Monday, May 24, 2004

Ben Johnson (speaking of Francis Bacon)

My conceit of his person was never increased toward him, by his place, or honours. But I have, and doe reverence him for his greatness, that was only proper to himselfe, in that hee seem'd to mee ever, by his worke, one of the greatest men, and most worthy of admiration, that had beene in many Ages. In his adversity I ever prayed, that God would give him strength: for Greatness hee could not want.


One, though hee be excellent, and the chiefe, is not to bee imitated alone. For no Imitator, ever grew up to his Author; likeness is always on this side Truth; Yet there hapn'd, in my time, one noble Speaker, who was full of gravity in his speaking. His language (where hee could spare, or passe a jest) was nobly censorious. No man ever spake more neatly, more presly, more weightily, or suffer'd lesse emptinesse, lesse idleness, in what hee utter'd. No member of his speech, but consisted of the owne graces: His hearers could not cough, or looke aside from him, without losse. Hee commanded where hee spoke, and had his judges angry, and pleased at his devotion. No man had the affections more in his power. The feare of every man that heard him, was, lest hee should make an end.


But his learned, and able (though unfortunate) Successor (i.e.Bacon) is he, who hath fill'd up all numbers; and perform'd that in our tongue, which may be compar'd, or preferr'd, either to insolent Greece, or haughty Romy. In short, within his view, and about his times, were all the wite borne, that could honour a language, or helpe study. Now things daily fall: wits grow downe-ward, and Eloquence growes back-ward: So that hee may be nam'd, and stand as the marke and acme of our language.