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CHAPTER LVI.

CONCLUSION OF THE LIFE OF LORD BACON.

Ir Bacon's illness had been feigned when proceedings were pending against him,—after his sentence it was real and alarming, and for some time he could not have been removed from York House without hazard of his life. But the first burst of mental agony having expended itself, he recovered his composure, and his health improved. There was a disposition creditable to all parties, to show him all the consideration and forbearance consistent with the substantial interests of justice. But the sentence of the House of Peers could not be treated as a nullity, although it might be mitigated by the prerogative of mercy in the Crown.

On the last day of May he was carried a prisoner to the Tower. To save him the humiliation of marching through the Strand and the principal streets of the city in custody of constables, a procession contrasting sadly with that which he headed when he proudly rode from Gray's Inn at the head of the nobility and Judges to be installed as Lord Keeper in Westminster Hall,-a barge was privately ordered to the stairs of York House, and, the tide suiting early in the morning so that London Bridge might be conveniently shot, he was quietly conducted by the Sheriff of Middlesex to the Traitor's gate, and there, with the warrant for his imprisonment, delivered to the Lieutenant of the Tower. A comfortable apartment had been prepared for him; but he was overcome by the sense of his disgrace. He might have had some compunctious visitings when he recognised the scene of Peacham's tortures, and we certainly know that he could not bear the thought of spending even a single night near those cells

"With many a foul and midnight murder fed."

He instantly sat down and wrote the following letter to
Buckingham:

CHAP.

LVI.

May, 1621.
Bacon's

severe ill

ness.

He is comthe Tower

mitted to

in execution of his

sentence.

CHAP.
LVI.

His letter

to Buckingham, praying

that he may be liberated.

Humane interposition of Prince Charles.

Bacon is liberated.

Goes to a villa at Parson's

Green.

"Good my Lord,—Procure the warrant for my discharge this day. Death, I thank God, is so far from being unwelcome to me, as I have called for it (as Christian resolution would permit) any time these two months. But to die before the time of his Majesty's grace, and in this disgraceful place, is even the worst that could be; and when I am dead, he is gone that was always in one tenour a true and perfect servant to his Master, and one that was never authour of any immoderate, no, nor unsafe, no (I will say it), nor unfortunate counsel, and one that no temptation could ever make other than a trusty, and honest, and Christ-loving friend to your Lordship; and (howsoever I acknowledge the sentence just, and for reformation sake fit,) the justest Chancellor that hath been in the five changes since Sir Nicholas Bacon's time. God bless and prosper your Lordship, whatsoever becomes of me.

*

Your Lordship's true friend, living and dying,
Tower, 31st May, 1621.
FRANCIS ST. ALBAN."

He at the same time wrote a letter to the King which is not preserved, but which we may believe was very touching, from his own representation, that it was "de profundis."

Prince Charles in a manner for which he has not been sufficiently praised, hearing of the deplorable condition of the prostrate Ex-chancellor, took a more lively interest in procuring his liberation than older councillors, who were afraid of giving offence to the parliament. Nothing effectual could be done that day, but on the 1st of June, a warrant under the sign-manual was made out for the noble prisoner's discharge. It was arranged that Sir John Vaughan, who held an office in the Prince's household, and lived in a beautiful villa at Parson's Green, should receive him, and that he should continue in retirement there till parliament was prorogued. † The very same day he returned his warmest thanks to the Prince:"I am much beholden to your Highness's worthy servant, Sir John Vaughan, the sweet air and loving usage of whose

He tries to delude himself into some sort of self-complacency, from the thought that his decrees were sound in spite of all the bribes he had accepted. † Camden says, "Ex-cancellarius in arcem traditur; post biduum deliberatus;" but he must reckon time according to the manner of the Jews.

LVI.

house hath already much revived my languishing spirits. I CHAP. beseech your Highness thank him for me. God ever preserve and prosper your Highnesss."*

may

The buoyancy of his spirit immediately returned, and in three days after he thus writes to Buckingham. "I heartily thank you for getting me out of prison; and, now my body is out, my mind nevertheless will be still in prison till I be on my feet to do his Majesty and your Lordship faithful service. Wherein your Lordship, by the grace of God, shall find that my adversity hath neither spent nor pent my spirits."† But his creditors, finding out where he was, became very troublesome to him. He wished to have been allowed to return to York House and to remain there till he had made some settlement of his affairs; and he sent his faithful secretary, Meautys, who served him in his adversity with fresh zeal, to obtain this favour; but, although the Prince joined in the solicitation, it was refused--on the ground that he had been condemned "not to come within the verge of the Court." He was ordered immediately to take up his residence at Gorhambury, and not to move elsewhere till his Majesty's pleasure should be farther notified to him.

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Thither he accordingly repaired; but the place had a very He retires different aspect to him from what it had presented when, ac- to Gorcompanied by the great and the witty, he retreated to its shades after the splendid fatigues of office. He found this solitude, without cheering retrospect or anticipation,-most tion to painful, — and he prepared a petition to the House of Lords, that he might be released from it. To move their compassion he says, "I am old, weak, ruined, in want, a very subject of pity. My only suit to your Lordships is to show me your noble favour towards the release of confinement my I protest, worse than the Tower. There I could have company, physicians, conference with my creditors and friends about my debts, and the necessities of my estate, helps for my studies and the writings I have in hand. Here I live upon the sword point of a sharp air, endangered if I go abroad, dulled if I stay within, solitary and comfortless,

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to me,

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without company, banished from all opportunities to treat with any to do myself good and to help out any wrecks; and that which is one of my greatest griefs, my wife, that hath been no partaker of my offending, must be partaker of this misery of my restraint." After imploring them to intercede for them, he thus concludes:-"Herein your Lordships shall do a work of charity and nobility; you shall do me good; you shall do my creditors good, and it may be you shall do posterity good, if, out of the carcass of dead and rotten greatness, as out of Samson's lion, there may be honey gathered for the use of future times." But the public indig nation had not yet sufficiently subsided to permit his restora. tion to society, and he was obliged to shut himself up at Gorhambury till the spring of the following year.*

He was for some time most irksomely occupied with his pecuniary accounts; and he sometimes found it difficult to provide for the day that was passing over him. To Buckingham he writes," I have lived hitherto upon the scraps of my former fortune; and I shall not be able to hold out longer." To the King, "The honours which your Majesty hath done me have put me above the means to get my living, and the misery I am fallen into hath put me below the means to subsist as I am."

These representations produced such an impression that an arrangement was made, which, with common prudence, might have enabled him to live in comfort during the rest of his days. The fine of 40,000l. was in truth remitted; but, to protect his property from his more importunate creditors, it was assigned to trustees for his benefit. A pension was granted to him of 12007. a year; he drew 6007. from the Alienation office, and the rents of his estate amounted to a further sum of 7007. a year, making altogether an income equal, probably, to that of many of the hereditary nobility.

The nation would not yet have endured an entire remission of his sentence, whereby he would have been entitled to sit

*Buckingham, in the King's name, sent him a refusal to reside in London,"which being but a small advantage to you, would be a great and general distaste, as you cannot but easily conceive, to the whole state."

CHAP.

LVI.

Qualified

granted to

in parliament, and to hold office under the Crown; but the King signed a warrant for a qualified pardon to be made out for him. This was opposed by the new Lord Keeper, who began to be alarmed lest his predecessor might ere long be pardon his successor, and wrote him a letter, proposing to suspend him. the sealing of the pardon till after the close of the ensuing session of parliament. Williams, at the same time, strongly remonstrated with Buckingham against it suggesting that the two Houses would consider themselves mocked and derided by such a proceeding. He likewise attempted to do Bacon a permanent injury, by representing that he had been guilty of a gross fraud in the manner in which the fine had been Keeper kept alive and assigned for his benefit.*

-

Bacon illused by d

Williams.

reinstated.

This malicious attempt was defeated; a peremptory order His hopes from the King came to speed the pardon, and, on the 17th of being of October, it passed the Great Seal. Williams's fears were very natural; for Bacon certainly had now hopes of recovering his ascendency. When he wrote to the King-counting a little upon royal ignorance -with this view he did not scruple slightly to pervert history, that he might quote parallel cases of reintegration: "Demosthenes was banished for bribery of the highest nature, yet was recalled with honour. Marcus Lucius was condemned for exactions, yet afterwards made consul and censor. Seneca was banished for divers corrup tions, yet was afterwards restored, and an instrument in that memorable Quinquennium Neronis.” †

Although he still cast a longing, lingering, look behind at the splendours of office, and the blandishments of power, he now magnanimously and vigorously resumed his literary labours, inspired by the nobler ambition of extending the boundaries of human knowledge, and enlarging the stores of material and intellectual enjoyment.

Great expectation was excited both at home and on the

"The pardoning of his fine is much spoken against, not for the matter (for no man objects to that), but for the manner, which is full of knavery, and a wicked precedent. For by this assignation of his fine he is protected from all his creditors, which I dare say was neither his majesty's nor your lordship's meaning. His lordship was too cunning for me. He passed his fine (whereby he hath deceived his creditors) ten days before he presented his pardon to the seal." Williams to Buckingham.

† Works, v. 559.

He resumes

his literary

labours.

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