(image courtesy of Rob Fowler)
I suppose most people would agree that a skilled writer, when he chooses, can write in different styles on different subjects, and even on the same subject if need be. But a style can be natural or artificial, expressing either the real man or the mask. And if the style is affected and the imagery assumed, there may still be favourite images or figures of speech that will creep into the composition if a strict watch is not kept.
One of the unusual ideas common to Bacon and Shake-speare is that personal behaviour is external to the Self, serving as a kind of garment or costume which can be put on or discarded like a suit of clothes, or even imposed as a curb or restraint. I quote from some examples, compiled long ago by Mrs. Henry Pott, which will show how very alike were the thought.forms of these two great contemporaries (italics mine).
Bacon This behaviour is as the garment of the mind and ought to have the conditions of a garment. Forfirst, it ought to be made in fashion; second, it should not be too curious or costly. (De Augmentis, viii/l)
Shakespeare Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich not gaudy. (Hamlet, 1/3/70)
Shakespeare How oddly he's suited. I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behaviour everywhere. (Merchant of Venice, 1/2/79)
Shakespeare I would entreat you rather to put on Your boldest suit of mirth . . . (Merchant of Venice, 2/2/221)
Bacon . . . thirdly, it (behaviour) ought to be so framed as to best set forth any virtue of the mind, and supply and hide any deficiency; (De Augmentis, VIII, 1)
Shakespeare Apparel vice like virtue's harbinger,
Bear a fair presence, though your heart be tainted;
Teach sin the carriage of a holy saint; (Comedy of Errors, 3/2/12) -~.
Shakespeare Shew me the counterfeit matron
It is her habit only that is honest;
Herself's a bawd.(Timon of Athens, 4/3/112)
Bacon A deformed body can never be so helped by tailor's art but the counterfeit will appear.(Letter to Rutland)
Shakespeare You cowardly rascal, nature disclaims in thee: a tailor made thee. (Lear, 2/2/60) .
Bacon Men's behaviour should be like their apparel; not too straight or point-device, but free for exercise or motion. (Essay, Ceremonies and Respects)
Shakespeare You are rather point-device in your accoutrements as loving your self than seeming the lover of any other. (As You like It, 3/2/401)
Bacon . . . Iastly, and above all, it (behaviour) ouoht not |to be too straight, so as to confine the mind and interfere with its freedom in business and action. (De Augmentis, viii/1)
Shakespeare And dress'd myself in such humility. That I did pluck allegiance from men's hearts. (Henry IV, 3/i2/50) -
Shakespeare . . . never would he
Appear i' the market-place, nor on him put The napless vesture of humility. (Coriolanus, 2/1/251)
Bacon and Shakespeare, therefore, were alike in their attitude to behaviour, regarding it only as an external feature, an attribute to be changed or controlled by custom, fashion or discipline. The word " Habit " which relates to custom and to clothing, is a link.
Bacon (Spedding's translation)
I come now to those points which are within our command and which operate on the mind to influence the will and appetite . . . I therefore make a few observations on Custom and Habit . . .
. . . the mind is brought to anything with morev sweetness and happiness if that whereunto we pretend be not first in the intention, but be obtained as it were, by the way, and while we are attending I to something else . . . there are many other useful !! precepts touching the regulation o£ custom . .- (De Augmentis, vi. 3)
Bacon (in English)
Behaviour is but a garment, and it is easy to make a garment for a body that is itself well-proportioned . . . and in the power of the mind it is a true rule that a man may mend his faults with as little labour as cover them. (Letters)
Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
That monster, Custom, who all sense doth eat,
Of hahits devil, is angel yet in this,
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery,
That aptly is put on. Refrain to-night . . .
(Hamlet, 2nd Quarto 3/4/164, omitted in First Folio)
The accurate use of legal jargon in Shake-speare has long been a subject of discussion.* So too has been the use of a jargon peculiar to Cambridge University. Professor Arthur Gray, himself an alumnus, has given us many examples. According to him there is a familiar ring to Cambridge ears in the lines . . .
* Cf. Shakespeare's Legal Acquirements. Lord Chief Justice Campbell 1859.
~ Shakespeare and Cambridge University. Stewart Robb, Baconiana, i32
Knock at his study where they say he keeps (Titus Andronicus)
'Tis not in thee to scant my sizes (King Lear)
Size, he tells us, is the Cambridge word for a certain quantity of food or drink privately ordered from the buttery. The word and its derivatives " Sizar ", " to size " are peculiar to Cambridge and its daughter Universities of Dublin, Harvard and Yale (Shakespeare at Cambridge. Arthur Gray.)
Once, when quoting Professor Gray's examples of Cambridge parlance in Shake-speare I was taken up on this point by a wellknown journalist. While he accepted the validity o£ the examples given, he denied their significance as evidence of authorship, on the grounds that he himself could easily ghost the jargon of Cambridge, and that consequently the Bard (whoever he was) must be credited with the ability to do likewise. But why, I asked him, should King Lear of ancient Britain, Timon of Athens, and Tamora, Gothic Queen of ancient Rome, all affect the parlance of Cambridge University, centuries before it came into existence ? My interlocutor at once agreed that he had overlooked the distincttion between a purposeful ghosting of a local jargon and an absentminded relapse into it. Indeed it was rightly said by Professor Frederick Boas, when commenting on Timon of Athens, " the misanthropist talks as if he had graduated on the banks of the Cam ". .
Identical thought-forms and parallel diction in Bacon and Shakespeare gain in significance as they become cumulative, but identical mis-quotations are always significant. Here is an interesting example (italics mine) . . .
Bacon Is not the opinion of Aristotle worthy to be regarded wherein he saith that young men are nofit auditors of moral philosophy, because they are not settled from the boiling heat of their affections, |nor attempered with Time and Experience. (Advancement of Learning, Book 1, 1605)
Shake-speare ..... Not much
Unlike young men whom Aristotle thought
Unfit to hear moral philosophy.
The reasons you allege do more conduce
To the hot passions of distemper'd blood . . .(Troilus and Cressida, 11 (2))
Now it was not moral but political philosophy to which Aristotle had referred. The mistake is said to have originated with Erasmus; so from the orthodox standpoint it can be explained on the supposition that Bacon and Shakespeare had both read Erasmus' Familiar Colloquies in Latin, or else Shakespeare hadbeen reading Bacon's Advancement of Learning. Whether such collusion was likely I must leave the reader to judge; but there is more. Bacon, who was in the habit of quoting from memory, unwittingly goes on to mend the mistake by re-introducing politics into the theory as a corollary o£ his own . . .
. . . but is it not true also that much less are young men fit auditors of Policy till they have been seasoned with religion and morality ? . . .
In Bacon's eyes morality and politics are both intertwined in this
theory. In Shakespeare;where the problem concerns Helen of Troy is
clearly one of morality and policy. Bacon and the Bard are both
taking advantage of the same mis-quotation to support exactly the
We are greatly indebted to Mr. Richard C. Horne of Washington D.C. for kindly informing us that a very close parallel of Bacon's mis-quotation of Aristotle exists in a contemporary MS., now in the possession of Columbia University at New York. According to Mr Horne the form is as follows . . . . .
. And therefore Aristotle saith that young men cannot harken to the precepts of wisdorn because of the boiling heat of their affections . . .
This approach, "And therefore Aristotle saith . ." is unmistakably Baconian in style; and the substitution of "precepts of wisdom " for " political philosophy " sounds more like Bacon mis-quoting Aristotle from memory, than someone else mis-quoting Bacon from the Advancement of Learning. But apparently there is more to be found in these MSS. Mr. Horne who at present has sole rights of research on these papers, informed us that they contain the name of the Italian painter and sculptor, Julio Romano, though in what context I cannot say. We therefore look forward to hearing more about this document in due course. Julio Romano is mentioned by name in The Winter's Tale. Either Shakespeare perused the first edition of Vasari's Lives of the Painters, or he read the actual inscription on Romano's tomb at Mantua, or he was a member of a most elaborate intelligence network ! (see Baconiana 167 Correspondence). All these alternatives point to Bacon or Oxford both of whom had travelled in Italy;rather than to Shakspere or Marlowe.
Stratfordians often remind us with great assurance that Professor Caroline Spurgeon's work, Shakespeare's Imagery, has settled the authorship controversy once and for all against the rival claims of Marlowe and Bacon. Apparently Oxford was not taken into account, probably because of the very small corpus of his acknowledged works from which his imagery could be drawn and classified.
There is some charming Shakespearean criticism in Professor Spurgeon's book, but she is so anxious to dispose of the Baconian theory;by proving from internal evidence alone, the existence of two widely different identities that her conception of the real Francis Bacon has become biased, and the conclusions she draws from her charts and tables are unwarranted.
The tabulation and classification of images is basically a I statistical problem, but in her hands it has inevitably become a i behaviour problem; one mav even wonder whether a computer would not be faced with the same difficulty. For surely an authorwriting on phitosophy or law may be expected to use less of one kind o£ imagery and more of another, than when he is writing plays or poems. It is not so much a matter of choice as of what is naturally appropriate. This is a factor beyond simple emuneration, of which the computer would have to take account. To arrive at a satisfactory formula would entail wide and prolonged research.
But leaving aside the author's right to change his imagery to suit different subjects, the identities of thought-form and diction in Bacon and Shake-speare are still too obvious and too numerous to be gainsaid by an arbitrary method of classification. The method would have to be mathematically exact. It would need to take into account the changes in style and ornamentation according to the age and experience of the writer. For, as Macaulay observed, the imagery used by Bacon in The Essays of 1597 is completely outshone by the imagery used in his final version of 1625. Somehow, during twenty-eight years of meditation and revision, the Essays became transfigured.
This reversal o£ a normal process is not very hard to account for in the case of Francis Bacon. His first love, I am quite sure, was Poesy, his second Philosophy, and his last love was for some kind of combination of the two. His legal and political career was never a love but a duty, and in it (as he himself tells us) his soul was a stranger in the course of his pilgrimage. In his time, there were those who knew his secret, Ben Jonson being among the most outspoken. But it was Shelley, in a later age, who was able to discern Bacon's poetical genius in his philosophical works alone. "Lord Bacon was a Poet", he tells us in the Defence of Poetry, " his language has a sweet and majestical rhythm which satisfies the sense no less than the almost superhuman wisdom of his philosophy satisfies the intellect". And in writing of Plato in he preface to his translation of The Banquet, Shelley describes his anguage as that of an " immortal spirit " and compares him with Bacon alone.
It has been well said that this is the highest praise that Shelley can give, and William 0. Scott goes on to point out the important hing in Shelley's eyes, namely that thought is a vital part of poetry ;" thought manifested through images ".t
In Bacon then, we not only see a mind which, in theosophical parlance, might be described as rising to the highest ]evels of the mental plane, but also a spirit which could sense and sound the depths of the emotions We are tempted almost to say with Shelley " I had rather be damned with Plato and Lord Bacon, than go to heaven with Paley and Malthus " 1
If Shelley is a suflicient judge of poetry, is it not possible for us to believe that, when Bacon's early love of poetry, masques and theatricals, had to give way to the serious business of a statesman's career, he may well have had no alternative but to set aside for a while the plays and poems that delighted his youth, and to begin to adorn and beautify his philosophy ?
But I digress. Our Society's firm reply to Caroline Spurgeon, written by G. E. Habgood and Dr. W. S. Melsome, was printed in Baconiana 100 during the war, and was probably overlooked.** As a review it is perhaps a little unappreciative of the charm of her chapters on Shake-speare, but it demonstrates the essential fallacy of her method of comparison. For the headings under which her images are classified overlap each other, which means that border-line instances can be classified under whichever heading best suits the argument. For example she claims (page 16) that with Shakespeare " Nature " images are always most frequent, whereas with Bacon " Nature " definitely takes second place. We then find, from the list of books consulted, that she has classified Bacon's " Nature " images without consulting his Natural History (the work in which they preponderate most) or his History of the Winds, or his History of Life and Death. These are the very works in which we should expect to find most of his " Nature " images.
Oddly enough it appears from her charts that Shakespeare's images under the heading "Learning" are more frequent than with Bacon. This is an unexpected conclusion, but one with which we have no quarrel, believing that these two authors correspond to the right and left hands of a single mind.
t Shelley's Admiration for Bacon, by W. O. Scott in PMLA, reprinted in Baconiana 163 by kind permission of G. Winchester Stone.
1.Preface to Prometheus Unbound, P. B. Shelley.
** Re-printed in the present issue;Editor.
With Marlowe, according to her charts, the images under the sub-headings " Classical " and " Religion " vastly exceed all others. These are included under the general heading "Learning", which also includes the sub-section "Law". But whereas the legal imagery in Shake-speare and Marlowe is tabulated, for Bacon it is not given at all. Here is another weakness in the method of comparison. For while the classical element in Marlowe is unquestionably strong, no one can say that it is not very much to the fore in Bacon and Shakespeare
The most extraordinary conclusion in Caroline Spurgeon's book, as it seems to me, is that Shake-speare and Bacon are widely different in their view of Nature. I will therefore disprove this by extracting from a previous article, a few " Nature " parallels which are also " thought-form " parallels; for by pondering on these we can get away from the mask and closer to the man.
A charming parallel between Bacon and "Shakespeare" is their love o£ exactly the same flowers, as chiefly expressed in Bacon's essay Of Gardens and in The Winter's Tale. In this single essay Bacon lists the names of 54 flowers, trees and shrubs, all of which are named in the Plays. If there was any plagiarism here, it would not have been by Bacon. For, as Spedding admits, it is not probable that Bacon would have anything to learn from Shakespeare concerning the science o£ gardening.There is also a small parallelism of diction which perhaps deserves notice. Perdita, the country maid; after making a series of classical allusions of which any scholar might be proud comes, in a memorable passage, to the following words:;
. . . Iilies of all kinds.
The flower-de-luce being one.
Bacon's words in his essay are as follows:
. . . flower-de-luces and lilies of all natures.
The imagery here is surely identical!
Bacon, in the Sylva Sylvarum (S.441) tells us that: Shade to some plants conduceth to make them large and prosperous more than the Sun.
Accordingly, if you sow borage among strawberries:
You shall find the strawberries under those leaves far more than their fellows.
In Henry V (1/1) the Bishop of Ely, using this strange analogy,expounds on the large and luxuriant develol~ment o£ the Prince's nature on his emerging from the shade of low company:
The strawberry grows underneath the nettle
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality
And so the Prince . . .
Bacon's identification of Art as an attribute of Nature is well known. Shake-speare insists firmly on the same philosophy and chooses a country lass to expound it (with full supporting classical allusions to Proserpina, Dis's waggon, Cytherea's breath and Phoebus ! ) to the King of Bohemia. In a very beautiful setting the following lines occur . . .
There is an art which in their piedness shares
With great creating nature. . .. . .
Say there be;
Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean: so, o'er that art,
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes.........
......this is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature. (The Winter's Tale 4/4)
Bacon devotes many pages to this particular theory. In 1605 he writes: " It is the duty of Art to perfect and exault Nature." In 1612 he complained that it was "tho fashion to tal: as if Art was something different from Nature". In 1620 he writes: "Nature to be commanded must be obeyed", and in 1623 he writes:
Still therefore it is Nature which governs everything: but under Nature are included these three; the course of Nature, the wanderings of Nature, and Art which is Nature with man to help.(De Augmentis 2/2)
Clearly the point is much laboured by Bacon and, to Baconian it is not surprising to find it thrust into a lovely pastoral scene by Shake-speare. For it is surely an unusual philosophy on which this country lass chooses to lecture King Polixenes at a sheep shearing !
In 1603 Bacon sent the King a discourse on Persian Magic,giving specimens of certain laws o£ nature which are equally laws of mind and thought. He also sent the King a discourse on the "Happy Union of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland "in which the following aphorism occurs:
The second condition is that the greater draw the less. So we see when two lights do meet, the greater doth darken and drown the less. And when a smaller river runs into a greater, it lesseth both the name and the stream.
In The Merchant of Venice,(4/1/198)Portia repeats both Bacon's similes and in the same order:
So doth the greater glory dim the less.
A substitute shines brightly as a king
Until a king be by, as doth an inland brook,
Into the Main of waters .....
This is a triple parallel. Here, in totally different context, we have identical chains of thought expressed independently, both referring to the "greater" and the "less ", and both using the same symbols of light and water.
No computer (specially programmed to prove that Bacon and Shake-speare were totally different in their thought-forms)will convince me that the imagery used above is not identical.
The accuracy of Shake-speare's legal jargon, as compared with that of his fellow Elizabethan dramatists, is a matter for lawyers to assess. On Sonnet 46 Lord Chief Justice Campbell has made the following comment :
This . . . sonnet is so intensely legal in its language and imagery that, without a considerable knowledge of English forensic procedure it cannot be fully understood."
In other words Sonnet 46 is very far from being nonsense.
It follows that the Bard, whether he was a lawyer himself or a
layman ghosting the jargon of the Law, must have understoodthe
imagery he was using. And unless he was using it from force of habit
alone, it was a deliberate attempt to reveal or to ghost a legal
But was this ghosting of legal parlance really so deliberate ? Might it nothave been largely automatic, a surrender to an habitual thought form? The answer is that we do not know. All we can say is that Sonnet 46 was composed in much the same mood as that which caused "the Duke of Austria"(King John ( 2/120) * to describe a kiss "as seal to this indenture of my love" or Romeo, in a moment of intense passion, to "seal with a righteous kiss a dateless bargain to engrossing death. (Romeo and Juliet (5/3/114)
Now however trivial these legal technicalities may seem, the legal thought-form is employed in earnest. Neither Shakespeare nor the Duke nor Romeo is joking; nor are they using satire. The author seems to be expressing his thought in a way which comes naturally to him.
From behaviour we have come by degrees to the Law. We have considered technicalities, trivial in themsleves, but significant in as much as they indicate a sustained pattern of thought; in other words the trained mind. Let us now set aside these technicalities and close with what is perhaps the greatest and most potent conception of Law and Justice of our era:
Bacon Judges ought (as far as the Law permitteth) in Justice to remember Mercy; and to cast a severe Eye upon the example, but a merciful Eye upon the person. (Essay Of Judicature)
Shake-speare Though Justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of lustice none of us
Should see Salvation; we do pray for Mercy. (Merchant of Venice, 4/1 /199)
Today this lofty view of Law and Justice is happily becoming too widely held to prove a personal identity; but in those days of Tudor despotism it was not so. It was sadly neglected by the Church in the days of the Inquisition, and by Protestants and Catholics alike in the days of the Reformation. It has been consistently outraged by the modern totalitarian police States of the present day. But it pervades the works of Bacon and Shake-speare alike.