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Portraiture of the illustrious Author, by Ben,
Jonson, his Contemporary, in his “ Discoveries," p. 101, &c.
THERE happened in my time, one noble Speaker, [Lord Verulam] who was full of gravity in his speaking. His language (where he could spare or pass by a jest) was nobly censorious. No man ever spake more neatly, more expressly, more weightily, or suffered less emptiness, less idleness, in what he uttered. No member of his speech but consisted of the own graces. His hearers could not cough or look aside from him without loss. He commanded, where he spoke; and had his judges angry and pleased at his devotion. No man had their affections more in his power. The fear of every man that heard him, was, lest he should make an end.
-Lord Egerton, the Chancellor, a great and grave orator, &c.
But his learned and able (though unfortunate) successor, [Lord Bacon) is he, who hath filled up all members, and performed that in our tongue, which may be compared or preferred, either to insolent Greece or haughty Rome. In short, within his view, and about his times, were all the wits born, that could honour a language or help study. Now things daily fall; wits grow downward, and eloquence goes backward: so that he may be named, and stand as the mark and dkur) of our language.
My conceit of his person was never increased toward him, by his place or honours. But I have and do reverence him for the greatness that was only proper to himself, in that he seemed to me ever, by his work, one of the greatest men, and most worthy of admiration, that had been in many ages.
To the Right Honourable my very good Lord, the
Duke of Buckingham his Grace, Lord High
Excellent Lord, SOLOMON says, “ a good name is a precious ointment;" and, I assure myself, such will your Grace's name be with posterity; for your fortune and merit both have been eminent; and you have planted things that are like to last.
I do now publish my Essays; which, of all my other works, have been most current: for that, as it seems, they come home to men's business and bosoms. I have enlarged them both in number and weight; so that they are indeed a new work. I thought it therefore agreeable to my affection and obligation to your Grace, to prefix your name before them, both in English and Latin ; for I do conceive, that the Latin Volume of them (being in the universal language) may last as long as books last. My Instauration I dedicated to the King; my History of Henry the Seventh, (which I have now also translated into Latin) and my Portions of Natural History, to the Prince. And these I dedicate to your Grace, being of the best fruits that, by the good increase which God gives to my pen and labours, I could yield. God lead your Grace by the hand.
Your Grace's most obliged
and faithful Servant,
FR. ST. ALBAN,
Of Truth. Wh HAT is Truth? said jesting Pilate, and would
, not stay for an answer. Certainly there be, that delight in giddiness, and count it a bondage to fix a belief; affecting free-will in thinking, as well as in acting. And though the sects of philosophers of that kind be gone, yet there remain certain discoursing wits, which are of the same veins, though there be not so much blood in them, as was in those of the ancients. But it is not only the difficulty and labour, which men take in finding out of Truth; nor again, that when it is found, it imposeth upon men's thoughts, that doth bring lies in favour; but a natural, though corrupt love, of the lie itself. One of the later schools of the Grecians examineth the matter, and is at a stand, to think what should be in it, that men should love lies; where neither they make for pleasure, as with poets, nor for advantage, as with the merchant, but for the lie's sake. But I cannot tell. This same Truth is a naked and open day-light, that doth not shew the masks, and mummeries, and triumphs of the
world, half so stately and daintily as candle-lights. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a pearl, that sheweth best by day; but it will not rise to the price of a diamond or carbuncle, that showeth best in varied lights. A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure. Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of men's minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like; but it would leave the minds of a number of men, poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves ? One of the Fathers in great severity called Poesy, “ the wine of Dæmons,” because it filleth the imagination, and yet it is but with the shadow of a lie. But it is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in, and settleth in it, that doth the hurt, such as we spake of before. But howsoever these things are thus in men's depraved judgments and affections; yet Truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth, that the inquiry of Truth, which is the love-making, or wooing of it; the knowledge of Truth, which is the presence and the belief of Truth, which is the enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human nature. The first creature of God in the works of the days, was the light of the sense; the last was the light of reason; and his Sabbath-work ever since, is the illumination of his spirit. First, he