Answer: Francis Bacon is generally recognized as the first great writer of English philosophy although he had no great respect for the English language. It is a known fact that Bacon is influenced by Montaigne. Bacon’s style is most remarkable for its terseness. Bacon displays a great talent for condensation. Every sentence in his essays is pregnant with meaning and is capable of being expanded into several sentences. Many of his sentences appear to be proverbial sayings or apophthegms by virtue of their gems of thoughts expressed in a pithy manner. He can say that most in the fewest words. His essays combine wisdom in thought with extreme brevity. The short, pithy sayings in his essays have become popular mottoes and household expressions.
An aphoristic style means a compact, condensed and epigrammatic style of writing. An aphorism is a short sentence expressing a truth in the fewest possible words. An aphorism is like a proverb which has a quotable quality. Bacon excels in this kind of writing. Indeed, his essays are replete with aphorisms. Any number of examples could be given from his essays to illustrate this style of writing.
Take the essay, Of Truth. There are a number of aphoristic sentences in this essay. Some of these may be quoted here:
“A mixture of a lie doeth ever add pleasure.”
Here Bacon wants to convey the idea that the statement of a truth becomes more attractive when a lie is mixed with it. Thus, whenever we want to defend a lie, we could quote this sentence from Bacon.
“But it is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in and settleth in it, that doth the hurt.”
Here Bacon wishes to convey the idea that much harm is caused by a lie that settles down in the mind because such a lie will keep working upon the mind and will have long—term effects. A lie that is heard and then forgotten will not cause any injury to a man.
“Certainly it is heaven upon earth to have a man’s mind move in charity, rest in Providence and turn upon the poles of truth.”
Here Bacon conveys a valuable moral by the use of the minimum possible number of words.
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The essay, Of Marriage and Single Life, shows the aphoristic quality of Bacon’s style in a more striking manner. Here are some of the sentences that are eminently quotable.
“He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune”.
The idea here has been expressed most effectively and memorably.
“Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants, but not always best subjects.”
This is an excellent summing-up of the case.
“Wives are young men’s mistresses, companions for middle age and old man’s nurses.”
Here is an aphorism combining wisdom with wit.
The essay, Of Great Place, also contains a number of pithy sentences. Here are a few examples.
“It is a strange desire to seek power and to lose liberty: or to seek power over others and to lose power over a man’s self.”
“The rising unto place is laborious, and by pains men come to greater pains.”
“For in evil, the best condition is not to will, the second not to can.”
All the three sentences quoted above are excellent examples of Bacon’s terse and epigrammatic style.
Here are a few pithy sentences from the Essay, Of Friendship:
“For a crowd is not company and faces are but a gallery of pictures.”
“For there is no such flatterer as is a man’s self.”
This sentence conveys to us the idea that every man has the highest possible opinion of himself. In other words, every man has his ego, and it is most often a highly inflated ego.
The essay, Of Studies, abounds in aphoristic or epigrammatic sentences some of which have become so famous that they are on the lips of even those men who have never heard the name of Bacon.
“Crafty men condemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them.”
“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
“Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.”
His aphoristic style makes Bacon an essayist of high distinction. Aphorisms give to his essays singular force and weight. No one has ever produced a greater number of closely packed and striking formulas, loaded with practical wisdom. Many of them have become current as proverbs Bacon’s essays constitute a handbook of practical wisdom, enclosing in their shortest maxims, an astonishing treasure of insight.
It may, however, be pointed out that, on account of extreme condensation, Bacon’s aphorisms occasionally became obscure. For instance, it would be difficult to get the meaning of the following pithy sentence from the essay, Of Truth:
“Certainly there be that delight in giddiness, and count it a bondage to fix a belief.”
The essay, Of Suitors, contains a number of sentences which are short and aphoristic but obscure. For instance: “Secrecy in suits is a great mean of obtaining”. There is hardly a reader who can understand the meaning of this sentence without some help from a scholar. In fact the whole of this essay offers considerable difficulty to the reader because of its excessive condensation and concentration of thoughts
But such exceptions apart, Bacon’s genius for compression lends much charm to his style. Every aphorism that we come across startles us by its novelty. Every epigram arrests us. Every pithy sentence holds our attention. And they all charm, delight and thrill us because they all clothe weighty and valuable ideas, suggestions, lessons, and so on. And what adds to their appeal is the fact that Bacon does not seem to have made conscious efforts to produce them. The aphoristic style is not “laboured” in the case of Bacon; it is truly spontaneous.
The Elizabethan age is the most creative period in English literature. The foreign wars in which the young Chaucer bore a part had ended in the abandonment of the English claim to the French crown. The civil Wars of the Roses had brought forward the Tudor family, who in Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth, gave to the English nation three of the ablest rulers it has ever produced. By the marriage of one of the Tudors the Scottish king who had become heir to the English throne was to carry peace with him into England after three centuries of warfare on the northern border. For the first time Englishmen had leisure to devote their energies to other interests than war upon their neighbors. Fortunately, just at this time, the great wave of the Renaissance, the new birth of letters, having spent itself in Italy and crossed France and Spain, reached the shores of England. There it was eagerly welcomed by men, who, if they had not the poise and mental reach of the Italians of the Renaissance, or the gayety and sense of form of their French contemporaries, had yet more daring and more intellectual curiosity. The same spirit of adventure that carried Sir Francis Drake around the globe induced the Elizabethans to try all sorts of new forms in literature. Shakspere would not be "our myriad-minded Shakspere," as Coleridge called him, if he had not best expressed the thought of a myriad-minded age. Most of the new literary forms were first made known to the Elizabethans by translations from the Italian and French. Sir Thomas Wyatt translated Italian songs and sonnets and presages a burst of lyric music from that "nest of singing-birds," the poets and dramatists of Elizabeth's time. William Painter translated novels from Boccaccio and Queen Marguerite, and Robert Greene composed original tales after their manner. Translations of Machiavelli and Comines taught men how to write history, and Sir Walter Ralegh, ending his days in imprisonment, wrote the History of the World in the Tower. Richard Hakluyt's Principall Navigations, "the great Elizabethan bible of adventure," largely translated from the journals of Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese navigators, is the beginning of that splendid series of stories of voyage and discovery and peaceable conquest by Englishmen which is unsurpassed in the literature of any nation. Sir Philip Sidney, an Italianated Englishman of the noblest type, inaugurates English criticism in The Defence of Poesie. With Francis Bacon begins philosophical reflection upon life, in the style of Plutarch's Morals and the Essais of Montaigne. Bacon's mind was catholic in its range like Plutarch's, but the subjects of moral thought that interest him are comparatively few, because generalized. His treatment of a moral subject is more scientific also than that of the classical writer, more scientific than himself even when writing on a strictly scientific theme. In the Sylva Sylvarum: or A Natural History, for example, Bacon brings together a great many facts about nature, which he calls "experiments," some of them observations of real value, while others must have been trivial even to himself. In the Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall the method is ever to reduce reflection to its lowest terms, to try to discover the fundamental principles of conduct that influence the actions of men. Again, Bacon has nothing of the attractive personality of Montaigne, a man of the world who made a point of finding out what the world was like from all sorts and conditions of men, from the king on his throne to the groom of his riding-horse. Montaigne writes on and on about a subject in breezy discursiveness, like a man on horseback traversing an interesting country. Bacon's Essays reflect his experience of life, but they tell us little or nothing of his personal likes and dislikes. They are austere, brief to the point of crudeness, they smell of the lamp.
Bacon's own judgment of his Essays, as we know from the dedicatory epistle prefixed to the third edition, was that they might last as long as books last. In the essay, Of Innovations, he says, "Time is the greatest innovator." The most obvious division of the Essays is that which time has made. Certain essays do "come home to men's business and bosoms" in a universal way. They appeal to all men at all times. They discourse of great subjects in the grand manner. The essays, Of Truth, OfDeath, Of Great Place, might have been written by Aristotle, and what is said in these and other essays of like character is as true to-day as when Bacon lived. Another type of essay is distinctly limited, partly by Bacon's own character and partly by the social characteristics of his time. The essay Of Friendship grew out of Bacon's longest and most disinterested friendship, but no man can write an adequate essay on this noble theme, and yet say, as Bacon did in Of Followers and Friends, "There is little friendship in the world, and least of all between equals, which was wont to be magnified. That that is, is between superior and inferior, whose fortunes may comprehend the one the other." A thought like that puts friendship on the low plane of a paying basis. That Bacon could utter it has tarnished his fame with the charge of treachery towards Essex. The essays, Of Love, and Of Marriage and Single Life, were the product of a social condition in which passion did not necessarily enter into the marriage relation, and marriage itself was an affair to be arranged between parties suitably situated. It was a man's world, and it is impossible to judge it fairly now, because in the modern world the advancement of woman has revolutionized the older ideas of domestic relations. Essayists of Bacon's mental characteristics will still write on love and marriage, but their treatment of these themes must inevitably be broader and deeper, because it has been spiritualized. It is juster, because it recognizes the mutual obligations of men and women. When Emerson talks about Friendship and Love we are in another world than Bacon's. Emerson opens his essay on Domestic Life with impassioned tenderness for the child in the house. There are no children in Bacon's world and the few children in Shakspere's plays are all sharp of wit, precocious beyond their years. They are the children of his brain, not little people he had lived with. Some eight or ten of Bacon's essays have become obsolete in thought. They are those which grew out of his experience of life at the Courts of Elizabeth and James I, of the petty rivalries and intrigues which led him to believe and to say, "All rising to great place is by a winding stair." Bacon's "winding stair" to the Lord Chancellorship runs through the essays, Of Simulation and Dissimulation, Of Delays, Of Cunning, Of Wisdom for a Man's Self, Of Dispatch, Of Suspicion, Of Negociating, and Of Followers and Friends. Fancy Emerson writing an essay on cunning! It is not that dissimulation and cunning no longer exist in the world, but that the intellectual appeal of such subjects is now restricted to their kind. Like drunkenness, dissimulation has descended in the social scale.
When we recall that the composition of his Essays occupied Bacon's thought for the space of more than thirty years, it is curious that he nowhere alludes to any English contemporary by name, except Queen Elizabeth, and that after her death. But between the lines Bacon has left on record the characters of three men who crossed his path. From the singularly intimate private diary which he called Commentarius Solutus, we know that the essay Of Seeming Wise is a portrait of Sir Henry Hobart, who by securing the appointment of Attorney-General, in 1606, effectually barred Bacon's way to that position for seven years. Bacon bitterly resented being passed over, and jotted now in his notes a series of epigrams on "Hubbard's disadvantages" which seem to have developed into this essay, in which Attorney-General Hobart represents as type the weak man who is made to believe himself wondrous wise. The essay Of Deformity, at the time of its publication, was said to be a portrait to the life of Bacon's cousin, Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who may be also in mind in the essays Of Envy and Of Cunning. Cecil's stature of scarce five feet was produced by curvature of the spine. He was so small that Elizabeth called him "little man" or "little elf." James I addressed him as "pygmy" or even "little beagle." The fine essay Of Judicature is the substance of a charge to Sir Richard Button, on his being raised to the bench of the Court of Common Pleas, 3d May, 1617. Bacon as Lord Chancellor on delivering him his patent complimented him on possessing the virtues of a judge, essentially those set forth in the essay.
Three of the essays tell us what recreations appealed to Bacon in the intervals of his busy life of statecraft and authorship. The essay Of Masques and Triumphs grew out of a long experience of writing in lighter vein. Between 1588 and 1614 Bacon was the author or "chief contriver " or "chief encourager" of no less than six masques. After his marriage, in 1606, he found his father's house at Gorhambury too small, and built there a large and stately mansion, Verulam House, an experience which enabled him to speak with authority Of Building. In the following essay, Of Gardens, he writes,—"I, for my part, do not like images cut out in juniper or other garden stuffs; they be for children." That is a criticism of Sir Nicholas Bacon's garden at Gorhambury, which gave place to the "princely garden" of not less than "thirty acres" surrounding Verulam House, and which is described with such minuteness of detail that the plan of it may be easily reconstructed. Bacon's fondness for gardens is his most engaging trait. A garden, he says, is "the purest of human pleasures," "the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man." John Aubrey's gossip brings him before us enjoying his own garden. "Every meale, according to the season of the yeare, he had his table strewed with sweet herbes and flowers, which he sayd did refresh his spirits and memorie." And again,—"His Lordship was a very contemplative person, and was wont to contemplate in his delicious walks at Gorhambury, and dictate to Mr. Bushell, or some of his gentlemen, that attended him with ink and paper ready to set downe presently his thoughts." But the favorite companion in the meditative walks through the covert alleys of Gorhambury was Thomas Hobbes, author of The Leviathan. "Mr. Tho. Hobbes (Malmesburiensis) was beloved by his Lop. [Lordship], who was wont to have him walke in his delicate groves, when he did meditate: and when a notion darted into his mind, Mr. Hobbes was presently to write it downe, and his Lop. was wont to say that he did it better than any one els about him; for that many times, when he read their notes he scarce understood what they writt, because they understood it not clearly themselves. In short, all that were great and good loved and honoured him."
Of Regiment of Health narrates how Bacon managed to preserve almost to the Psalmist's three score years and ten a body naturally frail, and to get out of it a vast amount of hard work. It was accomplished through a thorough knowledge of his own constitution, and by the constant observance of a few simple principles of hygiene, temperance always, and a just mean between work and recreation.
With the essay Of Plantations should be read the early history of the colony of Virginia. The first attempt to colonize Virginia was in 1585, when Sir Richard Grenville carried out a band of colonists under rules of government drawn up by Grenville's cousin, Sir Walter Ralegh. This colony failed a year later while Bacon was serving his second term in the House of Commons as member for Taunton. Ralegh as member for Devon was at the time his colleague, and the failure undoubtedly left an impression in Bacon's mind, as all matters of public policy did. In the second year of his Solicitor-Generalship, when King James was proposing the Protestant plantation of Ulster, Bacon wrote his first article on colonization, Discourse of the Plantation in Ireland, about January, 1608-1609. His point of view was essentially that put forth in Certain Articles or Considerations touching the Union of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland (1604). The Solicitor-General believed in the aggrandizement of the United Kingdom, peaceably by preference, but by force if necessary. At the very time that Bacon was engaged in writing this paper on the Irish plantation, a fresh attempt to colonize Virginia was maturing at Court, for on May 23, 1609, "The Treasurer of the Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the First Colony in Virginia" was chartered by King James, primarily to go to the relief of Captain John Smith. Among the six hundred and fifty-nine "adventurers" were Sir Francis Bacon, his cousin, Robert Cecil, now Earl of Salisbury, Shakspere's friend, the Earl of Southampton, and Sir Oliver Cromwell, uncle to the Protector. The essay Of Plantations, first published in the third edition of the Essays (1625), was written from a personal knowledge of the London or South Virginia Company. Bacon mentions the over-cultivation of the new plant, tobacco, in Virginia, "to the untimely prejudice of the main business." The very streets of Jamestown were planted with tobacco by the first settlers, who then secured for themselves from King James a monopoly of the home market for their commodity, in spite of the royal objection to the "vile custome of Tobacco taking." The advice to colonists not to let their government depend upon too many counsellors at home, "but upon a temperate number only," doubtless reflects Bacon's own experience of the unwieldy committee of noblemen and gentlemen who tried to govern the planters of Virginia from the safe and uninformed distance of London.
"Travel," says Bacon, "in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience." His own travels, as we know, were "a part of education," and they extended no farther than France, nor beyond his eighteenth year. After that he was too busy and for many years too poor to travel. But the essay Of Travel shows that he had profited by the travels of others, and especially by those of his brother, Anthony, who wandered about the continent, chiefly in France, for the eleven or twelve years between 1579 and 1592. By the middle of Elizabeth's reign, it had become the fashion for noblemen's sons and young men of family to travel to complete their education. It was expensive education, for the conditions of travel were such that the young man had to be accompanied by a tutor and by servants. The only means of transportation were horses for land travel and boats where waterways were available. Young men, and older men who could stand it, rode horseback day after day. The letters of the poet, Francis Davison, to his father, Secretary Davison, make known what difficulties the sons of gentlemen met with when travelling like noblemen. Anthony Bacon's long travels so seriously embarrassed his estate that he never afterwards was out of debt. During these travels he found himself, in 1582, in Bordeaux, and there he formed a friendship with the Sieur de Montaigne. At that time about a year had passed since Montaigne's return from a seventeen months' tour through France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. The young traveller and the older one must have exchanged many pleasant memories of places, persons, and things. Montaigne, keeping a diary, and less interested in sights than in the ways of life of foreign folk, their social and political institutions, was such a traveller as Bacon would have been, if it had been his fortune to travel in mature years. Of Englishmen, the late Elizabethan, John Evelyn, cultivated, observant, tolerant, is also of the sort. But no Elizabethan traveller is merely chatty. Fynes Moryson's Itinerary and Coryats Crudities, in spite of its quips and cranks, are valuable records of travel under Elizabeth and James.
In the essay Of Studies a lifelong student describes his craft. "He was no plodder upon books," writes his chaplain, Dr. Rawley, "though he read much, and that with great judgment, and rejection of impertinences incident to many authors; for he would ever interlace a moderate relaxation of his mind with his studies, as walking, or taking the air abroad in his coach, or some other befitting recreation [in the Latin version Rawley adds 'gentle exercise on horseback and playing at bowls'] and yet he would lose no time, inasmuch as upon his first and immediate return he would fall to reading again, and so suffer no moment of time to slip from him without some present improvement. It may well be that the subject Of Studies was the one that revolved longest in Bacon 's mind, for it is the first essay of the edition of 1597, where it consists of eleven sentences only arranged in seven paragraphs, each formally isolated from the rest by the paragraph sign ¶. In the edition of 1625, Of Studies is number fifty. This original construction of detached sentences on a single theme accords with the first meaning of the word 'essay,' which Bacon in his 1597 title seems to have introduced into English, from Montaigne, though it was quite in character for him to cite a favorite Latin classic to support his use of the term. In the draft of the dedication of the second edition of the Essays, 1607—1612, to Prince Henry, not used on account of the death of the prince and never printed by Bacon, he says he had chosen "to write certaine breif notes, sett downe rather significantlye, then curiously, which I have called Essaies; The word is late, but the thing is auncient. For Senecaes Epistles to Lucilius; yf one marke them well, are but Essaies,—That is dispersed Meditacions." Dr. Johnson's definition of 'essay,' in 1755, is "an irregular undigested piece."
It is extremely interesting to observe the growth of the original ten essays through the second edition to the third. It will be seen that as Bacon's literary style developed the thought of the earliest essays does not materially change in the second edition, but that it is here and there expanded by a qualifying idea or by an apt illustration. For example, the apothegms of the last paragraph of Studies, of 1597, "Histories make men wise, Poets wittie," etc., is enlarged in 1612 by the simile comparing the effect of study upon the mind to that of exercise upon the body. The edition of 1625 sent forth the ten early essays expanded to nearly double their original size, while some of the essays of 1612 were entirely rewritten, notably the essay Of Friendship.
When Bacon expanded a subject the method that came most natural to him was that of the scientist, by analysis and contrast. Friendship resolves itself for him into three principal "fruits," "peace in the affections," "support of the judgment," and "aid and comfort in action." The puzzling degrees of dissimulation he describes, Of Simulation and Dissimulation, remind one of the excellent fooling of Touchstone on how to "quarrel in print, by the book," or the seven degrees of lies. The essay Of Adversity is merely a series of antitheses, an oracular list of pros and cons. It might have been composed by drawing up on opposite pages a debit and credit account of life. Again, Bacon's choice of abstract subjects to write upon is in keeping with the analytic character of his mind. To choose a general theme, like "Truth" or "Death" or "Praise," and to say something upon it which is at once worth while and new can be done by a great writer only. To express a new and valuable thought in language that combines at once the qualities of simplicity, precision, dignity, and universality can be done by a very great writer only. That feat Bacon accomplished, best of Englishmen.
When one examines Bacon's literary style as the outcome of his reading and study, it presents the same anomaly as his moral character. He was a diligent reader of Cicero, and he had so little faith in the English language that he had his Essays translated into Latin, to preserve them in what he called "the universal language." But the Essays "come home to men's business and bosoms" precisely because in forming his English style Bacon is not Ciceronian and rhetorical. He quotes a pun of Caesar's and one of his apothegms, but nothing more; he does not mention Catullus; and yet in English, Bacon displays the same quality of style that distinguishes the Commentaries of Caesar and the lyric poetry of Catullus. It is the Attic style, which aims at idiomatic purity, not only in choice of words, but also in a simple and even severe correctness of construction, urbanitas, as the Latin says. Dr. Rawley tells us that Bacon was always seeking the "clear" word and could not but be "polite," that is, urbane. In hitting upon just the right word, Bacon exhibits everywhere a mastery of his art that is as subtle as it is inimitable. Notice the emotional tone of the word 'reverend' in "it is a reverend thing to see an ancient castle or building not in decay;" so 'strangely' in "it draws the eye strangely" is fairly hypnotic in suggestion. Of beautiful and striking antitheses Bacon is full, like "for if a man can be partaker of God's theatre, he shall likewise be partaker of God 's rest." It adds much to the pleasure of reading Bacon's Essays to be sensitive to the fulness and nicety of meaning of the well chosen words used. "Discretion of speech," says Bacon in Of Discourse, "is more than eloquence; and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal, is more than to speak in good words, or in good order." This principle, in the stylistic code of the Atticists, is the conversational tone, the loqui of Caesar, not the dicere of Cicero. It is vastly more difficult to put elegance and dignity and weight into conversational language, than to write with rhetorical flourishes, to express the thought in fine language merely. It can be accomplished, as Bacon accomplished it, by taking pains always. Dr. Rawley goes on,—"Neither was he given to any light conceits, or descanting upon words, but did ever purposely and industriously avoid them; for he held such things to be but digressions or diversions from the scope intended, and to derogate from the weight and dignity of the style."
The Attic style is particularly hard to write in English, because English is naturally a discursive language. Bacon caught it in the first place from the happy accident of being an Elizabethan. Again, Bacon's mind was a thoroughly logical one. Every new acquisition of its full content fell into its proper place with great distinctness. Lastly, Bacon was a Latinist, and Latin is the one language, ancient or modern, that can say the most in the fewest words.
The Roman Atticist who most affected Bacon's style is his favorite philosophical historian, Tacitus. As stylists the likenesses and differences between Tacitus and Bacon are of interest. Both writers were keen observers of men and things, the minds of both were naturally analytic, both possessed the faculty of crystallizing psychological or ethical or general truths in pointed epigrams or well-balanced antitheses. Bacon is fond of quoting from Tacitus the brief and telling sentences in which he summed up the character of a man, or the tone of an era. On the other hand, Bacon carefully avoided the rhetorical faults which lay Tacitus's style open to the charge of occasional obscurity. Bacon did not coin words, neither did he put new meaning into old words, nor use rare and uncommon expressions. He has no tricks of singularity. His is an art so bare and open that it even suggests no art, stylelessness. Instead of the labored obscurity here and there in Tacitus, Bacon's style is illuminated by the play of a great imagination, which suggested to him now a picturesque word, and now a striking comparison. Finally, Tacitus lived in the decline of an era, and his prevailing tone is gray and pessimistic. Over Bacon's style there rests the serenity of philosophic calm. The English Tacitus was born in a great age, and he was a lover of his fellow-men.
As to specific points of style, the most casual reader cannot but notice Bacon's manner of introduction. It is that of a practised debater. Bacon is a good opener. Many of the opening sentences arrest attention at once, as it was undoubtedly intended they should. Sometimes the thought is expressed in an aphoristic figure, as, "Revenge is a kind of wild justice," Of Revenge. Sometimes it is an apt quotation, like "What is truth? said jesting Pilate," Of Truth. Sometimes it is a great thought inimitably set in speech. "God Almighty first planted a garden," is the jewel-like sentence that opens the essay Of Gardens. When the weary wayfarer sees that legend shining resplendent over the gate of an old-time garden, he must needs enter in to refresh his spirit.
As has been said, Bacon's model for brief and pointed expression is Tacitus, whom he had read "wholly, and with diligence and attention." Tacitus more than any other author contributed to the swiftness and philosophic range of Bacon's thought, and the other classical writers who helped to make him "a full man," stand, after Tacitus, probably in this order, Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, Livy, Vergil, Ovid, the two Plinies, Suetonius, Lucretius, Lucian, Caesar, Lucan, Plautus, Terence, Horace, Martial, Plato, Homer, Herodotus and Aristotle. The Greeks make way for the Romans in this list, both in number and in frequency of quotation. Plutarch was a favorite Greek author with Bacon, as he was with Shakspere and the other Elizabethans. There are two reasons for the popularity of Plutarch at that time. The active and inquiring minds of the Elizabethans enjoyed Plutarch as an all-round man. He satisfied their intellectual curiosity on many points. Besides, Plutarch was the most fortunate of the Greeks in contemporary translation. Thomas North's translation of Plutarch, from the French of Jacques Amyot, was called The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, and came out in 1579, with a dedication to Queen Elizabeth. It was written in simple, idiomatic, picturesque prose, the best English prose that had been written up to that time. As is well known, North's Plutarch was Shakspere's storehouse of classical learning. Page after page of the 'lives' of Caesar, Brutus, Antony, and Coriolanus in Shakspere is simply the noble English of North's narrative animated with the life and play of dialogue. North's masterly manner in prose was to develop into Bacon himself and into the translators of the Authorized Version of the Bible. Bacon read Greek and may have quoted the Plutarch's Lives from that reading, but it is more than likely that he used one of the four editions of North's translations that appeared during his lifetime. He was certainly familiar with The Philosophie, commonly called the Morals, written by the learned philosopher Plutarch, and translated from the Greek, in 1603, by Philemon Holland, with a dedication to James I.
In general reading, Bacon quotes of the Fathers, St. Augustine, Of Truth, and St. Bernard, Of Unity in Religion and Of Atheism. Of Frenchmen, he alludes to Rabelais as "a master of scoffing" in Of Unity in Religion. The story of Charles the Bold in Of Friendship Bacon took from Thomas Danett's admirable English translation, The Historie of Philip de Commines, Knight, Lord of Argenton, which was published in 1601, but is dedicated to his uncle, Lord Burghley, under date "1 Nov. 1596." Elsewhere in the Essays, Bacon shows acquaintance with Comines's 'History of Louis XI,' a serene, dispassionate, philosophical account of that Machiavellian prince. Comines, who has been described as "as humane as the ancients and almost as wise as Tacitus himself," was a historian after Bacon's own heart. Besides the 'pretty' saying about truth and his title, Bacon adopted from Montaigne the idea of popularizing moral philosophy. Montaigne had discoursed delightfully of the philosophy of common things for Frenchmen. He would do the same for Englishmen, and he did it, but the French and English manner differ as the poles. Montaigne's reflections on life centre in his own individuality. Fortunately, it was a great and original individuality, disciplined by the conduct of affairs, and cultivated by books and society and travel. With that equipment, Montaigne tells us from his tower what he thought of life. He is garrulous, he is personal, painfully personal at times, he is familiar, "the intimate friend of us all," as Sainte-Beuve said. Bacon's philosophy of life is nearly as impersonal as Shakspere's; it is brief, almost blunt; it has a remote air, as if Seneca had indeed inspired it. The love of classical learning, breadth of view, benevolence, and wit are qualities which distinguish alike the essays of Michel de Montaigne and Francis Bacon.
Montaigne observes of the moral insensibility of Francesco Guicciardini, his cold, passionless manner of depicting a great national tragedy, the decline and fall of his own country after the French invasion of 1494, "among the many motives and counsels on which he adjudicates, he never attributes any one of them to virtue, religion, or conscience, as if all these were quite extinct in the world." Bacon had doubtless read Montaigne's opinion of Guicciardini, in the second book of his Essais. He had undoubtedly read Guicciardini's L'historia d'italia, either in the original, or what is more likely, in the translation of Geoffrey Fenton, The Historie of Guicciardin (1579). Fenton's Guicciardini was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, and was a popular translation from the Italian, running to three editions during her reign and one in King James's time. There is a certain likeness between Guicciardini and Bacon in both career and character. Benedetto Yarchi, his contemporary and fellow-historian, writes of Guicciardini, "Messer Francesco, besides his noble birth, his riches and his academical degree, and besides having been Governor and Viceroy of the Pope, was highly esteemed and enjoyed a great reputation; not only for his knowledge, but for his great practical acquaintance with the affairs of the world and the actions of men. Of such he would discourse admirably, and his judgment was sound. But his conduct did not tally with his speech; being by nature proud and curt, he was swayed sometimes by ambition, but oftener by avarice, in a manner unbecoming to a well-bred and modest man." Bacon was proud, but not curt, nor was he avaricious, though the love of what money can buy was strong in him. Otherwise, Varchi's character of Guicciardini might do for Bacon set down in Italy. Like Bacon, Guicciardini was keenly observant, he had the habit of recording his impressions of men and things, and it was his mental turn to record them in the form of aphorisms. But Guicciardini's view was narrow, as Montaigne says, and he had not the ability to relate and combine facts on broad general principles; his history is therefore rather the memoranda and maxims of a statesman, scientifically arranged, than a philosophical summing up of human affairs. Nor had Guicciardini a literary style. He is more of a thinker than an author.
In the essay Of Superstition Bacon quotes from the Historia del Concilio Tridentino, by the Venetian, Fra Paolo Sarpi, probably from the contemporary translation of Sir Nathaniel Brent, but the Italian whom Bacon knew best was Machiavelli. Though the great Florentine is quoted but four times, three times only by name, yet many of the Essays should be read in connection with Machiavelli's Discorsi sopra La Prima Deca di T. Livio. The last essay, Of Vicissitude of Things, was clearly suggested by Book II, Chapter 5, of Machiavelli's work, which is on the subject "That Deluges, Pestilences, the change of Religion and Languages, and other accidents, in a manner extinguish the memory of many things." Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy was facile princeps the history that made Bacon wise. From abstract principles in the sphere of government, Machiavelli appealed to experience; for authority as the test of truth, he substituted scientific facts. This practical method of writing history Bacon approved of highly. "We are much beholden," he says, "to Machiavel and others that wrote what men do, and not what they ought to do." The principle thus clearly stated explains such essays as, Of Cunning, Of Wisdom for a Man's Self, and the like.
What is called Bacon's Machiavellism has been the subject of much controversy and much misunderstanding. It seems to make it well-nigh impossible for historians of letters to write of him without taking sides. Pope's epigram, "the wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind," is said to have been the inspiration of Macaulay's well-known essay, Lord Bacon. R. W. Church, in English Men of Letters, and E. A. Abbott, one of the best of recent editors of the Essays, are both severe critics of Bacon. James Spedding devoted his life to the defence and succeeded in clarifying many of the points at issue. The subject can scarcely be presented better to the student, at first hand, and in brief compass, than by suggesting the reading of the essay Of Cunning in immediate connection with that Of Fortune. Bacon believed, as he says, that every man is the architect of his own fortune. That is a truism. The experience of men in every land and at all times confirms it. The older democracy of the French Revolution and of the Signers cherished the idea as almost inspired doctrine. The difficulty is that moral ideas develop and change. Bacon, though a religious man, was essentially not a moralist. Like Machiavelli, but with the sea change from Italy to England, he accepted the moral and religious ideas of his time. His religious writings show that by preference he always took the middle course. In morals, Bacon's ideas combine curiously the enlightened thought of pagan Greece and Rome with the Christian ethics of the Bible. But this is theory with him; in practice he did not rise above the political morality of his time. He fell below it at the last. In that morality the distinction between right and wrong in conduct was neither so sharply nor so widely drawn as now. The development of moral ideas and the ethical point of view should be factors in any judgment of the actions of men and women of former times. The same justice which underlies James Spedding's eminently sane judgment of Bacon, John Morley extended to Machiavelli in his brilliant Romanes Lecture of 1897.
When we consider the great drama of the Elizabethan age, the bulk of it running to some fifteen hundred plays, its popularity, its reflection of contemporary life at all angles, its excellence and the high average of ability of the writers who were producing it, and Shakspere one of them, it is little short of astounding that nowhere throughout the fifty-eight essays does Bacon either quote a thought from the drama or mention a single dramatist. His silence is all the more extraordinary from the fact that he was himself concerned in the representation of six masques, the first as a Gray's Inn man of twenty-five and the last so late in life as his Attorney-Generalship, when he was fifty-two years old. Various explanations may be offered. Bacon was born in Court circles and was a lifelong courtier. Players were held in such contempt as to be classed legally with vagabonds. We know that Shakspere was sensitive to the degradation of his calling in public opinion,
Francis Beaumont was born a gentleman, and his name does not appear on the title-page of any play of his published during his lifetime. Further, Bacon was a busy man, probably occupied all day and every day with law and politics, and by night with his studies and authorship. He worked too hard to be much of a play-goer, even if he had been inclined to spend his afternoons at the theatres. Curious as the phenomenon is, nothing conceivable can better express the vitality and power of English literature than that it added to the thought of the world two such productions as the Essays of Bacon and the plays of Shakspere, the work of two men who walked the streets of London together for the span of some thirty years, so far as we know, each unknown personally to the other. One person made a link between them, the Earl of Southampton, to whom Shakspere dedicated Venus and Adonis, in 1593, 'the first heir of his invention.' Five years later Southampton lost the Queen's favor by marrying without her consent, Elizabeth Vernon, the Earl of Essex's cousin. He was obliged to absent himself from Court, and we hear of him in 1599 as "passing his time in London merely in going to plays every day." Bacon knew Southampton as a friend to the Earl of Essex, and acted as Queen 's counsel in prosecuting him for his complicity in Essex's treasonable practices. Later in James the First's reign, Bacon was associated with the Earl of Southampton on the board of governors of the South Virginia Company. But Southampton would seem not to have forgotten Bacon's share in Essex's death and his own imprisonment, for when Lord Chancellor Bacon was charged with corruption before the House of Lords, it was the Earl of Southampton who drove the charges home by insisting on a particular confession. The patron of Shakspere in youth did not befriend Bacon in age.
Doubtless a sufficient explanation of Bacon's unconsciousness of the local drama that was being written and acted all about him is that as a reader he preferred the classics. Nor, indeed, was he an omnivorous reader, though he had read much. He was a man who read the best books and read them thoroughly. Moreover, as a man of affairs rather than a mere bookish person, he thought about what he read and meditated upon it. But the books that he read most and knew best were the works of Latin authors; he wrote Latin fluently, he thought in Latin, as his writings in both Latin and English abundantly show. The Latin of Bacon is partly his individual bent and partly the tenor of his age. Latin has come into English mainly in two great streams, through the French of the Norman conquest and directly from the revival of learning, and just as one must read Chaucer to understand the French influence, so Bacon best represents the learned borrowing of Latin of the Renaissance. Bacon was the most learned man of Elizabethan times, and the Elizabethan time was learned. To learn to read then was to learn to read Latin. Boys in school learned their grammar from Latin grammars, as Shakspere shows that he did in the King's New School of Stratford-upon-Avon, and a very good way to learn grammar it is. By the time the boy had completed his university course, if he had made good use of his time, Latin had become to him a second vernacular. If the young man was the son of a landed proprietor and stayed at home, his household accounts were kept in Latin. If he entered one of the learned professions, the law, or the church, or medicine, he had to draw up legal documents in Latin, or to read theology in Latin, or to study medical science written in Latin. If he was ambitious to become an author, he thought he must write his books in Latin. Roger Ascham, dedicating his Toxophilus to Henry VIII, in 1545, remarked that it would have been easier, and more suitable to his scholar's profession, to have written the book in Latin or Greek. A young man destined for the service of the state, as Bacon was, found Latin the language of diplomacy and official business. With a Latin training like this, possessed of an unusually bright mind, and a scholar by instinct, Bacon remained throughout his life singularly in touch with the great Roman writers.
It is a matter of common observation that the English language from century to century swings like a great pendulum to and fro between its two elements, Teutonic and Romance. In Elizabeth's time the two forces were probably nearer equilibrium than they have ever been, before or since. This is why the Authorized Version of the Bible, and Shakspere's plays, and Bacon's Essays are the great conservators of the English speech. The bones of English are in them, and in good style, as in good portraiture or good sculpture, the bones underneath must show. Of the three, Bacon is consciously the most Latinised. For this reason, if one wishes to learn something of the Latin in English, either its prevalence or its stylistic effect, Bacon is the best English classic to study. Apart from the general question of style already discussed, Bacon's Latinity shows itself in the Essays mainly in his Latin paraphrases, in the use of English words in their Latin senses (thinking in Latin), in the frequent quotation of Latin proverbs, and even of a Latin pun. Any one of Bacon's Latin paraphrases will illustrate what a hold on the English language it is to have Latin for a second vernacular. One of the most remarkable examples is the summing up of Livy's comment on Scipio Africanus Major at the end of the essay Of Youth and Age,—"Livy saith, in effect, Ultima primis cedebant," 'the last fell short of the first.' Bacon's three Latin words, recollected from Ovid, condense fourteen of Livy's and Livy furnished not one of the three. An interesting variation between Bacon's Latin and that of his original occurs at the close of the essay Of Cunning. Quoting Proverbs xiv. 8,—"The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit," from his recollection of the Vulgate, he writes, "Salomon saith, Prudens advertit ad gressus suos: stultus divertit ad dolos." The Vulgate reads, Sapientia callidi est intelligere viam suam: et imprudentia stultorum errans. Here Bacon says in nine Latin words what the Vulgate says in ten, and all of his words are different but one, and that one appears in a different form. It is illuminating to observe the master of a great language wielding another great language and so moulding it to his will as to compel it to assume new and strange forms.
There is no surer test of command over a foreign language than appreciation of its wit. "Caesar did himself infinite hurt in that speech— 'Sylla nescivit literas, non potuit dictare,'" says Bacon, writing on so serious a subject as Of Seditions and Troubles. The pun here is of that subtle sort that cuts both ways when the edges meet, like the blades of a pair of sharp scissors. If Caesar did not utter this one, it is worthy of him. Bacon thought so, too, and recorded Caesar's witticism among his Apophthegmes New and Old, with the regret expressed in the preface,—"It is a pitie his Booke is lost: for I imagine they were collected, with Judgement and Choice."
All his life Bacon was a collector of pointed sayings, not only apothegms but proverbs. In part this was a personal inclination towards the simplest and clearest expression of thought, in part it was the Elizabethans cultivating brevity as the soul of wit. Numerous books of "prittie conceites" and many strings of proverbs attest their fondness for short, pithy sayings, grave and gay. "I hold the entry of commonplaces to be a matter of great use and essence in studying," says Bacon. The habit of jotting down ideas on all sorts of subjects, and in the fewest possible words, explains in some measure how Bacon came by that characteristic of his style which makes so many of his sentences represent the compressed essence of things. Sometimes the thought is so packed that the language may fairly be said to give way, the sentence, like an ill-constructed building, being unable to bear the pressure put upon it; for example, "but if the force of custom, simple and separate, be great, the force of custom, copulate and conjoined and collegiate, is far greater," Of Custom and Education. A similar expression, packed to the point of clumsiness, is "but no receipt openeth the heart but a true friend, to whom you may impart griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsels, and whatever lieth upon the heart to oppress it," Of Friendship. The whole essay Of Studies illustrates this manner of composition. The aphoristic sentences are simply packed closely one upon another, like gold sovereigns in a bag. The separate pieces of money have the continuity of being coin of the realm, but by the theory of chances they might be packed in an infinite variety of ways. In form, the essay is crude, styleless; in effect, it is direct, keen as a rapier's thrust.
Besides translated proverbs, Bacon quotes proverbs in Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. And always, as he puts it, the proverb "pierces the knot in the business." Compare Cor ne edito, 'eat not the heart' Of Friendship; In nocte, consilium, 'the night brings counsel,' as we say colloquially, sleep over it, Of Counsel; Beaucoup de bruit, pen de fruit, 'much bruit, little fruit,' Of Vain- Glory; Mi venga la muerte de Spagna, "'let my death come from Spain' for then it will be sure to be long in coming," Of Dispatch. This same essay contains the well-known English proverb, 'the more haste, the less speed' in the form of Bacon's apothegm about his diplomatic chief, Sir Amias Paulet, who was wont to say, "Stay a little, that we may make an end the sooner." But the bulk of proverbs in English throughout the Essays are quoted from the wisdom of the Bible, both the old Testament and New.
The Bible is directly quoted in thirty-four of the fifty-eight essays, and if to these thirty-four essays there is added those in which Bacon's language echoes Biblical thought, the number would be considerably greater. Bacon's familiarity with the Bible was great and at the same time catholic in its range. The only parts of it that did not occur to him for apt quotation were the books dealing with Jewish ceremonial law, the minor prophets, and the general epistles. The reading is more inclusive, but it is not unlike the list of books Ruskin gives in Praeterita as those his mother required him largely to commit to memory, while he read the Bible through every year from Genesis to the Apocalypse. "Once knowing," says Ruskin, "the 32d of Deuteronomy, the 119th Psalm, the 15th of 1st Corinthians, the Sermon on the Mount, and most of the Apocalypse, every syllable by heart, and having a way of thinking with myself what words meant, it was not possible for me, even in the foolishest times of youth, to write entirely superficial or formal English." It cannot be said that Bacon's literary style owes as much to the Bible as that of Ruskin, a conscious stylist, but in the Bible he undoubtedly found that union of naturalness and dignity which is so inimitably his own. It has been suggested as one explanation of the noble English of the Bible that the translators of the Authorized Version had been brought up in the old religion, and that in consequence their English unconsciously caught and retained something of the music of the Latin service, as they had often heard it reverberating from hymn and chant through the lofty arches and down the long aisles of the cathedrals of England. Bacon's frequent quotations from the Vulgate show that he read the Bible in Latin habitually. Not seldom he quotes the Vulgate from memory, varying considerably from the original, just as he cites the sense of passages from Cicero and Livy. Even when he cites the Bible in English, it would seem that he had oftener in mind the Vulgate, rather than the Authorized Version of his later years. Ecclesiastes v. ii, "Where much is, there are many to consume it; and what hath the owner but the sight of it with his eyes?" is briefer and more picturesque in the essay Of Riches than in the Authorized Version. On the other hand, Bacon's "Salomon saith, Riches are as a strong hold in the imagination of the rich man" has become a proverb in the English of the translators, "The rich man's wealth is his strong city." (Proverbs x. 15.)
One reason why Bacon's Essays, one of the most learned works in English, is so easy to read and to understand, is that the language used is that of the Bible both in vocabulary and construction. The words 'marvel' meaning 'to wonder,' 'wax,' 'to grow,' 'profit,' 'to improve,' need no explanation to the reader of the Authorized Version. So, 'withe,' 'a willow twig,' Of Custom and Education, is familiar from the story of Samson. These and many others are Bible words in Bible meaning, and their construction is in simplest terms. The object of the translators was to put the Bible into the hands of the plain man, so that he could read it and understand it for himself. They therefore purposely used the plain man's language, refining it only as language is naturally refined by education and good breeding.
The only conscious principle of style that Bacon followed is the same. "In the composing of his books," says Dr. Rawley, "he did rather drive at a masculine and clear expression than at any fineness or affectation of phrases, and would often ask if the meaning were expressed plainly enough, as being one that accounted words to be but subservient or ministerial to matter, and not the principal."
As in the Bible, English folk-lore is embedded in Bacon's style. Twice, in Of Friendship and Of Nature in Men, he illustrates a point by means of the rustic's advice to his fellow in anger, to "say over the four and twenty letters." The use of the curious old expression "to turn the cat in the pan," Of Cunning, (that is, to reverse the order of things dexterously, to change sides,) by Sir Walter Scott, in Old Mortality (XXXV), suggests the point that various words and expressions that have gone out of English since Bacon's time still survive in the picturesque Scottish vernacular. In this same essay on Cunning, Bacon speaks of the "falls of business," meaning its 'chances.' That is what Burns means when in the Address to the Deil, he cries out, "Black be your fa'!"
Simplicity, or homeliness, in its fine old sense, is a marked characteristic of Bacon's imagery. Notice the homely words, that is to say, the words of home, in the well-known figure,—"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested," Of Studies. So he writes, "Suspicions amongst thoughts are like bats amongst birds, they ever fly by twilight," Of Suspicion. Another figure brings into mind the recollection of some low-studded Elizabethan room, wainscoted and ceiled with quartered oak. The picture is all the more vivid, because it is so unexpected, as if a curtain suddenly drawn aside should give a glimpse through a window where no window was known to be. Speaking of the secure fame of Cicero, Of Vain-Glory, he says almost casually that vanity contributed to it, "like unto varnish, that maketh ceilings not only shine, but last." Bacon was fond of such sharp breaks in thought. They arrested attention. The stuff, however, of this image was a part of his daily life. "He seated himself, for the commodity of his studies and practice, amongst the Honourable Society of Gray's-Inn; of which House he was a member: where he erected that elegant pile or structure, commonly known by the name of The Lord Bacon's Lodgings, which he inhabited, by turns, the most part of his life (some few years only excepted) unto his dying day." (Dr. Rawley.) Picture to yourself Bacon, the lifelong student, in his chambers. The harassing business of the day in the House of Commons or in attendance at Court is done, and he has retired to his writing-room to converse with the men of old he loved so well. He reads the vain Cicero or the sententious Tacitus, he sets down in his common-place book what he has learned from their discourse. Perhaps of a summer evening a wandering bat darts in at the open window to disturb the vigil. Late, too late for sound health, he lies down on his couch, and when he wakes in the broad light of full day, his eyes open on the varnished wooden ceiling of a large, low bedroom. Bacon was no poet. His imagery is not that of a transcendent imagination playing over a subject and illuminating it here and there with brilliant flashes of light. But Bacon's mind was poetic, and he had the gift, which while it is not so rare as the transcendent imagination, is yet very rare, the gift of seeing analogies in common things. His similes and metaphors are the hardy flowers that grow by the wayside for any one to pluck. A whole body of them come from contemporary sports, cards, bowls, horsemanship. A cunning man may be able to "pack the cards" and yet not play well; so cunning men who understand persons rather than matters "are good but in their own alley," Of Cunning. Of a delicate constitution, he dabbled perforce in medicine, and another set of tropes reveal the curious materia medica of Tudor times, "You may take sarza to open the liver, steel to open the spleen, flower of sulphur for the lungs, castoreum for the brain; but no receipt openeth the heart but a true friend," Of Friendship. Finally, the freshness of much of Bacon's imagery is delightful, like "Charity will hardly water the ground where it must first fill a pool," Of Marriage and Single Life. Men who hold on to business with failing powers are "like old townsmen, that will be still sitting at their street door, though thereby they offer age to scorn," Of Great Place. In manufactures and commerce he thought the Low Countries had "the best mines above ground in the world," Of Seditions and Troubles. And what a splendid metaphor that is in Of Vicissitude of Things,—"The great winding-sheets that bury all things in oblivion are two; deluges and earthquakes." The image here transcends the thought and as artistry produces upon the mind the same effect in kind as the cataclysm itself. The force of language can no farther go.
The combination of wisdom in thought and brevity and picturesqueness in form, what Lady Anne Bacon called her son's "enigmatic gilded writing," makes Bacon's Essays the most quotable prose in English. Sharing the world-wide fame of Shakspere in this respect, many of Bacon's words and phrases of singular beauty and power are now fast woven into the web of English speech. No other prose work is so often quoted or has furnished so many quotations, even for those persons who have never read the essays in whole or in part. Not infrequently Bacon is cited for the Bible, but more often he is confounded by the unwary with Shakspere. Every essay is quotable,—
"The virtue of prosperity is temperance, the virtue of adversity is fortitude," Of Adversity.
"It is a poor centre of a man's actions, himself," Of Wisdom for a Man's Self.
"It hath been an opinion, that the French are wiser than they seem, and the Spaniards seem wiser than they are," Of Seeming Wise.
"In sickness, respect health principally; and in health, action," Of Regiment of Health.
"For a crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love," Of Friendship.
To vary Bacon, I have given the rule, if a man cannot find a bit of wisdom for himself, he may close the book.
What kind of man was the writer of these Essays? Politically, as was natural in a man of family born and bred under the Tudor government, Bacon was an imperialist. His ideal was a strong, centralized government. He believed in rank and dignities, and thought ruling a natural function of the nobility. Though a contemporary of the young Oliver Cromwell, he was no democrat. Neither was Shakspere, born a man of the people. But Bacon would hardly have pushed the doctrine of royal divine right to the breaking point. He would have made concessions to the rising commonalty. Tolerance is a peculiarly attractive virtue and Bacon possessed it in a high degree. His wise prince is a sort of benevolent despot, a classical despot humanized by the ideas of the Renaissance. As to the conduct of life, there is much worldly wisdom inculcated in Bacon's maxims, some of which are frankly Machiavellian. Human nature is complex, and the bigger the man, the greater the complexity. The Essays are as surely the expression of a genuinely religious spirit, as of a worldly-wise one. Indeed, in spite of Bacon's errors of conduct, and however repellent Bacon's political trimming is to the straightforward man, his Essays bear the strongest possible testimony to the essential soundness of Bacon's moral character. A good man only could have written them. Hear the witness of Ben Jonson, as honest a man as ever lived,—"My conceit of his Person was never increased towards him, by his place, or honours. But I have, and doe reverence him for the greatnesse, that was only proper to himselfe, in that hee seem'd to mee ever, by his worke one of the greatest men, and most worthy of admiration, that had beene in many Ages. In his adversity I ever prayed, that God would give him strength: for Greatnesse hee could not want. Neither could I condole in a word, or syllable for him; as knowing no Accident could doe harme to vertue, but rather helpe to make it manifest." (Timber, or Discoveries. De augmentis scientiarum.)