Critically comment on Sir Francis Bacon's use of persuasive techniques and figurative language to support his views in his essay "Of Travaile."

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In his essay “Of Travaille” [that is, concerning travel], Sir Francis Bacon uses a variety of persuasive techniques and some notable instances of figurative language in order to support his argument. Among his persuasive techniques are the following:

  • In his opening sentence, he mentions two potential audiences – young people and older people. Although later he mainly focuses on the young, his essay might also profitably be read by their parents.
  • His tone is that of an experienced person who knows what he is talking about, probably from his own travels. After all, he cites no learned authorities but gives his own advice.
  • He shows the breadth of his experience and advice by frequently using lists, so that he seems to know a lot and seems to be comprehensive in his counsel.
  • He is willing to criticize common practice (such as that involving the keeping of diaries), thus showing his independence of mind and his confidence in his own advice.
  • He offers very practical advice – advice that would truly be useful to an inexperienced traveller. He thereby implies that he has that traveller’s best interests at heart. Consider, for instance, the following quotation, in which Bacon, speaking of the young traveller, says

Let him carry with him also, some card or book, describing the country where he travelleth; which will be a good key to his inquiry.

  • He focuses on the matter at hand rather than on himself; his advice seems rooted in personal experience, but he does not make himself the true topic of the essay.
  • His advice is efficiently presented (the essay is brief; the lists make it highly economical).
  • He is methodical, seeming to have thought of (and already answered) many potential questions, and moving through his ideas in a very logical manner.
  • His style is accessible; almost anyone can read this essay, understand it, and profit from it.
  • Near the end of the essay, Bacon shows a practical concern for how the young traveller should present himself to his countrymen when he returns from abroad. Once again, Bacon seems to have anticipated a question and seems to have the young traveller’s best interests and reputation at heart in highly prudent ways.

Figurative language does not seem to be especially strongly used in this essay, perhaps because the focus of the essay is so plainly practical. Bacon here seems more interested in offering a “how-to” manual than in exploring the riches of language and style. Nevertheless, a few figures of speech are used.  In particular, Bacon uses metaphors, as when he says that if a traveller visits a foreign country

before he hath some entrance into the language, [he] goeth to school, and not to travel.

Another metaphor appears when Bacon says that if young men travel without knowing what to visit and observe they “go hooded.” Other metaphors appear in the references to a “little room,” an “entrance,” and, especially to a great “adamant,” or magnet. Finally, one last memorable metaphor occurs when Bacon compares travel to “prick[ing] in some flowers.”

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