Aphoristic style of Francis Bacon

Question: Discuss Bacon’s prose style with reference to his essays. Or, discuss the aphoristic style of Francis Bacon.


Francis Bacon (1561-1626) has made an untold contribution to the development of English prose. He is most remarkable as a prose writer for two reasons such as the subject matter and style. The key features of his prose style are limned here in a very conspicuous way with reference to his essays.

Selection of the title

This is really a superb feature of Bacon’s prose style. No other essayist in the history of English literature is comparable with Francis Bacon with respect to selecting the title. He has shown uniqueness as his essays’ title starts with the same manner and tradition as for example- “Of Studies, Of Marriage and Single Life, Of Truth, Of Revenge” etc. Therefore, the title is obviously a landmark style of Bacon’s prose.

Rich vocabulary

Bacon possesses command over versatile languages that is why his use of language is very rich. He has a good command of Latin and Greek languages from which he has taken different phrases and words to make his essay affluent. “Abeunt studia in mores” is a Latin phrase which means that studies are a part of one’s character and habit or studies form the character of a man. Hence the readers should have some knowledge of Latin and Greek language to understand Francis Bacon.

Witty thought

 Bacon is unparallel because his thoughts are witty. Almost all the sentences of his essays can be developed even as an essay or at least as a paragraph because of his outstanding witty thought.

“Wives are young men’s mistresses, companions for middle age, and old men’s nurses.”

From this single sentence of the essay “Of Marriage and Single Life”, three essays can be produced. So, it is neat and clean that Bacon’s essays get popularity due to his witty prose style.


Bacon has used quotations in his essays from Bible, history, schoolmen of the middle ages, Latin or Greek literature and sometimes from his own memory. As a result, it is very tough one to identify whether he uses quotations or misquotations. In his famous essay “Of Studies”, one such misquotation that is found has been taken from Latin language.

“Abeunt studia in mores”

But it has to be accepted that his misquotations are not counted because of practical values and uses of his essays.

Paradoxical statements

One of the most remarkable features of Bacon’s prose style is paradoxical statements. His statements on a topic mostly dependent on compare and contrast or positive and negative sides. In the essay “Of Truth”, Bacon has very skillfully used the literary device ‘Paradox’. Truth, according to Bacon, lacks the charm of variety which, falsehood has. Truth brings more joy when falsehood is added to it. He believes that lying is a source of temporary enjoyment because it gives people a strange joy. So the essayist says  paradoxically:

“…a mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure”

We can cite another paradoxical statement from the essay “Of Studies” in which Bacon has illustrated in detail about the benefits of studies.

“To spend too much time in studies is sloth”

The above quotation may seem that Bacon is against studies but it is very subtle and critical because he has suggested the readers to make proper management of time in the short time range of human life.

Aphorism and epigrammatic terseness

Aphorism means shortness of speech and epigrammatic terseness stands for uses of few words.

“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready and writing an exact man”

This is a very short speech having few words but the idea is so vast. So, aphorism and epigrammatic terseness have made Bacon as an inimitable essayist. We get another aphoristic speech in the essay “Of Revenge” where he shows a certain high morality by saying:

“Revenge is a kind of wild justice”

 A man takes revenge on the person by whom he is oppressed. So if he takes revenge, it will be justice. But at the time when a man takes revenge, he takes it more aggressively than he is oppressed. This is why Bacon calls revenge a kind of wild justice. So he suggests us to be aloof from taking revenge.


From the light of the above discussion, it can be asserted that Bacon is unique for his prose style because his subject matter is really helpless to get exposed without his prose style.

Click Here: For more notes

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
Articles: 380

Leave a Reply