« PreviousContinue »
himself, though stated to require despatch, or return him any answer. When he heard however that James was on his return, he re-invested himself with his old rags of baseness,' attended two days in Buckingham's ante-chamber, sitting upon a wooden chest with his purse and seal lying by him, and on the Duke's entrance fell prostrate before him, kissed his feet, and vowed never to rise till he had his pardon.' The reconciliation which ensued was purchased by such concessions on the part of Bacon, that he was ever afterward a slave to the favourite and his family.
Another affair likewise occurred at this period, by which, though of a private nature, the Lord Keeper was deeply disturbed. Winwood, one of the Secretaries of State, having Coke's interest at heart and wishing to bring him into favour in opposition to Bacon, prevailed upon the Chief Justice to give his daughter in marriage with an immense fortune to Sir John Villiers, Buckingham's brother, though he had previously rejected the alliance with marks of disrespect. Bacon, apprehensive that his influence would be considerably lessened, if Coke were introduced into the Council, with a view of preventing the match went so far as to incur the displeasure both of the King and of his minister: but their resentment appears to have been only of short continuance,* as not long afterward he was elevated to the peerage.†
* Bacon, indeed, is said upon this occasion, in direct opposition to his former opinion, to have offered, unasked, his interest with the young lady's mother for promoting the union, which he had previously used all his ingenuity to obstruct.
+ Both upon his appointment as Lord Keeper, and his creation
Though ambition, however, had a large share in the character of Lord Verulam, philosophy was evidently his ruling passion; for, amidst all the variety and intricacy of his employments as a lawyer and a statesman, he found time to compose and to publish, in 1620, the most important of all his philosophical tracts, the Novum Organum Scientiarum.'† This piece, properly a
as Viscount St. Alban's, Bacon displayed an unworthy passion for pageantry and parade. In the first instance, in a solemn procession to Westminster Hall, he rode on horseback in a gown of purple satin between the Lord High Treasurer and the Lord Privy Seal; and, in the latter, he had a Marquis to bear his train !
† Of this work he sent one copy to his Majesty, and three to Sir Henry Wotton, a gentleman of the first reputation at that time in the learned world. Subjoined are the letters written by them to the author in reply:
"MY VERY GOOD LORD,
"I have received your letter, and your book, than the which you could not have sent a more acceptable present unto me. How thankful I am for it, cannot better be expressed by me, than by a firm resolution I have taken: first, to read it through with care and attention, though I should steal some hours from my sleep, having otherwise as little spare time to read it, as you had to write it; and then to use the liberty of a true friend, in not sparing to ask you the question in any point whereof I shall stand in doubt: as, on the other part, I will willingly give a due commendation to such places as, in my opinion, shall deserve it. In the mean time, I can with comfort assure you, that you could not have made choice of a subject more befitting your place, and your universal and methodical knowledge: and, in the general, I have already observed that you jump with me, in keeping the midway between the two extremes; as also, in some particulars, I have found that you agree fully with my opinion. And
second part of his Grand Instauration of the
so praying God to give your work as good success as your heart can wish, and your labours deserve, I bid you farewell.
Oct. 16, 1620.
"Your Lordship hath done a great and ever-living benefit to all the children of Nature, and to Nature herself in her uttermost extent of latitude, who never before had so noble nor so true an interpreter, or (as I am readier to stile your Lordship) never so inward a secretary of her cabinet. But of your said work, which came but this week to my hands, I shall find occa sion to speak more hereafter; having yet read only the first book thereof, and a few aphorisms of the second. For it is not a banquet, that men may superficially taste, and put up the rest in their pockets; but in truth a solid feast, which requireth due mastication. Therefore, when I have once myself perused the whole, I determine to have it read piece by piece at certain hours in my domestic college, as an ancient author: for I have learned thus much by it already, that we are extremely mistaken in the computation of antiquity by searching it backward, because indeed the first times were the youngest, especially in points of natural discovery and experience. For though I grant that Adam knew the natures of all beasts, and Solomon of all plants, not only more than any, but more than all since their time, yet that was by divine infusion: and therefore they did not need any such Organum, as your Lordship hath now delivered to the world; nor we neither, if they had left us the memories of their wisdom. But I am gone farther than I meant in speaking of this excellent labour, while the delight yet I feel, and even the pride that I take in a certain congeniality (as I may term it) with your Lordship's studies, will scant let me cease: and indeed I owe your Lordship, even by promise (which you are pleased to remember, thereby doubly binding me) some trouble this way; I mean, by the commerce of philosophical experiments, which surely of all other is the most ingenious traffic. Therefore, for a beginning, let me tell your Lordship a pretty thing which I saw coming down the Danuby, though more remarkable for the application than for the theory. I lay a night at Lintz, the metropolis of the Higher Austria; but then in very low estate, having been newly taken by the Duke of Bavaria; 2 G
Sciences,'* is calculated to promote a more perfect
who, blandiente fortuna, was gone on to the late effects. There I found Keplar a man famous in the sciences, as your Lordship knows, to whom I purpose to convey from hence one of your books, that he may see we have some of our own that can honour our King, as well as he hath done with his ‹ Harmonica.' In this man's study I was much taken with the draught of a landscape on a piece of paper, methought masterly done: whereof inquiring the author, he bewrayed with a smile it was himself; adding, he had done it, non tanquam Pictor, sed tanquam Mathematicus.' This set me on fire: at last, he told me how. He hath a little black tent (of what stuff, is not much importing) which he can suddenly set up where he will in a field, and it is convertible like a wind-mill to all quarters at pleasure, capable of not much more than one man, as I conceive, and perhaps at no great ease; exactly close and dark, save at one hole about an inch and an half in the diameter, to which he applies a long perspective trunk, with the convexglass fitted to the said hole, and the concave taken out at the other end, which extendeth to about the middle of this erected tent, through which the visible radiations of all the objects without are intromitted, falling upon a paper which is accommodated to receive them; and so he traceth them with his pen in their natural appearance, turning his little tent round by degrees, till he hath designed the whole aspect of the field. This I have described to your Lordship, because I think there might be good use made of it for chorography: for otherwise, to make landscapes by it were illiberal; though surely no painter can do them so precisely, &c. &c.
"Your Lordship's, &c.
*This great work he distributed into six principal parts:
1. The Advancement of Learning, in which he takes a view of the several objects and branches of general learning, classing them according to the three faculties of the soul-Memory, Fancy, and Understanding:
2. The Novum Organum (in every point of view, it's most considerable portion) which destroys the very foundation of the Aristotelian philosophy, or verbal syllogism, establishing in it's
discipline of our rational faculties than that before taught in the schools, by exercising them in contemplating the works of nature and art, subjects far transcending those abstruse scholastic subtilties, which serve only to involve learned men in frivolous disputations.
Having discovered, observes Granger, the emptiness of the visionary schemes of philosophy, which for so many ages had amused mankind, he introduced the sure method of coming to truth by experiment. He seemed, indeed, to want only the leisure which Sir Isaac Newton enjoyed, and his knowledge in geometry, to have made as surprising discoveries as that great man did. He had, however,
place the method of induction, as the only true path to the temple of Science:
3. The Sylva Sylvarum, furnishing materials for the operation of the New Organ' in the History, I. of Generations, or natural productions; II. of Pretergenerations, or births deviating from the stated rule; and, III. of Nature as confined or assisted, changed or tortured, by the art of man:
4. The Scala Intellectûs, or series of steps, by which the Understanding might regularly ascend in it's philosophical inquiries:
5. The Anticipationes Philosophia Secunda, designed to contain philosophical hints and suggestions, of which however the title and the scheme alone remain; and
6. A Finale, intended to exhibit the entire fabric in all it's grandeur, comprehending the universal principles of knowledge deduced from experiment and observation.
The rudiments of this unrivalled work, which merely to have conceived at the age of twenty-six almost merits immortality, is supposed by Mallet still to exist, under the title Of the Interpretation of Nature;' and thus we have the advantage of tracing the steps, by which he advanced from one discovery to another, till his system attained a vastness adapted to astonish and enlighten all succeeding generations.