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James Spedding

James Spedding (June 28, 1808 - March 9, 1881), English author, editor of the works of Bacon, was born in Cumberland, the younger son of a country squire.

He was educated at Bury St Edmunds and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a second class in the classical tripos, and was junior optime in mathematics in 1831. In 1835 he entered the colonial office, but he resigned this post in 1841. In 1842 he was secretary to Lord Ashburton on his American mission, and in 1855 he became secretary to the Civil Service Commission; but from 1841 onwards he was constantly occupied in his researches into Bacon's life and philosophy. On March 1 1881 he was knocked down by a cab in London, and on the 9th he died of erysipelas.

His great edition of Bacon was begun in 1847 in collaboration with RE Ellis and DD Heath. In 1853 Ellis had to leave the work to Spedding, with the occasional assistance of Heath, who edited most of the legal writings. The Works were published in 1857-1859 in seven volumes, followed by the Life and Letters (1861-1874). Taken together these works contain practically all the material which exists in connexion with the subject, collected and weighed with the utmost care and impartiality.

Spedding humorously emphasized his devotion to Bacon in the title of one of his non-Baconian works, Reviews and Discussions, Literary, Political and Historical, not relating to Bacon (1879); and his literary remains outside that one field are no longer of interest. But as a Baconian scholar he is not likely soon to be superseded.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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