Imagens das páginas
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Bacon's Philosophical Works having been disposed of in the five volumes first issued, and his Literary and Professional Works in the two which followed, I come now to what I have called his Occasional Works; which include all the rest, and will when finished make the Edition complete according to the plan originally proposed.

In editing these, I have made it my first object to give as complete a collection and as correct a text as I could of all his Letters, Speeches, Tracts, Memorials, and whatever else of his composition was addressed to the immediate business of his time, and meant to produce its effect then and there.

But since writings of this kind cannot be properly understood except with reference to the circumstances in which they were written, which are for the most part worn out of memory and not to be recovered without much pains and patience, I have made it my second object to inquire into those circumstances, and to accompany the original papers with so much explanatory matter of my own as may enable any man who cares for the subject to read the work continuously and understand it all as he goes on; at least so much of it as I understand myself.

I make no apology to the reader for the length to which this part of my task has carried me; for in determining what to say and what to leave unsaid I have especially studied his convenience; and if he have patience to accompany me, I hope he will find that neither his labour nor my own has been thrown away. A collection of letters and writings of business, if it be large enough and the subjects various enough and the selection made neither by friend nor enemy but by impartial chance, will always


afford evidence of the very best kind as to the life and character of the writer. If his business lay among public men and matters, it will afford likewise evidence of a very valuable kind as to the events of the time. If he was at the same time a man of understanding and discernment, it will afford what is more valuable still, the best light by which to understand the meaning of those events. Study it diligently, and it will give you not only the life of the man but the history of the period. Now if there was ever any man whose writings upon the various occasions of his time may be expected to yield instruction in all these ways, it is Francis Bacon. Not often I suppose in the history of the world have such an eye to observe, such opportunities of observing, and matters so worthy of observation, met together. Seldom certainly in this kingdom has there been a time so full of commotion and social alteration, so working with the arrears of changes past and the first motions of changes to come, as that in which he lived; seldom has there been a man who could discern the signs of the time so well. Only a year before his birth, the established religion of the land had been suddenly changed by authority from Catholic to Protestant; from which moment England had to stand upon her guard, not only against the internal troubles, the agitations of hope, fear, and despair, which could not but follow upon the shock of so many consciences and the alteration of so many fortunes, but against the combined assaults from without of the greatest temporal and greatest spiritual powers of the earth,-as being thenceforward the stronghold and refuge of the Protestant cause in Europe, worth conquering at any sacrifice. Only a few years after his birth, the Church thus newly established had to arm herself against a new and unexpected antagonist nursed within her own bosom, by which, through successive stages of controversy, vexation, disturbance, violence, and bloodshed, a second ecclesiastical revolution was effected within less than a century after the first, and the whole authority of the Church passed for awhile into other hands. Had Bacon lived twenty years longer, he would have seen the overthrow of the establishment, of which, had he been born two or three years earlier, he would have seen the com

mencement. During the same period a contest was going on in the political relations of the state, if not so lofty in its argument, yet more momentous because more durable in its results; for the struggle between the Commons and the Crown, which of them should keep the key of the subject's wealth and thereby the ultimate control of all affairs, was begun, fought out, and in effect decided, within the circle of Bacon's life. Nor can any other period be assigned as the commencement of that great movement of modern science, the world-wide effects of which are astonishing us every day. To what and to whom we owe the original impulse, is a point upon which opinions will differ; but the time which brought it forth was unquestionably the time in which Gilbert, Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, and Harvey (for that is the order of succession) all flourished. In the middle of these agita. tions Bacon passed a long and active life, watching and working. Of his writings upon the various occasions of the time a large portion has been preserved, and if it can be placed in such a light as to present a true view of what he thought about them,if it can be arranged into a collection over which we may write Franciscus BacONUS SIC COGITAVIT,—I suppose a more valuable contribution to the history of the period could scarcely be offered.

I have thought it expedient to include in the collection every writing of this class which I believe to be authentic, whatever the subject, character, or intrinsic value; and also to arrange them strictly according to the order of time, even where the order of matter is thrown out by it. The reader must therefore be prepared for many uninteresting stages, and for a somewhat rambling progress. Subject to these conditions however, I have endeavoured to make my explanations not only accurate but readable; and it will be found that the title which I have chosen fairly describes the nature of the work, for that in throwing as full a light as I could on the writings, I have in fact been obliged to produce as full a life as I could of the writer.

To prevent misconceptions, I may mention here that when I refer for the original of any piece to a manuscript, I do not mean

that it is not to be found in print, but only that my copy comes directly from the manuscript referred to. I thought at one time of stating always, with regard to those which have been published before, where they first appeared: but I found this difficult to do without mistakes, and the fact did not seem important enough to be worth the trouble it involved. Neither have I put any distinguishing mark upon those which are now published for the first time. Readers who know the subject will not need to be told which they are; and if any one be in doubt whether a piece is old or new, he knows that it is new to him. But I expect that the arrangement and setting forth will make much of the oldest matter as new as the newest, even to those who know the subject best; and if attention should be directed only or specially to the pieces which have not appeared before, the best part of my labour would be lost.

There are also certain typographical arrangements which will be most conveniently explained here.

That the reader may the more readily know at all times what he has before him, I have employed in the text three different types, easily distinguishable from each other. Everything printed in the larger type is Bacon's; everything in the second size is mine; everything in the third belongs to some other writer.

By this arrangement all confusion is avoided, except in a few cases of doubtful authorship. And for these, in addition to the full explanatory statement with which they are in each case introduced, I have made a special typographical provision : which is this: All pieces which are ascribed to Bacon upon evidence that appears to me inconclusive, have their titles, as set out at the top of the right-hand page, enclosed in brackets. But some are printed in the larger and some in the smaller type. Those in the larger (as for example, the “Letter of Advice to Queen Elizabeth,” pp. 47–56) are such as I myself incline, though doubtfully, to accept as Bacon's : those in the smaller (as the “Notes on the State of Christendom,” pp. 18–30) are such as I incline to think he had no hand in.

J. S. September, 1861.

« AnteriorContinuar »