Imágenes de páginas

præsertim lucifera illa, et instantiæ crucis, per quas de veris rerum causis intellectui constare possit; mandata damus de experimentis novis. Hæc sint tanquam Historia Designata. Quid enim aliud nobis primo viam ingredientibus relinquitur? Modum experimenti subtilioris explicamus, ne error subsit, atque ut alios ad meliores modos excogitandos excitemus.

Etiam monita et cautiones de rerum fallaciis et inveniendi erroribus, quæ nobis occurrunt, aspergimus. Observationes nostras super historiam et experimenta subteximus, ut interpretatio naturæ magis sit in procinctu.

Etiam canones, sed tamen mobiles, et axiomata inchoata, qualia nobis inquirentibus, non pronunciantibus, se offerunt, constituimus: utilia enim sunt, si non prorsus vera.1

Denique tentamenta quædam interpretationis quandoque molimur, licet prorsus humi repentia, et vero interpretationis nomine nullo modo (ut arbitramur) decoranda. Quid enim nobis supercilio opus est aut impostura, cum toties profiteamur, nec nobis historiam et experimenta, qualibus opus est, suppetere, nec absque his interpretationem naturæ perfici posse; ideoque nobis satis esse, si initiis rerum non desimus ?

Perspicuitatis autem et ordinis gratia, aditus quosdam ad inquisitiones, instar præfationum, substernimus: item connexiones et vincula, ne inquisitiones sint magis abruptæ, interponimus.

Ad usum vero vellicationes quaedam de practica suggerimus. Etiam optativa eorum, quæ adhuc non habentur, una cum proximis suis, ad erigendam humanam industriam, proponi


Neque sumus nescii, inquisitiones inter se aliquando complicari, ita ut nonnulla ex inquisitis in titulos diversos incidant. Sed modum eum adhibebimus, ut et repetitionum fastidia et rejectionum molestias, quantum fieri possit, vitemus; postponentes tamen hoc ipsum (quando necesse fuerit) perspicuitati docendi, in argumento tam obscuro.

Hæc est Abecedarii norma et regula. Deus universi Conditor, Conservator, et Instaurator, opus hoc et in ascensione ad gloriam suam et in descensione ad bonum humanum, pro sua erga homines benevolentia et misericordia, protegat et regat, per Filium suum unicum nobiscum Deum.

Utiles and veræ in the original.—J. S.






Or the five treatises which in the dedication of the Historia Naturalis Bacon proposes to publish in five successive months, or even within a shorter period, the Historia Vita et Mortis stands last in the list of titles. But it was Bacon's intention that it should be published next in order to the Historia Ventorum, and this intention was fulfilled, though not as soon as he had proposed; the Historia Vitæ et Mortis not being published until 1623.


Bacon's reason for giving it precedence of the other histories is mentioned in the Aditus or preface, the extreme importance of the subject to which it relates, namely "the prolongation and setting up of human life," a matter "in quâ vel minima temporis jactura pro pretiosâ haberi debet." Yet we may surely be permitted to doubt whether it be wise to regard longevity as in itself a thing desirable, and whether we are at liberty to seek to prolong life by other appliances than those by which health may be improved, or at least by which it cannot be impaired. If health and long life can be regarded as independent objects of pursuit, it may be said that we are bound to make our option for the former, seeing that we come into the world to perform duties for which enfeebled health more or less unfits us, and that it would be no addition to human happiness if we could succeed in making all men long-lived valetudinarians. Moreover, it is hard to see how the systematic pursuit of longevity is to be reconciled with the professions of men who speak of themselves as sojourners upon the

1 Vita hominum proroganda et instauranda.

earth and pilgrims. This difficulty Bacon himself perceived; and both in the following Aditus and in a corresponding passage in the De Augmentis where he is explicitly speaking of long life as a distinct object of pursuit, he remarks that though to Christian men the world is but a wilderness, yet it is to be accounted a blessing if our shoes and garments do not wax old by the way; an illustration by which the difficulty is not removed. Not to insist upon it, and admitting that the love of life is at any rate the most natural of all weaknesses, we may yet regard it as a happy circumstance that long life is apparently not to be attained by artificial means, and certainly not by means which tend to endanger health.

In the passage of the De Augmentis already referred to, Bacon complains that physicians have not sufficiently recognised the prolongation of life as one of the objects which their art should seek to obtain. The question had however been asked, whether life could be prolonged by other means than those which are used to preserve health, or to improve it. Thus Flacius in his Commentatio de Vitâ et Morte [1584] decides this question by asserting that health and longevity depend on the same causes, and must therefore be promoted by the same means. But from this view Bacon altogether dissents; and he therefore divides the duty of the physician into three distinct parts: the preservation of health; the cure of diseases; and the prolongation of life. In speaking of the last, he warns men not to confound the treatment which conduces to health with that which conduces to long life. Some things there are, he says, which promote the alacrity of the spirits and increase the vigour of the functions, and are of use in warding off disease; and which nevertheless shorten life and accelerate the decay of old age. Contrariwise there are others which are of use in lengthening life, and yet cannot be used without endangering health; wherefore they who employ them must obviate the inconveniences which they might else occasion by other means.

The Historia Vita et Mortis is in fact an essay on this third part of medicine, "quæ nova est et desideratur, estque omnium nobilissima." In none of Bacon's writings is there more appearance of research; he has collected a great number of instances of longevity, and in attempting to find something

Flacius, iv. 23.

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