No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

Essays by Francis Bacon

One of several books kindly received from richardabecker. Of course it's available online, but I still like some dead tree in my hands.

These essays are somewhat like fatherly advice from Bacon to a young aristocrat. And they definitely, from time to time, slip into Polonius-esque platitude (not that this strengthens the Baconian theory). Seriously, when he speaks of Innovation he takes every side of the issue. "Innovation's great. But then again innovation just for the sake of innovation is not good. But innovation often brings advancement. Yet the old often has important ties to the traditional for which we justly prefer it. However, one must not remain a slave to tradition."

Macchiavelli was a clear influence, and it's interesting to see how little Bacon moralises. He provides the benefits and pitfalls of lying, and leaves it at that.

But in other essays, he's just bloviating his opinion, such as the dress that masquers and performers should wear, and what kind of music is best. "Acting in song, especially in dialogues, hath an extreme good grace: I say acting, not dancing (for that is a mean and vulgar thing); and the voices of the dialogue would be strong and manly (a bass and a tenor, no treble); and the ditty high and tragical, not nice or dainty. ... Let the songs be loud and cheerful, and not chirpings and pulings."

I found myself skimming through the latter half, rather than wading shoulder deep through the thick Jacobean prose -- not my natural element at all -- but from time to time he let off a zinger of an aphorism:

And money is like muck, not good except it be spread.
Tags: book, money

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