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THE following fragment was first printed in Stephens's second collection (1734), from a manuscript belonging to Lord Oxford, which is now in the British Museum (Harl. MSS. 6797. fo. 139.) As far as it goes, it agrees so nearly with the Cogitata et Visa that either might be taken for a free translation of the other, with a few additions and omissions. But I think the English was written first; probably at the time when the idea first occurred to Bacon of drawing attention to his doctrine by exhibiting a specimen of the process and the result in one or two particular cases. The Cogitata et Visa professes to be merely a preface framed to prepare the way for an example of a legitimate philosophical investigation proceeding regularly by Tables. Such an example, or at least the plan and skeleton of it, will be found further on, with the title Filum Labyrinthi, sive Inquisitio legitima de Motu; and the title prefixed to this fragment is most easily explained by supposing that a specimen of an Inquisitio legitima was meant to be included in it.
It is here printed from the original MS. which is a fair copy in the hand of one of Bacon's servants, carefully corrected in
SIVE FORMULA INQUISITIONIS.
1. FRANCIS BACON thought in this manner. whereof the world is now possessed, especially that of nature, extendeth not to magnitude and certainty of works. The Physician pronounceth many diseases incurable, and faileth oft in the rest. The Alchemists wax old and die in hopes. The Magicians perform nothing that is permanent and profitable. The Mechanics take small light from natural philosophy, and do but spin on their own little threads. Chance sometimes discovereth inventions; but that worketh not in years, but ages. So he saw well, that the inventions known are very unperfect; and that new are not like to be brought to light but in great length of time; and that those which are, came not to light by philosophy.
2. He thought also this state of knowledge was the worse, because men strive (against themselves) to save the credit of ignorance, and to satisfy themselves in this poverty. For the Physician, besides his cauteles of practice, hath this general cautele of art, that he dischargeth the weakness of his art upon supposed impossibilities: neither can his art be condemned, when itself judgeth. That philosophy also, out of which the knowledge of physic, which now is in use, is hewed, receiveth certain positions and opinions, which (if they be well weighed) induce this persuasion, that no great works are to be expected from art, and the hand of man; as in particular that opinion, that the heat of the sun and fire differ in kind; and that other, that Composition is the work of man, and Mixture is the work of
This is written at the top of the page, in the left-hand corner, in Bacon's haud.