The New Athenian is the
newsletter which will provide fresh ideas, updated news and
The text of a talk
given by Lawrence Gerald for the Shakespeare
Roundtable at the Beverly Hills
Library on December 7, 1996.
England in the 16th century was struggling to
recover from The War of The Roses, a costly civil war, and a war
with Spain was looming on the horizon that was being covertly
instigated by the Catholic Church.
Religious intolerance and limited personal
freedoms were part of the bleak living conditions that prevailed
during this period. In 1530, press censorship was established and
lasted up until 1694. If the reigning monarch took exception to
anything that found its way into print, the unfortunate printer
could be subjected to severe punishments including physical
torture. Hence, it was quite natural during this time that
discretion was the better part of valor, especially with respect
to writings about politics or non-traditional religious
The brethren of the Rosy Cross, also known as
the Rosicrucians, were one of the sub rosa or underground
societies that existed during this time. It was a very important
principle among these free thinkers that they would never give up
the secrets of their society, even if their life was endangered as
a result. A member of the Rosy Cross once stated:
"We wrap ourselves in mystery in order to avoid
the censure and violent importunity of those who don't regard us
as philosophers, but wanting in common prudence even though we
employ our knowledge to some worldly use and profit."
A great affinity existed between the Rosy Cross
and the Order of Freemasons, their main difference being that the
Rosy Cross was a secret society while the Freemasons were a
society with secrets. English Freemasonry was revived and openly
tolerated under the reign of King James, primarily due to Francis
Bacon's influence on the king.
Since Bacon and his most intimate friends were
part of a network of Rosicrucians, Freemasons and Illuminati, he
was able to encourage the distribution of their knowledge in other
countries as well as throughout England. Masonic symbology
appeared in many of Bacon's published works, and it is especially
significant that the 1623 Shakespeare folio contains Masonic
symbols and cryptic messages.
The Catholic Church, acting as a front for the
politics of the Vatican, had many spies in England whose missions
were to meddle in Protestant affairs and undermine the ruling
Protestant monarchy. In fact, a letter once left on Queen
Elizabeth's pillow warned her that continued opposition to Rome
would result in the death of any child she might bear, and this
may have persuaded her to retain her public image of the Virgin
Queen indefinitely. In case that wasn't a direct enough attack on
Elizabeth, the Pope even openly declared in a letter:
"Whosoever sends her [meaning
Elizabeth] out of the world would be doing God a service so
glorious a work."
In 1592, the French King Henry IV, who had
facillitated English schemes against the Pope, woke up one morning
to find the heads of five of his illegitimate sons nestled against
him in his bed. Henry then publically denounced Protestantism and
converted to Catholicism.
Furthermore, some evidence exists that King
James I, presumed to be the son of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord
Darnley, was actually a changeling and was really the newly-born
son of Lord Mar who was secretly substituted for the royal heir.
In 1830, some workers were repairing the wall in Edinburgh Castle
by the doorway of the Queen of Scots' chamber, when they
discovered an oak coffin containing the body of a mummified male
child wrapped in silk and golden cloth embroidered with the
initial J. It is thought that this child might be the real King
James. (This story was retold in the London Sunday Dispatch Oct
As Machiavelli once said: "There is generally
but a short interval between the prison and the graves of
On September 12th, 1560, Robert Dudley and Queen Elizabeth were
privately married at Brooke House, Hackney which belonged to the
Earl of Pembroke. Sir Nicholas and Ann Bacon were witnesses.
Dudley was later given the title, Earl of Leicester.
The following October, the Spanish ambassador
was arrested and accused of writing to King Philip of Spain that
the Queen had been privately married.
On January 22, 1561, a boy was born at Wolsey
New Palace, Whitehall, also known as York Place. The boy was
adopted by Lady Ann Bacon, wife of Sir Nicholas who was keeper of
the Great Seal. The baby birth is registered at St. Martins in the
Fields, as Mr. Franciscus Bacon, as though his foster parents, or
someone acting for them, wished to mark their respect to a baby
with royal blood. The birth was known to Lord Burleigh, Secretary
of State, and Throgmorton, the Queen's ambassador to Paris. Six
years later, a second child was born and also adopted, but this
time by the Queen's cousin Lettice Knolly. The child was later to
be known as Robert, Earl of Essex. Subsequently, in 1657, Bacon's
chaplain Dr. William Rawley published that Francis Bacon: "The
glory of his age and nation, was born in York House or Place in
the Strand." This is an important clue because York House is where
Nicholas Bacon lived, whereas, York Place is the palace of Queen
Elizabeth. Dr Rawley wished to signal that Bacon's birth was
shrouded in mystery. Alfred Dodd, in his book The
Marriage of Elizabeth Tudor
writes at length about this, and uses state letters, documents
from Continental archives, cypher records left in printed books,
and known historical facts to prove Francis Bacon's royal birth.
Another well-researched book on the subject of Bacon's royal birth
is "Francis Bacon: The Last of the Tudors" by A. Kunow - 1924.
In 1576, at the age of 15, Bacon first
discovers the true nature of his royal birth: that he is the son
of Queen Elizabeth, and at the time, she had not made up her mind
whether to acknowledge him publicly or not. In the meantime, she
arranged for Francis to be immediately sent off to France in the
care of her Ambassador, Amyas Paulet, and some private tutors.
Elizabeth sponsored this golden period of his life from 1576 to
1579 so that he can be introduced to and become accustomed to the
Court of Henry III in Paris. Bacon found the spirited French Court
much more lively and vibrant than the atmosphere around
Elizabeth's. Once there, he met Ronsard, who is often considered
the prince of French poets and who became the catalyst for the
French Renaissance, and Ronsard was also the head of a secret
fellowship called the Pleiade. Francis also met Montaigne, the
essayist, and other idealistic scholars who worked in a spirit of
philanthropy. This impacted Bacon's young mind tremendously.
He also witnessed how the scholars were involved in revitalizing
the French language by making appropriations from the Greek,
Italian and Latin languages. He met a wide range of artists,
inventors, and philosophers. These formative influences determined
the future course for a young man who once wrote to his Uncle
Burleigh that he took "all knowledge to be his province." Bacon
felt great kinship with Ronsard and the Pleiade who valued the
classics and the remodeling of languages when writing sonnets and
other poetry. However, these Frenchman were also impressed by the
young Englishman as well. In fact, Jean de Jessee, one of
Ronsard's fellow idealists, wrote in a sonnet that "his own muse,
prolific as it was, was not a learned or eloquent one, but that
Bacon's Pallas had taught it better to speak." The work containing
the lines of this sonnet was not discovered until 1900 in records
preserved by Anthony Bacon at Lambeth Place. This indicates that
Bacon had made an impact at an early stage in his career with his
ability for poetry that was inspired by his muse Pallas Athena,
Shaker of the Spear.
To Bacon, the concept of poetry was (quote):
". . . as a dream of learning in which the Divine Grace uses the
motions of the imagination as an instrument of illumination. The
mind being open to parables, visions, dreams, and the ancient
fables by which as it were through a veil God had spoken to man."
While in France, Bacon falls in love with Marquerite
of Navarre, the estranged wife to King
Henry of Navarre and kept a diary of this relationship through a
series of sonnets he wrote to her which would be the beginnings of
the Shakespeare Sonnets. To read further about the relationship of
the Shakespeare Sonnets to Bacon's experience, refer to Alfred
Dodd's book, Shakespeare's Sonnet Diary and
With his rare mental gifts, Bacon was able to initiate a similar
literary Renaissance back in England. "He would Baconize or
Tudorize his own country just as Ronsard had Ronsardized France,"
one historian noted. Bacon used parables, allegory, mythology and
symbols enlighten others in both his poetic works and also in his
scientific discourses. In his book Wisdom of the Ancients,
he offered an interesting preview of the Second Law of
Thermodynamics in terms of a battle between Cupid and Eros.
However, one reluctant admirer by the name of Joseph de Maistre,
was not amused. He said:
"There goes the poet when we look for the scientist, always an
image instead of a reason."
Shelley, the 19th century poet, was quite enchanted by Bacon and
saw in him: "the only writer who could be compared to Plato for
the rare union of subtle logic with the Pythian enthusiasm for
In The Shaksper Illusion, Edward Johnson wrote that
"Bacon's mind had an amplitude of comprehension like no other."
Shelley also says that "Bacon's use of language was able to burst
the circumference of the reader's mind and pour itself together
with it into the universal element." George Sandy, a contemporary
of Bacon, said he received "the greatest light from the Viscount
St. Albans (i.e. Francis Bacon)" while preparing his translation
of Ovid's poem. Bacon was a guiding light to others. J.E. Roe
writes in his book Bacon and his Masks that:
"Bacon sought the face of every unfoldment in nature, character
and life and made facts royal. Wherever force was active in
material change there were his eyes, his life, his mind and he
thus reformed the philosophy, the stage, and the General
literature of his day by catching each actuality as it arose . He
taught that mind is a Divine instrument, lent for good and not to
be used merely upon itself but upon the vast universe without. And
so in Shakespeare, Bacon says: 'Heaven with us as we with torches
do not light them for themselves.'"
Finally, Bacon, in The Advancement of Learning, says:
"If the enjoyment of happiness was a great good, the power of
imparting it to others is greater."
When Nicholas Bacon wrote a book that aired his
political views on the world, it gave such great offence to Queen
Elizabeth that not only was he scolded for it, but he was also
denied certain promotions in his career. This incident prompted
Nicholas to keep subsequent writings anonymous, and was a powerful
lesson for Francis Bacon who learned of the danger of using one's
identity when writing about controversial subjects such as
politics, religion or affairs of the state. Francis was brought up
in an environment where secrecy, use of cyphers, writing
anonymously, and veiling one's identity when important matters was
a necessity to ensure survival.
When Francis was at Trinity College, Cambridge, he published a
philosophical discourse entitled, "The Anatomy of the Mind"
dedicated to Christopher Hatten, under the name of Thomas Rogers.
A copy of the booklet exists at the College with errors corrected
in Bacon's own handwriting.
Incidents from Bacon's Life Found in
In Love's Labor Lost (LLL) Act IV, scene
III, there occurs what appears to be a reference to a custom which
takes place at the Gray's Inn Law School in an area called the
Middle Temple. The custom was to dine in messes or groups of
Biron: "That you three fools lack'd me fool to make up the
Dumaine: "Now the numbers is even."
Biron:"True, true. We are four."
Did Shaksper ever dine in the hall?
The passport of Anthony Bacon is signed by Marshall Biron dated
September 27th, 1586, and the passport of Peter Brown, Anthony's
messenger, is signed by Dumaine dated July 26th, 1586.
Henry VI, Act II, Scene I: Inside the abbey church at St
Albans, is the tomb of Humphry, Duke of Gloucester. On his tomb it
is inscribed that he was protector to King Henry VI, and that he
once exposed an imposter that pretended to be miraculously cured
of blindness. Bacon attended the St Albans School which was housed
in the abbey church and this would have made him quite familiar
with the story that was engraved on Humphry's tomb. This story is
introduced in Act II, Scene I as a non-sequiter to the action
already taking place. Furthermore, St Albans is mentioned 23 times
in Shakespeare, while Stratford on Avon is not even mentioned
Henry VIII, Scene II: Cardinal Woolsey is asked to
surrender his state seals to a group sent by the King and
consisting of the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Earl of Surrey
and the Lord Chamberlain. According to history, it was just the
dukes who were sent. The story in Shakespeare adds two extra men:
the Lord Chamberlain who was a very good friend of Francis Bacon
and the Earl of Surrey, Thomas Howard (Earl of Arundle), who
visited Francis Bacon in 1621 to take the Chancellor's seals from
him. The incident reflects what happened to Bacon and is reported
in Shakespeare for the first time in the 1623 Folio, two years
after Bacon's fall from the Chancellorship.
Also, in January of 1623, Bacon applied to the records office for
the loan of archive documents pertaining to the reign of Henry
VIII. The play, The History of King Henry VIII, was first
published in the Folio later that same year.
Trinity College at Cambridge: Dr. John Caius of Cambridge
University is the prototype for the character Dr Caius in The
Merry Wives of Windsor. Both the actual person and the
character have quite a dislike for Welshman, both are instructors
and physicians, both come from abroad and are quarrelsome in
temperament. Bacon knew of Dr. Caius while attending the college
in 1573, and so he is described in the play as he was in real
life. In his will, Bacon left a first edition of the 1623 Folio to
his alma mater.
An anecdote told by Sir Nicholas Bacon appears in The Merry
Wives of Windsor. In it, Nicholas is judging a case in which a
defendant is about to be sentenced to death but appeals for mercy
on the grounds that he and Sir Nicholas are kindred as
"Indeed", said the judge, "how can that be?"
"Why, if it please your honor, my name is Hogg and yours is
"Nay", replied Sir Nicholas, "but Hogg cannot be Bacon until it
In Act IV, Scene I of The Merry Wives of Windsor, that
anecdote is hinted at in a scene involving Mistress Page, Quickly
and Evans, in which the following absurd dialog is inserted into
the 1623 folio for the first time:
Evans: "I pray you have your rememberance, accusativo, hung,
Quickly: "Hang, hog is latin for bacon, I warrant you."
Verulamiani (Shades of Verulam) was
first published posthumously as a tribute to Bacon in 1626 and
also appears in The Advancement of Learning in the 1640 and 1674
editions. It contains 32 eulogies by Bacon's literary friends that
exalt and highly praise Bacon's literary achievements. The
dedications are all written by Bacon's peers who had direct
experience of the man and are highly significant as they paint
Bacon as a great poet and unacknowledged theatrical writer, with
strong connections to the Tudor lineage and the Freemasons, who
was at the center of a mystery. This book of tributes has still
not received the attention from scholars which it deserves to this
One writer says, in reference to the Tudor
"In thy page, noble Bacon, thy roses unite." (Essex and
William Boswell wrote:
"None who surive him can marry so sweetly Themis, the Goddess of
Law, to Pallas, the Goddess of Wisdom."
Robert Ashley of Gray's Inn wrote:
"Part of thy works truly lie buried."
R.C. of Trinity College, Cambridge wrote:
'Thou were born of Minerva [the Roman counterpart of
Athena]. Thou were the nerve center of genius, and the jewel
most precious of letters concealed."
R.P., in the fourth eulogy, says Bacon:
"Gets credit for uniting philosophy to the drama and for restoring
philosophy through comedy and tragedy."
Thomas Randolph, poet and fellow of Trinity College lauds Bacon
"One who Apollo feared would oust him from being King of the
Muses, and incomparably surpassing all the poets and sages of
And also says of Bacon:
"That he being the greatest poet as well as sage the world ever
The corrupt period during the reign of King
James in 17th century England saw many villainous characters get
into power or plot to get into power. Sir Francis Bacon, visionary
philosopher, philanthropist, statesman, scientist, poet,
politician and judge had to contend with many of them during his
lifetime. Perhaps this is why he intuited at the end, "For my name
and memory I leave it to men's charitable speech's in foreign
nations and the next ages; and to my own countrymen after some
time be past." He seemed to realize that his reputation would grow
like that of many other visionaries who were best appreciated well
after their death. Sadly, to this day Bacon's rich legacy contends
with villains in the form of unjust literary critics, commentators
and biographers who have left a deeper stain on his name than any
of his contemporaries.
Nevertheless, Bacon's star appears to be rising
with the publication in 1996 by Yale University Press of Nieves
Mathews' book Francis Bacon: The History of a Character
Assasination. In one long fell swoop she offers the interested
reader a re-evaluation of the poignant politically-charged events
during Bacon's life by allowing all of the prejudiced detractors
and spiteful critics that ever had an axe to grind on Bacon to air
their views again and then dismissing them one by one for their
lack of objectivity and personal animosity.
Ten years in the making, this tremendous labor
of love provides more than adequate scope for the interested
reader with over one hundred pages just in annotated notes alone,
rounded out with an extensive twenty-page bibliography. Mathews
starts out with an epigram quoted from one of Bacon's chief
antagonists, Edward Coke, "The slander of a dead man is a living
fault." The humorous irony here is that the insensitive Coke was a
menace to anyone living who stood in the way of his political
aspirations and Francis Bacon experienced this first hand. Coke
had orchestrated Bacon's downfall from the Chancellorship from
behind the scenes and he also slandered Bacon with false bribery
charges. After Bacon's death, many uninformed commentators on
Bacon's life failed to see that he was actually an honest man who
was unfairly framed by Coke's influence and so the charges stuck
through suceeding generations. The above quote from Coke now
serves sentence on all those misguided by Coke who refuse to
recognize historical truth from fiction.
Much of the later widespread misrepresenation
of Bacon as a dishonest, self-serving person originated in 1837
with Thomas Macauley's, "Essay on Bacon." In her book, Mathews
points out that Macauley admitted to being motivated by his
overzealous need to become famous at the expense of his subject.
The book also goes into detail over the agonizing position that
Bacon found himself in during the Essex insurrection period. Bacon
was forced to prosecute his friend Robert Devereux, the Earl of
Essex or face charges himself. The Earl was the victim of his own
hot temperment and also suffered from the shrewd traps hatched by
Robert Cecil. Essex was eventually found guilty of treason, and
was executed. Mathew illustrates how the unfortunate outcome of
the trial for Bacon was being unfairly tagged with being
opportunistic and disloyal to his friend by later day critics who
were ignorant of the facts in the case while dismissing Bacon's
own summary report of the trial. Supporters of Bacon who recognize
that both he and Essex shared a common bloodline as children of
Elizabeth I, and thus were heirs to the Tudor lineage, may be
disappointed that Mathews' book does not go in that direction. She
overlooks such clues as the
signature carved by Essex over the entrance to his cell at the
Tower of London where he used the Welsh
spelling Robart Tidir (Robert Tudor) as a message to posterity
that he was Elizabeth's son. This bit of history can still be seen
in the Beaumont section of the Tower in London and its
implications are still deliberately kept secret by the Tower
guards since it contradicts the " official" story of Elizabeth's
reputation as the Virgin Queen.
However, this new book is truly a great
contribution toward reestablishing Francis Bacon as both an honest
man and an amazingly versatile genius whose prose and style
influenced later poets such as Byron and Shelley and writers such
as Coleridge and Emerson, in addition to making his mark on
literary contemporaries like Ben Jonson. Mathews has also done her
research on the Manes
Verulamiani, the book of eulogies
that was written and published by Bacon's own peers at the time of
his death and contains pages of lavish praise which salute him as
a highly-esteemed poet and dramatist. This often-overlooked book
of eulogies is an important testimony to the fact that Bacon was a
great poet and dramatist. It also acknowledges him as being
associated with Pallas Athena, the goddess of wisdom who shakes
her spear at ignorance. It is her nickname: "The Spearshaker" that
is the origin for the word Shakespeare that currently adorns
Francis Bacon's most famous literary achievements. Unfortunately,
Mathews tiptoes over the Shakespeare Authorship question, perhaps
because it is not part of the domain and purpose of her book.
However, one cannot help but wonder what she secretly thinks on
the matter of Authorship after having spent so many years closely
examining Bacon's life.