Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

great writers to be the most learnedly, carefully, and ably edited of them all.

I had, however, somehow, in my examination of and references to Mr. Montagu's edition, accidentally overlooked altogether, as it would appear, one of the sixteen volumes of which it consists, namely the 15th, containing translations of certain of the Latin treatises. I have now, therefore, to state, that the Preface to the Phænomena Universi (noticed by me at p. 455), is translated there at p. 122 ; the Historia Densi et Rari (p. 470), at p. 130, by A. T. R.; the Historia de Sono et Auditu (p. 497), at p. 225; the Inquisitio de Versionibus (p. 498), at p. 215, by A. Blair, Esq. ; the Topica de Luce (ibid.), at p. 82; the Temporis Partus Masculus, or Maximus, (p. 499), at p. 223, by W. G. G.; the De Fluxu et Refluxu Maris (p. 500), at p. 192, by the same; the Cogitata et Visa (p. 591 and 593), at p. 16. by G. W.; the Descriptio Globi Intellectualis (p. 600), at p. 150, by W. G. G.; the Thema Coeli (pp. 601 and 602), at p. 1; the De Principiis (p. 603), at p. 44, by A. T. R.; the Partis Instaurationis Secundæ Delineatio (p. 604), as far as in Gruter, at p. 106, by W.G. G.; the Aphorismi de Auxiliis Mentis (ibid.), at p. 87, by J. A. C.; the De Interpretatione Naturæ Sententiæ (ibid.), at p. 89, and again, in part differently, at p. 223, by W.G. G. ; lastly, the De Interpretatione Naturae Prooemium (p. 611), at p. 103, by J. A. C., and again at p. 220, somewhat strangely, in the very same words, by W. G. G.

G. L. C. QUEEN'S COLLEGE, BELFAST ;

March, 1860.

BACON;

HIS WRITINGS, AND HIS PHILOSOPHY.

INTRODUCTION.

[ocr errors]

Bacon has himself said, that, although some books may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others, that should be only in the less important arguments and the meaner sort of books ; else," he adds, “ distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things.” This is in his essay entitled Of Studies ;' and undoubtedly the works of a great writer can only be properly studied in their original form.

But abridgements, compendiums, analyses, even of the works of the greatest writers, may still serve important purposes. If properly executed, even the student of the original works may find them of use both as guides and as remembrancers. A good compendium should be at least the best index and synopsis. The more extensive the original book, or books, the more is such a compendious analysis wanted, not to supersede or be a substi. tute for the original, but to accompany it as an introduction and instrument of ready reference.

It is like a map of a country through which one has travelled, or is about to travel ; or rather it is like what is called the keymap prefixed to a voluminous atlas, by which all the other maps are brought together into one view, and their consultation facilitated.

To the generality of readers, again, a comprehensive survey in small compass of an extensive and various mass of writings is calculated to be more than such a mere convenient table of contents or ground-plan. In the same Essay Bacon has said, “ Some books are to be tasted,

B В

others to be 'swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” This must be understood, from the title and whole strain of the essay, to be addressed to students—to the comparatively few a large portion of whose time is occupied with books. If the illustrious author had been treating of the subject of reading in general, with the “great faculty,” as he has himself called it, which he possessed in so eminent a degree, of contracting his view as well as of dilating and dispersing it, of making his mental eye a microscope to discern the parts of whatever he investigated as well as a telescope to take in the whole, he would not have omitted to remark also, that the same book is often to be read in one way by one man and in another way by another. We cannot have a better example than his own writings. In their entire form they fill many volumes ; they have been collected in three or four large folios, in five quartos, in a dozen or more octavos. Let the student of literature or philosophy, we say again, by all means read and inwardly digest every page of them; but it would be the height of pedantry to recommend that anything like that should be done by all readers. Even if the entire body of Bacon's works could be produced at so small a cost as to be within the reach of all readers, the time to peruse them would be wanting. Nor, even if such of them as are not in English were to be all translated (which they have not yet been), would they be found to be all, or nearly all, of universal interest. Another remark that Bacon himself would not have failed to make if he had been examining the question of reading books in its whole extent, and on all sides, is, that, with few exceptions, all books lose something of their first importance, at least for the world at large, with the lapse of time. Works of science, or positive knowledge, especially, are always to some extent superseded, at least for their main or primary purpose, by the growth or extension of that very branch of knowledge.

« AnteriorContinuar »