Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

LORD BACON'S WORKS.

SYLVA SYLVARUM;

ов,

A NATURAL HISTORY,

IN TEN CENTURIES.

EDITOR'S PREFACE.

In the spring of 1626, Lord Bacon died. In the same year, Dr. Rawley, "his lordship's first and last chaplain," as he always proudly entitles himself, collected and published the different poems which were written to the memory of his honoured master. In the year 1627, he published the Sylva Sylvarum, with an address to the reader, explaining the intention of Lord Bacon in the compilation of this work, and the probable objections which might be made to the publication; that it was not methodical; and that many of the experiments would be deemed vulgar and trivial.

With respect to the want of method, although, to use the words of Dr. Rawley, "he that looketh attentively into the work, shall find that they have a secret order," yet knowing as he did the charms of symmetry in arrangement and beauty of style, and the necessity of adopting them to insure an immediate and favourable reception of abstruse works, Lord Bacon was never misled by the love of order: he did not worship this idol; but "as Hercules, when he saw the image of Adonis, Venus' minion, in a temple, said in disdain, 'Nil sacri es ;' so there are none of Hercules' followers in learning, that is, the more severe and laborious sort of inquirers into truth, but will despise those delicacies and affectations, as indeed capable of no divineness."

"No man was, for his own sake, less attached to system or ornament than Lord Bacon. A plain unadorned style in aphorisms, in which the Novum Organum is written, is, he invariably states, the proper style for philosophy. In the midst of his own arrangement, in the Advancement of Learning, he says: The worst and most absurd sort of triflers are those who have pent the whole art into strict methods and narrow systems, which men commonly cry up for the sake of their regularity and style.""

Again he says: "It is of great consequence to consider whether sciences should be delivered by way of aphorism or of method. Methodical delivery is more fit to win consent or belief; but less fit to point to action; for they carry a show of demonstration in orb or circle, one part illuminating another; and therefore do more satisfy the understanding; but being that actions in common course of life are dispersed, and not orderly digested, they do best agree with dispersed directions. Lastly, aphorisms representing certain portions only, and as it were fragments of sciences, invite others to contribute and add something; whereas methodical delivery carrying show of a total and perfect knowledge, forthwith secureth men as if they were at the furthest."

Again, "Science is much injured by the over early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into See page 170 of the first volume.

It is a small 8vo, of which there is a copy in the British Museum, VOL. II.-1

A

1

arts and method; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature; so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth; but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be further polished and illustrated, and accommodated for use and practice, but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance."1

Again: "And as for the overmuch credit that hath been given unto authors in sciences, in making them dictators, that their words should stand, and not consuls, to give advice; the damage is infinite that sciences have received thereby, as the principal cause that hath kept them low, at a stay, without growth or advancement. For hence it hath come, that in arts mechanical the first devisor comes shortest, and time addeth and perfecteth; but in sciences the first author goeth farthest, and time leeseth and corrupteth. So, we see, artillery, sailing, printing, and the like, were grossly managed at the first, and by time accommodated and refined: but contrariwise, the philosophies and sciences of Aristotle, Plato, Democritus, Hippocrates, Euclides, Archimedes, of most vigour at the first, and by time degenerate and embased; whereof the reason is no other, but that in the former many wits and industries have contributed in one; and in the latter many wits and industries have been spent about the wit of some one, whom many times they have rather depraved than illustrated. For as water will not ascend higher than the level of the first spring-head from whence it descendeth, so knowledge derived from Aristotle, and exempted from liberty of examination, will not rise again higher than the knowledge of Aristotle." This was the reason why the Sylva Sylvarum was published in Aphorisms, as he knew well, that there was no other way open to unloose men's minds, being bound, and, as it were, maleficiate, by the charms of deceiving notions and theories, and thereby made impotent for generation of works."

With respect to some of the experiments being vulgar and trivial, Lord Bacon says in the Novum Organum, "Quod vero ad rerum utilitatem attinet, vel etiam turpitudinem, quibus (ut ait Plinius) honos præfandus est: eæ res, non minus quam lautissimæ et pretiosissimæ, in Historiam Naturalem recipiendæ sunt. Neque propterea polluitur Naturalis Historia: Sol enim æque palatia et cloacas ingreditur, neque tamen polluitur. Nos autem non Capitolium aliquod aut Pyramidem hominum superbiæ dedicamus aut condimus, sed Templum sanctum ad exemplar mundi in intellectu humano fundamus. Itaque exemplar sequimur. Nam quicquid essentia dignum est, id etiam scientia dignum; quæ est essentiæ imago. At vilia æque substitunt ac lauta. Quinetiam, ut e quibusdam putridis materiis, veluti Musco et Zibetho, aliquando optimi odores generantur; ita et ab instantiis vilibus et sordidis, quandoque eximia lux et informatio emanant. Verum de hoc nimis multa; cum hoc genus fastidii sit plane puerile et effœminatum."3

And again, "with relation to this contempt of natural history, on account of its containing things that are vulgar, ignoble, subtile, or useless in their origins, we should here consider, as an oracle, the saying of the poor woman to the haughty prince, who rejected her petition as a thing below his dignity to take notice of; then cease to reign; for it is certain, that whoever will not attend to matters of this kind, as if they were too minute or trifling, shall never obtain command or rule over nature."

These two objections stated by Rawley were anticipated by Lord Bacon in the Novum Organum,✩ where he mentions a third objection which is, even at this day, repeatedly urged against the Sylva Sylvarum. "Some," he says, "without doubt, upon reading our history and tables of invention, will meet with experiments not well verified, or even absolutely false; and may thence, perhaps, be apt to suspect, that our inventions are built upon doubtful principles, and erroneous foundations. But this is nothing: for such slips must necessarily happen in the beginning. It is but as if here and there a letter should be misplaced, or mistaken, in a writing, or printed book; which does not, usually, much interrupt the reader: as such errors are easily corrected, from the sense of the place. In the same manner let men observe, that experiments may be falsely believed, and received in natural history; and yet soon after be expunged and rejected, when causes and axioms are discovered. Though, it is true, that if there should be many, and frequent, and continued errors, in a natural and experimental history, they cannot be corrected by any felicity of art or genius: and therefore, if in our Natural History, which is collected, and examined, with so much diligence, so rigorous, and, as it were, with so religious a severity, there should sometimes happen any falsity, or mistake, with re

1 Page 173 of the first volume.

Article 120.

"But for unpolite, or even sordid particulars, which as Pliny observes, require an apology for being mentioned; even these ought to be received into a Natural History, no less than the most rich and delicate; for Natural History is not defiled by them, any more than the sun, by shining alike upon the palace and the privy. And we do not endeavour to build a Capitol, or erect a paramid, to the glory of mankind; but to found a temple, in imitation of the world, and consecrate it to the human understanding: so that we must frame our model accordingly. For whatever is worthy of existence, is worthy of our knowledge, which is the image of existence: but ignoble things exist, as well as the noble. Nay, as some excrementitious matters, for example, musk, civet, &c. sometimes produce excellent odours; so sordid instances sometimes afford great light and information. But enough of this; as such a delicacy is perfectly childish and effeminate."

Article 119.

« PreviousContinue »