Francis Bacon's Essay on the Bene?ts of Reading

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OF STUDIES
1625

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon was one of the great English writers and philosophers of the 1600s. Bacon consumed knowledge. He studied science, philosophy, law, and natural history. As a writer, he is remembered best for his wise essays in which he reveals his personal views on a wide range of topics. In the following essay, Bacon describes the benefits of reading.

T H I N K T H R O U G H H I S T O R Y : Comparing

What comparisons does Bacon draw between studies and physical exercise?

Studies serve for delight, for ornament,1 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 sloth2; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation3; 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 proyning4 by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men condemn 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 confute5; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse6; 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,7 and extracts8 made of them by others; but that would be only in the less...
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