7 Jun 2015

Of Regiment of Health


I don't know how many of you are interested in reading Jemimah's efforts at paraphrasing Francis Bacon's essays, but I'm just so stinking proud of her efforts that I want to share anyway. I think she does such a good job. This is her rewriting of Bacon's essay Of Regiment of Health. You can read his original here: Yes, it's just one long paragraph.

There is wisdom in this beyond the rules of medicine: knowing what makes you well and unwell is the best way to stay healthy. It is better to say, this doesn’t agree with me so I won’t continue it, than it is to say, this doesn’t make me ill so I will continue it. For the strength of youth is not as sensitive to excesses as an older man will be. Remember that you’re getting older and cannot do the things you used to do, because age will not be tricked. Beware of a great change in your diet, but if you must, change your whole diet to make the change work as effectively as possible. For it is true for both nature and state, that it is better to change the whole rather than one specific part only. Examine your daily habits – diet, sleep, exercise and clothing, and so on; and if you find anything harmful, try to discontinue it bit by bit; but in such a way that if you find the change causes even more trouble, you may reintroduce it. For it is hard to tell apart things that are good and wholesome in general from those that are good for you in particular. One of the best rules for long life is to be cheerful at all times, during eating, sleeping and exercising. As for your passions, avoid jealousy, anxiety, unexpressed anger, awkward interrogations, excessive excitement, and bottled-up sadness. Be hopeful. Laugh. Have a good variety of pleasures, but not too many of them. Wonder and admire new things. Learn from good things like history, fables and nature. If you avoid medicine completely, then it will be too strange for your body when you need it, but if you overuse it, then it won’t do much good when you get ill. I believe that a seasonal diet is better than regular medicine, unless it becomes a habit. For diets change the body more than medicine and hurt it less. Don’t hate change in your body, but look for its cause. When ill, health is most important; when you’re healthy, action is. People who work their bodies when they’re healthy will be able to heal most slight illnesses with care and good food. Celcus could never have said as a doctor, had he not been also a wise man, that one of the main rules for health and long life is to vary one’s habits but not too extremely: Fast or eat a full diet, but prefer the full diet; stay awake or sleep long, but prefer sleep; be sedentary or active, but prefer activity, and so on. In this way we will be looking after our natures, but keeping them in control. Some doctors are so eager to keep the patient happy that they are afraid to cure the actual disease, whereas others are so busy curing the disease that they fail to conform to the patient’s needs. It’s best to find a doctor who is a mixture of both, or if you can’t find one, take one of each, and don’t forget to ask the advice of the one who is the most familiar with your body since he is the best in his area.

Paraphrasing these essays has changed Bacon from a drudgery to one of the highlights of AO8 for my daughter. I encourage you to try it with your kids...or trying it yourself.

In addition to helping us understand the thoughts of one of the greatest minds in history, reading these essays has proved a good opportunity to me to discuss essay writing structure and what makes Bacon's writing different from the writing of later periods. He writes deep, pithy sayings in short, unconnected sentences. Sort of like twitter. (Did I really write that?) He rarely develops his arguments,; each idea is separate from those that follow. There are no signs of the five paragraph essay here - in fact there are no paragraphs at all. Similarly, Bacon pays little attention for grammar and form. All of this makes Bacon hard to read, but despite this - or perhaps because of it, Bacon always makes you think. Perhaps because he fails to develop his arguments, his style encourages you to do it for him. His essays make you think, and allow you to agree or disagree, to form your own opinions and conclusions. Bacon encourages you to meditate on a variety of fascinating topics. And that's possibly the best reason to read his words. Bacon makes you think.



  1. I have never read any of his writings. I know you both have been working diligently through his difficult, yet apparently quite meaty, thoughts. I am very impressed with your daughter's paraphrase! Whenever we get to Year 8 I may have to come back here to help us through! Great job.

  2. Excellent! I know you are proud of her.

  3. My students loved doing it too! I love the way he uses words and phrases: Revenge is a wild justice. It was fascinating to read 19 paraphrases of just those words. Plus Bacon always used historical examples and many we had to look up to understand the references. I thank you for posting these posts.

  4. Hay "Jeanne" I am interested in reading Jemimah's efforts. Yes It's a long article but great. If you want share her full speck you should write a long paragraph. Her advice really helpful. Anyone cant ignore her advice. Thank you for sharing this helpful article.


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