Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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and his habit of self-idealisation :

Imagin me to come into a goodly Kentishe Garden of your
old Lords, or some other Nobleman, and spying a florishing
Bay Tree there, to demaunde ex tempore, as foUoweth :

Arbor vittoriosa, triomfale,
Onor d'Imperadori, e di Poete :

and perhappes it will advaunce the winges of your Imagination
a degree higher : at the least if any thing can be added to the
loftinesse of his conceite, whom gentle Mtstresse Rosalmde once
reported to haue all the Intelligences at commaundement, and
an other time, Christened her Segnior Fegaso.

Mary Sidney was married to the Earl of Pembroke in
1577, when Francis Bacon was abroad. The marriage
was arranged by her uncle, the Earl of Leicester, with
the willing approval of her father. The Earl was a
widower and some twenty years her senior. There is
evidence of disagreement in later years, and by his will
Pembroke left his wife " as bare as he could." "' There
was, therefore, a parallelism in the circumstances of Mary
Sidney and Penelope Devereux, and I conceive that the
writer of the " Astrophel and Stella" sonnets took
advantage of this to express his own feelings under a
disguise which was sufficiently applicable for the purpose
to another case. When these sonnets appeared there was
no one left to represent Sir Philip Sidney except his
brother Robert, who was abroad, and the Countess of

' " A Gallant familiar Letter containing an Answere to that of M.
I.Timerto," in Three proper and ivittie familiar letters, etc.

2 Chamberlain, Letters, temp. Eliz., p. lOO ; cited in DiU. Nat. Biogr.


Pembroke, whose feelings of resentment on her brother's
account would, so far as she entertained them, be
mitigated by a tribute so flattering to her as a woman,
especially if it was associated with tender or happier
memories. The only serious risk, therefore, lay in the
resentment of Lord Rich ; but he was estranged from his
wife, and the author therefore had little to fear.

The existence of such an understanding would also
account for the large additions made in the name of the
Countess of Pembroke to the volume of the Arcadia after
1590, of which the fine sonnet placed in the front of this
work is an example. It might also account, to some
extent, for the fact that Bacon did not marry until he
was forty-five, and then, apparently, for money. It
points also to the authorship of the famous epitaph,
written by an unknown hand, after the death of the
Countess in 1621.^ It may explain, too, certain lines in
the sonnet addressed to her, among those before the
Faerie Queene, which I am quite unable to construe,
except in terms of Spenser's intentional ambiguity :

Who \i.e. Sidney] first my Muse did lift out of the flore,
To sing his sweet delights in lowlie laies ;

For his, and for your owne especial sake,

Vouchsafe from him this token in good worth to take.

It is noteworthy, in this connection, that among the
ladies praised in Colin Clout the Countess of Pembroke,
under the name of " Urania," is given the first place after
the Queen ; and in Astrophel she is described as " The
gentlest shepherdesse that lives this day."

' " Underneath this sable hearse
Lies the subject of all verse,
Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother," etc.

I do not agree with those who reject the second stanza on the ground of
inferiority. It seems to me necessary for the balance of the rhythm, which
rises again on the first line of the second stanza,

" Marble piles let no man raise
To her name . . ."

and then falls quietly (in artificial language common in inscriptions) to a close.


I must add a further note, in conclusion, about
" Marinell," who I suggested in Chapter III. was intended
for the Earl of Cumberland. I have since found some
evidence (too late to insert there) which has removed
from my mind any doubts I may have felt as to the
soundness of that interpretation. In Lodge's Pen-traits it
is stated that " his father dying in i 569 left him an infant
of eleven years, and his wardship was granted by the
Crown to Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford ; but his
education seems to have been superintended by the
Viscount Montague, who had married his mother's sister
[daughter of Lord Dacre of Gillesland], and at whose house
in Sussex [Cowdray] he passed some years of his youth."
The " three-square scuchin," the arms of Montague, may
thus be accounted for. (See p. 89 above.)

With regard to the legal case, Lodge quotes Purchas,
from which it becomes clear that the dispute with the
Queen in F.Q. IV. xii. was about Cumberland's share in
the great prize of the Madre de Dios, referred to in
Chapter XVI. This expedition, which was the fifth out
of ten which he fitted out in twelve consecutive years
(i 586-1 598), fell in with the expedition fitted out by
Ralegh, including the ships of the Queen, and the
carrack was taken as a result of a concerted attack.
The booty was so great that the commanders fell to
quarrelling among themselves, but priority was finally
yielded " to Sir John Burroughes [commander of one of
Ralegh's ships] pretending the Queenes name," by whom
the prize was brought home. Purchas adds that
Cumberland's share " would have amounted according to
his employment of ships and men to two or three millions,
but because his Commission, large though otherwise, had
not provided for the case of his returne, and substituting
another in his place, some adjudged it to depend on
the Queenes mercie and bountie [the high prerogative
argument in the poem]. Neither yet by reason of some
mens imbezelling had her Majestic the account of the
fifth part of her value ; and the Earle was faine to accept
of sixe and thirtie thousand pounds for him and his, at


out of gift." Purchas refers in the margin to Hakluyt,
and adds : " My copie also argueth my Lords case, which
I have omitted." This must have either been in MS. or
suppressed, as there is nothing of the kind in Hakluyt's
account, the unctuous character of which is rather
unpleasant reading.^ The writer of it disparages the
performance of Cumberland's ships as against those of
Ralegh ; and, as regards the division of the spoil, he says
that it "amounted to no less than 150,000 li. sterling
[after the pillaging, which he does not mention], which
being divided among the adventurers (whereof her
Majesty was the chiefe) was sufficient to yield con-
tentment to all parties " — obviously a perversion of the

Purchas states that on his previous expedition (the
fourth) Cumberland had obtained from the Queen a new
ship, the Garland, but that, on this (the fifth) expedition,
" His Lordship considering the inconvenience of her
Majesties command, not to lay any Spanish ship aboard
with her ships, lest both might together be destroyed by
fire, rather chose to seeke out amongst the Merchants,
then to make further use of the ships Royall." ^

I should have saved the reader a rather lengthy dis-
course, and myself some trouble, had it occurred to me
to look into these authorities, under this head, before.
As it is I may perhaps venture to claim that what is
written on this subject in Chapter III. shows that the
method of inquiry for the author's meaning through
the internal evidence is justified in the case of Spenser's

1 The account is stated to have been "prepared by Sir Walter Ralegh,"
not " written by," and I suspect that it was written by Hakluyt under his
directions. In any case, if Ralegh wrote it, he did not write the account
of the last fight of the Revenge, which is described as " Penned by Sir
Walter Ralegh," the style of the two accounts being entirely different.
The latter, however, seems evidently to be the work of Bacon ; compare the
introductory remarks about the defeat of the Spanish Armada with Ijacon's,
which will be found in Spedding, IJ/e, i. 142 and vii. 489. See Hakluyt
(Hakluyt Society), vii. 38 and 105.

^ '6t.t Purchas his Pilip-imes, xvi. 13-17; Hakluyt, vii. 105-1 18 (Hakluyt
Society). Ralegh complained that Cumberland had a profit of ^^i 7,000,
while he, who had adventured for the Queen, was a loser. Edwards, i. 157.

xvn THE '" FOWRE HYMNES" 507

The Fowre Hynines present some points of interest in
connection with this inquiry, but as I have already
alluded to them incidentally I will confine myself here to a
brief note. The two first might from their style readily
be identified as the work of a very young writer, and
there is no reason therefore to doubt that they were
composed, as the author states, " in the greener times
of my youth." The Shepheards Calender appeared when
Spenser was about twenty-seven or twenty-eight, and
it is evident that these poems were not written before
it. The expression above quoted is therefore quite
inapplicable to the supposed author at that time. It
is, moreover, unnatural that a man of Spenser's origin
and early experiences should, in one of his first poetical
efforts, have written the following couplet :

For all that faire is, is by nature good ;
That is a signe to know the gentle blood.^

At the time when the second pair of hymns were
presumably composed (1596) Spenser was (according
to the accepted dates) forty-four years old. The reader
is invited to refer to the early pages of this book for
his story, and then to consider the phenomenon of the
following lines from the pen of such a man at that, or
indeed at any other, time of his life :

Many lewd layes (ah, woe is n\e the more ! )
In praise of that mad fit which fooles call love,
I have in th' heat of youth made heretofore,
That in light wits did loose affection move ;
But all those follies now I do reprove.
And turned have the tenor of my string.
The heavenly prayses of true love to sing.

• An Hyiiuie in Honour of Beautie. Compare with this the sentiment of
the following stanza from the Faerie Qiieene (II. iv. i) :
" In brave poursuitt of honorable deed,
There is I know not (what) great difference
Betweene the vulgar and the noble seed,
Which unto things of valorous pretence
Scemes to be borne by native influence ;
As feates of armes, and love to entertaine :
But chiefly skill to ride seemes a science
Proper to gentle blood : some others faine
To menage steeds, as did this vauntcr, but in vaine."


And ye that wont with greedie vaine desire
To reade my fault, and, wondring at my flame.
To warme your selves at my wide sparckling fire,
Sith now that heat is quenched, quench my blame,
And in her ashes shrowd my dying shame ;
For who my passed follies now pursewes,
Beginnes his owne, and my old fault renewes.

An Hymtte of Heavenly Love.

There is nothing answering to this description in
Spenser's poems, even after due allowance has been
made for exaggeration under the mood of reaction, real
or assumed, from worldly preoccupations ; and though it
might be suggested that the passage is a literary artifice
for the introduction of the alternative hymns, this does
not satisfactorily account for the lines. They refer, in
my belief, to pieces which appeared from time to time
under other names.



1 HAVE now completed my survey, for the purpose of
this work, of Spenser's poems, and I will supplement it
with a few notes relating to Bacon's habits and personal

Bacon had a fondness for colour and display, which,
considering the greatness of his intellectual powers, must
be regarded as abnormal. It is reported, for instance,
that when he married, at the mature age of forty-five,
" he was clad from top to toe in purple, and hath made
himself and his wife such store of fine raiments of cloth
of silver and gold that it draws deep into her portion." ^
Aubrey's description also of the house, a summer fancy,
which he built himself in the grounds of Gorhambury
(known as " Verulam house"), and of his fish ponds,
gardens, etc., is evidence of similar peculiarities of taste.
This house must have been a very curious structure,
with its pictorial representations on the outside walls of
Jupiter and other "gods of the Gentiles" glittering in
the sun.^ Aubrey says that Sir Harbottle Grimston
sold it about 1665 "to two carpenters for fower hundred
poundes ; of which they made eight hundred poundes,"
and that it cost " nine or ten thousand the building."
According to Aubrey also, "this Oct. 1681, it rang over

1 Carleton to Chamberlain, nth April l6o6, cited by Spedding, Life,
iii. 291.

2 " On the dores of the upper stone on the outside (which were painted
darke umber) were the figures of the gods of the Gentiles . . . bigger than
the life . . . the heightnings were of hatchings of gold, which when the
sun shone on them made a most glorious shew." — Aubrey, Brief Lives, ed.
Andrew Clark, 1898.



all St, Albans " that the same Sir Harbottle, then Master
of the Rolls, " had removed the coffin of this most
renowned Lord Chancellour to make roome for his owne
to lye-in in the vault there at St. Michael's church " ;
and later, according to Camden's Britannia, brought up
to date by Richard Gough in 1789, a further annihilation
of this strange man's earthly habitat took place through
the action of a successor of the same name. I quote
the paragraph in full as it is interesting, though I cannot
vouch for its accuracy :

Gorhambury was granted by Henry VIII. to Sir Nicholas
Bacon, who was lord keeper to Elizabeth, and here his second
son sir Francis built, lived and studied. On his disgrace he
conveyed it to sir Thomas Meautys, who had been his secretary,
and whose kinsman and heir sold it to sir Harbottle Grimston,
master of the Rolls, whose grandson left it to William Luckyn,
his sister's son, who took the name of Grimston. His second
son William was created viscount Grimston 17 19, and dying
1756, was succeeded by his son James, and he 1773 by his
son Harbottle, third and present lord. The house taken down
by its present owner, though his grandfather preserved it in
its original state, with lord Bacon's study, a venerable long
gallery over a cloister, out of reverence for the founder, contained
a good collection of portraits and busts of the Bacon family and
their contemporaries, and of the Grimstons. A new house is
just finished not far from the old site.

We read also in Aubrey's account about the many
attractions of the gardens and grounds, and of variegated
pebbles and figured work with which the floors of the
fish ponds, " which I guesse doe containe four acres,"
were paved. The account finds confirmation in Bacon's
essay on " Gardens," which, with the companion piece
on " Building," reflects perhaps more than any of his
acknowledged writings the vision of earthly beauty into
which reality was sublimated in the processes of his
imagination. From this point of view there is one item
in Aubrey's notes of peculiar interest :

In the middle of the middlemost pond, in the island, is a
curious banquetting-house of Roman architecture, paved with


black and white marble ; covered with Cornish slate and neatly

Among Bacon's private memoranda on all sorts of
subjects, which were collected by him in 1608 under
the title Coinentaruis Solutiis, appear the following notes,
which apparently represent the dream of which the fore-
going was the reality :

In y*" Middle of the laque where the howse now stands to
make an Hand of 100 broad ; and in the Middle thereof to build
a howse for freshnes with an upper galery open upon the water,
a tarace above that, and a supping roome open under that ; a
dynyng roome, a bedd chamber, a Cabanett, and a Roome for
Musike, a garden ; In this Grownd to make one waulk between
trees ; The galeries to cost Northwards ; Nothing to be planted
hear but of choyse.

To sett in fitt places Hands more.

An Hand where the fayre hornbeam standes with a stand in
it and seats under Neath.

An Hand with Rock.

An Hand with a Grott.

An Hand Mounted w'*^ flowres in ascents.

An Hand paved and with picture.

Every of the Hands to have a fayre Image to keepe it, Tryten
or Nymph etc.

An Hand \s^^ an arbor of Musk roses sett all w''' double
violetts for sent in Autumn, some gilovers w'^'^ likewise
dispers sent.

A fayre bridg to y^ AHddle great Hand onelv, y^ rest by bote.^

As a man dealing with men I believe that Bacon was
ineffective.^ Several causes might be suggested for this,
— a certain timidity and softness of disposition, lack of
individuality, dispersal of the sympathies, sensitiveness
to impressions, and so forth. But there was another
cause which was probably more than usually operative
in Bacon's case. The mind of man is constituted to deal

' Spedding, Life, iv. 76.

■^ Tobie Matthew's well-known estimate of Bacon's powers suggests, by the
limiting words at the end, that his practical qualities were not equal to his
intellectual ones : " He was a creature of incomparable abilities of mind . . .
large and sprouting invention . . . deep and solid judgment, for as much
as might concern the understanding part,'' etc.


with the particular and immediate. Were it otherwise, the
work of the world, which consists mainly in coping with
necessities, would not be done. The number of those
who are capable of grasping a general conception, let
alone of constructing one from the facts of observation,
is relatively very small. Such people are at a certain
disadvantage in the ordinary fields of activity, and the
supereminence of Bacon in this faculty isolated him in
mind from his fellow-creatures. To influence, and to
please in order to influence, he was perpetually trying
to adjust himself to their point of vievv^, and what they
said and did instinctively and by natural adaptability
to their circumstances he attempted by art and elabora-
tion. This, coupled with a phenomenal exuberance
of imagination and passion for distinction, resulted in
unfamiliar modes of expression, which, no doubt, failed
to carry conviction. There is a good illustration of this
in a letter to Anthony Bacon from a young lawyer of
Gray's Inn on the impression produced by Francis Bacon
when, at the age of thirty-three, he made his first
pleading in the King's Bench. The letter is somewhat
in the affected style which Hamlet ridicules. Henry
Gosnold, however, the writer of the letter, after enthusi-
astic praise of Bacon's performance, enters a shrewd caveat
in the following remark :

Certain sentences of his, somewhat obscure, and as it were
presuming upon their capacities, will I fear make some of them
rather admire than commend him.^

Bacon himself evidently realised, or at least came to
realise, that he was not on sure ground in the ordinary
intercourse of business, for there is a note by him in the
Conientarius Solutus for the correction of his style at
the " Counsell table " :

To free my self at once from payt of formality and complem'
though w'^ some shew of carelessness pride and rudeness.

With this there are others in a similar train of thought :

• Spedding, Life, i. 268.


To suppress at once my speaking w'*' panting and labor of
breath and voyce.

Not to fall upon the mayne to soudayne but to induce and
intermingle speach of good fashon.

To use at once upon entrance gyven of Speach though abrupt
to compose and drawe in my self. — Life^ iv, 94.

These seem to me to be the notes of a man who is
setting himself deliberately to adopt the style of others,
distrusting his own. They also indicate a nervousness
which arises from excess of sensibility, and perhaps a tend-
ency, as soon as it is overcome, to be carried by excess
of confidence beyond the measure which is acceptable to
others who value their own opinions.

It will be observed that the foregoing notes are for the
Council, not for parliamentary speaking. In Parliament
it is generally supposed that Bacon carried great weight
as a speaker, an impression which has been derived
mainly from Ben Jonson's remarks on the subject in
his collection of notes called " Timber ; or Discoveries
made upon Men and Matter," which he left behind
him in manuscript at his death in 1637. Jonson's note
(which is given below ^) had for long been a great puzzle
to me, in view of Bacon's own memoranda quoted in the
previous paragraph, and of the impressions which I had
derived from a study of his life and writings. There is,
for instance, no evidence in the records of the time that
Bacon " commanded where he spoke." No man who had
such a power would have had such frequent recourse to
his pen. He relies on it on all occasions, even on
critical ones, when the event would be influenced far

* " Dominus Venilamitis. One, though he be excellent and the chief, is
not to be imitated alone ; for never no imitator ever grew uji to his author ;
likeness is always on this side truth. Vet there happened in my time one
noble speaker, who was full of gravity in his speaking. His language, where
he could spare or pass by a jest, was nobly censorious. No man ever spake
more neatly, more pressly, more weightily, or suffered less emptiness, less
idleness, in what he uttered. No member of his speech but consisted of his
own graces. His hearers could not cough, or look aside from him, without
loss. He commanded where he spoke, and had his judges angrj- and pleased
at his devotion. No man had their affections more in his power. The fear of
every man that heanl him was lest he should make an end."

2 L


more by personal impression through the force of speech
than by any written exposition. Bacon, however, in-
variably prefers the latter method, and he seems to place
a reliance on it which, for a man accustomed to affairs,
is extraordinary. The reason evidently is that it was
here that he felt his strength lay. The specimens of
his parliamentary oratory which have been collected by
Spedding are impressive, as all Bacon's writings are,
for their resource and power of handling and illustrating
a subject, but a speech in writing is a literary production,
a different thing from a speech in utterance. As a
speaker in Parliament Bacon appears to have shown
eloquence and grace far beyond the standard of con-
temporary oratory ; but apart from the pleasure given at
the moment, there is no evidence that he possessed any
influence corresponding to his abilities, which were
universally recognised, or indeed any exceptional influence
over Parliament as a body. His real success lay in a
different direction, namely in Committee and Conference,
where his ready pen, great memory and sense of order,
coupled with the power of putting himself in the place
of other men, made his services as the " Reporter " of
the speeches in constant, and at times oppressive, demand,
and where his wisdom and conciliatory disposition found
full scope in reconciling conflicting elements.^ I had
concluded therefore that there was something which had
yet to be explained about Ben Jonson's note, and I was
not surprised, though greatly interested, to find in an
annotated edition of Ben Jonson's Timber by Professor
F. E. Schelling, published in the United States in 1892,^
that this passage is practically a translation from Seneca.
" The original," writes the editor, " will be found almost
entire in the elder Seneca's description of the eloquence
of Severus Cassius, an orator and satirical writer under
Augustus and Tiberius," and he quotes the passage.
Equally important is the fact mentioned in the same

' For an example of Bacon's power in this department see Spedding, Life,
iii. 347 sq.

2 Ginn and Co., Boston, U.S.A.


writer's notes that the passage in which Jonson pays
the identical tribute to Bacon which he pays to Shake-
speare in his poetical address prefixed to the first folio
of 1623 is also imitated from Seneca, as follows :

quidquid Romana facundia habet quod insolenti Graeciae aut
opponat aut praeferat circa Ciceronem effloruit ; omnia ingenia
quae lucem studiis nostris adtulerunt tunc nata sunt. In deterius
deinde quotidie data res est. . . }

Similarly, though apparently to a less extent, Jonson
has adapted Seneca in his description of Shakespeare :
" Tanta erat illi velocitas orationis, ut vitium fieret. Itaque
divus Augustus optime dixit : ' Haterius noster sufFlami-
nandus est.' " ^ Mr. Schelling refers to the passage about

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 45 of 55)