I’m really not sure why any of the information in the appendices was included in this book. I’m sure it was all related somehow, but John Pitcher, the editor, made no effort whatever to explain how! I’m really not impressed with him as an editor. He doesn’t explain most of his inclusions, as if he assumes his readers will just understand them, but at the same time his footnotes seem to indicate that he thinks his readers won’t understand basic words. And his documentation is extremely uneven (“slight alterations to the text” means what exactly?). It’s quite frustrating!
Pitcher’s notes at the end of the book show a lot of passion for his subject. He rather meticulously lays out multiple versions of the same essays in parallel columns to show how Bacon’s editing process worked, as far as can be seen today, and he gushes over a set of notes for what might have been another essay that never got written. His enthusiasm is wonderful, but it does little to make his writing less dry!
One thing that drives me crazy about Bacon is his absolute lack of any regard for the common people. In his eyes they were dirty, stupid and rude by nature. They could only appreciate the lowest of humor and would never be able to follow even the simplest logic. He counts them among a kingdom’s assets the way some people might count pigs as such. It’s arrogant and short sighted and stupid of him. It drives me crazy!
Bacon lays out his “perfect” garden as obsessively as he did a house before. He also believes that studies will “cure” any type of ailment of the mind. It’s very strange. That essay, “Of Studies”, does have some of my favorite Bacon quotes, though!
“Reading maketh a full man.”
“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
I was a little confused by Bacon’s layout for a house. It seemed like half the house would sit unused most of the time unless the owner was a king, and the house clearly wasn’t designed for a king. Why would you want half your house to lie unused so much of the time? It seemed particularly odd since Bacon has said he disapproves of the parties and such that half would be for anyway, so why did he design it that way?
Bacon seems to feel the need to micro-manage everything! His descriptions of how a masque should be conducted went all the way down to the type and placement of the decorations! I’m surprised he didn’t describe what everyone should wear! And this was after he said that he disapproves of masques in general.
Bacon writes about how riches aren’t important, but he seems to have considered them fairly important in his real life. The disconnect that seems to exist between Bacon’s positions in his writing and what he did in his life confuses me. Either he was a real hypocrite or he really believed things that didn’t work in practice. Or maybe he came to believe them over time, thus explaining why his life seems to disagree with his philosophy. Who knows?
The essay about the power of kingdoms was really funny. It was little more than a glowing review of how England is the best country ever because of many reasons – chiefly their Mastery Over the Seas – and for various reasons they clearly always will be! Bacon was a total kiss-up.
Bacon rambles on about everything! He says not to conclude business too quickly or one will regret it, but if he did business the way he wrote these essays he probably had little reason to fear that himself! The essays are usually very short, but he still often takes two to four pages to say what he really only needed two to four sentences to get across! It’s extremely exasperating most of the time!
Bacon’s essay “Of Travel” was wonderful, definitely the best I’ve read so far. It discussed how to travel properly. He says one should make an effort to learn a little of the language in the place one is going and take a guide or servant who has spent time there before. A map is essential as is research on the local points of interest. He suggests moving around a lot, never eating in the same place twice and not sequestering oneself with only one’s countrymen. Spend time with locals. And perhaps the most important thing that Bacon repeats a number of times and I wholeheartedly agree with is to keep a travel diary. It was a great essay!
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