Francis Bacon

The History of a Character Assassination

by

Nieves Mathews

( Daughter of the Spanish statesman and historian, Savador de Madariaga, Nieves Mathews has devoted more than a decade to research on the life and reputation of Francis Bacon)
1996
Yale University Press
New Haven and London

 

"The Slander of a dead man is a living fault".&emdash;Edward Coke, in Wraynham's Case or A Vindication of the Lord Chancellor Bacon,1618


(From the Book Jacket)

Beyond his own country Francis Bacon is remembered as a great man, founder of modern science and philosophy, a just judge and a teacher of kings. In England and America, however, he is seen more as a cruel, corrupt and power-hungry politician. Which appraisal is correct? In this fascinating re-evaluation of one of Britain's most significant figures, Nieves Mathews examines the charges against Bacon and reveals how distorted facts can be recast as historical truths.
In 1621 Bacon fell from power as Lord Chancellor, the highest position in the land. Charged with accepting bribes, he was convicted, fined, imprisoned and exiled from the Court. He died five years later, disgraced and deeply in debt. In this illuminating study of the Jacobean administration
&emdash;a system which depended on corruption at every level&emdash;Nieves Mathews shows Bacon to have been among the least tainted of the King's officials, the scapegoat in a political conspiracy aimed at dislodging the royal favourite.

The destruction of Bacon's reputation followed Thomas Babington Macaulay's eloquent "Essay on Bacon", published in 1837. Macaulay's depiction of a cloven-hearted genius, at once the greatest and meanest of mankind, launched a tireless search among Bacon's biographers for evidence of malice and corruption. Now, with the benefit of recent scholarship, Nieves Mathews portrays a man both single-minded and fallible, with qualities and flaws. Her penetrating reappraisal rescues Bacon from a long tradition of abuse and misrepresentation.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Dedication and Acknowledgements

ix

Significant Dates in Bacon's Life

x

Principal Writings of Bacon's Referred to Here

xii

INTRODUCTION

1

1."The Peremptory Tides of Reputation

3

2. "That Angel from Paradise"

7

3. The "Horrible Old Rascal"

16

PART 1
THE FAITHLESS FOLLOWER

25

4. Who Abandoned his Patron

27

5. And Betrayed Him

44

6. Essex, Hero and Martyr

60

7. The Servant and the Dreamer

73

PART II

 THE CORRUPT CHANCELLOR

89

8. The Fall of Bacon : A Tragedy in Three Acts

91

9. Principal Members of the Cast

99

10. The Grievance of Monopolies and the Tumour of Chancery : A Double Scenario

110

11. Prologue : Two Attacks are Mounted and Silently Dropped

127

12. Act I : Bacon is Accused of Corruption in the Commons

139

13. Act II.: The Lords Join in the Hunt

150

14. Act III. Surrender and Sentence

160

15. Epilogue : Evaluation of the Trial

173

16. The Contemporary View of Bacon's Fall

180

17. The Black-Cloth : Abuses of the Times

193

18. Bacon's Essential Justice

206

19. The Aftermath

217

PART III
THE SERVILLE SELF-SEEKER

227

20. Thirsting for Power

229

21. Using his Ideas as Counters in the Power Game

238

22. Hunting for Popularity

256

23. Cravely Suing for Power and Complacently Savouring its Fruits

266

PART IV
THE COLD FISH

281

24. "With Not a Trace of Pity for Any Human Being"

283

25. The Lukewarm Hater

295

26. "Without Steady Attachments

304

PART V 
VICISSITUDES OF BACON'S
 LEGEND

321

27. The 'Meanest of Mankind'

323

28. The Two-Souled Monster

337

29. The 'Creeping Snake'

353

30. The Venomous Atheist, the Traitor and the Coward

369

31. 'England's One Scoundrel'

384

32. The 'False Persona'

394

33. The Sterile Philosopher

406

CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE 

LEGEND-SPINNERS

427

34. The Secret of their Success

429

Appendix

445

Abbreviations

449

Notes

451

Bibliography

561

Index

582

SEE MORE ON THIS BOOK