« ForrigeFortsæt »
Law and politics were the two roads open before him; in both his family had attained opulence and honour. Law, the dry and thorny study of law, had but little attraction for his discursive and imaginative mind. With the hope, therefore, that, under the protection of his political friends, and the queen's remembrance of his father, and notice of him when a child, he might escape from the mental slavery of delving in this laborious profession, he made a great effort to secure some small competence, by applying to Lord Burleigh to re
FROM THE DEATH OF HIS FATHER TILL HE ENGAGED commend him to the queen, and interceding with
IN ACTIVE LIFE.
1580 to 1590.
DISCOVERING, upon his arrival in England, that, by the sudden death of his father, he was left without a sufficient provision to justify him in devoting his life to contemplation, it became necessary for him to select some pursuit for his support, " to think how to live, instead of living only to think."3 the highest degree of cipher, which is to signify omnia per omnia, yet so, as the writing infolding, may bear a quintuple proportion to the writing infolded; no other condition or restriction whatsoever is required.
1 His meditations were both upon natural science and human sciences, as will appear from the following facts. In his History of Life and Death, speaking of the differences between youth and old age, and having enumerated many of them, he proceeds thus: When I was a young man at Poictiers in France, I familiarly conversed with a young gentleman of that country, who was extremely ingenious, but somewhat talkative; he afterwards became a person of great eminence. This gentleman used to inveigh against the manners of old people, and would say, that if one could see their minds as well as their bodies, their minds would appear as deformed as their bodies; and indulging his own humour, he pretended, that the defects of old men's minds, in some measure corresponded to the defects of their bodies. Thus, dryness of the skin, he said, was answered by impudence; hardness of the viscera, by relentlessness; blear-eyes, by envy; and an evil eye, their down look, and incurvation of the body, by atheism, as no longer, says he, looking up to heaven; the trembling and shaking of the limbs, by unsteadiness and inconstancy; the bending of their fingers as to lay hold of something, by rapacity and avarice; the weakness of their knees, by fearfulness; their wrinkles, by indirect dealings and cunning, &c. And again, for echoes upon echoes, there is a rare instance thereof in a place which I will now exactly describe. It is some three or four miles from Paris, near a town called Pont-Charenton; and some bird-bolt shot or more from the river of Sein. The room is a chapel or small church. The walls all standing, both at the sides and at the ends. Speaking at the one end, I did hear it return the voice thirteen several times. (Sylva, art. 249.)
There are certain letters that an echo will hardly express; as S for one, especially being principal in a word. I remember well, that when I went to the echo at Pont-Charenton, there was an old Parisian, that took it to be the work of spirits, and of good spirits. For, said he, call "Satan," and the echo will not deliver back the devil's name; but will say, "va t'en;" which is as much in French as "apage," or avoid. And thereby I did hap to find, that an echo would not return an S, being but a hissing and an interior sound. (Art. 750.)
Lady Burleigh to urge his suit with his uncle.* But his application was unsuccessful; the queen and the lord treasurer, distinguished as they were for penetration into character, being little disposed
My singular good lord,
My humble duty remembered, and my humble thanks prepleased your lordship, at my being with you, to vouchsafe sented for your lordship's favour and countenance, which it me, above my degree and desert: my letter hath no further errand but to commend unto your lordship the remembrance of my suit, which then I moved unto you; whereof it also pleased your lordship to give me good hearing, so far forth as in behalf of it, that which I may better deliver by letter than to promise to tender it unto her majesty, and withal to add, by speech; which is, that although it must be confessed that the request is rare and unaccustomed, yet if it be observed how few there be which fall in with the study of the common laws, either being well left or friended, or at their own free election, or forsaking likely success in other studies of more delight and no less preferment, or setting hand thereunto early, without waste of years; upon such survey made, it may be my case may not seem ordinary, no more than my suit, and so more beseeming unto it. As I forced myself to say this in excuse of my motion, lest it should appear unto your lordship altogether indiscreet and unadvised, so my hope to obtain it resteth only upon your lordship's good affection toward me, and grace with her majesty, who, methinks, needeth never to call for the experience of the thing, where she hath so great and so good of the person which recommendeth it. According to which trust of mine, if it may please your lordship both herein and elsewhere to be my patron, and to make account of me, as one in whose well-doing your lordship hath interest, albeit, indeed, your lordship hath had place to benefit many, and wisdom to make due choice of lighting places for your goodness, yet do I not fear any of your lordship's former experiences for staying my thankfulness borne in art, howsoever God's good pleasure shall enable me or disable me, outwardly, to make proof thereof; for I cannot account your lordship's service distinct from that which I to God and my prince; the performance whereof to best proof and purpose is the meeting point and rendezvous of all my thoughts. Thus I take my leave of your lordship, in humble manner, committing you, as daily in my prayers, so, likewise, at this present, to the merciful protection of the Almighty. Your most dutiful and bounden nephew, From Grey's Inn, B. FRA.
this 16th of September, 1580.
To Lady Burghley, to speak for him to her lord.
I was as ready to shew myself mindful of my duty, by writing, had I not feared lest your ladyship's short stay, and waiting on your ladyship, at your being in town, as now by errand. I am not yet greatly perfect in ceremonies of court, quick return might well spare me, that came of no earnest whereof, I know, your ladyship knoweth both the right use, always like itself, howsoever it vary from the common disand true value. My thankful and serviceable mind shall be cern from what mind every action proceedeth, and to esteem of it accordingly. This is all the message which my letter hath at this time to deliver, unless it please your ladyship further to give me leave to make this request unto you, that it would please your good ladyship, in your letters, wherewith you visit my good lord, to vouchsafe the mention and recommendation of my suit; wherein your ladyship shall bind me more unto you than I can took ever to be able sufficiently to acknowledge. Thus, in humble manner, Itake my leave of your ladyship, committing you, as daily in my prayers, so, likewise, at this present, to the merciful provi
So too the nature of imagination continued to interest him. In the Sylva, art. 986, he says, the relations touch-guising. Your ladyship is wise, and of good nature to dising the force of imagination and the secret instincts of nature are so uncertain, as they require a great deal of examination ere we conclude upon them. I would have it first thoroughly inquired, whether there be any secret passages of sympathy between persons of near blood; as parents, children, brothers, sisters, nurse-children, husbands, wives, There be many reports in history, that upon the death of persons of such nearness, men have had an inward feeling of it. I myself remember, that being in Paris, and my father dying in London, two or three days before my father's death I had a dream, which I told to divers English gentlemen, that my father's house in the country was plas-dence of the Almighty. tered all over with black mortar.
Rawley Biog. Brit.
This is an expression of his own, I forget where.
Your ladyship's most dutiful and bounden nephew,
LIFE OF BACON.
His agreeable occupations, and extensive views to encourage him to rely upon others rather than upon himself, and to venture on the quicksands of of science, during his residence in Gray's Inn, did politics, instead of the certain profession of the law, not check his professional exertions. In the year in which the queen had, when he was a child, pre-1586, he applied to the lord treasurer to be called dicted that he would one day be her "lord keeper." within the bar; and in his thirtieth year was To law, therefore, he was reluctantly obliged sworn queen's counsel learned extraordinary,5 an to devote himself, and as it seems, in the year 1580, honour which, until that time, had never been conhe was admitted a student of Gray's Inn, of which ferred upon any member of the profession. society his father had for many years been an illustrious member.1
Having engaged in this profession, he, as was to be expected, encountered and subdued the difficulties and obscurities of the science in which he
DISAPPOINTMENT AS SOLICITOR.
1590 to 1596.
was doomed to labour, and in which he after- FROM HIS ENTRANCE INTO PUBLIC LIFE TILL HIS
He thus entered on public life, submitting, as a lawyer and a statesman, to worldly occupations (being then but twenty-eight years of age) the honourable society of Gray's Inn chose him for their lent reader. Orig. p. 295.
In the time of Lord Bacon there was a distinction between
To the right honourable the lord treasurer.*
I take it as an undoubted sign of your lordship's favour
Extensive as were his legal researches, and great as was his legal knowledge, law was, however, but an accessory, not a principal study. It was not to be expected that his mind should confine its researches within the narrow and perplexed study of precedents and authorities. He contracted his sight, when necessary, to the study of the law, but he dilated it to the whole circle of science, and continued his meditations upon his immortal work, which he had projected when in the university. This course of legal and philosophical research was accompanied with such sweetness and affa-I bility of deportment, that he gained the affections of the whole society, and the kindness he experienced was not lost upon him. He assisted in their festivities; he beautified their spacious garden, and raised an elegant structure, known for many years after his death, as "The Lord Bacon's Lodg-find in my simple observation, that they which live as it were ings," in which at intervals he resided till his death. When he was only twenty-six years of age, he was promoted to the bench; in his twenty-eighth year he was elected lent reader; and the 42d of Elizabeth he was appointed double reader.
1 The admission book at Gray's Inn begins in the year 1580;
Being returned from travel he applied himself to the study
a Dugdale, in his account of Bacon, says, in 30th Elizabeth,
rather of good advice than of evil opinion thereby. And if
Lands. MS. li. art. 5. Orig.
and the pursuit of worldly honours, that, sooner | modestly ascribing his success to the remembrance
or later, he might escape into the calm regions of philosophy.
At this period the court was divided into two parties at the head of the one were the two Ceils; of the other, the Earl of Leicester, and afterwards his son-in-law, the Earl of Essex.
To the Cecils Bacon was allied. He was the nephew of Lord Burleigh, and first cousin to Sir Robert Cecil, the principal secretary of state; but, connected as he was to the Cecils by blood, his affections were with Essex. Generous, ardent, and highly cultivated, with all the romantic enthusiasm of chivalry, and all the graces and accomplishments of a court, Essex was formed to gain partisans, and attach friends. Attracted by his mind and character, Bacon could have but little sympathy with Burleigh, who thought £100 an extravagant gratuity to the author of the Fairy Queen, which he was pleased to term "an old song," and, probably, deemed the listeners to such songs little better than idle dreamers. There was much grave learning and much pedantry at court, but literature of the lighter sort was regarded with coldness, and philosophy with suspicion: instead, therefore, of uniting himself to the party in power, he not only formed an early friendship himself with Essex, but attached to his service his brother Anthony, who had returned from abroad, with a great reputation for ability and a knowledge of foreign affairs.
of his father's virtues, he immediately acknowledged his obligation to the queen. This reversion, however, was not of any immediate value; for, not falling into possession till after the lapse of twenty years, he said that "it was like another man's ground buttailing upon his house, which might mend his prospect, but it did not fill his barns."
In the parliament which met on February 19, 1592, and which was chiefly called for consultation and preparation against the ambitious designs of the King of Spain, Bacon sat as one of the knights for Middlesex. On the 25th of February, 1592, he, in his first speech, earnestly recommended the improvement of the law, an improvement which through life he availed himself of every opportunity to encourage, not only by his speeches, but by his works; in which he admonishes lawyers, that although they have a tendency to resist the progress of legal improvement, and are not the best improvers of law, it is their duty to visit and strengthen the roots and foundation of their science, productive of such blessings to themselves and to the community; and he submitted to the king that the most sacred trust to sovereign power consisted in the establishing good laws for the regulation of the kingdom, and as an example to the world.
To assist in the improvement which he recommended, he, in after life, prepared a plan for a digest and amendment of the whole law, and particularly of the penal law of England, and a tract upon Universal Justice; the one like a fruitful shower, profitable and good for the latitude of ground on which it falls, the other like the benefits of heaven, permanent and universal.
This intimacy could not fail to excite the jealousy of Lord Burleigh; and, in after life, Bacon was himself sensible that he had acted unwisely, and that his noble kinsmen had some right to complain of the readiness with which he and his brother had embraced the views of their powerful rival. But, attached as he was to Essex, Bacon In another debate on the 7th of March, Bacon was not so imprudent as to neglect an application forcibly represented, as reasons for deferring for to them whenever opportunity offered to forward six years the payment of the subsidies to which his interests. In a letter written in the year 1591 the house had consented, the distresses of the to Lord Burleigh, in which he says that "thirty-people, the danger of raising public discontent, one years is a great deal of sand in the hour-glass," and the evil of making so bad a precedent against he made another effort to extricate himself from themselves and posterity. With this speech the the slavery of the law, by endeavouring to procure queen was much displeased, and caused her dissome appointment at court; that, "not being a pleasure to be communicated to Bacon both by man born under Sol that loveth honour, nor under the lord treasurer and by the lord keeper. He Jupiter that loveth business, but wholly carried heard them with the calmness of a philosopher, away by the contemplative planet," he might by saying, that "he spoke in discharge of his conthat mean become a true pioneer in the deep mines science and duty to God, to the queen, and to his of truth. To these applications, the Cecils were country; that he well knew the common beaten not entirely inattentive; for, although not influ- road to favour, and the impossibility that he enced by any sympathy for genius, " for a specu- who selected a course of life estimate only by lative man indulging himself in philosophical the few,' should be approved by the many." He reveries, and calculated more to perplex than to said this, not in anger, but in the consciousness promote public business," as he was represented of the dignity of his pursuits, and with the full by his cousin, Sir Robert Cecil,1 they procured knowledge of the doctrine and consequences both for him the reversion of the Registership of the of concealment and revelation of opinion: of the Star Chamber, worth about £1600 a year, for which, time to speak and the time to be silent.
If, after this admonition, he was more cautious in the expression of his sentiments, he did not
relax in his parliamentary exertions, or sacrifice | or value for his attainments, in the hope of prethe interests of the public at the foot of the throne. venting his opposition, rather than from any He spoke often, and always with such force and expectation of his support; and he calculated eloquence as to insure the attention of the house; rightly upon the lord keeper's disposition towards and, though he spoke generally on the side of the him, for, either hurt by Bacon's manner, of which court, he was regarded as the advocate of the peo- he appeared to have complained, or from the ple: a powerful advocate, according to his friend, usual antipathy of common minds to intellectual Ben Jonson, who thus speaks of his parliament- superiority, the lord keeper represented to the ary eloquence: "There happened in my time one queen that two lawyers, of the names of Brograve noble speaker, who was full of gravity in his and Brathwayte,were more meritorious candidates. speaking: his language, where he could spare or Of the conduct of the lord keeper he felt and spoke pass by a jest, was nobly censorious. No man indignantly. "If," he says, "it please your lordever spake more neatly, more pressly, more weight- ship but to call to mind from whom I am descendily, or suffered less emptiness, less idleness in ed, and by whom, next to God, her majesty, and what he uttered: no member of his speech but your own virtue, your lordship is ascended, I consisted of its own graces. His hearers could know you will have a compunction of mind to do not cough or look aside from him without loss: me any wrong." he commanded when he spoke, and had his judges angry and pleased at his devotion. No man had their affections more in his power: the fear of every man that heard him was lest he should make an end."
To Lord Burleigh he applied as to his relation and patron, and, as a motive to insure his protection, he intimated his intention to devote himself to legal pursuits, an intimation likely to be of more efficacy to this statesman than the assurance that the completion of the Novum Organum depended upon his success: and he formed a correct estimate of the lord treasurer, who strongly interceded with the queen, and kindly communicated to Bacon the motives by which she was influenced against him.
It would have been fortunate for society if this check had impressed upon his mind the vanity of attempting to unite the scarcely reconcileable characters of the philosopher and the courtier. His high birth and elegant taste unfitted Bacon for the common walks of life, and by surrounding him with artificial wants, compelled him to exertions To Sir Robert Cecil he also applied, as to a uncongenial to his nature: but the love of truth, kinsman; and, during the course of his solicitaof his country, and an undying spirit of improve- tion, having suspected that he had been bribed by ment, ever in the train of knowledge, ill suited his opponent, openly accused him; but, having him for the trammels in which he was expected discovered his error, he immediately acknowto move. Through the whole of his life he en-ledged that his suspicions were unfounded. He deavoured to burst his bonds, and escape from law still, however, maintained that there had been and politics, from mental slavery to intellectual treachery somewhere, and that a word the queen liberty. Perhaps the charge of inconsistency, so had used against him had been put into her mouth often preferred against him, may be attributed to by Sir Robert's messenger. the varying impulse of such opposite motives.1
In the spring of 1594, by the promotion of Sir Elward Coke to the office of Attorney General, the solicitorship became vacant. This had been foreseen by Bacon, and, from his near alliance to the lord treasurer; from the friendship of Lord Essex; from the honourable testimony of the bar and of the bench; from the protection he had a right to hope for from the queen, for his father's sake; from the consciousness of his own merits and of the weakness of his competitors, Bacon could scarcely doubt of his success. He did not, however, rest in an idle security; for though, to use his own expression, he was "voiced with great expectation, and the wishes of all men," yet he strenuously applied to the lord keeper, to Lord Burleigh, to Sir Robert Cecil, and to his noble friend Lord Essex, to further his suit.
To the Lord Keeper Puckering he applied as to a lawyer, having no sympathy with his pursuits
During this year he published a tract, containing observations upon libel. See p. 000. 2 10 April, Dug. Orig. VOL. I.-(4)
Essex, with all the zeal of his noble and ardent nature, endeavoured to influence the queen on behalf of his friend, by every power which he possessed over her affections and her understanding; availing himself of the most happy moments to address her, refuting all the reasons which she could adduce against his promotion, and representing the rejection of his suit as an injustice to the public, and a great unkindness to himself. Not content with these earnest solicitations, Essex applied to every person by whom the queen was likely to be influenced.
That Bacon had a powerful enemy was evinced not only by the whole of Elizabeth's conduct during this protracted suit, but by the anger with which she met the earnest pleadings of Essex; by her perpetual refusals to come to any decision, and above all, by her remarkable expressions, that "Bacon had a great wit, and much learning, but that in law he could show to the uttermost of his knowledge, and was not deep." Essex was convinced that his enemy was the lord keeper, to whom he wrote, desiring" that the lord keeper
would no longer consider him a suitor for Bacon, which when he is nearest flieth away and lighteth but for himself; that upon him would light the a little before, and then the child after it again. disgrace as well of the protraction as of the refusal I am weary of it, as also of wearying my good of the suit; and complained with much bitterness friends." of those who ought to be Bacon's friends.1
To the queen, Bacon applied by a letter worthy of them both. He addressed her respectfully, but with a full consciousness that he deserved the appointment, and that he had not deserved the reprimand he had received from her majesty, for the honest exercise of his duty in parliament. Apologizing for his boldness and plainness, he told the queen, "that his mind turned upon other wheels than those of profit; that he sought no great matter, but a place in his profession, often given to younger men; that he had never sought her but by her own desire, and that he would not wrong himself by doing it at that time, when it might be thought he did it for profit; and that if her majesty found other and abler men, he should be glad there was such choice of them." This letter, according to the custom of the times, he accompanied by a present of a jewel. When the queen, with the usual property of royalty, not to forget, mentioned his speech in parliament which yet rankled in her mind, and with an antipathy, unworthy of her love of letters, said, "he was rather a man of study, than of practice and experience;" he reminded her of his father, who was made solicitor of the Augmentation Office when he was only twenty-seven years old, and had never practised, and that Mr. Brograve, who had been recommended by the lord keeper, was without practice.
This contest lasted from April, 1594, till November, 1595; and what at first was merely doubt and hesitation in the queen's mind, became a struggle against the ascendency which she was conscious Essex had obtained over her, as she more than once urged that "if either party were to give way, it ought to be Essex; that his affection for Bacon should yield to her mislike." Of this latent cause Essex became sensible, and said to Bacon, "I never found the queen passionate against you till I was passionate for you."
On the 5th of November, 1596,2 Mr. Sergeant Fleming was appointed solicitor-general, to the surprise of the public, and the deep-felt mortification of Bacon, and of his patron and friend, Lord Essex. The mortification of Essex partook strongly of the extremes of his character; of the generous regard of wounded affection, and the bitter vexation of wounded pride; he complained that a man every way worthy had "fared ill, because he had made him a mean and dependence;" but he did not rest here: he generously undertook the care of Bacon's future fortunes, and, by the gift of an estate, worth about £1800, at the beautiful village of Twickenham, endeavoured to remunerate him for his great loss of time and grievous disappointment.
How bitterly Bacon felt the disgrace of the queen's rejection, is apparent by his own letter, where he says, that "rejected with such circumstances, he could no longer look upon his friends, and that he should travel, and hoped that her majesty would not be offended that, no longer able to endure the sun, he had fled into the shade."
His greatest annoyance during this contest had arisen from the interruption of thoughts generally devoted to higher things. After a short retirement, "where he once again enjoyed the blessings of contemplation in that sweet solitariness which collecteth the mind, as shutting the eyes does the sight," during which he seems to have invented an instrument resembling a barometer, he resumed his usual habits of study, consoled by the consciousness of worth, which, though it may at first imbitter defeat from a sense of injustice, never fails ultimately to mitigate disappointment, by insuring the sympathy of the wise and the good.
This cloud soon passed away; for, though Bacon had stooped to politics, his mind, when he resumed his natural position, was far above the agitation of disappointed ambition. During his retirement he wrote to the queen, expressing his submission to the providence of God, which he Such was the nature of this contest, which was says findeth it expedient for me" tolerare jugum so long protracted, that success could not compen-in juventute mea ;" and assuring her majesty that sate for the trouble of the pursuit; of this, and the difficulties of his situation, he bitterly complained. "To be," he said, "like a child following a bird,
her service should not be injured by any want of his exertions. His forbearance was not lost upon the queen, who, satisfied with her victory, soon afterwards, with an expression of kindness, emTo the right honourable the lord keeper, &c.-My very good lord, The want of assistance from them which should be Mr. ployed him in her service: and some effort was Fr. Bacon's friends, makes [me] the more industrious my-made to create a new vacancy by the advancement self, and the more earnest in soliciting mine own friends. Upon me the labour must lie of his establishment, and upon of Fleming. me the disgrace will light of his being refused. Therefore I pray your lordship, now account me not as a solicitor only of my friend's cause, but as a party interested in this; and employ all your lordship's favour to me, or strength for me, in procuring a short and speedy end. For though I know it will never be carried any other way, yet I hold both my friend and myself disgraced by this protraction. More I would write, but that I know to so honourable and kind a friend, this which I have said is enough. And so I commend your lordship to God's best protection, resting, at your lordship's commandment,-ESSEX.
During the contest, the University of Cambridge had conferred upon him the degree of master of arts, and he had in the first throes of vexation declared his intention of retiring there, a resolution, which, unfortunately for philosophy, he did not put into practice.
* See Dug. Orig. Jud.