Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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Do yelde unto thy lorde a sweete request.
Ere it be long within the earth to rest.

These are a bald translation of Marot's French, as
follows :

O chanson mienne, en tes conclusions
Dy hardiment : Ces six grans visions
A mon seigneur donnent un doulx desir
De briefvement soubz la terre gesir.

The attraction of thoughts and subjects of a serious
and religious cast for a precocious child is, I believe, very-
common, and in Bacon's case the instruction of his mother,
who was a woman of strong religious feeling, must have
had an influence in this direction. She was a Protestant
of the Geneva School, and an interesting light is thrown
on her by the writer of an attack on Burghley's Govern-
ment from the Catholic camp published anonymously in
Cologne in 1592 under the title "A Declaration of the
True Causes of the great troubles presupposed to be
intended against the realme of England." From the
style and matter I take it to have been written by a
member, or advocate, of the English Catholic aristocracy,
and it was considered by the Government of sufficient
importance to be answered by a formal manifesto.
This was written by Francis Bacon, and is perhaps
one of the most brilliant of his shorter writings.^
In this book (" A Declaration," etc.) Cecil is described

* Spedding, Life, i. 146 : Observations on a Libel.



as a "sly sicophant," who induced Queen Elizabeth to
change the old religion :

He then promoted unto authoritie one Nicolas Bacon, with
whom before he was lynked in bonds of affinitie, who being also
of meane birth, but of an exceding craftie witt, was the more
fitt to be joined with himself in the menaging of the new

Aided by Nicholas Bacon, and their respective wives, the
writer says that Cecil set up a church of his own
invention :

The apologie of this Church was written in Latin, and trans-
lated into English by A. B. with the commendacio of M. C,
which twain were sisters, and wives unto Cecill and Bacon, and
gave their assistance and helping hands, in the plot and
fortification of this new erected synagog.^

Naturally the influence of Bacon's mother would
appear most strongly in his early writings, and would
give direction to his ideas on subjects associated with
religious thought. An example is to be found in the
attempts to versify some of the passages in the Revelation
of St. John, which are included in the Theatre for
Worldlings, where the writer says " the Holy Ghost by
S. John setteth him [Anti-christ] out in his colours."
I select one out of four :

I saw new Earth, new Heaven, sayde Saint John.

And loe, the sea (quod he) is now no more.

The holy Citie of the Lorde, from hye

Descendeth garnisht as a loved spouse.

A voice then sayde, beholde the bright abode

Of God and men. For he shall be their God,

And all their teares he shall wipe cleane away.

Hir brightnesse greater was than can be founde.

Square was this Citie, and twelve gates it had.

Eche gate was of an orient perfect pearle,

The houses golde, the pavement precious stone.

A lively streame, more cleere than Christall is,

Ranne through the mid, sprong from triumphant seat.

There growes lifes fruite unto the Churches good.

I think it was Bacon's habit from his earliest age to

' Ann 13acon and Mildred Cecil, daughters of Sir .Anthony Cooke. The
book referred to is Bishop Jewel's Apologia pro EccUsia Anglicana, 1562.


turn his reading (which must have been incessant) into
verse — that is to say, anything which specially appealed
to his fancy and was within his powers — or to store it up
in his capacious memory for future use. Reminiscent, I
think, of these early experiments in Biblical paraphrase
is the following passage in one of Harvey's letters to
" Immerito " published in i 580 in Three proper and ivittie
fainiliar Letters, etc. (the writer here on both sides being,
in my opinion, either wholly or mainly, the same person) :

I hearde once a Divine, pieferre Saint Johns Revelation
before al the veriest Metaphysicall Visions, and jollyest conceited
Dreames or Extasies, that ever were devised by one or other,
howe admirable, or super excellent soever they seemed otherwise
to the worlde. And truely I am so confirmed in this opinion,
that when I bethinke me of the verie notablest, and moste
wonderful Propheticall, or Poeticall Vision, that ever I read, or
hearde, me seemeth the proportion is so unequall, that there
hardly appeareth anye semblaunce of Comparison : no more in a
maner (especially for Poets) then doth betweene the incompre-
hensible Wisdome of God, and the sensible Wit of man.

Such being this writer's early performance, it may
be regarded as certain that other writings, even if none
were extant, continued to flow from his pen. But
such writings do, in fact, exist, as I shall hope to be
able to show from internal evidence, though, as always
in this case, they are concealed under the names of
other men. The first of these " impersonations " is, in
my belief, the poet Gascoigne, whose works, together
with the relevant circumstances of his life, I will now
proceed to examine.

George Gascoigne is supposed to have been born
about the year 1525; he was the son of Sir John
Gascoigne of Bedfordshire ; was educated at Trinity
College, Cambridge, and left without taking a degree ;
is said to have entered the Middle Temple before
1548; was of an irregular disposition, and, according
to Whetstone's Reiiiembrance, was disinherited by
his father on account of his extravagance. In 1555
he became a student of Gray's Inn, and subsequently


Arthur, Lord Grey of Wilton, became his patron. He
was apparently a vigorous man of fine appearance, a
frequenter of the Court, and very susceptible to the
charm of women. In 1572 he presented himself for
election to Parliament, but a petition was brought
against him, apparently by his creditors, in which he
was charged with insolvency, and also with manslaughter
and atheism, and with being " a common rymer and a
deviser of slanderous pasquils against divers persones of
great calling." He thereupon went abroad (March
1572) and served as a soldier of fortune in the Low
Countries for two to three years. Returning to England
probably in 1574 Gascoigne henceforth confined himself
to literary work, but he still suffered much from poverty.^
He died on 7th October 1577.

In Gascoigne's absence abroad a collected volume
of his verse was published (the first edition of the
Posies). The publication is involved in an extraordinary
piece of mystification, and my contention will be that
the person behind it was the boy Francis Bacon. I
am conscious that such a proposition involves a serious
tax on the credulity of the reader, but I hope never-
theless to make it good.

The book appeared in 1573, probably early in the
year. Bacon was twelve years old in January of that
year (being born in January 1561 — old style 1560).
The address "To the Reverende Divines" prefixed to
the edition of 1575, dated "this last day of Januarie
1574" (=1575, new style), says: "It is verie neare
two yeares past, since (I beeing in Hollande in service
with the vcrtuous Prince of Orenge) the most part of
these Posies were imprinted." The volume contained
a prose piece, with verses interspersed, entitled " The
Adventures of Master F. J.," ^ described in the edition of
1575 as "The pleasant Fable of Ferdinando Jeronimi
and Leonora de Valasco, translated out of the Italian

' Diet. Nat. Piofir., from which the facts given above are taken.
'^ " A pleasant discourse of the aduentures of master F. I. conteyning
cxcellct idler?, sonets, Lays, Ballets, Rondlets, Verlayes and verses," 1573.


riding tales of Bartelio^' (intended for Bandelld). It is
introduced, in the edition of 1573, by the device of two
letters, which are as follow :

A discourse of the adventures passed by Master F. I.
H. W. to the Reader

In August last passed my familiar friend Master G. T.
bestowed uppon me ye reading of a written Booke, wherin he
had collected divers discourses & verses, invented uppon
sundrie occasions, by sundrie gentleme (in mine opinion) right
commendable for their capacitie. And herewithal my said
friend charged me, that I should use them onely for mine
owne particuler commoditie, and eftsones safely deliver the
originall copie to him againe, wherein I must confesse my
selfe but halfe a marchant, for the copie unto him I have
safely redelivered. But the worke (for I thought it worthy
to be published) I have entreated my friend A. B. to emprint :
as one that thought better to please a number by common
commoditie then to feede the humor of any private parson
by nedelesse singularitie. This I have adventured, for thy
contentation (learned Reader). And further have presumed
of my selfe to christen it by the name of A hundreth sundrie
Flowers. In which poeticall posie are setforth manie trifling
fantasies, humorall passions, and straunge affects of a Lover.
And therin (although the wiser sort wold turne over the leafe
as a thing altogether fruitlesse) yet I my selfe have reaped
this commoditie, to sit and smile at the fond devises of such
as have enchayned them selves in the golden fetters of fantasie,
and having bewrayed them selves to the whole world, do yet
conjecture y' they walke unseene in a net. Some other things
you may also finde in this Booke, which are as voyde of
vanitie, as the first are lame for governement. And I must
confesse that (what to laugh at the one, & what to learne
by the other) I have contrary to the chardge of my said
friend G. T. procured for these trifles this day of publication.
Wherat if the aucthors onely repyne, and the number of
other learned mindes be thankfull : I may then boast to have
gained a bushell of good will, in exchange for one pynt of
peevish choler. But if it fal out contrary to expectatio that
the readers judgements agree not with myne opinion in their
commendacions, I may then (unlesse their curtesies supplie
my want of discretion) with losse of some labour, accompt
also the losse of my familier friendes, in doubt whereof, I cover
all our names, and referre you to the well written letter of my


friende G. T. next following, whereby you may more at large
consider of these occasions. And so I comend the praise of
other mens travailes together with the pardon of mine owne
rashnes, unto the well willing minds of discrete readers. From
my lodging nere the Strande the xx. of January. 1572.

H. W.

The letter of G. T. to his very frie7id H. W.
concerning this worke

Remembring the late conference passed betwene us in my
lodging, and how you seemed to esteeme some Pamphlets, which
I did there shew unto you farre above their worth in skill, I did
straightwaye conclude the same your judgment to procede of two
especiall causes, one (and principall) the stedfast good will, which
you have ever hitherto sithens our first familiaritie borne towardes
mee. An other (of no lesse weight) the exceding zeale and
favour that you beare to good letters. The wliich (I agree with
you) do no lesse bloome and appeare in pleasaunt ditties or
compendious Sonets, devised by green youthful capacities, than
they do fruitefuUy florish unto perfection in the ryper workes of
grave and grayheared writers. For as in the last, the yonger
sort maye make a mirror of perfecte life : so in the first, the
most frosty bearded Philosopher^ maye take just occasion of
honest recreation, not altogether without holsome lessons, tending
to the reformation of manners. For who doubteth but that
Poets in their most feyned fables and imaginations, have meta-
phorically set forth unto us the right rewardes of vertues, and the
due punishments for vices ? Marie in deede I may not compare
Pamphlets unto Poems, neither yet may justly advant for our
native countrimen, that they have in their verses hitherto
(translations excepted) delivered unto us any such notable
volume, as have bene by Poets of antiquitie, left unto the
posteritie. And the more pitie, that amongst so many toward
wittes ne one hath bene hitherto encouraged to followe the
trace of that worthy and famous knight Sir Geffrey Chaucer,
and after many pretie devises spent in youth, for the obtayning a
worthies victorie, might consume and consummate his age in
discribing the right pathway to perfect felicitie, with the due
preservation of the same. The which although some may judge
over grave a subject to be handled in stile metrical, yet for that
I have found in the verses of eloquent Latinists, learned Greeks,
& pleasant Italians, sundrie directions, whereby a man may be
guided toward thattayning of that unspeakeable treasure, I have

> Cf. p. 235.


thus farre lamented, that our countreymen, have chosen rather

to winne a passover praise by the wanton penning of a few loving

layes, than to gayne immortall fame, by the Clarkely handlinge

of so profitable a Theame. For if quicknes of invencion, proper

vocables, apt Epythetes, and store of monasillables may help a

pleasant brayne to be crowned with Lawrell, I doubt not but

both our countreymen & countrie language might be entronised

amonge the olde foreleaders unto the mount Helicon. But nowe

let mee returne to my first purpose, for I have wandred somwhat

beside the path, and yet not cleane out of the way. I have

thought good (I say) to present you with this writte booke,

wherein you shall find a number of Sonets, layes, letters. Ballades,

Rondlets, verlayes and verses, the workes of your friend and

myne Master F. J. and divers others, the which when I had with

long travayle confusedly gathered together, I thought it then

Opere precium to reduce them into some good order. The

which I have done according to my barreyne skill in this written

Booke, commending it unto you to read and to peruse, and

desiring you as I onely do adventure thus to participate the sight

therof unto your former good will, even so that you will by no

meanes make the same common : but after your owne recreation

taken therin y' you wil safely redeliver unto me the originall

copie. For otherwise I shall not onely provoke all the aucthors

to be offended with mee, but further shall leese the opertunitie

of a greater matter, halfe and more graunted unto mee alreadie,

by the willing consent of one of them. And to be playne (with

you my friend) he hath written (which as farre as I can learne)

did never yet come to the reading or perusinge of any man but

himselfe : two notable workes. The one called, the Sundry lots of

love. The other of his owne invencion entituled. The clyming of

an Eagles neast. These thinges (and especially the later) doth

seeme by the name to be a work worthy the reading. And the

rather 1 judge so because his fantasie is so occupied in the same,

as that contrary to his wonted use, he hath hitherto withhelde it

from sight of any his familiers, untill it be finished, you may

gesse him by his Nature. And therfore I requier your secresie

herein, least if he hear the contrary, we shall not be able by any

meanes to procure these other at his handes. So fare you wel,

from my Chamber this tenth of August. 1572.

Youres or not his owne.
G. T.

When I had with no small entreatie obteyned of Master
F. J. and sundry other toward young gentlemen, the sundry
copies of these sundry matters, then aswell for that the number


of them was great, as also for that I found none of them, so
barreyne, but that (in my judgmet) had in it Aliquid Sa/i's, and
especially being considered by the very proper occasion where-
uppon it was written (as they them selves did alwayes with the
verse reherse unto me the cause y' then moved them to write)
I did with more labour gather them into some order, and so
placed them in this register. Wherein as neare as I could gesse,
I have set in the first places those which Master J'] J. did
compyle. And to begin with this his history that ensueth, it was
(as he declared unto me) written uppon this occasio. The said
F. J. chaunced once in the north partes of this Realme to fall in
company of a very fayre gentlewoman whose name was Mistresse
Elinor^ unto whom bearinge a hotte affection, he first adventured
to write this letter following. G. T.

In the first place it may be observed that " G. T.'s "
letter anticipates, both in manner and substance, the
" E. K." and Immerito- Harvey letters. As in those
writings, " G. T." is animated by a patriotic desire to
do something for English letters, and deplores the fact
that, since Chaucer, nothing of note has been done. He
also, like " Immerito," mentions pieces which he is holding
back, though in this case he attributes them to some one
else. In the next place he affects to have procured from
others and arranged in one collection (viz. " The
Adventures of Master F, J.") "a number of Sonets, layes,
letters, . . . the workes of your friend and myne
Master F. J. and divers others," and he begs his friend
" H. W." " that you will by no meanes make the same
common : but . . . safely redeliver unto me the
originall copie," In a postscript he hints at a love affair
which bears a close resemblance to Spenser's supposed
experience in the north of England on his leaving
Cambridge. " H. W.," far from respecting his friend's
express injunctions, proceeds to publish " G. T.'s " letter,
with an address " to the Reader," in which he takes no
shame to admit that he had betrayed his confidence !
On the top of this " the Printer " comes in, and in the
course of a letter to the Reader, which appeared at the
beginning of the 1573 edition, and was replaced by the
three addresses below described in the edition of 1575,


declares that he " fears very much (all these words not-
withstanding) that these two gentlemen were of one assent
compact to have it imprinted," I give the full text of
this further letter, and the reader can judge for himself
whether they are not all three written by the same person.
I have not the smallest doubt that they are.

The Printer to the Reader

It hath bin an old saying, that whiles two doggs do strive for
a bone, the thirde may come and carie it away. And this
proverbe may (as I feare) be wel verefied in me which take in
hand the imprinting of this poeticall Poesie. For the case
seemeth doubtful, and I will disclose my conjecture. Master
.H. W. in the beginning of this worke, hath in his letter (written
to the Readers) cunningly discharged himselfe of any such
misliking, as the graver sort of greyheared judgers niighte
(perhaps) conceive in the publicatio of these pleasant Pamphlets.
And nexte unto that learned preamble, the letter of .G. T. (by
whome as seemeth, the first coppie hereof was unto the same
.H. W. delivered), doth with no lesse clerkly cuning seeke to
perswade the readers, that he (also) woulde by no meanes have
it published. Now I feare very muche (all these words notwith-
stading) that these two gentlemen were of one assent compact
to have it imprinted : And yet, finding by experiece that nothing
is so wel hadled now adayes, but that some malicious minds may
either take occasion to mislike it themselves, or else finde meanes
to make it odious unto others : They have therefore (each of
them) politiquely prevented the daunger of misreport, and
suffered me the poore Printer to runne away with the palme of
so perillous a victorie. Notwithstanding, having wel perused
the worke, I find nothing therein amisse (to my judgemente)
unlesse it be two or three wanton places passed over in the
discourse of an amorous enterprise. The which for as much
as the words are cleanly (although the thing ment be somewhat
naturall) I have thought good also to let them passe as they
came to me, and the rather bicause (as master .H.W. hath well
alleadged in his letter to the Reader) the well minded ma may
reape some commoditie out of the most frivolous works that are
written. And as the venemous spider wil sucke poison out of
the most holesome herbe, and the industrious Bee can gather
hony out of the most stinking weede : Even so the discrete
reader may take a happie exaple by the most lascivious histories,
although the captious and harebrained heads can neither be


encoraged by the good, nor forewarned by the bad. And thus
muche I have thought good to say in excuse of some savours,
which may perchance smell unpleasantly to some noses, in some
part of this poeticall poesie. Now it hath with this fault a greater
commoditie than common poesies have ben accustomed to
present, and that is this, you shall not be constreined to smell
of the floures therein coteined all at once, neither yet to take
them up in such order as they are sorted : But you may take
any one flowre by it selfe, and if that smell not so pleasantly as
you wold wish, I doubt not yet but you may find some other
which may supplie the defects thereof. As thus, he which
wold have good morall lessons clerkly handled, let him smell
to the Tragedie translated out of Euripides. He that wold
laugh at a prety conceit closely conveyed, let him peruse the
comedie translated out of Ariosto. He that would take example
by the unlawfuU affections of a lover bestowed uppon an
unconstant dame, let them reade the report in verse, made
by Dan Bartholmew of Bathe, or the discourse in prose of
the adventures passed by master F. J. whome the reader may
name Freeman Jones, for the better understanding of the
same : he that would see any particuler pang of love lively
displayed, may here approve every Pamphlet by the title, and
so remaine contented. As also divers godly himnes and Psalmes
may in like manner be founde in this recorde. To conclude,
the worke is so universall, as either in one place or other, any
mans mind may therewith be satisfied. The which I adventure
(under pretext of this promise) to present unto all indifferent eyes
as foUoweth.

The editor (Professor Cunliffe) of the edition of
Gascoigne's Works in the " Cambridge English Classics "
series — to which I am greatly indebted — thinks that
" G. T." (by some supposed to stand for George Turberville)
was probably a mythical person of Gascoigne's own
invention. He adds that the explanatory headings to
the various poems in the 1573 edition "were apparently
written by Gascoigne himself, although he i.s always
spoken of in the third person." But Gascoigne was at
the wars, and these headings, I have little doubt, were
the work of his editor. The " Adventures of Master
F. J." are, in my belief, also by the same hand. The
story closes in the 1575 version with a statement
containing the following : " I knowe not howe my rude


translation thereof will delight the finest judgementes.
But sure as Bartello writteth it in Italian, it is both
pleasaunt and profitable." I should judge from a perusal
of the story that the translator had added and altered to
suit his own ideas, but to what extent this is so I have
not thought it necessary to inquire. The style is quite
beyond the capacity of Gascoigne, who also shows no
evidence of having acquired any knowledge of foreign

The letters above quoted all drop out of the edition
o^ ^575> which Gascoigne appears to have published
himself after his return to England, and in their place
are three addresses — (i) "To the reverende Divines," in
which the writer apologises for "The Adventures of Master
F J." ; (2) " To al yong Gentlemen, and generally to
the youth of England " ; (3) " To the Readers generally."
The last is undoubtedly the work of Gascoigne himself,
and probably the original piece which was intended to
go before the volume. The other two are in quite a
different style, and are probably an after-thought. The
first I believe to be entirely the work of the author of
the " Adventures." The second I think is very probably
also by him, and that in any case he had a share in its

The first address is dated " this last day of Januarie,
1574"; the second is dated "the second of Januarie,
1575." the first date being old style (= 1575) and the
second new style. The third address is undated. The
title-page is dated 1575. In the first address Gascoigne
says, or is made to say, " that I never receyved of the
Printer, or of anye other, one grote or pennie for the

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 20 of 55)