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Francis Bacon's Personality by his essays, Explanation

Francis Bacon's Personality

Bacon's essays hold a key to his characters and personality. Pope in his famestinate of Bacon's character says:

"If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shined.
The wisest, brightest and meanest of mankind."


These words of Pope regarding Bacon has become notoriously famous. Since then writer after writer has used this estimate of Bacon. The three important words that Pope uses in his estimate of Bacon's character are the wisest "the brightest' and "the meanest. He was the wisest because he had massive intellectual powers. He was brightest because he rose to the highest offices in the land, and he was the meanest because he sacrificed quite often the highest principles of life to fulfil his self-interest.

There is a lot of truth in Pope's epigrammatic characterization of Bacon. There is indeed a great desparity between Bacon's intellect and character. While intellectually he was a genius, the wisest and brightest of mankind. Now let us consider each aspect of his character in detail. First of all, left us make some observations regarding his wisdom. He was one of the greatest scholars of his time. He had early in life declared that he had taken all knowledge to be his province. In the words of one of his critics "He believed himself born for the service of mankind, and sincerely desired to devote his wonderful powers to the advancemen of the knowledge which would lead to the glory of the creater and relief of man's estate" This knowledge was indeed very wide. He was a devoted scholar.

His essays show the vast range of his knowledge and experience. They deal with man subjects, of public and private conduct, of state craft of the nature and value of human passion and human relation. There is hardly a sphere of life on which he has not to say something great and striking. He was indeed a walking encyclopaedia.

Bacon was a Machiavellian in so far as his moral values and his precepts of practical success in life are concerned. Success first, morals next-this was Bacon's philosophy of life. He did not behave in any high moral or spiritual values. For him success was the beginning and the end of life's philosophy. In this sense he was the true child of Machiavelli. Therefore, as Hugh Walker says, "Bacon gives the impression of a singular aloofness from moral consideration. "In this sense Pope call Bacon "the wisest, brightest, and meanest of mankind. "Saintsbury notices in Bacon's character all the bad qualities of the Renaissance politician. Blake calls his essays, "good advice for Satan's kingdom. "Blake further says: "This is certain if what Bacon says is true, what Christ says is false. "By these expressions Blake suggests that Bacon's essays possesses cunning and crafty advice to those who want nothing but success in life.

Some of Bacon's practical precepts may be considered here. He gives practical advice to all men in all situations. In most cases his practical advice nothing to do with moral considerations. He did not not hesitate to recommend falsehood to replace truth for the sake of success. He says that truth may be spoken "if it be nor very costly. "Holding the cause of falsehood he says, "Falsehood is like alloy in gold and silver, though if debases the metal, makes it work the better" He did not believe even in religion. He calls religion "His work of a political opportunist. "He did not recommend much fidelity even to wife and children. He calls marriage "a necessary evil" and wife "a desirable calamity" He calls children hostages to fortune" He says "Children sweeten labours, but they make misfortunes more bitter, they increase the cares of life. "In many other essays he recommneds cunningness, pretension, show of love and friendship, even deception as common rule of life for getting success.

However, all his precepts are not devoid of moral considerations. A large number of them display his deep and varied experiences of life, In the essay "Of Studies" he writes, "some books are to be tasted." In the same essay he writes, "Studies perfect nature and are perfected by experience. "Clearly these observations are packed full of life's experience. In another essay he writes, "Virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when they are incensed or crushed" Such "dispersed meditations" are found scattered all over his essays. In no other writer are found such pithy aphorisms so pregnant with thought and practical wisdom. Many of his savings have passed into proverbs.

Thus, Bacon shows himself as the true child of Machiavelli, a true product of the Renaissance utilitarian philosphy of life. His commanding intellect, and rich imagination were qualified by strange incapacity for emotion or moral earnestness. Macaulay rightly says that "neither his principles nor his spirit were, such as, could be trusted when strong temptations were to be resisted and serious dangers to be branded." Therefore. Pope's estimate of his character is largely true. Bacon was intellectually a Titan but morally a Lilliputian. There was often a conflict between Christ and Satan in his heart and very often he stood by the ride of Satan.

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