Page images


HOR. Carm. I. 12, 45.

"Those two incomparable men, the Prince of Poets and the Prince of Philosophers, who made the Elizabethan age a more glorious and important era in the history of the human mind than the age of Pericles, of Augustus, or of Leo."-LORD MACAULAY. Essay on Burleigh and His Times Works, V. 611, ed. Trevelyan.



Matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge

Admitted at Gray's Inn.

First sat in the House of Commons as Member for

22 Jan. 1560-61

10 June 1573

21 Nov. 1576

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]




is remarkable that as "the golden meditations which Lord Bacon called Essays" were the earliest of his publications, so the revision and augmentation of them was his latest literary labor. The first edition was printed early in 1597; the last which Bacon gave to the world was published in 1625, the year before his death.1


Among the innumerable editions of the Essays that have been published, there are only four which, as authorities for the text, have any original or independent value; namely those published by Lord Bacon himself in 1597, in 1612, and in 1625; and the Latin version published by Dr. Rawley in 1638. The rest are merely reprints of one or other of these.

The edition of 1597 contained ten Essays, together with the "Meditationes Sacræ," and the "Colours of Good and Evil." That of 1612, a small volume in

1 The first edition published in this country was printed by William Bradford in 1688, and was the earliest volume issued from his press. See the elegant Address of Mr. John William Wallace before the New-York Historical Society, May 20, 1863, pp. 34-37.

octavo, contained Essays only; but the number was increased to thirty-eight, of which twenty-nine were quite new, and all the rest more or less corrected and enlarged. That of 1625, a quarto, contained fifty-eight Essays, of which twenty were new, and the rest were enriched with a thousand exquisite touches.1

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


"It is by the Essays," said Lord Macaulay, Bacon is best known to the multitude. The Novum Organum' and the De Augmentis' are much talked of, but little read. They have produced indeed a vast effect on the opinions of mankind; but they have produced it through the operation of intermediate agents. They have moved the intellects which have moved the world. It is in the Essays alone that the mind of Bacon is brought into immediate contact with the minds of ordinary readers. There he opens an exoteric school, and talks to plain men, in language which everybody understands, about things in which everybody is interested. He has thus enabled those who must otherwise

1 As is the case with most books of that time, different copies of the same edition may be found to vary here and there; perhaps, however, in a single letter only. This remark is true of the famous Shakespearian Folio of 1623. It is probable that no one copy exactly corresponds with any other. Mr. Wright, in the Preface to his edition of the Essays, mentions that he has collated ten copies of the edition of 1625, “which, though bearing the same date, are all different from each other in points of no great importance." And in the Appendix to the Notes he adds; "The cause of these differences it is not difficult to conjecture. Corrections were made while the sheets were being printed off, and the corrected and uncorrected sheets were bound up indiscriminately. In this way the number of different copies might be multiplied to any extent. Instances occur in which a sheet appears in three different stages: one with two errata on one page, a second with one of the errata corrected, and a third with both corrected." See also Mr. Spedding's note, Bacon's Works, VI. 517.

have taken his merits on trust to judge for themselves; and the great body of readers have, during several generations, acknowledged that the man who has treated with such consummate ability questions with which they are familiar may well be supposed to deserve all the praise bestowed on him by those who have sat in his inner school."1

In 1849 Archbishop Whately wrote: "I am oldfashioned enough to admire Bacon, whose remarks are taken in and assented to by persons of ordinary capacity, and seem nothing very profound; but when a man comes to reflect and observe, and his faculties enlarge, he then sees more in them than he did at first, and more still as he advances further; his admiration of Bacon's profundity increasing as he himself grows intellectually. Bacon's wisdom is like the seven-league boots, which would fit the giant or the dwarf, except only that the dwarf cannot take the same stride in them."


Bacon was not mistaken in his own estimation of the Essays. In his Dedication of the edition of 1625, he says, “I do now publish my Essays, which of all my other works have been most current. For that, as it seems, they come home to men's business and bosoms. I have enlarged them both in number and weight; so

1 "His books will ever survive; in the reading whereof modest men commend him in what they do, condemn themselves in what they do not understand, as believing the fault in their own eyes, and not in the object." — FULLER. Church History (1656) V. 493, ed. Oxford 1345.

2 Life and Correspondence (London 1866) II. 154.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »