The Advancement Of Learning

by Francis Bacon
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"Envy Keeps No Holidays"

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 362

Context: Sir Francis Bacon was trained in the legal profession and spent much of his active life in politics. He was a member of Parliament for many years, and was careful to associate himself with various royal favorites; one of these was the unfortunate Essex, whom Bacon helped to convict after his fall. Another was George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. His cultivation of the latter earned for Bacon a series of royal favors which lasted until Buckingham's fall from grace; Bacon was then charged with accepting bribes from various persons who had appeared in his court. Bacon did not deny the truth of these charges, although he insisted that he had not actually perverted justice. He was fined heavily and imprisoned for a brief period, then pardoned. He was forbidden to take part in politics again, however, and entered upon his retirement. His last years were devoted to the voluminous literary and philosophical works for which he is famous; in these writings Bacon concentrated most heavily on the promotion and explanation of his intellectual ideals, and most of them were intended to become a part of The Great Instauration. This was planned as a vast work which would reorganize all systems of knowledge along what we would consider more scientific lines. The introduction to it, and a full-length work in itself, is entitled De Degnitate et Augmentis Scientiarium (Of the Dignity and Advancement of Learning). Its title is usually shortened. A synopsis and summary of all learning and knowledge current in Bacon's time, it stresses his ideals of objectivity, sound observation, and a critical approach. Its influence upon later philosophical and scientific thought was considerable. Book VI is a discussion of rhetoric, discourse, and argument; in Chapter 3 Bacon gives several examples of fallacious reasoning (sophisms), following with a number of "antitheses"–neatly arranged epigrammatic arguments for and against specific things. An example follows: XVI. ENVY

It is natural for a man to hate that which reproaches to him his own fortunes.
Envy in commonwealths is a wholesome kind of ostracism.
Envy keeps no holidays.
Nothing but death can reconcile envy to virtue.
Envy puts virtues to laborious tasks, as Juno did Hercules.

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