Here, you will find a summary and questions/answers to chapter 3 (prose) “Of Followers and Friends” by Francis Bacon which is a part of Class 12 Alternative English syllabus for students studying under the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE).
Summary: We meet a variety of people during our life. Bacon begins the essay by mentioning one of those “costly disciples.” These folks gradually develop an unwarranted fondness for us. While their desire to be closer to us is narrow and selfish. They are solely interested in taking advantage of us. That is why Bacon referred to such followers as “expensive followers” and advocated staying away from them. They take on the role of a customer. The more of these types of followers we have, the fewer resources we have. Nonetheless, these followers are not only planned to be expensive, but they are also trouble-makers who will annoy anyone for their gain. One should maintain an arm’s length away from such folks.
Ordinary followers, according to Bacon, should not be like the one mentioned above; instead, they should just demand acceptance, support, suggestion, and protection from wrongs. Factious followers are a different type of follower. These followers do not support you because they like you; rather, they despise others more than you. Such people have shown to be a huge waste of time, money, and energy throughout history. They utterly mismanage key crises, deplete all resources, and pose a major threat to the organization’s reputation. They are not the protectors of the secret, but rather act as spies for their own gain, reporting every minute to the enemies. Bacon referred to them as “espials,” and they were the most hazardous. Such followers, on the other hand, are active and efficient at spreading stories and are well-liked by the general public.
Bacon mentions that the best kind of followers are “officious” males who frequently swap stories (rumors). Soldiers that battled for their leaders and are devoted and noble to them are among them. They are the most trustworthy individuals who devote themselves to a specific man and seek to improve his reputation. Contrary to their illustrious admirers, such people are less well-liked by the general public. Furthermore, Bacon contends that there is another type of follower whose main aim is to make people aware of virtue and focus on those possibilities that will enhance the good in all people, not just one class. As a result, it is preferable for the leader to cultivate followers who are more virtuous, kind, and devoted to him than professional, capable individuals who follow him for their own sake.
Furthermore, Bacon argues that in order to build a government, a highly professional guy is required rather than a moral individual. It is frequently preferable to choose a professional and equal ranked individual for support and advice; yet, doing so makes them arrogant and the rest dissatisfied. On the contrary, Bacon proposes appointing someone lower in rank since it will make him grateful and the others officious (fighting for the position) because it will be a question of favour.
Bacon advises not to trust somebody straight away to hand over all secret information after appointing him because they cannot absorb too much respect and honour at once. It’s as though they’ve been given enormous freedom to make all of their own decisions. These are the people who, at first, lack the confidence to speak out against someone, but after gaining authority, attempt to smear the reputation of someone who is very important to them.
Bacon stated that if one is surrounded by too many people, he will become distracted. The more guys there are, the more opinions there will be. It is preferable for a man to have a few friends with whom he can confer, but he warns that there is little companionship in the world. Someone, we believe, is not always a friend; there is less friendship amongst persons of equal position. Bacon concludes the essay by stating that the fates of superior and inferior workers in government offices are intertwined. As a result, the increase and fall occur together on occasion.
Answer the following questions briefly.
1. What is the central theme of Bacon’s essay?
Answer: Bacon’s essay outlines hazardous and useful followers, but concludes that sincere friends are the best counsellors and followers. In the essay, the author is more concerned with practical behaviour that leads to success in business and government than with moral virtue in life. He goes into great depth about the hazards of amassing “followers,” those who may or may not be friends but cling onto a person for their own gain rather than the good of the person to whom they attach themselves. He is warning followers who join forces with a person simply to inflict harm on a third party. According to Bacon, the most helpful followers are men—often soldiers—who have battled for the nation and are so loyal and trusted. His most essential admonition is to not rely solely on one individual. He advises that the safest course of action is to seek the opinion of a few close friends, but cautions that friendship is rare among equals. The essay distinguishes between hazardous and useful followers, but concludes that sincere friends are the finest counsellors and followers.
2. Why does Bacon warn against having ‘glorious’ followers?
Answer: Bacon warns and advises followers who devote themselves to a person purely for the purpose of causing harm to a third person. It should be noted that many disagreements among the political class are the consequence of misleading information spread by these followers in order to create a schism.
3. Why is the policy of equality good in the government?
Answer: According to Bacon, the principle of equality is excellent in government because he claims that highly professional individuals are recruited to create the government, for assistance and advice, who are professional and similarly ranked. However, he goes on to explain that bestowing such distinction onto them makes them arrogant and the rest dissatisfied. He also suggests that hiring someone of lower position will make him grateful and the rest of the people officious.
4. What is meant by factious followers?
Answer: False followers are dangerous ones, those that follow not out of fondness for the person with whom they are associated, but out of dissatisfaction with someone else, in order to openly follow what is forbidden and detrimental to the companion.
Explain the following lines with reference to the context.
1. It is good discretion not to make too much of any man at the first; because one cannot hold out that proportion.
Answer: The given line is taken from Francis Bacon’s essay “Of Followers and Friends.” In the current setting, the author is issuing a warning to his audience. He claims that prematurely applauding an officer before he has delivered on a sustained basis may lead to the risk of any effort that appears to go beyond what is necessary to achieve its purpose. In the long term, such undeserved praise may be detrimental.
2. Costly followers are not to be liked; lest while a man makes his train longer, he makes his wings shorter.
Answer: We come into contact with a wide range of people as we go about our daily lives. Some of them grow fond of you and warm up to you. At times, the purpose for their proximity might be rather limited and selfish. If you are a wealthy individual with a generous nature, you will encounter people who demand monetary favours from you in a variety of ways. They may be invited to meals, parties, and other outings in your company at your expense. They may expertly create situations in which you are forced to give them expensive gifts, loans, or other such favours. All of this drains your finances, driving you into difficult circumstances. As a result, the less such followers and friends a person has, the better. By avoiding such self-seeking acquaintances, we might learn to conserve our resources.
Answer the following questions in detail.
1. What qualities does Bacon ask to keep in mind when associating with followers?
Answer: Bacon warns his readers about certain followers or ‘friends’ and their associations with us. A form of warning that Bacon presents in his essay is the concept of costly followers as ones that boost connectedness but diminish individual efficiency by making the wing shorter. Bacon emphasises the importance of the individual adopting a more analytical approach to the people they select to include in their inner circle. This setting is not intended to exclude association; rather, it emphasises the importance of exercising serious discernment and analysis when deciding who’s will is associating with ours. Before a person becomes involved in the discontent, they should evaluate the followers of the factions since they have sentiments against one another. The wonderful follower assigns oneself to a person exclusively for the purpose of causing harm to a third party. One should also look out for espials who would prefer the honour of the home over the favour of others, as they are deceptive and are frequently enchanted for skilled story-telling.
2. What are the different kinds of followers Bacon warns against?
Answer: In his essay “Of Followers and Friends,” Francis Bacon warns his readers about the various types of followers that are gathered during the course of life. He begins his essay by referring to one of those “Costly Followers.” He underlines that these people gradually build an unwarranted affection for us, while their goal of becoming closer is quite narrow and selfish, and simply seeks to reap their gains. He suggests that such followers be avoided because they are tiresome and would bother anyone for their own profit.
According to the author, “Ordinary Followers” should simply demand acceptance, support, suggestion, and protection from wrongs, as opposed to “Costly Followers.” Another type of follower is described as a “factious follower,” and according to the author, they follow you not because they like you, but because they dislike others more than you. They thoroughly mismanage a vital crisis, deplete all resources, and pose a major threat to the organization’s reputation. They are not secret keepers, but rather spies who report to the adversary for their own profit. Bacon mentions that the best kind of followers are “officious” males who frequently swap stories. Soldiers that battled for their leaders and are devoted and noble to them are among them. They are the most trustworthy individuals who devote themselves to a specific man and seek to improve his reputation.
He also claims that there are other types of followers whose primary job is to make people aware of virtue and focus on those possibilities that would advance the good in all people. The author says that one should not trust anyone at first, and that one should avoid being surrounded by too many people because it will distract him. It is preferable for a man to have a few friends with whom he can confer, but he warns that there is little companionship in the world.
3. What qualities make a follower trustworthy?
Answer: A person with a certain estate of men, and one who is himself and is designated as a career, can be identified as a reliable follower. They are people who understand and uphold the civil duties assigned to them by the state or government, and who are well prepared to handle any challenge that comes their way. He does not take joy in his popularity, no matter how effectively he accomplishes his duties, better than others. They are the most respectable armoured person, which many people lack and desire.
4. How can having too many followers be harmful in Bacon’s opinion?
Answer: According to Bacon’s essay “Of Followers and Friends,” having too many followers is bad because one cannot be totally aware of another’s intention and motive for befriending him. It may cost a lot of one’s prestige and may be emotionally and mentally damaging. Because of these unknown situations and their long-term implications, the author cautions us to be wary of anyone who follows us. He beautifully depicts the many types of friends and advises us to be wary and learn to discern what objectives these followers may have. Learning to discern and separate them can be quite beneficial in terms of increasing one’s ambition and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One should not grow oblivious to the motivations of others, as different types of people have their own goals.
Having too many followers may incorrectly impact one’s emotions and cause one to become oblivious to their selfish desires by seeing how skilfully they can manipulate situations and makes you feel obligated to provide them their wish at one’s own expense. He advises us to have a few faithful friends who will not be afraid to stand up for us and our wrongdoings. Friends who are willing to sacrifice and remain loyal, like soldiers, are the ones we should admire, according to Bacon.
Think and discuss.
1. Bacon asserts that first meetings are not good to judge a person. Do you agree?
Answer: It is reasonable to state that initial meetings are not appropriate for judging a person, as asserted by Bacon, because we cannot expect to learn everything about someone we have just met. He advises not to trust anyone at first since it is akin to giving them the extraordinary freedom to determine everything on their own. However, learning about them would be a time-consuming process involving experiences and events that would develop over time. No one can deduce another person’s character based on their first acquaintance, thus the author urges us to be wary of people with selfish motives. In his essay, he discusses the various followers, each with their own set of objectives and goals. By highlighting the various types of followers, we become more aware of the people that may cross our path. He also advises against trusting anybody right once with all secret information after selecting him since they cannot absorb too much respect and honour at once. He claims that these are those who, at first, lack the confidence to speak out against someone, but after gaining authority, attempt to smear the reputation of someone who is very important to them.
2. In the age of social media, how are Bacon’s views relevant?
Answer: We can say that Bacon’s essay “Of Followers and Friends” applies to today’s generation or age of social media. Although the essay was written long ago, the morals and character of man cannot be considered to have altered, especially with technological globalisation, the globe as we know it has shrunk. We establish numerous friends on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, online gaming, and so on, and we may meet a variety of people. It becomes vital for us to deduce who is true and loyal. True personality is buried behind the walls of the screen, making it nearly impossible to actually know someone. By following Bacon’s counsel and knowledge, we will be able to filter out people who we believe are a burden to our healthy lifestyle; but, the art of deducing people’s characteristics will have to be learned via experiences and the passage of time.
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