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The text of a talk given by Lawrence Gerald for the Shakespeare Roundtable at the Beverly Hills Library on December 7, 1996.

 

The Political Climate of Europe in Bacon's Time

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 topics.

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 23, 1938.)

As Machiavelli once said: "There is generally but a short interval between the prison and the graves of princes."

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.

Bacon goes to France, Writes Poetry and Other Quotes

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 Edward Johnson's Shakespeare's Sonnets.

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 poetry."

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."

Development of a Pen-name

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 Shakespeare

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 four:

Biron: "That you three fools lack'd me fool to make up the mess."
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 once.

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 follows:

"Indeed", said the judge, "how can that be?"
"Why, if it please your honor, my name is Hogg and yours is Bacon."
"Nay", replied Sir Nicholas, "but Hogg cannot be Bacon until it well hanged."

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, hog"
Quickly: "Hang, hog is latin for bacon, I warrant you."

Manes 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 day.

One writer says, in reference to the Tudor rose:
"In thy page, noble Bacon, thy roses unite." (Essex and himself).

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 as:
"One who Apollo feared would oust him from being King of the Muses, and incomparably surpassing all the poets and sages of antiquity."

And also says of Bacon:
"That he being the greatest poet as well as sage the world ever saw."

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Nieves Mathews Brings Home the Bacon and Restores a Reputation

A Review of Francis Bacon: The History of a Character Assassination by Nieves Mathews. Yale University Press, 1996.



Reviewed by Lawrence Gerald, editor of The New Athenian Newsletter

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.

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