Francis Bacon

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Summarize Sir Francis Bacon's contributions as an essayist.

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Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is widely accepted as a progenitor of the scientific method and the father of the modern essay. In both areas he relied on systematic empirical thinking in order to further understand nature and social interactions. He helped create the scientific method of strict observation and inductive reasoning.

Bacon was a member of the British Parliament, a jurist, and a philosopher. In these capacities he used the scientific method to organize his thinking. He organized knowledge into three groups: history, poetry, and philosophy, and studied them from the point of view that information is processed through memory, reason, and imagination.

Bacon first published his Essays in 1597, and published later editions in 1612 and 1625. His essays are written in a logical and systematic way, approaching their subjects from a variety of viewpoints, comparing them, and writing in clear prose, often employing aphorisms to concisely make a point. He covered such topics as truth, love, death, marriage, education, religion, child-rearing, health, and good and evil, to name a few.

His essays were highly esteemed by his contemporaries when they were first published, and are continued to be held in high regard by modern scholars.

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Francis Bacon is often credited as the first great English essayist, though he borrowed from other writers, such as the French essayist Montaigne and from the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Bacon published his book of ten essays in 1597 (Montaigne published his first book of essays in 1580). Bacon followed his first volume with a book of 38 essays in 1612, and finally, a volume of 58 essays in 1625. As one of the eNotes guides linked to below states, the essays were popular because they were brief, lively, humane and well-written. They got to their points quickly and in a logical way, in contrast to many longer-winded writings of the time.

Bacon's essays often examine abstract topics such as love, friendship, truth and anger. He is considered an early empiricist and proponent of the scientific method of testing hypotheses in an objective manner. In his essays, he liked to view issues from different perspectives and in a detached way. In his essay "On Anger," for example, he lists different causes of anger, then focuses on three causes, then offers solutions. His essays come from a Christian perspective but also are rational and analytic.

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