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When he abandoned himself to it without reserve, the feats which he performed were not only admirable, but portentous and almost shocking. On those occasions we marvel at him as clowns on a fair-day marvel at a juggler, and can hardly help thinking the devil must be in him. These, however, were feats in which his ingenuity now and then wandered, with scarcely any other object than to astonish and amuse. But it occasionally happened, that when he was engaged in grave and profound investigations, his wit obtained the mastery over all his other faculties, and led him into absurdities, into which no dull man could possibly have fallen.” After giving several instances, Mr. Macaulay proceeds thus :-" The truth is, his mind was wonderfully quick in perceiving analogies of all sorts. But, like several eminent men whom we could name, both living and dead, he sometimes appeared strangely deficient in the power of distinguishing rational from fanciful analogies—analogies which are arguments, from analogies which are mere illustrations."
After showing how this want of discrimination has led to many strange political speculations, Mr. Macaulay proceeds :
“ It is curious that Bacon has mentioned this
very kind of delusion among the idola specus, and has mentioned it in language which we are inclined to think, shows that he knew himself to be subject to it. It is the vice, he tells us, of subtle minds to attach too much importance to slight distinctions; it is the vice, on the other hand, of high and discursive intellects to attach too much importance to slight resemblances; and he adds, that when this last propensity is indulged to excess, it leads men to catch at shadows instead of substances. Yet we cannot wish that Bacon's wit had been less luxuriant; for, to say nothing of the pleasure it affords, it was in the vast majority of cases employed for the purpose of making obscure truth plain, of making repulsive truth attractive, of fixing in the mind for 'ever, truth which might otherwise have left but a transient impression.”
To show the identity of this wit with that exhibited in the plays attributed to Shakespeare, we here insert the observations of M. Guizot upon Shakespeare * :
“ The poet's (Shakespeare's) gaze embraced an immense field, and his imagination, traversing it with marvellous rapidity, perceived a thousand distant and singular relations between the objects which met his view, and passed from one to another by a multitude of abrupt and curious transitions, which it afterwards imposed upon both the personages of the drama and the spectators. Hence arose the true and great fault of Shakespeare, the only one which originated in himself, and which is sometimes perceptible, even in his finest compositions, and that is a defective appearance of laborious research, which is occasioned, on the contrary, by the absence of labour. Accustomed by the tasts of his age, frequently to connect ideas and expressions by their most distant relations, he contracted the habit of that learned subtlety which perceives and assimilates everything, and leaves no point of resemblance unnoticed.”
* Guizot's Shakespeare and his Times, page 115.
Of Bacon's poetical faculty, Mr. Macaulay ob
“ The poetical faculty was powerful in Bacon's mind, but not, like his wit, so powerful as occasionally to usurp the place of his reason, and to tyrannise over the whole man. No imagination was ever at once so strong and so throughly subjugated. It never stirred but at a signal from good sense; it stopped at the first check of good sense. Yet, though disciplined to such obedience, it gave noble proofs of its vigour; in truth, much
of Bacon's life was passed in a visionary world. He loved to picture to himself the world as it would be, when his philosophy should, in his own noble phrase, ‘have enlarged the bounds of human empire.
“We might refer to many instances, but we will content ourselves with the strongest—the description of the house of Solomon in the New Atlantis. By most of Bacon's contemporaries, and by some people of our time, this remarkable passage would, we doubt not, be considered as an ingenious rodomontade, a counterpart of the adventures of Sinbad or Baron Munchausen. The truth is, that there is not to be found in any human composition, a passage more eminently distinguished by profound and serene wisdom. The boldness and originality of the fiction are far less wonderful than the nice dis. cernment which carefully excluded from that long list of prodigies, everything that can be proved to lie beyond the mighty magic of induction and of time. Already some parts, and not the least startling parts, of this glorious prophecy have been accomplished, even according to the letter; and the whole, construed according to the spirit, is daily accomplishing all around us.' Now, this is precisely that which we find in