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solemnly still by the denunciations of their representatives. After a recess of three weeks, the house met again but the weight of their indignation fell singly, and therefore without mercy, on the chancellor. They were not satisfied with his letter of general confession, though delivered to them by the prince of Wales; in which he renounced all justification of himself, and sued for no other favour," but "that his penitent submission might be his sentence, "and the loss of the seals his punishment." He was obliged to put in a particular answer to every point of his accusation: which he did on the first of May, 1621; acknowledging, in the most explicit words, the corruption charged upon him in twentyeight several articles, and throwing his cause entirely on the compassion of his judges. His sentence was, "to undergo a fine of forty thousand pounds; to be imprisoned in the Tower during the king's pleasure; to be for ever uncapable of any office, place, "or employment in the commonwealth; and never "to sit again in parliament, or come within the verge "of the court." Thus he lost the great privilege of his peerage; a severity unusual, except in cases of treason and attainder.
The last article of his charge furnishes matter for much reflection. It alledges, It alledges, "that he had given way to great exactions in his servants, both in re"spect of private seals, and otherwise for sealing in
junctions." This indulgence to his domestics, which was certainly extreme, has been generally, and I believe truly, reckoned the principal cause of those irreWilson. gularities that drew on his disgrace. Liberal in his own temper, or rather profuse beyond the condition 2. of a man who means to preserve his integrity, he allowed his family in every kind of extravagance: and as many of his retinue were young, dissipated, giddy in the pursuit of pleasure, they squandered without measure, where they were indulged without controul*,
Abridg. Post. p.
* One day, during his trial, as he was passing through a room where several of his domestics were sitting, upon their getting up to salute him, Sit down, my masters, he cried; your rise hath been my fall.
Whether he did not discover this error till it was too late, or whether a soul like his, lost in the greatness and immensity of its own views, could not attend to that detail of little and disagreeable particulars, which yet œconomy requires; however that was, to support his ordinary train of living, he fell into corruption himself, and connived at it in his dependents. Thus we behold him, a memorable example of all that is great and exalted, of all that is little and low, in man. Such inconsistencies in our human nature cannot but alarm and terrify even those who are most confirmed in a habit of virtue.
After a short confinement in the Tower, the king restored him to his liberty, and forgave the fine in which the parliament had amerced him. As this fine was very considerable, he managed so as to have it assigned over to some of his friends, under the notion of being his creditors: and we find Williams, Cabala, his successor in the seals, complaining heavily of this stratagem; as if he thereby intended to defraud those persons to whom he was really in debt, who were many and in danger of being ruined by his fall. But I am inclined to hope, that he made use of this artifice with a more innocent view: namely, to procure himself a short respite from their importunities, till he could settle his private affairs, extremely perplexed by former ill management, and now by the loss of his employments rendered desperate. That I may not be obliged to mention any more an affair alike ungrateful to the reader and writer, I will observe here, that about three years after this, he petitioned king James for a total remission of his censure: "to the end that this blot of ignominy might Bacon, "be removed from him, and from his memory with Vol. V. "posterity." What lay in the king's power, James CCXCIV. readily granted, a full and entire pardon of his whole Cabala, sentence*. Posterity likewise, to which he appealed, P. 249. has seemed unwilling to remember that he ever
• Accordingly he was summoned to the first parliament of king Charles.
offended: and those who record his failings, like those who have made observations on the spots in the sun, neither pretend to diminish his real brightness in himself, nor deny his universal influence on Bushel's the world of learning. Thus he withdrew from the Abridg. glare of a public station into the shade of retirement and studious leisure; often lamenting, that ambition and false glory had so long diverted him from the noblest as well as the most useful employments of a reasonable being: mortified, no doubt, into these sentiments by a severe conviction, in his own person, of the instability and emptiness of all human grandeur.
Hitherto we have followed him through the bustle and obliquity of business. We shall find him henceforth in a more pleasing, though a less conspicuous situation; freed from the servitude of a court; from an intolerable attendance there, on the vices and follies of men every way his inferiors (for in this reign no one could rise to power on more honourable terms :) in a condition now to pursue the native bent of his genius; to live to himself, and for the advantage, not of one age, or one people only, but of all mankind, and all times to come.
The first considerable work he engaged in, after his retirement, was the history of Henry the seventh; which he undertook at the desire of king James, and published in the year 1622. Whatever some writers may have insinuated of his melancholy and dejection, we find every where, in this performance, evident traces of a spirit unbroken by age, and unsubdued by misfortunes. It has been highly applauded, and as much condemned: a proof that it has more than common merit. And we may venture to affirm, that, whatever its faults are, they arise from no want of vigour in the understanding, or of warmth in the imagination of the writer. King James affected to consider his great grandfather Henry as a perfect modeł for the imitation of other monarchs: and as his was the reign of flattery, this quickly grew to be the prevalent and fashionable opinion at court. Though in
truth, that prince's character was, in every part of it, unamiable; and his conduct, on many occasions, weak or wicked. If my lord Bacon has not wholly escaped the infection of his age; if he has here and there attempted to brighten the imperfections, and throw in shades the bad features of the original he was drawing; yet, through these softenings, we can easily see this king as he was, and in all his genuine deformity. Suspicion and avarice, his own historian acknowledges, were the chief ingredients in his composition and therefore his politics, both at home and abroad, were narrow, selfish, and false. Void of all great and extensive prudence, he endeavoured to supply that want by temporary shifts, and the little expedients of cunning. By these he commonly had Bacon, the luck to extricate himself out of difficulties, which Vol. V. a wiser man would have timely foreseen, and a better man have wholly prevented. But as his genius was unsociable and solitary, the darkness in his temper passed on mankind for depth and sagacity in his understanding. His avarice too, was sordid and shameless. Nothing seemed mean, nothing unjust in his eyes, that could fill his coffers: and merely to fill them, for of wealth he had no enjoyment, he descended to arts of rapine no less scandalous than they were oppressive.
I have acknowledged that my lord Bacon's History has been taxed of partiality, and I will not dissemble that his style has been objected to, as full of affectation, full of false eloquence. But that was the vice, not of the man, but of the times he lived in: and particularly of a court, that, after the sovereign's example, delighted in the tinsel of wit and writing, in the poor ingenuity of punning and quibbling.
His Essays have, of all his works, been most current, and are still very justly esteemed. Towards the close of his life he greatly enlarged them both in number and weight; and published them anew, not only in English, but in a more universal language, which, he imagined, may preserve them as long as books shall last. As they are intended not to amuse
Lettres sur les
Anglois, p. 88.
but instruct; as they are neither a satire on human nature, nor the school' of scepticism; Monsieur de Voltaire observes, that they have been less popular than the maxims of Rochefoucault, or the Essays of Montagne. A remark that does my lord Bacon honour; who was too great a man to court a reputation from the multitude, by sacrificing to that malignity, or indulging that curious extravagance, which too many readers, I am afraid, expect to find gratified, even in writings of a moral kind.
Of the other works which he composed in this last scene of his life, I forbear to make any mention here: they will be all enumerated in another place, Let me only observe, that nothing can give a more exalted idea of the fruitfulness and vigour of his genius, than the number and nature of those writings. Under the discouragement of a public censure, broken in his health, broken in his fortunes, he enjoyed his retirement not above five years: a little portion of time! yet he found means to crowd into it what might have been the whole business, and the glory too, of a long and fortunate life. Some of his former pieces he methodized and enriched: several new ones he composed, no less considerable for the greatness and variety of the arguments he treated, than for his manner of treating them. Nor are they works of mere erudition and labour, that require little else but strength of constitution and obstinate application they are original efforts of genius and reflection, on subjects either new, or handled in a manner that makes them so. His notions he drew from his own fund; and they were solid, comprehensive, systematical; the disposition of his whole plan throwing light and grace on all the particular parts. In considering every subject, he seems to have placed himself in a point of view so advantageous and elevated, that he could from thence discover a whole country round him, and mark out the several spots of it, distinctly and with ease. These characters are equally due to the works in which he made some progress, and to those he could only attempt.