One word more. A common farm-laborer in England uses, it is said, five hundred words; the average educated business man, three thousand; a writer like Thackeray, five thousand; the great poet, scholar, and publicist, John Milton, "who carried the idiomatic powers of the English tongue," says Macaulay, "to their highest perfection, and to whose style every ancient and every modern language contributed something of grace, of energy, and of music," used seven thousand. How many words did the author of "Shake-speare" use? According to Professor Craik, a recognized authority in this branch of science, twenty-one thousand,--inflectional forms not counted.
Who was it, living in England in the latter part of the sixteenth and the early part of the seventeenth centuries, that compassed so enormous a range of diction? Was it William Shakspere, the actor, born and bred in what Halliwell-Phillipps called a "bookless neighborhood," where the number of books outside of the school and the church could not have exceeded, as Richard Grant White tells us, a half-dozen in the whole town,--where, in a population of about twelve hundred, not more than fifty, or at most one hundred, persons could read or write, whose own father and mother could not read or write, and both of whose daughters went to their graves late in life without having read, it is supposed, a line of their father's works, if he ever wrote any,--one of them even selling the manuscript copy of a book, written by her deceased husband for publication, because she could not identify the handwriting, though repeatedly urged to do so? Was this the man, uneducated, as his contemporaries called him, an impostor, as every one who knew him in the character of a dramatist called him,--was this the man whose vocabulary, enriched with the spoils of five languages besides his own, was greater, three times greater, it would seem, than that of any other mortal who ever lived? Must we permit the nineteenth century to go out and join the vast congregation of the ages stained with a superstition so palpable, so humiliating to us, so unspeakably absurd as this?
Let us rather turn to the man who at the age of twelve entered Cambridge University; who at fifteen exhausted that fount of learning, and left it without taking his degree; who then devoted three years to the further study of literature, art, science, government, and the modern languages, on the Continent; who on his return home notified his uncle, the Prime Minister of England, that he had made all knowledge, ALL KNOWLEDGE, his province; who was kept from active service in political life till he was nearly fifty years old, and was then found to be in the possession of phenomenal habits of study which his acknowledged works do not account for,--the first of his philosophical series not appearing till he had been
twenty-nine years out of college; whose mind was comprehensive rather than analytical, unable to grasp the commonest physical science in which mathematics plays a prominent part, but conspicuously rich in that which makes the plays immortal,--practical wisdom, knowledge of human nature, and of the secret springs of human conduct; whose manner of writing was wonderfully varied and ductile; who has justly been styled the Prose-Poet of Modern Science; who privately styled himself a "concealed poet," who in the most solemn manner before his death claimed to have sought the good of all men in some work or works which were "despised," which he had therefore written, as he said, "in a weed," or under a pseudonym, and which Sir Toby Matthew undoubtedly referred to when he pronounced the author the most prodigious wit of all the world, though known by the name of another; and, finally, whose intellectual eminence is to this day one of the unsolved enigmas of mankind.
Return to Table of Contents for Bacon vs Shakspere
I. THE AUTHOR OF THE "SHAKE-SPEARE" PLAYS . . . . . 1
II. WILLIAM SHAKSPERE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
III. FRANCIS BACON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
IV. OBJECTIONS CONSIDERED . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118
V. COINCIDENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
VI. DISILLUSION, A GAIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 264
VII. BIOGRAPHY OF SHAKSPERE IN FACT AND IN FICTION . . 266
VIII. SUMMARY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 280
INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283
LIST OF AUTHORS CONSULTED.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS