Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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characteristic may be quoted ;

lo. In the third hour after the sun is risen, to take in air from
some high and open place, with a ventilation of rosje moschatae,
and fresh violets ; and to stir the earth, with infusion of wine
and mint.

15. Four precepts. To break off custom. To shake off
spirits ill disposed. To meditate on youth. To do nothing
against a man's genius.

1 7. To use once during supper time wine in which gold is

26. Heroic desires.

32. That diet is good which makes lean, and then renews.
Consider the ways to effect it.

Bacon was very fond of flowers, especially the violet,
the various scents appealing most to him ; and similarly
the scents of herbs. Aubrey notes : " At every meale,
according to the season of the yeare, he had his table
strewed with sweet hcrbes and flowers, which he sayd did
refresh his spirits and memorie." He was also fond of
music : " His lordship would many times have musique
in the next roome where he meditated." But delicate as


his senses were, there was no effeminacy in his taste or
habit of thought. Evidence of this in regard to music
will be found in his Essay on " Masques and Triumphs,"
and in one of his letters which will be found quoted
at p. 1 40 of this work.

Aubrey's note about Bacon's practice of " irrigation
in the spring showres " will be found quoted in Chapter
IV. p. I 16 above.




I COME now to Spenser's prose treatise, A View of the
Present State of Ireland.

It was commonly supposed that this work was written
by Spenser in Ireland and brought over by him to England
on the occasion of his second visit, as is believed, at the
end of 1595. But there are certain passages in the
treatise itself which show clearly (though perhaps per
incuriam on the author's part) that it was written in
England, and in the year i 596. This has been suggested
before, but, so far as I am aware, without any reasons
being given. The treatise was not printed till 1633,
when it was included in a collection of Irish history
published by Sir James Ware. Spenser's treatise in
this volume is described as " A View of the State of
Ireland, written dialogue - wise between Eudoxus and
Irenaeus, by Edmund Spenser Esq., in the yeare 1596."

As regards the subject matter, I shall set down some
notes on points which illustrate and enforce my argument
for the Baconian authorship, as they occur in the course
of the treatise. But, in the first instance, it may be stated
generally that the purpose of the treatise was evidently
to persuade the Queen to adopt a firmer and more con-
sistent policy in Ireland. The policy is in every respect
that which is advocated by Bacon in his acknowledged
writings, namely remedial measures, but only after a
complete submission. Bacon's views are to be found in
the various volumes of Spcdding, and the following



extracts from them will enable the reader to see, when
we come to the recommendations of " Spenser," that the
views of the two writers are not only similar but identical,
and expressed in the same style.

Vol. II. I 30- 1 3 I. — From a letter of l^acon to Essex
on his undertaking the expedition against Tyrone, March

. . . [the war] being no ambitions war against foreigners, but
a recovery of subjects, and that after lenity of conditions often
tried ; and a recovery of them not only to obedience, but to
humanity and policy, from more than Indian barbarism. . . .

And if any man be of opinion that the nature of the enemy
doth extenuate the honour of the service, being but a rebel and
a savage, — I differ from him. For I see the justest triumphs
that the Romans did obtain, and that whereof the Emperors in
their styles took addition and denomination, were of such an
enemy as this ; that is a people barbarous and not reduced to
civility, magnifying a kind of lawless liberty, prodigal in life,
hardened in body, fortified in woods and bogs, and placing both
justice and felicity in the sharpness of their swords. Such were
the Germans and the ancient Britons and divers others.

Vol. III. 45 sq. — From "A Letter to Mr. Secretary
Cecil, after the defeating of the Spanish forces in Irelantl ;
inciting him to embrace the care of reducing that kingdom
to civility, with some reasons sent inclosed," 1602 :

Pardons. — Lastly (for this point) that which the ancients called
potestas facta redetindi ad sanita/e?n, and which is but a mockery
when the enemy is strong or proud, but effectual in his declina-
tion, that is, a liberal proclamation of grace and pardon to such
as shall submit and come in within a time prefixed, and of some
further reward to such as shall bring others in . . . the exclusion
from such pardons to be exceeding few. . . .

Religion. — For Religion (to speak first of piety, and then of
policy), all divines do agree, that if consciences be to be enforced
at all (wherein they differ), yet two things must precede their
enforcement ; the one, means of instruction ; the other, time of
operation ; neither of which they have yet had. Besides, till

* Described by him as "these few wandiinp lines, as one that would say
somewhat, and can say nothing, touching your Lordship's intended charge for

2 .M


they be more like reasonable men than they yet are, their society
were rather scandalous to the true religion than otherwise, as
pearls cast before swine : for till they be cleansed from their
blood, incontinency and theft (which are now not the lapses of
particular persons, but the very laws of the nation) they are
incompatible with the religion reformed. . . . Therefore a
toleration of religion (for a time not definite) except it be in
some principal towns or precincts, after the manner of some
French edicts, seemeth to me to be a matter warrantable by
religion, and in policy of absolute necessity. . . .

But there would go hand in hand with this some course of
advancing religion indeed, where the people is capable thereof;
as the sending over some good preachers, especially of the sort
which are vehement and zealous persuaders, and not scolastical,
to be resident in principal towns ; endowing them with some
stipends out of her Majesty's revenues, as her Majesty hath most
religiously and graciously done in Lancashire : and the recon-
tinuing and replenishing the college begun at Dublin ; the placing
of good men to be bishops in the sees there ; and the taking
care of the versions of bibles, catechisms, and other books of
instruction, into the Irish language; and the like religious courses ;
both for the honour of God, and for the avoiding of scandal and
insatisfaction here by the show of a toleration of religion in some
parts there.

Justice. — . . . because it will require running up and down for
process . . . therefore there must be an interim in which the
justice must be only summary ; the rather because it is fit and
safe for a time the country do participate of martial government.
And therefore I could wish in every principal town or place of
habitation there were a captain or governor, and a judge, such
as recorders and learned stewards are here in corporations, who
may have a prerogative commission to hear and determine
secundutn sanam discretionevi, and as near as may be to the
laws and customs of England . . . and both sentences, as well
of the bayliwick judge as the itinerant, to be reversed (if cause
be) before the council of the province to be established there
with fit instructions.

Septs, Bards, etc. — In the extirping of the seeds of
troubles, I suppose the main roots are but three. The first,
the amijition and absoluteness of the chief of the families and
septs. The second, the licentious idleness of their kernes and
soldiers, that lie upon the country by cesses and such like
oppressions. And the third, their barbarous laws, customs,


their Brehen law, habits of apparel, their poets or heralds that
enchant them in savage manner, and sundry other such dregs
of barbarism and rebellion, which by a number of politic
statutes of Ireland meet to be put in execution, are already
forbidden ; unto which such addition may be made as the
present time requireth.

Vol. IV. 114 sq. — From a discourse presented to
King James touching the Plantation of Ireland, 1606
(probably in error for 1609).

Among considerations touching " the excellency of
the work, in point of honour, policy, safety and utility " :

The first of the four is Honour ; whereof I have spoken
enough already, were it not that the Harp of Ireland puts me
in mind of the glorious emblem or allegory wherein the wisdom
of antiquity did figure and show out works of this nature.
For the poets feigned that Orpheus, by the virtue and sweet-
ness of his harp, did call and assemble the beasts and birds,
of their nature wild and savage, to stand about him, as in
a theatre. . . . (see further at p. 81 above).

Natural advantages. — For this island being another Britain,
as Britain was said to be another \^orld, is endowed with so
many dowries of nature (considering the fruitfulness of the soil,
the ports, the rivers, the fishings, the quarries, the woods and
other materials, and specially the race and generation of men,
valiant, hard, and active) as it is not easy, no not upon the
continent, to find such confluence of commodities, if the hand
of man did join with the hand of nature.

Difficulties of travel. — There is a clause wherein the under-
takers are restrained, that they shall execute the plantation in
person ; from which I must dissent, if it will consent with the
grounds I have already taken. For it is not probable that men
of great means and plentiful estate will endure the travel,
diseasements, and adventures of going thither in person : but
rather, I suppose, many will undertake portions as an advance-
ment for their younger children or kinsfolk, or for the sweetness
of the expectation of a great bargain in the end, when it
is overcome.

Towns. — My opinion is, that the building be altogether in
towns, to be compounded as well of husbandries as of arts. My
reasons are, First, when men come into a country vast and void


of all things necessary for the use of man's life, if they set up
together in a place, one of them will the better supply the wants
of another : work folks of all sorts will be the more continually
set a-work without loss of time, when if work fail in one place
they may have it fast by ; the ways will be made more passable
for carriages to those seats or towns than they can be to a
number dispersed solitary places ; and infinite other helps and
easements, scarcely to be comprehended in cogitation, will
ensue of vicinity and society of people : whereas if they build
scattered, as is projected, every man must have a cornucopia in
himself for all things he must use ; which cannot but breed
much difficulty and no less waste.

Vol. VI. 205-206. — From "The Speech used by Sir
Francis Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England,
to Sir William Jones, upon his calling to be Lord
Chief Justice of Ireland," 161 7:

Ireland is the last ex filiis Eiiropae which hath been reclaimed
from desolation and a desert (in many parts) to population
and plantation ; and from savage and barbarous customs to
humanity and civility. This is the King's work in chief. It
is his garland of heroical virtue and felicity, denied to his
progenitors, and reserved to his times. The work is not yet
conducted to perfection, but is in fair advance. ... So that
that kingdom, which once within these twenty years wise men
were wont to doubt whether they should wish it to be in a pool,
is like now to become almost a garden, and younger sister to
Great Britain.

We turn now to the View, The author has been
criticised for not being in advance of his time in the
policy he advocates for the administration of Ireland,
and because the measures he proposes are " of a
vigorously repressive kind." They are ; but, like Bacon,
he regards these as the condition precedent to reforms.
The latter he advocates most earnestly, and in a spirit
far in advance of his age. He has also been blamed
for advocating the extirpation of Irish national customs.
But it is against customs which he regards as "barbarous"
that he inveighs, and the extirpation he demands is that
of " the dregs of barbarism," as they appear to him.
Bacon's mind was formed on Roman models, and this


was the Roman method. It is impossible to read the
treatise without seeing that, however unpalatable at the
time, he regarded this course, rightly or wrongly, as in
the best interests of the country in the long run.

The writer has also given offence in the tone adopted,
as in his description of the native Irish as savages, and in
deriving their origin from the Scythians. But he does the
same (apparently following Bede) for the Western Scot,
and the argument there gives him an opportunity, which
he seizes to the full, of displaying his power of invention
and astounding memory. It is a tour deforce of writing,
and to regard it with resentment argues some deficiency
of insight and sense of proportion. Spenser's descriptions,
however, will appear less charged with animus when it is
realised that they were not written by a man on the spot
reporting what he has lived among, but by a political
adviser behind the scenes in London, whose power of
distinguishing between fact and faction was perhaps not
his strongest point, and whose object was not so much to
produce an accurate description as to persuade reluctant
powers to adopt a certain policy. The descriptions, like
that alluded to in Chapter XVI. of the Spanish atrocities,
were probably highly coloured (a feature in public
agitation not peculiar to that age) in order to make
the worst of things with a view to securing attention
and the adoption of a new policy. For the same reason
they were also made as interesting and attractive as
possible, accuracy of detail being a subordinate considera-
tion. In the process, in certain passages (as, for instance,
in his account of the uses of the Irish mantle), the writer
is carried away by his inventive facility. Again, he
forgets that in one passage ,he has described the climate
of Ireland as mild and temperate, for in another, when it
suits his purpose, he describes it as raw and cold. He
appears to have an unlimited command of books, difficult
of access and expensive in those days. He is learned in
the law and jurisprudence. He is also in a position to
advise as to the disposition in detail, and the cost, of the
troops recommended for the military occupation. The


people are referred to as " rascal," and reforms, to be of
any use, must be imposed and maintained by a benevolent
despotism. He understands the Queen, and promises
that the policy he recommends will eventually far more
than pay for the outlay. He refers (without naming him)
to the Earl of Essex as the man of the hour, and he
concludes by describing the discourse as his " simple
opinion," and hints that he has another in hand about the
antiquities of Ireland. These facts point manifestly, in
my opinion, to the Baconian authorship of the work.
This view finds further confirmation from sundry passages
in the work, and as I do not suppose that many people
in these days have been drawn to read it for them-
selves, I propose to give certain extracts, which will
enable the reader sufficiently to see the very striking
points of resemblance in the treatise and Bacon's writings
(as given in the extracts above), and to follow certain
observations which I shall have to make in furtherance
of my argument. The pages refer to the " Globe " edition
of Spenser's works.

The treatise opens, in dialogue form, between
" Irenaeus," newly arrived from Ireland, and " Eudoxus,"
who acts as his foil, and represents a stay-at-home
patriotic Englishman of good intentions.

Eudox. But yf that countrey of Ireland, whence you lately
came, be see goodly and commodious a soyle, as ye report, I
wonder that noe course is taken for the tourning therof to good
uses, and reducing of that savadge nation to better government
and civilitye.

Iren. Marry, soe there have beene divers good plottes
devised, and wise counsells cast alleready about reformation of
that realme ; but they say, it is the fatall desteny of that land,
that noe purposes, whatsoever are meant for her good, will
prosper or take good effect, which, whether it proceede from the
very Genius of the soyle, or influence of the starres, or that
Allmighty God hath not yet appoynted the time of her reforma-
tion, or that he reserveth her in this unquiett state still for some
secrett scourdge, which shall by her come unto England, it is
hard to be knowen, but yet much to be feared.

Eudox. Surely I suppose this but a vayne conceit of simple
men which judge thinges by theyre effectes, and not by theyre


causes ; for I will rather tiiinke the cause of this evill, which
hangeth upon that countrey, to proceede rather of the unsound-
ness of the counsells, and plottes, which you say have beene
oftentimes layed for the reformation, or of fayntness in following
and effecting the same, then of any such fatall course or appoynt-
ment of God, as you misdeeme : but it is the manner of men,
that when they are fallen into any absurditye, or theyr actions
succeede not as they would, they are ready allwayes to impute
the blame therof unto the heavens, soe to excuse their owne
foUyes and imperfectiones. Soe have I allso heard it often
wished, (even of some whose greate wisedomes, in my opinion,
should seeme to judge more soundly of soe weighty a considera-
tion) that all that land were a sea-poole : which kind of speach,
is the manner rather of desperat men farr driven, to wishe the
utter ruine of that they cannot redress, then of grave counsellors,
which ought to thinke nothing soe hard but that, through
wysedome, it may be mastred and subdued ; since the Poet sayeth,
that " the wyse man shall rule even over the starres," much more
over the earth \ for were it not the part of a desperat phisition
to wish his diseased patient dead, rather then to applye the best
endevours of his skill for his recovery.

The first line places the scene of the dialogue in
England. Compare p. 681, " heere in England," and
p. 682, "always heere resident " (in England).

The wish that Ireland were a "sea poole " was
referred to by Bacon in 16 17 (see above). He is not
to be relied upon as regards dates, but his words "within
these twenty years " coincide approximately, if not
exactly, with the lapse of time from the date of Spenser's

The thought about men blaming the heavens for their
own follies reappears (somewhat more embellished) in
Shakespeare's King Lear (i. 2) :

Edmund. This is the excellent foppery of the world, that
when we are sick in fortune — often the surfeit of our own behaviour
— we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon and the
stars : as if we were villains by necessity ; fools by heavenly
compulsion ; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-
dominance ; drunkards, liars and adulterers by an enforced
obedience of planetary influence ; and all that we are evil in, by
a divine thrusting on.


It also occurs twice in the Faerie Q?ieene :

Right true ; but faulty men use oftentimes

To attribute their folly unto fate,

And lay on heaven the guilt of their owne crimes.

(V. iv. 28.)

" In vaine " (said then old Meliboe) " doe men
The heavens of their fortunes fault accuse."

(VI. ix. 29.)

And see a further example given in the next chapter
(p. 590).

P. 610. The common law of England not in all
respects suitable for Ireland, they being a people
constantly engaged in war and scarcely taught " to know
the name of lawe, and insteede thereof have always pre-
served and kept theyr owne lawe, which is the Brehoone

The Brehon law is described as —

a certayne rule of right unwritten, but delivered by tradition
from one to another, in which often times there appeareth greate
shewe of equitye, in determining the right betweene party and
partye, but in many thinges repugning quite both to God and
mans lawe.

On the suggestion of Eudoxus (p. 613) that "her
Majesty may yet, when it shall please her, alter any thing
of those former ordinaunces, or appoynt other lawes, that
may be more both for her owne behoof, and for the
good of that people," the following characteristically
Baconian discourse ensues :

Iren. Not soe ; for it is not soe easye, now that thinges are
growen into an habite and have theyre certayne course, to
chaunge the channell, and turne the streame another way, for
tliey may have nowe a colourable pretence to withstand such
Innovations, having accepted of other lawes and rules allreadye.

Eudox. But you say they doe not accept of them, but
delight rather to leane to theyr old customes and Brehoon lawes,
though they be much more unjust and also more inconvenient
for the common people, as by your late relation of them I have
gathered. As for the lawes of England, they are surely most just
and most agreable both with the government and with the
nature of the people. How falles it then, that you seeme to


dislike of them as not soe meete for that realme of Ireland, and
not only the Common Lawe, but also the Statutes and Acts of
Parliamente, which were specially provided and intended for the
onely benefitt therof?

Iren. I was about to have told you my reason therin, but
that yourself drevve me away with other questions, for I was
shewing you by what meanes, and by what sort, the Positive
Lawes were first brought in and established by the Norman
Conquerour : which were not by him devised or applyed to the
state of the realme then being, nor as yet might best be, (as
should by lawgivers principally be regarded) but were indeede the
very lawes of his owne countrey of Normandye. The condition
wherof how farr it differeth from this of England is apparaunt to
every least judgement. But to transferr the same lawes for the
government of the realme of Ireland was much more inconvenient
and unmeete ; for he found a better advauntage of the time,
then was in the planting of them in Ireland, and followed the
execution of them with more severitye, and was also present in
parson to overlooke the Magistrates, and to overawe the subjectes
with the terrour of his swoord and countenaunce of his Majestye.
But not soe in Ireland, for they were otherwise affected, and yet
doe soe remayne, soe as the same lawes (me seemes) can ill sitt
with theyr disposition, or woorke that reformation that is wished.
For lawes ought to be fashioned unto the manners and conditions
of the people, to whom they are ment, and not to be imposed
unto them according to the simple rule of right ; for els (as I
sayd) in steede of good they may woorke ill, and pervert Justice
to extreme Injustice. For he that would transferr the lawes of
the Lacedemonians to the people of Athens should find a greate
absurditye and inconvenience. For those Lawes of Lacedaemon
were devised by Lycurgus, as most proper and best agreing with
that people, whom he knewe to be enclyncd alltogither to warres,
and therefore wholly trayned them up even from theyr craddels
in armes and military exercises, cleane contrarye to the institution
of Solon, who, in his lawes to the Atheniens, laboured by all
meanes to temper theyr warlick couradge with sweete delight of
learning and sciences, soe that as much as the one excelled in
armes, the other exceeded in knowledge. The like regard and
moderation ought to be had in tempering, and managing of this
stubborne nation of the Irish, to bring them from that delight of
licentious barbarisme unto the love of goodness and civilitye.

Eudox. I can not see how that may better be then by the
discipline of the lawes of England : for the English were, at the
first, as stout and warrelike a people as ever were the Irish, and
yet ye see are now brought unto that civilitye, that no nation in


the world excelleth them ia all goodly conversation, and all the
studyes of knowledge and humanitye.

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 47 of 55)