It cannot be denied that outward accidents contribute greatly to one’s fortune: favor, opportunity, the death of others, and occasions that fit virtue. But chiefly, a person’s fortune is in their own hands. Faber quisque fortunae suae,” says the poet. The most frequent external cause is that one person’s folly is another’s fortune. No one prospers as suddenly as by others’ errors. “Serpens nisi serpentem comederit non fit draco.” Overt and apparent virtues bring forth praise, but there are secret and hidden virtues that bring forth fortune – certain expressions of oneself that have no name.
The Spanish name, desemboltura, partly expresses this concept: when there are no obstacles or resistance in a person’s nature, and their mind keeps pace with their fortune. Livy, after describing Cato Major as having such strength of body and mind that wherever he had been born he would have seemed capable of making himself a fortune,” goes on to note his versatile ingenium. Therefore, if one looks closely and attentively, they can see Fortune, for although she may be blind, she is not invisible.
The way of fortune is like the Milky Way in the sky, which is a meeting or knot of a number of small stars not seen asunder but giving light together. So there are a number of little and scarce discerned virtues, or rather faculties and customs, that make men fortunate. The Italians note some of them, such as a man would little think. When they speak of one who cannot do amiss, they will throw in, into his other conditions, that he has poco di matto.
And certainly there are not two more fortunate qualities than to have a little bit of foolishness and not too much honesty. Therefore, extreme lovers of their country or masters were never fortunate, and they cannot be. For when a man places his thoughts outside of himself, he does not go his own way. A hasty fortune makes an entrepreneur and a remover. The French have it better: entreprenant or remuant. But an exercised fortune makes an able man. Fortune is to be honored and respected, even if it is only for her daughters, Confidence and Reputation.
For those two, Felicity breeds; the first within a man’s self, the latter in others towards him. All wise men, to avoid the envy of their own virtues, use to ascribe them to Providence and Fortune. This way, they can better assume them, and it is also a sign of greatness in a man to be under the care of higher powers. As Cæsar said to the pilot in the tempest, Cæsarem portas, et fortunam ejus.” So Sylla chose the name of Felix, and not Magnus. It has been noted that those who openly ascribe too much to their own wisdom and policy end up unfortunate.
It is written that Timotheus the Athenian never prospered in anything after he had often interlaced this speech, And in this, Fortune had no part,” in the account he gave to the state of his government. Certainly, there are those whose fortunes are like Homer’s verses, which have a slide and easiness more than the verses of other poets. As Plutarch said of Timoleon’s fortune in comparison to that of Agesilaus or Epaminondas. No doubt, it is much in a man’s self.