17 Sep 2015

Of studies

If been dying for Jemimah to get around to her paraphrase of Francis Bacon's essay, Of Studies, because it is all about the benefits of reading and learning, and I'm sorta kinda rather fond of both of those.

There are some great quotations in the passage, no more than one long paragraph, really. These are some gems:

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.
Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.

Finally there is this one. I think it is my favourite:

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.

You can have a read of the whole essay by clicking the link above. Or, you can read Jemimah's very fine paraphrase below. Apparently, paraphrasing Bacon is her very favourite thing of AO8. Whodathunk?

Of StudiesStudies serve to delight, to enhance, and to be useful. They are most delightful when you are alone and at leisure. They enhance by allowing you to display your knowledge in conversation. They are useful because they improve your ability to make good decisions and to run your business more effectively. Clever men can do things and do them well, but learned men can perform daily activities better in general. Spending too much time studying is lazy, using study to show-off is vain, and to decide things just on learning is unwise. Studies perfect man but man’s wisdom affects that knowledge, because natural abilities are like plants that need training by study, and studies can go too far unless they are given limits by experience. Sly men loath study; simple men are impressed by it, and wise men benefit from it. Studies do not teach how to use themselves, but that knowledge comes from outside and is only learned by observation. Don’t read to make arguments, or to believe blindly, or just for something to say, but rather to ponder and provide judgment. Some books are to be tasted, some to be swallowed, and a few are to be chewed and digested; that is, dip into some books, read some for enjoyment, and a few are to be read with concentration. You can read summaries of some books, but only less important books, or books that are not so good, because most summaries don’t do the original book justice, and are just for show. Reading makes you better, discussion prepares you, and writing makes you more precise. If you don’t write things down, you’d better have a great memory. If you don’t ask much, you need to be careful. If you don’t read, you have to be cunning to pretend to know that which you do not know. History makes man wise; poetry makes him witty, mathematics subtle, natural philosophy deep, moral stories make him grave, logic and rhetoric arm him for what will come. Abeunt studia in mores – what you study becomes a habit. Studies improve any intellectual deficit, just like injuries have appropriate rehabilitation exercises. Bowling is good for bladder and kidney, shooting for lungs and chest, gentle walking for the stomach, riding for the brain, and so on. So if a man is getting slow, study maths, because in doing maths, if you are distracted, you must start again. If he is not discerning, let him study the professional scholars, for they are cymene sectores, splitters of hairs and pedantic and the man will become more so. If he doesn’t think about things enough, let him study law. Every defect of the mind has a recipe for cure.



  1. Great job, Jemimah! My daughter is scheduled to read her first Bacon essay today, and I am going to have her paraphrase them, too. :)

  2. Let her know that the first one is the hardest. They get easier.


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