Bacon, Francis by Faye Huntington

When I was a girl in school, the teacher used to give out topics once a month for essays. One evening she gave to Fanny Rhodes this topic—"Bacon." Poor Fannie hated essays worse than any of the others, I believe, and over this subject she fairly groaned. "As if I could!" she said. But she did. In just a month from the day the subjects were given out, the essays were to be read. Fanny was among the first to be called forward. I ought to tell you that these monthly essays were not passed in for correction until after they were read. They were to be given to the school exactly as they came from the author's hand. So Fannie began:


The subject assigned to me for this month is bacon. I do not see how it is possible for any one to say much on such a subject. Everybody knows all that there is to say about it. It is simply the flesh of hogs, salted, or pickled, or dried.

Before she had reached the close of this sentence, the pupils were in such roars of laughter that her voice was drowned. She looked around upon us with such astonished eyes that the thing grew all the funnier, and the boys fairly shouted.

Even the gentle teacher was laughing.

"O Fannie, Fannie!" she said at last. "Did you really think I meant pork?"

"Why, what else could you mean?" said bewildered Fannie. And then we all laughed again.

"Why, Fannie," said Miss Henderson, "I thought of course you would understand that I meant Lord Bacon."

"Lord Bacon!" repeated poor Fannie in dismay; "I never heard of him."

So lest you too make the same mistake, I want to introduce you, not to a piece of pork, but to Francis Bacon, who was born in London considerably more than three hundred years ago. Isn't that a long time to be remembered?

What about him? Why, he was a very learned man. A lawyer who wrote books that the lawyers of to-day study carefully.

Also he wrote essays on a great variety of subjects—essays that scholars in these days read and enjoy. In fact, as I look them over, I see many sentences which girls and boys might enjoy before they are old enough or wise enough to be called scholars. Isn't that a queer idea, that you must be quite wise before people will say of you "he, or she, is a scholar?"

I have been reading Lord Bacon's essay on "Cunning," and it certainly shows that the people who lived hundreds of years ago, were at least as cunning as they are now.

Listen to this: "It is a point of cunning, when you have anything to obtain of present despatch, to amuse the party with whom you deal, with some other discourse, that he may not be too much awake to make objections.

"I knew a secretary who never came to Queen Elizabeth of England, with bills to sign, but he would always first put her in some discourse of state, that she might the less mind the bills."

And this: "The breaking off in the midst of that, one was about to say, as if he took himself up, breeds a greater appetite in him, with whom you confer, to know more."

Did you never hear girls talk together according to this hint?

"Girls, it was the queerest thing you ever heard of! And then Minnie said—but dear me! I don't suppose I ought to tell you that—"

At which the girls are almost sure to say, "Oh, yes, do! We'll never repeat it in the world!"

It is my opinion that a great many boys and girls must have studied Bacon very carefully.

Here is another wise saying: "In things that a man would not be seen in himself, it is a point of cunning to borrow the name of the world: beginning, 'the world says,' or, 'there is a speech abroad.'"

If Lord Bacon were living in these days, he would know that the way to do it would be to commence all such sentences with "Why, they say," etc. Have you never wondered who "they" were, who are all the time saying such important, and often such disagreeable things?

Lord Bacon says, "I knew one that when he wrote a letter, he would put that which was most material in the postscript; as if it had been a by matter." I have received just such letters as that, and sometimes they are from boys and girls. Remember, the great Lord Bacon does not say that it is a wise thing to do, but "a point of cunning."

I do not find that he wrote about getting into debt, but perhaps he did, for he certainly knew a great deal about it. He has the name of having been all his life in debt to some of his friends. So, wise man as he was, like most other men, we can, as soon as we begin to study his life, find something to avoid, as well as something to copy.

Yet we are to remember him as a wonderful man. Here is what one writer says of him: "A man so rare in knowledge, of so many several kinds, endued with the facility and felicity of expressing it in so elegant, significant, abundant and yet so choice a way of words, of metaphors, of allusions, perhaps the world has not seen since it was a world." That sentence was written long ago, yet men think much the same of him still.

He was not only a lawyer, but a philosopher. Now just what does that word mean? Do you know? I thought not. Let us go to the dictionary and see. "Philosopher: one devoted to philosophy." Very well, Webster, but what is philosophy? Look again. "Philosophy: the love of, or search after wisdom." Why, that is extraordinary! Then we may all be philosophers! But Webster says a great deal more about the word. If you have a bit of the philosopher in your nature, I think after reading this article, you will go at once to the dictionary, and have more wisdom after you have carefully studied the word Philosophy than you had before. Here is one more definition of the word, to give you a hint of what Lord Bacon filled his time with. Philosophy: "The science of things divine and human, and the causes in which they are contained."

I wonder if you now feel introduced to this great man? Enough so, certainly, not to think of him as a piece of pork! It is more than two hundred and fifty years since he died. He was not an old man, only about sixty-five, I believe; yet he had done a great deal of work, and will be remembered, I suppose, as long as there are books to read.