Page images

true ground on which he claimed pardon for his speech; and secondly, the true nature and extent of the favor for which he presumed to ask. The one he did in a letter which, though it has always been printed as a letter to the Lord Keeper Puckering, I rather believe to have been addressed to Essex; the other in a letter to the Queen herself.

A copy of the first lies by itself in the middle of a volume of the Harleian MSS.; without address, heading, date, signature, or indorsement; but it explains and fathers itself. And it will be seen that the remarks which I just now made upon the letter to Burghley, written upon the first intimation of the Queen's displeasure, are equally applicable to this; in which though the expression of regret is stronger (time having shown how deep the displeasure had sunk in her mind, and how little satisfactory his excuse had been), yet the substance of his plea is precisely the same; nor is there any approach to an acknowledgment that he is sorry for having made the speech; he is still only sorry that she should take it in bad part.

MY LORD, — It is a great grief unto me, joined with marvel, that her Majesty should retain an hard conceit of my speeches in Parliament. It mought please her sacred Majesty to think what my end should be in those speeches, if it were not duty, and duty alone. I am not so simple but I know the common beaten way to please. And whereas popularity hath been objected, I muse what care I should take to please many, that taketh a course of life to deal with few. On the other side, her Majesty's grace and particular favor towards me hath

1 It is entered in the catalogue as, "Copie of a letter to the Lord Keeper Puckering? concerning the writer's speech in Parliament, which had disgusted the Queen." Birch saw that the writer was Bacon, and adopted the guess of the catalogue-maker as to the person addressed, but omitted the note of inter rogation.

been such, as I esteem no worldly thing above the comfort to enjoy it, except it be the conscience to deserve it. But if the not seconding of some particular person's opinion shall be presumption, and to differ upon the manner shall be to impeach the end, it shall teach my devotion not to exceed wishes, and those in silence. Yet notwithstanding (to speak vainly as in grief) it may be her Majesty hath discouraged as good a heart as ever looked towards her service, and as void of self-love. And so in more grief than I can well express, and much more than I can well dissemble, I leave your Lordship, being as Your Lordship's entirely devoted.


A copy of the letter to the Queen is preserved among Anthony Bacon's papers, and needs no comment. It is docketed "Copie que Mons' François Bacon a escrivit à sa Mat, 1593." But the date does not appear to have been written at the same time as the rest.


MADAM,- Remembering that your Majesty had been gracious to me both in countenancing me and conferring upon me the reversion of a good place, and perceiving your Majesty had taken some displeasure towards me, both these were arguments to move me to offer unto your Majesty my service, to the end to have means to deserve your benefit and to repair my error. Upon this ground I affected myself to no great matter, but only a place of my profession, such as I do see divers younger in proceeding to myself, and men of no great note, do without blame aspire unto. But if any of my friends do press this matter,1 I do assure your Majesty my spirit is not with them. It sufficeth me that I have let your Majesty know that I am ready to do that for your service which I never would do for mine own gain. And if

1 The words "more than as a simple nomination" follow in the MS., with a line drawn through them.

your Majesty like others better, I shall with the Lacedemonian be glad that there is such choice of abler men than myself. Your Majesty's favor indeed, and access to your royal person, I did ever, encouraged by your own speeches, seek and desire; and I would be very glad to be reintegrate in that. But I will not wrong mine own good mind so much as to stand upon it now, when your Majesty may conceive I do it but to make my profit of it. But my mind turneth upon other wheels that those of profit. The conclusion shall be that I wish your Majesty served answerable to yourself. Principis est virtus maxima nosse suos. Thus I most humbly crave pardon of my boldness and plainness. God preserve your Majesty.

The appeal seems not to have been without effect. On the 2d of June, Bacon went to Twickenham for the vacation, having just received intelligence from Essex that the Queen was at length "thoroughly appeased, and that she stood only upon the exception of his years for his present preferment. But I doubt not, saith my Lord, that I shall overcome that difficulty very soon, and that her Majesty will show it by good effects." News which, if true, was as favorable as he could have expected, and might fairly serve him for encouragement during the rest of the summer. For the long vacation, -the season of progresses and general dispersion, was now near; and if the question were not decided during the next fortnight, it was likely to stand over till September. Such delay was a ground for anxiety but not for discouragement; for the Queen did not know, probably, how ill Bacon's case could bear the uncertainty, and how nearly it concerned him to have the question one way or another settled.


A. D. 1593-94. ÆTAT. 33–34.

HAD the question been settled once for all, it would have mattered little, perhaps, which way. With a view to the great purposes of Bacon's life either fortune would have had its special advantages and its special disadvantages. Much worse than either was the suspense which, making it doubtful which road he ought to take, postponed all decided action at a time when sudden resolution was especially necessary. To have given up politics and business at once and sequestered himself to philosophy, would have answered very well; though, considering the growing importance of civil questions and the advantageous position in which he stood by reason of his reputation and influence in the House of Commons,. the sacrifice would have been considerable. But he would have had a worthy vocation, and means sufficient (after paying his debts) for the comparatively inexpensive life of a private student. To have been advanced at once to office with its ordinary emoluments would have answered, all things considered, still better. The income would have enabled him to bear the expenses of public life. The duties of his place would have given him work worthy of his powers and for which they were eminently suited, and yet left him leisure for other studies. And the loss of time would have been in great part made up by the influence and authority incident to an eminent position, the commandment (to use his own words) of more wits than his own. But to be kept

spending much and earning nothing, tempted on by hopes continually renewed and never realized, while creditors were growing impatient, and debts increasing, for the satisfaction of which it seemed only necessary to have patience till the next term, what was this but practice in the fatal art of sleeping on a debtor's pillow? Let Bacon be blamed, not for his anxiety to be relieved from this condition of dangerous uncertainty, but for not putting an end to it at once, at whatever sacrifice. And yet in what particular week or month or quarter he could have taken such a step without appearing to be deliberately throwing away his fairest chance of obtaining that which, on his country's account scarcely less than his own, he had most reason to desire, it is not by any means easy to say. For it would almost seem that this was the condition in which the Queen wished to keep him; not knowing probably how dangerous such a condition was for him, as his affairs then stood. If she could have seen the letters which were passing during all these months between his mother and his brother, about the means of helping him to pay his debts without sacrificing his reversion, and which may now be seen in the Lambeth library, she would have better understood the risk she ran of letting her watch-candle, as she used to call him, go quite out. The resource proposed in his present difficulty was the sale of an estate in which his mother had an interest, and which could not be sold without her concurrence. Anthony urged her to surrender her interest in it, that the sale might proceed without delay: adding that the ground of his motion (made without his brother's knowledge) being only a brotherly care and affection, he hoped her Ladyship would think and accept of it accordingly, - believing that "being so near and dear unto me as he is, it cannot but be a grief unto me to see a mind that hath given so sufficient proof of itself in having brought forth many good thoughts for the gen

« PreviousContinue »