The essay as a literary form had been invented by Montaigne soon before Bacon adopted it, but it is the essays alone which gave Bacon his fame in the world of literature. The essays of Bacon normally fall into three great principles;
- Man in relation to the World and Society;
- Man in relation to himself;
- Man in relation to his Maker and Unseen World.
Most of Bacon’s essays fall in the first category. The first category consists of ‘empire’, ‘Great Place’, ‘Plantation’, ‘Gardens’, ‘Parents and Children’ etc. The second one comprises essays on ‘Wisdom’, ‘Ambition’, ‘Revenge’, ‘Adversity’, ‘Honor and Reputation’ etc. The third group consists of ‘Death’, ‘Atheism’, ‘Superstition’, ‘Prophecies’, ‘Unity in Religion’ etc.
Bacon, the Father of the English Essay:
It was Bacon who had written essays first in the language of England. Bacon is also considered as the first of the aphoristic writers of the English essay. His English is always tense and packed with thought. For example, the first line of his essay Of Revenge: “Revenge is a wild kind of justice”. This is one of the aphoristic remarks that decorate every page of this book of Bacon. Each sentence can be expressed into a paragraph and even into an essay.
Bacon’s Style in his Essays:
The sentences of Bacon’s essays are short. He is in the habit of quoting often from Latin authors. Bacon is considered to be the most learned man of the Elizabethan age.
Bacon made use of simile and metaphor. They are introspective and telling. Here are some of them:
- Man fear death, as children fear to go in the dark;
- Suspicions are amongst thoughts what bats are amongst birds: they fly best by twilight.
- The way of the fortune is like the milken way in the sky;
- Beauty is as summer fruits which are easy to corrupt and cannot last; …
- Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested…
Bacon acknowledged the Renaissance idea that it is life on earth that is important and that all studies have to be directed to improving that life. This is exactly what his essays do.