IT was, and still is, the custom in some countries
for the benighted natives to rush forth from their dwellings at the
approach of a lunar eclipse, and howl lustily, with the intention of
scaring away the demon of darkness that is supposed to be devouring the
moon. But if I, in common with a few others, do raise my voice and
put on literary war-paint to face the Donnellian phantom, it is not from
any presentiment that the bogey Bacon is going to swallow Shakspeare, nor
from any fear that our luminary is about to suffer its eclipse.
Donnelly may talk of "hurling Shakspeare down front his pedestal;"
according to my calculation, there would be less disparity between modern
engineering appliances and the hoisting of the Alps bodily from their
base, than there is betwixt his proposed means of removal and the
dethronement of Shakspeare. I think he might just as well decree
a new volcano, or propose a motion for a general earthquake.
Therefore I do not turn aside from the more immediate purpose of the
present work to say one word in defence of Shakspeare's authorship,
because of any anticipation that this revolt against common sense is going
to effect his dethronement. I should not even like it to be thought
that I take au sérieux the proposition that Francis Bacon wrote the
Plays and other poetry of Shakspeare; indeed, I am willing to confess that
the joke of attributing the works of Shakspeare to Bacon is huge enough to
be enjoyable. Only to think of the maddening effect on serious
Shakspeareans who will not see the joke! I look upon Mr. Donnelly's
information that Bacon was the real author of Shakspeare's and Marlowe's
Plays, not to include Montaigne's Essays, and Burton's Anatomy
of Melancholy, as a "very great secret" indeed; far exceeding the one
confided to George Dyer by Charles Lamb when he told the guileless
gobemouche that Lord Castlereigh was the author of the Waverley Novels.
To me it is what Shakspeare himself terms a "fanatical phantasm."
Nevertheless, for the truth's sake, I shall treat the matter seriously in
my own way. For it is the same here as everywhere else, there is no
sure protection, now or at any time, against fraud and fallacy except in
our mastering the fundamental data for ourselves. It is only by
taking full possession of the genuine facts that we can prevent the
phantoms of unreality from taking possession, of us, and haunting
us with their delusions! We are continually learning and having to
relearn the lesson that there is no defence against impostures, no freedom
from fallacies, past, present, or future, save in ascertaining the facts,
truly estimating their force, and holding on hard and fast to their
I have no intention of calling names as a substitute for
argument. Mr. Donnelly complains that a deluge of opprobrium has
been let loose upon him; but the people who have pursued Shakspeare with a
blizzard of abuse should not cry out or squirm and squeal when the pitch
is made hot for their own behoof.
The Donnellians have been studiously offensive in speaking of
Shakspeare. They have done their dirtiest to defame and degrade the
life, the character, the relations, and outward circumstances of the man
whom Mr. Donnelly calls "Caliban," and to defile his image in the
innermost sanctuary of our affection. Mr. Donnelly has raked in
sterquinariæ to have his fling of filth at Shakspeare. He writes
as if he were obsessed with a spirit of hatred and uncleanness against
Shakspeare; his personal enmity looks like an unmistakable symptom of
confirmed mania. It is only the snob in soul that would speak
ignobly of any man, even a Shakspeare, on account of his poverty in early
life, or seek for a writer's nobility in his surroundings. Mr.
Donnelly's vulgarly virulent treatment of our great Poet, his parents, his
bringing-up, his early occupations, his wife, his children, his character,
is a thing to be held in derision so long as it may be had in remembrance.
Moreover, he who has said "the proposition that Shakspeare, the man of the
documents, and the writer of the Plays were one and the same person
cannot be accepted by any sane man" (p. 46), has no right to complain
if he or his co-mates should happen to be called crazed. Personally
I do not see how anything but a great mental delusion could account for
the hypothesis that Francis Bacon WAS the author of
Shakspeare's Plays, Poems, and Sonnets! But one would not therefore
say that the Donnellians are ordinarily insane. Nevertheless, it
does seem in accordance with the fitness of things that this delusion
should have been engendered in the brain of poor Delia Bacon. I feel
that hers was amongst the saddest of all human tragedies—those in which
the martyr falls ineffectually on behalf of an error that was sincerely
mistaken for the truth. Her sufferings make one gentle for her sake—
The Delian diver wrecked her life to grasp
A pearl she saw by visionary gleams,
And died with empty hand that could not clasp
The treasure only real in her dreams!
But facts must
be faced, and whether as a birth of physical disease or only of mental
perversion, whether as the cause of disease or the result of it, this
fabric of false vision was first dreamed into existence by Delia Bacon in
the year 1845; her belief being announced in Putnam's Magazine for
January, 1856. The delusion was primarily conceived through falsely
assuming that Shakspeare had neither the natural qualifications nor the
education befitting the writer of the plays; and all the efforts following
her desperate venture have been directed to the support of that
First, it was hastily assumed that Shakspeare could
not, and it was then inferred that he did not, write his own works.
They tell us that his handwriting and the nose of his bust at Stratford
are dead against his being the real author of the Plays and Poems!
But to suppose that a college education and a profound
acquaintance with the classics are necessary to the bringing forth of a
Shakspeare is to miss the lesson of his life, the supreme lesson of
all literature, because in him it was triumphantly demonstrated once for
all, that these are not necessities of the most real self-developing
education; that nature grows her geniuses like her game-birds and
finer-flavoured wildfowl, by letting them forage for their own living, to
find what they most need. It was learning in the school of life that
was the best education for him, and in that school, as he says of Cardinal
"From his cradle
He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one."
Probably he had
not many books to read; but he was not made out of books. When
Nature wants a new man, it is not her way to make him out of old books.
Books are too often used as the means of getting our thinking done for us.
Shakspeare did his own. He could transmute from books, but his
genius preferred to work on nature, and draw his drama directly from the
life. It is with too many people as Butler says—
"Yet he that is but able to express
No sense at all in several languages,
Will pass for learneder than he that's known
To speak the strongest reason in his own!"
has been very common, and it is a delusion still, although one that is
Mr. Ruskin once wrote to me—"Your education was a terrible
one, but mine was far worse!" The one having had all that wealth
could buy, the other all that poverty could bring.
"Fair seed-time had my soul," says Wordsworth in referring to
the influences of nature that helped to educate him as a boy, when he too
was a bit of a poacher, and indifferent to the study of books.
The great point here is, that nature did not produce
Shakspeare as the result of a scholastic education, nor by refining an
ancient type that had been long manipulated by men, but threw back for a
fresh start to produce a new type altogether from her own font. She
did just what she taught Shakspeare himself to do! Instead of
adopting and polishing or further effacing the old literary types, it was
his wont to go back to nature on numerous lines of character to find the
fresh soil in which he could secure the life and strength and hoarded
riches of an original rootage. The secret of this matter is to be
found in nature, and not in the cram of mere acquirement. It was by
nature Shakspeare had that relationship with Source itself, that rootage
in the spiritual which taps the well-springs of the universal life, and
directly draws its strength and succour from the Infinite!
No approximately correct estimate of Shakspeare in relation
to those few bare facts of his life to be found in the documents can be
formed unless we take them plus the personality of the Man, as he
was known to his "fellows," to Chettle, to Marston, to Henry Wriothesley,
to Ben Jonson, to the stage, and as we see him in the mirror of his works.
"The older one grows," says Goëthe, "the more one prizes natural gifts,
because by no possibility can they be procured and stuck on." And in
"natural gifts," as we know, our Shakspeare was pre-eminent, was supreme.
Ben Jonson saw this when he told the world how little Shakspeare was
indebted to Latin and still less to Greek. Nor did he need it, says
Jonson, who was the nearest of them all in taking the measure of the man!
"Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all that insolent Greece or haughty Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
I confess thy writings to be such
As neither Man nor Muse can praise too much."
the well-spring of ebullient life that rose and overran with its
irrepressible force of abundance. He portrays him as a very Mercutio
of a man, flowing with that facility which made it necessary that he
should at times be stopped to prevent a deluge. Such an
inexhaustible fount of life rose in him, springing fresh and free from the
world of life beyond all literature!
In the minds of Delia Bacon, Mrs. Pott, and Mr. Donnelly, the
genesis of the delusion may be traced to the beginning at first with false
ideas concerning Shakspeare, and next to fallacious inferences resulting
in a false Ideal of Bacon. It is not a fact that Shakspeare was a
low-born, illiterate fellow, or that his father was a "Poor Peasant," but
a falsehood to begin with. His father was a Yeoman. As to his
classical acquirements; in accordance with the education of the time, he
would learn sufficient Latin at the Grammar school to read and draw from
Ovid as he does some years afterwards in his Venus and Adonis, to
which he prefixes the Latin motto, and says proudly and defiantly to those
who had decried him and his scholarship, "Let the mob marvel at things
base, to me also golden-locked Apollo shall supply cups filled with water
Mr. Donnelly soon demonstrates the fact that he is not to be
trusted either in his statements or quotations without verification.
He writes again and again, "he was not for an age, but for all
time." Twice over the "mightiest Julius" is quoted as the "mighty
Julius." These are small matters, but significant when credit is at
stake. He falsely asserts, that in Shakspeare's time the very
name of Shakspeare was considered to be the quintessence of vulgarity!
He falsely asserts that Shakspeare's pursuits and his associates (who
included Lord Southampton) were not favourable to his acquiring knowledge
in London. He falsely asserts that there is no evidence whatever to
show that Shakspeare was a diligent student of books! The satirist
Marston has emphatically assured us that he was. Also we learn that
Shakspeare was a buyer of books at sales by some memoranda that were found
at Stratford on the back of the panel of a jury dated Nov. 1596,
beginning, "Mr. Shaxpere, one book. Mr. Barber, a coverlet."
There had been a suit between Margaret Younge and Jane Perat, and a sale,
at which Shakspeare was present on the look-out for books. At least
we infer that it was he, and not his father, who could not write.
The Great Cryptogram abounds in errors concerning
well-known matters of fact, in oversights and contradictions.
Shakspeare was not "an obscure actor" in 1601 (p. 633). We are
NOT told that Bacon dashed off a play in a fortnight
(as Mr. Donnelly says), but that Shakspeare did so! It is not, as he
asserts, wholly different with Shakspeare from other men of the time.
We know far more about him, for instance, than we do of Beaumont and
The Dedications of Shakspeare's two Poems to the Earl of
Southampton are not merely "supposed to imply" a close "social
relationship," as Mr. Donnelly phrases it: they prove it!
Judith Shakspeare signs her initials in a very straggling
manner, whereupon Mr. Donnelly gets up a long and futile tirade against
Shakspeare for not teaching his daughter to read and write;
ergo he could not have written the plays! and yet the cipher
proclaims that Susannah Shakspeare was "WELL-TAUGHT"
(p. 747). In short, it is difficult to believe one word the
gentleman says who has a waistcoat on of THAT
colour. His reasoning constantly reminds one of the man who
prognosticated that people would soon cross the Atlantic in three days,
and who "did not see how it could be otherwise." He has
no diffidence on account of ignorance. He quotes—
"But I con him no thanks."
"Yet, thanks, I must you con."
both as "sheer nonsense." But to "con thanks" is good provincial
English still current in the North. Sidney uses it in the Arcadia
"I con thee thank to whom thy dogs be dear." (1590.)
It means to
express an obligation. The same ignorance, ludicrous errors, and
absurdities of assertion are apparent in the cipher-narratives, which of
themselves suffice to prove the ciphers cannot have been the work of
Bacon. There is no need to "rack the style" of Mr. Donnelly to make
it confess that the language is not Bacon's. It is thrice impossible
for this to be Bacon's English—"My lord struck his spur up to the rowel
against the panting sides of his horse" (p. 737). Struck his spur
up to the rowel has no meaning, because the rowel includes the
spur-points that revolve with it. Neither is one spur enough
to be struck against both sides of the horse. What Shakspeare
himself wrote on the subject was this—
"And bending forward (he) struck his armèd heels
Against the panting sides of his poor jade
Up to the rowel-head."
English. But in picking out the cipher-narrative the English has been
Again, the narrative says—"Bardolfe is now almost as good
as dead; slain, killed outright by the hand of the old jade."
Now a man who was not quite dead could not be said to have been killed
outright. Moreover, the act could not be attributed to the hand
of the Queen, who had only ordered the pursuit (p. 682).
Stratford is called "one of the Peasant Towns of the West"
(p. 730). A double impossibility, as the town was not in the West,
but exactly in the middle of England, and townspeople are not identical
with but opposed to the Peasantry or Pagani. They were not 15,000
peasants who lived in Stratford-on-Avon in the time of Shakspeare.
The number is Mr. Donnelly's.
The cipher story tells of a desperate attempt on the part of
the Queen (in 1601) to find out who was the author of the play of
Richard II., which was certainly well known to be Shakspeare's, as it
had been published in 1597 and again in 1598, with his name on the
title-page; of that fact there never was a doubt.
One of Mr. Donnelly's many "reasonable probabilities" is that
Robert Cecil, "Says Ill," or "Seas-Ill," being Bacon's most bitter and
inveterate enemy, was well aware that he was the real author of the Plays;
knew that he had shared in the Essex conspiracy, and wrought on behalf of
rebellion in writing the Play of King Richard II., but that he
concealed the fact and kept the secret to himself, only having his revenge
by compelling Bacon to take a dastardly part against Essex at his trial!
And here is a pretty story told of Shakspeare by the
cipher-narrative. "His health is very poor. It was my
presurmise that he is blasted with that dreaded disease, a most incurable
malady. His looks prove it. One day I did chance to meet him,
and although I am well acquainted with him I would not have known him, the
transformation was so great. . . He is not more than thirty-three,
in his youth, written down old with all the characters of age. His
cheek is white, his voice hollow, his hand dry, his hair grey, his step
feeble, and his head WAGS as he
WALKED. There is a beastly wound new healed
on the side of his neck, and a great wen or gall, something like the
king's evil, which every day grows greater." In another
statement assigned to Bacon, Shakspeare is said to be "not yet thirty
three," but he is a stooping, decrepid, WHITE-haired
old man. He is being eaten away with several diseases. He has
the gout, the French pox, horrible breakings out, doubtless meant for
buboes, and he "hath fallen into a consumption." Now, Shakspeare was
thirty-three in 1597, and at this time, in 1596-7, the character of
Falstaff was created for the dramas of First King Henry IV., and
the following Merry Wives of Windsor. The cipher-narrative
also volunteers the information that Bacon and his brother Anthony drew
the fat man Falstaff and his "great round belly" from Shakspeare as their
"original model" (p. 815), who is also described as a great over-greedy
glutton, or greedy-guts, "weighing two hundred pound" (p. 814). And
the narrative relates how the play-house was crowded to see this decrepid,
diseased, consumptive, pox-rotted, strumous, white-faced, white-haired,
worn, wizened, and bowed-down old man (in 1597) "caper" in his grossness
with his "great round belly."
Thus we have it all on the same authority that Shakspeare was
physically decayed or rotten and sick unto death in the year 1597; his
life was being eaten out of him daily by at least two incurable diseases,
not to mention the "venerean speculation," or latest novelty from France;
and that he was then tottering and trembling on the crumbling edge of the
grave. At the same time, or immediately afterwards, in 1597, we find
him not only as the original model for Falstaff, but capering on the stage
in the performance of that character; still later, we are told by the same
authority, that the Queen calls Shakspeare "the fat creature," and
Cecil refers to him as "the fat fellow." And, it may be
added, when Shakspeare signed his will in March, 1616, we find he did so
"in perfect health and memory." If these revelations are considered
astounding, it must be confessed that the language in which they are put
forth is altogether in keeping. Here are a few samples of the new
Baconian English conveyed by the mediumship of figures.
"I derived these news." "Almost half dead."
"I asked him what he is doing here." "The
much-admired plays we all rate so high!" "The subjects
are beyond his ability." "He is subject to the gout in
his great toe." "Enough brain-power." "A bold,
forward, and most vulgar boy." This was done—"So that not
only their bodies but their souls might be damned." The question
is, how did the figures got infected so that Bacon's English should be
converted into the vulgarest nineteenth century newspaperese?
The cipher goes with the language of it—the one cannot be
Elizabethan and not the other. If the language be not Bacon's, then
he is not the author of the cipher, nor responsible for the narratives
evolved by Mr. Donnelly. In one place the cipher-narrative says that
Shakspeare "is a poor, dull, ill spirited, greedy creature."
Here we can at once convict it of lying grossly and maliciously by the
personal testimony of the men who knew him, such as Chettle, John Davies,
and Ben Jonson. Their evidence is sufficient to destroy all credence
in the narrative, and consequently all truth in the cipher. But
independently of these eye-witnesses, the cipher goes on to convict itself
once more, for, on another page (815), the narrative affirms that the same
man "hath a quick wit." Mr. Donnelly plainly shows us how his
theory was falsely founded from the first. He lets us see the
unfolding of his drama of self-delusion. How the false vision was
externalized, and the eyes were brought to see that which was subjectively
supplied. He that hides may find; and he has consequently found the
ciphers that none but himself had hidden and none but himself could find.
For example, he discovered that the words "disease" and "diseases"
occurred more frequently than usual in the Play of 2 Henry IV.
He says, "They are found twelve times; this, with the cipher-system
of using the same word over many times, probably implies thirty-six
different references, nearly all, I take it, to Shakspeare's diseases" (p.
80). Such a fanatical faith would furnish the writer's mind with
germs of Shakspeare's manifold diseases which are afterwards unfolded by
aid of the cipher. Mr. Donnelly declares that such compounds as "Seas
Ill" for Cecil, "Jack spur" for Shakspeare, "And It" for
Aunt, and "Ba and Can" for Bacon, were necessitated and adopted in order
that the secret cipher might not be detected. At the same time, the
whole inscrutable scheme was revealed to him because the name of Bacon is
openly used in the Play of 1 King Henry IV., and the name of
Francis appears twelve times over; the writer having gone out of
his way to emphasize the name of Francis by reading Tom, Dick, and
Francis, instead of Tom, Dick, and Harry. Thus the directions for
finding the veritable author of the plays were given plainly and publicly
as those on a sign-post; Francis Bacon, Nicholas Bacon's son, St. Albans
(1 Henry IV., IV. ii.).
Mr. Donnelly could not understand why Falstaff should say
"On, Bacons, on," unless Francis Bacon wrote that and the other
plays. If they had been called "Hogs" he might have comprehended.
But Bacons! Here was a mystery indeed. He did not know that
"Bacons" was good provincial English for country clowns, as we have it
still in "Chaw-Bacons," with no particular reference to Francis or Delia
Bacon, or the "Bacons" that do follow them. With a simplicity almost
touching he says, "When I read that phrase, 'On, Bacons, on,' I
said to myself, 'Beyond question there is a cipher in this play.'"
And he did not see how it could be otherwise. Beginning with the
"Francis Bacon" and "St. Albans" in 1 Henry IV., we can see how the
picking out of certain words suggested his narratives. For example,
the word "Bacon" had been looked up by Mr. Donnelly in the Plays, and
found in the Merry Wives of Windsor, IV. i., where it is said that
"Hang hog is Latin for Bacon." This also is supposed to
furnish evidence that Lord Bacon wrote the Plays! The story was that
Sir Nicholas Bacon, father of Francis, being on the Northern Circuit, a
criminal once pleaded with him for his life on account of their kinship,
for, as he urged, his name was Hog and the Judge's was Bacon.
Whereupon Sir Nicholas replied that Hog was not Bacon until it had been
well-hanged. We may suppose the "Hang hog is Latin for Bacon" in the
play to have been based on the story. But what then?
The story would not be alluded to without a moral or a purpose. What
would that intention be in the year 1599? At that time Bacon had got
all he could out of Essex or by his mean, and was working against him more
than was visible above board. Bacon wits an avid, not to say a
greedy man. As Mr. Donnelly might say, he was somewhat "hoggish,"
and a hog that is hanged being Bacon, the humour in reversion would
consist in Bacon being a hog, well-hanged. That I offer as
the likelier version of the interpolated passage or shifting scene in this
If, as now to be inferred, there was an intended gird at the
living Bacon, considered as a hog only, then another of Mr. Donnelly's
mysteries may be cleared up, as this would account for the name of Francis
occurring twenty times in one column, when the special object was to
conceal the writer's own name! In thus repeating the Christian name
the writer is rubbing in the salt, as it were, to make the Bacon.
Moreover, he has added a sign-post in his reference to the St. Alban's
road, so that none of the initiated could mistake the way.
But imagine Bacon as the author making fun of that kind at
his own expense, or giving any such a chance for people to point the moral
in this way—Hang-hog = Bacon, Bacon = Hog to be hanged! What an
enjoyable jest for him! No wonder the young lords of the Essex
faction were spending their time in 1599, as Rowland White records, "doing
nothing but seeing Plays."
Mr. Donnelly has not understood the humour of Shakspeare, but
has taken his "Gammon of Bacon" much too seriously. The man who
caricatured King James on the stage in 1606 would never have hesitated at
making fun of Bacon or any one else who offered the occasion. There
is, however, a far more important thing to be considered in the Windsor
Play—that is, the deer-stealing and the venison of which game—or
game-pie—is made in this drama. Was Bacon the deer-stealer, and all
the rest of Shakspeare the Stratford youth? Assuredly the man who
did steal the deer also wrote the Merry Wives of Windsor, in which
the deer-stealing is acknowledged, and the Lucys' coat of arms is punned
upon by name, and Sir Thomas Lucy is converted into Justice Shallow, and
served up with the venison, for the amusement of all the world for all
time. The Luces, fish, are turned into Louses by Sir Hugh Evans!
Page says, "I thank you for my venison, Mr. Shallow," and Shallow says,
"It was ill-killed." But Page hopes to "drink down all unkindness"
over the venison pasty. The writer of that was most certainly Will
Shakspeare, the native of Stratford, not the Londoner, Francis Bacon.
Moreover, this Play was composed by command of Queen Elizabeth, and, as we
are credibly assured, was written in a fortnight by the man who stole the
deer! That command would cause a flutter at the theatre, and a
fitting of parts by Shakspeare himself, with copy in his own handwriting.
Do you think that his playfellows Burbage and Kempe, Lowine and Arnim,
were not sharp enough to know their man, of whom they were so proud as a
"shrewd fellow," who beat all the University men? Do you imagine
they did not know whether he wrote his own work, or only kept a ghost
that came up through the trap-door when called for, as Bacon?
Such a quick response in fulfilment of the royal command would be the
crowning feat of that fertility of invention, that facility and incredible
celerity in execution, which gave him his unapproachable supremacy amongst
the playwrights of his or any other time.
It is strange for me, who have spent many years with
Shakspeare, to recount facts and reformulate the evidence that shows he
was really the writer of his own works! But as I happen to be
responsible for this elaborate elucidation of the Sonnets, I am able to
bring forward witnesses with testimony that seems to have been but little
suspected by the Baconians. Also I see that Mr. Donnelly quotes me
as having said something which appeared to favour his view.
There is some advantage in a writer being well-read in his
own subject, but I have seen no instance of the anti-Shakspeareans knowing
anything like enough of the evidence that bristles against them
impenetrably in the Sonnets. Either from ignorance or from wariness
they appear to be very shy of the Sonnets, and I can assure them there are
sound reasons for their being so. The Sonnets have something
decisive to say on this part of the subject. They will furnish a
reply against which there will be no possible appeal. The Sonnets
are full of data the most definite, criteria the most conclusive, and
facts the most fatal to their great fallacy. But these facts will
not be ignored by any sticking of one's head in the sand not to see them;
they remain visible to others, however the Baconians may be blinded by the
miopœia of a false theory!
To recapitulate. Briefly, the facts are these. In
the year 1590 Shakspeare had begun to be known as the writer of Songs and
Sonnets. As already shown, he began to write them in 1590 for the
young Earl of Southampton, then a youth of seventeen. The early ones
were written with his "Pupil Pen," before he had printed his first
poem of Venus and Adonis. Afterwards he writes some of them
in a book that has been provided for the purpose by the Earl. In
writing such Sonnets in Southampton's own table-book or album, his friend
is to supply the subject-matter, is to furnish his own arguments, is to
become the Tenth Muse, is to inspire and give light to the invention or
imagination needed for the purpose of writing. So much is to be read
in Sonnet 38. In Sonnet 77 we see him writing in this very Book,
which he calls "Thy Book," when he invites his friend also to write in it!
In that Book certain of the Sonnets were written by Shakspeare himself.
There they were to stand in the sight of his friend, and his friends, to
be read, as he says, by those "curious days." There they were read
by the "Private Friends" (as known to Meres) in the Poet's own
handwriting, which certainly could not be mistaken by Southampton and
Essex for Francis Bacon's.
Thus the Sonnets were known to be Shakspeare's when they were
circulating in MS. among his "Private Friends" before 1598. They
were known to Francis Meres as Shakspeare's in 1598. Two of them
were printed as Shakspeare's in the Passionate Pilgrim (1599).
They circulated amongst the Private Friends during many years in
Shakspeare's own hand-writing. Chief of his "Private Friends" was
the Earl of Southampton, to whom he publicly dedicates his two poems; when
he tells his friend that he has future work then in hand that is
pre-dedicated to him! He offers the Sonnets as this promised work,
hence he describes them as the "Barren tender of a Poet's debt"—that is,
the debt already contracted and acknowledged in the inscription to
Lucrece. In 1609 the Sonnets were printed by Thorpe as
Shakspeare's, and dedicated to William Herbert, who was one of the later
Private Friends of the Poet; and who, as the editors of the first folio
tell us, had pursued Shakspeare with very great favour. Although
Shakspeare did not publish them himself they were known to be his, and, as
we learn from Benson, the editor of the second edition (1640), Shakspeare
not only identified them as his own, he likewise defended them against
some charge of impurity. Now, they tell us that Shakspeare was one
of those unlearned people who are not educated at college, and therefore
he was not qualified to write the Plays, Poems, and Sonnets; whereas Bacon
was one of the Learned. He was educated at Cambridge. This
same charge of not being one of the Learned, as Marlowe, Nash, and Bacon
were, was made against Shakspeare by his earliest opponents and rivals.
He was pointed to as the man of a little country grammar knowledge,
i.e. he was educated at a country grammar school, and never was
"gowned in the University." But they identified him as the unlearned
man who DID write the Plays, not as the unqualified
man who did not! They charged him with stealing from them—not from
Bacon. Now, the writer of the Sonnets is confessedly this man who
did not receive a College education! He personally recognizes the
charges brought against him by the Nash and Greene clique that he was one
of the unlearned, not a University man, not a Master of Arts, but a
self-educated man, and, in short, an ignoramus! Nash personified him
as "Ignorance," and Shakspeare, as writer of the Sonnets, accepts that
designation. He tells Southampton—
"So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse,
As every alien pen hath got my use,
And under thee their poesy disperse:
Thine eyes, that TAUGHT THE DUMB ON HIGH TO SING,
And HEAVY IGNORANCE
ALOFT TO FLEE,
Have added feathers to the Learned's wing,
And given Grace a double Majesty:
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is thine, and born of thee :
In others' works thou dost but mend the style,
And ARTS with thy sweet graces
But thou art all my art, and dost advance
As high as Learning my rude ignorance." (78)
Bacon WAS one of the Learned,
WAS a College man, educated at Cambridge, was "gowned in the
University;" and he was a man whose rude ignorance could not be
lifted to the side of Learning by the patronage of Southampton, or anybody
else, as Shakspeare's had been! That is the reply of the Poet who
wrote the Sonnets, to the people who say he did not write them because he
was an unlearned man!
We also gather from the Sonnets, not only that Shakspeare
-wrote Plays, but that he looked upon the writing of Plays as his own
proper "work," for he speaks of his Poems and Sonnets, devoted to
Southampton, as being the product of his "idle hours," distinguished from
his working hours. Next, we have the disparaging estimate made by
Shakspeare himself of his own work as a play wright. This occurs in the
100th Sonnet, about the year 1598. He had not written to his friend for
some time past, and he chides his Muse for playing truant and neglecting
her one supreme subject—
"Where art thou, Muse, that thou forgett'st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend'st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Dark'ning thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem,
And gives thy pen both skill and argument."
His labours for
the theatre were spent on subjects considered to be inferior when compared
with the work he had to do for his noble friend!
The Baconians do not explain whether Southampton, Essex,
Herbert and other of the "Private Friends," amongst whom the Sonnets
circulated as Shakspeare's, were impostors also as parties to the
stupendous fraud, or whether they were humbugged into thinking that the
Sonnets, with their promises of immortality, and the dedications, with
their offering of eternal love, were Shakspeare's, whereas he was only a
mask, and the man behind it all the while was Francis Bacon, who pretended
to be the non-academic and unlearned Shakspeare whom Southampton had
exalted to a seat beside the University men. Are we to suppose that
Southampton never knew which was Shakspeare and which was Bacon; that
Shakspeare himself was only the friend of Southampton by proxy, and that
both he and Bacon were co-partners in practising a huge, an unfathomable,
an impossible imposture,—fooling Southampton, Essex, and the other
"Private Friends" with the Sonnets, even as they were fooling all the
clever actors and keen rival dramatists, the public, and the world in
general for three hundred years in the matter of the Plays? Do they
mean to say that Bacon pretended to be a poor, despised player in the
Sonnets? Did he assert that he had gone "here and there" to play the
part of the fool on the stage, and that Fortune was guilty of these
disreputable deeds which branded his brow with indelible disgrace,
because she had made him an actor on purpose to delude them into the
belief that he was Shakspeare?
The Sonnets present evidence for Shakspeare's authorship like
the links of chain-mail in an armour of proof. And the man who wrote
the Sonnets must also have written the Poems and Plays. This can be
established by those principles of scientific demonstration that have been
applied to both in the present work. The same unlearned man wrote
both! Thus the secret history in the Sonnets is in agreement
with the public history of the time, and both are in antipodal antagonism
to the Great Cryptogram.
A most important witness is Henry Chettle, who was both a
writer and a printer or publisher of the time. Greene's Pamphlet had
been issued to the public by Chettle, and upon learning that it had given
offence to Shakspeare, he offered an apology in an epistle to the
Gentlemen Readers, which he prefixed to his Kind-Hart's Dream.
In this he tells the public that he himself has observed Shakspeare's
personal demeanour as being no less civil than he was excellent in the
quality he professed, i.e. as a player and a playwright.
Besides which, he says "divers of worship have reported his uprightness of
dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing that
approves his art."
This testimony to Shakspeare as a known and proved writer was
given in 1592, the year before he printed the poem of Venus and Adonis,
therefore it was as the writer of Plays that he was known to Chettle, who
was himself a dramatist, and to those "divers of worship" who had come
forward in defence of Shakspeare personally, and testified to his
uprightness of character, and to the facetious grace or graceful felicity
of his writing. As he was then known to be the author of the
Comedy of Errors, the Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Love's
Labour's Lost, no apter epithet than that of "facetious grace" could
have been applied to such of his early dramas as were entirely original.
Then we have the public and personal dedication of Shakspeare's two poems
to the Earl of Southampton in 1593-4. In the next year Jervais
Markham salutes Southampton as the man "whose eyes do crown the most
victorious pen;" obviously in allusion to his patronage of Shakspeare,
and not of Bacon.
In 1594 Robert Southwell grudgingly refers to Shakspeare as
one of the "finest wits" who are distilling love-sweets from "Venus'
Rose!" In his epigrams Richard Weever salutes him in 1595, and says—
"Honey-tongued Shakspeare, when I saw thine issue,
I swore Apollo got them and no other."
Then there is the description of the man as the author of Romeo and
Juliet, written by the satirist Marston, who shows us what a diligent
student and collector our Shakspeare must have been with his "huge
long-scrapèd stock of Plays;" the "worthy poet" who "put on the pumps"
when the "orbs celestial" danced Kempe's jig at Shakspeare's theatre.
In 1598 he was proclaimed by the competent critic, Francis
Meres, to be the supreme genius of his time, the most all-round man in
tragedy, comedy, and lyrical love-poetry. If the Muses would speak
English, he says, it would be with Shakspeare's tongue.
Next we can cite the appreciation of his fellow-players, who,
like Kempe, knew that their "fellow Shakspeare" could "put down
all the University pens" as recorded in the "Return from, Parnassus,"
where Kempe says—"Few of the University pen plays well. Why,
here's our fellow Shakspeare puts them all down, ay! and Ben Jonson too!"
"It's a shrewd fellow indeed!" responds Burbage. (1601-2.)
Something of this same pride looks out from Shakspeare's representations
of country mother-wit in the plays. He is noted by Camden in his
Remains (1603) as one of the "most pregnant wits of these our times,
whom succeeding ages may justly admire." He is appealed to by
Chettle in 1603 as the Poet who ought to write the National Elegy on the
death of Elizabeth. John Davies of Hereford addresses Shakspeare as
our English Terence about 1611, and says—
"Thou hast no railing, but a reigning wit.
And honesty thou sowest which they do reap,
So to increase their stock which they do keep."
That is, the
Players reaped the benefit of what Shakspeare honestly sowed in writing
the Dramas, and, as Davies knew, they held and kept the copyright!
Here, by the bye, is an answer to the Baconians who urge that
Shakspeare made no claim to the Plays and no disposition of them in his
will. He could not! They were left the property of
This is followed by the evidence of Heminge and Condell, who
collected and edited the Plays, and who declare from personal knowledge
that the author was known to them as Shakspeare, "and that as he was a
happy imitator of nature, he was a most gentle expresser of it. His
mind and hand went together; and what he thought, he uttered with that
easiness that we scarce received from him a blot in his papers."
These men were eye-witnesses for many years to what they
testify! And lastly we have the long, loud, and lasting blazon of
Ben Jonson, who knew and loved the man, and sounded his praise as with the
trumpet of eternal truth, when he wrote his IN MEMORIAM
in remembrance of "MY BELOVED, THE
AUTHOR, MR. WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE,
AND WHAT HE HATH LEFT US," which would be recognition enough of the
man, his genius and his works, even if it stood by itself alone in
literature. Jonson testifies that Shakspeare's "mind and manners,"
as known to him in personal intercourse, ARE
reflected in his works, just as the father's face "lives in his issue."
He, the classical scholar, the learned rival and less popular writer, had
no misgiving as to whether Shakspeare was personally qualified to write
Mr. Donnelly comments on the remarkable fact that Shakspeare
left no manuscripts behind him. But we see that he did leave
manuscripts behind. How else should the Folio have been printed?
Shakspeare's manuscripts were preserved at least for seven years after his
death. Per contra, the Baconians have not one jot or tittle,
shred or vestige of contemporary evidence, to rebut or invalidate the
testimony of all these and other witnesses for Shakspeare's authorship.
Not one word was ever uttered on behalf of Bacon; no claim was ever set up
by him or his friends even for having had a hand in a single one of the
thirty-six Plays! What they are forced to do is to falsify the
facts. Thus when Ban Jonson says the writer of the Plays "had small
Latin and less Greek," this charge Mr. Donnelly holds to have been aimed
satirically at Bacon in verses written by his own request as an
intentional blind. And he thinks that Ben must have vastly enjoyed
the whacking of his good friend Bacon over Shakspeare's shoulders.
He likewise misunderstands or perverts the lines—
"Sweet Swan of Avon, what a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appear,"
He tells his readers that the writer here expresses the hope
that the Poet will reappear. And as he had also said, "Thou art alive
still," and "Shine forth, thou star of Poets," here is good evidence that
he was not addressing the spirit of any dead Shakspeare, but was really
aiming at the living Bacon. In short, everybody did everything to
prove that Bacon did not write the Plays, but you've only got to stand on
your head or go off it altogether to reverse all that, and see that Bacon
was the real author.
There is no doubt of Bacon being greedy for enduring fame.
He HAD the last infirmity of noble minds most
profoundly. He made every preparation for the perpetuation of his
works, and did his utmost to insure their transmission to future times.
He not only wrought at them himself, he paid others to render his writings
from English into Latin, for the express purpose of insuring their descent
to posterity on the double line of two languages. He showed the
greatest care for their being preserved in the most accurate, elegant, and
perfect form. He was the most fastidious of writers himself; one who
could never finish his work to satisfy his acute critical sense.
With him the file was even more than the pen. He transcribed and
amended his Advancement of Learning seven times over, his NOVUM
ORGANUM twelve times over, his ESSAYS
thirty times over. And yet the collected Plays came into print with
some 10,000 errors on their head. Also, any number of these errors
were repeated without question from the earlier quartos.
Not only did Bacon NOT correct a single
play, nor make sure that one was corrected, or turned into Latin, he did
not take the trouble to identify which of the thirty-six Plays were
genuine, or what part of the whole was spurious work, where the mixture is
such that the author only could have discriminated. Moreover, the
folio edition was collected and published in the very beginning of the
time when Bacon set about collecting, revising, and translating his own
works, on purpose to secure their survival after his death. He
stamped them as his by name with his own living hand. In his last
will and testament Bacon wrote—"As to that durable part of my memory,
which consisteth in my works and writings, I desire my executors, and
especially Sir John Constable and my very good friend Mr. Bosville, to
take care that of ALL MY WRITINGS, both of
English and of Latin, there may be books fair bound and placed in the
King's library, and in the library of the University of Cambridge, and in
the library of Trinity College, where myself was bred, and in the library
of the University of Oxonford, and in tile library of my Lord of
Canterbury, and in the library of Eaton." 
Not a sign is there in the Will, or the Works, of
the Plays, Poems, or Sonnets. Yet Shakspeare had been gone nine years,
and the first folio was printed, and left with none to look after it, two
years before Bacon made his Will. And in spite of all this nervous
anxiety on the subject of his writings, all the fastidiousness in
correction and finish, all his precaution against misrepresentation or
mistake, all this manifest intention for his own works to live on as his
own under his own name, he never deposited at Cambridge or elsewhere,
never translated into Latin or corrected in English, never claimed a
single one of the Plays in folio, or quarto, or MS., on the stage or off
it, in conversation, in his Will, or anywhere else. Nor did he
breathe a whisper of the great Cryptogram that he had concealed in the
folio edition of the Plays, nor leave any hint or clue for its discovery.
Bacon actually wrote a chapter on ciphers in his "De
Augmentis," published in the same year as the folio edition of
Shakspeare's Plays, and did not include Mr. Donnelly's, nor mention that
he had employed it, nor offer any clue either to the discovery or the
reading of it. And we are asked to believe that this cipher was
invented by Bacon a score of years before it was wanted, and woven bit by
bit as a kind of birth-mark into the warp of his work, so secretly, so
inscrutably, that it could only be discovered by the man who has shown his
inability to make out a very simple cipher that is found in Bacon's own
We now come to the second of the two factors in the genesis
of this delusion, which has to be identified in the likeness of thought
and expression to be found in the works of Shakspeare and Bacon. The
process of attaining a false conclusion may be followed in this way.
Mr. Donnelly holds that Bacon not only wrote the Plays of
Shakspeare and Marlowe, but that he is likewise the veritable author of
Montaigne's Essays. Doubtless the cipher might be devised
that would show him to have been the author of the Bible. But this
inference with regard to Moutaigne is not derived as one of the
cipher-revelations! It is founded on internal evidence, viz. the
identities and likenesses of thought and expression which are more or less
apparent in the writings of both Bacon and Montaigne. The evidence
for Bacon being the writer of Montaigne's Essays, then, is just as
good and entirely of the same nature as is that for his being the author
of the Plays, and in each case the false conclusion was attained
independently of any cipher. The comparative faculty of the Baconian
advocates is preternaturally alive to the least likeness that seems to
tell in their favour. The vast mass of their comparisons are of
non-effect. Not more than one in ten would stand close scrutiny.
In many cases it is enough to remember that both Shakspeare and Bacon
wrote Elizabethan English, or drew from a common source. Indeed
there are close upon 200 parallels in Mr. Donnelly's first volume, which
only show that both writers USED THE SAME WORD IN EACH
PARTICULAR QUOTATION—and these words were first used by
Shakspeare, as our great National Dictionary will show. But when all
deductions are made there does remain a considerable residuum of likeness,
not only distinguishable in separate ideas, for the philosophical writings
of Bacon are suffused and saturated with Shakspeare's Thought! Such
is the fact, although their explanation of it is false.
There is sufficient likeness between the writings of Bacon
and Shakspeare to arrest attention and call for remark. Also these
likenesses in thought and expression are mainly limited to those two
contemporaries. It may also be admitted that one must have copied
from the other. This fact is reasonably certain, and deserves to be
treated reasonably. But I am about to show how the true explanation
of the fact does not depend upon the assumption that Bacon's and
Shakspeare's works were both written by one author. I quote from the
identical evidence the anti-Shakspeareans trust to for demonstrating that
Bacon wrote the Plays.
Beguiles him, as the mournful crocodile
With sorrow snares relenting passengers.
Pt. II. Henry VI., III. i.
And well such losers may have leave to speak.
Pt. II, Henry VI., III. i.
This pretty lad will prove our country's bliss, . . .
Likely, in time, to bless a regal throne.
Pt. III. Henry VI., IV. vi.
Small have continual plodders ever won
Save base authority.
Love's Labour's Lost.
This is the ape of form, Monsieur the nice.
Love's Labour's Lost, V. ii.
You know that love
Must creep in service where it cannot go.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, IV. ii.
On thee, the troubler of the poor world's peace.
Richard III., I. iii.
Richard III., IV. iii.
That is not moved with concord of sweet sounds.
Merchant of Venice, V. i.
There's not the smallest orb which thou
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims.
Merchant of Venice, V. i.
In the base court? Base court, where kings
To come at Traitors' calls and do them grace.
In the base court, come down.
Richard II., III. ii.
The tongues of dying men
Enforce attention like deep harmony.
Richard II, II i.
Then if he lose, he makes a swan-like end,
Fading in music.
Merchant of Venice, III. ii.
'Tis strange that death should sing.
I am the cygnet to this pale, faint swan,
Who chants a doleful hymn to his own death.
King John, V. vii.
It is the wisdom of crocodiles that shed tears
when they would devour.
Essay, Of Wisdom for a man's self.
Always let losers have their words.
This is the lad shall enjoy the crown for which
Essay, Of Prophecies.
Neither let him embrace the license of contra-
dicting or the servitude of authority.
Interpretation of Nature.
Custom . . .an ape of nature.
Advancement of Learning, Book II.
I pray your pardon if I send it for your recreation,
considering that love must creep where it cannot go.
Letter to King James.
. . .which possesseth the troublers of the world.
Advancement of Learning.
Whose leisurely and snail-like pace.
History of Henry VII.
To fall from a discord, or harsh accord upon a
concord of sweet accord.— Advancement of Learning.
The heavens turn about in a most rapid motion,
without noise to us perceived; though in some
dreams they have been said to make an excellent
Natural History, cent. II.
This base court of adversity, where scarce any will
be seen stirring.
The last words of those that suffer death for
religion, like the songs of dying swans, do wonder-
fully work upon the minds of men, and strike and
remain a long time in their senses and memories.
Wisdom of the Ancients—Diomedes.
The miserable have no other medicine
But only hope.
Measure for Measure, III. i.
Malevolent to you in all aspects.
Pt. I. Henry IV., I. ii.
The brain of this foolish compounded clay,
Pt. II. Henry IV., I. ii.
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass.
Henry V. (Prologue).
There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
Would men observingly distil it out.
Henry V., IV. i.
One woman is fair; yet I am well: another is wise;
yet I am well: another virtuous; yet I am well: but
till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall
not come in my grace.
Much Ado About Nothing, II. ii.
Only in the world I fill up a place, which may be
better supplied when I have made it empty.
As You Like It, I. ii.
I will follow thee to the last gasp.
As You Like It, II iii.
O Heaven ! a beast, that wants discourse of
Hamlet, I. ii.
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Hamlet, I. iii.
The dram of leaven
Doth all the noble substance of 'em sour.
Hamlet, I. iv.
How infinite in faculties.—Hamlet, II. ii.
The paragon of animals; the beauty of the world.
Hamlet, II ii.
What read you, my lord?
Words, words, words.
Hamlet, II. ii.
This majestical roof fretted with golden fire.
Hamlet, II. ii.
For in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may
say, the whirlwind of your passion.
Hamlet, III. ii.
Nor do not saw the air too much—your hand
thus; but use all gently.
Hamlet, III. ii.
To make hope the antidote of human diseases.
A malign aspect and influence.
Advancement of Learning, Book II.
Man's body is the most extremely compounded.
Wisdom of the Ancients—Prometheus.
The hour-glass of one man's life.
Advancement of Learning.
There is formed in everything a double, nature
Advancement of Learning, Book II .
For the affections themselves carry ever an
appetite to good, as reason doth.
Advancement of Learning, Book II.
To report as to her "complexion, favour, feature,
stature, health, age, customs, behaviour,
condition, and estate," as if he meant to find all
things in one woman.
History of Henry VII.
For we die daily; and as others have given place
to us, so we must in the end give way to others.
Essay, Of Death.
I will pray for you to the last gasp.
Letter to King James,
Martin Luther but in discourse of reason,
Advancement of Learning, Book I.
Be so true to thyself as thou be not false
Essay, Of Wisdom.
As a little leaven of new distaste doth commonly
sour the whole lump of former merits.
History of Henry VII.
. . . infinite variations . . . the faculties of
Advancement of Learning, Book II
The souls of the living are the beauty of the world.
Here, therefore, is the first distemper of learning,
when men study words, and not matter.
Advancement, of Learning, Book I.
For if that great Work-master had been of a human
disposition, he would have cast the stars into some
pleasant and beautiful works and orders, like the
frets in the roofs of houses.
Advancement of Learning, Book II.
But men . . , if they be not carried away with a
tempest of ambition.
Advancement of Learning, Book II.
It is necessary to use a steadfast countenance, not
wavering with action, as in moving the head or
hand too much, which showeth a fantastical light
and fickle spirit.
Assume a virtue if you have it not.
Hamlet, III iv.
Consider, he's an enemy to mankind.
Twelfth Night, III. iv.
I charge thee fling away ambition:
By that sin fell the angels.
Henry VIII., III. ii.
As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods:
They kill us for their sport.
Lear, IV. i.
Ripeness is all.
Lear, V. ii.
Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The gods themselves throw incense.
Lear, V. iii.
And I have bought
Golden opinions from all sorts of people.
Macbeth, I. vii.
Infirm of purpose. Give me the daggers.
Macbeth, II. ii.
Oh, these flaws and starts
(Impostors to true fear) would well become
A woman's story by a winter's fire,
Authorized by her grandam.
Macbeth, III. iv.
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased?
Macbeth, V. iii.
'Tis a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth, V. v.
Life's but a walking shadow.
Macbeth, V. v.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured.
Sonnet 107, on the death of Elizabeth.
Which, you say, adds to nature
All wise men, to decline the envy of their own
virtues, use to ascribe them to Providence and
Fortune; for so they may the better assume them.
Essay, Of Fortune.
And therefore whatsoever want a man hath, he
must see that he pretend the virtue that shadoweth
Advancement of Learning, Book II.
Pirates and impostors . . . are the common
enemies of mankind.
History of Henry VII.
The desire of power in excess caused the angels
Essay, Of Goodness.
As if it were a custom that no mortal man should
be admitted to the table of the gods, but for sport.
Wisdom of the Ancients—Nemesis.
The ripeness or unripeness of the occasion must
ever be well weighed.
Essay, Of Delays.
Upon the first grain of incense that was sacrificed
upon the altar of peace at Boloign, Perkin was
History of Henry VII.
I do extremely desire there may be a full cry from
all sorts of people.
Letter to Villiers,
June 12, 1616.
Seeing they were infirm of purpose, &c.
The Interpretation of Nature.
My judgment is that they ought all to be despised,
and ought but to servo for winter talk by the fireside.
Essay, Of Prophecies.
The particular remedies which learning doth
minister to all the diseases of the mind.
It is nothing else but words, which rather sound
than signify anything.
Let me live to serve you, else life is but the shadow
of death to your Majesty's most devoted servant.
Bacon to King James.
The Queen hath endured a strange eclipse.
History of Henry VII.
We make them also by their art greater than their
In all these
instances of likeness, as well as in a hundred others, the chronology will
show that the thought or expression is Shakspeare's originally, and that
it was repeated by Bacon in a later writing. Shakspeare's work being
first, he could not be the borrower; and, as Bacon could, we need no
remoter explanation of the fact.
So far from these vaunted parallelisms proving the Plays of
Shakspeare and the writings of Bacon to be the work of one mind, all they
do tend to establish is the priority of Shakspeare. No matter
whether it may be as the natural philosopher, the philologist, the
politician, the legist, or any other character, it is Shakspeare who is
everywhere first, and it is Bacon who follows him, as demonstrated by the
dates. In his Advancement of Learning, Bacon recommends the
taking of Notes and making collections of these, or keeping a Common-place
book as a "provision or preparatory store for the furniture of speech
and readiness of invention." This, as the Promus proves,
had been his own custom. It was likewise the practice of Shakspeare,
who, as Marston says, had made a Common-place book out of his huge, long-scrapèd
stock of plays. Bacon compiled his notes from various sources, plays
being one of them. But not only PRINTED plays.
He appears also to have Jotted down numerous things that he heard in the
spoken drama! Mrs. Pott and others have assumed the impossibility of
Bacon having made notes from Shakspeare's Plays on the stage! But
this is not only a possible explanation, it is a PROVABLE
one according to demonstrable fact. And this is the conclusion that
is destined to be final.
A study of the Promus folios will show us something of
Bacon's method, and allow us to overlook him at work either with his
tablets in hand at the theatre, or else filling his folios afterwards from
memory when imperfect recollection may be held to account for some of his
inaccurate quotations. At one time he quotes, at another he
comments; sometimes he moralizes the meaning, or generalizes the
particular thought that is to be found expressed over and over again by
Shakspeare. Sometimes his reflection takes the form of paralleling
or finding an equivalent in Latin or some other language. He
paraphrases to utilize, and possibly to disguise. Shakspeare's
favourite phrases may often be seen in transition. Some of the notes
contain repartees or snatches of dramatic dialogue in the form of a saying
and a retort which can be paralleled in the Plays. Note 198 (fol.
87) reads "Hear me out." Answer: "You never were in!" which
sounds like an echo of "If my hand is out, then belike your hand is in"
(L. L. L., IV. i.). The mode is essentially Shakspearean, and the
thought, the quip, the turn of expression, are often identifiably
Bacon has thus recorded various words characteristic of
Shakspeare, which were but little used by his contemporaries, and some
of which were first used by Shakspeare as his own coinage. Numerous
expressions were copied by Bacon from the early plays, which are
Shakspeare's from the first and several times over afterwards!
Evidence can be adduced and multiplied indefinitely by those who have the
time, and think it worth while to show that making notes at or from the
Play was one of Bacon's modes of "setting down the knowledge of
scattered occasions." For instance, he listens to a complex
passage in the Two Noble Kinsmen, I. i. 75, and condenses it in his
note—"The soldier like a Corselet; bellaria et appetina."
"He had rather have his will than his wish" is Bacon's note (113,
fol. 85). Who would? Why, Proteus in the Two Gentlemen of
Verona, IV. ii. Silvia. "What is your will?" roteus.
"That I may compass yours." Silvia. "You have your
wish; my will is even this," &c. Comment by Bacon—"He had
rather have his will than his wish!" This play is one of the
earliest—about 1591. "Black will take no other hue" (38,
fol. 83 b) looks like Bacon's reflection on Biron's praise of Rosaline's
"Your mistresses dare never come in rain,
For fear their colours should be washed away."
Whereas black would not change its hue.
Here are a few parallels drawn from the Promus Notes
and the Plays—
Wealth the burden of wooing.
Taming of the Shrew, I. ii.
Is supper ready, the house trimmed, rushes
strewed — every officer with his weddinggarment
Taming of the Shrew, IV. i.
Go, go, begone to save your ship from wreck,
Which cannot perish having thee aboard,
Being destined to a drier death ashore.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, I. ii.
Be patient, gentle Nell ; forget this grief . . . Ah,
Pt. II. Henry IV., II. iv.
Prin. Hold, Rosaline, this favour thou
shalt wear ;
And then the king will court thee for his dear:
Hold, take thou this, my sweet, and give me thine;
So shall Biron take me for Rosaline.
And change your favours too: so shall your loves
Woo contrary, deceived by these removes. . .
Bir. The ladies did change favours; and then
Following the signs, woo'd but the sign of she.
Love's Labour's Lost, V. ii.
Sir, you say well, and well do you conceive.
Taming of the Shrew, I. ii.
I do fear colourable colours.
Love's Labour's Lost, IV. iii.
However you colour it . . . Come, tell me true.
Measure for Measure, II. i.
I'll warrant you.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, II. ii.
I think the boy hath grace in him.
I warrant you, my lord, more grace than boy.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, V. iv.
Divitiæ impedimenta virtutis.—67, fol. 84.
Ceremonies and green rushes for strangers.
118, fol. 85.
He may go by water, for he is sure to be well
landed.—135, folio 85 b.
It is vain to forbear to renew that grief by speech
which the want of so great a comfort must ever
renew.—143, fol. 86.
You draw for colours, but it proveth contrary.
185, fol. 86 b.
Now you begin to conceive—I begin to say.
194, fol. 87.
You speak colourably; you may not say truly.
205, fol. 87 b.
It is so, I will warrant you. You may warrant me,
but I think I shall not vouch you.—207, fol. 87 b.
Now the dog all this while sheds not a tear.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, II. iii.
Pauca verba.—Love's Labour's Lost, IV. ii.
Few words suffice.—All's Well, I. i.
Is now most still, most secret, and most grave.
Seldom cometh the better.—
Richard III., II. iii.
She hath in that sparing made huge waste.
Romeo and Juliet, II. vi.
The world upon wheels.—
Two Gentlemen of Verona, III. i.
Signor Romeo, bonjour.— Romeo and Juliet,
There golden sleep doth reign.
Romeo and Juliet, II. iii.
All this while.—283, fol. 89.
Few words need.—292, fol. 89.
Optimi consiliari mortui. (The dead are the best
Seldom cometh the better.—472, fol. 92.
Ever spare and ever bare.—488, fol. 92 b.
The world runs on wheels.—669,
fol. 96 b.
Bon iouyr Bon iour bridegroome!—1194, fol. 111.
Golden sleep.—1207, fol. 111.
In the opening scene of this last play Romeo had said of Rosaline, "O
teach me how I should forget to think;—Thou canst not teach me to forget."
Afterwards he tells Friar Laurence, when he mentions Rosaline, "I have
forgot that name." In another scene Juliet says she has forgotten
why she called her lover back; and Romeo would stay and have her still
forget. Bacon's comment on all this forgetting is, "Well to
forget" (1232, fol. 111). Now, a crucial test of Bacon's
practice is afforded by his Promus and Shakspeare's play of
Romeo and Juliet, and therefore we must look a little closer at these.
First we see that "ROMEO" is quoted by name—the
sign over the 'e' showing that the vowel 'o' has suffered
elision; next the salutation Bon iouyr, Bon iozcr Bridegroome,
represents the Bon jour Romeo in the play. Then we find the
following "heads" of the play are all noted in this ONE
folio, No. 111, the previous folio being headed "Play." Good
morrow (1189). Bon iouyr, Bon iour Bridegroome (1194). Good
day to me and good morrow to you (1195). I have not said all
my prayers till I have bid you Good morrow (1196). Late-rising—finding
a-bed. Early-rising—summons to rise (1197). Rome
(1200). Falsa quid est somnus Gelidæ nisi mortis imago
(1204). Golden sleep (1207). The cock (1211).
The lark (1212). Abed—rose you out bed (1214). Uprouse,
you are up (1215). Amen (1221). Well to forget
(1232). Various other "heads" found in, or characteristic of,
Romeo and Juliet might be quoted, but here is enough to show the
method of Bacon. It renders a bird's-eye view of the play, or a
sketch of it in a thumb-nail etching, for his own use. He notes the
salutations especially, and applies them and manipulates them mentally.
A compliment is suggested (1196) which he will probably pay to the Queen,
as he is in search of "FORMULARIES AND ELEGANCIES"
of expression—SUCH BEING THE TITLE FOUND ON THE BACK OF
THIS FOLIO. He realizes the Poet's description of Juliet in
the "borrowed likeness of shrunk death," by turning it into Latin.
He is greatly struck with the notes and signs of early rising, being a
regular slug-a-bed himself, and one who enjoys the antithesis; hence the
"cock," the "lark," the "golden sleep," and the "uprouse." His own
mother had been an early riser who had great trouble o' mornings with her
In a letter dated May 24, 1592, Lady Bacon had written to
Anthony, "I verily think your brother's weak stomach to digest hath
been much caused and confirmed by untimely going to bed, and then musing I
know not what (nescio quid) when he should sleep; and then in consequence,
by late rising and long lying in bed, whereby his men are made slothful
and himself continually sickly. But my sons haste not to hearken to
their mother's good counsel in time to prevent."
In making these jottings he probably mused upon his mother.
We also gather from Lady Bacon's letters that her sons were confirmed
play-goers about the year 1594. The Promus then affords
sufficient proof of his practice and method of noting anything curious,
proverbial, rarely old or newly rare, as he does the provincial modes of
morning and evening salutation which Shakspeare had brought to town with
so many other things that were familiar enough to the country folk if not
No writer ever made such a use of antithesis and analogy as
Shakspeare, more particularly in his earlier writings. No one like
him for moralizing two meanings in one word. No one like him for
showing his wit in wisdom and wisdom in his wit. No one whose
thought was so pregnant in suggestion, or flowered double so determinedly,
as if everything with him must needs be born twin from the lusty fertility
of so liberal a nature. These indigenous qualities are specially
noted and illustrated by Bacon's quotations from the Plays, in which he
must have found provender in plenty. Now when we have once traced
Francis Bacon at the playhouse making his notes and storing his mind from
Shakspeare's treasury, as we can and do where the drama is Romeo and
Juliet, we are at the beginning of a discovery of which we cannot see
the end. How many more of the plays had he listened to with the
express object of gathering gems of thought and ingots of intellectual
gold? The practice and the purpose can be proved, but the extent of
his direct borrowing and indirect assimilation are not to be gauged; his
indebtedness cannot now be measured.
Mrs. Pott asserts that there are several hundred notes in
Bacon's Promus of which no trace has been discovered in his
acknowledged writings nor in those of any other contemporary writer except
Shakspeare, and that these appear in the Plays and Sonnets. "Several
hundreds" and "no trace" are exaggerations, but the Promus
DOES contain a vast deal that was taken from Shakspeare's dramas,
and we can now see how it was derived orally, and how the notes of Bacon
were made, his memory stored, his pockets replenished from the
Shakspearean mint of source. In fact, we are witnessing the building
up of Bacon instead of the demolishing of Shakspeare. Bacon would be
one of the first to perceive the value of Shakspeare's work, especially in
its wealth of proverbial wisdom and folk-lore. He would there find
in profusion that which comes most home to the business and the bosoms of
men. Shakspeare, who portrayed the country clowns, provincial
mother-wits, and queer kinky characters among the peasantry, was also in
possession of their humours, their oral wisdom, their homely sayings,
pithy apophthegms, wise saws and quaint expressions; much of which matter
HE BROUGHT INTO LITERATURE FOR THE FIRST TIME.
All this would be richly appreciated by the town-born, book-learned Bacon,
then striving more and more for the realities of nature. Shakspeare
had brought his proverbial philosophy directly from the people, and fresh
from the country, having gathered it as the Ancient Wisdom used to be
imparted, orally, from that source which underlies the literature of
different lands, and often obliterates the claims of any one special
nationality, because the Sayings are common to all. Bacon must have
known that the mind of Shakspeare was a richer storehouse even than
Heywood's Book of Epigrams, or Erasmus's Adagia.
The Promus jottings PROVE that
he did not go to Shakspeare on the stage for FORMULARIES
AND ELEGANCIES OF EXPRESSION
only, but that he also took note of many things, ranging from the lightest
foam and flash of fancy on the surface down to the plumbing of his
profoundest depths of thought. Still, the Promus jottings do
not betray the Poet, or the lover of poets, in search of the sweets of
poetry, nor yet of humour in its glory. What he most appreciated was
analogy, antithesis, and double meaning, felicities
of expression, the wisdom of thought in the wit of words, which furnished
matter that was portable in prose. And nowhere else could he have
discovered such an EL DORADO
of this wealth as in the works of Shakspeare.
Bacon in search of antithetic thoughts and expressions would
delight in a passage like this, from Romeo and, Juliet (I. ii.)—
"O brawling love! O loving hate!
O anything of nothing first created!
O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Mis-shapen Chaos of well-seeming forms!"
And Bacon in his far later Wisdom of the Ancients, writes of
Cupid as an Atom. "They say that Love was the most ancient of all
the Gods and existed before everything else, except Chaos, which is held
coeval therewith. Love is represented absolutely without progenitor"—this
being the later version of the two, and Shakspeare's indubitably first.
The tables are suddenly and satisfactorily turned on the
Baconians if it can be demonstrated that the ownership of the
observations, the subtleties of thought, the imagery, the antithesis, the
metaphors, the peculiar turns of expression, the newly-coined words,
belongs to Shakspeare primarily and pre-eminently; and that can be proved
once for all by the chronology!
The only time that Bacon is known to have had a hand in the
production of a play was when he helped in devising the "dumb show" for
The Misfortunes of Arthur. He was also engaged on a masque or
two, and he asserts that he did ONCE WRITE A SONNET—much
as Beau Brummel once ate a pea—but even that one Sonnet has never
been found. Shakspeare was a well-known writer for some years before
Bacon had begun to make these preliminary PROMUS
notes. The earliest date found on the top of the first page of
Promus is Dec. 5, 1594. At that time Shakspeare had
published his two poems and written at least one-half of the Sonnets.
Some ten of the Plays were then extant, including Henry VI. in
three parts, Two Gentlemen of Verona, the Comedy of Errors,
Love's Labour's Lost, Midsummer Night's Dream, and Taming
of the Shrew. Further, the notes were continued for some two
years according to date, and so they cover the ground for including
Romeo and Juliet, Richard III., King John, and The
Merchant of Venice. Thus nearly one-half of Shakspeare's harvest
was reaped, and he had stored the seed-corn for producing the rest before
he could possibly have derived anything whatever from Bacon, who first
printed ten of his Essays, and also the Colours and Meditations,
in the year 1597. It is the idlest folly to point to the later plays
as evidence that the wise or witty antithetic thoughts, the special
imagery or peculiar turns of expression are Bacon's because they may come
later than the Promus, i.e. after 1594-6. For it was
Shakspeare's constant habit to reproduce a character, a fundamental
figure, a description, or an image in later dramas far more perfectly than
in the early ones. He would often give his gems of thought a
different setting, or cut them with a fresh facet, to catch the ray of
another relationship, and show them in a newer light. For example—
"Who now hangeth like a jewel in the ear of Cœlo,—the
Love's Labour's Lost, IV. i. (1591.)
"Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new."—Sonnet 27.
"It seems she hangs upon the cheek of Night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear."—Romeo and Juliet, I. v.
appearance in the early plays, however, stamps and warrants the property
to be Shakspeare's own when it reappears in the later works. Thus, a
number of thoughts, images, wise sayings, and proverbial expressions found
in Bacon's notes and essays can be identified first of all in the early
plays of Shakspeare. Some of these appear afterwards in the
Promus. They reappear in plays that are later than
Promus, and then have been short-sightedly attributed to Bacon as the
author; whereas they are Shakspeare's from the first; Shakspeare's several
times over; his in the seed, his in the germ, his in the final flower, no
matter how or where or by whom they are made use of intermediately.
When Bacon sent a portion of his History to James I. he
wrote— "This being but a leaf or two, I pray your pardon if I send it
for your recreation, considering that love must creep where it cannot go."
Of this Mrs. Pott remarks—"The same pretty sentiment reappears in the
'Two Gentlemen of Verona,' IV. ii., in this manner, 'You know that love
will creep in service where it cannot go.'" "REAPPEARS"
! ! Why the play was written as early as the year 1592, and James
did not come to England until 1603, eleven years later.
"You shall not be your own carver" is found in The
Advancement of Learning, which was not printed until 1605. "This,"
says the same writer, "is the model which is adopted in 'Richard II.,'
'Let him be his own carver and cut out his way;'" whereas the Play was
published in 1597, that is, eight years earlier. Now you cannot
reverse things in that way without your head being turned.
Amongst other antithetic apophthegms assigned to Polonius is
the wise saying—
"To thine own self be true,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
adopted, altered, and reapplied by Bacon in his Essay Of Wisdom for a
Man's Self, where it furnishes the sage Baconian reflection, made in
the attitude of offering advice—"Be so true to thyself as thou be not
false to any man"! Here we have the proof of Shakspeare's
priority and of Bacon's deliberate adoption or borrowing from the great
original whom he so thoroughly ignored! The Play of Hamlet
was entered on the Stationers' Register July 26th, 1602. We know not
how much earlier it was acted, but it was printed in 1603, in 1604, and
again in 1605; therefore it must have been much sought after by readers.
The Essay was NOT amongst the Earliest Ten, and
therefore could not have been borrowed from by Shakspeare! In this
same Play Hamlet tells his mother to
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence; the next more easy;
For use can almost change the stamp of nature,
And master the Devil."—IV. iv.
IS the Essay Of Nature in Man visible in the
embryo, "He that seeketh victory over his nature, let him not set
himself too great nor too small tasks," etc. "There is no means to
help this, but by reasonable intermission," etc. The merest
hints of Bacon's way of working must suffice, as others can complete the
full comparison. My point is that these two Essays were not amongst
the first ten (1597), and did not appear until 1612, consequently
Shakspeare could not have been the borrower. Here, as elsewhere,
HIS is the germ which Bacon developed into the
Essay. Here we can see the philosopher at work from the printed
book, just as we previously traced him making his notes from the acted
Various other Essays show the same elaboration
in stately prose of that which Shakspeare had already said more pithily
and compressly in his poetry, which contains a thousand such Essays in
embryo, together with a thousand other things beside! A closer study
on the right track will make this more and more manifest, and the setting
up of false claims on behalf of Bacon will make the true claims of
Shakspeare all the more apparent.
It is this borrowing from Shakspeare BY
Bacon that has given so much trouble and labour in vain to the Baconians.
It is this adopting, developing, assimilating, and transforming the
thought of Shakspeare that has so bewildered, disturbed, and unsettled
their wits, and set them off in pursuit of their false lights and ignis
fatui of the likenesses. The simple solution is that Bacon was
the unsuspected thief, who has been accredited with the original ownership
of the property purloined from Shakspeare. As Bacon himself reminds
us, "The nature of everything is best considered in the seed" (Promus,
1451, fol. 128), or, as Shakspeare had previously said it of "Things as
yet not come to life, which in their seeds and weak beginnings lie
intreasured!" (2 King Henry IV., III, ii.).
By taking this cue we shall find that Shakspeare's early
plays and poems provided the seed for all the rest; and they were produced
before the Promus and the Essays of Bacon! But, as Shakspeare was writing
so long prior to the publication of Bacon's first Essays, it has been
assumed that there is no other way of accounting for his mind being
mirrored in Bacon's works except by concluding that Bacon was the author
of Shakspeare's Plays and Poems! This leap has been logically taken by the
leaders in the Baconian aberration who have thus gone the whole hog; but
they are wrong from the first,
wrong all through, and wrong for ever. It is true the ways of working in
poetry and in prose may be diametrically different. When Shakspeare
adopted matter of thought as the ore for his mintage, he stamped his own
ineffaceable features on the coin that he made current for all time;
whereas Bacon melted the coins down again, and mixed the gold into an
amalgam that was
remoulded by him in his prose. In this way much of the original likeness
The likeness looks doubly definite in the original poetry. Hence it is not so easy to identify the good things that Bacon borrowed
from Shakspeare! A vast deal of Shakspeare's thought must have gone into
Bacon's sweating-bag or melting-pot, which is not to be recovered or
recognized now by any familiar
features or quotation marks. But, as we have seen, it was his practice to
make notes at the theatre, or to jot down from memory the remarkable
arrested his attention there. His Promus is the record of much that he
directly from Shakspeare. For eight or ten years he had free play and full
pasturage in Shakspeare's field before he published his first ten Essays! Moreover, as Spedding points out, Bacon
had a regular system of taking
notes, and of
intentionally altering the things that he quoted. This was a Baconian
making the borrowed matter his own, or chewing the food to digest it, by
so far disguising the original or giving to it the turn and trend of his
own thought. Such a method of manipulation being left visible in his notes
and other writings, this opens a vast vista of possibility in his covert
mode of assimilating the thought, purloining the gold, or clipping the
coinage of Shakspeare. Also, the first folio of Promus is numbered
eighty-three, so that eighty-two preceding folios of Bacon's notes are
missing! But doubtless they were made and used.
A large number of Wise Sayings and Adages are quoted by Bacon
in his Promus which are not directly used in his known writings,
ergo it was thought they must be used in his unacknowledged ones.
And as large numbers of these same Sayings, or something like them, appear
in the Plays, it seemed to follow of course that Shakspeare's acknowledged
writings must be the unacknowledged work of Bacon! Such reasoning is
as logical as that of the Quaker who tried to palm off his dog as a
wolf-hound. He had found the animal was totally unfit for anything
else, and so he inferred that it MUST be a
wolf-hound, faute de mieux! No cloud appears too
unsubstantial for a castle in the air. No mental mist is too thin to
sustain a delusion.
Bacon quotes a Latin Saying from the Adagio of
Erasmus—"Ijsdem e' literis efficitur Tragedia et Comedia"—Tragedies
and Comedies are made of one alphabet. Which merely means that both
are composed from the same letters. But the word "alphabet" has an
underlined significance, because Bacon alludes to his Works of the
Alphabet, of which he sends a copy to his friend Tobie Matthew.
These works of the "Alphabet" are in all likelihood, as Mr. Spedding
guesses, communications written in Bacon's cipher. The language
denotes a cipher composed of letters, instead of a numerical one, such
as was used by Rowland White. It was something for
USE between the two friends, and it was EMPLOYED FOR
THE PURPOSE OF SECRECY. Hence Bacon's remark—"These works
of the alphabet are in my opinion of less use to you where you are now
than at Paris;" meaning that where he is now there is less need of
secrecy than there was in the French capital; still he sends the
communication in cipher for the use of friends, but says
cautiously—"For my part, I value your own reading more than your
publishing them to others." Now as the word "alphabet" is used
by Bacon in writing of his letter-cipher, and as both Tragedies and
Comedies are composed of the same letters or alphabet, it ought to follow
as another matter of course that Bacon is alluding in this letter to those
tragedies and comedies which he had written, and which have been so
falsely ascribed to Shakspeare!
When James I. was on his way to England, Master John Davis
went to meet him, and Bacon sent after him a letter in which he begs for
Davis to use his influence and good offices with the King in his favour,
and concludes with desiring him "to be good to all concealed Poets."
This, says Mr. Donnelly, half proves my case, and he quotes it for us to
infer that Bacon was the concealed Author of the Plays. What the
letter does point to is, that Bacon was practising a bit of his covert and
underhand work; just as he did when he wrote of himself to Essex as if
from his brother Anthony, saying of himself that he was "too
wise to be abused and too honest to abuse" in a letter intended for
the eyes of the Queen. He had a natural instinct for underhand
methods and the low politique. In the present instance he had
evidently written some adulatory lines of greeting to the King, these were
sent unsigned, and the suggestion is that Davis will make known, "quite
promiscuous like," who the concealed and diffident poet is.
The tone is identical with that of his other "Apology," in which he
alludes to the Sonnet he had once written, "although I profess not to
be a poet!" According to Mr. Donnelly, "Francis Bacon seems
to have had these Plays in his mind's eye when he said—'If the Sow with
her snout should happen to imprint the letter A upon the ground,
wouldst thou therefore imagine that she could write out a whole tragedy as
one letter?'" No doubt he had the Plays in view. It is
strictly in keeping with Mr. Donnelly's system that as the sow makes bacon
we should read the sow = Bacon. But what a rebuke is administered in
this passage to the Baconians, when the august Shade itself appears to say
with a grave look and a modest majesty—
"If Bacon did write a Sonnet or a few lines of poetry (not
the A B C, mark, but only the A of the alphabet), wouldst thou therefore
imagine that he could write (not the whole of the tragedies and comedies,
but) a whole tragedy?" The spirit of Bacon evidently stands aghast
at such temerity in going the whole Hog, or, as he phrases it, "the Sow!"
Ben Jonson describes Bacon at a celebration of his own
birthday as looking self-absorbed and rapt away from the persons around
him; he says—
"In the midst
Thou stand'st as though a mystery thou didst."
Here, again, is good evidence for Mr. Donnelly that Jonson knew the great
secret, and that Bacon was looking conscious of writing the Plays!
Baconians like Mr. Smith will pretend to quote from Bacon's
Will, and claim that he hinted at some great secret which was intended to
be made known "after some time be passed over." But there are
no such words in the "Will." And still they continue to quote this
mis-quotation in proof of the forthcoming revelation. What Bacon did
say was this, "For my name and memory I leave it to men's charitable
speeches, and to foreign nations and the next ages." This was a
reference to his trial and his other troubles, NOT
to his authorship of Shakspeare's Plays!
My contention now is, in reply to the Anti Shakspeareans,
that the writer of the Promus notes was not the Author of the
Plays, but he was the plagiarist from them; and in such wise that
the EXTRACT of Shakspeare became
ESSENCE OF BACON. As early as 1592 Shakspeare had written in the
Two Gentlemen of Verona, II. iv.—
"Even as one heat another heat expels,
Or as one nail by strength, drives out another;"
and one of Bacon's notes in the Promus contains the adage "Clavum
clavo pellere." Shakspeare's lines really contain an erroneous
scientific theory of heat which Bacon seems to have adopted as a result of
utilizing the proverbial wisdom that he found in Shakspeare or in earlier
The inevitable inference is that Bacon was enormously
indebted to the man whose name and works he never mentioned, for
felicitous expressions and words, old sayings, profound reflections,
antitheta, and the ripe results of wisdom found ready to hand.
Personally I have sometimes thought there was something conscious, not to
say sinister, in the silence of Bacon respecting Shakspeare, whom he must
have known as the friend of Southampton, the friend of Essex, the friend
of Bacon. Bacon as a frequenter of the theatre with Essex and
Southampton, and other of the "Private Friends," who are described as "spending
their time in seeing Plays," must have apprehended the presence of
that genius which had arisen to enrich the stage with Love's Labour's
Lost, the Two Gentlemen of Verona, the Taming of the Shrew,
the Midsummer Night's Dream, and the early historic plays; they
presented such a fund of noteworthy matter. He must have perceived
how lavishly this new writer scattered his wit and Wisdom round with such
a bounty of abundance that harvests might be had for the gleaning by those
who listened intently and gathered industriously. It has often been
a matter of much surprise that Bacon should not have recognized Shakspeare
or his work. But we now know that he did. He has shown
this in his own way, and left us the means of convicting him of the fact.
He has amply proved his appreciation by his system of conveying the wisdom
into his own works, and by his mode of drawing directly from the fountain
head of living speech at the theatre, as well as from Shakspeare's
published Poems and Plays. The truth of the matter then is,
NOT that Bacon was the author of Shakspeare's plays,
but that he took so many notes of them, and derived so much mental
sustenance from them, beginning as a listener to them on the stage,
that much of the wisdom attributed to him is really and originally the
personal property of Shakspeare. It is enough to know that he
noted, adopted, absorbed, and assimilated so much from Shakspeare's works
as to give 'a colourable pretext to the inference that the writer of
Bacon's books and his Promus was also the author of Shakspeare's
dramas. And such is the ACTUAL state of the
case when we can get the horse once more in its proper place before the
cart! Such is the true explanation of his Notes! Such is the
solution of the problem which has been so foolishly apprehended and
so falsely presented to the world.
Moreover, we have ample means of differentiating the two men,
Shakspeare and Bacon, and
various ways of distinguishing their completely diverse minds one from the
example, Bacon had been the right-hand man of the
Earl of Essex. But, as early as the year 1596 he had begun to fall away
from him, and to
speak unwelcome words of warning with regard to his wild courses
and ambitious designs. It is certain that after 1596 Bacon was
heartily WITH his early friend. In 1597 it was seen by him that Essex was on the
that led to his fatal end on the scaffold. He reasoned with him, he tried
to serve him, but
was totally opposed to him in polity. In 1599 the two men stood on the
opposite sides of a
separating gulf that widened between them day by day.
As Mr. Donnelly points out, "When the fortunes of Bacon and
Southampton afterwards separated,
because of Southampton's connection with the Essex treason, the Poem of
Venus and Adonis
was reprinted (in 1599) without the dedication to Southampton, because
Bacon was then opposed
to Essex." At last, as some
people would say, Bacon deserted Essex altogether. In a letter written by
Essex to Bacon in
1600, he says scornfully, "I can neither expound nor censure (judge of)
your late actions."
It is enough for me to maintain that Bacon did not abet him,
but was opposed to his secret plans
and rash public acts, and that they took directly opposite sides. But the
Writer of the Plays and
Sonnets continued to be a devoted and a fettered friend of the Essex
faction. He continued to fight
on their side and in their behalf.
The absence of the dedication of Venus and Adonis to
Southampton in the edition of 1599  may
be attributed to the caution of the publishers. In King Henry V. the
writer goes out of his way to
compliment the Earl, and make
a popular appeal in his favour. This was in 1599; and it is provably
impossible for Bacon
to have done this, as it was diametrically opposed to his view of affairs
with regard to Essex and
It can be shown that Shakspeare wrought most covertly in
Hamlet on behalf of the Essex faction,
in one of the Players' Shifting Scenes, and in a way that can only be
explained by the personal
friendship of Shakspeare for Southampton, the most intimate friend of
Essex. It is also shown by
the playing of King Richard II., and the adding of the deposition scene for
purpose. Now the man who had opposed the pretensions of Essex to his face,
and opposed his
policy publicly in parliament, and privately before the Queen, would not
have given him his secret
support at the same time in plays performed on the stage or in the
The Queen declared to Lambard that Richard II. had been
played forty times for the conspirators in
"open streets and houses."
If it were a fact that Queen Elizabeth is called an old jade
and a termagant in the Plays, that would
make for Shakspeare's authorship and NOT for Bacon's, as he was on the
Queen's side against
Essex, and Shakspeare was not. If Bacon was practising covertly at that
time, it would not have
been in that way nor
in favour of Essex, but in his own behalf. For he was then playing a somewhat double part, and one that bordered on treachery. Being prescient of
the coming danger,
he was prepared to rat and leave the vessel that he foresaw was doomed to
wreck. But if he
had been the writer of Richard II. and Hamlet he would not have dared to
turn on Essex during his
trial and compare him with Cain.
The man who wrote the Plays stuck to his friends, although he
did not always approve of their course. It was he who had said in King
"I count myself in nothing else so happy
As in a soul remembering my good friends."
It was he also who wrote about this time in Twelfth Night—
"I hate ingratitude more in a man
Than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness,
Or any taint of vice whose
our frail blood."
Whether intentionally aimed or not, the friends of Essex could not but
see how that applied to
Bacon. Not, however, as the writer of the Play.
The Sonnets present further proof that their author was not
Bacon, but that he was on the other
side of the gaping gulf which divided Essex politically from Bacon. Here
is another way of
distinguishing the two men. Bacon was a VIVISECTOR, Shakspeare was
NOT. Bacon writes—"Though the inhumanity of
ANATOMIA VIVORUM was by Celsus justly reproved,
yet in regard of
the great use of this observation, the inquiry needed not by him so
slightly to have been
relinquished altogether, or referred to the casual practices of surgery;
but mought have been well
diverted upon the dissection of beasts alive, which notwithstanding the
dissimilarity of their parts,
may sufficiently satisfy this enquiry."—Advancement of Learning.
Shakspeare writes in Cymbeline—
I will try the forces
Of those thy compounds on such creatures as
We count not worth the hanging, (but none human,)
To try the vigour of
them, and apply
Allayments to their act; and by them gather
Their several virtues and
Shall from this practice but make hard your heart:
Besides, the seeing
these effects will be
Both noisome and infectious."
In these two passages the two men again stand face to face with each
other, and are seen to be
directly opposed. Bacon condemns Celsus because he had not only reproved
the cruelties of Anatomia vivorum, but had protested against the practice of vivisection
itself as inhuman.
He distinctly advocates the "dissection of beasts alive."
Cymbeline was produced later than Bacon's book,
may have read. He makes the vile queen a vivisectionist or torturer of
animals, on purpose to point
out the heart-hardening effect on human nature, and therefore he is
protesting against such
practices. Shakspeare's writings, more particularly the Sonnets and
Labour's Lost, prove
that he was a devout student of Sidney's poetry; whereas the writings of
Bacon show no
obvious or necessary acquaintanceship with Sidney's verse. Indeed it may
be said that the direct
indebtedness in the one case is so great, and the non-indebtedness in the
other so apparent, that
these of themselves would suffice to differentiate two distinct
In truth Bacon was not a poet himself. He has left us quite evidence
enough in the verse which he
did write to show and determine very definitely what he did not write, and
could not have written.
He never possessed the temperament, the ear, the eye, the inner soul, the
voice, or outer vesture
of the poet; he never was possessed by the essential passion for poetry.
The intellect of Bacon was as typically scientific as Shakspeare's was
poetic. He had not that
emotional transcendency or afflatus of inspiration which mounts and
demands the highest
expression in poetry as its natural language. The lyric rapture, the
winged motion, the golden
cadences, the communicative kindly heat of heart, the glow of animal
spirits, the vision and the
faculty divine,—these are NOT the characteristics of Francis Bacon. He
never mistook himself, and
never can be mistaken for Shakspeare. He disowns any claim to the title
of poet. He says of his own mental moods and tendencies—"The
contemplative planet carrieth
me away wholly." When, in the same letter to Burleigh, he speaks of taking
all knowledge for his
province, it is for the purpose of analysis and scientific discovery,
which were the works of his
recreation, NOT for the dramatic representation of human life. That was no
more his aim than it
was within his scope. Bacon was amongst the least dramatic-minded of men;
Shakspeare was the world's one supreme dramatist, the hive of whose
thoughts swarmed year by
year with ever-issuing crowds of human personalities.
[156.](page 380) Spedding's Life and Letters of Bacon, vol.
vii. p. 539.
[157.](page 392) Interpretation, of Nature.
[158.](page 394) Isham Reprints.
Edited by Charles Edmonds.
Ed. Ignatius Donelly (1831-1901), a US
congressman, science fiction author and Atlantis theorist, wrote The
Great Cryptogram: Francis Bacon's Cipher in Shakespeare's Plays (1888),
in which he found encoded messages in the plays attributing authorship to
Francis Bacon — encoded messages that Donelly alone could discern,