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poesy we see the use is authorized. In heathen poesy we see the exposition of fables doth fall out sometimes with great felicity; as in the fable that the giants being overthrown in their war against the gods, the Earth their mother in revenge thereof brought forth Fame:

"Illam Terra parens, irâ irritata deorum,

Extremam, ut perhibent, Cao Enceladoque sororem

expounded, that when princes and monarchs have suppressed actual and open rebels, then the malignity of the people, which is the mother of rebellion, doth bring forth libels and slanders, and taxations of the state, which is of the same kind with rebellion, but more feminine. So in the fable, that the rest of the gods having conspired to bind Jupiter, Pallas called Briareus with his hundred hands to his aid: expounded, that monarchies need not fear any curbing of their absoluteness by mighty subjects, as long as by wisdom they keep the hearts of the people, who will be sure to come in on their side. So in the fable, that Achilles was brought up under Chiron the Centaur, who was part a man and part a beast: expounded ingeniously, but corruptly by Machiavel, that it belongeth to the education and discipline of princes to know as well how to play the part of the lion in violence, and the fox in guile, as of the man in virtue and justice. Nevertheless, in many the like encounters, I do rather think that the fable was first and the exposition then devised, than that the moral was first, and thereupon the fable framed. For I find it was an ancient vanity in Chrysippus, that troubled himself with great contention to fasten the assertions of the Stoics upon the fictions of the ancient poets; but yet that all the fables and fictions of the poets were but pleasure and not figure, I interpose no opinion. Surely of those poets which are now extant, even Homer himself, (notwithstanding he was made a kind of Scripture by the latter schools of the Grecians,) yet I should without any difficulty pronounce that his fables had no such inwardness in his own meaning; but what they might have upon a more original tradition, is not easy to affirm; for he was not the inventor of many of them."

In the treatise "De Augmentis," the same sentiments will be found with a slight alteration in the expressions. He says, "There is another use of parabolical poesy, opposite to the former, which tendeth to the folding up of those things, the dignity whereof deserves to be retired and distinguished, as with a drawn curtain: that is, when the secrets and mysteries of religion, policy, and philosophy are veiled and invested with fables, and parables. But whether there be any mystical sense couched under the ancient fables of the poets, may admit some doubt: and indeed for our part we incline to this opinion, as to think, that there was an infused mystery in many of the ancient fables of the poets. Neither doth it move us that these matters are left commonly to school-boys, and grammarians, and are so embased, that we should therefore make a slight judgment upon them; but contrariwise because it is clear, that the writings which recite those fables, of all the writings of men, next to sacred writ, are the most ancient; and that the fables themselves are far more ancient than they (being they are alleged by those writers, not as excogitated by them, but as credited and recepted before) seem to be, like a thin rarified air, which from the traditions of more ancient nations, fell into the flutes of the Grecians."

This tract seems in former times, to have been much valued, for the same reason, perhaps, which Bacon assigns for the currency of the Essays; "because they are like the late new halfpence, which, though the silver is good, yet the pieces are small." Of this tract, Archbishop Tenison, in his Baconiana, says, "In the seventh place, I may reckon his book De Sapientia Veterum, written by him in Latin, and set forth a second time, with enlargement;1 and translated into English by Sir Arthur Georges: a book in which the sages of former times are rendered more wise than it may be they were, by so dexterous an interpreter of their fables. It is this book which Mr. Sandys means, in those words which he hath put before his notes, on the Metamorphosis of Ovid. Of modern writers, I have received the greatest light from Geraldus, Pontanus, Ficinus, Vives, Comes, Scaliger, Sabinus, Pierius, and the crown of the latter, the Viscount of St. Albans.'

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"It is true, the design of this book was instruction in natural and civil matters, either couched by the ancients under those fictions, or rather made to seem to be so by his lordship's wit, in the opening and applying of them. But because the first ground of it is poetical story, therefore let it have this place, till a fitter be found for it."

The author of Bacon's Life, in the Biographia Britannica, says, "that he might relieve himself a little from the severity of these studies, and as it were amuse himself with erecting a magnificent pavilion, while his great palace of philosophy was building, he composed and sent abroad in 1610, his celebrated treatise Of the Wisdom of the Ancients, in which he showed that none had studied them more closely, was better acquainted with their beauties, or had pierced deeper into their meaning. There have been very few books published, either in this or in any other nation, which either deserved or met with more general applause than this, and scarce any that are like to retain it longer, for in this In the year 1617, in Latin. It was published in Italian in 1618-in French in 1619.

performance, Sir Francis Bacon gave a singular proof of his capacity to please all parties in literature, as in his political conduct he stood fair with all the parties in the nation. The admirers of antiquity were charmed with this discourse, which seems expressly calculated to justify their admiration; and, on the other hand, their opposites were no less pleased with a piece, from which they thought they could demonstrate, that the sagacity of a modern genius, had found out much better meanings for the ancients than ever were meant by them."

And Mallet, in his Life of Bacon, says, "In 1610 he published another treatise entitled Of the Wisdom of the Ancients. This work bears the same stamp of an original and inventive genius with his other performances. Resolving not to tread in the steps of those who had gone before him, men, according to his own expression, not learned beyond certain commonplaces, he strikes out a new tract for himself, and enters into the most secret recesses of this wild and shadowy region, so as to appear new on a known and beaten subject. Upon the whole, if we cannot bring ourselves readily to believe that there is all the physical, moral, and political meaning veiled under those fables of antiquity, which he has discovered in them, we must own that it required no common penetration to be mistaken with so great an appearance of probability on his side. Though it still remains doubtful whether the ancients were so knowing as he attempts to show they were, the variety and depth of his own knowledge are, in that very attempt unquestionable."

In the year 1619, this tract was translated by Sir Arthur Georges. Prefixed to the work are two letters; the one to the Earl of Salisbury, the other to the University of Cambridge, which Georges omits, and dedicates his translation to the High and Illustrious Princess the Lady Elizabeth of Great Britain, Duchess of Baviare, Countess Palatine of Rheine, and Chief Electress of the Empire. As this translation was published during the life of Lord Bacon, by a great admirer of his works, and as it is noticed by Archbishop Tenison, I have inserted it in this volume. I am not certain that I have done right, as it is my intention, with the translation of all the works, to publish a new translation of these fables; for which I am indebted to a member of the University of Oxford, who has lately so eminently distinguished himself for his classical attainments, and who will I trust forgive this expression of my affectionate respect for his virtuous exertions. It would be grateful to me to say more.


§ 2.

At an early period of his life, Bacon was impressed with the importance of a History of England from the union of the Roses to the union of the Kingdoms. In the Advancement of Learning, published in 1605, he says, " But for modern histories, whereof there are some few very worthy, but the greatest part beneath mediocrity, leaving the care of foreign stories to foreign states, because I will not be curiosus in aliena republica,' I cannot fail to represent to your majesty, the unworthiness of the history of England in the main continuance thereof, and the partiality and obliquity of that of Scotland, in the latest and largest author that I have seen; supposing that it would be honour for your majesty, and a work very memorable, if this island of Great Brittany, as it is now joined in monarchy for the ages to come: so were joined in one history for the times passed, after the manner of the sacred history, which draweth down the story of the ten tribes, and of the two tribes, as twins together. And if it shall seem that the greatness of this work may make it less exactly performed, there is an excellent period of much smaller compass of time, as to the story of England, that is to say, from the uniting of the roses, to the uniting of the kingdoms; a portion of time wherein, to my understanding, there hath been the rarest varieties that in like number of successions of any hereditary monarchy hath been known: for it beginneth with the mixed adoption of a crown by arms and title; an entry by battle, an establishment by marriage: and therefore times answerable, like waters after a tempest, full of working and swelling, though without extremity of storm: but well passed through by the wisdom of the pilot, being one of the most sufficient kings of all the number. Then followeth the reign of a king, whose actions, howsoever conducted, had much intermixture with the affairs of Europe, balancing and inclining them variably; in whose time also began that great alteration in the state ecclesiastical, an action which seldom cometh upon the stage. Then the reign of a minor: then an offer of an usurpation, though it was but as febris ephemera:' then the reign of a queen matched with a foreigner: then of a queen that lived solitary and unmarried, and yet her go vernment so masculine that it had greater impression and operation upon the states abroad than it any ways received from thence. And now last, this most happy and glorious event that this island of Britain, divided from all the world, should be thus united in itself: and that oracle of rest, given to Æneas. • Antiquam exquirite matrem,' should now be performed and fulfilled upon the nations of England and Scotland, being now reunited in the ancient mother name of Britain, as a full period VOL. I.--35

of all instability and peregrinations; so that as it cometh to pass in massive bodies, that they have certain trepidations and waverings before they fix and settle; so it seemeth that by the providence of God, this monarchy, before it was to settle in your majesty and your generations, (in which, I hope, it is now established forever,) had these prelusive changes and varieties."

And the same passage is repeated in the treatise "De Augmentis," which was published in the year 1623, with the omission of the praise of the reign of Elizabeth.


The history of Henry VII. was written in English, and was the first book which he composed after his retirement from active life. In a letter to the king, dated 20th of March, 1621, he says,

"To the King's most excellent majesty.

"May it please your majesty,

"I acknowledge myself in all humbleness infinitely bounden to your majesty's grace and goodness, for that, at the intercession of my noble and constant friend, my lord marquis, your majesty hath been pleased to grant me that which the civilians say is 'res inestimabilis,' my liberty. So that now, whenever God calleth me, I shall not die a prisoner. Nay, farther, your majesty hath vouchsafed to cast a second and iterate aspect of your eye of compassion upon me, in referring the consideration of my broken estate to my good lord the treasurer; which as it is a singular bounty in your majesty, so I have yet so much left of a late commissioner of your treasure, as I would be sorry to sue for any thing that might seem immodest. These your majesty's great benefits, in casting your bread upon the waters, as the Scripture saith, because my thanks cannot any ways be sufficient to attain, I have raised your progenitor of famous memory, (and now, I hope, of more famous memory than before,) King Henry VII., to give your majesty thanks for me; which work, most humbly kissing your majesty's hands, I do present. And because, in the beginning of my trouble, when in the midst of the tempest I had a kenning of the harbour, which I hope now by your majesty's favour I am entering into, I made a tender to your majesty of two works, A History of England,' and 'A digest of your laws;' as I have, by a figure of pars pro toto, performed the one, so I have herewith sent your majesty, by way of an epistle, a new offer of the other. But my desire is farther, if it stand with your majesty's good pleasure, since now my study is my exchange, and my pen my factor, for the use of my talent; that your majesty, who is a great master in these things, would be pleased to appoint me some task to write, and that I shall take for an oracle. And because my Instauration,' which I esteem my great work, and do still go on with silence, was dedicated to your majesty; and this History of King Henry VII.' to your lively and excellent image the prince; if now your majesty will be pleased to give me a theme to dedicate to my Lord of Buckingham, whom I have so much reason to honour, I should with more alacrity embrace your majesty's direction than my own choice. Your majesty will pardon me for troubling you thus long. God evermore preserve and prosper you. Your majesty's poor beadsman most devoted,

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"Gorhambury, 20 Mar. 1621."

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"To the Right Honourable his very good lord, the Lord Marquis of Buckingham, High-Admiral of England.

"My very good lord,

"These main and real favours which I have lately received from your good lordship, in procuring my liberty, and a reference of the consideration of my release, are such, as I now find that in building upon your lordship's noble nature and friendship, I have built upon the rock, where neither winds nor waves can cause overthrow. I humbly pray your lordship to accept from me such thanks as ought to come from him whom you have so much comforted in fortune, and much more comforted in showing your love and affection to him; of which also I have heard by my Lord Falkland, Sir Edward Sackville, Mr. Mathews, and otherways.

"I have written, as my duty was, to his majesty, thanks touching the same, by the letter here put into your noble hands.

"I have made also, in that letter, an offer to his majesty, of my service, for bringing into better

"His historical works are these :-the first is the history of Henry the Seventh, written elegantly, by his lordship in the English tongue, and addressed to his Highness the Prince of Wales: and turned afterwards into Latin. A history which required such a reporter: those times being times both of great revolution, and settlement, through the division and union of the roses.

"This was the first book which he composed after his retirement from an active life. Upon which occasion he wrote thus to the Bishop of Winchester. Being (as I am) no more able to do my country service, it remaineth unto me, to do it bonour; which I have endeavoured to do in my work of the reign of King Henry the Seventh."-Baconiana.

order and frame the laws of England: the declaration whereof I have left with Sir Edward Sackville, because it were no good manners to clog his majesty, at this time of triumph and recreation, with a business of this nature; so as your lordship may be pleased to call for it to Sir Edward Sackville when you think the time seasonable.


"I am bold likewise to present your lordship with a book of my History of King Henry the Seventh.' And now that, in summer was twelve months, I dedicated a book to his majesty; and this last summer, this book to the prince; your lordship's turn is next, and this summer that cometh (if I live to it) shall be yours. I have desired his majesty to appoint me the task, otherwise I shall use my own choice; for this is the best retribution I can make to your lordship. God prosper you. I rest "Your lordship's most obliged friend and faithful servant,


"Gorhambury, this 20th of March, 1621." On September 5, 1621, Bacon, in a letter to the Marquis of Buckingham, says, "I am much fallen in love with a private life; but yet I shall so spend my time, as shall not decay my abilities for use."

On the 8th of October, 1621, he wrote the following letter to the king.

"It may please your most excellent majesty,—I do very humbly thank your majesty for your gracious remission of my fine. I can now, I thank God and you, die, and make a will.

"I desire to do, for the little time God shall send me life, like the merchants of London, which when they give over trade, lay out their money upon land. So, being freed from civil business, I lay forth my poor talent upon those things, which may be perpetual, still having relation to do you honour with those powers I have left.

I have therefore chosen to write the reign of King Henry the Seventh, who was in a sort your forrunner, and whose spirit, as well as his blood, is doubled upon your majesty.

"I durst not have presumed to entreat your majesty to look over the book, and correct it, or at least to signify what you would have amended. But since you are pleased to send for the book, I will hope for it.

"God knoweth, whether ever I shall see you again: but I will pray for you to the last gasp, resting the same, your true beadsman, FR. ST. ALBAN.

"October 8th, 1621."

During the progress of the work, considerable expectation was excited respecting the history. Rawley, in his life of Bacon, says, “ His fame is greater, and sounds louder, in foreign parts abroad than at home, in his own nation. Thereby verifying that divine sentence; a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. Concerning which, I will give you a taste only, out of a letter written from Italy, (the storehouse of refined wits,) to the late Earl of Devonshire; then the Lord Cavendish. I will expect the new Essays of my Lord Chancellor Bacon, as also his history, with a great deal of desire: and whatsoever else he shall compose. But in particular, of his history, I promise myself, a thing perfect, and singular; especially in Henry the Seventh, where he may exercise the talent of his divine understanding."

After the completion of the work there seems to have been a demur with respect to its publication, in a letter from Sir Thomas Meautys, he says, "May it please your lordship, I have been attending upon my lord marquis' minutes for the signing of the warrant."

The letter then continues, and, in the conclusion, says, "Your books are ready, and passing well bound up. If your lordship's letters to the king, prince, and my lord marquis were ready, I think it were good to lose no time in their delivery; for the printer's fingers itch to be selling."

It seems by the following letter, that there was another letter from Sir Thomas Meautys complain ing of this demur.

"Good Mr. Meautys, for the difference of the warrant, it is not material at the first. But I may not stir till I have it; and therefore I expect it to-morrow.

"For my Lord of London's stay, there may be an error in my book; but I am sure there is none in me, since the king had it three months by him, and allowed it; if there be any thing to be mended it is better to be espied now than hereafter.

"I send you the copies of the three letters, which you have; and, in mine own opinion, this demur, as you term it, in my Lord of London, maketh it more necessary than before, that they were delivered, specially in regard they contain withal my thanks. It may be signified they were sent he fore I knew of any stay: and being but in those three hands, they are private enough. But this leave merely at your discretion, resting your most affectionate and assured friend,


"March 21, 1621."

'Note. This passage has a line drawn over it.

Birch, 310.

Dr. George Mountain

It was published in folio, in the year 1625. The following is a copy of the titlepage.

Of the Raigne
Of King

The Seventh


By the Right Honourable

Lord Verulam, Viscount
St. Alban.


Printed by W. Stransby for Matthew

Lownes, and William



He sent copies of the history, to the Queen of Bohemia, and to the Bishop of Lincoln, Dr. Williams, his successor.

"To the Queen of Bohemia.

"It may please your majesty,

"I find in books, and books I dare allege to your majesty in regard of your singular ability to read and judge of them even above your sex, that it is accounted a great bliss for a man to have leisure with honour. That was never my fortune nor is. For time was, I had honour without leisure; and now I have leisure without honour. And I cannot say so neither altogether, considering there remain with me the marks and stamp of the king's, your father's, grace, though I go not for so much in value as I have done. But my desire is now to have leisure without loitering, and not to become an abbey-lubber, as the old proverb was, but to yield some fruit of my private life. Having therefore written the reign of your majesty's famous ancestor, King Henry the Seventh, and it having passed the file of his Majesty's judgment, and been graciously also accepted of the prince, your brother, to whom it is dedicated, I could not forget my duty so far to your excellent majesty, to whom, for that I know and have heard, I have been at all times so much bound, as you are ever present with me, both in affection and admiration, as not to make unto you, in all humbleness, a present thereof, as now being not able to give you tribute of any service. If King Henry the Seventh were alive again, I hope verily he could not be so angry with me for not flattering him, as well pleased in seeing himself so truly described in colours that will last and be believed. I most humbly pray your majesty graciously to accept of my good-will; and so, with all reverence kiss your hands, praying to God above, by his divine and most benign providence, to conduct your affairs to happy issue; and resting

"Your majesty's most humble and devoted servant,



"April 20, 1622.”

"To the Lord Viscount St. Alban.

"My very good lord,

"I have received, by this bearer, the privy seal for the survey of coals, which I will lay aside until I shall hear further from my lord steward, and the rest of the lords.

"I am ready to do as much as your lordship desireth, in keeping Mr. Cotton of from the violence of those creditors: only himself is, as yet, wanting in some particular directions.

"I heartily thank your lordship for your book; and all other symbols of your love and affection, which I will endeavour, upon all opportunities, to deserve: and, in the mean time, do rest

"Your lordship's assured faithful

"poor friend and servant,

"Westminster College, this 7th of Febuary, 1622.


"To the Right Honourable his very good lord, the Lord Viscount St. Alban."

In a letter, written in the year 1622, to the Bishop of Winchester, and prefixed, in the nature of a dedication, to his dialogue touching a holy war, he says, “having in the work of my Instaurat'on' had in contemplation the general good of men in their very being, and the dowries of nature;

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