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The Essays (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 7, 1986

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Francis Bacon, philosopher, essayist, lawyer and statesman, was born in London in 1561. He studied at Cambridge and was enrolled at Gray’s Inn in 1576. In 1584 he entered Parliament as the member for Melcombe Regis, subsequently representing other constituencies. Bacon made the acquaintance of the Earl of Essex, who endeavored to advance him in his career. Nevertheless, having been appointed to investigate the causes of Essex’s revolt in 1601, Bacon was largely responsible for the earl’s conviction. Bacon was appointed Solicitor-General in 1607 and was successively Attorney-General (1613), Lord Keeper (1617) and Lord Chancellor (1618). He was created Baron Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St. Albans in 1621. Later in that year he was charged with bribery and confessed that he had been guilty of ‘corruption and neglect’ but denied that he had ever perverted justice. He was deprived of the Great Seal, fined, imprisoned in the Tower and disabled from sitting in Parliament. Following his release, he retired to the family home at Gorhambury, Hertfordshire, and his remaining years were spent in literary and philosophical work. It was Bacon’s ambition to create a new system of philosophy to replace that of Aristotle, and he has been justly acclaimed as an inspiration to later scientists, rationalists and materialists. Of his philosophical works, the principal and best known are The Advancement of Learning, Novum Organum and De Augmentis. He also wrote several professional works including Maxims of the Law and Reading on the Statue of Uses. Of his literary writings the most important are the Essays (1597; issued in final form in 1625), De Sapientia Veterum, Apophthegms New and Old and a History of Henry VII. Francis Bacon died in 1626
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (January 7, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140432167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140432169
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Along with Shakespeare's works, Bacon's "Essays" is the supreme achievement of the English Renaissance. Philosopher, statesman, author, Bacon made all knowledge his province, and in the "Essays" is to be found more worldly wisdom than in any other book. "My essays come home, to men's business and bosoms." And Pope penned the epitaph, "If parts allure thee think how Bacon shined, The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind." These essays, though, need a gloss for the modern reader to understand Bacon's cramped yet erudite prose and Latin quotations, as is provided in Pitcher's edition.
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It's useless to dig for just one or two epigrams to stand in for the totality of Bacon's penetrating genius in the "Essays." Though it is perhaps fashionable today to detract from him in order to praise Montaigne, it should be clear that Bacon is at least as indispensable. As terse as Emerson is expansive, Bacon's "Essays" are perhaps the most truly Classical (in spirit) prose in the English language. Fans of the Leo Strauss school should have a fieldday reading between the lines of the essays "On Atheism" and "On Superstition"; for the rest of us, nobody can come away from even one of these essays without gaining invaluable insights. Though Bacon is rightly heralded for the radical newness of his pragmatic methods, he is ensteeped in history-- those mindful of Napoleon's dictum that history is the only true philosophy will certainly respond enthusiastically to Bacon's approach. From the post-Machiavellian insights of "Of Empire" to the pre-Enlightenment ethics of "Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature", one will find in reading Bacon's prose what the youth of Athens must have found in following Socrates: the presence of a benevolent, worldly-wise, supremely rational mind determined to show you the order of the world.
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Will Durant's - The Story of Philosophy - Chapter on Francis Bacon.

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.

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Purchased this book Dec 2012. It was printed Sept 26, 2012 with 145 pgs. No introduction.
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There is not much here to say that the other reviewers have not covered: Sir Francis was a truly sharp witted mind, and knew how to write good prose, and how to run his topics and resolutions home to the reader. As style goes, I personally go easily between Aristotle and Bacon in the same day, and often. To me I see much of Aristotle in Francis' works (as in his high-formal writing style), yet it seems he did not know Greek. Most of his quotations and analogies he draws from Latin writers (a large proportion seems to be Virgil and Tacitus; midst a handful of others strewn throughout).

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.
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