Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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perhaps an Irishman, " may at his owne will dislike of the
Englishman, as unwoorthye in his opinion, and admitt of
any Irish whom he shall thinke more meete for his turne."
Finally —

were all this redressed (as happely it might be) yet what good
shall any English minister doe amongest them, by preaching or
teaching, which either cannot understand him, or will not heare
him ? Or what comforte of life shall he have, when all his
parishioners are soe unsociable, soe intractable, so ill-afl"ected-
unto him, as they usually be to all the English ? Or finally,


howe dare allmost any honest ministers, that are peacefull civill
men, committ theyr safetye into the handes of such neighbours,
as the boldest captaynes dare scarcely dwell by ?

It may be observed in passing that this is the country
in which Spenser is supposed to have lived quietly, writing
poetical works.

Among the remedies proposed (p. 679) is the bold
one of toleration of the Catholic religion, reformed so far
as possible. This is advocated in ambiguous terms, but
read between the lines the meaning is not difficult to see.
A tribute is paid to the devotion of some of the Catholic
priests from abroad, and a rebuke administered in
language taken from Mother Hubberds Tale, which is
concerned with England, to the sloth of some of the
Protestant clergy.

The views of this writer on religious matters correspond
in all respects with those of Bacon. He views Papists
and Puritans alike with disapproval, and favours the
middle, or Anglican, position as the guarantee of modera-
tion, order, and good government in the State. The two
following passages are illustrations of this attitude.

Speaking of the original conversion of the Irish from
paganism to Christianity, he says :

in which Popes time [Celestine] and longe before it is certayne
that religion was generally corrupted with theyre popish trumperye,
therefore what other could they learne them, then such trashe as
was taughte them. ... (p. 645).

On the other hand, speaking of the squalid and ruinous
condition of most of the Irish churches, he advises the
rebuilding of them —

for the outward shewe (assure your selfe) doth greatlye drawe the
rude people to the reverencing and frecjuenting thereof, what
ever some of our late to nice ^ fooles saye, — " there is nothing in
the seemelye forme and comely orders of the churche" (p. 680).

The word " late " in this sentence is curious. I think
it must refer to the " Martin Marprelate " controversy,
which by the time this was written had been suppressed,

' to = too; nice = precise (puritan).



or had subsided, I am with those who believe that
Bacon employed his pen in this war.^ How indeed could
a man of his restless and comprehensive intellect have
done otherwise ? The religious question, which in those
days was deeply involved in the question of public worship
and Church government, was the question of the day with
most thinking men. Bacon, who saw the limitations of it
under that form, would have been glad to divert men's
minds from it in favour of the pursuit of science and the
arts, but his efforts in that direction found men indifferent,
for the time was not ripe.-

These descriptions of the state of religion, of the
ruined condition of the churches, and the deficiency of
ministers, bear a close resemblance to Sir Henry Sidney's
accounts in his dispatches to the Queen, and they have
every appearance of being founded on them.^

At pp. 648 and 657 two abuses are mentioned, which
I cannot conceive any one daring to bring up who was
in Spenser's position in Ireland, entirely dependent, as
he was, on the goodwill of the local authorities. He
alleges that the captains prosecuted the war slackly for
fear of being discharged at the end of it, and that, being
the paymasters of the troops, they drew money for men
who were not there. Such causes, if true, would account,
to some extent, for the obstinate parsimony of the Queen.
The writer states that there was no captain " that stickes
not to say openly that he is unworthy of a captaynship
that cannot make 500I. by the yeare, the which they
might well verefye by the proof." For the correction of

* .See p. 52 above.

2 Cf. Diary of John Mantiingham, of the Middle Temple, 1 602-3 : "I
thinke many of those which are fayne to stand without dores at the sermon of
a preacher whom the multitude throng after may come with as greate a
deuotion as some that are nearer. Yet I beleeve tlie most come away, as I
did from this, scarce one word the wiser."

^ See particularly Sir H. Sidney's long dispatch of aSlh April 1576, where
the deplorable ignorance and indiflerence to religion are attributed to "the
ruin of the very temples themselves," "the want of good ministers" and of
"a competent living" for them; and again, in the account of the state of
Munster of 20th April 1567, he writes of the " Kuyn of Churches, and
vacancy of anny kinds of Ministeries in the same, as anny Christian would
lament to here it or see it, and yet sufTrance of most detestable Iilolatrio," etc.
— Collins, Letters and Meinoriah of State.


this abuse he recommends the appointment of paymasters,
as in the Spanish army. A still bolder charge follows,
that some of the principal governors prosecuted the war
against the rebels as it suited their private interest, and
" doe cunningly carrye theyr course of government, and
from one hand to another doe bandie the service like a
tennis-ball, which they will never quite strike away, for
feare lest afterwards they should wante sporte."

P. 650. Here occur some passages which, read with
a passage at p. 682, should make it possible to fix the
date of the treatise, even in the absence of external
evidence. They also throw a strong light on the question
of authorship.

Irenaeus, admitting that change, generally speaking, is
to be shunned, says that the case of Ireland is exceptional,

everye day we perceave the troubles to growe more upon us, and
one evill growing upon another, insoemuch as there is noe parte
sounde nor ascertayned, but all have theyr cares upright, wayt-
ing when the watch-woord shall come that they should all rise
generally into rebellion, and cast away the English subjection.
To which there nowe litle wanteth ; for I thinke the woorde be
allreadye given, and there wanteth nothing but opportunitye,
which trulye is the death of one noble parson, whoe, being him-
self most stedfast to his most noble Queene and his countrey,
coasting upon the South-Sea, stoppeth the Ingate of all that evill
which is looked for, and holdeth in all those which are at his
becke, with the terrour of his greatness, and the assuraunce of his
honourable loyaltye.

The reformation must, he continues, be begun " by
the swoorde," by which, he explains, he means " the
royall power of the Prince " :

Ireti. The first thing must be to send over into that realme
such a stronge power of men, as that shall perforce bring in all
that rebellious rout of loose people, which either doe nowe stand
out in open armts, or in wandring companyes doe keepe the
woodes, spoyling the good subject.

Eudox. You speake nowe, Irengeus, of an infinite charge to
her Majestie, to send over such an armye as should treade downe
all that standeth before them on foote, and laye on the grounde
all the stiff-necked people of that lande ; for there is nowe but


one outlawe of any greate reckning, to weete, the Earle of Tyrone,
abrode in amies, agaynst whom you see what huge charges she
hath bene at, this last yeare, in sending of men, providing of
victualls, and making head agaynst him : yet there is htle or
nothing at all done, but the Queenes treasure spent, her people
wasted, the poor countrey troubled, and the enemye nevertheless
brought unto noe more subjection then he was, or list outwardly
to shewe, which in effect is none, but rather a scorne of her
power, and an emboldening of a proude rebell, and an en-
couradgement unto all like lewde disposed traytors that shall
dare to hft up theyr heeles agaynst theyr Soveraigne Ladye.
Therfore it were harde counsell to drawe such an exceeding
great charge upon her, whose event shal be so uncertayne.

Iren. True indeede, yf the event should be uncertayne ;
but the certaintye of the effect herof shal be soe infallible as
that noe reason can gainsaye it, neither shall the charge of all
this armye (the which I demaunde) be much greater then soe
much as in these two last yeares warres hath vaynly bene
expended. For I dare undertake, that it hath cost the Queene
above 200000 poundes allreadye ; and for the present charge,
that she is nowe at there, amounteth to verye neere 12000
poundes a monthe, wherof cast ye the accoumpte ; yet nothing
is done. The which somme, had it bene imployed as it should
be, would have effected all this that I nowe goe about.

In the first of these passages the Earl of Essex is
obviously referred to. The " Ingate of all that evil "
is invasion of England by the Spaniard, with the support
of Rome, for which Ireland was the point cVappid. The
" South-Sea," therefore, means Spanish home waters, and
the reference is evidently to the expedition of 1596,
which resulted in the sack of Cadiz. This is clear from
the reference to the government of Sir William Russell
(p. 660), which came to an end in the middle of 1597.
Tyrone had been giving trouble for some time before he
passed into open rebellion at the beginning of 1595.
The date of composition may therefore be placed in
the summer of 1596, the year given by Ware. This
date also fits in with the following passage at p. 682,
and with the story of Bacon's relations with the Earl of
Essex :

Eiidox. But in all this your discourse I have not marked
any thing by you spoken touching the appoyntment of the


principall Officer, to whom you wish the charge and per-
fourmaunce of all this to be committed : Onelye I observed
some fowle abuses by you noted in some of the late Governours,
the reformation wherof you left for this present time.

Iren. I delighte not to laye open the blames of soe great
Magistrals to the rebuke of the woorlde, and therfore theyr
reformation I will not meddle with, but leave unto the wisedome
of greater heades to be considered : onelye this much I will
speake generally therof, to satisfye your desire, that the Govern-
ment and cheif Magistracye I wish to continue as it doth ; to
weete, that it be ruled by a Lorde Deputye or Justice, for that it
is a very safe kinde of rule : but there-withall I wish that over
him there were placed also a Lord Lieutenant, of some of the
greatest personages in England (such an one I could name,
upon whom the eye of all England is fixed, and our last hopes
now rest) ; whoe being entitled with that dignitye, and being
allwayes heere resident, may backe and defende the good cause
of the government agaynst all malignours, which else will,
through theyr cunning woorking under hand, deprave and pull
backe what ever thinge shal be well begunne or intended there,
as we commonlye see by experience at this day, to the utter
ruine and desolation of that poor realme : and this Lieutenauncye
should be noe discountenauncing of the Lord Deputye, but
rather a strengthning and maintayning of all his doinges.

The true inwardness of this strange proposal is to
be sought, in my opinion, in Bacon's desire to put Essex
into a strong position against the Cecils and to keep him
at home. Bacon wrote to him in October 1596, two
months after his return from Spain, advising him to give
up military adventure and to win the Queen. The
reason for this advice no doubt was that the Cecils, who
had begun to look with apprehension on the advance of
Essex, would have been glad to get him out of the way,
a favourite device with Tudor statesmen. Robert Cecil
had advanced at Court in the absence of Essex at Cadiz,
having become secretary. It is not surprising to find
that the post suggested in this treatise for Essex was not
created, but he was made Earl Marshal of England after
his return from the expedition of 1597, the "Island
Voyage " (to appease his anger at the advancement in
the peerage of Lord Howard of Effingham), at the
suggestion, it is said, of Ralegh. The following passage


in a letter from Anthony Bacon to Dr. Hawkins suggests
that this may have been done at Francis Bacon's
instigation :

... so was I resolved to have continued my science so long
as my lord continued his absence from courte, and had so done
if I were not more than in hope that this day shall be the last
daye of the eclipse, and that the beames of his Lordship's virtue,
fame, and meritt, can be no longer shadowed by malice and
envie which you know reign in courts, no doubting but that ere
24 houres passe he shall be Lord High Marshall of England,
and have a royall recorde of his peereless prowess and deserts.
From Essex House this 26th of November.

Wright, who includes this letter in his collection, gives
1596 as the date, but it seems to belong to the incident
at the close of 1597. Francis and Anthony Bacon
worked together in these matters,^ and in the letter of
advice to Essex of October 1596 above mentioned
Francis Bacon deprecates his trying for this post. With
great skill he shows the favourite himself under the guise
in which he would appear in the mind of the Queen :

But how is it now ? A man of a nature not to be ruled ;
that hath the advantage of my affection, and knoweth it ; of an
estate not grounded to his greatness 5 of a popular reputation ;
of a military dependence . . .

Therefore again, whereas I heard your Lordship designing
to yourself the Earl Marshal's place, or the place of the
Master of the Ordnance, I did not in my mind so well like
of either, because of their affinity with a martial greatness.
But of the places now void, in my judgment and discretion, I
would name you to the place of Lord Privy Seal. . . . But my
chief reason is, that which I first alleged, to divert her Majesty
from this impression of a martial greatness.^

This is substantially the proposal of the author of the
View, namely an appointment at home, the difference in
the actual post recommended being evidently only due
to the practical possibilities of the moment. At this time
the Queen's Government in Ireland was at its lowest ebb,
Sir William Russell, the Deputy, and Sir John Norris,

' See, for instance, letter of Francis Bacon to King James ; Spedding,
Life, iii. 62.

2 Ibid. ii. 40-43.


who had been sent over specially against Tyrone, being
unable to agree, and the Queen persistently refusing to
provide the necessary supplies. At this crisis Bacon (as
I think) takes up his pen, and uses all his resources of
persuasion (as a great newspaper might do in these days)
to endeavour to get the Queen to adopt a more vigorous
and far-sighted policy. A man in Spenser's position, on
the Munster Settlement, could not, in my judgment, have
written in this way. He had had no opportunity of be-
coming intimate with Essex, nor had he any experience
of affairs at headquarters in London. To discuss such
topics from that standpoint would be beyond his power,
even if he had the temerity to attempt it.

The reader (at least if he is unfamiliar with the history
of the time) may ask why Bacon, if he wrote the treatise,
should have thought it necessary to conceal his identity.
The answer is a very simple one, that he was afraid that
the jealousy of authority would prejudice his proposals,
and perhaps still more that it would injure himself. He
was not, as we have seen, in the Queen's favour, Burghley
had done nothing for him, and probably regarded his
support of the Earl of Essex as little less than an un-
natural revolt on the part of a kinsman against his
authority, and, apart from that, the expression of opinion
on affairs of state by men outside the Council was
dangerous in those days and liable to be regarded as
presumption.^ Even in his private letters of advice to
Essex (which were liable to be seen by the Queen or
Robert Cecil) Bacon is most careful to guard himself
from the appearance of any desire to interfere, professing
to be drawn in only at the urgent request of the Earl, e.g.

Thus have I played the ignorant statesman. — Spedding,
Life, ii. 96.

I will shoot my foors bolt, since you will have it so. — Ibid.
p. 99.

' See, for example, the extreme deference with which so self-confident a
man as Ralegh ventures to differ from ofiicial opinion on such a question as
the defence of Cornwall and Devon : Letter to the Council of 25th Nov.
1595 (Edwards, Li/e,'\\. 112).


these few wandering lines. (See p. 529, note, above.)

Thus have I presumed to write these few hnes to your Lord-
ship, in methodo ignorantia. — Spedding, Life, ii. 132.

As to the expedient of fathering the discourse on
another man, this was only done in accordance with the
practice which (as I have tried to show) was adopted by
Bacon from his earliest boyhood, and, in this particular
instance, it had the advantage of giving authority to the
narrative, and of making it possible to utilise the Irish
experience of such men as Sir Henry Sidney and Ralegh,
between which and Spenser's there was sufficient similarity
for the purpose.

A further question may occur, how the advocacy in
the View of the policy of finding a post for Essex about
the person of the Queen can be reconciled with the en-
couragement which unquestionably was given to the Earl
by Bacon subsequently in undertaking the command in
Ireland against Tyrone. But this is no more a question
as between Spenser, the supposed author of the Viexv,
and Bacon as the author, than it is between Bacon in i 596
and Bacon in i 598, a subject on which much has already
been written. It is difficult to suggest the answer without
digressing beyond the limits appropriate to this book, but,
speaking summarily, I may say that, in my opinion, the
explanation lies in the conclusion at which Bacon had
arrived that the Earl was a failure in the part for which he
had intended him, and that the best thing he could do
at that juncture was to let him run his course in his own
way. He had begun at this time to lean more towards
Ralegh, perhaps even to see that Robert Cecil was the
only man, and that to measure his strength against him
through a favourite, who, however great his personal
charm and popularity, was a man without real abilit}-,
and a passionate sentimentalist besides, was to court
failure, not only for the Earl (for whom perhaps he
cared little), but for his own public career. It was
the misfortune of Essex, or his fate, to come into the
orbit of Bacon's restless genius, which, being debarred


on all sides from direct outlet, found its expression
through byways and by proxy. If Essex had never been
impregnated with Bacon's ideas, which he was incapable
of assimilating, it seems probable that he would have been
content with the life of a favoured courtier or of military
adventure, and have left statesmanship to men of a
different mould.

Two instances may be noted of the privileged and
courtier-like tone which the writer adopts on the subject
of the Queen's business and character; e.g. p. 651, "if
the Queenes coffers be not soe well stored (which we are
not to looke into)," and p. 655, "her Sacred Majestic,
being by nature full of mercye and clemencye, whoe is
most inclinable to such pitifull complaynts, and will not
endure to heare such tragedyes made of her people and
poore subjects as some about her may insinuate."

P. 653. Pardons. — The policy suggested is the same as
Bacon's :

I would wish a proclamation were made generallye. . . .
That what persons soever would within twenty dayes absolutly
submitt themselves (excepting onely the very principalis and
ring-leaders) shoulde finde grace.

P. 654. The description of famine in Munster. The
strong measures advocated will soon end the war, for —

by this harde restraynte they would quickly consume them-
selves, and devoure one another. The proof wherof I sawe
sufficiently ensampled in those late warres in Mounster ; for not-
withstanding that the same was a most riche and plentifull
countrey, full of corne and cattell, that you would have thought
they would have bene able to stand long, yet ere one yeare and
a halfe they were brought to such wretchedness, as that any
stonye harte would have rued the same. Out of every corner of
the woodes and glinnes they came creeping foorthe upon theyr
handes, for theyr legges could not beare them ; they looked like
anatomyes of death, they spake like ghostes crying out of theyr
graves ; they did eate of the dead carrions, happy were they yf they
could finde them, yea, and one another soone after, insoemuch
as the very carcasses they spared not to scrape out of theyr graves;
and yf they founde a plotte of water-cresses or sham-rokes, there


they flocked as to a feast for the time, yet not able long to continue
therewithal! ; that in shorte space there were none allmost left,
and a most populous and plentifuU countrey suddaynly made
voyde of man or beast : yet sure in all that warre, there perished
not many by the swoorde, but all by the extremitye of famine
which they themselves had wrought.

I have already suggested that this treatise was founded,
to some extent, on Sir Henry Sidney's dispatches. This
well-known description suggests, more than any other
single passage, the soundness of this view, as the follow-
ing extract from Sidney's account of Munster in his
dispatch of 20th April 1567 indicates:

As touchinge the Estate of the whole Countie, for so muche
as I sawe of it ; havinge travailed from Youghall to Cork, from
Cork to Kinsale, and from thence to the uttermost Boundes of it
towards Limerick ; like as I never was in a more pleasaunt
Countrey in all my life : So never sawe I a more waste and
desolate Lande, no, not in the Confynes of other Countries, where
actuall Warre hath continuallie ben kepte, by the greatest Princies
of Christendome ; and there herde I suche lamentable Cryes
and dolefull Complayntes, made by that small Remayne of poor
People which yet are lefte. Who hardelie escaping the Furie of
the Sworde, and Fire of their outeragious Neighbours, or the
Famyn with the same, which their extorcious Lordes hath driven
them unto, either by taking their Goodes from them, or by
spending the same by their extorte Taking of Coyne and Liverie ;
make Demonstracion of the miserable Estate of that Countrie.
Besides this, such horrible and lamentable Spectacles there are to
beholde, as the Burninge of Villages, the Ruyn of Churches, the
Wastinge of suche, as have been good Townes and Castells : Yea,
the View of the Bones and Sculles of the ded Subjectes, who,
partelie by Murder, partelie by Famyn, have died in the Feelds ;
as, in Troth hardlie any Christian with drie Eyes could beholde.^

Sir Henry Sidney was reporting to the Queen after a
tour of inspection, and what he saw was not the result
of operations by the Government, but of the internecine
feuds between the Butlers and the Geraldines. The
writer of the View has used this material, as I tiiink,
and worked it up into a highly sensational picture. But
in so far as it represented the facts, they were the result

' Collins, Letters and Metnoriah of Stale.


of the operations against Desmond by Pelham and
Ormonde in 1579, and by Grey against the rebels in the
two years following, and the closing words " which they
themselves had wrought " are therefore an anachronism.
At the same time they were probably put in by design,
as containing some measure of truth, and putting the case
of the Government in the best light. But they are
fictitious writing, and they suggest that the rest is, to
some extent at least, of the same character.^

Even Sidney's account (confined to Munster) was
probably, to some extent, exaggerated, because the close
of the dispatch shows that he was making a despairing
appeal to the Queen to support him in his efforts, and
that she was treating him with callous indifference.
Following the passage in his account quoted above there
is a hearsay report of barbarous outrages by one of the Earl

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 49 of 55)