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April 2, 2007 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Lord Francis Bacon, the Viscount Saint Alban, 1561-1626

Francis Bacon was a man of many meats. No, not the painter Francis Bacon – though he did paint some rather sexy carcass portraits. I mean the late-Renaissance philosopher and discraced judge, Lord Francis Bacon. For, though this hard-headed empiricist may not have invented bacon (as Wikipedia so scurrilously claims), the man doth share his name with the meat; and since the meat be most scrumptious, the man fucking ruleth. Yet meat it was that brought about his death.

Francis Bacon was the child of a Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and Ann Cooke Bacon. Which was, of course, rather handy – since, when her son wished to tell her to prepare his favourite snack, all he had to do was call out her name. But, I digress. Young Francis received instruction at Trinity College, Cambridge. Here, he became a disciple of Aristotle’s method of observation, at a time when Platonic speculation was all the rage. Francis endeared himself to both Queen Liz and her successor, naughty James; yet his friend John Aubrey called him a pederast, and a fellow MP would accuse him of “the most horrible and secret sinne of sodomie”, based upon his penchant for young welshmen. Although he became a successful judge, this career was to end in disgrace in 1621, when he was convicted on twenty-three counts of accepting bribes. He admitted taking the money, though he claimed it never swayed his judgement – he simply convicted the crims after fattening his pockets with their cash.

But the Viscount Saint Alban was most famous for his philosophy. Stating that “Knowledge is power”, Bacon sought to take a hammer to the idols of ignorance; to construct ideas based upon experience, rather than judging one’s experience according to preconceived notions. He designed the magical land of Bensalem along empirical lines, a land where all and sundry would be taught to know and thus conquer nature. Men would sail the oceans to collect and draw the entirety of existence; they would then hold divers meetings in which axioms were formed and the minds of men made strong. This world-view also led Lord Bacon to one rather intriguing bout of culinary experimentation which, alas, also brought about his death.

In the early spring of 1626, the Viscount made a journey through London snow. Wherupon an idea struck him – might it not be possible to preserve meat in the snowy cold? Plucking up handfuls of snow, Bacon marched into the house of a poor woman, from whom he received an item of poultry with which to conduct his researches. While we latter-day folk know this invention as the refrigerator, Bacon’s endeavours failed miserably. Firstly, he contracted pneumonia from all that trudging about in the name of science; then, in an attempt to cure his illness, he consumed the item of snow-stuffed poultry and collapsed (after three days in damp linen) of suffocation. Bacon – a man of science who died of science, and a man of meat who died of meat. Snow happens.


About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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