Parallelisms and the Promus

by

Martin Pares


Martin Pares was President of the Bacon Society from 1956-1962.

from Baconiana August, 1963

There is a very good psychological reason why orthodox scholarship is so concerned to repudiate any suggestion of Lord Bacon's connection with Shake-speare. This is to protect the Bard (whom all admire, whoever he was) from the stigma of Lord Bacon's supposed corruption, which they in their ignorance take for granted.-Martin Pares


Francis Bacon's notebook his "gag book" cannot be easily dismissed by a fanciful theory because it contains much in Bacon's own handwriting. It is a careful and methodical collection of happy phrases, words and slogans, and is still in the British Museum. If Will Shakespere had compiled even one page of The Promus, it would now be regarded as a priceless literary treasure. Probably it would be reposing today in the Folger Library in Washington D.C. together with the largest collection in the world of Shakespeareana, including 80 copies of the First Folio, but not one single Shakespeare Manuscript exists. But happily for us the gag book being in Bacon's hand, remains in England.--editors of Baconiana


 

Carrying a waking and a waiting eye. --Francis Bacon

The survival of Bacon's personal notes, and the fact that they were used or parallelled in the Shakespeare Plays, has a definite significance. The compiling of notes, even of commonplaces or proverbs, indicates a purpose. The fact that many of these parallels are so involved as to suggest the working of a single mind or wholesale plagiarism, increases their significance; presently we shall give examples.

Of course every parallel must be judged on its merits. Proverbs and wisecracks are of little value if in general use. Such phrases as "thought is free", "seldom cometh the better", and "a fool's bolt is soon shot", would have little significance if they had not been included by Bacon in his MS notes. But he happens to have noted them down, and there are in addition a great number of unconscious parallels in Bacon and Shakespeare which no serious investigator of personal identity can afford to ingnore.

Lord Bacon observed that "men believe what they prefer" and Dr. H. N. Gibson's preference for the Stratford legend has led him, in The Shakespeare Claimnants, to reduce much valuable evidence to airy nothing. A good advocate(and he is certainly one) can explain away almost anything, even the obvious meaning and purpose of a notebook!

The following axiomatic points in regard to parallelisms cannot be ignored.... When two contemporary writers quote from the same text, two things become established; firstly, that their reading of classical or contemporary literature covered the same ground; secondly, that they were both interested enough in the same quotation to recall it.

When two contemporary writers not only quote, but misquote from a common source, and misquote in exactly the same way, then coincidence is unlikely and either plagiarism, collaboration, or the unity of their writings, is the more probable explanation.

When two contemporary writers, who never once mention each other, give repeated expression to the same sequence of thoughts or words; and when one of them actually leaves us a private notebook written in his own hand, which contains proverbs, slogans and gags which appear later in the second writer's plays, then some kind of association is indicated.

When, having considered a great number of parallels---ranging from abstruse classicisms to complex identities of thought--we are asked to swallow the fact that the second writer was not known to be educated at any school, never wrote a letter to anyone that has survived, never left a notebook of any kind, and even in his will made no mention of books, literature or the drama, then we must entertain the possibility that he was acting as a mask, or, as we should now say, doing a job!

The self-evident fact that Bacon's notes in The Promus were put to good theatrical use in the Shake-speare plays, and were by no means confined to professional or forensic use, is naturally repugnant to the orthodox. Bacon, they say, had no interest in the theatre, and they even maintain the absurd fiction that he was quite ignorant of the Shakespeare Plays. They forget the masques and devices in which he was personally involved, and which show how close these theatricals lay to his heart.

In 1589 he designed the "Dumbshow' of The Misfortunes of Arthur, which was played at Gray's Inn before the Queen.

In 1592 he composed what Mr. Spedding calls 'A Conference of Pleasure' which contains the germ of Julius Caesar, and which was included in the Northumberland papers with two Shakespearean Plays.(There is now a conspiracy among the orthodox to suggest that these manuscripts did not belong to Bacon, although his name heads the cover page and most of the surviving compositions are his work.)

In 1594 he contributed the speeches of the Six Counsellors to The Masque of the Order of the Helmet which was performed at the Gray's Inn Revels contemporaneously with The Comedy of Errors.

He composed or assisted in composing The Device of the Indian Prince, which contains much that is suggestive of passages in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

He composed The Philautia Device for Essex, in which Southampton titled and Tobie Matthew played the part of Squire.

When Solicitor-General, he was chief contriver of The Marriage of the Rhine and Thames, which celebrated the nupitals of the daughter of the King.

In 1612-13, when Attorney-General he rivalled the magnificience of Wolsey in the preparation of The Masque of Flowers,which celebrated the marriage of Somerset and Lady Essex.

As Lord Chancellor he patronised, if he did not assist in, the production of the Masque of Mountebanks , which ws produced in his honour by the members of the Inn.

The impressive list of Bacon's own revels finds its counterpart in the masques and dumbshows which play so considerable a part within the Shake-speare plays, being often introduced without any kind of dramatic necessity. The following plays contain masques, dumbshows and plays within plays: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, Timon of Athens, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, Henry the Eighth.

Masques and revels were the fashion of the times, but evidently Francis Bacon and "Shakespeare" had both an especial fondness for them. Shakespeare, at considerable dramatic risk, introduces them into his plays. Bacon, besides contriving them, writes a charming essay about them. He describes them as "Toyes" but he cannot conceal his interest in their technicalities. Acting in song, alteration of scenes, coloured and varied lights, and above all the quality of the acting and mine, are all to be given most careful consideration. The truth is that Bacon, in his early days, did not seriously practise the law; nor did his philosophical writings, apart from a few fragments, begin to emerge until he was 45. That he was pondering them at an early age is true; but there must have been some other time-absorbing employment for the pen of this restless and imaginative genius during the first 25 years of his adult life. Parliamentary duties were few and far between, and there were years spent at Gray's Inn for which Speedding is at a loss to account.

The parallels which follow are divided into two lists. The names of their original dicoverers are not given, and they are arranged somewhat differently. The first list is a brief selection of almost verbatim parallels with Bacon's Promus. These are mostly in the form of happy phrases and greetings, common perhaps to many writers, but which Bacon actually inscribed in his notebook and which later appeared in Shakespearean drama. No claim is made that they were original; it is enough that they were carefully noted by one pen and actually used by the other.

Bacon

Shakespeare
Shakespeare

Thought is free

Thought is free
Thoughts are no subjects.

Promus 653

The Tempest
Measure for Measure

Bacon

Shakespeare

Qui dissimulat liber non est

The dissembler is a slave

Promus 72
Pericles 1/1

Bacon
Shakespeare

A fool's bolt is soon shot
A fool's bolt is soon shot

Promus 106
Henry V 3/7

Bacon

Shakespeare

Seldome cometh the better

Seldome comes the better

Promus 472

Richard III 2/3

Bacon
Shakespeare

All is not gold that glisters
All that glisters is not gold

Promus 477
Merchant of Venice 2/7

Bacon

Shakespeare

Things done cannot be undone
What's done cannot be undone

Promus 951

Macbeth, v. I

Bacon

Shakespeare

All's well that ends well

All's well that ends well

Promus 949

Title

Bacon

Shakespeare

Of sufferance cometh ease

Of sufferance cometh ease

Promus 945

I King Henry IV, v.4

Bacon

Shakespeare

Plumbeo jugulare gladio

Wounds like a leaden sword

Promus 725

Love's Labour's Lost

Bacon

 

Shakespeare

An ill wind that bloweth no man to good

The ill wind which blows no man to good

Promus 498

 

2 Henry IV, v.3

Bacon

Shakespeare

Happy man, happy dole

Happy man be his dole

Promus 940

Merry Wives of Windsor,111.4

Bacon

Shakespeare

Might overcomes right

O God that right should overcome this might

Promus 96

2 Henry IV, 4/4

Bacon

Shakespeare

Good wine needs no bush

Good wine needs no bush

Promus 517

As You Like It, Epilogue

Bacon

Shakespeare

Diliculo surgere

Diliculo surgere

Promus 1198

Twelfth Night 2/3

Bacon

Shakespeare

To stumble at the threshold

Men that stumble at the threshold

Promus 75

3 Henry VI 4/7

Bacon

Shakespeare

 Always let losers have their words

Losers will have leave to ease their stomachs with their bitter tongue

Promus 972

 

Titus Andronicus

The important point in the above selection is that Francis Bacon took the trouble to enter these notes for future use, and that they were so used by Shake-speare. It matters not that many of them are wisecracks or proverbs, unless it can be shown that a contemporary writer other than Shake-speare used them to something approaching the same extent.

Part II