|"The raven has ascended to the nest of the nightingale"|
|-- Persian Proverb|
THE thirty two elegies to the memory of Francis Bacon
which were printed a few months after his death in April, 1626 by John
Haviland, have not received the attention from scholars which they
merit.... This immunity from orthodox scholarly attention is unfortunate as
it has had the effect of preventing the investigation of his claims, as
voiced in these elegies, to recognition as a poet and other preeminence.
Our particular concern with the Manes is the light which they throw
on Bacon's reputation as being: |
1. A supreme poet, second to none.
There is such unanimity in the claims made by the
writers of these verses that it will be hard for any unbiased reader of
them to resist the conclusion that they are based on truth. There may be
some divergence of opinion on the part of scholars as to the translation of
them, but there can be no real difference as to their general import.
Sometimes the statements made in them are direct, and in other cases the
contributors attempt to convey their meaning by innuendo, allegory or
acroamatic allusion. It is submitted that it is impossible to escape from
the conclusions which have been enumerated above. ...
It is thought well to begin with Dr. William Rawley's Introduction to the Manes as
published in the collection of 1626. In the course of this address to the
reader Bacon's chaplain writes that he has withheld very many poems, "and
the best too", from publication. It is an interesting speculation why he
deemed this necessary; was it that these revealed more about Bacon than he
considered desirable, or which he thought it would be contrary to the
wishes of his late master to publish? The conclusion of the verse, however,
contains the most significant statement:|
Thus, at the very beginning of these remarkable tributes
we have a mystery hinted at, and this atmosphere of crypticism is continued
and perpetuated throughout the whole series. No amount of casuistry can
divest these verses of their implied meaning.|
Elegy IV contains a most
significant reference to the theatre, where Bacon is stated to have
renovated philosophy by means of Comedy and Tragedy. Bacon restored
philosophy and rebuilt it from its foundations, brick by brick, stone by
stone, being willing to become a "hodman" in this work. "Our hope is to
begin the whole labour of the mind again", he says. One of the chief
methods he employed was that noted in Elegy IV, where he is described as
renovating philosophy in the shoes of comedy. In this elegy there is a
significant reference to the lyre of Orpheus. Bacon, by his dramatic art,
effected for philosophy what the King of Thebes is reputed to have done for
that city when he rebuilt it: "Did not Amphion's lyre the deaf stones call
When they came dancing to the Theban wall?" (Campion's Mask in honour of
the Lord Hayes, 1607). "So too, Verulam restored, boasts new walls, and
thence hopes for its ancient renown" (Elegy XXXII).
In The Advancement of Learning (Book II) he
In Book II of De Augmentis Scientiarium Bacon
In his Distributio Operis, Bacon tells us that examples are to be presented "by actual types and models, by which the entire process of the mind, and the whole fabric and order of invention from beginning to end in certain subjects, and those various and remarkable, should be set as it were before the eyes." The stage appears the only medium for this method of presentation. It has been wisely written: "Le vice radical de la philosophie c'est de ne pouvoir parler au coeur," and this saying aptly sums up Bacon's reason for using the stage as a means of popularizing his philosophy. He could not expect the majority to read or understand his philosophic writings, but he could appeal to the multitude by means of the stage. Being a moral philosopher, he understood well enough that "the pen of the tongue should be dipped in the ink of the heart." Bacon, who is fond of using the stage as an illustration, says in the Novum Organum (Aphorism LXII):
It has been asserted that the Comedies, Histories and
Tragedies form the fourth, fifth and sixth parts of the Instauratio
Magna, the Great Restoration of Learning. In England, Germany, and
America, students have independently come to this conclusion; and, like all
truth, the more it is examined the more it becomes established. That such a
contention is not popular among the majority of scholars does not make it
any less true. There is nothing new in this emotional reaction of ignorance
to truth: it took the world many years to abandon the Ptolemaic conception
of the Earth's relation to its neighbours, and to accept the doctrine of
There are great difficulties in accepting the orthodox view of authorship. The chief one, perhaps, is the improbability that the plays, replete as they are with learning, should have as author a man who is not proved to have had even a grammar school education. Schlegel, the German critic, amazed at the extent of the knowledge and depth of philosophy contained in the plays of Shakespeare, did not hesitate to declare the generally received account of his life to be "a mere fabulous story, a blind extravagant error." On the other hand Leigh Hunt delivers himself thus: "Shakespeare, though he had not a College education was learned as any man, in the highest sense of the word by a scholarly intuition; he had the spirit of learning." If learning can be obtained on such cheap terms many harassed parents would doubtless be glad of the recipe: "So may long use with studious thought combined, The scholar and the critic both make blind."
Critics of this sort suffocate research in order that everything shall accord with the traditional belief in Shakespeare's authorship and come within the orbit of Stratford-on-Avon. They drag Truth captive at the wheels of their chariots and constrain her to accommodate herself to their views; they have locked up the temple of real knowledge of the Plays and their Author and thrown away the key. Some of them are like the travelers of Edward Lear's verses who have gone for a long voyage in "a beautiful peagreen boat." When they accept and utilize the doubtful traditions which infect Shakespearean criticism, Shakespeare becomes to these wise owls the beautiful "pussycat" of their imagination. But even the owl and the pussycat had to borrow a ring from a pig before they could get married!
Let us leave the theatre and turn to the claims made in
these elegies that Bacon was a great poet. Elegy V contains a reference to Pegasus, the winged
steed of the Muses, and is similar to most of the other poems in its poetic
imagery and symbolism: the references to Bacon's poetic supremacy are
constantly recurring in them. Bacon is hailed as "the day star of the
Muses" in XVIII. Elegy XXIII claims Bacon as "the leader of the choir
of the Muses and of Phoebus". In XX he is
apostrophized as "The Tenth Muse and glory of the choir." Surely no greater
tribute could have been paid to any poet, including Shakespeare himself, to
whom the following verse was addressed:
It may be objected by some readers that among the few
known specimens of Bacon's poetry, his versification of "Certain Psalms" do
not suggest the qualities of a supreme poet. But in this connection it
should be remembered, firstly, that the medium in which he worked put
considerable restraint on his genius; and, secondly, that his verses have
been preferred to those of Milton when he attempted a similar feat. It
should be noted that Bacon versified these psalms from a sick bed in his
declining years. |
With the exception of this example of Bacon's poetic powers, we seem to have little or nothing of his acknowledged poetry except his Farewell to Fortune, which has also been attributed to George Peele. But must it not be admitted that Bacon's prose is in many places extremely poetic in form?
It is not only the contributors to the Manes Verulamiani among Bacon's contemporaries who acclaim him as a poet. Thomas Campion, a physician who is better known for his exquisite songs and lyrics, addressed an epigram to Bacon, who was then (1619) Lord Chancellor:
Sir Francis Bacon.
There is no need to quote further from Bacon's friends
and contemporaries, but reference may be made to Bacon's own admissions,
which were not intended for other eyes than the addressees. In 1603, Sir
John Davies set out to meet James VI of Scotland, to accompany him on his
journey to London on his accession to the Crown of England as James I.
Bacon wrote a letter sending his commendations to the King, which Davies
was asked to deliver. The letter concludes, "so desiring you to be good to
concealed poets". About 1595 (the letter is undated), he wrote to the Earl
of Essex: "I am neither much in appetite (for office) nor much in hope;
for, as for appetite, the Waters of Parnassus are not like the Waters of
the Spaw that give a stomach, but rather they quench appetite and desires."
It appears from this letter that Bacon was much occupied with the Muses: at
the time of writing this letter he does not seem to have had much hope of
advancement in his profession. In a letter to the courtier-poet, Lord Henry
Howard, written about 1601, Bacon reminded him: "We have both tasted of the
best waters, in my account to knit minds together." |
Lord Henry Howard, second son of the poetical Earl of Surrey, went to Trinity College in Cambridge (Bacon's College), and became Chancellor of the University in 1612. He built Northumberland House in the Strand, where the Northumberland Manuscript was discovered in 1867. In it, Bacon's and Shakespeare's names and writings are found in close association.
But it was not Bacon's contemporaries alone who have
hailed him as a poet, as the following selection of quotations will
Elegy XXIV says: "You
have filled the world with your writings, and the ages with your fame."
Elegy XV makes the claim that a portion of
Bacon's writings lie buried (pars sepulta jacet) and IX refers to "the precious gem of concealed
literature" (reconditarum et gemma pretiosa literarum). These
references, or at least the first two, make Archbishop Tenison's remark in
Baconiana (1679) significant, where he writes that "those who have
true skill in the works of Lord Verulam, like great masters of painting,
can tell by the design, the way of colouring, whether he was the author of
this or the other piece, though his name be not on it." Tenison gives point
to Bacon's dedication to King James of the De Augmentis Scientiarum
(1623) where he addresses the King as follows:
Another objection likely to be raised is that Bacon was
far too busy a man to have the necessary time for writing many more books
than those he acknowledged. The reply to this is that in his earlier days
he was often at leisure through lack of employment. Spedding notes there
were periods when he remained secluded in his chambers in Gray's Inn.|
With regard to the first objection we would instance the literary fecundity of Lopez Felix de Vega who, it is stated, often wrote a play in the course of a single day. He sometimes wrote a comedy in the course of five hours and his compositions comprise upwards of seventy volumes! In addition to this, he was admitted to Orders by Pope Urban VIII, who bestowed upon him the degree of D.D. How was this vast productiveness which is claimed for Bacon achieved? How and by whom was the cost of production defrayed?
Not one person in a hundred could read, or write his or her name (this illiteracy even extended to Shakspere's family): there was only a small reading public. There are a large number of books of this period which are of doubtful authorship or which bear initials that cannot be identified. Sometimes names of actual individuals were placed on books, but research has proved conclusively that some of these reputed authors had nothing to do with them beyond lending their names. The Anatomy of Melancholy, an "Anthology of Depression" as it has been called, appeared under the pseudonym of "Democritus Junior." It was only at the conclusion of the work that the author cut the strings of his visor and revealed himself as Rupert Burton. Anonymity, pseudonymity and cryptonymity was common in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Burton writes: "I intended at first to conceal myself, but second thoughts etc." Many books which appeared during this period could not have realized by sale one tenth of their cost: they were produced with the object, it is submitted, of furthering the advance of knowledge in all sorts of subjects.
Bacon was constantly in the habit of borrowing money, even in the time of his prosperity, as may be seen by an examination of his accounts published by Spedding. He was imprisoned for debt in 1597, the same year the first edition of his Essays appeared -- was there any connection between these two events? It may be that his expenditure was largely concerned with the cost of printing books of various sorts, either written by him or by some of his "good pens".
He knew that he was peculiarly fitted to do for English the work which Ronsard and his associates, known as the Pleiade, had accomplished for the French language. Was Bacon engaged in the same task here? In a letter to his uncle, Lord Burleigh, he writes: "I have taken all knowledge for my province." In a prayer written towards the close of his life he stated: "I have though in a despised weed, procured the good of all men."
Bacon could not have performed the colossal task of creating a language and literature of such scope and beauty without assistance and organization. Who composed the "choir" (mentioned in three of the Elegies) which sang under the direction of the master musician?
As early as 1594, there is a reference to the existence
of a scrivenery and staff of skilled penmen maintained by Francis Bacon and
his brother Anthony, at Twickenham. This house was presented to Francis by
the Earl of Essex. It is believed that this scriptorium was originally at
Gray's Inn, but was moved to Twickenham to ensure privacy and to escape the
London plague. A "Richard Field" is named among those who fled with Bacon
to Twickenham at the outbreak of plague in 1594. Was he the same Richard
Field who printed Venus and Adonis in 1595 and the Rape of
Lucrece in 1594? Another reason why Twickenham was superior to Gray's
Inn was that it was away from the meddlesome attentions of the Scrivener's
Company, which held a rigorous monopoly within the jurisdiction of the City
The scrivenery of the two Bacons was used not only for literary work and copying, but also for ciphering and deciphering letters and political dispatches. Both brothers organized an intelligence service on behalf of the Earl of Essex in opposition to the Cecils -- Lord Burleigh and his son Robert, afterwards Earl of Salisbury, who were largely responsible for keeping Francis Bacon from the preferment which his abilities so notably merited. This intelligence service was responsible for the conviction and execution of Dr. Lopez, the Queen's physician, for High Treason in an alleged attempt to poison her. The Queen appears to have been sceptical as to the truth of the charge, but this did not prevent the unfortunate man from being tried at the Guildhall in February, 1594, and being executed at Tyburn on 7th June following.
An extant letter of Bacon's is addressed to Thomas Phillips, who may be represented by the initials T.P., which sign Elegy XI. This Phillips is described as "the decipherer" and Bacon's letter which is dated 14th February, 1592 begs him to come to Twickenham on a visit: "the longer the more welcome, otia colligunt mentem.... In sadness come as you are an honest man." Perhaps there was work for the decipherer?
Allusions to both forms of activity are fairly frequent in the correspondence of the brothers. On 25th January, 1594/5, Francis writes to Anthony:
John Aubrey records that on the grounds of Gorhambury,
Bacon "dictated to Mr. Bushell, or some other of his gentlemen that
attended him with ink and paper, ready to set down presently his thoughts".
Peter Boener, another household retainer and Bacon's private apothecary,
says of his master that he|
Bacon's relations with his literary assistants were of a most intimate and affectionate nature. This is not only apparent from the Manes, but Spedding states that several of Bacon's manuscripts are endorsed "ad Filios," those "Aurorae Filii," as Bacon called them. The "sons" who wrote the Manes were nearly all young scholars through whom Bacon hoped to hand on the lamp to the next generation, and so to posterity. Some light is thrown by an entry in Bacon's memoranda book, Transportata:
In spite of Bacon's plans, preparations, and hopes for
the continuation of his work, a rapid decline set in immediately after his
death in 1626. There was nobody to take his place: "The daystar of the
Muses has set before his hour" (XVIII).
"The Verulamian star now glitters in ruddy Olympus" (XXIII). Or, to express the idea of a transfer
of literary honours from Shakspere (or Shakespeare as popularly supposed)
to Bacon: "The star of Shakespeare pales, but brighter far Burns through
the dusk, an ampler star." Ben Jonson noted this with grief in his
Discoveries. He wrote of Bacon as:|
Having discussed the means by which Bacon could have
justified the claim made on his behalf to have filled the world with his
writings (XXIV), let us turn to a consideration of the air of secrecy which
is everywhere apparent in the Manes. This has already been touched
upon in a previous reference to Dr. Rawley's introductory verses to the
Manes and The Advancement of Learning (1640 and 1674
editions). The whole collection of these elegies is pervaded with veiled
allusions and acroamatic hints that excite curiosity and stimulate
research, which was probably partly their object.
After a selection of Elegies reprinted from the Manes
Verulamiani in the 1640 Advancement of Learning, we find the
following (translated from the Latin):|
Thus there appears to be a mystery surrounding Bacon's place of sepulture! Elegy XIII contains the following intriguing passage:
Disguise and secrecy appear to have been second nature
to Bacon: he says of himself, "Mihi silentio" (of myself I am
silent). Yet if Bacon was silent about himself, he did not lack admirers
who appear wishful to inform posterity about his merits, as the following
verse from The Mirror of State and Eloquence (1656) will show. The
lines were inscribed under a portrait of Bacon:|
Dr. Rawley, in his life of Bacon prefixed to Resuscitatio (1671), says of his master:
He described himself as buccinator novi temporis
(the herald of a new age), and further writes: "And since I have lost much
time with this age, I would be glad, as God shall give me leave, to recover
it with posterity." Bacon frequently appeals to Posterity; in his will he
writes: "My name and memory I leave to foreign nations, and to mine own
countrymen after some time be passed over." |
The title page of Bacon's New Atlantis (First Edition) shows Old Father Time with his scythe bringing his daughter to light out of a dark cave. Around the figures are the lines: "Occulta veritas tempore patet " (Hidden truth comes to light by time). The Fourth Edition has the following on the title page: "Veritas filia temporis " (Truth is the daughter of time). This reminds one of what Bacon writes concerning authors: "But so let great authors have their due, as time, which is the author of authors, be not deprived of his due, which is, farther and farther to discover truth."
Great as Bacon was when considered by himself as a
philosopher, statesman, and lawyer, if to this formidable list of
accomplishments be added the immeasurable creations of the author of the
Shakespeare plays, then a truly colossal figure emerges, one of whom Sir
Tobie Mathew wrote the postscript to which we have already referred. Well
might either Shakespeare the dramatist, or Bacon the philosopher, say in
the former's words, though in a limited sense:
To give a further quotation in which Bacon appeals to
posterity, we cite: "And whether I shall have accomplished all this I
appeal to future time." Isaac D'Israeli describes Bacon in these words:
"This servant of Posterity, as he prophetically called himself, sustained
his mighty spirit with the confidence of his posthumous greatness. Ever
were the times succeeding in his mind." He was, indeed, one of those men
who "build great mornings for the world." |
It is obvious that the contributors to the Manes looked to Posterity to discover a secret about Bacon which they were not themselves in a position to reveal. It is clear also that they held him in the deepest veneration, so much so that mere words were scarcely adequate to express not only their admiration, but, one might add, their affection. These expressions receive additional proof from what Sir Tobie Mathew writes of Bacon in a dedicatory letter prefixed to an Italian translation of the Essays and Wisdom of the Ancients, addressed to the Grand Duke of Tuscany:
If, therefore, we substitute Francis Bacon for William Shakspere of Stratford-on-Avon and place the former in the Temple of Fame instead, we are exalting no Idol of the Theatre or Market Place, but a figure which admirably fits the niche hitherto occupied by one with whom we find it impossible to marry the Plays, which are the glory of the English language. That a perusal of the Manes Verulamiani in a judicial frame of mind, untrammelled by tradition and received opinion, will at least raise doubts as to the authorship of the Shakespeare Plays and at the same time inspire a reconsideration of the popular opinion of Bacon's character, we cannot doubt. To some readers these elegies may be entirely new, and therefore a revelation. As George L. Craik says of Bacon: "There is something about him not fully understood or discerned which, in spite of all curtailments of his claims in regard to one special kind of eminence or another, still leaves the sense of his eminence as strong as ever."
We end as we began this Introduction, in announcing our object of producing this volume in facsimile to be inspired by a desire to draw renewed attention to the Manes VerulamianI, to the end that these tributes to Bacon's genius may not pass into oblivion. In particular, we wish that the claims made on his behalf in them, where he is hailed as a great poet, may receive the consideration that the contributors intended they should obtain. We ask that the case here presented may be examined in an unprejudiced spirit, not only by qualified scholars, but also by that larger educated public which is, and always must be, the chief support of Literature. If our contention is investigated in the spirit which we expect from impartial readers, we can await their verdict with the same confidence that our conclusions are as well grounded as that which inspired Francis Bacon when he addressed himself to Posterity: "I have raised up a light in the obscurity of Philosophy which will be seen centuries after I am dead."
And so to the empanelled jury of our readers we confidently leave our case and cause, with Truth in the seat of judgment -- that same Truth which was the subject of Bacon's first Essay, which begins with the pregnant question: "What is Truth?"
W. G. C. Gundry, 1950
(Copies of this book and other Baconian publications by the English Journal Baconiana may be obtained from T. D. Bokenham, Chairman, the Francis Bacon Society, 56 Westbury Rd., New Malden, Surrey KT3 5AX, England.)