Francis Bacon's Personal Life Story

excerpt from the Chapter
King James : His First Parliament

by
Alfred Dodd

 

pp. 404-9

Francis Bacon inculcated the view that the teaching of patriotism by the spreading of a true knowledge of the history of one's own country (the sacrificies of men and women to preserve the "Soul of the Nation") was of greater importance than a knowledge of the classic wars to inspire the English youth to emulate the heroic deeds of their ancestors.
Such convictions as thes gave birth to the great historical plays of Shakespeare. They were written to inspire the nation with a deep patriotic fervour in the destiny of their homeland. They were never tossed off thoughtlessly and heedlessly with no more ulterior motive than a box-office draw. These particular plays--with a couple of exceptions--were already written and had begun their work of educating the public to the greatness of their native land.
Lust of money never inspired "The Author" from whose mind outpoured the characters of English history that will live for ever as great examples to be emulated or shunned. The spirit of creation which produced these masterpieces, all aflame with the power of genius,arose in a mind burning with passionate desire to touch his countrymen with a selfless love of country that spends and does not heed the cost, to make his motherland teach the world.
Soon afterwards-- which shows the great importance he attached to the promoting of English history--he wrote a letter to Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, with proposals to write a history of England; indeed, he prepared a work, inscribed to the King, Of the Greatness of Britain. He mentions in his letter to Ellsmere that the King had given an order for the erection of a tomb or monument for our late sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth and so he was put in mind of her life and government. He continues :

For as Statues and Pictures are dumb Histories, so Histories are Speaking Pictures.... and calling to rememberance the unworthiness of the History of England and the partiality and obliquity of that of Scotland, in the latest and largest Author that I have seen, I conceived it would be honour for His Majesty, and a work very memorable, if this Island of Great Britain, as it is now joined in Monarchy for the Ages to come, so were joined in History for the Times past; and that one just and complete History were compiled of both nations.

A few months after Francis Bacon wrote this fragment, Macbeth was composed quite in accord with Francis Bacon's picturesque style of presenting "SPEAKING PICTURES." (Though Macbeth was first printed in the 1623 Folio,all authorities are agreed that it was written well before 1610 for it was played at the Globe in April of that year. Malone believes it to have been written about 1606, while Arthur Symons (Irving edn) says that the play undoubtedly contains "an allusion tot he Union of the Two Kingdoms under James.") The author's letter to Ellsmere is a broad hint that he WAS writing a history referring to Scotland, and his letter fits in with the time of the creation of Macbeth, much of the material coming from Holinshed as in the English historical plays. In the draft which Francis Bacon left, he has, however, only drawn the outline and filled up two or three detached parts. He says he has no wish

"to represent true greatness, as in water, which shows things bigger than they are, but rather, as by an instrument of art, helping the sense to take a true magnitude and dimention."

Quite clearly Francis Bacon indicates the presentation of History in an art form which is exactly the aim of "Shakespeare" in all his Histories.

In October 1605 he issued in English Part I of the Great Instauration, entitled The Advancement of Learning. (in Two Books). The work was dedicated to the King in the hope that his interest might might be awakened in education and ethics ; and the true interpretation of Nature in terms of light, life and love. Though his hopes regarding James were not realized, the work at once established his fame as a thinker with a magnificient gift of expression in the tongue of the common people ; ENGLISH, not the accepted language of culture, Latin. It is, in point of fact, the first great prose classic in English, apart from Hookers Esslesiastical Polity whose expression is harsh compared with Francis Bacon's musical poetry of trope, metaphor and symbol.
Scholars are unanimously of the opinion that The Advancement was written about 1603-4 ; that it was written within twelve months ; and that it was his first literary venture. But is not this palpably absurd? We have seen the grip that Francis Bacon possessed on all the parliamentary problems that came within his sphere --oral and written reports, conferences, mental activities of every kind--and, with the same masterly activity-- without haste and without rest--we are told that he wrote a classic within a year. We can therefore profitably ask the Quidnuncs : If Francis Bacon could write such a work in twelve months in middle life what could he not have done between the years of fifteen to forty-five,when he first conceived the unique idea of the great restoration of the arts, sciences and Christian morality? Especially when he was assisted by the clearest wits of the day in his private scrivenry?

He presented copies of The Advancement of Learning to Sir Thomas Bodley, the Earl of Shrewsbury and others, with letters requesting their acceptance.
When Parliament met on November 5, 1605 men's minds were full of the Gunpowder Plot and its consequences, of the lucky escape of the King, the Ministers and Members. The attempt to blow up the House was regarded as an attempt to overthrow Protestantism and had the direct effect of drawing the Commons and the King closer together. For a time at least it damped down the irritations between the Commons and the Crown that were a marked feature of the previous session. Once more we find that Francis Bacon is placed on all the principal committees and he again plays a prominent part in the debates, etc. Supplies were granted the King. The question of the Union of the Kingdoms was deferred to the next session. Respecting the "General Grievances", it was resolved to proceed by petition to the King when all the details were obtained; but in spite of the Commons' affectionate loyalty there had been no concessions by the Crown up to the porogation on 27 May. During the session numerous matters were dealt with and in all Francis Bacon stood consistently for reform and not for a rigid perpetuation of the status quo. For many days after 11 March for the Government had an anxious time, there being warm debates in the House over a third subsidy that Cecil wanted.

A proposition that it should be granted brought a dozen Members of the Finance Committee to their feet. One member, Noy, declared against spoiling the poor to gorge the rich. Paddye said he would tell the King that even kings must do no wrong. Holt denounced the proposition as dangerous. Peake said, "I want to hear no more about the royal debts." Dyer and Holcroft averred that such demands had been met previously by the cry of "To Arms! To Arms!"
A week later and the subsidy was still unvoted, and on 18 March the tactless James sent word from Whitehall that the Bill must be passed or the unruly Members would feel his wrath. They flung back his threat as odious and contemptible. The Bill was lost. The Committee met again on Thursday, the 22nd, for the King had not accepted his defeat and the Commons would not enlarge their vote. On Saturday the Committee was still sullen and determined and on Monday it must report to the House.

On the same day a rumour spread abroad that the King had been assassinated. Fear gripped the heart of everyone that the Roman Catholics had planned a rising for there were hundreds of sympathizers with the Gunpowder Plotters. Like wildfire ran the wildest rumours ; that the Jesuits had threatened to burn London; that the massacre of St. Bartholomew was to be repeated. Crowds poured into the streets while the more sober citizens barred their doors and prepared to give anyone a warm reception.
In the afternoon the storm subsided as quickly as it had arisen. Sir Herbert Crofts rode into the Palace Yard crying, "The King is safe! I have seen him!" At once joy took the place of fear. The Realm was safe if he was safe. The Peers and the Commons went to Whitehall and the following two days, Sunday and Monday, passed in general rejoicing. The Church bells were rung.
On Tuesday the Commons met and Francis Bacon caught them on the rebound. "What are a few debts," he cried, "to the exultation straining every loyal heart? The Crown debts must be paid next year if not this year. The House can name its own Time but vote the Money Bill today and have done with it. Let us end the deadlock." His eloquence swept the House off its feet and the subsidy was passed.
None of the Government courtiers could have carried it. The King's best man, Cecil, was no longer a member of the House. Since he had been created Lord Salisbury he sat in the Upper Chamber and the Government had no real spokesman. Yet though the Government badly needed the services of a man like Francis Bacon there was still no sign by Cecil that the Government intended to use his services. Francis was then aged forty-six, of outstanding influence in the Commons, of infinite value to the Crown that had few servants of ability. Yet Cecil-- his own nominal cousin-- never once attempted to advance him in the service of the Crown. James Spedding says :

We do not know where or with whom the obstruction lay. All we know is that Gawdy, Coke, and Doderidge all kept their places and Bacon still remained "next door."

Readers of this biography can, however, realize more than Spedding knew. The bar-sinister of his Tudor birth had hung like a millstone round his neck in the days of Elizabeth and Burleigh. It dragged him down again, dangerously so, in the days of James, and Burleigh's son, Robert Cecil, the Secretary of State. Francis Bacon had saved himself three years previously from being excommunicated altogether from the public service by his readiness for an engagement with a child of eleven years , a commoner. He was now going to open the door to State offices by his marriage to the "handsome wench" of fourteen according to his bargain with the King and Cecil. He therefore sends a reminder to the Secretary of State on the eve of his marriage, when the Government is in difficulties, that he wants the Solicitorship, which implied that he was definitely about to wed and thus be properly qualified for the position. He writes to Cecil as follows :

It is thought Mr. Attorney shall be Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. In case Mr. Solicitor rise, I would now be glad at last to be Solicitor..... I may amend my State and so fall to my Studies and ease, whereof one is requisite for my body, and the other sorteth with my Mind.
Herein if I may find your Lordship's favour, I shall be more Happy Than I have been, which may make me also more wise.
I have small store of means about the King, and to sue myself is not so fit. And therefore I shall leave it to God, His Majesty and your Lordship. For if I must be still next door, I thank God in these transitory things I am well resolved.

Here are the same veiled hints and double meanings so characteristic of all Francis Bacon's letters where he has to enfold his meaning so that it creates no suspicion to an outsider unacquainted with such secretive methods of writing. Cecil can thus understand that he is going to "Amend my State" from being a batchelor to that of a married man and that he is going to be "Happy" as a consequence ; and that the King is involved in the transaction is evident because the matter is not for the Secretary of State alone, he is only the channel to pass on the matter to the King.
Accordingly, as we have seen, Francis Bacon married about a month later, Cecil being represented at the wedding.
No legal changes were, however, made during the Parliamentary session, Parliament being prorogued on 27 May 1606.
Shortly afterwards, Sir Francis Gawdy died and Sir Edward Coke succeeded to his office as Justice of the Common Pleas. A new Attorney General had therefore to be chosen. Francis Bacon expected that Doderidge, the then Solicitor, would be moved to the Attorneyship, leaving the Solicitor's place vacant for himself ; but to Francis Bacon's dismay Cecil raised a favourite of his, Sir Henry Hobart, an obscure attorney of the Court of Wards, over Doderidge's head as well as over the just claims of Francis Bacon, to the high place of Attorney General. But Bacon was not the man to be wronged and insulted with impunity by such crooked dealing. He at once wrote to Cecil, to the Lord Chancellor Egerton and to the King :

To The King, Touching the Solicitor's Place
How honestly ready I have been, most gracious Sovereign, to do your Majesty humble service, to the best of my power, and in a manner beyond my power, as I now stand, I am not so unfortunate but your Majesty knoweth....
For both in the commission of the Union--the labour whereof for men of my profession, rested most upon my hand, the Bill of Subsidy, both body and preamble, in the Bill of Attainders, both Treshman and the rest; Purveyance ; Ecclesiastical Petitions ; in the Grievances and the like, I was ever careful--- and not without good success--to put forward that which was good, sometimes to keep back that which was not so good.....
I was diligent and reasonably happy to execute those directions, which I received either immediately from your royal mouth, or from my Lord of Salisbury [Cecil],. At which time it pleased your Majesty also to promise and assure me, that upon the remove of the then Attorney Hobart I should not be forgotten, but brought into ordinary place... And towards the end of the last term, the manner also in particular was spoken of [i.e. after Francis Bacon's marriage] ... Mr. Solicitor should be made your Majesty's Serjeant, and I Solicitor.... Neither was this any invention or project of my own.... I have nine years service with the Crown..... and cousin germane to the Lord Salisbury [Cecil] whom your Majesty esteemeth and trusteth so much. [Note that he stresses the fact that he is a relative to Cecil, thus acknowledging he is of the Bacon Family]
After Mr. Attorney was placed, I heard no more of my preferment, but is seemed to me to be at a stop, to my great disgrace and discouragement. And there my most humble Suit to your Majesty is : that this, which seemed was to me intended may speedily be performed... For sure I am no man's heart is fuller of love and duty towards your Majesty and your children as I hope Time will manifest against Envy and Detraction if any be.

This is a straight letter which shows the writer stirred with righteous indignation at not having received a square deal. It is primarily the King's concern, and the last two sentences make it obvious that Francis Bacon had been promised office by the King himself, that he had married on the strength of it, and wishes the King to perform speedily the promise. What "Envy and Detraction" can there possibly be save in one sense, that he was a born Tudor who might have designs on the Throne? And who could whisper such things in the ears of James save Cecil, whom the King "esteemeth and trusteth so much?"

To The Lord Chancellor
I conceived it to be a resolution, both with his Majesty and amongst your Lordships of his Council, that I should be placed Solicitor.... wherefore my humble request is that you would set me in some strength to finish the work.....
I humbly pray your Lordship to consider that Time groweth precious with me, and that a married man is seven years elder in his thoughts the first day. And therefore what a discomfortable thing it is for me to be unsettled still?
Certainly, were it not that I think myself born to do my Sovereign service-- and therefore in that Station will I live and die--otherwise, for my own private comfort, it were better for that the King did blot me out of his book...than to stand thus at a stop, and to have that little reputation which by industry I gather to be scattered and taken away by continual disgraces, every new man coming above me....
Were it nothing else, I hope the modesty of my Suit deserveth somewhat....And were , it not to satisfy my wife's friends and to get myself out of being a common gaze and a speech, I protest before God I would never speak word for it.

In this letter we see that the fact that he is married is again stressed; that he feels that he has been born to do the State service ; that in that particular knowledge he will live and die ; that his suit is a modest one considering his real identity as a Tudor ; and that he has been promised the Solicitorship.

To My Lord Salisbury [Cecil]
I am ignorant how mean a thing I stand for, in desiring to come into the Solicitor's place. [The office was a mean office considering that the petitioner was actually a Tudor prince and that his true office was the Throne. How else can this opening sentence be undertood?]
.....I am sure it was not possible for any man living to have received from another more significant and comfortable words of hope....your Lordship being pleased to tell me that you would raise me....and that what you had done for me in my marriage was a benefit to me, but of no use to your Lordship.....
On my part I am of a sure ground that I have committed nothing that may deserve alteration. And therefore my hope is, your Lordship will finish a good work, and consider that time groweth precious with me.

Once more the fact that Francis Bacon is a married man is stated ; that Cecil had done something to bring about the marriage which was of benefit to Francis---presumably had saved him by his promise to marry from banishment or something worse. How else had Cecil benefited Francis Bacon in his marriage? The concluding sentences indicate that there had been a bargain of State between them and that Francis Bacon had done nothing whereby the agreement should be broken.

Everything ---private letter, public speech, concealed writings--points to the fact the real King of England was Francis Bacon who had sprung from the loins of Queen Elizabeth, and that this birthright was responsible for many of the difficult things in his life--actions, sentences, mutilated letters, which neither James Spedding nor any one else was ever able to explain.

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