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The "History
of Henry

The following is a good specimen of the easy level narrative of The New Atlantis, as little like Shakespeare as can be conceived, but with a certain Defoe-like power of compelling credence :

It came to pass that the next day, about evening, we saw within a kenning before us, to the north, as it were thick clouds, which did put us in some hope of land; knowing how that part of the South Sea was utterly unknown, and might have islands or continents that hitherto were not come to light. Wherefore we bent our course thither where we saw the appearance of land all that night; and in the dawning of the next day we might plainly discern that it was a land, flat to our sight, and full of boscage, which made it show the more dark. And after an hour and a half's sailing we entered into a good haven, being the port of a fair city; not great indeed but well built, and that gave a pleasant view from the sea and we thinking every minute long till we were on land, came close to the shore, and offered to land. But straightway we saw divers of the people with bastons in their hands, as it were forbidding us to land; yet without any cries or fierceness, but only as warning us off by signs that they made. Wherefore, being not a little discomforted, we were advising with ourselves what we should do. During which time there made forth to us a small boat, with about eight persons in it; wherein one of them had in his hand a tipstaff of a yellow cane, tipped at both ends with blue, who came aboard on ship without any show of distrust at all. And when he saw one of our number present himself somewhat afore the rest, he drew forth a little scroll of parchment, somewhat yellower than our parchment, and shining like the leaves of writing-tables, but otherwise soft and flexible, and delivered it to our foremost man.

The New Atlantis was published in 1627, at the end of the Sylva Sylvarum, by Bacon's literary executor, Rawley. The recoverer of Nova Solyma points out its influence on that remarkable work, and it had several professed continuations. It seems to be ridiculed in Swift's Voyage to Laputa. For some reason not easily fathomed, satirists, from Aristophanes to Dickens, have usually been inimical to physical science. Rabelais is an exception.

Bacon's political writings are numerous, and his historical compositions may be included among them. By much the most important of these is his History of Henry VII., written, as we have seen, immediately after his disgrace in 1621. He had, no doubt, reason to know that the undertaking would be acceptable to James I., but there is no ground to suppose that he intended to idealise either James or himself in Henry and, since we have seen that he had already indicated the history of England from the battle of Bosworth Field to the death of Elizabeth as an historical desideratum, it is most probable that he took advantage of his unwonted leisure to execute a favourite plan. The work does him the highest honour for its ease and breadth of execution, and perfect penetration of the motives of the leading actors. "He gives," says Bishop Nicholson, “as sprightly a view of the secrets of Henry's Council as if he had been president of it." It is entirely a political history, the life of a statesman by a statesman, and may in this respect be compared to the histories of Ranke, but is not, like these, based upon the evidence of State Papers. The author's complete knowledge of the period must have enabled him to dispense with documentary research, for, although minor errors have been discovered, such as attributing to Pope Alexander an action of his pre

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Title page of Bacon's "History of the Reign of Henry VII.," 1622

decessor, no more recent writer has been able to vary Bacon's portrait of Henry to any appreciable extent. The tone is in general cool and unimpassioned, moral judgment remains in abeyance, and little use is made of the picturesque passages from the chroniclers, in which Shakespeare would have luxuriated; but the dryness which might have been the result of this sobriety is avoided by a frequent employment of quaint, brilliant, and striking metaphors and comparisons, some of which would in our day be thought below the dignity of history:

She began to cast within herself for what coast this blazing star should first appear, and at what time.

Upon the first grain of incense that was sacrificed upon the altar of peace at Bulloigne, Perkin was smoked away.

These fames grew so general as the authors were lost in the generality of speakers ; they being like running weeds that have no certain root, or like footings up and down impossible to be traced.

For profit, it was to be made in two ways, upon his subjects for the war, and upon his enemies for the peace; like a good merchant that makes his gain both upon the commodities exported and imported back again.

The following is a good average specimen of Bacon's narrative:

The King went forwards on his journey, and made a joyful entry into Exeter, where he gave the citizens great commendations and thanks; and taking his sword he wore from his side, he gave it to the Mayor, and commanded it should for ever after be carried before him. There also he caused to be executed some of the ringleaders of the Cornishmen, in sacrifice to the citizens, whom they had put in fear and trouble. At Exeter the King consulted with his counsel whether he should offer life to Perkin if he would quit the sanctuary and voluntarily submit himself. The counsel were divided in opinion. Some advised the King to take him out of sanctuary perforce, and put him to death, as in a case of necessity, which in itself dispenses with consecrated persons and things; wherein they doubted not also but the King should find the Pope tractable to ratify his deed, either by declaration or at least by indulgence. Others were of opinion, since all was now safe and no further hurt could be done, that it was not worth the exposing of the King to new scandal and envy. A third part fell upon the opinion that it was not possible for the King ever either to satisfy the world well touching the imposture or to learn out the bottom of the conspiracy, except by promise of life and pardon and other fair means he should get Perkin into his hands. But they did all in their preambles much bemoan the King's case, with a kind of indignation at his fortune; that a prince of his high wisdom and virtue should have been so long and so oft exercised and vexed with idols. But the King said that it was the vexation of God Almighty himself to be vexed with idols, and therefore that was not to trouble any of his friends and that for himself he always despised them, but was grieved that they had put his people to such trouble and misery. But in conclusion he leaned to the third opinion; and so sent some to deal with Perkin; who seeing himself a prisoner and destitute of all hopes, having tried princes and peoples, great and small, and found all either false, faint, or unfortunate, did gladly accept of the condition. The King did also while he was at Exeter appoint the Lord Darcy and others commissions for the fining of all such as were of any value, and had any hand or partaking in the aid or comfort of Perkin or the Cornishmen, either in the field or in the flight. These commissions proceeded with such strictness and severity as did much obscure the King's mercy in the sparing of blood, with the bleeding of so much treasure. Perkin was brought unto the King's court, but not to the King's presence; though the King to satisfy his curiosity saw him sometimes out of a window or in passage. He was in show at liberty, but guarded with all the care and watch that was possible, and willed to follow the King to London. But from

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his first appearance on the stage in his new person of a sycophant or juggler, instead of his former person of a Prince, all men may think how he was exposed to the derision not only of the courtiers but also of the common people, who flocked about him as he went along, that one might know afar off where the owl was by the flight of the birds; some mocking, some wondering, some cursing, some prying matter out of his countenance and gesture to talk of. So that the false honour and respects which he had so long enjoyed was plentifully repaid in scorn and contempt. As soon as he was comen to London, the King gave also the city the solace of this maygame. For he was conveyed leisurely on horseback, but not in any ignominious fashion, through Cheapside and Cornhill to the Tower, and from thence back again unto Westminster, with the churme' of a thousand taunts and reproaches.


Shakespeare has depicted a similar situation to Perkin's in his Richard II., and the contrast between his profuseness and Bacon's sobriety, as marked as that between The New Atlantis and The Tempest, should alone suffice to decide the so-called Baconian controversy. He who can believe the Bacon's parawriter of all others most resplendent in thoughts and fancies to have here phrase of the shone with so dry a light may well believe the rustic merry-making in The Winter's Tale to be the creation of one who lived entirely in cities. The prevalence, nevertheless, of this remarkable delusion justifies a few words upon what might otherwise have been passed over-Bacon's technical claims to the character of poet. That Shelley was justified in claiming this character for him in the largest sense is indisputable; his errors as a man of science are chiefly due to his sensitiveness to the picturesque aspects of the kingdom of nature. But, considered in the more restricted point of view as a practitioner of the poetical art, in which he must have excelled to have produced but one of the dramas of Shakespeare, his pretensions are but humble. The only poetical production that can with safety be attributed to him is a paraphrase of some of the Psalms, made in 1624 which enshrines with similar felicities this delectable couplet :

There hast thou set the great Leviathan,

That makes the seas to seeth like boiling pan.

The writer who can not only perpetrate but print such a piece of bathos
can have but scant claim to the quality of poet: while he may yet be able
to express himself metrically with dignity and eloquence when his theme
is entirely congenial to him. The following stanzas are from the paraphrase
of the ninetieth Psalm :

O God, thou art our home, to whom we fly,
And so hast always been from age to age,
Before the hills did intercept the eye,

Or that the frame was up of earthly stage.
O God, thou wert and art, and still shalt be:
The line of time, it doth not measure thee.

Both death and life obey thy holy lore,

And visit in their turns as they are sent ;
A thousand years with thee, they are no more
Than yesterday, which as it is, is spent:

1 Confused noise.

Bacon as a

Richard Hooker

Or like a watch by night, that course doth keep,
And goes and comes unwares to them that sleep.

Thou carriest man away as with a tide;

Then down swim all his thoughts that mounted high,
Much like a mocking dream that will not bide,

But flies before the sight of waking eye;
Or as the grass that cannot term obtain
To see the summer come about again.

Teach us O, Lord, to number well our days,
Thereby our hearts to wisdom to apply;

For that which guides man best in all his ways,

Is meditation of mortality.

This bubble light, this vapour of our breath,
Teach us to consecrate to hour of Death.

If this is not poetry of the highest order, it is something more than rhetoric in rhyme. But imagine the author of Hamlet and The Tempest, with the First Folio under his hand, spending his time over a generally mediocre paraphrase of the Psalms!

Bacon's letters form an extensive collection. The most important are the elaborate considerations on affairs of state, drawn up in epistolary form for the enlightenment of rulers and public men others refer merely to the events of the day. All are profoundly interesting, not so much on account of the particular themes as from the contact into which they bring us with Bacon himself. We see the man whose outlook is too wide for his time, and whose ideas have far outrun it, striving to obtain recognition by a policy of accommodation and suasion. In an age of liberty he might have led the Commons, and seated himself in power; in an age of civil discord he might have been chosen arbitrator by both parties; the condition of his own times left him no other part than that of a secret counsellor, commonly disregarded. The circumstances of his age also deprived him of much of his legitimate renown as an English author writing for the world, and not for his own country alone, he was obliged to compose the most important of his works in Latin. Immense as was his service, immortal as was his meed, it was in him to have achieved and to have deserved much more. The identification of his person with the author of Shakespeare's plays, in itsclf an absurdity, acquires significance if regarded as an instinctive. acknowledgment that, but for the faults of our ancestors, our debt to Bacon might have been even greater than it is, an awkward way of formulating the world's consciousness that, although Bacon laboured unremittingly throughout a life exceeding the average term of human existence, he is, nevertheless, an "inheritor of unfulfilled renown."

Before Francis Bacon had taken a leading place in the world's eye save as an advocate, the second great name in Elizabethan prose literature had accomplished his work and passed away. RICHARD HOOKER Occupied by comparison a narrow sphere: he could not, like Bacon, bequeath his memory to foreign nations, while it was destined to be a precious possession

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