As counsel for defendant may be disposed at this point to demur to the evidence, and thus take the case from the jury, we feel obliged to file a statement of facts and objections on the other side, arranged seriatim in the inverse order of their importance, as follows:--
I. From 1598, when the publication of the plays ceased to be anonymous, to 1848, when Joseph C. Hart, an American, publicly initiated the doubt concerning their authorship1 (a period of two hundred and fifty years), the whole world, nem. con., attributed them to William Shakspere.
The plays came into existence in obscurity. No person appears to have taken the slightest interest in their putative author. His very insignificance saved him from prosecution when the play of 'Richard II.'
1 Disraeli. (Earl Beaconsfield) raised the question, it appears, in his novel, 'Venetia,' published in 1837. One of his characters, understood to personate Byron, is made to utter the following:--
"And who is Shakespeare? We know of him as much as we do of Homer. Did he write half the plays attributed to him? Did he write even a single whole play? I doubt it."
"Lord Byron is reported to have expressed similar sentiments, in propria persona, several years earlier."--Medwin's Conversations with Lord Byron, 1821.
Our attention was called to these interesting facts by Mr. W. H. Wyman, of Omaha, Nebraska.
was used by Essex for treasonable ends; and the same indifference to him continued for a long time after his death. Indeed, the critics were as blind to the character of these great works as they were, in the early part of the present century, to the merits of Wordsworth, whom the most eminent of them at one time flatly denounced as little better than an idiot. Wordsworth now ranks as third in the list of British poets.1
Dr. Appleton Morgan, in his brilliant contribution to the literature of this subject, reminds us of the general contempt in which the plays were buried at the time of Cromwell, and, to a certain extent, for more than a hundred years after the Restoration. In 1661 Evelyn reports that they "begin to disgust this refined age." Pepys preferred Hudibras to "Shake-speare," pronouncing 'Midsummer Night's Dream' the "most insipid, ridiculous play," and 'Romeo and Juliet' the "worst," he had ever seen. He thought very well for a time of 'Othello,' but an unkind providence leading him to read the 'Adventures of Five Hours,' he immediately regarded 'Othello' as "mean," and 'Twelfth Night' (the perfection of English comedy) as "silly." In 1681 Tate, a poet who afterward wore the laurel, could find no epithet sufficiently opprobrious to express his aversion for 'King Lear,' and so he called it simply a "thing." In Hume's condemnation, "Shake-speare" and Bacon
1 The next in rank had the same experience. The great critic, "Christopher North," did not hesitate to call Tennyson, on the appearance of the first book of his poems in 1830, "an owl," and to say, "All that he wants is to be shot, stuffed, and stuck in a glass case, to be made immortal in a museum."
were yoked together as wanting in simplicity and purity of diction, "with defective taste and elegance." Addison styled the plays "very faulty," and Johnson asserted, with his usual emphasis, that "Shake-speare" never wrote six consecutive lines "without a fault." "Perhaps you might find seven," he added, with grim humor, "but that does not refute my general assertion." He further declared that "Shake-speare" had not, perhaps produced "one play which, if it were now exhibited as the work of a contemporary writer, would be heard to the conclusion." Margaret Cavendish, a voluminous author of the seventeenth century, took her cue from no less a person than Homer, who praised the valor of the Trojans in order to make the victory of the Greeks more glorious; she praised the wit of the plays, but ended in a fine gush of conjugal loyalty by claiming that her husband was, in that respect at least, superior to the creator of Falstaff. Dryden, though not without lucid intervals of high appreciation, still regarded "Shake-speare" and Fletcher as "below the dullest writers of our own or any precedent age," full of "solecisms of speech," "flaws of sense," and "ridiculous and incoherent stories meanly written." He disapproved of "Shake-speare's" style, describing it as "pestered with figurative expressions," "affect," and "obscure."
In 1680 Otway stole the character of the nurse and all the love-scenes in 'Romeo and Juliet,' and published them as his own, evidently under no fear of detection.
The author of the 'Tatler,' one hundred years after "Shake-speare's" time, told the story of the 'Taming
of the Shrew' as though it were new to his readers; and having occasion to quote a few lines from 'Macbeth,' was content to receive them from a new version of that drama, in which, as Chalmers says, "almost every original beauty is either awkwardly disguised or arbitrarily omitted."
John Dennis, also, thought himself competent to rewrite the plays, and he actually put one or two of them, "revised and improved," on the boards in London, apparently without the least suspicion, on the part of the audiences that witnessed them, of any sacrilege. It was George Granville, however, who gave to "Shake-speare" the unkindest cut of all, for, having rewritten the 'Merchant of Venice,' he brought "Shake-speare's" ghost upon the stage, and made him say,--
"The first rude sketches [my own] pencil drew,
But all the shining master-strokes are new.
This play, ye critics, shall your fury stand,
Adorn'd and rescu'd by a faultless hand."
In this respect Davenant was the most persistent offender, for he remodelled 'Macbeth,' 'Measure for Measure,' 'Much Ado about Nothing,' and also (in conjunction with Dryden) 'The Tempest.'
In this latter play the treatment of Miranda, who had never seen a man, and of Hippolyto, a new character who had never seen a woman, is, as the work of two poets laureate, almost incredible. After Davenant's death, Dryden went on with the task of demolishing these edifices of marble and rebuilding them with brick.1
1 "There was probably no man of his day better qualified to write sound criticism on the drama, as he knew it, than Dryden. Dryden
Thomas Rymer capped the climax. He was Historiographer Royal, and he left behind him works that constitute a small library. He said of Desdemona, "There is nothing in her which is not below any country kitchen-maid; no woman bred out of a pig-sty could talk so meanly." And of Othello, "There is not a monkey but understands nature better; not a pug in Barbary that has not a truer taste of things."
Steevens declared that only an act of Parliament could make any one read the sonnets.
On the other side, we have a stock quotation from Milton, as follows:--
"Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild,"--
requiring a considerable stretch of the imagination to apply to the plays. Mr. White calls it "a petty puling dribble of belittling, patronizing praise."1
tells us that he loved Shakespeare, and he says a great deal about Shakespeare that shows an appreciation unusual for those times; but he confesses that he admired Ben Jonson more, and thought Beaumont and Fletcher superior for the construction of plots, for natural dialogue, for pathos, and for gayety. Even this might pass, but before he died, Dryden declared Congreve to be the equal of Shakespeare."--Parson's National Life and Character, p. 306.
1 "The boundless veneration for Shakespeare in the sonnet is, indeed, gone in this passage."--Masson's Life of Milton.
"Fond and belittling phrases, as little appropriate as would be the patronizing chatter of the planet Venus about the dear, darling Sun."--Whipple's Literature of the Age of Elizabeth, p. 37.
"No poet was ever less a warbler of 'wood-notes wild.'"--Walter Savage Landor.
"The slur, the gibe, and the covert satire are too obvious."--Isaac Disraeli.
"Milton's panegyric takes no notice at all of the tragedies. This Milton was a Puritan, and probably never soiled his fingers with a copy of these wicked works. He had some knowledge of their character, to be sure, for he accused Charles I. of making them, and "other stuff of this sort," his daily reading. Evidently, in Milton's opinion, a king who read and admired 'Hamlet' or 'Othello' deserved to lose his head.1
With such sentiments as these in vogue regarding the plays themselves, how much value should we attach to the concurrent belief in the authorship of them? Why should men look upward for a star when they are content to see it reflected in the dirty puddles of the streets? And how natural, under a law of moral mechanics, the swinging of public opinion from blind detraction at one time to equally blind idolatry at another!2
always suggested to me that he had no idea that the author of the songs had any hand in them."--Prof. Francis W. Newman, Letter to the Echo, Dec. 31, 1887.
In his Preface to the 'Samson Agonistes' (1671), Milton refers to Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides as "the three tragic poets unequalled yet by any."
1 In his youth Milton wrote a sonnet to Shakespeare, which is one of the finest in our language. It was prefixed to the folio edition of the plays published in 1632.
2 As a specimen of the capacity of Shakespearean critics, exhibited one hundred years later still, we give the following facts:--
In 1795 a boy in London, seventeen years old and possessing no precocity but that of impudence, composed a play nearly as long as 'Hamlet,' which he undertook to palm upon the world as "Shakespeare's" The effect was electrical. Dr. Warton, Henry James Pye (poet laureate), Sir Isaac Heard, Dr. Parr, James Boswell, John Pinkerton, George Chalmers, and many others, commentators, students, and lovers of "Shake-speare," received the work with delighted credulity. Boswell gave thanks to God that he had lived to see it. Sheridan purchased the MS. for the Drury Lane Theatre, where the
"In the neighing of a horse, or in the growling of a mastiff, there is a meaning, there is as lively expression, and, I may say, more humanity, than many times in the tragical flights of Shakespeare."--Rymer,1
"The true restoration of a single line in Shakespeare is well worth the best volume of any other English writer."--Halliwell-Phillipps, 1850.
II. It is hardly conceivable that Bacon, if the author of these works, would not have claimed the credit of them before he died, or, at least, left posthumous proofs that would have established his title to them.
wretched stuff was brought out to an overflowing house amid great excitement. The young man had the audacity even to produce a love-letter, purporting to have been written by Shakspere to Anne Hathaway, and containing a lock of red hair.
"All the critics of the land came to look upon the originals. Some went upon their knees and kissed them. Hard names were given and returned; dunce and blockhead were the gentlest vituperations. The whole controversy turned upon the color of the ink, the water-mark of the paper, the precise mode of superscription to a letter, the contemporary use of a common word, the date of the first use of promissory notes, the form of a mortgage. Scarcely one of the learned went boldly to the root of the imposture, and showed that Shakespeare could not have written such utter trash."--Charles Knight.
"The Irelands palmed upon literary critics a manuscript play of Shakespeare; it was read, discussed; an antiquarian or two said no; most of the critics said yes, and fell upon their knees before the manuscript. It was put upon the stage: coal-heavers and apprentices set literary criticism right in ten minutes. Why? The stuffed fish, thrown down on a bank, might pass for a live fish; but put it in the water!"--Charles Reade.
"One of the best critics we ever had."--Pope.
"The worst critic that ever lived."--Macaulay.
Bacon had one great aim in life,--an aim that, it seems to us, gave a fine consistency to all that he did. He sought to instruct in better ways of thinking, not his own generation alone, but those that were to come after. "I feel myself born," he says in one of his letters, "for the service of mankind." Accordingly, we find him in his will bequeathing sets of his philosophical works and his essays to the chief public libraries of the kingdom. He even translated them into Latin, for the avowed reason that our modern languages are ephemeral, while Latin will last as long as human speech.1 In his will, also, with the sublime confidence that is inseparable from genius, he left his name and memory to the "next ages."
At the same time he showed no anxiety for personal credit. His mind was bent on grander results. In the introduction to one of his books, unpublished at the time of his death, he asks his executors to leave some parts of it unprinted, in order that they might be passed in manuscript "from hand to hand." He had the curious conception that in this impersonal way certain truths might take deeper root. Then follow these noble words:--
"For myself my heart is not set upon any of those things which depend on external accidents. I am not hunting for fame. I have no desire to found a sect, after the fashion of the heresiarchs; and to look for any private gain from such an undertaking as this, I should consider both ridiculous and base. Enough for me the consciousness of well-deserving, and those real and effectual results with which fortune itself cannot interfere."
1 Latin was at that time the common language of scholars throughout the civilized world. Bacon, who appreciated, perhaps more than any other man then living, the advantages of such a medium, thought it would remain so indefinitely. He failed to perceive that a language for scholars per se, would retard not only the diffusion of knowledge but its advancement.
The ring of these words three centuries have not dulled. They will ring through all time, for they are of pure gold.
It should be remembered, too, that Bacon had an ambition to occupy his father's seat on the woolsack, and that to be known as a writer of plays for money would have been fatal to his advancement. After his downfall he had not the heart, if he had the will, for the exposure. He may well have hesitated to make another invidious confession in the face of a frowning world.1
"The question why Bacon, if he were the composer of the plays, did not acknowledge the authorship, is not difficult to answer. His birth, his position, and his ambition forbade him, the nephew of Lord Burleigh, the future Lord Chancellor of England, to put his name on a play bill. In the interest of his family and of his political career, the secret must be so strictly preserved that mere anonymity would not be sufficient. A live man-of-straw, a responsible official representative known to every one, was required. No person could be better fitted for such a purpose than an actor, wise enough to understand and appreciate what was to his own advantage. Perhaps this 'Johannes Factotum' of Greene's did not know the name of his benefactor. But even if he did know the name, it was obviously to his interest to keep from the world, and particularly from his gossiping companions, a secret which brought him money and fame."--Allgemeine Zeitung.
1 A French critic has conjectured that Bacon may have left instructions to his executors to divulge the secret at some opportune time after his death, but that the alarming growth of Puritanism, culminating in its complete ascendancy under Cromwell twenty-five years later, rendered such a step inexpedient. Holding his reputation in trust and knowing what a fierce popular storm the announcement would cause, they may have deemed it their duty to let the plays remain as "Mr. William Shakespeare's," until such time as these writings might reveal by their own light the name and genius of the author.
Sir Walter Scott kept his authorship of the Waverley Novels from the public for more than twelve years, because he deemed the writing of fiction beneath the dignity of a clerk of courts and of a landowner. Thirty-two persons shared the secret.
The letters of Junius are among the most celebrated of literary productions. In elegance of diction, in perspicuity and force of argument; but the writer carried the secret with him to his grave. And we have no reason to believe that while indulging in this self-abnegation, he had any other title, as Bacon had, to immortal honor.
The popular ballad, 'Auld Robin Gray,' was disowned for a period of fifty years by the gifted woman who wrote it. It was not until some other person had claimed the authorship that the secret was disclosed.
It must not be supposed, for an instant, that if Bacon wrote the plays he did not appreciate them. He confessed to a correspondent that certain of his writings (not described by him, but, without doubt, like the Essays, literary in their character) might after all do more for his fame than those others upon which he was expending his greatest energies.1 And yet it is equally certain that, if he then had the plays
1 "As for my Essays and some other particulars of that nature, I count them but as the recreations of my other studies, and in that sort purpose to continue them; though I am not ignorant that that kind of writing would, with less pains and embracement, perhaps yield more lustre and reputation to my name than those other which I have in hand."--Bacon to Bishop Andrews, 1622.
in mind, he could not have anticipated for them the species of idolatry with which they are now regarded. No man can entirely dispossess himself of the prejudices of the age in which he lives. The moral atmosphere exerts a pressure upon the intellect as great as that of the physical upon the body. Bacon's mind was so filled with a sense of the infinite importance of his new method in philosophy that everything else "paled its uneffectual fires" in comparison.
Authors are very apt to misjudge the relative values of their different works. Galileo is said to have considered his theory of the tides (which was wholly erroneous) a more brilliant triumph of his skill than all his discoveries in the heavens.1 Descartes subordinated his beautiful exposition of the rainbow to an absurd doctrine of planetary vortices. Milton thought his 'Paradise Regained' a finer poem than the 'Paradise Lost.' Wellington would never admit that Waterloo was his greatest battle. Is it, then, extraordinary that Francis Bacon, contemplating the vast results which he knew would follow, and which actually did follow, the appearance of his 'Instauratio Magna,' neglected other compositions upon which he had spent only his recreative hours, which nearly every one about him despised, which a great essayist quoted from, one hundred years later, as though they were then unknown, and over which David Garrick, fifty years later still, created a sensation among his fellow-actors in London by using the text as it had come from the author, instead of one from scribblers and mountebanks to which they had become accustomed?
1 Galileo strangely assumed that tides ebb and flow but once in twenty-four hours.
III. The plays contain anachronisms and other errors which Bacon, "who took all knowledge for his province," could not have committed.
Chief among the errors in question, of sufficient importance to be noted here, are the following:--
1. The famous one in the quotation from Aristotle:1--
"Young men, whom Aristotle thought
Unfit to hear moral philosophy."
Troilus and Cressida, II. 2.
It was political philosophy that Aristotle referred to; but Bacon makes the same mistake. He quotes the Greek as saying,--
"Young men are no fit auditors of moral philosophy."
Even in their blunders our two authors were not divided.
2. The curious conception of heat in its "mode of motion," one flame pushing another by force out of its place.
"Even as one heat another heat expels,
Or as one nail by strength drives out another."
Two Gentlemen of Verona, II. 4.
"One fire drives out one fire; one nail, one nail."
1 "DiÕ tÁj politikÁj oÙk stin okeÐoj ¢kroat_j _ n_oj."--Nicomachean Ethics, I. 3.
"Flame doth not mingle with flame, but remaineth contiguous."--Advancement of Learning.
"Clavum clavo pellere" (To drive out a nail with a nail).--Promus.
The materiality of heat was a dogma of the ancients. It held almost absolute sway over mankind till long after the time of Francis Bacon; but this nail illustration, found in Bacon's intellectual workshop and reproduced in the plays, is startling. It may fairly be said to clinch the argument.
3. Mark Antony tells the Romans that he comes
"To bury Cæsar, not to praise him,"
notwithstanding the fact that the Romans did not bury the bodies of their dead.
The play was written for an English stage, and for an audience to whom cremation was practically unknown. The reference to burial indicates the art, rather than the ignorance, of the dramatist. What would our critics say of a famous actor of modern times who always armed the Roman guard in the play with Springfield muskets!
"Shakespeare turns his Romans into Englishmen, and he does right, for otherwise his nation would not have understood him."--Goethe.
4. A Trojan hero quotes Aristotle, Cleopatra plays billiards, and a clock strikes the hours in ancient Rome.
Historical perspective is not necessary to the drama. The poet sees the world reflected on a retina that ignores time and place. He idealizes facts.
Egypt, Greece, Rome, Pericles, Cæsar, are so many stars set in his firmament, and shining apparently in one plane. This illusion extended even to the accessories of the stage in Shake-speare's day. There was no scenery to help the spectators.1 Imagination was left to its own unaided wings, with nothing but the atmosphere of the play to sustain it. At the call of the magical flute piping through the Globe, billiards, clocks, churchyards, seaports, Ilium, all local and temporary objects of sense, "shot madly from their spheres," in blind obedience to the melody.2
1 The want of scenic effects is thus portrayed by Sir Philip Sidney:--
"You shall have Asia of the one side and Africa of the other, and so many other under kingdoms that the player, when he comes in, must ever begin with telling where he is. . . . Now, you shall have three ladies walk to gather flowers, and then you must believe the stage to be a garden; by and by, we have news of a shipwreck in the same place, and we are to blame if we accept it not for a rock. Upon the back of that comes a hideous monster, with fire and smoke, and the miserable beholders are bound to take it for a cave; while, in the mean time, two armies fly in, represented with four swords and bucklers, and then what hard heart will not receive it for a pitched field?"
2 It may be well to add, on this subject of anachronisms, that the game of billiards was known to the ancients before the time of Cleopatra, and that the boundaries of Bohemia, it is said, once extended to the sea-coast. These facts, however, are immaterial. Is it possible to conceive that the author of 'Coriolanus,' 'Julius Cæsar,' 'Anthony and Cleopatra,' 'Timon of Athens,' and 'Troilus and Cressida,' whoever he was, did not know that Aristotle lived hundreds of years after the time of Hector?
It was one of the rules laid down by Lessing, perhaps the ablest literary critic that ever lived, that dramatic art should represent not what men have done, but what under given circumstances, without regard to actual occurrences, men would do; not historical truth, but the laws and principles of human nature. Goethe followed this rule in the composition of his 'Egmont,' making Machiavelli Margaret of Parma's secretary, though Machiavelli died fifty years before Marvgaret's time, and assigning for the conduct of his hero motives which we know did not exist. In the 'Lay of the Last Minstrel' the author introduces Sir Michael Scott, a wizard who flourished four hundred years before.
"Poesy is feigned history, which, not being tied to the laws of matter, may at pleasure join that which nature hath severed, and sever that which nature hath joined, and so make unlawful matches and divorces of things."--Bacon.
"There is no reason why an hour should not be a century in the calenture of the brains that can make the stage a field."--Dr. Johnson.
Numerous other errors of a minor character are found in the plays, though, like the spots on the sun's disk, they are lost to all but professional observers in the radiance that envelops them. Paradoxical as it may seem, however, these very blemishes are a distinct indication of Bacon's authorship. We find the same in his prose works. The great philosopher, notwithstanding his industry and his learning, was singularly careless in some of the minutiæ of his work. The sublime confidence with which he employed his mental powers often made a "sinner of his memory." It was simply impossible, in the multiplicity and magnitude of his productions, particularly if the plays be superadded, to prevent unimportant errors from creeping in. In no other way can we account for the false quotation from Solomon in the "Essay of Revenge," or that from Tacitus in the "Essay of Traditions." The grammatical mistakes in the Latin entries of the Promus, written with his own hand, would send a school-boy to the bottom of his class, but they put a tongue in every wound of syntax found in the plays.
To Lessing belongs the honor of having been first in the world to appreciate and expound the true genius of "Shake-speare." In defiance of the whole school of French critics, by the members of which "Shake-speare" was regarded as an "inspired idiot" or "drunken savage," he declared that not only was the Englishman superior to Corneille, Racine, and Voltaire, but that he was the originator of a new method of writing tragedy, destined to overthrow the tyranny of the Greek. That is to say, "Shake-speare" repudiated the ancient models for dramatization, precisely as Bacon did for science, and with equal claims to a complete mastery.
In this connection it may not be amiss to quote a few of Bacon's "Apothegms," with Devey's notes (Bohn's standard edition) appended to them, as follows:--
"Michael Angelo, the famous painter, made one of the damned souls in his portraiture of hell so like a cardinal, his enemy, as everybody at first sight knew it. Whereupon the cardinal complained to the Pope, humbly praying it might be effaced. The Pope said to him, 'Why, you know very well I have power to deliver a soul out of purgatory, but not out of hell.'"
The victim was not a cardinal, but the Pope's master of ceremonies.
"A king of Hungary took a bishop in battle, and kept him prisoner. Whereupon the Pope writ a monitory to him, for that he had broken the privilege of holy church and taken his son. The king, in reply, sent the armor wherein the bishop was taken, and this only in writing. 'Know now whether this be thy son's coat?'"
It was Richard Cur de Lion who did this, and not a king of Hungary.
"Antigonus, when it was told him the enemy had such a volley of arrows that they did hide the sun, said: 'That falls out well, for it is hot weather, and so we shall fight in the shade.'"
This was a speech, not of Antigonus, but of a Spartan, previously to the battle of Thermopylæ.
"One of the seven was wont to say that laws are like cobwebs, where small flies are caught, but the great break through."
This was said, not by a Greek, but by Anacharsis, the Scythian.
"An orator of Athens said to Demosthenes, 'The Athenians will kill you if they wax mad.' Demosthenes replied, 'And they will kill you if they be in good sense.'"
This retort was made to Demosthenes by Phocion.
"Demetrius, King of Macedon, had a petition offered him divers times by an old woman, and answered that he had no leisure. Whereupon the woman said aloud, 'Why, then, give over to be king.'"
This happened, not to Demetrius, but to Philip.
"A philosopher disputed with Adrian, the emperor, and did it but weakly. One of his friends, that stood by, afterwards said to him: 'Methinks you were not like yourself in argument with the emperor. I could have answered better myself.' 'Why,' said the philosopher, 'would you have me contend with him that commands thirty legions?'"
This took place, not under Adrian, but under Augustus Cæsar.
"Chilon said that kings' friends and favorites are like counters, that sometimes stand for one, sometimes for ten, and sometimes for an hundred."
This was a saying of Orontes.
"Alexander, after the battle of Granicum, had very great offers made to him by Darius; consulting with his captains concerning them, Parmenio said: 'Sure, I would accept these offers, if I were Alexander.' Alexander answered: 'So would I, if I were Parmenio.'"
This happened after the battle of Issus.
The above are gross blunders, and, being in the domain of history, they are far more astonishing than any found in the dramas of "Shake-speare." Abbott testifies on this point as follows:--
"We have abundant proof that he [Bacon] was eminently inattentive to details.1 His scientific works are full of inaccuracies. King James found in this defect of his chancellor the matter for a witticism,--'De minimis non curat lex.'"2
"Inexhaustible constructiveness,--that, and not scientific patience or accuracy, was his characteristic."--Prof. Minto's English Prose Composition, p. 241.
"Bacon, always in the ancient sense a magnificent, was never an exact man."--Nichol's Life of Bacon, p. 171.
IV. "Shake-speare" and Bacon were of essentially different types of mind, the 'Novum Organum' and the conception of 'Falstaff' being respectively at opposite poles, and wholly beyond the range of one man's powers.3
Bacon's mind had as many facets as a diamond; turn it whichever way you will, it gives a flash. No feature of it was more conspicuous, in the eyes of his contemporaries, than his wit. Indeed, his wit was simply prodigious. Macaulay asserts that in this respect he "never had an equal."
1 "It has been said of Shakespeare that he had a fine contempt for details."--Quarterly Review, April, 1894.
2 The law takes no notice of trifles.
3 We state this objection substantially as given to us by the late Francis Parkman.
"He possessed this faculty, or this faculty possessed him, in a morbid degree. When he abandoned himself to it without reserve, as he did in 'Sapientia Veterum,' or at the end of the second book of 'De Augmentis,' the feats which he performed were not only admirable, but portentous, and almost shocking. On those occasions we marvel at him, as clowns on a fair-day marvel at a juggler, and can hardly help thinking that the devil must be in him."--Macaulay.
Bacon had also a sense of humor that must have been extraordinary, for, according to Ben Jonson, he could with difficulty, even on solemn occasions, "spare or pass by a jest." We find some admirable specimens of it in the reports of his conversations with the Queen,--his powers of repartee sometimes proving more than a match for her imperious will.
It seems like piling Ossa on Pelion to add that the world's most famous jest-book we owe to Francis Bacon, dictated by him from a sick-bed, entirely from memory, in one day.1 No wonder the portly Falstaff sprang, full-grown, from such a brain!
V. The author of the 'Essay on Love' could not have written 'Romeo and Juliet.'2
The two productions are certainly widely dissimilar. In one, the tender passion is a flower in bloom, exquisitely sweet and beautiful; in the other, it is torn up by the roots and analyzed scientifically, not to say contemptuously. Indeed, Bacon quotes with
1 "The best jest-book ever given to the public."--Edinburgh Review.
"The best collection of jests in the world."--Macaulay.
2 Especially urged against us by Mr. Goldwin Smith.
We have no direct evidence to show that the author of the essay did not possess a susceptible heart. To be sure, he was married late (at the age of forty-five), and was unfortunate in losing the affections of his wife before he died. It may be worthy of note, also, that the play was written several years before, and the essay several years after, his marriage. We cannot admit, however, in any view of his matrimonial adventure, that he was disqualified to write the garden scene in 'Romeo and Juliet.' It is not necessary to possess a trait in order to depict it. "Shakespeare's admiration of the great men of action is immense," says Professor Dowden, "because he himself was primarily not a man of action." We instinctively see and appreciate what is exactly opposite to us in mental aptitudes. Human nature makes an unconscious effort in this way to round itself out into the complete and perfect. The theory of complementary colors is based on this tendency. Unity in diversity is the ideal of married life. Tom Hood was the wittiest of men, and at the same time one of the most melancholy. The president of a New England theological seminary, who was very penurious, preached the ablest sermon of his life on charity. The people of Scotland are notoriously intemperate every Saturday night; it is said that thirty thousand persons get drunk at that time in the city of Glasgow alone; and yet the finest idyl in our language, consecrated to the domestic peace and religious sanctity of that season, we owe to a Scottish poet, himself in full accord with the habits of his countrymen.
1 Shake-speare makes the same quotation:--
"To be wise and love
Exceeds man's might; that dwells with gods above."Troilus and Cressida, III. 2.
"The tendency of love, of which Bacon speaks, to 'trouble a man's fortunes, and make him untrue to his own ends,' is most forcibly illustrated in the character of Proteus, who contrasts his slavery as a lover with Valentine's freedom as a student, thus:--
'He after honor hunts, I after love;
He leaves his friends to dignify them more,
I leave myself, my friend, and all for love.
Thou, Julia, thou hast metamorphosed me,
Made me neglect my studies, lose my time,
War with good counsel, set the world at naught,
Made wit with musing weak, heart sick with thought.'"Two Gentlemen of Verona, I. 1.R. M. Theobald.
"In 'Venus and Adonis' the goddess, after the death of her favorite, utters a curse upon love which contains in the germ, as it were, the whole development of the subject as Shakespeare has unfolded it in the series of his dramas."--Gervinus.
"Shakespeare manifests a total insensibility to the gross passion of love. In descriptions of Platonic affection and conventional gallantry he is unsurpassed; but when he essays to be personally tender his muse becomes tediously perfunctory, as we see it in 'Hamlet.' Then his intense abhorrence of intemperance and personal defilement is another proof of super-animal organization, in which he seems to stand alone. In what other author of the time do we read anything like his intense loathing of them which we find in 'Antony and Cleopatra'?--
And keep the turn of tippling with a slave!
To reel the streets at noon, and stand the buffet
With knaves that smell of sweat.'--I. 4.
"It may be said that his love of music, of flowers, and of perfume was a wholly sensuous love; but he associates it with sublime ideas, which animal natures never do, as in the following:--
'That strain again; it had a dying fall.
O! it came o'er my ear like the sweet south
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odor.'--Twelfth Night, I. 1."
Thomas W. White's Our English Homer, p. 123.
"Shake-speare's" ability to assume any character--a Romeo, a Falstaff, an Iago--without regard to his own private sentiments, itself deprives the above objection of pertinency and force.
VI. The author of the plays had a thorough practical knowledge of dramatic art that could have been derived, in part at least, only from experience in stage management.
We are now on William Shakspere's own ground; for not only did he tread the boards himself, but he was a successful manager of one or two theatres. That Francis Bacon also had a penchant for the business will appear from three considerations, to wit:
1. He possessed the temperament that fits one for it. On this point we summon a pen-and-ink artist of exceptional abilities to testify, as follows:--
"Slight in build, rosy and round in flesh, dight in a sumptuous suit; the head well-set, erect, and framed in a thick starched fence of frills; a bloom of study and travel on the fat, girlish face, which looks far younger than his years; the hat and feather tossed aside from the broad, white forehead, over which crisps and curls a mane of dark, soft hair; an English nose, firm, open, straight; mouth, delicate and small,--a lady's or a jester's mouth,--a thousand pranks and humors, quibbles, whims, and laughters, lurking in its twinkling, tremulous lines: such is Francis Bacon at the age of twenty-four."--Dixon's Personal History of Lord Bacon, p. 25.
2. Bacon was prominent in the dramatic revels at Gray's Inn and before the Court. According to Chamberlain (who wrote in 1613), he was the "chief contriver" of them. Anthony's tastes in this direction were so strong that he removed his residence to the neighborhood of the Bull Inn for better opportunities to gratify them.1 That his brother shared the same indulgence we cannot doubt, for the two were involved in a common censure from their mother on account of it; and when Francis rode in state through the streets to take his seat for the first time on the woolsack, the players turned out en masse to do him honor.
"It is said that William Shakespeare once played before Queen Elizabeth. There is no record of it in the Court minutes, though we cannot find that any of that period have been lost. There's a record, however, that Francis Bacon did. Feb. 8, 1587, certain gentlemen of Gray's Inn, Bacon among them, performed before Her Majesty a play called 'The Misfortunes of Arthur,' which surely no one can read without being impressed with its resemblance to what men call, nowadays, the Shakespearean gait and movement."--Appleton Morgan.
"There is one play, 'The Misfortunes of Arthur,' in the production of which there can be no doubt that Francis Bacon had a share. In the old record of this play he is only credited with having contributed the 'dumb shows;' but in certain passages and scenes there appear the same peculiarities of expression and thought as have been found to connect the Shakespeare plays with entries in the Promus. It seems easy to distinguish the pages which have been illuminated and beautified by his hand."--Mrs. Henry Pott, Promus, p. 90.
"Unless we much mistake, there is a richer and nobler vein of poetry running through it than is to be found in any previous work of the kind."--J. P. Collier.
1 The "Shake-speare" plays were then running there.
3. Bacon regarded the drama as an educational instrumentality of the highest value. He says of it:--
"Although in modern states play-acting is esteemed but as a ludicrous thing, except when it is too satirical and biting, yet among the ancients it became a means of forming the souls of men to virtue. Even the wise and prudent, and great philosophers, considered it to be, as it were, the plectrum of the mind. And most certainly, what is one of the secrets of nature, the minds of men, when assembled together, are more open to affections and impressions than when they are alone."
In the second book of the 'Advancement of Learning,' he recommends that dramatic art be included in the regular curriculum of schools.
After all, the plays are not such as a business manager, intent on making money and indifferent to literary fame, would write for his theatre. Some of them are impracticable on account of their length; they always have to be cut for public use. Others are too philosophical. How long would the gods of the pit endure 'Troilus and Cressida,' full as it is of the profoundest wisdom, and wholly unsuited even now for popular presentation? Others still, are the outcome of successive revisions, growing more and more fitted for the closet, less and less for the stage. Taken together, these writings seem to be the productions of a man who had high subjective ideals, who sought relief in them from severer studies, and who made pecuniary results a secondary consideration.
"Every genuine work of art has as much reason for being as the earth and the sea. The Iliad of Homer, the songs of David, the odes of Pindar, the tragedies of Æschylus, the Doric temples, the Gothic cathedrals, the plays of Shakespeare, all and each were made not for sport, but in grave earnest, in tears and smiles of suffering and loving men."--Emerson's Essay on Art.
The opposite view, that the plays were written solely for the theatre and for money, leads Richard Grant White to the following reductio ad absurdum:--
"All that we know of his [Shakspere's] life and of his domestic career leaves us no room for doubt that, if his public had preferred it, he would have written thirty-seven plays like 'Titus Andronicus,' just as readily, though not as willingly, as he wrote 'As You Like It,' 'King Lear,' 'Hamlet,' and 'Othello.'"--Shakespeare Studies, p. 20.
We find the same degrading sentiment in one who was still more unjust to Bacon:--
"For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight,
And grew immortal in his own despite."
"It has been frequently observed that, if this view be accepted, it is at the expense of investing him [Shakespeare] with a mean and sordid disposition."--Halliwell-Phillipps.
Such is the inevitable consequence of attempting to make the facts of Shakspere's life fit the writings of "Shake-speare." Messrs. White and Halliwell-Phillipps are, perhaps, our two best authorities on the Shakspere side of the question, and they would have us believe that the noblest productions of the human mind are the offspring of vulgarity as well as of ignorance.
But there is still a deeper depth of absurdity, and Mr. White does not hesitate to make the plunge:--
"He had as much deliberate purpose in his breathing as in his play-writing."--Studies in Shakespeare, p. 209.
No wonder that Mr. White pronounces Shakspere a "miraculous miracle," or, in other words (as carefully defined by him), a miracle that is not a miracle! It is almost shocking to see an able man driven by inexorable logic to such an extremity.
VII. The author of the plays had intimate knowledge of persons and localities in the neighborhood of Stratford, and of certain peculiarities of speech prevailing there.
The local references, on which the first part of the above statement is based, are mostly found in the Induction to the play of 'The Taming of the Shrew.' The localities mentioned there are Wincot and Burton-Heath. The former is probably Wilmecote, a hamlet near Stratford, and the latter, Barton-on-the-Heath, a small town in the extreme southwestern part of the county. There are other Wincots in England, but the one distinguished as having been the residence of Marian Hacket can hardly be mistaken, on account of its comparative proximity to Sly's birthplace. The tradition that Shakspere was accustomed to make the buxom ale-wife's premises his favorite place of resort required two hundred years to get itself into print, and is doubtless apocryphal.
These local allusions are explainable on one of two grounds, to wit:--
1. In 1598 Bacon rendered a great service to the crown. He introduced into the House of Commons, of which body he was the acknowledged leader, a bill to arrest decay of tillage, by requiring all landowners to restore to the plough, within eighteen months from the date of the passage of the act, every acre of land that had been taken from it and given to pasturage since the beginning of the Queen's reign, a period of forty years. The bill itself was a high-handed procedure, in clear violation of the principles of political economy as now understood, but made necessary at that time in order to counteract the influence of another absurd piece of legislation, under which products of pasturage could be exported for sale, while those of tillage could not. The Commons supported Bacon enthusiastically, but the Lords, Essex among them,1 resisted. A parliamentary battle followed, with Coke at the head of the barons and Bacon at the head of the burgesses. The result was the triumphant passage of the bill, and a royal grant to its champion of a valuable lease at Cheltenham, twenty-five miles from Stratford, and twenty from Barton-on-the-Heath.
Furthermore, in 1606, Bacon married a step-daughter of Sir John Packington, whose residence was within an easy drive in another direction from Stratford. He was also connected by marriage with Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, in the immediate vicinity of Stratford. It would be very remarkable if under these circumstances Bacon did not become familiar with the valley of the Avon, in the branches of which all the above-mentioned places, with the exception of Barton-on-the-Heath, are situated.
2. 'The Taming of the Shrew' is one of those
1 Essex took great pains to place himself in opposition to Bacon, coming to London expressly for the purpose. The breach between them had been widening for two or three years.
plays in the Shakespearean canon with the composition of which "Shake-speare" himself is generally considered to have had little to do. The question is an open one. Critics divide on it, not only as to what part of it he actually wrote, but whether he wrote any part whatever. Richard Grant White sums up the case as follows:--
"In my opinion it is the joint production of Greene, Marlowe, and possibly Shakespeare, who seem to have worked together for the Earl of Pembroke's servants during the first three years of Shakespeare's London life. Much the greater part of it appears to have been the work of Greene; Marlowe probably but little, and Shakespeare, if at all, much less."--Ed. of Shakespeare's Works, IV. 391.
The nativity of the author has also been inferred from the use in the plays of words peculiar to the dialect of Warwickshire. Mr. Wise devoted a chapter to this subject in his book 'Shakespeare: his Birthplace and its Neighborhood;' but Professor Langlin, whose scholarly criticism in this field of research commands our confidence, has published the following conclusions in a review of it:--
"I have been led to examine his [Wise's] list of alleged provincialisms of Shakespeare, and am much surprised to find how very uncertain is their evidence as to the actual locality in which the writer really lived. Wise's argument proves too much, and therefore, in my opinion, proves nothing."--Shakespeariana, I. 185.
A partial glossary of Warwickshire provincialisms has been compiled by Dr. Appleton Morgan, and subjected to a critical analysis in the columns of the "London Daily Telegraph" by Mrs. Henry Pott, with results as follows:--
1. "Of the 518 words enumerated, there are 46 only which are not so current in Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Lincolnshire, and Leicestershire (and perhaps in any other English country) as they are in Warwickshire."
2. "Of the 46 which we do not recognize as common to the southern and eastern counties, not one is to be found in Shakespeare."
VIII. Contemporaneous testimony establishes the identity of Shakspere the actor and "Shake-speare" the dramatist.
Under this head four persons only can be summoned as witnesses. They are John Heminge, Henry Condell, Leonard Digges, and Ben Jonson.1 The first two were fellow-actors with Shakspere on the stage. They were also beneficiaries under his will, receiving each a ring. In strict accord with these known facts, and in flat contradiction to our theory of the origin of the plays, they declare, in the preface to the first folio (of which they were at least nominal editors), that the author was their friend, and that he was not then living. Unfortunately for their reputation for sincerity, however, they also declare, in the 'Address to Readers' which follows the preface, that they had in their hands the author's own manuscripts (the appearance of which they describe), and that they were thus enabled to substitute, for the stolen and mutilated individual quartos, a collective version absolutely perfect in all its parts.
1 "I own at once that those evidences are scanty; . . . there are but four [contemporaries] who directly identify the man or the actor with the writer of the plays."--Ingleby's Essays, p. 24 (1888).
In this list we substitute Digges for Chettle, for reasons which will fully appear in the text.
Everybody knows that these last statements are untrue. The book they printed contains on an average about twenty errors to the page, or twenty thousand in all. In some places poetry is printed as prose; in others, gems, sparkling with thought in the quartos, are omitted; in others still, names of actors are given instead of those of the dramatis personæ, showing that in such cases they followed copies that had been previously used in the theatre, and followed them, too, "out of the window." On the ground of insincerity, therefore, we must ask Messrs. Heminge and Condell to step down from the witness-stand; we cannot accept their testimony even under oath.
"I suppose that I must, in the next place, cite the ostensible editors of the first collection of Shakespeare's works, . . . but, unfortunately for their credit and our own satisfaction, their prefatory statement contains, or at least suggests, what they must have known to be false."--Dr. Ingleby.
The next witness is Leonard Digges, also one of the immortal few who helped, with poetic lubrications, to launch the first folio upon the public. He testifies distinctly that the author of the plays had had a monument erected to his memory at Stratford:
"Shake-speare, at length thy pious fellows give,
The world thy works; thy works, by which, out-live
Thy tomb, thy name must; when that stone is rent,
And time dissolves thy Stratford monument,
Here we alive shall view thee still. This book,
When brass and marble fade, shall make thee look
Fresh to all ages." Leonard Digges.
The following verses, written by Digges, were also intended, it is said, to accompany the above in the with sublime ideas, which animal natures never do, as in the following:--
"Next, Nature only helped him; for look thorough
This whole book, thou shalt find he doth not borrow
One phrase from Greeks, nor Latins imitate,
Nor once from vulgar languages translate,
Nor, plagiary-like, from others glean,
Nor begs he from each witty friend a scene
To piece his acts with : all that he doth write
Is pure his own; plot, language exquisite."
Mr. White, who was an unmitigated Shakespearean, stands aghast at these lines, wholly unable to account for what he calls the "sad blunder" in them. Was the witty Digges really so ignorant?1
It will be noticed that the entire quartette of these witnesses (including Ben Jonson)2 were engaged, either as editors or contributors, in the printing of the first folio. It is impossible to name a single person, taking no part in this symposium of wit, who can be quoted as authority on the point at issue.
We are well aware that Henry Chettle is said by all but two of the Shaksperean commentators of the last one hundred years to have testified to the literary ability of Shakspere the actor, and thus indirectly identified him with the dramatist. The facts of the case do not warrant any such conclusion. Chettle was editor of a posthumous pamphlet, entitled a 'Groatsworth of Wit,' by Robert Greene. He was also author of 'Kind Heart's Dream,' a book published later in the same year (1592). In the
1 Digges was known as a "wit of the town."
2 For a discussion of Jonson's testimony, see p. 91 et seq.
preface to the latter work he apologizes to some one who had taken offence at certain personal allusions in Greene's pamphlet, and held him, as editor, responsible for them.
We quote from the pamphlet as follows:--
"To those gentlemen, his quondam acquaintance, that spend their wits in making plays, R. G. wisheth a better exercise and wisdom to prevent his extremities. . . . Base-minded men, all three of you, if by my misery you be not warned; for unto none of you (like me) sought those burrs to cleave; those puppets, I mean, that speak from our mouths, those antics garnished in our colors. . . . Yes, trust them not; for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that, with his tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes Factotum, is, in his own conceit, the only Shake-scene in a country."
That the putative author of the "Shake-speare" dramas is referred to in the closing sentence of the above, there can be little doubt; because of the parody, not only on the name, but also on a line in the third part of 'King Henry VI., "O tiger's heart, wrapped in a woman's hide!" It is conceded, also, that the character of the reference was such as would naturally cause offence. But was Shakspere one of those whom Chettle represents as offended, and to whom, as the biographers claim, he apologizes in commendatory terms? On this point we quote from Chettle himself, in the preface above mentioned: "Among others his "Groatsworth of Wit,' in which a letter, written to divers play-makers, is offensively by one or two of them taken." One or two of whom? Evidently, of the play-makers (Marlowe, Nash or
Lodge, and Peele, it is said), who had been addressed by Greene, who had been warned against the Johannes Factotum, and who had themselves been characterized elsewhere in the pamphlet, one as an atheist and another as a blasphemer and drunkard. Chettle then goes on to say:--
"With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them I care not if I never be; the other whom at that time I did not so much spare as since I wish I had . . . because myself have seen his demeanor no less civil than he, excellent in the quality he professes; besides, divers of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing that approves his art."
It is very remarkable that of all the biographers of Shakspere, so far as noted, Frederick Gard Fleay alone states this matter correctly, thus:--
"In December, Chettle issued his 'Kind Heart's Dream,' in which he apologizes for the offence given to Marlowe in the 'Groatsworth of Wit,' 'because myself have seen his demeanor,' etc. To Peele he makes no apology, nor indeed was any required. Shakespeare was not one of those who took offence; they are expressly stated to have been two of the authors addressed by Green; the third (Lodge) not being in England."--Chronicle History of the Life and Works of William Shakespeare, p. 111.
Even Dr. Ingleby admits that Chettle's commendatory words cannot be applied to Shakspere without a violation of the text. It is necessary, he says, to interpolate a few words, to the effect that Greene wrote his letter to divers playwrights, his friends and associates, and against another, his avowed enemy, and that two of these, including the latter, took offence!
That is to say, for the purpose of saving Chettle's testimony to Shakspere, he would not only fabricate proofs in support of it, but reduce the whole passage to nonsense. This would only add another, however, to the fourteen deliberate forgeries already uttered at various times in behalf of the legendary dramatist. No wonder that Dr. Ingleby finally confesses, in despair, that contemporary evidence on this point is "contemporary rumour," and that he attaches "little weight" to it!
For further elucidation of this subject, see 'The Athenæum,' Feb. 7, 1874. An intelligent writer, himself a Shaksperean, there contends that the two who took offence were Marlowe and Nash. It is certain, he says, that "Shakespeare was not one of them."
IX. The theory of composite authorship can alone account for the wide diversity of talents exhibited in the plays.
The objections to the above are twofold:--
The difficulty of believing that one man could have written the plays and been restrained by prudential considerations from acknowledging them, even with the concession that he had other and, in his own opinion, higher claims to fame, is very great; but it vanishes in the light of this composite theory. That so important a secret should have been shared on equal terms by several persons, and no hint of it escape in any direction, while then, as now, every friend had a friend, and every friend's friend had a friend, is simply incredible.
2. The theory is inconsistent with the unique character of the plays.
The Shake-spearean "gait and movement," wherever it may be found, is unmistakable. Indeed, if the pages of the first folio were so many stone slabs taken from an ancient river-bed, they could not bear clearer marks of the stride of a colossus. No play in the canon is without giant footprints.
"The stamp of a mighty genius is impressed on them all."--Schlegel.
"No one ever yet produced one scene conceived and expressed in the Shakespearean idiom."--Coleridge's Table-Talk, p. 214.
"He is not only superior in degree, but he is also different in kind. . . . We never saw a line in any modern poet that reminded us of him."--Lowell's Among My Books, p. 180.
"Upon the most insignificant of Shakespeare's beauties there is an impress stamped which to all the world proclaims, 'I am Shakespeare's.'"--Lessing.
What is it, then, that the advocates of this composite theory ask us to believe? It is this: that there lived at one time, in one country and in intimate personal association, several poets, not only greater than any that lived in the world before them, and greater than any that have lived since, but so similar in literary style, in character, and in intellectual development that it is impossible to distinguish one from another in their work. Not only this, but we must also believe that these men, while exhibiting transcendent powers of genius in dramas which they published under the common pseudonym of "Shake-speare," were all of them at the same time writing
and publishing over their own names other poetical works which James Russell Lowell declared to be in every instance "immeasurably inferior" to those known as "Shake-speare's." Juliet's prayer that Romeo at his death might be cut out in little stars and was an extravagant hyperbole; but what shall we say of those who, out of "Shake-speare," would create blazing suns?
"make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,"
X. Shakspere's life furnishes the key to the writings that bear his name.
Critics who take this view simply hug their chains to keep them from clanking. Coleridge, Emerson, Schlegel, Whipple, Hallam, Furness, all substantially agree that (in the language of one of them) the life of William Shakspere and the writings ascribed to him cannot be brought "within a planetary space of each other." Professor Swing was convinced that Shakspere must, at least, "have kept a poet."
If we come to particulars, the case is even worse. Everybody admits that in or about the year 1600 a change came over the dramatist's spirit. He then sought, as Professor Dowden remarks, to "apprehend life adequately." He fell "into the shadow of some of the deep mysteries of human existence." "Somehow," a new relation "between his soul and the dark and terrible forces of the world" began to exist. How can this be explained from anything in
the life of the man Shakspere? How can we account, consistently with what we know of him, for this sudden and stupendous sweep of mind from Falstaff and Romeo to 'Othello,'1 'Macbeth,' and 'Lear'? "Shakspere had by this time," we are told, "mastered the world from a practical point of view; he was a prosperous and wealthy man." Yes, he was buying houses and lands, bringing suits against debtors, scheming for a title, and preparing to settle down for the remainder of his days in a town where but few of his prospective neighbors could read or write, where there were no books, and where his domestic surroundings would be fetid watercourses, stable refuse, mud-walls, and piggeries. Without ambition for anything higher or better, with no calamity of any kind to disturb the easy current of his thoughts, it is simply inconceivable that he could at that time have taken the new departure which Professor Dowden ascribes to him.2 It is only in the "whine of poets," says James Russell Lowell, that the "outward world was cold to him."
1 "The tragedy of 'Othello,' Plato's records of the last scenes of the career of Socrates, and Isaac Walton's Life of George Herbert are the most pathetic of human compositions."--William Wordsworth.
2 Our friends on the other side have not overlooked this difficulty; with what success they have met it, the following, perhaps the best adventure of the kind, may show. We beg to assure our readers that it was not intended as a caricature:--
"There were outward causes and reasons enough; . . . He was doomed to look on, while that on which he had spent all his mental energy was profaned and blackened by rude hands; he was doomed to see genuine poetry, and with it the deep seriousness of the Christian view of life, banished from the age. It was, therefore, but natural that he should have had misgivings, lest his name and all his labors would be soon forgotten, perhaps, forever. . . . Well, then, might the tone of his mind have sunk into the harsh dissonance which he seems to have labored to embody in his last works, in order to shake it off from his
Turning now to Bacon, all difficulty vanishes. To him life had suddenly become very dark. The execution, however, merited, of Essex, his old friend, gave him a terrible shock; he had some fears of assassination on account of it. It caused the death of his only brother, Anthony, his "comfort," between whom and himself existed the tenderest affection. His mother had recently become violently insane.
The great object of his life, the reform of philosophy, seemed even now even more remote from him than ever. To use his own words, uttered a little while before, he was indifferent whether God or Her Majesty called him.
"Here we see that agony and conflict which Professor Dowden so eloquently describes; here is the cry of anguish which is echoed in Hamlet's strife with destiny, and in Lear's wild wail of unutterable pain. If Professor Dowden had been able to search in this direction for the original of the portrait which he draws of the mind and art of Shakespeare, how would his deepest speculations have been more than justified! What new and profound and precious comments would he have made could he have brought his glorious conjectures into this historic environment! It is almost shocking, it is inexpressibly humiliating, to see his attempts to establish a rapport for them with own bosom.' [Italics our own.]--Ulrici's Shakespeare's Dramatic Art, p. 244.
The same critic finds, also, in the dissipations and frivolous excesses which, according to tradition, marked Shakspere's youth, and which finally drove him out of Stratford, matter for a sage reflection:--
"How often may we thus trace the guiding finger of God in the errors of individuals, and the consequences to which they lead!"--Ibid., p. 74.
"Zeal without knowledge," is Mr. Lowell's comment on Ulrici's book.
XI. The author of the plays was a great genius, not to be judged by ordinary standards, or under the common limitations of human nature.
Genius has no known antecedents; a man possessing it always takes the world by surprise. For this reason, the ancients were prone to regard genius, not as the natural resultant of qualities combined with infinite variations under the laws of heredity, but as something specially conferred upon favored individuals from a higher source.1
In modern times this view has become obsolete. What is merely wonderful (that is, unexplainable) has ceased to be miraculous. No one now pretends that Cæsar, or Plato, or any other highly endowed member of our race, was more than human. The old superstition still lingers, however, in a mild form around Shakspere. And no wonder; for what is displayed in his reputed writings and what we know of his life are so utterly at variance that, as Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, the twain cannot be united by a marriage ceremony. Nothing but a bolt from heaven could fuse them together.
"Nobody believes any longer that immediate inspiration is possible in modern times, and yet everybody seems to take it for granted of this one man, Shakespeare."--Lowell's Among My Books, p. 201.
1 The number of progenitors that have contributed to make every man what he is, within the space of twenty generations only, or about six hundred years, exceeds a million. The individual variations in character and endowment are therefore almost infinite.
But even this fanatical conception of "Shake-speare" is inadequate. It fails to account for the learning embedded in the plays,--learning so vast, so multifarious, and often so technically exact that twenty-four different occupations in life have in turn been assigned to the dramatist.
XII. Among Bacon's known works we find some fragments of verse which show him utterly wanting in the fine frenzy of the poet.
Bacon's acknowledged poetry, it is safe to say, would not have made him immortal. We know that he wrote a sonnet to the Queen, but, unless it be included in the "Shake-speare" collection, it is lost. Two years before he died, and while incapacitated by illness for good work, he paraphrased a few of the Psalms, which he afterward published, and which would seem to be at first sight only so many nails driven into the coffin of his poetic aspirations. It is manifestly unfair, however, to judge of his capabilities in this line by a sick-bed effort. He was necessarily hampered, too, by the restrictions that always attend the transplanting of an exotic in full bloom, lest the little tendrils of speech that give the flower its beauty and fragrance be broken. The president of a New England college once made a similar adventure with the Psalms; but when the book appeared, the author's friends bought up the entire edition, and suppressed it.
The following are two of the Psalms in Bacon's version,--the two that represent, perhaps, the opposite extremes of merit among the seven:--
Father and King of pow'rs, both high and low,
Whose sounding fame all creatures serve to blow,
My soul shall with the rest strike up thy praise,
And carol of thy works and wondrous ways.
But who can blaze thy beauties, Lord, aright?
They turn the brittle beams of mortal sight.
Upon thy head thou wear'st a glorious crown,
All set with virtues polish'd with renown;
Thence round about a silver veil doth fall
Of crystal light, mother of colors all.
The compass heav'n, smooth without grain or fold,
All set with spangs of glitt'ring stars untold,
And strip'd with golden beams of power unpent,
Is raised up for a removing tent.
Vaulted and archèd are his chamber beams
Upon the seas, the waters, and the streams.
The clouds as chariots swift do scour the sky,
The stormy winds upon their wings do fly;
His angels spirits are, that wait his will,
As flames of fire his anger they fulfil.
. . . . . . . .
Nor is it earth alone exalts thy name,
But seas and streams likewise do spread the same.
The rolling seas unto the lot doth fall
Of beasts innumerable, great and small;
There do the stately ships plough up the floods,
The greater navies look like walking woods.
The fishes there far voyages do make,
To divers shores their journey they do take.
There thou hast set the great Leviathan,
That makes the seas to seethe like boiling pan.
All these do ask of thee their meat to live,
Which in due season thou to them dost give.
Ope then thy hand, and then they have good fare;
Shut thou thy hand, and then they troubled are.
O Lord, thou art our home, to whom we fly,
And so hast always been from age to age;
Before the hills did intercept the eye,
Or that the frame was up of earthly stage;
One God thou wert, and art, and still shalt be;
The line of time, it doth not measure thee.
. . . . . . . .
Teach us, O Lord, to number well our days,
Thereby our hearts to wisdom to apply;
For that which guides man best in all his ways
Is meditation of mortality.
This bubble light, this vapor of our breath,
Teach us to consecrate to hour of death.
Return unto us, Lord, and balance now,
With days of joy, our days of misery;
Help us right soon, our knees to thee to bow,
Depending wholly on thy clemency.
Then shall thy servants, both with heart and voice,
All the days of their life in thee rejoice.
Begin thy work, O Lord, in this our age,
Show it unto thy servants that now live;
But to our children raise it many a stage,
That all the world to thee may glory give.
Our handy-work, likewise, as fruitful tree,
Let it, O Lord, bless'd, not blasted, be.
"It is not safe to judge of his [Bacon's] poetical powers by his paraphrase of the Psalms, which was written, just as Milton's paraphrase was written, in what is to-day the purest doggerel. But that these versions were so written purposely, in order that the meanest intellects might commit them to memory and sing them, no one at all familiar with the times can doubt for a moment. If there is any degree in doggerel, Milton's verses are the most ridiculous."--Appleton Morgan
Milton was a Christian scholar, as well as a great poet. No man ever lived better fitted than he was, it would seem, to reproduce to our ears the devout strains of Hebrew melody. For purposes of comparison we give, also, two of his Psalms out of the nineteen paraphrases which he attempted, as follows:--
Lord, my God, to Thee I fly,
Save me and secure me under
Thy protection while I cry;
Lest as a lion (and no wonder)
He haste to tear my soul asunder,
Tearing, and no rescue nigh.
. . . . . . . .
God is a just judge and severe,
And God is every day offended.
If the unjust will not forbear,
His sword he whets, His bow hath bended
Already, and for him intended
The tools of death, that waits him near.
(His arrows purposely made He
For them that persecute.) Behold,
He travails big with vanity;
Trouble he hath conceived of old
As in a womb; and from that mould
Hath at length brought forth a lie.
He digged a pit, and delved it deep.
And fell into the pit he made:
His mischief, that due course doth keep
Turns on his head; and his ill trade
Of violence will, undelayed,
Fall on his crown with ruin steep.
Then will I Jehovah's praise
According to his justice raise,
And sing the name and deity
Of Jehovah, the Most High."
O Jehovah, our Lord, how wondrous great
And glorious is Thy name thro' all the earth!
So as above the heavens Thy praise is set
Out of the tender mouths of latest birth.
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou
Hast founded strength, because of all thy foes:
To stint the enemy, and slack the avenger's brow,
That bend his rage Thy providence to oppose.
. . . . . . . .
Fowl of the heavens, and fish that thro' the wet
Sea paths in shoals do slide, and know no dearth;
O Jehovah, our Lord, how wondrous great
And glorious is Thy name thro' all the earth.
We think our readers will agree with us that honors are at least easy between these distinguished translators.
To find doggerel, however, we need not travel beyond the record in this literary suit. There are astonishing specimens of it in "Shake-speare," even
in plays which are admitted by every one to be his own from beginning to end. Richard Grant White (who prided himself on the title which he had acquired as "Shakespeare's Scholar") says of a passage in 'King Lear':--
"It is hardly more than a succession of almost trite moral reflections put in a sententious form, and written in verse as weak, as constrained, and as formal as that of a French tragedy."
We quote from Mr. White, also, in reference to another play of undoubtedly Shake-spearean origin:--
"Although as a whole, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is the most exquisite, the daintiest, and most fanciful creation that exists in poetry, and abounds in passages worthy even of Shakespeare in his full maturity, it also contains whole scenes which are hardly worthy of his 'prentice hand, and which yet seem to bear unmistakable marks of his unmistakable pen. It is difficult to believe that such lines as--
Think of the gems in this same wonderful drama,--gems
"That on the stretched forefinger of all
time Sparkle forever,"
and then, by the side of them, of such a speech as this:
"When at your hands did I deserve this scorn?
Is 't not enough, is 't not enough, young man,
That I did never, no, nor never can,
Deserve a sweet look from Demetrius' eye?"
The truth is, Bacon's version of the Psalms is an essential part of our case; it explains what would otherwise have been inexplicable in "Shake-speare." The author of the plays, as Mr. White observes, was not always writing 'Hamlet.'1
"It must be owned that, with all these great excellences, he [Shakespeare] has almost as great defects; and that, as he has certainly written better, so he has perhaps written worse, than any other."--Pope.
Fortunately, we have a specimen of Bacon's poetry for which we need not apologize. This is also a translation; but being in the precincts of profane literature, it justified a freer hand. We give it entire, as follows:--
"The world's a bubble, and the life of man
Less than a span;
In his conception wretched, from the womb
So to the tomb;
1 Wordsworth's 'Ode on Intimations of Immortality in Childhood' is, without doubt, the finest production of its kind in our language. Mr. Emerson pronounced it the "high-water mark" of the nineteenth century. Among other works of the same author, we find a poem of fifty pages, composed in 1798, and kept in manuscript for more than twenty years, subject to frequent revision, and intended, as the preface informs us, for a permanent place in the world's literature. When it finally appeared, Byron demanded to know whether such trash could evade contempt. Sir Walter Scott accused the author of "crawling on all fours." Indeed, we know of nothing in the whole range of English verse more dismally trivial than this poem, unless we may consider it redeemed by the amazing implication in one stanza that the planet Mars has a ruddy hue because the people who inhabit it are red-haired. In the Ode we have the sublimity of genius; its degradation in "Peter Bell." Petrarch has given us the finest hymn and the most wretched sonnet in the world.
Cursed from his cradle, and brought up to years
With cares and fears;
Who, then, to frail mortality shall trust
But limns the water, or but writes in dust.
"Yet whilst with sorrow here we live oppressed,
What life is best?
Courts are only superficial schools,
To dandle fools.
The rural parts are turned into a den
Of savage men:
And where's the city from foul vice so free
But may be termed the worst of all the three?
"Domestic cares afflict the husband's bed,
Or pain his head.
Those that live single take it for a curse,
Or do things worse.
Some would have children; those that have them moan,
Or wish them gone.
What is it, then, to have or have no wife,
But single thraldom, or a double strife?
"Our own affections still at home to please
Is a disease;
To cross the seas to any foreign soil,
Perils and toil.
Wars with their noise affright us; when they cease,
We're worse in peace.
What then remains, but that we still should cry
Not to be born, or, being born, to die?"
It is not known when the above was written. We find it for the first time in a volume of Greek epigrams, published in 1629, three years after Bacon's death, and ascribed to him on good authority. All that is claimed for it is a high degree of skill in versification,--the opportunity not admitting a flight of genius. The original is a dull, placid stream flowing through a meadow,--not a cataract from a mountain height.
"The merit of the original consists entirely in its compactness, there being no special felicity in the expression, or music in the metre. In the English, compactness is not aimed at, and a tone of plaintive melody is imparted, which is due chiefly to the metrical arrangement, and has something very pathetic in it to my ear."--Bacon's Works (Spedding), VII. 271.
We have seen that Bacon declared himself a "concealed poet" (p. 85); that he wrote a sonnet to Queen Elizabeth (p. 159); that he was probably author of another sonnet, which Florio commended as written by one who "loved better to be a poet than to be counted so" (p. 86); also, that John Aubrey, Milton's friend, pronounced Bacon "a good poet, but concealed" (p. 85). Edmund Howes, a contemporary, brings us another testimonial to the same general effect, for he reckoned Bacon among the poets then living, assigning him the eighth, and "Shake-speare" the thirteenth, place in the list. In a book published in 1645, and supposed to be by the eminent poet, George Withers, also a contemporary, an account is given of a great assize held on Mount Parnassus. In this assembly Apollo sits at the summit; but next to him, as chancellor of Parnassus, is placed Francis Bacon. Edmund Spenser appears as clerk.
But this is not all. Bacon himself once admitted, in the freedom of his private correspondence, that he was no stranger on these poetic heights. It was in 1595, at the very time when the "Shake-speare" plays were coming out at the rate of two a year. It was also immediately after Bacon had started his famous scrap-book, in which so many turns of expression, appropriate only to dialogue, are noted, and in which also we find that curious reference to "law at Twickenham for the merry tales,"--Twickenham being then his frequent place of abode.1
The Earl of Essex had been for several months using his efforts to secure for Bacon an office under the government, but with so many disappointments that Bacon finally turned his own attention to something else,--perhaps to secure ready money, or "quick revenue," as he called it, of which he was then in pressing need,--for he wrote to the Earl as follows:--
"I am neither much in appetite [for the office] nor much in hope; for, as to the appetite, the waters of Parnassus are not like the waters of the Spaw, that give a stomach, but rather they quench appetites and desires."2
"Parnassus, a mountain in Central Greece, in mythology sacred to the muses. The Delphian sanctuary of Apollo was on its slope, and from between its twin summit peaks flows the fountain of Castalia, the waters of which were imputed to impart the virtue of poetic inspiration."--Century Dictionary.
1 The first entry was made in the Promus in December, 1594. We have several letters written by Bacon in 1595, closing with the words, "from my lodge at Twicknam."
2 How far Essex' knowledge extended in this direction we do not know; but we do know that, even if it covered the early dramas, it would not have been considered by him of much importance; for, with the exception of 'Hamlet' in its first draft, and 'Romeo and Juliet,' none of the great Tragedies had been written at the time of his death. We must not measure the magnitude of the secret, as it then was, by our present conceptions of it.
To get the full force of these facts, however, we must study Bacon's prose, which the critics, before the shadow of this controversy fell upon and chilled them, thus described:--
"In this band of scholars, dreamers, and inquirers appears the most comprehensive, sensitive, originative of the minds of the age, Francis Bacon; a great and luminous intellect, one of the finest of this poetic progeny."--Taine.
"Like the poets, he peoples nature with instincts and desires; attributes to bodies an actual voracity; to the atmosphere, a thirst for light, sounds, odors, vapors, which it drinks in; to metals, a sort of haste to be incorporated with acids."--Ibid.
"He thought in the manner of artists and poets, and spake in the manner of prophets and seers."--Ibid.
"His abilities were a clear confutation of two vulgar errors; first, that judgment, wit, fancy, and memory cannot conveniently be in conjunction in the same person; whereas, our knight was a rich cabinet, filled with all four, besides a golden key to open it."--Thomas Fuller's Worthies.
"Abilities which commonly go single in other men are all conjoined in him."--Dr. Rawley (Bacon's chaplain).
"All his literary works are instinct with poetry in the wider sense of the term. Sometimes it is seen in a beautiful simile or a felicitous phrase; sometimes in a touch of pathos. More often in the rhythmical cadence of a sentence which clings to the memory as only poetry can."--A. F. Blaisdell.
"In his style there is the same quality which is applauded in Shakespeare,--a combination of the intellectual and the imaginative, the closest reasoning in the boldest metaphor."--Shaw.
"The utmost splendor of imagery."--Mackintosh.
"Like unto Shakespeare, he takes good note of any deficiency of syllabic pulsations, and imparts the value of but one syllable to the dissyllables heaven, many, even, goeth; and to glittering and chariot but the value of two, precisely as Shakespeare would."--Prof. J. W. Tavener.
"The style is quaint original, abounding in allusions and witticisms, and rich, even to gorgeousness, with piled-up analogies and metaphors."--Encyc. Brit.
"It is as an inspired seer, the prose-poet of modern science, that I reverence Lord Bacon."--Sir Alexander Grant.
"Few poets deal in finer imagery than is to be found in Bacon. . . . His prose is poetry."--Lord Campbell.
"Lord Bacon was a poet. His language has a sweet and majestic rhythm which satisfies the sense, no less than the almost superhuman wisdom of his philosophy satisfies the intellect. It is a strain which distends, and then bursts the circumference of the reader's mind, and pours itself forth with it into the universal element with which it has perpetual sympathy.
"Plato exhibits the rare union of close and subtle logic with the Pythian enthusiasm of poetry, melted by the splendor and harmony of his periods, which hurry the persuasion onward as in a breathless career. His language is that of an immortal spirit rather than of a man. Lord Bacon is, perhaps, the only writer who, in these particulars, can be compared with him."1--Shelley.
"Much of Bacon's life was passed in a visionary world, amidst things as strange as any that are described in the Arabian Tales."--Macaulay.
"The little volume of Bacon's 'Essays' exhibit, not only more strength of mind, more true philosophy, but more originality, more fancy, more imagination, than all the volumes of Plato."--Walter Savage Landor.
"We seldom fail to meet in his pages with some broad generalization, some color of fancy, some apt classical reference or startling epigram. No other man ever so illumined a mass of technical details with the light of genius."--Nichol's Francis Bacon: His Life and Philosophy.
1 Our attention was called to this remarkable testimony of the poet Shelley by Mr. R. M. Theobald, who makes the following comment: "The truth is, that while the critics have their eye on the Baconian theory, they call Bacon prosy, unimaginative, and incapable of poetry. When they sincerely describe him, they one and all assign to him Shakespearean attributes; so that, if you cull the eulogies passed on Bacon, you have a portrait of the author of Shakespeare."
"Bacon's anticipations [in physical science] are like those of the 'Fairy Queen' about the stars,--flights of an imagination almost as unique in prose as Shakespeare's in verse."--Nichol's Francis Bacon: His Life and Philosophy, Part II. p. 193.
"It is his imagination which gives such splendor and attractiveness to his writings, clothing his thoughts in purple and gold, and making them move in majestic cadences."--Whipple's Literature of the Age of Elizabeth, p. 301.
"His superb rhetoric is the poetry of physical science. The humblest laborer in that field feels, in reading Bacon, that he himself is one of a band of heroes, wielding weapons mightier than those of Achilles or Agamemnon, engaged in a siege nobler than that of Troy."--Ibid., p. 323.
"We have only to open 'The Advancement of Learning' to see how the Attic bees clustered above the cradle of the new philosophy. Poetry pervaded the thoughts, it inspired the similes, it hymned in the majestic sentences of the wisest of mankind."--E. Bulwer Lytton.
"He seems to have written his essays with the pen of Shakespeare."--Alexander Smith.
"I infer from this sample that Bacon had all the natural faculties which a poet wants,--a fine ear for metre, a fine feeling for imaginative effect in words, and a vein of poetic passion."--Spedding.
It is admitted, then, that Bacon was at least a prose poet. No man ever caught more quickly or aptly the resemblances of things, or had a finer ear for the melody of speech. His metaphors trooped, as it were, to the sound of music. Professor Tavener compares his cadences to the swinging of a pendulum beating seconds. We know he was abnormally sensitive to the moods of nature, for he had fainting spells at every eclipse of the moon. We know he had a passion for the drama, shown by the part he took in devising stage performances before the Court, and in the revels at Gray's Inn. We know, also, he had an inexhaustible fund of humor, that poured from his tongue with the ripple of laughing waters, and needed only the constraints of a written dialogue to tumble and foam.
"The truth is that Bacon was not without the fine frenzy of the poet. . . . Had his genius taken the ordinary direction, I have little doubt that it would have carried him to a place among the great poets."--Spedding's Life of Bacon.
XIII. Bacon's want of natural sympathy, as shown in his treatment of Essex, fails to satisfy our ideal, derived from the dramas themselves, of their great author; for the world has bestowed upon Shakespeare not only its reverence but its love.
It cannot be denied that the author of the plays possessed a heart of the most tender sensibilities. Like the tides of the ocean, his sympathies were "poured round all," penetrating every bay, creek, and river of human experience. The voyager o'er the mighty current of his thought always feels embarked on the bosom of the unbounded deep. It is not enough, therefore, that Bacon was a man of lofty aims; that he devoted his great powers with tireless assiduity to the interests of mankind; was he also of that rare type of character that, with greatness of intellect, glows and scintillates at every touch of feeling?
This brings us to a most important test, the personality of Lord Bacon himself. Time has scarcely dimmed his figure; we know him almost as intimately as though he were walking our streets. We see him gathering violets in his garden, stringing pearls of thought in his essays, swaying the House of Commons with his eloquence, holding the scales of justice in the courts, marking the trend of social progress in his histories, and breaking the chains that had bound the human intellect from the days of Aristotle. His mind and heart were in touch with every interest of mankind. He was poet, orator, naturalist, physician, historian, essayist, philosopher, statesman, and judge. No man ever more completely filled the ideal of the Roman poet:--
"Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto."
"The leading peculiarity of Bacon's literary style is its sympathetic nature."--Abbott's Life of Bacon.
"Love of mankind with Bacon is not merely the noblest feeling, but the highest reason; a rich and mellow spirit of humanity.
"Perhaps the finest sentence in his writings, certainly the one which best indicates the essential feeling of his soul as he regarded human misery and ignorance, occurs in his description of one of the fathers of Solomon's House. 'His countenance,' he says, 'was as the countenance of one who pities men.'"--E. P. Whipple.
"The small, fine mind of Labruyère had not a more delicate tact than the large intellect of Bacon. His understanding resembled the tent which the fairy Parabanon gave to Prince Ahmed. Fold it, and it seemed a toy in the hand of a lady; spread it, and the armies of powerful sultans might repose beneath its shade."--Macaulay's Essay on Bacon.
"A soft voice, a laughing lip, a melting heart, made him hosts of friends. No child could resist the spell of his sweet speech, of his tender smile, of his grace without study, his frankness without guile."--Hepworth Dixon's Personal History of Lord Bacon, p. 8.
"All his pores lie open to external nature; birds and flowers delight his eye; his pulse beats quick at the sight of a fine horse, a ship in full sail, a soft sweep of country; everything holy, innocent, and gay acts on his spirits like wine on a strong man's blood. Joyous, helpful, swift to do good, slow to think evil, he leaves on every one who meets him a sense of friendliness, of peace and power. The serenity of his spirit keeps his intellect bright, his affections warm."--Hepworth Dixon's Personal History of Lord Bacon, p. 15.
He is accused of ingratitude toward his friend Essex, first, because he appeared against the accused at the trial; and, secondly, because by superior tactics he was the means of insuring conviction.
On the first point, it is sufficient to say that Bacon was present as an officer of the crown at the express command of the Queen, having repeatedly forewarned the Earl of the result of his evil courses, and duly notified him that, on any breach of the peace, he himself would support the government. The Earl richly merited his fate. His rebellion was one of the meanest, most causeless, and most contemptible that has stained the history of England.
"The rigor with which Bacon has been censured for acting on the fall of his patron Essex as advocate of the complainant, and afterwards laying before the public an account of the process justifying the Queen, appears unjust to any one who considers how Bacon exerted himself to bring the Earl to reason and the Queen to mercy, and at the same time, in virtue of his office, he was bound to perform whatever duty the Queen laid upon him."--Erdman's History of Philosophy, I. 669 .
On the second, Bacon was prominent in the proceedings because his mental stature made him prominent. As well attempt to force an oak back into its acorn as to bring Francis Bacon on any occasion down to the level of ordinary men.1
In the matter of the bribes, he suffered for the sins of society. So far as he was personally culpable, it is manifest from his subsequent demeanor that chronic carelessness in money matters, and not any guile, was at the bottom of the difficulty. To be sure, he was lax in the administration of his household affairs; but so was William Pitt. Pitt could rule an empire, but not his own servants. Bacon conquered nearly every known realm of human knowledge, but he never invaded the dominions of his cook.2 An imperial contempt for money dominated both. Venality is the very last sin in the whole catalogue of human frailties of which either of these two men could have been guilty, but it is the one with which Bacon has been most persistently, cruelly, mercilessly charged for more than two hundred and fifty years. A Roman Emperor once indulged in the amiable wish that his people had but one head, that he might cut if off at a blow. He was a monster; but we confess we find some sad evidences of kinship with him in our heart when we think of the calumniators of Francis Bacon, though the most brilliant essayist that has ever adorned the literary annals of England and the kindest of men be the chief offender. The fact that Bacon, with all his great abilities, known and acknowledged, could get no lucrative office under the government until he was forty-six years old, and that he was finally retired to private life by the machinations of men notoriously venal, may be taken as presumptive proof of the independence of his character, as well as of his rectitude and his honor.1
1 That he felt himself compromised in public estimation, we know very well, for in a letter to the Queen he says:--
"My life has been threatened and my name libelled."
We find the same lament in one of the "Shake-speare sonnets, as follows:--
"Then hate me if thou wilt, if ever, now,
Now while the world is bent my deeds to cross,
Join with the spite of fortune." Sonnet XC.
In another sonnet, the author expresses fear of assassination, anticipating
"The coward conquest of a wretch's knife." LXX.
2 It was the waste of the servants' hall that impoverished them. In Pitt's case, the quantity of butcher's meat charged in the bills was nine hundred weight a week. The consumption of poultry, of fish, of tea, was in proportion. After his death, all parties in the House of Commons readily concurred in voting forty thousand pounds to satisfy the demands of his creditors.
1 Bacon's want of attention to his personal finances (a not uncommon failing in great men, due to a sort of instinct that the matter is beneath them) caused his mother the most lively concern. She even interfered at one time to protect him from his own servants. Spedding tells the following story in point:--
"In the year 1655, a bookseller's boy heard some gentlemen talking in his master's shop; one of them, a gray-headed man, was describing a scene which he had himself witnessed at Gorhambury. He had gone to see the lord chancellor on business, who received him in his study, and, having occasion to go out, left him there for a while alone. 'Whilst his lordship was gone, there comes,' he said, 'into the study one of his lordship's gentlemen, and opens my lord's chest of drawers wherein his money was, takes it out in handfuls, fills his pockets, and goes away without saying a word to me. He was no sooner gone but comes another gentleman, opens the same drawers, fills both his pockets with money, and goes away as the former did without speaking a word.' Bacon, being told, when he came back, what had passed in his absence, merely shook his head, and all he said was, 'Sir, I cannot help myself.'"
Montagu relates another incident to the same effect:--
One day, immediately after Bacon's removal from the chancellorship, he happened to enter his servants' hall while the servants were at dinner. On their rising to receive him, he said: "Be seated; your rise has been my fall."
"No one mistook the condemnation for a moral censure; no one treated Lord St. Albans as a convicted judge. The House of Commons had refused the attempt to brand him with a personal shame; and society treated the event as one of those struggles for place which may hurt a man's fortunes without hurting his fame. The most noble and most generous men, the best scholars, the most pious clergymen, gathered round him in his adversity, more loving, more observant, more reverential, than they had ever been in his days of splendor.
"Such was also the reading of these transactions by the most eminent of foreign ministers and travellers. The French Marquis d'Effiat, the Spanish Conde de Gondomar, expressed for him in his fallen fortunes the most exalted veneration. That the judges on the bench, that the members of both Houses of Parliament, even those who, at Buckingham's bidding, had passed against him that abominable sentence, concurred with the most eminent of their contemporaries, native and alien, is apparent in the failure of every attempt made to disturb his judicial decisions. These efforts failed because there was no injustice to overthrow, and there was no injustice to overthrow because there had been no corruption on the bench."--Dixon.
"As regards the official impeachment of Bacon, if taken alone, it may establish no more against him than that, amid the multitude of engrossing calls upon his mind, he did not extricate himself from the meshes of a practice full of danger and of mischief, but in which the dividing lines of absolute right and wrong had not then been sharply marked. Hapless is the one whose head the world discharges the vials of its angry virtue; and such is commonly the case with the last and detected usufructuary of a golden abuse which has outlived its time. In such cases posterity may safely exercise its royal prerogative of mercy."--W. E. Gladstone.
"His principal fault seems to have been the excess of that virtue which covers a multitude of sins. This betrayed him to so great an indulgence towards his servants, who made a corrupt use of it, that it stripped him of all those riches and honors which a long series of merits had heaped upon him."--Addison.
"Bacon was generous, easy, good-natured, and naturally just; but he had the misfortune to be beset by domestic harpies, who, in a manner, farmed out his office."--Guthrie.
One writer says that "three of his lordship's servants kept their coaches, and some kept race-horses."
History presents to us no more pathetic figure than that of the great Lord Bacon beseeching in vain that he might not be compelled to close his career, a career of unexampled usefulness to the world, in ignominy. The authorities that condemned him remind us of a pack of wolves turning upon and rending a wounded comrade.
"I could never bring myself to condole with the great man after his fall, knowing as I did that no accident could do harm to his virtue, but rather make it manifest. He seemed to me ever by his work one of the greatest men and most worthy of admiration."--Ben Jonson.
"A memorable example to all of virtue, kindness, peaceableness, and patience."--Peter Boener (Bacon's Apothecary).
"A friend unalterable to his friends."--Sir Toby Matthew.
"A man most sweet in his conversation and ways."--Ibid.
"It is not his greatness that I admire, but his virtue."--Ibid.
"May your good word grace it and defend it, which is able to add a charm to the greatest and least matters."--Beaumont's Dedication of a Masque to Bacon, 1612.
"I have been induced to think that, if ever there were a beam of knowledge derived from God upon any man in these modern times, it was upon him."--Dr. Rawley.
"He struck all men with an awful reverence."--Francis Osborne.
The above are testimonials of Bacon's friends, of members of his household, and of literary competitors.
"They bear witness to the stainlessness of his private life, his perfect temperance, self-possession, modest demeanor, and his innocent pleasantry."--Nichol's Life of Bacon, p. 202.
"Retiring, nervous, sensitive, unconventional, modest."--Spedding's Life of Bacon.
"Those who saw him nearest in his private life give him the best character."--Ibid.
"At the same time that we find him prostrating himself before the great mercy-seat and humbled under afflictions which lay heavy upon him, we see him supported by the sense of his dignity, his zeal, his devotion, and his love of mankind."--Joseph Addison.
"Beloved for the courteousness and humanity of his behavior."--David Hume.
"Bacon declared that his works were rather the fruit of his time than of his genius."--Gervinus.
"He attached little importance to himself. . . . No correct notion can be formed of Bacon's character till this suspicion of self-conceit is scattered to the winds."--Abbott's Life of Bacon.
"Weighted by the magnificence of his character."--Ibid.
"Of an unusually sweet temper and amiable disposition."--Encyc. Brit., art. Bacon.
"He was generous, open-hearted, affectionate, peculiarly sensitive to kindness, and equally forgetful of injuries."--Fowler's Life of Bacon
"All who were great and good loved and honored him."--Aubrey.
"His acquaintance was eagerly sought by the eminent of every class, and by all whom an ingenuous love of excellence prompted to render homage to the greatest general philosopher, the first orator, and the finest writer of his age."--Aikin's Court of James I., II. p. 201.
"He hungered, as for food, to rule and bless mankind."--Hepworth Dixon.
"One with whom the whole purpose of living was to do great things to enlighten and elevate his race, to enrich it with new powers, to lay up in store for all ages to come a source of blessings which should never fail."--Church's Life of Bacon, p. 1.
"His greatness, his splendid genius, his magnificent ideas, his enthusiasm for truth, his passion to be the benefactor of his kind, the charm that made him loved by good and worthy friends, amiable, courteous, patient, delightful as a companion, ready to take any trouble."--Ibid.
"It is not too much to say that in temper, in honesty, in labor, in humility, in reverence, he was the most perfect example that the world has yet seen of the student of nature."--Ibid.
"The name which he aspired to, and for which he was willing to renounce his own, was 'Benefactor of Mankind.'"--Delia Bacon.
"He stands almost alone in literature, a vast, dispassionate intellect, in which the sentiment of philanthropy has been refined and purified into the subtle essence of thought.
"It may be questioned whether Shakespeare himself could thoroughly have appreciated Bacon's intellectual character. He could have delineated Bacon in everything but in that peculiar philanthropy of the mind, the spiritual benignity, that belief in man and confidence in the future," which are Bacon's distinguishing characteristics."--Whipple's Age of Elizabeth.
"A deep sense of the misery of mankind is visible throughout his writings. . . . He has often been called a utilitarian, not because he loved truth less than others, but because he loved men more."--Ellis's Preface to Bacon's Philosophical Works.
"From the day of his death, his fame has been constantly and steadily progressive; and we have no doubt that his name will be named with reverence to the latest ages, and to the remotest ends of the civilized world."--Macaulay.
I. THE AUTHOR OF THE "SHAKE-SPEARE" PLAYS . . . . . 1
II. WILLIAM SHAKSPERE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
III. FRANCIS BACON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
IV. OBJECTIONS CONSIDERED . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118
V. COINCIDENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
VI. DISILLUSION, A GAIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 264
VII. BIOGRAPHY OF SHAKSPERE IN FACT AND IN FICTION . . 266
VIII. SUMMARY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 280
INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283
LIST OF AUTHORS CONSULTED.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
SirBacon.org - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning