Granville C.. Cuningham
Gay & Hancock, LTD.
Special thanks to Mather Walker for making this text available
A NEW LIFE OF LORD BACON
To throw new light upon the life of Lord Bacon, and to produce hitherto unknown facts in regard to it, are deeds of great importance to those who are Baconian admirers. Yet this is what I think I am able to perform in the few following pages.
In the year 1631 there was published in Paris, by the firm of Antoine de Sommaville and Andre De Soubron, a book entitled, "Histoire Naturelle de Mre. Francois Bacon, Baron de Verulan (sic), Vicomte de Sainct Alban et Chancelier d'Angleterre.' At first one might imagine that this was a translation of Bacon's 'Sylva Sylvarum,' but a very slight examination shows that this is not the case. It is a treatise on natural history in French that has no counterpart in English.
The translator, who in the license to print is said to be Pierre Amboise, tells us, in the address to the reader, that he had been aided for the most part in his translation by the author's manuscripts; but the manner of obtaining these is not explained, nor is any explanation offered of the interesting fact that these manuscripts have never appeared in English. But 'he' tells us further that, on account of his having been aided by these manuscripts, he had considered it necessary to add to, or diminish, many of the things that had been omitted or added to by Bacon's Chaplain (Rawley), who, after the death of his master, had all the papers that he found in his cabinet confusedly printed; and he adds further:
'I say this so that those who understand English will not accuse me of inaccuracy when they encounter in my translation many things that they will not find in the original.'
From this it would seem that 'he' had his eye upon an English edition of the work he was translating. If so, there is nothing anywhere recorded of it. The licence to print is issued, as before stated, to Pierre Amboise, Escuyer, sieur de la Magdelaine, who is there said to have translated into French a book entitled the 'Natural History of Mr. Francis Bacon, Chancellor of England, with some letters of the same author; together with the life of the said Mr. Bacon, prepared by the said applicant,' which he desires to bring into light. But, though the licence to print is given with so much particularity, there are no letters of Bacon's in the volume; but at the end of it there is a translation into French of Bacon's 'New Atlantis,' which, so far as I have been able to examine it, seems to be fairly literal, and about which nothing was said in the license.
The book is dedicated by 'D.M.' to the Monseigneur de Chasteauneuf, who was Ambassador Extraordinary to England from France in 1629 and 1630; but who 'D.M.' is, or whether he had anything more to do with the work than write the epistle dedicatory, and if more, what more, there is nothing whatever to show. One would naturally suppose that the person who signed the dedication of the work had a considerable part in its composition, but we are distinctly told in the license that it is Amboise who had made the translation into French. It is, therefore, not easy to see why 'D.M.' appears on the scene at all. However, from the dedication to the permission to publish 'Avec Privilege du Roy,' the book has all the appearance of having been brought out in a thoroughly regular manner, and under patronage of the highest class. Besides,in the introductory matter to the translation of Bacon's 'Advancement of Learning,' published in 1640, Gilbert Wats, the translator, speaks of this 'Histoire Naturelle,' and the work that Pierre Amboise has done in connection with it, in terms of praise, and quotes Amboise as worthy of respect and attention. I shall allude to this again, but in the meantime the remarks of Wats on this book afford the most certain evidence that it and its prefactory chapters were accepted by what we may call the Bacon party as a perfectly trustworthy and reliable book. It is important to remember this when we come to read the statements the book contains in regard to Bacon's life and lineage.
Following upon the licence to print there is the life of Bacon, and this is particularly interesting. Except for the allusion that I have quoted in the license to print, the writer of this is not identified, not even by initials. The short sketch that he gives is interesting in that it differs in many points from the life that was brought out - long afterwards - by Rawley, and which has been so faithfully followed by subsequent biographers. We miss in this French sketch the little stories about Bacon's being called by the Queen her 'little Lord Keeper,' and of his reply to Her Majesty when asked how old he was, that he was just two years younger than her Majesty's happy reign - stories which I confess have never seemed to me to be particularly illuminating. Instead we have the informaton that he spent some years of his youth in travel in France, Italy, and Spain, and that his father was extremely solicitous about his education and upbringing. Important facts such as these are unnoticed by Rawley, and unknown to other writers. And yet in this life other important matters are slighted. There is no mention of dates of birth or death, nor is the name of either his father or mother ever brought out: his father is spoken of simply as 'son pere,' his mother not at all. And it is important to notice that this life of Bacon in French was the first that ever appeared in print. At the date - 1631 - no account of his life had come out in English, and it was not till 1657 that Rawley brought out for the first time his life of the Lord Bacon as part of the 'Resuscitatio; or, Bringing into Public Light of Several Pieces.'
One might have thought that the publication of Bacon's 'Sylva Sylvarum' - the first edition of which was brought out by Rawley in 1627, just a year after Bacon's death - would have been a good and fitting occasion on which to have produced a short life of the great author, or on the republication of this work in 1628, 1631 (the very year in which the French book came out), 1635, 1639 etc.; but it was not until the appearance of the ninth and last edition (as it is called) in 1670 that the Life appeared with the 'Sylva Sylvarum.' Neither did it appear with the English version of the 'Advancement of Learning' brought out by Gilbert Wats in 1640, as might reasonably have been the case, especially as Wats was acquainted with the French life, and actually quoted from it; but, as I said above, it was held back by Rawley to make its first appearance in English in 1657. This sketch that appeared in this French book of 1631 - only five years after Bacon's death - is therefore undoubtedly the first printed life, and antedates the English life by some twenty-six years. I think this adds very materially to the value of this work, and in considering it, it is important to notice in how many particulars it differs from the orthodox conception of Bacon's parentage and early years. What 'son pere' did for him, as described in this sketch, differs greatly from what Sir Nicholas Bacon did, or could possibly have done. Sir Nicholas died on February 20, 1579, when Francis was barely turned eighteen years of age, and left him without any provision for education or maintenance. Such was not the conduct of 'son pere' as set out in his life. The cipher story, that disclosed the information that Bacon was the son of the Earl of Leicester and Queen Elizabeth, born of their secret marriage, and that he was brought up by Sir Nicholas and Lady Bacon as their son, is familiar to students of the Baconian question, and it is remarkable how the language of this life lends support to that tale.
I have thought it would be interesting to reproduce here translations of the dedication, the Address to the reader, and the life, in the order in which they appear in the 'Histoire Naturelle.' each of these has something of particular interest to students of the Bacon question. The Life is followed by a few verses addressed by 'Mr. Auvray, advocat en Parliament, a Monsieur Bacon Chancelier d'Angleterre, sur son Histoire Na turelle, traduit par le sieur 'D.M.' There does not seem to be anything especially interesting in these verses. They are of the usual laudatory character. The only point to note is that the translation is here attributed to 'D.M.,' and not to Amboise. Further, in the concluding stanza both Bacon and 'D.M.' are apostrophized as 'Immortals enfans du Parnasse,' a phrase that is applicable to poets, and not to philosophers, and would suggest that 'Maitre Auvray' had a knowledge of Bacon's poetical work. The following is a translation of the dedication:
SEALS OF FRANCE,
'This Chancellor, whom we have so often brought over to France, has never yet left England with so much zeal to make known to us his wonders as now since he has known the rank that we have assigned to your virtues: so that now his History, with all the fine embellishments it has formerly obtained from his pen, appears before your eyes, in like manner as did that magnificent and studious Queen, who in order to see the greatness of a Prince-Philosopher undertook a voyage with all the pomp and circumstance of which she was capable. These are the fruits of a land where you have shewn those of your prudence: or rather it is a treasure of which I can claim no more than the smallest part, since being devoted entirely to you, and having discovered it during your Embassage, it should not fall into other hands than your own. One opinion from you of his superiority will be enough for his Glory; and I feel assured that your Name on thefront of this work will make it last throughout Centuries, an end that we should not attain though we endured to the end of the World. We should value it doubtless as we value those pictures that are preserved in galleries, not for the merit of the painting, bur for the portraiture of him whom they represent to our eyes. If Mr. Bacon had lived in our times, I do not doubt but that he would have taken your actions as the model for his. And so, Monseigneur, I do not think I am far from his intentions if today I offer to you his works. It is true that it would have been easy for this great man to have found a better pen than mine to have shewn forth his Genius, but I am sure when entering your house he could not have chosen a man more desirous of appearing on every occasion.
'Your most humble and
'most obedient servant,
In regard to the foregoing, I would say that the opening phrase about bringing this Chancellor so often over to France is intended to mean (as it seems to me) the Chancellor, as represented by his works, not the man himself; though the phrase has an ambiguous ring about it, and may be intended to suggest frequent visits of Bacon to France.
The 'Advertisement au Lecteur' then follows:
'This work of Mr. Bacon's though posthumous, does not the less deserve to be recognized as legitimate, since it has the same advantages as those that have been brought to light whilst he was living. If the Author had had the desire to see it there, we should have see this work in the press at the same time as his other books, but having designed that it should grow more, he had intended to defer the printing until the completion of all his works. This is a Natural History where the qualities of metals and minerals, the nature of the elements, the causes of generationand decay, the different actions of bodies upon each other, are treated with so much brilliancy that he seems to have learned the science at the school of the first man. Of a truth, if in this he has rivalled Aristotle, Pliny, and Cardan, he has nevertheless borrowed nothing from them, as though he had intended to make it plain that these great men have not treated the subject so fully, but that there still remain many things to be said. For my part, though I have no intention of establishing the reputation of this Author at the expense of Antiquity, I think I may always truly say that in this subject he has had a certain advantage over them; since the greater number of the Ancients, who have written upon nature, have been content to retail to us that which they have learnt from others: and, without reflecting that very often that which has been given to them as a true description is very far from the truth, they have preferred to bolster up with their arguments the tales of others rather than themselves to make original research. But Mr. Bacon, instead of stopping at the same boundaries as those who have preceded him, will have Experience joined with Reason. *And to effect this he had a country house somewhat close to London, which he retained only in order to carry on his Experiments. In this place he had an infinite number of vases and phials; some of which were filled with distilled waters, others with plants and metals in their native state; some with mixtures and compounds; and leaving them exposed to the air throughout all seasons of the year, he observed carefully the different effects of cold or of heat, of dryness and of moisture, the simple productions and corruptions, and other effects of nature.* It is in this way that he has found out so many rare secrets, the discovery of which he has left to us; and that he has exposed as false so many axioms that until now have been held as inviolable among the Philosophers. If, in order to make the meaning clear, I have used in this translation many words more Latin than French, the Reader should lay the blame chiefly upon the sterility of our language, which is so defective that many things often remain unexpressed unless we have recourse to foreign languages.
'I shall be pleased also if the Reader will take notice that in this translation I have not exactly followed the order observed in the original English, for I have found so much confusion in the disposition of the matter that it seemed to have been broken up and dispersed rather by caprice than by reason. Besides, having been aided for the most part by the manuscripts of the Author, I have deemed it necessary to add to, or to take from, many of the things that have been omitted or augmented by the Chaplain of Mr. Bacon, who after the death of his Master, printed in a confused manner all the papers that he found in his cabinet.
'I say this, so that those who understand English will not accuse me of inaccuracy, when they encounter in my translation many things that they do not find in the original.'
There is one passage in the foregoing which I have marked between two asterisks, for a reason that will be shown later on; but in the meantime I would draw attention to the fact stated, that the translator was in possession of Bacon's manuscripts; and, further, from the last sentence one would be led to infer that there is an English original (printed, I presume), which might be compared with this French translation. Where is this English original? There is nothing corresponding to it among Bacon's works, as now known.
After this follows the 'Privilege du Roy,' but there is not anything in this that seems to be necessary to translate, except that the permission is given to translate and publish 'l'HistoireNaturelle du sieur Francois Bacon Chancelier d'Angleterre, avec quelques Lettres du mesmeAuteur: ensemble la vie du sit sieur Bacon composee par ledit exposant'; while in the book,as translated, there are no letters of Bacon's, but there is a translation of the 'New Atlantis.' The 'Life' then follows :
Discourse on the Life of M. Francis Bacon,
Chancellor of England.
'Those who have known the quality of M. Bacon's mind from reading his works, will - in my opinion - be desirous to learn who he was, and to know that Fortune did not forget to recompense merit so rare and extraordinary as was his. It is true, however, that she was less gracious to his latter age than to his youth; for his life had such happy beginning, and an end so rough and strange, that one is astonished to see England's principal Minister of State, a man great both in birth and in possessions, reduced actually to the verge of lacking the necessaries of life.
'I have difficulty in coinciding with the opinion of the common people, who think that greatmen are unable to beget children similar to themselves, as though nature was in that particularinferior to the art which can easily produce portraits that are likenesses: especially as history teaches us that the greatest personages have often found in their own families heirs of their virtues as well as of their possessions. And indeed, without the need of going to search for far away examples, we see that M. Bacon was the son of a father who possessed no less virtue than he: his worth secured to him the honour of being so well-beloved by Queen Elizabeth that she gave him the position of Keeper of the Seals, and placed in his hand the most important affairs of her Kingdom. And in truth it pains me to say that soon after his promotion to the first-named dignity, he was the principal instrument that she made use of in order to establish the Protestant Religion in England.
'Although that work was so odious in its nature, yet if one considers it according to political maxims, we can easily see that it was one of the greatest and boldest undertakings that had been carried out for many centuries: and one ought not the less to admire the Author of it, in that he had known how to conduct a bad business so dextrously, as to change both the form of Religion, and the belief, of an entire Country, without having disturbed its transquility. M. Bacon was not only obliged to imitate the virtues of such an one, but also those of many others of his ancestors, who have left so many marks of their greatness in history that honour and dignity seem to have been at all times the spoil of his family. Certain it is that no one can reproach him with having added less than they to the splendour of his race. Being thus born in the purple [ne parmy les pourpres] and brought up with the expectation of a great career [l'esperance d'une grande fortune], his father had him instructed in "bonnes lettres" with such great and such especial care, that I know not to whom we are the more indebted for all the splendid works [les beaux ouvrages] that he has left us: whether to the mind of the son, or to the care the father had taken in making him cultivate it. But, however that may be, the obligation we are under to the father is not small. Capacity [judgment] and memory were never in any man to such a degree as in this one: so that in a very short time he made himself conversant with all the knowledge he could acquire at College. And though he was then considered capable of undertaking the most important affairs [capable des charges les plus importants] yet, so that he should not fall into the usual fault of young men of his kind (who by a too hasty ambition often bring to the management of great affairs, a mind still full of the crudities of the school), M. Bacon himself wished to acquire that knowledge which in former times made Ulysses so commendable, and earned for him the name of Wise; by the study of the manners of many different nations. I wish to state that he employed some years of his youth in travel, in order to polish his mind and to mould his opinion by intercourse with all kinds of foreigners. France, Italy, and Spain, as the most civilized nations of the whole world were those whither his desire for knowledge [curiosite] carried him. And as he saw himself destined one day to hold in his hands the helm of the Kingdom [le timon du Royaume] instead of looking only at the people and the different fashions in dress, as do the most of those who travel, he observed judiciously the laws and the customs of the countries through which he passed, noted the different forms of Government in a State, with their advantages or defects,together with all the other matters which might help to make a man able for the government of men.
Having by these means reached the summit of learning and virtue, it was fitting that he should also reach that of dignity. For this reason, some time after his return, the King, who well knew his worth, gave him several small matters to carry out, that might serve for him as stepping stones to high positions: in these he acquitted himself so well that he was in due course considered worthy of the same position that his father vacated with his life. And in carrying out the work of Chancellor he gave so many proofs of the largeness of his mind, that one can say without flattery that England owes to his wise counsels, and his good rule, a part of the repose she has so long enjoyed. And King James, who then reigned, should not take to himself alone all the glory of this, for it is certain that Mr Bacon should share it with him. we may truly say that this Monarch was one of the greatest Princes of his time, who understood thoroughly well the worth and value of men, and he made use to the fullest extent of M. Bacon's services, and relied upon his vigilance to support the greater part of the burden of the Crown. the Chancellor never proposed anything for the good of the State, or the maintenance of Justice, but was carried out by the Royal power; and the authority of the Master seconded the good intentions of the servant; so that one must avouch that this Prince was worthy to have such a minister, and he worthy of so great a King.
'Among so many virtues that made this great man commendable Prudence, as the first of all the Moral virtues, and that most necessary to those of his profession, was that which shone in him the most brightly. His profound wisdom can be most readily seen in his books, and his matchless fidelity in the signal services that he continuously rendered to his Prince. Never was there a man who so loved equity, or so enthusiastically worked for the public good as he: so that I may aver that he would have been much better suited to a Republic than to a Monarchy, where frequently the convenience of the Prince is more thought of than that of his people. And I do not doubt that, had he lived in a Republic, he would have acquired as much glory from the citizens, as formerly did Aristides and Cato, the one in Athens, the other in Rome. Innocence oppressed found always in his protection a sure refuge, and the position of the great gave them no vantage ground before the Chancellor, when suing for justice.
'Vanity, avarice, and ambition, vices that too often attach themselves to great honours, were to him quite unknown, and if he did a good action, it was not from the desire of fame, but simply because he could not do otherwise. His good qualities were entirely pure, without being clouded by the admixture of any imperfections; and the passions that form usually the defects in great men, in him only served to bring out his virtues; if he felt hatred and rage it was only against evil doers, to shew his detestation of their crimes; and success or failure in the affairs of his country, brought to him the greater part of his joys or his sorrows. He was as truly a good man, as he was an upright judge, and by the example of his life, corrected vice and bad living, as much as by pains and penalties. And in a word, it seemed that Nature had exempted from the ordinary frailties of men him whom she had marked out to deal with their crimes. All these good qualities made him the darling of the people, and prized by the great ones of the State. But when it seemed that nothing could destroy his position, Fortune made clear that she did not yet wish to abandon her character for instability, and that Bacon had too much worth to remain so long prosperous.
It thus came about that amongst the great number of officials such as a man of his position must have in his house, there was one who was accused before Parliament of exaction, and of having sold the influence that he might have with his master. And though the probity of M. Bacon was entirely exempt from censure, nevertheless he was declared guilty of the crime of his servant, and was deprived of the power that he had so long exercised with so much honour and glory in this I see the working of monstrous ingratitude and unparalleled cruelty; to say that a man who could mark the years of his life, rather by the signal services that he had rendered to the state, than by times or seasons, should have received such hard usage, for the punishment of a crime which he never committed; England, indeed, teaches us by this that the sea that surrounds her shores, imparts to her inhabitants somewhat of its restless inconstancy. This storm did not at all surprise him, and he received the news of his disgrace with a countenance so undisturbed that it was easy to see that he thought but little of the sweets of life, since the loss of them caused discomfort so slight. He had, fairly close to London, a country house replete with everything requisite to soothe a mind embittered by public life, as was his, and weary of living in the turmoil of the great world. He returned thither to give himself up more completely to the study of books, and to pass in repose, the remainder of his life. But as he seemed to have been born rather for the rest of mankind than for himself, and as by the want of public employment he could not give his work to the people, he wished at least to render himself of use by his writings and by his books; worthy as these are to be in all the libraries of the world, and to rank with the most splendid works of antiquity.
'The History of Henry VII. Is one of those works which we woe to his fall, a work so well received by the whole world, that one has wished for nothing so much as the continuation of the History of the other Kings. And even yet he would not have given opportunity for these regrets, had not death cut short his plans, and thus robbed us of a work that bid fair to put all the others to shame.
'The Natural History is also one of the fruits of his idleness. The praiseworthy wish that he had, to pass by nothing but to connote the nature and qualities of all things, induced his mind to make researches which some learned men may perhaps have indicated to him, but which none but himself could properly carry out. In which he has without doubt achieved so great a success, that but little has escaped his knowledge: so that he has laid bare to us the errors of the ancient Philosophy and made us see the abuses that have crept into that teaching, under the authority of the first authors of the science. But whilst he was occupied in this great work, want of means forced him to concentrate his mind on his domestic affairs. The honest manner in which he had lived was the sole cause of his poverty; and as he was ever more desirous of acquiring honour than of amassing a fortune, he had always preferred the interests of the State to those of his house; and had neglected, during the time of his great prosperity, the opportunities of enriching himself: So that after some years passed in solitude he found himself reduced to such dire necessity that he was constrained to have recourse to the King, to obtain, by his liberality, some alleviation of his misery. I know not if poverty be the mother of beauty, but I aver that the letter he wrote to the King on that occasion is one of the most beautiful examples of that style of writing ever seen. The request that he made for pension is conceived in terms so lofty and in such good taste, that one could not deny him without great injustice. Having thus obtained means to extricate himself from his difficulties, he again applied himself, as before, to unravel the great secrets of nature. And as he was engaged during a severe frost in observing some particular effects of cold, having stayed too long in the open, and forgetting that his age made him incapable of bearing such severities; the cold, acting the more easily on a body whose powers were already reduced by old age, drove out all that remained of natural heat, and reduced him to the last condition that is always reached by great men only too soon. Nature failed him while he was chanting her praise: this she did, perhaps, because being miserly and hiding from us her best, she feared that at last he would discover all her treasures, and made all men learned at her expense. Thus ended this great man, who England could place alone as the equal [en paralelle avec] of the best of all the previous centuries.'
Such is the 'Life.' With the difficulties of translation I fear that I have only imperfectly brought out the spirit of the original. Parts of the work are so intimate and so introspective that the thought has come to me that I was dealing, not with Pierre Amboise or with 'D.M.,' but with Bacon's own 'Apologia pro Vita Sua.' One seems to catch the personal note of bitterness, grieving over unrealized hopes and shattered ambitions.
'The long bright day is done,
And darkness rises from the fallen Sun!'
And again the fierce cry of indignation is heard at the recollection of the 'monstrous ingratitude' and 'unparalleled cruelty' from which he has suffered. All this is so different from the dry and precise details of Rawley's 'Life,' so much more interesting, and, if one may venture to say it, so much more like Bacon.
When we analyze the 'Life' in detail we find passages that are impossible to reconcile with the theory of Sir Nicholas Bacon's parentage, while at the same time there are statements that will not fit with Leicester. The information that 'son pere' was the principal instrument used to establish the Protestant religion in England is not readily applicable to either Sir Nicholas Bacon or Leicester, though I think more can be brought forward as indicating Leicester than Sir Nicholas. In the anonymous book called 'Leicester's Commonwealth,' first published about 1584, and recently produced afresh by Mr. Burgoyne of the Brixton Library, there are passages that show that Leicester interested himself to a great extent in what one may call religious politics. But indeed Leicester's power was so great, and he used it in so masterful a fashion, that almost whatever he had a mind to be could do.
The remarks about Bacon's ancestry are very significant. Tracing his ancestors through Sir Nicholas Bacon, how could it be said that they 'have left so many marks of their greatness in history that honour and dignity seem at all times to have been the spoil of his family'? Sir Nicholas came of no exalted stock - his father was Mr. Robert Bacon, of Chiselhurst; and his mother, Isabella, daughter of Mr. John Caye, of Pakenham, in the county of Suffolk." But, tracing the ancestry through Leicester and Queen Elizabeth, the statement was well within the truth. And in the very next sentence the author speaks of 'the splendour of his race,' a phrase quite inapplicable to he progenitors of Sir Nicholas Bacon. Of Leicester, too, it could be said with much more force than of Sir Nicholas, that Her Majesty 'placed in his hands the most important affairs of the Kingdom.' At his death, in 1588, he was Lieutenant-General and Marshal of all England; the latter a position that has never been held by any other subject. On the other hand, Sir Nicholas, though he was made Lord Keeper of the Great Sea, was never advanced to the position and title of Lord Chancellor.
Again, take the phrase, 'born in the purple,' as applied to Francis Bacon; this is strikingly significant. So, too, is the expression, 'brought up with the expectation of a great career.' By no stretch of the imagination could this apply to the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Bacon. Sir Nicholas died when Francis was just eighteen, and left no provision at all for him (see Rawley's' Life'), while there was nothing in his upbringing under the Bacon parentage that could lead him to the expectation of a great career. Again, how very clear and striking are the remarks about Bacon's travels. All that we know hitherto about his having been abroad is contained in Rawley's 'Life'. What he says is that Francis, being sixteen years of age, and having learnt all that college could teach him, was sent to be with the English Ambassador in Paris, Sir Amyas Paulet.
This was in 1577, and, with the exception of a visit to Queen Elizabeth, he remained here until the death of Sir Nicholas, which took place on February 20, 1579. Barely two years covers the time of the Paris visit. True it is that Rawley in the 'Life' vaguely says: 'Being returned from 'travel,' without specifying where he had been, or how long, or the time of his return. But this French 'Life' plainly says that he spent some years of his youth in travel, and passed through France, Italy, and Spain. We have here the very sort of education that one would say Bacon must have received in order to form him for the work he afterwards did. Note, too, the extraordinary sentence:
'And as he saw himself destined one day to hold in his hands the helm of the Kingdom,' etc.
What can this mean except that the author of this 'Life' conceived that Bacon at that time was filled with the idea of his royal birth? The cipher story, to which I have alluded, tells us that he came to the knowledge of the wonderful position in which he stood when he was about sixteen years of age, and just before he was sent away to be with Sir Amyas Paulet. In the above quotation there is an unmistakable recognition of this fact, and I do not think that there is any other reasonable explanation of the passage but that the writer had reference to Bacon's exalted parentage. As the youngest son of Sir Nicholas and Lady Bacon, he could not by any straining of imagination conceive himself when a mere lad as 'destined one day to hold in his hands the helm of the kingdom'; but as the lawful, though unacknowledged son of Queen Elizabeth, such a destiny would inevitably present itself.
It is curious to note that from this period of travel the 'Life' makes a jump into the reign, and well into the reign, of James I. All the period of Queen Elizabeth's life is passed over without a word. the hiatus is very remarkable, and may be not without significance.
The account, too, that is given of Bacon's life and work after his fall and retirement is very interesting, and has about it a personal note that seems to me most remarkable.
The thoroughly intimate manner in which the writer speaks of the letter Bacon wrote to King James is noteworthy, remembering that this 'Life' was published early in 1631. I conceive that it is impossible that this letter could have been public property at this early date; Rawley does not give it in the 'Resuscitatio' published in 1657; nor is it given in the 'Cabala' that appeared in 1654; but it is given by Stephens in his 'Letters of Sir Francis Bacon,' published in 1702, and in a footnote there I gather that it was quoted in one of Howell's letters; Howell, in the year 1642, was appointed Clerk to the Privy Council, and in that capacity might have seen, and perhaps taken, a copy of this letter of Bacon's. He quotes the very words of the letter, as it subsequently appeared in Stephens's volume in 1702. The date of Howell's letter, addressed to Dr. Prichard, in which he makes the quotation, is January 6, 1625; but this date is plainly wrong, for in the letter he speaks of Lord Bacon's death, which did not take place till April 9, 1626. It must be remembered, however, that 'Howell's Letters' were written 'for publication,' while he was in the Fleet Prison, 1643-51, and many of the letters, and their dates were supplied from recollection. They were first published in 1645. The interesting fact for me is that this year, 1645, was the occasion when Lord Bacon's letter to King James was first alluded to in any English publication, while the full letter did not appear until 1702: and yet this unknown French author, writing in 1631, speaks of this letter in a manner showing that he was thoroughly familiar with it. The legitimate inference from this is, I think, that this French author had access to the innermost sources of information on matters concerning Bacon, and what he says about him should be accepted as being of the very best authority.
The choice of the person to whom this book is dedicated is not without a certain significance. it is dedicated to Monseigneur de Chasteauneuf, who, as I said before, was Ambassador Extraordinary to England in 1629 and 1630. Allowing for differences of spelling, I imagine that this De Chasteauneuf was a relative, possibly a son, of the Monsieur de Castelnau, Ambassador to England from France in Elizabeth's reign, of whom Birch speaks in his 'Heads of Illustrious Persons' (published in 1747) under the title of 'Leicester,' as having been directed by his Government to press on the marriage between Queen Elizabeth and Leicester. The passage from Birch is extremely interesting, and as he relies upon the 'Memoirs de Monsieur de Castelnau' for the statement he makes, perhaps I may be permitted to quote. He says:
'When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne, she gave him [that is, Leicester] the earliest marks of her esteem, and in the first year of her reign made him Master of the Horse, and Knight of the Garter. Encouraged by these signal distinctions, he flattered himself with the most promising hopes, and imagined, that if his Lady were dead, he needed not dispair of soon rendering himself agreeable to Her Majesty. With this view he sent her into the country to the house of one of his dependents at Comnore, hear Abington, where it is said he first attempted to have her taken off by poison; but failing in this design, caused her to be thrown down from the top of a staircase and murdered by the fall.' (This, of course, refers to the unfortunate Amy Robsart).
'In the meantime he met with a more favourable reception than every from the Queen. The management of all affairs was principally entrusted to him; and though her Majesty did not openly countenance his pretensions, she seems not to have been at all displeased with the overture. She frankly declared to Sir James Melvill, the Scottish Ambassador, that she looked upon him as her brother and her best friend; and that, had she ever designed to have married, her inclination would have led her to make choice of him for a husband. And some time after, when Monsieur de Castelnau, the Ambassador of France, was pressing this match by order of the French Court, she told him, that if this nobleman had been descended of a royal family, she would readily have consented to the motion he made in his master's name; but she could never resolve to marry a subject of her own, or raise a dependent into a companion.'
Of course, by the cipher story we are told that the marriage had been performed a considerable time before the date of the conversation with Castelnau, and while he was pressing for the marriage, Elizabeth was holding back from the public acknowledgment of what had already been accomplished. Perhaps she wished to preserve to herself the right of either proclaiming the marriage, or treating it as a morganatic alliance, a policy of hesitation that was made decisive by the sudden death of Leicester in 1588. But, however that may be, I think there is an interesting connection shown between the man to whom this book is dedicated and the Monsieur de Castelnau who was instructed to negotiate the marriage between Queen Elizabeth and Leicester.
It must be readily apparent that the publication of this 'Life' at the time it was brought out,containing allusions such as I have pointed out, was not unattended with danger to author and printers if these allusions were too clear. Indeed, to obtain the King's licence it would be necessary to make these allusions sufficiently obscure. We must remember that Louis XIII. was brother to our own Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I., and therefore care would have to be taken that the royal license was not asked for anything that might be obnoxious to royal feelings, as this would be merely to court a refusal. If one could find a Spanish edition of a work of Bacon's about this period, with a life of the author prefixed, one might look for greater freedom of speech and a further lifting of the veil.
One very important thing in connection with this book remains to be dealt with more in detail. I have alluded to the fact that Gilbert Wats, who brought out the English version of the nine Books of the 'Advancement of Learning' in 1640, in the 'Testimonies consecrate to the Merite of the incomparable Philosopher' prefixed to that version, speaks of Pierre Amboise's "Histoire Naturelle,' and quotes from what he terms Amboise's 'just and elegant discourse upon the life of our Author.' When we bear in mind the statements in regard to Bacon's life that I have just been dealing with and which are extraordinary when contrasted with the statements that Rawley afterwards made, it is somewhat astonishing to find that Wats has not a word of correction to make in regard to these statements, but commends them as forming a 'just and elegant discourse.' If Pierre Amboise's life be just, how can Rawley's 'Life' be true? I think there is here a dilemma that will require some casuistry to escape from by those who stand by Rawley's 'Life.' It must be remembered, too, that the opinion of Gilbert Wats cannot be lightly set aside. Whoever he was, or whether his was only a nom de guerre, it is undoubted that he was entrusted by the custodians of the Bacon documents with the bringing out of one of the most important of Bacon's English works. The great book, 'De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum, Libri IX.,' appeared in London in 1623 and in Paris in 1624, being Latin throughout.
That Bacon actually composed this in Latin I do not believe, because he always acknowledged himself to be a poor Latinist, and in his letters speaks of obtaining the help of those who were good Latin scholars for the translation of this book into that language. I do not think there can be any reasonable doubt but that Bacon first composed the 'De Augmentis' in English, and that it was subsequently translated into Latin. If this were the case there would necessarily be the English version, and I believe it is this and nothing less than this, that Gilbert Wats was entrusted with for publication in 1640. Besides this there is a long preface in English, extending to some thirty-four pages in folio, by Lord Bacon himself, that has no counterpart in the Latin editions, and was something quite new in the 1640 book. Again, there is a division of the first of the nine books into chapters in 1640, which was not done in the Latin books, and a Latin address to the reader by Rawley, which is passed over and left untranslated, while a new address by Gilbert Wats is substituted. It is curious also to note that all the subsequent Latin editions - those brought out in Leyden and Amsterdam - follow what I may call Rawley's 1623 and 1624 Editions, and have entirely ignored the long English preface that Gilbert Wats had obtained for his book. From all this it is apparent, I think, that Gilbert Wats had very special access to the Bacon manuscripts, and was confided in most fully by those who were the custodians of these documents. Therefore, when Wats quotes from this 'Histoire Naturelle,' and speaks of The life therein recorded as being a 'just and elegant discourse,' he gives to it a guarantee of Truthfulness that cannot be disregarded. Where this 'Life' differs from Rawley's, brought out twenty-six years later, we are entitled to claim the French life, backed by Wats's opinion, as being the more reliable.
Wats's remarks upon this book are so important that I may be excused for quoting them in extenso. He writes as follows:
'Mr. Pierre Amboise, Sr. de la Magdelaine, in his just and elegant discourse upon this life of our Author, delivers his censure thus:
':Judgment and Memory never met in any man in that height and measure they met in him; so as in short time he became Master of all those knowledges which are learnt in Schooles."
'A page after:
"But as he ever valued himselfe; rather borne for other men than himselfe: now that he could not, for want of employment any longer endow the publique with his Active perfections, he was desirous at least to become profitable in a contemplative way by his writings and by his books, monuments certainly meriting to find entertainment in all the Libraries of the world, and which deserve to be ranged with the fairest works of Antiquity."'
The foregoing is all from the 'Life,' and it is easy to compare these passages with the translation that I have given. After this Wats makes a somewhat long extract from the advertisement to the reader, and this is unusually interesting, as he makes a very notable departure from the French. I will not give the whole of the quotation, as it is somewhat long, but I will give the Part where the difference occurs. Wats introduces it in this way:
'The same noble French man in his Advertisement to our Author's Nat. History, thus expresses him-
'".But Mon Bacon not relying upon the meer word and credit of such as went before him will have Experience joined with Reason: *and examined the receiv'd principles of the Schooles by the effects of Nature, the speculations of the Intellectual Globe by the operations of the Corporale.* By this means he hath found out so many rare secrets, whereof he hath bequeathed us the invention, and made many axioms acknowledged for false, which hitherto have go Current among Philosophers, and have bin held inviolable.'"
Now if the reader will turn to p. 47 he will see there a passage included between two asterisks which is a correct translation of the French original, and which corresponds to the very Different language contained within two asterisks in the above passage.
It is difficult to imagine why Wats should have gone about to suppress this most interesting Description of the country house that Bacon had close to London, equipped for his experiments. What object could be served by this concealment?
And the explanation would be more satisfactory if we assume that he was quoting from a different edition of the 'Histoire,' for why should the editions be changed in this particular? and of course there is not the smallest ground for thinking that there is another edition. But if Wats thought himself justified in taking such liberties with the translation in a matter that one cannot conceive to have been of great importance, much more should he have entered some protest against the extraordinary statements about Bacon contained in the 'Life,' if he had thought these statements were untrue. His intimate and unrestrained dealing with the French is strong evidence that he approved what he has left uncorrected. Indeed, the mere fact that he has so strongly drawn attention to Pierre Amboise's 'Life' by quoting from it as he does is good proof that he approved of it.
There is a copy of the 'Histoire Naturelle' in the library of Sir Edwin Durning Lawrence, and on the fly-leaf of the book there is a remark, written in contemporary handwriting and in old French, that is of very great interest. I have been favoured with a copy of this, and I give it, both in the original French, and in a translation: it is as follows:
'Le Docteur Rawley et Isaac Gruter de Hollande pretendent que le Traducteur de cette Histoire y ait ajoute de son cru plusiers choses qui estoyent point dans le Manuscrit Anglois don't il s'estservy. Mais il est plus davancer cela que de le prouver: et si l'on vient a lire exactment cette Traduction on verra clairement, ce me semble, que ce qu'elle a de plus que l'Anglois publie par le Docteur Rawley, ne peud estre que du Chancelier Bacon, et par consequent, que le Traducteur s'est servy d'un Manuscrit plus complet que n'estoit celuy du Chapelain. 'S. Codomiez,'or S. Colomies?'
'Doctor Rawley and Isaac Gruter of Holland assert that the Translator of this History has added to it from his imagination, some things that were entirely absent from the English manuscript with which he was provided. But is easier to say this than to prove it; and if one reads carefully this Translation one can clearly see, it appears to me, that what there is in it more than in the English version published by Doctor Rawley, can only be from the Chancellor Bacon; and consequently that the Translator has been furnished with a Manuscript more complete than that of the Chaplain. 'S. Codomiez, 'or S. Colomies.'
The signature of this interesting memo. is not very distinct, and I have no suggestion to make as to the identity of the person. But this certainly seems to show that there was extant an English version that could be compared with the French translation; and this again raises the question as to the fate of this English edition. There is nothing corresponding to it in any of the lists published by Rawley or Gruter. This memo. also shows that Rawley and Gruter must both have been familiar with the book we have been considering, and consequently with the life prefixed to it, and yet neither - to the knowledge of M. Colomies at any rate - took exception to the statements made therein, and which were so inconsistent with those that Rawley afterwards made when he undertook to write the 'Life.' This memo of M. Colomies seems to have considerably increased the puzzle surrounding the book.
There is a copy of this 'Histoire Naturelle' in the British Museum Library, and I am informed that it has been there since about the year 1820. There is no mention of the book, or any notice of it whatever by Spedding, and it is somewhat remarkable that he should have so completely overlooked it, in view of the attention Wats directs to it, and the importance he evidently attributed to it. One would have thought that the instinct of research would have led Spedding to follow up this clue, and to attempt to clear up the difficulties that are suggested.
The late Rev. Walter Begley has a full notice of the book in the third volume of his 'Nova Resuscitatio' (1905), but he was more interested in the Natural History and its parallelism with Bacon's other works, and does not appear to have realized the significance of the 'Life.'
The book is itself valuable, and it is strange that an English translation of it has not been made. Apart from the interest attaching to Bacon's knowledge and thoughts upon Natural History, there are facts of his own life that are incidentally mentioned - as that he had been in Scotland - which I do not think are mentioned elsewhere in his letters or writings, and which give new information about him. A complete translation of this book would, I imagine, be welcomed by Bacon's admirers. I think, however, it must be conceded that what Pierre Amboise has bequeathed to is of very great value in helping us to know what Bacon's life really was, and in aiding us to understand the mystery and the secrecy in which he was involved. The line in Ben Jonson's Ode to him on his sixtieth birthday comes to my mind as I conclude:
'Thou stand'st as if some Mystery thou did'st!'