Francis Bacon Questions and Answers

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What is the syle of Bacon's esssays in The Essays? I also need Russell's essay style as well.

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jwrenard eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The essays of Francis Bacon are the first works in the English language to be named "essays." It is important to remember that the word comes from the French essayer, which means to try or attempt. The French writer Michel de Montaigne coined the term "essay" to describe his writings, as they represented his attempts to formulate his thoughts on the page.

Bacon's essays, therefore, should be seen in this light. They are considerations on a theme, always signposted by the title of the essay: "Of Empire," "Of Gardens," "Of Friendship." His style is experimental, in the sense of experimenting with different ways of looking at an idea as he tries to write a portrait of a concept. In terms of devices, Bacon uses extended metaphors to illustrate points and quotations to place himself within a tradition. He keeps his essays short and compact to encourage reading in one sitting, which means the reader can take in all the different aspects of a topic as a totality. He uses historical examples and often writes in aphorisms (short, pithy statements designed to represent a truth). These combine to create a multi-faceted exploration of the topic discussed. This is a different style than what we might expect from modern essays, in which an author aims to persuade the reader of a certain point of view. Bacon doesn't proselytize in this way but rather presents a subject in all its complexity.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Francis Bacon's style in writing The Essays (1597) was efficient and economical of expression and simultaneously ornamental. His sentences achieve a carefully constructed balance and possess a an equally carefully constructed cadence born of vocabulary choices and phrasing choices. Bacon doesn't sermonize in his essays but rather addresses issues in a manner so that his essays are among the "worthy ends and expectations" he contributes to the world. While based on the experiences of his life, he incorporates his life's wisdom--for one of his aims was to share his life's wisdom--in general topics without particular incidents.

Bacon's essays cover three categories of topic: large universal concepts (life, death, love, friendship, fortune, etc.); controversial issues (atheism, religion, education, money lending practices, etc); matters of intrigue (envy, suspicion, praise, ambition, vicissitude, etc.). Within his writing on these subjects he often uses allusions of various sorts, Latin phrases and a well turned phrase to express a well turned thought. The final result is skillfully crafted comments on life, manner, nature and nature's mysteries that is different from the elaborate writing style prevalent in Bacon's era. The tone Bacon uses is one of civility as his essays are not an attempt to give facts nor to persuade.

[For more information on Bacon's style in The Essays, see the links below from which my Answer is drawn.]

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