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"Bacon is the wisest, brightest and meanest'." Discuss this quote in the light of...

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shewa55 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted August 7, 2013 at 5:25 PM via web

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"Bacon is the wisest, brightest and meanest'." Discuss this quote in the light of Pope's An Essay on Man.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 7, 2013 at 11:03 PM (Answer #1)

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Alexander Pope, in Epistle IV of his Essay on Man, refers to Sir Francis Bacon as "the wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind" (281-282). This character reference of Bacon's is referred to in many other essays.

Sir Walter Raleigh, in "Frances Bacon to King James I," discusses Bacon's notorious life. Bacon confessed to being corrupt and negligent, during his time with the House of Lords, yet he denied that he had ever "perverted justice." Regardless of Bacon's infractions of the law, Raleigh called Bacon prolific, witty, and profoundly philosophical. These statements suggest Bacon's wise and bright nature.

Bacon's peers would not readily disagree with the idea that Bacon was wise. For example, Bacon offered the following advice on revenge: "One who studith revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well." This wisdom illustrated his brightness. For example, "A lie faces God and shrinks from man."

Lastly, Bacon was the meanest. Bacon was a man out for himself. His friendships were made in order to advance his own career, and his marriage was one of convenience. Bacon even wrote a letter which openly flattered the King and Queen.

"The Martyrdom of Frances Bacon," written by Alfred Dodd, also brings up Bacon's intelligence, brightness, and meanness. In this essay, Dodd rebukes some critics' assertions that Bacon is mean. Instead, Dodd offers readers another definition of meanest. According to Dodd, Pope used the term meanest to mean "humblest." One man who did claim Bacon to be mean (ignoble) was Macaulay. Yet given Macaulay's own notorious nature, the University of Oxford deemed all his work "not trustworthy."


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