Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. That is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but cursorily; and some few to be read wholly and with diligence and attention. Pg. 81.I’m not sure where Francis Bacon would put his own writings, but I found his collections of essays best as tasted. As Lord Chancellor to King James I, his writings reflect the measured judgment of a man acquiescent to the throne. Typical of the Renaissance training of the time, Bacon strings together quotations from classical sources to provide the authority for the points he punctuates. At times, reading becomes tedious as his points are not necessarily reasoned through as much as given weight by the authorship of his supporting quotations.
It does not mean that his points are less well taken. The advice on topics ranging from friendship to studies to tribute comes as though from experience. The supporting sources just add rhetorical flourish.
As one expects from a man devoted to public service, he sees a practical value to service:
Clearness of judgment makes men liberal, for it teacheth men to esteem of the goods of fortune not for themselves, for so they are but jailors to them, but for their use, for so they are lords over them; and it makes us to know that it is beatius dare quam accipere, the one being a badge of sovereignty, the other of subjection. Also it leadeth us to fortitude, for it teacheth us that we should not too much prize life which we cannot keep, nor fear death which we cannot shun, that he which dies nobly doth live for ever, and he that lives in fear doth die continually; that pain and danger be great only by opinion, and that in truth nothing is fearful but fear itself… pg. 71