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HISTORY AND PLAN
Bacon's works were all published separately, and never collected into a body by himself; and though he had determined, not long before his death, to distribute them into consecutive volumes, the order in which they were to succeed each other was confessedly irregular ; a volume of moral and political writings being introduced between the first and second parts of the Instauratio Magna, quite out of place, merely because he had it ready at the time. In arranging the collected works therefore, every editor must use his own judgment.
Blackbourne, the first editor of an Opera Omnia,2 took the Distributio Operis as his groundwork, and endeavoured first to place the various unfinished por
1"Debuerat sequi Novum Organum: interposui tamen Scripta mea Moralia et Politica, quia magis erant in promptu. . . . Atque hic tonus (ut diximus) interjectus est et non ex ordine Instaurationis." — Ep. ad Ful gentium, Opuscula, p. 172.
2 Francisci Baconi, gʻc., Opera Omnia, quatuor voluminibus comprehensa. Londini, MDCCXXX.
tions of the Instauratio Magna in the order in which they would have stood had they been completed according to the original design ; and then to marshal the rest in such a sequence that they might seem to hang together, each leading by a natural transition to the next, and so connecting themselves into a kind of whole. But the several pieces were not written with a view to any such connexion, which is altogether forced and fanciful; and the arrangement has this great inconvenience - it mixes up earlier writings with later, discarded fragments with completed works, and pieces printed from loose manuscripts found after the author's death with those which were published or prepared for publication by himself. Birch, the original editor of the quarto edition in five volumes? which (reprinted in ten volumes octavo) has since kept the market and is now known as the “trade edition,” followed Blackbourne's arrangement in the main, — though with several variations which are for the most part not improvements. The arrangement adopted by Mr. Montagu ? is in these respects no better, in all others much worse. M. Bouillet, in his Euvres Philosophiques de François Bacon,3 does not profess to include all even of the Philosophical works; and he too, though the best editor by far who has yet handled Bacon, has aimed at a classification of the works more systematic, as it seems to me, than the case admits, and has thus given to some of the smaller pieces a prominence which does not belong to them.
1 The Works of Francis Bacon, &c., in five volumes. London, 1763.
2 The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England. A new edition by Basil Montagu, Esq. London, 1825-34.
8 Paris, 1834.
In the edition of which the first volume is here offered to the public, a new arrangement has been attempted; the nature and grounds of which I must now explain.
When a man publishes a book, or writes a letter, or delivers a speech, it is always with a view to some particular audience by whom he means to be understood without the help of a commentator. Giving them credit for such knowledge and capacity as they are presumably furnished with, he himself supplies what else is necessary to make his meaning clear ; so that any additional illustrations would be to that audience more of a hindrance than a help. If however his works live into another generation or travel out of the circle to which they were originally addressed, the conditions are changed. He now addresses a new set of readers, differently prepared, knowing much which the others were ignorant of, ignorant of much which the others knew, and on both accounts requiring explanations and elucidations of many things which to the original audience were sufficiently intelligible. These it is the proper business of an editor to supply.
This consideration suggested to me, when consulted about a new edition of Bacon, the expediency
of arranging his works with reference - not to subject, size, language, or form — but to the different classes of readers whose requirements he had in view when he composed them. So classified, they will be found to fall naturally into three principal divisions. First, we have his works in philosophy and general literature; addressed to mankind at large, and meant to be intelligible to educated men of all generations. Secondly, we have his works on legal subjects ; addressed to lawyers, and presuming in the reader such knowledge as belongs to the profession. Thirdly, we have letters, speeches, charges, tracts, state-papers, and other writings of business ; relating to subjects so various as to defy classification, but agreeing in this they were all addressed to particular persons or bodies, had reference to particular occasions, assumed in the persons addressed a knowledge of the circumstances of the time, and cannot be rightly understood except in relation to those circumstances. In this division every thing will find a place which does not naturally fall into one of the two former ; and thus we have the whole body of Bacon's works arranged in three sufficiently distinguishable classes, which may be called for shortness, 1st, The PhiloSOPHICAL and LITERARY ; 2nd, The PROFESSIONAL; and 3rd, The OCCASIONAL.
In each of these there is work for an editor to do, but the help he can render differs in the several cases both in nature and amount, and requires qualifications differing accordingly. To understand and illustrate the Philosophical works in their relation to this age, a man must be not only well read in the history of science both ancient and modern, but himself a man of science, capable of handling scientific questions. To produce a correct text of the Professional works and supply what other help may be necessary for a modern student, a man must be a lawyer. To explain and interpret the Occasional works, and set them forth in a shape convenient for readers of the present generation, a man must have leisure to make himself acquainted by tedious and minute researches among the forgotten records of the time with the circumstances in which they were written. Now as it would not be easy to find any one man in whom these several qualifications meet, it was thought expedient to keep the three divisions separate, assigning each to a separate editor. It was agreed accordingly that the Philosophical works should be undertaken by Mr. Robert Leslie Ellis ; the Professional works by Mr. Douglas Denon Heath ; the Occasional and the Literary works by me; each division to be made complete in itself, and each editor to be solely responsible for his own part of the work. Such was our original arrangement.