Deeper Into Jeopardy! XXII: Wise Guys – $2000

Jeopardy! category: WISE GUYS (02-07-2014)

$2000 clue: English statesman & philosopher Francis Bacon warned, “it is impossible” to do this “and to be wise”

Correct response

The gist: Science, law, philosophy, and theology are just some of the fields to which Sir Francis Bacon made world-changing contributions – the subject of this quote, however, is not one of them. A look at Bacon’s love life might offer a clue as to why he felt the need to express such ambivalence to the emotion in his brief essay appropriately titled “Of love” (it’s nice and short, by the way). In it, he argues that love leads people away from serious pursuits like “the contemplation of heaven, and all noble objects” – that is, astronomy, philosophy, and the like – and so should be avoided. He compares the temptation of love for men to that of wine, invoking Mark Antony and Othello as examples of good martial men ruined by love – after all, as regards love and wine, “perils commonly ask to be paid in pleasures.”

Bacon lived in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, roughly contemporary with people like Shakespeare, and he never had much luck in love. When he was 36 years old he began courting a 20-year-old widow, but she dumped him to marry his arch-rival Edward Coke. Nine years later he married a 14-year-old daughter of a wealthy Member of Parliament, for whom he wrote two sonnets – when Bacon’s money started drying up, she started an affair with a friend of his, which could be better or worse than a rival depending on your perspective. More, in his utopian book New Atlantis, he describes in glowing terms a rather sexless society, “the chastest under heaven,” without prostitution or cheating, and specifically without homosexuality (although that hasn’t stopped a number of historians of claiming proof of Bacon’s own homosexuality).

In any case, Bacon wasn’t opposed to all love. He concludes his essay by praising marital love (which “maketh mankind”) and platonic love (which “perfecteth it”), and damning “wanton love[, which] corrupteth and embaseth it.”

An engraving of Bacon’s wife Alice Barnham, whom he eventually wrote out of his will

The clue: “On love” is one of Bacon’s better-known short essays, but I’m not sure that’s really saying much in the grand scheme of things. Sure enough, this one stumped all three contestants, and me as well. I can think of many things that I’d probably guess would go in that quote before I ventured love – which, as far as Jeopardy! goes, is just a good reason not to guess, which none of the contestants did either.

In Jeopardy!: Cleary, “love” is not an easily searchable term in the J!Archive, so we’ll have to go with Bacon himself for this one (suffice it to say this is the only clue where he appears alongside “love.”) Bacon appears in 24 clues – three of them about the Irish-British modern artist, not the Renaissance man. Many of the clues pun on Francis’ tasty last name (but don’t get him confused with the earlier philosopher Roger Bacon, who also contributed to the development of the scientific method). Three mention the bunkum theory that Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Two mention his famous quote that “knowledge is power.” But really, Bacon had his fingers in so many different pots throughout his life that there’s very little consistency in clues about him – take a look at both his past clues and read up a little to get a better idea.

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