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BARON OF VERULAM, VISCOUNT ST. ALBANS, AND LORD
HIGH CHANCELLOR OF ENGLAND
REPRINTED FROM THE TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS, WITH
THE NOTES AND PREFACES, OF
ELLIS AND SPEDDING
EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION
An ade juate collection of the chief works of Francis Bacon, at a price within the reach of the mass of readers, has long been wanting, and the present reprint, from the magistral edition of Ellis and Spedding (7 vols., 1857), is an attempt to meet the need. It contains far more than has ever before been included in any popular collection, and is believed to give all of Bacon's philosophical writings that are likely to be read by any save a few special students. Such treatises as those collected in the fifth volume of the Ellis-Spedding edition under the title of Natural and Experimental History—the “ Histories” of the Winds, of Life and Death, of Dense and Rare, and the rest-have now not only no scientific value, but almost no literary or philosophical interest, the subject matter being such as would give small scope to Bacon's style even had they been written in English, whereas, like so much of the more interesting matter in this volume, they were published in Latin. The Sylva Sylvarum, though in Bacon's English, is no less obsolete. Our collection, however, includes translations not only of the Novum Organum and the De Augmentis Scientiarum, but of the Parasceve, the De Principiis atque Originibus, the Descriptio Globi Intellectualis, the Thema Coeli, and the De Sapientia Veterum, as well as the original English treatises entitled Valerius Terminus, and Filum Labyrinthi--the latter a version by Bacon of his Latin Cogitata et l'isa.
With the aid of the valuable prefaces by Messrs. Ellis and Spedding, which are in every case retained, the student can gather from this mass of matter a thorough knowledge of Bacon's work, in system and in detail, in its strength and its weakness.
Holding that Bacon's didactic works were to be reproduced as far as they had literary value, the editor has included not only the original Advancement of Learning and the classic Essays and New Atlantis, but the Apophthegms, though, like the Wisdom of the Ancients, they strain somewhat on the title of Philosophical Works. The History of Henry VII is omitted as being wholly outside that title, and as being easily accessible in cheap editions ; and the legal works are omitted as appealing only to a few even among law students.
The large mass of Bacon's work here brought together is presented to the reader in the most accurate texts and the most accurate translations in existence —those of the complete edition of Ellis and Spedding. On the English texts of that edition Mr. Spedding lavished a care which can be partially appreciated from his notes in the following pages. The bulk of the translations, which were marle originally by Mr. Francis Headlam, was thoroughly revised by Mr. Spedding, and part of that of the Novum Organum by Mr. Ellis also. The present editor will not venture to say that they are absolutely faultless ; but after making a number of comparisons he is satisfied that they are quite the most trustworthy that have been published.
In addition to the boon of accurate versions, and the skilled guidance given in the sectional prefaces, the reader of the present edition has the help of the multitude of learned notes appended by Mr. Ellis to the Latin Novum Organum and De Augmentis, as well as those added by Mr. Spedding to these works, and his annotations and various readings to the English works. With the help of the latter, which note changes made in the translations as well as the variants of the earlier editions, Bacon's thought can be followed with critical closeness.
Mr. Ellis's notes, in so far as they were not philological, and applicable only to the originals, have been transferred to the corresponding passages in the translations in this reprint. A small number of notes, some of them borrowed from other editions, have been added, always in brackets, by the present editor ; but beyond adding a few instances to those singled out by Mr. Ellis, he has not attempted either to add to the specification of Bacon's mistakes in physics or to note the advances made in science since Mr. Ellis wrote. The Novum Organum and De Augmentis are now read not for scientific information, but as the exposition of a great writer's conception of the needs and the methods of the sciences, some three centuries ago.
As Mr. Spedding indicated in his first preface to the seven-volume edition, 110 chronological or other "order" of Bacon's works has ever been agreed upon, and that followed in the present volume is a compromise on his. After Rawley's "Life" and Mr. Ellis's General Preface, the original Advancement of Learning, in two books, is placed first, as the simplest and most attractive, as well as the earliest, of Bacon's fuller expositions of his aims; the pregnant fragments entitled Valerius Terminus and Filum Labyrinthi coming next. Then follow the translations of the Novum Organum, the Parasceve, of which the original appeared in the same volume with the Organum in 1620 ; the De Augmentis Scientiarum, which appeared in Latin in 1623 (reproducing Book I of the Advancement, expanding and modifying Book II, and adding seven books more); the De Principiis, which is also late ; and the Descriptio Globi Intellectualis and Thema Coeli, which, though of earlier date (1612), are rather appendices than preparatives to the main scheme of the “Great Instauration”. As to the projection and the imperfect fulfilment of that scheme, full information is given in Mr. Ellis' preface to the Novum Organum, Mr. Spedding's notes to that preface, and his own prefaces. The other works in the present collection are not placed in order of date, but merely grouped apart from the more strictly philosophical works, the New Atlantis coming first because of its relation to these.
In the somewhat anxious task of reading the proofs of this volume, as before in his edition of Buckle in the same series, the editor has had the invaluable assistance of Mr. Ernest Newman. He may therefore hope that this reprint from a standard edition is not less accurate than that--of hich, indeed, has been able to correct some typographical errors.
I The manifold debate which has circled round the name of Bacon for over two hundred years, but especially in the past century, may be divided under two heads—that of his character, and that of his intellectual merit. For many students, happily, the first issue is settled, and the second is perhaps near settlement. But for the general reading public each problem is still somewhat confused by the influence of Macaulay's famous Essay, which seriously mishandled both.
Logically considered, the two questions are quite independent : that is to say, a decision on either leaves the other still open. But for any one in doubt on the first, it must be nearly impossible to read a page of Bacon (who so constantly passes moral judgments) without having the critical faculty either primed or puzzled by the reflection that this moralist is charged by a series of eminent writers with being as base in conduct as he was brilliant in thought and speech. Pope's line
“ The brightest, wisest, meanest of mankind”. s still, it is to be feared, the common estimate, as it was in effect Macaulay's ; and the real paradox of great powers in combination with low instincts is common enough in life to permit of Pope's extravagance—which asserts something quite different-passing as a statement of possible psychological fact.
It is best, then, to come straight to the historical facts. The main charges against Bacon as a man are two : treachery to his patron and benefactor, Essex ; and corruptness as a judge; and Macaulay presses both with all his force. The argument on the firsť is that because Essex, for great services rendered him by Bacon, had given him a fairly adequate reward, Bacon's duty, when Essex had not only long ceased to take his counsel but had grossly contravened it, was to refuse to take any action against him as a crown lawyer. When it is remembered that Essex, on his part, had received from the Queen a hundred times the benefits he had bestowed on Bacon, and was thus, on the principles assumed, guilty past all apology, not only in his act of insane sedition but in his previous complots, the attack is seen to break down. Bacon, who held the normal view of his duty to the head of the State, acted on principles of public fealty which then as now were as clearly of plenary force as his obligation to Essex was limited. And his action in the prosecution was that of a man concerned to save an offender who, unwise to the verge of madness, would not let himself be saved. So much has been established for all open-minded readers by the admirable treatise of the late James Spedding, entitled Evenings with a Reviewer, a work unique in literature. In that patient and exhaustive discussion Macaulay's case is once for all destroyed ; and with it the additional indictments framed by some later and closer investigators. The one fresh contention since set up on the hostile side--that Bacon counselled Essex to accept the Irish command, whereas Spedding declared he had often dissuaded him-also breaks down on scrutiny. The letter in which Bacon acquiesced is quite compatible with previous dissuasion, the tone being that of a lenient friend trying to make the best of an unalterable arrangement.
In regard to the charge of bribery, the case is different. Bacon did take some gifts from suitors; and therein he sinned against his own precepts for the management of judicial affairs. But in not a single case is there any reason to believe that he was corruptly swayed by the gift; and in taking presents from suitors