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FoRTUNE is like the market, where many times if you can stay a little, the price will fall. And again, it is somesinies like Sibylla's offer, which at first offereth the commodity at full, then consumeth part and part, and still holdeth up the price. For Occasion (as it is in the common verse) “turneth a bald noddle, after she hath presented her locks in front, and no hold taken ;” or at least turneth the handle of the bottle first to be received, and after the belly, which is hard to clasp. There is surely no greater wisdom, than well to time the beginnings and onsets of things. Dangers are no more light, if they once seem light; and more dangers have deceived men, than forced them. Nay, it were better to meet some dangers half way, though they come nothing near, than to keep too long a watch upon their approaches; for if a man watch too long, it is odds he will fall asleep. On the other side, to be deceived with two long shadows, (as some have been, when the moon was low, and shone on their enemies' back) and so to shoot off before the time; or to teach dangers to come on, by overearly buckling towards them, is another extreme. The ripeness or unripeness of the occasion (as we said) must ever be well weighed; and generally it is good to commit the beginnings of all great actions to Argus with his hundred eyes, and the ends to Briareus with his hundred hands; first to watch, and then to speed. For the helmet of Pluto, which maketh the politic man go invisible, is secrecy in the counsel, and celerity in the execution. For when things are once come to the execution, there is no secrecy comparable to celerity; like the motion of a bullet in the air, which flieth so swift, as it outruns the eye.
WE take Cunning for a sinister or crooked wisdom. And certainly there is great difference between a cunning man and a wise man, not only in point of honesty, but in point of ability. There be that can pack the cards, and yet cannot play well: so there are some that are good in canvasses and factions, that are otherwise weak men. Again, it is one thing to understand persons, and another thing to understand matters; for many are perfect in men's humours, that are not greatly capable of the real part of business, which is the constitution of one that hath studied men more than books. Such men are fitter for practice than for counsel : and they are good but in their own alley; turn them to new men, and they have lost their aim : so as the old rule to know a fool from a wise man, “Send them both naked before strangers, and then you will see what they are,” doth scarce hold for them. And because these Cunning Men are like haberdashers of small wares, it is not amiss to set forth their shop. It is a point of Cunning to wait upon him with
whom you speak, with your eye, as the Jesuits give it in precept : for there may be many wise men that have secret hearts and transparent countenances. Yet this would be done with a demure abasing of your eye sometimes, as the Jesuits also do use.
Another is, that when you have any thing to obtain of present dispatch, you entertain and amuse the party with whom you deal, with some other discourse, that he be not too much awake to make objections. I knew a Counsellor and Secretary, that never came to Queen Elizabeth of England with Bills to sign, but he would always first put her into some discourse of estate, that she might the less mind the Bills.
The like surprise may be made by moving things, when the party is in haste, and cannot stay to consider advisedly of that is moved.
If a man would cross a business, that he doubts some other would handsomely and effectually move, let him pretend to wish it well, and move it himself in such sort as may foil it.
The breaking-off in the midst of that, one was about to say, as if he took himself up, breeds a greater appetite in him with whom you confer, to know more. And because it works better, when any thing seemeth to be gotten from you by question, than if you offer it of yourself; you may lay a bait for a question, by showing another visage and countenance than you are wont : to the end, to give occasion for the party to ask, what the matter is of the change, as Nehemiah did : “And I had not before that time been sad before the king.” In things that are tender and unpleasing, it is good to break the ice by some whose words are of less weight, and to reserve the more weighty voice to come in as by chance, so that he may be asked the question upon the other speech; as Narcissus did in relating to Claudius the marriage of Messalina and Silius, In things that a man would not be seen in himself, it is a point of Cunning to borrow the name of the world, as to say: “ The world says;” or, “There is a speech abroad.”
I knew one, that when he wrote a letter, he .
would put that which was most material in the
speech, he would pass over that he intended most, and go forth, and come back again and speak of it as a thing that he had almost forgot. Some procure themselves to be surprised at such times as it is like the party that they work upon will suddenly come upon them, and to be found with a letter in their hand, or doing somewhat which they are not accustomed; to the end they may be opposed of those things, which of themselves they are desirous to utter. It is a point of Cunning, to let fall those words in a man's own name, which he would have another man learn and use, and thereupon take advantage. I knew two that were competitors for the Secretary's place, in Queen Elizabeth's time, and yet kept good quarter between themselves, and would confer one with another upon the bu'siness; and one of them said: “That to be a Se|cretary in the declination of a monarchy, was a ticklish thing, and that he did not affect it:” the other straight caught up those words, and discoursed with divers of his friends, “ that he had no reason to desire to be Secretary in the declining of a monarchy.” The first man took hold of it, and found means it was told the Queen; who, bearing of a declination of a monarchy, took it so ill, as she would never after hear of the other's suit. There is a Cunning, which we in England call,