FRANCIS BACON: The Temper of a Man by Catherine Drinker Bowen
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FRANCIS BACON: The Temper of a Man

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KIRKUS REVIEW

When Mrs. Bowen was immersed in The Lion and the Throne, she became fascinated with the mercurial greatness of Francis Bacon, great enemy of her subject Sir Edward Coke, and determined to turn to him for further revelation. Here is, in her words, ""an invitation to Francis Bacon"", an evocation, written in chapters that are essentially essays of opinion, lifting the curtain on the five acts of his life played on a brilliant stage. It was seemingly set for him at birth. Born the favorite and youngest son of a favored Lord Chancellor, Bacon looked with some confidence to Elizabeth for position. He left the richness of Gorhambury House for the scholastic aridity of Cambridge, just past great days, then at 15 went to France with Sir Amias Poulet as a ""toward"" young man. In 1579 all changed. His father died, leaving him 300 pounds a year. He was poor. Then began the struggle to rise which would eat up 27 years of his life, but would never sway him from his dual, warring ambitions of understanding and will. Studying for the bar at Gray's Inn, at 24 he set forth the fundamentals of his Instauratio Magna: he envisioned an English Golden Age of learning founded upon a study ""of things, of the observable facts of earth and sky""--the philosophy that would sound forth in New Atlantis, Novum Organum. His hopes for high place did not materialize until Elizabeth passed: he, although wishing to serve, had stood against her in Parliament, had allied himself, when his powerful cousins, the Cecils, had turned a deaf ear, with the later notoriously repudiated Essex. Under James I he became Solicitor General, downed Coke, gained the Lord Chancellorship, only to submit to charges put by Commons of corruption. A last noble five years released a spate of the writing he felt was his first calling for all his ealings with the world (""The virtue of adversity is fortitude""). Quickwitted as efits its subject, high-minded, dartingly penetrating, learned and with a suitably graceful turn of phrase, this is an enriching reading experience that quickens interest in a fascinating man, a thinker of power and the far-reaching intellect to touch us today.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1963
ISBN: 0823215377
Publisher: Little, Brown-A.M.P.