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eration which induced him in 1609 to bring out his little book De Sapientiâ Veterum ; where, fancying that some of the cardinal principles of his own philosophy lay hid in the oldest Greek fables, he took advantage of the circumstance to bring them forward under the sanction of that ancient prescription, — and so made those fables serve partly as pioneers to prepare his way, and partly as auxiliaries to enforce his authority
Altogether, the result of my endeavours to arrange and understand these experimental essays and discarded beginnings, is a conviction that Bacon was not more profoundly convinced that he was right, than uneasily apprehensive that his contemporaries would never think him so; and that for the first fifty years of his life his chief anxiety was, not so much to bring his work into the most perfect shape according to his own conception, as to bring it before the world in a manner which should insure patient and attentive listeners, and involve least risk of miscarriage, -- the carrying of the world with him being in such an enterprise a condition essential to success. And this I have thought the more worth pointing out, because the course of proceeding which he ultimately resolved on tends to hide it from
For his final resolution was, as we know, to discard all fictions and disguises, and utter his own thoughts in his own person after the manner which was most natural to him. But we are to remember that before he came to that determination, or at least before he put it in execution, the case was materially altered and the principal cause of embarrassment removed. For besides that he had then been four
years Lord Chancellor, the great reputation which he had
acquired in other fields — in the House of Commons, the Courts of Law, and the Star-Chamber, — coupled with the well-known fact that his favourite pursuit all the time had been natural philosophy, concerning which he had long had a great work in preparation, - this reputation had given to his name the weight which before it wanted; insomuch that there was then perhaps no mouth in Europe which could command a larger audience, or from which the prophecy of a new intellectual era coming upon the earth could proceed with greater authority, than that of Francis Bacon.
Nevertheless, when I say that these pieces are chiefly interesting on account of the light they throw on Bacon's personal hopes, fears, and struggles, I am far from meaning to underrate their intrinsic and independent value. Those who are most perfectly acquainted with the works by which they were superseded will not the less find them well worth the studying. Many of them are in form and composition among Bacon's most perfect productions, and if in successive processes of digestion he succeeded in sinking the thought deeper and packing the words closer, it was often at the expense of many natural and original graces. What they have gained in weight and solidity they have lost sometimes in freshness, freedom, and perspicuity; and it will generally be found that each helps to throw light on the other.