Introduction: 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. The critics have noticed that there is a marked difference between Bacon’s earlier and later essays. Macaulay, contrasting extracts from of Studies (1597) and Of Adversity (1625) illustrates what he calls the two styles of Bacon.
It is true that there is a vast difference between the styles of Bacon. But it is rather questionable whether this difference could be attributed to the fact that Bacon had gained a maturity of mind and intellect. Bacon wrote in more than one style. The stately movement of The Advancement of Learning and Of Adversity has been achieved in 1605 itself. Does that mean that Bacon had achieved maturity of mind and imagination in eight years? This is not convincing. The explanation lies in the fact that Bacon’s very conception of the essay underwent a change. Bacon described his essays as “Dispersed Meditations”. The first collection of essays is fully illustrative of Bacon’s definition of the essay as dispersed meditations set down significantly rather than curiously. The original idea was to make the essays into a sort of diary in which significant observations on various topics of practical importance. His essays were jotted down in a terse and pithy and concise language. His first essays were a mere skeleton of thought, grouped around central themes with suitable titles. There was no attempt polishing the style or clothing the statements with literary beauty or imaginative grace. When, however, Bacon saw that his essays had gained an unexpected popularity, he thought that it was worth while polishing them and making them richer. These essays are very brief in length. The ideas have not been developed. The sentences are all crisp, short and sententious. Each sentence stands by itself. There is so much of condensation that each sentence can easily be expanded into a paragraph. That is to say that one single sentence does the job of a paragraph.
Essays not quite dispersed meditations: It would, however, be a mistake to call all the essays of Bacon “Dispersed Meditations”. There are some which have received at his hand, a rather detailed treatment and which cannot be termed as “Sketchy”. In these essays, Bacon finds room for conjunctions and connective clauses. Ideas are not left underdeveloped and transitions from one thought to another are not so abrupt. In Of Friendship, there is a logical approach in the enumeration of the principle fruits of friendship. Each advantage is properly handled and ideas are developed smoothly. There is not that abrupt transition of thought that characterized some of Bacon’s other essays. Of Empire can be said to contain almost exhaustive treatment of the dangers that beset a king in those days. In Of Seditions and Troubles, there is a quite closely reasoned and connected account of the causes and remedies of discontentment and agitation that may fester and burst out into trouble for the country. Aphoristic sentences are found in these essays too, but attention has been given to other factors as well.
Aphoristic style of Bacon: An aphoristic style means a compact, condensed and epigrammatic style of writing. Bacon’s writing has been admired for various reasons. Some have admired them for dazzling rhetoric, others his grace. In Bacon we find a style which is distinct and at the same time characteristic of his age. His style includes various qualities. Firstly, he remains the best aphoristic, so he stands the most quotable writer. There is terseness of expression and epigrammatic brevity, in the essays of Bacon. His sentences are brief and rapid, but they are also forceful. As Dean Church says, “They come down like the strokes of a hammer.” The force of aphoristic style depends on other stylistic qualities which supplement it. He weighs the pros and cons of a statement and immediately counter-balances it. (Give examples from the above the extracts).
A Rhetorician: Bacon’s style is definitely rhetorical. In this connection, Saintsbury has remarked that no one, “knows better than —- (Bacon) how to leave a single word to produce all its effects by using it in some slightly uncommon sense. He has great powers of attracting and persuading his readers even though he may not convince them. In prose rhetoric, in the use, that is to say, of language to dazzle and persuade, not to convince. He has few rivals and no superiors in English.” There is a constant use of imagery and analogy in Bacon’s essays. The apt and extensive use of metaphors, images, similitudes and analogies is in keeping with the view of the rhetoricians of the ancient as well as of the Renaissance. Bacon draws his imagery from the familiar objects o nature, or from the facts of every day life.
His Allusions and Quotations: The essay bear witness to Bacon’s learned mind in the extensive use of quotations and allusions drawn from various sources, classical fables, the Bible, History, the ancient Greek and the Roman writers. Of Truth includes Pilate, Lucian and Montaigne, In Of Great Place; we have Tacitus, Galba and Vespacian, and Of Friendship includes reference to Aristotle. Thus Bacon employs allusions to and quotations in order to explain his point. They serve to make his style more scholarly and enrich it while lending to his ideas. Though, his style is heavy with learning, yet it is more flexible than any of his predecessors and contemporaries. His sentences are short and with this shortness comes lucidity of expression. Thus he shows mastery of the principles of prose. There almost no humor in Bacon’s essays, but his essays are packed with astounding wit.
Conclusion: The style of Bacon is not the personal and chatty style of the subjective essayist like Montaigne and Lamb. It is dignified and aphoristic style. He was indeed a consummate artist who polished and chiseled his expressions and who could change his style to suit to his subject.