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Francis Bacon: The Major Works [Paperback]

Francis Bacon , Brian Vickers

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Book Description

June 8 2008 Oxford World's Classics
This authoritative edition was originally published in the acclaimed Oxford Authors series under the general editorship of Frank Kermode. It brings together an extensive collection of Bacon's writing - the major prose in full, together with sixteen other pieces not otherwise available - to give the essence of his work and thinking. Although he had a distinguished career as a lawyer and statesman, Francis Bacon's lifelong goal was to improve and extend human knowledge. In The Advancement of Learning (1605) he made a brilliant critique of the deficiencies of previous systems of thought and proposed improvements to knowledge in every area of human life. He conceived the Essays (1597, much enlarged in 1625) as a study of the formative influences on human behaviour, psychological and social. In The New Atlantis (1626) he outlined his plan for a scientific research institute in the form of a Utopian fable. In addition to these major English works this edition includes 'Of Tribute', an important early work here printed complete for the first time, and a revealing selection of his legal and political writings, together with his poetry. A special feature of the edition is its extensive annotation which identifies Bacon's sources and allusions, and glosses his vocabulary.

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Product Description

Review

This volume helps to illustrate the reciprocal relation between his career as a lawyer and a statesman and his writings in natural philosophy, moral philosophy, religion, and politics. Rose-Mary Sargent, Metascience

About the Author

Brian Vickers is a Professor of English Literature and Director at the Centre for Renaissance Studies, ETH Zurich.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
IT is but ignorance if any man find it strange that the state of religion (especially in the days of peace) should be exercised0 and troubled with controversies. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Bacon in Paperback Nov. 21 2007
By Willis G. Regier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I concur with Gulley Jimson about the number of unnecessarily annotated words. The space could have been put to better use: a larger topical index would have been welcome, and I sorely missed Bacon's own apophthegms. But I would emphasize the positive point Jimson makes and do so in capital letters: this is the BEST edition of Bacon in paperback. Every page of the collection shows immense editorial care.

Though Vickers may have overdone the annotation, the notes are nonetheless exceedingly helpful. Vickers goes far beyond defining words. He provides concise and very well informed introductions to each individual piece; he points out how Bacon returns to topics, quotations, and metaphors; he identifies sources and allusions; he provides translations of Bacon's frequent use of Greek, Latin, Italian, and French. If he is overly cautious about how well his readers know English (he admits on p. 493 that he may be excessive), I expect that most readers will be grateful that he meticulously assists with words and phrases that have altered or vanished from use: who now will understand "a seeled dove" or "a net of subtility and spinosity"?

Vickers frankly acknowledges his debts to prior scholars, James Spedding and Michael Kiernan in particular. His introduction is concise, packed with information, and reminds modern readers that Bacon's career was a legal one. Vickers' decision to include two of Bacon's legal charges--one for poisoning, one regarding duels--was inspired; these pieces are short and eye-opening.

All in all, the selection pays tribute to Bacon in the best manner, refreshing his works by presenting them whole, with sympathy and respect, in their perilous historical context.
146 of 162 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meet Brian Vickers, insane pedant May 10 2006
By Gulley Jimson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I actually recommended this edition in another review over the Penguin collection of Bacon's essays - and I still do: there is more here, and it is cheaper. But this is still one of the most horrible pieces of scholarship I have ever come across. Vickers, the editor, has decided that there is absolutely no distinction between what a reader actually needs to know and what Brian Vickers happens to know.

Before I give some examples, here is the editor defending himself in the Preface: "Many of Bacon's words have totally changed their meaning since he wrote, and not to be aware of their intended sense means that readers would receive at best a vague impression."

Now, let me give an example of his helpful elucidations. I am choosing a passage literally at random. Here is first sentence of "Of Death."

Men fear Death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly, the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak

How many footnotes does that passage seem like it requires? Perhaps one, two at most? Vickers gives us six. He helpfully explains that "go" can also mean "walk" - which certainly opened up the entire passage for me. He cites a scholarly paper that analyzes Bacon's use of the word "death" (I'll go right out and read that one); he explains every possible allusion that the passage might contain, and also points out that "tribute" means "something owing."

I want to quote one more example, to show how seriously pathological this guy is. Here is the first sentence from Of Beauty: "Virtue is like a rich stone, best plain set, and surely virtue is best in a body that is comely, though not of delicate features; and that hath rather dignity of presence, than beauty of aspect."

This perfectly ordinary sentence has - get this - five footnotes! "Best plain set" is identified as "Mounted simply." Vickers points out that "comely," in Bacon's distant 17th century English, actually means "attractive." That's still what it means, you nutcase! Anyway, he goes on like this for the entire book, and produces a truly astonishing 300 pages of notes for about 500 pages of actual text.

By the end of a single page, any reader who is actually reading Bacon for pleasure will be unable to tell when to flip to the back of the book, because every other word has a footnote mark next to it. The result is that the genuinely necessary notes, which could actually have been helpful, are lost along with the useless ones.

I showed my friend the book and after flipping through it his first reaction was: "Wow, this guy really hates Francis Bacon." And he might be right. Maybe Vickers resents the fact that he has devoted his life to this writer, and wants to bury him under an avalanche of minutae; or, more charitably, perhaps he feels that you are just too dumb to understand Francis Bacon without Brian Vickers explaining every single word to you.

Well, if the first is true, he is failed; and if the second, he is wrong: Bacon is as readable as ever. Ignore the footnotes and enjoy. But somewhere out there is an older edition of the Major Works edited by a sane man, where useful background notes are concisely provided - try to find it. And if there isn't, Oxford needs to hand these great pieces of writing over to someone else.
45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Missing a key text Aug. 5 2008
By Q - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was very disappointed that Vickers decided to leave out NOVUM ORGANUM, one of Bacon's most important work, with one of the first descriptions of the scientific method, empirical science, and his key critique of the four "idols." Vickers says that he decided to give only the works in English, and NOVUM ORGANUM was written in Latin. There are translations available, however. The title of the book, THE MAJOR WORKS, is deceiving.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good book with thick notes July 1 2010
By elvis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book arrived sooner than I expected. Although the delivery of amazon was as bad as before and the cover pages of book was broken by the turbulence of delivery as before, the first touch of the book still gives me comfort.

the book begins with a long preface, and two pages of chronology. The content was about 2/3 of book, and the rest 1/3 was the note. I am familiar with author's name Bacon, and I have recited the essay 51, of study, but I never expected such a long note at the end of the book. It indeed need such a long list of note. The English author used was not modern and the grammar was strange, let alone the anecdotes and jargon.

It is a good book, and it costs time to comprehend it, and it worth the time.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Notes comprise half the book! GOOD! July 21 2009
By turntable - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Since Bacon expected his readers to understand the historical context of his writings, it is necessary for non-historians to dig into the notes FIRST! And this book has ample notes.
A bit of Latin wouldn't hurt either.

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