« VorigeDoorgaan »
I knew England to breed, and one that joyed as much in learned men and good wits-from whose lips I have seen to proceed more grace and natural eloquence than from all the orators of Oxford and Cambridge."*
In his own time he was "famous for set speeches, and gained the reputation of a witty and weighty orator;" but I have been obliged to express my opinion, that the specimens of his eloquence transmitted to us are exceedingly dull and tiresome, having neither the point and quaintness of the preceding age, nor showing any approach to the vigour and eloquence which distinguished the latter half of the reign of Elizabeth.†
No judicial decision of his, either in the Court of Chancery or in the Star Chamber, is reported, although we meet with much general commendation of his conduct as a Judge. He had theTM admirable qualities of patience and regularity; and he would often say, Let us stay a little that we may have done the sooner," truly thinking, that an irregular attempt to shorten a cause generally makes it last twice as long as it would have done if regularly heard to its conclusion. When Lord Bacon, in his admirable essay "on Judicature," draws the picture of a good Judge, he is supposed to have intended to delineate his sire. The old gentleman's manner, however, seems to have had about it something of the ridiculous, for the saying went, "that some seemed wiser than they were, but the Lord Keeper was wiser than he seemed.”‡
† There are references to a MS. collection of his speeches said to be in the public library at Cambridge; but after a most diligent search, which I have caused to be made, it is not to be found.
There are a good many decrees of Sir Nicholas Bacon to be found in the Registrar's Book. I will give an abstract of one of them, which may amuse my female readers, and will strikingly illustrate the manners of the times. Who would have thought of a courtship being carried on under the directions of the Lord Keeper? Two powerful Cheshire families, the Traffords and the Boothes, had had a violent feud respecting a marriage between young Edward Trafford and Margaret Boothe. "It therefore pleased her Higness the Queen, for the speedy end and quieting thereof, to direct her special warrant to her Lord Keeper, commanding him to hear and determine the same." The young lady's father alleged "that neither there was nor could be any such liking between the said Edward and Margaret as were convenient to have a marriage between them, and that the said Margaret could not in her heart like well of the said Edward." "Whereupon the said Lord Keeper, understanding the said Margaret to have accomplished the full of twelve years, and wishing to be informed of the truth of this objection before he should proceed to any decree, doth require and enjoin Thomas Stanley, Esq. [ancestor of the present Lord Stanley of Alderly], in whose indifferent custody the said Margaret now is, to suffer the said Edward to have access to the house of the said Thomas Stanley, and that the said Edward and Margaret shall there have meeting, talk, and couference the one with the other, two or three several times before the term of St. Michæl next coming, in the presence of the said Thomas Stanley, and thereupon the said Thomas Stanley shall diligently examine and try, by such convenient and good mearis as he can, what liking the said parties shall have each of other, and shall advertise the said Lord Keeper of his doings and proceedings in that behalf, and what liking he shall find in the said parties." Mr Stanley certified to the Lord Keeper that "he had permitted the said Edward and Margaret to have meeting and talk together at his house and in his presence, on the 6th day of August and on the
He wrote "A Treatise of Treason," and other works which have deservedly perished. Only two of his publications are extant to reconcile us for the loss of the rest:-1. "An argument to show that the persons of noblemen are attachable by law for contempts in the High Court of Chancery;" and, 2. "A Palinode, proving the right of succession to the Crown of England to be in the family of the Stuarts descended from Henry VII., exclusive of Mary Queen of Scots, who had forfeited her rights."
His bon mots have had better luck, for several of them which have been preserved show that, for a Keeper of the Great Seal, he was by no means a contemptible jester.
Being asked his opinion, by the Earl of Leicester, concerning two persons of whom the Queen seemed to think well, "By my troth, my Lord," said he, "the one is a grave Councillor; the other is a proper young man, and so he will be as long as he lives."*
At a time when there was a great clamour about monopolies created by a licence to make a particular manufacture, with a prohibition to all others to do the like,-being asked by Queen Elizabeth what he thought of these monopoly licences, he answered, Madam, will you have me speak the truth? Licentia omnes deteriores sumus. We are all the worse for licences."
Once going the Northern Circuit as Judge, before he had the Great Seal, he was about to pass sentence on a thief convicted
19th day of September, on which last day the said Thomas Stanley, after that the said Edward and Margaret had had some talk and conference the one with the other, took the said Edward apart and demanded of him what liking he had of this gentlewoman? who answered that he had very good liking of her. And thereupon taking the said Margaret also apart, demanded of her what liking she had of the said Edward? who likewise did answer that she had very good liking of him." He then gives a similar account of another meeting which the lovers had on the 26th of September, when "the said Edward declared that he could be very well contented to marry the said Margaret, and the said Margaret declared that she could be very well contented to marry the said Edward with a free good will, and farther that she had not been persuaded nor dissuaded to have liking or disliking of the said young Trafford." Thereupon the Lord Keeper, by his final decree, bearing date the 8th of November, 15 Eliz, ordered and directed that the said Margaret should be delivered by the said Thomas Stanley into the custody of the father of the said Edward, to the end that a marriage may be had between the said Edward and Margaret, and that nothing shall be done to hinder the delivery of the said Margaret into such custody to the intent aforesaid." The decree then goes on to order certain sums of money to be paid by their relations for the benefit of the young couple, "all the several payments aforesaid to be made at `or in the south porch of the parish church of Manchester, in the county of Lancaster, between the hours, &c." But there is a proviso that the young lady shall still have free choice to take or refuse her suitor" without any threatenings or other constraints to be used to her;" and that if she should change her mind before the marriage was celebrated, she, should be delivered back into the custody of her own father. Reg Lib. A. 1573, p. 71.-This proceeding reminds us of the decrees of the French parliaments for a CONGRESS to see if the partics well liked of each other -after marriage.
*This sarcasm (indifferent as it is) was stolen from Sir Thomas More, who when his wife at last had a son who turned out rather silly, observed to her that she had so long prayed for a boy, he was afraid her son would continue a boy as long as he lived.
before him,-when the prisoner, after various pleas had been overruled, asked for mercy on account of kindred. "Prithee," said my Lord Judge, "how comes this about?" Why, if it please you, my Lord, your name is Bacon, and mine is Hog, and, in all ages, Hog and Bacon have been so near kindred that they are not to be separated."-" Ay, but," replied the Judge, "you and I cannot be kindred except you be hanged, for Hog is not Bacon until it be well hanged."
He used to tell a story which he was supposed to have invented er embellished,—that at the next assize town a notorious rogue, knowing that there was a clear case against him, and hoping that he might have some chance from my Lord Judge's love of humour, -instead of pleading, took to himself the liberty of jesting; and, as if the Judge having some evil design, he had been to swear the peace against him,-exclaimed, "I charge you in the Queen's name to seize and take away that man in the red gown there, for I go in danger of my life because of him."
At times he had a slight hesitation, which impeded his utterance. A certain nimble-witted councillor at the bar having often interrupted him, he at last said, "There is a great difference between me and you,—a pain for me to speak, and a pain to you to hold your peace." There was then a glimpse of silence, of which the Lord Keeper took advantage to finish his sentence.
On a bill exhibited to discover where lands lay, being told that the plaintiffs had a certain quantity of land, but could not set it forth, he was wont to say, "And if you cannot find your land in the country, how do you expect me to find it for you in the Court of Chancery?"*
Soon after his death, a wag at the Chancery bar, to expose the practice beginning to prevail too much of referring every thing to the Master (then called "the Doctor," from the Masters being all Doctors of the civil law), feigned a tale that Sir Nicholas, when he came to Heaven's gate, was opposed in respect of an unjust decree which he had made while Lord Keeper. He desired to see the order, and, finding it to begin " Veneris," &c., " Why," saith he, "this being done on a Friday, I was then sitting in the Star Chamber: it concerns the Master of the Rolls: let him answer it." Sir William Cordell, M.R., who died soon after, following, he was likewise stayed upon it. Looking into the order, he found it ran thus: " Upon reading the report of Dr. Gibson, to whom this cause stood referred, it is ordered, &c." And so he put it upon Dr. Gibson; who, next coming up, said that the Lord Keeper and his Honour the Master of the Rolls were the parties who ought to suffer, for not doing their own work ;-whereupon they were all three turned back.
Considering that he held the Great Seal above twenty years, he left behind him a very moderate fortune, which was chiefly inher
* Lord Bacon's Appohthegms. Works, ii. 401.
ited by his eldest son,-Francis and the younger children being but slenderly provided for. His town residence was York House, near Charing Cross, where he splendidly exercised hospitality. After the visit from Queen Elizabeth, he added wings to his house at Gorhambury, and laid out large sums of money in planting and gardening there. The decorations of his grounds, however, displayed the bad taste of the age. For example, in a little banqueting house there was a series of pictorial designs emblematic of the LIBERAL ARTS,—to wit, GRAMMAR, ARITHMETIC, LOGIC, MUSIC, RHETORIC, GEOMETRY, and ASTROLOGY, with hideous portraits of their most celebrated professors, and each one with a barbarous Latin couplet. Over the hall door was an inscription, which marks the period of the erection as the 10th year of his Keepership (1568):
"Hæc cum perfecit Nicholaus tecta Baconus
Factus Eques, magni custos erat ipse sigilli;
He was extremely popular with the English nation, but particularly odious in Scotland, from the part he took in the continued imprisonment of Queen Mary, and the reports spread of his dislike to all the inhabitants of that country. Gross libels against him were printed at Edinburgh, and circulated industriouly in London. The Queen issued a proclamation ordering them to be burnt, and highly commending the services of the Lord Keeper.
Sir Nicholas Bacon was twice married; first, to Jane, daughter of William Fernly, Esq., of West Creding, in Suffolk, by whom he had sevreal sons and daughters; and, secondly, to Anne, daughter of Anthony Cooke, Esq., of Giddy Hall, in Essex, by whom he had two sons, Sir Anthony, -and Francis, the immortal Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Alban's. It was by this latter marriage that the connection was created between the Cecils and the Bacons.
The subject of this memoir would probably have filled a greater space in the eyes of posterity had it not been for the glory of his son; but one of the grounds on which we ought to admire and to respect him is the manner in which he assisted in forming a mind so super-eminent; he pointed out the path by which FRANCIS BACON reached such distinction in literature and eloquence, and became the first philosopher of any country or any age.*
Lord Bacon's Works, ii. 407.
* See Rawley's Life of Bacon. Baconiana. 422. 426.; iii. 96.; vi. 363.
LIFE OF SIR THOMAS BROMLEY, LORD CHANCELLOR OF ENGLAND.
On the sudden death of Lord Keeper Bacon great perplexity existed with respect to the appointment of his successor. On the day he expired the Queen sent Lord Burghley and [ FEB. 1579. ] Lord Leicester to York House for the Great Seal, and they having received it from Lady Bacon, his widow, in a bag sealed with his private signet, took it to the Queen, who was in her palace at Westminster. She retained it in her own keeping above two months, while she considered with whom she should intrust it. Luckily, this period was in the interval between Hilary and Easter terms, so that the delay in filling up the office did not cause any serious interruption to the despatch of business in the Court of Chancery. The sealing of writs and patents was accomplished under the Queen's immediate orders. To show her impartiality, she handed it over for this purpose, alternately, to the heads of the two opposite parties, Burghley and Leicester; except that, on one occasion, the latter being absent to prepare for receiving a royal visit at Kenilworth, Secretary Walsingham was substituted for him. The Close Roll records, with much circumstantiality, no fewer than seven instances of the Great Seal being so used between the 20th of February and the 26th of April.*
* I shall copy as a specimen of this entry the recovery of the Great Seal on Sir N. Bacon's death, and the first instance of its being used while in the Queen's custody. "Memdum qd Die Veneris &c. (Feb. 20. 1 Eliz.) circa horam nonam ante meridiem ejusdem diei Magnum Sigillum suum regium post mortem egregii viri Nichi Bacon militis tunc nuper Custodis ejusdem Magni Sigilli exist. in quadam baga de corio inclus. et signato ejusdem Nichi sigillatum et cooperta alia baga de velueto rubeo insigniis regiis ornat. nobilibus viris Willo Dno Burghley Dno Thesaurario Angl. et Robo Comiti Leicester ex mandato ejusdem Dne Regne apud Hospicium ejusdem Nichi vocatum Yorke Place prope Charing Crosse in quadam interiori Camera ibidem per dominam Annam Bacon Viduam nuper uxem ejusdem Nichi liberatum fuit; Quiquidem Wills Ds Burghley et Robertus Comes Leicestr sigillum predictum in baga predicta inclusum et sigillo inclusum et sigillo ipsius Nihi ut predicitur muitum de manibus ejusdem Dne Anne Bacon recipien. illud circa horam decimam ante meridiem predicti diei prfte Dne Regne in sua privata Camera infra palacium suum Westmon. ibidem juxta ipsius Dne Regne benepltum obtulerunt et presentaverunt ac eadem Dna Regina," &c. (received the Seal and kept it till Feb. 24., when he delivered it to Burghley and Leicester,) "pro› tempore utend. et exercend. Quo accepto iidem Wills Dns Burghley et Comes Leicester tunc immediate usque Magnam Cameram Concilii infra palacium prdm asportati fecerunt et sigillum illud ibidem extra bagam prm adtunc extrahi fecerunt et eodem sigillo sic extracto divers. literas patentes processus et brevia de communi cursu Regni Angl. in presencia Thom. Poole, &c. sigillari fecerunt." Then comes a statement of their having, at seven o'clock, restored the Seal to its integuments, and given it to the Queen in her private chamber, and that the Queen kept it there till the 8th of March,-the whole history being repeated toties quoties.