« AnteriorContinuar »
He was, says he, a-man of too high and severe a deportment, and too great a contemner of ceremony to have many friends at court, and therefore could not but have enemies enough. He was a person of great parts, and extraordinary endowments of nature, not unadorned with some addition of art and learning, though that again was more improved and illustrated by the other; for he had a readiness of conception, and sharpness of ex. preffion, which made his learning thought more than, in truth, it was. His first inclinations and addresses to the court were only to eftablish his greatness in the country, where he apprehended some acts of power from the lord Saville, who had been his rival always there, and of late had strengthened himself by being made a privy-counsellor and officer at court : but his first attempts were so prosperous, that he contented not himself with being secure from that lord's power in the country, but rested not till he had bereaved his adversary of all power and place in court, and so fent him down a most abject, disconfolate old man, to his couna try, where he was to have the superintendency over him too, by getting himself, at this time, made lord-president of the North : These successes, applied to a nature too elate and haughty of itself, and a quicker progress into the greatest employments and trust than usual, made him more transported with disdain of other men, and more contemning the forms of business, than haply he would, if he had met with some interruptions in the be. ginning, and had passed in a more leisurely gradation to the office of a statesman. He was a person of great observation, and a piercing judgment, both in things and persons; but his too good skill in persons, made him judge. the worse of things, for it was his misfortune to be in a time when very few wise men were equally employed with him; and scarce any but the lord Coventry (whose trust was more confined) whose faculties and abilities were equal to his : so that upon the matter he relied wholly upon himself.; and discerning ma. ny
defects in most men, he too much neglected what they said or did. Of all his passions his pride was the most predominant, which a moderate exercise of ili fortune might have corrected and reformed; and which was, by the hand of heaven, ftrangely punished, by bringe ing his destruction upon him by two things, which he most despised, the People, and Sir Harry Vaně. In a word, the epitaph which Plutarch records, that Sylla wrote for himself, may not be unfitly applied to him:
That no man ever did exceed him, either in doing good to his friends, or in doing mischief to his enemies," for his acis of both kinds were: most notorious.
I. HE First Part of Essays, or Counsels,
Civil and Moral: an admirable work; in which our author instructs men in the most useful principles of wisdom and prudence, and teaches how to acquire what are esteemed the greatest bleflings, and how to avoid the evils which are most dreaded in the conduct of human life. His penetration, exa&tness, and perfect skill in all the offices of civil life, appeared to great advantage in this performance; which, as our author himself was sensible,
proved of great service to his character, and promoted the high esteem that was already. conceived of his parts and learning,
The reason why Mr. Bacon published these effays at this time, is assigned in his dedication of them to his brother Mr. Anthony Bacon ; which was, that many of them had stolen abroad in writing, and were very likely to come into the world, in print, with more imperfections than the author thought it just to take upon himself.
About fixteen years afterwards, he had thoughts of publishing a new edition of them, which he intended to dedicate to prince Henry; and in his dedication he inserted a very clear and candid account of the book.
" To write just treatises,” says he, “ re-. quires leisure in the writer, and leisure in the reader ; and therefore are not so fit either in your highness's princely affairs, or in regard of my continual service'; which is the cause that hath made me chuse to write certain brief notes, fet down rather fignificantly than curiously, which I have called Effays. The word is late, but the thing is antient; for Seneca's epiftles to Lucilius, if you mark them well, are but essays ; that is, dispersed meditations, though conveyed in the form of epifles. Thele labours of mine, I know, cannot be worthy of your highness; for what can be worthy of you! But my hope is, they may be as grains of falt, that will rather give you an appetite than offend you with fatiety : and,
although although they handle those things, wherein both mens lives and their persons are most conversant, yet what I have attained I know not; but I have endeavoured to make them not vulgar, but of a nature whereof a man Thall find much in experience and little in books; so as they are neither repetitions nor fancies,
Sir Francis Bacon defigned to have prefixed this epistle to his essays, printed in the year 1612; but was prevented by the prince's death. Yet it was so well liked by Mr. Matthew, that he inserted it in his declaration to the duke of Tuscany, before his translation of those essays printed in 1618. This second edition, when published, the author addressed to Sir John Constable, his brother-in-law. He afterwards sent them abroad, revised and enlarged in Latin and English, dedicating them in both languages to the duke of Buckingham ; in which dedication he tells his grace, that he thought it agrecable to his affection and obli. gations to prefix his name before them, because he conceived they might last as long as books last.
There are other places in our author's writings, in which these essays are mentioned, and in which he expresses a particular sense of their usefulness to mankind; and redounding as much or more to his honour than those large and extensive works which had cost him much greater pains and labour ; in which he certainly was not mistaken.