THE STORY OF THE LEARNED PIG


by T.D. BOKENHAM

 

December 1989 Baconiana

 

Some years ago, I gave a talk to members of the Francis Bacon Society on this little book which was published anonymously in 1786 and which is now considered to be one of the first books which openly questioned the Shakespeare authorship of the plays.

In his New Views For Old (1932) Roderick Eagle gave us some account of this book which he attributed to the Rev. James Wilmot D.D, who was Rector of Barton-on-the-Heath in Warwickshire. It has been claimed, that Wilmot was also the author of the famous Letters of Junius. He was a student of Bacon's works and was struck by similiarities of thought, diction and even errors in both Bacon's and Shakespeare's works and he came to the conclusion, after years of study, that one author was responsible for both sets of writings.

This book was also noticed by W. H. Prescott in the first number of American Baconiana of February 1923. In discussing it Prescot referred to the first incarnation which the pig could remember, which was in the person of Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome. He then turned to the last of the Latin elegaic praises to Bacon appearing in the Manes Verulamiani which contains the lines :

Crescere Pegaseas docuit, velut Hasta Quirini
Creuit, et exiguo tempore Laurus erat.

These have been translated as "He taught the Pegasean arts to grow, as grew the spear of Quirinus swiftly into a laurel tree." This poem was written by Thomas Randolph of Trinity College Cambridge and the word "Quirinus", etmologically, means the Spear Shaker and later became the name for Romulus who threw a spear into the Quirinal.

Prescott also pointed out that this book was signed "Transmigratus"which means one who has passed into a different body. This aptly describes the Learned Pig whose story concerns the many incarnations through which he passed during his long existence. Some of these episodes are very amusing. Prescott tells us that, in simple cipher, the word "Transmigratus" adds to 171 which is the K count of FRANCIS. For those who dispute this K count, it will be found that 171 is also the combined counts of 100= FRANCIS BACON and 71 the reverse count of AUTHOR. It is also the reverse count of BACON (92) + the simple count of AUTHOR (79).

Like other humerous and allegorical stories thought to have been written by Bacon, some of the episodes in this book are obviously there merely for the fun of the thing, but some seem to to be capable of deeper meaning. If, indeed, Bacon had a hand in the authorship, it is evident that parts were added by an eighteenth century writer in order to disguise its original source. For example, we are told that, after Romulus was killed by Numa his body was buried secretly, but was later reburied where the Capitol was later erected by Tarquin the Proud. One may wonder whether this is a subtle hint concerning the removal of a certain body to the Capitol where it was later erected a curious monument in Westminster Abbey. On the other hand, it could be a reference to one who resurrected the ancient Roman (and Greek) wisdom and who revised and replanted it in this country. Numa Pompilius is said to have been the founder of all the ancient institutions of Rome. He built the Temple of Janus and instituted the Flamens, or sacred priests of Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus, and other fraternities. Janus was one of the principle Roman deities. He was originally the God of Light and Day and later became God of the beginning and origin of all things and was therefore the spirit of the opening; the double head was connected with the Temple arch or gate that opened both ways, east and west.
Livy tells us a curious story of some stone chests, bearing inscriptions in Greek and Latin, which were found at the foot of the Janiculum in 181 B.C. One was supposed to contain the body of Numa and the other his books. The story was referred to by Francis Bacon :

I remember Livy doth relate that there were found at a time, two coffins of lead in a tomb, whereof the one contained the body of King Numa, it being some four hundred years after his death; and the other his Books of Sacred Rites and Ceremonies and the discipline of the Pontiffs. And in the coffin that had the body, there was nothing at all to be seen but a little light Cinders about the sides, but in the coffin that had the books, they were found as fresh as if they had been but newly written, being written on parchament and covered over with Watch candles of wax three or fold fold.

It is not suprising that Francis Bacon was interested in Numa but to describe this story in such detail, with special mention of the method of preserving manuscripts for long periods against damp reminds us of that coffin which John Aubrey told was removed in 1681 from the vault under the alter of St. Michael's Church in Gorhambury.

Our Learned Pig's next incarnation was in the body of a horse which was eventually killed in a battle with the Sabines. He then "successfully passed through a jack-ass, a monkey, a bear and a boar-cat" which was an old name for a Tom-cat. Our friend's next incarnation was that of Brutus, in which episode he denies that his stabbing Caesar had a patriotic motive. But we must pass on :

From the illustrious body of Brutus I was quickly impelled into that of a dog belonging to Roman Citizen; and so I became the fawning attendant of the man I had vainly hoped to have made my abject slave. I endeavoured, however, to make a virtue of necessity and reconcile myself to my fate; but one day, having unfortunately bit his only son who had pulled me a little roughly by the tail, I was sentenced to be hanged; and so received that death as a dog, I had most richly deserved as a man.
I was now doomed to inhabit the bodies of small, short-lived animals 'till a certain period at the beginning of the 16th century, and during that long interval, may truly be said to have lived and died the prey of anxiety, disappointment, grief, pain, despair and whatever can contribute to fill up the scorpions, lizards, ants, worms and almost every species of insect and small reptile in all parts of the terraqueous globe. Where I give you a circumstantial account of my connections, deaths, fatigues, escapes and various incidents of so many ages passed in that minute part of creation, I could, no doubt, find matter for the entertainment of many days, but I should only consider this an abuse of your patience, though I might be warranted by many great examples.

After further adventures, deaths and incarnations, we now come to an important reference to Ben Jonson which should not pass without notice :

I am now come to a period in which, to my great joy, I once more got possession of a human body. My parents, indeed, were of low extraction; my mother sold fish about the streets of this metropolis and my father was a water-carrier; even that same water-carrier; celebrated by Ben Jonson in his comedy of Every Man in His Humour.

This play, like its predecessor, Every Man Out of His Humour, was aimed at those who attempt to pass themselves off as someone else. In the latter play is included the well known attack on Shakespeare and his newly aquired Coat of Arms, while The Poetaster presents us with a student Ovid Junior who neglected his law studies and writing poetry and plays. Jonson's water-carrier was Oliver Cob who tells us that his ancestor was "the first red herring that was broiled in Adam and Eve's kitchen, I smell his ghost ever and anon." A cob was a young herring. Asked about his unsavoury jest, he replied, " Why not the ghost of a herring cob as well as the ghost of rasher-bacon, they were both broiled on the coals, and a man may smell broiled meat, I hope? You are a scholar, upsolve me that now." Shall we try and "upsolve" the words "broiled meat.?" These words add, in simple cipher, to 111, the count of THE AUTHOR. In reverse cipher they add to 176, the count of FR TUDOR.

The reference to "rasher-bacon" was obviously dragged in for a purpose as with a similar reference in The Merchant of Venice which was written at about the same time. Who borrowed from whom is not clear but in the Merchant the clown, while speaking of the conversion of the Jews, says, "this making of Christians will raise the price of Hogs, if wee all grow to be porke-eaters, wee shall not shortly have a rasher on the coals for money."
Our Learned Pig continues :

I was early in life initiated in the profession of horse-holder to those who came to visit the play house where I was well known by the name of Pimping Billy.------ I soon after contracted a friendship with that great man and first of geniuses, the immortal Shakespeare, and am happy in now having it in my power to refute the prevailing opinion of his having run his country for deer-stealing, which is as false as it is disgracing. The fact is, sir, that he had contracted an intimacy with the wife of a country Justice near Stratford, from his having extolled her beauty in common ballad; and was unfortunately, by his worship himself, detected in a very awkward situation with her. Shakespeare, to avoid the consequences of this discovery, thought it most prudent to decamp. This I had from his own mouth. With equal falsehood has he been father'd with many spurious dramatic pieces, "Hamlet," "Othello," "As You Like It," "The Tempest," and "Midsummer's Night Dream" for five; all of which I confess to be the author. And that I should turn poet is not to be wondered at, since nothing is more natural than to contract the ways and manners of those with whom we live in habits of strict intimacy."

This episode ends with a sly thrust at our modern critics :

You will of course expect me to say something of the comments that have been made by various hands on these works of mine and his : but the fact is, they all run so wide of the real sense that it would be hard to say who erred most. In this condition I for some time enjoyed and uninterrupted happiness, living at my ease on the profits of my stage-plays, and what I got by horse holding. But alas! how transient is all human felicity! The preference given to Shakespeare over me, and the great countenance shewn him by the first crowned head in the world, and all people of taste and quality, threw me into so violent a fit of spleen that it soon put a period to my existence.

The book ends with a long and moving plea for officers of the Navy whose livelihood, when discharged after a long war, was reduced to penury. This scene was witnessed by the Learned Pig who, before the ex officer arrived, was to take part in an "exhibition" to be presented by the master of the house :

A triple alphabet was placed on the floor and the spectators being seated, the word "Sovereignty" was called for. Scarcely had I picked out the first letter, when a servant entered in great consternation, and acquainted the lord of the house that a young man with one arm and of mean appearance was at the door.

After this unfortunate man left, the Pig informs the lord that he had become the slave of a passion for a lady who rejected him. He ends by saying :

In fine, Sir, judge how great must be my mortification at being rejected by a woman in so humble a sphere! I, who have conquered and planted empires, given laws to the greatest nations in the world, and on whose smiles the most illustrious and beautiful of the sex have lived, and thought themselves happy.

The reference to a triple alphabet and to the first letter of the word "Sovereignty" which was picked out, seems to smack of cipher and, perhaps, refers to the triple aphabet discovered by Ewen MacDuff in Bacon's Abecedariun Naturae which was first published in 1679. In this alphabet, "Triple S"= 66, just as "Triple T" or Triple TAU"= 67 or FRANCIS. By selecting the first letter of the word "SOVEREIGNTY" our Learned Pig may be intended to convert the remaining letters of this word into triple cipher numbers. In doing this, what do we find?

The initial S= 66 which is the count of ROYAL;
then comes an O= 62 which is the count of PRINCE.
We also have an R=65 which is the Count of ST. ALBAN;
a T= 67 which is the count of FRANCIS;
and a Y= 71 which is the R count of AUTHOR.

This seems to be all that we need, but we should account for the remaining letters of the word "Sovereignty." These are V (68) E (53), I (57), G (55), and N (61). If we take the V and I together, they add to 125 which is the count of FRANCIS HANG HOG, a most apt pseudonym for use in this particular book. We are now left with a total of 222. It has frequently been found that when Francis St.Alban enciphers a claim tht he was a royal prince he included the title TUDOR, the reverse count of which is 51. This leaves us with a total of 171 which, as W. M. Prescott discovered, is the count of the author's pseudonym TRANSMIGRATUS.

We have found that 66 is the count of ROYAL, but which word is not now necessary. It is also the reverse count of the words IS THE, so that the triple count of the letters of the word "Sovereignty" gives us the cryptic message,
FRANCIS ST.ALBAN, FRANCIS HANG HOG, TUDOR PRINCE, IS THE AUTHOR, TRANSMIGRATUS.

All of these cipher counts have been used on previous occasions and this message confirms that this Story of the Learned Pig originated from the pen of Francis Bacon and was published in an eighteenth century wrapping. The book typifies Bacon's method of concealing truths while, at the same time, leaving an interesting trail for a later generation to discover. It is sad that it took a further hundred years before the Francis Bacon Society was founded, and it is now a hundred years since that time that the truth is beginning to be accepted by a reluctant world. Maybe by AD2086, someone will have unearthed a hidden manuscript which will redeem the world from its primitive idol worship, or as some say, Bardolatry.

-end-

T.D. Bokenham was a member of the Francis Bacon Society & it's Treasurer for over 40 years until his passing in 2003


Handshake emblem from 1624 title page
of Advancement of Learning

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