The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4
Of Vain Glory
Of Vain Glory.
It was prettily devised of Æsop, the fly sat upon the axle-tree of the chariot wheel, and said, "What a dust do I raise!" So are there some vain persons, that, whatsoever goeth alone, or moveth upon greater means, if they have never so little hand in it, they think it is they that carry it. They that are glorious must needs be factious; for all bravery stands upon comparisons. They must needs be violent to make good their own vaunts; neither can they be secret, and therefore not effectual; but, according to the French proverb," beaucoup de bruit, peu de fruit"—("much bruit, little fruit.") Yet certainly, there is use of this quality in civil affairs: where there is an opinion and fame to be created, either of virtue or greatness, these men are good trumpeters. Again, as Titus Livius noteth, in the case of Antiochus and the Ætolians, there are sometimes great effects of cross lies, as if a man that negociates between two princes, to draw them to join in a war against a third, doth extol the forces of either of them above measure, the one to the other: and sometimes he that deals between man and man raiseth his own credit with both, by pretending greater interest than he hath in either; and in these, and the like kinds, it often falls out, that somewhat is produced of nothing; for lies are sufficient to breed opinion, and opinion brings on substance. In military commanders and soldiers, vain glory is an essential point; for as iron sharpens iron, so by glory one courage sharpeneth another. In cases of great enterprise upon charge and adventure, a composition of glorious natures doth put life into business; and those that are of solid and sober natures, have more of the ballast than of the sail. In fame of learning, the flight will be slow without some feathers of ostentation: "Qui de contemnenda gloria libros scribunt, nomen suum inscribunt"—["Those men who write books upon despising glory, inscribe their own names."] Socrates, Aristotle, Galen, were men full of ostentation: certainly, vain glory helpeth to perpetuate a man's memory; and virtue was never so beholden to human nature, as it received its due at the second hand. Neither had the fame of Cicero, Seneca, Plinius Secundus, borne her age so well, if it had not been joined with some vanity in themselves; like unto varnish, that makes ceilings not only shine, but last. But all this while, when I speak of vain glory, I mean not of that property that Tacitus doth attribute to Mucianus: "Omnium, quæ dixerat feceratque, arte quadam ostentator"—["By certain arts, the ostentatious exhibitor of all things which he had either said or done"]; for that proceeds not of vanity, but of natural magnanimity and discretion, and, in some persons, is not only comely, but gracious: for excusations, cessions, modesty itself, well governed, are but arts of ostentation; and amongst those arts there is none better than that which Plinius Secundus speaketh of, which is to be liberal of praise and commendation to others, in that wherein a man's self hath any perfection: for, saith Pliny, very wittingly, "In commending another, you do yourself right;" for he that you commend is either superior to you in that you commend, or inferior; if he be inferior, if he be to be commended, you much more; if he be superior, if he be not to be commended, you much less. Vain glorious men are the scorn of wise men, the admiration of fools, the idols of parasites, and the slaves of their own vaunts.