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Francis Bacon: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – July 15, 2008
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Though Vickers may have overdone the annotation, the notes are nonetheless exceedingly helpful. Vickers goes far beyond defining words. He provides concise and very well informed introductions to each individual piece; he points out how Bacon returns to topics, quotations, and metaphors; he identifies sources and allusions; he provides translations of Bacon's frequent use of Greek, Latin, Italian, and French. If he is overly cautious about how well his readers know English (he admits on p. 493 that he may be excessive), I expect that most readers will be grateful that he meticulously assists with words and phrases that have altered or vanished from use: who now will understand "a seeled dove" or "a net of subtility and spinosity"?
Vickers frankly acknowledges his debts to prior scholars, James Spedding and Michael Kiernan in particular. His introduction is concise, packed with information, and reminds modern readers that Bacon's career was a legal one. Vickers' decision to include two of Bacon's legal charges--one for poisoning, one regarding duels--was inspired; these pieces are short and eye-opening.
All in all, the selection pays tribute to Bacon in the best manner, refreshing his works by presenting them whole, with sympathy and respect, in their perilous historical context.
Before I give some examples, here is the editor defending himself in the Preface: "Many of Bacon's words have totally changed their meaning since he wrote, and not to be aware of their intended sense means that readers would receive at best a vague impression."
Now, let me give an example of his helpful elucidations. I am choosing a passage literally at random. Here is first sentence of "Of Death."
Men fear Death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly, the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak
How many footnotes does that passage seem like it requires? Perhaps one, two at most? Vickers gives us six. He helpfully explains that "go" can also mean "walk" - which certainly opened up the entire passage for me. He cites a scholarly paper that analyzes Bacon's use of the word "death" (I'll go right out and read that one); he explains every possible allusion that the passage might contain, and also points out that "tribute" means "something owing."
I want to quote one more example, to show how seriously pathological this guy is.Read more ›
However, as I've been reading through the Essays, I've found myself more and more frustrated by Vickers' ridiculous annotations. Maybe one in forty pertains to something that really requires footnoting. The real problem is that the excessive annotation seriously impacts the readability of the text. Almost every sentence includes a footnote, and often more than one. The result is that the visual field of the text is heavily studded by the little bullets that Oxford uses to mark annotations. It's very distracting. I'd compare it to how reading a book that someone else has underlined has a hard to explain but clear impact on one's ability to read.
The other problem is that this incessant annotation makes Vickers the editor who cried "footnote!". I'm sure there are enlightening footnotes buried here, but the intolerable uselessness of most of them has made it so that I have largely decided to leave off consulting the apparatus altogether.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Unexpected coverage of F. Bacon's work. Needed this. Good job Oxford! Didn't let me down once again!Published 8 months ago by Maycroft
Definitely the best compilation of Bacon's works out there despite the fact that New Organon isn't included. Read morePublished 11 months ago by BookReview
Very interesting book used by scholars for hundreds of years. A little hard to read if you are a commoner like myself.Published 17 months ago by Fred Dorfman
The book arrived sooner than I expected. Although the delivery of amazon was as bad as before and the cover pages of book was broken by the turbulence of delivery as before, the... Read morePublished on July 1, 2010 by elvis