24 JANUARY 1857, Page 25


BACON'S WORKS, EDITED Dr SPEDDING, ELLIS, AND HEATH.* IT has long been generally known that a new edition of Lord Bacon's writings was in course of preparation under the joint editorship of Mr. James Spedding, Mr. Robert Leslie Ellis and Mr. Douglas Denon Heath, all three men of distinguished talents and eminent attainments in their respective lines of study, and members of the noble college at Cambridge at which Bacon received his university education. The original intention of the undertakina.° was that Mr. Ellis should edit the Philosophical works, Mr. Heath the Professional, and Mr. Spedding the Occasional and Literary. This arrangement, however, was partially defeated by a severe illness which attacked Mr. Ellis when his portion of the work was yet incomplete, and which has ever since left him in a condition which has rendered any bodily exertion impossible. Mr. Spedding has accordingly undertaken to edit Mr. Ellis's papers,. preserving all Mr. Ellis's work exactly as he left it, with the single exception of correcting manifest lapses of the pen and mistakes of reference, and to supply those prefaces and notes which Mr. Ellis had not furnished at the period of his illness. It must be a matter of deep regret—apart from the wide sympathy excited by the premature close of so brilliant a career as that of Mr. Ellis promised to be, and by the painful sufferings which he has endured with such marvellous strength of character and vigour of intellect—that Mr. Ellis's labours should have been suspended before they had reached the last finish and completeness to which he would have carried them. But in Mr. Spedding he has found a coadjutor who, though not his equal in knowledge of the history of science and in capacity for dealing with purely scientific questions, has made Bacon's writings and life the special object of the devotion of many years, and in patient investigation, generous zeal, and wise appreciation of facts, can be matched by few and surpassed by none of his contemporaries : and while we should eagerly wish to have all that Mr. Ellis would have thought necessary or useful for the explanation and illustration of Lord Bacon's philosophical works, we find in the additional matter contributed by Mr. Spedding important modifications of some of Mr. Ellis's views, and are inclined to think that a. truer estimate of the Baconian philosophy is gained by comparing the two statements than would have resulted from either taken alone.

The present volume contains the "Novum Organism," the " Parasceve ad Historiam Naturalem et Experimentalem," and the "Be Augmentis Seientiarum," with various introductory matter of Bacon's own to each of these divisions of the projected " Instauratio Magna." Mr. Spedding has arranged them in the order in which we have mentioned them, rather than in the order which they would have occupied in the completed work, on the ground that, as we have them, they cannot be made to fit their places in the ideal scheme, and really represent, if arranged i

in the order of the production, the historical development of Bacon's mind. Under such circumstances, no one, we imagine, will seriously dispute the wisdom of Mr. Spedding's decision. Besides these works of Bacon, in the original Latin, of which translations will follow in subsequent volumes, the volume contains the English version of Rawley's Life of Bacon, a general preface to the philosophical works by Mr. -Min, a preface to the Novum Organum with an analysis of the first book, carried nearly to the end by Mr. Ellis and completed by Mr. Spedding, prefaces to the Parasceve and the De Augmentis by Mr. Spedding, with a running commentary of illustrative notes to the text by Mr. Ellis, and here and there additional notes by Mr. Spedding. Of course the amplest assistance towards understanding the Novum Organum and the other works in Latin will be furnished by the promised translation; but the illustrative notes are remarkably full of matter concisely and clearly expressed, and display exactly that familiarity with the whole range of physical science, both its history and its existing condition, which was to be anticipated from Mr. Ellis's reputation. He must, moreover, have gone over an immense field of miscellaneous reading in search of the quotations, and allusions to ancient authors, in which Bacon abounds, and which are rendered difficult of verification by his habit of altering the form of words as often as he retained it. The volume is adorned by the most characteristic portrait of Bacon that we have ever seen, engraved from an old print by Simon Pass, in Mr. Spedding's possession. Every one will notice the extreme sensibility of the mouth, and the sculptural reality of feature, seldom attained by portrait-engravings in books, and 'often enough neglected in portrait-engravings of far higher • The Works of Fronde Bacon, Baron of Verulam, Viecount Bt. Albans, and Lord High Chancellor of England. Collected and edited by James Spedding, M.A., of Trinity College, Cambridge ; Robert Leslie Ellis, M.A., late Yellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; and Douglas Denon Heath, Barrister-at-law, late Eelow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Volume I. Publisbed by Longman and Co. pretensions. We have only to add to these bibliographical remarks, that Mr. Spedding promises for the last volume of the edition, such an arrangement of Bacon's letters and occasional papers, with Interspersed commentary, as will in his opinion not only present Bacon's story in a new and far truer light than it has been before presented in, but will convey the truth about Bacon more effectively than a regular continuous biography, which, however, he may contribute if the case seems finally to demand one. Those who know, as many do, how profoundly Mr. Spedding has investigated the history of Bacon's time, and how entirely that investigation has led him to reverse the popular estimate of Bacon's character as a man and a statesman, will look forward to this exposition with more interest than to any other portion of the new edition. Meanwhile, in two notes to the short memoir by Hawley, he states with judicial fairness the general reasons which must determine our estimate of Bacon's conduct in the two notorious charges against him, his proceedings towards Lord Essex, and his corruption as Chancellor,—in both cases leaving the reader to form his own decision, but intimating not obscurely, that he finds no necessity for adding his suffrage to the verdict at present popular. The most important original contribution to this volume is the general preface to the philosophical works. Had Mr. Ellis been able himself to revise it and carry it through the press, we are persuaded that he would have seen reason to expand it, and so remove the only objection to its style ; which is eminently clear so far as the writers expression of his own meaning is in question, but, from the extreme conciseness with which important philosophical doctrines are alluded to, the essay becomes to persons not so familiar as Mr. Ellis with those doctrines and the history of philosophical development less easy of apprehension than it need have been made. We can scarcely render our notice of the volume more generally useful than by attempting to hint the leading results of the new examination of the position occupied by Lord Bacon in the history of science, and of the peculiar merits and defects of his system. It may seem strange that there should be room for differences of opinion on such a question as the nature of a scientific method, where that method is recorded in a printed book, and has been before the world for nearly two centuries and a half. Of course men will estimate the method differently according to their knowledge of the previous condition of the sciences and of the results that have been or may be obtained from its application ; but on the method itself there ought, one would think, to be perfect unanimity. It is a curious instance of the inveterate propensity of even accomplished men to dogmatize, to pronounce opinions without going through the labour of investigating the facts on which opinions ought to be based, that Mr. Ellis is obliged to commence his essay by saying—" Our knowledge of Bacon's method is much less complete than it is commonly supposed to be" ; and he adds, after showing how incomplete the means for studying that method are—" It seems not improbable that some parts of Bacon's system were never perfectly developed even in his own mind. However this may be, it is certain that an attempt to determine what his method, taken as a whole, was or would have been, must necessarily involve a conjectural or hypothetical element; and it is, I think, chiefly because this circumstance has not been sufficiently recognized, that the idea of Bacon's philosophy has, generally speaking, been but imperfectly apprehended." He next quotes from the 21st Aphorism of the Novum Organum a kind of table of contents of the whole work as projected, which gives nine subjects for treatment, beginning with "Prterogative Instances." Of these says Mr. the first is the only one with which we are at all accurately acquainted." In other words, Mr. Ellis, himself one of the most accurate of men, charges generally upon the writers who have professed to give an

account of Bacon's method, that they have dealt with a fragment, as if it were a complete structure. What an immensity of trouble and waste would scrupulous honesty in literature as well as in practical life save ! If we could always feel confident that a work once professed to have been done had been done, and could build. upon it as upon a sure foundation, how much more rapidly would science and general culture advance, instead of being compelled, as it is now, constantly to retrace its steps and reexamine its fundamental assumptions and apparently best-established observations!

The popular opinion about Bacon is, that in some way or other

he first taught men the importance of observing nature, and how to observe, and that the results of modern science are due to the fact that subsequent inquirers have followed his rules. This, feeling is accompanied more or less with the belief, that before his time natural philosophy was neglected for logical and meta

physical i speculations, and that the human race generally, from as Adam to Bacon, was a state of darkness, which suddenly broke up when Bacon rose as the sun upon a new-created world, Mr. Macaulay has dressed up a portion of this popular opinion in the

most famous of his Edinburgh Review Essays, and has stamped it with the authority of an accomplished scholar while investing it with the attractiveness of brilliant antithesis, lively illustration, and perfect simplicity. According to him, Bacon's method was nothing, neither useful nor new. All that he did was, by force of common sense, to see that metaphysics and theology, and the rest of the subjects which had mainly occupied men's speculative faculties hitherto, were fruitless, and to exhort them with incomparable force and eloquence to turn to pursuits which would increase their comforts by giving them command over nature. Any peculiarity in the method of investigation recommended by Bacon naturally and necessarily resulted from the objects to which the investigation was directed, and had been all along the method used so far as men had the discovery of physical truths in view, and so far as their speculations were turned to practical use. Baconian induction, in short, was common sense, the method pursued instinctively by every sane man when he was not conscious of speculating at all ; and so far as Bacon elaborated it .into a set of rules, those rules were useless, because natural sagacity was the real instrument of discovery, and once set upon the importance of physical knowledge, the natural sagacity of man would do the rest without any rule. Supposing this view were true, it labours under the misfortune of stripping Bacon of most of his honour ; for, unquestionably as the rate of increase of physical knowledge has advanced withm the last three centuries, it was not Bacon who began the movement, it was not Bacon who gave it its greatest impulse. If Bacon is not to be honoured as the legislator of modern science, as the man who analyzed its processes and laid down safeguards against error, it is impossible to award him the first, or indeed a very high place, on any other ground. Nor can he in any but the most vague sense be accounted the person to whom is owing the direction given to modern scientific inquiry, as distinguished from ancient. Apart, too, from the ludicrous exaggeration implied in Mr. Macaulay's contemptuous estimate of Prce-Baconian speculation, the vulgar tendency to suppose a great gulph fixed between modern and mediteval and ancient science, on our side of which lies all light and truth, while on the other all is darkness, folly, and confusion,—a tendency that Mr. Macaulay carries into political and social history, as though freedom and civilization had begun with the tera of the Long Parliament, and had culminated in the Revolution of 1688,—this view has not even the merit of being self-consistent, and all its simplicity is due to its gross superficiality. For if Baconian induction be really nothing but the practical sagacity which guides men in the discovery and use of the powers of nature,—if Bacon be but a " shoemaker " on a somewhat grander scale,—how can Mr. Macaulay look with contempt upon the men who elaborated the arts of antiquity and the middle ages, to whom are due the greatest practical discoveries and, the grandest applications of them, and raise Bacon and his school to the skies for what at best is only an extension of the same discoveries, a more rapid advance in the lines first traced by the very men whom Macaulay scouts? Or does this brilliant rhetorician suppose that it is easier to take the first steps in science and art than the last? Or, finally, did he forget for the moment that our geometry we owe in its perfect form to the ancients ; that they knew astronomy enough to predict eclipses, mechanics enough to build the Pyramids, the Greek temples, and the arch ; that in the age of the Antonines the comforts of life were almost as richly distributed as they are now, and certainly more than they were in the age of Elizabeth ; that we cannot build even now structures as solid as the cathedrals and castles of the middle ages ; that the middle age invented inter alia the compass, gunpowder, and the printing-press? Surely, if Baconian induction be nothing more than Mr. Macaulay supposes, his admiration and contempt are strangely misplaced. But Macaulay has made this assertion in the teeth of what Dr. Whewell truly calls Bacon's "own earnest and incessant declarations to the contrary." "There are two ways, says Bacon ; haw via in mu est, altera vera sed intentata." A long list of such passages is given by Dr. Whewell, which convicts Macaulay of reckless indifference to fact in his statement. Indeed, we may say, that so far as Macaulay's view differs from the merely popular and vague estimate, it differs in being in every instance less true, both as regards the object of Bacon's reform and the method of it, and furnishes one of the most discreditable cases on record of rhetorical talent employed to obscure truth and promulgate a low utilitarianism as the loftiest object of human endeavour. Sir John Herschel, on totally different grounds from Macaulay, entertains no very different estimate of the value in scientific investigation of Bacon's inductive rules. So far from thinking that they are precisely the rules that would be followed by men instinctively, and are useless because superfluous, he holds, that to appreciate and carry into practice the rules, implies already the possession of those very scientific conceptions of which the inductive inquirer is in search ; that, in fact, no one but a man who does not need to be taught them can understand or apply them. And this view is illustrated largely by Dr. Whewell; who dwells upon the deficiency of Bacon's method in failing to give rules for the attainment of those exact scientific conceptions the gradual development of which forms the subject of that noble work the Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, in which he has aspired not unworthily to discharge for his own time the office Bacon performed for his. Dr. Whewell, however, seems to be strongly of opinion that no adequate rules can be given for this purpose; and his charge against Bacon consequently reduces it self to the statement that he undervalued inventive genius, and attributed too much influence to a set of merely mechanical aids to invention and natural sagacity. Herschel and Whewell both concur, in opposition to Mr. Macaulay, in resting Bacon's principal claim to our admiration and gratitude on his keen perception, his broad and spirit-stirring, almost enthusiastic announcement, of the paramount importance of methodized in contradistinction to popular induction, as the alpha and omega of science, as the eventual key to every discovery and every application. On the other hand, another class of writers, of whom Mr. John Mill may be cited as the chief, dwell emphatically on Bacon's rejection of deductive reasoning even for the establishment of "middle principles," as the central defect of his system. In this censure Mr. Ellis fully coincides ; alleging, however, in excuse for Bacon, that "in the middle ages and at the reform of philosophy the value of the syllogistic method was unduly exalted" ; and that Bacon's "error could never have exerted any practical influence on the progress of science, while the truth with which it was associated was a truth of which his contemporaries required at least to be reminded." He agrees, too, with Dr. Whewell, in noting as another main defect of Bacon's system, that it does not attempt to Ft,hl for the formation of scientific conceptions ; and with Sir J01111 lierschel, in not thinking the inductive rules of any great practical utility, and apparently for much the same reason. In discussing the former of these two points, he shows that when Bacon first set out on his course, his notion of nature was ludicrously limited, and that he imagined a few years would suffice for a complete observation and record of all natural phwnomena necessary for the formation of scientific theory. This mistake, indeed, Mr. Ellis evidently considers as the root of all the deficiencies of Bacon's method ; and it does give a coherence to and a rational explanation of difficulties quite inexplicable otherwise. To a growing consciousness of this mistake Mr. Ellis traces the interruption of the regular progress of the Instauratio Magna ; thinking that Bacon—after he had proceeded a certain distance on the assumption that our ordinary conceptions were sufficiently correct to enable us to analyze duenomena and discover their causes—found that the most • ■■ cult and essential part of his reform lay first in these conceptions. And it is here that Mr. Ellis supposes that Bacon never even in his own mind developed his scheme, though he came to the conclusion that "all commonly-received general scientific conceptions were utterly worthless." "A complete change," says Mr. Ellis, as giving Bacon's feeling, "is required ; yet of the way in which induction is to be employed in order to produce the change, he has said nothing." This appears to us the most important contribution to a clearer understanding of Bacon's method, as it revealed itself to him with the growth of his experience, that Mr. Ellis has furnished. We do not pretend even to condense it, but simply to indicate its general nature. With respect to the utility of Bacon's rules, Mr. Ellis, as we said, agrees with Sir John Hershel. It will startle most of our readers to find a gentleman of Mr. Ellis's scientific attainments, and perfect competence to speak upon the subject, using such language as this—" This omission is doubtless connected with the kind of realism which runs through Bacon's system, and which renders it practically useless. For that his method is impracticable, cannot, I think, be denied, if we reflect not only that it never has produced any result, but also that the process by which scientific truths have been established cannot be so presented as even to appear to be in accordance with it." The conceptual element which Sir John thinks necessary to scientific discovery, and which he does not think can be provided for by rules,—of which, too, Mr. Ellis says that it is the one with respect to which it is most difficult to lay down general rules,—was overlooked by Bacon at first, and never elaborated into a system corresponding to the other branch of induction, when he finally was driven to acknowledge its importance. Or, more in detail, Bacon began by supposing that all pluenomena were resolvable into objective realities corresponding to our common qualitative adjectives more or less exactly, and that these ultimate "nature," as he called them, were very limited in number; and the object of science was, in his opinion, to discover the "forms" of these "natures," or, as we should say, the causes of these simple appearances, the modifications of the primary qualities of matter to which its secondary qualities are due; as, for instance, in the case of heat, to resolve the various phenomena displayed by hot bodies into motions of the constituent atoms of those bodies. Finding himself stopped by the imperfections of his scientific conceptions, Bacon then appears to have betaken himself to the construction of the natural history, as a preparation indispensable for the elaboration of truer conceptions than those at that time possessed. Mr. Ellis's views of the Baconian philosophy are summarily the following. It was inductive, and distinguished from common induction as explained by Aristotle, in three points, justifying Bacon in claiming for it entire novelty and -vast importance. The first was, that while ordinary induction proceeds "per enumerationem simplicem, et precario concludit et periculo exponitur ab instanti'a contradictor*" the new method " naturam separare debet, per rejectiones et exclusiones debitas ; et deinde post negationes tot quot suffichmt super affirmativus concludere." The second, as the result of this procedure, was that it promised absolute certainty. A third advantage was, that it would put all men upon an equality, or nearly so, as to their capacity for attaining truth. Absolute certainty-, and a mechanical mode of procedure, such that all men should be

capable of employing it, are, Mr. Ellis thinks, essential characteristics of Bacon's system, and the grounds upon which he himself claimed for it the honour of anew and grand discovery. These points have been "but slightly noticed by those who have spoken of his philosophy," probably as Mr. Ellis suggests, because the subsequent history of scientific discovery has not fulfilled Bacon's hopes and prophecies. It is in the emphasis given to these points, and to the kindred subject—the original defect in Bacon's scientific conceptions, and his gradual consciousness of this defect—that the main novelty of Mr. Ellis's discussion consists. We can scarcely hope that we have succeeded in making the originality of his essay apparent to any but those persons who are perfectly familiar with the ordinary phases of opinion upon Bacon. Itself a compressed summary, though occupying forty-five closelyprinted pages, it offers little scope to a writer who wishes to indicate its contents without discussion.

We cannot, however, close without noticing that Mr. Spedding attempts, in our opinion with considerable success, to combat or at least to modify Mr. Ellis's estimate. He once thought that the collection of a systematical series of observations was the one novelty of Bacon's system,—and, though convinced by Mr. Ellis's analysis of the Baconian induction of the necessity for modifying this opinion, he still thinks that "Bacon himself regarded it not only as a novelty, but as the novelty from which the most important results were to be expected ; and, however experience may have proved that his expectations were in great part vain and impracticable," "I cannot," he says," help suspecting that more of it is practicable than has yet been attempted, and that the greatest results of science are still to be looked for in this direction." We can only add, that the difference of opinion depends upon the degree in which observation and theory can be separated, —whether, that is, it be possible for a man who is not an accomplished theorist to be usefully employed in observing and registering physical or any other phenomena for the purpose of the theorist. Mr. Ellis thinks not, apparently ; and therefore considers Bacon's scheme impracticable. Mr. Spalding appeals, we cannot help thinking with perfect success, to the example afforded by the daily proceedings of her Majesty's navy, "registering the readings of their instruments in all latitudes and longitudes, and the man of science in his study deducing the laws of meteorology from a comparison of the results," as exactly the sort of division of labour which Bacon contemplated. The "Manual of Scientific Inquiry" issued by the Admiralty is also cited as showing the practicability of Bacon's idea. Altogether, our own impression is that Mr. Ellis carries too far his demand for perfection, and attributes too little merit to Bacon, because Bacon underrated the practical difficulties of his scheme, and also the infinity of nature. He seems like a man who should deny Arkwright the merit due to his invention, because he did not anticipate the enormous expansion of the cotton manufactures of Great Britain, and the introduction of steam machinery ; or to Watt, because he did not dream of crossing the Atlantic, or rushing along the level railroad at the rate of a mile in two minutes. But nowhere else do we know of such an exact, detailed, and strictly, scientific account of what Bacon really did for science and the methods of science.