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took particular delight in "trying him with questions," when he was quite a child, and was so much pleased with the sense and manliness of his answers that she used jocularly to call him "her young Lord Keeper of the Seals." Bacon himself relates that while he was a boy, the Queen once asked him his age; the precocious courtier readily replied that he was just two years younger than her happy reign.” He is said, also, when very young, to have stolen away from his playfellows in order to investigate the cause of a singular echo in St. James's Fields, which attracted his attention.
Until the age of thirteen he remained under the tuition of his accomplished mother, aided by a private tutor only; under their care he attained the elements of the classics, that education preliminary to the studies of the University. At thirteen he was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge, where his father had been educated. Here he studied diligently the great models of antiquity, mathematics, and philosophy, worshipped, however, but indevoutly at the shrine of Aristotle, whom, according to Rawley, his chaplain and biographer, he already derided. "for the unfruitfulness of the way, being only strong for disputation, but barren of the production of works for the life of man." He remained three years at this seat of learning, without, however, taking a degree at his departure.
When he was but sixteen years old he began his travels, the indispensable end of every finished education in England. He repaired to Paris, where he resided some time under the care of Sir Amyas Paulet, the English minister at the court of France.
Here he invented an ingenious method of writing in cipher; an art which he probably cultivated with a view to a diplomatic career.
He visited several of the provinces of France and of the towns of Italy. Italy was then the country in which human knowledge in all its branches was most successfully cultivated. It is related by Signor Cancellieri that Bacon, when at Rome, presented himself as a candidate to the Academy of the Lincei, and was not admitted.1 He remained on the continent for three years, until his father's death, in 1580. The melancholy event, which bereft him of his parent, at the age of nineteen, was fatal to his prospects. His father had intended to purchase an estate for his youngest son, as he had done for his other sons; but he dying before this intention was realized, the money was equally divided between all the children; so that Francis inherited but one fifth of that fortune intended for him alone. He was the only one of the sons that was left unprovided for. He had now "to study to live," instead of "living to study." He wished, to use his own language, "to become a true pioneer in that mine of truth which lies so deep." He applied to the government for a provision which his father's interest would easily have secured him, and by which he might dispense with a profession. The Queen must have looked with favor upon the son of a minister, who had served her faithfully for twenty long years, and upon a young man whom, when he was a child, she had caressed, she had distinguished by the appellation of her "young Lord Keeper." But Francis Bacon was abandoned, and perhaps opposed by the colleague and nearest friend of his father, the brother-in-law of his mother, his maternal uncle, Lord
1 Prospetto delle Memorie aneddote dei Lincei da F. Cancellieri. Roma, 1823. This fact is quoted by Monsieur Cousin, in a note to his Fragments de Philosophie Cartésienne.
Burleigh, then Prime Minister, who feared for his son the rivalry of his all-talented nephew. It is a trick common to envy and detraction, to convert a man's very qualities into their concomitant defects; and because Bacon was a great thinker, he was represented as unfit for the active duties of business, as "a man rather of show than of depth," as "a speculative man, indulging himself in philosophical reveries, and calculated more to perplex than to promote public business." 1 Thus was the future ornament of his country and of mankind sacrificed to Robert, afterwards Sir Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, of whose history fame has learned but little, save the execution of Essex and Mary Queen of Scots, the name, and this petty act of mean jealousy of his father! In the disposal of patronage and place, acts and even motives of this species are not so unfrequent as the world would appear to imagine. In all ages, it is to be feared, many and great, as in Shakspeare's time, are,
the spurns That patient merit of th' unworthy takes.
It is, however, but justice to the morals of Lord Burleigh, to add that he was insensible to literary merit; he thought a hundred pounds too great a reward to be given to Spenser for what he termed 'an old song," for so he denominated the Faery Queen.
Bacon then selected the law as his profession; and in 1580 he was entered of Gray's Inn; 2 he resisted the temptations of his companions and friends, (for his company was much courted,) and
1 Sir Robert Cecil.
2 Gray's Inn is one of the four Inns or companies for the study of law.
diligently pursued the study he had chosen; but he did not at this time entirely lose sight of his philosophical speculations, for he then published his Temporis partus maximus, or the Greatest Birth of Time. This work, notwithstanding its pompous title, was unnoticed or rather fell stillborn from the press; the sole trace of it is found in one of his letters to Father Fulgentio.
In 1586, he was called to the bar; his practice there appears to have been limited, although not without success; for the Queen and the Court are said to have gone to hear him when he was engaged in any celebrated cause. He was, at this period of his life, frequently admitted to the Queen's presence and conversation. He was appointed her Majesty's Counsel Extraordinary, but he had no salary and small fees.
In 1592, his uncle, the Lord Treasurer, procured for him the reversion of the registrarship of the Star Chamber, worth sixteen hundred pounds (forty thousand francs) a year; but the office did not become vacant till twenty years after, so that, as Bacon justly observes, "it might mend his prospects, but did not fill his barns."
A parliament was summoned in 1593, and Bacon was returned to the House of Commons, for the County of Middlesex; he distinguished himself here as a speaker. "The fear of every man who heard him," says his contemporary, Ben Jonson, lest he should make an end." He made, however, on one occasion a speech which much displeased
1 King's or Queen's Counsel are barristers that plead for the government; they receive fees but no salary; the first were appointed in the reign of Charles II. Queen's Counsel extraordinary was a title peculiar to Bacon, granted, as the patent specially states, honoris causa.
the Queen and Court. Elizabeth directed the Lord Keeper to intimate to him that he must expect neither favor nor promotion; the repentant courtier replied in writing, that "her Majesty's favor was dearer him than his life."1
In the following year the situation of SolicitorGeneral 2 became vacant. Bacon ardently aspired to it. He applied successively to Lord Burleigh, his uncle, to Lord Puckering, his father's successor, to the Earl of Essex, their rival, and finally to the Queen herself, accompanying his letters, as was the custom of the times, with a present, a jewel. But once more he saw mediocrity preferred, and himself rejected. A Serjeant Fleming was appointed her Majesty's Solicitor-General. Bacon, overwhelmed by this disappointment, wished to retire from public life, and to reside abroad. "I hoped," said he in a letter to Sir Robert Cecil, "her Majesty would not be offended that, not able to endure the sun, I fled into the shade."
The Earl of Essex, whose mind, says Mr. Macaulay, "naturally disposed to admiration of all that is great and beautiful, was fascinated by the genius and the accomplishments of Bacon," had exerted every effort in Bacon's behalf; to use his own lan
1 Letter to Lord Burleigh.
2 The Solicitor-General is a law-officer inferior in rank to the Attorney-General, with whom he is associated in the management of the law business of the crown. He pleads also for private individuals, but not against government. He has a small salary, but very considerable fees. The salary in Bacon's time was but seventy pounds.
8 Bacon was, like other courtiers, in the habit of presenting the Queen with a New Year's gift. On one occasion, it was a white satin petticoat embroidered with snakes and fruitage, as emblems of wisdom and beauty. The donors varied in rank from the Lord Keeper down to the dust-man.