Bacon: Ii

WE propose in this paper to give some account of Bacon’s writings : and the first place in such an account belongs to his philosophical works relating to the interpretation of Nature.

As Bacon, from his boyhood, was a thinker living in the thick of affairs, with a discursive reason held in check by the pressure of palpable facts, he equally escaped the narrowness of the secluded student and the narrowness of the practical man of the world. It was therefore but natural that, early in his collegiate life, he should feel a contempt for the objects and the methods of the philosophy current among the scholars of his time. The true object of philosophy must be either to increase our knowledge or add to our power. The ancient and scholastic systems seemed to him to have failed in both. They had not discovered truths, they had not invented arts. Admitting that the highest use of knowledge was the pure joy it afforded the intellect, and that its lowest use was its ministration to the practical wants of man, it seemed to him evident that their method led as little to knowledge that enriched the mind as to knowledge that gave cunning to the hands. Aiming at selfculture by self-inspection, rather than by inspection of Nature, they neglected the great world of God for the little world of man ; so that at last it seemed as if the peculiar distinction of knowledge consisted in knowing that nothing could be known. But the question might arise, Was not the barrenness of their results due to the selfish littleness, rather than disinterested elevation, of their aim ? Introduce into philosophy a philanthropic motive, make man the thinker aid man the laborer, unite contemplation with a practical purpose, and discard the idea that knowledge was intended for the exclusive gratification of a few selected spirits, and philosophy would then increase in largeness and elevation as much as it would increase in usefulness; for if such a revolution in its spirit, object, and method could be made, it would continually furnish new truths for the intellect to contemplate from the impetus given to the discovery of new truths by the perception that they could be applied to relieve human necessities. If it were objected that Philosophy could not stoop from her ethical and spiritual heights to the drudgery of investigating natural laws, it might be answered that what God had condescended to create it surely was not ignoble in man to examine ; “ for that which is deserving of existence is deserving of knowledge, the image of existence.” If philosophers had a higher notion of their dignity, Francis Bacon did not share it; and, accordingly, early in life he occupied his mind in devising a method of investigating the secrets of Nature in order to wield her powers.

The conception was one of the noblest that ever entered the mind of man ; but was it accomplished ? As Bacon’s name seems to be stereotyped in popular and scientific speech as the “ father of the Inductive Sciences,” and as all the charity refused to his life has been heaped upon his philosophical labors, it may seem presumptuous to answer this question in the negative ; yet nothing is more certain than that the inductive sciences have not followed the method which he invented, and have not arrived at the results which he proposed to accomplish.

The mistake, as it regards Bacon, has risen principally from confounding Induction with the Baconian method of Induction. If we were to tell our readers that there were great undiscovered laws in Nature, and should strongly advise them to examine particular tacts with great care, in order through them to reach the knowledge of those laws, we should recommend the practice of induction ; but even if they should heed and follow the advice, we much doubt if any scientific discoveries would ensue. Indeed, if Bacon himself could hear the recommendation made, and could adopt the modern mode of spiritual communication, there would be a succession of indignant raps on the editorial table, which, being interpreted, would run thus: “Ladies and gentlemen, the mode of induction recommended to you is radically vicious and incompetent. Truth cannot be discovered in that way; but if you will select any given matter which requires investigation, and will follow the mechanical mode of procedure laid down in my method of induction, Novum Organum, Book II., you will be able, without any special scientific genius, to hunt the very form and essence of the nature you seek to its last hiding-place, and compel it to yield up its innermost secret. All that is required is common capacity, united with persevering labor and combination of purpose.” This is not exactly Bacon’s rhetoric, but as spirits, when they leave the body, seem somehow to acquire a certain pinched and poverty-stricken mode of expression, it will do to convey his idea.

Bacon, the philosopher, is therefore to be considered, not as a man who invented and recommended Induction, for Induction is as old as human nature,— was, in fact, invented by Adam, — and, as practised in Bacon’s time, was the mark of his especial scorn ; but he is to be considered as one who invented and recommended a new method of Induction ; a system of precise rules to guide induction ; a new logic or organ which was to supersede the Aristotelian logic. He proudly called it his art of inventing sciences. A method of investigation presupposes, of course, some conception of the objects to be investigated ; and of the infinite variety and complexity of nature Bacon had no idea. His method proceeds on the notion that all the phenomena of nature arc capable of being referred to combinations of certain abstract qualities of matter, simple natures, which are limited in number if difficult of access. Such are density, rarity, heat, cold, color, levity, tenuity, weight, and the like. These are the alphabet of nature ; and as all words result from the combination of a few letters, so all phenomena result from the combination of a few elements. What is gold, for example, but the co-ordination of certain qualities, such as greatness of weight, closeness of parts, fixation, softness, &c. ? Now, if the causes of these simple natures were known, they might be combined by man into the same or a similar substance; “for,” he says, “if anybody can make a metal which has all these properties, let men dispute whether it be gold or no.” But these qualities are not ultimate ; they are the effects of causes, and a knowledge of the causes will enable us to superinduce the effects. The connection between philosophy and practice is this, that what “ in contemplation stands for cause, in operation stands for means or instrument; for We know by causes and operate by means.” The object of philosophy, therefore, is the investigation of the formal causes of the primaryqualities of body, of those causes which are always present when the qualities are present, always absent when the qualities are absent, increase with their increase, and decrease with their decrease. Facts, then, are the stairs by which we mount into the region of essences ; and, grasping and directing these, we can compel Nature to create new facts, as truly natural as those she spontaneously produces, for Art simply gives its own direction to her working.

From this exposition it will be seen how little foundation there is for Dugald Stewart’s remark, that Bacon avoided the fundamental error of the ancients, according to whom “philosophy is the science of causes ” ; and also for the assertion of Comte and his school, that Bacon was the father of positive science. There is nothing more repugnant to a positivist than the introduction into science of causes and essences, yet it was after these that Bacon aimed. “The spirit of man,” he says, “is as the lamp of God, wherewith he searcheth the inwardness of all secrets.” The word he uses is “ Form,” but Form with him is both cause and essence, an immanent cause, a cause that creates a permanent quality. If he sometimes uses form as synonymous with law, the sense in which he understands law is not merely the mode in which a force operates, but the force itself. Indeed, there is reason to suppose that, much as he decries Plato, he was still willing to use Form as identical with Idea, in the Platonic sense of Idea; for in an aphorism in which he severely condemns the projection of human conceits upon natural objects, he remarks that “ there is no small difference between the idols of the human mind and the ideas of the Divine Mind, that is to say, between certain idle dogmas, and the real stamp and impression of created objects as they are found in Nature.” Coleridge had probably this aphorism in mind when he called Bacon the British Plato.

The object of Bacon’s philosophy, then, is the investigation of the forms of simple natures ; his method is the path the understanding must pursue in order to arrive at this object. This method is a most ingenious but cumbrous machinery for collecting, tabling, sifting, testing, and rejecting facts of observation and experiment which have any relation to the nature sought. It begins with inclusion and proceeds by exclusion. It has affirmative tables, negative tables, tables of comparison, tables of exclusion, tables of prerogative instances. From the mass of individual facts originally collected everything is eliminated, until nothing is left but the form or cause which is sought. The. field of induction is confined, as it were, within a triangular space, at the base of which are the facts obtained by observation and experiment. From these the investigator proceeds inwards, by comparison and exclusion, constantly narrowing the field as he advances, until at last, having rejected all non - essentials, nothing is left but the pure form.

Nobody can read the details of this method, as given at length in the second book of the Novum Organum, without admiration for the prodigious constructive power of Bacon’s mind. The twenty-seven tables of prerogative instances, or “the comparative value of facts as means of investigation,” would alone be sufficient to prove the comprehension of his intellect and its capacity of ideal classification. But still the method is a splendid, unrealized, and, we may add, incompleted dream. He never himself discovered anything by its use ; nobody since his time has discovered anything by its use. And the reason is plain. Apart from its positive defects, there is this general criticism to be made, that a true method must be a generalization from the mental processes which have been followed in discovery and invention ; it cannot precede them. If Bacon really had devised the method which succeeding men of science slavishly followed, he would deserve more than the most extravagant panegyrics he has received. Aristotle is famous as a critic for generalizing the rules of epic and dramatic poetry from the practice of Homer and the Greek tragedians ; what fame would not be his, if his rules had preceded Homer and the Greek dramatists ? Yet Macaulay, aud many others who have criticised Bacon, while pretending to undervalue all rules as useless, still say that Bacon’s analysis of the inductive method is a true and good analysis, and that the method has since his time been instinctively followed by all successful investigators of Nature,—as if Bacon did not construct his inductive rules from a deep-rooted distrust of men’s inductive instincts. But it is plain to everybody who has read Comte and Mill and Whewell, that the method of discovery is still a debatable question, and, with all our immense superiority to the age of Bacon in facts on which to build a method, we have settled as yet on no philosophy of the objects or the processes of science. There are many disputed methods, but no accepted method; the anarchy of opinions corresponds to the anarchy of metaphysics ; and the establishment of a philosophy of discovery and invention must wait the establishment of a philosophy of the mind which discovers and invents.

But we know enough to give the reasons of Bacon’s failure. The defects of his Method can be collected from the separate judgments of his warmest eulogists. First, Bacon was no mathematician, and Playfair admits that “in all physical inquiries where mathematical reasoning has been employed, after a few principles have been established by experience, a vast multitude of truths, equally certain with the principles themselves, have been deduced from them by the mere application of geometry and algebra.” Bacon’s prevision, then, did not extend to the foresight of the great part that mathematical science was to play in the interpretation of Nature. Second, Sir John Herschel, who follows Playfair in making Bacon the father of experimental philosophy, still gives a deadly blow to Bacon’s celebrated tables of prerogative instances, considered as real aids to the understanding, when he admits that the same sagacity which enables an inquirer to assign an instance or observation to its proper class, enables him, without that process, to recognize its proper value. Third, Sir James Mackintosh, who claims for Bacon, that, if he did not himself make discoveries, he taught mankind the method by which discoveries are made, and who asserts that the physical sciences owe all that they are or ever will be to Bacon’s method and spirit, refers to the 104th aphorism of the first book of the Novum Organum, as containing the condensed essence of his philosophy. This aphorism affirms that the path to the most general truths is a series of ascending inductive steps; that the lowest generalizations must first be established, then the middle principles, then the highest. It is curious that Mackintosh should praise a philosopher of facts for announcing a theory which facts have disproved. The merest glance at the history of the sciences shows that the opposite principle is rather the true one ; that the most general principles have been first reached. Mill can only excuse Bacon for this blunder by saying that he could not have fallen into it if there had existed in his time a single deductive science, such as mechanics, astronomy, optics, acoustics, &c., now are. Of course he could not; but the fact remains that he did not foresee the course or prescribe the true method of science, and that he did not even appreciate the way in which his contemporaries, Kepler and Galileo, were building up sciences by processes different from his own. It is amazing, however, that Mackintosh, with the discovery of the law of gravitation, the most universal of all natural laws, as an obvious instance against the theory, should have adopted Bacon’s error.

Fourth, Bacon’s method of exclusion, the one element of his system which gave it originality, proceeds, as John Mill has pointed out, on the assumption that a phenomenon can have but one cause, and is therefore not applicable to coexistences as to successions of phenomena.

Fifth, Bacon’s method, though it proceeds on a conception of nature which is an hypothesis exploded, and though it is itself an hypothesis which has proved sterile, still does not admit of hypotheses as guides to investigation. The last and ablest editor of his Philosophical Works, Mr. Ellis, concedes the practical inutility of his method on this ground, that the process by which scientific truths have been established “involves an element to which nothing corresponds in Bacon’s tables of comparison and exclusion, namely, the application to the facts of observation of a principle of arrangement, an idea, existing in the mind of the discoverer antecedently to the act of induction.”

Indeed, Bacon’s method was disproved by his own contemporaries. Kepler tried twenty guesses on the orbit of Mars, and the last proved correct. Galileo deduced important principles from assumptions, and then brought them to the test of experiment. Gilbert’s hypothesis, that “the earth is a great natural magnet with two poles,” is now more than an hypothesis. The Novum Organum contains a fling at the argument from final causes ; and the very year it was published, Harvey, the friend and physician of Bacon, by reasoning on the final cause of the valves in the veins, discovered the circulation of the blood. All these men had the scientific instinct and scientific genius that Bacon lacked. They made no antithesis between the anticipation of nature and the interpretation of nature, but they anticipated in order to interpret. It is not the disuse of hypotheses, but the testing of hypotheses by facts, and the willingness to give them up when experience decides against them, which characterizes the scientific mind.

Sixth, Bacon, though he aimed to institute a philosophy of observation, and gave rules for observing, was not himself a sharp and accurate observer of Nature, —did not possess, as has often been remarked, acuteness in proportion to his comprehensiveness. His Natural History, his History of Life and Death, of Density and Rarity, and the like, all prove a mental defect disqualifying him for the business. His eye roved when it should have been patiently fixed. He caught at resemblances by the instinct of his wideranging intellect ; and this peculiarity, constantly indulged, impaired his power of distinguishing differences. He spread his mind over a space so large that its full strength was concentrated on nothing. He could not check the discursive action of his intellect, and hold it down to the sharp, penetrating, dissecting analysis of single appearances ; and his brain was teeming with too many schemes to allow of that mental fanaticism, that fury of mind, which impelled Kepler to his repeated assaults on the tough problem of the planetary orbits. The same comprehensive multiplicity of objects which prevented him from throwing his full force into affairs, and taking a decided stand as a statesman, operated likewise to dissipate his energies as an explorer of Nature. The analogies, relations, likenesses of things occupied his attention to the exclusion of a searching examination of the things themselves. As a courtier, lawyer, jurist, politician, statesman, man of science, student of universal knowledge, he has been practically excelled in each department by special men, because his intellect was one which refused to be arrested and fixed.

And, in conclusion, the essential defect of the Baconian method consisted in its being an invention of genius to dispense with the necessity of genius. It was, as Mr. Ellis has well remarked, “ a mechanical mode of procedure, pretending to lead to absolute certainty of result.” It levelled capacities, because the virtue was in the instrument used, and not in the person using it. Bacon illustrates the importance of his method by saying that a man of ordinary ability with a pair of compasses can describe a better circle than a man of the greatest genius without such help ; that the lame, in the path, outstrip the swift who wander from it ; indeed, the very skill and swiftness of him who runs not in the right direction only increases his aberration. With his view of philosophy, as the investigation of the forms of a limited number of simple natures, he thought that, with “the purse of a prince and the assistance of a people,” a sufficiently copious natural history might be formed, within a comparatively short period, to furnish the materials for the working of his method; and then the grand instauration of the sciences would be rapidly completed. In this scheme there could, of course, be only one great name, — the name of Bacon. Those who collected the materials, those who applied the method, would be only his clerks. His office was that of Secretary of State for the interpretation of Nature ; Lord Chancellor of the laws of existence, and legislator of science ; Lord Treasurer of the riches of the universe ; the intellectual potentate equally of science and art, with no aristocracy round his throne, but with a bureauocracy in its stead, taken from the middle class of intellect and character. There was no place for Harvey and Newton and Halley and Dalton and La Place and Cuvier and Agassiz, for genius was unnecessary; the new logic, the Novum Organum, Bacon himself, mentally alive in the brains which applied his method, was all in all. Splendid discoveries would be made, those discoveries would be beneficently applied, but they would be made by clerks and applied by clerks. All were latent in the Baconian method, and over all the completed intellectual globe of science, as in the commencement of the Novum Organum, would be written, “Francis of Verulam thought thus!" And if Bacon’s method had been really followed by succeeding men of science, this magnificent autocracy of understanding and imagination would have been justified ; and round the necks of each of them would be a collar, on which would be written, “ This person is so and so, ‘ born thrall of Francis of Verulam.’ ” That this feeling of serene spiritual superiority, and consciousness ot being the founder of a new empire in the world of mind, was in Bacon, we know by the general tone of his writings, and the politic contempt with which he speaks of the old autocrats, Aristotle and Plato ; and Harvey, who knew him well, probably intended to hit this imperial loftiness, when he described him as “writing philosophy like a Lord Chancellor.” “The guillotine governs !” said Barrère, gayly, when some friend compassionated his perplexities as a practical statesman during the Reign of Terror. “ The Method governs ! ” would have been the reply of a Baconian underling, had the difficulties of his attempts to penetrate the inmost mysteries of nature been suggested to him.

Thus by the use of Bacon’s own method of exclusion we exclude him from the position due of right to Galileo and Kepler. In the inquiry respecting the father of the inductive sciences, he is not “the nature sought.” What, then, is the cause of his fame among the scientific men of England and France ? They certainly have not spent their time in investigating the forms of simple natures ; they certainly have not used his method ; why have they used his name ?

In answer to this question, it may be said that Bacon, participating in the intellectual movement of the higher minds of his age, recognized the paramount importance ot observation and experiment in the investigation of Nature ; and it has since been found convenient to adopt, as the father and founder of the physical sciences, one whose name lends to them so much dignity, and who was undoubtedly one of the broadest, richest, and most imperial of human intellects, if he were not one of the most scientific. Then he is the most eloquent of all discoursers on the philosophy of science, and the general greatness of his mind is evident even in the demonstrable errors of his system. No other writer on the subject is a classic, and Bacon is thus a link connecting men of science with men of letters and men of the world. Whewell, Comte, Mill, Herschel, with more abundant material, with the advantage of generalizing the philosophy of the sciences from their history, are instinctively felt by every reader to be smaller men than Bacon. As thinkers, they appear thin and unfruitful as compared with his fulness of suggestive thought; as writers, they have no pretension to the massiveness, splendor, condensation, and regal dignity of his rhetoric. The Advancement of Learning, and the first book of the Novum Organum, are full of quotable sentences, in which solid wisdom is clothed in the aptest, most vivid, most imaginative, and most executive expression. If a man of science at the present day wishes for a compact statement in which to embody his scorn of bigotry, of dogmatism, of intellectual conceit, of any of the idols of the human understanding which obstruct its perception of natural truth, it is to Bacon that he goes for an aphorism.

And it is doubtless true that the spirit which animates Bacon’s philosophical works is a spirit which inspires effort and infuses cheer. It is impossible to say how far this spirit has animated inventors and discoverers. But we know from the enthusiastic admiration expressed for him by men of science, who could not have been blind to the impotence of his method, that all minds his spirit touched it must have influenced. One principle stands plainly out in his writings, that the intellect of man, purified from its idols, is competent for the conquest of nature ; and to this glorious task he, above all other men, gave an epical dignity and loftiness. His superb rhetoric is the poetry of physical science. The humblest laborer in that field feels, in reading Bacon, that he is one of a band of heroes, wielding weapons mightier than those of Achilles and Agamemnon, engaged in a siege nobler than that of Troy; for, in so far as he is honest and capable, he is “ Man, the minister and interpreter of Nature,” engaged, “not in the amplification of the power of one man over his country, nor in the amplification of the power of that country over other countries, but in the amplification of the power and kingdom of mankind over the universe.” And, while Bacon has thus given an ideal elevation to the pursuits of science, he has at the same time pointed out most distinctly those diseases of the mind which check or mislead it in the task of interpretation. As a student of nature, his fame is greater than his deserts; as a student of human nature, he is hardly yet appreciated ; and it is to the greater part of the first book of the Novum Organum, where he deals in general reflections on those mental habits and dispositions which interfere with pure intellectual conscientiousness, and where his beneficent spirit and rich imagination lend sweetness and beauty to the homeliest practical wisdom, that the reader impatiently returns, after being wearied with the details of his method given in the second book. His method was antiquated in his own lifetime; but it is to be feared that centuries hence his analysis of the idols of the human understanding will be as fresh and new as human vanity and pride.

It was not, then, in the knowledge of Nature, but in the knowledge of human nature, that Bacon pre-eminently excelled. By this it is not meant that he was a metaphysician in the usual sense of the term, though his works contain as valuable hints to metaphysicians as to naturalists ; but these hints are on matters at one remove from the central problems of metaphysics. Indeed, for all those questions which relate to the nature of the mind and the mode by which it obtains its ideas, for all questions which are addressed to the speculative reason alone, he seems to have felt an aversion almost irrational They appeared to him to minister to the delight and vain-glory of the thinker, without yielding any fruit of wisdom which could be applied to human affairs. “ Pragmatical man,” he says, “should not go away with an opinion that learning is like a lark, that can mount, and sing, and please herself, and nothing else; but may know that she holdeth as well of the hawk, that can soar aloft, and can also descend and strike upon the prey.” Not, then, the abstract qualities and powers of the human mind, considered as special objects of investigation independent of individuals, but the combination of these into concrete character, interested Bacon. He regarded the machinery in motion, the human being as he thinks, feels, and lives, men in their relations with men ; and the phenomena presented in history and life he aimed to investigate as he would investigate the phenomena of the natural world. This practical science of human nature, in which the discovery of general laws seems hopeless to every mind not ample enough to resist being overwhelmed by the confusion, complication, and immense variety of the details, and which it will probably take ages to complete, — this science Bacon palpably advanced. His eminence here is demonstrable from his undisputed superiority to other prominent thinkers in the same department. Hallam justly remarks, that “ if we compare what may be found in the sixth, seventh, and eighth books De Augmentis ; in the Essays, the History of Henry VII., and the various short treatises contained in his works on moral and political wisdom, and on human nature, from experience of which all such wisdom is drawn, — if we compare these works of Bacon with the rhetoric, ethics, and politics of Aristotle, or with the histories most celebrated for their deep insight into civil society and human character, — with Thucydides, Tacitus, Philip de Comines, Machiavel, Davila, Hume,— we shall, I think, find that one man may be compared with all these together.”

The most valuable peculiarity of this wisdom is, that it not merely points out what should be done, but it points out how it can be done. This is especially true in all his directions for the culture of the individual mind ; the mode by which the passions may be disciplined, and the intellect enriched, enlarged, and strengthened. So with the relations of the individual to his household, to society, to government, he indicates the method by which these relations may be known and the duties they imply performed. In his larger speculations regarding the philosophy of law, the principles of universal justice, and the organic character of national institutions, he anticipates, in the sweep of his intellect, the ideas of the jurists and historians of the present century. Volumes have been written which are merely expansions of this statement of Bacon, that “there are in nature certain fountains of justice, whence all civil laws are derived but as streams ; and like as waters do take tinctures and tastes from the soils through which they run, so do civil laws vary according to the regions and governments where they are planted, though they proceed from the same fountain.” The Advancement of Learning, afterwards translated and expanded into the Latin treatise De Augmentis, is an inexhaustible storehouse of such thoughts,-—thoughts which have constituted the capital of later thinkers, but which never appear to so much advantage as in the compact imaginative form in which they were originally expressed.

It is important, however, that, in admitting to the full Bacon’s just claims as a philosopher of human nature, we should avoid the mistake of supposing him to have possessed acuteness in the same degree in which he possessed comprehensiveness. Mackintosh says that he is “probably a single instance of a mind which in philosophizing always reaches the point of elevation whence the whole prospect is commanded, without ever rising to that distance which prevents a distinct perception of every part of it.” This judgment is accurate as far as regards parts considered as elements of a general view, but in the special view of single parts he has been repeatedly excelled by men whom it would be absurd to compare to him in general wisdom. His mind was contracted to details by effort; it dilated by instinct. It was telescopic rather than microscopic; its observation of men was extensive rather than minute. “ Were it not better,” he says, “ for a man in a fair room to set up one great light, or branching candlestick of lights, than to go about with a small watch-candle into every corner ? ” Certainly, but the small watch-candle in some investigations is better than the great central lamp ; and his genius accordingly does not include the special genius of such observers as La Bruyère, Rochefoucauld, Saint-Simon, Balsac, and Shaftesbury, — the detective police of society, politics, and letters,— men whose intellects were all contracted into a sharp, sure, cat-like insight into the darkest crevices of individual natures, — whose eyes dissected what they looked upon, — and to whom the slightest circumstance was a key that opened the whole character to their glance. For example: Saint-Simon sees a lady, whose seemingly ingenuous diffidence makes her charming to everybody. He peers into her soul, and declares, as the result of his vision, that “modesty is one of her arts.” Again, after the death of the son of Louis XIV., the court was of course overwhelmed with decorous grief; the new dauphin and dauphiness were especially inconsolable for the loss ; and, to all witnesses but one, were weeping copiously. SaintSimon simply says, “ Their eyes were wonderfully dry, but well managed.” Bacon might have inferred hypocrisy.; but he would not have observed the lack of moisture in the eyes amid all the convulsive sobbing and the agonized dips and waves of the handkerchief. Take another instance : The Duke of Orleans amazed the court by the diabolical recklessness of his conduct. St. Simon alone saw that ordinary vices had no pungency for him ; that he must spice licentiousness with atheism and blasphemy in order to derive any pleasure from it ; and solves the problem by saying that he was “born bored,” — that he took up vice at the point at which his ancestors had left it, and had no choice but to carry it to new heights of impudence or to reject it altogether. Again, to take an example from a practical politician: Shaftesbury, who played the game of faction with such exquisite subtlety in the reign of Charles II., detected the fact of the secret marriage between the king’s brother and Anne Hyde by noticing at dinner that her mother, Lady Clarendon, could not resist expressing a faint deference in her manner when she helped her daughter to the meat; and on this slight indication he acted as confidently as if he had learned the fact by being present at the wedding.

Now neither in his life nor in his writings does Bacon indicate that he had studied individuals with this keen attentiveness. His knowledge of human nature was the result of the tranquil deposit, year after year, into his receptive and capacious intellect, of the facts of history and of his own wide experience of various kinds of life. These he pondered, classified, reduced to principles, and embodied in sentences which have ever since been quotable texts for jurists, moralists, historians, and statesmen ; and all the while his own servants were deceiving and plundering him, and his followers enriching themselves with bribes taken in his name. The “small watch-candle” of the brain would have been valuable to him here.

The work by which his wisdom has reached the popular mind is his collection of Essays. As originally published in 1597, it contained only ten ; in the last edition published in his lifetime, the number was increased to fiftyseven. The sifted result of much observation and meditation on public and private life, he truly could say of their matter, that “it could not be found in books.” Their originality can hardly be appreciated at present, for most of their thoughts have been incorporated with the minds which have fed on them, and have been continually reproduced in other volumes. Yet it is probable that these short treatises are rarely thoroughly mastered, even by the most careful reader. Dugald Stewart testifies that after reading them for the twentieth time he observed something which had escaped his attention in the nineteenth. They combine the greatest brevity with the greatest beauty of expression. The thoughts follow each other with such rapid ease; each thought is so truly an addition, and not an expansion of the preceding; the point of view is so continually changed, in order that in one little essay the subject may be considered on all its sides and in all its bearings; and each sentence is so capable of being developed into an essay, — that the work requires long pauses of reflection, and frequent reperusal, to be estimated at its full worth. It not merely enriches the mind, it enlarges it, and teaches it comprehensive habits of reflection. The disease of mental narrowness and fanaticism it insensibly cures, by showing that every subject can be completely apprehended only by viewing it from various points ; and a reader of Bacon instinctively meets the fussy or furious declaimer with the objection, “ But, sir, there is another side to this matter.”

It was one of Bacon’s mistakes to believe that he would outlive the English language. Those of his works, therefore, which were not written in Latin he was eager to have translated into that tongue. The “ Essays,”coming home as they did to “men’s business and bosoms,” he was persuaded would “ last as long as books should last ; and as he thought, to use his own words, “ that these modern languages would at some time or other play the bankrupt with books,” he employed Ben Jonson and others to translate the Essays into Latin. A Dr. Willmott published, in 1720, a translation of this Latin edition into what he called reformed and fashionable English. We will give a specimen. Bacon, in his Essay on Adversity, says: “ Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, adversity is the blessing of the New.....Yet even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David’s harp, you shall hear as many hearse-like airs as carols.” Dr. Willmott Englishes the Latin in this wise : “ Prosperity belongs to the blessings of the Old Testament, adversity to the beatitudes of the New. Yet even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David’s harp, you ’ll find more lamentable airs than triumphant ones.” This is translation with a vengeance !

Next to the Essays and the Advancement of Learning, the most attractive of Bacon’s works is his Wisdom of the Ancients. Here his reason and imagination, intermingling or interchanging their processes, work conjointly, and produce a magnificent series of poems, while remorselessly analyzing imaginations into thoughts. He supposes that, anterior to the Greeks, there were thinkers as wise as Bacon ; that the heathen fables are poetical embodiments of secrets and mysteries of policy, philosophy, and religion ; truths folded up in mythological personifications ; “ sacred relics,” indeed, or “abstracted, rarefied airs of better times, which by tradition from more ancient nations fell into the trumpets and flutes of the Grecians.” He, of course, finds in these fables what he brings to them, the inductive philosophy and all. The book is a marvel of ingenuity, and exhibits the astounding analogical power of his mind, both as respects analogies of reason and analogies of fancy. Had Bacon lived in the age of Plato and Aristotle, and written this work, he would have fairly triumphed over those philosophers; for he would have reconciled ancient philosophy with ancient religion, and made faith in Jupiter and Pan consistent with reason.

But the work in which Bacon is most pleasingly exhibited is his philosophical romance, The New Atlantis. This happy island is a Baconian Utopia, a philosopher’s paradise, where the Novum Organum is, in imagination, realized, and utility is carried to its loftiest idealization. In this country the king is good, and the people are good, because everything, even commerce, is subordinated to knowledge. “Truth” here “ prints goodness.” All sensual and malignant passions, all the ugly deformities of actual life, are sedately expelled from this glorious dream of a kingdom where men live in harmony with each other and with nature, and where observers, discoverers, and inventors are invested with an external pomp and dignity and high place corresponding to their intellectual elevation. Here is a college worthy of the name, Solomon’s House, “the end of whose foundation is the knowledge of causes and the secret motions of things, and the enlarging the bounds of human empire to the effecting of all things possible ” ; and in Solomon’s House Bacon’s ideas are carried out, and man is in the process of “ being restored to the sovereignty of nature.” In this fiction, too, the peculiar beneficence of Bacon’s spirit is displayed ; and perhaps the finest sentence in his writings, certainly the one which best indicates the essential feeling of his soul as he regarded human misery and ignorance, occurs in his description of one of the fathers of Solomon’s House. “ His countenance,” he says, “ was as the countenance of one who pities men.”

But, it may still be asked, how was it that a man of such large wisdom, with a soul really of such pervasive beneficence, was so comparatively weak and pliant in his life ? This question touches his mind no less than his character ; and it must be said that, both in the action of his mind and the actions of his life, there is observable a lack both of emotional and moral intensity. He is never impassioned, never borne away by an overmastering feeling or purpose. There is no rush of ideas and passions in his writings, no direct contact and close hug of thought and thing. Serenity, not speed, is his characteristic. Majestic as is the movement of his intellect, and far-reaching its glance, it still includes, adjusts, feels into the objects it contemplates, rather than darts at them like Shakespeare’s or pierces them like Chaucer’s. And this intelligence, so wise and so worldly wise, so broad, bright, confident, and calm, with the moral element pervading it as an element of insight rather than as a motive of action, — this was the instrument on which he equally relied to advance learning and to advance Bacon. As a practical politician, he felt assured of his power to comprehend as a whole, and nicely to discern the separate parts, of the most complicated matter which pressed for judgment and for volition. Exercising insight and foresight on a multitude of facts and contingencies all present to his mind at once, he aimed to evoke order from confusion, to read events in their principles, to seize the salient point which properly determines the judgment, and then act decisively for his purpose, safely for his reputation and fortune. Marvellous as this process of intelligence is, it is liable both to corrupt and mislead unless the moral sentiment is strong and controlling. The man transforms himself into a sort of earthly providence, and by intelligence is emancipated from strict integrity. But the intellectual eye, though capable, like Bacon’s, of being dilated at will, is no substitute for conscience, and no device has ever yet been invented which would do away with the usefulness of simple honesty and blind moral instinct. In the most comprehensive view in politics something is sure to be left out, and that something is apt to vitiate the sagacity of the whole combination.

Indeed, there is such a thing as being over wise in dealing with practical affairs, and the defect of Bacon’s intellect is seen the moment we compare it with an intellect like that of Luther. Bacon, with his serene superiority to impulse, and his power of giving his mind at pleasure its close compactness and fan-like spread, could hardly have failed to feel for Luther that compassionate contempt with which men possessing many ideas survey men who are possessed by one ; yet it is certain that Luther never could have got entangled in Bacon’s errors, for his habit was to cut knots which Bacon labored to untie. Men of Luther’s stamp never aim to be wise by reach but by intensity of intelligence. They catch a vivid glimpse of some awful spiritual fact, in whose light the world dwindles and pales, and then follow its inspiration headlong, paying no heed to the insinuating whispers of prudence, and crashing through the glassy expediencies which obstruct their path. Such natures, in the short run, are the most visionary; in the long run, the most practical. Bacon has been praised by the most pertinacious revilers of his character for his indifference to the metaphysical and theological controversies which raged around him. They do not seem to see that this indifference came from his deficiency in those intense moral and religious feelings out of which the controversies arose. It would have been better for himself had he been more of a fanatic, for such a stretch of intelligence as he possessed could be purchased only at the expense of dissolving the forces of his personality in meditative expansiveness, and of weakening his power of dealing direct blows on the instinct or intuition of the instant.

But while this man was without the austerer virtues of humanity, we must not forget that he was also without its sour and malignant vices ; and he stands almost alone in literature, as a vast dispassionate intellect, in which the sentiment of philanthropy has been refined and purified into the subtile essence of thought. Without this philanthropy or goodness, he tells us, “ man is but a better kind of vermin ” ; and love of mankind, in Bacon, is not merely the noblest feeling but the highest reason. This beneficence, thus transformed into intelligence, is not a hard opinion, but a rich and mellow spirit of humanity, which communicates the life of the quality it embodies ; and we cannot more fitly conclude than by quoting the noble sentence in which Bacon, after pointing out the mistakes regarding the true end of knowledge, closes by divorcing it from all selfish egotism and ambition. “ Men,” he says, “ have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite ; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation ; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction ; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of man ; as if there were sought in knowledge 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 commandingground for strife or contention ; or a shop for profit and sale ; and not a rich storehouse, for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man’s estate.”