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IN this volume are combined with the world-famous Essays of Lord Bacon his summary of learning as it was in his day—its then possessions and its needs-a treatise which awoke the learned of Europe to an earnest desire of improvement, and widely extended the reign of knowledge; his Wisdom of the Ancients, in which he finds a new and remarkably ingenious sense (chiefly political) in the myths of the old world; his Atlantis, a dream of a new world; his Life of Henry VII. and historical fragments.
The Editor is indebted to Mr. Wright's edition for the reference to St. Augustine (p. 2, note 2), and for a reference to Juvenal in Essay 2, P. 4, note 5.
The Scripture references are always given, as they vary from our own translation, being taken from the Vulgate. Our present Bible was published only in 1611, while the Essays appeared (1st edition) in 1597, and the Advancement of Learning in 1605. Slight differences in the translation therefore appear, which make reference to both versions desirable; the Douay Bible is referred to as the translation of the Latin Vulgate.
A large glossary has been added to the volume for those who may wish to know the exact meaning of all Bacon's words, though, like Shakespeare, he is always intelligible by the context.
FRANCIS BACON was born January 22, 1560 (old style), at York House, which stood at the end of Buckingham Street, Strand, on the banks of the Thames. One last vestige of it is still to be seen: the fine water gate by Inigo Jones, which still stands by the gardens of the Embankment. He was the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, the first Lord Keeper of the Seals invested with the dignity and power of a Lord Chancellor. Sir Nicholas was a learned and excellent man, of remarkable prudence and integrity. Bacon's mother (Ann Cooke) was also a woman of remarkable intelligence. She was the daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, who had been preceptor to Edward VI., and who was celebrated for his ability as a classical scholar. His daughter shared the erudition which the ladies of her period possessed; could read Greek, and ably translated from the Latin Bishop Jewel's Apology for the Church of England. She also spoke and wrote well both
Italian and French.
Her sons were worthy of her. Anthony, though not possessed of his brother's genius, appears to have been a clever and very excellent person; morally, perhaps Bacon's superior.
Francis gave early signs of his future turn for philosophical research. He broke his drums and trumpets "to look for the sound"; he left some ordinary out-of-door sport to discover the cause of an echo ; and at twelve years old, Macaulay tells us, "he busied himself with ingenious speculations on the art of legerdemain."
Sir Nicholas Bacon was a favourite with Queen Elizabeth. His son relates that when Queen Elizabeth came to his house at Gormanbury, she exclaimed—very rudely, we should say—" My lord, what a little house you have gotten!" "Madam," replied the Lord Keeper, "my house is well; but it is you that have made me too great for my house."
The Queen distinguished the Lord Keeper's gifted boy by her especial notice, and asked him various questions, all of which he answered so intelligently that she called him, laughing, her young Lord Keeper. She asked him his age. The boy promptly replied
that he was two years younger than her Grace's happy reign. Here was the readiness of wit and the apt flattery of the future Chancellor. Bacon entered Trinity College, Cambridge, towards the close of his thirteenth year, but as his father intended him for the diplomatic profession he was removed from Cambridge at the age of sixteen without having taken a degree, and was placed with Sir Amyas Paulet, the Queen's ambassador at Paris. He was occasionally employed in offices of trust, and finally settled at Poictiers, where he devoted three years to study. He was recalled to England by the sudden death of his father, who perished, as a certain king of Spain is said to have died, through the over-reverent scruples of his attendant. He had been under the hands of his barber, and the weather being very warm, sat by an open window, where he fell asleep. He awoke chilled and shivering.
"Why," said he to his servant, "did you suffer me to sleep thus exposed?"
The man answered that he durst not disturb him.
66 Then," ," said the Lord Keeper, "by your civility I lose my life." He retired to his bed-chamber, and died in a few days.
Sir Nicholas had set apart a considerable sum for his youngest and favourite son, to purchase an estate for him; but he had not willed it to Francis, and in consequence of this sudden demise Bacon had only his share of a sum left between him and his four brothers-the younger children of Sir Nicholas's first marriage, and his own brother.
Bacon was now nineteen, and it became imperative on him to adopt a profession for his support. He chose, rather from necessity than preference, that of the law, and placed himself as a student in Gray's Inn. For ten or twelve years he studied assiduously, and was named by Elizabeth her counsel extraordinary. About this time he published a sketch of his philosophical ideas, called the "Greatest Birth of Time," but it fell silently from the press and proved an actual injury to his future prospects.
His uncle, Lord Burleigh, was then Minister, and his influence ruled his royal mistress. To him Bacon continually applied for some appointment, which would help him, or open the door of advancement to him. But Burleigh was utterly incapable of understanding his gifted nephew; and his son, Sir Robert Cecil, was probably jealous of him, for both he and his father did their worst to injure him. Burleigh assured the Queen that the “Greatest Birth of Time” was full of the wildest dreams, and that Bacon was utterly unfit for business. Perhaps, however, to silence his continued importuning, Burleigh soon after gave his nephew the reversion of the office of Registrar of the Star Chamber; but as the place did not fall due till after the expiration of twenty years, Bacon had small cause to be grateful for it.