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Gorges: a Book in which the Sages of former times are rendered more wife than it may be they were, by fo dextrous an Interpreter of their Fables. It is this Book which Mr. Sandys means, in those Words which he hath put before his Notes on the Metamorphofis of Ovid. Of modern Writers, I have received the greatest Light from Geraldus, Pontanus, Ficinus, Vives, Comes, Scaliger, Sabinus, Pierius, and the Crown of the latter, the Viscount of St. Albans.'
"It is true, the Design of this Book was Inftruction in natural and civil matters, either couched by the Ancients under those Fictions, or rather made to seem to be fo by his Lordship's Wit, in the opening and applying of them. But because the first ground of it is poetical Story, therefore let it have this place, till a fitter be found for it.”
The Author of Bacon's Life, in the Biographia Britannica, fays, "That he might relieve himself a little from the Severity of these Studies, and as it were amuse himself with erecting a magnificent Pavilion, while his great Palace of Philosophy was building he compofed and fent abroad in 1610, his celebrated Treatife Of the Wisdom of the Ancients, in which he fhewed that none had ftudied them more closely, was better acquainted with their beauties, or had pierced deeper into their meaning. There have been very few Books published, either in this or in any other Nation, which either deserved or met with more general applause than this, and scarce any that are like to retain it longer, for in this Performance Sir Francis Bacon gave a singular proof of his Capacity to please all parties in
Literature, as in his political conduct he stood fair with all the parties in the Nation. The Admirers of Antiquity were charmed with this Discourse, which seems expreffly calculated to justify their admiration; and, on the other hand, their oppofites were no less pleased with a piece, from which they thought they could demonstrate that the Sagacity of a modern Genius had found out much better Meanings for the Ancients than ever were meant by them."
And Mallet, in his Life of Bacon, fays, "In 1610 he published another Treatise, entitled Of the Wisdom of the Ancients. This Work bears the same stamp of an original and inventive genius with his other Performances. Refolving not to tread in the steps of those who had gone before him, Men, according to his own expreffion, not learned beyond certain common places, he strikes out a new Tract for himself, and enters into the most fecret Receffes of this wild and fhadowy Region, so as to appear new on a known and beaten Subject. Upon the whole, if we cannot bring ourfelves readily to believe that there is all the physical, moral, and political Meaning veiled under thofe Fables of Antiquity, which he has discovered in them, we must own that it required no common penetration to be mistaken with so great an appearance of probability on his fide. Though it ftill remains doubtful whether the Ancients were fo knowing as he attempts to fhew they were, the variety and depth of his own knowledge are, in that very attempt unquestionable."
In the year 1619, this Tract was tranflated by
Sir Arthur Gorges. Prefixed to the Work are two Letters; the one to the Earl of Salisbury, the other to the University of Cambridge, which Gorges omits, and dedicates his tranflation to the high and illuftrious Princess the Lady Elizabeth of Great Britain, Duchefs of Baviare, Countess Palatine of Rheine, and Chief Electrefs of the Empire.
This Tranflation, it should be noted, was published during the Life of Lord Bacon by a great Admirer of his Works.
The editions of this work with which I am acquainted are: