If Montaigne is the father of the modern form, then Bacon is his English cousin. Bacon is now better remembered for his championing of science, for his vision of the University, as a philosopher and statesman, than as a writer who helped to redefine the way prose might be made art in English. There was a time when Bacon's essays were made a model not so much for his ideas as for their expression. It can be hard now to imagine a schoolboy being made to read the like of this, but it did happen, even in the United States. The benefit of his example can be seen from Jefferson through Emerson and after.
I like him as much for the man he was, with all his warty weaknesses, as for what he wrote. I'm convinced, based if on nothing else but his essays, his company must have been a wonderful thing.
Why Sir Francis Bacon? He made English the equal of any language before or since, bless 'im.