BACON—THE HAPPY ISLAND
 ATLANTIS was a fabled island of the Greeks which lay somewhere in
the Western Sea. That island, it was pretended, sank beneath the
waves and was lost, and Bacon makes believe that he finds another
island something like it in the Pacific Ocean and calls it the
New Atlantis. Here, as in More's Utopia, the people living under
just and wise laws, are happy and good. Perhaps some day you
will be interested enough to read these two books together and
compare them. Then one great difference will strike you at once.
In the Utopia all is dull and gray, only children are pleased
with jewels, only prisoners are loaded with golden chains. In
the New Atlantis jewels and gold gleam and flash, the love of
splendor and color shows itself almost in every page.
Bacon wastes no time in explanation but launches right into the
middle of his story. "We sailed from Peru," he says, "(where we
had continued by the space of one whole year) for China and
Japan, by the South Sea, taking with us victuals for twelve
months." And through all the story we are not told who the "we"
were or what their names or business. There were, we learn,
fifty-one persons in all on board the ship. After some month's
good sailing they met with storms of wind. They were driven
about now here, now there. Their food began to fail, and finding
themselves in the midst of the greatest wilderness of
 waters in
the world, they gave themselves us as lost. But presently one
evening they saw upon one hand what seemed like darker clouds,
but which in the end proved to be land.
"And after an hour and a half's sailing, we entered into a good
haven, being the port of a fair city, not great indeed, but well
built, and that gave a pleasant view from the sea.
"And we, thinking every minute long till we were on land, came
close to the shore, and offered to land. But straightways we saw
divers of the people, with bastons in their hands, as it were
forbidding us to land; yet without any cries or fierceness, but
only as warning us off by signs that they made. Whereupon being
not a little discomforted, we were advising with ourselves what
we should do. During which time there made forth to us a small
boat, with about eight persons in it; whereof one of them had in
his hand a tipstaff of a yellow cane, tipped at both ends with
blue, who came aboard our ship, without any show of distrust at
all. And when he saw one of our number present himself somewhat
before the rest, he drew forth a little scroll of parchment
(somewhat yellower than our parchment, and shining like the
leaves of writing-tables, but otherwise soft and flexible), and
delivered it to our foremost man. In which scroll were written
in ancient Hebrew, and in ancient Greek, and in good Latin of the
School, and in Spanish, these words: 'Land ye not, none of you.
And provide to be gone from this coast within sixteen days,
except ye have further time given you. Meanwhile, if ye want
fresh water, or victual, or help for your sick, or that your ship
needeth repair, write down your wants, and ye shall have that
which belongeth to mercy.'
"This scroll was signed with a stamp of Cherubim's
 wings, not spread but hanging downwards, and by them a cross.
"This being delivered, the officer returned, and left only a
servant with us to receive our answer. Consulting thereupon
among ourselves, we were much perplexed. The denial of landing
and hasty warning us away troubled us much. On the other side,
to find that the people had languages and were so full of
humanity, did comfort us not a little. And above all, the sign
of the cross to that instrument was to us a great rejoicing, and
as it were a certain presage of good.
"Our answer was in the Spanish tongue: 'That for our ship, it
was well; for we had rather met with calms and contrary winds
than any tempests. For our sick, they were many, and in very ill
case, so that if they were not permitted to land, they ran danger
of their lives.'
"Our other wants we set down in particular; adding, 'that we had
some little store of merchandise, which if it pleased them to
deal for, it might supply our wants without being chargeable unto
"We offered some reward in pistolets unto the servant, and a
piece of crimson velvet to be presented to the officer. But the
servant took them not, nor would scarce look upon them; and so
left us, and went back in another little boat which was sent for
About three hours after the answer had been sent, the ship was
visited by another great man from the island. "He had on him a
gown with wide sleeves, of a kind of water chamelot of an
excellent azure colour, far more glossy than ours. His under
apparel was green, and so was his hat, being in the form of a
turban, daintily made, and not so huge as the Turkish turbans.
And the locks of his hair came down below the brims of it. A
reverend man was he to behold.
 "He came in a boat, gilt in some part of it, with four persons
more only in that boat, and was followed by another boat, wherein
were some twenty. When he was come within a flight shot of our
ship, signs were made to us that we should send forth some to
meet him upon the water; which we presently did in our shipboat,
sending the principal man amongst us save one, and four of our
number with him.
"When we were come within six yards of their boat they called to
us to stay, and not to approach further, which we did. And
thereupon the man whom I before described stood up, and with a
loud voice in Spanish, asked 'Are ye Christians?'
"We answered, 'We were'; fearing the less, because of the cross
we had seen in the subscription.
"At which answer the said person lifted up his right hand towards
heaven, and drew it softly to his mouth (which is the gesture
they use when they thank God) and then said: 'If ye will swear
(all of you) by the merits of the Saviour that ye are not
pirates, nor have shed blood lawfully or unlawfully within forty
days past, you may have licence to come on land.'
"We said, 'We were all ready to take that oath.'
"Whereupon one of those that were with him, being (as it seemed)
a notary, made an entry of this act. Which done, another of the
attendants of the great person, which was with him in the same
boat, after his lord had spoken a little to him, said aloud: 'My
lord would have you know, that it is not of pride or greatness
that he cometh out aboard your ship; but for that in your answer
you declare that you have many sick amongst you, he was warned by
the Conservator of Health of the city that he should keep a
"We bowed ourselves towards him, and answered, 'We were his
humble servants; and accounted
 for great honour and singular
humanity towards us that which was already done; but hoped well
that the nature of the sickness of our men was not infectious.'
"So he returned; and a while after came the notary to us aboard
our ship, holding in his hand a fruit of that country, like an
orange, but of colour between orange-tawny and scarlet, which
cast a most excellent odour. He used it (as it seemeth) for a
preservative against infection.
"He gave us our oath; 'By the name of Jesus and of his merits,'
and after told us that the next day by six of the clock in the
morning we should be sent to, and brought to the Strangers' House
(so he called it), where we should be accommodated of things both
for our whole and for our sick.
"So he left us. And when we offered him some pistolets he
smiling said, 'He must not be twice paid for one labour,'
meaning, as I take it, that he had salary sufficient of the State
for his service. For (as I after leaned) they call an officer
that taketh rewards, twice paid."
So next morning the people landed from the ship, and Bacon goes
on to tell us of the wonderful things they saw and learned in the
island. The most wonderful thing was a place called Solomon's
House. In describing it Bacon was describing such a house as he
hoped one day to see in England. It was a great establishment in
which everything that might be of use to mankind was studied and
taught. And Bacon speaks of many things which were only guessed
at in his time. He speaks of high towers wherein people watched
"winds, rain, snow, hail and some of the fiery meteors also."
To-day we have observatories. He speaks of "help for the sight
far above spectacles and glasses," also "glasses and means to see
small and minute bodies perfectly and distinctly, as the shapes
and colours of small flies and worms, grains and
 flaws in gems,
which cannot otherwise be seen." To-day we have the microscope.
He says "we have also means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes,
in strange lines and distances," yet in those days no one had
dreamed of a telephone. "We imitate also flights of birds; we
have some degrees of flying in the air. We have ships and boats
for going under water," yet in those days stories of flying-ships
or torpedoes would have been treated as fairy tales.
Bacon did not finish The New Atlantis. "The rest was not
perfected" are the last words in the book and it was not
published until after his death. These words might almost have
been written of Bacon himself. A great writer, a great man,—but
"The rest was not perfected." He put his trust in princes and he
fell. Yet into the land of knowledge—
"Bacon, like Moses, led us forth at last;
The barren wilderness he passed,
Did on the very border stand
Of the blest promised land,
And from the mountain's top of his exalted wit
Saw it himself and shew'd us it.
But life did never to one man allow
Time to discover worlds and conquer too;
Nor can so short a line sufficient be,
To fathom the vast depths of nature's sea.
The work he did we ought t'admire,
And were unjust if we should more require
From his few years, divided twixt th' excess
Of low affliction and high happiness.
For who on things remote can fix his sight
That's always in a triumph or a fight."
You will like to know, that less than forty years after Bacon's
death a society called The Royal Society was founded. This is a
Society which interests itself in scientific study and research,
and is the oldest of its kind
 in Great Britain. It was Bacon's
fancy of Solomon's House which led men to found this Society.
Bacon was the great man whose "true imagination"
set it on foot,
and although many years have passed since then, the Royal Society
still keeps its place in the forefront of Science.
BOOKS TO READ
The New Atlantis, edited by G. D. W. Bevan, modern spelling (for
The New Atlantis, edited by G. C. Moore Smith, in old
spelling (for schools).