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The Essays
 
by
Francis Bacon
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The Essays

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  2,100 ratings  ·  46 reviews
One of the major political figures of his time, Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) served in the court of Elizabeth I and ultimately became Lord Chancellor under James I in 1617. A scholar, wit, lawyer and statesman, he wrote widely on politics, philosophy and science - declaring early in his career that I have taken all knowledge as my province. In this, his most famous work,...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published June 24th 2004 by Epenguin Classics (first published 1597)
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Rick
Bacon, an Elizabethan legal and government counselor and a scholar, wrote these enduring essays at the tail end of the 16th century. So of what practical use could they possibly be now at the start of the 21st century? From his essay “On Unity” there is this observation, “But it is greater blasphemy to personate God and bring Him in saying, I will descend and be like the prince of darkness.” You listening, Pat Robertson? Obama bin Laden? Or, from “On Suspicion,” this, “There is nothing that make...more
Anushka
We were required to read Francis Bacon's essays for college this week and let me tell you this, it is IMPOSSIBLE to understand them without any exterior help.
I thank my brilliant English teacher for turning this text into something that made sense to me. I was deeply affected and they made me think about everyday things over and over again. Fantastic collection, I hope I get a chance to read his other work in the next semester with the help of the same teacher because I know I'm not capable eno...more
Mike W
This is a very good book, if not a great one. These essays lack the easy-going charm of Montaigne's and the locquacious eloquence of Emerson's. They ramble, and much of what they contain will hold little interest for the typical modern reader. And yet, they contain a great deal of wisdom, typically expressed as pithy epigrams amid these otherwise rambling discourses.

For instance:

"He that have wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either...more
Coyote_gene
This book has only stayed it's popularity due to establishment hubris. Just because Bacon was so influential to thinkers of his time, does not mean his essays provide much in to modern day intellectuals. I found these essays tiresome. It's merely his two cents about subjects in his contemporary time. Sure it may lead great insights historically speaking. As an observer of his own time he states plainly what he sees in his own society and how he finds flaw with the status quo, yet I don't find hi...more
Rlotz
Some people just seem to have an opinion about everything. Ever met one? Bring up the new mayor, the French Revolution, a viral music video, Hinduism, or the attractive girl down the hall—they just seem to have a theory about everything under the sun, and will tell you about it at great length. They’re very generous with their breath and time, making sure you absorb every aspect of their marvelous ideas.

I should be fair. Sometimes, people like this are pleasant. It depends very much on their int...more
Marts  (Thinker)
In 'Essays', Francis Bacon focuses on a range of topics of a philosophical nature encompassing Truth, Death, Religion, Atheism, Travel, the Supernatural, Council, Envy, etc.

On Council he says, 'the greatest trust between man and man is the trust of giving council'.

Of Envy he speaks of envy being 'an affection to both facinate and bewitch' he goes on to speak of it 'coming easily to the eye especially upon the presence of the object'.

On Atheism he speaks about 'this universal frame' possessing a...more
Charles
This was another book that I listened to the LibriVox audio version of. I liked most of the essays, the only one that got a little weird to me was the one about gardens. Lots of philosophical thoughts about interesting topics and then, all of a sudden, which flowers he thinks should be in gardens during which months of the year.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 24, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Good Reading: 100 Significant Books
I'd been meaning to tackle Bacon's Essays for years; they're listed among the "100 Significant Books" in Good Reading; this edition has been in my household since before I was born, the better to mark up and highlight, since it's hardly pristine. Bacon's essays didn't impress at first. For one, so many of the best lines in the early essays are quotes from classical sources (almost all in Latin, so it's a good thing my edition provided translations within brackets.) But also reading the short pro...more
Sara
Class assignment. Pragmatic, straightforward. I appreciate his skillful manipulation of words, but it wasn't "fun" reading. Some essays are very insightful. However, his discourse on the make up of gardens was a bit much for me.
Rick Bavera
This book was/is a challenging read.

Most especially because it was an edition from the early 20th century which kept the language of Bacon's time intact. This made it a challenging read. Verb tenses like "maketh" or "thinketh"....were "translated" in my mind into modern English.

Also, the Latin quotes were in Latin, and were not translated within the text, or even at the bottom of the page on which they appear, but in an appendix at the back of the book. So, in order to know what was said with t...more
Roger Bailey
Okay, call me obsessive compulsive, but when I start a book I feel obligated to finish it -- no matter how boring it is -- and I finished this one, but believe me, it was very boring. I decided to read it because I had never read anything by Bacon before and on impulse I thought I might learn something about early modern English culture. The book actually consisted of various aphorisms and so-called wise advice. I say so-called not because it was necessarily all unwise -- although I think that p...more
Tom Schulte
Bacon's Essay's come from an era and a day of philosophy I can sometimes little relate to. A Bible quote, phrase in Latin, a Greco-Romain anectode can be all that is required for a grand pronouncement. Partly, I feel a yearning for a "Classical education". Mostly I year from a narrator other than Bernard Mayes, who already ruined The Life of Samuel Johnson for me. Also, from Bacon's dedication and advice on house and gardening let me know Bacon was writing for his day's equivalent of Architectur...more
Steven Rhodes
I have to remember to take everything Bacon says with a grain of salt, due to his sometimes shady life. Hard for me to take Bacon's writings on Truth, Virtue, etc. all that seriously when it is well-known that he was charged with corruption and bribery. Nevertheless, a bunch of good 17th-century advice in here (though I skipped his essay "Of Gardens").

Some choice selections:

"Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished."

"I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue....more
Adam
"Certainly, it is heaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth." --from "Of Truth"

Bacon's essays cover topics from the purely intellectual (truth, religion, beauty) to the practical/"human interest" (friendship, honor, marriage) to the mundane (money, architecture, gardening). As such, it's not easy to write a unified critique; there's just too much here. For the most part, however, I think Bacon's on the right track. Some of his n...more
Bob Nichols
The prose, the style, is thick. Homilies are followed frequently by Latin, and seemingly rhythmic, phrases, as if listening to the Pope, and as if it is meant to impress, e.g., "do nothing or little very solemnly: magno conatu nugas." The advice must be dug out or it is commonplace, Machiavellian or wrong-headed (e.g., "honourable wars that enlarge territories"), or degrading (e.g. praise from a common person means nothing; women are prone to anger because of weakness whereas men "carry their an...more
JS Found
This will be for the Oxford World's Classics edition edited by Brian Vickers....

As I will reveal myself a philistine with the following: this can be a wise and treasured book, but you have to spend a lot of time with it and read it more than once. Otherwise the foreignness of the language--a Renaissance English that makes Shakespeare easy to read (the Bard IS easy to read)--and the endless footnotes and endnotes that have one disrupting the meaning of the sentence by always looking down at the b...more
Nick Bond
Following the first publication of Michel de Montaigne's seminal tome, Essais, in 1580, the standard had been set for this oft-overlooked literary genre. As thinkers, Montaigne and Bacon couldn't have been more different, the former preferring unfocused spaghetti prose and the latter rigorously striving to formulate wisdom in the body of a science (literally), with point-by-point breakdowns of any topic imaginable. Though these writers could well be described as complementary, I feel that Bacon'...more
Al Maki
I'll quote William Blake "good advice from Satan's kingdom". Fascinating, but you've got to question the values of a man who recommends against having children because you create hostages to fortune.
Danielle Vonohlen
I purchased an older version (1944) than pictured. and I loved it! I loved the latin translations in parts of the paragraphs too. I really was having a hard time in life, and this book helped me realize some things. Bacon's views on the world brings back tradition which current times have forgotten. I highly recommend this book to ANYONE. It is a little bit hard to read and you will probably have to drop your pace, but once you get the 'flow' of Old English it was fine.
Vijai
Jan 31, 2014 Vijai marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: could-not-finish
I admit defeat and I do so with a pinch of pain and regret. So much wisdom in those pages and yet not appealing in taste enough for me to finish it.

The prose is way too complex and hard for a noob (I can sense the purists twitching at that word) like me to understand. Not worth the effort. Maybe an edition with superb annotation and notes would do the trick but until then I rest this book in the darkest corner of my book shelf with as much reverence and respect I can offer it until that day whe...more
Lesliemae
"Truth, only doth judge itself, and teaches the inquiries of Truth, which is the Love-making, or wooing of it; The knowledge if Truth, which is the presence (not apprehension) of it; and belief of Truth, which is the enjoying of it; is the Sovereign Good of human nature."

I might spend the rest if my life within the confines of those semi-colons.

I really liked all the readings for this book. Favorites in need if more thought and discussion: "of great places", "of plantations", "of superstition"...more
Everett Darling
Mostly, Bacon writes ever-relevant essays on topics such as business, love, adversity, and fame. Note that some of his longest, and most specific writing appears in the essays on friendship, gardens, and architecture, offering what feels like a complete lexicon on flowers and plants suitable for a year-round English garden. With a fair amount of Latin, it behooves the untrained to purchase a copy with translations, as Bacon clarifies many of his points with the use of these quotations.
Aasem Bakhshi
It is extremely difficult to establish an opinion on Bacon's philosophy by indulging with his ramblings, which are at times profoundly astute and at times on the verge of vacuity. Among my favourites are the ones on atheism, studies, nature of men and cunning. Overall, I came to like Bacon's informal rhetoric but nothing in comparison to elegance of someone like Montaigne. To borrow from Bacon's himself, this is not the text to be chewed and digested but tasted in parts or whole.
Lee
Francis Bacon's Essays are like Machiavelli's, but less evil. Entertaining, educational, even occasionally amusing. On Suspicion: "There is nothing makes a man suspect much, more than to know little".

Cool side note: my used copy was volume 180 in original owner Harry Sawyer's library back in January 1892. Five bucks at Monroe Street Books in Middlebury almost exactly 120 years later.
Carol Spears
Once again I am sorry that I did not learn Latin and that I did not pack my Latin dictionary for this most recent 'visit' I am on.

While the language is a version of English which is long past its expiration date and often I had no clue what the sentence as a whole was trying to say, more than occasionally there were some ideas which were not only good and well expressed but pertinent to today.
Andrew
There are some shockingly wise observations in here... there's this blossoming forth of scientific thought, and the real appeal of reading these essays is seeing how Bacon bridges a mystical/theocratic past with something that starts to resemble the Enlightenment. As for the validity of his arguments goes, I'm not sure how I feel. From a similar era, I would prefer Montaigne any day.
Guy
Apr 18, 2010 Guy is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: began-but-nltf
Largely unreadable. Ponderous prose belabored ideas stultifying. For those who insist that this is the guy who is the 'real' Shakespeare, give your heads a shake - sorry about the pun! The only people who make this claim are either a) historians who haven't read either Shakespeare or Bacon, or b) idiots who haven't read either Bacon or Shakespeare.
Noor Iqbal
of youth and age....and of friendship that i read, youth have alot capacities and enthusim to perform a task while aged man have just to think,with patience he does a job...and without friendship bacon said:four basic thoughts are there...a person can't stay here without sharing his thoughts to another...
Suzette Kunz
I'm glad I was exposed to these essays, but I find his writing style difficult to follow. He writes in epigrams. Little one-liners, which is nice, but the sentences don't connect to each other and it's hard for me to see what his big point is. I prefer Montaigne.
Heather's Mum
Food for "basis" of thought.

Although Bacon separated religion and philosophy, he realized that the two can coexist:
"Of Atheism" - "a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion"
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50964
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St. Alban, QC (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist, and author. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. After his death, he remained extremely influential through his works, especially as philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method during the scientifi...more
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