Francis Bacon as an Essayist
The term “essay” derives from the French word ‘essayer’, which means “to attempt” or “to try”. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is the father of modern English essays and wrote fifty-eight of them. He followed the basic principles of this literary genre as an essayist, but he also introduced some novel methods to enrich this powerful form of literature.
Essay length is an important aspect of writing. Bacon is a master of concise writing. A typical essay should have between 2500 and 3000 words to demonstrate a thorough understanding of a subject or topic, but most of Bacon’s essays are less than 1000 words. This does not mean that Bacon lacked mastery over his topics. On the contrary, it confirms the proverb “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
Thesis based discussion
A short composition on a specific topic that follows a thesis is known as an essay. Bacon stated at the beginning of his essays that his arguments are based on theses and observations. He also indicates the concept of thesis-based discussion in the title of his essay “Of Studies”.
“Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability.”
This statement is indisputable and no one can express dissatisfaction until the resurrection.
An essayist aims to persuade the audience to agree with the thesis on the topic and also to amuse them. Bacon’s arguments are so convincing that the readers have no choice but to accept them. His essays are full of entertainment like novels, dramas, movies, or films.
This statement from the essay “Of Marriage and Single Life” is very amusing, even though it seems harsh on the surface. It has a deeper meaning that is based on religious principles and real-life experience. A similar style can be found in the famous essay “Of Studies”.
Use of devices
An essayist can employ various techniques, such as anecdotes, vivid examples, or witty reasoning and arguments, to establish a close connection with the audience. Bacon’s fifty-eight essays are rich in these techniques.
“For natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning, by study;”
An aphorism is a brief and clear statement that conveys a profound meaning or insight. Bacon, who is regarded as the pioneer of modern English prose, has mastered the art of aphoristic style. It is his original contribution and the essence of his prose style. The following sentence from the essay “Of Studies” is an excellent example of his aphorism:
Use of Latin and Greek phrases
Bacon was a remarkable man with vast knowledge and experience. He influenced later essayists like Addison, Steele, Alexander Pope, etc. by showing them that they could use words, phrases, or proverbs from other languages in prose writing.
Bacon’s essays are full of Latin or Greek phrases that challenge the readers or audiences. This practice is similar to how Geoffrey Chaucer used French and Latin in his poetic development, which earned Bacon the title of the father of modern English prose.
Bacon’s essays, like any other work, have their flaws and shortcomings. Some of the criticisms that have been leveled against his essays include Incompleteness, Misquotations, Paradoxical statements, and so forth. As an essayist, he did not always provide a comprehensive or accurate account of his topics.