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Title: Bacon and Shakespeare
Author: Calvert, Albert F.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Bacon and Shakespeare._

[Illustration: _Francis Bacon._

_From a miniature by Peter Oliver._

_belonging to His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch._]






_To anticipate for this little book that it may prove the means of
convincing a single Baconian of the error of his ways, would be to
express a hope that has only the faintest chance of realisation.
Baconianism is so wilful and so obstinate that it is not amenable to
any treatment that has yet been invented. It has its root in an entire
misconception of the character and temperament of the man Bacon; it
is nourished on the grossest misrepresentation of the man Shakespeare
that the memory of an author has ever been subjected to. So long as
the fallacy, backed up by specious argument, was confined to the
consideration of the mighty few, it was scarcely necessary to enter
into the lists with the Baconian champions, but the new and energetic
move which is now being made to cast down Shakespeare from the “topmost
pinnacle in the temple of fame,” and to set up the figure of Bacon in
his stead, has had the result of bringing the subject once more into
public view. In the circumstances, the publication of the following
summary of the evidence may be found not inopportune. It may not
effect a cure in the case of confirmed Baconians, but I have a modest
hope that it will enable the unprejudiced inquirer to be on his guard
against the hallucination. The Baconians have woven a cunning mesh of
fact and fable to entangle the mind of the unwary; the task I have
set myself is to review the premises, test the arguments, and combat
the conclusions upon which Bacon’s pretensions to the authorship of
Shakespeare’s plays is alleged to rest, and to explain the reasons that
we hold for ascribing the authorship of the Plays to Shakespeare._

_While the majority of Shakespearean students are impatient of
discussion, the disciples of the Baconian theory are prompt and eager
and voluminous in the propagation of their arguments. Indeed, they
have, all along, had the lion’s share in the controversy, and by their
much speaking, have stormed the ears of that section of the public
which neither thinks for itself, nor will be at the trouble to verify
what it is told. Bacon has been born again in the biographies of his
devotees, and Shakespeare, by the same agency, has been edited out of
recognition. Bacon’s brilliant intellectual qualities have been taken
as the basis of all argument, the human and temperamental side of his
character has been boldly made amenable to the exigencies of argument,
and his many glaringly reprehensible actions have been carefully
ignored. I have endeavoured, in the ensuing pages, not so much to give
a picture of the complete man, as to show what he was capable of in
the way of selfishness, trickery and subterfuge. He was capable of the
basest ingratitude and meanness, of the employment of barbarity when
it suited his purpose, of unctuous servility and boundless egoism. He
had neither the temperament nor the poetical ability nor the time to
write the Plays; had he the meanness of spirit to claim them as his
own? We shall see!_

_The conclusions I have formed with respect to the two cipher
revelations which are now agitating the minds of both Shakespeareans
and Baconians are derived partly from my estimate of the character
of Bacon, partly from the apparent sincerity of Mrs. Gallup, and
partly again from what I know of other and entirely independent
decipherations of further Bacon messages, which are now being actively
made in this country. Of Mrs. Gallup I only know that which her book
and her publishers reveal. Of Dr. Orville W. Owen, the discoverer of
the word-cipher I learn, from an American source, quoted by way of a
testimonial in one of the doctor’s books, that he is “a man who has
reached middle age,” and who has “never shown the slightest sign of
possessing unusual or extraordinary literary skill, or genius.” In
other words, his sponsors assure us that he is incapable of writing
those portions of Shakespeare which form so great a part of his
decipherations, or even the connecting passages which appear to have
been contributed by Bacon. We must accept this opinion as a tribute of
personal character._

_Concerning the illustrations, I may be allowed to say a few
explanatory words. The two photogravure reproductions are taken
respectively from a miniature by Peter Oliver, belonging to the Duke
of Buccleuch, and from a very rare print of Bacon. The print from
Vansomer’s painting, the picture of Bacon’s monument, and the portraits
of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Sir Nathaniel Bacon, the Earl of Essex and Queen
Elizabeth, and the views of Stratford-on-Avon and Gorhambury will, I
trust, be found of general interest. The facsimile pages from “Sylva
Sylvarum” and the “Novum Organum,” with their allegorical devises
and fine workmanship, illustrate the contrast between the manner in
which the works of Bacon and those of Shakespeare were given to the
world. The portraits of Shakespeare contained here are well known to
students. The reproduction of the bust will be familiar to all visitors
to Stratford, the “Droeshout” Engraving is the picture which forms
the frontispiece to the First Folio, and the original of the Chandos
portrait is now in the National Portrait Gallery._

  _Albert F. Calvert._

  _“Royston,” Eton Avenue,
  London, N.W._

_List of Illustrations._

  FRANCIS BACON, _from a Miniature by Oliver_              Frontispiece.
  FRANCIS BACON (aged 18), _from a Miniature by Hilliard_              4
  FRANCIS BACON as Lord Chancellor (_Vansomer_)                       12
  FRANCIS BACON as Lord Chancellor                                    16
  FRANCIS BACON’S Monument in St. Michael’s Church                    20
  SIR NICHOLAS BACON, _Portrait and Autographs_                       24
  ANNA LADY BACON, Mother of Francis Bacon                            32
  SIR NATHANIEL BACON                                                 36
  ST. MICHAEL’S CHURCH                                                44
  QUEEN ELIZABETH                                                     48
  ROBERT DEVEREUX, Earl of Essex                                      52
  ROBERT DUDLEY, Earl of Leicester                                    56
  FRONTISPIECE TO _Sylva Sylvarum_                                    60
  FRONTISPIECE TO _Novum Organum_                                     68
  GORHAMBURY, Three Views, 1568, 1795, 1821                           72
  WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, _The Droeshout Etching_                        80
  WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, _The Chandos Portrait_                         84
  WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, The Bust at Stratford-on-Avon                  96
  SHAKESPEARE’S HOUSE                                                108
  CHANCEL OF TRINITY CHURCH (_Stratford-on-Avon_)                    112
  SHAKESPEARE AUTOGRAPHS                                             116
  ANN HATHAWAY’S COTTAGE AT SHOTTERY                                 120
  DR. OWEN’S WHEEL FOR DECIPHERING                                   128


  BACON, THE PRODUCT OF HIS AGE                                        1
  BACON, THE FRIEND OF ESSEX AND CECIL                                 9
  BACON, AS THE CREATURE OF BUCKINGHAM                                18
  BACON AND SHAKESPEARE CONTRASTED                                    25
  MR. THEOBALD, A BACONIAN BY INTUITION                               35
  WAS SHAKESPEARE THE “UPSTART CROW?”                                 40
  WM. SHAKESPEARE, MONEY LENDER AND POET                              46
  THE “TRUE SHAKESPEARE”                                              50
  THE BI-LITERAL CIPHER                                               62
  BACON’S “STERNE AND TRAGICLE HISTORY”                               71
  BACON AND “DIVINE AIDE”                                             88
  SHAKESPEARE AND BACON IN COLLABORATION                              92
  BACON, THE POET                                                    107
  “DID SHAKESPEARE WRITE BACON?”                                     111
  THE CASE FOR SHAKESPEARE                                           115
  WERE SHAKESPEARE AND BACON ACQUAINTED?                             124
  IN CONCLUSION                                                      129


_Bacon, the Product of His Age._

It is impossible to sympathise with, or even to regard seriously, the
spirit in which a small, but growing section of the reading public
of America, and of this country, has plunged into the controversy
respecting the authorship of the so-called Shakespeare plays. The
fantastic doubt which compelled individual scholars to investigate a
theory of their own inventing, to lay, so to speak, the ghost they
had themselves raised, has inspired distrust in the minds that had no
beliefs, and generated scepticism in those where no faith was. The
search for the truth has degenerated into a wild-goose chase; the
seekers after some new thing have made the quest their own; ignorance
has plagiarised from prejudice; the “grand old Bacon-Shakespeare
controversy,” as Whistler said of Art, is upon the town--“to be chucked
under the chin by the passing gallant--to be enticed within the gates
of the householder--to be coaxed into company as a proof of culture
and refinement.” The difficulties that such a controversy present to
the tea-table oracles are both numerous, and exceeding obstinate. The
people who read Shakespeare form a pitiably insignificant proportion
of the community, but they are multitudinous compared with those who
have the remotest acquaintance with the works of Francis Bacon. Bacon
is known to some as Elizabeth’s little Lord Keeper, to others his
name recalls the fact that he was James the First’s Lord Chancellor,
but outside his _Essays_, and, perhaps, _The New Atlantis_, his great
philosophical dissertations, the pride and treasure which he so
carefully preserved in Latin, lest they should be lost in the decay of
modern languages, are a sealed book to all, except a few odd scholars
at the Universities. Bacon is an extinct volcano. The fact is not
creditable to the culture of the age, but it is incontrovertible.

It has, on this account, been found necessary for Baconians to describe
to their readers what manner of man this was whom they would perch
on Shakespeare’s pedestal, and they have accomplished their task in
the manner best calculated to lend plausibility to their theories.
Moreover, they have displayed a subtle appreciation of the magnitude
of their undertaking. The Shakespeare plays, in common with all great
works, reflect in some degree the personality of their creator. The
Baconian students cannot deny that there are many characteristics in
their candidate which only the most devout can reconcile with the
spirit of the plays. It, therefore, became further necessary to ring
the changes on their candidate; to employ the arguments of induction
and deduction as best suited the exigencies of the task. In creating
the idol of Bacon, much had to be read into the subject, and it would
seem that the simplest method by which they could advance the claims
of Bacon was by discrediting the claims of Shakespeare. In estimating
the character of Viscount St. Alban, we have the solid foundation of
fact for our guidance; the personal details of Shakespeare’s career may
be written upon a page of note paper. The original Baconians seized
upon these few details to distort them to their own ends, and their
followers have done their best to perpetuate the outrage.

In the scope of this volume it is not possible, nor is it necessary,
to attempt an intimate analysis of the characters of Bacon and
Shakespeare, but a resumé of the leading incidents in their lives, a
brief review for the purpose of making a comparison of their respective
temperaments, will not be out of place. In the following pages my
endeavour has been to arrange, as systematically as possible, the
reasons for my belief--for these I invite a courteous hearing; as for
the conclusions I have formed, I am content to abide by them.

My last desire in dealing with the career of Lord Bacon has been to
find reasons for supposing him to be the author of Shakespeare’s
plays. That endeavour has been made by his many champions with more
sanguinity than I could display, and I have carefully weighed every
argument and fact advanced in his favour. I have read, and re-read,
and argued against myself, the claims which have been put forward
with so much earnestness and evident conviction. But against these
I have had to set the bald facts that make the claim untenable. The
biographers of Bacon have been burdened with the ungrateful necessity
of finding excuses, and of making endless apologies for their hero.
Bacon’s greatest editor, the scholar who devoted some 30 years to the
work--who brought more knowledge, and disclosed more analytical acumen
and skilled judgment in his task than any editor ever brought to bear
upon the life and works of a single author--has stated his reasons
for his disbelief in the Baconian theory. When it is remembered that
Spedding’s knowledge of Shakespeare was “extensive and profound, and
his laborious and subtle criticism derived additional value from his
love of the stage,” his decision on the subject must be accepted, if
not as incontrovertible, at least, as the most damaging blow to the
Baconian theory we shall ever get.

A well-known writer, in declaring that a man’s morality has nothing to
do with his prose, perpetrated an aphorism which Baconians have adduced
to reconcile the psychological differences which we find between Bacon,
the man, and Bacon, the author of the plays traditionally attributed
to Shakespeare. The least erudite student of Shakespeare has felt the
magic of the dramatist’s boundless sympathy, his glowing imagination,
his gentleness, truth and simplicity. His mind, as Hazlitt recognised,
contained within itself the germs of all faculty and feeling, and
Mr. Sidney Lee, in his general estimate of Shakespeare’s genius, has
written, “In knowledge of human nature, in wealth of humour, in depth
of passion, in fertility of fancy, and in soundness of judgment, he
has not a rival.” Henry Chettle refers to “his uprightness of dealing
which argues his honesty,” the author of _The Return from Parnassus_
apostrophised him as “sweet Master Shakespeare,” and Ben Jonson, his
friend and fellow labourer, wrote of him, “I loved the man, and do
honour his memory, on this side idolatry as much as any. He was indeed
honest, and of an open and free nature.”

[Illustration: FRANCIS BACON.

AGED 18.


From a Miniature by Hilliard.]

An author’s morality, or rather his lack of it, may not detract from
the grace and clarity of his style, but it must inevitably leave its
mark in his matter. There is poetry that reveals only the brilliance
of the writer’s brain--if such can be termed poetry; there is prose
which lays bare the writer’s heart. In Shakespeare we have verse which
evidences the possession of both the mental and the temperamental
qualities in the highest perfection. There is Shakespeare the
genius, the artist, the creator, the master manipulator of theatrical
machinery. There is Shakespeare the man--the citizen of whom Jonson
wrote in terms of the warmest affection. In what degree do we find
these qualities which are inseparably associated with Shakespeare in
the character of Francis Bacon?

For every act of Bacon’s life we are met with apologies, explanations,
and extravagant defences. Lord Macaulay’s bitter and brilliant
analysis of the Lord Chancellor (a retaliatory treatise prompted by
the ingenuity and perversions of his enamoured champions), has been
robbed of its sting by the less brilliant, but more knowledgable and
judicious Spedding, who in his _Evenings with a Reviewer_, clearly and
dispassionately reduces Macaulay’s estimate to its correct biographical
and critical level. But there are acts in the life of Bacon that, shorn
of all the swaddling clothes of specious explanation, reveal the man in
a light which, in spite of valiant speculation and portentous argument,
in spite even of Bacon’s sworn word, render his claims to the mantle of
Shakespeare an absurdity--and an impertinence.

Francis Bacon, the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper
of the Great Seal, by his second wife (Ann, daughter of Sir Anthony
Coke), was born on 22nd January, 1561. He was the product of the age
in which he lived. A politician by heredity, a student by nature, a
courtier and place-seeker by force of circumstances, he fulfilled his
inevitable destiny. In a court in which the politics were based on the
teachings of Machiavelli, in which intrigue was a sport and a fine art,
where flattery and lying were necessities, and personal advancement the
one incentive to every act, Bacon intrigued, supplicated, flattered,
cringed, and lied himself into prominence. Nor must the future Lord
Chancellor be judged too harshly on that account. He was only gambling
with the current coin of his environment. By nature, he was averse
to Jesuitry, but he was forced by circumstances and his ambitions to
employ it. “What the art of oratory was in democratic Athens,” Dr.
Edwin A. Abbott writes, “that the art of lying and flattery was for
a courtier in the latter part of the Elizabethan monarchy.” In this
atmosphere of falseness and deception Bacon, with good credentials, a
fine intellect, little money, many influential acquaintances, but few
true friends, had to battle for his own fortunes. It is evident that
he early recognised the exigencies of the warfare. He absorbed and
assimilated the poison of his surroundings; he was both malleable and
inventive. His frame of mind is best illustrated by two of his maxims.
Truth, he declares is noble, and falsehood is base; yet “mixture of
falsehood is like alloy in the coin of gold and silver, which may
make the metal work the better.” Again, “The best composition and
temperament is to have openness in fame and opinion, secrecy in habit,
dissimulation in seasonable use, and a power to feign if there be no

In the Elizabethan Court, the man who desired preferment had to plead
for it. At the age of 16, Francis Bacon, after leaving Cambridge, had
been admitted as “an ancient” of Gray’s Inn, and in the following
year was sent to Paris in the suite of Sir Amias Paulet, the English
Ambassador. Two years later, on the death of his father, he returned to
England, to find himself destitute of the patrimony he had expected to
inherit, and forced to select the alternative of immediate work or the
accumulation of debts. In this emergency he applied to his uncle, Lord
Burghley, for advancement, and attempted to win the favour of the Queen
by addressing to her a treatise entitled, _Advice to Queen Elizabeth_.
This letter is remarkable for its lofty tone, its statesmanship, and
boldness, but it is marred by the appendix, in which the author states
that he is bold to entertain his opinions, “till I think that you think
otherwise.” This fatal pliancy, this note of excessive obsequiousness,
lasted him through life.

The want of success, which attended his first efforts to gain official
recognition, caused Bacon to decide, once and for all, upon his
choice of a career. His path lay either in the way of politics, which
meant preferment, power, and wealth; or science, philosophy, and the
development of the arts and inventions that tend to civilise the life
of man. No work seemed to him so meritorious as the latter, and for
this he considered himself best adapted. “Whereas, I believe myself
born for the service of mankind,” he declared, in 1603, in the preface
to _The Interpretation of Nature_; and in a letter to Lord Treasurer
Burghley, “I have taken all knowledge to be my province.” Again, “I
found in my own nature a special adaptation for the contemplation of
truth.... Imposture in every shape I utterly detested.” But, as he
proceeds to explain, “my birth, my rearing, and education,” pointed
not towards philosophy, but towards “politics;” love of truth and
detestation of imposture was in his heart, but “the power to feign if
there be no remedy” was there engraved also; the practical value of
the “mixture of falsehood” was in his blood. And the want of money
influenced him in forming his decision. In 1621, when his public career
came to its disgraceful close, he declared that his greatest sin had
been his desertion of philosophy and his having allowed himself to
be diverted into politics. “Besides my innumerable sins,” he cries
out in his confession to the “Searcher of Souls,” “I confess before
Thee that I am debtor to Thee for the gracious talent of Thy gifts
and graces, which I have neither put into a napkin, nor put it as
I ought to exchangers, where it might have made most profit; but
misspent it in things for which I was least fit, so that I may truly
say, my soul has been a stranger in the course of my pilgrimage.” At
the beginning of his history, Bacon pleads his birth, his rearing and
education as excuses for his choice of a career, and at its close,
in _De Augmentis_, he throws the blame on “destiny” for carrying
him into a political vortex. Dr. Abbott sums up his life-story in a
phrase--_multum incola_; with it his public career began and ended.

_Bacon, the Friend of Essex and Cecil._

Having failed to secure the goodwill of Burghley, Bacon addressed
himself to the Earl of Essex, and when, in 1593, Francis came under
the Queen’s displeasure, Essex pleaded for his re-instatement in the
Royal favour. Bacon himself practised every abasement, and, ever
failing, debased himself to what he himself described as an exquisite
disgrace. From this time until the day when there were “none so poor
to do him reverence,” the Earl of Essex was Bacon’s warm friend,
patron, and benefactor. He tided him over his monetary difficulties,
made him his counsellor, and among other gifts presented him with
a piece of land worth between £7,000 and £8,000. Bacon repaid his
friendship with advice, which, it may be presumed, was well meant. But
Bacon, the alleged author of the plays which portray an unrivalled
knowledge of human nature, betrayed a singular and unaccountable lack
of intuition into character. His counsel was, in a large measure, sound
and sagacious, but it was utterly spoiled by the trickiness which
breathes through every precept. If Bacon had possessed the knowledge of
men that we find in Shakespeare, he would have known that his maxims
were peculiarly unfit for Essex, who was the last man in the world to
carry into effect such a scheme of systematic dissimulation. Dr. Abbott
considers that few things did the Earl more harm than that the friend
in whom he placed most trust gave him advice that was rather cunning
than wise. Indeed, Essex was following the counsel of Bacon when he
offered himself, in 1599, for the command in Ireland. From this command
he returned to England a disgraced man, and his downfall culminated in
his death two years later. And in the hour of his humiliation and dire
need, when the Royal disfavour kept all his friends from him, Bacon’s
elder brother, Sir Anthony Bacon, and the author of the Sidney papers
regarded Bacon as one of the active enemies of his former patron.

Bacon’s biographers have strained every effort in explaining and
excusing his action in the ensuing trials. Not only have they failed to
exculpate him, but themselves must realise the futility of their most
ingenious endeavours to clear his character of this foul blot. Abbott,
his impartial biographer, says: “We may acquit him of everything but
a cold-blooded indifference to his friend’s interest and a supreme
desire to pose (even at a friend’s cost) as a loyal and much-persecuted
servant of the Queen.” But, truly, the most that can be said in
extenuation of his behaviour, is little indeed, when the friend is a
man to whom he had written, “I do think myself more beholding to you
than to any man.”

What, however, are the facts? When the first proceedings were taken
against Essex in the Star Chamber, Bacon absented himself from the
Court, his excuse to the Queen being, he said, “Some indisposition of
body.” His actual letter to Elizabeth explains that his absence was
compelled by threats of violence on the part of the Earl’s followers,
whom he openly charges with a purpose to take the Queen’s life. “My
life has been threatened, and my name libelled. But these are the
practices of those ... that would put out all your Majesty’s lights,
and fall on reckoning how many years you have reigned.” Abbott
considers that we need not accuse Bacon of deliberately intending by
these words to poison the Queen’s mind against his former friend, while
Professor Gardiner adduces this imputation as a proof that Bacon was
liable to “occasional ill-temper.” Contemporary judgment did not so
interpret the wording of the excuse. The treacherous nature of the
insinuation provoked a feeling of amazement and anger. That his brother
Anthony believed Bacon to be capable of so great vileness is evident,
and even Lord Cecil, the Earl’s greatest enemy, wrote to Francis
begging him to be, as he himself was, “merely passive, and not active,”
in insuring the fallen Favourite’s utter ruin.

In the face of these warnings and remonstrances, Bacon wrote to the
Queen expressing his desire to serve her in the second stage of the
proceedings against Essex. He asked that an important rôle might be
assigned to him, but although he was only entrusted with a subsidiary
part, he performed his task so adroitly as to earn the deep resentment
of the friends of Essex. Within a fortnight of the Earl’s liberation
Bacon again offered his services to Essex, who accepted them!

What followed? Bacon devised a plan to secure the Earl’s re-instatement
in the Royal favour. The artifice employed was to bring before the
notice of Elizabeth, a correspondence--ostensibly between Essex and
his brother Anthony--exhibiting the loyalty and love of the former
for the Queen. The letters were composed by Bacon, and while they
are interesting as specimens of the author’s literary power, and are
illustrative of his “chameleonlike instinct of adapting his style
to his atmosphere,” they were calculated, by the interpolation of
artful passages, to advance the interests of Bacon, rather than those
of Essex, with the Queen. It is significant also that the demeanour
which Bacon in these letters caused the Earl to assume, he used against
him when Essex was subsequently arraigned for treason. Unless we are
prepared to accept the statements of Bacon in this connection, it is
impossible to view his participation in this second trial without a
feeling of the deepest abhorrence. Bacon had no right to be in Court at
all. As one of the “learned counsel,” his presence was not required,
but in the capacity of “friend of the accused,” his evidence could
not fail to be greatly damaging to the Earl’s case. He proffered his
evidence, not only with readiness, but with a ferocious efficacy. We
have no evidence beyond Bacon’s own word--the word of a man who was
striving to put the best complexion on a foul act of treachery--that
he deprecated the task. “Skilfully confusing together” the original
proposal, and the abortive execution of Essex’s outbreak, he insisted
that the rising, which in truth was a sudden after-thought, was
the result of three months’ deliberation, and he concentrated all
his efforts on proving that Essex was “not only a traitor, but a
hypocritical traitor.” No other piece of evidence adduced at the trial
had greater weight in procuring the verdict against the Earl. Bacon
subsequently pleaded in extenuation of his behaviour that he was acting
under pressure from the Crown, but we have the knowledge that on the
first occasion he had offered his services, and we can only conclude
that at the price of sacrificing the friend who had loaded him with
kindnesses, he had determined to make this trial a stepping-stone to
Royal favour. To serve this end, friendship, honour, obligation were
brushed aside; for, as Bacon has said in one of his essays, the man who
wishes to succeed “must know all the conditions of the serpent.” The
price Bacon received for the blood of Essex was £1,200, or £6,000 in
our currency. “The Queen,” he wrote to a friendly creditor, “hath done
somewhat for me, though not in the perfection I hoped.” Bacon had, it
is fair to infer from this remark, betrayed his friend; had, in fact,
delivered him to the headsman for the hope of pecuniary reward.

[Illustration: Fr. verulam Cano


In what degree Bacon was responsible for the drawing up of a
_Declaration of the Treasons of Essex_, which Lord Clarendon described
as a “pestilent libel,” is impossible to decide. He tells us that his
task was little more than that of an amanuensis to the Council and the
Queen, but this excuse fails him in the case of his _Apology_, put
forth as a vindication of the author in the estimation of the nobles,
from the charge of having been false to the Earl of Essex. The paper
is admittedly full of inaccuracies, conveying to us the picture,
“not of his actual conduct, but of what he felt his conduct ought to
have been.” Dr. Abbott dismisses this literary and historical effort
as interesting only as a “psychological history of the manifold and
labyrinthine self-deception to which great men have been subjected.”

On the accession of James I., Bacon again threw himself into the
political arena, determined to neglect no chance of ingratiating
himself with the new Sovereign. He poured forth letters to any and
everybody who had the power to forward his cause. He dwelt in these
epistles upon the services of his brother Anthony, who had carried on
secret and intimate negotiations with Scotland. Sir Thomas Challoner,
the confirmed friend of Essex, received a letter from him; he appealed
to the Earl of Northumberland; and became the “humble and much devoted”
servant of Lord Southampton, on the eve of that nobleman’s release
from the Tower (where Bacon had helped to place him as an accomplice
of Essex). To each he turned with the same request that they would
bury the axe, and “further his Majesty’s good conceit and inclination
towards me.”

At this time, Bacon, desperately apprehensive of rebuff, was anxious
to conciliate all parties, and to secure friends at Court. He was
willing, nay, eager, to be Greek, Roman, or Hebrew, in order to attain
his object--even he would avow a gift of poesy to make his calling
and election sure. Writing to Sir John Davies, the poet, Bacon, the
politician and philosopher, who did not publish two lines of rhyme
until twenty-one years later, desired him to “be good to concealed
poets.” Reading this statement in connection with the other epistles
he indicted at the same crisis, we realise how little dependence can
be placed upon the implied confession that he had written anonymous
poetry. His letters to Southampton, to Michael Hickes (Cecil’s
confidential man), to David Foules and Sir Thomas Challoner, and to
the King himself, all betray the same feverish desire to be all things
to all men. He assured Hickes that Lord Cecil is “the person in the
State” whom he “loves most,” and at the same moment he placed his whole
services at the disposal of Cecil’s rival, the Earl of Northumberland!
When the star of Northumberland began to pale, Bacon importuned Cecil
to procure him a knighthood to gratify the ambition of an “Alderman’s
daughter, a handsome maiden,” whom he had found “to my liking.” But for
a while Bacon found the struggle for recognition unavailing. The King
found him an acquired taste--or rather a taste that his Majesty had
yet to acquire--and after grovelling to all and sundry, he desisted at
the moment from the attempt to gain the King’s grace, “because he had
completely failed, and for no other reason.”

But although Bacon went into retirement, he divided his leisure
between his literary labours and his quest for political advancement.
In all his political pamphlets, his one ambition was to divine and
reflect the Royal views. In 1590 he had nothing but condemnation for
the Nonconformist party; in 1604 he had strenuously pleaded the cause
of Nonconformity; in 1616 he as strenuously opposed the slightest
concession being made to the Nonconformers. In 1604 he was returned
to Parliament; three years later, his zeal in anticipating the King’s
wishes, and supporting his proposals, was rewarded by his appointment
to the Solicitor-Generalship. In the following year he was made
clerk of the Star Chamber, and immediately set himself to secure the
displacement of Hobart, the Attorney-General.

Bacon’s conduct towards the Earl of Essex has already been considered.
Had this been the only instance of the kind in his career, his
apologists would have achieved something more than public opinion can
grant them in their endeavours to explain it away. But his behaviour
towards Cecil is another lurid illustration of his duplicity and
ingratitude. During the last fourteen years of his life Cecil had
been the friend and patron of Bacon, whose letters to him are couched
in almost passionate terms of loyalty and “entire devotion.” In one
epistle he declares himself “empty of matter,” but “out of the fulness
of my love,” he writes to express “my continual and incessant love for
you, thirsting for your return.” Cecil was his refuge and deliverer in
1598, and again in 1603, when he was arrested for debt, and Bacon was
not empty of reason when he asserted in another letter, “I write to
myself in regard to my love to you, you being as near to me in heart’s
blood as in blood of descent.” In 1611, a short while before Cecil’s
death, he wrote this last profession of his affection:--

“I do protest before God, without compliment, 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 centre.”

In May of 1612 Cecil died. Within a week Bacon had proffered his
services to the King in the place of his cousin, of whom he wrote:--

“He (Cecil) 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 keep
the eyes of all Israel a little too much upon himself.”

To another, he wrote that Cecil “had a good method, if his means had
been upright,” and again to the King, on the same subject:--

“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 stir a number of projects and
then blast them, and leave your Majesty nothing but the scandal of
them; to pretend even carriage between your Majesty’s rights and the
ease of the people, and to satisfy neither--these courses, and others
the like, I hope, are gone with the deviser of them.”

Less than a year before, Bacon had protested before God, “without
compliment,” his desire to serve Cecil, and now he protests to God
in this letter to the King, that when he noted “your zeal to deliver
the Majesty of God from the vain and indign comprehension of heresy
and degenerate philosophy ... _perculsit ilico animum_ that God would
shortly set upon you some visible favour; and let me not live if I
thought not of the taking away of that man”--the man as “near to me in
heart’s blood as in the blood of descent.”

[Illustration: _The Right Honble Francis Bacon, Baron Verulam and
Viscount St Albans, Lord High Chancellor of England._]

The King, who had grown weary of Cecil, may have accepted his death
as a visible favour of God, but the favour did not evidently embrace
the substitution of Bacon in his cousin’s stead. His application for
the vacant post of Lord Treasurer was passed over by the King, but
Bacon became Attorney-General in the following year.

_Bacon as the Creature of Buckingham._

Let us regard another trait in the character of this many-sided
statesman. To relieve the King’s pressing necessities it was proposed
that voluntary contributions should be made by the well-affected. The
contributions, commonly known as Benevolences, were rarely voluntary;
the “moral pressure” that was employed in their collection made them
in reality extortions, and, as such, they were the cause of national
dissatisfaction. During the search of the house of a clergyman named
Peacham, consequent on some ecclesiastical charge, a sermon was found
predicting an uprising of the people against this oppressive tax, and
foretelling that the King might die like Ananias or Nabal. The sermon
had neither been issued nor uttered, but the unfortunate rector, a very
old man, was indicted for conspiracy and, in contravention of the law,
put to the torture. Peacham had not been convicted of treason, though
Bacon “hopes that the end will be good;” or, in other words, that he
will be able to wring from the condemned man a confession to make good
the charge.

The wretched old clergyman, after being examined in Bacon’s presence,
“before torture, in torture, between torture, and after torture,” could
not be made to convict himself, and Bacon’s comment to the King is
that the man’s “raging devil seemeth to be turned into a dumb devil.”
It will be noted that this infamous act of illegality and Bacon’s
commentary are the deed and words of the man who is supposed by some to
have declared,

   “The quality of mercy is not strain’d;
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath; it is twice bless’d;
    It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes;
    ’Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
    The throned monarch better than his crown.”

We have seen Bacon as the ingrate, and Bacon as the brute; let us
observe him “the meanest of mankind,” as Pope described him--who, as
Abbott admits, although he refuses Pope’s description, “on sufficient
occasion could creep like a very serpent.” The sufficient occasion
was the sudden advance into fame of George Villiers, afterwards Duke
of Buckingham. The disgrace and imprisonment of Robert Carr, Earl of
Somerset, whose conviction Bacon laboured so strenuously to accomplish,
doubtless inspired the Attorney-General with the hope of becoming the
chief adviser of the Sovereign. Great must have been his mortification
when he discovered the impregnability of Villiers in the favour of
the King. But although cast down, Bacon was not abashed. He had, on a
previous occasion of disappointment, declared that “service must creep
where it cannot go” (_i.e._, walk upright), and he at once determined
to creep into the King’s confidence through the medium of the rising
Favourite. Instantly, Bacon was on his knees to the new star. “I am
yours,” he wrote, with more servile want of restraint than he had
disclosed in his letters to Essex or Cecil, “surer to you than to my
own life.” In speech and behaviour he lived up to his protest. He
beslavered Villiers with flattery to his face, and he carolled his
praises to those whom he felt assured would repeat his words to the
spoiled Favourite. His reward was not long in the coming. In 1617
he was made Lord Keeper. He took his seat in Chancery with the most
extravagant pomp, his retinue exceeding all his predecessors, says
a correspondent of Carleton, “in the bravery and multitude of his
servants.” The following day he wrote of the ceremony to Villiers,
“There was much ado, and a great deal of the world. But this matter
of pomp, which is heaven to some men, is hell to me, or purgatory at
least.” This expression, if not an affectation entirely, is, at least,
strangely inconsistent with the account of the vulgar pomp and display
of a _Feast of the Family_, which is described by Bacon with so much
detail in _The New Atlantis_.


In this year Bacon dared to interpose, for a fitful instant, between
Villiers and his desires; the next moment he is reduced to a state
of pathetic contrition. But the evanescent display of a spirit of
independence nearly cost the Lord Keeper his position at Court. For
purely personal reasons Bacon regarded, with aversion, the projected
marriage between Sir John Villiers, a brother of Buckingham, and
the daughter of his old rival and enemy, Sir Edward Coke. In a
letter to the Earl of Buckingham he so far forgot himself and his
repeated promises to hold himself as a mere instrument in the hands
of the King, as to protest against the proposed marriage. Realising
immediately the folly of this want of tact, he wrote to the King,
and to Buckingham, justifying, or rather excusing his temerity. The
King replied with a sharp rebuke, the Favourite in a short, angry
note. Further letters elicited additional curt corrections from the
angered Monarch, and from Buckingham. Bacon then, for the first time,
realised the enormity of his presumption. His position was in danger.
Excuse and justification were unavailing to conciliate his angry
masters; absolute submission was the only way out of his predicament.
Bacon submitted; he even offered to put his submission into writing
to the Favourite. Buckingham, in a pencilled note, couched in tones
in which arrogance is mixed with acrimonious reflection on “his
confused and childish” presumption, notified his forgiveness. In reply,
Bacon protested his gratitude to “my ever best Lord, now better than
yourself,” and concluded, “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 clemency and your
incomparable love and favour.”

His submission nullified his early resolve not to tolerate any attempts
to interfere with the course of law, and delivered him bodily into the
hands of Buckingham. The Favourite took the Lord Keeper at his word,
and although he put his loyalty to constant and severe tests, by making
frequent application to him in favour of chancery suitors, Bacon never
again forgot that “the lines of his life” must progress in undeviating
conformity with the Favourite’s will. It is not profitable here to
attempt to determine whether or not he gave verdicts against his own
judgment, but we have the letters to show that he listened, replied,
and complied with Buckingham’s requests, and in 1618 he was made Lord
Chancellor, doubtless by the influence, and on the advice, of the

During the period of Bacon’s temporary disgrace, “when the King and
Buckingham had set their faces against him, and all the courtiers
were yelping at his heels,” the only friend who remained staunch
and constant to him was Sir Henry Yelverton, the Attorney-General.
Yelverton, whose admiration for, and loyalty towards the Lord
Chancellor were unswerving, would truckle neither to the Favourite
nor to the King; although the former had assured him that those
who opposed him “should discern what favour he had by the power he
would use.” Within a year of Bacon’s restoration to favour Yelverton
came into collision with Buckingham, and the Attorney’s accidental
misconstruction of the King’s verbal instructions, served as an excuse
for an information to be laid against him in the Star Chamber. We have
seen how Bacon could repay friendship with ingratitude, and kindness
with baseness in the case of Essex and of Cecil, but, in the instance
of Yelverton, even his admirers are forced to admit that his behaviour
was “peculiarly cold-blooded and ungrateful.” But the “lines of his
life” had made him the serf of the Favourite, and “whatever other
resolutions Bacon may have broken, none can accuse him of breaking
this.” When the case came on, and when “the bill was opened by the
King’s Sergeant briefly, with tears in his eyes, and Mr. Attorney,
standing at the Bar, amid the ordinary Counsellors, with dejected
looks, weeping tears, and a brief, eloquent, and humble oration, made a
submission, acknowledging his error, but denying the corruption”--the
Lord Chancellor did his utmost to resist the merciful proposal of the
majority to submit the Attorney’s submission to the King. The King
declined to interfere, and the termination of the case was announced to
Buckingham by Bacon, in the following self-satisfied and congratulatory
note:--“Yesterday we made an end of Sir Henry Yelverton’s causes. I
have almost killed myself with sitting almost eight hours. But I was
resolved to sit it through.” He then gives the terms of the sentence,
and adds: “How I stirred the Court I leave it to others to speak; but
things passed to his Majesty’s great honour.” In other words, a blunt,
straightforward, and honourable man, who had refused to purchase his
office by bribes, or by flattery, had been condemned, on a charge of
corruption (of which his judges knew him to be guiltless), to a fine
of £4,000 and imprisonment during the King’s pleasure, for the offence
of refusing to cringe to Buckingham. These were the things that, in
Bacon’s judgment, “passed to his Majesty’s great honour.”

In 1618 Bacon became Baron Verulam of Verulam; three years later he
was created Viscount St. Alban, “with all the ceremonies of robes and
coronet.” But his disgrace and discomfiture were soon to come. “In a
few weeks,” writes Lord Macaulay, “was signally brought to the test the
value of those objects for which Bacon had sullied his integrity, had
resigned his independence, had violated the most sacred obligations of
friendship and gratitude, had flattered the worthless, had persecuted
the innocent, had tampered with judges, had tortured prisoners, had
plundered suitors, had wasted on paltry intrigue all the powers of the
most exquisitely constructed intellect that has ever been bestowed
on any of the children of men.” On March the 14th, 1621, Bacon was
charged by a disappointed suitor with taking money for the dispatch
of his suit. On April the 30th, in the House of Lords, was read “the
confession and humble submission of me, the Lord Chancellor.” On
May the 3rd, the Lords came to a general conclusion that “the Lord
Chancellor is guilty of the matters wherewith he is charged,” and it
was resolved that he should be fined £40,000, imprisoned in the Tower
during the King’s pleasure, declared incapable of any office, place,
or employment in the State or Commonwealth, and that he should never
sit in Parliament, nor come within the verge of the Court. Five years
later, on April the 9th, 1626, he died at Highgate of a chill and
sudden sickness, contracted by exposure when stuffing a fowl with snow
to test the effect of snow in preserving flesh from putrefaction. He
wrote, on his death bed, to Lord Arundel, to whose house he had been
carried: “As for the experiment it succeeded exceeding well.”

[Illustration: SIR NICHOLAS BACON.

From the original of Zucchero, in the collection of His Grace the Duke
of Bedford.]


_Bacon and Shakespeare Contrasted._

The argument of the Baconians--the term is uniformly employed here
to mean the supporters of the Baconian theory of the authorship
of Shakespeare--is based on the honest belief that the varied
qualifications necessary for the production of the Plays were possessed
by only one man of the period in which they were written. And having
resolutely determined that the man could be no other than Francis
Bacon, they set themselves to work with the same resoluteness, to
bend, twist, and contort all facts and evidence to suit their theory.
It is clearly impossible to credit any of Shakespeare’s contemporary
dramatists with the authorship, because their acknowledged work is so
immeasurably inferior to his, that any such suggestion must appear
ridiculous. It is safe to assume that no writer who had produced poems
or plays inferior to those of Shakespeare could be attributed with
the authorship of these plays--Shakespeare can only be compared with
himself. And the only author who cannot be compared, in this way, to
his instant discomfiture, is Bacon, whose published work is, in form
and style and essence utterly dissimilar from that of Shakespeare.
If a brilliant intellect, wide knowledge, and classical attainments
were the only requisite qualifications for the production of the
greatest poetry of the world, then Bacon’s claim would stand on a sure
foundation. He was intimately acquainted, no man better, with the
philosophy of the law; he was an eminent classical scholar, a writer of
beautiful English, compact in expression, and rich in fancy. He had an
extensive acquaintance with literature and history, he was a brilliant
orator; but unto all these great gifts was not added the gentle nature,
the broad sympathy and knowledge of humanity, the wealth of humour, the
depth of passion, the creative power of poetry, which is so strikingly
manifested in the plays of William Shakespeare.

Our knowledge of the gentleness of Shakespeare’s nature, his
uprightness, his honesty, his modesty, is disclosed in his poems, and
corroborated by the evidence of his contemporaries. His poetry breathes
the gentleness and the lovable nature with which his personal friends
credited him. What is there in any analysis of Bacon, beyond his
marvellous mental attainments, which single him out as the probable,
even possible, creator of King Lear, Brutus, Juliet, Rosalind, and
Shylock? Coldness of heart, and meanness of spirit, are faults of
temperament which cannot, by the greatest stretch of imagination be
associated with the author of Lear’s desolating pathos and Arthur’s
deeply pathetic appeal to Hubert. The points in Bacon’s career,
which have been dealt with in the foregoing pages, were selected of
_malice prepense_; not to detract from the greatness of the Lord
Chancellor, as a literary genius and philosopher, but as demonstrating
the impossibility of associating such a nature with the authorship
of the poetry attributed to him. By his deeds we know him to have
been a man whose nature was largely made up of ingratitude, untruth,
flattery, meanness, cruelty, and servility. His treatment of Essex,
of Cecil, and of Yelverton, can only be stigmatised as “peculiarly
cold-blooded and ungrateful;” his persecution of Peacham convicts him
of cruelty, bordering on savageness; his meanness is illustrated by
the selfish unreasonableness displayed by his attitude towards Trott,
his long-suffering creditor. His servile submission to Buckingham has
scarcely a parallel in English history.

Deep as was his mind, and profound his knowledge, Bacon possessed no
high standard of virtue or morality; he had no intuitive knowledge of
mankind, and even as regards his dealings with the people amongst whom
his life was passed, he evidenced a singular defectiveness as a reader
of character. The sweeping generalities of his observations would be a
poor stock-in-trade for a writer of melodrama. In his books he exhibits
the cunning, the casuistry and unscrupulousness of an Elizabethan
politician and time server. His advice and his opinions betray a mean
view of life and its obligations. He had no sense of duty towards his
fellow men where duty clashed with his personal interests. His methods
are instinct with craft, artifice, and finesse--his advice to Essex,
and to the King, was, for this very reason, misleading and abortive.
It is incontrovertible that Bacon’s writings and Shakespeare’s plays
are crammed with all kinds of erudition, and Coleridge has claimed for
the latter that they form “an inexhaustible mine of virgin wealth.” But
not a single argument can be advanced to show that Shakespeare could
not easily have acquired such erudition and scholarship as the writing
of the plays entailed, while we have all the books of Bacon to prove
that the poetic genius, the colossal personality, the deep, intense
appreciation of nature, and the unrivalled knowledge of man, which are
the sovereign mark of the Plays, were not possessed by Bacon.

In editing the existing biographies of Lord Bacon to bolster up their
theory, the Baconians have only conformed to the laws of absolute
necessity. The cold, unvarnished facts that have been set forth
in the foregoing pages are so contrary to the popular impression
of what constitutes a “concealed poet,” that a more than ordinary
amount of colorisation was required to make them acceptable in the
author of _The Tempest_. But although there is reasonable excuse,
and even some justification for this rose-colorisation process as
applied to Bacon--for great men have almost invariably been given,
by their biographers, the greatest benefit that be derived from all
doubts--the champions of Bacon have far exceeded their prerogative
in their attempts to defame and belittle Shakespeare. So much
incorrect deduction, so much groundless suspicion, and so much
palpable inaccuracy have been put forward by the Baconians, that it is
imperative the few known facts in the poet’s life should be clearly
stated. The following sketch is frankly intended, not so much to
support the claim of Shakespeare as the author of the Plays, as to
refute the many misconceptions and untruths by which his enemies have
endeavoured to traduce him.

_Baconian Fallacies Respecting Shakespeare._

It is only necessary to read the facts concerning Shakespeare’s
ancestry and parentage to dissipate some of the absurd suggestions as
to the obscurity and illiteracy of the family. The poet came of good
yeoman stock, and his forebears to the fourth and fifth generation
were fairly substantial landowners. John Shakespeare, his father, was
at one period of his life a prosperous trader in Stratford-on-Avon. He
played a prominent part in municipal affairs, and became successively
Town Councillor, Alderman, one of the chamberlains of the borough, and
auditor of the municipal accounts. The assertion that he could not
write is a distinct perversion of fact, as “there is evidence in the
Stratford archives that he could write with facility.”

On the subject of the education of William Shakespeare it is inevitable
that there should be conflicting opinions. Those who would deck out the
memory of Bacon with the literary robe, “the garment which,” according
to Mr. R. M. Theobald, is “too big and costly” for the “small and
insignificant personality” of Shakespeare, will not concede that he
was better educated than his father, who--the error does not lose for
want of repetition--“signed his name by a mark.” Supporters of the
traditional theory, however, reply, “we do not require evidence to show
that he was an educated man--we have his works, and the evidence of
Ben Jonson, John Heming, and Henry Condell to prove it.” Mr. Theobald
argues that because there is no positive proof that he had any school
education, it is logical to conclude that he had none. Mr. A. P.
Sinnett, with the same reckless disregard for facts, says, “We know
that he (William Shakespeare) was the son of a tradesman at Stratford,
who could not read or write.” And in another place, “there is no rag
of evidence that he (William Shakespeare) ever went to school.” Mr.
W. H. Mallock describes him, still without “a rag of evidence” to
support his assertion, as “a notoriously ill-educated actor, who seems
to have found some difficulty in signing his own name.” All evidence
we have to guide us on this point of Shakespeare’s schooling is that
he was entitled to free tuition at the Grammar School at Stratford,
which was re-constituted on a mediæval foundation by Edward VI. As
the son of a prominent and prosperous townsman, he would, for a moral
certainty, have been sent by his father to school (Mr. Sidney Lee
favours the probability that he entered the school in 1571), where
he would receive the ordinary instruction of the time in the Latin
language and literature. The fact that the French passages in _Henry
V._ are grammatically correct, but are not idiomatic, makes it certain
that they were written by a school-taught linguist, and not by a man
like Bacon, who, from his lengthy residence on the Continent, must
have been a master of colloquial, idiomatic French. Ben Jonson, in his
profound, and somewhat self-conscious command of classical knowledge,
spoke slightingly of Shakespeare’s “small Latin and less Greek,” which
is all that his plays would lead us to credit him with. His liberal
use of translations, and his indebtedness to North’s translations of
_Plutarch’s Lives_, also substantiates this theory.

We cannot regard, as a great scholar, an author who “gives Bohemia a
coast line, makes Cleopatra play billiards, mixes his Latin, and mulls
his Greek.” Mr. Reginald Haines, who has made a study of Shakespeare
for the express purpose of testing his classical attainments, denies
emphatically that he shows any acquaintance with Greek at all. His
conclusions are worthy of consideration: “Of course there are common
allusions to Greek history and mythology such as every poet would have
at command, but no reference at first hand to any Greek writer....
As far as I know there are but four real Greek words to be found in
Shakespeare’s works--_threne_, _cacodemon_, _practic_, and _theoric_.
It is impossible to suppose that Bacon could have veiled his classical
knowledge so successfully in so extensive a field for its display, or
that he could, for instance, have perpetrated such a travesty of Homer
as appears in _Troilus and Cressida_. With Latin, the case is somewhat
different. Shakespeare certainly knew a little grammar-school Latin.
He was familiar with Ovid, and even quotes him in the original; and he
certainly knew Virgil, and Seneca, Cæsar, and something of Terence and
Horace, and, as I myself believe, of Juvenal. But he very rarely quotes
Latin, unless it be a proverb or some stock quotation from Mantuanus or
a tag from a Latin grammar. When he uses conversational Latin, as in
_Love’s Labour’s Lost_, the idiom is shaky. The quotations from Horace,
&c., in _Titus Andronicus_ are certainly not by Shakespeare. Nor are
the Latinisms like “palliament” in that play. Still he has a very large
vocabulary of Latin words such as _renege_, to _gust_ (taste), and we
may fairly say that Shakespeare knew Latin as well as many sixth form
boys, but not as a scholar.” Two years ago a writer in the _Quarterly
Review_, who had gone through all the alleged examples of erudition
and evidences of wide and accurate classical scholarship in the
Shakespearean plays, showed them to be entirely imaginary.

In 1582, before he was nineteen years of age, Shakespeare married Anne
Hathaway, and three years afterwards he left Stratford for London. It
was during this period, says Mr. Theobald, that “the true Shakespeare
was studying diligently, and filling his mind with those vast stores
of learning--classic, historic, legal, scientific--which bare such
splendid fruit in his after life.” As Mr. Theobald’s contention is
that Bacon was the “true Shakespeare,” let us consider for a moment
how young Francis was employing his abilities at this particular time.
In 1579 he returned to England after a two years’ residence in France.
He had revealed an early disposition to extend his studies beyond the
ordinary limits of literature, and to read the smallest print of the
book of nature. He was already importuning his uncle, Lord Burghley,
for some advancement which might enable him to dispense with the
monotonous routine of legal studies. Failing in this endeavour, he was
admitted as a barrister of Gray’s Inn, was elected to Parliament for
Melcombe Regis, composed his first philosophical work, which he named
“with great confidence, and a magnificent title,” _The Greatest Birth
of Time_, and another treatise entitled, _Advice to Queen Elizabeth_.
In the case of the poet we have no record; in that of the future Lord
Chancellor we get the key of the nature which rendered the man as
“incapable of writing _Hamlet_ as of making this planet.”


(From an original picture in the collection of Lord Verulam at

William Beeston, a 17th century actor, has left it on record that,
after leaving Stratford, Shakespeare was for a time a country
schoolmaster. In 1586 he arrived in London. His only friend in the
Metropolis was Richard Field, a fellow townsman, whom he sought
out, and with whom, as publisher, he was shortly to be associated. It
is uncertain when Shakespeare joined the Lord Chamberlain’s company
of actors, but documentary evidence proves that he was a member of it
in 1594, and that in 1603, after the accession of James I., when they
were called the King’s Players, he was one of its leaders. This company
included among its chief members Shakespeare’s life-long friends,
Richard Burbage, John Heming, Henry Condell, and Augustine Phillips,
and it was under their auspices that his plays first saw the light.

Before they opened at the Rose on the Bankside, Southwark, in 1592, the
Lord Chamberlain’s company had played at The Theatre in Shoreditch,
and in 1599 they opened at the Globe, which was afterwards the only
theatre with which Shakespeare was professionally associated. In this
year he acquired an important share in the profits of the company,
and his name appears first on the list of those who took part in the
original performance of Ben Jonson’s _Every Man in His Humour_. Mr.
Theobald states that Shakespeare had become a fairly prosperous theatre
manager in 1592, but as he did not secure his interest in the business
until seven years later, what probably is meant is that Shakespeare was
combining the duties of stage manager, acting manager, and treasurer
of the theatre. It would appear that, recognising the fact that the
period in Shakespeare’s life between 1588 and 1592 is a blank “which no
research can fill up,” Mr. Theobald considers that he is justified in
making good the deficiency out of his own inner consciousness.

As occasion will require that Mr. Theobald’s contribution to the
controversy shall presently be dealt with, it may not be out of place
here to explain the object, so far as it is intelligible, of his
_Shakespeare Studies in Baconian Light_ (Sampson Low, 1901). It would
have been a fair thing to assume that the design of the author of
this volume of over 500 pages, was to prove the Baconian authorship
of Shakespeare, but as Mr. Theobald has since written to the Press
to protest against this interpretation of his motives, we must take
his words as he gives his parallels “for what they are worth.” In the
opening lines of his preface, Mr. Theobald declares that while the
greatest name in the world’s literature is Shakespeare, there is in
the world’s literature no greater name than Bacon. Really, it would
seem that if his object is not to prove that the two names stand for
one and the same individual, this statement is sheer nonsense. Before
the end of the preface is reached, he frankly avows his belief that
“when the time comes for a general recognition of Bacon as the true
Shakespeare, the poetry will still be called “Shakespeare,” and that
no one will find anything compromising in such language, any more than
we do when we refer to George Eliot or George Sand, meaning Miss Evans
or Madame Dudevant.” But if Mr. Theobald was as versed in his study of
the subject as Mrs. Gallup, Dr. Owen, Mr. A. P. Sinnett, or even Bacon
himself, he would know that when this general recognition comes to pass
the author of the Plays will not be called Shakespeare, or Bacon, but
Francis “Tidder, or Tudor”--otherwise Francis I. of England--provided,
of course, that the bi-literallists can substantiate their cipher. But
as Mr. Theobald does not design to prove the Baconian theory, he does
not, of course, require the evidence of the great Chancellor, or he
may, as a disparager of cipher speculations, accept such evidence “for
what it is worth.”

_Mr. Theobald, a Baconian by Intuition._

Mr. Theobald’s “preliminaries” are chiefly remarkable for three diverse
reasons. We learn therefrom that he is a Baconian by intuition--“the
persuasion took hold of his mind” as soon as Holme’s _Authorship
of Shakespeare_ was placed in his hand--that he does not admit the
existence of genius, and that he is intolerant of “clamours and
asperities, denunciations and vituperations,” and the personal abuse
employed by anti-Baconians, whom he alludes to as Hooligans, and
compares with geese. So long as he keeps to the trodden path of
Baconian argument, he is only about as perverse and incorrect as
the rest of--to use his own expression as applied to Shakespearean
students--“the clan.” But he becomes amusing when he ventures to
present new arguments in support of Bacon’s claim, variously abusive
in his references to Shakespeare, and desperately dogmatic in his
pronouncement of the faith that is in him.

“Among the many shallow objections brought against the Baconian
theory,” writes Mr. Theobald in his chapter on Bacon’s literary
output, “one is founded on the assumption that Bacon was a voluminous
writer, and that if we add to his avowed literary productions, the
Shakespearean dramas, he is loaded with such a stupendous literary
progeny as no author could possibly generate. Moreover, he was so busy
in state business as a lawyer, judge, counsellor, member of Parliament,
confidential adviser to the King, and the responsible rulers in State
and Church, that he had very little spare time for authorship.”


From the original, in the collection of The Right Honble the Earl of

In order to demonstrate that this shallow objection, as Mr. Theobald
calls it, is a well-founded and irrefutable statement of fact, we
have only to refer to Lord Bacon’s life and to his letters. From
1579, when he returned from France, until the end of his life he
was distracted between politics and science; he put forward as his
reason for seeking office that he might thereby be able to help on his
philosophic projects which with him were paramount, and the poignant
regret of his last years was that he had allowed himself to be diverted
from philosophy into politics. He found “no work so meritorious,”
so serviceable to mankind, “as the discovery and development of the
arts and inventions that tend to civilise the life of men.” In his
letter to Lord Burghley in 1592, he expressed the hope that in the
service of the State he could “bring in industrious observations,
grounded conclusions, and profitable inventions and discoveries--the
best state of that province”--the province embracing all nature which
he had made his own. But office was denied him, and he returned to
“business” and to his constant bewailings of the fact that he had no
time for literature. In 1607 he settled the plan of the _Instauratio
Magna_; which had been foreshadowed in his _Advancement of Learning_,
published two years previously. In 1609 he wrote to Toby Mathew, “My
_Instauratio_ sleeps not,” and again, in the same year, “My great work
goeth forward; and after my manner I alter ever when I add; so that
nothing is finished till all is finished.” From 1609 to 1620 Bacon
spent such leisure as he could snatch from his other work in revising
the _Novum Organum_ (the second part of his _Magna Instauratio_), of
which his chaplain, Rawley, says that he had seen “at least twelve
copies revised year by year, one after another, and amended in the
frame thereof.” In 1620, when the _Novum Organum_ was published,
the author sent it into the world uncompleted, because he had begun
to number his days, and “would have it saved.” This was the book he
alluded to as “my great work”--the work of his life, and he issued
it as a fragment because he had not been able to find time to finish
it. The belief that he had “very little spare time for authorship” is
no shallow objection brought against the Baconian theory--it is an
irrefutable fact, proved not only out of the mouth, but in the life, of
Lord Bacon.

In spite, however, of all positive evidence to the contrary, Mr.
Theobald proceeds to bolster up his contention that Bacon had time, and
to spare, for literary pursuits, by the following most amazing piece of
logic. He contends, in the first place, that “an estimate of the entire
literary output of Bacon, as a scientific and philosophical writer,
proves the amount to be really somewhat small.” He takes the fourteen
volumes of Spedding’s _Life and Works_, subtracts the prefaces, notes,
editorial comments, and the biographical narrative, puts aside as of
“no literary significance whatever,” all business letters, speeches,
State papers, etc., and thus reduces the total amount of literature
to Bacon’s credit in the seven volumes devoted to the _Life_ to some
375 pages. “If we calculate the whole amount contained in the fourteen
volumes, we shall find it may be reckoned at about six such volumes,
each containing 520 pages. On this method of calculation and selection,
all that Mr. Theobald can find, “for his whole life, amounts to about
70 pages per annum, less than six pages a month.” Turning from Bacon
to Shakespeare, Mr. Theobald finds that here again is a man whose
literary output has been greatly exaggerated, for “if the Shakespeare
poetry was the only work of William Shakespeare, certainly he was not
a voluminous writer. _Thirty-one years may be taken as a moderate
estimate of the duration of his literary life, i.e., from 1585 till his
death in 1616._ And the result is 37 plays and the minor poems--not
two plays for each year.” Mr. Theobald, it will be seen, possesses the
same weakness for statistics that Mr. Dick evinced for King Charles’
head; he drops in his little estimate in season and out of season, and
his appraisements are as manifold as they are fallacious. The period
of Shakespeare’s dramatic output was confined to twenty years, from
1591 to 1611--if he had continued writing plays till his death in 1616,
Bacon’s alleged playwriting would not have ceased with such significant
suddenness in 1611. But what conclusion does Mr. Theobald arrive at
as the result of his estimates? No less than this, that if the whole
of Shakespeare, and the whole of Bacon’s acknowledged works belong to
the same author, “the writer was not a voluminous author--_not by any
means so voluminous as Miss Braddon_ or Sir Walter Scott.” That Mr.
Theobald should not hesitate to class Miss Braddon’s novels with the
plays of Shakespeare, which belong to the supreme rank of literature,
or even with Bacon’s “royal mastery of language never surpassed, never
perhaps equalled,” is the most astounding link in this astounding
chain of so-called evidence. But Mr. Theobald advances it with the
utmost confidence. “Therefore,” he sums up, “let this objection stand
aside; it vanishes into invisibility as soon as it is accurately
tested”--_i.e._, weighed up, like groceries, by the pound.

Mr. Theobald is scarcely complimentary to Shakespeare’s champions
in this controversy, but his language is positively libellous when
he refers to Shakespeare himself. His personality is “small and
insignificant;”--he is a “shrunken, sordid soul, fattening on beer, and
coin, and finding sweetness and content in the _stercorarium_ of his
Stratford homestead”--a “feeble, and funny, and most ridiculous mouse.”
Mr. Theobald almost argues himself not a Baconian by his assertion that
“no Baconian, so far as I know, seeks to help his cause by personal
abuse, or intolerant and wrathful speech.”

_Was Shakespeare the “Upstart Crow?”_

All that we can allege with any certainty about Shakespeare, between
1586 and 1602, is that he must have obtained employment at one or other
of the only two theatres existing in London at that time (The Theatre,
and The Curtain)--perhaps, as Malone has recorded, in the capacity of
call-boy--that he became an actor, was employed in polishing up the
stock-plays presented by the Company, and that _Love’s Labour’s Lost_
was produced in the Spring of 1591. Assuming that Shakespeare was
the author of this play--assuming, that is to say, that Ben Jonson,
John Heming, and Henry Condell were neither arrant fools, nor wilful
perjurers--it is evident that the “insignificant,” “shrunken, sordid
soul,” “this ridiculous mouse” had education, application, a natural
taste for the stage; and what is more--and more than Mr. Theobald can
comprehend--he had genius. Mr. Theobald does not arrive at any such
conclusion. Apart altogether from Mrs. Gallup’s cipher revelations,
he is convinced by another “flash of intuition” that Ben Jonson was
a fellow conspirator with Bacon in the ridiculous plot of foisting
Bacon’s plays upon the world as the work of Shakespeare, and that
Heming and Condell were but the tools of the disgraced Lord Chancellor.

But if Shakespeare was not advancing towards prosperity by the feasible
methods I have conjectured, how can Mr. Theobald account for his
ultimately emerging from the “depths of poverty” into a position of
comparative affluence? The explanation is simplicity itself: “If a
needy, and probably deserving vagabond” (page 11).--Why deserving?
He was a “shrunken, sordid soul” on page 7!--“dives into the abyss
of London life, lies _perdu_ for a few years, and then emerges as
a tolerably wealthy theatrical manager; you know that he must have
gained some mastery of theatrical business.” So far the inference
is legitimate and convincing; but how? Must he not have disclosed
exceptional ability as an actor or playwright, or--? listen to Mr.
Theobald!--“he must have made himself a useful man in the green room, a
skilful organiser of players and stage effects--he must have found out
how to govern a troop of actors, reconciling their rival egotisms, and
utilising their special gifts; how to cater for a capricious public,
and provide attractive entertainments. Anyhow, he would have little
time for other pursuits--if a student at all, his studies would be very
practical relating to matters of present or passing interest. _During
this dark period he has been carving his own fortune, filling his
pockets, not his mind; working for the present, not for the future. But
it was exactly then that the plays began to appear._”

Mr. Theobald’s argument can only be described as a reckless,
illogical, and absurd distortion of possibilities, and it is the more
inconsequential since it proceeds to defeat its primary object. In
the first place it is supremely ridiculous to assume that the paltry
services of Shakespeare in the green room and the carpenter’s shop,
secured for him his pecuniary interest in the Globe Theatre, or the
respect and friendship of the leading dramatists of his day, or even
the enmity of jealous rivals in the craft. Yet Mr. Theobald attempts
to substantiate his conclusions by distorting the obvious meaning of
Robt. Greene’s reference to Shakespeare in _A Groat’s Worth of Wit_.
Greene was not an actor, but a dramatist; he was a man of dissolute
habits, a poet of rare charm, but a playwright of only moderate ability
and repute. He was a gentleman by birth, and a scholar by training. He
had the lowest opinion of actors--he envied them their success, and
despised their avocation. In _The Return from Parnassus_ he betrays his
prejudice in the following lines, which are put into the mouth of a
poor and envious student:--

   “England affords these glorious vagabonds,
    That carried erst their fardels on their backs,
    Coursers to ride on through the gazing streets,
    Sweeping it in their glaring satin suits,
    And pages to attend their masterships;
    With mouthing words that better wits had framed,
    They purchase lands, and now esquires are made.”

To the jaundiced mind of Robert Greene, the accumulation of means
by an actor was a crime in itself, but that a mere mummer should
dare to compete with the scholar and the poet in the composition of
plays--more, that he should write plays that exceeded in popularity
those of the superior person, the student--was a personal affront. On
his death-bed, in 1592, Greene found an outlet for his resentment in
writing an ill-natured farewell to life, in which he girded bitterly
at the new dramatist, whose early plays had already brought him into
public notice. He warns his three brother playwrights--Marlowe, Nash,
and Peele--against the “upstart crow, the only Shake-scene in the
country” who “supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse
as the best of you.” How it is possible to interpret these words to
mean that the “upstart crow” was not an author, “but only an actor
who pretended to be an author also,” the oldest inhabitant of Colney
Hatch and Mr. Theobald must decide between them. These anything but
“cryptic” words, as Mr. Theobald describes them, can have but one
interpretation, and that is the one their author intended. They do
not imply that Shakespeare, the “upstart crow,” is not the author of
the plays imputed to him, but that he considers his plays as good
as those of the older dramatists. His profession of authorship is
not questioned, but the quality of his work is savagely challenged.
Any other construction put upon the passage is sheer nonsense. Mr.
Theobald appeals to the “most gentle and gentlemanly critics” to be
patient and tolerant with the Baconians--“men as sound in judgment
and as well equipped in learning as yourselves”--but it is high time
that this kind of wilful misrepresentation and perversion of common
sense should be condemned in plain language. If Greene had believed
that Shakespeare was wearing feathers that did not rightfully belong
to him, if he were pretending to be what he really was not; if, in Mr.
Theobald’s confident explanation, he had no right to profess himself an
author at all, we may be quite certain that Greene would have said so
outright--he would not have adopted a “cryptic” style, and left it for
Mr. Theobald to decipher his meaning.

Mr. Theobald’s alternative theory that the word “Shake-scene” does
not refer to Shakespeare at all, is even more preposterous. “In 1592
‘Shakespeare’ did not exist at all, and only two or three of the
plays which subsequently appeared under this name could have been
written.” But those two or three plays included, as far as we can
tell, _Love’s Labour’s Lost_, _Two Gentlemen of Verona_, and _The
Comedy of Errors_--plays of sufficient promise to secure any author
recognition as a poet and dramatist. If Mr. Theobald entertains
any serious doubts as to the identification of Shakespeare in the
“Shake-scene” of Greene, he may be advised to read the apology for
this attack which Henry Chettle, the publisher, prefixed to a tract
of Greene’s in the same year. “I am as sorry,” Chettle wrote, “as if
the originall fault had been my fault, because myselfe have seene his
(_i.e._, Shakespeare’s) demeanour no lesse civill than he (is) exelent
in the qualitie he professes, besides divers of worship have reported
his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty and his facetious
grace in writing that aprooves his art.”

[Illustration: St. MICHAEL’S CHURCH.

Extract from the Will of Lord Bacon.

“For my burial I desire it may be in St. Michael’s Church, near St.
Albans; there was my Mother buried, and it is the only Christian Church
within the walls of Old Verulam.

“For my name and memory I leave it to men’s charitable speeches, and to
foreign nations, and the next ages.”]

This apology put forth by Henry Chettle is an invaluable attestation to
the character and literary standing of Shakespeare--“his uprightness
in dealing” is a matter of public report, and “his facetious grace
in writing” is frankly acknowledged. At a period when professional
rivalries ran strong, and no man’s reputation was above attack, a
publisher and fellow author is seen regarding Shakespeare not only as
a man to whom an apology was due, but to whom it appeared expedient
to make one. In treating of the personal history of Shakespeare, it
must be borne in mind that although the duly-attested facts regarding
him are regrettably few, the poet was widely known to the leading
literary and theatrical men of his day. Ben Jonson, his brother actor
and dramatist, and Michael Drayton were his intimate friends. Condell
and Heming remained in close relationship with Shakespeare until his
death, and Richard Burbage was his partner in the business of the Globe
Theatre. In _Pericles_ and _Timon_, Shakespeare worked in collaboration
with George Wilkins, a dramatic writer of some repute, and William
Rowley, a professional reviser of plays. There were besides, the
members of the Globe Company, men who lived their lives beside him,
rehearsed under him, learned from him, interpreted him. Yet none of
these men appear to have entertained the slightest doubt upon the
genuineness of his claims to authorship, while every contemporaneous
reference to him is couched in terms of affection and admiration. The
only possible explanation of this remarkable fact is that Shakespeare
and Bacon were one and the same person--a theory that the most hardened
Baconian has not yet thought it advisable to advance.

_Wm. Shakespeare, Money Lender and Poet._

Mr. Theobald is unfortunate in his selection of the points he raises in
Shakespeare’s career in order to belittle the character of the poet.
He writes: “His known occupations, apart from theatre business, were
money-lending, malt-dealing, transactions in house and land property.”
There is not the slightest evidence to show that Shakespeare traded
as a money-lender; his only interest in malt-dealing was confined to
one transaction, and his transactions in houses and lands were those
of any man who invests his savings in real estate. The phrase is, as
the most superficial Shakespeare student will recognise, misleading in
substance, and incorrect as a statement of fact. In another part of his
determinedly one-sided book, Mr. Theobald dismisses, in a paragraph,
the contention that Shakespeare’s poems are illuminated and illustrated
by Shakespeare’s life. The obvious rejoinder is that there is nothing
in the life of Shakespeare that makes it difficult for us to accept him
as the author of the Plays, whereas the whole life and character of
Bacon makes his pretensions more than difficult, even impossible, of

In 1593, _Venus and Adonis_ was published by Shakespeare’s friend and
fellow townsman, Richard Field, and in the following year _Lucrece_ was
issued at the sign of the White Greyhound in St. Paul’s Churchyard.
Both poems were dedicated to Shakespeare’s first and only patron, the
Earl of Southampton, with whom Bacon is not known to have sought any
intimacy until 1603, when he addressed to him a characteristic letter
of conciliation. (In 1621, when Bacon was accused of corruption,
the Earl of Southampton pointed out the insufficiency of the Lord
Chancellor’s original confession, and it was largely the result of
his firm and unfriendly attitude that Bacon’s abject submission and
acknowledgment of the justice of the charges, was placed before the
Lords). These poems constituted Shakespeare’s appeal to the reading
public. The response was instantaneous and enthusiastic. “Critics vied
with each other,” writes Mr. Sidney Lee, “in the exuberance of the
eulogies, in which they proclaimed that the fortunate author had gained
a place in permanence on the summit of Parnassus.” _Lucrece_, Michael
Drayton declared, in his _Legend of Matilda_ (1594), was “revived to
live another age.” In 1595, William Clerke, in his _Polimanteia_, gave
“all praise” to “Sweet Shakespeare” for his _Lucrecia_. John Weever,
in a sonnet addressed to “honey-tongued” Shakespeare in his _Epigrams_
(1595), eulogised the two poems as an unmatchable achievement,
although he mentions the plays _Romeo_, and _Richard_, and “more whose
names I know not.” Richard Carew, at the same time, classed him with
Marlowe, as deserving the praises of an English Catullus. Printers and
publishers of the poems strained their resources to satisfy the demands
of eager purchasers. No fewer than seven editions of _Venus_ appeared
between 1594 and 1602; an eighth followed in 1617. _Lucrece_ achieved
a fifth edition in the year of Shakespeare’s death. The Queen quickly
showed him special favour, and until her death in 1603, Shakespeare’s
plays were repeatedly acted in her presence.

[Illustration: Elizabeth R]

When the sonneteering vogue reached England from Italy and France,
Shakespeare applied himself to the composition of sonnets, with all the
force of his poetic genius. Of the hundred and fifty-four sonnets that
survive, the greater number were probably composed in 1593 and 1594.
Many are so burdened with conceits and artificial quibbles that their
literary value is scarcely discernible; but the majority, on the other
hand, attain to supreme heights of poetic expression, sweetness, and
imagery. They are of peculiar interest, as disclosing the relationship
that existed between Southampton and Shakespeare. No less than
twenty of the sonnets are undisguisedly addressed to the patron of
the poet’s verse: three of them are poetical transcriptions of the
devotion which he expressed to Southampton in his dedicatory preface to
_Lucrece_. The references are direct and unmistakable. In 1603, when
the accession of James I. opened the gates of Southampton’s prison,
Bacon was meekly writing to him: “I would have been very glad to have
presented my humble service to your Lordship by my attendance if I
could have foreseen that it should not have been unpleasing to you,”
and hypocritically assuring him, “How credible soever it may seem to
you at first, yet it is as true as a thing God knoweth, that this great
change (_i.e._, the release of Southampton, and his favour with the new
monarch, whose good-will Bacon ardently desired), hath wrought in me
no other change towards your Lordship than this, that I may safely be
now that which I was truly before.” The Earl of Southampton considered
these protestations of friendship so incredible, as coming from the
man who had consigned Essex, Bacon’s own friend and patron, to the
headsman, and sent Southampton himself to the Tower, that he appears
to have made no response to this letter, and twenty years afterwards
he materially contributed to the Lord Chancellor’s discomfiture. One
has only to compare this letter with the sonnet with which Shakespeare
saluted his patron on his release from the Tower, to recognise the
impossibility of regarding the two compositions as the work of the same

_The “True Shakespeare.”_

If Bacon was the “true Shakespeare,” as Mr. Theobald calls him, the
question naturally arises as to his motive in concealing the authorship
of the plays and the poems. Baconians explain this extraordinary act
of reticence on the ground that dramatic authorship was held in low
esteem, and that the fact, if known, would have proved an obstacle to
his advancement at Court. This contention, though fully borne out by
Bacon’s cipher writings, is ridiculous in the extreme. In the first
place, it was not the profession of dramatic authorship, but the
calling of the actor that was held in low esteem. Furthermore, poetry
was not under the ban that attached to the stage, and it cannot be
denied that the acknowledged authorship of _Venus and Adonis_, of
_Lucrece_, or of the _Sonnets_, would have won for Bacon more favour
at Elizabeth’s Court than he ever secured by his philosophy. Poetry
was held in high esteem; sonneteering was the vogue. Buckingham, in
the next reign, wrote a play, _The Rehearsal_, and Essex had composed
a masque. The publication of _The Faerie Queene_, in 1589, secured for
Edmund Spenser an introduction to the Queen, who made him her poet
laureate in the same year. Why should Bacon have persisted in devoting
himself to a branch of literature which appears to have advanced his
interests so little? Elizabeth was never impressed by his genius;
she acknowledged his great wit and learning, but accounted him “not
deep.” James criticised his philosophy with lofty captiousness, and
compared his _Novum Organum_ to “the peace of God, which passeth all
understanding.” It would be neither discreditable to his pride as a
poet, nor contrary to the nature of the man, to believe that if he
could safely have claimed the authorship of _Lucrece_ and _A Midsummer
Night’s Dream_, he would not have hesitated for an hour in so doing.
_Venus and Adonis_ won for Shakespeare the favour of Elizabeth, while,
under the sovereignty of her successor, Shakespeare’s company gave
between forty and fifty performances at Court during the first five
years of his reign. Is it not rather absurd to believe that Bacon
should have remained quiescent while his unavowed work was being
acclaimed as “immortal,” and the works published under his own name
were either neglected, or treated to a contemptuous _mot_ by the very
person whose admiration he was feverishly striving to attract?

Yet the Baconians find no difficulty in accepting this explanation
of secrecy--Mr. A. P. Sinnett regards the motive as perfectly
intelligible. Bacon, he contends, was not writing his plays for
fame, but for the money it brought him. Mr. Theobald contends that
the plays could not have been written by Shakespeare because he was
too busily employed in “carving his own fortune” ... “filling his
pockets” ... “working for the present, not for the future,” to devote
the necessary leisure to literary pursuits. Bacon himself, according
to the bi-literal cipher discoveries of Mrs. Gallup, declares that so
far from receiving remuneration for his plays, he paid “a sufficient
reward in gold” to Shakespeare for the use of his name. “He was left
quite without resources,” Mr. Sinnett explains, “and he took up
dramatic writing for the sake of the money it earned him.” Before we
are won over by this fallacious explanation, we would inquire how
it was that Bacon, who was left without resources in 1577, did not
produce his first play until 1591, and then paid for the luxury of
concealing his indiscretion. Mr. Sinnett’s next sentence is instructive
as a specimen of Baconian reasoning. “After Bacon obtained an office
of profit at forty-six, no more Shakespeare plays appeared, though
the reputed author lived for ten more years in dignified leisure at
Stratford.” It may, of course, be regarded as a “shallow objection” to
raise, but Bacon was fifty-one years of age when Shakespeare retired
to Stratford. Moreover, Bacon obtained no office of profit in 1611.
He was made Solicitor-General, and became a rich man, in 1607, but
until his appointment to the Attorney-Generalship in 1613 he was
continually suing for promotion and applying for a better paid office.
It is, indeed, significant that Bacon was silent as a playwright from
the time of Shakespeare’s retirement. When he was Chancellor, and
enjoyed a yearly income equal to between £60,000 and £70,000 of our
money, he continued to compose his scientific works, and he was still
actively engaged in the task between 1621 and 1626 when he was again
reduced to comparative penury, and the more remunerative employment
of play-writing would have relieved his financial position without
detriment to his political prospects. The source from whence he could
have augmented his inadequate income was neglected while he employed
himself in writing a _Digest of the Laws of England_, _The History of
Henry VII._, _Sylva Sylvarum_, _Augmentis Scientiarum_, _The Dialogue
of the Holy War_, some additional _Essays_, and the translation of
“certain Psalms into English verse.” Bacon, according to Baconians,
produced his plays during the busiest period of his political
career, and in the days of his leisure and impecuniosity--“when
Shakespeare was not present to shield him from the disgrace of
possessing poetic and dramatic genius”--he produced his versification
of the Psalms.

[Illustration: ROBERT DEVEREUX, EARL OF ESSEX. O.B. 1601.

From the original of Hilliard, in the collection of The Right Honble
the Earl of Verulam.]

Mr. Sinnett, in common with Mr. Theobald and, indeed, all other
upholders of the Baconian theory, has a distinctly original way of
dealing with matters of fact. Mr. Theobald invents his facts to suit
his argument; Mr. Sinnett ignores all facts that prove intractable.
Thus Mr. Sinnett in _The National Review_: “All through the plays there
is no allusion to Stratford.” And again: “While Bacon seems to have
gone North to curry favour with James on his accession, _Macbeth_ was
written just after that event. Certainly there is no reason to suppose
that Shakespeare ever went to Scotland.” What nonsense is all this!
Although personalities are rare in the Plays, there are a number of
literal references to Stratford, and Shakespeare’s native county, in
_The Taming of the Shrew_; and local allusions are also to be found in
the second part of _Henry IV._ and _The Merry Wives of Windsor_. In his
_Life of William Shakespeare_, Mr. Lee enumerates several instances
in point. “Barton Heath,” we read is, “Barton-on-the-Heath, the home
of Shakespeare’s aunt, Edmund Lambert’s wife, and of her sons. The
tinker, in _The Taming of the Shrew_, confesses that he has run up a
score with Marian Hacket, the fat ale wife of Wincot. The references to
Wincot and the Hackets are singularly precise. The name of the maid of
the inn is given as Cicely Hacket, and the ale-house is described in
the stage direction as ‘on a heath.’” Again, in _Henry IV._, the local
reference to William Visor, of Woncot, and the allusions to the region
of the Cotswold Hills, and the peculiar Cotswold custom of sowing “red
lammas” wheat at an unusually early season of the agricultural year,
are unmistakable. Mr. Sinnett’s assumptions that Bacon went to Scotland
and that Shakespeare did not, are entirely arbitrary. In point of fact
we may be quite sure that Bacon did not go to Scotland, and we have no
reason to believe that Shakespeare was ever in Venice, or Sardis, or “a
wood near Athens.” The author of the _Letters from Hell_ was not under
suspicion because he could not claim to have been ferried across the
Styx to get his local colour.

If we are to accept the Baconian opinion of Shakespeare it is difficult
to understand how Bacon came to allow him to make a successful
application on behalf of his father, John Shakespeare, to the College
of Heralds for a grant of arms in 1597. Bacon was an aristocrat and a
firm believer in his order. If he knew Shakespeare to be a notoriously
ill-educated actor, a man little better than a vagabond, an impostor, a
villain with “some humour,” whom Bacon employed as the original model
for Sir John Falstaffe and Sir Toe-be--as Mr. Harold Bayley states--why
did he not prevent his intimate friend, the Earl of Essex, the Earl
of Southampton, and William Camden, the great scholar and antiquary,
from being hoaxed by this impudent rogue, and prevent the Shakespeares
from obtaining the desired grant? These three friends of Shakespeare
certainly facilitated the proceedings.

_Mr. Theobald’s Parallels and Mr. Bayley’s Conclusions._

When Mr. Theobald gets away from his biographical pabulum and plunges
into the literary arguments for Bacon’s authorship of the plays, he has
little that is original to reveal, but much that is new in the way of
parallels and coincidences. In the first place, he takes it for granted
that Shakespeare could not, by any possibility, have written the plays.
He does not prove it, but--_cela va sans dire_. Then he proceeds,
to the extent of some four hundred pages of matter, to demonstrate,
by reference to the significant Baconian characteristics in the
plays, and the still more significant parallels between the poetry of
Shakespeare and the philosophy of Bacon, that Bacon must be the author
of both. Bacon, for instance, appears to have had a “very curious
habit” of striking himself on the breast when he wished to emphasise
an argument. Brutus, Ophelia, Clarence’s little boy, and Claudio, are
all represented as using a similar gesture. Some such lamentations as
Bacon may be supposed to have uttered after his fall, are to be found
in _King Lear_, and Lucrece’s self-condemnation of herself to death for
an offence of which she is entirely innocent is, of course, inspired
by Bacon’s behaviour in making a full and humble submission to the
Lords in respect of offences which he never committed. The mere fact
that _Lucrece_ was published in 1594, and that Bacon’s downfall did not
take place until 1621, is a point of no moment--we can readily agree
with Mr. Theobald that “there is a very curious reflection of Bacon’s
character and temperament in the poem of _Lucrece_.” Lucrece absolves
herself in the reflection,

   “The poison’d fountain clears itself again,
    And why not I from this compelled stain?”

Everybody knows that Bacon, “for some time after his condemnation,
expected to resume his ordinary functions as counsellor to Parliament,
and adviser to the King”--_ergo_ Lucrece was Bacon’s prototype--in
petticoats. Moreover, in the _Essays_, Bacon affixes to a meditative
reflection in one of his philosophical propositions the phrase, “I
cannot tell.” The same phrase, scarcely remarkable in itself, occurs
several times in the Plays. Mr. Theobald devotes a whole chapter of
his book to emphasising this remarkable coincidence. He advances pages
of historical parallels, and he remarks, almost enthusiastically, that
both Shakespeare and Bacon have dilated with pitiless logic on “the
uselessness of hope.”


From an original painting in the possession of The Marquis of

But Mr. Theobald is most amusing when he compares Bacon’s _Essay of
Love_ with the treatment of Love in Shakespeare. We know Bacon’s
opinion of love, as expressed in the _Essay_, and we find it difficult
to reconcile it with the rhapsodies that we find in the Plays; we
remember _Romeo and Juliet_, and the exquisite comment, “Imagine Juliet
as the party, loved”--or, rather, we should do so, if Mr. Theobald
was not at our elbow to explain the apparent contradiction in thought
and term. Love, it would appear, has two sides. There is the “bosom”
side, and the business side. Here we have a full and convincing
explanation of the difference between the views of love as expressed
in the _Essay_, and the Shakespearean application of the sentiment as
displayed in his dramas. In the Plays, Bacon regarded love from the
“bosom” point of view, while in the _Essay_, the “very brief, very
aphoristic, very concentrated, never discoursive or rhetorical, but
severely reflective and practical essay,” he was dealing with Juliet
as a “business” detail--a contracting party, in short--“the party
loved.” Nothing could be more convincing! It would almost lead us to
entertain a greater admiration for Bacon than Spedding could hope
for. He has not only voiced two such entirely contradictory views of
love as we find in the _Essay_ of Bacon and the plays of Shakespeare,
but he has, with the aid of Mr. Theobald, showed that, “curiously
enough,” the two conflicting expressions are “significantly identical.”
There is surely no need to proceed further. Mr. Theobald has proved
his contention, and we must perforce accept his conclusions that
Shakespeare, the arch-impostor, the champion literary fraud of all
time, was “either entirely uneducated, or very imperfectly educated;
that his Latin was small, his Greek less, and his pure English least
of all; that such handwriting as his could never have figured on a
University examination paper--this is the opinion, it will be observed,
of an M.A., and a former editor of _The Bacon Journal_--that his whole
life was too full of business, too much devoted to money to leave any
extensive opportunities for study, or for large, broad, world-covering

But if we make it a _sine quâ non_ that the writer of the Plays was
a man of leisure not devoted to mammon, “with ample opportunity for
study, and of a broad-world covering experience” (whatever that may
precisely mean), it is proof positive that he was not the man whom we
know as Francis Bacon. Bacon’s whole life was devoted to business,
and to the getting of money; he had no leisure, as he is for ever
telling us, for his life’s work, and his experience of the world of
men was so superficial and misleading that it sent Essex to the block,
brought the King to loggerheads with his Parliament, and encompassed
the utter downfall and disgrace of the cunning Chancellor. We need not
be flustered by Mr. Theobald’s hysterical opinion that Shakespeare’s
writing was “so execrably bad, so unmistakably rustic and plebean,
that one may reasonably doubt whether his penmanship extended beyond
the capacity of signing his name to a business document,” because
we have Spedding’s statement that Shakespeare’s signature is simply
characteristic of the caligraphy of the time, and we know by comparison
that it is in advance, both in style and legibility, of that of Sir
Nicholas Bacon, the father of the great Pretender.

Mr. Harold Bayley, the author of _The Tragedy of Sir Francis Bacon_,
is, in the same degree, disdainful of facts. He declares that he will
quote verbatim from Mr. Sidney Lee’s well-known _Life of Shakespeare_
which would be most commendable in him if he did it--but he doesn’t.
Rather he quotes the opinion of Richard Grant White, who says that
“Shakespeare was the son of a Warwickshire peasant,” who “signed his
name with a mark,” and that the Poet was “apprenticed to a butcher.”
It is but waste of space to repeat that such assertions are palpably
false. It may be true, as Mr. Bayley states, that Stratford, in 1595,
was in an unsanitary condition, and that the Metropolitan theatres were
the resort of undesirable persons--even that Shakespeare entered the
play-house as a servitor, but all this proves nothing. It is also true
that, up to the time that Shakespeare’s plays began to be produced,
“there had been nothing in his career that would cause us to suppose
he was a sublime genius,” but until Homer, or Michael Angelo, or
Rudyard Kipling began to produce their masterpieces, we knew of nothing
in them to make us accept them as heaven-born geniuses. Mr. Bayley
assumes that Shakespeare left Stratford-upon-Avon in 1585 with “_Venus
and Adonis_, _Lucrece_, and, perhaps, _Hamlet_, in his pocket.” The
reason for his assumption is not vouchsafed to us. True, our dramatist
left Stratford in 1585, but _Venus_ was not published until 1593, and
it was not until 1602 that _Hamlet_ was produced. The mere fact that
“in the sixteenth century the provincial dialects were so marked that
the county gentry ... had difficulty in making themselves understood,
except to their provincial neighbours,” proves that both these works
were composed after Shakespeare had been for some time a resident in
London, and indeed it is ridiculous to suppose that it took him eight
years to find a publisher for _Venus and Adonis_. Donnelly deciphered
the Bishop of Worcester’s opinion that Shakespeare was “a butcher’s
rude and vulgar apprentice,” who “in our opinion was not likely to have
writ them (the Plays).” “In our opinion” is scarcely evidence. Mr.
Bayley’s contemptuous reference to Shakespeare’s handwriting as “five
strange scrawls,” is combated by Spedding’s authoritative dictum, and
his immediately succeeding conclusion that the classical allusions
and references in the Plays prove the author to have been “a cultured
aristocrat,” robs his entire argument of sapiency or merit.

Mr. Harold Bayley’s _The Tragedy of Francis Bacon_, is, in my
opinion, an inconsequential contribution to the controversy. In
the chapter on Papermarks, his contention that every fresh device
necessitates a new mould (p. 38) is correct, but his deductions are
senseless; the fact being that the paper is contributed from very
many--mostly foreign--mills. Take one of Caxton’s books--say, _The
Golden Legend_--and you will find 50 different water-marks in one
volume; if all the copies could be examined, probably double or treble
the number would be revealed. One hasn’t the patience to follow Mr.
Bayley’s “reasoning”: he believes one of the paper-marks (No. 55) to
be Rosicrucian--it is the Divine monogram, and traceable to the first
century. No. 14, the “fool’s-cap,” gives the name to a size of paper
still extant--so of the vase, or “pott.” The symbols are allusive,
heraldic, or “canting,” mostly emblematic, or in rebus form. That is
all. What more natural for the paper-maker _Lile_ than to take the
Fleur-de-lys for his trade symbol? With respect to printers’ headlines,
tail-pieces, etc., they were (and are) simply fancy types used for
decorative purposes. The oak, and its fruit the acorn--the rose, Tudor
or otherwise, the lily, typifying our conquest of France, only erased
from the Royal Arms _temp._ George III., would all, from a national
standpoint, become the commonest form of ornament, and each, in its
turn, lend itself to the fancy of the designer, who, Mr. Bayley would
have us think, were all under the direction of Francis Bacon, who
wove a wonderful story by this puerile means. As for the printers’
“hieroglyphics,” as Mr. Bayley calls them, they have been used almost
from the invention of the art to the present time. Amongst publishers,
too, they are common. The printer of _The Tragedy of Sir Francis Bacon_
employs one: a lion supporting the trade symbol of Aldus. I have not
consulted Mr. Whittingham, but (if he knows anything at all about it)
he would probably say the device signifies that he is the English
successor of the Venetian printer!


So far as Shakespeare’s handwriting is concerned, I do not propose
at the present moment to go beyond the opinion of Spedding. It would
profit nothing to enter into a discussion on the subject until one has
something tangible in the way of evidence to offer. Shakespeare’s
Will, for instance, has always been regarded as a witness for the
Baconian case, but if the result of the investigations I am prosecuting
confirm my suspicions, it will become a piece of important evidence for
Shakespeare. The _bona-fides_ of this Will have always appeared to be
more than questionable, and I am hopeful of being in a position shortly
to connect it with the great fraud which I am satisfied has been
perpetrated by Bacon.

_The Bi-Literal Cipher._

The most interesting feature of the Bacon-Shakespeare controversy at
the present moment is the alleged discovery by Mrs. Elizabeth Wells
Gallup, of Detroit, U.S.A., of a bi-literal cipher by Bacon, which
appears in no fewer than forty-five books, published between 1591 and
1628. Mrs. Gallup was assisting Dr. Orville W. Owen (also of Detroit,
U.S.A.), in the preparation of the later books of his _Sir Francis
Bacon’s Cipher Story_, and in the study of the “great word cipher,”
discovered by Dr. Owen, when she became convinced that the very full
explanation found in _De Augmentis Scientiarum_ of the bi-literal
method of cipher-writing, was something more than a mere treatise on
the subject. She applied the rules given to the peculiarly italicised
words, and “letters in two forms,” as they appear in the photographic
facsimile of the 1623 folio edition of the Shakespeare plays. The
surprising disclosures that resulted from the experiment, sent her
to the original editions of Bacon’s known works, and from those to
all the authors whose books Bacon claimed as his own. The bi-literal
cipher, according to Mrs. Gallup, held true in every instance, and
she is fully entitled to have her discovery thoroughly investigated
before it is condemned as a “pure invention.” Mrs. Gallup solemnly
declares her translation to be “absolutely veracious,” and until it is
authoritatively declared that the bi-literal cipher does not exist in
the works in which she professes to have traced it, I am not prepared
to question her _bonâ fides_. Her conclusions are absurd, but her
premises may be proved to be impregnable. She is convinced of the
soundness of her discoveries, and she forthwith leaps to the conclusion
that “the proofs are overwhelming and irresistible, that Bacon was the
author of the delightful lines attributed to Spenser--the fantastic
conceits of Peele and Greene--the historical romances of Marlowe--the
immortal plays and poems put forth in Shakespeare’s name--as well
as the _Anatomy of Melancholy_ of Burton.” Mrs. Gallup shows scant
appreciation of the illimitable genius she claims for Bacon in this

The inaccurately described bi-literal cipher, which Bacon, who
claims to have invented it, explained with great elaboration in his
_De Augmentis Scientiarum_, has nothing whatever to do with the
composition or the wording of the works in which it is said to exist.
It depends not on the author, but on the printer. It is altogether a
matter of typography. One condition alone is necessary--control over
the printing, so as to ensure its being done from specially marked
manuscripts, or altered in proof. It shall, as Bacon says, be performed
thus:--“First let all the letters of the alphabet, by transposition, be
resolved into two letters only--hence bi-literal--for the transposition
of two letters by five placings will be sufficient for 32 differences,
much more than 24, which is the number of the alphabet. The example of
such an alphabet is on this wise:--

  A  a a a a a   I or J  a b a a a        R  b a a a a
  B  a a a a b        K  a b a a b        S  b a a a b
  C  a a a b a        L  a b a b a        T  b a a b a
  D  a a a b b        M  a b a b b   U or V  b a a b b
  E  a a b a a        N  a b b a a        W  b a b a a
  F  a a b a b        O  a b b a b        X  b a b a b
  G  a a b b a        P  a b b b a        Y  b a b b a
  H  a a b b b        Q  a b b b b        Z  b a b b b

For the purpose of introducing this alphabet into the book which is
to contain the secret message, certain letters are taken to stand
for “a’s” and others for “b’s.” In Bacon’s illustration, he employed
two different founts of italic type, using the letters of fount “a”
to stand for “a’s,” and the letters of fount “b” to stand for “b’s.”
Bacon takes the word “fuge” to exhibit the application of the alphabet,

      F           U           G           E.
  a a b a b   b a a b b   a a b b a   a a b a a

The word is enfolded, as an illustration, in the sentence _Manere te
volo donec venero_, as follows:--


  a a b a b  |  b a a b b  |  a a b b a  |  a a b a a
      F.     |      U.     |      G.     |      E.

A more ample example of the cipher is given on the page which is here
reproduced from Mrs. Gallup’s book. The work in which the “interiour”
letter is enfolded is the first _Epistle of Cicero_, and the cipher
letter it contains is as follows:

  All is lost. Mindarus is killed. The soldiers want food.
  We can neither get hence nor stay longer here.

[Illustration: _Cicero’s First Epistle._

(NOTE)--This Translation from Spedding, Ellis & Heath Ed.]

Bacon had a three-fold motive for putting his cipher into every book of
merit that was published in his day. In the first place, it allowed him
to claim the authorship of the book. In the second, in Mrs. Gallup’s
own words, “it was the means of conveying to a future time the truth
which was being concealed from the world concerning himself--his right
to be King of England--secrets of State regarding Queen Elizabeth--his
mother--and other prominent characters of that day--the correction
of English history in important particulars, the exposure of the
wrongs that had been put upon him;” and, equally important, thirdly,
of publishing his version of the wrongs he had done to others, and
to Essex in particular. Concerning the amazing diversity of style
displayed in the many works, he says in his cipher: “I varied my stile
to suit men, since no two shew the same taste and like imagination....”
“When I have assum’d men’s names, th’ next step is to create for each
a stile naturall to the man that yet should let my owne bee seene,
as a thrid of warpe in my entire fabricke.” His explanation of the
diversity of merit that is displayed in the works of Robert Greene and
of Shakespeare, is not less interesting and instructive. “It shall bee
noted in truth that some (plays) greatly exceede their fellowes in
worth, and it is easily explained. Th’ theame varied, yet was alwayes
a subject well selected to convey the secret message. Also the plays
being given out as tho’gh written by the actor, to whom each had bin
consign’d, turne one’s genius suddainlie many times to suit th’ new

“In this actour that wee now emploie (the cipher appears in the 1611
quarto edition of _Hamlet_), is a wittie veyne different from any
formerly employ’d. [Bacon appears to have forgotten that he employed
the ‘masque’ of Shakespeare in the quarto editions of _Richard II._
(1598), _Midsummer Night’s Dream_, _Much Ado About Nothing_, _The
Merchant of Venice_ (1600), and of _King Lear_, _Henry V._ (1608), and
_Pericles_ (1609)]. In truth it suiteth well with a native spirrit,
humourous and grave by turnes in ourself. Therefore, when wee create
a part that hath him in minde, th’ play is correspondingly better

In the cipher story which is found by Mrs. Gallup in _Titus
Andronicus_, Bacon again recurs to the superior merit of the plays put
forth in Shakespeare’s name, and he extols the merits of Shakespeare as
an interpreter of these dramas:--

“We can win bayes, lawrell gyrlo’ds and renowne, and we can raise a
shining monumente which shale not suffer the hardly wonne, supremest,
crowning glory to fade. Nere shal the lofty and wide-reaching honor
that such workes as these bro’t us bee lost whilst there may even a
work bee found to afforde opportunity to actors--who may play those
powerful parts which are now soe greeted with great acclayme--to winne
such names and honours as Wil Shakespear, o’ The Glob’ so well did win,
acting our dramas.

“That honour must to earth’s final morn yet follow him, but al fame won
from th’ authorshippe (supposed) of our plays must in good time--after
our owne worke, putting away its vayling disguises, standeth forth as
you (the decipherer) only know it--bee yeelded to us.”

If Mr. Mallock reposes any confidence in his Bacon--according to Mrs.
Gallup--he must at once withdraw his description of Shakespeare as a
“notoriously ill-educated actor.” Bacon himself, in the foregoing,
acknowledges that Will Shakespeare derived a well-won reputation and
honours by acting in his dramas. At the same time Bacon is confident
that the dramas will win for him, as author, “supremest, crowning, and
unfading glory.”

Here, almost at the outset of these cipher revelations, we are met
by a passage, plausible in itself, but which, read in the light of
our knowledge of Bacon’s doubts upon the permanency of the English
language, calls for careful consideration. Bacon rested his fame
upon his Latin writings. He wrote always for the appreciation of
posterity. As he advanced in years, he appears, says Abbott, to have
been more and more impressed with the hopelessness of any expectations
of lasting fame or usefulness based upon English books. He believed
implicitly that posterity would not preserve works written in the
modern languages--“for these modern languages will at one time or other
play the bank-rowtes (bankrupts) with books.” Of his Latin translation
of the _Advancement of Learning_, he said, “It is a book I think will
live, and be a citizen of the world, as English books will not,”
and he predicted that the Latin volume of his _Essays_ would “last
as long as books shall last.” So confident was he that his writings
would achieve immortality, that he dedicated his _Advancement of
Learning_ to the King, in order that the virtues and mental qualities
of his Majesty might be handed down to succeeding ages in “some
solid work, fixed memorial, and immortal monument.” Bacon’s pride in
his work was monumental, his “grasp on futurity” was conceived in a
spirit of “magnificent audacity;” every scrap of his writings was
jealously preserved and robed in the time-resisting garments of a dead
language. Is it conceivable in this magnificent egoist that he should
have displayed such gross carelessness, such wanton unconcern in his
plays that, but for the labours of a couple of actors in collecting
and arranging them, they would have been utterly lost? It is simply
incredible that Bacon should have based his anticipation of immortality
upon plays which for years were tossed about the world in pirated and
mutilated editions, and in many instances, until the issue of the
first folio in 1623, existed only in the form of the actor’s prompt
books. The sixteen plays, in quarto, which were in print in 1616, were
published without the co-operation of the author. They were to win for
their author unfading glory, yet he was at no pains to collect them.
The first folio was printed from the acting versions in use by the
company with which Shakespeare had been associated, and the editorial
duties were undertaken by two of Shakespeare’s friends and fellow
actors, whose motives rather than their literary fitness for the task
call for commendation. It was dedicated to two noblemen, with whom, so
far as we know, Bacon had no social or political intercourse.


Mr. Theobald considers that Bacon’s “confident assurance of holding a
lasting place in literature,” his anticipation of immortality, could
only have been advanced by the man who voiced the same conviction
in the Shakespeare _Sonnets_. The deduction is based on arbitrary
conjecture, and a limited acquaintance with the literary conceits of
the time. But Shakespeare claimed as his medium of immortality the
language which Bacon predicted could not endure.

   “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see--
    So long lives this, and this gives life to Thee,”

wrote Shakespeare. This was English, the purest and the sweetest that
tongue ever uttered, and Bacon was dressing his thoughts in Latin that
they might outlive the language which Shakespeare wrote. Ronsard and
Desportes, in France, and in England, Drayton, Daniel, and, indeed,
all the Elizabethan poets, had made the topic a commonplace. In his
_Apologie for Poetrie_, Sir Philip Sidney wrote that it was the custom
of poets “to tell you that they will make you immortal by their
verses,” and both Shakespeare and Bacon adopted the current conceit
when they referred to the “eternising” faculty of their literary
effusions. It is not claimed by, or for, Bacon that he was the
author of Drayton’s _Idea_ or Daniel’s _Delia_, but if Mr. Theobald’s
style of reasoning is to be taken at his own valuation, the master of
Gorhambury, and none other, was responsible for the poetic output of
both these singers.

_Bacon’s “Sterne and Tragicle History.”_

We are assured by another Baconian student that the Shakespeare plays
were not an end, but merely a means to an end, the end being the
revelation of Bacon’s history, and the composition of further plays
and poems from the material which he had warehoused in the dramas
attributed to Shakespeare and other authors. The initial, and most
important fact which Mrs. Gallup’s deciphered story reveals, is, not
that Francis Bacon was the author of Shakespeare’s plays, but that he
was the legitimate son of Queen Elizabeth, by Robert Dudley, afterwards
Earl of Leicester. The disclosure is so startling, so quaint, so
incredible, and withal so interesting, that the revelation both appeals
to and outrages our credulity. From our knowledge of Elizabeth and
of Bacon, we can more readily believe that the Queen was the mother
of Bacon, than that Bacon was the father of Shakespeare’s plays. At
Gorhambury is to be seen a pair of oil paintings, by Hilliard, of
Elizabeth and Leicester. The pictures are a match in size, style,
and treatment. The doublet in which Leicester is portrayed is of the
same material as that of the gown in which the Queen is represented.
Moreover, they were a present from Elizabeth to Sir Nicholas Bacon, the
foster father of Francis, who signs his cipher revelations, “Francis
First of England,” “Francis Bacon (Rightful) R,” “F.B. or T.” or
“Francis of E.”, as the humour seized him.

The deciphered secret story, the “sterne and tragicle” history of
Bacon’s political wrongs commences in the first edition of Edmund
Spenser’s _Complaints_ (1590 and 1591); but it was not until the
_Faerie Queene_ was published (1596) that he appropriates the
authorship of Spenser’s works. His first care is to establish his claim
to the throne:

“Our name is Fr. Bacon, by adoption, yet it shall be different. Being
of blood roial (for the Queen, our sov’raigne, who married by a private
rite the Earle Leicester--and at a subseque’t time, also, as to make
surer thereby, without pompe, but i’ th’ presence o’ a suitable number
of witnesses, bound herselfe by those hymeneall bands againe--is our
mother, and wee were not base-born, or base-begot), we be Tudor, and
our stile shall be Francis First, in all proper cours of time, th’ King
of our realme.

“Early in our life, othe (oath)--or threat as binding in effect as
othe, we greatly doubt--was made by our wilful parent concerning
succession, and if this cannot bee chang’d, or be not in time
withdrawn, we know not how the kingdome shall be obtain’d. But ’tis
thus seene or shewn that it can bee noe other’s by true desce’t, then
is set down. To Francis First doth th’ crowne, th’ honor of our land

[Illustration: GORHAMBURY, A.D. 1568.]

[Illustration: GORHAMBURY, A.D. 1795.]

[Illustration: GORHAMBURY, A.D. 1821.]

Thus Bacon states his case, and through the succeeding 368 pages of
Mrs. Gallup’s book he repeats the assertion _ad nauseam_. He makes no
attempt to prove his claim--he early allows it to be understood that he
is unable to verify his asseverations, nor does he explain how or why
his name should be Tuder, or Tidder. As the son of Lord Robert Dudley,
he would be a Dudley. The circumstantial evidence with which he
supports his case is interesting, but valueless; his conclusions are
unproven, his facts are something more than shaky. But let us pursue
the story:

“We, by men call’d Bacon, are sonne of the Sov’raigne, Queene
Elizabeth, who confin’d i’ th’ Tow’r, married Ro. D.”

Elizabeth, it appears, was once “so mad daring” as to dub Bacon, “as a
sonne of Follie,” to “th’ courageous men of our broadland.” But--

“No man hath claime to such pow’r as some shal se in mighty England,
after th’ decease of Virgin Queene E---- by dull, slow mortalls, farre
or near, loved, wooed like some gen’rously affected youth-loving
mayden, whylst she is both wife to th’ noble lord that was so sodainly
cut off in his full tide and vigour of life and mothe’--in such way as
th’ women of the world have groaninglie bro’t foorth, and must whilst
Nature doth raigne--of two noble sonnes, Earle of Essex, trained up by
Devereux, and he who doth speake to you, th’ foster sonne of two wel
fam’d frie’ds o’ th’ Que., Sir Nichola’ Bacon, her wo’thie adviser and
counsellor, and that partne’ of loving labor and dutie, my most loved
Lady Anne Bacon....”

“... My mother Elizabeth ... join’d herselfe in a union with Robert
Dudley whilst th’ oath sworne to one as belov’d yet bound him. I have
bene told hee aided in th’ removall of this obstructio’, when turni’g
on that narrowe treach’rous step, as is naturall, shee lightly leaned
upon th’ raile, fell on th’ bricks--th’ paving of a court--and so died.”

“In such a sonne,” Bacon proceeds, “th’ wisest our age thus farr
hath shewen--pardon, prithee, so u’seemly a phrase, I must speake it
heere--th’ mother should lose selfish vanitie, and be actuated only by
a desire for his advancement.”

Bacon is confident that the Queen would have acknowledged his claims
but for the advice of a “fox seen at our court in th’ form and outward
appearance of a man named Robbert Cecill, the hunchback,” who poisoned
Elizabeth’s mind against her “sonne of Follie.” Both “Francis Tudor”
(or Tidder), and his brother Essex, the “wrong’d enfan’s of a Queene,”
learned that their “royall aspirations” were to receive “a dampening, a
checke soe great, it co’vinc’d both, wee were hoping for advanceme’t we
might never attaine.”

The “royall aspirations” of the Earl of Essex were cut short by the
sentence of death that was passed upon him by “that _mère_ and my owne
counsel. Yet this truth must at some time be knowne; had not I allow’d
myselfe to give some countenance to th’ arraingement, a subsequent
triall, as wel as th’ sentence, I must have lost th’ life that I held
so pricelesse.” And Bacon, or Francis Tidder, solaces himself, and
condones his part in the deed with the reflection that, “Life to a
schola’ is but a pawne for mankind.”

Queen Elizabeth, Bacon tells us, though already wedded “secretly to th’
Earle, my father, at th’ Tower of London, was afterwards married at the
house of Lord P----....”

Briefly, then, we have it, on the authority of the cipher translation,
that “Bacon was the son of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, who were
married in the Tower between 1554 and 1558. Leicester’s wife did not
meet with her fatal accident until 1560. Bacon was born in January,
1561. His parents were subsequently re-married, at a date not stated,
at the house of Lord P----.”

In 1611 (_Shepheard’s Calendar_) Bacon declares “Ended is now my great
desire to sit in British throne. Larger worke doth invite my hand than
majestie doth offer; to wield th’ penne dothe ever require a greater
minde then to sway the royall scepter. Ay, I cry to th’ Heavenly Ayde,
ruling ore all, ever to keepe my soule thus humbled and contente.” But
in 1613 (_Faerie Queene_), he says, that “in th’ secrecy o’ my owne
bosome, I do still hold to th’ faith that my heart has never wholly
surrendered, that truth shall come out of error, and my head be crowned
ere my line o’ life be sever’d. How many times this bright dreeme hath
found lodgement in my braine!... It were impossible, I am assurr’d,
since witnesses to th’ marriage, and to my birth (after a proper length
of time) are dead, and the papers certifying their presence being
destroyed, yet is it a wrong that will rise, and crye that none can
hush.” In 1620 (_Novum Organum_) he has lost his “feare, lest my secret
bee s’ented forth by some hound o’ Queen Elizabeth;” but “the jealousy
of the King is to be feared, and that more in dread of effecte on the
hearts of the people, then any feare of th’ presentation of my claime,
knowing as he doth, that all witnesses are dead, and the requir’d
documents destroy’d.”

Bacon, according to the cipher, was sixteen years of age when he
learned the truth of his parentage through the indiscretion of one “th’
ladies o’ her (the Queen’s) train, who foolish to rashnesse did babble
such gossip to him as she heard at the Court.” Bacon, it seems, taxed
the Queen forthwith with her motherhood of him, and Elizabeth, with
“much malicious hatred” and “in hastie indignation,” said:

“You are my own borne sonne, but you, though truly royall, of a fresh,
a masterlie spirit, shall rule not England, or your mother, nor reigne
on subjects yet t’ bee. I bar from succession forevermore my best
beloved first borne that bless’d my unio’ with--no, I’ll not name him,
nor need I yet disclose the sweete story conceal’d thus farre so well,
men only guesse it, nor know o’ a truth o’ th’ secret marriages, as
rightfull to guard the name o’ a Queene, as of a maid o’ this realm.
It would well beseeme you to make such tales sulk out of sight, but
this suiteth not t’ your kin’ly spirit. A sonne like mine lifteth hand
nere in aide to her who brought him foorth; hee’d rather uplift craven
maides who tattle thus whenere my face (aigre enow ev’r, they say)
turneth from them. What will this brave boy do? Tell a, b, c’s?”

“Weeping and sobbing sore,” Bacon hurries to Mistres Bacon’s chamber
and entreats her to assure him that he is “the sonne of herselfe and
her honored husband.... When, therefore, my sweet mother did, weeping
and lamenting, owne to me that I was in very truth th’ sonne o’ th’
Queene, I burst into maledictio’s ’gainst th’ Queene, my fate, life,
and all it yieldeth.... I besought her to speak my father’s name....
She said, ‘He is the Earle of Leicester.... I tooke a solemne oath not
to reveale your storie to you, but you may hear my unfinish’d tale to
th’ end and if you will, go to th’ midwife. Th’ doctor would be ready
also to give proofes of your just right to be named th’ Prince of this
realm, and heire-apparent to the throne. Nevertheless, Queen Bess did
likewise give her solemn oath of bald-faced deniall of her marriage to
Lord Leicester, as well as to her motherhood. Her oath, so broken, robs
me of a sonne. O Francis, Francis, breake not your mother’s hearte. I
cannot let you go forth after all the years you have beene the sonne
o’ my heart. But night is falling. To-day I cannot speak to you of
so weighty a matter. This hath mov’d you deeply, and though you now
drie your eyes, you have yet many teare marks upon your little cheeks.
Go now; do not give it place i’ thought or word; a brain-sick woman,
though she be a Queene, can take my sonne from me.’” So Bacon leaves
her, not to search for the midwife, or cross-question the doctor, but
to “dreame of golden scepters, prou’ courts, and by-and-bye a crowne
on mine innocent brow.”

All Bacon’s confessions, if true, prove him to have been a bastard,
but this logical and inevitable conclusion he repeatedly denies. He
claims his mother’s name, and for his father, a nobleman whose wife
was living at the time of his bigamous marriage with Elizabeth. If the
marriage was valid, why were Leicester and the Queen re-married at the
house of Lord P., and in what year did the second ceremony take place?
But although anti-Baconians maintain that Bacon was not a fool, and
therefore could not have seriously advanced such claims; that if he had
done so he would have made a more plausible story of his wrongs; that
he was not a dunce, and therefore could not have written the “maudlin
and illiterate drivel” attributed to him by Mrs. Gallup, it is still
inconceivable that this cipher story is a gigantic fraud. Mr. Andrew
Lang, who makes no doubt that Mrs. Gallup has honourably carried out
her immense task of deciphering, has arrived at the conclusion that
Bacon was obviously mad.

_Bacon, the Author of all Elizabethan-Jacobean Literature._

But interesting as it is to find in Bacon yet another and hitherto an
unsuspected pretender to the throne of England, his pretensions to the
authorship of Shakespeare’s plays is a feature of even more dazzling
interest. His reasons for denying the authorship while he lived have
hitherto demanded a great deal of speculative explanation. The general
theory of the Baconites is that Bacon concealed his authorship of the
plays because such writing was held in low esteem, or as Mr. Sinnett
puts it, Bacon “shrank from compromising his social reputation by
any open connection with the despised vocation of the playwright.”
The difficulty of accepting this assumption has hitherto been found
in the fact that there was no reason why Bacon should have confined
himself to the writing of plays. In the case of Shakespeare, it was
quite understandable, for he was an actor, and the stage was his
livelihood. Bacon, on the other hand, had no love for the theatre; he
looked upon play-acting as a toy, and masques as things unworthy of
serious observations. The tone of his comments is contemptuous, and his
criticism discloses a lack of knowledge and interest in the subject.
Why should this man, who regarded the stage with ill-concealed
repugnance, have written plays which he was ashamed to own, while
all imaginative literature was open to him. The stigma which it is
erroneously alleged was attached to play-writing was not associated
with poetry; if the playwright was under a ban, the poet was on the
pedestal. There must have been a more tangible reason for Bacon’s
concealment, but we have had to wait for Mrs. Gallup’s book to disclose
it. Bacon’s object in writing was to unfold the secrets of his birth
and to ventilate his wrongs; he chose plays as his medium because, like
Mr. George Bernard Shaw, he found blank verse easier to write than
prose. He employed the pseudonyms of Greene and Peele, and the pen name
of Marlowe ere taking that of Wm. Shakespeare as his masque or vizard,
“that we should remayne unknowne, inasmuch as wee, having worked in
drama, history that is most vig’rously supprest, have put ourselfe soe
greatly in dange’ that a word unto Queene Elizabeth, without doubt,
would give us a sodaine horriblle end--an exit without re-entrance--for
in truth she is authoress and preserve’ of this, our being.”

Bacon’s first claim to authorship, apart from the works which were
issued under his own name, is to be found, according to the cipher, in
the 1596 edition of the _Faerie Queene_:

“E. Sp. could not otherwise so easilie atchieve honours that pertyne to
ourself. Indeed, this would alone crowne his head, if this were all--I
speake not of golden crowne, but of lawrell--for our pen is dipt deepe
into th’ muses’ pure source.”

The first mention of Shakespeare as Bacon’s masque appears in the J.
Roberts’ edition (1600) of _Sir John Oldcastle_ and _The Merchant of

“See or read. In the stage-plaies, two, the oldest or earliest devices
prove these twentie plays to have been put upon our stage by the actor
that is suppos’d to sell dramas of value, yet ’tis rightlie mine owne

In the _Advancement of Learning_ (1605) Bacon extends his claim to
embrace the works of Robert Greene, Peele, Marlowe, and Ben Jonson:

“My stage plaies have all been disguis’d (to wit, many in Greene’s
name, or in Peele’s, Marlowe’s, a fewe, such as the Queen’s Masques
and others of this kind published for me by Jonson, my friend and
co-worker) since I relate a secret history therein, a story of so
sterne and tragick qualite, it ille suited my lighte’ verse, in the
earlier works.”

The only other persons who are permitted the privilege of communicating
with posterity, through the medium of the cipher, are Bacon’s “friends
and co-workers,” Ben Jonson and William Rawley. In the folio edition of
Jonson’s plays (1616) at Bacon’s “constantly urged request,” Jonson,
who had his friend’s “fame in heart as much as my honour and dignitie,”
writes to the decipherer:

“It shall be noted, indeed, when you uncover his stile, my works do
not all come from mine owne penne, for I shall name to you some plays
that come forth fro’ Sir F. Bacon, his worthy hand or head, I bein’ but
the masque behind which he was surely hid. Th’ play entitled _Sejanus_
was his drama, and th’ King’s, Queen’s, Prince’s Entertainments; the
_Queen’s Masques_ are his, as also th’ short _Panegyre_.”

[Illustration: SHAKESPEARE.

The Droeshout Etching, from the 1623 Folio Edition.

To the Reader.

    This Figure, that thou here seest put,
      It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
    Wherein the Grauer had a strife
      with Nature, to out-doo the life:
    O, could he but haue drawne his wit
      As well in brasse, as he hath hit
    His face; the Print would then surpasse
      All, that was euer writ in brasse.
    But, since he cannot, Reader, looke
      Not on his Picture, but his Booke.

    B. I.

But we learn that, in addition to Jonson, “my foster-brother
Anthony, my owne brother Robert, Ben Jonson, my friend, adviser and
assistant, and our private secretary,” were also “cogniza’t of the
work,” and indeed after Bacon’s death in 1626, William Rawley, his
private secretary, took up the cipher story, and completed it in
Burton’s _Anatomy of Melancholy_, and in the 1635 editions of _Sylva
Sylvarum_ and the _New Atlantis_. It has been objected that Bacon
could not have dropped the cipher into books published after his death,
but this objection “vanishes into invisibility,” as Mr. Theobald would
say, when we remember that faithful old Rawley was living long after
Bacon’s work had been “cut short by th’ sickel o’ death.” He bobs up
serenely in _Sylva Sylvarum_, drops in another thirty pages of Bacon’s
cipher lamentations, and winds up with a dozen lines of his own “to
speak of th’ errata.” This last instalment was, it may be assumed,
written prior to 1626, and entrusted to Rawley to make use of on the
first opportunity, _i.e._, as soon as he could obtain command of the
proofs of another book.

In the first folio, published twenty years after the death of
Elizabeth, Bacon still appears to be affrighted by the memory of the
Queen; his life would still be forfeit if his identity were discovered,
“since she is my mother;” but in his valedictory address to his
decipherer, he declares that it is “not feare, but disstaste of th’
unseemly talk and much curiosity of the many who read these cipher
histories, that makes him still desirous to preserving his incognito.”

“My time of feare went from me with my greatness, but I still wish to
avoid many questionings--and much suspicion, perchance on the side of
the King, in his owne prope’ person. I have neede of the very caution
which kept these secrets from the many, when my mother made me swear
secrecy, and my life was the forfeit; nor may I now speake openly, yet
many men for a kingdom would break their oathes.”

It is possible that Bacon may have considered that “since witnesses to
th’ marriage and to my birth ... are dead, and the papers certifying
their presence” were destroyed, he would have a better chance of
obtaining credence for his story a few centuries hence than in his own
day. His belief in the credulity of posterity did not desert him:

“But my kingdome is in immortall glory among men from generatio’ unto
coming generations. An unending fame will crowne my browe, and it is
farre better worthe in any true thinking mind, I am assured, than many
a crowne which kings do have set on with shewe and ceremonie. Yet when
I have said it, my heart is sad for the great wrong that I must for
ever endure.”

Bacon appears to have foreseen that some future sceptic would question
the justice of his claims; would ask, for instance, how the hand that
wrote _Macbeth_ and _The Tempest_, came to produce such comparatively
indifferent stuff as _A Quip for an Upstart Courtier_, and he meets the
anticipated question with the following explanation:--

“It shall bee noted in truth that some greatly exceede their fellowes
in worth, and it is easily explained. Th’ theame varied, yet was always
a subject well selected to convey the secret message. Also the plays
being given out as tho’gh written by the actor to whom each had been
consigned, turne one’s genius suddainlie many times to suit th’ new man.

“In this actour that wee now emploie, is a wittie vayne different
from any formerly employed. In truth it suiteth well with a native
spirrit, humorous and grave by turnes in ourselfe. Therefore when we
create a part that hath him in minde th’ play is correspondingly better
therefor. It must be evident ... that these later dramas (this cipher
message is in the 1611 quarto of _Hamlet_) are superior in nearlie all
those scenes where our genius hath swaie”....

Over and over again, with almost childish iteration, the cipher repeats
the names of the authors whose works he claims as his own:

“Spenser, Greene, Peele, Marlowe have sold me theirs (their
names)--two or three others I have assumed upon certaine occasions such
as this (Ben Jonson’s _Masques_), besides th’ one I beare among men.”...

“My plaies are not yet finisht, but I intend to put forth severall
soone. However, bi-literall work requiring so much time, it will
readily be seene that there is much to doe aftee a booke doth seeme to
be ready for the presse, and I could not say when other plays will come
out. The next volume will be under W. Shakespeare’s name. As some which
have now beene produced have borne upon the title page his name though
all are my owne work, I have allow’d it to stand on manie others which
I myselfe regard as equall in merite.”

“My next work is not begun here: much of it shall bee found in th’
playes o’ Shakespeare which have not yet come out. We having put forth
a numbe’ of plays i’ his theatre, shall continue soe doing since we
doe make him th’ thrall to our will. Our name never accompanieth anie
play, but it frequently appeareth plainly in cipher for witty minds to
transla’e from Latine and Greeke....”

“This history (_The Tragical Historie of the Earl of Essex_) is
contained (_i.e._, hidden in cipher) in some stage plays that came
out in Shakespeare’s name. Ere long there will be many of like stile,
purpose and scope added thereto, which shall both ayd and instruct you
in th’ work. This should make it cleare, _e.g._, sixty stage-plays
which, in varyi’g stiles that are contrary to my owne well-known stile
of expression, whylst for more of our lighter work an impenetrable
mask, for a history, much too varied: hence these great plays have been
devis’d which, being similar, often held this inne’ history therein

“Several comedies, which be now strangers, as might be said, bearing at
th’ most such titles ’mongst the plaiers as they would remember, but
th’ author’s name in disguise, if it bee seen at all, will, as soone
as may be found toward and propitious, be publisht by Shakespeare,
_i.e._, in his name, having masqued thus manie of the best plaies
that we have beene able to produce. To these we are steadily making
additions, writing from two to six stage plays every year....”

“All that learne that I, who accompte th’ truth better than wicked
vanitie, publish’d manie late playes under other cognomen will think
the motive some distaste of the stage. In noe respect is it true....”
His real reason is, firstly, that “all men who write stage-playes are
held in co’tempte,” and, secondly, the plays are employed to “send out
much hidden dang’rous matter.” “In my plays matters are chosen not
alone for value as a subject to heare and no longer heed. Each play is
the meane or th’ medium, by which cipher histories are sent forth.”

“Severall small works under no name wonne worthy praise; next in
Spenser’s name, also, they ventured into an unknowne world. When I,
at length, having written in diverse stiles, found three who, for
sufficient reward in gold added to an immediate renowne as good pens,
willingly put forth all workes which I had compos’d I was bolder....”

“Th’ evidence such plays give of being from the brayne of one who
hath for manie years made himself acquainted with th’ formes and th’
methode--or art--of this dramatick or representative poetry, maketh
also my claime to other workes, which have beene publisht in various
names, undeniable. The worke, despight a variety of styles, is mine

[Illustration: SHAKESPEARE.

The Chandos Portrait.]

“So few (plays) can bee put forth as first written without a slighte
revision, and many new being also made ready, my penne hath little
or noe rest. I am speaking of those plaies that were suppos’d Wm.

“... small portions (of the cipher story) being used at one time,
sometimes in our Spenser’s name, Marlowe’s, Peele’s, and Shakespeare’s,
anon Greene’s, mine, also Ben Jonson’s, affording our diverse masques
another colour, as ’twere, to baffle all seekers, to which we shall add

“Th’ worke beareth the title of the _Anatomy of Melancholy_, and will
bee put forth by Burton.”

Here is Bacon’s announcement of the publication of the First Folio:

“In our plaies ... being in the name of a man not living, there is
still more of this secret historie.... We have not lost that maske
tho’ our Shakespeare no longer liveth, since twoo others, fellowes of
our play actor--who would, we doubt not, publish those plays--would
disguise our work as well....”

“Our plaies are of diverse kindes--historie, comedie, and tragedie.
Many are upon th’ stage, but those already put forth in Wm.
Shakespeare’s name, we doe nothing doubt, have won a lasting
fame,--comedy, th’ historick drama and tragedy, are alike in favour....”

“My best playes, at present, as William Shakespeare’s work fost’red,
will as soone as one more plaie be completed, weare a fine but yet a
quiet dresse, as is seemely in plaies of as much valew and dignity
as sheweth cleerly therein, and be put foorth in folio enlarged and
multiplyed as th’ history conceal’d within th’ comedies, histories, or
tragedies required.”

Then follows a number of further recapitulations of his masques:

“Francis of Verulam is author of all the plays heretofore published by
Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Shakespeare, and of the two-and-twenty now put
out for the first time. Some are altered to continue his history....”

“Next write a comedy, a quaint device for making knowne th’ men that do
give, lend, sell, or in anie othe’ waye, have put me into possession of
their names. These I have us’d as disguises that my name might not bee
seen attached to any poem, stage-play, or anie of th’ light workes o’
this day....”

“As I have often said ... you have poems and prose workes on divers
theames in all such various stiles, as are put before th’ world
as Greene’s, as Shakespeare’s, Burto’s, as Peele’s, Spenser’s, as
Marlowe’s, as Jonso’ dramas ... for I varied my stile to suit different
men, since no two shew th’ same taste and like imagination....”

“Any play publisht as Marlowe’s, came from th’ same source as all which
you will now work out....”

“Greene, Spense’, Peele, Shakespeare, Burton, and Marley, as you may
somewhere see it, or, as it is usually given, Marlowe, have thus farre
been my masques....”

“A few workes also beare th’ name o’ my friend, Ben Jonson--these are
_Sejanus_ and th’ _Masques_, used to conceale the Iliads chiefly and to
make use o’ my newe cipher....”

“I masqued manie grave secrets in my poems which I have publisht, now
as Peele’s or Spenser’s, now as my owne, then againe in th’ name of
authours, so cald, who plac’d workes of mixt sort before a reading
world, prose and poetry. To Robt. Greene did I entruste most of that

Bacon has limited our speculations upon the extent of his literary
work by definitely mentioning the works which he wrote in a cipher
discovered by Dr. Owen:

   “We will enumerate them by their whole titles
    From the beginning to the end: William Shakespeare,
    Robert Greene, George Peele, and Christopher Marlowe’s
    Stage plays; _The Faerie Queen_, _Shepherd’s Calendar_,
    And all the works of Edmund Spenser;
    _The Anatomy of Melancholy_ of Robert Burton,
    _The History of Henry VII._, _The Natural History_,
    _The Interpretation of Nature_, _The Great Instauration_,
    _Advancement of Learning_, _The De Augmentis Scientiarum_,
    _Our Essays_, and all the other works of our own.”

Even when we note that the _Advancement_ and _De Augmentis_ are the
English and Latin versions of the same work--a fact that Dr. Owen
appears to have overlooked--Mr. Theobald must acknowledge that this
represents a very fair literary output, but it does not form the full
list of his works. The names of his cipher or interiour works, are
enumerated by Mrs. Gallup:

“There are five histories as followes: _The Life o’ Elizabeth_, _The
Life of Essex_, _The White Rose o’ Britaine_, _The Life and Death of
Edward Third_, _The Life of Henry th’ Seventh_; five tragedies: _Mary
Queene o’ Scots_, _Robert th’ Earl o’ Essex_ (my late brother), _Robert
th’ Earle o’ Leicester_ (my late father), _Death o’ Marlowe_, _Ann
Bullen_; three comedies: _Seven Wise Men o’ th’ West_, _Solomon th’
Second_, _The Mouse-Trap_.”

_Bacon and “Divine Aide.”_

Bacon himself appears to have been struck with the immensity of his
production, and he cast about for some plausible explanation that
would justify it in the eyes of his twentieth century admirers. Human
endurance and fecundity would, he foresaw, be regarded as unequal to
the strain--Divine assistance alone could make so colossal a task

“Whosoever may question assertions that tend to shew y’ mankinde
evidences of a Divine thought interfusing th’ human minde, hath but
to prove it by experiment. He would not bee ready to cavil, or laugh
to scorn this assertion, which I may repeate anon, that Divine aide
was given me in my work. I have, at th’ least, accomplished a great
work in fewe yeares, work of such a difficult nature that no one hand
could accomplish, except other than myselfe upheld or directed it.” And
“anon,” he repeats, “surely my hand and braine have but short rest. I
firmly believe it were not in the power of humane beings to do anie
more than I have done, yet I am but partlie satisfied.”

These excerpts, which have been given at some length, disclose not
only the exact nature and extent of the alleged claims, but the
style and manner in which they are couched. There is nothing of the
literary polish and elegance in the cipher writing which we find in
all of Bacon’s acknowledged works, but taking into consideration the
difficulties of dropping the cipher into the books in which it is said
to appear, and the even greater difficulties of interpreting it, it
seems manifestly unfair to dismiss the entire thing as an imposture on
that account. Mr. Mallock’s contention is that Mrs. Gallup’s theory is
sufficiently plausible to merit it an unprejudiced investigation. If
the cipher proves to be altogether false, the manner in which it has
been elaborated will, Mr. Mallock submits, form a curious incident in
literary history; while should it prove true, it will be more curious
still. Apart from the cipher, Mr. Sinnett declares, there are floods of
reasons for disbelieving that Shakespeare could have written the plays.
Mr. Sinnett, and the other leaders of the Baconian cult, do not appear
to see that if their theory is to outlast the present controversy, the
cipher business must be thrown overboard forthwith.

As Mr. William Archer has said with reference to these ciphers, the
point at issue is as plain as a pike-staff. We are not concerned, while
we deal with this phase of the subject, in the verbal parallels between
Shakespeare’s writings and those of Bacon, nor with the vehemently
expressed conviction of students and scholars that Bacon did not write
_Shakespeare_. All we desire to know is whether the ciphers which
Mrs. Gallup and Dr. Owen contend are contained in certain books (the
_First Folio Shakespeare_ among others) really exist. Mr. Mallock says
that until an examination by experts in typography has negatived this
theory, he is inclined to believe it. His position is unassailable.
Nothing further can be argued or asserted (with conviction) until a
committee of experts have made their report. If they declare that the
cipher has no foundation in fact, the students who have carefully
perused Mrs. Gallup’s great work--great invention it will then be--and
Dr. Owen’s many volumes of badly-constructed, ridiculous plays and
poems, will give both Mrs. Gallup and Dr. Owen credit for a veritable
triumph of misapplied energy and endurance--for having conceived a
masterpiece of diabolical inventiveness, for having revealed a perfect
genius for the perpetration of literary fraud.

Personally, I do not expect to learn that they will be convicted of
the possession of such an exceptional gift of deception. Their labours
smack of honesty; their conclusions betray an ingenuous credulity that
calls for respect. It will, indeed, surprise most people who have made
a study of their works, if it is proved that the cipher they claim to
have discovered, and manipulated with such marvellous results, is a
myth. But assuming that a properly-constituted committee did declare
that the cipher was to be found in all the books indicated, and that
the investigation corroborated the revelations made by Mrs. Gallup and
Dr. Owen, there would still remain the question as to who concealed the
statements in the different volumes, and whether there is any truth in

I think, nay I claim, that in the event of the cipher being verified,
and the translations being confirmed, that (_a_) The cipher could have
been introduced by no other man than Bacon; and that (_b_) The whole
of the statements found therein are false from beginning to end. In a
searching investigation into the cipher undertaken by a correspondent
of the _Times_, a single page of the cipher was tested, but the test is
not, as the _Times_ claims for it, entirely convincing. The method of
investigation employed is excellent. A greatly enlarged photograph is
taken of a page from the _Epistle Dedicatory_ to the _Ruine of Time_ in
the 1591 edition of Spenser’s _Complaints_, and the “A” and “B” letters
which Mrs. Gallup herself assigns to the parts respectively are cut
out and arranged in parallel columns. When these two sets of letters
are seen side by side it would, indeed, be difficult for the untrained
eye to distinguish any marks of dissimilarity between them. But as Mr.
Mallock tells us, “although even the naked eye can be soon trained to
perceive that in many cases the letters belong to different founts,
yet these differences are of so minute a kind that in other cases they
allude the eye without the aid of a magnifying glass; and even with
the aid of a magnifying glass, the eye of the amateur, at all events,
remains doubtful, and unable to assign the letters to this alphabet
or to that.” The correspondent of the _Times_ leads us to infer that
he has been unable to verify the existence of the cipher in the page
he has tested, and Mr. Lee has declared, without hesitation, that the
cipher does not exist in the Shakespeare First Folio. On the other
hand, Mr. Mallock had little difficulty in distinguishing the different
founts in the facsimiles from the _Novum Organum_ and Spenser’s
_Complaints_. He experimented with a large number of passages, and
comparing his interpretation with that of Mrs. Gallup, he found that
it coincided with hers, sometimes in four cases out of seven, and not
infrequently in five. “It appears to me,” Mr. Mallock writes, “to
be almost inconceivable that multiplied coincidences such as these
can be the work of chance, or that they can originate otherwise than
in the fact that in these pages at all events--the preface to the
_Novum Organum_, printed in 1620, and in the Dedication of Spenser’s
_Complaints_, printed in 1591--a bi-literal cipher exists, in both
cases the work of Bacon; and if such a cipher really exists here, the
probabilities are overwhelming that Mrs. Gallup is right, and that we
shall find it existing in the first folio of Shakespeare also.”

_Shakespeare and Bacon in Collaboration._

Bacon’s ciphers, which were, according to the evidence adduced from the
bi-literal, six in number, grew one out of the other. Bacon evidently
expected the bi-literal to be discovered first, for in this cipher he
explains the word-cipher, in which his hidden, or “interiour” works are
concealed. Dr. Owen discovered this word-cipher without the aid of the
bi-literal, and by following its directions he has deciphered over a
thousand pages of blank verse, comprising _Letters to the Decipherer_,
_A Description of Queen Elizabeth_, a poem entitled _The Spanish
Armada_, _An Account of Bacon’s Life in France_, and several plays. In
the _Epistle to the Decipherer_, Bacon says, “For thirty-three years
have we gone in travail, with these, the children of our wit,” and
proceeds to adjure the unknown to

   “Sware by my sword never to speak of this
    That you have found while we do live;”

and again--

   “Sweare never to publish that we conceal under the names
    Of others our own till we are dead,
    Sweare never to reveal the secret cipher words
    That guide your steps from part to part,
    Nor how it is gathered, joined or put together,
    Till we be dead, so help you God!”

The chief point to be noted about these cipher stories, biographies
and plays is that they are built up of quotations from the works of
all the authors whose writings Bacon claims to be his own. Dr. Owen
asks us, in all seriousness, to believe that Bacon composed the plays
of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Peel, and Greene, and the poems by Spenser,
as they appear in the cipher translation, and that he subsequently
“decomposed and composed them again” for circulation in his own day,
under the names of the various authors who acted as his masques. “When
deciphered and replaced in their original form,” Dr. Owen asserts,
“they _mean something_ which they _do not_ in the plays.” Such a
statement, as anyone can prove by turning to these curious deciphered
books, is both fallacious and absurd.

Let us see what these passages which _mean nothing_ in the plays mean
in the cipher stories. The pledge which Hamlet imposes upon Horatio and
Marcellus after the interview with the ghost is a serviceable case in
point. Hamlet’s words are almost too familiar to need repeating:

   “So help you mercy, that how strange
    Or odd soe’er I bear myself--
    As I, perchance, hereafter shall think meet
    To put an antic disposition on--
    That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
    With arms encumber’d thus, or this head shake,
    Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
    As ‘Well, well, we know;’--or ‘We could, and if we would;’
    Or ‘If we list to speak;’--or, ‘There be, an if they might:’--
    Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
    That you know aught of me;--This not to do,
    So grace and mercy at your most need help you,

No one can question the fitness and perfect appropriateness of the
foregoing passage in _Hamlet_, but it is doubtful if anybody, other
than Dr. Owen, will recognise their cogency when they are addressed by
Bacon to his unknown decipherer.

Bacon declares that Bottom’s recital of his dream, which commences,

   “The eye of man hath not heard,
    The ear of man hath not seen,”


   “Simply and plainly, the ingenious means of writing
    Without creating suspicion;”

and he goes on to explain that the decipherer can, by changing

   “The words from one end to another, make it read aright.”

Bacon heartens his timorous decipherer with the words, “Be thou not,
therefore, afraid of greatness”--the greatness that he will attain as
the reward of his decipherations. “Some,” he assures the unknown, in
the memorable words, “have greatness thrust upon them,” and he further
reminds him that

   “There is a tide in the affairs of man,
    Which taken at the flood,
    Leads on to glorious fortune.”

“Nature and fortune joined to make you great,” Bacon tells his
decipherer, from the text of _King John_, and one can almost imagine
Dr. Owen blushing with conscious pride, as he translated this borrowed
gem. He implores the modest unknown to free his (Bacon’s) name from the
disgraceful part he had in the death of the Earl of Essex, and cries--

   “Oh, if I could
    I would make a willow cabin at your gate,
    And call upon your soul within the house....
    You should not rest
    Between the elements of earth and air,
    But you should pity me----”

Words full of passion and beautiful imagery when spoken by Viola, on
behalf of Orsino, to the haughty and unresponsive Lady Olivia, but
sheer drivel when taken as Bacon’s exhortation to the discover of his

But one travels in this precious cipher from foolishness to
foolishness--from destruction to damnation, in quick, long strides. In
the _Spanish Armada_, Elizabeth receives and answers the ambassadors of
the King of Spain in the words that Henry V. employs in parley with the
messengers of the Dauphin. She proclaims her physical superiority to
her sister in the braggart language of Faulconbridge before King John

   “An’ if my brother had my shape....
    If my legs were two such riding rods,”

and the next dozen pages are a literal transcription of the first act
of _Henry V._ A hundred pages further on we are introduced to Bacon’s
brother Anthony. The brothers meet during the progress of a storm--the
storm that is described in Act I. Sc. III. of _Julius Cæsar_. The scene
is placed in Dover, and Bacon who

   “... never till to-night, never till now,
    Did I go through a tempest dropping fire,”

happened in the streets upon

   “A common slave,” who
   “Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn
    Like twenty torches joined; and yet his hand,
    Not sensible of fire, remained unscorched.
    Against the _Citadell_ I met a lion,
    Who glared upon me, and went surly by
    Without annoying me.”

Bacon, in his normal moods, employs the royal style of “we” and “us”
when referring to himself, but in moments of agitation, when, for
instance, slaves and lions promenade the thoroughfares of Dover, he
drops, instinctively, like a Scotchman into his native manner. “Whilst
walking thus,” he continues:

   “Submitting me unto the hideous night,
    And bared my bosom to the thunderstone,”

“I met foster-brother Anthony,” who said,

   “O Francis, this disturbed city is not to walk in,
    Who ever knew the heavens menace so?...
                              Let’s to an inn.”

It might be thought that the foregoing instances have been carefully
sought out and employed to italicise the foolishness of Dr. Owen’s
statement that the plays were first composed in this form, and that in
this form alone is their true meaning and relevancy fully demonstrated.
Such, however, is far from being the fact. If the reader will take the
trouble to wade through the mass of incoherent commonplace, illuminated
as it is by passages of Shakespeare’s brilliant wit and inspired poesy
which make up these five volumes, he will find scores upon scores of
such meaningless and inopportune mis-quotations.


Dr. Owen himself concedes that “some parts of the deciphered
material”--viz., those parts which have not their origin in
Shakespeare, Spenser, and the works of the other masques--“are not
equal in literary power, poetic thought, nor artistic construction
to the well-known efforts of Shakespeare,” but he accounts for this
inequality on the ground that “the necessities for concealment were
so great as to make the difficulties of the cipher serious, and
artistic re-construction impossible.” If it be granted, for the sake
of argument, that the quotations from the plays, which appear in these
“interiour” works, were from the pen of Shakespeare, and that the
original parts are the product of Bacon, then Spedding’s contention
that there are not “five lines together to be found in Bacon which
could be mistaken for Shakespeare, or five lines in Shakespeare which
could be mistaken for Bacon, by one who was familiar with their several
styles, and practised in such observations,” is proved up to the hilt.
Indeed, and without any such concession being allowed, it is impossible
to compare the original lines with the pirated passages in these
cipher books, and accept the two as the work of the same hand. Dr.
Owen, who is evidently neither “familiar with the several styles” of
Shakespeare and Bacon, nor “practised in such observations,” invites
his readers “to set aside the different names upon the title pages, and
ask themselves whether two or more men could have written so exactly
alike.” His conclusions are equally destitute of logic or critical
acumen: “Either Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare were the same
man, at least so far as the writings are concerned; or else, for once
in the history of mankind, two men, absolutely dissimilar in birth, in
education, and in bringing up, had the same thoughts, used the same
words, piled up the same ideas, wrote upon the same subjects, and
thought, wrote, talked, and dreamed absolutely alike.” It is true that
Shakespeare, in cipher, bears an amazing likeness to Shakespeare in the
plays, but if the Shakespeare in the cipher is to be compared with the
Bacon either here or in his recognised works, Dr. Owen’s conclusions
are palpably absurd.

Dr. Owen promises still further cipher revelations of the same
startling nature, which will explain how Bacon succeeded in using his
various masques during the lifetime of the alleged authors. “In the
decipherings which will appear in their regular order,” he says, “I
have found an epitome of the lives of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Green (he
is probably referring to Greene), Burton, Peele and Spenser ... the
circumstances under which they were employed, and the sums of money
paid to each for the use of his name. Anthony Bacon, the foster-brother
of Francis, was the unknown owner of the Globe Theatre. Shakespeare,
while uneducated, possessed a shrewd wit, and some talent as an actor.
He received, as a bribe, a share in the proceeds of the theatre,
and was the reputed manager. Bacon, with his Court education and
aristocratic associations, could not be known as the author of plays or
the associate of play actors, and put Shakespeare forward as the mask
which covered his greatest work.”

_The Tragical Historie of our Late Brother Robert, Earl of Essex._

Even at the risk of wearying my readers, it is necessary for the
purposes of this book, to make a critical inspection of one of the
“interiour” plays which Dr. Owen has deciphered from many of the
principal works of the Elizabethan-Jacobean era. As all these hidden
plays are derived from the same source--the writings of Shakespeare,
Spenser, Greene, Marlowe, Peele, and Burton--the choice of a subject
for consideration would appear to be immaterial. _The Tragedy of Mary
Queen of Scots_, a “remarkable production,” according to Dr. Owen,
and one that “has been pronounced a masterpiece,” would seem to have
the first claim upon our attention. The selection of “_The Tragical
Historie of our late brother Robert, Earl of Essex_, by the author
of _Hamlet_, _Richard III._, _Othello_, &c.,” has been decided upon,
however; because, in the first place, it is a later production, and in
the second, it is declared by Dr. Owen to bear “the impress of greater
skill, more experience, and far more intense personal feeling.” In the
Publisher’s Note, we are informed that it is “one of the marvels of
literature,” and “a work of the most thrilling interest and historical
value.” The prologue, which takes the form of a soliloquy, embodies
“the deepest philosophy concerning things natural and spiritual,
temporal and eternal.” It can, moreover, “only be measured from the
point of view of its author, Francis Bacon.” This “wonderful prologue,”
which comprises some 200 lines of blank verse, is really a wonder of
misapplied misappropriation. It opens with the Seven Ages of Man, to
which Bacon adds an eighth, “which rounds out and finishes the story,
with the “exit” from human view of all that is mortal:

   “Last scene of all
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    The old man dies; and on the shoulders of his brethren,
    To the heavy knolled bells, is borne
    In love and sacred pity, through the gates
    Of the holy edifice of stone, where, all in white,
    The goodly vicar meets them and doth say:--
    ‘I am the resurrection and the life;’
    And then doth mount the pulpit stairs and doth begin:--
    ‘O Lord, have mercy on us wretched sinners!’
    The people answering cry as with one voice,
    ‘O Lord, have mercy on us wretched sinners!’
    Then through the narrow winding churchway paths,
    With weary task foredone, under the shade
    Of melancholy boughs gently set down
    Their venerable burden, and from the presence
    Of the sun they lower him into the tomb.”

The “eighth” age, it will be observed, is not an age at all, but a
funeral. To this striking addition to one of Shakespeare’s best known
passages, Bacon tacks on the whole of Hamlet’s soliloquy, “To be or not
to be,” commencing with “To sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there’s the
rub;” helps himself to a pinch of Hamlet’s lines, “Oh, that this too
solid flesh would melt,” acknowledges in the language of the King that
“Our offence is rank, it smells to Heaven!” promises that

    ... “When our younger brothers’ play is done,
         We’ll play a comedy, my lord, wherein
         The players that come forth, will to the life present
         The pliant men that we as masks employ;”

borrows from Hamlet’s advice to the players, and so--

    “The curtain’s drawn. Begin.”

The entire mosaic is the most unintelligible, inept, and exasperating
mixture of pathos, bathos, and sheer drivel that has ever been claimed
as the work of a learned, sane man.

The first act opens outside the Queen’s hunting lodge. Elizabeth
alludes to her hounds in the lines allotted by Shakespeare to Theseus
(_A Midsummer Night’s Dream_), and has an interview with the Earl of
Essex, who comes to bring news of the Irish rising; and Bacon, who
remains mute during the entire scene. In the second scene, Essex and
Mr. Secretary Cecil come to open rupture in the presence of the Queen.
Cecil cries, in Shylock’s words,

   “Thou call’st me a dog before thou hast a cause,
    But since I am a dog, beware my fangs;”

and Essex retorts, in the prayer of Richard II.,

   “Now put it, _heaven_, in his physician’s mind
    To help him to his grave immediately!
    The lining of his coffers shall make coats
    To deck our soldiers for these Irish wars.”

In the mouth of King Richard II., these words had some meaning, for
it was the King’s intention to seize the possessions of old John of
Gaunt after his demise, and Gaunt was on his death-bed. But Cecil is
in excellent good health, and if he were likely to die not a shilling
of his personalty would have reverted to the crown. If this was the
original form in which Bacon composed the plays of Shakespeare, he was
undoubtedly mad.

The Queen then administers to Essex the historical box on the ear,
which so enrages the choleric nobleman that he “essays to draw his
sword,” and is summarily dismissed by the Queen, who, immediately
repenting upon the reflection,

   “How bravely did he brave me in my seat,
    Methought he bore him here as doth a lion,”

despatches Cecil to follow and bring him back. Essex boxes Cecil’s
ear, refuses to listen to his wife’s reproof, and having sent for his
brother, Francis Bacon (who greets him with

   “Brother, to fall from heaven unto hell,
    To be cubbed up upon a sudden,
    Will kill you”----)

dismisses the smug, but “rightful Prince of Wales,” and soliloquises--

   ... “But I’ll use means to make my brother King;
        Yet as he, Francis, has neither claimed it,
        Or deserved it--he cannot have it!
        His highness ‘Francis First,’ shall repose him
        At the tower; fair, or not fair, I will
        Consign my gracious brother thereunto.
        Yes, he must die; he is much too noble
        To conserve a life in base appliances.”...

Taken as poetry, or as logic, the effort is not a masterpiece; it
is, presumably, one of those portions in which “the necessities
for concealment” were so great as to make “artistic construction
impossible.” But it certainly explains, in a way, the reason of the
traitorous behaviour of Bacon towards Essex in the hour of the latter’s
adversity. The poetry improves again in the next scene. By misquoting
the words of Junius Brutus respecting Caius Marcus,

   “All speak praise of him, and the bleared sights
    Are spectacled to see him pass along,” &c.

(it is impossible to determine whether the inaccuracies in quotation
should be blamed upon Bacon or Dr. Owen), and adding thereto the
jealous Richard II.’s contemptuous reference to Bolingbroke:

   “A brace of draymen did God-speed him well,
    And had the tribute of his supple knee,” &c.

Bacon discloses Elizabeth’s mental attitude towards the recalcitrant
Earl. Directly Essex enters, however, the Queen promises him that he
will soon be known as Duke of York, and she meets his objection,

          “My princely brother
    Francis, your quondam son, tells me flatly
    He is the only rightful Prince of Wales,”


   “The proud jack! ’tis true, if it comes to that,
    He is the Prince of Wales. But”....

Now Bacon must have known, as well as Elizabeth, that neither he, nor
Essex, nor anybody else would be Prince of Wales unless so created by
the reigning monarch. But Essex is so full of his Irish command that he
overlooks such trifles, and in the next scene he sends a captain to the
Queen for a thousand pounds, with the admonition,

              “Be secret and away,
    ‘_To part the blessings of this happy day_.’”

In the third act, the Queen does the sleep-walking scene from
_Macbeth_. Essex returns to England, uttering the words used by Richard
II. on his own safe arrival from Ireland, to be upbraided by the Queen
in the Duke of York’s words to Bolingbroke:

    “Why have those banished and forbidden legs? &c.”

A half-dozen lines of description (from _Coriolanus_) of Caius Marcus’
return to Rome, illustrate the reception that London tendered to the
disobedient Earl. Essex revolts, and fortifies himself in his house
in London. When ordered by the Chief Justice of England to surrender,
Essex replies in the magnificent curse which Mark Antony utters against
Rome over the corpse of the murdered Cæsar. The lack of enthusiasm
which the citizens of London display in the Essex rebellion is related
to the Earl in the report which Buckingham makes to the King, of
London’s reticence in rebellion (_Richard III._) commencing

    “The citizens are mum, say not a word.”

And when the insurrection dies out for want of fuel, he finds solace
for his grief in quoting Richard II.’s lines--

    ... “Of comfort, no man speak,
         Let’s talk of graves, of worms, of epitaphs,” &c.

The unsuccessful Essex in parley with Lord Lincoln employs the
passage between Northampton and the King in _Richard II._, and in the
subsequent Star Chamber trial, the Chief Justice dismisses Essex to
execution in the words that Henry V. applied to Scroop, Cambridge, and

   “Get you, therefore, hence
    Poor miserable wretches, to your death,” &c.

But the marvel of inept plagiarism, of consummate wrongheadedness,
and ignorance in the bestowal of stolen property, is seen in the last
act of this marvellous play. Herein, Essex is discovered in a dungeon
in the tower. He is a man 34 years of age, and it is somewhat of a
surprise to find him declaring, in the (revised) language of little
Prince Arthur (_King John_):

   “So I were out of prison and kept sheep,
    I should be merry as the day is long;
    And so I should be here, but that I doubt
    That _Cecil_ practices more harm to me:
    He is afraid of me, and I of him.”

But it is more than a surprise to learn that this hardy man of war is
to be compelled by Bacon (Shakespeare aiding) to play young Arthur to
the bitter end. After being surfeited with Francis Bacon’s choicest
philosophy, the Lord Keeper arrives with a commission to deliver Essex
to the jailers: “I will not reason what is meant thereby!”

It is impossible, without quoting the whole of this culminating
passage, to convey a correct impression of the ludicrousness of the
finale to this “marvel of literature,”--this play of “most thrilling
interest and historical value.”

                                                      [_Exit_ Keeper.]

  _First Jailer._ Oh, he is bold, and blushes not at death.

  _Essex._ Avaunt thou hateful villain, get thee gone!

  _First Jailer._ There’s the great traitor.

  _Second Jailer._ Ingrateful fox, ’tis he.

  _First Jailer._ Bind fast his corky arms.

  _Essex._ Help,--help,--help,--help!
           Here’s a man would murder me. Help,--help,--help!
           I will not struggle, I will stand stone still.

  _First Jailer._ Bind him, I say.

  _Second Jailer._ Hard, hard! O filthy traitor!

  _First Jailer._ Give me the iron, I say, and bind him here:
                  To this chair bind him.

  _Essex._ Let me not be bound:
           Alas, why need you be so boistrous rough?
           O I am undone, O I am undone!
           Do me no foul play, friend!

  _First Jailer._ Read here, traitor.
                  Can you not read it? Is it not writ fair?

  _Essex._ How now, foolish rheume;
           Must you, with hot irons, burn out both mine eyes?
           O Heaven, that there were but a moth in yours,
           A grain, a dust, a gnat, a wandering hair,
           Any annoyance in that precious sense:
           Then feeling what small things are boisterous there,
           Your vile intents must needs seem horrible.
           O spare mine eyes, though to no use but still to look on you!
           Lo, by my troth, the instrument is cold,
           And would not harm me--O men, if you will,
           Cut out my tongue, so that I may still keep
           Both mine eyes to see.

  _First Jailer._ To see some mischief!
                  See shall thou never: (fellow, hold the chair:)
                  Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot!

  _Essex._ He that will think to live till he be old,
           Give me some help! O save me,--save me!--help!
                                    (_They tear out one of his eyes._)
           Oh cruel! Oh God,--O God,--O God! my eyes are out!
           Oh, I am slain!

  _First Jailer._ My Lord, you have one eye left!
                  One side will mock another; th’ other too.
                  Out, vile jelly! where is thy lustre now?
                                      (_They tear out the other eye._)

  _Essex._ All dark and comfortless!--
           O God, enkindle all the sparks of nature
           To quit this horrid act.

  _First Jailer._ Away with him; lead him to the block.

                                                      [_Exeunt Omnes._

In the epilogue, the two jailers blackmail Mr. Secretary Cecil as he
walks in his garden with his decipherer, and the book ends with the
following cryptic lines:

           “This is the cruel man (Cecil) that was employed
            To execute that execrable tragedy,
            And you can witness with me this is true.”

  (_Omnes_) “This is the strangest tale that e’er I heard.”

This amazing adaptation of a perfect piece of dramatic writing to the
exigencies of biography is, it may be assumed, without parallel in the
history of literature. Comment would be superfluous: imagine Mr. Daniel
Leno sustaining the part of Essex in a performance of the drama, and
the illusion is complete.

_Bacon, the Poet._

The whole of the new matter that we find in the play under notice is so
dissimilar from that of Shakespeare in style, language, and expression,
that it might be the work of any author, American or English, even--if
we accept the statement of Spedding--of Bacon himself. It is difficult
to form any correct estimate of Bacon’s talent as a poet, because,
apart from his own description of himself as a “concealed poet,”
and his versification of the Psalms, we have nothing to guide us.
Spedding doubtless had these Psalms in his mind when he pronounced
so emphatically upon the absence of similarity between the writings
of Shakespeare and Bacon. There is little extant verse of the period
which is so un-Shakespearean as this product of Bacon’s maturity, which
was dedicated to the pious and learned George Herbert, whose verses
on Bacon were printed in 1637. The publication is a proof that Bacon
thought well of his work--it is not on record that anybody else has
endorsed that opinion. Indeed, these seven Psalms give us all that we
have, or want, of Bacon’s poetry. The following is an extract from the
first psalm:

   “He shall be like the fruitful tree,
      Planted along a running spring,
    Which, in due season, constantly
      A goodly yield of fruit doth bring;
    Whose leaves continue always green,
      And are no prey to winter’s pow’r;
    So shall that man not once be seen
      Surprised with an evil hour.”

His rendering of the 90th psalm is not all as bald and discordant as
the following:

   “Begin Thy work, O Lord, in this our age,
      Shew it unto Thy servants that now live;
    But to our children raise it many a stage,
      That all the world to Thee may glory give.
          Our handy-work likewise, as fruitful tree,
          Let it, O Lord, blessed, not blasted be.”

The beautiful 14th and 15th verses of the 104th psalm are thus rendered
by our “concealed poet”:

   “Causing the earth put forth the grass for beasts,
    And garden herbs, served at the greatest feasts,
    And bread that is all viands firmament,
    And gives a firm and solid nourishment,
    And wine, man’s spirits for to recreate,
    And oil, his face for to exhilarate.”

[Illustration: SHAKESPEARE’S HOUSE.]

There can be no two opinions as to the merits of these metrical
efforts, which Bacon thought good enough to print and to dedicate to
his friend George Herbert. Spedding says of them, “In compositions upon
which a man would have thought it a culpable waste of time to bestow
any serious labour, it would be idle to seek either for indications
of his taste or for a measure of his powers.” And again, “of these
verses of Bacon’s, it has been usual to speak not only as a failure,
but as a ridiculous failure; a censure in which I cannot concur. An
unpractised versifier (fancy styling the author of the _Faerie Queene_
and _Adonis_, an ‘unpractised versifier!’)--who will not take time and
trouble about the work, must, of course, leave many bad verses; for
poetic feeling and imagination, though they will dislike a wrong word,
will not of themselves suggest a right one that will suit metre and
rhyme; and it would be easy to quote from the few pages, not only
many bad lines, but many poor stanzas.” Spedding concludes with the
comment: “Considering how little he cared to publish during the first
sixty years of his life, and how many things of weightier character
and more careful workmanship he had then by him in his cabinet, it
was somewhat remarkable that he should have given these Psalms to the
world.” Dr. Abbott, another friendly biographer and admirer of Bacon’s
“magnificent prose,” says:--“Some allowance must be made (no doubt) for
the fact that Bacon is translating, and not writing original verse.
Nevertheless a true poet, even of a low order, could hardly betray so
clearly the cramping influence of rhyme and metre. There is far less
beauty of diction and phrase in these verse translations than in any of
the prose works that are couched in an elevated style.... But I cannot
help coming to the conclusion that, although Bacon might have written
better verse on some subject of his own choosing, the chances are that
even his best would not have been very good.”

But despite the appalling evidence of poetical incapacity presented by
this versification of the Psalms, a staunch Baconian, by a train of
argument which is only equalled by that employed by Mr. Theobald, has
proved, to his own satisfaction, that Bacon was a poet, by locating
the position which the Plays occupy in the scheme of Bacon’s works.
This ingenious logician has discovered that the two most extraordinary
facts connected with Bacon’s philosophy are (_a_) that the most eminent
students have been unable to understand his “method of interpretation,”
and (_b_) that the last three parts of the _Instauratio Magna_ are
apparently wholly lost. Because Ellis and Spedding both declare that
“of his philosophy they can make nothing,” and that “he failed in the
very thing in which he was most bent,” therefore he must be a poet.
Because the last three books of the _Instauratio_ are “apparently
wholly lost”--which is the writer’s perversion of the indubitable fact
that they were never written--therefore the comedies, histories, and
tragedies of Shakespeare actually form the fourth, fifth, and sixth
books of “the great work.” Firstly (to present this argument fairly),
Bacon declared his intention to insinuate his philosophy into men’s
minds by a method which would provoke no controversy; secondly (this
is not exactly proved, but just stated as a fact), Bacon wrote the
works of Shakespeare; and thirdly, the Plays are the treasure house of
all art, science, and wisdom. The natural and inevitable deduction is
that they must form the missing--_i.e._, the unwritten--parts of the
_Instauratio Magna_.

I am afraid that we must decline to accept so ingenious a piece of
sophistry. Until it is proved that the Psalms are a forgery, or that
they have been erroneously attributed to Bacon, we have a gauge of his
poetical ability which is fatal to his pretensions to the authorship of
the Plays, of Spenser, or of any one of the books which we are asked to
believe emanated from his stupendous intellect.

“_Did Shakespeare Write Bacon?_”

Mr. Leslie Stephen, with amazing nerve and a fine sense of humour,
has carried the war of the rival claims into the enemies’ country,
and propounded the theory, with no little plausibility, that so far
from Bacon being the author of the Plays, Shakespeare was the real
writer of Bacon’s philosophical works. Mr. Theobald claims to prove
that Bacon had ample leisure in which to write all Shakespeare and his
own books as well. Mr. Stephen has come to the conclusion that his
time was so fully occupied with business, and political and financial
anxieties, that he never found the opportunity he was always seeking
to perfect his great philosophical reform. Up to the year of the
accession of James I., he had not been able to prepare any statement
of his philosophic ideas. His desire, as we know from his letters, was
to stand well with the King; his scruples, as we also gather from his
letters, did not make him hesitate to employ questionable practices
when he had his own interests to serve. If he had not time to write,
he could get a book written for him. He selected Shakespeare, who at
this period had a great reputation as the author of _Hamlet_, for the
purpose. Why Shakespeare, it may be asked? Because, says Mr. Stephen,
he knew Shakespeare through Ben Jonson; he knew Southampton as a
friend and patron of Shakespeare, and he therefore employed Shakespeare
through Southampton--the present of £1,000, which it is known was made
to Shakespeare by his youthful patron, being money paid by Bacon on
account, for the writing of the _Advancement of Learning_.

If the supposition that Shakespeare wrote this book for Bacon be
correct, argues Mr. Stephen, “he might naturally try to insert
some intimation of authorship to which he could appeal in case of
necessity.” Mr. Stephen sought for the intimation in the _Advancement_,
and he discovered it in the first 81 letters. The opening words are,
“There were under the law, excellent King, both daily sacrifices and
free will offerings the one pro” (ceeding, &c.) These letters (to the
end of pro) can be re-arranged to make the following: “Crede Will
Shakespeare, green innocent reader; he was the author of excellent
writing; F. B. N. fifth idol. lye.” For the assistance of any one who
cares to verify the cipher, Mr. Stephen explains that in both cases
(the original and the decipheration) A occurs in 4 places, B in 1, C in
3, D in 3, E in 15, F in 4, G in 2, H in 4, I in 6, K in 1, L in 6, N
in 6, O in 4, P in 1, R in 7, S in 3, T in 5, U in 1, W in 3, X in 1,
and Y in 1.


Mr. Stephen assumes that Shakespeare explained this saucy little
anagram to Bacon when the work was published, and that Bacon retaliated
by “getting at” the printers of the folio after Shakespeare’s death,
and inserting a cryptogram claiming the authorship for himself. Bacon
is imagined to have said to himself, “If Shakespeare succeeds in
claiming my philosophy, I will take his plays in exchange.” “He had
become,” says our theorist, “demoralised to the point at which he could
cheat his conscience by such lamentable casuistry.” In 1608 Bacon
was Solicitor-General, and a rich man. He approached Shakespeare
a second time with the object of having his great philosophical work
continued. Three years afterwards, Shakespeare left the stage, and
retired to pass the last five years of his life at Stratford. Why did
he retire? “Because,” says Mr. Stephen, “Bacon had grown rich and could
make it worth his while to retire to a quiet place where he would
not be tempted to write plays, or drink at the ‘Mermaid,’ or make
indiscreet revelations.” If it should be asked what he was doing, the
answer is obvious. He was writing the _Novum Organum_. Baconians and
Mr. Leslie Stephen are agreed that the _Novum Organum_ is the work of
a poet, and that it was written by the author of the Plays. But if it
is conceded that Shakespeare wrote _Novum Organum_, it still remains a
mystery to Baconians as to who wrote Shakespeare. After Shakespeare’s
death, Bacon, in _De Augmentis_, wrote that “the theatre might be
useful either for corruption or for discipline; but in modern times
there is plenty of corruption on the stage, and no discipline.” Mr.
Stephen deduces from this that in order to aim a back-handed blow at
Shakespeare, Bacon would blaspheme the art of which he claimed to be
master--that he was, in fact, according to our other theorist, fouling
the fourth, fifth, and sixth books of his _Instauratio Magna_.

Neither of the theories we have just reviewed need be taken seriously.
We know that Bacon himself gave an account of the scheme of the
_Magna Instauratio_ in a section of the _Novum Organum_, called the
_Distributio Operis_. The fourth book was to have contained examples
of the “new method,” and of the results to which it led. The fifth was
to contain what Bacon had accomplished in Natural Philosophy without
the aid of his own method, and the sixth was to set forth the New
Philosophy--the results of the application of the new method, and all
the Phenomena of the Universe. Mr. Leslie Ellis tells us that Bacon
never hoped to complete the sixth part; he speaks of it as a thing _et
supra vires et ultra spes nostras collocata_. Mr. Leslie Stephen’s
whimsical retort to the _Instauratio_ theory may be regarded as a _jeu

_The Case for Shakespeare._

In propounding their theory that Bacon was the author of the plays
attributed to Shakespeare, the Baconians rely on two main arguments:
the plausibility of the idea that they should have emanated from the
man whom Macaulay declared to possess the “most exquisitely constructed
intellect that has ever been bestowed on any of the children of men,”
and the extraordinary unlikelihood that a man of Shakespeare’s origin
and antecedents should have written them. More recently, the disclosure
of the bi-literal and the “word” ciphers, running through certain
editions of the plays, and in Bacon’s works, have placed a new weapon
in the hands of Shakespeare’s traducers. Already some of the supporters
of Bacon’s claims have assumed a sceptical attitude towards the
“cipher speculations”--partly, I suspect, on account of their American
origin--and Mr. A. P. Sinnett, whilst claiming that if the bi-literal
cipher is substantiated, the Bacon case is demonstrated up to the
hilt, hedges himself behind the assertion that the curious allegations
now brought forward do not affect, one way or the other, the general
force of the literary argument that supports the Baconian idea. But,
unless a gigantic fraud is being attempted--which we have no reason to
suppose is the case--Mrs. Elizabeth Wells Gallup’s bi-literal cipher
can easily be substantiated. When this is accomplished, we only get to
the point that Bacon claims to have been the author of the plays put
forth by all his contemporaries, while the conviction still remains,
as it was expressed by Carlyle, that “Bacon could no more have written
_Hamlet_ than he could have made this planet.”

It is interesting in this connection to briefly sum up the concensus of
expert opinion that the leading scholars and students of Elizabethan
literature hold on the subject. Mr. Sidney Lee, whose _Life of
William Shakespeare_ has been called “the most useful, the most
judicious, and the most authoritative of all existing biographies of
the poet,” regards the theory as “fantastic.” The substance of Mr.
Lee’s conclusions is that “the abundance of the contemporary evidence
attesting Shakespeare’s responsibility for the works published under
his name, gives the Baconian theory no rational right to a hearing;
while such authentic examples of Bacon’s effort to write verse as
survive prove, beyond all possibility of contradiction, that great as
he was as a prose writer and a philosopher, he was incapable of penning
any of the poetry assigned to Shakespeare. Defective knowledge and
illogical, or casuistical, argument alone render any other conclusion

[Illustration: Shakespeare Autographs

_Conveyance of House in Blackfriars, 10th. March, 1612._

_Mortgage of House in Blackfriars, 11th. March, 1612._

_The three signatures to the Will, 25th. March, 1616._]

Dr. N. H. Hudson, in his _Shakespeare: His Life, Art, and Character_,
has on the Baconian theory four things to say:--1. Bacon’s requital of
the Earl’s bounty (the Earl of Essex) was such a piece of ingratitude
as I can hardly conceive the author of _King Lear_ to have been guilty
of. 2. The author of Shakespeare’s plays, whatever he may have been,
certainly was not a scholar. He had certainly something far better than
learning, but he had not that. 3. Shakespeare never philosophises.
Bacon never does anything else. 4. Bacon’s mind, great as it was,
might have been cut out of Shakespeare’s without being missed.

But if, in the absence of anything bearing an even remote resemblance
to proof, we find ourselves compelled to make a synopsis of expert
opinion on the subject, we shall find no man’s conclusions more
deserving of respect and acceptance than those of the late James
Spedding. Without intending to cast any reflection upon the critics
and others who have plunged with ebullient enthusiasm into this
controversy, it may not be out of place to point out that Spedding is
head and shoulders above all disputants in knowledge, and second to
none in critical ability. His knowledge of Shakespeare was intimate
and profound, and he knew his Bacon more thoroughly than it has been
the lot of any other man of letters to be known by his fellow man. He
gave up his position in the Colonial Office, and declined the position
of Under-Secretary of State, with £2,000 a year, in order to devote
his whole time to the study of the life and works of Lord Bacon--a
task which occupied him for nearly thirty years. Sir Henry Taylor, in
a letter to a friend in 1861, wrote as follows:--“I have been reading
Spedding’s _Life and Letters of Lord Bacon_ with profound interest
and admiration--admiration not of the perfect style and penetrating
judgment only, but also of the extraordinary labours bestowed upon
the works by a lazy man; the labour of some twenty years, I believe,
spent in rummaging among old records in all places they were to be
found, and collating different copies of manuscripts written in the
handwriting of the 16th century, and noting the minutest variations of
one from another--an inexpressibly tedious kind of drudgery, and, what
was, perhaps, still worse, searching far and wide, waiting, watching,
peering, prying through long years for records which no industry could
recover. I doubt whether there be any other example in literary history
of so large an intellect as Spedding’s devoting itself, with so much
self-sacrifice, to the illustration of one which was larger still, and
doing so out of reverence, not so much for that largest intellect,
as for the truth concerning it.” Sir Henry Taylor, in this passage,
not only does justice to the diligence and genius of the author, but
recognises the spirit in which the work was undertaken. Spedding spent
thirty years in quest of the truth concerning this remarkable man,
and having discovered it, he was prepared to maintain his conclusions
with all the power of his knowledge and commanding intelligence. These
qualities he exercised with paralysing effect against Lord Macaulay’s
_Essay on Bacon_. It has been claimed by one champion of Shakespeare’s
cause that Macaulay’s “well-known depth of research, comprehensive
grasp of facts and details, and his calm method of presenting honest
conclusions, renders him pre-eminent as a safe authority.” The exact
opposite is, of course, the case, but the possession of these very
qualities are revealed by Spedding in his _Evenings with a Reviewer_,
to the utter spoliation of a great number of Macaulay’s cherished
calculations and conclusions. “No more conscientious, no more sagacious
critic,” according to G. S. Venables, “has employed in a not unworthy
task the labour of his life,” and the same writer has also declared
that “the historical and biographical conclusions which he (Spedding)
established depend on an exhaustive accumulation of evidence arranged
and interpreted by the clearest of intellects, with an honesty which
is rarely known in controversial discussion.” Spedding is, in brief,
universally acknowledged to be not only the greatest authority on
Bacon, but also of the times in which he lived. His acquaintance
with Elizabethan literature, its history, and its manuscripts was
unique--he was, it may be said without fear of contradiction, a master
of his period. “His knowledge of Shakespeare,” says Venables, in the
prefatory notice to _Evenings with a Reviewer_, “was extensive and
profound, and his laborious and subtle criticism derived additional
value from his love of the stage.” The opinion of such an authority on
such a subject as the authorship of plays attributed to Shakespeare is,
in default of proof to the contrary, of the highest possible value--to
a close student of Spedding it must appear incontrovertible.

Spedding’s article on the question, which is included in the volume of
_Reviews and Discussions_ (Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1879) was written
in reply to Professor Nathaniel Holmes’ treatise on _The Authorship
of Shakespeare_. In his opening sentence, he says, “I have read your
book ... faithfully to the end, and if my report of the result is to
be equally faithful, I must declare myself not only unconvinced, but

He is instant and decisive with his reasons. “To ask me,” he continues,
“to believe that a man who was famous for a variety of other
accomplishments, whose life was divided between public business, the
practice of a laborious profession, and private study of the art of
investigating the material laws of nature--a man of large acquaintance,
of note from early manhood, and one of the busiest men of his time, but
who was never suspected of wasting his time in writing poetry, and is
not known to have written a single blank verse in all his life--that
this man was the author of fourteen comedies, ten historical plays, and
eleven tragedies, exhibiting the greatest, and the greatest variety,
of excellence that has been attained in that kind of composition, is
like asking me to believe that Lord Brougham was the author, not only
of Dickens’s novels, but of Thackeray’s also, and of Tennyson’s poems

Spedding, himself a genius, finds no difficulty in appreciating
the quality of genius in Shakespeare. It was not scholarship, or
environment, or training that enabled William Shakespeare to become
the author of the most wonderful series of dramas in the world. Of
Shakespeare’s gifts, he frankly states the wonder is that any man
should have possessed them, not that the man to whose lot they fell
was the son of a poor man called John Shakespeare, and that he was
christened William. If Shakespeare was not trained as a scholar, or a
man of science, neither do the works attributed to him show traces of
trained scholarship or scientific education. Given the faculties (which
nature bestows as fully on the poor as on the rich) you will find that
the required knowledge, art and dexterity which the Shakespearean
plays imply, were easily attainable by a man who was labouring in his
vocation, and had nothing else to do.”


What Spedding failed to grasp was the difficulty which the Baconians
find in believing that Shakespeare was as likely to be the author of
the plays as any other man of his generation. In endeavouring to solve
the extraordinary difficulty of the old theory of the authorship of
the plays by substituting a new one, they have only made confusion
worse confounded. “That which is extraordinary in the case,” Spedding
maintains, “is that any man should possess such a combination of
faculties as must have met in the author of these plays. But that is
a difficulty which cannot be avoided. There must have been _somebody_
in whom the requisite combination of faculties did meet, for there
the plays are; and by supposing that this somebody was a man who, at
the same time possessed a combination of other faculties, themselves
sufficient to make him an extraordinary man too, you do not diminish
the wonder, but increase it.... That a human being possessed of
the faculties necessary to make a Shakespeare should exist, is
extraordinary. That a human being possessed of the faculties
necessary to make a Bacon should exist, is extraordinary. That two
such human beings should have been living in London at the same time
was more extraordinary still. But that one man should have existed
possessing the faculties and opportunities necessary to make both,
would have been the most extraordinary thing of all.”

It may be contended, and with justice, that in the foregoing we have
arguments that did not require the special knowledge and experience of
a Spedding to prefer. It may not be, it probably is not, regarded by
Baconians as serious argument, and, as Mr. R. M. Theobald would say, it
would be simply a waste of time and words to discuss it. Certain is it
that none of the pro-Bacon writers realise the necessity of answering,
and, if possible, contravening these simple arguments. It is difficult
to find any satisfactory reason for their reticence. But whether it is
that they question the value of the views of the greatest student of
Bacon on this subject, or are ignorant of his essay, or--what is more
likely--are unable to combat so plausible a view coming from so eminent
an authority, the fact remains that Spedding’s opinion is consistently

It is not, however, that part of his argument which we have quoted,
but the part which follows which carries conviction to those who are
familiar with the work both of Bacon and of Spedding. The resemblances
in thought and language, which are to be found in Shakespeare and
Bacon, are accepted by Spedding as inevitable between writers nourished
upon a common literature, employing a common language, and influenced
by a common atmosphere of knowledge and opinion. “But to me,” he
declares, “I confess, the resemblances between Shakespeare and Bacon
are not so striking as their differences. Strange as it seems that two
such minds, both so vocal, should have existed within each other’s
hearing without mutually affecting each other, I find so few traces of
any influence exercised by Shakespeare upon Bacon, that I have great
doubt whether Bacon knew any more about him than Gladstone (probably)
knew about Tom Taylor (in his dramatic capacity). Shakespeare may have
derived a good deal from Bacon. He had, no doubt, read the _Advancement
of Learning_ and the first edition of the _Essays_, and most likely
had frequently heard him speak in the Courts and in the Star Chamber.
But among all the parallelisms which you have collected with such
industry to illustrate the identity of the writer, I have not observed
one in which I should not have inferred, from the difference of style,
a difference of hand. Great writers, being contemporary, have many
features in common; but if they are really great writers, they write
naturally, and nature is always individual. I doubt whether there are
five lines together to be found in Bacon which could be mistaken for
Shakespeare, or five lines in Shakespeare which could be mistaken for
Bacon, by one who was familiar with their several styles, and practised
in such observations. I was myself well read in Shakespeare before I
began with Bacon, and I have been forced to cultivate what skill I have
in distinguishing Bacon’s style to a high degree; because in sifting
the genuine from the spurious, I had commonly nothing but the style
to guide me. And to me, if it were proved that any one of the plays
attributed to Shakespeare was really written by Bacon, not the least
extraordinary thing about it would be the power which it would show in
him of laying aside his individual peculiarities and assuming those of
a different man.”

There we have Spedding’s reasons for rejecting the Baconian theory--let
us summarise his conclusions in his own words: “If you had fixed upon
anybody else rather than Bacon as the true author,” he says--“anybody
of whom I knew nothing--I should have been scarcely less incredulous,
because I deny that a _prima facie_ case is made out for questioning
Shakespeare’s title. But if there were any reason for supposing that
somebody else was the real author, I think I am in a condition to say
that, whoever it was, it was not Bacon. The difficulties which such a
supposition would involve would be almost innumerable, and altogether
insurmountable. But,” he adds, “if what I have said does not excuse me
from saying more, what I might say more would be equally ineffectual.”

_Were Shakespeare and Bacon Acquainted?_

If we are to believe in the existence of the cipher, it follows as a
matter of course that Bacon and Shakespeare were acquainted. Nothing
is more probable. Bacon was at Court during the whole time that
Shakespeare’s plays were presented there. Bacon must at one period
have been acquainted with Shakespeare’s patron, Lord Southampton, who
was the bosom friend of Bacon’s patron, the Earl of Essex. Bacon was
certainly in touch with Ben Jonson, Shakespeare’s friend and co-worker.
It is scarcely conceivable that the two most prominent figures in the
literary world of the day should have been unknown to one another,
although there is no authentic evidence to show that they were. In
_Shakespeare’s True Life_ (1890), Major James Walter publishes an
illustration of Bacon’s house at St. Margaret’s, Richmond, “where
Shakespeare was a frequent visitor.” “Twickenham,” says the writer,
“is a main connecting link with what is known of Shakespeare’s visits
to the neighbourhood; doubly interesting as clearly indicating his
intimacy with Bacon, then living at his house, only a short distance
on the other side of St. Margaret’s, in Twickenham Park.” Again, “It
was just shortly before this plague fright, Shakespeare and Bacon had
been jointly engaged in getting up one or more of his plays in Gray’s
Inn, and it comes with the saying they should be frequently together in
the eminently charming retreat just acquired by Bacon at the munificent
hand of Elizabeth’s Favourite (the Earl of Essex).” “Catholic
tradition,” the same authority assures us, “asserts that Bacon wrote
the first portion of his great essays under the cedars of Twickenham
Park; others go further, and say our information is that Shakespeare
and Bacon had a special fondness for the two old cedars, and spent
much time on occasions of Shakespeare’s visiting and resting with his
friend at Twickenham, in reading and converse under the shade of these
widespreading venerable trees.” In another part of the same book we
read: “Some families, whose past histories should afford information
bearing on Shakespeare’s life, assert that he met Spenser and Sir
Walter Raleigh on more than one occasion at Richmond, and that Bacon
was in the habit of receiving them together at his St. Margaret’s home.”

Interesting as are these details, they are, it will be observed,
quite unsupported. What the Major says is, unfortunately, “not
evidence.” If Major Walter had given us chapter and verse for all this
information, we might have verified his evidence for ourselves, but
“Catholic tradition” and the unnamed “families with past histories,”
and the “others” are too vague to pin one’s faith to. We may, however,
assume that Shakespeare was not unknown to Bacon, that they met when
Shakespeare was appearing at Gray’s Inn; and it is quite possible, if
not probable, that Shakespeare consulted Bacon on the legal references
and similes that we find in the Plays.

Bacon, although disloyal, and capable of shameless ingratitude towards
his benefactors, had the love of his secretary Rawley, and the warm
esteem of such men as Ben Jonson, Boëner, and Toby Matthew. Abbott,
who is fully awake to his many faults, notes this curious inconsistency
in his nature, and explains it in the conclusion that “whenever he
found men naturally and willingly depending on him, and co-operating
with him ... his natural and general benevolence found full play.”
If we accept this explanation, and it would appear to be the correct
solution of his enigmatic character, we can readily understand that
Bacon, in a patronising, but good-hearted way, would extend no little
favour to a man of Shakespeare’s position and reputation. Shakespeare
would be familiar with Bacon’s works, he may even have had the run of
Bacon’s library in Gray’s Inn--an assumption of their intimacy, which,
if supported by documentary evidence, would establish the theory that
the poet used the philosopher as his model for Polonius. Bacon, the
great philosopher, and the influential politician, would certainly
have “the tribute of the supple knee” of all aspirants to literary
fame. Authors would be proud to attract his notice, publishers would be
flattered to allow him to glance through the proofs of any books that
they were issuing. It is quite natural to suppose that if Shakespeare
was known to Bacon, Heming and Condell would have been aware of the
fact, and an offer to render them some assistance in publishing the
First Folio would have been accepted with alacrity. Such an offer may
have been made through Rawley, his faithful secretary; it might have
come direct from Bacon to the publishers. How he obtained command of
the proofs it is impossible to conjecture with any confidence, but
if it is proved that the cipher exists in the Folio, and the other
works mentioned--and I am satisfied to believe that it does, until a
properly constituted committee reports that it is non-existent--it will
be evident that somebody must have overcome the difficulties that
the task presented. The law at that time recognised no natural right
in an author to the creation of his brain, and the full owner of a
MS. copy of any literary composition was entitled to reproduce it, or
to treat it as he pleased, without reference to the author’s wishes.
Thomas Thorpe, and the other pirates of the period, were always on the
look-out for written copies of plays and poems for publication in this
manner. All Shakespeare’s plays that appeared in print were issued
without his authority, and, in several instances, against his expressed
wish. How did Thorpe and his tribe obtain possession of the manuscripts
of _King Lear_, _Henry V._, _Pericles_, _Hamlet_, _Titus Andronicus_,
and the rest of the sixteen plays which were in print at the date of
the author’s death? If we knew for certain that Shakespeare and Bacon
were on terms of intimacy, it would be a justifiable conjecture to
suppose that the latter might have had a hand in the business, but if
the existence of the cipher in these pirated quartos is verified, we
may be quite sure that Bacon was the publishers’ accessory in securing
the MSS. for publication.

It is, however, more difficult to satisfactorily explain the claim
of Bacon to the authorship of the _Anatomy of Melancholy_. The first
edition, in quarto form, was published in 1621; the cipher appears in
the folio that was issued in 1628. In the preface to this edition,
the author announces that he will make no more changes in his work:
“I will not hereafter add, alter, or retract; I have done.” What do
we gather from that, Mrs. Gallup may ask?--surely that Bacon felt his
strength failing when he wrote those words; he certainly did not live
to see the book through the press. But the fact remains that four more
editions were published within Burton’s lifetime, each with successive
alterations and additions. The final form of the book was the sixth
edition (1651-52), printed from an annotated copy given just before
Burton’s death to the publisher, Henry Cripps, who gained, Anthony à
Wood tells us, great profits out of the book. This is one of the points
upon which we shall hope to hear from Mrs. Gallup.

In this 1628 folio of the _Anatomy of Melancholy_, Mrs. Gallup has
deciphered some ninety pages of a partial translation of Homer’s
_Iliad_. But on comparing this translation with that of Alexander Pope,
written about a century later, it becomes clear that it is not taken
from the original Greek of Homer, but is, in fact, a prose rendering
of Pope’s version. But Mrs. Gallup in a letter to the _Times_, which
appears as these pages are going through the press, declares that an
examination of six different English translations of the _Iliad_, and
one Latin, shows her such substantial accord that either of them could
be called with equal justice a paraphrase of Pope, or that Pope had
copied from the others.


1,000 feet of canvas is covered by the pages of the works used.]

_In Conclusion._

Three of the main arguments which Baconians urge against the claims
of Shakespeare to the authorship of the Plays are, firstly, that
Shakespeare left no books; secondly, that only five of his signatures
have come down to us; and, thirdly, that he makes no reference to his
plays in his Will. When we come to investigate these objections, it
may be said, without hesitation, that they do not amount to a row of
pins. There isn’t a rag of evidence, to employ Mr. Sinnett’s phrase,
to show that he left no books, it is quite certain that he left as
much manuscript as Peele or Marlowe or any of the dramatists of his
period, and it would have been something more than extraordinary if
he had made any reference to copyrights which he did not possess.
The professional playwrights of the period sold their plays outright
to one or other of the acting companies, and they retained no legal
interest in them after the manuscript had passed into the hands of the
theatrical manager. When Shakespeare had disposed of his dramas, he
washed his hands of them, so to speak, and not a single play of the
sixteen that were published during his lifetime was issued under his
supervision. They belonged to the theatre for which they were written.
Shakespeare was only conforming to the general custom in this matter
in betraying no interest in work which did not belong to him. He was
consistently and characteristically indifferent as to what became of
his plays, and in this he forms a striking contrast to Bacon, who had
a mania for preserving and publishing every particle of his writings.
In Shakespeare, this neglect, if surprising, is at least consistent;
in Bacon it is too antagonistic to what is known of his idiosyncracies
to be entertained for a single moment. Bacon must have realised that
his versification of the Psalms was of less merit than the poetry
in the plays. Yet he carefully superintended the publication of the
Psalms, in the same year in which they were written, and kept no copies
of such plays as _The Tempest_, _The Two Gentlemen_, _Measure for
Measure_, _Comedy of Errors_, _As You Like It_, _All’s Well_, _Twelfth
Night_, _Winter’s Tale_, _Henry VI._, _Henry VIII._, _Coriolanus_,
_Timon_, _Julius Cæsar_, _Macbeth_, _Antony and Cleopatra_, and
_Cymbeline_. These works of “supreme literary interest” were rescued
from the dust-bin of the theatres, by the energy and affection of two
of Shakespeare’s brother actors, what time Bacon was translating his
philosophical works into Latin, and publishing the Psalms.

In the foregoing pages, Bacon’s character, and the incidents in
his life have, it may be objected, been dealt with in a harsh and
unsympathetic manner. Yet the facts set down are matters of history,
and I claim for the comments, and the conclusions derived therefrom,
that they are neither misleading nor exaggerated. It has been my
endeavour to show that, while all that we know of Bacon’s private life
and his public career--the evidence of his deeds, his sentiments,
his prose, and his verse--prove him to have been a man incapable of
conceiving the poetry of the Plays, there is nothing in the life
of Shakespeare, when freed of the miserable misrepresentations and
baseless accusations introduced by his traducers, which makes it
difficult for us to regard him as the rightful author. One thing we
must recognise in the writer of the greatest poetry of all times--his
genius. We cannot argue that Shakespeare had genius--and, therefore,
he wrote the plays--but we may transpose the argument and declare
that Shakespeare wrote the plays, and therefore he had genius.
But, cries the Baconian, Bacon also possessed genius. The fact is
incontrovertible. His genius inspired him to draw up the scheme of
his _Magna Instauratio_, to write his _Essays_, to invent a new
philosophy, and a most ingenious cipher, but it did not prevent him
from composing some miserably poor verses or enable him to discern
the singular absence of merit in his metrical effusions. There is not
a single “literary” argument of the hundreds put forward in support
of Bacon’s claims to the authorship of the Plays which has validity,
or even plausibility, to recommend it. There is not a single argument
of the hundreds that have been advanced to deprive Shakespeare of his
mantle which can stand the test of investigation. Carlyle declared
Bacon to be as incapable of writing _Hamlet_ as of making this planet.
Spedding, who devoted thirty years of his life to the study of Bacon,
emphatically asserts that, “if there were any reason for supposing that
somebody else was the real author (of Shakespeare), I think I am in a
condition to say that, whoever it was, it was not Bacon.” We know that
Shakespeare put the plays on the stage, and acted in them, and that his
intimate friends, his fellow actors, and the public, believed him to be
the writer. We know, too, that Bacon had a distaste, if not a contempt,
for the stage; that his lifelong complaint was his inability to secure
time for his philosophic studies. To sum up in a sentence, it may be
said that there is no reason to suppose that Bacon was the author of
the Plays, while there is every reason to believe that he was not; and
with respect to Shakespeare, there is no reason to believe he was not
what he claimed to be, and there is tradition, the testimony of all who
had the best means of knowing, to prove that he was.

Until very recent times, one of the most tangible arguments of the
Shakespeareans was that Bacon had not claimed the authorship of the
Plays. That argument, if it has not now been thrown down, is, at least,
suspended. The existence of the bi-literal cipher which Mrs. Gallup
preaches, though vigorously attacked, has not yet been exploded. But
if the cipher which contains these claims is verified, in the face
of all circumstantial evidence that prove the claims to be baseless
and preposterous, we are practically convicting Bacon of one of the
greatest and most impudent literary frauds that was ever perpetrated.
Yet that is what I am prepared to find is the case. Nor am I without
warrant for holding this opinion. When the existence of the bi-literal,
and the word-cipher has been acknowledged, we shall find that there are
four other forms of cipher, the “Capital Letter; Time, or as more oft
called, Clocke; Symboll; and Anagrammaticke ... which wee have us’d in
a few of owr bookes.” These ciphers are now being applied to decipher
other messages which Bacon sent down the ages by this secret medium. Of
the nature of these claims, I am, at the moment, unable to speak, but
I am in a position to say that the contents are more sensational than
any that have yet been revealed. The absolute proof of the authorship
of the Plays is promised--but again we shall get no more than what
Bacon considered constituted proof. In reality, it will form part
of a gigantic fraud committed by one of the cleverest men that ever
lived, it will disclose the flaw in “the most exquisitely constructed
intellect that has ever been bestowed on any of the children of men;”
it will prove, up to the hilt, the madness of Francis Bacon.


_E. Goodman & Son, Phœnix Printing Works, Taunton._

  Works by the same Author











Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Page 37: Paragraph beginning “In spite, however, of all positive
evidence to the contrary” contains an unbalanced quotation mark.

Page 56: Removed an unmatched single quotation mark just before “the”
in “Imagine Juliet as the party, loved”.

Page 63: Paragraph beginning “The inaccurately described bi-literal
cipher” contains an unbalanced quotation mark.

Page 69: Closing quotation mark added at the end of the two-line verse
beginning with “So long as men can breathe, or eyes”.

Page 99: Paragraph beginning “Even at the risk of wearying my readers”
contains an unbalanced quotation mark near the end of the paragraph.

Page 119: Paragraph beginning “Spedding, himself a genius” ends with an
unbalanced quotation mark.

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