Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

THE LIFE

OP

FRANCIS BACON,

LORD HIGH CHANCELLOR OF ENGLAND.

The ancient Egyptians had a law, which ordained that the actions and characters of their dead should be solemnly.canvassed before certain judges, in order to regulate what was due to their memory. No quality, however exalted; no abilities, however eminent; could exempt the possessors from this last and impartial trial. To ingenuous minds this was a powerful incentive, in the pursuit of virtue; and a strong restraint on the most abandoned, in their career of vice. Whoever undertakes to write the life of any person, deserving to be remembered by posterity, ought to look upon this law as prescribed to him. He is fairly to record the faults as well as the good qualities, the failings as well as the perfections, of the dead ; with this great view, to warn and improve the living. For this reason, though I shall dwell with pleasure on the shining part of my

lord Bacon's character, as a writer; I shall not dare either to conceal or palliate his blemishes, as a man. It equally concerns the public to be made acquainted with both.

Sir Nicholas Bacon was the first lord keeper of the seals invested with all the dignity, and trusted with all the power, of a lord chancellor. This high employment he held under queen Elizabeth

b

VOL. 1.

Parsons

1561.

near twenty years: a minister considerably learned, of remarkable prudence and honesty; serving his country with the integrity of a good man, and preserving, through the whole course of his prosperity, that moderation and plainness of manners which adorn a great man.

His second wife was a daughter of Sir Antony Cooke, who had been preceptor to Edward the sixth, and of whom historians have made honourable mention for his skill in the learned languages. Neither have they forgot to celebrate this

lady on the same account. To the truth of which the Jesuit. even an enemy bore testimony, while he reproached

her with having translated, from the Latin, bishop Jewel's Apology for the Church of England.

Such were the parents of Francis Bacon, whose life I am writing. Of two sons, by this marriage, he was the youngest; and born at York-house, in the Strand, the twenty-second of January, 1561. As he had the good fortune to come into the world at a period of time when arts and sciences were esteemed and cultivated, by the great and powerful, almost in the same degree they are now neglected, so he brought with him a capacity for every kind of knowledge, useful and ornamental. An original genius, formed not to receive implicit notions of thinking and reasoning from what was admitted and taught before him ; but to prescribe laws himself, in the empire of learning, to his own and suceeeding ages.

He gave marks, very early, of a pregnant and happy disposition, far above his years. We are told that queen Elizabeth took a particular delight in trying him with questions; and received so much satisfaction from the good sense and manliness of his answers, that she was wont to call him, in mirth, her young lord keeper. One saying of his deserves to be remembered. The queen having asked him his age, while he was yet a boy; he answered readily, that he was just two years younger than her happy reign.

Qf his education I know no particulars, till he was sent to study in the university of Cambridge,

« AnteriorContinuar »