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Title: Baconian Essays
Author: Smithson, Edward Walter
Language: English
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                            BACONIAN ESSAYS

                            BACONIAN ESSAYS


                            E. W. SMITHSON



                         SIR GEORGE GREENWOOD

                             CECIL PALMER
              OAKLEY HOUSE, 14-18 BLOOMSBURY ST., W.C. 1




INTRODUCTORY (by G. GREENWOOD)                                         7

_Five Essays_ by E. W. SMITHSON

THE MASQUE OF “TIME VINDICATED”                                       41

SHAKESPEARE--A THEORY                                                 69

BEN JONSON AND SHAKESPEARE                                            97

BACON AND “POESY”                                                    123

“THE TEMPEST” AND ITS SYMBOLISM                                      149

_Two Essays_ by G. GREENWOOD


THE NORTHUMBERLAND MANUSCRIPT                                        187

FINAL NOTE (G. G.)                                                   223


(Corrected in this etext.)

    Page 17 line 12 _for_ “hat” _read_ “that.”
      ”  19 line 13 from bottom _for_ “Spain” read “Spa in.”
      ”  38 line  7  ”  ”  _for_ “Magwell” read “Mugwell.”
      ” 169 line 13  ”  ”  _for_ “swet” read “sweet.”
      ” 193 line 10 from bottom _for_ “tilt-hard” read “tilt-yard.”



Henry James, in a letter to Miss Violet Hunt, thus delivers himself with
regard to the authorship of the plays and poems of “Shakespeare”[1]:--“I
am ‘a sort of’ haunted by the conviction that the divine William is the
biggest and most successful fraud ever practised on a patient world. The
more I turn him round and round the more he so affects me.”

Now I do not for a moment suppose that in so writing the late Mr. Henry
James had any intention of affixing the stigma of personal fraud upon
William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon. Doubtless he used the term
“fraud” in a semi-jocular vein as we so often hear it made use of in the
colloquial language of the present day, and his meaning is nothing more,
and nothing less, than this, viz., that the belief that the plays and
poems of “Shakespeare” were, in truth and in fact, the work of “the man
from Stratford,” (as he subsequently, in the same letter, styles “the
divine William”) is one of the greatest of all the many delusions which
have, from time to time, afflicted a credulous and “a patient world.”
He believed that when, in the year 1593, the dedication of _Venus and
Adonis_ to the Young Earl of Southampton was signed “William
Shakespeare,” that signature did not, in truth and in fact, stand for
the Stratford player who never so signed himself, but for a very
different person, in quite another sphere of life, who desired to
preserve his anonymity. He believed that when plays were published in
the name of “Shake-speare” that name did not, in truth and in fact,
stand for “the man from Stratford,” but again for that same person--or
it might be, and in certain cases certainly was, for some other--who
desired to publish plays under the mask of a convenient pen-name. And if
the authorship of these poems and plays came, in course of time, to be
attributed to William Shakspere, the player from Stratford-upon-Avon,
who himself never uttered a word, or wrote a syllable, or took any steps
whatever to claim the authorship of those poems and plays for himself,
but was content merely to play the part of “William the Silent” from
first to last, there is, surely, no reason to brand him as a cheat and a
“fraud” upon that account, and we may be quite sure that that
highly-gifted and distinguished man of literature, Henry James--one of
the intellectuals of our day--had no intention of so branding him.

A lady, a short time ago, wrote a book to explain the play of _Hamlet_
in quite a new light, by making reference to the special political
circumstances of the time when it appeared, such as the “Scottish
succession,” the character of James I, certain events in the lives of
Mary Queen of Scots, Burleigh, Essex, Southampton, Elizabeth Vernon, and
other historical figures, and producing “detailed analogies between
episodes of contemporary history and the play,”[2] and, in reply to
certain objections raised by a well-known critic, she essayed to justify
herself by an appeal to the doctrine of “Relativity,” which, as she
declared with some warmth, had come to stay whether her captious critic
wanted it or not!

This lofty invocation of Einstein’s theory of Time, Space, and the
Universe--a theory so difficult of comprehension that only a favoured
few can even affect to understand it--in support of a new interpretation
of one of Shakespeare’s plays, was, certainly, somewhat ridiculous, but
the lady was quite right in her contention--which would equally hold
good though Einstein had never lived or taught--that in forming our
judgments on men long gone, whether of their characters or their
actions, or their sayings or their writings, we must ever bear in mind
the views, the beliefs, the opinions, and the special circumstances of
the time and the society in which they lived. Now, it is well known that
in Elizabethan and Jacobean times opinion with regard to what I may call
literary deception was very different from what it is at the present day
when we at any rate affect much greater scrupulosity with regard to
these matters. Such literary deceptions, which in these days would be
condemned as “frauds,” were, in those times, constantly and habitually
practised, and considered quite venial sins, if, indeed, they were
looked upon as sins at all. That is a fact which should never be lost
sight of when we are considering problems of authorship, or writings of
dubious interpretation (such as some of Ben Jonson’s, e.g.) in those
long-gone and very different times.

Now, I am one of those who agree with the late Mr. Henry James, and with
the present highly-distinguished French scholar and historian, Professor
Abel Lefranc--I refer here to his negative views only--with regard to
the authorship of the plays and poems of “Shakespeare.” In my humble
opinion (which, to be quite honest, I may say is not “humble” at all!),
that the plays and poems of “Shakespeare” were not written by William
Shakspere, the player who came from Stratford, is as certain as anything
can be which is not susceptible of actual mathematical proof. Who then
wrote the plays? (Let us leave the poems on one side for the present).
Well, that the work of many pens appears in the Folio of 1623 is surely
indisputable. Few if any, of the “orthodox” would be found to deny it.
There is little, if any, of “Shakespeare”--whoever he was--in the first
part of _Henry VI_, and, surely, not much more in the second and third
parts. Very little, if any part, of _The Taming of the Shrew_ is
“Shakespearean.” The great majority of critics exclude _Titus_
altogether. The work of pens other than the Shakespearean pen is to be
found in _Pericles_, and _Timon_, and _Troilus and Cressida_, and even
in _Macbeth_. _Henry VIII_, though published as by “Shakespeare,” was
almost undoubtedly the work of Fletcher and Massinger in
collaboration.[3] The list might be added to but it is unnecessary to do
so. I repeat, the work of many pens is to be found in the Folio of 1623,
but there is, of course, one man whose work eclipses that of all the
rest, one man who stands pre-eminent and unrivalled, towering high above
the others; one man of whom it may be said, as of Marcellus of old, that
_insignis ingreditur, victorque viros supereminet omnes_. Find that man,
find the author of _Hamlet_, and _Lear_, and _Othello_--to give but a
few examples--and you will have found the true “Shakespeare.” But set
your hearts at rest; you will never find him in the man whose vulgar and
banal life (in the course of which not one--I do not say generous
but--even respectable action can be discovered by all the researches of
his biographers) is to be read in the pages of Halliwell-Phillipps and
Sir Sidney Lee--the life of which so little is known, and yet so much
too much!

Meantime it is amusing, or would be so if it were not so lamentable, to
see our solemn and entirely self-satisfied Pundits and Mandarins of
“Shakespearean” literature ever trying to see daylight through the
millstone of the Stratfordian faith; ever broaching some brand-new
theory, and affecting to find something in this Shakespearean literature
which nobody ever found before them, but which as they fondly imagine,
somehow, and in some way, tends to support the old outworn Stratfordian
tradition. Perhaps some “prompt copy” of an old Elizabethan drama is
discovered. It is hailed with exultation as affording proof that plays
in those times were printed from “prompt copies,” and further cryptic
arguments are adduced in support of the absurd theory that the Stratford
player dashed off the plays of “Shakespeare,” _currente calamo_, and
handed them over to his fellow “deserving men,” Heminge and Condell, and
the rest, with “scarse a blot” upon them, and that the plays were
printed from these precious “unblotted autographs.” An old Manuscript
Play is found. It is the work of several pens. In it are discovered
three pages in an unknown hand. See now! Here is a hand “of the same
class” as the “Shakespeare” (i.e., “Shakspere”) signatures! Why, it is
Shakspere’s own handwriting! Look at Shakspere’s will--the will in which
no book or manuscript is mentioned, but wherein are small bequests to
Shakspere’s fellow-players, those “deserving men” Burbage, and Heminge,
and Condell, to buy them rings withal, and of the testator’s sword, and
parcel-gilt bowl, and “second-best bedstead”--and there you will find
three words well and distinctly written in a firm hand--“By me William.”
Yes, and the “W” of “William” is so carefully written that it even has
“the ornamental dot” under the curve of the right limb thereof! But why,
then, are the signatures themselves such miserable, illegible scrawls?
Oh, fools and blind! Cannot you see that player William in this case
reversed the usual procedure; that he intended to sign the last of the
three pages of his Will first (“But _why_?”--“Oh, never mind _why_!”);
that the poor man was _in extremis_ (true he lived another month after
signing, and his Will witnesses that he was “in perfect health and
memorie, God be praysed!” _Mais cela n’empêche pas_); and that he made a
tremendous effort, and wrote the words “By me William,” in a fine
distinct hand--“ornamental dot” and all!--and then collapsed utterly and
could only make illiterate scrawls for his surname, and the other two
signatures. But these words, “By me William,” are in the same
handwriting as that of the “addition” to _Sir Thomas More_! What? You
say they were manifestly written by the Law Scrivener! _What?_ You say
the handwriting of this “addition” differs manifestly and fundamentally
from the handwriting of the “Shakspere” signatures (which, wretched
scrawls as they are, differ profoundly one from the other), as anybody
can see who does not happen to be a “paleographer” with an _idée fixe_!
What? You say that! Yah, fool! Yah, fanatic! What do _you_ know about
it, I should like to know![4]

Such is all too frequently the language of the _soi-disant_ “orthodox”
to the poor “heretic”; such are “the spurns that patient merit of the
unworthy takes”!

Then we have a man--an “orthodox” wiseacre--who tells us that, without
doubt, the “dark lady” of the Sonnets was Mistress Mary Fitton, and we
are to subscribe to the belief that Mary Fitton, one of Elizabeth’s
Maids of Honour, had an intrigue with a common player--one “i’ the
statute!” It is nothing to tell the people who have made this wonderful
discovery that Mary Fitton was _not_ a “dark lady,” but a _fair_ lady,
as her portraits at Arbury show. It is nothing to tell them that, though
among the remarkable contemporaneous documents in the Muniment Room at
Arbury there is much mention of Mary Fitton’s _liaison_ with that proud
nobleman, Lord Pembroke, not a breath is to be discovered of any
suggestion of her so degrading herself as to have an intrigue with “a
man-player”--one who was a “rogue and vagabond” were it not for the
licence of a great personage. No, all this goes for nothing when it is
necessary somehow, by hook or by crook, to identify the Stratford player
with the author of the Sonnets of “Shakespeare.” _O miseras hominum
mentes, O pectora cæca!_

Then yet another finds this “dark lady” in the person of the wife of an
Oxford Inn Keeper, with whom, forsooth, player Shakspere had an
intrigue, on his way from Stratford to London, or _vice versa_, and
laborious investigations are undertaken, and many learned letters are
written to the Press about this other imaginary “dark lady”--“that woman
colour’d ill”[5]--and all the family history of the Davenants is
exploited in this foolish quest. Then, again, another makes the
discovery that William Shakspere, the Stratford player, had conceived a
feeling of violent hatred against “Resolute John Florio,” the translator
of Montaigne (who was, by the way, so far as we know, a good worthy
man), so he caricatures this hateful person in the hateful (!) character
of Jack Falstaff--the Falstaff of _King Henry IV_! But we _don’t_ hate
Jack Falstaff! On the contrary we all love old Jack Falstaff, in spite
of his many faults and failings. We can’t help loving him, for his
unfailing good humour and his unrivalled wit! “Oh, that is nothing,
nothing,” says our critic from across the Atlantic--one Mr. Acheson of
New York--who has made this grand discovery. “Will Shakspere of
Stratford _hated_ Florio, so he has lampooned him and ridiculed him in
this hateful character of Falstaff! Of that there is no possible doubt.
I am Sir Oracle, and when I speak let no dog bark![6]”

And so I might go on to multiply the examples of this “Stratfordian”
folly. And we, who see the absurdity of all this, are called “Fanatics!”
But what is “Fanaticism”? It is the madness which possesses the
worshippers at the shrine. These men have bowed themselves down at the
traditional Stratfordian Shrine; they have accepted without thinking the
dogmas of the Stratfordian faith; they are impervious to reasoning and
to common sense; they have surrendered their judgment; “their eyes they
have closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear
with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be
converted” to truth and reason. Verily, _these_ are the real “fanatics.”

Let me for a moment, before passing on, call attention to some words
written by those distinguished “Shakespearean” critics Dr. Richard
Garnett, and Dr. Edmund Gosse, in their _Illustrated English
Literature_. They speak of “that knowledge of good society, and that
easy and confident attitude towards mankind which appears in
Shakespeare’s plays _from the first_, and which are so unlike what might
have been expected from _a Stratford rustic_.... The first of his plays
were undoubtedly the three early comedies, _Love’s Labour’s Lost_, _The
Comedy of Errors_, and _The Two Gentlemen of Verona_, which must have
appeared in 1590-1591, or perhaps in the latter year only. The question
of priority among them is hard to settle, but we may concur with Mr.
[now Sir Sidney] Lee in awarding precedence to _Love’s Labour’s Lost_.
All three indicate that the runaway Stratford youth had, within five or
six years, made himself the perfect gentleman, master of the manners and
language of the best society of his day, and able to hold his own with
any contemporary writer.”[7]

Now this miraculous “runaway Stratford youth,” came to London “a
Stratford rustic,” in the year 1587,[8] and, according to his
biographers, being a penniless adventurer, had to seek for a living in
“very mean employments,” as Dr. Johnson says, whether as horse-holder,
or “call boy,” or “super” on the stage, or what you will. His parents
were entirely illiterate, and he left his two daughters in the same
darkness of ignorance. We may assume that he had attended for a few
years at the “Free School” at Stratford (as Rowe, his earliest
biographer, calls it), although there is really no evidence in support
of that assumption, but it is admitted even by the most zealous and
orthodox Stratfordians that he “had received only an imperfect
education.”[9] But I will not again recapitulate the facts (real or
supposed) of this mean and vulgar life. Let the reader, I say again,
study it in the pages of Halliwell-Phillipps, and Sir Sidney Lee.[10]

And now let us consider for a moment that extraordinary play, _Love’s
Labour’s Lost_, which, as we have seen, “appeared” in 1590 or 1591,
according to Messrs. Garnett and Gosse, but of which Mr. Fleay writes:
“The date of the original production cannot well be put later than
1589.” It was, as the “authorities” are all agreed, Shakespeare’s first
drama, and it is remarkable for this fact, among other things, that
unlike other Shakespearean plays it is not an old play re-written, nor
is the plot taken from some other writer. The plot of _Love’s Labour’s
Lost_ is an original one.

And now let us see what Professor Lefranc, who has made a very special
study of this play, has to tell us about it, premising that I do not
cite his remarks as “authoritative,” but merely as a clear statement of
the facts of the case by one who has exceptional knowledge of the
history of the time in which the action of the play is supposed to take

“Everybody knows,” he writes, “that the scene of this very original
comedy is laid at the Court of Navarre, at a date nearly contemporaneous
with the play, when Henri de Bourbon was the reigning sovereign of this
little kingdom, before he became Henri IV of France.... That the author
of _Love’s Labour’s Lost_ knew and had visited the Court of Navarre is
at once obvious to anyone who will study the play without any
preconceived hypothesis and who takes the trouble to learn something
about the history of this little Kingdom of Nérac.... All the
explanations which have been given of this play, the first of the
Shakespearean dramas, in order to bolster up the theory of its
composition by Shakspere the player at the very outset of his career as
a playwright, as also every element of the comedy itself, and every
known incident in the life of the Stratford player, prove the
impossibility of his being the author of it. All these theories and
hypotheses put forward during the last 120 years are of such total
improbability, indeed of such miserable tenuity, that some day people
will wonder how they could possibly find acceptance for so long.”

M. Lefranc cites Montegut, a French Shakespearean scholar and a critic
of noted insight and perspicacity, who writes: “It is extraordinary to
see how Shakespeare is faithful even in the most minute details to
historical truth and to local colour,” and he proceeds to demonstrate
that many allusions in this wonderful play of _Love’s Labour’s Lost_
cannot be properly understood or appreciated without reference to the
memoirs of the celebrated Marguerite de Valois, who is herself the
“Princess of France” of the comedy (in the original edition called “The
Queen”[11]), who comes with her suite to visit Henri at his Court of
Nérac. The Princess of France, then, was originally Queen Marguerite of
Navarre, and this comedy represents her as coming to rejoin her husband
at Nérac to endeavour to regain his love, and to settle many questions
relative to her dowry of Aquitaine. That this journey actually took
place, that Marguerite paid a long visit to the Court of Navarre where a
series of entertainments were held in her honour, and that the question
of her dowry in Aquitaine was then discussed at length is established by
the Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois.[12] The author, then, had in his
mind events of contemporaneous history which had taken place at the
Court of Navarre, and with which he appears to have been personally
familiar. The memoirs, too, throw light on several passages of the drama
which would be obscure without them. Take (e.g.) Act II, Sc. 1, where
Biron asks Rosaline, “Did not I dance with you at Brabant once?” Here we
have an allusion to the visit of Marguerite to Spa in 1577, of which a
full account is given in her Memoirs, where she tells of balls at Mons,
Namur, and Liege, all in a country which was at that time constantly
spoken of as Brabant. Again, in Act V, Sc. 2, there is an obscure
allusion, which seems to be satisfactorily explained by a reference to
the story of the unfortunate Hélène de Tournon, related by Marguerite
in her Memoirs. Further, in Act V, Sc. 2, we have an allusion to the
manner in which Henri of Navarre, the “Vert Galant,” wrote, prepared,
and sealed his love letters, as though the author was familiar with the
amorous King’s poetical letter addressed by him to the “Charmante
Gabrielle” d’Estrés; while the circumstances described in Act I, Sc. 1,
are explained in the light of fact by a letter from Cobham to Walsingham
dated from Paris in June, 1583.

But it would take far too much time to dilate further upon this, the
first of the Shakespearean plays. I can only refer my readers, for
further light, to Professor Lefranc’s work _Sous le Masque de William

Yet we are required to believe--nay, we are “fanatics” if we do not
believe--that this extraordinary play was composed by the “Stratford
rustic” some two years after he had “run away” from Stratford, and,
further, that he composed two other remarkable comedies, _The Comedy of
Errors_, and _The Two Gentlemen of Verona_, just about the same time!
Verily this is a faith which does not remove mountains, but simply
swallows them whole--a faith which appears to me more worthy of Bedlam
than of the intelligence of rational human beings. On the other hand,
there is no difficulty whatever in believing that this unique
play--which shows that the author of it was not only a “perfect
gentleman, master of the manners and language of the best society of the
day,” but also one familiar with the doings, and “happenings” and
amusements and _entourage_ of the Court of Henri of Navarre at Nérac on
the occasion of the visit of Marguerite de Valois to that Court--was
written by a man who lived and moved in a very different sphere of
society from that in which Shakspere of Stratford lived and moved, but
who was desirous of concealing his identity as a playwright under a
convenient mask-name.

Yet, as M. Lefranc truly says, “L’hétérodoxie dans ce domaine [the
“Shakespearean” authorship to wit] a paru jusqu’à présent aux maïtres
des universités et aux érudits, une opinion de mauvais goût, temeraire
et malséante, dont la science patentée n’avait pas à s’occuper, sauf
pour la condamner.”[14] But he continues--I will now translate--“I am
convinced that every one who has preserved an independent opinion
concerning the Shakespeare problem will recognise that the old positions
of the traditional doctrine can no longer be maintained.... The laws of
psychology, and, what is more, of simple common sense, ought to banish
for ever the absurd theory which would have us believe in an
incomparable writer whose life was absolutely out of harmony with the
marvellous works which appeared in his name. It is time to take decisive
action against that immense error, and against the incredible _naiveté_
upon which it rests.”

“Simple common sense.” Aye, but when I spoke not long ago to a
well-known writer, who is a Stratfordian _enragé_, of “common sense” in
this matter, what was his reply? “_Oh, damn common sense!_”--a
characteristic interjection which might well be adopted as the motto of
all the “Stratfordian” highbrows of the present day.

But, adds Professor Lefranc, “If many still refuse to admit the
existence of a Shakespeare problem, yet the time is at hand when nobody
will any longer venture to deny it, unless he is prepared at the same
time to deny all the evidence in the case. It is clear that a new era of
Shakespearean study has recently presented itself. Scepticism with
regard to the Stratford man is spreading in spite of the resistance of
the multifarious defenders of the old tradition. A number of beliefs,
accepted for many years as dogmas, are disappearing every day. The rock
of credulity is crumbling away. The Stratfordians will, sooner or later,
be reduced, under the pressure of a more enlightened public opinion, to
change their tactics and modify the assumptions of their creed. In
truth, speaking generally, the best-established reproach to which the
learned men who have concerned themselves with Shakespeare, according to
the rules of Stratfordian orthodoxy, have laid themselves open, is not
so much that they have maintained the traditional doctrine with regard
to the poet-actor, but rather that in the face of the innumerable
enigmas which are involved in the history of his life, and his
[supposed] works, and even of the text of those works, they have never
had the candour to admit even the existence of all these obscure
problems. At every step in Shakespearean study these difficulties and
incoherences are encountered, but these learned men affect not to see
them.... Truly, in view of such superb assurance, the lay reader could
never imagine the existence of all the gratuitous assumptions, the naïve
assertions, the inadmissible interpretations that are to be found in the
works of these gentlemen, which the public have been accustomed to
accept as infallible authorities. Yet, even the most famous and the most
admired amongst them would have to yield to an investigation conducted
according to the simple rules of the art of reasoning, that is to say of
sound common sense. The hour has come when the representatives of the
‘Shakespearean’ dogma will have to change their attitude. They will have
to renounce both their silence and their credulity. Above all, they will
have to admit the necessity of inquiries, and discussions hostile to
their creed, to make a _tabula rasa_ of many points, and to take in hand
once more the investigation thereof _ab imis fundamentis_, resolutely
putting away those prejudices which have so long blinded them to the

So writes Professor Abel Lefranc, with much more to the same purport and
effect, and, in my judgment, he writes both wisely and well. But if he
really believes that our hidebound Pundits and Mandarins of the
Stratfordian faith will ever “put away those prejudices which have so
long blinded them to the truth,” and give impartial consideration to the
facts of the Shakespeare Problem in the light of reason and
“commonsense,” I fear me he reckons without his host and is destined to
be very sadly undeceived.[15]

We are brought back, however, to the question: Who, then, is the real
“Shakespeare”? That is a question which I have never attempted to
answer. It has been quite sufficient for me to confine my arguments to
the negative side of the Shakespeare Problem. The positive, or
constructive side I have hitherto been content to leave to others.

Now, there is a large number of persons, many of them rational and
intelligent men and women, of quite sound mind and understanding, who
believe that the real “Shakespeare” is to be found in the person of
Francis Bacon. But there are “Baconians and Baconians.” There are the
wild Baconians who find Bacon everywhere, but especially in ciphers,
cryptograms, anagrams, acrostics, and in all sorts of occult figures and
emblems[16]--those who believe amongst other things, that Bacon was the
son of Queen Elizabeth, that he lived in philosophic concealment many
years after the date usually assigned as that of his death, that he
wrote practically all the English literature worthy of that name of the
Elizabethan and Jacobean period, and that he hid his “Shakespearean”
manuscripts in the mud of the River Wye or some other equally
inappropriate and ridiculous place, where no sane man would ever dream
of looking for them.

The wild and unrestrained “Baconians” have, undoubtedly, done great
injury to the cause which they desire to advocate; and not only have
they injured that cause, but they have greatly prejudiced the discussion
of the Shakespeare Problem as a whole. For in such cases we are all
liable to be “tarred by the same brush,” and the sanest of
“Anti-Stratfordian” reasoners has, unfortunately, not escaped the
back-wash of the ridicule which these eccentrics have brought upon

There are, however, “Baconians” of another class--the sane “Baconians”
who are content to argue the matter--and some of them have argued it
with great knowledge and ability--in the calm light of reason and common
sense. Of these one of the sanest and ablest was my friend the late
Edward Walter Smithson, whose little book _Shakespeare--Bacon. An
Essay_,[17] published anonymously some three and twenty years ago,
attracted no little attention, and did much to help the cause in support
of which it was written. He published, however, nothing more on the
subject till 1913, in November of which year there appeared in _The
Nineteenth Century_ an article from his pen entitled “Ben Jonson’s Pious
Fraud.” The greater part of this article I have quoted by way of preface
to his essay now published on Jonson’s Masque of _Time Vindicated_,[18]
and it may be as well to cite the commencement of it at this place:

     The writer is one of those persons who consider it highly probable
     that Shakespeare was at first a mere pen-name of Bacon’s, and
     regard Shakspere, Shaxper, or Shayksper--easily mistaken for
     Shakespeare--as the usual patronymic from birth to death of an
     illiterate actor: he thinks, moreover, that there must have been
     some sort of understanding between the poet and the actor
     (resembling perhaps that between Aristophanes and the actor
     Callistratus), and conjectures that it may have covered proprietary
     rights or shares in theatrical ventures.

     When and how I came by such views can be of little or no interest
     to anyone but myself. To prevent misconception, however, it may be
     well to explain that my conversion dates from 1884-5. An essay of
     mine (_Shakespeare-Bacon_, Sonnenschein, 1900)[19] belonging in
     substance to 1885, would have been published long before the date
     of actual publication but for the appearance of a portent called
     the _Great Cryptogram_, which put me out of love with the subject.
     My earliest suspicions were suggested not by heretics--Mr. W. H.
     Smith, Lord Campbell, Lord Penzance, and the rest--whose opinions
     were absolutely unknown to me, but, if memory serve, by Mr.
     Halliwell-Phillipps and the New Shakspere Society (of which I must
     have been an early member). Since 1885, I have tried to keep in
     touch with what orthodoxy has had to say for itself, and against
     us. Some of our opponents regard Ben Jonson as their prophet. To
     him they fly for counsel and comfort. They throw his sayings at our
     heads whenever they get a chance. In the index to Mr. Lang’s
     _Shakespeare-Bacon and the Great Unknown_ (1912) Ben Jonson’s name
     takes up more space than even Shakespeare’s. According to Mr. Lang
     “it is easy to prove that Will (i.e. the Stratford man) was
     recognised as the author by Ben Jonson.” If this were true there
     would be no Shakespeare question at all, none at least so far as I
     am concerned. But it is not true. Ben Jonson--whose _Works_ ought
     to be familiar to all students of Shakespeare--is in fact what
     lawyers would call a difficult witness, and to assert that he is on
     the side of orthodoxy is simply to beg the question.[20] Some of
     Mr. Lang’s admirers will have it that he has crushed Mr. G. G.
     Greenwood much as a motor-car might crumple up a bicycle. But a
     reading of Mr. Lang’s book leaves me in doubt whether Mr.
     Greenwood’s main contentions (_The Shakespeare Problem Restated_)
     are anywhere shaken, and I am not likely to be very strongly
     biassed in Mr. Greenwood’s favour, seeing that he ostentatiously
     disclaims being a Baconian. Mr. Greenwood indeed may be said to
     have quitted Stratford for good and travelled a great many miles.
     Where he pulls up it is not easy to say, but he does pull up
     somewhere--perhaps where the rainbow ends. Mr. Lang, though he
     refrains from imputing imbecility to Mr. Greenwood, is apparently
     unable to be quite so lenient to Baconians. He explains, or would
     like to explain, the Baconian views of Lord Penzance and Judge Webb
     as partly due to senile decay. How he accounts for the views of
     Lord Campbell,[21] Mr. George Bidder, Q.C., and others of less note
     does not appear. When an unfamiliar theory happens to be at grips
     with a popular one, the habit of thinking and calling an opponent
     infatuated or not more than half mad is easily caught. Bacon did
     not escape it, but he took care to give it a turn which saved it
     from mere _brutalité_. In his day two notable theories were at
     loggerheads, the Ptolemaic and the Copernican, with Galileo for the
     Copernican Achilles. Convinced that the Sun moved round the Earth,
     Bacon smiled at his opponents for doubting the immovability of our
     planet and dubbed them “car-men,” “terrae aurigas,” chauffeurs, in
     other words. No other student of _The Advancement of Learning_
     (1605), written be it remembered when Bacon was fully mature, will
     be surprised at this. Bacon avowedly took “all knowledge for his
     province,” and _The Advancement_ is a comprehensible survey of that
     province--as Bacon understood it. Of mathematics he probably knew
     little or nothing. It is an open question whether Induction owes
     anything to the _Novum Organum_. His acquaintance with the
     phenomena of nature (as distinct from human nature) was derived for
     the most part from poets and men of letters. More significant
     still, his splendid natural gifts were not adapted to scientific
     research. His true province in short was literature, above all,
     poetry. And here it may not be amiss to note (1) that John Dryden’s
     appreciation of Shakespeare--in whom, says J. D., are to be found
     “all arts and sciences, all moral and natural
     philosophy”--coincides as closely as may be with the traditional
     estimate of Bacon, and (2) that Shakespeare seems to have been of
     one mind with Bacon upon the motion of the Sun round the Earth.

     With the tons of printed matter on the Baconian side, my
     acquaintance has always been of the smallest. In a recent pamphlet
     by Sir E. Durning Lawrence, that gentleman with the aid of a
     newspaper called _The Tailor and Cutter_ labours the point, already
     sufficiently obvious, that the figure which does duty as
     frontispiece to the first folio of Shakespeare must have been meant
     for a caricature.

     What the Shakespeare theory is needs no telling. It is developed in
     _Biographies_, _Lives_, and so forth, within the reach of every

     The Bacon theory on the other hand is still in the rough. “You may
     well say that,” an opponent exclaims. “You, Baconians, differ among
     yourselves almost as widely as you differ from us. With some of you
     it is an article of faith that Bacon looked for fame (poetical) to
     after ages, and took unheard-of pains to secure it. Baconians who
     hunt for ciphers, key-numbers and so forth, not only in books, but
     even under the river Wye belong to this class. You on the contrary
     have convinced yourself, I know not how, that Bacon intended his
     secret to die with him. What are we to do? How can we help thinking
     that there is no such thing as a passably authentic Baconian
     theory?” My acquaintance with Baconians, I reply, is far too
     limited to justify any important attempt at sketching an
     authoritative theory. My object is less ambitious. It is to set
     down, as briefly and simply as possible, by way of introduction to
     Ben Jonson, certain probable constituents of a reasonable Baconian

     (_a_) Shakespeare was a pseudonym adopted by Bacon to mask his
     personality whenever he created or “made” for the stage.

     (_b_) The date at which Bacon gave up writing for public theatres
     coincided pretty nearly with the beginning of his rise to high
     place in the State.

     (_c_) By the year 1623 (if not earlier) Bacon’s friends and
     admirers must have become very uneasy about the fate of his still
     unpublished plays. These plays had long been hidden away from the
     public eye. What if the veil should never be lifted? Lest that
     should happen, publication, and the sooner the better, must have
     been eagerly desired by all lovers of literature. The conditions
     were not unpromising. Softened by misfortune, Bacon would be open
     to entreaty, and publication just then would put it in the power of
     influential friends to minister with perfect delicacy to the more
     urgent needs of the fallen man, “old, weak, ruined, in want, a very
     subject of pity.” Provided that his true name could be for ever
     kept from contact with the “family” of her who had once been his
     “mistress,”[22] his consent or rather acquiescence might be hoped
     for. Values it is true, literary and poetical values especially,
     were no longer what they had been in the days of the late Queen.
     But a parent’s affection for the offspring of his brain is never
     perhaps wholly uprooted. Even so, the task was one for a master of
     literary craft. But the thing had to be done and that quickly, if
     it was to be of any use to the great man who, to quote Jonson’s
     _Discoveries_, had “filled up all numbers, and performed that in
     our tongue which may be compar’d or preferr’d either to insolent
     Greece or haughty Rome.” No considerable help was to be looked for
     from Bacon himself. The lie downright was to be avoided if
     possible; but the motive being perfectly clean, economy of truth
     and suggestion of untruth were neither of them barred. The
     pseudonym was ready to hand, and the players Heminge and Condell
     were not likely to deny their names to any prefatory matter
     whatever which the editor might think fit to invent.

     (_d_) Among the notable persons who openly interested themselves in
     the publication of the First Folio were the Earl of Pembroke, the
     Earl of Montgomery, and Ben Jonson. But it is safe to say that they
     were not the only promoters of the undertaking, and in my opinion
     King James (himself a poet in days gone by), Prince Charles, and
     some _alter ego_ of Bacon’s (possibly Sir T. Mathews) were of the

     (_e_) A private printing press may have been among the tools
     habitually employed by the author. Heminge and Condell in the First
     Folio are made to say: “We have scarce received from him
     (Shakespeare) a blot in his papers.” As an allusion to the use of a
     press this statement would pass muster.[23] It occurs in the
     prefatory matter, thoroughly Jonsonian, which seems to have served
     as receptacle for what he preferred to put upon other shoulders
     than his own.

     (_f_) As for Shakspere--the man who emerged from and returned to
     Stratford somehow and somewhen--he while he lived was a nobody
     outside Stratford, and by the year 1622 must have been almost
     forgotten even there, except as a good sort of fellow who, having
     made money in London, had invested it in Stratford with a view to
     enjoying the congenial society of its artless natives. His
     _Apotheosis_ probably began with the publication of Jonson’s own

     “Guesswork!” exclaims one. “Mere figments of the brain!” says
     another. Well, where is the theory which does not consist of such
     material? Take away from any orthodox life-story of Shakspere all
     figments of somebody’s brain, and what remains? According to
     Professor Saintsbury, “almost all the received stuff of his
     life-story is shreds and patches of tradition, if not positive

Here it becomes necessary to say a word in explanation of the present
work. The late Edward Smithson left by his Will a sum of money to myself
and a friend who prefers to remain anonymous, with the suggestion that
it might be made use of in the endeavour to ascertain--to use his own
words--“the true parentage of Shakespeare (not Shakspere),” meaning
thereby, as there can be no doubt, that such sum might be employed, if
thought well--for there was no definite trust attached to it--in
furtherance of the quest of the true “Shakespeare,” whether he might be
found in Francis Bacon (as he himself thought was the case) or in some
other writer of the period in question. Moreover, he had left in type
certain “Baconian” essays, which, although he gave no specific
directions to that effect, it was known that he desired to be published
as his last words on a matter in which he was so deeply interested, and
these, at the request of his wife who survives him, I have supervised
and prepared for publication. Here a difficulty presented itself. Some
of these essays deal, to a certain extent, with the same subject matter,
and, consequently, the reader will find in them a certain amount of
repetition. At first I thought it might be possible to avoid this by
collating the various manuscripts, and fusing them together, as it were,
into one volume. It soon became apparent, however, that such “fusion”
would lead to “confusion,” and would be detrimental to Mr. Smithson’s
work. I trust, therefore, that the recurrence of various arguments, or
sentiments, in the following essays, will meet with generous toleration
on the part of the reader. After all, a certain amount of repetition is,
sometimes, likely to do more good than harm. The famous Mr. Justice
Maule, while still at the Bar, was once arguing a case before three
Judges, one of whom, finding the distinguished counsel somewhat prolix
on this occasion, and inclined to repeat his arguments, exclaimed
testily: “Really, Mr. Maule, that is the third time you have made that
observation!” “Well,” replied Maule, quite imperturbably, “there are
_three_ of your Lordships!” To repeat an argument once for each Judge on
the Bench was, then, in this great advocate’s opinion, quite a right,
proper, and useful thing to do. I am in hopes, therefore, that there may
be the same justification for a considerable amount of repetition in the
case now presented to a court--that of the reading public--which, it is
hoped, may consist of many more Judges than those addressed by Mr.
Justice Maule.

I would make this further observation with regard to Edward Smithson’s
Essays, though perhaps it is hardly necessary to make it. Although it
has been a pleasure to me to edit them, so far as they required editing
at all, I have, of course, no responsibility for the arguments or the
opinions expressed in them. Mr. Smithson, in the passage I have quoted
above from his article in _The Nineteenth Century_, says that I
“ostentatiously disclaim being a Baconian.” I am sorry if that
disclaimer was made “ostentatiously,” but speaking now, after the lapse
of many years, and I trust without a shred of “ostentation”--which,
certainly, would be very much out of place--I must say that I am still
unwilling to label myself as a “Baconian.” It was, I think, Professor
Huxley who said that, if asked whether he believed that there were
inhabitants in Mars, his reply would be that he neither believed nor
disbelieved. He did not know. This is the “agnostic” position in which I
find myself with regard to the hypothesis that Bacon is the true
Shakespeare. I really do not know. Nevertheless, an astronomer who had
adopted Professor Huxley’s position concerning the possible existence of
inhabitants in Mars, might without prejudice to that agnostic position,
find himself impelled to set forth certain arguments which seemed to him
to tell in favour of such a possibility. In the same way it occurred to
me some years ago to write certain essays on the Baconian side of the
case, two of which I now venture to publish as a sequel to those of Mr.
Smithson’s authorship. I recognise that there is much that may quite
fairly and reasonably be urged in favour of the Baconian case. Merely to
ridicule that case appears to me to be indicative of folly rather than
wisdom on the part of those who adopt such an attitude. Nevertheless,
when all is said and done, I am far from thinking that the Baconian
authorship of any of the plays or poems published in the name of
“Shakespeare” has been actually proved. That Francis Bacon had, at any
rate, something to do with the production of some of these plays and
poems is, at least, a very plausible hypothesis. As Professor Lefranc
writes, “Que l’auteur du théâtre Shakespearien ait été en rapport avec
Francis Bacon, c’est ce que nous avons toujours été porté à admettre
pour bien des raisons,”[24] and in support of that hypothesis I may be
said to hold a brief _pro hâc vice_ in the two “Baconian” Essays which I
now venture to publish. But that is all. I endeavour to keep an open
mind upon this, as upon many other doubtful questions. Professor Lefranc
himself has shown, with great learning and conspicuous ability, that a
strong case can be made in favour of William Stanley, Sixth Earl of
Derby, as the author of some, at any rate, of the “Shakespearean” plays,
and more especially of that extraordinary play _Love’s Labour’s
Lost_.[25] But the constructive side of the “Shakespeare Problem” I must
be content to leave to younger and abler men, and such as have much more
time to devote to it than I have. With regard, however, to “the man from
Stratford,” as Mr. Henry James styles him, or the “Stratford rustic,” as
Messrs. Garnett and Gosse do not hesitate to characterize him, _his_
supposed authorship may, and, indeed, must be, set aside as one of the
greatest and most unfortunate of the many delusions which have, from
time to time, imposed themselves upon a credulous and “patient

I cannot conclude this note without a brief reference to two articles
which have lately appeared in the _Quarterly Review_ (October, 1921, and
January, 1922), under the heading of “Recent Shakespearean Research,” by
Mr. C. R. Haines. I can find little or nothing that can be recalled
“recent” in them unless we give a quite unwonted extension to the
meaning of that word. Mr. Haines even includes such _vieux jeu_ as the
Plume MSS. in his “recent” Shakespearean Research, but they certainly
contain some very remarkable statements. I will, however, here content
myself by quoting the following letter which I sent to the _Nation and
Athenæum_ after reading the first of these articles, and which appeared
in that paper on November 26th, last:


     SIR,--In an article under the above heading in the October number
     of the _Quarterly Review_, Mr. C. R. Haines writes (p. 229): “There
     cannot be the smallest doubt that Shakespeare [i.e., William
     Shakspere, of Stratford] was possessed of books at his death. One
     of these, _with his undoubted signature_ [my italics], ‘W. Sh^{r}.’
     is still extant in the Bodleian Library.... A second, Florio’s
     version of Montaigne (1603), bears the signature ‘Wilm Shakspere,’
     which is with some reason regarded as genuine.”

     Now Sir Edward Maunde Thompson, who, I believe, is generally
     considered our foremost “paleographer,” has told us that the
     “Florio’s Montaigne” signature is an “undoubted forgery” (I have in
     my possession a letter of his addressed from the British Museum in
     1904 to the late Sir Herbert Tree, and kindly forwarded by the
     latter to me, in which Sir Edward so states); and the same high
     authority writes in “Shakespeare’s England” (Vol. I, p. 308, n.):
     “Nor is it possible to give a higher character to the signature,
     ‘W^{m} Sh^{e}.’ (not ‘W. Sh^{r},’ as Mr. Haines prints it) in the
     Aldine Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses,’ 1502, in the Bodleian Library.”

     How in the face of this Mr. C. R. Haines can assert that the book
     referred to, in the Bodleian Library, bears Shakespeare’s
     “undoubted signature,” or that the “Florio” signature is with
     reason regarded as genuine, I am quite unable to understand.

     A further question is suggested by the following passage in Mr.
     Haines’s article. Alluding to the suit of “Belott _v._ Mountjoy,”
     he writes: “From this suit we also learn an interesting by-fact,
     namely, that Belott and his wife, after quitting the Mountjoys,
     lived in the house of George Wilkins, the playwright, who had the
     honour of collaborating with Shakespeare in ‘Pericles,’ and
     possibly in ‘Timon.’” Here I would ask what particle of evidence is
     there that the “George Wilkins, Victualler,” mentioned in the
     action, was George Wilkins the pamphleteer and hack-dramatist? It
     is true Professor Wallace has told us that, although “we have known
     nothing about Wilkins personally before,” he thinks that “more than
     one reader with a livelier critical interest in these
     [Shakespearean] plays may be able to _smell the victualler_”
     (_Harper’s Magazine_, March, 1910, p. 509); but, really, we can
     hardly be expected to put implicit confidence in the deductions of
     Dr. Wallace’s olfactory organ. What warrant, then, has Mr. Haines
     to characterize as a “fact” that which is only guess-work and
     assumption? For my part, I can no more “smell the victualler” in
     the author of “The Miseries of Inforst Marriage” than I can “smell”
     (as did Professor Wallace) the French official Herald in Mountjoy
     of Muggle Street!

     One more question and I have done, though many more occur to me.
     Mr. Haines invites our attention to “The Plume MSS., which gave us
     the only glimpse of John Shakespeare at his home, cracking jests
     with his famous son” (p. 241). May I respectfully ask him if it is
     not the fact that this pleasant picture of John Shakespeare rests
     upon the (alleged) statement of Sir John Mennes, and that Sir John
     Mennes was born on March 1st, 1599, whereas John Shakespeare died
     in September, 1601, so that the infant Mennes must, presumably,
     have been taken from his cradle in Kent, in his nurse’s arms, for
     the purpose of interviewing that “merry-cheeked old man,” of which
     interview he made a record from memory when he had learnt to write?

     I trust Mr. Haines will enlighten a perplexed inquirer as to these
     matters in the second article, which, as I gather, he is to
     contribute to the _Quarterly Review_ on the results of “Recent
     Shakespearean Research.”--Yours, &c.,


I turned, therefore, with some interest to Mr. Haines’s second article,
but, alas, I found no enlightenment therein. He has treated my questions
with a very discreet silence. Well, no doubt “silence is golden”--in
some cases. But such is “Shakespearean” criticism at the present day, of
which these articles are a very instructive and characteristic specimen.
I am aware, of course, that if I were to offer a paper in reply to them,
however conclusive that reply might be, and even if it were quite up to
the literary standard of the _Review_ in question, it would be at once
returned to me by the editor--if not consigned to the “W.P.B.”--for the
all-sufficient reason that the writer is guilty of vile and intolerable
heresy (to wit that he shares the conviction of the late Henry
James--and many others alive and dead--that the author of _Hamlet_ and
_Lear_ and _Othello_ was actually a well-educated man, of high
position, and the representative of the highest culture of his day), and
is therefore _taboo_ to the editors of all decent journals. _Id sane
intolerandum!_ Indeed, with the exception of the editor of the _National
Review_--to whom the thanks of all unprejudiced and liberal-minded men
are most justly due--I know of no editor of an English quarterly or
monthly magazine, since the lamented death of Mr. Wray Skilbeck, who
does not maintain this boycott as though it were a matter of moral
obligation, just as but a few years since they boycotted the
Free-thinker and the Rationalist. They freely open their columns to
attacks upon the “Anti-Stratfordian,” but on no account must he be
allowed to reply.

Whether such an attitude redounds to the credit of English literature it
is not for me, a “heretic,” to say. I would only venture to refer the
reader to the observations of Professor Abel Lefranc--a scholar and
critic of European reputation--upon this matter, in whose judgment it
seems that such an attitude with regard to an extremely interesting
literary problem is not only absurdly prejudiced and narrow-minded, but
one which--I tremble as I say it--makes some of our literary highbrows
not a little ridiculous in the eyes of men of common sense and
unfettered judgment.[27]

G. G.


The following extract from Mr. Smithson’s Article in _The Nineteenth
Century_ of November 1913, headed “Ben Jonson’s Pious Fraud,” may well
stand as a preface to his now published Essay on Jonson’s Masque of
_Time Vindicated_, which was written by him in the year 1919. The reader
may also be referred to Chapters VI and VII of his _Shakespeare-Bacon_,
published in 1899.

     It is odd that we Baconians, differing as we do from our opponents
     in so many points, should agree with them so entirely on one--the
     supreme importance of the testimony of Ben Jonson. This paper is
     mainly concerned with two of his utterances, the Ode in the First
     Folio, and the _Prince’s Masque_. Both the one and the other belong
     in point of composition to the same period, 1622-3. We will begin
     with the _Masque_ completed no doubt a few months earlier than the
     Ode. In my opinion they were vital parts of one great scheme of
     which Bacon, i.e., Bacon-Shakespeare, was the subject.

     The genesis of the _Prince’s Masque_ was probably on this wise:
     assuming that Bacon was bent on disowning his plays, the
     publication of them, however generous in intention, could at best
     be only a left-handed compliment to him. Consequently if the scheme
     was to yield any true satisfaction to its originators (or any
     suitable consolation to Bacon regarded as the victim of malicious
     if not disloyal persecution), it would have to give scope for some
     direct (_ad virum_) expression, in their own persons if possible,
     of love and admiration for their hero. A prince brought up in the
     court of James the First would be sure to decide that a Masque was
     the thing and Ben Jonson the man. As the audience would necessarily
     be select and discreet (Court influence being potent), the risk of
     disclosure was not serious; and even if it had been, Jonson’s skill
     would have been equal to the task of hoodwinking any probable
     audience. On this occasion luck helped cunning. In the nick of
     time, George Wither, a “prodigious pourer forth of rhime,” happened
     to publish a volume of _Satirical Essays_ in rhyme, with a
     ridiculous dedication of the thing to himself as patron and
     protector. This I fancy gave Jonson just what he wanted--a red
     herring to draw across the scent.

     The _Prince’s Masque_ had another, and for our purpose far more
     significant title--_Time Vindicated to Himself and His Honours_.
     Time, no Time of long ago, but the age that was then passing, had
     been slandered, taxed with being mean and dull and sterile, and the
     intention of the Masque or Pageant was to refute these calumnies in
     presence, not of an inquisitive world, but of Time’s living
     ornaments (as well as himself). If report speak true, it was
     presented on the 19th of January, 1623--the Sunday in that
     memorable year which fell nearest to Bacon’s birthday--presented in
     circumstances of unprecedented splendour, “the Prince leading the
     Measures with the French embassador’s wife.” The Masque (as given
     in Jonson’s _Works_) is sub-divided into Antimasque and Masque

     Fame, the accredited mouthpiece of the author, is by far the most
     important personage in the Antimasque. Her first business is to
     proclaim that she has been sent to invite to that night’s “great
     spectacle,” not the many, but the few who alone were worthy to view
     it. An inquisitive mob nicknamed The Curious at once begins to
     heckle Fame. A thrasonical personage called Chronomastix, a
     caricature compounded in unequal proportions of George Wither and
     the Ovid Junior of Jonson’s _Poetaster_, then appears on the scene.
     Chronomastix, I may say in passing, seems to have deluded John
     Chamberlain, for he (J. C.) tells a correspondent that Jonson in
     the _Prince’s Masque_ “runs a risk by impersonating George Withers
     as a whipper of the times, which is a dangerous jest.” At sight of
     Chronomastix The Curious jeer at Fame for not recognising their
     idol, while Chronomastix himself has the effrontery to call her his
     “mistress,” and tells her it is for her sake alone that he “revells
     so in rime.” Fame retorts (in effect): “Away thou wretched
     Impostor! My proclamation was not meant for thee or thy kind; goe
     revell with thine ignorant admirers. Let worthy names alone.”
     Chronomastix is furious, brags of his popularity, and appeals to
     The Curious to “come forth ... and now or never, spight of Fame,
     approve me.” The stage direction here runs: “At this, the Mutes
     come in.” The first Mute, an elephantine creature, meant of course
     for Jonson himself, is about to bring forth a “male-Poem ... that
     kicks at Time already.” (Jonson’s Ode to Shakespeare was probably
     ruminated, if not written, at the very time that this “male-Poem”
     was struggling to be born.) The second Mute, a quondam
     Justice--reminding one of Justice Clement in Jonson’s earliest
     comedy--is in the habit of carrying Chronomastix about “in his
     pocket” and crying “‘O happy man!’ to the wrong party, meaning the
     _Poet_, where he meant the subject.” (This I take for a hint at the
     confusion of mind that must have existed among lovers of the drama
     as to who Shakespeare really was.) The succeeding pair of Mutes
     are, the one a printer in disguise who conceals himself and “his
     presse in a hollow tree, and workes by glow-worm light, the moon’s
     too open”; the other a compositor who in “an angle inhabited by
     ants will sit curled whole days and nights, and work his eyes out
     for him.”[29] The fifth Mute is a learned man, a schoolmaster, who
     is turning the works of the caricature Chronomastix into _Latine_.
     (“Some good pens”--as we learn from his letters--were at this time
     engaged in turning Bacon’s _Advancement of Learning_ into Latin,
     the “general language.”) The sixth and last Mute is a “Man of
     warre,” reminiscent of Gullio in the _Return from Parnassus_, who
     it may be remembered worships “sweet Mr. Shakspeare,” talks
     “nothing but Shakspeare,” etc. Not one of the Mutes ever opens his
     mouth, and all that the audience knows of them is told by The
     Curious, whose function is to connect the Antimasque with the
     Masque and act as nomenclators for the elephantine poet and his
     suite. The Mutes came, or seemed to come, at the bidding of
     Chronomastix, in order to snub Fame for having insulted him. But
     Chronomastix himself is the person actually snubbed by them, seeing
     that they ignore him utterly. As for Fame, she treats the Mutes
     very coolly, her only comment being “What a confederacy of _Folly_
     is here!”

     Following hard on this observation (of Fame’s) comes a dance, in
     which The Curious adore Chronomastix and then carry him off in
     triumph. Afterwards The Curious come up again, and one of them,
     addressing Fame, asks: “Now, Fame, how like you this?” Another
     chimes in: “He scornes you, and defies you, has got a _Fame_ of
     his owne, as well as a Faction.” A third adds: “And these will
     deify him, to despite you.” Fame answers: “I envie not the
     _Apotheosis_. ’Twill prove but deifying of a Pompion.” (If The
     Curious had scented what Fame was about, a retort like this would
     have been enough to let them into the secret. But this hint, as
     well as her previous taunt, “My hot inquisitors, what I am about is
     more than you understand,” was lost on them and they continue their
     futile cackle.) Fame gets rid of The Curious at last by means of
     the Cat and Fiddle, who, according to the stage direction, “make
     sport with and drive them away.”

     Relieved of the presence of all who were unfit to view the “great
     Spectacle” now on the point of being exhibited “with all
     solemnity,” Fame at last lets herself go: “Commonly (says she) The
     Curious are ill-natured and, like flies, seek _Time’s_ corrupted
     parts to blow upon, but may the sound ones live with fame and
     honour, free from the molestation of these insects.”

     The stage direction here runs: “Loud musique. To which the whole
     scene opens, where Saturne sitting with Venus is discovered above,
     and certaine Votaries coming forth below, which are the Chorus.”

     Addressing the King, Fame announces that Saturn (Time) urged by
     Venus (emblem of affection) had promised to set free “certaine
     glories of the Time,” which, though eminently fitted to “adorn that
     age,” had nevertheless for mysterious reasons been kept in
     “darknesse” by “Hecate (Queene of shades).” Venus puts in her word;
     assures Time that the liberation of the “glories” is a “worke
     (which) will prove his honour” as well as exceed “men’s hopes.”
     Saturn answers her gallantly and then addressing the Votaries says:
     “You shall not long expect: with ease the things come forth (that)
     are born to please. Looke, have you seene such lights as these?”

     This is the very climax of the Masque. “The _Masquers_ (so runs the
     stage direction) are discovered and that which obscured them
     vanisheth.” The Votaries exclaim with rapture: “These, these must
     sure some wonders be.... What grief, or envie had it beene, that
     these and such had not beene seene, but still obscured in shade!
     Who are the glories of the _Time_ ... and for the light were made!”

     (Who were these “glories” whom Fame, the Prince, Ben Jonson, and
     the rest had with difficulty rescued from the underworld, in whose
     behalf inquisitive intruders had been excluded, about whom absurd
     mistakes of identity had been made, and who according to Fame were
     destined to play parts in the “apotheosis” of a pumpkin?[30] The
     only answer that occurs to me is that the spectacle consisted
     essentially of a selection from among the _dramatis personæ_ who
     were about to figure in the First Folio, especially characters out
     of the sixteen or twenty then unpublished plays.)

     The Masque ends with an exhortation to charity, the final words

            Man should not hunt mankind to death,
              But strike the enemies of man.
            Kill vices if you can:
              They are your wildest beasts:
    And when they thickest fall, you make the Gods true feasts.

     (Bearing in mind that Bacon was probably regarded by the audience
     as an ill-used man, this exhortation sorts well with what I take to
     be the true interpretation of the Masque. So does the motto with
     which it opens. In that motto Martial bids ill-natured censors to
     leave him alone and keep their venom for self-admirers, persons
     vain of their own achievements. From first to last, therefore,
     _Time Vindicated_ seems to have been deliberately adjusted to

     The second part of this quasi-national scheme for doing honour to
     Shakespeare-Bacon falls now to be considered. The First Folio was
     published, it would seem, towards the end of 1623. Though not
     entered on the Stationers’ Register till November, it may well have
     been on the stocks before that, for the difficulties of collecting,
     arranging with interested printers, editing, adapting (_The
     Tempest_ for example), and so forth, must have been extraordinary.
     The volume is introduced by some doggerel, signed “B. I.,” which
     tells the reader:

    This figure that thou here seest put,
    It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
    Wherein, etc.

     Derision and mystification, twin motives or causes of the guy
     Chronomastix, are equally the motives of this grotesque “figure.”
     Whether this were also intended to parody the doggerel inscribed on
     Shakespeare’s gravestone in Stratford Church may be open to doubt.
     That inscription runs:

    Good frend, for Jesus sake forbeare
    To digge the dust encloased heare;
    Bleste be the man, etc.

     Warned by “B. I.” that laughter is in that air, we turn to the
     famous Ode itself which is signed “Ben: Ionson”(not “B. I.”) This
     Poem opens with a significant hint that the “_name_” Shakespeare,
     as distinct from his “book” and his “_fame_,” was a delicate
     subject to handle. After having assured himself with much ado that
     Shakespeare’s (true) name is now in no danger, Jonson proceeds to
     inform him that he (Shakesspeare) is alive still, “a moniment
     without a tombe.” Then comes the line: “And though thou hadst small
     Latin and less Greek,” which is generally mistaken for a
     categorical statement that Shakespeare lacked Latin, whereas it
     should be understood as equivalent to “Supposing thou hadst small
     Latin,” etc. The word “would” in the next sentence (“From thence to
     honour thee I would not seek”) shows this to be the reading.

     Then come the triumphant verses in which, after having challenged
     “insolent Greece or haughtie Rome” to produce a greater than
     Shakespeare, Jonson exclaims:

    Triumph my Britaine, thou hast one to showe,
    To whom all Scenes of Europe homage owe.
    He was not of an age, but for all time!
    And all the Muses still were in their prime,
    When like Apollo he came forth, etc.

     (Compare this with what Jonson wrote of Bacon not many years later:
     Bacon “is he, who hath filled up all numbers; and performed that in
     our tongue, which may be compared or preferred, either to insolent
     _Greece_ or haughty _Rome_. In short, within his view and about his
     times were all the wits born that could honour a language, or helpe
     study. Now things daily fall, wits grow downe-ward, and _Eloquence_
     growes back-ward. So that hee may be named, and stand as the
     _marke_ and _akme_ of our language.... Hee seemed to mee ever, by
     his worke, one of the greatest men, and most worthy of admiration
     that had beene in many Ages.” The similarity between the two
     eulogies strikes one the moment they are brought into
     juxtaposition, and this helps to explain the exclusion of the Ode
     from the collected _Workes of Ben: Jonson: 1640-1_.)

     After this rapturous outburst the mood changes, and we are bored by
     a number of didactic lines about the need of toil and sweat as well
     as genius, “for the good poet’s made as well as born.” The passage
     is one among many symptoms of Jonson’s long-standing quarrel with
     Shakespeareolators--a quarrel which at a later date found
     expression in the _Discoveries_--for refusing to see that the
     carelessness of their idol was at times not less conspicuous than
     his genius. Satisfied with having vindicated his own consistency,
     Jonson goes on to declare that each “well-torned and true-filed”
     line of Shakespeare’s “seemes to shake a lance as brandished at the
     eyes of ignorance.” (Obviously, therefore, Jonson had in view a
     peculiar kind of ignorance, one which the mere technique displayed
     in the First Folio would, but for a misunderstanding, have put to
     flight. The quondam Justice of _Time Vindicated_ who was wont to
     cry “O happy man! to the wrong party,” suggests the
     misunderstanding in question. What, moreover, are we to make of the
     “stage” shaking and “lance” shaking and brandishing? How reconcile
     this punning upon _shake_ and _spear_ with the opening lines of the
     Ode which breathe forth reverence for “thy name.” It had been
     difficult, short of direct statement, to give plainer indications
     that Jonson was out for a juggle with a pair of names, one of them
     an _alias_.)

     On the heels of the lance-brandishing jest comes the passionate
     utterance: “Sweet Swan of Avon, what a sight it were to see thee in
     our waters yet appeare, and make those flights upon the bankes of
     Thames, that so did take Eliza and our James!” (Here _suggestio
     falsi_ is carried to the verge of the lie. What Jonson would have
     us think he felt about Warwick and its Avon is one thing. What he
     actually thought may be gathered from a fragment of rather later
     date in which he jeers at “Warwick Muses” for choosing a
     “Hoby-horse” as their favourite mount--“the _Pegasus_ that uses to
     waite on _Warwick_ Muses,” etc. Be this as it may, the ethics of
     the case would cause him no uneasiness. A secret had to be kept in
     deference to the wishes of one whom Jonson regarded as almost the
     greatest and most admirable of men, one too whose right to an
     incognito no living man of letters was likely to dispute.)

     Jonson’s yearning to see Shakespeare once more “upon the bankes of
     Thames” is suddenly arrested by a vision. Turning his poetic eye
     upwards and catching sight of the constellation Cygnus, he affects
     to be thrilled by the conceit that Shakespeare had been
     metamorphosed, “advanced” to a higher sphere--“the hemisphere” as
     he calls it. (The Ode belongs, as has been said, to 1622-23. Some
     ten or a dozen years earlier, Shakspere, preferring humdrum
     Stratford to London and poetry, had turned his back on the Capital.
     If this yearning had been uttered in 1612-13, instead of 1622-23,
     it might have been meant for the Stratford man. So with the vision
     and the thrill, if we could have referred them to 1616-17, they
     would have provoked no question. But as things stand, question is
     inevitable. Had the yearning been kept under since 1612, and why?
     The vision too and the thrill, what had they to do with the
     testator of 1616? What more likely than that Jonson had in his mind
     the social elevation of the wonderful man who long before 1623 had
     broken his magic wand, doffed his singing robes, and taken leave of
     the stage for ever?)

     The Ode closes on a note akin to despair at the low estate of
     Poetry ever since Shakespeare had ceased to enrich and adorn it. A
     similar note, it will be remembered, marks the close of Jonson’s
     appreciation of Bacon: “Now things daily fall: wits grow
     downe-ward, and Eloquence growes back-ward” etc. Here again the
     thoughts of Jonson were evidently running on Shakespeare; for with
     Jonson Eloquence was Poetry, or rather--to speak by the
     book--Poetry was “the most prevailing Eloquence, and of the most
     exalted Charact.”

     The contention of this article may be compressed into one sentence:
     The _Prince’s Masque_ and the famous Ode to Shakespeare were a
     signal act of homage in two parts to one man, and that man Francis
     Bacon. The proposition does not admit of demonstrative proof. High
     probability is all that is claimed, and if the claim be rejected
     the fault is with the advocate.

Such being the Preface, let us now turn to the further Essay on the
Masque of _Time Vindicated_, which Edward Smithson left for, alas,
posthumous publication.

     Proprietas denique illa inseparabilis, quae _Tempus_ ipsum
     sequitur, ut veritatem indies parturiat. _De Aug: Scientiarum_,

The year 1623 was a memorable one for literature. First in order of date
came a masterpiece of Ben Jonson’s, the Masque of _Time Vindicated_.
This was followed by Bacon’s _De Augmentis Scientiarum_, an expanded
version of his _Advancement of Learning_, written many years earlier.
The finest gift of that year was the First Folio of _Shakespeare_.

_Time Vindicated_ consists of two violently contrasted parts; jest and
earnest, antimasque and masque proper. The most conspicuous figure in
the farcical part is CHRONOMASTIX, an enigmatical creature, so greedy
of publicity (for fame is denied him) that his only “end” is “to get
himselfe a name,” to ingratiate himself with “rumor” (he would have said
_Fame_) as an inspired poet or maker.[31] CHRONOMASTIX is escorted by a
doting mob of inquisitive adorers, the CURIOUS, who are obsessed by the
expectation that they are about to assist at the deification of a great
poet, their own incomparable CHRONOMASTIX as they fondly imagine. FAME,
the mouthpiece of Jonson, derides the CURIOUS at every turn, and when
they tell her that CHRONOMASTIX “has got a _Fame_ of his owne, as well
as a Faction: and these will deifie him, to despite you,” FAME replies:
“I envie not the _Apotheosis_. ’Twill prove but deifying of a Pompion.”
The antimasque closes with the ignominious expulsion of CHRONOMASTIX and
his votaries; obviously because the “great spectacle,” which _Time_
intended that “night to exhibit with all solemnity,” was too august for
prying eyes to see.

The Masque proper opens with an address to King James, the gist of which
is that “certaine glories of the _Time_,” till then artificially
concealed, were about to be freed “at Love’s suit” or intercession
because admirably fitted “to adorne the age.” The climax of the Masque
follows this address almost immediately. The stage direction runs: “The
_Masquers_ are discovered, and that which obscur’d them, vanisheth.” The
CHORUS of the Masque is delighted by the vision of the _Masquers_, and
cries out: “What griefe, or envie had it beene, that these, and such (as
these) had not beene seene, but still obscur’d in shade! Who are the
glories of the Time, ... and for the light were made!”

The essential fiction of _Time Vindicated_, known also as _The Prince’s
Masque_, is that Time had been reproached with incapacity to produce
masterpieces comparable anyway with those of Greece and Rome; and that
the revelation of these Masquers was a triumphant refutation of the
calumny. To suppose that this result was achieved by the Prince and his
companions would be to insult Ben Jonson, the Prince, and all concerned.
The all-important feature of the revelation must have been the _make-up_
of the Masquers.

For several months previous to 1623 Jonson’s mind had necessarily been
concentrated on Shakespeare; collecting manuscripts; squaring rival
publishers; appreciating contributions offered by admirers (Fletcher
perhaps and Chapman among others); amending originals, _Julius Cæsar_
for instance; acting as editor-in-chief of the great book; meditating
his Ode to “Shakespeare,” _the man he lov’d and honoured (on this side
idolatry) as much as any_. (See _Discoveries_, 1641, for this italicised

There are many and various indications to justify the hypothesis that
the Masque as a whole was a tribute of love and admiration for
“Shakespeare.” Here are some of them. (1) _Love_ is the incentive to the
freeing of the “wonders”--the “glories”--that so charmed the CHORUS of
the Masque. Love for “Shakespeare” was probably Jonson’s leading motive
for undertaking all the drudgery connected with the First Folio. (2) The
mention of “envie” by the CHORUS gives one to think. Deprecation of
_envy_ is the burden of the enigmatical and portentous exordium of
Jonson’s Ode to Shakespeare. (3) For reasons unexplained by his
accredited biographers, the plays of Shakespeare had long been held back
or secluded, but were then on the eve of publication or disclosure; not
indeed “cured and perfect of their limbes”--to quote the editorial
figment in the First Folio--but certainly less damaged, and imperfect
than even Jonson, at an earlier stage, can have expected. (4) The
audience of _Time Vindicated_ is given to understand that “the Bosse of
_Belinsgate_,” a nickname for Jonson, “has a male-_poem_ in her belly
now, big as a colt, that kicks at _Time_ already.” In my opinion this
_Time_-defying _poem_ was none other than the famous Ode to Shakespeare.
These indications alone are sufficient to justify the above-mentioned
hypothesis that the Masque as a whole was a tribute of love and
admiration for “Shakespeare.” On no other hypothesis would the title,
_Time Vindicated_, have been appropriate or even excusable. Whereas no
other conceivable title would have been so absolutely appropriate, if
“Shakespeare” were, as I believe he was, the hero of the Masque; in
precisely the same sense, by the way, in which he was the hero of the
Ode; the only Poet worthy to be compared, in the words of the Ode, with
“all that insolent Greece or haughtie Rome sent forth, or since did from
their ashes come.”

Another significant feature of the Masque is the display of anxiety to
safeguard the spectacular revelation of the Masquers from the attentions
of inquisitive observers, an anxiety which requires the drastic
expulsion of the CURIOUS. This anxiety, as I read it, betokened a secret
intimately connected with the First Folio. Before developing this
contention, it may be well to clear the ground, not only of Heminge and
Condell, but also of the Stratford gentleman’s representatives. Heminge
and Condell were probably mere dummies who gave Jonson _carte blanche_
to say in their names anything whether strictly true or not, which he
thought conducive to the end in view; the prefatory address ostensibly
subscribed by them is too Jonsonian to admit of any doubt on this score.
As for “Mr. Shakspere,” he had long been dead and buried, and his
commonplace Will knows nothing of plays, manuscripts, books, or anything
that matters. And as for his representatives--had they been consulted at
all--they would have welcomed, rather than vetoed publicity.

The object of these precautions to secure secrecy must have been a
_persona grata_ to the King, Prince, and Court; this might go without
saying. A significant conjuration against hunting “Mankind to death”
suggests that he was also considered, by the Prince among others, a
victim of malicious persecution. For other clues we have to go back to
the Antimasque. The CURIOUS have contrived to pick up several very
useful items of information about the mysterious object in question.
They know for instance that he is or has been served by printers and
compositors so devoted to him, that they were quite content to “worke
eyes out for him,” in dark holes and corners, the better to “conceale”
them. They know too that a typical admirer of certain “_poems_,” which
he was in the habit of carrying about “in his pocket,” made the
ridiculous mistake of addressing his congratulations “to the wrong
party”: to CHRONOMASTIX, the “subject” of the Antimasque, whom he
mistook for the “_Poet_.” This blunder is crucial. The secret so
ostentatiously safeguarded was a secret of pseudonymity. The _Poet_ of
the Masque (and of our quest)--the very antithesis of the blatant
poetaster of the Antimasque--was a “maker” who concealed his personality
behind a pen-name.

The evidence that Francis Bacon was a “concealed” poet is incontestable.
A private letter of his is conclusive, though Aubrey’s corroborative
evidence is by no means negligible. Moreover, Bacon, besides being a
_persona grata_ at Court, was probably regarded by many notabilities not
as a criminal, but rather as a sufferer for the faults of his day and
generation. Ben Jonson’s views may be gathered from his _Discoveries_
(1641) where he tells that Bacon was “one of the greatest men ... that
had beene in many Ages ... perform’d that in our tongue which may be
compar’d or preferr’d to, either insolent _Greece_ or haughtie
_Rome_.... So that hee may be nam’d and stand as the _marke_ and _akme_
of our language.... In his adversity I ever prayed that _God_ would give
him strength: for _Greatnesse_ he could not want.” Francis Bacon then
was the mysterious poet of _Time Vindicated_. That Bacon was not the
only concealed poet of those days is probably true. London might have
teemed with concealed poets. But the only concealed poet who satisfies
the many other conditions is Francis Bacon. Additional evidence that we
are on the right track is supplied by the Antimasque. The “Nosed” ones
among the CURIOUS have smelt out _apropos_ of CHRONOMASTIX that “a
schoolmaster is turning all his workes into Latin.” Now it happens that
about 1623 Bacon wrote to an intimate friend: “My labours are most set
to have those works ... _Advancement of Learning_ ... the _Essays_
(etc), well translated into Latin by the help of some good pens that
forsake me not.” The _Advancement of Learning_ in Latin form, _De Aug:
Scientiarum_, appeared in 1623, dedicated to Prince Charles the
dedicatee of our Masque (and Camden, Jonson’s “reverend” master may have
helped in the translation--but this is mere conjecture).[32]

The figure CHRONOMASTIX is not easy to range or class; for he is not a
caricature proper. He salutes FAME with impudent assurance (in the
Antimasque) as his “Deare Mistris” and tells her that “he revells so in
rime” for no other “end” than “to serve _Fame_ ... and get himselfe a
name.” FAME, here as elsewhere, the mouthpiece of Jonson, browbeats the
blatant creature: “Away, I know thee not, wretched Impostor, Creatire of
glory, Mountebanke of witte, selfe-loving Braggart, ... Scorne of all
the Muses, goe revell with thine ignorant admirers, let worthy names
alone.” A little abashed by this rebuff, CHRONOMASTIX appeals to the
CURIOUS for sympathy; tells them that his “glorious front and word at
large triumphs in print at my admirers charge”; and finishes his
harangue by this invitation to his friends and admirers: “Come forth
that love me, and now or never, spight of _Fame_, approve me.”
CHRONOMASTIX therefore whatever he be, is the very antithesis of a
self-effacing poet or maker. He belongs I think to the same genus as
those fantastic portraits, _Landru chez lui_, etc., lately exhibited in
Piccadilly by the National Portrait Society, partly to amuse the public
and partly to puzzle quidnuncs. He was a freak in other words, and his
function was to amuse outsiders and put curiosity off the scent.

Turn we now from the figure CHRONOMASTIX, to the “Figure” which mars the
front page of the First Folio: the sorry “Figure ... wherein the Graver
had a strife with Nature to out-doo the life”; as “B. J.” (Ben Jonson)
significantly informs “the Reader.” “B. J.’s” innuendo does not stop
here; he follows it up by explicitly warning all readers to “looke not
on” the “picture,” but on the “Booke.” The warning seems almost
superfluous; for the effigy cannot be identified with portrait or bust
of any human being. Twin brother to CHRONOMASTIX, the thing is a freak
expressly designed to prevent inquisitive persons, ourselves among
others, from scrutinising the fiction then launched on the world.

Reverting once more to the Antimasque and the orgiastic dance at the end
of which the CURIOUS carry away their deity CHRONOMASTIX: one or other
of the deluded adorers taunts FAME in these words: “He scornes you and
defies you, h’as got a _Fame_ on’s owne, as well as a Faction, and these
will deifie him, to despite you.” FAME replies: “I envie not the
_Apotheosis_. ’Twill prove but deifying of a Pompion.” When these words
were spoken, it is quite possible that neither the figure, nor the Ode,
nor the prefatory addresses had reached finality. But Jonson’s inside
knowledge of the whole project would enable him to forecast important
results. One of these results, in my opinion, was that a Pumpkin would
be deified by posterity. In this forecast a note of misgiving is
perceptible enough; but of spitefulness there is hardly a trace; for
after all, the pumpkin is a _deserving_ vegetable--the stress here is on
the word _deserving_, since that is the epithet by which the surviving
Burbages, in perfect good temper, described the deceased Shakspere. This
apotheosis idea, I may add, is also prominent in the Shakespeare Ode at
the point where Jonson pulls himself up: “But stay, I see thee to the
hemisphere advanced and made a constellation there.” In the Ode however
the apostrophe--half banter, half congratulation--is entirely free from
regret or misgiving.

From the point of view of the privileged few who were in the secret,
_Time Vindicated_ and the Shakespeare Folio were, I consider, parts of a
superlative Act of Homage to the greatest of modern poets. From Jonson’s
special point of view they were a pious fraud, in which at the behest of
disinterested love and admiration for Bacon, he consented to undertake
the chief rôle. After the death of Bacon Jonson’s mood may have
undergone some modification. Certain it is that the Ode, his finest
poem, is excluded from the first edition, Vol. II, of his collected
Works, and that in his _Discoveries_ he tells “posterity” certain truths
about Shakespeare which were not even suggested in the Ode.

Hitherto our thoughts have been preoccupied with Ben Jonson. They shall
now be devoted more closely to Bacon and the state of his mind and
feelings about 1623. In a pathetic letter of his to King James, Bacon
comforts himself with the knowledge that his fall was not the “act” of
his Sovereign, and then proceeds: “For now it is thus with me: I am a
year and a half old in misery ... mine own means through mine own
improvidence are poor and weak.... My dignities remain marks of your
favour, but burdens of my present fortune. The poor remnants ... of my
former fortunes in plate and jewels I have spread upon poor men unto
whom I owed, scarcely leaving myself bread.... I have often been told by
many of my Lords (of your Council), as it were in excusing the severity
of the sentence, that they knew they left me in good hands.... Help me,
dear Sovereign ... so far as I ... that desire to live to study, may not
be driven to study to live.”

Here it is to be observed that the proceeds of sale of the Shakespeare
Folio, “printed at his admirers’ charge,” would help towards relieving
the fallen man’s pecuniary distress, whilst the august compliment
conveyed by the Masque would tend to soothe his lacerated feelings.

The attitude of a concealed poet to his art is rarely explicit, or
concealment would be next to impossible. In this connection I ask leave
to quote from an Essay, _Shakespeare-Bacon_, by E. W. S., published many
years ago.[33] The essayist, after having stated that Bacon’s
qualifications for dramatic work were of a high order, and that some at
least of his recognised Elizabethan output actually were dramatic, runs
on: “Moreover, curious as is Bacon’s manner when treating of ‘poesie,’
his manner when dealing with dramatic poetry is more curious still. The
_Advancement of Learning_ though not published till the reign of her
successor, belongs to the age of Queen Elizabeth, in conception,
observation, reflection, and substance generally. In this work, after
having mapped out the “globe” of human knowledge into three great
continents of which poetry is one, he finds himself face to face with
dramatic poetry. Compelled to give the thing a name, he rejects the
almost inevitable word _dramatic_, in favour of the distant word
_representative_. And what he permits himself to say about
‘representative’ poetry, in that the natural, and appropriate place for
saying it, seems intended to suggest--what of course was absurdly
untrue--that he was all but a stranger to anything in the nature of a
dramatic performance. The suggestion too is strangely out of keeping
with passages of unexpected occurrence in other parts of the book. For
instance, in handling what he calls the ‘Georgics of the mind,’ he
describes poetry (along with history) in terms which so admirably
characterise the very best dramatic poetry of the age, that it is
difficult to resist the conviction that he must have been thinking
chiefly of the masterpieces of Shakespeare. ‘In poetry,’ says he, ‘we
may find painted forth with great life, how affections are kindled and
incited; and how pacified and refrained; and how again contained from
act and further degree; how they disclose themselves, how they work, how
they vary, how they gather and fortify, how they are inwrapped one with
another, and how they do fight and encounter one with another ... how to
set affection against affection, and to master one by another; even as
we use to hunt beast with beast,’ etc. Another of these unexpected
passages seems to imply that Bacon, writing at the close of the
Elizabethan epoch, was so convinced of the paramount importance of
dramatic poetry, as to have forgotten that there was any poetry at all,
except what had to do with the theatre. In this passage Bacon has been
claiming that ‘for expressing the affections, passions, corruptions, and
customs, we are more beholding to the poets than to the
philosophers’--at this point he suddenly breaks off with an ironical:
‘But it is not good to stay too long in the theatre.’[34]

A question that has probably been intriguing some of my readers is: Why
did Bacon abandon the poet’s Crown to which his genius entitled him?
From among the complex of conceivable reasons it will suffice to pick
out three. (1) In dedicating the _De Augmentis Scientiarum_ to Prince
Charles, 1623, Bacon writes: “It is a book I think will live, and be a
citizen of the world which English books are not.” Again, a letter, of
about the same date, to an intimate friend contains this passage: “For
these modern languages will play the bank-rowtes with books; and since I
have lost much time with this age, I would be glad, as God shall give me
leave, to recover it with posterity.” “_Play the bank-rowtes_” means, I
suppose, put a stop to the currency; and “_lost much time with this
age_” is probably an allusion to pseudonymous work. These and similar
passages justify the conclusion that by this time Bacon had convinced
himself that English as a literary language, was doomed to go under to
Latin. (2) The poet in Bacon, as in Wordsworth and others, had expired
with the passing of youth. (3) Bacon imagined himself the Discoverer of
a New Instrument or method, by which human life would be so beatified
that posterity would revere him as one of its greatest benefactors; _if_
only men of science (such as Harvey) were for ever deprived of excuse
for pooh-poohing the _Novum Organum_, merely because its inventor was
none other than Shakespeare, sonneteer and dreamer of dreams.

       *       *       *       *       *

[_Note by the Editor_]. There appears to be no doubt that in
“Chronomastix” Jonson was lampooning George Wither, whose “Abuses Stript
and Whipt, or Satiricall Essayes,” was published by Budge in 1622,
(there had been an earlier edition in 1613) and was followed by a poem
called “The Scourge.” In “Abuses Stript and Whipt” we find the following

    And though full loth, ’cause their ill natures urge,
    I’ll send abroad a satire with a scourge,
    That to their shame for this abuse shall strip them,
    And being naked in their vices whip them.
    And to be sure of those that are most rash
    Not one shall ’scape him that deserves the lash.

There is also an Epigram to “Time,” in which Wither asks:

    Now swift-devouring, bald, and ill-fac’t Time,
    Dost not thou blush to see thyself uncloak’t?

Another Epigram is to “Satyro-Mastix,” the last lines of which are:

    Then scourge of Satyrs hold thy whip from mine,
    Or I will make my rod lash thee and thine.

“Withers Motto” (1621) was “_nec habeo nec careo nec curo_.” This was
satirised by John Taylor, the Water-Poet, in the words “et habeo, et
careo, et curo,” and is obviously alluded to in Jonson’s Masque, where
“_Nose_” says “The gentleman-like _Satyre_ cares for nobody.”

Wither, moreover, quarrelled with the Stationers’ Company and the
printers (who disapproved of his independent method of business), which
also was a subject for Jonson’s ridicule in the Masque:

    One is his Printer in disguise, and keepes
    His presse in a hollow tree, where to conceale him,
    He workes by glow-worme light, the moon’s too open, etc., etc.

In the _Dict: of National Biography_ we are told that “Jonson quarrelled
with Alex. Gill the elder for having quoted Wither’s work with approval
in his ‘Logonomia Anglica’ (1619), and Jonson revenged himself by
caricaturing Wither under the title of ‘Chronomastix’ in the Masque of
_Time Vindicated_ presented at Court 1623-4,” and allusion is made to
Jonson’s sarcasm with regard to Wither’s quarrel with his printers.

Further, we find John Chamberlain writing to Sir Dudley Carleton, on
January 25, 1622-3, as follows with reference to the Masque of _Time
Vindicated_: “Ben Jonson they say is like to hear of it on both sides of
the head for personating George Withers, a poet or poetaster he terms
him, as hunting after some, by being a Chronomastix, or whipper of the
time, which is become so tender an argument that it must not be admitted
either in jest or earnest.” (_The Court and Times of James the First._
Ed. 1848. Vol. II, p. 356.)

These facts seem to have been well known to Mr. Smithson, for not only
does he quote John Chamberlain’s letter in his _Nineteenth Century_
article, where he expresses the opinion that “Chronomastix” is “a
caricature compounded in unequal proportions of George Wither and the
Ovid Junior of Jonson’s _Poetaster_ (as to which see an interesting
chapter in _Shakespeare-Bacon_, headed “A Caricature of some Notable
Elizabethan Poet,” together with the chapter following), but among his
manuscripts were found certain Notes with reference to George Wither
which I cite lower down. It will be seen, however, that he was convinced
that Jonson, while lampooning and ridiculing Wither, the scourger of the
time, had for his main object the glorification of the Shakespearean
drama under cover of a _Masque_--those glorious works wherein “Time,”
which had been vilified by Wither, found its all-sufficient and splendid

The following are Mr. Smithson’s Notes to which I have made reference:

“Wither sends

    Abroad a Satyr with a scourge;
    That to their shame for this abuse shall strip them,
    And being naked in their vices whip them.
              (_Abuses Stript and Whipt._ Ed. 1622, p. 305.)

He gives Justices of Peace a warning lest they be put out of the
Commission for partiality (p. 318). Ruffling Cavaliars also are touched
(p. 320).

In the address to the reader of _Shepheard’s Hunting_, Wither to some
extent recants his disgust at Time--says he has been ‘persuaded to
entertain a better opinion of the Times than I lately conceived, and
assured myself, that Virtue had far more followers than I supposed.’
Curiously enough, therefore, Wither’s frame of mind in 1622[36] seems to
have been similar to that of Jonson in _Time Vindicated_. The
coincidence would help perhaps to mislead the judgment of the time, and
may have so commended itself to Jonson.

I don’t think Wither knows why, or by whom he was persecuted. (See
Philarate to Willy in Eclogue I, and last page but two of ‘Address to
the Reader.’)

He calls Time ‘bald and ill-fac’d,’ ‘shameless time,’ speaks of his
‘deformities,’ ‘blockish age,’ that ‘truth’ in this age gets ‘hatred,’
‘while love and charitie are fled to heaven.’

He took upon him to scourge Time, and he was certainly arrogant enough,
in form at any rate, for Chronomastix.

I therefore take him to have been the stalking-horse or blind used by
Jonson, the Prince, and some others, to conceal the true object.”


     [_The Notes of this Essay (except those inserted by the Editor)
     which are denoted by Roman Numerals, will be found at the end of

The recent discovery of an entry in a domestic expenses account book of
the Mannours or Manners family has attracted some notice. According to
Mr. Sidney Lee[37] the terms of the entry, under the head “Payments for
household stuff, plate, armour,” etc., are: “1613. Item 31 Martii to Mr.
Shakspeare in gold about my Lorde’s impreso [the terminal _o_ should be
_a_] xliiij^{s}., to Richard Burbadge for paynting and making yt in gold
xliiij^{s.}. [Total] iiij^{li}viij^{s.}” An impresa Camden describes as
“a device in picture with his motto or word borne by noble and learned
personages to notifie some particular conceit of their own,” its nearest
modern analogue being the book-plate.[38] Burbage seems to have made,
as well as painted, the thing. What there was for Mr. Shakespeare to do
is by no means clear. The motto, if motto there were, would to a
certainty be designated by the “noble and learned personage” himself.
Moreover, some three years later (1616) Burbage appears to have executed
a similar commission for the same Earl of Rutland, entirely without
assistance. That the clerk who made the entry denied to Burbage the
“prefix of gentility” which he bestowed upon “Mr. Shakespeare” is a fact
of trivial import. If--to take an imaginary case--Nick Bottom had been
living “on his means” at South Place, Stratford-at-the-Bow, this clerk
would have dubbed him Mr. Bottom as a matter of course in the same
circumstances. Mr. Lee is of opinion that “the recovered document
discloses a capricious sign of homage on the part of a wealthy and
cultured nobleman to Shakespeare.” If he had suggested that the
two-guinea payment to “Mr. Shakespeare” may have been preceded by a
hearty meal in the buttery, without exciting any feeling of resentment
on the part of either recipient that the meal was not served in the
dining-hall, I should have been more disposed to agree with him.

The situation is a curious one. But any serious discussion of it would
be premature until we are actually in possession of the “rich harvest of
new disclosures” which Mr. Lee teaches us to expect.[39] Meanwhile the
Bacon theory regarded as a development of the hypothesis that
Shakespeare was a pen-name of Bacon’s is certainly not crushed, if it
be not actually encouraged, by this Belvoir disclosure, since no one in
his senses would think of denying the existence of “Mr. Shakespeare” or
his acquaintance with Richard Burbage.

In Gilbert Wats’ English version (1640) of Bacon’s _Instauratio Magna_,
Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam, Vicont St. Alban, who is designated as
“Tertius a Platone Philosophiæ Princeps,” is represented pen in hand,
tall hat on head, a voluminous lace ruff round his neck, in the act of
inditing: _Mundus Mens Connubio Jungam Stabili_.[40] On the opposite
page two worlds, a _Mundus Visibilis_ and a _Mundus Intellectualis_ are
shown clasping hands across space, in order, no doubt, to give emphasis
to the idea of a world and mind _connubium_. The picture typifies the
conception of Bacon which has prevailed ever since. A skater on his way
to the Engadine declared he was at a loss to understand why anyone ever
went to Switzerland in summer for _pleasure_. Some of us would have been
tempted to smile at the remark. But the prevailing conception of Bacon
is probably quite as inadequate as this skater’s conception of
Switzerland. The age of Queen Elizabeth probably had no presage--not a
hint--that Francis Bacon would ever develop into a “prince of
philosophy.” In my opinion the Bacon known to it was not a natural
philosopher{1} even in aspiration, but an artist--an artist in words,
who, if circumstances, more especially family circumstances, had been
favourable any time between 1580 and 1590 would have openly confessed
that poetry was his ideal, and declared himself a poet. As it was, he
took the line of least friction, and sooner or later acquired the title
of “concealed poet.” How far the concealment extended in the early days
it is impossible to discover. To Sir Philip Sidney,{2} Sir J.
Harrington, and other accomplished young men of their class, the true
state of the case was doubtless an open secret.

Professor Nichol (_Francis Bacon_, Part I), though he thinks that Bacon
“did not write Shakespeare’s plays,” considers that “there is something
startling in the like magnificence of speech in which they find voice
for sentiments, often as nearly identical when they anticipate as when
they contravene the manners of thought and standards of action that
prevail in our country in our age. They are similar in this respect for
rank,” etc. Shelley discerned that Bacon “was a poet,” and Macaulay
perceived that the “poetical faculty” was “powerful” in Bacon. Taine
held that Bacon “thought as artists and poets habitually think,” that he
was one of the finest of a “poetic line,” that “his mental _procédé_ was
that of the creator, not reasoning but intuition.” Bacon, then, was
essentially a poet, belonged to the same race as Sidney for example.
Sidney died young, and his poetic activity ceased some time before he
died. Yet Sidney’s poetical achievement has come down to our day. What
has become of Bacon’s poetical achievement? Was it also concealed?

Hallam, in the _Introduction to the Literature of Europe_, confessed he
was unable to identify “the young man who came up from Stratford, was
afterwards an indifferent player in a London theatre, and retired to his
native place in middle life, with the author of Macbeth and Lear.”
Emerson (_Representative Men_) declared: “The Egyptian verdict of
Shakespearean societies comes to mind, that Shakespeare{3} was a jovial
actor and manager. I cannot marry this fact to his verse. Other
admirable men have led lives in some sort of keeping with their thought;
but this man in wide contrast.” It would be easy to adduce other
evidence pointing in the same direction. But Hallam and Emerson,
unexceptionable witnesses, will serve the turn. On one side, then, we
are brought into contact with a poet or maker whose poems elude us. On
another side we are confronted with poems whose poet or maker eludes
us--some of us. What if Shakespeare were to Bacon what Callisthenes,
Aristophanes’ actor-friend, was to Aristophanes? Suppose by way of
working hypothesis that such was the case, that Shakespeare was a
pen-name of Bacon’s. In that case his ultimate intention as to dropping
or retaining the mask of pseudonymity would be affected by various
considerations extending far beyond the family circle. (a) To be
“rewarded of” the stage-manager was probably nothing less than degrading
to a man of good birth. (b) The conditions under which the hypothetical
Shakespeare must have written, were unfavourable to careful work. A man
who is half ashamed of what he is doing is hardly likely to do his best,
especially when more or less concealed. Certainly many of the plays
suffer from faulty construction, inconsistency, obscurity, bombast and
so forth, and what is more important, Shakespeare himself{4} was
probably quite as conscious of these blemishes as were any of his
critics. (c) With us the daily paper exerts a certain influence on
public opinion. In Bacon’s day the theatre was one of the most effective
means of appeal to any considerable audience, and in that way the name
Shakespeare probably got entangled in controversies with which Bacon
felt no desire to meddle autonymously.{5} (d) The moral tendency of
Shakespearean work published before 1609, _Venus and Adonis_ for
example, was not such as to forward any of the hypothetical author’s
schemes for place. (e) Early in the seventeenth century Bacon seems to
have convinced himself that for purposes of moment Latin was destined to
supplant English. He was haunted moreover by fear of impending civil
commotions, and augured ill for that “fair weather learning which
needs the nursing of luxurious leisure.” (f) Had there been no
other considerations than these, Bacon, even after he became
Solicitor-General, might have been induced himself to give to the world
some at least of his hypothetical offspring really “perfect of their
limbes as he conceived them.” It is not to be supposed that he would
ever have claimed all or nearly all that passed for Shakespeare’s. Much
would have been disavowed altogether, and many of the more inconvenient
things would, quite fairly, have been ascribed to collaboration,
misprints, inexperience, haste, carelessness, etc. But the action of
the ill-conditioned group which in 1609 engineered the publication of
the _Sonnets_ of Shakespeare, must have greatly reduced the chance that
Bacon would ever consent to edit anything of Shakespeare’s. So far as
intimate friends were concerned, the piratical publication, however
irritating,{6} would be comparatively innocuous, and as for charitable
strangers, they might be trusted to discover extenuating circumstances
in the youth of the author and the fashion of the time. But the great
indiscriminating public, unaccustomed to make allowances, and led by an
enemy like Sir Edward Coke, would chortle over the self-revelations
suggested by the book, and put the worst construction on everything.
Rather than face such a prospect, Bacon would be willing to pay almost
any price, and the price he may be supposed to have paid was to seem to
know nothing and care nothing about “Shakespeare” or anything that was
his. Adherence to this policy would not necessarily involve any visible
change of attitude or conduct. On the contrary, the hypothetical
Shakespeare would be urged to hold on his usual course by the fear that
any sudden stoppage, of the supply of plays for instance, might arouse
suspicions which otherwise would have slept. Parenthetically it may be
observed that Bacon had already known what it was to give to the world
things--the Essays of 1597--which he would rather have kept back, but
was compelled to publish because “to labour the state of them had been
troublesome and subject to interpretation.”

The parting between Prospero and Ariel has been thought to adumbrate
the farewell of Shakespeare, whoever he was, to Poetry--a view that is
plausible enough. It would explain the position assigned to _The
Tempest_ in the First Folio, and suggest an interesting answer to the
question why Prospero, who “prized his books above his dukedom”
threatened--only threatened--to drown a particular “book.” But no one
knows within several years when _The Tempest_ was written. Nor is it at
all certain that the poem was wholly Shakespeare’s.[41] For anything we
know to the contrary, the editor of the First Folio may have
interpolated the striking invocation--to mention one passage only--which
begins: “Ye elves of hills.”{7} _The Tempest_ then, does not enable us
to fix the date of Shakespeare’s practical renunciation of poetry. I
say, _practical_ renunciation, because certain passages in _Henry the
Eighth_ which feelingly represent the insecurity of greatness might _ex
hypothesi_ have been contributed by Bacon just after his fall, though
his practical renunciation could hardly have taken place later than
1612.[42] But whether the date were 1612 or somewhat earlier, the
hypothetical Shakespeare was amply provided with other interests and
pursuits. (a) Rhetoric had long held a high place in his affections.
“Rhetoric and Logic,” says he, “these two, rightly taken, are the
gravest of the sciences, being the arts of arts,”{8} and what excellence
he attained in the former of these arts we know from Ben Jonson. (b)
Though poesy, the recreation of his leisure--Bacon would never have
allowed that it was anything but a recreation--were denied him, prose,
splendid inimitable prose was his to command. (c) The delightful days
and months and years which he had spent with poets both ancient and
modern, particularly Ovid,{9} might be turned to philosophical account.
(d) Historical projects allured him. In the _Advancement of Learning_, a
history--a prose history no doubt--of England from the “Wars of the
Roses” downwards is noted as a desideratum, and seems to have been
begun. _The History of the Reign of King Henry VII_ (1622), however, is
the only portion of the desiderated history which reached completeness.
(e) Legislative projects also attracted him, less strongly no doubt than
historical. (f) But at this time the _Great Instauration_ had possessed
itself of the chief place in his affection: “Of this I can assure you
that though many things of great hope decay with youth,{10} yet the
proceeding in that work doth gain upon me, upon affection and desire,”
he writes, about 1609, to his bosom friend Matthew. The instauration,
say rather transfiguration, of human knowledge--that was the vision
which now fascinated him. When the spell began to work it is difficult
to determine. Early in the seventeenth century his conception of human
“learning” or “knowledge” or “science”--three words to which he attached
practically the same meaning--included Poetry, not as an appendix, but
as one of three fundamental constituents. Perhaps the word “culture,”
with “barbarism” for antithesis, would now come nearest to what he then
meant by learning. The _Advancement of Learning_ is the work not of a
scholar in the technical sense, but of an omnivorous apprehensive
imaginative reader. It is the expression by an artist in words of the
serried thoughts of a mind steeped in poetry, deep versed in human
nature, but certainly not versed in natural philosophy as understood by
his contemporaries--Galileo for example, Gilbert and others. A passage
in the first of its two books runs: “No man that wadeth in learning or
contemplation thoroughly but will find printed in his heart _nil novi
super terram_.” It is incredible that Bacon can at this time have caught
so much as a glimpse of the “New Logic,” “New Art,” or--to give its
latest name--_Novum Organum_, which he afterwards declared was “quite
new, totally new in every kind.”[11] But though the _Advancement_ was in
fact a plea for culture, in Bacon’s intention it was a serious attempt
to grapple with philosophy, an attempt so serious that he afterwards
declared the _Novum Organum_ itself to be the “same argument sunk
deeper.” Moreover, in my opinion, it was his first serious attempt in
that direction, hence its importance to any right apprehension of his

About the year 1609, the philosophical enthusiasm reached a climax.
_Cogitata et Visa de Interpretatione Naturæ_, _Redargutio
Philosophiarum_, _Sapientia Veterum_, and other pieces, some of which
Boswell, one of his executors, seems to have called _impetus
philosophici_, were thrown off in rapid succession. As early as 1610,
however, he solicits the King to employ him in writing a history of his
Majesty’s “Time,” a hint surely that the philosophical impetus had begun
to abate. The change, whether it began that year, or a year or two
later, is intelligible enough. Science had not claimed him her
deliverer. Harvey is reported to have sneered at his philosophy. Gilbert
and Napier may have started the sneer; for Bacon obviously undervalued
mathematics, and spoke almost contemptuously of Gilbert (whom Galileo
fully appreciated). About this time, too, he probably began to suspect
that somewhere in the _New Art_, there lurked a defect which would have
to be cured before the apparatus would work. The truth is that in the
philosophical work published or privately circulated by Bacon before
1610, though there was much to appeal to the æsthetic side of the human
mind, much to stimulate the cultivated layman’s admiration for
knowledge, for the devoted student of science there was very little help
of a constructive kind, the only kind of help he really needed.{13}

The _Sapientia Veterum_, 1609, is based on a number of myths selected
from the poets and fabulists of antiquity in virtue of a certain
congruity with Bacon’s intuitions and predilections. _The Sylva Sylvarum
or Natural History_, his latest work, is based on an assemblage of what
by way of distinction might be called facts. The dissonance between the
two works is amazing. The _Sapientia_, which was intended to bespeak a
favourable hearing for the New Art, busies itself with venerable
fictions. From the _Natural History_ on the other hand, poetry and fable
were to have been rigorously excluded. Bacon’s biographer, Rawley, wrote
for the first edition of the work (1627), an address “To the Reader,”
which winds up: “I will conclude with an usual speech of his lordship’s;
that this work of his Natural History is the world as God made it, and
not as man made it; for it hath nothing of imagination.”

Several years before the _Sylva_ was written, Galileo had censured as
paper philosophers certain contemporaries of his, who set about the
investigation of nature as if she were a “book like the Æneid or the
Odyssey.” One at least of Bacon’s intimate friends, Sir Tobie Mathew,
was no stranger to Padua and Florence, and it is quite possible that he
may have informed Bacon of these strictures of Galileo’s not long after
they were uttered. But, be this as it may, a momentous change must have
taken place after 1609, not in Bacon’s aspiration to be the greatest of
human benefactors to man, but in his conception of the means by which
his vast expectations were to be realised. Had the change been less than
“fundamental,” “a good and well ordered Natural History” would not have
been described in the _Phenomena Universi_ (1622), as holding the “keys
both of sciences and of operations.” After 1612 Bacon became for some
eight or nine years so immersed in affairs, as Attorney-General, Privy
Councillor--no sinecure then--Lord Chancellor, etc., that it must have
been impossible for him to give to his New Logic a tithe of the
attention it required. “At this period,” says Dr. Abbott: “there is a
great gap in the series of Bacon’s philosophical works. In 1613 he was
appointed Attorney-General, and from that time till 1620 no literary
work of any kind published or unpublished is known to have issued from
his pen. All that he did was apparently to rewrite repeatedly and revise
the _Novum Organum_.{14} The _Organum_ made its appearance in 1620 with
a dedication to the King by no means confident of either the worth or
the use of his offering. But as he says in the _proemium_ that “all
other ambition whatsoever was in his opinion lower than the work in
hand,” one would infer that his zeal for philosophy had begun to revive
even before the tragedy of 1621. The remaining five years of the great
man’s life--“a long cleansing week of five years’ expiation and more,”
he calls it--were more or less distracted with anxieties in no way
connected with philosophy. He hoped, nevertheless, to present the old
King with a “good history of England, and a better digest” of the laws,
and the young King with a history of the “time and reign of King Henry
the Eighth.”{15} But after the most distressful _sequelæ_ of his fall
had been relieved, his grandiose, imposing scheme for the renovation or
transfiguration of philosophy must have regained the position it had
held some ten or a dozen years earlier. Without it, life for him would
have been a mean and melancholy failure. “God hath framed the mind of
man as a mirror or glass capable of the image of the universal world,
and joyful to receive the impression thereof ... and not delighted in
beholding the variety of things and vicissitude of times, but raised
also to find out the ordinances which throughout all those changes are
infallibly observed.”{16} This capacity, this wonder-working exaltation
of the mind had been neglected, and all but lost, by reason of the
interference of Aristotle and other insolent dictators, and Bacon
imagined himself destined to rehabilitate it, to usher in a new era, to
endow the human race, not with knowledge alone, but with legions of
beneficent arts,{17} and for reward to go down to the ages as
pre-eminently the Friend of man.{18} Compared with a vision so
magnificent, his youthful dream of a poet’s immortality would seem
paltry, stale, and unprofitable. No wonder the old love, poetry, was
forsaken. The wonder would have been if for the sake of the old love he
had done or permitted or countenanced anything which he thought might
possibly prejudice posterity against the new love, his “darling

The more vulnerable points of this tentative theory{20} of Bacon’s
relation to poetry seem to be three. First, Bacon’s final perseverence
in ignoring his hypothetical offspring. Second, his _Translation of
certain Psalms into English Verse_ which, according to Dr. Abbott, “so
clearly betrays the cramping influence of rhyme and verse, that it could
hardly have been the work of a true poet even of a low order.” Third,
the detailed treatment of poetry in the _Advancement of Learning_ is
essentially and flagrantly defective. Objection number one--Bacon’s
persistent neglect of the plays--is easily answered.{21} The reasons for
continuing to ignore them may in the aggregate have been even more
cogent at the close, than at the opening of his career. For a Lord
Chancellor, one who had been a “principal councillor and instrument of
monarchy,” to publish not verses merely, but common plays, would have
been a disgrace to the peerage, and ingratitude, if not disloyalty, to
the sovereign to whom he owed his many promotions. Amongst the reasons
for concealment, which did not exist at the opening of life, two more
may be mentioned: one, the publication of the _Sonnets_, has been
sufficiently discussed; the other, solicitude for the _Great
Instauration_, has not. In casting about for an explanation of his
frigid reception by contemporary science, Bacon must have hit upon a
suspicion, shared maybe by King James,{22} that his true greatness after
all lay rather in the domain of poetry than in that of philosophy.{23}
Disappointed in his contemporaries, he would turn to the ages unborn,
resolved that they at any rate should not start with a bias against his
message. Any suggestion therefore, that he should allow his true name to
be put to a volume of poetry, so distinguished from versified theology,
would be unconditionally rejected.

To the objection founded on the _Translation of certain Psalms into
English Verse_ several answers suggest themselves. No artist is always
at his best, least of all in illness and old age, and the _Translation_
belongs to 1624 when Bacon was recovering from an attack of a painful
disease. In the delightful preface to his select edition of
Wordsworth’s Poems, Matthew Arnold writes: “Work altogether inferior,
work quite uninspired, flat and dull, is produced by him (Wordsworth)
with evident unconsciousness of its defects and he presents it to us
with the same faith and seriousness as his best work.” Yet no competent
judge of poetry would think of denying that Wordsworth was a “true poet”
of a “high order.”[43] Again, conventional feeling may have been partly
responsible for the dullness of this _Translation_. Dr. Abbott surely
underrates the consequence of his admission that “theological verse like
theological sculpture might seem to require something of the archaic,
and a close adherence to the simplicity of the original prose.” Grant
that Bacon was under the influence of some such feeling, and the
objection we are considering is virtually answered, such was “Bacon’s
versatility in adapting language to the slightest shade of circumstance
and purpose.” Once more, the evidence that Bacon was a “concealed poet”
is strong enough to hold its own against every argument that can fairly
be urged against it, and to concealment dissimulation is apt to prove
indispensable. It was so considered by Bacon, and Bacon’s experience of
the device was extensive, if not unique. In a famous Essay he carefully
distinguishes between Simulation and Dissimulation, and lets it be seen
that he regarded the former as positively culpable, the latter as not
only permissible but necessary.{24} A man dissimulates when he “lets
fall signs or arguments that he is not that he is.... He that will be
secret must be a dissembler in some degree. For men are too cunning to
suffer a man to keep an indifferent carriage.... They will so beset a
man with questions and draw him on and pick it out of him, that without
an absurd silence he must show inclination one way.... So that no man
can be secret except he give himself a little scope of dissimulation;
which is as it were but the skirts or train of secrecy.” The application
is obvious. Bacon’s _Translation of Certain Psalms_ is uninspired, lacks
“choiceness of phrase ... the sweet falling of the clauses,” etc! Why?
Possibly because the author “is letting fall signs or arguments that he
is not that he is!” The fact that a thing so trivial as this
_Translation_ should have been published, instead of being reserved for
private circulation only--published too on the heels of the Shakespeare
First Folio--lends additional probability to this explanation.{25}

Objection number three. On the hypothesis that Shakespeare was a
pen-name of Bacon’s this objection, like the last, would fall to the
ground, for the essential inadequacy of the _Advancement of Learning_ in
relation to poetry would explain itself as part of the “train of
secrecy.” But it may also be answered without resorting to the
hypothesis. In the _Advancement_, dramatic poesy, though recognised, is
deprived of its customary name, “dramatic,” and dubbed “representative,”
whilst lyric, elegiac, and several other kinds of poetry are
conspicuously ignored. The Latin version of the _Advancement_, however,
the _De Augmentis Scientiarum_, published some eighteen years after the
_Advancement_, not only restores to “representative poesy” its proper
name “dramatic,” but also mentions _elegias_, _odes_, _lyricos_, etc.
The objection, as I understand it, is founded on the assumption that, at
the date of the _Advancement_, Bacon had still to learn what poetry
essentially was, a defect which at the date of the _De Augmentis_ he had
contrived to supply by getting up the subject (poetry) much as a lawyer
will cram an unfamiliar subject in order to speak to his brief. But is
there warrant for so questionable an assumption? Not a scrap. To see its
absurdity, one has only to compare the _Advancement of Learning_ with
the _Apologie for Poetry_ by the “learned” Sir Philip Sidney (so the
author is described on the title page), a treatise which somehow or
other made its first appearance in 1595, and its second under a
different title and with slight additions in 1596.{26} One of the many
resemblances involved in the comparison is, not that Sidney and Bacon
appear to have read the same books, but that their literary preference
should have coincided so closely. Among classical authors, Plutarch was
manifestly the prime favourite of both. Next after Plutarch seem to have
come Virgil, Cicero, Seneca, and Ovid. The Bible, it is true, plays a
far more important part in the _Advancement_ than in the _Apologie_,
inevitably, considering the scope of the _Advancement_, and that it was
specially addressed to a theological king. In those days, however,
libraries were so scantily furnished that lovers of literature
necessarily became acquainted with what seems to be an unusually large
proportion of the same authors.{27} It may, therefore, be urged
that similarity of literary preference did not imply direct
intercommunication. I will not argue the point, not because it is
incontestable, but because there are other resemblances the cumulative
force of which is more than enough for my purpose. The production of a
sample half dozen of these will I hope be forgiven. (a) According to the
_Apologie for Poetrie_ geometry and arithmetic would seem to be the only
constituents of the science of mathematics. The _Advancement of
Learning_ appears to take the same view. (b) According to the _Apologie_
“knowledge of a man’s self” is the highest or “mistress” knowledge, and
her highest end is “well doing and not well knowing only.” The
_Advancement_ holds “the end and term of natural philosophy” is
“knowledge of ourselves” with a view to “active life” rather than to
contemplative. (c) According to the _Apologie_ “metaphysic” concerns
itself with “abstract notions,” builds upon “the depths of Nature” as
distinct from Matter. The _Advancement_ defines “metaphysic”--which
includes mathematics--as the science of “that which is abstracted and
fixed,” “physic” being the science of “that which is inherent in matter
and therefore transitory.” (d) The _Apologie_ censures philosophers for
reducing “true points of knowledge” into “method” and “school art.” In
the _Advancement_, Bacon condemns “the over early and peremptory
reduction of knowledge into acts and methods.” It is a theme on which
he is ever ready to descant. Indeed, the _Novum Organum_, a congeries of
aphorisms, was probably designed for a monumental warning against
premature systematisation. (e) The _Apologie_ contrasts the necessary
limitations of other artists{28} with the perfect freedom of the poet:
“only the poet ... goeth hand in hand with nature, not inclosed within
the narrow warrant of her gifts ... where with the force of a divine
breath he bringeth things forth for surpassing her doings, with no small
argument to the incredulous of the first accursed fall of Adam; sith our
erected wit maketh us know what perfection is.” The _Advancement_, in a
charming passage, instructs us that one of the chief uses of poetry
“hath been to give some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of man in
those points wherein the nature of things doth deny it, the world being
in proportion inferior to the soul.... Therefore poesy was ever thought
to have some participation of divineness, because it doth raise and
erect the mind, by submitting the shows of things to the desires of the
mind; whereas reason doth buckle and bow the mind into the nature of
things.” (f) The _Apologie_ holds “that there are many mysteries
contained in poetry which of purpose were written darkly, lest by
profane wits it should be abused.” The _Advancement_ affirms that one of
the uses of poesy is to “retire and obscure ... that which is
delivered,” “that is when the secrets and mysteries of religion, policy,
and philosophy are involved in fables and parables.” (g) The author of
the _Apologie_ venerated learning--“the noble name of learning,” he
calls it--as if it were a sort of talisman. Bacon’s attitude towards
learning, the theme of the _Advancement_, probably differed but little,
if it differed at all from that of the Apologist. (h) The aims of the
two authors were to a large extent identical, for the first book of the
_Advancement_ was a vindication of the dignity and importance of Poetry
as one of the chief constituents of “learning.” Other resemblances, more
or less significant, will doubtless be picked up by any alert reader. So
numerous are they in the earlier portion of the _Advancement_ that
reading it one seems to be continually in touch with Sidney--assuming
him to have been author of the _Apologie_. The effect in my own case has
been such as to generate a conviction not indeed that Sidney and Bacon
were personally intimate--though that is quite possible--but that Bacon
when writing the _Advancement_ was thoroughly familiar with the

It appears then that the poetical defects or eccentricities of the
_Advancement_, to whatever cause they may have been due--and honest
dissimulation is the most likely cause--were not due to ignorance of
poetry. Consequently the last of the three objections fails of effect.

“But,” says one, “suppose for a moment that your precious theory is not
incoherent, what then? A dream is not less a dream because it happens to
hang together. So with your theory. Its value is of the smallest unless
it serve to harmonise or explain phenomena otherwise intractable. The
omission to apply this test is fatal to your pretensions.” I have no
fault to find with the criticism, except that it is founded on
misapprehension. It takes for granted that I have undertaken to
establish something, a Bacon theory to wit. That feat may be possible to
an able advocate, after a “harvest of new disclosures.” For my part, so
diffident am I of my power to do anything of the kind, that the thought
of attempting it here had not even occurred to me.

For the rest, on good cause shown my precious theory will be abandoned
without reserve and without a pang, though I shall hardly be able to
rise to that fullness of joy which according to M. Poincaré (Le Science
et l’Hypothèse) ought to be felt by the physicist who has just renounced
a favourite hypothesis because it has failed to satisfy a crucial test.


1: Note: The words philosopher, philosophy, philosophicals throughout
this paper mean what they meant in Bacon’s day. The word science, on
the other hand, when not in quotation, is to be understood in its
modern sense.

2: From Sidney’s _Apologie for Poetrie_ (of which more hereafter) we
learn that he was in the secret of some “_Queis meliore luto finxit
præcordia Titan_, and who are better content to suppress the outflowing
of their wit than by publishing it to be accounted knights of the same
order” as those “servile wits who think it enough to be rewarded of the
printer.” Similarly Puttenham, in his _Arte of English Poesie_ (1589),
writes: “I know very many notable Gentlemen in the Court that have
written commendably and suppressed it again, or else suffered it to be
publisht without their names to it.” The _Arte of English Poesie_ was
dedicated to Bacon’s uncle and _quasi_ guardian, Lord Burleigh. In this
connexion, a saying ascribed to Edmund Waller is worth notice: “Sidney
and Bacon were nightingales who sang only in the spring, it was the
diversion of their youth.”

3: From Mr. Shakespeare’s autographs one gathers that he was
indifferent as to the spelling of his name, and that if he had a
preference, it was for the form Shakspere rather than Shakespeare. For
my present purpose it is necessary to distinguish between the owner
of New Place, Stratford, and the author of Macbeth and Lear. For the
former, Shakspere would have been better than “Mr. Shakespeare.” But
having followed the Belvoir document so far, I shall continue to use
“Mr.” as the distinction between the two--without prejudice to the
question whether or not they were actually one and the same. [The
signatures show that the Stratford player wrote his name “Shakspere.”
He seems never to have made use of the form “Shakespeare,” which is, in
truth, a quite different name from that of “Shakspere,” or “Shaksper,”
or “Shaxpur,” and such like forms. Ed.]

4: Some will have it that Shakespeare was a kind of writing machine,
and look to Ben Jonson as their prophet. Yet Jonson’s testimony both
in the great Ode to Shakespeare and elsewhere--agreeing herein with
the internal evidence of several of the plays--negatives a mechanical

5: In the case of something which apparently “grew from” himself,
dealt with the Deposing of Richard II, and “went about in other
men’s names,” pseudonymity seems to have failed to screen Bacon from
cross-examination and censure by Queen Elizabeth. (Bacon’s _Apologie in
certaine imputations concerning the late Earl of Essex_. 1604.)

6: Browning and others less eminent than he have questioned the
autobiographical value of the _Sonnets_. Even so they would be
serious _impedimenta_ to a Solicitor-General on his way to the
Attorney-Generalship, Privy Councillorship, and other conspicuous

7: It is obviously borrowed, _mutatis mutandis_, from Ovid’s
_Metamorphoses_. “Deeper than did ever plummet sound,” however, is not
from Ovid’s _Medea_, but it seems to me from Act III, Sc. 3, of _The
Tempest_ itself. Golding’s English version of the _Metamorphoses_ may
well have been in the writer’s mind along with the Latin original.

8: _Advancement of Learning._ “Art of Arts” was a favourite phrase of
his. Of “rational knowledges” he says in the same book: “These be truly
said to be the art of arts.”

9: The _idée mère_ of the _Sapientia Veterum_--allegorisation--is one
which I think no notable man of science among his contemporaries would
have attempted to press into the service of science as Bacon pressed
it. With contemporary men of letters, poets especially, it was in high
favour, partly I suppose as an exercise of ingenuity, partly as a
“talking point” wherewith to capture the vulgar, and partly of course
for higher reasons. Sir John Harington’s application of it to _Orlando
Furioso_ (1591), is a _reductio ad absurdum_ of the fashion.

10: Poetry for example!

11: The second book of the _Advancement_--where “rational knowledges”
or “arts intellectual” are being discussed--promises, “if God give
me leave, a disquisition, digested into two parts; whereof the one I
term _experientia literata_, and the other _interpretatio naturæ_, the
former being but a degree or rudiment of the latter.” What the latter
was in 1605 is matter of conjecture. Possibly _Valerius Terminus, Of
the Interpretation of Nature, with the Annotations of Hermes Stella_,
a curious essay, seemingly meant to be anonymous, or pseudonymous, may
enable us to measure its value. Concerning the former, _experientia
literata_, we may learn from the _De Augmentis Scientiarum_, the
authorised Latin version of the _Advancement of Learning_, quite as
much as any of us need wish to know.

It may be well to bear in mind that in addition to the above double
promise, the _Advancement of Learning_ contains other promises
including one, “if God give me leave,” of a legal work--_prudentia
activa_--digested into aphorisms.

12: The nebulous _Temporis Partus Maximus_, of very uncertain date,
was scarcely more serious, I suppose, than the eloquent eulogies of
“knowledge” or “philosophy” in Bacon’s “apparently unacknowledged”
_Conference of Pleasure_, 1592, and _Gesta Graiorum_, 1594, though
towards the close of his life he seems to have claimed for it a
somewhat higher value.

13: According to Professor Fowler (_Francis Bacon_, Macmillan) the
foundation of the Royal Society was due to the impulse given by Bacon
to experimental science. Dr. Abbott (_Francis Bacon_, Macmillan) is
struck by a different aspect of Bacon: “By a strange irony the great
depreciator of words seems destined to derive an immortal memory from
the rich variety of his style and the vastness of his too sanguine
expectations.” I cannot help doubting whether, if Bacon had died
before 1620 or thereabouts, he would have been held to have placed
experimental science under any obligation at all.

14: No student I suppose would willingly be without the volume here
quoted, “_Francis Bacon_”, by Edwin A. Abbott.

15: Rawley’s dedication, 1627, of the _Natural History_ to Charles the

16: _Advancement of Learning._ Book I.

17: The art of prolonging life was, he thought, one of the most

18: He “bequeathed” his soul and body to God. “For my name and memory I
leave it to men’s charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and to
the next ages.”

19: Rawley in the dedication of 1627 uses this expression as if it were
Bacon’s rather than his own.

20: I am not aware that in its integrity it is shared by anyone.

21: More easily by far than Mr. Shakespeare’s neglect of his supposed
poetical issue more especially after his retirement to Stratford. What
was there, what would there be in the Stratford of those days with its
Quineys, Harts, Sadlers, Walkers, and the rest, to interest a spirit so
finely touched as Shakespeare’s? But this is too large a question to be
discussed here.

22: James I is reported to have said of the _Novum Organum_: “It is
like the peace of God which passeth all understanding.”

23: Bacon’s tripartite division of knowledge--history with memory for
its organ, poetry with imagination, and philosophy with reason--is well
known. When he made this division the poetic use of the imagination
was one which few may have known better than he. That he was equally
well acquainted with the scientific use of the imagination is highly

24: Sir P. Sidney seems to have arrived at a like conclusion, for he
speaks of an “honest dissimulation.”

25: Whether the absence of proof that Bacon, as Dr. Abbott observes,
“felt any pride in or set any value on his unique mastery of English”
should be similarly interpreted is a more difficult question. Possibly
admiration of his vernacular became nauseous to him as suggesting
something less than admiration of his philosophy. Of his Latin, the
Latin of the _Sapientia Veterum_, he writes to his friend: “They
tell me my Latin is turned silver and become current.” His apparent
indifference to vehicle or language therefore did not extend beyond his
mother tongue.

26: It must have circulated privately some years before 1595, for Sir
John Harington in his English version (1591) of Ariosto’s _Orlando
Furioso_, calls Sidney “our English Petrarke,” and refers to his
_Apologie for Poetry_ (along with the _Arte of English Poesie_,
1589, dedicated to Lord Burleigh) as handling sundry poetical
questions “right learnedly.” I may add that the motto to Sidney’s
_Apologie_--_odi profanum vulgus et arceo_--touches the motto to
Shakespeare’s _Venus and Adonis_; that _King Lear_ touches the
_Arcadia_; and generally that a complete enumeration of the apparent
contacts between Sidney and Shakespeare would probably fill many pages.
[Some have even ventured to doubt whether the poetry which goes in the
name of Sidney, who died at Zutphen in 1586, was really written by
Sidney at all. Ed.]

27: It is interesting to note in relation to Aristotle, who is cited
again and again in both _Advancement_ and _Apologie_, that the
_Apologie_ endorses his dramatic precept of “one place, one day.”
Another of the _Apologie’s_ references to Aristotle: “which reason
of his, as all his, is most full of reason,” gives one to think. The
_Advancement_ disapproves, it may be added, of tying modern tongues to
ancient measures: “In modern languages it seemeth to me as free to make
new measures of verses as of dances.”

28: Astronomy and metaphysic are there considered as _arts_, whilst
poetry ranks as a _science_.


_Another exasperating lucubration on the Shakespeare problem! We have
the Plays themselves. Why disturb a venerable belief by hypotheses
incapable of proof, and neither venerable nor even respectable?_ To
answer offhand--Curiosity about the _How_ of remarkable events is not
likely to die out so long as intelligent beings continue to exist:
Without the aid of hypotheses, science were impossible: Astronomers
would still be expounding the once venerated doctrine of a stable Earth
and a revolving Sun, a doctrine daily corroborated by the testimony of
our eyes. Moreover, the “venerable belief” that Shakspere and
Shakespeare were one and the same is mainly founded on the hypothesis
that Ben Jonson’s famous Ode to Shakespeare (1623) is all to be taken at
face-value. Praise--splendid praise--is unquestionably its dominant
constituent; but other ingredients--enigma, jest, _make-believe_--are
commingled with the praise.

The exordium of this Ode consists of sixteen laborious lines:

    To draw no envy (Shakespeare) on thy name,
      Am I thus ample to thy Booke and Fame;
    While I confesse thy writings to be such,
      As neither Man nor Muse can praise too much.
    Tis true, and all mens suffrage. But these wayes
      Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise;
    For seeliest Ignorance on these may light,
      Which, when it sounds at best, but eccho’s right;
    Or blinde Affection, which doth ne’er advance
      The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance;
    Or crafty Malice might pretend this praise,
      And thinke to ruine, where it seem’d to raise.
    These are, as some infamous Baud, or whore,
      Should praise a Matron. What could hurt her more?
    But thou art proof against them, and indeed
      Above th’ill fortune of them, or the need.
    I, therefore, will begin, etc.

This emphatic disclaimer of any intention to draw envy, ill-will,
discredit, on the august name Shakespeare, had a deep meaning, or Jonson
would not have given it such prominence. It reads as if addressed to a
living person, and the subsequent apostrophe, “Thou art a Moniment,
without a tombe,” chimes with this suggestion. The root difficulty of
the passage lies in the obviously genuine conviction of the author that
Shakespeare was in danger of being hurt by praise, noble, sincere and
universally allowed to be just. As for the assertion that Shakespeare
was “indeed above” the reach of harm, it is only pretence. Having
dispatched this tiresome business, the eulogist lets himself go:

    I therefore will begin, Soule of the Age!
      The applause! delight! the wonder of our Stage!
    My Shakespeare, rise; I will not lodge thee by
      Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lye
    A little further, to make thee a roome,
      Thou art a Moniment, without a tombe.

           *       *       *       *       *

    And though thou hadst small Latine, and lesse Greeke,
      From thence to honour thee, I would not seeke
    For names; but call forth thund’ring Aeschilus,
      Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
    Paccuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
      To life againe, to heare thy buskin tread,
    And shake a Stage; Or, when thy Sockes were on,
      Leave thee alone, for the comparison
    Of all that insolent Greece, or haughtie Rome
      Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
    Triumph, my Britaine, thou hast one to showe,
      To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
    He was not of an age, but for all time!
      And all the Muses still were in their prime,
    When like Apollo he came forth to warme
      Our eares, or like a Mercury to charme.
    Nature herselfe was proud of his designes,
      And joy’d to weare the dressing of his lines.

... Looke how the fathers face
      Lives in his issue, even so, the race
    Of Shakespeares minde, and manners brightly shines
      In his well turned, and true-filed lines;
    In each of which, he seems to shake a Lance,
      As brandish’t at the eyes of ignorance.
    Sweet Swan of Avon! What a sight it were
      To see thee in our waters yet appeare,
    And make those flights upon the bankes of Thames,
      That so did take Eliza and our James.
    But stay. I see thee in the Hemisphere
      Advanc’d, and made a Constellation there.
    Shine forth, thou Starre of Poets, and with rage,
      Or Influence, chide, or cheere the drooping Stage;
    Which since thy flight fro’ hence, hath mourn’d like night,
      And despaires day, but by thy Volumes Light.”

Passing by the half serious “Thou art a Moniment without a tombe”, we
are pulled up by the line: “And though thou hadst small Latine,” etc.
The internal evidence of his poems and plays proves that Shakespeare
must have had a regular education, as distinguished from mere
smatterings picked up in a village school of the sixteenth century. As
to Latin in particular, the etymological intelligence shown in the
handling of words derived from that language is almost conclusive. The
evidence of contemporaries tells the same tale. “W.C.,” for instance,
in _Polimanteia_ (c. 1595) intimates that Shakespeare was a “schollar,”
and a member of one of our “Universities.”[45] But there is no need to
labour the point of Shakespeare’s culture. Indeed the innuendo of “small
Latin” as applied to Shakespeare is sufficiently refuted by other
passages in the Ode itself. “All scenes of Europe,” classico-historical
as well as modern, owe him “homage.” He was another “Apollo”; each of
his “well turned and true-filed lines” was sufficient to enlighten
“ignorance.” What then are we to make of a jibe, apparently levelled at
Shakespeare, that he was a quite unlettered rustic? Some years after the
date of the Ode, and in order, as he says, to justify his “owne candor,”
Jonson told “posterity” (as we shall see) that Shakespeare wrote with a
“facility” so unbridled that he often blundered.[46] But even then,
though his mood in the interval had veered right round from eulogist to
candid critic, Jonson dropped no hint that Shakespeare lacked Latin or
Greek. The jibe therefore, did not fit Shakespeare, but must have been
made to the measure of some one else.

To continue our examination of the Ode. What can Jonson have meant by
interspersing it with trashy jests upon the two syllables of the name
(no longer august) Shakespeare? “Shake a stage”; “shake a lance, as
brandished at the eyes of ignorance.” Was there something irresistibly
funny about the name? Again, what sort of ignorance was threatened by
the beauty and finish of Shakespeare’s lines? The ignorance of persons
who for Shakespeare mistook a man untinctured with literature? The
“Sweet Swan of Avon” apostrophe suggests comparison with what, in his
_Masque of Owles_ (1626), Jonson wrote about “Warwick Muses.” These
charming creatures are there represented as inspired, not by “Pegasus,”
but by a “Hoby-horse.”[47] Was this sarcasm reminiscent of the
well-known lines which an Oxford graduate informs us were “ordered” by
the Stratford man “to be cut upon his tombstone”? Certainly Pegasus was
innocent of them. Here they are:

    Good frend, for Jesus sake forbeare
    To digg the dust encloased heare;
    Bleste be the man that spares these stones,
    And curst be he that moves my bones.

To return to the Ode. The lines which follow the “Sweet Swan” apostrophe
are deserving of notice, chiefly because they tell us that King James
(as well as Queen Elizabeth) was under the spell of Shakespeare. Then
comes the ejaculation: “But stay! I see thee in the hemisphere advanced,
and made a constellation there.” Is it possible that Jonson expected his
readers--such of them as were not in the secret--to follow him here? To
behold Shakespeare, _à_ la Berenice’s hair, translated into the
constellation Cygnus? Not he; that were an order too large for credulity
itself to honour. What Jonson had in his mind’s eye was not the starry
heaven, but the British House of Peers.[48] Such is this famous Ode. It
suffers from manœuvres, the object of which had to be kept dark; and
this I take to be the reason for its exclusion from the second volume
(1640) of Jonson’s Works, where it would have been quite at home amongst
the Odes, Sonnets, Elegies and so forth, which go to make up that

Turn we now to Jonson’s _Timber_ or _Discoveries_, a work written years
after the Ode and not printed till 1641, some three or four years after
his death. These _Discoveries_ consist in the main of passages lifted
from Latin writers, notably Seneca the father (_Controversiæ_), and
entered promiscuously in Jonson’s Commonplace books. The borrowings are
often mutilated and always treated without ceremony. For our purpose it
is the application, not the accuracy of translation that matters. In
quoting from them I shall give italics and capital letters as they
appear in the slovenly print (1641), of which I have several copies, one
of which by the way is inscribed “J. P. Collier” on the title page. A
_Discovery_ concerning Poets, runs thus:

     Nothing in our Age, I have observed, is more preposterous, than the
     _running Judgments_ upon _Poetry_ and _Poets_; when we shall heare
     those things ... cried up for the best writings, which a man would
     scarce vouchsafe to wrap any wholesome drug in; he would never
     light his _Tobacco_ with them.... There are never wanting, that
     dare preferre the worst ... _Poets_:.... Nay, if it were put to the
     question of the Water-rimers workes, against Spencer’s, I doubt not
     but they [the Water-rimers’] would find more suffrages.

The next _Discovery_ is more to my purpose:

     _Poetry_ in this latter Age, hath prov’d but a meane _Mistresse_ to
     such as have wholly addicted themselves to her; or given their
     names up to her family. They who have but saluted her on the by,
     and now and then tendred their visits, shee hath done much for, and
     advanced in the way of their owne professions (both the _Law_ and
     the _Gospel_) beyond all they could have hoped or done for
     themselves without her favour.

From this the reader will gather that under “Eliza and our James,”
lawyer-poets who masked their poems--“in a players hide,” perhaps--were
likely candidates for legal honours.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next _Discovery_ but one runs thus:

     _De Shakespeare nostrat._ I remember the players have often
     mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in all his writing
     (whatever he penned) hee never blotted out a line. My answer hath
     beene, would he had blotted a thousand.... I had not told posterity
     this, but for their ignorance who chose that circumstance to
     commend their friend by wherein he most faulted. And to justifie
     mine owne candor, for I lov’d the man and doe honour his memory (on
     this side idolatry) as much as any. He was indeed honest, and of an
     open and free nature; had excellent phantasie; brave notions and
     gentle expressions; wherein he flow’d with that facility that
     sometime it was necessary he should be stop’d.... His wit was in
     his owne power, would the rule of it had beene so too.... But he
     redeemed his vices with his vertues.

Another _Discovery_ (p. 99)[49] censures “all the Essayists, even their
Master _Montaigne_.” The slur suggested by this censure upon Bacon is
significant. We were wont to believe that Bacon’s fame as a master of
English rested securely on his _Essays_, and perhaps among his
_acknowledged_ works no better foundation is discoverable. Jonson’s
estimate (to be quoted presently) of Bacon’s achievement “in our
tongue,” is at least as high as ours. Yet Jonson does not appreciate
Bacon’s _Essays_. The dilemma seems to be this: either Jonson was
writing at random, or he knew of unacknowledged Baconian work which he
was not free to disclose.

Another _Discovery_ treats _De claris Oratoribus_, and among them of
_Dominus Verulamius_[50] in these words:

     There hapn’d in my time one noble _Speaker_, who was full of
     gravity in his speaking. His language (where hee could spare or
     passe by a jest) was nobly _censorious_.... No member of his speech
     but consisted of his owne graces. His hearers could not cough, or
     looke aside from him, without losse.... No man had their affections
     more in his power. The feare of every man that heard him was lest
     hee should make an end.

On the next page after an appreciative notice of the _De Augmentis
Scientiarum_, which was published almost simultaneously with the
Shakespeare Ode, Jonson over-praises and misreads the _Novum Organum_ in
these words:

     Which though by most of superficiall men, who cannot get beyond the
     Title of _Nominals_, it is not penetrated, nor understood; it
     really openeth all defects of Learning whatsoever and is a Booke;
     _Qui longum noto scriptori porriget ævum_.

My object in giving these two quotations is only to show that there is
nothing in them to lead up to the arresting praise of Bacon expressed in
my next quotation, which comes after a list of English writers or wits,
the elder _Wiat_, the _Earl of Surrey_, Sir _Philip Sidney_ (a “great
Master of wit,”) _Lord Egerton_, the Chancellor, and runs thus:

     But his [the _his_ refers to L. C. Egerton] learned and able,
     though unfortunate _Successor_, is he, who hath fill’d up all
     numbers, and perform’d that in our tongue, which may be compar’d,
     or preferr’d, either to insolent _Greece_, or haughty _Rome_. In
     short, within his view, and about his times, were all the wits
     borne, that could honour a language, or help study. Now things
     daily fall; wits grow downe-ward, and _Eloquence_ growes back-ward:
     So that hee may be nam’d, and stand as the _marke_ and _akme_ of
     our language.[51]

In order to appreciate this passage, the reader should grasp (1) that
Jonson’s mind at the time was full of memories of Bacon; (2) that in a
subsequent Discovery--_De Poetica_--he distinguishes _Poetry_ from
oratory as “the most prevailing,” “most exalted” “Eloquence,” and
describes the Poet’s “skill or Craft of making” as the “Queene of Arts”;
(3) that Jonson, proud of his own _métier_ as poet, would never have
allowed, still less asserted, that Bacon had “filled up all numbers,”
had he not known that Bacon was a great poet. Where is this wonderful
poetry to be found? The answer is ready to hand. The famous writer who,
according to the _Discovery_, had “perform’d that in our tongue” which
neither Greece nor Rome could surpass, is the very man who, according to
the Ode, had achieved that in _English_ which defied “comparison” with
“all” that Greece or Rome, or the civilisations that succeeded Greece
and Rome, had given to the World. Bacon is that Man, and Shakespeare was
his pen-name.

This hypothesis--that Shakespeare was the pen-name of Bacon--will pilot
us through our difficulties. The disclaimer (in the Ode) for example, of
any intention to injure the august name need puzzle us no longer.
Bacon’s reputation was imperilled by publication of the great Book; for
if the Public once got wind that he had trafficked with “common players”
his name, already smirched by the verdict of the House of Peers, would
have been irreparably damaged. A passage from an anonymous Essay of mine
(_Bacon-Shakespeare_; projected 1884-5: published 1899), may be
tolerated here. The Essay, after having suggested that Greene’s allusion
to Shakespeare as having a “tiger’s heart wrapt in a player’s hide”
pointed to concealment behind an actor, proceeds:

     John Davies ... characterises poetry (contemporaneous) as “a worke
     of darkness,” in the sense of a secret work, not in disparagement:
     Davies loved poetry and poets too well for that. The anonymous
     author of _Wit’s Recreations_, in a kindly epigram “To Mr. William
     Shake-speare,” says: “Shake-speare we must be silent in thy praise,
     cause our encomions will but blast thy bayes.” ... Edward Bolton in
     the ... sketch (or draft) of his _Hypercritica_, ... after having
     mentioned “Shakespeare, Beaumont, and other writers for the stage”
     thinks it necessary to remind himself that their names required to
     be “tenderly used in this argument.” (accordingly) He ... excluded
     the name of Shakespeare ... from the published version of his

To return again to the Ode. Its jests about shaking a stage (compare
Greene’s “Shakescene”), shaking a lance, and its ecstatic vision of
Shakespeare enthroned among the stars were no doubt intended to amuse
the two Earls, and other patrons of the famous Folio.

As for the sweeping accusation in the _Timber_ or _Discoveries_, that
Poetry had been a mean Mistress to openly professed as distinguished
from furtive or concealed poets, it would have been unpardonable had the
Stratford man been a poet; for William Shakspere, Esq., of New Place,
Stratford-on-Avon, spent his last years in the odour of prosperity.

Other testimony, quite independent of Jonson’s, to the existence of an
intimate relation between Bacon and the Muses, Apollo, Helicon,
Parnassus, is abundant enough. Here are a few samples: Thomas Randolph
shortly after Bacon’s death accuses Phœbus of being accessory to Bacon’s
death, lest the God himself should be dethroned and Bacon be crowned
king of the Muses.[52] George Herbert calls Bacon the colleague of
Apollo. Thomas Campion, addressing Bacon says: “Whether ... the Law, or
the Schools (in the sense of science or knowledge), or the sweet Muse
allure thee,” etc. At a somewhat later date, Waller said that Bacon and
Sidney were nightingales who sang only in the spring (the reference has
escaped me, and memory may possibly deceive me).[53] Coming to
comparatively recent times we find Shelley, an exceptional judge of
poetry, was of opinion that Bacon “was a poet.” It may possibly be
objected that Bacon’s versified Psalms (in English) are not
poetical.[54] But these Psalms belong to about 1624, when Bacon--_ex
hypothesi_--had turned his back on poetry for ever. What they prove, if
they prove anything, is that Bacon was a literary Proteus who could take
on any disguise that happened to suit his purpose, a faculty which no
student of Bacon would ever think of disputing.

Inferences drawn from Bacon’s reticence or extracted from his works have
yet to be weighed. In the nineties of the sixteenth century he can be
shown to have devoted much time and thought to the writing and
preparation of a species of dramatic entertainment known as _Devices_.
Even after he became Lord Chancellor, he risked injuring his health
rather than deny himself the pleasure of assisting at a dramatic
performance given by Gray’s Inn. As a student of human nature, moreover,
he had scarcely an equal (bar “Shakespeare.”) And yet he seems to have
been ignorant of the existence of any such person as Shakespeare,
although that name must have been bandied about and about in the London
of his day, especially among members of the various Inns of Court, his
own Gray’s in particular.

Neglecting Bacon’s poetical and interesting _Devices_, I confine my
observations to the _Advancement of Learning_ (1605), which though not
written in what Waller held to be the singing time of life, reveals
(while trying to conceal) the true bent of his genius. The Work was
expressly intended to embrace the totality of human knowledge then
garnered. Yet with the air of one who had no misgivings about the
propriety of his classification he divides his vast subject into three
categories, three only, and one of these is _Poesie_. The other two are
_History_ and _Philosophie_, the latter of which embraces “Natural
Science,” divided into “Phisicke” and “Metaphisicke,” “Mathematicke”
pure and mixt, anatomy, medicine, mental and moral science, and much
besides. The work teems with poetical quotations, similies, allusions.
Dealing with medicine the author gravely informs his readers that “the
poets did well to conjoin music and medicine in Apollo, because the
office of medicine is but to tune this curious harp of man’s body, and
reduce it to harmony.” He cannot refrain from telling us that the
pseudo-science of the alchemist was foretold and discredited by the
fable of Ixion and the Cloud. With him, what we mean by endowment of
research becomes provision for encouraging “experiments appertaining to
Vulcan and Dædalus,” etc. No wonder the Harveys, Napiers, and other
pioneers of 17th. century science did not join in that chorus of
admiration for Bacon, which seems to have included all 17th century men
of letters. Sir Henry Wotton (for example) will have it that Bacon had
“done a great and ever living benefit to all the children of Nature; and
to Nature herself in her uttermost extent ... who never before had so
noble nor so true an interpreter, or so inward a secretary of her
cabinet.” One can imagine the laughter with which Galileo would have
greeted this preposterous assertion.

Out of sight of philosophy, metaphysics, mathematics, etc., and in the
presence of poetry, the author is in his element and speaks with
authority. In handling the subject of mental culture--“Georgics of the
mind” is his phrase--he takes for granted that poets (with whom he
couples historians) are the best teachers of this science, for in them:

     We may find painted forth, how affections are kindled and incited;
     and how pacified and refrained; and how again contained from act
     and further degree; how they disclose themselves; how they work;
     how they vary; how they gather and fortify; how they are enwrapped
     one within another; and how they do fight and encounter one with

“Poesie,” he says elsewhere, is “for the most part restrained in measure
of words,” but in “other points extreamely licensed, and doth truly
refer to the imagination.” Its use, he goes on to say:

     Hath been to give some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of man in
     those points wherein the nature of things doth deny it, the world
     being in proportion inferior to the soul; by reason whereof there
     is agreeable to the spirit of man, a more ample greatness, a more
     exact goodness, and a more absolute variety, than can be found in
     the nature of things ... and therefore it was ever thought to have
     some participation of divineness, because it doth raise and erect
     the mind, by submitting the shows of things to the desires of the
     mind.... In this third part of learning (or knowledge) which is
     poesie, I can report no deficience. For being as a plant that
     cometh of the lust of the earth, without formal seed, it hath
     sprung up and spread abroad more than any other kind. But to
     ascribe unto it that which is due; for the expressing of
     affections, passions, corruptions, and customs, we are beholding to
     poets more than to the philosophers’ works; and for wit and
     eloquence, not much less than to orators’ harangues. But it is not
     good to stay too long in the theatre.

Why, when he was enumerating the various kinds of poesie, did he eschew
the apt word _dramatic_, and choose the vague word _representative_
instead? Why hurry away from his subject (poetry) by reason of its
intimate connection with the _theatre_? The answer leaps to the eye. For
him, poetry, especially dramatic poetry, was like (the name)
Shakespeare, under taboo.

The Bacon hypothesis, it may be urged, solves a few riddles. But what of
the difficulties it involves? For example, it seems incredible that
Bacon should ever have resolved to disown his wonderful offspring;
except indeed on the impossible assumption that he, with his unrivalled
knowledge of human nature and command of all the arts of
expression--that he of all men was incapable of appreciating the
children of his brain. Here, once more, my anonymous Essay suggests
pertinent considerations:

     The emotional chill, which rarely fails to accompany that creeping
     illness, old age, was one of these considerations. Another was the
     growth of a widespread feeling ... that English books would never
     be “citizens of the world,” that Latin was the “universal language”
     and Latin books the only books that “would live.” But there must
     have been a “strain of rareness” about Shakespeare’s affection for
     poetry, which nothing but a new and incompatible emotion could ever
     have subdued.... With Bacon, affection for literature, especially
     poetry, came (in time) long before affection for anything like
     science. Among the various indications of this, not the least
     interesting is a passage in the _De Augmentis Scientiarum_ (the
     latinised version, 1623, of the more noteworthy _Advancement of
     Learning_, 1605, already quoted):--“Poesy is at it were a dream of
     learning; a thing sweet and varied and fain to be thought partly
     divine, a quality which dreams also sometimes affect. But now it is
     time for me to become fully awake, to lift myself up from the
     earth, and to wing my way through the liquid ether of philosophy
     and the sciences.” Of a certainty this beautiful passage was no
     mere flourish.... It was a pathetic renunciation--the last possibly
     of a series of more or less ineffectual renunciations--of poetry
     and an ... aspiration after something else, neither poetry, nor
     science, nor philosophy, which Bacon towards the close of life was
     wont to regard, so Rawley informs us, as “his darling philosophy.”

In other words, the _Novum Organum_, the potent _New Instrument_ that
was to enlarge man’s dominion over every province of Nature, was Bacon’s
chief solace for an unparalleled renunciation. Posterity, he was
determined, should never know that the inventor of that _Instrument_ had
once revelled in the play of the imagination, lest men of science should
have it in their power to pooh-pooh it as the fabric of a brain that had
invented _A Midsummer-night’s Dream_, and _The Tempest_.

Bacon and his friends (moved by the fascination of the man, and pity for
his fall) would naturally destroy all tell-tale correspondence they
could lay hands on. Two private letters, and so far as we know, two
only, escaped the flames. One from a bosom friend, Sir T. Mathew to
Bacon (“Viscount St. Alban”), bears the following postscript: “The most
prodigious wit that ever I knew of my nation ... is of your Lordship’s
name, though he be known by another.” This letter is given in Dr.
Birch’s _Letters, etc., of Francis Bacon_, 1763. Mathew himself made a
_Collection of Letters_ which included many of his own to Bacon, but
excluded the one just quoted, an exclusion dictated, I imagine, by
loyalty to his friend. Montague gives the letter in his _Bacon_, but I
have not found it in Spedding’s Work. The other escape was a letter of
Bacon’s to another of his friends, the poet Davies, written some twenty
years earlier than Mathew’s letter. In this letter (to Davies), after
commending himself to Davies’s “love,” and “the well using of my name
... if there be any biting or nibling at it, in that place” (the Royal
Court), Bacon concludes: “So desiring you to be good to concealed poets,
I continue,” etc. My quotation is from a copy dated 1657 (bound up with
Rawley’s _Resuscitatio_), in which “concealed poets” is in italics.
Spedding gives the words without the italics, and contents himself with
saying that he cannot explain them. For another letting out of the
secret we have to thank Aubrey’s notebooks, which inform us that Bacon
was “a good poet but concealed, as appears by his letters.” Lastly there
are the “Shakespeare” and “Bacon” scribbles on the half-burnt MS. of
Bacon’s “Device,” _A Conference of Pleasure_. Possibly the “letters”
referred to by Aubrey, or evidence more important, may yet be discovered
in libraries unexplored, or explored only by orthodox searchers intent
on proving their own case. A library in so unlikely a place as
Valladolid seems, about eighty years ago, to have possessed a First
Folio of Shakespeare which belonged to and was perhaps annotated by
Count Gondomar, a friend of Bacon’s last years.[55] If Spain held such
a treasure so recently what may not Great Britain still hold? Florence,
for whose Duke Sir T. Mathew had Bacon’s _Essays_ translated into
Italian, contained a copy of this translation not long ago. But my
searches there, and in Venice, Milan, Padua, were far too hurried to
justify any conclusion as to possible finds in Italy.

It is probably safe to take for granted that Bacon was acquainted with
Shakspere; that the relation between them began maybe as early as 1588,
and was concerned with playhouse property; that this property was held
by Shakspere on trust for Bacon; and that it was sold, perhaps to the
trustees, by Bacon’s orders some time before 1613.

The name of “Shakespeare” seems to have made its first public appearance
in print with _Venus and Adonis_,[56] a poem which was dedicated in
perfectly well-bred terms to an earl; licensed by an archbishop who had
once been Bacon’s tutor;[57] and expressed on its title page patrician
contempt for all things vulgar. By whose order was the name Shakespeare
printed at foot of its Dedication to the Earl of Southampton? In the
dearth of evidence the following guesses may pass muster. They are put
into an unhistorical present in order to show at a glance that they, or
most of them, are mere guess-work:--About 1592, Bacon makes up his mind
to publish _Venus and Adonis_. Publication in his own name is vetoed by
fear of offending powerful friends, his uncle Burghley in particular;
and he prefers pseudonymity to anonymity. What he wants is a temporary
mask which he fully expects to be able to throw off before long. In this
mood, he calls on Richard Field, a London printer hailing originally
from Stratford, and recommended to him by Sir John Harington, whose
_Orlando Furioso_ Field has just printed. Field happens to mention
Shakspere which he pronounces Shaxper. Bacon, already acquainted with
the young fellow of that name, decides that a fictitious person, whose
name he pronounces Shakespeare, shall be the putative father of his
Poem. Little dreams he, poet though he be, that he is thereby preparing
a human grave for that immortality of Fame (as poet) which he has begun
to anticipate for himself. The Poem appears in 1593; and is followed
next year by _Lucrece_, fathered by the same Shakespeare, and dedicated
to the same young Earl. Some years later, the name is stereotyped by
Meres’s _Commonwealth of Wits_, where Shakespeare is mentioned seven or
eight times--as the English Ovid; as one of our best tragic and best
comic poets; as one of our most “wittie” and accomplished writers, and
so forth.[58] A few years later still, Bacon begins to be perplexed what
to do with his Shakespeare copyright, and his perplexity rises with
every advance in his profession. Before succeeding to the
Attorney-Generalship he realises once for all that complications,
professional, social, and various, have made it impossible for him to
think of fathering even a selection of his poetical offspring. In
despair to escape from the impasse, he even talks of burning MSS. But
the threat is not carried out. Soon after his melancholy downfall
sympathetic and admiring friends, notably the two Earls of Pembroke and
Montgomery--Southampton probably stood aloof, memories of the Essex
affair still rankling in his mind--take counsel together, expostulate
with him, entreat him to let them bear all expenses and responsibilities
connected with publication, and to clinch their argument tell him that
they have sounded the literary dictator of the day, Ben Jonson, and got
his promise to undertake the work of editing, collecting, writing the
necessary prefatory matter, and so forth. Bacon yields consent on
certain conditions, the most embarrassing of which is that the true
authorship of the plays be for ever kept dark--by means of
“dissimulation,” if dissimulation will serve; if not, then by
“simulation,” i.e., the lie direct.[59] The conditions are accepted with
misgivings on Jonson’s part. He is aware that he will have no trouble
with Mr. Shakspere’s executors, their interest in the copyrights
involved being as negligible as their testator’s had been. And he knows
Heminge and Condell well enough to feel certain that they will not have
the smallest objection, either to being assigned prominent places in the
forthcoming Book, or to his putting into their mouths statements, etc.,
concerning Shakespeare, which he himself would shrink from uttering. But
even so, the task is no sinecure.

Here guess-work ends.

The famous Folio, with its apparatus of _Dedication_, prefatory
_Address, Ode_, to “my beloved the author,” etc., made its appearance in
1623. The _Dedication_ intimates (with ironical emphasis on the word
“trifles”) that the author of these “trifles” was dead, “he not having
the fate common with some to be exequutor to his owne writings.... We
have but collected them, and done an office to the dead, to procure his
Orphanes, Guardians: without ambition either of selfe-profit, or fame:
onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend and Fellow alive, as was
our Shakespeare.”

The _Address_ expresses a wish that the Author had lived to set forth
“his owne writings. But since it hath bin ordain’d otherwise, and he by
death departed from that right, we pray you do not envie his Friends the
office” of collection, etc. This is followed by a statement, probably
half jest, half irony, that the Author uttered his thoughts with such
“easinesse, that wee have scarse received from him a blot on his
papers.” That Heminge and Condell had no hand in either _Dedication_ or
_Address_ is sufficiently proved by turns and phrases characteristically
Jonsonian. They, I suppose, had given Jonson _carte blanche_, and he
made use of the gift, in the interest of literature which might
otherwise have suffered irreparable loss. In this way the fiction of
Shakespeare’s identity with Shakspere was so plausibly documented, that
Jonson might have spared himself any further trouble on that score. But
either to make assurance doubly sure, or to show his dexterity, he set
about the writing of his Ode as if the fiction had not been planted
already. Some of the Ode’s features need no further comment than they
have received. But the “small Latin” and “Swan of Avon” allusions
deserve a word or two more. Both passages point at Shakspere and away
from Shakespeare. What was their _raison d’être_? They were
exceptionally significant touches to an elaborate system of camouflage,
by which posterity, including ourselves, was to be deluded.

Hitherto the accent has been too much on the unessentials of the Ode,
and far too little on its beauties. No nobler contemporary appreciation
of Shakespeare has reached our ears, and that is a cogent reason for
gratitude to its author. Before taking leave of him, I venture to make
free with one of his apostrophes. The lines would then run thus:

            Soule of the Age!
    The applause! delight! the wonder of our Stage!
    My Bacon rise!

In order to correct misapprehensions which may have arisen through my
having slipped into positive statements, where _ex hypothesi_ or
conditional ones might have been desired, I wish expressly to disclaim
any intention to dogmatise. Scientific certainty is out of the
question. High probability we may reach, perhaps have reached. But that
is the limit. That Bacon was Shakespeare, the only Shakespeare that
matters, is merely a working hypothesis. Of other hypothetical
Shakespeares who have been put forward, a certain Earl of Rutland would
have deserved serious consideration, had he been as able a writer as was
his father-in-law, Sidney. The only formidable competing hypothesis
might seem to be that of a Great Unknown. But this essentially is a
confession of ignorance, and some of its supporters are sceptics who
amuse themselves by falling upon every hypothesis in turn.[60]


Baconians hold that Francis Bacon concealed his identity under an
_alias_, and this perhaps is why they are sometimes accused of
slandering him, as if the use of a pen-name were a crime and not the
perfectly legitimate ruse it actually is. Calumniators of Bacon there
exist no doubt, and some of them are disposed to give Macaulay as an
instance. Such calumniation, however, is less likely to be found among
Baconians than among our orthodox opponents, whose creed effectually
bars the way to any true appreciation of the great man. As for Mr.
William Shakspere of Stratford, his character was, or should be, above
suspicion. The Burbages, exceptionally well-informed and credible
witnesses, testify that he was a “deserving” man, and Baconians accept
that valuation of the man all the more readily because there is no proof
that he himself ever laid claim to anything published or known as

The serious criticism that Baconians have to face may be considered
under three heads: (i) The testimony of Ben Jonson; (ii) The popular
notion that Bacon was essentially a man of science; (iii) The absence
of conspicuous and unmistakable evidence of identity between Bacon and

(i) In spite of the obvious inconsistency and perversity of Ben Jonson’s
various utterances on the subject, and the difficulty of believing that
his famous Ode of 1623 could refer except in part to a death which had
occurred in 1616, Ben Jonson is commonly regarded as an absolutely
conclusive witness against us. An article of mine entitled _Ben Jonson’s
Pious Fraud_, which appeared in the _Nineteenth Century and After_ of
November 1913, was an attempt at justification, and the attempt shall
not be repeated here. Some of my readers, however, may care to know that
in the December (1913) number of the same review an angry opponent
charged me with having libelled Ben Jonson, about the last thing of
which I, a lifelong admirer of Ben Jonson’s, could really be guilty.

(ii) The second criticism we have to meet is founded on the assumption
that Science--Natural Science--set her mark upon Bacon almost as soon as
he entered his teens. The main business of this section will be to set
forth arguments tending to show that the mark which Bacon actually bore
from early youth to mature age, was the sign manual of Poetry. In the
nineties of the 16th century, Bacon had serious thoughts of abandoning
the legal profession into which he had been thrust, and devoting himself
to literature in some form or other. Towards the close of his life, when
reviewing his life’s work, he regretfully confesses to having wronged
his “genius” in not devoting himself to letters for which he was “born.”
In another letter of about the same date, he expresses the same
conviction: that in deserting literature for civil affairs, he had done
“scant justice” to his “genius.” These are not the words, nor this the
attitude of a man who thought and felt that he was born for Natural
Science. Possibly so, says an opponent, but if Bacon were really born
for literature, how came it that his literary output, until he had
passed the mature age of 40, was so small? If you, Baconians, were not
blinded by prejudice, you would recognise in Bacon’s literary inactivity
during youth and early manhood, something very like proof of a
preoccupation with Science. In replying to this argument, I should begin
by pointing out that the words “literary inactivity” beg the important
question of concealment of identity. Waiving this point for the moment,
the presumption of an early preoccupation with Science will be seen at a
glance to be incompatible with what we know of Bacon’s attainments in
that direction. A speech of his about 1592 in praise of “Knowledge”--a
word which covered everything knowable--contains some of his finest and
most characteristic thoughts. The praise of knowledge, he declares, is
the praise of mind, since “knowledge is mind.... The minde itself is but
an accident to knowledge, for knowledge is a double of that which is.
The truth of being and the truth of knowing is all one.” Then comes a
rhetorical question reminiscent of Lucretius’s _suave mari_, i.e.: “Is
there any such happiness as for a man’s mind to be raised above ... the
clowdes of error that turn into stormes of perturbations.... Where he
may have a respect of the order of Nature”? “Knowledge,” the speaker
continues, should enable us “to produce effects and endow the life of
man with infinite commodities.” At this point he interrupts himself with
the reflection that he “is putting the garland on the wrong head,” and
then proceeds to inveigh against the “knowledge that is now in use: All
the philosophie of nature now receaved is eyther the philosophie of the
Gretians or of the Alchemist.” Aristotle’s admiration of the
changelessness of the heavens is derided on the naïve assumption that
there is a “like invariableness in the boweles of the earth, much
spiritt in the upper part of the earth which cannot be brought into
masse, and much massie body in the lower part of the heavens which
cannot be refined into spiritt.”[61] Ancient astronomers are next taken
to task for failing to see “how evident it is that what they call a
contrarie mocion is but an abatement of mocion. The fixed starres
overgoe Saturne and Saturne leaveth behind him Jupiter, and so in them
and the rest all is one mocion, and the nearer the earth the slower.” As
for modern astronomers, Copernicus for instance, and Galileo, he
dismisses them with contumely as “new men who drive the earth about.”
Then he chides himself for having forgotten that “knowledge itself is
more beautiful than any apparel of wordes that can be put upon it”--a
romantic sentiment reminiscent of Biron’s “angel knowledge” in _Love’s
Labour’s Lost_; and a subsequent passage is reminiscent of Montaigne.
The conclusion of the Speech is too fine to be abridged and must be
given in full:

     “But indeede facilitie to beleeve, impatience to doubte, temeritie
     to assever, glorie to knowe, end to gaine, sloth to search, resting
     in a part of nature, these and the like have been the things which
     have forbidden the happy match between the minde of man and the
     nature of things, and in place thereof have married it to vaine
     nocions and blynde experiments. And what the posteritie of so
     honorable a match may be it is not hard to consider.[62] Therefore
     no doubte the sovereigntie of man lieth hid in knowledge, wherein
     many things are reserved which Kings with their treasures cannot
     buy, nor with their force command: their spies and intelligencies
     can give no news of them: their seamen and discoverers cannot saile
     where they grow. Now we governe nature in opinions but are thrall
     to her in necessities, but if we would be led by her in invention
     we should command her in action.”

These are not the views nor is this the accent of one who has been
devoting himself to natural science. The utterance is that of a genius
for letters whose preoccupation has been the apparelling of beautiful
thoughts in beautiful words.

       *       *       *       *       *

The above Speech, which is part of an entertainment called a Conference
of Pleasure, expresses intuitions that come from the very soul of the
poet-speaker. Ample confirmation of this is to be found in the
_Advancement of Learning_--Learning here being the synonym of Knowledge
in the Speech--published in 1605. That work aimed at promoting “natural
science” with a view above all to scientific discovery and the increase
of man’s power over nature. It teems with practical allusions to and
quotations from the classical poets, particularly Ovid and Vergil. It
was dedicated to James the First, a prince--to quote the words of its
author--“invested with the learning and universality[63] of a
philosopher.” In a passage dealing with the art of medicine the author
deems it very much “to the purpose” to note that poets were wont “to
conjoin music and medicine in Apollo, because the office of medicine is
but to tune this curious harp of man’s body and reduce it to harmony.”
Another passage asserts that the wild fancies of quacks or empirics were
anticipated and discredited by the poets in the fable of Ixion. What we
call endowment of research, he, student of _belles lettres_ that he is,
regards as provision for the making of experiments appertaining to
Vulcan and Dædalus. Students of Natural Science will search the book in
vain for evidence of direct familiarity with any branch of the subject.
In the opinion of its author, natural history--the natural history of
1605--left little to be desired so far as normal phenomena were
concerned. He ruled that the “opinion of Copernicus touching the
rotation of the earth” was repugnant to “natural philosophy.” The notion
that air had or could have weight is dismissed as preposterous. Among
his observations on history there is no suggestion of the circulation of
the blood. He sums up Gilbert in terms of contempt, his own contribution
to the subject of magnetism being: “There is formed in everything a
double nature of good, the one as everything is a total or substantive
in itself, the other as it is a part or member of a greater or more
general form. Therefore we see the iron in particular sympathy moveth to
the loadstone, but yet if it exceed a certain quantity, it forsaketh the
affection to the loadstone and like a good patriot moveth to the earth
which is the region or country of massy bodies.”

One of the most telling arguments against the presumption that Bacon had
interested himself in natural science to the exclusion of almost
everything else, is the staggering value he put upon “poesy” as compared
with “philosophy” or science at large. Fascinated by the wonderful
discoveries of explorers in the material globe, he pictures knowledge,
all knowledge, as an intellectual globe, which he then divides into
three great parts or continents, History, Poesy, and Philosophy. Only a
poet could have made such a distribution as that. For the continent
allotted to Philosophy, as he understands it, embraced not only all the
natural sciences, but also ethics, politics, mathematics, metaphysics,
and many another subject besides. It would be easy, out of the
_Advancement_ alone, to multiply refutations of the theory that Bacon’s
early and middle life were devoted to natural science. The only
difficulty is to select.

Before changing the subject it may be well to give the substance of a
foot-note to the present writer’s _Shakespeare-Bacon_, 1899 (Swan
Sonnenschein): “When Bacon came to review his early estimate of the
importance of poetry to science or knowledge, he was evidently
dissatisfied. In the _Advancement_ (1605) he had claimed that ‘for the
expressing of affections, passions, corruptions, and customs, we are
beholding to poets more than to philosophers.’ In the corresponding
place of the revised edition (1623) he drops this claim. In the
_Advancement_ again Poesy is stated to be one of the three ‘goodly
fields’[64] (history and experience being the other two), ‘where grow
observations concerning the several characters and tempers of men’s
natures and dispositions.’” In the corresponding place of the revised
version this commendation is materially lowered, on the ground that
poets are so apt to exceed the truth. The revised version, in short,
goes so far towards cheapening Poesy and Imagination as to suggest that
if the author had not been hampered by his earlier utterances, he would
have deposed both from the high places they still were permitted to
occupy in his system.

That Bacon’s relations with “Poesy” were extremely intimate and at the
same time anxiously concealed from the public, his letters afford
convincing evidence. Writing to the Earl of Essex in 1594-5, when his
affairs were in evil plight, he assures that generous friend that “the
waters of Parnassus” are the best of consolation. In a letter to Lord H.
Howard he writes: “We both have tasted of the best waters to knit minds
together”--the allusion being of course to the same Parnassian waters.
In an open letter (1604) to the Earl of Devonshire, he confesses to
having written a sonnet addressed to the Queen herself on a memorable
occasion, and then, by way of proving his generosity when the welfare of
Essex was at stake, directs special attention to the fact that this
sonnet (affair) involved a publishing and declaring of himself--in other
words a dropping of the mask that screened him as poet from the eyes of
the public. That such was his meaning is explained by a confidential
letter to a poetical friend in which he ranks himself among “concealed”
poets. Moreover, this was evidently only one of several letters in which
Bacon confessed himself a concealed poet, for John Aubrey tells us that
Bacon “was a good poet, but concealed as appears by his _letters_.”
Whether any of these other letters still exist is to be doubted, for the
piety of Sir Tobie Mathew, Sir Thomas Meautys, and other devoted friends
of the concealed poet, would naturally destroy all they could lay hands

The external evidence that Bacon was essentially a poet is a theme so
large that only a portion of it can be given here. In 1626, the year of
Bacon’s death, John Haviland printed for Sir William Rawley thirty-two
_monumenta insignia_ expressive of adoration and grief for the great man
who had just passed away.[65] Rawley, the editor, would take care that
no published offering to the _Manes Verulamiani_ should impart his
Master’s secret to persons who were not in it already; and this may help
to explain why all the thirty-two offerings are in Latin, not in the
vulgar tongue. In his preface to the collection, Rawley informs his
readers that the _monumenta_ were a selection merely from the numbers
which had been entrusted to him--“very many, and those of the very best
having been kept back by him” (_plurimos, enim, eosque optimos versus
apud me contineo_). How tantalising! He does not even hint at his reason
for such wholesale suppression of masterpieces. One of the thirty
mourners declares that Bacon was a Muse more choice than any of the
famous Nine. Another considers him “the hinge of the literary world.”
Another bids the fountain of Hippocrene weep black mud, and warns the
Muses that their bay-trees would go out of cultivation now that the
laurel-crowned Verulam had left this planet. Others call upon Apollo and
the Muses to weep for the loss of the great Bacon. Another laments the
disaster that has befallen “us nurselings of the Muses,” and calls Bacon
“the Apollo of our choir.” Another exclaims that “the morning-star of
the Muses, the favourite of Apollo, has fallen,” and supposes that
Melpomene in particular is inconsolable for the loss of him. Another
declares that Bacon had placed all the Muses under obligations
impossible to estimate. Another laments him as “the Tenth Muse ...
ornament of the choir,” and imagines that Apollo can never have been so
unhappy before. Another regards Bacon as the _delicium_ of his country.
Another calls him the choir leader of the Pierides. Another, No. 24,
will have it that Ovid, had he lived, would have been better qualified
than any other poet to lay an acceptable offering on the tomb of Bacon.
Why Ovid should have been pitched upon is not obvious. Perhaps the
opinion of Francis Meres, that “the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in
mellifluous and honytongued Shakespeare, witness his _Venus and Adonis_,
his _Lucrece_, his _Sugred Sonnets_, among his private friends,” may
have determined his choice. Here it should be mentioned that a previous
contributor had hinted not obscurely at Bacon’s authorship of “some
elegant love pieces or poems”--_quicquid venerum politiorum_.[66]
Another contributor exclaims: “Couldst thou thyself, O Bacon, suffer
death, thou who wert able to confer immortality on the Muses
themselves?” The last of the thirty-two selected contributors is Thomas
Randolph, a notable member of the group of wits known as _the tribe of
Ben_. After having expatiated on the grief of himself and his
fellow-poets for the irreparable loss they had just sustained, and borne
his testimony to Bacon’s intimacy with the melodious goddesses (Camænæ),
Randolph in the manner affected by contemporary poets and men of
letters, proceeds to eulogise Bacon as the inventor of new scientific
methods, of keys to Nature’s labyrinth, etc., and finishes: “But we
poets can add nothing to thy fame. Thou thyself art a singer, and
therefore singest thine own praises.” (_At nostræ tibi nulla ferent
encomia musæ, Ipse canis, laudes et canis inde tuas_).

To sum up, the outstanding impression left on the mind by Randolph and
his friends is that they regarded Bacon, not merely as a poet, but as
the foremost poet of the age; and this impression is confirmed by the
reflection that few if any of the contributors knew enough of science to
be capable of appreciating the work of really scientific pioneers such
as Harriot, Gilbert, Harvey, and others whose names are conspicuously
absent from the roll of Bacon’s admirers.

(iii) The remaining difficulty--that of establishing a relation between
Bacon and Shakespeare--has now to be dealt with. It may be well to begin
by directing attention to the significant omission of the name of
Jonson, head of the _tribe of Ben_, from the collection of eulogies we
have just been considering. Adequate explanation of this conspicuous
omission is almost impossible without the aid of the Bacon hypothesis.
If any contribution of Jonson’s had appeared in the publication, the
secret would have been out. Even as it was, his executors almost
disclosed it when, in 1640-1, they sanctioned publication of those
tell-tale notebooks in which Jonson records that Bacon “had performed
that in our tongue which might be compared or preferred either to
insolent Greece or haughty Rome,” an appreciation almost identical with
that contained in his famous Ode to Shakespeare. It is well to remember
in this connection that Jonson on Bacon’s sixtieth birthday had
apostrophised him as an enchanter or “mystery” worker.

Among other arguments which tend to identify the names of Bacon and
Shakespeare, the following seem worthy of mention: (a) Poesy, as we
know, constituted one of the three continents into which Bacon in his
_Advancement of Learning_, mapped out the whole “globe” of the knowable.
To ignore dramatic poetry altogether would have given rise to
inconvenient curiosity. Compelled, therefore, to give it a name, Bacon
rejects the natural word “dramatic” and adopts instead the
out-of-the-way word “representative.” What he says, moreover, about
dramatic poetry--in the proper place for saying it--is apparently
intended to carry on the suggestion that he was almost a stranger to
dramatic performances, a suggestion contradicted by passages in other
sections of the same work. For instance, on handling what he calls the
“Georgics of the mind,” he describes dramatic poetry in terms so
appropriate to the best dramatic poetry of the period, that one is
almost forced to say to oneself: Here surely, Bacon must have been
thinking of Shakespeare! The passage will bear quoting at length. “In
poetry,” it runs, “no less than in history, we may find painted forth
with great life how affections are kindled and excited; how they work,
how they vary, how they gather and fortify, how they do fight and
encounter one with another ... how to set affection against affection,
and to master one by another, even as we use to hunt beast with beast.”
His leave-taking, it may be added, of the whole theme or subject of
poetry is effected by an ironical: “But it is not good to stay too long
in the theatre,” which could only be fully appreciated I suppose, by his
personal friends.

(b) Nowhere, I believe, in any extant writing of Bacon’s, whether
letter, essay, or notebook, is there any mention of Shakespeare, and a
like reticence is observed in the Rawley collection just cited. Assume
for the moment that Shakespeare was the proper name of the man of
Stratford, not the pseudonym of Bacon, or, to put it in another way,
that Shakespeare and Bacon were two separate persons, and what is the
result? We should have to concede that of two poets, both interested in
things dramatic, both supreme judges and keen observers of human nature,
its affections, passions, corruptions, and customs--that of two such
poets, one, and that one Bacon, must have forbidden the very mention of
the other, and this, too, for no discoverable reason.

(c) Bacon (in 1605) held that the chief function of poetry was “to give
some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of man in those points wherein
the nature of things doth deny it.” He ranked poets among the very best
of ethical teachers in virtue of their insight into human character as
modifiable “by the sex, by the age, by the region, by health and
sickness, by beauty and deformity” and the like; and again ... “by
sovereignty, nobility, obscure birth, riches, want, magistracy,
privateness, prosperity, adversity, constant fortune, variable fortune,
rising _per saltum, per gradus_ and the like.” Here again many an
open-minded reader must have felt moved to reflect that he was on the
track, if not in the presence, of Shakespeare.

(d) It is clear that Bacon as he grew older, came to think less and less
highly of imaginative work. The mere fact that Shakespeare ultimately
abandoned his poetical offspring to chance, points, it surely would
seem, to a similar change of view.

(e) Though many of the coincidences between Bacon and Shakespeare may be
explained as manifestations of the Time Spirit, some of them strongly
suggest direct contact even when taken singly. Take for example, the
_misquotation of Aristotle_ by Shakespeare in _Troilus and Cressida_,
and by Bacon in the _Advancement of Learning_.[67] Take, again, the
curious resemblance between the _Winter’s Tale_ and the _Essay of
Gardens_. Spedding’s comment on this passage in the Essay runs: “The
scene in _Winter’s Tale_ where Perdita presents the guests with flowers
... has some expressions which, if the Essay had been printed somewhat
earlier, would have made me suspect that Shakespeare had been reading

(f) Again, certain views to which Bacon gave expression in the _Essay of
Deformity_, seem implicit in Shakespeare’s _Richard the Third_. Richard
has his “revenge of nature” for the ill turn she did him in making him
deformed. He is also “extreme bold,” ever on the watch to “observe the
weakness” of others. His deformity, moreover, must, it would seem, be
supposed to have “quenched jealousy” in those personages who, if he had
been comely, would have foreseen and thwarted his ambitious designs.

(g) In the course of some interesting observations on the writing of
history considered as an art, Bacon confesses to a liking for ready-made
outlines or plots, so that the artist might be free to concentrate his
powers on the more congenial work of enrichment “with counsels,
speeches, and notable particularities.” The faulty plots of many of
Shakespeare’s plays imply that he also grudged the labour of
construction and delighted in decoration and enrichment.

(h) Several editions of Bacon’s Essays seem to have been published
without their author’s consent. Shakespeare also seems to have been
preyed upon by piratical publishers. Wherever concealment of authorship
is a desideratum, prosecution by law must needs be difficult if not

(i) Whenever Shakespeare, as we know him in quartos and folios, stands
in need of an interpreter, no contemporary author is so often consulted
by orthodox critics as Francis Bacon.

(k) Compare the _Merchant of Venice_, which the editor of the First
Folio rather enigmatically calls _comedy_, with Bacon’s _Essay of
Usury_. The primary intention of the play was to amuse or delight; that
of the Essay being of course to instruct. But the play appears to me to
have combined _utile_ with _dulce_, instruction with pleasure; and the
lesson as I understand it was this:--usury instead of being forbidden by
the State, should be recognised and regulated, on the ground that
unconditional forfeiture of pawns or pledges--the usual alternative to
usury--is apt to bear more harshly on the borrower. The crisis of the
play arrives near the end of Act IV, Sc. 1, where the Doge pronounces
judgment. The instant and immediate effect upon Shylock is positively
crushing; he would rather die than submit. But the accent of despair is
quickly succeeded by the words: “I am content,” although one of the
conditions just introduced by Antonio is that the wretched man Shylock
should “presently become a Christian.” The change of mood is so amazing
that we can hardly believe our senses. What can be the explanation? we
ask ourselves. Between the judgment pronounced by the Doge and Shylock’s
accent of despair, Antonio has thrown in these words: “So please my lord
the Duke and all the Court to quit the fine for one half of his goods, I
am content; so he [Shylock] will let me have the other half in use, to
render it upon his death unto the gentleman that lately stole his
daughter.” To us the words may seem insignificant. But Shylock was a
sort of personification of usury, and to him they meant nothing less
than victory--victory over his arch-enemy Antonio, the head and front of
the anti-usury party in Venice.

Students of Bacon will remember that his _Essay of Usury_ is a plea for
State recognition and regulation of interest or “use,” on utilitarian
grounds similar to those suggested in the comedy.

But may not this harmony between the _Merchant of Venice_ and the Essay
have been accidental, especially as there was an interval of some
twenty-five years between the appearance of the _Essay_ in its present
form and our _Merchant of Venice_? My answer is that the _Essay_ was
based, as we know from one of Bacon’s own letters, on “some short papers
of mine touching usury, how to grind the teeth of it,” etc., and these
short papers may well have been written as early as 1598, when Bacon
himself was in the clutches of the money-lender.[69]

(l) The relation between the play of _Hamlet_ and the _Essay of Revenge_
is quite as close as that between the _Essay of Usury_ and the _Merchant
of Venice_. A reader who should consider the tragedy of _Hamlet_ with a
single eye to conduct, will hardly escape the reflection that its lesson
or moral is summed up to perfection in one of Bacon’s Essays, viz., the
one which treats of revenge: “They doe but trifle with themselves that
labour in past matters. There is no man doth a wrong for the wrong’s
sake; but thereby to purchase himselfe Profit, or Pleasure, or Honour,
or the like. Therefore why should I be angry with a Man, for loving
himselfe better than mee?... Vindicative persons live the Life of
Witches: who, as they are Mischievous, so end they Infortunate.” Such in
the end was the noble Hamlet’s fate. Once possessed by the devil of
revenge, he becomes a sort of upas or plague-centre, and perishes in a
sorry and most unlucky broil.

(m) The existence of striking harmonies between Shakespeare and Bacon
was detected by foreign students fifty years ago and more. Professor
Kuno Fischer, for example, wrote: “To the parallels between them [i.e.
Bacon and Shakespeare] belong the similar relation of both to Antiquity,
their affinity to the Roman mind, and their divergence from the
Greek.... Bacon would have man studied in his individual capacity as a
product of nature and history, in every respect determined by ...
external and internal conditions. And exactly in the same spirit has
Shakespeare understood man and his destiny.” Gervinus in his
_Commentaries_ observes: “In Bacon’s works we find a number of moral
sayings and maxims of experience from which the most striking mottoes
might be drawn for every Shakespearean play, aye, for all his principal
characters, testifying to a remarkable harmony in their comprehension of
human nature.” One more quotation, of like import and from an author
with no partiality for Baconian views, may not be superfluous. Professor
J. Nichol, after having ruled out the Baconian heresy by recording his
opinion that Bacon did not write Shakespeare, proceeds: “But there is
something startling in the like magnificence of speech in which they
[Bacon and Shakespeare] find voice for sentiments often as nearly
identical when they anticipate as when they contravene the manners of
thought and standards of action that prevail in our age.” (_Francis
Bacon_, Vol. I, 1888).

(n) Only a lawyer by education would have hit upon the technicality
which is the nucleus of the 87th Sonnet of Shakespeare. The technicality
is not one which an amateur interested in common law proceedings would
be likely to pick up, for it belongs to the art of conveyancing. Part of
my time, fifty years ago, was spent in the chambers of a conveyancer.
But for that early training I might still have been able to see
intellectual beauty in the well-known bust of Shakespeare at Stratford;
for my suspicion of the popular legend originated in the conviction that
the Shakespeare who matters must have been bred up a lawyer.[70]

(o) In the year 1867, Mr. John Bruce discovered in Northumberland House,
which then stood in the Strand, a bundle of Elizabethan manuscripts, the
outermost sheet of which contains a miscellaneous list of Elizabethan
writings, the majority of which are unquestionably identified with work
previously known to have been due to Bacon. The minority consists of
five pieces, three of which may, for anything we know to the contrary,
have been enriched if not entirely written by him. The two remaining
pieces figure in the list as “Rychard the Second” and “Rychard the
Third.” The significance of this association with work of which there
can be no doubt that Bacon was the author, is greatly increased by the
fact that the cover or sheet which bears the list of contents is
bescribbled at random with the names “ffrancis Bacon” and “William

Mr. Spedding evidently missed what seems to me the true significance of
this double association--the combination of titles in the list of
contents, and the mixture of the names Bacon with Shakespeare in the
scribbles. But one or two of his observations on the subject of this
singular find are interesting enough. He notes, for example, that the
name “Shakespeare” in the scribbles is “spelt in every case as it was
always printed in those days, and not as he himself in any known case
wrote it.” Another of Spedding’s observations is that the contained
manuscripts, list or lists of contents, and scribbles, all belong to a
period “not later then the reign of Elizabeth.”

(p) Attentive readers of almost any biography of Francis Bacon will be
surprised to learn that the record of his achievements begins so late.
Singularly precocious, he has already reached the ripe age--so these
biographies tell us--of 36, before anything worthy of mention can be
placed to his credit except a small tract or booklet of confessedly
unripe _Essays_, _Religious Meditations_, and _Coulers of Good and
Evil_. That there must be something very wrong with the record is proved
by the fact that already in 1597, the date of the booklet, everything
that came, or was suspected of coming, from the pen of Bacon, was in
such request that he was compelled, as he tells his brother, to publish
these crudities lest they should be stolen or mutilated by piratical
printers. His first really notable work, according to the conventional
record, is the _Advancement of Learning_, which was not published until
two-thirds of his life was behind him. By far the greater part of the
remaining third was so absorbed by public affairs, and, after his fall,
so harassed by ill-health and private worries, that no literary fruit
could have been looked for. Yet its closing years were marked by an
unparalleled outburst of literary activity--an outburst which, like the
fear of piratical printers expressed in his letter of 1597, means, I
take it, that his youth and early manhood had been devoted to the art
and practice of literature. Shelley’s emphatic assertion that Bacon was
a poet leaves the puzzle still unsolved. So, perhaps, does the discovery
of harmony after harmony between Bacon and Shakespeare.

But the tension will begin to relax so soon as we shall have taken time
to grasp the significance on these two facts: first, that the dramas
attributed to Shakespeare (spelt as it was always printed in those
days[72]) cannot be fitted into the life of the man Shakspere who ended
his life, and was evidently content to end it, in what was then a small
and rather squalid country town: and second, that the evidence--Ben
Jonson’s--which is commonly supposed to establish the Stratford case,
turns out to be in itself an enigma rather than a solution.

The riddle is almost read when we shall have satisfied ourselves that
Bacon was not only a poet but a “concealed” poet, and that by his own
confession. And by the time we have been shown Sir T. Mathew’s remark,
in his letter to Viscount St. Alban: “The most prodigious ... wit I know
... is of your Lordship’s name though he be known by another,” the true
and only solution stands revealed.

This letter was written, I imagine, just at the time when the First
Folio (of Shakespeare) was the talk of literary London. It was excluded
from Sir Tobie Mathew’s own _Collection of Letters_ (published 1660),
but seems to have lived on, in seclusion no doubt, till 1762, by which
time all thought about the “concealed poet’s” potent art had long been
buried with his bones. Basil Montagu gives a copy of it, but Spedding,
if I mistake not, ignores it.

This is by no means all the evidence that a better advocate than I could
bring to bear on the question in dispute. But no stronger guarantee for
the truth of the Bacon hypothesis can be demanded than that it should
harmonise a large number of otherwise inexplicable data; and this demand
I hope I may have done something to meet.

For the rival hypothesis, of course, there is much to be said. Never was
Golden Bough the child or offspring of an ilex oak. Yet Vergil’s
beautiful tale for ever adorns the lovely Avernian lake.
Stratford-on-Avon was even more to the Shakespeare legend, and thereby
may likewise be immortalised. “Doth any man doubt that if there were
taken out of men’s minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false
valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like, but it would leave
the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy
and indisposition and unpleasing to themselves?”


_The Tempest_ in the form in which it originally left the author’s hand
belongs, it would seem, with _A Winter’s Tale_, to the period 1607-1610,
nearer probably to the 7 than the 10. The ground-plot may well have been
adapted, as Herr Dorer suggested, from a story which ultimately got into
a Spanish collection of Tales, called _Winter Nights_. Of the actual
plot it is not necessary to say much. Twelve years before the opening of
the play, Prospero, poet and enchanter, the victim of a wicked cabal,
found himself and his daughter, then a mere babe, stranded on a barren
island. Fortunately part of his library, consisting of volumes which he
prized above everything else in the world, except Miranda, had somehow
been allowed to accompany him. In the beloved society of these books and
Miranda he managed to pass the time until relief came in the shape of a
commotion brought about by his own consummate art.

The true centre of the play, the Sun about which its system revolves, is
Miranda. It is for her sake, hers alone, that Prospero displays, and
then for ever renounces, an art which he dearly loves and is certain he
will miss.

Now there is no evidence fit to be trusted that Shakspere, or, to give
him the title he coveted, Mr. William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon,
gentleman, was ever a lover of books, none that he ever possessed, or
would have cared to possess anything in the shape of a library. Among
the various specific bequests of his essentially vulgar Will no such
thing as a book is even suggested. About 1613 Shakspere exchanged the
mentally stimulating atmosphere of London for the deadly dullness of a
mean provincial town. His departure, unwept, unsung, and seemingly not
even noticed by any member of the literary world he is supposed to have
adorned, may have been demanded by keen personal interest in an
enclosure scheme which was then agitating the petty community at
Stratford. There is no evidence, no hint even, that it was due to
ill-health, and it certainly cannot have been due (as the whole action
of Prospero was) to preoccupation with the marriage of a daughter.
Daughters he had, it is true, and the younger of them (Judith) married
one Thomas Quiney a vintner or tavern-keeper, son of Richard Quiney (an
old friend of the Shaksperes) who, or whose widow, also kept a tavern.
But Judith’s marriage took place long after her father’s retirement from
London must have been resolved on. Shakspere’s _highest ambition_--Mr.
Sidney Lee tells us--_was to restore among his fellow-townsmen the
family repute which his father’s misfortunes had imperilled_. This
father it seems was a chandler or general dealer, not more illiterate
probably than others of the family, who began life in a humble way and
afterwards came to grief. If, as is likely, his debts were
inconsiderable, his _ambitious_ son should have found little difficulty
in restoring the _family repute_, such as it was. The fat-witted
lines--_Good friend for Jesus sake forbear, To dig the dust enclosed
here_, etc.--which this same son seems to have selected, or composed, or
ordered, for his monument, though quite out of keeping with mountains of
surmise, are entirely in keeping with all we can properly be said to
know of the man. Yet this is the man who is said, on eminent authority,
to have conceived and executed _The Tempest_, and what is more to my
immediate purpose, to have drawn Prospero in his own image! Belief in
this might have been possible, had we known next to nothing about
Shakspere or his environment. But the finds of a Halliwell-Phillipps (to
take him as a type) have had an effect which the industrious finder
certainly did not foresee or intend.

More than thirty years ago the writer came to the double conclusion, (a)
that whoever _Shakespeare_ might have been, Shakspere was not the man;
(b) that of all the known poets of that day, it was Bacon and Bacon
alone who seemed to possess the necessary qualifications. Many of the
reasons--none of them beholden to cypher, cryptogram or hocus-pocus of
any kind--which made for that conclusion are set forth in a little book,
_Bacon-Shakespeare, An Essay_ (signed E. W. S., Rome, but published,
1900, in London). Most of the reasons there given have, however, no very
definite relation to _The Tempest_ and its symbolism.

Shelley saw and asserted that _Bacon was a poet_. But students of Bacon
need no Shelley to inform them that Bacon was indeed a poet. His
earlier work betrays him. Even the _Advancement of Learning_ (1605),
tinctured as it is by the pedantic style then coming into fashion, holds
just the same truth in solution. To many such students, apology is due
for labouring the point. My excuse is the existence of a strong
prepossession to the contrary. By what seems to have been an oversight
on the part of Bacon, his executors and intimate friends, a letter of
his to Sir J. Davies, also a poet, has come down to us, unedited for the
public. In this letter Bacon confesses himself a poet, ranks himself in
effect amongst _concealed poets_. Aubrey too, thanks probably to a
similar oversight, lets us into the same secret that Bacon was a
_concealed poet_. Of Bacon’s affection for poetry the product (Bacon
himself calls it the _work or play_) of the imagination, there is no
room for doubt. If other evidence were wanting, the _Sapientia Veterum_
(1609) would almost suffice to prove it. As Porphyry’s reverence for the
elder gods is deducible from his attempt to extract philosophy out of
the oracles of antiquity, so Bacon’s reverent affection for poetry
manifests itself in that elaborate attempt of his to distil philosophy
out of what is at bottom a medley of poetical fables. That Bacon, like
Prospero, delighted in _poesis_ (making) is equally clear. _Poesy_, he
says in the _De Augmentis_--_Poesy is a dream of knowledge_ (_or_
culture), _a thing sweet and varied and that would fain be held partly
divine_.... _But now it is time for me to awake_ (ut evigilem) _and
cleave the liquid ether of philosophy_, etc. This passage, written after
1605, obviously means more than affection for poetry the product. Only
a poet who loved to dream, only a poet for whom the awaking was fraught
with pain, however glorious the promise of the dawn, would have written

Bacon again, like Prospero, was a lover of books, and happy like him, in
the possession of a well-filled library (at Gray’s Inn, or Gorhambury,
or both). He was an omniverous reader, _tasting_ some books
(mathematical and astronomical, for example), _swallowing_ others,
_chewing and digesting a few_. His biographer says of him: _He was a
great reader_, but _no plodder upon books_.

About 1607-9, Bacon (in one of his _impetus philosophici_) imagined that
at last he really had hit upon an infallible Method of vastly enlarging
man’s dominion over Nature. The problem was how to launch this Method to
the best advantage. Knowing only too well that he would receive no
encouragement from living experts in science--the scientists who had
arrived as distinguished from those who had not yet started--he fixed
his hopes on ingenuous, open-minded Youth. But this is a prosaic way of
looking at the matter, and Bacon was a poet. To him the desideratum
presented itself as a marriage, a marriage between his _darling
philosophy_, as he was wont to call it, and an ideal husband. In the
_Redargutio Philosophiarum_ men are exhorted to devote themselves to the
task of bringing about _a chaste and legitimate wedlock between the mind
and nature_. In the _Sapientia Veterum_ the same idea appears in a
different form: _facultates illas duas Dogmaticam et Empiricam adhuc non
bene conjunctas et copulatas fuisse_.[74] In the _Delineatio_ (c. 1607)
he writes: _We trust we have constructed a bride-bed for the marriage of
Man’s Mind with the Universe_. The same idea (hardly as yet an
obsession) makes one of its earliest appearances in a _Speech in Praise
of Knowledge_, forming part of a dramatic _jeu d’esprit_ entitled _A
Conference of Pleasure_ (1592). In this _Speech_ several things are said
to _have forbidden the happy match between the mind of man and the
nature of things, and in place thereof have married it to vain notions
and blind experiments. And what the issue of so honourable a match may
be it is not hard to consider._ With the actual merits of the Method we
are but distantly concerned here. What is of importance here is the
certainty that Bacon would lose no opportunity of repudiating every
suggestion that his beloved child owed anything to the imagination. _It
was an usual speech of his lordship’s_, says his biographer, _that his
Natural History is the world as God made it, and not as men have made
it, for it hath nothing of the imagination_.

By this time the inner meaning of _The Tempest_, and also the editorial
reason for thrusting it into the leading place of the _First Folio_, may
have become apparent. Miranda stands for Bacon’s _Darling Philosophy_,
and the ingenuous young Ferdinand for the unsophisticated mind of man,
the human intellect _cleared and delivered_ from _idols_, particularly
_idols of the theatre_. The issue of so auspicious a match is left, in
_The Tempest_, as in the _Conference of Pleasure_, to the imagination.
Prospero’s ceremonious rejection of his magic robes is an adumbration
of Bacon’s anxiety to preserve his Philosophy from being calumniated as
a poetical dream, a thing _infected with the style of the poets_, as he
once (in a fragmentary _Essay of Fame_) confessed himself to be.
Devotion to Miranda again is the motive for Prospero’s resolve to
dismiss Ariel from his service, at a time when Ariel could ill be
spared, one feels, by his ageing master. The words _my dainty Ariel I
shall miss thee_ are eloquent of pain, pain self-inflicted and
unexplained, except by a promise wholly uncalled-for by anything that
appears on the surface. Ariel on the other hand, tricksy Ariel,
incapable of human affection, sick of expecting a long-promised freedom,
feels no pain, no regret, nothing but joy at the prospect of slaving it
no longer for a despotic master: _Merrily, merrily shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough_.

The last words of one of Prospero’s closing speeches, _Every third
thought shall be my grave_, followed up as they are by the thinly veiled
pathos of his appeal in the Epilogue, perplex and distress the reader.
_Prospero triumphans_, without one word of warning or explanation, has
changed into _Misero supplicans_. Why this sudden revulsion? To my
untutored mind it intimates a working-over of the play after Bacon’s
fall, for the purpose of adapting it, not too obviously, to the altered
circumstances of the original author, that _unfortunate_ Chancellor who,
according to Ben Jonson, _hath filled up all numbers, and performed that
in our tongue which may be compared or preferred, either to insolent
Greece or haughty Rome_. The date of this (last) working-over would
probably synchronise with the first public or semi-public appearances of
the _First Folio_ (of _Shakespeare_), of Bacon’s _De Augmentis
Scientiarum_, and of Ben Jonson’s _Time Vindicated_, these four
events--with perhaps a Court performance of the adapted _Tempest_ thrown
in--being, I venture to think, intimately connected with what may be
called an Apotheosis of Bacon.

“A remarkable story indeed”--an objector may say--“but do you seriously
believe that Bacon can be proved to have been the Author, and
_Shakespeare_ the pen-name? Besides, does it really matter--except to
Stratford and Verulam--whether _Shakespeare_ hailed from this place or
that? We have the poems and we have the plays, and that is enough. As
for your reading of _The Tempest_, it may be ingenious, but it is not
convincing. Patience, with a modicum of ingenuity, has probably never
despaired of cajoling almost any given meaning out of any fable--fables,
like dreams and Delphian utterances, being almost as plastic as wax.
Moreover, the inner meaning you claim to have disclosed, involves the
absurdity of supposing that a fable was invented for the express purpose
of wrapping up the said meaning, so effectually as to ensure its being
missed by all the world, a few esoteric contemporaries only excepted.
The idea, to be quite candid, belongs rather to Bedlam than to Bacon.”

Strict proof, I reply, is hardly to be expected either now or hereafter.
A high degree of probability, resting on evidence of various kinds and
different degrees of cogency, is all that the writer has ever contended
for. The history of literature abounds in instances of pseudonymity. Of
these one of the most apposite that occurs to me is that of
Aristophanes, who made use of the name Callistratus, a contemporary
actor, to mask his (own) authorship of the _Birds_, _Lysistrata_, etc.
There are differences, of course, between the two cases, one being that
in that of Aristophanes there were no very obvious reasons for
concealment, whereas in the case of Bacon there were several. Whether it
really matters who the great poet was depends on the word “really.” It
certainly does not matter in the sense in which the high price of coal,
the low price of Consols, England’s relations with other Powers, etc.,
matter. It does matter for _The Tempest_, the symbolism of which
probably extends beyond Miranda and Prospero, as far as Neapolis, and
possibly further. It cannot fail to affect the interpretation of other
plays of _Shakespeare_. It solves, or helps to solve, interesting
problems in the life and acknowledged works of Bacon. It matters in
short for all genuine admirers of English literature. As to
plasticity--where the fable to be juggled is vague, undocumented,
variously and incoherently documented, or frugal of features, the
operation will be child’s play. With such a fable as _The Tempest_ the
trick can only be brought off by singling out one or two features and
shutting the eye to all the rest. One objection only remains to be dealt
with. The reference to Bedlam with which it concludes might have been
omitted, but no discussion of this question seems quite in order without
some innuendo that the unorthodox person is mad or a crank. The
objection itself (though the phrasing might be challenged as favouring
the objector) is pertinent enough, and may be answered as follows: Bacon
was an inveterate treasure-seeker. The unsunned treasures he sought were
not material things like gold and silver, but gems of thought hidden
away in the dreamlands of poetry. The genesis of this habit was no doubt
closely related to his theory that poesy enables the artist in words to
_retire_ and _obscure_ ... _secrets and mysteries_ by _involving_ them
in _fables_ invented for the purpose, a practice by no means uncommon,
he firmly believed, among the poets of antiquity when they wished to
reserve information for _selected auditors_.

So far the discussion has been grave to the point of dullness. Would
that I had been able to enliven it, if only because _The Tempest_ is a
comedy--heads the file of the comedies in the _First Folio_. Possibly
the following quotation from the work of an eminent critic may help to
remedy the fault: _Miranda_ ... _and her fellow Perdita are
idealizations of the sweet country maidens whom Shakspere_ (sic) _would
see about him in his renewed family life at Stratford_.[75]


Many years ago, when, not having bestowed a thought upon the subject, I
was, naturally, of the orthodox Stratfordian faith, and knew nothing of
the Baconian “heresy” except the time-honoured joke that “Shakespeare”
was not written by Shakespeare, but by another gentleman of the same
name (which I thought “devilish funny”) I happened to be reading Bacon’s
_Essay on Gardens_. This passage at once arrested my attention: “In
April follow, the double violet; the wall-flower; the stock-gilliflower;
the cowslip; _flower-de-luces, and lillies of all natures_.” Why,
thought I, those last words are almost identical with some used by
Perdita at the conclusion of her lovely catalogue of flowers! I turned
to the _Winter’s Tale_ (IV. 4) and there read:

        lillies of all kinds,
    The flower-de-luce being one.

For at least half a minute I thought, in my innocence, that I had made a
discovery! But reflection of course, told me that so startling a
parallelism must have been observed by hundreds before me. “Lillies of
all kinds,” says Shakespeare; “lillies of all natures,” says Bacon; and
each specifies “the flower-de-luce” as one of them! Surely, I said to
myself, this is no mere coincidence! Surely one of these writers must
have, consciously or unconsciously, taken the words from the other! On
closer inspection, too, I found a remarkable resemblance between the two
lists of flowers, Bacon’s and Shakespeare’s; that they are in fact
substantially the same. Did then Shakspere borrow from Bacon? Very
possibly, I thought; but on investigation I found that the _Essay on
Gardens_ was first printed in 1625, nine years after player Shakspere’s
death. Well, then, did Bacon borrow from Shakspere in this instance?
Few, I think, would be inclined to adopt that hypothesis. The author of
the _Essay_ had made a life-long study of gardens, and, as Mr. James
Spedding writes (though I did not discover this till years afterwards),
“it is not probable that Bacon would have anything to learn of William
Shakespeare [i.e., Shakspere of Stratford] concerning the science of
gardening.” “Moreover,” says the same writer, “the scene in _Winter’s
Tale_ where Perdita presents the guests with flowers ... has some
expressions which, if the _Essay_ had been printed somewhat earlier,
would have made me suspect that Shakespeare had been reading it!”[76]
Yes, indeed, and these “expressions,” almost identical in both, have
made some persons “suspect” that the same pen wrote both the _Essay_ and
the _Scene_.

There are, as all those who have studied the two authors are aware, many
other striking coincidences to be found in the writings of Shakespeare
and Bacon. In this chapter I propose to consider some of them only,
namely those which, nearly twenty years ago, formed the subject of a
controversy between the late Judge Webb, and the late Professor Dowden.

In the year 1902 the late Judge Webb, then Regius Professor of Laws, and
Public Orator in the University of Dublin, published a book which he
called _The Mystery of William Shakespeare_.

The eighth chapter of that work treats “Of Shakespeare as a Man of
Science,” and here the learned Judge put forward a number of
parallelisms taken from Shakespeare’s plays and Bacon’s works (mainly
from the _Natural History_, which was published eleven years after the
death of Shakspere of Stratford), in order to show that “the scientific
opinions of Shakespeare so completely coincide with those of Bacon that
we must regard the two philosophers as one in their philosophy, however
reluctant we may be to recognize them as actually one.”

To this the late Professor Dowden replied, in _The National Review_ of
July, 1902, and brought forward an immense amount of learning to show
that these coincidences really prove nothing, because “all which Dr.
Webb regards as proper to Shakespeare and Bacon was, in fact, _the
common knowledge or common error of the time_.” Whereunto the Judge, in
a brief rejoinder (_National Review_, August, 1902), intimated that all
he was concerned with was “the common knowledge and common error of
Shakespeare and Bacon,” his case being that in matters of science these
two, as a fact, show an extremely close agreement. The question for the
reader, therefore, is whether or not that agreement is so remarkable
that something more than “the common knowledge or common error _of the
time_” is required to explain it.

Here the matter has been left, but I think it may be of interest to
consider once more the points at issue between these two learned
disputants. Let me premise that I do not write as a “Baconian.” The
hypothesis that Bacon was the author of the plays of Shakespeare, or
some of them, or some parts of them, may be mere “madhouse chatter,” as
Sir Sidney Lee has styled it, or we may be content with more moderate
language, and merely say that the hypothesis is “not proven.” I leave
that _vexata quæstio_ on one side. But, whatever may be our opinion with
regard to it, it must, I think, be admitted that some of the
“parallelisms,” or “coincidences,” between Bacon and Shakespeare are
really very remarkable, and the controversy between Judge Webb and
Professor Dowden, which I here pass under review, has not, as it seems
to me, so conclusively explained their existence as to leave nothing
further for the consideration of an impartial critic.

Let me take an example. Bacon in his _Sylva Sylvarum_, or _Natural
History_[77] (Cent. I, p. 98), speaks of “the spirits or pneumaticals
that are in all tangible bodies,” and which, he says, “are scarce
known.” They are not, he tells us, as some suppose, virtues and
qualities of the tangible parts which “men see,” but “they are things
by themselves,” i.e., entities. And again (Cent. VII, 601), he says,
“all bodies have spirits, and pneumatical parts within them,” and he
goes on to point out the differences between the “spirits” in animate,
and those in inanimate things. Further on (Cent. VII, 693), Bacon
writes: “It hath been observed by the ancients that much use of Venus
doth dim the sight,” and the cause of this, he says, “is the expense of
spirits.” Now in Sonnet 129 Shakespeare writes:

    The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
    Is lust in action.

Here we certainly seem to have a remarkable agreement between
Shakespeare and Bacon. Both use the very same expression “the expense of
spirit” and (which constitutes the real strength of the parallel) both
use it in exactly the same application. What is Professor Dowden’s
explanation? He says that “the mediæval theory of ‘spirits’ will be
found in the _Encyclopædia of Bartholomew Anglicus on the Properties of
Things_,” which he says was “a book of wide influence.” He says further:
“The popular opinions of Shakespeare’s time respecting ‘spirits’ may be
read in _Bright’s Treatise of Melancholy_, 1586, and _Burton’s Anatomy_,
1621, and in many another volume.... Bright, in his _Melancholy_, seems
almost to anticipate the theory of Bacon, and possibly he was himself
influenced by Paracelsus.” As to the expression “expense of spirit,” he
says it may be found in this book of Bright’s (pp. 62, 237, and 244),
and in Donne’s _Progress of the Soul_. I do not understand the Professor
to suggest that the Stratford player had consulted these works (Burton,
of course, is out of the question) for he writes: “The language of
Shakespeare is popular, and connected probably neither with what Bright
nor what Bacon wrote, but if a theory be required, it can be found as
easily in a volume which Shakespeare might have read, as in a volume
published after his death.” Bacon, however, we may say with confidence,
knew these books, and had, in all probability, read them. The Professor,
for instance, refers to Paracelsus, and subsequently, on another point,
to Scaliger. Bacon, as we know, was familiar with both these writers,
and makes reference to them (see, for instance, _Natural History_, Cent.
IV, 354, and Cent. VII, 694), whereas it will, I suppose, hardly be
suggested that the player had sought inspiration in the works of these

The first question, then, which suggests itself is this. Are we to
conclude, because there is a theory of “spirits” (which Bacon says “are
scarce known”) to be found in Bartholomew Anglicus, and Bright, and
Paracelsus, that it was a matter of “popular” knowledge, a subject with
which Shakspere of Stratford, as well as the philosopher of Gorhambury,
would have been likely to be familiar? This question seems to me a very
doubtful one, but if it is to be answered in the affirmative, then we
have to ask: Is this assumed popular knowledge, or popular error,
sufficient to account for the use by both Shakespeare and Bacon of
exactly the same expression in exactly the same collocation? And in
considering this question we must remember that the evidence is
cumulative, i.e., this coincidence is not a solitary instance, but only
one of many, and it is but fair, if we wish to come to a just decision,
that all of them should be considered together.

But how far is it true, as Professor Dowden alleges it to be, that
“Bright in his _Melancholy_ seems almost to anticipate the theory of
Bacon?” The book is a scarce one. There is no copy in the London
Library. However I have taken the trouble to examine it at the British
Museum. Professor Dowden refers to pages 62, 237, and 244. In the
edition which I examined, that of 1586, there is no reference to the
“expense of spirits” at p. 237. Neither is there at p. 62. On page 63,
however, I find the following. The author, one Timothy Bright, “Doctor
of Phisicke,” is speaking of strong affections of the mind, and he says:
“If it holde on long and release not, the nourishment will also faile,
the increase of the body diminish, and the flower of beautie fade, and
finally death take his fatall hold; which commeth to passe, not onely by
_expence of spirit_, but by leaving destitute the parts, whereby
declining to decay, they become at length unmeete for the entertainment
of so noble an inhabitant as the soule,” etc. On p. 244 we read: “Now as
all contention of the mind is to be intermitted, so especially that
whereto the melancholicke person most hath given himself before the
passion is chiefly to be eschued, for the recoverie of former estate and
restoring the depraved conceit and fearefull affection. For there, if
the affection of liking go withal, both hart and braine do over
prodigally _spend their spirite_ and with them the subtilest parts of
the naturall iuyce [juice] and humours of the bodie. If of mislike and
the thing be by forcible constraint layd on, the distracting of the
mind, from the promptness of affection, breedeth such an agonie in our
nature that thereon riseth also great _expence of spirit_, and of the
most rare and subtile humours of our bodies, which are as it were the
seate of our naturall heate,” etc.

Now in both these passages we find, indeed, the expression the “expense
of spirit,” but, except for that, it appears that they can hardly be
cited as parallel passages with those of either Bacon or Shakespeare. It
is not alleged that this expression is peculiar to these two
writers--assuming the duality. The parallelism consists in this, that
they both use the words in connection with what Bacon terms “the use of
Venus.” I cannot see that the passages in Bright’s treatise, when they
are carefully examined, make this parallelism at all less remarkable.

The Professor further tells us that the expression “expense of spirits”
may be found in Donne’s _Progress of the Soul_[78] Stanza VI. I do not
find it in that stanza, but in Stanza V the following occurs. The poet
prays that he may be free,

              From the lets
    Of steep ambition, sleepy poverty,
    Spirit-quenching sickness, dull captivity,
    Distracting business, and from beauty’s nets,
    And all that calls from this, and t’ others whets,
    O let me not launch out, but let me save
    Th’ expence of brain, and spirit, that my grave
    His right and due, a whole unwasted man, may have.

And in Stanza XXI are the words quoted by Professor Dowden, concerning
the sparrow:

          Freely on his she friends
    He blood, and spirit, pith and marrow spends.

This indeed proves, what nobody has ever denied, viz., that the
expression “to spend the spirit” is not confined among writers of the
Elizabethan age to Bacon and Shakespeare. To what extent it detracts
from the force of the coincidence on which Judge Webb has laid stress, I
must leave it to the reader to determine. The learned Judge laughs at
the idea that citations from Bright’s _Treatise of Melancholy_ and
Donne’s _Progress of the Soul_, are proof that the expression was one in
common use.

There is another example of agreement between Bacon and Shakespeare in
connection with this theory of “spirits.” Jessica says (_Merchant of
Venice_, V. 1):

    I am never merry when I heare sweet music.

To which Lorenzo replies:

    The reason is your spirits are attentive.

Bacon writes (_Natural Hist._ Cent. VIII, 745): “Some noises help sleep;
as the blowing of the wind, the trickling of water, humming of bees,
_soft singing_, reading, etc. The cause is for that _they move in the
spirits a gentle attention_.”

Upon this Professor Dowden tells us that Bright talks of music “alluring
the spirites,” while “Burton quotes from Lemnius, who declares that
music not only affects the ears, ‘but the very arteries, the vital and
animal spirits,’ and, again from Scaliger, who explains its power as
due to the fact that it plays upon ‘the spirits about the heart,’
whereupon Burton, like Shakespeare’s Lorenzo, proceeds to speak of the
influence of music upon beasts, and like Lorenzo, cites the tale of
Orpheus.” But Burton’s _Anatomy_ was not published till 1621, about five
years after Shakspere’s death, and we can hardly suppose that the player
delved into “Lemnius” or “Scaliger!” But we shall doubtless be told
that, whether Shakspere had read these books or not, the fact that
Bright speaks of music alluring the spirits shows that this was a common
expression, and that Lorenzo’s words are to be referred to “the common
knowledge or the common error of the time.” But Lorenzo says, “your
spirits are _attentive_,” and Bacon speaks of “a gentle _attention_” of
the spirits. I do not see this expression in Bright, or Lemnius, or
Scaliger, as quoted by Professor Dowden. Here, then, we have two
expressions, “the expense of spirits” in connection with Venus, and “the
attention of spirits” in connection with music, both in Shakespeare and
Bacon. It will be for every reader who is interested in the question,
taking these coincidences with many others of a similar character, to
decide whether “the common knowledge of the time” affords a sufficient
explanation. And let him remember two things--first, that it is, of
course, impossible to find an agreement between Shakespeare and Bacon on
a subject of which they two alone (if two they were) had exclusive
knowledge, and secondly that though one, or two, or three threads may
not suffice to bear a weight, a great many threads combined into a cord
may do so. At any rate, it may be said of these two:

    Utrumque vestrum incredibili modo
    Consentit astrum.

Judge Webb, of course, refers to the well-known fact that both
Shakespeare and Bacon held similar views on the relationship of Art to
nature, both holding that art was not something different from nature,
but a part of nature. All will remember the dialogue between Perdita and
Polixenes in the _Winter’s Tale_:

    _Per._: ... The fairest flowers o’ the season
                 Are our carnations and streak’d gillyvors,
                 Which some call nature’s bastards; of that kind
                 Our rustic garden’s barren: and I care not
                 To get slips of  them.

    _Pol._: ... Wherefore, gentle maiden,
                 Do you neglect them?

    _Per._: ... For I have heard it said
                 There is an art which in their piedness shares
                 With great creating nature.

    _Pol._: ... Say there be;
                 Yet nature is made better by no mean,
                 But nature makes that mean: so, over that art
                 Which you say adds to nature, is an art
                 That nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry
                 A gentler scion to the wildest stock
                 And make conceive a bark of baser kind
                 By bud of nobler race: this is an art
                 Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
                 The art itself is nature.

It certainly seems remarkable that the King of Bohemia should lecture
the country girl on the essential identity of nature and art. It is not
exactly what we should have expected. It is somewhat strange, too, to
find Bacon waxing eloquent on the same subject, and to the same effect.
Take the following from the _De Augmentis_ (Lib. II, Cap. ii.):
“Libenter autem historiam artium, ut historiæ naturalis speciem,
constituimus: quia inveteravit prorsus opinio, _ac si aliud quippiam
esset ars a natura, artificialia a naturalibus_.... Sed et illabitur
etiam animis hominum aliud subtilius malum; nempe, _ut ars censeatur
solummodo tanquam additamentum quoddam, naturæ_, cujus scilicet ea sit
vis, ut naturam, sane, vel inchoatam perficere, vel in deterius
vergentem emendare, vel impeditam liberare; minime vero penitus vertere,
transmutare, aut in imis concutere possit: quod ipsum rebus humanis
præproperam desperationem intulit.”

That is to say, “we very willingly treat the history of art as a form of
natural history; for an opinion has long been prevalent _that art is
something different from nature_--things artificial from things
natural.... There is likewise another and more subtle error which has
crept into the human mind, namely, that of considering art as merely an
assistant[79] to nature, having the power indeed to finish what nature
has begun, to correct her when lapsing into error, or to set her free
when in bondage, but by no means to change, transmute, or fundamentally
alter nature. And this has bred a premature despair in human
enterprises.” He goes on to point out that, on the contrary, there is no
essential difference between art and nature, things artificial being
simply things natural as affected by human agency, which is a part of
nature, so that in the words of Shakespeare, “the art itself is

Here it may be worth while to point out that these words are not to be
found in the English _Advancement of Learning_, first printed in 1605,
but are found in the enlarged Latin version made under Bacon’s
supervision, and published in 1623, the very year in which the _Winter’s
Tale_ also first saw the light in print, to wit in the _First Folio_.
The play may, no doubt, have been written some ten years before that,
but whether in its earlier form it contained all this not very
appropriate philosophy concerning art and nature, it is of course
impossible to say. It is said to have been written about 1611, and we
find Bacon writing about the same time very much to the same effect as
above quoted.[81]

Artificial selection is, therefore, after all only a form and part of
natural selection, the _differentia_ being that it is human agency which
brings it into play. And that Bacon had, by one of his luminous
intuitions, which are really quite as remarkable as his inductive
philosophy, a foreshadowing of the theory of evolution is undeniable,
for we have it plainly stated in his _Natural History_ (Cent. VI, 525):
“This work of the transmutation of plants one into another is _inter
magnalia naturæ_; for the _transmutation of species_ is, in vulgar
philosophy, pronounced impossible, and certainly it is a thing of
difficulty, and requireth deep search into nature; but seeing there
appear some manifest instances of it, the opinion of impossibility is to
be rejected, and the means thereof to be found out.”[82]

As to the “streaked gillivors, which some call nature’s bastards,” we
find that Bacon has much to say concerning experiments in the
colouration and variation of these gillyflowers. In the _Natural
History_ (Cent. VI, 506), he writes: “Amongst curiosities I shall place
coloration, though it be somewhat better: for beauty in flowers is their
pre-eminence. It is observed by some that gillyflowers ... that are
coloured, if they be neglected, and neither watered, nor new molded, nor
transplanted, will turn white.” Subsequently (510) we read: “Take
gillyflower seed, of one kind of gillyflower, as of the clove
gillyflower, which is the most common, and sow it, and there will come
up gillyflowers some of one colour and some of another,” etc. Then, in
513, we come to the application of “art” to these flowers: “It is a
curiosity also to make flowers double, which is effected by often
removing them into new earth.... Inquire also whether _inoculating_ of
flowers, as stock-gillyflowers ... doth not make them double.”

At any rate it must, I think, be admitted that we have here some very
remarkable resemblances between Bacon and Shakespeare. First we have, as
mentioned in the opening of this chapter, an almost complete verbal
agreement, “lillies of all kinds, the flower-de-luce being one,” and
“flower-de-luces and lillies of all natures”; then we have two very
similar lists of flowers according to the seasons, whether of the year,
or of human life; then we have a complete and, I think extraordinary
agreement, as to the philosophy of “nature” and “art”--to wit, that the
two are essentially one, since art is but part of nature. Moreover it
seems that both writers, if two there were, were writing these things
just about the same time. And finally we find that both writers are much
concerned with the colours and varieties of “streaked gillyvors” or

What does Professor Dowden say to this? He quotes William Harrison’s
_Description of England_: “How art also helpeth nature in the dailie
colouring, dubling, and enlarging the proportion of our floures, it is
incredible, to report,” etc. But Harrison does not say, as Shakespeare
and Bacon say, that the art is part of nature (“The art itself is
nature”). He merely speaks of art as an _additamentum quoddam naturæ_,
which is just the proposition that Bacon (and Shakespeare, by
implication) condemns as fallacious. Professor Dowden then tells us that
this thought as to art and nature was prominent in the teaching of
Paracelsus whom Bacon refuses to honour. But whether or not Bacon
refuses to honour Paracelsus he was, at any rate, familiar with him, and
makes frequent mention of him. So again as to Pliny, whom the Professor
appeals to in this matter. Bacon cites him in the very passage of the
_De Augmentis_ (Lib. II, Cap. ii), part of which I have quoted. It seems
rather remarkable that the authors to whom the Professor makes his
appeal should be, so frequently, writers such as Pliny, and Paracelsus,
and Scaliger who certainly were well known to Bacon. I doubt if the
Stratford player had included these in his (assumed) omnivorous reading;
nor do I think “the common knowledge and common error of the time”
explain these coincidences of thought and expression in an altogether
satisfactory way. The lines,

... this is an art
    Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
    The art itself is nature,

really do seem to bear the Baconian stamp on the face of them. However
those who think it sufficient to find that something similar (though
certainly not the same) was said by somebody else somewhere about the
same time will doubtless be satisfied with Professor Dowden’s hypothesis
of a common origin in common knowledge, or error; and those who are
“convinced against their will,” will, as usual, be “of the same opinion
still.” They should note, however, that Mr. Spedding candidly admits
that if the _Essay on Gardens_ had been published before 1616, he would
have suspected that it had been read by Shakespeare!

It is interesting to note that Shakespeare speaks of plants as
distinguished by sex difference. An old friend of mine, now, alas, gone
to that bourne whence no traveller returns, who, like many others, used
to maintain that “everything can be found in Shakespeare” (a proposition
which if confined within reasonable limits I should be the last to
dispute) was so struck by this fact that, in an article contributed by
him to the _Saturday Review_, he expressed the opinion that “it can only
be explained as a flash of genius hitting on an obscure truth by a great
observer, as Shakespeare undoubtedly was.” And in a note to this
article, when published with others in book form, he says: “I claim the
discovery in the case of flowers for Shakespeare.”[84] But the
conception of sex-difference in plants originated long before the days
of Shakespeare. It is, if I remember rightly, to be found in Herodotus.
But however that may be, it was certainly well known to Bacon who writes
(_Nat. Hist._ Cent. VII, 608): “For the difference of sexes in plants
they are oftentimes by name distinguished, as male-piony, female-piony,
male-rosemary, female-rosemary, he-holly, she-holly,” etc. He goes on to
notice the case of the he-palm and the she-palm, which were said to fall
violently in love with one another, as to which further details may be
found in Burton’s _Anatomy of Melancholy_. Bacon adds: “I am apt enough
to think that this same _binarium_ of a stronger and a weaker, like unto
masculine and feminine, doth hold in all living bodies.”[85]

To return for a moment to Professor Dowden. I should be the last to deny
that he states the case against Judge Webb, so far as regards these
Shakespeare-Bacon parallelisms, with great force and learning, and what
in an “orthodox” critic is, perhaps, best of all, with admirable temper.
And in some cases, I am free to admit that he seems to me to have the
best of the argument.

But let us take another example. Hamlet, in his letter to Ophelia,

    Doubt thou the stars are fire,
      Doubt that the sun doth move;
    Doubt truth to be a liar;
      But never doubt I love.

Upon this Judge Webb comments that Bacon, notwithstanding the teaching
of Bruno, and of Galileo, maintained that “the celestial bodies, most of
them, are fires or flames as the Stoics held,” and that, notwithstanding
the teaching of Copernicus, he held the mediæval doctrine of “the
heavens turning about in a most rapid motion.” And he adds, with a touch
of sarcasm: “The marvel is that the omniscient Shakespeare with his
superhuman genius maintained these exploded errors as confidently as
Bacon.” Whereunto Professor Dowden replies that “it presses rather
hardly upon Hamlet’s distracted letter to deduce from his rhyme ‘a
theory of the celestial bodies,’” and he goes on to say that, “in fact
Shakespeare repeats the reference to the stars as fires many times,” and
that “references to the stars as fire and to the motion of the heavens
are scattered over the pages of Shakespeare’s contemporaries as thickly
as the stars themselves.”

Now all this about the stars might, as it seems to me, have been omitted
altogether. To assert that the fixed stars are “fire” is surely not to
be taken as a proof of scientific ignorance! The sun itself is but a
star, and all of us have read of the “mighty flames,” as Sir Robert Ball
calls them, that leap from the surface of the sun.[86] But to affirm
“that the sun doth move” as one of the certainties of human knowledge
was in Shakespeare’s time tantamount to a rejection of the heliocentric
teaching of Copernicus and Bruno in favour of the old Ptolemaic system,
or, at any rate, of a system in which the earth is supposed to be at
rest.[87] Now, that Bacon had failed to profit by the teaching of
Copernicus is certain, for in his _Descriptio Globi Intellectualis_ and
_Thema Cœli_ (1612) he condemns all the then existing systems of
Astronomy as unsatisfactory. His biographer, Dr. Abbott, who is very
far from being an indulgent critic, finds much excuse for him here in
the fact that Copernicus “himself advocated his own system merely as an
hypothesis,” and that it was inconsistent and incomplete until Newton
had discovered the Law of Gravitation. He adds: “It is creditable to
Bacon’s faith in the uniformity of nature, that he predicted that future
discoveries would rest ‘upon observation of the common passions and
desires of matter’--an anticipation of Newton’s law of attraction.”[88]

But granting that Bacon and Shakespeare were at one in their rejection
of the teaching of Copernicus, Bruno, and Galileo, it seems to me that
no argument on behalf of the Baconian theory can be safely founded upon
that fact. For the “Stratfordian” answer is very simple, viz., that
William Shakspere, the Stratford player and supposed author, very
naturally was not abreast of the most advanced scientific teaching of
his day. He, of course, conceived that the sun moved round the earth as
Ptolemy taught, and not _vice versâ_. The argument therefore can only be
effective (if at all) as against those Shakespeariolaters who conceive
that player Shakspere was omniscient, or, at least, wrote, as it were,
by plenary inspiration.

Mr. Edwin Reed, however, makes another use of these lines. He points out
that in the Quarto of 1603 they do not run as above quoted, but as

    Doubt that in earth is fire,
      Doubt that the stars do move,
    Doubt truth to be a liar,
      But do not doubt I love,

and he refers to Bacon’s _Cogitationes de Natura Rerum_, assigned to the
latter part of 1603, or the early part of 1604, and quotes a passage
from his _De Principiis atque Originibus_, in order to show that at that
date Bacon had changed his mind in regard to the commonly accepted
belief in the existence of a mass of molten matter at the centre of the
earth, and maintained that, on the contrary, the terrestrial globe is
cold to the core. He goes on to suggest that the substitution of “the
sun” for “the stars,” giving us the line,

    Doubt that the sun doth move,

in the 1604 edition, is indicative of a deliberate intention on the part
of the writer to retain “the doctrine that the earth is the centre of
the universe around which the sun and stars daily revolve.” So that, in
spite of Copernicus, and Bruno, and Kepler and Galileo, Bacon and the
author of the Plays “were agreed in holding to the cycles and epicycles
of Ptolemy, after all the rest of the scientific world had rejected
them, and they were also agreed in rejecting the Copernican theory after
all the rest of the scientific world had accepted it.” And the same
doctrine is, of course, retained in the Folio edition of _Hamlet_,
published in 1623, in which same year Bacon wrote, in the third book of
the _De Augmentis_, that the theory of the earth’s motion is absolutely

All this is ingenious, but how far it is convincing must be left for the
reader’s consideration.

Let us take yet another example. Bacon in his _Natural History_ (s. 464)
tells us that “as terebration doth meliorate fruit, so upon the like
reason doth letting of plants blood,” the difference being that the
blood-letting is only to be effected “at some seasons” of the year. And
so also the gardener in Richard II says:

        We at time of year
    Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit trees,
    Lest, being over-proud with sap and blood,
    With too much riches it confound itself.

Here, as Professor Dowden admits, “the parallel is remarkably close,”
but in order to show the “common knowledge of the time,” which is to
account for it, he cites Holland’s _Pliny_ to the effect that trees
“have a certain moisture in their barkes which we must understand to be
their very blood,” and he further refers to Pliny (XVII. 24), to the
effect that a fir or pine tree must not have its bark “pulled” during
certain months, and adds that, “like Shakespeare, Pliny terms the bark
the ‘skin’ of the tree.” Once more, it is remarkable that the reference
should be to Pliny, an author with whom, as we know, Bacon was on very
familiar terms.[89] However, there is a further illustration from
Dekker, and a quotation as to “proudly-stirring” sap from Gervase

Here again, the only question, as it seems to me, is whether this
“remarkably close parallelism,” considered as one among many, is
satisfactorily explained by the fact that other contemporary writers
spoke of wounding the bark of trees, and drawing blood. It would,
certainly, be more satisfactory, from a Baconian point of view, if we
could find in both Bacon and Shakespeare something which could only have
been known to those two writers, or to that one writer. But as that is
hardly possible we have to consider all the parallel passages together,
and ask ourselves whether or not, taken as a whole, they raise the
presumption of identity of authorship.

Judge Webb, while denying the allegation that “all that is proper to
Shakespeare and to Bacon was the common knowledge or common error of the
time,” writes as follows: “Whatever inferences may be deduced from the
fact, it surely is a fact that the poet, like the philosopher,
maintained the theory of pneumaticals, the theory of the transformation
of species, the theory that the sun is the efficient cause of storms,
the theory that flame is a fixed body, the theory that the stars are
fires, and the theory that the heavens revolve around the earth. That
the poet should have been as interested as the philosopher in scientific
matters is surely a fact worth noting; and even if they resorted to the
store of ‘the common knowledge or common error of the time,’ it surely
is remarkable that they not only resorted to the same storehouse, but
selected the same things, and incorporated the same things in their
respective writings, and, so far as either their knowledge or their
errors in matters of science were concerned, were in reality the same.”

And here, since I profess not to be compiling a new “brief for the
plaintiff” in the great case of _Bacon v. Shakespeare_, I am content to
leave this interesting controversy for further consideration.

G. G.


In the year 1867 there was discovered at old Northumberland House in the
Strand, in a box which had been for many years unopened, an Elizabethan
manuscript volume containing, amongst other things, the transcripts of
certain compositions admittedly the work of Francis Bacon. It commences
with four speeches written by Bacon in 1592 for Essex’s _Device_, viz.:
“The praise of the worthiest virtue”; “The praise of the worthiest
affection”; “The praise of the worthiest power”; “The praise of the
worthiest person.” These speeches were published in 1870 by Mr. James
Spedding, with an introductory notice of the manuscript, and a facsimile
of its much bescribbled outside page, or cover, of which more anon. The
speech in praise of knowledge professes to have been spoken in “A
conference of Pleasure,” and Mr. Spedding adopted this as the title of
his little work. The manuscript book is thus described by him: “It is a
folio volume of twenty-two sheets which have been laid one upon the
other, folded double (as in an ordinary quire of paper) and fastened by
a stitch through the centre. _But as the pages are not numbered and the
fastening is gone, it may once have contained more, and if we may judge
by what is still legible on the much bescribbled outside leaf which once
served for a table of contents, there is some reason to suspect that it
did._” In a note he adds: “One leaf, however--that which would have been
the tenth--is missing; and one, which is the fourth, appears to have
been glued or pasted in.” It is clear that he included this missing
“tenth” leaf in his “twenty-two sheets.”

Mr. Spedding, therefore, carefully examined the volume in the condition
in which it was when found at Northumberland House, and, as his accuracy
is well known, we may be content to rely upon his evidence in this
matter. At any rate it is the best that we can now get, for as Mr. Frank
Burgoyne, the Librarian of the Lambeth Public Libraries (who in 1904
edited and published a transcript and colotype facsimile of the whole of
the contents of the volume) informs us: “Since Mr. Spedding wrote, the
manuscript has been taken to pieces and each leaf carefully inlaid in
stout paper, and these have been bound up with a large paper copy of his
pamphlet entitled ‘A conference of Pleasure.’ The manuscript in its
present condition contains 45 leaves, so Mr. Spedding does not appear to
have included the outside page in his enumeration. The pages are not
numbered, and there are no traces of stitching, or sewing; _it is
therefore quite impossible even to conjecture what was the number of
sheets in the original volume_.”[90]

This statement will be found not unimportant when we come to consider
yet another work on these old manuscripts, also published in 1904, by
Mr. T. Le Marchant Dowse. Mr. Dowse is anxious to limit the original
volume to a quire of 24 sheets. Spedding, he says, “tells us it was a
quire of 22 sheets, [Spedding however, only says it was folded double
“as in an ordinary quire of paper”] but he omits to take into account
the outer sheet, which was of the same fold of paper and served as a
cover; this made 23 sheets. Moreover he tells us leaf 10 was missing
(the written matter, however runs on without a break); but as leaf 10
must have formed one half of a sheet, the other half, in the latter part
of the MS., should also have been missing, consequently the ‘quire’ was
originally a full and proper quire of 24 sheets.”

But as I have already pointed out, Spedding evidently includes the
missing leaf, which he numbers “the tenth,” in his twenty-two sheets,
equally with the leaf which, as he says, “appears to have been glued or
pasted in.” Mr. Dowse’s ingenious attempt to limit the volume to 24
sheets therefore fails, and, in the present condition of the
manuscripts, the only safe conclusion is that stated by Mr. Burgoyne,
viz., that “it is quite impossible even to conjecture what was the
number of sheets in the original volume.” But of this more presently.

On the outside page or cover, besides a number of very interesting
scribblings, we find a list which has been generally looked upon as a
table of contents of the volume as it originally existed. It runs as

     (1) Mr. ffrancis Bacon.
         Of tribute or giving what is dew. [With the four “praises” above

     (2) Earle of Arundells letter to the Queen.

     (3) Speaches for my lord of Essex at the tylt.

     (4) A speach for my lord of Sussex tilt.

     (5) Leycester’s Common Wealth. Incerto autore.

     (6) Orations at Graies Inne revells.

     (7) ... Queenes Ma^{te} [Probably Letters to the Queen’s Majesty]. By
     Mr. ffrancis Bacon.

     (8) Essaies by the same author.

     (9) Rychard the Second.

     (10) Rychard the Third.

     (11) Asmund and Cornelia.

     (12) Ile of dogs frmnt [i.e. fragment] by Thomas Nashe.

But, as Mr. Spedding points out, just above the writing, “Earle of
Arundells letter to the Queen,” stand the words “Philipp against
Mounsieur,” a title which he says seems to have been inserted
afterwards, and is imperfectly legible.”[91] This evidently refers to
Sir Philip Sydney’s letter to the Queen dissuading her from marrying the
Duke of Anjou, which is part of the contents of the volume as it has
come down to us. The Gray’s Inn Revels are, no doubt, those of 1594-5 of
which the history is related in the _Gesta Grayorum_.

Now of this list, besides the four Discourses or “Praises,” only four
items are found in the volume as it at present exists, viz., the
“Speaches for my lord of Essex at the tylt”; the “Speach for my lord of
Sussex at the tilt”; “Leycester’s Common Wealth,” and Sir Philip
Sydney’s letter. The actual contents of the volume in its present
condition are as follows:[92]

     (1) _Of Tribute, or giving what is due_. By Bacon (1592).

     (2) Of Magnanimitie or heroicall vertue. By Bacon.

     (3) An Advertisement touching private censure. By Bacon.

     (4) An Advertisement touching the controversies of the church of
     England. By Bacon (written 1589).

     (5) A letter to a French gent: touching ye proceedings in Engl.: in
     Ecclesiasticall causes translated out of French into English by W.
     W. By Bacon.[93]

     (6) _Speeches for my lord of Essex at the tylt_, viz., five
     speeches spoken in a _Device_ presented by Essex, and performed
     before Queen Elizabeth in 1595. By Bacon.

     (7) _For the Earl of Sussex at the tilt_. By Bacon (1596).

     (8) _Sir Philip Sydney’s letter to the Queen_, dissuading her from
     marrying the Duke of Anjou. (1580).

     (9) _Leycester’s Common Wealth_, imperfect both at beginning and
     end (printed 1584).

On comparing these two lists we find also that four of the articles now
contained in the volume are not mentioned in the list on the outer page,

  No. 2. Of Magnanimitie.
  No. 3. Advertisement touching private censure.
  No. 4. Advertisement touching the controversies of the Church.
  No. 5. Letter to a French gent, etc.

On the other hand if this list was really a list of the original
contents of the volume then eight articles have disappeared from the
book, besides the missing portions of _Leycester’s Commonwealth_, viz.:

  (1) The Earle of Arundell’s letter to the Queen.
  (2) The Orations at Gray’s Inn revels.
  (3) An address or letter to the Queen, by Bacon.
  (4) Essays by Bacon.
  (5) and (6) Shakespeare’s plays of Richard II and Richard III.
  (7) Asmund and Cornelia (of which nothing is known).
  (8) The Ile of Dogs, by Thomas Nashe.

Now, on this state of things, Mr. Dowse vehemently contends that the
list on the outside cover is not, and never was meant to be a “table of
contents.” He asserts that all this matter could not have been either
accidentally lost, or (as seems much more probable) intentionally
abstracted from the volume. First, because he says the volume originally
consisted of a quire and no more; but as I have already said this is a
mere conjecture, which in the face of Mr. Spedding’s evidence, is quite
untenable. Secondly, because, “on the said assumption, the MS, as found,
should have shown a considerable bulge, from top to bottom, alongside
the fold,” and Spedding must have seen this “considerable bulge” if it
had been there, and must have mentioned it if he had seen it! Mr. Dowse
goes on to say that there is other “evidence on the point quite
sufficient to satisfy reasonable beings,” which is an expression
commonly used when a writer wishes to imply that those who do not accept
his conclusions are not endowed with the reasoning faculty. Mr. Dowse’s
idea of “evidence” is, as I shall show, somewhat peculiar, but in any
case, I do not think many of his readers will be much impressed with
the “considerable bulge,” or “the silence of Mr. Spedding” line of
argument, especially as Mr. Spedding, though not mentioning the “bulge,”
has definitely put on record his opinion that the volume may have
originally included much more matter than it now contains. It is almost
certain, for example, that it contained, with the other speeches written
by Bacon for Essex’s _Device_ in 1595, _The Squire’s speech in the
tilt-yard_, as well as the beginning and the end of _Leycester’s Common
Wealth_. But let us hear Mr. Spedding. After enumerating the speeches
written for this _Device_, which are now contained in the volume (viz.,
The Hermits fyrst speach: The Hermits second speach: The Soldier’s
speach: The Squire’s speach), he writes: “These are the speeches written
by Bacon for a _Device_ presented by the Earl of Essex on the Queen’s
day 1595, concerning which see _Letters and Life of Francis Bacon_, vol.
I. pp. 374-386. The principal difference between this copy and that at
Lambeth, from which the printed copy was taken, is that this does _not_
contain ‘The Squire’s speech in the tilt-yard,’ with which the other
begins, and _does_ contain a short speech from the Hermit--‘the
Hermitt’s fyrst speach’--which seems to be a reply to it. It is possible
that the beginning has been lost, _as any number of sheets may have
dropped out at this place, without leaving any evidence of the fact_.”

Further on (p. xix), after giving the list of the titles on the outside
cover, which he takes to have been a table of contents, Mr. Spedding
writes: “The principal difficulties which I find in it are, first, the
absence from the list of all allusion to the _Advertisement touching the
controversies of the Church of England_, which can never have been
separated from the volume, and has all the appearance of having been
transcribed about the same time, and is too large a piece to have been
overlooked; secondly, the absence from the volume itself of all trace of
the _Earl of Arundell’s letter to the Queen_, which appears in the list,
and thirdly, the misplacing of the entry of Sir Philip _Sydney’s Letter
against Monsieur_, which stands higher in the list than it should. All
this however may be explained by a few suppositions, not in themselves
improbable, namely that the transcriber of the first five pieces left
his list of contents incomplete; that the transcriber who followed him
set down the contents only of his own portion; that the first sheet or
two of his transcript has been lost, and that Sydney’s letter had been
at first overlooked. I have already observed that the sheet on which the
fifth piece ends and what is now the sixth begins, is the middle sheet
of the volume; and therefore if _anything came between these two, it may
have been taken out without leaving any traces of itself_. I have
noticed also that Sir Philip’s letter has no heading, and may therefore
have been easily overlooked. Now if we may suppose that the Earl of
Arundell’s letter, having been transcribed on a central sheet, has
dropped out, and that Sir Philip’s having been overlooked, the title was
entered afterwards in the place where there was most room, we shall find
that the first four titles represent correctly the rest of the contents
of the volume.... The titles which follow have nothing corresponding to
them in this manuscript, _but probably indicate the contents of another
of the same kind, once attached to this and now lost_.”

Thus Mr. Spedding, who had the great advantage of seeing the manuscripts
as they were found in 1867. But Mr. Le Marchant Dowse will have nothing
of all this. He speaks loftily of the “folly” of supposing that the list
on the outside page was a table of contents. Apparently he cannot
tolerate the idea that two plays of Shakespeare, before they found their
way into print, should have been transcribed by the same man, and
included in the same volume, with certain works of Francis Bacon! _Id
sane intolerandum._ But if not a table of contents what is the meaning
of this outside list? How did it come to be written “at all, at all”?
Well, Mr. Dowse’s theory is as follows: The supposed “quire” originally
contained only the “Praises.” It came into the possession of the Earl of
Northumberland. “It then came under the control of somebody (I shall
name him hereafter) who jotted down at intervals the titles of other
papers which he judged worth copying, or which were of interest as
having reference to, or connexion with, or as having been written by,
people whom he knew; but, on the one hand, he probably found it
difficult to procure the papers he wanted; and meanwhile, on the other
hand, papers that he had not previously thought of were unexpectedly
placed at the Earl’s disposal; and these were copied as they came to
hand.” According to this theory, therefore, a scribe in the employ of
the Earl of Northumberland, entrusted with a paper volume in which four
speeches, composed by Bacon for Lord Essex, had been transcribed, and
very carefully and beautifully transcribed,[94] and finding these noted
on the outside cover, which up to that point certainly had done duty as
a “table of contents,” amuses himself by jotting down beneath, and on
the same page, the titles of a number of works which he had not in his
possession but which he “judged worth copying,” or thought of interest,
such as the orations at Gray’s Inn, and Bacon’s _Essays_, and
Shakespeare’s plays of _Richard II_ and _Richard III_. These, on this
hypothesis, he was never able to procure, and therefore their titles on
the cover stood for nothing, except as reflections of his inner
consciousness. But, meanwhile, other papers, “that he had not previously
thought of, were unexpectedly placed at the Earl’s disposal; and these
were copied as they came to hand.” This theory we are asked, nay
ordered, to accept on pain of being dismissed as creatures beyond the
pale of reason. Quite unappalled by that terrible threat I venture to
think that Mr. Dowse’s theory is itself unreasonable. I do not think a
scribe entrusted with a nobleman’s manuscript volume, in which his duty
was to enter further transcripts, would be at all likely to act in such
a manner. I think it far more reasonable to suppose that these works had
been copied or entered, that they were originally included in the
volume, the original dimensions of which it is now impossible to
estimate, and that they were subsequently abstracted, probably for some
very good reason. In fact I think the evidence of Mr. Spedding, the
eyewitness, is a great deal better than the hypothesis and conjectures
of Mr. Dowse.

But the fact is that Mr. Dowse entered upon his investigation with two
preconceived ideas. In the first place his purpose was to have a tilt at
the Baconians who had founded some arguments on the close juxtaposition
of the names, and certain of the works, of Bacon and Shakespeare in this
manuscript. And, secondly, his purpose was to find evidence for his
preconceived belief that John Davies of Hereford was the “scribbler” who
had written so freely on the outside page of the volume. So much Mr.
Dowse, unless I much misunderstand him, himself confesses. “The
following investigation,” he says in his Preface, “was suggested to me
by sundry mistaken notions respecting the MSS. hereinafter examined,
which had found their way into print, and so had caught my eye from time
to time.” Mr. Dowse, as will be seen, is violently anti-Baconian, by
which I mean that he is not only altogether contemptuous of “the
Baconian theory,” but also that he entertains a very low conception
indeed of the personal character of Francis Bacon. I think, therefore, I
have correctly interpreted the meaning of the above extract. Then as to
“the writer of the scribble,” he says, “in point of fact upon my first
scrutiny, several years ago, of Spedding’s facsimile, I provisionally
formed an opinion as to who the scribbler was.” It will be seen,
therefore, that Mr. Dowse set out to prove that the scribbler was John
Davies, though, of a certainty, the bare inspection of Spedding’s
facsimile of the outer page of the manuscript could not justify any
belief in the matter, and could, at most, only give occasion for the
merest guess.

But before we come to the “scribbler” let us examine the scribble, and
see what date we can assign to the writings. What Mr. Spedding calls
“the title page,” forming half of the outside sheet, “which appears to
be the only cover the volume ever had,” is covered all over with the
so-called scribblings. “It contains,” says Mr. Dowse, “some two hundred
entries, independently of the ‘Praises,’ and the list of titles.” Mr.
Spedding, Mr. Dowse, and Mr. Burgoyne have reproduced this leaf in
facsimile, and the latter has provided us with a modern script rendering
of it. It may be said to be divided into two columns. At the top of the
right-hand column stands the name “Mr. ffrancis Bacon,” followed by the
list of “Praises,” which again is succeeded by what Mr. Spedding has
called the table of contents. At the top of the left-hand column stands
the name of Nevill, twice written, and not far below it is the punning
motto of the Nevill family, _Ne vile velis_. “Perhaps,” says Mr.
Burgoyne, “this gives a clue to the original ownership of the volume as
it seems to indicate that the collection was written for or was the
property of some member of the Nevill family.” It is suggested that this
was Sir Henry Nevil (1564-1615), Bacon’s nephew, and a friend of Essex.
Then high up, in the middle of the page, occur the words “Anthony
Comfort and consorte,” which is, without doubt, as I think, an allusion
to Anthony Bacon. Lower down in the left-hand column are the words:

    Multis annis iam transactis
    Nulla fides est in pactis
    Mell in ore Verba lactis
    ffell in Corde ffraus in factis;

as to which Mr. Burgoyne points out that among the Tenison MSS. at
Lambeth Palace is a letter from Rodolphe Bradley to Anthony Bacon in
which he writes: “Your gracious speeches ... be the words of a faithfull
friende, and not of a courtiour, who hath _Mel in ore et verba lactis,
sed fel in corde et fraus in factis_.”[95]

But the most interesting of these writings are those which refer to
Shakespeare. In the right-hand column, somewhat below the centre, occurs
the reference to a letter to the Queen’s Majesty “By Mr. ffrauncis
Bacon.” Below this we read “Essaies by the same author.” Then the name
“William Shakespeare,” with the word “Shakespear” just below, at the
right-hand edge of the page. Then follows “Rychard the second,” with
“ffrauncis” close under the word “second.” Then “Rychard the third.”
Then, towards the bottom of the right-hand column, occurs the name
“William Shakespeare” thrice repeated,[96] and besides this we find
“Shakespeare,” “Shakespear,” “Shakespe,” “Shak” (several times), “Sh”
(several times), “William,” “Will,” and so on; just as we find in other
places “Mr. ffrauncis Bacon,” “Mr. Ffrauncis,” “ffrauncis,” “Bacon,”
etc., several times repeated.

Upon this Mr. Spedding writes: “That Richard the second, and Richard the
third, are meant for the titles of _Shakespeare’s_ plays so named, I
infer from the fact--of which the evidence may be seen in the
_facsimile_--that the list of contents being now complete, the writer
(or more probably another into whose possession the volume passed) has
amused himself with writing down promiscuously the names and phrases
that most ran in his head; and that among these the name of _William
Shakespeare_ was the most prominent, being written eight or nine times
over for no other reason that can be discerned. That the name of _Mr.
Frauncis Bacon_, which is also repeated several times, should have been
used for the same kind of recreation requires no explanation; its
position at the top of the page would naturally suggest it.”

But these are not the only Shakespearean references which we
find on this remarkable page. About the centre occurs the
word “_honorificabiletudine_,” a reminiscence of the
“_honorificicabilitudinitatibus_” of _Love’s Labour’s Lost_. And lower
down in the left-hand column we have,

    day through
    every Crany
    peepes and ...

which seems to be an imperfect reminiscence of the line in _Lucrece_,
“revealing day through every cranny spies,”[97] and is a very
interesting contemporary notice of the poem which was first published in
1594 with the name “William Shakespeare” subscribed to the dedication
addressed to the Earl of Southampton.

Here, then we have the names and the works of Shakespeare and Bacon
brought into curiously close juxtaposition in (as it will presently be
seen) a contemporary document. Here are speeches and Essays written by
Bacon, and Plays by “William Shakespeare,” put together in the same
volume (_pace_ Mr. Dowse), and we find some penman with these two names
so much in his mind that he writes them both, either fully or in
abbreviated form, many times over on the outside sheet of the paper

Now as to the date of these writings, Mr. Spedding states that he could
find nothing, either in the “scribblings” or in what remains of the book
itself, to indicate a date later than the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Mr.
Burgoyne gives reasons for concluding that the manuscript was written
not later than January, 1597, and he says “it seems more probable that
no part of the manuscript was written after 1596.” There are several
reasons for assigning this date to the work. One is that the outside
list shows that the volume originally contained a copy of Bacon’s
Essays. These--the ten short essays which appeared in the first
edition--were published in January, 1597,[98] after having been
extensively circulated in manuscript. After they were printed it is not
likely that the expensive and imperfect method of copying in manuscript
would have been resorted to.[99] Again the plays of _Richard II_ and
_Richard III_ were first printed in 1597, “and issued,” says Mr.
Burgoyne, “at a published price of sixpence each.” After that date,
therefore, it seems reasonable to suppose that they would not have been
transcribed, or noted for transcription. It is not unimportant to
remember that when they were first issued the name of Shakespeare was
not on them. In the editions of 1598, however, the hyphenated name,
“William Shake-speare,” appears on each, and this is the first
appearance of that name on any play. Nash’s “Isle of Dogs” referred to
in the outside list was produced at Henslowe’s theatre in 1597, but
never printed. Of course all the contents of the volume may not have
been written in one year, and it is impossible to fix the exact date of
the scribblings. But if, as it appears only reasonable to believe, the
Shakespearean plays were transcribed (or even only noted for
transcription) before 1597, we have here references to “Shakespeare” as
the author of these plays before his name had come before the public as
a dramatic author at all, and more than a year before his name appeared
on any title page; and, what is certainly remarkable, we find this, at
that time little known name closely associated with the name of Francis

Who was the writer of the scribble? Mr. Dowse would identify him with
John Davies of Hereford, who was born a year after Shakspere of
Stratford and died two years after him. This John Davies was of Magdalen
College, Oxford, a poet, and, says Mr. Dowse, “a competent scholar.” He
took up penmanship as a calling, and “became the most famous teacher of
his age; and he taught, not only in many noble and gentle families, but
in the royal family itself, for in those days not even nobles and
princes were ashamed to write well.” How we could wish that William
Shakspere of Stratford had been among his pupils! But what is the
evidence that Davies was “the Scribbler”? Let Mr. Dowse state it in his
own words: “His numerous sonnets and other poems, as well as his many
dedications, addressed to people of note, while friendly, are also
respectful and manly (though he could neatly flatter): and their number
shows the extent of the circle in which he moved. Within this circle, or
rather a section of it, I felt myself to be, while dealing with the page
of scribble; and that feeling has been amply justified out of the mouth,
or rather by the pen of John Davies himself, for his Works show that he
was directly and closely acquainted with nearly all the persons his
contemporaries there mentioned; with some indeed he was friendly and
familiar. The overwhelming evidence of this fact _is of itself
sufficient to identify Davies as the scribbler_” (p. 8).

This strikes one as rather curious logic. Davies was closely acquainted
with nearly all the persons mentioned in “the page of scribble.” _Ergo_,
Davies wrote the scribble!

I hardly think a judge would direct a jury to pay much attention to
“evidence” of this description. I have no prepossessions whatever
against John Davies of Hereford. I am perfectly willing to believe that
he was “the scribbler”; but unless some better proof than this can be
adduced, I fear we must regard Mr. Dowse’s theory as mere hypothesis.
However, Mr. Dowse tells us that he has other evidence. He refers to
Davies’s “Dedicatory and Consolatory Epistle,” addressed to the ninth
Earl of Northumberland, which is to be found in the Grenville Library at
the British Museum. This, he says, is “with some verbal exceptions
written in Davies’s beautiful court-hand.” And he further tells us that
“no one who has studied the scribble and then turns to that ‘Consolatory
Epistle’ can fail to recognise the same hand at a glance.” Here I am not
competent to express an opinion, for I have not examined the Epistle in
question, nor have I seen the original of the Northumberland MS., and
even if I had inspected both I fear I should be in no better case, for
nothing is more dangerous than this identification by comparison of
handwriting. Anyone who has served an apprenticeship at the Bar knows
how perilous it is to trust to the evidence of “expert witnesses” in
this matter. I well remember a case in which the two most famous
handwriting experts of their day, in this country at any rate, Messrs.
Inglis and Netherclift, swore point blank one against the other, with
equal confidence as to certain disputed handwriting, so that the judge
felt constrained to tell the jury that they must leave the “expert
evidence” out of the question altogether. In the Dreyfus case too, the
experts, the renowned M. Bertillon included, seem to have come utterly
to grief. One is reminded of the Judge’s famous categories of “liars,”
viz., “liars, damned liars, and expert witnesses!” Therefore I think it
well to cultivate a little healthy scepticism when Mr. Dowse identifies
“at a glance” John Davies’s “beautiful court-hand” with the scribble of
the Northumberland MS. Mr. Dowse quotes Thomas Fuller to the effect that
“John Davies was the greatest master of the pen that England in his age,
beheld”; and goes on to say: “His merits are summarized under the heads
of rapidity, beauty, compactness, and _variety of styles_; which last he
so mixed that he made them appear a hundred!” I think one ought to be
more than ordinarily cautious in judging of the handwriting of a man who
had a hundred different styles. Yet Mr. Dowse undertakes to tell us
which of the entries on the outer leaf of the volume are by John Davies,
and which by somebody else! I repeat I am quite willing to accept John
Davies as the scribbler, but I fear that at present I must regard the
hypothesis as “not proven.” I fear Mr. Dowse may have been a little too
anxious to find the verification of his preconceived opinion, on his
“first scrutiny of Spedding’s facsimile,” that Davies was the man who
wrote the scribble. However the fact that Davies seems to have been for
some years in the service of Henry Percy, ninth Earl of Northumberland,
as teacher of his family (that is, I presume mainly as writing
master[100]), and possibly as copyist lends some probability to Mr.
Dowse’s surmise.

Mr. Dowse speaks in very bitter terms of Francis Bacon, perhaps
unconsciously allowing his bitterness to be accentuated (as we so often
find to be the case) by his abhorrence of the Baconian theory of
authorship. It is, at any rate, so strong as to lead him into criticism
so obviously, and indeed absurdly, unfair as to carry its own refutation
with it, and to impair very seriously the value of the critic’s
judgment. He assumes that Davies wrote the words “Anthony Comfort, and
Consorte,” though why the writing master, who was, according to the
hypothesis, in the service of the Earl of Northumberland at the time,
should have made this entry it is rather difficult to conjecture.
However, says Mr. Dowse, it “shows that he was aware of the relations
subsisting between the two brothers--that Anthony was the companion and
support of Francis the spendthrift, whom to keep out of prison he
impoverished himself, and then did not succeed. It also suggests a
rebuke of the toadyism of Francis in selecting and, _more suo_, grossly
flattering the terrible old termagant on the throne as the ‘worthiest
person’ in preference to such a brother.” When we remember that “the
praise of his soveraigne” was, with the other speeches, written in 1592,
to be spoken at a _Device_ presented by Essex before Elizabeth (the idea
being, of course, to conciliate the Queen in favour of Essex, and the
very fact of Bacon’s authorship being concealed), the suggestion that
Davies had in his mind to rebuke Bacon for his “toadyism” because of
this purely dramatic performance is, I submit, sufficiently absurd. But
that is far from being the worst. I make no complaint whatever that Mr.
Dowse will have nothing at all to do with Spedding’s attempted
vindication of Bacon in the matter of Essex, or that he will make no
allowance whatever for the exigencies of Bacon’s position as counsel in
the service of the Crown. Everyone has the right to form his own opinion
upon that, as upon other matters of historical controversy. But, says
Mr. Dowse, in view of the sentiments which Davies entertained with
regard to the families of Northumberland and Essex, “we can imagine how
he would feel towards those who were instrumental in bringing Essex to
the block.... The man that did more than anyone else towards securing
the death of Essex was Francis Bacon, but the MS. was planned, and
probably in great part executed, before that repulsive procedure, or the
contents might have been very different.” In plain English, Davies, the
assumed writer of the scribble, must, after the Essex affair, have felt
nothing but hatred and scorn for Francis Bacon, and had Essex’s death
taken place before this manuscript was planned, and (probably) in great
part executed, “the contents might have been very different”; the
meaning of which is, I suppose, either that Bacon’s works would have
been omitted altogether, or that the writer would have put on record “a
bit of his mind” with regard to the author. But it so happens that some
years after this, viz., about 1610, Davies published, in his _Scourge of
Folly_, a sonnet addressed to Bacon in which he speaks of him in highly
eulogistic terms. How does Mr. Dowse explain this? I will place his
remarks before the reader, and afterwards quote the sonnet in full, and
then ask judgment on this very remarkable style of anti-Baconian
criticism. “It seems,” writes Mr. Dowse, “that Bacon had recently made
him (Davies) a present of money, or more probably had paid him lavishly
for some assistance. But the poet’s gratitude takes a singular form:

    Thy _bounty_, and the beauty of thy Witt
    _Compells_ my pen to let fall shining ink!

Further on he speaks of Bacon ‘keeping the Muse’s company _for sport_
twixt grave affairs’--an apology for Bacon’s amateur verses.”

Now, first of all be it observed that the italics and the note of
admiration in the above quotations are Mr. Dowse’s own
contribution.[101] And what is the suggestion, again to put it into
plain English? It is that Davies, though in his heart regarding Bacon
with contempt and abhorrence, had accepted a large sum of money from
him, and therefore felt _compelled_, however reluctantly, to write a
poem in his honour! Observe that Mr. Dowse in other places speaks of
Davies in the highest terms, and cites him as a witness of unimpeachable
honesty and honour in favour of Shakspere, player and author. Yet he
allows his bitter feelings against Bacon to carry him so far that rather
than recognise what must be plain to every impartial reader, viz., that
Davies was writing _ex animo_ as a friend and admirer of Bacon, he would
have us believe, in vilification of his own witness, that the poet was
induced by filthy lucre to write entirely insincere, and, therefore,
particularly nauseous flattery of a man whom he hated and despised!

And now I will set before the reader the sonnet _in extenso_ (preserving
the italics as in the original), and ask him whether there is any
possible reason to suppose that it is not an honest expression of the
writer’s genuine admiration for Bacon:

       *       *       *       *       *

To the royall, ingenious, and all learned Knight, Sir Francis Bacon.

    Thy _bounty_ and the _Beauty_ of thy Witt
    Comprisd in Lists of _Law_ and learned _Arts_,
    Each making thee for great _Imployment_ fitt
    Which now thou hast (though short of thy deserts)
    Compells my pen to let fall shining _Inke_
    And to bedew the _Baies_ that _deck_ thy _Front_;
    And to thy health in _Helicon_ to drinke
    As to her _Bellamour_ the _Muse_ is wont:
    For, thou dost her embozom; and dost use
    Her company for sport twixt grave affaires:
    So utterst Law the livelyer through thy _Muse_.
    And for that all thy _Notes_ are sweetest _Aires_;
    _My Muse thus notes thy worth in ev’ry Line,
    With yncke which thus she sugers; so to shine._

Now this “sugred sonnet” is I think a very remarkable one. Considering
the inflated style in use for laudatory poems of the time, it is written
in singularly moderate language, and I think no reader, after
considering it as a whole, could possibly put upon it the malignant
construction suggested by Mr. Dowse, unless his judgment be warped by
very bitter prejudice. But it is not only an honest eulogy of Bacon as a
man, it is valuable as bearing witness to the fact, doubtless well known
to Davies, that Bacon was a poet. Mr. Dowse speaks contemptuously of
Davies’s “apology for Bacon’s amateur verses,” but I fear Mr. Dowse’s
sight is distorted by a fragment of that broken magic mirror whereof
Hans Anderson has written so charmingly. Davies drinks to Bacon’s health
in “Helicon”--not in “the waters of the Spaw,” but in “the waters of

    As to her Bellamour the Muse is wont.

It is true that Bacon was engaged in “grave affaires”--he had been made
Solicitor-General in 1607--and therefore, though he wooed the Muse,
could only “use her company” by way of recreation in intervals of more
serious employment. Nevertheless he is fully recognised as her

We may be grateful to Mr. Dowse for once more calling attention to this
very high and remarkable tribute of praise.

Mr. Dowse goes on to cite Davies’s testimony--which is here, of course,
to be taken very seriously indeed--to the excellence of William
Shakspere. “In his ‘Microcosmos,’ in a stanza beginning ‘Players, I
love,’ Davies singles out Shakespeare and Burbage for his highest
admiration. He attributes to them ‘_wit_ (i.e. intellect), _courage_,
_good shape_, _good partes_, and ALL GOOD!’”

Now I will again set forth the lines _in extenso_ in order that the
reader may form his own opinion as to their meaning and evidentiary
value. It is to be observed that Davies does not mention Shakespeare (or
Shakspere) or Burbage by name, but there are, in a marginal note to the
third line, the letters W. S. R. B., which are generally interpreted as
bearing reference to those two “deserving men.”[102] Whether he
attributes to them all the excellencies so largely writ in Mr. Dowse’s
interpretation the reader shall judge. Why Mr. Dowse has written the
words “all good” in such startlingly large letters I am unable to say,
and I really do not think the poet, who according to Mr. Dowse was of a
very strict, if not sanctimonious, turn of mind, intended to attribute
ALL GOOD to poor Will Shakspere and Dick Burbage; while as to his being
“over exquisite in depreciating their calling,” this fault--if fault it
be--he certainly shares with all the other writers of his time
concerning the profession and _status_ of the Players. Here is the poem
published in the _Microcosmos_ or “The Discovery of the Little World,
with the Government thereof,” 1603:

    _Players_, I love yee, and your _Qualitie_,
    As ye are Men, _that_ passtime not abus’d;
    And some I love for _painting_, _poesie_,
    And say fell _Fortune_ cannot be excus’d,
    That hath for better _uses_ you refus’d:
    _Wit_, _Courage_, _good shape_, _good partes_, and all _good_,
    As long as al these _goods_ are no _worse_ us’d,
    And though the _stage_ doth staine pure gentle _bloud_,
    Yet generous yee are in _minde_ and _moode_.

Mr. Dowse follows this by a reference to Davies’s poem addressed to

    Our English Terence, Mr. Will.

which appeared, with the sonnet to Bacon already quoted, in the _Scourge
of Folly_ (1610-11). On this poem Mr. Dowse waxes eloquent. This, he
tells us “in short compass gives us a number of important particulars
about him [Shakespeare]. Thus, he acted ‘kingly parts,’ which means
lordly manners and bearing and elocution; and if he had not _played_
those parts (the stage again!)[104] he would have been a fit companion
for a King; indeed he would have _been_ a king among the general ruck of
mankind. He had then (as now) his detractors, but he was above
detraction, and never railed in return; for he had a ‘reigning wit,’
i.e. a sovereign intellect.”

I will quote this poem also. _The Scourge of Folly_ by the way, is, we
read, a work “consisting of Satyricall Epigramms and others.” I fancy
there is a good deal of the “Satyricall” in the following:

    Some say (good _Will_) which I, in sport, do sing,
    Hadst thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
    Thou hadst bin a companion for a _King_;
    And, beene a King among the meaner sort.
    Some others raile; but, raile as they think fit,
    Thou hast no rayling, but a raigning Wit.
    _And_ honesty _thou sow’st, which they do reape_;
    _So_, to _increase their_ Stocke _which they do keepe_.

So Davies, singing “in sport,” suggests that according to the saying of
some, if the Player had not been a Player he might have been a companion
for a King (I rather suspect some esoteric meaning here to which, at
this date, we cannot penetrate), and have been himself a King “among the
meaner sort.” As Miss L. Toulmin Smith writes (Ingleby’s _Centurie of
Prayse_, p. 94) “it seems likely [? certain] that these lines refer to
the fact that Shakespere was a player, a profession that was then
despised and accounted mean.” The poem, of course, has some value for
the supporters of the Stratfordian faith, for, if Davies is here writing
in sober seriousness, and with no ironical _arrière pensée_, it
certainly seems to imply that he supposed “Mr. Will Shake-speare, our
English Terence,” to be identical with player Shakspere. To which the
anti-Stratfordian would reply that, if he did so mean, he was misled, as
others were, by the use of the pseudonym Shakespeare. Poems and Plays
were published in that name “as it was always _printed_ in those days,
and not as he [Shakspere] himself in any known case ever wrote it.”[105]
In any case Davies’s lines can hardly be said to be the high eulogy of
Player Shakspere that Mr. Dowse would have them to be.[106]

A word more and I have done with Mr. Dowse. As I have already said, that
which I still venture to call the “table of contents,” on the outer page
of the paper volume, is headed by Bacon’s “Of tribute,” and a list of
his four “Praises.” Now, about an inch below the last “Praise” occurs
the word _fraunces_, and a little below and to the right of that is the
word _turner_. These we are told are “in different hands,” though
whether or not they are samples of Davies’s hundred different styles it
would seem rather difficult to say. Mr. Dowse, however, thinks that
_fraunces_ was written by the copyist of the “Praises,” and _turner_ by
“the scribbler,” and that the latter word was “apparently intended to
stand as if related in some way to _fraunces_.” He then tells us how
pondering over this a brilliant idea struck him. In the middle of the
reign of James I occurred the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, instigated
by Frances Howard, Lady Essex, and one of this lady’s “principal agents”
was a Mrs. Anne Turner. What can be clearer than that we have here a
reference to these two notorious criminals? It follows from this that
“the MS. was ‘knocking about,’ or at any rate open for additions to the
scribble on the cover, as late as 1615.”[107]

This is going to one’s conclusion _per saltum_ with a vengeance. It is
to be observed that _fraunces_ is written just under the _ffrauncis_ of
“Mr. ffrauncis Bacon,” and just above that stands “Mr. Ffrauncis.” It
seems very probable therefore, that _fraunces_ is only written as a
variety of, or at least suggested by, the name “ffrauncis,” though Mr.
Burgoyne does not seem to be right in transcribing it in the latter
form. The idea that it stands for the “_Christian name_” of Lady Essex,
and “_turner_” for the _surname_ of her “principal agent” seems an
altogether wild one, and I should imagine that no serious critic would
seek to fix the date of any part of the scribble by such a hare-brained

I turn then from Mr. Dowse’s singularly injudicial tract to Mr.
Burgoyne’s more sober comment. “As to the penman who actually wrote the
manuscript,” says Mr. Burgoyne, “nothing certain is known. The writing
on the contents page is chiefly in one hand, with occasional words in
another, and a few words mostly scrawled across the page at an angle
appear to be written by a third. The main body of the work is in two or
more handwritings, and the difference is especially to be noted in
‘Leycester’s Commonwealth,’ which appears to have been written in a
hurry, for the writing has been overspaced in some pages and overcrowded
in others, as if different penmen had been employed. There are also
noticeable breaks on folios 64 and 88, and the difference in penmanship
on these pages is specially remarkable. This points to the collection
having been written at a literary workshop or professional writer’s
establishment. It is a fact worthy of notice, that Bacon and his brother
Anthony were interested in a business of the kind about the time
suggested for the date of the writing of this book. Mr. Spedding
states:--[109] “Anthony Bacon appears to have served [Essex] in a
capacity very like that of a modern under-secretary of State, receiving
all letters which were mostly in cipher in the first instance;
forwarding them (generally through his brother Francis’s hands) to the
Earl, deciphered and accompanied with their joint suggestions; and
finally, according to the instructions thereupon returned, framing and
dispatching the answers. Several writers must have been employed to
carry out with promptitude such work as here outlined, and we find in a
letter from Francis Bacon to his brother,[110] dated January 25th, 1594,
that the clerks were also employed upon other work.... ‘I have here an
idle pen or two ... I pray send me somewhat else for them to write out
besides your Irish collection.’” etc., etc.

In a well-known letter to Tobie Mathew, Bacon writes: “My labours are
now most set to have those works, which I had formerly published ...
well translated into Latin by the help of some good pens that forsake me
not.” In this connection Mr. Burgoyne writes: “It is worthy of notice
that in ‘The Great Assises holden in Parnassus by Apollo and his
Assessours,’ printed in 1645, the ‘Chancellor’ is declared to be ‘Lord
Verulam,’ and ‘Ben Johnson’ is described as the ‘Keeper of the
Trophonian Denne.’”[111] “It seems not unlikely,” says Mr. Burgoyne,
“that this literary workshop, was the source of the ‘Verulamian
Workmanship’ which is referred to by Isaac Gruter in a letter to Dr.
William Rawley (Bacon’s secretary and executor) written from Maestricht,
and dated March 20, 1655. This letter was written in Latin, and both the
original and the translation are printed in ‘Baconiana, or certain
genuine Remains of Sir Francis Bacon,’ London, 1679.” Mr. Burgoyne gives
the following extract:

     “If my Fate would permit me to live according to my Wishes I would
     flie over into _England_, that I might behold whatsoever remaineth,
     in your cabinet of the _Verulamian_ Workmanship, and at least make
     my eyes witnesses of it, if the possession of the Merchandize be
     yet denied to the Publick.... At present I will support the Wishes
     of my impatient desire, with hope of seeing, one Day, those
     [issues] which being committed to faithful Privacie, wait the time
     till they may safely see the Light, and not be stifled in their

This letter, we note in passing, shows us that in the _Verulamian_
literary Workshop certain “Merchandize” was produced which was “denied
to the public”--that in fact (as we know by other evidence to have been
the case) there were many writings of Bacon “committed to faithful
Privacie”--to Rawley e.g.--which were to be kept unpublished till they
could “safely see the light,” but which, most unfortunately, were lost
or destroyed.

The suggestion, therefore, is that this paper volume, now known as the
Northumberland MS., was a product of the famous Verulamian Workshop or
_Scriptorium_, and Mr. Bompas adopting (with too great facility as I
think) Mr. Dowse’s hypothesis that “the scribbler” was John Davies of
Hereford, and referring to the known fact that the “Praises” were
written for Essex’s _Device_ in 1592, points out that at that date John
Davies was only 27 and at the beginning of his career, and that it is
“fifteen years later, in 1607, that an entry appears in the
Northumberland accounts of a payment showing his employment by the
Earl.” Mr. Bompas, therefore, suggests that in 1592 Davies might have
been in Bacon’s employ; he seems, however to have overlooked the fact
that, according to Mr. Dowse, the “Praises” were _not_ written by
Davies, since they are “in a totally different hand.”[112] The one fact
which emerges is that we really do not know who wrote any part of the
Manuscript, but that it was written for Bacon by one or more of his
secretaries seems entirely probable, seeing that six of the nine pieces
which now form its contents are transcripts of Bacon’s works, then
unpublished. How Bacon, or his secretary, came into possession of two
unpublished plays of Shakespeare, is a matter for speculation.

As to the “scribble” itself Mr. Spedding writes: “At the present time,
if the waste leaf on which a law stationer’s apprentice tries his pens
were examined, I should expect to find on it the name of the poet,
novelist, dramatic author, or actor of the day, mixed with snatches of
the last new song, and scribblings of ‘My dear Sir,’ ‘Yours sincerely,’
and ‘This Indenture witnesseth.’ And this is exactly the sort of thing
which we have here.” Mr. Dowse demurs to this, for, says he, “the cases
are not parallel: there is nothing trivial or vulgar in our scribbler:
he was a serious and even religious man: the subjects that interest him
are lofty, and like his acquaintance noble.” I will not offer an opinion
on this point, viz., as to whether the scribbler was merely an idle
penman, or “a serious and religious” penman, but, however that may be, I
do not think that Mr. Spedding’s analogy holds good. “A law stationer’s
apprentice” might certainly exercise his pen on a “waste leaf” as Mr.
Spedding suggests, but an outer sheet of a paper volume in which works
of importance, or so considered, were transcribed, the whole volume
being stitched together, can hardly be described as a waste leaf. In
days when printing was far less common than it is now such a volume
would be valuable. Moreover, on the outside leaf were written the
contents of the volume. A law stationer’s apprentice would hardly dare
to exercise his idle pen on the outside skin of a newly-engrossed deed.
I am inclined, therefore, to agree with Mr. Dowse that the scribblings
were to a certain extent “serious.” There is method in their madness.
And they are such “acts of ownership,” that the scribbler must have had
a complete _dominium_ over the document.

I have been long, and I fear, tedious over this curious work, but the
more one considers Mr. Dowse’s tract the more does one find it
provocative of criticism. I will now leave the regions of imagination
for those of fact. Whether or not John Davies of Hereford was “the
Scribbler” seems to me of comparatively little importance.[113] What is
of importance is this:--We have here an undoubtedly Elizabethan
manuscript volume. Its contents, as they have come down to us, are nine
articles, out of which seven are by Bacon. It seems, therefore very
reasonable to believe that the volume was written for Bacon and was
perhaps a product of the “Verulamian workshop.” Very possibly it was
presented by him either to the Earl of Northumberland, or to Sir Henry
Neville, his own nephew. It is quite reasonable to believe that among
the contents of the volume, as it originally stood, were the two
Shakespearean plays, _Richard II_ and _Richard III_. In any case these
were noted on the outer leaf either as having been transcribed, or for
future transcription. Such note would not, in all probability, have been
made after 1597, when these plays were first (anonymously) published, at
the price of sixpence each. At that date “Shakespeare” was unknown to
the public as a dramatic author, for not a play had as yet been
published under that name. Here then we have the names and the works of
Bacon and Shakespeare associated, in close juxtaposition, in a
contemporaneous manuscript. Further, the transcriber of, at any rate,
part of the work, writing not idly but with serious thought, exercises
his pen by writing the names, or parts of the names of Shakespeare and
Bacon, over and over again, on the outside sheet. “William Shakespeare,”
the author of _Richard II_ and _Richard III_, seems to be a name
familiar to him, although those plays had not as yet been published, and
indeed were not published under the name of “Shake-speare” till 1598. He
writes the name of “Shakespeare” “as it was always printed,” and not as
Shakspere of Stratford “in any known case ever wrote it.” And not
content with associating thus closely the names of Shakespeare and
Bacon, on a volume containing some works by both these writers, if two
they really were, he must needs, on the same outer sheet, quote a line,
slightly varied, from _Lucrece_, and a word from _Love’s Labour’s Lost_.
No other name of poet, or actor, appears upon “the Scribble” as distinct
from the table of contents. It is all either Shakespeare or Bacon.

If a dishonest Baconian could fabricate fictitious evidence in the same
way as the forger Ireland did for Shakspere, it seems to me that he
might well endeavour to concoct such a document as this. But the
Northumberland MS. is an undoubtedly genuine document, and it is but
natural that the “Baconians” should make the most of it.--G.G.


There is one argument in support of the contention that Bacon was the
author of _Venus and Adonis_ which seems to me to deserve more attention
than it has hitherto received.

It was, I believe, first put forward by the late Reverend Walter Begley,
of St. John’s College, Cambridge, in his book, _Is it
Shakespeare?_[114]--a work which every one interested in the Shakespeare
problem ought to read, because it is replete with both information and
amusement, and there is hardly a dull page in it. The argument is
derived from the Satires of Marston and Hall, our early English
satirists, of the sixteenth century, who wrote in bitter vein the one
against the other. Both of them have a good deal to say concerning one
_Labeo_, which is a pseudonym for some anonymous writer of the time. Now
in 1598 Marston published a poem founded on the lines and model of
_Venus and Adonis_, which he called “Pigmalion’s Image” (_sic_)--a love
poem, not a satire--and as an appendix to it he wrote some lines “in
prayse of his precedent Poem,” where “Pigmalion” had, according to the
old legend, succeeded in bringing the image he had wrought out of ivory
to life, and in this appendix occur the following lines:

    And in the end (the end of love I wot),
    Pigmalion hath a jolly boy begot.
    So Labeo did complaine his love was stone,
    Obdurate, flinty, so relentlesse none;
    Yet Lynceus knowes that in the end of this
    He wrought as strange a metamorphosis.

Now compare the following lines from _Venus and Adonis_ (199-200):

    Art thou obdurate, flinty, hard as steel--
    Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth.

Here we have Labeo’s complaint almost word for word, and we are reminded
that at the end of _Venus and Adonis_ there was the “strange
metamorphosis” of Adonis into a flower, quite as strange as that of
“Pigmalion’s Image.”

Is it not clear, then, that by Labeo is meant the author of _Venus and
Adonis_? It may be said, of course, that it was not the author, but
Venus who complained that Adonis was “obdurate, flinty,” and relentless,
but that is a futile objection, for Marston evidently puts the words of
Venus into Labeo’s mouth, and it can only be the author of the poem to
whom he alludes.

Who, then, was _Labeo_? Well, “these University wits,” as Mr. Begley
writes, “were steeped in Horace, Juvenal, Persius, and Ovid, and thence
brought forth a nickname whenever an occasion required it.” Now in
Horace we read:

            Labeone insanior inter
    sanos dicatur.

and we learn that M. Antistius Labeo was a famous lawyer, who, it is
said, by too much free speaking had offended the Emperor Augustus.[115]

But what more have we about this sixteenth century Labeo? Well, Bishop
Hall in his satires mentions him several times, and reflects upon him as
a licentious writer who takes care to preserve his anonymity, and, like
the cuttle-fish, involves himself in a cloud of his own making. Thus in
the second book of his satires, which he called (after Plautus)
_Virgidemiæ_, i.e., a bundle of rods, Hall attacks Labeo in the
following words:

    For shame! write better, Labeo, or write none;
    Or betterwrite, or, Labeo, write alone.
              (Bk. II, Sat. 1)

and he ends this satire thus:

    For shame! write cleanly, Labeo, or write none.

From these lines we may infer, as Mr. Begley says, that Labeo did not
write alone, but in conjunction with, or under cover of, another author,
and also that he did not write “cleanly,” but in a lascivious style,
such as the style of _Venus and Adonis_, it might be.

But there is a further passage in Hall’s _Virgidemiæ_ (Book IV, Sat. 1)
which I must quote:

    _Labeo_ is whipp’d and laughs me in the face:
    Why? for I smite, and hide the galléd place.
    Gird but the Cynick’s Helmet on his head,
    Cares he for _Talus_ or his flayle of lead?

    Long as the crafty _Cuttle_ lieth sure
    In the black _Cloude_ of his thick vomiture,
    Who list complain of wrongéd faith or fame
    When he may shift it to another’s name?

It would take too long if, in this note, I were to attempt the
explanation of this “Sphinxian” passage, as Dr. Grosart called it, but
the general meaning seems clear enough, viz.: “I, the Satirist, whip
Labeo, but Labeo merely laughs at me, for he knows he can shift the
blame, and the punishment, on to another whose name he makes use of,
while he himself lies, like the Cuttle, in the Cloud of his own

Then, writes Mr. Begley, “Labeo is the writer of _Venus and Adonis_; and
as there is every reason to think that Marston used the name Labeo
because Hall had used it, we are therefore able to infer that Hall and
Marston both mean the same man. We, therefore, advance another step, and
infer that the author of _Venus and Adonis_ did not write alone, that he
shifted his work to another’s name (certainly a Baconian
characteristic), and acted like a cuttle-fish by interposing a dark
cloud between himself and his pursuers.”

But what proof or evidence is there that Labeo stood for Bacon? Well,
Marston’s Satires were published, with his “Pigmalion’s Image,” in 1598,
several months after Hall’s first three books of _Virgidemiæ_ had
appeared, and in his Satire IV, entitled _Reactio_, Marston goes through
pretty well the whole list of writers whom Hall had attacked, and
defends them, but, curiously enough, he seems to take no notice of
Hall’s attack on Labeo, though that attack was a marked and recurrent
one. But, says Mr. Begley, “_Labeo is there_, but concealed in an
ingenious way by Marston, and passed over in a line that few would
notice or comprehend. But when it _is_ noticed it becomes one of the
most direct proofs we have on the Bacon-Shakespeare question, and, what
is more, a genuine and undoubted contemporary proof.” What, then, is
that proof? It is found in a line addressed by Marston to Hall:

    What, not _mediocria firma_ from thy spite?
              (Sat. IV, 77)

That is to say: “What, did not even _mediocria firma_ escape thy
spite?”--or we might translate: “What, was not even _mediocria_ safe
(_firma_) from thy spite?”

“_Mediocria firma_,” therefore, stands for a writer, and one who had
been attacked by Hall. And who was that writer? Of this there can,
surely, be no doubt. “Mediocria firma” was Bacon’s motto, and we find it
engraved over the well-known portrait of _Franciscus Baconus Baro de
Verulam_, which appears at the commencement of his _Sylva Sylvarum_.
Moreover, it is a motto which has never been used except by the Earls of
Verulam or the Bacon family. “Mediocria firma,” therefore, stands for
Bacon. But is “Mediocria firma” identical with “Labeo”?

Well, “Labeo,” as used by Marston, stands for the author of _Venus and
Adonis_. Of that, I think, there can be no doubt. And Hall’s “Labeo,”
the elusive author of a lascivious poem, who writes under a pseudonym
and who is always prepared to shift the responsibility upon somebody
else, seems eminently characteristic of Francis Bacon. And it is Bacon,
under the guise of “Mediocria firma,” the spiteful attacks upon whom in
Hall’s Satires are deprecated by Marston. In fine, it seems to be
eminently probable, though it cannot be said to be absolutely proved,
that “Labeo” and “Mediocria firma” are one and the same.

The above is but a brief outline of the argument put before his readers
by the late Walter Begley, and I have no space to elaborate it further
in this note. I should like, however, to add one final word. If Bacon
was the author of _Venus and Adonis_, then he was also the author of
_Lucrece_. Well, for myself, I should not be at all surprised to find
that he was, in fact, the author of that long, wearisome, tedious, and
pedantic poem, where the outraged matron, “_après avoir été violée
autant qu’on peut l’être_,” like Candide’s Cunegonde, and “pausing for
means to mourn some newer way,” at last “calls to mind where hangs a
piece of skilful painting, made for Priam’s Troy,” the contemplation of
which leads to a prolonged train of reflection concerning Ajax and
Ulysses, Paris and Helen, Hector and Troilus, Priam and Hecuba, etc.,
etc., all of which is singularly out of place in the mouth of Tarquin’s
unhappy victim. Nor would I, in this connection, omit to refer to that
long and curious and unwanted passage concerning heraldry which we find
in an earlier part of the poem (lines 54-72), and upon which Mr. George
Wyndham remarks that: “Whenever Shakespeare in an age of technical
conceit indulges in one ostentatiously, it will always be found that his
apparent obscurity arises from our not crediting him with a technical
knowledge which he undoubtedly possessed, be it of heraldry, of law, or
philosophic disputation.”

Here, in conclusion, I would advert to a passage in this stilted poem
which is curiously illustrative of “Shakespeare’s knowledge of a not
generally known custom among the ancient Romans.” When Tarquin has
forced an entry into the chamber of Lucrece, we read: “Night wandering
weasels shriek to see him there,”--a line which for a long time puzzled
all the commentators. For what could _weasels_ be doing in Collatine’s
house or in Lucrece’s chamber? At last, however, some scholar directed
attention to the note on Juvenal’s Satire XV, 7, in Mayor’s edition,
where we learn that some animal of the weasel tribe was kept by the
Romans in their houses for some purpose or another; and referring to
Facciolati’s Dictionary, we read: “Mustela, γαλὴ, animal quadrupes
parvum sed oblongum, flavi coloris, muribus, columbis, gallinis
infestum. Duo autem sunt genera: _alterum, domesticum quod in domibus
nostris oberrat_, et catulos suos, ut auctor est Cicero, quotidie
transfert, mutatque sedem, serpentes persequitur,” etc.

The Romans then, it seems, had no knowledge of the domestic cat, and had
domesticated an animal of the weasel tribe which they kept in the house
to kill mice or it might be snakes, and for other purposes. Now, this
is just the sort of out-of-the-way and recondite information which Bacon
would have delighted in. But does any sane and reasonable man suppose
that Will Shakspere of Stratford had ever heard of the “night-wandering
weasel” in an ancient Roman house? The Baconian authorship of _Venus and
Adonis_ and _Lucrece_, and, I would add, the _Sonnets_, may be rejected
as “not proven,” but the idea that these works were written by the
player who came to London as a “Stratford rustic” in 1587, is surely one
of the most foolish delusions that have ever obsessed and deceived the
credulous mind of man. _O miseras hominum mentes, O pectora cæca!_


_Cahill & Co., Ltd., London, Dublin and Drogheda._


[1] _Letters of Henry James._ Macmillan, 1920, Vol. I., p. 432.

[2] See _Times Literary Supplement_, June 2, 1921. Article headed
“Hamlet and History.”

[3] See _Sidelights on Shakespeare_ by H. Dugdale Sykes. (The
Shakespeare Head Press, Stratford-upon-Avon. 1919.)

[4] The theory that the handwriting of this “addition” to the play of
_Sir Thomas More_ is the same handwriting as that of the Shakspere
signatures, is, I do not hesitate to say, one of the most absurd
propositions ever advanced even in Shakespearean controversy.

[5] See _Sonnet_ 144.

[6] It is only necessary to read the life of John Florio in the
_Dict. of National Biography_ or the _Encyc. Brit._ to appreciate the
absurdity of this attempt to find him in Shakespeare’s Falstaff. An
almost equally silly attempt has been made by another sapient critic
to identify him with Holofernes in _Love’s Labour’s Lost_. Now no
two characters could be more dissimilar than those of Falstaff and
Holofernes, yet Florio according to one wiseacre was the prototype of
the former, and according to another wiseacre of the latter! But there
is no limit to the absurdities which are symptomatic of the _rabies

[7] _English Literature._ An Illustrated Record (1903), pp. 199, 200,
202. Italics mine.

[8] So says that distinguished Shakespearean scholar, Mr. Fleay, who
points out that in the previous year the theatres were closed owing to
the plague.

[9] Sir E. Maunde Thompson, in _Shakespeare’s Handwriting_, p. 26.

[10] So far, that is, as Sir Sidney’s _Life of Shakespeare_ is,
or purports to be, biographical, and setting aside the “fanciful

[11] She so appears in the Quarto, and also in the Folio in certain
places (II. 1 and IV. 1, e.g.) where, as in other passages, the play
seems to have been imperfectly revised.

[12] Boyet in the play (II. 1) calls upon the Princess (or Queen) to
reflect that her mission to Navarre was to raise a claim “of no less
weight than Aquitaine, a dowry for a Queen.”

[13] Vol. II, ch. 7.

[14] _Sous le Masque_, vol. I, 21. He might, I think, have included
certain editors of newspapers and magazines in his statement, though
not always “_érudits_.”

[15] M. Abel Lefranc, it may be mentioned, is _Professeur au Collège
de France_, and one of our highest authorities on Rabelais and the
period of the Renaissance, not to mention Moliére, and other historical
periods. “But, surely, we need not go to a Frenchman for enlightenment
on our great English poet!” wrote a British commentator in the
Press the other day--a most characteristic utterance, and superbly
illustrative of the insular conceit which no _entente cordiale_ seems
to have the power to dissipate. But is it not highly probable that
a French scholar, applying himself to the study of the Shakespeare
Problem with an impartial mind, with no innate or national prejudices
to obscure his vision, being himself an enthusiastic worshipper at
the shrine of Shakespeare, the poet and dramatist, might be able to
throw light upon many things which are “beyond the skyline” of those
who have grown up in the school of an old and unquestioned tradition
to which they cling as though it were part and parcel of the British
constitution, and, as it were, a necessary ingredient of the national

[16] I am, I need scarcely say, very far from denying the possible
existence of ciphers, cryptograms, and anagrams, whether in
“Shakespeare’s” plays and poems or in other literature of that day. It
is known that such things were frequently made use of by writers of the
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Bacon himself gives us an
example of the biliteral cipher, and it is known that he often employed
such cryptic methods of writing. It is none the less true that the
search for these things by “Baconian” enthusiasts of the present day
has frequently led to very distressing results, for “that way madness

[17] Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1899.

[18] This Masque, also called “The Prince’s Masque,” forms the
subject of two chapters (VI and VII) in Mr. Smithson’s book,

[19] The title-page bears date 1899. [G. G.]

[20] I may be allowed to refer to my booklet, _Ben Jonson and
Shakespeare_ (Cecil Palmer, 1921). [G. G.]

[21] But Lord Campbell cannot be quoted as a “Baconian.” [G. G.]

[22] See Jonson’s censure of Poetry in his day, for being “a meane
Mistresse to such as have wholly addicted themselves to her; or given
their names up to her family. They who have but saluted her on the
by ... she hath done much for, and advanced in the way of their own
professions, both the _Law_ and the _Gospel_, beyond all they could
have hoped without her favour.” This means, I take it, that Jonson
had in his eye Bacon and others as striking examples of Poetry’s
generosity, and himself a shining illustration of her meanness. As for
the prosperous burgher of Stratford, he was not in the picture, for
Jonson was treating of poets. [Original Note.]

[23] But surely this statement, put into the mouths of the players by
the author of the Folio preface, could not have referred to _printed_
matter? If the players did indeed, receive papers with “scarce a blot”
they were, doubtless, fair copies. [G. G.]

[24] See _Sous le Masque de Shakespeare_. Vol. I, p. 130.

[25] As for the claims of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, see
_“Shakespeare” Identified_, by J. Thomas Looney (Cecil Palmer, 1920).

[26] With reference to the “Baconian” theory I must here quote words
recently written by one who bears a highly distinguished name in the
ranks of literature. Mr. George Moore, writing in reply to a criticism
by Mr. Gosse, published in the _Sunday Times_, thus expresses his
opinion upon that question: “Some of Shakespeare’s finest plays were
not only revised, but remoulded; ‘Hamlet’ is one of these, and it is
not an exaggeration to say that its revisions were spread over at least
twenty years; and I thought when I wrote the little booklet, ‘Fragments
from Héloïse and Abélard,’ that the text of ‘Othello’ in the Folio
contained 160 lines that are not to be found in the quarto, and I think
so still; 160 lines were added between the publication of the quarto
[in 1622] and the folio [1623], and these lines cannot be attributed to
any other hand but the author’s; they are among the best in the play,
and among them will be found lines dear to all who hold the belief that
Bacon and not the mummer was the author of the plays:

        Like the Pontic Sea
    Whose icy current and compulsive course
    Ne’er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
    To the Propontic and the Helespont.”

See the _Sunday Times_, August 28, 1921. With reference to the 160 new
lines added in the folio version of _Othello_ and which “cannot be
attributed to any other hand but the author’s,” it will be remembered
that William Shakspere of Stratford died some six years before the
publication of the quarto of 1622. (See _Is there a Shakespeare
Problem?_ p. 443 _et seq._)

[27] In the _Fortnightly Review_ of January, 1922, Mr. W. Bayley
Kempling gravely informs us that Shakespeare bestowed the name of
“Mountjoy” on the French Herald in _Henry V._ in honour of the
“tire-maker” of that name with whom player Shakespeare lodged for
a time in Mugwell (i.e., Monkwell) Street, thereby repeating the
preposterous error of Dr. Wallace (often exposed by the present writer
amongst others) who wrote in ignorance of the fact that “Mountjoy King
at Arms” was the official name of a French Herald who, as Holinshed
informs us, made his appearance at Agincourt! Had Mr. Kempling
condescended to read an “heretical” author he might have been saved
from this absurd mistake.

[28] This Essay was written by Mr. Smithson in 1919-20.

[29] The words of the original are:

    “Who in an angle, where the ants inhabit,
    (The emblems of his labours) will sit curl’d,” etc.

[30] But it was not “these ‘glories’,” but the Faction of Chronomastix,
and the “Fame of his own,” who, according to the real Fame, were
destined to “deify a Pompion.” The suggestion which follows that the
“glories” were “a selection from among the _dramatis personæ_ who were
about to figure in the First Folio” is an hypothesis which will not, I
fear, meet with general acceptance even among “Baconians.” [ED.]

[31] It might be well here to quote the original words. Chronomastix,
addressing Fame, delivers himself as follows:

    “It is for you I revel so in rhyme,
    Dear Mistress, not for hope I have, the Time
    Will grow the better by it; to serve Fame
    Is all my end, and get myself a name.”

To which Fame answers:

    “Away, I know thee not, wretched impostor,
    Creature of glory, mountebank of wit,
    Self-loving braggart, Fame doth sound no trumpet
    To such vain empty fools: ’tis Infamy
    Thou serv’st, and follow’st, scorn of all the Muses!
    Go revel with thine ignorant admirers,
    Let worthy names alone.”

Whereupon Chronomastix makes an appeal to his “ignorant admirers”:

    “O you, the Curious,
    Breathe you to see a passage so injurious,
    Done with despight, and carried with such tumour
    ’Gainst me, that am so much the friend of rumour?
    I would say, Fame?
    Who with the lash of my immortal pen
    Have scourg’d all sorts of vices and of men.
    Am I rewarded thus? have I, I say,
    From Envy’s self-torn praise and bays away,
    With which my glorious front, and word at large,
    Triumphs in print at my admirers’ charge?

Whereat “Ears,” one of “The Curious,” exclaims:

    Rare! how he talks in verse, just as he writes!

[32] In Mr. Smithson’s _Shakespeare-Bacon_, at p. 124, we read:
“A schoolmaster, for example, is engaged in turning ‘all his
(Chronomastix’s) workes’ from the insular ‘English in which they
were originally written into the general or continental Latine.’”
It is somewhat difficult however, to find Bacon under the guise of

Jonson’s words are:

              “There is a school-master
    Is turning all his works too into Latin,
    To pure Satyric Latin; makes his boys
    To learn him; call’s him the Times Juvenal;
    Hangs all his school with his sharp sentences;
    And o’er the execution place hath painted
    Time whipt, for terror to the infantry.”

This also appears to be an allusion to George Wither. [ED.]

[33] Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1899.

[34] _Shakespeare-Bacon_ pp. 89-91, and Note 2 on p. 91.

[35] It may perhaps be worth while to quote some of the words put
into the mouth of “Fame” when “the whole Scene opens,” and Saturn
sitting with Venus is discovered above, and certain “Votaries” come
forth below, “which are the chorus,” shortly before “the Masquers are

    “Within yond’ darkness, Venus hath found out
    That Hecate, as she is queen of shades,
    Keeps certain glories of the time obscured,
    There for herself alone to gaze upon
    As she did once the fair Endymion.
    These Time hath promised at Love’s suit to free
    As being fitter to adorn the age.
    By you [i.e., King James] restored on earth, most like his own;
    And fill this world of beauty here, your Court.”

What were the “certain glories of the time obscured” which Time had
“promised at Love’s suit to free” is matter for speculation.

[36] But _Shepheard’s Hunting_ appeared in 1615. Jonson, in the Grand
Chorus at the end of the Masque, writes:--

    “Turn hunters then
      But not of men.
    Follow his ample
      And just example,
    That hates all chase of malice, and of blood,
      And studies only ways of good.
    To keep soft peace in breath
      Man should not hunt mankind to death,
    But strike the enemies of man.
      Kill vices if you can,” etc.

Here was yet another hit at George Wither, but who was he whose “ample
and just example” was held up as a model for imitation? [ED.]

[37] Mr. Smithson’s references to Sir Sidney as Mr. Lee show that this
Essay was written many years ago. [Ed.]

[38] But an _impresa_ was much more than this. _Imprese_ were employed
in tournaments (e.g.). Puttenham says, “The Greeks call it Emblema,
the Italians Impresa, and we a Device, such as a man may put into
letters of gold and send to his mistresses for a token, or cause to be
embroidered in Scutcheons of arms on any bordure of a rich garment, to
give by his novelty marvel to the beholder.” On this matter of the Earl
of Rutland’s _Impresa_ (it was Francis Manners, the Sixth Earl for whom
the work was executed), see my “_Is there a Shakespeare Problem?_” pp.
16-21. It is to be noted that in the year 1613, after all the great
Shakespearean works had been written, we find Shakspere, the (alleged)
great dramatist, then, as we must assume, at the zenith of his fame,
engaged with his fellow-actor, Dick Burbage, to work at Lord Rutland’s
new Device, for the magnificent reward of 44^{s}.! [Ed.]

[39] Alas, that rich harvest has never seen the light. [Ed.]

[40] In the portrait Bacon has an open book before him, across whose
pages are written the words “_Instaur_” and “_Magna_.” On the left-hand
page appear the words “_Mundus Mens_,” and on the right-hand page the
words “_connubio jungam stabili_.” [Ed.]

[41] I venture to refer to my short article on _The Tempest_ in “The
New World” of April, 1921. The reader may also profitably consult Mr.
Looney’s _“Shakespeare” Identified_ on this matter, at p. 513. [Ed.]

[42] The better opinion now seems to be that _Henry VIII_ is
not Shakespearean, but was written by Fletcher and Massinger in
collaboration. Mr. James Spedding long ago tendered reasons which
have convinced most of the “orthodox” critics that the better part
of this play, including Wolsey’s and Buckingham’s speeches, was the
work of Fletcher, and recently Mr. Dugdale Sykes, in his _Sidelights
on Shakespeare_, published at the “Shakespeare Head Press” at
Stratford-upon-Avon (1919), with preface by the late A. H. Bullen,
appears to have proved that all that part of this great spectacular
drama which was not written by Fletcher came from the pen of Massinger,
who, as we know, frequently collaborated with him. [Ed.]

[43] Milton’s versification of the Psalms is much worse than Bacon’s,
and if there were any doubt as to the authorship of _Paradise Lost_,
and _Lycidas_, and _L’Allegro_, and _Il Penseroso_, and Milton were
known only as the writer of this versification of the Psalms, it would
be confidently asserted that he could not possibly be the author of the
above-mentioned works. [ED.]

[44] This Essay was written by Mr. Smithson in the year 1919.

[45] See my _Shakespeare Problem Restated_, p. 342. [Ed.]

[46] Jonson says “wherein he flowed with that facility that sometimes
it was necessary he should be stop’d; _Sufflaminandus erat_, as
Augustus said of Haterius.” This means that he had to be “stop’d” not
in _writing_ but in _talking_. See my _Is there a Shakespeare Problem?_
p. 386, _seq._ [Ed.]

[47] The so-called _Masque of Owls_ begins with the stage-direction:
“Enter Captain Cox on his Hobby horse,” of which animal the Captain
says: “He is the Pegasus that uses to wait on Warwick Muses, and on
gaudy days he paces Before the Coventry Graces.” The “Warwick Muses”
are generally supposed to be the Morris-dancers of the county, with
whom the hobby-horse was usually associated. [Ed.]

[48] To which, of course, Bacon had been “translated,” first as Baron
Verulam, and later as Viscount St. Alban. [Ed.]

[49] This is No. LXV. Nota 6, in Sir I. Gollancz’s Edition. [ED.]

[50] No. LXXI.

[51] No. LXXII.

[52] See _Manes Verulamiani_, published by Sir Wm. Rawley (1626). No.
32, by Thomas Randolph of Trinity College, Cambridge. [Ed.]

[53] Waller in the dedication of his works to Queen Henrietta Maria,
speaks of Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Francis Bacon as “Nightingales who
sang only with spring; it was the diversion of their youth.” [ED.]

[54] See note _ante_ p. 84. [ED.]

[55] Mrs. Humphry Ward’s _Reminiscences_, 1918, are, if memory fail
not, my authority here. [See Mrs. H. Ward’s _Recollections_, pp.
255-258, and an interesting letter, headed “Shakespeare Folios,” and
signed “A. R. Watson,” in _The Times_ of April 13, 1922. Ed.]

[56] It cannot be proved that Shakspere ever spelt his name
Shakespeare. Shakspere seems to be the form he preferred. Probably
however, both he and his illiterate father Shaxper, Shaksper,
Shakspear, or what not, were anything but fastidious about spellings.
Persons who happen to be interested in the Shakspere family’s fifty or
sixty ways of spelling their name will thank me for referring them to
Sir George Greenwood’s _Shakespeare Problem_ where they will find it
stated that “the form Shakespeare seems never to have been employed by
them.” Among examples of destructive criticism of the Stratford theory,
I know not one so exhaustive and deadly as this of Sir G. Greenwood’s.
In my _Shakespeare-Bacon Essay_, Shakspere, his irredeemably vulgar
Will, and other doings, are relegated to an appendix.

[57] Whitgift to wit. [Ed.]

[58] The allusion is to Francis Meres’s _Palladis Tamia_, 1598. [Ed.]

[59] See Bacon’s Essay _Of Simulation and Dissimulation_, where he will
have it that dissimulation is a necessary consequence of “secrecy,”
its “skirts or traine, as it were.” Simulation he holds to be “more
culpable ... except it be in great and rare matters” where there is “no
Remedy.” Jonson would be able to maintain that his Ode told no lies
direct--its attribution of “small Latin” being merely conditional, and
its “Swan of Avon” a purely imaginary bird.

[60] As to Jonson and Shakespeare, see further the extract from an
article contributed by Mr. Smithson to _The Nineteenth Century_,
prefixed to his Essay on the Masque of _Time Vindicated_. I may be
allowed also to refer to my booklet _Ben Jonson and Shakespeare_ (Cecil
Palmer, 1921).

[61] In this place the order of the words is slightly altered, but the
quoted words are Bacon’s. Here also it may be well to observe that
Francis Bacon was not a pioneer in the revolt against what is called
the Aristotelian, but should be called the Scholastic Philosophy.
Destructive criticism of that philosophy began at least as early as the
13th century and had already done its work so far as natural science
was concerned long before Francis Bacon took up the cry.

[62] This always reminds me of _The Tempest_ and its projected match
between Ferdinand, the unsophisticated mind of man, and Miranda, symbol
of the new method of nature study. Naples, the New City of the Tempest,
would thus stand for the model city or state expected to spring up as a
result of the New Method. The _New Atlantis_ of Bacon was another state
of this kind.

[63] In a letter to his uncle, 1592, Bacon wrote: “I have taken all
knowledge to be my province.” May this explain the “universality” with
which James I is here credited?

[64] These same goodly fields had been so diligently cultivated by
Bacon that his insight into human nature was probably unequalled by any
of his contemporaries, whilst his mastery of all arts of expression
enabled him to portray it as it has never been portrayed before or

[65] “Insignia hæc amoris et mæstitiæ monumenta.” These were published
by Rawley under the title of _Manes Verulamiani_, in 1626, the year of
Bacon’s death. [Ed.]

[66] S. Collins, Rector of King’s College, Cambridge, writes, in the
_Manes Verulamiani_:

    _Henricus_ neque Septimus tacetur,
    Et quicquid venerum politiorum, et
    Si quid præterii inscius libellum
    Quos magni peperit vigor Baconi.

Where the appended translation reads: “Nor must the Seventh Henry fail
of mention, or if aught there be of more cultured loves, aught that
I unwitting have passed over of the works which the vigor of great
Bacon hath produced.” A note explains “quicquid venerum politiorum” as
“stories of love more spiritually interpreted,” and refers to Bacon’s
_De Sapientia Veterum_.

The author of No. XVIII of the _Manes_ tells us that “the Day Star of
the Muses hath fallen ere his time! Fallen, ah me, is the very care and
sorrow of the Clarian god [Phœbus to wit], thy darling, nature and the
world’s--Bacon: aye--passing strange--the grief of very Death.

What privilege did not the crule Destiny [_Atropos_, one of the Fates]
claim? Death would fain spare, and yet she [_Atropos_] would not.
Melpomene, chiding, would not suffer it, and spake these words to the
stern goddesses [the _Parcæ_, or Fates]: ‘Never was Atropos truly
heartless before now; keep thou all the world, only give my Phœbus
back.’” It is to be noted that the Muse who here speaks of Bacon as her
“Phœbus,” or Apollo, is Melpomene the Muse of Tragedy. [ED.]

[67] But “moral philosophy,” the words used both by “Shakespeare”
and Bacon, are the correct translation of τῆς πολιτικῆς. “Political
philosophy” would have been a wrong translation. Moreover, Erasmus,
before “Shakespeare” and Bacon, had rightly translated πολιτικῆς by
“moral philosophy.” [Ed.]

[68] Items (e), (f), (g) and (h) are lifted without material alteration
from my _Bacon-Shakespeare_ Essay.

[69] The story of the _Merchant of Venice_ is, as is well known,
founded on the _Pecorone_ of Ser Giovanni, Day IV, Novel I. See my _Is
there a Shakespeare Problem?_ p. 91. _et seq._ [ED.]

[70] See also the forty-sixth Sonnet. [Ed.]

[71] See my chapter on “The Northumberland Manuscript.” _Post_ p. 187.

[72] Not quite “always”--there were some exceptions. [ED.]

[73] This Essay was written by Mr. Smithson in the year 1912.

[74] See XXVI _Prometheus, sive status hominis_. [ED.]

[75] It is a pity that Mr. Smithson has not given us the reference to
this delightfully comic, but highly characteristic utterance. [ED.]

[76] _Bacon’s Works_, edited by Spedding, vi, 486.

[77] First published in 1627, a year after Bacon’s death.

[78] This work seems to have been first published in 1612.

[79] _Additamentum_, an addition, or accession to.

[80] At contra, illud animis hominum penitus insidere debuerats
artificialia a naturalibus, non forma aut essentia, sed efficiente
solummodo differre; homini quippe in naturam nullius rei potestatem
esse, præterquam motus, ut scilicet corpora naturalia aut admoveat, aut
amoveat.... Itaque natura omnia regit: subordinantur autem illa tria;
cursu, naturæ; exspatiatio naturæ; et ars, sive additus rebus homo.

[81] “It is the fashion to talk as if art were something different
from nature, or a sort of addition to nature, with power to finish
what nature has begun, or correct her when going aside. In truth, man
has no power over nature except that of motion--the power, I say, of
putting natural bodies together, or separating them--the rest is done
by nature within.” _Descriptio Globi Intellectualis_, circ. 1612. Man
(e.g.) as the modern writer puts it, “can bring together the radium and
the bouillon, but the radiobe, whatever it may be, is none the less a
product of nature.” “The art itself is nature.”

[82] Unfortunately, however, Bacon’s instances are far from
satisfactory. “We see,” he says, “that in living creatures, that come
of putrefaction, there is much transmutation of one into another; as
caterpillars turn into flies, etc. And it should seem probable, that
whatsoever creature, having life, is generated without seed, that
creature will change out of one species into another.” And so forth.

[83] Judge Webb does not refer to Bacon’s remarks on the coloration
of flowers which I have thought worth citing, but he quotes the
_Natural History_ to the effect that “if you can get a scion to grow
upon a stock of another kind” it “may make the fruit greater, though
it is like it will make the fruit baser.” But this is not much of a
“parallel” with the remark of Polixenes as to marrying “a gentler scion
to the wildest stock,” etc.

[84] _Country Matters in Short_, by W. F. Collier, p. 21.

[85] See also his remarks on the saying “homo est planta inversa,”
Cent. VII, 607, and compare Burton, _Anat: of Melancholy_, vol. 2, p.
193. Ed. 1800. The scientific facts with regard to sex-difference in
the vegetable world were not discovered till some seventy years after
Shakspere’s death.

[86] At the same time we must take note, that Bacon’s theory of the
flamy substance of which the stars are supposed to consist, seems to
differ not a little from the modern conception of matter in a state of
combustion or incandescence. See Abbott’s _Life of Bacon_, pp. 374-5.

[87] Sir Edward Sullivan, who appears to have been captivated by
Signor Paolo Orano’s quite untenable theory that Hamlet is meant for
Giordano-Bruno, makes a truly remarkable comment upon the second of the
lines above-quoted, viz.: “Doubt that the sun doth move.” He says this
line “is the Copernican System in little”! It is, of course, the very
opposite. _It is the Ptolemaic System in little!_ (See Sir E. Sullivan
in _The Nineteenth Century_, February, 1918).

[88] _Life_, pp. 373-4. Mill remarks (_Logic_, vol. i, p. 253) that
Newton’s discovery “is the greatest example which has yet occurred of
the transformation, at one stroke, of a science which was still to a
great degree merely experimental into a deductive science.”

[89] He appears on almost every page of Professor Dowden’s article.

[90] My italics. The manuscript has been damaged by fire (probably in
1780), the edges of the pages being much scorched and singed.

[91] See Spedding’s _Introduction_, p. xix. It is, I believe, contended
by some that the word here is not “Philipp,” but as Mr. Spedding so
read it when the manuscript was very much clearer than it is now, we
may, I think, be content to accept his evidence, more especially as
close to it, a little to the left, stands the word “Phillipp” still
plain for all to read. Mr. Burgoyne, therefore, includes this letter of
Sir Philip Sydney among the subjects mentioned in the supposed list of

[92] The items in italics are mentioned in the list on the outside
page. It will be seen that the latest date of any article of the
contents is 1596. Note that six of the nine pieces are by Francis Bacon.

[93] See Spedding’s _Introduction_, p. xvi.

[94] “The Northumberland House Manuscript,” says Spedding, “is for the
most part remarkably clear and correct; it is very seldom, that there
can be any doubt what letter is intended, and the mistakes are very
few.” See Mr. Burgoyne’s Facsimile.

[95] Mr. Dowse says that the only explanation of this entry that he has
heard is that it was suggested by Bacon’s behaviour in the Essex case.
I have, however, heard another, viz., that it is Bacon’s own reflection
on the deceits and vanities of life.

[96] “The name of Shakespeare,” writes Mr. Spedding (p. xxv.) “is spelt
in every case as it was always _printed_ in those days, _and not as he
himself in any known case ever wrote it_.”

[97] “Peeps” certainly seems better than “spies,” and it has been
suggested, therefore, that this gives the line as the poet first
conceived it, the alteration having been made to meet the exigency of

[98] “Bacon,” writes Mr. A. W. Pollard, “as we should expect, reckoning
his year from January.” The copy in the British Museum was bought
_Septimo die Februarii_ 39 E. R.

[99] This argument holds even if, as Mr. Dowse seeks to prove, the
transcription was never carried out in the Northumberland volume. No
penman would have noted the Essays for future copying if they were
already in print.

[100] “To Algernoun, Lord Percy,” the Earl’s son and heir, whom he
addresses as “My right noble Pupill and joy of my heart,” Davies
writes, “The Italian hand I teach you.” Would that he could have taught
it to William Shakspere of Stratford! It was in his time, says Mr.
Dowse, “fast superseding the old court-hand.” It was, certainly, fast
superseding the old German, or “Old English,” hand in which Shakspere
wrote. And the author of _Twelfth Night_ must have known the value of
that Italian hand which was at that time rapidly “winning its way in
cultured society,” as Sir Sidney Lee tells us, for does not he make
Malvolio say, “I think we do know the sweet Roman hand”? But Mr. Dowse
does not seem to have known the meaning of the term “court-hand,” which
is a technical term for the scripts employed by lawyers in drawing up
charters and other legal documents, and can very seldom be described as

[101] The word “bounty” indeed, as the other nouns, “Beauty,” “Bays,”
etc., is printed in italics in accordance with the practice of the
times. That does not, of course, imply that any extra emphasis is on
the word. Mr. Dowse omits the italics in the case of the word “beauty,”
but emphasises “bounty” and “compells!”

[102] I do not know what evidence there is that these initials were
written by Davies himself, and were not additions made by some other

[103] Mr. Dowse omits the hyphen.

[104] This parenthesis is inserted by Mr. Dowse.

[105] Spedding’s _Introduction_, p. xxv.

[106] I have dealt with this Epigram at some length in _Is there a
Shakespeare Problem?_ at pp. 295, 353, and Appendix A. p. 559. So far
as I know there is no evidence that Davies knew either Dick Burbage or
Will Shakespere personally. On March 28, 1603, Bacon wrote to Davies
asking him to use his influence with King James in the writer’s favour,
and concluding with the words, “so desiring you to be good to concealed
poets.” (Spedding. _Lord Bacon’s Letters and Life_, iii. 65.)

[107] Dowse pp. 4 and 10.

[108] If we were to adopt this theory we should have to put the date
for the “knocking about” of the MS. even later than that assigned by
Mr. Dowse, for though Overbury’s murder was discovered in 1615, Lady
Somerset, as she then was, was not committed to the Tower till April,
1616, and it is not probable if _turner_ stands for Anne Turner,
that that name would be written till after the trial had brought it
prominently before the public.

[109] _Life of Bacon_ vol. i, p. 250-1.

[110] _Ibid._ vol. i, p. 349.

[111] We know from Archbishop Tenison’s _Remains_ that Ben Jonson was
one of Bacon’s “good pens.” _Baconiana_ 1679, p. 60.

[112] See articles in the modern _Baconiana_ for July, 1904, and April,
1905, on _Bacon’s Scrivenery_.

[113] Some think the scribbler was Bacon himself, which, if true, is
certainly of no little importance.

[114] John Murray, 1903.

[115] This Labeo is alluded to as a jurist of eminence in the time of
Augustus by Justinian in his _Institutes_. See Sandars’s Translation
(Longmans, 1869), at p. 18.

[116] Mr. Begley suggests (p. 17) that the Cynic’s helmet is an
allusion to the Knights of the Helmet, of whom we read in the _Gesta
Grayorum_, and, as he writes, we know that Bacon was “responsible for
this Device performed at his own Gray’s Inn during the year 1594.” As
to “Talus” and his flail, see Spenser’s _Fairy Queen_, Bk. V, Cant. i,
st. 12.

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