The Works of Francis Bacon, Volume 1/Essays/Of Dispatch

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XXV. OF DESPATCH.

Affected despatch is one of the most dangerous things to business that can be: It is like that which the physicians calls predigestion, or hasty digestion; which is sure to fill the body full of crudities, and secret seeds of diseases: therefore measure not despatch by the times of sittinsg, but by the advancement of the business: and as, in races, it is not the large stride, or high lift, that makes the speed; so, in business, the keeping close to the matter, and not taking of it too much at once, procureth despatch. It is the care of some only to come off speedily for the time, or to contrive some false periods of business, because they may seem men of despatch: but it is one thing to abbreviate by contracting, another by cutting off; and business so handled at several sittings, or meetings, goeth commonly backward and forward in an unsteady manner. I knew a wise man, that had it for a by-word, when he saw men hasten to a conclusion, "Stay a little, that we may make an end the sooner."

On tlie other side, true despatch is a rich thing; for time is the measure of business, as money is of wares; and business is bought at a dear hand where there is small despatch. The Spartans and Spaniards have been noted to be of small despatch: "Mi venga la muerte de Spagna;"—"Let my death come from Spain," for then it will be sure to be long in coming.

Give good hearing to those that give the first information in business, and rather direct them in the beginning, than interrupt them in the continuance of their speeches; for he that is put out of his own order will go forward and backward, and be more tedious while he waits upon his memory, than he could have been if he had gone on in his own course; but sometimes it is seen that the moderator is more troublesome than the actor.

Iterations are commonly loss of time; but there is no such gain of time as to iterate often the state of the question; for it chaseth away many a frivolous speech as it is coming forth. Long and curious speeches are as fit for despatch, as a robe, or mantle, with a long train, is for a race. Prefaces, and passages, and excusations, and other speeches of reference to the person, are great wastes of time; and though they seem to proceed of modesty, they are bravery. Yet beware of being too material when there is any impediment, or obstruction in men's wills; for preoccupation of mind ever requireth preface of speech, like a fomentation to make the unguent enter.

Above all things, order, and distribution, and singling out of parts, is the life of despatch; so as the distribution be not too subtile: for he that doth not divide will never enter well into business; and he that divideth too much will never come out of it clearly. To choose time is to save time; and an unseasonable motion is but beating the air. There be three parts of business, the preparation; the debate, or examination; and the perfection; whereof, if you look for despatch, let the middle only be the work of many, and the first and last the work of few. The proceeding upon somewhat conceived in writing doth for the most part facilitate despatch: for though it should be wholly rejected, yet that negative is more pregnant of direction than an indefinite, as ashes are more generative than dust.

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.