What Francis Bacon Means To Me

 

by

John Lowell Southard II

Charleston, SC
e-mail: jsouthard16@comcast.net  
on the web: http://www.NAtlantis.com

 

"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties" -Sir Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, 1605

I suppose that I am not 'exactly sure how I originally came to know of Sir Francis Bacon, but my interest was spurred as a high school student (in the mid1980's) while browsing through a collection of great literature.Britannica published a series of texts entitled Great Books of the Western World; I would occasionally pull one of the many volumes and skim through the writings of great thinkers.  I recall one day looking through Volume 30: Francis Bacon, which contained: The Advancement of Learning, The Novum Organum, and The New Atlantis.  As I was a burgeoning young scientist, it's not hard to imagine that this matter appealed to my sensibilities, triggering an immediate interest and respect that continues to this day.

In the text before me I saw a philosopher who was attempting to advance a means for a better interpretation of nature by tearing down some of the outdated Aristotelian paradigms still stifling the science, and thinking of his time. He was suggesting a method to reach desired ends not merely through logical induction, but rather by means more akin to modern experimental science. My young impressionable mind was quickly drawn to the confidence and passion conveyed in the Bacon work . Along with a great lust for learning, and desire to lead the voyage in the pursuit of knowledge, he seemed to have an almost romantic desire to preserve the literature and histories that had passed before him.

When later that year I was faced with writing my senior thesis and given the choice of selecting anything at all to do with English literature, I took the opportunity to further study the life and works of Bacon.  This exposed me at a relatively early age to Bacon in way that was not typical of American high school students. During that research, I read Bacon biographies such as: Ben Farrington's Francis Bacon, Daphne du Maurier's The Winding Stair, John Campbell's Lives of The Lord Chancellors (vol II), and Abigail Wigfall Green's Sir Francis Bacon.

Occasionally during my study then, and in the years that would follow, some sources would suggest the notion that Bacon may have been in some way responsible for writing the works of Shakespeare.  At that time my respect and appreciation for the accomplishments of Shakespeare was very limited owing to an unfortunate lack of exposure.  I recall feeling in some sense that Bacon would never have stooped to write what I then perceived as fruitless, sappy, romantic fiction. It seemed to me beneath him as a great thinker, a man committed to enlightening his world and evolving new ideologies.

Thankfully, as the years passed and my appreciation for Shakespeare and fiction in general grew with each passing play, I could not help thinking that some of the arguments for the authorship controversy might not be so ridiculous after all.  It has become rather a fascinating pastime for me examining more closely the details of the literature and the literary history surrounding this subject.   If there is a mystery lurking in the authorship of William Shakespeare, it would not be at all surprising for me to learn that Francis Bacon had some integral involvement.

I have read many interesting biographical speculations on Francis Bacon, and have had cause to sympathize with some of them.    My position on the authorship issue is still not completely determined.  For me the matter is an open question worthy of serious continued consideration. I do hope that the affair is definitively resolved some day to popular consensus. To this end, I will endeavor to do my part at www.NAtlantis.com by sharing information and maintaining a forum for exchange on the subject   Regardless of my eventual interpretation of Bacon's ultimate role in the Shakespeare authorship controversy, Bacon will remain to me, a singular character in the history of great minds and the play of time.

***