Synopses & Reviews
Excerpt from Francis Bacon, Vol. 1: His Life and Philosophy
The only claim that a historian or biographer can legitimately put forward, 011 introducing his readers to any doubtful question, is that they should regard it as an open one. Distance helps to make us impartial' but it would be hard to say what lapse of time frees our sentences from the chance of reversion. Prevalent opinion has always weight but it loses authority when we can explain it by reference to collateral causes. If we can account for the formation of erroneous views, the tendency to stereotype them accounts for their con tinuance. It was natural that the courtiers of the Res toration should stigmatise Cromwell with the hypo crisy that clung to his name up to the date of Carlyle's vindication. Similarly, the fact that Bacon, during his life, took the unpopular side of several questions, that he was disgraced for an offence 110w severely judged, and died when there was no one adequate and willing to defend him, is enough to explain the character con densed in Pope's memorable line, expanded in Macaulay's Essay, reiterated in Lord Campbell's summary, and assumed by Kuno Fischer as, in some measure, a basis for his review of the Baconian philosophy.
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