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of our public schools ? Would it not admirably blend with the study of the ancients, with the thoughts and sentiments of whom it is replete? It would scarcely reflect less light than it received.
The reader may naturally be expected to inquire why the previous editions of Bacon's Essays may not effectually attain the desired end. The editor would respectfully observe that this work, which much requires notes and illustrations, has never, he believes, been published in England with any, unless indeed we gratuitously consider as such the translation of the Latin quotations contained in it, or notes so few and so insignificant that they need scarcely be adduced as an exception. Nor has the editor ever seen even an explanation of its obsolete or unusual terms; no unnecessary assistance to the general English reader, unacquainted with the writers of the Elizabethan age. Does not Bacon require and deserve comment as much as his great contemporary Shakspeare, the volume of whose text has been exceeded by that of his commentators ? It is this deficiency the editor has principally attempted to supply.
He has chiefly directed his attention to the following points: 4. the accuracy of the text; 2. presenting instructive notes that may really elucidate the text; 3, offering the reader a faithful narrative of Bacon's eventful life.
Text. To secure the accuracy of the text, the editor has collated various editions of this work; he has found those contained in Bacon's works nearly similar, except in the punctuation, and tolerably correct. It is but justice to add that the extraordinary care bestowed on Mr. Basil Montagu's edition , and the profound knowledge and consummate skill of this gentleman render his edition the most valuable. It has served as the edition of reference, the guide.
It is perhaps but just to state here that the inaccuracy of the text of the popular editions of Bacon's Essays is scarcely credible. Unskilful persons have frequently modernized Bacon's language by altering his words and still oftener allowed such misprints to escape as render the sense unintelligible.
The following are a few specimens of old words that have been modernized : Essay II. Preoccupate altered to preoccupy; Essay VI. Obtain changed to attain; XVI. Consent to opinion; XXII. Declination into declining; XXIII. Somewhat to sometime; XXVII. Aversation for aversion; XXXVI. Sprites converted into spirits; XLI. Mislike perverted to dislike, etc., etc.
The misprints materially increase the difficulty of the text and sometimes completely obscure it, nay render it utterly unintelligible. Some few examples of these misprints follow. In Essay IV. Irrevocable is become irrecoverable ; craculous for oraculous; IX. bear for beat; LI. mete for mate; death for dearth ; XXI. Argos for Argus ; XXII. foil for soil ; XXXVI. riddled for bridled ; XLI. pains for pawns ; XLV. fools for fowls; XLVI. early for yellow; LII. society for satiety; LVI. figure for finger; LVII. rain for ruin; etc.
The text of the present volume is as correct as attention and pains-taking can render it.
Notes. The annotations, being entirely a novel feature in the work, may perhaps be entitled to some indulgence. But it may with truth be affirmed that they have been prepared with great care and no inconsiderable labour. For all the extracts from the ancients or moderns the editor has consulted the originals and he confidently trusts he has thus avoided misquotation, a grievous fault but too common, and that has a double injury in it; for it is no less prejudicial to the inexperienced reader than to the misquoted author.
It has been the editor's aim to present such notes as may elucidate the text, rendering it more intelligible, more instructive or more interesting. He has endeavoured to acquaint the reader to whom or what the author alludes when the text does not afford the information. When the passage is important he has often exhibited the text of the authority quoted. Of this the notes to Essays I, II, XIII, XV (page 79), XXVII (note 2), XXXV, XL, XLI, XLH, LIV, LVIII may · perhaps afford fair specimens.
It will probably be objected to some of them (for instance, those of pages 49, 96, 113, 136, 143, 180, 186, 193, etc.) that they are too simple and that they treat of matters too well known to require comment. But it must be remembered that books are written, not for the learned but for the unlearned, those who do not know; and that this edition is intended chiefly for youth, for learners of two different countries, England and France; to whom the history of one of the two countries is less familiar than the other.
The editor has, at times, although rarely, ventured to combat as erroneous some of the doctrines or opinions of the Essays; he deemed this a duty in a book destined for youth, into whose minds no wrong notions should be wittingly inculcated. Of this kind are the notes of pages 46, 55, 65, 69, 78.
The notes contained in this volume being his own, the editor is bound to accept the responsability of the whole. When he did not deem himself sufficiently learned he had recourse to the learning of others, both books and men. With the assistance of these united , he hopes he has rendered Bacon's Essays intelligible to all cultivated minds, more instructive to youth and more interesting to the general reader.
Indocti discant et ament meminisse periti. The editor has derived much assistance from the learned notes to the Sermones Fideles , found in the Latin edition of Bacon's Philosophical Works, edited by Monsieur Bouillet, the author of the Dictionnaire universel d'histoire et de géographie. Of these notes, on which great and conscientious care has been bestowed, the editor has availed himself frequently ; but as the present edition is not designed for the same class of readers he has necessarily increased tenfold the number and extent of his annotations.
Notice of Bacon. The notice of the author of the Essays is somewhat extensive in proportion to the work itself. But the editor did not deem it allowable to present too limited a narrative of the life and works of one of the greatest ornaments
of his country and of mankind, the father of experimental philosophy and science. Nor could the most succinct account be justifiable in passing over in silence the various kinds of merit of the philosopher and moralist or the errors of the man. The name of Bacon is destined to all eternity
To point a moral or adorn a tale. The editor has aimed at perfect impartiality; but he has not been unmindful of the reverential affection due to departed genius, to intellectual greatness. He has, as frequently as possible, allowed Bacon to speak for himself and in his own language, by quotations from his published letters. This is, in reality, “holding the mirror up to nature” and, as it were, reflecting the lineaments as they arise.
For the character of Bacon's principal works the editor has presented the opinions of the most competent persons, each in his special department, whose name and works he has quoted. These are some of the most illustrious names in modern literature and science, Dugald Stewart, Sir John Herschel, Sir James Mackintosh, Mr. Hallam.
In the life of Bacon the editor has frequently quoted the names of Lord Campbell and Mr. Macaulay; but he has been unable , from a fear of tiresome repetition, to do so every timo he has conveyed their ideas, or expressed their sentiments. He hopes this general acknowledgment will be deemed a sufficient apology for the omission. He is likewise indebted to Mr. Basil Montagu's life and sometimes to Mallet's; but still more to Bacon's letters. He is also under considerable obligation to Monsieur Cousin, who is an ardent admirer of our author, and who kindly placed at the editor's disposal several curious editions of Bacon in his valuable library at the Sorbonne.
By this means the editions of the Essays of 1598, of 1613 and of 1625 have been examined; and the editor, when he penned the few lines the Notice on the pamphlet against the Earl of Essex and those on the Apology, had these two curious books in his hands. The titles of these two volumes, as given at page 9, were transcribed verbatim from the original editions themselves and the ancient orthography has been faithfully preserved.
To the personal kindness of the eminent philosopher the editor is likewise indebted for some curious facts but little known, such as Bacon's visit to Italy and his fruitless application for admission as a member of the Roman Academy of the Lincei.
The editor fondly cherishes the hope that this small volume may contribute to familiarize the youth of both Great Britain and France with the author's favourite work, the Essays , and with the name , life and writings of that immortal genius, Francis Bacon.