Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of the tract it states, “ The King of Spain, Philip, son to Charles the Fifth, about 60 years of age :” but he was born on the 21st of May, 1527, so that he was 60 years old in 1587, when Bacon was between 16 and 17 years old.—The Author of Bacon's Life in the Biographia Britannica, from these different dates, concludes that the tract was written at different periods of time, beginning, as he must suppose, when Bacon was quite a boy: but, as it was not necessary for the purposes of this tract that the ages

of the different monarchs should be ascertained with great precision, it is, perhaps, not probable that they were accurately examined, and the only fair inference is that it was written at a very early period of his life. * The same author says,

“ But what is extremely “ remarkable in this small treatise, is the care and accuracy

with which he has set down most of the little princes in Germany, with the state of their domi“nions." This minute observation, however, extends to all his works : and of all the extraordinary properties of Bacon's wonderful mind, his constant observation of what, we, in common parlance, call trifles, appears to be one of the most extraordinary. “ See,” he says,

“ the little cloud upon glass or gems or blades of swords, and mark well the dis“charge of that cloud, and you shall perceive that

« * The tract says,“ D. Antonio, elect King of Portugal, is “ now in France, where he hath levied soldiers, whereof part are “ embarked, hoping to be restored again.”

“it ever breaks up first in the skirts, and last in the “ midst. May we not learn from this the force of “ union, even in the least quantities and weakest

bodies, how much it conduceth to preservation of “ the present form and the resisting of a new. In “ like manner, icicles, if there be water to follow

them, lengthen themselves out in a very slender

thread, to prevent a discontinuity of the water; “ but if there be not a sufficient quantity to follow, “ the water then falls in round drops, which is the

figure that best supports it against discontinuation ; “ and at the very instant when the thread of water " “ends, and the falling in drops begins, the water re“ coils upwards to avoid being discontinued. So in “ metals, which are fluid upon fusion, though a little “ tenacious, some of the mettled mass frequently

springs up in drops, and sticks in that form to the “sides of the crucible. There is a like instance in “the looking-glasses, commonly made of spittle by “ children, in a loop of rush or whalebone, where we “ find a consistent pellicule of water.” Possessing this peculiar property himself, Bacon constantly admonishes his readers of its importance. “ of the understanding, (he says,) is like the eye “ of the sense : for as you may see great objects

through small crannies or levels, so you may see “ axioms of great nature through small and con

temptible instances.” And again, it should be “ considered as an oracle, the saying of the poor

to the haughty prince, who rejected “her petition as a thing below his dignity. to “ notice then cease to reign:' for it is cer

« The eye

66

[ocr errors]

woman

“ tain, that whoever will not attend to matters “ because they are too minute, or trifling, shall “ never obtain command or rule over nature." And again, “ he who cannot contract the sight of “ his mind as well as disperse and dilate it, wanteth “ a great faculty: for certainly this may be averred “ for truth, that they be not the highest instances, that

give the best and surest information. This is not unaptly expressed in the tale, so common, of the

philosopher, who while he gazed upward to the “ stars fell into the water; for if he had looked “ down, he might have seen the stars in the water, “ but looking up to heaven he could not see the 66 water in the stars. In like manner it often comes “ to pass that small and mean things conduce more, “ to the discovery of great matters, than great “ things to the discovery of small matters; and “ therefore Aristotle notes well, that the nature of

every thing is best seen in its smallest portions. “ For that cause he inquires the nature of a com

monwealth, first in a family and the simple conju

gations of society, man and wife; parents and “ children; master and servant, which are in every

1; “ cottage. So likewise the nature of this great city “ of the world, and the policy thereof, must be

sought in every first concordances and least por“ tions of things. So we see that secret of nature (esteemed one of the great mysteries) of the “ turning of iron touched with a loadstone towards " the poles, was found out in needles of iron, not in 66 bars of iron,”

BIOGRAPHY.

[ocr errors]

Of the importance of biography, Bacon speaks in his Advancement of Learning ;* concluding his remarks by saying, “ Bona Fama propria possessio « defunctorum,” which possession I cannot but note, that in our times it lieth much waste and that therein there is a deficience. This defieience with respect to Elizabeth he was anxious to supply by the publication of his sentiments, “ in Felicem Memoriam « Elizabethæ :" but this publication seems to have required some caution, and to have been attended with some difficulty. In 1605, Bacon thus spoke: “ But for a tablet, or picture of smaller volume,

(not presuming to speak of your majesty that

liveth,) in my judgment the most excellent is that “ of Queen Elizabeth, your immediate predecessor in “ this part of Britain ; a princess that, if Plutarch “ were now alive to write lives by parallels, would “ trouble him, I think, to find for her a parallel “ amongst women. This lady was endued with

learning in her sex singular, and rare even amongst “ masculine princes; whether we speak of learning,

language, or of science, modern, or ancient, divi

nity or humanity: and unto the very last year of “ her life she was accustomed to appoint set hours “ for reading ; scarcely any young student in any

university more daily, or more duly. As for her “ government, I assure myself, I shall not exceed, “ if I do affirm that this part of the island never had

* Page 111,

forty-five years of better times; and yet not

through the calmness of the season, but through “ the wisdom of her regimen. For if there be con“ sidered of the one side, the truth of religion “ established, the constant peace and security, the

good administration of justice, the temperate use “ of the prerogative, not slackened, nor much

strained, the flourishing state of learning, sortable “ to so excellent a patroness, the convenient estate “ of wealth and means, both of crown and subject, the “habit of obedience, and the moderation of discon“ tents; and there be considered, on the other side, “ the differences of religion, the troubles of neigh“ bour countries, the ambition of Spain, and opposi“tion of Rome: and then, that she was solitary and of herself: these things, I say, considered, as I “ could not have chosen an instance so recent and so proper, so, I suppose,

suppose, I could not have chosen

I one more remarkable or eminent to the purpose “ now in hand, which is concerning the conjunction “ of learning in the prince with felicity in the “people."* So he wrote in the year 1605; but, about the year 1612, “ The King," says Wilson,“ cast his ,

“ thoughts towards Peterborough, where his mother lay, whom he caused to be translated to a magnificent tomb, at Westminster. And (somewhat suitable to her mind when she was living) she had a translucent

in the night, through the city of London, by multitudes of torches : the ta

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

passage

* See ante xxxiii.

« AnteriorContinuar »