Francis Bacon was a famous Essayist of the 16th century and also known as the father of English prose. The collection of his essays was also titled “Essays” which was first published in 1597 and later its second edition was published in 1812 and 1625 respectively.
Bacon as an essayist penned in a methodical way, taking their subject-matter from a collection of perspectives, analyzing them, and writing in distinct prose style, using aphorisms to clearly make a point. He enclosed such subjects as study, love, health, work, truth, travel, friendship, beauty, anger, and so on.
Read more: Renaissance in English Literature
Francis Bacon believed that a person’s mind and personality are expressed through his writing. Therefore if a person had a muddled, unclear and cryptic writing style, then that was an indication that his mind was also disordered and confused. Furthermore if a person’s writing skill was clear, simple and straightforward then that was an indication that his mind was also transparent and uncomplicated. This is very much evident in Bacon’s writings too as he employs short, concise, and aphoristic writing technique in his essays.
Bacon’s aphoristic style as an essayist
An aphoristic technique signifies the close-packed and concise style of writing. An aphorism is a terse sentence, conveying the idea in the least possible words. Certainly, Bacon’s essays are replete with such aphorism. His essays amalgamate knowledge with utmost conciseness. The brief, epigrammatic pearl of wisdom in his essays has turned into well-liked mottoes and household verbalism. There are numerous aphoristic lines that we find in his essays. For example in the essay “Of Truth”: “A mixture of lie doth ever add pleasure.” (Francis Bacon, Of Truth).
Through this sentence Bacon wishes to forward the concept that the truth gets more appealing when mingled with a lie in it. Therefore, most of the times, when we wish to protect a lie; we use this pronouncement of Bacon.
Bacon’s essay “Of Friendship” reveals Bacon’s pithy and laconic style: “For a crowd is not a company and faces are but a gallery of pictures.” (Francis Bacon, Of Friendship).
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All the aphorisms of Bacon’s essays amazed us by their freshness and novelty. Every aphoristic sentence seizes us. His laconic style grabs our attention. Basically, they all gratify, excite and delight us because they all consist of priceless ideas, advice, and lessons.
Bacon’s use of allusions and quotations in his essays:
The learning spirit of renaissance is very much evident in Bacon’s writings. Bacon employs allusions and references carried from varied origins, chronicles, past records, ancient Greek and Roman writers, classical tales, and the Bible. Bacon employs the references of Montaigne and Pilate in his essay “Of Truth”. Similarly in “Of Friendship” Bacon mentions Aristotle. Bacon uses references and allusions so as to elucidate his purpose more distinctly and this also makes Bacon’s prose style more erudite and enriching.
Bacon as a philosopher and a moralist:
As Bacon’s essays show, Bacon is not only a philosopher but also a moralist. A Philosopher is a person who is intensely focused on seeking truth, on the other hand, a moralist is a person who educates human beings on the difference between what is virtuous and what is evil, and encourages them to go in the right direction only. Bacon comes out in this twofold role in numerous essays that he has penned. In his essay “Of Truth,” Bacon states that truth is the ultimate virtue for mankind. In the context of the Bible, Bacon claims that in the first place God made light and the last thing that God made was rational faculty that God gave to mankind. First God passed off light upon substance; then he passed off light upon man, and subsequently, God has been always giving light into the faces of people whom he selects for his unique favor. After explaining all these, we can conclude that these are the investigations of a philosopher-cum-moralist. The main purpose of writing all these essays was that Bacon wanted to teach the importance of truth to his readers.
Bacon’s essays are a storehouse of practical knowledge:
Bacon is regarded as one of the earliest empiricists, building his concepts on investigation of actual life not from prejudices or received facts. Bacon’s essays are a storehouse of practical knowledge. Practical knowledge is a type of knowledge that is compulsory for attaining worldly success. Bacon instructs us on how to advance in this world. Bacon also explains to us how to flourish in life and become wealthy. For example, Bacon writes his “Of Friendship” clearly from a utilitarian point of view. Bacon makes us aware of the “uses” of friendship. A friend simplifies our apprehension and his counsel is most dependable. A friend can take necessary action for us in such circumstances in which we personally cannot take action. Bacon hints to indicate that we require friends only for our worldly contentment and success. It is also noteworthy that he illustrated his essays as “Counsels, civil and moral” which suggests that he wanted his essays to give such instruction to his readers as could assist them in achieving prosperity in civil life while concurrently recognizing certain primary moral values.
Francis Bacon also wrote a philosophical work called “Novum Organum” which was his commentary on logic and syllogism. In this work Bacon proposes a new method of logic: he feels to be better to the old method of syllogism. Bacon was a genuine Renaissance man as he shared his wisdom and knowledge in many different fields like philosophy, science, logic and politics. His technique of essay writing is not adamant and authoritative but willingly he’s own and amiable. For instance in one of his essays “Of Envy”, Bacon does not start with an announcement of envy being dangerous and damaging of pleasure. His style permits him to investigate such topics with an experimental eye that connects experiences to meaning and then only finally unveils his insight and judgment on the topic. To conclude we can say that Bacon was the acute observer of life. Bacon’s essays reflect his vast experience and understanding of men and situations and also of the universe.