What is Francis Bacon's Of Praise about?

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jeffclark | College Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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Francis Bacon's "Essays" are a series of writings that address a very broad range of topics, including Anger, War, Virtue, Envy, etc... as well as the one at hand, Praise. On first glance they look like the ramblings of an arrogant and self righteous ideologue, but when time is taken to read and analyze them there is obvious thought and passion involved in their composition.

"Of Praise" is one that would be easy to misunderstand without close inspection. Being grouped with the theologians of his day one might be tempted to assume that he is discussing the praise of God. Praise, as it were, in the sense of "worship" or "reverence" for the Divine.

Such is not the case. Most of the focus is on praise that is given from one person to another. Much is said in the beginning about the different ways that various socio-economic groups use and interpret praise with an emphasis on misunderstanding by the lower classes, an obvious reflection of educational accomplishments, or the lack thereof.

The gist of the essay is an attempt to distinguish between good praise and bad. If bad praise is understood as "empty flattery" then the point is well made and stands on solid ground. In addition to that, the difference in which praise of any kind was given in the 1600's and the way it is handed out abundantly today becomes more than obvious.

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