Page images

tion was to lead a retired life in the country, but solicited them to intercede with her majesty that, before his departure, he might once come into the presence of the queen, and kiss her hand, that with some contentment, he might betake himself to his solitary life: hopes which, however, seemed not likely to be realized, as the queen's permission for him to retire into the country was accompanied with the declaration, that, although her majesty was contented that he should be under no guard but of duty and discretion. yet he must in no sort suppose that he was freed of her indignation, or presume to approach the court, or her person.

you service, is as to his perfection, that which he thinks himself to be born for; whereas his desire to obtain this thing of you is but for a sustentation."

The result, however, was, that hurt by this letter, she indignantly and somewhat coarsely refused his suit, saying, "that an unruly beast ought to be stinted of his provender." After a month's suspense, it was notified to him that the patent was confided to trustees for the queen's use.

In the storm that now (October, 1600) gathered round Essex, the real state of his mind revealed itself. "When I expected," he said, "a harvest, a tempest has arisen to me; if I be wanting to

Thus liberated, but not restored to the queen's favour, he walked forth alone, without any greet-myself, my friends, and my country, it is long of ings from his summer friends.'

others, not of myself; let my adversaries triumph, I will not follow the triumphal chariot." He who had declared his willingness to wander and eat grass with the beasts of the field, like Nebu

In the beginning of September, 1600, Essex retired to the country, with the pleasing hope that the queen's affection was returning, and that he would not only be received into favour, and re-chadnezzar, until the queen should restore his stored to power, but that by the influence of this affection he might secure an object of the greatest importance, a renewal of his valuable patent for the monopoly of sweet wines, which, after having enriched him for years, was now expiring.

senses," now, that this abject prostration proved fruitless, loudly proclaimed that "he could not serve with base obsequiousness; that he was thrust down into private life, and wrongfully committed to custody, and this by an old woman no less crooked in mind than in body." These ebullitions of peevish anger were duly repeated to the queen by those who hoped for his utter ruin. Elizabeth, shocked at the ingratitude of a man upon whom she had lavished so many favours; whose repeated faults she had forgiven till forgiveness became a folly, now turned away with extreme indignation from all whom she suspected of urging one word in his favour; and, remembering the constant exertions which had ever been made by Bacon on his behalf, began to think of him with distrust and jealousy. She would not so much as look at him; and whenever he desired to speak with her about law business, sent him out slighting refusals.

Bacon, acting in obedience to his own doctrine, "that the best mean to clear the way in the wood of suspicion is frankly to communicate with the party who is suspect, if he is of a noble nature," demanded the cause of this alienation, in an interview with the queen, which he has thus related: (January, 1601, Æt. 41:)-"Then, she remem

Essex considered this renewal as one of the most critical events of his life, an event that would determine whether he might hope ever to be reinstated in his former credit and authority; but Elizabeth, though capable of strong attachments, inherited the haughty and severe temper of her father; and, being continually surrounded by the enemies of Essex, was persuaded that his lofty spirit was not sufficiently subdued; and when, at length, she was more favourably disposed towards him, he destroyed all that her own lurking partiality and the kindness of his friends had prepared for hun by a letter, which, professing affection and seeking profit, was so deficient in good taste and in knowledge of the queen's temper, that she saw through all the expressions of his devotion and humility, a view only to his own interest. The queen told me, says Bacon, "that my lord had written her some very dutiful letters, and that she had been moved by them, but when she took it to be the abundance of his heart, she found it to be but a preparative to a suit for the renew-bering, belike, the continual, and incessant, and ing of his farm of sweet wines." To this com- confident speeches and courses that I had held on plaint Bacon made the following characteristic my lord's side, became utterly alienated from me; and ingenious reply: "O madam, how doth your and for the space of at least three months, which majesty construe these things, as if these two was between Michaelmas and New-year's-tide could not stand well together, which indeed na- following, would not so much as look on me, ture hath planted in all creatures. For there are turned away from me with express and purposebut two sympathies, the one towards perfection, like discountenance wheresoever she saw me; and the other towards preservation: that to perfection, at such time as I desired to speak with her about as the iron tendeth to the loadstone; that to pre-law business, ever sent me forth very slight refuservation, as the vine will creep towards a stake | sals, insomuch as it is most true, that immediateor prop that stands by it, not for any love to the stake, but to uphold itself. And therefore, madam, you must distinguish my lord's desire to do


ly after New year's-tide I desired to speak with her; and being admitted to her, I dealt with her plainly, and said, 'Madam, I see you with draw

The queen, who had been apprized of the unusual concourse of persons to Essex House, was now fully acquainted with the extent of his treasons. In this emergency she acted with a firmness worthy of herself. She directed the Lord Mayor of London to take care that the citizens were ready, every man in his own house, to execute such commands as should be enjoined them. To Essex she sent the lord keeper, the lord chief justice, and the Earl of Worcester, to learn the cause of this treasonable assembly. He said

your favour from me, and now I have lost many London and the queen herself, and marshalled friends for your sake, I shall lose you too: you his banditti to effect his purposes. have put me like one of those that the Frenchmen call enfans perdus, that serve on foot before horsemen, so have you put me into matters of envy without place, or without strength; and I know at chess a pawn before the king is ever much played upon a great many love me not, because they think I have been against my lord of Essex; and you love me not, because you know I have been for him yet will I never repent me that I have dealt in simplicity of heart towards you both, without respect of cautions to myself, and therefore vivus vidensque pereo. If I do break my neck, I" that there was a plot against his life; that some shall do it in a manner as Master Dorrington did it, which walked on the battlements of the church many days, and took a view and survey where he should fall: and so, madam,' said I, 'I am not so simple, but that I take a prospect of mine overthrow, only I thought I would tell you so much, that you may know that it was faith, and not folly that brought me into it, and so I will pray for you.' Upon which speeches of mine, uttered with some passion, it is true her majesty was exceedingly moved; and accumulated a number of kind and gracious words upon me, and willed me to rest upon this, Gratia mea sufficit, and a number of other sensible and tender words and demonstrations, such as more could not be; but as touching my lord of Essex, ne verbum quidem. Whereupon I departed, resting then determined to meddle no more in the matter, as I saw, that it would overthrow me, and not be able to do him any good."

Bacon's anguish, when he felt that the queen's displeasure was gradually taking the form most to be dreaded, the cold and severe aspect of offended justice, can be conceived only by those who had seen his patient watchfulness over his wayward friend. Through the whole of his career, Bacon had anxiously pursued him, warning him, when it was possible, to prevent the commission of error; excusing him to his royal mistress when the warning had proved fruitless; hoping all things, enduring all things; but the time seemed fast approaching, when, urged by his own wild passions, and the ruffian crew that beset him, he would commit some act which would place him out of the pale of the queen's mercy.

were suborned to stab him in his bed; that he and his friends were treacherously dealt with, and that they were determined on resistance." Deaf to all remonstrances, and urged by his faction, he seized and confined the officers of state, and, without plan, without arms, and with a small body of conspirators, he proceeded into the city, calling upon the citizens to join him, but calling in vain. Disappointed in his hopes, and proclaimed a traitor, after a fruitless attempt to defend himself, he was seized, and committed to the Tower.

No man knew better, or felt more deeply the duties of friendship, than Bacon: he did not think friendships mere abstractions, metaphysical nothings, created for contemplation only; he felt, as he has taught, that friendship is the allay of our sorrows, the ease of our passions, the sanctuary of our calamities; that its fruits are peace in the affections, counsel in judgment, and active kindness; the heart, the head, and the hand. His friendship, therefore, both in words and acts, Essex constantly experienced. In the wildest storm of his passions, while others suffered him to drive onward, the voice of the pilot might be heard, pointing out the sunken rocks which he feared would wreck him; and when, at last, bound hand and foot, he was cast at the feet of the queen, to undergo her utmost indignation, he still walked with him in the midst of the fire, and would have borne him off unhurt, but for the evil spirits which beset him.

It is impossible to form a correct judgment of the conduct of Bacon at this unfortunate juncture, without considering the difficulties of his situation, and his conflicting duties. Men of the Irritated by the refusal of his patent, he readily highest blood and of the fairest character were listened to the pernicious counsels of a few implicated in the treasons of Essex: men who needy and interested followers. Essex House were, like himself, highly favoured by the queen, had long been the resort of the factious and dis- and in offices of great trust and importance. contented; secretly courting the Catholics, and Bacon's obligations to Essex, and his constant openly encouraging the Puritans, Essex wel- efforts to serve him were well known; and the comed all who were obnoxious to the court. He applied to the King of Scotland for assistance, opened a secret correspondence with Ireland, and, calculating upon the support of a large body of he nobility, conspired to seize the Tower of

queen had of late looked coldly upon him, and might herself suspect his fidelity; for sad experience had proved to her that a monarch has no true friend. In the interval between the commitment of Essex to the Tower, and his arraign

ment, Bacon must have become fully aware of th. facts which would condemn Essex in the eyes of all good men, and render him amenable to the heaviest penalty of the law. Awakened, as from a dream, with the startling truth that Essex was guilty as well as imprudent, he saw that all which he and others had deemed rashness was the result of a long concocted treason. In whatever light it could be viewed, the course which Essex had pursued was ruinous to Bacon. He had been bondsman again and again to the queen for the love and duty of Essex; and now he had the mortification of discovering that, instead of being open and entire with him, Essex had abused his friendship, and had assumed the dissembling attitude of humility and penitence, that he might more securely aim a blow at the very life of his royal benefactress. This double treachery entirely alienated the affections of Bacon. He saw no longer the high-souled, chivalric Essex, open as the day, lucid as truth, giving both faults and virtues to the light, redeeming in the eyes of all men the bounty of the crown; he saw only an ungrateful man, whom the fiend ambition had possessed, and knew that the name of that fiend was " Legion." On the 19th of February, 1601, Essex and Southampton were arraigned, and, upon the trial, one of the conspirators, allured by the hope of life, made a full disclosure of all their treasons.

Unable to deny facts clearly proved against him, Essex could insist only upon his motives, which he urged with the utmost confidence, He repeated his former assertion, that there was a plot against his life, and that Cecil, Cobham, and Raleigh had driven him to desperate measures. Bacon, who appeared as one of the counsel for the crown, resisted these imputations, and said, "It is evident, my lord of Essex, that you had planted in your heart a pretence against the government of your country; and, as Pisistratus, calculating upon the affections of the people, showed himself wounded in the streets of Athens, so you entered the city with the vain hope that the citizens would join in your rebellion. Indeed, my lord, all that you have said, or can say in these matters are but shadows, and therefore methinks it were your best course to confess, and not to justify."

Essex here interrupted him, and said, "The speech of Mr. Bacon calls upon me to defend myself; and be it known, my lords, I call upon him to be a witness for me, for he being a daily courtier, and having free access to her majesty, undertook to go to the queen in my behalf, and did write a letter most artificially, which was subscribed with my name, also another letter was drawn by him to occasion that letter, with others that should come from his brother, Mr. Anthony Bacon, both which he showed the queen, and in my letter he did plead for me feelingly against

those enemies, and pointed them out as particularly as was possible; which letters I know Mr. Secretary Cecil hath seen, and by them it will appear what conceit Mr. Bacon held of me, so different from what he here coloureth and pleadeth against me."


To this charge, urged in violation of the most sacred confidence, which Essex well knew would render Bacon obnoxious to the queen, and suspected by all parties, he instantly and indignantly replied, My lord, I spent more hours to make you a good subject, than upon any man in the world besides; but since you have stirred up this point, I dare warrant you this letter will not blush to see the light, for I did but perform the part of an honest man, and ever laboured to have done you good if it might have been, and to no other end; for what I intended for your good was wished from the heart, without touch of any man's honour." After this unjustifiable disclosure, which severed the last link between them, Bacon only spoke once, and with a bitterness that showed how deeply he was wounded.

Through the whole trial Essex conducted himself with courage and firmness worthy of a better cause. Though assailed by the lawyers with much rancour, and harassed by the deepest search into his offences; though harshly questioned by his adversaries, and betrayed by his confederates, he stood at bay, like some noble animal, who fears not his pursuers, nor the death that awaits him; and when, at last, the deliberate voices of his fellows peers proclaimed him guilty, he heard the sentence with manly composure, and, without one thought of himself, sought only to save the life of his friend.

Bacon having obtained a remission of the sentence in favour of six persons who were impli cated, made one more effort to serve this unhappy nobleman. He says, "For the time which passed, I mean between the arraignment and my lord's suffering, I was but once with the queen, at what time though I durst not deal directly for my lord as things then stood: yet generally I did both commend her majesty's mercy, terming it to her as an excellent balm that did continually distil from her sovereign hands, and made an excellent odour in the senses of her people: and not only so, but I took hardness to extenuate, not the fact, for that I durst not, but the danger, telling her that if some base or cruel-minded person had entered into such an action, it might have caused much blood and combustion; but it appeared well they were such as knew not how to play the malefactors, and some other words which I now omit."

All exertions, however, proved fruitless; for, after much fluctuation on the queen's part, arising from causes variously stated by historians, Essex, on the 25th of February, 1601, was executed in the Tower.

The queen having been coldly received by the citizens, after the death of Essex, or moved by some other cause, was desirous that a full statement should be made of the whole course of his treasons, and commanded Bacon to prepare it. He says, "Her majesty taking a liking of my pen, upon that which I had done before, concerning the proceeding at York House, and likewise upon some other declarations, which in former times by her appointment I put in writing, commanded me to pen that book, which was published for the better satisfaction of the world: which I did but so as never secretary had more particular and express directions and instructions in every point, how to guide my hand in it: and not only so, but after that I had made a first draught thereof, and propounded it to certain principal councillors, by her majesty's appointment, it was perused, weighed, censured, altered, and made almost a new writing, according to their lordships' better consideration wherein their lordships and myself both were as religious and curious of truth, as desirous of satisfaction: and myself indeed gave only words and form of style in pursuing their direction. And after it had passed their allowance, it was again exactly perused by the queen herself, and some alterations made again by her appointment; after it was set to print, the queen, who, as she was excellent in great matters, so she was exquisite in small, noted that I could not forget my ancient respect to my Lord of Essex, in terming him ever my Lord of Essex, my Lord of Essex almost in every page of the book, which she thought not fit, but would have it made, Essex, or the 'ate Earl of Essex: whereupon of force it was printed de novo, and the first copies suppressed by her peremptory commandment." He concludes the whole with these words; "Had I been as well believed either by the queen or by my lord, as I was well heard by them both, both my lord had been fortunate, and so had myself in his fortune."

Happier would it have been for the queen, and her ill-fated favourite, had they listened to his warning voice. Essex paid the forfeiture of his unrestrained passions by the stroke of the axe, but Elizabeth suffered the lingering torture of a broken heart; the offended majesty of England triumphed, she "queened it nobly," but the envenomed asp was in her bosom; she sunk under the consciousness of abused confidence, of ill-bestowed favours, of unrequited affection: the very springs of kindness were poisoned: suspicious of all around her, and openly deserted by those who hastened to pay court to her successor, her

health visibly declined, and the last blow was given to her by some disclosure made on the death-bed of the Countess of Nottingham. Various rumours have arisen regarding this interview, and the cause of the queen's grief; but the fatal result has never been doubted. From that day, refusing the aid of medicine, or food, or rest, she sat upon the floor of her darkened chamber, and gave herself up to the most unrestrained sorrow. The spirit that had kept a world in awe was utterly prostrate; and, after a splendid and prosperous reign of forty-five years, desolate, afflicted, and weary of existence, she lingered till the 24th of March, 1603, on which day she died.

Bacon's respect for the queen was more manifested after her death, and even after his own death, than during her life.

In one of his wills he desires, that, whatever part of his manuscripts may be destroyed, his eulogy "In feliciem memoriam Elizabetha" may be preserved and published: and, soon after the accession of James to the throne, he thus speaks of the queen.

"She was a princess that, if Plutarch were now alive to write lives by parallels, would trouble him, I think, to find for her a parallel amongst women. This lady was endued with learning in her sex singular and rare, even amongst masculine princes; whether we speak of learning, language, or of science, modern or ancient, divinity or humanity: and, unto the very last year of her life, she was accustomed to appoint set hours for reading, scarcely any young student in an university more daily or more duly. As for her government, I assure myself, I shall not exceed, if I do affirm that this part of the island never had forty-five years of better times, and yet not through the calmness of the season, but through the wisdom of her regimen. For if there be considered of the one side, the truth of religion established; the constant peace and security; the good administration of justice; the temperate use of the prerogative, not slackened, nor much strained; the flourishing state of learning, suitable to so excellent a patroness; the convenient estate of wealth and means, both of crown and subject; the habit of obedience, and the moderation of discontents; and there be considered, on the other side, the differences of religion, the troubles of neighbour countries, the ambition of Spain and opposition of Rome; and then that she was solitary and of herself; these things, I say, considered, I could not have chosen a more remarkable instance of the conjunction of learning in the prince, with felicity in the people."




his majesty rather asked counsel of the time past, than of the time to come; but it is yet early to

FROM THE ACCESSION OF JAMES TILL THE PUB-ground any settled opinion."


1603 to 1610.

UPON the death of the queen, Bacon had every thing to expect from the disposition of her successor, who was a lover of letters, was desirous to be considered the patron of learning and learned men, was well acquainted with the attainments of Bacon, and his reputation both at home and abroad, and was greatly prepossessed in his favour by his brother Anthony, who was much esteemed by the king.

The title of knighthood had hitherto been considered an especial mark of royal favour; but the willing to barter their gold for an empty honour, king, who perceived that the English gentry were was no less ready to barter his honours for their for all persons possessing £40 a year in land either gold. A general summons was, therefore, issued to accept this title, or to compound with the king's commissioners; and on the 23d, the day of his received the honour of knighthood, amongst whom coronation, not less than three hundred gentlemen was Sir Francis Bacon, who thought that the title But neither the consciousness of his own pow-might gratify the daughter of Alderman Barnham, ers or of the king's discernment rendered Bacon inert or passive. He used all his influence, both in England and in Scotland, to insure the protection of James. He wrote to the Earl of Northumberland, and to Lord Southampton, who was imprisoned and tried with Essex, using these remarkable words, "I may safely be that to you now, which I was truly before."

Upon the approach of the king he addressed his majesty in a letter written in the style of the

times: and he submitted to the Earl of Northum

berland, for the king's consideration, a proclamation, recommending "the union of England and Scotland; attention to the sufferings of unhappy Ireland; freedom of trade and the suppression of bribery and corruption; with the assurance, that every place and service that was fit for the honour or good of the commonwealth should be filled, and no man's virtue left idle, unemployed, or unrewarded, and every good ordinance and constitution, for the amendment of the estate and times, be revived and put in execution."

whom he soon after married.

was publicly announced that a parliament would
In the opening of the year 1604, (Æt. 44,) it
be assembled early in the spring; and never
could any parliament meet for the consideration
of more eventful questions than at that moment
agitated the public mind. It did not require Bacon's
sagacity to perceive this, or, looking forward, to
sudden to the unthinking only. Political dis-
foresee the approaching storm. Revolutions are
bingers. Murmurs, not loud but portentous, ever
turbances happen not without their warning har-
c moral world:
precede these convulsions of
murmurs which were heard by Bacon not the less

audibly from the apparent tranquillity with which
James ascended the throne. "Tempests of
state," he says, "are commonly greatest when
things grow to equality; as natural tempests are
greatest about the equinox: and as there are cer-
of seas before a tempest, so are there in states:
tain hollow blasts of wind and secret swellings

"Ille etiam cæcos instare tumultus

Sæpe monet, fraudesque et operta tumescere bella." These secret swellings and hollow blasts, which arise from the conflicts between power, tenacious in retaining its authority, and knowledge, advancing to resist it, are materials certain to explode, un

Soon after the arrival of James, which was on the 7th of May, Bacon having had an audience, and a promise of private access, thus describes the king to the Earl of Northumberland: "Your lordship shall find a prince the farthest from vainglory that may be, and rather like a prince of the ancient form than of the latter time. His speechless judiciously dispersed. Of this Bacon conis swift and cursory, and in the full dialect of his country; in speech of business, short; in speech of discourse, large. He affecteth popularity by gracing such as he hath heard to be popular, and not by any fashions of his own. He is thought somewhat general in his favours; and his virtue of access is rather, because he is much abroad and in press, than that he giveth easy audience. He hasteneth to a mixture of both kingdoms and occasions, faster perhaps than policy will well bear. I told your lordship once before, that methought

stantly warned the community, by recommending the admission of gradual reform. "In your innovations," he said, "follow the example of time, which innovateth greatly, but quietly." The advances of nature are all gradual; scarce discernible in their motions, but only visible in their issue. The grass grows and the shadow moves upon the dial unperceived, until we reflect upon their progress.

These admonitions have always been disregarded or resisted by governments, and. wanting this safety-valve, states have been periodically exposed

« PreviousContinue »