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whereof no sooner ceased, or was drowned by some louder noise, but every beast returned to his own nature; wherein is aptly described the nature and condition of men: who are full of savage and unreclaimed desires of profit, of lust, of revenge, which as long as they give ear to precepts, to laws, to religion, sweetly touched with eloquence, and persuasion of books, of sermons, of harangues; so long is society and peace maintained; but if these instruments be silent, or sedition and tumult make them not audible, all things dissolve into anarchy and confusion."
His preface contains his favourite doctrine, that "there is a debt of obligation from every member of a profession to assist in improving the science in which he has successfully practised,(a) and he dedicated his work to the Queen, as a sheaf and cluster of fruit of the good and favourable season enjoyed by the nation, from the influence of her happy government, by which the people were taught that part of the study of a good prince was to adorn and honour times of peace by the improvement of the laws. Although this tract was written in the year 1596, and although he was always a great admirer of Elizabeth, it was not published till after his death, (a)
The exertions which had been made by Essex to obtain the solicitorship for his friend, and his generous anxiety to mitigate his disappointment, had united them by the strongest bonds of affection.
In the summer of 1596, Essex was appointed to the command of an expedition against Spain; and though he was much troubled during the embarkation of his troops, by the want of discipline in the soldiery, chiefly volunteers, and by the contentions of their officers, too equal to be easily commanded, yet he did not forget the interests of Bacon, but wrott. from Plymouth to the new-placed lord
(a) Sec note 3 G at the end.
keeper, and to all his friends in power, strongly recommending him to their protection, (a)
In the early part of the year 1597 his first publication 1597. appeared. It is a small 12mo. volume of Essays, (b) Re- •^t-37 ligious Meditations, and a Table of the Colours of Good ^ssa^sand Evil. In his dedication to his loving and beloved brother, he states that he published to check the circulation of spurious copies, "like some owners of orchards, who gathered the fruit before it was ripe, to prevent stealing;" and he expresses his conviction that there was nothing in the volume contrary, but rather medicinable to religion and manners, and his hope that the Essays would, to use his own words, "be like the late new halfpence, which, though the pieces were small, the silver was good." (b)
The Essays, which are ten(e) in number, abound with condensed thought and practical wisdom, neatly, pressly, and weightily stated, (f) and, like all his early works, are simple, without imagery, (m) They are written in his favourite style of aphorisms, (m) although each essay is apparently a continued work; (A) and without that love of
(a) See note 3 II at the end. (b) See note 31 at the end.
(e) 1. Of Study.
2. Of Discourse.
3. Of Ceremonies and Respect.
4. Of Followers and Friends.
6. Of Expense.
7. Of Regiment of Health.
8. Of Honour and Reputation.
9. Of Faction.
(J) See Ben Jonson's description of his speaking in parliament, ante, xxviii.
(m) See note 3 K at the end.
(h) The following is selected as a specimen from his first essay " Of Study:"
f, Reade not to contradict, nor to believe, but to waigh and consider.
antithesis and false flitter to which truth and justness of thought is frequently sacrificed by the writers of maxims.
Another edition, with a translation of the Meditationes Sacrae, was published in the next year; and a third in 1612, when he was solicitor-general; and a fourth in 1625, the year before his death.
The Essays in the subsequent editions are much augmented, according to his own words: " I always alter when I add, so that nothing is finished till all is finished," and they are adorned by happy and familiar illustration, as in the essay of " Wisdom for a Man's self," which concludes in the edition of 1625 with the following extract, not to be found in the previous edition:—" Wisdom for a man's self is in many branches thereof a depraved thing. It is the wisdom of rats, that will be sure to leave a house somewhat before it fall. It is the wisdom of the fox, that thrusts out the badger, who digged and made room for him. It is the wisdom of crocodiles, that shed tears when they would devour. But that which is specially to be noted is, that those which, as Cicero says of Pompey, are nit amantes sine rivali, are many times unfortunate. And whereas they have all their time sacrificed to themselves, they become in the end themselves sacrifices to the inconstancy of fortune, whose wings they thought by their self-wisdom to have pinioned."
So in the essay upon Adversity, on which he had deeply reflected, before the edition of 1625, when it first appeared, he says: "The virtue of prosperity is temperance, the
H Some bookes are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. That is, some bookes are to be read only in liartes; others to be read but cursorily, and some few to be read wholly and with diligence and attention.
If Histories make men wise, poets wittie, the mathematicks subtle, natural philosophic deepe, moral, grave; logicke and rbetoricke able to contend.
virtue of adversity is fortitude, which in morals is the more heroical virtue. Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, adversity is the blessing of the New, which carrieth the greater benediction, and the clearer revelation of God's favour. Yet even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David's harp, you shall hear as many hearse-like airs as carols; and the pencil of the Holy Ghost hath laboured more in describing the afflictions of Job than the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes; and adversity is not without comforts and hopes. We see in needleworks and embroideries, it is more pleasing to have a lively work upon a sad and solemn ground, than to have a dark and melancholy work upon a lightsome ground: judge, therefore, of the pleasure of the heart by the pleasure of the eye. Certainly virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when they are incensed, or crushed: for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue."
The essays were immediately translated into French and Italian, and into Latin by some of his friends, amongst whom were Hacket, Bishop of Litchfield, and his constant affectionate friend, Ben Jonson. (i)
His own estimate of the value of this work is thus stated in his letter to the Bishop of Winchester: "As for my Essays, and some other particulars of that nature, I count them but as the recreations of my other studies, and in that manner purpose to continue them; though I am not ignorant that these kind of writings would, with less pains and assiduity, perhaps yield more lustre and reputation to my name than the others I have in hand."
Although it was not likely that such lustre and reputation would dazzle him, the admirer of Phocion, (k) who,
(i) Tennison. See note (a), p. 226. (fc) Apothegm. 30, vol. i. p. 356. when applauded, turned to one of his friends, and asked, "what have I said amiss?" although popular judgment was not likely to mislead him who concludes his observations upon the objections to learning and the advantages of knowledge, by saying, "Nevertheless I do not pretend, and I know it will be impossible for me, by any pleading of mine, to reverse the judgment either of iEsop's cock, that preferred the barleycorn before the gem; or of Midas, that being chosen judge between Apollo, president of the muses, and Pan, god of the flocks, judged for plenty; or of Paris, that judged for beauty and love against wisdom and power. For these tliings continue as they have been; but so will that also continue whereupon learning hath ever relied, and which faileth not. 'Justificata est sapientia a filiis suis:"'(a) yet he seems to have undervalued this little work, which, for two centuries, has been favourably received by every lover of knowledge and of beauty, and is now so well appreciated, that a celebrated professor of our own times truly says: "The small volume to which he has given the title of " Essays," the best known and the most popular of all his works, is one of those where the superiority of his genius appears to the greatest advantage; the novelty and depth of his reflections often receiving a strong relief from the triteness of the subject. It may be read from beginning to end in a few hours, and yet after the twentieth perusal one seldom fails to remark in it something overlooked before. This, indeed, is a characteristic of all Bacon's writings, and is only to be accounted for by the inexhaustible aliment they furnish to our own thoughts, and the sympathetic activity they impart to our torpid faculties." (6)