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ONE of the most remarkable features in what is known as the 'Baconian movement,' and to those who believe in the solidity of its foundations one of the most significant, is the large number of persons to whom the idea has suggested itself independently of the conclusions of others. There are not a few among the party which entertains the confident belief that Bacon was the author of the works which have come down to us under the name of Shakespeare, who, at the time when their suspicions were developed by further research into full conviction, believed that they had then for the first time lit upon the discovery, and only later learned, in some cases by mere chance, that others had been pursuing parallel but entirely independent paths which issued upon the same conclusion.

But, whereas the grounds upon which the adherents of this theory in England and Germany have hitherto based their belief may all be considered either internal or external testimony of the common type, the latest development of the movement is concerned with evidence which is not to be classed under either of these two heads in its ordinary sense. Till lately the confidence of the believers has rested upon the results-to speak in the most general terms-first, of a comparison of the works of Shakespeare with those of Bacon, and secondly, of an examination of the career and correspondence of the latter. A new light has suddenly burst upon the subject. What appears to be confirmatory evidence of an entirely novel nature is announced from beyond the Atlantic, and the Baconians' are startled by a report the confirmation of which they would be able to hail as a proof, no less final than unexpected, of the validity of their independent conclusions. It comes in the shape of a declaration from Mr. Ignatius Donnelly, of Hastings, Minnesota, ex-Member of Congress, that he has discovered, running through the Plays, a Cipher narrative in which Bacon claims their authorship, giving also a detailed account of a considerable portion of his own life and of the Court history during the period of his rise and greatness.


Too much prominence cannot be given to the fact that the 'Baconians' do not rely upon this Cipher for the unflinching belief

which they accord to their theory. Their convictions were established and their numbers on the steady increase before ever this astounding announcement reached England, and, as far as their creed is concerned, it is only as a most gratifying confirmation of the truth of their conclusions that they welcome the report of this discovery. But from another point of view it is to them an invaluable ally. They consider, and with reason, that the addition of this piece of evidence to that already published in Europe will, owing to its peculiar character, swell their numbers more rapidly than would otherwise be the case; for it must be borne in mind that the evidence already existing in this country and in Germany is of a nature that does not necessarily appeal to any not conversant with the life and writings of Bacon, whereas the Cipher, when published, will, through its comparative simplicity, enlist a far greater number of recruits to their ranks. Mr. Donnelly's work will shortly have reached a stage sufficiently advanced to enable him to make public in detail the methods and results of his task, which is at present known of by few, and by the majority of them through rumours only. It will then be easily within the reach of all; whereas a conviction based on the other evidence can only be attained after considerable labour. Another point that arises in connection with the two classes of evidence-for the ordinary internal and external may for this purpose be classed together-is the obvious fact that, whereas the Cipher must be either entirely conclusive or an unmitigated fraud, that already existing, through its essential character, does not stand or fall all in one piece. It is the collection of the independent work of several minds, and the discovery of a flaw in any one item of the evidence in no way affects the credence due to the rest. This will be plain to those conversant even with such proportion of the case for the Baconians' as is to be found in the writings already published on the subject from time to time. In other words, Mr. Donnelly's contribution to the Society's polemic literature is of a mathematical nature, and dependent each step on each for its validity; while that which it has come to supplement is circumstantial, and it is for each individual juryman of the public to decide for himself how far the total of its items is to be considered conclusive. The Baconians' claim, however, and apparently with much reason, that, though the total eclipse of Mr. Donnelly and his work would not in any way injure their position, founded beforehand on evidence of an utterly different nature, yet that the establishment of the indisputable truth of the Cipher method would outweigh all arguments of whatever nature on the other side-that is its reward ⚫ in case of victory for the uncompromising audacity of its claims.

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Although for a full understanding even of the Cipher portion of the total evidence-such of it as is here stated-some knowledge of the rest is requisite, any reference to the latter that can be dispensed with will be rigorously excluded. That is, or shortly will be, avail

able in its entirety to those interested, and the mass is far too large to justify even a near approach except when absolutely necessary. The following pages will be confined to a notice of the methods and results, as far as he has at present made them known, of the worker who has now been so long engaged over this Cipher.

Let it be at once stated that the key to its solution is not yet forthcoming. Mr. Donnelly writes that only after immense labour he has discovered it, and that its application to the Plays is a very slow and tedious operation. And he has not yet made such progress in the deciphering but that if the whole rule were to be given others might be able to anticipate the publication of his work. What he has at present thought it safe to divulge are the observations which first roused his suspicions and the confirmatory evidence which his researches brought to light. These will probably appear to many inadequate and far-fetched, but Mr. Donnelly has his own reasons for withholding at present a detailed statement of his case.


He had long been a Baconian,' and had thus taken a more than ordinary interest not only in the Plays, but also in the acknowledged works of Bacon. It struck him as curious that, while Bacon lived in an age when the state of the political and social world had habituated public men to an extensive use of cipher, there was no evidence on record in any of his biographies that he ever made any use of an art which he had taken the pains to acquire. For that he devoted considerable labour to the subject we learn from his philosophical writings, in which he not only dwells on the great usefulness of secret means of correspondence, but also gives samples and rules for the best kind of cipher work. For the perfect cipher he lays down that

the highest degree is to write omnia per omnia; which is undoubtedly possible, with a proportion quintuple at most of the writing infolding to the writing infolded.1


The infolding writing shall contain at least five times as many letters as the writing infolded ; 2


and there follows a specimen of a cipher

which I devised myself when I was at Paris in my early youth, and which I still think worthy of preservation; for it has the perfection of a cipher, which is to make anything signify anything.

This is based on the rule just given.

With these passages he compared the following, which occurs in

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a notice of the enigmatical method' of delivery :

1 Advancement of Learning, ii. (in Spedding, Ellis, and Heath's edition, 1857, vol. iii. p. 402).

2 De Augmentis, vi. 1 (S., E., & H., vol. iv. p. 445).

This method was itself used among the ancients, and employed with judgment and discretion. But in later times it has been disgraced by many who have made it as a false and deceitful light to put forward their counterfeit merchandise. The intention of it, however, seems to be by obscurity of delivery to exclude the vulgar (that is, the profane vulgar) from the secrets of knowledges, and to admit those only who have either received the interpretation of the enigmas through the hands of their teachers, or have wits of such sharpness and discernment as can pierce the veil.3

Other passages of a kindred nature are to be found throughout his writings.

Having here not only a proof that Bacon was in this respect no exception among the statesmen of his day, but also what he took to be an encouraging though dark hint that his suspicions were well founded, Mr. Donnelly set to work to discover, if possible, a cipher in the Plays. The immediate reason of his applying himself to this department of Bacon's writings seems to have been his inability to believe that the writer of such works would for ever renounce them, and his opinion that in the Plays themselves would most probably be found the assertion of his authorship of them. He turned to the Folio of 1623, which Grant White had pronounced, in his edition of Shakespeare, to be the only authentic form in which the text of his dramatic works has reached us.' In this volume, while intending to investigate the matter of the text in the light of the above remarks on cipher work, he made discoveries of an entirely different nature.

The condition in which the Plays are presented to us in the Folio had been a source of amazement and regret to many generations of commentators, but nothing more satisfactory had been suggested by way of explanation than that it must be attributed merely to the lack of proper editorial supervision.' This is the conclusion of Grant White after an enumeration of the defects and blemishes' that disfigure that precious volume.' 4 Mr. Donnelly's investigation resulted in his discovering, in addition to the items enumerated by Grant White (unless indeed these are the 'minor errors' referred to by the latter), what he characterises as irregular paging, arbitrary italicising, meaningless bracketing, and senseless hyphenation.' Now the book is known to have been brought out at great cost, and was evidently intended to be a first-rate edition of the Plays. Is it conceivable, argued Mr. Donnelly to himself, that the editorial supervision should have been carelessly conducted? Surely those

* De Augmentis, vi. 2 (S., E., & H., vol. iv. p. 450).

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He remarks (vol. i. p. cclviii), Besides minor errors, the correction of which is obvious, words are in some cases so transformed as to be past recognition, even with the aid of the context; lines are transposed; sentences are sometimes broken by a full point followed by a capital letter, and at other times have their members displaced and mingled in incomprehensible confusion; verse is printed as prose, and prose as verse; speeches belonging to one character are given to another; and, in brief, all possible varieties of typographical derangement may be found in this volume, in the careful printing of which the after world had so deep an interest.'

who put forth so expensive a volume would have been at the pains to make it perfect in such common matters as are concerned with typographical correctness. If there is one thing in which printers are careful, it is the paging of the work which they do. This is not the author's work but the printer's, and surely the printer would have been called to sharp account for any incorrectness in this branch of his art. Can the irregularities in this respect and in the use of the italics, brackets, and hyphens be with any semblance of plausibility attributed to the carelessness of the editors? Is it not a far more natural supposition that this extraordinary derangement in matters so simple was the result of deliberate and jealously carried out intention that these irregularities were purposely inserted? And is it not at least a fair hypothesis that these may in some way contain the key to the Cipher? The De Augmentis was published in the same year as the Folio. Is it altogether unwarrantable to suggest that in the simultaneous appearance of these two works Bacon with one hand presented to the world a locked-up secret, and with the other a key by means of which that secret could be unlocked? Would not this most amply justify the words of Sir Tobie Matthew, who, in a letter to Bacon, answering one which accompanied the gift of a 'great and noble token' of his 'Lordship's favour' (believed to have been a presentation copy of the Folio), remarks, 'The most prodigious wit that ever I knew of my nation, and of this side of the sea, is of your Lordship's name, though he be known by another '? 5

Such were the pregnant thoughts that at this time suggested themselves to Mr. Donnelly. It must be remembered by those who now hear of his work for the first time that, owing to his longstanding conviction that the Plays were Bacon's work, the notion did not appear to his mind one of extraordinary audacity.

The following are instances of the four points referred to :— (1) The pagination of this volume is as follows: The Comedies come first, and are paged consecutively to page 303. Then follow the Histories, beginning again at page 1. Page 100 sees the end of the text of II. Henry IV. Two then follow unnumbered. Then comes Henry V., beginning suddenly on page 69. Henry VIII. ends on page 232, and is succeeded by Troilus and Cressida, the third page of which is numbered 79, and the fourth 80. Here the pagination abruptly ceases, the remaining twenty-five pages of the play following unnumbered. Then comes Coriolanus, starting afresh with page 1. Soon after the beginning of Hamlet page 156 is followed by page 257, and from this number the pagination proceeds consecutively to the end of the volume, except that the last page of all, which follows 398, is numbered 993.

For this letter in full and its circumstances, see Holmes' Authorship of Shakespeare, pp. 172 ff. (3rd edition, New York, 1875).

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