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Md. Imran Hossain Khan
Md. Imran Hossain Khan
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Imran Hossain Khan
  • 1 week ago
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Francis Bacon as an Essayist

The first great English essayist, Francis Bacon, has a glorious reputation and is regarded as the father of English essay. His genius is immense and influential. He introduced a new genre of writing into English literature with his essays.

Three Editions of Bacon’s Essays

He published his first ten essays in 1597, and then expanded them to thirty-eight in 1612. The final edition of 1625 contained fifty-eight essays. These essays reflect his direct observations of human nature and affairs.

Dispersed Meditations

He infused his essays with the serious spirit and dignified style of Seneca. He was inspired by Machiavelli and his essays are practical and utilitarian. He gives wise advice on how to succeed in life. That is why his essays are called counsels civil and moral.

Bacon and Montaigne

He adopted the form of essay from Montaigne, the French essayist. However, he differed from Montaigne in the spirit of essay. Montaigne was personal, informal and prolific. But Bacon was formal, concise and impersonal. Montaigne appealed to the emotions but Bacon to the reason. Thus, these two great essayists show a striking and interesting contrast.

Impersonal and Objective

Bacon’s essays are nuggets of impersonal wisdom. They may not provide immediate pleasure but offer lasting guidance. They are rational and logically structured. Therefore, Bacon is not a friendly, confiding, intimate and familiar essayist. His essays are mostly detached and impersonal. This view needs to be reexamined. In fact, Bacon’s essays reveal a close imprint of his personality, though he does not reveal himself too much in his works.

On this basis Pope’s following statement is appreciated:

If parts allure thee, think, how Bacon shined,
The wisest, the brightest and the meanest of mankind.

Wide Range of Topics

Bacon covered a broad spectrum of topics in his writings. He discussed everything from religion and empire to gardens and buildings. Unlike Montaigne and Lamb, who did not care much about the subject matter, Bacon always focused on the significance of his topics. He might not have followed a systematic approach in his treatment, but he never strayed from his scope. He surpassed all his contemporaries in the capacity to utter pregnant thoughts on almost any theme.

Themes of Bacon’s Essays

Bacon’s essays cover a wide range of topics, from Goodness to Gardens and from Envy to Masques and Triumphs. In the essay ‘Of Studies’, he discusses the benefits and objectives of reading books. He also gives advice on how to choose the right books and how to study them effectively. In ‘Of Truth’, he examines why some people are indifferent to truth and what causes this attitude.

Bacon’s Style

Bacon used a distinctive style that aimed for lucidity, clarity, economy, precision, directness, masculinity and mathematical plainness. His essays resemble a collection of concise and profound maxims with great compression. Each sentence can express a deep and concentrated meaning. This is why Bacon’s style is called aphoristic. Bacon thought this style was suitable for the spirit of enquiry.

In his early essays, the sentences are short, crisp and sententious. There are few connectives. The style has no continuity, but a strong sense of rapid movement. Since Bacon’s essays are argumentative, his style becomes antithetical. He balances the opposing arguments with an impartial tone. His essays contain many quotations and allusions.

In the later editions, Bacon’s style underwent some changes. He used more connectives and adopted a less formal tone. His images and figures of speech are straightforward and convey his ideas clearly. His style also exhibits flexibility, wit and fun.

Bacon is an outstanding essayist whose works are invaluable to English literature. Legouis aptly commented, “These essays are the classics of English prose.”

Written and edited by:
Md Imran Hossain Khan

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Imran Hossain Khan
Md. Imran Hossain Khan is the Co-Founder & CEO of The EDNOUB Foundation. This is the largest online education platform for the students of English Language and Literature in Bangladesh which teaches more than 100,000 students every single day, that too completely free of cost. Md Imran Hossain Khan is a freelance content writer specialising in research, education, sports, apparel, beauty, lifestyle, health and finance. With over ten years of experience, he has been published in the EDNOUB Foundation, Quora, Microsoft Support Blog, Facebook and numerous trade journals, including the Business Review. He has also appeared as a Co-founder, CEO and Head IT expert on The EDNOUB Foundation, Bangladesh. Imran enjoys bringing sensible tips to people of all income levels. He currently lives in Bangladesh and is available for freelance assignments and speaking engagements.

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