« ForrigeFortsæt »
Bacon, like another man's ground reaching upon my house, which may mend my prospect, but it doth not fill my barn.'*
To relieve himself from his immediate difficulties, he sold part of the manor of Gorhambury, (near St. Albans, in Hertfordshire, which had descended to him upon the death of his brother Anthony.
In a letter to lord Cecil, he writes, I shall be able, with selling the skirts of my living in Hertfordshire, to preserve the body, and to leave myself, being clearly out of debt, and having some money in my pocket, three hundred pounds land per annum, with a fair house, and the ground well timbered.' 'For my purpose or course,' he adds, 'I desire to meddle as little in the king's causes, his majesty now abounding in council; and to follow my private thrift and practice, and
* Bacon's Works, vol. 13, p. 87; and see vol. 12, pp. 159, 162. The office of counsel extraordinary to the Queen, seems to have been without salary.-Ib. 160; and see Note (A.)
with some convenient advancement. For as for any ambition, I do assure your honour mine is quenched. In the Queen's, my excellent mistress's time, the quorum was small: her service was a kind of freehold, and it was a more solemn time. All those points agreed with my nature and judgment. My ambition now I shall only put upon my pen, whereby I shall be able to maintain memory and merit of the times succeeding.'*
But this was not his only ambition. In Bacon's breast there were two antagonist principles struggling for a mastery. He was bred a public man; and as his nearest connections had been and were the principal ministers of the crown, it was natural for him to expect that public employment to which he had been dedicated, and to hope for some of its honours and rewards. He was conscious, however, that nature had fitted him rather for the pursuit of know
* Bacon's Works, vol. 12, p. 278.
ledge than of power. He worshipped the one in secret, and delivered his public devotions to the other. Would that he had listened to the solemn charge of his great, but then almost unknown, contemporary!:
'Fling away ambition;
He was soon attached to the court of James. With his merits that monarch was already well acquainted, and Bacon had not been backward in offering his services. No man's fire,' said he, in a letter to the king, • shall be more pure and fervent than mine; but how far forth it shall blaze out, that resteth in your majesty's employment.'
It is well known that, with the view of enriching an exhausted exchequer, James, at the very beginning of his reign, adopted the expedient of calling on all who held lands in chiválry, of the rental of forty pounds a-year, to receive knighthood, or pay a composition.
The same motive induced the king, (the fountain of honour!) at a future period, to bring the dignity of the peerage to the hammer, and even to create a new order of honour, that of baronets, so that this shadow of a shade might be bargained and sold. "To know the British nobility,' said lord Bolingbroke, it was become almost necessary to have nomenclators, like those who attended the candidates at Rome, to tell them the names of the citizens. The jest went so far, that an advertisement of " art to help weak memories to a competent knowledge of the names of the nobility" was pasted up at Paul's.' *
We need not, therefore, be surprised that when, to gratify Miss Barnham,- a handsome maiden to his
* Bolingbroke's Works, vol. 2, p. 337; and see Hallam's Constitutional History, vol. 1, p. 461. Hume seems to think that the knighting of so many gentlemen at the beginning of his reign is to be ascribed to the king's gratitude; (Hist. vol. 5, p. 3;) but Hallam maintains the opinion adopted in the text.
liking,'-whom he was about to marry, Bacon consented to have what he himself termed this divulged and almost prostituted title of knighthood, that he should earnestly implore Cecil so to provide, that the manner of conferring it might grace him, since the matter would not. I mean,' he says, “that I might not be merely gregarious in a troop.'* On the 2nd July, 1603, Bacon was knighted at Whitehall.
In the following year James summoned his first Parliament, and Bacon, having been returned both for St. Albans and Ipswich, sat for the latter borough. He had formerly told the House that Parliament assembled only to make laws and grant monies: t-he now found that it had met to redress grievances. The various causes which, during the previous reign, had softened or subdued that spirit of reform which had long been silently fermenting in the minds
* Bacon's Works, vol. 12, p. 279.
† Ante, p. 13.