AD's English Literature : Francis Bacon: Greatest Prose Writer of Classic Status

Francis Bacon: Greatest Prose Writer of Classic Status


Francis Bacon was the greatest prose writer of the late 16th century and also of the early 17th century and till today his essays are considered as of classic status. Most of Bacon’s important work is in Latin. He believed that his works written in English would not receive any lasting impression. He mistrusted the permanence of English as a language. But it’s a pity that we remember Bacon for his essays written in English.  Bacon expressed himself both in English and Latin, and of the two he considered the Latin works to be more important. The ‘Instauratio magna’ was most ambitions work of Bacon. This Latin Work was divided in to six parts. It is Full of this philosophical theories. The divisions are as follows.
Partiones Scientiarum (1623)- This was a classification and summary of all human knowledge.
Novum Organum (1620)- This was a book about the use of reason and experiment instead of the old Aristotelian logic To find truth one must follow two things. He has to get rid of all idols or perjudices. Than he to interrogate nature.
Sylva Sylvarum (left incomplete)- This part was arranged to give a complate view of what we call Natural Philosophy and  Natural History.
Scal intellectuals- It is the rational application of the Organum to all problems. Of this we have only a few of the opening pages.
Prodromi (“Prophecies or Anticipations”) - It is a list of discoveries. A few fragments were written only.
Philosophia Secunda- It is about new philosophy.
Francis Bacon
His English works were ‘Essays’ (1597), ‘Tht Advancement of Learning (1605), ‘The History of Henry VII (1622), ‘Apophthegms’ (1625) and New Atlantis’ (1627).
The first ten essays, published in 1597, were of Bacon’s keen observations on life. Their success astonished the author. After fifteen years they were republished and enlarged. In 1612 the second edition of ‘Essays’ appeared containing thirty-eight essays. And the third edition of this collection republished containing fifty-eight essays in 1625, the year before his death. His essays were not for the common people but for the princes or kings or the aristocratic people of the then time. He essays are compact in style, terse, pithy, packed with thought, antithetical in structures. Practical wisdom is the essence of his essays. From books Bacon turned to men. This was perhaps his greatest contribution to life and literature. Above all Bacon was very much a man of flesh and blood of his time.
HIS  STYLE: Of Bacon as a philosopher we can only say that he is one of the founder of modern systematic thought. His most important literary work is his ‘Essays’ which might be called as a prologue to his longer work-‘The Advancement of Learning’. It provides a practical everyday philosophy. When he wrote ‘Essays’, he had no intention of producing ‘great’ literature. He thought of essays as ‘certain brief notes, set down rather significantly than curiously… The world is late, but the thing is ancient.’ This prose –style becomes a turning point in the History of English Literature . Bacon Shows that good writing is possible even in this limited sphere. Three editions of ‘Essays’ express the development of Bacon’s English style. In the first version the style is crisp, detached, pithy and epigrammatic. In the second edition the ideas are expanded and the expression loses its spiky pointedness. In the third final version the essays become impersonal, objective, orderly in thought, and reflect a cool, scientific detachment. But many of his sentences have become almost a part of our daily language. Here is a few examples:
“A man that hath no virtue in himself ever envieth virtue in others.”
“Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark…”
“The remedy is worse than the disease.”
“The French are wiser then they seem, and the Spaniards seem wiser than they are.”
“Revenge is a kind of wild justice…”
“Some books are to tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
“Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.”
“Wives are young men’s mistresses, Companions for middle age, and old men’s nurses.”
“Fame is like a river that berth up things light and swollen and drowns things weighty and solid.”
“A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.”
“Reading maketh a full man; Conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.”
The essays deal as much with public as with private life, discussing “great place”, nobility, “seditions and troubles”, empire, and  “The true greatness of kingdoms and estates”, as well as true death, parents and children, marriage, envy, love and  “ wisdom for a man’s self.” He speaks as common man of the world, illustrating his generalizations by references to history and his own experience. Bacon describes some of his essays as ‘civill’ and some as ‘morall’. But his civill essays (on political and administrative questions) are less interesting than his morall essays (on human problems like love, marriage, travel, study anger, sickness, death etc.). And Bacon is particularly interesting when he writes about the arts. His essays are blessed with poetic fervour. Bacon was not a poet, but Shelley says: “The distinction between poets and prose writers is a vulgar error. … Plato was essentially a poet. Lord Bacon was a poet…”


Reference: Encarta, Wiki, Internet Archive

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