"Tragedies and Comedies are of one Alphabet."
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In the space available for this article there was no room to deal adequately with two important Baconian documents which are still preserved. The first is in the British Museum and is Francis Bacon's "Promus"; this is a notebook in his own hand-writing containing 133 folio sheets on which are listed various phrases and turns of speech in English and other languages, many of which re-appear almost verbatim, in the Shakespeare plays. (See illustration on p. 3). This MS. was extensively edited by Mrs. Henry Pott (Longmans, Green & Co., 1883) and was also re-printed in "Bacon is Shakespeare" by Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence (John McBride & Co., New York, 1910).
The second document is the "Northumberland MS". which is now at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, and which is briefly described in Baconiana 160. It was once Bacon's property, and still contains some of his early writings in copy-hand script, although the two Shakespearean plays--Richard II and Richard III, mentioned in the original list of contents--are now missing. Their presence in the original MS. is significant, to say the least of it; and although the contemporary scribblings on the cover (which idly or intentionally connect the names "William Shakespeare" in various spellings and "Mr. ffrauncis Bacon") are extremely interesting, the important historical point is the unique survival of a manuscript originally containing works from each of these two great contemporary "pens". This document was reproduced in facsimile by Frank J. Burgoyne (Longmans, Green & Co., 1904). The original manuscript is reported to be gradually fading.
[First printed 1961]
"O give me leave to pull the Curtaine by
That clouds thy worth in such obscuritie."
(Powell's Attourney's Academy, 1623.
o o o o o
The title-page of Minerva Britanna, 1612, displays this emblem . . .
The moving finger is writing upside down, "Mente Videbor" (By the Mind I shall be seen). On the scroll intertwining the laurel wreath is written:
o o o o o
The "Hog Money" was of brass and undated, the figure XII signifying twelvepence. The wild boar is heraldic and resembles the Bacon crest (see page 12).
III. Science and Magic
IV. Ben Jonson
o o o o o
FRANCIS BACON'S NOTEBOOK
The Promus of Formularies and Elegancies, is now in the British Museum. Bacon's handwriting is shown here in half scale facsimile. Note the date. Many of Bacon's "gags" appeared verbatim or closely paralleled in Shake-speare, at a later date.
The juxtaposition of these two emblems is striking; so, too, is the title-page (see p. 1). The superscription "The work becomes the man" and the border design of acorn and grape suggest a Rosicrucian origin. As to the Lord Dingwell--if it means the gentleman of the bedchamber created Lord Dingwall by James I--then he was certainly no shaker of the spear, but a mere cipher.
Sir Francis Bacon is shown dividing the serpent in twain, and facing the shaker of the spear. The superscription "Good laws from bad customs" is appropriate, and the border design of rose and thistle suggests Bacon's untiring efforts (outwardly and sub rosa) to bring about the Union of England and Scotland.
FRANCIS BACON AND THE KNIGHTS OF THE HELMET
One of these men is genius to the other
And so of these, which is the natural man
And which the spirit? Who deciphers them?
(A Comedy of Errors)
FORTUNA is casting down the Actor. Is she raising Francis Bacon?
Note the acrostic signature beginning on line 9, ONCFBA
PLEMPIUS, 1616 (the year of Shaksper's death), EMBLEM NO. 1.
"Good -bye and ....Hullo!"
CONTROVERSY over the Shakespearean authorship is not new; it has existed ever since the first Folio was printed in 1623. That remarkable book, with its important new plays and its many revisions of existing ones, was not published until seven years after Will Shaksper's death, but while Bacon was still living. Its Editors claimed to supply a complete collection, "All the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them". But in so doing they rejected many plays which had already been published under the pen-name "Shakespeare" during the actor's life. If William did not write these, someone else did; so the grounds for dispute have existed from the beginning.
The unity of the Shakespearean drama has again been questioned in more recent years. The single authorship of Titus Andronicus or of the Taming of the Shrew has been rejected by Swinburne. Experts have declared that the second and third parts of King Henry VI were largely written by Marlowe. The last Act of Troilus and Cressida has been attributed to Dekker, and a portion of Macbeth has been attributed to Middleton. The Merry Wives of Windsor is said to have been the work of a "botcher", and Sir Sidney Lee has attributed one of the most striking scenes in Macbeth to a "hack of the theatre". He suggested also that the third and fifth Acts of Timon of Athens were the work of a collaborator, and he divides Henry VIII into two parts, one by Shakespeare and the other by Fletcher. The early Hamlet (mentioned by Nash in 1589) has been attributed to Kyd, and the King John, published in 1590, has been dismissed as an "old play by an unknown writer".
The Shakespearean unity is less of a problem to Baconians, firstly because the possibility of a group led by Francis Bacon is admitted. Secondly because we believe in a process whereby an author, in the maturity of his genius may be expected to revise the productions of his youth. This, we believe, was Shake-speare's way, as it was certainly Bacon's way. Our controversy, then, turns upon the right interpretation of a name or pseudonym. Stratfordians, in order to bring the Plays and their reputed author into strict accord, have found it necessary to make him a scholar, a philosopher, a politician, a courtier, a lawyer, an amateur physician, and at the same time a player, a small trader, a moneylender, and a hard-fisted business man out for profit. Baconians can dispense with the last four avocations, along with the Stratford man, and can submit much stronger evidence in favour of the others.
Marlowe died in 1593, Oxford in 1604 and Shaksper in 1616. But the 1623 Folio introduced 19 new plays published for the first time. Some of them had been previously registered; some had been acted; but this was their first appearance in print. No manuscripts have yet been discovered; so this important book is the sole textual authority for more than half the Shakespearean Plays, and the final textual authority for the 17 Plays which had been printed before. These latter, in the Folio, were either re-written, extensively revised, or subjected to verbal alterations of a most fastidious kind, revealing the author's hand on almost every page. It is therefore my contention that this author must have been alive in 1623.
The 19 newly printed plays and the priceless Folio additions to the earlier plays are not to be dismissed merely as an editorial undertaking. They include some of the finest passages in Shakespeare; the opening chorus to Henry V, and the prologue to Troilus and Cressida are among them. It seems as if certain chosen passages, together with whole plays like The Tempest, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, Anthony and Cleopatra, Measure for Measure, Timon of Athens, Henry VIII, Cymbeline, and The Winter's Tale, had been deliberately withheld from publication, and saved up by the author for his grand finale.
This gradual and methodical evolution and perfection of the Shakespearean text continued while Bacon was still living, and when the others were dead.
It may be helpful at this point to look at the time-chart (page 2) showing the birth and death dates of the various rival claimants. It will be seen at a glance that only Francis Bacon had the privilege of seeing the first Folio in print. His absolute silence about it--considering his known interest in the drama--is so strange as to be significant.
Ben Jonson must have been privy to all this. While writing the Folio preliminaries--apparently with his tongue in his cheek--he was working at Gorhambury with Francis Bacon on the Latin edition of the Essays and on the De Augmentis which was published in 1623.*
Now, although the Folio plays are official, and accepted as the final authority, it should be remembered that the earlier quarto editions, with their exquisite title-pages, have a tale of their own to tell. Often they preserve a valuable alternative reading where the author could not incorporate both: they show where he must have wavered between two happy thoughts. Sometimes the quartos allow us to see a famous character in process of being written up. Falstaff, for instance, is at first hardly more than a walking-on part; but in Henry IV he becomes a major stage creation. It is from these early quartos that we begin to follow the trajectory of a mighty mind, and the working out of a life-long altruistic purpose to "procure the good of all men". Through the quartos we can see the long and arduous progress from rough and ready play-house script to the grandeur of the Folio--that mirror of men and nations through the successive ages of our civilization.
Take the play Othello, first printed in quarto in 1622, six years after Shakespeare's death. The very next year, in the Folio, it was completely revised with 160 new lines, 70 lines deleted, and with trifling verbal alterations throughout. Many of these alterations involve a re-arrangement of the lines which has been accomplished with no little skill. Surely no one less than the author himself could have devised such manipulations.
* Baconiana Tenison (1679), p. 60.
WILL SHAKSPER OF STRATFORD
The claim that the Stratford legend is well-documented is a two-edged sword. In some ways the actor's uninspiring life story is too well documented. The truth is that the "documented" allusions to Shakespeare fall into two distinct categories, and need to be classified accordingly. Concrete allusions to the family affairs and business activities of the actor and money-lender are quite distinct from the more fanciful allusions to the writer of the drama. Having assumed that Will Shaksper wrote the Plays, the orthodox infer--against all the evidence--that the actor was the kind of man which the Plays themselves show that the author must have been. But the inference is necessitated only by the assumption. To claim all the eulogies intended for the author of the plays as being intended for Will Shaksper of Stratford is, clearly, to beg the whole question of the author's identity.
Shakespearean orthodoxy has become a secular creed; the wildest statements are often made in support of it and the most dubious and counterfeit relics are accepted and worshipped by the credulous. The same historical inaccuracy is employed to denounce a rival theory. It is said, with great ignorance, that Francis Bacon had no interest in the theatre; yet we find him writing masques and revels at Gray's Inn, organizing them in middle life, writing a profound study on the ethics of the theatre, the uses and abuses of "stage-plays", and commending the acting profession as a form of personal training. It is also alleged, with tedious repetition, that Bacon possessed no poetical gifts. Yet Ben Jonson compared him to Homer and Virgil, and Shelley regarded him not only as a poet, but as the greatest philosopher-poet since Plato.*
It is unfortunate that Will Shaksper seems not to have corresponded with anyone. He is not, of course, the only Elizabethan dramatist of whom this can be said, but one would have expected a great writer, who had possessed himself of the highest culture of the age in which he lived, to have taken some interest in contemporary affairs and in other great writers. Most of the writers and dramatists of that day were University men. Spenser, Watson,
* Preface to the translation of The Banquet, P. B. Shelley, Defense of Poetry, P. B. Shelley.
Harvey, Bacon, Marlowe, Nash and Greene went to Cambridge. Lyly, Lodge, Peele, Bodley and others went to Oxford. Ben Jonson was educated at Westminster School; Lord Oxford had private tutors and later studied at Gray's Inn.
The internal evidence of the plays indicates that the author was a Cambridge man. Titus Andronicus, Falstaff and even King Lear, are among the characters who freely and unconsciously lapse into the idiom of that University. The author of Polimanteia (1595) pays an unmistakable tribute to the classical scholarship of "Shakespeare" as an alumnus of Cambridge.* But William left no record at any University or school and no record of private tuition, these deficiencies being glibly explained by the word "genius". But genius and knowledge are two distinct things, and the author of the Plays had both. In the words of Samuel Johnson:
"Nature gives no man knowledge. . . . Shakespeare, however favoured by Nature, could only impart what he had learned."
The case against Shakespearean orthodoxy has been so well handled by Richard Bentley in the Journal of the American Bar Association of February, 1959 that I cannot do better than refer my readers to his article for all existing evidence regarding the life of the Stratford man. Evidence as to his supposed literacy or education--as distinct from that of the bard whose identity is called in question--is conspicuous by its absence. What evidence we have clearly points the other way; so that we can hardly blame William for the trivial and peevish nature of his will. But let us banish these Idols of the Theatre so significantly defined in the Novum Organum, and consider the evidence for Francis Bacon. Let us forget the odour of the famous "second-best bed" and take our tone from a sentence in a very different testament:--
"For my name and memory, I leave it to foreign nations, and to mine own countrymen after sometime be passed over."
These words in Francis Bacon's draft will--expressly withholding from his countrymen the care of his name and the
* Baconiana 132. See article by Stewart Robb.
Reprinted in Baconiana 161.
charge of his life's work--have always struck me as peculiar. They speak across the centuries with a sense of injustice, of misunderstanding and of personal sacrifice. In 1679, Archbishop Tenison wrote as follows:--*
"Those who have true skill in the Works of the Lord Verulam . . . can tell by the Design, the Strength, the way of colouring, whether he was the Author of this or that other Piece, though his name be not to it."
If we can accept the evidence of Peacham's Minerva Britanna (1612) one of Bacon's mottoes was "Mente Videbor"--"By the mind I shall be seen" (see page 1). His declared object was to parallel his philosophical work with a new method of teaching which would, as he expressed it, make men in love with the lessons and not with the teacher. This suggests some form of dramatic teaching as practised by the ancients in the days of the Mysteries. But it could not be accomplished except through the medium of a modern language. The great statesman, Bismarck, when asked what he thought was the most important political factor of his own day, replied without hesitation "the fact that the North American continent speaks the English language". His insight was deep. Language, and the command of it, has become the modern instrument of power. The original construction of that great instrument the English language, and the planting of it in North America were the two essential parts of one great enterprise. Engaged in this work was a group of talented men of action and men of letters. Who stood behind this group, and who was its chief?
It is a matter of history that Francis Bacon, the most farsighted statesman of his day, was the moving spirit in promoting the Act of Union between England and Scotland. It is not so well known that he was the moving spirit in projecting a greater union of English-speaking peoples, that he was on the Council of the first Virginia Company, and that two of his colleagues on that Council were the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery--that "Incomparable Paire of Brethren" to whom the First Shake-Speare Folio was dedicated. It was their money that was at risk when the first expedition set sail from these shores
* Baconiana or Certain Genuine Remains, London, (1679).
Advancement of Learning--Book 1.
and, later, when the first appointed Governor, Sir George Somers, was wrecked on the Bermudas giving us our first Crown Colony, and adding The Tempest to our literature.
There are periods in the earlier life of Francis Bacon for which even Spedding is at a loss to account. There were periods of travel abroad in Europe, and periods spent at Gray's Inn without practising the law. At Gray's Inn, too, there were the Knights of the Helmet. It was during that time that the English language was in process of being forged under such names as Spenser, Marlowe and Shake-speare; legendary writers who could breathe new life into old words, manufacture new words, multiplying the vocabulary of our language many times. It was during the latter part of Bacon's life, and during his rise to political power, that this newly augmented language was deliberately transplanted across the Atlantic.
There is no doubt that the first permanent English settlements in North America and the annexation of the Bermudas had a far-reaching effect on the future cultural development of the New World. The Newfoundland postage stamp of 1910, commemorating the tercentenary of the Colony, carried Lord Bacon's head and the words "The Guiding Spirit of the Colonisation scheme". The first Bermudan coinage, known as the hog money, carried Bacon's crest on one side and a picture of a ship under full sail--probably the Sea Venture--on the reverse. According to records in the British Museum, this coinage was regarded unfavourably by King James and was forbidden to be exported"* (see page 1).
In the Colonial State Calendar there is an extract of a patent "To Henry Earl of Northampton; and mention is also made of a letter from Captain John Smith to Lord Bacon enclosing a description of New England. In the possession of the present Earl of Verulam there is an interesting screen made of most beautiful, late 16th century, coloured glass, hand-painted and fired. Part of the screen illustrates scenes from the New World. The glass itself originally came from a gallery
* America's Assignment with Destiny---Manly Palmer Hall.
North and Central America and Africa and the East.
which was built in honour of Queen Elizabeth I by Sir Nicholas Bacon; but from the date of the glass, it seems that the windows were installed after his death. Francis Bacon was evidently interested, and not a little amused in the tales of seafaring men and travellers; for depicted in this screen are Indians in feathers and monsters too, surely the inspiration for a Caliban.
Bacon's association with the Virginia Company is well established by an original manuscript in the British Museum. It was written by William Strachey, first Secretary of the Colony, and afterwards printed for the Hakluyt Society in 1849; it is entitled The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia. Dedicated to The Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Bacon, Kt., Baron of Verulam, Lord High Chancellor of England, it begins as follows:--
Your Lordship ever approving yourself of the most noble factor of the Virginia Company, being from the beginning (with other Lords and Earles) of the principal Council applyed to propagate and guide yt. . . .
William Strachey's narrative, based on the wreck of the Sea Venture, was not published until 1625 when it was included in Purchas His Pilgrimes.* The Tempest, as we have seen, was not published until seven years after Will Shaksper's death, when it appeared in the First Folio of 1623. If William wrote The Tempest he must, according to the British Museum authorities, have had access to Strachey's narrative in manuscript form. The Earl of Oxford who died in 1604--and who might conceivably have been associated with the earlier plays--could have had no hand in The Tempest. On the other hand Francis Bacon, as a founder-member of the Virginia Company, would certainly have had the information; why not the inspiration?
* * * * * *
Many of the arguments in favour of the Oxfordian theory can be shown to be equally applicable to Francis Bacon. Both were courtiers; both had studied at Gray's Inn, both had travelled
* Baconiana 158, Of Plantations, by Noel Fermor.
abroad, and both displayed a device with a Boar. The need for anonymity was the same; both had some experience of theatrical production and a taste for masques and revels; both were inclined to spend their money rather lavishly.
The testimony of the sonnets, though sometimes applicable to either, is on the whole more applicable to Bacon. The line "Wer't ought for me I bore the canopy" in Sonnet 125 might just as well be applied to him as to Oxford. Indeed, the tenor of the sonnet almost suggests that it was written at about the time of Bacon's fall. The line "And take thou my oblation poor but free" is a repetition of Bacon's plea in a letter to King James. "Suborned informer" could refer to Churchill or Cranfield.
The peculiar wording of many of the sonnets may well be applied to Bacon. Compare the line from Sonnet 76 "And keep invention in a noted weed" with Bacon's line, "I have though in a despised weed, procured the good of all men". This would seem to suggest that the "despised weed" of Bacon and the "noted weed" of Shakespeare both signified the same thing, namely, the motley coat of Jacques.
The Cecils, father and son were related by marriage to both Oxford and Bacon. The burlesque of the elder Cecil as Polonius might have been done by either. It is not impossible that Bacon and Oxford were both members of the same secret circle, or that Oxford when at Gray's Inn was also a Knight of the Helmet. But he died in 1604 when 20 plays were still to appear, and when most of the others were still to be revised and augmented. Oxford could have had no hand in this, but there are strong indications that Bacon did. Here is one which, in my opinion, is unanswerable. In the 1604 Hamlet quarto there appears this line:--
". . . Sense sure you have
Else you could not have motion."
This ancient doctrine--that everything which has motion must have sense--is also upheld by Bacon in the 1605 Advancement of Learning; but in the 1623 De Augmentis he renounced it. So, in the same year, did the author of the Shakespeare plays--supposedly in his grave since 1616; the Hamlet quartos of
1604, 1605 and 1611 all preserve this notion; but in the Folio Hamlet of 1623, it is dropped.
Again, in the 1604 Hamlet the author supports the popular belief in the moon's influence on the tides. Bacon also held this view in 1594 and, for all we know, in 1604, and so, too, all the subsequent quarto editions of Hamlet continue to echo it. But in 1616, in his De Fluxo et Refluxu Maris, Bacon withdrew his support of this view and, once again, the ubiquitous author of the Shakespeare plays dropped it from the Folio version of Hamlet.*
If you wish to check this interesting point, make certain your Shakespeare gives you the "folio" and not the 1604 "quarto" version of Hamlet. The latter is more often reprinted, since it is more discursive and the aim of most editors is to conserve as much as possible. But the cuts made in the Folio Hamlet are improvements from the dramatic point of view; and they also represent the author's final verdict on his own work.
These thoughtful revisions of the Shakespearean text were not always a dramatic improvement, nor always a credit from the scientific point of view; but they do show a care for exactness in writing, and a careful integration of what was said in both works. Between 1597 and 1623, Bacon's own writings were constantly under revision; even the famous Essays went through several stages. It is significant that the Shakespearean plays went through a similar metamorphosis during the same period.
SCIENCE AND MAGIC
The greatest repository of Bacon's scientific notions is the Sylva Sylvarum. This seems to be the sweepings of his notebooks of a lifetime, and it is curious that some of the quaintest of his theories reappear, almost in the same words, in the Shakespearean drama. The Sylva Sylvarum is in many ways a forest rather than a garden, but it is a forest which is flecked here and there with a strange and fleeting beauty. Who but a poet, for example, would have introduced such an image as this into a scientific speculation?
* Parallelisms, by Edwin Reed (1902).
. . . the division and quavering which please so much in music have an agreement with the glittering of light, as the Moon-beams playing upon a wave.
Generally speaking, Bacon's scientific observations--especially those on flowers and horticulture--are not only beautifully expressed, but technically interesting. Some of his speculations were centuries ahead of his time, as for instance the real nature of heat, while others were positively archaic. One of the quaintest of these is his theory of "Spirits enclosed in tangible bodies". Now it so happens that the Shakespearean drama is also pervaded with these strange "spirits" and here are one or two examples of the many which have been given by Judge Webb:--
1. Bacon tells us that "soft singing" and the sound of falling waters, and the hum of bees, are conducive to sleep; and the cause is: "for that they move in the spirits a gentle attention".
In The Merchant of Venice, when Jessica remarks, "I am never merry when I hear sweet music", Lorenzo replies, somewhat inconsequently, "The reason is, your spirits are attentive".
2. In his Experiments in Consort Touching Venus, Bacon attributes the ill-effects of excess in "the use of Venus" to the "expense of spirits" by which it is attended.
In the Sonnets, Shakespeare declares that "the expense of spirits in a waste of shame is lust in action".
3. Bacon tells us that the outward manifestations of the passions are "the effects of the dilation and coming forth of the spirits into the outward parts".
In Troilus and Cressida, when Ulysses beholds the heroine for the first time, he remarks "Her wanton spirits look out at every joint and motive of her body".
4. As an example of the fascination which one man may exert over another, Bacon relates the story of "an Egyptian Soothsayer that made Antonius believe that his genius, which otherwise was brave and confident, was in the presence of Octavius Caesar, "poore and cowardly" and who therefore "advised him to remove from him".
In Antony and Cleopatra, Bacon's Egyptian Soothsayer is brought bodily upon the stage in Shakespeare's lines:--
Therefore, O Antony, stay not by his side!
Thy demon, that's thy spirit that keeps thee, is
Noble, courageous, high, unmatchable,
Where Caesar's is not, but near him thy Angel
Becomes a Fear as being overpower'd; therefore
Make space enough between you!
In examining these parallels, it is important to note that very often the physical or scientific fact noted down by Bacon is abstracted and raised to illustrate a mental or moral analogy in Shakespeare. The following examples may serve to show us this:--
5. In the "Interpretation of Nature" Bacon tells us that "Some few grains of saffron will give a tincture to a ton of water". And in All's Well that Ends Well Lafeu--raising this analogy from the physical to the abstract--exclaims "Whose villainous saffron would have made all the unbaked and doughy youth of a nation in his colour."
6. In the Essex Device (1595) Bacon tells us that "There is no prison to the prison of the thoughts". And Hamlet, in speaking of Denmark as a "prison", and on Rosencrantz replying "We think not so, my Lord", exclaims "Why then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so; to me it is a prison.
7. Bacon, in the Sylva Sylvarum (S.441) tells us that "Shade to some plants conduceth to make them large and prosperous more than Sun"; and that, accordingly, if you sow borage among strawberries "you shall find the strawberries under those leaves far more large than their fellows".
In Henry V, Act 1, the Bishop of Ely, using this strange analogy, expounds on the large and luxuriant development of 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 . . ."
"This writing of our Sylva Sylvarum", says Bacon, "is . . . not natural history but a high kind of natural magic". Indeed, this pre-occupation of both Bacon and Shakespeare with experiments in botany and with "great creating nature" could lead us to questions far beyond the scope of this article. Nearly three centuries before Darwin was to expound his theories, Bacon was suggesting experiments for changing the plumage and colouring of pigeons and the transmutation of species. It seems that the writer of the Shakespeare drama possessed the same scientific, or perhaps we should say "magical" imagination as Bacon and Darwin.
There was one famous contemporary of Lord Bacon, a great and original writer himself, a man of moods and satire, seldom given to lavish praise of others, who acknowledged Bacon to be his "chief". This man was Benjamin Jonson. If ever there was a man of genius, full of surprises, it was Ben. He combined the strangest mixture of coarseness and delicacy. The son of a minister, he was first educated at Westminster School under Mr. Camden and, later in life, at Trinity, Cambridge. As a private soldier in the Low Countries he challenged and killed with his own hands a champion from the enemy camp; later he killed a fellow actor in a duel. He drank heavily at times, and it is not impossible that Will Shaksper's decease--after that famous "merry meeting"--was the end of a similar feud. And yet Ben Jonson could write, not only in Latin, not only ribald plays, but some of the loveliest lyrics such as the extravagant "Drink to me only with thine eyes". We have already noted what this man--in whom the fire burned if he could not speak his mind--had to say about his "Chief", Francis Bacon, preferring him to Homer or Virgil.* We must now consider a peculiar and prolonged chain of insulting references to the Stratford man, coupled with praise for the writer of the Shakespearean plays, which is only intelligible on the assumption that these were two distinct personalities. Well may we ask
. . . . . which is the natural man
And which the spirit? Who deciphers them?
* Baconiana 160. The City and the Temple.
Ben seems to have begun his series of disparaging remarks in 1598, or thereabouts, and closed them shortly after Shaksper's death in 1616, with the famous "poet-ape" epigram. In 1618, if not before, he became closely acquainted with Bacon, and by 1620 he was living with him at Gorhambury as one of the "good pens that forsake me not". Probably it was then that he really became attracted by that great, magnetic character; though he may well have guessed the secret of the Shakespearean drama long before. However his early contemptuous tone now undergoes a remarkable change; so let us close our examination of this witness by asking him to tabulate his first insulting remarks about the actor, his later official praise of the "author" and, finally, his personal tribute to Bacon.
1598 He degrades the stage. He is ignorant of the ordinary rules of dramatization.
1601 He barbarizes the English language, and brings all arts and learning into contempt. He wags an
ass's ears. He is an ape.
1614 His tales are but drolleries. He mixes his head with other men's heels.
1616 He is a poet-ape, an upstart, a hypocrite and a thief. His works are but the frippery of wit.
(N.B.--Shaksper dies this year.)
1619 He wanted art and sometimes sense!
(N.B.--In 1620 Ben Jonson is more intimate with Francis Bacon; wrote a laudatory poem on
on the occasion of his 60th birthday; becomes one of Bacon's "good pens that forsake me not".)
1623 Praises the Author of the Shakespeare Folio comparing him favourably with Homer and Virgil.
1623 Soule of the Age! Sweet Swan of Avon! Starre of Poets!
1623 "What he thought, he uttered with that easinesse that wee have scarce received from him a blot in
(N.B.--The last quotation, though obviously written by Jonson, was fathered on the two
players, Heminge and Condell.) In Discoveries published in 1641 after Jonson's death, he
perplexes us still more.
1641 I remember the Players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare that in his writings
(whatsoever he penn'd) hee never blotted out line. My answer hath beene Would he had blotted
a thousand. Which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their
ignorance who choose that circumstance to commend their friend by wherein he most faulted. And to justifie mine owne
candor [for I lov'd the man and doe honour his memory (this side idolatry) as much as any]. Hee
was (indeed) honest . . .
(N.B.--The parentheses in the first edition are peculiar, and if read alone, raise doubts.)
Jonson's last tribute to Bacon is of a different character.
1641 (Lord St. Albane) My conceit of his Person was never increased toward him by his place or
honours. But I have and doe reverence him for the greatnesse that was onely proper to himselfe, in
that hee seem'd to mee ever, by his works, one of the greatest men, and most worthy of
admiration, that had beene in many Ages.
Ben Jonson, who is generally cited as the principal witness for William Shakespeare, has now been called on behalf of Francis Bacon. His various utterances over the entire period when the Shakespeare plays were coming out are puzzling to say the least of it. After his early contemptuous remarks, of one thing we can be quite certain; the eulogies in which he indulged in the First Shakespeare Folio were official, a kind of command performance.
Would that Ben Jonson could arise from his square foot of earth in Westminster Abbey and tell us why his two greatest contemporaries never once mentioned each other; for to him the answer was assuredly known. The monuments, and even the title pages all seem to proclaim a mystery. Bacon in St. Michael's Church, St. Albans, sits as he used to sit,* chin in hand, gazing into some New Atlantis of the future. Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey is pointing to one of the finest passages from The Tempest, deliberately misquoted! Will Shaksper's plump and prosperous effigy in the Parish Church at Stratford stares vacuously before it, a quill ostentatiously paraded in its fat fingers. The mask-like countenance depicted in the First Folio is rejected by Ben Jonson with the plainest of hints . . . "Reader look, not on his picture but his book".
THE AUTHOR A LAWYER
The abundance of legal terms displayed almost ostentatiously in the plays and sonnets has long attracted notice. It is not only the quantity, but the quality of these instances which is striking.
* Sic sedebat runs the inscription, not the more usual Hic jacet.
Ben Jonson uses legal jargon in his own plays, but he uses it in buffoonery and satire. The author of Shakespeare, in addition to satire, often displays a legal profundity which has been noticed by many eminent lawyers--among them Lord Chief Justice Campbell, who wrote as follows:
"To Shakespeare's law, lavishly as he propounds it, there can neither be demurrer, nor bill of exceptions, nor writ of error."
While leaving this question for lawyers to decide, we are inclined to believe that this discernment, this nicety in the use of legal terms, would be beyond the capacity of a clerk in an attorney's office, and even beyond that of an amateur law student at the Inns of Court, where it was not unusual for the sons of noblemen to pass some time. This is no disparagement of Oxford's scholarship; we simply beg leave to question the profundity of his legal acquirements. It is the trained mind that speaks in the Shakespeare plays--in jest or in earnest--as advocate or judge, and Bacon was both and a humorist into the bargain. Ben Jonson records that one of Bacon's foibles was his inability to restrain himself from making a joke when it occurred to him. Perhaps it was some such frivolous or mischievous inclination that caused the Shakespeare Sonnet 46 to be written. Here it is:
"Mine Eye and Heart are at a mortal war
How to divide the conquest of thy sight;
Mine Eye my Heart thy picture's sight would bar,
My Heart mine Eye the freedom of that right,
My Heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie
(A closet never pierc'd with crystal eyes),
But the Defendant doth that plea deny,
And says in him thy fair appearance lies.
To 'cide this title is impannelled
A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the Heart;
And by their verdict is determined
The clear Eye's moiety and the dear Heart's part,
As thus: mine Eye's due is thy outward part,
And my Heart's right, thine inward love of heart."
Commenting on this extraordinary Sonnet, which must be unique among love songs, Lord Chief Justice Campbell writes as follows:
I need not go further than this sonnet, which is so intensely legal in its language and its imagery,that without a considerable knowledge of English forensic practice it cannot be fully understood. A lover being supposed to have made a conquest of (i.e. to have gained by purchase) his mistress, his EYE and his HEART, holding as joint-tenants, have a contest as to how she is to be partitioned between them--each moiety then to be held in severalty. There are regular Pleadings in the suit, the HEART being represented as Plaintiff and the EYE as Defendant. At last issue is joined on what the one affirms and the other denies. Now a jury (in the nature of an inquest) is to be impannelled to 'cide (decide) and by their verdict to apportion between the litigating parties the subject matter to be decided. The jury fortunately are unanimous, and after due deliberation find for the EYE in respect of the lady's outward form, and for the HEART in respect of her inward love. Surely Sonnet 46 smells as potently of the attorney's office as any of the stanzas penned by Lord Kenyon while an attorney's clerk in Wales.
THE STATESMAN'S NOTEBOOK
The political undercurrent of the Shakespeare Plays is seldom penetrated. In 1817 Hazlitt hovered near the truth:
Coriolanus is a storehouse of political commonplaces. Anyone who studies it may save himself the trouble of reading Burke's reflections or Paine's Rights of Man, or the debates in both houses of Parliament since the French Revolution or our own.
But Hazlitt offers no suggestion as to how the Stratford actor could have gained this experience. It has fallen to modern commentators to supply this omission by writing up Stratford-on-Avon as an Elizabethan training ground for political writers. Professor L. C. Knight, in discussing the Roman plays, has emphasized Shakespeare's insistence on the "human content of political situations"; and he regards the Bard's "private experiences of the organic life of a small community" as contributing to his achievement. One can almost hear the contemptuous grunt of Bismarck at this view of Shakespeare's experience in statecraft.
In a most interesting paper read to a gathering at Stratford a few years ago, Mr. H. J. Oliver of Sydney described the real theme of Coriolanus, as "the proper place in a democratic or would-be democratic society of the pure aristocrat who, rightly or wrongly, will never compromise"--a theme which, as he pointed out, required a considerable deviation from Plutarch. Now this is a penetrating criticism so far as it goes. It frankly admits a deliberate alteration to a classical story to meet the
needs of a new and revolutionary dramatic purpose. Yet it is hard to believe that the moneylender of Stratford would have thus deviated from Plutarch in order to express the finer feelings of a nobleman who had become involved in the proceedings of a democratic society. This aspect of Coriolanus has been noticed before by Mark Van Doren:
The movement of Coriolanus is rhetorical, as in Julius Caesar, but more bleakly than there. The streets of Rome are conceived as rostrums where men meet for the sole purpose of discussing something--the character of the hero and its effects upon a certain political situation. Shakespeare is . . . addressing himself with all the sobriety of his intelligence to a subject which has not been created by the play itself, or even by its respected godfather Plutarch. It is a subject whose existence does not depend upon dramatic art, nor is the artist in this case wholly absorbed in it. . . .
It is perfectly true that an "artist" in this case is not wholly absorbed; it is the "thinker" who is at work. For Coriolanus is one of the most thoughtful and perhaps least poetical of the Plays. Here is a subject which could only have been inspired by long experience of the Commons and of the Court as well; surely a situation which only a Francis Bacon would have conceived.
It is in the Roman plays of Julius Caesar and Coriolanus and perhaps in King Lear, that the pattern of our own social revolution is most clearly foreshadowed. It is here that these blueprints for the new age of democracy are cautiously revealed. In the conversations between the conspirators in Julius Caesar, or between the citizens and tribunes in Coriolanus, or between the gardeners in Richard II, or between the soldiers and King Henry V on the eve of Agincourt, it is the ideas of the Utopias which begin to steal upon the stage. In the Roman plays we are shown the inevitable collision between civil and personal interests. We are also shown the distinction between a true democracy (seen almost as an aristocracy of service) and that kind of demagogism which the crowd will always re-create when power is placed in its hands, namely the popular election and its misuse of the block vote. As the author of Coriolanus so clearly foresaw, this can eventually become the "monster of the multitude", usurping the seat of the ancient tyrant. First we are shown the pride and selfish ambition of a prince who has
ranged himself against the Commonweal. Then we are shown the same prince contending for the Commonweal, against the short-sightedness and tyranny of the crowd. The same struggle between true democratic law and dictatorship by a Union (or by a man-made ideology) persists today.
There is another reason for ascribing Coriolanus to Francis Bacon, which is technical rather than political. The detailed description of the circulation of the blood, which is used as a parable by Menenius Agrippa in Act I, could not have been written before the Harvey lectures had commenced. The Bard, whoever he was, could scarcely have anticipated William Harvey in this momentous discovery; and Will Shaksper had died before it was announced. If our hypothesis is correct and Francis Bacon wrote the play, the parable would have been almost irresistible. Not only was he living at the time, but Harvey was his personal physician! The impulse to illustrate his social and political theories in this picturesque and technical way, would have been characteristic of Bacon. Here are the lines:
. . . Note me this, good friend;
Your most grave belly was deliberate,
Not rash like his accusers, and thus answered;
"True it is, my incorporate Friends" quoth he,
That I receive the general food at first
Which you do live upon; and fit it is,
Because I am the store-house and the shop
Of the whole body: but if you do remember
I send it through the rivers of your blood,
Even to the court, the heart, to the seat o' the brain;
And, through the cranks and offices of man,
The strongest nerves and small inferior veins,
From me receive that natural competency
Whereby they live . . . .
* * * * * *
LORD BACON'S CHARACTER--AN OLD LIBEL EXPOSED
Lord Bacon's personal character has been as much admired as it has been abused. Naturally this has perplexed students, who have been torn between the desire to listen to Bacon's real biographers or to follow blindly the big drum of Macaulay. Perhaps we should remember the attitude and credentials of
those who knew Francis Bacon personally. Two monarchs relied upon his counsel, integrity and judgment. Raleigh admired him, Anthony Bacon, Falkland and Herbert loved him, Robert Cecil respected him, and Ben Jonson reverenced him. Edward Coke, his unscrupulous life-long rival, hated him. Later, Wilson and D'Ewes traduced him and Macaulay libelled him. The latter's brilliant essay (as Spedding foretold) has beguiled the public into accepting historical inaccuracies of a very serious kind. It is not for nothing that Winston Churchill has, dubbed this stimulating writer the "prince of literary rogues".
Bacon never supported the Essex rebellion; on the contrary, he strongly advised him against this reckless course. He had made his deepest allegiance to the Queen perfectly clear to Essex. He said, in effect, that, if the Earl settled his obligations to him by a gift of land it could only be accepted with "the ancient savings of homage and duty to the Crown". Francis Bacon begged to be excused from appearing at the Essex trial, but was commanded to attend nolens volens. And, being forced to appear (in the minor role of "Queen's Counsel Extraordinary" which made him in fact her watch-dog) he could have no more supported the Essex treason than Raleigh could have thrown up his command of the Guard. It was obvious that Essex had become a dangerous rebel and a traitor to his country; but fortunately the old Queen still had staunch counsellors and Essex was very properly arrested, tried and executed: we cannot accept, therefore, this popular misconception of Bacon's relationship with Essex.
But since Macaulay's insinuations will continue to be read as literature, however unreliable historically, one must try to appreciate the difficulties in which men of letters, jealous of their professional honour, are placed when asked to consider Francis Bacon as our national bard. If the latter could be put upon trial before a modern, properly-constituted court, these difficulties would disappear and Macaulay's insinuations would fall to the ground. For, as the late Lord Birkenhead wrote, he never had a trial.*
* Famous Trials.
It is misleading, to put it mildly, to say that Bacon confessed to a charge of bribery. What he did was to desert his defence at the King's entreaty, and rely on a Royal promise of pardon.* We can only surmise his reasons for trusting the King and Buckingham. Probably it was to save the Court, which was notoriously corrupt, from a direct collision with the Commons. His words to King James after that last interview show his state of mind,
"I wish that as I am the first, so I may be the last of Sacrifices in your Times".
In abandoning his defence Bacon acknowledged the evils of the "Fee System"--the recognized way in which judges in those days were remunerated, and on which, from the time of Sir Thomas More, every Lord Chancellor had had to depend. He also acknowledged his fault in not restraining his servants from abusing this system by exacting a rake-off. In those days there was no Civil List; so judges received fees just as counsel receive "tips" today; but that did not mean that justice was perverted. The customary fee had to be paid for a hearing; and perhaps the most delightful touch in the political arraignment of Bacon was that three witnesses, who paid sums which were later held to be bribes, and who lost their cases, asked for their money back!
In the political "frame-up" by which the ruin of Francis Bacon was accomplished there was no properly constituted court; the witnesses were examined in Bacon's absence, not a single witness was examined on oath, none were cross-examined and all were given a free pardon. The published "interrogatories" are therefore quite misleading. As Charles Williams put it: "Anyone who had ever heard of any attempt to give a gratuity to any servant of the Lord Chancellor was invited to say so, with a promise of complete amnesty and oblivion". One cannot imagine a more effective method of collecting irresponsible accusations against a great Lord Chancellor. We know the personal result; Bacon was sacrificed for the sake of a praiseworthy judicial reform. But what was the legal result? After four years' hard work and the clearance of some thirty-six
* Hacket's Life of Dean Williams.
Baconiana (1679), p. 16.
thousand cases in Chancery,* not one single decree of Bacon's was reversed, all standing firm to this day. And what happened later to his accusers and successors in office? In a few years, as history records, all of them were proved to be completely corrupt.
BACON AND THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES
You go not, till I set you up a glass
Where you may see the inmost part of you.
Enlightenment by means of the dramatic art or "feigned history" was a method of teaching which Bacon commended: the "magisterial" method was to be supplemented by the "initiative" method, the pulpit by the proscenium. It was a good way of reaching the whole man, the emotions as well as the reason, and was to be the promised fourth part of his Great Instauration. Most of his biographers have entirely missed this point; though it was noticed by Delia Bacon. This frail New Englander, who came to this country with true missionary zeal just a century ago, combined an exceptional insight into The Great Instauration with a profound Shakespearean scholarship. By nature she was perhaps too quixotic, not realising that she was tilting against the windmills of a popular creed. I have quoted her more fully in A Pioneer but here are a few brief extracts from her first brilliant essay in an American magazine, Putnam's Monthly for January, 1856. It would be hard, even with the evidence which has since come to light, to present the philosophic argument more skilfully.
Condemned to refer the origin of these works to the illiterate man who kept the theatre, . . . condemned to look for the author of Hamlet--the subtle Hamlet of the university, the courtly Hamlet--"the glass of fashion and the mould of form"--in that doggish group of players who came into the scene summoned like a pack of hounds to his service--how could we understand the enigmatical Hamlet, with the thought of ages in his foregone conclusions? . . . In vain the shrieking queen remonstrates, for it is the impersonated reason whose clutch is on her, and it says "you go not hence till you have seen the inmost part of you".
* The Story of Lord Bacon's Life. W. H. Dixon (1862).
He looks into Arden and into Eastcheap from the Court standpoint, not from these into the Court. He is as much a prince with Poins and Bardolph as when he throws open to us, without awe, the most delicate mysteries of the royal presence. . . . How could the player's mercenary motive and the player's range of learning and experiment give us the key to this new application of the human reason to the human life?
There were men in England who knew well enough what kind of instrumentality the drama had been, and with what voices it had spoken. And where else had this mighty instrument for moving and moulding the multitude its first origin, if not among men initiated in the profoundest religious and philosophic mysteries of their time--the joint administrators of the government of Athens, when Athens sat on the summit of her power? . . .
Thus blinded we shall not perhaps distinguish that magnificent whole with which this author will replace his worthless originals--that whole in which we shall one day see, not the burning Illium, not the old Danish court of the tenth century, but the yet living, illustrious Elizabethan age, with all its momentous interests still at stake.
If we had but gone far enough in our readings of these works to feel the want of that aid from exterior (Baconian) sources, there would not have been presented to the world, at this hour, the spectacle--the stupendous spectacle--of a nation referring the origin of its drama--a drama more noble, and learned, and subtle than the Greek--to the invention--the accidental, unconscious invention--of a third-rate play-actor. The true Shakespeare would not have been now to seek. . . .
We should have found one, with learning deep enough, and subtle enough, and comprehensive enough to be able to claim his own immortal progeny--undwarfed, unblinded, undeprived of one ray or dimple of that all-pervading reason that informs them, and absolute in their numbers as he conceived them.
KNIGHTS OF THE HELMET
This "invisible" Order, dedicated to Pallas Athene, seems to have started at Gray's Inn*. The names "William" and "Wilhelm" are derived from the word "Helmet". It seems that Francis Bacon was the acknowledge leader of a talented group, and that Ben Jonson eventually became his "My Man John". Anthony Bacon and Tobie Matthew were obviously trusted members and I am willing to believe that the Earls of Oxford, Southampton, Derby, Pembroke and Montgomery were also associated with this group.
* Gesta Grayorum (1688) page 10.
But the real tower of strength behind it--philosophically, legally and academically--was the genius of Francis Bacon; of this I feel reasonably convinced. For four of the Folio plays I claim Baconian authorship unreservedly; for Love's Labour's Lost, which was one of the earliest, and for Julius Caesar, Coriolanus and The Tempest, which were among the last printed. I claim these plays for Bacon, firstly because he was the only great English writer who had been personally acquainted with the Court of Navarre during his younger days in France. Secondly because, later in life, he was the only English House of Commons man, courtier and social thinker capable of conceiving Coriolanus as a calculated deviation from Plutarch, and also because Coriolanus and Julius Caesar seem to me to be the plays of a great orator. Thirdly because The Tempest (like his own New Atlantis) was partly inspired by his personal and close association with the Virginia Company.
* * * * * *
The external evidence for Bacon is of a kind which is not available in the case of any other candidate. Not only are there contemporary manuscripts extant in Bacon's hand, but many parallels with the plays exist in his acknowledged writings.
Marlowe, educated at Canterbury and Cambridge, is a more difficult problem. Certainly the plays ascribed to him are the nearest approach to the Shakespearean drama in our literature. Although not to be compared with Shakespeare at his best, yet often it is the same voice that sings. The greatness of planning is also there (as Goethe remarked), but the more subtle delineation of character has not reached maturity. As a competent villain, Dr. Faustus is hardly a match for Iago or Richard III. Marlowe's plays strike one as the work of a younger man or perhaps even of the same man at an earlier stage. Did he really write them, or were they fathered on him after his untimely death? It is impossible to be certain about Marlowe; we know too little about him; and his literary reputation, as we have said, is entirely posthumous. Not a single play was credited to him while he lived.
Oxford, moving in Court circles, had a more likely background. Bacon, moving freely in Court and Commons as well, had an even more likely one; and for him we also have the vast evidence of his own writings. To those who cannot perceive these identities of thought, philosophy, diction and imagination, we can make no further appeal; for beyond the evidence we cannot go. To persuade you further by eloquence or art is not for us. Prospero has long since doffed his magic robe; the pageant is ended, and his last prayer, expressed in his epilogue, is for liberation through your understanding. Let your indulgence set him free.
* * * * * *
Versatility in style is a prerogative of great art. Let it not trouble us that the Bard may have been one of England's greatest lawyers. Is there not (as O'Connor pointed out) a vast difference between A Lawyer's Farewell to his Muse and the same Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries ? Is there not a difference in style between Sir Walter Raleigh's Cabinet Council and that ringing poem The Soul's Errand, or between Coleridge's Aids to Reflection and the unearthly Kubla Khan? Does the prose of Shelley's Defence of Poetry--however raised in style--compare with the wild loveliness of the Ode to the West Wind ?
In The First Continental Editions of
"The Dionysian Procession must enter the Temple"
(detail from page 31)
On the cloak which falls over Bacon's foot there is a human face outlined in small dots. This is visible with the naked eye in all copies dated 1645. Is it a symbol of the sun? Or is it a jester with the conventional cap and bells, and a counterpart to the Tragic Muse above? Who deciphers them?
Look once again at the title page of Bacon's De Augmentis opposite. Was the Dutch artist merely amusing himself, or did he express a hidden meaning? Assuredly he points to a restoration of the Mysteries. He suggests unmistakably that the ancient dramatic method of teaching had been reintroduced by Bacon as a parallel to the direct teachings of history and science. For, while pointing to the open text he calls us secretly to the Athenian Hill, through the medium of the tragic Muse; and at his foot is the symbol of the Jester. Surely it is the Shaker of the Spear--the Grand Master of the Knights of the Helmet himself--who sits in that chair. In this one careful engraving the artist reveals Bacon's dual literary purpose. Arts and Sciences, like Tragedies and Comedies, are made of one Alphabet.
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