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Francis Bacon: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – July 15, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This volume helps to illustrate the reciprocal relation between his career as a lawyer and a statesman and his writings in natural philosophy, moral philosophy, religion, and politics. Rose-Mary Sargent, Metascience

About the Author

Brian Vickers is the author of "Francis Bacon and Renaissance Prose, The Artistry of Shakespeare's Prose, In Defence of Rhetoric, Towards Greek Tragedy, "and "Shakespeare: " ""Coriolanus.""
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199540799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199540792
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.7 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #542,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Willis G. Regier on November 21, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I concur with Gulley Jimson about the number of unnecessarily annotated words. The space could have been put to better use: a larger topical index would have been welcome, and I sorely missed Bacon's own apophthegms. But I would emphasize the positive point Jimson makes and do so in capital letters: this is the BEST edition of Bacon in paperback. Every page of the collection shows immense editorial care.

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.
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Format: Paperback
I actually recommended this edition in another review over the Penguin collection of Bacon's essays - and I still do: there is more here, and it is cheaper. But this is still one of the most horrible pieces of scholarship I have ever come across. Vickers, the editor, has decided that there is absolutely no distinction between what a reader actually needs to know and what Brian Vickers happens to know.

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.
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I was very disappointed that Vickers decided to leave out NOVUM ORGANUM, one of Bacon's most important work, with one of the first descriptions of the scientific method, empirical science, and his key critique of the four "idols." Vickers says that he decided to give only the works in English, and NOVUM ORGANUM was written in Latin. There are translations available, however. The title of the book, THE MAJOR WORKS, is deceiving.
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I ordered this book back in High School for a research paper, it had a lot of his works which helped me in the long run, it is filled with valuable information on Bacon and most of his writings. Helpful and greatly worded he is an author of an age.
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I want to echo and expand upon Gulley Jimson's points about Brian Vickers' insane butchery of Bacon's text. As other reviews have pointed out, there are 500 pages of Bacon here and 300 pages of small font apparatus. The selection of Bacon is as thorough as one will find in a cheap paperback edition, though the decision to entirely omit Bacon's Latin work is misguided at best. A selection of Bacon that does not include Novum Organum cannot accurately be titled "The Major Works." However, since this edition contains The Advancement of Learning, the complete Essays, and the New Atlantis, it is useful to anyone looking for a basic Bacon. If you are looking for a particular work, you would do better to buy a different edition (the Oxford Francis Bacon edition of Advancement, the Penguin or OFB Essays, the other Oxford New Atlantis).

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.
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