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Home » , » Consider Bacon as an essayist with reference to his essay, 'Of Studies'

Bacon as an essayist

The subjective and personal essay was invented by Montaigne, the French Philosopher. Montaigne's essays were characterised by lightness in treatment, limitedness in scope, preponderance of the personal element of the writer and some discursiveness of the writer round the central theme. The treatment was neither exhaustive nor polemical. From Montaigne the essay has come to establish as an art of self-expression. In the essay of Lamb and Stevenson we find this note of self-expression and element of discursiveness round a very trivial subject. These essays are characterised by a certain want of organic quality and absence of a logical and orderly more of procedure.
Bacon as an essayist

Francis Bacon's essays which are called counsels however different in tone and treatment and Bacon as an essayist. Bacon calls his essays 'detached meditations'. They are "brief notes set down rather significantly than anxiously". But Bacon also suggests that his essays are 'cultured glances' rather than finished examinations of subjects. Bacon was the first essayist in English Literature. His essays are like Montaigne's essays in that they are more economical and less dogmatic. But they are unlike Montaigne's essays in that they have neither their discursiveness nor their grace. Montaigne is mainly concerned with his individual opinions but Bacon is concerned with the type of readers he is addressing. As a matter of fact, Bacon wrote for the young man of ambition of his own class who wanted complete self-realisation in public life. That is why his essays are so many counsels meant for these men of ambition. The subject and the brief treatment of them indicate Bacon's intention. He writes about travel, friendship, riches usury, ambition, studies, etc.

Bacon's essays are not personal. Yet they are essays because they are "a series of personal comments rather than finished arguments". Certainly these essays do not have that incompleteness and freedom and whimsical and humorous presentation which mark the essays of Lamb, Stevenson and Chesterton. His essays again do not have that lucidity of expression and urbanity of style and social criticism, which mark the essay of Addison and Steele. Bacon uses his essay for philosophical observations. But the charm of his essays lies in their brevity and neatness of structure. His counsels are written in crisp and epigrammatic sentences, which read like aphorisms. In some of his essays, as for examples, Of Gardens, there is a personal note.

In his essay, Of Studies, Bacon gives counsels about the manner, nature and functions of studies. The subject is meant for giving instructions to the readers. The treatment is deliberately short and pithy. He begins the essay with deliberate instructions to the readers "study is served for delight, for ornament and for ability". The antithetical style makes his purpose evident: "Reading maketh a full man, conference a heavy man and writing an exact man". The antithetical structure of the sentences drives home the points: "Some books are to be tasted, other to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." His style is a peculiar mixture of epigram and antithesis: "They perfect nature and are perfected by experience."

The metaphor is very homely and appropriate: "Like as diseases of the body, you may have appropriate physical exercise". The sentences everywhere are polished, neat and statements are made concrete by example. Bacon is mainly concerned with the effect of studies upon men of ambition and social status. He gives an account of the basic requirements of the men of Renaissance. Just as appropriate exercises are necessary for toning up health, so knowledge of different branches is necessary for the development of the intellect. Thus Bacon is too sententious and too deeply engrossed in serious matters of life. His essays are counsels of the shrewd man of the world based on his personal experiences and observations of men and manners. His rational and empirical attitude is revealed in his essays.


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