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THE publishers of this, the first complete American edition of Lord Bacon's Works, would never have entered upon so considerable an undertaking without feeling that it was justified by the public sentiment, and, in fact, the demand of literary and scientific readers throughout the country.
This illustrious author is now distinctly pronounced by that undisputed standard of taste, the common sense of mankind, a classical writer of the first rank. In many respects Bacon resembles his immortal contemporary, Shakspeare. Like Shakspeare, he enjoyed the most splendid reputation for genius and ability, in his lifetime; like him, he was comparatively undervalued and neglected for ages after his death, and like him, in the present refined and severely scrutinizing era, he has been tried in the hottest furnaces of criticism, and has come forth pure gold, whose weight, solidity, and brilliancy can never hereafter be for a moment doubted. It is said of Shakspeare, that his fertile genius exhausted the whole world of nature. As a poet, he undoubtedly has done this; and Lord Bacon, as a philosopher, has done the same. Redeeming the human mind from the chains imposed upon it by Aristotle, and riveted by the schools, he placed in the hands of scientific inquiry that simple instrument, the inductive process of investigation, and the result is the existing system of natural science. All that this age of improvement claims as its own in astronomy, in chymistry, in mechanical philosophy, and in the improved arts of life, may be traced to the genius of Bacon, the acknowledged founder of modern philosophy.
As works of genius, as examples of calm, clearsighted, conclusive reasoning and authoritative eloquence, his writings can never be superseded, can never cease to be read and admired. They are models of matter and style, mines of thought, fountains of intellect to which “other suns repair, and in their urns draw golden light.”
This edition has been reprinted from that of Basil Montagu, Esquire, of the Inner Temple, London, the most complete ever published in England. Those of his works which were originally written in Latin, have been translated in Mr. Montagu's edition; as the insertion of the original text would have unnecessarily increased the expense of this edition, it has been deemed expedient to give the translation only. Every attention has been bestowed to preserve the purity of the text.
It is believed that the works of Lord Bacon will be extensively popular in the United States. The increased demand for sound and imperishable literature, and the great attention paid by our literary and scientific men to the works of his celebrated contemporaries, warrant the conclusion that his writings will speedily find their way into every well-selected library in our country.
ABOUT thirty years ago I read in the will of Lord Bacon—“For my burial, I desire it may be in St. Michael's Church, St. Albans: there was my mother buried, and it is the parish church of my mansion-house of Gorhambury, and it is the only Christian church within the walls of Old Verulam. For my name and memory, I leave it to men's charitable speeches, to foreign nations, and the next ages.”
This passage, not to be seen till he was at rest from his labours, impressed me with a feeling of his consciousness of ill-usage, and a conviction that the time would arrive when justice would be done to his memory. Sir Philip Sydney says, “ I never read the old song of Percy and Douglas, without feeling my heart stirred as by the sound of a trumpet;" and assuredly this voice from the grave was not heard by me with less emotion.
The words were cautiously selected, with the knowledge which he, above all men, possessed of their force and pregnant meaning, and of their certain influence, sooner or later, upon the community. They spoke to me as loudly of a sense of injury, and of a reliance upon the justice of future ages, as the opening of the Novum Organum speaks with the consciousness of power::
FRANCISCUS DE VERULAMIO
There was also something to me truly affecting in the disclosure of tender natural feeling in the short sentence referring to his mother, which, spanning a whole life between the cradle and the grave, seemed to record nothing else worthy of a tribute of affection.
Thus impressed, I resolved to discover the real merits of the case.
I found that the subject had always been involved in some mystery. Archbishop Tennison, the admirer of Lord Bacon, and the friend of Dr. Rawley, his domestic chaplain, thus mentions it in the Baconiana: “His lordship owned it under his hand, that he was frail, and did partake of the abuses of the times; and
1 In a former will (see Baconiana, p. 203) there is the same wish expressed, not in such polished terms: The sentence is, “ For my name and memory, I leave it to foreign nations and to mine own countrymen, after some time be passed over."
2 FRANCIS OF VERULAM THOUGHT THUS.