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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ting of sciences, and not for transitory use. This
cannot be, except their condition and endowment be



such as may content the ablest man to appropriate his
whole labour, and continue his whole age in that
function and attendance, and tlierefore must have a
proportion answerable to that mediocrity or compe-
tency of advancement, which may be expected from
a profession, or the practice of a profession. So as,
if you will have sciences flourish, you must observe
David's military law, which was, " That those which
staid with the carriage, should have equal part with
those which were in the action ; " else will the car-
riages be ill attended. So readers in sciences are
indeed the guardians of the stores and provisions of sci-
ences, whence men in active courses are furnished, and
therefore ought to have equal entertainment with
them; otherwise if the fathers in sciences be of the
weakest sort, or be ill-maintained,

• " Et patrum invalidi referent jejunia nati."
Another defect I note, wherein I shall need some
alchemist to help me, who call upon men to sell tlieir
books, and to build furnaces, quitting and forsaking
INIinerva and the j\Iuses as barren virgins, and relying
upon Vulcan. But certain it is, that unto the deep,
fruitful, and operative study of many sciences, espe-
cially natural philosophy and physic, books be not only
the instrumentals wherein also the beneficence of men
hath not been altogether wanting : for we see spheres,
globes, astrolabes, maps, and the like, have been pro-
vided as appurtenances to astronomy and cosmography,
as well as books ; we see likewise, that some places
instituted for physic have annexed tlie commodity of
gardens for simples of all sorts, and do likewise com-
mand the use of dead bodies for anatomies. But these
do respect but a few things. In general, there will
hardly be any main proficience in the disclosing of
nature, exccpt_thcrc be some allowance for expences
about experiments f whether they be cxjicfimcnts
appertaining to Vulcanus or Daedalus, furnace or
engine, or any other kind ; and therefore as secretaries
and spials of princes and states bring in bills for
intelligence, so you must allow the spials and intelli-


gcncers of nature to bring in their bills, or else you
shall be ill a(l\ crtised.

And if Alexander made such a liberal assignation
to Aristotle of treasure for the allowance of hunters,
fowlers, fishers, and the like, that he might compile ■

an history of nature, much better do they deserve it :

that Travel in arts of nature.

Another defect which 1 note, is an intermission or
neglect, in tliose which are governors in universities,
of consultation ; and in princes, or superior persons,
of visitation : to enter into account and consideration,
whether the readings, exercises, and other customs,
apjiei-taining unto Icarniiig, anciently begun, and
since continued, be well instituted or no, and there-
upon to ground an amendment or reformation in that
which shall be fo\nid inconvenient. For it is one of
your majesty's own most wise and princely maxims,
" That in all usages and precedents, the times be con-
sidered wherein they first began, which if they were
weak or ignorant, it derogate th from tlie authority of
the usage, and leaveth it for suspect." And therefore
in as much as most of the usages and orders of the
universities were derived from more obscure times, it
is the more requisite they be re-examined. In this
kind I will give an instance or two, for example sake,
of things that are the most obvious and familiar : the
one is a matter, which though it be ancient and gene-
ral, yet I hold to be an error, which is, that scholars
in universities come too soon and too unripe to
logic and rhetoric, arts fitter for graduates than chil-
dren and novices ; for these two, rightly taken, are the
gravest of sciences, being the arts of arts, the one for
judgment, the other for ornament. And they be the
rules and directions how to set fortli and dispose
matter ; and therefore for minds empty and imfrauglit
with matter, and which have not gathered that which
Cicero calleth syha and siipellex, stuff and variety,
to begin with those arts, as if one should leain to
weigh, or to measure, or to paint the wind, doth work
but this efl^'ect, that the wisdom of those arts, whicli


is great and universal, is almost made contemptible,
and is degenerate into childish sophistry and ridicu-
lous affectation. And farther, the untimely learning
of them hath drawn on, by consequence, the super-
ficial and unprofitable teaching and writing of them,
as fitteth indeed to the capacity of children. Another,
is a lack I find in the exercises used in the univer-
sities, whicii do make too great a divorce between
invention and memory ; for their speeches are either
premeditate in verbis conceptis, where nothing is left
to invention ; or merely extemporal, where little is
left to memory ; whereas in life and action there is
least use of either of these, but rather of intermix-
tures of premeditation and invention, notes and
memory ; so as the exercise fitteth not the practice,
nor the image the life ; and it is ever a true rule in
exercises, that they be framed as near as may be to
the life of practice, for otherwise they do pervert the
motions and faculties of the mind, and not prepare
them. The truth whereof is not obscure, when scho-
lars come to the practices of professions, or other
actions of civil life, which when they set into, this
want is soon found by themselves, and sooner by others.
But this part, touching the amendment of the insti-
tutions and orders of universities, I will conclude
with the clause of Caesar's letter to Oppius and Balbus,
" Hoc quemadmodum fieri possit, nonuulla mihi in
mentem veniunt, et multa reperiri possunt : de iis
rebus rogo vos, ut cogitationem suscipiatis."

Another defect, which I note, ascendeth a little
higher than the precedent ; for as the proficiencc of
learning consisteth much in the orders and institutions
of universities in the same states and kingdoms, so it
would be yet more advanced, if there wercjuore
j mutual between the universities of Eu-
j rope Wan now there is. We see there be many
orders and foundations, which though they be di-
vided under several sovereignties and territories, yet
they take themselves to have a kind of contract, fra-
ternity, and correspondence one with another, inso-
nujch as they have ])rovincials and generals. And


surely as nature createth brotherhood in families, and
arts mechanical contract brotherhoods in common-
alties, and the anointment of God superinduceth a
brotherhood in kings and bishops : so in like manner
there cannot but be a fraternity in learning and
illumination, relating to that paternity which is attri-
buted to God, who is called the Father of illumina-
tions or lights.

The last defect ydlicliXjYill. note .isj,^ that there hath
noti)eenj,_or_very ^^TpJv been, any public designation
of writers or inqiiirers concerning such parts of know-
ledge, "as niay appear not to have been already suffi-
cientTylaboured or undertaken : unto which point it
is an inducement to entcrTnto a view and examination
what parts of learning have been prosecuted, and what
omitted : for the opinion of plenty is amongst the
causes of want, and the great quantity of books
maketh a shew rather of superfluity than lack ; which
surcharge, nevertheless, is not to be remedied by
making no more books, but by making more good
books, which, as the serpent of Moses, might devour
the serpents of the enchanters.

The removing of all the defects formerly enume-
rated, except the last, and of the active part also of
the last, which is the designation of writers, are opera
basilica; towards which the endeavours of a private man
may be but as an image in a cross-way, that may point
at the way, but cannot go it. But the inducing part
of the latter, which is the survey of learning, may
be set forward by private travel : wlierefore I will now
attempt to make a general and faithful perambu-
lation of learning, with an inquiry what parts thereof
lie fresh and waste, and not improved and converted
by the industry of man ; to the end that such a plot,
made and recorded to memory, may both minister
light to any public designation, and also serve to
excite voluntary endeavours: wherein, nevertlieless , my
purpose-is-at-thi& time to iK)teonly omissions and defi-
ciences, and not to make any redargiifion of errors, or
incomplete prosecutions : for it is one thing to set
forth Avhat ground lieth unmanured, and another thing
to correct ill husbandrv in that which is manured.



In the handling and undertakhig of which work I
am not ianorant what it is that I do now move and
attempt, nor insensible of mine own weakness to sus-
tain my pm-pose ; but my hope is, that if my extreme
love to learning carry me too far, I may obtain the
excuse of affection ; for that " it is not granted to
man to love and to be wise." But, I know well, I can
use no other liberty of judgment than I must leave to
others ; and I, for my part, shall be indifferently
glad either to perform myself, or accept from another,
that duty of humanity " Nam qui erranti comiter
monstrat viam," etc. I do foresee likewise, that of
those things which I shall enter and register, as defi-
ciencies and omissions, many will conceive and censure,
that some of them are already done and extant ;
others to be but curiosities, and things of no great
use ; and others to be of too great difficulty, and almost
impossibility to be compassed and effected : but for
the two first, I refer myself to the particulars ; for the
last, touching impossibility, I take it, those things
are to be held possible, which may be done by some
person, though not by every one ; and which may be
done by many, though not by any one ; and which may
be done in succession of ages, though not within the
hour-glass of one man's life; and which may be done by
public designation, though not by pri\'atc endeavour.

But, notwithstanding, if any man will take to him-
self rather that of Solomon, " Dicit piger, Leo est in
via," than that of Virgil, " Possimt quia posse viden-
tur : " I shall be content that my labours be esteemed
but as the better sort of wishes ; for as it asketh some
knowledge to demand a question not impertinent, so
it rcquireth some sense to make a wish not absurd.

The parts of human learning have reference to
the three parts of man's Understanding, which is the
seat of learning: History to his Memory, Poesy to
his Imagination, and Pliilosophy to his Reason.
Divine learning receiveth the same distribution, for
the spirit of man is tlie same, though the revelation
of oracle and sense be diverse : so as theology consist-


Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 52)