Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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to cloak these ideas under conciliatory phrases ; but they
are nevertheless the logical outcome of the pagan view of
life. Their only absolute corrective seems to lie in the
Christian revelation, but in a different jurisdiction, for
spiritually (as it appears to me) there is no such thing as
the " world," still less classes, social or intellectual ; there
are only individuals. But I am straying from my sub-
ject, and will conclude by noting a few points in the play
in illustration of the view above expressed as to the
" Caliban " allegory. Caliban is represented as incurably
malignant and ungrateful ; he changes his master and
plots against his life, as he did before against his master's
daughter ; suffers for his folly, and returns, sobered, to
his allegiance. At his revolt he gets drunk and sees
visions of " freedom " and of life without labour :

Cal. \Sings drunkenly]

Farewell, master ; farewell, farewell !
Trin. A howling monster ; a drunken monster !
Cal. No more dams I'll make for fish ;
Nor fetch in firing
At requiring ;
Nor scrape trencher, nor wash dish :
'Ban, 'Ban, Cacaliban
Has a new master : get a new man.
Freedom, hey-day ! hey-day, freedom ! freedom, hey-day, freedom !
Ste. O brave monster ! Lead the way.

In the following passage there is an evident reference
to political theories about private ownership of the land
and the use made of them by demagogues :

Cal. As I told thee before, I am subject to a tyrant, a sorcerer,
that by his cunning hath cheated me of the island.
Ariel [invisible^ Thou liest. (iii. 2.)

In the beautiful lines, when Ariel, invisible, plays the
tabor and pipe, occurs, no doubt, the thought of the un-
concerned enjoyment of the moment, when opportunity
offers, which is the prerogative of the more primitive man :

Cal. Art thou afeard ?
Ste. No, monster, not I.
Cal. Be not afeard ; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurl not.


Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again : and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

Ste. This will prove a brave kingdom to me, where I shall have
my music for nothing.

Cal. When Prospero is destroyed.

In " Prospero " I conceive that Bacon represents not
only his dream of the future, but, to some extent, the
course of his life in the world. That no source has been
traced for the story supports this view, and the story
itself fits in with Bacon's history. His early ambition
was undoubtedly to be the principal minister in the
State. He was encouraged in this by the notice which
the Queen took of him as a child and by his father's
position. But he was thwarted (as he thought) by his
cousin, Robert Cecil — who, however, it is impossible to
doubt, was a fitter man, both by training and tempera-
ment, for practical affairs. He sees himself {more sud) in
his imagination in the grand position which he believed to
be his by right, and attributes his exclusion from it, in part,
to his being " transported and rapt in secret studies " —

neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated
To closeness and the bettering of my mind. (i. 2.)

Compare with this Bacon's letter to Lord Burghley written
at the age of thirty-one, begging for executive employment :

I do not fear that action shall impair it [his health], because
I account my ordinary course of study and meditation to be
more painful than most parts of action are. — Spedding, Life, i. 108.

Compare also his frequent references in later life to
his abstraction in the midst of affairs : " I may truly say
with the psalm, Midtum incola fiiit aniuia viea " (" my
soul has been a stranger in her pilgrimage "J {ibid. iv.
146, 282, and elsewhere).

The solemnity of tone which has been noticed in parts
of this play, to an extent beyond the customary habit of



Shakespeare, is an indication in itself that the writer is
deah'ng with subjects to which he attached exceptional
importance. It has, in places, the tone, as it were, of a
legacy to the world. Not that I believe (as I have said)
that this was the author's last work, but it represents a
state of mind when he was taking stock of his position
in reference to futurity. He sees himself as the great
projector, and contemplates the developments which will
follow him when the intellectual powers in man have
come into their kingdom. To this end two things must
be brought, or kept, under control — the elusive forces of
nature, and the lower strata of humanity, who are
incapable of understanding the point of view, and function
in society, of the higher order of mind, and are always
ready to impede or destroy its achievements.

Incidentally, in the same play, the writer places on
record his opinions on two questions of the first import-
ance in the life of an organised community, politics and
love. The faithful old counsellor, Gonzalo, is doing his
best to keep up the spirits of the shipwrecked party, and
the occasion is used to show the absurdity of idealisation
in a department which deals with practical issues under
the limitations and defects imposed by human conditions.
The lines are as follow (ii. i) :

Gon. V the commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things ; for no kind of traffic
Would I admit ; no name of magistrate ;
Letters should not be known ; riches, poverty.
And use of service, none ; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none ;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil ;
No occupation ; all men idle, all ;
And women too, but innocent and pure ;
No sovereignty ; —

Seh. Yet he would be king on 't.

Ant. The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning.

Gon. All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavour : treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine.
Would I not have ; but nature should bring forth,
Of its own kind, all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.


Seb. No marrying 'mong his subjects ?

Ant. None, man ; all idle ; whores and knaves.

Gon. I would with such perfection govern, sir,
To excel the golden age.

Seb. God save his majesty 1

Ant. Long live Gonzalo !

Gon. And, — do you mark me, sir ?

Alon. Prithee, no more : thou dost talk nothing to me.

Gon. I do well believe your highness ; and did it to minister
occasion to these gentlemen, who are of such sensible and nimble
lungs that they always use to laugh at nothing.

The betrothal of Ferdinand and Miranda is similarly-
used by the author for giving his verdict on the indulgence
of the passions, and the necessity in this world, if the
worst form of misery, the misery of the spirit, is to be
avoided, of bringing them under the sanction of social
law, in which the dependence of human life on the divine
authority is recognised. Prospero addresses the young
prince (iv. i) :

Then, as my gift and thine own acquisition
Worthily purchased, take my daughter : but
If thou dost break her virgin-knot before
All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite be minister'd,
No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall
To make this contract grow ; but barren hate.
Sour-eyed disdain and discord shall bestrew
The union of your bed with weeds so loathly
That you shall hate it both : therefore take heed,
As Hymen's lamps shall light you.

And in response to Ferdinand's protestations he leaves
them together with the words :


Fairly spoke.
Sit then and talk with her ; she is thine own.

The emphasis which Prospero is made to lay on this
injunction ^ seems to go somewhat beyond the exigencies
of the situation, and it indicates that the author is
speaking on a subject which he has at heart.

1 He returns to the subject a few lines lower, and it is again referred to in
the masque.


Noticeable also, and for a similar reason, is the sudden

perturbation of mind which causes Prospero to disperse

the masque :

These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air :
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision.
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve.
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex'd ;
Bear with my weakness ; my old brain is troubled :
Be not disturb'd with my infirmity :
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose : a turn or two I'll walk,
To still my beating mind.

The incident which gives rise to this emotion is felt
to be inadequate, considering that Caliban, and the two
Englishmen with Italian names to whom he had attached
himself, were wholly in Prospero's power. The real
motive of the speech seems to me to be the thought,
which is never wholly out of the writer's mind, of the
disappointing character of human affairs, when all is said
and done, owing to the existence of decay and death.
The shadow of " mutability " is over everything, and the
thought of it makes even his cherished dream of the
intellect, set forth with all the gorgeous imagery at his
command, seem vanity. For the moment his balance is
disturbed ; he feels his helplessness, and cries out, as it
were, in a passion of regret. Only however for a moment,
and the customary serenity of temper reasserts itself^
There are other instances of this in the later plays of
Shakespeare,^ and the same trait is noticeable in the

' The words of Prospero lower down are typical of this habit of mind :

Ijc cheerful,
And think of each thing well. (v. i.)

2 Compare, for example, the sudden outburst of similar feeling in Macbeth,
" Out, out, brief candle !" etc., where the imagery used is much more sug-
gestive of the author's own feelings than those of the character.


poetry of Spenser.^ In the Epilogue, spoken by Prospero,
the note of humility after the lofty tone of Prospero's
speeches in the play is the striking feature. The author
seems to be thinking of himself here, after his work is
done, as a man among men, and subject to the common

A slight, but significant, point may be noticed in
Prospero's reference to the masque. He says to Ariel (iv, i ) :

Go bring the rabble,
O'er whom I give thee power, here to this place :
Incite them to quick motion ; for I must
Bestow upon the eyes of this young couple
Some vanity of mine art : it is my promise,
And they expect it from me.

It will be observed that this is said in the grand
manner which Bacon adopts in writing of " Masques and
Triumphs" (an Essay published in 1625): "These things
are but toys, to come amongst such serious observations.
But yet, since princes will have such things, it is better
they should be graced with elegancy than daubed with
cost " ; and at the end of the Essay : " But enough of
these toys." The tone in both cases is, in my opinion,
partly to be attributed to disapproval of the fashion for
the masque, which, on King James's accession, largely
superseded the play at Court, owing to the fondness of
the Queen for that form of entertainment, in which she
used to take part herself.^

I will now note some passages from Shakespeare,
Spenser, and Bacon's acknowledged works, where the

^ Compare the Daphndida, and the description of the ravages of Time in
the Garden of Adonis {F.Q. III. vi. 39 sq.) ; and with that again compare
the Ralegh epitaph. See pp. 457, 458 of this work.

2 Daniel, who was occasionally employed in providing the speeches and
songs, writes of the masque in a similar strain: "But in these things
wherein the onely life consists in shew ; the arte and invention of the
Architect gives the greatest grace, and is of most importaunce, ours the least
part and of least note" (Preface to Tethys Festival, 1610) ; and again:
" And yet in these matters of shewes (though they be that which most
entertaine the world) there needs no such exact sufficiency. . . . For, Ludit
istis animus, non projicit " i^The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, 1 604). It
must be said, however, that Daniel was quite out of his element in such


term " spirits " is used in the peculiar sense attributed to
it in Bacon's theory. Without reference to that theory
these passages will not be understood.
Shakespeare :

the nimble spirits in the arteries.

L.L.L. iv. 3.

this kiss, if it durst speak,
Would stretch thy spirits up into the air.

Lcar^ iv. 2.

Ulysses (speaking of Cressida). Fie, fie upon her !
There's language in her eye, her cheek, her lip,
Nay, her foot speaks ; her wanton spirits look out
At every joint and motive of her body.

Troihts and Cressida, iv. 5.

Jessica. I am never merry when I hear sweet music.
Lorenzo. The reason is, your spirits are attentive.

Merchant of Venice., v. i .

Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep.

Hamlet, iii. 4.

Spenser :

For through infusion of celestiall powre,
The duller earth it quickneth with delight.
And life-full spirits privily doth poure
Through all the parts, that to the lookers sight
They seem to please.

But that faire lampe, from whose celestiall ray
That light proceedes, which kindleth lovers fire,
Shall never be extinguisht or decay ;
But, when the vitall spirits doe expyre.
Unto her native planet shall retyre.
For it is heavenly borne and cannot die
Being a parcell of the purest skie.

An Hytnne in Honour of Beautie.

And with his spirits proportion to agree.


Sith she that did my vitall powers supplie,
And feeble spirits in their force maintaine,
Is fetched from me.


His cheekes wext pale, and sprights began to faint.



Bacon :

Nay some have l)een so curious as to note that the times
when the stroke or percussion of an envious eye doth most hurt,
are when the party envied is beheld in glory and triumph. For
that sets an edge upon envy ; and besides, at such time, the
spirits of the person envied do come forth most into the outward
parts, and so meet the blow. — Of Envy.

Especially it is sport to see when a bold fellow is out of
countenance, for that puts his face into a most shrunk and
wooden posture ; as needs it must ; for in bashfulness the spirits
do a little go and come, but with bold men, upon like occasion,
they stand at a stay. — Of Boldness.

Compare again with this the stanza in the Faerie
Queene describing the agitation of Britomart on her first
recognition of Arthegal :

Soone as she heard the name of Artegall,

Her hart did leape, and all her hart-strings tremble.

For sudden joy and secret feare withall ;

And all her vitall powres, with motion nimble

To succour it, themselves gan there assemble ;

That by the swift recourse of flushing blood

Right plaine appeard. . . .

(IV. vi. 29.)

Again in Bacon, Natural History (" Syiva Sylvarum "),
under experiments " touching Venus " :

the expence of spirits. (No. 693, Works, ii. 556.)

Compare Shakespeare's sonnet (i 29) :

The expense of spirit ^ in a waste of shame
Is lust in action.

Again from the Natural History :

No. 745. Some noises (whereof we spake in the hundred
and twelfth experiment) help sleep ; as the blowing of the wind,
the trickling of water, humming of bees, soft singing, reading,
etc. The cause is that they move in the spirits a gentle

* In poetry the singular number would naturally be used, as being less


attention ; and whatsoever moveth attention, without too much
labour, stilleth the natural and discursive motion of the spirits.

Compare Spenser, Faerie Queene, I. i. 41 :

And more to lulle him in his slumber soft,

A trickling streame from high rock tumbling downe.

And ever-drizling raine upon the loft,

Mixt with a murmuring winde, much like the sowne

Of swarming Bees, did cast him in a swowne.

No other noyse, nor peoples troublous cryes,

As still are wont t'annoy the walled towne.

Might there be heard ; but carelesse Quiet lyes

Wrapt in eternall silence farre from enimyes.

In discussing the nature of soul. Bacon appends
some remarks on " fascination," and leans to a physical
explanation :

Others, that draw nearer to probability, calling to their view
the secret passages of things, and especially of the contagion
that passeth from body to body, do conceive it should likewise
be agreeable to nature that there should be some transmissions
and operations from spirit to spirit without the mediation of the
senses : whence the conceits have grown, now almost made
civil, of the mastering spirit, and the force of confidence, and
the like. — Adv. of Learning.

In the Natural History occurs the following entry on
the same subject, under the heading " Experiments in
consort touching emission of immateriate virtues from the
minds and spirits of men, either by affections, or by
imaginations, or by other impressions " :

No. 940. There was an Egyptian soothsayer, that made
Antonius believe that his genius (which otherwise was brave
and confident) was, in the presence of Octavianus Caesar, poor
and cowardly : and therefore he advised him to absent himself
as much as he could, and remove far from him. This soothsayer
was thought to be suborned by Cleopatra, to make him live in
Egypt, and other remote places from Rome. Howsoever the
conceit of a predominant or mastering si)irit of one man over
another is ancient, and received still, even in vulgar opinion.

Compare Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, ii. 3 :

Antony. Say to me, whose fortunes shall rise higher, Caesar's or
mine ?


Soothsayer. Caesar's.
Therefore, O Antony, stay not by his side :
Thy demon, that's thy spirit which keeps thee, is
Noble, courageous, high, unmatchable.
Where Caesar's is not ; but, near him, thy angel
Becomes a fear, as being o'erpower'd : therefore
Make space enough between you.

I will conclude this chapter with three examples from
the anonymous Arte of EnglisJi Poesie, which I believe to
be the work of Bacon, of the use of the term " spirits " in
the Baconian sense :

and Poesie an art not only of making, but also of imita-
tion. And this science in his perfection can not grow but
by some divine instinct, the Platonicks call it furor : or by
excellencie of nature and complexion : or by great subtiltie
of the spirits and wit, or by much experience and observation
of the world and course of kinde \i.e. nature], or peradventure
by all or most part of them. (i. i.)

they came by instinct divine, and by deep meditation, and much
abstinence (the same assubtiling and refining their spirits) to be
made apt to receave visions. . . . (i. 3.)

In another respect arte is not only an aide and coadjutor to
nature in all her actions, but an alterer of them, and in some
sort a surmounter of her skill, so as by meanes of it her owne
effects shall appeare more beautifull or straunge and miraculous,
as in both cases before remembred. The Phisition by the
cordials hee will geue his patient, shall be able not onely to
restore the decayed spirites of man, and render him health, but
also to prolong the terme of his life many yeares ouer and aboue
the stint of his first and naturall constitution, (iii. 25.)



In this chapter I shall conclude such observations as I
have to make of a more general character, and thereafter
confine myself to the particular points bearing on the
argument of this book which arise out of an examination
of the remaining works of Spenser.

There is a mannerism which runs through all Bacon's
correspondence and occasional papers in the use of the
words " simple " and " simplicity " in regard to his motives
or intentions. Sometimes these expressions are genuine ;
often not so, but politic ; sometimes they are a mere habit.
I will give some examples from Bacon's acknowledged
writings, which explain themselves, and will provide the
reader with the means of seeing at a glance the striking
identity of mental habit which the occurrence of these
expressions in Spenser, and other works to which I shall
direct attention, indicates.

Defending an action of his :

The considerations that moved me to stay the letters from re-
ceipt ... in sum, such they are that they prevail with my simple
discretion. — Letter to Mr. Doylie, nth July 1580^ (^et. 19^).

Defending himself against a charge of pride:

And for that your Lordship may otherwise have heard of me,
it shall make me more wary and circumspect in carriage of
myself. Indeed I find in my simple observation that they which
live as it were in umbra and not in public or frequent action,
how moderately and modestly soever they behave themselves,
yet laborant invidia. — To Lord Burghley, 6th May 1586.2

' .Spedding, Life, i. 10. ^ Ibid. i. 59.



Other examples :

These things have I in all sincerity and simplicity set down,
touching the controversies which now trouble the Church of
England. — Paper of 1589.^

These be some of the beams of noble and radiant magnanimity
... set forth in my simplicity of speech with much loss of
lustre, but with near approach of truth, as the sun is seen in the
water. — Discourse in praise of the Queen, 1590-92.-

But not knowing how my travel may be accepted, being the
unwarranted wishes of a private man, I leave ; humbly praying
her Majesty's pardon if in the zeal of my simplicity I have roved
at things above my aim. — Discourse touching the Queen's safety,
1594.3 [Written when Bacon was out of favour, and the phrase
therefore is used (as very frequently) in order to obviate the
impression of presumption and officiousness.]

Belonging to the same class of ideas, and significant
of the risks of public life at the time, are such phrases as

Thus have I played the ignorant statesman,*

I will shoot my fool's bolt, since you will have it so,^

found in letters of advice to the Earl of Essex, which
might be shown to the Queen or to members of the
Council (1 598).

Some further examples are as follow :

Thus having in all humbleness made oblation to your Majesty
of these simple fruits of my devotion and studies. — Discourse
(for King James) on the Union of the Kingdoms, 1603.^

Thus have I expressed to your Majesty those simple and
weak cogitations, which I have had in myself touching this
cause. — Discourse on the Plantation in Ireland, 1608.^

in my simple opinion.^ — Spedding, Life, iv. 280, and cf 340, 371,
373. 387-

I do foresee, in my simple judgment, much inconvenience
to insue, if your Majesty proceed to this treaty with Spain, and

' Spedding, Life, i. 94. 2 /^/^, i, 127,

3 Ibid. i. 307. * Ibid. ii. 96.

" Ibid. ii. 99. 6 Ibid. iii. 99.

^ Ibid. iv. 126.

^ This seems to have been, more or less, a formula of the lime. It is
found, for instance, in Sir Henry Sidney's dispatches to the Queen, but not
used as a habit.


that your Council draw not all one way. — To the King, about
the Spanish match, 1617.^

But my meaning was plain and simple. — Letter to the King,
in reply to a reprimand on the subject of alleged disloyalty to
Buckingham, 161 7.-

This claim which Bacon made to " simplicity " and
integrity of motive is perhaps most fully developed in a
letter to his cousin, Robert Cecil, written in i 594-95 when
he was anxiously endeavouring to obtain the post of
Solicitor :

Sir — I forbear not to put in paper as much as I thought to
have spoken to your Honour to-day, if I could have stayed :
knowing that if your Honour should make other use of it than
is due to good meaning, and than I am persuaded you will, yet
to persons of judgment, and that know me otherwise, it will
rather appear (as it is) a precise honesty, and this same suum
cuique trihiere, than any hollowness to any. It is my luck 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 with-
out show of base timorousness or else of unkind or suspicious
strangeness. . . .

[Some hiatus in the copy.]

And I am of one spirit still. I ever liked the Galenists, that

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 13 of 55)