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BACON AND SHAKESPEAEE
IN THE SONNETS.
All rights reserved.
BACON AND SHAOSPEAKE
15^ THE SONNETS,
H. L. HOSMER.
'^^ 0? THB *
THE BANCROFT COMPANY.
By H. L. Hosmer.
MY DEAR WIFE.
For "Thou Art All the Better Tart: of Me.
The writer of the '^Advertisement of the
American Publishers" of the Works of Francis
Bacon, as the highest eulogy that could be pro-
nounced upon the merits of the illustrious
author, writes: —
"In many respects Bacon resembles his im-
mortal contemporary, Shakespeare. Like Shake-
speare, he enjoyed the most splendid reputation
for genius and ability in his lifetime; like him,
he was comparatively undervalued and neglected
for ages after his death; and like him, in the
present refined and severely scrutinizing era, he
has been tried in the hottest furnace of criti-
cism, and has come forth pure gold, whose
weight, solidity, and brilliancy can never here-
after be for a moment doubted. It is said of
Shakespeare that his fertile genius exhausted
the whole world of nature. As a poet, he has
undoubtedly done this; and Lord Bacon, as a
philosopher, has done the same."
The similarity in the writings which are given
to us as the works of Bacon and Shakespeare has
received the notice of critics and scholars of
every generation since their first appearance,
nearly three centuries ago; but a lady of our
own country was the first to intimate that the •
dramas attributed to Shakespeare were writ-
ten by Lord Bacon. Much controversy among
writers has since occurred, and the investiga-
tions incident thereto have involved the ques-
tion in so much doubt, that the interest in its
solution will exhaust all conflicting resources
before it will be satisfied. As a practical ques-
tion it may prove of little benefit to the world
to know whether Bacon was or was not the
author; but if this form of judgment were ap-
plied to all the questions of the day, how many
would exceed this one in importance? There
is certainly an opportunity here for doing a long-
delayed act of justice to the memory of one of the
greatest benefactors of our race, or of silencing
the doubts and suspicions which are gather-
ing around the venerated name of another. If
the evidence should irrefutably destroy the idol
we have so long worshipped, would the satisfac-
tion be less complete in acknowledging Bacon
than Shakespeare? Shall the sentiment which
so long has hallowed the shrine of Shakespeare
be protected, and the world remain disabused,
or the memory of Bacon be rescued, and truth
I ask for a careful perusal of the interpretation
of the Sonnets. Undoubtedly the poem will be
found to contain many facts in the lives of both
Bacon and Shakespeare that have escaped my
notice. If those which I have discovered can-
not be refuted, or if the Sonnets themselves are
not capable of a more reasonable interpretation,
then enough has been told to put the supporters
of Shakespeare upon their defense.
The Sonnets were undoubtedly written for the
purpose of conveying to future ages the true his-
tory of the dramas. The Key, and the seemingly
surreptitious publication and inexplicable dedica-
tion of them, were ingeniously devised to conceal
their meaning from contemporary readers. That
they have remained so long, and been subjected
to so many variant criticisms without comprehen-
sible interpretation, is chargeable to the fact that
every writer accepted them and criticised them as
the history of the loves of Shakespeare.
For a further and fuller explanation of the
reasons governing their publication, I refer the
reader to the interpretations themselves. The
most I have aspired to accomplish is to aid in
discovering the truth.
H. L. H.
San Francisco, October, 1887.
Tliou and Thine
Thy and Thee .
Thyself . . .
You and Your .
Yourself . . .
I, My, Mine, Me
Myself . . .
My Love . .
My Friend . .
Impersonation of Truth.
** " Thought in the abstract.
** ** Thought in delineation.
** ** Beauty in the abstract.
** " Beauty in delineation.
** ** Bacon in person.
" " Bacon as author.
" *' The dramas.
'* " Shakespeare.
** ** Tragedy.
BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
IN THE SONNETS.
All critical writers who recognize Shakespeare
as the author of these Sonnets have given them a
literal interpretation. Let us suppose that they
were written by Lord Bacon with the intention of
disclosing, through the various forms of analogy,
allegory, metaphor, and symbolism, all the real
facts concerning the composition of the works at-
tributed to Shakespeare, the reason for transfer-
ring the authorship to him, and the manner in
which it was done. This is exactly the informa-
tion to be derived from this poem: —
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die.
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory;
But Thou, contracted to Thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st Thy light's flame with self -substantial fuel.
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself Thy foe, to Thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou, that art now the world's fresh ornament,
And only herald to the gaudy spring.
14 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Within Thine own bud buriest Thy content,
And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be.
To eat the world's due, by the grave and Thee.
In natural reasoning, we incline to subjects that
are fair, pleasant, and good, and against such as
are painful and bad in themselves. Of all sub-
jects, whether animate or inanimate, nothing is
fairer in contemplation than Truth. It unravels
mystery, exposes error, disarms falsehood, and en-
lightens the world. AUegorically, Truth being
the '* fairest " of all "creatures," we desire increase
from him, that *^ beauty's rose," which is " his ten-
der heir," may never die.
in a passive state. Truth is contracted within
itself; its "bright eyes" (powers of observation)
are closed to all around; its " light's flame " (its
Thought, power of production) is fed upon con-
cealment. The world famishes for want of its
abundance. It is a foe to Thought, and to its sweet
thoughts (its revealed beauty) it is " too cruel."
Truth, when in process of development, is al-
ways "the world's fresh ornament," and always
the "only herald" of a spring or youth in its new
If it buries itself, — is content to remain inac-
tive, — it is like a churl or miser, who, by denying
» himself, robs the world of its dues.
The author begins this stanza with an address
to "Thou" (Truth), "that art now the world's
IN THE SONNETS. 15
fresh oruament, and only herald to the gaudy
Truth, at the time this was written, was "fresh,"
not new to the world. The first great manifesta-
tion of the revival of letters, after centuries of
slumber, was during the reign of Elizabeth. That
was emphatically ''the gaudy spring" of philoso-
phy, poetry, and literature. The pioneer among
the writers of that age, who advocated Truth as
the foundation of happiness and progress, was
Lord Bacon. He foresaw that without Truth, the
glory of his own day would fade, and the world
again lapse into ignorance. Hence originated the
leading idea of the first seventeen sonnets. Sid-
ney, Spenser, Raleigh, and a host of play-writers
besides, had produced many beautiful essays and
poems; but they were merely beautiful, and devel-
oping no great truth, could have little or no effect
in shaping the taste or judgment of the age. Ifc
was for Bacon, philosopher as well as poet, to com-
bine Truth and Beauty in a form so attractive as
to render them indestructible.
The closing couplet of the first stanza, —
•* Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world's due, by the grave and Tkee, "
means that the world needed not only such truth
as the age itself could produce, but a reproduction ,
also, of those truths so long buried in the " grave
of the Middle Ages. The writers of antiquity
must be invoked to give their investigations and
16 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
discoveries afresh to the world, that modern writ-
ers might be inspired with their love of wisdom
and learning, and lead to new triumphs in the
development of truth.
In the semblance of a young man whom he
wishes to persuade into an early marriage, that he
may thereby perpetuate himself in his posterity,
the author urges Thou (Truth) to perform some
labor for the world of enduring value. These
impersonations of Thou as Truth, and Thy as
Thought, continued to the close of the poem, are
first alternated with " You,'' the impersonation of
''Beauty," in the thirteenth stanza. That and the
fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth are addressed
to You (Beauty), changing the attributes to suit
the office he is expected to perform in conjunction
with Thou and Thy. Indeed, so closely is the lead-
ing idea of marriage, for the purpose of perpetuity,
l)ursued through the first seventeen Sonnets, that
the distinction between Thou, Thy, and You
(Truth, Thought, and Beauty) has escaped for
centuries the careful observation of the most ac-
complished critics. The opinion generally enter-
tained is, that the object of the author was to
persuade a young nobleman to marry. However
the Sonnets, as a whole, might be divided to suit
the theories formed of them, this with most writers
is deemed the leading object.
Mr. Richard Grant White, in his introduction
to the Sonnets, gives the following concise state-
TN THE SONNETS, yj
ment of some of the many conjectures of writers
concerning their object: —
" Farmer thought, or rather guessed, that they
were written to William Hart, the poet's nephew.
Tyrwhitt suggested that the line, —
*A man in Hue, all Hewes in hia controlling, '
in the twentieth Sonnet, indicates William Hughes,
or Hews, as their subject. George Chalmers argued
that the recipient of impassioned adulation which
pervades so many of them was no other than the
virgin Queen Elizabeth herself. Dr. Drake sup-
posed that in W. H. we have the transposed ini-
tials of Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton;
and lastly, Mr. Bowden brought forward William
Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, as the beautiful youth,
the dearly loved false friend, whose reluctance to
marry, and whose readiness to love lightly the
wanton and alluring woman whom the poet loved
so deeply, were the occasion of these mysterious
and impressive poems.
" Mr. Armitage Brown divides the Sonnets into
six poems, and thus designates their subjects: —
"First poem, — Sonnets 1 to 26. To his friend,
persuading him to marry.
"Second poem, — Sonnets 27 to 55. To his
friend, forgiving him for having robbed him of
"Third poem, — Sonnets 56 to 77. To his
friend, complaining of his coldness, and warning
him of life's decay.
"Fourth poem, — Sonnets 78 to 101. To his
friend, complaining that he prefers another poet's
praises, and reproving him for faults that may
injure his character.
"Fifth poem, — Sonnets 102 to 126. To his
18 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
friend, excusing himself for having been some
time silent, and disclaiming the charge of incon-
"Sixth poem,— Sonnets 127 to 152. To his
mistress, on her infidelity."
Mr. White advances the opinion that " some of
them are addressed to a woman, others to a lad,
others to a man; in three Shakespeare speaks un-
mistakably of himself and upon subjects purely
personal, and the last two are merely fanciful and
It was the opinion of Mr. Dyer that the Sonnets
were composed "in an assumed character, on dif-
ferent subjects and at different times."
"Five of the Sonnets, Nos. 80, 83, 85, 86, and
121," Mr. White thinks were " evidently written
to be presented to some lady who had verses ad-
dressed to her by at least one other person than
the supposed writer of these, for the praises of
another poet are explicitly mentioned in them."
No. 78, in his opinion, was addressed to one "who
was the theme of many pens, for it contains these
'* * So oft have I invok'd Thee for my Muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse.
As every alien pen hath got my use,
And under thee their poesy disperse;
In others' works thou dost but mend the style.
And arts with thy sweet graces graced be.' "
Not only these lines, but the entire one hundred
and fifty-four stanzas, are, as I think, perfectly com-
prehensible when the Key is used to unfold their
meaning. Consider Thee as the impersonation
of Thought in the foregoing lines, and we learn
m THE SONNETS. 19
simply that the writer has been so successful in
the delineation of Truth, that the other writers of
the age ("every alien pen") are emulous of simi-
lar success, and are adopting Thought as a basis
for their poetry, —
"Under Thee their poesy disperse."
In the last two lines he intimates that in this at-
tempt at imitation they only "mend the style" of
their composition. It is too artificial to be true to
nature, but is nevertheless graced or made better
by the attempt, —
"And arts with Thy (Thought's) sweet graces graced be."
All the incongruities, entanglements, and intri-
cacies of the poem, by application of the Key, be-
come consistent, and in proper sequence, from
opening to close, with the wonderful history they
have so long concealed. The poem is an entire
"When forty winters shall beseige Thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in Thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gaz'd on now,
Will be a tatter 'd weed, of small worth held;
Then being ask'd where all Thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of Thy lusty days,
To say, within Thine own deep-sunken eyes.
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserv'd Thy beauty's use,
If Thou couldst answer, "This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,"
Proving his beauty by succession Thine!
This were to be new made when Thou art old,
And see Thy blood warm when Thou feel'st it cold.
20 BACOK AKD SHAKESPEARE
The meaning sought to be conveyed by the poet
in this stanza is, that if he should delay revealing
his conception of Truth until he was forty years
old, Time would then have destroyed the freshness
and exuberance of his thoughts, and impaired his
power to delineate beauty as he saw it in early life.
The "proud livery'' of that dawning period would
be faded and worn, with the "deep trenches" of
age and care, and the "sunken eye'' of a careless
life would tell of the "all-eating" effects of neglect
and misuse. "Thriftless praise" (barren reward
and a useless life) would be the result. If, instead
of this, he could show by his work some "fair child
of mine" (that he had produced some evidence of
his genius), that would "sum. his count" (aflSrm
the promises of his youth), "and make my old
excuse" (the works would be substituted for the
"old excuse" he had habitually given for his neg-
ligence), and they would prove also his power of
delineation. In these works he would be recreated
in his age, and witness the effect of his labors,
after his powers were exhausted.
** Thy youth's proud livery, so gaz'd on now,
Will be a tatter'd weed, of small worth held."
The "Promus of Lord Bacon," compiled by
Mrs. Pott, and published a few years ago, is but
one of several commonplace books found among
his papers after his decease. It is composed of
aphorisms, trite sayings, wise mixims, and parts
of passages, selected without any apparent object.
TN- THE S02rNETS. ^1
from the writings of learned men of antiquity, and
of the ages preceding that of Elizabeth. Mrs. Pott
has traced the analogy in many instances between
these disjointed thoughts and passages from the
dramas attributed to Shakespeare, in which they
appear in more gorgeous dress; and thus fur-
nished a strong inferential argument in favor of
the Baconian theory of authorship.
This ''youth's proud livery," which w^uld be a
"tatter'd weed" if not used before the age of forty,
was the Truth as set forth in these commonplace
books, elaborated and embellished by his powers
of composition. It would be mere 'Hatters" if
Look in Thy glass, and tell the face Thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair, if now Thou not renewest.
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother;
For where is she so fair, whose unear'd womb
Disdains the tillage of Thy husbandry ?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity ?
Thou art Thy mother's glass, and she in Thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So Thou through windows of Thine age shalt see.
Despite of wrinkles, this Thy golden time.
But if Thou live, remember'd not to be.
Die single, and Thine image dies with Thee.
The Rev. John Lord, in his admirable lecture
on Queen Elizabeth, winds up a graphic descrip-
tion of the condition of England at the time of
her accession, in the following glowing language: —
22 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
"In England, in Elizabeth's time, there was a
noble material for Christianity and art and litera-
ture to work upon, and to develop a civilization
such as had not existed previously on this earth, —
a civilization destined to spread throughout the
world, in new inventions, laws, language, and lit-
erature, binding hostile races together, and pro-
claiming the sovereignty of intelligence."
"Look in thy glass." "Glass" as used here,
and in other places in the poem, means past life.
Look in his past life, and " tell the face Thou view-
est " (his culture, opportunities, education, and
natural abilities) that the time of life has come to
him when he should utilize these attainments in
the production of some work reflecting their pow-
ers and beauties. Failing of this, "thou dost be-
guile the world" (the world will be deceived in
the opinion it has formed of his genius), and "un-
bless some mother" (some subject suited to his
taste will fail of investigation). There are no " un-
ear'd" (original) matters which Thy (Thought)
could not examine with profit, and he would be
selfish indeed, who, having the power, would keep
his thoughts in himself as in a "tomb," and so
rob "posterity" of them. As his mother gave her
thoughts to the revealment of Truth, so in his
thoughts she would see her life reproduced. Truth,
despite of age, would be encircled by his youthful
thoughts, and he would see that this had proved
the time for their improvement. There was work
for him to do, and it would be his own fault if he
m THE SOKJ^ETS. 23
neglected to do it. The age was full of opportuni-
ties, and great men were rapidly improving them.
A mighty revolution in the world's history was in
progress, and if he failed to participate in it, and
remained unknown, he would "die single'' (be for-
gotten), and his "image" (his memory) would die
Unthrifty loveliness, why dost Thou spend
Upon Thyself Thy beauty's legacy ?
Nature's bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,
And being frank, she lends to those are free.
Then, beauteous niggard, why dost Thou abuse
The bounteous largess given Thee to give ?
Profitless usurer, why dost Thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live ?
For having traffic with Thyself alone,
Thou of Thyself Thy sweet self dost deceive.
Then how, when nature calls Thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst Thou leave ?
Thy unus'd beauty must be tomb'd with Thee,
Which, used, lives Thy executor to be.
Nature, which gives no more to him than others,
has lent him much more, and is entitled to a
proper return for it. "Being frank, she lends to
those are free" (her kindness, frankly bestowed,
should be freely given to the world). Why does
he abuse the "bounteous largess given him to
give"? (Why should he, so greatly endowed, ne-
glect to make others participators of his gifts ?)
Why use it, and not live in it? In other words,
why let his great powers (his thought and beauty)
24 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
remain in himself, when so much good can be
done by devoting them to some great service that
will outlive him, and give him an undying name.
It is wrong not to **live" (perpetuate himself),
with "so great a sum of sums'' (such wide and
varied powers). He belies himself by keeping
them unused; and will leave nothing to show
that he has ever lived. All his "unus'd beauty"
(those talents, both acquired and natural), which,
if devoted to proper uses, would give him charac-
ter and renown, and be to him at death as an ''ex-
ecutor," will be "tomb'd with Thee" (buried with
his thoughts, and lost to the world).
Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell, ^^^
"Will play the tyrants to the very same, i.j^
And that unfair which fairly doth excel;
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter, and confounds him there;
Sap check'd with frost, and lusty leaves quite gon^ -- "
Beauty o'ersnow'd, and bareness everywhere: (^"^^
Then, were not summer's distillation left, v^
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass, ^
Beauty's effect with beauty were bereft.
Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was: ^
But flowers distill'd, though they with winter meet, /
LeesQ but their show, their substance still lives sweet. ^
If he neglects to use his powers, the hours of
study, which have made him so accomplished in
learning, intelligence, and poetry, will cause him
to be scorned and despised for his neglect, when
IN THE SONNETS, 25
" never-resting time leads summer on to hideous
winter" (when his youth is passed, and dreary-
old age comes). He will then be like a tree whose
sap is frozen, bare of leaves; all its beauty covered
with, snow, and its limbs, and all around it, naked
and cold. But if he improves his opportunities,
they will be to him like "summer's distillation''
(the life-preserving principle) to the tree and to
flowers, which no winter with its frost and snow
and bareness can rob of their perfume.
Then let not winter's ragged hand deface
In Thee Thy summer, ere Thou be distill'd:
Make sweet some vial; treasure Thou some place
With beauty's treasure ere it bo self-kill'd.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan; ,
That 's for Thyself to breed another Thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times Thyself were happier than Thou art.
If ten of Thine ten times refigur'd Thee:
Then what could death do, if Thou shouldst depart.
Leaving Thee living in posterity ?
Be not self-will'd, for Thou art much too fair
To be Death's conquest, and make worms Thine heir. '^
He should protect his age from such disasters,
as from neglect await it, by producing something
in his youth. His power to delineate Truth and
Beauty should be displayed in his thoughts, before
it is destroyed by age. There is abundant oppor-
tunity for all that he can do; "that use is not for-
bidden usury" (where the work is well done). He
26 BACON AKD SHAKESPEARE
may produce one or 'Hen," or "ten times ten,"
and the greater the number, the greater the good,
if "they refigure Thee" (if they are born of his
thoughts). In such case death cannot destroy
him. His thoughts will live in posterity (his
works). And as he is "much too fair" (possessed
of the requisite qualifications), he should antici-
pate death by bis labors, and win immortality in
Lo, in the orient when the gracious light
Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
Serving with looks his sacred majesty;
And having climb'd the steep-up heavenly hill,
Resembling strong youth in his middle age,
Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,
Attending on his golden pilgrimage;
But when from highmost pitch, with weary car,
Like feeble age, he reeleth from the day,
The eyes, fore duteous, now converted are
From his low tract, and look another way:
So Thou, Thyself outgoing in Thy noon,
Unlook'd on, diest, unless Thou get a son.
As of the sun, so grand in its rising and ascension
to its meridian, like a strong youth in middle life,
commanding the "homage" of all, and so "weary"
and "feeble" in its decline, "like feeble age,"
causing all to "look another way," so it may be
said of him, that unless he prepares some undying
testimonial of his genius before the noon, or mid-
dle of his life, no record will remain to perpetuate
his name or memory.
m THE SONNETS. 27
Music to hear, why hear'st Thou music sadly ?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
Why lov'st Thou that which Thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure Thine annoy ?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear.
They do but sweetly chide Thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that Thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering.
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing;
Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one.
Sings this to Thee: "Thou single wilt prove none."
So of music also ! It is only offensive to that
ear which confounds its parts (hears them singly);
but when aU the strings strike in order, like " sire
and child and happy mother,'' and all are heard
as "one pleasing note'' (in perfect unison), then
the notes, being many, strike upon the ear as one,
and these " sing to him " (enforce our argument).
"Thou single wilt prove none" (Truth alone,
without a development, is intangible and useless).
Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye
That Thou consum'st Thyself in single life?
All ! if Thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail Thee like a makeless wife;
The world will be Thy widow, and still weep
That Thou no form of Thee hast left behind.
When every private widow well may keep.
By children's eyes, her husband's shape in mind.
28 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Look, what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it;
But beauty's waste hath in the world an end.
And kept unus'd, the user so destroys it.
No love toward others in that bosom sits,
That on himself such murtherous shame commits.
Is it for fear of failure to exhibit Truth correctly
that he remains silent? If he fails to produce a
work worthy of himself, "the world will wail him
like a makeless wife.'' (As a wife who sorrowed
that she had never been blessed with children, so
the world will regret that one so gifted should die
without leaving any record of his abilities; and
in that sense will be his widow, and remember
him only as one who wasted his powers, leaving
nothing to tell that he had ever existed.) He was
an "unthrift" (a worthless fellow), who had
Beauty in possession, but never used it, or delin-
eated it, and it was necessarily of no account.
He could have no love or regard for his fellows, as
was evident from the "murtherous shame" (the
neglect and sacrifice) of his own powers.
For shame ! deny that Thou bear'st love to any.
Who for Thyself art so unprovident.
Grant, if Thou wilt. Thou art belov'd of many,
But that Thou none lov'st is most evident;
For Thou art so possess'd with murtherous hate.
That 'gainst Thj'self Thou stick'st not to conspire.
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate.
Which to repair should be Ihy chief desire.
IN THE SONNETS. 29
O, change Thy thought, that I may change My mind!
Shall hate be fairer lodg'd than gentle love ?
Be, as Thy presence is, gracious and kind,
Or to Thyself at least kind-hearted prove;
Make Thee another self, for love of Me,
That beauty still may live in Thine or Thee.
In this stanza he rebukes Thou (Truth), charg-
ing him with indifference to all, and entire dis-
regard of his own powers. He cares nothing for
the esteem in which others hold him, but is so
neglectful of his own thoughts, that all his
acquirements, which should be devoted to some
good purpose, will fall into decay from disuse.
"0, change Thy thought, that I may change My
mind,'' is the same as if he had besought Truth
to aid him in giving direction to his thoughts.
Such "hate" (indifference) as Truth exhibits, and
such "love" (desire) as he feels to work, ought
not to dwell in the same person. He contem-
plates his thoughts with pleasure, and asks for
their kindness in return, and "for love of Me
make Thee another self" (with Truth as the
foundation, he will produce some work worthy of
himself). " That Beauty still may live in Thine
and Thee" (which shall display the imagery and
brilliancy of his own thoughts, and give them
As fast as Thou shalt wane, so fast Thou growest
In one of Thine, from that which Thou departest;
And that fresh blood which youngly Thou bestowest.
Thou may'st call Thine, when Thou from youth convertest.
30 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Herein lives wisdom, beauty, and increase;
Without this, folly, age, and cold decay:
If all were minded so, the time should cease,
And threescore year would make the world away.
Let those whom Nature hath not made for store,
Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish:
Look, whom she best endow'd, she gave the more,
Which bounteous gift Thou shouldst in bounty cherish.
She carvM Thee for her seal, and meant thereby
Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.
In the promise here made to Thou (Truth), that
" as fast as Thou shalt wane, so fast Thou growest
in one of Thine," we are assured that as soon as
one drama is completed another will be begun, in
which Truth will be exhibited in his thought, and
that " fresh blood, which youngly thou bestowest "
(these early productions of his genius), " Thou
may'st call Thine when Thou from youth convert-
est " (will bear testimony to his great powers of
delineation when he is old). All that is good and
beautiful in his nature will assist him in his la-
bors, but if he neglects them all, his worst quali-
ties will take possession of him, and he will be
forgotten. If such a course of life were pursued
by all, the world would be destitute of truth in
"threescore year" (a single life). In the remain-
ing lines of this stanza he shows that he had a full
appreciation of his own great abilities, as con-
trasted with the common allotment. He owed it
to Nature, which had so grandly endowed him, to
make a corresponding return. She had given
him more than those whom "she best endowed."
IN THE SONNETS. 81
She had, indeed, "carved Thee (Thought) for her
seal,'' meaning thereby that Truth should multi-
ply himself, and never die.
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silver'd o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green, all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard:
Then of Thy beauty do I question make.
That Thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake,
And die as fast as they see others grow.
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence,
Save breed, to brave him when he takes Thee hence.
As the day obscured by night; as the violet when
fading to decay; as the sable hair when silvered;
as tall trees bereft of foliage; as the green summer
fields, gathered into bristly and bearded crops, — so,
since it thus appears that natural objects are for-
saken by the appendages that give them beauty
and sweetness, will it be with the beauty and
sweetness of his thoughts, and they will by time be
wasted, unless he perpetuates himself by '* breed'*
(the production of works worthy of himself).
Therein is his only defence against Time.
The next stanza is addressed to Beauty (imper-
sonated as You). Those preceding have been ad-
32 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
dressed to Truth (impersonated as Thou) and
Thy (impersonated as Thought). Thou, Thy, and
You are represented as young men. Thou as the
active, vigorous worker. The solid, reliable work
of the dramas (all that gives them permanent
value) is to be furnished by Thou, and this store
is to be wrought into form by Thy (Thought).
Beauty is to furnish ornament, imagery, creative
power, and every conceivable grace that will ren-
der Truth attractive without impairing his might
or perverting the ends he has in view.
It has been suggested by some writers who fa-
vor the Baconian theory that the dramas were
intended, when written, to form the fourth part
of the Novum Organum. They were designed to
illustrate life in character upon a philosophical
basis, and not for theatrical representation. How-
ever this may have been, and how well soever they
might have accomplished such a purpose, with
nothing but conjecture for this opinion, we can
consider them only in their isolated condition.
The great merit of the dramas consists in the
union of Truth and Beauty as everywhere exhib-
ited in them. It is the one profound thought
appearing in them which has given them their
vast superiority over the works of all other writers.
There is hardly a thought or character in the
whole range that could be removed without afifect-
ing the grand entirety of the work in which it
appears. As problems in the philosophy of mind,
m THE SONNETS. 33
aside from their attractive garb of language and
imagery, they will always rank with the philoso-
phical works of the best writers. It has been
truly said by Charles Lamb and others that they
exceed the powers of the mimic art properly to
display them; at the same time, it is also true
that it will be a sad event for the theatre, when it
abandons them, to give place to the wretched rep-
resentations of this generation.
O, that Yon were Yourself ! but, love, You are
No longer Yours, than You Yourself here live;
Against this coming end You should prepare,
And Your sweet semblance to some other give.
So should that beauty which You hold in lease
Find no determination; then You were
Yourself again after Yourself 's decease,
When Your sweet issue Your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honor might uphold,
Against the stormy gusts of winter's day
And barren rage of death's eternal cold ?
O, none but unthrifts! dear, my love, You know
You had a father; let Your son say so.
You (Beauty), as Thou (Truth), in the preced-
ing stanza, is urged to be himself, but he can only
be himself while he lives, and he can live only
in the object which he adorns. He is both evan-
escent, in that he fades with a thought, and de-
pendent, because he has no separate life. This
ethereality he is warned to overcome, by giving
34 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
his "sweet semblance" (his varied powers of crea-
tion, fancy, grace, sublimity, dignity) to another,
in whom it may be perpetuated. His gift should
''find no determination" (it should be entire, un-
limited). This will make You (Beauty) "Your-
self again after Yourself 's decease " (he will renew
his life in every work that he adorns). When
such a gift, so rich in attributes, can be hon-
orably saved from "the stormy gusts of winter's
day" (old age and its infirmities), and "barren
rage of death's eternal cold" (negligence and dis-
use), who but an "unthrift" (a worthless fellow)
will not avail himself of the means to develop it?
As You (Beauty) depended upon a father (some
object) for your life, so by a "son" (like depend-
ence) must yours continue.
Nor from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons' quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind.
Or say with princes if it shall go weU,
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from Thine eyes my knowledge I derive.
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As Truth and Beauty shall together thrive,
If from Thyself to store Thou wouldst convert;
Or else of Thee this I prognosticate, —
Thy end is Truth's and Beauty's doom and date.
m THE SONNETS, 35
The poet, though familiar with astronomy, has
not consulted the stars, nor does his knowledge of
them enable him to foretell their influence upon
the fortune of any one, or upon the varied evils
which befall the world. He does not understand
their effect well enough to determine the time
when fortune will come, nor their natural oper-
ation upon the climate and weather, nor will he
undertake to predict good even to princes from
any study he has made of the heavens; but he
has learned from Thou's "eyes'' (his external
appearance), those "constant stars" (their change-
less nature), enough of the art of divination to
assure him that " truth and beauty " (Thou and
You) shall succeed in producing a work worthy
of them, if "from thyself to store thou wouldst
convert" (if in his thoughts he can demonstrate
Thou (Truth) in his labors correctly). If not, then
he prophesies that in failing to do so, "Truth and
Beauty" (Thou and You) will find their "doorp"
(they will not be used in the same manner by any
one else, and the world will fail to derive any bene-
fit from their conjoint presentation).
When I consider everything that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge state presenteth naught but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and check'd even by the self -same sky.
36 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease.
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets You most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful time debateth with decay,
To change Your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with Time, for love of You,
As he takes from You, I engraft You new.
All things growing on this earth, after arriving
at a state of "perfection" (maturity), by some
"secret influence" (operation of nature), begin to
decline. They hold that state but a little moment
(brief period). Men grow and decrease, without
any change in their surrounding conditions, one
day full of youth and life, the next worn with dis-
ease or age. "Wasteful time debateth wuth decay"
(time wears out everything that has life). "Your
day of youth" (the beautiful thoughts of his early
life) are now full of vigor, and he (the poet), anx-
ious to prevent a fate for them like that he has
depicted of other things, is "all in war with Time,
for love of You" (is determined to accomplish his
work, and embellish it with Beauty), and as Time
"takes from You (Beauty), I engraft You new"
(that is, he will follow one work with another as
fast as possible). This, with little variation, is the
same promise he made to Thou in the twelfth
stanza, and conveys the additional meaning that
Beauty will be reproduced from time to time as
occasion may require.
m TUB SONNETS. 37
But wherefore do not You a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Tim« ?
And fortify Yourself in Your decay
With means more blessed than my barren rhyme 7
Now stand You on the top of happy hours,
And many maiden gardens, yet unset,
With virtuous wish would bear Your living flowers,
Much liker than Your painted counterfeit;
So should the lines of life that life repair,
Which this Time's pencil or my pupil pen,
Neither in inward worth, nor outward fair,
Can make You live yourself in eyes of men.
To give away Yourself keeps Yourself still,
And You must live, drawn by Your own sweet skill.
Continuing this address to You (Beauty), th«
question put in the opening lines of this stanza
implies that there is work for him of much greater
import than any yet suggested, — work that w411
"fortify Yourself in Your decay*' (empower him to
resist the tendencies to destruction), by an exhibi-
tion of might much greater than ''my barren
rhyme** (the Sonnets) affords. He is now standing
"on the top of happy hours** (when youth is to be
exchanged for manhood). "And many maiden
gardens, yet unset" (many beautiful subjects that
have never been delineated), "with virtuous wish
would bear Your living flowers" (if studied with
truthful purpose, would unfold themselves into
beautiful thoughts). Their life and bloom would
exceed "your painted counterfeit** (all that has
been promised for him by others). "So should
the lines of life that life repair** (his future lif«
38 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
should justify these promises). But neither (they),
''this Time's pencil," nor "my pupil pen" (these
rhymes of his youth), "can make You live Your-
self in eyes of men" (can give him personal celeb-
rity). " To give away Yourself keeps Yourself still "
(he must adorn truth with his beauty in order
that he may live). "And you must live drawn by
your own sweet skill" (renown and immortality
will depend upon the products of his own powers
of fancy and embellishment).
Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill'd with Your most high deserts ?
Though yet, Heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides Your life, and shows not half Your parts.
If I could write the beauty of Your eyes,
And in fresh numbers number all Your graces,
The age to come would say, "This poet lies,
Such heavenly touches ne'er touch 'd earthly faces,"
So should my papers, yellow'd with their age,
Be scom'd, like old men of less truth than tongue;
And Your true rights be term'd a poet's rage.
And stretched metre of an antique song;
But were some child of yours alive that time.
You should live twice, — in it and in my rhyme.
He suggests the improbability of any future
fame for Beauty, in the praise which may be
bestowed upon him by " my verse" (the Sonnets);
but "Heaven knows," he continues, "it is but as
a tomb, which hides Your life, and shows not half
Your parts." The meaning of this is very clear.
IN THE SONNETS. 39
The Sonnets, by the Key used in their compo-
sition, are intended to conceal, as in "a tomb"
(from the knowledge of the world), "the life*^ (the
true origin of the dramas attributed to Shake-
speare), and "show not half the parts" (show
enough to excite the curiosity of the world to know
their real meaning, and no more). What more
probable solution than this can be give a to these
lines? If correct, why should Shakespeare, who
appears as the author of both Sonnets and Dramas,
have written them ? What had he to conceal from
the world that rendered the Sonnets necessary?
The poet returns from this digression to further
consider the argument of improbability with
which he began the stanza. However laudatory
might be his praises of the beauty of his "eyes"
(his outward appearance), or if even in "fresh
numbers" (in another poem) he should "number
all his graces" (detail the powers of his genius),
the future age would accuse him of lying, and
say that no person was ever so richly endowed.
His records would be held in the same contempt
of old romancers, and denounced as the vagaries
of a crazy poet. (But if some work adorned by
You (Beauty), should be in existence then), "some
child of yours alive that time," then the world,
seeing You in that, would believe my rhyme, and
You would live in both.
The symbols of marriage as the means of perpe-
tuity, and of a child as the production of an im-
40 BACON AND SHAKESPEABE
mortal work, are dismissed from the poem m the
seventeenth stanza. Inferentially, Thou (Truth),
Thy (Thought), and You (Beauty) have con-
sented to work together.
Shall I compare Thee to a summer's day ?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date;
Some time too hot the eye of heaven shines.
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair some time declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But Thy eternal summer shall not fade.
Nor lose possession of that fair Thou owest;
Nor shall death brag Thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time Thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to Thee.
Thee (Thought) is compared to summer, but
Thou (Truth) will be found "more lovely" (pos-
sessed of greater attractions), and "more tem-
perate" (not changeable). Summer is subject to
*' rough winds," and of too brief duration. The sun
is often too hot, — often overcast. Everything
beautiful in nature is more or less afifected by
chance. Nature herself, being changeful in her
course, promotes or destroys beauty, and there is
no reliability to be placed upon her favors. But
Thy (Thought) lives in an unfading, eternal
summer, and is subject to no changes. The poet
IN THE SONNETS. 41
assures him that he shall not "lose possession of
that fair Thou owest*' (he will never separate him
from Truth and Beauty in his works). They shall
be immortal "when in eternal lines to time Thou
growest '' (when those works founded upon Truth,
and decorated with Beauty, shall be produced and
appreciated). They will live while men live and
(have the ability) "can see" to read them, and this
poem will give life sooner or later to "Thee''
(Thought), their author.
Devouring Time, blunt Thou the lion's paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws,
And burn the long-liv'd phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as Thou fleets.
And do whate'er Thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world, and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid Thee one most heinous crime:
O, carve not with Thy hours My Love's fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with Thine antique pen;
Him in Thy course untainted do allow.
For Beauty's pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do Thy worst, old Time; despite Thy wrong,
My Love shall in my verse ever live young.
The devastations wrought by Time upon ani-
mate and inanimate nature are graphically de-
picted in this stanza, for the purpose of showing
by contrast the indestructibility of the works he
has in contemplation. While Time brings an end
to the fiercest and strongest animals, and "de-
vours " the earth's "sweet brood" (human beings),
42 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
it Spares the records of genius, — and as they are
spared, so will " My Love's fair brow " (these works
of his) be spared to be "Beauty's pattern to suc-
ceeding men" (to be admired and imitated
throughout all ages). Let Time " do its worst"
(let them be overlooked or neglected). "Despite
Thy wrong" nothing can deprive "My Love"
(his dramas) of immortal youth and life.
A woman's face, with Nature's own hand painted.
Hast Thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling.
Which steals men's eyes, and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert Thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought Thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of Thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd Thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be Thy love, and Thy love's use their treasure.
This stanza describes Thou (Truth). "A wo-
man's face" (the attractiveness of Truth has all
the charm and sweetness that is depicted in the
female countenance), "by Nature's own hand
painted" (undisguised by art and external orna-
ment), "hast Thou, the master-mistress of my
passion" (Truth, partaking of all the good quali-
ties of both man and woman, forms the great sub-
ject he intends to delineate in his works). "A
TN- THE SON-NETS, 43
woman^s gentle heart" (Truth, like a lovely wo-
man, reflects nothing that is wrong or wicked, but
unlike a woman, never changes). Its "eye more
bright than theirs, less false in rolling'' (is observ-
ant of all things, and never deceived or deceiv-
ing). ''Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth"
(enriching every subject it investigates). *'A
man in hue, all hues in his controlling" (re-
sembling man in influence and achievements).
''Which steals men's eyes, and women's souls
amazeth " (commanding the observations of men
and the wonder of women). "And for a woman
wert Thou first created " (the eyes of the woman,
after partaking of the forbidden fruit, were first
opened to a knowledge of good and evil, and Truth,
as the creation of that moment, was first beheld
by her), but "Nature as she wrought Thee fell
a-doting, and by addition me of Thee defeated "
(man was added to woman in the same crime, and
thus lost his truth at the moment he discovered
it). " But since she prick'd Thee out for women's
pleasure" (the pleasure of eating the fruit by the
woman gave Truth its development), "Mine be
Thy love, and Thy love's use their treasure" (his
thoughts will be true, and that Truth shall give
So is it not with me as with that Muse,
• Stirr'd by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use,
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse;
44 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Making a couplement of proud compare,
With sun and moon, with earth and sea's rich gems.
With April's first-born flowers, and all things rare
That heaven's air in this huge rondure hems.
O, let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me. My Love is as fair
As any mother's child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fix'd in heaven's air:
Let them say more that like of hearsay well;
I will not praise, that purpose not to selL
The poet in this stanza declares that his purpose
is to write the truth. He will not imitate a con-
temporary pen, who is "stirr'd by a painted beauty
to his verse" (chosen some subject that is out of
the range of nature), and who uses all things in
heaven and earth for his ornaments, showing by
comparison how much the sun, moon, sea, and
first flowers of spring are excelled by this subject
of his verse. If the poet succeeds in drawing his
characters true to life, then " My Love is as fair as
any mother's child" (his dramas will be as at-
tractive and beautiful as the symbolic child, their
prototype in the first seventeen stanzas). The
motive which governs him in writing is to benefit
his age by delineating truth, and not to manufac-
ture some ephemeral efiPusions to please the taste
of the time. It is impossible at this distance of
time to designate with certainty any single writer
of Elizabeth's time, as the one alluded to by the
poet. Many of the characters in the "Fairie
Queen " would seem to indicate it might have
been Spenser. His Red Cross Knight personated
m THE SONNETS. 45
Holiness; his Sir Guyon, Temperance; his Brito-
martis, Chastity; — while of his earthly characters
*' Gloriana and Belphoebe were both symbolical of
Queen Elizabeth," and the character of ''Envy is
intended to glance at the unfortunate Mary Queen
of Scots." Chambers says: —
"His inexhaustible powers of circumstantial
description betrayed him into a tedious minute-
ness, which sometimes in the delineation of his
personified passion becomes repulsive, and in the
painting of natural objects led him to group to-
gether trees and plants, and assemble sounds and
instruments which were never seen or heard in
unison outside of fairy land We surrender
ourselves up for a time to the power of the en-
chanter, and witness with wonder and delight his
marvellous achievements, but we wish to return
again to the world, and to mingle with our fellow-
mortals in its busy and passionate pursuits. It
is here that Shakespeare eclipses Spenser; here
that he builds upon his beautiful groundwork of
fancy, — the high and durable structure of con-
scious dramatic truth and living reality."
My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
So long as youth and Thou are of one date;
But when in Thee time's furrows I behold,
Then look I death my days should expiate.
For all that beauty that doth cover Thee
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in Thy breast doth live, as Thine in me:
How can I, then, be elder than Thou art ?
46 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
O, therefore, love, be of Thyself so wary,
As I, not for Myself, but for Thee will;
Bearing Thy heart, which I will keep so chary
As tender nurse her babe from faring ill.
Presume not on Thy heart when Mine is slainj
Thou gav'st Me Thine, not to give back again.
In this stanza the poet claims a conscious equal-
ity with Truth, in those powers needful for his de-
lineation. " My glass shall not persuade me I am
old, so long as youth and Thou are of one date"
(nothing in his life as it passes shall discourage
him in his thoughts, while they reflect truth with
vigor). *'But when in Thee time's furrows I be-
hold, then look I death my days should expiate"
(when they fail of faithful representation, he will
abandon work). He is conscious of power to rep-
resent Truth in beautiful colors. It pervades and
animates his entire being; and he cannot "be
elder than Thou art" (cannot fail through any
want of ability). But he must protect his thoughts
from exposure for the sake of Truth. If the queen,
his uncle, Lord Burleigh, or his enemy and rival,
Sir Edward Coke, or any of the noblemen compos-
ing the court of Elizabeth, should ascertain that
he was writing plays, he would be forced to cease.
It would require such care as a ''tender nurse"
bestows upon a babe, to escape their observant
eyes. If his heart " is slain " (if his dramatic writ-
ings are discovered), his thoughts will be lost to
the world, and the grand work he lias undertaken
will come to an end.
IN THE SONNETS, 47
As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own heart;
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love's rite.
And in Mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharg'd with burden of Mine own love's might.
O, let my books be, then, the eloquence
And dumb presagers of My speaking breast;
Who plead for love and look for recompense,
More than that tongue that more hath more express'd
0, learn to read what silent love hath writ;
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.
He explains the diffidence with which he enters
upon the work of composition. It is like the fear
that disturbs an actor who attempts the perform-
ance of a part not perfectly committed, like some-
thing which seemingly exceeds his powers of
delineation. He hesitates to write what his feel-
ings dictate, and then in his own vi«w ''seems to
decay ^' (to come short of his purpose), because of
the magnitude which the subject assumes as it
progresses. *' O'ercharg^d with burden of Mine
own love's might " (in this exigency his works
must declare his success or failure). They are
"the dumb presagers of his speaking breast"
(they tell in words what he has conceived in
silence). They '' plead for love and look for
recompense '' (they will recommend themselves,
and be appreciated for what they contain). "More
than that tongue that more hath more expressed.''
48 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
This line, in the words " that more hath more ex-
pressed/' probably refers to some of the philo-
sophical works of Bacon, in which he had more
fully set forth the benefits of Truth. The refer-
ence is distinct enough to justify such a conclusion.
The last couplet conveys the idea that his readers
must be satisfied with his works, without knowing
by whom they were written, as it will require
" love's fine wit " to find him out by observation.
Two of his plays (the Contention of York and
Lancaster, and the True Tragedy of the Duke of
York, afterwards changed to the second and third
parts of Henry VI.) appeared without the name of
Shakespeare or any other name as author, and
but eleven of them were published with Shake-
speare's name during his life. All the others at-
tributed to him first appeared as of his authorship
in the folio of 1623, some seven years after his
Mine eye hath play'd the painter, and hath stell'd
Thy beauty's form in table of My heart;
My body is the frame wherein 't is held.
And perspective it is best painter's art.
For through the painter must You see his skill,
To find where Your true image pictur'd lies;
Which in My bosom's shop is hanging still,
That hath his windows glazed with Thine eyes.
Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done:
Mine eyes have drawn Thy shape, and Thine for me
Are windows to My breast, where-through the sun
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on Thee;
Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art, —
They draw but what they see, know not the heart.
IN THE SOI^NETS. 49
The first step in the preparation of a drama is
outlined in this stanza: " Mine eye hath play'd
the painter, and hath stelPd thy beauty's ,forni
in table of my heart " (he has thought his sub-
ject into form, and graven it upon his memory).
" My body is the frame wherein 't is held '' (it has
not been written, but he is inspired with it). He
sees it in perspective as a work of which this first
conception is the most difficult part, for through
the conception he can learn where it should be
adorned in the composition. The picture (in his
fancy), "bosom's shop," is to be illuminated by
Truth; thus having furnished the creation, he
subjects it to a philosophical, truthful considera-
tion, or, in the language of the stanza, " Mine
eyes have drawn Thy shape, and Thine (Truth)
for me are windows to My breast, where-through
the sun delights to peep, to gaze therein on Thee "
(on his thoughts). But this is only a commence-
ment. This consideration in itself is superficial.
It must be followed by another that will reveal
" the heart " (the inner nature).
Let those wno are in favourwitli their stars.
Of publicnionokr afrcl proud titles ooast.
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlook'd for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun's eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
50 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil'd,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil'd:
Then happy I, that love and am belov'd.
Where I may not remove, nor be remov'd.
In this stanza he contrasts the delight which
he derives from the delineation of Truth in dra-
matic composition, with that enjoyed by those
who are honored with titles and favored by their
sovereign. While they enjoy these princely fa-
vors, the fruit of much toil, and personal consid-
eration, he enjoys a pursuit that has come to him
unsought. They, like the marigold which wilts in
the excessive heat of the sun, die in the height of
their renown, at a frown from their sovereign.
The gallant soldier, who has been successful on a
thousand battle-fields, is shorn of his glory in a
moment, and his great achievements, as well as
he himself, forgotten. How much happier is he
in an occupation suited to his taste, and subject
to none of these terrible reverses I
Lord of My Love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit.
To Thee I send this written embassage.
To witness duty, not to show My wit:
Duty so great, which wit so poor as Mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it,
But that I hope some good conceit of Thine
In Thy soul's thought, all naked, will bestow it;
IN THIS SONNETS. 51
Till whatsoever star that guides My moving
Points on me graciously with fair aspect,
And puts apparel on My tatter'd loving,
To show me worthy of Thy sweet respect:
Then may I dare to l)oast how I do love Thee;
Till then, not show My head where Thou mayst prove me.
The second step in the process of composing a
drama is described in this stanza. "Lord of my
love.'' Thou (Truth) is the impersonation, or
more properly the attribute, of his own nature,
that he addresses. He is the lord of "my love,"
and "my love" is his dramas, the product of his
labors. As fast as a new drama is completed, it is
added to the impersonation which he calls " my
love." Thou is his " vassal " (servant), and being
Truth, he is from dutiful consideration conjoined
to him. In pursuance of that duty, he submits to
him "this written embassage" (the truths which
he intends to illustrate in his dramas). They are
evidently bare, disconnected, separate, and " want-
ing words " (void of individuality to show their
meaning). But Thou will conceive a plan " in
Thy souPs thought" (in his thoughts), and "all
naked will bestow it" (and not impair its purity).
Then the "star that guides My moving" (his
powers of expression) will "put apparel on My
tatter'd loving" (will dress it in words and fig-
ures), which will be approved by Thy (Thought).
Then he will be willing that the world should see
it, but " till then not show My head where Thou
(Truth) mayst prove me." (Until the composition
52 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
is completed, he will keep it concealed, lest in
these '^ tatters," gathered from the writers of past
ages, he (the writer) will be exposed as a plagiar-
ist and thief, and thereby deprive the dramas of
the influence and ejffect intended for them in their
Archbishop Tenison, who was really the liter-
ary executor of Bacon, found among his papers
one bearing the title of "Ornamenta Rationalia, a
collection of certain weighty and elegant sen-
tences." The collection of sentences, which had
evidently been at some former time enclosed in
this paper, were never found. It is fair to .pre-
sume, from the title given them (Ornaments of
Truth), that they had served the purpose designed
for them, and been destroyed. This collection
and the Promus probably constituted that 'Hat-
ter'd loving" referred to in the stanza.
Weary with toil I haste Me to My hed.
The dear repose for limbs with travel tir'd.
But then begins a journey in My head,
To work My mind, when body's work 's expir'd;'
For then My thoughts, from far where I abide.
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to Thee,
And keep My drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness, which the blind do see:
Save that My soul's imaginary sight
Presents Thy shadow to My sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beautsous, and her old face new.
Lo, thus, by day My limbs, by night My mind.
For Thee and for Myself no quiet find.
AY THE SONNETS. 53
The work of composition is still progressing.
Bacon, at the period of his life which this stanza
prefigures, was a young man, pursuing his legal
studies at Gray's Inn. He was very studious, and
"encountered and subdued the difficulties and
obscurities of the science in which he was doomed
to labor." It was after the daity "toil" which
this course of life imposed, and he had retired to
his "bed," that there would begin "a journey in
My head to work My mind " (he would contem-
plate, arrange, and fill up the parts of his drama).
His thoughts would lead him "from far where I
abide " (to the countries and cities where his
scenes were located) on a " zealous pilgrimage to
Thee " (with Thought alone for his guide). De-
spite the " darkness " of his chamber, he was kept
awake, and his imagination presented Thought to
him in such variety, that, like a diamond, it shone
through the darkness, and illuminated the night
with beauty, giving to all around a new appear-
ance. The unceasing labor of body by day, and
Thought by night, gave no rest to him, or to
How can I, then, return in happy plight,
That am debarr'd the benefit of rest ?
When day's oppression is not eas'd by night,
But day by night, and night by day, oppress'd ?
And each, though enemies to either's reign,
Do in consent shake hands to torture Me;
The one by toil, the other to complain
How far I toil, still farther off from Tliee.
54 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
I tell the day, to please him Thou are bright
And dost him grace when clouds do blot the heaven:
So flatter I the s wart-complexion 'd night,
When sparkling stars twire not Thou glid'st the even.
But day doth daily draw My sorrows longer,
And night doth nightly make grief's strength seem stronger.
The care and anxiety inseparable from these
labors are described in this stanza. He is so worn
in both body and mind, for want of repose, that
he cannot preserve his customary deportment or
amiability. The toil of the day is unrelieved by
sleep, and the thoughts which usurp his slumbers
render the day burdensome. Day and night are
equally heavy, — one by the labor it brings, the
other by the perplexities which fill his thoughts.
All efforts of his to reconcile these afflictions are
thwarted by the consciousness that the day's work
is unsuited to his nature, and hateful in his eyes;
while the work at night is constantly presenting
new difficulties, — making " grief's strength seem
When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep My outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with My bootless cries,
And look upon Myself and curse My fate,
Wishing Me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts Myself almost despising,
Haply I think on Thee, and then My state
IN THE SONNETS. 55
(Like to the lark at break of day arising)
From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven's gate:
For Thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change My state with kings.
The poignancy of grief expressed in this stanza
singularly illustrates what we may conceive to
have been the condition of so sensitive a per-
son as Lord Bacon, when by the death of his
father he was recalled from France, and forced
to make choice of a pursuit (the law) repugnant
to him as the only means of obtaining a liveli-
hood. He was "in disgrace with fortune '' (with-
out means) "and men's eyes (unappreciated)."
His state, from being that of a child petted by the
queen and nobility on account of his high birth,
was changed to that of a young man whose only
prospect for success in life depended upon the
kindness of relatives and friends in official posi-
tion at the court of Elizabeth. His tastes and
studies were philosophical, and until this misfor-
tune came, he expected to devote his life to seden-
tary pursuits and the study of nature. Nothing
now was left him but a choice between the law,
which he hated, and a position as an officer of
the realm. With the hope of obtaining the one,
he gave faithful but unwilling service to the other.
His life at Gray's Inn was reclusive, and his rela-
tives were cold and unapproachable. That he
should feel himself to be an "outcast" was not
surprising, and that all the experience described
56 BACOK AND SHAKESPEARE
in the stanza should have been his was but a
natural result of the great disappointment which
had made such changes in his plans and hopes.
His ardent prayers were to a "deaf heaven" (not
answered). No regrets could change his lot. He
saw his cousin, Bobert Cecil, son of Lord Bur-
leigh, favored by gifts and laden with honoi*s by
the queen, as he would have been had his father
lived. Though he might wish for the same privi-
leges, for the same resources, for the same friends,
and desire their aid, their facilities, their powers,
they would not come at his bidding. (He was dis-
contented with the pursuit he had been forced to
adopt), "with what I most enjoy contented least."
In this state, he undoubtedly felt "myself almost
despising (that his life was of little use to him-
self)." With no recreation to break the gloom of
these and like reflections, he was led to consider
the variety, scope, and beauty of his own thoughts,
and they had enkindled in him the idea of present-
ing Truth in character, in dramatic composition.
That resource was an abundant antidote. While
engaged in that he was happy. Like the lark in
his morning song, he could sing a heavenly song,
and he would not exchange the pleasure it afforded
him for all the splendor of the court.
A thoughtful consideration of this and several
of the succeeding stanzas of this poem, especially
of the closing couplet, —
"For Thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change My state with kings,"
ri^ THE SONi^EfS. 67
has led me to believe that they are intended to
convey a double meaning. Most of the time
while at Gray's Inn, Bacon was in straitened
circumstances, owing to his extravagant habits.
His life, as gathered from the letters which passed
between himself and his mother, published in Mr.
Dixon's book, shows that she was at times put to
great straits to raise money to relieve him and his
brother Anthony from foolish debts. She is con-
stantly warning him against contracting them.
He was also at this time fond of the theatre, and
took part as an amateur in one or more masks
and plays which he had aided in composing for
special occasions. This poem in its further devel-
opments will show that very soon after he began to
compose his dramas he conveyed them, author-
ship and all, to Shakespeare. This must have
been in pursuance of some previous understand-
ing of longer or shorter date; and in view thereof,
it is not improbable that at this very time he was
sharing with Shakespeare in his receipts from
In the twenty-first stanza, after speaking of
other poets, he says: —
" Let them say more that like of hearsay well;
I will not praise that purpose not to sell."
He must have seen then as well as afterwards
that he could not figure in the court of Elizabeth
as a playwright, lawyer, and statesman. Yet ''he
purposed not to sell," but he had previously, in all
58 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
probability, purposed to make his writings a source
of revenue, which was accomplished by a different
arrangement. This subject will be considered at
greater length in the light of stronger facts here-
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye (unus'd to flow),
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight;
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Wliich I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on Thee (dear friend)
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.
The retrospect of his life in this stanza but
sharpens his sorrows. The life he had prefigured
for himself, in earlier and more fortunate days,
had not been realized. Many privileges and en-
joyments which he had then anticipated never
came to him. One grief had followed another all
the way: first he mourned the loss of ** precious
friends " (his father and others who would have
assisted him), then *' lovers long since cancelled
woe" (probably a sweetheart who had died, or
mayhap jilted him), then "many a vanished sight"
(his early home and its associations, the kindness
m THE SONNETS. 59
of the queen and nobility). These had given
place to an obscure life of study and monotony at
Gray's Inn. These early trials and disappoint-
ments increased his despondency and saddened
his life. He sought and found ample relief from
these troubles in the world of his own creation, —
the truth, beauty, and character he was delineating
in his dramas.
Another interpretation of this stanza would seem
to point to his wants as a student. He " sighs the
lack of many things he sought " (he is in want of
books, furniture, clothing, means of enjoyment).
Much of his time, which would be given to study
were he thus supplied, is lost, to his great regret.
Those old ''friends'' (his books) have been gone
for years, and the privileges he once enjoyed have
vanished. He has been compelled to contract
debts, the " sad account " of which has greatly dis-
tressed him. But his " dear friend " (Shakespeare)
having come to his relief, he is enabled to purchase
such things as are needed, and all " sorrows end."
Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
Which I by lacking have supposed dead,
And there reigns love, and all love's loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.
How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stolen from Mine eye
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things remov'd that hidden in Thee lie!
50 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of My lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to Thee did givej
That due of many now is Thine alone:
Their images I lov'd I view in Thee,
And Thou (all they) hast all the all of Me.
Thy (Thought), in this stanza, is represented as
directing his attention to the stories and tales he
had read in his youth. They were the "hearts
which I by lacking have supposed dead " (he had
dismissed them from his thoughts as one who,
after reading, dismisses a novel). The search for
a subject to dramatize had revived the memory of
them. They furnished the framework of his great
creations in illustrating Truth, and thus became
to him " love and all love's loving parts.'* He re-
membered how they affected him when he first
read them, but now that he eould make a better
use of them, they seemed to him as "things re-
moved that hidden in Thee lie " (as things which
had remained unnoticed in his memory, until,
w^hile seeking for parts to illustrate the truth he
had in view, like hidden things they came to
light). When examined he found that by dress-
ing them in his own thoughts and fancy, they
were the materials he most needed; they furnished
truth, beauty, and parts. The "images" he saw
in them in youth came back to his thoughts now,
and he adopted them as the subjects of his dramas.
We need look no further for the motives which
led him to adapt his plays from the stories of
IN THE SONNETS. 61
If Thou survive My well-contented day,
When that churl Death My bones with dust shall cover,
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of Thy deceased lover,
Compare them witli the bettering of the time,
And though they be outstripp'd by every pen,
* Reserve them for My Love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
0, then vou chafe me but this loving thought:
"Had My friend's Muse grown with his growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage;
But since he died, and poets better prove.
Theirs for their style I '11 read. His for His Love."
The object of this stanza is to direct those who,
in after generations, should seek for the meaning
of this poem, to study it, not for any beauty in its
composition, but solely to discover who was its
author. There is very little to admire in its style,
as compared with the works of the poets of suc-
ceeding ages, therefore "reserve them for My
Love, not for their rhyme'' (My Love person-
ated his dramas). Study them to ascertain who
Shakespeare was, and who I am. Think, if you
please, that if I had lived and cultivated my
powers I would have written better, but as I did
not, and your poets excel me, give no heed to my
style, but read my poem to ascertain the meaning
of >he history it contains. One readily infers
from this that Bacon appreciated his dramatic
writings at their full worth, and derived great
delight from the thought that future ages would
62 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
discover that he was their author, and do justice
to his memory.
Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so My sun one early mom did shine,
With all-triumphant splendour on My brow;
But out, alack ! he was but one hour Mine,
The region cloud hath mask'd him from Me now.
Yet him for this My Love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain, when heaven's sun staineth.
This majestic verse fittingly describes his brief
hour of enjoyment when his first drama ("My
sun") was completed. It is very beautiful. As
the sun which renders the morning glorious by
flattering the mountain-tops, kissing the green
meadows, and gilding the pale streams with its
rays, is suddenly obscured by dark clouds, until
its setting, so his sun one "early morn did shine
with all-triumphant splendour on my brow" (he
had triumphed over all diflSculties in the composi-
tion of his work, and brought it to completion). It
was like the glory of morning sunlight to him.
Alas! ''he was but one hour Mine" (he was
obliged by his position in life to give it, with all
its beauty, to another). "The region cloud hath
m THE SONNETS, 63
mask'd him from me now" (his right to it was
like that of one who concealed his person and
features with a mask to escape recognition).
Shakespeare, "the region cloud/' stood between
him and that sun at that moment, and has masked
him from the world ever since. Yet ''My Love"
(his drama)' was no more affected by this change
over the earthly sun than the earth by the clouds
that hid the heavenly sun. The darkness was all
to him alone.
Why didst Thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without My cloak,
To let base clouds o'ertake Me in My way,
Hiding Thy bravery in Isheir rotten smoke ?
"T is not enough that through the cloud Thou break,
To dry the rain on My storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak
That heals the wound and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can Thy shame give physic to My grief;
Though Thou repent, yet I have still the loss:
The oflfender's sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence's cross.
Ah! but those tears are pearl which Thy love sheds,
And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.
He tells in this stanza how he became dis-
possessed of his dramas. As if angry with Thou
(Truth), he asks why the promise was made of so
much fame in his work, as he was to lose it all so
soon. He was in distress for means to live, ''with-
out my cloak," and possibly threatened with ar-
rest, "base clouds" overtook him on his way. In
64 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
this extremity it occurred to him that he might
dispose of his play to some theatrical manager.
Shakespeare, a young fellow in pursuit of fortune,
was at the time a shareholder in Blackfriars The-
atre. Thou's (Truth's) "bravery" (Truth's in-
corruptibility) was hid "in the rotten smoke"
of the clouds (in the unpleasant embarrassments
that were threatening the author). Bacon found
Shakespeare, and arranged with him to assume
authorship of the drama. The sacrifice was made
with less reluctance, because he could not, without
destroying all his future prospects, be known as
the writer of plays for the theatre. The play thus
disposed of was probably "The History of the
Contention between the Houses of Lancaster and
York," his first effort. It was afterwards incorpo-
rated in the play of Henry VI. We learn from
the history of the dramas that this play and the
"True Tragedy of the Duke of York" were per-
formed before the poems of " Venus and Adonis "
and " Lucrece " were published, of both of which
Shakespeare appeared as author. This play was
first published without the name of an author, but
Green, who by many critics is supposed to have
aided in its composition, alludes unmistakably to
Shakespeare as connected with it, in his " Groates-
worth of Wit." This arrangement probably marks
the period, not later than 1592, when the friend-
ship commenced between Bacon and Shakespeare.
It appears from this stanza that the arrange-
IN THE SONNETS. 05
ment was of Bacon's own seeking. Allegorically
he charges the offence to that attribute of himself,
Thou (Truth), because it was untruthful to per-
mit the play to appear as Shakespeare's. During
the transaction Thou is represented as breaking
through the clouds with a smile of encouragement,
which, while it '' heals the wound " (sanctions the
act), ''cures not the disgrace " (does not relieve
him of the shame). Then the address changes to
"Thy's shame," or the wrong done to his own
thoughts, which he sees in Shakespeare. ''Nor
can Thy shame give physic to My grief" (Shake-
speare's part in the purchase did not remove any
of the offensive features of the act). Any deli-
cacy he might feel in assuming the authorship
did not restore the play to the true w^riter of it.
It was gone from him forever. There was this
consolation: "Those tears are pearl which Thy love
sheds" (he has received substantial pay for the
play). " And they are rich and ransom all ill
deeds " (and that compensates for all that is wrong
in the transaction between them).
No more be griev'd at that which Thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorizing Thy trespass with compare,
66 BACON AND SnAKESPEARE
Myself corrupting, balving Thy amiss,
Excusing Thy sins more than Thy sins are;
For to Thy sensual fault I bring in sense, —
Thy adverse party is Thy advocate, —
And 'gainst Myself a lawful plea commence.
Such civil war is in My love and hate
That I an accessary needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from Me.
In this stanza he clears up any possible doubt
of the meaning of the previous stanza, and virtu-
ally acknowledges the arrangement to have been
of his own seeking. Thou (Truth) is told not to
grieve, as his offence is a very natural one. It is
no worse than a thorn to a rose, mud to a silver
fountain, or canker to a bud. So also of the shame
of Shakespeare. Your fault is no worse than the
faults which all men make. By authorizing it, he
(Bacon) has corrupted himself, and is more to be
despised than Shakespeare, whose fault appears
greater than it really is. The sensual or shameful
part of it he alone is responsible for, as the con-
flict in his feelings has necessarily made him the
''accessary" of Thou, "that sweet thief," in the
arrangement. In plainer phrase, he is the only
person blamable in the affair.
Let Me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one;
So shall those blots that do with Me remain.
Without Thy help, by Me be borne alone.
m THE SONNETS. 67
In our two loves there is but one respect,
Though in our lives a separable spite,
Wliich though it alter not love's sole eflfect,
Yet doth it steal sweet hours from love's delight.
I may not evermore acknowledge Thee,
Lest My bewailed guilt should do Thee shame;
Kor Thou with public kindness honour Me,
Unless Thou take that honour from Thy namej
But do not so; I love Thee in such sort
As, Thou being Mine, Mine is Thy good report.
In this and the throe following stanzas, addressed
to Thy (Thought), he tells him what his plan is foi*
concealing from the public the part he is to play
in the composition of the dramas. He and Shake-
speare must live divided (" be twain''), in other,
words, they must live as if strangers to each other.
Their objects ("loves") are of course undivided.
But by this arrangement, none of the stains which
affect him now, or none that he may hereafter in-
cur, will ever reach Shakespeare or the dramas.
Their object in common is to compose and present
the plays. It is a business, — a partnership, noth-
ing more. In their lives there is a "separable
spite" (Bacon is a lawyer of noble family, soon
to become a courtier, politician, statesman, and
public officer, liable at any time to occupy high
position, and to be ennobled by Elizabeth; Shake-
speare is a young actor at Blackfriars, and his
habits and occupation will forbid his access to the
society of which Bacon is an ornament). This
great difference in their lives and pursuits will
*• alter not love's sole effect" (not disturb the great
68 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
object of making money in their business), what-
ever its influence over their social relations. A
time may come when Bacon will find it necessary
to ignore Shakespeare, to save him from the mis-
haps of his own life. He may be obliged to cease
writing, and then Thou (Truth) will no longer
honor him in theatrical representation, unless
Thou should take the honor from Shakespeare's
own labors. He advises Shakespeare against en-
gaging in any such labors, because Thou (Truth)
is his own henchman, and the plays he has written
"Thy good report" (are the product of his own
As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by fortune's dearest spite,
Take all My comfort of Thy worth and truth j
For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wil^
Or any of these all, or all, or more,
Entitled in Thy parts do crowned sit,
I make My love engrafted to this store.
So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis'd,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give,
That I in Thy abundance am suffic'd,
And by a part of all Thy glory live.
Look, what is best, that best I wish in Thee:
Thia wish I have; then ten times happy Me !
Continuing the address to Thy, he prefigures
in this stanza the relationship which he wishes
to fill towards Shakespeare. As a father, deprived
by his infirmities from mingling in the affairs
IN THE SONNETS. 60
of society, takes great pleasure in the enterprise
and business habits of his son, so he, "made lame
by fortune's dearest spite" (cut off by the death
of his father from the privileges, enjoyments, and
titles which he was encouraged to anticipate in
his youth), will supply their place by watchful and
gratifying interest in Shakespeare's "worth and
truth" (in the public appreciation of his dramas,
as they appear in Shakespeare's name). By add-
ing to their "beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit," or
to any other qualities which their "parts" require,
he will overcome and forget his misfortunes and
deprivations. They will be a source of great
delight to him as long as they afford him ample
revenue. "That I in Thy abundance am suf-
fic'd" (and his part of the proceeds affords him a
livelihood), "and by a part of all Thy glory live "
(as he is convinced that Shakespeare means well,
is honest and true, he is more than satisfied with
the arrangement they have entered into).
How can My Muse want subject to invent,
While Thou dost breathe, thafc pour's fc into My verse
Thine own sweet argument, too excellent
For every vulgar paper to rehearse ?
O, give Thyself the thanks, if aught in Me
Worthy perusal stand agai.ist Thy sight;
For who 's so dumb that cannot write to Tliee,
When Thou Thyself dost give invention light ?
Bo Thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth
Than theseold nine which rhymers invocate;
70 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
And he that calls on Thee, let him bring forth
Eternal numbers to outlive long date.
If My slight Muse do please these curious days,
The pain be Mine, but Thine shall be the praise.
In this stanza he tells how greatly he has been
relieved in his circumstances by this partnership
with Shakespeare. He can write now, and Thou
(Truth), being ever ready to assist him and pour
his "own sweet argument into his verse" (the
history of his dramatic works into this poem),
which of itself excels that of other writers, he will
not want for subjects to write about, or inveution.
But Shakespeare may thank himself for it if the
plays are a success. It is the money, and the ease
and freedom from care which that brings, that
empowers him to write; but it is Thou (Truth), as
well as Thyself (Thought delineated), which gives
*' invention light " (enables him to present his
dramas to the world). Thou (Truth) is the ''tenth
Muse"; he will "bring forth eternal numbers"
(produce immortal lines). If this poem arouses
my curiosity in the public, let all the sorrow it
contains be his, and all the "praise'' Shakespeare's.
O, how Thy worth with manners may I sing,
When Thou art all the better part of Me?
Wliat can Mine own praise to Mine own self bring ?
And what is 't but Mine own, when I praise Thee ?
Even for this let us divided live,
Aud out dear love lose name of single one,
ry THE SONIiETS. 71
That by this separation I may give
That due to Thee, which Thou deserv'st alone.
O absence, what a torment wouldst Thou prove,
Were it not Thy sour leisure gave sweet leave
To entertain the time with thoughts of love.
Which time and thoughts so sweetly doth deceive,
And that Thou teachest how to make one twain.
By praising him here who doth hence remain!
Some idea of the personality of Shakespeare,
and of Bacon's appreciation of him, is given in
this stanza, addressed to Tliy (Tliought): —
** O, how thy worth with manners may I sing.
When Thou art all the better part of me ? " —
is as if he had said, How can I praise his man-
ners and speak the truth (Thou) which is upper-
most in my nature? Shakespeare may have been
a boor. If he praises himself, what does it amount
to, now that he has virtually disclaimed tlio
dramas, and no one can echo that praise? If he
praises Shakespeare, that is simply to praise him-
self. For these reasons it is better they should
live apart, and Bacon's name be unknown. He
can then give to Shakespeare alone all the praise
he deserves. Probably when writing this Bacon
smiled ironically, for what praise did he deserve?
This stanza was conceived in a humorous vein all
the way through. After jeering at Shakespeare's
manners, exposing the futility of attempting to
praise himself, and the effect, as he realized it, of
praising Shakespeare, and recommending their
separate life that he may praise him singly as he
72 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
deserves, he then says that he has during an hour
of absence from work improved the "sour leisure "
(the time so grudgingly taken), to fill it with
*' thoughts of love." The seeming meaning he has
given to the thoughts has deceived or belied their
real meaning, — which was simply to ridicule the
arrangement between himself and Shakespeare,
" praising him here who doth hence remain."
Take all My Loves, My Love, yea, take them all;
What hast Thou then more than Thou hadst before ?
No love, My Love, that Thou mayst true love call;
All mine was Thhio before Thou hadst this more.
Then if for My Love thou My Love receivest,
I cannot blame Thee, for Mij Love Thou usest;
But yet be blamVl, if Thou Thyself deceivest
By wilful taste of what this self refusest.
I do forgive Thy robbery, gentle thief,
Although Thou steal Thee all my ^poverty;
And yet, love knows, it is a greater grief
To bear love's wrong than hate's known injury.
Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows.
Kill me with spites; yet we must not be foea.
In this stanza Shakespeare is put in possession
of his plays, and becomes virtually the author of
them. "Take all My Loves, My Love" (Shake-
speare now being adopted as one of his loves, he
mentally as my love unites him to the plays, which
he calls "My Love," and addresses him also by that
endearing name, and under it invests him with
the i)lays). In the next two lines he declares that
m THE SONNETS. 73
Thou (Truth) has gained nothing by this transfer
that he can call " true love.'' Shakespeare, though
added to '' My Love," is not to be recognized as any
part of the truth in the plays designated by that
title. He is simply added to it. By the next line,
"All mine was Thine before Thou hadst this
more" (he had devoted all his dramas to Truth
before he added Shakespeare, "this more," to
them). By giving to Shakespeare the credence of
the plays, and thus uniting him to the volume of
"My Love," which was composed of truth. Thou
(Truth) had become possessed of him. If Thou
(Truth) will receive him as "My Love," then he
may use the plays, and it will be his own fault if
he makes use of any portion of them that his
judgment disapproves. He is the manager, and
must adapt them for proper representation. " I
do forgive Thy [Thought's] robbery, gentle thief,
although Thou [Truth] steal Thee all my poverty "
(his only poverty in a literary sense was Shake-
speare. He (Bacon) is satisfied with the arrange-
ment, though he (Bacon) loses all that he might
gain in honor and renown, by being known as their
author). The changes he will make in them \w\\\ be
like a "lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows"
(like a well-dressed wanton; it will not be to his
taste). "Kill me with spite" (but rather than
quarrel about it he will not object). " We must
not be foes " (because of any improprieties in this
74 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
The eighth line reads "this self in the quarto
of 1609. This, as referring back to "this more"
(Shakespeare) in the fourth line, is undoubtedly
correct. All modern editions have it " Thyself."
The understanding between Bacon and Shake-
speare provided for the payment to Bacon of one
half of the profits accruing from the plays, as ap-
pears in the tliirty-seventh stanza. White says
that " play-going was the favorite amusement of
all the better and brighter part of the London
public, gentle and simple." The profits which
made Shakespeare rich must have greatly in-
creased the meagre exchequer of Bacon. The
arrangement was to continue until brighter days
came to Bacon, and he could from his profession
or public oflSce reap a revenue sufiicient for his
wants. If that time ever came, the entire prop-
erty in the dramas, authorship and all, was to vest
in Shakespeare, and the arrangement would be
Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits,
When I am sometime absent froin Thy heart,
Thy beauty and Thy years full well befits,
For still temptation follows where Thou art.
Gentle Thou art, and therefore to be won,
Beauteous Thou art, therefore to be assailed;
And when a woman woos, what woman's son
Will sourly leave her till he have prevailed ?
Ah Me ! but yet Thou mightst my seat forbear.
And chide Thy beauty and Thy straying youth,
m TBE SONNETS. 75
Who lead Thee in their riot even there
Where Thou art forc'd to break a twofold truth, —
Hers, by Thy beauty tempting her to Thee,
Thine, by Thy beauty being false to Me.
Full authority is given to Shakespeare in this
stanza to make suoh minor changes in the thought
and expression of the dramas as may be deemed
necessary. "Those pretty wrougs that liberty
commits" (the little alterations you find it neces-
sary to make for the purpose of adapting them
to the stage, — your own sense of propriety and
grace), *'Thy beauty and Thy years" (must dic-
tate). "Temptation follows where Thou (Truth)
art." Be careful not to belie the truth of the
drama. Thou (Truth). can be easily "won" (pre-
served) or "assailed" (destroyed). "And when a
woman woos" (the dramas, "My Love," are
represented as a female throughout the poem,
aud the changes for purpose of representation,
if any, are made because "My Love" (the dramas)
wooed), "what woman's son will sourly leave
her till he have prevailed?" (if the change is
really necessary it may be made.) But as he be-
lieved he had adhered to the truth, he disliked
any change, "Thou mightst my seat forbear."
Your ideas of propriety and expression are crude
and unpolished, and you will, he fears, mar the
harmony of the play, and break a twofold truth:
"Thy beauty [Thy thoughts] tempting her to
Thee," and disfigure my work, "Thy beauty [My
thoughts] being false to me."
76 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
That Thou hast her, it is not all My grief,
And yet it may be said I lov'd her dearly;
That she hath Thee, is of my wailing chief,
A loss in love that touches Me more nearly.
Loving offenders, thus I will excuse ye:
Thou dost love her, because Thou know'st I love her;
And for My sake even so doth she abuse Me,
Suffering My friend for My sake to approve her.
If I lose Thee, My loss is My Love's gain,
And losing her, My friend hath found that loss;
Both find each other, and I lose both twain,
And both for My sake lay on Me this cross:
But here's the joy; My friend and I are one;
Sweet flattery ! then she loves but Me alone.
He reconciles himself to the change he has made
in this stanza. He is not greatly disturbed by the
part which Thou is represented to have taken, but
the transfer to Shakespeare ^4s of his wailing
chief" (is the great sacrifice). ''A loss in love
that touches him more nearly" (it is parting with
the most cherished fruits of his own great genius,
years of patient labor and study, and all the great-
ness, fame, and immortality they would have given
to his name). He excuses Thou (Truth), because
his love for the dramas (My Love) is inspired by
the love he bears for them himself. "And for
My sake, even so doth she abuse Me" (a similar
love in ''My Love," for the purpose of supplying
his wants, has caused her to leave him, and "suf-
fer My friend" (Shakespeare) for the same reason
to appropriate her). He has parted with his power
over the dramas to Shakespeare; ''My loss," but
IN THE SONNETS. 77
"My Love'' (his dramas), as she is now in hands
where her great lessons can receive publicity, is
a gainer by it. She has left him, ''losing her,"
(Shakespeare) ''My friend," has found her, "that
loss," and thus they "for his sake" (for the pur-
pose of furnishing him with money) abandon his
name. But the joy of it all is, that he (Bacon)
and Shakespeare are bound to each other, and
he flatters himself that " My Love " (his dramas)
is as dear to him as ever.
Many, I believe most, of the writers who have
reviewed these Sonnets critically, interpret the last
three, 40, 41, and 42, to mean that Shakespeare's
friend had robbed him of his mistress. In con-
sideration of his youth, beauty, and susceptibility,
he excused the offence, forgave him, and surren-
dered his mistress to his keeping. This conjec-
ture furnishes, probably, the most natural view of
the subject to one who receives Shakespeare as the
true author of the poem, but it seems to me that
the many transpositions and subtile changes of the
thought, especially in the fortieth stanza, could
never to the most acute mind have made such an
interpretation satisfactory. Regarding Bacon as
the author, and the story as an allegorical de-
scription of the course he pursued to conceal his
authorship of the dramas, and to establish it
firmly in Shakespeare, these stanzas are greatly
relieved of their seeming intricacy and confu-
78 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
When most I wink, then do Mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on Thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed.
Then Thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would Thy shadow's form form happy show
To the clear day with Thy much clearer light.
When to unseeing eyes Thy shade shines so !
How would, I say, Mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on Thee in the living day,
When in dead night Thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay I
All days are nights to see till I see Thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show Thee me.
The partnership with Shakespeare being satis-
factorily arranged, he returns to the work of com-
position, the process of which, though described
in other words, is substantially the same as that
at first adopted. (The drowsy hours of night),
"when most I wink," in "sleep" and "in dreams,"
were the moments which gave birth to the wonder-
ful creations of his genius, — the employments of
the day were unj^leasant to him. In those "darkly
bright " hours, his thoughts reflected the light
which directed them through all the complexities
of the subjects he had chosen, and Thou (Truth)
gave life to the shadows (characters), by means
of which they were illustrated. In this manner,
fashioned after the story chosen as a basis, his
dramas were wrought into shape. Truth and
Beauty were at his command, to impart to them
their separate elements, and he saw them as
m THE SONNETS. 79
"shadows" of the forms which in the ''much
clearer light" of day they would assume. The
work was a passion with him, and from the mo-
ment that it entered his mind (he longed for its
completion), to be ** looking on Thee in the living
day/' The day w^as tedious until the night came,
that he might think and work, and the nights
brighter than the days, that filled his thoughts
with his subject.
If the dull substance of My flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop My way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote, where Thou dost stay.
No matter then although My foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth remov'd from Thee,
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the i)lace where he would be.
But, ah ! thought kills Me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when Thou art gone.
But that, so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time's leisure with My moan,
Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of cither's woe.
In this stanza he likens his infatuation to
thought. If his body like his mind were thought,
neither "space" nor ''limits far remote '^ should
separate him from his work. If he stood " upon
the farthest earth remov'd from" it, he would
jump the distance of "sea and land" intervening
"as soon as think." But alas! his body is a solid,
he cannot overcome its resistance and leap over
30 BAC02i AND SHAKESPEARE
the ''earth and water" that lie between him and
the subject of his passions. His days are so differ-
ently occupied, he is so far away, that he must
await the leisure of evening, when other labors are
over, before he can return to the recreation so full
of enjoyment. It may be reasonably inferred
from this allusion to "earth and water," that Bacon
had some daily occupation which took him away
from his lodgings at Gray's Inn. As we shall
soon see, he was, if not then, at least soon after,
required to be in daily attendance upon the queen.
He was evidently, through some cause, unable to
devote the time that he wished to the composition
of his dramas.
The other two, slight air and purging fire.
Are both with Thee, wherever I abide;
The first My thought, the other My desire,
These present-absent with swift motion slide.
For when these quicker elements are gone
In tender embassy of love to Thee,
My life, being made of four, with two alone
Sinks down to death, oppress 'd with melancholy;
Until life's composition be recur'd
By those swift messengers retum'd from Thee,
Who even but now come back again, assur'd
Of Thy fair health, recounting it to me.
This told, I joy; but then no longer glad,
I send them back again, and straight grow sad.
An advance in the composition is described in
this stanza. Two other elements, air and fire, are
here referred to as being always with the drama
Iir THE SONNETS. 81
he is composing, wherever he abides. In other
words, whether at Gorhambury, Twickenham, York
House, or Gray's Inn, he had ** slight air" (a small
room for his own use), and "purging fire" (the
means for warming it). His thought he likened
to the one and his desire to the other. The "earth
and water," as he says in the previous stanza, are
the slow elements, the obstructions, but the air and
fire are swift; and w^hile they engage him in reflect-
ing upon how best to illustrate Truth and Beauty,
the other two, "My life being made of four," —
Thou (Truth), Thy (Thought), You (Beauty), and
I (Bacon as an individual), he is as one dead or
"oppressed with melancholy," but when the idea
is formed and the illustration seems to be per-
fect, and "life's composition is recur'd" by these
reflections, and written in the play, he becomes
elated; but immediately another process of the
same kind is begun, and he is again cast down.
The intention is to describe the difiiculty, which
not only he but every writer meets with w^hile
tasking his mind for the thoughts he wishes to
use in composition.
Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war
How to divide the conquest of their sight;
Mine eye, My heart their picture's sight would har.
My heart Mine eye the freedom of that right.
My heart doth plead that Thou in him dost lie, —
A closet never pierc'd with crystal eyes, —
82 BACON AND SHAKBSPEAHS
But the defendant doth that plea deny,
And says in him their fair appearance lies.
To 'cide this title is impanelled
A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart,
And by their verdict is determined
The clear eye's moiety and the dear heart's part;
As thus: Mine eye's due is their outward part,
And My heart's right their inward love of heart.
This stanza, in the form of a lawsuit between the
"eye and heart'' (seeing and feeling), describes
how he was affected by the first representation of
his play upon the stage. "Mine eye and heart are
at a mortal war how to divide the conquest of their
sight" (he was unable to determine which he most
admired, the scenery, acting, and mechanical ef-
fects in the representation of the play, or the
philosophy, truthfulness, and sentimentality of its
composition). "Mine eye, my heart their picture's
sight would bar" (when seeing it acted, he gave
no thought to the sentiment uttered). "My heart
Mine eye the freedom of that right " (when reflect-
ing upon it for its great power of thought and
expression, he regretted its appearance in the
theatre). " My heart doth plead that Thou [Truth]
in him doth lie" (Truth, being the basic element
of the drama, had no part in the modes of its
public portrayal). "But the defendant doth that
plea deny, and says in him their fair appearance
lies" (the beauty of the drama, as representative of
character, can only be appreciated by seeing it in
theatrical display). To determine this mortal
m THE SOJ^NETS. g3
difference between seeing and feeling, a jury of
thoughts is impanelled. They were " all tenants of
the heart," as jurors were tenants of the vicinage
or county. They were the thoughts which formed
a correct judgment of the respective sensations
the play as a composition and as a scenic repre-
sentation was likely to excite. Their verdict was
that the " eye's due is their outward part" (the ex-
hibition on the stage), the "heart's right their in-
ward love of heart" (the sentiment, truth, and
philosphy of the composition).
None but a lawyer familiar with legal forms and
the practice of courts would probably have de-
scribed so accurately the process of a trial at law.
Here is first the cause of difference, described as
a "mortal quarrel." The claims of each party are
then set forth in argument, the jury properly
impanelled, and the verdict properly rendered.
This and many passages in the dramas have forced
upon biographers and critics a conjecture that
Shakespeare at some period of his early life, before
going to London, was an attorney's clerk, and
while in that employ, was enabled by his remark-
able powers to familiarize himself with the most
abstruse learning and practice of the English
common law. Admitting the possibility that he
might have held such a position, any student
knows how utterly impossible it would have been
for him, without thorough training and practice,
to become familiar with the modus operandi of
84 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
courts, and with tenures, reversions, remainders,
and titles, which so frequently appear in his
dramas, all of which Lord Chancellor Campbell, in
his little work of "Shakespeare as a Lawyer," says
are correctly used. The truth probably is, that he
was never in a law ofiQce in his life, except to order
a collection suit against some friend who had bor-
rowed a few pounds from him, which he could not
pay when due. There is jDlenty of evidence of
that kind, but it was after the plays had been
Betwixt Mine eye and heart a league is took,
And each doth good turns now unto the other:
When that Mine eye is famish 'd for a look,
Or heart in love with sighs himself doth smother,
With My Lovefe picture then My eye doth feast,
And to the painted banquet bids My heart;
Another time Mine eye is My heart's guest,
And in his thoughts of love doth share a part.
So, either by Thy picture or My Love,
Thyself away art present still with Me;
For Tliou not farther than My thoughts canst move,
And I am still with them and they with Thee;
Or, if they sleep, Thy picture in My sight
Awakes My heart to heart's and eye's delight.
The decision of the jury of thoughts in the pre-
vious stanza, we are told in this, has effected an
arrangement between seeing and feeling, "the eye
and the heart," by which they accommodate each
other. ' When he desires to witness the perform-
ance of his play, and recalls the beauty of its sen-
m THE SONNETS. g5
timents, he goes to the theatre, and his "eye doth
feast" (and pleased with the performance), "to the
painted banquet bids My heart" (his sensibilities
are aroused). "Another time Mine eye is My
heart's guest" (he is then engaged in composition,
in which his reflections are aided by his strong
powers of observation). " So either by Thy pic-
ture" (by the performance) or "My Love" (my
drama), "Thyself" (Thought in delineation)
"away art present still with me" (whether at
the theatre, or writing at home. Thought, though
absent from his sight, is present in his mind).
" For Thou not farther than My thoughts can
stray," Thou (Truth) never absent from his
"thoughts" (his labors), it follows that they
are together when he is engaged in writing,
and also when the play is being performed. " Or
if they sleep" (if he is not at work, and at the
theatre), " Thy picture " (the performance) de-
lights his eyes and heart.
How careful was I, when I took My way,
Each trifle under truest bars to thrust,
That to My use it might unused stay
From hands of falsehood, in sure wards of trust 1
But Ihou, to whom My jewels trifles are,
Most worthy comfort, now My greatest grief,
Thou, best of dearest and Mine only care,
Art left the prey of every vulgar thief.
Thee have I not lock'd up in any chest
Save where Ihou art no I, though I feel Thou art,
86 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Within the gentle closure of My breast,
From whence at pleasure Thou mayst come and part;
And even thence, Thou wilt be stolen, I fear,
For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear.
Before leaving his lodgings he was careful to
secure all trace of his work under lock and ke}^
"truest bars of trust," where no hand could mar
or eye see it while he was absent. Meanwhile
Thou (Truth) in whom he took "most worthy
comfort'' (most delight), and who was also "My
greatest grief" (his greatest anxiety), "Thou, best
of dearest" (best of all his friends), and his "only
care," was "left the prey of every vulgar thief"
(was free, and exposed to criminal abuse). Thee
(Thought) was not "locked up," but the poet car-
ried with him a realizing sense of his presence,
feeling that he was with Thou (Truth) "within
the gentle closure of his breast," whence he feared,
as "truth proves thievish for a prize so dear," he
might be influenced by his love for his works to
betray their origin himself.
Against that time, if ever that time come.
When I shall see Thee frown on My defects,
Whenas Thy love hath cast his utmost sum,
Call'd to that audit by advis'd respects;
Against that time when Thou shalt strangely pass,
And scarcely greet Me with that sun, Thine eye,
When Love, converted from the thing it was,
Shall reasons find of settled gravity, —
m THE SONNETS. 87
Against that time do I ensconce Me here
Within the knowledge of Mine own desert,
And this My hand against Myself uprear,
To guard the lawful reasons on Thy part:
To leave poor Me Thou hast the strength of laws,
Since why to love, I can allege no cause.
In this stanza he tells in substance the binding
force of his obligation to secrecy, as given to
Shakespeare. " When I shall see Thee frown on
my defects" (if you become dissatisfied with the
dramas), "whenas Thy love hath cast his ut-
most sum'* (and decline to share longer with him
in the proceeds), "call'd to that audit by advis'd
respects" (after a fair trial of their business
merits); "when Thou (Truth) shall strangely pass
and scarcely greet Me" (when we will, moved
by these considerations, abandon the work of
composition), "when Love, converted from the
thing it was, shall reasons find of settled gravity"
(when all intercourse between them is terminated).
** Against that time do I ensconce Me here
Within the knowledge of Mine own desert.
And this My hand against Myself uprear,
To guard the lawful reasons on Thy part."
(He will, proudly conscious of the works and
of the injustice awarded them, still protect Shake-
speare in all lawful ways from exposure.) Thou
(Truth) will have the "strength of laws" to pro-
tect him, as there will then be "no cause" for him
88 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
The understanding between Bacon and Shake-
speare was doubtless experimental at first. Both
probably feared for the success of the drama in
theatrical representation. In case of failure, as
Shakespeare was to be the avowed author; it was
the duty of Bacon to resist any suspicion of the
real authorship. It seems from this stanza that
Bacon gave a broader meaning to their agreement,
and determined in any event, during his own life,
to deny all knowledge of the dramas.
How heavy do I journey on the way,
When what I seek, My weary travel's end.
Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
** Thus far the miles are measur'd from Thy Friend 1 "
The beast that bears Me, tired with My woe,
Plods dully on, to bear that weight in Me,
As if by some instinct the wretch did know
His rider lov'd not speed, being made from Thee:
The bloody spur cannot provoke him on
That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide;
Which heavily he answers with a groan,
More sharp to Me than spurring to his side;
For that same groan doth put this in My mind, —
My grief lies onward and My joy behind.
In this stanza, as well as in one or more preced-
ing it, an apparent desire is manifested by both
Bacon and Shakespeare, that the drama he is
engaged in writing snould be completed with all
possible despatch. It is probably for this reason
that in a former stanza he regrets that he cannot
m THE SONNETS. 89
employ the day as well as the night upon it. The
daily demand upon his time is peremptory, and
the distance from his lodgings so far as to require
a horse for conveyance. This daily journey is
''heavy*' (tedious and irritating) to him, when he
thinks of ''what I seek. My weary travel's end"
(the work still to be done, before the drama is
completed). His daily occupation is one of "ease
and repose," from which it may be inferred that he
was in daily attendance upon the queen, with little
to do, and on the lookout for office. He is con-
stantly worried about the play while absent, and
measures the time by the miles of travel he could
perform while it continues. "Thus far the miles
are measured from Thy Friend" (he is deprived of
s^ much time that he might give to Shakespeare,
or in other words, to the drama). His horse, as it
seems to him, travels slowly, as if he knew by in-
stinct of his master's wish to remain. He answers
the spur with a groan, which reminds the rider
that he has a day of dulness and inaction. "My
grief lies onward " (which could be so pleasantly
and profitably occupied if he could remain at
home), " and my joy behind."
Thus can My Love excuse the slow offence
Of My dull bearer when from Thee I speed:
From where Thou art why should I haste me thence ?
Till I return, of posting is no need.
90 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
O, what excuse will My poor beast then find,
When swift extremity can seem but slow ?
Then should I spur, though mounted on the wind;
In winged speed no motion shall I know:
Then can no horse with My desire keep pace;
Therefore desire, of perfect'st love being made,
Shall neigh — no dull flesh — in his fiery race;
But Love, for Love, thus shall excuse My jade:
Since from Thee going he went wilful-slow,
Towards Thee 1 11 run, and give him leave to go.
The return from his day's absence is described
in this stanza. He apologizes to "My Love'' (the
drama) for the laziness of his horse when going
away from her and Thou. " For where Thou art
why should I haste me thence?" as if he had said
it would be strange indeed if he left *'Thou" and
''My Love," his two dearest friends, except he was
compelled. "Till I return, of posting is no neefl"
(until the day's occupation was over, he need be
in no hurry). But when that hour arrives, he
will have no excuse to offer for a tardy return.
"When swift extremity can seem but slow" (when
the extremest speed will not equal that of his
eagerness to complete the journey). If he was
mounted on the wind he would spur it into
"winged speed," and experience "no motion" in
the transit if he obeyed his desire. No horse
could pace with his desire. But as his desire is
made of perfect love, and not "dull flesh," it shall
answer to " My Love," as a horse would reply with
a "neigh" to his mate. This will be sufficient
explanation for his dulness when away, and the
speed of hi^ return.
I2r THE SONNETS, 91
So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey,
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
Since, seldom coming, in the long year set.
Like stones of worth they thinly placed are.
Or captain jewels in the carcanet.
So is the time that keeps You as My chest.
Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide,
To make some special instant special blest.
By new unfolding his imprison'd pride.
Blessed are You, whose worthiness gives scope.
Being had, to triumph, being lack'd, to hope.
He explains in this stanza the peculiar pleasure
he feels on his return to his work. As a rich
man derives more happiness from an occasional
survey of the wealth, which he keeps secured by
lock and key, so he is more sensible to the pleas-
ure derived from working on his drama at inter-
vals, than he would be if constantly employed.
Feasts are more highly appreciated than they
would be if of more frequent occurrence. As the
attractiveness of precious jewels is increased when
they are separate in setting, so the time which
conceals You (Beauty) adds to your fascinations
as often as you are exposed to view. As the ward-
robe which contains the robe unfolded on great
occasions, so You (Beauty) unfold new delights
to every moment he devotes to your service. All
succeed who have you, and all hope who have you
92 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
What is Your substance, whereof are You made.
That millions of strange shadows on You tend ?
Since every one hath, every one, one shade.
And You, but one, can every shadow lend.
Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit
Is poorly imitated after You;
On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set,
And You in Grecian tires are painted new:
Speak of the spring and foison of the year,
The one doth shadow of Your beauty show,
The other as Your bounty doth appear;
And You in every blessed shape we know.
In all external grace You have some part,
But You like none, none You, for constant heart.
The power of You (Beauty) is described in this
stanza. In view of the countless forms which
Beauty assumes, he is eager to learn the elements
of which he is tjomposed. "What is Your sub-
stance, whereof are You made?" Every person
has but one shadow, but you, who are but one,
can "lend" (create) millions. All attempts to
imitate your description of Adonis are failures.
The time of writing the poem of "Venus and
Adonis " could not be better suited to that par-
ticular period he all along has described as being
employed upon the dramas. It was among the
first of his efforts. " The True Tragedy," " History
of the Contention,^' " Two Gentlemen of Verona,"
and " Taming the Shrew " had appeared before it
was published, but Shakespeare first appeared as
the author of " Venus and Adonis." The follow-
ing is the description of Adonis referred to: —
IN THE SONNETS. 93
"Thrice fairer than myself," thus she began,
"The field's chief flower, sweet above compare,
Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man,
More white and red than doves and roses are,
Nature that made thee, with herself at strife,
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life. "
Venxis and Adonis, Stanza 2.
''On Helen's cheek, all art of beauty set." This
line has reference to the beauty of Helen as de-
picted in various passages in the play of "Troilus
and Cressida," which, though not published until
1609, was probably fresh in his memory at the
time this stanza was prepared. ''And you in
Grecian tires are painted new/' probably has al-
lusion to other characters in the same play, and
to the plays "Timon of Athens" and "A Mid-
summer Night's Dream." Spring reflects Beauty
in its verdure and freshness, and "the foison of
the year " (autumn) in its abundance. There is
nothing attractive, and no "external grace" of
which Beauty is not a part. But it is evanescent
of itself. (It is only when it lends itself to some-
thing that it is of any use. It is inconstant, fleet-
ing, impalpable.) "You like none, none You, for
O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.
Tlie canker-blooms have fulj as deep a dye,
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
94 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly,
When summer's breath their masked buds discloses.
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo'd, and unrespected fade.
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
And so of You, beauteous and lovely youth.
When that shall vade, my verse distills Your truth.
The adornment which Truth gives to Beauty is
described in this stanza. Fair as the rose is in
appearance, it is equally prized for its perfume.
The canker is as rich in hue and as graceful in
appearance as the rose, but wanting in perfume,
it fades and dies neglected and unnoticed. But
the sweetest odors are made by the "death" (the
faded leaves) of the rose. So of Beauty, which
alone dies to itself, but when used in the illustra-
tion of Truth, as it is in ''my verse" (this poem),
the truth it adorns, like the perfume of the rose,
will give it permanent existence.
Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But You shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time.
Wlien wasteful war sliall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall bum
The living record of Your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall You pace forth; Your praise shall still find room
m THE SON-NETS. 9S
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that Yourself arise.
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.
In this stanza the duration of Beauty's life, har-
moniously united with Truth in this poem, is por-*"
trayed. It shall outlive all material creation, —
the ''marhle^' and "gilded monuments of princes,"
and the fabrics of stone which time has covered
with mosses and discolorations. The ravage and
devastation of war, which destroys statues, razes
the most solid structures, and burns towns, shall
not destroy "the living record of Your memory"
(this poem, in which is recorded the history of the
dramas). You shall survive all who live; even
oblivion has no power to hide you. "All poster-
ity" shall see and delight in you to "the ending
doom" (forever). You shall live in "this" poem
(this poem in its history will give you life in the
dramas), where you will "dwell in lovers' eyes"
(delighting all who see you displayed in them).
Sweet love, renew Thy force; be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but to-day by feeding is allay'd,
To-morrow sharpen 'd in his former might:
So, love, be Thou; although to-day Thou fill
Thy hungry eyes, even till they wink with fulness,
To-morrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love with a perpetual dulness.
^ OF THK
96 BACOK AKD SHAKESPEARE
Let this sad interim like the ocean be
Wliich parts the shore, where two contracted new
Come daily to the banks, that, when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;
Else call it winter, which being full of care
Makes summer's welcome thrice more wish'd, more rard.
Bacon must have been* greatly enamored with
his writings to promise for them, even at this
early stage, when but four of the dramas had
been written, such unending life. In this stanza
the meaning insinuates that a suspension of work
upon the dramas is likely to occur, but that after a
time it will be resumed. Meantime he is anxious
that his love for the work should suffer no abate-
ment. Like the appetite, satiated "to-day" (with
present labor) with like or greater eagerness, may
his hunger for resuming work return to-morrow,
so that "the spirit of love" (the power of delinea-
tion) may not forsake him. Like two lovers, who,
separated by the ocean, their vows just plighted, go
daily to the shores by agreement to meditate upon
their affection for each other, so let the "sad in-
terim" (the period of this suspension) keep the
subject of future composition constantly in mind,
that on "return of love, more blest may be the
view" (he may exceed his former efforts). Or let
the intermission be like winter with its coldness,
which makes summer's warmth and beauty wel-
come and delightful. It will' be seen hereafter
that winter and summer are used to symbolize the
very conditions which are here suggested by them.
IN THE SONNETS. 97
Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of Your desire ?
I have no precious time at all to spend,
Nor services to do, till You require.
Nor dare I chide the world-witliout-end hour
Whilst I, My sovereign, watch the clock for Yon,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
When You have bid Your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with My jealous thought
Where You may be, or Your affairs suppose.
But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
Save, where You are, how happy You make those.
So true a fool is love that in Your will,
Though You do anything, he thinks no ili
This stanza and the following one are addressed
to Queen Elizabeth. The following extract is
taken from the first volume of the Biographia
Brittanica, page 373: —
"After discharging the office of reader at Gray's
Inn, which he [Bacon] did, in 1588, when in the
twenty-sixth year of his age, he was become so
considerable, that the queen, who never over-
valued any man's abilities, thought fit to call him
to her service in a way which did him very great
honor, by appointing him her counsel learned in
the law extraordinary; by which, though she con-
tributed abundantly to his reputation, yet she
added but very little to his fortune; and indeed, in
this respect he was never very much indebted to
her majesty, how much soever he might be in all
This appointment, which obliged him to be in
daily attendance upon her majesty, was probably
98 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
the cause of his absence from his quarters at
Gray's Inn, during the business hours of every
day, while the office continued. It made him, as
he says in the stanza, the *' slave" of the queen.
In the discharge of its duties he was bound to
"tend upon the hoiirs and times of her desire"
(to obey her pleasure, however exacting). This
gave him " no precious time at all to spend " (no
time that he could devote to the composition of
his dramas), "nor services to do till you require"
(nor any other service except under her special
direction). As a consequence, his time was for
the most part unoccupied, but necessarily spent in
waiting the queen's orders. He meantime dared
not " chide the world-without-enS hour, whilst I,
my sovereign, watch the clock for you" (how
heavy soever the hours might pass with him, his
fear of the queen's anger prevented him from
complaining). He did not even "think the bit-
terness of absence sour, when you have bid your
servant once adieu" (he could not complain,
when she left him to await her return, of her ab-
sence, so unprofitably spent by him). " Nor dare
I question with my jealous thought where you
may be, or your affairs suppose " (he dared not
even to inquire into the occasion of her absence).
" But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
save, where you are, how happy you make those"
(but he must await her return in a state of com-
plete passivity, except as occasion might offer for
IN THE SONNETS. 99
some delicate flattery, or pleasant allusion to her
own powers of fascination w^hile absent). This
service made his loyalty ridiculous, and obliged
him to praise in the same strain both the vices
and virtues of the queen.
No historian has ever drawn with truer pen
the predominant characteristics of Elizabeth than
Bacon in this stanza. Proud, capricious, despotic,
high-tempered, selfish, suspicious, and overbear-
ing, she exacted the entire submission of every one
she honored, and filled the very atmosphere of her
court with fear. Bacon's life at court at this time
was monotonous, unoccupied, and insecure, but
the liope of preferment — an ambition to shine as
a great statesman and great lawyer — rendered it
endurable. For this hope, ever uppermost in his
thoughts, he submitted to all the "whips and
spurs " of fortune, while inwardly worshipping all
that was true and beautiful in nature and char-
acter. He was truly great as a philosopher and
poet, but cringing and submissive as a courtier
and statesman. His wonderful abilities made his
faults the more conspicuous. Similar failings in
some of his famous contemporaries have escaped
the criticism whioh has so sharply assailed his
memory. It had been fortunate for him and the
world if his life had been devoted to those pur-
suits only for which, as he says when speaking of
his public career, ^' it was better fitted."
100 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
That god forbid that made Me first Your slave,
I should in thought control Your times of pleasure,
Or at Your hand the account of hours to crave,
Being Your vassal, bound to stay Your leisure !
O, let Me suffer, being at Your beck,
The imprison'd absence of Your liberty;
And patience, tame to sufferance, bide each check.
Without accusing You of injury.
Be where You list, Your charter is so strong
That You Yourself may privilege Your time
To what You will; to You it doth belong
Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime.
I am to wait, though waiting so be hell;
Not blame Your pleasure, be it ill or well.
In this stanza he accepts submissively all the
humiliation and abasement to which he is sub-
jected as an attendant at court. " That god for-
bid that made me first your slave '' (that ambition
that causes him to look to the queen for prefer-
ment), that he should fail to accommodate his
time to suit hers. He is her '^vassal," and bound
to stay at court until she can see him, though it
is like a prison to him. If he feels impatient, he
still must submit to suffer, — bear with all delays,
from w^hatever cause, without complaint against
her. She must occupy her time as she pleases, as
it is entirely under. her control, — is her right, —
and she need not respect his wishes at all, as she
has power to pardon herself for any wrong she
may do. And though the waiting, which absents
him from work upon his dramas, *'be hell'' to
him, he can find no fault with his qvieen, whether
/xV THE SONNETS. \^l
he is delayed with or without cause. In both
these stanzas the key of " You," which imperson-
ates Beauty, is necessarily used in substitution for
the queen, for the reason, probably, that it was
indispensable. By reading the stanzas as if ap-
plied to Beauty, the key is perfect, and I was dis-
posed to confine it to that meaning; but its perfect
adaptability to the appointment he received, and
the sequent meaning it gives to the probable sus-
pension in his writing, foreshadowed in the fifty-
sixth stanza, as well as the absence daily imposed
on him, which he so laments, has confirmed my
belief that he intended to address the queen, and
also preserve the key, by making the stanza equally
applicable to Beauty.
If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath bpen liefore, how are our brains beguil'd,
Which, laboring for invention, bear amiss
The second burthen of a former child !
O, that record could, with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show Me Your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done !
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we 're mended, or whether better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
O, sure I am, the wits of former days
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.
Comparison between the stories upon which his
plays are founded and the plays themselves is
102 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
made in this stanza. If these plays are not new
in their new dress, he has spent his time unprofit-
ably in " laboring for invention " to make them
so. Of their comparative merits, he would like to
have the opinion of the '' old world " (the people
who lived five hundred years before his time),
when the stories upon which his dramas were
founded were written; in the days of Cinthio, Saxo
Grammaticus, and other writers, when " mind at
first in character was done'' (when the first mod-
ern attempts at story-telling were made), and
hear what their opinion would be " of this com-
posed wonder of your frame " (of the reproduction
he has made of their works), whether they are
improved or not, or "whether revolution be the
same " (whether the world has remained station-
ary, without advancement). He ventures the as-
sertion that the "wits" (the critics, authors, and
readers) of those times had been pleased and satis-
fied with works less deserving than those he has
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before.
In sequent toil all forwards do cpntend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight.
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in Beauty's brow.
/iV THE SONNETS. 103
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow;
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising Thy worth, despite his cruel hand.
This stanza is a reflex of the advancement of
growth and life from infancy to maturity. The
minutes are compared to the waves in their ap-
proach to the beach, each changing place with the
one before it, and all eager in its march to reach
the limit of its bounds. "Nativity, once in the
main of light" (the infant just born), "crawls to
maturity" (feels the time as long until he reaches
manhood), "wherewith being crown'd, crooked
eclipses 'gainst his glory fight" (when attained, he
meets with worldly troubles which darken the
bright path he had marked for himself in early
years). "And Time that gave doth now his gift
confound " (if he has been favored by education,
or wealth, the world is full of obstacles to the suc-
cess in life he had anticipated). "Time doth
transfix the flourish set on youth" (the promises
and flatteries which accompanied his youth, and
taught him to believe he was destined for great
achievements, find no fruition among the disap-
pointments and cares that assail him in his strug-
gle with the world). "And delves the parallels in
Beauty's brow" (wrinkles him with sorrow, regret,
and anguish). "Feeds on the vanities of nature's
truth " (it is wasted in the follies and vices of the
world). "And nothing stands but for his scythe
104 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
to mow" (hopes are blasted, life is overcast, and
no prospect of worldly attainment or promotion
This I conceive to have been written as express-
ive of Bacon's own disappointment in early life.
No young man of that age was favored with better
opportunities, and none ever blessed with greater
abilities and aptitudes of thought and desire to
profit by them. The death of his father, want of
fortune, and force of circumstances, which de-
prived him of congenial studies and occupations,
clouded his early manhood, made him a depend-
ent, and changed the whole course of his life. It
is quite probable, however, but for these changes,
the world never would have been blessed with his
This stanza is also suggestive of the thoughts
contained in the celebrated speech of Jaques in
''As You Like It," commencing "All the world's
a stage," etc., and may have been written in allu-
sion to that play.
Is it Thy will Thy image should keep open
My heavy eyelids to the weary night ?
Dost Thou desire My slumbers should be broken.
While shadows like to Thee do mock My sight ?
Is it Thy spirit that Thou send'st from Thee
So far froifi home into My deeds to pry,
To find out shames and idle hours in Me,
The scope and tenor of Thy jealousy?
O, no! Thy Love, though much, is not so great:
It is My Love that keeps Mine eye awake;
m THE SONNETS. 105
Mine own true Love that doth My rest defeat,
To play the watchman ever for Thy sake:
For Thee watch I, whilst Thou dost wake elsewhere,
From Me far off, with others all too near.
He tells in this stanza that Shakespeare, though
present to his thoughts, is not the principal mo-
tive which impels him to work upon his dramas.
"Is it Thy will Thy image should keep open My
heavy eyelids to the weary night?" (am I influ-
enced by the thought of Will Shakespeare in the
drama I am writing?) "Dost Thou [Truth] desire
my slumbers should be broken, while shadows
like to Thee [Shakespeare] do mock my sight?'*
(shall I stop writing, or lose sleep on your ac-
count?) "Is it Thy [Shakespeare's] spirit that
Thou [Truth] send'st from Thee [Thought] so far
from home into My deeds to pry?" (does my night
work on the drama require your presence for any
purpose?) " To find out shame and idle hours in
Me, the scope and tenor of Thy jealousy?" (can
you tell whether my writings are ill or well, or
whether they should be completed sooner or later ?)
"0, no! Thy Love, though much, is not so great "
(your interest, though valuable, is of another kind,
and not equal to any of these services). "It is
My Love [my drama] that keeps Mine eye awake,
Mine own true Love that doth My rest defeat " (it
is my drama, which is "My own true Love," that
influences me to work, and also to be watchful of
you, Shakespeare). I watch for you when "Thou
106 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
dost wake elsewhere '' (when Truth is elsewhere,
and I am not busy with my writing). *' From Me
far off, with others all too near " (and liable to
be employed by others in their writings). This
stanza virtually denies to Shakespeare any work
in the composition of the dramas.
Sin of self-love possesseth all Mine eye
And all My soul and all My every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in My heart.
Methinks no face so gracious is as Mine,
No shape so true, no truth of such account;
And for Myself Mine own worth do define,
As I all other in all worths surmount.
But when My glass shows Me Myself indeed,
Bated and chopp'd with tann'd antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;
Self so self -loving were iniquity,
T is Tliee, Myself, that for Myself I praise,
Painting My age with beauty of Thy days.
He apologizes in this stanza for the self-love he
has exhibited in the previous stanza by claiming
for himself the merit of composing the dramas.
Self-love possesses him "in all my every part.''
Its control of him is so entire that there is ''no
remedy" for it. Under its influence he thinks
no one handsomer than he is, so well shaped, so
perfect in character. In his own estimation he
excels "all others." But when he sees himself in
his reflections ''bated and chopp'd with tann'd
m THE SONNETS. 107
antiquity " (worn and thin from his studies and
closet exercises, and a life of seclusion), he is un-
deceived and reminded of the folly of such self-
love. It is all for "Thee, Myself' (my thoughts
in delineation), that "for Myself I praise, paint-
ing My age with beauty of Thy days" (bestowing
his thoughts upon the times in which he happens
Against My Love shall be, as I am now,
With Time's injurious hand crush 'd and o'erwom,
When hours have drain'd his blood, and fill'd his brow
With lines and wrinkles, when his youthful morn
Hath travell'd on to age's steepy night,
And all those beauties whereof now he 's king
Are vanishing or vanish 'd out of sight.
Stealing away the treasure of his spring, —
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age's cruel knife,
Tliat he shall never cut from memory
My sweet Love's beauty, though My lover's life;
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen, —
And they shall live, and he in them still green.
In this stanza he declares that he writes this
poem to perpetuate the dramas. "Against My
Love [it will be remembered that Shakespeare was
added to " My Love," but not as a true love, in the
fortieth stanza] shall be, as I am now" (the time
will come when Shakespeare will be enfeebled as
he is). Time will wear out his vigor, attenuate
and weaken his frame. His blood will be thinned,
and wrinkles and lines will mark his visage.
108 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
His morn of youth will be superseded by the
night of infirm old age. His freshness and joy-
ousness, now so attractive, and all the strength of
his manhood, will disappear, carrying with them
the hopes and aspirations of his early life, and
the ambition and energy of his spring. '^Against
confounding age's cruel knife" (to forestall the
effect of these infirmities in Shakespeare), and
that they may not be equally destructive to ''My
sweet Love's beauty" (his dramas), though they
will destroy "My lover's [Shakespeare's] life,"
"these black lines" (the printed lines compos-
ing this poem), shall preserve them, and their
beauty shall "in them still be green" (always
May it not have been possible that it was one
part of the arrangement between Bacon and
Shakespeare, that Shakespeare should abandon
all care for the dramas at the time of his re-
tirement from the theatre, and that their history
from that period should be left for the world to
solve ? There is something very curious about the
closing period of Shakespeare's life. No evidence
has ever been found to show that he bestowed
any attention upon the plays after they ceased
to add to his revenues. Nothing in his will
shows that he claimed any property in them
at the time of his death. His efi'fecte and papers
did not contain any reference to them, nor was
there even a letter or manuscript from which it
IN THE SONNETS. 109
could be inferred that he had ever written a line
of them. He died and left no other sign than the
fearful lines on his tomb which have so long pre-
vented the removal of his bones to Westminster
Abbey. Either Bacon knew at the time he wrote
this stanza that this was to be the condition of
the dramas at Shakespeare's death, or that Shake-
speare was not likely from habit or inclination
to care for their preservation. I incline to the
former opinion, as well because of the intense in-
terest manifested for their perpetuity in this poem,
as the words in Bacon's will bequeathing his works
and memory to *Hhe next ages and foreign coun-
tries." He foresaw the time when the authorship
of these works would be investigated, and ''for such
a time" did he "fortify" against the " confound-
ing" which "cruel age" would be likely to intro-
duce. That "confounding" has come, and the
question will not rest without a just settlement.
When I have seen by Time's fell hand defac'd,
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age,
When sometime lofty towers I see down-raz'd,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage,
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store, -
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itseH confounded to decay,
110 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Ruin hath taught Me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take My Love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.
He assigns other reasons in this stanza for his
fears concerning the perpetuity of the dramas.
The devastations wrought by Time upon the rich-
est and most sacred memorials, the overthrow of
"lofty towers/' and the destruction of works and
statues of brass, in broils and insurrections; the
encroachments of the sea upon the land, and the
gains of the land from the sea; — all these inter-
changes, as well as the changes in governments
often ending in ruin, have caused him to fear that
a like calamity may occur to his Love (his dramas).
He is overwhelmed with regret at the thought,
*' which cannot choose but weep to have that which
it fears to lose" (and grieves that he cannot claim
the dramas as his own, since he is so much con-
cerned for their future condition).
This stanza corroborates my impression that
there must have been some understanding by
which the dramas were to be abandoned by both
Bacon and Shakespeare, and no further explana-
tion of them given than such as appeared attrib-
uting them to Shakespeare, and their concealed
history in this poem. This poem was probably
understood by Shakespeare, at the time it was
written, to contain a full history of the dramas.
If so, it goes far to account for the meagre evi-
m THE SONNETS. m
dence concerning their origin. Bacon gave to
time the revealment of a history which he dared
not tell during his life. Shakespeare retired to
enjoy the fortune he had acquired, and the fame
of his imputed authorship, until the true author
should be discovered. I have no doubt that Bacon
reasoned that there was fame enough for him in
the Novum Organum, De Augmentis, and his
other philosophical works; but at the same time
felt a deep pang of regret whenever it occurred to
him that these great dramas might never be appre-
ciated as the first and richest fruits of his mighty
Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Wliose action is no stronger than a flower ?
O, how shall summer's honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of battering days.
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of ateel so strong, but time decays ?
fearful meditation ! where, alack.
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid ?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back ?
Or who his spoil of Beauty can forbid ?
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink My Love may still shine bright.
He infers from the argument in the preceding
stanza that nothing can preserve his dramas, un-
less it is the ink with which from time to time
they may be printed. All durable objects of hu-
112 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
man origin are sooner or later destroyed by the
ravages of Time, — even the sea and earth are sub-
ject to changes wrought by him. How, with no
adequate power of resistance, is Beauty to contend
successfully with this destroyer? Amid the wrecks
which war and siege make, what shall prolong her
sweet life? How can she live when Time consumes
the strongest structures of stone and metal? It is
fearful to contemplate what may become of '* Time's
best jewel," or where she may be concealed to es-
cape this general ruin. There is no help for her
unless the "miracle" (the marvellous power) of
being multiplied in printer's ink shall cause "My
Love" (the dramas), to "shine bright" (to be per-
Tir*d with all these, for restful death I cry, — .
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily foresworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
And strength by limping away disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity.
And captive good attending captain ill;
Tir'd with all these, from these would I begone,
Save that, to die, I leave My Love alone.
His object in this stanza, in summarizing the
subjects illustrated by the plays written and per-
m THE SO^r^LTS. 113
formed, at this time, is doubtless to show that by
their departure from Truth and nature the}^ were
evil and corrupt in their influence. He had no
patience with their character, and when he says,
*' for restful death I cry," it was a polite form of
expressing our slang phrase " give us a rest,'^ and
meant the same. The playwrights were crowding
the stage with sensational pieces, not unlike those
of our own day. The subjects as expressed in the
stanza explain themselves better than any lan-
guage of mine can do it. They show that the
theatre in Elizabeth's time was not reliable as a
school of morality, and the taste which tolerated
the grand creations of Bacon was better satisfied,
perhaps, with the blood-curdling dramas of Web-
ster, or the licentious comedies of Green, Ben Jon-
son, and Beaumont and Fletcher. Whatever the
plays, and whoever the writers, no stronger evi-
dence of their immoral tendencies are needed
than that they were condemned by the author of
the plays attributed to Shakespeare. His distaste
for them was strong enough to make him wish to
^'begone" from them, "save that to die'' (to go
from them) would be to " leave My Love alone "
(to forsake his own dramas).
Ah ! wherefore with infection should he live,
And with his presence grace impiety,
That sin by him advantage should achieve
And lace itself with his society ?
114 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Why should false painting imitate his cheek.
And steal dead seeing of his living hue ?
Why should poor beauty indirectly seek
Roses of shadow, since his rose is true ?
Why should he live, now Nature bankrupt is,
Beggar'd of blood to blush through lively veins ?
For she hath no exchequer now but his,
And, prou 1 of many, lives upon his gains.
0, him she stores, to show what wealth she had
In days long since, before these last so bad.
His contempt for the dramas of his own day,
emphasized by his regret at seeing his own dramas
in their company, is more fully expressed in this
and the following stanza. Why should the beauty
which he has illustrated live with such " infec-
tion " (exposed to the contamination of their in-
fluence), and thus in representation tolerate their
untruth and vulgarity ? Why should their pro-
fanity and obscenity find a place on the stage where
his dramas are performed ? Why should those
who personate their characters imitate the natural
beauty of the characters he had drawn, by giving
a false color to their faces, and a livid hue to their
flesh ? Why should Beauty as exhibited by them,
by these and other indirect means, decorate him-
self, when his own adornment only is the truest
of ornaments ? Why should Beauty, devoid of all
natural grace, "beggar'd of blood to blush through
lively veins " (his true nature concealed with paint
and gewgaws), be attempted in the performances ?
Nature ''hath no exchequer now but his" (he
in his truth furnishes the real wealth of all true
IN THE SONNETS. 115
characterizations), and "proud of many, lives
upon his gains" (many dramas have been writ-
ten in which life has been fitly represented), but
they are withdrawn from the stage. Their great
superiority to those now in vogue is painfully ap-
parent by contrast.
Thus in his cheek the map of days outworn,
Wlieu beauty liv'd and died as flowers do now,
Before these bastard signs of fair were born,
Or durst inhabit on a living brow;
Before the golden tresses of the dead,
The right of sepulchres, were shorn away,
To live a second life on second head,
Ere Beauty's dead fleece made another gay:
In him those holy antique hours are seen,
Without all ornament, itself and true.
Making no summer of another's green.
Robbing no old to dress his Beauty new;
And him as for a map doth Nature store.
To show false Art what beauty was of yore.
His indignation at the artificiality in which the
drama is represented is expressed in this stanza.
"Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn, when
beauty liv'd and died as flowers do now" (we see,
as upon a map, in the drama of past years, what
Beauty was when life and death in character were
naturally represented). "Before these ba&tard
signs of fair were born" (before personal decora-
tion was introduced, or even permitted in use;
before the hair was cut from the heads of the dead
113 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
to adorn the heads of the living, thus using the or-
naments which gave Beauty to the grave, to give
life to a false show of gayety. "In him those holy
antique hours are seen, without all ornament,
itself and true" (a time when any adornment of
natural beauty would have been to profane it; it
was most beautiful as nature made it). In the
words of Thomson: —
"Beauty when unadom'd 's adorn 'd the most."
It "made no summer of another's green" (did
not imitate in one performance what properly
belonged to another); "robbing no old to dress
his Beauty new" (nor steal the sentiment from
one author to supply the deficiencies of another).
The falsities of art of which he complains will
appear on comparison with the representations of
His own dramas, doubtless performed with all
the appliances so hateful to him, were what ren-
dered them so specially obnoxious. His dramas
were all sufiPicient of themselves to illustrate the
truth they contained, and all outside parapher-
nalia, while it did not improve the sentiments they
contained, imparted a false glare to the moral and
natural beauty in which truth was enveloped. Of
themselves, they were the very embodiment of
truth, clothed in the beauty of sentiment and
poetry. What could painting and false hair, and
the other gewgaws used in theatrical display, add
to them? He was disgusted with these appliances.
IN THE SONNETS. 117
His whole soul rejected them; but there was no
remedy, and he dismisses the subject by showing
in contrast how far they were surpassed in the
early days of the drama, before such adornments
were brought into use.
Those parts of Thee that the world's eye doth view
"Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend;
All tongues, the voice of souls, give Thee that due,
Uttering bare truth, even so as foes commend.
Thy outward thus with outward praise is crown 'd;
But those same tongues that give Thee so Thine own,
In other accents do this praise confound,
By seeing farther than the eye hath shown.
They look into the beauty of Thy mind,
And that, in guess, they measure by Thy deeds;
Then, churls, their thoughts, although their eyes were kind,
To Thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds:
But why Thy odour matcheth not Thy show.
The solve is this, that Thou dost common grow.
He tells in this stanza of the reception accorded
to his plays by the public. "Those parts of Thee
that the world's eye doth view'' (the impression
which in performance they make upon the audi-
iice), "want nothing that the thought of hearts
can mend" (need no addition in sentiment,
thought, or action); "all tongues" (the voice of
souls) "give Thee that due" (this is the opinion of
all who can appreciate them). "Even so as foes
commend" (probably this refers to other pla}^-
writers who were jealous of Shakespeare's success
118 BACON AND SHAKESPEAJiE
as an author). *' Thine outward thus with out-
ward praise is crow^n'd'' (in external representa-
tion they are abundantly successful). "But those
same tongues that give Thee so Thine own " (the
same audiences, thus lavish of praise of their scenic
display and the characters), ''in other accents do
this praise confound, by seeing' farther than the
eye hath shown" (their criticisms of the subject-
matter of the play are so various and conflicting
as to "confound" or perplex them in forming any
settled opinion of its merits). "They look into
the beauty of Thy mind, and that, in guess, they
measure by Thy deeds" (they disagree about the
design of the author, and the truth he intended
to illustrate, and not fully comprehending it, guess
at such conclusions as the action of the play would
seem to warrant). In this manner, though pleased,
they mistake the "fair flowers" (the real beauty),
and "add the rank smell of weeds" (attribute
meanings to it that are incorrect). "But why
Thy odour matcheth not Thy show, the solve is
this, that Thou dost common grow" (the reason
wdiy the plaj^s are not appreciated at their true
worth is because other waiters having witnessed
them are now introducing plays in which they
aim to illustrate truth, and this makes Thou (Truth)
so common, that in his dramas he is lost sight of).
That Thou art blam'd shall not be Thy defect,
For slander's mark was ever yet the fair;
IN- THE SONNETS. 119
The ornament of beauty is Suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air.
So Thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being woo'd of time;
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And Thou present'st a pure unstained prime.
Thou hast pass'd by the ambush of young days,
Either not assail'd or victor being charg'd;
Yet this Thy praise cannot be so Thy praise,
To tie up envy evermore enlarg'd;
If some suspect of ill mask'd not Thy show,
Then Thou alono kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.
He declares in this stanza that it is for no lack
of merit in his dramas that the public does not
fully appreciate them. There is no defect in their
thought or truth, but being praised and admired,
it is but natural that they should be a mark for
slander and suspicion. Those who add ornament
and decoration to beauty are the first to find fault
with those who are content to let beauty speak for
herself without these additions. If Thou (Truth)
is preserved in purity, slander helps instead of
hurts thought, and Time, which discovers and ex-
poses his malice, adds thereby to the worth and
might of thought. Thou's purity assailed by slan-
der is like the canker which assails the sweetest
flowers. But what has Thou to fear from it ? In
his youthful days (when first brought in contact
with inexperience) he escaped assault, or when
assailed, always proved victorious. Even these
successes cannot silence envy, which is always free
and ready to do its work. If he escaped alto-
120 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
gether, he would be the only one iu the world who
was worshipped by all.
No longer mourn for Me when I am dead,
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell;
Nay, if You read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love You so.
That I in Your sweet thoughts would be forgot.
If thinking on Me then should make You woe.
O, if, I say, You look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as My poor name rehearse,
But let Your love even with My life decay,
Lest the wise world should look into Your moan.
And mock You with me after I am gone.
This refers to that period in the life of Bacon
(1504) when by a vacancy in the office of solicitor-
general he was encouraged to apply for the appoint-
ment. "He had been counsel extraordinary to the
queen," says Chambers, "since 1590, and three
years afterwards sat in Parliament for the county
of Middlesex." Essex, at that time in the plenti-
tude of his power, the special favorite of Eliza-
beth, was Bacon's most ardent supporter. He
spared neither pains nor means to obtain his
appointment. Bacon regarded it as a certainty,
and as the duties of the office would require his
constant and unceasing labor, he felt that the
time had come when he must abandon play-writ-
ing, and bid farewell to literary pursuits.
IN THE SON-NETS. 121
In anticipation of this change, his anxieties
were increased, lest the queen should discover
that he had written for the theatre and reject
him. These stanzas undoubtedly reflect the con-
dition of his mind at that time. The death of
which he speaks is the abandonment of writing
which he contemplates. The stanzas are ad-
dressed to You (Beauty). "No longer mourn for
Me when I am dead, than You shall hear the surly
sullen bell" (let me be forgotten as the writer
of these beautiful dramas as soon as my appoint-
ment is announced). ''Give warning to the world
that I am fled" (gone from my lodgings) ''from
this vile world" (from Gray's Inn), "with vilest
worms to dwell " (to the criminal courts of West-
minster). "Nay, if You read this line, remember
not the hand that writ it" (no beauty in the sen-
timent or style of the composition must betray
him), "for I love You so, that I in Your sweet
thoughts would be forgot" (he would not wish to
be known as the writer). " If thinking on mo
then should make You woe" (as it would cause
his ruin). "0, if, I say, You look upon this
verse when I perhaps compounded am with clay"
(when he is really dead), "do not so much as
My poor name rehearse, but let Your love even
with My life decay" (even then his name must
not be known). " Lest the wise world should
look into Your moan, and mock You with me
after I am gone " (lest the world, recognizing him
122 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
as the writer, should visit with contempt and ridi-
cule the one in whose name he wrote).
O, lest the world should task You to recite
What merit liv'd in Me, that You should love
After My death, dear love, forget Me quite,
For You in Me can nothing worthy prove;
Unless You would devise some virtuous lie,
To do more for Me than Mine own desert,
And hang more praise upon deceased I
Than niggard Truth would willingly impart:
O, lest Your true love may seem false in this,
That You for love speak well of Me untrue,
My name be buried where My body is,
And live no more to shame nor Mo nor You!
For I am sham'd by that which I bring forth.
And 80 should You, to love things nothing worfh.
In this stanza he urges his own unworthiness
as a reason for the concealment of his name as
author of the dramas. " 0, lest the world should
task You to recite what merit liv'd in Me " (lest
it should be suspected that he had written the
dramas), "that You [Beauty] should love" (and
they should be criticised, to discover, if possible,
his style), "after My death, dear love, forget Me
quite" (after his appointment, let no mention of
him lead to his betrayal), " unless You would
devise some virtuous lie, to do more for Me than
Mine own desert" (unless you can divert suspicion
by inventing a story more probable and easier of
belief than any doubts), " and hang more praise
IN THE SONNETS. 123
Upon deceased I tlian uiggard Truth would will-
ingly impart" (and by speaking well of him, in
flattering terms, render his position an honor to
him, instead of a grief). " 0, lest Your true love"
(your beauty as delineated in the dramas) '' may
seem false in this, that You for love speak well of
Me untrue '' (may be belied by bestowing praise
on him by a skilfully contrived falsehood to con-
ceal his own untruth). " My name be buried
where My body is" (only mentioned in connec-
tion with his public position), " and live no more
to shame nor Me nor You" (and no longer be
known as a writer for the stage, as a bencher at
Gray's Inn, or as a dabbler with the muses).
** For I am sham'd by that which I bring forth "
(it was a shame to him that his dramas should
be presented in the theatre, before miscellaneous
audiences, which could not appreciate them), and
you will be equally shamed by my exposure.
These stanzas, addressed to his ideal of beauty,
as the most brilliant feature of his plays, are
doubtless intended to give the readers of this
poem, when its true authorship shall be discov-
ered, a history of his fears and anxieties at the
most critical moment of his public career, when
fortune was seemingly changing, and all before
him was bright with hope and promise. His
seven years of obscurity and want in the cloisters
of Gray's Inn were, as he thought, to be changed
for an active life in the courts of Westminster.
124 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
His ambition for office, wealth, and title could now,
he felt, have a basis to work upon, which would
insure its ultimate triumph. There w^as nothing
in his way but the dreaded effects of a possible
disclosure of his connection with the theatre, and
his labors as a playwright. That would destroy
his prospects, and consign his name to obloquy.
In this day, with these dramas in the fore front
of all the literature that has been produced in all
the years since they were written, it seems incred-
ible indeed that their presentation to the world
should have been through falsehood, abandon-
ment, and tribulation. The only man of that time
who could appreciate the dramas, and forecast
their destiny, was Bacon himself, and he was
compelled by the force of circumstances to sacri-
fice them, or they would have sacrificed him. He
knew they must immortalize some name; they
could never live without a sponsor, and he con-
ferred that honor, the noblest in the world of let-
ters, upon Shakespeare, hoping and believing that
in some of the ages before him it would return,
and give him his true place among the greatest
of the w^orld's benefactors.
That time of year Thou mayst in Me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
IN THE SONNETS. 125
In Mo Thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seah up all m rest.
In Me Thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourish 'd by.
This Thou perceiv'st, which makes Thy Love more strong,
To love that well which Thou must leave ere long.
This stanza, addressed to Thou (Truth), declares
his unfitness for work in the condition he depicts
for himself. He is like a late autumn, — a tree to
whose boughs a few faded leaves are still clinging,
abandoned by the birds that were wont to sing
there. He is like a twilight from which the sun-
light had faded, and darkness like death will soon
overwhelm. *'In me Thou seest the glowing of
such fire that on the ashes of his youth doth lie"
(his desire for writing is weakened, he cannot in-
fuse the same energy and brightness into his
productions that he did before his prospects for
preferment came). **As the death-bed whereon it
must expire" (he is losing all taste and inclination
to write, and thinks he will never do it again).
"Consumed with that which it was nourished by"
(he was taught in youth to look to the offices and
honors of public life as the reward of his studies
and travels; and was educated with those objects
in view. He was now, as he believed, about to
realize these promises, and they absorbed his en-
tire time, so that he had none to give to writing).
126 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
''This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more
strong, to love that well which Thou must leave
ere long" (his love of writing as an occupation
had been a passion, and leaving it even for oflSce
would be a great sacrifice of happiness. This
feeling grew upon him as the time for its indul-
But be contented: when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry JNle away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with Thee shall stay.
When Thou reviewest this, Thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to Thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is Thine, the better part of Me.
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, My body being dead,
The coward conquest of a wretch's knife,
Too bcisc of Tliee to be remembered.
The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with Thee remains.
He promises in this stanza, wben he is appointed
solicitor-general, to leave this poem as a memorial
of his dramas. "But be contented, when that fell
arrest without all bail shall carry me away" (when
he goes to fill the office, which requires his per-
sonal services, and cannot be supplied by another).
*' My life hath in this line some interest, which
for memorial still with Thee shall stay" (the
'' interest " was the preservation in this poem of a
history (memorial) of the part he had performed
m THE SOKNETS. 127
in the production of the dramas, which the world
sooner or later would, by means of that history,
discover and understand). ''When Thou review-
est this, Thou dost review the very part was conse-
crate to Thee" (this poem, when understood, will
he found to contain nothing but the truth). '' The
earth can have but earth, which is his due '' (his
body will die, dissolve, and be forgotten or uncared
for). '' My spirit is Thine, the better part of Me "
(the soul and spirit which through that body
created the dramas, the only part of him worth
saving, is Thou^s, Truth's). '* So then thou hast
but lost the dregs of life, the prey of worms, my
body being dead " (in case of either going away,
or actually dying, nothing of any value is lost by
Thou as long as this poem is preserved). ''The
coward conquest of a wretch's knife, too base of
Thee to be remembered" (this alludes to a period
in Bacon's life when the indignation of the friends
of Essex was roused against him for his speeches
at the trial of that nobleman. His life had been
threatened, and his friends thought he was in
danger of secret assassination).
In a letter addressed to "Lord Henry Howard,
clearing himself of aspersion in the case of the
Earl of Essex," in 1599, Bacon says : " For my
part, I have desired better than to have my name
objected to envy, or my life to a ruffian's violence.
But I have the privy coat of a good conscience."
A little later he writes to Sir Robert Cecil, con-
128 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
eluding thus: *' As to any violence to be offered to
me, wherewith my friends tell me, with no small
terror, I am threatened, I thank God I have the
privy coat of a good conscience, and have long
since put off any fearful care of life or the acci-
dents of life." To the queen he writes, about the
same time: " My life has been threatened and my
name libelled, which I account an honour."
"The worth of that'' (his body) "is that which
it contains, and that is this " (the Sonnets), " and
this with Thee" (his thoughts) "remains'' (the
worth of that " interest " above alluded to is the
history contained in this poem, which, being the
truth, will not be lost).
So are You to My thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet-season'd showers are to the ground;
And for the peace of You I hold such strife
As 'twixt a miser and his wealth is found:
Now proud as an en j oyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Now counting best to be with You alone,
Then better'd that the world may see My pleasure;
Sometime all full with feasting on Your sight,
And by and by clean starved for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight.
Save what is had or must from You be took.
Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away.
He tells Beauty in this stanza of his delight
when thinking of him, or seeing him in represen-
IN THE SONNETS. 129
tation and in reading. As food is necessary to
preserve life, and summer showers to refresh the
earth, so is beauty needful to invigorate his mind.
His love for him is like the love of a miser for his
gold, — at one time proud of his delineation, then
fearful that he may be robbed of his attractiveness
by others. He is pleased to contemplate him in
private; he affords food for conversation, and like a
feast whi(?h fills him with delicacies, feasts his eyes
and heart to the full in theatrical representations.
*'And by and by clean starved for a look" (when
sometime absent from his thought he becomes
eager for his recall). And ''day by day" all his
delight is in his presence, and all his misery in
Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change ?
"Why, with the time, do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange ?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell My name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed ?
O, know, sweet love, I always write of You,
And You and love are still My argument;
So all My best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is My Love still telling what is told.
In this stanza he tells his name. "Why is my
verse so barren of new pride, so far from variation
130 DACOX AND SHAKESPEARE
and quick change?" (why in this poem does he
not announce some new achievements of his pen,
which like those of other writers for the stage sac-
rifice truth and beauty to the public taste for
variety and sudden changes and eftects in theatri-
cal portraiture? Why not, in imitation of them,
find something new and strange, and compound
a play instead of adhering to the same straight-
forward course with which he commenced, of pre-
senting the one great theme, Truth, in all that he
writes?) "And keep invention in a noted weed,
that every word doth almost tell my name " (Ba-
con found constant use in all his writings, as well
those he acknowledged as the plays attributed
to Shakespeare, for the word "invention." It
contained wdder meaning for him than any other
word in the language, and the offices attrib-
uted to it in philosophy are fully analyzed and
discussed in the "Advancement of Learning."
Its greatest power was in origination, and under-
stood in that sense, it was the power by which the
plays were created). This he says he kept in a
"noted weed." The only weed of which history
gives account in Elizabeth^s time was tobacco.
It was introduced into England by some of the
crews who returned from the first expedition to
Virginia, fitted out by Sir Walter Raleigh. Its
use by Raleigh soon popularized it among the
nobility and upper classes. When James I.
ascended the throne, smoking was so prevalent
m THE SONNETS. 131
that in dread of its effects upon his subjects, the
king himself denounced its use in a strong essay
entitled "A Counterblast against Tobacco.'' Cam-
den also publiahed a powerful argument against
Orthography in those days was unsettled.
Words were spelled by sound rather than by
rule, and generally the best scholars adopted
rules of their own. The word "tobacco," by its
various forms of pronunciation, was blessed with
an orthography that would fill a small diction-
ary. The following furnish a few of the vari-
eties: Tobaco, tobacco, tobaca, tobacy, tobaccy,
'bacco, 'bacy, etc., ad infinitum. The second syl-
lable was as perfect then as now.
Bacon, by confession in this stanza, must have
enjoyed his pipe. It soothed him, quieted his
nerves, and favored that composure of the facul-
ties needful to reflection and invention. It was
undoubtedly his habit to resort to it in the hours
given to the creation of his great dramas. It was
in the placidity which it imparted to his system
and the meditative mood it inspired that he
virtually "kept invention." His thoughts were
clearer, his plots better in development, and his
poesy more exuberant than they would have been
without this sedative.
In every form which spelling gave to tobacco,
it almost told the name of Bacon. This evidence
of the true origin of the dramas of Shakespeare,
132 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
written by their author and published nearly
three centuries ago, during Shakespeare's life,
cannot by any force of logic or ingenuity be de-
stroyed. It is unargumentable. It imparts. the
force of truth to this entire history, and relieves
it of the suggestion, improbable in itself, that
Shakespeare, for aught that appears, might have
written it himself. No other name can fill the
requirements of the line but that of Bacon. No
anagram could be constructed which would avoid
that conclusion connected with the lines preced-
ing and following it. How plain, then, does it
appear that Bacon alone was the author, when we
connect the announcement made in this stanza
with those parts of the poem which describe his
compulsory attendance upon the queen, after his
appointment as counsel extraordinary; his long
months of suspense, sorrow, and disappointment
spent in the effort to obtain the office of solicitor-
general, and his transfer of the dramas to "Wiir'
(Shakespeare), — matters which could not possi-
bly have formed any part of Shakespeare's life.
Aside from other evidences the poem may con-
tain, the appearance of Bacon's name shows a
deliberate purpose in him to reveal himself to
posterity as the author of the dramas. He would
not otherwise have written this stanza, or for that
matter this poem, for both were unnecessary for
any other purpose. The poem, with the exception
of a few stanzas, has no special merit, and being
IN THE SONNETS. 133
entirely unintelligible and silly without interpre-
tation of some kind, no such person as the author
of the great dramas would have written it for
mere pastime. All former interpretations it has
received have been nearly as incomprehensible as
the bare poem itself. They tell no credible, no
consecutive, story; make Shakespeare a licentious
fool, and hold him up before the world as the
vilest kind of a debauchee, and most unprinci-
pled of men among men, on his own confession.
This cannot be true. Regarding it as an allegory
which contains the history of the great dramas,
and those parts of it which cursorily considered
convey a prurient meaning, as parts illustrative
of the circumstances and conditions under which
those dramas were written, it becomes a work of
the greatest possible importance, full of interest
and worth, and invaluable in the history it reveals
of the greatest works in all literature.
Half the persons accused of and tried for the
highest crimes known to our laws have been con-
victed and punished on much weaker testimony
than is herein contained in proof of Bacon's
authorship. Great lawyer as he was, Bacon was
not unmindful of this, and shaped his narrative
accordingly. The only fault that can be found
with it is, that he succeeded too well in eluding
detection, and reared an image which has been so
long and so universally idolized, that it has become
easier for the world to cling to the false worship
than to receive the real divinity.
134 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
"0, know, sweet Love, I always write of You, and
You and Love are still My argument" (he always
wrote of Beauty, and at this time he was writing
of beauty and love conjoined), from which I infer
that the particular play upon which he was en-
gaged was ''Eomeo and Juliet," which White
seems to think was written in 1596. If I have
conjectured rightly, it was written in 1594, just
previous to the time he engaged in the strife for
the solicitorship, which required all his energies.
In view of any possible clew it might furnish to
his exposure as a playwright, it may have been
withheld from the stage until 1596, several
months after his defeat. *'So all my best is
dressing old words new, spending again what is
already spent " (this play is founded upon a novel
written by Matteo Bandello, and published in
1554, so that it was indeed a "dressing old words
new," etc.). " My love" (his dramas), like the sun,
new in the morning, old in the evening, unites the
old and the new in her composition. I think that
''invention" in the sixth line was written by the
author in the plural. It is the antecedent referred
to in the eighth line, which being plural, should
determine its number. A slight oversight of the
proof-reader reasonably accounts for the mistake.
''Showing their birth, and where they did pro-
ceed," can allude only to the "inventions" or
dramas, as contrasted with the " new-found meth-
ods" and "compounds strange" of other writers of
IN THE SONNETS. 135
"the time." This view is strengthened by the two
succeeding lines: —
** 0. know, sweet Love, I always write of You,
And You and Love are still My argument."
He was "still" at the time delineating Love and
Beauty in the same comedy.
Thy glass will show Thee how Thy lieauties wear,
Thy dial how Thy precious minutes waste;
The vacant leaves Thy mind's imprint will bear,
And of this book this learning mayst Thou taste.
The wrinkles which Thy glass will truly show
Of mouthed graves, will give Thee memory;
Thou, by Thy dial's shady stealth mayst know
Time's thievish progress to eternity.
Look, what Thy memory cannot contain
Commit to these waste blanks, and Thou shalt find
Those children nurs'd, deliver'd from Thy brain,
To take a new acquaintance of Thy mind.
These offices, so oft as Thou wilt look,
Shall prol^t Thee, and much enrich Thy book.
This stanza is descriptive of his initiatory labor
in the preparation for writing a drama.
"Thy glass" alludes to and signifies public
opinion. This will determine whether the truth
and beauty supplied by Thy (Thought), when
transformed by Thou (Truth) into the dramas, will
be of permanent or temporary interest. *'Thy
dial," the indicator of time's flight, will show him
the value of moments in this work. "The vacant
136 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
leaves " (the blank paper upon which his thoughts
are to be written for preservation and reference).
'' This book," composed of fugutive thoughts and
collected learning, is to be tested as it progresses
by Thou (Truth). ''The wrinkles of mouthed
graves," which his glass will truly show, are
such selections as he may choose from the writ-
ings of the learned men and sages of former ages,
being still reminded by the dial of the flight of
time. Those that he cannot remember he must
transcribe in his book. He will find that they
will aid greatly in giving substance and force
to his own thoughts when he arranges them in
form for use. The true value of "these offices"
will be demonstrated when, under the guidance of
Thou (Truth), they are applied to the faithful
delineation of life and character. It will be seen
from this stanza what his leading methods were
in the composition of the dramas: first, he gave
his own thoughts to the work, careful to make his
plots as natural as possible. Then he used the
thoughts of others to strengthen his own, and not
transcend the truth. It required the mind and
skill of a master to succeed in this species of com-
position, and any one who would adopt it should
be conscious of possessing the imagery, brain, cul-
tivation, and application of Bacon before he be-
gins, or he will be sure to end in ridiculous
failure. He says as much himself in the two fol-
IN THE SONNETS. 137
So oft have I invok'd Thee for My Muse,
And found such fair assistance in My verse,
As every alien pen hath got My use,
And under Thee their poesy disperse.
Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high ta sing
And heavy ignorance aloft to fly.
Have added feathers to the learned's wing,
And given grace a double majesty.
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is Thine and born of Thee:
In others' works Thou dost but mend the style,
And arts with thy sweet graces, graced be;
But Thou art all My art, and dost advance
As high as learning My rude ignorance.
In this stanza he alludes to a play which was
the production of several writers of the period,
himself included. *^ Every alien pen/' he says,
has got his use. They are all striving to imitate
him. ''And under Thee [Thought] their poesy
disperse." It is noticeable that he gives them no
credit for Thou (Truth).
As a contrast to their efforts, he tells what Thou
(Truth) has done. "Thine [Truth] eyes, that
taught the dumb on high [himself (Bacon) of
noble parentage, and a nobleman in expectancy]
to sing.^s By birth and position he was entitled to
move in the highest circles, socially and in public
life. ''And heavy ignorance [Shakespeare, a man
without education or culture] aloft to fly " (to enjoy
the renown and adulation which, as the imputed
author of the dramas, followed him). "Thine
eyes " (this Truth), that has done so much for him
138 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
and Shakespeare, has also " added feathers to the
learned's wing" (it has contributed to the literary
labors of writers of learning and education), "and
given grace a double majesty." This allusion to
''double majesty" must have been the second and
third parts of King Henry VI. Guizot is of opin-
ion that Shakespeare was ''almost entirely a stran-
ger" to the first part of Henry VI. He says: "'The
True History of the Contention ' and ' The True
Tragedy of Richard, Duke of York,' — one served
as a matrix, if I may be allowed the expression,
for the second part of Henry VI., and the other
for the third part." The "True History" and
"The True Tragedy" were performed as early as
1592. Robert Green, one of the authors, died in
September of that year. They were rewritten
afterwards, with many changes and additions,
and appeared as -the second and third parts of
The graceful style of the original plays, sup-'
j)Osed to be the conjoint productions of Peele,
Green, Marlow, and Shakespeare (or, as I say.
Bacon), was what Bacon alluded to by the word
"grace" in the line under consideration. "Thine
eyes" (Truth) gave to this "grace" "a double ma-
jesty," — that is, changed it to the two parts of
The contention among the numerous commen-
tators upon Shakespeare, from Theobald down
to the present day, concerning the authorship of
m THE SONNETS. 139
these plays, has been quite as persistent, and in
some instances nearly as bitter, as the contention
illustrated by the plays themselves. The prepon-
derance of the multitudinous opinions favors a
joint authorship for the plays originally by Shake-
speare, Marlow, Peele, and Green, the last three
learned men and collegians. In an able essay,
White very clearly recognizes the style of each.
This was probably the work alluded to in the
eighty-sixth stanza, which, as the '* affable, famil-
iar ghost," Shakespeare assisted by contributing
such passages as Bacon supplied.
Bacon represents the *' alien pen " as using Thee
(Thought) only, and himself as illustrating Thou
(Truth). He asks Thought "to be most proud of
that part of the play which he compiles, because,
though born of thought, it is written under the
influence of truth. In that part written by the
others, truth has only mended their style, and
-thought given grace to their art; but truth has
been all his art, and has enabled him " to advance
as high as learning My rude ignorance " (to place
Shakespeare on an equality with them as a writer).
Whilst I alone did call upon Thy aid,
My verse alone had all Thy gentle grace.
But now My gracious numbers are decay'd,
And My sick Muse doth give another place.
I grant, sweet love, Thy lovely argument
Deserves the travail of a worthier pen,
140 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Yet what of Thee Thy poet doth invent
He robs Thee of and pays it Thee again.
He lends Thee virtue, and he stole that word
From Thy behaviour; beauty doth he give.
And found it in Thy cheek; he can afford
No praise to Thee but what in Thee doth live.
Then thank him not for that which he doth say.
Since what he owes Thee Thou Thyself dost pay.
In this stanza he conveys the idea that, having
ceased to write, another writer has taken his place,
and it would seem is also writing under the sanc-
tion of Shakespeare's name. When he was the
only writer who used Thy (Thought), " My verse,"
(this poem spoke of his own works only). " But
now My gracious numbers are decay'd " (now that
he has ceased to write dramas), "My sick Muse"
(he reluctantly) *'doth give another place" (an-
nounces a successor); "I grant, sweet love, Thy
lovely argument " (the preparation which his suc-
cessor has made for his play) "deserves the
travail of a worthier pen " (deserves a better de-
lineation than he has given it). Yet so much of
it as he has taken from Thought, he has returned
to Thought again. The virtue which he has rep-
resented he took from Thy (Thought), and the
beauty that he gives to his characters he found in
him. His drama is entitled to no praise for any
merit, that he did not find in the material which
he collected from others for its construction. In
otlier words, it has no originality, and all that "lie
owes Thee" (the preparation) "Thou [Truth],
m THE SOyNLTS. 141
Thyself doth pay." Thought has been put in form,
but without any power of beauty or truth on the
part of the writer, and is of no more value than
it was before it was transposed from the crude
material. This is as much -as to say, that if he had
used the same material he would have produced a
much better play.
O, how I faint -when I of You do write,
Knowing a better spirit doth use Your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make Mo tongue-tied, speaking of Your fame!
But since Your worth, wide as the ocean is,
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
0:i your broad main doth wilfully appear.
Your shallowest help will hold Me up afloat,
Whilst he upon Your soundless deep doth ridej
Or, being wrack'd, I am a worthless boat.
He of tall bulldinj and of goodly pride.
Then if he thrive and I be cast away,
The worst was this, — My Love was My decay.
In this stanza he informs us that he (Bacon) is
studiously pursuing his philosophical inquiries.
"0, how I [Bacon as dramatist] faint when I of
You do write, knowing a better spirit [Bacon as
philosopher] doth use Your name " (the contrast
here suggested is between Beauty (You) in poetry
and Beauty in philosophy, the one, everything ex-
ternally attractive, and the other full of power in-
ternally, and much superior in strength and self-
assertion). **And in the praise thereof spends all
142 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
his might'' (all his power of research, logic, inven-
tion, and illustration are employed to demonstrate
truth and beauty in philosophy). " To make Mo
[dramatist] tongue-tied, speaking of Your fame"
(those labors will show wherein the plays are
deficient in demonstrating and enforcing truth
into the practice of mankind). But since "Your
worth" (your truth) is an ocean upon which ves-
cels of every size and cost may sail, "My saucy
bark" (his poetry and plays) will not be de-
prived of this right. "Your shallowest help will
hold Me [dramatist] up afloat" (his dramas need
no deep philosophical investigation of beauty
for their ornamentation). "Whilst he [philoso-
pher] upon Your soundless deep doth ride" (his
philosophy, on the contrary, will be of the most
profound nature). If his dramas should fail, it
would be comparatively unimportant, as his phi-
losophy is more exhaustive, built up higher in
argument, and will go before the world in "goodly
pride" (with the name of Francis Bacon as author,
which from his position will give it character).
"The worst" of it is, that if the philosophy suc-
ceeds and the dramas fail, it will be because "My
Love was My decay" (because he had over-esti-
mated his powers of delineation).
Or shall I live Your epitaph to make,
Or Vou survive when I in earth am rotten;
From hence Your memory death cannot take,
Although in Me each part will be forgottexu
TK THE SONNETS. 143
Your name from heace immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die;
The earth can yield Me but a common grave,
When You eatomb'J in men's eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be My gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read,
And tongues to be Your beiug shall rehearse
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
You still shall live — such virtue hath my pen —
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.
In tliis stanza he assures himself that if his
dramas outlive him they will live forever. " Or
shall I live Your epitaph to make.'' This seems
to be a closing up of the latter part of the line in
the preceding stanza, and means simply as op-
posed to that (or he will outlive his dramas). "Or
You survive when I in earth am rotten '' (or
though he should die, their beauty will preserve
them, so that they will live when he is forgotten).
Beauty will be immortal in them, though he be
dead "to all the world." His remains will fill a
common grave, but the beauty of his dramas will
be seen by all people. This poem shall give their
history, and shall be read by the men of future
ages, and they shall write and talk about your
beauty when the present generation has ceased
to exist. He had written so truly, and illustrated
life so perfectly, that he should be best known and
appreciated where the greatest numbers dwell.
This is but one of several prophecies in this poem
foretelling its unending life, wliich has been in
the course of a continuous fulfilment ever since it
144 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
I grant Thou wert not married to My Muse,
And therefore mayst without attaint o'erlook
The dedicated words which writers use
Of their fair subject, blessing every book.
Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue,
Finding Thy worth a limit past My praise,
And therefore art enforc'd to seek anew
Some freaher stamp of the time-bettering days.
And do so, love; yet when they have devis'd
What strained touches rhetoric can lend,
Thou truly fair wert truly sympathiz'd
In true plain words by Thy true-telling friend;
And their gross painting might be bstter us'd
Where cheeks need blood; in Thee it is abus'd.
In this stanza, in the form of an apology to Thou
(Truth) for neglecting to write a dedication in the
style and fashion of the times, he furnishes a key
which unfolds the true meaning of the dedicatory
words prefixed to this poem. Thou (Truth), be-
ing as accessible to all as to him, could very prop-
erly overlook the want of a dedication. The worth
of his thoughts surpassed any effort he might make
to praise Thy, and he must look for his eulogy in
the works of more recent writers. But he would
find after the search, notwithstanding their strained
efforts, that Thou's (Truth's) merits had been fully
appreciated and set forth " in true plain words by
Thy [Thought's] true-telling friend." The "gross
painting " of other writers could be much better
applied to subjects that stood in need of praise.
It was only belittling Thee (Thought) to squander
it on him.
IN THE SONNETS. 145
Those "true plain words" have puzzled the
heads of more writers during the past three cen-
turies than any equal number of ''true plain
words " in the English language. It cannot be
deemed presumptuous in me to attempt an inter-
pretation which has foiled so many, for if I fail
too, I shall die in the best of company. The
lines just quoted tell that the poems are dedi-
cated to Thou, or that Thou is the oiae '' sympa-
thiz'd " by the dedication. That furnishes the
key to its exposition. Mr. W. H., the person
seemingly addressed, fills a subordinate place.
This is the language as it was written origi-
TO . THE . ONLIE • BEGETTER • OF .
THESE . INSVING • SONNETS •
M'- W. H. ALL . HAPPINESSE .
AND. THAT. ETERNITIE •
OVR. EVER-LIVING. POET.
THE . WELL-WISHING •
ADVENTVRER . IN .
I read the dedication thus: —
" MR. W. H. WISHETH THAT ETERNITY PROMISED
BY OUTl EVER-LIVING POET, TO THE ONLY BEGETTER
OF THESE ENSUING SONNETS, AND ALL HAPPINESS
TO THE WELL-WISHING ADVENTURER IN SETTING
FORTH T. T. (the TRUTH)."
146 BACON AND SHAKESPEAUE
Thou (Truth) is claimed and represented by the
poet from the commencement to the close of the
poem to be its ''only begetter." Thy is the thought
that puts the truth in form. Beauty is used as an
ornament only. The poem narrates the truth con-
cerning the dramas, their origin, and the reasons
for their appearance as the works of Shakespeare.
What matters it who "Mr. W. H.'' or who "the
well-wishing adventurer" is? They are evidently
used or assumed to conceal the real purpose of the
dedication; probably, like the rest of it, entirely
allegorical. That T. T. means The Truth, instead
of Thomas Thorpe, as generally believed, is seem-
ingly, at least, refigured in the alliteration, " true
telling" in the foregoing lines, and without some
close akin to it, it is impossible to complete the
sense of the dedication.
What is the evidence that Thomas Thorpe ever
existed? The following entry in the Stationer's
Register, under the date of May 20, 1609, is
"Thomas Thorpe. — Entred for his copie under
th[e h]andes of master Wilson and master
Lownes Warden, a Booke called Shakespeare's
By this it appears that the entry for his copy-
right was made and paid for "by the hands of
Master Wilson and Master Lownes, Warden."
History is silent as to who they were, or at whose
request they made the entry. No writer has been
m THE SONITETS. 147
able to solve the mystery attending the publica-
tion of the Sonnets. The prevailing opinion is,
that they were surreptitiously obtained and pub-
lished without authority. This is hardly proba-
ble. If these interpretations are correct, Bacon
contrived the plan for their publication, and
found in Thomas Thorpe a man of his own crea-
tion, the two initials (T. T.) signifying The Truth
placed at the close of his enigmatical dedication.
I never saw that You did painting need,
And therefore to Your fair no painting set;
I found, or thought I found, You did exceed
The barren tender of a poet's debt;
And therefore have I slept in Your report,
That You Yourself, being extant, well might show
How far a modern quiil doth come too short,
Speaking of worth, what worth in You doth grow.
This silence, for My sin You did impute.
Which shall be most my glory, being dumb;
For I impair not beauty, being mute.
When others would give life and bring a tomb.
There lives more life in one of Your fair eyea
Than both Your poets can in praise devise.
In this stanza he gives his reasons for not in-
cluding Beauty in the dedication. He saw no
reason for praising him, because all effort to do so
would be so greatly excelled by Beauty himself,
that the praise would be ''barren'* and meaning-
less. He had not done it, because Beauty of him-
self and in delineation would demonstrate by his
148 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
presence how impossible it would be for any
writer to do justice to his merits, and speak of him
as he is, or as he will be appreciated by his con-
stant growth. It has been imputed to him by
Beauty, in the writings of others, that it was
wrong to publish his poem without an intelligible
dedication, but he was glad he had not written
one, as by being silent he had not impaired Beauty,
while others, who expected great benefit from their
dedications, had effectually ruined their works
by them. There was more "life" (more to give
Beauty perpetuity) in one of Your delineations
than any praise that both he and his successor
could possibly "devise."
Who is it that says most ? which can say more
Than this rich praise, that You alone are You ?
In whose confine immured is the store
Which should example where Your equal grew.
Lean penury within that pen doth dwell
That to his subject lends not some small glory;
But he that writes of You, if he can tell
That You are You, so dignifies his story.
Let him but copy what in You is writ.
Not making worse what nature made so clear,
And such a counterpart shall fame his wit,
Making his style admired everywhere.
You to Your beauteous blessings add a curse,
Being fond on praise, which makes Your praises worse.
In this stanza he enlarges upon the merits of
Beauty when considered by himself. How is it
TN THE SONNETS. 149
possible to exceed the praise of a thing which is
commended to all your faculties by its beauty. To
feel that it is beautiful, and call it so, is the utmost
limit of praise. It contains in itself an example
for all. He is a poor writer, who, however he
borrows from others, imparts no interest from his
own thoughts to his subject. But if he writes to
illustrate anything beautiful, and it is recognized
in that sense, his story needs no other praise. Let
him follow nature in his delineation, and his work
will be *^ admired everywhere." Beauty which
seeks praise outside of itself, deprives its owu in-
trinsic merit of full appreciation.
My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still,
While comments of your praise, richly compil'd,
Reserve their character with golden quill
And precious phrase by all the Muses fil'd.
I think good thoughts, whilst others write good worda^
And, like unletter'd clerk, still cry ** Amen"
To every hymn that able spirit affords
In polish'd form of well-refined pen.
Hearing You prais'd, I say, ** 'T is so, 'tis true,
And to the most of praise add something more;
But that is in My thought, whose love to You,
Though words come hindmost, holds his rank before.
Then others for the breath of words respect.
Me for My dumb thoughts, speaking in effect.
In this stanza he agrees in thought with those
who add praise to beauty in their poems, but
writes nothing in his praise himself. His muse is
150 BACON AND BHAKBSPEARE
quiet in that respect, because it would be in direct
violation of his views already expressed, to write
in praise of a subject which needed no praise; in
other words, it would be superfluous "to gild re-
fined gold and paint the lily." All the other poets
are devoting their best efforts to this purpose. He
thinks as highly of beauty as they who write in
his praise, he assents to all that his accomplished
successor may say of Beauty by a casual remark
of approval. To this, however, in his thought he
adds a higher adoration, which is embodied in
thought rather than words. If those who write
are to be respected for their eulogies of beauty, he
claims equal honor for the creation he has given
her in thoughts, which is more effective.
Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
Bound for the prize of all too precious You,
That did My ripe thoughts in My brain inhearse,
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew f
"Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch, that struck Me dead?
No, neither He, nor His compeers by night,
Giving Him aid. My verse astonished.
He, nor that affable familiar ghost
"Which nightly gulls Him with intelligence,
As victors of My silence cannot boast;
I was not sick of any fear from thence:
But when Your countenance fill'd up his line.
Then lack'd I matter; that enfeebled Mine.
In this stanza he tells the reason why he has
ceased to continue writing for the present. Was
IN TITS SONXETS. 151
it the ambitious character of the poetry of his suc-
cessor, or tlie pursuit and capture of Beauty, which
was its object, that caused him to suppress the
utterance of thoughts he had already formed?
Was it the spiritual nature of his poesy, which
"above a mortal pitch" exceeded all ordinary
powers of comprehension that silenced him? No,
neither that, nor the assistance which he nightly
received from others, depreciated his own verses.
Nor did the amiable, good-natured interloper who
cheated them with 'intelligence" have any influ-
ence in silencing him. What, then, was it? It
was that by giving him surreptitious assistance he
saw his own poetry in another's work. That de-
prived him of material for his labors, and rendered
him powerless to pursue them. It was the "coun-
tenance" (the real beauty of his own thoughts),
not the beauty of words, which made him suspend
This poet, who for some unexplained reason he
treats as his successor, may have been Daniel,
Marlow, Peele, or Chapman. Next to Shakespeare,
they were regarded as the best poets and play-
wrights of the period. Instigated by the cordial
welcome with which the dramas purporting to be
Shakespeare's were received by the public, they , as is
intimated in a former stanza, attempted to imitate
them. It is probably not saying too much for
Bacon, to attribute to the influence of his dramas
the great change which at this time occurred in
152 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
dramatic composition. New subjects were chosen,
and an entirely new face put upon the forms of
representation. If Bacon had not written, the
dramas of Marlow and Peele would have immortal-
ized the age, so great and admirable were their
powers of poetic delineation.
I think that one of the four above named was at
the time referred to in the stanza engaged in writ-
ing a play in which he was assisted by the others,
or some of them. Shakespeare, whom Robert
Green the playwright called a Johannes Facto-
tum, knew and informed Bacon of it. Ascertain-
ing the subject and drift of the play through
Shakespeare, Bacon may have from time to time,
while the work was progressing, plied Shakespeare
with facts and occasional descriptions which
Shakespeare, as the "affable familiar ghost," and
recognized by the others as the popular playwright
of the time, communicated to them, and they in-
corporated them into the play. He thus "gull'd'*
them with the matter supplied by Bacon. And
afterwards when the play appeared, and Bacon saw
and heard his own lines repeated in it, he became
disgusted, and concluded that he would cease writ-
ing at once, as he must do so very soon, at any
rate, if he succeeded in obtaining the position of
solicitor. This can hardly be called a forced
conclusion, when we remember that for purposes
of concealment, it was as necessary that Shake-
speare should be favorably known and appreciated
7iV^ THE SONNETS. 153
among his associates as that Bacon should be by
his friends. Shakespeare had been accused of
plagiarism as early as 1592 by Green, in his
''Groatesworth of Wit/* who in an address to Mar-
low, Lodge, and Peele, written on his death-bed,
says, in allusion to Shakespeare; —
"There is an upstart crow beautiful with our
feathers, that with his tiger's heart, wrapt in a
player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bom-
bast out a blank verse as the best of you, and be-
ing an absolute Johannes Factotum, is in his own
conceit the only Shake-scene in the country. 0,
that I might entreat your rare wits to be employed
in more profitable courses; and let those apes imi-
tate your past excellence, and never more acquaint
them with your admired inventions.''
Bacon well knew that Shakespeare's authorship
among these accomplished writers required con-
stant watchfulness on his part to avoid exposure,
as that would betray him. This fear, constantly
before him, must have led to many strange de-
vices, the one above conjectured probably, among
The motive which he gives of " lacking matter "
would have little weight with one so fruitful in
resources, but seeing the " countenance " (his own
thoughts) intermixed with those of his successor,
as he dubs him, he might well take alarm, lest
others, observing the difference in the style of
the play, should stir up inquiry, which would
154 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
cause him to be suspected. When he was assigned
by Queen Elizabeth as one of the counsel to con-
duct the inquiry concerning the conduct of the
Earl of Essex in Ireland, and told, as he writes in
an explanatory letter afterwards, " that I should set
forth some undutiful carriage of my lord in giving
occasion and countenance to a seditious pamphlet,
as it was termed, which was dedicated unto him,
which was the book before mentioned of King
Henry IV. Whereupon I replied to that allotment,
and said to their lordships that it was an old mat-
ter, and had no manner of coherence with the rest
of the charge, being matters of Ireland; and there-
fore that I, having been wronged by bruits before,
this would expose me to them more, and it would
be said that I gave in evidence mine own tales.''
From this passage it is apparent that he had been
suspected of writing the play of Henry IV. How
else than from Shakespeare would he have been
likely to know of the nightly meetings of these
poets, and the work they were doing? He had no
personal intercourse with them, was not in their
secrets, and all his writings for the theatre were
veiled by Shakespeare. Yet he is able in this
history to give the whole story, and to mention as
an "affable familiar ghost," one who "gulls them
with intelligence" (who gives them as of him-
self what he has received from another). Does not
this mean Shakespeare?
m THE SONNETS. 155
Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough Thou know'st Thy estimate:
The charter of Thy worth gives Thee releasing;
My bonds in Thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold Thee but by Thy granting ?
And for that riches where is My deserving ?
The cause of this fair gift in Me is wanting,
And so My patent back again is swerving.
Thyself Thou gav'st, Thy own worth then not knowing,
Or Me, to whom Thou gav'st it, else mistaking;
So Thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making.
Thus have I had Thee, as a dream doth flatter,
In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.
The farewell in this stanza means that his
dramatic labors must cease. Thou (Truth) is
now so much sought after by the playwrights that
his exclusive use of him is gone. In the use which
others make of him, it is very probable that the
labors of Thy (Thought) will be found wanting.
But Thy must be released also, for he has no
longer use for him, and he can only hold him
while he is willing. So long as he will not write
dramas. Thy is unnecessary, — the cause or object
of his creation no longer remains with him, — and
so the "patent" which he devised for weaving
Thy into his labors has ceased to interest him.
Thou (Truth) was the substance of Thy (Thought).
Thought, when awakened in him, did not know
his power, but this knowledge came to him after-
wards, and with the help of Thou he grew by
156 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
" misprision '' (concealed truths and phrases).
Now, with the approval of his own judgment,
Thy returns to his inert condition. While he re-
mained with him he made him proud and vain,
ruled him as a king when he had no other work,
but now a greater pursuit was before him, and
Thy was bereft of his attractions.
The " patent," or plan of composition adopted
by Bacon, has been already explained. The dis-
solution given to it in this stanza, and the motive
assigned for it, show that Bacon had the fullest
confidence in his appointment as solicitor, and
would never occupy his time again in writing
dramas. The prize he had toiled for was almost
within his grasp, and his gloomy period of seclu-
sion nearly over. The difficulties and obstruc-
tions he was confident would be overcome by his
noble young friend, the Earl of Essex, who was
giving all his energy, popularity, and powers of
persuasion to his application. The story of those
labors — of the opposing forces; of the delays; of
the vacillating conduct of Elizabeth; of the dupli-
city of the Cecils; of the faithful devotion of Es-
sex; and the final defeat of Bacon, in all running
through seventeen months of the years 1594 and
1595 — is much too long to be detailed here. There
will be frequent occasion to refer to the effect it
produced in Bacon's mind, while it was passing,
in the consideration given to future Sormets.
m THE SONNETS. 157
When Thou shalt be dispos'd to set Me light,
And place My merit in the eye of scorn,
Upon Thy side against Myself I '11 fight,
And prove Thee virtuous, though Thou art foresworn.
With Mine own weakness, being best acquainted,
Upon Thy part I can set down a story
Of faults conceal'd, wherein I am attainted,
Tliat Thou in losing Me shalt win much glory:
And I by this will be a gainer too;
For bending all My loving thoughts on Thee,
The injuries that to Myself I do.
Doing Thee vantage, double-vantage Me.
Such is My love, to Thee I so belong.
That for Thy right Myself will bear all wrong.
If it should so happen that while seeking the
appointment of solicitor-general, any charges
should be arrayed against him by his enemies of
a personal character, for the purpose of depreciat-
ing his merits and defeating him, he (Bacon as an
individual) will defend the purity and virtue of
Thy, — the thoughts embodied in the dramas, —
by fighting against Myself (Bacon as author). His
object will be to mislead his opponents and prevent
them from suspecting that he had been a writer
for the theatre. That fact, if proved against him,
would not only defeat him, but drive him into
hopeless obscurity. How would he prove Thy's
purity? Knowing his own weakness, how the
dramas were composed, and what means he had
employed, he could " set down a story of faults
conceal'd" of which he was guilty. He would
show that the dramas were a compilation of
158 BACOy AND SHAKESPEARE
truths, derived from infinite sources. All the
great writers of all former ages had contributed
to them. They had grown, as he says in the pre-
ceding stanza, by misprision, "faults concealed.'^
Thou (Truth) would win much glory by such a
revelation, because it would show that Bacon
alone could not have been the author, but that
the truth displayed was the product of ages. By
thus exposing his patent, ''bending all My loving
thoughts on Thee,'' which of course would be
done judiciously, he would divert attention from
himself, and be a gainer also. Every injury he
did to "Myself" (Bacon as author) would bene-
fit Thee (Thought), and prove of double benefit
to Bacon as a candidate. Such is My Love (the
dramas), so are they composed, and he at this
time is so absorbed in electioneering schemes
that to obtain the ofiice "Myself" (Bacon as the
author) " will bear all wrong." In other words,
he will by all possible means avoid exposure as
the author of the dramas.
Say that Thou didst forsake Me for some fault,
And I will comment upon that offence;
Speak of My lameness, and I straight will halt,
Against Thy reasons making no defence.
Thou canst not, love, disgrace Me half so ill,
To set a form upon desired change,
As 1 11 Myself disgrace: knowing Thy will,
I will acquaintance strangle and look strange,
IN THE SONJSrETS. 159
Be absent from Thy walks, and iu My tongue
Thy sweet beloved name no more shall dwell.
Lest I (too much profane) should do it wrong,
And haply of our old acquaintance tell.
For Thee against Myself I '11 vow debate.
For I must ne'er love him whom Thou dost hate.
Continuing his address to Thou (Truth) in this
stanza, he expresses the intention, even though
errors may appear in the dramas, of abandoning
them altogether to such fate as may be accorded
them by the world. *^ Say that Thou didst forsake
Me for some fault*' (some passage or passages did
not contain the truth), ''and I will comment
upon that offence " (he will consider the subject).
*' Speak of My lameness, and I straight will halt,
against Thy reasons making no defence" (if the
fault is in the metre, he will have no argument
with Thou about it). " Thou canst not, love, dis-
grace Me half so ill, to set a form upon desired
change, as I'll Myself disgrace" (any discovery of
error which may require that a new form should
be set up, or new edition printed to correct or
change it, he will not regard). " Knowing Thy
will" (knowing his own will to avoid exposure),
"I will acquaintance strangle and look strange,
be absent from Thy walks, and in My tongue Thy
sweet beloved name no more shall dwell" (he will
think no more on the subject, it shall be forgot-
ten; he will never recall it, nor even mention it),
" lest I (too much profane) should do it wrong,
and haply of our old acquaintance tell" (lest he
IGO BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
should be tempted to denounce it, or worse even,
accidentally reveal himself as the author. For
these reasons he would offer no defence for him-
self, or for his erroneous composition).
Then hate Me when Thou wilt, — if ever, now;
Now, while the world is bent My deeds to cross,
Join with the spite of fortune, make Me bow,
And do not tlrop in for an after-loss.
Ah, do not, when My heart hath scap'd this sorrow,
Come in the rearward of a eonquer'd woe;
Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,
To linger out a purpos'd overthrow.
If Thou wilt leave Me, do not leave Me last,
When other petty griefs have done their spite.
But in the onset come; so shall I taste
At first the very worst of fortune's might.
And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,
Compar'd with loss of Thee will not seem so.
Pursuing the thread of allegory in this stanza,
as if conscious of deserving the hatred of Truth
for the resolution he has formed to neglect and
abandon it, he invites Thou to his revenge. ''Then
hate Mo when Thou wilt, — if ever, now; now, while
the world is bent My deeds to cross.*' At this time
Bacon was invoking aid from every quarter in
support of his pretensions to the office of solicitor-
general. His life had been so correct, so studious,
so isolated, that nothing stronger could be urged
against him than that he was not fitted by habits
or pursuits for the position, and was extravagant
m THE SONNETS. IGi
in his expenses. These objections in themselves
would probably, have been insufficient in the eyes of
the queen, were there not others whispered in her
ears by some secret enemy, tending to shake her
faith in his competenc}^ It was during this strug-
gle that, in reply to one of the urgent solicitations
of Essex in behalf of the appointment, she said:
*' Bacon had great wit and much learning, but that
in the law he could show to the uttermost of his
knowledge, and was not deep/' Montagu says:
''Essex was convinced that Bacon's enemy was the
Lord-Keeper Puckering." Macaulay thinks "that
Bacon himself attributed his defeat to his relations,
Lord Burleigh and his son Sir Robert Cecil." H©
quotes the following remarkable passage from a
letter written by Bacon to Villiers many years
afterwards: " Countenance, encourage, and ad-
vance able men in all kinds, degrees, and profes-
sions. For in the time of the Cecils, the father
and son, able men were of design and of purpose
suppressed." While engaged in the effort to re-
sist the effect of these and similar influences upon
the mind of the queen, his fear of betrayal as a
writer of plays must have haunted him like a
spectre, to have revived so many years afterwards,
such a vivid memory of it as he gives in this poem.
In this spirit he invokes the hatred of Thou at
that time, which is equivalent to saying tl&at he
wished all possible evidence of his dramas might
bo removed entirely from public observation.
162 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
They were created of Thou (Truth), and his hatred
would conceal, while his love would expose him.
"Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow"
(as fortune was hostile to him, so mayst Thou be,
that he may not hold him in fear; he will thank
him for the favor). "Ah, do not, when my heart
hath scaped this sorrow, come in the rearward of
a conquered woe '' (do not reveal yourself after he
has overcome other obstacles). "Give not a windy
night a rainy morrow, to linger out a purpos'd
overthrow" (do not follow up the darkness and
noise which now envelops him with thy storm
and clouds, to aid those who are working for his
defeat). " If Thou wilt leave Me, do not leave Me
last, when other petty griefs have done their spite"
(let not this exposure of his authorship be made
wiien other and weaker impediments are removed).
"But in the onset come" (come as an enemy at
first, and you will not be found out). "So shall I
taste at first the very worst of fortune's might"
(then with nothing to fear from you, all ray fear
will be of the calumnies of the day). "And other
strains of woe, which now seem woe, comparM with
loss of Thee will not seem so " (they will not alarm
him; the only fear he has is this exposure as a
playwright, all other opposition is nothing in
comparison). He was certain that he would be
appointed if his labors for the stage could be kept
IN THE SOKXETS. 163
Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Some in their wealth, some in their body's force,
Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill,
Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse;
And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest:
But these particulars are not My measure;
All these I better in one general best.
Thy love is better than high birth to Me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garments' cost,
Of more delight than hawks or horses be;
And having Thee, of all men's pride I boast:
Wretched in this alone, that Thou mayst take
All this away and Me most wretched make.
He names in this stanza, as the highest enjoy-
ment and greatest pride of his life, the time that
he has spent in the creation of his dramas. There
is for every one some particular pleasure para-
mount to all others; as for some their birth, others
their skill. Some worship wealth, some strength.
Fine garments, hawks, hounds, and horses have
each their special admirers, who take their great-
est pleasure in them. He has no choice among
these, they are alike agreeable; but that which he
prizes above them all is ''Thy love'' (the delight
he has experienced in weaving his own true
thought, and the truths gathered from the past,
into the immortal dramas). In them, and in the
truths of which they are composed, he has the
pride of all men. It is depicted in them, and it
saddens him when he thinks that in the attempts
164 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
of others to illustrate truth, all its beauty may be
Sonnet 92. •
But do Thy worst to steal Thyself away.
For term of life Thou art assured Mine,
And life no longer than Thy love will stay,
For it depends upon that love of Thine.
Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs.
When in the least of them My life hath end.
I see a better state to Me belongs
Than that which on Thy humour doth depend;
Thou canst not vex Me with inconstant mind.
Since that My life on Thy revolt doth lie-
O, what a happy title do I find,
Happy to have Thy love, happy to die!
But what 's so blessed-fair that fears no blot ?
Thou mayst be false, and yet 1 know it not.
In this stanza he expresses the conviction that
Thou (Truth) will be with him during life. "But
do Thy worst to steal Thyself away" (his delin-
eated thoughts), "for term of life Thou art assured
Mine" (Thou (Truth) will be with him while he
lives), "and life no longer than Thy love will
stay, for it depends upon that love of Thine" (all
knowledge of him and his dramatic labors (his
life) ceases (dies) when he stops writing (Thou's
love of Thy ends); as from that moment they
will be recognized as the work of Shakespeare).
"Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs*'
(which he declares to be the disappearance of
Thy), "when in the least of them My life hath
end" (since his name is gone from the moment
7.Y THE SONNETS, 165
he ceases to write). "I see a better state to me be-
longs'' (he is sure of the appointment as solicitor),
"than that which on Thy humour doth depend"
(superior in rank and position to writing). " Thou
canst not vex Me with inconstant mind, since that
My life on Thy revolt doth lie" (he cannot be
blamed for preferring this office to writing, as
the disclosure of that would ruin him). He will
gain a title (be ennobled) by it, retain possession
of Thou (Truth), and be happy in a cessation
of labor as a writer. Better than all Thy (his
thoughts) being gone, there may be some un-
truths in his writings which cannot be discov-
So shall I live, supposing Thou art true,
Like a deceived husband; so love's face
May still seem love to Me, though alter'd new,
Thy looks with Me, Thy heart in other place;
For there can live no hatred in Thine eye,
Therefore in that I cannot know Thy change.
In many's looks the false heart's history
Is writ in moods and frowns and wrinkles strange.
But heaven in Thy creation did decree
That in Thy face sweet love should ever dwell;
Wliate'er Thy thoughts or Thy heart's workings be,
Thy looks should nothing thence but sweetness tell.
How like Eve's apple doth Thy beauty grow,
If Thy sweet virtue answer not Thy show I
He tells in this stanza that Truth will have the
same attraction for him when his pursuit has
changed as it had before. Ignorant of any fal-
166 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
sity in Thou (Tnith), as he says in the previous
stanza, he will live supposing him to be true.
His new position will seemingly, at least, have
the same attraction for him, as, like a husband
who knowing no wrong in his wife confides in her
honesty, so he, seeing nothing in the office to pre-
vent, will accept it, and find in the discharge of its
duties much pleasure. In appearance Truth will
be the same, though he may not display it in the
same form. It is always the same, without change.
There are many writers who in attempting its de-
lination have strangely misconceived it. It was
born of heaven pure and beautiful, and its ap-
pearance, whatever form it may assume, is full of
beauty. If its influence is not equal to its appear-
ance, it, like "Eve's apple," tempts but to destroy.
They that have power to hurt and will do none^
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone.
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow,
They rightly do inherit heaven's graces,
And husband nature's riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces.
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die.
But if that flower with base infection meet.
The basest weed outbraves its dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds:
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
m THE SONNETS. 1G7
He describes a class of contemporary authors,
whose writings are cold, impassive, and destitute
of merit or influence. They possess ability, but
do not display it; make great pretensions, but do
not establish them; impart life to their persona-
tions, but are unfeeling themselves. Their finical
sense of propriety overcomes their vigor of expres-
sion, and shields them from all temptation to de-
lineate passion or character. They possess these
virtues by inheritance, not labor. They have com-
plete control of themselves, while others who write
to some purpose are but "stewards of their excel-
lence" (the authors who gather up, use, and dis-
play effectively those qualities of life and character
that constitute the true merit of all composition,
and which never enter into the conceptions of
these fastidious writers). They, like a summer
flower, sweet while the summer lasts, live and die
to themselves. If they attempt more than they
can do, their writings, like that flower whose fra-
grance is changed by infection to a fetid odor, and
less attractive than the ugliest weed, are unhealthy
and demoralizing. As the odor of the lily in its
decay is more ofi'ensive than the odor of the weed,
so these writings, how beautiful soever they may
seem, if tainted with falsehood, are worse in their
efi*ects than the unreliable works of scrubs and
How sweet and lovely dost Tlioii make the shame
Which, like a canker in the fragrant rose,
168 BACON AND SHAKESPEAHE
Doth spot the beauty of Thy budding name !
O, in what sweets dost Thou Thy sins enclose !
That tongue that tells the gtorj' of Thy days.
Making lascivious comments on Thy sport.
Cannot dispraise but in a kind of praise;
Naming xhy.name blesses an ill report.
O, what a mansion have those vices got
Which for their habitation cliose out Thee,
Where beauty's veil doth cover every blot,
And all things turn to fair that eyes can seo !
Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege;
The hardest knife ill-us'd doth lose his edge.
lu this stanza he tells us how effectually he has
employed Truth in the delineation of error. In
his dramas Truth has made error charming, by
clothing the sins he depicted in attractive words.
His lascivious scenes have been so naturally un-
folded, that censure for their immoralities was
disarmed by the admiration evoked by their
beauty. The name of any of his characters was
an excuse with the public for any sin it specially
portrayed. Everything he has written has received
the fullest public approval. This wonderful power
is to be used with care, as by improper usage it
will lose its effect.
Some say Thy fault is youth, Bome wantonness;
Some say Thy grace is youth and gentle sport:
Both grace and faults are lov'd of more and less;
ihou mak'st faults graces that to Thee resort.
As on the finger of a throned queen
The basest jewel will be well esteem'd,
So are those errors that in Thee are seen
To trucha translated, and for true things deem'd.
m THE Bonnets. 169
How many lambs might the stern wolf betray.
If like a lamb he could his looks translate !
How many gazers mightst Thou lead away,
If Thou wouldst use the strength of all Thy state I
But do not so; I love Thee in such sort,
As, Thou being Mine, Mine is Thy good report.
In this stanza he tells of the favorable welcome
his dramas have received. Fault has been found
by some with the licentious scenes he has written,
but others have excused them as the product of
y^uth and gayety. In both forms they have their
admirers. He has been successful in converting
faults into graces. As the worthless jewel on the
finger of a powerful queen would be highly es-
teemed, so are the errors in his dramas, in the
garb of Truth, received and adopted by the public
as truth indeed. If the wolf could transform him-
self into the appearance of a lamb, it would add
fearfully to his facilities for depredation. So if
Thou (Truth) would give 'Hhe strength of all Thy
state " (the name of Francis Bacon, instead of
AVilliam Shakespeare, as the author of the dramas),
he would add correspondingly to the number of his
admirers. But this he must not do. His (Bacon's)
love for "Thee** (his thoughts) is of a different
sort. Thou (Truth) belongs to him as an author,
and as the author (Shakespeare) only can he make
report of his thoughts.
How like a winter hath My absence been
From Thee, the pleasure of the lleeting year 1
.170 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen.
What old December's bareness everywhere !
And yet this time remov'd was summer's time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase.
Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime.
Like widow'd wombs after their lord's decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me
But hope of orphans and uufather'd fruit,
For summer and his pleasures wait on Thee,
And, Thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or, if they sing, 't is with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.
He makes observations in this stanza upon the
change in his life since he quit writing, and the
increase and character of the poetry of others.
Since he left writing time has passed heavily.
It has been like winter. He has been treated with
coldness by friends, and at times driven almost to
despair; has had no congenial occupation, and
his surroundings imparted a gloom to his mind,
which might be fitly compared to the nakedness
of a December landscape. Yet it was summer
time and succeeded by a "teeming autumn."
Poets had been busy, and greatly increased their
labors. The world around him was full of poesy,
but much of it was anonymous, and some uu-
father'd (the work of fugitive writers). It had no
charm for him. The time was desolate, which his
old pursuit would have made delightful. Thou
(Truth) was not with him, and he could not w^rite.
When he attempted to do so, his writings were
dull, cold, and cheerless.
71V THE SONNETS. 17l
Fi'om You have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April dress'd in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make Me any summer's story tell.
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grewj
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose:
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after You, You pattern of all those.
Yet seem'd it winter still, and. You away,
As with Yom* shadow I with these did play.
He tells in this stanza of the effect which the
abandonment of Beauty has had upon his life.
The inspiration of Beauty, which, before he
sought the appointment of solicitor, was so con-
stant and delightful, though seemingly as inviting
as ever, had no charm for him. Beauty's sur-
roundings were fresh and spring-like. The same
spirit animated him with youth; even the rest of
Saturn was broken, and his mirth and jollity
aroused. But neither the songs of birds nor the
perfume of flowers could arouse in him the least
ambition or desire to re-engage in writing. He
had no story to tell, and was entirely indifferent
to the difiPerent phases of beauty, which had once
so charmed him. They seemed but pleasant ob-
jects to the sight, — forms in outline of his former
joys. He felt that Beauty had forsaken him, and
left only winter and gloom in his place.
172 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
The inference from this stanza, that while he is
by preoccupation was prevented from giving any-
time to dramatic labor, other authors of the time
were more busily employed than ever. He could
see nothing in the beauty of their productions that
was not imitative of his own. They did not attain
to a full delineation of beauty as he had done, in
particulars which he would proceed to illustrate in
the next stanza.
The forward violet thus did I chide:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal Thy sweet that smells.
If not from My Love's breath ? The purple pride
Which on Thy soft cheek for complexion dwells
In My Love's veins Thou hast too grossly dyed.
The lily I condemned for Tliy hand,
And buds of marjoram had stolen Thy hair;
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
One blushing shame, another white despair;
A third, nor red nor white, had stolen of both.
And to this robbery had annex'd Thy breath;
But, for his theft, in pride of all his growth
A vengeful canker eat him up to death.
More flowers I noted, yet I none could see
But sweet or colour it had stolen from Thee.
He criticises the writings of contemporaries, and
charges them with plagiarism.
One author, more conspicuous than the others,
whom he calls the " forward violet," he charges
with stealing so much of the truth as has given him
reputation from the " breath " or fame of '* My
Love's breath'' (his own works). He has also
7iV^ THE SON27ETS. 173
abused nature by the heightened color he has given
to his characters, — comparing the hand to a ** lily,'*
and the hair to "buds of marjoram." His com-
parisons of shame and despair — roses standing on
bushes bent with thorns — was false to nature, and
the false mixing in coloring was so offensive, that
it carried its own elements of decay with it. He
could see nothing in the merit or beauty of other
writers that had not been stolen from "Thee"
Where art Thou, Muse, that Thou forget'st so long
To speak of that which gives Thee all Thy might?
Spend'st Thou Thy fury on some worthless -song,
Dark'niug Thy power to lend base subjects light ?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth Thy lays esteem
And gives Thy pen both skill and argument.
Rise, resty Muse, My Love's sweet face survey,
If Time liave any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
And make Time's spoils despised everywhere.
Give My Love fame faster than Time wastes life;
So Thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked knife.
As if in disgust, he now calls upon Thou (Truth),
as a muse, to redeem himself and renew his labor
in that field where ho as "Thy" (Thought) has
won all his fame. Waste no more time in work
that is of no value. Hide not your light in the
obscurity of others; recall your powers and come
back to mO; and redeem the time you have wasted
174 BACOK AND SHAKESPEAnE
in noble labors. Sing for me (Bacon), who love
thy poems, and give thee ''skill and argument."
Arouse yourself. Look at the work you once ac-
complished. Survey " My Love " (Lucrece), and
satisfy yourself whether she has been injuriously
affected by Time. If she has, it is for you to arrest
her decay, and defeat the spoils of Time, by giving
her universal renown. Multiply it faster than
Time can destroy it, and defeat him in his cruel
O truant Mose, what shall be Thy amends
For Thy neglect of truth in beauty dyed ?
Both truth and beauty on My Love depends;
So dost Thou too, and therein dignified.
Make answer, Muse, wilt Thou not haply say,
"Truth needs no colour, with his colour fix'd;
Beauty no pencil, beauty's truth to lay;
But best is best, if never intermix 'd ? "
Because he needs no praise, wilt Thou be dumb ?
Excuse not silence so; for 't lies in Thee
To make him much outlive a gilded tomb,
And to be prais'd of ages yet to be.
Then do Thy oflSce, Muse; I teach Thee how
To make him seem long hence as he shows now.
He charges his Muse with the offence of truancy,
and asks what amends he will make to Thy
(Thought) for neglecting "truth in beauty dyed"
(to produce another poem like the former of
*' Venus and Adonis "), when truth and beauty have
now only, My Love (Lucrece), as a dependence.
Answer me, Muse ! Thou (Truth) will probably
IN THE SONNETS. 175
say that Lucrece needs no change, and beauty
needs no power to decorate her. They are both
better for being separate. But, Muse ! will you
be silent because truth needs no admiration, when
it id in your power to give him immortal life, and
cause him to be sought after and admired through
all future time? Go to work at once under my in-
struction, and impart that life to Lucrece which
shall give her that recognition in the future that
she appears to have now.
My Love is strength en'd, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear:
That love is merchandizM whose rich esteeming
The owner's tongue dotli publish everywhere.
Oar love was new and then but in the spriug
When I was wont to greet it with My lays,
As Philomel in summer's front doth sing
" And stops her pipe in growth of riper days;
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
Therefore, like her, I sometimes hold My tongue,
Because I would not dull You with My song.
In this stanza he tells that he has commenced
"v\Titing in verse.
He has recommenced writing, and finds that
since he began to write this poem, his power,
though seemingly weaker, is in fact greater. His
theme affords him as much pleasure as his dra-
176 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
matic works, but will not be as generally appreci-
ated. The works that command the admiration
of the public are such as their authors wrote and
sold to the theatres, or for general publication.
His love for the poem at that time was new to
him, in its spring-time, and like the whip-poor-
will, who sings in the early summer, so he sang
in verse when lie began to write this poem. As
she ceased with the advance of the year, so he, as
years came, also ceased to write for a while. ♦Not
that he found less delight in the poem now than
then, but the world was now full of the poetry of
other writers, "wild music," and it had become so
common as to lose its charm. For this reason he
had been silent lest he should add to the dulness.
Alack, what poverty My Muse brings forth.
That having such a scope to show her pride,
The argument, «ll bare, is of more worth
Than when it hath My added praise beside!
0, blame Me not, if I no more can write!
Look in your glass, and there appears *a face
That overgoes My blunt invention quite.
Dulling My lines and doing Me disgrace.
Were it not sinful, then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well ?
For to no other pass My verses tend
Tlian of Your graces and Your gifts to tell;
And more, much more, than in My verse can sit
Your own glass shows You when you look in it.
He speaks in this stanza of the difficulties which
trouble him in recomposing the poem.
TJ^ THE SOimETS. 177
He can discover no improvement, upon the ver-
sion he had already written in his attempt to re-
vise it. With a subject of unlimited range for
display, the mere statement was better than the
dress he gave it. He despairs of being able to
finish it, and tells Beauty that the face she has
formed for his heroine exceeds his powers of de-
scrijjtion, makes his lines tame, and shames his
genius. Is it not wrong, then, to rewrite that
which was so well told before, and thus disfigure
the poem? His only aim is to delineate the charm
and grace of his heroine, and beauty in those vir-
tues is more higlily adorned than he can depict
To Me, fair friend, You never can be old,
For as You were when first Your eye I eyed,
Such seems Your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers' jiride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn'd
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn'd,
Since first I saw You fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv'd;
So Your sweet hue, which mothinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and Mine eye may be deceived:
For fear of which, hear this. Thou age unbred:
Ere You were born was beauty's summer dead.
This stanza is addressed to Lucrece, his heroine,
and tells when he first wrote the poem.
You (being the impersonation of Beauty) are
178 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
qualified in this stanza by the address "fair friend,"
at the commencement, — which means Lucrece,
She can never be old to him, and is just as beauti-
ful now as when he first wrote the poem. Three
years have passed since that time, and she is still
green, or fresh in his memory. As beauty steals
from his figure with the imperceptible movement
of the hand on the dial, so she, after so long a
period, as he thinks, has life and movement; but
lest he should be deceived, he will inform the
poets, now so ambitious of renown, that " beauty's
summer [was] dead " (was embodied in this poem)
before they began to write.
Let not My love be call'd idcLitrv,
Nor My beloved as an idol show,
Since all alike My songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.
Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind.
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore My verse to constancy confin'd.
One thing expressing, leave3 out diflference.
*' Fair, kind, and true " is all My argument,
'• Fair, kind, and true " varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affoidu;
"Fair, kind, and true," have often liv'd alone,
Which three till now never kept seat in one.
His fondness for his own work, though great,
must not be mistaken for idolatry, nor does ho
wish ''My beloved" (Lucrece) to be admired be-
IN THE SONNETS. 179
yond lier deserts, as his object has been simply, in
her character and conduct, to illustrate the influ-
ence of constancy. There was no change in her
affection, and she remained true to her love, and
emphasized the truthfulness of her life by self-in-
flicted death. This, to the exclusion of other
thoughts, was the prominent feature of his poem.
Her beauty, kindness, and truth, as changed only
by words of like significance, had been the three
themes which, though often separately considered,
had never before in united form been portrayed
in one poem.
The six stanzas commencing at 100 furnish a
complete history of the poem of Lucrece. It was
first written in 1591, but for some reason not pub-
lished. Bacon says it was because the world was
deluged with poetry at that time, and this poem,
if published, would not be appreciated. The
probability is that it was not in all respects fin-
ished to his liking, and he laid it by for further
consideration. As this poem was written at the
time that "Venus and Adonis" was published, we
may presume that it was the ''graver labor'' to
which he referred in the dedication of that *' first
heir of his invention" to the Earl of Southampton.
This presumption finds confirmation in the fact
that he did dedicate this poem to Southampton,
when published in the following year, 1594.
These stanzas all refer to a recomposition of
the poem, — a work which afforded him recreation
ISO BACON AND SIIAIlE^PEAnE
during the long suspense of seventeen months,
incurred by the delay of the queen in appointing
a solicitor. If we may judge from his own words,
this was the most distressing period of Bacon^s
early life. He had surrendered all congenial oc-
cupation to the exigency of the occasion. Those
relatives who could have iided him treated him
with coldness, and Avhen, distrustful of them, he
accepted the assistance of Essex, they, from pure
jealousy of that nobleman, opposed him. Fear,
anxiety, distrust, and suspicion by turns affected
his mind. It is only by supposing that the labor
he bestowed upon Lucrece at this time was irt mak-
ing a few changes, that we can account for the
beauty and finish which adorns it.
When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Tlien, in the blazon of sweet beauty's best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique i)en would have expresa'd
Even such a beauty as You master now.
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all You prefiguring.
And, for they look'd but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough Your worth to sing:
For we, ^^ hich now behold these present days,
Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.
On surveying the poems that have been written
by former poets, he sees many descriptions of cUar-
IN TIIS SONNETS. 181
acter, mucli beauty in the versification, and in the
portrayal of the ladies and knights of the period
represented. These same poets, so saccessful in
that form of delineation, have also in the same
form of verse attempted to give beauty a more
life-like representation, in the personal charms of
their female characters. They have sought to givo
expression to the same kind of character that he
has since successfully delineated. Their attempts
were but the forerunners of his success. They
had the spirit of true poetry, but lacked the genius
and skill. Their works excite our wonder, but wo
cannot praise them.
Not Mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lea^o of My True Love control,
SupposM as forfeit to a confin'd doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur'd,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
In certainties now crown themseh'es assur'd,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My Love looks fresh, and Death to Me subscribes.
Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme.
While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes;
And Thou in this shalt find Thy monument.
When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.
He has no longer any fear for his own safety, and
there is nothing in the future to prevent him from
returning to his dramatic labors, which he had
132 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
supposed would be terminated by his appointment
as solicitor. Queen Elizabeth, "the mortal moon,"
is dead, and James I., "the eclipse," has ascended
the throne, and those who prophesied trouble and
war were mistaken. All that was uncertain or
doubtful in the future is now favorably settled, and
peace jiromises to be enduring. The time is pro-
l)itious for him; his dramas, which he supposed
were completed, now seem to be renewed. They
have lost no prestige, and will survive him. He
will live in this poetic history, long after death
has destroyed nations and peoples. And Thou
(Truth) will have it for a memorial when kings
and their tombs are decayed.
What 's in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figur'd to Thee My tnie spirit ?
What 's new to speak, what new to register,
That may express My Love or Thy dear merit ?
Nothing, sweet boy; but yet, like prayers divine,
I must each day say o'er the very same.
Counting no old thing old, Thou mine, I Thine,
Even as when first I hallow'd Thy fair name.
So that eternal Love in Love's fresh case
Weighs not the dust and injury of age,
Nor gives to necessary wrinkles place,
But makes antiquity for aye his page,
Finding the first conceit of love there bred
Where time and outward form would show it dead.
• His other self. Thee (his thoughts), is now re-
called from his long exile, and questioned as to
his ability to resume dramatic labor. Dd you
m THE S0N2fETS. 183
need anything new? Has not he (Bacon) told
you, as thought, all about his own powers ? Is
there anything new to speak or write about him-
self that you do not fully understand ? Certainly
not. He is essentially the same now that he was
before their separation. His style of composition
is as uniform as the prayers in the church service,
— the same over and over, always fresh, never
old. Thou (Truth) is his now as he is Truth's,
just as he was when he lirst called Thy (Thought)
to his aid. So that they may begin the composi-
tion of the new drama, just as if there had been
no separation, and he had not grown older, but
was following up the method he had first adopted.
In that method he had made his first success, and
to consult any other, depending upon time or ex-
ternal observation,, would be to destroy their work.
O, never say that I was false of heart.
Though absence seem'd My flame to qualify.
As easy might I from Myself depart
As from My soul, which in Thy breast doth lie:
That is My home of love; if I have rang'd,
Like him that travels I return again,
Just to the time, not with the time exchang'd,
So that Myself bring water for My stain.
Never believe, though in My nature reign 'd
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so preposterously be stain 'd.
To leave for nothing all Thy sum of good;
For nothing this wide universe I call,
Save Thou, My rose; in it Thou art My all.
134 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Do not accuse him of inconstancy because, by
absence, his work has been suspended. He could
forsake '^ Myself" (Bacon as author) as easily as he
could forsake "Thy" (Thought). In Thee is his
real home, and if he has been away» like a traveller,
he has returned as soon as he could, without any
change that he has not repented of in tears, and
" Myself" (Bacon as author) has returned with
him. Don*t believe, though he may be accused
of all errors common to his race, that he would
forsake Thou (Truth) for nothing; and as the
universe would be nothing without Thou, so Thou
(Truth) in the universe is his all.
Alas, 't is true I have gone here and there.
And matle Myself a motley to the view,
Gor'd Mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear.
Made old oflFences of afifections new;
Most true it is that I have look'd on truth
Askance and strangely; but, by all above.
These blonches gave My heart another youth.
And worse E-isays prov'd Thee My best of love.
Now all is done, have what shall have no end;
Mine appetite I never more will grind
On newer proof, to try an older friend,
A god in love, to whom I am confin'd.
Then give Me welcome, next My heaven the best.
Even to Thy pure and most most loving breast.
It is unfortunately true that, by the means he
has used to obtain preferment, his life appears
checkered to the world. He, ''Myself" (as an
m THE SONNETS. 185
author), has appeared iti " motley 'Mii theatrical
representations. He has dissembled his thoughts,
sold cheap his most precious works, offended old
friends by his choice of new ones, and used deceit
in avoidance of truth; but these errors, he calls
heaven to witness, renewed in him the love which
in his youth he had for contemplation and closet
studies. The Essays which he wrote under that
influence satisfied him that his dramas were his
l)est performances. Now that they were finished,
lie would hereafter work upon the dramas, and
never forsake them for other modes of composi-
tion. They were his idols, exclusive of all else.
He besought Thy (his other self) to aid him with
all his power, purity, and love, as next to heaven
he was most dear to him.
Bacon's first appearance in his own name as
an author, after his defeat, was in a small volume
of " Essays," " Religious Meditations," and a table
of '' The Colors of Good and Evil." This was pub-
lished in 1597, about two years after his defeat
for the solicitorship. It doubtless contained the
Essays to which he refers in this stanza ("and
worse Essays proved Thee My best of love "), which
proved that dramatic writing was better suited to
O, for My sake do You with fortune chide,
The guilty goddesi of My harmful deoda,
That did not better for My life provide
Thau public means which public manners breeds.
186 BACON AND SHAKESPEAHE
Thence comes it that My name receives a brand,
And almost thence My nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand.
Pity me, then, and wish I were renew'd.
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eisel 'gainst My strong infection;
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance to correct correction.
Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure Ye,
Even that Your pity is enough to cure Me.
It will be observed in the line preceding the
last that this and the following stanzas are ad-
dressed to *'dear friend," a term which he uses to
designate some one of his dramas or poems, as he
used ''fair friend" to designate Lucrece. The
work here addressed is "Timon of Athens." This
work«in the folio of 1G23 is classed as a tragedy.
It was probably the first of his dramatic compo-
sitions after his defeat, and was intended allegori-
eally to shadow his own bitter experience during
the long struggle preceding that disaster.
The moral of the play is appealed to, to furnish
an excuse for his own errors. He was educated
for public life, taught to depend upon it for the
means of life, instructed in those manners and
usages which were to be observed by him on ar-
riving to manhood. No other provision was made
for him, nor did he know how else to conform
to his condition in life. Extravagance in his ex-
penses, display in his habit, profuseness in libe-
rality, costly attendance, rich clothing, — all had
IN THE SONNETS. ' 187
involved him in debt. He had been required by
his environments to live beyond his means, and
all these misfortunes are fully delineated in the
early life of Timon. As Timon was flattered, so
was Bacon; as Timon was confiding, so was Bacon;
as Timon was lavish of his means, so also was
Bacon; and when they were exhausted, Timon
found, as Bacon did, that those who professed the
greatest love and honor for him in his day of pros-
perity, now deserted and opposed him in his efforts
to repair his fortune. With this picture before him
he exclaims, addressing the life he had written: —
"O, for My sake do You with fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of My harmful deeds,
That did not better for My life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds. "
His life of indulgence exposed him to public
reproach. He was branded for his extravagance
and impe^uniosity, and had once been arrested
for debt, and spent a night in a sponging-house.
Timon in similar circumstances had been driven
to the wilderness. The unkindness which devel-
oped a perfect misanthropy and hatred in Timon,
almost determined Bacon to abandon public pur-
suits, and adopt play-writing with its varied re-
sources for a living. He sought consolation in
the lesson he had furnished for himself in this
play. That taught him submission, penitence,
188 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Your love and pity doth the impression fill
Which vulgar scandal stamp'd upon My brow;
For what care I who calls Me well or ill,
So You o'er-green My bad, My good allow ?
You are My all-the-world, and I must strive
To know My shames and praises from Your tongue;
None else to me, nor I to none alive.
That My steel'd sense or changes right or wrong.
In so profound abysm I throw all care
Of others' voices, that My adder's sense
To critic and to flatterer stopped are.
Mark how with My neglect I do dispense:
You are so strongly in My purpose bred,
That all the world besides methinks are dead.
The selfish love of Timon's flatterers, which was
infinite in professions while he had money, and
the wordy pity with which they refused him relief
when his money was gone, fittingly portrayed how
a similar experience had made Bacon a victim of
common scandal and reproach. Like Timon, he
had determined to disregard it entirely, and depict
his virtues and vices, such as they were, in his
dramas. He would know his shames and praises
from them alone. Nothing else should determine
for him the right from the wrong in his own life.
As Timon went to the woods to escape the rebukes
of his pretended friends, so he would hide his cares
in a profound unconcern, for all that the world
might say of him. He would be deaf alike to
criticism and flattery, and by courting their ne-
glect escape their deceit. The same philosophy
which drove Timon to his death should make the
m THE somrETs. 189
world dead to him. This stanza is more fully in-
terpreted in the note " Francis Bacon/' following
Since I left You, Mine eye is in My mind,
And that which governs Me to go about
Doth part His function and is partly blind.
Seems seeing, but efifectually is out;
For it no form delivers to the heart
Of bird, or flower, or shape, which it doth latch.
Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch;
For if it see the rud'st or gentlest sight,
The most sweet favour or deformed'st creature,
The mountain or tlie sea, the day or night,
The crow or dove, it shapes them to Your feature:
Incapable of more, replete with You,
My most true mind thus makes Mine eye untrue.
This stanza is the first addressed to You
(Beauty) since he finished ''Lucrece." Ho has
been engaged since then in practical life, to the
exclusion of the imagination, which, while it
seems to see, is effectually blind. No impression
is made by the objects of beauty which he beholds.
None of the beauties of nature, birds, flowers, or
shapes, awaken reflection. His mind is torpid
concerning them, and his vision does not retain
them. All sights, whether ugly, deformed, gentle,
or sublime, — the sea, the day, the night, the crow,
the dove, — are alike beautiful only, and that beauty
in itself is replete. The most true mind, that
which inspired him when he was w£i|i»g;3ea^^3
190 BACON AND SHAKESPEAIiE
the mind which now governs him untrue in exter-
Or whether doth My mind, bsing crown'd with You,
Drink up the monarch's plague, this flattery ?
Or whether shall I say, Mine eye saith true,
And that Your love taught it this alchemy,
To make of monsters and things indigest
Such cherubims as Your sweet self resemble.
Creating every bad a perfect best,
As fast as objecti to his beams assemble ?
O, 't is the first; 't is flattery in My seeing.
And My great mind most kingly drinks it up:
Mine eye well knows what with his gust is greeiug,
And to his palate dotli prepare the cup;
If it ba poison'd, 't is the lesser sin
That Mine eye loves it and doth first begin.
In this stanza he alludes to the tragedy of '^King
Lear.'* Referring to the preceding stanza, he is
seemingly at a loss to determine whether it is the
untruthfuhiess he attributes to the eye, or flattery,
that has presented to his mind the subject of his
tragedy. He is giving to monsters and " things
indigest " (hurried and unnatural resolutions), the
semblance of beauty, — Goneril and Regan, beau-
tiful in form and feature, unlimited in the love
they profess for their father, prove to be '* mon-
sters" of filial ingratitude. Edmund, the natural
son of Gloster, personally attractive, is a " mon-
ster" of ingratitude, deceit, cruelty, selfishness,
and treachery. These three characters are as per-
fectly bad as they can be made without violence
Iir THE SONI^ETS. 191
to consistency. They are made to appear in their
professions as perfectly good as possible, with like
restriction. Lear, flattered by the professions of
Goneril and Regan, and outraged by Cordelia's
seeming remissness, gives everything to the for-
mer two, and disinherits and curses the latter.
Gloster, deceived by Edmund, disowns Edgar,
seeks to slay him, and loses his eyes through Ed-
mund's treachery. The two fathers, by the flat-
tery of their children, committed great errors
through hastily formed (illy digested) resolutions.
Thus the allusions in the stanza serve to identify
Those lines that I before have writ do lie,
Even those that said I could not love You dearer;
Yet then my judgment knew no reason why
My most full flame should afterwards burn clearer.
But reckoning Time, whose million'd accidents
Creep in 'twixt vows and change decrees of kings,
Tan sacred beauty, blunt the sharp 'st intents.
Divert strong minds to the course of altering things,
Alas, why, fearing of Time's tyranny.
Might I not then say, "Now I love You best,"
When I was certain o'er incertainty.
Crowning the present, doubting of the rest ?
Love is a babe; then might I not say so.
To give full growth to that which still doth grow ?
In this stanza the progress of the tragedy re-
veals to the writer the falsity of what was before
said in the 113th, about his love for beauty,
though he did not foresee it at the time. Since
102 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
then one of the million accidents of time has
crept in to disturb the vows between parent and
child (Gloster and Edgar), and has caused the
king (Lear) to change his decrees. Cordelia's
beauty, sacred in its truth and purity, could not
avert her father's curse. His intentions were all
blunted. His naturally strong mind was diverted
from its original purpose, which was altered. In
view of these occurrences, the writer, at the time he
professed himself "replete with You" (Beauty),
might have said with seeming truth, "Now I love
You best." He was only mistaldng Love in its
infancy for Love in perfection, and making no
allowance for its growth.
liet me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with tlie remover to remove:
O, no ! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worths unknown, although his height be taken.
Love 's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever Icv'd.
In this stanza the picture of Love is drawn from
the lessons inculcated in the " Tempest." No im-
ly THE SONNETS. 193
pediments, however great, should separate honest
men. Prospero's love for Antonio and Alonzo
survived all wrongs they had inflicted upon him,
though they removed him frcvn his dukedom, and
exposed him and his child to death. Their con-
sciences, exhibited by a tempest which filled them
with terror and dismay, and for a time brought
desolation and grief to their hearts, also wrought
repentance for their error, and restored them to
happiness, bringing with it the blessing of a union
through the loves of their children, stronger than
ever. Thus was illustrated in the conduct of
Prospero, the triumph of love over the power of re-
venge, and its survival after years of wrong and
injury, while in the loves of Francisco and Miranda
it was shown that the briefest love when mutual,
where both are true, is only broken by death. If
this be not true in morals, he has written in vain,
and love has no existence.
Accuse me thus: tliat I have scanted all
Wherein I should Your great deserts repay,
Forgot upon Your dearest love to call^
Whereto all bonds do tie Me day by day;
That I have frequent been with unknown minds,
And given to time Your own dear-purchas'd right;
That I have hoisted sail to all the winds
Which should transport Me farthest from Your sight.
Book both My wilfulness and errors down.
And on just proof surmise accumulate;
194 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Bring Me within the level of Your frown.
But shoot not at Me in your waken'd hate;
Since My apjjeal says I did strive to prove
The CONSTANCY and virtue of Your love.
In this stanza he applies the moral drawn from
the ** Tempest" to his own indifference to the
claims of You (Beauty). He has been regardless
of his deservings, forgotten all the delight beauty
once afforded him, despite the unceasing dictates
of his genius and inclination. He has engaged in
pursuits in which beauty took no part, and sought
various positions where he could never be seen.
All this neglect he could be accused of, and it
could be recorded against him. Nay, a thousand
other errors, if just proof could be obtained, might
increase this list to bring upon him the frown
of beauty. But now that he had returned, and
beauty had been aroused, he sought to avoid his
anger, upon the plea that in Cordelia he had
striven to prove the constancy, and in Miranda
the VIRTUE, of beauty's love.
Like as, to make our appetites more keen.
With eager compounds We our palate urge.
As, to prevent our maladies unseen,
We sicken to shun sickness when we purge,
Even so, being full of Your ne'er-cloying sweetness,
To bitter sauces did I frame My feeding.
And, sick of welfare, found a kind of mestness
To be diseas'd, ere that there waa true needing.
m THE SONNETS. 195
Thus policy in love, to anticipate
The ills that were not, grew to faults assur'd.
And brought to medicine a liealthful state
Which, rank of goodness, would by ill be cur'd;
But thence I learn, and find the lesson true,
Drugs poison him that so fell sick of You.
As we use various compounds to sharpen the
appetite, and medicines which sicken us to avoid
real sickness, so he, enraptured with beauty,
turned his attention to less congenial occupation,
which, while it did not disturb his life, was
unsuited to his wishes. This change in his life,
not necessary at the time, had the effect of wean-
ing him from his studies, and involving him in
all the tricks and arts of a seeker for office. He
had had enough of this experience, and had
learned from it, that while it had injured his
name, it had only increased his love for the cher-
ished pursuits he had left.
What potions have I drunk of Siren tears,
Distill'd from limbecks foul as hell within,
Applying fears to hopes, and hopes to fears,
Still losing when I saw Myself to win 1
What wretched errors hath My heart committed.
Whilst it hath thought itself so blessed never !
How have Mine eyes out of their spheres been fitted
In the distraction of this madding fever !
benefit of ill ! now I find true,
That better is by evil still made better;
And ruin'd love, when it is built anew.
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.
So I return rebuk'd to My content.
And gain by ill thrice more than I have spent.
196 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
In this stanza he tells how the-<?hange in his
life had affected him.
He had been deceived and allured by the false
promises and insincere professions of pretended
friends. At one moment his hopes were bright
and clear, while the next they were darkened with
fear. He was certain of success to-day, to-morrow
as certain of defeat. He had been misled by his
Jiopes-, in his calculations, when he thought suc-
cess assured. The care, anxiety, and unceasing
labor of the contest had unfitted him for literary
work. This terrible experience had, in compari-
son, added new charms to his old pursuits. He
could engage in them anew with more delight.
The works he would produce would be fairer,
stronger, and greater. Rebuked as he had been
by forsaking, he would be content in returning to
them, and thus gain by his experience thrice more
than he had paid for it.
That You were once unkind befriends me now.
And for that sorrow which I then did feel
Needs must I under My transgression bow,
Unless my nerves were brass or hammer'd steel.
For if you were by My unkindness shaken
As I by Yours, You 've pass'd a hell of time.
And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken
To weigh how once I suffer'd in your crime.
O, that our night of woe might have remember'd
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits,
m THE SONNETS. 197
And soon to You, as You to Me, then tender'd
The humble salve which wounded bosoms fits !
But that Your trespass now becomes a fee;
Mine ransoms Yours, and Yours must ransom Me.
He refers back to the time of the discovery of
his own lines in the drama of another, mentioned
in the eighty-sixth stanza, as marking the unkind-
ness of Beauty, and the immediate cause of their
long separation. All his sorrow and transgression
had occurred since then. So greatly had they
affected him, that only nerves of brass or steel
would be unshaken by them. If Beauty had been
similarly affected during the same period, the
time must have been infernal in torment. He
had taken no leisure to estimate it, but if on that
night that he made the discovery he could have
known the trials and afflictions that he had since
experienced, he would never have surrendered
Beauty for the struggles of an office-seeker. Now
that he had come back, Beauty^s trespass upon
his powers was in the nature of a fee, and they
must mutually forgive each other.
T is better to be vile than vile esteem'd,
When not to be receives reproach of being,
And the just pleasure lost which is so deem'd
Not by our feeling, but by others' seeing;
For why should others' false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood ?
Or on My frailties why are frailer spies,
"Which in their willd count bad Avhat I think good ?
198 BACOy AND SHAKESPEARE
No, I am that I am, and they that level
At My abuses reckon up their own:
I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not he shown;
Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad, and in their badness reign.
He thinks it preferable to be really guilty of the
plagiarisms with which he has been charged, than,
being not guilty, to sufifer the reproach, as in the
latter case, knowing his own merit, he is deprived
of the public appreciation, and suffers unjustly.
Why should other writers, who are more guilty
than he of using the writings of others to dress
up their wit, be his accusers? Why should those
who have made licentiousness the subject of their
dramas charge him with it, and denounce as
wicked what he thinks good? He obeys his own
taste in his works, and asks no favors of those
around him. They only publish their own guilt
in the effort to blacken him. For aught they
know, he may be right and they wrong. Neither
the truth nor falsity of his writings must he tried
by what they may ignorantly say of them, unless
they assume ignorance and pretension to be proper
standards of judgment for all men to adopt.
Thy gift, Thy tables, are within My brain
Full character'd with lasting memory.
Which shall above that idle rank remain
Beyond all date, even to eternity;
m THE SONXETS. 199
Or at tho least, so long as brain and heart
Have faculty by nature to subsist;
Till each to raz'd oblivion yield his part
Of Thee, Thy record never can be miss'd.
That poor retention could not so much hold,
Nor need I tallies Thy dear love to score;
Til ere fore to give them from me was I bold,
To trust those tables that receive Thee more:
To keep an adjunct to remember Thee
Were to import forgetfuluess in me.
His power as a writer and all the resources he
has employed are born of himself. They can
never be lost to him, and are equally inaccessi-
ble to his ignorant accusers. They will endure
forever, or at least as long as brain and heart
subsist. Until these are destroyed they will re-
main. His manuscripts could not contain them,
and as he needed nothing to remind him of them,
he had destroyed all records, trusting to the table
of his memory which had received them in their
full development. It would be a reproach to his
memory to keep any mementos of the work which
he held in such loving veneration.
It may be fairly inferred from the two preced-
ing stanzas, that the plays which appeared in
Shakespeare's name had aroused the envy of
contemporaneous writers. They sought to de-
preciate them in the public estimation by char-
ging the author with plagiarism. He replies by
accusing them with an aggravated use of the
same means, and the additional chargu of igno-
200 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
ranee, which disqualifies them from judging him
correctly. But lest their charges should at some
time be substantiated by his papers and memo-
randa, he destroys them all, trusting to his mem-
ory, and claims his works as the product of his
No, Time, Thou shalt not boast that I do change:
Thy pyramids built up with newer might,
To Me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight.
Our dates arc brief, and therefore we admire
What Thou dost foist upon us that is old,
And rather make them born to our desire,
Than think that we before have heard them told.
Thy registers and Thee I both defy,
Not wondering at the present nor the past,
For Thy records and what we see doth lie.
Made more or less by Thy continual haste.
Thi3 I do vow and this shall ever be:
I will be true, despite Thy scythe and Thee.
In this stanza he apologizes for, or rather ex-
cuses, any use he may have made of the works of
former writers in the construction of his own.
Time can know no change in him, as there is
nothing new in the past. No description of the
pyramids, however animated or glowing, could
make them appear novel or strange to him. It
would be but a new description of what he had
known before. Our lives are short, and rather
than spend them in search of new wonders, we
admire the old ones, and each observer, led by
m THE SONNETS. 201
his own tastes, finds new beauties in them that
he has never heard mentioned by others. He
would not trust to the records that all ages have
furnished of things in the past or present, for his
own opinon of them; because they depend upon
the accounts which, being formed from both
careful and careless examination, are necessarily
untrue. But in his writings, also founded upon
events and stories of past ages, he will write
truly, despite all the changes of time. Such truth
as they afford in the illustration of truth, phi-
losophy, poetry, character, and life, he will use,
without regard to the skeleton which the past has
furnished to be decorated by them. In this re-
spect his dramas differ from those of his con-
temporaries, who are satisfied to use the stories
and events of the past, as of themselves sufficient
for their work.
If My dear love were but the child of state.
It might for Fortune's ba^stard be unfather'd,
As subject to Time's love or to Time's hate,
Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gather'd.
No, it was builded far from accident;
It suflFers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
Under the blow of thralled discontent,
Whereto the inviting time our fashion calls:
It fears not policy, that heretic,
Which works on leases of short-number'd hours,
But all alone stands hugely politic.
That it nor grows with heat nor drowns with showers.
To this I witness call the fools of time,
Which die for goodness, who have liv'd for crime.
202 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
In this stanza he contrasts the permanency of
his writings with the character he has drawn of
Posthumus in the play of '' Cymbeline/' which he
was probably composing at the time. Posthumus
w^as the adopted child of Cymbeline, and was sub-
ject to such fortune as Time held in store for him,
whether good or bad, — a weed among weeds, or a
flower among flowers. So his play, if it were sim-
ilarly exposed, would suffer from similar causes.
But this was not its fortune. Unlike Posthumus,
it was unaffected by accident, owed nothing to the
pomp and glitter of the court, and free of obliga-
tion, suffered nothing from the unkindness of
majesty as Posthumus did. It suffered from no
policy that, as in the case of Posthumus, limited
his stay at court at the risk of his life. But it was
a creation of itself, defiant of all the elements of
court life and power. Those courtiers who spent
their lives in dancing attendance upon majesty,
and were finally rewarded with frowns, disappoint-
ments, and often death itself, would do well to
profit by such an example. (See note ^'Francis
Bacon," for further interpretation.)
Were 't anght to me I bore the canopy,
With my extern the outward honouring.
Or laid great bases for eternity,
Which prove more short than waste or ruining ?
Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
Lose all, and more, by paying too much rent,
m THE SONNETS. 203
For compound sweet foregoing simple savour,
Pitiful thrivers, in their gazing spent ?
No, let Me be obsequious in Thy heart.
And take Thou my oblation, poor but free,
Which is not mix'd with seconds, knows no art.
But mutual render, only Me for Thee.
Hence, thou suborn'd informer! a true soul
When most impeach 'd stands least in thy control.
Of what value was it to him that he bore the
canopy of royalty, and with his presence honored
the outward show? How did it aid him to labor
for long months to attain favor from the queen,
which eventuated in the waste of fortune and dis-
appointment of his hopes ? Had he not seen
others deceived in the same way, who for the
allurements of office gave up honest life, and spent
their all for preferment? No; he was satisfied
with the delights of authorship, with delineat-
ing truth in character, which, while aff'ording no
wealth, is free of care, and a source of constant
enjoyment. It placed him beyond the reach of
informers, and preserved his integrity of purpose
O Thou, My lovely boy, who in Thy power
Dost hold Time's fickle glass his fickle hour;
Who hast by waning grown, and therein show'st
Thy lovers withering as Thy sweet self grow'st;
If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack.
As Thou goest onwards, still will pluck Thee back,
She keeps Thee to this purpose, that her skill
May time disgrace and wretched minutes kill.
204 BAC02T AND SHAKESPEARE
Yet fear her, Thou minion of her pleasure!
She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure;
Her audit, though delay'd, auswer'd must be,
And her quietus is to render Thee.
This stanza refers entirely to "Hamlet/' The
irresolution of the prince in avenging the murder
of his father is alluded to in the "fickle glass and
fickle hour" of time, as being held by Thou
(Truth) for his own purpose. This hesitation, or
" waning," of Hamlet has grown, and become a
more prominent feature of his character as time
advanced. It has shown the "lovers withering"
in the separation of Hamlet and Ophelia, and her
death. Nature, despite the wreck of his mind
and hopes, and the love he bore to his mother,
still withheld him from his purpose, that the dis-
grace of his mother by her hasty marriage with
Claudius might be clearly illustrated, and due prep-
aration made for the " wretched minutes" in which
all were slain. Although held back and detained,
Thou (Truth) had a further motive, the death
of Hamlet himself, whom he detained, that he
might skilfully arrange for that denouement,
" and her [Nature's] quietus is to render Thee."
(See note "Francis Bacon," for further interpre-
Commentators generally believe that the 127th
Sonnet is the beginning of a new series, which
conveys a meaning entirely distinct from any-
thing contained in the preceding Sonnets. I
TN THE SON^''ETS. 205
have before me, while writing this, a photo-litho-
graphic fac-simile of the first quarto edition of
the Sonnets of 1609, "from the copy in the Brit-
ish Museum, by Charles Praetorius, Photographer
to the British Museum," etc. In the space be-
tween the 126th and 127th Sonnets two pairs of
parenthetical characters occur, thus (were they
pat there by the artist?): —
They are seeming reproductions of the printed
work. Why are they there? They occur at the
close of the first stanza in which allusion is
made to Hamlet (126), and preceding the first in
which Othello is indicated (127). This last stanza
is followed by one (128) ludicrously descriptive of
the attempts of other authors to imitate the spirit
and style of the dramas, and that by one (129)
which suggests the guilty love of Claudius and
Gertrude in ''Hamlet." A ludicrous description
of " My Mistress " (Tragedy), indirectly alluding
to Othello, occurs in 130.
The parenthetical characters have some signifi-
cance. They would hardly be selected to desig-
nate the commencement of a new series; but as
suggestive of the omission or tranposition of two
stanzas, their appearance is both natural and
proper. If two approximate stanzas could be
found that would restore the breaks in the se-
quence of the poem, would it not be reasonable
206 BACON AND SHAKESPEABE
to conclude tliat they belonged in the spaces in-
closed by the parentheses? Place 129 after 126,
and follow the last with 128, and the breaks
in both Hamlet and Othello are repaired, and
the description of each is uninterrupted. This is
the only instance in the entire poem where the
meaning is clouded by transposition. It is so
marked that it ought to assure the genuineness of
the discovery which completes the thought.
In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty's name;
But now is black beauty's successive heir,
And beauty slander'd with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on nature's power,
Fairing the foul with art's false borrow'd face.
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profan'd, if not lives in disgrace.
Tlierefore My Mistress' brows are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland'ring creation with a false esteem;
Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe.
That every tongue soys beauty should look so.
Othello is the drama signified in this stanza.
"Until the present time, white people only have
been represented in the leading characters of the
dramas. Black is now selected for that purpose,
and Beauty is represented in Desdemona as suf-
fering from the foulest slander that can assail a
wife. As the other writers of the age have at-
m THE SONNETS, 207
tempted to delineate nature in tragic illustration
of life, and made artificial work of it, Beauty has
no place, or name, or protection in their writ-
ings. He is profaned and disgraced by them.
For the purpose of rescuing him, having cliosen
Tragedy for his Mistress, he now presents him in
black. His observation will be employed to dem-
onstrate in his work that personal beauty is not
necessarily the only beauty, and the world may
bo deceived by it. In the anguish and distress of
Othello he will depict a beauty that shall be ad-
mired by all.
Thence to the close of the poem, it is supposed
to be addressed to his Mistress, and many strange
and curious opinions as to what manner of per-
son she must have been, to answer the description
given her by the poet, have been sanctioned by
the best Shakespearian scholars of all generations
since the poem appeared. She was of very dark
complexion, of a fiery nature, passionate beyond all
reason, false in all the elements of good character,
and, as the author has written, in general make-
up a perfect devil. That Shakespeare should have
loved such a woman, and published the fact to
the world, has given birth to deeper regrets and
weaker apologies than any similar sin ever re-
ceived. If these writers had by chance lit upon
the idea that Bacon instead of Shakespeare was
the author of this poem, with the knowledge
which history gives of his life and character, I
208 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
am prone to believe they would have sought and
found a more pleasing and satisfactory interpre-
tation than the one so generally adopted.
Let us suppose, then, as I have attempted to
prove, that in the 126 stanzas preceding this one,
Lord Bacon has told us, in allegory, of the manner
in which these plays were produced, and given
many good reasons why, not wishing to be known
as their author, he had disposed of the author-
ship to Shakespeare. Let us accept as true what
he tells us, that he found his highest delight in
composing them, that by forsaking that employ-
ment to engage in office-seeking and politics, he
brought shame and disgrace upon his name, and
unending sorrow to his life. His only source of
relief was to re-engage in the work which had
afforded him so much happiness. He had found
that in the attempt to do so, his powers were
stronger than ever, his inclinations and tastes had
not been changed, and that his strong desire was
to enter upon a new field of investigation, which
should represent character and life in the intens-
est modes of crime and passion. It is this change
in the aspect of the plays he is now writing that
he foreshadows in *'My Mistress.'' It is Tragedy.
He has written Comedies and Histories, but in
this mightier field, he has never entered. The
public taste is favorable. Tragedy was not popu-
lar when he wrote his first plays, and the little tra-
gedy they contained "bore not Beauty's name"
m THE SONNETS. 209
(gave to Tragedy no distinctive character; they
were known only as Comedies or Histories).
Now, however, it was in favor; it ''was Beauty's
successive heir." A host of dramatists, Marlow,
Lodge, Jonson, and others, were at work upon
tragedies, but their portrayal of character was
untrue to nature; they faired "the foul [the
darkest characters] with art's false borrow'd face,"
and thus profaned and disgraced Beauty. For
this, among other good reasons, he had made
choice of Tragedy.
How oft, when Thou, my music, music play'st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With Thy sweet fingers, when Thou gently sway'st
The wiry concord that Mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
To kiss the tender inward of Thy hand,
Whilst My poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
At the wood's boldness by Thee blushing stand !
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips.
O'er whom Thy fingers walk with gentle gait.
Making dead wood more bless 'd than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this.
Give then Thy fingers. Me, Thy lipa to kiss.
He tells us in this stanza of the amusement it
affords him to witness the vain efforts and strug-
gles of other writers, to imitate and rival him in
the delineation of Truth in his dramas. Their
efforts are likened to the exercise of the fingers
when playing upon the virginals. The virginals
210 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
represent the progress of literary work. Thou, or
Truth, is supposed to be the inspirer of the work
in hand, in the production of which he uses the
fingers of Thy, the thinker or creator, and the
jacks or keys to the instrument are the authors
themselves. The music, or the matter which the
instrument thus formed produces, " confounds *'
him. He would like the opportunity to try his
skill, and see if he could not excel those writers. If
he could be as well pleased with his own efforts as
they seem to be with theirs, he would gladly
exchange places with them and produce better
work. But as they, " the saucy jacks," are so well
satisfied, let them work on with the fingers, or
slight touches of truth. He will receive it from
the lips, the only reliable source.
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjur'd, murtherous, bloody, full of blame.
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad>
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and prov'd, a very woe;
Before, a joy propos'd; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
m THE SONNETS. 211
This stanza, which describes the guilty passion
that influenced Claudius to murder his brother,
and led to all the grief, sorrow, death, and final
destruction of the characters delineated in Ham-
let, tells its own story better than any interpreta-
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen rosea damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from My mistress reeka.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think My Love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
In this stanza the falsities used by contempora-
neous writers to describe feminine attractions are
ingeniously travestied by the negative accomplish-
ments of his Mistress. Her eyes are unlike the
sun. Coral is redder than her lips. If nothing
is white but snow, her breasts are dun. If hairs
are wires, black wires grow on her head. He has
never seen any damask roses in her cheeks, and
has smelled perfumes that are sweeter than her
breath. Music is more pleasing to his ear than
her voice. He has never seen a goddess move,
212 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
but his Mistress walks on the ground like other
people; and yet " My Love" (the drama) is as rare
and beautiful as any woman whose beauties have
been belied by false comparisons, none of which
could add a single grace to her person.
Thou art as tyrannous, so as Thon art,
As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel;
For well Thou know'st, to My dear doting heart
Thou art the fairest and most precious jewel.
Yet, in good faith, some say that Thee behold.
Thy face hath not the power to make love groan:
To say they err I dare not be so bold,
Although I swear it to Myself alone.
And, to be sure that is not false I swear,
A thousand groans, but thinking on Thy face,
One on another's neck, do witness bear,
Thy black is fairest in My judgment's place.
In nothing art Thou black save in Thy deeds,
And thence this slander, as I think, proceeds.
His picture of Thou (Truth) and Thy (Thought),
as delineated in the character of Othello, is referred
to in this stanza. Othello in his jealous rage is
as tyrannical in conduct as others of fairer mould
would be. He is in his view the most perfect of
all the characters of his creation. But many will
pronounce him unnatural, and think him unfitted
to represent the character of a lover. He will not
publicly deny this opinion, but in his own mind,
*' Myself (as author), he is certain it is wrong,
and to make sure of that, he will fill the play
IN THE SONNETS. 213
with pathetic scenes illustrating the noble quali-
ties of the Moor, and a thousand vices, which he
will display in the character of lago. They prove
to him that Othello will be much the best and fair-
est character, as he is only black in his deed of
slaying Desdemona. The slander or censure of
the drama will probably be attributable to that
Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Knowing Thy heart torments Me with disdain,
Have put on black and loving monmers be,
Looking with pretty ruth upon My pain;
And truly not the morning sun of heaven
Better becomes the grey cheeks of the East,
Nor that full star that ushers in the even
Doth half that glory to the sober West,
As those two mourning eyes become Thy face.
O, let it then as well beseem Thy heart
To mourn for Me, since mourning doth Thee grace,
And suit Thy pity like in every part!
Then will I swear beauty herself is black,
And all they foul that Thy complexion lack.
He is perplexed to know how to reconcile his
subject with truth in its delineation. The char-
acter of the Moor almost surpasses his power. His
thoughts are so varied that they aggravate him,
and the complexion he has chosen for Othello, as
well as the subject, presents many difficulties.
But as a theme it is full of attractions for him;
he sees it only in the light of truth and beauty,
and if he can properly portray the pathetic parts
214 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
of the drama, as he can see them in the several
characters, the play will excel all others that he
has ever written. Othello has been often pro-
nounced the masterpiece of Shakespeare. We
here see that opinion confirmed by the author
himself, and learn, also, that he encountered
greater difficulty in composing it than in any
other of the great dramas.
Beshrew that heart that makes My heart to groan
For that deep wound it gives My friend and Mel
Is 't not enough to torture Me alone,
But slave to slavery My sweet'st friend must be ?
Me from Myself Thy cruel eye hath taken,
And My next self Thou harder hast engross'd:
Of Him, Myself, and Thee, I am forsaken;
A torment thrice threefold thus to be cross'd.
Prison My heart in Thy steel bosom's ward,
But then My Friend's heart let My poor heart bail;
Whoe'er keeps Me, let My heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigor in My gaol:
And yet Thou wilt; for I, being pent in Thee,
Perforce am Thine, and all that is in Me. ^
In the forty-fifth stanza the poet tells us that
his life is made of four. The allusion is to the
four characters of the Key, — I, meaning himself
(Bacon), Thou (Truth), Thy (Thought), and You
(Beauty). In order to comprehend clearly the
details of the transfer which he makes to Shake-
speare, in this and the three following stanzas,
it will be necessary to observe these parts of
TJ^ THE sonni:ts. 215
what he calls his life, as separate impersonations,
and to apply the distinctive appellation of each to
the changes in form belonging to it; thus, I, M}^,
Mine, Me, signifies Bacon; Thou, Thine, Truth;
Thy, Thee, Thyself, Thought; You, Yours, Your-
self, Beauty; Myself means Bacon as author; My
Friend means Shakespeare. This explanation is
repeated here for the convenience of the reader.
The subtilety of meaning conveyed in the four
following stanzas, the abruptness of the changes,
and the compactness of expression require the
closest attention to enable the reader to compre-
hend their true object. There is ample verge in
all of them for cavil. They describe a complete
abandonment of the dramas by Bacon in favor of
" That heart," which he refers to as making his
'* heart to groan,'' is his own heart filled with fear,
anxiety, care, and suspicion, lest by some treach-
ery, accident, design, or oversight, he will be
exposed as the author of the dramas. Influenced
by these fears, the demands of public office, and
his speculative and philosophical studies, he has
determined to abandon dramatic composition.
His revenue from public sources amply supplies
his wants. His prospects for advancement arc
flattering. He has been knighted, and ranks fore-
most among the courtiers and statesmen of the
age. He is the confidant and adviser of the king.
Delightful as the recreation has always been to
210 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
delineate nature, truth, and beauty in character,
it has ceased to be of use to him as a pursuit, is
an encroachment upon his time, and an inspirer
of his fears. Yet the thought of forsaking it causes
liis other " heart to groan." That other heart
(" my heart ") is his regret at parting forever with
the fruit of those mighty labors, which, as he
says, have ever been his " best of love," and for
which he has so often predicted an assured immor-
tality. While he lives he can never be known as
their author. It would be ruinous to all his
hopes, possibly fatal to his life. His heart groans
at the thought, and is deeply wounded.
He feigns to consider Shakespeare a sufferer
from the same "deep wound." "Is't not enough
to torture Me alone," he asks, "but slave to slav-
ery my sweeVst friend must be?" How Shake-
speare becomes the "slave to slavery" will appear
from a statement of the facts derived from the
Sonnets. Thou (Truth), Thy (Thought), and
You (Beauty) are the creators of these dramas.
I (Bacon), have been your instrument or slave in
producing them. Shakespeare is my instrument
or slave in assuming the authorship of them.
Therefore I being the slave of Thou, Thy, and
You, and Shakespeare being my slave, he is the
"slave to slavery."
He tells in the accusation of Thy (Thought), in
the next line, what is meant by the inquiry: "Is 't
not enough to torture Me alone?" "Me" he says,
m THE SONNETS, 217
"from Myself Thy cruel eye hath taken," that is,
Bacon in person is separated from Bacon in au-
thorship. His works, which reflect his real self,
can never, while he lives, be known as his.
"And my next self," he continues in allusion to
Shakespeare, "thou harder hast engross'd." In
plainer phrase, by consenting to be known as the
author, Shakespeare is "engrossed" or convicted
by Thou (Truth) of falsehood or living a lie. The
conclusion is arrived at in the next line, " Of him
(Shakespeare), Myself (my works), and Thee,
(Thought), I (Bacon) am forsaken." This he
declares to be "a torment thrice threefold thus
to be crossed." This may be explained thus: the
first threefold refers to Him (Shakespeare), Him,
He, His; the second to Myself (my works), Myself,
Mine, My; the third. Thee (Thought), Thee, Thy,
Thyself. This makes the thrice threefold torment,
as all those have forsaken him.
Having thus made the transfer, he proceeds to
give directions for his own concealment: "Prison
My heart in Thy steel bosom's ward"; as if say-
ing to himself: "Let me be careful to secrete in
my own thoughts all knowledge of the origin of
these dramas." " But then My Friend's [Shake-
speare's] heart let My ^^oor heart bail." Let "My
poor heart" (the entire works) be sufficient, with
Shakespeare's name as author, for his protection.
"Whoe'er keeps Me, let My heart be his guard."
Whatever change of condition may occur in my
218 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
life, let my heart (my knowledge of the authorship
of the dramas) still be concealed as the guard of
Shakespeare. "Thou canst not then use rigor in
My gaol." By pursuing this course the truth will
never be known, and nothing can occur to make
such revelation necessary. "And yet Thou wilt;
for I, being pent in Thee, perforce am Thine, and
all that is in Me." This is simply a foil to the
reader. Of course Thou (Truth) will tell him of
it, because "perforce " it is in "Thee," his thoughts.
So, now I have confess'd that he is Thine,
And I Myself am mortgag'd to Thy Will,
Myself I'll forfeit, so that other Mine
Thou wilt restore, to be My comfort still:
But Thou wilt not, nor he will not be free,
For Thou are covetous and he is kind;
He leard'd but surety -like to write for Me
Under that bond that him as fast doth biad.
The statute of Thy beauty Thou wilt take.
Thou usurer, that put'st forth all to use,
And sue a friend came debtor for My sake;
So him I lose through My unkind abuse.
Him have I lost; Thou hast both him and Me:
He pays the whole, and yet am I not free.
In this stanza he follows up the transfer with
an allusion to his confession, as he terms it, in the
preceding stanza, that Shakespeare is Thou's, not
that Thou is Shakespeare's. "And I myself am
mortgag'd to Thy WILL." He has given the au-
thorship of his works (Myself) to "Will," and
m THE SONNETS. 219
personally (I), has mortgaged his "heart" as a
''guard" against exposing the transaction. "My-
self I '11 forfeit so that other Mine [Shakespeare]
Thou wilt restore to be My comfort still." He
will forfeit the works, if Thou wilt restore Shake-
speare to him, with the revenue that he has been
in the habit of receiving from him. But Thou,
who is "covetous," and Shakespeare, who is kind
to Thou, will not do it, and Shakespeare is not
"free" or willing to pay any longer. This closes
the assignment, and Shakespeare becomes thereby
the owner as well as recognized author of the
He tells us in the next two lines how Shake-
speare first became interested with him in the
dramas. " He learned but surety-like to write for
Me under that bond that him as fast doth bind."
Under a bond of mutual confidence and sworn
secrecy, Shakespeare "learned" from Bacon that
he, upon certain conditions, was to become Ba-
con's "surety" against exposure as the author
of the dramas, by assuming the authorship him-
self. This announcement makes the agreement
between them complete, for we have seen in pre-
vious stanzas that Shakespeare was recognized as
the author; that Bacon received part of the pro-
ceeds; that the agreement was to close at Bacon's
option; and from these stanzas under considera-
tion, we learn that Bacon abandons both author-
ship and compensation, and gives all to Shake-
220 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
The untruth or falsity of Shakespeare, in thus
permitting his name to be used as author, is pun-
ished by Thou (Truth), who, by virtue of Thy's
(Thought's) statute of Beauty, which is but another
name for the dramas, sues and convicts Shake-
speare on the bond which he made with Bacon.
Bacon loses him because of the part he has per-
suaded him to act ("through my unkind abuse"),
and Shakespeare as Bacon's surety is held respon-
sible to Thou (Truth) for the ownership and au-
thorship of the dramas (''he pays the whole"),
yet Bacon is liable to suspicion and exposure
("yet am I not free").
Whoever hath her wish, Thou hast Thy Will,
Aud Will to boot, and Will in overplus;
More than enough am I that vex Thee still,
To Thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt Thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide My will in thine ?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in My will no fair acceptance shine ?
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So Thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
One will of Mine, to make Thy large Will more.
Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and Me in that one WilL
He tells Thou (Truth) in this stanza that he
has obtained possession of "Thy [Thought's] will"
(the entire works) and "Will to boot" (Shake-
m THE SONNETS. 221
speare), and of "will in overplus'' (his own (Ba-
con's) will), of which last will he says: ''More
than enough am I that vex Thee [Thought] still,
to Thy sweet will [thy works] making addition
With the fear of exposure constantly before
him, he now invokes Thou's aid. "Wilt Thou,
whose will is large and spacious, not once vouch-
safe to hide My will in Thine?" If I am sus-
pected, and search should be made in the works
for evidence to implicate mo, let them not find it
in any of the truths I may have written. Like
the rain, which is undistinguishable from the sea
when it falls into it, so let my will be undistin-
guishable from thine. Add my will to the will
of Thy, and thus increase thy large "Will" (Shake-
speare). Let no unkind ones (enemies to me), "no
fair beseechers [no smooth, cunning courtiers]
kill" (destroy my prospects, and drive me into
obscurity). Think of the dramas, of me, and of
Shakespeare as all one, and all known as " Will "
If Thy soul check Thee that I come so near,
Swear to Thy blind soul that I was Thy Will,
And Will, Thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
Will will fulfil the treasure of Thy love,
I fill it full with wills, and My will one.
In things of great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number one is reckon'd none:
222 BACOj^ and SHAKESPEARE
Then in the number let Me pass untold,
Though in Thy store's account I one must be;
For nothing hold Me, so it please Thee hold
That nothing Me, a something sweet to Thee:
Make but My name Thy love, and love that still.
And then Thou lov'st me, — for My name is Will.
Pursuing the request for protection, he in this
stanza addresses Thy (Thought), "If Thy soul"
(thy love of truth) ** check Thee that I come so
near" (that I ask you thus to suppress the truth),
"swear to Thy blind soul" (tacitly or outwardly
acknowledge) "that I was thy Will; Thy soul"
(thy love of truth) "knows Will" (Shakespeare)
"is admitted there" (to thy blind soul). Do this
for love of me.
This request is followed by the assurance " Will
[Shakespeare] will fulfil the treasure of Thy love."
What was the treasure of Thy love? In the twen-
tieth stanza, where the description of Thou (Truth)
is given, the poet, after investing Thou with every
virtue, closes by saying: "Mine be Thy love, and
Thy love's use their treasure" (Thy love be my
love, and the product of that love its treasure).
In plainer phrase, the dramas I have composed
are Thy love, and these Shakespeare now owns
and "will fulfil" (manage) as he pleases. I (Ba-
con) fill that " treasure " full of wills, and my will
one. That " treasure," composed of all the char-
acters delineated in the dramas, each represent-
ing a single will, are his, and my will is among
IN THE S0N27ETS. 223
them. It is my will they should be thus disposed
He now tells Shakespeare that ''in things of
great receipt/' one is very easily proved to be
none. Therefore, in the great number of wills
you have received, and which you are to claim as
your own, " let my will pass untold " (don't men-
tion or breathe it, but consider it as nothing). If
it please Thee (Thought) hold ''that nothing as
something sweet to Thee." As he (Bacon) must
be one in Thy store's account. Thy (Thought) can
make his name of Bacon his love, " and love that
still" (love it in quiet, alone, by Thyself). If Thy
will do that, then he will love him by his other
name that he has chosen, — the name of "Will"
(as provided at the close of the last and the be-
ginning of this stanza).
In the quarto of 1609 the sixth line of this Son-
net reads: "I fill it full of wills." Commentators
have changed this reading to "Ay, fill it full of
wills." This latter version makes Shakespeare
instead of Bacon "fill it full of wills." "I" is
Why should the writer of these four stanzas
have used so much ingenuity in disclosing a sim-
ple transaction, if not that it might sooner or
later inform the world that he was the true au-
thor of the dramas? He has foreshadowed in a
hundred lines of this poem the immortal name
they would win for their author; but the require-
224 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
ments of his position denied him that fame dur-
ing his own life. Posthumous fame was all he
could anticipate, and for this he prepared by con-
cealing the true history of the dramas, under a
key in this poem, and leaving it "to foreign na-
tions and the next ages."
The fame and renown which Bacon sought for
his personal enjoyment, he expected to realize
from the high positions he filled in public life.
His philosophy was for posterity. He knew that
would give enduring life to his memory. In a
letter to the Bishop of Winchester, after his fall,
he says: —
"As for my essays and some other particulars
of that nature, I count them but as the recreation
of my other studies, and in that sort I propose to
continue them, though I am not ignorant that
those writings would, with less pain and embrace-
ment, perhaps, yield more lustre and reputation
to my name than those which I have in hand;
but I count the use that a man should seek of the
publishing of his own writings before his death
to be but an untimely anticipation of that which
is proper to follow a man, and not go along with
As if supplementary to this thought, we find in
his will the following strikingly prophetic pas-
sage: "My name and memory I leave to men's
charitable speeches, foreign nations, and the next
ages." His avowed works gave no occasion for
these utterances. They had passed the ordeal of
IN TUB SONNETS. 225
public scrutiny, and in "them his name and mem-
i.)vy were immortal. He knew there was something
more, trusted to time, which future ages in the
light of these Sonnets might reveal; but when
that revelation would be made, and whether in his
own or some foreign nation, was hid from his
view, and he left it for time to disclose. If it
were not so, and he really had no desire that
future generations should know him as the writer
of these immortal dramas, why did he write the
Sonnets? As a mere riddle for posterity to solve,
they have thus far only served to puzzle the brains
of all writers and readers, and stain the memory
of their imputed author. Viewed in any other
light than that in which the Key unfolds them,
they defy all efforts to give them coherency, dig-
nity, or even decency; but with this Key to their
meaning, they become a marvellous history, and
most impressive appeal to the world for justice to
the memory of one of the greatest benefactors of
our race. It was with the belief that sooner or
later they would be deciphered, that he wrote the
transfer to Shakespeare in this and the three pre-
ceding Sonnets. It is noticeable that throughout
the Sonnets the poet wraps every passage contaiu-
ing a fact in language or imagery of either joyful
or passionate import. He never tires of express-
ing his wonder and delight at the power of You
(Beauty), or his grave, thoughtful, and loving
appreciation of Thou (Truth). How tender and
226 BACON AND SHAKESPEAHE
parental is his regard for " My Love " (his dramas)
and how frequent and assuring to the three are
his promises of immortality. " My Mistress " (his
tragedies), the dearest portion of his dramas, he
endows with passions, crimes, and cunning, illus-
trative of predominating traits in character. If
he supposes a difficulty in composition, he charges
it to Thou, You, or himself. All his disclosures
are only to be made through the strangest and
most ingenious compound of imagery, metaphor,
allegory, and narrative.
Thou blind fool, Love, what dost Thon to Mine eyes.
That they behold, and see not what they see ?
They know what beauty is, see where it lies.
Yet what the best is take the worst to be.
If eyes corrupt by over-partial looks
Be anchored in the bay where all men ride.
Why of eyes' falsehood hast Thou forged hooks.
Whereto the judgment of My heart is tied ?
Why should My heart think that a several plot
Which My heart knows the wide world's common place f
Or Mine eyes, seeing this, say this is not.
To put fair truth upon so foul a face ?
In things right true My heart and eyes have err'd.
And to this false plague are they now transferrd.
In this stanza he describes the jealousy with
which he intends to invest Othello, by a number
of questions addressed to Love, which he charges
with having led him away from the truth. Why,
in the beauty and simplicity of Desdemona, does
m THE SONNETS. 227
he not see her as he did at first ? He knows she
is beautiful in her person, but that which he most
loved, her pure and virtuous character, now ap-
pears vile and depraved. So long as men are nat-
urally tempted by the personal charms of feminine
beauty and complaisance, wherever seen, why
should he make that common attraction the sub-
ject of his work ? Why should the plot he is de-
veloping appear singular to him, when he knows
it is one of the ordinary affairs of life ? Why,
seeing that, should he say to himself, that truth in
character is entirely incompatible with this con-
duct in beauty ? His observation and reflection
are both at fault.
When My Love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think Me some untutor'd youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thu3 vainly thinking that she thinks Mo young,
Although she knows My days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue;
On both sides thus is simple truth suppresa'd.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust ?
And wherefore say not I that I am old ?
0, love's best habit is in seeming trust.
And age in love loves not to have years told;
Therefore I lie with her and she with me.
And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.
He thinks he has followed truth and nature in
the delineation of jealousy, yet done great violence
to truth in the characterization of the drama (My
228 BACON AND SHAKE8PEARE
Love). The drama might convey the impression
that he is ignorant of human nature, or that,
though past middle life, he is too young, too fresh
in his knowledge of the deceits and subtleties of
life, to depict the passion of jealousy truly. He
will submit to that opinion, but adhere to his plan.
If that is a mistake, he will love it all. the same,
and the dramas will exhibit his fault, but not rob
him of his pleasure. The falsehoods he creates
will best represent the faults of his characters.
O, call not Me to justify the wrong
That Thy unkindness lays upon My heart;
Wound Me not with Thine eye, but with Thy tongue;
Use power with power, and slay Me not by art.
Tell Me Thou lov'st elsewhere, but in My sight,
Dear heart, forbear to glance Thine eye aside;
What need'st Thou wound with cunning when Thy might
Is more than My o'er-press'd defence can bide ?
Let Me excuse Thee: ah ! my Love well knows
Her pretty looks have been Mine enemies,
And therefore from My face she turns My foes.
That they elsewhere might dart their injuries;
Yet do not so, but since I am near slain.
Kill Me outright with looks and rid My pain.
He will not justify the wrong with which his
thoughts of human misery and distress have
filled his heart. Thou (Truth), instead of blam-
ing him, and using art and trickery to dissuade
him from his work, should convince him by argu-
ment, " use power with power.'' If Thou's view
IN TH^ SONNETS. 229
differ from liis, yet Thou must stand by him and
give him true counsel, and no cunningly devised
expedients, for he is perplexed to know how to
reconcile his thoughts with truth in the progress
of the work. All the beauty and interest he has
given to the love of Othello is now changed to
jealousy and hate, and will end in murder. The
difiBculty of depicting this in character he is prone
to think surpasses his skill.
Be wise as Tlion art cruel; do not press
My tongue-tied patience with too much disdain,
Lest sorrow lend me words, and words express
The manner of My pity-wanting pain.
If I might teach Thee wit, better it were.
Though not to love, yet, Love, to tell me so,
As testy sick men, when their deaths be near,
No news but health from their physicians know;
For if I should despair, I should grow mad,
And in My madness might speak ill of Thee:
Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad,
Mad slanderers by mad ears believed be.
That I may not be so, nor Thou belied,
Bear Thine eyes straight, though Thy proud heart go wide.
In this stanza he determines the limit which he
will give to Othello's grief, by causing Desdemona
to give him the proper advice. It is as if one actor
representing Desdemona was advising the repre-
sentative of Othello. She says to him: "Don't
overact and make yourself too offensive in your
charges and epithets. Such a course would make
230 BACON AND 8HAKESPEAME
my part, which is remarkable for mildness and
submission, untrue. To make it correspond to
your severe reproof, unqualified by love, it would
be natural for me in my extremity of sorrow
to betray in words all that part of the charge
against me which, by being concealed, is the
strongest feature in the drama. My idea is, that
you should affect love for me to the last. As men
when near death hear nothing but encouragement
from their physicians, so should it appear that,
with a cruel death near, I am not unloved by
my slayer. Without this it would be natural for
me in my despair to make charges against you
(Othello), and the audience by believing them
would lose the charm of the play. That this
may not occur, nor truth be belied, don't devi-
ate from a truthful delineation, whatever your
thoughts may be."
In faith, I do not love Thee with Mine eyei^
For they in Thee a thousand errors note;
But 't is My heart that loves what they despise,
Who in despite of view is pleas 'd to dote; .
Nor are Mine ears with Thy tongue's tune delighted.
Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with Thee alone:
But My five wits nor My five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving Thee,
Who leaves unsway'd the likeness of a man,
Thy proud heart's slave and vassal wretch to be;
Only My plague thus far I count My gain.
That she that makes Me sin awards Me pain.
m TEE SONNETS. 231
The errors, crimes, and vices that he has de-
picted in Othello are not what he admires. It is
the picture they present to his heart. His love for
that is the love of a dotard. The words have no
charm for his ear, nor is he attracted by the tender
feeling of Othello transformed into jealousy. No
sensual feeling is aroused by the beauty of tlic
Tragedy, but neither his wits nor his senses can
turn his thoughts from the man they have created.
He sees in him the pure nobility of nature trans-
formed by jealousy into a slave and demon, and in
Desdemona a lovely woman, a triumph in por-
trayal, grossly belied and foully murdered.
Love is My sin and Thy dear virtue hate,
Hate of My sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O, but with Mine compare Thou Thine own state,
And Thou shalt find it merits not reproving;
Or, if it do, not from those lips of Thine,
That have profan'd their scarlet ornaments
And seal'd false bonds of love as oft as Mine,
Robb'd others* beds* revenues of their rents.
Be it lawful I love Thee, as Thou lov'st Those
Whom Thine eyes woo as Mine importiine Theej
Root pity in Thy heart, that when it grows
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.
If Thou dost seek to have what Thou dost hide.
By self-example may'st Thou be denied 1
Ho has in this Tragedy striven to show how a
pure and unstained love, between husband and
wife, may be ruined by hate inspired by the hus-
232 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
band's jealousy, and end in the destruction of both.
And Thou (Truth), as guilty as himself in making
false vows, breaking marital ties, and violating
nuptial faith, has no reason to reprove his work.
lie has not violated Truth more than Thou (Truth)
himself has violated it in the thoughts he has por-
trayed, which, though harsh, have been alleviated
by pity; and that pity has in its turn wrought
pity for Othello's misery. If Truth seeks to reveal
what he has kept concealed, the real truth of the
purity of Desdemona, and the cause of Othello's
jealousy, prematurely, his own example should
Lo! as a cheerful housewife runs to catch
One of her feather'd creatures broke away,
8et3 down her babe, and makes all swift dispatch
In pursuit of the thing she would have stay.
Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,
Cries lo catch her whose busy care is bent
To follow that which flies before her face,
Not prizing her poor infant's discontent;
So run'st Thou after that which flies from Thee,
Whilst I, Thy babe, chase Thee afar behind:
But if Tliou catch Ihy hops, turn back to Me,
And play the mother's part, kiss me, bo kind;
So will I pray that Tliou may'st have Thy Will,
If Thou turn back, and My loud crying stilL
The closing scene of Othello perplexed the au-
thor W'ith the idea that he had not been entirely
true to nature in the delineation of character. He
illustrates the doubt by a figure. Thou (Truth),
IN THE SONNETS. 233
the superintending genius of all his writings, is
likened to a careful housewife, who is regardful of
all matters appertaining to the household. Her
babe bears the same relation to her that the author
of Othello bears to Thou. The doubt is illustrated
by the chicken that has escaped. Thou (Truth),
who forsakes the author, like the mother who
leaves her child to reclaim the chicken, is in hot
pursuit after the doubt. The author, like the
babe, loudly crying, follows Thee (his own
thoughts) far behind. Which is right? This is
the question. Thee (his own thoughts) suggests
that the scene will be more effective if worked up
slowly, but Thou (Truth) thinks it should be rapid.
Should Othello, in his anger, hate, and jealousy,
have slain Desdemona on the instant, after being
convinced of her guilt? or was it natural for him
to wait, and do it deliberately after his passion
had cooled? Truth favors the former view, and
v/ould satisfy the doubt at once, but the author
selects the latter, and is represented as crying for
truth to return; in other words, by arou&ing pity
for Othello, he makes the scene conformable to
nature, and thus *'Thy Wiir' (Shakespeare, the
imputed autliop, the only author known to the
world) is reinstated in Thou's favor.
Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest Mo still;
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman color 'd ill.
234 BACON AND SHAKESPEAIiE
To win Me soon to hell, My female evil
Tempteth My better angel from My side,
And would corrupt My saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that My angel be turn'd fiend
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;
But being both from Me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another's hell:
Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
Till My bad angel fire My good one out.
The two angels in this stanza are Macbeth and
his wife. Macbeth is the "better angel," and Lady-
Macbeth the "woman color'd ill." Lady Macbeth
is the tempter. By her influence Macbeth is cor-
rupted and led into crime. The natural goodness
of his nature is overcome by 'her pride and strength
of character, and the evil ambition of both. The
Tragedy is not advanced sufiiciently to enable the
author to forecast the fate of Macbeth. He sus-
pects what it may be, but is yet uncertain. As
the creation is his own, and the two angels are
friends, he guesses that one is enmeshed in the
toils of the other. Of this, however, he will not
be positive until the tragedy is completed.
Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said " I hate'
To Me that languish'd for her sake;
But when she saw My woeful state,"
Straight in her heart did mercy come.
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
IN THE SONNETS. 235
Was us'cl in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet.
** I hate " she altered with an end,
That foUow'd it as gentle day-
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
**I hate " from hate away she threw,
And sav'd My life, saying * ' not you. "
The hatred excited by the crimes of Macbeth
and his wife is portrayed by the whisper of Love
in his (the author's) ear of the words " I hate," in
the midst of his work. She is moved with pity
at the sight of woe and horror he is depicting.
Having been kind and gentle on former visits
when he was writing, she greets him anew with
the same words in milder tone, which dispels all
dread of her displeasure when he hears the quali-
fication, "not you." Being exonerated, his "life"
(Macbeth) is saved, and the tragedy continued.
Poor soul, the centre of My sinful earth,
Press'd by these rebel powers that Thee array.
Why dost Thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting Thy outward walls so costly gay ?
Wliy so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost Thou upon Thy fading mansion spend ?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up Thy charge ? is this Thy body's end?
Then, soul, live Thou upon Thy servant's loss,
And let that pine to aggravate Thy store;
Buy terras divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shalt Thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there 's no more dying then.
236 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
The literal meaning of the first line of this
stanza is, " Macbeth, the central figure in my trag-
edy." He is represented at that stage of the
drama where his castle is invested by the army of
Malcolm and Macdufi*. He is suffering within
from fear, and making a show of ability to resist,
by the display of his banners on the outward walls.
This show and bravado will avail nothing, and
the thought of death and its consequences afflicts
him. Aggravated by his servant's report of the
enemy's force, he gathers fresh courage by recall-
ing the "terms divine," — the promise of the
witches that he need not fear till Birnam Wood do
come to Dunsinane, and that he should not yield
to one of woman born (the previous promises of
the same witches, foretelling his greatness, which
had been confirmed). He ceases to have faith in
human power, and relies entirely upon the witches'
prophecy, which he deems of divine origin. He
slays young Siward, which strengthens his faith
in his invulnerability. The picture is the same
as the one more fully detailed in the tragedy.
My Love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to My Love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept.
Hath left Me, and I desperate now approve,
Desire is death, which physic did except.
m THE SONJ^ETS. 237
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and My discourse as madmen's axe.
At random from the truth vainly express'd;
For I have sworn Thee fair and thought Thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.
His Love (the Tragedy) is yet in progress. The
death of Lady Macbeth must furnish some counter-
poise to the crimes that have stained her life.
He likens his Love (the Tragedy) to a fever still
in progress, feeding upon all the disturbances
which aggravate its intensity. He is depicting
Lady Macbeth. Her reason has fled. Her phy-
sician can be of no service, death, which defies
medicine, being near. She is frantic for want of
rest. She talks madly of her life, referring in
random expressions to her foul and bloody crimes.
Without exciting some pity for her in the audi-
ence that witness the performance, nothing can
make her realize the personal attractions of beauty
and intellect with which he intended to endow her.
She will be only black in crime and dark in
delirium, without sympathy, and detested for her
Sonnet 148. /
O Me, what eyes hath love put in My head,
Which have no correspondence with true sight I
Or, if they have, where is My judgment fled,
That censures falsely what they see aright ?
If that be fair whereon My false eyes dote,
What means the world to say it is not so ?
238 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
If it be not, then Love doth well denote
Love's eye is not so true as all men's no.
How can it ? 0, how can love's eye be true,
That is so vex'd with watching and with tears ?
No marvel then, thougli I mistake My view;
The sun itself sees not till heaven clears.
O cunning Love! with tears Thou keep'st Me blind,
Lest eyes well-seeing Thy foul faults should find.
The self-criticism is continued. In this stanza
he contrasts the criminality of the character he
has drawn in Macbeth with trufh. There is no
correspondence between them. His judgment
condemns the crimes of Macbeth and his wife,
yet he delights in portraying them. Why should
the world condemn them? If he is infatuated,
then Love is untrue, and the world is right. How
can that Love be true which is exhibited in delir-
ium and tears? It will not surprise him if he is
in error. The sun sees not the earth till the
heavens are clear, so he will not see his error un-
til his work is done. He will be blind to the
faults of Lady Macbeth, and depict her delirium
and watching lest the world see her infamy only.
Canst Thou, O cruel, say I love Thee not,
When I against Myself with Thee partake?
Do I not think on Thee, when I forgot
Am of Myself, all tyrant, for Thy sake?
Who hateth Thee that I do call My friend ?
On whom frown 'st Thou that I do fawn upon ?
Nay, if Thou lower 'st on Me, do I not spend
Revenge upon Myself with present moan ?
m THE SONNETS. 239
What merit do I in Myself respect,
That is so proud thy service to despise,
When all My best doth worship Thy defect.
Commanded by the motion of Thine eyes ?
But, love, hate on, for now I know Thy mind;
Those that can see Thou lov'st, and I am blind.
In this stanza all the allusions point to the
tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra. Substitute An-
tony and Cleopatra for the writer, and Thee as
tlio interlocutors in the stanza, and the conver-
sation would assume a form after this manner:
Antony asks Cleopatra: "How can you be so
cruel as to say I do not love you, when, against all
the teaching of my better nature, I partake with
you in sin? Do I not forget myself in thinking
of you and giving you all my affections? Who
hates you that is my friend? Whom do you hate
that I love? When you chide me, am I not sub-
missive to your will? Have I any merit of re-
nown that is not devoted to your service, while
thus infatuated with your personal charms and
power ?^' He represents this condition of the
leading characters as the limit of disclosure in the
tragedy, and himself blind as to what will follow.
0, from what power hast Thou this powerful might
With insufficiency My heart to sway ?
To make Me give the lie to My true sight,
And swear that brightness doth not grace the day ?
Whence hast Thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of Thy deeds
240 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
There is such strength and warrantise of skill
That, in My mind, Thy worst all best exceeds ?
Who taught Thee how to make Me love Thee more
The more I hear and see just cause of hate ?
O, though I love what others do abbor.
With others Thou shouldst not abhor My statej
If Thy unworthiness rais'd love in Me,
More worthy I to be belov'd of Thee.
The conversation between the writer and Thee
in this stanza, resumed, as a fresh appeal of An-
tony to Cleopatra, would reproduce the thoughts
expressed between them in similar form. " Whence
do you get this power to sway my heart with
insufficiency, and cause me to belie my own con-
victions of truth? Why make me swear that your
Egyptian face is more beautiful than one of fairer
hue? Why is it that you have power to make e,vil
so attractive that your worst acts in my eyes exceed
the best? Who taught you how to make me love
you more, the more I see just cause to hate you?
My countrymen abhor me, and would deprive me
of my renown for loving you; but you should not
join with them in that hatred, nor should you
repel me from you, because I am enamored of your
Love is too young to know what conscience is;
Yet who knows not conscience is born of love ?
Then, gentle cheater, urge not My amiss.
Lest guilty of My faults Thy sweet self prove;
For, Thou betraying me, I do betray
My nobler part to My gross body's treason;
ly THE SONNETS. 241
My soul cloth tell My body that he may
Triumph in love; flesh stays no farther reason;
But, rising at Thy name, doth point out Thee
As his triumphant livize. Proud of this pride,
He is contented Thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in Thy affairs, fall by Thy side.
No want of conscience hold it that I call
Her ** love " for whose dear love I rise and fall.
Continuing the address to Cleopatra in this
stanza, Antony pleads that his love for her is too
fresh, too strong, to be under any conscientious
restraint. Yet who knows but conscience is born
of love, and if so, why should you remind me of
having violated it, when you, my ideal of love,
may prove guilty of a like offence. When Truth
(Thou) forsakes me, my body controls all my
nobler qualities, and my soul resigns my body to
uncontrolled sensual indulgence. I need no other
license for the enjoyment of that love I bear for
you. It is that which makes me your drudge and
slave. For that I have forsaken wife, home, coun-
try, and the honor and renown of a great life,
conscience and all, to aid in the affairs of your
kingdom, and ''fall by your side.''
In loving Thee Thou know'st I am forsworn.
But Thou art twice forsworn, to Me love swearing,
In act Thy bed- vow broke and new faith torn,
In vowing new hate after new love bearing.
But why of two oaths' breach do I accuse Thee,
Wlien I break twenty ? I am perjur'd most;
242 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
For all My vows are oaths but to misuse Tliee,
And all My honest faith in Thee is lost:
For I have sworn deep oaths of Thy deep kindness,
Oaths of Thy love, Thy truth, Thy constancy,
And, to enlighten Thee, gave eyes to blindness,
Or made them swear against the thing they see;
For I have sworn Thee fair; more perjur'd I,
To swear against the truth so foul a lie !
In this stanza, pursuing the same form of ad-
dress to Thou and Thee, he gives Cleopatra's reply
to Antony. " You know I am forsworn in loving
you, as I am the widow of Ptolemy ; but you are
twice forsworn in swearing love to me. — once to
Fulvia, who died after your first visit here, and
now to Octavia, to whom you are just married.
Your bed-vow to Octavia is broken, and the new
faith you have given her violated, by thus disre-
garding your marital ties. But I am wrong to
accuse you of breaking two oaths, when I break
twenty. I am the worst criminal, for all my vows
lead to the misdirection of your great qualities. I
have lost all honest faith in you, because you have
proved false to the kindness that I credited you
with, as well as to the love, truth, and constancy
which I believed I enjoyed in your attentions. I
made mj^self blind to your falsities, and would
not see them because I felt certain of your great
love for me. I was truly perjured in swearing
this against the truth, as since revealed in your
m THE SONNETS. 243
Cupicl laid by his brand, and fell asleep:
A maid of Dian's this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrow'd from this holy fire of love
A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.
But at My Mistress' eye Love's brand new-fir'd.
The boy for trial needs would toucli My breast;
I, sick withal, the help of bath desir'd.
And thither hied, a sad diateraper'd guest,
But found no cure: the bath for My help lies
Where Cupid got new fire, — My Mistress' eyes.
The little Love-god lying once asleep
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vow'd chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
Tlie fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warm'd,
And so the general of hot desire
Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm'd.
This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from Love's fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy
For men diseas'd; but I, My Mistress* thrall,
Came there for cure, and this by that 1 prove,
Love's fire heats water, water cools not love.
These two stanzas, the last a reproduction in
sentiment of the first, simply state the fact that
the god of Love provided, in a spring or well,
water that would prove a sovereign cure for
*' strange maladies." In order to test it, he caused
244 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE.
the writer, who wished to find some remedy for
the incessant influence he was under to disphiy
life in character, in Tragedy, to go there and
bathe. He found no cure.
The bath for his help lies " where Cupid got
new fire, — My Mistress' [Tragedy] eyes."
Lord Campbell says of Bacon's writings: "Of
all the compositions in any language I am ac-
quainted with, these will bear to be the oftenest
perused, and after every perusal they still present
some new meaning and some new beauty/' The
same observation will apply with broader signifi-
cance to his life. As often as it has been written,
each new biographer has revealed new phases in
his character, which relieves it of some of its re-
pulsive features. That he committed great errors,
cannot, in the light of his own confessions, be
denied; but many of his acts represented as crimi-
nal and corrupt take their complexion from the
age in which we live, no allowance being made
for the laws, customs, habits of life and thought
that prevailed during the reigns of Elizabeth and
James. Bacon, judged by his contemporaries, was
no worse than they; but it was his fortune, whether
good or bad, to be more conspicuous by reason of
his wonderful genius and prolific pen. Viewed
in the light of intellectual achievement, he was
the most remarkable man of modern times. If
246 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Greece or Rome ever produced his superior, their
histories fail to record it. What he would have
accomplished for humanity, if his early hopes and
designs had not been thwarted by the death of his
father, and the consequent loss of his patrimony,
it is impossible to conceive; but that he would
have escaped the errors and mistakes of the life
he was obliged to adopt, there can be but little
doubt, — for, though educated for public life, his
tastes, inclinations, and intentions were all at that
time wedded to speculative and philosophical pur-
It is painfully apparent from his letters to his
uncle. Lord Burleigh, begging for some more con-
genial employment, that it was with a heavy heart
that he entered Gray*s Inn to fit himself for the
profession of the law. Slender means and ex-
pensive tastes soon involved him in debt. He
became the prey of the money sharks of the time,
was arrested, and spent a night in a sponging-
house. This experience, coupled with the natural
longing of his nature for that indulgence of taste
and curiosity to which he had been accustomed,
doubtless suggested the idea of merchandising
his thoughts as a means of supplying his purse.
When this thought occurred to him, or at what
time he began to write his dramas, must be left to
conjecture. He entered Gray^s Inn in 1580, at
the age of twenty. Shakespeare, who was to fig-
ure as his coadjutor, came to London from Strat-
m THE SON'NETS. 247
ford in 1585 or 158G. It was probably after this
latter event that he sought for means to put his
scheme in execution. One great obstacle must
have presented itself. He was the son of a noble-
man who had filled the highest offices in the
realm, and the nephew of Lord Burleigh, the
queen's great prime minister. The profession he
had chosen must in a few years introduce him
into the duties and responsibilities of official pub-
lic life. All his hopes and opportunities for pre-
ferment and renown depended upon success in
his profession. Next to proficiency in that, noth-
ing was of more importance than a character
formed after the models furnished in the lives
and conduct of the successful men of the time.
He plainly foresaw that to be known as a play-
wright would blast all his hopes, and assign him
to a position among a class to whom all worthy
social privileges and chances for favorable recog-
nition were hopelessly denied. How to avoid such
a fate, and make his scheme successful, must have
given him much anxiety.
I am more than inclined to believe that as a rec-
reation to the study of the law, he had, previous to
this time, written the comedy of " Love's Labor 's
Lost," and gave it that suggestive title to signify
that the hours of pleasure spent in composing it
were wasted, and of no account. The many beau-
tiful passages it contained, its fertile imagery, and
philosophical speculations, were to him like the
248 BACON AND SHAKESPEAnE ,
revelation of a new world. They made him famil-
iar with his own powers. As compared with the
dramas of the time, this one was vastly superior.
How he would delight to see it performed ! Pre-
vious to this time he had participated in masques
and plays as an amateur, whenever any festival or
public occasion offered at Gray^s Inn. We may
suppose that by this and similar appeals to his
glowing fancy, the subject grew in importance,,
and gave him little rest until he had devised a
plan for its presentation at Blackfriars. He had
learned by frequent attendance at the theatre
how to please an audience. Much circumspection
and entire secrecy must be observed to make his
plan successful, but some one must be trusted.
Should he succeed, he would be able, not only to
supply " this consumption of the purse," but to
delight in witnessing his own drama. Unques-
tionably many schemes were devised and aban-
doned before he concluded to trust William
Shakespeare. And why was he selected? We
look into the history of the times for an answer.
The name of playwright in those days was but an-
other name for a man of vicious and abandoned
life. Green, one of the best, died a wretched
drunkard and debauchee. Marlow, next to Shake-
speare in rank as a writer, was slain in a drunken
brawl. So of many others; and where all were
bad, it was no easy task to find one who could be
trusted. Shakespeare had not been contaminated
m THE SONNETS. 249
by the vices of his associates. He came to Lon-
don in the pursuit of fortune, possibly to escape
the consequences of some wild freak of his youth.
His life at Stratford had not been free from stain.
He had been charged with poaching. He was
forced into an early and ill-assorted marriage, and
had left his native town under a cloud. Despite
these blots, he was the only man in theatrical life
in whose simplicity, deportment, and general bear-
ing Bacon saw that ho could venture to confide.
At great risk, he made choice of him, unbosomed
his purpose to him, and found an ardent and trust-
worthy co-worker, who from that moment became,
in effect, the author of the great works which ever
since have borne his name.
Strong bonds of mutual confidence were entered
into between them. It was understood by both
that whenever Bacon, from prudential or other
motives, should cease to write, Shakespeare should
retain his assumed authorship of the plays, and
enjoy the avails. Until that time, they were
to share alike in the profits. Addressing Thy
(Thought) in the thirty-seventh Sonnet, he says: —
" So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis'd,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in Thy abundance am suffic'd
And by a jpart of all Thy glory live."
The merit of his own productions, apparent to
him at first, made his work a labor of lOve; more
to be preferred than ''public honor or proud
250 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
titles.'* He neyer tires in this poem of assuring
it the immortality it has since enjoyed.
From a passage in Green's '* Groatesworth of
Wit," it is quite certain that Shakespeare posed as
a playwright prior to 1592, and with Bacon's aid
contributed somewhat to the composition of two
historical dramas, — one called the "True History
of the Contention between the Houses of York
and Lancaster," the other, " The True Tragedy of
Richard Duke of York." These plays were after-
wards incorporated into the second and third
parts of Henry VI., which was first published in
the folio of 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's
death. He was not publicly known as a dramatist
until several of the plays, which afterwards bore
his name, had been often performed at Black-
friars. "Venus and Adonis," a poem which in the
dedication to the Earl of Southampton is called
"the first heir of his invention," was the first
work bearing his name. It was an elegant per-
formance, and served the office, which Bacon
doubtless intended it should, of gracefully intro-
ducing Shakespeare as a poet to the young wits
and poets of London society. Poetry, apart from
the drama, was rapidly growing in favor with the
young nobility. The exquisite beauty of the
poem, the aptness and modesty of the dedication,
and the sudden appearance of the rude, untutored
player as a poet, must have given an immediate
prestige to his name, which was emphasized in a
m THE SONJSIETS. 251
more substantial manner when the first drama
bearing it appeared upon the boards of Black-
friars. While by this means the arrangement
was assured in its financial aspects, the favorable
publicity given to Shakespeare acted as a com-
plete foil to th,e revealment of Bacon, and Shake-
speare was recognized by all as the only author.
It was understood between Bacon and Shake-
speare that they "two must be twain,'' for in their
lives there was a " separable spite," which would
ever prohibit all social intercourse between them.
*' I may not," he says in the thirty-sixth Sonnet,
*•' evermore acknowledge thee." A time might
come, and that very suddenly, when circum-
stances would require him to ignore all knowl-
edge of Shakespeare; but whatever might happen
to change their relations, they must remain true
to each other, and conceal the true origin of the
dramas from the world. Shakespeare, as a mat-
ter of course, was bound by self-interest, for his
fortune was at stake; and Bacon saw nothing but
ruin for himself in disclosure. Men thus bound
must be true to each other for the protection of
their separate interests.
In 1591 Bacon was appointed counsel extraor-
dinary to the queen, an office which obliged his
daily attendance upon her majesty. He describes
the tediousness of the hours spent in this service
in the fifty-seventh and fifty-eighth Sonnets. He
must have composed several comedies previous to
252 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
this time. White thinks that ''Love's Labor's
Lost," "The Two Gentlemen of Verona/' and the
"Comedy of Errors," were written before 1592. It
may be fairly inferred, from the continuous history
in the poem, that his work upon the dramas suf-
fered no other interruption from this appointment
than the hours of service at court. Before 1595,
White thinks fourteen of the dramas had been
written. How to preserve them, and escape public
recognition, was an ever-present cause of fear and
In 1594, when Bacon became a candidate for
solicitor-general, he bade farewell to play-writing.
So confident was he of this appointment, that he
determined to abandon it altogether. The separa-
tion provided for in his arrangement with Shake-
speare was announced in the eighty-seventh Son-
net. In the four or five stanzas succeeding, he
declares that the only obstacle to his appointment
v/ould be the exposure of his authorship of the
dramas. It was a great terror to him, and he was
willing to make any personal sacrifice to prevent it.
His fears are most vividly portrayed in the nineti-
eth Sonnet. The hate of Thou and Thy which he
there invokes, seemingly to him, furnished his
only means of concealment. In the ninety-second
Sonnet he writes: —
" I see a better state to me belongs
Than that which on Thy [Thought's] humour doth depend;
Thou [Truth] canst not vex me with inconstant mind.
Since that my life on Thy [Thought's] revolt doth lie."
m THE SONNETS. 253
The seventeen months of suspense, while Bacon
and his devoted friend Essex were engaged in the
effort to obtain the solicitorship, were full of un-
happiness, suspicion, and alarm. At first, as he
says in the Sonnets, he found no pleasure even in
contemplating the occupation he had abandoned.
Soon, however, jealous of what he deemed the
failure of other poets, he re-wrote the poem of
"Lucrece," which he had composed three years
before. This was his only literary work during
that period. It was published in 1594, and dedi-
cated to the Earl of Southampton, and as intended,
probably, filled the promise of that ''graver labor"
made in the dedication of "Venus and Adonis."
During this anxious period he spared no efforts
to win the solicitorship. He besought his uncle
to use his influence with the queen. Not meeting
with the encouragement he had a right to expect
from him, he attached himself to the young Earl
of Essex, who espoused his cause with unremitting
energy. In the various electioneering devices re-
sorted to, while the choice was undecided, he, as
he says, ''made a motley" of himself before the
world, "gor'd his own thoughts,'^ and became a
beggar for office. The elegant letter, accompanied
by a valuable jewel, which he wrote to the queen,
attests as well to his eager desire for the appoint-
ment as to the measure he had fixed for his own
abilities, and the moral dignity and grandeur of
his nature. Perhaps his most unfortunate stroke
254 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
of policy was the one upon which he chiefly relied,
that of attaching himself to the Earl of Essex.
That young nobleman, though in great favor with
Elizabeth, was valued more for his personal ac-
complishments than his political sagacity. He
was also, by reason of the queen's preference, es-
pecially obnoxious to Lord Burleigh, and his son,
Robert Cecil. Macaulay believes that they con-
nived at Bacon's defeat, and influenced Lord
Keeper Puckering to express a preference for some
other applicant. It is this opposition of his own
kinsmen that Bacon alludes to in the line, " made
old off'ences of afi'ections new." He off'ended Bur-
leigh and Cecil by his reliance upon Essex.
His confession leaves no room for doubt as to
the means he used while in pursuit of the office.
His moral delinquences stood as accusing spirits
before liim. ''Most true it is," he writes, "I have
look'd on truth askance and strangely." How does
this materially differ from the office-seekers of our
day? Is there not always in the shifts, turns, and
devices, which hope and fear deem necessary to
success, a constant warfare upon truth? The or-
deal through which he passed during this period
is more graphically described in the one hundred
and nineteenth Sonnet: —
** What potions have I drunk of Siren tears,
Distill'd from limbecks foul as hell within,
Applying fears to hopes aud hopes to fears,
Still losing when I saw myself to win!
/JV THE SONNETS. 255
What wretched errors hath my heart committed,
Whilst it hath thought itself so blessed never!
How have mine eyes out of their spheres been fitted
In the distraction of this madding fever."
How many of the great men since Bacon's time,
whose experience, like his, was filled with all the
sacrifices of principle, honor, and truth, would, as
he did, make a full and frank confession of their
errors! Yet the name of this great benefactor of
our race is almost a synonyme for all that is mean,
unscrupulous, and vile in human character. Per-
haps the world is not entirely wrong in its denun-
ciations; but if Bacon had concealed his offences
as skilfully as he concealed his merits, his memory
would stand much fairer in the eyes of posterity.
His confessions ruined him. If, as lord chancel-
lor, instead of confessing to a formidable array of
acts, all of which had been of customary observ-
ance before his time, he had opposed a bold front
and insisted upon a trial, there is little doubt that
with the king and Buckingham (both of whom it
is hinted by Tenison were as blamable as he was)
to aid him, he would have escaped that terrible
downfall, and that more terrible distich, which in
a succeeding age branded him as " the meanest of
In the fall of 1595 the hopes of Bacon were un-
expectedly blasted by the appointment of Sergeant
Fleming solicitor-general. The announcement
fell upon his ear like a thunderbolt. The disap-
256 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
pointment was not so severe as the humiliation.
His faith in the influence of Essex with the queen
had been from the first an assurance of success.
He immediately withdrew from public view, and
determined to seek relief for his wounded feelings
in travel. The natural buoyancy of his spirits,
and the encouragement of Essex, accompanied by
a munificent gift, soon dispelled his gloom and
sorrow, and he returned to his habits of contem-
plation and composition. He wrote and published
ten essays under his own name, which were greatly
admired, and reinstated him in the public favor.
He regards them as no substitute in his love for
dramatic composition. Alluding to them in the
one hundred and tenth Sonnet, he writes to Thee
"And worse Essays prov'd Thee my best of love."
The great sorrow he had experienced proved to
him his predominant love for closet studies, and
especially for dramatic labor. "As easy," he says
in the one hundred and ninth Sonnet, " might I
from myself depart, as from my soul which in thy
breast doth lie."
"For nothing this wide universe I call.
Save Thou, My rose; in it Thou art My all.*'
In the one hundred and seventh stanza, the
death of Queen Elizabeth and the accession of
James I. are announced in a single line: —
" The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur'd."
m THE SONNETS. 257
No occurrence at that time could have been
more welcome to Bacon. Elizabeth's care for him
had always taken the form of a guardian for a
ward. She had been no friend to his ambition or
his abilities. He follows the announcement of
her death with these words: —
**Incertanties now crown themselves assur'd.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and death to me subscribes.
Since, spite of him, 1 11 live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes."
What were the " incertainties " in Bacon's life
which now " crown'd themselves assured " ? There
is an inner history here alluded to which has never
been published, — a history that at the time was
not fully revealed, in which Bacon was an actor.
Elizabeth always feared that her title to the throne
would be disputed, and possibly violently contested
by the adherents of Mary Queen of Scots. It
was this fear, more than any overt act proved on
the trial of the Duke of Norfolk, that caused the
death of that unfortunate nobleman. Influenced
by this fear, Elizabeth treated Mary as a rival,
and when she sought her protection, imprisoned
her for eighteen years, tried her for conspiracy,
and decapitated her. This same fear, with better
cause, led to the death of Essex.
Bacon, by attaching his fortunes to Essex, w^as
defeated by the jealous hostility of Burleigh and
Cecil. When, by his unauthorized return from
258 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Ireland, Essex fell under the displeasure of the
queen, Bacon, finding it impossible to procure his
reinstatement without a trial, prevailed with her
majesty to make the inquiry into his conduct
extrajudicial in form, and reformatory rather than
.punitive. The result was a judgment of tempo-
rary exile and partial confinement. It was re-
mitted by slow degrees, but the friends of Essex
meantime, among their public demonstrations in
his favor, caused the play of Henry IV. to be per-
formed for forty nights. One Hayward, a play-
wright, also read a pamphlet, giving an account of
the dethronement of Richard II., which aroused
the fears of the queen, who saw in it an attempt
to excite the populace to treason. Hayward was
arrested and sent to the Tower, and probably
saved from a trial that would have cost him his
head, by a quick-witted reply of Bacon to the
queen's inquiry, " if he could find any places in it
that might be drawn in the case of treason.'' " For
treason, madam," he replied, " I surely find none,
but for felony, very many." " Wherein? " asked
Elizabeth, eagerly. " Madam," said Bacon, " the
author hath committed very apparent theft, for he
hath taken most of the sentences of Cornelius
Tacitus, and translated them into English, and
put them into his text."
Bacon always took counsel of his fears. He did-
not feel safe ever after, while Elizabeth reigned.
He wrote nothing except his ten essays and a few
m THE SONNETS, 259
tracts until her death. This " incertainty/' caused
by the performance of his play, — a play commem-
orative of a usurper, — was, like David's sin, " ever
before him.'' He knew not at what moment it
might be revived, or at what moment he might be
exposed as its author; but if such moment should
come, he knew that his arrest would be certain,
and how innocent soever he might have been in
purpose, his guilt would be affirmed. Now that
Elizabeth was dead, and the Scottish monarch on
the throne, this " incertainty " was *' assured," his
fears vanished, peace reigned, his love looked fresh,
and " death " to him *' subscribed," or in plainer
phrase, surrendered. He was ready to resume
work as a dramatist, and as we infer from the
one hundred and eleventh and one hundred and.
twelfth Sonnets, his first drama was " Timon of
The philosophy which he invoked for Timon
was equally applicable to himself. Addressing
You (Beauty), he says: —
"O, for my sake do You with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds."
This in effect expressed his intention of writing
a drama which should reflect the trial he had
passed through. In his own view, it must have
been bitter indeed. All his early memories were
awakened, when, as the son of one of the first of-
260 BAC02T AND SHAKESPEARE
ficers of the realm, he was taught to look forward
upon a life to be spent in pursuits of his own
choice. For this had he been educated, and for
this only was he fitted. Fortune decreed other-
wise. He had no resource but " public means,"
and his first effort to improve them by attaining a
position had failed. He had made a public exhi-
bition of himself; had been party to many in-
trigues; had compromised his integrity. Why
did not fortune better provide for him? Why was
ho forced to belie his own great nature and de-
scend to all the tricks, manners, and expenses of
an office-seeker? Yet in his case they were un-
avoidable. He had no other means of livelihood
or renown. He continues: —
" Tlience comes it that my name receivtjs a brand,
Aiitl almost thence my nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand."
The " brand '* hero alluded to was undoubtedly
the aid he gave in the prosecution of Essex. He
was charged with ingratitude of the basest kind.
Essex had been his devoted friend; aided him in
his struggle for position; presented him with a
valuable estate; rendered him friendly service in
his courtship of LadyHatton. For these services
he had a claim upon Bacon for any assistance he
might be able to give. One to read Macaulay's or
GampbelPs Life of Bacon would conclude that he
requited these kindnesses with the blackest in-
gratitude and inhumanity. Nothing can be far-
IN THE SONNETS. 261
ther from the truth. Bacon was the constant
friend and adviser of Essex, from the moment that
Ife entered the queen's service until his treason-
able attempt to dethrone her. We have already
seen that Bacon saved him from a public trial on
his ill-advised return from Ireland. It was only
after his arrest for high treason that Bacon, un-
able to assist him further, was obliged, as a loyal
subject and counsellor, to aid in his prosecution.
Macaulay intimates that ho should have refused
to act. Campbell thinks that but for his assist-
ance Essex might have escaped. With singular
inconsistency both agree that Essex was guilty
and deserved his fate. Had Bacon refused his as-
sistance at the trial, he would have been arrested,
tried, and punished. Had he failed in the proper
discharge of his duties upon the trial, and been de-
tected in attempting to save the earl by diverting
the minds of the peers from the testimony, death
would have been his certain portion. Essex was
arrested in the very act of treason. It was not pos-
sible for him to escape conviction. Bacon knew
that, having been always an ardent friend and
supporter of the earl, all eyes would be turned
upon him. The slightesly dereliction on liis part
would be deemed proof of his complicity in the
treason. It was im.possible for him to aid Essex
and save himself. He plainly saw that no aid he
could render would alter the result, and that any
reluctance on his part to act would be fatal to him.
262 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Who but one that has been placed in a similar
situation, and acted differently, has any right to
brand Bacon with ingratitude for the course he
This " brand " upon his name, he intimates, so
subdued his nature that he was ready to sacrifice
all ambition for advancement, and confine him-
self to his profession, which, like "the dyer's
hand,'' would take its character from its miscel-
laneous occupations. It destroyed his confidence
in humanity. He describes in the one hundred
and twelfth Sonnet the resolution he made for
the government of his future life. You (Beauty)
have drawn the character of Flavins, the steward
of Timon, as a representative of Bacon's disgust
at the treatment he received from his professed
friends. Among them all, Flavius alone was
sincere. The entire stanza, as may be seen by
comparing it with the play, is addressed to him.
The love and pity which Flavius manifested for
Timon in prosperity and adversity; his efforts to
save him by warning him of his extravagance;
his fruitless expedients to supply means for the
payment of his debts; his search for him after he
had fled to the woods; the pity he then expressed
for him, and the unselfishness of all his acts, —
were the "love and pity" that filled the impression
which "vulgar scandal" had fastened upon Bacon.
That " vulgar scandal " doubtless was his extrava-
gance and impecuniosity, which, as in the case of
IN THE SONNETS. 203
Timon, had followed him after his defeat. Un-
able to pay the debts he had made, deserted by
his supposed friends, he wrote this play to com-
memorate that period of his life, and to signify
his distrust of mankind. He delineated his own
character, — generous, confiding, humane, liberal
in manly features; profuse, improvident, extrava-
gant, and careless in habits. Of these Flavins
reminded him, and became thereby " all the
world to him," He strove to know " his shames
and praises from his tongue," and banished all
care, as did Timon, concerning others. All the
world beside was dead to him. The philosophy
thus invoked for Timon made Bacon a stoic. As
his subsequent history proves, he gave himself up
to the idea that he would henceforth be indiffer-
ent to any judgment the world might form of his
acts. He would remain in public life. He was
yet young, and in order to rise, he must plead his
own merits. This course he ever after pursued.
All his letters addressed to James, Buckingham,
and Salisbury, seeking promotion, based his
claims upon his own special qualifications, often
even to the disparagement of others. He was no
longer the cringing suppliant of Gray's Inn, but
the statesman and confidant of the king. Thus
posing as Timon, the charge of ingratitude had
no care for him, except perhaps as it might have
suggested that great creation of filial ingratitude,
King Lear, which was his next drama.
264 BACON AND snAKESPEAEE
The plays written by Bacon after his defeat took
their character from the change which that event
had wrought in his life. They were all illustrative
of the dark side of human nature. His great
tragedies of Lear, Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth
were of this period. His own consciousness of
this change, and of its effects upon the dramas,
is apparent in the following lines at the close of
the one hundred and nineteenth Sonnet: —
*' benefit of ill! now I find true
That better is by evil still nmde better;
And ruin'd love, when it is built anew.
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.
So I return rebuk'd to My content.
And gain by ill thrice more than I have spent.**
Lear, next in composition to Timon, is very dis-
tinctly alluded to in the one hundred and four-
teenth and one hundred and fifteenth Sonnets.
The marks of identification are unmistakable in
the flattery of the old king by his daughters; the
reference to the daughters as *' monsters " in th&
resemblance of beauty; the impulsive decrees of
Lear, and hastily formed resolution of Gloster, as
"things indigest"; the depicture of Goneril, Regan,
and Edmund, the perfectly bad as the perfectly
best characters of the play, all of which in the next
Sonnet are denounced as a lie, in the light of fur-
The variety and character of Bacon's labors at
this time are very astonishing. In public life he
was an active mcDiber of Parliament, a candidate
m THE SONNETS. 265
for kniglitliood, one of the counsel for the crown
on the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, and an indus-
trious worker for official advancement; while in
the closet he was composing tragedies, elaborating
his noble treatise on the *' Advancement of Learn-
ing," planning a " History of England," and pre-
paring a tract for publication on " Helps to the
The Tempest was written at this time. It is
fully identified in the one hundred and sixteenth
Sonnet. Prospero's love for his brother is fore-
shadowed in the lines: —
** Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds."
The remainder of the stanza is suggestive of the
other features of the play. He assumes in the
next stanza to have written Lear and the Tempest
for the purpose of conciliating Beauty, with whom
he has been at outs ever since, tempted by the
hope of being solicitor, he bade him farewell in
the eighty-sixth and eighty-seventh Sonnets. As
an apology to him he says, in the one hundred and
seventeenth Sonnet: —
** I did strive to prove
The constancy and virtue of your love."
Constancy was the prominent characteristic of
Cordelia, and virtue that of Miranda.
Soon after the appearance of Lear and the Tem-
pest, the author, supposed by the writers of the time
to be Shakespeare, as it would seem from the one
2(53 BACON AND SIIAKESPEAEE
hundred and twenty-first stanza, was charged with
plagiarism hy some of the play-writers of the
time. The reply in the stanza does not deny, but
avoids, the charge, and retorts with heavier coun-
ter-accusations. Bacon^s methods of composition
are fully revealed in the poem. Such facts and
illustrations as were not of his own conception, he
gathered from the works of early authors, classi-
fied them under their proper heads of Thought
and Beauty, and reproduced them in his own
language and imagery as he found occasion. His
own thoughts and fancies were jotted down in the
same manner, without regard to system or use.
One of the most philosophical writers of our day,
Ralph Waldo Emerson, is said to have pursued the
same method. With the exception of the Tem-
pest and possibly Midsummer Night's Dream, all
of Bacon's dramas were founded upon stories of
former ages. In the twenty-sixth and fifty-ninth
Sonnets these methods are clearly defined. We
learn from them that not only for his plots, but
for very many of the beautiful thoughts which
adorn his dramas, Bacon w^as indebted to others.
He confesses as much in the eighty-seventh Son-
net, when he tells Thy (Thought) that his great
gift is growing upon misprision; and in the eighty-
eighth, in the words: —
*' With Mine own weakness being best acquainted,
Upon Thy part I can set down a story
Of faults conceal'd, wherein I am attainted,
That Thou in losing me shall win much glory."
IN THE SONNETS, 267
The methods so clearly admitted and explained
in early life, as the spirit of his reply indicated,
disturbed him when they appeared in the form
of accusation. Why, he asks, should they, more
guilty than he of falsehood and adulteration, " in
their wills count bad what he thinks good"? They
only expose themselves, and reckon up their own
errors. For aught they know, he may be straiglit.
He knows they are not. His deeds must not suffer
from their surmises. He was so fearful, however,
that they might suffer from this cause, that in the
next Sonnet, addressing Thy (Thought), he says
that he has committed to memory, for use in Thy's
name, where it will remain " above that idle rank/' —
"Beyond all date, even to eternity," —
the ''gifts and tables" containing these thoughts;
so that they —
"Never can ba miss'd.
That poor retention could not so much hold,
Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score;
Therefore to give them from me was I bolJ^
To crust those tables [memory] that receive thee more:
To keep an adjunct to remember thee
Were to import f orgetf uluess in me. "
This " forgetfulness " might betray him, so he
destroyed all visible proofs of his methods and his.
writings. The Promus, a page of his own discon-
nected thoughts, and a paper indorsed *' Orna-
menta Rationalia" (Ornaments of Truth), are the
only vestiges found among his papers that bear
any relation to his dramas.
268 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
In the introductory chapter of the Promus, Mrs.
Pott says: —
" The Promus was Bacon's shop or storehouse,
from which he would draw forth things new and
old, — turning, twisting, expanding, modifying,
changing them, with that 'nimbleness' of mind,
that * aptness to perceive analogies,' which he notes
as being necessary to the inventor of aphorisms,
and which, elsewhere, he speaks of decidedly,
though modestly, as gifts with which he felt him-
self specially endowed.
** It was a storehouse of pithy and suggestive
sayings, of new, graceful, or quaint terms of ex-
pression, of repartee, little bright ideas jotted
down as they occurred, and which were made to
reappear ' made up,' variegated, intensified, and
indefinitely multiplied, as they radiated from that
wonderful * brayne cut with many facets.' "
Mr. Spedding, in his Life of Bacon, after speak-
ing of the miscellaneous character of the collec-
tions, says: —
"As we advance, the collection becomes less
miscellaneous, as if his memory had been ranging
within a smaller circumference. In one place, for
instance, we find a cluster of quotations from the
Bible, following one another with a regularity
which may be best explained by supposing that
he had just been reading the Psalms, Proverbs,
and Ecclesiastes, and then the Gospels and Epis-
tles (or perhaps some commentary on them), regu-
larly through. The quotations are in Latin, and '
most of them agree exactly with the Vulgate, but
not all. Passing this Scripture series, we again
I^' THE SONNETS, 269
come into a collection of a very miscellaneous
character, — proverbs, French, Spanish, Italian,
English; sentences out of Erasmuses Adagia;
verses from the Epistles, Gospels, Psalms, Prov-
erbs of Solomon; lines from Seneca, Horace, Vir-
gil, Ovid, succeed each other according to some
law, which, in the absence of all notes or other
indications to mark the connection between the
several entries, the particular application of each,
or the change from one subject to another, there
is no hope of discovering, though in some places
several occur together, which may be perceived
by those who remember the struggling fortune
and uncertain prospects of the writer in those
years, together with the great design he was
meditating, to be connected by a common senti-
At the risk of being thought tedious, and of
travelling outside my prescribed field of investi-
gation, I cannot refrain from placing before my
readers the carefully expressed opinion formed by
Mrs. Pott of the innumerable resemblances she
has traced between the Promus and the dramas.
" This is not," she says, " the proper place for
discussing the many arguments which have been
held for and against the so-called * Baconian
theory' of Shakespeare's plays. Nevertheless,
since the publication of these pages is the result
of an investigation, the sole object of which was
to confirm the growing belief in Bacon's author-
ship of those plays, and since the comments
attached to the notes of the Promus would other-
wise have no significance, it seems right to sum
270 BACON AND SHAKESPEAUE
up in a few lines the convictions forced upon the
mind with ever-increasing strength, as, quitting
the broad field of generality, the inquirer pursues
the narrow paths of detail and minute coinci-
" It must be held, then, that no sufficient ex-
planation of the resemblances which have been
noted between the writings of Bacon and Shake-
speare is afforded by the supposition that these
authors may have studied the same sciences,
learned the same languages, read the same books,
frequented the same sort of society. To satisfy
the requirements of such an hypothesis, it will be
necessary further to admit that from their scien-
tific studies the two men derived identically the
same theories; from their knowledge of languages,
the same proverbs, turns of expression, and pecu-
liar use of words; that they preferred and chiefly
quoted the same books in the Bible and the same
authors; and last, not least, that they derived from
their education and surroundings the same tastes
and the same antipathies, and from their learn-
ing, in whatever way it was acquired, the same
opinions and the same subtle thoughts.
" With regard to the natural, and at first sight
reasonable, supposition that Bacon and Shake-
speare may have ' borrowed ' from each other, it
would follow that, in such a case, we should have
to persuade ourselves, contrary to all evidence,
that they held close intercourse, or that they made
a specific and critical study of each other's writ-
ings, borrowing equally the same kinds of things
from each other; so that not only opinions and'
ideas, but similes, turns of expression, and words
which the one introduced (and which perhaps he
only used once or twice and then dropped), ap-
m THE SON^^ETS. 271
peared shortly afterwards in the writings of the
other, causing their style to alter definitely, and
in the same respects, at the same period of their
literary lives. We should almost have to bring
ourselves to believe that Bacon took notes for the
use of Shakespeare, since in the Promus may be
found several hundred notes of which no trace
has been discovered in the acknowledged writ-
ings of Bacon, or of any contemporary writer but
Shakespeare, but which are more or less clearly
reproduced in the plays, and sometimes in the
*' Such things, it must be owned, pass all ordi-
nary powers of belief; and the comparison of
points such as those which have been hinted at
impress the mind with a firm conviction that
Francis Bacon, and he alone, wrote all the plays
and the Sonnets which are attributed to Shake-
speare, and that William Shakespeare was merely
the able and jovial manager, who, being supported
by some of Bacon's rich and gay friends (such
as Lord Southampton and Lord Pembroke), fur-
nished the theatre for the due representation of
the plays, which were thus produced by Will
Shakespeare, and thenceforward called by his
The following thoughts, copied almost at ran-
dom from the 1665 collections comprising Bacon's
Promus, with corresponding passages from the
plays, will give the reader some idea of his pre-
paratory labors for dramatic composition: —
Silui a bonis et dolor nieus renovatus est. — Psalms xxxix.
(I was silent from good words, and my grief was renewed.)
"Tis very true my grief lies all within;
And these external manner of laments
272 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortured soul."
— Richard II. f iv. 1.
Sat patriae Priamque datum. — jEneid, ii. 291.
(Enough has been done for my country and for Priam.)
"Soldiers, this day you have redeem'd your lives,
And show'd how well you love your prince and country."
— Henry F/., 2d pt., iv. 8.
Conscientia mille testes. — Erasmvs's A'dagia^ 346; QvintUlian,
V. xi. 4L
(Conscience is worth a thousand witnesses.)
" My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain."
—Richard IIL, v. 3.
Summum jus summa injuria. — Cicero Ojfficia, i. 10.
(The extreme of justice is the extreme of injustice.)
Leontes. ** Thou shalt feel our justice in whose easiest passage
Look for no less than death." — Winter's Tale, iii. 1.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. — Horace's Odes, iii. 2, 13.
(It is sweet and becoming to die for one's country.)
"1 11 yield myself to prison willingly,
Or unto death to do my country good. "
— Henry VI., 2d pt., ii. 5. See also Coriolanus, i. 3j i. 6.
Plumbeo jugulare gladio. — Erasmus's Adagia, 490.
(To kill with a leaden sword.)
** You leer upon me, do you ? There 's an eye
Wounds like a leaden sword."
— Love's Labor 's Lost, v. 2. See also Julius Coesar, iii. 1.
Haile of Perle. — Erasmus's Adagia.
■^ I '11 set thee in a shower of gold,
And hail rich pearls on thee."
— Antony and Cleopatra, ii. 5.
Solus currens vincit. — Erasmus's Adagia, 304.
(When running alone he conquers. )
"Ye gods, it doth amaze me !
A man of such a feeble temper should
So get the start of the majestic world,
And bear the palm alone." — Julius Ccesar, i. 3.
IN THE SONNETS. 273
Utilis interdum est ipsis injuria passis. — Ovid Iler., xvii. 187.
(Injury is sometimes useful to those who have suffered by it.)
**0 sir to wilful men,
The injuries tliat they themselves procure
Must be their schoolmaster." — Lear, ii. 4.
Oleo incendium restiriguere. — Erasmus's Adagio.
(To quench fire with oil. )
"Such smiling rogues as these bring oil to fire."
— Lear, ii. 2. See also All's Well, v. 3; Merry Wives, v. 5.
Projicit ampuUas et sesquipedalia verba, — Horace Ars. Poet, 97.
(Cast aside inflated diction and foot and a half long words.
"They have lived on the alms-basket of words."
— Love's Labor 's Lost, v. 1.
** Tliree piled hyperboles, spruce affectation,
Figures pedantical." — Id., v. 2.
Saying and doing two things.
"Your words and your perfoi-mancea are no kin together."
— OtMlo, iv. 2.
Ubi non sis qui fueris non est cur velis vivere.
— Erasmus's Adagia, 275.
(When you are no longer what you have been, there is no cause
why you should wish to live. )
Shy lock. "Nay, take my life and all: pardon not that: —
You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life
When you do take the means whereby I live."
— Merchant of Venice, iv. 2.
"Let me not live, quoth he.
After my fiame lacks oil, to be the snuff
Of younger spirits. — All's Well, i. 3.
Estimavit divitem omnia jure recta.
(He thought that the rich man was right in all that he did.)
" O, what a world of vile ill-favored faults
Looks handsome in three hundred pounds a year. "
— Merry Wives, iii. 4.
"Faults that are rich are fair." — Ttmon.o/ Athens, i. 1.
274 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Nolite confidere in principibus. — Psalms cxlvi. 3.
(Put not your trust in princes. )
*' O, how wretched is that poor man that hangs on princes*
There is betwixt that smile we would aspire to,
That sweet aspect of princes and their ruin,
More pangs and fears than wars or women have.**
Henry VHL, iii. 2.
Collection of sentences by Lord Bacon: —
He that cannot see well, let him go softly.
He that studieth revenge keepeth his wounds
Men of noble birth are noted to be envious tow-
ards new men when they rise: for the distance
is altered; and it is like a deceit of the eye, that
when others come on, they think themselves to go
In evil, the best condition is, not to will; the
next, not to can.
He that goeth into a country before he hath
some entrance into the language goeth to school,
and not to travel.
In great place ask counsel of both times: of the
ancient time, what is best; and of the latter time,
what is fittest.
There is a great difference betwixt a cunning
man and a wise man; there be that can pack the
cards, who yet cannot play well; they are good in
canvasses and factions, and yet otherwise mean
Extreme self-lovers will set a man's house on
fire though it were but to roast their eggs.
You had better take for business a man some-
what absurd than over-formal.
Base natures, if they find themselves once sus^
pected, will never be true*
IN THE SONNETS. 275
Men ought to find the difference between salt-
ness and bitterness. Certainly he that hath a
satirical vein, as he maketh others afraid of his
wit, so he hath need be afraid of others' memory.
Discretion in speech is more than eloquence.
Riches are the baggage of virtue; they cannot
be spared, nor left behind, but they hinder the
Great riches have sold more men than ever they
have bought out.
He that defers his charity till he is dead is, if
a man weighs it rightly, rather liberal of another
man's than of his own.
Ambition is like choler; if it can move, it makes
men active; if it be stopped, it becomes a dust, and
makes men melancholy.
* To take a soldier without ambition is to pull off
A man's nature runs either to herbs or weeds,
therefore let him seasonably water the one and
destroy the other.
The best part of beauty is that which a picture
If you will work on any man, you must either
know his nature and fashion, and so lead him; or
his ends, and so persuade him; or his weaknesses
and disadvantages, and so awe him; or those that
have interest in him, and so govern him.
He who builds a fair house upon an ill seat
commits himself to prison.
Seneca saith well, that anger is like rain, which
breaks itself upon that which it falls.
High treason is not written in ice, that when
the body relenteth, the impression should go away.
The best governments are always subject to be
like the fairest crystals, wherein every icicle or
276 BACON AND SnAKESPEARE
grain is seen which in a fooler stone is never per-
Let states that aim at greatness take heed how
their nobility and gentry multiply too fast. In
coppice woods, if you leave your staddles too thick,
you shall never have clean underwood, but shrubs
The master of superstition is the people. And
in all superstition, wise men follow fools.
Round dealing is the honor of man's nature;
and a mixture of falsehood is like alloy in gold
and silver, which may make the metal work the
better, but it embaseth it.
It may be fitly remarked here that Bacon's
method of composition, of itself, will account for
the rare union of Truth, Thought, and Beauty,
wdiich has given to all his writings their won-
derful predominence over other authors. The
whole world of thought, as it had been produced
and elaborated by the philosophers, politicians,
historians, poets, and polemical writers of former
time, had been skimmed by him, and the cream was
at his command. This, interwoven with his own
thoughts, reproduced in language never equalled
before or since, furnishes a rational explanation
for the most remarkable features of the dramas.
Not alone the poetry, but the wisdom they con-
tained, flowed from this source. They were not
the product of a single mind, but as Coleridge'
trul}^ says, w^ere "myriad-minded." No matter
what the passion, what the character, what the
m THE SONNETS. 277
power, what the mind to be represented, each
in itself reflected what hundreds of philosophers,
poets, wits, disputants, orators, had thought and
uttered hundreds and thousands of years before.
It was the world of life and character in epitome.
To wield this vast enginery required the skill and
knowledge of a competent engineer. No novice in
science or art, no mere genius, however gifted,
nothing less than an Olympian mind, fully
equipped with learning, philosophy, logic, polem-
ics, imagination, and art, could concentrate, re-
mould, transform, re-create, and replace in living
and breathing forms of humanity, this vast assem-
blage of time-worn, long-forgotten thoughts and
truisms. Such an engineer was Francis Bacon.
He knew every pulsation, every breath of that'
complicated machinery, and held it in complete
control. It responded to his own impulses, and
love, anger, heroism, tyranny, ingratitude, jeal-
ousy, ambition, wit, humor, imbecility, and hesi-
tation flowed from it, each in its turn in a form
never seen before or attained since.
Referring to the new English Dictionary, now
in course of publication, a critic for the Nation
" Every number will be to Shakespearians the
cost of the whole book. It will throw a thousand
side-lights on Shakespeare^s language which they
have always longed for, but could never hope
to behold. How much of our vocabulary and its
significance can be traced back no farther than
278 BACO^' AND SHAKESPEARE
the great dramatist will be revealed so clearly
that he who ruus may read. Something of this
disclosure may be seen in any fraction of this
stupendous work. Turning over the first two
hundred pages of the first number, it will be
ascertained that one hundred and forty-six words
are first found in Shakespeare, either altogether
or in some of their meanings. Kome owed only
one word to Julius Caesar. The nature of our
debt will be more apparent if we examine some of
these hundred and a half of Shakespeare words,
all so near the beginning of the alphabet that the
last of them is * air.' We owe the poet the first
use of the word 'air' itself in one of its senses
as a noun, and in three as a verb or participle.
He first said ' air-drawn ' and * airless.'
" Of the one hundred and forty-six words and
meanings first given us by Shakespeare, at least
two thirds are of classical origin. Baconians will
say that such a gift could not by any possibility
come from a man of * small Latin and less Greek.'
Others will enlarge their ideas of what Ben Jonson
meant by * small.' The strangest thing seems to
be, that so few of Shakespeare's innovations — not
so much as one fifth — have become obsolete. Ho
gave them not only life, but immortality. It
is perhaps equally noteworthy, that while he was
never read so much as to-day, no writer before
him (and scarcely one of his contemporaries),
cited as authors of words and sentences, is now
read at all save by special students."
The next play specially referred to is Cymbe-
line, in the one hundred and twenty-fourth Son-
net. It is really remarkable that the pointed
TN THE SONNETS. 270
allusions to the early life of Bacon in this stanza
have escaped the notice of all his numerous
biographers. He outlines his own history by
supposing a similar history for his '*own dear love^'
(his drama), if that were but the "child of state."
*' It might in that case," he says, " for fortune's
bastard be unfather'd." Until the age of twenty,
Bacon had not known a want which was not im-
mediately supplied. His genius was recognized by
all who knew him. Every possible opportunity, at
home and abroad, that colleges, public life, diplo-
macy, travel, and foreign culture afforded was given
to him, and he made a good improvement of them.
AVhen he was summoned by the death of his father
to return home from France, no young man of that
age was more thoroughly accomplished in learn-
ing, philosophy, arts, and the elements of states-
manship. Conscious of his own powers, next to
a life devoted to speculative and philsophical
investigation, of which he saw himself deprived,
he was ambitious to fill some public position
favorable to his growth in knowledge and use-
fulness. This was denied him by his uncle and
the queen, and being by fortune a "child of
state," he was at once as " fortune's bastard un-
father'd." In other words, he was a waif at the
court of Elizabeth, subject alike to the caprice of
the queen and Burleigh's jealousy. His life was
wrecked in its spring. No one supplied to him
the place of his father. No friend at court took
280 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Ihe least interest in the development of his
mighty genius. The pictures of his own life sug-
gested to him the character, and doubtless the
name, of Posthumus. He, like Bacon, was " un-
fathered,'^ and " fortune's bastard," subject, like
him, to "Time's love or "Time's hate," both of
which he experienced at the hands of Cyrabeline
and Cloten, as Bacon did at the hands of Eliza-
beth and Burleigh. He was a " weed among
weeds " in his early life, and gathered as a "flower
among flowers " afterwards.
This was not the case with his " love " (his
drama). That " was builded far from accident "
(such as the death of a father). " It suffbred not
in smiling pomp," as Bacon did in the deceitful
smiles of Burleigh and Cecil. Nor did it fall un-
der the blows of "thralled discontent," as both
Bacon and Posthumus did in the unkindness of
their respective sovereigns. It was not, as those
wlio were heretical at the time, obliged to " work
on leases of short-number'd hours," as Bacon was
during the nights he devoted to dramatic compo-
sition at Gray's Inn. No more faithful picture of
the inner life of Bacon can be found in any of his
biographies. It leaves us in no doubt as to his
own view of the condition in which he found him-
self placed, and of the impossibility of surmount-
ing it; and it accounts for the sorrowful and piteous
letters w^hich he addressed to his uncle and the
queen, begging to be relieved, which Macaulay
TX THE SON-NETS. 281
and Campbell have been pleased to cite as evi-
dence of meanness and servility. They could not
see under them all the struggles and impatience of
a great genius for freedom. They could not real-
ize the crushed and humble spirit of that towering
mind, which, as he writes to his uncle, had '' as
vast contemplative ends as I have moderate civil
ends, for I have taken all knowledge to be my
province." They could see only " meanness and
servility" in that remarkable threat: —
'' If your lordship will not carry me on, I v/ill
not do as Anaxagoras did, who reduced himself
with contemplation unto voluntary poverty; but
this I will do, I will sell the inheritance that I
have, and purchase some lease of quick revenue,
or some office of gain that shall be executed by
deputy, and so give over all care of service, and
become some sorry book-maker, or a true pioneer
in that mine of truth that lies so deep I
do not think that the ordinary practice of the law,
not serving the queen in place, will be admitted
for a good account of that poor talent that God
hath given me; so as I make reckoning, I shall
reap no great benefit to myself in that course."
All the allusions in the one hundreth and twenty-
sixth Sonnet point to Hamlet as the next tragedy.
Thou (Truth) is addressed as he is illustrated in
the tragedy. First, as growing by waning, which
is represented by the early experience of Hamlet.
He is made to appear as a young scholar called
home from college at Wittenberg by the death of
282 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
his father. His mother soon after is married to
his uncle, who thereby succeeds his father as king
of Denmark. This hasty marriage, and a vague
suspicion that some wrong has been donC) preys
upon the mind of Hamlet, and he is overcome by
grief and misanthropy. He contemplates suicide,
and from the first begins to wane in his mind, and
this waning becomes more and more apparent in
his character to the end of the play, — at times
putting on a form of qualified derangement. This
is undoubtedly what is meant by telling Truth
that he has ** by waning grown." In the progress,
it is shown that the lovers Hamlet and Ophelia
became estranged. Their love is finally terminated,
and Ophelia is first crazed, then drowned. Thy
(Thought) has shown his " lovers' withering,''
while lie is still growing as the tragedy progresses.
Nature all this while, who, despite the efi'orts of
Truth and Thought to save the mind and wits of
Hamlet, " is the sovereign mistress over wrack,"
and is gradually unhinging that mind. He is in-
tent upon the vengeance directed by his father's
spirit, but as he *'goes onward" to inflict it, is
still " plucked back," and restrained by doubts,
cowardice, and spiritual considerations. Some-
thing in his own mind always steps between him
and his purpose, to the very end of the play. Na-
ture, meantime, shows " her skill " in disgracing
the time, by continuing the guilty love of Claudius
and Gertrude, the death of Polonius and Ophelia,
7iV THE SONNETS. 283
the treachery of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
and the criminal designs of the king upon the life
of Hamlet, and thus kills the " wretched moments,"
which finally end in the violent death of all. She
has detained, but not kept, Hamlet, " and her qui-
etus was to render thee," to finally kill him. The
motive wliich instigated Claudius to murder his
brother is so fully described in the one hundred
and twenty-ninth Sonnet that it needs no inter-
Following the narrative, it appears that the suc-
cessive appearance of the tragedies excited an eager
spirit of emulation in contemporary playwrights;
and that some of them had chosen their heroes
from the colored races. In the one hundred and
twenty-seventh stanza he writes: ''Now is black
beauty's successive heir." These writers had in
his opinion failed in their attempts to delineate
character truthfully. Beauty was slandered by
them, and nature disfigured by art. " Therefore,"
he says, '* My Mistress' brows are raven black,"
equivalent to saying, " I will see what I can make
of a black character." Othello was the product of
this determination. This tragedy, as clearly ap-
pears from the criticisms he bestowed upon it
w^liile in progress, was his most difficult and best
approved performance. It was longer time in
composition, and the complexion he had chosen for
his hero made him doubtful of its success, though
he says: " Thy black is fairest in my judgment's
284 BACON AND SEAKE3PBARE
place." While engaged in composing it, he con-
trasted it with the plays of other writers, depict-
ing their ineffectual efforts to imitate him, and the
absurdity of their comparisons. His criticisms
upon different scenes in the tragedy are alluded to
in the one hundred and twenty-seventh, one hun-
dred and thirtieth, one hundred and thirty-first,
one hundred and thirty-second, one hundred and
thirty-seventh, one hundred and thirty-eighth, one
hundred and thirty-ninth, one hundred and for-
tieth, one hundred and forty-first, one hundred
and forty-second, and one hundred and forty-third
Sonnets, which are interpreted in the poem.
The choice of a subject for his next tragedy was
probably suggested by a desire to please King
James. It was Macbeth, the first and only drama
for which the subject was chosen from Scottish
history. He had glorified England by a repro-
duction of the "War of the Roses." Some of his
best productions were located in Italy. Denmark
and Bohemia had been honored each with a drama,
but the Scotch were entirely neglected. While
Elizabeth lived it would have been imprudent to
introduce a play of Scottish origin, as her fears all
came from that quarter, but nothing could be more
acceptable to James. The time, not less than the
subject, was well chosen. The union between
Scotland, Ireland and England, so long the cause
of unhappy differences between those countries,
had been happily effected by the succession of
m THE SONNETS, 285
James. He had been four years on the English
throne when the tragedy appeared. A flattering
allusion was made to the union by a symbol seen
by Macbeth in some of the kings of ** Banquo's
time/' which passed in vision before him on bis
visit to the witches, —
"And some I see,
That twofold balls, and trebled sceptres carry."
A belief in witchcraft pervaded all classes at
this time. King James in 1597 had published a
work on Demonologie, at Edinburgh, which after
his succession to Elizabeth, was reprinted in Lon-
don. In the preface he reminds the reader of the
'' fearful abounding in this country of these de-
testable slaves of the devil, the witches or en-
chanters." The writer of Macbeth had no faith
in the infallibility of witchcraft. It is not im-
probable that he intended by this tragedy to
indirectly compliment King James's book, by de-
picting the terrible consequences of a reliance
upon the fortune-telling jugglers of this period.
No moral essay on the subject could have more
fearfully predicted them than this great tragedy.
A law had been passed during the first year of the
reign of James on the English throne, punishing
witchcraft in all its forms with death. In the
Sonnet, as in the drama, Bacon treats it as a delu-
sion, but makes Macbeth obey it as a divine com-
mand. " Buy terms divine in selling hours of
dross," is the last of all the fugitive consolations
286 BACON AND SHAKESPEAnE
ho recommends to Macbeth, when his castle is
besieged, and his capture and death assured. His
own idea of fortune-telling and astrology is very
plainly described in the fourteenth Sonnet.
Next to Macbeth, as appears from the Sonnets,
Bacon composed Antony and Cleopatra. This was
his last dramatic labor. This tragedy was prob-
ably completed in 1G07, — the year that Bacon
received the appointment of solicitor-general. We
are thus brought to the close of this remarkable
allegorical history of his career as the writer of the
plays attributed to Shakespeare. Let us briefly
summarize what it has taught us: —
1. It contains a cipher, or key of words, — very
simple, easy of comprehension, and unfailing
through all the stanzas from the first to the last.
It is impossible to resist the idea that Thou
means Truth; Thy, Thought; and You, Beauty.
These are the three allegorical characters whose
aid Bacon constantly invokes in the creation of
the impersonation he calls " My Love," which
answers completely to the title, " My Drama,'' or
*' My Dramas.'' The impersonation " My Friend "
is only used on two occasions, — twice in the
forty-second Sonnet, to signify the transfer of
" My Love " to him, and three times in the one
hundred and thirty-second Sonnet, where owner-
ship and authorship are abandoned and made"
over to him. " My Mistress " appears in the one
hundred and twenty-seventh stanza as descriptive
m THE SONNETS, 287
of Othello, and is described in the light of false
comparison in the one hundred and thirtieth,
and as the only spring which will cure his love in
the one hundred and fifty-third and one hundred
and fifty-fourth; but her character adapts itself to
all the tragedies that he wrote, and by allusion
and allegory, appears as if a part of each one.
Hence she answers to the name of Tragedy. All
other ciphers are single, and easily understood.
The entire poem is so perfectly sustained in
its allegorical illustration and expression that it
forms one grand cipher; every form of meta-
phor and metonymy, the loftiest imagination,
the subtlest induction, the profoundest philoso-
phy, are used to conceal, and yet contain, the
great secret of the authorship of the dramas at-
tributed to Shakespeare. The poem, for the pur-
poses intended by the author, is a masterpiece,
without a rival or an imitation in English litera-
2. From the first to the eighteenth Sonnets, in
the reasons addressed to Thou, Thy, and You, as
the respective representatives of Truth, Thought,
and Beauty, and to tlie gifts of nature (all of which
he claims as parts of himself), we learn why ho
was induced to engage in the illustration of life in
character. He reasons with himself through the
medium of each separate element of his genius,
and treating each as a laggard, persuades all to
engage in the production of some great labor,
which shall win for him an immortal name.
288 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
3. From the eighteenth to the eighty-seventh,
the period of his first labors as an author arc de-
scribed. He is satisfied that his work will live.
His outcast state, disappointments, and sorrows
are depicted in contrast with the delight he expe-
riences in writing. His methods of composition,
and hours devoted to it, the places where he
writes, his careful concealment of his tables and
manuscripts, his discontent during his hours of
enforced absence, are described. The nature of
his arrangement with Shakespeare, the interest he
has in the avails flowing from it, the relationship
they are to bear to each other, his delight on
seeing the dramas in theatrical representation,
his opinion of imitators and contemporary play-
wrights, his daily attendance upon Queen Eliza-
beth, are all distinctly set forth. He tells his name;
alludes to the work he contemplates doing in phi-
losophy; describes the enigmatical dedication of
the Sonnets; announces his intention soon to
abandon writing for a public position; alludes to
a rival poet; sees his own lines in another's work.
4. From eighty-seventh to one hundred and
seventh: he bids farewell to dramatic composition,
to engage in an effort to obtain a public position.
His fears lest he should be discovered as a play-
wright are fully portrayed in the eighty-eighth,
eighty-ninth, and ninetieth stanzas. He invokes"
his own powers and Shakespeare in the strongest
terms not to betray him; he is tortured with en-
m THE SONNETS. 2S9
nui, and finds fault with the poetry of his contem-
poraries; tells wherein it is unnatural; calls upon
his Muse to resume labor; rewrites the poem of
" Lucrece/' which was composed three years be-
fore; compares it favorably with other poems.
5. From one hundred and seventh to one hun-
dred and fifty-fourth: he intimates the defeat
of his hopes in the one hundred and nineteenth
Sonnet, and his delight at being able to re-engage
in dramatic composition; his dramas look fresh;
neither his fears that he might be betrayed, nor
the prophecy that he would be elected, now that
he is defeated, can prevent his return to his love;
Queen Elizabeth is dead, and James I. is king; his
prospects are improved; the times are better; he
confesses his errors; refers to his essays, preferring
Lis dramas; depicts his disappointments, and his
determination in future, in the tragedy of Timon;
follows Timon with Lear, and Lear with the Tem-
pest; resents the charge of plagiarism; destroys his
collections of thoughtful sayings, and the tables
on which his own thoughts are written; writes
Cymbeline; depicts his own life in the character of
Posthumus; writes Hamlet; follows it with Othello,
which he criticises closely, and pronounces it his
best tragedy; ridicules the writers who attempt to
imitate him; abandons the authorship and prop-
erty of the dramas to Shakespeare, and devises
methods for his own concealment; writes Macbeth,
which is followed by Antony and Cleopatra, his
290 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
last dramatic production; names his Mistress
(Tragedy) as the only cure for his love.
Anticipating that the time would soon arrive,
when, by a change in his position, and perhaps a
desire to devote his leisure to his great philosophi-
cal treatise, the Novum Organum (already in pro-
gress), Bacon, as appears in the one hundred and
thirty-third, one hundred and thirty-fourth, one
hundred and thirty-fifth, and ono hundred and
thirty-sixth Sonnets, abandoned all his interest in
the dramas in favor of Shakespeare, under the
strongest injunctions of secrecy. That he regretted
this sacrifice is everywhere apparent in the Son-
nets; but he could see no other method of avoiding
discovery, and attaining to the public honors now
almost within his grasp. Thenceforward his rise
in public life was rapid. He held the office of
solicitor-general until 1613. He was then ap-
pointed attorney-general, which office he held
until his elevation to the lord chancellorship in
1617. In 1621 he was tried and found guilty of
bribery by his peers, expelled from his office, sen-
tenced to pay a fine of forty thousand pounds, im-
prisoned in the tower, and declared "incapable of
holding any office of trust, honor, or employment.'*
The king pardoned him. He was released from
imprisonment in a day or two, the fine was re-
mitted, and before his death all the disabilities of
his sentence were removed. Unbroken in spirit,
he continued through all these changes to pursue
IN THE SONNETS. 291
his philosophical investigations with unflagging
zeal and energy. The great works bearing his
name are the result of these labors. He died in
In 1623, seven years after the death of Shake-
speare, the dramas in revised form were published
in a folio under the apparent superintendence of
Hemings and Condell, two former associates of
Shakespeare. Many changes were made in the
plays by addition and suppression, which were
claimed to be corrections from original copies.
No suspicion of the authorship existing, they es-
caped public scrutiny at the time, and have been
received by all ages since, until the present, as the
undoubted works of William Shakespeare. Those
of our readers who receive as true the interpreta-
tion herein given of the Sonnets will have no
doubt that the folio was published under the care-
ful supervision of Lord Bacon, and that all the
changes, emendations, suppressions, and additions
were made by him. Those who believe or think
differently cannot be convinced without more posi-
tive evidence. We leave the subject there.
Conjecture, tradition, and fable have Deen busy
for the past two hundred and seventy years in fab-
ricating a life for William Shakespeare. Eelieved
of those three elements, the facts in that life could
be told on a single page of foolscap. It would con-
tain nothing suggestive of uncommon genius or
ability. By adding to the grains of truth found
in the biographies of commentators such facts as
are disclosed in the Sonnets, we learn that he was a
wild, uncultivated young man in Stratford, clever
in his own conceit, full of life and frolic, ready to
join in any boyish mischief, and careless of its re-
sults. He was no worse than nine tenths of the
young men who permit themselves to be swayed
by passion and a love of notoriety. "Whatever the
motive that induced him to go to London, certain
it is, that on his arrival there, he abandoned his
reckless habits and addressed himself to business.
How he became acquainted with Lord Bacon, or
why he was selected to father his dramas, we
leave to conjecture. Some peculiarity of his life
prompted Bacon to make an arrangement with
294 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
him by means whereof his plays were represented
in the theatre, Shakespeare recognized as their au-
thor, and Bacon a joint sharer in the avails they
As we read the character of Shakespeare in the
Sonnets, he was entirely uncultivated, but true,
honest, faithful, and thrifty, and at the time he
became known to Bacon, a share-holder in Black-
friars Theatre, and a general favorite among his
fellow-actors and play-writers. He was also suffi-
ciently familiar with managerial methods to adapt
the plays to the stage, and was intrusted with that
service by Bacon. He kept his promise to Bacon
of entire secrecy from the moment of their ac-
qaintance in 1590, and died with it undivulged in
1G16. The dramas were written during the first
twenty years of that period. Shakespeare, mean-
time, acquired a handsome property, and soon
after Bacon ceased to write in 1609, retired to his
native village to enjoy it.
Very little is known about the closing years of
his life. He was careful of his estate, and a suc-
cessful business man. Divested of the falsities
with which a veneration for his supposed writings
Lave endowed his memory, and viewed only as a
plain man of the world, there is nothing re-
proachful in the lawful methods he employed to
collect the debts justly owing to him, nor is it very
strange or criminal that he should have purchased
his family memorials at the Herald's ofiBce. The
/iV THE SONITETS, 295
Sonnets give him the credit of being kind and just,
and his contemporary playwrights all express the
highest respect for his memory. Bacon exoner-
ates him from all original design in the plan and
arrangement by which he became known as the
author of the plays, and takes the blame entirely
The cause of his death, usually assigned, rests
upon tradition, and may or may not be true.
There is nothing very remarkable about it. He
had been an actor and stage manager. His life
had been passed among convival companions, who
drank, sang, and had their hours of mirth and
hilarity. If his excesses, while enjoying a visit
from Jonson and Drayton, produced a fever of
which he died, it is quite as reasonable, and much
more charitable, to infer that it was the effect of
violence to his abstemiousness rather than to his
inordinate love of liquor. Whatever the cause,
he died at the age of fifty-one, in April, 1616, and
was buried in Stratford church, where, protected
by the objurgatory lines on his tomb, his body
doubtless long ago crumbled back to its mother
There is nothing in the history revealed in the
Sonnets which requires a more elaborate biogra-
phy of Shakespeare. None of the numerous tra-
ditions, conjectures, and fables which have been
accepted as events by commentators and critics
during the past 270 years are of the least impor-
296 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE.
taiice, unless he was the true author of the works
bearing his name. With that established as a
fact, they are invaluable; because everything re-
lating to him would then be invaluable. In a
discussion of his claims to the authorship of the
dramas, they serve only to mislead and bewilder,
while they prove nothing but the devotion and
energy of those who wrote them. Shakespeare's
memory has been defamed and exalted by them.
The same writers who assign to him the foremost
place in literature give him an infamous personal
character. If the Sonnets are true as lierein in-
terpreted, both these conclusions are false, and
William Shakespeare, averaged with the men of
his age, was better than the most of them.
Several passages in the Sonnets would seem to
indicate that Bacon cliose Shakespeare as his rep-
resentative because of his capacity for money get-
ting and his literary deficiencies. Shakespeare
was a share-holder in Blackfriars Theatre in three
years after he came to London. He could be
safely trusted as a financier. Ignorant in a liter-
ary sense, and unconscious of any ability as a
writer, he indulged no higher ambition than to
achieve a competency and return to Stratford.
Critics and commentators all regard his utter in-
difference to the dramas, and his inordinate love
of money, as the most unaccountable features of
his character. They treat those defects patheti-
cally, and offer apologies for them which would be
scorned if offered in behalf of any man but Shake-
Money and ignorance were what Bacon needed
in a representative. The first was a necessity of
his life; the last of his safety. Both were assured
in Shakespeare. He could not have trusted the
dramas to men of culture like Ben Jonson, Peele,
298 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE
Mario w, or Green, for fear of interpolations or
suggestions. Shakespeare saw nothing in them
for himself but money. The fame never entered
his mind. If it did, he abandoned it for the
wealth he could not otherwise have acquired. It
was through that ignorance and indifference that
they were preserved in the form in which they
The remarkable passage in Bacon's will leaving
*4iis name and memory to men's charitable
speeches, to foreign nations, and to the next ages,"
and the equally remarkable lines on Shakespeare's
tomb forbidding the removal of his remains, are
enigmas in the history of each which no com-
mentator has been able to solve. Why should
either of them have been written? If there was
nothing more to revere Bacon for than the great
works which bore his name, which name, when he
died, was more revered than any other in the
world of letters, what was there for "foreign
nations or the next ages" to do which would add
to his fame? They could not wipe away his stains,
nor add to his renown. Both were history. But
if they should discover that to his philosophical
works the great dramas must be added, they
would receive that great '^name and memory" as
the grandest bequest ever bestowed by man upon
his race; they would be charitable to his errors
and exalt his fame in all nations.
So of Shakespeare, who died the recognized and
m THE SOIiTNETS. 299
accepted author of the dramas. Why should he
have a curse upon his tomb for any one who
ventured to remove his remains to Westminster
Abbey? Was not this also attributable to the
calm foresight of Bacon? He saw that a time
would come, in his own or a foreign land, when
the world would know and acknowledge him as
the author of the dramas. He knew that when
that occurred, if Shakespeare's remains had been
removed to Westminster Abbey, it would be re-
garded as an impious profanity, by both him and
Shakespeare, of the great national mausoleum of
England's worthies, and blacken his name and
memory forever. He determined that neither
should repose there. Hence the pathetic reason
given in his will for requesting that his own
burial should be in St. Michael's Church, within
the limits of Old Verulam. ** There," he says,
" was my mother buried."
It is a curious fact in the lives of both Bacon
and Shakespeare, that no avowed knowledge of
each other appears in their authenticated works.
How could it be possible for two such men to
dwell in the same city twenty-six years, and be
engaged in writing on cognate subjects, without
some sort of mutual recognition? Difference in
social life might prove an obstacle to personal ac-
quaintance, but could it, by any possibility, make
them strangers to each other's writings ? Would
those grand creations of Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth,
300 BACOK AND SHAKESPEARE
and Tim on escape the philosophical acumen of so
keen an observer of life and manners as Bacon ?
Would not Shakespeare, with his love of nature
and truth, have sought and found more than
appears in his imputed works, in the Essays
and De Augmentis, to enrich his soliloquies? Yet
neither mentions the name of the other, or quotes
a single passage from his works. One would not
know from the works of the other that he had ever
lived, yet each in his line was the most remark-
able man of that remarkable age. Neither failed
of admirers in his contemporaries, but of Shake-
speare it may be truly said, that, aside from the
dedications of "Venus and Adonis" and '' Lu-
crece," he never bestowed a word of praise or
blame upon any one. Bacon loved the drama,
treated of it philosophically, and it is believed by
many, contemplated in one part of the Novum
Organum to employ it in the illustration of life in
character. He was on terms of social intimacy
with Ben Jonson, who often acted as his amanu-
ensis, and under his direction translated many of
his works into Latin. Did Bacon and Shakespeare
slight each other ? or was it pure oversight that
each escaped the other's notice ?
It would be surprising that the key to this poem
had not been discovered two centuries ago if Ba-
con was at that time suspected of its authorship.
That he was not renders the discovery all the more
interesting and valuable now, as it gives an intel-
IN THE SONNETS. 301
ligible meaning to those allegorical passages which
have so long stained the memory of Shakespeare.
Whatever the errors of Bacon, his private charac-
ter was irreproachable. He had no adventures to
tell, no impurities to confess. His life was di-
vided between his public duties and his closet
studies. With the key to unlock his meaning, it
is not necessary to expose the gallantries and
irregularities of any of the young noblemen of
Elizabeth's court to find one whom ^'Thou," in
all his tergiversations will fit. The simple word
" Truth " answers to every charge, and makes a
plain narrative of that which in any other view is
inexplicable. Neither is it necessary to reveal
the frailties of any of the noble ladies of that day
to find a counterpart for "You" and " My Love,"
when Beauty is so clearly signified by one and
" My dramas " by the other. Nor is there any
need that poor Will Shakespeare, a man doubt-
less not without faults like other men, should
confess to an indulgence and excess of passion so
infamously mean, that the great memory he bears
scarcely saves him from universal execration.
"My Love,'' "Thy," and "My Friend" are the
only terms by which he can be recognized in the
poem. Then there is " My Mistress," that black,
diabolical woman of whom it is written, —
"For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night. "
When you call her Tragedy, all the mystery which
302 BACON AND SHAKESPEARE.
enshrouds her life disappears, and the story in
allegory is fully revealed. The symbols, com-
parisons, metaphors, correspondences, and allu-
sions become instinct with meaning. Events are
told as they occur, experiences as they are realized.
Disappointments are explained, and sorrows faith-
fully depicted, and all are conformable to the life
and character of Bacon, whose name appears as a
guaranty of their truth. There are but four per-
sons who ever lived alluded to in the poem: Bacon,
Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, and another poet;
all the others are allegorical. What more ?
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