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IN our introductory remarks to the présent volume, it is unnecessary, after the various panegyrics which have been passed upon its illustrious author, to say much of that original genius, and those vast acquirements which have so justly conferred on him the title of the first great reformer of phiolsophy, and marked out in the progress of sound knowledge and the elucidation of true science, paths that have been so successfully trodden by a Boyle, a Locke, and even a Newton himself.
This miscellany of Lord Bacon's productions, is intended as a companion to the elegant edition of his Essays, just published* ; and will, we trust, be found to possess, both in point of judicious selection, and valuable matter, genuine claims to public favour. Among the articles which it contains are his APOPHTHEGMS-ORNAMENTA RATIONALIA ; or, ELEGANT SENTENCES—the COLOURS OF GOOD AND EVIL-the New ATLANTIS-FILUM LABYRINTHI-SEQUELA CHARTARUM, and the Essay on Death.
In the Apophthegms he proves himself a master in the art of relating short pleasant stories, the useful application of © which cannot be mistaken by any common understanding ; and
his Elegant Sentences may even *now rank as models of perfection in this species of composition. They are the result of deep and long reflection ; for he well knew that nature is a
* See the end of the volume.
labyrinth in which the very haste we move with makes us lose our way. It is in those precepts, the standards of human action, that Bacon particularly excelled. They are all founded in a profound knowledge of life, and in a most accurate discrimination of the motives by which the passions of mankind are actuated ; and they are strengthened by a force of similitude, which neither sophistry nor sarcasm in their happiest vein can weaken. It has been wisely observed by Dr. Johnson, that “ he may be justly numbered among the benefactors of mankind, who contracts the great rules of life into short sentences, that may be easily impressed on the memory, and taught by frequent recollection to recur habitually to the mind;" and those who peruse the following, will not deny that our author is entitled to an eminent rank in the list :
« Round dealing is the honour of a man's nature; and a mixture of falsehood is like alloy in gold or silver, which may make the metal work the better, but embaseth it.
“ As in nature things move more violently to their place : so virtue in ambition, is violent; in authority, settled and calm.
“God never wrought miracles to convince atheists, because his ordinary works convince it.
“ All precepts concerning kings, are, in effect, comprehended in these remembrances ; remember thou art a man ; remember thou art God's vicegerent. The one bridleth their power, and the other their will.
“ It were good that men, in their innovations, would follow the example of time itself, which indeed innovateth greatly, but quietly, and by degrees scarce to be perceived.
“ The best governments are always subject to be like the fairest crystals, where every icicle or grain is seen,
which in a fouler stone is never perceived."
Of the acuteness of Bacon's discernment and the rare patience with which he was accustomed to investigate subjects of uncommon difficulty, we have a memorable instance in his Colours of Good and Evil. What was obscure in Aristotle, he has cleared up; what was subtile, and sometimes altogether unintelligible by the great majority of readers, he has simplified in language equally plain and convincing, and many seeming contradictions, which had for ages baffled the acuteness of commentators, he has satisfactorily reconciled. Although in this essay, he has had his light from the Stagyrite, yet he has so improved upon his original, that the work may be truly called his own.
The New Atlantis abounds in such rich and curious materials, that every admirer of rational enquiry and universal knowledge, must lament he left it in an unfinished state. Designed to comprehend in its various branches the animate and inanimate world, it was undertaken upon a scale, perhaps, too great for the genius and acquirements of any single mind to bring the undertaking to perfection In the part which he uccomplished, Lord Bacon, has, however, proved, that no man could be better qualified for the arduous task than himself. His description of the institution or order, called Solomon's House, evinces a conception capable of embracing his subject in its most minute details, and a perspicuity of arrangement which we look for in vain in the philosophical works of antiquity. The vast extent of the plan is manifest at least in its outlines from his own words, on the institution ; “ It is dedicated to the study of the works and creatures of God;" and in effecting the object of this new society, which is the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things, and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire to the accomplishment of all things possible, he gives a finished example of the lucidus ordo. Having set forth the end of their foundation, he describes tie
preparations and instruments they have for their works :--the several employments and functions whereto the members are respectively assigned, and the ordinances and rites which they observe. It will be suffcient to observe that in these enumerations, no topic is omitted which experience had taught him could be useful or entertaining to mankind.
In the Filum Labyrinthi, the obstacles to the progress of science in his time, are exposed with a clearness and brevity which cannot be too much admired. Speaking of the opinions which he entertained, he says :
“ He (Lord Bacon) thought also that knowledge is uttered to men in a form, as if every thing were finished; for it is reduced into arts and methods, which in their division do seem to include all that may be. And how weakly snever the parts are filled, yet they carry the shew and reason of a total; and thereby the writings of some received authors, go for the very art: whereas antiquity used to deliver the knowledge, which the mind of man had gathered in observations, aphorisms, or short or dispersed sentences, or small tractates of some parts, that they had diligently meditated and laboured; which did invite men, both to ponder that which was invented, and to add and supply further. But now sciences are delivered as to be believed, and accepted, and not to be examined and further discovered ; and the succession is between master and disciple, and not between inventor and continuer or advancer; and therefore sciences stand at a stay, and have done for many ages, and that which is positive is fixed, and that which is question is kept question, so as the columns of no farther proceeding are pitched. And therefore he saw plainly, men had cut themselves off from further invention; and that it is no marvel, that that is not obtained, which hath not been attempted, but rather shut out and debarred."
How Locke and Newton have profited from these remarks, the enlightened world can attest.
Sequela Chartarum; or, the disquisition respecting heat and cold, although it may be considered as imperfect in some points of view, in consequence of recent improvements in that part of natural philosophy, is generally supported by the force of experiment.
Of the true christian spirit by which the mind of this great man was animated, we have irresistible evidence in his Character of a Believing Christian, exemplified in Paradoxes and seeming Contradictions ; in the Essay on Death, and in the Prayer, made and used by himself. The awe inspired by the commencement of the Essay must be felt-it cannot be described. How simple, yet how luminous and awful are the opening sentences !
“ I have often thought upon death, and find it the least of all evils. All that which is past is a dream, and he that hopes or depends upon time coming, dreams waking. So much of our life, as we have discovered, is already dead ; and all those hours which we share, even from the breast of our mother, until we return to our grandmother the earth, are part of our dying days ; whereof even this is one, and those that succeed are of the same nature, for we die daily; and as others have given place to us, so we must give way to others.”
We must not pass unnoticed his SHORT NOTES FOR CIVIL CONVERSATION, which contain precepts, that might be well expanded into a large volume. His HELPS OF THE INTELLEC. TUAL Powers, in which he gives many excellent rules for governing, confirming, and enlarging, by custom and exercise, the motions and faculties of the wit and memory.
This volume also contains Two Letters, the one relative to the Essays, addressed to the Marquis Fiat, the other, which