Charles Bacon’s contribution to English Prose

Charles Bacon was a pioneer in the venture for means to unify learning; gave English lucid, straight forward English literature; the kind of diction which could serve as a vehicle for all kinds of subjects, both grave and trivial, high and low. He fashioned a distinct and individual prose credo that rebelled against the highly ornamented Ciceronian prose style and set a standard of precision and simplicity with an intellectual quality rather than emotional.

Bacon's chief English Works are the Essays', the Advancement of Learning, The History of Henry VII, The New Atlantis which he wrote in the manner of Thomas More's Utopia and Sylva Sylavarum. His great philosophical work, The Novum Orgasm which was written in Latin appeared in 1620. Bacon was a "bell-ringer who is up first to call others to church". These words by Bacon himself sums up his contribution which can be elucidated in the following ways:

1. He was the earliest to seek in his Advancement of Learning the ways and means to unify learning.
2. He was a pioneer in the possibilities of an authentic historical discourse through his historical discourse in the History of Henry the VII.
3. He was definitely the first to forward through his New Atlantis the plea for a college of scientific research.
4. Then, he was the first to naturalize into English a new genre of literature, namely The Essay.
5. Most importantly, Bacon was the first to set up through his personal example a model of English Prose which had so far been non-existent. In this respect, Hugh Walker observes, "He took one of the biggest steps ever taken in the evolution of English Prose; a set which set that style on the road which traveled… down to the days of Swift and Addison".

The prose of Bacon's essays

Bacon's essays set up such a model of lucid, straight forward English which could serve as a vehicle for all kinds of subjects, both grave and trivial, high and low. Bacon's prose is free from needless ornaments, prolixity and diffuseness which were the qualities of the prose of his contemporaries and immediate predecessors. Simplicity, lucidity and flexibility were the keynotes of his style. Regarding this, Compton Rickett says,
"Although he had no great respect for the English language, holding that these modern languages will at one time play the bankrupt with books" . No man individually did more than he to give strength and its prolixity and diffuseness. Bacon put an end to this and his essays were even to this date, a model of terse easy English.

Bacon was the first English prose-writer who rebelled against the highly ornamented ciceronian prose style of his contemporaries and predecessors. He was, in the words of Doughlas Bush, "the theoretical and practical leader of the anti-ciceronian movement in England. Bacon himself pointed out, "Aphorisms, representing a knowledge broken, do invite men to enquire further, whereas methods (the ciceronian form) do secure men as if they were at farthest." .

Bacon set new standards of precision and simplicity which were later accepted as the hallmarks of good prose. Being a scientist himself, Bacon was critical of ambiguity, prolixity and mediocrity. His attitude to words was the same as his attitude to knowledge, that is, their subservience to utility. Bacon himself wrote that it is the first distemper of learning when men study words and not matter, for words are but the images of matter and "to fall in love with them is to fall in love with a picture" . in succinctness his essays come close to the standards laid down by Ben Jonson.

Bacon's Achievements

The quality of strength in his works is intellectual rather than emotional. In his narrative there is very little expression of feelings. The strength comes chiefly from conciseness secured by comprehensive statement, pregnant metaphor and occasional strokes of epigrammatic condensation. His power as an orator is attested by two prominent authorities. Sir. Walter Releigh says that he surpassed other men in speaking as much as he did in writing. Together with shortness there is lucidity, Bacon's clarity of expression is a prominent quality of his style in his essays. These papers requires slow and thoughtful readings not because of the obscurity of style but because of the profundity of thought and compactness of expression.

"To Bacon" as according to Hugh Walker "in short, we are largely indebted for making good that which had been the chief defect of English Literature" . Bacon's importance in the History of English Prose is also due to his naturalization of a new genre in English Literature. Bacon modified the concept of the Essay so as to make it suit his own particular genius. His importance is, therefore, not only due to precedence but also due to excellence.

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