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      Francis Bacon,
And The 1753 Leland Manuscript

by Mather Walker (March 2010)

The idea has been brandied about that the first person to propose Francis Bacon as author of the Shakespeare Plays was Delia Bacon in her 1857 book, The Philosophy of the Plays Unfolded.   However, the old lady actually seems to have been more partial to Sir Walter Raleigh than Francis Bacon as author of the plays.  And, in any case, there are a number of earlier candidates for the honor.  Some have thought the anonymous author of The Learned Pig came first in 1786, but the Reverend James Wilmot preceded the author of The Learned Pig in 1785; and the author of the Leland Manuscript Article, who preceded Wilmot in 1753, not only (in his veiled fashion) gave Bacon the authorship of the Shakespeare Plays, but awarded him the palm for founding the Freemason and Rosicrucian fraternities as well; and John Marston preceded that author in 1598; and Joseph Hall preceded John Marston in 1597.  So Delia Bacon, even if she had proposed Bacon as the author of the Shakespeare Plays, would have been some 260 years late.

Of these people, the most interesting is the author of the Leland Manuscript Article.  This individual, whoever he was, knew more than he told, and told more than anyone else knew.  The ancients fashioned their writings with a sense and an under sense, the former for the casual readers and the latter for more discerning readers who were able to pierce the veil.  Francis Bacon, who said he was going in the same road as the ancients, followed their precedent, and so did the author of The Leland Manuscript Article.  Here is the story. 

In September of 1753 an article was published in The Gentleman’s Magazine, a London monthly digest of news and commentary. The article, although very short,  managed to pack a great deal of information in its ten or so pages. It began with the following note:

The following Treatise is said to be printed at Franckfort, Germany, 1748, under the following Title, Ein Brief Vondem Beruchmten Herr Johann Locke, betreffend die Frey-Maureren.  So auf einem Schrieb-Tisch enines verstorbnen Bruders ist gefunden worden.  That is, A Letter of the famous Mr. John Locke relating to Freemasonry; found in the Desk or Scritoir of a deceased Brother. 

The note was followed by a letter signed “John Locke”, supposedly the celebrated author of the Essay on the human Understanding who had died some 49 years previously.  The letter was addressed to the Earl of Pembroke.  The Leland Manuscript followed the letter, and began with the following words:

            Certayne questions and Answeres to the same, concerning the
            Mystery of Maconrye; writtene by the hande of kynge Henrye,
            The sixthe of the name, and faithfullye copyed by me Johan
            Leylande, Antiquarius, by the commands of his Highnesse.
            [John Leyland was appointed by Henry VIII, at the dissolution
            of monasterties, to search for, and save any books and records
            that were valuable, thus the ‘Highnesse’ referred to at the end
            of the preface was King Henry VIII].    

The Leland Manuscript consisted of 12 questions and 12 answers in archaic English on Freemasonry, interspersed with a number of notes by “Locke”.  In his introductory letter “Locke” said that with the help of a Mr. C------ns he had obtained a copy of the manuscript from the Bodleian Library, and was sending it to the Earl along with some notes he had made the day before for the reading of Lady Masham, who had became very fond of Masonry.  “Locke” said the document had so raised his curiosity as to induce him to enter into the fraternity which he was determined to do the next time he went to London, and that would be shortly.

Freemasonry was a secret society before the June 24, 1717 assembly and feast of the Free and Accepted Masons was held at the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St. Paul's Churchyard where four London lodges combined to form one lodge, and went public. From this meeting the Grand Lodge of England emerged as a public organization. Secret lodges existed all over England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and the decision to go public was by no means unopposed. The London lodges had violated their sacred oaths by revealing themselves, and the newly formed Grand Lodge made no attempt to justify its actions. Moreover it added insult to injury by making a formal request to all Masonic lodges in England to turn over to the Grand Lodge any ancient records or other documents relating to Freemasonry so they could be considered in drafting a constitution for the Grand Lodge.  The reaction of many lodges was to burn, or hide, all of these documents.  However, some have survived. They are called "Old Charges", or "Old Constitutions", and consist of oral traditions recorded by the often naïve and poorly educated clerks of various lodges regarding the origins and history of Freemasonry, and contain much fabulous matter.

The Leland Manuscript was similar in its content to the “Old Charges”, and was right at home in this company.  For more than a century it was viewed with approval by noted Masonic authorities.  But as time passed doubts mounted, and eventually considerable information was developed that cast a questionable light on the manuscript. (1) A diligent search in Frankfort, Germany failed to disclose any record of its publication there. (2) A diligent search in the Bodleian Library failed to disclose any record that the manuscript had ever existed there. (3) A diligent examination of the papers and manuscripts Locke left behind him at his death failed to disclose any trace or mention of the manuscript.  (4) In addition, if Locke had been made a Freemason in 1697 then Dr. Anderson writing the history of Masonry only a few years later would certainly have entered his illustrious name in the list of “learned scholars” connected to the Fraternity, but he did not.  In time almost everyone involved came to accept a general consensus (although there were a few hold outs) that the document was a clumsy forgery, one of those “pious frauds” created for the purpose of strengthening the claim of Freemasonry to a great antiquity and connecting it with the mystical schools of the ancients.

On the other hand, this leaves unanswered the question as to why; if the Leland Manuscript was a ‘clumsy forgery’, it fooled everyone for over a century.  Actually there was much more to the article, and to the Leland Manuscript, but this was beneath the surface, under the veil of allusion and innuendo.  Here the manuscript told an entirely different story.   Even those parts that seemed to have no ulterior meaning had their hidden meaning.  An example is the reference in the document to King Henry VIII and John Leland.  According to the manuscript King Henry VIII tasked John Leland, during the dissolution of the monasteries, with rescuing authors of value whose works would otherwise be lost.
The author of value whose work would have otherwise been lost was putatively King Henry VI, and his work was the Leland Manuscript, a treatise on the origins of Freemasonry.  This manuscript apparently attributed the origin of Freemasonry to Pythagoras, but details in the manuscript told an entirely different story, and actually gave the origin to Francis Bacon.

If the document was for the purpose of conveying some concealed meaning why bring in the reference to John Leland and a manuscript on Freemasonry claiming to have been written by King Henry VI?  The reason is this allusion conveys the basic idea of The Leland Manuscript, which is to rescue an author of value, whose work would otherwise be lost.  But instead of King Henry VI that author is Francis Bacon, who the Leland Manuscript indicates as the author of the Freemason Fraternity, the Rosicrucian Fraternity, and the Shakespeare plays.  The article alludes to three authors:  “Locke”, the author of the letter and the notes; King Henry VI, the author of the Leland Manuscript; and Leland, whose name is on the Leland Manuscript, although he did not write it.  Moreover, since the whole article was a forgery, behind it all was “X” - the actual author in all three cases.  This is an exact parallel to the case of Francis Bacon who is designated as the author in the three cases cited above, although the name of another individual, who did not write the work, is on the Shakespeare First Folio; and “X” uses the names of real people as masks to conceal his authorship just as Bacon did.

Question 7 of the Leland Manuscript asked, “How does it happen that Mason are better teachers than other men?”  Answer 7 says Masons were better teachers than other men because the first of them received from God the art of finding new arts, and of teaching them whereas the discoveries of other men have been few, and acquired only by chance.
In his notes “Locke” points out that Francis Bacon’s claimed the discovery of the art of finding new arts, and that this was the subject of his Novum Organum.  And there was another link to Bacon in this statement.  The Leland Manuscript said God gave the art to the first Freemason, and Bacon implied that God had given the art to him.  

In his Thoughts and Conclusions Bacon’s linked his Art of Finding New Arts with the Compass.  He said in olden days men merely skirted the shores of the old continents and had to await the discovery of a more reliable guide, the needle [i.e. the compass] before they crossed the ocean and opened up the regions of the New World.  Likewise, he said, before men can voyage to remote and hidden regions of nature, they must first be provided with some better use and management of the human mind.  This was his art of finding new arts, in connection with which, in his Valerius Terminus, Bacon said all knowledge is a plant of God, and ascribed to God the opening up of the world by navigation and commerce and the opening up of knowledge in the same age. 

In answer 7 the Leland Manuscript said Masons conceal the art of changes.  “Locke” suggests the ‘the art of changes, means the art of transmuting metals.  This also points to Bacon.  Bacon’s science worked by determining the “form” that distinguishes any one thing from any other thing.  Bacon said “forms”, like the letters of the alphabet, although very limited in number, make up all the variety of nature, just as the letters of the alphabet although limited in number make up all the variety of written language. Each particular in nature, he said, was composed of a number of these “forms”, and through knowledge of these differences one would gain the ability to transform substances into other substances. For example, Bacon said, if one wanted to transmute a substance into gold, one had only to note that gold is yellow, heavy, of a certain weight, malleable and ductile to a certain extent, and so on, comprising all the natures observable in gold, and anyone who had discovered the “forms” of these natures, and the method of super inducing these “forms” on any particular substance would have the ability to turn that substance into gold. Thus one aspect of Bacon’s science was the transmutation of metals.   
In question 4 the Leland Manuscript asked, “Howe comede ytt  yn Engelonde?”  [How came it [Masonry] in England?].  Answer 4 describes how, “Peter Gower a Grecian, journeyedde ffor kunnynge yn Egypte…[Journeyed for learning in Egypt]”. I will modernize the language from this point to avoid tautology.  The document goes on to describe how Masonry passed from to France into England.  In his notes “Locke” says he was puzzled at first to guess whom Peter Gower should be, but as soon as he thought of Pythagoras he could scarce forbear smiling to find that philosopher had undergone a metamorphosis he never dreamed of.  He said we need only consider the French pronunciation of the French Pythagore (i.e., Petagore) to perceive how easily an unlearned clerk could make such a mistake.  From the viewpoint of allusions there are two connections of Pythagoras with Freemasonry.  Pythagoras, in his journeys to Egypt and other ancient nations, collected all that was most valuable from ancient wisdom, and the author of the Freemason Fraternity did the same, instilling this into the rituals and degrees of Freemasonry.  In the second place, Pythagoras is famous for his discovery in geometry of the hidden relationship between the hypotenuse and the two adjoining side of a right triangle.  This combines allusion and geometry, which is at the very core of Freemasonry.      

(Albert Gallatin Mackey argued the Leland Manuscript was based on a French original, which the fabricator had translated into archaic English.  The proof, he said, were in the numerous preservations of French idioms:  there was Peter Gower derived from the French Pythagore for Pythagoras (pronounced Petagore); Maconrye and Maconnes for Masonry and Masons – the French “c” in the word being used instead of the English “s”; the phrase “wynnynge the Facultye of Abrac”, (a pure Gallic idiom) instead of acquiring the faculty, the word gayner being indifferently used in French as signifying to win or to acquire.  And the word Freres for Brethren.  What Mackey didn’t realize is that these French idioms were designed to underscore the reference to France in the document.)

The Leland Manuscript article indicates Francis Bacon was the first Mason, and thus the originator of Freemasonry.  It puts Freemasonry in France immediately before it came to England.  And, in fact, there is evidence Freemasonry was in France while Bacon was there during the period from 1576 through 1579; moreover, this evidence connects that Freemasonry to Francis Bacon.  In 1577 one of the many editions of Alciat’s Emblems was published.  The “dies meliora” or emblem 45 in this edition is particularly interesting.   There are two interwoven series of allusions in this emblem:


The first has to do with Francis Bacon, and the second with Freemasonry.  In the ruins to the right an “F” turned forward on its face can bee discerned, while at the bottom of these ruins there is a “B” lying on its back. Furthermore, the light and dark “A” at the center of the emblem also relates to Bacon since it is well known by Baconians that the Light and Dark “A” is a device Bacon used to mark his books.  A variant of this device was used in the First Folio, as well as in several of the quarto editions of the individual Shakespeare plays.  The pyramid of nature is also one of Bacon’s frequently used ideas, as is the Plus Ultra  (More Beyond) on the two pillars at the top left of the emblem. The allusions to Bacon in the emblem are also supported by a passage in his early work, "The Masculine Birth of Time", where a passage reads:

"A pig might print the letter A with its snout in the mud, but you would not on that account expect it to go on to compose a tragedy."

The SOW at the forefront of the emblem expresses Masonic symbolism.  In Freemasonic every master mason is a ‘SOW’ that is, a Son Of the Widow.  The dark and light side of the pyramid also has a Masonic symbolism. In the Masonic ritual every initiate expresses his desired to move from darkness to light.  Then also there are two pillars in the background of the emblem.  At the entrance of every Masonic lodge there were two pillars.

Question 8 asked: What do the masons conceal and hide?

And answer 8 said: They conceal the art of finding new artes.

This is particularly interesting because the Ceremony in the contemporary ritual of the induction into Freemasonry has the following exchange:
Worshipful Master: I hail.
Senior Warden: I conceal.
Worshipful Master: What do you conceal?
Senior Warden: All the secrets of Masons in Masonry…

The Masonic initiation ritual show definite remnants of a model of Francis Bacon ‘art of finding new artes’ and the Leland Manuscript Article indicates both that the author was aware of this and that the original ritual was as in answer 8 above, but was later changed.

It should also be pointed out that there exists irrefutable evidence that Bacon was a Master Mason.  One instance of this is the October 1616 letter from Edmund Bacon to Francis Bacon.  In this letter Edmund Bacon says:

“I am bound both by your favours to myself, as also by those to my nephew, whom you have brought out of darkness into light”

Any Mason would recognize this allusion. In the Masonic ritual of the initiation of the Entered Apprentice the following dialogue takes place:

Senior Deacon-Who comes here?
Steward-A poor blind candidate, who is desirous of being brought from darkness to light. 

Parts of the Leland Manuscript, while putatively describing the Freemasons, actually describe the Rosicrucian Fraternity.  It seems that the anonymous author did this in order to show that they were connected.  In her 1972 book, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, Frances Yates, following extensive researches, said the European phenomenon of Freemasonry almost certainly was connected with the Rosicrucian movement. Bacon’s last work, “The New Atlantis”, published posthumously leaves no doubt that the island to which the travelers came is the Land of the Rosicrucians.  Before the travelers land on the island they are handed a scroll of instructions by an official from New Atlantis. The scroll is signed with a stamp of cherubim's wings, not spread, but hanging downward, and by them a cross exactly as the Rosicrucian Fama was sealed at the end with the motto 'Under the shadow of Jehovah's wings".  A few days later when another official of New Atlantis comes to visit the travelers in the Strangers' House he wears a white turban 'with a small red cross on the top". And when the travelers were conducted to the Stranger's House where their sick were cared for and offered payment for these services, their payment was refused. The Fama lays down the rule that Brothers of the R.C. must heal the sick gratis.  Moreover, the work also speaks of the wise men of the society of Saloman’s House that the travelers found on the island.   Saloman is certainly intended to suggest Solomon, and Solomon’s House was the temple of Solomon the model for all Masonic lodges.  Thus this is an allusion in The New Atlantis connecting the Rosicrucians with the Freemasons. 
There are obvious Rosicrucian elements in the Leland Manuscript.   According to the note at the beginning of the article in The Gentleman’s Magazine the Leland Manuscript was first published in Frankfurt, Germany.  This was the city where some of the important publications connected with the Rosicrucian phenomena took place.  Michael Maier was one of the main writers who defended the Rosicrucians.  His Silentium post clamores and Themis aurea, two of the most important of these publications, were both published at Frankfurt in 1617 and 1618 respectively. A collections of opinions about various people regarding the Rosicrucians (The ‘Judgement of Some Celebrated Doctors about the position and religion of the Famous Fraternity of the Rosy Cross’) was published in Frankfurt in 1616.  Robert Fludd’s Summum bonum, or ‘the true magic cabala and alchemy of the true Fraternity of the Rose Cross; was published in Frankfurt in 1629. The imprint of Bacon’s thought can be seen on every page of the two Rosicrucian Manifestos.  In his Valerius Terminus Bacon says:

“This is a thing which I cannot tell whether I may so plainly speak as truly conceive, that as all knowledge appeareth to be a plant of God’s own planting, so it may seem the spreading and flourishing or at least the bearing and fructifying of this plant, by a providence of God, nay not only by a general providence but by a special prophecy, was appointed to this autumn of the world: for to my understanding it is not violent to the letter, and safe now after the event, so to interpret that place in the prophecy of Daniel where spreading of the latter time it is said, Many shall pass to and fro, and science shall be increased; as if the opening of the world by navigation and commerce and the further discovery of knowledge should meet in one time or age.”

He repeats this idea with various variation in a number of his works. The Rosicrucian Manifesto, the Fama Fraternitatis, opens with the following paragraph:

“Seeing the only wise and merciful God in these latter days hath poured out so richly his mecy and goodness to mankind, whereby we do attain more and more to the perfect knowledge of his Son Jesus Christ and Nature, that justly we may boast of the happy time, wherein there is not only discovered unto us the half part of the world, which was heretofore unknown and hidden, but he hath also made manifest unto us many wonderful, and never heretofore seen, works and creatures of Nature, and moreover hath raised men, imbued with great wisdom, who might partly renew and reduce all arts (in this our age spotted and imperfect) to perfection; so that finally man might thereby understand his own nobleness and worth, and why he is called Microcosmos, and how far his knowledge extendeth into Nature.”

The Leland Manuscript tells us the knowledge of the Masons is the knowledge of all nature.  This appears nowhere in the constitutions of the masons, but it certainly appears in the Rosicrucian Manifestos.  We are told that Masons have always in every age, from time to time, communicated to mankind such of the secrets of nature as in general may be useful; and kept back such as would be harmful if they came into evil hands.  This applies to the Rosicrucian Manifestos, but not to Masonry.  The Fama says of Christian Rosencreuz, “…although he could have bragged with his art, but specially of the transmutation of metals.  Nowhere in Masonry is there any reference to the Masons creating a universal language, but there is in the Leland Manuscript and in the Rosicrucian Manifestos. The Confessio Fraternitatis refers to the universal language made by the Rosicrucians, “From the which characters or letters we have borrowed our magic writing, and have found out, and made, a new language for ourselves, in the which withal is expressed and declared the nature of all things.”  Answer 8 of the Leland Manuscript [What doth the Masons conceal] states that they conceal the universal language of Masons.  Moreover the note at the beginning of the article in The Gentleman’s Magazine stating that the Leland Manuscript was first published in Frankfurt Germany contains an interesting allusion.  In 1667 Thomas Spratt’s History of the Royal Society was published in Frankfurt.  This was the book with the engraving showing Francis Bacon under the shadow of the wings of the angel that so obviously alludes to the phrase at the end of the Fama Fraternitatis – SUB UMBRA ALARUM DTUARUM JEHOVA.

The allusions in the Leland Manuscript Article connecting Francis Bacon with the First Folio operate through a series of sequential parallels to the First Folio.  The article in The Gentleman’s Magazine began with a note stating that the Leland Manuscript had been published in Frankfurt, although it was not, but was published later in London, England.   The first public announcement of the publication of the First Folio was in the 1622 book fair catalogue of Frankfurt, but the book was not published there, it was published later in London, England.

The Leland Manuscript was prefaced with a letter to the Earl of Pembroke.  The First Folio was prefaced with a letter to the Earls of Pembroke.  The subject of the Leland Manuscript letter was Freemasonry, and the veiled subject of the First Folio letter to the Earls of Pembroke was also Freemasonry.

The Tempest, and the First Folio as a whole are structured with matching pairs of twelve, and the Leland Manuscript is structured with a matching pair of twelve questions and twelve answers.  Symbolically questions are the darkness of ignorance and answers are the light of illumination, thus one set of twelve in The Tempest is the reign of the darkness of Sycorax (exponent of black magic) and her son Caliban (that thing of darkness) and the other set of twelve is the reign of light of Prospero (exponent of white magic), while one set of twelve in the First Folio as a whole (The Comedies) represent the Empyrean or realm of light above, and the other set (The Tragedies) represents the sublunary realm of darkness below.  
The allusions to Masonry in the Alciat emblem begin with a SOW.  The Tempest begins with an acrostic that spells out SOW.

This is followed by the reference to Francis Bacon in the “Locke” notes; and it is followered by the FB in the Alciat emblem, and by the F. Bacon acrostic in The Tempest. 

The Leland Manuscript next indicates Francis Bacon as founder of Freemasonry and The Tempest, following the ‘SOW’ and ‘F BACON’ acrostics has a detailed allegory of Freemasonry. 

The Leland Manuscript refers to the “art of finding new arts” invented by Francis Bacon, and The Tempest incorporates a model of the operation of the “art of finding new arts”.

The fact that The Tempest, has a very comprehensive allegory of Freemasonry and conceals a model of the operation of the art of finding new arts emphasizes the ritual catechism given in the Leland Manuscript Article:

Worshipful Master: What dothe the maconnes concele and hyde?
Senior Warden: Thay concelethe the arte of ffyndinge neue artes…  

This also indicates that at some time the ritual had the catechism as it is given in the Leland manuscript, and this was later changed.  This follows since in The Tempest the art of finding new arts consists of circuits around a compass dial, and the Masons still retain a ritual (perambulation) that consists of circuits around the lodge which are oriented to the main points of the compass.

Question 3 of the Leland Manuscript asks who brought Freemasonry to the West, and answers that it was brought by the Venetians.  “Locke”, in his notes, says this was a mistake of Monkish ignorance, and that the Venetians were mistaken for the Phoenicians.  This is another link to The Tempest.  In this play the travelers have begun their journey at what was (according to Gonzalo) the site of ancient Carthage, which was a major Phoenician colony.     
The obvious question is, if the anonymous author of the Leland Manuscript Article knew all this why didn’t he reveal it openly rather than concealing what he knew?  Perhaps the case of the Reverend James Wilmot has some bearing.  Around 1785 Wilmot became convinced that Francis Bacon, not the Stratford man, had authored the Shakespeare plays.  Wilmot did not publish or even write down his theory.  But he let a friend, James Cowell, a literary man from Ipswich in on the secret of Bacon’s authorship.  And his friend revealed the idea in a paper to the Ipswich Philosophical Society.  The Society was outraged, validating Wilmot’s reticence.  Having had proof that existing conditions did not provide a fertile ground in which to plant the seed of his theory, Wilmot, before his death in 1808, had all his notes and papers burnt.  The author of the Leland Manuscript Article obviously realized that he could not get his article accepted by The Gentleman’s Magazine if he openly maintained that Francis Bacon authored the Shakespeare Plays, and founded the Freemason and Rosicrucian Fraternity, or perhaps he had even originally submitted an unveiled version and had the submission rejected, and then rewrote it in the veiled fashion in which it was published.   In any case, far from being a ‘clumsy forgery’ the skill of the author of the Leland Manuscript Article was as extraordinary as was his knowledge.    






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