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Of F. Bacon, first published in 1597, together with the ‘Christian Meditations’ and ‘Of the Colours of Good and Evil’, consisted of ten essays, in extremely bare style. The sentences are printed separately, marked with a paragraph sign, giving them the status of aphorisms, discrete observations drawn from experience, in the realm of public life. The second edition (1612) contained 38 essays, in a more varied style: a manuscript copy now in the British Library describes them as his ‘writings … in Moralitie, Policie [politics] and Historie’. In this collection Bacon began to fill a lacuna he had noted in his Advancement of Learning (1605), the lack of concrete knowledge of the different ‘natures and dispositions’ of human beings, and how they were affected by psychological and social factors. The final version, now called Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, (1625), included 58 essays, treating both ‘civil’ or public life, and the mores or behaviour of private individuals. Bacon's approaches each topic from several different viewpoints, juxtaposing systematic analysis with brilliant aperçus.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Francis Bacon (1561—1626) lord chancellor, politician, and philosopher