Bacon eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 253 pages of information about Bacon.
this was to have his books translated into the “general language.”  He sends Prince Charles the Advancement in its new Latin dress.  “It is a book,” he says, “that will live, and be a citizen of the world, as English books are not.”  And he fitted it for continental reading by carefully weeding it of all passages that might give offence to the censors at Rome or Paris.  “I have been,” he writes to the King, “mine own Index Expurgatorius, that it may be read in all places.  For since my end of putting it in Latin was to have it read everywhere, it had been an absurd contradiction to free it in the language and to pen it up in the matter.”  Even the Essays and the History of Henry VII. he had put into Latin “by some good pens that do not forsake me.”  Among these translators are said to have been George Herbert and Hobbes, and on more doubtful authority, Ben Jonson and Selden.  The Essays were also translated into Latin and Italian with Bacon’s sanction.

Bacon’s contemptuous and hopeless estimate of “these modern languages,” forty years after Spenser had proclaimed and justified his faith in his own language, is only one of the proofs of the short-sightedness of the wisest and the limitations of the largest-minded.  Perhaps we ought not to wonder at his silence about Shakespeare.  It was the fashion, except among a set of clever but not always very reputable people, to think the stage, as it was, below the notice of scholars and statesmen; and Shakespeare took no trouble to save his works from neglect.  Yet it is a curious defect in Bacon that he should not have been more alive to the powers and future of his own language.  He early and all along was profoundly impressed with the contrast, which the scholarship of the age so abundantly presented, of words to things.  He dwells in the Advancement on that “first distemper of learning, when men study words and not matter.”  He illustrates it at large from the reaction of the new learning and of the popular teaching of the Reformation against the utilitarian and unclassical terminology of the schoolmen; a reaction which soon grew to excess, and made men “hunt more after choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses,” than after worth of subject, soundness of argument, “life of invention or depth of judgment.”  “I have represented this,” he says, “in an example of late times, but it hath been and will be secundum majus et minus in all times;” and he likens this “vanity” to “Pygmalion’s frenzy”—­“for to fall in love with words which are but the images of matter, is all one as to fall in love with a picture.”  He was dissatisfied with the first attempt at translation into Latin of the Advancement by Dr. Playfer of Cambridge, because he “desired not so much neat and polite, as clear, masculine, and apt expression.”  Yet, with this hatred of circumlocution and prettiness,

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Bacon from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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