Essay On Anger By Bacon

In the 1601 edition of Francis Bacon’s Essays, the essay “Of Anger” concludes with the following paragraph:

For raising and appeasing anger in another; it is done chiefly by choosing of times, when men are frowardest and worst disposed, to incense them. Again, by gathering (as was touched before) all that you can find out, to aggravate the contempt. And the two remedies are by the contraries. The former to take good times, when first to relate to a man an angry business; for the first impression is much; and the other is, to sever, as much as may be, the construction of the injury from the point of contempt; imputing it to misunderstanding, fear, passion, or what you will.

This paragraph might be paraphrased as follows:

Let me tell you how you can either make other people angry or how you can remove their anger. If you want to make them angry, you should choose a time when they are most obstinate or inflexible and when they are in the worst possible mood or temper. As I mentioned earlier, you can also try to discover any fact that might make them even fuller of contempt than they were already. Likewise, if you want to try to dampen someone’s anger, there are two methods.  One method is to choose a pleasant or happy time to talk to that person about anything that might make (or has made) the person angry. After all, people often follow their first impressions; if you approach them when they are in good moods, they are more likely to be agreeable and to put aside their anger. Another method for diminishing someone’s anger is to emphasize that if you did anything to make that other person angry, you didn’t do so because you felt contempt or disrespect for that person. Instead, you should claim that you made the person angry only because you made a mistake, or because you were afraid, or because you couldn’t control your emotions, or for any other plausible reason.  Just don’t allow the person that you lacked respect or felt contempt or disdain.

The second section of Bacon’s paragraph is especially intriguing.  Just as many people today are highly offended if they think they have been disrespected (or “dissed”), so Bacon assumes the same thing about people living during his own time. He assumes that people of his day are motivated partly by pride and that they cannot stand to have their pride challenged. They may be willing to let go of their anger if they are presented with just about any other excuse to explain why someone else made them angry. However, if they feel that they have been disrespected, they will find it very difficult to let go of their anger.

Since violence and even death often results today from people who feel that they have been “dissed,” Bacon’s comments here still seem particularly relevant.

To seek to extinguish anger utterly, is but a bravery of the Stoics. We have better oracles: Be angry, but sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger. Anger must be limited and confined, both in race and in time. We will first speak how the natural inclination and habit to be angry, may be attempted and calmed. Secondly, how the particular motions of anger may be repressed, or at least refrained from doing mischief. Thirdly, how to raise anger, or appease anger in another.

For the first; there is no other way but to meditate, and ruminate well upon the effects of anger, how it troubles man’s life. And the best time to do this, is to look back upon anger, when the fit is thoroughly over. Seneca saith well, That anger is like ruin, which breaks itself upon that it falls. The Scripture exhorteth us to possess our souls in patience. Whosoever is out of patience, is out of possession of his soul. Men must not turn bees;

. . . animasque in vulnere ponunt.


Anger is certainly a kind of baseness; as it appears well in the weakness of those subjects in whom it reigns; children, women, old folks, sick folks. Only men must beware, that they carry their anger rather with scorn, than with fear; so that they may seem rather to be above the injury, than below it; which is a thing easily done, if a man will give law to himself in it.

For the second point; the causes and motives of anger, are chiefly three. First, to be too sensible of hurt; for no man is angry, that feels not himself hurt; and therefore tender and delicate persons must needs be oft angry; they have so many things to trouble them, which more robust natures have little sense of. The next is, the apprehension and construction of the injury offered, to be, in the circumstances thereof, full of contempt: for contempt is that, which putteth an edge upon anger, as much or more than the hurt itself. And therefore, when men are ingenious in picking out circumstances of contempt, they do kindle their anger much. Lastly, opinion of the touch of a man’s reputation, doth multiply and sharpen anger. Wherein the remedy is, that a man should have, as Consalvo was wont to say, telam honoris crassiorem. But in all refrainings of anger, it is the best remedy to win time; and to make a man’s self believe, that the opportunity of his revenge is not yet come, but that he foresees a time for it; and so to still himself in the meantime, and reserve it.

To contain anger from mischief, though it take hold of a man, there be two things, whereof you must have special caution. The one, of extreme bitterness of words, especially if they be aculeate and proper; for cummunia maledicta are nothing so much; and again, that in anger a man reveal no secrets; for that, makes him not fit for society. The other, that you do not peremptorily break off, in any business, in a fit of anger; but howsoever you show bitterness, do not act anything, that is not revocable.

For raising and appeasing anger in another; it is done chiefly by choosing of times, when men are frowardest and worst disposed, to incense them. Again, by gathering (as was touched before) all that you can find out, to aggravate the contempt. And the two remedies are by the contraries. The former to take good times, when first to relate to a man an angry business; for the first impression is much; and the other is, to sever, as much as may be, the construction of the injury from the point of contempt; imputing it to misunderstanding, fear, passion, or what you will.

One thought on “Essay On Anger By Bacon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *