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His supposed poverty has been much insisted on, not only by our own writers, but by foreigners. Some Wilson. of the former have asserted, that he languished out a solitary being in obscurity and indigence: and among the latter, Le Clerc, who was led into the same notion by a passage in one of Howel's letters, has animadverted with an honest indignation on the meanness of that prince, who could leave such a man as he was to struggle, in his declining age, both with penury and affliction. I believe the matter has been exaggerated. Perhaps he did not enjoy affluence or entire ease of fortune: but his ordinary income must have placed him above sordid want and anxiety. Dr. Rawley, who lived long in his family, affirms that the king had given him, out of the Broad Seal and Alienation office, to the value of eighteen hundred pounds a year; which, with his own lands, amounting to a third part more, he retained to his death. But then he had treasured up nothing in his prosperous condition against the day of adversity: and his pension was not only precarious, but ill paid, by a king, who, instead of husbanding his revenues for great or good purposes, was daily lavishing them away, in fruitless negociations, or on the least deserving of his subjects. Add to these things, that my lord Bacon lay all this time under the incumbrance of a vast debt; and that he had doubtless expended very considerable sums in procuring or making experiments. Even those, whom we see close and sparing on every other occasion, are yet profuse in gratifying a favourite passion. From all which arose that distress and those difficulties into which he was often plunged. That they were many and great, we can entertain no doubt. It is but too strongly confirmed to us by some unusual expressions in his letters to king James; where we find him pouring out his heart in complaints and supplications of such a strain, as every one who reveres his
*It appears by a letter of Buckingham to him, that he asked for the provostship of Eton college, and was refused it.
memory will wish he had never uttered. Those who insist on the meanness, those who plead for the digCCLXXVI. pity, of human nature, may, in this one man, find
abundant matter to support their several opinions. But, let us draw a veil over imperfections, and at the same time acknowledge, that a very ordinary penetration may serve to discover remarkable blemishes and failings in the most comprehensive minds, in the greatest characters, that ever adorned mortality.
King James died in 1625; after an inglorious and a fatal reign of three and twenty years: despised by foreigners, despised and hated by his own subjects. The mischievous notions he broached, the perverse conduct he held, gave rise to those divisions that quickly after involved his kingdoms in all the guilt and misery of a civil war: that shook the British constitution to its foundations, and in the end overturned it; though apparently framed to last for ages, as it had been ages in building up and perfecting.
His unfortunate chancellor survived him something above a year. The multiplicity of business and study in which he had been long engaged, but above all the anguish of mind he secretly laboured under, had undermined and broken into his health. After having been for some time infirm and declining, he owed his death at last to an excess, not unbecoming a philosopher; in pursuing, with more application than his strength could bear, certain experiments touching the conservation of bodies. He was so suddenly struck in his head and stomach, that he found himself obliged to retire into the earl of Arundel's house at Highgate, near which he then happened to be. There he sickened of a fever, attended with a defluxion on his breast; and, after a week's An. 1626. illness, expired; on the ninth of April, in the sixtysixth year of his age. How he bore this indisposition, or what discourses he held at the nearer approaches of death, no account is to be found; an omission which every reader must feel and regret : as nothing can awaken the attention, nothing affect the heart of man more strongly than the behaviour of
eminent personages in their last moments; in that only scene of life wherein we are all sure, later or sooner, to resemble them. There remains only a Bacon, letter, the last he ever wrote, addressed to that noble- Vol. V. man under whose roof he died; in which he compares himself to a celebrated philosopher of antiquity, Pliny the elder; who lost his life by inquiring, with too dangerous a curiosity, into the first great eruption of Vesuvius.
Thus lived and died the lord chancellor Bacon.*
He was buried privately in St. Michael's church near St. Alban's. The spot that contains his remains lay obscure and undistinguished, till the gra titude of a private man, formerly his servant, erected SirThomas a monument to his name and memory. In another Meautys. country, in a better age, his monument would have stood a public proof in what veneration the whole society held a citizen, whose genius did them honour, and whose writings will instruct their latest posterity. One passage in his will is remarkable. After bequeathing his soul and body in the usual form, he adds, "my name and memory I leave to foreign Baconiana, "nations; and to mine own countrymen, after some p. 203.
• He continued single till after forty, and then took to wife a daughter of alderman Barnham, of London, with whom he received a plentiful fortune, but had by her no children and she out-lived him upwards of twenty years. Such readers as have any curiosity to know what regimen he observed, may take the following account of it in the words of his chaplain. "His diet was rather plentiful and liberal than restrained. In his younger years he "was much given to the finer and lighter sorts of meats: but after"wards he preferred the stronger, such as the shambles afforded; "as those which bred the more firm and substantial juices, and "less dissipable. He did not, you may be sure, neglect that "himself, which he so much extolled to others in his writings, the "frequent use of nitre; whereof he took the quantity of about "three grains in thin warm broth every morning, for thirty years "together. His ordinary physic was a maceration of rhubarb, in"fused into a draught of white wine and beer mingled together "for the space of half an hour, once in six or seven days, imme"diately before his meal, whether dinner or supper; that it might "dry the body less. His receipt for the gout, which constantly "gave him ease within two hours, is set down in the end of the "Natural History." See Vol. II. p. 225.
"time be passed over." As to the former, he was, even in his life-time, looked upon with admiration by the most eminent men that France and Italy could
then boast of; and by some of them visited, as one Voltaire, whose talents were an ornament, not only to his age, Lettres but to human nature itself. When the marquis Anglois, D'Effiat brought into England the princess HenriettaMaria, wife to Charles the first, he paid a visit to my lord Bacon; who, being then sick in bed, received him with the curtains drawn. "You resemble the angels," said that minister to him: "we hear those beings continually talked of, we believe them superiour to mankind, and we never have the conso"lation to see them." Among his countrymen, the names, alone, of those who have adopted his notions, and proceeded on his plan, are his highest encomium. To pass over a long line of philosophers, all illustrious; he reckons in the list of his followers a Boyle, a Locke, a Newton himself.
One singularity there was in his temperament, not easily to be accounted for: in every eclipse of the moon, whether he observed it or not, he was certainly seized with a sudden fit of fainting; which left him, without any remaining weakness, as soon as Evelyn of the eclipse ended. He was of a middling stature; his forehead spacious and open, early impressed with the marks of age; his eye lively and penetrating; his whole appearance venerably pleasing: so that the beholder was insensibly drawn to love, before he knew how much reason there was to admire him. In this respect, we may apply to my lord Bacon what Tacitus finely observes of his father-in-law, Agricola: a good man you would readily have judged him to be, and been pleased to find him a great man.
Those talents that commonly appear single in others, and they too men of reputation, shone forth in him united and eminent. All his cotemporaries, even those who hated the courtier, stand up and bear witness together to the superior abilities of the writer Advice to and pleader, of the philosopher and companion. In conversation he could assume the most differing cha
racters, and speak the language proper to each, with a facility that was perfectly natural; or the dexterity of the habit concealed every appearance of art: a happy versatility of genius, which all men wish to arrive at, and one or two, once in an age, are seen to possess. In public, he commanded the attention of his hearers, and had their affections wholly in his power. As he accompanied what he spoke with all the expression and grace of action, his pleadings, that are now perhaps read without emotion, never failed to awaken in his audience the several passions he intended they should feel. This is not a picture of him drawn from fancy; it is copied, and that too B. Jonson, but in miniature, after another taken by one who in his Disknew him well; a good judge of merit, and seldom known to err, at least in heightening a favourable likeness. As a philosopher, it is scarce hyperbolical to say of him, in Mr. Addison's words, that he had the sound, distinct, comprehensive knowledge of Aristotle, with all the beautiful lights, graces, and embellishments of Cicero. To this commendation of his talents, the learned throughout Europe have given their common sanction, and own him for the father of the only valuable philosophy, that of fact and observation.
It remains then to consider him, more particularly than we have hitherto done, in this most known and conspicuous part of his character; where his merit is unquestionably great and intirely his own. For, to the writings of the ancients he was not, he could not, be obliged. They had either mistaken the right road to natural knowledge; or if any of them struck into it by chance, finding the way difficult, obscure, and tedious, they soon abandoned it for ever. He owed to himself alone, to a certain intellectual sagacity, that beam of true discernment which shewed him at once, and as it were by intuition, what the most painful inquiries, for more than twenty ages backward, had searched after in vain. And here let me observe towards him the same impartiality I have hitherto aimed at: and, in order to know what he really did as a philosopher, place before the reader a