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Home » » Critical analysis of Bacon's essay ''Of Studies"

“Of Studies” is the first essay of the first collection of ten essays of Francis Bacon published in 1597. The subject of this essay, as suggested in the title, is studies. With an astonishing terseness, freshness of illustrations, logical analysis, highly Latinized vocabulary, worldly wisdom and Renaissance enlightenment, Bacon discusses the pros and cons of studies. 

Bacon begins his argument through a syllogistic tripartite statement and validates the uses of study in our practical life. He has the ability to compress a great body of thought into a few words. Thus he puts forward the three basic purposes of studies: “Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability”. He later expands his sentence to bring lucidity and clearness : “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. However, Bacon condemns too much studies and the scholar’s habit of making his judgment from his reading instead of using his independent views. 

Bacon being a consummate artist of Renaissance spirit knows the expanse of knowledge and utility of studies. His wisdom is seen when, through an exquisite metaphor drawn from Botany, he compares human mind to a growing plant. As plants need care for their growth, the conscience of man in the same way is to be nurtured by studies. But it is experience which ultimately matures our perception and leads us to perfection : “They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning by study.”

Next Bacon divides men in three classes on the use of studies. The crafty men consider studies as useless and simple men admire them while the wise men make ultimate use of it. According to Bacon the real wisdom comes through keen “observation”, He advises his readers to apply studies to ‘weigh and consider’ rather than useless contradictions and grandiloquence. 

Bacon is a utilitarian. His pragmatism is seen in his classifications of books : “Some books are to be tasted, others to be .swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested”. But studies do not shape a perfect man without the needed conference and writing. *And therefore if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not”. 

According to Bacon, studies influence a man’s character and make his personality and different kinds of books have different effects on the readers. Bacon believes that studies cure mental defects like physical illness can be cured by proper exercises. So, a man whose mind wanders should study mathematics. The writings of the philosophers of Middle Age are helpful to make distinctions between things. If a man is unable to recall references and settle his argument, he should read law cases. 

In short, “Of Studies" is one of the finest essays of Bacon, it contains almost all the techniques of Bacon's essay  writing and the world of his mind. It is full of wisdom, teachings and didacticism. In style, the essay is epigrammatic, aphoristic and analytic. It is full of warmth and colour, profound wit and knowledge, experience and observation, 


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