Изображения страниц

Two years

London, and began the study of law. Three months later Francis went with Sir Amias Paulet, the British Begins the ambassador, to France. Here he remained dur- study of law, 1576 ing two and a half significant years, studying diplomatic affairs and foreign policy. The impression he made upon those who talked with him is indicated by the inscription on Hilliard's miniature, in France, painted in 1578: "If a worthy canvas were 1576-78 given me, I would rather paint his mind." From this life of studious ease he was rudely awakened by the death of his father, which obliged him to return to England; and as Sir Nicholas had failed to provide for his youngest son, Francis was now compelled to begin in earnest his preparation for the legal profession, by which he was to live.


In June, 1582, he was admitted an utter (or junior) barrister of Gray's Inn; and November 23, 1584, he took his seat in Parliament for Melcombe Regis, Dor- M. P. for setshire. That he was a bold as well as alert Melcombe politician is evident from his Advice to Queen Regis, Elizabeth, written soon after entering Parliament. The conflict was approaching between Protestant England and Catholic Spain. Three plots had already been exposed against the life of the Queen, in whom were centred the hopes "of England, of liberty, and of the Pro- "Advice to testant faith; " and a voluntary association had Queen Elizbeen formed to prosecute to the death any person in whose behalf violence should be offered to the Sovereign. Bacon urged rigorous repression of the suspected Catholics, but less violent measures against the Puritans. The treatise is remarkable for shrewdness, wit, and tact.

abeth "

Two years later, in 1586, came the trial and conviction of Mary, Queen of Scots. In the Parliament of that year Bacon sat for Taunton, Somersetshire, and was M. P. for one of those who signed the petition for Mary's Taunton, execution. Becoming a bencher of Gray's Inn, 1586 Bacon now attained the full rights of a practising lawyer. While he did not earn much as a barrister, he became more and more prominent in Parliament.

The Armada came and went; and in the following year

the quarrel between the Puritans and the High Churchmen was renewed. In his Advertisement touching the Controversies of the Church of England (1589), Bacon sought to arbitrate the bitter and bigoted conflict by considering the occasions of the controversies, their growth, the unjust measures of the bishops, and the separatist tendencies of the Puritans; prescribing, as the remedy, greater charity and more knowledge, or, as Matthew Arnold would have put it, more sweetness and light."




the Controthe Church

versies of

of England,"


About 1590 Bacon made the acquaintance of the Earl of Essex, the rash, impetuous, generous, sympathetic favorBeginning ite of the Queen. Here was a man whose friendof friendship could do much for Bacon and for the great ship with Essex, philosophical enterprise which he had begun to think of in his Cambridge days. Essex was able and ready to discuss the high aims that inspired Bacon, and to intercede for him with the Queen for some office whereby he might be freed from professional drudgery and enabled to prosecute his studies. In asking Lord Burghley for help, about this time, Bacon says:


"Lastly, I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends, as I have moderate civil ends: for I have taken all knowledge to be my province; and if I could purge it of two sorts of rovers, whereof the one with frivolous disputations. confutations, and verbosities, the other with blind experiments and auricular traditions and impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in industrious observations, grounded conclusions, and profitable inventions and discoveries; the best state in that province. This, whether it be curiosity, or vain-glory, or nature, or (if one take it favorably) philanthropia, is so fixed in my mind as it cannot be removed."

But while Bacon's repeated requests to Burghley were poured into a deaf ear, Essex proved an ardent and faithful patron. The place of Attorney-General soon became vacant; and Essex tried to secure it for his friend. But Bacon had made himself obnoxious to the Queen by protesting against certain subsidies which he thought would involve excessive

Failure to obtain offices of Attorney-General and Solicitor

taxation; and his rival Coke was made Attorney-General. No better fortune attended his suit for the humbler office of Solicitor; but Essex, anxious to pay for the time and pains devoted to his own affairs, gave Bacon a piece of land which afterwards sold for £1800, the equivalent in purchasing power of about $45,000 to-day. This for a while relieved Bacon of the financial embarrassments which beset him.

Up to this time of his life Bacon is not accused of doing anything distinctly dishonorable. True, his servile placehunting is not admirable; but it arose partly out of unfortunate conditions. His conduct toward Essex from now on is variously interpreted: by some, as that of a patriot who placed loyalty to the state above friendship; by others, as the conduct of a heartless ingrate. Much depends on whether Essex can or cannot be proved to have become a traitor.

1597; including

Essex and Bacon continued friends as before; but Bacon ceased for a time to seek for office. He wrote his Maxims of the Law (published in January, 1596), his Works from Essays, Colors of Good and Evil, and Medi- 1596 to tationes Sacra, all of which appeared in 1597. He still sat in Parliament, in 1597 for South- "Essays," ampton. He was an unsuccessful suitor for the 1597 hand of a rich widow, his cousin Lady Hatton, who accepted his rival Coke instead. Meanwhile he counselled Essex to try to win and retain the Queen's M. P. for favor by making a show of being deferential and Southampobsequious. But Essex was not skilled in dis- ton, 1597 simulation; he quarrelled more than once with Elizabeth, and on one occasion his insolence so enraged her that she struck him and had him ejected from the council-chamber. A few months later, acting on Bacon's advice, he pretended that he would accept Essex and the task of quelling the Irish rebellion under the Earl of Tyrone. Of this expedition Essex made a wretched failure; and he was ordered to answer for his mismanagement and for disobedience, in the Court of the Star Chamber. Although soon released, he continued under the displeasure of the Queen, who refused to renew the grant of the

the Queen



monopoly of sweet wines whence he derived most of his income. Already deeply in debt, Essex now saw himself on the brink of ruin; and having persuaded himself that England's safety and his own lay in ruining his rivals, the Queen's present advisers, he plotted to surprise the court and remove them by force. The revolt miscarried and Essex was tried for treason.

As one of the Learned Counsel Bacon now occupied a subordinate, unsalaried place in the Government. He has been censured because, when called upon to participate in Essex tried the trial, he did not decline; but Essex was not for treason yet condemned, and Bacon doubtless thought he could help his friend. For ten days the trial went on without results; finally the confession of accomplices revealed deliberate treasonable action on the part of Essex and his confederates. It was then too late for Bacon to decline his task; and he now set the claims of loyal citizenship above those of friendship; the general good above private good. He pressed the charge of treason for "this late and horrible rebellion," and rightly treated Essex's defence, that he was protecting Essex himself from his enemies, as a mere afterthought. The result was the conviction of Essex and four of his followers. Even then, Bacon declared in his Apology (1601), he besought mercy of the Queen and tried to extenuate the sentence. But his effort was in vain. On February 26, 1601, Essex was executed.

It is idle to see in all this, as some do, a treacherous desertion of Essex. As Professor Gardiner suggests, doubtless Bacon had a poverty of moral feeling; certainly he nowhere records any pain at having to help prosecute his friend. But two things must be borne in mind: first, Bacon had himself rendered valuable services to Essex and was under no obligation to him; second, Essex's crime seems less heinous in these days of political security than it seemed in Elizabeth's day, when the welfare of the state so largely depended on the safety of the sovereign.

Under Elizabeth, Bacon never obtained an office worthy of his abilities. For a time he was but little more success

Bacon's part in the condemnation of

ful with the new sovereign. True, James honored him with knighthood; but he was dubbed along with some three hundred others. For a time Bacon lived in retirement. He now wrote the first book of The vancement Advancement of Learning as well as the brief of Learn"Proem" to The Interpretation of Nature, in ing," 1605

"The Ad

which he sets forth his real mission and motives. He had set himself, he says, to consider how mankind might best be served and what he was naturally best fitted to do. Of all benefits he "found none so great as the discovery of new arts, endowments, and commodities for the bettering of man's life." But if one could kindle in Nature a light that should presently disclose her most hidden secrets, that man would indeed benefit the race. He found himself best fitted for the study of truth, "with desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to reconsider, carefulness to dispose and set in order." Yet his birth and education had seasoned him in business of state; his country had special claims upon him; and believing that if he rose in the state he should Bacon's decommand industry and ability to help him in his votion to work, he had entered public life. In this he had, too, another motive, that he "might get something done for the good of men's souls." Finding, however, that his zeal was mistaken for ambition, that his life had already reached the turning-point, and that he was leaving undone the good he alone could do, he put aside all thoughts of statecraft and betook himself wholly to this work.


cal re


But Bacon was still destined for many years to live the life of a statesman rather than of a philosopher. When the first Parliament under King James met in March, 1604, he returned to public life. In the contest between the Commons and the King over some matters of Bacon made prerogative, he skilfully led both parties to a Learned compromise. In August the King granted to Counsel, him by patent the office of Learned Counsel, and at the same time conferred on him an annual lifepension of £60.


The interval between December, 1604, and the next meet

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »