Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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really was to the conditions of the everyday world. His
faith in the written word was amazing, and it remained
with him to the last. It is however, in my opinion,
always doubtful to what extent these expressions of feeling
may be seriously regarded in Bacon's case. Like all men
in whom the artistic temperament is strong, he was a man
of moods, and in spite of his apparent reserve and highly
disciplined mind, his temperament was, I believe, very

At the end of May 1595 Bacon, who had again retired
to Twickenham Park, seems to have reconciled himself
(unless the words quoted below were a piece of strategy,
which, in this case, is more probable) to the idea of not
obtaining the post of Solicitor. He begs Lord Keeper
Puckering " to deliver to her Majesty from me — that I
would have been glad to have done her Majesty service
now in the best of my years, and the same mind remains
in me still ; and that it may be, when her Majesty hath
tried others, she will think of him that she hath cast aside.
For I will take it (upon that which her Majesty hath
often said) that she doth reserve me and not reject me." ^

A fortnight later he writes, apparently with renewed
hope, to Burghley, going over the whole ground in a
carefully studied letter (probably intended for the eyes of
the Queen), and prays for his good offices.^

In July the clouds were down again, and Bacon repeats,
in regard to Lord Keeper Puckering, the very unusual
proceeding in his case of writing an angry letter, as he
did early in the year to his cousin. He charges the Lord
Keeper with having failed him and crossed him, and asks
" that you will not disable me furdcr than is cause." ^
The letter was written from Gray's Inn, and Spedding
says it is indorsed in the Lord Keeper's hand " Mr. Bacon
wronging me." Three weeks later he writes a letter of
apology from Twickenham, and the Earl of P^ssex
supports it with another which was probably drafted by
Bacon. The apology was evidently very much against

* Spedding, IJ/e, i. 360. '^ Ibid. i. 361. 3 /^/,/ ; ^g^^



the grain, and shows the anxiety and irritability from which
he was then suffering. The following extracts given by
Spedding from Lady Bacon's correspondence suggest that
his health may have been affected, though the last lines
suggest that he was able to enjoy life in other ways :

Lady Bacon to Anthony Bacon

T,ot/i June 1595. — Crosby told me he looked very ill, he
thought. He taketh still inward grief, I fear. . . . 5//; August.
— I am sorry your brother with inward secret grief hindereth his
health. Everybody saith he looketh thin and pale. Let him
look to God, and confer with him in godly exercises of hearing^
and reading, and contemn to be noted to take care. I had rather
ye both, with God his blessed favour, had very good health and
well out of debt than any office. Yet though the EapA ^ showed
great affection, he marred all with violent courses. . . . Let your
brother be of good cheer. Alas, what excess of bucks at Gray's
Lm ; and to feast it so on the Sabbath ! God forgive and have
mercy upon England.^

In October 1595 the Queen at last made up her mind
and appointed Serjeant Fleming to be her Solicitor.
Though used later on by the Queen in various ways Bacon
obtained no office in her lifetime, and it was not until 1607,
when he was forty-six, that he was made Solicitor-General
by King James.

It is interesting to see how Bacon's mood changes as
soon as he realises that the Queen's decision is against
him. He at once makes up his mind that writing is to be
his career and resolves to devote himself to it. Thereupon
he enjoys the satisfaction of asserting his independence
in a somewhat cavalier letter to Puckering. Three days
later, when the Queen's decision was known, he sends him
another, by which, in a few sententious and dignified
phrases, he seems to throw a cloak of oblivion over the
whole episode. His attitude was similar at his fall from
power in later years. As soon as he had recovered from
the first shock, he seemed to welcome it as a relief, and
as an opportunity, in the dispensations of Providence, for

' i.e. going to sermons, a practice very much followed in those times by
all classes ; see, for instance, Manningham's Diary.

2 Essex. 2 Spedding, Life, i. 364, note.


pursuing the work for which by his genius he was in-
tended. But except under the compulsion of circum-
stances he never could have brought himself to relinquish
active life. At most he might have done it in the mood
and for a few months if public affairs were quiescent. At
this point, however, he is in the mood, and seems to shake
himself free from the world, including, in particular, the
young Earl, who had now become an embarrassment. I
srive both the letters :


To the Lord Keeper

It may please your good Lordship,

My not acquainting your Lordship hath proceeded of my
not knowing anything, and my not knowing of my absence at
Byssam with my Lady Russel upon some important cause of her
son's. And as I have heard nothing, so I look for nothing,
though my Lord of Essex sent me word he would not write till
his Lordship had good news. But his Lordship may go on in
his affection, which nevertheless myself liave desired him to limit.
But I assure your Lordship, I can take no furder care for the
matter. I am now at Twicknam Park, where I think to stay :
for her Majesty placing a Solicitor, my travel shall not need in
her causes ; though whensoever her Majesty shall like to employ
me in any particular, I shall be ready to do her willing service.
This I write lest your Lordship mought think my silence came of
any conceit towards your Lordship, which I do assure you 1 have
not. And this needed I not to do if I thought not so. For my
course will not give me any ordinary occasion to use your favour,
whereof nevertheless I shall ever be glad. So I commend your
good Lordship to God's holy preservation. This i ith of October,
1595. — Your Lordship's humbly at your hon. coin.,

Fr. Bacon.^

To the Lord Keeper

It may please your good Lordship,
I conceive the end already made, which will I trust be to
me a beginning of good fortune, or at least of content. Her
Maje^>ty by God's grace shall live and reign long. She is not
running away, I may trust her. Or whether she look towards me
or no, I remain the same, not altered in my intention. If I had
been an ambitious man, it would have overthrown me. But

' Spedding, Life, i. 368.


minded as I am, revertet benedidio mea iti sinum meum. If I had
made any reckoning of anything to be stirred, I would have
waited on your Lordship, and will be at any time ready to wait on
you to do you service. So I commend your good Lordship to
God's holy preservation. From Twicknam Park, this 14th of
October. — Your Lordship's most humble at your hon. com-
mandments, Fr. Bacon. ^
Indorsed : 14M October '95.

It would be beyond the scope of this book to discuss
in any detail the relations of Francis Bacon and Essex.
But as regards the remarkable words on that subject in
the first of these letters, I will only say that it is a mistake
to suppose that they can be appraised by any summary
judgment. They are supplemented by similar words used
by Bacon at the end of a letter written at the same time
to Essex himself:

To my Lord of Essex

It may please your good Lordship,

I pray God her Majesty's weighing be not like the weight
of a balance ; gravia deorsum, kvia sitrsiim. But I am as far
from being altered in devotion towards her, as I am from distrust
that she will be altered in opinion towards me, when she knoweth
me better. For myself, I have lost some opinion, some time, and
some means ; this is my account : but then for opinion, it is a
blast that goeth and cometh ; for time, it is true it goeth and
cometh not ; but yet I have learned that it may be redeemed.

For means, I value that most ; and the rather, because I am
purposed not to follow the practice of the law : (If her Majesty
command me in any particular, I shall be ready to do her willing
service :) and my reason is only, because it drinketh too much
time, which I have dedicated to better purposes. But even for
that point of estate and means, I partly lean to Thales' opinion,
That a philosopher may be rich if he will. Thus your Lordship
seeth how I comfort myself; to the increase whereof I would fain
please myself to believe that to be true which my Lord Treasurer
writeth ; which is, that it is more than a philosopher morally can
disgest. But without any such high conceit, I esteem it like the
pulling out of an aching tooth, which, I remember, when I was a
child and had little philosophy, I was glad of when it was done.
For your Lordship, I do think myself more beholding to you than

1 Spedding, Life, i. 369.


to any man. And I say, I reckon myself as a common (not
popular, but commofi) ; and as much as is lawful to be enclosed of
a common, so much your Lordship shall be sure to have. — Your
Lordship's, to obey your honourable commands, more settled
than ever.^

The fact is that, with the exception of his brother,
Bacon had no friends,'"' and (though it may seem a harsh
thing to say) he did not require them. He was self-
contained ; the resources within him were sufficient ; and
all the companionship of a permanent kind which he
needed he found in himself. The young Earl of Essex
evidently had the power of attracting to himself much
popular sympathy and even enthusiasm ; he was affec-
tionate, frank and munificent — qualities much appreciated
by the English people. But such qualities afford no
guarantee of the qualities for leadership, and as a leader
Essex proved himself incapable. To the Queen, who
loved him, he vvas " a rash and temerarious youth " ;
others observed that he was irresolute and flexible ; and
the whole course of his conduct showed him, in the higher
spheres, impulsive, passionate, and unfit for power.^ Such
a man could never have been a friend of Bacon, and there
can be no doubt that, in "applying himself" to his affairs,

^ Spedding, Life, i. 372.

2 I refer to friends in the active world, Bettenham was a friend of a more
intimate character ; see Chapter XVIII.

3 I do not suggest that the passionate nature of Essex was pecuHar to him ;
in those times men's feelings were stronger and less disciplined than they
have since become. No doubt, however, among the men in high position
Essex was more than ordinarily ungovernable, and Sir John Harington, a
great favourite of Queen Elizabeth, has left some notes about him which
are interesting evidence of this. Writing after an interview with Essex in the
time of his trouble, he says : " It restethe withe me in opynion that ambition
thwarted in its career, dothe speedilie leade on to madnesse. . . . The man's
soule seemeth tossede to and fro, hke the waves of a troubled sea." — Nu/;ae
Antiqnae. Also inhis " Tract on the Succession to the Crown " (1602) Haring-
ton refers to the extinction for the time being of " the Earle of Huntingdon's
title by the house of Clarence." "This faction," he adds, "dyed with my
Lo. of Leicester, although that Earle of Huntingdon dyed after, and yet
when the newes of his death came to the Earle of Essex I was told by one
that knewe it that he took it so passionately that he tore his hear and all liis
buttons break with the swelling of his stomach, as if some great designe of his
had bene frustrated thereby." I think this is written seriously, and I cite it
therefore as an interesting light on the character of a man who was so closely
connected with Bacon's life.


Bacon saw, or thought he saw, an opportunity, and the
only one open to him, of obtaining a position in the State.
It is easy to say that this is evidence of baseness. But
such things are done (though perhaps seldom put in
writing) in the competition for power, in all its forms. I
think our judgment of them largely depends on the
quality of the man. The world, for instance, did not, and
does not now, think badly of Sir Robert Cecil, though his
practice in regard to competitors who passed for friends
was probably based entirely on calculation. But Cecil had
no pretensions to be more than a man of his day and
generation, engaged in the precarious business of govern-
ment under a monarch with largely absolute powers. In
all that appertained to this, in the handling of business, in
method, judgment and knowledge of men, he was a much
more capable man than Bacon, and probably than any one
else of his time. But he had none of Bacon's imagination
and speculative outlook, or that power of generalisation
which marks the original mind. In such things Bacon
was supreme. But they command little contemporary
market ; hence Bacon was out of touch with the men
among whom he aspired to compete, and was exposed, as
friendless men are, to the worst constructions. From the
fact, too, that he claimed to see farther than his con-
temporaries, and aspired to put before them higher social
standards, he is amenable to a stricter account than the
men who made no claims beyond the conduct of affairs in
the manner of the times without any gross betrayal of the
interests of the country. This, I suppose, may be said in
palliation of certain acts in Bacon's career. Even so,
however, they are difficult to account for ; they present
evidence of an abnormal personality ; and on the whole
it seems useless, and perhaps undesirable, to attempt to
pronounce judgment upon them.



The reader will now be in a position to realise to some
extent the circumstances and state of mind of Francis
Bacon during the period under review. It was clearly
one of suspense, often of depression, mitigated by inter-
mittent resolutions to abandon an active career for a life
of study and literary production. During the same
period Ralegh was also under a cloud, being denied
access to Court owing to the Queen's displeasure at his
marriage. His exile lasted for five years, from the middle
of 1592 to the middle of 1597, when he was again
restored to a considerable degree of favour. During this
period he retired with his wife to Sherborne, then made
his first voyage of discovery to Trinidad and explored
the Orinoco (1595),^ and in 1596 he took a leading part,
with Essex, in the assault and capture of Cadiz. At
intervals he appears to have been at Durham House in
London, and to this period (i 592-1 594) belong the
charges of atheism which were brought against him and
others (the set being referred to as " Sir Walter Rawley's
School of Atheism "), which were inquired into by order
of the Council, with what result is not known. The
poems which pass under his name represent him during
this time as melancholy to distraction and deeply
enamoured of the Queen. His correspondence, on the
other hand, which has been preserved shows that he was

^ This is alluded to in F.Q. IV. xi. 21, 22 :

" Rich Oranochy, though but knowen late."
Ralegh returned to England in tlie autumn of 1595.



much attached to his wife, and, though fretting at the loss
of power and position, full of schemes of an active

I propose in this chapter to examine the Ralegh
poems in the light of this correspondence and the known
circumstances of Ralegh's life.

It is reasonable, indeed only rational, to expect that
the character and intellectual equipment of a writer will
be found the same in all essential features in his corre-
spondence as in his works. If, for example, there were
in existence any letters of Shakespeare, we should expect,
if only from the prose writings in his plays, to find them
as conspicuous for clarity of thought, philosophic outlook,
wit, and wealth of illustration, as his prose and poetry.
Some examples of Shakespeare's prose are quoted in
this work,^ and another may be given as showing what
he was able to do in the way of a State dispatch, of its
kind a model document, and revealing (as presumably
would be allowed in the case of any other writer than
Shakespeare) the practised hand :

MachetKs letter to Lady Macbeth

They met me in the day of success ; and 1 have learned
by the perfectest report, they have more in them than mortal
knowledge. When I burned in desire to question them further,
they made themselves air, into which they vanished. Whiles I
stood rapt in the wonder of it, came missives from the king, who
all-hailed me " Thane of Cawdor " ; by which title, before, these
weird sisters saluted me, and referred me to the coming on
of time, with " Hail, king that shalt be ! " This have I thought
good to deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou
mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being ignorant of what
greatness is promised thee. Lay it to thy heart, and farewell.

0- 5-)

So also in the case of Spenser, though no letters of
his exist, we may judge from the Viezv of the Present State
of Ireland by what facility and wealth of matter they would
have been characterised. Such a correspondency between

' See, for instance, pp. 291, 292, 331.


the works and the letters we find, in fact, in the case
of Milton, and of every poet of importance where docu-
ments have been preserved ; this is so well known that
it is unnecessary to particularise. In the case of Ralegh,
however, there is no such correspondency ; on the
contrary, the character of the writer, his style and his
mental equipment, are one in the letters and quite another
in the poems. It is impossible within the limits of a
work of this kind to illustrate this in great detail, but I
shall endeavour, by some extracts from the correspond-
ence and a brief commentary, to bring out certain points
which justify this view, and which otherwise bear on the
inquiry as to the authorship of these poems.

The correspondence (which is to be found in the
second volume of the Life by Edwards) begins with five
letters from Ireland of the year 1581, before Ralegh had
been taken up by the Queen. They are interesting
as evidence of Ralegh's energy and independence of
character. In passing, it is worth noting that they are
all signed " W. Rauley." Sent over with dispatches in
December 1581, Ralegh won the Queen's favour shortly
afterwards. The next letter is from the Court at
Richmond, dated March 1583, and the signature is " W.
Ralegh." From 1584 onwards the signature is always
" Ralegh," and the change may have been made by Ralegh
on his elevation by the Queen, and as a result of the
researches of the antiquaries referred to in Chapter XIV.
It is worth noting that Essex, in a dispatch written
during the "Island" expedition of 1597 (after a quarrel
with Ralegh), refers to him as " Sir Walter Rauley." This
may have been done with intention, disparagingly. He
is also referred to as " Sir Walter Rawley " in a letter of
the Privy Council in 161 7 (Edwards, i. 613).

The following letter (which I give in full) written to
the Earl of Leicester, then in the Netherlands, in 1586,
when Ralegh was at the height of his power, is a good
example of his usual style. Mr. Edwards says that it is
evident from the autographs that " he wrote habitually
in a very hurried manner" (i. 138), and he describes the


earlier MSS. as "scrawls" (ii. 258). The style in itself
indicates this feature. The letters are few and for the
most part rather brief, and they are, to my mind, clearly
not those of a man accustomed to much writing. (There
are, however, a few exceptions to this, to be noted in their

To Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
[From the original]

My very good Lorde — You wrate unto me in your laste letters
for pioners to be sent over^ ; wher uppon I moved her Majestye,
and found her very willing, in so mich as order was geven for a
cummission ; but since, the matter is stayd. I know not for what

Also, according to your Lordshipe desired, I spake for one
Jukes for the office of the back-house, and the matter well liked.
In ought else your Lordshipe shall finde me most assured to my
pouere to performe all offices of love, honor and service toward
you. But I have byn of late very pestilent reported in this
place to be rather a drawer bake, than a fartherer of the action
wher you govern. Your lordshipe doth well understand my
affection towards Spayn, and how I have consumed the best part
of my fortune, hating the tirrannus sprosperety of that estate, and
it were now Strang and monnsterous that I should becum an
enemy to my countrey and conscience. But all that I have
desired att your Lordship's hands is, that you will evermore deal
directly with mee in all matters of suspect dublenes, and so ever
esteme me as you shall finde my deserving, good or bad. In
the mean tyme, I humblie beseich you, lett no poeticall scribe
work your Lordshipe by any device to doubt that I am a
hollo or could sarvant to the action, or a mean well-wilier and
follower of your own. And yeven so, I humblie take my leve,
wishing you all honor and prosperety. From the Court, the
xxix of March, 1586. — Your Lordships, to do you service,

W. Ralegh.

\Postscript?^ The Queen is on very good tearms with you,
and, thank be to God, well pacified ; and you are agayne her
"Sweet Robyn."2

The expression " poeticall scribe " evidently means an
untruthful romancer.

» To the Netherlands. - Edwards, Life, ii. 33.

2 E


To Lord Biirghley, 1587

I am bold to write my simple oppinion playnly unto your

Compare Life, p. 115, Letter to the Council, "in my
simple judgement." These are the only instances which
I have noticed of the use of this phrase in Ralegh's corre-
spondence. As I have pointed out, it is so frequent with
Bacon as to have been a mannerism.

To his cousin. Sir George Carew, 27M Dec. 1589

For my retrait from the Court it was uppon good cause to
take order for my prize.^ [Evidently in contradiction of the
rumour that he had been driven from the Court through the
rivalry of Essex.^]

The Queen thincks that George Carew longes to see her ;
and therfore see her."* [Evidence of Ralegh's attitude as a

We come now to the period of Ralegh's marriage and
the loss of the Queen's favour, which appears to form the
main theme of the poems. And at this point it will be
convenient to give some account from contemporary
writers of Ralegh's personality and his extraordinary rise
to fortune.^ Aubrey *^ gives the following account of his
first rise :

* Edwards, Life, ii. 37. 2 /^^a'. p. 41.

3 " My Lord of Essex hath chased Mr. Ralegh from the Court and hath
confined him into Ireland." — Letter of Sir F. Allen to Anthony Bacon, 1589.

* Edwards, life, ii. 42.

* For information about Ralegh's early life see pp. 372, 373.

" Aubrey's authority has, in my opinion, been undervalued. It is
customary to allude to him as "gossiping," or "old gossiping" Aubrey.
But it is evident that he took the greatest pains in making some of his
collections, notably in the cases of Ilobbes, Bacon, Ralegh and Milton. He
was a contemporary of the latter, and, being born in 1626, the year of
Bacon's death, he had opportunities of hearing facts in the cases of Bacon
and Ralegh from those who remembered them or were told about them at first
hand. Such evidence, in days when documents were rarer and not accessible
as they are now, and when oral testimony was more habitually preserved, is
obviously of importance. Moreover Aubrey was not "old " when he began
his Brief liiJes, being forty-three. As he continued to write them to within
a year of his d^-ath at the age of seventy-one, they cannot all be regarded as
unsifted compilations.


He went to Ireland, where he served in the warres, and
shewed much courage and conduct, but he would be perpetually
differing with ... (I thinke. Gray) then Lord Deputy ; so that
at last the hearing was to be at the councell table before the
queen, which was that he desired ; where he told his tale so well
and with so good a grace and presence that the queen took
especiall notice of him and presently preferred him.

Aubrey has two interesting notes about Ralegh's
character and personal appearance :

He was a tall, handsome, and bold man : but his neave was
that he was damnable proud.

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 37 of 55)