« VorigeDoorgaan »
from the Latin so correctly that neither he nor the Archbishop could suggest an alteration. And we find that she was equally familiar with such of the modern languages as had yet possessed a literature. There is still extant in the British Museum a series of sermons on free will which she translated from the Tuscan of Bernardo Ochino, a Roman Catholic priest, who had become a Socinian, and who was equally proscribed at Rome, at Geneva and at Wittenberg. In this she evinced a liberality of thought and feeling, as well as scholarship, which, there is every reason to believe, had its effect on the future Chancellor. Still mo learned was young Bacon's aunt, Mildred, the wife of Lord Burleigh, who, in the opinion of Roger Ascham, was the best female Greek scholar in England, with the sole exception of Lady Jane Grey. Lady Killifrew, another aunt, wrote Latin poems, several of which are still preserved, and more than one of which elicited the praise of Milton.
With such a mother and such aunts to superintend his education, it is hardly strange that even Elizabeth was delighted to converse with him when a mere boy, frequently calling him her Young Lord Keeper. There is abundant evidence that he fully availed himself of all these advantages. Bazil Montagu informs us that when a child, while his companions were diverting themselves near his father's house in St. James's Park, he repaired to a brick conduit in the neighborhood to discover the cause of a singular echo. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1573, when he was only thirteen years old—having been born at York House in the Strand, London, January 22, 1560—three centuries ago. One who was in the habit of attending almost daily at court, and who was regarded as a favorite of the Queen, the son of the Lord Keeper and the nephew of the Lord Treasurer, might well expect to be treated with attention and consideration by the professors. The head-master at Trinity was Dr.John Whitgift, who took personal charge of young Bacon, and not long after became Archbishop of Canterbury. There is no reason to doubt, independently of his early promotion, that he did his best not only to forward his education, but also to render college life agreeable to him. The former was no difficult task—it would have been more difficult to prevent the young student from making rapid proficiency. But although Whitgift meant well he was too morose, bigotted, and tyrannical to impress a youth like Bacon with any very elevated
idea of the system of teaching then in use in the University. We have proof of this in various forms ; but it is sufficient that he could not be induced to remain longer than three years. At the end of this period he left somewhat abruptly, and did not conceal his contempt for the general plan of education ; which, in the opinion of Whitgift, was the best that could have been adopted. Before his departure he wrote several satirical pieces in Latin verse on the philosophy of Aristotle, or rather on the manner in which it was taught in the University ; nor did he scruple to question the superior wisdom of the great Stagirite himself.
Although none of these verses are now extant, they are regarded by several biographers and critics as evidence that while the author was still at college he formed the plan of the inductive system, which was destined to produce so complete a revolution in the intellectual world. There can be no doubt but the idea occurred to him at a very early age. To this he bears testimony himself both directly and indirectly. Thus, in his letter to Father Fulgentio, written in 1626, he says "I recollect that forty years ago I composed a small juvenile work on these matters,
Ι which truly, with a mighty confidence and with a sounding title, I called 'Temporis Partus Maximus.'” But he was only eighteen when he left college. This, surely, was early enough to conceive so great a work as the Novum Organum; and the circumstances seem to show that it was not conceived earlier. At the
age sixteen he visited Paris, and travelled through the greater part of France. Nor was the journey a fruitless one. He took notes during his travels ; and on returning to Paris, where he remained for some months under the care of Sir Amias Paulet, Elizabeth's ambassador at the French court, who intrusted him with an important mission to the Queen, he wrote the tract entitled “Notes on the State of Europe," which, although embodying a good deal of interesting information, and evincing considerable familiarity with statistics in their relation to political economy and diplomacy, contains nothing which is strictly scientific. But it is certain that it was while he resided in France he first studied the art of deciphering, and invented one very ingenious cipher himself. We have no authentic account of any invention or discovery
made by him prior to this time.
He was still engaged in investigating the art of deciphering when, in February, 1580, in his twentieth year, he heard of the
death of his father and immediately returned to England. The event seemed to grieve him much ; but there were those even among his nearest kinsmen who alleged that his grief was more selfish than filial, that he mourned not so much for having lost a kind and affectionate parent, as for having no suitable provision left for himself. Be this as it may, it was not to science he turned his attention after his return from France. He proceeded at once to exercise all the influence he possessed to procure an appointment of some kind which would enable him, as he himself was wont to express it, “to live to think.” No one could have pressed his suit more earnestly. A refusal of the bluntest kind would not discourage him from trying again and again. Even when rebuked in a manner that most persons would consider offensive, his letters would be as submissive and as full of compliments as ever. Wbat seems strange is, that although they were his own relatives, i.e. Lord Burleigh and Sir Robert Cecil-his uncle and cousin-the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary--who had all the government patronage in their hands, his applications were in vain. Wearied with making fruitless entreaties in language, which, in spite of its beauty and eloquence, would have been derogatory to a person of much less distinction than the son of the late Lord Chancellor, he turned his attention to the law ; not that he had any taste for its dry technicalities ; but that he was ambitious to realize, if possible, the hope which the Queen seemed to encourage when, in compliment to his father, she called him her Young Lord Keeper. But having once resolved to become a lawyer, he was not the person to shrink from the amount of study which seemed essential to success. The best proof of this is to be found in the fact that he had studied little more than two years when he began to rise very rapidly in business, having more clients than any other man of his age and professional experience. And no sooner was he able to adduce any rational proof of his legal attainments, than he resumed his applications, or rather his humble entreaties to Lord Burleigh, but with no better effect than before ; although his request was by no means an extravagant one, since he merely desired to be called to the inner bar. Far from complying, however, Lord Burleigh rebuked him sharply for his vanity and want of respect for his betters. But as usual Bacon took all in good part, and instead of showing any resentment, thanked the Lord Treasurer for his "friendly admonition," and expressed a hope that he would profit by it.
Biographers differ much from each other as to the inotives of Burleigh and the Cecils in thus persistently refusing to grant their learned and brilliant young kinsman any favors. Some maintain that they opposed his wishes only for his good, lest that getting into office too early in life, or without the necessary qualifications and experience, he should prove incapable of discharging his duties, and thereby be precluded from ever attaining the high position in which they believed his talents and acquirements would soon enable them to place him with honor to themselves as well as to him. Such was the opinion of Bazil Montagu among others. But Bacon, himself, took a very different view of the matter. In a letter written to Sir George Villiers many years: after, he speaks thus plainly "And in this dedication of yourself to the public, I recommend unto you principally, that which I think was never done since I was born, and which, because it is not done, hath bred almost a wilderness and solitude in the king's service : which is, that you countenance and encourage, and advance able men in all kinds, degrees and professions. For in the time of the Cecils, the father and the son, able men were, by design and of purpose, suppressed.
But it is well to bear in mind that it was difficult to influence Elizabeth in favor of any one whom she did not consider fully qualified. Of this we have sufficient proof in the letters of the Earl of Essex, who, while in highest favor with the queen, did all in his power to elevate Bacon. After repeated efforts of this character on the part of the former, her majesty made the characteristic reply that." Bacon had a great wit and much learning ; but in law showeth it to the uttermost of his knowledge, and is not deep." Whether this was her own independent opinion, or whether she was led to it by Burleigh, Cecil, and Coke, may be doubted. At any rate it was not confined to her and them, but was shared by many, who seem to have had no motive to depre- . ciate Bacon. They admitted that his learning was almost boundless in all things except law, which they thought he was too speculative to master in such a manner as was necessary to secure distinction either at the bar or on the bench. It had been well for the world, and the cause of science especially for the honor of literature—that all who had the power of promoting him continued of the same opinion. This would have been the case if for no other reason than that his duties, as an advocate and judge,
necessarily drew his attention from what nature had intended him for, that is, the investigation and illustration of her own laws. It is ever to be deplored that the want of having any provision made for him forced him to become a lawyer, since this was the cause of the shame and disgrace, which, in spite of his imperishable renown as a philosopher, are inseparable from his name.
However much we admire his gigantic intellect, and however grateful we feel for the vast benefits he has conferred upon mankind, we cannot deny that he sold justice to the highest bidder, frequently taking bribes from both plaintiff and defendant. Had he never been convicted or punished for these crimes, had he never confessed himself that he was guilty, had none of his contemporaries placed the facts and the circumstances on record, his letters, which are still extant, would render the hypothesis of his innocence impossible. And apart from the systematic bribery from which he derived a large revenue, it is beyond question that he was one of the last of his countrymen to put a prisoner to the torture in order to force him to give evidence against himself. The case of the old clergyman, Peacham, is, unfortunately, but too familiar to, the world. He was accused of treason on account of some passages in a sermon found in his study, but which he denied to have written. Whether he wrote it or not, it was certain that it had never been preached, nor did it appear that he had any
intention of preaching it. The most unscrupulous lawyers, acting as crown prosecutors, had their doubts as to whether the charge could be sustained against the accused on such grounds. Bacon being a man of superior learning and willing to do anything in his power to please the government, was employed to remove those doubts, and he readily undertook the task. Few judges of any age behaved with more rudeness and cruelty to prisoners on trial for their lives than Coke. Yet in this case he held out for a long time in favor of justice and humanity; even after Bacon had brought over to his own opinion the three other presiding judges of the Queen's Bench, he still continued to oppose the application of the rack. His conduct, on this occasion, goes far to make amends for all the wrong he had ever done, scarcely excepting his treatment of Raleigh. His reply to one of Bacon's arguments, against Peacham, has much in it of that heroic and noble independence of spirit which reminds one of the reply of Agememnon to Achilles, when the latter threatened to leave if his