Sir Francis Bacon
Reading and writing becomes an important part of our life from a very young age. As Sage Thiruvalluvar says in Thirukkural, the numbers and the letters are like the two eyes of Man.
எண்ணென்ப ஏனை எழுத்தென்ப இவ்விரண்டும்
கண்ணென்ப வாழும் உயிர்க்கு.
(eN enpa Enai ezhuththenpa ivviraNdum
kaN enpa vaazhum uyirkku)
During school and college days, everybody gets involved with reading and writing. But after that, when we enter into jobs and get involved in family life, the process of reading and writing gets considerably reduced for most of us.
In so far as I am concerned, having worked in the Government of India secretariat for more than 35 years, reading and writing had almost become a part of my life. And, out of reading and writing, the latter was more important in secretariat functions because it was the principal form of communication in office. It so happened that after my retirement from service, I clinged on to writing!
Talking about reading and writing, I remember the essay titled ‘Of Studies’ by Sir Francis Bacon which I studied when I was in college. The essay is given below:
Studies serve for delight, for ornament and for ability. Their chief use for delight, is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business; for expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one: but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies, is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humour of a scholar: they perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. 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 not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books; else distilled books are, like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man; and, therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtile; natural philosophy deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend "Abeunt studia in mores;" nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit, but may be wrought out by fit studies: like as diseases of the body may have appropriate exercises; bowling is good for the stone and reins, shooting for the lungs and breast, gentle walking for the stomach, riding for the head, and the like; so, if a man's wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again; if his wit be no apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the schoolmen, for they are "Cymini sectores;" if he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call upon one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyer's cases: so every defect of the mind may have a special receipt.
It is said that Sir Francis Bacon lived during the period from 1561 to 1626 AD. He was one of the major political figures of his time. He served in the court of Elizabeth I and ultimately became Lord Chancellor under James I in 1617. He was a scholar, wit and statesman. He wrote widely on politics, philosophy and science. His essays, numbering about 60 were on diverse range of subjects, such as death and marriage, ambition and atheism. His prose is vibrant and mostly in epigrammatic form.
To summarise what Bacon has said on Studies, I may reproduce the following quotes:
Studies serve for delight, for ornament and for ability.
The general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs come best from those that are learned.
Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them.
Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.
Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.