, nor pass the bounds of its own synteresis. To keep control of passion one must hold firm the reins of attention: he who can do so will be the first man "wise on horseback," and probably the last.
clvi Select your Friends.
Only after passing the matriculation of experience and the examination of fortune will they be graduates not alone in affection but in discernment. Though this is the most important thing in life, it is the one least cared for. Intelligence brings friends to some, chance to most. Yet a man is judged by his friends, for there was never agreement between wise men and fools. At the same time, to find pleasure in a man's society is no proof of near friendship: it may come from the pleasantness of his company more than from trust in his capacity. There are some friendships legitimate, others illicit; the latter for pleasure, the former for their fecundity of ideas and motives. Few are the friends of a man's self, most those of
his circumstances. The insight of a true friend is more useful than the goodwill of others: therefore gain them by choice, not by chance. A wise friend wards off worries, a foolish one brings them about. But do not wish them too much luck, or you may lose them.
civil Do not make Mistakes about Character.
That is the worst and yet easiest error. Better be cheated in the price than in the quality of goods. In dealing with men, more than with other things, it is necessary to look within. To know men is different from knowing things. It is profound philosophy to sound the depths of feeling and distinguish traits of character. Men must be studied as deeply as books.
clviii Make use of your Friends.
This requires all the art of discretion. Some are good afar off, some when near. Many are no good at conversation but excellent as correspondents, for distance removes some failings which are unbearable in close proximity to them. Friends are for use even more than for pleasure, for they have the three qualities of the Good, or, as some say, of Being
in general: unity, goodness, and truth. For a friend is all in all. Few are worthy to be good friends, and even these become fewer because men do not know how to pick them out. To keep is more important than to make friends. Select those that will wear well; if they are new at first, it is some consolation they will become old. Absolutely the best are those well salted, though they may require soaking in the testing. There is no desert like living without friends. Friendship multiplies the good of life and divides the evil. ’Tis the sole remedy against misfortune, the very ventilation of the soul.
clix Put up with Fools.
The wise are always impatient, for he that increases knowledge increase impatience of folly. Much knowledge is difficult to satisfy. The first great rule of life, according to Epictetus, is to put up with things: he makes that the moiety of wisdom. To put up with all the varieties of folly would need much patience. We often have to put up with most from those on whom we most depend: a useful lesson in self-control. Out of patience comes forth peace, the priceless boon which is the happiness
of the world. But let him that bath no power of patience retire within himself, though even there he will have to put up with himself.
clx Be careful in Speaking.
With your rivals from prudence; with others for the sake of appearance. There is always time to add a word, never to withdraw one. Talk as if you were making your will: the fewer words the less litigation. In trivial matters exercise yourself for the more weighty matters of speech. Profound secrecy has some of the lustre of the divine. He who speaks lightly soon falls or fails.
clxi Know your pet Faults.
The most perfect of men has them, and is either wedded to them or has illicit relations with them. They are often faults of intellect, and the greater this is, the greater they are, or at least the more conspicuous. It is not so much that their possessor does not know them: he loves them, which is a double evil: irrational affection for avoidable faults. They are spots on perfection; they displease the onlooker as much as they please the possessor. ’Tis a gallant thing to get clear of them, and so give play to one's other qualities. For all
men hit upon such a failing, and on going over your qualifications they make a long stay at this blot, and blacken it as deeply as possible in order to cast your other talents into the shade.
clxii How to triumph over Rivals and Detractors.
It is not enough to despise them, though this is often wise: a gallant bearing is the thing. One cannot praise a man too much who speaks well of them who speak ill of him. There is no more heroic vengeance than that of talents and services which at once conquer and torment the envious. Every success is a further twist of the cord round the neck of the ill-affected, and an enemy's glory is the rival's hell. The envious die not once, but as oft as the envied wins applause. The immortality of his fame is the measure of the other's torture: the one lives in endless honour, the other in endless pain. The clarion of Fame announces immortality to the one and death to the other, the slow death of envy long drawn out.
clxiii Never, from Sympathy with the Unfortunate, involve Yourself in his Fate.
One man's misfortune is another man's luck,
for one cannot be lucky without many being unlucky. It is a peculiarity of the unfortunate to arouse people's goodwill who desire to compensate them for the blows of fortune with their useless favour, and it happens that one who was abhorred by all in prosperity is adored by all in adversity. Vengeance on the wing is exchanged for compassion afoot. Yet ’tis to be noticed how fate shuffles the cards. There are men who always consort with the unlucky, and he that yesterday flew high and happy stands to-day miserable at their side. That argues nobility of soul, but not worldly wisdom.
clxiv Throw Straws in the Air,
to find how things will be received, especially those whose reception or success is doubtful. One can thus be assured of its turning out well, and an opportunity is afforded for going on in earnest or withdrawing entirely. By trying men's intentions in this way, the wise man knows on what ground he stands. This is the great rule of foresight in asking, in desiring, and in ruling.
clxv Wage War Honourably.
You may be obliged to wage war, but not to
use poisoned arrows. Every one must needs act as he is, not as others would make him to be. Gallantry in the battle of life wins all men's praise: one should fight so as to conquer, not alone by force but by the way it is used. A mean victory brings no glory, but rather disgrace. Honour always has the upper hand. An honourable man never uses forbidden weapons, such as using a friendship that's ended for the purposes of a hatred just begun: a confidence must never be used for a vengeance. The slightest taint of treason tarnishes the good name. In men of honour the smallest trace of meanness repels: the noble and the ignoble should be miles apart. Be able to boast that if gallantry, generosity, and fidelity were lost in the world men would be able to find them again in your own breast.
clxvi Distinguish the Man of Words from the Man of Deeds.
Discrimination here is as important as in the case of friends, persons, and employments, which have all many varieties. Bad words even without bad deeds are bad enough: good words with bad deeds are worse. One cannot dine off words, which are wind, nor off politeness, which
is but polite deceit. To catch birds with a mirror is the ideal snare. It is the vain alone who take their wages in windy words. Words should be the pledges of work, and, like pawn-tickets, have their market price. Trees that bear leaves but not fruit have usually no pith. Know them for what they are, of no use except for shade.
clxvii Know how to take your own Part.
In great crises there is no better companion than a bold heart, and if it becomes weak it must be strengthened from the neighbouring parts. Worries die away before a man who asserts himself. One must not surrender to misfortune, or else it would become intolerable. Many men do not help themselves in their troubles, and double their weight by not knowing how to bear them. He that knows himself knows how to strengthen his weakness, and the wise man conquers everything, even the stars in their courses.
clxviii Do not indulge in the Eccentricities of Folly.
Like vain, presumptuous, egotistical, untrustworthy, capricious, obstinate, fanciful, theatrical,
whimsical, inquisitive, paradoxical, sectarian people and all kinds of one-sided persons: they are all monstrosities of impertinence. All deformity of mind is more obnoxious than that of the body, because it contravenes a higher beauty. Yet who can assist such a complete confusion of mind? Where self-control is wanting, there is no room for others' guidance. Instead of paying attention to other people's real derision, men of this kind blind themselves with the unfounded assumption of their imaginary applause.
clxix Be more careful not to Miss once than to Hit a hundred times.
No one looks at the blazing sun; all gaze when he is eclipsed. The common talk does not reckon what goes right but what goes wrong. Evil report carries farther than any applause. Many men are not known to the world till they have left it. All the exploits of a man taken together are not enough to wipe out a single small blemish. Avoid therefore falling into error, seeing that ill-will notices every error and no success.
clxx In all Things keep Something in Reserve.
’Tis a sure means of keeping up your importance.
[paragraph continues] A man should not employ all his capacity and power at once and on every occasion. Even in knowledge there should be a rearguard, so that your resources are doubled. One must always have something to resort to when there is fear of a defeat. The reserve is of more importance than the attacking force: for it is distinguished for valour and reputation. Prudence always sets to work with assurance of safety: in this matter the piquant paradox holds good that the half is more than the whole.
clxxi Waste not Influence.
The great as friends are for great occasions. One should not make use of great confidence for little things: for that is to waste a favour. The sheet anchor should be reserved for the last extremity. If you use up the great for little ends what remains afterwards? Nothing is more valuable than a protector, and nothing costs more nowadays than a favour. It can make or unmake a whole world. It can even give sense and take it away. As Nature and Fame are favourable to the wise, so Luck is generally envious of them. It is therefore more important to keep the favour of the mighty than goods and chattels.
clxxii Never contend with a Man who has nothing to Lose;
for thereby you enter into an unequal conflict. The other enters without anxiety; having lost everything, including shame, he has no further loss to fear. He therefore re-sorts to all kinds of insolence. One should never expose a valuable reputation to so terrible a risk, lest what has cost years to gain may be lost in a moment, since a single slight may wipe out much sweat. A man of honour and responsibility has a reputation, because he has much to lose. He balances his own and the other's reputation: he only enters into the contest with the greatest caution, and then goes to work with such circumspection that he gives time to prudence to retire in time and bring his reputation under cover. For even by victory he cannot gain what he has lost by exposing himself to the chances of loss.
clxxiii Do not be Glass in Intercourse, still less in Friendship.
Some break very easily, and thereby show their want of consistency. They attribute to themselves imaginary offences and to others oppressive intentions. Their feelings are even
more sensitive than the eye itself, and must not be touched in jest or in earnest. Motes offend them: they need not wait for beams. Those who consort with them must treat them with the greatest delicacy, have regard to their sensitiveness, and watch their demeanour, since the slightest slight arouses their annoyance. They are mostly very egoistic, slaves of their moods, for the sake of which they cast everything aside: they are the worshippers of punctilio. On the other hand, the disposition of the true lover is firm and enduring, so that it may be said that the Arrant is half adamant.
clxxiv Do not live in a Hurry.
To know how to separate things is to know how to enjoy them. Many finish their fortune sooner than their life: they run through pleasures without enjoying them, and would like to go back when they find they have over-leaped the mark. Postilions of life, they increase the ordinary pace of life by the hurry of their own calling. They devour more in one day than they can digest in a whole life-time; they live in advance of pleasures, eat up the years beforehand, and by their hurry get through everything too soon. Even in the
search for knowledge there should be moderation, lest we learn things better left unknown. We have more days to live through than pleasures. Be slow in enjoyment, quick at work, for men see work ended with pleasure, pleasure ended with regret.
clxxv A Solid Man.
One who is finds no satisfaction in those that are not. ’Tis a pitiable eminence that is not well founded. Not all are men that seem to be so. Some are sources of deceit; impregnated by chimeras they give birth to impositions. Others are like them so far that they take more pleasure in a lie, because it promises much, than in the truth, because it performs little. But in the end these caprices come to a bad end, for they have no solid foundation. Only Truth can give true reputation: only reality can be of real profit. One deceit needs many others, and so the whole house is built in the air and must soon come to the ground. Unfounded things never reach old age. They promise too much to be much trusted, just as that cannot be true which proves too much.
clxxvi Have Knowledge, or know those that have Knowledge.
Without intelligence, either one's own or another's, true life is impossible. But many do not know that they do not know, and many think they know when they know nothing. Failings of the intelligence are incorrigible, since those who do not know, do not know themselves, and cannot therefore seek what they lack. Many would be wise if they did not think themselves wise. Thus it happens that though the oracles of wisdom are rare, they are rarely used. To seek advice does not lessen greatness or argue incapacity. On the contrary, to ask advice proves you well advised. Take counsel with reason it you do not wish to court defeat.
clxxvii Avoid Familiarities in Intercourse.
Neither use them nor permit them. He that is familiar, loses any superiority his Influence gives him, and so loses respect. The stars keep their brilliance by not making themselves common. The Divine demands decorum. Every familiarity breeds contempt. In human affairs, the more a man shows, the less he has, for in open communication you
communicate the failings that reserve might keep under cover. Familiarity is never desirable; with superiors because it is dangerous, with inferiors because it is unbecoming, least of all with the common herd, who become insolent from sheer folly: they mistake favour shown them for need felt of them. Familiarity trenches on vulgarity.
clxxviii Trust your Heart,
especially when it has been proved. Never deny it a hearing. It is a kind of house oracle that often foretells the most important. Many have perished because they feared their own heart, but of what use is it to fear it without finding a better remedy? Many are endowed by Nature with a heart so true that it always warns them of misfortune and wards off its effects. It is unwise to seek evils, unless you seek to conquer them.
clxxix Reticence is the Seal of Capacity.
A breast without a secret is an open letter. Where there is a solid foundation secrets can be kept profound: there are spacious cellars where things of moment may be hid. Reticence springs from self-control, and to control
oneself in this is a true triumph. You must pay ransom to each you tell. The security of wisdom consists in temperance in the inner man. The risk that reticence runs lies in the cross-questioning of others, in the use of contradiction to worm out secrets, in the darts of irony: to avoid these the prudent become more reticent than before. What must be done need not be said, and what must be said need not be done.
clxxx Never guide the Enemy to what he has to do.
The fool never does what the wise judge wise, because he does not follow up the suitable means. He that is discreet follows still less a plan laid out, or even carried out, by another. One has to discuss matters from both points of view—turn it over on both sides. Judgments vary; let him that has not decided attend rather to what is possible than what is probable.
clxxxi The Truth, but not the whole Truth.
Nothing demands more caution than the truth: ’tis the lancet of the heart. It requires as much to tell the truth as to conceal it.
[paragraph continues] A single lie destroys a whole reputation for integrity. The deceit is regarded as treason and the deceiver as a traitor, which is worse. Yet not all truths can be spoken: some for our own sake, others for the sake of others.
clxxxii A Grain of Boldness in Everything.
’Tis an important piece of prudence. You must moderate your opinion of others so that you may not think so high of them as to fear them. The imagination should never yield to the heart. Many appear great till you know them personally, and then dealing with them does more to disillusionise than to raise esteem. No one o’ersteps the narrow bounds of humanity: all have their weaknesses either in heart or head. Dignity gives apparent authority, which is rarely accompanied by personal power: for Fortune often redresses the height of office by the inferiority of the holder. The imagination always jumps too soon, and paints things in brighter colours than the real: it thinks things not as they are but as it wishes them to be. Attentive experience disillusionised in the past soon corrects all that. Yet if wisdom should not be timorous, neither should folly be rash.
[paragraph continues] And if self-reliance helps the ignorant, how much more the brave and wise?
clxxxiii Do not hold your Views too firmly.
Every fool is fully convinced, and every one fully persuaded is a fool: the more erroneous his judgment the more firmly he holds it. Even in cases of obvious certainty, it is fine to yield: our reasons for holding the view cannot escape notice, our courtesy in yielding must be the more recognised. Our obstinacy loses more than our victory yields: that is not to champion truth but rather rudeness. There be some heads of iron most difficult to turn: add caprice to obstinacy and the sum is a wearisome fool. Steadfastness should be for the will, not for the mind. Yet there are exceptions where one would fail twice, owning oneself wrong both in judgment and in the execution of it.
clxxxiv Do not be Ceremonious.
Even in a king affectation in this was renowned for its eccentricity. To be punctilious is to be a bore, yet whole nations have this peculiarity. The garb of folly is woven out of such things. Such folk are worshippers
of their own dignity, yet show how little it is justified since they fear that the least thing can destroy it. It is right to demand respect, but not to be considered a master of ceremonies. Yet it is true that a man to do without ceremonies must possess supreme qualities. Neither affect nor despise etiquette: he cannot be great who is great at such little things.
clxxxv Never stake your Credit on a single Cast;
for if it miscarries the damage is irreparable. It may easy happen that a man should fail once, especially at first: circumstances are not always favourable: hence they say, "Every dog has his day." Always connect your second attempt with your first: whether it succeed or fail, the first will redeem the second. Always have resort to better means and appeal to more resources. Things depend on all sorts of chances. That is why the satisfaction of success is so rare.
clxxxvi Recognise Faults, however high placed.
Integrity cannot mistake vice even when clothed in brocade or perchance crowned with gold, but will not be able to hide its character
for all that. Slavery does not lose its vileness, however it vaunt the nobility of its lord and master. Vices may stand in high place, but are low for all that. Men can see that many a great man has great faults, yet they do not see that he is not great because of them. The example of the great is so specious that it even glosses over viciousness, till it may so affect those who flatter it that they do not notice that what they gloss over in the great they abominate in the lower classes.
clxxxvii Do pleasant Things Yourself, unpleasant Things through Others.
By the one course you gain goodwill, by the other you avoid hatred. A great man takes more pleasure in doing a favour than in receiving one: it is the privilege of his generous nature. One cannot easily cause pain to another without suffering pain either from sympathy or from remorse. In high place one can only work by means of rewards and punishment, so grant the first yourself, inflict the other through others. Have some one against whom the weapons of discontent, hatred, and slander may be directed. For the rage of the mob is like
that of a dog: missing the cause of its pain it turns to bite the whip itself, and though this is not the real culprit, it has to pay the penalty.
clxxxviii Be the Bearer of Praise.
This increases our credit for good taste, since it shows that we have learnt elsewhere to know what is excellent, and hence how to prize it in the present company. It gives material for conversation and for imitation, and encourages praiseworthy exertions. We do homage besides in a very delicate way to the excellences before us. Others do the opposite; they accompany their talk with a sneer, and fancy they flatter those present by belittling the absent. This may serve them with superficial people, who do not notice how cunning it is to speak ill of every one to every one else. Many pursue the plan of valuing more highly the mediocrities of the day than the most distinguished exploits of the past. Let the cautious penetrate through these subtleties, and let him not be dismayed by the exaggerations of the one or made over-confident by the flatteries of the other; knowing that both act in the same way by different methods, adapting their talk to the company they are in.
clxxxix Utilise Another's Wants.
The greater his wants the greater the turn of the screw. Philosophers say privation is non-existent, statesmen say it is all-embracing, and they are right. Many make ladders to attain their ends out of wants of others. They make use of the opportunity and tantalise the appetite by pointing out the difficulty of satisfaction. The energy of desire promises more than the inertia of possession. The passion of desire increases with every increase of opposition. It is a subtle point to satisfy the desire and yet preserve the dependence.
cxc Find Consolation in all Things.
Even the useless may find it in being immortal. No trouble without compensation. Fools are held to be lucky, and the good-luck of the ugly is proverbial. Be worth little and you will live long: it is the cracked glass that never gets broken, but worries one with its durability. It seems that Fortune envies the great, so it equalises things by giving long life to the use-less, a short one to the important. Those who bear the burden come soon to grief, while those who are of no importance live on and on: in one case it appears so, in the other it
is so. The unlucky thinks he has been for-gotten by both Death and Fortune.
cxci Do not take Payment in Politeness;
for it is a kind of fraud. Some do not need the herbs of Thessaly for their magic, for they can enchant fools by the grace of their salute. Theirs is the Bank of Elegance, and they pay with the wind of fine words. To promise everything is to promise nothing: promises are the pitfalls of fools. The true courtesy is performance of duty: the spurious and especially the useless is deceit. It is not respect but rather a means to power. Obeisance is paid not to the man but to his means, and compliments are offered not to the qualities that are recognised but to the advantages that are desired.
cxcii Peaceful Life, a long Life.
To live, let live. Peacemakers not only live: they rule life. Hear, see, and be silent. A day without dispute brings sleep without dreams. Long life and a pleasant one is life enough for two: that is the fruit of peace. He has all that makes nothing of what is nothing to him. There is no greater perversity
than to take everything to heart. There is equal folly in troubling our heart about what does not concern us and in not taking to heart what does.
cxciii Watch him that begins with Another's to end with his own.
Watchfulness is the only guard against cunning. Be intent on his intentions. Many succeed in making others do their own affairs, and unless you possess the key to their motives you may at any moment be forced to take their chestnuts out of the fire to the damage of your own fingers.
cxciv Have reasonable Views of Yourself and of your Affairs,
especially in the beginning of life. Every one has a high opinion of himself, especially those who have least ground for it. Every one dreams of his good-luck and thinks himself a wonder. Hope gives rise to extravagant promises which experience does not fulfil. Such idle imaginations merely serve as a well-spring of annoyance when disillusion comes with the true reality. The wise man anticipates such errors: he may always hope for the
best. but he always expects the worst, so as to receive what comes with equanimity. True, It is wise to aim high so as to hit your mark, but not so high that you miss your mission at the very beginning of life. This correction of the ideas is necessary, because before experience comes expectation is sure to soar too high. The best panacea against folly is prudence. If a man knows the true sphere of his activity and position, the can reconcile his ideals with reality.
cxcv Know how to Appreciate.
There is none who cannot teach somebody something, and there is none so excellent but he is excelled. To know how to make use of every one is useful knowledge. Wise men appreciate all men, for they see the good in each and know how hard it is to make anything good. Fools depreciate all men, not recognising the good and selecting the bad.
cxcvi Know your ruling Star.
None so helpless as not to have one; if he is unlucky, that is because he does not know it. Some stand high in the favour of princes and potentates without knowing why or wherefore,
except that good luck itself has granted them favour on easy terms, merely requiring them to aid it with a little exertion. Others find favour with the wise. One man is better received by one nation than by another, or is more welcome in one city than in another. He finds more luck in one office or position than another, and all this though his qualifications are equal or even identical. Luck shuffles the cards how and when she will. Let each man know his luck as well as his talents, for on this depends whether he loses or wins. Follow your guiding star and help it without mistaking any other for it, for that would be to miss the North, though its neighbour (the polestar) calls us to it with a voice of thunder.
cxcvii Do not carry Fools on your Back.
He that does not know a fool when he sees him is one himself: still more he that knows him but will not keep clear of him. They are dangerous company and ruinous confidants. Even though their own caution and others' care keeps them in bounds for a time, still at length they are sure to do or to say some foolishness which is all the greater for being kept so long in stock. They cannot help
another's credit who have none of their own. They are most unlucky, which is the Nemesis of fools, and they have to pay for one thing or the other. There is only one thing which is not so bad about them, and this is that though they can be of no use to the wise, they can be of much use to them as signposts or as warnings.
cxcviii Know how to transplant Yourself.
There are nations with whom one must cross their borders to make one's value felt, especially in great posts. Their native land is always a stepmother to great talents: envy flourishes there on its native soil, and they remember one's small beginnings rather than the greatness one has reached. A needle is appreciated that comes from one end of the world to the other, and a piece of painted glass might outvie the diamond in value if it comes from afar. Everything foreign is respected, partly because it comes from afar, partly because It is ready made and perfect. We have seen persons once the laughing-stock of their village and now the wonder of the whole world, honoured by their fellow-countrymen and by the foreigners [among whom they dwell]; by the latter because they
come from afar, by the former because they are seen from afar. The statue on the altar is never reverenced by him who knew it as a trunk in the garden.
cxcix To find a proper Place by Merit, not by Presumption.
The true road to respect is through merit, and if industry accompany merit the path becomes shorter. Integrity alone is not sufficient, push and insistence is degrading, for things arrive by that means so besprinkled with dust that the discredit destroys reputation. The true way is the middle one, half-way between de-serving a place and pushing oneself into it.