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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 2 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 9 out of 16

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There cannot be a stronger proof of the degree in which the human
mind had been misdirected than the history of the two greatest
events which took place during the middle ages. We speak of the
invention of Gunpowder and of the invention of Printing. The
dates of both are unknown. The authors of both are unknown. Nor
was this because men were too rude and ignorant to value
intellectual superiority. The inventor of gunpowder appears to
have been contemporary with Petrarch and Boccaccio. The inventor
of printing was certainly contemporary with Nicholas the Fifth,
with Cosmo de' Medici, and with a crowd of distinguished
scholars. But the human mind still retained that fatal bent which
it had received two thousand years earlier. George of Trebisond
and Marsilio Ficino would not easily have been brought to believe
that the inventor of the printing-press had done more for mankind
than themselves, or than those ancient writers of whom they were
the enthusiastic votaries.

At length the time arrived when the barren philosophy which had,
during so many ages, employed the faculties of the ablest of men,
was destined to fall. It had worn many shapes. It had mingled
itself with many creeds. It had survived revolutions in which
empires, religions, languages, races, had perished. Driven from
its ancient haunts, it had taken sanctuary in that Church which
it had persecuted, and had, like the daring fiends of the poet,
placed its seat

"next the seat of God,
And with its darkness dared affront his light."

Words, and more words, and nothing but words, had been all the
fruit of all the toil of all the most renowned sages of sixty
generations. But the days of this sterile exuberance were

Many causes predisposed the public mind to a change. The study of
a great variety of ancient writers, though it did not give a
right direction to philosophical research, did much towards
destroying that blind reverence for authority which had prevailed
when Aristotle ruled alone. The rise of the Florentine sect of
Platonists, a sect to which belonged some of the finest minds of
the fifteenth century, was not an unimportant event. The mere
substitution of the Academic for the Peripatetic philosophy would
indeed have done little good. But anything was better than the
old habit of unreasoning servility. It was something to have a
choice of tyrants. "A spark of freedom," as Gibbon has justly
remarked, "was produced by this collision of adverse servitude."

Other causes might be mentioned. But it is chiefly to the great
reformation of religion that we owe the great reformation of
philosophy. The alliance between the Schools and the Vatican had
for ages been so close that those who threw off the dominion of
the Vatican could not continue to recognise the authority of the
Schools. Most of the chiefs of the schism treated the Peripatetic
philosophy with contempt, and spoke of Aristotle as if Aristotle
had been answerable for all the dogmas of Thomas Aquinas. "Nullo
apud Lutheranos philosophiam esse in pretio," was a reproach
which the defenders of the Church of Rome loudly repeated, and
which many of the Protestant leaders considered as a compliment.
Scarcely any text was more frequently cited by the reformers than
that in which St. Paul cautions the Colossians not to let any man
spoil them by philosophy. Luther, almost at the outset of his
career, went so far as to declare that no man could be at once a
proficient in the school of Aristotle and in that of Christ.
Zwingle, Bucer, Peter Martyr, Calvin, held similar language. In
some of the Scotch universities, the Aristotelian system was
discarded for that of Ramus. Thus, before the birth of Bacon, the
empire of the scholastic philosophy had been shaken to its
foundations. There was in the intellectual world an anarchy
resembling that which in the political world often follows the
overthrow of an old and deeply rooted Government. Antiquity,
prescription, the sound of great names, have ceased to awe
mankind. The dynasty which had reigned for ages was at an end;
and the vacant throne was left to be struggled for by pretenders.

The first effect of this great revolution was, as Bacon most
justly observed, [De Augmentis, Lib. i.] to give for a time an
undue importance to the mere graces of style. The new breed of
scholars, the Aschams and Buchanans, nourished with the finest
compositions of the Augustan age, regarded with loathing the dry,
crabbed, and barbarous diction of respondents and opponents. They
were far less studious about the matter of their writing than
about the manner. They succeeded in reforming Latinity; but they
never even aspired to effect a reform in Philosophy.

At this time Bacon appeared. It is altogether incorrect to say,
as has often been said, that he was the first man who rose up
against the Aristotelian philosophy when in the height of his
power. The authority of that philosophy had, as we have shown,
received a fatal blow long before he was born. Several
speculators, among whom Ramus is the best known, had recently
attempted to form new sects. Bacon's own expressions about the
state of public opinion in the time of Luther are clear and
strong: "Accedebat," says he, "odium et contemptus, illis ipsis
temporibus ortus erga Scholasticos." And again, "Scholasticorum
doctrina despectui prorsus haberi coepit tanquam aspera et
barbara." [Both these passages are in the first book of the De
Augmentis.] The part which Bacon played in this great change was
the part, not of Robespierre, but of Bonaparte. The ancient order
of things had been subverted. Some bigots still cherished with
devoted loyalty the remembrance of the fallen monarchy, and
exerted themselves to effect a restoration. But the majority had
no such feeling. Freed, yet not knowing how to use their freedom,
they pursued no determinate course, and had found no leader
capable of conducting them.

That leader at length arose. The philosophy which he taught was
essentially new. It differed from that of the celebrated ancient
teachers, not merely in method, but also in object. Its object
was the good of mankind, in the sense in which the mass of
mankind always have understood and always will understand the
word good. "Meditor," said Bacon, "instaurationem philosophiae
ejusmodi quae nihil inanis aut abstracti habeat, quaeque vitae
humanae conditiones in melius provehat." [Redargutio

The difference between the philosophy of Bacon and that of his
predecessors cannot, we think, be better illustrated than by
comparing his views on some important subjects with those of
Plato. We select Plato, because we conceive that he did more than
any other person towards giving to the minds of speculative men
that bent which they retained till they received from Bacon a new
impulse in a diametrically opposite direction.

It is curious to observe how differently these great men
estimated the value of every kind of knowledge. Take Arithmetic
for example. Plato, after speaking slightly of the convenience of
being able to reckon and compute in the ordinary transactions of
life, passes to what he considers as a far more important
advantage. The study of the properties of numbers, he tells us,
habituates the mind to the contemplation of pure truth, and
raises us above the material universe. He would have his
disciples apply themselves to this study, not that they may be
able to buy or sell, not that they may qualify themselves to be
shopkeepers or travelling merchants, but that they may learn to
withdraw their minds from the ever-shifting spectacle of this
visible and tangible world, and to fix them on the immutable
essences of things. [Plato's Republic, Book vii.]

Bacon, on the other hand, valued this branch of knowledge, only
on account of its uses with reference to that visible and
tangible world which Plato so much despised. He speaks with scorn
of the mystical arithmetic of the later Platonists, and laments
the propensity of mankind to employ, on mere matters of
curiosity, powers the whole exertion of which is required for
purposes of solid advantage. He advises arithmeticians to leave
these trifles, and to employ themselves in framing convenient
expressions, which may be of use in physical researches. [De
Augmentis, Lib. iii. Cap. 6.]

The same reasons which led Plato to recommend the study of
arithmetic led him to recommend also the study of mathematics.
The vulgar crowd of geometricians, he says, will not understand
him. They have practice always in view. They do not know that the
real use of the science is to lead men to the knowledge of
abstract, essential, eternal truth. [Plato's Republic, Book vii.]
Indeed, if we are to believe Plutarch, Plato carried this feeling
so far that he considered geometry as degraded by being applied
to any purpose of vulgar utility. Archytas, it seems, had framed
machines of extraordinary power on mathematical principles.
[Plutarch, Sympos. viii. and Life of Marcellus. The machines of
Archytas are also mentioned by Aulus Gellius and Diogenes
Laertius.] Plato remonstrated with his friend, and declared that
this was to degrade a noble intellectual exercise into a low
craft, fit only for carpenters and wheelwrights. The office of
geometry, he said, was to discipline the mind, not to minister to
the base wants of the body. His interference was successful; and
from that time, according to Plutarch, the science of mechanics
was considered as unworthy of the attention of a philosopher.

Archimedes in a later age imitated and surpassed Archytas. But
even Archimedes was not free from the prevailing notion that
geometry was degraded by being employed to produce anything
useful. It was with difficulty that he was induced to stoop from
speculation to practice. He was half ashamed of those inventions
which were the wonder of hostile nations, and always spoke of
them slightingly as mere amusements, as trifles in which a
mathematician might be suffered to relax his mind after intense
application to the higher parts of his science.

The opinion of Bacon on this subject was diametrically opposed to
that of the ancient philosophers. He valued geometry chiefly, if
not solely, on account of those uses, which to Plato appeared so
base. And it is remarkable that the longer Bacon lived the
stronger this feeling became. When in 1605 he wrote the two books
on the Advancement of Learning, he dwelt on the advantages which
mankind derived from mixed mathematics; but he at the same time
admitted that the beneficial effect produced by mathematical
study on the intellect, though a collateral advantage, was "no
less worthy than that which was principal and intended." But it
is evident that his views underwent a change. When, near twenty
years later, he published the De Augmentis, which is the Treatise
on the Advancement of Learning, greatly expanded and carefully
corrected, he made important alterations in the part which
related to mathematics. He condemned with severity the high,
pretensions of the mathematicians, "delicias et fastum
mathematicorum." Assuming the well-being of the human race to be
the end of knowledge, [Usui et commodis hominum consulimus.] he
pronounced that mathematical science could claim no higher rank
than that of an appendage or auxiliary to other sciences.
Mathematical science, he says, is the handmaid of natural
philosophy; she ought to demean herself as such; and he declares
that he cannot conceive by what ill chance it has happened that
she presumes to claim precedence over her mistress. He predicts--
a prediction which would have made Plato shudder--that as more
and more discoveries are made in physics, there will be more and
more branches of mixed mathematics. Of that collateral advantage
the value of which, twenty years before, he rated so highly, he
says not one word. This omission cannot have been the effect of
mere inadvertence. His own treatise was before him. From that
treatise he deliberately expunged whatever was favourable to the
study of pure mathematics, and inserted several keen reflections
on the ardent votaries of that study. This fact, in our opinion,
admits of only one explanation. Bacon's love of those pursuits
which directly tend to improve the condition of mankind, and his
jealousy of all pursuits merely curious, had grown upon him, and
had, it may be, become immoderate. He was afraid of using any
expression which might have the effect of inducing any man of
talents to employ in speculations, useful only to the mind of the
speculator, a single hour which might be employed in extending
the empire of man over matter. [Compare the passage relating to
mathematics in the Second Book of the Advancement of Learning
with the De Augmentis Lib. iii. Cap. 6.] If Bacon erred here,
we must acknowledge that we greatly prefer his error to the
opposite error of Plato. We have no patience with a philosophy
which, like those Roman matrons who swallowed abortives in
order to preserve their shapes, takes pains to be barren for
fear of being homely.

Let us pass to astronomy. This was one of the sciences which
Plato exhorted his disciples to learn, but for reasons far
removed from common habits of thinking. "Shall we set down
astronomy," says Socrates, "among the subjects of study?"
[Plato's Republic, Book vii.] "I think so," answers his young
friend Glaucon: "to know something about the seasons, the months,
and the years is of use for military purposes, as well as for
agriculture and navigation." "It amuses me," says Socrates, "to
see how afraid you are, lest the common herd of people should
accuse you of recommending useless studies." He then proceeds, in
that pure and magnificent diction which, as Cicero said, Jupiter
would use if Jupiter spoke Greek, to explain, that the use of
astronomy is not to add to the vulgar comforts of life, but to
assist in raising the mind to the contemplation of things which
are to be perceived by the pure intellect alone. The knowledge of
the actual motions of the heavenly bodies Socrates considers as
of little value. The appearances which make the sky beautiful at
night are, he tells us, like the figures which a geometrician
draws on the sand, mere examples, mere helps to feeble minds. We
must get beyond them; we must neglect them; we must attain to an
astronomy which is as independent of the actual stars as
geometrical truth is independent of the lines of an ill-drawn
diagram. This is, we imagine, very nearly if not exactly, the
astronomy which Bacon compared to the ox of Prometheus, [De
Augmentis, Lib. iii. Cap. 4] a sleek, well-shaped hide, stuffed
with rubbish, goodly to look at, but containing nothing to eat.
He complained that astronomy had, to its great injury, been
separated from natural philosophy, of which it was one of the
noblest provinces, and annexed to the domain of mathematics. The
world stood in need, he said, of a very different astronomy, of a
living astronomy, [Astronomia viva.] of an astronomy which should
set forth the nature, the motion, and the influences of the
heavenly bodies, as they really are. [Quae substantiam et motum
et influxum ecelestium, prout re vera sunt proponat." Compare
this language with Plato's "ta d'en to ourano easomen."]

On the greatest and most useful of all human inventions, the
invention of alphabetical writing, Plato did not look with much
complacency. He seems to have thought that the use of letters had
operated on the human mind as the use of the go-cart in learning
to walk, or of corks in learning to swim, is said to operate on
the human body. It was a support which, in his opinion, soon
became indispensable to those who used it, which made vigorous
exertion first unnecessary and then impossible. The powers of the
intellect would, he conceived, have been more fully developed
without this delusive aid. Men would have been compelled to
exercise the understanding and the memory, and, by deep and
assiduous meditation, to make truth thoroughly their own. Now, on
the contrary, much knowledge is traced on paper, but little is
engraved in the soul. A man is certain that he can find
information at a moment's notice when he wants it. He therefore
suffers it to fade from his mind. Such a man cannot in strictness
be said to know anything. He has the show without the reality of
wisdom. These opinions Plato has put into the mouth of an ancient
king of Egypt. [Plato's Phaedrus.] But it is evident from the
context that they were his own; and so they were understood to be
by Quinctilian. [Quinctilian, xi.] Indeed they are in perfect
accordance with the whole Platonic system.

Bacon's views, as may easily be supposed, were widely
different. [De Augmentis, Lib. v. Cap. 5.] The powers of the
memory, he observes, without the help of writing, can do little
towards the advancement of any useful science. He acknowledges
that the memory may be disciplined to such a point as to be able
to perform very extraordinary feats. But on such feats he sets
little value. The habits of his mind, he tells us, are such that
he is not disposed to rate highly any accomplishment, however
rare, which is of no practical use to mankind. As to these
prodigious achievements of the memory, he ranks them with the
exhibitions of rope-dancers and tumblers. "These two
performances," he says, "are much of the same sort. The one is an
abuse of the powers of the body; the other is an abuse of the
powers of the mind. Both may perhaps excite our wonder; but
neither is entitled to our respect."

To Plato, the science of medicine appeared to be of very
disputable advantages. [Plato's Republic, Book iii.] He did not
indeed object to quick cures for acute disorders, or for injuries
produced by accidents. But the art which resists the slow sap of
a chronic disease, which repairs frames enervated by lust,
swollen by gluttony, or inflamed by wine, which encourages
sensuality by mitigating the natural punishment of the
sensualist, and prolongs existence when the intellect has ceased
to retain its entire energy, had no share of his esteem. A life
protracted by medical skill he pronounced to be a long death. The
exercise of the art of medicine ought, he said, to be tolerated,
so far as that art may serve to cure the occasional distempers of
men whose constitutions are good. As to those who have bad
constitutions, let them die; and the sooner the better. Such men
are unfit for war, for magistracy, for the management of their
domestic affairs, for severe study and speculation. If they
engage in any vigorous mental exercise, they are troubled with
giddiness and fulness of the head, all which they lay to the
account of philosophy. The best thing that can happen to such
wretches is to have done with life at once. He quotes mythical
authority in support of this doctrine; and reminds his disciples
that the practice of the sons of Aeculapius, as described by
Homer, extended only to the cure of external injuries.

Far different was the philosophy of Bacon. Of all the sciences,
that which he seems to have regarded with the greatest interest
was the science which, in Plato's opinion, would not be tolerated
in a well-regulated community. To make men perfect was no part of
Bacon's plan. His humble aim was to make imperfect men
comfortable. The beneficence of his philosophy resembled the
beneficence of the common Father, whose sun rises on the evil and
the good, whose rain descends for the just and the unjust. In
Plato's opinion man was made for philosophy; in Bacon's opinion
philosophy was made for man; it was a means to an end; and that
end was to increase the pleasures and to mitigate the pains of
millions who are not and cannot be philosophers. That a
valetudinarian who took great pleasure in being wheeled along his
terrace, who relished his boiled chicken, and his weak wine and
water, and who enjoyed a hearty laugh over the Queen of Navarre's
tales, should be treated as a caput lupinum because he could not
read the Timaeus without a headache, was a notion which the
humane spirit of the English school of wisdom altogether
rejected. Bacon would not have thought it beneath the dignity of
a philosopher to contrive an improved garden chair for such a
valetudinarian, to devise some way of rendering his medicines
more palatable, to invent repasts which he might enjoy, and
pillows on which he might sleep soundly; and this though there
might not be the smallest hope that the mind of the poor invalid
would ever rise to the contemplation of the ideal beautiful and
the ideal good. As Plato had cited the religious legends of
Greece to justify his contempt for the more recondite parts of
the heart of healing, Bacon vindicated the dignity of that art by
appealing to the example of Christ, and reminded men that the
great physician of the soul did not disdain to be also the
physician of the body. [De Augmentis, Lib, iv. Cap.2]

When we pass from the science of medicine to that of legislation,
we find the same difference between the systems of these two
great men. Plato, at the commencement of the Dialogue on Laws,
lays it down as a fundamental principle that the end of
legislation is to make men virtuous. It is unnecessary to point
out the extravagant conclusions to which such a proposition
leads. Bacon well knew to how great an extent the happiness of
every society must depend on the virtue of its members; and he
also knew what legislators can and what they cannot do for the
purpose of promoting virtue. The view which he has given of the
end of legislation, and of the principal means for the attainment
of that end, has always seemed to us eminently happy, even among
the many happy passages of the same kind with which his works
abound. "Finis et scopus quem leges intueri atque ad quem
jussiones et sanctiones suas dirigere debent, non alius est quam
ut cives feliciter degant. Id fiet si pietate et religione recte
instituti, moribus honesti, armis adversus hostes externos tuti,
legum auxilio adversus seditiones et privatas injurias muniti,
imperio et magistratibus obsequentes, copiis et opibus locupletes
et florentes fuerint." [De Augmentis, Lib. viii. Cap. 3, Aph. 5.]
The end is the well-being of the people. The means are the
imparting of moral and religious education; the providing of
everything necessary for defence against foreign enemies; the
maintaining of internal order; the establishing of a judicial,
financial, and commercial system, under which wealth may be
rapidly accumulated and securely enjoyed.

Even with respect to the form in which laws ought to be drawn,
there is a remarkable difference of opinion between the Greek and
the Englishman. Plato thought a preamble essential; Bacon thought
it mischievous. Each was consistent with himself. Plato,
considering the moral improvement of the people as the end of
legislation, justly inferred that a law which commanded and
threatened, but which neither convinced the reason, nor touched
the heart, must be a most imperfect law. He was not content with
deterring from theft a man who still continued to be a thief at
heart, with restraining a son who hated his mother from beating
his mother. The only obedience on which he set much value was the
obedience which an enlightened understanding yields to reason,
and which a virtuous disposition yields to precepts of virtue. He
really seems to have believed that, by prefixing to every law an
eloquent and pathetic exhortation, he should, to a great extent,
render penal enactments superfluous. Bacon entertained no such
romantic hopes; and he well knew the practical inconveniences of
the course which Plato recommended. "Neque nobis," says he,
"prologi legum qui inepti olim habiti sunt, et leges introducunt
disputantes non jubentes, utique placerent, si priscos mores
ferre possemus. . . . Quantum fieri potest prologi evitentur, et
lex incipiat a jussione." [Ibid., Lib. viii. Cap. 3, Aph. 69.]

Each of the great men whom we have compared intended to
illustrate his system by a philosophical romance; and each left
his romance imperfect. Had Plato lived to finish the Critias, a
comparison between that noble fiction and the new Atlantis would
probably have furnished us with still more striking instances
than any which we have given. It is amusing to think with what
horror he would have seen such an institution as Solomon's House
rising in his republic: with what vehemence he would have ordered
the brew-houses, the perfume-houses, and the dispensatories to be
pulled down--and with what inexorable rigour he would have driven
beyond the frontier all the Fellows of the College, Merchants of
Light and Depredators, Lamps and Pioneers.

To sum up the whole, we should say that the aim of the Platonic
philosophy was to exalt man into a god. The aim of the Baconian
philosophy was to provide man with what he requires while he
continues to be man. The aim of the Platonic philosophy was to
raise us far above vulgar wants. The aim of the Baconian
philosophy was to supply our vulgar wants. The former aim was
noble; but the latter was attainable. Plato drew a good bow; but,
like Acestes in Virgil, he aimed at the stars; and therefore,
though there was no want of strength or skill, the shot was
thrown away. His arrow was indeed followed by a track of dazzling
radiance, but it struck nothing.

"Volans liquidis in nubibus arsit arundo
Signavitque viam flammis, tenuisque recessit
Consumta in ventos."

Bacon fixed his eye on a mark which was placed on the earth, and
within bow-shot, and hit it in the white. The philosophy of Plato
began in words and ended in words, noble words indeed, words such
as were to be expected from the finest of human intellects
exercising boundless dominion over the finest of human languages.
The philosophy of Bacon began in observations and ended in arts.

The boast of the ancient philosophers was that their doctrine
formed the minds of men to a high degree of wisdom and virtue.
This was indeed the only practical good which the most celebrated
of those teachers even pretended to effect; and undoubtedly, if
they had effected this, they would have deserved far higher
praise than if they had discovered the most salutary medicines or
constructed the most powerful machines. But the truth is that, in
those very matters in which alone they professed to do any good
to mankind, in those very matters for the sake of which they
neglected all the vulgar interests of mankind, they did nothing,
or worse than nothing. They promised what was impracticable; they
despised what was practicable; they filled the world with long
words and long beards; and they left it as wicked and as ignorant
as they found it.

An acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia. The
smallest actual good is better than the most magnificent promises
of impossibilities. The wise man of the Stoics would, no doubt,
be a grander object than a steam-engine. But there are steam-
engines. And the wise man of the Stoics is yet to be born. A
philosophy which should enable a man to feel perfectly happy
while in agonies of pain would be better than a philosophy which
assuages pain. But we know that there are remedies which will
assuage pain; and we know that the ancient sages liked the
toothache just as little as their neighbours. A philosophy which
should extinguish cupidity would be better than a philosophy
which should devise laws for the security of property. But it is
possible to make laws which shall, to a very great extent, secure
property. And we do not understand how any motives which the
ancient philosophy furnished could extinguish cupidity. We know
indeed that the philosophers were no better than other men. From
the testimony of friends as well as of foes, from the confessions
of Epictetus and Seneca, as well as from the sneers of Lucian and
the fierce invectives of Juvenal, it is plain that these teachers
of virtue had all the vices of their neighbours, with the
additional vice of hypocrisy. Some people may think the object of
the Baconian philosophy a low object, but they cannot deny that,
high or low, it has been attained. They cannot deny that every
year makes an addition to what Bacon called "fruit." They cannot
deny that mankind have made, and are making, great and constant
progress in the road which he pointed out to them. Was there any
such progressive movement among the ancient philosophers? After
they had been declaiming eight hundred years, had they made the
world better than when they began? Our belief is that, among the
philosophers themselves, instead of a progressive improvement
there was a progressive degeneracy. An abject superstition which
Democritus or Anaxagoras would have rejected with scorn, added
the last disgrace to the long dotage of the Stoic and Platonic
schools. Those unsuccessful attempts to articulate which are so
delightful and interesting in a child shock and disgust in an
aged paralytic; and in the same way, those wild and mythological
fictions which charm us, when we hear them lisped by Greek poetry
in its infancy, excite a mixed sensation of pity and loathing,
when mumbled by Greek philosophy in its old age. We know that
guns, cutlery, spy-glasses, clocks, are better in our time than
they were in the time of our fathers, and were better in the time
of our fathers than they were in the time of our grandfathers. We
might, therefore, be inclined to think that, when a philosophy
which boasted that its object was the elevation and purification
of the mind, and which for this object neglected the sordid
office of ministering to the comforts of the body, had flourished
in the highest honour during many hundreds of years, a vast moral
amelioration must have taken place. Was it so? Look at the
schools of this wisdom four centuries before the Christian era
and four centuries after that era. Compare the men whom those
schools formed at those two periods. Compare Plato and Libanius.
Compare Pericles and Julian. This philosophy confessed, nay
boasted, that for every end but one it was useless. Had it
attained that one end?

Suppose that Justinian, when he closed the schools of Athens, had
called on the last few sages who still haunted the Portico, and
lingered round the ancient plane-trees, to show their title to
public veneration: suppose that he had said: "A thousand years
have elapsed since, in this famous city, Socrates posed
Protagoras and Hippias; during those thousand years a large
proportion of the ablest men of every generation has been
employed in constant efforts to bring to perfection the
philosophy which you teach, that philosophy has been munificently
patronised by the powerful; its professors have been held in the
highest esteem by the public; it has drawn to itself almost all
the sap and vigour of the human intellect: and what has it
effected? What profitable truth has it taught us which we should
not equally have known without it? What has it enabled us to do
which we should not have been equally able to do without it?"
Such questions, we suspect, would have puzzled Simplicius and
Isidore. Ask a follower of Bacon what the new philosophy, as it
was called in the time of Charles the Second, has effected for
mankind, and his answer is ready; "It has lengthened life; it has
mitigated pain; it has extinguished diseases; it has increased
the fertility of the soil; it has given new securities to the
mariner; it has furnished new arms to the warrior; it has spanned
great rivers and estuaries with bridges of form unknown to our
fathers; it has guided the thunderbolt innocuously from heaven to
earth; it has lighted up the night with the splendour of the day;
it has extended the range of the human vision; it has multiplied
the power of the human muscles; it has accelerated motion; it has
annihilated distance; it has facilitated intercourse,
correspondence, all friendly offices, all despatch of business;
it has enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar
into the air, to penetrate securely into the noxious recesses of
the earth, to traverse the land in cars which whirl along without
horses, and the ocean in ships which run ten knots an hour
against the wind. These are but a part of its fruits, and of its
first fruits. For it is a philosophy which never rests, which has
never attained, which is never perfect. Its law is progress. A
point which yesterday was invisible is its goal to-day, and will
be its starting-post to-morrow."

Great and various as the powers of Bacon were, he owes his wide
and durable fame chiefly to this, that all those powers received
their direction from common sense. His love of the vulgar useful,
his strong sympathy with the popular notions of good and evil,
and the openness with which he avowed that sympathy, are the
secret of his influence. There was in his system no cant, no
illusion. He had no anointing for broken bones, no fine theories
de finibus, no arguments to persuade men out of their senses. He
knew that men, and philosophers as well as other men, do actually
love life, health, comfort, honour, security, the society of
friends, and do actually dislike death, sickness, pain, poverty,
disgrace, danger, separation from those to whom they are
attached. He knew that religion, though it often regulates and
moderates these feelings, seldom eradicates them; nor did he
think it desirable for mankind that they should be eradicated.
The plan of eradicating them by conceits like those of Seneca, or
syllogisms like those of Chrysippus, was too preposterous to be
for a moment entertained by a mind like his. He did not
understand what wisdom there could be in changing names where it
was impossible to change things; in denying that blindness,
hunger, the gout, the rack, were evils, and calling them
apoproegmena in refusing to acknowledge that health, safety,
plenty, were good things, and dubbing them by the name of
adiaphora. In his opinions on all these subjects, he was not a
Stoic, nor an Epicurean, nor an Academic, but what would have
been called by Stoics, Epicureans, and Academics a mere idiotes,
a mere common man. And it was precisely because he was so that
his name makes so great an era in the history of the world. It
was because he dug deep that he was able to pile high. It was
because, in order to lay his foundations, he went down into those
parts of human nature which lie low, but which are not liable to
change, that the fabric which he reared has risen to so stately
an elevation, and stands with such immovable strength.

We have sometimes thought that an amusing fiction might be
written, in which a disciple of Epictetus and a disciple of Bacon
should be introduced as fellow-travellers. They come to a village
where the smallpox has just begun to rage, and find houses shut
up, intercourse suspended, the sick abandoned, mothers weeping
in terror over their children. The Stoic assures the dismayed
population that there is nothing bad in the smallpox, and that
to a wise man disease, deformity, death, the loss of friends,
are not evils. The Baconian takes out a lancet and begins to
vaccinate. They find a body of miners in great dismay. An
explosion of noisome vapours has just killed many of those who
were at work; and the survivors are afraid to venture into the
cavern. The Stoic assures them that such an accident is nothing
but a mere apoproegmenon. The Baconian, who has no such fine word
at his command, contents himself with devising a safety-lamp.
They find a shipwrecked merchant wringing his hands on the shore.
His vessel with an inestimable cargo has just gone down, and he
is reduced in a moment from opulence to beggary. The Stoic
exhorts him not to seek happiness in things which lie without
himself, and repeats the whole chapter of Epictetus pros tous ten
aporian dediokotas. The Baconian constructs a diving-bell, goes
down in it, and returns with the most precious effects from the
wreck. It would be easy to multiply illustrations of the
difference between the philosophy of thorns and the philosophy of
fruit, the philosophy of words and the philosophy of works.

Bacon has been accused of overrating the importance of those
sciences which minister to the physical well-being of man, and of
underrating the importance of moral philosophy; and it cannot be
denied that persons who read the Novum Organum and the De
Augmentis, without adverting to the circumstances under which
those works were written, will find much that may seem to
countenance the accusation. It is certain, however, that, though
in practice he often went very wrong, and though, as his
historical work and his essays prove, he did not hold, even in
theory, very strict opinions on points of political morality, he
was far too wise a man not to know how much our well-being
depends on the regulation of our minds. The world for which he
wished was not, as some people seem to imagine, a world of water-
wheels, power-looms, steam-carriages, sensualists, and knaves. He
would have been as ready as Zeno himself to maintain that no
bodily comforts which could be devised by the skill and labour of
a hundred generations would give happiness to a man whose mind
was under the tyranny of licentious appetite, of envy, of hatred,
or of fear. If he sometimes appeared to ascribe importance too
exclusively to the arts which increase the outward comforts of
our species, the reason is plain. Those arts had been most unduly
depreciated. They had been represented as unworthy of the
of a man of liberal education. " Cogitavit," says Bacon of
"eam esse opinionem sive aestimationem humidam et damnosam, minui
nempe majestatem mentis humanae, si in experimentis et rebus
particularibus, sensui subjectis, et in materia terminatis, diu
ac multum versetur: praesertim cum hujusmodi res ad inquirendum
laboriosae, ad meditandum ignobiles, ad discendum asperae, ad
practicam illiberales, numero infinitae, et subtilitate pusillae
videri soleant, et ob hujusmodi conditiones, gloriae artium minus
sint accommodatae." [Cogitata et visa. The expression opinio
humida may surprise a reader not accustomed to Bacon's style. The
allusion is to the maxim of Heraclitus the obscure: "Dry light is
the best." By dry light, Bacon understood the light of the
intellect, not obscured by the mists of passion, interest, or
prejudice.] This opinion seemed to him "omnia in familia humana
turbasse." It had undoubtedly caused many arts which were of the
greatest utility, and which were susceptible of the greatest
improvements, to be neglected by speculators, and abandoned to
joiners, masons, smiths, weavers, apothecaries. It was necessary
to assert the dignity of those arts, to bring them prominently
forward, to proclaim that, as they have a most serious effect on
human happiness, they are not unworthy of the attention of the
highest human intellects. Again, it was by illustrations drawn
from these arts that Bacon could most easily illustrate his
principles. It was by improvements effected in these arts that
the soundness of his principles could be most speedily and
decisively brought to the test, and made manifest to common
understandings. He acted like a wise commander who thins every
other part of his line to strengthen a point where the enemy is
attacking with peculiar fury, and on the fate of which the event
of the battle seems likely to depend. In the Novum Organum,
however, he distinctly and most truly declares that his
philosophy is no less a Moral than a Natural Philosophy, that,
though his illustrations are drawn from physical science, the
principles which those illustrations are intended to explain are
just as applicable to ethical and political inquiries as to
inquiries into the nature of heat and vegetation. [Novum Organum,
Lib, I. Aph 127.]

He frequently treated of moral subjects; and he brought to those
subjects that spirit which was the essence of his whole system.
He has left us many admirable practicable observations on what he
somewhat quaintly called the Georgics of the mind, on the mental
culture which tends to produce good dispositions. Some persons,
he said, might accuse him of spending labour on a matter so
simple that his predecessors had passed it by with contempt. He
desired such persons to remember that he had from the first
announced the objects of his search to be not the splendid and
the surprising, but the useful and the true, not the deluding
dreams which go forth through the shining portal of ivory, but
the humbler realities of the gate of horn. [De Augmentis, Lib.
vii. Cap. 3.]

True to this principle, he indulged in no rants about the fitness
of things, the all-sufficiency of virtue, and the dignity of
human nature. He dealt not at all in resounding nothings, such as
those with which Bolingbroke pretended to comfort himself in
exile, and in which Cicero vainly sought consolation after the
loss of Tullia. The casuistical subtilties which occupied the
attention of the keenest spirits of his age had, it should seem,
no attractions for him. The doctors whom Escobar afterwards
compared to the four beasts and the four-and-twenty elders in the
Apocalypse Bacon dismissed with most contemptuous brevity.
"Inanes plerumque evadunt et futiles." [Ibid. Lib. vii. Cap. 2.]
Nor did he ever meddle with those enigmas which have puzzled
hundreds of generations, and will puzzle hundreds more. He said
nothing about the grounds of moral obligation, or the freedom of
the human will. He had no inclination to employ himself in
labours resembling those of the damned in the Grecian Tartarus,
to spin for ever on the same wheel round the same pivot, to gape
for ever after the same deluding clusters, to pour water for ever
into the same bottomless buckets, to pace for ever to and fro on
the same wearisome path after the same recoiling stone. He
exhorted his disciples to prosecute researches of a very
different description, to consider moral science as a practical
science, a science of which the object was to cure the diseases
and perturbations of the mind, and which could be improved only
by a method analogous to that which has improved medicine and
surgery. Moral philosophers ought, he said, to set themselves
vigorously to work for the purpose of discovering what are the
actual effects produced on the human character by particular
modes of education, by the indulgence of particular habits, by
the study of particular books, by society, by emulation, by
imitation. Then we might hope to find out what mode of training
was most likely to preserve and restore moral health. [Ibid.:
Lib. vii. Cap. 3.]

What he was as a natural philosopher and a moral philosopher,
that he was also as a theologian. He was, we are convinced,
a sincere believer in the divine authority of the Christian
revelation. Nothing can be found in his writings, or in any
other writings, more eloquent and pathetic than some passages
which were apparently written under the influence of strong
devotional feeling. He loved to dwell on the power of the
Christian religion to effect much that the ancient philosophers
could only promise. He loved to consider that religion as the
bond of charity, the curb of evil passions, the consolation of
the wretched, the support of the timid, the hope of the dying.
But controversies on speculative points of theology seem to have
engaged scarcely any portion of his attention. In what he wrote
on Church Government he showed, as far as he dared, a tolerant
and charitable spirit. He troubled himself not at all about
Homoousians and Homoiousians, Monothelites and Nestorians. He
lived in an age in which disputes on the most subtle points of
divinity excited an intense interest throughout Europe, and
nowhere more than in England. He was placed in the very thick of
the conflict. He was in power at the time of the Synod of Dort,
and must for months have been daily deafened with talk about
election, reprobation, and final perseverance. Yet we do not
remember a line in his works from which it can be inferred that
he was either a Calvinist or an Arminian. While the world was
resounding with the noise of a disputatious philosophy and a
disputatious theology, the Baconian school, like Allworthy seated
between Square and Thwackum, preserved a calm neutrality, half
scornful, half benevolent, and content with adding to the sum of
practical good, left the war of words to those who liked it.

We have dwelt long on the end of the Baconian philosophy, because
from this peculiarity all the other peculiarities of that
philosophy necessary arose. Indeed, scarcely any person who
proposed to himself the same end with Bacon could fail to hit
upon the same means.

The vulgar notion about Bacon we take to be this, that he
invented a new method of arriving at truth, which method is
called Induction, and that he detected some fallacy in the
syllogistic reasoning which had been in vogue before his time.
This notion is about as well founded as that of the people who,
in the middle ages, imagined that Virgil was a great conjurer.
Many who are far too well-informed to talk such extravagant
nonsense entertain what we think incorrect notions as to what
Bacon really effected in this matter.

The inductive method has been practised ever since the beginning
of the world by every human being. It is constantly practised by
the most ignorant clown, by the most thoughtless schoolboy, by
the very child at the breast. That method leads the clown to the
conclusion that if he sows barley he shall not reap wheat. By
that method the schoolboy learns that a cloudy day is the best
for catching trout. The very infant, we imagine, is led by
induction to expect milk from his mother or nurse, and none from
his father.

Not only is it not true that Bacon invented the inductive method;
but it is not true that he was the first person who correctly
analysed that method and explained its uses. Aristotle had long
before pointed out the absurdity of supposing that syllogistic
reasoning could ever conduct men to the discovery of any new
principle, had shown that such discoveries must be made by
induction, and by induction alone, and had given the history of
the inductive process, concisely indeed, but with great
perspicuity and precision.

Again, we are not inclined to ascribe much practical value to
that analysis of the inductive method which Bacon has given, in
the second book of the Novum Organum. It is indeed an elaborate
and correct analysis. But it is an analysis of that which we are
all doing from morning to night, and which we continue to do
even in our dreams. A plain man finds his stomach out of order.
He never heard Lord Bacon's name. But he proceeds in the
strictest conformity with the rules laid down in the second book
of the Novum Organum, and satisfies himself that minced pies have
done the mischief. "I ate minced pies on Monday and Wednesday,
and I was kept awake by indigestion all night." This is the
comparentia ad intellectum instantiarum convenientium. "I did not
eat any on Tuesday and Friday, and I was quite well." This is the
comparentia instantiarum in proximo quae natura data privantur.
"I ate very sparingly of them on Sunday, and was very slightly
indisposed in the evening. But on Christmas-day I almost dined on
them, and was so ill that I was in great danger." This is the
comparentia instantiarum secundum magis et minus. "It cannot
have been the brandy which I took with them. For I have drunk
brandy daily for years without being the worse for it." This is
the rejectio naturarum. Our invalid then proceeds to what is
termed by Bacon the Vindemiatio, and pronounces that minced pies
do not agree with him.

We repeat that we dispute neither the ingenuity nor the accuracy
of the theory contained in the second book of the Novum Organum;
but we think that Bacon greatly overrated its utility. We
conceive that the inductive process, like many other processes,
is not likely to be better performed merely because men know how
they perform it. William Tell would not have been one whit more
likely to cleave the apple if he had known that his arrow would
describe a parabola under the influence of the attraction of the
earth. Captain Barclay would not have been more likely to walk a
thousand miles in a thousand hours, if he had known the place and
name of every muscle in his legs. Monsieur Jourdain probably did
not pronounce D and F more correctly after he had been apprised
that D is pronounced by touching the teeth with the end of the
tongue, and F by putting the upper teeth on the lower lip. We
cannot perceive that the study of grammar makes the smallest
difference in the speech of people who have always lived in good
society. Not one Londoner in ten thousand can lay down the rules
for the proper use of will and shall. Yet not one Londoner in a
million ever misplaces his will and shall. Dr. Robertson could,
undoubtedly, have written a luminous dissertation on the use of
those words. Yet, even in his latest work, he sometimes misplaced
them ludicrously. No man uses figures of speech with more
propriety because he knows that one figure is called a metonymy
and another a synecdoche. A drayman in a passion calls out, "You
are a pretty fellow.", without suspecting that he is uttering
irony, and that irony is one of the four primary tropes. The old
systems of rhetoric were never regarded by the most experienced
and discerning judges as of any use for the purpose of forming an
orator. "Ego hanc vim intelligo," said Cicero, "esse in
praeceptis omnibus, non ut ea secuti oratores eloquentiae laudem
sint adepti, sed quae sua sponte homines eloquentes facerent, ea
quosdam observasse, atque id egisse; sic esse non eloquentiam ex
artificio, sed artificium ex eloquentia natum." We must own that
we entertain the same opinion concerning the study of Logic which
Cicero entertained concerning the study of Rhetoric. A man of
sense syllogises in celarent and cesare all day long without
suspecting it; and, though he may not know what an ignoratio
elenchi is, has no difficulty in exposing it whenever he falls in
with it; which is likely to be as often as he falls in with a
Reverend Master of Arts nourished on mode and figure in the
cloisters of Oxford. Considered merely as an intellectual feat,
the Organum of Aristotle can scarcely be admired too highly. But
the more we compare individual with individual, school with
school, nation with nation, generation with generation, the more
do we lean to the opinion that the knowledge of the theory of
logic has no tendency whatever to make men good reasoners.

What Aristotle did for the syllogistic process Bacon has, in the
second book of the Novum Organum, done for the inductive process;
that is to say, he has analysed it well. His rules are quite
proper, but we do not need them, because they are drawn from our
own constant practice.

But, though everybody is constantly performing the process
described in the second book of the Novum Organum, some men
perform it well and some perform it ill. Some are led by it to
truth, and some to error. It led Franklin to discover the nature
of lightning. It led thousands, who had less brains than
Franklin, to believe in animal magnetism. But this was not
because Franklin went through the process described by Bacon, and
the dupes of Mesmer through a different process. The comparentiae
and rejectiones of which we have given examples will be found in
the most unsound inductions. We have heard that an eminent judge
of the last generation was in the habit of jocosely propounding
after dinner a theory, that the cause of the prevalence of
Jacobinism was the practice of bearing three names. He quoted on
the one side Charles James Fox, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John
Horne Tooke, John Philpot Curran, Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
Theobald Wolfe Tone. These were instantiae convenientes. He then
proceeded to cite instances absentiae in proximo, William Pitt,
John Scott, William Windham, Samuel Horsley, Henry Dundas, Edmund
Burke. He might have gone on to instances secundum magis et
minus. The practice of giving children three names has been for
some time a growing practice, and Jacobinism has also been
growing. The practice of giving children three names is more
common in America than in England. In England we still have a
King and a House of Lords; but the Americans are Republicans. The
rejectiones are obvious. Burke and Theobald Wolfe Tone are both
Irishmen: therefore the being an Irishman is not the cause of
Jacobinism. Horsley and Horne Tooke are both clergymen; therefore
the being a clergyman is not the cause of Jacobinism. Fox and
Windham were both educated at Oxford; therefore the being
educated at Oxford is not the cause of Jacobinism. Pitt and Horne
Tooke were both educated at Cambridge; therefore the being
educated at Cambridge is not the cause of Jacobinism. In this
way, our inductive philosopher arrives at what Bacon calls the
Vintage, and pronounces that the having three names is the cause
of Jacobinism.

Here is an induction corresponding with Bacon's analysis and
ending in a monstrous absurdity. In what then does this induction
differ from the induction which leads us to the conclusion that
the presence of the sun is the cause of our having more light by
day than by night? The difference evidently is not in the kind of
instances, but in the number of instances; that is to say, the
difference is not in that part of the process for which Bacon has
given precise rules, but in a circumstance for which no precise
rule can possibly be given. If the learned author of the theory
about Jacobinism had enlarged either of his tables a little, his
system would have been destroyed. The names of Tom Paine and
William Wyndham Grenville would have been sufficient to do the

It appears to us, then, that the difference between a sound and
unsound induction does not lie in this, that the author of the
sound induction goes through the process analysed in the second
book of the Novum Organum, and the author of the unsound
induction through a different process. They both perform the same
process. But one performs it foolishly or carelessly; the other
performs it with patience, attention, sagacity, and judgment. Now
precepts can do little towards making men patient and attentive,
and still less towards making them sagacious and judicious. It is
very well to tell men to be on their guard against prejudices,
not to believe facts on slight evidence, not to be content with a
scanty collection of facts, to put out of their minds the idola
which Bacon has so finely described. But these rules are too
general to be of much practical use. The question is, What is a
prejudice? How long does the incredulity with which I hear a new
theory propounded continue to be a wise and salutary incredulity?
When does it become an idolum specus, the unreasonable
pertinacity of a too sceptical mind? What is slight evidence?
What collection of facts is scanty? Will ten instances do, or
fifty, or a hundred? In how many months would the first human
beings who settled on the shores of the ocean have been justified
in believing that the moon had an influence on the tides? After
how many experiments would Jenner have been justified in
believing that he had discovered a safeguard against the small-
pox? These are questions to which it would be most desirable to
have a precise answer; but, unhappily, they are questions to
which no precise answer can be returned.

We think, then, that it is possible to lay down accurate rules,
as Bacon has done, for the performing of that part of the
inductive process which all men perform alike; but that these
rules, though accurate, are not wanted, because in truth they
only tell us to do what we are all doing. We think that it is
impossible to lay down any precise rule for the performing of
that part of the inductive process which a great experimental
philosopher performs in one way, and a superstitious old woman in

On this subject, we think, Bacon was in an error. He certainly
attributed to his rules a value which did not belong to them. He
went so far as to say, that, if his method of making discoveries
were adopted, little would depend on the degree of force or
acuteness of any intellect; that all minds would be reduced to
one level, that his philosophy resembled a compass or a rule
which equalises all hands, and enables the most unpractised
person to draw a more correct circle or line than the best
draftsmen can produce without such aid. [Novum 0rganum, Praef.
and Lib. I Aph. 122.] This really seems to us as extravagant as
it would have been in Lindley Murray to announce that everybody
who should learn his Grammar would write as good English as
Dryden, or in that very able writer, the Archbishop of Dublin, to
promise that all the readers of his Logic would reason like
Chillingworth, and that all the readers of his Rhetoric would
speak like Burke. That Bacon was altogether mistaken as to this
point will now hardly be disputed. His philosophy has flourished
during two hundred years, and has produced none of this
levelling. The interval between a man of talents and a dunce is
as wide as ever; and is never more clearly discernible than when
they engage in researches which require the constant use of

It will be seen that we do not consider Bacon's ingenious
analysis of the inductive method as a very useful performance.
Bacon was not, as we have already said, the inventor of the
inductive method. He was not even the person who first analysed
the inductive method correctly, though he undoubtedly analysed it
more minutely than any who preceded him. He was not the person
who first showed that by the inductive method alone new truth
could be discovered. But he was the person who first turned the
minds of speculative men, long occupied in verbal disputes, to
the discovery of new and useful truth; and, by doing so, he at
once gave to the inductive method an importance and dignity which
had never before belonged to it. He was not the maker of that
road; he was not the discoverer of that road; he was not the
person who first surveyed and mapped that road. But he was the
person who first called the public attention to an inexhaustible
mine of wealth, which had been utterly neglected, and which was
accessible by that road alone. By doing so he caused that road,
which had previously been trodden only by peasants and higglers,
to be frequented by a higher class of travellers.

That which was eminently his own in his system was the end which
he proposed to himself. The end being given, the means, as it
appears to us, could not well be mistaken. If others had aimed at
the same object with Bacon, we hold it to be certain that they
would have employed the same method with Bacon. It would have
been hard to convince Seneca that the inventing of a safety-lamp
was an employment worthy of a philosopher. It would have been
hard to persuade Thomas Aquinas to descend from the making of
syllogisms to the making of gunpowder. But Seneca would never
have doubted for a moment that it was only by means of a series
of experiments that a safety-lamp could be invented. Thomas
Aquinas would never have thought that his barbara and baralipton
would enable him to ascertain the proportion which charcoal ought
to bear to saltpetre in a pound of gunpowder. Neither common
sense nor Aristotle would have suffered him to fall into such an

By stimulating men to the discovery of new truth, Bacon
stimulated them to employ the inductive method, the only method,
even the ancient philosophers and the schoolmen themselves being
judges, by which new truth can be discovered. By stimulating men
to the discovery of useful truth, he furnished them with a motive
to perform the inductive process well and carefully. His
predecessors had been, in his phrase, not interpreters, but
anticipators of nature. They had been content with the first
principles at which they had arrived by the most scanty and
slovenly induction. And why was this? It was, we conceive,
because their philosophy proposed to itself no practical end,
because it was merely an exercise of the mind. A man who wants to
contrive a new machine or a new medicine has a strong motive to
observe accurately and patiently, and to try experiment after
experiment. But a man who merely wants a theme for disputation or
declamation has no such motive. He is therefore content with
premises grounded on assumption, or on the most scanty and hasty
induction. Thus, we conceive, the schoolmen acted. On their
foolish premises they often argued with great ability; and as
their object was "assensum subjugare, non res," [Novum Organum,
Lib. i. Aph. 29.] to be victorious in controversy not to be
victorious over nature, they were consistent. For just as much
logical skill could be shown in reasoning on false as on true
premises. But the followers of the new philosophy, proposing to
themselves the discovery of useful truth as their object, must
have altogether failed of attaining that object if they had been
content to build theories on superficial induction.

Bacon has remarked [De Augmentis, Lib. i.] that, in ages when
philosophy was stationary, the mechanical arts went on improving.
Why was this? Evidently because the mechanic was not content with
so careless a mode of induction as served the purpose of the
philosopher. And why was the philosopher more easily satisfied
than the mechanic? Evidently because the object of the mechanic
was to mould things, whilst the object of the philosopher was
only to mould words. Careful induction is not at all necessary to
the making of a good syllogism. But it is indispensable to the
making of a good shoe. Mechanics, therefore, have always been, as
far as the range of their humble but useful callings extended,
not anticipators but interpreters of nature. And when a
philosophy arose, the object of which was to do on a large scale
what the mechanic does on a small scale, to extend the power and
to supply the wants of man, the truth of the premises, which
logically is a matter altogether unimportant, became a matter of
the highest importance; and the careless induction with which men
of learning had previously been satisfied gave place, of
necessity, to an induction far more accurate and satisfactory.

What Bacon did for inductive philosophy may, we think, be fairly
stated thus. The objects of preceding speculators were objects
which could be attained without careful induction. Those
speculators, therefore, did not perform the inductive process
carefully. Bacon stirred up men to pursue an object which could
be attained only by induction, and by induction carefully
performed; and consequently induction was more carefully
performed. We do not think that the importance of what Bacon did
for inductive philosophy has ever been overrated. But we think
that the nature of his services is often mistaken, and was not
fully understood even by himself. It was not by furnishing
philosophers with rules for performing the inductive process
well, but by furnishing them with a motive for performing it
well, that he conferred so vast a benefit on society.

To give to the human mind a direction which it shall retain for
ages is the rare prerogative of a few imperial spirits. It
cannot, therefore, be uninteresting to inquire what was the moral
and intellectual constitution which enabled Bacon to exercise so
vast an influence on the world.

In the temper of Bacon,--we speak of Bacon the philosopher, not
of Bacon the lawyer and politician,--there was a singular union
of audacity and sobriety. The promises which he made to mankind
might, to a superficial reader, seem to resemble the rants which
a great dramatist has put into the mouth of ail Oriental
conqueror half-crazed by good fortune and by violent passions:

"He shall have chariots easier than air,
Which I will have invented; and thyself
That art the messenger shall ride before him,
On a horse cut out of an entire diamond,
That shall be made to go with golden wheels,
I know not how yet."

But Bacon performed what he promised. In truth, Fletcher would
not have dared to make Arbaces promise, in his wildest fits of
excitement, the tithe of what the Baconian philosophy has

The true philosophical temperament may, we think, be described in
four words, much hope, little faith; a disposition to believe
that anything, however extraordinary, may be done; an
indisposition to believe that anything extraordinary has been
done. In these points the constitution of Bacon's mind seems to
us to have been absolutely perfect. He was at once the Mammon and
the Surly of his friend Ben. Sir Epicure did not indulge in
visions more magnificent and gigantic, Surly did not sift
evidence with keener and more sagacious incredulity.

Closely connected with this peculiarity of Bacon's temper was a
striking peculiarity of his understanding. With great minuteness
of observation, he had an amplitude of comprehension such as has
never yet been vouchsafed to any other human being. The small
fine mind of Labruyere had not a more delicate tact than the
large intellect of Bacon. The Essays contain abundant proofs that
no nice feature of character, no peculiarity in the ordering of a
house, a garden, or a court-masque, would escape the notice of
one whose mind was capable of taking in the whole world of
knowledge. His understanding resembled the tent which the fairy
Paribanou gave to Prince Ahmed. Fold it; and it seemed a toy for
the hand of a lady. Spread it; and the armies of powerful Sultans
might repose beneath its shade.

In keenness of observation he has been equalled, though perhaps
never surpassed. But the largeness of his mind was all his own.
The glance with which he surveyed the intellectual universe
resembled that which the Archangel, from the golden threshold of
heaven, darted down into the new creation:

"Round he surveyed,--and well might, where he stood
So high above the circling canopy
Of night's extended shade,--from eastern point
Of Libra, to the fleecy star which bears
Andromeda far off Atlantic seas
Beyond the horizon."

His knowledge differed from that of other men, as a terrestrial
globe differs from an Atlas which contains a different country on
every leaf. The towns and roads of England, France, and Germany
are better laid down in the Atlas than on the globe. But while we
are looking at England we see nothing of France; and while we are
looking at France we see nothing of Germany. We may go to the
Atlas to learn the bearings and distances of York and Bristol, or
of Dresden and Prague. But it is useless if we want to know the
bearings and distances of France and Martinique, or of England
and Canada. On the globe we shall not find all the market towns
in our own neighbourhood; but we shall learn from it the
comparative extent and the relative position of all the kingdoms
of the earth. "I have taken," said Bacon, in a letter written
when he was only thirty-one, to his uncle Lord Burleigh, "I have
taken all knowledge to be my province." In any other young man,
indeed in any other man, this would have been a ridiculous flight
of presumption. There have been thousands of better
mathematicians, astronomers, chemists, physicians, botanists,
mineralogists, than Bacon. No man would go to Bacon's works to
learn any particular science or art, any more than he would go to
a twelve-inch globe in order to find his way from Kennington
turnpike to Clapham Common. The art which Bacon taught was the
art of inventing arts. The knowledge in which Bacon excelled all
men was a knowledge of the mutual relations of all departments of

The mode in which he communicated his thoughts was peculiar to
him. He had no touch of that disputatious temper which he often
censured in his predecessors. He effected a vast intellectual
revolution in opposition to a vast mass of prejudices; yet he
never engaged in any controversy, nay, we cannot at present
recollect, in all his philosophical works, a single passage of a
controversial character. All those works might with propriety
have been put into the form which he adopted in the work entitled
Cogitata et visa: "Franciscus Baconus sic cogitavit." These are
thoughts which have occurred to me: weigh them well: and take
them or leave them.

Borgia said of the famous expedition of Charles the Eighth, that
the French had conquered Italy, not with steel, but with chalk
for that the only exploit which they had found necessary for the
purpose of taking military occupation of any place had been to
mark the doors of the houses where they meant to quarter. Bacon
often quoted this saying, and loved to apply it to the victories
of his own intellect. [Novum Organum, Lib. i. Aph. 35 and
elsewhere.] His philosophy, he said, came as a guest, not as an
enemy. She found no difficulty in gaining admittance, without a
contest, into every understanding fitted, by its structure and by
its capacity, to receive her. In all this we think that he acted
most judiciously; first, because, as he has himself remarked, the
difference between his school and other schools was a difference
so fundamental that there was hardly any common ground on which a
controversial battle could be fought; and, secondly, because his
mind, eminently observant, preeminently discursive and capacious,
was, we conceive, neither formed by nature nor disciplined by
habit for dialectical combat.

Though Bacon did not arm his philosophy with the weapons of
logic, he adorned her profusely with all the decorations of
rhetoric. His eloquence, though not untainted with the vicious
taste of his age, would alone have entitled him to a high rank in
literature. He had a wonderful talent for packing thought close,
and rendering it portable. In wit, if by wit be meant the power
of perceiving analogies between things which appear to have
nothing in common, he never had an equal, not even Cowley, not
even the author of Hudibras. Indeed, he possessed this faculty,
or rather this faculty possessed him, to a morbid degree. When he
abandoned himself to it without reserve, as he did in the
Sapientia Veterum, and at the end of the second book of the De
Augmentis, the feats which he performed were not merely
admirable, but portentous, and almost shocking. On those
occasions we marvel at him as clowns on a fair-day marvel at a
juggler, and can hardly help thinking that the devil must be in

These, however, were freaks in which his ingenuity now and then
wantoned, with scarcely any other object than to astonish and
amuse. But it occasionally happened that, when he was engaged in
grave and profound investigations, his wit obtained the mastery
over all his other faculties, and led him into absurdities into
which no dull man could possibly have fallen. We will give the
most striking instance which at present occurs to us. In the
third book of the De Augmentis he tells us that there are some
principles which are not peculiar to one science, but are common
to several. That part of philosophy which concerns itself with
these principles is, in his nomenclature, designated as
philosophia prima. He then proceeds to mention some of the
principles with which this philosophia prima is conversant. One
of them is this. An infectious disease is more likely to be
communicated while it is in progress than when it has reached its
height. This, says he, is true in medicine. It is also true in
morals; for we see that the example of very abandoned men injures
public morality less than the example of men in whom vice has not
yet extinguished all good qualities. Again, he tells us that in
music a discord ending in a concord is agreeable, and that the
same thing may be noted in the affections. Once more, he tells
us, that in physics the energy with which a principle acts is
often increased by the antiperistasis of its opposite; and that
it is the same in the contests of factions. If the making of
ingenious and sparkling similitudes like these be indeed the
philosophia prima, we are quite sure that the greatest
philosophical work of the nineteenth century is Mr. Moore's Lalla
Rookh. The similitudes which we have cited are very happy
similitudes. But that a man like Bacon should have taken them for
more, that he should have thought the discovery of such
resemblances as these an important part of philosophy, has always
appeared to us one of the most singular facts in the history of

The truth is that his mind was wonderfully quick in perceiving
analogies of all sorts. But, like several eminent men whom we
could name, both living and dead, he sometimes appeared strangely
deficient in the power of distinguishing rational from fanciful
analogies, analogies which are arguments from analogies which are
mere illustrations, analogies like that which Bishop Butler so
ably pointed out, between natural and revealed religion, from
analogies like that which Addison discovered, between the series
of Grecian gods carved by Phidias and the series of English kings
painted by Kneller. This want of discrimination has led to many
strange political speculations. Sir William Temple deduced a
theory of government from the properties of the pyramid. Mr.
Southey's whole system of finance is grounded on the phaenomena
of evaporation and rain. In theology, this perverted ingenuity
has made still wilder work. From the time of Irenaeus and Origen
down to the present day, there has not been a single generation
in which great divines have not been led into the most absurd
expositions of Scripture, by mere incapacity to distinguish
analogies proper, to use the scholastic phrase, from analogies
metaphorical. [See some interesting remarks on this subject in
Bishop Berkeley's Minute Philosopher, Dialogue iv.] It is curious
that Bacon has himself mentioned this very kind of delusion among
the idola specus; and has mentioned it in language which, we are
inclined to think, shows that he knew himself to be subject to
it. It is the vice, he tells us, of subtle minds to attach too
much importance to slight distinctions; it is the vice, on the
other hand, of high and discursive intellects to attach too much
importance to slight resemblances; and he adds that, when this
last propensity is indulged to excess, it leads men to catch at
shadows instead of substances. [Novum Organum, Lib. i. Aph. 55.]

Yet we cannot wish that Bacon's wit had been less luxuriant. For,
to say nothing of the pleasure which it affords, it was in the
vast majority of cases employed for the purpose of making obscure
truth plain, of making repulsive truth attractive, of fixing in
the mind for ever truth which might otherwise have left but a
transient impression.

The poetical faculty was powerful in Bacon's mind, but not, like
his wit, so powerful as occasionally to usurp the place of his
reason, and to tyrannise over the whole man. No imagination was
ever at once so strong and so thoroughly subjugated. It never
stirred but at a signal from good sense. It stopped at the first
check from good sense. Yet, though disciplined to such obedience,
it gave noble proofs of its vigour. In truth, much of Bacon's
life was passed in a visionary world, amidst things as strange as
any that are described in the Arabian Tales, or in those romances
on which the curate and barber of Don Quixote's village performed
so cruel an auto-de-fe, amidst buildings more sumptuous than the
palace of Aladdin, fountains more wonderful than the golden water
of Parizade, conveyances more rapid than the hippogryph of
Ruggiero, arms more formidable than the lance of Astolfo,
remedies more efficacious than the balsam of Fierabras. Yet in
his magnificent daydreams there was nothing wild, nothing but
what sober reason sanctioned. He knew that all the secrets
feigned by poets to have been written in the books of enchanters
are worthless when compared with the mighty secrets which are
really written in the book of nature, and which, with time and
patience, will be read there. He knew that all the wonders
wrought by all the talismans in fable were trifles when compared
to the wonders which might reasonably be expected from the
philosophy of fruit, and that, if his words sank deep into the
minds of men, they would produce effects such as superstition had
never ascribed to the incantations of Merlin and Michael Scott.
It was here that he loved to let his imagination loose. He loved
to picture to himself the world as it would be when his
philosophy should, in his own noble phrase, "have enlarged the
bounds of human empire." [New Atlantis.] We might refer to many
instances. But we will content ourselves with the strongest, the
description of the House of Solomon in the New Atlantis. By most
of Bacon's contemporaries, and by some people of our time, this
remarkable passage would, we doubt not, be considered as an
ingenious rodomontade, a counterpart to the adventures of Sinbad
or Baron Munchausen. The truth is, that there is not to be found
in any human composition a passage more eminently distinguished
by profound and serene wisdom. The boldness and originality of
the fiction is far less wonderful than the nice discernment which
carefully excluded from that long list of prodigies everything
that can be pronounced impossible, everything that can be proved
to lie beyond the mighty magic of induction and time. Already
some parts, and not the least startling parts, of this glorious
prophecy have been accomplished, even according to the letter;
and the whole, construed according to the spirit, is daily
accomplishing all around us.

One of the most remarkable circumstances in the history of
Bacon's mind is the order in which its powers expanded
themselves. With him the fruit came first and remained till the
last; the blossoms did not appear till late. In general, the
development of the fancy is to the development of the judgment
what the growth of a girl is to the growth of a boy. The fancy
attains at an earlier period to the perfection of its beauty, its
power, and its fruitfulness; and, as it is first to ripen, it is
also first to fade. It has generally lost something of its bloom
and freshness before the sterner faculties have reached maturity;
and is commonly withered and barren while those faculties still
retain all their energy. It rarely happens that the fancy and the
judgment grow together. It happens still more rarely that the
judgment grows faster than the fancy. This seems, however, to
have been the case with Bacon. His boyhood and youth appear to
have been singularly sedate. His gigantic scheme of philosophical
reform is said by some writers to have been planned before he was
fifteen, and was undoubtedly planned while he was still young. He
observed as vigilantly, meditated as deeply, and judged as
temperately when he gave his first work to the world as at the
close of his long career. But in eloquence, in sweetness and
variety of expression, and in richness of illustration, his later
writings are far superior to those of his youth. In this respect
the history of his mind bears some resemblance to the history of
the mind of Burke. The treatise on the Sublime and Beautiful,
though written on a subject which the coldest metaphysician could
hardly treat without being occasionally betrayed into florid
writing, is the most unadorned of all Burke's works. It appeared
when he was twenty-five or twenty-six. When, at forty, he wrote
the Thoughts on the Causes of the existing Discontents, his
reason and his judgment had reached their full maturity; but his
eloquence was still in its splendid dawn. At fifty, his rhetoric
was quite as rich as good taste would permit; and when he died,
at almost seventy, it had become ungracefully gorgeous. In his
youth he wrote on the emotions produced by mountains and
cascades, by the master-pieces of painting and sculpture, by the
faces and necks of beautiful women, in the style of a
Parliamentary report. In his old age he discussed treaties and
tariffs in the most fervid and brilliant language of romance. It
is strange that the Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, and the
Letter to a Noble Lord, should be the productions of one man. But
it is far more strange that the Essay should have been a
production of his youth, and the Letter of his old age.

We will give very short specimens of Bacon's two styles. In 1597,
he wrote thus: "Crafty men contemn studies; simple men admire
them; and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use:
that is a wisdom without them, and won by observation. Read not
to contradict, nor to believe, but to weigh and consider. Some
books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to
be chewed and digested. Reading maketh a full man, conference a
ready man, and writing an exact man. And therefore if a man write
little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little,
have a present wit; and if he read little, have much cunning to
seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise, poets
witty, the mathematics subtle, natural philosophy deep, morals
grave, logic and rhetoric able to contend." It will hardly be
disputed that this is a passage to be "chewed and digested." We
do not believe that Thucydides himself has anywhere compressed so
much thought into so small a space.

In the additions which Bacon afterwards made to the Essays, there
is nothing superior in truth or weight to what we have quoted.
But his style was constantly becoming richer and softer. The
following passage, first published in 1625, will show the extent
of the change: "Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament;
adversity is the blessing of the New, which carrieth the greater
benediction and the clearer evidence of God's favour. Yet, even
in the Old Testament, if you listen to David's harp you shall
hear as many hearse-like airs as carols; and the pencil of the
Holy Ghost hath laboured more in describing the afflictions of
Job than the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not without
many fears and distastes; and adversity is not without comforts
and hopes. We see in needleworks and embroideries it is more
pleasing to have a lively work upon a sad and solemn ground, than
to have a dark and melancholy work upon a lightsome ground. Judge
therefore of the pleasure of the heart by the pleasure of the
eye. Certainly virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when
they are incensed or crushed; for prosperity doth best discover
vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue."

It is by the Essays that Bacon is best known to the multitude.
The Novum Organum and the De Augmentis are much talked of, but
little read. They have produced indeed a vast effect on the
opinions of mankind; but they have produced it through the
operation of intermediate agents. They have moved the intellects
which have moved the world. It is in the Essays alone that the
mind of Bacon is brought into immediate contact with the minds of
ordinary readers. There he opens an exoteric school, and talks to
plain men, in language which everybody understands, about things
in which everybody is interested. He has thus enabled those who
must otherwise have taken his merits on trust to judge for
themselves; and the great body of readers have, during several
generations, acknowledged that the man who has treated with such
consummate ability questions with which they are familiar may
well be supposed to deserve all the praise bestowed on him by
those who have sat in his inner-school.

Without any disparagement to the admirable treatise De
Augmentis, we must say that, in our judgment, Bacon's greatest
performance is the first book of the Novum Organum. All the
peculiarities of his extraordinary mind are found there in the
highest perfection. Many of the aphorisms, but particularly those
in which he gives examples of the influence of the idola, show a
nicety of observation that has never been surpassed. Every part
of the book blazes with wit, but with wit which is employed only
to illustrate and decorate truth. No book ever made so great a
revolution in the mode of thinking, overthrew so many prejudices,
introduced so many new opinions. Yet no book was ever written in
a less contentious spirit. It truly conquers with chalk and not
with steel. Proposition after proposition enters into the mind,
is received not as an invader, but as a welcome friend, and,
though previously unknown, becomes at once domesticated. But what
we most admire is the vast capacity of that intellect which,
without effort, takes in at once all the domains of science, all
the past, the present, and the future, all the errors of two
thousand years, all the encouraging signs of the passing times,
all the bright hopes of the coming age. Cowley, who was among the
most ardent, and not among the least discerning followers of the
new philosophy, has, in one of his finest poems, compared Bacon
to Moses standing on Mount Pisgah. It is to Bacon, we think, as
he appears in the first book of the Novum Organum, that the
comparison applies with peculiar felicity. There we see the great
Lawgiver looking round from his lonely elevation on an infinite
expanse; behind him a wilderness of dreary sands and bitter
waters in which successive generations have sojourned, always
moving, yet never advancing, reaping no harvest, and building no
abiding city; before him a goodly land, a land of promise, a land
flowing with milk and honey. While the multitude below saw only
the flat sterile desert in which they had so long wandered,
bounded on every side by a near horizon, or diversified only by
some deceitful mirage, he was gazing from a far higher stand on a
far lovelier country, following with his eye the long course of
fertilising rivers, through ample pastures, and under the
bridges of great capitals, measuring the distances of marts and
havens, and portioning out all those wealthy regions from Dan to

It is painful to turn back from contemplating Bacon's philosophy
to contemplate his life. Yet without so turning back it is
impossible fairly to estimate his powers. He left the University
at an earlier age than that at which most people repair thither.
While yet a boy he was plunged into the midst of diplomatic
business. Thence he passed to the study of a vast technical
system of law, and worked his way up through a succession of
laborious offices to the highest post in his profession. In the
meantime he took an active part in every Parliament; he was an
adviser of the Crown: he paid court with the greatest assiduity
and address to all whose favour was likely to be of use to him;
he lived much in society; he noted the slightest peculiarities of
character and the slightest changes of fashion. Scarcely any man
has led a more stirring life than that which Bacon led from
sixteen to sixty. Scarcely any man has been better entitled to be
called a thorough man of the world. The founding of a new
philosophy, the imparting of a new direction to the minds of
speculators, this was the amusement of his leisure, the work of
hours occasionally stolen from the Woolsack and the Council
Board. This consideration, while it increases the admiration with
which we regard his intellect, increases also our regret that
such an intellect should so often have been unworthily employed.
He well knew the better course and had, at one time, resolved to
pursue it. "I confess," said he in a letter written when he was
still young, "that I have as vast contemplative ends as I have
moderate civil ends." Had his civil ends continued to be
moderate, he would have been, not only the Moses, but the Joshua
of philosophy. He would have fulfilled a large part of his own
magnificent predictions. He would have led his followers, not
only to the verge, but into the heart of the promised land. He
would not merely have pointed out, but would have divided the
spoil. Above all, he would have left, not only a great, but a
spotless name. Mankind would then have been able to esteem their
illustrious benefactor. We should not then be compelled to regard
his character with mingled contempt and admiration, with mingled
aversion and gratitude. We should not then regret that there
should be so many proofs of the narrowness and selfishness of a
heart, the benevolence of which was large enough to take in all
races and all ages. We should not then have to blush for the
disingenuousness of the most devoted worshipper of speculative
truth, for the servility of the boldest champion of intellectual
freedom. We should not then have seen the same man at one time
far in the van, and at another time far in the rear of his
generation. We should not then be forced to own that he who first
treated legislation as a science was among the last Englishmen
who used the rack, that he who first summoned philosophers to the
great work of interpreting nature was among the last Englishmen
who sold justice. And we should conclude our survey of a life
placidly, honourably, beneficently passed, "in industrious
observations, grounded conclusions, and profitable inventions
and discoveries," [From a Letter of Bacon to Lord Burleigh.]
with feelings very different from those with which we now turn
away from the checkered spectacle of so much glory and so much


(December 1831)
The Pilgrim's Progress, with a Life of John Bunyan. By ROBERT
SOUTHEY, Esq., LL. D., Poet Laureate. Illustrated with
Engravings. 8vo. London: 1831.

THIS is an eminently beautiful and splendid edition of a book
which well deserves all that the printer and the engraver can do
for it. The Life of Bunyan is, of course, not a performance which
can add much to the literary reputation of such a writer as Mr.
Southey. But it is written in excellent English, and, for the
most part, in an excellent spirit. Mr. Southey propounds, we need
not say, many opinions from which we altogether dissent; and his
attempts to excuse the odious persecution to which Bunyan was
subjected have sometimes moved our indignation. But we will avoid
this topic. We are at present much more inclined to join in
paying homage to, the genius of a great man than to engage in a
controversy concerning church-government and toleration.

We must not pass without notice the engravings with which this
volume is decorated. Some of Mr. Harvey's woodcuts are admirably
designed and executed. Mr. Martin's illustrations do not please
us quite so well. His Valley of the Shadow of Death is not that
Valley of the Shadow of Death which Bunyan imagined. At all
events, it is not that dark and horrible glen which has from
childhood been in our mind's eye. The valley is a cavern: the
quagmire is a lake: the straight path runs zigzag: and Christian
appears like a speck in the darkness of the immense vault. We
miss, too, those hideous forms which make so striking a part of
the description of Bunyan, and which Salvator Rosa would have
loved to draw. It is with unfeigned diffidence that we pronounce
judgment on any question relating to the art of painting. But it
appears to us that Mr. Martin has not of late been fortunate in
his choice of subjects. He should never have attempted to
illustrate the Paradise Lost. There can be no two manners more
directly opposed to each other than the manner of his painting
and the manner of Milton's poetry. Those things which are mere
accessories in the descriptions become the principal objects in
the pictures; and those figures which are most prominent in the
descriptions can be detected in the pictures only by a very close
scrutiny. Mr. Martin has succeeded perfectly in representing the
pillars and candelabras of Pandaemonium. But he has forgotten
that Milton's Pandaemonium is merely the background to Satan. In
the picture, the Archangel is scarcely visible amidst the endless
colonnades of his infernal palace. Milton's Paradise, again, is
merely the background to his Adam and Eve. But in Mr. Martin's
picture the landscape is everything. Adam, Eve, and Raphael
attract much less notice than the lake and the mountains, the
gigantic flowers, and the giraffes which feed upon them. We read
that James the Second sat to Varelst, the great flower-painter.
When the performance was finished, his Majesty appeared in the
midst of a bower of sun-flowers and tulips, which completely drew
away all attention from the central figure. All who looked at the
portrait took it for a flower-piece. Mr. Martin, we think,
introduces his immeasurable spaces, his innumerable multitudes,
his gorgeous prodigies of architecture and landscape, almost as
unseasonably as Varelst introduced his flower-pots and nosegays.
If Mr. Martin were to paint Lear in the storm, we suspect that
the blazing sky, the sheets of rain, the swollen torrents, and
the tossing forest, would draw away all attention from the
agonies of the insulted king and father. If he were to paint the
death of Lear, the old man, asking the bystanders to undo his
button, would be thrown into the shade by a vast blaze of
pavilions, standards, armour, and heralds' coats. Mr. Martin
would illustrate the Orlando Furioso well, the Orlando Innamorato
still better, the Arabian Nights best of all. Fairy palaces and
gardens, porticoes of agate, and groves flowering with emeralds
and rubies, inhabited by people for whom nobody cares, these are
his proper domain. He would succeed admirably in the enchanted
ground of Alcina, or the mansion of Aladdin. But he should avoid
Milton and Bunyan.

The characteristic peculiarity of the Pilgrim's Progress is that
it is the only work of its kind which possesses a strong human
interest. Other allegories only amuse the fancy. The allegory of
Bunyan has been read by many thousands with tears. There are some
good allegories in Johnson's works, and some of still higher
by Addison. In these performances there is, perhaps, as much
and ingenuity as in the Progress, But the pleasure which is
produced by the Vision of Mirza, the Vision of Theodore, the
Genealogy of Wit, or the Contest between Rest and Labour, is
exactly similar to the pleasure which we derive from one of
Cowley's odes, or from a canto of Hudibras. It is a pleasure
belongs wholly to the understanding, and in which the feelings
have no part whatever. Nay, even Spenser himself, though
one of the greatest poets that ever lived, could not succeed in
the attempt to make allegory interesting. It was in vain that he
lavished the riches of his mind on the House of Pride and the
House of Temperance. One unpardonable fault, the fault of
tediousness, pervades the whole of the Fairy Queen. We become
of cardinal virtues and deadly sins, and long for the society of
plain men and women. Of the persons who read the first canto, not
one in ten reaches the end of the first book, and not one in a
hundred perseveres to the end of the poem. Very few and very
are those who are in at the death of the Blatant Beast. If the
last six books, which are said to have been destroyed in Ireland,
had been preserved, we doubt whether any heart less stout than
that of a commentator would have held out to the end.

It is not so with the Pilgrim's Progress. That wonderful book,
while it obtains admiration from the most fastidious critics, is
loved by those who are too simple to admire it. Dr. Johnson, all
whose studies were desultory, and who hated, as he said, to read
books through, made an exception in favour of the Pilgrim's
Progress. That work was one of the two or three works which he
wished longer. It was by no common merit that the illiterate
sectary extracted praise like this from the most pedantic of
critics and the most bigoted of Tories. In the wildest parts of
Scotland the Pilgrim's Progress is the delight of the peasantry.
In every nursery the Pilgrim's Progress is a greater favourite
than Jack the Giant-killer. Every reader knows the straight and
narrow path as well as he knows a road in which he has gone
backward and forward a hundred times. This is the highest miracle
of genius, that things which are not should be as though they
were, that the imaginations of one mind should become the
recollections of another. And this miracle the tinker has
There is no ascent, no declivity, no resting-place, no
with which we are not perfectly acquainted. The wicket-gate, and
the desolate swamp which separates it from the City of
Destruction, the long line of road, as straight as a rule can
it, the Interpreter's house and all its fair shows, the prisoner
in the iron cage, the palace, at the doors of which armed men
guard, and on the battlements of which walked persons clothed all
in gold, the cross, and the sepulchre, the steep hill and the
pleasant arbour, the stately front of the House Beautiful by the
wayside, the chained lions crouching in the porch, the low green
valley of Humiliation, rich with grass and covered with flocks,
all are as well known to us as the sights of our own street. Then
we come to the narrow place where Apollyon strode right across
whole breadth of the way, to stop the journey of Christian, and
where, afterwards, the pillar was set up to testify how bravely
the pilgrim had fought the good fight. As we advance, the valley
becomes deeper and deeper. The shade of the precipices on both
sides falls blacker and blacker. The clouds gather overhead.
Doleful voices, the clanking of chains, and the rush of many feet
to and fro, are heard through the darkness. The way, hardly
discernible in gloom, runs close by the mouth of the burning pit,
which sends forth its flames, its noisome smoke, and its hideous
shapes to terrify the adventurer. Thence he goes on, amidst the
snares and pitfalls, with the mangled bodies of those who have
perished lying in the ditch by his side. At the end of the long
dark valley he passes the dens in which the old giants dwelt,
amidst the bones of those whom they had slain.

Then the road passes straight on through a waste moor, till at
length the towers of a distant city appear before the traveller;
and soon he is in the midst of the innumerable multitudes of
Vanity Fair. There are the jugglers and the apes, the shops and
the puppet-shows. There are Italian Row, and French Row, and
Spanish Row, and British Row, with their crowds of buyers,
sellers, and loungers, jabbering all the languages of the earth.

Thence we go on by the little hill of the silver mine, and
through the meadow of lilies, along the bank of that pleasant
river which is bordered on both sides by fruit-trees. On the left
branches off the path leading to the horrible castle, the
courtyard of which is paved with the skulls of pilgrims; and
right onward are the sheepfolds and orchards of the Delectable

From the Delectable Mountains, the way lies through the fogs and
briars of the Enchanted Ground, with here and there a bed of soft
cushions spread under a green arbour. And beyond is the land of
Beulah, where the flowers, the grapes, and the songs of birds
never cease, and where the sun shines night and day. Thence are
plainly seen the golden pavements and streets of pearl, on the
other side of that black and cold river over which there is no

All the stages of the journey, all the forms which cross or
overtake the pilgrims, giants, and hobgoblins, ill-favoured ones,
and shining ones, the tall, comely, swarthy Madam Bubble, with
her great purse by her side, and her fingers playing with the
money, the black man in the bright vesture, Mr. Wordly-Wise-man
and my Lord Hategood, Mr. Talkative, and Mrs. Timorous, all are
actually existing beings to us. We follow the travellers through
their allegorical progress with interest not inferior to that
with which we follow Elizabeth from Siberia to Moscow, or Jeanie
Deans from Edinburgh to London. Bunyan is almost the only writer
who ever gave to the abstract the interest of the concrete. In
the works of many celebrated authors, men are mere
personifications. We have not a jealous man, but jealousy; not a
traitor, but perfidy; not a patriot, but patriotism. The mind of
Bunyan, on the contrary, was so imaginative that
personifications, when he dealt with them, became men. A dialogue
between two qualities, in his dream, has more dramatic effect
than a dialogue between two human beings in most plays. In this
respect the genius of Bunyan bore a great resemblance to that of
a man who had very little else in common with him, Percy Bysshe
Shelley. The strong imagination of Shelley made him an idolater
in his own despite. Out of the most indefinite terms of a hard,
cold, dark, metaphysical system, he made a gorgeous Pantheon,
full of beautiful, majestic, and life-like forms. He turned
atheism itself into a mythology, rich with visions as glorious as
the gods that live in the marble of Phidias, or the virgin saints
that smile on us from the canvas of Murillo. The Spirit of
Beauty, the Principle of Good, the Principle of Evil, when he
treated of them, ceased to be abstractions. They took shape and
colour. They were no longer mere words; but intelligible forms,
fair humanities, objects of love, of adoration, or of fear. As
there can be no stronger sign of a mind destitute of the poetical
faculty than that tendency which was so common among the writers
of the French school to turn images into abstractions, Venus
for example, into Love, Minerva into Wisdom, Mars into War,
and Bacchus into Festivity, so there can be no stronger sign
of a mind truly poetical than a disposition to reverse this
abstracting process, and to make individuals out of
generalities. Some of the metaphysical and ethical theories of
Shelley were certainly most absurd and pernicious. But we doubt
whether any modern poet has possessed in an equal degree some of
the highest qualities of the great ancient masters. The words
bard and inspiration, which seem so cold and affected when
applied to other modern writers, have a perfect propriety when
applied to him. He was not an author, but a bard. His poetry
seems not to have been an art, but an inspiration. Had he lived
to the full age of man, he might not improbably have given to the
world some great work of the very highest rank in design and
execution. But, alas!

O daphnis eba roon' ekluse dina
ton Mosais philon andra, ton ou Numphaisin apekhthi.

But we must return to Bunyan. The Pilgrim's Progress undoubtedly
is not a perfect allegory. The types are often inconsistent with
each other; and sometimes the allegorical disguise is altogether
thrown off. The river, for example, is emblematic of death; and
we are told that every human being must pass through the river.
But Faithful does not pass through it. He is martyred, not in
shadow, but in reality, at Vanity Fair. Hopeful talks to
Christian about Esau's birthright and about his own convictions
of sin as Bunyan might have talked with one of his own
congregation. The damsels at the House Beautiful catechise
Christiana's boys, as any good ladies might catechise any boys at
a Sunday School. But we do not believe that any man, whatever
might be his genius, and whatever his good luck, could long
continue a figurative history without falling into many
inconsistencies. We are sure that inconsistencies, scarcely less
gross than the worst into which Bunyan has fallen, may be found
in the shortest and most elaborate allegories of the Spectator
and the Rambler. The Tale of a Tub and the History of John Bull
swarm with similar errors, if the name of error can be properly
applied to that which is unavoidable. It is not easy to make a
simile go on all-fours. But we believe that no human ingenuity
could produce such a centipede as a long allegory in which the
correspondence between the outward sign and the thing signified
should be exactly preserved. Certainly no writer, ancient or
modern, has yet achieved the adventure. The best thing, on the
whole, that an allegorist can do, is to present to his readers a
succession of analogies, each of which may separately be striking
and happy, without looking very nicely to see whether they
harmonise with each other. This Bunyan has done; and, though a
minute scrutiny may detect inconsistencies in every page of his
tale, the general effect which the tale produces on all persons,
learned and unlearned, proves that he has done well. The passages
which it is most difficult to defend are those in which he
altogether drops the allegory, and puts into the mouth of his
pilgrims religious ejaculations and disquisitions better suited
to his own pulpit at Bedford or Reading than to the Enchanted
Ground or to the Interpreter's Garden. Yet even these passages,
though we will not undertake to defend them against the
objections of critics, we feel that we could ill spare. We feel
that the story owes much of its charm to these occasional
glimpses of solemn and affecting subjects, which will not be
hidden, which force themselves through the veil, and appear
before us in their native aspect. The effect is not unlike that
which is said to have been produced on the ancient stage, when
the eyes of the actor were seen flaming through his mask, and
giving life and expression to what would else have been an
inanimate and uninteresting disguise.

It is very amusing and very instructive to compare the Pilgrim's
Progress with the Grace Abounding. The latter work is indeed one
of the most remarkable pieces of autobiography in the world. It
is a full and open confession of the fancies which passed through
the mind of an illiterate man, whose affections were warm, whose
nerves were irritable, whose imagination was ungovernable, and
who was under the influence of the strongest religious
excitement. In whatever age Bunyan had lived, the history of his
feelings would, in all probability, have been very curious. But
the time in which his lot was cast was the time of a great
stirring of the human mind. A tremendous burst of public feeling,
produced by the tyranny of the hierarchy, menaced the old
ecclesiastical institutions with destruction. To the gloomy
regularity of one intolerant Church had succeeded the licence of
innumerable sects, drunk with the sweet and heady must of their
new liberty. Fanaticism, engendered by persecution, and destined
to engender persecution in turn, spread rapidly through society.
Even the strongest and most commanding minds were not proof
against this strange taint. Any time might have produced George
Fox and James Naylor. But to one time alone belong the fanatic
delusions of such a statesman as Vane, and the hysterical tears
of such a soldier as Cromwell.

The history of Bunyan is the history of a most excitable mind in
an age of excitement. By most of his biographers he has been
treated with gross injustice. They have understood in a popular
sense all those strong terms of self-condemnation which he
employed in a theological sense. They have, therefore,
represented him as an abandoned wretch, reclaimed by means almost
miraculous, or, to use their favourite metaphor, "as a brand
plucked from the burning." Mr. Ivimey calls him the depraved
Bunyan and the wicked tinker of Elstow. Surely Mr. Ivimey ought
to have been too familiar with the bitter accusations which the
most pious people are in the habit of bringing against
themselves, to understand literally all the strong expressions
which are to be found in the Grace Abounding. It is quite clear,
as Mr. Southey most justly remarks, that Bunyan never was a
vicious man. He married very early; and he solemnly declares that
he was strictly faithful to his wife. He does not appear to have
been a drunkard. He owns, indeed, that, when a boy, he never
spoke without an oath. But a single admonition cured him of this
bad habit for life; and the cure must have been wrought early;
for at eighteen he was in the army of the Parliament; and if he
had carried the vice of profaneness into that service, he would
doubtless have received something more than an admonition from
Serjeant Bind-their-kings-in-chains, or Captain Hew-Agag-in-
pieces-before-the-Lord. Bell-ringing and playing at hockey on
Sundays seem to have been the worst vices of this depraved
tinker. They would have passed for virtues with Archbishop Laud.
It is quite clear that, from a very early age, Bunyan was a man
of a strict life and of a tender conscience. "He had been," says
Mr. Southey, "a blackguard." Even this we think too hard a
censure. Bunyan was not, we admit, so fine a gentleman as Lord
Digby; but he was a blackguard no otherwise than as every
labouring man that ever lived has been a blackguard. Indeed Mr.
Southey acknowledges this. "Such he might have been expected to
be by his birth, breeding, and vocation. Scarcely, indeed, by
possibility, could he have been otherwise." A man whose manners
and sentiments are decidedly below those of his class deserves to
be called a blackguard. But it is surely unfair to apply so
strong a word of reproach to one who is only what the great mass
of every community must inevitably be.

Those horrible internal conflicts which Bunyan has described with
so much power of language prove, not that he was a worse man than
his neighbours, but that his mind was constantly occupied by
religious considerations, that his fervour exceeded his
knowledge, and that his imagination exercised despotic power over
his body and mind. He heard voices from heaven. He saw strange
visions of distant hills, pleasant and sunny as his own
Delectable Mountains. From those abodes he was shut out, and
placed in a dark and horrible wilderness, where he wandered
through ice and snow, striving to make his way into the happy
region of light. At one time he was seized with an inclination to
work miracles. At another time he thought himself actually
possessed by the devil. He could distinguish the blasphemous
whispers. He felt his infernal enemy pulling at his clothes
behind him. He spurned with his feet and struck with his hands at
the destroyer. Sometimes he was tempted to sell his part in the
salvation of mankind. Sometimes a violent impulse urged him to
start up from his food, to fall on his knees, and to break forth
into prayer. At length he fancied that he had committed the
unpardonable sin. His agony convulsed his robust frame. He was,
he says, as if his breastbone would split; and this he took for a
sign that he was destined to burst asunder like Judas. The
agitation of his nerves made all his movements tremulous; and
this trembling, he supposed, was a visible mark of his
reprobation, like that which had been set on Cain. At one time,
indeed, an encouraging voice seemed to rush in at the window,
like the noise of wind, but very pleasant, and commanded, as he
says, a great calm in his soul. At another time, a word of
comfort "was spoke loud unto him; it showed a great word; it
seemed to be writ in great letters." But these intervals of case
were short. His state, during two years and a half, was generally
the most horrible that the human mind can imagine. "I walked,"
says he, with his own peculiar eloquence, "to a neighbouring
town; and sat down upon a settle in the street, and fell into a
very deep pause about the most fearful state my sin had brought
me to; and, after long musing, I lifted up my head; but methought
I saw as if the sun that shineth in the heavens did grudge to
give me light; and as if the very stones in the street, and tiles
upon the houses, did band themselves against me. Methought that
they all combined together to banish me out of the world. I was
abhorred of them, and unfit to dwell among them, because I had
sinned against the Saviour. Oh, how happy now was every creature
for they stood fast, and kept their station. But I was gone
and lost." Scarcely any madhouse could produce an instance of
delusion so strong, or of misery so acute.

It was through this Valley of the Shadow of Death, overhung by
darkness, peopled with devils, resounding with blasphemy and
lamentation, and passing amidst quagmires, snares, and pitfalls,
close by the very mouth of hell, that Bunyan journeyed to that
bright and fruitful land of Beulah, in which he sojourned during
the latter period of his pilgrimage. The only trace which his
cruel sufferings and temptations seem to have left behind them
was an affectionate compassion for those who were still in the
state in which he had once been. Religion has scarcely ever worn
a form so calm and soothing as in his allegory. The feeling which
predominates through the whole book is a feeling of tenderness
for weak, timid, and harassed minds. The character of Mr.
Fearing, of Mr. Feeble-Mind, of Mr. Despondency and his daughter
Miss Much-afraid, the account of poor Little-faith who was robbed
by the three thieves of his spending money, the description of
Christian's terror in the dungeons of Giant Despair and in his
passage through the river, all clearly show how strong a sympathy
Bunyan felt, after his own mind had become clear and cheerful,
for persons afflicted with religious melancholy.

Mr. Southey, who has no love for the Calvinists, admits that, if
Calvinism had never worn a blacker appearance than in Bunyan's
works, it would never have become a term of reproach. In fact,
those works of Bunyan with which we are acquainted are by no
means more Calvinistic than the articles and homilies of the
Church of England. The moderation of his opinions on the subject
of predestination gave offence to some zealous persons. We have
seen an absurd allegory, the heroine of which is named Hephzibah,
written by some raving supralapsarian preacher who was
dissatisfied with the mild theology of the Pilgrim's Progress. In
this foolish book, if we recollect rightly, the Interpreter is
called the Enlightener, and the House Beautiful is Castle
Strength. Mr. Southey tells us that the Catholics had also their
Pilgrim's Progress, without a Giant Pope, in which the
Interpreter is the Director, and the House Beautiful Grace's
Hall. It is surely a remarkable proof of the power of Bunyan's
genius, that two religious parties, both of which regarded his
opinions as heterodox, should have had recourse to him for

There are, we think, some characters and scenes in the Pilgrim's
Progress, which can be fully comprehended and enjoyed only by
persons familiar with the history of the times through which
Bunyan lived. The character of Mr. Greatheart, the guide, is an
example. His fighting is, of course, allegorical; but the
allegory is not strictly preserved. He delivers a sermon on
imputed righteousness to his companions; and, soon after, he
gives battle to Giant Grim, who had taken upon him to back the
lions. He expounds the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah to the
household and guests of Gaius; and then he sallies out to attack
Slay-good, who was of the nature of flesh-eaters, in his den.
These are inconsistencies; but they are inconsistencies which
add, we think, to the interest of the narrative. We have not the
least doubt that Bunyan had in view some stout old Great-heart of
Naseby and Worcester, who prayed with his men before he drilled
them, who knew the spiritual state of every dragoon in his troop,
and who, with the praises of God in his mouth, and a two-edged
sword in his hand, had turned to flight, on many fields of
battle, the swearing, drunken bravoes of Rupert and Lunsford.

Every age produces such men as By-ends. But the middle of the
seventeenth century was eminently prolific of such men. Mr.
Southey thinks that the satire was aimed at some particular
individual; and this seems by no means improbable. At all events
Bunyan must have known many of those hypocrites who followed
religion only when religion walked in silver slippers, when the
sun shone, and when the people applauded. Indeed he might have
easily found all the kindred of By-ends among the public men of
his time. He might have found among the peers my Lord Turn-about,
my Lord Time-server, and my Lord Fair-speech; in the House of
Commons, Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Anything, and Mr. Facing-both-ways;
nor would "the parson of the parish, Mr. Two-tongues," have been
wanting. The town of Bedford probably contained more than one
politician who, after contriving to raise an estate by seeking
the Lord during the reign of the saints, contrived to keep what
he had got by persecuting the saints during the reign of the
strumpets, and more than one priest who, during repeated changes
in the discipline and doctrines of the Church, had remained

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