It is now fully half a century since the Bacon- Shakespeare controversy first became acute; and for this reason it is invevitable that the present generation of readers should not realise how much has been accomplished in that time. Unfortunately many of the finest expostions are now out of print, though they can usually be obtained second hand. For this reason the enquirer is apt to feel handicapped at the outset. Also, owing to the complexity of the subject , no one book can possibly give adequate treatment to the entire problem, and the many aspects are dealt with in varying manner by different authors. This little book is intended only as an introductory guide to the Baconian theory and must therefore be brief and concise; but I shall indicate where fuller detail on certain points may be obtained.
Although there are reasons for believing that this great secret was always in the possession of a number of persons, and has been handed down from one to another, yet the first public doubts in recent times as to the authorship arose about the middle of the 19th century. I say " in recent times" advisedly, because in the course of this book it will be clearly shown that many of Francis Bacon's contemporaries were in the secret, and others suspected it. Hence it is inaccurate to assert, as is often done, that in Shakspere's lifetime everyone ascribed the plays to him, and that this is good evidence that he wrote them. If Francis Bacon wished that his authorship should remain concealed, not only during his lifetime but for a long period afterwards, it is reasonable to suppose that he took special precautions to cover up his tracks and make the discovery difficult. Accordingly we cannot expect the task of revealing the mystery to be any easy one. The proof cannot rest on a few broad, plain facts; it must consist of innumerable fingerposts, some small, others larger and more distinct, all pointing in the same direction. But in the aggregate their evidence is overwhelming.
My chief object in writing the present book is to gather together in as compact a form as possible the most weighty arguments in support of the main thesis, to marshal the various classes of evidence in the manner which I believe will be most convincing to a fair minded investigator, and leave him to form his own judgment.
Naturally the most satisfactory thing for all concerned would be the production of authoratative documents, which would at once settle the controversy finally; and I am inclined to think that this may occur at almost any time now. Piecing together hints and scraps of information from one source and another, one feels compelled to believe that certain persons still hold the secret, and could reveal it they chose. The question is, What are they waiting for? Are they still bound by private instructions handed down from Bacon himself? Or are they holding back for reasons of their own? And if the latter, what sufficient grounds can be shown for this? His fame and his good name are at stake, and it high time that long delayed justice should be done to both. Meanwhile, Baconians can only persevere in the task of trying to rouse public interest in this great question which concerns the most wonderful dramatic writings in the world and the personality of the most brilliant genius known to literature.