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Sir Edward Coke, Bacon's old rival, who had not been in the House for some years, was returned to the Parliament that met on January 30, 1621. On February 5 he moved the appointment of a committee to investigate public grievances. Certain objectionable monopolies were at once brought to the attention of the committee; and in March the King in a speech alleged that in granting these patents "he grounded his judg- against ment upon others who had misled him❞— of whom Bacon was one. On March 14 a petitioner to the House of Commons alleged that two and a half years before the Lord Chancellor had received money from him for the despatch of a pending suit; other similar accusations followed. At first Bacon defended himself, saying to the King:
"For the briberies and gifts wherewith I am charged, when the books of hearts shall be opened, I hope I shall not be found to have the troubled fountain of a corrupt heart, in a depraved habit of taking rewards to prevent justice; howsoever I may be frail, and partake of the abuses of the times."
But when the twenty-three articles of the charge as finally formulated were laid before him, Bacon, Bacon's now in shattered health, attempted no further confession defence, but confessed himself guilty of corruption. In his memoranda on the matter he writes:
"There be three degrees or cases, as I conceive, of gifts or rewards given to a judge. The first is of bargain, contract, or promise of reward, pendente lite [the suit pending]. And of this my heart tells me I am innocent; that I had no bribe or reward in my eye or thought when I pronounced any sentence or order. The second is a neglect in the judge to inform himself whether the cause be fully at an end, or no, what time he receives the gift; but takes it upon the credit of the party that all is done, or otherwise omits to inquire. And the third is, when it is received sine fraude [without fraud], after the cause ended; which it seems, by the opinions of the civilians, is no offence." Elsewhere he adds: "For the second, I doubt in some particulars I may be faulty. And for the last, I conceived it to be no fault."
Parliament decreed that he should pay a fine of £40,000, be imprisoned in the Tower during the King's pleasure,
be thenceforth incapable of holding office or sitting in Parliament, and not be allowed to come within twelve miles of the court; thus insisting that public officers were responsible to the state as well as to the King. Bacon acquiesced; "I was the justest judge," said he, “that was in England these fifty years; but it was the justest censure in Parliament that was these two hundred years." He was confined in the Tower only two or three days; and in September his fine was remitted and assigned to trustees for his benefit. In few months, having yielded up York House to Cranfield and Buckingham, he was once more allowed to live in London. But he could never procure a full pardon.
The years that remained to Bacon were spent at Gray's Inn and Gorhambury, in retirement and in literary labors. In 1622 he published his History of Henry VII, the first English attempt at philosophical history, which takes high rank as a classic; he also wrote a fragment of an Advertisement Touching an Holy War- a war which Bacon apparently desired to be waged against the Turks. In the following year he wrote A History of Life and Death, which received the commendation of Haller, a great medical writer; and published a much expanded Latin translation of The Advancement of Learning. His Apophthegms and Translations of Certain Psalms appeared in 1624; "Essays," and in the following year he published the third edition of his Essays. The last work upon which he was engaged was his Sylva Sylvarum, "Wood of Woods," or 'Natural History," which was published in 1627.
Third edition of the
Literary work be
Toward the end of March, 1626, in the course of a journey from London to Highgate, Bacon desired to experiment on the effect of snow in preserving flesh. He purchased a fowl and stuffed it with snow; a chill seized him and forced him to stop at Lord Arundel's house. Here, on April 9, he died. He was buried in St. Michael's Church, St. Albans.
Thus ended the career of a man of genius; a life of great achievements in statecraft and in philosophy, a life
characterized, however, by such apparent inconsistencies that Pope could describe Bacon as "the wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind;" and to this description some recent writers have rather too closely conformed. He has been condemned for the basest ingratitude to Essex, for the most fawning and unblushing flattery and sycophancy, for deliberately perverting justice to please the Favorite. His chief energy, it is said, was given to a shameless scram- conflictble for wealth and position and power, which ing judgutterly belies his expressions of devotion to science and philosophy. This view of Bacon, however, character is hardly consistent with the genuine affection expressed by friends such as Dr. Rawley, his chaplain, Peter Boëner, his apothecary and secretary, and Sir Toby Matthew, to whom Bacon dedicated his Essay of Friendship; or with all of the facts which Bacon himself so frankly committed to paper. The unselfish labors of some modern scholars, chief of whom is James Spedding, have done much to restore to Bacon the reputation that is rightfully his.
ments of Bacon's
To judge Bacon justly, we must bear in mind the circumstances of his times. We have already considered the Essex affair. As for indulging in flattery, Bacon Consideradoubtless did so to excess; yet we must bear in tions demind that good form then required some flattery. manded by justice The proof that he perverted justice is not forthcoming; the most that can be said is that in one instance only, the case of Dr. Steward and his nephew,1 there is a reasonable inference that at Buckingham's request Bacon reversed a decision with the possible result that justice was thwarted. When we remember how frequently Buckingham tried to induce Bacon to be partial to certain persons, we can only commend Bacon for his constancy, suspending judgment further until all the facts of the case in question are brought to light. That Bacon was too fond of pomp and circumstance and wealth is probably true; that he was excessively extravagant and wasteful is too evident from his extant financial records. He was careless about debts; he
1 See Spedding, Letters and Life, vi, 441-446, vii, 579-588; abridged Life, ii, 276-278; Abbott, Bacon, xviii-xxix, 268, 269.
died owing three times the value of his estate, but in the belief that there would be "a good round surplusage." He was doubtless indifferent, moreover, to high ethical standards and to the impression made by his own conduct; he was too often plastic in the hands of unscrupulous men; yet it has been pointed out more than once that Bacon might have advanced more rapidly had he shaped his course differently.
All things considered, Bacon may be described as a great statesman, to whom politics were not wholly congenial, but who faithfully served his country and his king even though his policies could not always be carried into exemate cution; as a great natural philosopher, whose passionate devotion to the advancement of science was a religion, and who, though indifferent to the importance of contemporary discoveries which he should have recognized, nevertheless gave a great impetus to the method of induction, on which all modern science is based; and as a man who in the school of experience learned some of the great lessons of life, and who, chastened by adversity, furnished "a memorable example to all of virtue, kindness, peacefulness, and patience." With all his faults he was no craven. Like Brutus he fell on evil days; and in Antony's words we may boldly say,
"His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
We have seen that Bacon was a voluminous writer; yet his title to literary fame rests chiefly on two works, The Advancement of Learning and the Essays; and to the latter we must now direct our attention.
The germs of the Essays are to be found in those Antitheses of Things of which Bacon gives forty-seven sets in his Latin Advancement, and of which he there speaks as follows:
"I would have in short all topics which there is frequent occasion to handle (whether they relate to proofs and refutations, or to persuasions and dissuasions, or to praise and blame) studied and prepared beforehand; and not only so, but the case exaggerated both ways with the utmost force of the wit, and urged unfairly, as it were, and quite beyond the truth. And the best way of making such a collection, with a view to use as well as brevity, would be to contract those commonplaces into certain acute and concise sentences; to be as skeins or bottoms of thread which may be unwinded at large when they are wanted."
As a specimen of these Antitheses, may be given no. xli, Delay, which should be compared with Essay xxi :
Fortune sells many things to him that is in a hurry, which she gives to him that waits.
While we hasten to take hold of the beginnings of things, we grasp shadows.
While things are wavering, watch; when they have taken their direction, act.
Opportunity offers the handle of the bottle first, and afterwards the belly.
Opportunity is like the Sibyl: she raises the price as she diminishes the offer.
Commit the beginnings of actions to Argus, the end to Bri-cuit.
Speed is Pluto's helmet. Things that are done betimes are done with judgment; things that are put off too late, by cir
A little study of these Antitheses and of the Essay in which they receive literary dress will show what Bacon meant by an essay. It was to be literally an attempt, a trial (Latin exagium, "a weighing, balance"), an estimate of pros and cons, a debate which should determine the practical worth of motives and qualities and characters. The word had recently been used by Montaigne, whose Essays appeared in 1580. "The word," says Bacon, in the cancelled dedication to Prince Henry, "is late, but the thing is ancient. For Seneca's Epistles to Lucilius, if one mark them well, are but essays, that is, dispersed meditations, though conveyed in the form of epistles."
Thus the Essays were to constitute a series of useful observations on life and character; a handbook of the most