Page images
PDF
EPUB

and not opinions to reason about, and might ultimately have arrived at the knowledge of the laws which govern the material world." Thus Bacon established the method of Induction1 as the only true key to the temple of knowledge, and has therefore been called the Father of the Inductive Philosophy. "The power and compass," says Professor Playfair, "of a mind which could form such a plan beforehand, and trace not merely the outline, but many of the most minute ramifications of sciences which did not yet exist, must be an object of admiration to all succeeding ages."*

Such is a brief and meagre view of the wonderful intellectual labors of this extraordinary man. He was not insensible of their value, for his last will contains this remarkable passage: "My name and memory I leave to foreign nations and to my own country after some time is passed over."3

DIVERSE OBJECTS OF MEN TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE.

Men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason to the benefit and use of man. As if there were sought in knowledge a couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground for strife and contention; or a shop for profit or sale; and not a rich store-house for the glory of the Creator, and the relief of man's estate.

PRESERVATION OF KNOWLEDGE.

As water, whether it be the dew of heaven or the springs of the earth, doth scatter and lose itself in the ground, except it be collected into some receptacle, where it may, by union, comfort and sustain itself; and, for that cause, the industry of man hath framed and made spring-heads, conduits, cisterns, and pools; which men have accustomed likewise to beautify and adorn with accomplishments of magnificence and state, as well as of use and

1 Tbts t* called the I*duHhx system, from the Latin inductio, "n leading np," from particular facia to ffcneral conclusion*.

s The best cdiUon of Bacon la that, by Basil Montagu, 17 vols. 8vo, London. It has been reprinted here in three volume*. Read, particularly, a very able article In the "Edinburgh Review," by Mueanlay, July, 1B37. Rend, also, two in the "Retrospective," Hi. 141, and lv. 280; also, an article in the third Tol of r/Isracll's "Amenities of Literature;" nnother, in Hazlltt's "Age of Elizabeth and the work recenUy published In Dublin, entitled "Selections from Bacon," by Thos. W. Moffctx.

* M Who u there, that, npon hearing the name of Lord Bacon, does not Instantly recognise every thing of genius the mot profound, every thing of literature the most extensive, every thing of discovery the most penetrating, every thing of observation on human life the most distinguishing and refined."—Burke.

L H*

necessity: so knowledge, whether it descend from divine inspiration or spring from human sense, would soon perish and vanish to oblivion, if it were not preserved in books, traditions, conferences, and places appointed, as universities, colleges, and schools for the Teceipt and comforting the same.

PLEASURE OF KNOWLEDGE.

The pleasure and delight of knowledge and learning far surpasscth all other in nature; for shall the pleasures of the affections so exceed the pleasures of the senses, as much as the obtaining of desire or victory exceedeth a song or a dinner; and must not, of consequence, the pleasures of the intellect or understanding exceed the pleasures of the affections? We see in all other pleasures there is a satiety, and after they be used, their verdure departeth; which showeth well they be but deceits of pleasure, and not pleasure, and that it was the novelty which pleased and not the quality; and therefore we see that voluptuous men turn friars, and ambitious princes turn melancholy; but of knowledge there is no satiety,1 but satisfaction and appetite are perpetually interchangeable; and therefore appeareth to be good, in itself simply, without fallacy or accident.

THE USES OF KNOWLEDGE.

Learning taketh away the wildness, and barbarism, and fierceness of men's minds: though a little superficial learning doth rather work a contrary effect. It taketh away all levity, temerity, and insolency, by copious suggestion of all doubts and difficulties, and acquainting the mind to balance reasons on both sides, and to turn back the first offers and conceits of the kind, and to accept of nothing but examined and tried. It taketh away vain admiration of any thing, which is the root of all weakness: for all things are admired, either because they are new, or because they are great. For novelty, no man wadelh in learning or contemplation thoroughly, but will find that printed in his heart, "/ know nothing." Neither can any man marvel at the play of puppets, that goeth behind the curtain, and adviseth well of the motion. And for magnitude, as Alexander the Great, after that he was used to great armies, and the great conquests of the spacious provinces in Asia, when he received letters out of Greece, of some fights and services there, which were commonly for a passage, or a fort, or some walled town at the most, he said, "It seemed to him, that he was advertised of the battle of the frogs and the mice, that the old tales went of." So certainly, if a man meditate upon

[ocr errors]

the universal frame of nature, the earth with men upon it, the divineness of souls excepted, will not seem much other than an ant-hill, where some ants carry com, and some carry their young, and some go empty, and all to and fro a little heap of dust. It taketh away or mitigateth fear of death, or adverse fortune; which is one of the greatest impediments of virtue, and imperfections of manners. For if a man's mind be deeply seasoned with the consideration of the mortality and corruptible nature of things, he will easily concur with Epictetus, who went forth one day, and saw a woman weeping for her pitcher of earth that was broken; and went forth the next day, and saw a woman weeping for her son that was dead; and thereupon said, " Yesterday I saw a fragile thing broken, to-day I have seen a mortal thing die." And therefore Virgil did excellently and profoundly couple the knowledge of causes, and the conquest of all fears together.

It were too long to go over the particular remedies which learning doth minister to all the diseases of the mind, sometimes purging the ill humors, sometimes opening the obstructions, sometimes helping the digestion, sometimes increasing appetite, sometimes healing the wounds and exulcerations thereof, and the like; and therefore I will conclude with the chief reason of all, which is, that it disposeth the constitution of the mind not to be fixed or settled in the defects thereof, but still to be capable and susceptible of reformation. For the unlearned man knows not what it is to descend into himself, or to call himself to account; nor the pleasure of that most pleasant life, which consists in our daily feeling ourselves to become better. The good parts he hath, he will learn to show to the full, and use them dexterously, but not much to increase them: the faults he hath, he will learn how to hide and color them, but not much to amend them: like an ill mower, that mows on still and never whets his scythe. Whereas, with the learned man it fares otherwise, that he doth ever intermix the correction and amendment of his mind with the use and employment thereof.

STUDIES.

Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, 'is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business; for expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies, is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar; they perfect nature, and are perfected by experience—for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books; else distilled books are, like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man ; and, therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not.

THE END OF KNOWLEDGE.

It is an assured truth, and a conclusion of experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of man to atheism; but a further proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion: for in the entrance of philosophy, when the second causes, which are next unto the senses, do offer themselves to the mind of man, if it dwell and stay there, it may induce some oblivion of the highest cause; but when a man passeth on farther, and seeth the dependence of causes, and the works of Providence, then, according to the allegory of the poets, he will easily believe that the highest link of nature's chain must needs be tied to the foot of Jupiter's chair. To conclude, therefore, let no man, upon a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the Book of God's tvord, or in the Book of God1 s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress, or proficiency in both: only let men beware that they apply both to charity, and not to swelling; to use, and not to ostentation; and again, that they do not unwisely mingle, or confound these learnings together.

THE IMMORTALITY OF LITERARY FAME.

Let us conclude with the dignity and excellency of knowledge and learning in that whereunto man's nature doth most aspire, which is immortality or continuance: for to this tendeth generation, and raising of houses and families; to this tendeth buildings, foundations, and monuments; to this tendeth the desire of memory, fame, and celebration, and in effect the strength of all other humane desires: we see then how far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable than the monuments of power or of the hands. For, have not the verses of Homer continued twent)-five hundred years and more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which time infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished? It is not possible to have the true pictures or statues of Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar, no, nor of the kings or great personages of much later years. For the originals cannot last: and the copies cannot but lose of the life and truth. But the images of men's wits and knowledge remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time, and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in succeeding ages. So that, if the invention of the ship was thought so noble, which carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, and consociateth the most remote regions in participation of their fruits, how much more are letters to be magnified, which, as ships, pass through the vast seas of time, and make ages so distant to participate of the wisdom, illuminations, and inventions the one of the other?

JOHN DONNE. 1573—1631.

Johx Dowse, D. D., though during his life most popular as a poet, is now chiefly valued for his prose writings. He was born in London, in 1573, of Roman Catholic parents, but after completing his studies at Oxford, he embraced Protestantism, and became secretary to lord chancellor Ellesmere. Falling in love with the chancellor's niece, he married her privately, for which he was dismissed from his office, and even imprisoned. He was soon released from his confinement, and having " taken orders," the king (James I.) made him one of his chaplains, at whose request, also, he was presented with the degree of D. D. by the University of Cambridge. Subsequently, he became preacher of Lincoln's Inn, and received several other church honors, and died March, 1631. , » Donne's poem3 consist of elegies, satires, letters, epigrams, divine poems, and miscellaneous pieces, and procured for him among his contemporaries an extraordinary share of reputation, but now ho is almost entirely forgotten. Either extreme does him injustice. Though he has not much harmony of versification, and but little simplicity and naturalness in thought and expression, yet he exhibits much erudition, united to an exuberance of wit, and to a fancy, rich, vivid, and picturesque, though, at the samo time, it must be confessed, not a little fantastical. Dr. Johnson, in his life of Cowley, considers him as the founder of the metaphysical school of poets; meaning, thereby, the

« PreviousContinue »