He conducted the great case of the Post Nati in the Exchequer Chamber; and the decision of the judges--a decision the legality of which may be questioned, but the beneficial effect of which must be acknowledged--was in a great measure attributed to his dexterous management.
While actively engaged in the House of Commons and in the courts of law, he still found leisure for letters and philosophy. The noble treatise on the Advancement of Learning, which at a later period was expanded into the De Augmentis, appeared in 1605
The Wisdom of the Ancients, a work which if it had proceeded from any other writer would have been considered as a masterpiece of wit and learning, was printed in 1609.
In the meantime the Novum Organum was slowly proceeding. Several distinguished men of learning had been permitted to see portions of that extraordinary book, and they spoke with the greatest admiration of his genius.
Even Sir Thomas Bodley, after perusing the Cogitata et Visa, one of the most precious of those scattered leaves out of which the great oracular volume was afterward made up, acknowledged that "in all proposals and plots in that book, Bacon showed himself a master workman"; and that "it could not be gainsaid but all the treatise over did abound with choice conceits of the present state of learning, and with worthy contemplations of the means to procure it."
In 1612 a new edition of the Essays appeared, with additions surpassing the original collection both in bulk and quality.
Nor did these pursuits distract Bacon's attention from a work the most arduous, the most glorious, and the most useful that even his mighty powers could have achieved, "the reducing and recompiling," to use his own phrase, "of the laws of England."
To serve the exacting and laborious offices of Attorney General and Solicitor General would have satisfied the appetite of any other man for hard work, but Bacon had to add the vast literary industries just described, to satisfy his. He was a born worker.
The service which he rendered to letters during the last five years of his life, amid ten thousand distractions and vexations, increase the regret with which we think on the many years which he had wasted, to use the words of Sir Thomas Bodley, "on such study as was not worthy such a student."
He commenced a digest of the laws of England, a History of England under the Princes of the House of Tudor, a body of National History, a Philosophical Romance. He made extensive and valuable additions to his Essays. He published the inestimable Treatise De Argumentis Scientiarum.
Did these labors of Hercules fill up his time to his contentment, and quiet his appetite for work? Not entirely:
The trifles with which he amused himself in hours of pain and languor bore the mark of his mind. THE BEST JESTBOOK IN THE WORLD is that which he dictated from memory, without referring to any book, on a day on which illness had rendered him incapable of serious study.
Here are some scattered remarks (from Macaulay) which throw light upon Bacon, and seem to indicate--and maybe demonstrate--that he was competent to write the Plays and Poems:
With great minuteness of observation he had an amplitude of comprehension such as has never yet been vouchsafed to any other human being.
The "Essays" contain abundant proofs that no nice feature of character, no peculiarity in the ordering of a house, a garden or a court-masque, could escape the notice of one whose mind was capable of taking in the whole world of knowledge.
His understanding resembled the tent which the fairy Paribanou gave to Prince Ahmed: fold it, and it seemed a toy for the hand of a lady; spread it, and the armies of powerful Sultans might repose beneath its shade.
The knowledge in which Bacon excelled all men was a knowledge of the mutual relations of all departments of knowledge.
In a letter written when he was only thirty-one, to his uncle, Lord Burleigh, he said, "I have taken all knowledge to be my province."
Though Bacon did not arm his philosophy with the weapons of logic, he adorned her profusely with all the richest decorations of rhetoric.