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Holy Ghost hath laboured more in been surpassed. Every part of the describing the afflictions of Job than book blazes with wit, but with wit the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity which is employed only to illustrate is not without many fears and dis- and decorate truth. No book ever tastes ; and adversity is not without made so great a revolution in the comforts and hopes. We see in needle- mode of thinking, overthrew so many works and embroideries it is more prejudices, introduced so many new pleasing to have a lively work upon a opinions. Yet no book was sad and solemn ground, than to have written in a less contentious spirit. It a dark and melancholy work upon a truly conquers with chalk and not lightsome ground. Judge therefore of with steel. Proposition after propothe pleasure of the heart by the sition enters into the mind, is received pleasure of the eye. Certainly virtue not as an invader, but as a welcome is like precious odours, most fragrant friend, and, though previously unwhen they are incensed or crushed ; known, becomes at once domesticated. for prosperity doth best discover vice, But what we most admire is the vast but adversity doth best discover virtue.” capacity of that intellect which, with
It is by the Essays that Bacon is out effort, takes in at once all the best known to the multitude. The domains of science, all the past, the Novum Organum and the De Augmentis present, and the future, all the errors are much talked of, but little read. of two thousand years, all the enThey have produced indeed a vast couraging signs of the passing times, effect on the opinions of mankind; all the bright hopes of the coming age. but they have produced it through Cowley, who was among the most the operation of intermediate agents. ardent, and not among the least disThey have moved the intellects which cerning followers of the new philohave moved the world. It is in the sophy, has, in one of his finest poems, Essays alone that the mind of Bacon compared Bacon to Moses standing on is brought into immediate contact with Mount Pisgah. It is to Bacon, we the minds of ordinary readers. There think, as he appears in the first book - he opens an exoteric school, and talks of the Novum Organum, that the comto plain men, in language which every parison applies with peculiar felicity. body understands, about things in There we see the great Lawgiver lookwhich everybody is interested. He ing round from his lonely elevation on has thus enabled those who must an infinite expanse; behind him a otherwise have taken his merits on wilderness of dreary sands and bitter trust to judge for themselves; and waters in which successive generations the great body of readers have, during have sojourned, always moving, yet several generations, acknowledged that never advancing, reaping no harvest, the man who has treated with such and building no abiding city; before consummate ability questions with him a goodly land, a land of promise, which they are familiar may well be a land flowing with milk and honey. supposed to deserve all the praise be- While the multitude below saw only stowed on him by those who have sat the flat sterile desert in which they in his inner school.
had so long wandered, bounded on Without any disparagement to the every side by a near horizon, or diveradmirable treatise De Augmentis, we sified only by some deceitful mirage, must say that, in our judgment, Bacon's he was gazing from a far higher stand greatest performance is the first book on a far lovelier country, following of the Novum Oryanum. All the pecu- with his eye the long course of ferliarities of his extraordinary mind are tilising rivers, through ample pastures, found there in the highest perfection. and under the bridges of great capitals, Many of the aphorisms, but particu- measuring the distances of marts and Jarly those in which he gives examples havens, and portioning out all those of the influence of the idola, show a wealthy regions from Dan to Beersheba. nicety of observation that has never It is painful to turn back from contemplating Bacon's philosophy to philosophy. He would have fulfilled contemplate his life. Yet without so a large part of his own magnificent turning back it is impossible fairly to predictions. He would have led his estimate his powers. He left the Uni- followers, not only to the verge, but versity at an earlier age than that at into the heart of the promised land. which most people repair thither. He would not merely have pointed out, While yet a boy he was plunged into but would have divided the spoil. the midst of diplomatic business. Above all, he would have left, not Thence he passed to the study of a only a great, but a spotless name. vast technical system of law, and Mankind would then have been able worked his way up through a suc- to esteem their illustrious benefactor. cession of laborious offices to the high- We should not then be compelled to est post in his profession. In the regard his character with mingled mean time he took an active part in contempt and admiration, with mingled every Parliament; he was an adviser aversion and gratitude. We should of the Crown : he paid court with the not then regret that there should be greatest assiduity and address to all so many proofs of the narrowness and whose favour was likely to be of use selfishness of a heart, the benevolence to him; he lived much in society; he of which was yet large enough to take noted the slightest peculiarities of in all races and all ages. We should character and the slightest changes of not then have to blush for the disfashion. Scarcely any man has led a ingenuousness of the most devoted more stirring life than that which worshipper of speculative truth, for Bacon led from sixteen to sixty. the servility of the boldest champion Scarcely any man has been better en- of intellectual freedom. We should titled to be called a thorough man of not then have seen the same man at the world. The founding of a new one time far in the van, and at another philosophy, the imparting of a new time far in the rear of his generation. direction to the minds of speculators, We should not then be forced to own this was the amusement of his leisure, that he who first treated legislation as the work of hours occasionally stolen a science was among the last Engfrom the Woolsack and the Council lishmen who used the rack, that he Board. This consideration, while it who first summoned philosophers to increases the admiration with which the great work of interpreting nature we regard his intellect, increases also was among the last Englishmen who our regret that such an intellect sold justice. And we should conclude should so often have been unworthily our survey of a life placidly, honouremployed. He well knew the better ably, beneficently passed, “ in induscourse, and had, at one time, resolved trious observations, grounded conto pursue it. “I confess,” said he inclusions, and profitable inventions and a letter written when he was still discoveries,”* with feelings very difyoung, " that I have as vast contem- ferent from those with which we now plative ends as I have moderate civil turn away from the checkered spectacle ends.” Had his civil ends continued of so much glory and so much shame. to be moderate, he would have been,
* From a Letter of Bacon to Lord Bur pot only the Moses, but the Joshua of leigh.
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