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Of the acuteness of Bacon's discernment and the rare patience with which he was accustomed to investigate subjects of uncommon difficulty, we have a memorable instance in his Cotours of Good and Evil. What was obscure in Aristotle, he
has cleared up; what was subtile, and sometimes altogether unintelligible by the great majority of readers, he has simpli fied in language equally plain and convincing, and many seeming contradictions, which had for ages baffled the acuteness of commentators, he has satisfactorily reconciled. Although in this essay, he has had his light from the Stagyrite, yet he has so improved upon his original, that the work may be truly called his own.
The New Atlantis abounds in such rich and curious materials, that every admirer of rational enquiry and universal knowledge, must lament he left it in an unfinished state. Designed to comprehend in its various branches the animate and inanimate world, it was undertaken upon a scale, perhaps, too great for the genius and acquirements of any single mind to bring the undertaking to perfection. In the part which he accomplished, Lord Bacon has, however, proved, that no man could be better qualified for the arduous task than himself. His description of the institution or order, called Solomon's House, evinces a conception capable of embracing his subject in its most minute details, and a perspicuity of ar rangement which we look for in vain in the philosophical works of antiquity. The vast extent of the plan is manifest at least in its outlines from his own words, on the institution;-" It is dedicated to the study of the works and creatures of God;" and in effecting the object of this new society, which is the knowTM ledge of causes, and secret motions of things, aud the enlarging of the bounds of human empire to the accomplishment of all things possible, he gives a finished example of the lucidus ordo. Having set forth the end of their foundation, he describes the
preparations and instruments they have for their works ; the several employments and functions whereto the members are respectively assigned, and the ordinances and rites which they observe. It will be sufficient to observe that in these enume» rations, no topic is omitted which experience had taught him could be useful or entertaining to mankind.
In the Filum Labyrinthi, the obstacles to the progress of science in his time, are exposed with a clearnes and brevity which cannot be too much admired. Speaking of the opinions which he entertained, he says:
He (Lord Bucon) thought also that knowledge is uttered to men in a form, as if every thing were finished; for it is reduced into arts and methods, which in their division do seem to include all that may be. And how weakly soever the purts are filled, yet they carry the shew and reason of a total; und thereby the writings of some received authors, go for the very art: whereas antiquity used to deliver the knowledge, which the mind of man had gathered in observations, aphorisms, or short or dispersed sentences, or small tractates of some parts. that they had diligently meditated and laboured; which did invite men, both to ponder that which was invented, and to add und supply further. But now sciences are delivered as to be believed, and accepted, and not to be examined and further discovered; and the succession is between master and disciple, and not between inventor and continuer or advancer; and therefore sciences stand at a stay, and have done for many ages, and that which is positive is fixed, and that which is question is kept question, so as the columns of no further proceeding are pitched. And therefore he saw plainly, men had cut themselves off from further invention; and that it is no marvel, that that is not obtained, which hath not been attempted, but rather shut out and debarred."
·How Locke and Newton have profited from these remarks, the enlightened world can attest.
Sequela Chartarum; or, the disquisition respecting heat and cold, although it may be considered us imperfect in some points of view, in consequence of recent improvements in that part of natural philosophy, is generally supported by the force of experiment.
Of the true christian spirit by which the mind of this great man was animated, we have irresistible evidence in his Character of a Believing Christian, exemplified in Paradoxes and seeming Contradictions; in the Essay on Death, and in the Prayer, made and used by himself. The awe inspired by the commencement of the Essay must be felt-it cannot be described. How simple, yet how luminous and awful are the opening sentences!
“I have often thought upon death, and find it the least of all evils. All that which is past is a dream; and he that hopes or depends upon time coming, dreams waking. So much of our life, as we have discovered, is already dead; and all those hours which we share, even from the breast of our mother, until we return to our grandmother the earth, are part of our dying days; whereof even this is one, and those that succeed ure of the same nature, for we die daily; and as others have given place to us, so we must give way to others."
We must not pass unnoticed his SHORT NOTES FOR CIVIL CONVERSATION, which contain precepts, that might be well expanded into a large volume. His HELPS OF THE INTELLECTUAL POWERS, in which he gives many excellent rules for governing, confirming, and enlarging, by custom and exercise, the motions and faculties of the wit and memory.
This volume also contains Two Letters, the one relative to the Essays, addressed to the Marquis Fiat, the other, which
he wrote just before his death to the Earl of Arundel and Sur* and his Last Will.
Most of the articles published in this edition were methodized, enriched, or originally written by Lord Bacon, in the hours of disgrace and retirement. Although his character had been justly stained by his own corruption, and his connivance at the profligate venality of his dependants, his genius continued unimpaired, and seemed to derive new vigour from the privacy of his contemplations, and his melancholy experience of the instability of all human grandeur. Adversity, "Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
"Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;”
was to his philosophical mind the source of additional fame, and his guilt and his misfortunes proved but incitements to useful and honourable studies.
To the last moment he entertained a just and dignified sense of the importance of his labours to mankind, und this sentiment is expressed in a single passage of his will. Having bequeathed his soul and body in the usual form, directed the place of his interment, and stated the charge of his funeral,
says " "For my name and memory, I leave it to men's charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and the next ages." Posterity has not only acknowledged the justice of this appeal, but even seemed desirous to forget that he ever offended; and the animated effusions of a Thomson may be considered as the eulogy of his own countrymen as well as that of foreign nations:
* He died in the house of Lord Arundel, and in the letter, the last he wrote before his death, he compares himself to a celebrated philosopher of antiquity, Pliny the elder; who perished by enquiring with too dangerous a curiosity, into the first great eruption of Vesuvius.
Thine is a Bacon; hapless in his choice,
To urge his course: him for the studious shade
Plato, the Stagyrite, and Tully join'd.
The great deliverer he! who from the gloom
Held in the magic chain of words and forms,
And definitions void: he led her forth,
Daughter of Heaven! that slow descending still,
Investigating sure the chain of things,
With radiant finger points to Heaven again.
The character given by Dryden of Plutarch's style may be affixed to that of Lord Bacon; and is so happily expressed, that it would be unjust not to quote the very words ; "As for Plutarch, his style is so particular, that there is none of the ancients to whom we can properly resemble him. And the reason is obvious; for being conversant in so great a variety of authors, and collecting from all of them, what he thought most excellent, out of the confusion, or rather the mixture of all their styles, he formed his own, which partaking of each, was yet none of them, but a compound of them all, like the Corinthian metal, which had in it gold, and brass, and silver, and yet was a species by itself."
The engraving prefixed to this volume, representing Lord Bacon sitting, is executed after an original print of the mo→ nument erected to him in St. Michael's church near St. Alban's, by Sir Thomas Meautys, with the following inscription