Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Advancement of Learning.  1857.

The First Book

THERE were under the Law (excellent King) both daily sacrifices and freewill offerings; the one proceeding upon ordinary observance, the other upon a devout cheerfulness. In like manner there belongeth to kings from their servants both tribute of duty and presents of affection. In the former of these I hope I shall not live to be wanting, according to my most humble duty, and the good pleasure of your Majesty’s employments: for the later, I thought it more respective to make choice of some oblation which might rather refer to the propriety and excellency of your individual person, than to the business of your crown and state. 1
Wherefore representing your Majesty many times unto my mind, and beholding you not with the inquisitive eye of presumption to discover that which the Scripture telleth me is inscrutable, but with the observant eye of duty and admiration; leaving aside the other parts of your virtue and fortune, I have been touched, yea and possessed with an extreme wonder at those your virtues and faculties which the philosophers call intellectual; the largeness of your capacity, the faithfulness of your memory, the swiftness of your apprehension, the penetration of your judgment, and the facility and order of your elocution: and I have often thought that of all the persons living that I have known, your Majesty were the best instance to make a man of Plato’s opinion, that all knowledge is but remembrance, and that the mind of man by nature knoweth all things, and hath but her own native and original notions 1 (which by the strangeness and darkness of this tabernacle of the body are sequestered) again revived and restored: such a light of nature I have observed in your Majesty, and such a readiness to take flame and blaze from the least occasion presented, or the least spark of another’s knowledge delivered. And as the Scripture saith of the wisest king, That his heart was as the sands of the sea; which though it be one of the largest bodies yet it consisteth of the smallest and finest portions; so hath God given your Majesty a composition of understanding admirable, being able to compass and comprehend the greatest matters, and nevertheless to touch and apprehend the least; whereas it should seem an impossibility in nature for the same instrument to make itself fit for great and small works. And for your gift of speech, I call to mind what Cornelius Tacitus saith of Augustus Cæsar; Augusto profluens, et quæ principem deceret, eloquentia fuit; [that his style of speech was flowing and prince-like: 2] for if we note it well, speech that is uttered with labour and difficulty, or speech that savoureth of the affectation of art and precepts, or speech that is framed after the imitation of some pattern of eloquence, though never so excellent,—all this has somewhat servile, and holding of the subject. But your Majesty’s manner of speech is indeed prince-like, flowing as from a fountain, and yet streaming and branching itself into nature’s order, full of facility and felicity, imitating none, and inimitable by any. And as in your civil estate there appeareth to be an emulation and contention of your Majesty’s virtue with your fortune; a virtuous disposition with a fortunate regiment; a virtuous expectation (when time was) of your greater fortune, with a prosperous possession thereof in the due time; a virtuous observation of the laws of marriage, with most blessed and happy fruit of marriage; a virtuous and most Christian desire of peace, with a fortunate inclination in your neighbour princes thereunto: so likewise in these intellectual matters, there seemeth to be no less contention between the excellency of your Majesty’s gifts of nature and the universality and perfection of your learning. For I am well assured that this which I shall say is no amplification at all, but a positive and measured truth; which is, that there hath not been since Christ’s time any king or temporal monarch which hath been so learned in all literature and erudition, divine and human. For let a man seriously and diligently revolve and peruse the succession of the emperors of Rome, of which Cæsar the dictator, who lived some years before Christ, and Marcus Antoninus were the best learned; and so descend to the emperors of Græcia, or of the West, and then to the lines of France, Spain, England, Scotland, and the rest; and he shall find this judgment is truly made. 3 For it seemeth much in a king, if by the compendious extractions of other men’s wits and labours he can take hold of any superficial ornaments and shews of learning, or if he countenance and prefer learning and learned men: but to drink indeed of the true fountains of learning, nay to have such a fountain of learning in himself, in a king, and in a king born, is almost a miracle. And the more, because there is met in your Majesty a rare conjunction as well of divine and sacred literature as of profane and human; so as your Majesty standeth invested of that triplicity which in great veneration was ascribed to the ancient Hermes; the power and fortune of a King, the knowledge and illumination of a Priest, and the learning and universality of a Philosopher. This propriety inherent and individual attribute in your Majesty deserveth to be expressed not only in the fame and admiration of the present time, nor in the history or tradition of the ages succeeding; but also in some solid work, fixed memorial, and immortal monument, bearing a character or signature both of the power of a king and the difference and perfection of such a king. 2
Therefore I did conclude with myself, that I could not make unto your Majesty a better oblation than of some treatise tending to that end; whereof the sum will consist of these two parts: the former concerning the excellency of learning and knowledge, and the excellency of the merit and true glory in the augmentation and propagation thereof; the later, 4 what the particular acts and works are which have been embraced and undertaken for the advancement of learning, and again what defects and undervalues I find in such particular acts; to the end that though I cannot positively or affirmatively advise your Majesty, or propound unto you framed particulars, yet I may excite your princely cogitations to visit the excellent treasure of your own mind, and thence to extract particulars for this purpose agreeable to your magnanimity and wisdom. 3
IN the entrance to the former of these,—to clear the way, and as it were to make silence to have the true testimonies concerning the dignity of learning to be better heard without the interruption of tacit objections,—I think good to deliver it from the discredits and disgraces which it hath received; all from ignorance; but ignorance severally disguised; appearing sometimes in the zeal and jealousy of divines, sometimes in the severity and arrogancy of politiques, and sometimes in the errors and imperfections of learned men themselves. 4
I hear the former sort say, that knowledge is of those things which are to be accepted of with great limitation and caution; that the aspiring to over-much knowledge was the original temptation and sin, whereupon ensued the fall of man; that knowledge hath in it somewhat of the serpent, and therefore where it entereth into a man it makes him swell,—Scientia inflat, [knowledge puffeth up;] that Salomon gives a censure, That there is no end of making books, and that much reading is weariness of the flesh; and again in another place, That in spacious knowledge there is much contristation, and that he that increaseth knowledge increaseth anxiety; that St. Paul gives a caveat, That we be not spoiled through vain philosophy; that experience demonstrates how learned men have been arch-heretics, how learned times have been inclined to atheism, and how the contemplation of second causes doth derogate from our dependence upon God, who is the first cause. 5
To discover then the ignorance and error of this opinion and the misunderstanding in the grounds thereof, it may well appear these men do not observe or consider that it was not the pure knowledge of nature and universality, a knowledge by the light whereof man did give names unto other creatures in Paradise, as they were brought before him, according unto their proprieties, which gave the occasion to the fall; but it was the proud knowledge of good and evil, with an intent in man to give law unto himself and to depend no more upon God’s commandments, which was the form of the temptation. Neither is it any quantity of knowledge how great soever that can make the mind of man to swell; for nothing can fill, much less extend, the soul of man, but God and the contemplation of God; and therefore Salomon speaking of the two principal senses of inquisition, the eye and the ear, affirmeth that the eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing; and if there be no fulness, then is the continent greater than the content: so of knowledge itself and the mind of man, whereto the senses are but reporters, he defineth likewise in these words, placed after that calendar or ephemerides which he maketh of the diversities of times and seasons for all actions and purposes; and concludeth thus: God hath made all things beautiful, or decent, in the true return of their seasons: Also he hath placed the world in man’s heart, yet cannot man find out the work which God worketh from the beginning to the end: declaring not obscurely that God hath framed the mind of man as a mirror or glass capable of the image of the universal world, and joyful to receive the impression thereof, as the eye joyeth to receive light; and not only delighted in beholding the variety of things and vicissitude of times, but raised also to find out and discern the ordinances and decrees which throughout all those changes are infallibly observed. And although he doth insinuate that the supreme or summary law of nature, which he calleth the work which God worketh from the beginning to the end, is not possible to be found out by man; yet that doth not derogate from the capacity of the mind, but may be referred to the impediments, as of shortness of life, ill conjunction of labours, ill tradition of knowledge over from hand to hand, and many other inconveniences, whereunto the condition of man is subject. For that nothing parcel of the world is denied to man’s inquiry and invention he doth in another place rule over, when he saith, The spirit of man is as the lamp of God, wherewith he searcheth the inwardness of all secrets. If then such be the capacity and receit of the mind of man, it is manifest that there is no danger at all in the proportion or quantity of knowledge, how large soever, lest it should make it swell or out-compass itself; no, but it is merely the quality of knowledge, which be it in quantity more or less, if it be taken without the true corrective thereof, hath in it some nature of venom or malignity, and some effects of that venom, which is ventosity or swelling. This corrective spice, the mixture whereof maketh knowledge so sovereign, is Charity, which the apostle immediately addeth to the former clause; for so he saith, knowledge bloweth up, but charity buildeth up; not unlike unto that which he deilvereth in another place: If I spake (saith he) with the tongues of men and angels, and had not charity, it were but as a tinkling cymbal; not but that it is an excellent thing to speak with the tongues of men and angels, but because if it be severed from charity, and not referred to the good of men and mankind, it hath rather a sounding and unworthy glory than a meriting and substantial virtue. And as for that censure of Salomon concerning the excess of writing and reading books and the anxiety of spirit which redoundeth from knowledge, and that admonition of St. Paul, That we be not seduced by vain philosophy; let those places be rightly understood, and they do indeed excellently set forth the true bounds and limitations whereby human knowledge is confined and circumscribed; and yet without any such contracting or coarctation, but that it may comprehend all the universal nature of things. For these limitations are three. The first, that we do not so place our felicity in knowledge, as we forget our mortality. The second, that we make application of our knowledge to give ourselves repose and contentment, and not distaste or repining. The third, that we do not presume by the contemplation of nature to attain to the mysteries of God. For as touching the first of these, Salomon doth excellently expound himself in another place of the same book, where he saith; I saw well that knowledge recedeth as far from ignorance as light doth from darkness, and that the wise man’s eyes keep watch in his head, whereas this fool roundeth about in darkness: but withal I learned that the same mortality involveth them both. And for the second, certain it is, there is no vexation or anxiety of mind which resulteth from knowledge otherwise than merely by accident; for all knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself: but when men fall to framing conclusions out of their knowledge, applying it to their particular, and ministering to themselves thereby weak fears or vast desires, there groweth that carefulness and trouble of mind which is spoken of: for then knowledge is no more Lumen siccum [a dry light], whereof Heraclitus the profound said, Lumen siccum optima anima, 5 [the dry light is the best soul;] but it becometh Lumen madidum, or maceratum, [a light charged with moisture,] being steeped and infused in the humours of the affections. And as for the third point, it deserveth to be a little stood upon and not to be lightly passed over: for if any man shall think by view and inquiry into these sensible and material things to attain that light whereby he may reveal unto himself the nature or will of God, then indeed is he spoiled by vain philosophy: for the contemplation of God’s creatures and works produceth (having regard to the works and creatures themselves) knowledge; but having regard to God, no perfect knowledge, but wonder, which is broken knowledge. And therefore it was most aptly said by one of Plato’s school, That the sense of man carrieth a resemblance with the sun, which (as we see) openeth and revealeth all the terrestrial globe; but then again it obscureth and concealeth the stars and celestial globe: so doth the sense discover natural things, but it darkeneth and shutteth up divine. And hence it is true that it hath proceeded that divers great learned men have been heretical, whilst they have sought to fly up to the secrets of the Deity by the waxen wings of the senses. And as for the conceit that too much knowledge should incline a man to atheism, and that the ignorance of second causes should make a more devout dependence upon God which is the first cause; first, it is good to ask the question which Job asked of his friends: Will you lie for God, as one man will do for another, to gratify him? For certain it is that God worketh nothing in nature but by second causes; and if they would have it otherwise believed, it is mere imposture, as it were in favour towards God; and nothing else but to offer to the author of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie. But farther, it is an assured truth and a conclusion of experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of man to atheism, but a farther proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion; for in the entrance of philosophy, when the second causes, which are next unto the senses, do offer themselves to the mind of man, if it dwell and stay there, it may induce some oblivion of the highest cause; but when a man passeth on farther, and seeth the dependence of causes and the works of Providence; then, according to the allegory of the poets, he will easily believe that the highest link of nature’s chain must needs he tied to the foot of Jupiter’s chair. To conclude therefore, let no man, upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both; only let men beware that they apply both to charity, and not to swelling; to use, and not to ostentation; and again, that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together. 6
And as for the disgraces which learning receiveth from politiques, they be of this nature; that learning doth soften men’s minds, and makes them more unapt for the honour and exercise of arms; that it doth mar and pervert men’s dispositions for matter of government and policy, in making them too curious and irresolute by variety of reading, or too peremptory or positive by strictness of rules and axioms, or too immoderate and overweening by reason of the greatness of examples, or too incompatible and differing from the times by reason of the dissimilitude of examples; or at least that it doth divert men’s travails from action and business, and bringeth them to a love of leisure and privateness; and that it doth bring into states a relaxation of discipline, whilst every man is more ready to argue than to obey and execute. Out of this conceit Cato surnamed the Censor, one of the wisest men indeed that ever lived, when Carneades the philosopher came in embassage to Rome, and that the young men of Rome began to flock about him, being allured with the sweetness and majesty of his eloquence and learning, gave counsel in open senate that they should give him his dispatch with all speed, lest he should infect and inchant the minds and affections of the youth, and at unawares bring in an alteration of the manners and customs of the state. Out of the same conceit or humour did Virgil, turning his pen to the advantage of his country and the disadvantage of his own profession, make a kind of separation between policy and government and between arts and sciences, in the verses so much renowned, attributing and challenging the one to the Romans, and leaving and yielding the other to the Grecians; Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento, Hæ tibi erunt artes, &c.
[Be thine, O Rome,
With arts of government to rule the nations.]
Percontatorem fugito, nam garrulus idem est,
Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit.
Telis, Phœbe, tuis lacrymas ulciscere nostras.
[O Phœbus with thy shafts avenge these tears.]
Scilicet ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes
Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros;
Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,
Quique metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
Subjecit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari.
[Happy the man who doth the causes know
Of all that is: serene he stands, above
All fears; above the inexorable Fate,
And that insatiate gulph that roars below.]
victorque volentes
Per populos dat jura, viamque affectat Olympo:
[Moving in conquest onward, at his will
To willing peoples he gives laws, and shapes
Through worthiest deeds on earth his course to Heaven.]
Suave mari magno, turbantibus æquora ventis, &c.
Note 1. So edd. 1629 and 1633. Ed. 1605 has motions. [back]
Note 2. Observe that the translations within brackets are not in the original, but inserted by myself. My reasons for adopting this plan, and the principle upon which I have proceeded in translating, are explained in the preface. [back]
Note 3. In the translation the reference to the particular dynasties is omitted; he only says,—Percurrat qui voluerit imperatorum et rerum seriem, et juxta mecum sentiet. [back]
Note 4. I have observed elsewhere, that it was only the latter part which entered into the original scheme of the Instauration Magna. And though in adapting the Advancement of Learning to it, he retained the former part, yet he marks it in the translation as comparatively unimportant; adding with regard to the first, quæ levior est, neque tamen ullo modo prætermittenda, and with regard to the second, quod caput rei est. [back]
Note 5. [Greek]: a corruption, according to the conjecture of Professor W.H. Thompson, of [Greek] having been first inserted by one commentator, to explain the unusual word [Greek], and so passed into the text; [Greek] having been turned into [Greek] by another, to make sense. See Remains of Professor Archer Butler, vol. i. p. 314. [back]
Note 6. So in all the editions. [back]
Note 7. i. e. they have for their object either the applause of others or some inward gratification of their own. (hoc videntur agere, aut ut alii plaudant, aut ut ipsi intra se gestiant.) [back]
Note 8. Pytheas, according to Plutarch. [back]
Note 9. Patribus mendicantibus (pace eorum dixerim).—De Aug. [back]
Note 10. So the original. Edd. 1629 and 1633 have the. The meaning is, “upon this text they observe,” &c. (Ex hoc textu colligunt.) [back]
Note 11. So ed. 1633. The original has hath. [back]
Note 12. This parenthesis is omitted in the translation, no doubt as offensive to the Roman Catholics. Several other passages of the same kind occur in the Advancement, and they are all treated in the same way. The motive for which is sufficiently explained by Bacon himself in the letter which he sent to the King along with the De Augmentis. “I have been also (he says) mine own Index Expurgatorius, that it may be read in all places. For since my end of putting it into Latin was to have it read everywhere, it had been an absurd contradiction to free it in the language and to pen it up in the matter.” Mr. Ellis made a list of these passages, which will be noticed in their places. The word enemy in the next clause is omitted, probably from the same motive. [back]
Note 13. And that learning (the translation adds), unless the mind into which it enters be much depraved, corrects the natural disposition and changes it for the better. [back]
Note 14. i. e. not [I mean, from such manners as are] inherent, &c. (nullum occurrit dedecus literis, ex literatorum moribus, quatenus sunt literati, adhærens.) [back]
Note 15. i. e. customary. Morem illum receptum libros patronis nuncupandi.—De Aug. Ed. 1629 has moderne. [back]
Note 16. The passage which follows is much curtailed in the translation; no doubt for the reason mentioned in note 12. All allusion to the “higher Providence,” the “degenerate traditions” of the church, the study of the ancient authors, and the “primitive but seeming new opinions” is left out; and we are only told that this distemper of luxuriance of speech (though in former times it had been occasionally in request) began to prevail very much about the time of Luther; chiefly on account of the demand for fervour and efficacy of preaching, &c. The remarks on the style of the schoolmen, and the hatred which at that time began to be conceived against them are retained. [back]
Note 17. So edd. 1629 and 1633. The original has that then. [back]
Note 18. In the translation he mentions another vanity of style, though not of so bad a kind, as commonly succeeding the last in point of time,—a style in which all the study is to have the words pointed, the sentences concise, and the whole composition rather twisted into shape than allowed to flow (oratio denique potius versa quam fusa): a trick which has the effect of making everything seem more ingenious than it really is. Such a style (he says) is found largely in Seneca, less in Tacitus and the second Pliny, and has found favour of late with the ears of our own time; but though it is agreeable to ordinary understandings and so procures some respect for literature, yet to more exact judgments it is deservedly distasteful, and may be set down among the distempers of learning, being, as well as the other, a kind of hunting after words and verbal prettiness. [back]
Note 19. That is, fierce from being kept in the dark; the allusion being, as we see more clearly from a corresponding passage in an early Latin fragment [ferocitatem autem et confidentiam quæ illos qui pauca norunt sequi solet, (ut animalia in tenebris educata,) &c.—Cog. de Sci. Hum. 1st fragm. § 10.], to the effect of darkness on the temper of animals.—R. L. E. The rest of this sentence, from “but as they are” is omitted in the translation. See note 12. [back]
Note 20. I think this is the sense in which Bacon must have understood these words; but it is not the sense in which Tacitus employs them (An. v. 10.). He meant that they at once invented the tale and believed it: they “credited their own lie.”—J. S. [back]
Note 21. So the original. Edd. 1629 and 1633 have or as. [back]
Note 22. The rest of the paragraph is omitted in the translation. See note 12. [back]
Note 23. Sake in the original, and also in edd. 1629 and 1633. [back]
Note 24. So the original. Edd. 1629 and 1633 have consuls. The translation has dictatoria quadam potestate munivit ut edicant, non senatoria ut consulant. Bacon probably wrote counselti. [back]
Note 25. So the original. Ed. 1633 has illustrated. [back]
Note 26. So the original. Ed. 1633 has devoute. [back]
Note 27. hath in all the old editions. [back]
Note 28. quæ Dionysii Areopagitæ nomine evulgatur, are the words of the translation: the insinuation implied in the word supposed, being withdrawn, or at least not so strongly expressed. See note 12. [back]
Note 29. verdor in edd. 1605, 1629, 1633; which perhaps ought to be retained, as another form of the word rather than another way of spelling it. [back]
Note 30. This clause is omitted in the translation; and the words cætera viri egregii are introduced after the name of Gregory. See note 12. [back]
Note 31. All this, from the beginning of the paragraph, is omitted in the translation. See note 12. [back]
Note 32. honour in edd. 1605, 1629, 1633. [back]
Note 33. commonly in edd. 1629 and 1633. In the original, com- ends a line and the rest of the word has accidentally dropped out. [back]
Note 34. So edd. 1629 and 1633. The original has sciences. [back]
Note 35. In the De Augmentis he merely says “de quibus,” i. e. the golden times, “sigillatim sed brevissime verba faciam.” And the next five paragraphs are condensed into one. [back]
Note 36. Agric. 3.: Quanquam.…Nerva Cæsar res alin dissociabiles miscuerit, principutum ac libertatem. This quotation is omitted in the translation, where nothing is said of the character of Nerva’s government except that he was clementissimus imperator, quique, si nihil aliud, orbi Trajanum dedit; from which it would almost seem that Bacon thought it hardly deserved the praise which Tacitus bestows upon it. In evidence of his learning he adds that he was the friend, and as it were the disciple, of Apollonius the Pythagorean. [back]
Note 37. To this story Dante alludes in the tenth canto of Purgatory; taking it apparently from the life of Gregory by Paul the Deacon. It seems first to have been mentioned by John Damascene in his discourse “De iis qui in fide dormierunt;” form whom St. Thomas Aquinas quotes it in his Supplementary Questions, 7l. 5. The hymn sung in the fourteenth century in the Cathedral of Mantua on St. Paul’s day, is another curious instance of the appreciation of Heathen worth in the middle ages. It is there said of St. Paul, Ad Maronis mausoleum Ductus fudit super eum Piæ rorem lacrymæ; Quem te, inquit, reddidisæm Si te vivum invenisæm Poetarum maxime! See Schœll’s Histoire de la Littérature Romaine.—R. L. E. This whole passage is omitted in the translation. [back]
Note 38. Plutarch, Apoph. [back]
Note 39. There seems here a confusion of two stories. It was Alexander Severus who according to Lampridius had a picture of our Saviour “matched with Apollonius” and with some others. Hadrian however did honour Apollonius and is said to have thought of dedicating a temple to Christ, which, if I remember rightly, Alexander actually did.—R. L. E. [back]
Note 40. So in all three editions. Qy. Trajan? [back]
Note 41. pollicing, edd. 1605 and 1629. pollishing, ed. 1633. [back]
Note 42. Antonius, edd. 1605, 1629, 1633. [back]
Note 43. In the translation he says that Lucius though not so good as his brother was better than most of the other emperors. (Fratri quidem bonitate cedens, reliquos imperatores plurimos superans.) [back]
Note 44. lynes, ed. 1605 and 1629. lines ed. 1633. [back]
Note 45. So edd. 1629 and 1633. Ed. 1605 has grace. [back]
Note 46. Edd. 1629 and 1633 have or; with a semicolon after learning, where the original has a comma; the omission of which makes the meaning and construction clear. [back]
Note 47. So edd. 1629 and 1633. The original has the. [back]
Note 48. This paragraph is entirely omitted in the De Augmentis; no doubt as one which would not be allowed at Rome and might lead to the proscription of the book. See note 12. [back]
Note 49. All this from the beginning of the paragraph is omitted in the translation. [back]
Note 50. cum tam indigentia tam redundantia naturæ, per illa duo designata, mortis sin, tanquam arrhabones; the two opposite imperfections of nature, deficiency and superfluity, exhaustion and incontinence, being as it were earnests of mortality. [back]
Note 51. This passage is translated without addition or alteration. But Bacon seems to have changed his opinion afterwards upon the point in question. For in the sixth book of the De Augmentis, c. 1., he intimates a suspicion that Cæsar’s book was not a grammatical philosophy, but only a set of precepts for the formation of a pure, perfect, and unaffected style. See Vol. I. p. 654. [back]
Note 52. tumultuaria cognitio. [back]
Note 53. So edd. 1629 and 1633. The original has face. [back]
Note 54. verdour in the original and also in edd. 1629 and 1633. See note 12. [back]
Note 55. So all three editions. The translation has nos autem.…conculcantes hæc rudimenta atque offucias sensuum, novimus &c. [back]