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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4

Of Honour and Reputation

Of Honour and Reputation.

The winning of honour is but the revealing of a man's virtue and worth without disadvantage; for some in their actions do woo and affect honour and reputation—which sort of men are commonly much talked of, but inwardly little admired—and some contrariwise, darken their virtue in the show of it, so as they be undervalued in opinion. If a man perform that which hath not been attempted before, or attempted and given over, or hath been achieved, but not with so good circumstance, he shall purchase more honour than by affecting a matter of greater difficulty, or virtue, wherein he is but a follower. If a man so temper his actions, as in some one of them he doth content every faction or combination of people, the music will be the fuller. A man is an ill husband of his honour that entereth into any action, the failing wherein may disgrace him more than the carrying of it through can honour him. Honour that is gained and broken upon another hath the quickest reflection, like diamonds cut with fascets; and, therefore, let a man contend to excel any competitors of his honour, in out-shooting them if he can, in their own bow. Discreet followers and servants help much to reputation: "Omnis fama a domesticis emanat"—["All fame emanates from domestics."] Envy, which is the canker of honour, is the best distinguished by declaring a man's self in his ends, rather to seek merit than fame; and by attributing a man's successes rather to divine providence and felicity, than to his own virtue or policy. The true marshalling of the degrees of sovereign honour are these:—In the first place, are "conditores imperiorum" ["founders of empires"], founders of states and commonwealths, such as were Romulus, Cyrus, Cæsar, Ottoman, Ismael: in the second place, are "legislators," lawgivers, which are also called second founders, or "perpetui principes" ["perpetual kings"], because they govern by their ordinances after they are gone; such were Lycurgus, Solon, Justinian, Edgar, Alphonsus of Castile, the wise, that made the "siete patridas" ["assembly of patriots"]: in the third place, are "liberatores" ["deliverers"], or "salvatores" ["preservers"], such as compound the long miseries of civil wars, or deliver their countries from servitude of strangers or tyrants; as Augustus Cæsar, Vespasianus, Aurielanus, Theodoricus, King Henry VII. of England, King Henry IV. of France: in the fourth place, are "propagatores," or "propugnatores imperii" ["propagators," or "defenders of the empire"], such as in honourable wars enlarge their territories, or make noble defence against invaders; and, in the last place, are "patres patriæ" ["fathers of their country"], which reign justly, and make the times good wherein they live—both which last kinds need no examples, they are in such number. Degrees of honour in subjects are, first, "participes curarum" [participators in cares"], those upon whom princes do discharge the greatest weight of their affairs—their right hands, as we may call them; the next are "duces belli" ["generals"], great leaders, such as are princes' lieutenants, and do them notable services in the wars; the third are "gratiosi," "favourites," such as exceed not this scantling, to be solace to the sovereign, and harmless to the people; and the fourth, "negotiis pares" ["able to manage affairs"], such as have great places under princes, and execute their places with sufficiency. There is an honour, likewise, which may be ranked among the greatest, which happeneth rarely—that is, of such as sacrifice themselves to death or danger for the good of their country, as was M. Regulus, and the two Decii.