Bacon Essay Of Truth

Essayes: Religious Meditations. Places of Perswasion and Disswasion. Seene and Allowed (1597) was the first published book by the philosopher, statesman and juristFrancis Bacon. The Essays are written in a wide range of styles, from the plain and unadorned to the epigrammatic. They cover topics drawn from both public and private life, and in each case the essays cover their topics systematically from a number of different angles, weighing one argument against another. A much-enlarged second edition appeared in 1612 with 38 essays. Another, under the title Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall, was published in 1625 with 58 essays. Translations into French and Italian appeared during Bacon's lifetime.[1][2]

Critical reception[edit]

Though Bacon considered the Essays "but as recreation of my other studies", he was given high praise by his contemporaries, even to the point of crediting him with having invented the essay form.[3][4] Later researches made clear the extent of Bacon's borrowings from the works of Montaigne, Aristotle and other writers, but the Essays have nevertheless remained in the highest repute.[5][6] The 19th century literary historian Henry Hallam wrote that "They are deeper and more discriminating than any earlier, or almost any later, work in the English language".[7]


Bacon's genius as a phrase-maker appears to great advantage in the later essays. In Of Boldness he wrote, "If the Hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill", which is the earliest known appearance of that proverb in print.[8] The phrase "hostages to fortune" appears in the essay Of Marriage and Single Life – again the earliest known usage.[9]Aldous Huxley's book Jesting Pilate took its epigraph, "What is Truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer", from Bacon's essay Of Truth.[10] The 1999 edition of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations includes no fewer than 91 quotations from the Essays.[11]

Contents listing[edit]

The contents pages of Thomas Markby's 1853 edition list the essays and their dates of publication as follows:[12]

  • Of Truth (1625)
  • Of Death (1612, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Unity in Religion/Of Religion (1612, rewritten 1625)
  • Of Revenge(1625)
  • Of Adversity (1625)
  • Of Simulation and Dissimulation (1625)
  • Of Parents and Children (1612, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Marriage and Single Life (1612, slightly enlarged 1625)
  • Of Envy (1625)
  • Of Love (1612, rewritten 1625)
  • Of Great Place (1612, slightly enlarged 1625)
  • Of Boldness (1625)
  • Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature (1612, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Nobility (1612, rewritten 1625)
  • Of Seditions and Troubles (1625)
  • Of Atheism (1612, slightly enlarged 1625)
  • Of Superstition (1612, slightly enlarged 1625)
  • Of Travel (1625)
  • Of Empire (1612, much enlarged 1625)
  • Of Counsels (1612, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Delays (1625)
  • Of Cunning (1612, rewritten 1625)
  • Of Wisdom for a Man's Self (1612, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Innovations (1625)
  • Of Dispatch (1612)
  • Of Seeming Wise (1612)
  • Of Friendship (1612, rewritten 1625)
  • Of Expense (1597, enlarged 1612, again 1625)
  • Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates (1612, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Regiment of Health (1597, enlarged 1612, again 1625)
  • Of Suspicion (1625)
  • Of Discourse (1597, slightly enlarged 1612, again 1625)
  • Of Plantations (1625)
  • Of Riches (1612, much enlarged 1625)
  • Of Prophecies (1625)
  • Of Ambition (1612, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Masques and Triumphs (1625)
  • Of Nature in Men (1612, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Custom and Education (1612, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Fortune (1612, slightly enlarged 1625)
  • Of Usury (1625)
  • Of Youth and Age (1612, slightly enlarged 1625)
  • Of Beauty (1612, slightly enlarged 1625)
  • Of Deformity (1612, somewhat altered 1625)
  • Of Building (1625)
  • Of Gardens (1625)
  • Of Negotiating (1597, enlarged 1612, very slightly altered 1625)
  • Of Followers and Friends (1597, slightly enlarged 1625)
  • Of Suitors (1597, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Studies (1597, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Faction (1597, much enlarged 1625)
  • Of Ceremonies and Respects (1597, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Praise (1612, enlarged 1625)
  • Of Vain Glory (1612)
  • Of Honour and Reputation (1597, omitted 1612, republished 1625)
  • Of Judicature (1612)
  • Of Anger (1625)
  • Of Vicissitude of Things (1625)
  • A Fragment of an Essay of Fame
  • Of the Colours of Good and Evil

Recent editions[edit]

  • Michael J. Hawkins (ed.) Essays (London: J. M. Dent, 1973). No. 1010 in Everyman's Library.
  • Michael Kiernan (ed.) The Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985). Vol. 15 of The Oxford Francis Bacon.
  • John Pitcher (ed.) The Essays (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985). In the Penguin Classics series.
  • Brian Vickers (ed.) The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral (New York: Oxford University Press). In the Oxford World's Classics series.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  1. ^Burch, Dinah (ed). "The Essays". The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Oxford Reference Online (Subscription service). Retrieved 12 May 2012. 
  2. ^"Catalogue entry". Copac. Retrieved 12 May 2012. 
  3. ^Heard, Franklin Fiske. "Bacon's Essays, with annotations by Richard Whately and notes and a glossarial index". Making of America Books. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  4. ^Bacon, Francis (2000) [1985]. Kiernan, Michael, ed. The Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall. New York: Oxford University Press. p. xlix. ISBN 0198186738. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  5. ^Matthew, H. C. G.; Harrison, Brian, eds. (2004). The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 3. Oxford University Press. p. 142. 
  6. ^Ward, A. W.; Waller, A. R., eds. (1907–27). The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. Cambridge University Press. pp. 395–98. 
  7. ^Hallam, Henry (1854). Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries, Vol 2. Boston: Little, Brown. p. 514. 
  8. ^Simpson, John (1993). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. Oxford University Press. p. 176. 
  9. ^The Oxford English Dictionary Vol 7. Oxford. 1989. p. 418. 
  10. ^Huxley, Aldous (1930). Jesting Pilate. London: Chatto and Windus. 
  11. ^Knowles, Elizabeth M., ed. (1999). The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. pp. 42–44. 
  12. ^Markby, Thomas (1853). The Essays, or, Counsels, Civil and Moral; With a Table of the Colours of Good and Evil. London: Parker. pp. xi–xii. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 

WHAT is Truth? said jesting Pilate;[1] And would not stay for an Answer. Certainly there be, that delight in Giddinesse,[2] And count it a Bondage to fix a Beleefe; Affecting[3] Freewill in Thinking, as well as in Acting. And though the Sects of Philosophers of that Kinde be gone, yet there remainecertaine discoursing Wits,[4] which are of the same veines, though there be not so much Bloud in them, as was in those of the Ancients.[5] But it is not onely the Difficultie and Labour, which men take in finding out of Truth; Nor againe, that when it is found, it imposeth[6] upon men's Thoughts, that doth bring Lies in[7] favour; But a naturall though corrupt Love of the Lie it selfe. One of the later Schoole of the Grecians, examineth the matter, and is at a stand[8] to think what should be in it,[9] that men should love Lies; Where neither they make for Pleasure, as with Poets; Nor for Advantage, as with the Merchant; but for the Lie's sake. But I cannot tell:[10] this same Truth is a Naked and Open day light, that doth not shew the Masques, and Mummeries, and Triumphs of the World[11], halfe so stately and daintily as Candlelights. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a Pearle, that sheweth best by day; But it will not rise to the price of a Diamond, or Carbuncle, that sheweth best in varied lights. A Mixture of a Lie doth ever adde Pleasure. Doth any man doubt that, if there were taken out of Men's Mindes Vaine Opinions, Flattering Hopes, False Valuations, Imaginations as one would[12], and the like, but it would leave the Mindes of a Number of Men poore shrunken Things, full of Melancholy and Indisposition[13], and unpleasung to themselves? One of the fathers, in great severity, called poesy vinum dæmonum,[14] because it filleth the imagination; and yet, it is but with the shadow of a lie. But it is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in and settleth in it, that doth the hurt, such as[15] we spake of before. But, howsoever[16] these things are thus in men’s depraved Iudgements, and Affections, yet Truth, which only doth iudge it selfe, teacheth that the Inquirie of Truth, which is the Love-making, or Wooing of it; The knowledge of Truth, which is the Presence of it; and the Beleefe of Truth, which is the Enjoying of it; is the Soveraigne Good of humane[17] Nature. The first Creature[18] of God, in the workes of the Dayes, was the Light of the Sense; The last, was the Light of Reason; And his Sabbath Worke, ever since, is the Illumination of his Spirit[19]. First he breathed Light into the Face of the Matter or Chaos; then he breathed Light into the Face of Man; and still he breatheth and inspireth Light into the Face of his Chosen. The Poet, that beautified[20] the Sect that was otherwise inferior to the rest, saith yet excellently well: It is a pleasure, to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tost upon the Sea: A pleasure to stand in the window of a Castle, and to see a Battaile, and the Adventures[21] thereof, below: But no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of Truth, (A hill not to be commanded[22], and where the Ayre is alwaies cleare and serene,) And to see the Errours, and Wandrings, and Mists, and Tempests, in the vale below: So alwaies, that[23] this prospect be with Pitty, and not with Swelling or Pride. Certainly, it is Heaven upon Earth, to have a Man's Minde Move in Charitie, Rest in Providence, and Turne upon the Poles of Truth.

To passe from Theologicall, and Philosophicall Truth, to the Truth of civil Businesse[24]; It will be acknowledged, even by those that practize it not, that cleare and Round[25] dealing, is the Honour of Man's Nature; And that Mixture of Falshood, is like Allay in Coyne of Gold and Silver, which may make the Metall worke the better, but it embaseth[26] it. For these winding, and crooked courses, are the Goings of the Serpent; which goeth basely upon the belly, and not upon the Feet. There is no Vice[27] that doth so cover Man with Shame as to be found false and perfidious. And therefore Mountaigny saith prettily, when he inquired the reason why the word of the Lie should be such a Disgrace, and such an Odious Charge, Saith he, If it be well weighed, To say that a man lieth, is as much to say as that he is brave towards God and a Coward towards Men. For a Lie faces God, and shrinkes from Man. Surely the Wickednesse of Falshood and Breach of Faith cannot possibly be so highly expressed, as in that it shall be the last Peale[28] to call the Iudgements of God upon the Generations of Men; It being foretold that, when Christ cometh, He shall not finde Faith upon the Earth.

  1. ↑said Pilate in derision
  2. ↑fickleness
  3. ↑aiming at
  4. ↑discursive minds
  5. ↑whose disposition is the same as that of the ancients, though their abilities are less
  6. i.e. imposes restraint
  7. ↑into
  8. ↑at a loss
  9. ↑why it is
  10. ↑But somehow or other
  11. ↑does not make the world's dramatic spectacles and farcical shows and public pageants appear
  12. ↑at pleasure
  13. ↑languor
  14. ↑the wine of devils
  15. i.e. such a lie as
  16. ↑whatever the true cause may be why
  17. ↑human
  18. ↑created thing
  19. i.e. of men's minds by the Holy Spirit
  20. ↑adorned
  21. ↑chances
  22. ↑not to be overlooked, or, perhaps, inaccessible to others
  23. ↑provided that
  24. ↑the habit of truthfulness in social intercourse
  25. ↑plain and straightforward
  26. ↑debases
  27. i.e. no other vice
  28. ↑summons

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This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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