Bacon as an essayist with reference to his essays
Question: Discuss Bacon as an essayist with reference to his essays.
The word essay is derived from the French word ‘essayer’, which means “to attempt,” or “to try. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) who is the father of modern English essay has written fifty-eight essays. As an essayist, he has always attempted to maintain all the fundamental steps of this genre of literature. But at the same time, he has added some new techniques to flourish this mighty branch of literature.
Maintaining length for composing an essay is inevitable. Bacon has mastery in respect of maintenance of length. To show full command over a subject or topic, the length of an essay should be between 2500 and 3000 words, but Bacon is quite different since most of his essays do not exceed 1000 words. This brevity or shortness does mean that Bacon had not complete command over his topics. Rather it proves the proverb “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
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Thesis based discussion
As we know that an essay is a short composition on a topic based on a thesis. At the very outset of his essays, Bacon has declared that his discussion is based on thesis and observation. The beginning of the essay “Of Great Place” gives us the idea of the thesis-based discussion.
“The vices of authority are chiefly four delays, corruption, roughness and facility.”
Nobody could disagree with this statement and cannot dare to show discontent till the resurrection.
The purposes of an essayist are to persuade the audience to accept the thesis on the subject and simply to entertain. The arguments of Bacon are so reinforcing that the readers cannot help but accepting these.
“Nuptial love makethmankind; friendly love perfecteth it;
but wanton love corrupteth and embaseth it.”
Here Bacon persuades the audience to keep themselves aloof from wanton love that produces crimes. On the other hand, Bacon as the father of empiricism or pragmatism or humanism does not forget the purpose of entertainment for his readers. His essays are replete with entertainments like novels, drama, movies, or films.
“Wives are young men’s mistresses, companions for middle age, and old men’s nurses.”
This precise statement of the essay “Of Marriage and Single Life” entertains the audience very highly though there is a somewhat rough surface meaning the deeper meaning of this is supported by religious guidelines and practical life.
Use of devices
An essayist has the liberal right to use devices such as anecdotes, striking illustrations, or humorous logic and arguments. These devices help the author to create a tone of intimacy with the audience. Bacon’s fifty-eight essays abound in devices.
Aphorism means a precise and simple statement having deep meaning and significance. Bacon as a father of modern English prose has paved the way for aphoristic style. This is Bacon’s own creation. It is the soul of Bacon’s prose style. The following sentence of the essay “Of Studies” is a perfect example of his aphorism:
”Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.”
Use of Latin and Greek phrases
Bacon was a man of vast knowledge and experience. He has given guidelines to the later essayists like Addison, Steele, Alexander Pope, etc. that there is no hindrance of using the words, phrases, or proverbs of other languages in prose writing. There is no single essay of Bacon in which the readers do not face the complexity of Latin or Greek phrases. Such use of phrases is akin to Geoffrey Chaucer’s French and Latin stages of poetic development that is why Bacon is called the father of modern English prose.
There is nothing in the world that is over criticism. As an essayist, Bacon is not beyond limitation and criticism. He has some faults too.
- Paradoxical statements
In termination, it can be rightfully asserted that Bacon is a successful essayist and plays a vital role for the development of English prose and language though he is not out of limitations.