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Gorges: a Book in which the Sages of former times are rendered more wise than it may be they were, by so dextrous an Interpreter of their Fables. It is this Book which Mr. Sandys means, in those Words which he hath put before his Notes on the Metamorphosis of Ovid. • Of modern Writers, I have received the greatest Light from Geraldus, Pontanus, Ficinus, Vives, Comes, Scaliger, Sabinus, Pierius, and the Crown of the latter, the Viscount of St. Albans.'
“It is true, the Design of this Book was Instruction in natural and civil matters, either couched by the Ancients under those Fictions, or rather made to seem to be so by his Lordship’s Wit, in the opening and applying of them. But because the first ground of it is poetical Story, therefore let it have this place, till a fitter be found for it."
The Author of Bacon's Life, in the Biographia Britannica, says, " That he might relieve himself a little from the Severity of these Studies, and as it were amuse himself with erecting a magnificent Pavilion, while his great Palace of Philosophy was building : he composed and sent abroad in 1610, his celebrated Treatise of the Wisdom of the Ancients, in which he shewed that none had studied them more closely, was better acquainted with their beauties, or had pierced deeper into their meaning. There have been very few Books published, either in this or in any other Nation, which either deserved or met with more general applause than this, and scarce any that are like to retain it longer, for in this Performance Sir Francis Bacon gave a fingular proof of his Capacity to please all parties in
Literature, as in his political conduct he stood fair with all the parties in the Nation. The Admirers of Antiquity were charmed with this Discourse, which seems expressly calculated to justify their admiration; and, on the other hand, their oppofites were no less pleased with a piece, from which they thought they could demonstrate that the Sagacity of a modern Genius had found out much better Meanings for the Ancients than ever were meant by them.”
And Mallet, in his Life of Bacon, says, “ In 1610 he published another Treatise, entitled Of the Wisdom of the Ancients. This Work bears the same stamp of an original and inventive genius with his other Performances. Resolving not to tread in the steps of those who had gone before him, Men, according to his own expression, not learned beyond certain common places, he strikes out a new Tract for himself, and enters into the most fecret Recesses of this wild and shadowy Region, so as to appear new on a known and beaten Subject. Upon the whole, if we cannot bring ourselves readily to believe that there is all the phyfical, moral, and political Meaning veiled under those Fables of Antiquity, which he has discovered in them, we must own that it required no common penetration to be mistaken with so great an appearance of probability on his side. Though it still remains doubtful whether the Ancients were so knowing as he attempts to shew they were, the variety and depth of his own knowledge are, in that very attempt unquestionable.”
In the year 1619, this Tract was translated by Sir Arthur Gorges. Prefixed to the Work are two Letters; the one to the Earl of Salisbury, the other to the University of Cambridge, which Gorges omits, and dedicates his translation to the high and illustrious Princess the Lady Elizabeth of Great Britain, Duchess of Baviare, Countess Palatine of Rheine, and Chief Electress of the Empire.
This Translation, it should be noted, was published during the Life of Lord Bacon by a great Admirer of his Works.
The editions of this work with which I am acquainted are :
Year. Language. Printer.
Size. 1609 Latin
R. Barker London I 2mo. 1617 Ditto
Ditto Ditto. 1618 Italian G. Bill Ditto Ditto. 1619 English 7. Bill Ditto Ditto. 1620 Ditto Ditto
Ditto Ditto. 1633 Latin
F. Maire Lug. Bat. Ditto. 1634 Ditto
F. Kingston London Ditto. 1638 Ditto
Ditto Folio. 1691 Ditto
H. Wetstein Amsterdam 12mo. 1804 French H. Frantin Dijon 8vo.