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Library University of Texas

Austin, Texas

1860.]

LORD BACON.

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Before accepti g the apology of Bacon, he satirically asked him whether, if he happened to fall into disgrace like Essex and Southampton, he would not bring his talents and influence to bear on him as he had on them; and be it observed that Southampton, who was not only the friend of Essex, but also the friend and patron of Shakespeare, had but a narrow escape from the block. He was condemned at the same time with Essex, but the queen spared his life. He was still a prisoner in the Tower when Elizabeth died, but he was immediately set at liberty by James, who expressed his regret in common with many of his courtiers that he had suffered so much, since there was now scarcely a doubt of his innocence. Bacon, who had hitherto thought that Elizabeth had been too merciful in sparing the neck of so wicked an offender, now joined the rest in congratulating him on his liberation ; for he did not know but a reaction would take place which would enable him to avenge himself. At any rate, he resolved to be on the safe side if possible, and accordingly wrote a letter to Southampton, in which he tells him how much delighted he would be to visit him at his own house, but that he feared he might not be welcome. 'Yet,” says he, “it is as true as a thing that God knoweth, that this great change hath wrought in me no other change towards your lordship than this, that I may safely be that to you now, which I was truly before.”

Were any further proof necessary to show that Bacon cared little what he did, or what means he adopted, provided he could thereby increase his power and wealth,* it would be found in the

*

*

Cornelius Tacitus saith of Augustus Cæsar : “ Augusto profluens et quae principem diceret eloquentia fuit.? But your majesty's manner of speech is indeed prince-like, flowing as from a fountain, and yet streaming and branching itself into nature's order, full of facility and felicity, imitating none, and inimitable by any.

* For I am well assured, that this which I shall say, is no amplification at all, but a positive and measured truth; which is, that there hath not been, since Christ's time, any king or temporal monarch which has been so learned in all literature and erudition divine and human. *

* And
the more, because there is met in your majesty a rare conjunction as well of
divine and sacred literature, as of profane and human; so as your majesty
standeth invested of that triplicity which, in great veneration, was ascribed to
the ancient Hermes, the power and fortune of a king, the knowledge and illu-
mination of a priest, and the learning and universality of a philosopher.”
* He always acted too literally on the ironical precept of Horace :-

-Rem
Si possis recte : si non quocunque modo rem.

motives which he acknowledged to have chiefly actuated him in seeking for a wife. First, he tried to make his fortune by courting a rich widow of the name of Hatton, whose reputation was anything but enviable. It was cven suspected that she had caused the death of her husband. Be this as it may, her own friends regarded her as a disgrace and refused to associate with her. Possibly Bacon was ignorant of all this. At all events, he did his best to secure her hand, or rather her money; and seeing that he was not successful himself, he engaged the services of his friend Essex, some of whose letters to the lady's mother are still extant. “If,” wrote the Earl, "my faith be anything, I protest, if I had one as near me as she is to you, I had rather match her with him, than with men of far greater titles."

But all to no purpose ; the lady, though very willing to márry, as she proved not long after, would not have him on any account. He made more than one other similar attempt, and finally began to pay his attentions to an Alderman's daughter. In order to render himself acceptable to her, he begged his cousin, Robert Cecil, "if it might please his good lordship" to use his interest in his behalf, so that he might be honored with some title. Several hundred had been knighted by the king only a few weeks previously; but it so happened that he had resolved to dub a hundred more, and at the suggestion of Cecil, Bacon was included among the number, receiving the title of Sir Francis. Alderman Barnham and his daughter were satisfied with this, and soon after the latter became Lady Bacon. It seems that her fortune did not prove as large as report had represented it. It is certain, however, that they did not live very happily together. It was well known that they quarreled almost constantly, and their quarrels were deemed sufficiently serious by Bacon to be alluded to in plain terms in his will. ·

Were the character we have thus briefly and imperfectly sketched that of an ordinary man, or an ordinary author, it had been as well not to have noticed its darker shades ; but as that of one of the greatest philosophers, if not the very greatest, which the modern world has produced, it possesses a painful interest as a commentary on the imperfection of human nature, even in its highest intellectual development. The vices to which we have alluded, include those of the gravest kind that can be laid to the charge of man, with perhaps the sole exception of wilful mur

der, or assassination ; yet the injury they have done, or ever can do society, fall into insignificance, when compared to the benefits conferred on mankind by the Novum Organum alone. It is but fair to remember, also, that Bacon is not the only great man who has grievously erred. There is reason to believe that even Plato, who is called the Divine, was guilty of grave errors, if not of crimes. Aristotle has been suspected by his warmest admirers, and those best competent to examine his history, of having advised Alexander to the commission of some of his most reprehensible excesses. The character of Cicero is anything but spotless ; he had more weaknesses, not to give them a harsher name, than perhaps any other public man of his time. It is beyond question that Demosthenes permitted himself to be influenced by bribes. His guilt, in connection with the golden cup of Harpalus, the faithless officer of Alexander, is as well attested as any crime laid to the charge of Bacon.* If Seneca was not as vicious as his pupil Nero, we know that he was unscrupulous enough to attempt a justification of incest and matricide, when the tyrant was notoriously guilty of both. Sallust was expelled from the Roman senate for infamous conduct ; and, perhaps, no Roman governor, even under the auspices of the worst tyrants, was more cruel and oppressive in his exactions during his government of Numidia. Many other great names might be added ;+ but how few remember

* When Harpalus betrayed and robbed his master, he sought an asylum in Athens. The question very properly arose whether protection should be afforded the traitor thief. Demosthenes was consulted as usual. He declared, without hesitation, that to harbor so infamous a person would bring disgrace on the republic. A day was appointed for a formal decision. In the meantime, Harpalus found occasion to show “the Prince of orators” a portion of the precious store of which he had robbed his master. Demosthenes, struck with the beauty of a massive golden cup, took it in his hand and asked what was its weight. “To you it shall weigh twenty talents," was the reply. The cup was sent to the orator's house, with twenty talents in money. Next day, when the cause came to be heard, Demosthenes appeared with his throat mufied up, and making signs that he had lost his voice !

+ It is related of Voltaire, that having been treated by Pope as an intimate friend, while residing in London, he called one day as usual, and finding the poet was from home, he proceeded to levy black mail on his aged mother He told her he “should be very sorry, indeed, to do anything to displease her but really it was very hard to live in London—that he had a severe lampoon, upon her which he was going to publish, but that if she gave him as much

the worst faults of those mentionel, some of thein quite as bad as the worst of Bacon's. They are is little thought of in a depreciating spirit as the spots on the sum.

Even in his own time Bacon was regarded in this light by those best capable of forming a correct opinion. The same hand that paid so fine a tribute to the worth of Shakespeare, has placed on record a similar tribute to the genius of Bacon. It is almost needless to remark, that we allude tu Ben Johnson ; whose high privilege it was to be personally and familiarly acquainted both vith the author of Ilamlet and the author of the Virum Oryanum. If for no other reason than this, we might well feel interested in the opinion of “ Okl Ben" on any subject ; but he has written nothing nobler in poetry or prose, than liis protest in detence of the fallen (hancellor. “My conceit," he says, "towards his person was never increased toward him by his place or honors ; but I have, and do, reverence him for the greatness that was only proper to himself, in that he seemed to me ever by his work, one of the greatest men and most worthy of admiration that had been in many ages. In his adversity, I prayed that God would give him strength, for greatness he could not want. Veither could I condole in a word or syllable for him, as knowing no accident could do harm to virtue, but rather help to make it manifest."* With the exception of the last sentence, it cannot be said that there is much exaggeration in this, though the character which Montesquieu las drawn of Cicero is much nearer the truth as applied to Bacon, i. e., l'n beau génie, mais une à me sourent COMMUNC."

money as would pay a week's board and lodging, be would suppress it." Tho simple-hearted old lady, though first indignant at such base ingratitude, gave the bribe to the amount required, promising never to mention the subject. Soon after the author of the IIenriude came short again, and had recourse to the same experiment. But this time Pope happened to come in, and finding his mother in tears, he insisted on knowing the cause. Voltaire was so much taken by surprise, that he had not the presence of mind to run, until the enraged poet struck him on the face; and in trying to make off, when thus brought to his senses, he tumbled over a chair and nearly broke his neck!

* The character given of him by Addison, nearly a century later, is equally favorable. “ The chief defect,” he says, " of Bacon, is an excess of that virtue which covereth a multitude of sins.” How different from the estimate of Macaulay!

But the works of Bacon are of much more importance than his character ; and it is pleasant to observe that we are soon to have a full reprint of the latest and best English edition. Only one volume of the American edition has yet been issued—that whose title is given at the head of our article. But this is sufficient to indicate the character of the whole, with regard to the style in which it is being gotten up, and which is a model of taste and neatness. The typography, paper, and binding are worthy of the intellectual treasures for which they form so prepossessing a dress. Those of our readers who have seen the fine edition of Carlyle's Works, recently reprinted by the same spirited American publishers, will be able to form an idea of the beautiful form in which we are to have all the multifarious productions known to have emanated from the great English Chancellor. The series is to be complete in fifteen duodecimo volumes. As we have the English edition before us, of which the American is to be an exact reprint, what we

shall
say

of the former, so far as the order and arrangement of the contents are concerned, will apply equally to the latter.

It is an interesting proof of the high importance attached by the literary and learned men of England to the works of Bacon, that it has been deemed necessary for three savans to join their labors in order to do them justice--each taking charge of that department for which his education, tastes and talents had qualified him, and each a fellow of the same University and College in which the author was educated. When the task was undertaken by these gentlemen, the English public felt confident that the result would be satisfactory ; for although there was no lack of editions of Bacon's works, there were scarcely any of them which did not deal in exaggeration either of praise or censure, but generally the former. As an instance, we may mention the edition by Bazil Montagu, in sixteen volumes, first published in 1825. In this no evidence, however strong, is held to be credible, if it is against the author of the Novum Organum. According to Mr. Montagu, he was much more sinned against than sinning : the allegations in regard to the bribes, as well as the charges about the torture of Peacham, the ingratitude and treachery towards Essex and Southampton, were all calumnies, the results of envy and jealousy. True, the editor could not deny that Bacon himself had fully confessed his guilt, and subsequently admitted the justness of the sentence passed upon him by the House of Lords. But all VOL. II.-NO. III.

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