« AnteriorContinuar »
This work therefore Bacon seems to have set about There is reason to believe that the first book of the Advancement of Learning, which treats of the excellence and dignity of knowledge as a pursuit for kings and statesmen, was written in 1603, immediately after James's accession; and the second, which treats of the deficiencies remaining and the supplies required, in 1605; the intervening year of 1604 having been too much occupied with civil business to allow much. leisure for the prosecution of a work of that kind. It was important to push it forward as fast as possible, even at the expense of completeness: for the very object for which I suppose it to have been undertaken, that of making an impression on the king's mind while it was in the best state to receive impressions,would have been lost by delay; and accordingly in the autumn of 1605 appeared "the Twoo Bookes of Francis Bacon, of the proficience and advancement of Learning, divine and humane;" with many marks of haste in form and composition, and even in substance not altogether adequate to the argument in hand, but nevertheless well enough adapted for its immediate purpose, if I have rightly conjectured what that purpose was.
If this be the true history of the Advancement of Learning, the rest follows naturally. The stroke, though well aimed, was not successful. The book may have raised James's opinion of Bacon, but it did not inspire him with any zeal for the Great Instauration. There it was, however; and it contained such a quantity of the best fruits of Bacon's mind and so many new views bearing on the great reform which he meditated, that it seemed a pity not to find a place for it in the great work. This was easily done by enlarging
the original design so as to include a preliminary survey of the existing state of knowledge; in which case the substance of the second book of the Advancement might do duty as the first part of the Instauratio Magna. If we knew when the fragment entitled Partis Instaurationis Secundo Delineatio was written, we might almost fix the time at which this enlargement of the original design was resolved upon. For in that fragment Bacon proposes to distribute the whole subject of the Interpretation of Nature through the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth parts of the work, exactly as in the Distributio Operis; a place being reserved for a first part, though the nature of its contents is not specified. And from the Descriptio Globi Intellectualis, which was written in 1612 and appears, as I have elsewhere remarked, to be a commencement of the Partitiones Scientiarum itself, we may partly infer the form in which he then intended to cast that part.
Why he afterwards altered his intention and resolved to content himself with a mere translation of the two books of the Advancement with additions, it is not difficult to conjecture, if we take into account the circumstances of his life. When the Novum Organum was published in October 1620, the king had just resolved to call a new Parliament after six years' intermission, and questions of vital interest both at home and abroad hung upon the issue of it. The necessary preparations for the session, Bacon's own. impeachment which almost immediately followed, a severe illness consequent upon that, his condemnation and imprisonment, negotiations with importunate creditors, and the composition of the History of Henry the Seventh, which was finished in October 1621, must
have given him occupation enough during the next twelve months. Then came the question, how he was to proceed with the Instauratio, so as to make the most of such time and means as remained. Sixty-two years old, with health greatly impaired, an income scarcely sufficient to live upon, and an establishment of servants much reduced, he could not afford to waste labour upon things not essential. The Novum Organum was not half finished. The Natural History was not even begun, and no fellow-labourer had yet come forward to help in it. It was only in the completion of the first of the six parts that he could hope for material assistance from others. Even this, if he had attempted to recast it in the form which I suppose him to have designed, — the form indicated in the Descriptio Globi Intellectualis, — he could hardly have executed by deputy; whereas a translation of the Advancement of Learning might be so executed, and would need only corrections and additions to make it a complete survey of the intellectual globe, adequate in substance to its place, though not symmetrical in form. Accordingly, "by help of some good pens which did not forsake him," he proceeded at once to put this in train, and then turned his own attention to the Natural History, which he considered as "basis totius negotii."
Concerning the causes which delayed the publication of the De Augmentis a twelvemonth beyond the expected time, I have no information. But it is probable that the additions which suggested themselves as he proceeded were far larger than he had anticipated;
1"Neque huic rei deero quantum in me est. Utinam habeam et adjutores idoneos." · Letter to Father Redempt. Baranzan, 30 June, 1622.
being indeed in the second book as much again as the original, and more. The measures which he took however were in this instance quite successful; and by sacrificing a little symmetry of form, he succeeded in effectually preserving the substance of this first part of his great work.1
Tenison mentions "Mr. Herbert"- that is, George Herbert, the poet - as one of the translators employed. But we have it upon Rawley's authority that Bacon took a great deal of pains with it himself (proprio marte plurimum desudavit) — so that we must consider the whole translation as stamped with his authority. Many years before he had asked Dr. Playfer to do it; who (according to Tenison) sent him a specimen, but "of such superfine Latinity, that the Lord Bacon did not encourage him to labour further in that work, in the penning of which he desired not so much neat and polite, as clear masculine and apt expression."2 And it is not improbable that some such difficulty may have occurred. But Playfer's failure may be sufficiently accounted for by the state of his health. A memorandum in the Commentarius Solutus dated 26 July, 1608" Proceeding with the translation of my book of Advancement of Learning — hearkening to some other if Playfer should fail," shows that at
1 The volume in which it originally appeared bore the following general titlepage: Opera Francisci Baronis de Verulamio, vice-comitis Sancti Albani, Tomus primus. Qui continet De Augmentis Scientiarum libros IX. Ad regem suum. Londini, in officina Joannis Haviland, MDCXXIII. But this had reference to a collection (which he then meditated) of all his works, in Latin; not to the order of the Instauratio, which was not in a condition to be published consecutively. See Epistola ad Fulgentium: Opuscula, p. 172.
2 Baconiana, p. 26.
that time it was still in his hands; and he died at the beginning of the next year.
I have only to add that all the notes to this work which bear no signature are Mr. Ellis's, except such parts of them as are inserted within brackets. These, as well as all notes signed J. S., are mine.