Bacon - English Men Of Letters, Edited By John Morley
by Richard William Church
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JOHNSON Leslie Stephen. GIBBON J.C. Morison. SCOTT R.H. Hutton. SHELLEY J.A. Symonds. HUME T.H. Huxley. GOLDSMITH William Black. DEFOE William Minto. BURNS J.C. Shairp. SPENSER R.W. Church. THACKERAY Anthony Trollope. BURKE John Morley. MILTON Mark Pattison. HAWTHORNE Henry James, Jr. SOUTHEY E. Dowden. CHAUCER A.W. Ward. BUNYAN J.A. Froude. COWPER Goldwin Smith. POPE Leslie Stephen. BYRON John Nichol. LOCKE Thomas Fowler. WORDSWORTH F. Myers. DRYDEN G. Saintsbury. LANDOR Sidney Colvin. DE QUINCEY David Masson. LAMB Alfred Ainger. BENTLEY R.C. Jebb. DICKENS A.W. Ward. GRAY E.W. Gosse. SWIFT Leslie Stephen. STERNE H.D. Traill. MACAULAY J. Cotter Morison. FIELDING Austin Dobson. SHERIDAN Mrs. Oliphant ADDISON W.J. Courthope. BACON R.W. Church. COLERIDGE H.D. Traill. SIR PHILIP SIDNEY J.A. Symonds. KEATS Sidney Colvin.

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In preparing this sketch it is needless to say how deeply I am indebted to Mr. Spedding and Mr. Ellis, the last editors of Bacon's writings, the very able and painstaking commentators, the one on Bacon's life, the other on his philosophy. It is impossible to overstate the affectionate care and high intelligence and honesty with which Mr. Spedding has brought together and arranged the materials for an estimate of Bacon's character. In the result, in spite of the force and ingenuity of much of his pleading, I find myself most reluctantly obliged to differ from him; it seems to me to be a case where the French saying, cited by Bacon in one of his commonplace books, holds good—"Par trop se debattre, la verite se perd."[1] But this does not diminish the debt of gratitude which all who are interested about Bacon must owe to Mr. Spedding. I wish also to acknowledge the assistance which I have received from Mr. Gardiner's History of England and Mr. Fowler's edition of the Novum Organum; and not least from M. de Remusat's work on Bacon, which seems to me the most complete and the most just estimate both of Bacon's character and work which has yet appeared; though even in this clear and dispassionate survey we are reminded by some misconceptions, strange in M. de Remusat, how what one nation takes for granted is incomprehensible to its neighbour; and what a gap there is still, even in matters of philosophy and literature, between the whole Continent and ourselves—

"Penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos."


[1] Promus: edited by Mrs. H. Pott, p. 475.














The life of Francis Bacon is one which it is a pain to write or to read. It is the life of a man endowed with as rare a combination of noble gifts as ever was bestowed on a human intellect; the life of one with whom the whole purpose of living and of every day's work was to do great things to enlighten and elevate his race, to enrich it with new powers, to lay up in store for all ages to come a source of blessings which should never fail or dry up; it was the life of a man who had high thoughts of the ends and methods of law and government, and with whom the general and public good was regarded as the standard by which the use of public power was to be measured; the life of a man who had struggled hard and successfully for the material prosperity and opulence which makes work easy and gives a man room and force for carrying out his purposes. All his life long his first and never-sleeping passion was the romantic and splendid ambition after knowledge, for the conquest of nature and for the service of man; gathering up in himself the spirit and longings and efforts of all discoverers and inventors of the arts, as they are symbolised in the mythical Prometheus. He rose to the highest place and honour; and yet that place and honour were but the fringe and adornment of all that made him great. It is difficult to imagine a grander and more magnificent career; and his name ranks among the few chosen examples of human achievement. And yet it was not only an unhappy life; it was a poor life. We expect that such an overwhelming weight of glory should be borne up by a character corresponding to it in strength and nobleness. But that is not what we find. No one ever had a greater idea of what he was made for, or was fired with a greater desire to devote himself to it. He was all this. And yet being all this, seeing deep into man's worth, his capacities, his greatness, his weakness, his sins, he was not true to what he knew. He cringed to such a man as Buckingham. He sold himself to the corrupt and ignominious Government of James I. He was willing to be employed to hunt to death a friend like Essex, guilty, deeply guilty, to the State, but to Bacon the most loving and generous of benefactors. With his eyes open he gave himself up without resistance to a system unworthy of him; he would not see what was evil in it, and chose to call its evil good; and he was its first and most signal victim.

Bacon has been judged with merciless severity. But he has also been defended by an advocate whose name alone is almost a guarantee for the justness of the cause which he takes up, and the innocency of the client for whom he argues. Mr. Spedding devoted nearly a lifetime, and all the resources of a fine intellect and an earnest conviction, to make us revere as well as admire Bacon. But it is vain. It is vain to fight against the facts of his life: his words, his letters. "Men are made up," says a keen observer, "of professions, gifts, and talents; and also of themselves."[2] With all his greatness, his splendid genius, his magnificent ideas, his enthusiasm for truth, his passion to be the benefactor of his kind; with all the charm that made him loved by good and worthy friends, amiable, courteous, patient, delightful as a companion, ready to take any trouble—there was in Bacon's "self" a deep and fatal flaw. He was a pleaser of men. There was in him that subtle fault, noted and named both by philosophy and religion in the [Greek: areskos] of Aristotle, the [Greek: anthropareskos] of St. Paul, which is more common than it is pleasant to think, even in good people, but which if it becomes dominant in a character is ruinous to truth and power. He was one of the men—there are many of them—who are unable to release their imagination from the impression of present and immediate power, face to face with themselves. It seems as if he carried into conduct the leading rule of his philosophy of nature, parendo vincitur. In both worlds, moral and physical, he felt himself encompassed by vast forces, irresistible by direct opposition. Men whom he wanted to bring round to his purposes were as strange, as refractory, as obstinate, as impenetrable as the phenomena of the natural world. It was no use attacking in front, and by a direct trial of strength, people like Elizabeth or Cecil or James; he might as well think of forcing some natural power in defiance of natural law. The first word of his teaching about nature is that she must be won by observation of her tendencies and demands; the same radical disposition of temper reveals itself in his dealings with men: they, too, must be won by yielding to them, by adapting himself to their moods and ends; by spying into the drift of their humour, by subtly and pliantly falling in with it, by circuitous and indirect processes, the fruit of vigilance and patient thought. He thought to direct, while submitting apparently to be directed. But he mistook his strength. Nature and man are different powers, and under different laws. He chose to please man, and not to follow what his soul must have told him was the better way. He wanted, in his dealings with men, that sincerity on which he insisted so strongly in his dealings with nature and knowledge. And the ruin of a great life was the consequence.

Francis Bacon was born in London on the 22d of January, 1560/61, three years before Galileo. He was born at York House, in the Strand; the house which, though it belonged to the Archbishops of York, had been lately tenanted by Lord Keepers and Lord Chancellors, in which Bacon himself afterwards lived as Lord Chancellor, and which passed after his fall into the hands of the Duke of Buckingham, who has left his mark in the Water Gate which is now seen, far from the river, in the garden of the Thames Embankment. His father was Sir Nicholas Bacon, Elizabeth's first Lord Keeper, the fragment of whose effigy in the Crypt of St. Paul's is one of the few relics of the old Cathedral before the fire. His uncle by marriage was that William Cecil who was to be Lord Burghley. His mother, the sister of Lady Cecil, was one of the daughters of Sir Antony Cook, a person deep in the confidence of the reforming party, who had been tutor of Edward VI. She was a remarkable woman, highly accomplished after the fashion of the ladies of her party, and as would become her father's daughter and the austere and laborious family to which she belonged. She was "exquisitely skilled in the Greek and Latin tongues;" she was passionately religious, according to the uncompromising religion which the exiles had brought back with them from Geneva, Strasburg, and Zurich, and which saw in Calvin's theology a solution of all the difficulties, and in his discipline a remedy for all the evils, of mankind. This means that his boyhood from the first was passed among the high places of the world—at one of the greatest crises of English history—in the very centre and focus of its agitations. He was brought up among the chiefs and leaders of the rising religion, in the houses of the greatest and most powerful persons of the State, and naturally, as their child, at times in the Court of the Queen, who joked with him, and called him "her young Lord Keeper." It means also that the religious atmosphere in which he was brought up was that of the nascent and aggressive Puritanism, which was not satisfied with the compromises of the Elizabethan Reformation, and which saw in the moral poverty and incapacity of many of its chiefs a proof against the great traditional system of the Church which Elizabeth was loath to part with, and which, in spite of all its present and inevitable shortcomings, her political sagacity taught her to reverence and trust.

At the age of twelve he was sent to Cambridge, and put under Whitgift at Trinity. It is a question which recurs continually to readers about those times and their precocious boys, what boys were then? For whatever was the learning of the universities, these boys took their place with men and consorted with them, sharing such knowledge as men had, and performing exercises and hearing lectures according to the standard of men. Grotius at eleven was the pupil and companion of Scaliger and the learned band of Leyden; at fourteen he was part of the company which went with the ambassadors of the States-General to Henry IV.; at sixteen he was called to the bar, he published an out-of-the-way Latin writer, Martianus Capella, with a learned commentary, and he was the correspondent of De Thou. When Bacon was hardly sixteen he was admitted to the Society of "Ancients" of Gray's Inn, and he went in the household of Sir Amyas Paulet, the Queen's Ambassador, to France. He thus spent two years in France, not in Paris alone, but at Blois, Tours, and Poitiers. If this was precocious, there is no indication that it was thought precocious. It only meant that clever and promising boys were earlier associated with men in important business than is customary now. The old and the young heads began to work together sooner. Perhaps they felt that there was less time to spare. In spite of instances of longevity, life was shorter for the average of busy men, for the conditions of life were worse.

Two recollections only have been preserved of his early years. One is that, as he told his chaplain, Dr. Rawley, late in life, he had discovered, as far back as his Cambridge days, the "unfruitfulness" of Aristotle's method. It is easy to make too much of this. It is not uncommon for undergraduates to criticise their text-books; it was the fashion with clever men, as, for instance, Montaigne, to talk against Aristotle without knowing anything about him; it is not uncommon for men who have worked out a great idea to find traces of it, on precarious grounds, in their boyish thinking. Still, it is worth noting that Bacon himself believed that his fundamental quarrel with Aristotle had begun with the first efforts of thought, and that this is the one recollection remaining of his early tendency in speculation. The other is more trustworthy, and exhibits that inventiveness which was characteristic of his mind. He tells us in the De Augmentis that when he was in France he occupied himself with devising an improved system of cypher-writing—a thing of daily and indispensable use for rival statesmen and rival intriguers. But the investigation, with its call on the calculating and combining faculties, would also interest him, as an example of the discovery of new powers by the human mind.

In the beginning of 1579 Bacon, at eighteen, was called home by his father's death. This was a great blow to his prospects. His father had not accomplished what he had intended for him, and Francis Bacon was left with only a younger son's "narrow portion." What was worse, he lost one whose credit would have served him in high places. He entered on life, not as he might have expected, independent and with court favour on his side, but with his very livelihood to gain—a competitor at the bottom of the ladder for patronage and countenance. This great change in his fortunes told very unfavourably on his happiness, his usefulness, and, it must be added, on his character. He accepted it, indeed, manfully, and at once threw himself into the study of the law as the profession by which he was to live. But the law, though it was the only path open to him, was not the one which suited his genius, or his object in life. To the last he worked hard and faithfully, but with doubtful reputation as to his success, and certainly against the grain. And this was not the worst. To make up for the loss of that start in life of which his father's untimely death had deprived him, he became, for almost the rest of his life, the most importunate and most untiring of suitors.

In 1579 or 1580 Bacon took up his abode at Gray's Inn, which for a long time was his home. He went through the various steps of his profession. He began, what he never discontinued, his earnest and humble appeals to his relative the great Lord Burghley, to employ him in the Queen's service, or to put him in some place of independence: through Lord Burghley's favour he seems to have been pushed on at his Inn, where, in 1586, he was a Bencher; and in 1584 he came into Parliament for Melcombe Regis. He took some small part in Parliament; but the only record of his speeches is contained in a surly note of Recorder Fleetwood, who writes as an old member might do of a young one talking nonsense. He sat again for Liverpool in the year of the Armada (1588), and his name begins to appear in the proceedings. These early years, we know, were busy ones. In them Bacon laid the foundation of his observations and judgments on men and affairs; and in them the great purpose and work of his life was conceived and shaped. But they are more obscure years than might have been expected in the case of a man of Bacon's genius and family, and of such eager and unconcealed desire to rise and be at work. No doubt he was often pinched in his means; his health was weak, and he was delicate and fastidious in his care of it. Plunged in work, he lived very much as a recluse in his chambers, and was thought to be reserved, and what those who disliked him called arrogant. But Bacon was ambitious—ambitious, in the first place, of the Queen's notice and favour. He was versatile, brilliant, courtly, besides being his father's son; and considering how rapidly bold and brilliant men were able to push their way and take the Queen's favour by storm, it seems strange that Bacon should have remained fixedly in the shade. Something must have kept him back. Burghley was not the man to neglect a useful instrument with such good will to serve him. But all that Mr. Spedding's industry and profound interest in the subject has brought together throws but an uncertain light on Bacon's long disappointment. Was it the rooted misgiving of a man of affairs like Burghley at that passionate contempt of all existing knowledge, and that undoubting confidence in his own power to make men know, as they never had known, which Bacon was even now professing? Or was it something soft and over-obsequious in character which made the uncle, who knew well what men he wanted, disinclined to encourage and employ the nephew? Was Francis not hard enough, not narrow enough, too full of ideas, too much alive to the shakiness of current doctrines and arguments on religion and policy? Was he too open to new impressions, made by objections or rival views? Or did he show signs of wanting backbone to stand amid difficulties and threatening prospects? Did Burghley see something in him of the pliability which he could remember as the serviceable quality of his own young days—which suited those days of rapid change, but not days when change was supposed to be over, and when the qualities which were wanted were those which resist and defy it? The only thing that is clear is that Burghley, in spite of Bacon's continual applications, abstained to the last from advancing his fortunes.

Whether employed by government or not, Bacon began at this time to prepare those carefully-written papers on the public affairs of the day, of which he has left a good many. In our day they would have been pamphlets or magazine articles. In his they were circulated in manuscript, and only occasionally printed. The first of any importance is a letter of advice to the Queen, about the year 1585, on the policy to be followed with a view to keeping in check the Roman Catholic interest at home and abroad. It is calm, sagacious, and, according to the fashion of the age, slightly Machiavellian. But the first subject on which Bacon exhibited his characteristic qualities, his appreciation of facts, his balance of thought, and his power, when not personally committed, of standing aloof from the ordinary prejudices and assumptions of men round him, was the religious condition and prospects of the English Church. Bacon had been brought up in a Puritan household of the straitest sect. His mother was an earnest, severe, and intolerant Calvinist, deep in the interests and cause of her party, bitterly resenting all attempts to keep in order its pretensions. She was a masterful woman, claiming to meddle with her brother-in-law's policy, and though a most affectionate mother she was a woman of violent and ungovernable temper. Her letters to her son Antony, whom she loved passionately, but whom she suspected of keeping dangerous and papistical company, show us the imperious spirit in which she claimed to interfere with her sons; and they show also that in Francis she did not find all the deference which she looked for. Recommending Antony to frequent "the religious exercises of the sincerer sort," she warns him not to follow his brother's advice or example. Antony was advised to use prayer twice a day with his servants. "Your brother," she adds, "is too negligent therein." She is anxious about Antony's health, and warns him not to fall into his brother's ill-ordered habits: "I verily think your brother's weak stomach to digest hath been much caused and confirmed by untimely going to bed, and then musing nescio quid when he should sleep, and then in consequent by late rising and long lying in bed, whereby his men are made slothful and himself continueth sickly. But my sons haste not to hearken to their mother's good counsel in time to prevent." It seems clear that Francis Bacon had shown his mother that not only in the care of his health, but in his judgment on religious matters, he meant to go his own way. Mr. Spedding thinks that she must have had much influence on him; it seems more likely that he resented her interference, and that the hard and narrow arrogance which she read into the Gospel produced in him a strong reaction. Bacon was obsequious to the tyranny of power, but he was never inclined to bow to the tyranny of opinion; and the tyranny of Puritan infallibility was the last thing to which he was likely to submit. His mother would have wished him to sit under Cartwright and Travers. The friend of his choice was the Anglican preacher, Dr. Andrewes, to whom he submitted all his works, and whom he called his "inquisitor general;" and he was proud to sign himself the pupil of Whitgift, and to write for him—the archbishop of whom Lady Bacon wrote to her son Antony, veiling the dangerous sentiment in Greek, "that he was the ruin of the Church, for he loved his own glory more than Christ's."

Certainly, in the remarkable paper on Controversies in the Church (1589), Bacon had ceased to feel or to speak as a Puritan. The paper is an attempt to compose the controversy by pointing out the mistakes in judgment, in temper, and in method on both sides. It is entirely unlike what a Puritan would have written: it is too moderate, too tolerant, too neutral, though like most essays of conciliation it is open to the rejoinder from both sides—certainly from the Puritan—that it begs the question by assuming the unimportance of the matters about which each contended with so much zeal. It is the confirmation, but also the complement, and in some ways the correction of Hooker's contemporary view of the quarrel which was threatening the life of the English Church, and not even Hooker could be so comprehensive and so fair. For Hooker had to defend much that was indefensible: he had to defend a great traditional system, just convulsed by a most tremendous shock—a shock and alteration, as Bacon says, "the greatest and most dangerous that can be in a State," in which old clews and habits and rules were confused and all but lost; in which a frightful amount of personal incapacity and worthlessness had, from sheer want of men, risen to the high places of the Church; and in which force and violence, sometimes of the most hateful kind, had come to be accepted as ordinary instruments in the government of souls. Hooker felt too strongly the unfairness, the folly, the intolerant aggressiveness, the malignity of his opponents—he was too much alive to the wrongs inflicted by them on his own side, and to the incredible absurdity of their arguments—to do justice to what was only too real in the charges and complaints of those opponents. But Bacon came from the very heart of the Puritan camp. He had seen the inside of Puritanism—its best as well as its worst side. He witnesses to the humility, the conscientiousness, the labour, the learning, the hatred of sin and wrong, of many of its preachers. He had heard, and heard with sympathy, all that could be urged against the bishops' administration, and against a system of legal oppression in the name of the Church. Where religious elements were so confusedly mixed, and where each side had apparently so much to urge on behalf of its claims, he saw the deep mistake of loftily ignoring facts, and of want of patience and forbearance with those who were scandalised at abuses, while the abuses, in some cases monstrous, were tolerated and turned to profit. Towards the bishops and their policy, though his language is very respectful, for the government was implicated, he is very severe. They punish and restrain, but they do not themselves mend their ways or supply what was wanting; and theirs are "injuriae potentiorum"—"injuries come from them that have the upperhand." But Hooker himself did not put his finger more truly and more surely on the real mischief of the Puritan movement: on the immense outbreak in it of unreasonable party spirit and visible personal ambition—"these are the true successors of Diotrephes and not my lord bishops"—on the gradual development of the Puritan theory till it came at last to claim a supremacy as unquestionable and intolerant as that of the Papacy; on the servile affectation of the fashions of Geneva and Strasburg; on the poverty and foolishness of much of the Puritan teaching—its inability to satisfy the great questions which it raised in the soul, its unworthy dealing with Scripture—"naked examples, conceited inferences, and forced allusions, which mine into all certainty of religion"—"the word, the bread of life, they toss up and down, they break it not;" on their undervaluing of moral worth, if it did not speak in their phraseology—"as they censure virtuous men by the names of civil and moral, so do they censure men truly and godly wise, who see into the vanity of their assertions, by the name of politiques, saying that their wisdom is but carnal and savouring of man's brain." Bacon saw that the Puritans were aiming at a tyranny which, if they established it, would be more comprehensive, more searching, and more cruel than that of the older systems; but he thought it a remote and improbable danger, and that they might safely be tolerated for the work they did in education and preaching, "because the work of exhortation doth chiefly rest upon these men, and they have a zeal and hate of sin." But he ends by warning them lest "that be true which one of their adversaries said, that they have but two small wants—knowledge and love." One complaint that he makes of them is a curious instance of the changes of feeling, or at least of language, on moral subjects. He accuses them of "having pronounced generally, and without difference, all untruths unlawful," forgetful of the Egyptian midwives, and Rahab, and Solomon, and even of Him "who, the more to touch the hearts of the disciples with a holy dalliance, made as though he would have passed Emmaus." He is thinking of their failure to apply a principle which was characteristic of his mode of thought, that even a statement about a virtue like veracity "hath limit as all things else have;" but it is odd to find Bacon bringing against the Puritans the converse of the charge which his age, and Pascal afterwards, brought against the Jesuits. The essay, besides being a picture of the times as regards religion, is an example of what was to be Bacon's characteristic strength and weakness: his strength in lifting up a subject which had been degraded by mean and wrangling disputations, into a higher and larger light, and bringing to bear on it great principles and the results of the best human wisdom and experience, expressed in weighty and pregnant maxims; his weakness in forgetting, as, in spite of his philosophy, he so often did, that the grandest major premises need well-proved and ascertained minors, and that the enunciation of a principle is not the same thing as the application of it. Doubtless there is truth in his closing words; but each party would have made the comment that what he had to prove, and had not proved, was that by following his counsel they would "love the whole world better than a part."

"Let them not fear ... the fond calumny of neutrality; but let them know that is true which is said by a wise man, that neuters in contentions are either better or worse than either side. These things have I in all sincerity and simplicity set down touching the controversies which now trouble the Church of England; and that without all art and insinuation, and therefore not like to be grateful to either part. Notwithstanding, I trust what has been said shall find a correspondence in their minds which are not embarked in partiality, and which love the whole letter than a part"

Up to this time, though Bacon had showed himself capable of taking a broad and calm view of questions which it was the fashion among good men, and men who were in possession of the popular ear, to treat with narrowness and heat, there was nothing to disclose his deeper thoughts—nothing foreshadowed the purpose which was to fill his life. He had, indeed, at the age of twenty-five, written a "youthful" philosophical essay, to which he gave the pompous title "Temporis Partus Maximus," "the Greatest Birth of Time." But he was thirty-one when we first find an indication of the great idea and the great projects which were to make his name famous. This indication is contained in an earnest appeal to Lord Burghley for some help which should not be illusory. Its words are distinct and far-reaching, and they are the first words from him which tell us what was in his heart. The letter has the interest to us of the first announcement of a promise which, to ordinary minds, must have appeared visionary and extravagant, but which was so splendidly fulfilled; the first distant sight of that sea of knowledge which henceforth was opened to mankind, but on which no man, as he thought, had yet entered. It contains the famous avowal—"I have taken all knowledge to be my province"—made in the confidence born of long and silent meditations and questionings, but made in a simple good faith which is as far as possible from vain boastfulness.

"MY LORD,—With as much confidence as mine own honest and faithful devotion unto your service and your honourable correspondence unto me and my poor estate can breed in a man, do I commend myself unto your Lordship. I wax now somewhat ancient: one and thirty years is a great deal of sand in the hour glass. My health, I thank God, I find confirmed; and I do not fear that action shall impair it, because I account my ordinary course of study and meditation to be more painful than most parts of action are. I ever bare a mind (in some middle place that I could discharge) to serve her Majesty, not as a man born under Sol, that loveth honour, nor under Jupiter, that loveth business (for the contemplative planet carrieth me away wholly), but as a man born under an excellent sovereign that deserveth the dedication of all men's abilities. Besides, I do not find in myself so much self-love, but that the greater parts of my thoughts are to deserve well (if I be able) of my friends, and namely of your Lordship; who, being the Atlas of this commonwealth, the honour of my house, and the second founder of my poor estate, I am tied by all duties, both of a good patriot, and of an unworthy kinsman, and of an obliged servant, to employ whatsoever I am to do you service. Again, the meanness of my estate doth somewhat move me; for though I cannot accuse myself that I am either prodigal or slothful, yet my health is not to spend, nor my course to get. Lastly, I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends as I have moderate civil ends; for I have taken all knowledge to be my province; and if I could purge it of two sorts of rovers, whereof the one with frivolous disputations, confutations, and verbosities, the other with blind experiments and auricular traditions and impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in industrious observations, grounded conclusions, and profitable inventions and discoveries: the best state of that province. This, whether it be curiosity or vain glory, or nature, or (if one take it favourably) philanthropia, is so fixed in my mind as it cannot be removed. And I do easily see, that place of any reasonable countenance doth bring commandment of more wits than of a man's own; which is the thing I greatly affect. And for your Lordship, perhaps you shall not find more strength and less encounter in any other. And if your Lordship shall find now, or at any time, that I do seek or affect any place whereunto any that is nearer unto your Lordship shall be concurrent, say then that I am a most dishonest man. And if your Lordship will not carry me on, I will not do as Anaxagoras did, who reduced himself with contemplation unto voluntary poverty, but this I will do—I will sell the inheritance I have, and purchase some lease of quick revenue, or some office of gain that shall be executed by deputy, and so give over all care of service, and become some sorry book-maker, or a true pioneer in that mine of truth which (he said) lay so deep. This which I have writ unto your Lordship is rather thoughts than words, being set down without all art, disguising, or reservation. Wherein I have done honour both to your Lordship's wisdom, in judging that that will be best believed of your Lordship which is truest, and to your Lordship's good nature, in retaining nothing from you. And even so I wish your Lordship all happiness, and to myself means and occasions to be added to my faithful desire to do you service. From my lodgings at Gray's Inn."

This letter to his unsympathetic and suspicious, but probably not unfriendly relative, is the key to Bacon's plan of life; which, with numberless changes of form, he followed to the end. That is, a profession, steadily, seriously, and laboriously kept to, in order to provide the means of living; and beyond that, as the ultimate and real end of his life, the pursuit, in a way unattempted before, of all possible human knowledge, and of the methods to improve it and make it sure and fruitful. And so his life was carried out. On the one hand it was a continual and pertinacious seeking after government employment, which could give credit to his name and put money in his pocket—attempts by general behaviour, by professional services when the occasion offered, by putting his original and fertile pen at the service of the government, to win confidence, and to overcome the manifest indisposition of those in power to think that a man who cherished the chimera of universal knowledge could be a useful public servant. On the other hand, all the while, in the crises of his disappointment or triumph, the one great subject lay next his heart, filling him with fire and passion—how really to know, and to teach men to know indeed, and to use their knowledge so as to command nature; the great hope to be the reformer and restorer of knowledge in a more wonderful sense than the world had yet seen in the reformation of learning and religion, and in the spread of civilised order in the great states of the Renaissance time. To this he gave his best and deepest thoughts; for this he was for ever accumulating, and for ever rearranging and reshaping those masses of observation and inquiry and invention and mental criticism which were to come in as parts of the great design which he had seen in the visions of his imagination, and of which at last he was only able to leave noble fragments, incomplete after numberless recastings. This was not indeed the only, but it was the predominant and governing, interest of his life. Whether as solicitor for Court favour or public office; whether drudging at the work of the law or managing State prosecutions; whether writing an opportune pamphlet against Spain or Father Parsons, or inventing a "device" for his Inn or for Lord Essex to give amusement to Queen Elizabeth; whether fulfilling his duties as member of Parliament or rising step by step to the highest places in the Council Board and the State; whether in the pride of success or under the amazement of unexpected and irreparable overthrow, while it seemed as if he was only measuring his strength against the rival ambitions of the day, in the same spirit and with the same object as his competitors, the true motive of all his eagerness and all his labours was not theirs. He wanted to be powerful, and still more to be rich; but he wanted to be so, because without power and without money he could not follow what was to him the only thing worth following on earth—a real knowledge of the amazing and hitherto almost unknown world in which he had to live. Bacon, to us, at least, at this distance, who can only judge him from partial and imperfect knowledge, often seems to fall far short of what a man should be. He was not one of the high-minded and proud searchers after knowledge and truth, like Descartes, who were content to accept a frugal independence so that their time and their thoughts might be their own. Bacon was a man of the world, and wished to live in and with the world. He threatened sometimes retirement, but never with any very serious intention. In the Court was his element, and there were his hopes. Often there seems little to distinguish him from the ordinary place-hunters, obsequious and selfish, of every age; little to distinguish him from the servile and insincere flatterers, of whom he himself complains, who crowded the antechambers of the great Queen, content to submit with smiling face and thankful words to the insolence of her waywardness and temper, in the hope, more often disappointed than not, of hitting her taste on some lucky occasion, and being rewarded for the accident by a place of gain or honour. Bacon's history, as read in his letters, is not an agreeable one; after every allowance made for the fashions of language and the necessities of a suitor, there is too much of insincere profession of disinterestedness, too much of exaggerated profession of admiration and devoted service, too much of disparagement and insinuation against others, for a man who respected himself. He submitted too much to the miserable conditions of rising which he found. But, nevertheless, it must be said that it was for no mean object, for no mere private selfishness or vanity, that he endured all this. He strove hard to be a great man and a rich man. But it was that he might have his hands free and strong and well furnished to carry forward the double task of overthrowing ignorance and building up the new and solid knowledge on which his heart was set—that immense conquest of nature on behalf of man which he believed to be possible, and of which he believed himself to have the key.

The letter to Lord Burghley did not help him much. He received the reversion of a place, the Clerkship of the Council, which did not become vacant for twenty years. But these years of service declined and place withheld were busy and useful ones. What he was most intent upon, and what occupied his deepest and most serious thought, was unknown to the world round him, and probably not very intelligible to his few intimate friends, such as his brother Antony and Dr. Andrewes. Meanwhile he placed his pen at the disposal of the authorities, and though they regarded him more as a man of study than of practice and experience, they were glad to make use of it. His versatile genius found another employment. Besides his affluence in topics, he had the liveliest fancy and most active imagination. But that he wanted the sense of poetic fitness and melody, he might almost be supposed, with his reach and play of thought, to have been capable, as is maintained in some eccentric modern theories, of writing Shakespeare's plays. No man ever had a more imaginative power of illustration drawn from the most remote and most unlikely analogies; analogies often of the quaintest and most unexpected kind, but often also not only felicitous in application but profound and true. His powers were early called upon for some of those sportive compositions in which that age delighted on occasions of rejoicing or festival. Three of his contributions to these "devices" have been preserved—two of them composed in honour of the Queen, as "triumphs," offered by Lord Essex, one probably in 1592 and another in 1595; a third for a Gray's Inn revel in 1594. The "devices" themselves were of the common type of the time, extravagant, odd, full of awkward allegory and absurd flattery, and running to a prolixity which must make modern lovers of amusement wonder at the patience of those days; but the "discourses" furnished by Bacon are full of fine observation and brilliant thought and wit and happy illustration, which, fantastic as the general conception is, raises them far above the level of such fugitive trifles.

Among the fragmentary papers belonging to this time which have come down, not the least curious are those which throw light on his manner of working. While he was following out the great ideas which were to be the basis of his philosophy, he was as busy and as painstaking in fashioning the instruments by which they were to be expressed; and in these papers we have the records and specimens of this preparation. He was a great collector of sentences, proverbs, quotations, sayings, illustrations, anecdotes, and he seems to have read sometimes simply to gather phrases and apt words. He jots down at random any good and pointed remark which comes into his thought or his memory; at another time he groups a set of stock quotations with a special drift, bearing on some subject, such as the faults of universities or the habits of lawyers. Nothing is too minute for his notice. He brings together in great profusion mere forms, varied turns of expression, heads and tails of clauses and paragraphs, transitions, connections; he notes down fashions of compliment, of excuse or repartee, even morning and evening salutations; he records neat and convenient opening and concluding sentences, ways of speaking more adapted than others to give a special colour or direction to what the speaker or writer has to say—all that hook-and-eye work which seems so trivial and passes so unnoticed as a matter of course, and which yet is often hard to reach, and which makes all the difference between tameness and liveliness, between clearness and obscurity—all the difference, not merely to the ease and naturalness, but often to the logical force of speech. These collections it was his way to sift and transcribe again and again, adding as well as omitting. From one of these, belonging to 1594 and the following years, the Promus of Formularies and Elegancies, Mr. Spedding has given curious extracts; and the whole collection has been recently edited by Mrs. Henry Pott. Thus it was that he prepared himself for what, as we read it, or as his audience heard it, seems the suggestion or recollection of the moment. Bacon was always much more careful of the value or aptness of a thought than of its appearing new and original. Of all great writers he least minds repeating himself, perhaps in the very same words; so that a simile, an illustration, a quotation pleases him, he returns to it—he is never tired of it; it obviously gives him satisfaction to introduce it again and again. These collections of odds and ends illustrate another point in his literary habits. His was a mind keenly sensitive to all analogies and affinities, impatient of a strict and rigid logical groove, but spreading as it were tentacles on all sides in quest of chance prey, and quickened into a whole system of imagination by the electric quiver imparted by a single word, at once the key and symbol of the thinking it had led to. And so he puts down word or phrase, so enigmatical to us who see it by itself, which to him would wake up a whole train of ideas, as he remembered the occasion of it—how at a certain time and place this word set the whole moving, seemed to breathe new life and shed new light, and has remained the token, meaningless in itself, which reminds him of so much.

When we come to read his letters, his speeches, his works, we come continually on the results and proofs of this early labour. Some of the most memorable and familiar passages of his writings are to be traced from the storehouses which he filled in these years of preparation. An example of this correspondence between the note-book and the composition is to be seen in a paper belonging to this period, written apparently to form part of a masque, or as he himself calls it, a "Conference of Pleasure," and entitled the Praise of Knowledge. It is interesting because it is the first draught which we have from him of some of the leading ideas and most characteristic language about the defects and the improvement of knowledge, which were afterwards embodied in the Advancement and the Novum Organum. The whole spirit and aim of his great reform is summed up in the following fine passage:

"Facility to believe, impatience to doubt, temerity to assever, glory to know, doubt to contradict, end to gain, sloth to search, seeking things in words, resting in a part of nature—these and the like have been the things which have forbidden the happy match between the mind of man and the nature of things, and in place thereof have married it to vain notions and blind experiments.... Therefore, no doubt, the sovereignty of man lieth hid in knowledge; wherein many things are reserved which kings with their treasures cannot buy nor with their force command; their spials and intelligencers can give no news of them; their seamen and discoverers cannot sail where they grow. Now we govern nature in opinions, but we are thrall unto her in necessity; but if we could be led by her in invention, we should command her in action."

To the same occasion as the discourse on the Praise of Knowledge belongs, also, one in Praise of the Queen. As one is an early specimen of his manner of writing on philosophy, so this is a specimen of what was equally characteristic of him—his political and historical writing. It is, in form, necessarily a panegyric, as high-flown and adulatory as such performances in those days were bound to be. But it is not only flattery. It fixes with true discrimination on the points in Elizabeth's character and reign which were really subjects of admiration and homage. Thus of her unquailing spirit at the time of the Spanish invasion—

"Lastly, see a Queen, that when her realm was to have been invaded by an army, the preparation whereof was like the travail of an elephant, the provisions infinite, the setting forth whereof was the terror and wonder of Europe; it was not seen that her cheer, her fashion, her ordinary manner was anything altered; not a cloud of that storm did appear in that countenance wherein peace doth ever shine; but with excellent assurance and advised security she inspired her council, animated her nobility, redoubled the courage of her people; still having this noble apprehension, not only that she would communicate her fortune with them, but that it was she that would protect them, and not they her; which she testified by no less demonstration than her presence in camp. Therefore that magnanimity that neither feareth greatness of alteration, nor the vows of conspirators, nor the power of the enemy, is more than heroical."

These papers, though he put his best workmanship into them, as he invariably did with whatever he touched, were of an ornamental kind. But he did more serious work. In the year 1592 a pamphlet had been published on the Continent in Latin and English, Responsio ad Edictum Reginae Angliae, with reference to the severe legislation which followed on the Armada, making such charges against the Queen and the Government as it was natural for the Roman Catholic party to make, and making them with the utmost virulence and unscrupulousness. It was supposed to be written by the ablest of the Roman pamphleteers, Father Parsons. The Government felt it to be a dangerous indictment, and Bacon was chosen to write the answer to it. He had additional interest in the matter, for the pamphlet made a special and bitter attack on Burghley, as the person mainly responsible for the Queen's policy. Bacon's reply is long and elaborate, taking up every charge, and reviewing from his own point of view the whole course of the struggle between the Queen and the supporters of the Roman Catholic interest abroad and at home. It cannot be considered an impartial review; besides that it was written to order, no man in England could then write impartially in that quarrel; but it is not more one-sided and uncandid than the pamphlet which it answers, and Bacon is able to recriminate with effect, and to show gross credulity and looseness of assertion on the part of the Roman Catholic advocate. But religion had too much to do with the politics of both sides for either to be able to come into the dispute with clean hands: the Roman Catholics meant much more than toleration, and the sanguinary punishments of the English law against priests and Jesuits were edged by something even keener than the fear of treason. But the paper contains some large surveys of public affairs, which probably no one at that time could write but Bacon. Bacon never liked to waste anything good which he had written; and much of what he had written in the panegyric in Praise of the Queen is made use of again, and transferred with little change to the pages of the Observations on a Libel.


[2] Dr. Mozley.



The last decade of the century, and almost of Elizabeth's reign (1590-1600), was an eventful one to Bacon's fortunes. In it the vision of his great design disclosed itself more and more to his imagination and hopes, and with more and more irresistible fascination. In it he made his first literary venture, the first edition of his Essays (1597), ten in number, the first-fruits of his early and ever watchful observation of men and affairs. These years, too, saw his first steps in public life, the first efforts to bring him into importance, the first great trials and tests of his character. They saw the beginning and they saw the end of his relations with the only friend who, at that time, recognised his genius and his purposes, certainly the only friend who ever pushed his claims; they saw the growth of a friendship which was to have so tragical a close, and they saw the beginnings and causes of a bitter personal rivalry which was to last through life, and which was to be a potent element hereafter in Bacon's ruin. The friend was the Earl of Essex. The competitor was the ablest, and also the most truculent and unscrupulous of English lawyers, Edward Coke.

While Bacon, in the shade, had been laying the foundations of his philosophy of nature, and vainly suing for legal or political employment, another man had been steadily rising in the Queen's favour and carrying all before him at Court—Robert Devereux, Lord Essex; and with Essex Bacon had formed an acquaintance which had ripened into an intimate and affectionate friendship. We commonly think of Essex as a vain and insolent favourite, who did ill the greatest work given him to do—the reduction of Ireland; who did it ill from some unexplained reason of spite and mischief; and who, when called to account for it, broke out into senseless and idle rebellion. This was the end. But he was not always thus. He began life with great gifts and noble ends; he was a serious, modest, and large-minded student both of books and things, and he turned his studies to full account. He had imagination and love of enterprise, which gave him an insight into Bacon's ideas such as none of Bacon's contemporaries had. He was a man of simple and earnest religion; he sympathized most with the Puritans, because they were serious and because they were hardly used. Those who most condemn him acknowledge his nobleness and generosity of nature. Bacon in after days, when all was over between them, spoke of him as a man always patientissimus veri; "the more plainly and frankly you shall deal with my lord," he writes elsewhere, "not only in disclosing particulars, but in giving him caveats and admonishing him of any error which in this action he may commit (such is his lordship's nature), the better he will take it." "He must have seemed," says Mr. Spedding, a little too grandly, "in the eyes of Bacon like the hope of the world." The two men, certainly, became warmly attached. Their friendship came to be one of the closest kind, full of mutual services, and of genuine affection on both sides. It was not the relation of a great patron and useful dependant; it was, what might be expected in the two men, that of affectionate equality. Each man was equally capable of seeing what the other was, and saw it. What Essex's feelings were towards Bacon the results showed. Bacon, in after years, repeatedly claimed to have devoted his whole time and labour to Essex's service. Holding him, he says, to be "the fittest instrument to do good to the State, I applied myself to him in a manner which I think rarely happeneth among men; neglecting the Queen's service, mine own fortune, and, in a sort, my vocation, I did nothing but advise and ruminate with myself ... anything that might concern his lordship's honour, fortune, or service." The claim is far too wide. The "Queen's service" had hardly as yet come much in Bacon's way, and he never neglected it when it did come, nor his own fortune or vocation; his letters remain to attest his care in these respects. But no doubt Bacon was then as ready to be of use to Essex, the one man who seemed to understand and value him, as Essex was desirous to be of use to Bacon.

And it seemed as if Essex would have the ability as well as the wish. Essex was, without exception, the most brilliant man who ever appeared at Elizabeth's Court, and it seemed as if he were going to be the most powerful. Leicester was dead. Burghley was growing old, and indisposed for the adventures and levity which, with all her grand power of ruling, Elizabeth loved. She needed a favourite, and Essex was unfortunately marked out for what she wanted. He had Leicester's fascination, without his mean and cruel selfishness. He was as generous, as gallant, as quick to descry all great things in art and life, as Philip Sidney, with more vigour and fitness for active life than Sidney. He had not Raleigh's sad, dark depths of thought, but he had a daring courage equal to Raleigh's, without Raleigh's cynical contempt for mercy and honour. He had every personal advantage requisite for a time when intellect, and ready wit, and high-tempered valour, and personal beauty, and skill in affairs, with equal skill in amusements, were expected to go together in the accomplished courtier. And Essex was a man not merely to be courted and admired, to shine and dazzle, but to be loved. Elizabeth, with her strange and perverse emotional constitution, loved him, if she ever loved any one. Every one who served him loved him; and he was, as much as any one could be in those days, a popular favourite. Under better fortune he might have risen to a great height of character; in Elizabeth's Court he was fated to be ruined.

For in that Court all the qualities in him which needed control received daily stimulus, and his ardour and high-aiming temper turned into impatience and restless irritability. He had a mistress who was at one time in the humour to be treated as a tender woman, at another as an outrageous flirt, at another as the haughtiest and most imperious of queens; her mood varied, no one could tell how, and it was most dangerous to mistake it. It was part of her pleasure to find in her favourite a spirit as high, a humour as contradictory and determined, as her own; it was the charming contrast to the obsequiousness or the prudence of the rest; but no one could be sure at what unlooked-for moment, and how fiercely, she might resent in earnest a display of what she had herself encouraged. Essex was ruined for all real greatness by having to suit himself to this bewildering and most unwholesome and degrading waywardness. She taught him to think himself irresistible in opinion and in claims; she amused herself in teaching him how completely he was mistaken. Alternately spoiled and crossed, he learned to be exacting, unreasonable, absurd in his pettish resentments or brooding sullenness. He learned to think that she must be dealt with by the same methods which she herself employed. The effect was not produced in a moment; it was the result of a courtiership of sixteen years. But it ended in corrupting a noble nature. Essex came to believe that she who cowed others must be frightened herself; that the stinging injustice which led a proud man to expect, only to see how he would behave when refused, deserved to be brought to reason by a counter-buffet as rough as her own insolent caprice. He drifted into discontent, into disaffection, into neglect of duty, into questionable schemings for the future of a reign that must shortly end, into criminal methods of guarding himself, of humbling his rivals and regaining influence. A "fatal impatience," as Bacon calls it, gave his rivals an advantage which, perhaps in self-defence, they could not fail to take; and that career, so brilliant, so full of promise of good, ended in misery, in dishonour, in remorse, on the scaffold of the Tower.

With this attractive and powerful person Bacon's fortunes, in the last years of the century, became more and more knit up. Bacon was now past thirty, Essex a few years younger. In spite of Bacon's apparent advantage and interest at Court, in spite of abilities, which, though his genius was not yet known, his contemporaries clearly recognised, he was still a struggling and unsuccessful man: ambitious to rise, for no unworthy reasons, but needy, in weak health, with careless and expensive habits, and embarrassed with debt. He had hoped to rise by the favour of the Queen and for the sake of his father. For some ill-explained reason he was to the last disappointed. Though she used him "for matters of state and revenue," she either did not like him, or did not see in him the servant she wanted to advance. He went on to the last pressing his uncle, Lord Burghley. He applied in the humblest terms, he made himself useful with his pen, he got his mother to write for him; but Lord Burghley, probably because he thought his nephew more of a man of letters than a sound lawyer and practical public servant, did not care to bring him forward. From his cousin, Robert Cecil, Bacon received polite words and friendly assurances. Cecil may have undervalued him, or have been jealous of him, or suspected him as a friend of Essex; he certainly gave Bacon good reason to think that his words meant nothing. Except Essex, and perhaps his brother Antony—the most affectionate and devoted of brothers—no one had yet recognised all that Bacon was. Meanwhile time was passing. The vastness, the difficulties, the attractions of that conquest of all knowledge which he dreamed of, were becoming greater every day to his thoughts. The law, without which he could not live, took up time and brought in little. Attendance on the Court was expensive, yet indispensable, if he wished for place. His mother was never very friendly, and thought him absurd and extravagant. Debts increased and creditors grumbled. The outlook was discouraging, when his friendship with Essex opened to him a more hopeful prospect.

In the year 1593 the Attorney-General's place was vacant, and Essex, who in that year became a Privy Councillor, determined that Bacon should be Attorney-General. Bacon's reputation as a lawyer was overshadowed by his philosophical and literary pursuits. He was thought young for the office, and he had not yet served in any subordinate place. And there was another man, who was supposed to carry all English law in his head, full of rude force and endless precedents, hard of heart and voluble of tongue, who also wanted it. An Attorney-General was one who would bring all the resources and hidden subtleties of English law to the service of the Crown, and use them with thorough-going and unflinching resolution against those whom the Crown accused of treason, sedition, or invasion of the prerogative. It is no wonder that the Cecils, and the Queen herself, thought Coke likely to be a more useful public servant than Bacon: it is certain what Coke himself thought about it, and what his estimate was of the man whom Essex was pushing against him. But Essex did not take up his friend's cause in the lukewarm fashion in which Burghley had patronised his nephew. There was nothing that Essex pursued with greater pertinacity. He importuned the Queen. He risked without scruple offending her. She apparently long shrank from directly refusing his request. The Cecils were for Coke—the "Huddler" as Bacon calls him, in a letter to Essex; but the appointment was delayed. All through 1593, and until April, 1594, the struggle went on.

When Robert Cecil suggested that Essex should be content with the Solicitor's place for Bacon, "praying him to be well advised, for if his Lordship had spoken of that it might have been of easier digestion to the Queen," he turned round on Cecil—

"Digest me no digesting," said the Earl; "for the Attorneyship is that I must have for Francis Bacon; and in that I will spend my uttermost credit, friendship, and authority against whomsoever, and that whosoever went about to procure it to others, that it should cost both the mediators and the suitors the setting on before they came by it. And this be you assured of, Sir Robert," quoth the Earl, "for now do I fully declare myself; and for your own part, Sir Robert, I do think much and strange both of my Lord your father and you, that can have the mind to seek the preferment of a stranger before so near a kinsman; namely, considering if you weigh in a balance his parts and sufficiency in any respect with those of his competitor, excepting only four poor years of admittance, which Francis Bacon hath more than recompensed with the priority of his reading; in all other respects you shall find no comparison between them."

But the Queen's disgust at some very slight show of independence on Bacon's part in Parliament, unforgiven in spite of repeated apologies, together with the influence of the Cecils and the pressure of so formidable and so useful a man as Coke, turned the scale against Essex. In April, 1594, Coke was made Attorney. Coke did not forget the pretender to law, as he would think him, who had dared so long to dispute his claims; and Bacon was deeply wounded. "No man," he thought, "had ever received a more exquisite disgrace," and he spoke of retiring to Cambridge "to spend the rest of his life in his studies and contemplations." But Essex was not discouraged. He next pressed eagerly for the Solicitorship. Again, after much waiting, he was foiled. An inferior man was put over Bacon's head. Bacon found that Essex, who could do most things, for some reason could not do this. He himself, too, had pressed his suit with the greatest importunity on the Queen, on Burghley, on Cecil, on every one who could help him; he reminded the Queen how many years ago it was since he first kissed her hand in her service, and ever since had used his wits to please; but it was all in vain. For once he lost patience. He was angry with Essex; the Queen's anger with Essex had, he thought, recoiled on his friend. He was angry with the Queen; she held his long waiting cheap; she played with him and amused herself with delay; he would go abroad, and he "knew her Majesty's nature, that she neither careth though the whole surname of the Bacons travelled, nor of the Cecils neither." He was very angry with Robert Cecil; affecting not to believe them, he tells him stories he has heard of his corrupt and underhand dealing. He writes almost a farewell letter of ceremonious but ambiguous thanks to Lord Burghley, hoping that he would impute any offence that Bacon might have given to the "complexion of a suitor, and a tired sea-sick suitor," and speaking despairingly of his future success in the law. The humiliations of what a suitor has to go through torment him: "It is my luck," he writes to Cecil, "still to be akin to such things as I neither like in nature nor would willingly meet with in my course, but yet cannot avoid without show of base timorousness or else of unkind or suspicious strangeness." And to his friend Fulke Greville he thus unburdens himself:

"SIR,—I understand of your pains to have visited me, for which I thank you. My matter is an endless question. I assure you I had said Requiesce anima mea; but I now am otherwise put to my psalter; Nolite confidere. I dare go no further. Her Majesty had by set speech more than once assured me of her intention to call me to her service, which I could not understand but of the place I had been named to. And now whether invidus homo hoc fecit; or whether my matter must be an appendix to my Lord of Essex suit; or whether her Majesty, pretending to prove my ability, meaneth but to take advantage of some errors which, like enough, at one time or other I may commit; or what is it? but her Majesty is not ready to despatch it. And what though the Master of the Rolls, and my Lord of Essex, and yourself, and others, think my case without doubt, yet in the meantime I have a hard condition, to stand so that whatsoever service I do to her Majesty it shall be thought to be but servitium viscatum, lime-twigs and fetches to place myself; and so I shall have envy, not thanks. This is a course to quench all good spirits, and to corrupt every man's nature, which will, I fear, much hurt her Majesty's service in the end. I have been like a piece of stuff bespoken in the shop; and if her Majesty will not take me, it may be the selling by parcels will be more gainful. For to be, as I told you, like a child following a bird, which when he is nearest flieth away and lighteth a little before, and then the child after it again, and so in infinitum, I am weary of it; as also of wearying my good friends, of whom, nevertheless, I hope in one course or other gratefully to deserve. And so, not forgetting your business, I leave to trouble you with this idle letter; being but justa et moderata querimonia; for indeed I do confess, primus amor will not easily be cast off. And thus again I commend me to you."

After one more effort the chase was given up, at least for the moment; for it was soon resumed. But just now Bacon felt that all the world was against him. He would retire "out of the sunshine into the shade." One friend only encouraged him. He did more. He helped him when Bacon most wanted help, in his straitened and embarrassed "estate." Essex, when he could do nothing more, gave Bacon an estate worth at least L1800. Bacon's resolution is recorded in the following letter:

"IT MAY PLEASE YOUR GOOD LORDSHIP,—I pray God her Majesty's weighing be not like the weight of a balance, gravia deorsum levia sursum. But I am as far from being altered in devotion towards her, as I am from distrust that she will be altered in opinion towards me, when she knoweth me better. For myself, I have lost some opinion, some time, and some means; this is my account; but then for opinion, it is a blast that goeth and cometh; for time, it is true it goeth and cometh not; but yet I have learned that it may be redeemed. For means, I value that most; and the rather, because I am purposed not to follow the practice of the law (if her Majesty command me in any particular, I shall be ready to do her willing service); and my reason is only, because it drinketh too much time, which I have dedicated to better purposes. But even for that point of estate and means, I partly lean to Thales' opinion, That a philosopher may be rich if he will. Thus your Lordship seeth how I comfort myself; to the increase whereof I would fain please myself to believe that to be true which my Lord Treasurer writeth; which is, that it is more than a philosopher morally can disgest. But without any such high conceit, I esteem it like the pulling out of an aching tooth, which, I remember, when I was a child, and had little philosophy, I was glad of when it was done. For your Lordship, I do think myself more beholding to you than to any man. And I say, I reckon myself as a common (not popular but common); and as much as is lawful to be enclosed of a common, so much your Lordship shall be sure to have.—Your Lordship's to obey your honourable commands, more settled than ever."

It may be that, as Bacon afterwards maintained, the closing sentences of this letter implied a significant reserve of his devotion. But during the brilliant and stormy years of Essex's career which followed, Bacon's relations to him continued unaltered. Essex pressed Bacon's claims whenever a chance offered. He did his best to get Bacon a rich wife—the young widow of Sir Christopher Hatton—but in vain. Instead of Bacon she accepted Coke, and became famous afterwards in the great family quarrel, in which Coke and Bacon again found themselves face to face, and which nearly ruined Bacon before the time. Bacon worked for Essex when he was wanted, and gave the advice which a shrewd and cautious friend would give to a man who, by his success and increasing pride and self-confidence, was running into serious dangers, arming against himself deadly foes, and exposing himself to the chances of fortune. Bacon was nervous about Essex's capacity for war, a capacity which perhaps was not proved, even by the most brilliant exploit of the time, the capture of Cadiz, in which Essex foreshadowed the heroic but well-calculated audacities of Nelson and Cochrane, and showed himself as little able as they to bear the intoxication of success, and to work in concert with envious and unfriendly associates. At the end of the year 1596, the year in which Essex had won such reputation at Cadiz, Bacon wrote him a letter of advice and remonstrance. It is a lively picture of the defects and dangers of Essex's behaviour as the Queen's favourite; and it is a most characteristic and worldly-wise summary of the ways which Bacon would have him take, to cure the one and escape the other. Bacon had, as he says, "good reason to think that the Earl's fortune comprehended his own." And the letter may perhaps be taken as an indirect warning to Essex that Bacon must, at any rate, take care of his own fortune, if the Earl persisted in dangerous courses. Bacon shows how he is to remove the impressions, strong in the Queen's mind, of Essex's defects; how he is, by due submissions and stratagems, to catch her humour—

"But whether I counsel you the best, or for the best, duty bindeth me to offer to you my wishes. I said to your Lordship last time, Martha, Martha, attendis ad plurima, unum sufficit; win the Queen: if this be not the beginning, of any other course I see no end."

Bacon gives a series of minute directions how Essex is to disarm the Queen's suspicions, and to neutralize the advantage which his rivals take of them; how he is to remove "the opinion of his nature being opiniastre and not rulable;" how, avoiding the faults of Leicester and Hatton, he is, as far as he can, to "allege them for authors and patterns." Especially, he must give up that show of soldier-like distinction, which the Queen so disliked, and take some quiet post at Court. He must not alarm the Queen by seeking popularity; he must take care of his estate; he must get rid of some of his officers; and he must not be disquieted by other favourites.

Bacon wished, as he said afterwards, to see him "with a white staff in his hand, as my Lord of Leicester had," an honour and ornament to the Court in the eyes of the people and foreign ambassadors. But Essex was not fit for the part which Bacon urged upon him, that of an obsequious and vigilant observer of the Queen's moods and humours. As time went on, things became more and more difficult between him and his strange mistress; and there were never wanting men who, like Cecil and Raleigh, for good and bad reasons, feared and hated Essex, and who had the craft and the skill to make the most of his inexcusable errors. At last he allowed himself, from ambition, from the spirit of contradiction, from the blind passion for doing what he thought would show defiance to his enemies, to be tempted into the Irish campaign of 1599. Bacon at a later time claimed credit for having foreseen and foretold its issue. "I did as plainly see his overthrow, chained as it were by destiny to that journey, as it is possible for any man to ground a judgment on future contingents." He warned Essex, so he thought in after years, of the difficulty of the work; he warned him that he would leave the Queen in the hands of his enemies: "It would be ill for her, ill for him, ill for the State." "I am sure," he adds, "I never in anything in my life dealt with him in like earnestness by speech, by writing, and by all the means I could devise." But Bacon's memory was mistaken. We have his letters. When Essex went to Ireland, Bacon wrote only in the language of sanguine hope—so little did he see "overthrow chained by destiny to that journey," that "some good spirit led his pen to presage to his Lordship success;" he saw in the enterprise a great occasion of honour to his friend; he gave prudent counsels, but he looked forward confidently to Essex being as "fatal a captain to that war, as Africanus was to the war of Carthage." Indeed, however anxious he may have been, he could not have foreseen Essex's unaccountable and to this day unintelligible failure. But failure was the end, from whatever cause; failure, disgraceful and complete. Then followed wild and guilty but abortive projects for retrieving his failure, by using his power in Ireland to make himself formidable to his enemies at Court, and even to the Queen herself. He intrigued with Tyrone; he intrigued with James of Scotland; he plunged into a whirl of angry and baseless projects, which came to nothing the moment they were discussed. How empty and idle they were was shown by his return against orders to tell his own story at Nonsuch, and by thus placing himself alone and undeniably in the wrong, in the power of the hostile Council. Of course it was not to be thought of that Cecil should not use his advantage in the game. It was too early, irritated though the Queen was, to strike the final blow. But it is impossible not to see, looking back over the miserable history, that Essex was treated in a way which was certain, sooner or later, to make him, being what he was, plunge into a fatal and irretrievable mistake. He was treated as a cat treats a mouse; he was worried, confined, disgraced, publicly reprimanded, brought just within verge of the charge of treason, but not quite, just enough to discredit and alarm him, but to leave him still a certain amount of play. He was made to see that the Queen's favour was not quite hopeless; but that nothing but the most absolute and unreserved humiliation could recover it. It was plain to any one who knew Essex that this treatment would drive Essex to madness. "These same gradations of yours"—so Bacon represents himself expostulating with the Queen on her caprices—"are fitter to corrupt than to correct any mind of greatness." They made Essex desperate; he became frightened for his life, and he had reason to be so, though not in the way which he feared. At length came the stupid and ridiculous outbreak of the 8th of February, 1600/1601, a plot to seize the palace and raise the city against the ministers, by the help of a few gentlemen armed only with their rapiers. As Bacon himself told the Queen, "if some base and cruel-minded persons had entered into such an action, it might have caused much blow and combustion; but it appeared well that they were such as knew not how to play the malefactors!" But it was sufficient to bring Essex within the doom of treason.

Essex knew well what the stake was. He lost it, and deserved to lose it, little as his enemies deserved to win it; for they, too, were doing what would have cost them their heads if Elizabeth had known it—corresponding, as Essex was accused of doing, with Scotland about the succession, and possibly with Spain. But they were playing cautiously and craftily; he with bungling passion. He had been so long accustomed to power and place, that he could not endure that rivals should keep him out of it. They were content to have their own way, while affecting to be the humblest of servants; he would be nothing less than a Mayor of the Palace. He was guilty of a great public crime, as every man is who appeals to arms for anything short of the most sacred cause. He was bringing into England, which had settled down into peaceable ways, an imitation of the violent methods of France and the Guises. But the crime as well as the penalty belonged to the age, and crimes legally said to be against the State mean morally very different things, according to the state of society and opinion. It is an unfairness verging on the ridiculous, when the ground is elaborately laid for keeping up the impression that Essex was preparing a real treason against the Queen like that of Norfolk. It was a treason of the same sort and order as that for which Northumberland sent Somerset to the block: the treason of being an unsuccessful rival.

Meanwhile Bacon had been getting gradually into the unofficial employ of the Government. He had become one of the "Learned Counsel"—lawyers with subordinate and intermittent work, used when wanted, but without patent or salary, and not ranking with the regular law officers. The Government had found him useful in affairs of the revenue, in framing interrogatories for prisoners in the Tower, in drawing up reports of plots against the Queen. He did not in this way earn enough to support himself; but he had thus come to have some degree of access to the Queen, which he represents as being familiar and confidential, though he still perceived, as he says himself, that she did not like him. At the first news of Essex's return to England, Bacon greeted him—

"MY LORD,—Conceiving that your Lordship came now up in the person of a good servant to see your sovereign mistress, which kind of compliments are many times instar magnorum meritorum, and therefore it would be hard for me to find you, I have committed to this poor paper the humble salutations of him that is more yours than any man's, and more yours than any man. To these salutations I add a due and joyful gratulation, confessing that your Lordship, in your last conference with me before your journey, spake not in vain, God making it good, That you trusted we should say Quis putasset! Which as it is found true in a happy sense, so I wish you do not find another Quis putasset in the manner of taking this so great a service. But I hope it is, as he said, Nubecula est, cito transibit, and that your Lordship's wisdom and obsequious circumspection and patience will turn all to the best. So referring all to some time that I may attend you, I commit you to God's best preservation."

But when Essex's conduct in Ireland had to be dealt with, Bacon's services were called for; and from this time his relations towards Essex were altered. Every one, no one better than the Queen herself, knew all that he owed to Essex. It is strangely illustrative of the time, that especially as Bacon held so subordinate a position, he should have been required, and should have been trusted, to act against his only and most generous benefactor. It is strange, too, that however great his loyalty to the Queen, however much and sincerely he might condemn his friend's conduct, he should think it possible to accept the task. He says that he made some remonstrance; and he says, no doubt truly, that during the first stage of the business he used the ambiguous position in which he was placed to soften Essex's inevitable punishment, and to bring about a reconciliation between him and the Queen. But he was required, as the Queen's lawyer, to set forth in public Essex's offences; and he admits that he did so "not over tenderly." Yet all this, even if we have misgivings about it, is intelligible. If he had declined, he could not, perhaps, have done the service which he assures us that he tried to do for Essex; and it is certain that he would have had to reckon with the terrible lady who in her old age still ruled England from the throne of Henry VIII., and who had certainly no great love for Bacon himself. She had already shown him in a much smaller matter what was the forfeit to be paid for any resistance to her will. All the hopes of his life must perish; all the grudging and suspicious favours which he had won with such unremitting toil and patient waiting would be sacrificed, and he would henceforth live under the wrath of those who never forgave. And whatever he did for himself, he believed that he was serving Essex. His scheming imagination and his indefatigable pen were at work. He tried strange indirect methods; he invented a correspondence between his brother and Essex, which was to fall into the Queen's hands in order to soften her wrath and show her Essex's most secret feelings. When the Queen proposed to dine with him at his lodge in Twickenham Park, "though I profess not to be a poet," he "prepared a sonnet tending and alluding to draw on her Majesty's reconcilement to my Lord." It was an awkward thing for one who had been so intimate with Essex to be so deep in the counsels of those who hated him. He complains that many people thought him ungrateful and disloyal to his friend, and that stories circulated to his disadvantage, as if he were poisoning the Queen's ear against Essex. But he might argue fairly enough that, wilful and wrong-headed as Essex had been, it was the best that he could now do for him; and as long as it was only a question of Essex's disgrace and enforced absence from Court, Bacon could not be bound to give up the prospects of his life—indeed, his public duty as a subordinate servant of government—on account of his friend's inexcusable and dangerous follies. Essex did not see it so, and in the subjoined correspondence had the advantage; but Bacon's position, though a higher one might be imagined, where men had been such friends as these two men had been, is quite a defensible one:

"MY LORD,—No man can better expound my doings than your Lordship, which maketh me need to say the less. Only I humbly pray you to believe that I aspire to the conscience and commendation first of bonus civis, which with us is a good and true servant to the Queen, and next of bonus vir, that is an honest man. I desire your Lordship also to think that though I confess I love some things much better than I love your Lordship—as the Queen's service, her quiet and contentment, her honour, her favour, the good of my country, and the like—yet I love few persons better than yourself, both for gratitude's sake and for your own virtues, which cannot hurt but by accident or abuse. Of which my good affection I was ever ready and am ready to yield testimony by any good offices, but with such reservations as yourself cannot but allow; for as I was ever sorry that your Lordship should fly with waxen wings, doubting Icarus's fortune, so for the growing up of your own feathers, specially ostrich's, or any other save of a bird of prey, no man shall be more glad. And this is the axletree whereupon I have turned and shall turn, which to signify to you, though I think you are of yourself persuaded as much, is the cause of my writing; and so I commend your Lordship to God's goodness. From Gray's Inn, this 20th day of July, 1600.

"Your Lordship's most humbly, "FR. BACON."

To this letter Essex returned an answer of dignified reserve, such as Bacon might himself have dictated—

"MR. BACON,—I can neither expound nor censure your late actions, being ignorant of all of them, save one, and having directed my sight inward only, to examine myself. You do pray me to believe that you only aspire to the conscience and commendation of bonus civis and bonus vir; and I do faithfully assure you, that while that is your ambition (though your course be active and mine contemplative), yet we shall both convenire in codem tertio and convenire inter nosipsos. Your profession of affection and offer of good offices are welcome to me. For answer to them I will say but this, that you have believed I have been kind to you, and you may believe that I cannot be other, either upon humour or my own election. I am a stranger to all poetical conceits, or else I should say somewhat of your poetical example. But this I must say, that I never flew with other wings than desire to merit and confidence in my Sovereign's favour; and when one of these wings failed me I would light nowhere but at my Sovereign's feet, though she suffered me to be bruised with my fall. And till her Majesty, that knows I was never bird of prey, finds it to agree with her will and her service that my wings should be imped again, I have committed myself to the mire. No power but my God's and my Sovereign's can alter this resolution of

"Your retired friend, "ESSEX."

But after Essex's mad attempt in the city a new state of things arose. The inevitable result was a trial for high treason, a trial of which no one could doubt the purpose and end. The examination of accomplices revealed speeches, proposals, projects, not very intelligible to us in the still imperfectly understood game of intrigue that was going on among all parties at the end of Elizabeth's reign, but quite enough to place Essex at the mercy of the Government and the offended Queen. "The new information," says Mr. Spedding, "had been immediately communicated to Coke and Bacon." Coke, as Attorney-General, of course conducted the prosecution; and the next prominent person on the side of the Crown was not the Solicitor, or any other regular law officer, but Bacon, though holding the very subordinate place of one of the "Learned Counsel."

It does not appear that he thought it strange, that he showed any pain or reluctance, that he sought to be excused. He took it as a matter of course. The part assigned to Bacon in the prosecution was as important as that of Coke; and he played it more skilfully and effectively. Trials in those days were confused affairs, often passing into a mere wrangle between the judges, lawyers, and lookers-on, and the prisoner at the bar. It was so in this case. Coke is said to have blundered in his way of presenting the evidence, and to have been led away from the point into an altercation with Essex. Probably it really did not much matter; but the trial was getting out of its course and inclining in favour of the prisoner, till Bacon—Mr. Spedding thinks, out of his regular turn—stepped forward and retrieved matters. This is Mr. Spedding's account of what Bacon said and did:

"By this time the argument had drifted so far away from the point that it must have been difficult for a listener to remember what it was that the prisoners were charged with, or how much of the charge had been proved. And Coke, who was all this time the sole speaker on behalf of the Crown, was still following each fresh topic that rose before him, without the sign of an intention or the intimation of a wish to return to the main question and reform the broken ranks of his evidence. Luckily he seems to have been now at a loss what point to take next, and the pause gave Bacon an opportunity of rising. It can hardly have been in pursuance of previous arrangements; for though it was customary in those days to distribute the evidence into parts and to assign several parts to several counsel, there had been no appearance as yet of any part being concluded. It is probable that the course of the trial had upset previous arrangements and confused the parts. At any rate so it was, however it came to pass, that when Cecil and Essex had at last finished their expostulation and parted with charitable prayers, each that the other might be forgiven, then (says our reporter) Mr. Bacon entered into a speech much after this fashion:

"'In speaking of this late and horrible rebellion which hath been in the eyes and ears of all men, I shall save myself much labour in opening and enforcing the points thereof, insomuch as I speak not before a country jury of ignorant men, but before a most honourable assembly of the greatest Peers of the land, whose wisdoms conceive far more than my tongue can utter; yet with your gracious and honourable favours I will presume, if not for information of your Honours, yet for the discharge of my duty, to say thus much. No man can be ignorant, that knows matters of former ages—and all history makes it plain—that there was never any traitor heard of that durst directly attempt the seat of his liege prince but he always coloured his practices with some plausible pretence. For God hath imprinted such a majesty in the face of a prince that no private man dare approach the person of his sovereign with a traitorous intent. And therefore they run another side course, oblique et a latere: some to reform corruptions of the State and religion; some to reduce the ancient liberties and customs pretended to be lost and worn out; some to remove those persons that being in high places make themselves subject to envy; but all of them aim at the overthrow of the State and destruction of the present rulers. And this likewise is the use of those that work mischief of another quality; as Cain, that first murderer, took up an excuse for his fact, shaming to outface it with impudency, thus the Earl made his colour the severing some great men and councillors from her Majesty's favour, and the fear he stood in of his pretended enemies lest they should murder him in his house. Therefore he saith he was compelled to fly into the City for succour and assistance; not much unlike Pisistratus, of whom it was so anciently written how he gashed and wounded himself, and in that sort ran crying into Athens that his life was sought and like to have been taken away; thinking to have moved the people to have pitied him and taken his part by such counterfeited harm and danger; whereas his aim and drift was to take the government of the city into his hands and alter the form thereof. With like pretences of dangers and assaults the Earl of Essex entered the City of London and passed through the bowels thereof, blanching rumours that he should have been murdered and that the State was sold; whereas he had no such enemies, no such dangers: persuading themselves that if they could prevail all would have done well. But now magna scelera terminantur in haeresin; for you, my Lord, should know that though princes give their subjects cause of discontent, though they take away the honours they have heaped upon them, though they bring them to a lower estate than they raised them from, yet ought they not to be so forgetful of their allegiance that they should enter into any undutiful act; much less upon rebellion, as you, my Lord, have done. All whatsoever you have or can say in answer hereof are but shadows. And therefore methinks it were best for you to confess, not to justify.'"

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