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The Essays

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3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,755 Ratings  ·  66 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
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 29th 1985 by Penguin Classics (first published 1597)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rick
Mar 12, 2010 Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
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
Lotz
Jun 15, 2016 Lotz rated it it was ok
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
Mike W
Dec 26, 2012 Mike W rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
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
Jul 29, 2012 Coyote_gene rated it it was ok
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
Charles
May 04, 2010 Charles rated it liked it
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.
Marts  (Thinker)
Dec 09, 2009 Marts (Thinker) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, audio-books
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 24, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it
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
Bob Nichols
Nov 02, 2013 Bob Nichols rated it did not like it
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
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
Purvi Petal
Jan 13, 2016 Purvi Petal rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, owned-copy
Excellent writing, as per the requirement of the times, yet to date, I am deeply impression-ed by some of his words and works, esp gems like 'Of Travel'. Read them during my college years. One must read them, these essays, if for nothing else, then for the pleasure of the language and wisdom of a bygone era.
Vijai
Jan 31, 2014 Vijai marked it as to-read
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
Alex Kartelias
Sep 20, 2015 Alex Kartelias rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
By far my favorite essay of his is on friendship, whereby he explains friendship is not just something which serves as support, but for alchemical transmutation of one's suffering and narrowness of sight. Regardless of whether one believes in the Rosicrucian and Shakespearean atmosphere in Bacon's writings and legacy- in particular in his, "New Atlantis"- it has to be acknowledged that he gave Renaissance to scientific induction while asserting the philosophical and ethical necessity of also hav ...more
Tony
Jun 15, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
COUNSELS CIVIL AND MORAL (The Essays). (1575?). Sir Francis Bacon. ****.
This is a classic work from the end of the 16th century. Once you read these essays, you will immediately realize that any claims by or for Bacon to have written the plays of Shakespeare were obviously ill-founded. Tough reading, mostly, with little to add to our current store of knowledge. It’s a classic, so I guess you should read them. I found them to be the bane of Elizabethan literature students everywhere. I will be li
...more
Lukas op de Beke
Nov 03, 2015 Lukas op de Beke rated it it was amazing
While I give Bacon's Essays five stars, this comes with a caveat. Certainly, the essays, all of them, are meticulously crafted with every word carefully chosen and fitted within the whole and with the occasional ambiguity or aphorism to spice things up. That said, not all the essays are equally interesting or worth reading. "Of Envy" rightly is found to stand out as an outstanding essay, full of intriguing and Machiavellan observations that would be of great interest to the Frank Underwoods of t ...more
Rob Roy
Mar 16, 2015 Rob Roy rated it really liked it
Shelves: essay
Conventional wisdom says that if it was written more than 300 years ago, it really cannot tell us much. Not so! Bacon’s essays are as fresh and pointed today as when written. There is much wisdom and life lessons contained in these 58 essays. Add to that, they are fairly short and to the point.
Karen
Feb 12, 2015 Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Karen by: The Jefferson Hour
Shelves: read_chunks_of
Um, preposterous. My favorite thing about this edition is that the end of each effay becomes centered, curving inward to end in a perky little symbol, forming a hanging boob. The cutest is the end of "Of Death," with its puffy areola of italicized Latin.
Sara
Oct 01, 2008 Sara rated it it was ok
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.
James
Sep 10, 2015 James rated it really liked it
Classic essays on a variety of subjects. They are worth reading and rereading. See "Of Studies" for good counsel on reading.
Lynn Choi
Jul 22, 2016 Lynn Choi rated it it was amazing
The titles starting with of and reading starting with admiration, I found warm advice and immaculate wisdom in this text. Every essay in this set assigned me to translate into everyday language; Francis Bacon was too smart. However, as I read them paragraph by paragraph, I learn new perspectives and vocabularies. The only lacking essay, if I dare to say, was Of Delay. While I was reading this, I could see that his life had not enough delays to write better examples than me. Except for this, the ...more
Zorica  Zoric
Apr 14, 2015 Zorica Zoric rated it really liked it
Ovu knjigu treba pročitati više puta.
James
Jun 05, 2016 James marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-deck
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jonathan Widell
Feb 17, 2015 Jonathan Widell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I doubt if I knew what a fine literary form the "essay" was until I was lucky enough to chance on this collection. Judging by what Bacon was able to produce here, essays cut through the dross and use simple language to get to the heart of the matter without any attempt to impress. Essay is like a father giving advice to his son, as we have seen it done in the movies. Bacon is wary of ostentation in his advice and he is certainly not going to indulge in any ostentation in his own essays. Fittingl ...more
Roger Bailey
Feb 07, 2016 Roger Bailey rated it did not like it
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
May 14, 2013 Steven Rhodes rated it liked it
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
Jan 24, 2008 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
"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
JS Found
Jun 24, 2013 JS Found rated it really liked it
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
Jun 23, 2013 Nick Bond rated it it was ok
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
Jake Yaniak
Feb 19, 2015 Jake Yaniak rated it really liked it
Considered the father of the scientific method, Francis Bacon was a genuinely brilliant man with a plethora of abstract as well as practical wisdom. His essays are easy to pick up one at a time, and his mastery of the English language is virtually unparalleled.

"Solomon saith, 'There is no new thing upon the earth.' So that as Plato had an imagination, 'That all knowledge was but remembrance;' so Solomon giveth his sentence, That all novelty is but oblivion."
Matthew
Jun 03, 2016 Matthew rated it liked it
Solomon saith, eh … the ways in which you may spend your time consisteth of two sides. First, that it may be expended to greater effect than in reading this work. The second, that it may also be worse spent.
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50964
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, QC, 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 scientific revolution.

Bacon has been called
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“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” 1235 likes
“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.” 622 likes
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