Copyright
Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

. (page 23 of 55)
Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 23 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


also is quite different, notably in church matters, from that
of the author of The Glasse of Governevieni. He is, at
heart, a devout believer in the ministrations of the ancient
church, reformed as regards the grosser superstitions, but
still the church of the sacramental mass — see his description
of the vision of the priests in his Steele Glas (" my
priests ") and his exhortation for their prayers for the
various estates of the realm. There is no suggestion of
sympathy with Calvinism or the preachers, or indeed of
any concern in the problems involved in that movement.
The poet's mind reflects (as Professor Courthope justly
says) the confused, uncertain spirit of the times, but it
belongs essentially to the old order.

Another point remains to be noted in connection with
The Steele Glas, which, in its bearing on this inquiry, is
one of the most interesting. The poem is preceded by
some sets of commendatory verses, one of which (as
follows) is supposed to be by Sir Walter Ralegh :



Walter Rawely of the Middle Temple, in Commendation

OF THE Steele Glasse

Svvete were the sauce, would please ech kind of last,
The life hkewise, were pure that neuer swerued,
For spyteful tongs, in cankred stomackes plaste,
Deeme worst of things, which best (percase) deserued :
But what for that ? this medcine may suffyse.
To scorne the rest, and seke to please the wise.

Though sundry mindes, in sundry sorte do deeme.
Yet worthiest wights, yelde prayse for euery payne.
But enuious braynes, do nought (or Hght) esteme.
Such stately steppes, as they cannot attaine.
For who so reapes, renowne aboue the rest.
With heapes of hate, shal surely be opprest.

Wherefore to write, my censure of this booke,
This Glasse of Steele, vnpartially doth shewe.
Abuses all, to such as in it looke,
From prince to poore, from high estate to lowe.
As for the verse, who lists like trade to trye,
I feare me much, shal hardly reache so high.



244 SPENSER AND THE BACON IMPERSONATIONS chap.



This has always been a puzzle to the biographers, as
there is no evidence that Ralegh ever studied the law.
Edwards observes that "for the statement that Ralegh,
on leaving Oxford, entered himself as a student of the
Middle Temple, there is not an atom of evidence," and
he notes the fact that we have Ralegh's own asseveration
at his trial that he read " not a word " of law or statutes
until the time of his imprisonment in the Tower.^ At
the date of the publication of The Steele Glas (1576) he
was leading the precarious life of a soldier of fortune, and
nothing for certain is known of his movements, though
the writers of the article in the Dictionary of National
Biography, apparently on the strength of this copy of verses,
assert that "in the spring of 1576 he was in London."
This may have been so, but what little evidence has, by
patient research, been collected of Ralegh's movements
during this period indicates that his life was a roving and
unsettled one till his return from service in Ireland under
Lord Grey at the end of i 5 8 1 , when, shortly afterwards,
at the age of about thirty, he attracted the notice of the
Queen. I shall have more to say about Ralegh. In the
meantime I will merely state here my conclusion (for
which reasons will be given in due course) that Ralegh's
name was used by the author of these verses, and that
this either led to, or was the beginning of, an arrangement
between Ralegh and Bacon which was carried on for
many years in furtherance of their respective projects for
winning or retaining the favour of the Queen.

The Steele Glas was dedicated to Gascoigne's patron.
Lord Grey of Wilton, and, in the course of the address,
Gascoigne refers to his circumstances and state of mind.
He had evidently got into some trouble in England,
which had led to his leaving the country, and his
experiences in the wars had wrought a change of mind,
and he is full of regrets for past follies. He explains,
however, that people will give him no credit for this, and,
oppressed by poverty and in ill -health, he finds the

' Life of Ralegh, i. 25.



IX BACON AND GASCOIGNE 245

Struggle to reinstate himself in good opinion almost
more than he can face :

I am derided, suspected, accused, and condemned : yea more
than that, I am rygorously rejected when I proffer amendes for
my harme. Should I therefore dispayre ? Shall I yeelde unto
jellosie ? or drowne my dayes in idlenesse, because their
beginning was bathed in wantonnesse ? Surely (my Lord) the
Magnanimitie of a noble minde will not suffer me, and the
delightfulnesse of dilygence doth utterly forbydde me.

There is more in the same vein :

For whiles I bewayle mine own unworthynesse, and there-
withal do set before mine eyes the lost time of my youth mispent,
I seem to see a farre of (for my comfort) the high and triumphant
vertue called Magnanifnitie, accompanied with industrious
diligence. The first doth encourage my faynting harte, the
seconde doth beginne (already) to employ my understanding.
... I have misgoverned my youth, I confesse it : what shall I
do then ? shall I yelde to mysery as a just plague apointed for
my portion ? Magnanimitie saith no, and Industrye seemeth to
be of the same opinion.

Later he refers again to his troubles :

But (alas my lorde) I am not onely enforced still to carie on
my shoulders the crosse of my carelesnesse, but therewithall I am
also put to the plonge, too provide newe weapons wherewith I
may defende all heavy frownes, deepe suspects, and dangerous
detractions. And I finde myselfe so feeble, and so unable to
endure that combat, as (were not the cordialles before rehearsed)
I should either cast downe mine armoure and hide myselfe like
a recreant, or else (of a malicious stubbornesse) should busie
my braines with some Stratagem for to execute an envious
revenge on mine adversaries. . . . And when the vertuous shall
perceive indeede how I am occupied, then shall detraction be
no lesse ashamed to have falsely accused me, than light credence
shall have cause to repent his rashe conceypt : and Gravitie the
judge shal not be abashed to cancel the sentence unjustly
pronounced in my condemnation. In meane while I remaine
amongst my bookes here at my poore house in Walkamstowe,
where I praye daylie for speedy advauncement, and continual
prosperitie of your good Lordship.

I quote from this dedication at some length because it
gives a good idea of Gascoigne's temperament, and of his



246 SPENSER AND THE BACON IMPERSONATIONS chap.



State of mind and circumstances on his return to England
from the Low Countries. Gascoigne was not a specially
clever nor a well-educated man, and the range of his
imagination is very limited ; but he had an individual
and idiomatic vein, and his poetry is interesting for its
native sincerity. The earnest spirit of this dedication,
with its sense of weakness and struggle, and of the hard-
ness and misery of the world, with faith, however, in
fortitude and effort, is the note also of the poem which
follows, and the spirit of it is, in my opinion, wholly in-
compatible with some of the other pieces which appeared
under Gascoigne's name during this period, i.e. from 1575
to 1577, in which year the poet died. I beg particular
attention to the tone of this address, and will ask the
reader, in considering certain other pieces to which I shall
come, to remember that Gascoigne was at this time in ill-
health and a man whose "joy of life " was a thing of the
past. Thus in The Grief of foye, a piece certainly by
Gascoigne, dedicated to the Queen on ist January 1577,
he writes (in reference evidently to the same incident as
that alluded to in the dedication to The Steele Glas) :

I have bene stronge (I thanke my God therefore)
And did therein rejoyce as most men dyd,
I lept, I ranne, I toylde and travailde soore.
My might and mayne didd covett to be kidd.
But lo : beholde ; my mery daies amydd,
One heady deede my haughty harte did breake,
And since (full oft) I wisht I had bene vveake.

There is little art in this ; but it has force through
its simple sincerity, and gives expression to the sense of
irreparable disaster which comes often from the slightest
and most momentary causes. It is the typical, undis-
guised, autobiographic note, which is always present in
Gascoigne's work.

I will now draw attention to some further incongruities.
On the I 2th April i 576, three days before the dedication
of The Steele Glas, Gascoigne wrote a prefatory epistle,
apparently in the best of spirits, to A Discourse of a



IX BACON AND GASCOIGNE 247

Discoverie for a neiu Passage to Cataia, which he pro-
fesses was the work of Sir Humphrey Gilbert (Ralegh's
half-brother). He subscribes the epistle " From my
lodging where I march amongst the Muses for lacke of
exercise in martiall exployts, this 12 of April 1576, A
friend to all well willing Readers. George Gascoine."
This from the author of The Fruites of Warre ! Three
weeks later (2nd May i 576) he produced The Droomnie of
Doomes day, a theological tract of enormous length, which
is said to be a translation from a Latin work of Pope
Innocent \\\} It is dedicated to the Earl of Bedford,
and subscribed " From my lodging where I finished this
travayle in weake plight for health as your good L : well
knoweth this second daye of Maye 1576. Your Lord-
shippes right humble and faithful servaunt, George
Gascoigne." In " an advertisement of the Prynter to the
Reader " it is stated that " whiles this work was in the
presse, it pleased God to visit the translatour thereof with
sicknesse. So that being unable himselfe to attend the
dayly proofes, he appoynted a servaunt of his to over see
the same." [Hence some faults, etc.]

In the dedication we read that the work (which covers
240 pages of print) was begun after serious reflection,
" not manye monethes since." But this is not the whole
tale of the labours of this prolific period. On the 1st
January 1576 The Tale of Hemetes the Hereniyte,
pronounced before the Queen at Woodstock in August
1575, was dedicated to the Queen, in four languages,
English, Latin, Italian and French. The original is
attributed to Gascoigne, but he does not claim it, as will
be seen from the following extraordinary passage in the
dedication :

I will saye then that I fynd in my self some suffycyency to
serve yo"' highnes, w*='* causeth me thus presumpteowsly to present
you vv'^ theis rude lynes, having turned the eloquent tale of
Hemetes the Heremyte (wherw'^ I saw yo'' lamed judgment greatly
pleased at Woodstock) into latyne, Italyan and frenche, nott that
I thinke any of the same translations any waie comparable with

^ Arber, biographical notice.



248 SPENSER AND THE BACON IMPERSONATIONS chap.

the first invencion, for if yo"" highnes compare myne ignorance
w''^ thaucto" skyll, or have regard to my rude phrases compared
with his well polished style, you shall fynde my sentences as much
disordered as arrowes shott owt of ploughes, and my theames as
inaptly prosecuted as hares hunted w"^ oxen, for my latyne is
rustye, myne Itallyan mustye, and my frenche forgrowne.

Lastly, on 26th March 1576, appeared The Princely
Pleasures at Kenelworth Castle, being an account of the
" devices " and poetical entertainments produced before
the Queen on her visit to the Earl of Leicester in July

1575-

These various productions are wholly incompatible
as the work of one man, and, in the particular case of
Gascoigne, to accept them indiscriminately as his work
seems to me uncritical to the last degree.

We come now to The Princely Pleasures, which in-
vites consideration more fully than in the case of the other
pieces, because this work describes an incident of which
there are thought by some to be memories in Shakespeare's
Midsummer Night's Dream, and it has been suggested
that Shakespeare, then a boy of eleven, was present at
the festivities with the people from Stratford in the Castle
grounds. The boy who was there, however, and who,
in my belief, edited and partly wrote this collection,
together with a companion piece on the same subject
known under the title of Lanehanis Letter, was Francis
Bacon, then between fourteen and fifteen, either on
vacation from Cambridge or having recently left it, and
staying in the Castle on a visit to Kenilworth, as the son
of the Lord Keeper, and perhaps temporarily attached to
the household.^ I will endeavour in what follows to
make good this opinion.

In July 1575 Queen Elizabeth visited Kenilworth,

and was entertained with great sumptuousness by the

Earl of Leicester. An account of the entertainments was

published, under date 26th March 1576, as The Princelye

pleasures at the Court e at Kenehvoorth. The account

' See next page, and cf. p. 260, note.



IX BACON AND GASCOIGNE 249

was published anonymously, but it bore Gascoigne's
motto and passed under his name, and it was included in
a complete edition of his works published after his death.
Previous to this account another account had appeared,
in the form of a letter " From the Court. At the City of
Worcester, the twentieth August 1575," by one Robert
Laneham, who subscribed himself jocosely as " Mercer,
Merchaunt-adventurer, and Clerk of the Council-chamber
door, and also Keeper of the same," to a brother "Mercer,"
addressed as " My good friend Master Humphrey Martin,
Mercer," Nothing is known about this worthy, though
a good deal has been written about him. He has been
described as " conceited," " fantastic," " talkative," " enter-
taining," and his letter as " a very diverting tract, written
by as great a coxcomb as ever blotted paper." All
this is true, but it does not account for the personality
of Laneham, who, regarded as the man he represents
himself, or as a man at all, is a freak of nature so
astonishing as to defy classification. Regarded, however,
as a boy, he becomes intelligible, and in my belief he
is an " impersonation " by young Francis Bacon. The
extracts which I shall give from Lajiehanis Letter in
the next chapter, read with other arguments submitted in
this book, will, I hope, suffice to demonstrate this.

Let us now examine TJie Princely Pleasures^ called
Gascoigne's.

The sub-title is " A brief rehearsal, or rather a true
copy of as much as was presented before her Majesty at
Kenilworth, during her last abode there, as foUoweth."
The account opens with the words, " Her Majesty came
thither (as I remember) on Saturday being the ninth of July
last past." Who was " I " ? We turn to the introductory
notice to the " Reader " and find it is by the " Printer " —
" The Printer to the Reader." He says that —

being advertised that in this last Progress, her Majesty was (by
the Right Noble Earl of Leicester) honourably and triumphantly
received and entertained at the castle of Kenilworth : and that
sundrie Pleasant and Poetical Inventions were there expressed,



2SO SPENSER AND THE BACON IMPERSONATIONS chap.



as well in verse as in prose. All which have been sundry times
demanded for, as well at my hands, as also of other printers.
... I thought it meet to try by all means possible if I might
recover the true copies of the same, to gratify all such as had
required them at my hands, or might hereafter be stirred with
the like desire. And in fine, I have with much travail and pain
obtained the very true and perfect copies of all that were there
presented and executed ; over and besides, one moral and
gallant Device, which never came to execution, although it
were often in a readiness. And these (being thus collected) I
have (for thy commodity, gentle reader) now published. . . .
And further doth declare who was Author and Deviser of
every Poem and Invention. . . . This 26th of March, 1576.

If Gascoigne was the editor of this book, why should
he not have written the introduction ? It was his habit
to do so and to sign his name in full, as, for instance,
in the *' Epistle Dedicatorie " to The Steele Glas, addressed
to Lord Grey of Wilton, which he signs " By your
honours most bownden and well assured George
Gascoigne." It is true that Gascoigne's literary motto,
Tarn Marti quam Mer curio, is placed at the end of the
book, but this is only a repetition (with intent, in my
opinion, to suggest Gascoigne's authorship) of the same
motto placed after the " shew devised and penned by
Master Gascoigne " in the body of the collection. I have
no doubt that the anonymous compiler of this book is
the same individual as the author of Laneham's Letter,
and that the " moral and gallant Device " which never
(as he professes) got a hearing was his own production.

The writer informs us that the Queen was " met on
her way, somewhat near the Castle," by Sibylla, who
stepped out of an arbour and " pronounced as followeth " :

All hail, all hail, thrice-happy Prince,

I am Sibylla, she
Of future chance, and after-haps,

fore-shewing what shall be.

And so on for sixteen similar lines. " This device," the
writer says, " was invented, and the verses also written,
by M. Hunnis, Master of her Majesty's Chapel." From
the quality of the verses there is no reason to doubt this



IX BACON AND GASCOIGNE 251

statement, nor as regards those which follow, except
where I shall give reasons for coming to a different
conclusion. The next set of verses were spoken in the
person of Hercules as the Porter. " These verses were
devised and pronounced by Master Badger of Oxford,
Master of Arts, and Bedel in the same University."
There are fourteen lines of a kind which Shakespeare
may well have been parodying in the scene between
" Pyramus " and " Thisbe " in the Midstimmer Nighfs
Dream :

A garboil this indeed, what, yea, fair Dames ? what yea,
What dainty darling's here ? Oh God, a peerless pearl.
No worldly wight no doubt, some sovereign Goddess sure.

Then " when her Majesty had entered the gate, and come
into the base court," a " Lady attended with two nymphs,"
who " named herself the Lady of the Lake," was conveyed
across " the pool " and spoke a poem of seven stanzas, of
which the two following are a specimen :

I am the Lady of this pleasant lake.

Who since the time of great King Arthur's reign,

That here with royal court abode did make.
Have led a low'ring life in restless pain.

Till now that this your third arrival here

Doth cause me come abroad, and boldly thus appear.

For after him, such storms the Castle shook,

By swarming Saxons first who scourg'd this land,

As forth from this my pool I ne'er durst look.

Though Kenelm, king of Merce, did take in hand

(As sorrowing to see it in deface)

To rear these ruins up and fortify this place.

" These verses," says the writer, " were devised and penned
by M. Ferrers, some time Lord of Misrule in the Court."

Her Majesty then " proceeding towards the inner
court passed on a bridge, the which was railed in on
both sides." On the posts " were set sundry presents,
and gifts of provision : as wine, corn, fruits, fishes, fowls,
instruments of music, and weapons for martial defence."
These were " expounded by an actor clad like a Poet,"



252 SPENSER AND THE BACON IMPERSONATIONS chap.

who pronounced some verses in Latin ( 1 3 hexameters).
" These verses," continues the writer, " were devised by
Master Muncaster, and other verses [presumably those
given in LanehaiiUs Letter] to the very self same effect
were devised by M. Paten, and fixed over the gate in a
frame. I am not very sure whether these or Master
Paten's were pronounced by the Author, but they were
all to one effect. This speech being ended, she was
received into the inner court with sweet music. And, so
alighting from her horse, the drums, fifes and trumpets
sounded : wherewith she mounted the stairs and went to
her lodging." " The next day (being Sunday) there was
nothing done until the evening," when there were " fire-
works shewed upon the water which were both strange
and well executed."

The writer continues : ** Now to make some plainer
declaration and rehearsal of all these things before her
Majesty, on the tenth of July, there met her in the forest,
as she came from hunting, one clad like a savage man, all
in ivy, who, seeming to wonder at such a presence, fell to
quarrelling with Jupiter as foUoweth." The " savage man "
proceeds to speak more than a hundred verses, which, the
writer says, " were devised, penned and pronounced by
Master Gascoyne : and that (as I have heard credibly
reported) upon a very great sudden." This I take to be
a pleasant compliment to his friend. The qualification
in brackets is a typical device of this writer, with a view
to avoiding an admission of personal knowledge.

The savage man craves of Jupiter —

to know

what all these Peers might be :
And what has moved these sundry shews,

which I of late did see ?
Inform me, some good man,

Speak, speak, some courteous knight :
They all cry mum ; what shall I do,

what sun shall lend me light 1

"Echo" comes to his rescue, and a long encounter takes
place, of which the following is a specimen :



IX BACON AND GASCOIGNE 253

And who gave all these gifts ?

I pray thee (^Echo) say.
Was it not he, who (but of late)

this building here did lay ?
Echo. Dudley.

O Dudley, so methought :

he gave himself and all,
A worthy gift to be receiv'd,

and so 1 trust it shall.
Echo. It shall.i

The last thirty lines were spoken on his knees, concluding —

Meanwhile (good Queen) farewell,

the Gods your life prolong :
And take in worth the Wild-man's words,

for else you do him wrong.

I see no reason to doubt that these verses were written
by Gascoigne. They are in the favourite metre of the
time, which the author of the Notes of Instruction (see
above) refers to as " poulters measure."

The next and last device which was presented was
that of " the Lady of the Lake," on which the author of
this book has a good deal to say. He tells us first how
it was executed, and later he says : " The device of the
Lady of the Lake was also by Master Hunnis : and
surely if it had been executed according to the first
invention, it had been a gallant shew : for it was first
devised that . . . " ; and he proceeds to give a descrip-
tion of a much more elaborate entertainment, involving
a skirmish by night on the water (" upon heaps of
bulrushes "), and the rescue of the Lady of the Lake by
her Majesty personally " in her barge upon the water."
He concludes : " The verses, as I think, were penned, some
by Master Hunnis, some by Master Ferrers, and some by
Master Goldingham." Read with the statement above
as to " Mr. Hunnis," I take this to mean that while he
composed the device, the verses were by different hands,
not only in the original device but in the device as
executed. There are three sets of verses, the first and

• In advocacy of the Dudley marriage.



254 SPENSER AND THE BACON IMPERSONATIONS chap.

last of which are of the primitive character, but in the
second we h'ght upon something quite different, written
by an author who has an ear for rhythm and a capacity
of handling language far beyond his fellow-writers. Who
was this writer ? I judge from what the author of
Laneham's Letter says about this scene, and from what
follows, that he was the compiler of the book.

The verses are the three stanzas spoken by the Lady
of the Lake, who came to her Majesty " (attended with
her two nymphs) upon heaps of bulrushes." It will
suffice to quote one:

For which great grace of liberty obtain'd,

Not only I, but Nymphs, and sisters all,
Of this large Lake, with humble heart unfeigned

Render thee thanks, and honour thee withal.
And for plain proof, how much we do rejoice,
Express the same, with tongue, with sound and voice.

Nothing very extraordinary, I admit, but such things must
be judged by the occasion, and by other contemporary
performances in verse.

Of the two other pieces, one is stated to have been
sung by Proteus^ " sitting on a dolphin's back " (the
dolphin being " conveyed upon a boat, so that the oars
seemed to be his fins "), " Within which dolphin a concert
of music was secretly placed, which sounded, and Proteus,
clearing his voice, sang this song of congratulation :

O noble Queen, give ear

to this my floating muse :
And let the right of ready will

my little skill excuse.

• • • •

We yield you humble thanks,

in mighty Neptune's name.
Both for ourselves and therewithal

for yonder seemly Dame.

Both which you set at large,

most like a faithful friend ;
Your noble name be praised therefore,

and so my song I end."



IX BACON AND GASCOIGNE 255

The other song is entitled the speech of Triton to the



Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 23 of 55)