Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Francis Bacon (1561–1626)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by Charlton Thomas Lewis (1834–1904)
THE STARTLING contrasts of splendor and humiliation which marked the life of Bacon, and the seemingly incredible inconsistencies which hasty observers find in his character, have been the themes of much rhetorical declamation, and even of serious and learned debate. From Ben Jonson in his own day, to James Spedding the friend of Tennyson, he has not lacked eminent eulogists, who look up to him as not only the greatest and wisest, but as among the noblest and most worthy of mankind: while the famous epigram of Pope, expanded by Macaulay into a stately and eloquent essay, has impressed on the popular mind the lowest estimate of his moral nature; and even such careful scholars as Charles de Rémusat and Dean Church, who have devoted careful and instructive volumes to the survey of Bacon’s career and works, insist that with all his intellectual supremacy, he was a servile courtier, a false friend, and a corrupt judge. Yet there are few important names in human history of men who have left us so complete materials for a just judgment of their conduct; and it is only a lover of paradox who can read these and still regard Bacon’s character as an unsolved problem.  1
  Mr. Spedding has given a long life of intelligent labor to the collection of every fact and document throwing light upon the motives, aims, and thoughts of the great “Chancellor of Nature,” from the cradle to the grave. The results are before us in the seven volumes of ‘The Letters and the Life of Francis Bacon,’ which form perhaps the most complete biography ever written. It is a book of absolute candor as well as infinite research, giving with equal distinctness all the evidence which makes for its hero’s dishonor and that which tends to justify the writer’s reverence for him. Another work by Mr. Spedding, ‘Evenings with a Reviewer,’ in two volumes, is an elaborate refutation, from the original and authentic records, of the most damning charges brought by Lord Macaulay against Bacon’s good fame. It is a complete and overwhelming exposure of false coloring, of rhetorical artifices, and of the abuse of evidence, in the famous essay. As one of the most entertaining and instructive pieces of controversy in our literature, it deserves to be widely read. The unbiased reader cannot accept the special pleading by which, in his comments, Spedding makes every failing of Bacon “lean to virtue’s side”; but will form upon the unquestioned facts presented a clear conception of him, will come to know him as no other man of an age so remote is known, and will find in his many-sided and magnificent nature a full explanation of the impressions which partial views of it have made upon his worshipers and his detractors.  2
  It is only in his maturity, indeed, that we are privileged to enter into his mind and read his heart. But enough is known of the formative period of his life to show us the sources of his weaknesses and of his strength. The child whom high authorities have regarded as endowed with the mightiest intellect of the human race was born at York House, on the Strand, in the third year of Elizabeth’s reign, January 22d, 1561. He was the son of the Queen’s Lord Keeper of the Seals, Sir Nicholas Bacon, and his second wife Anne, daughter of Sir Anthony Cook, formerly tutor of King Edward VI. Mildred, an elder daughter of the same scholar, was the wife of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who for the first forty years of her reign was Elizabeth’s chief minister. As a child Bacon was a favorite at court, and tradition represents him as something of a pet of the Queen, who called him “my young Lord Keeper.” His mother was among the most learned women of an age when, among women of rank, great learning was as common and as highly prized as great beauty; and her influence was a potent intellectual stimulus to the boy, although he revolted in early youth from the narrow creed which her fierce Puritan zeal strove to impose on her household. Outside of the nursery, the atmosphere of his world was that of craft, all directed to one end; for the Queen was the source of honor, power, and wealth, and advancement in life meant only a share in the grace distributed through her ministers and favorites. Apart from the harsh and forbidding religious teachings of his mother, young Francis had before him neither precept nor example of an ambition more worthy than that of courting the smiles of power.  3
  At the age of twelve he entered Trinity College, Cambridge (April, 1573), and left it before he was fifteen (Christmas, 1575); the institution meanwhile having been broken up for more than half a year (August, 1574, to March, 1575) by the plague, so that his intermittent university career summed up less than fourteen months. There is no record of his studies, and the names of his teachers are unknown; for though Bacon in later years called himself a pupil of Whitgift, and his biographers assumed that the relation was direct and personal, yet that great master of Trinity had certainly ended his teaching days before Bacon went to Cambridge, and had entered as Dean of Lincoln on his splendid ecclesiastical career. University life was very different from that of our times. The statutes of Cambridge forbade a student, under penalties, to use in conversation with another any language but Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, unless in his private apartments and in hours of leisure. It was a regular custom at Trinity to bring before the assembled undergraduates every Thursday evening at seven o’clock such junior students as had been detected in breaches of the rules during the week, and to flog them. It would be interesting to know in what languages young Bacon conversed, and what experiences of discipline befell him; but his subsequent achievements at least suggest that Cambridge in the sixteenth century may have afforded more efficient educational influences than our knowledge of its resources and methods can explain. For it is certain that, at an age when our most promising youths are beginning serious study, Bacon’s mind was already formed, his habits and modes of research were fixed, the universe of knowledge was an open field before him. Thenceforth he was no man’s pupil, but in intellectual independence and solitude he rapidly matured into the supreme scholar of his age.  4
  After registering as a student of law at Gray’s Inn, apparently for the purpose of a nominal connection with a profession which might aid his patrons in promoting him at court, Bacon was sent in June, 1576, to France in the train of the British Ambassador, Sir Amyas Paulet; and for nearly three years followed the roving embassy around the great cities of that kingdom. The massacre of St. Bartholomew had taken place four years before, and the boy’s recorded observations on the troubled society of France and of Europe show remarkable insight into the character of princes and the sources of political movements. Sir Nicholas had hitherto directed his son’s education and associations with the purpose of making him an ornament of the court, and had set aside a fund to provide Francis at the proper time with a handsome estate. But he died suddenly, February 20th, 1579, without giving legal effect to this provision, and the sum designed for the young student was divided equally among the five children, while Francis was excluded from a share in the rest of the family fortune; and was thus called home to England to find himself a poor man.  5
  He made himself a bachelor’s home at Gray’s Inn, and devoted his energies to the law, with such success that he was soon recognized as one of the most promising members of the profession. In 1584 he entered Parliament for Melcombe Regis in Somersetshire, and two years later sat for Liverpool. During these years the schism between his inner and his outer life continued to widen. Drawing his first breath in the atmosphere of the court, bred in the faith that honor and greatness come from princes’ favor, with a native taste for luxury and magnificence which was fostered by delicate health, he steadily looked for advancement through the influence of Burghley and the smiles of the Queen. But Burghley had no sympathy with speculative thought, and distrusted him for his confidences concerning his higher studies, while he probably feared in Bacon a dangerous rival of his own son; so that with expressions of kind interest, he refrained from giving his nephew practical aid. Elizabeth, too, suspected that a young man who knew so many things could not be trusted to know his own business well, and preferred for important professional work others who were lawyers and nothing besides. Thus Bacon appeared to the world as a disappointed and uneasy courtier, struggling to keep up a certain splendor of appearance and associations under a growing load of debt, and servile to a Queen on whose caprice his prospects of a career must depend. His unquestioned power at the bar was exercised only in minor causes; his eloquence and political dexterity found slow recognition in Parliament, where they represented only themselves; and the question whether he would ever be a man of note in the kingdom seemed for twenty-five years to turn upon what the Crown might do for its humble suitor.  6
  Meanwhile this laborious advocate and indefatigable courtier, whose labors at the bar and in attendance upon his great friends were enough to fill the days of two ordinary men, led his real life in secret, unknown to the world, and uncomprehended even by the few in whom he had divined a capacity for great thought, and whom he had selected for his confidants. From his childhood at the university, where he felt the emptiness of the Aristotelian logic, the instrument for attaining truth which traditional learning had consecrated, he had gradually formed the conception of a more fruitful process. He had become convinced that the learning of all past ages was but a poor result of the intellectual capacities and labors which had been employed upon it; that the human mind had never yet been properly used; that the methods hitherto adopted in research were but treadmill work, returning upon itself, or at best could produce but fragmentary and accidental additions to the sum of knowledge. All nature is crammed with truth, he believed, which it concerns man to discover; the intellect of man is constructed for its discovery, and needs but to be purged of errors of every kind, and directed in the most efficient employment of its faculties, to make sure that all the secrets of nature will be revealed, and its powers made tributary to the health, comfort, enjoyment, and progressive improvement of mankind.  7
  This stupendous conception, of a revolution which should transform the world, seems to have taken definite form in Bacon’s mind as early as his twenty-fifth year, when he embodied the outline of it in a Latin treatise; which he destroyed in later life, unpublished, as immature, and partly no doubt because he came to recognize in it an unbecoming arrogance of tone, for its title was ‘Temporis Partus Maximus’ (The Greatest Birth of Time). But six years later he defines these “vast contemplative ends” in his famous letter to Burghley, asking for preferment which will enable him to prosecute his grand scheme and to employ other minds in aid of it. “For I have taken all knowledge to be my province,” he says, “and if I could purge it of two sorts of rovers, whereof the one with frivolous disputations, confutations, and verbosities, the other with blind experiments and auricular traditions and impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in industrious observations, grounded conclusions, and profitable inventions and discoveries: the best state of that province. This, whether it be curiosity or vain glory, or nature, or (if one take it favorably) philanthropia is so fixed in my mind as it cannot be removed.”  8
  This letter reveals the secret of Bacon’s life, and all that we know of him, read in the light of it, forms a consistent and harmonious whole. He was possessed by his vast scheme, for a reformation of the intellectual world, and through it, of the world of human experience, as fully as was ever apostle by his faith. Implicitly believing in his own ability to accomplish it, at least in its grand outlines, and to leave at his death the community of mind at work, by the method and for the purposes which he had defined, with the perfection of all science in full view, he subordinated every other ambition to this; and in seeking and enjoying place, power, and wealth, still regarded them mainly as aids in prosecuting his master purpose, and in introducing it to the world. With this clearly in mind, it is easy to understand his subsequent career. Its external details may be read in any of the score of biographies which writers of all grades of merit and demerit have devoted to him, and there is no space for them here. For our purpose it is necessary to refer only to the principal crises in his public life.  9
  Until the death of Elizabeth, Bacon had no place in the royal service worthy of his abilities as a lawyer. Many who, even in the narrowest professional sense, were far inferior to him, were preferred before him. Yet he obtained a position recognized by all, and second only in legal learning to his lifelong rival and constant adversary, Sir Edward Coke. To-day, it is probable that if the two greatest names in the history of the common law were to be selected by the suffrages of the profession, the great majority would be cast for Coke and Bacon. As a master of the intricacies of precedent and an authority upon the detailed formulas of “the perfection of reason,” the former is unrivaled still; but in the comprehensive grasp of the law as a system for the maintenance of social order and the protection of individual rights, Bacon rose far above him. The cherished aim of his professional career was to survey the whole body of the laws of England, to produce a digest of them which should result in a harmonious code, to do away with all that was found obsolete or inconsistent with the principles of the system, and thus to adapt the living, progressive body of the law to the wants of the growing nation. This magnificent plan was beyond the power of any one man, had his life no other task, but he suggested the method and the aim; and while for six generations after these legal giants passed away, the minute, accurate, and profound learning of Coke remained the acknowledged chief storehouse of British traditional jurisprudence, the seventh generation took up the work of revision and reform, and from the time of Bentham and Austin the progress of legal science has been toward codification. The contest between the aggregation of empirical rules and formulated customs which Coke taught as the common law, and the broad, harmonious application of scientific reason to the definition and enforcement of rights, still goes on; but with constant gains on the side of the reformers, all of whom with one consent confess that no general and complete reconstruction of legal doctrine as a science is possible, except upon the lines laid down by Bacon.  10
  The most memorable case in which Bacon was employed to represent the Crown during Elizabeth’s life was the prosecution of the Earl of Essex for treason. Essex had been Bacon’s friend, patron, and benefactor; and as long as the earl remained faithful to the Queen and retained her favor, Bacon served him with ready zeal and splendid efficiency, and showed himself the wisest and most sincere of counselors. When Essex rejected his advice, forfeited the Queen’s confidence by the follies from which Bacon had earnestly striven to deter him, and finally plunged into wanton and reckless rebellion, Bacon, with whom loyalty to his sovereign had always been the supreme duty, accepted a retainer from the Crown, and assisted Coke in the prosecution. The crime of Essex was the greatest of which a subject was capable; it lacked no circumstance of aggravation; if the most astounding instance of ingratitude and disloyalty to friendship ever known is to be sought in that age, it will be found in the conduct of Essex to Bacon’s royal mistress. Yet writers of eloquence have exhausted their rhetorical powers in denouncing Bacon’s faithlessness to his friend. But no impartial reader of the full story in the documents of the time can doubt that throughout these events Bacon did his duty and no more, and that in doing it he not merely made a voluntary sacrifice of his popularity, but a far more painful sacrifice of his personal feelings.  11
  In 1603 James I. came to the throne, and in spite of the efforts of his most trusted ministers to keep Bacon in obscurity, soon discovered in him a man whom he needed. In 1607 he was made Solicitor-General; in 1613 Attorney-General; in March 1617, on the death of Lord Ellesmere, he received the seals as Lord Keeper; and in January following was made Lord Chancellor of England. In July 1618 he was raised to the permanent peerage as Baron Verulam, and in January 1621 received the title of Viscount St. Albans. During these three years he was the first subject in the kingdom in dignity, and ought to have been the first in influence. His advice to the King, and to the Duke of Buckingham who was the King’s king, was always judicious. In certain cardinal points of policy, it was of the highest statesmanship; and had it been followed, the history of the Stuart dynasty would have been different, and the Crown and the Parliament would have wrought together for the good and the honor of the nation, at least through a generation to come. But the upstart Buckingham was supreme. He had studied Bacon’s strength and weakness, had laid him under great obligations, had at the same time attached him by the strongest tie of friendship to his person, and impressed upon his consciousness the fact that the fate of Bacon was at all times in his hands. The new Chancellor had entered on his great office with a fixed purpose to reform its abuses, to speed and cheapen justice, to free its administration from every influence of wealth and power. In the first three months of service he brought up the large arrears of business, tried every cause, heard every petition, and acquired a splendid reputation as an upright and diligent judge. But Buckingham was his evil angel. He was without sense of the sanctity of the judicial character; and regarded the bench, like every other public office, as an instrument of his own interests and will. On the other hand, to Bacon the voice of Buckingham was the voice of the King, and he had been taught from infancy as the beginning of his political creed that the king can do no wrong. Buckingham began at once to solicit from Bacon favors for his friends and dependents, and the Chancellor was weak enough to listen and to answer him. There is no evidence that in any one instance the favorite asked for the violation of law or the perversion of justice; much less that Bacon would or did accede to such a request. But the Duke demanded for one suitor a speedy hearing, for another a consideration of facts which might not be in evidence, for a third all the favor consistent with law; and Bacon reported to him the result, and how far he had been able to oblige him. This persistent tampering with the source of justice was a disturbing influence in the Chancellor’s court, and unquestionably lowered the dignity of his attitude and weakened his judicial conscience.  12
  Notwithstanding this, when the Lord Chancellor opened the Parliament in January, 1621, with a speech in praise of his King and in honor of the nation, he seemed to be at the summit of earthly prosperity. No voice had been lifted to question his purity and worth. He was the friend of the King, one of the chief supports of the throne, a champion indeed of high prerogative, but an orator of power, a writer of fame, whose advancement to the highest dignities had been welcomed by public opinion. Four months later he was a convicted criminal, sentenced for judicial corruption to imprisonment at the King’s pleasure, to a fine of £40,000, and to perpetual incapacity for any public employment. Vicissitudes of fortune are commonplaces of history. Many a man once seemingly pinnacled on the top of greatness has “shot from the zenith like a falling star,” and become a proverb of the fickleness of fate. Some are torn down by the very traits of mind, passion, or temper, which have raised them: ambition which overleaps itself, rashness which hazards all on chances it cannot control, vast abilities not great enough to achieve the impossible. The plunge of Icarus into the sea, the murder of Cæsar, the imprisonment of Cœur de Lion, the abdication of Napoleon, the apprehension as a criminal of Jefferson Davis, each was a startling and impressive contrast to the glory which it followed, yet each was the natural result of causes which lay in the character and life of the sufferer, and made his story a consistent whole. But the pathos of Bacon’s fall is the sudden moral ruin of a life which had been built up in honor for sixty years. An intellect of the first rank, which from boyhood to old age had been steadfast in the pursuit of truth and in the noblest services to mankind, which in a feeble body had been sustained in vigor by all the virtues of prudence and self-reverence; a genial nature, winning the affection and admiration of associates, hardly paralleled in the industry with which its energies were devoted to useful work, a soul exceptional among its contemporaries for piety and philanthropy—this man is represented to us by popular writers as having habitually sold justice for money, and as having become in office “the meanest of mankind.”  13
  But this picture, as so often drawn, and as seemingly fixed in the popular mind, is not only impossible, but is demonstrably false. To review all the facts which correct it in detail would lead us far beyond our limits. It must suffice to refer to the great work of Spedding, in which the entire records of the case are found, and which would long ago have made the world just to Bacon’s fame, but that the author’s comment on his own complete and fair record is itself partial and extravagant. But the materials for a final judgment are accessible to all in Spedding’s volumes, and a candid reading of them solves the enigma. Bacon was condemned without a trial, on his own confession, and this confession was consistent with the tenor of his life. Its substance was that he had failed to put a stop effectually to the immemorial custom in his court of receiving presents from suitors, but that he had never deviated from justice in his decrees. There was no instance in which he was accused of yielding to the influence of gifts, or passing judgment for a bribe. No act of his as Chancellor was impeached as illegal, or reversed as corrupt. Suitors complained that they had sent sums of money or valuable presents to his court, and had been disappointed in the result; but no one complained of injustice in a decision. Bacon was a conspicuous member of the royal party; and when the storm of popular fury broke in Parliament upon the court, the King and the ministry abandoned him. He had stood all his life upon the royal favor as the basis of his strength and hope; and when it was gone from under him, he sank helplessly, and refused to attempt a defense. But he still in his humiliation found comfort in the reflection that his ruin would put an end to “anything that is in the likeness of corruption” among the judges. And he wrote, in the hour of his deepest distress, that he had been “the justest Chancellor that hath been in the five changes that have been since Sir Nicholas Bacon’s time.” Nor did any man of his time venture to contradict him, when in later years he summed up his case in the words, “I was the justest judge that was in England these fifty years. But it was the justest censure in Parliament that was these two hundred years.”  14
  No revolution of modern times has been more complete than that which the last two centuries have silently wrought in the customary morality of British public life, and in the standards by which it is judged. Under James I. every office of state was held as the private property of its occupant. The highest places in the government were conferred only on condition of large payments to the King. He openly sold the honors and dignities of which he was the source. “The making of a baron,” that is, the right to sell to some rich plebeian a patent of nobility, was a common grant to favorites, and was actually bestowed on Bacon, to aid him in maintaining the state of his office. We have the testimony of James himself that all the lawyers, of whom the judges of the realm were made, were “so bred and nursed in corruption that they cannot leave it.” But the line between what the King called corruption and that which he and all his ministers practiced openly and habitually, as part of the regular work of government, is dim and hard to define. The mind of the community had not yet firmly grasped the conception of public office as a trust for the public good, and the general opinion which stimulates and sustains the official conscience in holding this trust sacred was still unformed. The courts of justice were the first branch of the government to feel the pressure of public opinion, and to respond to the demand for impersonal and impartial right. But this process had only begun when Bacon, who had never before served as judge, was called to preside in Chancery. The Chancellor’s office was a gradual development: originally political and administrative rather than judicial, and with no salary or reward for hearing causes, save the voluntary presents of suitors who asked its interference with the ordinary courts, it step by step became the highest tribunal of the equity which limits and corrects the routine of law, and still the custom of gifts was unchecked. A careful study of Bacon’s career shows that in this, as every other branch of thought, his theoretic convictions were in advance of his age; and in his advice to the King and in his inaugural promises as Chancellor, he foreshadows all the principles on which the wisest reformers of the public service now insist. But he failed to apply them with that heroic self-sacrifice which alone would have availed him, and the forces of custom and example continually encroached upon his views of duty. Having through a long life sought advancement and wealth for the purpose of using leisure and independence to carry out his beneficent plans on the largest scale, he eagerly accepted the traditional emoluments of his new position, in the conviction that they would become in his hands the means of vast good to mankind. It was only the public exposure which fully awakened him to a sense of the inconsistency and wrong of his conduct; and then he was himself his severest judge, and made every reparation in his power, by the most unreserved confession, by pointing out the danger to society of such weakness as his own in language to whose effectiveness nothing could be added, and by devoting the remainder of his life to the noblest work for humanity.  15
  During the years of Bacon’s splendor as a member of the government and as spokesman for the throne, his real life as a thinker, inspired by the loftiest ambition which ever entered the mind of man, that of creating a new and better civilization, was not interrupted. It was probably in 1603 that he wrote his fragmentary ‘Proœmium de Interpretatione Naturæ,’ or ‘Preface to a Treatise on Interpreting Nature,’ which is the only piece of autobiography he has left us. It was found among his papers after his death; and its candor, dignity, and enthusiasm of tone are in harmony with the imaginative grasp and magnificent suggestiveness of its thought. Commending the original Latin to all who can appreciate its eloquence, we cite the first sentences of it in English:—
          “Believing that I was born for the service of mankind, and regarding the care of the Commonwealth as a kind of common property which, like the air and water, belongs to everybody, I set myself to consider in what way mankind might be best served, and what service I was myself best fitted by nature to perform.
  “Now, among all the benefits that could be conferred upon mankind, I found none so great as the discovery of new arts for the bettering of human life. For I saw that among the rude people of early times, inventors and discoverers were reckoned as gods. It was seen that the works of founders of States, law-givers, tyrant-destroyers, and heroes cover but narrow spaces and endure but for a time; while the work of the inventor, though of less pomp, is felt everywhere and lasts forever. But above all, if a man could, I do not say devise some invention, however useful, but kindle a light in nature—a light which, even in rising, should touch and illuminate the borders of existing knowledge, and spreading further on should bring to light all that is most secret—that man, in my view, would be indeed the benefactor of mankind, the extender of man’s empire over nature, the champion of freedom, the conqueror of fate.
  “For myself, I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of Truth: as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to discern resemblances in things (the main point), and yet steady enough to distinguish the subtle differences in them; as being endowed with zeal to seek, patience to doubt, love of meditation, slowness of assertion, readiness to reconsider, carefulness to arrange and set in order; and as being a man that affects not the new nor admires the old, but hates all imposture. So I thought my nature had a certain familiarity and kindred with Truth.”
  During the next two years he applied himself to the composition of the treatise on the ‘Advancement of Learning,’ the greatest of his English writings, and one which contains the seed-thoughts and outline principles of all his philosophy. From the time of its publication in 1605 to his fall in 1621, he continued to frame the plan of his ‘Great Instauration’ of human knowledge, and to write out chapters, books, passages, sketches, designed to take their places in it as essential parts. It was to include six great divisions: first, a general survey of existing knowledge; second, a guide to the use of the intellect in research, purging it of sources of error, and furnishing it with the new instrument of inductive logic by which all the laws of nature might be ascertained; third, a structure of the phenomena of nature, included in one hundred and thirty particular branches of natural history, as the materials for the new logic; fourth, a series of types and models of the entire mental process of discovering truth, “selecting various and remarkable instances”; fifth, specimens of the new philosophy, or anticipations of its results, in fragmentary contributions to the sixth and crowning division, which was to set forth the new philosophy in its completeness, comprehending the truths to be discovered by a perfected instrument of reasoning, in interpreting all the phenomena of the world. Well aware that the scheme, especially in its concluding part, was far beyond the power and time of any one man, he yet hoped to be the architect of the final edifice of science, by drawing its plans and making them intelligible, leaving their perfect execution to an intellectual world which could not fail to be moved to its supreme effort by a comprehension of the work before it. The ‘Novum Organum,’ itself but a fragment of the second division of the ‘Instauration,’ the key to the use of the intellect in the discovery of truth, was published in Latin at the height of his splendor as Lord Chancellor, in 1620, and is his most memorable achievement in philosophy. It contains a multitude of suggestive thoughts on the whole field of science, but is mainly the exposition of the fallacies by which the intellect is deceived and misled, and from which it must be purged in order to attain final truth, and of the new doctrine of “prerogative instances,” or crucial observations and experiments in the work of discovery.  17
  In short, Bacon’s entire achievement in science is a plan for an impossible universe of knowledge. As far as he attempted to advance particular sciences by applying his method to their detailed phenomena, he wrought with imperfect knowledge of what had been done, and with cumbrous and usually misdirected efforts to fill the gaps he recognized. In a few instances, by what seems an almost superhuman instinct for truth, rather than the laborious process of investigation which he taught, he anticipated brilliant discoveries of later centuries. For example, he clearly pointed out the necessity of regarding heat as a form of motion in the molecules of matter, and thus foreshadowed, without any conception of the means of proving it, that which, for investigators of the nineteenth century, has proved the most direct way to the secrets of nature. But the testimony of the great teachers of science is unanimous, that Bacon was not a skilled observer of phenomena, nor a discoverer of scientific inductions; that he contributed no important new truth, in the sense of an established law, to any department of knowledge; and that his method of research and reasoning is not, in its essential features, that which is fruitfully pursued by them in extending the boundaries of science, nor was his mind wholly purged of those “idols of the cave,” or forms of personal bias, whose varying forms as hindrances to the “dry light” of sound reason he was the first to expose. He never appreciated the mathematics as the basis of physics, but valued their elements mainly as a mental discipline. Astronomy meant little to him, since he failed to connect it directly with human well-being and improvement; to the system of Copernicus, the beginning of our insight into the heavens, he was hostile, or at least indifferent; and the splendid discoveries successively made by Tycho Brahe, Galileo, and Kepler, and brought to his ears while the ‘Great Instauration’ filled his mind and heart, met with but a feeble welcome with him, or none. Why is it, then, that Bacon’s is the foremost name in the history of English, and perhaps, as many insist, of all modern thought? Why is it that “the Baconian philosophy” is another phrase, in all the languages of Europe, for that splendid development of the study and knowledge of the visible universe which since his time has changed the life of mankind?  18
  A candid answer to these questions will expose an error as wide in the popular estimate of Bacon’s intellectual greatness as that which has prevailed so generally regarding his character. He is called the inventor of inductive reasoning, the reformer of logic, the lawgiver of the world of thought; but he was no one of these. His grasp of the inductive method was defective; his logic was clumsy and impractical; his plan for registering all phenomena and selecting and generalizing from them, making the discovery of truth almost a mechanical process, was worthless. In short, it is not as a philosopher nor as a man of science that Bacon has carved his name in the high places of enduring fame, but rather as a man of letters; as on the whole the greatest writer of the modern world, outside of the province of imaginative art; as the Shakespeare of English prose. Does this seem a paradox to the reader who remembers that Bacon distrusted all modern languages, and thought to make his ‘Advancement of Learning’ “live, and be a citizen of the world,” by giving it a Latin form? That his lifelong ambition was to reconstruct methods of thought, and guide intellect in the way of work serviceable to comfort and happiness? That the books in which his English style appears in its perfection, the ‘History of Henry VII.,’ the ‘Essays,’ and the papers on public affairs, were but incidents and avocations of a life absorbed by a master purpose?  19
  But what is literature? It is creative mind, addressing itself in worthy expression to the common receptive mind of mankind. Its note is universality, as distinguished from all that is technical, limited, and narrow. Thought whose interest is as broad as humanity, suitably clothed in the language of real life, and thus fitted for access to the general intelligence, constitutes true literature, to the exclusion of that which, by its nature or by its expression, appeals only to a special class or school. The ‘Opus Anglicanum’ of Duns Scotus, Newton’s ‘Principia,’ Lavoisier’s treatise ‘Sur la Combustion,’ Kant’s ‘Kritik der Reinen Vernunft’ (Critique of Pure Reason), each made an epoch in some vast domain of knowledge or belief; but none of them is literature. Yet the thoughts they, through a limited and specially trained class of students, introduced to the world, were gradually taken up into the common stock of mankind, and found their broad, effective, complete expression in the literature of after generations. If we apply this test to Bacon’s life work, we shall find sufficient justification for honoring him above all special workers in narrower fields, as next to Shakespeare the greatest name in the greatest period of English literature.  20
  It was not as an experimenter, investigator, or technical teacher, but as a thinker and a writer, that he rendered his great service to the world. This consisted essentially in the contribution of two magnificent ideas to the common stock of thought: the idea of the utility of science, as able to subjugate the forces of nature to the use of man; and the idea of continued and boundless progress in the comfort and happiness of the individual life, and in the order and dignity of human society. It has been shown how, from early manhood, he was inspired by the conception of infinite resources in the material world, for the discovery and employment of which the human mind is adapted. He never wearied of pointing out the imperfection and fruitlessness of the methods of inquiry and of invention hitherto in use, and the splendid results which could be rapidly attained if a combined and systematic effort were made to enlarge the boundaries of knowledge. This led him directly to the conception of an improved and advancing civilization; to the utterance, in a thousand varied, impressive, and fascinating forms, of that idea of human progress which is the inspiration, the characteristic, and the hope of the modern world. Bacon was the first of men to grasp these ideas in all their comprehensiveness as feasible purposes, as practical aims; to teach the development of them as the supreme duty and ambition of his contemporaries, and to look forward instead of behind him for the Golden Age. Enforcing and applying these thoughts with a wealth of learning, a keenness of wit, a soundness of judgment, and a suggestiveness of illustration unequaled by any writer before him, he became the greatest literary power of modern times to stimulate minds in every department of life to their noblest efforts and their worthiest achievements.  21
  Literature has a twofold aspect: its ideal is pure truth, which is the noblest thought embodied in perfect beauty of form. It is the union of science and art, the final wedding in which are merged the knowledge worthy to be known and the highest imagination presenting it. There is a school calling itself that of pure art, to which substance is nothing and form is everything. Its measure of merit is applied to the manner only; and the meanest of subjects, the most trivial and even the most degraded of ideas or facts, is welcomed to its high places if clothed in a satisfying garb. But this school, though arrogant in the other arts of expression, has not yet been welcomed to the judgment-seat in literature, where indeed it is passing even now to contempt and oblivion. Bacon’s instinct was for substance. His strongest passion was for utility. The artistic side of his nature was receptive rather than creative. Splendid passages in the ‘Advancement’ and ‘De Augmentis’ show his profound appreciation of all the arts of expression, but show likewise his inability to glorify them above that which they express. In his mind, language is subordinate to thought, and the painting to the picture, just as the frame is to the painting or the binding to the book. He writes always in the grand style. He reminds us of “the large utterance of the early gods.” His sentences are weighted with thought, as suggestive as Plato, as condensed as Thucydides. Full of wit, keen in discerning analogies, rich in intellectual ornament, he is yet too concentrated in his attention to the idea to care for the melody of language. He decorates with fruits, not with flowers. For metrical movement, for rhythmic harmony, he has no ear nor sense. Inconceivable as it is that Shakespeare could have written one aphorism of the ‘Novum Organum,’ it would be far more absurd to imagine Bacon writing a line of the Sonnets. With the loftiest imagination, the liveliest fancy, the keenest sense of precision and appropriateness in words, he lacks the special gift of poetic form, the faculty divine which finds new inspiration in the very limitations of measured language, and whose natural expression is music alike to the ear and to the mind. His powers were cramped by the fetters of metre, and his attempts to versify even rich thought and deep feeling were puerile. But his prose is by far the weightiest, the most lucid, effective, and pleasing of his day. The poet Sprat justly says:—
          “He was a man of strong, clear, and powerful imaginations; his genius was searching and inimitable; and of this I need give no other proof than his style itself, which as for the most part it describes men’s minds as well as pictures do their bodies, so it did his above all men living.”
  And Ben Jonson, who knew him well, describes his eloquence in terms which are confirmed by all we know of his Parliamentary career:—
          “One, though he be excellent and the chief, is not to be imitated alone; for no imitator ever grew up to his author: likeness is always on this side truth. Yet there happened in my time one noble speaker, who was full of gravity in his speaking. His language (when he could spare or pass by a jest) was nobly censorious. No man ever spake more neatly, more rightly, more weightily, or suffered less emptiness, less idleness in what he uttered. No member of his speech but consisted of his own graces. His hearers could not cough or look aside from him without loss. He commanded when he spoke, and had his judges angry and pleased at his devotion. No man had their affections more in his power. The fear of every man that heard him was lest he should make an end.”
  The speeches of Bacon are almost wholly lost, his philosophy is an undeciphered heap of fragments, the ambitions of his life lay in ruins about his dishonored old age; yet his intellect is one of the great moving and still vital forces of the modern world, and he remains, for all ages to come, in the literature which is the final storehouse of the chief treasures of mankind, one of
  The dead yet sceptered sovereigns who still rule
Our spirits from their urns.”

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