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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ititcr nabila condit, her head is muffled from our sight.
For the history of the exemplar states, it is extant
in good perfection. Not but I could wish there were
a perfect course of history for Grsecia from Theseus to
Philopoemen, what time the affairs of Graecia were
drowned and extinguished in the affairs of Rome ; and
for Rome from Romulus to Justinianus, who may be
truly said to be ultimus Rotnano7^um. In which se-
quences of story the text of Thucydides and Xeno-
phon in the one, and the text of Livius, Polybius, Sa-
lustius, Caesar, Appianus, Tacitus, Herodianus, in the
other, to be kept entire, without any diminution at all,
and only to be supplied and continued. But this is
matter of magnificence, rather to be commended than
required ; and we speak now of parts of leaniing sup-
plemental, and not of supererogation.

But for Modern Histories, whereof there are some
few very worthy, but the greater part beneath medio-
crity, leaving the care of foreign stories to foreign
states, because I \vill not be curiosus in aliena repub-
lican I cannot fail to represent to your majesty the un-
worthiness of the history of England in the main con-
tinuance thereof, and'fhc partiality and obliquity of
that of Scotland, in the latest and largest author that I
have seen ; supposing that it would be honour for your
majesty, and a work very memorable, if this island of
Great Britain, as it is now joined in monarchy for the
ages to come, so were joined in one history for the
times passed, after the manner of the sacred history,
which draweth down the story of the ten tribes, and of
the two tribes, as twins, together. And if it shall seem


that the of this work may make it less exactly
performed, there is an excellent period of a much
smaller compass of time, as to the story of England ;
that is to say, from the uniting of the roses to the
uniting of the kingdoms : a portion of time,
wherein, to my understanding, there hath heen the
rarest varieties, that in like number of successions of
any hereditary monarchy hath been known : for it
beginneth %\ith the mixed adoption of a crown by arms
and title; an entry by battle, an establishment by mar-
riage ; and therefore times answerable, like waters after
a tempest, full of working and swelling, though with-
out extremity of storm : but well passed through
by the wisdom of the pilot, being one of the most
sufficient kings of all the number. Then followcth
the reign of a king, whose actions, howsoever conducted,
had much intermixture with the affairs of Europe,
balancing and inclining them variably; in whose time
also began that great alteration in the state ecclesias-
tical, an action which seldom cometh upon the stage.
Then the reign of a minor : then an offer of an usur-
pation, though it was but as fehris ephemera:
then the reign of a queen matched with a foreigner :
then of a queen that lived solitary and unmarried,
and yet her government so masculine, as it had greater
impression and operation upon the states abroad than
it any ways received from thence. And now last, this
most happy and glorious event, tliat this island of
Britain, divided from all the world, should be united
in itself: and that oracle of rest, given to iRneas, " An-
tiquam exquirite matrem," should now be performed
and fulfilled upon the nations of England and Scot-
land, being now reunited in the ancient mother
name of Britain, as a full period of all instability
and peregrinations : so that as it cometh to pass in
massive bodies, that they have certain tre})idations
and waverings before they fix and settle ; so it seemeth
that by the providence of (iod this monarchy, before
it was to settle in your majesty and your generations,
in whicli I hope it is now established for ever, it had
these prelusive changes and varieties.

Vox Lives; I do find strange that these. timciL have


SO little esteemed the virtues of the times, as that the
writing' of lives should be no more frequent. For
although there be not many sovereign princes or ab-
solute commanders, and that states are most collected
into monarchies, yet there arc many worthy person-
ages that deserve better than dispersed report or barren
elegies. For herein the invention of one of the late
poets is proper, and doth well inrich the ancient fiction:
for he feigncth, that at the end of the thread or web
of every man's life there was a little medal containing
the ])erson's name, and that Time waited upon the
shears ; and as soon as the thread was cut, caught the
medals, and carried them to the river of Lethe ; and
about the bank there were many birds flying np and
down, that would get the medals, and carry them in
their beak a little while, and then let them fall into
the river : only there were a few swans, which if they
got a name, would carry it to a temple, where it was

And though many men, more mortal in their affec-
tions than in their bodies, do esteem desire of name
and memory but as a vanity and ventosity,
" Animi nil inagnoe laudis cgentes;"
which opinion cometh from the root, " non prius laudes
contempsimus, quam laudanda faccre desivimus :" yet
that will not alter Solomon's judgment, " JMemoria
justi cum laudibus, at impiorum nomen putrescet : "
the one flourisheth, the other cither consumeth to pre-
sent oblivion, or turneth to an ill odour.

And therefore in that stile or addition, w^hich is and
hath been long well received and brought in use,
" felicis memoriae, \nx memoria?, bonae memorise," we
do acknowledge that which Cicero saith, borrowing it
from Demosthenes, that " bona fama propria posscssio
defunctorum ; " which possession I cannot but note,
that in our times it lieth much waste, and that therein
there is a deficience.

For Narrations and Relations oi [mrtici\\a,Y actions,
there were also to "be wIsTied a greater diligence therein;
common way, before we come \vhere the ways part
for there is no great action but iiath some good pen
which attends it.


And because it is an ability not common to write
a good history, as may well appear by the small number
of them ; yet if particularity of actions memorable
were but tolerably reported as they pass, the compiling
of a complete history of times might be the better
expected, when a wi-iter should arise that were fit for
it ; for the collection of such relations might be as a
nursery garden, whereby to plant a fair and stately
garden, when time should serve.

There is yet another partition of history which Cor-
nelius Tacitus maketh, which is not to be forgotten,
especially with that application which he accou-
plieth it withal. Annals and Journals : appropriating
to the former, matters of state ; and to the latter, acts
and accidents of a meaner nature. For giving but a
touch of certain magnificent buildings, he addeth,
" Cum ex dignitate populi Romani repertum sit, res
illustres annalibus, talia diurnis m'bis actis mandare."
. So as there is a kind of contemplative heraldry, as well
as civil. And as nothing doth derogate from the dig-
nity of a state more than confusion of degrees ; so it
, doth not a little embase the authority of an history,
^ to intermingle matters of triumph, or matters of cere-
mony, or matters of novelty, with matters of state.
But the use of a journal hath not only been in the
history of time, but likewise in the history of persons,
and chiefly of actions ; for princes in ancient time
had, upon point of honour and policy both, journals
kept, what passed day by day : for we see the chro-
nicle which was read before Ahasuerus, when he could
not take rest, contained matters of affairs indeed, but
such as had passed in his own time, and very lately
before : but the journal of Alexander's house expressed
every small j)articularity even concerning his person
and court ; and it is yet an use well received in enter-
prises memorable, as expeditions of war, navigations,
and the like, to keep diaries of that which passeth

I cannot likewise be ignorant of a form of writing,
wliich some grave and wise men have used, containing
a scattered history of those actions whicli they have


thought worthy of memory, with politic discourse and
observation thereupon ; not incorporutetl into the his-
tory, but se})arately, and as the mere principal in their
intention ; which kind of ruminated history 1 think
more fit to place amongst books of policy, where-
of we sliall hereafter speak, tlian amongst books
of history : for it is the true office of history to repre-
sent the events themselves together with the counsels,
and to leave the observations and conclusions there-
upon to the liberty and faculty of every man's judg-
ment ; but mixtures are things irregular, whereof no
man can define.

So also is there another kind of history manifoldly
mixed, and that i&^Iiistoxy,cQf . t^ig!;Og$|l^ being

compounded of natural history, in respect of the regions
tlicmselves ; of history civil, in respect of the habita-
tions, regiments, and manners of the people ; and the
mathematics, in respect of the climates and configura-
tions tow^ards the heavens: which part of learning of all
others, in this later time, hath obtained most profi-
cieuce. For it may be truly affirmed to the honour
of these times, and in a virtuous emulation with anti-
quity, that this great building of the world had never
thorough lights made in it, till the age of us and our
fathers : for although they had knowledge of the

" Nosque ubi primus cquis oriens afflavit anhelis,
lllic sera rubens accendit lumina Vesper : "

yet that might be by demonstration, and not in fact ;
and if by travel, it requireth the voyage but of half
the globe. But to circle the earth, as the heavenly
bodies do, was not done or enterprised till these later
times : and therefore these times may justly bear in
their word, not only plus ultra in precedence of the
ancient non ultra, and imitabile fulmtn, in prece-
dence of the ancient non imitabile. fulmai.

" Demens qui nimbos ct non imitabile fulmcn," etc.

but likewise imitabile coilam : in respect of the many
memorable voyages, after the manner of heaven, about
the globe of the earth.



And this proficieiice in navigation and discoveries
may plant also an expectation of the farther proficience
and augmentation of all sciences ; because, it may
seem, they are ordained by God to be coevals, that is,
to meet in one age. For so the prophet Daniel, speak-
ing of the latter times, foretelleth ; " Plurimi per-
transibunt, et multiplex erit scientia ;" as if the open-
ness and thorough passage of the world, and the in-
crease of knowledge, were appointed to be in the same
ages, as we see it is already performed in great part ;
the learning of these latter times not much giying^lace
to theTornier tvvo periods or returns of Jearniug^- :fl*e
one of the Grecians, the other of the Romans.

HiSTOUY ecclesiastical receiveth the same divisions
with history civil ; bat/arther, in the proprietyHiei^f,
may be divided, into the History^joJLtlie^GlHH'eh, by a
general name ; !^istpry of Prophecy Ltin d History o f
Providence. .
; ;"") The first describeth the times of the militant Church,
'" whether it be fluctuant, as the"aTirori!^oairT oTniove- '
able, as the ark in the wilderness ; or at rest, as the ark
in the temple ; that is, the statej)f the Church in per-
secution, in remove, and in peace. This part I ought
in no sort to note as deficient, only I would the virtue
and sincerity of it were according to the mass and
quantity. But I am not now in hand with censures,
but with omissions.
Historia Thc sccoud, wliicli is history of prophecy, consisteth

rop etica. ^^ ^^^^^ rclativcs, the prophecy, and the accomplish-
ment ; and therefore the nature of such a work ought
to be, that evei^^ prophecy of the Scripture be sorted
with the event fulfilling the same, throughout the ages
of the world ; both for the better confirmation of faith,
and for thc better illumination of thc Church touch-
ing those parts of prophecies which are yet unfulfilled :
allowing nevertheless that latitude which is agreeable
and familiar unto divine prophecies, being of the na-
ture of their Author, with whom a thousand years are
but as one day, and therefore arc not fulfilled punc-
tually at once, but have springing and germinant


accomplishment throughout many ages; though the
heiglit or fuhiess of them may refer to some one age.

This is a work which I find deficient, but is to be
done with wisdom, sobriety, and reverence, or not at all.

The third, which is history^fjjTDjddencc^QiLtaineth
that excellent correspondence wliich is between God's
re\'e alecr \vill and his . acq- c t will : which though it be
so obscure, as for the most part it is not legible to the
natural man ; no, nor many times to those that behold
it from the tabernacle ; yet at some times it pleaseth
God, for our better establishment, and the confuting of
those which are as without God in the world, to write it
in such text andcapitalletters,that,as the prophet saith,
" he that runneth by may read it;" that is, mere sensual
persons, which hasten by God's judgments, and never
bend or fix their cogitations upon them, are neverthe-
less in their passage and race urged to discern it. j Such
are tlie notable events and examples of God's judg-
ments, chastisements, deliverances, and blessingsjj and
this is a work which hath passed through the labours
of many, and therefore I cannot present as omitted.

There are also other parts of learning which are
Appendices to history ; for all the exterior proceedings
of man consist of words and deeds ; whereof history
doth properly receive and retain in memory the deeds ;
and if words, yet but as inducements and passages to
deeds ; so are there other books and writings, which are
appropriate to the custody and receipt of words only,
which likewise are of three sorts ; Orations, Letters,
and Brief Speeches or Sayings.

Grations are pleadings, speeches of counsel, lauda-
tives, invectives, apologies, reprehensions ; orations of
formality or ceremony, and the like.

Letters are according to all the variety of occasions,
advertisements, advices, directions, propositions, peti-
tions, commendatory, expostulatory, satisfactory ; of
compliment, of pleasure, of discourse, and all other
passages of action. And such as are written from wise
men, are of all the words of man, in my judgment,
the best ; for they arc more natural than orations and
public speeches, and more advised than conferences or

G 2

^ 1


present speeches. So again letters of affiiirs from
such as manage them or are privy to them, are of all
others the best instructions for history, and to a dili-
gent reader the best histories in themselves.

For Apophthegms, it is a great loss of that book of
Cassar's ; for as his history, and those few letters of his
which we have, and those apophthegms which were of
his own, excel all mens else, so I suppose would his
collection of apophthegms ha\'c done ; for as for those
which are collected by otliers, either I have no taste
in such matters, or else their choice hath not been
happy. But upon these three kinds of writings I do
not insist, because I have no deficiencies to propound
concerning them.

Thus much therefore concerning History, which is
that part of learning which answercth to one of the
cells, domiciles, or offices of the mind of man, which
is that of the Memory.

Poesy is a part of learning in measure of words
for the most part restrained, but in all other points
extremely licensed, and doth truly refer to the imagi-
gination ; which being not tied to the laws of matter,
may at pleasure join that which nature hath severed,
and sever that which nature hath joined, and so make
unlawful matches and divorces of things, Pictoribus
at(jue poctis,etc. Jt is taken in two scu&eSj in re-
spect of words, or matter ; in the first sense, it is but
a character of stile, and belongeth to arts of speech,
and is not pertinent for the present : in the latter, it
is, as hath been said, one of the principal portions of
learning, and is nothing else but feignecyii^toryj_wJ]ijclL-_
inay be stiled as well in prose as in verse.

The use of this feigned history hath been to give
some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of man in
those points wherein the nature of things doth deny
it, the world being in })ioportion inferior to the soul ;
by reason wliereof there is, agreeable to the spirit of
man, a more ample greatness, a more exact goodness,
and a more absolute variety, tlian can be found in the
nature of things, 'i'lierefore, because the acts or


events of true history have not tliat magnitude which
satisiieth the mind of iiiaii, poesy feigucth. acts__aiid
eve nts gro^ttcr and more heroical i_b ecausc true history
])ropoundetli the successes and issues of actions not so
agreeable to the merits of virtue and vice, therefore
poesy feigns them more just in retribution, and more
according to revealed providence : because true history
representetli actions and events more ordinary, and less
interchanged; tliereforc poesy endueth them vvitli
more rareness, and more unexpected and alternative
^'ariations : so as it apuearcth th at pgesj:j;eryc.tli and
conferreth to nKUj,i5aminity5 nioralityj and to. d.clcxiUl-
tion.2~AlTt!''^Tere^ol•e It was ever thoiiglit to have some
participation of divinencss, because it doth raise and
erect the mind, by submitting the shews of things to
tlie desires of the mind ; whereas reason doth buckle
and bow the mind urito the nature of things.

And we see, that by these insinuations and congrui-
ties witli man's nature and pleasure, joined also with
the agreement and consort it hutli with ran sic, it hath
had access and estimation in rude times and barbarous
regions, where other learning stood excluded.

The _di\ ision of j[)oesv, j.vhieh is aptest in tb.e pro-
])riety thereof, besides those divisions which are com-
mon unto it with history; as feigned clironicles, feigned
lives, and the appendices of history, as feigned epistles,
feigned orations, and the rest, is into Poesy Narrative,
RepresentativQj. and xMlusive.

The ^^arralive is.a. incLaiiiiiiiition of history, with
the excesses before remembered, choosing for subject
commonly w-ars and love ; rarely state, and sometimes
pleasure or mirth.

Representative is as a visible history, and is an
image of action s as If they were prcsciiT, as history
is of actions in nature as they are, that is, past.

Allusive or parabolical, is a narration ap[)licd only
to express some special purpose or conceit ; which
latter Iciud of parabolical wisdom was much riiore in
use in the ancient times, a^j2X_yiyJiLble^ pf-Ji'^sop. nnd
the brief sentences of the Seven, and the use of hiero-
glyphics, may appear. And the cause was, for that it


was then of necessity to express any point of reason,

which was more sharp or subtile than the vulgar, in

that manner, because men in those times wanted both

variety of examples and subtilty of conceit : and^s

hieroglyphics were J)efgre.j£,ttfira^.sa-parabljes_jE^£re

before,.argumeut.s. And nevertheless now, and at all

times, they do retain much life and vigour, because

reason cannot be so sensible, nor examples so fit.

/'" But there remaineth yet another use of poesy para-

I bolical, opposite to that which we last mentioned : for

/ that tendeth to demonstrate and illustrate that which

I is taught or delivered, and this other to retire and ob-

1 scure it : that is, when the secrets and mysteries of

V religion, policy, or philosophy, are involved in fables

and parables.

Of this in divine poesy, we see the use is authorised.
In heathen poesy, we see, the exposition of fables doth
fall out sometimes witli great felicity, as in the fable
that the giants being overthrown in their war against
the gods, the Earth their mother, in revenge thereof,
brought forth Fame:
" Illam Terra parens ira irritata deorum,
Extremam, ut perhibent, Coeo Enceladoque sororem

Expounded, that when princes and monarchies have sup-
pressed actual and open rebels, then the malignity of
people, which is the mother of rebellion, doth bring
forth libels and slanders, and taxations of the states,
which is of the same kind with rebellion, but more
feminine. So in the fable, that the rest of the gods
having conspired to bind Jupiter, Pallas called Bria-
reus with his hundred hands to his aid : expounded,
that monarchies need not fear any curbing of their
absoluteness by mighty subjects, as long as by wisdom
they keep the hearts of the people, who will be sure to
come in on their side. iSo in the fable, that Achilles was
brought up under Chiron the Centaur, who was part a
man and part a beast : cxi)ounded ingeniously, but
corruptly by Machiavcl, that it bclongeth to the edu-
cation and discipline of princes, to know as well how


to })lay tlie part of tlic lion in violence, and the fox in
guile, as of the man in virtue and justice.

Nevertheless in many the like encounters, I do rather
think that tlic fable was first, and the exposition de-
vised, than that the moral was first, ajjidjhereujiou
th e fable frame d. For 1 find it was an ancient vanity
in Chrysippus7"that troubled himself with great con-
tention to fasten the assertions of the Stoics upon the
fictions of the ancient poets ; but yet that all the fables
and fictions of the poets were but pleasure and not
figure, I interpose no opinion.

Surely of those poets which are now extant, even
Homer himself, notwithstanding he was made a kind
of Scripture by the latter schools of the Grecians, yet
1 should without any difficulty pronounce, that his
fables liad no such inwardness in his own meaning ;
but what they miglit Iiavc, upon a more original tra-
dition, is not easy to affirm, for he was not the in-
ventor of many of them.

In this third part of learning, which is poesy, I |
can report no deficience. For being as a plant that ■
cdfifefli of the lust of the earth, without a formal seed,
it hath sprung up and spread abroad more than any
other kind : but to ascribe unto it that which is due,
for the expression of aflfectjous^ passions, corruptions,
and customs, \ve are beholden to poets more than to
tTiejJKIosopTiers w^^^ and eloquence,

no t mu ch less than to orators harangues. But it is
not good to stay too long in the theatre. Let us now
pass on to the judicial place or palace of the mind, which
we are to approach and view with more reverence and

The knowledge of man is as the waters, some I
descendmg_from above, and so me springin g froniTie- 1
neathjntneoiie informed by the lig'ht ornature,~TlTie
other inspired by divine revelation.

The light of nature consisteth in the notions of the
mind, and the reports of the senses ; for as for know-
ledge which man receiveth by teaching, it isLCumula-


live, and not original, as in a water, that, besides his
own spring-head, is fed with other springs and streams.

I So then, according to these two differing iUumiriatiojis

>} or origmals, knowledge is first of all divided -into

i Divinity and Pliilosoi>hy.
-^"^j^ In philosophy, the contemplations of man do either

ff penetrate unto God, or are circumferred to nature, or
are reflected or reverted upon himself. Out of which
several inquiries tlierc do arise three knowledges,JDi-
vine philosophy^ Natural philosojihy^ ahd HmTian_
philosophy or liumanity. For all things arc marked
and stamped with this triple character, of the power
of God, the difference of nature, and the use of man.
But because the distributions and partitions of know-
ledge are not like several lines that meet in one angle,
and so touch but in a point ; but are like branches of
a tree, that meet in a stem, which hath a dimension
and quantity of entireness and continuance, before it
come to discontinue and break itself into arms and
boughs ; therefore it is good, before we enter into the
former distribution, to ..erejct and coniStitiiie ong^ni-
versal science, by the name of Phlloiiophui^jjjna^
primitive or summary philosophy, as the maiii and
common way, before we come where the ways part

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 52)