The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4
Of Simulation and Dissimulation
Of Simulation and Dissimulation.
Dissimulation is but a faint kind of policy, or wisdom—for it asketh a strong wit and a strong heart to know when to tell truth, and to do it—therefore it is the weaker sort of politicians that are the greatest dissemsblers.
Tacitus saith, "Livia sorted well with the arts of her husband, and dissimulation of her son, attributing arts of policy to Augustus, and dissimulation to Tiberius:" and again, when Mucianus encourageth Vespasian to take arms against Vitellius, he saith, "We rise not against the piercing judgment of Augustus, nor the extreme caution or closeness of Tiberius:" these properties of arts, or policy, and dissimulation, and closeness, are indeed habits and faculties several, and to be distinguished; for if a man have that penetration of judgment as he can discern what things are to be laid open, and what to be secreted, and what to be showed at half lights, and to whom and when (which indeed are arts of state, and arts of life, as Tacitus well calleth them), to him a habit of dissimulation is a hindrance and a poorness. But if a man cannot attain to that judgment, then it is left to him generally to be close, and a dissembler; for where a man cannot choose or vary in particulars, there it is good to take the safest and weariest way in general, like the going softly by one that cannot well see. Certainly the ablest men that ever were, have had all an openness and frankness of dealing, and a name of certainty and veracity; but then they were like horses well managed, for they could tell passing well when to page 6 stop or turn, and at such times when they thought the case indeed required dissimulation, if then they used it, it came to pass that the former opinion, spread abroad, of their good faith and clearness of dealing, made them almost invisible.
There be three degrees of this hiding and veiling of a man's self; the first, closeness, reservation, and secrecy, when a man leaveth himself without observation, or without hold to be taken, what he is; the second, dissimulation in the negative, when a man lets fall signs and arguments, that he is not that he is; and the third, simulation in the affirmative, when a man industriously and expressly feigns and pretends to be that he is not.
For the first of these, secrecy, it is indeed the virtue of a confessor; and assuredly the secret man heareth many confessions, for who will open himself to a blab or a babbler? But if a man be thought secret, it inviteth discovery, as the more close air sucketh in the more open; and as in confessing the revealing is not for worldly use, but for the ease of a man's heart, so secret men come to the knowledge of many things in that kind, while men rather discharge their minds than impart their minds. In few words, mysteries are due to secrecy. Besides (to say truth) nakedness is uncomely, as well in mind as in body; and it addeth no small reverence to men's manners and actions, if they be not altogether open. As for talkers, and futile persons, they are commonly vain and credulous withal: for he that talketh what he knoweth, will also talk what he knoweth not; therefore set it down, that a habit of secrecy is both politic and moral: and in this part it is good that a man's face give his tongue leave to speak; for the discovery of a man's self, by the tracks of his countenance, is a great weakness and betraying, by how much it is many times more marked and believed than a man's words.
For the second, which is dissimulation, it followeth many times upon secrecy by a necessity; so that he that will be secret, must be a dissembler in some degree—for men are too cunning to suffer a man to keep an indifferent carriage between both, and to be secret, without swaying the balance on either side. They will so beset a man with questions, and draw him on, and pick it out of him, that, without an absurd silence, he must show an inclination one way; or if he do not, they will gather as much by his silence as by his speech. As for equivocations, or eraculous speeches, they cannot hold out long; so that no man can be secret, except he give himself a little scope of dissimulation, which is, as it were, but the skirts or train of secrecy.
But for the third degree, which is simulation and false profession, that I hold more culpable, and less politic, except it be in great and rare matters; and, therefore, a general custom of simulation (which is this last degree), is a vice rising either of a natural falseness, or fearfulness, or of a mind that hath some main faults, which, because a man must needs disguise, it maketh him practise simulation in other things, lest his hand should be out of use.
The advantages of simulation and dissimulation are three—first, to lay asleep opposition, and to surprise; for where a man's intentions are published, it is an alarm to call up all that are against them—the second is, to reserve to a man's self a fair retreat; for if a man engage himself by a manifest declaration, he must go through, or take a fall—the third is, the better to discover the mind of another; for to him that opens himself men will hardly show themselves averse, but will (fair) let him go on, and turn their freedom of speech to freedom of thought; and therefore it is a good shrewd proverb of the Spaniard, "Tell a lie and find a troth," as if there were no way of discovery but by simulation. There be also three disadvantages to set it even; the first, that simulation and dissimulation commonly carry with them a show of fearfulness, which, in any business, doth spoil the feathers of round flying up to the mark; the second, that it puzzleth and perplexeth the conceits of many, that perhaps would otherwise co-operate with him, and makes a man walk almost alone to his own ends; the third, and greatest, is, that it depriveth a man of one of the most principal instruments for action, which is trust and belief. The best composition and temperature is, to have openness in fame and opinion; secrecy in habit; dissimulation in seasonable use; and a power to feign, if there be no remedy.