Essay 43 — Of Beauty
Read "Selected Essays of Francis Bacon" in contemporary American English: available in KINDLE amazon.com $1.99 If you don't own a KINDLE at this time you may download "Selected Essays of Francis Bacon" into your computer for only $0.99. Use the Paypal button below:
Virtue is like a rich stone that is best when plainly set. And surely virtue is best in a body that is attractive, though not of delicate features, but rather than beauty of aspect, it has abundant dignity of presence,
Neither is it almost seen that very beautiful persons are otherwise of great virtue. It is as if nature were rather busy to produce excellency. And therefore beautiful people prove accomplished, but are not of great spirit, studying behavior rather than virtue.
But this doesn’t always hold: for Augustus Caesar, Titus Vespasianus, Philip le Belle of France, Edward the Fourth of England, Alcibiades of Athens, Ismael the Sufi of Persia, were all high and great spirits; and yet the most beautiful men of their times.
In beauty, what we favor is more than what is colorful; and what is of decent and gracious motion, is more than what is favored. That is the best part of beauty, which a picture cannot express. No, nor can the first sight of the life.
There is no excellent beauty that has not some strangeness in the proportion.
A man cannot tell whether Apelles, or Albert Durer, were the more trifler; where one, would make a personage by geometrical proportions; the other, by taking the best parts out of diverse faces to make one excellent. Such personages, I think, would please nobody, but the painter that made them. Nor do I think a painter may paint a better face than ever was; but he must do it by a kind of felicity (as a musician that makes an excellent air in music), and not by rule.
A man shall see faces, that if you examine them part by part, you shall never find good in the parts; and yet altogether it goes well.
If it be true that the principal part of beauty is in decent motion, certainly it is no marvel, though persons in years seem many times more amiable; pulchrorum autumnus pulcher [the autumn of the beautiful is beautiful]; for no youth can be attractive but by conceding to it, and considering youth, to make up the comeliness.
Beauty is as summer fruits which are easy to corrupt, and cannot last. And for the most part it makes for a dissolute youth, and age a little out of tolerance. Certainly, though, if it lights well, it makes virtue shine and vices blush.