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TEMPORIS PARTUS MASCULUS.
At the end of the manuscript of the Valerius Terminus, and immediately following it in the same page, in the hand of the same transcriber, I find the title and the first chapter of the piece which follows; and in the list of contents inserted by Bacon himself at the beginning of the manuscript, I find them thus described: "The first chapter of a book of the same argument, written in Latin, and destined to be separate and not public." The design and commencement of the work may therefore, in default of other evidence, be safely referred to the time when Bacon revised the manuscript of Valerius Terminus.
Again, in Gruter's Scripta Philosophica I find this same first chapter inserted, though not in connexion with the general title, among the Impetus Philosophici, and followed by another which is headed simply Caput secundum, without any other description; whence I conclude that the two were found by Gruter together, as if forming one piece. If so, the general title, which certainly belongs to the first, may be safely extended to both and accordingly they are printed here as the first and second chapters of the Temporis Partus Masculus.
But in another part of Gruter's book, i. e. on the back of the titlepage and placed there by itself as a kind of frontispiece to the volume, I find a short Latin prayer, with the words "TEMPORIS PARTUS MASCULUS, sive Instauratio Magna imperii humani in Universum," printed at the head of it. And as this title cannot be applied with any propriety to the general contents of the volume, I conclude that the prayer in question was found by Gruter so headed, on a separate sheet; and that he placed it there by itself, not knowing what particular piece
to connect it with. The manuscript of Valerius Terminus removes the difficulty. Knowing as we do the proper title of the two chapters above mentioned, we need not hesitate to connect the prayer with them, and to place it in front of them; where, though very likely written later, it was probably intended to stand.
So far I follow the example of M. Bouillet. But with regard to two other fragments-namely the Aphorismi et Consilia, and the De Interpretatione Nature Sententiæ XII.— which he has included under the same title, I find no sufficient authority for his proceeding. If indeed the typographical arrangement of Gruter's volume could be trusted as a true indication of the arrangement of the manuscripts from which he printed it, we should be obliged to consider the Sententiæ XII. as immediately connected with the chapter headed Tradendi Modus Legitimus, and introductory to it. But his book is put together with so little care or skill in that respect, and shows so little editorial capacity of any kind, that I do not think any such inference can be safely drawn. And I see no apparent connexion between the two writings except such as necessarily arises from their relation to a common subject, and from their being both addressed to a disciple, or son.
With regard to the date of composition, it will be observed that my reasons for connecting the Temporis Partus Masculus with the Valerius Terminus and placing it next in order to the Advancement of Learning, apply only to the first chapter and the general design as indicated in the title. The second chapter may, for anything that appears, have been added at a much later period. And I am myself much inclined to suspect that it was not written before the summer of 1608.
Its object is to explode the various philosophical systems or theories which had been previously propounded; being the first and principal part of the doctrine of the Idols of the Theatre, a part which, though not directly noticed in the Advancement of Learning, assumed soon after so prominent a place in Bacon's scheme that he resolved to place it in the very front of his battle. "Itaque primus imponitur labor (he says in the Partis Secunda Delineatio) ut omnis ista militia theoriarum, quæ tantas dedit pugnas, mittatur ac relegetur." This primus labor is what he here begins with. He goes over the same ground in another paper entitled Redargutio Philoso
hiarum, and again in the Novum Organum. And upon a comparison of the three, there can be little doubt that this is the earliest. But besides its being more crude, there is a specific peculiarity in the style and manner of this piece which requires explanation. All Bacon's other writings are marked with the gentleness and modesty which are said to have distinguished his demeanour and conversation, and which were no doubt natural to him. In those which deal with the errors of received opinions in philosophy, he is profuse even to ostentation in professions of respect and deference for the authors of them, and in disclaiming for himself all pretensions to rivalry in abilities or authority. Here for once he assumes a tone quite different; entering abruptly into the subject in a spirit of contemptuous invective, not to call it presumptuous and insolent, of which in all his writings, public or private, I remember no other example. How is this to be accounted for? I cannot help thinking that it was one of those experiments which I havé spoken of in my general preface to the third part of the Philosophical works, experiments in the art of commanding audiences and winning disciples, and that the key to the true explanation of it may be found in a memorandum set down by himself in July 1608. To assist his memory, and perhaps also to excite his thoughts, he was in the habit of jotting down in commonplace books such reflexions and suggestions as occurred to him on the sudden. These he would review from time to time, and enter in a fresh book such of them as he thought worth preserving. At the end of July 1608, the business of term being over and a considerable accession to his income having just fallen in, he seems to have spent three or four days in this occupation, reviewing all his affairs in turn and endeavouring to set the clock of his life anew; and the record of his meditations has fortunately been preserved. This is the book to which I have already so often referred by the name of Commentarius Solutus, and which will be printed in its place among the Occasional Works. The notes which it contains, and which are evidently set down solely for his own private memory and instruction, refer to a great variety of subjects; among which the progress of his philosophy has a prominent place. Of these a large proportion are in the nature of queries and points for consideration; as for instance, what parts of the work to proceed with next, and how; what persons to seek acquaintanc
with for assistance and co-operation; what points to press and what opinions to nourish and work upon, and the like; all set down promiscuously as they occurred. Among the rest I find the following: "Discoursing scornfully of the philosophy of the Grecians, with some better respect to the Ægyptians, Persians, Caldees, and the utmost antiquity, and the mysteries of the poets;" and again, a little further on, " Taking a greater confidence and authority in discourses of this nature, tanquam sui certus et de alto despiciens."
Now putting these two memoranda together, we see the germ of an idea which might easily and naturally lead to the composition, as an experiment, of the second chapter of the Temporis Partus Masculus. Finding that the simple proposition of his views was not winning converts, he had a mind to try what effect might be produced by putting them forward in a tone of confidence and superiority, and so threw his argument into the form in which we have it here. The idea was not absurd for it is not less true in speculative than in practical matters that the short way to obtain authority among men is to assume it boldly; and the text "If a man come in his own name him ye will receive," though applied by Bacon to the Aristotelian philosophy as contrasted with his own, has in fact been verified not less remarkably in himself. This first experiment however he seems to have regarded as a failure; for he soon after recast the argument in another form, leaving out all that was scornful and offensive towards others, and retaining only that tone of lofty confidence in the worth of his own speculations which grew naturally out of his profound conviction of their truth.
I have thought this conjecture of mine worth recording, because if this be the true history of the composition it gives it a new and peculiar interest, and should be taken along with us as we read. It has however another interest besides, as containing many opinions which Bacon has not expressed elsewhere; and though the manner of announcing them is affected, the opinions are no doubt his own, whatever be the value of them.
The notes to this work are all Mr. Ellis's.