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BACON, Francis, rescount St. Albar.
ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
WILLIAM ALDIS WRIGHT, M. A.
AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
M DCCC LXXVI
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FRANCIS BACON was born on the 22nd of January, 1560-1, at York House in the Strand, the residence of his father Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. Sixty years later, Ben Jonson sang of him as
'England's high Chancellor; the destined heir,
In his soft cradle, to his father's chair.'
His mother, Anne Cooke, whose eldest sister was married to Lord Burleigh, was his father's second wife, and had borne him.two children. Anthony, the friend and correspondent of Essex, was two years older than Francis. Of their childhood nothing is known. In April, 1573, when Francis was little more than twelve years old, the two brothers were entered as fellow-commoners at Trinity College, Cambridge, and matriculated between the 10th and 13th of June in the same year. They were placed under the care of Dr. Whitgift, Master of the College, who found this distinguished position not inconsistent with holding the Deanery of Lincoln, a Canonry at Ely, and the Rectory of Teversham; having, however, previously resigned the Regius Professorship of Divinity. From an account-book which he kept, and which was published by the late Dr. Maitland in the British Magazine (vols. xxxii. xxxiii), we glean the meagre facts of Francis Bacon's University career. We learn, for instance, that during the period of his residence in College, from April 5, 1573, to Christmas 1575, the Master's parental care supplied him with so many pairs of shoes, a bow and quiver of arrows, that there was oil bought for his neck, and certain money paid to the 'potigarie' when he was sick, and for meat probably as he was recovering, that he had a
desk put up in his study, that his stockings were dyed at a cost of 12d., that his laundress's bill from Midsummer to Michaelmas was 3 shillings, that his hose were mended, his windows glazed, two dozen silk points, a pair of pantofles and pumps bought for him, and a dozen new buttons set on his doublet. Some books the brothers brought with them from London. With others they were furnished by the Master, as Livy, Cicero, Demosthenes' Olynthiacs, Homer's Iliad, Cæsar, Aristotle, Plato, Xenophon, Sallust, and Hermogenes. There is an interval in the accounts from the latter part of August, 1574, to the 21st of March following; during which time the plague raged in Cambridge, and the members of the University were dispersed. The only record of Bacon's residence at Trinity is a reminiscence of his own preserved in the Sylva Sylvarum (cent. ii. 151), which shows that at this early period he had begun to observe natural phenomena. 'I remember,' he says, 'in Trinity College in Cambridge, there was an upper chamber, which being thought weak in the roof of it, was supported by a pillar of iron, of the bigness of one's arm, in the midst of the chamber; which if you had struck, it would make a little flat noise in the room where it was struck, but it would make a great bomb in the chamber beneath.' We may possibly have here a description of the rooms occupied by the two brothers, but if so they must have been in the buildings of King's Hall, removed by Dr. Nevill in constructing the present Old Court. No tradition of their whereabouts remains. If we add to these fragments an anecdote related by Dr. Rawley, his chaplain and earliest biographer, we are in possession of all that is known of Francis Bacon up to the time that he completed his fifteenth year. Rawley's story introduces us to a child of singular gravity and adroitness, the future Chancellor and courtier. The Queen delighted much then to confer with him, and to prove him with questions; unto whom he delivered himself with that gravity and maturity above his years, that Her Majesty would often term him "The young Lord Keeper." Being asked by the Queen how old he was, he answered with much discretion, being then