“It was also probably about this time,” writes Mr. Spedding, “that Bacon finally settled the plan of his ‘Great Instauration,’ and began to call it by that name.”
The great thinker and idealist, the great seer of a world of knowledge to which the men of his own generation were blind, and which they could not, even with his help, imagine a possible one, had now won the first step in that long and toilsome ascent to success in life, in which for fourteen years he had been baffled. He had made himself, for good and for evil, a servant of the Government of James I. He was prepared to discharge with zeal and care all his duties. He was prepared to perform all the services which that Government might claim from its servants. He had sought, he had passionately pressed to be admitted within that circle in which the will of the King was the supreme law; after that, it would have been ruin to have withdrawn or resisted. But it does not appear that the thought or wish to resist or withdraw ever presented itself; he had thoroughly convinced himself that in doing what the King required he was doing the part of a good citizen, and a faithful servant of the State and Commonwealth. The two lives, the two currents of purpose and effort, were still there. Behind all the wrangle of the courts and the devising of questionable legal subtleties to support some unconstitutional encroachment, or to outflank the defence of some obnoxious prisoner, the high philosophical meditations still went on; the remembrance of their sweetness and grandeur wrung more than once from the jaded lawyer or the baffled counsellor the complaint, in words which had a great charm for him, Multum incola fuit anima mea—“My soul hath long dwelt” where it would not be. But opinion and ambition and the immense convenience of being great and rich and powerful, and the supposed necessities of his condition, were too strong even for his longings to be the interpreter and the servant of nature. There is no trace of the faintest reluctance on his part to be the willing minister of a court of which not only the principal figure, but the arbiter and governing spirit, was to be George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.
The first leisure that Bacon had after he was appointed Solicitor he used in a characteristic way. He sat down to make a minute stock-taking of his position and its circumstances. In the summer of 1608 he devoted a week of July to this survey of his life, its objects and its appliances; and he jotted down, day by day, through the week, from his present reflections, or he transcribed from former note-books, a series of notes in loose order, mostly very rough and not always intelligible, about everything that could now concern him. This curious and intimate record, which he called Commentarius Solutus, was discovered by Mr. Spedding, who not unnaturally had some misgivings