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A hint from Spedding?

Guest Ryan Murtha

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Guest Ryan Murtha

Just came across this in Spedding vol. 3, page 513 (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/006685889😞

“believing on the other hand as he certainly did, that the divine blessing was upon his enterprise, he accepted all delays and disappointments as nothing more than

the protractive trials of great Jove

To find persistive constancy in men."

This is quote from Troilus and Cressida, and suggests that Spedding quite possibly knew more than he could say. I've never owned a set of the standard Spedding edition, and have not attempted to actually read the 3,300+ pages of it, but from the quote above it seems possible there are other hints as well. It may even be the case that he left enough clues to tell future readers the truth, as the Friedmans apparently did. 

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With Cambridge behind him from this point on Bacon began his dual journey in life, the public life of Bacon, the one of lawyer, statesman and philosopher which fills the pages of his orthodox biographies and his other secret life (pointedly hinted at by his early editors and biographers) of raising from its foundations a universal system of knowledge, which needed to be carried out for the most part in secret. To help ensure the success of his grand vision Bacon founded the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross and modern Freemasonry Brotherhood through which he afterwards established the first permanent English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, thus founding what afterwards became the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth. Through his secret societies Bacon quietly began to put in place a machine which in and beyond his own lifetime would encompass an enduring world-wide renaissance through his philosophical-scientific programme which partly involved the writing and publishing of books anonymously and pseudonymously across a wide range of all the liberal arts and sciences. The full implementing of this secret infrastructure continued down the ages by his Rosicrucian Brotherhood for the key purpose of laying eternal bases for humanity and to bring about his dream of the reformation of the whole world.

This ultra-grand secret and far-reaching vision was hinted at by his great editor and biographer at the beginning of The Letters and Life of Francis Bacon which occurred to him, and developed, during and after his departure from Cambridge. Even then his universal apprehension had already surpassed those of his illustrious contemporaries, in possessing the kind of exquisite mind that in the words of his editor and biographer Spedding, he could ‘imagine like a poet and execute like a clerk of the works’.

While professing not to know precisely what the grand vision entailed and how he would secretly go about it (a wonderful form of delivery that Bacon would have been proud and other later Rosicrucian and Freemasonic writers would practice and aspire to), the incomparable Spedding set it forth in that inimitable way of his:

It was then that a thought struck him, the date of which deserves to be recorded, not for anything extraordinary in the thought itself, which had probably occurred to others before him, but for its influence upon his after-life. If our study of nature be thus barren, he thought, our method of study must be wrong: might not a better method be found? The suggestion was simple and obvious. The singularity was in the way he took hold of it. With most men such a thought would have come and gone in a passing regret; a few might have matured it into a wish; some into a vague project; one or two might perhaps have followed it out so as to attain a distinct conception of the better method, and hazard a distant indication of the direction in which it lay. But in him the gift of seeing in prophetic vision what might be and ought to be was united with the practical talent of devising means and handling minute details. He could at once imagine like a poet and execute like a clerk of the works. Upon the conviction This may be done, followed at once the question How may it be done? Upon that question answered, followed the resolution to try and do it.

    Of the degrees by which the suggestion ripened into a project, the project into an undertaking, and the undertaking unfolded itself into distinct proportions and the full grandeur of its total dimensions, I can say nothing. But that the thought first occurred to him during his residence at Cambridge, therefore before he had completed his fifteenth year, we know upon the best authority-his own statement to Dr. Rawley. I believe it ought to be regarded as the most important event of his life; the event which had a greater influence than any other upon his character and future course. From that moment there was awakened within his breast the appetite which cannot be satiated, and the passion which cannot commit excess. From that moment he had a vocation which employed and stimulated all the energies of his mind, gave a value to every vacant interval of time, an interest and significance to every random thought and casual accession to knowledge; an object to live for as wide as humanity, as immortal as the human race; an idea to live in vast and lofty enough to fill the soul for ever with religious and heroic aspirations. From that moment, though still subject to interruptions, disappointments, errors, and regrets, he could never be without either work or hope or consolation.

     So much with regard to the condition of his mind at this period we may I think reasonably assume, without trespassing upon the province of the novelist. Such a mind as we know from after experience that Bacon possessed, could not have grown up among such circumstances without receiving impressions and impulses of this kind. He could not have been bred under such a mother without imbibing some portion of her zeal in the cause of the reformed religion; he could not have been educated in the house of such a father, surrounded by such a court, in the middle of such agitations, without feeling loyal aspirations for the cause of his Queen and country; he could not have entertained the idea that the fortunes of the human race might by a better application of human industry be redeemed and put into a course of continual improvement, without conceiving an eager desire to see the progress begun.

    Assuming then that a deep interest in these three great causes-the cause of reformed religion, of his native country, of the human race through all their generations-was thus early implanted in that vigorous and virgin soil, we must leave it to struggle up as it may, according to the accidents of time and weather.1

1. Spedding, Letters and Life, I, pp. 4-5.

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  • 1 month later...

Great find, Ryan! It would be interesting to collect all examples in Spedding where he uses Shakespeare's language to describe Bacon's work. I think he was honoring Bacon's plan to not give away secrets but make people work to find them, and also, he wanted to honor Bacon's need for secrecy as to his royal birth.

In my paper, "Reports of the Death of the Case for Francis Bacon's Authorship of Shakespeare Have Been Greatly Exaggerated" (8/8/22), see pp 3 and 9-10. Spedding uses Shakespeare's phrase, "fine phrenzy," to describe Bacon's abilities as a poet, as discussed on pp. 9-10. The discussion on p. 3 has to do with the Spedding edition's non-literal translation of Bacon's Latin words in a particular passage. I invite you to read it. https://sirbacon.org/christina-waldman/.

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