“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested”. Does this ring a bell? This line is by Francis Bacon.
It is said that he got recognition as the father of English essays only a century after his death. He used to write essays but since he was not satisfied with his own writings, he would throw them into a corner of his room. His works were later discovered, some to become masterpieces.
Bacon is well known for writing excellent lucid essays in aphoristic style with brevity of thought. Bacon’s prose writing has always enthralled me.
In his essay “Of Studies”, Bacon writes: “Reading makes a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man”. What he means?
What I gather is if one reads s/he learns better and becomes a competent person and if one who keeps communicating, s/he becomes adaptable to time, place and situation. By conference, Bacon here means conversation. And if one writes, s/he becomes an exact person, since writing requires the art of memory, coherence, patience and writing skill.
“Studies serve for delight, for ornament and for ability,” goes Bacon again. Of course, when one is alone, s/he can enjoy the delight of reading in privacy.
When it comes to “ornament”, the author aims to discuss the conversation between and among others, thereby in the form of discourse, as one can communicate with people in any language with the best artistic way possible. As to “studies serve for ability”, the author says studies lead to judgment in life pursuits.
He also argues that “to spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use too much for ornament, is affectation; and to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar”.
And then again goes Bacon: “Crafty men condemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them”.
No doubt a person who is smart won’t spend much time for the same topic as s/he seems to have an art of finding important content within a short period, and thus avoids reading for long.
Simple people love and know the value of books and knowledge and even though they cannot derive much from the text, they keep on pondering and poring over the text.
But what about Bacon’s wise men? Of course, the wise ones not only know the contents but also use them in their daily lives.
A version of this article appears in print on January 31, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.