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So enormous were the results which Bacon anticipated from such a renovation of Philosophy as he had conceived the possibility of, that the reluctance which he felt to devote his life to the ordinary practice of a lawyer cannot be wondered at. But it is easier to understand why he was resolved not to do that, than what other plan he had to clear himself of the difficulties which were accumulating upon him, and to obtain means of living and working. A few years after (while he was still without any official place) I find him expressing a wish to “increase his practice,” in the hope of making a fortune sufficient to retire upon; and I suppose he had found on trial that to give up the “ordinary practice of the law” was a luxury he could not afford. What course he betook himself to at the crisis at which we have now arrived, I cannot positively say. I do not find any letter of his, which can be probably assigned to the winter of 1596, nor have I met among his brother's papers with anything which indicates what he was about; more than a few notes relating to the satisfaction (or more generally the dissatisfaction of creditors. I presume however that he betook himself to his studies. One of the loose sheets which I have printed under the title of 'Formularies and Elegancies' (Works, vol. vii. p. 208), is dated Jan. 27, 1595. About a twelvemonth after, he printed the little volume containing the Essays in their first shape, the 'Colours of Good and Evil,' and the · Meditationes Sacræ.' The dedicatory letter to the Maxims of the Law' is dated January, 1596. and several of the opuscula which were ultimately either incorporated
into his philosophical works, or laid by as incomplete, may have been written at this time.
2. But there are some other compositions with which (though they do not pass under his name) there is reason to think he had something to do; and which, considering the possibility that they are entirely his work, the probability that they have at least some of his work in them, and their intrinsic value, I have determined to lay before the reader in this chapter.
I must first however explain the evidence which connects them with him; and this I cannot do better than by explaining the manner in which I became acquainted with them myself.
Among the collections of Robert Stephens and John Locker, now in the British Museum,' there is a catalogue of letters and other papers from, to, or otherwise connected with Bacon; copied in a transcriber's hand of the eighteenth century, apparently from an original of which some of the leaves had got transposed; for though the several letters are not set down in the order of their dates, they appear to have been distributed into classes, which classes are in the transcript mixed together. Restoring them to what seems to be their proper order, the catalogue consists of, 1st, Letters to His Majesty ; 2nd, Letters to Sir Geo. Villiers, Marquis and Duke of Buckingham; 3rd, Letters to the Prince and the Queen of Bohemia; 4th, Letters to several persons; 5th, Charges, Speeches, and Papers of a mixed argument; 6th, Letters from the Duke of Buckingham to my Lord Bacon ; 7th, Letters from the Queen of Bohemia to my Lord Bacon; 8th, two Letters from King James ; 9th, Letters from several hands to my Lord Bacon. The catalogue is arranged in columns; setting forth, 1st, the date of each letter; 2nd, the four or five first words ; 3rd, what it is about; and 4th, (in the case of the “ letters to several persons") to whom addressed. From the heading of another list in the same volume, it may
be inferred that Stephens supposed this catalogue to have been taken from Bacon's own register :-a conjecture (for it does not profess to be more) which the disorder of the dates makes very improbable : for we know that Bacon's register of letters was carefully prepared and formally bequeathed to trustees, with a view to publication. A
1 Additional MSS. 4259, fo. 78.
2 Fo. 48. “A copy of the beginning of Sr Fra. Bacon's Letters to K. James, from a copy (catalogue] which was transcribed [taken] from his Lordship’s Reg. of Letters (as I have reason to believe, with some insertion of others].” The words within brackets are interlined in R. Stephens's hand.
more probable explanation is suggested by a fact of which Stephens was at the time probably unaware. In December, 1682, a box full of letters and original papers of Bacon's came from the executor of the executor of Sir Thomas Meantys, who was his Lordship's executor," into the hands of Dr. Tenison : whose intention it then was “after the holidays, to methodize all, and put all the letters of the same date together-for they were then in confusion;" and when he had “looked over and sorted them,” to present a catalogue of them to Archbishop Sancroft.' It seems however that his purpose of “sorting” these papers was never fully accomplished : for Birch tells us that when on the 23rd of February, 1749, they were delivered to Archbishop Herring and placed in the Lambeth Library, they “lay undigested in bundles." Any catalogue therefore which had been made of these papers before Stephens’s death (which happened in 1736) must have been made before they were digested according to their dates. Now nothing is more probable than that Tenison, after partially sorting them, and finding it too long a labour, contented himself for the time with taking them as they came, and setting down the dates, beginnings, contents, and addresses. Such a process would produce exactly such a catalogue as we have here; and as the descriptions correspond in a large proportion of cases with papers now to be found in the Lambeth collection, it seems most probable that it is a list of the contents of the box as it came to Tenison in 1682.
Now in this catalogue (which I have been the more particular in
Searching among the Lambeth papers in the days when Dr. Maitland was Librarian) for letters corresponding to the descriptions in the catalogue, I succeeded in finding one without date, and containing“ advice for improvement in travelling,” and beginning with the words “My good Lo., The last I sent to your Lp. was so long,"
See his letter to Chiswell, the bookseller, 16th December, and to. Archbishop Sancroft, 18th December, 1682 ; printed in Birch's preface to vol. vi. of Bacon's Works.
etc. The part which contained the signature and superscription being torn off, and the hand being one which I did not know, there was nothing on the face of the MS. to show either that it was addressed to Buckingham or written by Bacon ; but it was easy to understand how the arranger might have been betrayed into that hasty assumption; and upon the whole I could have no doubt that this was the letter described in the last of the two entries above quoted from Stephens's catalogue.
For the other, having hunted in vain among the Lambeth MSS. for a paper answering the description, and turning to seek elsewhere, I met in the Harleian MSS. (6265, p. 428) with “the Earl of Essex's advice to the Earl of Rutland in his journey.” Looking into it to see what it might be (for I had not seen it before), my eye was presently caught by a sentence which seemed like the germ or first draft of a remarkable passage in the ‘Advancement of Learning.' Reading on, I found not only a style of thought and expression in many places remarkably like that which distinguishes Bacon's earlier writings of the same nature, but several observations, phrases, and entire sentences which reminded me of particular passages in his acknowledged works. Remembering also that the Lambeth letter (which was so far at least connected with Bacon that it had somehow got among his papers) began with a reference to some former communication, and observing that the terms of that reference would very well suit such a letter as this, and finding afterwards a third “letter of advice touching Travel, written by the Earl of Essex to a friend,” in which it was said, “ My first letter to your LoP did contain generalities; my second was particular to direct you in course of study;” (words which will be found to be perfectly applicable to the two letters in question ;)-putting all these things together, I thought it a clear case for inquiry whether these letters may not have been (wholly or in part) written by Bacon. And as it is far from impossible that other evidence on the subject may exist which I have failed to discover, I have thought it best to call my readers into council and lay the whole case before them.
As it stands at present, the question turns almost entirely upon considerations of style. And it must be admitted that it is one in which judgment of style is peculiarly difficult; partly because we have no undoubted specimens of the Earl of Essex's style in this kind of composition (and not many of Bacon's certainly belonging to this period of his life) with which to compare the letters in question; but
also because either of them would probably in such a case try to imitate the style of the other. The ardent and sympathetic admiration which Essex felt for Bacon, who was six years older than himself (and at five-and-twenty, which was about his age when their acquaintance began, six years seems a good deal), would naturally assimilate both his thoughts and style; and Bacon, writing in Essex's name, would naturally assume his manner, feelings, and position. If Essex wrote a letter of grave advice to a young relative going on his travels, it would no doubt have a great deal of Bacon in it: if Bacon drew
up a letter for Essex to sign, it would be such a one as Essex might naturally have written. Still there is a character in language --as in bandwriting-which it is hardly possible to disguise. Little tricks of thought, like tricks of the hand, -peculiarities of which the writer is unconscious,--are perceptible by the reader. And if we only had a few more specimens of Essex's didactic style, I should not despair of arriving at a clear conviction on the question.
That these letters (or at least two of them) were sent and received as from Essex himself, circulated in his name, and meant to be considered as his composition,-there is, I presume, no doubt. But we know as a fact, that both before and after he did occasionally accept Bacon's help; and perhaps there was no occasion on which he was more likely to avail himself of it than this. It was in September, 1595, that the Earl of Rutland received a “licence to pass over the seas."? At that time Essex was, as we have seen, on uncomfortable terms with the Queen, and the clouds did not clear away till near the middle of November. Now we know that Bacon anticipated mischief from Esser's taste for military glory and popularity, and was anxious that he should at any rate make as much show as he could of an aspiration after civil greatness and attachment to the arts of peace. And nothing could be in better accordance with the counsel which he was in the habit of giving him, than this—that he should take the occasion of his cousin's going abroad to write him a letter of advice as to the employment of his time and the improvement of his mind; nor could anything be more natural, in the relation which subsisted between them (for we have direct evidence that, a few years after, Essex would sometimes employ Bacon to draw up letters for him about his own most personal affairs,—-letters which he was himself to sign), than that he should accompany such counsel with a sketch or draft of the letter which he wished the Earl to write, or that the Earl (being at the time full of many businesses) should adopt such a draft and turn it into a letter of his own. I do not mean that he would simply transcribe it. Full as he was of ideas, and able to
Burghley's Diary. Mardin, p. 807.