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clearly no right to appear among the works of Bacon,– least of all under a title which ascribes them to Bacon himself,- inasmuch as the selection was avowedly and entirely the work of Dr. Tenison. But there is a MS. in the British Museum written in Bacon's own hand, and entitled Promus of Formularies and Elegancies, which (though made in his early life for his own use and not intended for preservation in that shape) contains many things which might have formed part of such a collection as Tenison describes; and the place of the lost Ornamenta Rationalia will perhaps be most properly supplied by an account of it.
A date at the top of the first page shows that it was begun on the 5th of December 1594,- the commencement of the Christmas vacation. It consists of single sentences, set down one after the other without any marks between or any notes of reference or explanation. This collection (which fills more than forty 4to pages) is of the most miscellaneous character, and seems by various marks in the MS. to have been afterward's digested into other collections which are lost.
The first few pages are filled chiefly, though not exclusively, with forms of expression applicable to such matters as a man might have occasion to touch in conversation,--neatly turned sentences describing personal characters or qualities, - forms of compliment, application, excuse, repartee, &c. These are apparently of his own invention, and may have been suggested by his own experience and occasions. But interspersed among them are apophthegms, proverbs, verses out of the Bible, and lines out of the Latin poets; all set down without any order or apparent connexion of subject; as if he had been trying to remember as many notable phrases as he could out of his various reading and observation, and setting them down just as they happened to present themselves.
As we advance, the collection becomes less miscellaneous; as if his memory had been ranging within a smaller circumference. In one place, for instance, we find a cluster of quotations from the Bible, following one another with a regularity which may be best explained by supposing that he had just been reading the Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and then the Gospels and Epistles or (perhaps some commentary upon them), regularly through. The quotations are in Latin, and most of them agree exactly with the Vulgate, but not all; the differences however
are not more than might perhaps have been expected, if he quoted from memory.
Passing this Scripture series, we come again into a collection of very miscellaneous character. Proverbs, French, Spanish, Italian, and English,--sentences out of Erasmus's Adagia,– verses from the Epistles, Gospels, Psalms, Proverbs of Solomon,- lines from Seneca, Horace, Virgil, Ovid,-succeed each other according to some law which, in the absence of all notes or other indications to mark the connexion between the several entries, the particular application of each, or the change from one subject to another, there is no hope of discovering; though in some places several occur together, which may be perceived by those who remember the struggling fortune and uncertain prospects of the writer in those years, together with the great design which he was meditating, to be connected by a common sentiment.
Here for instance is a cluster of passages taken indiscriminately from several poets, but all pointing to the same subject; which may be described generally as notes of encouragement to those who undertake enterprises that seem too great for their powers :
Est quâdam prodire tenus, si non datur ultra.'
Aspice venturo lætentur ut omnia sæclo.' Nor is it less easy, when we consider Bacon's position with regard to the reigning philosophy taught at the universities, to divine the connexion between the eight entries which follow :
In academiis discunt credere.
So give authors their due, as you give time his due,
which is to discover truth.
Presently after we find the following cluster, which seem to bear upon the same subject :
Vitæ me redde priori.!
A youth set will never be higher. The nine following entries, which also stand together, need no antiquarian interpreter to make their meaning intelligible :
Væ vobis jurisperiti.
Ingrato voces prostituisse foro."
Nec ferrea jura
now as ambiguous as oracles."
| Hor. Epist. I, 7. 96.
? “ Is enim ego sum qui malim scire quam nosci, discere quam docere." — Ghetuldus's Archimedes Promotus ; quoted in Mr. Ellis's preface to Historia Densi et Rari. 3 Ec, viii. 56. • Ov. Met. iii. 466.
5 Ov. Amor. I. xv. 5. 6 Virg. Georg. ii. 502.
? This is a good instance of a mode of quotation not uncommon in Bacon, where an alteration is intentionally introduced for the sake of keeping so much as is to the purpose, and leaving out what is not so. Virgil's words (Georg. ii. 128.) are :
Pocula si quando sævæ in fecere novercæ,
Miscueruntque herbas et non innoxia verba. Applied to the lawyers, the word herbas would have had no meaning. Novercæ is sub. stituted merely to complete the line.
Hic clamosi rabiosa fori
Presently we come to a series of English proverbs, all set down together, — remembrances probably or extracts out of some collection which he had been reading; and immediately after these, to a number of Latin proverbs, all taken apparently from some collection of the Adagia of Erasmus, in which the proverbs were arranged under heads, and the heads arranged alphabetically. For they are set down throughout in the order in which they would present themselves in such a volume, with no more exceptions than might naturally in such a case occur by accident.
Having gone through this volume (for the last extract is within a few pages of the end) he returns to modern proverbs; of which there follow a great number, at first chiefly Italian, then entirely Spanish, and lastly English again.
After this he returns again to his Erasmus, commencing as before near the beginning and proceeding regularly to the end, with only two or three deviations from the alphabetical order. The difference is, that in the former collection he selected nothing but proverbs and sentences, whereas in this he selects phrases only. The series is interrupted once or twice by a note or query of his own, relating to something which had occurred to him perhaps during his walk; as for instance that “ wild thyme on the ground hath a scent like a cypress chest.” “Where harts cast their horns; ” “Few dead birds found ; ” “ Salt to water, whence it came; and the like.
Next we have another collection of proverbs like the former, one or two French, several Italian, more Spanish, most English. After which he returns for the third time to Erasmus, proceeding as before, but now again selecting sentences.
Having as before come to the end of the volume, he now it seems takes up the Æneid and reads it through; for there follow sixteen or seventeen lines, or fragments of lines, all taken from the Æneid and all set down in the order in which they come in the poem; the last being the 833rd line of the 12th book. Then come several lines from Ovid; then a few from Virgil's Eclogues and Georgics ; then a good many from the Satires, Epistles, and
Art Poetic of Horace; then another selection from the Æneid; and lastly a good many from Ovid's Heroides, and a few from the 1st and 2nd books of his Amores; and so the Promus concludes.
I have been thus particular in describing it, because it is chiefly interesting as an illustration of Bacon's manner of working. There is not much in it of his own. The collection is from books which were then in every scholar's hands, and the selected passages, standing as they do without any comment to show what he found in them or how he meant to apply them, have no peculiar value. That they were set down not as he read, but from memory afterwards, I infer from the fact that many of the quotations are slightly inaccurate. And because so many out of the same volume come together, and in order, I conclude that he was in the habit of sitting down from time to time, reviewing in memory the book he had last read, and jotting down those passages which for some reason or other he wished to fix in his mind. This would in all cases be a good exercise for the memory, and in some cases (as in the long list of classical phrases out of Erasmus, hardly any of which he ever made use of in his own writings) it may have been practised for that alone. But there is something in his selection of sentences and verses out of the poets which seems to require another explanation; for it is difficult sometimes to understand why those particular lines should have been taken and so many others apparently of equal note passed by. My conjecture is, that most of these selected expressions were connected in his mind, by some association more or less fanciful, with certain trains of thought; and stood as mottoes (so to speak) to little chapters of meditation. My meaning will be easily understood by any one who will observe carefully the manner in which similar passages are introduced by the way, or specially commented upon, in his works. If for instance we had met in some collection like this with Homer's line,
χαίρετε κήρυκες, Διός άγγελοι ήδέ και ανδρών,
we might well have wondered what he saw in it to make him select it for especial distinction. But observe how it is introduced in the opening of the 4th book of the De Augmentis Scientiarum, and the value of it is explained. So again if we met in a similar collection with the twenty-four proverbs which