In a lecture on Francis
Bacon's essays, recently delivered in our American Cambridge by an
instructor of Harvard university, the audience, when the essay of
Love had been read, was convulsed with laughter by the quizzical
injunction addressed to it. "Fancy Bacon writing 'Romeo and Juliet!'"
Lord Tennyson, had he been present, would undoubtedly have been in
full sympathy with the spirit of the occasion, for he also, referring
to the same essay, once asked, " Could Bacon, holding such
sentiments, have written 'Romeo and Juliet?' " Tennyson's own answer
to the question was this : "any man who believes that he could have
done so is a fool." Indeed, the opinion among cultivated people on
both sides of the Atlantic, that the greatest with one possible
exception the world has produced, and according to Macaulay, the
"possessor of the most exquisitely constructed intellect ever
bestowed on any children of men" was incapacitated by a
constitutional defect in his character to write the garden scene in
the famous play is so general that we are brought face to face with a
new problem, not in authorship alone, but in psychology itself. The
question is not one of intellectual power, of style of writing, of
differences in poetry and prose as expressions of thought, but of the
heart, of pure feeling. It was the seeming incongruity on this point
and on this only for the moment that drew the remark in question from
the learned professor and the merriment with which it was received by
If there be one judgment concerning Francis Bacon in which all agreed, it is that he was the most gifted interpreter of human nature the world has ever known. His name is in this respect always on the tongue with Shakespeare's. Henry Hallam, perhaps the foremost critic of the English-speaking race compares him "with Aristotle, Thucydides, Tacitus, Philippe de Comines, Machiavel, Davila, Hume, with the historians most celebrated for their deep insight into civil society and human character," and then declares Bacon may almost be said to equal "all of them together;" even Alexander Pope, in the same breath with his famous sneer, called him the "wisest of mankind." Sir William Rawley, who was Bacon's chaplain and who knew him best, says, "that on the subject of character Bacon seems to have had a beam of knowledge directly derived from God."
Now, how can this be, if Bacon did not possess the key that unlocks more than one half of the enigmas of the world; that explains more than on half of the difficult and perplexing situations in which men and women find themselves in the conduct of life? If the tenderest and sweetest of passions were a stranger to Bacon's heart, how could Hepworth Dixon have painted this picture of him :
"A soft voice, a laughing lip, a melting heart, made him hosts of friends. No child could resist the spell of his sweet speech, of his tender smile, of his grace without study, his frankness without guile."
"All his pores lie open to external nature; birds and flowers delight his eye; his pulse beats quick at the sight of a fine horse, a ship in full sail, a soft sweep of country; everything holy, innocent and gay acts on his spirits like wine on a strong man's blood. Joyous, helpful, swift to do good, slow to think evil, he leaves on every one who meets him a sense of friendliness, of peace and power.
He hungered, as for food, to rule and bless mankind."
We now ask our readers, who of them can hang, in
the chambers of his memory, the portrait of a man more gentle, more
charming, more loving than this?
The incidents of Bacon's private life, so far as we have any knowledge of them, do no justify an inference on this subject against him. His treatment of Essex, which Mr. Gladstone, could not condemn and which we ourselves deem to have been entirely honorable, is not pertinent to our inquiry. His unsuccessful wooing of Lady Hatton cannot be cited to his prejudice, even though the unfortunate lady did prefer Sir Edward Coke, and against the eight objections of her friends, (the crabbed lawyer's seven children and himself,) actually married him. Nor can we draw any conclusion from the fact that a short time before his death he canceled a provision he had made in his will in behalf of his wife, for we know absolutely nothing of the circumstances of the case, except that the widow, also immediately afterward, reentered the bonds of matrimony, this time with her usher.
Unfortunately, we must now seek the truth for a man's private character in the least satisfactory of all sources; that is, in his utterances designed for the public. Bacon's letters, written on every sort of occasion, have been preserved to us by the hundred, we had almost said by the thousand, but they give us not a hint of any abnormality in the state of his affections or in his regard for the finer sex. We must judge Bacon, as we judge every other person, by the whole tenor of his thought, wherever we find it. The standard of judgment here is not of our choosing, for the question is, have we any reason to believe, with Prof. Copeland of Harvard and the most intelligent audience America can assemble, that Bacon was constitutionally unable to write "Rome and Juliet?" If therefore Bacon's sentiments on love can be shown to have been in harmony with Shakespeare's, that question is beyond all controversy settled, and settled favorably to Bacon.
To this comparison we now invite the attention of our readers :
Shake-speare : "When we vow to weep seas, live in fire, eat rocks, tame tigers; thinking it harder for our mistress to devise imposition enough than for us to undergo any difficulty imposed, this is the monstrosity of love." Troilus & Cressida, III, 2. 76
Bacon "Speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing but love." Essay of Love
Shake-speare :"Why , man , she is mine own,
And I as rich in having such a jewel
As twenty seas, if all their sand were pearl,
The water nectar, and the rocks pure gold."
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, II 4, 166
There was never proud man thought so
absurdly well of himself as the lover doth of the person loved.
Essay of Love
Love and Wisdom
Shake-speare : To be wise and love
Exceeds man's might; that
dwells with gods above."
Troilus and Cressida , III, 2, 154
Bacon : It is impossible to love and to be wise.
Essay of Love
The original of this saying appears to have been
in Publicus Syrus, a mimographer of the time of Julius Caesar, who
expressed it thus :
"It is scarcely possible for a god to love and be wise."
Bacon in his Advancement of Learning (1605) transferred the application to man as follows :
"It is not granted to love and be wise."
It will be seen that the author of Troilus and Cressida (1609) followed Bacon, rather than the Latin author. That is, both authors made the same deviation from the Latin text.
Shake-speare : A murderous guilt shows not itself more soon
Than love that would seem hid.
Love's night is noon.
Twelfth Night, III, 152
Bacon : Love cannot be hid.
Shake-speare : All the charms of love!
Let witchcraft join with beauty.
Anthony and Cleopatra, II, I, 20
Bacon : There be none of the affections which have been noted to
fascinate or bewitch but live and envy.
Essay of Envy
Shake-speare : Love moderately; long love doth so.
Romeo and Juliet, II, 6
Bacon : Love me little, love me long,
A Boy's Love
Shake-speare : He's mad that trusts in a boy's love.
King Lear, III, 6, 18
Bacon : A boy's love doth not last.
Love in Eyes
Shake-speare : Tell me, where is [love] bred,
Or in the heart or in the head?
How begot, how nourished?
Reply, reply :
It is engender'd in the eyes,
with gazing fed.
Merchant of Venice, III 2, 63
Bacon : Love and envy; they come easily into the eye.
And not by the eye alone, yet most forcibly by the eye.
Ladies Banished From Court
Shake-speare : Biron. Give me the paper
Let me read the same;
And to the strict'st decrees I'll
write my name.
Item, that no woman shall come within a mile of my court.
Item, if any man be seen to talk with a woman within the term of
three years, he shall endure such public shame as the rest of the court
can possibly devise.
Love's Labor Lost, I. 2, 120
Bacon :What! nothing but tasks, nothing but working days? No
feasting, no music, no dancing, no triumphs, no comedies, no love, no
At the Christmas revels of Gray's Inn, in 1594, a
mock court was held by the students there under the management of
Francis Bacon. One of the chief orders of the court was to forbid
members of the society of women. Music, dancing, feasting and other
similar diversions were also forbidden. At about the same time was
produced the play Love's Labor's Lost. in which another mock court is
held, and practically subject to the same orders relating to women.
The members of each court were even obliged to take oath not to speak
to a woman for the space of three years. The two courts seem to have
been modeled alike, not only in many respects under the same rules
and regulations, but also under the same pretenses, viz : pursuit of
The play was acted before the Queen at Christmas, 1597, but marked on the title page of the printed copy in the following year as "newly corrected and augmented." This would bring the date of its composition to about the time of the Revels at Gray's Inn.
Shake-speare : They here stand martyrs, slain in Cupid's wars.
Pericles, I, 1. 38
Bacon :Lovers never thought their profession sufficiently graced
till they had compared it to a warfare.
Shake-speare : It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue
her love to the Moor, nor he his to her; ....she must change to
Othello, I, 3, 342
Love is a devil; there is no evil angel but love.
Love's Labor's Lost, I, 2, 77
Bacon : Love is nourished on young flesh.
Love Creeps Before It Goes
Shake-speare : Love will creep in service where it cannot go.
The Two Gentlemen of Verono, IV, 2, 1
Bacon :Love must creep in service where it cannot go.
Letter to King James
King's Feared And Loved
Shake-speare : Never was monarch better fear'd and lov'd
Than is your majesty.
King Henry V, II, 2, 25
Bacon : That King which is not feared is not loved,.....not loved
for fear, but feared for love.
Essay of a King
Loved After Death
Shake-speare : I shall be lov'd when I am lack'd.
Coriolanus, IV, 1, 15.
Bacon :He will be loved when he is dead.
[What lack you? Question often put in old times by shop keepers on Cheapside to persons passing.]
Love and Greatness
Believe not that the dribbling
dart of love
Can pierce a complete bosom.
Measure for Measure, I. 4. 2
Bacon : Great spirits and great
business do keep out this weak passion.
Essay of Love
Othello , the Moor, was certainly
a "a great spirit," and when it was intimated to him in the Venetian
Senate that, should his bride accompany him to the war, he might
neglect the business of the State, he answered :
And heaven defend your good souls, that you think
I will your serious and great business scant
For she is with me: no, when light-wing'd toys
Of feather'd Cupid seal with wanton dullness
My speculative and officed instruments,
That my disports corrupt and taint my business,
Let housewives make a skillet of my helm,
And all indign and base adversities
Make head against my estimation!
Othello, I, 3,267
The rule of conduct under which
Othello acted after his marriage is thus laid down by Bacon :
"They do best who, if they cannot but admit love, yet make it keep quarter, and sever it wholly from their serious affairs."
Essay of Love
We summarize this rule as given on both sides:
My bride's companionship will not make me scant your serious affairs
Love must be wholly severed from serious affairs.
Love Defeating Men's Ends
Shake-speare :Your beauty,
Hath much deformed us; fashioning
Even to the opposed ends of our intents.
Love's Labor's Lost., V, 2, 748
from Bacon : It maketh men that they can no wise be true to their own ends.
Essay of Love
Soldiers Given to Love
Shake-speare : We are
And may that soldier a mere recreant prove
That means not, hath not, or is is not in love.
Troilus and Cressida, I,3, 286
from Bacon : I know not how, but martial men are given to love. I think it is but as they are given to wine, for perils commonly ask to be paid in pleasures.
Essay of Love
This passage from Bacon's essay was quoted by Lord Tennyson to prove that Bacon, owing to his peculiar sentiments on love, could not have written the plays of Shakespeare. And yet, here is the identical sentiment in Troilus and Cressida. It is equally proclaimed by both authors.
Love and Money
from Shake-speare : Nay, look you, sir, he tells you flatly what his mind is; why, give him gold enough and marry him to a puppet, or an aglet baby, or an old trot with ne'er a tooth in her head, though she have as many diseases as two an fifty horses; why, nothing comes amiss, so money comes withal.
from Bacon : Love does much
[for matrimony] but money does all.
Essay of Love
The Art of Wooing
from Shake-speare : Why, this it is to be a peevish girl, that flies her fortune when it follows her.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, V, 2, 49
from Bacon : Fortune has somewhat of the nature of a woman, who, if she be too much wooed, is commonly the farther off.
Advancement of Learning
Deformed Persons Devoid of Love
from Shake-speare : Since the
heavens have shap'd my body so,
Let hell make crook'd my mind to answer it.
And this word love, which grey beards call Divine,
Be resident in men like one another,
And not in me."
3 King Henry VI, 6, 78
from Bacon : Deformed persons are commonly even with nature, for as nature hath done ill by them, so do they by nature, being for the most part (as the scriptures saith) void of natural affection.
Essay of Deformity
King Richard III, according to Shake-speare, was so deformed that dogs in the street barked at him as he passed; and he was so devoid of natural affection that he murdered his wife, his brother Clarence and his two nephews in the Tower; and he died with his mother's curse resting upon him. Both authors attributed these evil deeds to his deformity.
Love in the Liver
from Shake-speare : If ever love had interest in his liver.
Much Ado About Nothing, IV, 1,232.
This is the liver vein, which makes flesh a deity.
Love's Labor's Lost, IV, 3,74
Ford. Love my wife?
Pistol. With liver burning hot.
Merry Wives of Windsor II, 2,116
Soothsayer. You shall be more beloving than belov'd.
Charmian. I had rather heat my liver with drinking.
Anthony and Cleopatra, I, 1, 22
The white cold virgin snow upon my heart
Abates the ardor of my liver.
The Tempest, IV,1, 55,56
from Bacon : Plato's opinion who located sensuality in the liver is not to be despised.
Advancement of Learning
Love Verses on Trees
from Shake-speare : O Rosalind! these trees shall be my books.
And in their barks my thoughts I'll character,
That every eye, which in this forest looks,
Shall see thy virtue witness'd everywhere,
Run, run, Orlando, carve on every tree
The fair, the chaste, the unexpressive she.
As You Like It, III, 2, 5
There is a man haunts the forest, that abuses our young plants with carving Rosalind on their barks; hangs odes upon hawthorns, and elegies on brambles; all forsooth, deifying the name of Rosalind. If I could meet that fancy monger, I would give him some good counsel, for he seems to have the quotidian of love upon him.
As You Like It, 355
From Bacon : It is a curiosity to have inscriptions or engravings in fruit or trees. This is easily performed by writing with a needle or bodkin or knife or the like, when the fruit or trees are young, for, as they grow, so the letters will grow, so the letters will grow more large and graphical. Tenerique meos incidure amores Arboribus; crescent illae, crescetis, amores.
The Latin passage in Bacon is quoted from Virgil's Bucolica (Ecl. X, 54), the full text of which may be translated as follows :
"I prefer to endure hardships in a forest, in the haunts of wild beasts, and carve my loves on young trees, then, as the trees, grow, ye, my loves, will grow."
We now know whence the dramatist derived the hint for placing wild beasts in the French forest of Arden, and love verses carved on growing trees there. The play was first printed in the folio of 1623; but Bacon quotes the passage from Virgil in his Promus (1594-6), several years before the play was written. The latter was entered in the stationer's registers August 4th, 1600, or almost immediately after Bacon had made use of the same kind of growing and enchanting love verses on trees, and taken them,too, from the same classical source as Shake-speare himself who must be credited with them.
Mark Anthony's Love
from Shake-speare : Look! where they come.
Enter Anthony and Cleopatra.
Take but good note, and you shall see him.
The triple pillar of the world, transformed
Into a strumpet's fool.
Anthony and Cleopatra, I. i, 10
From Bacon : You may observe that amongst all the great and worthy persons, (whereof the memory remaineth, ancient or modern) there is not one that hath been transported to the mad degree of love. You must except, nevertheless, Mark Anthony, the half partner of the Empire of Rome, and Appius Claudius.
Essay of Love
The following will also justify Bacon's exceptions :
Cleopatra. If it be love indeed, tell me how much.
Anthony. There's beggary in the love that can be reckon'd.
Cleopatra. I'll set a bourn how far to be belov'd.
Anthony. Then must thou needs find out new heaven, new earth.
Anthony and Cleopatra
The very man alone, out of all the world (with one exception) whose life Francis Bacon selected to illustrate the "mad degree of love" Shake-speare also selected, out of all with no exception, to illustrate the same thing.
Follies of Lovers
from Shake-speare : Lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit.
Merchant of Venice, II, 6, 36
From Bacon : A lover always commits some folly.
Love Itself, A Folly
from Shake-speare : By love the young and tender wit
Is turned to folly.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, I, 1. 47.
Hamlet (to Ophelia) Get thee to a nunnery.
Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what matters you make of them.
Hamlet, III, 1, 143
I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviors to love, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love. But I'll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me, he shall never make me such a fool.
Much Ado About Nothing, II,3, 7-26.
So true a fool is love.
From Bacon : Love is a child of folly.
Essay of Love
There is never any vehement love without some absurdity.
Letter to Cecil
Absent Lovers Communing Together
from Shake-speare : Imogen. I did not take my leave him, but had
Most pretty things to say, ere I could tell him
How I would think on him, at certain hours,
Such thoughts and such.....;
Or have charg'd him
At the sixth hour of morn, at noon, at midnight,
To encounter me with orisons, for then
I am in heaven with him.
Cymbeline I, 4, 25
From Bacon : Some trial should be made whether pact or agreement do anything; as if two friends should agree that on such a day in every week, being in far different places, they should pray one for another, or should put on a ring or tablet, one for another's sake.
Love and Fortune
from Shake-speare : Thou Julia, thou hast metamorphos'd me;
Made me neglect my studies, lose my time,
War with good counsel, set the world at naught.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, I, 1, 67.
The world is lost; we have kiss'd away kingdoms and provinces.
Anthony and Cleopatra, III, 8, 14
From Bacon : Whosoever esteemeth too much of amorous affection quitteth both riches and wisdom.
Essay of Love
All who, like Paris, prefer beauty, quit, like Paris, wisdom and power.
Figure in Ice
from Shake-speare : This weak impress of love is as figure
Trench'd in ice, which with an hour's heat
Dissolves to water and doth lose his form
Two Gentlemen of Verona III 2, 6
From Bacon : It is not written in ice, that when the body relenteth, the impression goeth away?
Charge against Owen
Bacon applies the similitude primarily to high treason.
One Nail Driving Out Another
from Shake-speare : As one nail by strength drives out another,
So the remembrance of my former love
Is by a new object quite forgotten.
Two Gentlemen of Verona II, 4, 191
One fire drives out one fire; one nail, one nail.
Coriolanus 4, 7, 54
From Bacon: Clavum clavo pellere (to drive out one nail with another)
from Shake-speare : Make thee another self, for love of me.
From Bacon: A friend [lover] is another himself.
Essay of Friendship
Love, A Madness
from Shake-speare :
Love is merely [wholly] a madness; and I tell you deserves as well a dark house and a whip* as mad men do; and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is, that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too.
As You Like It, III, 2, 394
The mad degree of love.
Essay of Love
* Whipping was the common penalty, inflicted upon insane people, in Shake-speare's time. Even so good a man as Sir Thomas More sent women who were acknowledged to be insane to the whipping post before he was himself put to death. The author of the Shake-speare dramas also approved of this punishment. And so did Bacon. One of Bacon's most intimate friends on the continent, one whom he delighted to visit his home in Geneva, was Theodore Beza. Beza was especially severe against those who believed insanity to be a natural malady , and declared : "Such persons are refuted both by sacred and profane history."
Suicide For Love
Roderigo : I will incontinently drown myself. It is silliness to live when when to live is a torment; and then have we a prescription to die, when death is our physician.
Iago. I never found a man that knew how to love himself. Ere I would say, I would drown myself for the love of a guinea hen, I would change my humanity with a baboon
What you call love is merely a lust of the blood and a permission of the will.
Come, be a man! drown thy self? Drown cats and blind puppies.
Othello, 1, 3, 318.
Men ought the nore to beware of this passion, for it hath its floods in the very time of weakness, which are great prosperity and great adversity.
Essay of Love
In Iago's speech, quoted above, we have Shake-speare's definition of love : "A lust of the blood and a permission of the will." Permission is derived from the latin per (intensive) and mittere, to send away, to banish utterly. This is one of many proofs that a thorough classical scholar, as Bacon was, wrote the play. This is precisely what Bacon calls (as above) "the mad degree of love," that is, giving the rein to one's passion.
Give me your gloves; I'll wear them for your sake;
And for your love, I'll take this ring from you.
Merchant of Venice, IV, 1, 426
It helpeth to continue love, if one wear a ring, or a bracelet of the hair of the party beloved; perhaps a glove, or other like favor, may as well do it.
O, flatter me, for love delights in praises.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, 4, 5, 148
There is no flatterer like a lover.
Conference of Pleasure
Love and Chaos
When I love thee not, Chaos is come again.
Othello, III, 3 92
Chaos is restrained and kept in order by the concord of things, which is love.
De AugmentisOthello identifies his individual love for Desdemona with Cupid, the first of the god, who, united with Chaos, created all things, and reduced the world to order. That is to say, in Bacon's system of philosophy Love is the force that binds the universe together; and therefore Othello asserts, with the usual hyperbolism of lovers, that should his own love for Desdemona cease, Chaos would come again.
Queen Elizabeth and Love
from Shake-speare: Cupid all arm'd a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal thron'd by the west;
And loos'd his love shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should piece a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the wat'ry moon,
And the imperial vot'ress passed on,
In maiden meditation fancy free.
A Midsummer Night's Dream., ii. 1 (1600)
Your majesty shall first see your own invaluable value, and thereby discern that the favors you vouchsafe are pure gifts and no exchanges. And if any be so happy as to have his affection accepted, yet your prerogative is such as they stand bound, and your Majesty is free.
Device of the Indian Prince (1595)
Both authors, it will be seen, assert that Queen Elizabeth was capable of inspiring the passion of love in others while she herself was always free from it.
In maiden meditation fancy* free. Shake-speare
In affection others stand bound, but your majesty is free. Bacon
* This word fancy was formerly used for loveThe foregoing citations will, we think, suffice for our present purpose. Bacon's Essay of Love embraces from first to last, according to our enumerations, fifteen points, modifying, conditioning and displaying that trait of character within certain limits of dramatization, every one of which is beyond all question in the Shakespeare plays, and nearly or quite every one duplicated, in prose and verse, in the above list. We ask our readers, friends and foes alike, to test the truth of this statement.
We may now claim, and we think with perfect justice, that our two authors were in total agreement on the subject of love. Indeed, the fact is not without recognition among intelligent commentators, as per example :
In Venus and Adonis the goddess after the death of her favorite utters a curse upon love which contains in the germ, as it were, the whole development of the subject as Shake-speare has unfolded it in the series of his dramas. GG. Gervinus Professor of Heidelberg
Fortunately we have another Essay of Love with which to compare Bacon's; it was written, as everybody agrees, by the author of Romeo and Juliet himself! It differs from Bacon's, that is, from what is known as Bacon's, in two respects : It is in verse while Bacon's is in prose; but this circumstance does not of course affect the quality of the sentiments. From a certain point of view it is worse than Bacon's, a veritable curse on Love. We give it entire :"Here I prophesy :
Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend;
It shall be waited on with jealousy,
Find sweet beginning, but unsavory end;
Ne'er settled equally, but high or low;
That all love's pleasure shall not match his woe.
It shall be fickle, false, and full of fraud;
Bud and be blasted in a breathing while;
The bottom poison, and the top o'erstraw'd
With sweets, that shall the truest sight beguile.
The strongest body shall it make most weak,
Strike the wise dumb and teach the fool to speak.
It shall be sparing, and too full of riot,
Teaching decrepit age to tread and measures;
The staring ruffian shall it keep in quiet,
Pluck down the rich, enrich the poor with treasures.
It shall be raging mad, and silly mild,
Make the young old, the old becomes a child.
It shall suspect, where is no cause of fear;
It shall not fear, where it should most mistrust;
It shall be merciful, and too severe,
And most deceiving, when it seems most just;
Perverse it shall be, where it shows most toward;
Put fear to valour, courage to the coward.
It shall be cause of war and dire events,
And set dissention 'twixt the son and sire;
Subject and servile to all discontents,
As dry combustious matter is to fire;
Sith in his prime death doth my love destroy,
They that love best their loves shall not enjoy."
Venus and Adonis
We wonder whether Lord Tennyson, Professor Goldwin Smith or Instructor Copeland ever heard of this curse? If so, how could they, solely on account of certain unsympathetic sentiments uttered by Bacon on Love, have denied his capacity to write Romeo and Juliet? Is there anything on the subject, either in Bacon or in the whole world's literature more unsympathetic than this from one of Shake-speare's own poems? Surely, if Bacon could not have written the play on the ground alleged, then, a fortiori, the author of Venus and Adonis himself could not have done so.
We now come to that other love which, as Bacon claims in the same essay and which Shakespeare proves in his Cymbeline, "perfecteth mankind." We have found our two authors thus far in full agreement but, we ask, are they so throughout the whole sphere of the passion? Does Bacon anywhere recognize love, as Shakespeare certainly does in The Tempest and elsewhere, to be a divine faculty of the soul?
On the Queen's birthday, in 1592, at a "Conference of Pleasure" (so called) in Gray's Inn, Bacon delivered a speech on Love. He was then nearly thirty-two years of age. We have a right to assume, and we do assume, that he then expressed the true sentiments of his heart. This speech, somewhat condensed from an imperfect copy of it has come down to us, ** (It was first discovered in the Northumberland House Library, London, in 1867, but found to have been injured by fire at some unknown time in the past. Much of it is now illegible)
we now submit to our readers :"My praise shall be dedicated to the happiest state of the mind, to the noblest affection. I shall teach lovers to love, that have all this while loved by rote. I shall give them the Alphabet of Love.
Let no man fear the yoke of fortune that's in the yoke of love. What fortune can be such a Hercules as shall be able to overcome two?
Assuredly no person ever saw at any time the mind of another in love. Love is the only passion that opens the heart. If not the highest, it is the sweetest affection of all others.
When one forseeth withal that to his many griefs cannot be added solitude, but that he shall have a partner to bear them, this quieteth the mind.
Consider again the delight of concurrence in desire without emulation. If two be but set at a game they love, or labor together in some one work or invention, mark how well pleased, how well disposed, how contented they be. So then, if minds are sharpened against minds, as iron is against iron, in every action, what shall we think of that union and conjunction of minds which love worketh? What vigor what alacrity must it give!
It is noted that absolute idleness and leisure, when the mind is altogether without object, is but languishing and weariness. How precious then is love, which is the sweetest repose from travails and affairs, and the sweetest employment in leisure and idleness!
The virtues are moderators, they are the laws of the mind; they retain the mind, they limit it; they are as the mill when it is set upon a rich stone; here it grindeth out a race and there a grain, to make it wear more fair; but in the meantime the stone loseth carats. So with the virtues; they polish the mind; they make it without blemish; they give it excellent form, but commonly they diminish its natural vigor.
Love contrariwise is a pure gain and advancement in nature ; not a good by comparison, but a true good; not an ease of pain, but a true good; not an ease of pain, but a true purchase of pleasures; and therefore, when our minds are soundest, when they are not, as it were, in sickness and out of taste, but when we be in prosperity, when we want nothing, then is the season, and the opportunity, and the spring of love.
Therefore, if all delight of sense affect love; if the understanding be tributary to love; if love offereth the sweetest contentment to him that desireth to rule, the comfortablest promise to him that looketh into his fortune, the surest hope to him that seekest to survive himself, the most flattering glass to him that loveth to view himself with advantage, the greatest union of mind to him that desireth the most refreshing repose from action, the most acceptable entertainment to him that would offer the most pleasing object to the most imprinting sense, let us make our suit to love, that gathereth the beams of so many pleasures into a flame in the soul of man."
The following is from the Advancement of Learning :"Love is called the bond of Perfection, because it comprehendeth and fasteneth all virtues together. If a man's mind be truly enkindled with love, his character will be improved by this passion more than it can be by all the principles of morality combined. The angels, aspiring to be like God in power, transgressed and fell; man, aspiring to be like God in knowledge, transgressed and fell; but, by aspiring to be like God in goodness or love, neither man nor angel ever transgressed or shall transgress.
Love is a better teacher for human life than a left handed sophist; for with all the latter's laborious rules and precepts he cannot form a man so dexterously, nor with that facility to prize and govern himself in all things, so love can do. "
We know give Francis Bacon's famous Essay of Love in full with our much needed exposition of it."The stage is more beholding to love, that the life of man. For as to the stage, love is ever matter of comedies, and now and then of tragedies; but in life it doth much mischief; sometimes like a siren, sometimes like a fury.
You may observe, that amongst all the great and worthy persons (whereof the memory remaineth, either ancient or recent) there is not one, that hath been transported to the mad degree of love: which shows that great spirits, and great business, do keep out this weak passion. You must except, nevertheless, Marcus Antonius, the half partner of the empire of Rome, and Appius Claudius, the decemvir and lawgiver; whereof the former was indeed a voluptuous man, and inordinate; but the latter was an austere and wise man: and therefore it seems (though rarely) that love can find entrance, not only into an open heart, but also into a heart well fortified, if watch be not well kept. It is a poor saying of Epicurus, Satis magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus; as if man, made for the contemplation of heaven, and all noble objects, should do nothing but kneel before a little idol and make himself a subject, though not of the mouth (as beasts are), yet of the eye; which was given him for higher purposes.
It is a strange thing, to note the excess of this passion, and how it braves the nature, and value of things, by this; that the speaking in a perpetual hyperbole, is comely in nothing but in love. Neither is it merely in the phrase; for whereas it hath been well said, that the arch-flatterer, with whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence, is a man's self; certainly the lover is more. For there was never proud man thought so absurdly well of himself, as the lover doth of the person loved; and therefore it was well said, That it is impossible to love, and to be wise. Neither doth this weakness appear to others only, and not to the party loved; but to the loved most of all, except the love be reciproque.
For it is a true rule, that love is ever rewarded, either with the reciproque, or with an inward and secret contempt. By how much the more, men ought to beware of this passion, which loseth not only other things, but itself! As for the other losses, the poet's relation doth well figure them: that he that preferred Helena, quitted the gifts of Juno and Pallas. For whosoever esteemeth too much of amorous affection, quitteth both riches and wisdom.
This passion hath his floods, in very times of weakness; which are great prosperity, and great adversity; though this latter hath been less observed: both which times kindle love, and make it more fervent, and therefore show it to be the child of folly. They do best, who if they cannot but admit love, yet make it keep quarters; and sever it wholly from their serious affairs, and actions, of life; for if it check once with business, it troubleth men's fortunes, and maketh men, that they can no ways be true to their own ends.
I know not how, but martial men are given to love: I think, it is but as they are given to wine; for perils commonly ask to be paid in pleasures. There is in man's nature, a secret inclination and motion, towards love of others, which if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable; as it is seen sometime in friars. Nuptial love maketh mankind; friendly love perfecteth it; but wanton love corrupteth, and embaseth it."
The key to this essay is found in the first sentence of it, where, naturally, the author's special point of view in writing it is distinctly implied. The subject is Love as seen on the stage; that is, not in the seclusion and privacy of home where it properly belongs, but before the eyes of the public. This accounts not only for the absolute unity of the conception in Bacon and Shake-speare, but also for the perfect truthfulness with which the passion is everywhere analyzed and portrayed. We must express our regret that the three distinguished literati whom we have quoted herein did not on this occasion exhibit their usual acumen and good sense. In the case of the poet laureate, however, ignorance was no justification for intemperate language.