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The term ‘essay’ derives from the French ‘essai’ meaning ‘attempt’ and was first applied by the French writer Michel de Montaigne who meant it to reflect on uncertain and analytical quality of his thoughts. In 1597, Francis Bacon borrowed the term from Montaigne and applied it to his renowned work Essays which is his “dispersed meditations” about human life and society. An essay is a nonfiction composition of moderate length on a particular theme or topic.

Essays are often categorized as argumentative, descriptive, expository, or narrative. They may also be classified as formal or informal. Formal essays are impersonal and analytical. The tone is dignified or solemn. They are designed to instruct rather than entertain. On the other hand, informal essays are generally personal and conversational. The author assumes a tone of intimacy. Most essays are relatively brief though their range may vary from a single page to novel length. They are commonly written in prose but a few have been composed in verse like Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism” and “An Essay on Man”. William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson are famous essayists. 

Francis Bacon was the first English essayist. His essays are of various interests, mainly about human life and society as he called them “counsels civil and moral”. His “Of Studies” was first published in 1597 in the first edition of his “Essays”. The essay brilliantly shows his handling of the subject from the pragmatic point of view. Its single theme, analytic mode, length and style make a perfect example of an essay. 

“Of Studies” is written in prose. There are no fictitious elements like plot and characters. It simply.explains about studies its functions, necessities and other aspects. In fact, it focuses on a single Subject study. No other topic except studies and its relation to human life is suggested in it. Again, in “Of Studies” the subject is described and analysed. Bacon writes about the uses and abuses of Studies, their practical values and their influence on human life. His whole attitude towards studies is based on how a man can derive benefits from studies. So, he classifies books in three categories accordingly. 

“Of Studies” is written briefly. The length is hardly a single page. The main purpose of its writing is to instruct people. So, its tone is impersonal and dignified. Therefore, “Of Studies” exemplifies all aspects of being an essay. Its subject matter, handling of the subject, length, style and tone clarify it as an essay.


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