Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Thomas White, Printer, Crane Court.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

PREFACE.

THE Advancement of Learning was published in English, in the year 1605. "Some short time after the publication, Sir Francis Bacon was desirous that it should be translated into Latin; and, for this purpose, he applied to Dr. Playfer, the Margaret professor of divinity in the university of Cambridge," by a letter in which he says, "Wherefore since I have only taken upon me to ring a bell, to call other wits together, (which is the meanest office) it cannot but be consonant to my desire, to have that bell heard as far as can be. And, since they are but sparks which can work but upon matter prepared, I have the more reason to wish, that those sparks may fly abroad, that they may the better find and light upon those minds and spirits which are apt to be kindled. And therefore the privateness of the language considered, wherein it is written, excluding so many readers; as on the other side, the obscurity of the argument in many parts of it, excludeth many others; I must account it a second birth of that work, if it might be translated into Latin, without manifest loss of the sense and matter."

Dr. Playfer's wish to comply with this request,

See Preface to vol. II. ante.

For the whole letter, see vol. II. Preface, iii.

and his failure is thus stated by Archbishop Tenison,* "The Doctor was willing to serve so excellent a person, and so worthy a design, and within a while sent him a specimen of a Latin translation. But men generally come short of themselves when they strive to outdo themselves; they put a force upon their natural genius, and, by straining of it, crack and disable it and so it seems it happened to that worthy and elegant man. Upon this great occasion he would be over-accurate; and he sent a specimen of such superfine Latinity, that the Lord Bacon did not encourage him to labour further in that work, in the penning of which, he desired not so much neat and polite, as clear, masculine, and apt expression."

This was probably in 1606 or 1607, for Dr. Playfer's death, is thus recorded by Bishop Hackett, in his life of Archbishop Williams. "On Candlemass-day Anno 1608, his reverend friend Dr. Playfer departed out of this world, in the 46th year of his life, in his flower and prime ; whose greatest well-wishers did not wish him alive again, because his rarely beautified wits, with which he had even inchanted his hearers in so many estivat commencements, were now more and more distempered. Yet Mr. Williams wept over him, and exceeded in grief, as if a child had lost his father. The University making preparation for the solemn funeral of so great an ornament to it, the Vicechancellor that then was, Dr. Jeggon, possessed the

*Baconiana, 25.

pulpit to preach, and Mr. Williams was required to be the orator, to give him a farewell of due praise in the chapel of St. John's College. He pleaded the truth, that his sorrow would not grant him such a dispassionate mind, as was fit to compose a panegyrick and that in the space of three days, and for such a man as Dr. Playfer. And with this excuse he held off, till Dr. Clayton set upon it to enforce the task on him that could best discharge it, threatened him with expulsion, if he refused that service to which his superiours had allotted him. An hard condition, and such as might have been disputed, as long after I heard him argue upon it. But then he yielded, whether fair means or foul means overcame him I know not: But I think rather love than fear got the upper hand of grief. And when his turn came to speak upon the day of the obsequies, O what a tunable musique he made between his rhetorique and his tears! for both flowed together. How curious were his apostrophes! How moving were his passions! How winning his pronunciation! Many pauses he was compelled to make by the applause and humming of the swarms about him in the close of his periods. When he had done, and the assembly brake up, it was in every mouth, that Playfer's eloquence was not dead with him, while this orator was alive. Let me trouble this narrative with a small interjection. I was myself in the throng among those that heard this oration, newly admitted into Trinity-College, that being the

second day wherein I wore my purple gown. This being the first exercise that I heard in Cambridge in the Latin tongue, I thought it was a city paved all with emeraldes, and that such learning and such silver elocution was common to them all."*

Lord Bacon's anxiety that his work should be translated into Latin, was not checked by this disappointment. In his letter to the Bishop of Winchester concerning his published and intended writings, written in 1622, and prefixed to his "Advertisement touching a Holy War," he says, "for that my book of Advancement of Learning may be some preparative, or key, for the better opening of the Instauration; because it exhibits a mixture of new conceits and old; whereas the Instauration gives the new unmixed, otherwise than with some little aspersion of the old for taste's sake; I have thought good to procure a translation of that book into the general language, not without great and ample additions, and enrichment thereof, especially in the second book, which handleth the partition of sciences; in such sort, as I hold it may serve in lieu of the first part of the Instauration, and acquit my promise in that part."+ And in his letter, without a date to Father Fulgentio, he says, "I am now desirous to communicate to your Father

* In the London Magazine for November 1823, there is the expression of the same sentiment, with respect to the University of Oxford.

+ See ante, vol. vii. p. 113. Baconiana, 196.

« AnteriorContinuar »