Let us now mark certain coincidences in the composition of the plays with the well-known habits and studies of Francis Bacon.
a. A prominent characteristic of Bacon, in his literary work, was the frequency with which he invented new words. It is safe to say that no other writer, with possibly one exception, ever did so much to diversify and enrich our English tongue. We find many of these words actually taking shape before our eyes in the Promus,--perhaps a bright nucleus from the Latin in a nebulous envelope of prefixes and suffixes, preparing to shine forever with a radiance of its own in human speech.
"A dictionary of the English language might be compiled from Bacon's works alone."--Dr. Johnson.
In this business of word-building, however, Bacon had a strange double. It is estimated that Shakespeare gave three thousand new words, inclusive of old words with new meanings, to our language. And these additions were also, like Bacon's, derived chiefly from the Latin. They were such as only a scholar could impose upon the king's vernacular.
"Shakespeare's plays show forty per cent of romance or Latin words."--Richard Grant White.
"He did not scruple even to naturalize words for his own use from foreign springs, such as exsufflicate and derascinate; or to coin a word whenever the concurring reasons of sense and verse invited it, as in fedary, intrinse, intrinsicate, insisture, and various others."--Hudson.
"The vocabulary of Shakespeare became more than double that of any other writer in the English language. Craik estimates it at twenty-one thousand words, without counting inflectional forms, while that of Milton was but seven thousand. . . . English speech, as well as literature, owes more to him than to any other man."--Clark's Elements of the English Language, p. 134.
"Shakespeare displayed a greater variety of expression than probably any other writer in any language."--Müller's Science of Language, 1st Series, p. 267.
Mr. Hallam calls attention to Shake-speare's fondness for words used in their primitive meanings. He sees a student's instinct in this attempt, contrary in many cases to popular usage, to keep our language true to its Latin roots. He gives the following examples:--
"Things base and vile, holding no quantity (value).
Rivers that have overborne their continents (the continente ripa of Horace).
Imagination all compact.
Something of great constancy (consistency).
Sweet Pyramus translated there.
The law of Athens which by no means we may extenuate."
We append a few additional examples under this head:--
Expedient, a word derived from the Latin expedire, meaning to disentangle the foot, and thus to hasten. Shake-speare always uses it in this sense, as we do its cognate expeditious, never applying it to anything merely suitable or advantageous.
Extravagant, from extra, beyond, outside of; and vagare, to wander. Shake-speare applies the word to vagrancy, or straying beyond limits, only, as in 'Hamlet':--
"The extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine."--I. 1.
Probation. This word ordinarily means a period of trial. In Shake-speare, however, it means proof, from probare, to prove.
"The present object made probation."
Hamlet, I. 1.
Discourse of reason, from discurrere, to run backward and forward between objects, as in ratiocination. A strict Latinism.
Contraction, from contrahere (p. p. contractus), to draw together; that is, to come to an agreement, as in marriage, not merely to lessen or condense.
"O, such a deed
As from the body of contraction plucks
The very soul."
Ibid., III. 4.
A lust of the blood and a permission of the will. This is Shake-speare's definition of love. What is meant by "permission of the will"? Permission is from permittere, to send away completely, as when one, utterly banishing his will, gives full rein to a passion. This meaning of the word has never taken root in English.
"Assume a virtue if you have it not."
Does Shake-speare instruct us to be hypocrites? No, though all the commentators so agree. Assume is from ad-sumere, to take to, to acquire.
Acquire a habit, if you have it not.
The context, especially in the folio, plainly points to the acquisition of virtue by studied formation of habits.
"An excellent play; well digested in the scenes; set down with as much modesty as cunning."--Hamlet, II. 2.
From modestia, meaning fitness of things, a whole in which all the parts have their proper places and proportions. Cicero uses the word in his 'De Officiis,' but feels compelled to explain it to the Romans themselves. He says it is equivalent to the Greek eÙtax a. In this sense it is so apt and so recondite that Dr. Furness, in his Variorum edition of 'Hamlet,' asks significantly, in italics, "Did not Shakespeare. understand Latin?"
These examples might be multiplied by the thousand. They are found as plentifully in the early plays as in the later ones.
b. Bacon had also a wonderful variety at his command in manner of writing. In this respect he was a literary chameleon. Abbott says of him:--
"His style varied almost as much as his handwriting; but it was influenced more by the subject-matter than by youth or old age. Few men have shown equal versatility in adapting their language to the slightest change of circumstance and purpose. His style depended upon whether he was addressing a king, or a great nobleman, or a philosopher, or a friend; whether he was composing a state paper, magnifying the prerogative, extolling truth, discussing studies, exhorting a judge, sending a New Year's present, or sounding a trumpet to prepare the way for the kingdom of man over nature."
It does not follow, of course, that because he had this "wonderful ductility," as Hallam calls it, therefore he wrote the plays. The converse of the proposition, however, is worth noting, viz., without it he would have been disqualified for the task.
We must venture one step farther. Did Bacon possess among his numerous varieties of style that which characterizes Shakespeare? On this point it may as well be conceded at once that the essays by which he is best known are, for purposes of this comparison, the least useful of his writings. They are sui generis, so closely packed with thought that they can be compared only to cannon-balls. Indeed, we should as soon think of comparing the chopped sea of the English Channel to the long, rolling swell of the Atlantic.
To face the difficulty squarely, and on terms most rigorous for Bacon, we give an example of each, as follows:--
"Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New, which carrieth the greater benediction and the clearer revelation of God's favor. Yet, even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David's harp, you shall hear as many hearse-like airs as carols. And the pencil of the Holy Ghost hath labored more in describing the afflictions of Job than the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes, and adversity is not without many comforts and hopes. We see in needle-works and embroideries it is more pleasing to have a lively work upon a sad and solemn ground, than to have a dark and melancholy work upon a lightsome ground. Judge, therefore, of the pleasure of the heart by the pleasure of the eye. Certainly, virtue is like precious odors when they are incensed or crushed. For prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue."--Essay on Adversity.
"Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprisoned in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world."
The passage quoted above from Bacon, written shortly before his death, is the one Macaulay selected to show that Bacon's writings, contrary to the ordinary course of things, grew more ornate and fanciful as he grew older. "With him," we are told, "the fruit came first, and remained till the last; the blossoms did not appear till late." Why is it that we cannot approach "Shake-speare," even on the side of Bacon without encountering a miracle? Why do we always enter a land of enchantment,--the last refuge of dryads and fairies, where Nature's laws are suspended, where we have harvests without seed, fruits without buds or flowers, and a brilliant old age, preceded by a dull and passionless youth?
"Nature is always true to herself; her order was not reversed in the case of Bacon. The bud, the blossom, the fruit came in their proper and accustomed procedure. But what if, like a prudent husbandman, Bacon sent each to its appropriate market,--the flowers of his fancy to the wits and players, the fruits of his judgment to the sages and statesmen of his age?"--Smith's Bacon and Shakespeare, p. 22.
In his 'History of Henry VII.,' Bacon adopted a style quite the reverse of that of the 'Essays.' It is here that he steps off the tripod. His sentences no longer keep step, as though on parade; they have a free-and-easy, almost frolicsome gait, unparalleled in the whole range of historical literature.
One cannot read a page of this work without meeting such specimens as these:--
"Empson would have cut another chop [of money] out of him if the king had not died in the instant."
"Perkin, for a perfume before him as he went, caused to be published a proclamation."
"One might know afar off where the owl was by the flight of birds."
"The King began to find where the shoe did wring him."
"It was an odious thing to the people of England to have a king brought in to them on the shoulders of Irish and Dutch."
"None could hold the book so well to prompt and instruct this stage-play as she could."
"She was to him as Juno was to Æneas, stirring both heaven and hell to do him mischief."
"Then did the King secretly sow Hydra's teeth."
"The marriage halted upon both feet."
"Their snowball did not gather as it went."
"The news came blazing and thundering over into England."
"From what coast should this blazing star appear?"
"With the first grain of incense that was sacrificed upon the altar of peace, Perkin was smoked away."
Bacon's letters give us still another style of composition, less severe than that of the Essays, and more elegant than that of the History. They contain jewels fit to sparkle with "Shake-speare's"--
"On the stretched forefinger of all time."
We have space for but one or two examples:--
"It may be you will do posterity good if, out of the carcass of dead and rotten greatness, as out of Samson's lion, there be honey gathered for future times."
How beautifully Bacon refers to the Hellenic myths as--
"Gentle whispers, which from more ancient traditions came at length into the flutes and trumpets of the Greeks."
It is characteristic of a very full mind that the flow of its thoughts is often disturbed by its own impetuosity. Ideas come from it with a rush. The well is bored so deep, and into a reservoir so vast, that the bursting current defies restraint. This was the case both with Bacon and with the author of the plays.
"Bacon's mind, with its fulness and eagerness of thought, was at all times apt to outrun his powers of grammatical expression."--Spedding.
"The tangled, elliptical, helter-skelter sentences into which the impetuous imagination of Shakespeare sometimes hurries him."--Christopher North.
Bacon's literary style had one peculiar feature, apparent under all its phrases, which we must not omit to mention, viz., a tendency to run into triple forms of expression. "There is no end to these forms in the writings of Bacon," says Professor Tavener. They beat upon the ear with a rhythm as unmistakable as that of the resounding sea. Indeed, we might have the courage to pronounce them, on the part of our author, an easily-besetting sin, were they not equally conspicuous in "Shake-speare," as the following examples will show:--
"Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability."
"To spend too much time on studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules is the humor of a scholar."
"Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them."
"Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse."
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."
"Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man."
"If a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning."
"A man cannot speak to his own son but as a father, to his wife but as a husband, and to his enemy but on terms."
"Give ear to precept, to laws, to religion."
"Judges ought to be more learned than witty, more reverent than plausible, and more advised than confident."
"Some ants carry corn, and some their young, and some go empty."
"They cloud the mind, they lose friends, they check with business."
"They dispose kings to tyranny, husbands to jealousy, wise men to irresolution."
"A man's nature is best perceived in privateness, for there is no affectation; in passion, for that putteth a man out of his precepts; and in a new case of experiment, for there custom leaveth him."
"Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business."
"Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished."
"It is heaven upon earth to have a man's mind move in Charity, rest in Providence, and turn upon the poles of Truth."
"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."
"It would be argument for a week, laughter for a month, and a good jest forever."
"One draught above heat makes him a fool, a second mads him, and a third drowns him."
" 'T is slander,
Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
Rides on the posting winds."
"This peace is nothing but to rust iron, increase tailors, and breed ballad-makers."
"Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand,
Blood and revenge are hammering in my head."
"Had I power, I should
Pour the sweet milk of concord into Hell,
Uproar the universal peace, confound
All unity on Earth."
"Alas, poor Romeo! he is already dead! stabbed with a white wench's black eye; run through the ear with a love-song; the very pin of his heart cleft with the blind bow-boy's butt-shaft."
"To be now a sensible man, by and by a fool, and presently a beast."
"Ay, but, lady,
That policy may either last so long,
Or feed upon such nice and waterish diet,
Or breed itself so out of circumstance,
That I, being absent and my place supplied,
My General will forget my love and service."
" 'T was mine, 't is his, and has been slave to thousands."
"This chair shall be my state, this dagger my sceptre, and this cushion my crown."
"She is a woman, therefore may be woo'd;
She is a woman, therefore may be won;
She is Lavinia, therefore must be loved."
"The birds chant melody on every bush;
The snake lies rolled in the cheerful sun;
The green leaves quiver with the cooling wind."
"Methinks she's too low for a high praise, too brown for a fair praise, and too little for a great praise."
"She says she will die if he love her not, and she will die ere she make her love known, and she will die if he woo her."
"They say the lady is fair; 't is a truth, I can bear them witness; and virtuous; 't is so, I cannot reprove it; and wise, but for loving me."
"Fairest Cordelia, thou art most rich, being poor;
Most choice, forsaken; and most loved, despised."
"Like lean, sterile and bare land, manured, husbanded, and tilled."
"Her father loved me; oft invited me;
Still questioned me the story of my life,
From year to year--the battles, sieges, fortunes,
That I have passed."
"Sweet Hero! she is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone."
"I have marked
A thousand blushing apparitions
To start into her face; a thousand innocent shames,
In angel whiteness, bear away those blushes;
And in her eye there hath appeared a fire,
To burn the errors that these Princes hold
Against her maiden truth."
"Who is here so base that would be a bondman? If any, speak, for him have I offended. Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If any, speak, for him have I offended. Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak, for him have I offended."
The two authors balanced their sentences on the same scales.1
1 For an admirable discussion on this subject, see Donnelly's Great Cryptogram, p. 481 et seq.
It is in minor peculiarities, however, that we find the strongest evidence of identity. A detective always looks at what is unaffected and unconscious in a man in order to unmask him. The shaping of a letter of the alphabet in handwriting, some little trick in gait or voice, an intonation that dates from childhood, these are clews compared with which elaborate tropes and figures of speech are of small account for our purpose. We want those sources of light which cannot be hid under a bushel. Dr. Theobald has found one in Bacon's use of the phrase "I cannot tell." It is an instance of suppressio veri, not, however, with intent to deceive, but to give the thought a greater spring. For example, referring to certain factious rulings in a lower court by Justice Coke, Bacon says:--
"Wherein your Lordships may have heard a great rattle, and a noise of præmunire; and"--here he adds, as a sort of contemptuous snapper to his lash--"I cannot tell what."
He simply means that the subject is beneath further notice.
Again, alluding to a possible war with Spain, he wonders that the people of England "should think of nothing but reckonings, and audits, and meum, and tuum, and I cannot tell what."
On another occasion he pours out his contempt upon the duelling code, on the ground that it rests upon absurd conceits; that is, as he says, "upon what's before-hand and what's behind-hand, and I cannot tell what."
So in a letter to the King, who was importuned to grant further concessions in a matter in which the petitioners had already broken their agreements with him, Bacon recalls what had already been promised,--
"lawful and settled trades, full manufactures, merchandise of all natures, poll money or brotherhood money, and I cannot tell what."
In all these cases, it will be observed, Bacon makes a pretence of ignorance for a purpose,--a rhetorical stratagem common enough of itself, but never before or since in English literature persistently associated with the words "I cannot tell." That is to say, never before or since with one exception,--in "Shake-speare." The author of the plays is constantly indulging in this same idiosyncrasy. For instance, in the 'Merchant of Venice' Shylock narrates the story of Jacob outwitting Laban in the breeding of sheep, and Antonio asks him,--
"Was this inserted to make interest good,
Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?"
"I cannot tell; I make it breed as fast."--I. 3.
In Richard III. Queen Elizabeth demands to know why Gloster hates her and her family, and receives this answer:--
"I cannot tell; the world is grown so bad
That wrens may prey where eagles dare not perch.
Since every Jack becomes a gentleman,
There's many a gentle person made a Jack."
That he could tell, and in fact did tell, her rejoinder implies:--
"Come, come, we know your meaning, brother Gloster;
You envy my advancement, and my friends."--I. 3.
In 'Macbeth' a messenger brings to the King news of a bloody battle in which Macbeth and Banquo were victorious. He says of these warriors:--
"I must report they were
As cannons overcharg'd with double cracks;
So they doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe;
Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,
Or memorize another golgotha,
I cannot tell."--I. 2.
Not to multiply these examples further, as we might easily do, we close with one which, though negative in its character, is for that very reason the stronger and more conclusive in our favor. Our readers must thank Dr. Theobald, a singularly acute and brilliant as well as fair-minded critic, for it. We quote him as follows:--
"In 3 'Henry VI.' the Earl of Warwick gives a vivid description of the battle between the forces led by himself for the King and those led by the Queen and Clifford on behalf of the young prince. This passage appears in the original version, 'The Second Part of the Contention,' published in 1595, thus,--
Our battle joined, and both sides fiercely fought.
But whether 't was the coldness of the King
(He looked full gently on his warlike Queen)
That robbed my soldiers of their heated spleen,
Or whether 't was report of her success,
Or more than common fear of Clifford's rigour,
Who thunders to his captains blood and death,
I cannot tell,'--
and then he proceeds to tell how shamefully they were defeated.
"Now in this case, I cannot tell is not used, as in the others which I have quoted, to express a mock perplexity; there is no counterfeit, no poetic lie here; the doubt is real. The speaker really is unable, amongst all the possible causes of defeat, to select the true one, or to say how many causes were combined. Precisely the same passage occurs in 3 'Henry VI.' [published in 1623], but now I cannot tell is changed into I cannot judge, evidently because, in the poet's mind, the words I cannot tell are applicable only to fantastic cases, not to cases of real and sincere suspense of judgment."
In further elucidation of this matter of style, the following examples are taken promiscuously from the two sets of works. We challenge our readers to draw the lines of cleavage between them, without assistance from the foot-notes:--
"It is a wonderful thing to see the semblable coherence of his men's spirits and his own: they, by observing him, do bear themselves like foolish justices; he, by conversing with them, is turned into a justice-like serving man. . . . It is certain that either wise bearing or ignorant carriage is caught, as men take diseases, one of another; therefore, let men take heed of their company."1
"Contrary is it with hypocrites and impostors, for they, in the church and before the people, set themselves on fire, and are carried, as it were, out of themselves, and becoming as men inspired with holy furies, they set heaven and earth together."2
"Suspicions among thoughts are like bats among birds, they ever fly by twilight."3
"Novelty is only in request; and it is as dangerous to be aged in any kind of course, as it is virtuous to be constant in any undertaking. There is scarce truth enough alive to make societies secure, but security enough to make fellowship accursed."4
1 2 Henry IV., V. 2.
2 Bacon's Med.
3 Essay on Suspicion.
4 Measure for Measure.
"Extreme self-lovers will set a man's house afire to roast their own eggs."1
"I have thought that some of Nature's journeymen had made men, and not made them well; they imitated humanity so abominably."2
"Faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love."3
"False of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey."4
"Weight in gold, iron in hardness, the whale in size, the dog in smell, the flame of gunpowder in rapid extension."5
"Men must learn that in this theatre of man's life it is reserved only for God and the angels to be lookers-on."6
"The King slept out the sobs of his subjects, until he was awakened with the thunderbolt of a parliament."7
"Or as a watch by night that course doth keep,
And goes and comes, unwares to them that sleep."8
"Or like the deadly bullet of a gun,
His meaning struck her, ere his words begun."9
"As smoke from Ætna that in fire consumes,
Or that which from dischargèd cannon fumes."10
"As if between them twain there was no strife,
But that life lived in death, and death in life."10
"As a tale told which sometimes men attend,
And sometimes not, our life steals to an end."8
"As silly, jeering idiots are with kings,
For sportive words and uttering foolish things."10
1 Advancement of Learning.
6 Advancement of Learning.
"For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told." 1
"And so in spite of death thou dost survive,
In that thy likeness still is left alive." 2
"So that with present griefs and future fears,
Our eyes burst forth into a stream of tears." 3
"Thus hast thou hanged our life on brittle pins,
To let us know it will not bear our sins." 3
"Like soldiers when their Captain once doth yield,
They basely fly and dare not stay the field." 2
"But like a stormy day, now wind, now rain,
Sighs dry her cheeks, tears make them wet again." 2
"Or as the grass which cannot term obtain,
To see the summer come about again." 3
"Or call it Winter, which, being full of care,
Makes Summer's welcome thrice more wish'd, more rare." 1
For the above metrical selections we are indebted to the Rev. L. C. Manchester, of Lowell, Massachusetts, who favors us with the following explanatory notes:--
"As one interested in the discussion now going on, I send you some couplets from Bacon's verse and some from Shakespeare's, having a certain likeness to each other, but differing from the parallelisms already noted. Possibly similar likeness may appear between any other two writers in the same metre; if not, I do not know what these prove, unless we are to think that Shakespeare wrote the 'Translation of the Psalms.' That veracious book, 'Shakespeare's True Life,' informs us that Shakespeare was often Bacon's guest at Twickenham, and was quite 'thick' with him. Can it be that some day, when the two were together, lying perhaps in the shade of those cedars pictured in the book, the player gave the Translation to the philosopher? The work is, for the most part, as much inferior to
Bacon's noblest poetical prose as it is to the grand verse of the Shakespeare drama.
"The likeness of the stanzas in question is in the concluding couplets,--Bacon's being in the metre of 'Venus and Adonis.' It is not in sentiment or in word, but in the ending of the stanzas with couplets of the same kind, either developing a simile already introduced, or introducing a new one to complete the thought. ('Rhymes knit together and clinched by a couplet.'--T. Watts, quoted by Tyler, in his edition of the Sonnets.)"
Walter's 'True Life of Shakespeare,' referred to by Mr. Manchester, reminds us of Lucian's 'Veracious History;' but the author lacks the candor of the Greek, who announced that his book contained "not a single truth from beginning to end." It is a pity that Mr. Walter did not redeem his otherwise admirable work with a similar confession. There would have been, then, one truth in each.
After all, it must be remembered that the true poetic spirit implies a state of being very different from that in which the mind is ordinarily exercised. The poet is a man "beside himself,"--almost a second personality. Instances are known where the connection between them seemed for a time utterly lost to consciousness. Goethe's fine instinct suspected depths of meaning, in the second part of 'Faust,' which he himself had not fathomed. A certain orator is said to have sometimes wondered, in the midst of his highest flights, what strange power had taken possession of his mental faculties. Thackeray often laughed aloud at some unexpected joke cracked under his pen. Mrs. Stowe was besought by her publishers to limit her great story to one volume; she replied that the story was writing itself, and could not be controlled. When Trollope
was asked why he had permitted Lily Dale to "marry that man,"--"Confound it," was the reply, "she would do it!" It is manifestly impossible rightly to estimate a man under a condition like this from what we know of him under another and totally different condition. We are in the same predicament with Archimedes, who wanted to move the earth with his lever, but could find no place for the fulcrum. A garden viewed scientifically in the light of genera and species, with all its plants catalogued according to seasons of blooming, has little to remind us of one in which we notice only the perfumes and hues of the flowers; but the same person may be our guide in both. The seers of our race are those who look upon life with two angles of vision.
c. Bacon's versatility appeared also in his intercourse with persons of various trades and occupations in life. He had a distinct reputation among his contemporaries for ability to meet men on their own ground, and converse with them in the special dialects to which they were accustomed in their pursuits. He was especially a complete master of the language of the farm. His writings are full of homely provincialisms, such as the following: "Money is like muck, not good except it be spread;"1 "If you leave
1 Bacon further explained this function of money thus:--
"When it lies in a heap, it gives but a stench; when it is spread upon the ground, it is the cause of much fruit."--Apothegm.
So we find Cominius praising Coriolanus for looking your staddles too thick, you will never have clean underbrush;" and many of the flowers of rhetoric with which his works are bestrewed strike their roots down into hawking and hunting.
"Upon things precious, as they were
The common muck of the world."Coriolanus, II. 2.
"The annotators of 'Coriolanus' have not yet found out what Shakespeare meant by the 'common muck of the world.'"--R. M. Theobald.
"I have heard him entertain a country lord in the proper terms relating to hawks and dogs; and at another time outcant a London chirurgeon."
"In conversation he [Bacon] could assume the most different characters, and speak the language proper to each, with a facility that was perfectly natural,--a happy versatility of genius which all men wish to arrive at, but which one or two only in an age are seen to possess."--Mallett's Life of Bacon.
d. In another and (for our purpose) very important quality of mind the two authors were also conspicuously alike; they had each a wonderful faculty for detecting remote and subtle analogies. It is this that constitutes the essence of wit, and confers upon a writer the rare gift of enlivening, as we go along with him, even a worn and dusty highway with delightful vistas on either side.
"In wit, if by wit be meant the power of perceiving analogies between things which appear to have nothing in common, Bacon never had an equal, not even Cowley, not even the author of Hudibras. . . . Occasionally it obtained the mastery over all his other faculties, and led him into absurdities into which no dull man could have fallen."--Macaulay's Essay on Bacon.
"Shakespeare perceived a thousand distant and singular relations between the objects which met his view. He had the habit of that learned subtlety which sees and assimilates everything, and leaves no hint of resemblances unnoticed."--Prof. Guizot.
e. Again, Bacon was constantly making alterations in his writings, even after they had gone to press. Ofthe ten essays which he published in 1597, nearly all were more or less changed and enlarged for the edition of 1612. Those of 1612, including the ten before mentioned, were again enlarged for publication in 1625. It seems to have been almost impossible for an essay to get to the types a second time without passing through his reforming hand,--in one instance actually losing identity in the transition.
This was precisely the fate of the plays. Some of them underwent complete transformation between the quartos and the folio, becoming practically new compositions, and, what is very singular, working away from the requirements of the stage into forms more purely artistic and literary.
"Every change in the text of 'Hamlet' has impaired its fitness for the stage, and increased its value for the closet in exact and perfect proportion. . . . Scene by scene, line for line, stroke upon stroke, and touch after touch, he went over the old ground again, to make it worthy of himself and his future students."--Swinburne.
If there were two workshops, it is certain that one set of rules governed both.
f. Bacon's sense of humor, as has already been shown, was phenomenal, and yet it had one curb which it always obeyed.
In his 'Essay of Discourse' he lays down the rule, among others, that religion should never be the butt of a jest. Accordingly, it is impossible to find, in all the wild, rollicking fun of the plays, even a flippancy at the expense of the Church.
g. In the local dialect of the University of Cambridge, students do not live, but "keep," in rooms.1
1 Dicken's Dictionary of Oxford and Cambridge.
In 'Titus Andronicus,' one of the earliest of the plays, written, as White suggests, when the author's mind was fresh from academic pursuits, we find the following:--
"Knock at his study; where, they say, he keeps."
Bacon was educated at Cambridge.
h. The two authors had the same friends. Bacon and the Earl of Southampton were fellow-lodgers at Gray's Inn, and for many years devoted adherents of Essex. The "Shake-speare" poems, 'Venus and Adonis' and 'Lucrece,' were dedicated to Southampton. The Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery were shareholders with Bacon in Lord Somer's ill-fated expedition to America; to them was dedicated the first collected edition of the plays. They had also the same enemies. Lord Cobham was one of the leaders of the party opposed to Essex. Among his ancestors was the noble martyr, Sir John Oldcastle, whose name the dramatist, with his usual deference to the established order of things, at first adopted for the character of Falstaff. Even after he had made the change, he could not forbear the following sly hit at the family:--
"Fal. And is not my host of the tavern a most sweet wench?
"Prince Hen. As the honey of Hybla, my old lord of the castle."--1 Henry IV., I. 2.
The head of the party to which Cobham belonged was Lord Burleigh. He was Bacon's uncle, but Bacon had private as well as public reasons for opposing him. Burleigh stood, like an angel with a drawn
sword, directly in the path to that which Bacon coveted,--an office under the Queen. No entreaty, either of Bacon or of Bacon's mother,--except perhaps on one occasion, where he acted perfunctorily,--could move him. Even Anthony Bacon, who had spent thirteen years in France and Italy in voluntary service to the government without compensation, and who on his return home applied to Burleigh for some position that would enable him in a measure to recoup his depleted fortune, received only "fair words,"--such words, according to his own account of them, as make "fools fair," but bitterly disappointing from one who had turned the applicant's "ten years' harvest into his own barn without a half-penny charge." It was this treatment that finally drove the two brothers into the ranks of the opposition, and at one time, to our amazement, involved them in attempts to displace Burleigh, and install Essex as chief counsellor of the crown.
The Lord Treasurer's conduct in this matter is easily accounted for without the usual imputation of unworthy motives: he did not appreciate his nephews. He saw in them, and particularly in Francis, qualities of mind which he deemed unsuited for official life. Himself a dull, plodding, unimaginative, thoroughly practical and conscientious statesman, he had no sympathy with any one who, as Essex said of Francis, was full of "poetic conceits." He contrived not to pay Spenser a small pension which the government had voted, evidently thinking, with Plato, that in a good commonwealth there is no place for a poet.
Bacon, as author of 'Hamlet,' took his revenge. He satirized his uncle as Polonius. What could represent the old minister's prolixity better than the following:--
"Pol. My liege and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is 't but to be nothing else but mad?
. . . . . . . . .
And now remains
That we find out the cause of this effect,
Or rather say, the cause of this defect;
For this effect defective comes by cause:
Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.
Perpend." Hamlet, II. 2.
In early life Burleigh was offered the Secretaryship by Queen Mary, with the proviso that he must change his religion. His answer is Historic:--
"I have been taught and am bound to serve my God first, and next my Queen."
Polonius utters the same sentiment:--
"I hold my duty as I hold my soul,
Both to my God, one to my gracious king."
The ten famous precepts which Lord Burleigh gave to his son Robert, departing for Paris, are replete with worldly wisdom; but they are eclipsed by the ten still more famous ones which Polonius delivered to his son Laertes, also on the eve of departure for Paris:--
1. "Give thy thoughts no tongue,
2. Nor any unproportion'd thought his act.
3. Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar;
4. The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel,
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unpledg'd comrade.
5. Beware Of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in,
Bear 't that th' opposed may beware of thee.
6. Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
7. Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
8. Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man;
And they in France, of the best rank and station,
Are most select and generous, chief in that.
9. Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
10. This above all,--to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man." Hamlet, I. 3.
One of the most prominent features of Burleigh's administration was his reliance upon the help of spies and informers. For twenty years he kept a small army of these emissaries under his pay, hesitating at no espionage or treachery to gain the secrets of his enemies. "They were a vile band," says a recent writer in the Dictionary of National Biography, "the employment of which could not but bring some measure of dishonor upon their employer. Hence the shame and indelible reproach which attach themselves to Cecil's conduct of affairs, and which not all the difficulties of his position or the unexampled provocations which he endured can altogether excuse." He even forced Bishop Parker to take the confessions of a prisoner whom torture could not affect, in the disguise of a Catholic priest.
It is to this conspicuous trait in Burleigh's character that we owe the following exquisite scene:--
"Enter POLONIUS and REYNALDO.
Pol. Give him this money, and these notes, Reynaldo.
Rey. I will, my lord.
Pol. You shall do marvellous wisely, good Reynaldo,
Before you visit him, to make inquiry
Of his behaviour.
Rey. My lord, I did intend it.
Pol. Marry, well said; very well said. Look you, sir,
Inquire me first what Danksters are in Paris;
And how, and who; what means, and where they keep;
What company, at what expense; and finding,
By this encompassment and drift of question,
That they do know my son, come you more nearer
Than your particular demands will touch it.
Take you, as 't were, some distant knowledge of him;
As thus,--'I know his father, and his friends,
And, in part, him;'--do you mark this, Reynaldo?
Rey. Ay, very well, my lord.
Pol. 'And, in part, him; but,' you may say, 'not well;
But, if 't be he I mean, he's very wild,
Addicted so and so;' and there put on him
What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank
As may dishonor him; take heed of that;
But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips
As are companions noted and most known
To youth and liberty.
Rey. As gaming, my lord.
Pol. Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling,
Drabbing;--you may go so far.
Rey. My lord, that would dishonor him.
Pol. 'Faith, no; as you may season it in the charge.
You must not put another scandal on him,
That he is open to incontinency;
That's not my meaning; but breathe his faults so quaintly,
That they may seem the taints of liberty;
The flash and out-break of a fierce mind;
A savageness in unreclaimed blood,
Of general assault.
Rey. But, good my lord,--
Pol. Wherefore should you do this?
Rey. Ay, my lord,
I would know that.
Pol. Marry, sir, here's my drift;
And, I believe, it is a fetch of warrant.
You, laying these slight sullies on my son,
As 't were a thing a little soil'd i' th' working,
Your party in converse, him you would sound,
Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes
The youth you breathe of guilty, be assur'd,
He closes with you in this consequence:
'Good sir,' or so; or 'friend,' or 'gentleman,'--
According to the phrase, or the addition,
Of man and country.
Rey. Very good, my lord.
Pol. And then, sir, does he this,--he does--
What was I about to say? [By the Mass] I was
About to say something; where did I leave?
Rey. At 'closes in the consequence,'
As 'friend or so,' and 'gentleman.'
Pol. At 'closes in the consequence,'--ay, marry,
He closes with you thus;--'I know the gentleman;
I saw him yesterday, or t' other day.
Or there, or then; with such or such; and, as you say,
There he was gaming; there o'ertook in 's rouse;
There falling out at tennis; or perchance,
'I saw him enter such a house of sale'--
Videlicet, a brothel,--or so forth.--
See you now;
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth,
And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
With windlaces, and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out.
So by my former lecture and advice,
Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?
Rey. My lord, I have.
Pol. Good b' wi' you; fare you well.
Rey. Good my lord.
Pol. Observe his inclination in yourself.
Rey. I shall, my lord.
Pol. And let him ply his music.
Rey. Well, my lord. [Exit."
An intelligent writer in 'Notes and Queries' (January 31, 1863) declares that "Polonius is not so much a satire as a portrait of Lord Burleigh." He adds innocently, "Shakespeare may have had some prejudices against this celebrated minister." Considering the relations that existed between Francis Bacon and his cousin Robert Cecil, and the well-known character of the latter, we doubt whether anything more comical than the foregoing scene in 'Hamlet' can be found in the whole range of English literature.
Bacon's most implacable enemy, however, was Sir Edward Coke. The two were constant rivals for the
favor of the court and for the highest honors of the profession to which they belonged. They were rivals, too, for the hand of Lady Hatton, the beautiful widow, who finally waived the eight objections which her friends urged against Coke (his seven children and himself), and gave him the preference. At one time the contention became so personal and bitter that Bacon appealed to the government for help.
In 'Twelfth Night,' we find the following portraiture of Coke, drawn by no friendly hand:--
"Sir Toby. Taunt him with the license of ink; if thou thou'st him thrice,1 it shall not be amiss; and as many lies as will lie in thy sheet of paper, although the sheet were big enough for the Bed of Ware in England, set 'em down."--III. 2.
"Coke was exhibited on the stage in 'Twelfth Night' for his ill usage of Raleigh."--Disraeli's Curiosities of Literature, II. 531.
i. The philosopher and the dramatist were at one, also, in the ease and frequency, not to say unscrupulousness, with which they appropriated to their own use the writings of others. Bacon's audacity in this respect is unequalled in all the world's literature, unless we except "Shake-speare." Both authors lit their torches, as Rawley says of Bacon, "at every man's candles."
1 A reference to Coke's brutal speech at the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, in which occur these words: "Thou viper! for I thou thee, thou traitor!" Theobald (1733) cites the passage as a proof of "Shake-speare's" detestation of Coke.
j. Bacon's home was at St. Albans, on the river Ver, especially interesting as the site of the ancient city of Verulamium. Among the local traditions of the place, verified by old coins found in the soil, is one respecting a king named Cymbeline, who reigned there in the early part of the Christian era, and who had intimate relations with Rome. The story of Cymbeline furnished some of the incidents, even to minute particulars, of the Shakespearean play that bears his name.
k. Bacon was very fond of puns. He not only handed down to posterity numerous specimens found in his reading, but he immortalized some of his own in the Apothegms. The Spanish Ambassador, a Jew, happening to leave England Easter morning, paid his parting respects to Bacon, wishing him a good Easter. Bacon replied, wishing his friend a good pass-over. The plays also abound in this species of wit. A remarkable instance may be quoted from the 'Merry Wives of Windsor,' thus:--
"Evans. Accusativo, hing, hang, hog.
Quick. Hang hog is Latin for Bacon, I warrant you."--IV. 1.
This refers to a pun perpetrated by Sir Nicholas Bacon, father of Francis. One day a culprit, named Hog, appealed to Judge Bacon's mercy on the ground that they were of the same family. "Aye," replied the Judge, "but you and I cannot be kindred except you be hanged; for hog is not bacon until it be well hanged."
The appearance of this family pun in the plays is significant.1
1 "Bacon was fond, also, of speaking of his great contemporaries, of quoting their wit and recording their sayings. In his apothegms
l. Bacon's prose works overflow with citations from classical literature. They are filled to saturation with ancient lore. This is true also of the plays. They make us breathe the very air of Greece and Rome. The following is only a partial list of the classical authors, the influence of whose writings has been traced in them: Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Euripides, Æschylus, Lucian, Galen, Ovid, Lucretius, Tacitus, Horace, Virgil, Plutarch, Seneca, Catullus, Livy, and Plautus, all of whom were known to Bacon. A curious instance is the following:--
"Thy promises are like Adonis' gardens,
That one day bloomed and fruitful were the next."
This reference puzzled all the commentators for nearly three hundred years,--Richard Grant White declaring that "no mention of any such gardens in the classic writings of Greece or Rome is known to scholars." It has recently been found, however, in Plato's 'Phdrus,'--a work that had not been translated into English in Shakespeare's time.
"It is the ease and naturalness with which the classical allusions are introduced to which it is the most important that wefind nearly all that is known of Raleigh's power of repartee. How came such a gatherer of wit, humors, and characters to ignore the greatest man living? Had he a reason for this omission? It were idle to assume that Bacon failed to see the greatness of Lear and Macbeth."--The (London) Athenæum, Sept. 13, 1856.
"Although Bacon quotes nearly every great writer in his works, he never quoted Shakespeare. Is it for the same reason that the author of the 'Waverley Novels' used, as quotations for the headings of his chapters, passages from every poet but Scott?"--George Stronach, in Bacon Journal, 1886.
"He [Farmer] leaves us at full liberty, for anything he has advanced, to regard Shakespeare as having had a mind richly furnished with the mythology and history of the times of antiquity, an intimate and inwrought acquaintance, such as perhaps few profound scholars possess."--Hunter.
"What kind of culture Shakespeare had is uncertain; how much he had is disputed; that he had as much as he wanted, and of whatever kind he wanted, must be clear to whoever considers the question. Dr. Farmer has proved, in his entertaining essay,1 that he got everything at second-hand from translations, and that where his translator blundered he loyally blundered too. But Goethe, the man of widest acquirement in modern times, did precisely the same thing."--Lowell's Among My Books, p. 188.
m. Bacon spent several years in study and travel on the Continent; it is said that he was meditating a tour in the East when the sudden death of his father called him home. Internal evidences make it almost absolutely certain that the author of the plays acquired his exact knowledge of Italian scenes and customs from actual residence in Italy.
"The most striking difficulty lies, perhaps, in the descriptions of foreign scenes, particularly of Italian scenes,--descriptions so numerous and so marvellously accurate that it is almost impossible to believe that they were written by a man who lived in London and Stratford, who never left this island, and who saw the world only from a stroller's booth."--The (London) Athenæum, Sept. 13, 1886.
"It cannot be denied that Shakespeare, in the 'Merchant of Venice,' has carefully observed and wonderfully hit the local
1 In three papers, marked by his well-known learning and literary power, Dr. Maginn pierced the pedantic and inflated essay of Farmer into hopeless collapse."--Prof. Baynes, Frazer's Magazine, 1879.
coloring. There lies over this drama an inimitable and decidedly Italian atmosphere. Everything in it is so faithful, so fresh, and so true to nature, that in this respect the play cannot possibly be excelled.
"Portia sends her servant to Padua to fetch certain 'notes and garments,' and then meet her at the 'common ferry' trading to Venice. If Shakespeare had taken the ride himself before describing it, as Sir Walter Scott took that from Loch Vennachar to Stirling, described in the 'Lady of the Lake,' the statements could not agree better.
"The ferry takes us across the 'Laguna Morta,' and up the great canal to the city, where we in spirit land at the Rialto. Shakespeare displays no less accurate knowledge of this locality than of the villas along the Brenta, as he does not confound the Isola di Rialto with the Ponte di Rialto. He knows that the 'exchange where merchants most do congregate' is upon the former."--Elze's Essays on Shakespeare, p. 278.
"'This night, methinks, is but the daylight sick;
|It looks a little paler; 't is a day
Such as the day is when the sun is hid.'Merchant of Venice,V.1.
"The light of the moon and stars [in Italy] is almost as yellow as the sunlight in England. . . . Two hours after sunset, on the night of the full moon, we have seen so far over the lagunes that the night seemed only a paler day,--'a little paler.'"--Charles Knight.
A correspondent of the 'Baltimore Sun' writing under date of August 16, 1895, at Rome, says:--
"It seems natural that the Italians should give attention to the Shakespearean drama. Much of it has been taken from Italian sources. I am inclined to think that no less than two-thirds of the plays of Shakespeare are derived, in a more or less direct form, from Italian sources,--either renaissance Italian or ancient Roman. But not only will the student of Shakespeare discover this prominence in the works of the great poet, but the close searcher into the byways of Italian literature will discover that not only are the plots taken from Italy, but in several cases the very words are translations, more or less faithful, from Italian authors of mediocre fame."
"There is no doubt that the English poet knew Italy well, and with an observant, intimate knowledge of not only the outward aspects of the places and people, but also an intuitive knowledge which enabled him to penetrate, as it were, into their hearts and minds, and show them forth on the stage verily 'in their habit as they lived.' It is George Augustus Sala, himself the descendant of a Roman family of ancient lineage, who pointedly refers to this quality of Shakespeare's knowledge of Italy. In his 'Life and Adventures,' published a few months ago, Mr. Sala writes: 'Wandering from Milan to Mantua, and from Padua to Verona and Vicenza, there grew up in me day after day a stronger and stronger impression--an impression which has become an unalterable conviction--that Shakespeare knew every rood of ground and every building in the cities in which he had laid the scenes of the "Merchant of Venice," "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," of "Romeo and Juliet," and of "The Taming of the Shrew." Few tourists who have visited Northern Italy have escaped being pestered by ciceroni, who have offered to show them the tomb of Juliet at Verona, the shop of the apothecary at Mantua, and the Palazzo del Moro (the residence of Othello) on the Grand Canal at Venice. But it was the constant study of ostensibly petty details in Shakespeare's Italian plays that led me to the full and fast belief that he was familiar, from actual experience and observation, with the Northern Italy of his time.'
"To one who resides constantly in Italy, and is gifted with observation, the truth of this is most convincing and evident. A short time ago I visited the cities which are the chief scenes of his more prominent Italian plays,--Venice, Verona, Padua, Mantua. It was simply surprising to note how marvellously the view of the place, carefully studied, threw light on the play for which it furnished the scene. Shakespeare was evidently of the opinion of Proteus, in 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona,' 'that home-keeping youths have ever homely wits,' and undoubtedly he did extend his travel beyond the space which lies between London and Stratford-upon-Avon. I have not to account for the time in which this continental tour was accomplished,--that is the task of the biographer; but the intimate knowledge of Italian towns, manners, and customs cannot intelligently and satisfactorily be accounted for otherwise."
Professor Elze gives us, some curious information regarding "Shake-speare's" knowledge of Italian art,--knowledge that could have been derived, it would seem, only from personal inspection on the spot. For instance, in the 'Winter's Tale,' "Shake-speare" tells us that the statue of Hermione was the work of Giulio Romano; he dwells upon the merits of it, and of Romano's artistic qualities as a sculptor, with discriminating and enthusiastic praise.
"There is, perhaps, no description of statuary extant so admirable for its truth and beauty."--Green's Shakespeare and the Emblem Writers, p. 108.
But who ever heard, until recently, that Romano was a sculptor? Certainly not the Shakespearean critics, for they have almost universally assumed that this great master in the art of painting, Raphael's favorite pupil and successor, simply colored in this case the work of another artist. Such coloring was then, indeed, quite in vogue. Shakspere's bust at Stratford was treated in this manner, and continued so--with red lips, brown eyes, and auburn hair--until Mr. Malone, himself a learned critic, employed a common house-painter to cover it with a coat of white paint. Other critics, such as the editor of the 'Saturday Review' and Mr. Andrew Lang, characterize this reference to Romano as one of "Shake-speare's" blunders.1
It happens, however, that Vasari, who published in 1550 a work on Italian art, and who was a contemporary and personal acquaintance of Romano, states distinctly that Romano was not only a painter, but an architect and sculptor also. The statement appears in a Latin epitaph given in the book. Vasari revised and enlarged his work for a second edition in 1568, but, curiously enough, omitted the epitaph. The first edition (which was, of course, in Italian) was never translated into a foreign tongue. It was the second edition only that became known, through translations, outside of Italy. "We now stand," says Professor Elze, "before this dilemma": Either the author of the plays had read, when he wrote the 'Winter's Tale,' a copy of Vasari in the first edition (one that had long been supplanted by another, and that has not been translated to this day), and found what nobody else found for nearly three hundred years afterwards, or he had been in Mantua and seen Romano's works.
It is hardly necessary to add that every effort to find the slightest hint of foreign travel in the life of Shakspere, though made with great persistence, has thus far signally failed.
1 "The egregious blunder of calling him a sculptor."--Saturday Review.
For Mr. Lang's assumption to the same effect, see 'Harper's Monthly,' April, 1894, art. 'Winter's Tale.'
n. Bacon's paramount aspiration was to possess and impart wisdom. He was indefatigable in his search for it, analyzing motives, and turning the light of his genius upon the most hidden springs of conduct. Nothing was too remote or recondite for his use. It was inevitable, then, that his mind should fall easily and naturally into those channels of thought which the "wit of one and the wisdom of many" have worn deep in human experience. The Promus fairly sparkles with proverbs. Nearly every known language appears to have been ransacked for them. From the Promus they were poured copiously into the plays. Mrs. Pott finds nearly two thousand instances in which they beautify and enrich these wonderful works.
"In Bacon's works we find a multitude of moral sayings and maxims of experience from which the most striking mottoes might be drawn for every play of Shakespeare,--aye, for every one of his principal characters, . . . testifying to a remarkable harmony in their mutual comprehension of human nature."--Gervinus.
"As a student of human nature Bacon is hardly yet appreciated; his beneficent spirit and rich imagination lend sweetness and beauty to the homeliest practical wisdom.
"Not the abstract qualities and powers of the human mind, but the combination of these into concrete character, interested Bacon. He regarded the machinery in motion; the human being as he thinks, feels, and moves; men in their relations with men."1--E. P. Whipple.
"The study of mankind occupied the largest part of his time."--Prof. Minto's Manual of English Prose Composition, p. 243.
"The original ten essays contain almost nothing but maxims of prudence."--Ibid.
"The main study of his life was how to 'work' men."--Ibid., p. 254.
"He was more eminently the philosopher of human than of general nature."--Hallam.
1 How exactly this characterization fits "Shake-speare" also!
o. Bacon's whole life was passed in the atmosphere of the Court. At the age of ten he was patted on the head by Queen Elizabeth, and called her "young lord keeper." When sixteen he went to Paris in the suite of the British ambassador, and lived three years in that gay capital and its vicinity, studying not only the arts of diplomacy, but all the penetralia of Court life. On his return he was freely admitted to the presence of royalty, was the friend of princes, and, filling the highest offices in the gift of the king, was elevated to the peerage. It is not surprising, therefore, that the plays, almost without exception, have their movement in the highest circles of society. The common people are kept in the background, and are referred to in terms, often bordering on contempt, that show the author to have been a man of rank. It is certain that he was familiar with Court etiquette, even to the nicest details.
"Shakespeare despised the million, and Bacon feared, with Phocion, the applause of the multitude."--Gervinus.
"He [Shakespeare] was a constitutional aristocrat."--Appleton Morgan.
"Men of birth and quality will leave the practice [of duelling] when it comes so low as barbers, surgeons, butchers, and such base mechanical persons."--Bacon.
"The ignorant and rude multitude."--Ibid.
"The rude multitude; the base vulgar."--Shake-speare.
p. Bacon was continually hiding his personality under disguises. One of the first acts of his public career was to invent a cipher for letter-writing. He even invented a cipher within a cipher, so that if the first should by any chance be disclosed, the other, imbedded in it, would escape detection. At one time he carried on a fictitious correspondence, intended for the eye of the queen, between his brother Anthony and the Earl of Essex, composing the letters on both sides, and referring to himself in the third person. He published one of his philosophical works under a pseudonym, and another as though it were the wisdom of the ancients stored in fables.
In Sonnet LXXVI. we find the following:--
"Why write I still all one, ever the same,And keep invention in a
That every word doth almost tell my name, Showing their birth and whence they did proceed?"
Here is a plain statement that the author of this sonnet was writing under a disguise.The same remarkable admission appears in Bacon's prayer:--
"The state and bread of the poor and oppressed have been precious in mine eyes; I have hated all cruelty and hardness of heart; I have, though in a despised weed, sought the good of all men."
The word weed signifies garment; particularly, as both Bacon and "Shake-speare" use it, one that disguises the wearer.1 It will be noted that this confession reveals at once Bacon's views of the drama (already quoted) as a means of promoting public virtue, those of the people around him (who despised it), and his incognito.
1 "Luc. But in what habit will you go along?
Jul. Not like a woman. . . .
Gentle Lucetta, fit me with such weeds
As may beseem some well-reputed page."
Two Gentlemen of Verona, II. 7.
"This fellow . . . clad himself like a hermit, and in that weed wandered about the country, until he was discovered and taken."--Bacon's History of Henry VII.
q. Early in life, Bacon determined to make all knowledge his province. He became fired with this ambition at college, when he discovered that the authority of Aristotle, then supreme over the minds of men, was based on erroneous postulates. Accordingly he resolved, single-handed, to demolish the whole structure of philosophy as it then existed, and at least to indicate the methods by which it should be rebuilt. To accomplish this, he knew he must compass all the knowledge of his time, as the great Stagirite had done before him. How well and faithfully he fulfilled his task, let the gratitude and veneration of mankind make answer. Among the names of the five most illustrious men of all the world, Bacon's has a place, and that place at or near the head.
Of the various arts and sciences into which he pushed his investigations, we may specify the following:--
Philosophy.--Bacon has been called the father of inductive philosophy, because he, more than any other, taught the natural method of searching for truth. Before his time, men had conceived certain principles to be true, and from them had reasoned down to facts. The consequence was that facts became more or less warped to fit theories, and the discovery of new facts out of harmony with the theories a matter of regret and even of condemnation.
Bacon started at the other end. The cast of his mind was distinctively synthetical. His choice of the inductive method for his investigations, a process from the particular to the general and from the general to the universal, shows the direction of his intellectual fibre. In this he simply obeyed the law of his being, as a carpenter drives his plane with the grain of the wood.1 He had no knowledge of mathematics, a science almost purely analytic.2 He discarded the syllogism, because it opens with a broad assumption and reasons downward. On the other hand, he had an ability, as we have already stated, to detect analogies and to combine, never surpassed, perhaps never equalled, among the children of men. In a word, his mind was phenomenally comprehensive, able to project a vast temple of science in which every department should have its appropriate space, but not to excavate to solid rock on which to lay the foundations and erect the structure. Even at this distance of time we are amazed at the mass of materials gathered together by this intellectual giant from all quarters, and lying about in great promiscuous heaps on the ground where he toiled.
1 "With a synthetic power rarely equalled, Bacon was an indifferent analyst; his care was not to part and prove, but to announce and harmonize."--Nichol's Francis Bacon, Part II. p. 194.
2 He "was not only entirely unacquainted with geometry and algebra, but evidently insensible even of their value or their use."--Craik's English Literature and Language, II. 143.
Bacon's eminence as a philosopher is one of the interesting paradoxes of our time. On one point only are all agreed, viz., that he is a resplendent orb in the light of which, across an interval of three centuries, every man still casts a shadow. His brightness prevents a clear definition of his disk. No two critics agree as to the nature or cause of the profound impression he has made on mankind. Their comments remind us of the inscription on a monument in Athens, "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD."1
Bacon himself was full of contradictions. He often violated his own precepts. He declared he was only "ringing a bell" for others, and yet he took no notice of those who, as it were, obeyed his summons. He sneered at Copernicus, and at the theory of the solar system with which that illustrious name is linked forever. He betrayed no sympathy with Galileo. He turned a deaf ear to Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood; to Gilbert, who first proclaimed the earth a magnet; to Napier, the inventor of logarithms; and to Kepler, whose formula of planetary laws imparts dignity to human nature itself. All these, with the exception of Copernicus, were his contemporaries, illustrating his own favorite methods and adding glory before his face to his own glorious age. Any estimate of Bacon into which these facts do not fit is utterly worthless.
Various notable attempts have been made to explain this anomaly. According to Baron Liebig, Bacon was an impostor; this is the Explanation Brutal. According to Spedding, he had a wonderful talent for detecting resemblances, but none at all for distinguishing differences; this is the Explanation Nonsensical. Dr. Draper in his 'Science and Religion' comes nearer the truth; he holds that Bacon's entire system of philosophy is "fanciful."
1 "There is something about him not fully understood or discerned, which, in spite of all curtailment of his claims in regard to one special kind of eminence or another, still leaves the sense of his eminence as strong as ever."--Craik's English Literature and Language, I. 613.
The only rational and consistent view is this: Bacon was, first, a poet; secondly, a philosopher. Over and above his other faculties towered the creative,--that which gave eloquence to his tongue, splendor to his style, and an exhaustless illumination to his whole being. If he sometimes failed to discern a truth close at hand in the practical affairs of life, he was like the angels before the Throne, hiding their eyes under their wings.
"A similar combination of different mental powers was at work in them; as Shakespeare was often philosophical in his profoundness, Bacon was not seldom surprised into the imagination of the poet."--Gervinus.
"If we look carefully into the matter, it is not on the prescribed method of Bacon that his fame was built. It was the power of divination in the man which made him great and influential. . . . He was very near discovering the law of the correlation of forces."1--Ingleby's Essays, p. 182.
"His services lay not so much in what he did himself, as in the grand impulse he gave to others."--Prof. Minto's English Prose Composition, p. 239.
"No man would go to Bacon's works to learn any particular science or art, any more than he would go to a twelve-inch globe in order to find his way from Kennington turnpike to Clapham Common. The art which Bacon taught was the art of inventing arts."--Macaulay's Essay on Bacon.
1 History is full of instances of this same poetic divination. Ten years before Darwin's 'Origin of Species' appeared, Emerson wrote:--
"And striving to be man, the worm
Mounts through all the spires of form."
"The glance with which he surveyed the intellectual universe resembled that which the archangel from the golden threshold of heaven darted down into the new creation."--Ibid.
"Il se saisit tellement de l'imagination, qu'il force la raison à s'incliner, et il les éblouit autant qu'il les éclaire."--M. Remusat: Bacon, sa vie, son temps, sa philosophie, et son influence. Paris: 1857.
"Truly it may be said both of Bacon and of Shakespeare, that equally they never argue; they decree."--O'Connor's Hamlet's Note-Book, p. 60.
"He was a seer, a poet, rather than a natural philosopher."--R. M. Theobald.
"Some of Bacon's suggested experiments on light might well be supposed to have been borrowed from Newton; and the results at which he arrived in the investigation of heat, he sets forth in language not greatly differing from that which in modern times describes heat as a mode of motion."--Baron Liebig, Macmillan's Mag., 1863.
"Bacon was the prophet of things that Newton revealed."--Horace Walpole.
"The change is great when in fifty years we pass from the poetical science of Bacon to the mathematical and precise science of Newton."--Church's Life of Bacon, p. 181.
"The Novum Organum is a string of aphorisms, a collection, as it were, of scientific decrees, as of an oracle who foresees the future and reveals the truth. . . . It is intuition, not reasoning."--Taine's History of English Literature, I. 154.
History.--Historical literature had a special charm for Bacon. His history of the reign of Henry VII. is an English classic; his portraiture of Julius Cæsar, an epitome of one of the world's most interesting and important epochs.
Shakespeare's mind ran in the same channels. Nearly half the plays are historical, and they deal with those periods to which Bacon gave particular attention, the English Henries and the career of Rome.
"'Where have you learned the history of England?' it was asked of the greatest statesman of the last century. Lord Chatham replied, 'In the plays of Shakespeare.'"--Dean Stanley.
"The marvellous accuracy, the real, substantial learning of the three Roman plays of Shakespeare, present the most complete evidence to our minds that they were the result of a profound study of the whole range of Roman history."--Knight.
"Where, even in Plutarch's pages, are the aristocratic republican tone and the tough muscularity of mind, which characterized the Romans, so embodied as in Shakespeare's Roman plays? Where, even in Homer's song, the subtle wisdom of the crafty Ulysses, the sullen selfishness and conscious martial might of broad Achilles, the blundering courage of thick-headed Ajax, or the mingled gallantry and foppery of Paris, so vividly portrayed as in 'Troilus and Cressida'?"--Richard Grant White.
"Delicate and subtle distinctions are made between the manners of different epochs of Roman history. For instance, the language, turn of thought, and local coloring in 'Coriolanus,' 'Antony,' and 'Julius Cæsar' are exquisitely and profoundly Roman; yet the reader is conscious that the Romans in 'Coriolanus' are as different from the Romans of the other two plays as was the Roman people at the two different epochs in question. . . . We have here the very essence and soul of classicism, and we have, too, what the ancients have not given us, the household and private physiognomy of their times."--Shaw's English Literature, p. 121.
Law.--Bacon began the study of law at nineteen, several years before the appearance of the first of the Shakespeare plays. His mastery of the subject was prompt and thorough. At fifty he was the leading jurist of the age.
The use of legal terms in the plays, always in their exact significance, and sometimes showing profound insight into the principles on which they rest, has long excited the wonder of the world. On this point we have already given the opinion of Chief Justice Campbell; we will add the testimony of Richard Grant White, a witness also on the other side, and now speaking as it were under cross-examination, as follows:--
"No dramatist of the time, not even Beaumont, who was a younger son of a judge of the Common Pleas, and who, after studying in the inns of court, abandoned law for the drama, used legal phrases with Shakespeare's readiness and exactness. And the significance of this fact is heightened by another, that it is only to the language of the law that he exhibits this inclination. The phrases peculiar to other occupations serve him on rare occasions, generally when something in the scene suggests them; but legal phrases flow from his pen as part of his vocabulary and parcel of his thought. . . . And besides, Shakespeare uses his law just as freely in his early plays, written in his first London years, as in those produced at a later period. Just as exactly, too; for the correctness and propriety with which these terms are introduced have compelled the admiration of a chief justice and a lord chancellor."
The conclusion is well-nigh irresistible that a trained lawyer was the author of the plays.1
1 "The notion that he was an attorney's clerk is blown to pieces."--Richard Grant White.
"The worst of it is, for the theory of his having been an attorney's clerk, that it will not account for his insight into law; his knowledge is not office sweepings, but ripe fruits, mature, as though he had spent his life in their growth."--Gerald Massey.
"It is demonstrated that he [Shakespeare] was no attorney's clerk, as Lord Campbell believed, but a ripe, learned, and profound lawyer, so saturated with precedents that at once in his highest and sweetest flights he colors everything with legal dyes."--Appleton Morgan.
The only possible escape from it is through Portia's unprecedented rulings in the trial scene in 'The Merchant of Venice;' as though a beautiful damsel, sitting as judge on the bench, and in love with one of the parties interested in the suit, were expected to follow legal precedents!
It is not necessary, however, to poise this argument on a jest. Thanks to Mr. John T. Doyle, a complete explanation of these seemingly anomalous proceedings is easily given. That is to say, the trial was in exact accordance with the rules of procedure that formerly obtained in the courts of Spain, and, it may fairly be presumed, also in those of Venice.
In 1852-53 Mr. Doyle resided in Nicaragua, once a Spanish colony, and still under the sway of Spanish customs, and there, as agent of a trading company, became involved in considerable litigation. The account which he gives of the course pursued in one of his causes, and substantially in them all, is extremely interesting, particularly in view of the light thrown by it on the case Shylock vs. Antonio.
"Genius would not here guide without technical lore. . . . Are the devotees of Shakespeare resolved to make him a miracle?"--Prof. Francis W. Newman.
A writer in 'Baconiana' (London, November, 1893) shows with admirable clearness and force that out of two hundred and fifty points of law treated in the plays, two hundred and one of them are stated with more or less fulness in Bacon's legal tracts, published by Spedding, and easily accessible to any student.
First, the judge ascertained the facts in the usual way, by questioning the parties to the suit, and ex- amining the witnesses; then, taking the case under advisement, he continued it to another day. In due time the parties were again called together and a written statement of the matters in controversy was submitted to them by the judge, who, with their concurrence, immediately appointed a certain person, of high reputation for capacity and legal attainments, to act as referee. This person, who happened to live in a distant city, submitted his opinion in writing, as the final decision of the court. Subsequently a gratification in his behalf was demanded of the successful suitor. Mr. Doyle's comments on the case are so clever that we present them entire:--
"With this experience, I read the case of Shylock over again, and understood it better. It was plain that the sort of procedure Shakespeare had in view, and attributed to the Venetian court, was exactly that of my recent experience. The trial scene in the 'Merchant of Venice' opens on the day appointed for final judgment; the facts had been ascertained at a previous session, and Bellario had been selected, as the jurist, to determine the law applicable to them. The case had been submitted to him in writing, and the court was awaiting his decision. The defendant, when the case is called, answers, as is done daily in our own courts, 'Ready, so please your Grace.' Shylock, the plaintiff, is not present. In an English, or any common-law court, his absence would have resulted in a nonsuit, but not so here; he is sent for, just as my adversary was, and comes. After an ineffectual attempt to move him to mercy, the Duke intimates an adjournment, unless Bellario comes. And it is then announced that a messenger from him is in attendance; his letter is read, and Portia is introduced. Bellario's letter excuses his non-attendance on a plea of illness, and proposes her, under the name of Balthasar, as a substitute. 'I acquainted him [he writes] with the cause in controversy between the Jew and Antonio, the merchant; we turned o'er many books together; he is furnished with my opinion, which, bettered with his own learning, the greatness whereof I cannot enough commend, comes with him at my importunity to fill up your Grace's request in my stead. . . . I leave him to your acceptance, whose trial shall better publish his commendation.' The Duke, of course, had the right, so far as concerned himself, to accept the substitution of Balthasar for Bellario; but Shylock, I take it, would have had his right to challenge the substitute, and perhaps it is to avoid this, by disarming his suspicions, that all Portia's utterances in the case, until she has secured his express consent to her acting, are favorable to him. Thus,--
'Of a strange nature is the suit you follow,
Yet in such rule that the Venetian law
Cannot impugn you as you do proceed;'
and again, after her splendid plea for mercy,--
'I have spoken thus much,
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
Which, if thou follow, this strict Court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant here.'
"Shylock would have been made to object to a judge whose intimations were so clearly in his favor. He first pronounces her 'A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!' This does not, however, amount to an express acceptance of her as a substitute; it is but an expression of high respect, consistent with a refusal to consent to the proposed substitution. She carries the deception still farther, pronounces the bond forfeit, and that--and again pleads for mercy.
'Lawfully, by this the Jew may claim
A pound of flesh, to be by him cut off
Nearest the merchant's heart,'
"The poor Jew, completely entrapped, then 'charges her by the law to proceed to judgment.' Antonio does the same, and, both parties having thus in open court accepted her as such, she is fairly installed as the judex substitutus for Bellario, and almost immediately afterwards suggests the quibble over the drop of blood and the exact pound of flesh on which Antonio escapes.
"To complete the parallel to my Nicaraguan experience, above recounted, we find, after the trial is over, and the poor, discomfited Jew has retired from the court, the Duke says to the defendant, whose life has been saved by Portia's subtlety,--
'Antonio, gratify this gentleman,
For, in my mind, you are much bound to him.'
That is, give him a 'gratification,' or honorarium; and Bassanio offers her the three thousand ducats which were the condition of the bond."1
Mr. Doyle also finds, in a Mexican case, a precedent for the action of the Venetian court in fining Shylock. He then adds:--
"It seems to me that Shakespeare was acquainted (however he acquired the knowledge) with the modes of procedure in tribunals administering the law of Spain, as well as with those of his own country; if like practice did not obtain in Venice, or if he knew nothing of Venetian law, there was no great improbability in assuming it to resemble that of Spain, considering that both were inherited from a common source, and that the Spanish monarchs had so long exercised dominion in Italy."
Bacon's residence in France and in Southern Europe for several years sufficiently accounts for the special knowledge shown by "Shake-speare" in the conduct of this case.
Medicine.--Upon the theory and practice of medicine, Bacon lavished at times all his powers. The study seems to have had a special fascination for him. He was puddering in physic, he says, all his life. He even kept an apothecary among his personal retainers, seldom retiring to bed without a dose.
1 Shakespearîana, 10, 57.
Physicians tell us that the writer of the plays was a medical expert. Dr. Bucknill has written a book of three hundred pages, and Dr. Chesney one of two hundred, to prove this. We know that the names of Galen and Paracelsus roll from the tongues of the dramatis personæ like household words. Bacon's mother was afflicted in the latter part of her life with insanity. The portrayal of that dreaded disease in 'Hamlet' and 'King Lear' is to this day a psychological marvel.1
"We confess, almost with shame, that, although nearly two centuries and a half have passed since Shakespeare wrote 'King Lear,' we have very little to add to his method of treating the insane, as there pointed out."--Dr. Brigham.
"Diseases of the nervous system seem to have been a favorite study, especially insanity."--B. Rush Field's Medical Thoughts of Shakespeare, p. 13, 2d ed.
1 It has been conjectured that Shakespeare derived his knowledge of medical science from his son-in-law, Mr. Hall, who was a physician. This is negatived by two considerations, viz.: 1. Hall married Susanna Shakespeare in 1607, twenty years after the plays began to appear, and long after those were written in which this specialty is most displayed.
2. His professional attainments were of too low a character to sustain such an inference. Fortunately, we have his memorandum book, in which he noted down his most important cases, and the methods of treatment he applied to them. Conspicuous among his remedies are powdered human skull and human fat, tonics of earth worms and snails, solution of goose excrements, frog-spawn water, and swallows' nests,--straw, sticks, dung, and all.
This was in the days when country practitioners advised people, on the ground of health, to wash their faces but once a week, and to dry them only on scarlet cloth.
"That abnormal states of mind were the favorite study of Shakespeare would be evident from the mere numbers of char- acters to which he has attributed them. On no other subject has he written so much; on no other has he written with such mighty power."--Bucknill's Psychology of Shakespeare, p. vii.
Natural History.--No department of science was more thoroughly explored by Bacon than natural history. If he had anticipated a general deluge of ignorance, he could not have gathered into an ark a more complete menagerie than the one we find in his 'Sylva Sylvarum' and other works. Nearly every living species, the name and habits of which had been given in books, is represented there.
In one other author alone, not professedly technical, do we find equally copious references to animals and plants. That author is "Shake-speare." The books that have been written to show his knowledge on this subject are very numerous. We have one by Harting, on the Ornithology of "Shake-speare;" another by Phipson, on his Animal Lore; three by Ellacombe, Beisly, and Grindon, on his Plant Lore; and an elaborate treatise by Patterson, on the insects mentioned in the plays.
The resemblance between the two goes further; it exists not only in the multiplicity of these references, but in the character of them also.
Bacon was born in London; he passed the most of his days in the city, or in its immediate suburbs. We have no reason to believe that he was especially fond of country life, or that he studied nature personally in the fields and woods. His love of garden plants, however, as already shown, was deep and tender; he wanted some of them in bloom about him all the year round. He likened their perfume to the war"That abnormal states of mind were the favorite study of Shakespeare would be evident from the mere numbers of char-
On the other hand, for what he wrote on the great world of nature beyond the precincts of his garden, on trees and shrubs, on birds and fish and undomesticated animals generally, he was obliged to go to the shelves of his library. He went to Aristotle's 'Problems,' to Pliny's 'Natural History,' to Sandys' 'Travels,' to Scaliger's 'De Subtilitate,' to Porta's 'Magic,' and to several others. He viewed each of these works as a collection, and accordingly he called his own, in which they were all to some degree incorporated, 'Sylva Sylvarum, or Collection of Collections.' Rawley tells us that he himself foraged through all this literature for the facts which Bacon recorded.
The dependence on books was so absolute that, though no mention is made by Bacon of Sandys or of Sandys' travels, we know almost exactly what countries the latter visited, and even the order in which he visited them, from what is contained in the 'Sylva Sylvarum.'
Under these circumstances one result was inevitable. Allowing for the full exercise of Bacon's scientific intuition, we must still expect to find, as Baron Liebig has found, numerous errors in the text. The stream never rises higher than the source, and the source in this case was fact and fiction inextricably mixed.
It is startling to find the same line of demarcation between the knowledge of horticulture and the knowledge of the great world of physical nature outside of horticulture, and the same indifference to charges of plagiarism, in "Shake-speare" precisely as in Bacon. What "Shake-speare" has written about garden-plants is accurate to the minutest details. He is here evidently on his own ground, giving the results of his own observations, and spreading over them the glow of his personal feelings.
In the domain of animated nature at large, however, we encounter a different state of things. Over every kind of wild animal, including birds and insects mentioned in the plays, with one curious exception, our literary Jupiter nods; but he nods so gracefully as to deceive even the very elect of the critics. Thanks to an intelligent writer in the 'Quarterly,' we now know to what books he went for his facts, and how and why he blundered.
"He borrows from Gower and Chaucer and Spenser; from Drayton and Du Bartas and Lyly and William Browne; from Pliny, Ovid, Virgil, and the Bible; borrows, in fact, everywhere he can, but with a symmetry that makes his natural history harmonious as a whole, and a judgment that keeps it always moderate and possible."--Quarterly Review, April, 1894.
Take the description, for instance, of the ideal horse in 'Venus and Adonis;' it is borrowed, almost word for word, from Du Bartas. Here are all of "Shake-speare's" phrases as they occur in that famous description, and, in brackets, those of the original, as given in the 'Quarterly':--
"Round hoofed [round hoof]; short jointed [short pasterns]; broad breasts [broad breast]; full eye [full eye]; small head [head but of middle size]; nostrils wide [nostril wide]; high crest [crested neck, bowed]; straight legs [hart-like legs]; and passing strong [strong]; thin mane [thin mane]; thick tail [full tail]; broad buttock [fair, fat buttocks]; tender hide [smooth hide]."
Now take an illustration among the birds. The lark seems to have been a favorite with the author of the plays. The allusions are as follows:--
"The 'morning lark' (so in Lyly); the 'mounting lark' (William Browne); the 'merry lark' (Spenser)' 'herald of the morning' (Chaucer); 'shrill lark' (Spenser); 'summer's bird' (Spenser); the 'busy day, waked by the lark' ('the busy lark, waker of the day,' Chester);
'Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings, And Phbus 'gins arise,'
('At Heaven's gate she claps her wings,
The morn not waking till she sings.'--Lyly)."
The writer in the 'Quarterly' accepts the traditional Shakspere, but he cannot avoid expressing a certain disappointment (in which he has our entire sympathy) as follows:--
"Shakespeare was curiously unobservant of animated Nature. . . . He seems to have seen very little. . . . Stratford-on-Avon was, in his day, enmeshed in streams, yet he has not a single kingfisher. Not on all his streams or pools is there an otter, a water-rat, a fish rising, a dragon-fly, a moor-hen, or a heron. . . . To the living objects about him he seems to have been obstinately purblind and half-deaf. His boyhood was passed among the woods, and yet in all the woods in his plays there is neither woodpecker nor wood-pigeon; we never hear or see a squirrel in the trees, nor a night-jar hawking over the bracken."
The plain answer to this is, of course, that the author of the plays never lived in Stratford; he was not a countryman; he never roamed through the woods, or fished in the streams. On the contrary, he passed his boyhood in a city, where language was free from patois; his youth, in a university, from which he poured the classics into his earliest plays; and his manhood, in courts of law and royalty, with the manners, customs, and learning of which he was so thoroughly familiar.
We are now prepared to understand why "Shake-speare" made so many errors in his descriptions of animals,--he looked at them, contrary to Dryden's dictum, through the "spectacles of books." For example:--
"We 'll follow where thou lead'st,
Like stinging bees in hottest summer's day,
Led by their master to the flower'd fields."
Titus Andronicus, V. 1.
"The passage is of course ridiculous, but it is taken from Du Bartas."--Quarterly.
"Our thighs packed with wax, our mouths with honey,
We bring it to the hive."
2 Henry IV., IV. 4.
"Bees do not carry wax on their thighs but in their tails; and honey, not in their mouths, but in their stomachs. However, the line is borrowed from Lyly's 'Euphues.'"--Quarterly.
"The old bees die, the young possess their hive."
"Of anything else in the world this might be true, but said of the bee it is a monumental error, the most compendious misstatement possible. There are no generations of bees; they are all the offspring of the same mother; and they possess the hive by mutual arrangement, and not by hereditary succession; for when it gets too full, the superfluous tenth goes off with a queen bee to the colonies."--Quarterly.
The most elaborate description of a bee-hive and its inmates in "Shake-speare" is given in 'Henry V.,' as follows:--
"For so work the honey-bees,
Creatures that by a rule in nature teach
The act of order to a peopled kingdom;
They have a king and officers of sorts;
Where some, like magistrates correct at home,
Others, like merchants, venture trade abroad,
Others, like soldiers, armed in their stings,
Make boot upon the summer's velvet buds;
Which pillage they with merry march bring home
To the tent-royal of their emperor;
Who, busied in his majesty, surveys
The singing masons building roofs of gold,
The civil citizens kneading up the honey,
The poor mechanic porters crowding in
Their heavy burdens at his narrow gate,
The sad-eyed justice, with his surly hum,
Delivering o'er to the executors pale
The lazy yawning drone."--I. 2.
On this the writer in the 'Quarterly' comments:--
"As poetry, it is a most beautiful passage; as a description of a hive, it is utter nonsense, with an error of fact in every line, and instinct throughout with a total misconception of the great bee-parable. Obviously, therefore, there could have been no personal observation. How, then, did the poet arrive at the beautiful image? From the 'Euphues' of Lyly."
On the same authority it appears that what "Shake-speare" says of the cuckoo comprises "two proverbs, two misstatements, and the completest possible misconception of the cuckoo idea in nature;" and of the weasel, "two proverbs and two misstatements." "Shake-speare" seems to have been very fond of the dove, and to have some accurate knowledge of it; but it is the domesticated dove which he describes, such as had its habitat at Gorhambury and Twickenham Park, and not its congener in the woods.
To all this, however, we find one significant exception,--the author of the plays describes with accuracy and, what is more remarkable still, with perfect sympathy, the animals of the chase.
"With the boar, the hare, and the deer the facts are reversed. Whether Shakespeare ever saw a boar-hunt is a matter for conjecture, but he gives a superb description of the animal and its chase in 'Venus and Adonis.' . . . It is very noteworthy as an illustration of the poet's treatment of a real animal in which he felt an actual personal interest. Take again in the same poem the exquisite description of a hunted hare, and note the force and beauty which the lines derive from his accuracy and sympathy. He had observed what he there described, and the result is such a poem as to make other poets despair.
"Or what can be said that is too appreciative of Shake-speare's deer? He was here perfectly at home, and thoroughly familiar from personal observation with the haunts and habits of the animal he was describing. The result is a detailed and most beautifully accurate history of the deer, whether stag, hart, or hind, buck, or doe. Above all, it is marked, as in the case of the hare, with a most touching sympathy for the hunted beast."--Quarterly.
Bacon was thoroughly familiar with hunting and hawking, as, indeed, was every one at that time in his station of life; and if we may judge from his temperament and the state of his health, sympathy with the hunted animal must have been a predominant feeling with him. This is the kind of exception that proves a rule.
Religion.--The Bacon family was Catholic under Mary, and Protestant under Elizabeth; as a consequence, Francis had no strong predilections in favor of either sect. In religion as in philosophy, he abhorred sects, and sought only what was universal. The sincerity of his faith in an overruling Providence we have no reason to doubt, though his own statement that "a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion," may have been, intentionally or unintentionally, autobiographical, indicating some laxity of opinions on this subject in the early part of his life. The anxieties and constant admonitions of his mother, culminating in the dethronement of her reason, as well as the subsequent battles of religious controversialists over his status, would seem to justify this inference.1
1 According to Evelyn and Aubrey, Bacon was the true founder of the Royal Society. He inspired it with his own cosmopolitan spirit against the religious passions of the age so effectually that when, a hundred years afterwards, the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge wished simply to meet in its rooms, the request was refused. . . . Bacon's name has been found in a list of rejected candidates for admission to membership in the Academy of Florence, an institution founded for the cultivation of the physical sciences. M. de Rémusat assigns the rejection to theological grounds.
"He was in power at the time of the Synod of Dort, and must for months have been deafened with talk about election, reprobation, and final perseverance. Yet we do not remember a line in his works from which it can be inferred that he was either a Calvinist or an Arminian."--Macaulay.
"From his exhaustive enumeration of the branches of human knowledge Bacon excluded theology, and theology alone."--Greene's Short History of England, p. 596.
Shakespeare's religion was also an anomaly. Several books have been written on it, but they might well have been compressed into the dimensions of Horrebow's famous chapter on reptiles in Iceland. Some infer, from his toleration amid the fierce resentments of his time, that he was a Catholic; others, from the defiance hurled at the Pope in 'King John,' and from the panegyric on Cranmer in 'Henry VIII.,' that he was a Protestant; while other still, finding no consolations from belief in a future life in the plays, proclaim him an infidel. Indeed, pious commentators always approach this subject walking backward and holding a mantle before them. They know instinctively that the great poet was also a great philosopher, building solidly on human reason, and from the summit of his magnificent structures allowing not even a vine to shoot upward.
"In his great tragedies he traces the working of noble or lovely human characters on to the point, and no further, where they disappear in the darkness of death; and ends with a look back, never on toward anything beyond."--E. B. West: Browning as a Preacher.
"No church can claim him."--Richard Grant White.
"Both have an equal hatred of sects and parties: Bacon, of sophists and dogmatic philosophers; Shakespeare, of Puritans and zealots. . . . Just as Bacon banished religion from science, so did Shakespeare from art. . . . In both, this has been equall
misconstrued, Le Maistre proving Bacon's lack of Christianity, as Birch has done that of Shakespeare."--Gervinus.
Poetry.--Bacon defined poetry as "feigned history;" that is to say, history not according to actual occurrences which seldom satisfy the moral sense, but of a higher order, so written as to exhibit in one picture the natural and in the end inevitable results of a given line of conduct. The office of the true poet is thus to bring to virtue its reward, and to vice its punishment within certain time limits, and on the grandest scale to which his genius can attain. It is to grind at once what the mills of God grind slowly. This was Bacon's favorite idea, illustrated also in his definition of Art compared with Nature. Art, he said, is superior to Nature, but superior to it only while obedient to its rules. Architecture may be "frozen music," but it must be in harmony with what Bacon calls the "nature of things," to make melody in our souls.
It is impossible to conceive of compositions more faithful to this dramatic ideal than the plays of "Shake-speare." The very anachronisms in them emphasize the distinction between poetry and history; and the plays always meet the ends of justice, for they are always true to the fundamental principles of our nature.
"Nature is made better by no mean,
But Nature makes that mean; so, over that art,
Which, you say, adds to Nature, is an art
That Nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry
A gentler scion to the wildest stock;
And make conceive a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race. This is an art
Which does mend nature."
"His contemporary, Bacon, gave to poetry this great vocation; as the world of the senses is of lower value than the human soul, so poetry must grant to men what history denies; it must satisfy the mind . . . with a more perfect order and a juster relation of things than are to be found there. Shakespeare appears to have held the same views."--Gervinus' Com., II. 549.
The plays are "the most consummate style of the art that mends nature."--Holmes' Authorship of Shakespeare, p. 200.
"In one short but beautiful paragraph concerning poetry, Bacon has exhausted everything that philosophy and good sense have yet to offer on what has been since called the Beau Ideal."--Dugald Stewart.
Music.--Both authors took great delight in music. Bacon devoted a long chapter of his 'Natural History' to the consideration of sounds and the laws of melody. In the plays we find nothing sweeter than the strains that "creep in our ears" as we read them.
"Lord Bacon has given a great variety of experiments, touching music, that show him to have been not barely a philosopher, an inquirer into the phenomena of sound, but a master of the science of harmony, and very intimately acquainted with the precepts of musical composition."--Sir John Hawkins.
"Shakespeare seems to have been proficient in the art."--Richard Grant White.
"He [Shakespeare] seems also to have possessed, in an unusual degree, the power of judging and understanding the theory of music,--that upon which the performance and execution of music depends. In the 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' (I. 1), where the heroine of the play is conversing with her maid, there is a passage which enters so fully into the manner of how a song should be sung, that it seems to have been inserted intentionally to exhibit the young poet's knowledge in this branch of art. And Burney draws attention to the fact that the critic who, in the scene referred to, is teaching Lucetta Julia's song, makes use of no expressions but such as were employed by the English, as termini technici in the profession of music."--Ulrici.
One of the points upon which Bacon expended much thought was the harmonic relations of the tones composing the modern diatonic scale. The interval of the perfect fourth, which comprises two major seconds and a minor second, he carefully analyzed, reaching a conclusion which has been frequently cited in treatises on the subject. Concerning this interval he writes, that "after every three whole notes [tones] nature requireth for all harmonical use one half note [tone] to be interposed." Thus, for instance, from C to F, which comprises a perfect fourth, we have three whole tones, C, D, and E, followed by a semitone, F. The augmentation of this interval, by sharpening the F, so as to give an interval of three full tones, was not permissible in Bacon's day, and he sought to base the prohibition on a natural law.
Again Bacon writes:
"For discords, the second and seventh are of all others the most odious in harmony to the sense; whereof the one is next above the unison, the other next under the diapason, which may shew that harmony requireth a compentent distance of notes."
Here is evidence of his perfect familiarity with a technical question; is it possible that Shake-speare also possessed the same abstruse knowledge?
We quote from 'King Lear':--
"Oh, these eclipses portend these divisions!--fa, sol, la, mi."--I. 2.
"In Shakespeare's time, and until a comparatively recent date, the syllables for solmization, instead of do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, were fa, sol, la, fa, sol, la, mi;" so that 'fa, sol, la, mi' covered the interval of an augmented fourth, "ending upon the seventh or leading note of the scale, which, unless followed by the tonic, or used for some very special effect, is a most distracting figure based upon the most poignant of discords."--Richard Grant White.
"Shakespeare shows by the context that he was well acquainted with the property of these syllables in solmization, which imply a series of sounds so unnatural that ancient musicians prohibited their use. The monkish writers on music say, mi contra fa est diabolus. The interval, fa mi, including a tritonus or sharp 4th, consisting of three tones without the intervention of a semitone (expressed in the modern scale by the letters F G A B), would form a musical phrase extremely disagreeable to the ear. Edmund, speaking of eclipses as portents and prodigies, compares the dislocation of events, the times being out of joint, to the unnatural and offensive sounds, fa, sol, la, mi."--Dr. Burney.
Oratory.--Bacon was a natural orator. Ben Jonson says of him:--
"There happened in my time one noble speaker who was full of gravity in his speaking. . . . His hearers could not cough, or look aside from him without loss. He commanded where he spoke, and had his judges angry and pleased at his will. No man had their affections more in his power. The fear of every man who heard him was lest he should make an end."
Another contemporary pronounced him "the eloquentest man that was born in this island."
Turning to the plays, we find there the most wonderful speech that ever passed, or was supposed to pass, human lips. In power of sarcasm, in pathos, in sublimity of utterance, and, above all, in rhetorical subtlety, Mark Antony's oration over the body of Cæsar has no equal in forensic literature.
"Every line of this speech deserves an eulogium; . . . neither Demosthenes, nor Cicero, nor their glorious rival, the immortal Chatham, ever made a better."--Sherlock.
"The first of dramatists, he might easily have been the first of orators."--Archbishop Whately.
Printing.--Bacon's knowledge of the printer's art extended to the minutest details. His first book was published when he was twenty-four, but under so heavy a title, 'The Greatest Birth of Time,' that is sank at once into the sea of oblivion. The mysteries of the craft, however, finally became very familiar to him. In the 'Novum Organum' he announced his intention of writing a treatise on the subject, going so far as to include ink, pens, paper, parchment, and seals in his prospectus for it.
The encyclopedic "Shake-speare" was also at home in the composing and press rooms. "He could not have been more so," says Dr. Appleton Morgan, "if he had passed his days as a journeyman printer."
"A small type, called nonpareil, was introduced in English printing-houses from Holland about the year 1560, and became admired and preferred beyond the others in common use. It seems to have become a favorite with Shakespeare, who calls many of his lady characters 'nonpareils.'"--Morgan.
"What printer is there who has put to press the second edition of a book, working page for page in a smaller type and shorter measure, but will recognize the typographer's reminiscences in the following description of Leontes' babe by Pauline:--
'Behold, my lords,
Although the print be little, the whole matter
And copy of the father: . . .
The very mould and frame of hand, nail, finger.'Winter's Tale, II. 3.
Is it conceivable that a sentence of four lines, containing five distinct typographical words, three of which are especially technical, could have proceeded from the brain of one not intimately acquainted with typography?"--Blades' Shakespeare and Typography, p. 42.
Astrology.--In common with most of his contemporaries, Bacon had a lingering belief in astrology. So had the author of the plays. The planets are "good," "favorable," "lucky," or "ill-boding," "angry," and "malignant," according to their position at the moment of one's birth.
Navigation.--Among the subjects investigated by Bacon, that which surprises us most to find is, perhaps, the art of navigation. He went into it so thoroughly, however, that in his 'History of the Winds' he gives us the details of the rigging of a ship, as well as the mode of sailing her.
We are still more astonished--or should be if we were not prepared for it--to find that " "Shake-speare" had the same unusual knowledge. He not only "knows the ropes," but he knows exactly what to do on shipboard in a storm. Even the dialect of the forecastle is familiar to him.
"Of all negative facts in regard to his [Shakespeare's] life, none perhaps is surer than that he never was at sea."--Richard Grant White.
"Shakespeare's seamanship during the tempest in the first scene [of the Tempest] is beyond criticism. No order of the Boatswain is superfluous; no order is omitted that skill can suggest to save the craft. Turn to Dryden, where, amidst a wild and incoherent mass of nautical nonsense, orders are issued which, if obeyed, would drive the ship straight to destruction."--Furness' Variorum, IX.
Heraldry.--In the 'De Augmentis,' Bacon defines an emblem as a "sensible image,"--one that "strikes the memory more forcibly, and is more readily impressed upon it than an object of the intellect." He includes the emblematic art in the list of those subjects that seemed to him to require careful investigation. That he was especially fond of studies of this nature is evident throughout his works. Fables with esoteric meanings, symbolical pictures, cipher writings, anything occult or cabalistic, strongly appealed to his imagination. The frontispiece of the 'Novum Organum' is a ship under full canvas, passing between the pillars of Hercules in search of a new world of science. A picture of the winged Pegasus adorns another of his books. His Essays bear the title, 'Interiora Rerum,' or the Interior of Things. Indeed, a cloud of mystery envelops nearly all his first editions, to the despair of the uninitiated, from that day to this. He named his whole system of philosophy, 'The Restoration,' because he thought there had once been an 'Age of Reason,' the records of which are now lost, and that nothing is needed for its recovery but a combined effort on the part of mankind to repossess Nature's secrets. In his view, Plato and Aristotle are among the lighter objects that have floated down to us on the stream of Time,--the heavier and more valuable having sunk before they reached us.
Of "Shake-speare's" familiarity with the works of the emblematists we have abundant proofs. That he had read, in 1593, Whitney's 'Choice of Emblems,' an English publication of 1586, the following parallelism may indicate:--
FROM DEDICATION OF 'CHOICE OF EMBLEMS' TO EARL OF LEICESTER.
FROM DEDICATION OF 'VENUS AND ADONIS' TO EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON.
In the triumph scene of 'Pericles' six knights successively cross the stage. The author thus describes their armorial bearings:--
"Sim. Who is the first that doth prefer himself?
Thai. A knight of Sparta, my renowned father;
And the device he bears upon his shield
Is a black Ethiope reaching at the sun;
The word, 'Lux tua vita mihi.'"
This motto, says Green, in his 'Shakespeare and the Emblem Writers' (to whom we are indebted for much curious and valuable information on this subject), is almost identical with that of the Blount family, several members of which are introduced to us in the plays. The origin of the device itself--"a black Ethiope reaching at the sun"--is unknown.
"Sim. Who is the second that presents himself?
Thai. A prince of Macedon, my royal father;
And the device he bears upon the shield
Is an arm'd knight that's conquer'd by a lady;
The motto thus, in Spanish, 'Piu por dulzura que por
IMAGE FREITAG 1579
The motto means "More by gentleness than by force," and, though here given in Spanish, has been found only in a French work, "of extreme rarity" (as Green says), Corrozet's 'Hecatomgraphie,' Paris, 1540. There it reads, "plus par doulceur que parforce," and is illustrated in the original work with a wood-cut, representing the well-known fabled contest between the Wind and the Sun over a traveller's cloak.
We know that this fable subsequently became very popular on the Continent, for we find it again in Freitag's Latin work, 'Mythologia Ethica.'
Freitag's work in Latin came from the press in Antwerp in 1579, the year that terminated Bacon's sojourn in France.
"Sim. And what's the third?
Thai. The third of Antioch
And his device, a wreath of chivalry;
The word, 'Me pompæ provexit apex.'"
IMAGE LAUREL WREATH
The laurel-wreath, which this knight wore emblazoned on his shield, and the words, meaning, "The crown of triumph has impelled me on," are given, precisely as Shakespeare has represented them, in Paradin's 'Devises Héroïques,' published in French in Antwerp in 1562. The accompanying cut (p. 257) is taken from that work.
"Sim. What is the fourth?
Thai. A burning torch that's turned upside down;
The word, 'Quod me alit, me extinguit.'"
For this, the author of 'Pericles' went to Symeoni's French work, 'Tetrastichi Morali' (1561), or to Whitney's translation of it, in both of which the device is represented as follows:--
Symeoni's explanation of the device is in these words:--
"In the battle of the Swiss, routed near Milan by King Francis, M. de Saint-Valier bore a standard whereon was painted a lighted torch with the head downward, on which flowed so much wax as would extinguish it, with this motto, 'Qui me alit, me extinguit.' It is the nature of the wax, which is the cause of the torch burning when held upright, that with the head downward it should be extinguished. Thus he wished to signify that, as the beauty of the lady whom he loved nourished all his thoughts, so she put him in peril of his life."
"Thai. The fifth, a hand environed with clouds,
Holding out gold that's by the touchstone tried,
The motto thus, 'Sic spectanda fides.'"
We find this device, with the motto, "So is fidelity to be proved," in Paradin, who thus explains it:--
"If in order to prove fine gold or other metals, we bring them to the touch, without trusting to their glitter or their sound, so to recognize good people and persons of virtue it is needful to observe the splendor of their deeds, not words."
Several of the kings of France adopted this device for their escutcheons.
"Sim. And what's
The sixth and last, the which the knight himself
With such a graceful courtesy deliver'd?
Thai. He seems to be a stranger; but his present is
A withered branch, that's only green at top;
The motto, 'In hac spe vivo.'"
We find this device, with the motto, "So is fidelity to be proved," in Paradin, who thus explains it:--
Concerning this, Mr. Douce in his 'Illustrations of Shakespeare' comments as follows:--
"The sixth device, from its peculiar reference to the situation of Pericles, may perhaps have been altered from one in Paradin, used by Diana of Poictiers. It is a green branch springing from a tomb, with the motto, 'Sola vivit in illo,'--Alone on that she lives."
Mr. Green, however, thinks that "Shake-speare" invented for himself the sixth knight's device and its motto, "In hac spe vivo." He adds:--
"The step from applying so suitably the emblems of other writers to the construction of new ones would not be great; and from what he has actually done in the invention of emblems in the 'Merchant of Venice,' he would experience very little trouble in contriving any emblem he needed for the completion of his dramatic plans. The Casket Scene [in the 'Merchant of Venice'] and the Triumph Scene [in 'Pericles'], then, justify our conclusion that the correspondencies between Shake-speare and the Emblem writers which preceded him are very direct and complete. It is to be accepted as a fact, that he was acquainted with their works, and profited so much from them as to be able, whenever the occasion demanded, to invent, and most fittingly illustrate, devices of his own."--p. 185.
It is evident that the author of 'Pericles' had made a thorough study of heraldry. If he wrote the play previously to 1586, as he probably did (Dryden says it was his first), he acquired his knowledge of the subject from Latin, French, and Italian sources. In either event, we must recognize his easy familiarity with the literature of courts.
Witchcraft.--Bacon believed in witchcraft, but at the same time deprecated the ease with which judges and juries accepted the confessions--"recent confessions," as he called them--of the poor deluded creatures on trial for their lives. He treated the subject in the 'Advancement of Learning' (1605), and in the 'Sylva Sylvarum.' Among the most conspicuous instances of the kind to which he alludes were those investigated by Dr. Harsnet, and made public by him in a book entitled 'Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures' in 1603.
That the author of 'King Lear' (1606) went to this same book for information on witchcraft is perfectly well known. The same extraordinary devils are introduced to us in both of these works under the following names:--
Passages in the text of 'King Lear' can also be traced to Harsnet, particularly Edgar's references to knives and halters (articles that played an important part in the proceedings at Denham), and the character of the seven devils mentioned, each of which represented a deadly sin in human nature. The likeness extends in one case even to the curling of the hair. Indeed, Mr. Spalding, in his 'Elizabethan Demonology,' is enabled from this source to correct a line in the drama, ordinarily rendered,
"Pur! the cat is gray" (III. 6),
by showing that Purre was one of the fiends that figured at the trial, and was compared to a cat, as others were compared to hogs, wolves, dogs, and lions.
"Hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey."--III. 4.
"A comparison of the passages in 'King Lear,' spoken by Edgar when feigning madness, with those given by Harsnet, will show that Shakespeare has accurately given the contemporary belief on the subject. Mr. Spalding also considers that nearly all the allusions in 'King Lear' refer to a youth known as Richard Mainey,--a minute account of whose supposed possession has been given by Harsnet."--Dyer's Folk-Lore in Shakespeare, p. 56.
Freemasonry.--The corner-stone of the Memorial Edifice at Stratford-upon-Avon was laid in 1877 with full masonic ceremonial, under the assumption, based exclusively on the plays, that the dramatist was a member of the order. It bears the following inscription:--
THIS STONE WAS LAID ON
April 23rd, 1877,
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE AND RIGHT WORSHIPFUL
P. G. M., Warwickshire.
Many scholars, who have brought great learning to bear upon the point, both in England and in Germany, Mr. Wigston especially, are assured that the founder of Freemasonry was Francis Bacon. The fraternity may, indeed, be said to rest on the 'New Atlantis' as its foundation. The pillars of 'Solomon's House,' as Bacon called his wonderful imaginary structure, are FAITH and LOVE.
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