The Essays Hardcover – April 25, 2016
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Bacons' finest literary product, the Essays (1597-1623), show him still torn between these two loves, for politics and for philosophy. In the "Essay of Honor and Reputation" he gives all the degrees of honor to political and military achieve-
ments, none to the literary or the philosophical. But in the essay "Of Truth" he writes : "The inquiry of truth, which is
the love-making or wooing of it; the knowledge of truth, which is the praise of it ; and the belief of truth, which is the
enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human natures. In books "we converse with the wise, as in action with fools. That is, if we know how to select our books. "Some books are to be tasted," reads a famous passage (Essay #50), "others to be
swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested"; all these groups forming, no doubt, an infinitesimal portion of
the oceans and cataracts of ink in which the world is daily bathed and poisoned and drowned.
Surely the Essays must be numbered among the few books that deserve to be chewed and digested. Rarely shall you find so much meat, so admirably dressed and flavored, in so small a dish. Bacon abhors padding, and disdains to waste a word; he offers us infinite riches in a little phrase; each of these essays gives in a page or two the distilled subtlety of a master mind on a major issue of life. It is difficult to say whether the matter or the manner more excels; for here is language as supreme in prose as Shakespeare's is in verse.
Durants preference is for Essays 2, 7, 8, 11, 12, 16, 18, 20, 27, 29, 38, 39, 42, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54.
Purchased this book Dec 2012. It was printed Sept 26, 2012 with 145 pgs. No introduction. No translations for the many Latin phrases. Used Google Translator for Latin phrases. Book is formatted so there is space to write notes on each page. After reading the Essays, one admires Bacon's concise eloquence.
link below is helpful for quick search on key words / phrases.
As far as Sir Francis' writing goes, theres little bad to say, and a lot of good. This is worth reading for any philosopher, or even anyone trying to get a good hold of formal prose. He might to some seem a tad difficult to read at first, but it shouldn't prove a real obstacle for anyone actually interested in the reading -- after you read just a couple of his essays, you will likely start to get used to his style quickly. I suggest looking in the Contents and just picking out a few that look like topics you couldn't deny interest - that will get you hooked, and into the style.
As for the editor John Pitcher, there are many good things, but a certain terribly annoying quality that weighs as heavy as all the good in my opinion.
For those who do not know Latin extensively (i.e., limited vocabulary and grammar, or none at all) the annotations are of course great and indispensable. Pitcher also generously untangles Francis' allusions and such, which are helpful also at times.
But something that he (Pitcher) follows in other editors of Bacon's works, is complete asinine glossing of words in context which makes complete sense. And he does this extensively. Oftentimes in a work that actually does have an archaic vocabulary, the first glossing of the word is taken to carry its meaning through the essay, but though "estate" is used 10 times in the 2-3 page essay Pitcher will put a note at each occurrence and gloss "state" (not to mention in its context the glossing of that word is obvious and unnecessary). The amount of 'archaic' vocabulary is small and simple throughout the book; a half-page glossary could've been supplied instead of bogging the pages down with redundant annotations of obvious words and thus hurting the actually important annotations.
But all that said, this is still a great edition, a great book, great author, and even by the above facts this is probably the best publication of Francis' essays. The annoying glossing isn't too bad after you get used to it.