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Lonn Bacon, in the midst of his laborious occupations, published, in the year 1605, his celebrated
work “The Advancement of Learning,” which 1\.
professes to be a survey of the then existing knowledge, with a designation of the parts of science which were unexplored ; the cultivated parts of the intellectual world and the desarts; a finished picture with an outline of what was untouched.
Within the outline is included the whole of science. After having examined the objections to learning ;—the advantages of learning; —the places of learning or universities ;—the books of learning or libraries, “ the shrines where all the relics of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved and reposed ;”-—-after having thus cleared the way, and, as it were, “ made silence to have the true nature of learning better heard and understood,” he investigates all knowledge:
lst. Relating to the Memory, or History.
2nd. Relating to the Imagination, or Poetry.
3rd. Relating to the Understanding, or Philosophy.
Such is the outline : within it the work is minutely arranged, abounds with great felicity of expression, and nervous language : but not contenting himself,
by such arrangement, with the mere exhibition of truth, he adorned it with familiar, simple, and splendid imagery.
When speaking of the error of common minds retiring from active life, he says, “Pythagoras, being asked what he was, answered, that if Hiero were ever at the Olympic games, he knew the manner, that some came as merchants to utter their commodities, and some came to make good cheer, and some came to look on, and that he was one of them that came to look on; but men must know, that in this theatre of man’s life, it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers-on.” So, when explaining the danger to which intellect is exposed of running out into sensuality on its retirement from active life, he says, in another work, “ When I was chancellor I told Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador, that I would willingly forbear the honour to get rid of the burthen; that I had always a desire tolead a private life. Gondomar answered, that he would tell me a tale ; ‘ My lord, there was once an old rat that would needs leave the world; he acquainted the young rats that he would retire into his hole, and spend his days in solitude, and commanded them to respect his philosophical seclusion. They forbore two or three days; at last one, hardier than his fellows, ventured in to see how he did; he entered, and found him sitting in the midst of a rich parmesan cheese.’”
In such familiar explanations did he 1indulge.
into marvels, but to reduce marvels to plain thingsl Of these simple modes of illustrating truth it appears, from a volume of Apothegms, published in the decline of his life, and a recommendation of them, in this treatise, as a useful appendage to history, that he had formed a collection.
When the subject required it, he, without departing from simplicity, selected images of a higher nature; as, when explaining how the body acts upon the mind, and anticipating the common senseless observation, that such investigations are injurious to religion, “ Do not,” he says, “ imagine that inquiries of this nature question the immortality of the soul, or derogate from its sovereignty over the body. The infant in its mother’s womb partakes of the accidents of its mother, but is separable in due season.” So, too, when explaining that the body is decomposed by the depredation of innate spirit and of ambient air, and that if the action of these causes can be prevented, the body will defy decomposition : “ Have you never,” he says, “ seen a fly in amber, more beautifully entombed than an Egyptian monarch?” and, when speaking of the resemblance in the different parts of nature, and calling upon his readers to observe that truths are general, he says, “ Is not the delight of the quavering upon a stop in music the same with the playingof light upon the water,