Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

which they may have been the first to set before the eyes of men, as the torch may be dimmed and made useless by the greater light it has itself served to kindle. Much of what Bacon has left us is interesting now only as having either been or seemed to be of importance at the time when it was first published ; that is to say, only as an evidence of the state of knowledge in those days. Much is the same thing that we have elsewhere in another form, or is the rudimentary conception of what is more fully brought out elsewhere. To the student of the history of science, or of the progress of thought and discovery in the mind of Bacon, all these indications are curious and precious; he will scrutinize them all anxiously, and will even wish that they were more numerous. But it is the results of such scrutiny principally that the ordinary reader wants ; at most a few specimens of the repetitions and variations and exploded errors will be enough for him. Is nobody to be thought entitled to know anything about Bacon and his philosophy-about which everybody has heard so much-who cannot or will not make himself master of every line that. Bacon has written? Here, as in all other cases, there is one kind of knowledge which the professed student of the particular subject in question requires, and quite another kind which suffices for the general reader-who may be considered as a mere looker on at the operation which the other is carrying on. It is right that such an observer should have understanding enough of the matter to comprehend what he sees done; it is not at all necessary that he should be able to do it. Even if the highest education were to be universally diffused, still some must have their attention more especially directed to one department of knowledge, some to another; and therefore ir. every department there must still be the few thoroughly instructed, and the many to whom the subject is known only in its outlines and general principles.

Such a knowledge of what is called the Baconian philosophy we hope to present our readers with the materials for acquiring in these volumes. Our plan, of producing for the most part Bacon's own words, will have at

least the advantage of trustworthiness and safety. Our duty will be to confine ourselves principally to exposi. tion, and to deal but little either in controversy or in criticism. The only respect, therefore, in which we shall have to draw upon the confidence of the reader will be that we exhibit all the evidence which is material upon any disputed point.

But what is understood by the Baconian philosophy is only one of the things to which the extant writings of Bacon relate. About half of the entire body of them, even if we exclude his Letters, has nothing to do with his system or method of philosophy. If we confine ourselves to his English writings, the portion of them that relates to his method of philosophy will be found to be less than a third of the whole. The other two-thirds are occupied with matters Moral, Theological, Historical, Political, and Legal.

Bacon is a great name both in the history of philosophy and in our English literature. At the same time, with the exception of his Essays, what he has written is very little known to the general reader. He stands, therefore, exactly in the position which seems to make it expedient that an account of his works should be given, and so much of them as can be made generally interesting produced for popular perusal, in such a form as the present. It is the object of the series of analytical accounts of great writers, to which the present volumes belong, to introduce the most numerous class of readers to an actual acquaintance with those chief works, in our own literature and in that of other countries, with the names at least of the authors of which everybody is familiar. And this we believe to be likely to prove by far the most effectual way of promoting the more general study of the works in their original and complete form.

PART I.

BACON'S MORAL, THEOLOGICAL, AND

HISTORICAL WORKS.

SECTION 1.-THE Essays. The father of Francis Bacon was Sir Nicholas Bacon, Keeper of the Great Seal from the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1558 till his death in 1579; his mother was Anne, the second of the four learned daughters of Sir Anthony Cooke, of whom the eldest married Lord Burleigh, and the third Lord Russell, son of the second Earl of Bedford. She was the second wife of Sir Nicholas, who had had by a former wife three sons and three daughters. Francis was the younger of two sons by the second marriage, the other being named Anthony.

He was born in London, at his father's residence, called York House,* from having been properly the town mansion of the Archbishops of York. Mr. Montagu says that it is the same house which is now numbered 31, Strand, being the corner house on the west side of Vil. liers Street; but Villiers Street is only one of several streets that were built upon the grounds of York House, after the site was disposed of by the second Villiers Duke of Buckingham some years subsequent to the Restora

* This house was rented from the Archbishop of York not only by Sir Nicholas Bacon, when Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, but by his successors in the same office, or in that of Lord Chancellor, Sir John Puckering, Lord Ellesmere, and finally his illustrious son. It was afterwards acquired from Archbishop Mathew by the crown, and bestowed by James I. upon Villiers Duke of Buckingham.

tion. The common account of this York House,-which must not be confounded with the earlier York House, or York Place, so called from having been the archiepiscopal residence till it was purchased by Henry VIII. from Cardinal Wolsey in 1530, which stood on the site of Whitehall, and of which a portion still remains in the official residence of the Comptroller of the Exchequer, is, that it stood a little to the west of Inigo Jones's handsome erection still called the York Stairs Watergate, in the midst of a garden skirted by the river. We doubt if any part of it extended to the street. The expression of Bacon's first biographer, Dr. Rawley, in his account as translated by himself into Latin, which is in several minute particulars more precise and accurate than the original English, is, that he was born in York Palace, “ infra plateam dictam le Strand,” which would seem to mean, not in the Strand, but below or back from it.

His birth took place, according to Rawley, on the 22nd of January, 1560. But, as we are afterwards told that at his death, in April, 1626, he was only in his sixtysixth year, by January, 1560, must be meant, as was then the usual mode of computation, what we should now call January, 1561.*

He was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge, when he was only in his thirteenth year, along with his brother Anthony, who was his senior by two or three years. They were both matriculated as members of the university on the 10th of June, 1573. It is not very clear how long he remained at Cambridge. Mr. Montagu makes him to have left after a residence of only two years ;t but Rawley, in his English Life,' says,

* Dugdale, however, in his Baronage,' vol. ii., pp. 437-439, as the account is reprinted hy Archbishop Tenison in the

Baconiana,' p. 246, makes him to have been born in the 2nd of Elizabeth, which would be in January, 1560. But he afterwards contradicts bimself by stating (p. 257) that, at his death in April, 1626, he was in the sixty-sixth year of his age.

+ Life, p. x. Six pages after, indeed, he says that he was sent to France " after three years' residence in the University."

“ Whilst he was commorant in the university, about sixteen years of age (as his Lordship bath been pleased to impart unto myself), he first fell into the dislike of the philosophy of Aristotle ; not for the worthlessness of the author, to whom he would ever ascribe all high attributes, but for the unfruitfulness of the way ; being a philosophy, as his Lordship used to say, only strong for disputations and contentions, but barren of the production of works for the benefit of the life of man. In which mind he continued to his dying day.” In the subsequent Latin translation the expression he uses is slightly different, and somewhat more precise :-“ tantum non sexdecim annos ætatis nato," when he had all but completed his sixteenth year. The time referred to, then, may be taken to have been towards the close of the year 1576. This computation agrees very well with what follows in Rawley's account:" After he had passed the circle of the liberal arts, his father thought fit to frame and mould him for the arts of state; and, for that end, sent him over into France with Sir Amyas Paulet, then employed ambassador lieger into France.” According to Mr. Montagu (Life, Note O), Sir Anyas Paulet was sent as ambassador to France in September, 1576 ; although he immediately subjoins an extract of a letter from Sir Amyas, dated 22nd June, 1577, in which, writing to a friend in England, he says, “ One year is already spent since my departure from you.” In his Sylva Sylvarum (Experiment 997) Bacon himself speaks of having been at Paris when he was “ about sixteen years old.”

With the exception of a short visit to England with dispatches from the anıbassador to the queen, which must have been made before December, 1578, when Sir Amyas was recalled, Bacon remained in France till after the death of his father, which took place in February, 1579. In his Sylva (Experiment 986) he mentions having been in Paris when he received the news. His later biographers make him to have spent some time after the recal of Sir Amyas Paulet in visiting the provincial parts of France ; and there are some traces in his writings of his having at least once made an excursion to the

« AnteriorContinuar »