Of Studies – Summary
Francis Bacon’s classic essay “Of Studies” explains how and why study—knowledge—is important. In this essay, he discusses some of the benefits of studying and offers some sound ideas on the subject.
Bacon is regarded as the “Father of the English Essay”. Bacon envisioned the essay as an opportunity to offer advice. The title of his essay collection: “Essays or Counsels: Civil and Moral,” suggests that didactic intent.
In “Of Studies,” Bacon explains the practical value of knowledge. Bacon considers how studies might be put to use. He is more interested in their practical utility than in their theoretical promise, a proclivity that is perhaps more English than French. In “Of Studies,” Bacon’s writing is direct and pointed. It avoids Montaigne’s essays’ meandering, find-your-own-way free form. Bacon gets right to the point in his first sentence: “Studies serve for delight, ornament, and ability.” He then goes on to explain how studies can help in these three ways. And he doesn’t mince words when describing the use of “studies” for a Renaissance gentleman.
One of the essay’s main draws is Bacon’s skillful use of parallel sentence structure, which is evident in the opening sentence and throughout “Of Studies.” This stylistic technique adds clarity and order to the writing, as in “crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them,” which demonstrates confidence and elegance in addition to clarity and emphasis through its straightforward assertiveness.
Studies are a source of pleasure. They have ornamental value and also improve one’s ability.
A man who lives a life of aloofness and retirement is best suited to enjoy the pleasures of study. Study has a ornamental value in that it enables a man to become a good talker. A student who devotes too much time to his studies becomes temporarily sluggish. Whoever tries to make a show of his knowledge by reading excessively for conversational purposes is wasting his time. It reveals a man’s eccentricity if his judgement is entirely based on rules he has learned from books.
Studies allow you to easily develop your skills and abilities. Studies provide guidance on their own, but this is abstract without practical experience. The studies are disliked by cunning men, but they are admired by simple men. Men who are fundamentally wise use studies to advance in life.
One should not read books solely to contradict others. Everything written in a book should not be followed in real life. One should think about what he reads and how he applies it.
Some books should only be read in sections. Some of them can be read quickly and hurriedly. Only a few books are worth paying attention to and studying in depth. In the case of some books, a man may hire someone else to read them for him and then tell him what they contain as well as give him excerpts. However, this method should only be used with the simplest of books. A simple summary or synopsis of a good book is insufficient for any man.
Reading helps a man develop his entire personality. A man’s wit is developed through conversation. The reader is affected differently by different types of books. History makes a man a wise man. Poetry develops a man’s imagination, while mathematics develops his subtlety, Natural science enables a man to look, deep into the things, Logic and art of public speaking develop a person’s communicative skills.
Effective and useful reading fosters the development of a variety of skills. If a man’s mind wonders too much, he should be made to study Mathematics to develop concentration; if a man is unable to make distinctions between things, he should study Middle Ages literature.
Studies are a treatment for mental illness. Mathematics is good for wondering wits in the same way that bowling is good for kidneys, shooting is good for lungs, walking is good for digestion, and riding is good for the head. Every mental defect in a man can be cured through studies
This essay discusses various types of books and their effects on the reader. Bacon divides the uses of studies into three categories: the use of studies for delight, the use of studies for ornament, and the use of studies for ability. Bacon also provides some excellent advice on why and how to read. He claims that different studies have different effects on the human mind.
Various kinds of studies can help to correct a variety of mental flaws. The importance of experience in supplementing and perfecting studies is duly emphasised in the essay. Bacon would not be satisfied with more bookish knowledge. The wisdom gained through experience is just as important as the wisdom gained through reading books.
But ideas aren’t the only thing that matters in this essay. Bacon demonstrates his talent for expressing his ideas with the least amount of words possible. The essay is a masterwork of concision and brevity. His sentences have a proverbial feel to them.
Bacon’s essays abound in very appropriate and original similes. We have one such simile here when Bacon says that “distilled books are, like common distilled waters, flashy things”.
It is, without a doubt, one of the best English prose essays ever written. It provides us with a number of sound maxims and sentences that we can quote when the situation calls for it. Some of the sentences do, in fact, stick in our heads without any conscious effort on our part. Bacon’s essay is one of his most well-known works.
Questions and Answers
You must have understood Bacon’s ideas about studies. You must have understood the uses and disadvantages of study. You have also come to know about rules and modes of study.
Exercise – 1
Now answer the following questions by choosing the correct answer from the three alternatives given below each question.
1. Bacon’s essay entitled Of Studies is a passage to be:
(i) chewed and digested
(ii) read with main points
(iii) studied thoroughly
Answer: i) chewed and digested
2. One who makes too much use of his readings for conversational purposes makes:
(i) things haphazard
(ii) vain display of his learnings
(iii) proper use of books
Answer: (ii) vain display of his learning
3. One should take extracts from :
(i) books of high value
(ii) meaner sort of books
(iii) remedial books
Answer: (ii) meaner sort of books
4. Books worth a closer and thorough reading :
(i) are smaller in number
(ii) are written by famous writers
(iii) are text books
Answer: (i) are smaller in number
5. Logic and rhetoric develops :
(i) man’s debating powers
(ii) man’s thinking power
(iii) man’s power to interact
Answer: (i) man’s debating powers
Exercise – 2
Now try to answer the following questions in sentences of your own :
1. What type of books are to be chewed and digested?
Answer: The books which have knowledgeable contents should be read thoroughly and understood properly.
2. What do you think is the proper use of study?
Answer: We study for personal enjoyment and for cultivation of social charm through the cultivation of the power of exposition in speech and to develop ability for judgment of facts and circumstances.
3. What is the use of the study of natural philosophy?
Answer: It enables the reader to understand things in a better way and reach to the depth of subject matter.
4. How can a man acquire ability to perfection?
Answer: It can be acquired when knowledge gained from books is supplemented with practical experience.
5. For what we should not read books?
Answer: One should not read books to contradict others.
Now try to answer the following questions :
1. How did Bacon classify the books?
Answer: Bacon classified books under three major categories. Some books are for personal enjoyment, others are to be read to develop conversational qualities and some others are to develop power of judgment.
2. What are special qualities of this essay?
Answer: Some of these qualities are maximum economy of words, straight forward presentation, brevity, terseness and use of sentences as proverbs.
3. Comment on the theme of this essay.
Answer: Bacon tries to discover fundamental principles of conduct influence and actions of men.
4. Discuss the peculiarity of structure of this essay.
Answer: Each sentence is carefully selected and strung together. The essay shows brevity and compactness.
5. Discuss the main qualities of Bacon’s style.
Answer: The essay of Bacon is compressed, full of condensed thought and utterly devoid of ornamentation. The sentences in the paragraph run smooth.