Of Nobility by Sir Francis Bacon | Complete Summary and Analysis
In most of the essays, Bacon has presented his philosophy, related to worldly wisdom. “Of Nobility” also belongs to the same category, in which Sir Francis Bacon talks about the benefits of nobility in this world. He divides nobility into two types; “as a portion of estate” and “as a condition of particular person”. He, very concisely, describes features of both these types. In the first type, he talks about the benefits, which the state can get from nobility. He also demonstrates the impacts of nobility on a state. He tries to answers some questions. For instance, he answers, if there is nobility, what benefits can a state get from it; if a state lacks nobility then what are its drawbacks. Sir Francis Bacon also judges the nobility from an individualistic angle. Hence, the second type is for those people who are noble in characters.
Nobility as a Portion of State:
The first drawback of lacking the nobility, which Sir Francis Bacon describes, is that the state becomes “pure or absolute tyranny”; people are forced to live under a cruel and oppressive monarchy. In order to exemplify, he refers to the monarchy of Turks. Sir Francis Bacon wants to say that if a state lacks nobility, its impact is proportional to its people; therefore, nobility, in a state is very much necessary, if the people of a kingdom want peace. Nobility, in this way, is the name of peace and happiness. Secondly, nobility “draws the eyes of the people somewhat aside from the line royal”; people after realizing that their king has nobility feel secure from internal catastrophes; they focus their whole attention on other matters of life instead of royalty. In this way, an empire makes more progress as compared to that empire, which lacks morality.
Nobility is not Necessary for Democratic Country:
Sir Francis Bacon considers nobility as part of every state. However, he does not feel its necessity in a democratic country. He thinks that, in a democratic country, people focus more on their business affairs instead converging their attention on the state. Moreover, in a monarchy, people demand nobility but in a democratic country, they don’t. Sir Francis Bacon mentions Switzerland in this regard, which is a democratic country but its people do not demand nobility despite having different religions. People have a belief that everyone is equal. Besides, people of this country are united but the bond between them is not of nobility but of utility; they give time to their own matters instead of wasting it on demanding nobility. Thus, in a democratic country, nobility is not necessary nor do people demand it.
Another benefit of nobility is that it ends the fear of people. They become more courageous. Thus, nobility is also the name of life and spirit. Nonetheless, the author doubts that it is a financial burden on the people because it adds majesty to a monarch. Additionally, too much nobility is not necessary. It makes a state poor as the noble position is expensive and financial strength is required to maintain it. Sir Francis Bacon further explains nobility; “it maketh a kind of disproportion between honour and means.” Nobility wants honour and finance wants means. From honour and means, only one thing can be saved; a noble person would try to make a balance between honour and means, which is not an easy task. Indeed it is a “disproportion between honour and means”.
Nobility as a Condition of a Particular Person:
Sir Francis Bacon says that everyone should adopt nobility. It is beneficial not only for a state but also for a person. He gives opinions in its favour via simile. If a person has nobility then his family would be respected for many years just like an ancient castle or a fair-limber tree. He prefers old nobility to new. According to him, those persons who “first raised to nobility are more virtuous but less innocent than their descendants”; the new nobility is just a power. Moreover, faults of a noble person die with him, whereas his virtues and good deeds last forever in people’s heart. In this suggestion of Bacon, we can examine his worldly insight. Nobility can be used to gain respect in the hearts of people. If a person is trying to become noble, he is trying to gain more and more respect in the vicinity.
Sir Francis Bacon also illustrates drawbacks of nobility. It has a negative impact, on the person, who possesses it. A noble person cannot be industrious; he does not work hard nor does he sees others working; therefore, he cannot make progress. Bacon has repeated the above situation here too. A person has to select one of the two things; either nobility or progress. If he selects progress, he cannot be noble and if he chooses nobility then he cannot make progress. In this way, nobility although helps a person gain respect in society yet it badly impacts on his progress.
Suggestions to the Kings:
Bacon, at the end of the essay, gives suggestions to the Kings. If the kings have noble men they should preferably employee them. Noblemen want honour; therefore, they can do anything to protect it. They are beneficial in every field of life. It is their natural ability to obey an order. Kings should get benefits from their natural ability. Bacon actually wants to guide the kings; they can save themselves if they hire noblemen. Firstly, they are honorees; therefore, they will not take any step to harm the king or state. Secondly, they do not oppose. In obeying orders, they are better than the others. Hence, a king can simultaneously get two benefits while hiring noblemen.
The whole essay is full of worldly wisdom. Although Sir Francis Bacon promotes nobility, yet he does not say that it is helpful for a person in eternal life. He just talks about worldly benefits. His philosophy teaches us to live a good life in this world. A person can adopt Bacon’s philosophy to achieve his goals. This essay is about the pros and cons of nobility at the state level and at the individualistic level. Moreover, Bacon has used short sentences and meticulous words to explain his philosophy. He has also quoted some examples in order to bring clarity. Similes are also there in it. These are the reasons due to which this essay has freshness even today.