« FöregåendeFortsätt »
deprecated the vengeance of his judges, and endea voured, by a general avowal, to escape the confusion and disgrace of a stricter scrutiny. The Lords insisted on a particular confession of all his corruptions; he acknowledged twenty-eight articles, and was sentenced to pay a fine of 40,000l.; to be imprisoned in the Tower during the King's pleasure; to befor ever incapable of any office, place, or employment, and never again to sit in Parliament, or come within the verge of the Court. Without attempting to justify the slightest deviation in an office, where purity of principle and integrity of conduct are more particularly expected to preside, this dreadful sentence may be considered as equally unjust and cruel. It appears that it had been usual for other Chancellors to take presents; and it is asserted that Bacon, who followed the same dangerous practice, had still, in the Seat of Justice, preserved the integrity of a Judge, and had given just decrees against those very persons from whom he had received the wages of iniquity. Complaints grew the louder on that account, and his punishment was sought as much, perhaps, from the rage of unsuccessful suitors, as from any laudable principle of reform. The custom which had previously subsisted of receiving presents, though it would have been highly to Bacon's honour, had he been the first to wave it, may yet be adduced as no inconsiderable alleviation of his guilt. It was highly cruel to punish him so rigorously for offences from which no former Chancellor had been exempt, and the most that could be urged against him was, that this iniquitous practice was, in him, more frequent and undisguised. That this conduct did not proceed altogether from avarice, may be credited, as he is not supposed to have died rich. Profusion of ex-.
pence, indulgence to his officers and servants, who extorted money for private seals and injunctions, and a total neglect of order and regularity in the management of his affairs, were his principal failings, and these led him to the too frequent commission of misdemeanors, for which he was punished with undiscriminating severity. Such, no doubt, were the sentiments of James I. on the fate of this illustrious culprit; as, in consideration of his extraordinary merit, he remitted the fine, as well as the other parts of the sentence, conferred on him a large pension of 1800l. a-year, and employed every expedient to alleviate the weight of his age and misfortunes. He was also summoned to the Parliament which was held in the first year of King Charles I.
He survived his sentence five years, and being released in a little time from the Tower, where he was at first imprisoned, his genius, yet unbroken, supported itself amidst involved circumstances, and under a continual depression of spirits, and shone out in literary and scientific productions, which have made his guilt and weaknesses be forgotten or overlooked by posterity. This nation, once so exasperated against him, no longer permits these failings to be urged against the character of a man, by whose genius and writings it is so much exalted in the eye of Europe; whose faults, as a magistrate, are for ever lost in the brilliant and unperishing fame of the philosopher. He himself lived long enough to regret that he had neglected the true ambition of genius, and by plunging into business and affairs which require much less capacity, but greater firmness of mind, had exposed himself to the loss of character, to reproach, and calamity.
He happily escaped the plague which infested the summer of the year 1625, and with some difficulty, being of a tender constitution, passed the severe winter which followed; but, going in the spring to make some experiments in natural philosophy, he was taken so ill with a defluxion on his breast, attended with a fever, that he was compelled to remain at the Earl of Arundel's house, at Highgate, near London, about a week, and there he expired on Easter Day, the 9th of April, 1626, in the sixty-sixth year of his age. He was interred in St. Michael's Church, St. Alban's, where a monument of white marble was erected for him by the care and gratitude of Sir Thomas Meutys, Knight, his executor. He is represented as sitting in a chair in an attitude of profound contemplation. He had married Alice, one of the daughters of Benedict Barnham, Esq. and Alderman of London; but by her he had no issue.
Such were the principal features of the public and private life of Bacon. On his merit, as a philosopher, we presume not to enlarge; the bare enumeration of his numerous and valuable works would occupy a greater space than we can at present spare. His noble treatise on the Advancement of Learning, and the Novum Organum, form the chief basis of his reputation. Though inferior in some respects to Galilæo, and, perhaps, even to Kepler, he surpassed them both in the extent of his researches, and the boldness of his discoveries. His Latinity is remarkable, rather for the constant propriety, than the elegance, of its expression. His English style is often rigid and pedantic, and he seems to be the original of those pointed similies and long-spun allegories which distinguish the authors of that age. A life of this illustrious man has long been considered a desideratum in English literature; that written by Mallet, is, in every respect, un
worthy of him. The undertaking would, indeed, be of no ordinary nature; he that would enter upon it must combine, with the ornaments of style, profound science, discrimination, and candour, in reviewing his philosophical works, and the most impartial justice in comparing him with the philosophers of his and other ages. It must be recorded, to our disgrace, that the fame of Bacon has been more highly appreciated and more extensively diffused by the learning of Gassendi, the admiration of Voltaire, and the critical sagacity of D'Alembert, than by any efforts of our own, much as we are accustomed to applaud our great countryman, and to venerate his name. But his reputation, even in his life-time, had spread far beyond the limits of this island, and early presaged the immortality it has obtained. Whatever in the revolution of ages, may be the fate of this empire, even to that distant, but probable period, when the present continent of Europe shall exchange its civilization for the barbarity of regions now undiscovered or unexplored, in whatever corner of the globe literature and the sciences may hereafter seek an asylum, so long will they exalt the fame, and be guided by the genius, of BACON !