In February, 1601, there was the rebellion of Essex. Francis Bacon had separated himself from his patron after giving him advice that was disregarded. Bacon, now Queen’s Counsel, not only appeared against his old friend, but with excess of zeal, by which, perhaps, he hoped to win back the Queen’s favour, he twice obtruded violent attacks upon Essex when he was not called upon to speak. On the 25th of February, 1601, Essex was beheaded. The genius of Bacon was next employed to justify that act by “A Declaration of the Practices and Treasons attempted and committed by Robert late Earle of Essex and his Complices.” But James of Scotland, on whose behalf Essex had intervened, came to the throne by the death of Elizabeth on the 24th of March, 1603. Bacon was among the crowd of men who were made knights by James I., and he had to justify himself under the new order of things by writing “Sir Francis Bacon his Apologie in certain Imputations concerning the late Earle of Essex.” He was returned to the first Parliament of James I. by Ipswich and St. Albans, and he was confirmed in his office of King’s Counsel in August, 1604; but he was not appointed to the office of Solicitor-General when it became vacant in that year.
That was the position of Francis Bacon in 1605, when he published this work, where in his First Book he pointed out the discredits of learning from human defects of the learned, and emptiness of many of the studies chosen, or the way of dealing with them. This came, he said, especially by the mistaking or misplacing of the last or furthest end of knowledge, as if there were sought in it “a couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground for strife and contention; or a shop for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man’s estate.” The rest of the First Book was given to an argument upon the Dignity of Learning; and the Second Book, on the Advancement of Learning, is, as Bacon himself described it, “a general and faithful perambulation of learning, with an inquiry what parts thereof lie fresh and waste, and not improved and converted by the industry of man; to the end that such a plot made and recorded to memory may both minister light to any public designation and also serve to excite voluntary endeavours.” Bacon makes, by a sort of exhaustive analysis, a ground-plan of all subjects of study, as an intellectual map, helping the right inquirer in his search for the right path. The right path is that by which he has the best chance of adding to the stock of knowledge in the world something worth labouring for; and the true worth is in labour for “the glory of the Creator and the relief of man’s estate.”