Answer: Francis Bacon, the father of English essays, is an Elizabethan essayist, moralist and thinker whose essays are loaded with ripest wisdom of experience. Nobody can deny the wisdom of his understanding of the affairs of the world. He shows an extraordinary insight regarding the problems that men face in life. Even within the utilitarian code that Bacon puts forward, there is a certain code of conduct – a morality that is perhaps as high as is easily practicable in the world as we know it. In addition to that, his essays teach us morality with the practical use of it.
Bacon starts the essay titled “Of Great Place” with the idea that men in great place are three times servants. They are the servants of sovereign or state, fame and business. He calls it a strange desire to seek power and to lose liberty. Then he shows us that in a great place there is freedom to do good and evil but he suggests us not to follow the evil one.
“For in evil the best condition is not to will”
Then he tells us that the vices of authority are chiefly four, such as – delays, corruption, roughness and facility. He suggests us how to avoid them, such as, working according to a schedule and being easy of access will help to avoid delays. Regarding corruption, one should not only refuge to accept bribes, but he must be able to stop a person from offering bribes. Again he makes us aware of the fact that any change without clear cause raises suspicion of corruption. So a man should clearly explain his intentions and reasons for the change. And for roughness should be avoided as far as possible.
He finishes the essay with practical teaching that a man should unbend from official rigour when away from the office so that people may say that he is a different man when discharging his official duties.
In his other essay “Of Love” Bacon explicates the disadvantages of the mad degree of love. He arrests our attention saying that it is love which does much mischief in our life like a siren and sometimes like a fury. He keeps on telling us about love’s harmful effects one by one that firstly, among all the great and worthy hearts, there is hardly anyone who has been tempted to the folly. Secondly, the passion of love is so strong that it can enter a well-fortified heart if watch be not well kept. Thirdly, to make his argument more convincing, he comments that it is impossible to love and to be wise at the same time. Here he alludes to Helen to impart a practical thought that love can deter us from gaining both riches and wisdom. Fourthly, love brings in trouble in men’s life and makes them that they can no way be true of their own ends. Despite those negative aspects of love, Bacon finishes his essay with a moral teaching that reads as:
“Nuptial love maketh mankind; friendly love perfecteth it”On the other hand, it is the wonton-love that corrupts and degrades mankind.
“Of Revenge” is his other spectacular essay that opens with a definition of revenge as it is the wild justice. Soon after that he suggests us to avoid it if possible. This reminds us of his utilitarian philosophy.
“He is superior, for it is prince part to pardon.”
He also urges us not to recall the worthless past action because wise men never waste time brooding over it rather they are busier with the present and the future. He bewares us of the fact that revenge can be taken but in such a case, however, a man would be watchful that his act of revenge does not bring him to trouble with the law, otherwise, his enemy will benefit from it. The above idea bears the testimony that he is a utilitarian person.
Towards the end of the essay Bacon highlights the moral side of revenge that public revenge is far better than private revenge. He stresses the fact alluding to the death of Caesar, Pertinaxa, and Henry the Third of France.
“Public revenges are the most part fortunate.”
The essay “Of Marriage and Single Life” deals with both the advantages and the disadvantages of the married and the unmarried life. The man who has a family to maintain cannot undertake big tasks. He wishes to lead a life of security. At the same time a family is a financial liability. Marriage also imposes certain restraints on a man’s freedom. And yet a man who has a wife and children is affectionate and less cruel than a man who is single. On the other hand, an unmarred man is in a position to confer great benefits upon the public. Moreover, he is a good friend, employer and servant although he may not be a good citizen.
Bacon tells us who to marry who needs not. Now he suggests that a clergyman should remain single for the interest of his parishioners.
“A single life doth well with churchmen;”
If he has a family, more of his attention and affection will go it and he cannot be expected to give undivided attention to his parishioner. So a clergyman will do well to remain single while a soldier will fight better when he thinks of the wife and children he has left behind at home.
It is to be said in conclusion that Bacon’s essays show his great awareness of values that ennoble human life. His essays suggest us not to seek morality only by leaving practical idea. There is nothing wrong with the mixture of morality and the practical idea together. Just as no ornament is possible with pure gold, some crude metal should be added with it so only morality without practical concept of a thing cannot do. So as Renaissance man to the core, he advocates a compromise between absolute morality and opportunism.