chapter  3
Bacon: ramifications of counsel
Pages 12

Despite differences of style and philosophy, Bacon and Montaigne are working in wh at is recognizably the same genre,

which is distinct from the genre used by Seneca. Seneca' s influence on the two later authors is moral, not formal; he is writing in an established classical genre, the familiar epistle, and using it as a means to instruct his young correspondent Lucilius in an established philosophy, that of Stoicism. There are many personal details, but the main thrust of each piece is didactic, and in that respect is like an informal sermon which the preacher illustrates from his own life. The form invented by Bacon and Montaigne reverses these priorities: the general statements are derived from observation and experience, rather than experience being used to illustrate a pre-established doctrine. Both developed the essay form out of the brief collection of apothegms on a given topic, by a process of expansion in which the linking commentary on those sayings gradually took precedence over them. Bacon's essays, however, even the late ones, remain less exploratory and less personal than Montaigne's. Even in England, Montaigne's influence, strengthened by Florio's translation, was at least equal to Bacon's.