Bacon Essay Writing Style Ccs Point
BACON AS A PROSE STYLIST
It has been observed by a critic that,
The quality of strength in bacons style is intellectual rather than emotional
Indeed the secret of Bacons strength lies in his conciseness. Hardly any writer, ancient or modern, has succeeded in compressing so much meaning within so short a compass; several of essays- e.g. those on studies and negotiating- are marvels of condensation. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Bacons style is that no one can stay indifferent to it. In other words, as a prose writer, he has either ardent admirers or passionate detractors. And, it is interesting to note that both these extreme positions are occasioned by the very same properties of his style. Bacon ushered in the modern era of writing English prose. F.G Selby says that,
The part of Bacons influence is of course due to the charm of his style
To be sure, there is a marked difference in the style of his earlier essays and that of his later ones. But, the important fact is that the difference is one of approach and not one of technique. In the beginning, Bacon thought the essay to be nothing more than a diary of dispersed meditations. Therefore, the earlier essays are terse and pithy jottings of his observations on domestic, political, intellectual, moral, religious and social issue. As a result, the discerning reader can see that these essays are mere skeletons of thought grouped around a single theme. Of Studies belongs to this category. In this essay, we see how Bacon has a quick, chatty way of writing---almost as if he were talking to himself:
Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them
It must be noted that the same aphoristic character of the diction is to be found in his later essays. The difference is that, with the passage of time, Bacon toned the rapier-sharp rhythm of his sentences. This is because he perceived that his rapidly growing reading public was made up of people having varying reading tastes and skills. Let us compare the rhythm of above quoted lines with that of passage taken from Of Adversity, which is one of his later essays:
We see in needle works and embroideries, it is more pleasing to have a lively work upon sad, solemn ground, than to have a dark and melancholy work upon a lightsome ground
The brilliant rhetoric is the same in both the passages. So it is the pithiness and the terse virgour. Even Bacons predilection for juxtaposition of thesis and antithesis is seen in both instances. The main difference is that the first passage is so constructed that Dean Church was moved to say that the words
come down like the stroke of hammer
On the contrary, the second passage flows harmoniously more like a melody than like a beat. In his earlier days, Bacon achieved terseness in his style by leaving out superfluous epithets, conjunctions and connectives. Later he aimed more towards crafting balanced sentences which consisted of two parts. The first part would be a statement and second would be an explanatory analogy. For example:
He that hath wife and child hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises either of virtue or mischief
Bacons sentences are more modern in their structure than those of other Elizabethans prose writers- being more pointed and less involved. Even his more intricate sentences are so carefully constructed and so free from inversions that meaning is not difficult to catch. The essays, in particular, are remarkable for balance and point as might naturally be expected from their aphoristic style. This is really strange when we consider the fact that he also wrote sentences like this:
A lie faces God and shrinks from man
The ways to enrich are many, and most of them foul
It is true that his cavalier attitude towards grammar is clearly visible in the second sentence. But, most people would agree that they have no problem in understanding what the writer has to say. It must be borne in mind that in Bacons age, little attention was given to the logical division of a subject into paragraphs. One of the most pleasurable aspects in Bacons style is his use of imagery and analogy. Consider his denunciation of pride in Of Vainglory:
The fly sat upon the axle-tree of the chariot wheel said,
What a dust do I raise?
The above discussion makes it clear that Bacon did not have two styles of writing. Rather, it can be said that it was the same style which he applied in different ways as and when the situation demanded. Certainly, this is only one of reasons why his admirers claim to be one of the greatest prose stylists in English Language.
As a man of letters, Bacon is popularly known for his prose style. His way of writing shares, no doubt, a number of qualities with that of Elizabethan and Jacobean writers; but it have, at the time, some special features of its own. Thus, it remains for the main part of the aphoristic--- with the result that Bacon is the most quotable writer of the world. His essays are remarkable for their brevity. His sentences are short and rapid but they are forceful. In other words, as Dean Church observes “They come down like the strokes of a hammer”.
“For a lie faces God and shrinks from man”. (“Of Truth”)
“It is strange desire to seek power and loss liberity
or, to seek power over other and to loss power over
a man’s self” (“Of Great Pleasure”)
Thus, there is not even a single essay which does not contain such wisdom of human heart. His sentences ore over packed with meaning and they are often telegraphic in nature.
But the aphoristic statement of his essays depends on such expression--- such as “balance” and “antithesis” which marked the structure of his sentences. In his essay “Of Studies” there is threefold balances:
“Studies serves for delight, for ornament and for ability”.
“Some books are tasted, other to be swallowed, and
a few are be chewed and disguised”.
“Studies make a full man, conferences a ready man and
writing an exact man”.
Thus, his style is clearly rhetorical; and he has the power to attracts its readers even thought he cannot convince them.
In this sense, one has to study another feature of Bacon’s style--- his extensive use of images, metaphors, similes. Bacon draws his imagery even from the human life or from the common facts of nature. He gives striking metaphors and similes to prove his point. As he says in “Of Studies”: “……distilled books are like distilled water flashy things”. His similes are most of the time apt, vivid and different. Classical mythology, biblical, astronomy, philosophy, natural observation, domestic aspects etc are pressed to communicate with the meaning.
Bacon expressed his thoughts in a few words or sentences. His essays are to be read slowly and carefully, not because the words are obscure but because the thought expressed in them is compact and condense. In his essay “Of Truth”, Bacon brought the idea for man’s natural love for lie. The poetic figure of speech is brought out in the statement:
“Certainly it is heaven upon earth, to have a man’s mind
move in charity, rest in providence,
and turn on the poles of truth”.
Bacon’s words are without wit and humour--- in ordinary sense of meaning--- but he is capable of creating humour to please his readers: “By pains man comes to greater pain”. “Through indignities man can rise to dignities. (Of Great Palace)
Though Bacon’s style is heavy in learning yet it is flexible. Bacon, on the whole, is not difficult at all. Though there are some Latinism words in his essays but which are difficult to follow yet they does not lead to obscurity. Bacon’s style bears the stump of Bacon, the man, who is not only the widely studied essayist but one, who wrote with great care permitting nothing superfluous in it. What, Johnson says of Bacon the speaker, is equally true of Bacon the writer:
“No man ever wrote with care, or suffered less emptiness,
less idleness n what he said………. He hearers what
should cough or took a side from him without loss”.
In conclusion, Bacon’s style bears the stamp of its own, though there is some controversy, whether he wrote one style or two. Bacon’s essays cover a span of 28 years and within this short period these essays were published. Bacon’s style is not a personal, or the chatty style of Montaigne or Lamb. His essays are distinctive and aphoristic full of learned quotations and allusions. But what is important about his style is his brevity. One may put forward the point, Bacon was, indeed, a great artist who expresses his thoughts and feelings in his style.