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ways the case. Bacon, especially, grouped his thoughts around a central idea without any effort at an orderly, logical paragraph development.
Usually the author of an essay is especially particular about his literary style. This, of course, is important; and yet the thought, the mood, experience, or observations are more so. Essay writers are usually people who have plenty of time for reflection.
In reading an essay one should notice what is revealed of the author's own experiences and personality, as well as the important thoughts which he wished to impart. The central thought of an essay can usually be summed up in a single sentence. The essay occasionally resembles fiction by its use of the character sketch1 and the drama by the dialogue that it sometimes uses.
The Great Essayists. Although there is essay material to be found in the older literature of the world, it was the French writer, Montaigne, who in 1571 first applied to his prose pieces the term essais which has designated the type in modern times. We thus think of Montaigne as our first real essayist. Twenty-seven years later Francis Bacon used the name for the first time in English when he applied it to ten short prose pieces that he had written. This number of his essays was increased to fifty-eight in 1625. From that time almost nothing was done toward developing the essay until the time of Addison and Steele in the first part of the eighteenth century. Their essays, written for the Tatler and Spectator, were bright, usually humorous, and chatty, and had a much greater influence on later writers than did Bacon's deep, philosophical truths, jotted down in memorandum style. Several other eighteenth century writers tried to write essays, but without much success. It was not until the time of Lamb, Hazlitt, and De Quincey, in the first part of the nineteenth century, that the great period of essay writing began. Since then there have been many essayists. Macaulay, Carlyle, Ruskin, Thackeray, Arnold, Stevenson, Irving, Emerson, Lowell, and Holmes wrote during the last part of the nineteenth century; while Benson, Chesterton, Van Dyke, Crothers, Briggs, Mabie and Miss Repplier are among the best known writers who are handling this type today.
1 "The De Coverley Papers" are essays of this kind.
2 "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table" is full of dialogue.
3 Hamilton Mabie died on December 31, 1916.
SUGGESTIONS TO STUDENTS
1. Read the essay, in each case, through in order to get the author's viewpoint and thought.
2. Just as in the lyric poems, some of these essays will need to be carefully studied to get the thought. Others, that are easier to understand, may be talked over informally and enjoyed. Imagine that the author is sitting in your midst. Note his personality and get acquainted with him. Do you think you would like to have him for a friend? What have you learned about him from this essay? 3. What seemed to be the author's purpose in writing this essay? What is its central thought? 4. Was the essay light, humorous, chatty, fanciful, or full of deep thought? 5. Was the subject drawn from biography, history, personal life, travel, nature, or did it seem to have some other source? 6. Did it have the three important characteristics of an essay v?
7. Did it have a regular, logical paragraph development, or were the thoughts arranged in a sort of cluster? 8. Can you classify this essay? 9. Did you enjoy it?
Some Examples of Essays.
FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626)
Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out. For, as for the first wrong, it doth but offend the law; but the revenge of that wrong putteth the law out of office. Certainly, in taking revenge a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior: for it is a prince's part to pardon. And Solomon, I am sure, saith, "It is the glory of a man to pass by an offence." That which is past is gone and irrevocable, and wise men have enough to do with things present and to come: therefore they do but trifle with themselves that labor in past matters. There is no man doth a wrong for the wrong's sake; but thereby to purchase himself profit, or pleasure, or honor, or the like. Therefore why should I be angry with a man for loving himself better than me? And if any man should do wrong, merely out of ill-nature, why, yet it is but like the thorn or briar, which prick and scratch, because they can do no other. The most tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which there is no law to remedy: but then let a man take heed the revenge be such as there is no law to punish: else a man's enemy is still beforehand, and it is two for one. Some, when they take revenge, are desirous the party should know whence it cometh this is the more generous. For the delight seemeth to be not so much in doing the hurt, as in making the party repent: but base and crafty cowards are like the arrow that flieth in the dark. Cosmus, Duke of
Florence,1 had a desperate 2 saying against perfidious or neglecting friends, as if those wrongs were unpardonable. "You shall read," saith he, "that we are commanded to forgive our enemies; but you never read, that we are commanded to forgive our friends." But yet the spirit of Job was in a better tune: "Shall we," saith he, "take good at God's hands, and not be content to take evil also?" And so of friends in a proportion. This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well. Public revenges are for the most part fortunate: as that for the death of Cæsar; for the death of Pertinax; 5 for the death of Henry the Third of France; and many more. But in private revenges it is not so; nay, rather, vindictive persons live the life of witches; who as they are mischievous, so end they unfortunate.
I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue. The Roman word is better, "impedimenta." For as the baggage is to an army, so is riches to virtue. It cannot be spared, nor left behind, but it hindereth the march; yea, and the care of it sometimes loseth or disturbeth the victory. Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is but conceit. So saith Solomon, "Where much is, there are many to consume it; and what hath the owner, but the sight of it with his eyes?" 3 The personal fruition in any man cannot reach to feel great riches: there is a custody of them; or a power of dole and donative of them; or a fame of them; but no solid use to the owner. Do you not see what feigned prices are set upon little stones and rarities? And what works of ostentation are undertaken, because there might seem to be some use of great riches? But then you will say, they may be of use to buy men out of dangers or troubles. As Solomon saith, "Riches are as a strong hold in the imagination of the rich man." 5 But this is excellently expressed, that it is in imagination, and not always in fact. For certainly great riches have sold more men than they have bought out.
Seek not proud riches, but such as thou mayest get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, and leave contentedly. Yet have no abstract nor friarly contempt of them: but distinguish, as Cicero saith well of Rabirius Posthumus; "in studio rei amplificandæ apparebat, non avaritiæ prædam, sed instrumentum bonitati quæri." Hearken also to Solomon and be ware of hasty gathering of riches: "Qui festinat ad divitias, non erit insons." The poets feign, that when Plutus, which is riches, is sent from Jupiter,10 he limps, and goes slowly; but when he is sent from Pluto,11 he runs, and is swift of foot: meaning, that riches gotten by good means and just labor, pace slowly; but when they come by the death of others, as by the course of inheritance, testaments, and the like, they come tumbling upon a man. But it might be applied likewise to Pluto, taking him for the devil. For when riches come from the devil, as by fraud,
and oppression, and unjust means, they come upon speed. The ways to enrich are many, and most of them foul. Parsimony is one of the best, and yet is not innocent: for it withholdeth men from works of liberality and charity. The improvement of the ground is the most natural obtaining of riches; for it is our great mother's blessing, the earth's; but it is slow. And yet, where men of great wealth do stoop to husbandry, it multiplieth riches exceedingly. I knew a nobleman in England that had the greatest audits 12 of any man in my time: a great grazier, a great sheep-master, a great timber-man, a great collier, a great corn-master, a great lead-man; and so of iron, and a number of the like points of husbandry: so as the earth seemed a sea to him, in respect of the perpetual importation. It was truly observed by one, that himself came very hardly to a little riches, and very easily to great riches. For when a man's stock is come to that, that he can expect 13 the prime of markets, and overcome 14 those bargains which for their greatness are few men's money, and be partner in the industries of younger men, he cannot but increase mainly. The gains of ordinary trades and vocations are honest, and furthered by two things, chiefly by diligence, and by a good name for good and fair dealing. But the gains of bargains are of a more doubtful nature; when men shall wait upon others' necessity, broke 15 by servants and instruments to draw them on, put off others cunningly that would be better chapmen,10 and the like practices, which are crafty and naught. As for the chopping of bargains,17 when a man buys, not to hold, but to sell over again, that commonly grindeth double, both upon the seller and upon the buyer. Sharings 18 do greatly enrich, if the hands be well chosen that are trusted. Usury 19 is the certainest means of gain, though one of the worst, as that whereby a man doth eat his bread "in sudore vultus alieni;" 20 and besides, doth plough upon Sundays.21 But yet certain though it be, it hath flaws; for that the scriveners 22 and brokers 23 do value unsound men,24 to serve their own turn. The fortune in being the first in an invention or in a privilege, doth cause sometimes a wonderful overgrowth in riches; as it was with the first sugar-man in the Canaries. Therefore, if a man can play the true logician,25 to have as well judgment as invention, he may do great matters, especially if the times be fit. He that resteth upon gains certain, shall hardly grow to great riches. And he that puts all upon adventures doth oftentimes break, and come to poverty: it is good therefore to guard adventures with certainties that may uphold losses. Monopolies, and co-emption of wares 26 for resale, where they are not restrained, are great means to enrich; especially if the party have intelligence what things are like to come into request, and so store himself beforehand. Riches gotten by service,27 though it be of the best rise, yet when they are gotten by flattery, feeding humors, and other servile conditions, they may be placed amongst the worst. As for fishing for testaments and executorships, as Tacitus saith of Seneca, "Testamenta et orbos tanquam indagine capi," 28 it is yet
worse; by how much men submit themselves to meaner persons than in service. Believe not much them that seem to despise riches; for they despise them that despair of them: and none worse when they come to them. Be not penny-wise; riches have wings, and sometimes they fly away of themselves, sometimes they must be set flying to bring in more. Men leave their riches either to their kindred, or to the public: and moderate portions prosper best in both. A great state left to an heir, is as a lure to all the birds of prey round about to seize on him, if he be not the better stablished in years and judgment. Likewise glorious gifts and foundations are like sacrifices without salt; and but the painted sepulchres of alms, which soon will putrefy and corrupt inwardly. Therefore measure not thine advancements by quantity, but frame them by measure: and defer not charities till death: for certainly, if a man weigh it rightly, he that doth so, is rather liberal of another man's than of his own.
Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight, is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business. For expert 2 men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies, is sloth: to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judg ment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them for they teach not their own use: but that is a wisdom without3 them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously; * and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books: else distilled 5 books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logie and rhetoric, able to contend. "Abeunt studia in mores." 9