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a learned English monk of the Franciscan order, who flourished

, a learned English monk of the Franciscan order, who flourished in the thirteenth century, was born near Ilchester in Somersetshire, in 1214, and was descended of a very ancient and honourable family. He received the first tincture of letters at Oxford, where having gone through grammar and logic, the dawnings of his genius gained him the favour and patronage of the greatest lovers of learning, and such as were equally distinguished by their high rank, and the excellence of their knowledge. It is not very clear, says the Biographia Britannica, whether he was of Merton college, or of Brazen-nose hall, and perhaps he studied at neither, but spent his time at the public schools. The latter is indeed more probable than that he studied at Merton college, which did not then exist. It appears, however, that he went early over to Paris, where he made still greater progress in all parts of learning, and was looked upon as the glory of that university, and an honour to his country. In those days such as desired to distinguish themselves by an early and effectual application to their studies, resorted to Paris, where not only many of the greatest men in Europe resided and taught, but many of the English nation, by whom Bacon was encouraged and caressed. At Paris he did not confine his studies to any particular branch of literature, but endeavoured to comprehend the sciences in general, fully and perfectly, by a right method and constant application. When he had attained the degree of doctor, he returned again, to his own country, and, as some say, took the habit of the Franciscan order in 1240, when he was about twenty-six years of age but others assert that he became a monk before he left France. After his return to Oxford, he was considered, by the greatest men of that university, as one of the ablest and most indefati^ gable inquirers after knowledge that the world had ever produced and therefore they not only shewed him all due respect, but likewise conceiving the greatest hopes from his improvements in the method of study, they generously contributed to his expences, so that he was enabled to lay out, within the compass of twenty years, no less than two thousand pounds in collecting curious authors, making trials of various kinds, and in the construction of different instruments, for the improvement of useful knowledge. But if this assiduous application to his studies, and the stupendous progress he made in them, raised his credit with the better part of mankind, it excited the envy of some, and afforded plausible pretences for the malicious designs of others. It is very easy to conceive, that the experiments he made in all parts of natural philosophy and the mathematics, must have made a great noise in an ignorant age, when scarcely two or three men in a whole nation were tolerably acquainted with those studies, and when all the pretenders to knowledge affected to cover their own ignorance, by throwing the most scandalous aspersions on those branches of science, which they either wanted genius to understand, or which demanded greater application to acquire, than they were willing to bestow. They gave out, therefore, that mathematical studies were in some measure allied to those magical arts which the church had condemned,and thereby brought suspicions upon men of superior learning. It was owing to this suspicion that Bacon was restrained from reading lectures to the young students in the university, and at length closely confined and almost starved, the monks being afraid lest his writings should extend beyond the limits of his convent, and be seen by any besides themselves and the pope. But there is great reason to believe, that though his application to the occult; sciences was their pretence, the true cause of his ill-usage was, the freedom with which he had treated the clergy in, his writings, in which he spared neither their ignorance nor their want of morals. But notwithstanding this harsh feature in the character of the times, his reputation continued to spread over the whole Christian world, and even pope Clement IV. wrote him a letter, desiring that he would send him all his works. This was in 1266, when our author was in the flower of his 4 age, and to gratify his holiness, collected together, greatly enlarged and ranged in some order, the several pieces he had written before that time, and sent them the next year by his favourite disciple John of London, or rather of Paris, to the pope. This collection, which is the same that himself entitled Opus Majus, or his great work, is yet extant, and was published by Dr. Jebb, in 1773. Dr. Jebb had proposed to have published all his works about three years before his edition of the Opus Majus, but while he was engaged in that design, he was informed by letters from his brother at Dublin, that there was a“manuscript in the college library there, which contained a great many treatises generally ascribed to Bacon, and disposed in such order, that they seemed to form one complete work, but the title was wanting, which l,iad been carelessly torn off from the rest of the manuscript. The doctor soon found that it was a collection of those tracts which Bacon had written for the use of pope Clement IV. and to which he had given the title of Opus Majus, since it appeared, that what he said of that work in his Opus Tertium, addressed to the same pope, exactly suited with this; which contained an account of almost all the new discoveries and improvements that he had made in the sciences,. Upon this account Dr. Jebb laid aside his former design, and resolved to publish only an edition of this Opus Majus. The manuscripts which he made use of to complete this edition, are, 1. ms. in the Cotton library, inscribed^” Jul. D. V.“which contains the first part of the Opus Majus, under the title of a treatise” Jl)e utijitate Scientiarnii). “2. Another ms. in the same library, marked” Tib. C. V." containing the fourth part of the Opus Majus, in which is shewn the use of the mathematics in the sciences and affairs of the world in the ms. it is erroneously called the fifth part. 3. A ms. in the library belonging to Corpus Christi in Cambridge, containing that portion of the fourth part which treats of geography. 4. A ms. of the fifth part, containing a treatise upon perspective, in the earl of Oxford’s library. 5. A ms. in the library of Magdalen college, Cambridge, comprehending the same treatise of perspective. 6. Two Mss. in the king’s library, communicated to the editor by Dr. Richard Bentley, one of which contains the fourth part of Opus Majus, and the other the fifth part. It is said that this learned book of his procured him the favour of Clement IV. and also some encouragement in the prosecution of his studies but this could not have lasted long, as that pope died soon after, and then we find our author under fresh embarrassments from the same causes as before; but he became in more danger, as the general of his order, Jerom de Ascoli, having heard his cause, ordered him to be imprisoned. This is said to have happened in 1278, and to prevent his appealing to pope Nicholas III. the general procured a confirmation of his sentence from Rome immediately, but it is not very easy to say upon what pretences. Yet we are told by others, that he was imprisoned by Reymundus Galfredus, who was general of his order, on account of some alchemistical treatise which he had written, and that Galfredus afterwards set him at liberty, and became his scholar. However obscure these circumstances may be, it is certain that his sufferings for many years must have brought him low, since he was sixty-four years of age when he was first put in prison, and deprived of the opportunity of prosecuting his studies, at least in the way of experiment. That he was still indulged in the use of his books, appears very clearly from the great use he made of them in the learned works he composed.