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under those fictions, or rather made to seem to be so by his lordship's wit, in the opening and applying of them. But because the first 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 Biographia Britannica, says: “ That he might relieve himself a little from the severity of these studies, and, as it were, amuse himself with erecting a magnificent pavilion, while his great palace of philosophy was building; he composed and sent abroad, in 1610, his celebrated treatise of the Wisdom of the Ancients, in which he showed that none had studied them more closely, was better acquainted with their beauties, or had pierced deeper into their meaning. There have been very few books published, either in this or any other nation, which either deserved or met with more general applause than this, and scarce any that are like to retain it longer, for in this performance Sir Francis Bacon gave a singular proof of his capacity to please all parties in literature, as in his political conduct he stood fair with all the parties in the nation. The admirers of antiquity were charmed with this discourse, which seems expressly calculated to justify their admiration; and, on the other hand, their opposites were no less pleased with a piece, from which they thought they could demonstrate 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, says: “In 1610, he published another treatise, entitled, Of the Wisdom of the Ancients. This work bears the same stamp of an original and inventive genius with his other performances. Resolving not to tread in the steps of those who had gone before him, men, according to his own expression, not learned beyond certain commonplaces, he strikes out a new tract for himself, and enters into the most secret recesses of this wild and shadowy region, so as to appear new on a known and beaten subject. Upon the whole, if we cannot bring ourselves readily to believe that there is all the physical, moral, and political meaning veiled under those fables of antiquity, which he has discovered in them, we must own that it required no common penetration to be mistaken with so great an appearance of probability on his side. Though it still remains doubtful whether the ancients were so knowing as he attempts to show they were, the variety and depth of his own knowledge are, in that very attempt, unquestionable.”
In the year 1619, this tract was translated by Sir Arthur Gorges. Prefixed to the work are two letters; the one to the Earl of Salisbury, the other to the University of Cambridge, which Gorges omits, and dedicates his translation to the high and illustrious princess the Lady Elizabeth of Great Britain, Duchess of Baviare, Countess Palatine of Rheine, and chief electress of the empire.
This translation, it should be noted, was published during the life of Lord Bacon by a great admirer of his works.
The editions of this work with which I am acquainted are:
FRANCIS Bacon, the subject of the following memoir, was the youngest son of highly remarkable parents. His father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, was an eminent lawyer, and for twenty years Keeper of the Seals and Privy Counsellor to Queen Elizabeth. Sir Nicholas was styled by Camden sacris conciliis alterum columen; he was the author of some unpublished discourses on law and politics, and of a commentary on the minor prophets. He discharged the duties of his high office with exemplary propriety and wisdom; he preserved through life the integrity of a good man, and the moderation and simplicity of a great one. He had inscribed over the entrance of his hall, at Gorhambury, the motto, mediocria firma; and when the Queen, in a progress, paid him a visit there, she remarked to him that his house was too small for him. “Madam," answered the Lord Keeper, “my house is well, but it is you that have made me too great for my house.” This anecdote has been preserved by his son,' who, had
1 Bacon's Apophthegms.