What is an essay ?
No satisfactory and comprehensive definition of the term ‘ essay has yet been given. The Oxford English Dictionary explains it as ‘ a composition of moderate length on any particular subject, or branch of a subject; originally implying a want of finish, but now said of composition more or less elaborate in style, though limited in range. ‘ It is a piece of writing in which a writer presents related ideas on a topic of general interest. It is brief embodying the author’s reflections on a particular subject. In that sense, it is personal in tone and subjective in nature. Bacon’s essays are collections of reflections and generalizations, and extracts from previous authors, woven together, for the most part, into counsels for the successful conduct of life, and the management of men. They are famous for their aphoristic style. But modern essays tend to be more and more elaborate, systematic, and perfect in form. It tends to acquire greater and greater finish and polish. It should be attractive and charming. The ideal essays are personal. But Bacon’s essays are certainly less personal than those of Montaigne, Charles Lamb, and others. Yet they are colored by his individuality, by his likes and dislikes, by his views and opinions.
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