Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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to indulge in irony and jest. He recovers himself,
however, at the end, and with grave sententiousness sums
up the case against Leicester as follows :

Of whom it may be said and censured well,
He both in vice and virtue did excell —

probably a very just estimate, and true of many of the
great men of the Renaissance, of whom Leicester may be
regarded as one. Underneath these lines the author
writes, as though with a sigh of relief —

Jamq. opus exegi,
Deus dedit his quoque finem.

One other point in connection with this treatise may
be mentioned, and I put it last because I should wish to
make good my case without undue reliance on it. A
manuscript of the book is among the collection discovered
in Northumberland House in 1867, and against the
entry " Leycesters Common Wealth " on the outside sheet
(to which reference has been made above) are the words
" incerto autore." It is my view that these words were
inserted by the writer from motives of prudence, having
regard to the dangerous character of the book, and the
still greater danger of being in the possession of a MS.
It is worth noticing that the same words are used in
" Greene's Vision " in the remarks as to the authorship
of the Cobler of Catiterburie} and they occur also in one
of Bacon's speeches in Parliament.^

A similar use (in a smaller way) of Bacon's pen
against individuals for political purposes is to be found in
the anonymous pamphlet which appeared early in i 599

1 See Chapter VI. p. 169.

'^ " Mr. Speaker, I am not of their mind that bring their Bills into this
House obscurely, by delivery only unto yourself or to the clerks, delighting
to have the Bill to be incerio authore, as though they were either ashamed of
their own works, or afraid to father their own children." — Spedding, Life,
iii. 18.


purporting to be written by an English gentleman to a
friend in Padua as to a plot to poison the Queen (" Squire's
Conspiracy"), reprinted by Spedding {Life, ii. 109-19),
who says : " A copy of the original edition was sent to
Dudley Carleton, the Bishop's brother, by Chamberlain
on the 1st of March 1598-9: with the remark that it
was ' well written,' but without any speculation as to the
writer. In ascribing it to Bacon I rely entirely on the
internal evidence — which in this case however is to me
almost as conclusive as the discovery of a draft in his
own handwriting would be. The external evidence goes
no further than to show that Bacon was in a position
to write it. He was certainly present at many of the
examinations ; probably present at the trial ; and had a
right to know everything that he tells." Whether, how-
ever, it was true seems more than doubtful, both from the
improbability of some of the incidents in the story, and
from the fact that Camden says that " Walpoole [described
in the title of the Letter as " a Jesuit " and the " deviser
and suborner " in the plot], or some other for him, set
forth a book in print, wherein he precisely denied with
many detestations all which Squire had confessed."
Spedding, who, as has been said by Mr. Reynolds,
" holds a perpetual brief for Bacon," comments on this as
follows : " For my own part I believe the story as here
told to be substantially true. Those who think it a
fiction (that is to say the report of a fiction, for the
reporter was certainly not the inventor) will still find it
interesting for the manner in which it is told. A better
specimen of the art of narration it would be difficult to
find." And I am afraid one might add, a greater abuse
of the artistic gift it would be difficult to imagine.

Goodman, who evidently supposed that the Earl of
Essex was the author, has the following remark on the
subject : " For Squire's treason, which was the poisoning
of the pummel of the queen's saddle, it was a thing so
incredible that I took no heed of it, nor made any search
for it." ^ Goodman was evidently influenced in coming

' The Court of King James the First (ed. Brewer), i. 156.


to this conclusion by the affair of Lopez, the Queen's
physician, who, he says, in effect, was destroyed by
Essex for revenge (1594). Those who are interested in
Bacon's part in this affair can read the particulars (with,
however, Goodman's evidence omitted) in Spedding {Life,
I. 271-87). It is not easy to escape from the conclusion
that these charges were trumped up with a view to
establishing the reputation of Essex as a competent
guardian of the Queen's safety, and as a proof that his
political resources were not inferior to those of the Cecils.
It is with a sense of relief that I conclude this part
of my subject, which has weighed on my mind. But
the more I have thought about it the more inevitable
have appeared the conclusions which I have just put
before the reader. I say this in order that it should
not be supposed that I have adopted them hastily or on
any preconceived theory ; far from that, I long resisted
them, as they seemed almost to suggest the presence of
powers of evil underlying the fairest forms of appeal to
the human spirit. But we know little about these things,
and at least we have enough experience of truth to know
that it often presents itself in unexpected and unpleasant
forms. Also, with the advance in psychological knowledge,
the weaknesses of what is called the artistic temperament
are beginning to be better understood. The discussion
of such a subject would take me too far from the matter
of this book, but, as regards the particular instance, I
may say this, that I do not believe Bacon was without
conscience, or that he sinned against it without suffering.
I think he was highly impressionable, and that when he
came into contact with the controllers of power, and was
given an opportunity, his ambition was raised to a pitch
which is inconceivable to us whose powers of imagination
are so much smaller.^ He saw himself, as it were in a
vision, wielding the beneficent power for which he had

1 A striking instance of this appears in the imprudent postscript to Bacon's
letter to Villiers of 19th February 1615 : "Sir, I humbly thank you for your
inward letter ; I have burned it as you commanded : but the flame it hath
kindled in me will never be extinguished." This was written on a small
piece of paper by itself and enclosed. (Note in MS. ) Spedding, Life, v. 249.


thirsted from his childhood, and, at that moment, all
other considerations went to the winds. As he got older,
and found himself still without place or prospects, he
undoubtedly grew more callous. He saw others succeed
by unscrupulous methods, and he thought perhaps he
might do the same. But he was not made of fighting
material, he was lacking in " common sense " and in
judgment of men, and in order to place himself in
relation with the men in active life against whom he
aspired to measure himself, he had to play a part, and
be something different from what he really was. I think
that, when his genius was at work, all this was reviewed
and assumed its true proportions, and that out of it
emerged such a character as " Macbeth." These lines
were not written by accident :

Yet do I fear thy nature ;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way : thou wouldst be great ;
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it : what thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily ; wouldst not play false,
And yet wouldst wrongly win.



I COME now to the most interesting part of my inquiry,
arising out of Spenser's early poems. The investigation
here will necessarily entail a more minute critical
examination, as youthful writing is more imitative and
less individual in character than at a later stage, and, in
consequence, identifications from style present greater

Among the poems ascribed to Spenser are some
early pieces with a curious history, the Visions of Bellay
and the Visions of Petrarch. The following is the
account of them given by Mr. Hales in his Introduction
to the " Globe " edition :

It seems probable that he [Spenser] was already an author in
some sort when he went up to Cambridge. In the same year in
which he became an undergraduate [1569] there appeared a
work entitled, " A Theatre wherein be represented as well the
Miseries and Calamities that follow the Voluptuous Worldlings as
also the greate Joyes and Plesures which the Faithful do enjoy.
An Argument both Profitable and Delectable to all that sincerely
loue the Word of God. Deuised by S. John Vander Noodt."
Vander Noodt was a native of Brabant who had sought refuge
in England, " as well for that I would not beholde the abomina-
tions of the Romyshe Antechrist as to escape the handes of the
bloudthirsty." "In the meane space," he continues, "for the
avoyding of idlenesse (the very mother and nourice of all vices)
I have among other my travayles bene occupied aboute thys
little Treatyse, wherein is sette forth the vilenesse and basenesse
of worldely things whiche commonly withdrawe us from heavenly
and spirituall matters." This work opens with six pieces in the



form of sonnets styled epigrams, which are in fact identical with
the first six of the Visions of Petrarch subsequently published
amongst Spenser's works, in which publication they are said to
have been " formerly translated." After these so-called epigrams
come fifteen Sonnets^ eleven of which are easily recognisable
amongst the Visions of Bellay, published along with the Visions
of Petrarch. There is indeed as little difference between the
two sets of poems as is compatible with the fact that the old
series is written in blank verse, the latter in rhyme. The sonnets
which appear for the first time in the Visions are those describing
the Wolf, the River, the Vessel, the City. There are four pieces
of the older series which are not reproduced in the later. It
would seem probable that they too may have been written by
Spenser in the days of his youth, though at a later period of his
life he cancelled and superseded them. They are therefore
reprinted in this volume.

Vander Noodt, it must be said, makes no mention of Spenser
in his volume. It would seem that he did not know EngHsh,
and that he wrote his Declaration — a sort of commentary in
prose on the Visions — in French. At least we are told that
this Declaration is translated out of French into English by
Theodore Roest. . . . The fact of the Visions being subsequently
ascribed to Spenser would not by itself carry much weight. But,
as Prof Craik pertinently asks, " if this English version was not
the work of Spenser, where did Ponsonby [the printer who issued
that subsequent publication which has been mentioned] procure
the corrections which are not mere typographical errata, and the
additions and other variations that are found in his edition?"

In the Theatre for Worldlings the following account
of these " Visions " appears under a general heading : " A
briefe Declaration of the Authour upon his visions^ taken
out of the holy scriptures, and dyvers Orators, Poetes,
Philosophers and true histories. Translated out of French
into Englishe by Theodore Roest."

And to sette the vanitie and inconstancie of worldly and
transitorie thyngs, the livelier before your eyes, I have broughte
in here twentie sightes or vysions, and caused them to be grauen,
to the ende al men may see that with their eyes, whiche I go
aboute to expresse by writing, to the delight and plesure of the
eye and eares, according unto the saying of Horace.

Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci.
That is to say,


He that teacheth pleasantly and well,
Doth in eche poynt all others excell.

Of which oure visions the learned Poete M. Francisce Petrarche
Gentleman of Florence, did invent and write in Tuscan the six
firste, after suche tyme as hee had loved honestly the space
of .xxi. yeares a faire, gracious, and a noble Damosell, named
Laurette, or (as it plesed him best) Laura, borne of Avinion,
who afterward hapned to die, he being in Italy, for whose death
(to shewe his great grief) he mourned ten yeares together, and
amongest many of his songs and sorrowfull lamentations, devised
and made a Ballade or song, containyng the sayd visions, which
bicause they serve wel to our purpose, I have out of the Brabants
speeche, turned them into the Englishe tongue. . . .

The other ten visions next ensuing, ar described of one loachim
du Bellay, Gentleman of France, the whiche also, bicause they
serve to our purpose, I have translated them out of Dutch into

This is mere mystification, not to say deception. The
Visions of Petrarch are translated from the French of
Clement Marot's Des Visions de Petrargue, de tuscan en
franqoys, and the Visions of Bellay, in their original
unrhymed form, are literal, in places baldly literal, trans-
lations of some sonnets of Du Bellay.^

The variations between the poems as they appeared
in the Theatre for Worldlings in 1569 and in Spenser's
Complaints in 1591 are highly significant, and there can
be no doubt that they are the work of the original author.
Perhaps it will be said at once that, in that case. Bacon
could not have been the author of the Spenserian poems,
as in 1569 he was only in his ninth year. To my mind
it is equally difficult to suppose that the author was a
well-read youth of sixteen or seventeen, so naive and
childish is the style of the " Visions," especially in their
original form. But I see nothing beyond the bounds of
reason in the supposition that a boy of seven or eight,
who was endowed with the genius which produced the
Faerie Queene, should have been able to write passable
verses, especially where the material was supplied and

' See " Globe " edition of Spenser's Works, App. I.

2 Similarly The Unities of Rome are translations (belonging evidently
to a somewhat later date) from Du Bellay's Antiquitds de Rome.


only called for translation. Then, as now, French was
no doubt an early subject in the education of children of
the well-to-do, and, with good instruction, it involves no
great effort to acquire a fair command of that language
in childhood. Moreover, all experience shows that great
genius is precocious, and begins production before, not
after, other men. Pope, Congreve, Chatterton — in music,
Handel and Mozart — and many other instances, can be
cited in support of this.^ Take, for example, Chatterton,
whose genius has sometimes been compared to that of
Shakespeare's in embryo. All his work was done before
he was eighteen, and his first published verses appeared
when he was just over ten years of age. We read of him
that between six and seven he first began to show an
extraordinary precocity, and that at eight he read from
morning till night. It is not known when he began to write
the " Rowley " poems, but his earliest studies were con-
nected with them. His first acknowledged efforts are
intensely serious, and, like the sonnets appended to the
early version of the Bellay poems, of a religious cast. I
quote one of them (from the " Aldine " edition, edited,
with notes, by Professor Skeat) :

On the Last Epiphany, or, Christ coming to Judgment "-

Behold ! just coming from above.
The judge, with majesty and love !
The sky divides, and rolls away,
T'admit him through the realms of day !
The sun, astonished, hides its face.
The moon and stars with wonder gaze
At Jesu's bright superior rays !
Dread lightnings flash, and thunders roar.
And shake the earth and briny shore ;
The trumpet sounds at heaven's command.
And pierceth through the sea and land ;

' Compare Aubrey's note on the precocity of Milton : "Anno Domini 1619,
he was ten yeares old, as by his picture ; and was then a poet." Aubrey was
a contemporary of Milton, and took great pains in collecting information
about hiiTi. I'ascal is another great example.

''■ Written by Chatterton when only just past ten years of age, and inserted
in Kelix Farley's Bristol Journal, 8th January 1763. See Dix's Life of
Chatterton, p. 209.


The dead in each now hear the voice,
The sinners fear and saints rejoice ;
For now the awful hour is come,
When every tenant of the tomb
Must rise, and take his everlasting doom.

Chatterton's true vein, however, is in his famous Rowley
" forgeries." The following is one of the best examples,
from a specimen of his work which he sent to Horace
Walpole in March 1 769, the year before his death (from the
" Aldine " edition, as before; the notes by Professor Skeat) :

HisTORiE OF Pevncters yn Englande
BiE T. Rowley

. . . Bott nowe wee bee upon Peyncteynge, sommewhatte
maie bee saide of the Poemes of those daies, whyche bee toe the
Mynde what Peyncteynge bee toe the Eyne, the Couloures of the
fyrste beeynge mo dureynge. Ecca Byshoppe of Hereforde yn
D.LVii. was a goode Poete, whome I thus englyshe : —

Whan azure Skie ys veylde yn Robes of Nyghte,

Whanne glemmrynge dewe-drops stounde ^ the Faytours 2 Eyne,
Whanne flying Cloudes, betinged with roddie Lyghte,

Doth on the Brindlynge Wolfe and W^oodbore shine,
Whanne Even Star, fayre Herehaughte of nyghte,

Spreds the darke douskie Sheene along the Mees,^
The wreethynge Naders'* sends a glumie^ Lyghte,

And houlets wynge fro Levyn ^ blasted Trees.
Arise mie Spryghte and seke the distant dell,
And there to echoing Tonges thie raptured Joies ytell.

Gif thys manne han no honde for a Peynter, he had a Head :
a Pycture appearethe ynne cache Lyne, and I wys so fyne an
Even sighte mote be drawn as ynne the above. In anoder of
hys Vearses he saithe,

Whanne Sprynge came dauncynge onne a flowrette bedde,
Dighte ynne greene Raimente of a chaungynge kynde ;

The leaves of Hawthorne boddeynge on hys hedde,
Ande vvhyte Prymrosen coureynge to the Wynde :

Thanne dydd the Shepster '^ hys longe Albanne ^ spredde
Uponne the greenie Bancke and daunced arounde,

1 Stounde, astonish. ^ Fayiours, travellers.

3 Mees, meads.

* Neders, adders, used here perhaps for glow-worms.

* Glumie, dull, gloomy. ^ Levyn, lightning.

"■ Shepster, shepherd. ^ Albanne, a large loose white robe.


Whilest the soft Flowretts nodded onne his hedde,

And hys fayre Lambes besprenged ^ onne the Grounde,
Anethe hys Fote the brookelette ranne alonge,
Whyche strolled rounde the Vale to here his joyous songe.

Methynckethe these bee thoughtes notte oft to be metten wyth,
and ne to bee excellede yn theyre kynde. Elmar, Byshoppe of
Selseie, was fetyve yn Workes of ghastlieness,^ for the whyche
take yee thys Speeche :

Nowe maie alle Helle open to golpe thee downe,

Whylste azure merke ^ immenged "* wythe the daie,
Shewe lyghte on darkned Peynes to be moe roune,^

O maiest thou die lyvinge Deathes for aie :
Maie Floodes of Solfirre beare thie Sprighte anoune,'^

Synkeynge to Depths of Woe, maie Levynne brondes "^
Tremble upon thie Peyne devoted Crowne,

And senge thie alle yn vayne emploreynge hondes ;
Maie all the Woes that Godis Wrathe canne sende
Uponne thie heade alyghte, & there theyre Furie spende.

Gorweth of Wales bee sayde to be a wryter good, botte I
understande not that Tonge. Thus moche for Poetes, whose
Poesies do beere resemblance to Pyctures in mie unwordie

Perhaps an even more striking example of the pre-
cocity of genius is Pope's " Ode on Solitude," an imitative
poem which displays a mastery of form rare at all times,
and was said by Pope to have been written " when I was
not twelve years old " :

Happy the man, whose wish and care

A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,

In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,

Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcern'dly find

Hours, days, and years, slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day.

' Besprenged, scattered. [Probably Chatterton meant " sprang."]
2 G/iastlteness, terror. ^ Merke, darkness.

* Immenged, mingled. ^ Roune, terrific.

* Anoune, ever and anon.

^ Levynnt brondes, thunderbolts [lightning brands].


Sound sleep by night ; study and ease,

Together mixt ; sweet recreation :
And innocence, which most does please.

With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown,

Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone

Tell where I lie.

Pope also is reported to have said, " I wrote things, I
am ashamed to say how soon : part of my epic poem
' Alcander ' when about twelve."

Congreve wrote " The Old Bachelor " when he was
only nineteen.

Other instances of such precocity could be cited, but
I have perhaps said enough to place it within the region
of possibility that the poems we are considering were the
work of a young boy. The poems themselves contain
strong internal evidence of such an origin. Take the
following specimen from the 1569 collection:

Then did appeare to me a sharped spire

Of diamant, ten feete eche way in square.

Justly proportionde up unto his height,

So hie as mought an Archer reache with sight.

Upon the top therof was set a pot

Made of the mettall that we honour most.

And in this golden vessell couched were

The ashes of a mightie Emperour.

Upon foure corners of the base there lay.

To beare the frame, foure great Lions of golde.

A worthie tombe for such a worthie corps.

Alas, nought in this worlde but griefe endures.

A sodaine tempest from the heaven, I saw.

With flushe stroke downe this noble monument.

This was revised as follows in the collection of 159 1 :

Then did a sharped spyre of Diamond bright.
Ten feete each way in square appeare to mee.
Justly proportion'd up unto his hight,
So far as Archer might his level see :
The top thereof a pot did seeme to beare,
Made of the mettall, which we most do honour ;
And in this golden vessel couched weare
The ashes of a mightie Emperour :


Upon foure corners of the base were pight,

To beare the frame, foure great Lyons of gold ;

A worthy tombe for such a worthy wight.

Alas, this world doth nought but grievance hold !
I saw a tempest from the heaven descend,
Which this brave monument with flash did rend.

There are other interesting examples of what are
evidently primitive attempts of the author in verse trans-
lation, amended later by himself. Take, for example, the
following rendering of Marot's verse in the Visions of
Petrarch included in the Complaints of 1591 :

After, at sea a tall ship did appeare,

Made all of Heben and white Yvorie ;

The sailes of golde, of silke the tackle were :

Milde was the winde, calme seem'd the sea to bee.

The skie eachwhere did show full bright and faire :

With rich treasures this gay ship fiaighted was :

But sudden storme did so turmoyle the aire,

And tumbled up the sea, that she (alas)

Strake on a rock, that under water lay,

And perished past all recoverie.

O, how great ruth, and sorrowfull assay,

Doth vex my spirite with perplexitie,

Thus in a moment to see lost and drown'd.
So great riches as like cannot be found !

The last five lines have been extended from three
lines in the Theatre for Worldlings, which are as follow:

great misfortune, O great griefe, I say.
Thus in one moment to see lost and drownde
So great riches, as lyke can not be founde.

In the I 59 1 edition the Visions of Petrarch end with
the following stanza :

When I behold this tickle trusties state
Of vaine worlds glorie, flitting too and fro.
And mortall men tossed by troublous fate
In restles seas of wretchednes and woe ;

1 wish I might this wearie life forgoe.
And shortly turne unto my happie rest,
Where my free spirite might not anie moe

Be vext with sights, that doo her peace molest.


And ye, faire Ladie, in whose bounteous brest
All heavenly grace and vertue shrined is,
When ye, these rythmes doo read, and vew the rest,
Loath this base world, and thinke of heavens blis :
And though ye be the fairest of Gods creatures,
Yet thinke, that death shall spoyle your goodly features.

It is not surprising to find that this is not in the
Theatre for Worldlings. Instead of it are the following
lines :

My Song thus now in thy Conclusions,
Say boldly that these same Six Visions

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 19 of 55)