Is It Shakespeare?

The Great Question of Elizabethan Literature. Answered in The Light of New Revelations and Important Contemporary Evidence Hitherto Unoticed

By a Cambridge Graduate
Rev.Walter Begley

 

"They have their exits and their entrances."

With Facsmiles

London

John Murray, Albemarle Street

1903

TO. ALL. SERIOVS. STVDENTS.
OF. ELIZABETHAN. LITERATURE.
SHAKESPEARIANS. OR. BACONIANS.
CIPHERERS. DECIPHERERS.
OR. REVIEWERS.
THE. AVTHOR.
WISHETH.
HAPPINESSE. AND. VNITE.
VNDER.
ONE. HEAD. ONE. MOTTO. AND.
ONE. TRILITERAL.BANNER.

THVS. SVBSCRIBING. HIMSELF
So, Reviewers, save my Bacon;
O let not Folly mar Delight:

These my name and claim unriddle
To all who set the Rubric right.

CONTENTS

Chapter

Page

Preface

X

I. Bacon "Shows His Head"

1

II. Marston and Hall Reveal Bacon

12

III. The Scandal : External Evidence

32

IV. The Scandal : Internal Evidence

53

V. Was the Author of the Shakespeare Poems and Sonnets A Scholar?

66

VI.Ben Jonson and Bacon

81

VII. Progress and Prejudice

107

VIII. Some Orthodox Shakespearians Put In The Witness Box

116

IX. The Proofs of Baconian Authorship as Deduced From the History of The Three Prominent Elizabethan Earls--Southampton, Pembroke, and Essex

129

X. The Proof From Contemporary Letters And Books

169

XI. The Sonnets

190

XII. Of The Parallelisms And Identities Between The Plays of Shakespeare And The Acknowledged Works of Bacon

251

XIII. Had Bacon A Mistress, Or Was He Inclined To Be A Misogynist?

253

XIV. Bacon As A Poet

267

XV. New Evidence Connecting Bacon With Pallas And The Hyphenated Shake-Speare

281

XVI. Some Notable Megalomanic Features In The Character of Francis Bacon

293

XVII. Certain Unusual Circumstances And Hints Connected With The Poems And Plays Of William Shakespeare

307

XVIII. Why Did Francis Bacon Conceal His Identity? Summary of Difficulties and Objections

320

APPENDIX

351

INDEX

371

Preface

Who knows not how difficult it always is to get people to alter their preconceived ideas or their traditional beliefs? But whenever sufficient evidence has been discovered in support of a change of current opinion, then it is, I think, just as well that some one should collect it and present it to the public, making, at the same time, such additions from his own researches as may help to settle the question. That is my excuse for this volume. If people were afraid to offer rebutting evidence because all the leading literary authorities had declared that there was no evidence against them that was not "irrational," we should make very slow progress in research.
Look at theology; how often have the big guns and cannons of the Church declared that the evidence for the antipodes and the motion of the earth was "irrational." If no one had ventured to oppose this idea in the face of their tremendous authority, we might still all be holding the apparently very sensible opinion that the earth is fixed and flat.
To me the question of the authorship of those immortal words which have so long borne on them the name of William Shakespeare is one of the most interesting we can discusss in literary criticism. I hold in addition, that the whole matter should be discussed without heat, without prejudice(though that is very hard), and without vituperation. The last requisite ought to be very easy, for surely vituperation is no argument, neither is it any assistance to argument with right judging people. But the orthodox Shakespearians have not as a rule fulfilled the last requisite, and I hope I shall not be reckoned uncourteous if now and then in the following pages I take occasion to notice it.

For the literary services of Mr. Sidney Lee, who is the generalissimo of the orthodox party, I have the highest esteem and respect. His numerous articles in the "Dictionary of National Biography" are the models of what such notices should be; but when he writes in the Times or elsewhere on the Bacon-Shakespeare question he seems a different man, and has no expressions too severe to use against "irrational" Baconians.
I have been obliged to point out the errors and inconsitencies of the chief Shakespearians whereby they often refute each other. Of course this an accessory to my argument, and I have a right to avail myself of it, but I shall be indeed sorry if it can be shown that I have spoken discourteously of any one, for this reason, if none other, that such a method defeats its own object.
We must not forget, however, that this great literary question is still sub judice ; neither party is out of the woods yet, or out of court either. All the talents may yet prove to be only blind leaders of the blind, and the ditch they are to fall into may not be very far off.

Remember the cognoscenti in thewitchcraft delusion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and what a big ditch they are all buried in now. They were the "big battalions" with a vengeance, and only a stolid champion here and there could be found to oppose them. Their arguments were irresistible, even as the Shakespearian arguments are irresistible--"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"( exod. xxii.18). If that was not a final and unimpeachable argument, where could there by any possibility be one?The Word of God definitely states that exist, and are to be killed off hand.

So that question was settled.

In our matter Ben Jonson, who knew Shakespeare as well as any man living, and knew Bacon equally well, declared in black and white again and again in the first collected edition of the Shakespeare Plays that Shakespeare, the Swan of Avon, was the man who wrote them, and several other contemporary writers virtually said the same thing. If we have not here a final and convincing argument, where can one be found better? So that question is settled, and the only question that no one seems able to settle is, " Why on earth don't the Baconians give up their folly?"

Now, what are we to say to such things? Well, surely this much; that in literary judgments, and in our judgments of other matters as well, the most cultivated and judicious men of the age may be both right and wrong. That is to say, they may be right according to the lights and knowledge of their age, and their judgment quite a sane one according to the evidence before them; but---and there is everything in this but --there may be a great deal of evidence not before them; many facts which cannot, at the time, be brought into court because they are then unknown; facts which throw a totally different light on the testimony to be dealt with.

Up until now I have been altogether an outsider, a non-combatant without the slightest wound or scratch that could fester or rankle, but herewith I join the ranks and the fight and shall look out for blows.

Besides the ordinary weapons of this Forty Years' War I have accoutred myself with a few new and fancy weapons of my own, and this is my chief excuse for 'listing for the fray. I want to prove my arms. My fear is, that being a raw recruit I may shoot, through want of a discipline, some of my own side.

My arguments and illustrations are mainly based on the Sonnets and the Poems as being fresher and, as I hope to show, more productive ground.

This ground has been avoided by most Baconians, and triumphantly claimed as Shakespeare's by all the orthodox talent. However, I hope to show clearly that both Poems and Sonnets alike came from the marvellous brain of Francis Bacon.

There is really no need for much preface. We must not stay too long in this vestibule, or some cryptograms may be discovered. I will therefore only say here what I have also repeated at the back door or finish of this book. I wish this work to be considered tentative, and the creation of a predominant idea. I would give up my Rival Poets, my loose-legged Lais, my Dark Lady, together with dancing Mary Fitton, and all the Adonis like young damsels in doublet, hose and codpiece, who may have taken Bacon's curious fancy; I would renounce them all, or any other false or irregular moves I may have made in this difficult game; nay, I would suffer fools gladly, and take a checkmate from wise critics with a joyful countenance, if they would only treat this interesting matter seriously, and play fair.

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