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Arts and Sciences hunt after their ivorks ; human counsels after their ends ;
and ail natural things hunt either after their food to preserve them, or after their
pleasures and delights to perfect them {for all hunting is for the sake of either prey
or pleasv^re) : and this too by methods expert ana sagacious.

The savage lioness the wolf pursues,
The wolf the kid, the kid. the cytisus."

Dc Augmentis.






Arts and Sciences hunt after their works; human counsels after their ends ;
and all natural thinus hunt cither after their food to preserve them, or after their
pleasures and delights to perfect them (fo^ all hunting is for the sa\e of either prey
or pleasure) : and this too by methods expert and sagacious.

The savage lioness the wolf pursues,
The wolf the kid, the kid the cytisus."

De Augmelftii





There have been, admittedly, mountains of rubbish written
about Shakespeare. He has (according to Mr. Saintsbury, his
latest critic and expositor) been the subject of commentatorial
folly to an extent which dwarfs the expense of that folly on
any other single subject. One especial form of folly has been
to treat Shakespeare as, if not exactly an inspired idiot, at any
rate a mainly tentative if not purely unconscious artist, much
of whose work is only not bad as art, while most, if not all, of
it was originally produced with a minimum of artistic conscious-
ness and design! — and, I may add, with a minimum of literary
preparation, and a tag-rag equipment of knowledge, comparable
only to the motley of a juggler or a court fool. The business
of the critic, therefore, is much more to shovel away the
rubbish of his predecessors than to attempt any accummula-
tion of his own. In the meantime certain writers have boldly
put forward the theory that Shakespeare was not Shakespeare
at all. The newest form of " folly," in fact, is to deny that
Shakespeare wrote the plays and poems so long attributed to
him — and not only to deny that Shakespeare wrote them, but
to assert that his great co-temporary, Francis Bacon, did.
This hypothesis — • strange and startling as it may seem — is, if
not proved, at least supported by many curious and ingenious
arguments. Many people have been convinced of its validity,
and declare that for them it has thrown fresh beauty, grandeur,
and meaning on the plays, and cleared up many doubts and
difficulties of criticism, which have so far defied solution.

1 Saintsbury, "Elizabethan Literature," 1887.



Others, on the contrary, have been stirred to an exhibition of
petulancy, which is always childish and often spiteful.

Shakespeare's works are amongst the most precious heritages
of the world. What does it matter whether they were written
by Francis Bacon or WilHam Shakespeare ? Shakespeare him-
self is almost a mythical being. The little that is actually
known about him and his doings is hardly creditable, much
less admirable. The truth is that men too often allow their
judgments to be obscured by the pleasing illusions of sentiment.
All that we really know of Shakspere^ is that he was baptized
on the 24th of April, 1564, at Stratford-on-Avon. His parents
belonged to the lower middle class, and were connected with
small farmers and farm-labourers on the one side, and with
petty tradesmen on the other. Nothing is known of his youth
and education ; but it was a constant tradition of the literary
men of his own and the immediately succeeding generation
that he had Uttle school-learning.^ Before he was nineteen
he was married, at the end of 1582, to Anne Hathaway,
who was seven years his senior. Their first child, Susannah,
was baptized six months later. In 1585, at the age of 20-1, he
is supposed to have gone up to London, and to have been con-
nected with the theatres in some humble capacity. He became
an actor, but acquired no fame in that capacity. He accumu-
lated money, however, as Alleyn and other actors and stage-
managers did. He appears to have been ''prudent " in the
ordinary way, to have bought property, sold malt, pursued
petty debtors ; and in 1616 he died, unwept, unhonoured, and
unsung. Some years after his death his plays were collected
in the First Folio of 1623. Many of these plays had been
greatly altered and augmented from the editions published in
Sha kspere's life-time. Many plays saw light for the first
time in the Folio. In the entire number of thirty-seven plays
which are usually regarded as Shakespeare's, there are only
fourteen of which, in what may be called their completed state
or ultimate form, we possess impressions published in his life-

^ The Stratford man always signed himself " Shakspere." The author is
invariably spelt " Shakespeare."
2 Saintsbury.


tim e, together with four others of which, in an immature and
imperfect state, we have such impressions. Of one other,
" Othello," we have also an edition, printed, indeed, after the
author's death, but apparently from another manuscript
than that used for the First Foho. For the remaining
eighteen plays our oldest and only authority is that edition. i
In view of these facts, the question was raised many years ago
by Mr. W. H. Smith, in his historical letter to Lord Elles-
mere : Who but the author himself could have exercised this
power of discrimination ? And the question remains un-
answered to this day. It is quite clear that Shakspere
had no hand in the compilation of the First Folio. He had
died seven years before — died in obscurity in a country
village, leaving a will, it is true, but making no refer-
ence to any literary works — appointing no literary executors
— leaving no library of books, no collection of correspon-
dence, no manuscripts, not even the scrap of a letter.

On the other hand, in 1623, Francis Bacon— aided by Ben
Jonson and many other friends — was busy collecting, correcting,
and publishing his works. The ** De Augmentis " was pubhshed
in the same year as the famous Folio. In 1626 Bacon died,
acknowledged to be the greatest and most eminent man of his
age — described by Ben Jonson, in his review of the more
famous names of his own and the preceding age, from Sir
Thomas More to Sir Philip Sidney, Hooker, Essex, and
Raleigh, as without a rival at the head of the company as the
man who had " fulfilled all numbers " and " stood as the mark
and acme of our language." ** No man," he says, " ever spoke
more neatly, more pressly, or suffered less emptiness, less idle-
ness, in what he uttered. . . . His hearers could not cough or look
aside from him without loss. He commanded when he spoke,
and had his judges angry and pleased at his devotion . . . the
fear of every man that heard him was that he should make
an end. . . . His speech was nobly censorious when he could
spare and pass by a jest."

The contention that Bacon wrote the plays is set forth at

1 Craik, "The English of Shakespeare."


length by Judge Holmes in a learned and judicial work en-
titled ''The Authorship of Shakespeare's Plays." Other
writers have discussed the problem from various points of view,
and with various success. The literary guides, however, upon
whom we usually rely in matters of this kind are almost
unanimous in denouncing the suggestion as a piece of folly —
madness, drunkenness — something so crass and stupid that
there is no fitting word to describe it. Professor Elze, Dr.
Furnivall, Mr. Saintsbury, all the Shakespearian critics who
have condescended to notice the discussion, fling a stone at it,
and pass on to shovel away or add to the rubbish-heap of
commentary on this inscrutable subject of Wilham Shake-
speare and his works. " As for Shakespeare-Bacon theories,
and that kind of folly," says Dr. Saintsbury, "they are
scarcely worthy even of mention." This is the contemptuous
style. " The idea of Lord Bacon's having written Shake-
speare's plays," says Dr. Furnivall, ''can be entertained only
by folk who know nothing whatever of either writer, or are
crackt, or who enjoy the paradox or joke." This is the angry
style. And so they all ring the changes on all the terms of
contempt and abuse they can command, until the chorus
becomes a little monotonous, and one would like to hear a
little argument and not quite so much vituperation.

Dr. Nichol, Professor of Enghsh Literature in the University
of Glasgow, is more concihatory. He says i^ "Lord Bacon
did not write Shakespeare's plays ; but there is something
startling in the like magnificence of speech in which they find
voice for sentiments, often as nearly identical when they anti-
cipate as when they contravene the manners of thought and
standards of action that prevail in our country in our age.
They are similar in their respect for rank and dignity, in their
belief in royal right divine, in their contempt for the vulgus
mutabile, depreciation of the merely commercial, and exaltation
of a military spirit ; above all, in their view of the duty of
Englishmen to knit together the forces and extend the bounds

^ " Francis Bacon : His Life and Philosophy," i., p. 78.


" ' This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war.
This happy breed of men, this little world.
This precious stone set in the silver sea.'

" The above and numerous other passages show that neither
the statesman nor the poet had, for good or evil, more share
than any other Elizabethan of our recent, sometimes quixotic,

Everywhere the writings of the one author throw light on
those of the other. Dr. Nichol, commenting on Bacon's
"^Essay on Judicature," quotes the passage in which the duties
of a judge are defined, namely, ''jus cUcere and not jus dare —
to interpret law and not to make or give law," etc. And:
" Therefore it is a happy thing in a State when Kings and
States do often consult with judges ; and again, when judges
do often consult with the King and State," etc. And again :
** Let judges also remember that Solomon's throne was sup-
ported by lions on both sides ; let them be lions, but under the
throne." The Professor comments : *' This solution of the
problem revolved by his contemporary in ' Measure for
Measure,' and ' The Merchant of Venice,' the relation of the
letter to the spirit of the laiu, is another aspect of the same prac-
tical philosophy that we have seen running through Bacon's
thought and pervading his practice."

Throughout, the works of the one receive illumination by
mutual annotation with those of the other. In their intel-
lectual march they walk in step; in their sympathies, anti-
pathies, aspirations, they are as one. In the higher reaches
of their spirit, alike, they were

" Before the starry threshold of Jove's court."

Of the one as of the other it is equally true to say — as Dr.
Nichol says of Bacon: "In mass, in variety, in scope, his
genius is the greatest among men who have played a part at
once in widening the bounds of the kingdom of thought and in
fencing the bulwarks of their country."


And yet so irrational are men that when it is suggested —
and the more plausible the grounds the more offensive it seems
to be — that this man of " unequalled powers with unequalled
will," wrote or inspired the plays attributed to the shadowy
personality of the other, the only reply that most English men
of letters have is an angry taunt, an impotent gibe, or a simious
grin. These gentlemen, in fact, having (as was long since said
of them)^ erected themselves into the condition, as it were, of
guardians and trustees of Shakespeare, they have remained
impervious to the most obvious difficulties of their situation.
For a long time they would have it that Shakespeare was a
mere dunce in book-learning — that he was alike ignorant of
that *' popish language, Latin," as of all modern languages,
except English. Then it was a shock to have it demonstrated
that Shakespeare was not only learned in all languages, but
also in all sciences — botany, medicine, law, music, and the fine
arts generally, which could never have been picked up either
in the sheep-market of Stratford-on-Avon or the mews of
London. Driven from these positions — admitting now that
myriad-minded Shakespeare was learned in books as well as in
Nature, these guardians and trustees refuse to ask themselves
— or to permit others to ask — where did he get it from ?
Directly this fatal question is put the records are huddled
away, and you are told that it is impertinent to ask questions.
The practice is certainly inconvenient, but this is an inquisitive
-and cross-examining age. In the words of the " Recorder "i^
" Schollers are pryed into of late, and are found to bee busye
fellowes, disturbers of the peace. He say no more, gesse at my
meaning, I smel a ratt."

There is no need here to attempt to add to the argument in
favour of Bacon's claims. Mr. Holmes, Mr. Donnelly, Mr.
Appleton Morgan, Mrs. Pott, Mr. R. M. Theobald, M.A., and
others, have said pretty well as much as can be said at present.
Whether, however, Bacon wrote the plays or not, his mind and
Shakespeare's appear to have run in singularly similar grooves.

^ " The Dramatic Character of Sir J. Falstaff," by M. Morgann, 1825.
^ " Returne from Parnassus," 1606.


In the ensuing essays I have endeavoured to illustrate this
thesis. Similar treatment of other plays would reveal the same
phenomenon. And yet, although Lord Bacon must have been
well acquainted with Shakespeare, it is singular that, whilst he,
in his acknowledged works, refers to most of the leading
writers of his age, he never refers to, or quotes from, Shake-
speare, and, but for one circumstance, might, so far as we are
aware, never have heard of him. The Shakespearian quid-
nuncs — the Furnivalls, et hoc genus omne — were very much non-
phcssed a few years ago by the discovery by Mr. John Bruce of
certain documents in the library at Northumberland House,
somewhat mutilated, singed, and incomplete, but bearing in-
disputable evidence of some mysterious relationship between
Bacon and Shakespeare. The manuscripts belong to about the
year 1597. Indorsed on the outside leaf of " A Conference of
Pleasure," being a Device by Bacon, there is a list of other
manuscripts which formerly lay with it. This list includes,
among other things, " Orations at Graie's Inn Eevels, by Mr.
Fr. Bacon " ; '' Essays by the same " ; '* Eichard the Second";
'' Eichard the Third." These latter, Mr. Spedding (Bacon's
editor) admits refer to the Shakespeare plays of those names.
The outside leaf is scrawled over eight or nine times with
the name '' William Shakespeare." It also has the long dog-
Latin word, Jionorificabilitudinitatibus, which is introduced in
" Love's Labour Lost " (Act V., sc. i., 1. 45), and the line,

" Revealing day through every cranny peeps"

from ** Lucrece."

It would seem that the plays of '* Eichard the Second " and
" Eichard the Third " had been torn out from the packet in the
general work of destruction of the manuscripts of the dramas ;
but by some oversight the tell-tale outer sheet had escaped
observation. Here, at least. Bacon and Shakespeare — so far as
external evidence goes — are brought very near together ; and
it is Shakespeare that we find in Bacon's house, not Bacon in
Shakespeare's. The incident is curious, and encourages
Shakespearian students to hope that further manuscripts may


yet turn up throwing further Hght on the mystery of the

Indeed, in the year 1885 Mr. Macray, M.A., F.S.A., dis-
covered in the Bodleian Library the long-lost manuscripts of two
comedies, called respectively the "Pilgrimage to Parnassus"
and the " Eeturn from Parnassus," forming the first and second
parts of a trilogy of dramas, known as the " Parnassus Plays."
The third part, entituled "The Eeturn from Parnassus ; or. The
Scourge of Simony," was twice printed in the year 1606. No
one knows who wrote these plays. They contain direct and
pointed references to Bacon's works, as well as to Shakespeare's
plays. Shakespeare's name is introduced ironically — his poems
and plays are claimed by the writer (in the character of
Gullio) as belonging to him — and there are good reasons for
believing that the plays were written by the author of the
Shakespearian drama, and that the writer was not William
Shakespeare. These comedies are an enigma to Shakesperian
students. If, however, Dr. Abbot will apply to them his
philological test, he will find they are Shakespearian ; and if
Mr. Moulton will apply to them his laws of art criticism, and
especially his doctrine of " Central Ideas," he will find that
the central idea of the first play is Shqndo, a canting Puritan;
of the second William Shakesj^eare, called ironically " Sweet
Mr. Shakespeare ;" and of the third, Immcrito, an ignorant
country fellow, whose father has purchased for him the living
belonging to Sir Eaderick, father of the impecunious scholar,
Amoretto. And if anyone bring his common-sense to bear
upon these comedies, he will find that they are full of bitter
complaints of the consideration and wealth poured upon the
ignorant play-actors, and of the neglect with which the poets
and dramatists of the day were treated. A full discussion of
these plays, however, would lead us too far astray. It is
sufficient to indicate that, until the critics take up different
standing - ground, they will probably never understand

Other indications are not wantirg that we may expect any
day to have some starthng piece of evidence thrust upon our


unwilling ears. The AthencBum, for instance, of the 16th May,

1891, pubhshed a paragraph to the effect that —

" The Genealogist for April contains a few brief remarks on two important
and hitlierto unnoticed State Papers in the Public Record Office, which Mr.
James Greenstreet has recently drawn attention to, as bearhig upon the oft-
vexed question of the authorship of the plays printed as Shakespeare's. The
documents alluded to have evidently suggested very strongly to the mind of
their discoverer that many of these plays, though published under the name of
Shakespeare, were not actually written by him, but by William Stanley, Earl
of Derby, and that this earl, and not Lord Southampton, was Shakespeare's
real patron and benefactor. And here it should be observed in what close
relationship to the crown the nobleman in question stood, his brother and pre-
decessor having been regarded by some as the possible successor of Queen
Elizabeth in preference to the Scotch king."

The Genealogist has either pubhshed a silly canard, which
the ^tdJidi AtliencEum has endorsed; or it has published a fact
of the most extraordinary interest to the literary world. It
would, of course, be premature to pass any opinion on the
subject here. Indeed, I pass no opinion of any kind upon
anything, unless it be to say that, so far as I can judge, the
stone-throwers to whom I have referred are living in glass
houses of a very fragile nature ; and that a little more
temperateness would be more becoming the scholarship of
England than has so far characterized the utterances of the
very mixed and confused tongues of the recognised Shake-
sperian oracles.


The delineation of the character of Cassar as given by Shake-
speare in the great play called after that *' famous man,"i has
always been a stumbling-block and an offence to the critics.

We are accustomed to regard Caesar as he is described by
Antony :

" Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times."^

But this is not the picture presented by Shakespeare.

M. Stapfer says :^ ** The character of Csesar offers a com-
paratively ungrateful subject with which to begin a psycho-
logical study of the Eoman tragedies ; not, indeed, that it is
wanting in interest when Shakespeare's meaning is fathomed,
but because it is strange and unexpected and perplexingly un-
like the ordinary idea we fashion to ourselves of the Roman
hero ; the first impression it leaves on the mind is that of a
vague surprise and disappointment."

M. Mezieres also complains that Shakespeare has given us
*' a conventional Caesar, very different to that of Plutarch . . .
He never tells us of the lofty thoughts with which, to the very
last, the mind of the master of the world was occupied, nor
mentions the new conquests that his genius was preparing
when he was struck down by the swords of the assassins.''

Mr. Moulton, too, in his study of the character of C^sar is
puzzled and perplexed. He says:* " The character of Caesar

^ " Richard III.," Act III., sc. i. - " Julius Ccesar," Act III., so. i., 1. 257.
■^ " Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity," p. 321.
^ ** Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist," p. 176.



is one of the most difficult in Shakespeare. Under the in-
fluence of some of his speeches we find ourselves in the pre-
sence of one of the master spirits of mankind ; other scenes
in which he plays a leading part breathe nothing but the
feeblest vacillation and weakness." And he sums up Shake-
speare's conception of Caesar as follows : " He is the con-
summate type of the practical : emphatically the public man,
complete in all the greatness that belongs to action. On the
other hand, the knowledge of self produced by self-contempla-
tion is wanting, and so when he comes to consider the relation
of his individual self to the state, he vacillates with the vacilla-
tion of a strong man moving amongst men of whose greater
intellectual subtlety he is dimly conscious. . . ."^

And M. Stapfer asks :- '' Why, then, did Shakespeare de-
liberately set to work to disparage his hero ? For, whether
right or wrong, it is evidently the result of choice on his part ;
and it is impossible to ascribe to mere negligence a contrast
so disproportionate as that existing between the Caesar who
makes his appearance in a few short and rapid scenes, and the
grand ideal Shakespeare himself had of him, which ideal he
well knew was shared in by all his audience, and would con-
tinue to be held by them in spite of everything."

The reply seems to be that Shakespeare never had any
" grand ideal " — that is to say, not any transcendental ideal —
of Caesar, but that he had read the life of C^sar in the same
practical light as Bacon had done. In this view, a short sum-
mary of Bacon's Essay (" Imago civilis Julii Caesaris "), and a
brief comparison of it, and of some other references made by
Bacon to Caesar, with the play will prove interesting.

(1) Shakespeare, M. Stapfer says, was ''fully aware of the
hero's historical importance."-'' Shakespeare realized *' clearly
enough that it was no insignificant man that fell."'^ This is
quite true. And it is also true of Bacon.

Bacon grants that Caesar had "greatness of mind in a very
high degree," but he immediately adds, '' yet such as aspired

■^ "Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist," p. 181.

- "Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity," p. 325. ^ Ihid., p. 320.

4 Ibid., p. 325.


more after personal aggrandizement than merit towards the
pubhc. For he referred everything to himself and was the
true and perfect centre of all his own actions."

Again : " And assuredly in his private wishes he cared more
for power than reputation. He sought reputation and fame
not for themselves, but as instruments of power. By natural
impulse, therefore, and not by any moral guiding, he aspired-
to the supreme authority, and aspired rather to possess it than
to be thought worthy of it — a thing which gave him favour
with the people, who had no dignity of their own ; but with
the nobles and great persons, who wished also to preserve their
own dignity, procured him the reputation of covetousness and

(" The people, who had no dignity of their own." Is not
this the very essence of Shakespeare's conception of " the-
people " in all the plays ?)

That is to say (according to Bacon), Caesar was a popular
idol, but persons of keener insight recognised the bold and

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Online LibraryHarry Stratford CaldecottSpoils : studies in Shakespeare → online text (page 1 of 5)