Francis Bacon was born on January 22, 1561 in London. His family was very powerful and very close to Queen Elizabeth. His father Sir Nicholas Bacon was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. His mother was the daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke and Sister-in-law of Sir William Cecil, the Lord of Burghley.
He was a protected child. His early childhood was spent at his father’s country palace. He was devoted to studies in a grave manner even at the tender age of ten. He was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge with his elder brother at the age of thirteen. He came back after three years and was then admitted to Gray’s Inn on June 27, 1576.
But only after a few months not liking the legal profession, he went along with the English Ambassador to France and thus began his career in diplomacy.After his father’s death, he came back to England and again joined Gray’s Inn. In 1584, he entered the Parliament as representative of Malcombe Regis. He was again elected for parliament in 1586 and 1589, he advocated for a middle course between popular privilege and royal prerogative,moderation in secular reform with toleration in religion. This policy he supported in two pamphlets published in 1585 and 1589. In both of them he pleaded for greater elasticity in matters of doctrine and of discipline.
In 1591, Bacon attached himself to the Earl of Essex, who was very close to Queen Elizabeth. In 1593 Bacon entered the Parliament from Middlesex. He severely criticised the Government’s policy of demand for a triple subsidy to help meet the expenses of the Spanish War . The Queen was annoyed and did not appoint him Attorney General in 1594. The Earl of Essex always tried to favour and make recommendations for Bacon, but the Queen paid no heed to them. Somehow he was made Learned Counsel. Bacon played a major role in securing Essay’s conviction, when he was being tried for treason. As a result of his conviction, Essex’s was executed. Bacon incurred much ill feeling for this. In 1604, he published an Apology for this action.
The first edition of his Essays was published in 1597. It had ten essays. Its popularity was great, almost from the very day of issue.
In 1603, King James I ascended to the English throne. Bacon tried to win the new King’s favour by every wit he could employ, he was ultimately successful and managed to get Knighthood in July, 1603. In 1604 he was confirmed as Learned Counsel and in 1607 became Solicitor General.
In 1605 Bacon published his Advancement of Learning and dedicated it to the King. This great philosophical work was later expanded and translated in Latin. In 1606, Bacon got married to Alice Branham, daughter of a London alderman. In 1607 and 1612 new editions of his Essays were published with several additions. Cogitata et Visa, In felicem memorium Elizabethae and De sapientia veterum and Wisdom of the Ancients were published between 1607 and 1609. In 1613 he was made Attorney General. In the Parliament of 1614, he sat for Cambridge University.
From 1612 onwards his counsels did not attract the King’s attention and he was in the process of being marginalised. But Bacon soon made up for his descending position and became Lord Keeper in March 1617. In January1618 he was promoted to Lord Chancellor and in July 1618 he was made Baron Verulam. A further honour was conferred upon him in January 1621 when he was created Viscount St. Albans.
The Parliament met after seven years and his enemies seized the opportunity to bring charges of bribery and corruption against Bacon. He was found guilty and after considerable discussions the House of Lords passed sentence against him on May 3, 1621. The sentence was, however, not fully carried out, but he was barred to sit in the Parliament.
The remaining five years of his life were spent in work for more valuable to the world than anything he had accomplished in his high office. From the literary and philosophical point of view, this last period was, indeed, the most precious. Smitten by his disgrace he turned with much eagerness to intellectual pursuits that had been interrupted by his official duties.
His retirement from politics enabled him, indeed, to make his literary reputation more firm and enduring. He devoted himself with amazing energy to literature and science. During this period he produced histories, De Augments, New Atlantis and the final edition of Essays, which contained fifty eight essays.
In March 1626 while travelling near highgate in London, he performed an experiment, which was an anticipation of the modern process of refrigeration,but it caused his death. He decided to discover whether snow would delay the process of putrefaction, he stopped his carriage, purchased a hen, and with his own hands stuffed it with snow. As a result he caught a chill and fever . He was taken to the house of the Earl of Arundel, where he died on April 9, 1626. He was buried in St. Michael’s Church at St. Albans. Bacon was intellectually great but morally weak. Pope called him as “the wisest,brightest, but the meanest of mankind.” His marvellous versatility renders it difficult to present a critical estimate which embraces all the varied aspects of his personality as lawyer, politician, scientist, philosopher, historian, and essayist. He took all knowledge for his province.