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Title: Bacon
Author: Church, R. W. (Richard William), 1815-1890
Language: English
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JOHNSON                Leslie Stephen.
GIBBON                 J.C. Morison.
SCOTT                  R.H. Hutton.
SHELLEY                J.A. Symonds.
HUME                   T.H. Huxley.
GOLDSMITH              William Black.
DEFOE                  William Minto.
BURNS                  J.C. Shairp.
SPENSER                R.W. Church.
THACKERAY              Anthony Trollope.
BURKE                  John Morley.
MILTON                 Mark Pattison.
HAWTHORNE              Henry James, Jr.
SOUTHEY                E. Dowden.
CHAUCER                A.W. Ward.
BUNYAN                 J.A. Froude.
COWPER                 Goldwin Smith.
POPE                   Leslie Stephen.
BYRON                  John Nichol.
LOCKE                  Thomas Fowler.
WORDSWORTH             F. Myers.
DRYDEN                 G. Saintsbury.
LANDOR                 Sidney Colvin.
DE QUINCEY             David Masson.
LAMB                   Alfred Ainger.
BENTLEY                R.C. Jebb.
DICKENS                A.W. Ward.
GRAY                   E.W. Gosse.
SWIFT                  Leslie Stephen.
STERNE                 H.D. Traill.
MACAULAY               J. Cotter Morison.
FIELDING               Austin Dobson.
SHERIDAN               Mrs. Oliphant
ADDISON                W.J. Courthope.
BACON                  R.W. Church.
COLERIDGE              H.D. Traill.
SIR PHILIP SIDNEY      J.A. Symonds.
KEATS                  Sidney Colvin.

12mo, Cloth, 75 cents per volume.
_Other volumes in preparation._

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_Any of the above works will be sent by mail, postage prepaid, to any
part of the United States or Canada, on receipt of the price._


In preparing this sketch it is needless to say how deeply I am indebted
to Mr. Spedding and Mr. Ellis, the last editors of Bacon's writings, the
very able and painstaking commentators, the one on Bacon's life, the
other on his philosophy. It is impossible to overstate the affectionate
care and high intelligence and honesty with which Mr. Spedding has
brought together and arranged the materials for an estimate of Bacon's
character. In the result, in spite of the force and ingenuity of much of
his pleading, I find myself most reluctantly obliged to differ from him;
it seems to me to be a case where the French saying, cited by Bacon in
one of his commonplace books, holds good--"_Par trop se débattre, la
vérité se perd_."[1] But this does not diminish the debt of gratitude
which all who are interested about Bacon must owe to Mr. Spedding. I
wish also to acknowledge the assistance which I have received from Mr.
Gardiner's _History of England_ and Mr. Fowler's edition of the _Novum
Organum_; and not least from M. de Rémusat's work on Bacon, which seems
to me the most complete and the most just estimate both of Bacon's
character and work which has yet appeared; though even in this clear
and dispassionate survey we are reminded by some misconceptions, strange
in M. de Rémusat, how what one nation takes for granted is
incomprehensible to its neighbour; and what a gap there is still, even
in matters of philosophy and literature, between the whole Continent and

     "Penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos."


[1] _Promus_: edited by Mrs. H. Pott, p. 475.


CHAPTER I.                              PAGE
EARLY LIFE                                 1

BACON AND ELIZABETH                       26

BACON AND JAMES I.                        55

BACON SOLICITOR-GENERAL                   77


BACON'S FALL                             118

BACON'S LAST YEARS--1621-1626            149

BACON'S PHILOSOPHY                       168

BACON AS A WRITER                        198




The life of Francis Bacon is one which it is a pain to write or to read.
It is the life of a man endowed with as rare a combination of noble
gifts as ever was bestowed on a human intellect; the life of one with
whom the whole purpose of living and of every day's work was to do great
things to enlighten and elevate his race, to enrich it with new powers,
to lay up in store for all ages to come a source of blessings which
should never fail or dry up; it was the life of a man who had high
thoughts of the ends and methods of law and government, and with whom
the general and public good was regarded as the standard by which the
use of public power was to be measured; the life of a man who had
struggled hard and successfully for the material prosperity and opulence
which makes work easy and gives a man room and force for carrying out
his purposes. All his life long his first and never-sleeping passion was
the romantic and splendid ambition after knowledge, for the conquest of
nature and for the service of man; gathering up in himself the spirit
and longings and efforts of all discoverers and inventors of the arts,
as they are symbolised in the mythical Prometheus. He rose to the
highest place and honour; and yet that place and honour were but the
fringe and adornment of all that made him great. It is difficult to
imagine a grander and more magnificent career; and his name ranks among
the few chosen examples of human achievement. And yet it was not only an
unhappy life; it was a poor life. We expect that such an overwhelming
weight of glory should be borne up by a character corresponding to it in
strength and nobleness. But that is not what we find. No one ever had a
greater idea of what he was made for, or was fired with a greater desire
to devote himself to it. He was all this. And yet being all this, seeing
deep into man's worth, his capacities, his greatness, his weakness, his
sins, he was not true to what he knew. He cringed to such a man as
Buckingham. He sold himself to the corrupt and ignominious Government of
James I. He was willing to be employed to hunt to death a friend like
Essex, guilty, deeply guilty, to the State, but to Bacon the most loving
and generous of benefactors. With his eyes open he gave himself up
without resistance to a system unworthy of him; he would not see what
was evil in it, and chose to call its evil good; and he was its first
and most signal victim.

Bacon has been judged with merciless severity. But he has also been
defended by an advocate whose name alone is almost a guarantee for the
justness of the cause which he takes up, and the innocency of the client
for whom he argues. Mr. Spedding devoted nearly a lifetime, and all the
resources of a fine intellect and an earnest conviction, to make us
revere as well as admire Bacon. But it is vain. It is vain to fight
against the facts of his life: his words, his letters. "Men are made
up," says a keen observer, "of professions, gifts, and talents; and
also of _themselves_."[2] With all his greatness, his splendid genius,
his magnificent ideas, his enthusiasm for truth, his passion to be the
benefactor of his kind; with all the charm that made him loved by good
and worthy friends, amiable, courteous, patient, delightful as a
companion, ready to take any trouble--there was in Bacon's "self" a deep
and fatal flaw. He was a pleaser of men. There was in him that subtle
fault, noted and named both by philosophy and religion in the [Greek:
areskos] of Aristotle, the [Greek: anthrôpareskos] of St. Paul, which is
more common than it is pleasant to think, even in good people, but which
if it becomes dominant in a character is ruinous to truth and power. He
was one of the men--there are many of them--who are unable to release
their imagination from the impression of present and immediate power,
face to face with themselves. It seems as if he carried into conduct the
leading rule of his philosophy of nature, _parendo vincitur_. In both
worlds, moral and physical, he felt himself encompassed by vast forces,
irresistible by direct opposition. Men whom he wanted to bring round to
his purposes were as strange, as refractory, as obstinate, as
impenetrable as the phenomena of the natural world. It was no use
attacking in front, and by a direct trial of strength, people like
Elizabeth or Cecil or James; he might as well think of forcing some
natural power in defiance of natural law. The first word of his teaching
about nature is that she must be won by observation of her tendencies
and demands; the same radical disposition of temper reveals itself in
his dealings with men: they, too, must be won by yielding to them, by
adapting himself to their moods and ends; by spying into the drift of
their humour, by subtly and pliantly falling in with it, by circuitous
and indirect processes, the fruit of vigilance and patient thought. He
thought to direct, while submitting apparently to be directed. But he
mistook his strength. Nature and man are different powers, and under
different laws. He chose to please man, and not to follow what his soul
must have told him was the better way. He wanted, in his dealings with
men, that sincerity on which he insisted so strongly in his dealings
with nature and knowledge. And the ruin of a great life was the

Francis Bacon was born in London on the 22d of January, 1560/61, three
years before Galileo. He was born at York House, in the Strand; the
house which, though it belonged to the Archbishops of York, had been
lately tenanted by Lord Keepers and Lord Chancellors, in which Bacon
himself afterwards lived as Lord Chancellor, and which passed after his
fall into the hands of the Duke of Buckingham, who has left his mark in
the Water Gate which is now seen, far from the river, in the garden of
the Thames Embankment. His father was Sir Nicholas Bacon, Elizabeth's
first Lord Keeper, the fragment of whose effigy in the Crypt of St.
Paul's is one of the few relics of the old Cathedral before the fire.
His uncle by marriage was that William Cecil who was to be Lord
Burghley. His mother, the sister of Lady Cecil, was one of the daughters
of Sir Antony Cook, a person deep in the confidence of the reforming
party, who had been tutor of Edward VI. She was a remarkable woman,
highly accomplished after the fashion of the ladies of her party, and as
would become her father's daughter and the austere and laborious family
to which she belonged. She was "exquisitely skilled in the Greek and
Latin tongues;" she was passionately religious, according to the
uncompromising religion which the exiles had brought back with them from
Geneva, Strasburg, and Zurich, and which saw in Calvin's theology a
solution of all the difficulties, and in his discipline a remedy for all
the evils, of mankind. This means that his boyhood from the first was
passed among the high places of the world--at one of the greatest crises
of English history--in the very centre and focus of its agitations. He
was brought up among the chiefs and leaders of the rising religion, in
the houses of the greatest and most powerful persons of the State, and
naturally, as their child, at times in the Court of the Queen, who joked
with him, and called him "her young Lord Keeper." It means also that the
religious atmosphere in which he was brought up was that of the nascent
and aggressive Puritanism, which was not satisfied with the compromises
of the Elizabethan Reformation, and which saw in the moral poverty and
incapacity of many of its chiefs a proof against the great traditional
system of the Church which Elizabeth was loath to part with, and which,
in spite of all its present and inevitable shortcomings, her political
sagacity taught her to reverence and trust.

At the age of twelve he was sent to Cambridge, and put under Whitgift at
Trinity. It is a question which recurs continually to readers about
those times and their precocious boys, what boys were then? For whatever
was the learning of the universities, these boys took their place with
men and consorted with them, sharing such knowledge as men had, and
performing exercises and hearing lectures according to the standard of
men. Grotius at eleven was the pupil and companion of Scaliger and the
learned band of Leyden; at fourteen he was part of the company which
went with the ambassadors of the States-General to Henry IV.; at sixteen
he was called to the bar, he published an out-of-the-way Latin writer,
Martianus Capella, with a learned commentary, and he was the
correspondent of De Thou. When Bacon was hardly sixteen he was admitted
to the Society of "Ancients" of Gray's Inn, and he went in the household
of Sir Amyas Paulet, the Queen's Ambassador, to France. He thus spent
two years in France, not in Paris alone, but at Blois, Tours, and
Poitiers. If this was precocious, there is no indication that it was
thought precocious. It only meant that clever and promising boys were
earlier associated with men in important business than is customary now.
The old and the young heads began to work together sooner. Perhaps they
felt that there was less time to spare. In spite of instances of
longevity, life was shorter for the average of busy men, for the
conditions of life were worse.

Two recollections only have been preserved of his early years. One is
that, as he told his chaplain, Dr. Rawley, late in life, he had
discovered, as far back as his Cambridge days, the "unfruitfulness" of
Aristotle's method. It is easy to make too much of this. It is not
uncommon for undergraduates to criticise their text-books; it was the
fashion with clever men, as, for instance, Montaigne, to talk against
Aristotle without knowing anything about him; it is not uncommon for men
who have worked out a great idea to find traces of it, on precarious
grounds, in their boyish thinking. Still, it is worth noting that Bacon
himself believed that his fundamental quarrel with Aristotle had begun
with the first efforts of thought, and that this is the one recollection
remaining of his early tendency in speculation. The other is more
trustworthy, and exhibits that inventiveness which was characteristic
of his mind. He tells us in the _De Augmentis_ that when he was in
France he occupied himself with devising an improved system of
cypher-writing--a thing of daily and indispensable use for rival
statesmen and rival intriguers. But the investigation, with its call on
the calculating and combining faculties, would also interest him, as an
example of the discovery of new powers by the human mind.

In the beginning of 1579 Bacon, at eighteen, was called home by his
father's death. This was a great blow to his prospects. His father had
not accomplished what he had intended for him, and Francis Bacon was
left with only a younger son's "narrow portion." What was worse, he lost
one whose credit would have served him in high places. He entered on
life, not as he might have expected, independent and with court favour
on his side, but with his very livelihood to gain--a competitor at the
bottom of the ladder for patronage and countenance. This great change in
his fortunes told very unfavourably on his happiness, his usefulness,
and, it must be added, on his character. He accepted it, indeed,
manfully, and at once threw himself into the study of the law as the
profession by which he was to live. But the law, though it was the only
path open to him, was not the one which suited his genius, or his object
in life. To the last he worked hard and faithfully, but with doubtful
reputation as to his success, and certainly against the grain. And this
was not the worst. To make up for the loss of that start in life of
which his father's untimely death had deprived him, he became, for
almost the rest of his life, the most importunate and most untiring of

In 1579 or 1580 Bacon took up his abode at Gray's Inn, which for a long
time was his home. He went through the various steps of his profession.
He began, what he never discontinued, his earnest and humble appeals to
his relative the great Lord Burghley, to employ him in the Queen's
service, or to put him in some place of independence: through Lord
Burghley's favour he seems to have been pushed on at his Inn, where, in
1586, he was a Bencher; and in 1584 he came into Parliament for Melcombe
Regis. He took some small part in Parliament; but the only record of his
speeches is contained in a surly note of Recorder Fleetwood, who writes
as an old member might do of a young one talking nonsense. He sat again
for Liverpool in the year of the Armada (1588), and his name begins to
appear in the proceedings. These early years, we know, were busy ones.
In them Bacon laid the foundation of his observations and judgments on
men and affairs; and in them the great purpose and work of his life was
conceived and shaped. But they are more obscure years than might have
been expected in the case of a man of Bacon's genius and family, and of
such eager and unconcealed desire to rise and be at work. No doubt he
was often pinched in his means; his health was weak, and he was delicate
and fastidious in his care of it. Plunged in work, he lived very much as
a recluse in his chambers, and was thought to be reserved, and what
those who disliked him called arrogant. But Bacon was
ambitious--ambitious, in the first place, of the Queen's notice and
favour. He was versatile, brilliant, courtly, besides being his father's
son; and considering how rapidly bold and brilliant men were able to
push their way and take the Queen's favour by storm, it seems strange
that Bacon should have remained fixedly in the shade. Something must
have kept him back. Burghley was not the man to neglect a useful
instrument with such good will to serve him. But all that Mr.
Spedding's industry and profound interest in the subject has brought
together throws but an uncertain light on Bacon's long disappointment.
Was it the rooted misgiving of a man of affairs like Burghley at that
passionate contempt of all existing knowledge, and that undoubting
confidence in his own power to make men know, as they never had known,
which Bacon was even now professing? Or was it something soft and
over-obsequious in character which made the uncle, who knew well what
men he wanted, disinclined to encourage and employ the nephew? Was
Francis not hard enough, not narrow enough, too full of ideas, too much
alive to the shakiness of current doctrines and arguments on religion
and policy? Was he too open to new impressions, made by objections or
rival views? Or did he show signs of wanting backbone to stand amid
difficulties and threatening prospects? Did Burghley see something in
him of the pliability which he could remember as the serviceable quality
of his own young days--which suited those days of rapid change, but not
days when change was supposed to be over, and when the qualities which
were wanted were those which resist and defy it? The only thing that is
clear is that Burghley, in spite of Bacon's continual applications,
abstained to the last from advancing his fortunes.

Whether employed by government or not, Bacon began at this time to
prepare those carefully-written papers on the public affairs of the day,
of which he has left a good many. In our day they would have been
pamphlets or magazine articles. In his they were circulated in
manuscript, and only occasionally printed. The first of any importance
is a letter of advice to the Queen, about the year 1585, on the policy
to be followed with a view to keeping in check the Roman Catholic
interest at home and abroad. It is calm, sagacious, and, according to
the fashion of the age, slightly Machiavellian. But the first subject on
which Bacon exhibited his characteristic qualities, his appreciation of
facts, his balance of thought, and his power, when not personally
committed, of standing aloof from the ordinary prejudices and
assumptions of men round him, was the religious condition and prospects
of the English Church. Bacon had been brought up in a Puritan household
of the straitest sect. His mother was an earnest, severe, and intolerant
Calvinist, deep in the interests and cause of her party, bitterly
resenting all attempts to keep in order its pretensions. She was a
masterful woman, claiming to meddle with her brother-in-law's policy,
and though a most affectionate mother she was a woman of violent and
ungovernable temper. Her letters to her son Antony, whom she loved
passionately, but whom she suspected of keeping dangerous and papistical
company, show us the imperious spirit in which she claimed to interfere
with her sons; and they show also that in Francis she did not find all
the deference which she looked for. Recommending Antony to frequent "the
religious exercises of the sincerer sort," she warns him not to follow
his brother's advice or example. Antony was advised to use prayer twice
a day with his servants. "Your brother," she adds, "is too negligent
therein." She is anxious about Antony's health, and warns him not to
fall into his brother's ill-ordered habits: "I verily think your
brother's weak stomach to digest hath been much caused and confirmed by
untimely going to bed, and then musing _nescio quid_ when he should
sleep, and then in consequent by late rising and long lying in bed,
whereby his men are made slothful and himself continueth sickly. But my
sons haste not to hearken to their mother's good counsel in time to
prevent." It seems clear that Francis Bacon had shown his mother that
not only in the care of his health, but in his judgment on religious
matters, he meant to go his own way. Mr. Spedding thinks that she must
have had much influence on him; it seems more likely that he resented
her interference, and that the hard and narrow arrogance which she read
into the Gospel produced in him a strong reaction. Bacon was obsequious
to the tyranny of power, but he was never inclined to bow to the tyranny
of opinion; and the tyranny of Puritan infallibility was the last thing
to which he was likely to submit. His mother would have wished him to
sit under Cartwright and Travers. The friend of his choice was the
Anglican preacher, Dr. Andrewes, to whom he submitted all his works, and
whom he called his "inquisitor general;" and he was proud to sign
himself the pupil of Whitgift, and to write for him--the archbishop of
whom Lady Bacon wrote to her son Antony, veiling the dangerous sentiment
in Greek, "that he was the ruin of the Church, for he loved his own
glory more than Christ's."

Certainly, in the remarkable paper on _Controversies in the Church_
(1589), Bacon had ceased to feel or to speak as a Puritan. The paper is
an attempt to compose the controversy by pointing out the mistakes in
judgment, in temper, and in method on both sides. It is entirely unlike
what a Puritan would have written: it is too moderate, too tolerant, too
neutral, though like most essays of conciliation it is open to the
rejoinder from both sides--certainly from the Puritan--that it begs the
question by assuming the unimportance of the matters about which each
contended with so much zeal. It is the confirmation, but also the
complement, and in some ways the correction of Hooker's contemporary
view of the quarrel which was threatening the life of the English
Church, and not even Hooker could be so comprehensive and so fair. For
Hooker had to defend much that was indefensible: he had to defend a
great traditional system, just convulsed by a most tremendous shock--a
shock and alteration, as Bacon says, "the greatest and most dangerous
that can be in a State," in which old clews and habits and rules were
confused and all but lost; in which a frightful amount of personal
incapacity and worthlessness had, from sheer want of men, risen to the
high places of the Church; and in which force and violence, sometimes of
the most hateful kind, had come to be accepted as ordinary instruments
in the government of souls. Hooker felt too strongly the unfairness, the
folly, the intolerant aggressiveness, the malignity of his opponents--he
was too much alive to the wrongs inflicted by them on his own side, and
to the incredible absurdity of their arguments--to do justice to what
was only too real in the charges and complaints of those opponents. But
Bacon came from the very heart of the Puritan camp. He had seen the
inside of Puritanism--its best as well as its worst side. He witnesses
to the humility, the conscientiousness, the labour, the learning, the
hatred of sin and wrong, of many of its preachers. He had heard, and
heard with sympathy, all that could be urged against the bishops'
administration, and against a system of legal oppression in the name of
the Church. Where religious elements were so confusedly mixed, and where
each side had apparently so much to urge on behalf of its claims, he saw
the deep mistake of loftily ignoring facts, and of want of patience and
forbearance with those who were scandalised at abuses, while the abuses,
in some cases monstrous, were tolerated and turned to profit. Towards
the bishops and their policy, though his language is very respectful,
for the government was implicated, he is very severe. They punish and
restrain, but they do not themselves mend their ways or supply what was
wanting; and theirs are "_injuriæ potentiorum_"--"injuries come from
them that have the upperhand." But Hooker himself did not put his finger
more truly and more surely on the real mischief of the Puritan movement:
on the immense outbreak in it of unreasonable party spirit and visible
personal ambition--"these are the true successors of Diotrephes and not
my lord bishops"--on the gradual development of the Puritan theory till
it came at last to claim a supremacy as unquestionable and intolerant as
that of the Papacy; on the servile affectation of the fashions of Geneva
and Strasburg; on the poverty and foolishness of much of the Puritan
teaching--its inability to satisfy the great questions which it raised
in the soul, its unworthy dealing with Scripture--"naked examples,
conceited inferences, and forced allusions, which mine into all
certainty of religion"--"the word, the bread of life, they toss up and
down, they break it not;" on their undervaluing of moral worth, if it
did not speak in their phraseology--"as they censure virtuous men by the
names of _civil_ and _moral_, so do they censure men truly and godly
wise, who see into the vanity of their assertions, by the name of
_politiques_, saying that their wisdom is but carnal and savouring of
man's brain." Bacon saw that the Puritans were aiming at a tyranny
which, if they established it, would be more comprehensive, more
searching, and more cruel than that of the older systems; but he thought
it a remote and improbable danger, and that they might safely be
tolerated for the work they did in education and preaching, "because the
work of exhortation doth chiefly rest upon these men, and they have a
zeal and hate of sin." But he ends by warning them lest "that be true
which one of their adversaries said, _that they have but two small
wants--knowledge and love_." One complaint that he makes of them is a
curious instance of the changes of feeling, or at least of language, on
moral subjects. He accuses them of "having pronounced generally, and
without difference, all untruths unlawful," forgetful of the Egyptian
midwives, and Rahab, and Solomon, and even of Him "who, the more to
touch the hearts of the disciples with a holy dalliance, made as though
he would have passed Emmaus." He is thinking of their failure to apply a
principle which was characteristic of his mode of thought, that even a
statement about a virtue like veracity "hath limit as all things else
have;" but it is odd to find Bacon bringing against the Puritans the
converse of the charge which his age, and Pascal afterwards, brought
against the Jesuits. The essay, besides being a picture of the times as
regards religion, is an example of what was to be Bacon's characteristic
strength and weakness: his strength in lifting up a subject which had
been degraded by mean and wrangling disputations, into a higher and
larger light, and bringing to bear on it great principles and the
results of the best human wisdom and experience, expressed in weighty
and pregnant maxims; his weakness in forgetting, as, in spite of his
philosophy, he so often did, that the grandest major premises need
well-proved and ascertained minors, and that the enunciation of a
principle is not the same thing as the application of it. Doubtless
there is truth in his closing words; but each party would have made the
comment that what he had to prove, and had not proved, was that by
following his counsel they would "love the whole world better than a

     "Let them not fear ... the fond calumny of _neutrality_; but let
     them know that is true which is said by a wise man, _that neuters
     in contentions are either better or worse than either side_. These
     things have I in all sincerity and simplicity set down touching the
     controversies which now trouble the Church of England; and that
     without all art and insinuation, and therefore not like to be
     grateful to either part. Notwithstanding, I trust what has been
     said shall find a correspondence in their minds which are not
     embarked in partiality, and which _love the whole letter than a

Up to this time, though Bacon had showed himself capable of taking a
broad and calm view of questions which it was the fashion among good
men, and men who were in possession of the popular ear, to treat with
narrowness and heat, there was nothing to disclose his deeper
thoughts--nothing foreshadowed the purpose which was to fill his life.
He had, indeed, at the age of twenty-five, written a "youthful"
philosophical essay, to which he gave the pompous title "_Temporis
Partus Maximus_," "the Greatest Birth of Time." But he was thirty-one
when we first find an indication of the great idea and the great
projects which were to make his name famous. This indication is
contained in an earnest appeal to Lord Burghley for some help which
should not be illusory. Its words are distinct and far-reaching, and
they are the first words from him which tell us what was in his heart.
The letter has the interest to us of the first announcement of a promise
which, to ordinary minds, must have appeared visionary and extravagant,
but which was so splendidly fulfilled; the first distant sight of that
sea of knowledge which henceforth was opened to mankind, but on which no
man, as he thought, had yet entered. It contains the famous avowal--"_I
have taken all knowledge to be my province_"--made in the confidence
born of long and silent meditations and questionings, but made in a
simple good faith which is as far as possible from vain boastfulness.

     "MY LORD,--With as much confidence as mine own honest and faithful
     devotion unto your service and your honourable correspondence unto
     me and my poor estate can breed in a man, do I commend myself unto
     your Lordship. I wax now somewhat ancient: one and thirty years is
     a great deal of sand in the hour glass. My health, I thank God, I
     find confirmed; and I do not fear that action shall impair it,
     because I account my ordinary course of study and meditation to be
     more painful than most parts of action are. I ever bare a mind (in
     some middle place that I could discharge) to serve her Majesty, not
     as a man born under Sol, that loveth honour, nor under Jupiter,
     that loveth business (for the contemplative planet carrieth me away
     wholly), but as a man born under an excellent sovereign that
     deserveth the dedication of all men's abilities. Besides, I do not
     find in myself so much self-love, but that the greater parts of my
     thoughts are to deserve well (if I be able) of my friends, and
     namely of your Lordship; who, being the Atlas of this commonwealth,
     the honour of my house, and the second founder of my poor estate, I
     am tied by all duties, both of a good patriot, and of an unworthy
     kinsman, and of an obliged servant, to employ whatsoever I am to do
     you service. Again, the meanness of my estate doth somewhat move
     me; for though I cannot accuse myself that I am either prodigal or
     slothful, yet my health is not to spend, nor my course to get.
     Lastly, I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends as I have
     moderate civil ends; for I have taken all knowledge to be my
     province; and if I could purge it of two sorts of rovers, whereof
     the one with frivolous disputations, confutations, and verbosities,
     the other with blind experiments and auricular traditions and
     impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in
     industrious observations, grounded conclusions, and profitable
     inventions and discoveries: the best state of that province. This,
     whether it be curiosity or vain glory, or nature, or (if one take
     it favourably) _philanthropia_, is so fixed in my mind as it cannot
     be removed. And I do easily see, that place of any reasonable
     countenance doth bring commandment of more wits than of a man's
     own; which is the thing I greatly affect. And for your Lordship,
     perhaps you shall not find more strength and less encounter in any
     other. And if your Lordship shall find now, or at any time, that I
     do seek or affect any place whereunto any that is nearer unto your
     Lordship shall be concurrent, say then that I am a most dishonest
     man. And if your Lordship will not carry me on, I will not do as
     Anaxagoras did, who reduced himself with contemplation unto
     voluntary poverty, but this I will do--I will sell the inheritance
     I have, and purchase some lease of quick revenue, or some office of
     gain that shall be executed by deputy, and so give over all care of
     service, and become some sorry book-maker, or a true pioneer in
     that mine of truth which (he said) lay so deep. This which I have
     writ unto your Lordship is rather thoughts than words, being set
     down without all art, disguising, or reservation. Wherein I have
     done honour both to your Lordship's wisdom, in judging that that
     will be best believed of your Lordship which is truest, and to your
     Lordship's good nature, in retaining nothing from you. And even so
     I wish your Lordship all happiness, and to myself means and
     occasions to be added to my faithful desire to do you service. From
     my lodgings at Gray's Inn."

This letter to his unsympathetic and suspicious, but probably not
unfriendly relative, is the key to Bacon's plan of life; which, with
numberless changes of form, he followed to the end. That is, a
profession, steadily, seriously, and laboriously kept to, in order to
provide the means of living; and beyond that, as the ultimate and real
end of his life, the pursuit, in a way unattempted before, of all
possible human knowledge, and of the methods to improve it and make it
sure and fruitful. And so his life was carried out. On the one hand it
was a continual and pertinacious seeking after government employment,
which could give credit to his name and put money in his
pocket--attempts by general behaviour, by professional services when the
occasion offered, by putting his original and fertile pen at the service
of the government, to win confidence, and to overcome the manifest
indisposition of those in power to think that a man who cherished the
chimera of universal knowledge could be a useful public servant. On the
other hand, all the while, in the crises of his disappointment or
triumph, the one great subject lay next his heart, filling him with
fire and passion--how really to know, and to teach men to know indeed,
and to use their knowledge so as to command nature; the great hope to be
the reformer and restorer of knowledge in a more wonderful sense than
the world had yet seen in the reformation of learning and religion, and
in the spread of civilised order in the great states of the Renaissance
time. To this he gave his best and deepest thoughts; for this he was for
ever accumulating, and for ever rearranging and reshaping those masses
of observation and inquiry and invention and mental criticism which were
to come in as parts of the great design which he had seen in the visions
of his imagination, and of which at last he was only able to leave noble
fragments, incomplete after numberless recastings. This was not indeed
the only, but it was the predominant and governing, interest of his
life. Whether as solicitor for Court favour or public office; whether
drudging at the work of the law or managing State prosecutions; whether
writing an opportune pamphlet against Spain or Father Parsons, or
inventing a "device" for his Inn or for Lord Essex to give amusement to
Queen Elizabeth; whether fulfilling his duties as member of Parliament
or rising step by step to the highest places in the Council Board and
the State; whether in the pride of success or under the amazement of
unexpected and irreparable overthrow, while it seemed as if he was only
measuring his strength against the rival ambitions of the day, in the
same spirit and with the same object as his competitors, the true motive
of all his eagerness and all his labours was not theirs. He wanted to be
powerful, and still more to be rich; but he wanted to be so, because
without power and without money he could not follow what was to him the
only thing worth following on earth--a real knowledge of the amazing and
hitherto almost unknown world in which he had to live. Bacon, to us, at
least, at this distance, who can only judge him from partial and
imperfect knowledge, often seems to fall far short of what a man should
be. He was not one of the high-minded and proud searchers after
knowledge and truth, like Descartes, who were content to accept a frugal
independence so that their time and their thoughts might be their own.
Bacon was a man of the world, and wished to live in and with the world.
He threatened sometimes retirement, but never with any very serious
intention. In the Court was his element, and there were his hopes. Often
there seems little to distinguish him from the ordinary place-hunters,
obsequious and selfish, of every age; little to distinguish him from the
servile and insincere flatterers, of whom he himself complains, who
crowded the antechambers of the great Queen, content to submit with
smiling face and thankful words to the insolence of her waywardness and
temper, in the hope, more often disappointed than not, of hitting her
taste on some lucky occasion, and being rewarded for the accident by a
place of gain or honour. Bacon's history, as read in his letters, is not
an agreeable one; after every allowance made for the fashions of
language and the necessities of a suitor, there is too much of insincere
profession of disinterestedness, too much of exaggerated profession of
admiration and devoted service, too much of disparagement and
insinuation against others, for a man who respected himself. He
submitted too much to the miserable conditions of rising which he found.
But, nevertheless, it must be said that it was for no mean object, for
no mere private selfishness or vanity, that he endured all this. He
strove hard to be a great man and a rich man. But it was that he might
have his hands free and strong and well furnished to carry forward the
double task of overthrowing ignorance and building up the new and solid
knowledge on which his heart was set--that immense conquest of nature on
behalf of man which he believed to be possible, and of which he believed
himself to have the key.

The letter to Lord Burghley did not help him much. He received the
reversion of a place, the Clerkship of the Council, which did not become
vacant for twenty years. But these years of service declined and place
withheld were busy and useful ones. What he was most intent upon, and
what occupied his deepest and most serious thought, was unknown to the
world round him, and probably not very intelligible to his few intimate
friends, such as his brother Antony and Dr. Andrewes. Meanwhile he
placed his pen at the disposal of the authorities, and though they
regarded him more as a man of study than of practice and experience,
they were glad to make use of it. His versatile genius found another
employment. Besides his affluence in topics, he had the liveliest fancy
and most active imagination. But that he wanted the sense of poetic
fitness and melody, he might almost be supposed, with his reach and play
of thought, to have been capable, as is maintained in some eccentric
modern theories, of writing Shakespeare's plays. No man ever had a more
imaginative power of illustration drawn from the most remote and most
unlikely analogies; analogies often of the quaintest and most unexpected
kind, but often also not only felicitous in application but profound and
true. His powers were early called upon for some of those sportive
compositions in which that age delighted on occasions of rejoicing or
festival. Three of his contributions to these "devices" have been
preserved--two of them composed in honour of the Queen, as "triumphs,"
offered by Lord Essex, one probably in 1592 and another in 1595; a
third for a Gray's Inn revel in 1594. The "devices" themselves were of
the common type of the time, extravagant, odd, full of awkward allegory
and absurd flattery, and running to a prolixity which must make modern
lovers of amusement wonder at the patience of those days; but the
"discourses" furnished by Bacon are full of fine observation and
brilliant thought and wit and happy illustration, which, fantastic as
the general conception is, raises them far above the level of such
fugitive trifles.

Among the fragmentary papers belonging to this time which have come
down, not the least curious are those which throw light on his manner of
working. While he was following out the great ideas which were to be the
basis of his philosophy, he was as busy and as painstaking in fashioning
the instruments by which they were to be expressed; and in these papers
we have the records and specimens of this preparation. He was a great
collector of sentences, proverbs, quotations, sayings, illustrations,
anecdotes, and he seems to have read sometimes simply to gather phrases
and apt words. He jots down at random any good and pointed remark which
comes into his thought or his memory; at another time he groups a set of
stock quotations with a special drift, bearing on some subject, such as
the faults of universities or the habits of lawyers. Nothing is too
minute for his notice. He brings together in great profusion mere forms,
varied turns of expression, heads and tails of clauses and paragraphs,
transitions, connections; he notes down fashions of compliment, of
excuse or repartee, even morning and evening salutations; he records
neat and convenient opening and concluding sentences, ways of speaking
more adapted than others to give a special colour or direction to what
the speaker or writer has to say--all that hook-and-eye work which seems
so trivial and passes so unnoticed as a matter of course, and which yet
is often hard to reach, and which makes all the difference between
tameness and liveliness, between clearness and obscurity--all the
difference, not merely to the ease and naturalness, but often to the
logical force of speech. These collections it was his way to sift and
transcribe again and again, adding as well as omitting. From one of
these, belonging to 1594 and the following years, the _Promus of
Formularies and Elegancies_, Mr. Spedding has given curious extracts;
and the whole collection has been recently edited by Mrs. Henry Pott.
Thus it was that he prepared himself for what, as we read it, or as his
audience heard it, seems the suggestion or recollection of the moment.
Bacon was always much more careful of the value or aptness of a thought
than of its appearing new and original. Of all great writers he least
minds repeating himself, perhaps in the very same words; so that a
simile, an illustration, a quotation pleases him, he returns to it--he
is never tired of it; it obviously gives him satisfaction to introduce
it again and again. These collections of odds and ends illustrate
another point in his literary habits. His was a mind keenly sensitive to
all analogies and affinities, impatient of a strict and rigid logical
groove, but spreading as it were tentacles on all sides in quest of
chance prey, and quickened into a whole system of imagination by the
electric quiver imparted by a single word, at once the key and symbol of
the thinking it had led to. And so he puts down word or phrase, so
enigmatical to us who see it by itself, which to him would wake up a
whole train of ideas, as he remembered the occasion of it--how at a
certain time and place this word set the whole moving, seemed to
breathe new life and shed new light, and has remained the token,
meaningless in itself, which reminds him of so much.

When we come to read his letters, his speeches, his works, we come
continually on the results and proofs of this early labour. Some of the
most memorable and familiar passages of his writings are to be traced
from the storehouses which he filled in these years of preparation. An
example of this correspondence between the note-book and the composition
is to be seen in a paper belonging to this period, written apparently to
form part of a masque, or as he himself calls it, a "Conference of
Pleasure," and entitled the _Praise of Knowledge_. It is interesting
because it is the first draught which we have from him of some of the
leading ideas and most characteristic language about the defects and the
improvement of knowledge, which were afterwards embodied in the
_Advancement_ and the _Novum Organum_. The whole spirit and aim of his
great reform is summed up in the following fine passage:

     "Facility to believe, impatience to doubt, temerity to assever,
     glory to know, doubt to contradict, end to gain, sloth to search,
     seeking things in words, resting in a part of nature--these and the
     like have been the things which have forbidden the happy match
     between the mind of man and the nature of things, and in place
     thereof have married it to vain notions and blind experiments....
     Therefore, no doubt, the _sovereignty of man_ lieth hid in
     knowledge; wherein many things are reserved which kings with their
     treasures cannot buy nor with their force command; their spials and
     intelligencers can give no news of them; their seamen and
     discoverers cannot sail where they grow. Now we govern nature in
     opinions, but we are thrall unto her in necessity; but if we could
     be led by her in invention, we should command her in action."

To the same occasion as the discourse on the _Praise of Knowledge_
belongs, also, one in _Praise of the Queen_. As one is an early specimen
of his manner of writing on philosophy, so this is a specimen of what
was equally characteristic of him--his political and historical writing.
It is, in form, necessarily a panegyric, as high-flown and adulatory as
such performances in those days were bound to be. But it is not only
flattery. It fixes with true discrimination on the points in Elizabeth's
character and reign which were really subjects of admiration and homage.
Thus of her unquailing spirit at the time of the Spanish invasion--

     "Lastly, see a Queen, that when her realm was to have been invaded
     by an army, the preparation whereof was like the travail of an
     elephant, the provisions infinite, the setting forth whereof was
     the terror and wonder of Europe; it was not seen that her cheer,
     her fashion, her ordinary manner was anything altered; not a cloud
     of that storm did appear in that countenance wherein peace doth
     ever shine; but with excellent assurance and advised security she
     inspired her council, animated her nobility, redoubled the courage
     of her people; still having this noble apprehension, not only that
     she would communicate her fortune with them, but that it was she
     that would protect them, and not they her; which she testified by
     no less demonstration than her presence in camp. Therefore that
     magnanimity that neither feareth greatness of alteration, nor the
     vows of conspirators, nor the power of the enemy, is more than

These papers, though he put his best workmanship into them, as he
invariably did with whatever he touched, were of an ornamental kind. But
he did more serious work. In the year 1592 a pamphlet had been published
on the Continent in Latin and English, _Responsio ad Edictum Reginæ
Angliæ_, with reference to the severe legislation which followed on the
Armada, making such charges against the Queen and the Government as it
was natural for the Roman Catholic party to make, and making them with
the utmost virulence and unscrupulousness. It was supposed to be written
by the ablest of the Roman pamphleteers, Father Parsons. The Government
felt it to be a dangerous indictment, and Bacon was chosen to write the
answer to it. He had additional interest in the matter, for the pamphlet
made a special and bitter attack on Burghley, as the person mainly
responsible for the Queen's policy. Bacon's reply is long and elaborate,
taking up every charge, and reviewing from his own point of view the
whole course of the struggle between the Queen and the supporters of the
Roman Catholic interest abroad and at home. It cannot be considered an
impartial review; besides that it was written to order, no man in
England could then write impartially in that quarrel; but it is not more
one-sided and uncandid than the pamphlet which it answers, and Bacon is
able to recriminate with effect, and to show gross credulity and
looseness of assertion on the part of the Roman Catholic advocate. But
religion had too much to do with the politics of both sides for either
to be able to come into the dispute with clean hands: the Roman
Catholics meant much more than toleration, and the sanguinary
punishments of the English law against priests and Jesuits were edged by
something even keener than the fear of treason. But the paper contains
some large surveys of public affairs, which probably no one at that time
could write but Bacon. Bacon never liked to waste anything good which he
had written; and much of what he had written in the panegyric in _Praise
of the Queen_ is made use of again, and transferred with little change
to the pages of the _Observations on a Libel_.


[2] Dr. Mozley.



The last decade of the century, and almost of Elizabeth's reign
(1590-1600), was an eventful one to Bacon's fortunes. In it the vision
of his great design disclosed itself more and more to his imagination
and hopes, and with more and more irresistible fascination. In it he
made his first literary venture, the first edition of his _Essays_
(1597), ten in number, the first-fruits of his early and ever watchful
observation of men and affairs. These years, too, saw his first steps in
public life, the first efforts to bring him into importance, the first
great trials and tests of his character. They saw the beginning and they
saw the end of his relations with the only friend who, at that time,
recognised his genius and his purposes, certainly the only friend who
ever pushed his claims; they saw the growth of a friendship which was to
have so tragical a close, and they saw the beginnings and causes of a
bitter personal rivalry which was to last through life, and which was to
be a potent element hereafter in Bacon's ruin. The friend was the Earl
of Essex. The competitor was the ablest, and also the most truculent and
unscrupulous of English lawyers, Edward Coke.

While Bacon, in the shade, had been laying the foundations of his
philosophy of nature, and vainly suing for legal or political
employment, another man had been steadily rising in the Queen's favour
and carrying all before him at Court--Robert Devereux, Lord Essex; and
with Essex Bacon had formed an acquaintance which had ripened into an
intimate and affectionate friendship. We commonly think of Essex as a
vain and insolent favourite, who did ill the greatest work given him to
do--the reduction of Ireland; who did it ill from some unexplained
reason of spite and mischief; and who, when called to account for it,
broke out into senseless and idle rebellion. This was the end. But he
was not always thus. He began life with great gifts and noble ends; he
was a serious, modest, and large-minded student both of books and
things, and he turned his studies to full account. He had imagination
and love of enterprise, which gave him an insight into Bacon's ideas
such as none of Bacon's contemporaries had. He was a man of simple and
earnest religion; he sympathized most with the Puritans, because they
were serious and because they were hardly used. Those who most condemn
him acknowledge his nobleness and generosity of nature. Bacon in after
days, when all was over between them, spoke of him as a man always
_patientissimus veri_; "the more plainly and frankly you shall deal with
my lord," he writes elsewhere, "not only in disclosing particulars, but
in giving him _caveats_ and admonishing him of any error which in this
action he may commit (such is his lordship's nature), the better he will
take it." "He must have seemed," says Mr. Spedding, a little too
grandly, "in the eyes of Bacon like the hope of the world." The two men,
certainly, became warmly attached. Their friendship came to be one of
the closest kind, full of mutual services, and of genuine affection on
both sides. It was not the relation of a great patron and useful
dependant; it was, what might be expected in the two men, that of
affectionate equality. Each man was equally capable of seeing what the
other was, and saw it. What Essex's feelings were towards Bacon the
results showed. Bacon, in after years, repeatedly claimed to have
devoted his whole time and labour to Essex's service. Holding him, he
says, to be "the fittest instrument to do good to the State, I applied
myself to him in a manner which I think rarely happeneth among men;
neglecting the Queen's service, mine own fortune, and, in a sort, my
vocation, I did nothing but advise and ruminate with myself ... anything
that might concern his lordship's honour, fortune, or service." The
claim is far too wide. The "Queen's service" had hardly as yet come much
in Bacon's way, and he never neglected it when it did come, nor his own
fortune or vocation; his letters remain to attest his care in these
respects. But no doubt Bacon was then as ready to be of use to Essex,
the one man who seemed to understand and value him, as Essex was
desirous to be of use to Bacon.

And it seemed as if Essex would have the ability as well as the wish.
Essex was, without exception, the most brilliant man who ever appeared
at Elizabeth's Court, and it seemed as if he were going to be the most
powerful. Leicester was dead. Burghley was growing old, and indisposed
for the adventures and levity which, with all her grand power of ruling,
Elizabeth loved. She needed a favourite, and Essex was unfortunately
marked out for what she wanted. He had Leicester's fascination, without
his mean and cruel selfishness. He was as generous, as gallant, as quick
to descry all great things in art and life, as Philip Sidney, with more
vigour and fitness for active life than Sidney. He had not Raleigh's
sad, dark depths of thought, but he had a daring courage equal to
Raleigh's, without Raleigh's cynical contempt for mercy and honour. He
had every personal advantage requisite for a time when intellect, and
ready wit, and high-tempered valour, and personal beauty, and skill in
affairs, with equal skill in amusements, were expected to go together in
the accomplished courtier. And Essex was a man not merely to be courted
and admired, to shine and dazzle, but to be loved. Elizabeth, with her
strange and perverse emotional constitution, loved him, if she ever
loved any one. Every one who served him loved him; and he was, as much
as any one could be in those days, a popular favourite. Under better
fortune he might have risen to a great height of character; in
Elizabeth's Court he was fated to be ruined.

For in that Court all the qualities in him which needed control received
daily stimulus, and his ardour and high-aiming temper turned into
impatience and restless irritability. He had a mistress who was at one
time in the humour to be treated as a tender woman, at another as an
outrageous flirt, at another as the haughtiest and most imperious of
queens; her mood varied, no one could tell how, and it was most
dangerous to mistake it. It was part of her pleasure to find in her
favourite a spirit as high, a humour as contradictory and determined, as
her own; it was the charming contrast to the obsequiousness or the
prudence of the rest; but no one could be sure at what unlooked-for
moment, and how fiercely, she might resent in earnest a display of what
she had herself encouraged. Essex was ruined for all real greatness by
having to suit himself to this bewildering and most unwholesome and
degrading waywardness. She taught him to think himself irresistible in
opinion and in claims; she amused herself in teaching him how completely
he was mistaken. Alternately spoiled and crossed, he learned to be
exacting, unreasonable, absurd in his pettish resentments or brooding
sullenness. He learned to think that she must be dealt with by the same
methods which she herself employed. The effect was not produced in a
moment; it was the result of a courtiership of sixteen years. But it
ended in corrupting a noble nature. Essex came to believe that she who
cowed others must be frightened herself; that the stinging injustice
which led a proud man to expect, only to see how he would behave when
refused, deserved to be brought to reason by a counter-buffet as rough
as her own insolent caprice. He drifted into discontent, into
disaffection, into neglect of duty, into questionable schemings for the
future of a reign that must shortly end, into criminal methods of
guarding himself, of humbling his rivals and regaining influence. A
"fatal impatience," as Bacon calls it, gave his rivals an advantage
which, perhaps in self-defence, they could not fail to take; and that
career, so brilliant, so full of promise of good, ended in misery, in
dishonour, in remorse, on the scaffold of the Tower.

With this attractive and powerful person Bacon's fortunes, in the last
years of the century, became more and more knit up. Bacon was now past
thirty, Essex a few years younger. In spite of Bacon's apparent
advantage and interest at Court, in spite of abilities, which, though
his genius was not yet known, his contemporaries clearly recognised, he
was still a struggling and unsuccessful man: ambitious to rise, for no
unworthy reasons, but needy, in weak health, with careless and expensive
habits, and embarrassed with debt. He had hoped to rise by the favour of
the Queen and for the sake of his father. For some ill-explained reason
he was to the last disappointed. Though she used him "for matters of
state and revenue," she either did not like him, or did not see in him
the servant she wanted to advance. He went on to the last pressing his
uncle, Lord Burghley. He applied in the humblest terms, he made himself
useful with his pen, he got his mother to write for him; but Lord
Burghley, probably because he thought his nephew more of a man of
letters than a sound lawyer and practical public servant, did not care
to bring him forward. From his cousin, Robert Cecil, Bacon received
polite words and friendly assurances. Cecil may have undervalued him, or
have been jealous of him, or suspected him as a friend of Essex; he
certainly gave Bacon good reason to think that his words meant nothing.
Except Essex, and perhaps his brother Antony--the most affectionate and
devoted of brothers--no one had yet recognised all that Bacon was.
Meanwhile time was passing. The vastness, the difficulties, the
attractions of that conquest of all knowledge which he dreamed of, were
becoming greater every day to his thoughts. The law, without which he
could not live, took up time and brought in little. Attendance on the
Court was expensive, yet indispensable, if he wished for place. His
mother was never very friendly, and thought him absurd and extravagant.
Debts increased and creditors grumbled. The outlook was discouraging,
when his friendship with Essex opened to him a more hopeful prospect.

In the year 1593 the Attorney-General's place was vacant, and Essex, who
in that year became a Privy Councillor, determined that Bacon should be
Attorney-General. Bacon's reputation as a lawyer was overshadowed by his
philosophical and literary pursuits. He was thought young for the
office, and he had not yet served in any subordinate place. And there
was another man, who was supposed to carry all English law in his head,
full of rude force and endless precedents, hard of heart and voluble of
tongue, who also wanted it. An Attorney-General was one who would bring
all the resources and hidden subtleties of English law to the service of
the Crown, and use them with thorough-going and unflinching resolution
against those whom the Crown accused of treason, sedition, or invasion
of the prerogative. It is no wonder that the Cecils, and the Queen
herself, thought Coke likely to be a more useful public servant than
Bacon: it is certain what Coke himself thought about it, and what his
estimate was of the man whom Essex was pushing against him. But Essex
did not take up his friend's cause in the lukewarm fashion in which
Burghley had patronised his nephew. There was nothing that Essex pursued
with greater pertinacity. He importuned the Queen. He risked without
scruple offending her. She apparently long shrank from directly refusing
his request. The Cecils were for Coke--the "_Huddler_" as Bacon calls
him, in a letter to Essex; but the appointment was delayed. All through
1593, and until April, 1594, the struggle went on.

When Robert Cecil suggested that Essex should be content with the
Solicitor's place for Bacon, "praying him to be well advised, for if his
Lordship had spoken of that it might have been of easier digestion to
the Queen," he turned round on Cecil--

     "Digest me no digesting," said the Earl; "for the Attorneyship is
     that I must have for Francis Bacon; and in that I will spend my
     uttermost credit, friendship, and authority against whomsoever, and
     that whosoever went about to procure it to others, that it should
     cost both the mediators and the suitors the setting on before they
     came by it. And this be you assured of, Sir Robert," quoth the
     Earl, "for now do I fully declare myself; and for your own part,
     Sir Robert, I do think much and strange both of my Lord your father
     and you, that can have the mind to seek the preferment of a
     stranger before so near a kinsman; namely, considering if you weigh
     in a balance his parts and sufficiency in any respect with those
     of his competitor, excepting only four poor years of admittance,
     which Francis Bacon hath more than recompensed with the priority of
     his reading; in all other respects you shall find no comparison
     between them."

But the Queen's disgust at some very slight show of independence on
Bacon's part in Parliament, unforgiven in spite of repeated apologies,
together with the influence of the Cecils and the pressure of so
formidable and so useful a man as Coke, turned the scale against Essex.
In April, 1594, Coke was made Attorney. Coke did not forget the
pretender to law, as he would think him, who had dared so long to
dispute his claims; and Bacon was deeply wounded. "No man," he thought,
"had ever received a more exquisite disgrace," and he spoke of retiring
to Cambridge "to spend the rest of his life in his studies and
contemplations." But Essex was not discouraged. He next pressed eagerly
for the Solicitorship. Again, after much waiting, he was foiled. An
inferior man was put over Bacon's head. Bacon found that Essex, who
could do most things, for some reason could not do this. He himself,
too, had pressed his suit with the greatest importunity on the Queen, on
Burghley, on Cecil, on every one who could help him; he reminded the
Queen how many years ago it was since he first kissed her hand in her
service, and ever since had used his wits to please; but it was all in
vain. For once he lost patience. He was angry with Essex; the Queen's
anger with Essex had, he thought, recoiled on his friend. He was angry
with the Queen; she held his long waiting cheap; she played with him and
amused herself with delay; he would go abroad, and he "knew her
Majesty's nature, that she neither careth though the whole surname of
the Bacons travelled, nor of the Cecils neither." He was very angry
with Robert Cecil; affecting not to believe them, he tells him stories
he has heard of his corrupt and underhand dealing. He writes almost a
farewell letter of ceremonious but ambiguous thanks to Lord Burghley,
hoping that he would impute any offence that Bacon might have given to
the "complexion of a suitor, and a tired sea-sick suitor," and speaking
despairingly of his future success in the law. The humiliations of what
a suitor has to go through torment him: "It is my luck," he writes to
Cecil, "still to be akin to such things as I neither like in nature nor
would willingly meet with in my course, but yet cannot avoid without
show of base timorousness or else of unkind or suspicious strangeness."
And to his friend Fulke Greville he thus unburdens himself:

     "SIR,--I understand of your pains to have visited me, for which I
     thank you. My matter is an endless question. I assure you I had
     said _Requiesce anima mea_; but I now am otherwise put to my
     psalter; _Nolite confidere_. I dare go no further. Her Majesty had
     by set speech more than once assured me of her intention to call me
     to her service, which I could not understand but of the place I had
     been named to. And now whether _invidus homo hoc fecit_; or whether
     my matter must be an appendix to my Lord of Essex suit; or whether
     her Majesty, pretending to prove my ability, meaneth but to take
     advantage of some errors which, like enough, at one time or other I
     may commit; or what is it? but her Majesty is not ready to despatch
     it. And what though the Master of the Rolls, and my Lord of Essex,
     and yourself, and others, think my case without doubt, yet in the
     meantime I have a hard condition, to stand so that whatsoever
     service I do to her Majesty it shall be thought to be but
     _servitium viscatum_, lime-twigs and fetches to place myself; and
     so I shall have envy, not thanks. This is a course to quench all
     good spirits, and to corrupt every man's nature, which will, I
     fear, much hurt her Majesty's service in the end. I have been like
     a piece of stuff bespoken in the shop; and if her Majesty will not
     take me, it may be the selling by parcels will be more gainful. For
     to be, as I told you, like a child following a bird, which when he
     is nearest flieth away and lighteth a little before, and then the
     child after it again, and so _in infinitum_, I am weary of it; as
     also of wearying my good friends, of whom, nevertheless, I hope in
     one course or other gratefully to deserve. And so, not forgetting
     your business, I leave to trouble you with this idle letter; being
     but _justa et moderata querimonia_; for indeed I do confess,
     _primus amor_ will not easily be cast off. And thus again I commend
     me to you."

After one more effort the chase was given up, at least for the moment;
for it was soon resumed. But just now Bacon felt that all the world was
against him. He would retire "out of the sunshine into the shade." One
friend only encouraged him. He did more. He helped him when Bacon most
wanted help, in his straitened and embarrassed "estate." Essex, when he
could do nothing more, gave Bacon an estate worth at least £1800.
Bacon's resolution is recorded in the following letter:

     "IT MAY PLEASE YOUR GOOD LORDSHIP,--I pray God her Majesty's
     weighing be not like the weight of a balance, _gravia deorsum levia
     sursum_. But I am as far from being altered in devotion towards
     her, as I am from distrust that she will be altered in opinion
     towards me, when she knoweth me better. For myself, I have lost
     some opinion, some time, and some means; this is my account; but
     then for opinion, it is a blast that goeth and cometh; for time, it
     is true it goeth and cometh not; but yet I have learned that it may
     be redeemed. For means, I value that most; and the rather, _because
     I am purposed not to follow the practice of the law_ (_if her
     Majesty command me in any particular, I shall be ready to do her
     willing service_); and my reason is only, _because it drinketh too
     much time, which I have dedicated to better purposes_. But even for
     that point of estate and means, I partly lean to Thales' opinion,
     That a philosopher may be rich if he will. Thus your Lordship seeth
     how I comfort myself; to the increase whereof I would fain please
     myself to believe that to be true which my Lord Treasurer writeth;
     which is, that it is more than a philosopher morally can disgest.
     But without any such high conceit, I esteem it like the pulling out
     of an aching tooth, which, I remember, when I was a child, and had
     little philosophy, I was glad of when it was done. For your
     Lordship, I do think myself more beholding to you than to any man.
     And I say, I reckon myself as a _common_ (not popular but
     _common_); and as much as is lawful to be enclosed of a common, so
     much your Lordship shall be sure to have.--Your Lordship's to obey
     your honourable commands, more settled than ever."

It may be that, as Bacon afterwards maintained, the closing sentences of
this letter implied a significant reserve of his devotion. But during
the brilliant and stormy years of Essex's career which followed, Bacon's
relations to him continued unaltered. Essex pressed Bacon's claims
whenever a chance offered. He did his best to get Bacon a rich wife--the
young widow of Sir Christopher Hatton--but in vain. Instead of Bacon she
accepted Coke, and became famous afterwards in the great family quarrel,
in which Coke and Bacon again found themselves face to face, and which
nearly ruined Bacon before the time. Bacon worked for Essex when he was
wanted, and gave the advice which a shrewd and cautious friend would
give to a man who, by his success and increasing pride and
self-confidence, was running into serious dangers, arming against
himself deadly foes, and exposing himself to the chances of fortune.
Bacon was nervous about Essex's capacity for war, a capacity which
perhaps was not proved, even by the most brilliant exploit of the time,
the capture of Cadiz, in which Essex foreshadowed the heroic but
well-calculated audacities of Nelson and Cochrane, and showed himself as
little able as they to bear the intoxication of success, and to work in
concert with envious and unfriendly associates. At the end of the year
1596, the year in which Essex had won such reputation at Cadiz, Bacon
wrote him a letter of advice and remonstrance. It is a lively picture
of the defects and dangers of Essex's behaviour as the Queen's
favourite; and it is a most characteristic and worldly-wise summary of
the ways which Bacon would have him take, to cure the one and escape the
other. Bacon had, as he says, "good reason to think that the Earl's
fortune comprehended his own." And the letter may perhaps be taken as an
indirect warning to Essex that Bacon must, at any rate, take care of his
own fortune, if the Earl persisted in dangerous courses. Bacon shows how
he is to remove the impressions, strong in the Queen's mind, of Essex's
defects; how he is, by due submissions and stratagems, to catch her

     "But whether I counsel you the best, or for the best, duty bindeth
     me to offer to you my wishes. I said to your Lordship last time,
     _Martha, Martha, attendis ad plurima, unum sufficit_; win the
     Queen: if this be not the beginning, of any other course I see no

Bacon gives a series of minute directions how Essex is to disarm the
Queen's suspicions, and to neutralize the advantage which his rivals
take of them; how he is to remove "the opinion of his nature being
_opiniastre_ and not rulable;" how, avoiding the faults of Leicester and
Hatton, he is, as far as he can, to "allege them for authors and
patterns." Especially, he must give up that show of soldier-like
distinction, which the Queen so disliked, and take some quiet post at
Court. He must not alarm the Queen by seeking popularity; he must take
care of his estate; he must get rid of some of his officers; and he must
not be disquieted by other favourites.

Bacon wished, as he said afterwards, to see him "with a white staff in
his hand, as my Lord of Leicester had," an honour and ornament to the
Court in the eyes of the people and foreign ambassadors. But Essex was
not fit for the part which Bacon urged upon him, that of an obsequious
and vigilant observer of the Queen's moods and humours. As time went on,
things became more and more difficult between him and his strange
mistress; and there were never wanting men who, like Cecil and Raleigh,
for good and bad reasons, feared and hated Essex, and who had the craft
and the skill to make the most of his inexcusable errors. At last he
allowed himself, from ambition, from the spirit of contradiction, from
the blind passion for doing what he thought would show defiance to his
enemies, to be tempted into the Irish campaign of 1599. Bacon at a later
time claimed credit for having foreseen and foretold its issue. "I did
as plainly see his overthrow, chained as it were by destiny to that
journey, as it is possible for any man to ground a judgment on future
contingents." He warned Essex, so he thought in after years, of the
difficulty of the work; he warned him that he would leave the Queen in
the hands of his enemies: "It would be ill for her, ill for him, ill for
the State." "I am sure," he adds, "I never in anything in my life dealt
with him in like earnestness by speech, by writing, and by all the means
I could devise." But Bacon's memory was mistaken. We have his letters.
When Essex went to Ireland, Bacon wrote only in the language of sanguine
hope--so little did he see "overthrow chained by destiny to that
journey," that "some good spirit led his pen to presage to his Lordship
success;" he saw in the enterprise a great occasion of honour to his
friend; he gave prudent counsels, but he looked forward confidently to
Essex being as "fatal a captain to that war, as Africanus was to the war
of Carthage." Indeed, however anxious he may have been, he could not
have foreseen Essex's unaccountable and to this day unintelligible
failure. But failure was the end, from whatever cause; failure,
disgraceful and complete. Then followed wild and guilty but abortive
projects for retrieving his failure, by using his power in Ireland to
make himself formidable to his enemies at Court, and even to the Queen
herself. He intrigued with Tyrone; he intrigued with James of Scotland;
he plunged into a whirl of angry and baseless projects, which came to
nothing the moment they were discussed. How empty and idle they were was
shown by his return against orders to tell his own story at Nonsuch, and
by thus placing himself alone and undeniably in the wrong, in the power
of the hostile Council. Of course it was not to be thought of that Cecil
should not use his advantage in the game. It was too early, irritated
though the Queen was, to strike the final blow. But it is impossible not
to see, looking back over the miserable history, that Essex was treated
in a way which was certain, sooner or later, to make him, being what he
was, plunge into a fatal and irretrievable mistake. He was treated as a
cat treats a mouse; he was worried, confined, disgraced, publicly
reprimanded, brought just within verge of the charge of treason, but not
quite, just enough to discredit and alarm him, but to leave him still a
certain amount of play. He was made to see that the Queen's favour was
not quite hopeless; but that nothing but the most absolute and
unreserved humiliation could recover it. It was plain to any one who
knew Essex that this treatment would drive Essex to madness. "These same
gradations of yours"--so Bacon represents himself expostulating with the
Queen on her caprices--"are fitter to corrupt than to correct any mind
of greatness." They made Essex desperate; he became frightened for his
life, and he had reason to be so, though not in the way which he feared.
At length came the stupid and ridiculous outbreak of the 8th of
February, 1600/1601, a plot to seize the palace and raise the city
against the ministers, by the help of a few gentlemen armed only with
their rapiers. As Bacon himself told the Queen, "if some base and
cruel-minded persons had entered into such an action, it might have
caused much blow and combustion; but it appeared well that they were
such as knew not how to play the malefactors!" But it was sufficient to
bring Essex within the doom of treason.

Essex knew well what the stake was. He lost it, and deserved to lose it,
little as his enemies deserved to win it; for they, too, were doing what
would have cost them their heads if Elizabeth had known
it--corresponding, as Essex was accused of doing, with Scotland about
the succession, and possibly with Spain. But they were playing
cautiously and craftily; he with bungling passion. He had been so long
accustomed to power and place, that he could not endure that rivals
should keep him out of it. They were content to have their own way,
while affecting to be the humblest of servants; he would be nothing less
than a Mayor of the Palace. He was guilty of a great public crime, as
every man is who appeals to arms for anything short of the most sacred
cause. He was bringing into England, which had settled down into
peaceable ways, an imitation of the violent methods of France and the
Guises. But the crime as well as the penalty belonged to the age, and
crimes legally said to be against the State mean morally very different
things, according to the state of society and opinion. It is an
unfairness verging on the ridiculous, when the ground is elaborately
laid for keeping up the impression that Essex was preparing a real
treason against the Queen like that of Norfolk. It was a treason of the
same sort and order as that for which Northumberland sent Somerset to
the block: the treason of being an unsuccessful rival.

Meanwhile Bacon had been getting gradually into the unofficial employ of
the Government. He had become one of the "Learned Counsel"--lawyers with
subordinate and intermittent work, used when wanted, but without patent
or salary, and not ranking with the regular law officers. The Government
had found him useful in affairs of the revenue, in framing
interrogatories for prisoners in the Tower, in drawing up reports of
plots against the Queen. He did not in this way earn enough to support
himself; but he had thus come to have some degree of access to the
Queen, which he represents as being familiar and confidential, though he
still perceived, as he says himself, that she did not like him. At the
first news of Essex's return to England, Bacon greeted him--

     "MY LORD,--Conceiving that your Lordship came now up in the person
     of a good servant to see your sovereign mistress, which kind of
     compliments are many times _instar magnorum meritorum_, and
     therefore it would be hard for me to find you, I have committed to
     this poor paper the humble salutations of him _that is more yours
     than any man's, and more yours than any man_. To these salutations
     I add a due and joyful gratulation, confessing that your Lordship,
     in your last conference with me before your journey, spake not in
     vain, God making it good, That you trusted we should say _Quis
     putasset_! Which as it is found true in a happy sense, so I wish
     you do not find another _Quis putasset_ in the manner of taking
     this so great a service. But I hope it is, as he said, _Nubecula
     est, cito transibit_, and that your Lordship's wisdom and
     obsequious circumspection and patience will turn all to the best.
     So referring all to some time that I may attend you, I commit you
     to God's best preservation."

But when Essex's conduct in Ireland had to be dealt with, Bacon's
services were called for; and from this time his relations towards Essex
were altered. Every one, no one better than the Queen herself, knew all
that he owed to Essex. It is strangely illustrative of the time, that
especially as Bacon held so subordinate a position, he should have been
required, and should have been trusted, to act against his only and most
generous benefactor. It is strange, too, that however great his loyalty
to the Queen, however much and sincerely he might condemn his friend's
conduct, he should think it possible to accept the task. He says that he
made some remonstrance; and he says, no doubt truly, that during the
first stage of the business he used the ambiguous position in which he
was placed to soften Essex's inevitable punishment, and to bring about a
reconciliation between him and the Queen. But he was required, as the
Queen's lawyer, to set forth in public Essex's offences; and he admits
that he did so "not over tenderly." Yet all this, even if we have
misgivings about it, is intelligible. If he had declined, he could not,
perhaps, have done the service which he assures us that he tried to do
for Essex; and it is certain that he would have had to reckon with the
terrible lady who in her old age still ruled England from the throne of
Henry VIII., and who had certainly no great love for Bacon himself. She
had already shown him in a much smaller matter what was the forfeit to
be paid for any resistance to her will. All the hopes of his life must
perish; all the grudging and suspicious favours which he had won with
such unremitting toil and patient waiting would be sacrificed, and he
would henceforth live under the wrath of those who never forgave. And
whatever he did for himself, he believed that he was serving Essex. His
scheming imagination and his indefatigable pen were at work. He tried
strange indirect methods; he invented a correspondence between his
brother and Essex, which was to fall into the Queen's hands in order to
soften her wrath and show her Essex's most secret feelings. When the
Queen proposed to dine with him at his lodge in Twickenham Park, "though
I profess not to be a poet," he "prepared a sonnet tending and alluding
to draw on her Majesty's reconcilement to my Lord." It was an awkward
thing for one who had been so intimate with Essex to be so deep in the
counsels of those who hated him. He complains that many people thought
him ungrateful and disloyal to his friend, and that stories circulated
to his disadvantage, as if he were poisoning the Queen's ear against
Essex. But he might argue fairly enough that, wilful and wrong-headed as
Essex had been, it was the best that he could now do for him; and as
long as it was only a question of Essex's disgrace and enforced absence
from Court, Bacon could not be bound to give up the prospects of his
life--indeed, his public duty as a subordinate servant of government--on
account of his friend's inexcusable and dangerous follies. Essex did not
see it so, and in the subjoined correspondence had the advantage; but
Bacon's position, though a higher one might be imagined, where men had
been such friends as these two men had been, is quite a defensible one:

     "MY LORD,--No man can better expound my doings than your Lordship,
     which maketh me need to say the less. Only I humbly pray you to
     believe that I aspire to the conscience and commendation first of
     _bonus civis_, which with us is a good and true servant to the
     Queen, and next of _bonus vir_, that is an honest man. I desire
     your Lordship also to think that though I confess I love some
     things much better than I love your Lordship--as the Queen's
     service, her quiet and contentment, her honour, her favour, the
     good of my country, and the like--yet I love few persons better
     than yourself, both for gratitude's sake and for your own virtues,
     which cannot hurt but by accident or abuse. Of which my good
     affection I was ever ready and am ready to yield testimony by any
     good offices, but with such reservations as yourself cannot but
     allow; for as I was ever sorry that your Lordship should fly with
     waxen wings, doubting Icarus's fortune, so for the growing up of
     your own feathers, specially ostrich's, or any other save of a bird
     of prey, no man shall be more glad. And this is the axletree
     whereupon I have turned and shall turn, which to signify to you,
     though I think you are of yourself persuaded as much, is the cause
     of my writing; and so I commend your Lordship to God's goodness.
     From Gray's Inn, this 20th day of July, 1600.

     "Your Lordship's most humbly,
     "FR. BACON."

To this letter Essex returned an answer of dignified reserve, such as
Bacon might himself have dictated--

     "MR. BACON,--I can neither expound nor censure your late actions,
     being ignorant of all of them, save one, and having directed my
     sight inward only, to examine myself. You do pray me to believe
     that you only aspire to the conscience and commendation of _bonus
     civis_ and _bonus vir_; and I do faithfully assure you, that while
     that is your ambition (though your course be active and mine
     contemplative), yet we shall both _convenire in codem tertio_ and
     _convenire inter nosipsos_. Your profession of affection and offer
     of good offices are welcome to me. For answer to them I will say
     but this, that you have believed I have been kind to you, and you
     may believe that I cannot be other, either upon humour or my own
     election. I am a stranger to all poetical conceits, or else I
     should say somewhat of your poetical example. But this I must say,
     that I never flew with other wings than desire to merit and
     confidence in my Sovereign's favour; and when one of these wings
     failed me I would light nowhere but at my Sovereign's feet, though
     she suffered me to be bruised with my fall. And till her Majesty,
     that knows I was never bird of prey, finds it to agree with her
     will and her service that my wings should be imped again, I have
     committed myself to the mire. No power but my God's and my
     Sovereign's can alter this resolution of

     "Your retired friend,

But after Essex's mad attempt in the city a new state of things arose.
The inevitable result was a trial for high treason, a trial of which no
one could doubt the purpose and end. The examination of accomplices
revealed speeches, proposals, projects, not very intelligible to us in
the still imperfectly understood game of intrigue that was going on
among all parties at the end of Elizabeth's reign, but quite enough to
place Essex at the mercy of the Government and the offended Queen. "The
new information," says Mr. Spedding, "had been immediately communicated
to Coke and Bacon." Coke, as Attorney-General, of course conducted the
prosecution; and the next prominent person on the side of the Crown was
not the Solicitor, or any other regular law officer, but Bacon, though
holding the very subordinate place of one of the "Learned Counsel."

It does not appear that he thought it strange, that he showed any pain
or reluctance, that he sought to be excused. He took it as a matter of
course. The part assigned to Bacon in the prosecution was as important
as that of Coke; and he played it more skilfully and effectively. Trials
in those days were confused affairs, often passing into a mere wrangle
between the judges, lawyers, and lookers-on, and the prisoner at the
bar. It was so in this case. Coke is said to have blundered in his way
of presenting the evidence, and to have been led away from the point
into an altercation with Essex. Probably it really did not much matter;
but the trial was getting out of its course and inclining in favour of
the prisoner, till Bacon--Mr. Spedding thinks, out of his regular
turn--stepped forward and retrieved matters. This is Mr. Spedding's
account of what Bacon said and did:

     "By this time the argument had drifted so far away from the point
     that it must have been difficult for a listener to remember what it
     was that the prisoners were charged with, or how much of the charge
     had been proved. And Coke, who was all this time the sole speaker
     on behalf of the Crown, was still following each fresh topic that
     rose before him, without the sign of an intention or the intimation
     of a wish to return to the main question and reform the broken
     ranks of his evidence. Luckily he seems to have been now at a loss
     what point to take next, and the pause gave Bacon an opportunity of
     rising. It can hardly have been in pursuance of previous
     arrangements; for though it was customary in those days to
     distribute the evidence into parts and to assign several parts to
     several counsel, there had been no appearance as yet of any part
     being concluded. It is probable that the course of the trial had
     upset previous arrangements and confused the parts. At any rate so
     it was, however it came to pass, that when Cecil and Essex had at
     last finished their expostulation and parted with charitable
     prayers, each that the other might be forgiven, then (says our
     reporter) Mr. Bacon entered into a speech much after this fashion:

     "'In speaking of this late and horrible rebellion which hath been
     in the eyes and ears of all men, I shall save myself much labour in
     opening and enforcing the points thereof, insomuch as I speak not
     before a country jury of ignorant men, but before a most honourable
     assembly of the greatest Peers of the land, whose wisdoms conceive
     far more than my tongue can utter; yet with your gracious and
     honourable favours I will presume, if not for information of your
     Honours, yet for the discharge of my duty, to say thus much. No man
     can be ignorant, that knows matters of former ages--and all history
     makes it plain--that there was never any traitor heard of that
     durst directly attempt the seat of his liege prince but he always
     coloured his practices with some plausible pretence. For God hath
     imprinted such a majesty in the face of a prince that no private
     man dare approach the person of his sovereign with a traitorous
     intent. And therefore they run another side course, _oblique et à
     latere_: some to reform corruptions of the State and religion; some
     to reduce the ancient liberties and customs pretended to be lost
     and worn out; some to remove those persons that being in high
     places make themselves subject to envy; but all of them aim at the
     overthrow of the State and destruction of the present rulers. And
     this likewise is the use of those that work mischief of another
     quality; as Cain, that first murderer, took up an excuse for his
     fact, shaming to outface it with impudency, thus the Earl made his
     colour the severing some great men and councillors from her
     Majesty's favour, and the fear he stood in of his pretended enemies
     lest they should murder him in his house. Therefore he saith he
     was compelled to fly into the City for succour and assistance; not
     much unlike Pisistratus, of whom it was so anciently written how he
     gashed and wounded himself, and in that sort ran crying into Athens
     that his life was sought and like to have been taken away; thinking
     to have moved the people to have pitied him and taken his part by
     such counterfeited harm and danger; whereas his aim and drift was
     to take the government of the city into his hands and alter the
     form thereof. With like pretences of dangers and assaults the Earl
     of Essex entered the City of London and passed through the bowels
     thereof, blanching rumours that he should have been murdered and
     that the State was sold; whereas he had no such enemies, no such
     dangers: persuading themselves that if they could prevail all would
     have done well. But now _magna scelera terminantur in hæresin_; for
     you, my Lord, should know that though princes give their subjects
     cause of discontent, though they take away the honours they have
     heaped upon them, though they bring them to a lower estate than
     they raised them from, yet ought they not to be so forgetful of
     their allegiance that they should enter into any undutiful act;
     much less upon rebellion, as you, my Lord, have done. All
     whatsoever you have or can say in answer hereof are but shadows.
     And therefore methinks it were best for you to confess, not to

Essex was provoked by Bacon's incredulous sneer about enemies and
dangers--"I call forth Mr. Bacon against Mr. Bacon," and referred to the
letters which Bacon had written in his name, and in which these
dangerous enmities were taken for granted. Bacon, in answer, repeated
what he said so often--"That he had spent more time in vain in studying
how to make the Earl a good servant to the Queen and State than he had
done in anything else." Once more Coke got the proceedings into a
tangle, and once more Bacon came forward to repair the miscarriage of
his leader.

     "'I have never yet seen in any case such favour shown to any
     prisoner; so many digressions, such delivering of evidence by
     fractions, and so silly a defence of such great and notorious
     treasons. May it please your Grace, you have seen how weakly he
     hath shadowed his purpose and how slenderly he hath answered the
     objections against him. But, my Lord, I doubt the variety of
     matters and the many digressions may minister occasion of
     forgetfulness, and may have severed the judgments of the Lords; and
     therefore I hold it necessary briefly to recite the Judges'

     "That being done, he proceeded to this effect:

     "'Now put the case that the Earl of Essex's intents were, as he
     would have it believed, to go only as a suppliant to her Majesty.
     Shall their petitions be presented by armed petitioners? This must
     needs bring loss of property to the prince. Neither is it any point
     of law, as my Lord of Southampton would have it believed, that
     condemns them of treason. To take secret counsel, to execute it, to
     run together in numbers armed with weapons--what can be the excuse?
     Warned by the Lord Keeper, by a herald, and yet persist! Will any
     simple man take this to be less than treason?'

     "The Earl of Essex answered that if he had purposed anything
     against others than those his private enemies, he would not have
     stirred with so slender a company. Whereunto Mr. Bacon answered:

     "'It was not the company you carried with you but the assistance
     you hoped for in the City which you trusted unto. The Duke of Guise
     thrust himself into the streets of Paris on the day of the
     Barricades in his doublet and hose, attended only with eight
     gentlemen, and found that help in the city which (thanks be to God)
     you failed of here. And what followed? The King was forced to put
     himself into a pilgrim's weeds, and in that disguise to steal away
     to scape their fury. Even such was my Lord's confidence too, and
     his pretence the same--an all-hail and a kiss to the City. But the
     end was treason, as hath been sufficiently proved. But when he had
     once delivered and engaged himself so far into that which the
     shallowness of his conceit could not accomplish as he expected, the
     Queen for her defence taking arms against him, he was glad to yield
     himself; and thinking to colour his practices, turned his pretexts,
     and alleged the occasion thereof to proceed from a private

     "To this" (adds the reporter) "the Earl answered little. Nor was
     anything said afterwards by either of the prisoners, either in the
     thrust-and-parry dialogue with Coke that followed, or when they
     spoke at large to the question why judgment should not be
     pronounced, which at all altered the complexion of the case. They
     were both found guilty and sentence passed in the usual form."

Bacon's legal position was so subordinate a place that there must have
been a special reason for his employment. It is difficult to avoid the
conclusion that, on the part of the Government, Bacon was thus used for
the very reason that he had been the friend of Essex. He was not
commonly called upon in such prosecutions. He was not employed by Cecil
in the Winchester trials of Raleigh, Grey, and Cobham, three years
afterwards, nor in those connected with the Gunpowder Plot. He was
called upon now because no one could so much damage Essex; and this last
proof of his ready service was required by those whose favour, since
Essex had gone hopelessly wrong, he had been diligently seeking. And
Bacon acquiesced in the demand, apparently without surprise. No record
remains to show that he felt any difficulty in playing his part. He had
persuaded himself that his public duty, his duty as a good citizen to
the Queen and the commonwealth, demanded of him that he should obey the
call to do his best to bring a traitor to punishment.

Public duty has claims on a man as well as friendship, and in many
conceivable cases claims paramount to those of friendship. And yet
friendship, too, has claims, at least on a man's memory. Essex had been
a dear friend, if words could mean anything. He had done more than any
man had done for Bacon, generously and nobly, and Bacon had acknowledged
it in the amplest terms. Only a year before he had written, "I am as
much yours as any man's, and as much yours as any man." It is not, and
it was not, a question of Essex's guilt. It may be a question whether
the whole matter was not exaggerated as to its purpose, as it certainly
was as to its real danger and mischief. We at least know that his
rivals dabbled in intrigue and foolish speeches as well as he; that
little more than two years afterwards Raleigh and Grey and Cobham were
condemned for treason in much the same fashion as he was; that Cecil to
the end of his days--with whatever purpose--was a pensioner of Spain.
The question was not whether Essex was guilty. The question for Bacon
was, whether it was becoming in him, having been what he had been to
Essex, to take a leading part in proceedings which were to end in his
ruin and death. He was not a judge. He was not a regular law officer
like Coke. His only employment had been casual and occasional. He might,
most naturally, on the score of his old friendship, have asked to be
excused. Condemning, as he did, his friend's guilt and folly, he might
have refused to take part in a cause of blood, in which his best friend
must perish. He might honestly have given up Essex as incorrigible, and
have retired to stand apart in sorrow and silence while the inevitable
tragedy was played out. The only answer to this is, that to have
declined would have incurred the Queen's displeasure: he would have
forfeited any chance of advancement; nay, closely connected as he had
been with Essex, he might have been involved in his friend's ruin. But
inferior men have marred their fortunes by standing by their friends in
not undeserved trouble, and no one knew better than Bacon what was
worthy and noble in human action. The choice lay before him. He seems
hardly to have gone through any struggle. He persuaded himself that he
could not help himself, under the constraint of his duty to the Queen,
and he did his best to get Essex condemned.

And this was not all. The death of Essex was a shock to the popularity
of Elizabeth greater than anything that had happened in her long reign.
Bacon's name also had come into men's mouths as that of a time-server
who played fast and loose with Essex and his enemies, and who, when he
had got what he could from Essex, turned to see what he could get from
those who put him to death. A justification of the whole affair was felt
to be necessary; and Bacon was fixed upon for the distinction and the
dishonour of doing it. No one could tell the story so well, and it was
felt that he would not shrink from it. Nor did he. In cold blood he sat
down to blacken Essex, using his intimate personal knowledge of the past
to strengthen his statements against a friend who was in his grave, and
for whom none could answer but Bacon himself. It is a well-compacted and
forcible account of Essex's misdoings, on which of course the colour of
deliberate and dangerous treason was placed. Much of it, no doubt, was
true; but even of the facts, and much more of the colour, there was no
check to be had, and it is certain that it was an object to the
Government to make out the worst. It is characteristic that Bacon
records that he did not lose sight of the claims of courtesy, and
studiously spoke of "my Lord of Essex" in the draft submitted for
correction to the Queen; but she was more unceremonious, and insisted
that the "rebel" should be spoken of simply as "Essex."

After a business of this kind, fines and forfeitures flowed in
abundantly, and were "usually bestowed on deserving servants or favoured
suitors by way of reward;" and Bacon came in for his share. Out of one
of the fines he received £1200. "The Queen hath done something for me,"
he writes to a friendly creditor, "though not in the proportion I had
hoped," and he afterwards asked for something more. It was rather under
the value of Essex's gift to him in 1594. But she still refused him all
promotion. He was without an official place in the Queen's service, and
he never was allowed to have it. It is clear that the "Declaration of
the Treason of the Earl of Essex," if it justified the Government, did
not remove the odium which had fallen on Bacon. Mr. Spedding says that
he can find no signs of it. The proof of it is found in the "Apology"
which Bacon found it expedient to write after Elizabeth's death and
early in James's reign. He found that the recollection of the way in
which he had dealt with his friend hung heavy upon him; men hesitated to
trust him in spite of his now recognised ability. Accordingly, he drew
up an apology, which he addressed to Lord Mountjoy, the friend, in
reality half the accomplice, of Essex, in his wild, ill-defined plan for
putting pressure on Elizabeth. It is a clear, able, of course _ex parte_
statement of the doings of the three chief actors, two of whom could no
longer answer for themselves, or correct and contradict the third. It
represents the Queen as implacable and cruel, Essex as incorrigibly and
outrageously wilful, proud, and undutiful, Bacon himself as using every
effort and device to appease the Queen's anger and suspiciousness, and
to bring Essex to a wiser and humbler mind. The picture is indeed a
vivid one, and full of dramatic force, of an unrelenting and merciless
mistress bent on breaking and bowing down to the dust the haughty spirit
of a once-loved but rebellious favourite, whom, though he has deeply
offended, she yet wishes to bring once more under her yoke; and of the
calm, keen-witted looker-on, watching the dangerous game, not without
personal interest, but with undisturbed presence of mind, and doing his
best to avert an irreparable and fatal breach. How far he honestly did
his best for his misguided friend we can only know from his own report;
but there is no reason to think that he did Essex ill service, though
he notices in passing an allegation that the Queen in one of her angry
fits had charged him with this. But his interest clearly was to make up
the quarrel between the Queen and Essex. Bacon would have been a greater
man with both of them if he had been able to do so. He had been too
deeply in Essex's intimacy to make his new position of mediator, with a
strong bias on the Queen's side, quite safe and easy for a man of
honourable mind; but a cool-judging and prudent man may well have acted
as he represents himself acting without forgetting what he owed to his
friend. Till the last great moment of trial there is a good deal to be
said for Bacon: a man keenly alive to Essex's faults, with a strong
sense of what he owed to the Queen and the State, and with his own
reasonable chances of rising greatly prejudiced by Essex's folly. But at
length came the crisis which showed the man, and threw light on all that
had passed before, when he was picked out, out of his regular place, to
be charged with the task of bringing home the capital charge against
Essex. He does not say he hesitated. He does not say that he asked to be
excused the terrible office. He did not flinch as the minister of
vengeance for those who required that Essex should die. He did his work,
we are told by his admiring biographer, better than Coke, and repaired
the blunders of the prosecution. He passes over very shortly this part
of the business: "It was laid upon me with the rest of my fellows;" yet
it is the knot and key of the whole, as far as his own character is
concerned. Bacon had his public duty: his public duty may have compelled
him to stand apart from Essex. But it was his interest, it was no part
of his public duty, which required him to accept the task of accuser of
his friend, and in his friend's direst need calmly to drive home a
well-directed stroke that should extinguish chances and hopes, and make
his ruin certain. No one who reads his anxious letters about preferment
and the Queen's favour, about his disappointed hopes, about his
straitened means and distress for money, about his difficulties with his
creditors--he was twice arrested for debt--can doubt that the question
was between his own prospects and his friend; and that to his own
interest he sacrificed his friend and his own honour.



Bacon's life was a double one. There was the life of high thinking, of
disinterested aims, of genuine enthusiasm, of genuine desire to delight
and benefit mankind, by opening new paths to wonder and knowledge and
power. And there was the put on and worldly life, the life of supposed
necessities for the provision of daily bread, the life of ambition and
self-seeking, which he followed, not without interest and satisfaction,
but at bottom because he thought he must--must be a great man, must be
rich, must live in the favour of the great, because without it his great
designs could not be accomplished. His original plan of life was
disclosed in his letter to Lord Burghley: to get some office with an
assured income and not much work, and then to devote the best of his
time to his own subjects. But this, if it was really his plan, was
gradually changed: first, because he could not get such a place; and
next because his connection with Essex, the efforts to gain him the
Attorney's place, and the use which the Queen made of him after Essex
could do no more for him, drew him more and more into public work, and
specially the career of the law. We know that he would not by preference
have chosen the law, and did not feel that his vocation lay that way;
but it was the only way open to him for mending his fortunes. And so
the two lives went on side by side, the worldly one--he would have said,
the practical one--often interfering with the life of thought and
discovery, and partly obscuring it, but yet always leaving it paramount
in his own mind. His dearest and most cherished ideas, the thoughts with
which he was most at home and happiest, his deepest and truest
ambitions, were those of an enthusiastic and romantic believer in a
great discovery just within his grasp. They were such as the dreams and
visions of his great Franciscan namesake, and of the imaginative seekers
after knowledge in the middle ages, real or mythical, Albert the Great,
Cornelius Agrippa, Dr. Faustus; they were the eager, undoubting hopes of
the physical students in Italy and England in his own time, Giordano
Bruno, Telesio, Campanella, Gilbert, Galileo, or the founders of the
Italian prototype of "Solomon's House" in the _New Atlantis_, the
precursor of our Royal Societies, the Academy of the _Lincei_ at Rome.
Among these meditations was his inner life. But however he may have
originally planned his course, and though at times under the influence
of disappointment he threatened to retire to Cambridge or to travel
abroad, he had bound himself fast to public life, and soon ceased to
think of quitting it. And he had a real taste for it--for its shows, its
prizes, for the laws and turns of the game, for its debates and
vicissitudes. He was no mere idealist or recluse to undervalue or
despise the real grandeur of the world. He took the keenest interest in
the nature and ways of mankind; he liked to observe, to generalise in
shrewd and sometimes cynical epigrams. He liked to apply his powerful
and fertile intellect to the practical problems of society and
government, to their curious anomalies, to their paradoxical phenomena;
he liked to address himself, either as an expounder or a reformer, to
the principles and entanglements of English law; he aspired, both as a
lecturer and a legislator, to improve and simplify it. It was not beyond
his hopes to shape a policy, to improve administration, to become
powerful by bringing his sagacity and largeness of thought to the
service of the State, in reconciling conflicting forces, in mediating
between jealous parties and dangerous claims. And he liked to enter into
the humours of a Court; to devote his brilliant imagination and
affluence of invention either to devising a pageant which should throw
all others into the shade, or a compromise which should get great
persons out of some difficulty of temper or pique.

In all these things he was as industrious, as laborious, as calmly
persevering and tenacious, as he was in his pursuit of his philosophical
speculations. He was a compound of the most adventurous and most
diversified ambition, with a placid and patient temper, such as we
commonly associate with moderate desires and the love of retirement and
an easy life. To imagine and dare anything, and never to let go the
object of his pursuit, is one side of him; on the other he is
obsequiously desirous to please and fearful of giving offence, the
humblest and most grateful and also the most importunate of suitors,
ready to bide his time with an even cheerfulness of spirit, which yet it
was not safe to provoke by ill offices and the wish to thwart him. He
never misses a chance of proffering his services; he never lets pass an
opportunity of recommending himself to those who could help him. He is
so bent on natural knowledge that we have a sense of incongruity when we
see him engaging in politics as if he had no other interest. He throws
himself with such zest into the language of the moralist, the
theologian, the historian, that we forget we have before us the author
of a new departure in physical inquiry, and the unwearied compiler of
tables of natural history. When he is a lawyer, he seems only a lawyer.
If he had not been the author of the _Instauratio_, his life would not
have looked very different from that of any other of the shrewd and
supple lawyers who hung on to the Tudor and Stuart Courts, and who
unscrupulously pushed their way to preferment. He claimed to be, in
spite of the misgivings of Elizabeth and her ministers, as devoted to
public work and as capable of it as any of them. He was ready for
anything, for any amount of business, ready, as in everything, to take
infinite trouble about it. The law, if he did not like it, was yet no
by-work with him; he was as truly ambitious as the men with whom he
maintained so keen and for long so unsuccessful a rivalry. He felt
bitterly the disappointment of seeing men like Coke and Fleming and
Doddridge and Hobart pass before him; he could not, if he had been only
a lawyer, have coveted more eagerly the places, refused to him, which
they got; only, he had besides a whole train of purposes, an inner and
supreme ambition, of which they knew nothing. And with all this there is
no apparent consciousness of these manifold and varied interests. He
never affected to conceal from himself his superiority to other men in
his aims and in the grasp of his intelligence. But there is no trace
that he prided himself on the variety and versatility of these powers,
or that he even distinctly realized to himself that it was anything
remarkable that he should have so many dissimilar objects and be able so
readily to pursue them in such different directions.

It is doubtful whether, as long as Elizabeth lived, Bacon could ever
have risen above his position among the "Learned Counsel," an office
without patent or salary or regular employment. She used, him, and he
was willing to be used; but he plainly did not appear in her eyes to be
the kind of man who would suit her in the more prominent posts of her
Government. Unusual and original ability is apt, till it is generally
recognised, to carry with it suspicion and mistrust as to its being
really all that it seems to be. Perhaps she thought of the possibility
of his flying out unexpectedly at some inconvenient pinch, and
attempting to serve her interests, not in her way, but in his own;
perhaps she distrusted in business and state affairs so brilliant a
discourser, whose heart was known, first and above all, to be set on
great dreams of knowledge; perhaps those interviews with her in which he
describes the counsels which he laid before her, and in which his
shrewdness and foresight are conspicuous, may not have been so welcome
to her as he imagined; perhaps, it is not impossible, that he may have
been too compliant for her capricious taste, and too visibly anxious to
please. Perhaps, too, she could not forget, in spite of what had
happened, that he had been the friend, and not the very generous friend,
of Essex. But, except as to a share of the forfeitures, with which he
was not satisfied, his fortunes did not rise under Elizabeth.

Whatever may have been the Queen's feelings towards him, there is no
doubt that one powerful influence, which lasted into the reign of James,
was steadily adverse to his advancement. Burghley had been strangely
niggardly in what he did to help his brilliant nephew; he was going off
the scene, and probably did not care to trouble himself about a younger
and uncongenial aspirant to service. But his place was taken by his son,
Robert Cecil; and Cecil might naturally have been expected to welcome
the co-operation of one of his own family who was foremost among the
rising men of Cecil's own generation, and who certainly was most
desirous to do him service. But it is plain that he early made up his
mind to keep Bacon in the background. It is easy to imagine reasons,
though the apparent short-sightedness of the policy may surprise us; but
Cecil was too reticent and self-controlled a man to let his reasons
appear, and his words, in answer to his cousin's applications for his
assistance, were always kind, encouraging, and vague. But we must judge
by the event, and that makes it clear that Cecil did not care to see
Bacon in high position. Nothing can account for Bacon's strange failure
for so long a time to reach his due place in the public service but the
secret hostility, whatever may have been the cause, of Cecil.

There was also another difficulty. Coke was the great lawyer of the day,
a man whom the Government could not dispense with, and whom it was
dangerous to offend. And Coke thoroughly disliked Bacon. He thought
lightly of his law, and he despised his refinement and his passion for
knowledge. He cannot but have resented the impertinence, as he must have
thought it, of Bacon having been for a whole year his rival for office.
It is possible that if people then agreed with Mr. Spedding's opinion as
to the management of Essex's trial, he may have been irritated by
jealousy; but a couple of months after the trial (April 29, 1601) Bacon
sent to Cecil, with a letter of complaint, the following account of a
scene in Court between Coke and himself:

     "_A true remembrance of the abuse I received of Mr.
     Attorney-General publicly in the Exchequer the first day of term;
     for the truth whereof I refer myself to all that were present._

     "I moved to have a reseizure of the lands of Geo. Moore, a relapsed
     recusant, a fugitive and a practising traytor; and showed better
     matter for the Queen against the discharge by plea, which is ever
     with a _salvo jure_. And this I did in as gentle and reasonable
     terms as might be.

     "Mr. Attorney kindled at it, and said, '_Mr. Bacon, if you have any
     tooth against me pluck it out; for it will do you more hurt than
     all the teeth in your head will do you good._' I answered coldly in
     these very words: '_Mr. Attorney, I respect you; I fear you not;
     and the less you speak of your own greatness, the more I will think
     of it._'

     "He replied, '_I think scorn to stand upon terms of greatness
     towards you, who are less than little; less than the least;_' and
     other such strange light terms he gave me, with that insulting
     which cannot be expressed.

     "Herewith stirred, yet I said no more but this: '_Mr. Attorney, do
     not depress me so far; for I have been your better, and may be
     again, when it please the Queen._'

     "With this he spake, neither I nor himself could tell what, as if
     he had been born Attorney-General; and in the end bade me not
     meddle with the Queen's business, but with mine own; and that I was
     unsworn, etc. I told him, sworn or unsworn was all one to an honest
     man; and that I ever set my service first, and myself second; and
     wished to God that he would do the like.

     "Then he said, it were good to clap a _cap. ultegatum_ upon my
     back! To which I only said he could not; and that he was at fault,
     for he hunted upon an old scent. He gave me a number of disgraceful
     words besides, which I answered with silence, and showing that I
     was not moved with them."

The threat of the _capias ultegatum_ was probably in reference to the
arrest of Bacon for debt in September, 1593. After this we are not
surprised at Bacon writing to Coke, "who take to yourself a liberty to
disgrace and disable my law, my experience, my discretion," that, "since
I missed the Solicitor's place (the rather I think by your means) I
cannot expect that you and I shall ever serve as Attorney and Solicitor
together, but either serve with another on your remove, or step into
some other course." And Coke, no doubt, took care that it should be so.
Cecil, too, may possibly have thought that Bacon gave no proof of his
fitness for affairs in thus bringing before him a squabble in which both
parties lost their tempers.

Bacon was not behind the rest of the world in "the posting of men of
good quality towards the King," in the rash which followed the Queen's
death, of those who were eager to proffer their services to James, for
whose peaceful accession Cecil had so skilfully prepared the way. He
wrote to every one who, he thought, could help him: to Cecil, and to
Cecil's man--"I pray you, as you find time let him know that he is the
personage in the State which I love most;" to Northumberland, "If I may
be of any use to your Lordship, by my head, tongue, pen, means, or
friends, I humbly pray you to hold me your own;" to the King's Scotch
friends and servants, even to Southampton, the friend of Essex, who had
been shut up in the Tower since his condemnation with Essex, and who was
now released. "This great change," Bacon assured him, "hath wrought in
me no other change towards your Lordship than this, that I may safely be
now that which I truly was before." Bacon found in after years that
Southampton was not so easily conciliated. But at present Bacon was
hopeful: "In mine own particular," he writes, "I have many comforts and
assurances; but in mine own opinion the chief is, that the _canvassing
world is gone, and the deserving world is come_." He asks to be
recommended to the King--"I commend myself to your love and to the
well-using of my name, as well in repressing and answering for me, if
there be any biting or nibbling at it in that place, as in impressing a
good conceit and opinion of me, chiefly in the King, as otherwise in
that Court." His pen had been used under the government of the Queen,
and he had offered a draft of a proclamation to the King's advisers. But
though he obtained an interview with the King, James's arrival in
England brought no immediate prospect of improvement in Bacon's
fortunes. Indeed, his name was at first inadvertently passed over in the
list of Queen's servants who were to retain their places. The first
thing we hear of is his arrest a second time for debt; and his letters
of thanks to Cecil, who had rendered him assistance, are written in deep

     "For my purpose or course I desire to meddle as little as I can in
     the King's causes, his Majesty now abounding in counsel, and to
     follow my private thrift and practice, and to marry with some
     convenient advancement. For as for any ambition, I do assure your
     Honour, mine is quenched. In the Queen's, my excellent Mistress's,
     time the _quorum_ was small: her service was a kind of freehold,
     and it was a more solemn time. All those points agreed with my
     nature and judgment. My ambition now I shall only put upon my pen,
     whereby I shall be able to maintain memory and merit of the times

     "Lastly, for this divulged and almost prostituted title of
     knighthood, I could without charge, by your Honour's mean, be
     content to have it, both because of this late disgrace and because
     I have three new knights in my mess in Gray's Inn's commons; and
     because I have found out an alderman's daughter, an handsome
     maiden, to my liking."

Cecil, however, seems to have required that the money should be repaid
by the day; and Bacon only makes a humble request, which, it might be
supposed, could have been easily granted.

     "IT MAY PLEASE YOUR GOOD LORDSHIP,--In answer of your last
     letter, your money shall be ready before your day: principal,
     interest, and costs of suit. So the sheriff promised, when I
     released errors; and a Jew takes no more. The rest cannot be
     forgotten, for I cannot forget your Lordship's _dum memor ipse
     mei_; and if there have been _aliquid nimis_, it shall be amended.
     And, to be plain with your Lordship, that will quicken me now which
     slackened me before. Then I thought you might have had more use of
     me than now I suppose you are like to have. Not but I think the
     impediment will be rather in my mind than in the matter or times.
     But to do you service I will come out of my religion at any time.

     "For my knighthood, I wish the manner might be such as might grace
     me, since the matter will not; I mean, that I might not be merely
     gregarious in a troop. The coronation is at hand. It may please
     your Lordship to let me hear from you speedily. So I continue your
     Lordship's ever much bounden,

     "FR. BACON.
     "From Gorhambury, this 16th of July, 1603."

But it was not done. He "obtained his title, but not in a manner to
distinguish him. He was knighted at Whitehall two days before the
coronation, but had to share the honour with 300 others."

It was not quite true that his "ambition was quenched." For the rest of
Cecil's life Cecil was the first man at James's Court; and to the last
there was one thing that Bacon would not appear to believe--he did not
choose to believe that it was Cecil who kept him back from employment
and honour. To the last he persisted in assuming that Cecil was the
person who would help, if he could, a kinsman devoted to his interests
and profoundly conscious of his worth. To the last he commended his
cause to Cecil in terms of unstinted affection and confiding hope. It is
difficult to judge of the sincerity of such language. The mere customary
language of compliment employed by every one at this time was of a kind
which to us sounds intolerable. It seems as if nothing that ingenuity
could devise was too extravagant for an honest man to use, and for a man
who respected himself to accept. It must not, indeed, be forgotten that
conventionalities, as well as insincerity, differ in their forms in
different times; and that insincerity may lurk behind frank and clear
words, when they are the fashion, as much as in what is like mere
fulsome adulation. But words mean something, in spite of forms and
fashions. When a man of great genius writes his private letters, we wish
generally to believe on the whole what he says; and there are no limits
to the esteem, the honour, the confidence, which Bacon continued to the
end to express towards Cecil. Bacon appeared to trust him--appeared, in
spite of continued disappointments, to rely on his good-will and good
offices. But for one reason or another Bacon still remained in the
shade. He was left to employ his time as he would, and to work his way
by himself.

He was not idle. He prepared papers which he meant should come before
the King, on the pressing subjects of the day. The Hampton Court
conference between the Bishops and the Puritan leaders was at hand, and
he drew up a moderating paper on the _Pacification of the Church_. The
feeling against him for his conduct towards Essex had not died away, and
he addressed to Lord Mountjoy that _Apology concerning the Earl of
Essex_, so full of interest, so skilfully and forcibly written, so vivid
a picture of the Queen's ways with her servants, which has every merit
except that of clearing Bacon from the charge of disloyalty to his best
friend. The various questions arising out of the relations of the two
kingdoms, now united under James, were presenting themselves. They were
not of easy solution, and great mischief would follow if they were
solved wrongly. Bacon turned his attention to them. He addressed a
discourse to the King on the union of the two kingdoms, the first of a
series of discussions on the subject which Bacon made peculiarly his
own, and which, no doubt, first drew the King's attention and favour to

But for the first year of James's reign he was unnoticed by the King,
and he was able to give his attention more freely to the great thought
and hope of his life. This time of neglect gave him the opportunity of
leisurely calling together and examining the ideas which had long had
hold of his mind about the state of human knowledge, about the
possibilities of extending it, about the hopes and powers which that new
knowledge opened, and about the methods of realising this great
prospect. This, the passion of his life, never asleep even in the
hottest days of business or the most hopeless days of defeat, must have
had full play during these days of suspended public employment. He was a
man who was not easily satisfied with his attempts to arrange the order
and proportions of his plans for mastering that new world of unknown
truth, which he held to be within the grasp of man if he would only dare
to seize it; and he was much given to vary the shape of his work, and to
try experiments in composition and even style. He wrote and rewrote.
Besides what was finally published, there remains a larger quantity of
work which never reached the stage of publication. He repeated over and
over again the same thoughts, the same images and characteristic
sayings. Among these papers is one which sums up his convictions about
the work before him, and the vocation to which he had been called in
respect of it. It is in the form of a "Proem" to a treatise on the
_Interpretation of Nature_. It was never used in his published works;
but, as Mr. Spedding says, it has a peculiar value as an authentic
statement of what he looked upon as his special business in life. It is
this mission which he states to himself in the following paper. It is
drawn up in "stately Latin." Mr. Spedding's translation is no unworthy
representation of the words of the great Prophet of Knowledge:

     "Believing that I was born for the service of mankind, and
     regarding the care of the Commonwealth as a kind of common property
     which, like the air and water, belongs to everybody, I set myself
     to consider in what way mankind might be best served, and what
     service I was myself best fitted by nature to perform.

     "Now among all the benefits that could be conferred upon mankind, I
     found none so great as the discovery of new arts, endowments, and
     commodities for the bettering of man's life.... But if a man could
     succeed, not in striking out some particular invention, however
     useful, but in kindling a light in nature--a light that should in
     its very rising touch and illuminate all the border regions that
     confine upon the circle of our present knowledge; and so spreading
     further and further should presently disclose and bring into sight
     all that is most hidden and secret in the world--that man (I
     thought) would be the benefactor indeed of the human race--the
     propagator of man's empire over the universe, the champion of
     liberty, the conqueror and subduer of necessities.

     "For myself, I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for
     the study of Truth; as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to
     catch the resemblances of things (which is the chief point), and at
     the same time steady enough to fix and distinguish their subtler
     differences; as being gifted by nature with desire to seek,
     patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert,
     readiness to reconsider, carefulness to dispose and set in order;
     and as being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires
     what is old, and that hates every kind of imposture. So I thought
     my nature had a kind of familiarity and relationship with Truth.

    "Nevertheless, because my birth and education had seasoned me in
    business of State; and because opinions (so young as I was) would
    sometimes stagger me; and because I thought that a man's own country
    has some special claims upon him more than the rest of the world;
    and because I hoped that, if I rose to any place of honour in the
    State, I should have a larger command of industry and ability to
    help me in my work--for these reasons I both applied myself to
    acquire the arts of civil life, and commended my service, so far as
    in modesty and honesty I might, to the favour of such friends as had
    any influence. In which also I had another motive: for I felt that
    those things I have spoken of--be they great or small--reach no
    further than the condition and culture of this mortal life; and I
    was not without hope (the condition of religion being at that time
    not very prosperous) that if I came to hold office in the State, I
    might get something done too for the good of men's souls. When I
    found, however, that my zeal was mistaken for ambition, and my life
    had already readied the turning-point, and my breaking health
    reminded me how ill I could afford to be so slow, and I reflected,
    moreover, that in leaving undone the good that I could do by myself
    alone, and applying myself to that which could not be done without
    the help and consent of others, I was by no means discharging the
    duty that lay upon me--I put all those thoughts aside, and (in
    pursuance of my old determination) betook myself wholly to this
    work. Nor am I discouraged from it because I see signs in the times
    of the decline and overthrow of that knowledge and erudition which
    is now in use. Not that I apprehend any more barbarian invasions
    (unless possibly the Spanish empire should recover its strength, and
    having crushed other nations by arms should itself sink under its
    own weight); but the civil wars which may be expected, I think
    (judging from certain fashions which have come in of late), to
    spread through many countries--together with the malignity of sects,
    and those compendious artifices and devices which have crept into
    the place of solid erudition--seem to portend for literature and the
    sciences a tempest not less fatal, and one against which the
    Printing-office will be no effectual security. And no doubt but that
    fair-weather learning which is nursed by leisure, blossoms under
    reward and praise, which cannot withstand the shock of opinion, and
    is liable to be abused by tricks and quackery, will sink under such
    impediments as these. Far otherwise is it with that knowledge whose
    dignity is maintained by works of utility and power. For the
    injuries, therefore, which should proceed from the times, I am not
    afraid of them; and for the injuries which proceed from men, I am
    not concerned. For if any one charge me with seeking to be wise
    over-much, I answer simply that modesty and civil respect are fit
    for civil matters; in contemplations nothing is to be respected but
    Truth. If any one call on me for _works_, and that presently, I tell
    him frankly, without any imposture at all, that for me--a man not
    old, of weak health, my hands full of civil business, entering
    without guide or light upon an argument of all others the most
    obscure--I hold it enough to have constructed the machine, though I
    may not succeed in setting it on work.... If, again, any one ask me,
    not indeed for actual works, yet for definite premises and
    forecasts of the works that are to be, I would have him know that
    the knowledge which we now possess will not teach a man even what to
    _wish_. Lastly--though this is a matter of less moment--if any of
    our politicians, who used to make their calculations and conjectures
    according to persons and precedents, must needs interpose his
    judgment in a thing of this nature, I would but remind him how
    (according to the ancient fable) the lame man keeping the course won
    the race of the swift man who left it; and that there is no thought
    to be taken about precedents, for the thing is without precedent.

    "For myself, my heart is not set upon any of those things which
    depend upon external accidents. I am not hunting for fame: I have no
    desire to found a sect, after the fashion of heresiarchs; and to
    look for any private gain from such an undertaking as this I count
    both ridiculous and base. Enough for me the consciousness of
    well-deserving, and those real and effectual results with which
    Fortune itself cannot interfere."

In 1604 James's first Parliament met, and with it Bacon returned to an
industrious public life, which was not to be interrupted till it finally
came to an end with his strange and irretrievable fall. The opportunity
had come; and Bacon, patient, vigilant, and conscious of great powers
and indefatigable energy, fully aware of all the conditions of the time,
pushed at once to the front in the House of Commons. He lost no time in
showing that he meant to make himself felt. The House of Commons had no
sooner met than it was involved in a contest with the Chancery, with the
Lords, and finally with the King himself, about its privileges--in this
case its exclusive right to judge of the returns of its members. Bacon's
time was come for showing the King both that he was willing to do him
service, and that he was worth being employed. He took a leading part in
the discussions, and was trusted by the House as their spokesman and
reporter in the various conferences. The King, in his overweening
confidence in his absolute prerogative, had, indeed, got himself into
serious difficulty; for the privilege was one which it was impossible
for the Commons to give up. But Bacon led the House to agree to an
arrangement which saved their rights; and under a cloud of words of
extravagant flattery he put the King in good-humour, and elicited from
him the spontaneous proposal of a compromise which ended a very
dangerous dispute. "The King's voice," said Bacon, in his report to the
House, "was the voice of God in man, the good spirit of God in the mouth
of man; I do not say the voice of God and not of man; I am not one of
Herod's flatterers; a curse fell upon him that said it, a curse on him
that suffered it. We might say, as was said to Solomon, We are glad, O
King, that we give account to you, because you discern what is spoken."

The course of this Parliament, in which Bacon was active and prominent,
showed the King, probably for the first time, what Bacon was. The
session was not so stormy as some of the later ones; but occasions arose
which revealed to the King and to the House of Commons the deeply
discordant assumptions and purposes by which each party was influenced,
and which brought out Bacon's powers of adjusting difficulties and
harmonising claims. He never wavered in his loyalty to his own House,
where it is clear that his authority was great. But there was no limit
to the submission and reverence which he expressed to the King, and,
indeed, to his desire to bring about what the King desired, as far as it
could be safely done. Dealing with the Commons, his policy was "to be
content with the substance and not to stand on the form." Dealing with
the King, he was forward to recognise all that James wanted recognised
of his kingcraft and his absolute sovereignty. Bacon assailed with a
force and keenness which showed what he could do as an opponent, the
amazing and intolerable grievances arising out of the survival of such
feudal customs as Wardship and Purveyance; customs which made over a
man's eldest son and property, during a minority, to the keeping of the
King, that is, to a King's favourite, and allowed the King's servants to
cut down a man's timber before the windows of his house. But he urged
that these grievances should be taken away with the utmost tenderness
for the King's honour and the King's purse. In the great and troublesome
questions relating to the Union he took care to be fully prepared. He
was equally strong on points of certain and substantial importance,
equally quick to suggest accommodations where nothing substantial was
touched. His attitude was one of friendly and respectful independence.
It was not misunderstood by the King. Bacon, who had hitherto been an
unsworn and unpaid member of the Learned Counsel, now received his
office by patent, with a small salary, and he was charged with the grave
business of preparing the work for the Commissioners for the Union of
the Kingdoms, in which, when the Commission met, he took a foremost and
successful part.

But the Parliament before which their report was to be laid did not meet
till ten months after the work of the Commission was done (Dec.,
1604--Nov., 1605). For nearly another year Bacon had no public work. The
leisure was used for his own objects. He was interested in history in a
degree only second to his interest in nature; indeed, but for the
engrossing claims of his philosophy of nature, he might have been the
first and one of the greatest of our historians. He addressed a letter
to the Chancellor Ellesmere on the deficiencies of British history, and
on the opportunities which offered for supplying them. He himself could
at present do nothing; "but because there be so many good painters, both
for hand and colours, it needeth but encouragement and instructions to
give life and light unto it." But he mistook, in this as in other
instances, the way in which such things are done. Men do not accomplish
such things to order, but because their souls compel them, as he himself
was building up his great philosophical structure, in the midst of his
ambition and disappointment. And this interval of quiet enabled him to
bring out his first public appeal on the subject which most filled his
mind. He completed in English the _Two Books of the Advancement of
Knowledge_, which were published at a book-shop at the gateway of Gray's
Inn in Holborn (Oct., 1605). He intended that it should be published in
Latin also; but he was dissatisfied with the ornate translation sent him
from Cambridge, and probably he was in a hurry to get the book out. It
was dedicated to the King, not merely by way of compliment, but with the
serious hope that his interest might be awakened in the subjects which
were nearest Bacon's heart. Like other of Bacon's hopes, it was
disappointed. The King's studies and the King's humours were not of the
kind to make him care for Bacon's visions of the future, or his eager
desire to begin at once a novel method of investigating the facts and
laws of nature; and the appeal to him fell dead. Bacon sent the book
about to his friends with explanatory letters. To Sir T. Bodley he

     "I think no man may more truly say with the Psalm, _Multum incola
     fuit anima mea_ [Ps. 120] than myself. For I do confess since I was
     of any understanding, my mind hath in effect been absent from that
     I have done; and in absence are many errors which I willingly
     acknowledge; and among them, this great one which led the rest:
     that knowing myself by inward calling to be fitter to hold a book
     than to play a part, I have led my life in civil causes, for which
     I was not very fit by nature, and more unfit by the preoccupation
     of my mind. Therefore, calling myself home, I have now enjoyed
     myself; whereof likewise I desire to make the world partaker."

To Lord Salisbury, in a note of elaborate compliment, he describes his
purpose by an image which he repeats more than once. "I shall content
myself to awake better spirits, _like a bell-ringer, which is first up
to call others to church_." But the two friends whose judgment he
chiefly valued, and who, as on other occasions, were taken into his most
intimate literary confidence, were Bishop Andrewes, his "inquisitor,"
and Toby Matthews, a son of the Archbishop of York, who had become a
Roman Catholic, and lived in Italy, seeing a good deal of learned men
there, apparently the most trusted of all Bacon's friends.

When Parliament met again in November, 1605, the Gunpowder Plot and its
consequences filled all minds. Bacon was not employed about it by
Government, and his work in the House was confined to carrying on
matters left unfinished from the previous session. On the rumour of
legal promotions and vacancies Bacon once more applied to Salisbury for
the Solicitorship (March, 1606). But no changes were made, and Bacon was
"still next the door." In May, 1606, he did what had for some time been
in his thoughts: he married; not the lady whom Essex had tried to win
for him, that Lady Hatton who became the wife of his rival Coke, but one
whom Salisbury helped him to gain, an alderman's daughter, Alice
Barnham, "an handsome maiden," with some money and a disagreeable
mother, by her second marriage, Lady Packington. Bacon's curious love of
pomp amused the gossips of the day. "Sir Francis Bacon," writes Carleton
to Chamberlain, "was married yesterday to his young wench, in Maribone
Chapel. He was clad from top to toe in purple, and hath made himself and
his wife such store of raiments of cloth of silver and gold that it
draws deep into her portion." Of his married life we hear next to
nothing: in his _Essay on Marriage_ he is not enthusiastic in its
praise; almost the only thing we know is that in his will, twenty years
afterwards, he showed his dissatisfaction with his wife, who after his
death married again. But it gave him an additional reason, and an
additional plea, for pressing for preferment, and in the summer of 1606
the opening came. Coke was made Chief-Justice of the Common Pleas,
leaving the Attorney's place vacant. A favourite of Salisbury's, Hobart,
became Attorney, and Bacon hoped for some arrangement by which the
Solicitor Doddridge might be otherwise provided for, and he himself
become Solicitor. Hopeful as he was, and patient of disappointments, and
of what other men would have thought injustice and faithlessness, he
felt keenly both the disgrace and the inconvenience of so often
expecting place, and being so often passed over. While the question was
pending, he wrote to the King, the Chancellor, and Salisbury. His letter
to the King is a record in his own words of his public services. To the
Chancellor, whom he believed to be his supporter, he represented the
discredit which he suffered--he was a common gaze and a speech;" "the
little reputation which by his industry he gathered, being scattered and
taken away by continual disgraces, _every new man coming above me_;" and
his wife and his wife's friends were making him feel it. The letters
show what Bacon thought to be his claims, and how hard he found it to
get them recognised. To the Chancellor he urged, among other things,
that time was slipping by--

     "I humbly pray your Lordship to consider that time groweth precious
     with me, and that a married man is seven years elder in his
     thoughts the first day.... And were it not to satisfy my wife's
     friends, and to get myself out of being a common gaze and a speech,
     I protest before God I would never speak word for it. But to
     conclude, as my honourable Lady your wife was some mean to make me
     to change the name of another, so if it please you to help me to
     change my own name, I can be but more and more bounden to you; and
     I am much deceived if your Lordship find not the King well
     inclined, and my Lord of Salisbury forward and affectionate."

To Salisbury he writes:

     "I may say to your Lordship, in the confidence of your poor
     kinsman, and of a man by you advanced, _Tu idem fer opem, qui spem
     dedisti_; for I am sure it was not possible for any living man to
     have received from another more significant and comfortable words
     of hope; your Lordship being pleased to tell me, during the course
     of my last service, that you would raise me; and that when you had
     resolved to raise a man, you were more careful of him than himself;
     and that what you had done for me in my marriage was a benefit to
     me, but of no use to your Lordship.... And I know, and all the
     world knoweth, that your Lordship is no dealer of holy water, but
     noble and real; and on my part I am of a sure ground that I have
     committed nothing that may deserve alteration. And therefore my
     hope is your Lordship will finish a good work, and consider that
     time groweth precious with me, and that I am now _vergentibus
     annis_. And although I know your fortune is not to need an hundred
     such as I am, yet I shall be ever ready to give you my best and
     first fruits, and to supply (as much as in me lieth) worthiness by

Still the powers were deaf to his appeals; at any rate he had to be
content with another promise. Considering the ability which he had shown
in Parliament, the wisdom and zeal with which he had supported the
Government, and the important position which he held in the House of
Commons, the neglect of him is unintelligible, except on two
suppositions: that the Government, that is Cecil, were afraid of
anything but the mere routine of law, as represented by such men as
Hobart and Doddridge; or that Coke's hostility to him was unabated, and
Coke still too important to be offended.

Bacon returned to work when the Parliament met, November, 1606. The
questions arising out of the Union, the question of naturalisation, its
grounds and limits, the position of Scotchmen born _before_ or _since_
the King's accession, the _Antenati_ and _Postnati_, the question of a
union of laws, with its consequences, were discussed with great keenness
and much jealous feeling. On the question of naturalisation Bacon took
the liberal and larger view. The immediate union of laws he opposed as
premature. He was a willing servant of the House, and the House readily
made use of him. He reported the result of conferences, even when his
own opinion was adverse to that of the House. And he reported the
speeches of such persons as Lord Salisbury, probably throwing into them
both form and matter of his own. At length, "silently, on the 25th of
June," 1607, he was appointed Solicitor-General. He was then

"It was also probably about this time," writes Mr. Spedding, "that Bacon
finally settled the plan of his '_Great Instauration_,' and began to
call it by that name."



The great thinker and idealist, the great seer of a world of knowledge
to which the men of his own generation were blind, and which they could
not, even with his help, imagine a possible one, had now won the first
step in that long and toilsome ascent to success in life, in which for
fourteen years he had been baffled. He had made himself, for good and
for evil, a servant of the Government of James I. He was prepared to
discharge with zeal and care all his duties. He was prepared to perform
all the services which that Government might claim from its servants. He
had sought, he had passionately pressed to be admitted within that
circle in which the will of the King was the supreme law; after that, it
would have been ruin to have withdrawn or resisted. But it does not
appear that the thought or wish to resist or withdraw ever presented
itself; he had thoroughly convinced himself that in doing what the King
required he was doing the part of a good citizen, and a faithful servant
of the State and Commonwealth. The two lives, the two currents of
purpose and effort, were still there. Behind all the wrangle of the
courts and the devising of questionable legal subtleties to support some
unconstitutional encroachment, or to outflank the defence of some
obnoxious prisoner, the high philosophical meditations still went on;
the remembrance of their sweetness and grandeur wrung more than once
from the jaded lawyer or the baffled counsellor the complaint, in words
which had a great charm for him, _Multum incola fuit anima mea_--"My
soul hath long dwelt" where it would not be. But opinion and ambition
and the immense convenience of being great and rich and powerful, and
the supposed necessities of his condition, were too strong even for his
longings to be the interpreter and the servant of nature. There is no
trace of the faintest reluctance on his part to be the willing minister
of a court of which not only the principal figure, but the arbiter and
governing spirit, was to be George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.

The first leisure that Bacon had after he was appointed Solicitor he
used in a characteristic way. He sat down to make a minute stock-taking
of his position and its circumstances. In the summer of 1608 he devoted
a week of July to this survey of his life, its objects and its
appliances; and he jotted down, day by day, through the week, from his
present reflections, or he transcribed from former note-books, a series
of notes in loose order, mostly very rough and not always intelligible,
about everything that could now concern him. This curious and intimate
record, which he called _Commentarius Solutus_, was discovered by Mr.
Spedding, who not unnaturally had some misgivings about publishing so
secret and so ambiguous a record of a man's most private confidences
with himself. But there it was, and, as it was known, he no doubt
decided wisely in publishing it as it stands; he has done his best to
make it intelligible, and he has also done his best to remove any
unfavourable impressions that might arise from it. It is singularly
interesting as an evidence of Bacon's way of working, of his
watchfulness, his industry, his care in preparing himself long
beforehand for possible occasions, his readiness to take any amount of
trouble about his present duties, his self-reliant desire for more
important and difficult ones. It exhibits his habit of self-observation
and self-correction, his care to mend his natural defects of voice,
manner, and delivery; it is even more curious in showing him watching
his own physical constitution and health, in the most minute details of
symptoms and remedies, equally with a scientific and a practical object.
It contains his estimate of his income, his expenditure, his debts,
schedules of lands and jewels, his rules for the economy of his estate,
his plans for his new gardens and terraces and ponds and buildings at
Gorhambury. He was now a rich man, valuing his property at £24,155 and
his income at £4975, burdened with a considerable debt, but not more
than he might easily look to wipe out. But, besides all these points,
there appear the two large interests of his life--the reform of
philosophy, and his ideal of a great national policy. The "greatness of
Britain" was one of his favourite subjects of meditation. He puts down
in his notes the outline of what should be aimed at to secure and
increase it; it is to make the various forces of the great and growing
empire work together in harmonious order, without waste, without
jealousy, without encroachment and collision; to unite not only the
interests but the sympathies and aims of the Crown with those of the
people and Parliament; and so to make Britain, now in peril from nothing
but from the strength of its own discordant elements, that "Monarchy of
the West" in reality, which Spain was in show, and, as Bacon always
maintained, only in show. The survey of the condition of his
philosophical enterprise takes more space. He notes the stages and
points to which his plans have reached; he indicates, with a favourite
quotation or apophthegm--"_Plus ultra_"--"_ausus vana
contemnere_"--"_aditus non nisi sub persona infantis_" soon to be
familiar to the world in his published writings--the lines of argument,
sometimes alternative ones, which were before him; he draws out schemes
of inquiry, specimen tables, distinctions and classifications about the
subject of Motion, in English interlarded with Latin, or in Latin
interlarded with English, of his characteristic and practical sort; he
notes the various sources from which he might look for help and
co-operation--"of learned men beyond the seas"--"to begin first in
France to print it"--"laying for a place to command wits and pens;" he
has his eye on rich and childless bishops, on the enforced idleness of
State prisoners in the Tower, like Northumberland and Raleigh, on the
great schools and universities, where he might perhaps get hold of some
college for "Inventors"--as we should say, for the endowment of
research. These matters fill up a large space of his notes. But his
thoughts were also busy about his own advancement. And to these sheets
of miscellaneous memoranda Bacon confided not only his occupations and
his philosophical and political ideas, but, with a curious innocent
unreserve, the arts and methods which he proposed to use in order to win
the favour of the great and to pull down the reputation of his rivals.
He puts down in detail how he is to recommend himself to the King and
the King's favourites--

     "To set on foot and maintain access with his Majesty, Dean of the
     Chapel, May, Murray. Keeping a course of access at the beginning of
     every term and vacation, with a memorial. To attend some time his
     repasts, or to fall into a course of familiar discourse. To find
     means to win a conceit, not open, but private, of being
     affectionate and assured to the Scotch, and fit to succeed
     Salisbury in his manage in that kind; Lord Dunbar, Duke of Lennox,
     and Daubiny: secret."

Then, again, of Salisbury--

     "Insinuate myself to become privy to my Lord of Salisbury's
     estate." "To correspond with Salisbury in a habit of natural but no
     ways perilous boldness, and in vivacity, invention, care to cast
     and enterprise (but with due caution), for this manner I judge both
     in his nature freeth the stands, and in his ends pleaseth him best,
     and promiseth more use of me. I judge my standing out, and not
     favoured by Northampton, must needs do me good with Salisbury,
     especially comparative to the Attorney."

The Attorney Hobart filled the place to which Bacon had so long aspired,
and which he thought, perhaps reasonably, that he could fill much
better. At any rate, one of the points to which he recurs frequently in
his notes is to exhort himself to make his own service a continual
contrast to the Attorney's--"to have in mind and use the Attorney's
weakness," enumerating a list of instances: "Too full of cases and
distinctions. Nibbling solemnly, he distinguisheth but apprehends not;"
"No gift with his pen in proclamations and the like;" and at last he
draws out in a series of epigrams his view of "Hubbard's

     "Better at shift than at drift.... _Subtilitas sine acrimonia_....
     No power with the judge.... He will alter a thing but not mend....
     He puts into patents and deeds words not of law but of common sense
     and discourse.... Sociable save in profit.... He doth depopulate
     mine office; otherwise called inclose.... I never knew any one of
     so good a speech with a worse pen." ...

Then in a marginal note--"Solemn goose. Stately, leastwise nodd (?)
crafty. They have made him believe that he is wondrous wise." And,
finally, he draws up a paper of counsels and rules for his own
conduct--"_Custumæ aptæ ad Individuum_"--which might supply an outline
for an essay on the arts of behaviour proper for a rising official, a
sequel to the biting irony of the essays on _Cunning_ and _Wisdom for a
Man's Self_.

     "To furnish my L. of S. with ornaments for public speeches. To make
     him think how he should be reverenced by a Lord Chancellor, if I
     were; Princelike.

     "To prepare him for matters to be handled in Council or before the
     King aforehand, and to show him and yield him the fruits of my

     "To take notes in tables, when I attend the Council, and sometimes
     to move out of a memorial shewed and seen. To have particular
     occasions, fit and graceful and continual, to maintain private
     speech with every the great persons, and sometimes drawing more
     than one together. _Ex imitatione Att._ This specially in public
     places, and without care or affectation. At Council table to make
     good my L. of Salisb. motions and speeches, and for the rest
     sometimes one sometimes another; chiefly his, that is most earnest
     and in affection.

     "To suppress at once my speaking, with panting and labour of breath
     and voice. Not to fall upon the main too sudden, but to induce and
     intermingle speech of good fashion. To use at once upon entrance
     given of speech, though abrupt, to compose and draw in myself. To
     free myself at once from payt. (?) of formality and compliment,
     though with some show of carelessness, pride, and rudeness."

     (And then follows a long list of matters of business to be attended

These arts of a court were not new; it was not new for men to observe
them in their neighbours and rivals. What was new was the writing them
down, with deliberate candour, among a man's private memoranda, as
things to be done and with the intention of practising them. This of
itself, it has been suggested, shows that they were unfamiliar and
uncongenial to Bacon; for a man reminds himself of what he is apt to
forget. But a man reminds himself also of what seems to him, at the
moment, most important, and what he lays most stress upon. And it is
clear that these are the rules, rhetorical and ethical, which Bacon laid
down for himself in pursuing the second great object of his life--his
official advancement; and that, whatever we think of them, they were the
means which he deliberately approved.

As long as Salisbury lived, the distrust which had kept Bacon so long in
the shade kept him at a distance from the King's ear, and from influence
on his counsels. Salisbury was the one Englishman in whom the King had
become accustomed to confide, in his own conscious strangeness to
English ways and real dislike and suspicion of them; Salisbury had an
authority which no one else had, both from his relations with James at
the end of Elizabeth's reign, and as the representative of her policy
and the depositary of its traditions; and if he had lived, things might
not, perhaps, have been better in James's government, but many things,
probably, would have been different. But while Salisbury was supreme,
Bacon, though very alert and zealous, was mainly busied with his
official work; and the Solicitor's place had become, as he says, a "mean
thing" compared with the Attorney's, and also an extremely laborious
place--"one of the painfullest places in the kingdom." Much of it was
routine, but responsible and fatiguing routine. But if he was not in
Salisbury's confidence, he was prominent in the House of Commons. The
great and pressing subject of the time was the increasing difficulties
of the revenue, created partly by the inevitable changes of a growing
state, but much more by the King's incorrigible wastefulness. It was
impossible to realise completely the great dream and longing of the
Stuart kings and their ministers to make the Crown independent of
parliamentary supplies; but to dispense with these supplies as much as
possible, and to make as much as possible of the revenue permanent, was
the continued and fatal policy of the Court. The "Great Contract"--a
scheme by which, in return for the surrender by the Crown of certain
burdensome and dangerous claims of the Prerogative, the Commons were to
assure a large compensating yearly income to the Crown--was Salisbury's
favourite device during the last two years of his life. It was not a
prosperous one. The bargain was an ill-imagined and not very decorous
transaction between the King and his people. Both parties were naturally
jealous of one another, suspicious of underhand dealing and tacit
changes of terms, prompt to resent and take offence, and not easy to
pacify when they thought advantage had been taken; and Salisbury, either
by his own fault, or by yielding to the King's canny shiftiness, gave
the business a more haggling and huckstering look than it need have had.
Bacon, a subordinate of the Government, but a very important person in
the Commons, did his part, loyally, as it seems, and skilfully in
smoothing differences and keeping awkward questions from making their
appearance. Thus he tried to stave off the risk of bringing definitely
to a point the King's cherished claim to levy "impositions," or custom
duties, on merchandise, by virtue of his prerogative--a claim which he
warned the Commons not to dispute, and which Bacon, maintaining it as
legal in theory, did his best to prevent them from discussing, and to
persuade them to be content with restraining. Whatever he thought of the
"Great Contract," he did what was expected of him in trying to gain for
it fair play. But he made time for other things also. He advised, and
advised soundly, on the plantation and finance of Ireland. It was a
subject in which he took deep interest. A few years later, with only
too sure a foresight, he gave the warning, "lest Ireland civil become
more dangerous to us than Ireland savage." He advised--not soundly in
point of law, but curiously in accordance with modern notions--about
endowments; though, in this instance, in the famous will case of Thomas
Sutton, the founder of the Charter House, his argument probably covered
the scheme of a monstrous job in favour of the needy Court. And his own
work went on in spite of the pressure of the Solicitor's place. To the
first years of his official life belong three very interesting
fragments, intended to find a provisional place in the plan of the
"Great Instauration." To his friend Toby Matthews, at Florence, he sent
in manuscript the great attack on the old teachers of knowledge, which
is perhaps the most brilliant, and also the most insolently unjust and
unthinking piece of rhetoric ever composed by him--the _Redargutio

     "I send you at this time the only part which hath any harshness;
     and yet I framed to myself an opinion, that whosoever allowed well
     of that preface which you so much commend, will not dislike, or at
     least ought not to dislike, this other speech of preparation; for
     it is written out of the same spirit, and out of the same
     necessity. Nay it doth more fully lay open that the question
     between me and the ancients is not of the virtue of the race, but
     of the rightness of the way. And to speak truth, it is to the other
     but as _palma_ to _pugnus_, part of the same thing more large....
     Myself am like the miller of Huntingdon, that was wont to pray for
     peace amongst the willows; for while the winds blew, the wind-mills
     wrought, and the water-mill was less customed. So I see that
     controversies of religion must hinder the advancement of sciences.
     Let me conclude with my perpetual wish towards yourself, that the
     approbation of yourself by your own discreet and temperate
     carriage, may restore you to your country, and your friends to your
     society. And so I commend you to God's goodness.

     "Gray's Inn, this 10th of October, 1609."

To Bishop Andrewes he sent, also in manuscript, another piece,
belonging to the same plan--the deeply impressive treatise called _Visa
et Cogitata_--what Francis Bacon had seen of nature and knowledge, and
what he had come by meditation to think of what he had seen. The letter
is not less interesting than the last, in respect to the writer's
purposes, his manner of writing, and his relations to his correspondent.

     "MY VERY GOOD LORD,--Now your Lordship hath been so long in the
     church and the palace disputing between kings and popes, methinks
     you should take pleasure to look into the field, and refresh your
     mind with some matter of philosophy, though that science be now
     through age waxed a child again, and left to boys and young men;
     and because you were wont to make me believe you took liking to my
     writings, I send you some of this vacation's fruits, and thus much
     more of my mind and purpose. I hasten not to publish; perishing I
     would prevent. And I am forced to respect as well my times as the
     matter. For with me it is thus, and I think with all men in my
     case, if I bind myself to an argument, it loadeth my mind; but if I
     rid my mind of the present cogitation, it is rather a recreation.
     This hath put me into these miscellanies, which I purpose to
     suppress, if God give me leave to write a just and perfect volume
     of philosophy, which I go on with, though slowly. I send not your
     Lordship too much, lest it may glut you. Now let me tell you what
     my desire is. If your Lordship be so good now as when you were the
     good Dean of Westminster, my request to you is, that not by pricks,
     but by notes, you would mark unto me whatsoever shall seem unto you
     either not current in the style, or harsh to credit and opinion, or
     inconvenient for the person of the writer; for no man can be judge
     and party, and when our minds judge by reflection of ourselves,
     they are more subject to error. And though for the matter itself my
     judgement be in some things fixed, and not accessible by any man's
     judgement that goeth not my way, yet even in those things the
     admonition of a friend may make me express myself diversly. I would
     have come to your Lordship, but that I am hastening to my house in
     the country. And so I commend your Lordship to God's goodness."

There was yet another production of this time, of which we have a
notice from himself in a letter to Toby Matthews, the curious and
ingenious little treatise on the _Wisdom of the Ancients_, "one of the
most popular of his works," says Mr. Spedding, "in his own and in the
next generation," but of value to us mainly for its quaint poetical
colour, and the unexpected turns, like answers to a riddle, given to the
ancient fables. When this work was published, it was the third time that
he had appeared as an author in print. He thus writes about it and

     "MR. MATTHEWS,--I do heartily thank you for your letter of the 24th
     of August from Salamanca; and in recompense thereof I send you a
     little work of mine that hath begun to pass the world. They tell me
     my Latin is turned into silver, and become current. Had you been
     here, you should have been my inquisitor before it came forth; but
     I think the greatest inquisitor in Spain will allow it.... My great
     work goeth forward, and, after my manner, I alter ever when I add.
     So that nothing is finished till all be finished.

     "From Gray's Inn, the 17th of February, 1610."

In the autumn of 1611 the Attorney-General was ill, and Bacon reminded
both the King and Salisbury of his claim. He was afraid, he writes to
the King, with an odd forgetfulness of the persistency and earnestness
of his applications, "that _by reason of my slowness to sue_, and
apprehend occasions upon the sudden, keeping one plain course of painful
service, I may _in fine dierum_ be in danger to be neglected and
forgotten." The Attorney recovered, but Bacon, on New Year's Tide of
1611/12, wrote to Salisbury to thank him for his good-will. It is the
last letter of Bacon's to Salisbury which has come down to us.

     "IT MAY PLEASE YOUR GOOD LORDSHIP,--I would entreat the new year to
     answer for the old, in my humble thanks to your Lordship, both for
     many your favours, and chiefly that upon the occasion of Mr.
     Attorney's infirmity I found your Lordship even as I would wish.
     This doth increase a desire in me to express my thankful mind to
     your Lordship; hoping that though I find age and decays grow upon
     me, yet I may have a flash or two of spirit left to do you service.
     And I do protest before God, without compliment or any light vein
     of mind, that if I knew in what course of life to do you best
     service, I would take it, and make my thoughts, which now fly to
     many pieces, be reduced to that center. But all this is no more
     than I am, which is not much, but yet the entire of him that is--"

In the following May (May 24, 1612) Salisbury died. From this date James
passed from government by a minister, who, whatever may have been his
faults, was laborious, public-spirited, and a statesman, into his own
keeping and into the hands of favourites, who cared only for themselves.
With Cecil ceased the traditions of the days of Elizabeth and Burghley,
in many ways evil and cruel traditions, but not ignoble and sordid ones;
and James was left without the stay, and also without the check, which
Cecil's power had been to him. The field was open for new men and new
ways; the fashions and ideas of the time had altered during the last ten
years, and those of the Queen's days had gone out of date. Would the new
turn out for the better or the worse? Bacon, at any rate, saw the
significance of the change and the critical eventfulness of the moment.
It was his habit of old to send memorials of advice to the heads of the
Government, apparently without such suggestions seeming more intrusive
or officious than a leading article seems now, and perhaps with much the
same effect. It was now a time to do so, if ever; and he was in an
official relation to the King which entitled him to proffer advice. He
at once prepared to lay his thoughts before the King, and to suggest
that he could do far better service than Cecil, and was ready to take
his place. The policy of the "Great Contract" had certainly broken
down, and the King, under Cecil's guidance, had certainly not known how
to manage an English parliament. In writing to the King he found it hard
to satisfy himself. Several draft letters remain, and it is not certain
which of them, if any, was sent. But immediately on Salisbury's death he
began, May 29th, a letter in which he said that he had never yet been
able to show his affection to the King, "having been as a hawk tied to
another's fist;" and if, "as was said to one that spake great words,
_Amice, verba tua desiderant civitatem_, your Majesty say to me, _Bacon,
your words require a place to speak them_," yet that "place or not
place" was with the King. But the draft breaks off abruptly, and with
the date of the 31st we have the following:

     "Your Majesty hath lost a great subject and a great servant. But if
     I should praise him in propriety, I should say that he was a fit
     man to keep things from growing worse, but no very fit man to
     reduce things to be much better. For he loved to have the eyes of
     all Israel a little too much upon himself, and to have all business
     still under the hammer, and like clay in the hands of the potter,
     to mould it as he thought good; so that he was more _in operatione_
     than _in opere_. And though he had fine passages of action, yet the
     real conclusions came slowly on. So that although your Majesty hath
     grave counsellors and worthy persons left, yet you do as it were
     turn a leaf, wherein if your Majesty shall give a frame and
     constitution to matters, before you place the persons, in my simple
     opinion it were not amiss. But the great matter and most instant
     for the present, is the consideration of a Parliament, for two
     effects: the one for the supply of your estate, the other for the
     better knitting of the hearts of your subjects unto your Majesty,
     according to your infinite merit; for both which, Parliaments have
     been and are the antient and honourable remedy.

     "Now because I take myself to have a little skill in that region,
     as one that ever affected that your Majesty mought in all your
     causes not only prevail, but prevail with satisfaction of the inner
     man; and though no man can say but I was a perfect and peremptory
     royalist, yet every man makes me believe that I was never one hour
     out of credit with the Lower House; my desire is to know whether
     your Majesty will give me leave to meditate and propound unto you
     some preparative remembrances touching the future Parliament."

Whether he sent this or not, he prepared another draft. What had
happened in the mean while we know not, but Bacon was in a bitter mood,
and the letter reveals, for the first time, what was really in Bacon's
heart about the "great subject and great servant," of whom he had just
written so respectfully, and with whom he had been so closely connected
for most of his life. The fierceness which had been gathering for years
of neglect and hindrance under that placid and patient exterior broke
out. He offered himself as Cecil's successor in business of State. He
gave his reason for being hopeful of success. Cecil's bitterest enemy
could not have given it more bitterly.

     "My principal end being to do your Majesty service, I crave leave
     to make at this time to your Majesty this most humble oblation of
     myself. I may truly say with the psalm, _Multum incola fuit anima
     mea_, for my life hath been conversant in things wherein I take
     little pleasure. Your Majesty may have heard somewhat that my
     father was an honest man, and somewhat you may have seen of myself,
     though not to make any true judgement by, because I have hitherto
     had only _potestatem verborum_, nor that neither. I was three of my
     young years bred with an ambassador in France, and since I have
     been an old truant in the school-house of your council-chamber,
     though on the second form, yet longer than any that now sitteth
     hath been upon the head form. If your Majesty find any aptness in
     me, or if you find any scarcity in others, whereby you may think it
     fit for your service to remove me to business of State, although I
     have a fair way before me for profit (and by your Majesty's grace
     and favour for honour and advancement), and in a course less
     exposed to the blasts of fortune, _yet now that he is gone, quo
     vivente virtutibus certissimum exitium_, I will be ready as a
     chessman to be wherever your Majesty's royal hand shall set me.
     Your Majesty will bear me witness, I have not suddenly opened
     myself thus far. I have looked upon others, I see the exceptions,
     I see the distractions, and I fear Tacitus will be a prophet,
     _magis alii homines quam alii mores_. I know mine own heart, and I
     know not whether God that hath touched my heart with the affection
     may not touch your royal heart to discern it. Howsoever, I shall at
     least go on honestly in mine ordinary course, and supply the rest
     in prayers for you, remaining, etc."

This is no hasty outburst. In a later paper on the true way of
retrieving the disorders of the King's finances, full of large and wise
counsel, after advising the King not to be impatient, and assuring him
that a state of debt is not so intolerable--"for it is no new thing for
the greatest Kings to be in debt," and all the great men of the Court
had been in debt without any "manner of diminution of their
greatness"--he returns to the charge in detail against Salisbury and the
Great Contract.

     "My second prayer is, that your Majesty--in respect to the hasty
     freeing of your state--would not descend to any means, or degree of
     means, which carrieth not a symmetry with your Majesty and
     greatness. _He is gone from whom those courses did wholly flow._ To
     have your wants and necessities in particular as it were hanged up
     in two tablets before the eyes of your lords and commons, to be
     talked of for four months together; To have all your courses to
     help yourself in revenue or profit put into printed books, which
     were wont to be held _arcana imperii_; To have such worms of
     aldermen to lend for ten in the hundred upon good assurance, and
     with such entreaty (?) as if it should save the bark of your
     fortune; To contract still where mought be had the readiest
     payment, and not the best bargain; To stir a number of projects for
     your profit, and then to blast them, and leave your Majesty nothing
     but the scandal of them; To pretend even carriage between your
     Majesty's rights and ease of the people, and to satisfy neither.
     These courses and others the like I hope are gone with the deviser
     of them; which have turned your Majesty to inestimable prejudice."

And what he thought of saying, but on further consideration struck out,
was the following. It is no wonder that he struck it out, but it shows
what he felt towards Cecil.

    "I protest to God, though I be not superstitious, when I saw your
    M.'s book against Vorstius and Arminius, and noted your zeal to
    deliver the majesty of God from the vain and indign comprehensions
    of heresy and degenerate philosophy, as you had by your pen formerly
    endeavoured to deliver kings from the usurpation of Rome, _perculsit
    illico animum_ that God would set shortly upon you some visible
    favour, _and let me not live if I thought not of the taking away of
    that man_."

And from this time onwards he scarcely ever mentions Cecil's name in his
correspondence with James but with words of condemnation, which imply
that Cecil's mischievous policy was the result of private ends. Yet this
was the man to whom he had written the "New Year's Tide" letter six
months before; a letter which is but an echo to the last of all that he
had been accustomed to write to Cecil when asking assistance or offering
congratulation. Cecil had, indeed, little claim on Bacon's gratitude; he
had spoken him fair in public, and no doubt in secret distrusted and
thwarted him. But to the last Bacon did not choose to acknowledge this.
Had James disclosed something of his dead servant, who left some strange
secrets behind him, which showed his unsuspected hostility to Bacon?
Except on this supposition (but there is nothing to support it), no
exaggeration of the liberty allowed to the language of compliment is
enough to clear Bacon of an insincerity which is almost inconceivable in
any but the meanest tools of power.

"I assure myself," wrote Bacon to the King, "your Majesty taketh not me
for one of a busy nature; for my estate being free from all
difficulties, and I having such a large field for contemplation, as I
have partly and shall much more make manifest unto your Majesty and the
world, to occupy my thoughts, nothing could make me active but love and
affection." So Bacon described his position with questionable
accuracy--for his estate was not "free from difficulties"--in the new
time coming. He was still kept out of the inner circle of the Council;
but from the moment of Salisbury's death he became a much more important
person. He still sued for advancement, and still met with
disappointment; the "mean men" still rose above him. The lucrative place
of Master of the Wards was vacated by Salisbury's death. Bacon was
talked of for it, and probably expected it, for he drew up new rules for
it, and a speech for the new master; but the office and the speech went
to Sir George Carey. Soon after Sir George Carey died. Bacon then
applied for it through the new favourite, Rochester. "He was so
confident of the place that he put most of his men into new cloaks;" and
the world of the day amused itself at his disappointment, when the place
was given to another "mean man," Sir Walter Cope, of whom the gossips
wrote that if the "last two Treasurers could look out of their graves to
see those successors in that place, they would be out of countenance
with themselves, and say to the world _quantum mutatus_." But Bacon's
hand and counsel appear more and more in important matters--the
improvement of the revenue; the defence of extreme rights of the
prerogative in the case against Whitelocke; the great question of
calling a parliament, and of the true and "princely" way of dealing with
it. His confidential advice to the King about calling a parliament was
marked by his keen perception of the facts of the situation; it was
marked too by his confident reliance on skilful indirect methods and
trust in the look of things; it bears traces also of his bitter feeling
against Salisbury, whom he charges with treacherously fomenting the
opposition of the last Parliament. There was no want of worldly wisdom
in it; certainly it was more adapted to James's ideas of state-craft
than the simpler plan of Sir Henry Nevill, that the King should throw
himself frankly on the loyalty and good-will of Parliament. And thus he
came to be on easy terms with James, who was quite capable of
understanding Bacon's resource and nimbleness of wit. In the autumn of
1613 the Chief-Justiceship of the King's Bench became vacant. Bacon at
once gave the King reasons for sending Coke from the Common Pleas--where
he was a check on the prerogative--to the King's Bench, where he could
do less harm; while Hobart went to the Common Pleas. The promotion was
obvious, but the Common Pleas suited Coke better, and the place was more
lucrative. Bacon's advice was followed. Coke, very reluctantly, knowing
well who had given it, and why, "not only weeping himself but followed
by the tears" of all the Court of Common Pleas, moved up to the higher
post. The Attorney Hobart succeeded, and Bacon at last became Attorney
(October 27, 1613). In Chamberlain's gossip we have an indication, such
as occurs only accidentally, of the view of outsiders: "There is a
strong apprehension that little good is to be expected by this change,
and that Bacon may prove a dangerous instrument."



Thus, at last, at the age of fifty-two, Bacon had gained the place which
Essex had tried to get for him at thirty-two. The time of waiting had
been a weary one, and it is impossible not to see that it had been
hurtful to Bacon. A strong and able man, very eager to have a field for
his strength and ability, who is kept out of it, as he thinks unfairly,
and is driven to an attitude of suppliant dependency in pressing his
claim on great persons who amuse him with words, can hardly help
suffering in the humiliating process. It does a man no good to learn to
beg, and to have a long training in the art. And further, this long
delay kept up the distraction of his mind between the noble work on
which his soul was bent, and the necessities of that "civil" or
professional and political life by which he had to maintain his estate.
All the time that he was "canvassing" (it is his own word) for office,
and giving up his time and thoughts to the work which it involved, the
great _Instauration_ had to wait his hours of leisure; and his
exclamation, so often repeated, _Multum incola fuit anima mea_, bears
witness to the longings that haunted him in his hours of legal drudgery,
or in the service of his not very thankful employers. Not but that he
found compensation in the interest of public questions, in the company
of the great, in the excitement of state-craft and state employment, in
the pomp and enjoyment of court life. He found too much compensation; it
was one of his misfortunes. But his heart was always sound in its
allegiance to knowledge; and if he had been fortunate enough to have
risen earlier to the greatness which he aimed at as a vantage-ground for
his true work, or if he had had self-control to have dispensed with
wealth and position--if he had escaped the long necessity of being a
persistent and still baffled suitor--we might have had as a completed
whole what we have now only in great fragments, and we should have been
spared the blots which mar a career which ought to have been a noble

The first important matter that happened after Bacon's new appointment
was the Essex divorce case, and the marriage of Lady Essex with the
favourite whom Cecil's death had left at the height of power, and who
from Lord Rochester was now made Earl of Somerset. With the divorce, the
beginning of the scandals and tragedies of James's reign, Bacon had
nothing to do. At the marriage which followed Bacon presented as his
offering a masque, performed by the members of Gray's Inn, of which he
bore the charges, and which cost him the enormous sum of £2000. Whether
it were to repay his obligations to the Howards, or in lieu of a "fee"
to Rochester, who levied toll on all favours from the King, it can
hardly be said, as has been suggested, to be a protest against the great
abuse of the times, the sale of offices for money. The "very splendid
trifle, the Masque of Flowers," was one form of the many extravagant
tributes paid but too willingly to high-handed worthlessness, of which
the deeper and darker guilt was to fill all faces with shame two years

As Attorney, Bacon had to take a much more prominent part in affairs,
legal, criminal, constitutional, administrative, than he had yet been
allowed to have. We know that it was his great object to show how much
more active and useful an Attorney he could be than either Coke or
Hobart; and as far as unflagging energy and high ability could make a
good public servant, he fully carried out his purpose. In Parliament,
the "addled Parliament" of 1614, in which he sat for the University of
Cambridge, he did his best to reconcile what were fast becoming
irreconcilable, the claims and prerogatives of an absolute king,
irritable, suspicious, exacting, prodigal, with the ancient rights and
liberties, growing stronger in their demands by being denied, resisted,
or outwitted, of the popular element in the State. In the trials, which
are so large and disagreeable a part of the history of these
years--trials arising out of violent words provoked by the violent acts
of power, one of which, Peacham's, became famous, because in the course
of it torture was resorted to, or trials which witnessed to the
corruption of the high society of the day, like the astounding series of
arraignments and condemnations following on the discoveries relating to
Overbury's murder, which had happened just before the Somerset
marriage--Bacon had to make the best that he could for the cruel and
often unequal policy of the Court; and Bacon must take his share in the
responsibility for it. An effort on James's part to stop duelling
brought from Bacon a worthier piece of service, in the shape of an
earnest and elaborate argument against it, full of good sense and good
feeling, but hopelessly in advance of the time. On the many questions
which touched the prerogative, James found in his Attorney a ready and
skilful advocate of his claims, who knew no limit to them but in the
consideration of what was safe and prudent to assert. He was a better
and more statesmanlike counsellor, in his unceasing endeavours to
reconcile James to the expediency of establishing solid and good
relations with his Parliament, and in his advice as to the wise and
hopeful ways of dealing with it. Bacon had no sympathy with popular
wants and claims; of popularity, of all that was called popular, he had
the deepest suspicion and dislike; the opinions and the judgment of
average men he despised, as a thinker, a politician, and a courtier; the
"malignity of the people" he thought great. "I do not love," he says,
"the word _people_." But he had a high idea of what was worthy of a
king, and was due to the public interests, and he saw the folly of the
petty acts and haughty words, the use of which James could not resist.
In his new office he once more urged on, and urged in vain, his
favourite project for revising, simplifying, and codifying the law. This
was a project which would find little favour with Coke, and the crowd of
lawyers who venerated him--men whom Bacon viewed with mingled contempt
and apprehension both in the courts and in Parliament where they were
numerous, and whom he more than once advised the King to bridle and keep
"in awe." Bacon presented his scheme to the King in a Proposition, or,
as we should call it, a Report. It is very able and interesting; marked
with his characteristic comprehensiveness and sense of practical needs,
and with a confidence in his own knowledge of law which contrasts
curiously with the current opinion about it. He speaks with the utmost
honour of Coke's work, but he is not afraid of a comparison with him. "I
do assure your Majesty," he says, "I am in good hope that when Sir
Edward Coke's Reports and my Rules and Decisions shall come to
posterity, there will be (whatever is now thought) question who was the
greater lawyer." But the project, though it was entertained and
discussed in Parliament, came to nothing. No one really cared about it
except Bacon.

But in these years (1615 and 1616) two things happened of the utmost
consequence to him. One was the rise, more extravagant than anything
that England had seen for centuries, and in the end more fatal, of the
new favourite, who from plain George Villiers became the all-powerful
Duke of Buckingham. Bacon, like the rest of the world, saw the necessity
of bowing before him; and Bacon persuaded himself that Villiers was
pre-eminently endowed with all the gifts and virtues which a man in his
place would need. We have a series of his letters to Villiers; they are
of course in the complimentary vein which was expected; but if their
language is only compliment, there is no language left for expressing
what a man wishes to be taken for truth. The other matter was the
humiliation, by Bacon's means and in his presence, of his old rival
Coke. In the dispute about jurisdiction, always slumbering and lately
awakened and aggravated by Coke, between the Common Law Courts and the
Chancery, Coke had threatened the Chancery with Præmunire. The King's
jealousy took alarm, and the Chief-Justice was called before the
Council. There a decree, based on Bacon's advice and probably drawn up
by him, peremptorily overruled the legal doctrine maintained by the
greatest and most self-confident judge whom the English courts had seen.
The Chief-Justice had to acquiesce in this reading of the law; and then,
as if such an affront were not enough, Coke was suspended from his
office, and, further, enjoined to review and amend his published
reports, where they were inconsistent with the view of law which on
Bacon's authority the Star Chamber had adopted (June, 1616). This he
affected to do, but the corrections were manifestly only colourable;
his explanations of his legal heresies against the prerogative, as these
heresies were formulated by the Chancellor and Bacon, and presented to
him for recantation, were judged insufficient; and in a decree, prefaced
by reasons drawn up by Bacon, in which, besides Coke's errors of law,
his "deceit, contempt, and slander of the Government," his "perpetual
turbulent carriage," and his affectation of popularity, were noted--he
was removed from his office (Nov., 1616). So, for the present, the old
rivalry had ended in a triumph for Bacon. Bacon, whom Coke had so long
headed in the race, whom he had sneered at as a superficial pretender to
law, and whose accomplishments and enthusiasm for knowledge he utterly
despised, had not only defeated him, but driven him from his seat with
dishonour. When we remember what Coke was, what he had thought of Bacon,
and how he prized his own unique reputation as a representative of
English law, the effects of such a disgrace on a man of his temper
cannot easily be exaggerated.

But for the present Bacon had broken through the spell which had so long
kept him back. He won a great deal of the King's confidence, and the
King was more and more ready to make use of him, though by no means
equally willing to think that Bacon knew better than himself. Bacon's
view of the law, and his resources of argument and expression to make it
good, could be depended upon in the keen struggle to secure and enlarge
the prerogative which was now beginning. In the prerogative both James
and Bacon saw the safety of the State and the only reasonable hope of
good government; but in Bacon's larger and more elevated views of
policy--of a policy worthy of a great king, and a king of England--James
was not likely to take much interest. The memorials which it was
Bacon's habit to present on public affairs were wasted on one who had so
little to learn from others--so he thought and so all assured him--about
the secrets of empire. Still they were proofs of Bacon's ready mind; and
James, even when he disagreed with Bacon's opinion and arguments, was
too clever not to see their difference from the work of other men. Bacon
rose in favour; and from the first he was on the best of terms with
Villiers. He professed to Villiers the most sincere devotion. According
to his custom he presented him with a letter of wise advice on the
duties and behaviour of a favourite. He at once began, and kept up with
him to the end, a confidential correspondence on matters of public
importance. He made it clear that he depended upon Villiers for his own
personal prospects, and it had now become the most natural thing that
Bacon should look forward to succeeding the Lord Chancellor, Ellesmere,
who was fast failing. Bacon had already (Feb. 12, 1615/16). in terms
which seem strange to us, but were less strange then, set forth in a
letter to the King the reasons why he should be Chancellor; criticising
justly enough, only that he was a party interested, the qualifications
of other possible candidates, Coke, Hobart, and the Archbishop Abbott.
Coke would be "an overruling nature in an overruling place," and
"popular men were no sure mounters for your Majesty's saddle." Hobart
was incompetent. As to Abbott, the Chancellor's place required "a whole
man," and to have both jurisdiction, spiritual and temporal, "was fit
only for a king." The promise that Bacon should have the place came to
him three days afterwards through Villiers. He acknowledged it in a
burst of gratitude (Feb. 15, 1615/16). "I will now wholly rely on your
excellent and happy self.... I am yours surer to you than my own life.
For, as they speak of the Turquoise stone in a ring, I will break into
twenty pieces before you bear the least fall." They were unconsciously
prophetic words. But Ellesmere lasted longer than was expected. It was
not till a year after this promise that he resigned. On the 7th of
March, 1616/17, Bacon received the seals. He expresses his obligations
to Villiers, now Lord Buckingham, in the following letter:

     "MY DEAREST LORD,--It is both in cares and kindness that small ones
     float up to the tongue, and great ones sink down into the heart
     with silence. Therefore I could speak little to your Lordship
     to-day, neither had I fit time; but I must profess thus much, that
     in this day's work you are the truest and perfectest mirror and
     example of firm and generous friendship that ever was in court. And
     I shall count every day lost, wherein I shall not either study your
     well-doing in thought, or do your name honour in speech, or perform
     you service in deed. Good my Lord, account and accept me your most
     bounden and devoted friend and servant of all men living,

     "March 7, 1616 (_i.e._ 1616/1617).
     FR. BACON, C.S."

He himself believed the appointment to be a popular one. "I know I am
come in," he writes to the King soon after, "with as strong an envy of
some particulars as with the love of the general." On the 7th of May,
1617, he took his seat in Chancery with unusual pomp and magnificence,
and set forth, in an opening speech, with all his dignity and force, the
duties of his great office and his sense of their obligation. But there
was a curious hesitation in treating him as other men were treated in
like cases. He was only "Lord Keeper." It was not till the following
January (1617/18) that he received the office of Lord Chancellor. It was
not till half a year afterwards that he was made a Peer. Then he became
Baron Verulam (July, 1618), and in January, 1620/21, Viscount St.

From this time Bacon must be thought of, first and foremost, as a Judge
in the great seat which he had so earnestly sought. It was the place not
merely of law, which often tied the judge's hands painfully, but of true
justice, when law failed to give it. Bacon's ideas of the duties of a
judge were clear and strong, as he showed in various admirable speeches
and charges: his duties as regards his own conduct and reputation; his
duties in keeping his subordinates free from the taint of corruption. He
was not ignorant of the subtle and unacknowledged ways in which unlawful
gains may be covered by custom, and an abuse goes on because men will
not choose to look at it. He entered on his office with the full purpose
of doing its work better than it had ever been done. He saw where it
wanted reforming, and set himself at once to reform. The accumulation
and delay of suits had become grievous; at once he threw his whole
energy into the task of wiping out the arrears which the bad health of
his predecessor and the traditional sluggishness of the court had heaped
up. In exactly three months from his appointment he was able to report
that these arrears had been cleared off. "This day" (June 8, 1617), he
writes to Buckingham, "I have made even with the business of the kingdom
for common justice. Not one cause unheard. The lawyers drawn dry of all
the motions they were to make. Not one petition unheard. And this I
think could not be said in our time before."

The performance was splendid, and there is no reason to think that the
work so rapidly done was not well done. We are assured that Bacon's
decisions were unquestioned, and were not complained of. At the same
time, before this allegation is accepted as conclusive proof of the
public satisfaction, it must be remembered that the question of his
administration of justice, which was at last to assume such strange
proportions, has never been so thoroughly sifted as, to enable us to
pronounce upon it, it should be. The natural tendency of Bacon's mind
would undoubtedly be to judge rightly and justly; but the negative
argument of the silence at the time of complainants, in days when it was
so dangerous to question authority, and when we have so little evidence
of what men said at their firesides, is not enough to show that he never

But the serious thing is that Bacon subjected himself to two of the most
dangerous influences which can act on the mind of a judge--the influence
of the most powerful and most formidable man in England, and the
influence of presents, in money and other gifts. From first to last he
allowed Buckingham, whom no man, as Bacon soon found, could displease
except at his own peril, to write letters to him on behalf of suitors
whose causes were before him; and he allowed suitors, not often while
the cause was pending, but sometimes even then, to send him directly, or
through his servants, large sums of money. Both these things are
explained. It would have been characteristic of Bacon to be confident
that he could defy temptation: these habits were the fashion of the
time, and everybody took them for granted; Buckingham never asked his
good offices beyond what Bacon thought just and right, and asked them
rather for the sake of expedition than to influence his judgment. And as
to the money presents--every office was underpaid; this was the common
way of acknowledging pains and trouble: it was analogous to a doctor's
or a lawyer's fee now. And there is no proof that either influence ever
led Bacon to do wrong. This has been said, and said with some degree of
force. But if it shows that Bacon was not in this matter below his age,
it shows that he was not above it. No one knew better than Bacon that
there were no more certain dangers to honesty and justice than the
interference and solicitation of the great, and the old famous pest of
bribes, of which all histories and laws were full. And yet on the
highest seat of justice in the realm he, the great reformer of its
abuses, allowed them to make their customary haunt. He did not mean to
do wrong: his conscience was clear; he had not given thought to the
mischief they must do, sooner or later, to all concerned with the Court
of Chancery. With a magnificent carelessness he could afford to run
safely a course closely bordering on crime, in which meaner men would
sin and be ruined.

Before six months were over Bacon found on what terms he must stand with
Buckingham. By a strange fatality, quite unintentionally, he became
dragged into the thick of the scandalous and grotesque dissensions of
the Coke family. The Court was away from London in the North; and Coke
had been trying, not without hope of success, to recover the King's
favour. Coke was a rich man, and Lady Compton, the mother of the
Villiers, thought that Coke's daughter would be a good match for one of
her younger sons. It was really a great chance for Coke; but he haggled
about the portion; and the opportunity, which might perhaps have led to
his taking Bacon's place, passed. But he found himself in trouble in
other ways; his friends, especially Secretary Winwood, contrived to
bring the matter on again, and he consented to the Villiers's terms. But
his wife, the young lady's mother, Lady Hatton, would not hear of it,
and a furious quarrel followed. She carried off her daughter into the
country. Coke, with a warrant from Secretary Winwood, which Bacon had
refused to give him, pursued her: "with his son, 'Fighting Clem,' and
ten or eleven servants, weaponed, in a violent manner he repaired to
the house where she was remaining, and with a piece of timber or form
broke open the door and dragged her along to his coach." Lady Hatton
rushed off the same afternoon for help to Bacon.

     After an overturn by the way, "at last to my Lord Keeper's they
     come, but could not have instant access to him, for that his people
     told them he was laid at rest, being not well. Then my La. Hatton
     desired she might be in the next room where my Lord lay, that she
     might be the first that [should] speak with him after he was
     stirring. The door-keeper fulfilled her desire, and in the meantime
     gave her a chair to rest herself in, and there left her alone; but
     not long after, she rose up and bounced against my Lord Keeper's
     door, and waked him and affrighted him, that he called his men to
     him; and they opening the door, she thrust in with them, and
     desired his Lp. to pardon her boldness, but she was like a cow that
     had lost her calf, and so justified [herself] and pacified my
     Lord's anger, and got his warrant and my Lo. Treasurer's warrant
     and others of the Council to fetch her daughter from the father and
     bring them both to the Council."

It was a chance that the late Chief-Justice and his wife, with their
armed parties, did not meet on the road, in which case "there were like
to be strange tragedies." At length the Council compelled both sides to
keep the peace, and the young lady was taken for the present out of the
hands of her raging parents. Bacon had assumed that the affair was the
result of an intrigue between Winwood and Coke, and that the Court would
take part against Coke, a man so deep in disgrace and so outrageously
violent. Supposing that he had the ear of Buckingham, he wrote
earnestly, persuading him to put an end to the business; and in the
meantime the Council ordered Coke to be brought before the Star Chamber
"for riot and force," to "be heard and sentenced as justice shall
appertain." They had not the slightest doubt that they were doing what
would please the King. A few days after they met, and then they learned
the truth.

     "Coke and his friends," writes Chamberlain, "complain of hard
     measure from some of the greatest at that board, and that he was
     too much trampled upon with ill language. And our friend [_i.e._
     Winwood] passed out scot free for the warrant, which the greatest
     [_word illegible_] there said was subject to a _præmunire_; and
     withal told the Lady Compton that they wished well to her and her
     sons, and would be ready to serve the Earl of Buckingham with all
     true affection, whereas others did it out of faction and
     ambition--which words glancing directly at our good friend
     (Winwood), he was driven to make his apology, and to show how it
     was put upon him from time to time by the Queen and other parties;
     and, for conclusion, showed a letter of approbation of all his
     courses from the King, making the whole table judge what faction
     and ambition appeared in this carriage. _Ad quod non fuit

None indeed, but blank faces, and thoughts of what might come next. The
Council, and Bacon foremost, had made a desperate mistake. "It is
evident," as Mr. Spedding says, "that he had not divined Buckingham's
feelings on the subject." He was now to learn them. To his utter
amazement and alarm he found that the King was strong for the match, and
that the proceeding of the Council was condemned at Court as gross
misconduct. In vain he protested that he was quite willing to forward
the match; that in fact he had helped it. Bacon's explanations, and his
warnings against Coke the King "rejected with some disdain;" he
justified Coke's action; he charged Bacon with disrespect and
ingratitude to Buckingham; he put aside his arguments and apologies as
worthless or insincere. Such reprimands had not often been addressed,
even to inferior servants. Bacon's letters to Buckingham remained at
first without notice; when Buckingham answered he did so with scornful
and menacing curtness. Meanwhile Bacon heard from Yelverton how things
were going at Court.

     "Sir E. Coke," he wrote, "hath not forborne by any engine to heave
     at both your Honour and myself, and he works the weightiest
     instrument, the Earl of Buckingham, who, as I see, sets him as
     close to him as his shirt, the Earl speaking in Sir Edward's
     phrase, and as it were menacing in his spirit."

Buckingham, he went on to say, "did nobly and plainly tell me he would
not secretly bite, but whosoever had had any interest, or tasted of the
opposition to his brother's marriage, he would as openly oppose them to
their faces, and they should discern what favour he had by the power he
would use." The Court, like a pack of dogs, had set upon Bacon. "It is
too common in every man's mouth in Court that your greatness shall be
abated, and as your tongue hath been as a razor unto some, so shall
theirs be to you." Buckingham said to every one that Bacon had been
forgetful of his kindness and unfaithful to him: "not forbearing in open
speech to tax you, as if it were an inveterate custom with you, to be
unfaithful unto him, as you were to the Earls of Essex and Somerset."

All this while Bacon had been clearly in the right. He had thrust
himself into no business that did not concern him. He had not, as
Buckingham accuses him of having done, "overtroubled" himself with the
marriage. He had done his simple duty as a friend, as a councillor, as a
judge. He had been honestly zealous for the Villiers's honour, and
warned Buckingham of things that were beyond question. He had curbed
Coke's scandalous violence, perhaps with no great regret, but with
manifest reason. But for this he was now on the very edge of losing his
office; it was clear to him, as it is clear to us, that nothing could
save him but absolute submission. He accepted the condition. How this
submission was made and received, and with what gratitude he found that
he was forgiven, may be seen in the two following letters. Buckingham
thus extends his grace to the Lord Keeper, and exhorts him to better

     "But his Majesty's direction in answer of your letter hath given me
     occasion to join hereunto a discovery unto you of mine inward
     thoughts, proceeding upon the discourse you had with me this day.
     For I do freely confess that your offer of submission unto me, and
     in writing (if so I would have it), battered so the unkindness that
     I had conceived in my heart for your behaviour towards me in my
     absence, as out of the sparks of my old affection towards you I
     went to sound his Majesty's intention how he means to behave
     himself towards you, specially in any public meeting; where I found
     on the one part his Majesty so little satisfied with your late
     answer unto him, which he counted (for I protest I use his own
     terms) _confused and childish_, and his vigorous resolution on the
     other part so fixed, that he would put some public exemplary mark
     upon you, as I protest the sight of his deep-conceived indignation
     quenched my passion, making me upon the instant change from the
     person of a party into a peace-maker; so as I was forced upon my
     knees to beg of his Majesty that he would put no public act of
     disgrace upon you, and, as I dare say, no other person would have
     been patiently heard in this suit by his Majesty but myself, so did
     I (though not without difficulty) obtain thus much--that he would
     not so far disable you from the merit of your future service as to
     put any particular mark of disgrace upon your person. Only thus far
     his Majesty protesteth, that upon the conscience of his office he
     cannot omit (though laying aside all passion) to give a kingly
     reprimand at his first sitting in council to so many of his
     councillors as were then here behind, and were actors in this
     business, for their ill behaviour in it. Some of the particular
     errors committed in this business he will name, but without
     accusing any particular persons by name.

     "Thus your Lordship seeth the fruits of my natural inclination; and
     I protest all this time past it was no small grief unto me to hear
     the mouth of so many upon this occasion open to load you with
     innumerable malicious and detracting speeches, as if no music were
     more pleasing to my ears than to rail of you, which made me rather
     regret the ill nature of mankind, that like dogs love to set upon
     him that they see once snatched at. And to conclude, my Lord, you
     have hereby a fair occasion so to make good hereafter your
     reputation by your sincere service to his Majesty, as also by your
     firm and constant kindness to your friends, as I may (your
     Lordship's old friend) participate of the comfort and honour that
     will thereby come to you. Thus I rest at last

     "Your Lordship's faithful friend and servant,

     "MY EVER BEST LORD, now better than yourself,--Your Lordship's pen,
     or rather pencil, hath pourtrayed towards me such magnanimity and
     nobleness and true kindness, as methinketh I see the image of some
     ancient virtue, and not anything of these times. It is the line of
     my life, and not the lines of my letter, that must express my
     thankfulness; wherein if I fail, then God fail me, and make me as
     miserable as I think myself at this time happy by this reviver,
     through his Majesty's singular clemency, and your incomparable love
     and favour. God preserve you, prosper you, and reward you for your
     kindness to

     "Your raised and infinitely obliged friend and servant,
     "Sept. 22, 1617.
     FR. BACON, C.S."

Thus he had tried his strength with Buckingham. He had found that this,
"a little parent-like" manner of advising him, and the doctrine that a
true friend "ought rather to go against his mind than his good," was not
what Buckingham expected from him. And he never ventured on it again. It
is not too much to say that a man who could write as he now did to
Buckingham, could not trust himself in any matter in which Buckingham,
was interested.

But the reconciliation was complete, and Bacon took his place more and
more as one of the chief persons in the Government. James claimed so
much to have his own way, and had so little scruple in putting aside, in
his superior wisdom, sometimes very curtly, Bacon's or any other
person's recommendations, that though his services were great, and were
not unrecognised, he never had the power and influence in affairs to
which his boundless devotion to the Crown, his grasp of business, and
his willing industry, ought to have entitled him. He was still a
servant, and made to feel it, though a servant in the "first form." It
was James and Buckingham who determined the policy of the country, or
settled the course to be taken in particular transactions; when this was
settled, it was Bacon's business to carry it through successfully. In
this he was like all the other servants of the Crown, and like them he
was satisfied with giving his advice, whether it were taken or not; but
unlike many of them he was zealous in executing with the utmost vigour
and skill the instructions which were given him. Thus he was required to
find the legal means for punishing Raleigh; and, as a matter of duty, he
found them. He was required to tell the Government side of the story of
Raleigh's crimes and punishment--which really was one side of the story,
only not by any means the whole; and he told it, as he had told the
Government story against Essex, with force, moderation, and good sense.
Himself, he never would have made James's miserable blunders about
Raleigh; but the blunders being made, it was his business to do his best
to help the King out of them. When Suffolk, the Lord Treasurer, was
disgraced and brought before the Star Chamber for corruption and
embezzlement in his office, Bacon thought that he was doing no more than
his duty in keeping Buckingham informed day by day how the trial was
going on; how he had taken care that Suffolk's submission should not
stop it--"for all would be but a play on the stage if justice went not
on in the right course;" how he had taken care that the evidence went
well--"I will not say I sometime holp it, as far as was fit for a
judge;" how, "a little to warm the business" ... "I spake a word, that
he that did draw or milk treasure from Ireland, did not, _emulgere_,
milk money, but blood." This, and other "little things" like it, while
he was sitting as a judge to try, if the word may be used, a personal
enemy of Buckingham, however bad the case might be against Suffolk,
sound strange indeed to us; and not less so when, in reporting the
sentence and the various opinions of the Council about it, he, for once,
praises Coke for the extravagance of his severity: "Sir Edward Coke did
his part--I have not heard him do better--and began with a fine of
£100,000; but the judges first, and most of the rest, reduced it to
£30,000. I do not dislike that thing passed moderately; and all things
considered, it is not amiss, and might easily have been worse."

In all this, which would have been perfectly natural from an
Attorney-General of the time, Bacon saw but his duty, even as a judge
between the Crown and the subject. It was what was expected of those
whom the King chose to employ, and whom Buckingham chose to favour. But
a worse and more cruel case, illustrating the system which a man like
Bacon could think reasonable and honourable, was the disgrace and
punishment of Yelverton, the Attorney-General, the man who had stood by
Bacon, and in his defence had faced Buckingham, knowing well
Buckingham's dislike of himself, when all the Court turned against Bacon
in his quarrel with Coke and Lady Compton. Towards the end of the year
1620, on the eve of a probable meeting of Parliament, there was great
questioning about what was to be done about certain patents and
monopolies--monopolies for making gold and silk thread, and for
licensing inns and ale-houses--which were in the hands of Buckingham's
brothers and their agents. The monopolies were very unpopular; there was
always doubt as to their legality; they were enforced oppressively and
vexatiously by men like Michell and Mompesson, who acted for the
Villiers; and the profits of them went, for the most part, not into the
Exchequer, but into the pockets of the hangers-on of Buckingham. Bacon
defended them both in law and policy, and his defence is thought by Mr.
Gardiner to be not without grounds; but he saw the danger of obstinacy
in maintaining what had become so hateful in the country, and strongly
recommended that the more indefensible and unpopular patents should be
spontaneously given up, the more so as they were of "no great fruit."
But Buckingham's insolent perversity "refused to be convinced." The
Council, when the question was before them, decided to maintain them.
Bacon, who had rightly voted in the minority, thus explains his own vote
to Buckingham: "The King did wisely put it upon and consult, whether the
patents were at this time to be removed by Act of Council before
Parliament. _I opined (but yet somewhat like Ovid's mistress, that
strove, but yet as one that would be overcome), that yes!_" But in the
various disputes which had arisen about them, Yelverton had shown that
he very much disliked the business of defending monopolies, and sending
London citizens to jail for infringing them. He did it, but he did it
grudgingly. It was a great offence in a man whom Buckingham had always
disliked; and it is impossible to doubt that what followed was the
consequence of his displeasure.

     "In drawing up a new charter for the city of London," writes Mr.
     Gardiner, "Yelverton inserted clauses for which he was unable to
     produce a warrant. The worst that could be said was that he had,
     through inadvertence, misunderstood the verbal directions of the
     King. Although no imputation of corruption was brought against
     him, yet he was suspended from his office, and prosecuted in the
     Star Chamber. He was then sentenced to dismissal from his post, to
     a fine of £4000, and to imprisonment during the Royal pleasure."

In the management of this business Bacon had the chief part. Yelverton,
on his suspension, at once submitted. The obnoxious clauses are not said
to have been of serious importance, but they were new clauses which the
King had not sanctioned, and it would be a bad precedent to pass over
such unauthorised additions even by an Attorney-General. "I mistook many
things," said Yelverton afterwards, in words which come back into our
minds at a later period, "I was improvident in some things, and too
credulous in all things." It might have seemed that dismissal, if not a
severe reprimand, was punishment enough. But the submission was not
enough, in Bacon's opinion, "for the King's honour." He dwelt on the
greatness of the offence, and the necessity of making a severe example.
According to his advice, Yelverton was prosecuted in the Star Chamber.
It was not merely a mistake of judgment. "Herein," said Bacon, "I note
the wisdom of the law of England, which termeth the highest contempt and
excesses of authority _Misprisions_; which (if you take the sound and
derivation of the word) is but _mistaken_; but if you take the use and
acception of the word, it is high and heinous contempt and usurpation of
authority; whereof the reason I take to be and the name excellently
imposed, for that main mistaking, it is ever joined with contempt; for
he that reveres will not easily mistake; but he that slights, and thinks
more of the greatness of his place than of the duty of his place, will
soon commit misprisions." The day would come when this doctrine would be
pressed with ruinous effect against Bacon himself. But now he expounded
with admirable clearness the wrongness of carelessness about warrants
and of taking things for granted. He acquitted his former colleague of
"corruption of reward;" but "in truth that makes the offence rather
divers than less;" for some offences "are black, and others scarlet,
some sordid, some presumptuous." He pronounced his sentence--the fine,
the imprisonment; "for his place, I declare him unfit for it." "And the
next day," says Mr. Spedding, "he reported to Buckingham the result of
the proceeding," and takes no small credit for his own part in it.

It was thus that the Court used Bacon, and that Bacon submitted to be
used. He could have done, if he had been listened to, much nobler
service. He had from the first seen, and urged as far as he could, the
paramount necessity of retrenchment in the King's profligate
expenditure. Even Buckingham had come to feel the necessity of it at
last; and now that Bacon filled a seat at the Council, and that the
prosecution of Suffolk and an inquiry into the abuses of the Navy had
forced on those in power the urgency of economy, there was a chance of
something being done to bring order into the confusion of the finances.
Retrenchment began at the King's kitchen and the tables of his servants;
an effort was made, not unsuccessfully, to extend it wider, under the
direction of Lionel Cranfield, a self-made man of business from the
city; but with such a Court the task was an impossible one. It was not
Bacon's fault, though he sadly mismanaged his own private affairs, that
the King's expenditure was not managed soberly and wisely. Nor was it
Bacon's fault, as far as advice went, that James was always trying
either to evade or to outwit a Parliament which he could not, like the
Tudors, overawe. Bacon's uniform counsel had been--Look on a Parliament
as a certain necessity, but not only as a necessity, as also a unique
and most precious means for uniting the Crown with the nation, and
proving to the world outside how Englishmen love and honour their King,
and their King trusts his subjects. Deal with it frankly and nobly as
becomes a king, not suspiciously like a huckster in a bargain. Do not be
afraid of Parliament. Be skilful in calling it, but don't attempt to
"pack" it. Use all due adroitness and knowledge of human nature, and
necessary firmness and majesty, in managing it; keep unruly and
mischievous people in their place, but do not be too anxious to
meddle--"let nature work;" and above all, though of course you want
money from it, do not let that appear as the chief or real cause of
calling it. Take the lead in legislation. Be ready with some interesting
or imposing points of reform, or policy, about which you ask your
Parliament to take counsel with you. Take care to "frame and have ready
some commonwealth bills, that may add respect to the King's government
and acknowledgment of his care; not _wooing_ bills to make the King and
his graces cheap, but good matter to set the Parliament on work, that an
empty stomach do not feed on humour." So from the first had Bacon always
thought; so he thought when he watched, as a spectator, James's blunders
with his first Parliament of 1604; so had he earnestly counselled James,
when admitted to his confidence, as to the Parliaments of 1614 and 1615;
so again, but in vain, as Chancellor, he advised him to meet the
Parliament of 1620. It was wise, and from his point of view honest
advice, though there runs all through it too much reliance on
appearances which were not all that they seemed; there was too much
thought of throwing dust in the eyes of troublesome and inconvenient
people. But whatever motives there might have been behind, it would have
been well if James had learned from Bacon how to deal with Englishmen.
But he could not. "I wonder," said James one day to Gondomar, "that my
ancestors should ever have permitted such an institution as the House of
Commons to have come into existence. I am a stranger, and found it here
when I arrived, so that I am obliged to put up with what I cannot get
rid of." James was the only one of our many foreign kings who, to the
last, struggled to avoid submitting himself to the conditions of an
English throne.



When Parliament met on January 30, 1620/21, and Bacon, as Lord
Chancellor, set forth in his ceremonial speeches to the King and to the
Speaker the glories and blessings of James's reign, no man in England
had more reason to think himself fortunate. He had reached the age of
sixty, and had gained the object of his ambition. More than that, he was
conscious that in his great office he was finding full play for his
powers and his high public purposes. He had won greatly on the
confidence of the King. He had just received a fresh mark of honour from
him: a few days before he had been raised a step in the peerage, and he
was now Viscount St. Alban's. With Buckingham he seemed to be on terms
of the most affectionate familiarity, exchanging opinions freely with
him on every subject. And Parliament met in good-humour. They voted
money at once. One of the matters which interested Bacon most--the
revision of the Statute Book--they took up as one of their first
measures, and appointed a Select Committee to report upon it. And what,
amid the apparent felicity of the time, was of even greater personal
happiness to Bacon, the first step of the "Great Instauration" had been
taken. During the previous autumn, Oct. 12, 1620, the _Novum Organum_,
the first instalment of his vast design, was published, the result of
the work of thirty years; and copies were distributed to great people,
among others to Coke. He apprehended no evil; he had nothing to fear,
and much to hope from the times.

His sudden and unexpected fall, so astonishing and so irreparably
complete, is one of the strangest events of that still imperfectly
comprehended time. There had been, and were still to be, plenty of
instances of the downfall of power, as ruinous and even more tragic,
though scarcely any one more pathetic in its surprise and its shame. But
it is hard to find one of which so little warning was given, and the
causes of which are at once in part so clear, and in part so obscure and
unintelligible. Such disasters had to be reckoned upon as possible
chances by any one who ventured into public life. Montaigne advises that
the discipline of pain should be part of every boy's education, for the
reason that every one in his day might be called upon to undergo the
torture. And so every public man, in the England of the Tudors and
Stuarts, entered on his career with the perfectly familiar expectation
of possibly closing it--it might be in an honourable and ceremonious
fashion, in the Tower and on the scaffold--just as he had to look
forward to the possibility of closing it by small-pox or the plague. So
that when disaster came, though it might be unexpected, as death is
unexpected, it was a turn of things which ought not to take a man by
surprise. But some premonitory signs usually gave warning. There was
nothing to warn Bacon that the work which he believed he was doing so
well would be interrupted.

We look in vain for any threatenings of the storm. What the men of his
time thought and felt about Bacon it is not easy to ascertain.
Appearances are faint and contradictory; he himself, though scornful of
judges who sought to be "popular," believed that he "came in with the
favour of the general;" that he "had a little popular reputation, which
followeth me whether I will or no." No one for years had discharged the
duties of his office with greater efficiency. Scarcely a trace remains
of any suspicion, previous to the attack upon him, of the justice of his
decisions; no instance was alleged that, in fact, impure motives had
controlled the strength and lucidity of an intellect which loved to be
true and right for the mere pleasure of being so. Nor was there anything
in Bacon's political position to make him specially obnoxious above all
others of the King's Council. He maintained the highest doctrines of
prerogative; but they were current doctrines, both at the Council board
and on the bench; and they were not discredited nor extinguished by his
fall. To be on good terms with James and Buckingham meant a degree of
subservience which shocks us now; but it did not shock people then, and
he did not differ from his fellows in regarding it as part of his duty
as a public servant of the Crown. No doubt he had enemies--some with old
grudges like Southampton, who had been condemned with Essex; some like
Suffolk, smarting under recent reprimands and the biting edge of Bacon's
tongue; some like Coke, hating him from constitutional antipathies and
the strong antagonism of professional doctrines, for a long course of
rivalry and for mortifying defeats. But there is no appearance of
preconcerted efforts among them to bring about his overthrow. He did not
at the time seem to be identified with anything dangerous or odious.
There was no doubt a good deal of dissatisfaction with Chancery--among
the common lawyers, because it interfered with their business; in the
public, partly from the traditions of its slowness, partly from its
expensiveness, partly because, being intended for special redress of
legal hardship, it was sure to disappoint one party to a suit. But Bacon
thought that he had reformed Chancery. He had also done a great deal to
bring some kind of order, or at least hopefulness of order, into the
King's desperate finances. And he had never set himself against
Parliament. On the contrary, he had always been forward to declare that
the King could not do without Parliament, and that Parliament only
needed to be dealt with generously, and as "became a King," to be not a
danger and hindrance to the Crown but its most sincere and trustworthy

What was then to portend danger to Bacon when the Parliament of 1620/21
met? The House of Commons at its meeting was thoroughly loyal and
respectful; it meant to be _benedictum et pacificum parliamentum_. Every
one knew that there would be "grievances" which would not be welcome to
the Court, but they did not seem likely to touch him. Every one knew
that there would be questions raised about unpopular patents and
oppressive monopolies, and about their legality; and it was pretty well
agreed upon at Court that they should be given up as soon as complained
of. But Bacon was not implicated more than the Crown lawyers before him,
in what all the Crown lawyers had always defended. There was
dissatisfaction about the King's extravagance and wastefulness, about
his indecision in the cause of the Elector Palatine, about his supposed
intrigues with Papistical and tyrannical Spain; but Bacon had nothing to
do with all this except, as far as he could, to give wise counsel and
warning. The person who made the King despised and hated was the
splendid and insolent favourite, Buckingham. It might have been thought
that the one thing to be set against much that was wrong in the State
was the just and enlightened and speedy administration of equity in the

When Parliament met, though nothing seemed to threaten mischief, it met
with a sturdy purpose of bringing to account certain delinquents whose
arrogance and vexations of the subjects had provoked the country, and
who were supposed to shelter themselves under the countenance of
Buckingham. Michell and Mompesson were rascals whose misdemeanors might
well try the patience of a less spirited body than an English House of
Commons. Buckingham could not protect them, and hardly tried to do so.
But just as one electric current "induces" another by neighbourhood, so
all this deep indignation against Buckingham's creatures created a
fierce temper of suspicion about corruption all through the public
service. Two Committees were early appointed by the House of Commons:
one a Committee on Grievances, such as the monopolies; the other, a
Committee to inquire into abuses in the Courts of Justice and receive
petitions about them. In the course of the proceedings, the question
arose in the House as to the authorities or "referees" who had certified
to the legality of the Crown patents or grants which had been so grossly
abused; and among these "referees" were the Lord Chancellor and other
high officers, both legal and political.

It was the little cloud. But lookers-on like Chamberlain did not think
much of it. "The referees," he wrote on Feb. 29th, "who certified the
legality of the patents are glanced at, but they are chiefly above the
reach of the House; they attempt so much that they will accomplish
little." Coke, who was now the chief leader in Parliament, began to talk
ominously of precedents, and to lay down rules about the power of the
House to punish--rules which were afterwards found to have no authority
for them. Cranfield, the representative of severe economy, insisted that
the honour of the King required that the referees, whoever they were,
should be called to account. The gathering clouds shifted a little, when
the sense of the House seemed to incline to giving up all retrospective
action, and to a limitation for the future by statute of the
questionable prerogative--a limitation which was in fact attempted by a
bill thrown out by the Lords. But they gathered again when the Commons
determined to bring the whole matter before the House of Lords. The King
wrote to warn Bacon of what was coming. The proposed conference was
staved off by management for a day or two, but it could not be averted,
and the Lords showed their eagerness for it. And two things by this
time--the beginning of March--seemed now to have become clear, first,
that under the general attack on the referees was intended a blow
against Bacon; next, that the person whom he had most reason to fear was
Sir Edward Coke.

The storm was growing; but Bacon was still unalarmed, though Buckingham
had been frightened into throwing the blame on the referees.

     "I do hear," he writes to Buckingham (dating his letter on March
     7th, "the day I received the seal"), "from divers of judgement,
     that to-morrow's conference is like to pass in a calm, as to the
     referees. Sir Lionel Cranfield, who hath been formerly the trumpet,
     said yesterday that he did now incline unto Sir John Walter's
     opinion and motion not to have the referees meddled with, otherwise
     than to discount it from the King; and so not to look back, but to
     the future. And I do hear almost all men of judgement in the House
     wish now that way. I woo nobody; I do but listen, and I have doubt
     only of Sir Edward Coke, who I wish had some round _caveat_ given
     him from the King; for your Lordship hath no great power with him.
     But a word from the King mates him."

But Coke's opportunity had come. The House of Commons was disposed for
gentler measures. But he was able to make it listen to his harsher
counsels, and from this time his hand appears in all that was done. The
first conference was a tame and dull one. The spokesmen had been slack
in their disagreeable and perhaps dangerous duty. But Coke and his
friends took them sharply to task. "The heart and tongue of Sir Edward
Coke are true relations," said one of his fervent supporters; "but his
pains hath not reaped that harvest of praise that he hath deserved. For
the referees, they are as transcendent delinquents as any other, and
sure their souls made a wilful elopement from their bodies when they
made these certificates." A second conference was held with the Lords,
and this time the charge was driven home. The referees were named, the
Chancellor at the head of them. When Bacon rose to explain and justify
his acts he was sharply stopped, and reminded that he was transgressing
the orders of the House in speaking till the Committees were named to
examine the matter. What was even more important, the King had come to
the House of Lords (March 10th), and frightened, perhaps, about his
subsidies, told them "that he was not guilty of those grievances which
are now discovered, but that he grounded his judgement upon others who
have misled him." The referees would be attacked, people thought, if the
Lower House had courage.

All this was serious. As things were drifting, it seemed as if Bacon
might have to fight the legal question of the prerogative in the form of
a criminal charge, and be called upon to answer the accusation of being
the minister of a crown which legal language pronounced absolute, and of
a King who interpreted legal language to the letter; and further, to
meet his accusers after the King himself had disavowed what his servant
had done. What passed between Bacon and the King is confused and
uncertain; but after his speech the King could scarcely have thought of
interfering with the inquiry. The proceedings went on; Committees were
named for the several points of inquiry; and Bacon took part in these
arrangements. It was a dangerous position to have to defend himself
against an angry House of Commons, led and animated by Coke and
Cranfield. But though the storm had rapidly thickened, the charges
against the referees were not against him alone. His mistake in law, if
it was a mistake, was shared by some of the first lawyers and first
councillors in England. There was a battle before him, but not a
hopeless one. "_Modicæ fidei, quare dubitasti_" he writes about this
time to an anxious friend.

But in truth the thickening storm had been gathering over his head
alone. It was against him that the whole attack was directed; as soon as
it took a different shape, the complaints against the other referees,
such as the Chief-Justice, who was now Lord Treasurer, though some
attempt was made to press them, were quietly dropped. What was the
secret history of these weeks we do not know. But the result of Bacon's
ruin was that Buckingham was saved. "As they speak of the Turquoise
stone in a ring," Bacon had said to Buckingham when he was made
Chancellor, "I will break into twenty pieces before you have the least
fall." Without knowing what he pledged himself to, he was taken at his

At length the lightning fell. During the early part of March, while
these dangerous questions were mooted about the referees, a Committee,
appointed early in the session, had also been sitting on abuses in
courts of justice, and as part of their business, an inquiry had been
going on into the ways of the subordinate officers of the Court of
Chancery. Bacon had early (Feb. 17th) sent a message to the Committee
courting full inquiry, "willingly consenting that any man might speak
anything of his Court." On the 12th of March the chairman, Sir R.
Philips, reported that he had in his hands "divers petitions, many
frivolous and clamorous, many of weight and consequence." Cranfield, who
presided over the Court of Wards, had quarrelled fiercely with the
Chancery, where he said there was "neither Law, Equity, nor Conscience,"
and pressed the inquiry, partly, it may be, to screen his own Court,
which was found fault with by the lawyers. Some scandalous abuses were
brought to light in the Chancery. They showed that "Bacon was at fault
in the art of government," and did not know how to keep his servants in
order. One of them, John Churchill, an infamous forger of Chancery
orders, finding things going hard with him, and "resolved," it is said,
"not to sink alone," offered his confessions of all that was going on
wrong in the Court. But on the 15th of March things took another turn.
It was no longer a matter of doubtful constitutional law; no longer a
question of slack discipline over his officers. To the astonishment, if
not of the men of his own day, at least to the unexhausted astonishment
of times following, a charge was suddenly reported from the Committee to
the Commons against the Lord Chancellor, not of straining the
prerogative, or of conniving at his servants' misdoings, but of being
himself a corrupt and venal judge. Two suitors charged him with
receiving bribes. Bacon was beginning to feel worried and anxious, and
he wrote thus to Buckingham. At length he had begun to see the meaning
of all these inquiries, and to what they were driving.

     "MY VERY GOOD LORD,--Your Lordship spake of Purgatory. I am now in
     it, but my mind is in a calm, for my fortune is not my felicity. I
     know I have clean hands and a clean heart, and I hope a clean house
     for friends or servants. But Job himself, or whosoever was the
     justest judge, by such hunting for matters against him as hath been
     used against me, may for a time seem foul, specially in a time when
     greatness is the mark and accusation is the game. And if this be to
     be a Chancellor. I think if the great seal lay upon Hounslow Heath
     nobody would take it up. But the King and your Lordship will, I
     hope, put an end to these miseries one way or other. And in troth
     that which I fear most is lest continual attendance and business,
     together with these cares, and want of time to do my weak body
     right this spring by diet and physic, will cast me down; and then
     it will be thought feigning or fainting. But I hope in God I shall
     hold out. God prosper you."

The first charges attracted others, which were made formal matters of
complaint by the House of Commons. John Churchill, to save himself, was
busy setting down cases of misdoing; and probably suitors of themselves
became ready to volunteer evidence. But of this Bacon as yet knew
nothing. He was at this time only aware that there were persons who were
"hunting out complaints against him," that the attack was changed from
his law to his private character; he had found an unfavourable feeling
in the House of Lords; and he knew well enough what it was to have
powerful enemies in those days when a sentence was often settled before
a trial. To any one, such a state of things was as formidable as the
first serious symptoms of a fever. He was uneasy, as a man might well be
on whom the House of Commons had fixed its eye, and to whom the House of
Lords had shown itself unfriendly. But he was as yet conscious of
nothing fatal to his defence, and he knew that if false accusations
could be lightly made they could also be exposed.

A few days after the first mention of corruption the Commons laid their
complaints of him before the House of Lords, and on the same day (March
19) Bacon, finding himself too ill to go to the House, wrote to the
Peers by Buckingham, requesting them that as some "complaints of base
bribery" had come before them, they would give him a fair opportunity of
defending himself, and of cross-examining witnesses; especially begging,
that considering the number of decrees which he had to make in a
year--more than two thousand--and "the courses which had been taken in
hunting out complaints against him," they would not let their opinion of
him be affected by the mere number of charges that might be made. Their
short verbal answer, moved by Southampton (March 20), that they meant to
proceed by right rule of justice, and would be glad if he cleared his
honour, was not encouraging. And now that the Commons had brought the
matter before them, the Lords took it entirely into their own hands,
appointing three Committees, and examining the witnesses themselves. New
witnesses came forward every day with fresh cases of gifts and presents,
"bribes" received by the Lord Chancellor. When Parliament rose for the
Easter vacation (March 27-April 17), the Committees continued sitting. A
good deal probably passed of which no record remains. When the Commons
met again (April 17) Coke was full of gibes about _Instauratio
Magna_--the true _Instauratio_ was to restore laws--and two days after
an Act was brought in for review and reversal of decrees in Courts of
Equity. It was now clear that the case against Bacon had assumed
formidable dimensions, and also a very strange, and almost monstrous
shape. For the Lords, who were to be the judges, had by their Committees
taken the matter out of the hands of the Commons, the original accusers,
and had become themselves the prosecutors, collecting and arranging
evidence, accepting or rejecting depositions, and doing all that
counsel or the committing magistrate would do preliminary to a trial.
There appears to have been no cross-examining of witnesses on Bacon's
behalf, or hearing witnesses for him--not unnaturally at this stage of
business, when the prosecutors were engaged in making out their own
case; but considering that the future judges had of their own accord
turned themselves into the prosecutors, the unfairness was great. At the
same time it does not appear that Bacon did anything to watch how things
went in the Committees, which had his friends in them as well as his
enemies, and are said to have been open courts. Towards the end of
March, Chamberlain wrote to Carleton that "the Houses were working hard
at cleansing out the Augæan stable of monopolies, and also extortions in
Courts of Justice. The petitions against the Lord Chancellor were too
numerous to be got through: his chief friends and brokers of bargains,
Sir George Hastings and Sir Richard Young, and others attacked, are
obliged to accuse him in their own defence, though very reluctantly. His
ordinary bribes were £300, £400, and even £1000.... The Lords admit no
evidence except on oath. One Churchill, who was dismissed from the
Chancery Court for extortion, is the chief cause of the Chancellor's
ruin."[3] Bacon was greatly alarmed. He wrote to Buckingham, who was
"his anchor in these floods." He wrote to the King; he was at a loss to
account for the "tempest that had come on him;" he could not understand
what he had done to offend the country or Parliament; he had never
"taken rewards to pervert justice, however he might be frail, and
partake of the abuse of the time."

     "Time hath been when I have brought unto you _genitum columbæ_,
     from others. Now I bring it from myself. I fly unto your Majesty
     with the wings of a dove, which once within these seven days I
     thought would have carried me a higher flight.

     "When I enter into myself, I find not the materials of such a
     tempest as is comen upon me. I have been (as your Majesty knoweth
     best) never author of any immoderate counsel, but always desired to
     have things carried _suavibus modis_. I have been no avaricious
     oppressor of the people. I have been no haughty or intolerable or
     hateful man, in my conversation or carriage. I have inherited no
     hatred from my father, but am a good patriot born. Whence should
     this be? For these are the things that use to raise dislikes

And he ended by entreating the King to help him:

     "That which I thirst after, as the hart after the streams, is that
     I may know by my matchless friend [Buckingham] that presenteth to
     you this letter, your Majesty's heart (which is an _abyssus_ of
     goodness, as I am an _abyssus_ of misery) towards me. I have been
     ever your man, and counted myself but an usufructuary of myself,
     the property being yours; and now making myself an oblation to do
     with me as may best conduce to the honour of your justice, the
     honour of your mercy, and the use of your service, resting as

     "Clay in your Majesty's gracious hands,
     "Fr. St. Aldan, Canc.
     "March 25, 1621."

To the world he kept up an undismayed countenance: he went down to
Gorhambury, attended by troops of friends. "This man," said Prince
Charles, when he met his company, "scorns to go out like a snuff." But
at Gorhambury he made his will, leaving "his name to the next ages and
to foreign nations;" and he wrote a prayer, which is a touching evidence
of his state of mind--

     "Most gracious Lord God, my merciful Father, from my youth up, my
     Creator, my Redeemer, my Comforter. Thou (O Lord) soundest and
     searchest the depths and secrets of all hearts; thou knowledgest
     the upright of heart, thou judgest the hypocrite, thou ponderest
     men's thoughts and doings as in a balance, thou measurest their
     intentions as with a line, vanity and crooked ways cannot be hid
     from thee.

     "Remember (O Lord) how thy servant hath walked before thee;
     remember what I have first sought, and what hath been principal in
     mine intentions. I have loved thy assemblies, I have mourned for
     the divisions of thy Church, I have delighted in the brightness of
     thy sanctuary. This vine which thy right hand hath planted in this
     nation, I have ever prayed unto thee that it might have the first
     and the latter rain; and that it might stretch her branches to the
     seas and to the floods. The state and bread of the poor and
     oppressed have been precious in my eyes: I have hated all cruelty
     and hardness of heart; I have (though in a despised weed) procured
     the good of all men. If any have been mine enemies, I thought not
     of them; neither hath the sun almost set upon my displeasure; but I
     have been as a dove, free from superfluity of maliciousness. Thy
     creatures have been my books, but thy Scriptures much more. I have
     sought thee in the courts, fields, and gardens, but I have found
     thee in thy temples.

     "Thousand have been my sins, and ten thousand my transgressions;
     but thy sanctifications have remained with me, and my heart,
     through thy grace, hath been an unquenched coal upon thy altar. O
     Lord, my strength, I have since my youth met with thee in all my
     ways, by thy fatherly compassions, by thy comfortable
     chastisements, and by thy most visible providence. As thy favours
     have increased upon me, so have thy corrections; so as thou hast
     been alway near me, O Lord; and ever as my worldly blessings were
     exalted, so secret darts from thee have pierced me; and when I have
     ascended before men, I have descended in humiliation before thee.

     "And now when I thought most of peace and honour, thy hand is heavy
     upon me, and hath humbled me, according to thy former
     loving-kindness, keeping me still in thy fatherly school, not as a
     bastard, but as a child. Just are thy judgements upon me for my
     sins, which are more in number than the sands of the sea, but have
     no proportion to thy mercies; for what are the sands of the sea to
     the sea, earth, heavens? and all these are nothing to thy mercies.

     "Besides my innumerable sins, I confess before thee that I am
     debtor to thee for the gracious talent of thy gifts and graces,
     which I have misspent in things for which I was least fit; so as I
     may truly say, my soul hath been a stranger in the course of my
     pilgrimage. Be merciful unto me (O Lord) for my Saviour's sake,
     and receive me into thy bosom, or guide me in thy ways."

Bacon up to this time strangely, if the Committees were "open Courts,"
was entirely ignorant of the particulars of the charge which was
accumulating against him. He had an interview with the King, which was
duly reported to the House, and he placed his case before James,
distinguishing between the "three cases of bribery supposed in a
judge--a corrupt bargain; carelessness in receiving a gift while the
cause is going on; and, what is innocent, receiving a gift after it is
ended." And he meant in such words as these to place himself at the
King's disposal, and ask his direction:

     "For my fortune, _summa summarum_ with me is, that I may not be
     made altogether unprofitable to do your Majesty service or honour.
     If your Majesty continue me as I am, I hope I shall be a new man,
     and shall reform things out of feeling, more than another can do
     out of example. If I cast part of my burden, I shall be more strong
     and _delivré_ to bear the rest. And, to tell your Majesty what my
     thoughts run upon, I think of writing a story of England, and of
     recompiling of your laws into a better digest."

The King referred him to the House; and the House now (April 19th)
prepared to gather up into "one brief" the charges against the Lord
Chancellor, still, however, continuing open to receive fresh complaints.

Meanwhile the chase after abuses of all kinds was growing hotter in the
Commons--abuses in patents and monopolies, which revived the complaints
against referees, among whom Bacon was frequently named, and abuses in
the Courts of Justice. The attack passed by and spared the Common Law
Courts, as was noticed in the course of the debates; it spared
Cranfield's Court, the Court of Wards. But it fell heavily on the
Chancery and the Ecclesiastical Courts. "I have neither power nor will
to defend Chancery," said Sir John Bennett, the judge of the Prerogative
Court; but a few weeks after his turn came, and a series of as ugly
charges as could well be preferred against a judge, charges of extortion
as well as bribery, were reported to the House by its Committee. There
can be no doubt of the grossness of many of these abuses, and the zeal
against them was honest, though it would have shown more courage if it
had flown at higher game; but the daily discussion of them helped to
keep alive and inflame the general feeling against so great a
"delinquent" as the Lord Chancellor was supposed to be. And, indeed, two
of the worst charges against him were made before the Commons. One was a
statement made in the House by Sir George Hastings, a member of the
House, who had been the channel of Awbry's gift, that when he had told
Bacon that if questioned he must admit it, Bacon's answer was: "George,
if you do so, I must deny it upon my honour--upon my oath." The other
was that he had given an opinion in favour of some claim of the Masters
in Chancery for which he received £1200, and with which he said that all
the judges agreed--an assertion which all the judges denied. Of these
charges there is no contradiction.[4]

Bacon made one more appeal to the King (April 21). He hoped that, by
resigning the seal, he might be spared the sentence:

     "But now if not _per omnipotentiam_ (as the divines speak), but
     _per potestatem suaviter disponentem_, your Majesty will graciously
     save me from a sentence with the good liking of the House, and that
     cup may pass from me; it is the utmost of my desires.

     "This I move with the more belief, because I assure myself that if
     it be reformation that is sought, the very taking away the seal,
     upon my general submission, will be as much in example for these
     four hundred years as any furder severity."

At length, informally, but for the first time distinctly, the full
nature of the accusation, with its overwhelming list of cases, came to
Bacon's knowledge (April 20 or 21). From the single charge, made in the
middle of March, it had swelled in force and volume like a rising
mountain torrent. That all these charges should have sprung out of the
ground from their long concealment is strange enough. How is it that
nothing was heard of them when the things happened? And what is equally
strange is that these charges were substantially true and undeniable;
that this great Lord Chancellor, so admirable in his despatch of
business, hitherto so little complained of for wrong or unfair
decisions, had been in the habit of receiving large sums of money from
suitors, in some cases certainly while the suit was pending. And
further, while receiving them, while perfectly aware of the evil of
receiving gifts on the seat of judgment, while emphatically warning
inferior judges against yielding to the temptation, he seems really to
have continued unconscious of any wrong-doing while gift after gift was
offered and accepted. But nothing is so strange as the way in which
Bacon met the charges. Tremendous as the accusation was, he made not the
slightest fight about it. Up to this time he had held himself innocent.
Now, overwhelmed and stunned, he made no attempt at defence; he threw up
the game without a struggle, and volunteered an absolute and unreserved
confession of his guilt--that is to say, he declined to stand his trial.
Only, he made an earnest application to the House of Lords, in
proceeding to sentence, to be content with a general admission of
guilt, and to spare him the humiliation of confessing the separate facts
of alleged "bribery" which were contained in the twenty-eight Articles
of his accusation. This submission, "grounded only on rumour," for the
Articles of charge had not yet been communicated to him by the accusers,
took the House by surprise. "No Lord spoke to it, after it had been
read, for a long time." But they did not mean that he should escape with
this. The House treated the suggestion with impatient scorn (April 24).
"It is too late," said Lord Saye. "No word of confession of any
corruption in the Lord Chancellor's submission," said Southampton; "it
stands with the justice and honour of this House not to proceed without
the parties' particular confession, or to have the parties to hear the
charge, and we to hear the parties answer." The demand of the Lords was
strictly just, but cruel; the Articles were now sent to him; he had been
charged with definite offences; he must answer yes or no, confess them
or defend himself. A further question arose whether he should not be
sent for to appear at the bar. He still held the seals. "Shall the Great
Seal come to the bar?" asked Lord Pembroke. It was agreed that he was to
be asked whether he would acknowledge the particulars. His answer was
"that he will make no manner of defence to the charge, but meaneth to
acknowledge corruption, and to make a particular confession to every
point, and after that a humble submission. But he humbly craves liberty
that, when the charge is more full than he finds the truth of the fact,
he may make a declaration of the truth in such particulars, the charge
being brief and containing not all the circumstances." And such a
confession he made. "My Lords," he said, to those who were sent to ask
whether he would stand to it, "it is my act, my hand, my heart. I
beseech your Lordships be merciful to a broken reed." This was, of
course, followed by a request to the King from the House to "sequester"
the Great Seal. A commission was sent to receive it (May 1). "The worse,
the better," he answered to the wish, "that it had been better with
him." "By the King's great favour I received the Great Seal; by my own
great fault I have lost it." They intended him now to come to the bar to
receive his sentence. But he was too ill to leave his bed. They did not
push this point farther, but proceeded to settle the sentence (May 3).
He had asked for mercy, but he did not get it. There were men who talked
of every extremity short of death. Coke, indeed, in the Commons, from
his store of precedents, had cited cases where judges had been hanged
for bribery. But the Lords would not hear of this. "His offences foul,"
said Lord Arundel; "his confession pitiful. Life not to be touched." But
Southampton, whom twenty years before he had helped to involve in
Essex's ruin, urged that he should be degraded from the peerage; and
asked whether, at any rate, "he whom this House thinks unfit to be a
constable shall come to the Parliament." He was fined £40,000. He was to
be imprisoned in the Tower during the King's pleasure. He was to be
incapable of any office, place, or employment in the State or
Commonwealth. He was never to sit in Parliament or come within the verge
of the Court. This was agreed to, Buckingham only dissenting. "The Lord
Chancellor is so sick," he said, "that he cannot live long."

What is the history of this tremendous catastrophe by which, in less
than two months, Bacon was cast down from the height of fortune to
become a byword of shame? He had enemies, who certainly were glad, but
there is no appearance that it was the result of any plot or
combination against him. He was involved, accidentally, it may almost be
said, in the burst of anger excited by the intolerable dealings of
others. The indignation provoked by Michell and Mompesson and their
associates at that particular moment found Bacon in its path, doing, as
it seemed, in his great seat of justice, even worse than they; and when
he threw up all attempt at defence, and his judges had his hand to an
unreserved confession of corruption, both generally, and in the long
list of cases alleged against him, it is not wonderful that they came to
the conclusion, as the rest of the world did, that he was as bad as the
accusation painted him--a dishonest and corrupt judge. Yet it is strange
that they should not have observed that not a single charge of a
definitely unjust decision was brought, at any rate was proved, against
him. He had taken money, they argued, and therefore he must be corrupt;
but if he had taken money to pervert judgment, some instance of the
iniquity would certainly have been brought forward and proved. There is
no such instance to be found; though, of course, there were plenty of
dissatisfied suitors; of course the men who had paid their money and
lost their cause were furious. But in vain do we look for any case of
proved injustice. The utmost that can be said is that in some cases he
showed favour in pushing forward and expediting suits. So that the real
charge against Bacon assumes, to us who have not to deal practically
with dangerous abuses, but to judge conduct and character, a different
complexion. Instead of being the wickedness of perverting justice and
selling his judgments for bribes, it takes the shape of allowing and
sharing in a dishonourable and mischievous system of payment for
service, which could not fail to bring with it temptation and
discredit, and in which fair reward could not be distinguished from
unlawful gain. Such a system it was high time to stop; and in this rough
and harsh way, which also satisfied some personal enmities, it was
stopped. We may put aside for good the charge on which he was condemned,
and which in words he admitted--of being corrupt as a judge. His real
fault--and it was a great one--was that he did not in time open his eyes
to the wrongness and evil, patent to every one, and to himself as soon
as pointed out, of the traditional fashion in his court of eking out by
irregular gifts the salary of such an office as his.

Thus Bacon was condemned both to suffering and to dishonour; and, as has
been observed, condemned without a trial. But it must also be observed
that it was entirely owing to his own act that he had not a trial, and
with a trial the opportunity of cross-examining witnesses and of
explaining openly the matters urged against him. The proceedings in the
Lords were preliminary to the trial; when the time came, Bacon, of his
own choice, stopped them from going farther, by his confession and
submission. Considering the view which he claimed to take of his own
case, his behaviour was wanting in courage and spirit. From the moment
that the attack on him shifted from a charge of authorising illegal
monopolies to a charge of personal corruption, he never fairly met his
accusers. The distress and anxiety, no doubt, broke down his health; and
twice, when he was called upon to be in his place in the House of Lords,
he was obliged to excuse himself on the ground that he was too ill to
leave his bed. But between the time of the first charge and his
condemnation seven weeks elapsed; and though he was able to go down to
Gorhambury, he never in that time showed himself in the House of Lords.
Whether or not, while the Committees were busy in collecting the
charges, he would have been allowed to take part, to put questions to
the witnesses, or to produce his own, he never attempted to do so; and
by the course he took there was no other opportunity. To have stood his
trial could hardly have increased his danger, or aggravated his
punishment; and it would only have been worthy of his name and place, if
not to have made a fight for his character and integrity, at least to
have bravely said what he had made up his mind to admit, and what no one
could have said more nobly and pathetically, in open Parliament. But he
was cowed at the fierceness of the disapprobation manifest in both
Houses. He shrunk from looking his peers and his judges in the face. His
friends obtained for him that he should not be brought to the bar, and
that all should pass in writing. But they saved his dignity at the
expense of his substantial reputation. The observation that the charges
against him were not sifted by cross-examination applies equally to his
answers to them. The allegations of both sides would have come down to
us in a more trustworthy shape if the case had gone on. But to give up
the struggle, and to escape by any humiliation from a regular public
trial, seems to have been his only thought when he found that the King
and Buckingham could not or would not save him.

But the truth is that he knew that a trial of this kind was a trial only
in name. He knew that, when a charge of this sort was brought, it was
not meant to be really investigated in open court, but to be driven home
by proofs carefully prepared beforehand, against which the accused had
little chance. He knew, too, that in those days to resist in earnest an
accusation was apt to be taken as an insult to the court which
entertained it. And further, for the prosecutor to accept a submission
and confession without pushing to the formality of a public trial, and
therefore a public exposure, was a favour. It was a favour which by his
advice, as against the King's honour, had been refused to Suffolk; it
was a favour which, in a much lighter charge, had by his advice been
refused to his colleague Yelverton only a few months before, when Bacon,
in sentencing him, took occasion to expatiate on the heinous guilt of
misprisions or mistakes in men in high places. The humiliation was not
complete without the trial, but it was for humiliation and not fair
investigation that the trial was wanted. Bacon knew that the trial would
only prolong his agony, and give a further triumph to his enemies.

That there was any plot against Bacon, and much more that Buckingham to
save himself was a party to it, is of course absurd. Buckingham, indeed,
was almost the only man in the Lords who said anything for Bacon, and,
alone, he voted against his punishment. But considering what Buckingham
was, and what he dared to do when he pleased, he was singularly cool in
helping Bacon. Williams, the astute Dean of Westminster, who was to be
Bacon's successor as Lord Keeper, had got his ear, and advised him not
to endanger himself by trying to save delinquents. He did not. Indeed,
as the inquiry went on, he began to take the high moral ground; he was
shocked at the Chancellor's conduct; he would not have believed that it
could have been so bad; his disgrace was richly deserved. Buckingham
kept up appearances by saying a word for him from time to time in
Parliament, which he knew would be useless, and which he certainly took
no measures to make effective. It is sometimes said that Buckingham
never knew what dissimulation was. He was capable, at least, of the
perfidy and cowardice of utter selfishness. Bacon's conspicuous fall
diverted men's thoughts from the far more scandalous wickedness of the
great favourite. But though there was no plot, though the blow fell upon
Bacon almost accidentally, there were many who rejoiced to be able to
drive it home. We can hardly wonder that foremost among them was Coke.
This was the end of the long rivalry between Bacon and Coke, from the
time that Essex pressed Bacon against Coke in vain to the day when Bacon
as Chancellor drove Coke from his seat for his bad law, and as Privy
Councillor ordered him to be prosecuted in the Star Chamber for
riotously breaking open men's doors to get his daughter. The two men
thoroughly disliked and undervalued one another. Coke made light of
Bacon's law. Bacon saw clearly Coke's narrowness and ignorance out of
that limited legal sphere in which he was supposed to know everything,
his prejudiced and interested use of his knowledge, his coarseness and
insolence. But now in Parliament Coke was supreme, "our Hercules," as
his friends said. He posed as the enemy of all abuses and corruption. He
brought his unrivalled, though not always accurate, knowledge of law and
history to the service of the Committees, and took care that the
Chancellor's name should not be forgotten when it could be connected
with some bad business of patent or Chancery abuse. It was the great
revenge of the Common Law on the encroaching and insulting Chancery
which had now proved so foul. And he could not resist the opportunity of
marking the revenge of professional knowledge over Bacon's airs of
philosophical superiority. "To restore things to their original" was his
sneer in Parliament, "this, _Instauratio Magna. Instaurare
paras--Instaura leges justitiamque prius_."[5]

The charge of corruption was as completely a surprise to Bacon as it was
to the rest of the world. And yet, as soon as the blot was hit, he saw
in a moment that his position was hopeless--he knew that he had been
doing wrong; though all the time he had never apparently given it a
thought, and he insisted, what there is every reason to believe, that no
present had induced him to give an unjust decision. It was the power of
custom over a character naturally and by habit too pliant to
circumstances. Custom made him insensible to the evil of receiving
recommendations from Buckingham in favour of suitors. Custom made him
insensible to the evil of what it seems every one took for
granted--receiving gifts from suitors. In the Court of James I. the
atmosphere which a man in office breathed was loaded with the taint of
gifts and bribes. Presents were as much the rule, as indispensable for
those who hoped to get on, as they are now in Turkey. Even in
Elizabeth's days, when Bacon was struggling to win her favour, and was
in the greatest straits for money, he borrowed £500 to buy a jewel for
the Queen. When he was James's servant the giving of gifts became a
necessity. New Year's Day brought round its tribute of gold vases and
gold pieces to the King and Buckingham. And this was the least. Money
was raised by the sale of officers and titles. For £20,000, having
previously offered £10,000 in vain, the Chief-Justice of England,
Montague, became Lord Mandeville and Treasurer. The bribe was sometimes
disguised: a man became a Privy Councillor, like Cranfield, or a
Chief-Justice, like Ley (afterwards "the good Earl," "unstained with
gold or fee," of Milton's Sonnet), by marrying a cousin or a niece of
Buckingham. When Bacon was made a Peer, he had also given him "the
making of a Baron;" that is to say, he might raise money by bargaining
with some one who wanted a peerage; when, however, later on, he asked
Buckingham for a repetition of the favour, Buckingham gave him a lecture
on the impropriety of prodigality, which should make it seem that "while
the King was asking money of Parliament with one hand he was giving with
the other." How things were in Chancery in the days of the Queen, and of
Bacon's predecessors, we know little; but Bacon himself implies that
there was nothing new in what he did. "All my lawyers," said James, "are
so bred and nursed in corruption that they cannot leave it." Bacon's
Chancellorship coincided with the full bloom of Buckingham's favour; and
Buckingham set the fashion, beyond all before him, of extravagance in
receiving and spending. Encompassed by such assumptions and such
customs, Bacon administered the Chancery. Suitors did there what people
did everywhere else; they acknowledged by a present the trouble they
gave, or the benefit they gained. It may be that Bacon's known
difficulties about money, his expensive ways and love of pomp, his
easiness of nature, his lax discipline over his servants, encouraged
this profuseness of giving. And Bacon let it be. He asked no questions;
he knew that he worked hard and well; he knew that it could go on
without affecting his purpose to do justice "from the greatest to the
groom." A stronger character, a keener conscience, would have faced the
question, not only whether he was not setting the most ruinous of
precedents, but whether any man could be so sure of himself as to go on
dealing justly with gifts in his hands. But Bacon, who never dared to
face the question, what James was, what Buckingham was, let himself be
spellbound by custom. He knew in the abstract that judges ought to have
nothing to do with gifts, and had said so impressively in his charges to
them. Yet he went on self-complacent, secure, almost innocent, building
up a great tradition of corruption in the very heart of English justice,
till the challenge of Parliament, which began in him its terrible and
relentless, but most unequal, prosecution of justice against ministers
who had betrayed the commonwealth in serving the Crown, woke him from
his dream, and made him see, as others saw it, the guilt of a great
judge who, under whatever extenuating pretext, allowed the suspicion to
arise that he might sell justice. "In the midst of a state of as great
affliction as mortal man can endure," he wrote to the Lords of the
Parliament, in making his submission, "I shall begin with the professing
gladness in some things. The first is that hereafter the greatness of a
judge or magistrate shall be no sanctuary or protection of guiltiness,
which is the beginning of a golden world. The next, that after this
example it is like that judges will fly from anything that is in the
likeness of corruption as from a serpent." Bacon's own judgment on
himself, deliberately repeated, is characteristic, and probably comes
near the truth. "Howsoever, I acknowledge the sentence just and for
reformation's sake fit," he writes to Buckingham from the Tower, where,
for form's sake, he was imprisoned for a few miserable days, he yet had
been "the justest Chancellor that hath been in the five changes that
have been since Sir Nicolas Bacon's time." He repeated the same thing
yet more deliberately in later times. "_I was the justest judge that was
in England these fifty years. But it was the justest censure in
Parliament that was these two hundred years._"

He might have gone on to add, "the Wisest Counsellor; and yet none on
whom rested heavier blame; none of whom England might more justly
complain." Good counsels given, submissive acquiescence in the
worst--this is the history of his statesmanship. Bacon, whose eye was
everywhere, was not sparing of his counsels. On all the great questions
of the time he has left behind abundant evidence, not only of what he
thought, but of what he advised. And in every case these memorials are
marked with the insight, the independence, the breadth of view, and the
moderation of a mind which is bent on truth. He started, of course, from
a basis which we are now hardly able to understand or allow for, the
idea of absolute royal power and prerogative which James had enlarged
and hardened out of the Kingship of the Tudors, itself imperious and
arbitrary enough, but always seeking, with a tact of which James was
incapable, to be in touch and sympathy with popular feeling. But it was
a basis which in principle every one of any account as yet held or
professed to hold, and which Bacon himself held on grounds of philosophy
and reason. He could see no hope for orderly and intelligent government
except in a ruler whose wisdom had equal strength to assert itself; and
he looked down with incredulity and scorn on the notion of anything good
coming out of what the world then knew or saw of popular opinion or
parliamentary government. But when it came to what was wise and fitting
for absolute power to do in the way of general measures and policy, he
was for the most part right. He saw the inexorable and pressing
necessity of putting the finance of the kingdom on a safe footing. He
saw the necessity of a sound and honest policy in Ireland. He saw the
mischief of the Spanish alliance in spite of his curious friendship with
Gondomar, and detected the real and increasing weakness of the Spanish
monarchy, which still awed mankind. He saw the growing danger of abuses
in Church and State which were left untouched, and were protected by the
punishment of those who dared to complain of them. He saw the confusion
and injustice of much of that common law of which the lawyers were so
proud; and would have attempted, if he had been able, to emulate
Justinian, and anticipate the Code Napoleon, by a rational and
consistent digest. Above all, he never ceased to impress on James the
importance, and, if wisely used, the immense advantages, of his
Parliaments. Himself, for great part of his life, an active and popular
member of the House of Commons, he saw that not only it was impossible
to do without it, but that, if fairly, honourably, honestly dealt with,
it would become a source of power and confidence which would double the
strength of the Government both at home and abroad. Yet of all this
wisdom nothing came. The finance of the kingdom was still ruined by
extravagance and corruption in a time of rapidly-developing prosperity
and wealth. The wounds of Ireland were unhealed. It was neither peace
nor war with Spain, and hot infatuation for its friendship alternated
with cold fits of distrust and estrangement. Abuses flourished and
multiplied under great patronage. The King's one thought about
Parliament was how to get as much money out of it as he could, with as
little other business as possible. Bacon's counsels were the prophecies
of Cassandra in that so prosperous but so disastrous reign. All that he
did was to lend the authority of his presence, in James's most intimate
counsels, to policy and courses of which he saw the unwisdom and the
perils. James and Buckingham made use of him when they wanted. But they
would have been very different in their measures and their statesmanship
if they had listened to him.

Mirabeau said, what of course had been said before him, "On ne vaut,
dans la partie exécutive de la vie humaine, que par le caractère." This
is the key to Bacon's failures as a judge and as a statesman, and why,
knowing so much more and judging so much more wisely than James and
Buckingham, he must be identified with the misdoings of that ignoble
reign. He had the courage of his opinions; but a man wants more than
that: he needs the manliness and the public spirit to enforce them, if
they are true and salutary. But this is what Bacon had not. He did not
mind being rebuffed; he knew that he was right, and did not care. But to
stand up against the King, to contradict him after he had spoken, to
press an opinion or a measure on a man whose belief in his own wisdom
was infinite, to risk not only being set down as a dreamer, but the
King's displeasure, and the ruin of being given over to the will of his
enemies, this Bacon had not the fibre or the stiffness or the
self-assertion to do. He did not do what a man of firm will and strength
of purpose, a man of high integrity, of habitual resolution, would have
done. Such men insist when they are responsible, and when they know
that they are right; and they prevail, or accept the consequences.
Bacon, knowing all that he did, thinking all that he thought, was
content to be the echo and the instrument of the cleverest, the
foolishest, the vainest, the most pitiably unmanly of English kings.


[3] _Calendar of State Papers_ (domestic), March 24, 1621.

[4] _Commons' Journals_, March 17, April 27; iii. 560, 594-6.

[5] _Commons' Journals_, iii. 578. In his copy of the _Novum Organum_,
received _ex dono auctoris_, Coke wrote the same words.

          "_Auctori consilium_.
  Instaurare paras veterum documenta sophorum:
  Instaura leges justitiamque prius."

He added, with allusion to the ship in the frontispiece of the _Novum

  "It deserveth not to be read in schools,
  But to be freighted in the ship of Fools."




The tremendous sentences of those days, with their crushing fines, were
often worse in sound than in reality. They meant that for the moment a
man was defeated and disgraced. But it was quite understood that it did
not necessarily follow that they would be enforced in all their
severity. The fine might be remitted, the imprisonment shortened, the
ban of exclusion taken off. At another turn of events or caprice the man
himself might return to favour, and take his place in Parliament or the
Council as if nothing had happened. But, of course, a man might have
powerful enemies, and the sentence might be pressed. His fine might be
assigned to some favourite; and he might be mined, even if in the long
run he was pardoned; or he might remain indefinitely a prisoner. Raleigh
had remained to perish at last in dishonour. Northumberland, Raleigh's
fellow-prisoner, after fifteen years' captivity, was released this year.
The year after Bacon's condemnation such criminals as Lord and Lady
Somerset were released from the Tower, after a six years' imprisonment.
Southampton, the accomplice of Essex, Suffolk, sentenced as late as 1619
by Bacon for embezzlement, sat in the House of Peers which judged Bacon,
and both of them took a prominent part in judging him.

To Bacon the sentence was ruinous. It proved an irretrievable overthrow
as regards public life, and, though some parts of it were remitted and
others lightened, it plunged his private affairs into trouble which
weighed heavily on him for his few remaining years. To his deep distress
and horror he had to go to the Tower to satisfy the terms of his
sentence. "Good my Lord," he writes to Buckingham, May 31, "procure my
warrant for my discharge this day. Death is so far from being unwelcome
to me, as I have called for it as far as Christian resolution would
permit any time these two months. But to die before the time of his
Majesty's grace, in this disgraceful place, is even the worst that could
be." He was released after two or three days, and he thanks Buckingham
(June 4) for getting him out to do him and the King faithful
service--"wherein, by the grace of God, your Lordship shall find that my
adversity hath neither _spent_ nor _pent_ my spirits." In the autumn his
fine was remitted--that is, it was assigned to persons nominated by
Bacon, who, as the Crown had the first claim on all his goods, served as
a protection against his other creditors, who were many and some of them
clamorous--and it was followed by his pardon. His successor, Williams,
now Bishop of Lincoln, who stood in great fear of Parliament, tried to
stop the pardon. The assignment of the fine, he said to Buckingham, was
a gross job--"it is much spoken against, not for the matter (for no man
objects to that), but for the manner, which is full of knavery, and a
wicked precedent. For by this assignment he is protected from all his
creditors, which (I dare say) was neither his Majesty's nor your
Lordship's meaning." It was an ill-natured and cowardly piece of
official pedantry to plunge deeper a drowning man; but in the end the
pardon was passed. It does not appear whether Buckingham interfered to
overrule the Lord Keeper's scruples. Buckingham was certainly about this
time very much out of humour with Bacon, for a reason which, more than
anything else, discloses the deep meanness which lurked under his show
of magnanimity and pride. He had chosen this moment to ask Bacon for
York House. This meant that Bacon would never more want it. Even Bacon
was stung by such a request to a friend in his condition, and declined
to part with it; and Buckingham accordingly was offended, and made Bacon
feel it. Indeed, there is reason to think with Mr. Spedding that for the
sealing of his pardon Bacon was indebted to the good offices with the
King, not of Buckingham, but of the Spaniard, Gondomar, with whom Bacon
had always been on terms of cordiality and respect, and who at this time
certainly "brought about something on his behalf, which his other
friends either had not dared to attempt or had not been able to obtain."

But, though Bacon had his pardon, he had not received permission to come
within the verge of the Court, which meant that he could not live in
London. His affairs were in great disorder, his health was bad, and he
was cut off from books. He wrote an appeal to the Peers who had
condemned him, asking them to intercede with the King for the
enlargement of his liberty. "I am old," he wrote, "weak, ruined, in
want, a very subject of pity." The Tower at least gave him the
neighbourhood of those who could help him. "There I could have company,
physicians, conference with my creditors and friends about my debts and
the necessities of my estate, helps for my studies and the writings I
have in hand. Here I live upon the sword-point of a sharp air,
endangered if I go abroad, dulled if I stay within, solitary and
comfortless, without company, banished from all opportunities to treat
with any to do myself good, and to help out my wrecks." If the Lords
would recommend his suit to the King, "You shall do a work of charity
and nobility, you shall do me good, you shall do my creditors good, and
it may be you shall do posterity good, if out of the carcase of dead and
rotten greatness (as out of Samson's lion) there may be honey gathered
for the use of future times." But Parliament was dissolved before the
touching appeal reached them; and Bacon had to have recourse to other
expedients. He consulted Selden about the technical legality of the
sentence. He appealed to Buckingham, who vouchsafed to appear more
placable. Once more he had recourse to Gondomar, "in that solitude of
friends, which is the base-court of adversity," as a man whom he had
"observed to have the magnanimity of his own nation and the cordiality
of ours, and I am sure the wit of both"--and who had been equally kind
to him in "both his fortunes;" and he proposed through Gondomar to
present Gorhambury to Buckingham "for nothing," as a peace-offering. But
the purchase of his liberty was to come in another way. Bacon had
reconciled himself to giving up York House; but now Buckingham would not
have it: he had found another house, he said, which suited him as well.
That is to say, he did not now choose to have York House from Bacon
himself; but he meant to have it. Accordingly, Buckingham let Bacon know
through a friend of Bacon's, Sir Edward Sackville, that the price of his
liberty to live in London was the cession of York House--not to
Buckingham, but of all men in the world, to Lionel Cranfield, the man
who had been so bitter against Bacon in the House of Commons. This is
Sir Edward Sackville's account to Bacon of his talk with Buckingham; it
is characteristic of every one concerned:

     "In the forenoon he laid the law, but in the afternoon he preached
     the gospel; when, after some revivations of the old distaste
     concerning York House, he most nobly opened his heart unto me;
     wherein I read that which augured much good towards you. After
     which revelation the book was again sealed up, and must in his own
     time only by himself be again manifested unto you. I have leave to
     remember some of the vision, and am not forbidden to write it. He
     vowed (not court like), but constantly to appear your friend so
     much, as if his Majesty should abandon the care of you, you should
     share his fortune with him. He pleased to tell me how much he had
     been beholden to you, how well he loved you, how unkindly he took
     the denial of your house (for so he will needs understand it); but
     the close for all this was harmonious, since he protested he would
     seriously begin to study your ends, now that the world should see
     he had no ends on you. He is in hand with the work, and therefore
     will by no means accept of your offer, though I can assure you the
     tender hath much won upon him, and mellowed his heart towards you,
     and your genius directed you aright when you writ that letter of
     denial to the Duke. The King saw it, and all the rest, which made
     him say unto the Marquis, you played an after-game well; and that
     now he had no reason to be much offended.

     "I have already talked of the Revelation, and now am to speak in
     apocalyptical language, which I hope you will rightly comment:
     whereof if you make difficulty, the bearer can help you with the
    key of the cypher.

    "My Lord Falkland by this time hath showed you London from Highgate.
    _If York House were gone, the town were yours_, and all your
    straitest shackles clean off, besides more comfort than the city air
    only. The Marquis would be exceeding glad the Treasurer had it. This
    I know; yet this you must not know from me. Bargain with him
    presently, upon as good conditions as you can procure, so you have
    direct motion from the Marquis to let him have it. Seem not to dive
    into the secret of it, though you are purblind if you see not
    through it. I have told Mr. Meautys how I would wish your Lordship
    now to make an end of it. From him I beseech you take it, and from
    me only the advice to perform it. If you part not speedily with it,
    you may defer the good which is approaching near you, and
    disappointing other aims (which must either shortly receive content
    or never), perhaps anew yield matter of discontent, though you may
    be indeed as innocent as before. Make the Treasurer believe that
    since the Marquis will by no means accept of it, and that you must
    part with it, you are more willing to pleasure him than anybody
    else, because you are given to understand my Lord Marquis so
    inclines; which inclination, if the Treasurer shortly send unto you
    about it, desire may be more clearly manifested than as yet it hath
    been; since as I remember none hitherto hath told you _in terminis
    terminantibus_ that the Marquis desires you should gratify the
    Treasurer. I know that way the hare runs, and that my Lord Marquis
    longs until Cranfield hath it; and so I wish too, for your good; yet
    would not it were absolutely passed until my Lord Marquis did send
    or write unto you to let him have it; for then his so disposing of
    it were but the next degree removed from the immediate acceptance of
    it, and your Lordship freed from doing it otherwise than to please
    him, and to comply with his own will and way."

It need hardly be said that when Cranfield got it, it soon passed into
Buckingham's hands. "Bacon consented to part with his house, and
Buckingham in return consented to give him his liberty." Yet Bacon could
write to him, "low as I am, I had rather sojourn in a college in
Cambridge than recover a good fortune by any other but yourself." "As
for York House," he bids Toby Matthews to let Buckingham know, "that
_whether in a straight line or a compass line_, I meant it for his
Lordship, in the way which I thought might please him best." But liberty
did not mean either money or recovered honour. All his life long he had
made light of being in debt; but since his fall this was no longer a
condition easy to bear. He had to beg some kind of pension of the King.
He had to beg of Buckingham; "a small matter for my debts would do me
more good now than double a twelvemonth hence. I have lost six thousand
by the year, besides caps and courtesies. Two things I may assure your
Lordship. The one, that I shall lead such a course of life as whatsoever
the King doth for me shall rather sort to his Majesty's and your
Lordship's honour than to envy; the other, that whatsoever men talk, I
can play the good husband, and the King's bounty shall not be lost."

It might be supposed from the tone of these applications that Bacon's
mind was bowed down and crushed by the extremity of his misfortune.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. In his behaviour during his
accusation there was little trace of that high spirit and fortitude
shown by far inferior men under like disasters. But the moment the
tremendous strain of his misfortunes was taken off, the vigour of his
mind recovered itself. The buoyancy of his hopefulness, the elasticity
of his energy, are as remarkable as his profound depression. When the
end was approaching, his thoughts turned at once to other work to be
done, ready in plan, ready to be taken up and finished. At the close of
his last desperate letter to the King he cannot resist finishing at once
with a jest, and with the prospect of two great literary undertakings--

     "This is my last suit which I shall make to your Majesty in this
     business, prostrating myself at your mercy seat, after fifteen
     years service, wherein I have served your Majesty in my poor
     endeavours with an entire heart, and, as I presumed to say unto
     your Majesty, am still a virgin for matters that concern your
     person and crown; and now only craving that after eight steps of
     honour I be not precipitated altogether. But because he that hath
     taken bribes is apt to give bribes, I will go furder, and present
     your Majesty with a bribe. For if your Majesty will give me peace
     and leisure, and God give me life, I will present your Majesty with
     a good history of England, and a better digest of your laws."

The Tower did, indeed, to use a word of the time, "mate" him. But the
moment he was out of it, his quick and fertile mind was immediately at
work in all directions, reaching after all kinds of plans, making proof
of all kinds of expedients to retrieve the past, arranging all kinds of
work according as events might point out the way. His projects for
history, for law, for philosophy, for letters, occupy quite as much of
his thoughts as his pardon and his debts; and they, we have seen,
occupied a good deal. If he was pusillanimous in the moment of the
storm, his spirit, his force, his varied interests, returned the moment
the storm was past. His self-reliance, which was boundless, revived. He
never allowed himself to think, however men of his own time might judge
him, that the future world would mistake him. "_Aliquis fui inter
vivos_," he writes to Gondomar, "_neque omnino intermoriar apud
posteros_." Even in his time he did not give up the hope of being
restored to honour and power. He compared himself to Demosthenes, to
Cicero, to Seneca, to Marcus Livius, who had been condemned for corrupt
dealings as he had been, and had all recovered favour and position.
Lookers-on were puzzled and shocked. "He has," writes Chamberlain, "no
manner of feeling of his fall, but continuing vain and idle in all his
humours as when he was at the highest." "I am said," Bacon himself
writes, "to have a feather in my head."

Men were mistaken. His thoughts were, for the moment, more than ever
turned to the future; but he had not given up hope of having a good deal
to say yet to the affairs of the present. Strangely enough, as it seems
to us, in the very summer after that fatal spring of 1621 the King
called for his opinion concerning the reformation of Courts of Justice;
and Bacon, just sentenced for corruption and still unpardoned, proceeds
to give his advice as if he were a Privy Councillor in confidential
employment. Early in the following year he, according to his fashion,
surveyed his position, and drew up a paper of memoranda, like the notes
of the _Commentarius Solutus_ of 1608, about points to be urged to the
King at an interview. Why should not the King employ him again? "Your
Majesty never chid me;" and as to his condemnation, "as the fault was
not against your Majesty, so my fall was not your act." "Therefore," he
goes on, "if your Majesty do at any time find it fit for your affairs to
employ me publicly upon the stage, I shall so live and spend my time as
neither discontinuance shall disable me nor adversity shall discourage
me, nor anything that I do give any new scandal or envy upon me." He
insists very strongly that the King's service never miscarried in his
hands, for he simply carried out the King's wise counsels. "That his
Majesty's business never miscarried in my hands I do not impute to any
extraordinary ability in myself, but to my freedom from any particular,
either friends or ends, and my careful receipt of his directions, being,
as I have formerly said to him, but as a bucket and cistern to that
fountain--a bucket to draw forth, a cistern to preserve." He is not
afraid of the apparent slight to the censure passed on him by
Parliament. "For envy, it is an almanack of the old year, and as a
friend of mine said, _Parliament died penitent towards me_." "What the
King bestows on me will be further seen than on Paul's steeple." "There
be mountebanks, as well in the civil body as in the natural; I ever
served his Majesty with modesty; no shouting, no undertaking." In the
odd fashion of the time--a fashion in which no one more delighted than
himself--he lays hold of sacred words to give point to his argument.

     "I may allude to the three petitions of the Litany--_Libera nos
     Domine_; _parce nobis, Domine_; _exaudi nos, Domine_. In the first,
     I am persuaded that his Majesty had a mind to do it, and could not
     conveniently in respect of his affairs. In the second, he hath done
     it in my fine and pardon. In the third, he hath likewise
     performed, in restoring to the light of his countenance."

But if the King did not see fit to restore him to public employment, he
would be ready to give private counsel; and he would apply himself to
any "literary province" that the King appointed. "I am like ground
fresh. If I be left to myself I will graze and bear natural philosophy;
but if the King will plough me up again, and sow me with anything, I
hope to give him some yield." "Your Majesty hath power; I have faith.
Therefore a miracle may be wrought." And he proposes, for matters in
which his pen might be useful, first, as "active" works, the recompiling
of laws; the disposing of wards, and generally the education of youth;
the regulation of the jurisdiction of Courts; and the regulation of
Trade; and for "contemplative," the continuation of the history of Henry
VIII.; a general treatise _de Legibus et Justitia_; and the "Holy War"
against the Ottomans.

When he wrote this he had already shown what his unquelled energy could
accomplish. In the summer and autumn after his condemnation, amid all
the worries and inconveniences of that time, moving about from place to
place, without his books, and without free access to papers and records,
he had written his _History of Henry VII_. The theme had, no doubt, been
long in his head. But the book was the first attempt at philosophical
history in the language, and it at once takes rank with all that the
world had yet seen, in classical times and more recently in Italy, of
such history. He sent the book, among other persons, to the Queen of
Bohemia, with a phrase, the translation of a trite Latin commonplace,
which may have been the parent of one which became famous in our time;
and with an expression of absolute confidence in the goodness of his own

     "I have read in books that it is accounted a great bliss for a man
     to have _Leisure with Honour_. That was never my fortune. For time
     was, I had Honour without Leisure; and now I have _Leisure without
     Honour_.... But my desire is now to have _Leisure without
     Loitering_, and not to become an abbey-lubber, as the old proverb
     was, but to yield some fruit of my private life.... If King Henry
     were alive again, I hope verily he would not be so angry with me
     for not flattering him, as well pleased in seeing himself so truly
     described in colours that will last and be believed."

But the tide had turned against him for good. A few fair words, a few
grudging doles of money to relieve his pressing wants, and those
sometimes intercepted and perhaps never rightly granted from an
Exchequer which even Cranfield's finance could not keep filled, were all
the graces that descended upon him from those fountains of goodness in
which he professed to trust with such boundless faith. The King did not
want him, perhaps did not trust him, perhaps did not really like him.
When the _Novum Organum_ came out, all that he had to say about it was
in the shape of a profane jest that "it was like the peace of God--it
passed all understanding." Other men had the ear of Buckingham; shrewd,
practical men of business like Cranfield, who hated Bacon's loose and
careless ways, or the clever ecclesiastic Williams, whose counsel had
steered Buckingham safely through the tempest that wrecked Bacon, and
who, with no legal training, had been placed in Bacon's seat. "I
thought," said Bacon, "that I should have known my successor." Williams,
for his part, charged Bacon with trying to cheat his creditors, when his
fine was remitted. With no open quarrel, Bacon's relations to Buckingham
became more ceremonious and guarded; the "My singular good Lord" of the
former letters becomes, now that Buckingham had risen so high and Bacon
had sunk so low, "Excellent Lord." The one friend to whom Bacon had
once wished to owe everything had become the great man, now only to be
approached with "sweet meats" and elaborate courtesy. But it was no use.
His full pardon Bacon did not get, though earnestly suing for it, that
he might not "die in ignominy." He never sat again in Parliament. The
Provostship of Eton fell vacant, and Bacon's hopes were kindled. "It
were a pretty cell for my fortune. The College and School I do not doubt
but I shall make to flourish." But Buckingham had promised it to some
nameless follower, and by some process of exchange it went to Sir Henry
Wotton. His English history was offered in vain. His digest of the Laws
was offered in vain. In vain he wrote a memorandum on the regulation of
usury; notes of advice to Buckingham; elaborate reports and notes of
speeches about a war with Spain, when that for a while loomed before the
country. In vain he affected an interest which he could hardly have felt
in the Spanish marriage, and the escapade of Buckingham and Prince
Charles, which "began," he wrote, "like a fable of the poets, but
deserved all in a piece a worthy narration." In vain, when the Spanish
marriage was off and the French was on, he proposed to offer to
Buckingham "his service to live a summer as upon mine own delight at
Paris, to settle a fast intelligence between France and us;" "I have
somewhat of the French," he said, "I love birds, as the King doth."
Public patronage and public employment were at an end for him. His
petitions to the King and Buckingham ceased to be for office, but for
the clearing of his name and for the means of living. It is piteous to
read the earnestness of his requests. "Help me (dear Sovereign lord and
master), pity me so far as that I who have borne a bag be not now in my
age forced in effect to bear a wallet." The words are from a
carefully-prepared and rhetorical letter which was not sent, but they
express what he added to a letter presenting the _De Augmentis; "det
Vestra Majestas obolum Belisario_." Again, "I prostrate myself at your
Majesty's feet; I your ancient servant, now sixty-four years old in age,
and three years and five months old in misery. I desire not from your
Majesty means, nor place, nor employment, but only after so long a time
of expiation, a complete and total remission of the sentence of the
Upper House, to the end that blot of ignominy may be removed from me,
and from my memory and posterity, that I die not a condemned man, but
may be to your Majesty, as I am to God, _nova creatura_." But the pardon
never came. Sir John Bennett, who had been condemned as a corrupt judge
by the same Parliament, and between whose case and Bacon's there was as
much difference, "I will not say as between black and white, but as
between black and gray," had got his full pardon, "and they say shall
sit in Parliament." Lord Suffolk had been one of Bacon's judges. "I hope
I deserve not to be the only outcast." But whether the Court did not
care, or whether, as he once suspected, there was some old enemy like
Coke, who "had a tooth against him," and was watching any favour shown
him, he died without his wish being fulfilled, "to live out of want and
to die out of ignominy."

Bacon was undoubtedly an impoverished man, and straitened in his means;
but this must be understood as in relation to the rank and position
which he still held, and the work which he wanted done for the
_Instauratio_. His will, dated a few months before his death, shows that
it would be a mistake to suppose that he was in penury. He no doubt
often wanted ready money, and might be vexed by creditors. But he kept a
large household, and was able to live in comfort at Gray's Inn or at
Gorhambury. A man who speaks in his will of his "four coach geldings
and his best caroache," besides many legacies, and who proposes to found
two lectures at the universities, may have troubles about debts and be
cramped in his expenditure, but it is only relatively to his station
that he can be said to be poor. And to subordinate officers of the
Treasury who kept him out of his rights, he could still write a sharp
letter, full of his old force and edge. A few months before his death he
thus wrote to the Lord Treasurer Ley, who probably had made some
difficulty about a claim for money:

     "MY LORD,--I humbly entreat your Lordship, and (if I may use the
     word) advise your Lordship to make me a better answer. Your
     Lordship is interested in honour, in the opinion of all that hear
     how I am dealt with. If your Lordship malice me for Long's cause,
     surely it was one of the justest businesses that ever was in
     Chancery. I will avouch it; and how deeply I was tempted therein,
     your Lordship knoweth best. Your Lordship may do well to think of
     your grave as I do of mine; and to beware of hardness of heart. And
     as for fair words, it is a wind by which neither your Lordship nor
     any man else can sail long. Howsoever, I am the man that shall give
     all due respects and reverence to your great place.

     "20th June, 1625.
     FR. ST. ALBAN."

Bacon always claimed that he was not "vindicative." But considering how
Bishop Williams, when he was Lord Keeper, had charged Bacon with
"knavery" and "deceiving his creditors" in the arrangements about his
fine, it is not a little strange to find that at the end of his life
Bacon had so completely made friends with him that he chose him as the
person to whom he meant to leave his speeches and letters, which he was
"willing should not be lost," and also the charge of superintending two
foundations of £200 a year for Natural Science at the universities. And
the Bishop accepted the charge.

The end of this, one of the most pathetic of histories, was at hand;
the end was not the less pathetic because it came in so homely a
fashion. On a cold day in March he stopped his coach in the snow on his
way to Highgate, to try the effect of cold in arresting putrefaction. He
bought a hen from a woman by the way, and stuffed it with snow. He was
taken with a bad chill, which forced him to stop at a strange house,
Lord Arundel's, to whom he wrote his last letter--a letter of apology
for using his house. He did not write the letter as a dying man. But
disease had fastened on him. A few days after, early on Easter morning,
April 9, 1626, he passed away. He was buried at St. Albans, in the
Church of St. Michael, "the only Christian church within the walls of
old Verulam." "For my name and memory," he said in his will, "I leave it
to men's charitable speeches, and to foreign nations and the next ages."
So he died: the brightest, richest, largest mind but one, in the age
which had seen Shakespeare and his fellows; so bright and rich and large
that there have been found those who identify him with the writer of
_Hamlet_ and _Othello_. That is idle. Bacon could no more have written
the plays than Shakespeare could have prophesied the triumphs of natural
philosophy. So ended a career, than which no other in his time had
grander and nobler aims--aims, however mistaken, for the greatness and
good of England; aims for the enlargement of knowledge and truth, and
for the benefit of mankind. So ended a career which had mounted slowly
and painfully, but resolutely, to the highest pinnacle of
greatness--greatness full of honour and beneficent activity--suddenly to
plunge down to depths where honour and hope were irrecoverable. So
closed, in disgrace and disappointment and neglect, the last sad chapter
of a life which had begun so brightly, which had achieved such permanent
triumphs, which had lost itself so often in the tangles of insincerity
and evil custom, which was disfigured and marred by great misfortunes,
and still more by great mistakes of his own, which was in many ways
misunderstood not only by his generation but by himself, but which he
left in the constant and almost unaccountable faith that it would be
understood and greatly honoured by posterity. With all its glories, it
was the greatest shipwreck, the greatest tragedy, of an age which saw

But in these gloomy and dreary days of depression and vain hope to which
his letters bear witness--"three years and five months old in misery,"
again later, "a long cleansing week of five years' expiation and
more"--his interest in his great undertaking and his industry never
flagged. The King did not want what he offered, did not want his
histories, did not want his help about law. Well, then, he had work of
his own on which his heart was set; and if the King did not want his
time, he had the more for himself. Even in the busy days of his
Chancellorship he had prepared and carried through the press the _Novum
Organum_, which he published on the very eve of his fall. It was one of
those works which quicken a man's powers, and prove to him what he can
do; and it had its effect. His mind was never more alert than in these
years of adversity, his labour never more indefatigable, his powers of
expression never more keen and versatile and strong. Besides the
political writings of grave argument for which he found time, these five
years teem with the results of work. In the year before his death he
sketched out once more, in a letter to a Venetian correspondent, Fra
Fulgenzio, the friend of Sarpi, the plan of his great work, on which he
was still busy, though with fast diminishing hopes of seeing it
finished. To another foreign correspondent, a professor of philosophy
at Annecy, and a distinguished mathematician, Father Baranzan, who had
raised some questions about Bacon's method, and had asked what was to be
done with metaphysics, he wrote in eager acknowledgment of the interest
which his writings had excited, and insisting on the paramount
necessity, above everything, of the observation of facts and of natural
history, out of which philosophy may be built. But the most
comprehensive view of his intellectual projects in all directions, "the
fullest account of his own personal feelings and designs as a writer
which we have from his own pen," is given in a letter to the venerable
friend of his early days, Bishop Andrewes, who died a few months after
him. Part, he says, of his _Instauratio_, "the work in mine own
judgement (_si nunquam fallit imago_) I do most esteem," has been
published; but because he "doubts that it flies too high over men's
heads," he proposes "to draw it down to the sense" by examples of
Natural History. He has enlarged and translated the _Advancement_ into
the _De Augmentis_. "Because he could not altogether desert the civil
person that he had borne," he had begun a work on Laws, intermediate
between philosophical jurisprudence and technical law. He had hoped to
compile a digest of English law, but found it more than he could do
alone, and had laid it aside. The _Instauratio_ had contemplated the
good of men "in the dowries of nature;" the _Laws_, their good "in
society and the dowries of government." As he owed duty to his country,
and could no longer do it service, he meant to do it honour by his
history of Henry VII. His _Essays_ were but "recreations;" and
remembering that all his writings had hitherto "gone all into the City
and none into the Temple," he wished to make "some poor oblation," and
therefore had chosen an argument mixed of religious and civil
considerations, the dialogue of "an Holy War" against the Ottoman,
which he never finished, but which he intended to dedicate to Andrewes,
"in respect of our ancient and private acquaintance, and because amongst
the men of our times I hold you in special reverence."

The question naturally presents itself, in regard to a friend of Bishop
Andrewes, What was Bacon as regards religion? And the answer, it seems
to me, can admit of no doubt. The obvious and superficial thing to say
is that his religion was but an official one, a tribute to custom and
opinion. But it was not so. Both in his philosophical thinking, and in
the feelings of his mind in the various accidents and occasions of life,
Bacon was a religious man, with a serious and genuine religion. His
sense of the truth and greatness of religion was as real as his sense of
the truth and greatness of nature; they were interlaced together, and
could not be separated, though they were to be studied separately and
independently. The call, repeated through all his works from the
earliest to the last, _Da Fidel quæ Fidel sunt_, was a warning against
confusing the two, but was an earnest recognition of the claims of each.
The solemn religious words in which his prefaces and general statements
often wind up with thanksgiving and hope and prayer, are no mere words
of course; they breathe the spirit of the deepest conviction. It is true
that he takes the religion of Christendom as he finds it. The grounds of
belief, the relation of faith to reason, the profounder inquiries into
the basis of man's knowledge of the Eternal and Invisible, are out of
the circle within which he works. What we now call the philosophy of
religion is absent from his writings. In truth, his mind was not
qualified to grapple with such questions. There is no sign in his
writings that he ever tried his strength against them; that he ever
cared to go below the surface into the hidden things of mind, and what
mind deals with above and beyond sense--those metaphysical difficulties
and depths, as we call them, which there is no escaping, and which are
as hard to explore and as dangerous to mistake as the forces and
combinations of external nature. But it does not follow, because he had
not asked all the questions that others have asked, that he had not
thought out his reasonable faith. His religion was not one of mere vague
sentiment: it was the result of reflection and deliberate judgment. It
was the discriminating and intelligent Church of England religion of
Hooker and Andrewes, which had gone back to something deeper and nobler
in Christianity than the popular Calvinism of the earlier Reformation;
and though sternly hostile to the system of the Papacy, both on
religious and political grounds, attempted to judge it with knowledge
and justice. This deliberate character of his belief is shown in the
remarkable Confession of Faith which he left behind him: a
closely-reasoned and nobly-expressed survey of Christian theology--"a
_summa theologiæ_, digested into seven pages of the finest English of
the days when its tones were finest." "The entire scheme of Christian
theology," as Mr. Spedding says, "is constantly in his thoughts;
underlies everything; defines for him the limits of human speculation;
and, as often as the course of inquiry touches at any point the boundary
line, never fails to present itself. There is hardly any occasion or any
kind of argument into which it does not at one time or another
incidentally introduce itself." Doubtless it was a religion which in him
was compatible, as it has been in others, with grave faults of
temperament and character. But it is impossible to doubt that it was
honest, that it elevated his thoughts, that it was a refuge and stay in
the times of trouble.



Bacon was one of those men to whom posterity forgives a great deal for
the greatness of what he has done and attempted for posterity. It is
idle, unless all honest judgment is foregone, to disguise the many
deplorable shortcomings of his life; it is unjust to have one measure
for him, and another for those about him and opposed to him. But it is
not too much to say that in temper, in honesty, in labour, in humility,
in reverence, he was the most perfect example that the world had yet
seen of the student of nature, the enthusiast for knowledge. That such a
man was tempted and fell, and suffered the Nemesis of his fall, is an
instance of the awful truth embodied in the tragedy of _Faust_. But his
genuine devotion, so unwearied and so paramount, to a great idea and a
great purpose for the good of all generations to come, must shield him
from the insult of Pope's famous and shallow epigram. Whatever may have
been his sins, and they were many, he cannot have been the "meanest of
mankind," who lived and died, holding unaltered, amid temptations and
falls, so noble a conception of the use and calling of his life: the
duty and service of helping his brethren to know as they had never yet
learned to know. That thought never left him; the obligations it imposed
were never forgotten in the crush and heat of business; the toils,
thankless at the time, which it heaped upon him in addition to the
burdens of public life were never refused. Nothing diverted him, nothing
made him despair. He was not discouraged because he was not understood.
There never was any one in whose life the "_Souveraineté du but_" was
more certain and more apparent; and that object was the second greatest
that man can have. To teach men to know is only next to making them

The Baconian philosophy, the reforms of the _Novum Organum_, the method
of experiment and induction, are commonplaces, and sometimes lead to a
misconception of what Bacon did. Bacon is, and is not, the founder of
modern science. What Bacon believed could be done, what he hoped and
divined, for the correction and development of human knowledge, was one
thing; what his methods were, and how far they were successful, is
another. It would hardly be untrue to say that though Bacon is the
parent of modern science, his methods contributed nothing to its actual
discoveries; neither by possibility could they have done so. The great
and wonderful work which the world owes to him was in the idea, and not
in the execution. The idea was that the systematic and wide examination
of facts was the first thing to be done in science, and that till this
had been done faithfully and impartially, with all the appliances and
all the safeguards that experience and forethought could suggest, all
generalisations, all anticipations from mere reasoning, must be
adjourned and postponed; and further, that sought on these conditions,
knowledge, certain and fruitful, beyond all that men then imagined,
could be attained. His was the faith of the discoverer, the imagination
of the poet, the voice of the prophet. But his was not the warrior's
arm, the engineer's skill, the architect's creativeness. "I only sound
the clarion," he says, "but I enter not into the battle;" and with a
Greek quotation very rare with him, he compares himself to one of
Homer's peaceful heralds, [Greek: chairete kêrukes, Dios angeloi êde kai
andrôn]. Even he knew not the full greatness of his own enterprise. He
underrated the vastness and the subtlety of nature. He overrated his own
appliances to bring it under his command. He had not that incommunicable
genius and instinct of the investigator which in such men as Faraday
close hand to hand with phenomena. His weapons and instruments wanted
precision; they were powerful up to a certain point, but they had the
clumsiness of an unpractised time. Cowley compared him to Moses on
Pisgah surveying the promised land; it was but a distant survey, and
Newton was the Joshua who began to take possession of it.

The idea of the great enterprise, in its essential outline, and with a
full sense of its originality and importance, was early formed, and was
even sketched on paper with Bacon's characteristic self-reliance when he
was but twenty-five. Looking back, in a letter written in the last year
of his life, on the ardour and constancy with which he had clung to his
faith--"in that purpose my mind never waxed old; in that long interval
of time it never cooled"--he remarks that it was then "forty years since
he put together a youthful essay on these matters, which with vast
confidence I called by the high-sounding title, The Greatest Birth of
Time." "The Greatest Birth of Time," whatever it was, has perished,
though the name, altered to "Partus Temporis _Masculus_" has survived,
attached to some fragments of uncertain date and arrangement. But in
very truth the child was born, and, as Bacon says, for forty years grew
and developed, with many changes yet the same. Bacon was most
tenacious, not only of ideas, but even of the phrases, images, and turns
of speech in which they had once flashed on him and taken shape in his
mind. The features of his undertaking remained the same from first to
last, only expanded and enlarged as time went on and experience widened;
his conviction that the knowledge of nature, and with it the power to
command and to employ nature, were within the capacity of mankind and
might be restored to them; the certainty that of this knowledge men had
as yet acquired but the most insignificant part, and that all existing
claims to philosophical truth were as idle and precarious as the guesses
and traditions of the vulgar; his belief that no greater object could be
aimed at than to sweep away once and for ever all this sham knowledge
and all that supported it, and to lay an entirely new and clear
foundation to build on for the future; his assurance that, as it was
easy to point out with fatal and luminous certainty the rottenness and
hollowness of all existing knowledge and philosophy, so it was equally
easy to devise and practically apply new and natural methods of
investigation and construction, which should replace it by knowledge of
infallible truth and boundless fruitfulness. His object--to gain the key
to the interpretation of nature; his method--to gain it, not by the
means common to all previous schools of philosophy, by untested
reasonings and imposing and high-sounding generalisations, but by a
series and scale of rigorously verified inductions, starting from the
lowest facts of experience to discoveries which should prove and realise
themselves by leading deductively to practical results--these, in one
form or another, were the theme of his philosophical writings from the
earliest sight of them that we gain.

He had disclosed what was in his mind in the letter to Lord Burghley,
written when he was thirty-one (1590/91), in which he announced that he
had "taken all knowledge for his province," to "purge it of 'frivolous
disputations' and 'blind experiments,' and that whatever happened to
him, he meant to be a 'true pioneer in the mine of truth.'" But the
first public step in the opening of his great design was the publication
in the autumn of 1605 of the _Advancement of Learning_, a careful and
balanced report on the existing stock and deficiencies of human
knowledge. His endeavours, as he says in the _Advancement_ itself, are
"but as an image in a cross-way, that may point out the way, but cannot
go it." But from this image of his purpose, his thoughts greatly widened
as time went on. The _Advancement_, in part at least, was probably a
hurried work. It shadowed out, but only shadowed out, the lines of his
proposed reform of philosophical thought; it showed his dissatisfaction
with much that was held to be sound and complete, and showed the
direction of his ideas and hopes. But it was many years before he took a
further step. Active life intervened. In 1620, at the height of his
prosperity, on the eve of his fall, he published the long meditated
_Novum Organum_, the avowed challenge to the old philosophies, the
engine and instrument of thought and discovery which was to put to shame
and supersede all others, containing, in part at least, the principles
of that new method of the use of experience which was to be the key to
the interpretation and command of nature, and, together with the method,
an elaborate but incomplete exemplification of its leading processes.
Here were summed up, and stated with the most solemn earnestness, the
conclusions to which long study and continual familiarity with the
matters in question had led him. And with the _Novum Organum_ was at
length disclosed, though only in outline, the whole of the vast scheme
in all its parts, object, method, materials, results, for the
"Instauration" of human knowledge, the restoration of powers lost,
disused, neglected, latent, but recoverable by honesty, patience,
courage, and industry.

     The _Instauratio_, as he planned the work, "is to be divided," says
     Mr. Ellis, "into six portions, of which the _first_ is to contain a
     general survey of the present state of knowledge. In the _second_,
     men are to be taught how to use their understanding aright in the
     investigation of nature. In the _third_, all the phenomena of the
     universe are to be stored up as in a treasure-house, as the
     materials on which the new method is to be employed. In the
     _fourth_, examples are to be given of its operation and of the
     results to which it leads. The _fifth_ is to contain what Bacon had
     accomplished in natural philosophy _without_ the aid of his own
     method, _ex eodem intellectûs usu quem alii in inquirendo et
     inveniendo adhibere consueverunt_. It is therefore less important
     than the rest, and Bacon declares that he will not bind himself to
     the conclusions which it contains. Moreover, its value will
     altogether cease when the _sixth_ part can be completed, wherein
     will be set forth the new philosophy--the results of the
     application of the new method to all the phenomena of the universe.
     But to complete this, the last part of the _Instauratio_, Bacon
     does not hope; he speaks of it as a thing, _et supra vires et ultra
     spes nostras collocata_."--_Works_, i. 71.

The _Novum Organum_, itself imperfect, was the crown of all that he
lived to do. It was followed (1622) by the publication, intended to be
periodical, of materials for the new philosophy to work upon, particular
sections and classes of observations on phenomena--the _History of the
Winds_, the _History of Life and Death_. Others were partly prepared but
not published by him. And finally, in 1623, he brought out in Latin a
greatly enlarged recasting of the _Advancement_; the nine books of the
"_De Augmentis_." But the great scheme was not completed; portions were
left more or less finished. Much that he purposed was left undone, and
could not have been yet done at that time.

But the works which he published represent imperfectly the labour spent
on the undertaking. Besides these there remains a vast amount of unused
or rejected work, which shows how it was thought out, rearranged, tried
first in one fashion and then in another, recast, developed. Separate
chapters, introductions, "experimental essays and discarded beginnings,"
treatises with picturesque and imaginative titles, succeeded one another
in that busy work-shop; and these first drafts and tentative essays have
in them some of the freshest and most felicitous forms of his thoughts.
At one time his enterprise, connecting itself with his own life and
mission, rose before his imagination and kindled his feelings, and
embodied itself in the lofty and stately "Proem" already quoted. His
quick and brilliant imagination saw shadows and figures of his ideas in
the ancient mythology, which he worked out with curious ingenuity and
often much poetry in his _Wisdom of the Ancients_. Towards the end of
his life he began to embody his thoughts and plans in a philosophical
tale, which he did not finish--the _New Atlantis_--a charming example of
his graceful fancy and of his power of easy and natural story-telling.
Between the _Advancement_ and the _Novum Organum_ (1605-20) much
underground work had been done. "He had finally (about 1607) settled the
plan of the _Great Instauration_, and began to call it by that name."
The plan, first in three or four divisions, had been finally digested
into six. Vague outlines had become definite and clear. Distinct
portions had been worked out. Various modes of treatment had been tried,
abandoned, modified. Prefaces were written to give the sketch and
purpose of chapters not yet composed. The _Novum Organum_ had been
written and rewritten twelve times over. Bacon kept his papers, and we
can trace in the unused portion of those left behind him much of the
progress of his work, and the shapes which much of it went through. The
_Advancement_ itself is the filling-out and perfecting of what is found
in germ, meagre and rudimentary, in a _Discourse in Praise of
Knowledge_, written in the days of Elizabeth, and in some Latin chapters
of an early date, the _Cogitationes de Scientia Humana_, on the limits
and use of knowledge, and on the relation of natural history to natural
philosophy. These early essays, with much of the same characteristic
illustration, and many of the favourite images and maxims and texts and
phrases, which continue to appear in his writings to the end, contain
the thoughts of a man long accustomed to meditate and to see his way on
the new aspects of knowledge opening upon him. And before the
_Advancement_ he had already tried his hand on a work intended to be in
two books, which Mr. Ellis describes as a "great work on the
Interpretation of Nature," the "earliest type of the _Instauratio_," and
which Bacon called by the enigmatical name of _Valerius Terminus_. In
it, as in a second draft, which in its turn was superseded by the
_Advancement_, the line of thought of the Latin _Cogitationes_
reappears, expanded and more carefully ordered; it contains also the
first sketch of his certain and infallible method for what he calls the
"freeing of the direction" in the search after Truth, and the first
indications of the four classes of "Idols" which were to be so memorable
a portion of Bacon's teaching. And between the _Advancement_ and the
_Novum Organum_ at least one unpublished treatise of great interest
intervened, the _Visa et Cogitata_, on which he was long employed, and
which he brought to a finished shape, fit to be submitted to his friends
and critics, Sir Thomas Bodley and Bishop Andrewes. It is spoken of as
a book to be "imparted _sicut videbitur_," in the review which he made
of his life and objects soon after he was made Solicitor in 1608. A
number of fragments also bear witness to the fierce scorn and wrath
which possessed him against the older and the received philosophies. He
tried his hand at declamatory onslaughts on the leaders of human wisdom,
from the early Greeks and Aristotle down to the latest "novellists;" and
he certainly succeeded in being magnificently abusive. But he thought
wisely that this was not the best way of doing what in the _Commentarius
Solutus_ he calls on himself to do--"taking a greater confidence and
authority in discourses of this nature, _tanquam sui certus et de alto
despiciens_;" and the rhetorical _Redargutio Philosophiarum_ and
writings of kindred nature were laid aside by his more serious judgment.
But all these fragments witness to the immense and unwearied labour
bestowed in the midst of a busy life on his undertaking; they suggest,
too, the suspicion that there was much waste from interruption, and the
doubt whether his work would not have been better if it could have been
more steadily continuous. But if ever a man had a great object in life,
and pursued it through good and evil report, through ardent hope and
keen disappointment, to the end, with unwearied patience and unshaken
faith, it was Bacon, when he sought the improvement of human knowledge
"for the glory of God and the relief of man's estate." It is not the
least part of the pathetic fortune of his life that his own success was
so imperfect.

When a reader first comes from the vague, popular notions of Bacon's
work to his definite proposals the effect is startling. Every one has
heard that he contemplated a complete reform of the existing conceptions
of human knowledge, and of the methods by which knowledge was to be
sought; that rejecting them as vitiated, by the loose and untested way
in which they had been formed, he called men from verbal generalisations
and unproved assumptions to come down face to face with the realities of
experience; that he substituted for formal reasoning, from baseless
premises and unmeaning principles, a methodical system of cautious and
sifting inference from wide observation and experiment; and that he thus
opened the path which modern science thenceforth followed, with its
amazing and unexhausted discoveries, and its vast and beneficent
practical results. We credit all this to Bacon, and assuredly not
without reason. All this is what was embraced in his vision of a changed
world of thought and achievement. All this is what was meant by that
_Regnum Hominis_, which, with a play on sacred words which his age did
not shrink from, and which he especially pleased himself with, marked
the coming of that hitherto unimagined empire of man over the powers and
forces which encompassed him. But the detail of all this is multifarious
and complicated, and is not always what we expect; and when we come to
see how his work is estimated by those who, by greatest familiarity with
scientific ideas and the history of scientific inquiries, are best
fitted to judge of it, many a surprise awaits us.

For we find that the greatest differences of opinion exist on the value
of what he did. Not only very unfavourable judgments have been passed
upon it, on general grounds--as an irreligious, or a shallow and
one-sided, or a poor and "utilitarian" philosophy, and on a definite
comparison of it with the actual methods and processes which as a matter
of history have been the real means of scientific discovery--but also
some of those who have most admired his genius, and with the deepest
love and reverence have spared no pains to do it full justice, have yet
come to the conclusion that as an instrument and real method of work
Bacon's attempt was a failure. It is not only De Maistre and Lord
Macaulay who dispute his philosophical eminence. It is not only the
depreciating opinion of a contemporary like Harvey, who was actually
doing what Bacon was writing about. It is not only that men who after
the long history of modern science have won their place among its
leaders, and are familiar by daily experience with the ways in which it
works--a chemist like Liebig, a physiologist like Claude Bernard--say
that they can find nothing to help them in Bacon's methods. It is not
only that a clear and exact critic like M. de Rémusat looks at his
attempt, with its success and failure, as characteristic of English,
massive, practical good sense rather than as marked by real
philosophical depth and refinement, such as Continental thinkers point
to and are proud of in Descartes and Leibnitz. It is not even that a
competent master of the whole domain of knowledge, Whewell, filled with
the deepest sense of all that the world owes to Bacon, takes for granted
that "though Bacon's general maxims are sagacious and animating, his
particular precepts failed in his hands, and are now practically
useless;" and assuming that Bacon's method is not the right one, and not
complete as far as the progress of science up to his time could direct
it, proceeds to construct a _Novum Organum Renovatum_. But Bacon's
writings have recently undergone the closest examination by two editors,
whose care for his memory is as loyal and affectionate as their capacity
is undoubted, and their willingness to take trouble boundless. And Mr.
Ellis and Mr. Spedding, with all their interest in every detail of
Bacon's work, and admiration of the way in which he performed it, make
no secret of their conclusion that he failed in the very thing on which
he was most bent--the discovery of practical and fruitful ways of
scientific inquiry. "Bacon," says Mr. Spedding, "failed to devise a
practicable method for the discovery of the Forms of Nature, because he
misconceived the conditions of the case.... For the same reason he
failed to make any single discovery which holds its place as one of the
steps by which science has in any direction really advanced. The clew
with which he entered the labyrinth did not reach far enough; before he
had nearly attained his end he was obliged either to come back or to go
on without it."

     "His peculiar system of philosophy," says Mr. Spedding in another
     preface, "that is to say, the peculiar method of investigation, the
     "_organum_," the "_formula_," the "_clavis_," the "_ars ipsa
     interpretandi naturam_," the "_filum Labyrinthi_," or by whatever
     of its many names we choose to call that artificial process by
     which alone he believed man could attain a knowledge of the laws
     and a command over the powers of nature--_of this philosophy we can
     make nothing_. If we have not tried it, it is because we feel
     confident that it would not answer. We regard it as a curious piece
     of machinery, very subtle, elaborate, and ingenious, but not worth
     constructing, because all the work it could do may be done more
     easily another way."--_Works_, iii. 171.

What his method really was is itself a matter of question. Mr. Ellis
speaks of it as a matter "but imperfectly apprehended." He differs from
his fellow-labourer Mr. Spedding, in what he supposes to be its central
and characteristic innovation. Mr. Ellis finds it in an improvement and
perfection of logical machinery. Mr. Spedding finds it in the formation
of a great "natural and experimental history," a vast collection of
facts in every department of nature, which was to be a more important
part of his philosophy than the _Novum Organum_ itself. Both of them
think that as he went on, the difficulties of the work grew upon him,
and caused alterations in his plans, and we are reminded that "there is
no didactic exposition of his method in the whole of his writings," and
that "this has not been sufficiently remarked by those who have spoken
of his philosophy."

In the first place, the kind of intellectual instrument which he
proposed to construct was a mistake. His great object was to place the
human mind "on a level with things and nature" (_ut faciamus intellectum
humanum rebus et naturæ parem_), and this could only be done by a
revolution in methods. The ancients had all that genius could do for
man; but it was a matter, he said, not of the strength and fleetness of
the running, but of the rightness of the way. It was a new method,
absolutely different from anything known, which he proposed to the
world, and which should lead men to knowledge, with the certainty and
with the impartial facility of a high-road. The Induction which he
imagined to himself as the contrast to all that had yet been tried was
to have two qualities. It was to end, by no very prolonged or difficult
processes, in absolute certainty. And next, it was to leave very little
to the differences of intellectual power: it was to level minds and
capacities. It was to give all men the same sort of power which a pair
of compasses gives the hand in drawing a circle. "_Absolute certainty,
and a mechanical mode of procedure_" says Mr. Ellis, "_such that all men
should be capable of employing it, are the two great features of the
Baconian system_." This he thought possible, and this he set himself to
expound--"a method universally applicable, and in all cases infallible."
In this he saw the novelty and the vast importance of his discovery. "By
this method all the knowledge which the human mind was capable of
receiving might be attained, and attained without unnecessary labour."
It was a method of "a demonstrative character, with the power of
reducing all minds to nearly the same level." The conception, indeed, of
a "great Art of knowledge," of an "Instauration" of the sciences, of a
"Clavis" which should unlock the difficulties which had hindered
discovery, was not a new one. This attempt at a method which should be
certain, which should level capacities, which should do its work in a
short time, had a special attraction for the imagination of the wild
spirits of the South, from Raimond Lulli in the thirteenth century to
the audacious Calabrians of the sixteenth. With Bacon it was something
much more serious and reasonable and business-like. But such a claim has
never yet been verified; there is no reason to think that it ever can
be; and to have made it shows a fundamental defect in Bacon's conception
of the possibilities of the human mind and the field it has to work in.

In the next place, though the prominence which he gave to the doctrine
of Induction was one of those novelties which are so obvious after the
event, though so strange before it, and was undoubtedly the element in
his system which gave it life and power and influence on the course of
human thought and discovery, his account of Induction was far from
complete and satisfactory. Without troubling himself about the theory of
Induction, as De Rémusat has pointed out, he contented himself with
applying to its use the precepts of common-sense and a sagacious
perception of the circumstances in which it was to be employed. But even
these precepts, notable as they were, wanted distinctness, and the
qualities needed for working rules. The change is great when in fifty
years we pass from the poetical science of Bacon to the mathematical and
precise science of Newton. His own time may well have been struck by
the originality and comprehensiveness of such a discriminating
arrangement of proofs as the "Prerogative Instances" of the _Novum
Organum_, so natural and real, yet never before thus compared and
systematized. But there is a great interval between his method of
experimenting, his "_Hunt of Pan_"--the three tables of Instances,
"_Presence_," "_Absence_" and "_Degrees, or Comparisons_," leading to a
process of sifting and exclusion, and to the _First Vintage_, or
beginnings of theory--and say, for instance, Mill's four methods of
experimental inquiry: the method of _agreement_, of _differences_, of
_residues_, and of _concomitant variations_. The course which he marked
out so laboriously and so ingeniously for Induction to follow was one
which was found to be impracticable, and as barren of results as those
deductive philosophies on which he lavished his scorn. He has left
precepts and examples of what he meant by his cross-examining and
sifting processes. As admonitions to cross-examine and to sift facts and
phenomena they are valuable. Many of the observations and
classifications are subtle and instructive. But in his hands nothing
comes of them. They lead at the utmost to mere negative conclusions;
they show what a thing is not. But his attempt to elicit anything
positive out of them breaks down, or ends at best in divinations and
guesses, sometimes--as in connecting Heat and Motion--very near to later
and more carefully-grounded theories, but always unverified. He had a
radically false and mechanical conception, though in words he earnestly
disclaims it, of the way to deal with the facts of nature. He looked on
them as things which told their own story, and suggested the questions
which ought to be put to them; and with this idea half his time was
spent in collecting huge masses of indigested facts of the most various
authenticity and value, and he thought he was collecting materials
which his method had only to touch in order to bring forth from them
light and truth and power. He thought that, not in certain sciences, but
in all, one set of men could do the observing and collecting, and
another be set on the work of Induction and the discovery of "axioms."
Doubtless in the arrangement and sorting of them his versatile and
ingenious mind gave itself full play; he divides and distinguishes them
into their companies and groups, different kinds of Motion,
"Prerogative" instances, with their long tale of imaginative titles. But
we look in vain for any use that he was able to make of them, or even to
suggest. Bacon never adequately realised that no promiscuous assemblage
of even the most certain facts could ever lead to knowledge, could ever
suggest their own interpretation, without the action on them of the
living mind, without the initiative of an idea. In truth he was so
afraid of assumptions and "anticipations" and prejudices--his great
bugbear was so much the "_intellectus sibi permissus_" the mind given
liberty to guess and imagine and theorise, instead of, as it ought,
absolutely and servilely submitting itself to the control of facts--that
he missed the true place of the rational and formative element in his
account of Induction. He does tell us, indeed, that "truth emerges
sooner from error than from confusion." He indulges the mind, in the
course of its investigation of "Instances," with a first "vintage" of
provisional generalisations. But of the way in which the living mind of
the discoverer works, with its ideas and insight, and thoughts that come
no one knows whence, working hand in hand with what comes before the eye
or is tested by the instrument, he gives us no picture. Compare his
elaborate investigation of the "Form of Heat" in the _Novum Organum_,
with such a record of real inquiry as Wells's _Treatise on Dew_, or
Herschel's analysis of it in his _Introduction to Natural Philosophy_.
And of the difference of genius between a Faraday or a Newton, and the
crowd of average men who have used and finished off their work, he takes
no account. Indeed, he thinks that for the future such difference is to

     "That his method is impracticable," says Mr. Ellis, "cannot, I
     think, be denied, if we reflect not only that it never has produced
     any result, but also that the process by which scientific truths
     have been established cannot be so presented as even to appear to
     be in accordance with it. In all cases this process involves an
     element to which nothing corresponds in the Tables of 'Comparence'
     and 'Exclusion,' namely, the application to the facts of
     observation of a principle of arrangement, an idea, existing in the
     mind of the discoverer antecedently to the act of induction. It may
     be said that this idea is precisely one of the _naturæ_ into which
     the facts of observation ought in Bacon's system to be analysed.
     And this is in one sense true; but it must be added that this
     analysis, if it be thought right so to call it, is of the essence
     of the discovery which results from it. In most cases the act of
     induction follows as a matter of course as soon as the appropriate
     idea has been introduced."--Ellis, _General Preface_, i. 38.

Lastly, not only was Bacon's conception of philosophy so narrow as to
exclude one of its greatest domains; for, says Mr. Ellis, "it cannot be
denied that to Bacon all sound philosophy seemed to be included in what
we now call the natural sciences," and in all its parts was claimed as
the subject of his inductive method; but Bacon's scientific knowledge
and scientific conceptions were often very imperfect--more imperfect
than they ought to have been for his time. Of one large part of science,
which was just then beginning to be cultivated with high promise of
success--the knowledge of the heavens--he speaks with a coldness and
suspicion which contrasts remarkably with his eagerness about things
belonging to the sphere of the earth and within reach of the senses. He
holds, of course, the unity of the world; the laws of the whole visible
universe are one order; but the heavens, wonderful as they are to him,
are--compared with other things--out of his track of inquiry. He had his
astronomical theories; he expounded them in his "_Descriptio Globi
Intellectualis_" and his _Thema Coeli_ He was not altogether ignorant of
what was going on in days when Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo were at
work. But he did not know how to deal with it, and there were men in
England, before and then, who understood much better than he the
problems and the methods of astronomy. He had one conspicuous and
strange defect for a man who undertook what he did. He was not a
mathematician: he did not see the indispensable necessity of mathematics
in the great _Instauration_ which he projected; he did not much believe
in what they could do. He cared so little about them that he takes no
notice of Napier's invention of Logarithms. He was not able to trace how
the direct information of the senses might be rightly subordinated to
the rational, but not self-evident results of geometry and arithmetic.
He was impatient of the subtleties of astronomical calculations; they
only attempted to satisfy problems about the motion of bodies in the
sky, and told us nothing of physical fact; they gave us, as Prometheus
gave to Jove, the outside skin of the offering, which was stuffed inside
with straw and rubbish. He entirely failed to see that before dealing
with physical astronomy, it must be dealt with mathematically. "It is
well to remark," as Mr. Ellis says, "that none of Newton's astronomical
discoveries could have been made if astronomers had not continued to
render themselves liable to Bacon's censure." Bacon little thought that
in navigation the compass itself would become a subordinate instrument
compared with the helps given by mathematical astronomy. In this, and in
other ways, Bacon rose above his time in his conceptions of what _might
be_, but not of what _was_; the list is a long one, as given by Mr.
Spedding (iii. 511), of the instances which show that he was
ill-informed about the advances of knowledge in his own time. And his
mind was often not clear when he came to deal with complex phenomena.
Thus, though he constructed a table of specific gravities--"the only
collection," says Mr. Ellis, "of quantitative experiments that we find
in his works," and "wonderfully accurate considering the manner in which
they were obtained;" yet he failed to understand the real nature of the
famous experiment of Archimedes. And so with the larger features of his
teaching it is impossible not to feel how imperfectly he had emancipated
himself from the power of words and of common prepossessions; how for
one reason or another he had failed to call himself to account in the
terms he employed, and the assumptions on which he argued. The caution
does not seem to have occurred to him that the statement of a fact may,
in nine cases out of ten, involve a theory. His whole doctrine of
"Forms" and "Simple natures," which is so prominent in his method of
investigation, is an example of loose and slovenly use of unexamined and
untested ideas. He allowed himself to think that it would be possible to
arrive at an alphabet of nature, which, once attained, would suffice to
spell out and constitute all its infinite combinations. He accepted,
without thinking it worth a doubt, the doctrine of appetites and
passions and inclinations and dislikes and horrors in inorganic nature.
His whole physiology of life and death depends on a doctrine of animal
spirits, of which he traces the operations and qualities as if they were
as certain as the nerves or the blood, and of which he gives this
account--"that in every tangible body there is a spirit covered and
enveloped in the grosser body;" "not a virtue, not an energy, not an
actuality, nor any such idle matter, but a body thin and invisible, and
yet having place and dimension, and real." ... "a middle nature between
flame, which is momentary, and air which is permanent." Yet these are
the very things for which he holds up Aristotle and the Scholastics and
the Italian speculators to reprobation and scorn. The clearness of his
thinking was often overlaid by the immense profusion of decorative
material which his meditation brought along with it. The defect was
greater than that which even his ablest defenders admit. It was more
than that in that "greatest and radical difference, which he himself
observes" between minds, the difference between minds which were apt to
note _distinctions_, and those which were apt to note _likenesses_, he
was, without knowing it, defective in the first. It was that in many
instances he exemplified in his own work the very faults which he
charged on the older philosophies: haste, carelessness, precipitancy,
using words without thinking them out, assuming to know when he ought to
have perceived his real ignorance.

What, then, with all these mistakes and failures, not always creditable
or pardonable, has given Bacon his preeminent place in the history of

1. The answer is that with all his mistakes and failures, the principles
on which his mode of attaining a knowledge of nature was based were the
only true ones; and they had never before been propounded so
systematically, so fully, and so earnestly. His was not the first mind
on whom these principles had broken. Men were, and had been for some
time, pursuing their inquiries into various departments of nature
precisely on the general plan of careful and honest observation of real
things which he enjoined. They had seen, as he saw, the futility of all
attempts at natural philosophy by mere thinking and arguing, without
coming into contact with the contradictions or corrections or
verifications of experience. In Italy, in Germany, in England there were
laborious and successful workers, who had long felt that to be in touch
with nature was the only way to know. But no one had yet come before the
world to proclaim this on the house-tops, as the key of the only certain
path to the secrets of nature, the watchword of a revolution in the
methods of interpreting her; and this Bacon did with an imposing
authority and power which enforced attention. He spoke the thoughts of
patient toilers like Harvey with a largeness and richness which they
could not command, and which they perhaps smiled at. He disentangled and
spoke the vague thoughts of his age, which other men had not the courage
and clearness of mind to formulate. What Bacon _did_, indeed, and what
he _meant_, are separate matters. He _meant_ an infallible method by
which man should be fully equipped for a struggle with nature; he meant
an irresistible and immediate conquest, within a definite and not
distant time. It was too much. He himself saw no more of what he _meant_
than Columbus did of America. But what he _did_ was to persuade men for
the future that the intelligent, patient, persevering cross-examination
of things, and the thoughts about them, was the only, and was the
successful road to know. No one had yet done this, and he did it. His
writings were a public recognition of real science, in its humblest
tasks about the commonplace facts before our feet, as well as in its
loftiest achievements. "The man who is growing great and happy by
electrifying a bottle," says Dr. Johnson, "wonders to see the world
engaged in the prattle about peace and war," and the world was ready to
smile at the simplicity or the impertinence of his enthusiasm. Bacon
impressed upon the world for good, with every resource of subtle
observation and forcible statement, that "the man who is growing great
by electrifying a bottle" is as important a person in the world's
affairs as the arbiter of peace and war.

2. Yet this is not all. An inferior man might have made himself the
mouthpiece of the hopes and aspirations of his generation after a larger
science. But to Bacon these aspirations embodied themselves in the form
of a great and absorbing idea; an idea which took possession of the
whole man, kindling in him a faith which nothing could quench, and a
passion which nothing could dull; an idea which, for forty years, was
his daily companion, his daily delight, his daily business; an idea
which he was never tired of placing in ever fresh and more attractive
lights, from which no trouble could wean him, about which no disaster
could make him despair; an idea round which the instincts and intuitions
and obstinate convictions of genius gathered, which kindled his rich
imagination and was invested by it with a splendour and magnificence
like the dreams of fable. It is this idea which finds its fitting
expression in the grand and stately aphorisms of the _Novum Organum_, in
the varied fields of interest in the _De Augmentis_, in the romance of
the _New Atlantis_. It is this idea, this certainty of a new unexplored
Kingdom of Knowledge within the reach and grasp of man, if he will be
humble enough and patient enough and truthful enough to occupy it--this
announcement not only of a new system of thought, but of a change in the
condition of the world--a prize and possession such as man had not yet
imagined; this belief in the fortunes of the human race and its issue,
"such an issue, it may be, as in the present condition of things and
men's minds cannot easily be conceived or imagined," yet more than
verified in the wonders which our eyes have seen--it is this which gives
its prerogative to Bacon's work. That he bungled about the processes of
Induction, that he talked about an unintelligible doctrine of _Forms_,
did not affect the weight and solemnity of his call to learn, so full of
wisdom and good-sense, so sober and so solid, yet so audaciously
confident. There had been nothing like it in its ardour of hope, in the
glory which it threw around the investigation of nature. It was the
presence and the power of a great idea--long become a commonplace to us,
but strange and perplexing at first to his own generation, which
probably shared Coke's opinion that it qualified its champion for a
place in the company of the "Ship of Fools," which expressed its opinion
of the man who wrote the _Novum Organum_, in the sentiment that "a fool
_could_ not have written it, and a wise man _would_ not"--it is this
which has placed Bacon among the great discoverers of the human race.

It is this imaginative yet serious assertion of the vast range and
possibilities of human knowledge which, as M. de Rémusat remarks--the
keenest and fairest of Bacon's judges--gives Bacon his claim to the
undefinable but very real character of greatness. Two men stand out,
"the masters of those who know," without equals up to their time, among
men--the Greek Aristotle and the Englishman Bacon. They agree in the
universality and comprehensiveness of their conception of human
knowledge; and they were absolutely alone in their serious practical
ambition to work out this conception. In the separate departments of
thought, of investigation, of art, each is left far behind by numbers of
men, who in these separate departments have gone far deeper than they,
have soared higher, have been more successful in what they attempted.
But Aristotle first, and for his time more successfully, and Bacon after
him, ventured on the daring enterprise of "taking all knowledge for
their province;" and in this they stood alone. This present scene of
man's existence, this that we call nature, the stage on which mortal
life begins and goes on and ends, the faculties with which man is
equipped to act, to enjoy, to create, to hold his way amid or against
the circumstances and forces round him--this is what each wants to know,
as thoroughly and really as can be. It is not to reduce things to a
theory or a system that they look around them on the place where they
find themselves with life and thought and power; that were easily done,
and has been done over and over again, only to prove its futility. It is
to know, as to the whole and its parts, as men understand _knowing_ in
some one subject of successful handling, whether art or science or
practical craft. This idea, this effort, distinguishes these two men.
The Greeks--predecessors, contemporaries, successors of Aristotle--were
speculators, full of clever and ingenious guesses, in which the amount
of clear and certain fact was in lamentable disproportion to the schemes
blown up from it; or they devoted themselves more profitably to some one
or two subjects of inquiry, moral or purely intellectual, with absolute
indifference to what might be asked, or what might be known, of the real
conditions under which they were passing their existence. Some of the
Romans, Cicero and Pliny, had encyclopædic minds; but the Roman mind
was the slave of precedent, and was more than satisfied with partially
understanding and neatly arranging what the Greeks had left. The
Arabians looked more widely about them; but the Arabians were
essentially sceptics, and resigned subjects to the inevitable and the
inexplicable; there was an irony, open or covert, in their philosophy,
their terminology, their transcendental mysticism, which showed how
little they believed that they really knew. The vast and mighty
intellects of the schoolmen never came into a real grapple with the
immensity of the facts of the natural or even of the moral world; within
the world of abstract thought, the world of language, with its infinite
growths and consequences, they have never had their match for keenness,
for patience, for courage, for inexhaustible toil; but they were as much
disconnected from the natural world, which was their stage of life, as
if they had been disembodied spirits. The Renaissance brought with it
not only the desire to know, but to know comprehensively and in all
possible directions; it brought with it temptations to the awakened
Italian genius, renewed, enlarged, refined, if not strengthened by its
passage through the Middle Ages, to make thought deal with the real, and
to understand the scene in which men were doing such strange and
wonderful things; but Giordano Bruno, Telesio, Campanella, and their
fellows, were not men capable of more than short flights, though they
might be daring and eager ones. It required more thoroughness, more
humble-minded industry, to match the magnitude of the task. And there
have been men of universal minds and comprehensive knowledge since
Bacon, Leibnitz, Goethe, Humboldt, men whose thoughts were at home
everywhere, where there was something to be known. But even for them the
world of knowledge has grown too large. We shall never again see an
Aristotle or a Bacon, because the conditions of knowledge have altered.
Bacon, like Aristotle, belonged to an age of adventure, which went to
sea little knowing whither it went, and ill furnished with knowledge and
instruments. He entered with a vast and vague scheme of discovery on
these unknown seas and new worlds which to us are familiar, and daily
traversed in every direction. This new world of knowledge has turned out
in many ways very different from what Aristotle or Bacon supposed, and
has been conquered by implements and weapons very different in precision
and power from what they purposed to rely on. But the combination of
patient and careful industry, with the courage and divination of genius,
in doing what none had done before, makes it equally stupid and idle to
impeach their greatness.

3. Bacon has been charged with bringing philosophy down from the
heights, not as of old to make men know themselves, and to be the
teacher of the highest form of truth, but to be the purveyor of material
utility. It contemplates only, it is said, the "_commoda vitæ_;" about
the deeper and more elevating problems of thought it does not trouble
itself. It concerns itself only about external and sensible nature,
about what is "of the earth, earthy." But when it comes to the questions
which have attracted the keenest and hardiest thinkers, the question,
what it is that thinks and wills--what is the origin and guarantee of
the faculties by which men know anything at all and form rational and
true conceptions about nature and themselves, whence it is that reason
draws its powers and materials and rules--what is the meaning of words
which all use but few can explain--Time and Space, and Being and Cause,
and consciousness and choice, and the moral law--Bacon is content with a
loose and superficial treatment of them. Bacon certainly was not a
metaphysician, nor an exact and lucid reasoner. With wonderful flashes
of sure intuition or happy anticipation, his mind was deficient in the
powers which deal with the deeper problems of thought, just as it was
deficient in the mathematical faculty. The subtlety, the intuition, the
penetration, the severe precision, even the force of imagination, which
make a man a great thinker on any abstract subject were not his; the
interest of questions which had interested metaphysicians had no
interest for him: he distrusted and undervalued them. When he touches
the "ultimities" of knowledge he is as obscure and hard to be understood
as any of those restless Southern Italians of his own age, who shared
with him the ambition of reconstructing science. Certainly the science
which most interested Bacon, the science which he found, as he thought,
in so desperate a condition, and to which he gave so great an impulse,
was physical science. But physical science may be looked at and pursued
in different ways, in different tempers, with different objects. It may
be followed in the spirit of Newton, of Boyle, of Herschel, of Faraday;
or with a confined and low horizon it may be dwarfed and shrivelled into
a mean utilitarianism. But Bacon's horizon was not a narrow one. He
believed in God and immortality and the Christian creed and hope. To him
the restoration of the Reign of Man was a noble enterprise, because man
was so great and belonged to so great an order of things, because the
things which he was bid to search into with honesty and truthfulness
were the works and laws of God, because it was so shameful and so
miserable that from an ignorance which industry and good-sense could
remedy, the tribes of mankind passed their days in self-imposed darkness
and helplessness. It was God's appointment that men should go through
this earthly stage of their being. Each stage of man's mysterious
existence had to be dealt with, not according to his own fancies, but
according to the conditions imposed on it; and it was one of man's first
duties to arrange for his stay on earth according to the real laws which
he could find out if he only sought for them. Doubtless it was one of
Bacon's highest hopes that from the growth of true knowledge would
follow in surprising ways the relief of man's estate; this, as an end,
runs through all his yearning after a fuller and surer method of
interpreting nature. The desire to be a great benefactor, the spirit of
sympathy and pity for mankind, reign through this portion of his
work--pity for confidence so greatly abused by the teachers of man, pity
for ignorance which might be dispelled, pity for pain and misery which
might be relieved. In the quaint but beautiful picture of courtesy,
kindness, and wisdom, which he imagines in the _New Atlantis_, the
representative of true philosophy, the "Father of Solomon's House," is
introduced as one who "had an aspect as if he pitied men." But unless it
is utilitarianism to be keenly alive to the needs and pains of life, and
to be eager and busy to lighten and assuage them, Bacon's philosophy was
not utilitarian. It may deserve many reproaches, but not this one. Such
a passage as the following--in which are combined the highest motives
and graces and passions of the soul, love of truth, humility of mind,
purity of purpose, reverence for God, sympathy for man, compassion for
the sorrows of the world and longing to heal them, depth of conviction
and faith--fairly represents the spirit which runs through his works.
After urging the mistaken use of imagination and authority in science,
he goes on--

     "There is not and never will be an end or limit to this; one
     catches at one thing, another at another; each has his favourite
     fancy; pure and open light there is none; every one philosophises
     out of the cells of his own imagination, as out of Plato's cave;
     the higher wits with more acuteness and felicity, the duller, less
     happily, but with equal pertinacity. And now of late, by the
     regulation of some learned and (as things now are) excellent men
     (the former license having, I suppose, become wearisome), the
     sciences are confined to certain and prescribed authors, and thus
     restrained are imposed upon the old and instilled into the young;
     so that now (to use the sarcasm of Cicero concerning Cæsar's year)
     the constellation of Lyra rises by edict, and authority is taken
     for truth, not truth for authority. Which kind of institution and
     discipline is excellent for present use, but precludes all prospect
     of improvement. For we copy the sin of our first parents while we
     suffer for it. They wished to be like God, but their posterity wish
     to be even greater. For we create worlds, we direct and domineer
     over nature, we will have it that all things _are_ as in our folly
     we think they should be, not as seems fittest to the Divine wisdom,
     or as they are found to be in fact; and I know not whether we more
     distort the facts of nature or of our own wits; but we clearly
     impress the stamp of our own image on the creatures and works of
     God, instead of carefully examining and recognising in them the
     stamp of the Creator himself. Wherefore our dominion over creatures
     is a second time forfeited, not undeservedly; and whereas after the
     fall of man some power over the resistance of creatures was still
     left to him--the power of subduing and managing them by true and
     solid arts--yet this too through our insolence, and because we
     desire to be like God and to follow the dictates of our own reason,
     we in great part lose. If, therefore, there be any humility towards
     the Creator, any reverence for or disposition to magnify His works,
     any charity for man and anxiety to relieve his sorrows and
     necessities, any love of truth in nature, any hatred of darkness,
     any desire for the purification of the understanding, we must
     entreat men again and again to discard, or at least set apart for a
     while, these volatile and preposterous philosophies which have
     preferred theses to hypotheses, led experience captive, and
     triumphed over the works of God; and to approach with humility and
     veneration to unroll the volume of Creation, to linger and meditate
     therein, and with minds washed clean from opinions to study it in
     purity and integrity. For this is that sound and language which
     "went forth into all lands," and did not incur the confusion of
     Babel; this should men study to be perfect in, and becoming again
     as little children condescend to take the alphabet of it into their
     hands, and spare no pains to search and unravel the interpretation
     thereof, but pursue it strenuously and persevere even unto
     death."--Preface to _Historia Naturalis_: translated, _Works_, v.



Bacon's name belongs to letters as well as to philosophy. In his own
day, whatever his contemporaries thought of his _Instauration of
Knowledge_, he was in the first rank as a speaker and a writer. Sir
Walter Raleigh, contrasting him with Salisbury, who could speak but not
write, and Northampton, who could write but not speak, thought Bacon
eminent both as a speaker and a writer. Ben Jonson, passing in review
the more famous names of his own and the preceding age, from Sir Thomas
More to Sir Philip Sidney, Hooker, Essex, and Raleigh, places Bacon
without a rival at the head of the company as the man who had "fulfilled
all numbers," and "stood as the mark and [Greek: akmê] of our language."
And he also records Bacon's power as a speaker. "No man," he says, "ever
spoke more neatly, more pressly, or suffered less emptiness, less
idleness, in what he uttered."..."His hearers could not cough or look
aside from him without loss. He commanded when he spoke, and had his
judges angry and pleased at his devotion ... the fear of every man that
heard him was that he should make an end." He notices one feature for
which we are less prepared, though we know that the edge of Bacon's
sarcastic tongue was felt and resented in James's Court. "His speech,"
says Ben Jonson, "was nobly censorious when he could _spare and pass by
a jest_." The unpopularity which certainly seems to have gathered round
his name may have had something to do with this reputation.

Yet as an English writer Bacon did not expect to be remembered, and he
hardly cared to be. He wrote much in Latin, and his first care was to
have his books put into a Latin dress. "For these modern languages," he
wrote to Toby Matthews towards the close of his life, "will at one time
or another play the bank-rowte with books, and since I have lost much
time with this age, I would be glad if God would give me leave to
recover it with posterity." He wanted to be read by the learned out of
England, who were supposed to appreciate his philosophical ideas better
than his own countrymen, and the only way to this was to have his books
translated into the "general language." He sends Prince Charles the
_Advancement_ in its new Latin dress. "It is a book," he says, "that
will live, and be a citizen of the world, as English books are not." And
he fitted it for continental reading by carefully weeding it of all
passages that might give offence to the censors at Rome or Paris. "I
have been," he writes to the King, "mine own _Index Expurgatorius_, that
it may be read in all places. For since my end of putting it in Latin
was to have it read everywhere, it had been an absurd contradiction to
free it in the language and to pen it up in the matter." Even the
_Essays_ and the _History of Henry VII._ he had put into Latin "by some
good pens that do not forsake me." Among these translators are said to
have been George Herbert and Hobbes, and on more doubtful authority, Ben
Jonson and Selden. The _Essays_ were also translated into Latin and
Italian with Bacon's sanction.

Bacon's contemptuous and hopeless estimate of "these modern languages,"
forty years after Spenser had proclaimed and justified his faith in his
own language, is only one of the proofs of the short-sightedness of the
wisest and the limitations of the largest-minded. Perhaps we ought not
to wonder at his silence about Shakespeare. It was the fashion, except
among a set of clever but not always very reputable people, to think the
stage, as it was, below the notice of scholars and statesmen; and
Shakespeare took no trouble to save his works from neglect. Yet it is a
curious defect in Bacon that he should not have been more alive to the
powers and future of his own language. He early and all along was
profoundly impressed with the contrast, which the scholarship of the age
so abundantly presented, of words to things. He dwells in the
_Advancement_ on that "first distemper of learning, when men study words
and not matter." He illustrates it at large from the reaction of the new
learning and of the popular teaching of the Reformation against the
utilitarian and unclassical terminology of the schoolmen; a reaction
which soon grew to excess, and made men "hunt more after choiceness of
the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the
sweet falling of the clauses," than after worth of subject, soundness of
argument, "life of invention or depth of judgment." "I have represented
this," he says, "in an example of late times, but it hath been and will
be _secundum majus et minus_ in all times;" and he likens this "vanity"
to "Pygmalion's frenzy"--"for to fall in love with words which are but
the images of matter, is all one as to fall in love with a picture." He
was dissatisfied with the first attempt at translation into Latin of the
_Advancement_ by Dr. Playfer of Cambridge, because he "desired not so
much neat and polite, as clear, masculine, and apt expression." Yet,
with this hatred of circumlocution and prettiness, of the cloudy
amplifications, and pompous flourishings, and "the flowing and watery
vein," which the scholars of his time affected, it is strange that he
should not have seen that the new ideas and widening thoughts of which
he was the herald would want a much more elastic and more freely-working
instrument than Latin could ever become. It is wonderful indeed what can
be done with Latin. It was long after his day to be the language of the
exact sciences. In his _History of the Winds_, which is full of his
irrepressible fancy and picturesqueness, Bacon describes in clear and
intelligible Latin the details of the rigging of a modern man-of-war,
and the mode of sailing her. But such tasks impose a yoke, sometimes a
rough one, on a language which has "taken its ply" in very different
conditions, and of which the genius is that of indirect and circuitous
expression, "full of majesty and circumstance." But it never, even in
those days of scholarship, could lend itself to the frankness, the
straightforwardness, the fulness and shades of suggestion and
association, with which, in handling ideas of subtlety and difficulty, a
writer would wish to speak to his reader, and which he could find only
in his mother tongue. It might have been thought that with Bacon's
contempt of form and ceremony in these matters, his consciousness of the
powers of English in his hands might have led him to anticipate that a
flexible and rich and strong language might create a literature, and
that a literature, if worth studying, would be studied in its own
language. But so great a change was beyond even his daring thoughts. To
him, as to his age, the only safe language was the Latin. For familiar
use English was well enough. But it could not be trusted; "it would play
the bankrupt with books." And yet Galileo was writing in Italian as well
as in Latin; only within twenty-five years later, Descartes was writing
_De la Méthode_, and Pascal was writing in the same French in which he
wrote the _Provincial Letters_, his _Nouvelles Expériences touchant le
Vide_, and the controversial pamphlets which followed it; showing how in
that interval of five-and-twenty years an instrument had been fashioned
out of a modern language such as for lucid expression and clear
reasoning, Bacon had not yet dreamed of. From Bacon to Pascal is the
change from the old scientific way of writing to the modern; from a
modern language, as learned and used in the 16th century, to one learned
in the 17th.

But the language of the age of Elizabeth was a rich and noble one, and
it reached a high point in the hands of Bacon. In his hands it lent
itself to many uses, and assumed many forms, and he valued it, not
because he thought highly of its qualities as a language, but because it
enabled him with least trouble "to speak as he would," in throwing off
the abundant thoughts that rose within his mind, and in going through
the variety of business which could not be done in Latin. But in all his
writing it is the matter, the real thing that he wanted to say, which
was uppermost. He cared how it was said, not for the sake of form or
ornament, but because the force and clearness of what was said depended
so much on how it was said. Of course, what he wanted to say varied
indefinitely with the various occasions of his life. His business may
merely be to write "a device" or panegyric for a pageant in the Queen's
honour, or for the revels of Gray's Inn. But even these trifles are the
result of real thought, and are full of ideas--ideas about the hopes of
knowledge or about the policy of the State; and though, of course, they
have plenty of the flourishes and quaint absurdities indispensable on
such occasions, yet the "rhetorical affectation" is in the thing itself,
and not in the way it is handled; he had an opportunity of saying some
of the things which were to him of deep and perpetual interest, and he
used it to say them, as forcibly, as strikingly, as attractively as he
could. His manner of writing depends, not on a style, or a studied or
acquired habit, but on the nature of the task which he has in hand.
Everywhere his matter is close to his words, and governs, animates,
informs his words. No one in England before had so much as he had the
power to say what he wanted to say, and exactly as he wanted to say it.
No one was so little at the mercy of conventional language or customary
rhetoric, except when he persuaded himself that he had to submit to
those necessities of flattery, which cost him at last so dear.

The book by which English readers, from his own time to ours, have known
him best, better than by the originality and the eloquence of the
_Advancement_, or than by the political weight and historical
imagination of the _History of Henry VII._, is the first book which he
published, the volume of _Essays_. It is an instance of his self-willed
but most skilful use of the freedom and ease which the "modern
language," which he despised, gave him. It is obvious that he might have
expanded these "Counsels, moral and political," to the size which such
essays used to swell to after his time. Many people would have thanked
him for doing so; and some have thought it a good book on which to hang
their own reflections and illustrations. But he saw how much could be
done by leaving the beaten track of set treatise and discourse, and
setting down unceremoniously the observations which he had made, and the
real rules which he had felt to be true, on various practical matters
which come home to men's "business and bosoms." He was very fond of
these moral and political generalisations, both of his own collecting
and as found in writers who, he thought, had the right to make them,
like the Latins of the Empire and the Italians and Spaniards of the
Renaissance. But a mere string of maxims and quotations would have been
a poor thing and not new; and he cast what he had to say into connected
wholes. But nothing can be more loose than the structure of the essays.
There is no art, no style, almost, except in a few--the political
ones--no order: thoughts are put down and left unsupported, unproved,
undeveloped. In the first form of the ten, which composed the first
edition of 1597, they are more like notes of analysis or tables of
contents; they are austere even to meagreness. But the general character
continues in the enlarged and expanded ones of Bacon's later years. They
are like chapters in Aristotle's Ethics and Rhetoric on virtues and
characters; only Bacon's takes Aristotle's broad marking lines as drawn,
and proceeds with the subtler and more refined observations of a much
longer and wider experience. But these short papers say what they have
to say without preface, and in literary undress, without a superfluous
word, without the joints and bands of structure; they say it in brief,
rapid sentences, which come down, sentence after sentence, like the
strokes of a great hammer. No wonder that in their disdainful brevity
they seem rugged and abrupt, "and do not seem to end, but fall." But
with their truth and piercingness and delicacy of observation, their
roughness gives a kind of flavour which no elaboration could give. It is
none the less that their wisdom is of a somewhat cynical kind, fully
alive to the slipperiness and self-deceits and faithlessness which are
in the world and rather inclined to be amused at them. In some we can
see distinct records of the writer's own experience: one contains the
substance of a charge delivered to Judge Hutton on his appointment;
another of them is a sketch drawn from life of a character which had
crossed Bacon's path, and in the essay on _Seeming Wise_ we can trace
from the impatient notes put down in his _Commentarius Solutus_, the
picture of the man who stood in his way, the Attorney-General Hobart.
Some of them are memorable oracular utterances not inadequate to the
subject, on _Truth_ or _Death_ or _Unity_. Others reveal an utter
incapacity to come near a subject, except as a strange external
phenomena, like the essay on _Love_. There is a distinct tendency in
them to the Italian school of political and moral wisdom, the wisdom of
distrust and of reliance on indirect and roundabout ways. There is a
group of them, "of _Delays_," "of _Cunning_," "of _Wisdom for a Man's
Self_," "of _Despatch_," which show how vigilantly and to what purpose
he had watched the treasurers and secretaries and intriguers of
Elizabeth's and James's Courts; and there are curious self-revelations,
as in the essay on _Friendship_. But there are also currents of better
and larger feeling, such as those which show his own ideal of "_Great
Place_," and what he felt of its dangers and duties. And mixed with the
fantastic taste and conceits of the time, there is evidence in them of
Bacon's keen delight in nature, in the beauty and scents of flowers, in
the charm of open-air life, as in the essay on _Gardens_, "The purest of
human pleasures, the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man."

But he had another manner of writing for what he held to be his more
serious work. In the philosophical and historical works there is no want
of attention to the flow and order and ornament of composition. When we
come to the _Advancement of Learning_, we come to a book which is one of
the landmarks of what high thought and rich imagination have made of
the English language. It is the first great book in English prose of
secular interest; the first book which can claim a place beside the
_Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity_. As regards its subject-matter, it has
been partly thrown into the shade by the greatly enlarged and elaborate
form in which it ultimately appeared, in a Latin dress, as the first
portion of the scheme of the _Instauratio_, the _De Augmentis
Scientiarum_. Bacon looked on it as a first effort, a kind of call-bell
to awaken and attract the interest of others in the thoughts and hopes
which so interested himself. But it contains some of his finest writing.
In the _Essays_ he writes as a looker-on at the game of human affairs,
who, according to his frequent illustration, sees more of it than the
gamesters themselves, and is able to give wiser and faithful counsel,
not without a touch of kindly irony at the mistakes which he observes.
In the _Advancement_ he is the enthusiast for a great cause and a great
hope, and all that he has of passion and power is enlisted in the effort
to advance it. The _Advancement_ is far from being a perfect book. As a
survey of the actual state of knowledge in his day, of its deficiencies,
and what was wanted to supply them, it is not even up to the materials
of the time. Even the improved _De Augmentis_ is inadequate; and there
is reason to think the _Advancement_ was a hurried book, at least in the
later part, and it is defective in arrangement and proportion of parts.
Two of the great divisions of knowledge--history and poetry--are
despatched in comparatively short chapters; while in the division on
"Civil Knowledge," human knowledge as it respects society, he inserts a
long essay, obviously complete in itself and clumsily thrust in here, on
the ways of getting on in the world, the means by which a man may be
"_Faber fortunæ suæ_"--the architect of his own success; too lively a
picture to be pleasant of the arts with which he had become acquainted
in the process of rising. The book, too, has the blemishes of its own
time; its want of simplicity, its inevitable though very often amusing
and curious pedantries. But the _Advancement_ was the first of a long
line of books which have attempted to teach English readers how to think
of knowledge; to make it really and intelligently the interest, not of
the school or the study or the laboratory only, but of society at large.
It was a book with a purpose, new then, but of which we have seen the
fulfilment. He wanted to impress on his generation, as a very practical
matter, all that knowledge might do in wise hands, all that knowledge
had lost by the faults and errors of men and the misfortunes of time,
all that knowledge might be pushed to in all directions by faithful and
patient industry and well-planned methods for the elevation and benefit
of man in his highest capacities as well as in his humblest. And he
further sought to teach them _how_ to know; to make them understand that
difficult achievement of self-knowledge, to know _what it is_ to know;
to give the first attempted chart to guide them among the shallows and
rocks and whirlpools which beset the course and action of thought and
inquiry; to reveal to them the "idols" which unconsciously haunt the
minds of the strongest as well as the weakest, and interpose their
delusions when we are least aware--"the fallacies and false appearances
inseparable from our nature and our condition of life." To induce men to
believe not only that there was much to know that was not yet dreamed
of, but that the way of knowing needed real and thorough improvement;
that the knowing mind bore along with it all kinds of snares and
disqualifications of which it is unconscious; and that it needed
training quite as much as materials to work on, was the object of the
_Advancement_. It was but a sketch; but it was a sketch so truly and
forcibly drawn, that it made an impression which has never been
weakened. To us its use and almost its interest is passed. But it is a
book which we can never open without coming on some noble interpretation
of the realities of nature or the mind; some unexpected discovery of
that quick and keen eye which arrests us by its truth; some felicitous
and unthought-of illustration, yet so natural as almost to be doomed to
become a commonplace; some bright touch of his incorrigible
imaginativeness, ever ready to force itself in amid the driest details
of his argument.

The _Advancement_ was only one shape out of many into which he cast his
thoughts. Bacon was not easily satisfied with his work; even when he
published he did so, not because he had brought his work to the desired
point, but lest anything should happen to him and it should "perish."
Easy and unstudied as his writing seems, it was, as we have seen, the
result of unintermitted trouble and varied modes of working. He was
quite as much a talker as a writer, and beat out his thoughts into shape
in talking. In the essay on _Friendship_ he describes the process with a
vividness which tells of his own experience--

     "But before you come to that [the faithful counsel that a man
     receiveth from his friend], certain it is that whosoever hath his
     mind fraught with many thoughts, his wits and understanding do
     clarify and break up in the communicating and discoursing with
     another. He tosseth his thoughts more easily; he marshalleth them
     more orderly; he seeth how they look when they are turned into
     words; finally, he waxeth wiser than himself, and that more by an
     hour's discourse than by a day's meditation. It was well said by
     Themistocles to the King of Persia, 'That speech was like cloth of
     arras opened and put abroad, whereby the imagery doth appear in
     figure; whereas in thought they lie in packs.' Neither is this
     second fruit of friendship, in opening the understanding,
     restrained only to such friends as are able to give a man counsel.
     (They are, indeed, best.) But even without that, a man learneth of
     himself, and bringeth his own thoughts to light, and whetteth his
     wits against a stone which itself cuts not. In a word, a man were
     better relate himself to a _statua_ or a picture, than to suffer
     his thoughts to pass in smother."

Bacon, as has been said, was a great maker of notes and note-books: he
was careful not of the thought only, but of the very words in which it
presented itself; everything was collected that might turn out useful in
his writing or speaking, down to alternative modes of beginning or
connecting or ending a sentence. He watched over his intellectual
appliances and resources much more strictly than over his money
concerns. He never threw away and never forgot what could be turned to
account. He was never afraid of repeating himself, if he thought he had
something apt to say. He was never tired of recasting and rewriting,
from a mere fragment or preface to a finished paper. He has favourite
images, favourite maxims, favourite texts, which he cannot do without.
"_Da Fidei quæ sunt Fidei_" comes in from his first book to his last.
The illustrations which he gets from the myth of Scylla, from Atalanta's
ball, from Borgia's saying about the French marking their lodgings with
chalk, the saying that God takes delight, like the "innocent play of
children," "to hide his works in order to have them found out," and to
have kings as "his playfellows in that game," these, with many others,
reappear, however varied the context, from the first to the last of his
compositions. An edition of Bacon, with marginal references and parallel
passages, would show a more persistent recurrence of characteristic
illustrations and sentences than perhaps any other writer.

The _Advancement_ was followed by attempts to give serious effect to its
lesson. This was nearly all done in Latin. He did so, because in these
works he spoke to a larger and, as he thought, more interested audience;
the use of Latin marked the gravity of his subject as one that touched
all mankind; and the majesty of Latin suited his taste and his thoughts.
Bacon spoke, indeed, impressively on the necessity of entering into the
realm of knowledge in the spirit of a little child. He dwelt on the
paramount importance of beginning from the very bottom of the scale of
fact, of understanding the commonplace things at our feet, so full of
wonder and mystery and instruction, before venturing on theories. The
sun is not polluted by shining on a dunghill, and no facts were too
ignoble to be beneath the notice of the true student of nature. But his
own genius was for the grandeur and pomp of general views. The practical
details of experimental science were, except in partial instances, yet a
great way off; and what there was, he either did not care about or
really understand, and had no aptitude for handling. He knew enough to
give reality to his argument; he knew, and insisted on it, that the
labour of observation and experiment would have to be very heavy and
quite indispensable. But his own business was with great principles and
new truths; these were what had the real attraction for him; it was the
magnificent thoughts and boundless hopes of the approaching "kingdom of
man" which kindled his imagination and fired his ambition. "He writes
philosophy," said Harvey, who had come to his own great discovery
through patient and obscure experiments on frogs and monkeys--"he writes
philosophy like a Lord Chancellor." And for this part of the work, the
stateliness and dignity of the Latin corresponded to the proud claims
which he made for his conception of the knowledge which was to be.
English seemed to him too homely to express the hopes of the world, too
unstable to be trusted with them. Latin was the language of command and
law. His Latin, without enslaving itself to Ciceronian types, and with a
free infusion of barbarous but most convenient words from the vast and
ingenious terminology of the schoolmen, is singularly forcible and
expressive. It is almost always easy and clear; it can be vague and
general, and it can be very precise where precision is wanted. It can,
on occasion, be magnificent, and its gravity is continually enlivened by
the play upon it, as upon a background, of his picturesque and
unexpected fancies. The exposition of his philosophical principles was
attempted in two forms. He began in English. He began, in the shape of a
personal account, a statement of a series of conclusions to which his
thinking had brought him, which he called the "Clue of the Labyrinth,"
_Filum Labyrinthi_. But he laid this aside unfinished, and rewrote and
completed it in Latin, with the title _Cogitata et Visa_. It gains by
being in Latin; as Mr. Spedding says, "it must certainly be reckoned
among the most perfect of Bacon's productions." The personal form with
each paragraph begins and ends. "_Franciscus Bacon sic cogitavit_ ...
_itaque visum est ei_" gives to it a special tone of serious conviction,
and brings the interest of the subject more keenly to the reader. It has
the same kind of personal interest, only more solemn and commanding,
which there is in Descartes's _Discours de la Méthode_. In this form
Bacon meant at first to publish. He sent it to his usual critics, Sir
Thomas Bodley, Toby Matthews, and Bishop Andrewes. And he meant to
follow it up with a practical exemplification of his method. But he
changed his plan. He had more than once expressed his preference for
the form of _aphorisms_ over the argumentative and didactic continuity
of a set discourse. He had, indeed, already twice begun a series of
aphorisms on the true methods of interpreting nature, and directing the
mind in the true path of knowledge, and had begun them with the same
famous aphorism with which the _Novum Organum_ opens. He now reverted to
the form of the aphorism, and resolved to throw the materials of the
_Cogitata et Visa_ into this shape. The result is the _Novum Organum_.
It contains, with large additions, the substance of the treatise, but
broken up and rearranged in the new form of separate impersonal
generalised observations. The points and assertions and issues which, in
a continuous discourse, careful readers mark and careless ones miss, are
one by one picked out and brought separately to the light. It begins
with brief, oracular, unproved maxims and propositions, and goes on
gradually into larger developments and explanations. The aphorisms are
meant to strike, to awaken questions, to disturb prejudices, to let in
light into a nest of unsuspected intellectual confusions and
self-misunderstandings, to be the mottoes and watchwords of many a
laborious and difficult inquiry. They form a connected and ordered
chain, though the ties between each link are not given. In this way
Bacon put forth his proclamation of war on all that then called itself
science; his announcement that the whole work of solid knowledge must be
begun afresh, and by a new, and, as he thought, infallible method. On
this work Bacon concentrated all his care. It was twelve years in hand,
and twelve times underwent his revision. "In the first book especially,"
says Mr. Ellis, "every word seems to have been carefully weighed; and it
would be hard to omit or change anything without injuring the meaning
which Bacon intended to convey." Severe as it is, it is instinct with
enthusiasm, sometimes with passion. The Latin in which it is written
answers to it; it has the conciseness, the breadth, the lordliness of a
great piece of philosophical legislation.

The world has agreed to date from Bacon the systematic reform of natural
philosophy, the beginning of an intelligent attempt, which has been
crowned by such signal success, to place the investigation of nature on
a solid foundation. On purely scientific grounds his title to this great
honour may require considerable qualification. What one thing, it is
asked, would not have been discovered in the age of Galileo and Harvey,
if Bacon had never written? What one scientific discovery can be traced
to him, or to the observance of his peculiar rules? It was something,
indeed, to have conceived, as clearly as he conceived it, the large and
comprehensive idea of what natural knowledge must be, and must rest
upon, even if he were not able to realise his idea, and were mistaken in
his practical methods of reform. But great ideas and great principles
need their adequate interpreter, their _vates sacer_, if they are to
influence the history of mankind. This was what Bacon was to science, to
that great change in the thoughts and activity of men in relation to the
world of nature around them: and this is his title to the great place
assigned to him. He not only understood and felt what science might be,
but he was able to make others--and it was no easy task beforehand,
while the wonders of discovery were yet in the future--understand and
feel it too. And he was able to do this because he was one of the most
wonderful of thinkers and one of the greatest of writers. The
disclosure, the interpretation, the development of that great
intellectual revolution which was in the air, and which was practically
carried forward in obscurity, day by day, by the fathers of modern
astronomy and chemistry and physiology, had fallen to the task of a
genius, second only to Shakespeare. He had the power to tell the story
of what they were doing and were to do with a force of imaginative
reason of which they were utterly incapable. He was able to justify
their attempts and their hopes as they themselves could not. He was able
to interest the world in the great prospects opening on it, but of which
none but a few students had the key. The calculations of the astronomer,
the investigations of the physician, were more or less a subject of
talk, as curious or possibly useful employments. But that which bound
them together in the unity of science, which gave them their meaning
beyond themselves, which raised them to a higher level and gave them
their real dignity among the pursuits of men, which forced all thinking
men to see what new and unsuspected possibilities in the knowledge and
in the condition of mankind were opened before them, was not Bacon's own
attempts at science, not even his collections of facts and his rules of
method, but that great idea of the reality and boundless worth of
knowledge which Bacon's penetrating and sure intuition had discerned,
and which had taken possession of his whole nature. The impulse which he
gave to the progress of science came from his magnificent and varied
exposition of this idea; from his series of grand and memorable
generalisations on the habits and faults of the human mind--on the
difficult and yet so obvious and so natural precautions necessary to
guide it in the true and hopeful track. It came from the attractiveness,
the enthusiasm, and the persuasiveness of the pleading; from the clear
and forcible statements, the sustained eloquence, the generous hopes,
the deep and earnest purpose of the _Advancement_ and the _De
Augmentis_; from the nobleness, the originality, the picturesqueness,
the impressive and irresistible truth of the great aphorisms of the
_Novum Organum_.

     THE END

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