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Bacon's Essays: Of Negotiating

This promises to be a useful essay. Bacon must have engaged in and witnessed a great deal Of Negotiating in his long career at court.

Letters are good

letters
Quodlibet, by Cornelius Gijsbrechts. 1675

“It is generally better to deal by speech than by letter; and by the mediation of a third than by a man’s self.” He doesn’t elaborate, but having a mediator speak for you makes you seem more important, and also avoids the hazard of emotional excess.

“Letters are good, when a man would draw an answer by letter back again; or when it may serve for a man’s justification afterwards to produce his own letter; or where it may be danger to be interrupted, or heard by pieces.”

Modern advice is to get everything in writing. Don’t make deals over the phone; make them by email so you have dated copies of everything. Not making deals in places where you’re liable to be interrupted is just plain common sense.

Unless your face favors your cause

gregory_Peck_1948
Would you buy a used car from this man? I would.

“To deal in person is good, when a man’s face breedeth regard, as commonly with inferiors; or in tender cases, where a man’s eye, upon the countenance of him with whom he speaketh, may give him a direction how far to go; and generally, where a man will reserve to himself liberty, either to disavow or to expound.”

I guess your face would breed regard if it’s a well-known face — or an especially handsome one. Or maybe it’s a patrician sort of face, with a patrician habit of expression.

We would say “delicate matters” instead of “tender cases.” If you need to assess the immediate effect of your plea or argument on the person you’re negotiating with, you have to be there, watching their face. You can alter your course on the spur of the moment. “No, no, that’s not what I meant. Let me explain it again.”

 

Choose your instrument

“In choice of instruments, it is better to choose men of a plainer sort, that are like to do that, that is committed to them, and to report back again faithfully the success, than those that are cunning, to contrive, out of other men’s business, somewhat to grace themselves, and will help the matter in report for satisfaction’s sake.”

charlatan
The Mountebank, by Pietro Longhi (1701 – 17785.) Not the guy you want to negotiate for you, but I couldn’t resist this painting. Lots of persuasion going on here!

You definitely want a rep who will pursue your project, rather than their own. Let’s say you’re getting divorced and you’re negotiating ownership of the lake house. You want your lawyer to argue in favor of you getting that house, not letting your spouse win on condition that they let the lawyer buy it later at a bargain price.

“Use also such persons as affect the business, wherein they are employed; for that quickeneth much; and such, as are fit for the matter; as bold men for expostulation, fair-spoken men for persuasion, crafty for inquiry and observation, froward, and absurd men, for business that doth not well bear out itself.”

He must have a lot of men available to negotiate. If you have the choice, choose a bold man to expostulate (to reason earnestly), a persuasive man to persuade, a crafty (clever) man to observe the situation while negotiating, and an absurd man for uh… No idea what this means! Some business that really doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, I guess. Your absurd negotiator will distract your opponent from the inadequacies of the thing being negotiated.

“Use also such as have been lucky, and prevailed before, in things wherein you have employed them; for that breeds confidence, and they will strive to maintain their prescription.”

Hire people who have success in the thing you’re hiring them for. More common sense. Also, you definitely want a person who is confident about their abilities, not a mealy-mouthed foot-shuffler. And you want people who take pride in their abilities and thus aim to succeed on that account, as well as to fulfill your request.

First sound from afar

“It is better to sound a person, with whom one deals afar off than to fall upon the point at first; except you mean to surprise him by some short question.”

columbo
Peter Falk as Columbo with his dog. Budapest.

Get a general sense of where the person stands with regard to your matter before negotiating. Except for the short question gambit. Bacon seems to love this little verbal tactic, which I think of as the Columbo Maneuver. You pretend you’re walking away or interested in something else, and then you turn and ask a very pointed question. “By the way, wasn’t that your car in front of the office yesterday?” Zappo!

“It is better dealing with men in appetite, than with those that are where they would be.”

The more your opponent wants what you have, the stronger your position. A person who already has everything they want can walk away at any time.

“If a man deal with another upon conditions [prerequisites], the start or first performance is all; which a man cannot reasonably demand, except either the nature of the thing be such, which must go before; or else a man can persuade the other party, that he shall still need him in some other thing; or else that he be counted the honester man.”

In truth, I don’t know what this means. If there are pre-conditions to the negotiation, like let’s say, the house must be freshly painted, then if you go look and if it’s not painted, you’re done. First performance makes or breaks the deal.

You can only set such conditions if they make sense. You can’t stipulate that a house be furnished before it’s built. But then it seems like he jumps to another topic with the stuff about persuading your opponent that you can employ them in some other fashion so they won’t feel bad if they lose.

Discover yourself

“All practice is to discover, or to work. Men discover themselves in trust, in passion, at unawares, and of necessity, when they would have somewhat done, and cannot find an apt pretext.”

Yes to the discovery of self part, but how that relates to not having a good excuse to get their thing done, I couldn’t say.

“If you would work any man, you must either know his nature and fashions, and so lead him; or his ends, and so persuade him or his weakness and disadvantages, and so awe him or those that have interest in him, and so govern him.”

Phew! At last, some more common sense, clearly stated.

dangerous-liaisons
A pair of cunning characters

“In dealing with cunning persons, we must ever consider their ends, to interpret their speeches; and it is good to say little to them, and that which they least look for.”

Cunning persons, and persons who wish you harm: consider their goals in order to evaluate what they say to you. Engage them as little as possible and say the thing they least expect.

“In all negotiations of difficulty, a man may not look to sow and reap at once; but must prepare business, and so ripen it by degrees.”

Be patient, build slowly, let things grow. Always good advice. But I’m not finding a juicy quote in this essay. He’ll have to come back and give it another polish.

Bacon's essays: Of Gardens

Bacon loved gardens and designed the walks at Gray’s Inn himself. It’s another long essay, but to my taste much more interesting than Of Buildings. I can’t buildCoughton Court myself a two-story tower, but I can plant flowers for each season. If you like gardens, I recommend you read the whole thing. I’m just going to do an impressionistic reading here.

“God Almighty planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures. It is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man…”

That’s the most frequently quoted quote. Like all great thinkers (ahem), Bacon must have loved to walk and think. For that, you need a smooth path and refreshing vistas for eyes worn out with writing and reading by natural light or candle light.

A plant for all seasons

“I do hold it, in the royal ordering of gardens, there ought to be gardens, for all the months in the year; in which severally things of beauty may be then in season.”

Remember that New Year’s Day was January 1st, but the fiscal/customary year began on March 1st. Elizabethans weren’t tuned to quite the same calendar we are, paying vastly more attention to the Catholic/Anglican religious calendar. Also remember that he’s assuming that a head gardener with a staff of under-gardeners and boys will do all the actual work.

At the end of the calendar portion, he adds this caveat: “These particulars are for the climate of London; but my meaning is perceived, that you may have ver perpetuum [a perpetual spring], as the place affords.”

Late-November to mid-January
rosemary
Rosemary

“[Y]ou must take such things as are green all winter: holly; ivy; bays; juniper; cypress-trees; yew; pine-apple-trees; fir-trees; rosemary; lavender; periwinkle, the white, the purple, and the blue; germander; flags; orange-trees; lemon-trees; and myrtles, if they be stoved; and sweet marjoram, warm set.”

‘Stoved’ must mean kept warm in bad weather with little braziers. Pamper that myrtle!

Mid-January through February

“…the mezereon-tree, which then blossoms; crocus vernus, both the yellow and the grey; primroses; anemones; the early tulippa; hyacinthus orientalis; chamairis; fritellaria.”

fritillaries
Fritillaries

Mezereon tree appears to be Daphne mezereum. It puts out pink blossoms on bare stems, like a fruit tree, but it’s poisonous. Fritillaria is an early-blooming bulb, like a downward-hanging tulip. Very pretty!

I’m not finding charmairis, but it must be some kind of iris. They bloom in Feb in Austin and there’s a hundred varieties.

March & April

Carnations_redoute
Carnations

“For March, there come violets, specially the single blue, which are the earliest; the yellow daffodil; the daisy; the almond-tree in blossom; the peach-tree in blossom; the cornelian-tree in blossom; sweet-briar. In April follow the double white violet; the wallflower; the stock-gilliflower; the cowslip; flower-delices, and lilies of all natures; rosemary-flowers; the tulippa; the double peony; the pale daffodil; the French honeysuckle; the cherry-tree in blossom; the damson and plum-trees in blossom; the white thorn in leaf; the lilac-tree.”

The cornelian-tree is Cornus mas, the Cornelian cherry dogwood. South Britain is north of its range, but in a walled orchard against a sunny wall… It has yellow flowers and a nice natural fan shape.

I don’t know what flower-delices are. All I’m getting is some stupid perfume. Gilliflowers are carnations; useful in case you have to rescue someone underwater. Wallflowers are a real thing! Aka erysimum, in nature they grow on cliffs. I love garden walls covered in flowers! I have pix, but not from March or April. Really need to take a trip in the early spring.

May & June

“In May and June come pinks of all sorts, specially the blushpink; roses of all kinds, except the musk, which comes later; honeysuckles; strawberries; bugloss; columbine; the French marigold, flos Africanus; cherry-tree in fruit; ribes; figs in fruit; rasps; vineflowers; lavender in flowers; the blue-meaniesweet satyrian, with the white flower; herba muscaria; lilium convallium; the apple-tree in blossom.”

Flos africanus is a type of marigold. Ribes are a class that includes currants and gooseberries. Vineflowers is vague; all I get are lots of lovely flowering vines. Googling “herba muscaria” gets me lots of versions of this essay! “Muscaria” yields “amanita muscaria,” a pretty but deadly mushroom. I doubt he means that.

Lillium convallium sounds like a spell in Harry Potter, used to cover people all over with flowers, like the Beatles did the Blue Meanie. OK, now I really want a picture of that, instead of a nice bugloss, which is an upright stem with many small purple flowers clustered along it. (This is from the movie, The Yellow Submarine, in case you didn’t know. A great cartoon flick!)

July & August

musk_melon“In July come gilliflowers of all varieties; musk-roses; the lime-tree in blossom; early pears and plums in fruit; jennetings, codlins. In August come plums of all sorts in fruit; pears; apricocks; berberries; filberds; musk-melons; monks-hoods, of all colors.” 

Musk melon looks like what a Texan would call a honeydew. (“Honey, dew you?”) If ‘burberries’ are ‘barberries,’ I would put them in the winter. Not sure about that one.

September to mid-November
medlar
Medlar

“In September come grapes; apples; poppies of all colors; peaches; melocotones; nectarines; cornelians; wardens; quinces. In October and the beginning of November come services; medlars; bullaces; roses cut or removed to come late; hollyhocks; and such like.”

Melocotones are peaches! You thought they were an eighties nightclub act. Web says, from the Spanish, but my Spanish calls a peach ‘durazno.’  Bullace is a variety of plum.

Medlars are sort of apple-like fruits, mentioned in literature a fair bit. They ripen after a frost, which is pretty unlikely in London in the autumn, even in Bacon’s day, when it was a bit cooler.

Perfume the air

“And because the breath of flowers is far sweeter in the air (where it comes and goes like the warbling of music) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for that delight, than to know what be the flowers and plants that do best perfume the air.”

Viola_cultivars
Viola cultivars

Right now I’ve got beebrush and kidneywood turning my backyard into a vanilla factory. Love it! And Bacon’s right, it’s such a sweet pleasure to catch a fragrance on the breeze, and turn your head and wonder where it’s coming from.

First we work through the ones that aren’t so great.

“Roses, damask and red, are fast flowers of their smells; so that you may walk by a whole row of them, and find nothing of their sweetness; yea though it be in a moming’s dew. Bays likewise yield no smell as they grow. Rosemary little; nor sweet marjoram.”

On to the good stuff.

“That which above all others yields the sweetest smell in the air is the violet, specially the white double violet, which comes twice a year; about the middle of April, and about Bartholomew-tide.”

That’s 24 August, for the heathen among us. I warned you about their calendar! Now he ranks the rest of the fragrant plants, with the detail of a man who noticed small things.

rose vine
Rose overtaking a tree

“Next to that is the musk-rose. Then the strawberry-leaves dying, which yield a most excellent cordial smell. Then the flower of vines; it is a little dust, like the dust of a bent, which grows upon the cluster in the first coming forth. Then sweet-briar. Then wall-flowers, which are very delightful to be set under a parlor or lower chamber window. Then pinks and gilliflowers, especially the matted pink and clove gilliflower. Then the flowers of the lime-tree. Then the honeysuckles, so they be somewhat afar off. Of beanflowers I speak not, because they are field flowers.”

I remember walking across a field in Greece that was full of wild thyme. Delicious!

“But those which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but being trodden upon and crushed, are three; that is, burnet, wild-thyme, and watermints. Therefore you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread.”

Construction matters

“[T]he contents ought not well to be under thirty acres of ground; and to be divided into three parts; a green in the entrance; a heath or desert in the going forth; and the main garden in the midst; besides alleys on both sides. And I like well that four acres of ground be assigned to the green; six to the heath; four and four to either side; and twelve to the main garden.”

Hm, 30 acres… the original campus of the University of Texas occupies 40 acres. For perspective, or the total lack of same, Audley End’s famous parks and gardens occupy 100 acres. Capability Brown designed the park, a century and a half after this essay.

“….nothing is more pleasant to the eye than green grass kept finely shorn…” Unless you’re the one doing the shearing! But he has a point. One of things I love about England are the layers upon layers of shades of green, based on the green, green grass.

“But because the alley will be long, and, in great heat of the year or day, you ought not to buy the shade in the garden, by going in the sun through the green, therefore you are, of either side the green, to plant a covert alley upon carpenter’s work, about twelve foot in height, by which you may go in shade into the garden.”

ham_house_hedge
Ham House

OK, no idea what that means, can’t visualize it. All the hedges I’ve seen (and I am true hedge-o-phile) are made entirely of plants. No carpenter’s work in there. Although the gardens in the older houses, like Shakespeare’s New Place, do have quite a bit of carpentry, in the form of arbors and lattices for espaliering plants.

“For the ordering of the ground, within the great hedge, I leave it to variety of device; advising nevertheless, that whatsoever form you cast it into, first, it be not too busy, or full of work. Wherein I, for my part, do not like images cut out in juniper or other garden stuff; they be for children.”

Not a fan of the topiary! Everybody else likes them, I suspect.

“Little low hedges, round, like welts, with some pretty pyramids, I like well.”

Adornments

baddesley clinton
Baddesley Clinton. In case you were thinking about putting in a moat.

“For fountains, they are a great beauty and refreshment; but pools mar all, and make the garden unwholesome, and full of flies and frogs.”

He’s not wrong about that. Come farther south, and you get mosquitoes. The frogs can’t eat all of them.

“Fountains I intend to be of two natures: the one that sprinkleth or spouteth water; the other a fair receipt of water, of some thirty or forty foot square, but without fish, or slime, or mud.”

Yah. 30-foot-square cistern, basically, kept sparkling clean at all times. Those were the days.

Coughton Court
Coughton Court

“the main matter is so to convey the water, as it never stay, either in the bowls or in the cistern; that the water be never by rest discolored, green or red or the like; or gather any mossiness or putrefaction. Besides that, it is to be cleansed every day by the hand. Also some steps up to it, and some fine pavement about it, doth well.”

“But the main point is the same which we mentioned in the former kind of fountain; which is, that the water be in perpetual motion, fed by a water higher than the pool, and delivered into it by fair spouts, and then discharged away under ground, by some equality of bores…”

It’s all a lot trickier without water running under pressure, isn’t it?

 

 

The natural wildness

When Bacon says, “desert,” he doesn’t mean the Sahara. He would have read about such a bizarre expanse, but never seen the like. He meant “untended.”

“For the heath, which was the third part of our plot, I wish it to be framed, as much as may be, to a natural wildness. Trees I would have none in it, but some thickets made only of sweet-briar and honeysuckle, and some wild vine amongst; and the ground set with violets, strawberries, and primroses. For these are sweet, and prosper in the shade. “

No trees! What kind of a natural wildness is that?

wildflowers
Texas in the spring

“And these to be in the heath, here and there, not in any order. I like also little heaps, in the nature of mole-hills (such as are in wild heaths), to be set, some with wild thyme; some with pinks; some with germander, that gives a good flower to the eye; some with periwinkle; some with violets; some with strawberries; some with cowslips; some with daisies; some with red roses; some with lilium convallium; some with sweet-williams red; some with bear’s-foot: and the like low flowers, being withal sweet and sightly.”

He seems to want basically a lumpy garden. It might be nice to gaze upon from a window, I guess. Or you could skip the mole-hills and plant a nice wildflower field. Those are all the rage in central Texas. 

Coughton Court
Coughton Court

“For the side grounds, you are to fill them with variety of alleys, private, to give a full shade, some of them, wheresoever the sun be. You are to frame some of them, likewise, for shelter, that when the wind blows sharp you may walk as in a gallery. And those alleys must be likewise hedged at both ends, to keep out the wind; and these closer alleys must be ever finely gravelled, and no grass, because of going wet.”

Instructions to improve the walking experience. Very sensible.

“For the main garden, I do not deny, but there should be some fair alleys ranged on both sides, with fruit-trees; and some pretty tufts of fruit-trees; and arbors with seats, set in some decent order; but these to be by no means set too thick; but to leave the main garden so as it be not close, but the air open and free. For as for shade, I would have you rest upon the alleys of the side grounds, there to walk, if you be disposed, in the heat of the year or day; but to make account, that the main garden is for the more temperate parts of the year; and in the heat of summer, for the morning and the evening, or overcast days.”

He’s got it covered, all seasons and all weathers.

“For aviaries, I like them not, except they be of that largeness as they may be turfed, and have living plants and bushes set in them; that the birds may have more scope, and natural nestling, and that no foulness appear in the floor of the aviary.”

Nowadays, we make an effort to plant flowering shrubs, perennials, and grasses that attract and provide habitat for native birds and butterflies, My yard had more birds when I was more consistent about the bird baths. Get past all this construction and I’ll get that rolling again. Love my mockingbirds above all native creatures!

We’ll finish with a drawing of the Walks Bacon designed for Gray’s Inn. So symmetrical!

grays_Walks

 

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