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Gorges: a Book in which the Sages of former times are rendered more wife than it may be they were, by fo dextrous an Interpreter of their Fables. It is this Book which Mr. Sandys means, in thofe Words which he hath put before his Notes on the Metamorphofis of Ovid. 'Of modern Writers, I have received the greateft Light from Geraldus, Pontanus, Ficinus, Vives, Comes, Scaliger, Sabinus, Pierius, and the Crown of the latter, the Vifcount of St. Allans.'
"It is true, the Defign of this Book was Inftruction in natural and civil matters, either couched by the Ancients under thofe Fictions, or rather made to feem to be fo by his Lordfhip's Wit, in the opening and applying of them. But becaufe the firft ground of it is poetical Story, therefore let it have this place, till a fitter be found for it."
The Author of Bacon's Life, in the Biograpbia Britannica, fays, " That he might relieve himfelf a little from the Severity of thefe Studies, and as it were amufe himfelf with erefting a magnificent Pavilion, while his great Palace of Philofophy was building: he compofed and fent abroad in 1610, his celebrated Treatife Of the Wifdom of the Ancients, in which he fhewed that none had ftudied them more clofely, was better acquainted with their beauties, or had pierced deeper into their meaning. There have been very few Books publifhed, either in this or in any other Nation, which either deferved or met with more general applaufe than this, and fcarce any that are like to retain it longer, for in this Performance Sir Francis Bacon gave a fingular proof of his Capacity to pleafe all parties in
Literature, as in his political condudt he flood fair with all the parties in the Nation. The Admirers of Antiquity were charmed with this Difcourfe, which feems expreflly calculated to juftify their admiration; and, on the other hand, their oppofites were no lefs pleafed with a piece, from which they thought they could demonftrate that the Sagacity of a modern Genius had found out much better Meanings for the Ancients than ever were meant by them."
And Mallet, in his Life of Bacon, fays, " In 1610 he publifhed another Treatife, entitled Of the Wifdom of the Ancients. This Work bears the fame ftamp of an original and inventive genius with his other Performances. Refolving not to tread in the fteps of thofe who had gone before him, Men, according to his own expreffion, not learned beyond certain common places, he ftrikes out a new Trait for himfelf, and enters into the moft fecret Recefles of this wild and fhadowy Region, fo as to appear new on a known and beaten Subjedt. Upon the whole, if we cannot bring ourfelves readily to believe that there is all the phyfical, moral, and political Meaning veiled under thofe Fables of Antiquity, which he has difcovered in them, we muft own that it required no common penetration to be miftaken with fo great an appearance of probability on his fide. Though it ftill remains doubtful whether the Ancients were fo knowing as he attempts to fhew they were, the variety and depth of his own knowledge are, in that very attempt unqueftionable."
In the year 1619, this Tradr. was tranflated by Sir Arthur Gorges. Prefixed to the Work are two Letters ; the one to the Earl of Salijbury, the other to the\Jn\verfityofCambridgCi which Gorgesomits, and dedicates his tranllation to the high and illuf
trious Princefs the Lady Elizabeth of Great Britain, Duchefs of Baviare, Countefs Palatine of Rheine, and Chief Eleflrefs of the Empire.
This Tranflation, it fhould be noted, was publifhed during the Life of Lord Bacon by a great Admirer of his Works.
The editions of this work with which I am acquainted are: