Francis Bacon's Friends And Associates


Constance M. Pott

founder of the Francis Bacon Society
Reprinted from
Baconiana No. 30, April 1900



The subject of this short paper is " Francis Bacon : His Friends and Associates," a matter hitherto singularly overlooked and neglected. There is an old proverb, "Tell me your company, and I will tell you what you are," but in trying to find out what Francis Bacon truly was , too little inquiry has been generally made as to his "company," neither do his biographers sufficiently enlighten us. Many interesting names just appear, and pass over the pages of the regulation "Lives" set before the public; foreign names such as Galileo, Fulgentius, Bruno, Montaigne, and many more English names presently to be noticed. Like fleeting shadows they come and go, unnoted by the inobservant or uninterested, but furnishing useful hints to the pioneer corps striving to clear the way to true discovery.

We cannot depend even upon the Index of any Baconian "Life" to guide us faithfully to the required particulars. Search the Index to James Spedding's seven 8vo vols. of Bacon's Letters and Life, and you will find no entry of any masque, revel, device, or entertainment, none of the "Order of the Helmet," the "Masque of the Indian Prince," or of "Philantia, or Self-love," although these pieces are described, and some printed in these volumes. So on with many other matters pertinent to our inquiries. The authors or publishers of such works are evidently perfectly well informed as to what facts will lead up to the true revelation of "Bacon", these are therefore either omitted, or cleverly introduced so as to pass unnoticed by the "General." This will be the experience of all who follow this game, "If" (as Lear says), "you will catch it, you must catch it running."

Now we all know that Bacon's Courtly friends and asssociates, the Dukes of Buckingham and Norfolk, the Earls of Arundel, Derby, Essex, Leicester, Northampton, Nottingham, Pembroke, and Montgomery, Shrewsbury, Suffolk, Sussex, and Warwick; the Lords Buckhurst, Clinton, Dudley, Dorset, Herbert, Howard, Hundson, Rich, Sackville, Sheffield, Strange, Willoughby, and others, kept theatrical companies.

Your attention is asked to this point, for hereby hangs a tale. Can there be clearer evidence of the little interest which has been generally taken in Francis Bacon, or of how little his many critics have put two and two together concerning him, than in this, that none should have observed the fact that of all the great Courtiers of his time, Francis Bacon was one of the few who did not keep a theatrical company, whilst it was he alone who stood up in defence of the Theatre, and as an absolute advocate of the use of Stage Plays?

Readers of Baconiana are acquainted with the eulogies of Francis Bacon, written by some thirty of his friends. In one it is declared that in no light or frivolous spirit did he " draw on the socks of the Comedian and the high heeled boots of the Tragedian." In his own eulogy of the Stage, he similarly describes the Drama as no mere pastime or amusement, but as a serious matter, a part of his "Method," his stupendous scheme for the "Great Restauration" of fallen and degraded humanity. He considers, as all experience shows to be true, that dull, untrained, ignorant minds should be instructed in the simplest and most natural way--objectively--as we teach little children, by showing them pictures, and by talking to them of things set before their eyes. Hamlet ( in his instructions to the Players) tells them they should "hold a mirror up to nature, show virtue her own figure, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure," or mode of expression. That speech is almost too familiar to be quoted, but how few people have thought of connecting it with a passage in the Advancement of Learning (Bk. ii. 13) where Bacon describes

"Dramatic Poesy which has the world of its theatre, and which would be of great use if well directed. For the stage is capable of no small influence both of discipline and corruption. Now of corruptions in this kind we have had enough, but the discipline in our time has been plainly neglected."

Pray read that chapter on Poesy narrative ( of which the above extract forms about one-third) was omitted from the first edition in English of the Advancement. It was inserted into the Latin edition (the De Augmentis), published when? --published in 1623, just after the issue of the Shakespeare folio. Is this fact without significance?

Let me repeat. Within a few months of the publication of the first collected edition of the Plays (some of which had been before the public for thirty years), Bacon writes that in his times the discipline of the Stage had been plainly neglected, and esteemed but as a toy. Among the ancients, he adds, it was used as a means of educating men's minds to instruction, is (as Spedding justly notes) , connected in a striking manner with the remark that men in bodies are more open to impression than when alone. A magnificient illustration of this has lately been seen on the stage in the scene in Julius Caesar, where Brutus and Marc Antony by turns address, and stir up the feelings of the buzzing, wavering, multitude, so easily impressed by a fluent speaker.

Shall Bacon's pregnant words about the corruption and neglect of the Stage in his day, be passed by unheeded? Note that he does not so much as allude to Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, or others of the "Great Dramatists." And note too, that elsewhere, when touching upon similar deficiencies, he says : "Of myself I am silent."

To return to the Royal and noble families who kept in their pay, theatrical companies. The fact has been accounted for by the assumption that this was "the fashion of the time." Good words, and easily spoken, but we ask, why the fashion? How came it that such a fashion should have sprung up suddenly, at the very time when Puritanism was urging with tongue and pen th baseness and profanity of Stage playing?

And further, is no one suprised to find the Head Masters of St. Paul's and other schools, forming juvenile theatrical companies amongst their scholars, just such "Aery's of children" as Hamlet discusses with Rosencrantz, who describes them as "the fashion." Such children's performances were in complete accordance with Bacon's repeated arguements in favour of an early training in acting as a means towards what he terms "the culture and manurance of the mind," and for gaining the self-possession and grace of gesture needful for a good public speaker.

Many names have been enumerated of the patrons of the Stage (some reputed authors) who were friends or associates of Francis Bacon. But it is not to his patrons or equals whom we should specially look. It is to humbler persons, the so called "servants" whom he employed as Secretaries,Travellers, Reporters, Business Managers, and so forth. The names will not be those of men connected with science, politics, law, or religion; these will afford matter for future consideration. We now speak only of Poets, and others connected with the stage. Lists of names from the enormous correspondence of Anthony Bacon, whom Francis called his "consorte." These names are found in the "Tenison" collection and in the "Gibson" MSS. in the Library at Lambeth Palace. To these are added lists from Peter Cunningham's "Accounts of the Revels at Court," the "Papers" and the "Memoirs" of Edward Alleyn, the actor, and "Henlslowe's Diary."

The last named six volumes were published by the first Shakespeare Society, to whom Baconians are deeply indebted. It is the more kind of them to have furnished us with this valuable series since therin are found clues to "Bacon's" associates, although not one word appears about the man, "William Shakespeare." To be sure the note Shaxberd, written in the margin, is annexed to the entries of three Shakespeare Plays performed by his Majesty's Players. But the total omission of any illusion to, or hint of the personality of such an individual as Shakespeare, is more than once commented upon the Editors of these records as being "wonderful" and unaccountable.

For brevity's sake we omit references, merely enumerating some names common to nearly all the lists.

We find the Alleyn family in full force. First on the pages of Francis Bacon's letters appears Capt. Francis Alleyn,( The Alleyns spell their names variously even in the same letter. Alen, Allen, Allin, Aleyn, Alleyne.) a frank, plain spoken soldier, employed by Anthony to intercede for the release of his servant, Lawson, who had been arrested after the charitable manners of the time, on suspicion of being a Romanist. Francis Alleyn seems to have been very useful to the Bacons as a Messenger or "Intelligencer."

William Alleyne got himself into political troubles. Bacon calls him "a base fellow and turbulent." John Alleyn was theatrical servant to the Lords Howard and Sheffield. He was elder brother to Edward Alleyn, the Player, and the ostensible founder of Dulwich College, in which Bacon was curiously interested. How Alleyn found the money to make that noble foundation is only one of the many points which remain "behind the Curtain of the Dark." Henslowe reports two more Alleyns, Charles, and Richard, and amongst Anthony Bacon's letters are at least six from Godfrey Alleyn. There is, therefore, no doubt that the Alleyn family were amongst Bacon's helpers or "servants."

The Beaumonts, John and Sir Thomas, were amongst the adventurers to Virginia. I suppose that all know how hard and sucessfully Bacon strove for the colonisation and defence of this region in the New World. Most of the adventurers, including the Beaumonts, were his own friends.

Francis Beaumont dedicated a masque to the Gentlemen of Gray's Inn and the Inner Temple, thanking them for their help, and adding

"You especially, Sir Francis Bacon, as you did then by your countenance and loving affecations advance it, so let your good word grace, which is able to add value to the greatest and least of matters."

At the same time Bacon was Solicitor-General, yet Spedding had no doubt that "he had a good deal to say about the arrangements," and John Chamberlain, an eye witness, describes the performance as "a masque, of which Sir Francis Bacon was the chief contriver."


Browne is now a common name, yet we may note that Edward Alleyne's step-father was a Browne, that Richard Browne was one of the company of actors who beyond seas to perform their plays, and that Henry Browne was a faithful servant friend to whom Bacon left a legacy. When in Bacon's anecdotes we find him telling of Sir Edward Dyer, the supposed poet, that he asked Dr. Browne a question which Browne answered "after his blunt and huddling manner," we gain a glimmering as to how it came that the singularly Baconian works, The Religio Medici, Cyrus' Garden, Common Errors, Christian Morals, Urn Burial, and other pieces, should have appeared under the name of this "huddling" doctor. "It is," says John Addington Symonds, "as a great master of diction, as a Rhetorician in the highest sense of that abused word, that this 'Author' (Thomas Browne), "proclaims himself the rival of Jeremy Taylor, and the peer of Milton, in their highest flights of cadenced prose."

Rather high commendation is it not of "the blunt and huddling" doctor? The perusal of a few of Dr. Browne's orginial letters, may assure you that Bacon's judgment of his style was not far from the mark. But to continue about Bacon's friends and associates, bound by solemn vows and obligations to hand down the contents of the Cabinets and Presses full of papers which he left upublished.

Amongst others of the Secret Society were the Careys or Carews. Four of this family were engaged in the Virginian enterprise. John, helped with the Revels at Court, and supplied properties. Richard is described as a writer chiefly on Topgraphy. He died in 1620. His brother George was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and is the reputed author of an account of France and of the Court of Henri IV of France. This work, however, was not published, or (we believe) heard of until 100 years after his death, which occured in 1614. This Sir George Carew was, from early youth to latest age, very intimate with Francis Bacon; we are therefore fully prepared to learn that George and Thomas Carew were, Poets--that Thomas was also a dramatist, and that he is said to have written the Masque entitled, "Coelum Brittanicum," which was performed before the Court at Whitehall in 1633, and greatly admired. In fact, all these men were Bacon's "Masks," engaged in publishing his works.

Abraham Cowley is another "Poet "who (we think) wrote no poetry, but who (we think) published many of Francis Bacon's juvenile effusions in prose and verse. What was his actual history, apart from that given of the author in the poems themselves? He was born, according to various biographers, in 1612, 1616, or 1618, and educated at Westminster School, and Trinity College, Cambridge (Bacon's old college). There he helped with other members of the College to "produce" a Latin Comedy, and he lived in College till he was 36, when he was ejected by the Puritans because of his active partisanship in the Royal cause. For twelve and a half years he travelled, corresponded, ciphered, and deciphered for the King and Queen. He published no poetry until 1657, when he was about 45 (52?) years of age; and nothing in his supposed paper of "Myself" at all well fits his own history, but it is as hand to glove when applied to records of the youthful days of Francis Bacon. Having published this one volume of apparently juvenile works, Cowley returned to active politics; was thrown into prison,but being released, he again went abroad, and was again employed in helping the Royal cause. On the Restoration taking place, he was overlooked and neglected; but at length,by the interest of the Duke of Buckingham, he obtained the lease of a farm at Chertsey, which returned him 300 pounds a year. He died at the age of 55. No more poetry came forth after that one volume in 1657.
Now anyone who has sufficient interest in these matters to be at the pains to follow the spring to its head, should read the "Account of the Life of Mr. Abraham Cowley," printed at the beginning of the 1669 edition of "The Works." Dr. Sprat, President of the Royal Society, wrote that Prefatory Account, and his name is signed in crooked printing and in mixed type, at the end of the Life. It is an excellent specimen of a feigned biography; pray somebody study it. You will see how ingeniously Dr. Sprat contrives to let you see that the Author was one of the most wonderful men in the world, but tht Cowley was not the Author. And again to force you to connect "My Lord St. Albans" with Cowley. If Cowley were truly "dependant" upon the Lord St. Alban living in 1656- (of which we can find no trace) it must have been that mysterious Lord who was a Jermyn-- and who somehow popped into the title and out again,and "left no wrack behind." Dr. Sprat says :

"In his long DEPENDENCE on my Lord St. Albans there never happened any kind of difference between them,"

and in another place,

"I am confident his Lordship will believe it to be no injury to his fame, that in these papers my Lord St. Albans and Mr. Cowley's names shall be read together by posterity."

Dr. Sprat has previously said that Cowley had intended to dedicate all his works to Lord St. Albans, as a testimony of his entire respects for him, and as an apology for having left humane , or literary, affairs in the strength of his age, and when he might have been of some use to his country. Why the Dedication was omitted, Dr.Sprat does not say. The natural conclusion upon the whole matter is that he knew perfectly well that Cowley never wrote a word of his supposed works, excepting as an amanuensis writes for his master, on whom he is truly "dependant."

Several members of the Cowley family corresponded with Anthony Bacon. Their letters may be seen in the Tenison Collection, where also, in the Gibson Collection, may be seen letters chiefly of news and politics from four more Cowleys.

Richard Cowley was a Player. His name is to be seen associated with the names of Burbage and Phillips in the Alleyne Papers, and other documents concerning Plays and Revels, published by the old Shakespeare Society.

In August, 1894, it was pointed out, in a short paper in Baconiana how, in a section of Much Adoe About Nothing, the type in the 1623 folio Shakespeare is tampered with for purposes of cipher, and apparently, in order to change the correct words Constable and Keeper, into the names Cowley and Kemp.

The Constables were connections by marriage of the Bacons. In 1593, Richard and Robert Constable are found to have been corresponding with Burbage at the same time that Anthony Bacon was receiving letters from the Cowleys.

The Kemps, too, were Bacon's cousins. He was evidently fond of Robert Kemp, whom he calls "Good Robin," and with whom he seems to have had pleasant, but unexplained, business. William Kemp was one of Lord Strange's company. Thomas Kemp's daughter married Thomas Shirley; another link, you see, with the supposed galaxy of poets. The Shirley's were great travellers, and gatherers of information. John, who was once a curate at St. Albans, is said to have turned Romanist, and "thereupon to have become a fertile writer for the stage", but this tale rests upon as slight a foundation as many others.

Of the Davies family, John and Lancelot were Virginians; John helped in the Revels, and to him Bacon, wrote, praying him to be kind to concealed poets. This John Davies is the supposed author of a poem entitled, Nosce Teipsum, which two words (Know Thyself) form an entry in Bacon's Promus.

Now for the Fletchers, another large family of whom John, we know, collaborated with Beaumont,and who figures as a Dramatist. To Dr. Giles Fletcher, Bacon gave a living in Suffolk. His brother, Thomas Fletcher, was the Master of St. Paul's School, already mentioned as encouraging the boys to get up theatrical performances. In the Revels at Court we find this lively schoolmaster hiring apparel for public and private entertainments. Four other Fletchers are named in connection with Henslowe, and with the Virginian enterprise.

The noble family of Herbert was intimately connected with Bacon and his various undertakings. Sir Henry Herbert was Master of the Revels. To Mr. W. H., (as we believe) William Herbert, afterward Earl of Pembroke, the Shakespeare Sonnets were dedicated. In his private theatre at Wilton, "Measure for Measure" was first performed, with speeches introduced to incline the king's heart to mercy, at a time when he and his Court were awaiting the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, about to take place at Winchester.

George Herbert, the beloved rector of Bemerton, was the accredited author of the "Temple," and other sacred poems. He wrote two of the Latin elegies in praise of Bacon which we know as the Manes Verulamiani.


Space is limited, so only a few words can be said of the Johnsons. Englishmen have made up their minds to spell Ben Johnson's name without an h, though in his own time (and referring to himself and not to his works) it was invariably printed with one. Hereby (perhaps intentionally) confusion is worse confounded when we try to trace the family tree. However, Ben, whether with or without his h, was one of Bacon's able pens, writing under his roof, eulogising Bacon in precisely the same words which he used to eulogise Shakespeare, and finally contributing some Latin verses to the collection of Verulam elegies. Is it by mere coincidence that these Latin verses,signed Ben Johnson with an h, stand next to verses by Boswell?

We would gladly have expatiated a little upon Sir Phillip Sydney in his character of Poet, and as the supposed Author of the "Arcadia"; but the subject is too large for this little paper, and probably no two of our readers have read the "Arcadia" from beginning to end. We can but recommend to students an examination of the edition of that work published in 1660 just 100 years after the birth of Bacon. It will be seen that Sir Phillip Sydney did not claim the authorship, but that the "Arcadia" was published anonymously, and entitled, "The Countess of Sidney's Arcadia."

That "deere ladie" was "Sidney's Sister, Pembroke's Mother," and few readers would, by their own unprejudiced judgment, arrive at the conclusion that the Dedication was from a brother to as sister. It appears indeed that this "Life and Death of Sir Phillip Sidney," is another example of the "Feigned Histories" already spoken of, and the "Arcadia" itself one of Francis Bacon's earliest works, by degrees, and through a course of many years enlarged and revised for purposes yet to be explained.

It remains briefly to commend to the reader's notice the history of the Donne family, one of whom married a daughter of Edward Alleyne; another of whom was secretary to Bacon's warm friend, Lord Ellesmere. This John Donne rose to be Dean of St. Paul's and of course, a Poet. (see a most interesting Life of Dr. Donne (published since this was written) by Mr. Edmund Gosse)

Sir Edward Dyer also needs inspection. He was a correspondent of the Bacons. Massinger is found to be the son of the Earl of Pembroke's Steward. Sir Henry Wotton was one of the Bacon's cousins. Richard Lovelace, the Middletons, Sandys, Shirleys, Butlers, Taylors, Fields, Hobby, all appear in the lists from the Bacon correspondence, with many less well-known names, and others well known, but not included in the records of the Shakespeare Society.

A great deal is also to be learnt by a close search into the true history of the Rawley, or Raleigh family, of whom Sir Walter Raleigh has been reckoned the Star, and ranged with the scholars and courtly poets of his own day. It is satisfactory to observe that recent biographical dictionaries are beginning to discard this latter fiction. But how much is true concerning the visits of Francis to Sir Walter Raleigh in the Tower? What was the precise relationship between Sir Walter Raleigh, or Rawley, and Dr. William Rawley who was Francis Bacon's confidential secretary. His collection of MSS is known to be extant, but strangley, "reserved" from the public eye. Where are these Papers?

However, in Bacon's notes is this entry :

"The setting on work my Lord Northampton and Raleigh."

Bacon then, directed Raleigh's work, perhaps to beguile sad hours in prison, where Bacon is recorded to have visited him. Then, as usual, he handed over to him all the credit of their joint efforts.

Last, not least, a few words of the Spencers of whom at least two were secretaries to Anthony and Francis. Robert Spencer, George Urion, and Dr. Spencer are often met with our dusty pages. Gabriel Spenser, an actor, was killed by Ben Jonson in a duel.

I have observed the significant fact that William Shaksper the man is utterly ignored, and the name, "Shakespeare," never once mentioned in the six volumes of Records, Accounts, and Registers published by the old Shakespeare Society.

Is it not equally significant, that the name of Edmund Spenser-- the supposed author of the "Fairie Queene," should be also absent from those records, and only introduced in some notes by Peter Cunningham, as if expressly to emphasize the fact that the first (anonymous) edition of the "Shepherd's Calender" ( 1579) when Bacon was eighteen, was dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney, whereas, eight years later, it was declared to have been written by him.

To sum up briefly all that would be said did time permit. When we try to trace the history of any wit, poet, or dramatist of the century from 1560 to 1660, or thereabouts, we invariably find him connected, directly or indirectly with Francis Bacon. On the other hand, Shakspere, the Man , is utterly ignored in the literary records of the age. No accounts of Theatres or Revels, no register of Stationers or Publishers so much as mention him. Neither is Shakespeare included in the lists of distinguished wits and authors enumerated by Ben Jonson, Sir Henry Wotton, and others of the time. Bacon is found apparently inviting criticism on Measure for Measure and Julius Caesar, as his own Plays. Richard II and Richard III are also included with other Plays and devices in a MSS. list of Bacon's minor writings. But nowhere does Bacon, even when mourning the neglect and degradation of the Stage, allude to Shakespeare.

I have spoken only of subordinates in the great Bacon Society--paid servants (as I believe), amanuenses, transcribers, and so forth, of the lighter pieces which he spoke of as "the Works of my recreation." But a similar veil is drawn across history and works of every great "author" so called of that period; moreover, these authors are inextricably mixed up, not only amongst each other, but bound and linked in all manner of ways with Francis Bacon. Whether they be theologans, philosophers and moralists, or men of science, literature, and art, historians or travellers; peep behind their masks or under their hoods, and there is Francis Bacon--his theology, his philosophy and morality, his experimental science, and universal knowledge enshrined in his own and noble model of language. Some pieces, to be sure, are in the modelling clay only, left for others to copy in more solid form. Many others are highly finished, polished with an art upon which no later hand has improved.

The helpers in such works may have been chiefly the "voluntaries" (as distinct from the paid subordinates) whom in his private notes, Francis Bacon is seen proposing to enlist. With time and money at their disposal his equals and superiors could render valuable aid. Yet these did but follow his lead. In every new enterprise he was (to use his own words) the "inventor" and "contriver," the "true Pioneer in the Mine of Truth." Others did but rough hew the dead image for which he had made the design, and which only by his skill could be polished and perfected.
"I leave the work of Time, he says," to Time's mastery." "Time is the wisest of all things, and the author and inventor every day of new cases." "Men err in disturbing the order of Time and in hastening the end they are at the beginning." Yes, and Time, too, will alone complete and vindicate the gigantic work for the benefit of the human race in all ages, which was conceived, and in great part accomplished by Francis Bacon.


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 - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning