Francis Bacon’s fame as a writer depends most of all on the fact that he is the father of modern English prose. He evolved a prose style that proved for the first time that English could also be used to express the subtleties of thought, in clear and uninvolved sentences. He was the first scientific philosopher to write English in a clear, lucid and terse style. Though he borrowed the form of the essay from Montaigne, he adapted it to suit his own purpose and to his natural ability of writing. His essays are considered a whiff of a fresh air in the heavy and pompous essays written in Elizabethan age.
Bacon’s essays enjoy a great charm and appeal for readers thanks to their many merits or qualities such as wisdom, marvelous diction, captivating style of writing, huge variety of subjects, pragmatic approach, sensuousness, wealth of metaphor and analogy and the dispersed meditations of Bacon, whose sharp wit, worldly wisdom and practical approach towards things made his essays unsurpassable and masterpieces of English literature. What makes Bacon’s Essays a unique is compact and epigrammatic style of writing. Bacon was unsurpassable in bringing his great thoughts in nutshell. He had a great and impressive mastery over the art of saying maximum in minimum words.
An aphorism is a short, pithy and a concise statement of a principle and truth while an epigram is a terse, sage, or witty often a paradoxical saying. Bacon has aptly and effectively demonstrated his singular ability to express himself aphoristically and epigrammatically in his writings. His essays are replete with aphorisms. Many sentences in his essays are like proverbs, which can be quoted to give weight to the arguments. Almost every sentence in his essays is pregnant with meaning. His utterances are thoughtful, insightful, lively, witty and meaningful to the core. Only a person of high caliber like Bacon can develop a remarkable style of terseness and condensation. Following are some of the sentences from his essays, which depict vociferously his wonderful epigrammatic style of writing:
Wives are young men’s mistresses, companions for middle age and old men’s nurses.
(Of Marriage and Single Life).
The rising unto place is laborious, and by pains men come to greater pains.
(Of Great Place)
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.
Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability.
Crafty men condemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them.
Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.
Revenge is a kind of wild justice.
Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark.
Virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when they are incensed or crushed; for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.
These sentences from his essays are but a few glaring examples of Bacon’s terse, pithy and epigrammatic style of writing, which speak volumes of his great talent and wisdom. A reader feels inexpressible delight in reading his essays and feels wiser and more enlightened after reading the pearls of wisdom in the essays of Bacon. His essays, beyond doubt, are great literary work in English literature.