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ABOUT thirty years ago I read in the Will of Lord Bacon "For my burial, I desire it may be in St. Michael's Church, St. Albans: there was my mother buried, and it is the parish church of my mansionhouse of Gorhambury, and it is the only Christian church within the walls of Old Verulam. For my name and memory, I leave it to men's charitable speeches, to foreign nations and the next ages.
This passage, not to be seen till he was at rest from his labours, impressed me with a feeling of his consciousness of ill usage, and a conviction that the time would arrive when justice would be done to his memory. Sir Philip Sydney says, "I never read the old song of Percy and Douglas, without feeling my heart stirred as by the sound of a trumpet;" and assuredly this voice from the grave was not heard by me with less emotion.
The words were cautiously selected, with the knowledge which he, above all men, possessed of their force and pregnant meaning, and of their certain
influence, sooner or later, upon the community. (a) They spoke to me as loudly of a sense of injury, and of a reliance upon the justice of future ages, as the opening of the Novum Organum speaks with the consciousness of power: (b)
FRANCISCUS DE VERULAMIO
There was also something to me truly affecting in the disclosure of tender natural feeling in the short sentence referring to his mother, which, spanning a whole life between the cradle and the grave, seemed to record nothing else worthy of a tribute of affection. Thus impressed I resolved to discover the real merits of the case.
I found that the subject had always been involved in some mystery. Archbishop Tennison, the admirer of Lord Bacon, and the friend of Dr. Rawley, his domestic chaplain, thus mentions it in the Baconiana : "His lordship owned it under his hand, (c) that he was frail, and did partake of the abuses of the times; and surely he was a partaker of their severities also. The great cause of his suffering is to some a secret. I leave them to find it out by his words to King
(a) In a former will (see Baconiana, p. 203) there is the same wish expressed, not in such polished terms. The sentence is, For my name and memory, I leave it to foreign nations and to mine own countrymen, after some time be passed over."
(b) FRANCIS OF VERULAM THOUGHT THUS.
(c) In his letter to King James, March 25, 1620, in the Cabala.
James: (a) I wish that as I am the first, so I may be the last of sacrifices in your times:' and when, from private appetite, it is resolved that a creature shall be sacrificed, it is easy to pick up sticks enough from any thicket whither it hath strayed, to make a fire to offer it with."
Dr. Rawley, (b) did not, as it seems, think it proper to be more explicit, because he judged "some papers touching matters of estate, to tread too near to the heels of truth and to the times of the persons concerned."
Having read this intimation in the Baconiana, I procured, with some difficulty, a copy of the tract that contains the words to which Archbishop Tennison alludes. It is Bushel's Abridgment of the Lord Chancellor's philosophical theory. (c) This work, written by Bushel more than forty years after his master's death, abounding with constant expressions of affection and respect, states that, during a recess of parliament, the King sent for the Chancellor, and ordered him not to resist the charges, as resistance would be injurious to the King and to Buckingham. (d) Upon examining the journals of the House of Lords, I found that this interview between the King and the Chancellor was recorded.
Having made this progress, I was informed that there were many of Lord Bacon's letters in the
(a) See Mr. Bushel's extract, p. 19.
(b) Baconiana, page 81.
(c) See note GGG.
(d) See page cccxliv.
Lambeth Library. I immediately applied to the Archbishop of Canterbury for permission to read and take extracts from them. With this application his Grace, with his usual courtesy and kindness, most readily complied.
In one of the letters there is the following passage in Greek characters:
Οφ μγ οφφενς, φαρ βε ιτ φρομ με το σαγ, κορυις; υεξατ κενσυρα κολυμβας : βυτ ι ωιλλ σαγ ανε γοοδ ωαρραντ φορ : θεγ ωερε νοτ θε γρεατεστ οφφενδερς ιν Ισραελ υπον ωρομ θε ωαλλ φελλ. (α)
In another letter he says, "And for the briberies and gifts wherewith I am charged, when the books of hearts shall be opened, I hope I shall not be found to have the troubled fountain of a corrupt heart, in a depraved habit of taking rewards to pervert justice; howsoever I may be frail, and partake of the abuses of the times." (b)
From this ambiguity by a man so capable of expressing himself clearly, and whose favourite maxim was, "Do not inflate plain things into marvels, but reduce marvels to plain things," I was confirmed in the opinion which I had formed. I, therefore, proceeded to collect the evidence.
After great deliberation I arranged all the materials; and, from the chance that I might not live to
(a) Decyphered it is as follows: Of my offence, far be it from me to say, dat veniam corvis; vexat censura Columbas: but I will say that I have good warrant for: they were not the greatest offenders in Israel upon whom the wall fell.
(b) Letter to the King, May 25, 1620.