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dation of a true and active philosophy.”(@)-Such are the causes assigned by Lord Bacon, each deserving a separate consideration.
The first of these two reasons is " because I number my days, and would have it saved.” The meaning of this cannot be mistaken. Bacon was born in the year 1560. His health was always delicate. Etiam, he says, nonnihil hominibus spei fieri putamus ab exemplo nostro proprio; neque jactantiæ causâ hoc dicimus, sed quòd utile dictu sit. Si qui diffidant, me videant, hominem inter homines ætatis meæ civilibus negotiis occupatissimum, nec firmâ admodum valetudine (quod magnum habet temporis dispendium), atque in hâc re planè protopirum, et vestigia nullius secutum, neque hæc ipsa cum ullo mortalium communicantem; et tamen veram viam constantèr ingressum, et ingenium rebus submittentem, hæc ipsa aliquatenùs (ut existimamus) provexisse. (a)
In the year 1617, when he was fifty-seven years of age, the great seals were offered to him. Unmindful of the feebleness of his constitution; un
(1) Postea, xii.
(a) “ We judge also that mankind may conceive some hopes from our example, which we offer, not by way of ostentation, but because it may be useful. If any one therefore should despair, let him consider a man as much employed in civil affairs as any other of his age, a man of no great share of health, who must therefore have lost much time, and yet, in this undertaking, he is the first that leads the way, unassisted by any mortal, and steadfastly entering the true path, that was absolutely untrod before, and submitting his mind to things, may somewhat have advanced the design."-Shaw's Translation.
mindful of his love of contemplation, and that genius is rarely prompt in action or consistent in general conduct : (6)—Unmindful of his own words, “I ever bore a mind to serve his majesty in some middle place that I could discharge, not as a man born under Sol, that loves honour; nor under Jupiter, that loves business; for the contemplative planet carries me away wholly." (c) -Unmindful of his own words,“ Men in great place are thrice servants : servants of the sovereign in state; servants of fame; and servants of business : so as they have no freedom neither in their persons, nor in their actions, nor in their times. Power they seek, and lose liberty : they seek power over others, and lose power over themselves."(d)-Unmindful of his
( admonition, “ Accustom(e) your mind to judge of the proportion or value of things, and do that substantially and not superficially; for if you observe well, you shall find the logical part of some men's minds good, but the mathematical part nothing worth :
(6) Their early habits have been those of contemplative indolence; and the day-dreams, with which they have been accustomed to amuse their solitude, adapt them for splendid speculation, not temperate and practicable counsels.-COLERIDGE.
(c) Letter to Lord Burleigh.
(e) Hobbes, who was intimate with Lord Bacon, says, in his preface to the Leviathan, “ But there is another saying not of
, late understood, by which they might learn truly to read one another, if they would take the pains; and that is, 'nosce teipsum,' read thyself: which was not meant, as it is now used, to countenance, either the barbarous state of men in power towards their inferiors; or to encourage men of low degree to a saucy behaviour towards their betters; but to teach us, that for the simi
that is, they can judge well of the mode of attaining the end, but ill of the value of the end itself; and hence some men fall in love with access to princes ; others, with popular fame and applause, supposing they are things of great purchase, when, in many cases, they are but matters of envy, peril, and impediment.” (S)-Unmindful of his own doctrine how much “worldly pursuits divert and interrupt the prosecution and advancement of knowledge, like unto the golden ball thrown before Atalanta, which, while she goeth aside and stoopeth to take up, the race is hindered
Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit.” (8) litude of the thoughts and passions of one man to the thoughts and passions of another, whosoever looketh into himself, and considereth what he doth when he does think, opine, reason hope, fear, &c., and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know what are the thoughts and passions of all other men upon the like occasions. I say the similitude of passions, which are the same in all men, desire, fear, hope, &e.; not the similitude of the objects of the passions, which are the things desired, feared, hoped, &c.: for these the constitution individual, and particular education do so vary, and they are so easy to be kept from our knowledge, that the characters of man's heart, blotted and confounded as they are, with dissembling, lying, counterfeiting, and erroneous doctrines, are legible only to him that searcheth hearts.”
“Give e'en a fool the employment he desires
And he soon finds the talents it requires." Cowper. “ As a man thou hast nothing to commend thee to thyself, but that only by which thou art a man, that is by what thou chusest and refusest."-Bishop TAYLOR.
(S) Advancement of Learning. Vol. ii. 286.
(8) Advancement of Learning. Vol. ii. p. 52; and Wisdom of the Ancients, Atalanta. Vol. iii. p. 66.
Regardless of these important truths, so deeply impressed upon his mind, he, either deluding himself with the supposition that, in place he had more power to do good, (h) or, influenced by worldly ambition, like “ the seeled dove which mounts and mounts, because he cannot see about him; (i) or
(h) In his Essay on Great Place, he says, “ In place there is license to do good and evil; whereof the latter is a curse: for in evil the best condition is not to will; the second not to can. But power to do good is the true and lawful end of aspiring ; for good thoughts (though God accept them), yet towards men are little better than good dreams, except they be put in act; and that cannot be without power and place, as the vantage and commanding ground." But in the Advancement of Learning, he says, “ The merits of founders of states, lawgivers, extirpers of tyrants, and other eminent persons in civil merit, are commonly confined within the circle of an age or nation, and are not unlike seasonable and favouring showers, which, though they be profitable and desirable, yet serve but for that season wherein they fall, and for a latitude of ground which they water: but the merits of the inventors and authors of new arts, such as endow man's life with new commodities and accessions, like the influences of the sun and the heavenly bodies, are for time permanent, for place universal :—those again are commonly mixed with strife and perturbation : but these have the true character of divine presence, and come in ‘ aura leni,' without noise or agitation."(See Vol.ii. p. 62.) And to the same effect Bishop Berkeley, in his minute philosopher says. “ For my part, I should think a man, who spent his time in such a painful impartial search after truth, a better friend to mankind than the greatest statesman or hero: the advantage of whose labours is confined to a little part of the world, and a short space of time: whereas a ray of truth may enlighten the whole world, and extend to future ages,"
(i) Essay on Ambition, ante. Vol. i. 127,
goaded by worldly want; or actuated by his favourite opinion, that perfection consisted in the union of contemplation and action, of Saturn the planet of rest and Jupiter the planet of action, he, in an evil hour accepted the offer.
“ Forth reaching to the fruit, he pluck'd, he eat."
One of the consequences was the publication of the Novum Organum in its present state; the sacrifice of his favourite work, upon which he had been engaged for thirty years, and had twelve times transcribed with his own hand. (w)
The second reason assigned by Lord Bacon for the publication of the Novum Organum in 1620 is, to try whether I can get help in one intended part of this work, namely, the compiling of a Natural and Experimental History, which must be the foundation of a true and active philosophy. (6) The meaning of this seems also to be obvious. Lord Bacon's conviction of the importance of Natural History, as the primitive matter of philosophy, appears in every part of his works in the Advancement of Learning ; (a) the Sylva Sylvarum ; (.r) the New Atlantis; (c) the Wisdom of the Antients; (d) and the Novum Organum. It seems probable, therefore, that he availed himself of the moment when power was entrusted to him, to induce the king to assist in the formation of “such a collection of natural history
(w) See Rawley's Life, and postea, xii.
(d) Vol. iii. p. 31.