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BACON, Francis.

The Letters and the Life of Francis Bacon

including all his Occasional Works, namely letters, speeches, tracts, state papers, memorials, devices, and all authentic writings not already printed among his philosophical, literary or professional works. Newly Collected and set forth in chronological order with a Commentary Biographical and Historical by James Spedding.

London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861 - 74 Stock Code: 139851
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"A model of complete and precise scholarship and editing"

First edition of this monumental editorial achievement, conducted over a period of some 30 years by Tennyson's lifelong friend, the literary editor and biographer James Spedding (1808-1881), referred to by the poet as "the wisest man I know" (cited in ODNB). This set presented in a choice binding by one of the leading London binderies of the day, Riviere & Son, a firm renowned for its "highly skilled work" (ODNB). "Spedding's labour of a lifetime became a model of complete and precise scholarship and editing. If he did not prove Bacon a model hero of the kind Victorians and the nineteenth century tended to worship, he revealed an intelligible Bacon out of careful documentation and critical realism. A new cultural model thus appeared not from the grandeur and dramatic wills the century sought in its heroic models but from unflagging industry (slowed down only about 1863 when Spedding had to take a long rest), familiarity with every possible source of information, and slow but sure-footed judgement based on the most careful balancing of evidence. A new kind of hero thus emerged, the ambiguous and mixed hero of the twentieth century, to which Spedding's scholarship and editing was a clear prelude" (ibid.).

Provenance: volume I with tipped-in autograph letter signed from Granville George Leveson-Gower, second earl Granville (1815-1891) to "My dear Milner", thanking him for his assistance with an unnamed project, which he has conducted "with so much cordiality and ability", and going on to say that "I trust you will come into Parliament at the earliest opportunity. I am certain that with your great qualifications for political life you are sure to command success" (4 pages, octavo, letterhead of 18 Carlton House Terrace, dated 13 August 1884). The recipient is almost certainly the 30-year old Alfred Milner (1854-1925), later Viscount Milner, who was indeed about to embark on a political career but was at this point private secretary to the Liberal grandee George Goschen, for whom he had also worked as "an occasional research assistant" (ODNB).

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7 volumes, octavo (214 x 129 mm). Contemporary tree calf by Riviere & Son, richly gilt spines, red and olive-green morocco twin labels, gilt scrolling foliate border to sides, milled edge roll, prettily gilt turn-ins, Swirled Nonpareil pattern marbled edges and endpapers.


Engraved portrait frontispiece of Bacon to vol. I by C. H. Jeens after the miniature by Peter Oliver.


Fine engraved armorial bookplate to each volume of Robert Crewe-Milnes, first Marquess of Crewe (1858-1945); vol. I with slight chip at head of spine, joints and extremities just a little rubbed, scattered foxing. A particularly handsome set.


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