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In this edition of Bacon's Essays, I have used the text of James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon, Vol. XII, 1857-1874. Mr. Spedding edited the Essays with the Latin translation before him, and the large majority of his footnotes explain the English text by giving, untranslated, the corresponding Latin translation. In order to simplify the page, all the Latin footnotes have been omitted. Further, I have omitted all of Mr. Spedding's English notes but seventeen, which are distinguished from my own notes by the signature ‘S.' The seventeen notes that I have retained bear wholly upon matters of text on which Mr. Spedding is the final authority. For example, in the essay, Of Unity in Religion, I have kept the note calling attention to Bacon's use of the double negative. In the essay, Of Empire, Mr. Spedding's note, from his fellow editor, Mr. Robert Leslie Ellis, is historically interesting, because it shows Bacon following the old physiology. If Bacon had lived two years longer than he did, to hear of Ilarvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood, he would undoubtedly have revised his metaphor of "the gatevein, which disperseth the blood” out of both the Essays and The Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seventh. Mr. Spedding's note on the essay, Of Nature in Men, tells us that Bacon's use of the verb 'lay' where ‘lie’ would now be employed may mean that the verbs 'lie' and 'lay' had not become differentiated in his time. All information like this about a classical English author is invaluable to the student, for it encourages accuracy in reading a text and reverence in handling it.
Mr. Spedding translated Bacon's frequent quotations from Latin authors and put his English rendering into the body of the text, in brackets. To make the page clear and pleasing to the eye, I have omitted all the bracketed English translations of Mr. Spedding. My own translations to replace them have been put in the footnotes. In making new translations from the Latin, I have endeavored to bear in mind three things,—to keep near the Latin sense, to use simple idiomatic English, and to catch the Latin spirit, and indeed Bacon's spirit, by being at least brief. It is not possible to read any work of Bacon and know just what he is saying without a reading knowledge of Latin, for he is likely to quote Tacitus or Cicero or Seneca on almost every page. I am of those who deplore the displacement of Latin literature in our schools and colleges by vaguer subjects requiring less mental exertion. I have therefore made no effort either to minimize or to popularize Tacitus and Cicero. They are of the elect. They become more elect, more the aristocrats of letters, as an irrepressible and levelling democracy passes them by on its primrose path to an educational ideal of "small Latin and less Greek." I hope, however, that students of Latin will find my treatment of Bacon's Latin helpful in familiarizing them with the language. With this idea in view, instead of simply locating the Latin quotations, I have frequently given the classical quotation to show the original thought of the Roman author and Bacon's Latin paraphrase of it side by side. In almost every instance I think it will be seen that Bacon while retaining the substance of the thought has expressed it in briefer and simpler Latin. This is partly the difference between a Roman writing his own language when it was living and an Englishman writing it in the age of Elizabeth when it was dead. But it is more than that. It is the piercing intellect of Bacon seeing clear and thinking straight, and shooting its arrow of expression right into the bull's-eye. An example in point is the quotation from Sallust, on the contradictoriness of kings, in the essay, Of Empire. There, making use of the bare thought, Bacon attributes it to Tacitus, but quoting it again in full Latin idiom, in the Advancement of Learning, he ascribes it correctly to Sallust. Bacon is an author who is not afraid to repeat himself, rather he is of opinion that a good idea is worth repeating. I have noted the recurrence of many of the Latin quotations of the Essays in the Advancement of Learning. Dr. William Rawley records that he had a habit of quoting the substance of another man's words, but in better form. Tacitus, in the first book of his Historiae sums up the character of Vespasian as emperor in fourteen words.