Page images
[ocr errors]

dered authors in these times less painstaking Honorable my very good Lord the Duke of and scrupulously accurate than were those Buckingham, his Grace, Lord High Admiral who wrote for readers more critical, though of England.” This edition, published in fewer in number. In the year 1605, Sir Fran- March, 1624–5, contained the ten original cis Bacon had published the “ Twoo Bookes essays, including that one which had been of the Proficience and Advancement of Learn- omitted in the second edition, with the twentying, Divine and Humane,” in which was nine added in 1612, and nineteen new essays. foreshadowed, and that not dimly, the plan All those which had been previously published of the 66 Great Instauration of the Sciences." were more or less altered, to many of them Many thoughts and illustrations taken from great additions were made, and two which these two books were incorporated in the sec- had been first printed in the second edition, ond edition of the essays. The use of the those 6 Of Religion (now entitled - Of same ideas and quotations in different com- Unitie in Religion”) and “Of Friendshippe,” positions is eminently characteristic of the were entirely rewritten. To the former were works of Bacon; and he gathered from his added many passages from the “ Advertiseother writings 6 the best fruit” of his mind, ment touching the Controversies of the Church that he might bestow it upon the revised and of England.” The latter seems to have been enlarged editions of the essays which were revised at the request of Mr. Tobie Matthew, published in 1612 and 1625. The circle of who, notwithstanding his perversion to the intelligent readers of his philosophical works Church of Rome, had been for upwards of was then very narrow, and would always be twenty years the intimate friend of Sir Francomparatively small; the depth of the learn- cis Bacon, and as such had edited the Italian ing displayed in his law tracts, and the skill translation of the essays published in London with which it was applied, could be appre-in 1618, and was frequently consulted by him ciated only by a few; the interest excited by about his writings. his political and ecclesiastical pamphlets must At the time of the publication of this last be transient; but his essays of all his other edition, Lord St. Alban had been living for works were “ most current,” for they came nearly four years in retirement at Gorhamhome o to men's business and bosoms.” bury and at his house in Gray's Inn. Through them, therefore, he hoped that the The sentence passed upon him by the lords spirit of his new philosophy might pass into had, in fact, never been executed. His imthe minds of many who would never hear of prisonment in the Tower had lasted but a few the “ idola mentis” and “prærogativæ in- hours; the fine imposed had been vested in stantiarum” of the “ Novum Organum ; " trustees for his benefit; he had received a full and in them, accordingly, he applied to the pardon under the Great Seal, and was sumpassions, duties, and pleasures of common moned to attend the Parliament which met life, ideas and illustrations borrowed from his on the accession of Charles I. But he did not more recondite works. In the second book return to an active life. He had told King of the “ Advancement of Learning” he had James, in November, 1622, that thenceforth noted that " the writing of speculative men he“ would live to study, and not study to of active matter, for the most part doth seem live.' - I have done with such vanities,” to men of experience as Phormio's argument was his answer to those who brought him the of the wars seemed to Hannibal, to be but writ of summons to the Parliament. dreams and dotage ;” and that “ generally During the last five years of his life, he ocit were to be wished, as that which would cupied himself in revising some of the books make learning indeed solid and fruitful, that which he had already published ; in directing active men would or could become writers." the translation into Latin of the essays, and Mindful of this in the composition of his es- of his philosophical and historical writings, a says, he - endeavored to make them not vul- work in which Thomas Hobbes, George Hergar, but of a nature whereof a man shall find bert, and Ben Jonson are said to have taken much in experience, little in books." part; and in composing many new works, of

The third edition, “ The Essayes or Coun- which fifteen are mentioned in the Latin mesels Civill and Morall, of Francis Lo. Veru- moir written by his chaplain and secretary, lam, Viscount St. Alban, newly enlarged,” Dr. Rawley. The most important of these are is dedicated by the author to “ the Right the “ History of the Reign of Henry VII.,"


the “ Historia Ventorum,” and “ Historia | and most of those which were originally Latin Vitæ et Mortis," the “ New Atlantis,” and are taken not directly from that language, the “ Sylva Sylvarum.” But Dr. Rawley but at second-hand and through the French. does not include in his list the “ Apoph- This was the natural result of the intimate thegms,” printed in 1624, and said to be a relationship which, in amity or war, had collection made from

memory, “ without con- from the days of Edward the Confessor subsulting any book.” Lord Macaulay calls this sisted between France and England. Nor" the best collection of jests in the world.” man-French was the common speech of the But it was not so highly rated at the time of nobles till the reign of Henry II. ; it continits publication. In a letter from Chamber- ued long after to be the language of the lain to Carleton, dated the 18th December, Court; and when it had ceased to be spoken 1624, it is mentioned that Lord St. Alban's by the courtiers, it was still in daily use in

Apophthegms newly come out, the pleadings of the lawyers. Nor did the though with little applause. D’Israeli French language influence our own through quotes, in the “ Curiosities of Literature," the upper classes only; for the yeomen who some verses said to have been written about fought at Cressy, the pedlers who travelled the same time by “ a Dr. Andrews” (who through Normandy to the fair at Antwerp, must be " the ever-memorable and learned and the farmers and miners who carried wool Dr. Andrews, Bishop of Winchester,” of and tin to the staple at Calais, picked up Walton's Life of Herbert), which com- many words and phrases which afterwards mence,

became current among their neighbors at “ When learned Bacon wrote Essays

home. But before the middle of the sixHe did deserve and hath the praise ; teenth century the intercourse between this But now he writes his . Apophthegms,'

country and France had become less frequent Surely he dozes or he dreams.”

and intimate ; while the invention of printThe book seems to us to deserve neither ing, and its application at first chiefly to the the extravagant praise of Lord Macaulay nor publication of the Latin classics, opened a the censure of Dr. Andrews. Many of the new source of gain to the English language, speeches related in it are very witty; some which now borrowed from the Latin by the of the anecdotes, however, are coarse, and eye as it had previously borrowed from the others, in spite of their classical origin, it French by the ear. must be confessed are " dull and flat."

The greater diffusion of classical literature, The dates of the publication of the first and and the increase in the number of writers, third editions of the essays, 1597 and 1625, together with the stimulus given to the conveniently mark two signal epochs in the English poets of the time by travel in Italy history of the English language. During the and acquaintance with the works of Dante, interval there was impressed upon it the char- Ariosto, and Petrarch, soon resulted in an acter and form which it has retained, with effort to ascer and adhere to certain canvery little variation, to the present time. ons of style and in the choice of words. Ben Jonson, writing between the years 1630 The first issue of this effort were many afand 1637, of the Lord St. Alban, says, “ With- fectations, of which one of the most notable in his view, and about his times, were all the was the euphuism which was so popular durwits born, that could honor a language, or ing the latter part of the sixteenth century. help study. Now things daily fall, wits grow It took its name from Lyly's romance of downward, and eloquence grows backward : “ Euphues,” the first part of which, 80 that he may be named, and stand as the phues, the Anatomy of Wit,” was published mark and arjin of our language.

in 1580 ; and the characteristics of the style Until the middle of the sixteenth century -antithesis, alliteration, and repetition of the English language borrowed little directly the same sound—will be best shown by one from the Latin. In general a much larger or two quotations from this book. The adproportion of Saxon words was used by those dress o to the Gentlemen Readers” begins, who wrote before than by those who have “I was driven into a quandarie, Gentlemen, written since that time. Of the words of whether I might send this my Pamphlet to foreign derivation employed by the earlier the Printer or to the Pedler : I thought it writers, by far the greater number are French, too bad for the press, and too good for the

66 Eu

men :

pack.” The author gives advice to young “ You that do dictionary's method bring

“Be merry, but with modesty: be Into your rhymes, running in rattling rows; sober, but not too sullen : be valiant, but not As do betray a want of inward touch."

You take wrong ways: those far-fet helps be such too ventrous.” And in another place to ladies : “ Let not gentlewomen ... be so cu- And in other works he assailed, both with arrious in their own conceits, or so currish to gument and ridicule, what in the 66 Defence their loyal Lovers.” The following are from of Poesie,” he called the common infection the second part, entitled, “ Euphues and his grown among the most part of writers. England:

“ We ought to take greater heed But euphuism was not the only vice of Engthat we be not intrapped in folly, than fear lish style at the close of the sixteenth cento be subdued by force." “ Have more mind tury. As the nation woke up into a new inon thy Books than on thy bags, more desire tellectual life, it was felt that words were of godliness than gold, greater affection to needed for the expression of many new ideas. die well than to live wantonly.” • Whatso These words were borrowed chiefly from the is gotten with wit, will be kept with wari- Latin; but those who sought them labored ness, and increased with wisdom.”

not only to supply the manifest wants of the For a time Lyly was regarded as the great language, but also to obtain big, high-soundreformer of the English language. Traces ing words for the adornment of their style ; of the fashion which he set may be detected so that, in the words of the letter prefixed to in the first edition of Bacon's Essays : " A the “Shepheard's Calendar," they “ made good continued speech without a good speech our English tougue a gallimaufrey, or hodgeof interlocution showeth slowness; and a podge of all other speeches.” This practice good second speech without a good set speech is noticed by Puttenham, who says very showeth shallowness." " If affection lead a wisely,man to favor the less worthy in desert, let Generally the high style is disgraced him do it without depraving or disabling the and made foolish and ridiculous by all words better deserver.” So, too, in his “ Epistle affected, counterfeit, and puffed up, as it were Dedicatory” of the “ Maxims of the Law,” a wind ball carrying more countenance than addressed to the Queen in 1596, he speaks matter, and cannot be better resembled than of her reign as

to those midsummer pageants in London, an age wherein if science be increased, conscience is rather decayed; forth great and ugly giants, marching as if

where, to make the people wonder, are set and if men's wits be great, their wills are they were alive, and armed at all points ; but more great. The fashion had nearly passed within they are stuffed full of brown paper away when it was ridiculed in Shakspeare's and tow, which the shrewd boys underpeerplay of “ Love's Labors Lost,” acted before ing, do guilefully discover and turn to a great the Queen at Christmas, 1597. It had been derision.” blamed by Puttenham, who writes, in his Puttenham mentions many words intro “ Arte of English Poesie,” published in 1589, duced in his time and distinguished between “ Ye have another manner of composing your “ inkhorn terms,” which are not to be almetre, nothing commendable, specially if it lowed, and words of which he says, be too much used, and is where our maker not see how we may spare them ; . . for takes too much delight to fill his verse with our speech wanteth words to such sense so words beginning all with a letter, as an Eng- well to be used.” Among the former he lish rimer that said,

reckons the words--audacious, facunditie, * The deadly drops of dark disdain

egregious, implete, compatible. He defends Do daily drench my due desarts."" the use of the word “scientificke,” because

" it answereth the word mechanical ; ” and The influence of Sir Philip Sidney, however, would allow some s usurped Latin and French contributed most materially to put an end to words; as method, methodical, placation, this passion for alliteration and to

function, assubtiling, refining, compendious, “ reduce

prolix, figurative, inveigle,” with others Our tongue from Lyly's writing then in use.

.» which he mentions.

Great as was the influence of the study of He, in his “ Astrophel and Stella,” addressed the Latin classics upon the vocabulary of the the euphuists as follows :

writers of Elizabeth's reign, its influence

66 I can

upon their style was still more manifest. | as these reveal the true value and importance The simple, direct sentences used by earlier of the history of language; and the knowlwriters have been exchanged for longer and edge of them should make us very careful more complicated ones by the first revivers of even in our daily speech ; since not only do classical learning in England. But Bacon we, by the words we utter, affect our own desand Hooker introduced periods rivalling those tiny, but by the manner in which we use of Cicero in the intricacy of their structure them, by the very tone with which we speak and the well-balancing of their members. them, we help to mould their meaning, and In their writings clauses are constantly in- thus influence the minds of future generations serted, in imitation of the Latin construction, of Englishmen. between the nominative and the verb; the Notwithstanding some alterations in the verb is placed at the end of the sentence, and meaning and form of words, and the change the sense suspended till it be reached ; the or disuse of some few grammatical construcadjective is placed after the substantive, as tions, the written English language now rein the phrases, “ a benefit inestimable," "a mains in very nearly the same state as that kingdom very opulent” (Bacon’s “« Observa- in which it was left by Hooker, Shakspeare, tions on a Libel,” 1592), “ agents natural,” and Bacon. Their works are still referred to

spirits immaterial and intellectual ” (“- Ec- as the standards by which we measure the cles. Polity”); and the natural or logical lesser efforts of modern writers. But they order of the words in the sentence is inverted themselves seem not to have anticipated any or transposed.

such permanency for the language, or for A change, which has taken place since the their own writings. Francis Bacon originally time of Francis Bacon, in the meaning of composed in Latin, or procured the translamany words, has given to his writings, and tion into that language of all his most importo those of his contemporaries, a semblance tant works; and this he did not only because of an imitation of the Latin which was not the Latin language was then in all Christian intended by their authors. The word countries read and understood, being the “ plausible,” for instance, is used in the es- mean of universal communication, but also says in the sense of deserving praise, which it because he distrusted the permanency of his has since exchanged for that of seeming to mother-tongue. In a letter to Mr. Matthew, deserve praise. Apparent,” as employed about the translation of the essays and “ Hisin the fortieth essay, has the meaning of tory of Henry VII.,” he writes - These modmanifestly or openly appearing : it has since ern languages will, at one time or other, come to denote that there is no reality in the " play the bankrupts with books; and since appearance. In the forty-eighth essay the I have lost much time with this age, I would word “ officious” is used in a good sense be glad, as God shall give me leave, to recover ready to serve—and it was so used as late as it with posterity.” Thirty or forty years the middle of the last century; but if we now later the same distrust was expressed by hear that a person is officious, we understand Waller in the following verses :that he impertinently obtrudes services which

“Who can hope his lines should long are not desired. Vulgar” is employed in

Last in a daily changing tongue ? the essays in the sense of common : it has since

Poets that lasting marble seek acquired its present meaning of reprobation. Must carve in Latin or in Greek : The reader can scarcely fail to notice that the

We write on sand, our language grows, change from the original or Latin meaning of

And, like the tide, our work o’erflows." all these words (and other like instances might Probably the chief causes of whatever albe given) has been a degradation, implying terations or modifications have taken place in the first three cases the growth of a con- in our language during the last two centuries vietion, arising from experience, that no trust and a half, have been the development of the can be placed in the show of things, and that art of conversation and the increase of letterwhat promises to be fair is often in the end writing. It would be interesting and not found to be most foul; and, in the last case, unprofitable carefully to consider what have that among men good is not the rule but the been and what may be the effects of these exception, and that whatever is common must upon our language. At present we can only therefore be presumed to be bad. Such facts allude to one effect, which is obvious; nameig

the abbreviation of many words, and the sub- | allured by verbal niceties, but always delibstitution of shorter for longer forms of speech. erately and carefully avoided them.” Thus of words used in the essays, declination The


of Bacor and of Lamb afford a has become declension or decline; discontent- notable contrast not only in their manner but ment, discontent; heroical, heroic; disrepu- also in their matter; those of Lamb being, tation, disrepute. In like manner such words like the - Essais ” of Montaigne, essentially as indifferency, impertinency, have in general and entirely subjective, while those of Bacon lost the last syllable. So the termination of are purely objective in their character. And the third person singular of the verb in -eth, in this respect also the two writers may be which imparts so much gravity to early writ- taken as the types of two classes of essayists. ings, has been changed for the briefer and The objective school has had the fewer memmore colloquial form in -s, which in the es- bers. Mr. Henry Taylor, in the “ Statessays, and in several of the other works of man,” showed himself worthy to supply a Francis Bacon, is used indifferently with the deficiency in our literature which had been older form. In the first book of Hooker's only indicated by Bacon. Mr. Helps, too, 6. Ecclesiastical Polity” it occurs but once. seems to have been inspired by Bacon's esBy these changes our language has possibly says, without being a servile copyist. gained as much in ease and fluency as it has It would be a task involving more labor, if lost in weight and dignity. But in other not requiring greater talents, to approach as changes that have been made, such as the sub- nearly to the " Essays of Elia.” Most of stitution in many cases of the words “ more ” the attempts that have been made discover and “most” for the inflecton of the adjective a want of the assiduous toil and fastidious in order to form the degrees of comparison, care which alone can give to essays of this there has been no gain which can be set off description any real and permanent value. against our loss.

Lord Macaulay has remarked that “ in eloAlthough we have used the essays of Fran- quence, and sweetness and variety of exprescis Bacon as illustrative of the styles which sion, and in richness of illustration,” the were in vogue, and the state of the English later writings of Francis Bacon are far supelanguage at the times when they were com- rior to those of his youth, and has noticed posed and revised, it must not be inferred how in this respect he is resembled by Edthat we regard them as belonging to that mund Burke. Another parallel is furnished class of writings—represented by the “ Essays by one of the greatest of our modern English of Elin”—of which the chief value and ex- painters. The first essays of Bacon do not cellency consist in their style, the exquisite differ in style from those added in the third choice of words, and the careful measure- edition, more widely than do the pale gray ment of cadences. In Bacon's Essays the and green of the early drawings of Turner words are always selected with care, and used from the opaline splendor of his later paintwith precision ; the cadence of the sentences ings. But there is ground for the belief that in the later essays is well arranged and mu- the abruptness and severe simplicity of Basical; but Bacon employs words as tools or con's first essays were the result not of imweapons, and is satisfied with their useful- maturity, but of deliberate choice. They are

Lamb rejoices in their polish and glit- not less finished than the later ones, but are ter. Bacon regards a sentence as a mean for finished in a different manner. That he could the expression of a thought; Lamb plays in 1597 as well as in 1625 frame the most and dallies with it, and lingers to listen to elaborate periods, and employ at pleasure the its music. Of Bacon's manner of composition happiest metaphors and illustrations, is proved Dr. Rawley says, –

by his answer to the Jesuit Parsons, published

in 1592, and by the “ Epistle Dedicatory “ He chiefly aimed at vigor and perspicu- of his " Maxims of the Law," written in 1596. ity of expression, not elegancy or neatness In the former of these occurs the following of language: and in writing or dictating often paused to inquire whether his meaning

passage : had been rendered with sufficient clearness 6. The benefits of Almighty God upon this. and perspicuity; since he knew it to be right land since the time that in his singular provthat words should be the servants of things idence he led as it were by the hand, and and not things of words. . . . He was never placed in the kingdom, his servant, our Queen.

ness :

« EelmineJätka »