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A.D. 1591.

to have returned a very churlish answer, taking the opportunity to read Francis a sharp lecture on his “ arrogancy

and overweening These bad qualities the young man earnestly disclaimed, but he submissively promised to profit by such good advice, “and so, wishing unto his Lordship all honour, and to himself continuance of his Lordship's good opinion, with mind and means to deserve it, he humbly took his leave."u

In a short time, however, he was admitted an inner barrister, and immediately after he was elected a Bencher of the Society. So great a favourite was he with his house that in two years more he was made Lent Reader, an office of much dignity, which gave him an opportunity of publicly exhibiting his learning, acuteness, and eloquence. He now acquired such reputation in his profession that the Queen, for the benefit of his assistance in her state prosecutions and revenue

cases, appointed him her Counsel Extraordinary."

This was the first appointment of the sort, the counsel for the Crown hitherto having been only the royal Serjeants, who had the highest rank, and the Attorney and Solicitor General, with the Attorney of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Attorney of the Court of Augmentations. The body of Serjeants came next in point of precedence, and then inner and outer barristers or apprentices according to their "ancienty” or standing. Bacon was exceedingly delighted with this glimpse of Court favour, but he derived little solid advantage from it; for he was allowed no salary, and he had only a few stray briefs, with small fees, on occasions when it was thought that he might be of service to the Crown. The Queen frequently admitted him to her presence, and conversed with him not only about matters of law, but points of general learning and affairs of state, finding much satisfaction from the information and illustrations he communicated to her. Nevertheless, he could not remove from her mind the impression made upon her by the representation of his cousin, Sir

х

u Letter of F. Bacon to Burghley, May 6, ii. 300. 1586. Some writers not unnaturally suppose They long contended for precedence over that this was an application for a silk gown, the Attorney and Solicitor General, except in and that Bacon, having got into great prac. Crown cases, and this was sometimes adtice in stuff', now wished to be “called within judged to them (3 Bulstrode, 32); but now the bar," in the modern sense of the phrase, they do not sit within the bar in term time -whereas, in reality, his ambition then was -an honour accorded to all King's Counsel, only to become "an inner barrister" before and to the Attorney and Solicitor General of his time, that he might be entitled to begin the Queen-consort. practice in Court.-See Macaulay's Essays,

A.D. 1591.

SOLICITS GOVERNMENT EMPLOY.

11

Robert Cecil, that he was “a speculative man, indulging himself in philosophical reveries.'

Bacon's higher aspirations prevented him from taking cordially to the profession of the law, and he still longed for leisure to be devoted to literature and science. With this view he continued to solicit for some place which would enable him to retire from the bar. A few extracts from his letters will best show the state of his feelings at this period of his life. “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. . . . 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. . . . 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 that 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 lies so deep.”y

6. This last request I find it more necessary for me to make, because, though I am glad of her Majesty's favour that I may with more ease practise the law, which percase I may use now and then for my countenance, yet, to speak plainly, though perhaps vainly, I do not think that the ordinary practice of the law, not serving the Queen in place, will be admitted for a good account of the poor talent that God hath given me, so as I make reckoning I shall reap no great benefit to myself in that course.' Such sentiments must have appeared very foolish to the crusty Lord Treasurer, who thought all qualities and occupations were vain and idle which did not lead directly to power and riches, and pronounced 1001. too extravagant a gratuity to be given to the author of the FAERY QUEEN, which he derisively termed "

y Bacon to Burghley, 1591.

ور

2 Same to Same, 1594.

an old song

To stop the mouth of his importunate nephew, the Lord Treasurer procured for him the reversion of the registrarship of the Star Chamber, worth about 16001. a-year; but the place not falling into possession till after the lapse of twenty years, the impatient Francis said, “it was like another man's fair ground battening upon his house, which might mend his prospect, but did not fill his barns."

Although he accomplished infinitely higher objects, he never appears to have had much practice at the bar. The profession of the law in England seems at all times to have required the undivided affections of those who would have the greatest success in it, and has not, as in France and in Scotland, easily admitted a rivalry with more liberal pursuits. When engaged in a cause célèbre,—the Queen and the Court coming to hear the arguments, or taking a lively interest in the result, -Bacon no doubt exerted himself to the utmost, and excited applause by his display of learning and eloquence: but on ordinary occasions, when he found himself in an empty Court, and before an irritable or drowsy Judge, he must have been unable to conceal his disgust, -and eager to get home that he might finish an essay or expose some fallacy by which past ages had been misled,—if he stood up for his client as long as he felt there was a fair chance of success,

we may well believe that he showed little energy in a hopeless defence, and that he was careless about softening defeat by any display of zeal or sympathy. Accordingly, that he was no favourite with the attorneys is clear from his own statements of his progress, from the abundant leisure which he still enjoyed, and from the poverty in which (without any extravagance) he continued to be involved.a

In the parliaments which met in 1586 and 1588 he had been returned to the House of Commons, but he does not seem to have made himself prominent by taking any decided part for or against the Court. The proceedings which then took place were not of a very stirring nature; and neither he himself nor others seem then to have been aware of the power of public speaking with which he was endowed. Four years rolled on before another parliament was sum

a See his Letters. Works, vol. v.

A.D. 1593.

SPEECH ON LAW REFORM,

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moned, the government of the country being carried on solely by the prerogative of the Crown, unchecked by the interference of deliberative assemblies, and it seemed doubtful whether a much longer period might not elapse (as in former reigns) without any opportunity arising for a lawyer to raise himself by his talents for debate.

CHAPTER LII.

CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD BACON TILL THE FALL OF THE

EARL OF ESSEX.

a

At last the quarrel with Spain rendered a vote of fresh subsidies indispensable. A parliament met on the 19th of February, 1593, and Francis Bacon took his seat as representative for the county of Middlesex.

In a discussion which arose a few days after upon the topics dwelt upon by the Lord Keeper, in explaining the causes of summoning the parliament (which we may consider “the debate on the address”), he made a great speech on "Law Reform.” We have only scanty remains of his oratory in the House of Commons, but enough to account for the admiration he now excited, and the influence he acquired. On this occasion he observed, “ The cause of assembling all parliaments hath been hitherto for laws or monies; the one being the sinews of peace, the other of war: to one I am not privy, but the other I should know. I did take great contentment in her Majesty's speech, delivered by the Lord Keeper, how that it was a thing not to be done suddenly, nor scarce a year would suffice to purge the statute book, the volumes of law being so many in number that neither common people can half practise them, nor lawyers sufficiently understand them. The Romans appointed ten men who were to collect or recall all former laws, and to set forth those twelve tables so much of all men commended. The Athenians likewise appointed six for that purpose. And Louis IX., King of France, did the like in reforming his laws.”—We must try to conceive to ourselves the instances he gave of absurd penal laws remaining unrepealed, and the advantages he pointed out from digesting and codifying.

We know that he was ever after the most favoured speaker in that assembly; and, for this reason, although when he was made Attorney-General, and, according to all precedent, he was disqualified to act as a representative of the people, being summoned to the House of Lords, it was unanimously resolved that he should retain his seat in the Lower House.

6. There happened in my time,” says Ben Jonson, one noble speaker who was full of gravity in his speaking. His language, where he could spare or pass by a jest, was nobly censorious. No man ever spoke more neatly, more pressly, more weightily, or suffered less emptiness, less idleness, in what he uttered. No member of his speech but consisted of his own graces. His hearers could not cough or look aside from him without loss. He commanded where he spoke, and had his Judges angry and pleased at his devotion. No man had their affections more in his power. The fear of every man who heard him was lest he should make an end." b

So intoxicated was Bacon with the success of his first great effort, that in the debate on the 7th of March, on the subsidy, he delivered a flaming oration against the Court, running a serious risk of being sent to the Tower, and punished by the Star Chamber for his presumption. The Queen demanded six subsidies, to be paid in three years. The grant of supply to resist foreign invasion he could not oppose, but the amount and mode of payment he denounced as extravagant and oppressive. “He propounded three questions, which he desired might be answered: the first, impossibility or difficulty; the second, danger and discontentment; and, thirdly, a better manner of supply. For impossibility, the

poor

men's rent is such as they are not able to yield it. The gentlemen must sell their plate, and farmers their brass pots, ere this will be paid; and as for us, we are here to search the wounds of the realm, and not to skin them over. We shall breed discontentment in paying these subsidies, and endanger her Majesty's safety, which must consist more in the love of the people than in their wealth. This being granted, other princes hereafter will look for the like, so that we shall put an evil precedent on ourselves and our posterity.”

b It has been supposed, from the use of the “A perfect JUDGE will read each piece of word “ Judges,” that Ben Jonson had never heard Bacon speak in parliament; but I

With the same spirit that its author writ." apprehend that he refers to those who heard

Pope. and formed a judgment of Bacon's eloquence - See Macaulay's Essays, vol. ii. 302. without wearing black coifs and scarlet robes. C D'Ewes's Journal, 1593.

wit

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