Of Riches

March 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

I cannot call Riches better than the baggage of virtue.

The Roman word is better, impedimenta [baggage, literally – a hindrance].  For as the baggage is to an army, so is riches to virtue.  It cannot be spared nor left behind, but it hindereth the march; yea and the care of it sometimes loseth or disturbeth the victory.

Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is conceit (1).  So saith Salomon, “Where much is, there are many to consume it; and what hath the owner but the sight of it with his eyes?” (Eccl. 5:11)

The personal fruition in any man cannot reach to feel great riches; there is a custody of them, or a power of dole (2) and donative (3) of them, or a fame of them [refer to previous post for insight as to what fame means], but no solid use to the owner.

Do you not see what feigned prices are set upon little stones and rarities, and what works of ostentation (4) are undertaken, because there might seem to be some use of great riches?  But then you will say, they may be of use to buy men out of dangers or troubles.  As Salomon [also] saith, “Riches are as a strong hold, in the imagination of the rich man.” (Prov. 18:11); But this is excellently expressed, that it is in imagination and not always in fact.  For certainly great riches have sold more men than they have bought out.

Seek not proud riches, but such as thou mayest get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, and leave contentedly.

– Francis Bacon


1. conceit – thought, idea, concept; mind, intelligence, comprehension; unrestrained fancies.

2. dole – a portion or allotment of money, food, etc., especially as given at regular intervals by a charity or for maintenance; a dealing out or distributing, especially in charity; archaic – one’s fate or destiny.

3. donative – a gift or donation.

4. ostentation – pretentious or conspicuous show, as of wealth or importance; display intended to impress others.

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