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Francis Bacon: The History of a Character Assassination Hardcover – May 29, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The subtitle of Mathews's book indicates her steadfast intent: she seeks to restore to English essayist and philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) his good name. Bacon's personal reputation, she contends, has been unduly defamed by historians (in particular, Thomas Babington Macaulay). The crimes traditionally ascribed to Bacon have involved his supposed betrayal of his patron, the Earl of Essex, and his corruption during his tenure as Lord Chancellor. Few will question the thoroughness of Mathews's exhaustive research, especially with regard to the primary sources, which she quotes with sureness and frequency. Indeed, in the first third of the book, scarcely three sentences pass without a quotation. Though this plenitude creates some tortuous passages and risks a lulling effect (many of the quotes could be better placed in footnotes or assimilated more smoothly through paraphrasing), it does fulfill the stated aim of "let[ting Bacon] speak with his own voice." The middle and final portions sustain greater interest in their presentation of Bacon's unjust fall and the survey of his personal reputation in history. If the discussion of the anti-Bacon historians verges on name-calling now and then ("we all know how satisfying it is to human as well as shark nature to see blood drawn"), this rigorous yet heartfelt study should find its audience in those interested in Elizabethan and Jacobean politics and the slippery nature of historical truth.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

While recognized as a brilliant scientist, lawyer, and philosopher, Bacon (1561-1626) has been maligned as a self-seeker, liar, and crook. Chief among his detractors was Thomas Macaulay, whose opinions have been accepted and repeated uncritically by later writers. Matthews, a Bacon scholar, explores the motivations of Bacon's detractors and uses her knowledge of him and the people and conventions of his time to show where he was either misquoted or quoted out of context to prove a point against him. She demonstrates how writers often used quotes from Bacon to prove opposite opinions of him in a single work, many acknowledging that they could not adequately explain the dichotomy. Matthews makes her case that this would not happen if they researched their subject and sources more carefully. This scholarly study is recommended for libraries with large British history collections.?Marilyn Dailey, Natrona Cty. P.L., Casper, Wyo.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 606 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (May 29, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300064411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300064414
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,468,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Julia Bono on July 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The corrupt period during the reign of King James in 17th century England saw many villainous characters get into power or plot to get into power. Sir Francis Bacon, visionary philosopher, philanthropist, statesman, scientist, poet, politician and judge had to contend with many of them during his lifetime. Perhaps this is why he intuited at the end, "For my name and memory I leave it to men's charitable speech's in foreign nations and the next ages; and to my own countrymen after some time be past." He seemed to realize that his reputation would grow like that of many other visionaries who were best appreciated well after their death. Sadly, to this day Bacon's rich legacy contends with villains in the form of unjust literary critics, commentators and biographers who have left a deeper stain on his name than any of his contemporaries.
Nevertheless, Bacon's star appears to be rising with the publication in 1996 by Yale University Press of Nieves Mathews' book Francis Bacon: The History of a Character Assassination. In one long fell swoop she offers the interested reader a reevaluation of the poignant politically-charged events during Bacon's life by allowing all of the prejudiced detractors and spiteful critics that ever had an ax to grind on Bacon to air their views again and then dismissing them one by one for their lack of objectivity and personal animosity.
Ten years in the making this tremendous labour of love provides more than adequate scope for the interested reader with over one hundred pages just in annotated notes alone, rounded out with an extensive twenty-page bibliography. Mathews starts out with an epigram quoted from one of Bacon's chief antagonists, Edward Coke, "The slander of a dead man is a living fault.
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7 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Constance Cumbey on March 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nieves Hayat de Madariaga Mathews told us in her 1996 book about her subject, Sir Francis Bacon. Of much more interest is what she, the biological mother of Luis and Javier Solana, told us about herself in that very book:
1. Her spiritual teacher was Osho. This is a name better known to American audiences, particularly Antelope, Oregon ones as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
2. Her own fascination with the 'invisible college.'
As Javier Solana now holds extraordinary powers over Europe and is about to receive more, his antecedents deserve a more careful review. Nieves Mathews work is perhaps a good launching place.
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