Prof. S. Jayaraman.
Francis Bacon: Francis Bacon was one of the leading intellectual lights of the renowned Elizabethan Age. He is very much known for his brilliant essays. Altogether he wrote 58 complete and one fragmentary essay.
These essays are based upon a rational world of stark realities. It is pure logic that leads the reader through their precepts and instructions. As soon as the reader starts reading an essay, realization dawns on him that he is in the presence of a superior wisdom. OF FRIENDSHIP. Bacon’s essay ‘Of Friendship’ was written at the request of his friend Toby Matthew as a mark of celebration of their long friendship.
He wrote the essay at the time when friendship was hailed in idealistic terms. Bacon, in the essay, disagrees with Aristotle‘s remark on solitude. He says solitude has a larger scope than making a man a wild beast or an angel. Bacon calls a man with no friend in the world or lacks aptitude for friendship as the denizen of wilderness. Bacon says that friendship is a medium of secular confession. Even great kings and princes find it difficult to find a true friend with whom they could share their secret desires and state secrets. In English, such a person is called ‘a favourite’.This is less significant than the Roman phrase ‘sharer of king’s cares’.
Roman history is replete with examples of great Roman emperors exalting even common people with their friendship. Bacon quotes the parable of Pythagoras ‘eat not thy heart’. It rightly urges great men not to hoard all his cares and yearnings in his heart and allow them to destroy him. Instead, he must confide them to his friend. For, friendship always offers a double blessing as it redoubles joy and reduces grief, when shared. Moreover, friendship safeguards mental health by generating perpetual cheerfulness.
An hour’s discourse with a friend adds more to the wisdom and understanding of a person than a whole day’s meditation. A friendly counsel is objective and hence more useful. It helps in avoiding errors in matters of business. Bacon avers that a friend is not only a person’s second self but also his second life. For, a friend not only shares his cares and duties but also supplements his achievements. He also performs those offices that a person is reluctant to undertake such as praising his own abilities and achievements.A person may even die in peace with the hope that his unfinished tasks would be completed by his surviving friend.
A man’s capacity is limited by his close family relations like his son and wife or his brother. But, his friend, who works on his behalf, is not hampered by such personal considerations. Bacon ends the essay saying that there is no end to the enumeration of the merits of friendship. OF REVENGE. Bacon’ s essay ‘Of Revenge’ is a short one. In this essay he speaks of revenge as a natural instinct that runs in man.
But it is against the rule of law of a civilized society.Only the forgiver of a wrong done to him is superior, as King Solomon said. A wrong is done for one’s gratification of self-love and self-interest or to satisfy his vicious tendency. Bacon says that such an act should be forgiven.
Revenge may be justified where there is no recourse to law to punish the offender. Noble people make the other party know of the injustice done, whereas cowards strike in the dark. Bacon points out the wrong interpretation given by Cosmus, the Duke of Florence, to the words of Christ. He said that Christ had asked us to forgive only the wrongs of our enemies and not that of friends.
In this respect, what Job said of God’s sending down evil to man is more convincing. A wrong done by a friend is pardonable in view of many good things done by him . An avenger keeps his revenge green by brooding over it. He does not allow Time to heal it and in that process loses his own peace of mind. Roman history has many examples of avenging a public wrong. For example, the avengers of the murdered Julius Caesar laid the foundation of the great Roman Empire.
But in private revenge, the vindictive person, like the witches, not only become miserable but also undergo the punishment of law.