Of Studies by Sir Francis Bacon | Complete Summary and Analysis
“Of Studies” is one of the most quoted essays of Sir Francis Bacon. He has analyzed the importance of studies; therefore, in this essay, he convinces his readers to know its vitality. He does not only talk about bookish knowledge but also demonstrates the importance of experience; without experience, the studies cannot help a person, means Sir Francis Bacon. Moreover, in his eyes, studies and education are two separate things. However, he agrees that education is the name of studying books and experiences of life. He answers some common questions that arise in every common mind. For instance, he answers why we should read books; what are the impacts of studies in one’s life; why study without experience is useless; and many other such like questions.
He elaborates each assertion through either reference or example. Style of the author is simple but his arguments are much effective. Further, he uses concise sentences, similes, and Latin phrases to strengthen his stance.
Three Types of studies in the Eyes of Sir Francis Bacon:
From the very beginning of the essay, Sir Francis Bacon divides studies into three categories; in fact, these three types are benefits of studies. Studies serve three purposes, says Sir Francis Bacon, “delight”, “ornament” and “ability”. In Bacon’s times, the drama was banned; drama may have a moral purpose but it is certainly a source of entertainment. It was forbidden in that era; therefore, people had no other option except to rely upon books; thus, books replaced stage. From that point of view, if we think, then books are the source of entertainment. It may be the reason that Bacon has used the word “delight”. From modern views, there are still people in the world, who find delight in books instead of movies and plays.
However, in next lines, he has explained the word “delight” while saying, “their chief use for delight, is in privateness and retiring”. Hence, only words are different but the purpose is same i.e. entertainment.
The second purpose that studies serve is “ornaments”. A person, after learning from books, can present himself in a good manner. Studies also help a person learn etiquettes. His societal impression is improved and he becomes wise in the eyes of people. However, Bacon has used only one word to explain, “ornament” i.e. “discourse”. Thereby, studies increase the speaking power of a person but the word “discourse” also needs explanation. It has many meanings; discourse has different types; romantic, professional, religious, motivational, debate etc. Nevertheless, considering in view the worldly approach of the author, he may have used it as a professional speaking power or perhaps, he is talking about impressive discourse in every field of life whether it is profession, religion or romance.
Elaboration of the third purpose of studies, according to Sir Francis Bacon is “judgment and disposition of business”. It is somewhat professional. Studies can help a person in dealing with business matters. Thereby, studies support a person in professional life. Sir Francis Bacon has also used the word “judgment” to infer that studies enhance mental eyesight of a person. His vision becomes strong and he takes quick as well as accurate decisions in business matters.
Experience is the Key Factor:
All three purposes are useless without experience, says Bacon. Too much study for “delight” makes a person lazy; ornamentation makes him showcase; similarly, cramming bundle of rules from books does not increase his ability nor does it help him enhancing his thinking capacity. Everyone has natural abilities and studies make them perfect but along with studies, the experience is also required to gain perfection. It actually improves the mentality of a person. In order to elaborate it further, Bacon uses similes, which are worth mentioning:-
“the natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience.”Sir Francis Bacon
Hence, studies show a person thousands of paths to walk but experience helps choosing the right one. Additionally, different types of men see studies differently; some people do not give studies any value; some appreciate them; but wise are those, who perfectly use them.
Why and What Kind of Books should We Study?
After describing the importance of study, Francis Bacon gives his own opinions, “read….to weigh and consider”. A person should not read books to win over a debate or to oppose arguments of others; nor should he read to believe on each and everything written in the book; rather he should study books to know the difference between right and wrong. Moreover, not every book is worth reading. He divides books, too, into three categories; “tasted”, “swallowed”, and “chewed and digested”. “Tasted” books are those, which require no special attention. A reader just needs to go through them; books that come in the category of “swallowed” need a little attention. Category, “Chewed and digested” is self-explanatory. These kinds of books need the full concentration of the readers. Each word and every line should be chewed completely and then digested.
Some Subjects and Their Purposes:
If a person has a habit of reading books then Bacon guarantees improvement in his temperament. If he is used to exchanging dialogues then his wit is going to be enhanced. Above all, if he reads books and then writes down every important suggestion or advice then this method will definitely increase his intellectuality. Francis Bacon, at the end of the essay, creates a list of different subjects and sorts them by their benefits. Here is the list of books and their benefits:-
- History increases wisdom.
- Poetry enhances imagination.
- Mathematics makes a person subtle.
- Philosophy deepens thinking.
- Logic and rhetoric help to contend.
Thus, a person needs to study the relevant subject as per his choice or requirement. If he wants wisdom, history can help him. If he wants imaginative powers, his concern should be poetry. Similarly, mathematics, philosophy, and logic serve their specific purposes. In Bacon’s eyes, a person can improve himself as much as he can; he just needs to focus. He actually wants to say that, “reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”. With body, the mind also needs exercise; therefore, every person needs to do an exercise of the mind; he can do it by studying books.
Conclusion of “Of Studies” by Sir Francis Bacon:
The whole essay proves the intellectuality of Sir Francis Bacon. It is full of wisdom. Every line, written by the author, is philosophically rich. His philosophy is definitely praiseworthy. Moreover, he is called the father of English prose not only because of his deep philosophy but also because of his writing style. He uses exact words to summarize his viewpoint. He tries to demonstrate his thinking in concise words. This essay is well knitted. There is no denying the fact that “Of Studies” is the pure creation of Sir Francis Bacon. In short, this essay is enough to regard him as the father of English prose.