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BARON OF VERULAM, VISCOUNT ST. ALBANS, AND
LORD HIGH CHANCELLOR OF ENGLAND.
ROBERT LESLIE ELLIS, M. A.
LATE FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE;
DOUGLAS DENON HEATH,
HISTORY AND PLAN
Bacon's works were all published separately, and never collected into a body by himself ; and though he had determined, not long before his death, to distribute them into consecutive volumes, the order in which they were to succeed each other was confessedly irregular; a volume of moral and political writings being introduced between the first and second parts of the Instauratio Magna, quite out of place, merely because he had it ready at the time. In arranging the collected works therefore, every editor must use his own judgment.
Blackbourne, the first editor of an Opera Omnia,? took the Distributio Operis as his groundwork, and endeavoured first to place the various unfinished portions of the Instauratio Magna in the order in which they would have stood had they been completed according to the original design ; and then to marshal the rest in such a sequence that they might seem to hang together, each leading by a natural transition to the next, and so connecting themselves into a kind of whole. But the several pieces were not written with a view to any such connexion, which is altogether forced and fanciful; and the arrangement has this great inconvenience - it mixes up earlier writings with later, discarded fragments with completed works, and pieces printed from loose manuscripts found after the author's death with those which were published or prepared for publication by himself. Birch, the original editor of the quarto edition in five volumes 1 which (reprinted in ten volumes octavo) has since kept the market and is now known as the “trade edition," followed Blackbourne's arrangement in the main, — though with several variations which are for the most part not improvements. The arrangement adopted by Mr. Montagu ? is in these respects no better, in all others much worse. M. Bouillet, in his Euvres Philosophiques de Franfois Bacon, does not profess to include all even of the Philosophical works; and he too, though the best editor by far who has yet handled Bacon, has aimed at a classification of the works more systematic, as it seems to me, than the case admits, and has thus given to some of the smaller pieces a prominence which does not belong to them.
1 “ Debuerat sequi Novum Organum: interposui tamen Scripta mea Moralia et Politica, quia magis erant in promptu. . . . Atque hic tomus (ut diximus) interjectus est et non ex ordine Instaurationis." -- Ep. ad Ful gentium, Opuscula, p. 172.
2 Francisci Baconi, fc., Opera Omnia, quatuor voluminibus comprehensa. Londini, mdccxxx.
1 The Works of Francis Bacon, &c., in five volumes. London, 1763.
2 The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England. A new edition by Basil Montagu, Esq. London, 1825–34.
8 Paris, 1834.
In the edition of which the first volume is here offered to the public, a new arrangement has been attempted; the nature and grounds of which I must now explain.
When a man publishes a book, or writes a letter, or delivers a speech, it is always with a view to some particular audience by whom he means to be understood without the help of a commentator. Giving them credit for such knowledge and capacity as they are presumably furnished with, he himself supplies what else is necessary to make his meaning clear ; so that any additional illustrations would be to that audience more of a hindrance than a help. If however his works live into another generation or travel out of the circle to which they were originally addressed, the conditions are changed. He now addresses a new set of readers, differently prepared, knowing much which the others were ignorant of, ignorant of much which the others knew, and on both accounts requiring explanations and elucidations of many things which to the original audience were sufficiently intelligible. These it is the proper business of an editor to supply.
This consideration suggested to me, when consulted about a new edition of Bacon, the expediency