Francis Bacon.

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'^•''^' COUNSELS 1


B M IID 2fib


Felix Flupiel

,JA /^ L/r^^ovd^i


Dr. FlOgel

1 -APR. P2
Leipzig, Sidoniensti. 39


Neither repetitions nor fancies "

Francis Bacon







Etiiteti bjitlj an EntraUuction anU Kates




By a. C. McClurg and Co.

A. D. i8qO.




The editio princeps of Bacon's Essays, published
in the year 1597, was a small octavo volume con-
taining also his " Religious Meditations " (in
Latin), and his " Table of Colors, or Appearances,
of Good and Evil " (in English). The essays were
but ten in number, as follows : —

1. Of Study.

2. Of Discourse.

3. Of Ceremonies and Respects.

4. Of Followers and Friends.

5. Suitors.

6. Of Expense.

7. Of Regiment of Health.

8. Of Honor and Reputation.

9. Of Faction.

10. Of Negotiating.

The " Epistle Dedicatory " was as follows : —

" To M. Anthony Bacon his dear Brother

" Loving and beloved Brother, — I do now like
some that have an orchard ill-neighbored, that gather


6..r ,.,... . .BACON'S ESSAYS.

their 'fruit t)excre i^ is fipe to prevent stealing. These
fragments of my conceits were going to print ; to
labor the stay of them had been troublesome and
subject to interpretation ; to let them pass had been to
adventure the wrong they mought receive by untrue
copies, or by some garnishment which it mought please
any that should set them forth to bestow upon them.
Therefore I held it best discretion to publish them
myself as they passed long ago from my pen, without
any further disgrace than the weakness of the author.
And as I did ever hold there mought be as great a
vanity in retiring and withdrawing men's conceits
(except they be of some nature) from the world, as in
obtruding them, so in these particulars I have played
myself the inquisitor, and find nothing in them con-
V/trary or infectious to the state of religion or manners,
but rather, as I suppose, medicinable. Only 1 dis-
liked now to put them out, because they will be like
the late new half-pence, which, though the silver were
good, yet the pieces were small. But since they
would not stay with their master, but would needs
travel abroad, I have preferred them to you that are
next myself, dedicating them, such as they are, to
our love ; in the depth whereof, I assure you, I some-
times wish your infirmities translated upon myself,
that her Majesty mought have the service of so active
and able a mind, and I mought be with excuse con-
fined to these contemplations and studies for which I
am fittest. So commend I you to the preservation
of the divine Majesty. From my chamber at Grav's
Inn, this 30th of January, 1597.

" Your entire loving brother.

" Fran. Bacon."


. If Bacon thought to prevent stealing by gather-
ing his fruit before it was ripe, he reckoned with-
out the book pirates, who flourished then as now.
Mr. Arber and Mr. Wright enumerate several evi-
dently unauthorized editions during the author's
life. These, and the translations into French and
Italian, attest the immediate popularity of the
Essays. In the year 16 12 Bacon published a sec-
ond author's edition of his Essays, including nine
of the original group (all but that " Of Honor and
Reputation"), considerably altered and enlarged,
with twenty-nine new ones, — in all thirty-eight.
The title was, " The Essaies of S' Francis Bacon
Knight, the Kings Solliciter Generall," and the
dedication to his brother-in-law as follows : —

''To my loving brother, Sir John Constable, Knight.
" My last essays I dedicated to my dear brother,
Master Anthony Bacon, who is with God. Looking
amongst my papers this vacation, I found others of
the same nature; which if I myself shall not suffer
to be lost, it seemeth the world will not, by the often
printing of the former. Missing my brother, I found
you next in respect of bond of near alliance, and
of strait friendship and society, and particularly of
communication in studies. Wherein I must acknowl-
edge myself beholding to you. For as my business
found rest in my contemplations, so my contempla-
tions ever found rest in your loving conference and
judgment. So, wishing you all good, I remain,
" Your loving brother and friend,

" Fra. Bacon."


Bacon's intention had been to dedicate this
edition to Prince Henry, who died in this year
(1612). Some time before this date Bacon had
caused a faithful transcript of the Essays to be
made, as if for publication. This MS. is fortunately
preserved, if in a slighdy mutilated form, in the
British Museum, and contains thirty-four essays,
of which two — " Of Honor and Reputation," and
'' Of Seditions and Troubles " — are not found in
the edition of 1 6 1 2 . Belonging to this MS., though
now separated from it, is the following unprinted

" To the ?nosi high and excellent Prince Henry,
Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and
Earl of Chester.
" It may please your Highness : Having divided
my life into the contemplative and active part, I
am desirous to give his Majesty and your High-
ness of the fruits of both, simple though they be.
To write just treatises requireth leisure in the writer
and leisure in the reader; and therefore are not so
fit, neither in regard of your Highness's princely
affairs, nor in regard of my continual services.
Which is the cause that hath made me choose to
write certain brief notes, set down rather signifi-
cantly than curiously, which I have called Essays, —
the word is late but the thing is ancient. For Sen-
eca's Epistles to Lucilius, if one mark them well, are
but Essays, — that is, dispersed meditations, though
conveyed in the form of episdes. These labors of
mine I know cannot be worthy of your Highness —


for what can be worthy of you ? But my hope is they
may be as grains of salt, that will rather give you an
appetite than offend you with satiety. And although
they handle those things wherein both men's lives
and their pens are most conversant, yet what I have
attained I know not, but I have endeavored to make
them not vulgar, but of a nature whereof a man shall
find much in experience, little in books ; so as they
are neither repetitions nor fancies. But howsoever,
I shall most humbly desire your Highness to accept
them in gracious part, and to conceive that if I can-
not rest, but must show my dutiful and devoted af-
fection to your Highness in these things which pro-
ceed from myself, I shall be much more ready to do
it in performance of any your princely command-
ments. And so, wishing your Highness all princely
felicity, I rest your Highness's most humble servant."

The third and final edition of the Essays, pub-
lished under the supervision of the author, was
that of 1625. It contains the thirty-eight essays
of the edition of 16 12, together with the two es-
says noted above as omitted in that edition, and
eighteen new ones, — fifty-eight in all. All of the
earlier essays are more or less revised, and many
of them are very greatly altered and enlarged.
This final edition is the one upon which all mod-
ern texts are necessarily based. Comparison of
this text with the earUer ones is, however, ex-
tremely interesting, both as revealing Bacon's
methods of revision, and, still more, as throwing a
strong light upon the development of his character


under the tutorship of experience. Such compar-
ison of the three printed texts and one MS. above
described has been made easy by the intelligent
industry of Professor Edward Arber, to whose
" Harmony of the Essays " the present editor is
very greatly indebted.

Between the years 1618 and 162 1 there were
two translations of the Essays into Italian, and two
into French. For several years before his death,
Bacon had in mind a Latin translation. The evi-
dence of this is most interesting, as showing his
opinion of the relative permanence of English and
Latin. In a letter to his friend, Toby Matthew,
written some three years before Bacon's death, he
says : —

" It is true my labors are now most set to have
those works which I had formerly published, — as
that of Advancement of Learning, that of Henry VII.,
that of the Essays, being retractate and made more
perfect, — well translated into Latin, by the help of
some good pens which forsake me not. For these
modern languages will, at one time or other, play the
bankrupts with books; and since I have lost much
time with this age, I would be glad, as God shall
give me leave, to recover it with posterity."

The Italian translation had been entitled " Saggi
Morali," — Moral Saws. To this and to the pro-
posed Latin version Bacon refers in the following
passage from his celebrated letter to Father Ful-
gentio (1625) : —


"I wish to make known to your Reverence my in-
tentions with regard to the writings which I meditate
and have in hand ; not hoping to perfect them, but
desiring to try; and because I work for posterity;
these things requiring ages for their accomplishment.
I have thought it best, then, to have all of them trans-
lated into Latin and divided into volumes. The first
volume consists of the books concerning ' The Ad-
vancement of Learning'; and this, as you know, is
already finished and published, and includes the
Partitions of the Sciences ; which is the first part of
my Instauration, The ' Novum Organum ' should
have followed ; but I interposed my moral and polit-
ical writings, as being nearer ready. These are :
first, the History of the Reign of Henry the Seventh,
King of England ; after which will follow the little
book which, in your language, you have called ' Saggi
Morali.' But I give it a weightier name, entitling
it ' Faithful Discourses, or the Inwards of Things.'
But these discourses will be both increased in num-
ber and much enlarged in treatment."

In the dedication to Buckingham of the final
English edition of the Essays, Bacon expresses his
faith " that the Latin volume of them, being in the
universal language, may last as long as books last."
But he did not live to see this definitive volume
through the press, though there is evidence that
he superintended the work of translating. This
Latin edition was first published in 1638 by Dr.
Rawley, together with other works, " civil and
moral." The title is that given by Bacon in the
letter to Fulgentio : '' Sermones fideles, sive inte-


riora rerum." It is said that among the " divers
hands " by whom the translation was made were
" the learned and judicious poet," Ben Jonson, and
the famous philosopher, Thomas Hobbes. That
their work was most carefully revised by Bacon is
inferred from the circumstance that there are in-
numerable alterations and additions, some of them
important, which surely no one but the author
would have ventured to make. So it is that this
edition is of great value for the light it throws upon
the author's real meaning in many passages, which
would, by themselves, be subject to misinterpreta-
tion or dispute.


To the student, the most useful modern texts of
the Essays are undoubtedly the exact reprints
made by Mr. W. Aldis Wright and Professor
Arber. The text of the Essays given by Mr.
James Spedding in his monumental edition of
Bacon's Complete Works, is also an exact reprint
of the edition of 1625, except that spelling and
punctuation are modernized. Mr. Spedding also
reprints, without modernization, the editions of
1597 and 1 61 2. These reprints attest the devoted
care and scholarly accuracy of their makers. From
a careful and detailed collation of them, I judge
that, in point of accuracy, Mr. Arber falls a little
below both Mr. Wright and Mr. Spedding ; at least,


in nearly if not quite all the cases of divergence
between the readings of Arber and Wright, I have
found in Spedding's text confirmation of the read-
ing of Wright.

Of modern popular editions, I have carefully
examined that of Whately and Heard (Boston,
1879), of Little, Brown, & Co. (Boston, 1884), of
Henry Morley (ui Cassell's National Library, 1889),
of Selby (London, 1889), of David Stott (London,
1890), of Dr. E. A. Abbott (seventh edition, Lon-
don, 1 886) , and an edition printed for John Bumpus
and others (London, 1825). Of these, by far
the most useful and scholarly edition is that of
Dr. Abbott, whose notes are the fullest and the
most satisfactory that I have found. Yet the text
presented by Dr. Abbott is inferior to that of one
or two of the other editions examined ; indeed, it
is so full of slips of almost all degrees of serious-
ness as to be, not merely uncritical, but absolutely
untrustworthy. \\\ view of this fact, one is amused
to find a recent editor pluming himself upon hav-
ing *•' most carefully collated " his text with that of
Dr. Abbott, in order to secure '* the most authori-
tative reading possible." In one case Dr. Abbott
actually substitutes one word for another, and then
gravely explains in a note the meaning of the sub-
stituted word {affecting for effecting, Essay LV.,
\ 2, first sentence).



The text of the present edition is based upon a
thorough-going collation of the reprints, which we
owe to the accurate care of Mr. Arber, Mr. Wright,
and Mr. Spedding, of the final edition printed in
Bacon's lifetime and under his supervision. A
reprint in every respect exact of this final edition
can be of no value except to students of literature,
for it is, to use Mr. Arber's words, " disfigured by
a perfect eruption of capital letters, and is often
cut up into almost inch lengths with commas." In
point of punctuation and capitalization it is, in
truth, so singular, even among books of that time,
as to be a typographical curiosity. In other re-
spects, however, it is a remarkably accurate piece
of typography. T'his union of singularity and cor-
rectness is most readily explained upon the assump-
tion that Bacon, or his secretary, read the proofs
with care, but that they left matters merely typo-
graphical to the printer. It is noteworthy that the
second edition of the Essays (1612) has no such
peculiarity ; as Mr. Arber remarks again, '' It al-
most reads like a modern book."

Obviously, the modern editor of the Essays must
exercise his own taste in the matter of punctuation.
This I have endeavored to do in a conservative
way, taking advantage of the labors of others at
every step. I have also followed, but not slavishly.
Dr. Abbott's excellent precedent in introducing a



more perspicuous system of paragraphing than that
which obtains in other editions. I have been able
to correct some serious errors which disfigure all
the modernized texts (Spedding's alone excepted),
and have avoided scores and hundreds of corrup-
tions which appear sporadically, to a greater or
less extent, in all the modern popular editions
examined. In preparing tliis text I have striven,
in the spirit of the modest words of self-gratulation
prefixed by Mr. Spedding to his great edition of
the Complete Works : " . . . though I must not
suppose that my mind has observed everything
that my eyes have looked at, I am not without
hope that the text of this edition will be found
better and more faithful than any that has hitherto
been produced." Translations of the Latin quo-
tations not explained in the text have been placed
among the foot-notes. It is hoped that the notes
— which will bite no one who lets them alone —
may not too painfully illustrate, for the thousand
and first time,

" How commentators each dark passage shun,
And hold their farthing candle to the sun."


The various forms taken by the modern Essay
under the hands of such masters as Lamb, De
Quincey, Macaulay, Emerson, and Stevenson, have
been primarily determined by the exigencies of the


great reviews and popular magazines. These, in
turn, are the natural outcome of the vast multipli-
cation of books incident to the spread of the read-
ing habit and to the specialization of research.
There are now regiments of specialists, armies of
students, and whole populations of readers, whose
mercurial curiosity will not stay for the labored
treatise. The general public demands, not " works,"
but the results of work. The student who would
broaden his intellectual horizon cannot afford to
keep his eye forever fixed upon the navel of a
quarto volume. Hence the evolution of the re-
view, first quarterly, then monthly, finally fort-
nightly, determining the scope and structure of
the nineteenth century essay, — a new literary or-
gan, difficult to define ; something not a book,
nor a treatise, nor a dissertation : long enough to
instruct, to interest, to suggest a thousand things,
and (what is perhaps its most important note)
short enough to be read at a single sitting.

The sixteenth century essay was no such thing.
The first writer of essays was Montaigne, whose
first volumes were published when Bacon was about
twenty. Bacon's own brother, Anthony, met Mon-
taigne at Bordeaux, and the two seem to have had
some intimacy. John Florio's translation made
the " Essais " popular, in the best sense of the
word, in England; Shakspere and Ben Jonson
possessed and read Florio's book. Doubtless
Francis Bacon read it too, and the original as


well, but there is no evidence : his first and only
, mention of Montaigne is in the essay "Of Truth"
(1625). We have already seen Bacon, in the
letter to Prince Henry, pointing back to Seneca as
an essayist. Perhaps his indebtedness to Mon-
taigne for the essay form is not very great; cer-
tainly there is litde in common between the
terseness of Bacon and the charming garrulity of
the lively and candid Gascon.

Mr. Arber has discovered an English essayist
before Bacon, but only a year before. In 1596
there appeared a book entitled " Anonymous his
Remedies against Discontentment." A sentence
is worth quoting, as showing that, with respect to
brevity, " Anonymous " was of the school of Bacon
rather than of the school of Montaigne : —

" For I was long since thus persuaded, that the
receipts which we seek to calm and appease our
mind withal, ought to be gathered into the fewest
words and shortest precepts that may be, that we
may always have them about us."

This recalls Bacon's definidon of his essays as
" certain brief notes set down "rather "significantly
than curiously," — or, in our more commonplace
dialect, rather suggestively than systematically.

In fact, both Bacon and Montaigne use the
word " essay " in a sense very close to the original /S
one (Latin exagium, a weighing) . The twin words
"essay" and "assay" had already parted com-


pany, but still remained within hail of each other.
The two distinct forms of composition which
Bacon and Montaigne severally styled Essays, had
this in common : each was an assay of some
topic, and a "try'* at its treatment. The title
expressly waived any attempt at completeness,
still less at exhaustiveness ; the essay was not yet
a body, but a mere group of disjecta me7nbra.
In the first Baconian essays the subject was a
mere heading, under which the author's obiter
dicta were jotted down with the utmost concise-
ness. That this was his first conception of the
essay is clearly shown in the edition of 1597 by
the frequent use of the paragraph mark (^), to
emphasize the breaks in the sense. As he
returned to these essays from time to time
throughout a period of thirty years, retouching
and adding, they naturally grew into something
more organic ; and perhaps some of the later
essays are about as coherent, and in their way
complete, as some of Emerson's.


The natural effect of this method of composition
upon the style is obvious. In his treatise concern-
ing " The Advancement of Learning, " Bacon had
scope and verge to roll out his mind,

" Long crumpled, till creased consciousness lay bare."


But in the Essays the great fabric lies in creases.
Or, rather, we perceive no continuous web, but
the maker cuts us off little snippets, which we
carry about with us as samples of the product of
those marvellous looms.

Mr. Swinburne makes the following suggestive
comparison between the style of Bacon and that
of Ben Jonson : —

" The dry, curt style of the statement, docked and
trimmed into sentences that are regularly snapped
off or snipped down at the close of each deliverance,
is as alien and as far from the fresh and vigorous
spontaneity of the poet's, as is the trimming and
hedging morality of the essay on ' Simulation and
Dissimulation ' from the spirit and instinct of the
man who ' of all things loved to be called honest.' "

But Ben Jonson himself has far more aptly
characterized the style of the Essays, in words
that will live with the eternity of Bacon's fame.
Jonson is speaking of Bacon's oratory, but the
reader may judge whether his words do not fit
the Essays as well : —

"... Yet there happened in my time one noble
speaker, who was full of gravity in his speaking ; his
language (where he could spare or pass by a jest)
was nobly censorious. No man ever spake more
neatly, more pressly, more weightily, or suffered less
emptiness, less idleness, in what he uttered. No
member of his speech but consisted of his own


What follows, although of less immediate perti-
nence, must not be omitted ; —

" His hearers could not cough, or look aside from
him, without loss. He commanded where he spake,
and had his judges angry and pleased at his devo-
tion. No man had their affections more in his
power. The fear of every man that heard him was
lest he should make an end."

It will be noted that these weighty sentences
are, to repeat Mr. Swinburne's words, '' docked
and trimmed " as much as any of Bacon's. Before
assenting to Mr. Swinburne's disparagement of the
style of the Essays, we should consider whether
this style does not grow out of the peculiar charac-
ter of the work. As we have already seen, Bacon
makes a careful distinction between his "just
treatises," requiring " leisure in the writer and
leisure in the reader," and his Essays, which are
merely " certain brief notes, set down rather sig-
nificantly than curiously," and which, he hopes,
" may be as grains of salt, that will rather give you
an appetite than offend you with satiety." Surely
in such writings as these a " dry curt style," with
sentences " regularly snapped off or snipped down,"
is the best style, being the style into which the
subject-matter naturally crystallizes.

To assume that this is the distinctively Baconian
style is a great, though a frequent, mistake. When,
as in "The Advancement of Learning," Bacon un-


dertakes to write "just treatises," the deep broad
current of his thought sometimes sweeps grandly
onward with a " compulsive course " suggestive of
other parallels than that of Ben Jonson. Espe-
cially in touching upon that belief, which was a
religion with him, in the greatness and fruitful-
ness of the undiscovered country, — the kingdom
of experimental knowledge, — to which he aspired
to be the Columbus, does Bacon dilate with real
prophetic fervor. Even in the English translation
from the Baconian Latin the solemn enthusiasm
and the warm imaginative coloring are by no
means lost. Who can read without a certain
sweUing of the heart the following noble and
characteristic passage from the (translated) Preface
to the (Latin) Natural History?

"If therefore, there be any humility towards the
Creator, any reverence for, or disposition to magnify,
his works, any charity for man and anxiety to relieve
his sorrows and necessities, any love of truth in na-
ture, any hatred of darkness, any desire for the puri-
fication of the understanding, we must entreat men
again and again to discard, or at least set apart for
a while, these volatile and preposterous philosophies
which have preferred theses to hypotheses, led expe-
rience captive, and triumphed over the works of God;
and to approach with humility and veneration to un-
roll the volume of Creation, to linger and meditate

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Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe essays or counsels, civil and moral → online text (page 1 of 15)