Bacon's essays: Of Delays

The essay Of Delays is so hard to understand, it makes me wonder if Bacon hadn’t had a little too much poppy juice in his wine the day he wrote it. Except that he edited things over and over for years before he published them, so that’s not very likely. He’s just being cryptic and assuming his readers will know what he’s talking about.

Wait and things will get worse

sibyllaThe first sentence is clear enough: “Fortune is like the market; where many times if you can stay a little, the price will fall.” Unless you’re hoping for it to rise. Note that Bacon takes the role of the shopper in his market scenarios. Naturally enough; you wouldn’t confuse him with a tradesman, would you?

Then he adds a supporting example: Sibylla’s offer. She was queen of Jerusalem from 1186 to 1190 and apparently a pretty good queen. She held Saladin’s army at bay for a while and personally led the defense in 1187. She fled to Tripoli with her daughters, but was apparently still considered queen until she and the girls died of some epidemic in 1190. She sounds very interesting, but I have no idea what her offer was. Bacon implies that the offered item got smaller and smaller while the price remained the same.

Time’s bald noddle

“For occasion (as it is in the common verse) turneth a bald noddle, after she hath presented her lockstime-and-fortune 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.”

He’s turned Father Time into a bald-headed woman. Not Sibylla, I hope! I found this passage totally obscure until I remembered the expression, “Take time by the forelock.”

Here’s the definition from Proverb Hunter: “Seize the present moment. Old Father Time is represented as being completely bald except for a lock of hair on his forehead. You cannot catch him from behind but you can catch him from the front by seizing him by the forelock. This proverb means that time past cannot be used, but advantage can be taken of it now.”

I can’t find an image of a bald Father Time (or Mother Time), but I love this print depicting Father Time, a winged reaper with an hourglass, playing dice with Fortune, who stands on her wheel. A winged Cupid, bow at his feet, and Fortune balance a game board on the world. Cupid gestures toward the hourglass indicating that time will eventually win out. Dated between 1631 and 1659, from Wikimedia Commons.

You could grab Fortune’s hair and pull her in your direction, if you dared.

Eyes forward

argos“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 an great actions to Argus, with his hundred eyes, and the ends to Briareus, with his hundred hands; first to watch, and then to speed.”

Argos Panoptes was the hundred-eyed giant who guarded Hera’s white heifer from Zeus, who had a thing for cows. Briareus is pretty obscure, one of the pre-Olympian primordial monsters banished by their father Uranus to Tartarus. Not for dilly-dallying, we suppose.

Plan carefully, but once started, get rocking!

Faster than a speeding bullet

The end is vivid, especially by Baconian standards, but I don’t feel that I’ve received any useful counsel, to be honest.

“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.”

Again, once you’ve made up your mind, work fast and you’ll be done before anyone can move to counter you. He’s mostly talking about warfare — shock and awe — than about say, book launches.

I was hoping for on an essay on Procrastination but he probably never got around to it.

London's little gardens

One of the many wonderful things about London is that there are gardens everywhere, even on walls!

Somewhere in the vicinity of Dr. Johnson’s House.


Everyone knows the big parks, like St. James and Hyde Park, famous in novels and history books and hard to avoid when you visit. But few people apart from those who live or work nearby know about the tiny gardens that have survived the ages in the very heart of the glass-and-concrete landscape of central London.

These little gardens, called the City Gardens, have a website. You can take a guided tour which meets at the Tourist Information Office near St. Paul’s. They cancelled the scheduled tour on the one day I could go; not, they said, because of the weather, which was raining cats and dogs that afternoon.

I was disappointed at the time — I love that sweet, soft English rain — but decided I could follow the map by myself on Sunday morning, when there would be less traffic. Fortune often favors the persistent. Sunday turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day, ideal for rambling through the middle of one the world’s largest cities taking photographs.


St. Ann Blackfriars

st-ann-blackfriarsIn Farringdon Within. (Within the walls that means, which aren’t there anymore.) This little church was built on the remains of the medieval monastery of Blackfriars, dissolved by Henry VIII. It’s now tended by the Corporation of the City of London. It’s a nice shady place to have a sandwich or a smoke break from work; empty on a weekend.

Not far from this tiny retreat, I found this plaque upon a wall:


“On 10th March 1613 William Shakepeare purchased lodgings in the Blackfriars Gatehouse located near this site.”

This is a warren of narrow streets, mostly filled with tall office buildings. The occasional pub or friendly old shop front remains; not many. Lady Elizabeth Russell lived in Blackfriars too, but there aren’t any plaques commemorating her. Ah, well.

The Guild Church, St. Mary Aldermary

This medieval church in Bow Lane was rebuilt in 1510 and then again after the Great Fire in 1666. Windows were shattered during the Blitz and it’s had other repairs through the centuries. It’s a survivor. The little garden is too shady to sustain much plant life, but hey – it’s a break from the concrete.

Postman’s Park

Here’s one with a secular name. From Wikipedia: “Postman’s Park opened in 1880 on the site of the former churchyard and burial ground of St Botolph’s Aldersgate church and expanded over the next 20 years to incorporate the adjacent burial grounds of Christ Church Greyfriars and St Leonard, Foster Lane, together with the site of housing demolished during the widening of Little Britain in 1880.” (Little Britain is the name of a street nearby.)

It’s a nice one, large and sunny enough for flower beds and a little fish pond.

St. Mary Staining

This park is small, but large enough to camp out in overnight. The streets around it were closst-mary-staininged off for a film production, though I didn’t see such activity while I was there. Lots of movie-type trucks parked around and a uniformed policeman making sure we tourists didn’t interfere with anything. No idea what the movie was. For all know, this tent was occupied by a devoted film fanatic.

I’ve seen people camping now and then in Austin’s parks, in tucked-away places. Not homeless people; people with fancy equipment like this. People with more courage than I have!

The church was first mentioned in the 12th century. It served its parish until the Great Fire, when it burned down and was not rebuilt. A poorish parish, I would guess.

The Churchyard of St. John Zachary

st-john-zacharyThis was another medieval church destroyed in the Great Fire. Its parish was united with that of St. Anne and St. Agnes. It has two parts: a little entry part with a big brass plaque I will copy rather than show, and a lovely interior part shown in the photograph.

The plaque says, “Churchyard of St. John Zachary. This garden belongs to the WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF GOLDSMITHS and is maintained for the enjoyment of the citizens of London.

In 1994/1995 it was refurbished by the WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF GARDENERS assisted by the WORSHIPFUL COMPANIES OF BLACKSMITHS, LIGHTMONGERS AND CONSTRUCTORS in partnership with the Goldsmith’s Company and THE CORPORATION OF LONDON as a City Changes Project.”

And we thank them for it. Anyone who preserves a park does a service to all.

St. Mary Aldermanbury

Best for last, although there are several others that I’m going to skip over. This is the one on Love Lanest-mary-aldermanbury dedicated to Shakespeare, who lived nearby on Silver Street for a time. The church that used to stand here was destroyed by the Great Fire, rebuilt, and destroyed again in the Blitz. In 1966 the remains of the church were shipped to Fulton, Missouri, USA, where they were used to rebuild the church as a memorial to Winston Churchill. Its medieval founders would perhaps be less astonished than we might first imagine. They believed in perpetuity, after all.

Now it’s a lovely herb and flower garden with a big bust of Shakespeare, dedicated to his fellow actors Henry Condell and John Hemmings who were key figures in the printing of the playwright’s First Folio of works. Both actors are buried in the church. They might have gotten busts of their own, if they’d been vain enough to put their own portraits on that Folio.

The sun was very bright by the time I got to this garden (and I was panting for my lunch), so these pictures don’t do it justice. If you ever take the Shakespeare and Dickens London Walk, you’ll stop here and learn about Condell and Hemmings and how lucky we are that they lived and cared about English drama enough to give the world perhaps the greatest literary gift of all time.


I walk all day when I’m out a-touristing (I’m Super Tourist!), but I think the guided tour of these pretty little gardens takes about 2 hours. Or get the map and discover them on your own. It was a delightful way to poke into the alleys and byways of a city I thought I already knew, from the historical perspective at least. Always more to learn and enjoy! The City Gardens of London.

Indie Author Day

indie-author-dayTomorrow, all across the land, libraries will be celebrating independent authors. It’s a natural collaboration, although harder to make the connection than you might think.

It’s the usual problem of discoverability – letting libraries know our books are available through their preferred channels – combined with the obsolescing notion that self-published books must be inferior. That might have been true once upon a time and there are certainly still plenty of cringe-worthy indie works out there, but increasingly, indie books are where the midlist – engaging, original, well-written books that aren’t trendy enough for an airport.

Come out and see for yourself!

I’m doing my presentation about Business Plans for Creative People, mostly about defining goals but other parts also, at 4:00 in the San Antonio West branch of BiblioTech

Here’s the whole San Antonio program.


2505 Pleasanton Road, San Antonio TX 78221

Cynthia Levesque, Blogging and Social Media – Is it for me?

11:00AM – MEET THE AUTHORS (table event)
Jerry Frazier – Mystery/History
Alex Bexar – Science Fiction
Jo Condrill – Nonfiction, Self-Help
Andrea Stehle – Science Fiction/Fantasy
Nicholas Paschall – Horror
Richard Poe – Literary Fiction

A’Mera Frieman – Breaking the Line Books



2003 S. Zarzamora, Bldg. 10, San Antonio, TX 78207

Robin Cutler – Director, IngramSpark
Kiera Parrott – Reviews Director, Library Journal
Jim Blanton – Chair, Kentucky Public Library Association
L. Penelope – Author, Paranormal & Fantasy Romance
Jon Fine, Moderator – Publishing Relations,

Diamond Wilson, Ten Ways to Build Your Platform

Jim Slattery, Self-Publishing

3:00PM – MEET THE AUTHORS (table event)
Jeffrey Truitt – Children’s
Gail Hart – Romance
Sally Jane Driscoll – Nonfiction, History
Michael Earney – Children’s and YA
Bob Doerr – Mystery, Thriller
Jim Slattery – Fiction, Social Science

Anna Castle, Business Plans for Creative People

The Rest of the Nation

You can look up your locality up on the main page. If your library isn’t on there, call or write to express your profound indignation and your assumption that they will get with the program in 2017. Harrumph!