Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Letter to Lord Burghley in 1591
By Francis Bacon (15611626)
MY LORDWith as much confidence as mine own honest and faithful devotion unto your service and your honourable correspondence unto me and my poor estate can breed in a man, do I commend myself unto your lordship. I wax now somewhat ancient; one-and-thirty is a great deal of sand in the hour-glass. My health, I thank God, I find confirmed; and I do not fear that action shall impair it, because I account my ordinary course of study and meditation to be more painful than most parts of action are. I ever bare a mind (in some middle place that I could discharge) to serve her majesty; not as a man born under Sol, that loveth honour; nor under Jupiter, that loveth business (for the contemplative planet carrieth me away wholly); but as a man born under an excellent sovereign, that deserveth the dedication of all mens abilities. Besides, I do not find in myself so much self-love, but that the greater parts of my thoughts are to deserve well (if I were able) of my friends, and namely of your lordship; who being the Atlas of this commonwealth, the honour of my house, and the second founder of my poor estate, I am tied by all duties, both of a good patriot and of an unworthy kinsman, and of an obliged servant, to employ whatsoever I am to do your service. Again, the meanness of my estate doth somewhat move me; for though I cannot accuse myself that I am either prodigal or slothful, yet my health is not to spend, nor my course to get. Lastly, I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends, as I have moderate civil ends: for I have taken all knowledge to be my province; and if I could purge it of two sorts of rovers, whereof the one with frivilous disputations, confutations, and verbosities, the other with blind experiments and auricular traditions and impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in industrious observations, grounded conclusions, and profitable inventions and discoveries; the best state of that province. This, whether it be curiosity, or vain glory, or nature, or (if one take it favourably) philanthropia, is so fixed in my mind as it cannot be removed. And I do easily see, that place of any reasonable countenance doth bring commandment of more wits than of a mans own; which is the thing I greatly affect. And for your lordship, perhaps you shall not find more strength and less encounter in any other. And if your lordship shall find now, or at any time, that I do seek or affect any place whereunto any that is nearer unto your lordship shall be concurrent, say then that I am a most dishonest man. And if your lordship will not carry me on, I will not do as Anaxagoras did, who reduced himself with contemplation unto voluntary poverty: but this I will do; I will sell the inheritance that I have, and purchase some lease of quick revenue, or some office of gain that shall be executed by deputy, and so give over all care of service, and become some sorry book-maker, or a true pioneer in that mine of truth, which (he said) lay so deep. This which I have writ unto your lordship is rather thoughts than words, being set down without all art, disguising, or reservation. Wherein I have done honour both to your lordships wisdom, in judging that that will be best believed of your lordship which is truest, and to your lordships good nature, in retaining nothing from you. And even so I wish your lordship all happiness, and to myself means and occasion to be added to my faithful desire to do you service. From my lodging at Grays Inn.