« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
his History of Henry VII.' On the meeting of the new parliament, also, he drew up Considerations of a War with Spain;' and furnished Heads of a Speech' for his friend Sir Edward Sackville upon the same subject. These services were so well received, that upon an application to his Majesty for a full remission of his sentence, he easily obtained it.* In
they consoled themselves with letters and philosophy. These examples (as he himself declares) confirmed him in the resolution, to which he was otherwise inclined, of devoting the remainder of his time wholly to writing: and he might have adopted the language, in which Cicero addresses philosophy; Ad te confugimus, à te opem petimus, tibi nos, ut anteà magnâ ex parte, sic nunc penitùs totosque tradimus."
That with so many grounds of mortification, external and internal, he should have been led occasionally to practise the virtue of humility, cannot excite surprise. It was a noble reply, which he made to the French embassador, on being compared by him for his Essays to an angel; "If the politeness of others compare me to an angel, my own infirmities remind me that I am a man.'
His love of science was not less strikingly marked by the calmness, with which he received from one of his friends an account of the failure of an application made by him for an important favour to court. "Be it so," said he; then turning to his chaplain, to whom he was at that moment dictating a statement of some experiments in natural philosophy, he added "if that business will not succeed, let us go on with this, which is in our power;" and continued the subject without any hesitation of speech, or apparent alienation of thought.
* In the warrant directed for that purpose to the AttorneyGeneral, his Majesty observed, that his Lordship had already satisfied justice by his sufferings; and himself being always inclined to temper justice with mercy, and likewise calling to remembrance his former good services, and how well and profitably he had spent his time since his troubles, he was graciously pleased to remove from him that blot of ignominy which yet remained upon him, of incapacity and disablement, and to remit to him all penalties whatsoever inflicted by that sentence.'
consequence of this pardon, his Lordship was summoned to the second parliament of Charles I.; but his infirmities prevented him from taking his seat. Foreseeing now that his end was approaching, he committed by his will several of his Latin and philosophical compositions to Sir William Boswell, his Majesty's agent in Holland (where they were, subsequently, published by Gruter) and his Orations and Letters to Sir Humphrey May Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Williams Bishop of Lincoln, who succeeded to the possession of the Great Seal; injoining them, at the same time, not to be divulged, as "touching too much on persons and matters of state." Through this judicious disposition of his papers, the greater part of them have, at different times, been given to the world.
By the severe winter, which followed the infectious summer of 1625, he was exceedingly reduced: but the spring reviving his spirits, he made a little excursion into the country, in order to try some experiments in natural philosophy, and being suddenly taken ill, after a week's indisposition, expired April 9, 1626.*
By his lady, the wealthy daughter of Alderman Barnham of London, whom he married when about the age of forty, he left no issue.
* It is to be regretted, that no memorial remains of his last hours, except a letter addressed by himself to the Earl of Arundel, under whose roof at Highgate he died. In this, he compares himself to the elder Pliny, who lost his life by approaching too near Mount Vesuvius during an eruption: and hence, perhaps, it may be fairly concluded (as suggested in the text) that he felt conscious of having exposed himself to some noxious effluvia, in the course of his preceding experiments.
Thus did he at last owe his death to an excess not unbecoming a philosopher, in pursuing, with more application than his strength could bear, some inquiries concerning the conservation of bodies. His remains were privately interred in St. Michael's Church, near St. Alban's; and the spot which held them remained undistinguished, till a monument was erected to his memory by Sir Thomas Meautys, who had formerly been in his service, and afterward by descent succeeded to the possession of a considerable estate. In another country, in a better age (says Mr. Mallet) his monument would have stood a public proof in what veneration the whole society held a citizen, whose genius did them honour, and whose writings will instruct their latest posterity. Verses indeed, in various languages, were written to his honour by the most eminent scholars of the University of Cambridge; but his most honourable memorial is to be found in his own immortal compositions.
It was the misfortune of Bacon to be cursed with false ambition, ever restlessly over-heating itself in the pursuit of honours which the Crown alone can bestow. This stimulated to base compliances a heart, naturally formed for great and noble ends, and betrayed him into measures full as mean as avarice itself. This degraded his lofty faculties, contracted his views into the little point of selfinterest, and steeled his feelings alike against the rebukes of conscience and the sense of true honour. The only thing, says Brucer, to be regretted in his writings is, that he has increased the difficulties necessarily attending his original and profound researches by too freely making use of new terms, and by loading his arrangement with an excessive
multiplicity and minuteness of divisions. But an attentive and accurate reader, already somewhat acquainted with philosophical subjects, will meet with no insuperable difficulties in studying his works; and, unless he be a wonderful proficient in science, will reap much benefit as well as pleasure from the perusal. He is to be ranked, in fine, in the first class of modern philosophers; having unquestionably belonged to that superior order of men who by enlarging the boundaries of human knowledge have been benefactors to mankind, and truly deserving to be stiled, on account of the new track of science which he followed, The Columbus of the philosophical world.'
As another cause of his errors, it may be remarked that his application to his studies prevented his attention to the necessary rules for the common conduct of life. The effect of this, coupled with his suspicious connivances at his servants, was a fatal want of regularity in his domestic arrangements. As to money, like many other eminent philosophers, he disdained to study it's value, and therefore he despised it. I will not even name another crime imputed to him by his contemporary Sir Simon D'Ewes,* though apparently sustained by some of the abovestated parts of his conduct. Suffice it, that posterity seem to have accepted the bequest, contained in a singular passage of his last will: "For my name and memory, I leave it to men's charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and the next ages;" his offences being only slightly recorded out of deference to his
* See Hearne's Historia Vitæ et Regni Ricardi II., Angliæ Regis, à Monacho quodam de Evesham consignata,' p. 385.
torical truth, while the most ample tribute is universally paid to his talents and acquirements.
Of his philosophical labours, next to his Essays appeared his Treatise On the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, Divine and Human,' published in 1605. Of this the object was, to give a summary account of the stock of knowledge, which mankind then possessed; to lay down this knowledge under such natural branches, or scientifical divisions, as might most commodiously admit of it's farther improvement; to point out it's deficiencies, or desiderata; and, lastly, to show through examples the direct ways, by which these deficiencies are to be supplied. After his retirement from public business, he considerably enlarged and corrected the original; and, with the assistance of some friends, translated the whole into Latin. This is the edition of 1623, and is properly the first part of his Grand Instauration of the Sciences.** In 1607, he sent a Latin treatise entitled Cogitata et Visa,' to his friend Dr. Andrews, Bishop of Ely, desiring his opinion of it: the same method, likewise, he adopted with Sir Thomas Bodley.† The motive of his cautious procedure in both cases was, that this treatise contained the plan of his Novum Organum,' which he was most anxious to transmit to posterity in the highest attainable perfection.
* See p. 450, Note *.
+ In his works is preserved a small discourse in English, under the Latin title of Filum Labyrinthi,' containing the original draught of his Cogitata et Visa. Such is said to have been the anxiety of the illustrious writer upon this subject, that he revised and altered twelve copies, before he brought it to the state in which it was finally published. Bodley's answer is highly honourable to him.