The essays of Lord Bacon - PDF book (1897) by John Hunter

The essays of Lord Bacon

The essays of Lord Bacon
The essays of Lord Bacon


'The word Essay,' says Archbishop Whately, 'has been considerably changed in its application since the days of Bacon. By an Essay was originally meant — according to the obvious and natural sense of the word — a slight sketch, to be filled up by the reader; brief hints, designed to be followed out; loose thoughts on some subject, thrown out without much regularity, but sufficient to suggest further inquiries and reflections. 

Any more elaborate, regular, and finished composition, such as in our days often bears the title of an Essay, our ancestors called a treatise, tractate, dissertation, or discourse! It was, indeed, evidently the main purpose of Bacon's Essays ' to suggest further inquiries and reflections.' In a Dedication to the Prince of Wales, which he intended to prefix to the edition of 1612, but withdrew on account of the Prince's death, he calls them ' certain brief notes, set down rather significantly than curiously: ' ' dispersed meditations: ' grains of salt, that will rather give you an appetite than offend you  with satiety.' 

In the edition of 1625 we meet with many things culled from his other writings; and, in his Dedication of that edition to the Duke of Bucking- ham, he describes the Essays as * being of the best fruits that, by the good increase which God gives to my pen and labours, I could yield.' The original edition in 1597, consisting of only ten Essays, was the author's earliest publication: the edition of 1625 was his last 

In the interval, the Essays had been growing both in number and length. In 1612 they were increased to thirty-eight; in 1625 to fifty-eight. The illustrious writer died in the following year. In Bacon's lifetime, the Essays were the most popular of his writings, and he judged rightly that they would ever be so, and took many pains to render them more and more worthy of acceptance. In the Dedication of 1625, he writes: ' 

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 that they are indeed a new work I do conceive that the Latin volume of them (being in the universal language) may last as long as books last.' 

The Latin translation of the Essays was not by Bacon himself but was executed under his general supervision by other hands. Dr Racket, Bishop of Lichfield, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, are the only persons known with any Preface. vU certainty to have been engaged in this work. 

The Latin version is characterised by general elegance, and occasional ingenuity; but as it frequently takes liberties with the original, in expunging, interpolating, and otherwise altering (though in some few of these instances Bacon himself may have been the innovator), and also in several places misinterprets Bacon's meaning, we cannot think that he revised it very carefully. On the other hand, it is a very great help in enabling us to apprehend the sense in which many phrases and forms of expression were understood in Bacon's time; and on this account, I have, in the present volume, made frequent reference to it 


The title which he gave to it is — Sermones Fidelessive Interiora Scrum. On the merits of Bacon's Essays, Mr Singer quotes Dugald Stewart as thus speaking of them, in 1815: ' Under the same head of Ethics, may be mentioned the small volume to which Bacon has given the title of Essays: the best known and most popular of his works. It is also one of those where the superiority of his genius appears to the greatest advantage; the novelty and depth of his reflections often receive a strong relief from the triteness of his subject. It may be read from beginning to end in a few hours; and yet, after the twentieth perusal, one seldom fails to remark in it something overlooked before. 

This, indeed, is a characteristic of all Bacon's writings and is only to be accounted for by the inexhaustible aliment they furnish to our own thoughts, and the sympathetic activity they impart to our torpid faculties.' The design of the present edition of the Essays is not to be regarded as implying an entire dissent from the opinion of Archbishop Whately, who, after remarking that Bacon is, ' especially in his Essays, the most suggestive author that ever wrote,' says that 'the cultivated readers of Bacon do not want expansions of an author whose compactness and fulness are his greatest charms; and that it is doing mischief to those who would find in this suggestiveness if left to themselves, a valuable mental discipline.

It has not been my aim to make expansion of Bacon's suggestive compactness, but chiefly to secure many of his terms and phrases from being misunderstood, to explain his less obvious or less familiar allusions, to indicate the authorities quoted by him, and to give such general illustrations as are likely to interest the student, without lessening the reflective exercise of his mind. 

The Essays still remain and are intended to remain, a study, after all the aid I have here given. Only I have sought to arrest, now and then, and prompt young readers, who may too easily suppose that they understand the terms in which Bacon expresses himself, and who may thus be led to misinterpret his thought, or to dig in a direction that will fail to find it.

Some contents:

i Of Truth 1625 I
II. Of Death l6i2; enlarged 1625 6
III. Of Unity in Religion Of Religion, l6l2; re-
written 1625 9
IV. Of Revenge 1625 17
V. Of Adversity 1625 19
VI. Of Simulation and Dissimulation 1625 21
VII. Of Parents and Children... 161 2; enlarged 1625 26
VIII. Of Marriage and Single Life.. .1612; slightly enlarged 1625 28
IX. Of Envy 1625 31
X. Of Love 1612; rewritten 1625 37
XI. Of Great Place 1612; slightly enlarged 1625... 40
Xn. Of Boldness 1625 45
XIII. Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature.. .1612; enlarged 1625 48
XIV. Of Nobility 1612; rewritten 1625 51
XV. Of Seditions and Troubles... 1625 53
XVI. Of Atheism 1612; slightly enlarged 1625 63
XVII. Of Superstition 1612; slightly enlarged 1625 68
XVIIL Of Travel 1625 71
XIX. Of Empire 1612; much enlarged 1625 74
XX. OF counsel 161 2 ; enlarged 1625 82
XXL Of Delays 1625 89
XXIL Of Cunning 1612; rewritten 1625 90
XXIII. Of Wisdom for a Man's Self.. .1612; enlarged 1625... 97
XXIV. Of Innovations 1625 99
XXV. Of Despatch 1612 
XXVI. Of Seeming Wise ...1612 103
XXVII. Of Friendship 1612; rewritten 1625 105


the book details :
  • Author: Francis Bacon
  • Editor: John Hunter
  • Publication date:1897
  • Company: London: Longmans, Green, and co.

  • Download 8.5 MB
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