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From this statement we learn, first, that all the pieces in the volume are genuine, having been copied by Gruter from original manuscripts, bearing marks of revision and correction by Bacon himself; which manuscripts Gruter received directly from Sir William Boswell, to whom they had come directly from the executors; secondly, that Gruter had then in his possession, "non diu premenda," certain other writings of Bacon's (in Latin apparently) relating to morals and politics, which had come to Boswell along with these ; and thirdly, that he had in his hands (but whether derived from the same source or not we cannot say) some pieces written by Bacon in English, and most of them unpublished; and that of these he intended shortly to bring out a Latin translation.
With regard to the works contained in this volume, he seems to have had no further information to give. He has confined himself to the simple office of transcriber. The order in which they are arranged tells nothing either as to nature or date; and the running titles, which are his own device, seem to imply a distinction which, being untrue, can only introduce confusion. By assigning separate running titles to some of the pieces and printing all the rest under one general running title of Impetus Philosophici, any one would suppose that he meant to distinguish the first as in some way different in character from the last, - to separate the complete from the incomplete, for instance, the solid from the slight, or the deliberate and final judgment from the experimental and rudimentary essay ;-whereas there is in fact no such difference to be found between the two: there being pieces among the last as complete in themselves as any among the first, and pieces among the first as incomplete as any among the last. And if I rightly understand Gruter's own explanation of his motive in making the distinction, — namely, lest the reader should impute the imperfection of the pieces to the fault of the editor instead of the defervescens impetus of the author, - it would even seem that he supposed the Descriptio Globi Intellectualis and the De Principis et Originibus to be complete; which he could not possibly have done if he had read them with his mind as well as with his eyes.
The fact probably is that the five pieces which stand first under separate titles - the priora per titulos suos separata -were found copied out in a book; and that the rest, -"quicquid prioribus, &c. connecteretur," — were in separate papers, tied up with it. We happen to know from the Commentarius Solutus that in the year 1608 this was the way in which Bacon's manuscripts were actually arranged,—that among his Libri Compositionum was one entitled Scripta in Naturali et Universali Philosophiâ, and that all his books “had pertaining to them fragments and loose papers of like nature with the books; and those likewise were bundled or laid up with the books." These last I presume it was, or such as these, that were called Impetus Philosophici by the “ Vir Magnus” (that is, by Boswell, – for Bacon cannot be meant) with whom Gruter conferred about the papers: a description convenient enough for the purpose of distinguishing in a box of manuscripts the loose from the bound-up pieces, but worse than useless when introduced, especially with such imperfect explanation, into a printed book. In the present edition, the plan of which makes it necessary to separate and disperse the several pieces collected by Gruter under this title, the title itself is of course dispensed with. But if the reader wishes to know which of Bacon's posthumous writings he had taken pains to preserve by having them transcribed into a book, and which he had merely kept by him in loose bundles, - a point which it may sometimes be of use to ascertain,- he will find in the table of contents which I have just given all the information on the subject that can be extracted from Gruter's volume.
The duty of transcriber Gruter appears to have performed tolerably well; there are but a few places in which the text is manifestly corrupt; but since he has attempted nothing more, it is to be regretted that he has left us without any information as to the fate of the original manuscripts ; not one of which, I believe, is known to be in existence. There is not one of them which would not be well worth examining, if it could be found; not only for the correction of the text, but because some interesting questions as to date might possibly be cleared up by help of the interlineations and alterations.
Another question well worth asking is, what became of those moral and political pieces which Gruter had received from Boswell, and had by him in 1653, and intended to publish ? I cannot hear that he ever did publish anything answering the description; and unless he transferred them to Dr. Rawley to
be included in the Opuscula (1658), which does contain a few things of the kind, they remain to be accounted for.
The unpublished English pieces, of which he announces his intention to bring out a Latin translation (an intention which I cannot learn that he ever fulfilled), may have been only copies of those which were published by Dr. Rawley in 1657. These were afterwards translated into Latin by S. J. Arnold, and included (see Acta Eruditorum, vol. xiii. anno 1694, p. 400.) in an edition of Bacon's Opera Omnia which was published at Leipsic in that year.
In 1695 they were reprinted at Amsterdam by H. Wetstenius in a separate volume; with the title Francisci Baconi, &c., Opuscula historico-politica, Anglice olim conscripta, et nuper Latinitate donata à Simone Joanne Arnoldo, Ecclesiæ Sonnenbrugensis Inspectore.