Hostage to Fortune: The Troubled Life of Francis Bacon

Lisa Jardine, Author, Alan Stewart, Joint Author Hill & Wang $35 (640p) ISBN 978-0-8090-5539-5
Sir Francis Bacon (15611626) was Englands Renaissance man par excellence, and arguably the founder of scientific method, especially induction. His Novum Organum and The Advancement of Learning first articulated the empirical method of inquiry, and his utopian novel, The New Atlantis, continues to be cited in debates on science and politics. In a biography that focuses more on the man than on the work, Jardine (Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance) and Stewart (Close Readers: Humanism and Sodomy in Early Modern England) present Bacon as an intelligent, energetic bundle of paradoxes. He was a man of power and action who held various positions in government, including Solicitor General and Lord Chancellor. Yet he liked to be regarded as a philosopher and man of letters. At times warm and supportive toward his friends, Bacon willingly betrayed his benefactor, the Earl of Essex, and helped convict him of treason. He described himself as the justest chancellor that hath been, yet he accepted bribes in legal cases, for which he was fined 40,000 and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Addressing the mysterious disappearance of Bacons body, the authors chalk it up not to any Rosicrucian plot (a favorite contention of conspiracy theorists) but rather to an undertakers need to make room for another coffin. As they chronicle this multifacted life, Jardine and Stewart also give readers a rollicking portrait of the rich and crowded existence of Elizabethan England, a world where high thinking coexisted, often in the same person, with very low deeds. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/28/1999
Release date: 07/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 637 pages - 978-0-8090-5540-1
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