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'I ''HERE are many men in literature who are much spoken of, and .*- but little known. Of this illustrious list, is Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam, Viscount St. Alban, and Lord High Chancellor of England. We have had many editions, more or less complete, of his works; and some extended reviews have appeared in the leading critical authorities. Lives and memoirs have been published, the latest being those of Mr. Hepworth Dixon and Mr. James Spedding. The editions of his works issued at various times have been fairly successful; the reviews have been duly read; and the lives, written by friends or foes, have been loosely studied. Confined to a small circle of literators, scientists, or statesmen, is the smallest knowledge of the writings of Bacon. The general reader knows him not: the great body of the public is unacquainted with his words of wisdom. The story of his life is new to nine men out of ten 5 his essays, spoken of by everybody, nobody, outside a studious knot, has read.
Pope's lines, which we are almost ashamed to quote", so utterly wom are the words, are the finger-post for those persons who would not for the world betray ignorance of the scientific, historical, and literary paths which Bacon either discovered et enlarged. For the majority of people, the couplet has sufficient of warning and information:
"If parts allure you, think how Bacon shined,
Having read this, few seek to increase their knowledge, or probe the truth of the description. After the poet's lines, Lord Macaulay's great review in " The Edinburgh" for July, 1837, is that which has guided the judgment concerning the Chancellor's deeds and works. The world of readers is at present in the position of having heard the pleadings of two counsel for the prosecution against the noble writer; but the jury has not examined any evidence, nor heard the counsel for the defence. We do not say that there is no evidence; for, indeed, there is plenty, already examined and yet to be examined. We do not say that no counsel have spoken in behalf of Bacon; for since Macaulay's grand attack, the Chancellor has found several defenders. But we affirm that the general opinion of mankind has not been given ; the decision of the great democracy of readers, always the ultimate assessors of fame, has not been delivered. To the end of increasing the acquaintance with some of the happiest efforts of Lord Bacon—works which will endure as long as the words in which they are written—this cheap edition is presented to the public. Young students, and old scholars, and "Times'" correspondents * will no longer be able to make excuses, or cast blame, because there is not in England a fairly printed volume of Bacon's best reputed works at the smallest possible price.
But little space now remains to us for a short account of the life of the great man, whose writings, as well as whose character, belongs to the world. In his boyhood he attracted the notice of Elizabeth, who admiringly called him her little Lord Keeper. His father, the real Keeper of the Great Seal, was one of the Queen's wisest counsellors, and one of
* Letters appeared, we believe, a year or two ago, in the "Times," reproaching the purveyors of literature with the absence on the bookstalls of such works as Bacon's Essays. The reproach was merited, but it was equally the fault of readers, editors, and publishers, that cheap editions of standard works were not plentiful. We have done something to remove the cause of reproach; it rests with the reading community to do their part; so that we may continue the publication, in the cheapest form, of the great English classics.
the most prudent of statesmen. His mother, a daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, was a lady of considerable talents, and well skilled in Latin and Italian. Young Francis was designed by his father for public life, and his education was completed in the house of Sir Amias Paulet, English Ambassador in France. He acquired the confidence of Sir Amias, performed satisfactorily a mission to her Majesty, and, from his observations during a tour through France, published a "Brief View of the State of Europe." His father died suddenly in 1580, when Francis was but nineteen years of age, and he found himself in narrow circumstances. He now began the study of the law, and at the age of twenty-eight was named by Elizabeth her Counsel Extraordinary—an office with little pay, but bringing with it consideration, and valuable as an introduction to practice. Hoping for preferment, he addressed himself to Lord Burleigh, his uncle, in these remarkable words: "The meanness of my estate doth somewhat move me; for though I cannot accuse myself that I am either prodigal or slothful, yet my health is not to spend, nor my course to get. I confess that I have vast contemplative ends, as I have moderate civil ends; for I have taken all knowledge to my province . . . ." The Lord Treasurer Burleigh, however, was pushing the fortunes of his son Robert too warmly to give much heed to Francis; and it is not unlikely he was fearful that the superior powers of Francis would, if allowed scope, overshadow the merits of Robert. All that Francis obtained was the reversion of the registrarship of the Star Chamber, worth some ,£1600 per annum. The office, however, did not fall in for twenty years, and was of no present value to Bacon. To Elizabeth, Burleigh represented Bacon as a man of too speculative a turn of mind to apply in earnest to the practical details of business. In the Parliament of 1593, Bacon sat as member for Middlesex, and in one of his speeches gave way to an outburst of patriotism, which very much offended the Queen. She had applied for large subsidies, and Bacon said, "This being granted in this sort, other princes hereafter will look for the like; so that we shall put an evil precedent to ourselves and our posterity; and in histories, it is to be observed, of all nations the English are not to be subject, base, or taxable." After this explosion, it would require but little pains on Burleigh's part to hinder
his nephew from receiving any office of emolument. Indeed, he was denied access to the Queen's presence.
The great opponent of the Cecils in all the political intrigues which abounded towards the end of Elizabeth's reign was the Earl of Essex; and from him Bacon had already received friendship and protection. He strained every nerve to gain for Bacon the attorneygeneralship, which was vacant; but the Cecils carried it against him; Robert, the son, expressing to the Earl of Essex that he was surprised that the earl should solicit the office for a "raw youth." We fear that Bacon's spirit was not a courageous or a lofty one; he loved ease, and comfort, and all that riches bring a man; and he had not the courage to accept poverty, and to depend on his abilities and character alone. He quickly repented of his exertions in the popular cause, and submitted himself to his mistress with eloquent professions of duty, humility, and profound respect. But this availed not. The Cecils were omnipotent; and Essex could do nothing for him, except what his generosity had already done to compensate for Bacon's disappointments, namely, made him the gift of an estate.
Early in 1597, Bacon published his Essays—a small volume. They became very popular, were enlarged in successive editions, and translated into Latin, French, and Italian. The Earl of Essex having been sent to Ireland, and failed in his mission, fell into disgrace. Subsequently, he was cited before the Council to answer certain things; but instead of attending, he armed in his own defence. Blood was shed; he was tried and executed. For some time Bacon stood his friend, but at last appeared against him, and appears to have been guilty of ingratitude and coldness of heart, all but incredible even in so timeserving a Court as that was in the last years of Elizabeth. This desertion of his benefactor is one of the two great indictments against Bacon, and is, in our estimation, by far the worst, and the most difficult to dispose of.
In 1603, James came to the throne, and Bacon received knighthood, and soon rose to great power and influence. Appointed king's counsel the next year, he became Solicitor-General in 1607, and Attorney-General in 1612. He engaged actively in the House of Commons in behalf of the union of England and Scotland; conducted successfully the great case of the Post Nati in the Exchequer Chamber; and still found leisure for letters and philosophy. "The noble treatise on the Advancement of Learning," as Lord Macaulay distinguishes it, appeared in 1605. This was expanded, later, into the De Augmentis. The "Wisdom of the Ancients," which, if it had proceeded from any other writer—according, again, to Macaulay— would have been considered a masterpiece of wit and wisdom, but which adds little to the fame of Bacon, was printed in 1609. Meanwhile he was completing the Novum Organum.
Happy would it have been for Bacon's memory, and the sympathies of his well-wishers, if his legal and political achievements had been as clear and free from doubt as are his literary works. But, in a tangled web of tyrannical prosecutions, torturing questions, corruptive advances, Bacon involved himself, to suffer in his lifetime a loss of his offices and to cloud his memory with damaging suspicions. Still, during a long course of years, Bacon's career was crowned with success. Attaching himself to Villiers, he was rewarded by being sworn in of the Privy Council; and the next year, 1617, was appointed Keeper of the Great Seal, the office his father had held thirty-eight years before. Macaulay asserts that the years during which Bacon held the Seal were among the darkest and most shameful in English history. The execution of Raleigh, the granting of pernicious monopolies, the permitting of illegal arrests, the delivery of dictated decisions—these acts are alleged by the Edinburgh reviewer to prove his accusation, Mr. Spedding has endeavoured to account for much that was done; but Bacon cannot be made out to be high-minded and pure-souled, with what has yet been brought to light. The reviewer may not have proved his case; the biographer has not succeeded in his defence; judgment is in arrest.
The zenith of his fortune has been attained. The Novum Organum is just published, and all Europe has acclaimed it. He had been created Baron Verulam, and then Viscount St. Alban. But a fall is near at hand. In 1621, a new Parliament has been chosen, and amongst its first acts is to accuse the Chancellor of bribery and corruption in his high office. The evidence is too clear. The Chancellor admits the crime, and declares, " I do plainly and ingenuously confess