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presents

SHAKESPEARE STUDIES
IN
BACONIAN LIGHT

 

 

by
ROBERT M. THEOBALD, M.A.
(Author of "Dethroning Shakespeare;
former Editor of " The Bacon Journal")

 

L O N D O N :

SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & CO., LTD.

I90I

Table Of Contents 

Chapter

Page

Preface

ix

I. Preliminaries

1

II. Presumptive Evidence

10

Section 1. Shakspere's Personal History
Section 2. Greene's Groatsworth of Wit
Section 3.Probabilites
Section 4. The Lawyer
Section 5. The Aristocrat
Section 6. The Classical Scholar
Section 7. Various Accomplishments
Section 8. Shakspere Biography

10
13
16
18
20
24
24
26

III. Francis Bacon
Section 1.The Scholar and Man of the World
Section 2. The Poet
Section 3. Bacon's Concealments
Section 4. Bacon's Literary Output
Section 5. Bacon's Assurance of Immortality
Section 6. Personal Characteristics

a Striking the Beast
b. Bacon's Fall
c. Bacon's Self-Vindication
d. Bacon's Dramatic Faculty
e. Bacon's Verdict Against Himself

32

32
34
35
38
40
43
43
45
47
48
49

IV. I Cannot Tell

54

V. Companionship in Calamity

64

VI. The Philosophy of Wonder

80

VII. Bacon's Philosophy of Hope

95

VIII. Bacon's "Sartor Resartus"
Section 1. Garment of Folly
Section 2. Garment of State and Pride
Section 3. Garment of Sobriety or Sadness
Section 4. Garment of Mirth
Section 5. Garment of Humility
Section 6. Garment of Virtue
Section 7. Garment of Content
Section 8. Garment of Sanctity
Section 9. Garment of Love
Section 10. Garment of Strangeness

109
113
113
114
114
115
115
116
117
117
117

IX. Love and Business : Bacon's Essay of Love compared with the Treatment of Love in Shakespeare

Section 1. The Problem
Section 2. Mistaken View of the Essay
Section 3. The Essay of Love:Its Real Import
Section 4. Bacon's Praise of the Worthiest Affection
Section 5. Restricted Use of Love in Shakespeare
Section 6. Love in the Historical Plays
Section 7. Love in the Tragedies
Section 8. Love in the Comedies
Section 9. Love always Subordinate in Shakespeare
Section 10. Love in the Minor Poems
Section 11. Love Lyrics
Section 12. Conclusions
Section 13. The AEthiope
Section 14. Love Engenedered in the Eye
Section 15. Folly and Love Connected Generally


 

 

 

 

126
127
129
130
131
133
136
143
154
156
157
159
160
161
163

 

 

X, Philosophical Maxims
Section 1. Mines and Forges
Section 2. Miracles and Misery
Section 3. Sunshine Everywhere
Section 4. The Genesis of Poetry
Section 5. Money and Muck
Section 6. Past and Future
Section 7. Impossibilities
Section 8. Physiognomy
Section 9. Sleep
Section 10. Nature and Art
Section 11. Nature and Fortune
Section 12. Primum Mobile
Section 13. Philosophia Prima
Section 14. Conclusion

167
167
171
174
178
179
180
182
184
185
187
188
191
194
197

XI. The Promus
Section 1. The Procus
Section 2. Hail of Pearl
Section 3. Ulysses
Section 4. Voluntary Forgetting
Section 5. Like One's Self

199
208
212
213
216
218

XII. Echoes and Correspondencies

223

XIII. The Scholarship of Shakespeare
Section 1. Classical Allusions
Section 2. The Classical Plays
Section 3. Grammatical Forms

286
294
308
309

XIV. The Classic Diction of Shakespeare

318

Appendix on Marlowe

415

Index 1. Shakespeare Quotations
Index 2. Classical Words in Chapter. xiv
Index 3. General : Topics and Names

489
492
497

 

PREFACE

 

In the world's literature the greatest name is Shakespeare. Equally true is the assertion that in the world's literature there is no greater name than Bacon. Shakespeare and Bacon, if they are to be distinguished, were contemporaries; the apparatus of scholarship, books, colleges, teachers, and all the accumulations of literary creation, which they used, were the same for both. If they stood on an equal literary level they must have climbed the heights by the same paths, and at much the same time, and one would think they must have elbowed one another during the ascent. And yet neither of them refers to the other, even by the most covert allusion. Still the identical culture must assert itself whether it is acknowledged or not, and accordingly we find that the two groups of writings perpetually touch one another, and each may supply the other with innumerable lights of interpretation. Notwithstanding these cross lights of mutual reflection, the separate students of each seem resolved to keep them apart. In the elucidation of Bacon's philosophy Shakespeare is neglected, in the interpretation of Shakespeare's poetry Bacon is neglected. If any comparison is made between them it is usually one rather of grammatical form and structure, than of interior soul and substance. At the same time it is a commonplace in Bacon's biography to bracket the two names together as representing literary production equal in value, and similar in quality: though as a rule this approximation is expressed in general terms, while particular applications are rarely supplied.

One of the reasons for this, with the more recent critics and biographers, is a most tremulous timidity arising out of an apprehension of being compromised by association with that Most obnoxious group of quasi-literary persons who advocate the personal identity of Bacon and Shakespeare. If some singular resemblance in thought or expression is pointed out, the critic hastens to separate himself from those who see more in this than a casual and quite accidental resemblance. " Do not suppose," the critic eagerly explains, "that I assert that Bacon wrote Shakespeare, because I point out these identities in style or idea: '-the imputation is too terrible, and the critic protests his orthodoxy by most severe comments on the mental- almost moral--unsoundness that can arrive at such a distressing conclusion.

I am persuaded that Shakespearean comment and annotation has suffered severely from this resolute determination to keep the two groups of writings apart; and one design of this volume is to protest against this neglect of Baconian light on Shakespeare, and to show, by signal examples, what a rich field of illustration and interpretation is thus ignored. Let these great poems, we say, be brought into relationship with all Elizabethan literature which can supply helpful elucidation. We ask for no exceptional favour for Bacon's writings-we only ask that they should take the place that rightfully belongs to them. If the result is that our theory forces itself forward either as a corollary lawfully deduced from these comments, or as a hypothesis that may be used to account for them-let it be so; that is only fair play and no favour.

But oh, most gentle and gentlemanly critics, do be patient and tolerant about it;-be not so indelicately angry ! Cease your clamors and aspirates, and denunciations and vituperations, and let us talk over the matter gravely and calmly, without vulgar abuse or heated imputations ! Perfervid disputation always has a flavour not only of extravagance, but of insincerity, and we Baconians find it extremely difficult to persuade ourselves that you yourselves believe all the hard things you say about us. You call us half-educated Philistines, crazy Baconizers, ignorant cranks, or mad moon-rakers, though you must know that we number in our ranks men as sound in judgment and as well equipped in learning as yourselves. It is high time that all this nonsense should stop. Such missiles do not hurt us, they would amuse us if their exhibition of bad temper were not saddening and discreditable. Our case is a very intelligible and a very lawful one. Our argument holds the field, and it has come to stay. We are quite content to abide the issue of sound reason and exhaustive research, and we decline to retaliate by the use of the weapons which are so freely employed against us. For no Baconian, so far as I know, seeks to help his cause by personal abuse or intolerant and wrathful speech. All this-as is usually the case in analogous instances-is the monopoly of the conservators, and is no part of the armory of the innovators. Nothing can banish our thesis except demonstrative proof on a very large scale that some other explanation of the genesis of Shakespeare is more credible and better supported by facts than ours.

The reader of the following pages should carefully keep in mind the distinction that is invariably observed between Shakspere and Shakespeare. The word Shakspere always means Mr. William Shakspere, of Stratford-on-Avon. The word Shakespeare always means either the writer of the plays and poems which are known by this patronymic, or else the poetry itself, apart from any question of authorship. And when I speak of Shakespeare as an author, or of the collected writings under this title, I do so " without prejudice." By using current phraseology I make no concession to current notions attached to it. It is necessary to premise this because many Baconians think that by speaking of " Shakespeare " as an author we give away our case and use language that misrepresents our thoughts. I do not think so. My impression is that when the time comes for a general recognition of Bacon as the true Shakespeare, the poetry will still be called "Shakespeare, " and that no one will find anything compromising in such language, any more than we do when we refer to George Eliot or George Sand, meaning Miss Evans or Madame Dudevant. In using Bacon's nom de plume we are but accepting his own leading, while we reserve an interpretation which he did not himself supply, but left to posterity to discover. Indeed, the word Shakspere itself, so spelt, is quite arbitrary. It might be Shaxpur, or Shagspur, or any of the few score spellings which were current in Warwickshire in the I6th century. Among these our particular William seems to have made no election; for no one can find for the name any standard spelling in any of his varied and almost indecipherable signatures.

 R. M. THEOBALD.

 Blackheath, S.E.,
September, I90I.

 

CHAPTER I

PRELIMINARIES

 

It is quite possible for whole generations of thoughtful men, and of educated, experienced critics, to entertain a belief which is absolutely unsound and absurd, without being conscious that that belief is open to debate at all. Tradition floats and supports countless errors. But it is also possible that the debatable quality of the false belief may flash upon anyone's convictions instantaneously, and then for ever after it ceases to occupy any settled resting place in his mind. I for example, the idea that William Shakspere wrote the plays and poems attributed to him was for me not so much a persuasion as a settled tradition, never interfered with, till one day, visiting a friend, and looking over his excellent and well-selected library, I took up Gerald Massey's book on Shakespeare's Sonnets, and asked my friend if he had formed any opinion about it. His reply was to this effect: " Doubtless the book is good enough in its way; but if you want to get clear light as to the genesis of Shakespeare's poetry, you should read this; " and he put into my hands Nathaniel Holmes' book on 'The Authorship of Shakespeare." As soon as the book was in my hand, the persuasion took hold of my mind that this question of the authorship of Shakespeare was one open to debate, and that Holmes' conclusion was probably right. My conversion was of the most orthodox and instantaneous character, and the belief then adopted has never been disturbed. But although the central truth came suddenly, the reasons and arguments to support it could not thus immediately enter into the mind. That moment was the starting point of a long course of study. I read all I could get hold of by Bacon, and reread Shakespeare, and kept the two in perpetual juxtaposition for years, until the persuasion which came by a flash of intuition ripened into a strong and well-grounded conviction, resting on facts and arguments, solid and secure as mathematical demonstration.

Now I do not expect many persons to change their traditional belief in this rapid fashion; but I do think that it does not require much study or painful reflection to see that the question itself is quite a lawful one, not to be settled by a snap-finger dismissal of derision. The literary robe of the man, William Shakspere, is evidently a misfit; the garment is too big and costly for his small and insignificant personality. But so securely has the name of William Shakespere fastened itself on the grandest creations of all literature, that even those (perhaps especially those) who have devoted themselves to Shakespearean studies all their life, have failed to see that the previous question of authorship has to be admitted as one element in their studies. One eminent Shakespearean writing to an equally eminent Baconian says, " We traverse your premises, Mr. S-- there is no doubt, and therefore there is no necessity for inquiry." For him then the problem is nonexistent, but the unabashed dogmatism of such a settlement is rather surprising. Another distinguished Shakespearean student and author wrote to me as follows: " In the Bacon Shakespeare controversy I take no interest whatever. To establish the Baconian authorship of Shakspere's works, two things have to be proved: first that Shakespeare did not write the plays and poems attributed to him, and secondly that Francis Bacon did. As I have never yet seen a prima facie case made out for the former of these propositions, I have no inclination to consider seriously the so-called arguments by which it is attempted to prove the latter." This is perfectly fair language, and with such convictions there is no reason why any attention should be given to the opposing thesis. I cannot, however, refrain from expressing my astonishment that any competent Shakespearean scholar should fail to perceive the enormous difficulty of accounting for the possession of Shakespearean attributes by such a man as William Shakspere must have been.

Other critics are not so civil. Indeed, a discreditable habit has arisen of reviling and insulting those who advocate the Baconian authorship of Shakespeare. Measureless and supercilious contempt, with much effusion of unsavory epithets is meted out to us by these gentlemen. We are ignorant, or cracked, or joking or paradoxical,- we are idiotic, characteristic-blind as certain persons are colorblind, and "the tomfoolery of it is infinite". That is pretty fair for one `` gentleman: " and he is the leader of the clan. Another member of this Hooligan type of critics writes thus to a friend in America, for publication in an American journal:- "Not a single adherent of any weight has joined the Baconian party here. A few persons who believe that we are the ten tribes, and that Arthur Orton was Sir Roger Tichborne, and that Tennyson's sister was the author of 'In Memoriam,'-people for whom evidence does not exist, and who love paradox for its own sake,-form the whole Baconian schism over here." This sweetly reasonable and gentle writer does not seem to concern himself with the truth or falsehood of these reckless assertions.

He gives the bastinado with his tongue;
Our ears are cudgelled

Other critics. again, adopt a tone of weariness, a 'don't bother ' sort of air; they are fatigued with these stupidities, they are so busy counting the weak and strong endings, the run-on lines, the central pauses, the rhymed couplets, the unstopped lines, and so forth, that they have no reserve of mental activity for our case. They can go into paroxysms of rapture over some hoax of a portrait, or some trumpery ring or wooden stool, which can by any process of straining evidence or torturing facts be associated with their fetish; but when the problem to be discussed is, the relation between " Shakespeare " and the greatest intellect that ever illuminated literature, himself a contemporary, living within an easy walk of the assumed author, likely to know all persons and all books worth knowing in his own country and time--when this is the problem, our critics begin to yawn, and beg to be excused from taking interest in these unprofitable discussions. It really seems as if the sweet swan of Avon had by some Circadian witchcraft transformed his followers into geese.

Dr. Hudson, one of the most capable of Shakespearean critics and biographers, dismisses the Baconian theory in the following summary style:-

"Upon this point I have just four things to say,- I. Bacon's requital of the Earl's bounty [the Earl of Essex] was such a piece of ingratitude as I can hardly conceive the author of King Lear to have been guilty of. 2. The author of Shakespeare's plays, whatever he may have been, certainly was not a scholar. He had indeed something vastly better than learning, but he had not that. 3. Shakespeare never philosophizes. Bacon never does anything else. 4. Bacon's mind, great as it was, might have been cut out of Shakespeare's, without being missed"

("Shakespere: His Life, Art, and Character " by Rev. N. H. Hudson, LL.D., Vol. I. 26).

This is not serious argument, and it would be simply a waste of time and words to discuss it. All these "four things" are either extremely debatable, or infinitely doubtful, or plainly inaccurate, or vaguely indefinite.

 

The Apotheosis of Paradox

 

Other critics seem to take a frisky delight in claiming for William Shakespere exactly what no one has ever found or can find in him, while others deny to the poet accomplishments which he unquestionably possessed. Thus, one adventurous advocate of the Stratford claimant says: " Every careful student or critic is inevitably forced to the conclusion that the works must have been written either by Shakespere or by some man whose education and experience were like his. His life is a key to much that would otherwise be perplexing in his writings; " which is exactly the conclusion that no careful student or critic can possibly adopt, and which even good Shakespearean scholars, such as Charles Knight and Grant White, are forced to abandon. These extraordinary assertions are made by a writer who probably knows that the profoundest and most philosophical Shakespearean critic who ever lived, Coleridge, in view of these same facts, is absolutely nonplused by the anomalies suggested by what is known of William Shakspere, and what we know must have been the character of the true author. `` What," he exclaims, " are we to have miracles in Sport ? Does God choose idiots by whom to convey divine truths to man? " While Emerson cannot marry the facts of Shakespeare's life to the verse; and Hallam, nauseated by the unsavory gossip and unclean rumors associated with Shakspere's name, despairing, yet with noble rage, calls for the Shakspeare that heaven made-not the one that earth supplies.

I do not name these writers because I desire to avoid personal attack.

And, after all, what have these critics to show in support of their singular contention that Shakespeare's poems are illuminated and illustrated by Shakspere's life? Absolutely nothing! There is not a single passage in the poetry that becomes more interesting or more clear by reference to anything known about the Stratford playwright. Professor Dowden has written. a thoughtful and suggestive book on the " Mind and Art of Shakspere," showing the noble personal qualities that are dimly reflected in the plays. All he says is beautiful and interesting so long as William Shakspere is kept at a distance-so long as we follow Ben Jonson's sly suggestion and "look not on his picture, but his book." But as soon as the Warwickshire rustic is admitted, the dignity of the argument vanishes-the whole matter becomes, in Baconian language, " preposterous," grotesque, topsy-turvy. For instance, here is an eloquent and weighty passage-which it is a pleasure to transcribe:-" If Shakspere had died at the age of 40, it might have been said, 'the world has lost much, but the world's chief poet could not have created anything more wonderful than Hamlet.' But after Hamlet came King Lear. Hamlet was in fact only the point of departure in Shakspere's immense and final sweep of mind-that in which he endeavored to include and comprehend life for the first time adequately. Through Hamlet, perhaps also through events in the poet's personal history, which tested his will as Hamlet's was tested, Shakespere had been reached and touched by the shadow of some of the deep mysteries of human existence. Somehow a relation between his soul and the dark and terrible forces of the world was established, and to escape from a thorough investigation and sounding of the depths of life was no longer possible. " True ! most true ! and if we go to Bacon's life to find out what were these stern facts which about the time that Lear was written, reached and touched his soul, and forced him to include and comprehend the deepest mysteries of existence, we shall find the events which cast those deep shadows in the plays. For about this time-between I600,and 1604-the terrible tragedy of Essex's fall tested and tortured his spirit. For twenty years he had been a struggling disappointed man, his transcendent powers neglected or put to ignoble drudgery, forced to battle with sordid cares and envious obstruction. He had lost his only brother Anthony, his second self, his "comfort," as he pathetically calls him, the one man in the whole world who understood and valued him aright. His mother, after years of mental and physical decay, had died, her splendid faculties having been long clouded and distorted by madness. His dearest hopes connected with that philosophic reformation which was nearest his heart seemed to be removed from their fruition by inaccessible distance; his great nature fretted in solitude against the barriers and limitations which seemed to baffle its most cherished aspirations.

Here we see the agony and conflict which Professor Dowden so eloquently describes; here is the cry of anguish which is echoed in Hamlet's strife with destiny, and in Lear's wild wail of unutterable pain. If Professor Dowden had been able to search in this direction for the original of the portrait which he draws of " The Mind and Art of Shakespeare," how would his deepest speculations have been more than justified! What new and profound and precious comments would he have made if he could have brought his glorious guesses into this historic environment ! It is almost shocking, it is inexpressibly humiliating, to see his attempts to establish a rapport for them with the vulgar, hollow mask of a life which is all that research can possibly find in the Stratford personality-a shrunken, sordid soul, fattening on beer and coin, and finding sweetness and content in the stercorarium ( living in dung)of his Stratford homestead. Professor Dowden does not apparently shrink from this desperate approximation, and here is the result: " Shakspere had by this time mastered the world from a practical point of view. He was a prosperous and wealthy man." That is all ! Here is the issue of these glorious guesses; only this, and nothing more! Oh, most lame and impotent conclusion ! `` Sounding the depths of life,' " including and comprehending " its hardest problems means only filling his pockets with gold-" Mastering the world from a practical point of view," simply means making his fortune and retiring to the inglorious obscurity of Stratford-on-Avon. He '` somehow " encounters the dark and terrible forces of the world, and the result is seen in the bulging of his breeches pocket, and remunerative transactions in malt and money-lending. It is indeed difficult to understand flow a thoughtful writer can endure such intellectual contortions, how he can willingly undergo the throes and agonies of parturient and mountainous thought, and then give birth to this feeble, and funny, and most ridiculous mouse.

In advocating the Baconian authorship of Shakespeare, we are often confronted with the fact that for nearly three hundred years the reputed authorship was accepted without suspicion. In reference to this I may quote a remark made by Mr. Spedding respecting the paper called " Christian Paradoxes," which was attributed to Bacon by many learned Editors and Writers, and that without any dispute, for many years. When, however, capable critics seriously inspected it, they refused to accept the current opinion, and in 1864 Rev. Alexander Grosart discovered the true author-Herbert Palmer. Spedding's discussion of the case may be taken mutatis mutandis, as a very apt vindication of the Baconian argument, as one lawfully and reasonably raised. . " I know " he says, " that in refusing it a place among his works I am opposing myself to the many eminent writers who have accepted it without suspicion as his. But it is the absence of suspicion that diminishes the value of their opinion. They have not explained away the difficulty; they have overlooked it." This is exactly our case. The so-called testimony involved in contemporary allusion, simply means absence of suspicion,-unconsciousness of difficulty. As soon as suspicion is aroused, it is absolutely impossible that it should ever again subside. (See Spedding's " Life of Bacon," vi. 129.)

I have no intention of giving any exhaustive exposition of the Baconian case. Indeed that is practically impossible for any one. The student who seeks to define the relation that exists between Bacon's prose and Shakespeare's poetry enters on a quest which has no terminus. Every fresh reading in either group of writings brings out new points of comparison, new features of resemblance. My primary object is to show what a vast and neglected quarry of Shakespearean comment is to be found in Bacon's prose works, and to present some striking illustrations of these Shakespeare studies. If this is part of the Baconian polemic it is still more a contribution to Shakespeare study. I wish also to show that this educational field is much larger than has been hitherto supposed; that Shakespearean poetry and Baconian philosophy are to be found in unsuspected localities-that our controversy is not a barren wrangle about names and persons, but a rich and fruitful excursion into the choicest plains of literature, a country worthy of investigation on its own account, and involving other issues than those of authorship, or patent rights in special literary property.

Before, however, entering on these scattered studies, it may be well to exhibit some features of that prima facie case which is so strangely invisible to eminent Shakespeare scholars. Those who hold a brief for William Shakespeare, seem to me to hold in needless contempt such commonsense judgments as are easily apprehended by unlearned and non-critical readers. Indeed it seems to me that Carlyle's cynical estimate of the intellectual qualities of the human race is, in this case, far more applicable to learned critics than to the unlettered public.

 

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