Page images
PDF
EPUB

business of his life,--the regeneration of philosophy. This self-command is placed in strong light, by the following anecdote. Bacon had applied to the court for some important favour; and the friend who reported the answer, found him dictating to his chaplain an account of some philosophical experiments. On being informed that his suit had failed, he calmly replied"Be it so"--and dismissing his friend, he turned to his chaplain, saying“ Well, sir, if that business will not succeed, let us go on with this, which is in our power;" and he continued to dictate for some time without embarrassment or interruption.

The quality of mind by which Bacon was pre-eminently distinguished—a quality which of all others is the most distinctive of genius was that variety, that universality of intellectual powers, which enabled him to embrace all nature in the ample vision of his capacious soul. Thus largely endowed, his faculties were kept in unceasing activity by their native force; the voice of fame was to him an unnecessary stimulus, and he never sought extensive and indiscriminate applause. Yet his studies were always the principal business of his life. His great aim in his philosophical pursuits was, to discover remedies for all human ills. Hence, he modestly stiles himself the servant of posterity; and thought himself born for the use of human kind.

[ocr errors]

SPEED.

John Speed, author of the History and Maps of Great Britain, was born at Farrington in Cheshire, in 1552. He was by profession a taylor, and was free of merchant-taylors' company in London. Sir Fulk Greville had the penetration to discern his natural ability and inclinations, and had the generosity to furnish him with means to prosecute his favourite studies. He died in 1629.

1. His first work was his “Theatre (or maps] of the Empire of Great Britain, presenting an exact Geography of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Isles adjoining; with the shires, hundreds, cities, and shire-towns, within the kingdom of England, divided and described by John Speed. Lond.

1606, fol.” These are the best maps which had appeared of the British dominions, prior to his time.

2. This work was followed by his “ History of Great Britain, the Conquests of the Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans; their originals, manners, wars, coins, and seals; with the successions, lives, acts, and issues of the English monarchs, from Julius Cæsar to our most gracious sovereign king James. 1614, fol." In the compilement of this history, the author had many facilities afforded him, and some coadjutors. The reign of Henry V. was compiled from collections, notes, and extracts, made by George Carew, earl of Totness. That of Henry VII. is borrowed almost ex. clusively from Bacon. For the reign of HenTy VIII, he is indebted to the notes and collections of sir Robert Cotton, Sir Henry Spelman has also furnished him with materia als. The life of king John was written by Dr. Barkham, dean of Bocking; and likewise the life of Henry II. The catalogue of the religious houses, at the end of King Henry VIII.th's reign, was drawn up by William Burton, esq. It is moreover affirmed by Dr. Thomas Smith, that sir Robert Cotton revised,

corrected, and polished the whole. It has been justly observed by James Tyrrel, esq. that “ Speed was the first English writer, who slighting Geoffrey's Tales, immediately fell upon more solid matter, giving us a large account of the history of this island, during the time of the Roman emperors and English Saxon kings,” &c. &c. The truth of this observation will be apparent from the following passages.

Not to derive the truth of our history from the feigned intentions of a forged Berosus, that bringeth Samothes to people this island, about one hun. dred fifty-two years after the flood, to give laws to the land, and to leave it to his posterity, for three hundred thirty-five years continuance: although he be countenanced by Amandus Zirixæus in the annotations of White of Basingstocke, and magnified unto us by the names of Dis and Meshech the sixth son of Japheth, from whom this island with a sect of philosophers took their names, saith Textor, Bale, Holinshed, and Caius: yet seeing this building hath no better a foundation but Berosus, and he not only justly suspected, but long since fully convicted for a counterfeit, we leave it, as better fitting the pens of vulgar chroniclers, than the relish or liking of judicious readers: whilst with Laertius we judge rather, that those Sophes were termed Semnothoes,

« PreviousContinue »