« ZurückWeiter »
Archbishop Williams, to whose care the. viscount St. Albans, committed his orationsand epistles, expressed his sense of that confidence reposed in him in these words:
“ Your lord ship doth moft worthily, therefore, in preserving these two pieces amongst the reit of those matchless monuments you thall leave behind you : considering, that, as one age hath not bred your experience, so is it not fit it should be confined to one age, and not. imparted to the times to come : for my part therein, I do embrace the honour with all thankfulness, and the trust imposed upon me,, with all religion and devotion."
The famous Sir Henry Wotton, on receive ing from him the Novum Organum, wrote thus in return :
“ Your lordship hath done a great and everlasting benefit to all the children of nature, and to nature herself in her utmost extent of latitude, who never before had ro noble nor fo true an interpreter, or (as I am readier to stile your lordship) never lo inward a secretary of her cabinet.''
But one of the nobleft, and perhaps the most. 'noble, testimony in honour of his great abilities, was the letter written to him, not long after his fall, by the university of Oxford, on their receiving from him his book De Augmentis Scientiarum, the first paragraph only of which shall be here transcribed.
Right honourable, and (what, in nobi. lity, is almost a miracle) mot learned vif.
count! Your honour could have given nothing more agreeable, and the university could have received nothing more acceptable, than the Sciences; and those sciences which the formerly sent forth poor, of low ftature, unpolined, she hath received elegant, tall, and, by the fupplies of your wit, by which alone they could have been advanced, molt rich' in dowry, She esteemeth it an extraordinary favour to have a return, with ufury' made of that by a stranger (if so near a relation
may called a stranger) which she bestows as a patrimony upon her children ; and the readily acknowledgeth, that, though the muses are born in Oxford, they grow elsewhere ; grown. they are, and under your pen; who, like some mighty Hercules in learning, have, by your own hand, further advanced thofe pillars in the learned world, which, by the rest of that world, were supposed immoveable."
Peter Heylin, who was thought, in his time, a great judge of men, things, and books, represents the viscount St. Albans as a man of a strong brain, and capable of the highest performances, more especially of framing a body of perfect philosophy.
Pity it was,” said he," he was not entertained with some liberal falary, abstracted from all affairs both of court and judicature, and furnished with suficiency both of means and helps for the going on in his designs ; which, had it been, he might have given us
such a body of natural philosophy, and made it fo fubfervient to the public good, that neither Aristotle, nor Theophrastus, amongst the ancients; nor Paracelsus, or the rest of our later chymists, would have been considera. ble."
We shall add to these authorities but two more from the learned of our own nation; but they are such as might alone have secured im. mortality to any author they had commended. The firit of these wag Mr. Addison ; who, in one of the Tatlers, in which he vindicates the Chriftian religion, by thewing that the wisest and ableft men in all ages, have profeffed themselves believers, speaks of our author
“I lball in this paper only instance Sir Francis Bacon, a man who, for the greatness of his genius, and compass of knowledge, did honour to his
I could almost say to human nature itself. He poffefied, at once, all those extraordinary talents which wcie divided amongit the greatest authors of antiquity : he had the found, die tinct, comprehenfive knowledge of Aristotle ; with all the beautiful lights, graces, and em. belliihments, of Cicero : one does not know which to admire moft in his writings; the ftrength of reason, force of stile, or brightness of imagination. This author has remarked, in several parts of his works, that a thorough insight into philosophy makes a good believer ;
and, that a smattering in it, naturally produces such a race of despicable infidels, as the little profligate writers of the prescht age, whom, I must confess, I have always accused to myself, not so much for their want of faith as for their want of learning. I was infinitely pleased to find, anong the works of this extraordinary man, a prayer of his own composing; which, for the elevation of thought, and greatness of expreflion, seems rather the devotion of an angel than of a man. His principal fault feems to have been the excess of that virtue which covers a multitude of faults: this be. trayed him to so great an indulgence towards his servants, who made fuch a corrupt use of it, that it itripped him of all those riches and honours whicà a long feries of merits had heaped
The sccond is that short character of his writings given us by the pen of the most noble John Shefield, duke of Buckingham. thire, who asserts, That all his works are, for exprelion, as well as thcught, the glory of our natioa and of ail latter ages.
The laft authority we ihall cite on this fub. ject, thall be Mr. Voltaire, who very justly itiles him the father of experimental philofophy; and enters into abundance of very ju. dicious reflections on his discoveries and writings; owning, at the same time, that what surprized him molt, was, to find the doctrine of attraction, which is looked upon as the
foundation of another philosophy, exprefly fet down in lord Bacon's, in words not to be controverted or mistaken.
We shall not take upon us to decide how far this may be just or not ; but leave it to the search of the learned and ingenious reader Only give us leave to say, We have always suspected that the Novum Organum hath been so little commended by the moderns for two reasons: first, that it requires a deep head and a strong attention to become fully master of it, and fo has been thoroughly understood by few: fecondly, that those few who have fully penetrated it, used it to raise structures of their own, and not to finish Bacon's palace of wisdom.
It was peculiar to this great man to have nothing narrow and selfish in his compofition; he gave away, without concern, whatever hepossessed ; and, believing other men of the fame mould, he received with as little confideration : nay, even as to fame, he had the like notion ; he was desirous to enjoy it, but in the same way ; not from his knowledge, but from his free and liberal communication of that knowledge : so that it may be truly, and without flattery, said, his worst qualities were the excesses of the most exalted virtues.
His glory cannot be blasted by the flashes of envy ; his failings hurt only his contemporaries, and were expiated by his sufferings ; but his virtue and knowledge, and, above