Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 52)
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iiamciit of the house : as the gentleness and affa-
])ility of liis deportment won him tlie affection of
all its members. In his profession, lie quickly rose
to so mi;c]\ eminence and reputation, that, at the age
of twenty-eight years, he was named by Elizabeth her
h^ariied counsel extraordinary : a distinction which he
needed no assistance from his fatlier's merit with her
to deserve. It was however next to impossible that so
noble a genius, born to embrace tlie wliolc compass
of scieiu-e. should confine its researches within the
narrow and perplexed study of precedents and autho-
rities ; a study licdged round with brambles and
thorns, dark and barbarous iji its beginnings, and ren-
dered in its progress still more obscure, by the learned
dulness of commentators and compilers: men, for the
most part, of indefatigable industry, and of no spirit
or discernment. Accordingly we find that in this
interval he often gave full scope to his conceptions ;
surveying the whole state of learning, observing its
defects, and imagining the proper methods to supply
tliem. This he first attempted in a treatise whicli lie
iutitledTuE Gki:ati:st Bikth or Time; as ap-
]ioars from a letter, written after his retirement, to
f'tber Fulgcntio, the A^nietian, in whicli he passes a
kiiul of censure on the pompous and swelling title
prefixed to it. Though the piece itself is lost, it ap-
])ears to have been the first outlines of that amazing
design, wliich he afterwards filled up and finished in
his grand Instauration of the Sciences. As there is
not a more amusing, perhaps a more useful specula-
tion, than that of tracing the history of the Inunan
mind, if I may so express myself, in its progression
from truth to truth, and from discovery to discovery;
the intelligent reader would doubtless have been
pleased to see, in the tract I am speaking of, by what
ste])s and gradations a spirit like Bacon's advanced
in building up, for more than thirty years together,
his new and universal theory, jtle thought him-
self born for the use of human kind : and, in the
letter before mentioned, styles himself the servant of
posterity.



VI THE LIFE OP THE

These few hints for filling up this first part of our
author's life., trivial and unsatisfactory as they may
appear, I have yet been obliged to glean here and
there in the rubbish of several collections, where they
lav scattered, without order or connection. But I shall
now no longer regard Bacon as a mere philosopher ;
as a man of speculation who conversed only Vvith books
and his own thoughts in the shade of retirement and
leisure. The course of his fortunes produced him on
the great theatre of the world, involved him in business,
and complicated him with the most considerable per-
sons of the age he lived in. He was honourably
employed by one prince, and highly preferred under
another. It will be therefore necessary, that this
history may have its due extent and usefulness, to
exhibit a general prospect of the two reigns in Avhich
Bacon flourished and fell, at least in their principal
points of view. The characters of those with whom
he had any connection will illustrate his, and shew
it in a truer, as well as a fuller light.

I have yet another reason for enlarging this
account beyond the ordinary limits. Our author's
letters arc written, many of them at least, on public
occasions, and may be considered as the most au-
thentic vouchers for several remarkable occurrences,
in which he himself was an actor, and well ac-
quainted with the secret motives on which others
acted. But as those things are for the most part
only hinted at, or no farther opened than to serve the
present purpose of his letter ; they will require to be



Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 52)