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THE collection of Bacon's works, according to the design explained in the " History and Plan of the Edition," is completed by this volume. Except two speeches found in a paper-book at Northumberland House, too late for insertion in their proper place and in a condition requiring special treatment, it now contains every authentic work of Bacon's that I know of; and of these two, though for reasons which will presently appear they could not be included in it, copies may be obtained by those who want them.
If the reader will look back to Vol. I. p. 119, he will find two pieces, entitled "Mr. Bacon in praise of knowledge," and "Mr. Bacon's discourse in praise of his Sovereign"; of which I have said that they probably formed part of some Court "Device," in which three speakers came forward in turn, each extolling a favourite virtue: the first delivering an oration in praise of Magnanimity, the second of Love, the third of Knowledge; and the fourth concluded with an oration in praise of the Queen, as combining in herself the perfection of all three. The Northumberland House manuscript (discovered five or six years after by Mr. John Bruce) proves that this was really the fact. It contains the remains of what was once a complete and very good copy of the entire composition; in which four friends, distinguished as A, B, C, and D, meet for intellectual amusement: A, assuming the direction, proposes that each in turn shall make a speech in praise of whatever he holds most worthy: B begins with a speech in praise of "the worthiest virtue,"—namely Fortitude: C follows with a speech
in praise of "the worthiest affection,"-namely Love: D with a speech in praise of "the worthiest power," namely Knowledge: and A himself concludes with a speech in praise of "the worthiest person,"-namely the Queen.
Had the manuscript been left perfect in its original condition, it would have been enough to print in the appendix to this volume the speeches of B and C. Unfortunately it has been so damaged by fire as to require a great deal of conjectural restoration; two or three words having been burned away at the end of every line in all the right-hand pages, and three or four lines at the bottom of every page, both right and left. Enough however remains to guide conjecture in most cases to the probable sense; and the Duke of Northumberland approved of a proposal to have it printed so as to represent as exactly as could be contrived both the present state of the manuscript and the insertions proposed by way of restoration. It was printed accordingly line for line; care being taken to preserve, as nearly as possible, the proportion which the part of each line that had been burned away bore to the part that remained. All words inserted by conjecture were separated from the rest by brackets, and where conjecture seemed hopeless the proportionate spaces were left blank. The condition of the manuscript was fully described in the introduction, and all matters critical and explanatory were reserved for notes at the end. It may be hoped therefore that what is left of it is safe from further accident; and though it was not practicable to fulfil these conditions and at the same time to set it out in a form corresponding with these volumes, a number of copies were printed on paper of the same size, and may be obtained by applying to Mr. Bosworth, 198, High Holborn, for "A Conference of Pleasure, composed for some festive occasion about the year 1592 by Francis Bacon, edited from a manuscript belonging to the Duke of Northumberland; or (if he should be unable to supply them) to myself.
This seemed to be the best I could do for the present. But if the first volume of the present work were reprinted, I should wish the whole piece to be inserted in its place in a form corresponding to the rest. The conjectural insertions would of course be enclosed within brackets; and for the passages which defy restoration, blank spaces would be left with some
indication of their apparent extent. But the spelling would be modernised; the line reduced to the standard length; and the notes belonging to each page printed at the bottom. For in all parts which the fire has spared, the Northumberland House manuscript supplies a much better text for the speeches of D and A than that which I had to print them from, and the modern reader will find the modernised form more convenient and intelligible; while the case of the critical reader, who desires to exercise his own skill in the art of conjectural restoration, is sufficiently provided for by the volume already printed. He will find no difficulty in obtaining through it as much information with regard to the form and condition of the manu script as a printed copy can give.
For the rest, I have followed the same rules in this volume as in the others; my first object being to make the collection complete, and my second to make it intelligible without difficulty. These conditions could not be fulfilled without space, and the work has turned out rather longer than I expected when I began. I had hoped that six volumes would complete it. But since it was to contain matter common to all editions of Bacon's works, which if printed consecutively without note or commentary, would fill at least three of them; since the new matter of Bacon's own composition which it contains -reckoning as new not only what has never been printed before] but what has never before been included in his workswould more than fill another; since it was to contain also within itself as much information about all these as would enable a modern reader to understand them without referring to other books; and since it does contain, in effect if not in form, a full and minute biography of the man,-for which alone Mr. Montagu found a volume of like size less than enough-I do not know that its proportions can be considered extravagant.
The amount of new matter of Bacon's own composition is less in this volume than in most of the others,-not above thirty or forty pages in all,-but much of the old matter is made in a manner new by being rightly placed and better deciphered; Elsing's notes of the debates in the House of Lords have enabled me to throw some fresh light upon the personal history of Bacon's impeachment; and the exposition of their method of proceeding as a court of justice in criminal cases,