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10. By legacy 588
A preparation toward the union of the laws of
England and Scotland . . . 641
The punishment, trial, and proceeding, in cases
The punishment, trial, and proceeding, in cases
A twofold power of the law . . 647
A twofold power in the king . . . 647
The judicial charge upon the commission of
The charge against Mr. Lumsden, Sir John
The charge, by way of evidence, against Robert
The effect of that which was spoken by the lord
"Lord Bacon was the greatest genius that England, or perhaps any other country, has ever produced." So says Pope, after he had penned that bitter couplet upon Bacon, which has passed into a proverb; and the saying is related by Spence.
This is the judgment expressed by a favourite poet, concerning an English writer of the seventeenth century, the formation of which pre-supposes the most exalted qualifications. To be entitled to assert such an opinion absolutely, would require almost supernatural endowments, and a universal acquaintance with the famous characters of all countries. It would involve the collation of eras and cycles; it. would be, to raise the dead and scrutinize the living—to examine the long muster-roll of the sons of genius, and make a doomsday book of it—to weigh libraries and ransack universities—to glance at all, and single out one, and say, that " this man was the greatest of men—the greatest not of a city, but of the world—not of one age, but of all time."
But although it may not be possible to come to any such absolute conclusion; and to assert it roundly would be as extravagant as gravely to refute it would be ridiculous; and even if it were feasible we have no security for its justice;—the dictum is nevertheless a very remarkable one; and, construed in the probable sense in which it was evidently spoken, it is a most interesting one. It is the deliberate opinion of a man, who united great genius with consummate judgment, and had won his way to the summit of reputation as a poet; of one who was a vigorous thinker, acute observer, accomplished scholar, and, in short, the foremost man in the most brilliant circle of our Augustan age. He was, also, totally devoid of enthusiasm; and his associations were all of the nil admirari caste: with Swift, the bitterest of our satirists, Bolingbroke, the most satiated of libertines and the most disappointed of politicians, Arbuthnot, one of the strongest-minded men of his time,—and many others of contemporary repute; in fact, all his chosen friends were, like himself, professed wits and nothing more—men who could not have done what they did, or been what they were, the ablest critics of life and manners in the language, without throwing away every thing that savoured of strong feeling, zealous affections, or passionate admiration. He was, moreover, not only versed in ancient learning, but well acquainted with modern speculations and discoveries. Locke is always mentioned with the respect of a disciple ; he prepared an epitaph for Newton, which speaks for itself; and, when we recollect that the controversy between the ancients and moderns was then raging, it must not merely be admitted that he was entitled to pronounce the opinion which we have quoted, but it may be inferred that the opinion which he gave was that of his age. b
We believe that the dictum of Pope is the received opinion of the present day; nor will the estimate appear either exaggerated or extravagant, after the careful perusal of these works. The history of such a reputation would be a task far beyond the limits of so brief an Essay as that which is here proposed. It takes a long tract of time to establish such a reputation; and to trace it from its first development, through its successive stages, on to its maturity, would be to examine, with the minutest care, every word which the great author had written, and to observe, with the greatest accuracy, the effect of every word. Testimonies abound from the Elizabethan to the Georgian times, to the fact of this reputation. The testimonies of men who were contemporary with our author—of men who lived at a time when society was trying to settle itself, after a mighty revolution; and gigantic men were rising up in all directions to illustrate the era which they created;—we are told, by Ben Jonson, that Francis Bacon was, even then, on all hands allowed to be first and foremost, as a statesman, orator, and philosopher. This reputation passed unimpaired through the fires of two succeeding revolutions; which were, as much as the first, revolutions of thoughts and opinions, as well as of force and arms, and which alike called into existence men worthy of their stirring crises; and we have the testimony of Alexander Pope, that the impress of this reputation was upon all in his day. And from that time to this, a period during which the most distinguished men, in every department of learning and the arts, have been the most eloquent expounders and successful cultivators of the Baconian philosophy, we shall find that the reputation has travelled down to us but to increase; and that the judgment is as correct, as the basis of it, in these volumes, is irreversible.
The poet, whose opinion we have commented upon, speaks positively as to Bacon being "the greatest genius that England" has produced, and doubtfully as to the rest of the world. But the qualified saying (notwithstanding Mr. Hume's sneer at English self-complacency) is quite enough; and the fellow-countrymen of Shakspeare, Milton, and Newton, if convinced of his pre-eminence here, would find little difficulty in awarding to him the premier place in the "peerage of intellect" every where else. A continental witness may be allowed to speak for Europe ; and France, so jealous of her honour in arts and arms, and our only rival if not equal in both, will furnish a modern, unbiassed, and competent one, in the person of D'Alembert, who declares this author to be " the greatest, the most uuiversal, and the most eloquent of philosophers."
But were it possible to settle the bare question of pre-eminence, the decision would be barren of all other use, than that of raising curiosity respecting the individual upon whom the general suffrage fell. Our allusion to it in the outset of these popular observations will be justified, if it stimulate one youthful, or one general reader, in this busy age, to the perusal of these works. Great and overwhelming reputations should be closely examined; in fact, they are subjected to the most rigid scrutiny. The hereditary principle is not acknowledged in the republic of letters; and a perpetual dictatorship would be an office of suffrage there. But each citizen of that republic is bound to exercise the franchise, which is enjoyed by all, for himself; his vote is a birthright, springing from his reason and conscience, with which the " voicing" of multitudes can be of no avail. There may be a blind allegiance to a rightful power, as well as a crouching submission to a wrongful one! In the kingdom of mind, which is essentially the kingdom of the free, there is yet too much of this voluntary vassalage; and the great names of wisdom, knowledge, and wit, still receive contemptible tribute. This sort of ignominious self-humiliation in reference to high minds and great truths, is an evident source of endless mischief; and, therefore, whatever may be the renown of a man, let every one " be convinced in his own mind," lest he perform the homage of the horde, and become a mere gregarious admirer.
We invite the reader, whose opinion of this author has not been derived from the study of his works, to try the experiment for himself. For what matters to him the fact of their unparalleled influence, or undiminished value, if he take it for granted, and judge not for himself? The test is not, what effect they produced on former individuals, but what positive and absolute effect will they have on any reader now; in order that it may be seen whether or not a writer of the olden time has been enabled, as it were, to "keep alive his own soul" to these times; by nothing less than the immortality which belongs to general truths of equal splendour and utility, clearly, gravely, and nobly announced. Without anticipating the reader's decision, he will then be entitled to abate or swell the triumph of " the greatest genius that England, or perhaps any other country, has produced."
Before entering upon our brief examination of these works undertaken with a view to facilitate the beginnings of inquiry, we shall interpose, with a few omissions, " The Life of the Honourable Author," written by Doctor Rawley, " his Lordship's first and last Chapleine;" as it gives a sufficient, though summary view of the author's life; and has the further recommendation of being a translation by the devoted " Chapleine" himself, of the "Nobilissimi Auctoris Vita," prefixed to the Instatiratio Magna, at p. 276, in the second volume of this edition.
"THE LIFE OF THE HONOURABLE AUTHOR.
"Francis Bacon, the glory of his age and nation, the adorner and ornament of learning, was born in York House, or York Place, in the Strand, on the 22nd day of January, in the year of our Lord 16G0. His father was that famous counseller to Queen Elizabeth, the second propp of the kingdome in his time. Sir Nicholas Bacon. Knight, lord keeper of the great seal of England, a lord of known prudence, sufficiency, moderation, and integrity. His mother was Ann Cook, one of the daughters of Sir Anthony Cook, unto whom the erudition of King Edward the Sixth had been committed : a choyce lady, and eminent for piety, vertue, and learning; being exquisitely skilled, for a woman, in the Greek and Latin tongues. These being the parents, you may easily imagine what the issue was like to be; having had whatsoever nature or breeding could put into him.
His first and childish years were not without sonic mark of eniinency, at which time he was endued with that pregnancy and towardnessof wit, as they were presages of that deep and universal apprehension, which was manifest in him afterward: and caused him to be taken notice of by several persons of worth and place; and, especially, by the queen; who (as I have been informed) delighted much then to confer with him, and to prove him with questions: unto whom he delivered himself with that gravity and maturity, above his years, that her Majesty would often term him, the young lord keeper.
At the ordinary years of ripeness for the university, or rather something earlier, he was sent by his father to Trinity Colledge, in Cambridge, to be educated and bred under the tuition of Doctor John \V hitegift, then master of the colledge, afterwards the renowned Archbishop of Canterbury; under whom he was observed to have been more then an ordinary proficient in the severall arts and sciences. Whilst he was com mora nt in the university, about sixteen years of age. (as his lordship hath been pleased to impart unto myself.) he first fell into the dislike of the philosophy of Aristotle, not for the worthlesnesse of the authour, to whom he would ever ascribe all high attributes; but for the unfruitfulnesse of the way, being a philosophy, (as his lordship used to say,) onely strong for disputations and contentions, but barren of the production of works for the benefit of the life of man; in which mind he continued to his dying day.
After he had passed the circle of the liberall arts, his father thought fit to frauie and mould him for the arts of state: and for that end, sent him over into France, with Sir Amyas Paulet, then employed ambassadour lieger into France; by whom he was, after a while, held fit to be entrusted with some message or advertisement to the queen; which having performed with great approbation, he returned back into France again, with intention to continue for some years there. In his absence in France, his father the lord keeper died; having collected (as I have heard of knowing persons) a considerable summe of money, which he had separated, with intention to have made a competent purchase of land, for the lively-hood of this his youngest son: (who was onely unprovided for, and though he was the youngest in years, yet he was not the lowest in his father's affection :) but the said purchase, being unaccomplished at his lather's death, there came no greater share to him, than his single part and portion of the money dividable amongst five brethren: by which meanes he lived in some streits and necessities in his younger years. For as for that pleasant scite and mannour of Gorhambury, he came not to it till many years after, by the death of his dearest brother, Mr. Anthony Bacon.
Being returned from travaile, he applyed himself to the study of the common law, which he took upon him to be his profession; in which he obtained to great excellency, though he made that (as himself said) but as an accessary, and not as his principall study. He wrote severall tractates upon that subject. In this way, he was after a while sworn of the queen's counsel learned extraordinary; a grace (if I err not) scarce known before. He seated himself, for the commodity of his studies and practise, amongst the honourable society of Greyes Inn; of which house he was a member, where he erected thot elegant pile, or structure, commonly known by the name of the Lord Bacon's lodgings: which he inhabited, by turns, the most port of his life, (some few years onely excepted,) unto hisdyingday. In which house he carried himself with such sweetnesse, comity, and generosity, that he was much revered and loved by the readers and gentlemen of the house.
Notwithstanding that he professed the law, for his livelyhood and subsistence: yet his heart and affection was more carried after the affaires and places of estate; for which, if the Majesty roj all then had been pleased, he was most fit. In his younger years, he studied the service and fortunes (as they call them) of that noble, but unfortunate earl, the Earl of Essex; unto whom he was in a sort a private and free counsellor; and gave him safe and honourable advice, till in the end the Earl inclined too much to the violent and precipitate counsell of others, his adherents and followers; which was his fate, and mine.
His birth, and other capacities, qualified him above others of his profession, to have ordinary accesses at court; and to come frequently into the queen's pye, who would often grace him with private and free communication; not onely about matters of his profession, or businesse in law, but also about the arduous affairs of estate; from whom she received, from time to time, great satisfaction. Neverthelesse, though she cheered him much with the bounty of her countenance, yet she never cheered him with the bounty of her hand; having never conferred upon him any ordinary place, or means, of honour or profit; save onely one dry reversion of the register's office, in the star-chamber, worth about 1600/. per annum; for which he waited in expectation either fully or near twenty years: of which his lordship would say, in Queen Elizabeth's time, that it was like another man's ground buttalling upon his house; which might mend his prospect, but it did not fill his barn. Neverthelesse, in the time of King James, it fell unto him; which might be imputed not so much to her Majesty's aversenesse, or disaffection towards him, as to the arts and policy of a great statesman then, who laboured by all industrious and secret means to suppresse and keep him down; lest, if he had risen, he might have obscured his glory.
But though he stood long at a stay in the dayes of his mistresse. Queen Elizabeth: yet, after the change, and coming in of his new master. King James, he made a great progresse; by whom he was much comforted, in places of trust, honour, and revenue. 1 have seen a letter of his lordship's to King James, wherein he makes acknowledgement, that he was that master to him, that had raysed and advanced him nine times; thrice in dignity, and sixe times in office. His offices (as I conceive) were. Counsel Learned Extraordinary to his Majesty, as he had been to Queen Elizabeth ; king's Solliciter-generall; his Majesty's Atturney-generall; Counseller of Estate, being yet but Attnrney; Lord Kee[)er of the Great Seal of England: lastly. Lord Chancel ler : which two last places, though they be the same in authority and power, yet they differ in patent, heigth, and favour of the prince : since whose time, none of his successoursdid ever bear the title of Lord Chanceller. His dignities were, first, Knight, then Baron of Verulam, lastly. Viscount Saint A loan: besides other good gifts, and bounties of the hand, which his Majesty gave him, both out of the broad seal, and out of the alienation office.
Towards his rising years, not before, he entred into a married estate; and took to wife, Alice, one of the daughters and co-heires of Benedict Barnham, Esquire, and alderman of London; with whom he received a sufficiently ample and liberall portion in marriage. Children he had none; which though they be the means to perpetuate our names after our deaths, yet he hail other issues to perpetuate his name, the issues of his brain; in which he was ever happy, and admired; as Jupiter was in the production of Pallas. Neither did the want of children detract from his good usage of hisconsort, during the intermarriage : whom he prosecuted with much conjugal I love and respect, with many rich gifts and endowments; besides a roab of honour, which he invested her withall; which she wore untill her dying day, being twenty years, and more, after his death.
The last five years of his life, being withdrawn from civill affaires, ana from an active life, he employed wholy in contemplation and studies; a thing whereof his lordship would often speak, during his active life; as if he affected to dye in the shadow, and not in the light; which also may be found in severall passages of his works. In which time he composed the greatest part of his books and writings, both in English and Latin; which I will enumerate (as near as 1 can) in the just order wherein they were written. The History of the Reign of King Henri/ the Seventh; Abecedarium Natural, or a metaphysicall piece, which is lost; Historia Ventorum; Historia Vita: et Mortis: Historia Densi et Rari, not yet printed; Historia Gravis el Levis, which is also lost: A Discourse of a War with Spain; A Dialogue touching an Holy War; the fable of the New Atlantis; A Preface to a Digest of the Lawes of England; The Beginning of the History of the Reign of King Henri/ the Eighth; De Augmentix Scientiarum, or The Advancement of Learning put into Lati n, with severall enrichments and enlargements; Counsells Civill and Morall, or his book of Essayes, likewise enriched and enlarged; The Conversion of certain Psalms into English Verse. The Translation into Latin of the History of King Henri/ the Seventh: of the Counsells, Civill and Morall; of the Dialogue of the Holy War; of the fable of the New Atlantis; for the benefit of other nations. His revising of his book, De Sapientia Veterum. Inquisitio de Magnete; Topica Jnquisitionis de Luce et Lumine; both these not yet printed. Lastly, Sylva Sylcarunt, or the Naturatl History. These were the fruits and productions of his last five years. His lordship also designed, upon the motion and invitation of his late Majesty, to have written The Reign of King Henry the Eighth; but that work perished in the designation ineerly, liod not lending him life to proceed further upon it. then onely in one morning's work: whereof there is extant an ex ungue leonem, already printed, in his lordship's miscellany works.
There is a commemoration due, as well to his abilities and vcrtues, as to the course of his life. . Those abilities which commonly goe single in other men, though of prime and observable parts, were all conjoyned and met in him: those are, sharpness of wit, memory, judgement, and elocution.
I have been enduced to think, that if there were a beame of knowledge derived from God upon any man, in these modern times, it was upon him. For though he was a great reader of books, yet he had not his knowledge from books; but from some grounds and notions from within himself; which, notwithstanding, he vented with great caution and circumspection. His book of Inslauralio Magna, (which, in his own account, was the cliiefest of his works,) was no slight imagination or fancy of his brain; but a setled and concocted notion, the production of many years' labour and travell. I myself have seen at the least twelve coppies of the Instauration revised year by year, one after another; and every year alterd, and amended, in the frame thereof; till at last it came to that modell. in which it was committed to the presse.
He was no plodder upon hooks, though he read much •, and that with great judgement, and rejection of impertinences, incident to many authours: for he would ever interlace a moderate relaxation of his minde with his studies, as walking, or taking the aire abroad in his coach, or some other befitting recreation: and yet he would'loose no time, in as much as upon his first and immediate return, he would fall to reading again; and so suffer no moment of time to slip from him, without some present improvement.