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courses held towards me; specially in your nomination and enablement of me long sithence to the Solicitor's place, as your Lordship best knows. Which your two honourable friendships I esteem in so great sort, as your countenance and favour in my practice, which are somewhat to my poverty, yet I count them not the greatest part of the obligation wherein I stand bound to you. And now, my good Lord, I pray you right humbly, that you will vouchsafe your honourable licence and patience, that I may express to you what in a doubtful liberty I have thought fit, partly by way of praying your help, and partly by way of offering my good will : partly again by way of pre-occupating your conceit, lest you may in some things mistake. My estate, to confess a truth to your Lordship, is weak and indebted, and needeth comfort; for both my father, though I think I had greatest part in his love of all his children, yet in his wisdom served me as a last comer; and myself, in mine own industry, have rather referred and aspired to virtue than to gain : whereof I am not yet wise enough to repent me. But the while, whereas Solomon speaketh that want cometh first like a wayfaring man, and after like an armed man, I must acknowledge to your Lordship myself to [be] in primo gradu ; for it stealeth upon me. But for the second, that it should not be able to be resisted, I hope in God I am not in that; for the preventing whereof, as I do depend upon God's providence all in all, so in the same his providence I see opened unto me three not unlikely expectations of help: the one, my practice; the other, some proceeding in the Queen's service; the third, [the] place I have in reversion; which, as it standeth now unto me, is but like another man's ground reaching upon my house, which may mend my prospect but it doth not fill my barn.
For my practice, it presupposeth my health ; which if I should judge of as a man that judgeth of a fair morrow by a fair evening, I might have reason to value well. But myself, having this error of mind that I am apter to conclude in everything of change from the present tense than of a continuance, do make no such appointment. Besides, I am not so far deceived in myself, but that I know very well (and I think your Lordship is
| Compare Rawley's Life, Works, vol. i. p. 7, where this expression is quoted with the variation only of one word ; whence I infer that Rawley had seen this letter, though he did not print it.
major corde, and in your wisdom you note it more deeply than I can in myself), that in practising the law I play not all my best game; which maketh me accept it with a nisi quod potius, as the best of my fortune, and a thing agreeable to better gifts than mine, but not to mine.
For my placing, your Lordship best knoweth, that when I was much dejected with her Majesty's strange dealing towards me, it pleased you of your singular favour so far to comfort and encourage me as to hold me worthy to be excited to think of succeeding your Lordship in your second place; signifying in your plainness that no man should better content yourself: which your exceeding favour you have not since varied from, both in pleading the like signification into the hands of some of my best friends, and also in an honourable and answerable nomination and commendation of me to her Majesty. Wherein I hope your Lordship, if it please you to call to mind, did find me neither overweening in presuming too much upon it, nor much deceived in my opinion of the event for the continuing it still in yourself, nor sleepy in doing some good offices to the same purpose.
Now upon this matter I am to make your Lordship three humble requests, which had need be very reasonable, coming so many together. First, that your Lordship will hold and make good your wishes towards me in your own time; for no other I mean it. And in thankfulness thereof I will present your Lordship with the fairest flower of my estate, though it yet bear no fruit; and that is the poor reversion, which of her Majesty's gift I hold; in the which I shall be no less willing Mr. John Egerton, if it seem good to you, should succeed me, than I would be willing to succeed your Lordship in the other place.
My next humble request is, that your Lordship would believe a protestation; which is, that if there be now against the next term or hereafter (for a little bought knowledge of the Court teacheth me to foresee these things) any heaving or putting at that place, upon mine honesty and troth my spirit is not in it nor with it; I for my part being absolutely resolved not to proceed one pace or degree in this matter but with your Lordship’s foreknowledge and approbation. The truth of which protestation will best appear, if by any accident, which I look not for, I shall
I succeed me in that in MS.
receive any further strength. For, as I now am, your Lordship may impute it only to policy alone in me, that being without present hope myself, I could be content the matter sleep.
My third humble petition to your Lordship is, that you would believe an intelligence, and not take it for a fiction in court; of which manner I like Cicero's speech well, who, writing to Appius Claudius, saith ; Sin autem quæ tibi ipsi in mentem veniant, ea aliis tribuere soles, inducis genus sermonis in amicitiam minime liberale. But I do assure your Lordship it is both true and fresh, and from a person of that sort, as having some glimpse of it before I now rest fully confirmed in it: and it is this, that there should be a plot laid of some strength between Mr. AttorneyGeneral and Mr. Attorney of the Wards, for the one's remove to the Rolls and the other to be drawn to his place. Which, to be plain with your Lordship, I do apprehend much. For first, I know Mr. Attorney-General, whatsoever he pretendeth or protesteth to your Lordship or any other, doth seek it; and I perceive well by his dealing towards his best friends to whom he oweth most, how perfectly he hath conned the adage of proximus egomet mihi : and then I see no man ripened for the place of the Rolls in competition with Mr. Attorney-General. And lastly, Mr. Attorney of the Wards being noted for a pregnant and stirring man, the objection of any hurt her Majesty's business may receive in her causes by the drawing up of Mr. Attorney-General will wax cold. And yet nevertheless, if it may please your Lordship to pardon me so to say, of the second of those placings I think much scorn; only I commend the knowledge hereof to your Honour's wisdom, as a matter not to be neglected. And now lastly, my right honourable good Lord, for
third poor help, I account [it] will do me small good, except there be a heave; and that is this place of the Star Chamber. I do confess ingenuously to your Lordship, out of my love to the public besides
my particular, that I am of opinion that rules without examples will do little good, at least not to continue; but that there is such a concordance between the time to come and the time past, as there will be no reforming the one without informing of the other. And I will not, as the proverb is, spit against the wind, but yield so far to a general opinion, as there was never a more particular example. But I submit it wholly to your honourable grave consideration; only I humbly pray you to
conceive that it is not any money that I have borrowed of Mr. Mills, nor any gratification I receive for my aid, that makes me show myself any ways in it; but simply a desire to preserve the rights of the office, as far as it is meet and incorrupt; and secondly his importunity; who nevertheless, as far as I see, taketh a course to bring this matter in question to his further disadvantage, and to be principal in his own harm. But if it be true that I have heard of more than one or two, that besides this forerunning in taking of fees, there are other deeper corruptions which in an ordinary course are intended to be proved against him ; surely, for my part, I am not so superstitious as I will take any shadow of it, nor labour to stop it, since it is a thing medicinable for the office of the realm. And then if the place by such an occasion or otherwise should come in possession, the better to testify my affection to your Lordship, I should be glad, as I offered it to your Lordship afore by way of 1 so in this case to offer it by way of joint patentcy, in nature of a reversion : which, as it is now, there wanteth no goodwill in me to offer, but that both in that condition it is not worth the offering, and besides I know not whether my necessity may enforce me to sell it away; which, if it were locked in by any reversion or jointpatentcy, I were disabled to do for my relief.
Thus your Lordship may perceive how assured a persuasion I have of your love towards me and care of me, which hath made me as freely to communicate of my poor state with your Lordship, as I could have done to my honourable father, if he had lived: which I most humbly pray your Lordship may be private to yourself, to whom I commit it to be used to such purpose as in your wisdom and honourable love and favour should seem good. And so humbly craving pardon, I commend your Lordship to the Divine preservation. At your Lordship’s honourable commandment,
humbly and particularly.
Hitherto, it seems the question had been merely what fees were and what were not legitimate; a question referred to the Lord Keeper, and one in which Bacon was interested only as holding the reversion
1 Blank left in MS.
of the place. But Mill was threatened with other charges of a graver character, " which in an ordinary course were intended to be proved against him ;” and the inquiry into those might entail the forfeiture of the office. This would in some degree alter Bacon's position; for the reversion would in that case be more valuable. It would also alter the position of the Lord Keeper, supposing the charges to come within his jurisdiction : for if the reversion were to be surrendered to his son, objection might be taken to his acting as judge in the cause upon the decision of which the forfeiture depended. This change in their relative positions did, I imagine, take place shortly after the last letter was written; and to this the next has reference. Bacon evidently anticipated the objection, though, as far as he was himself concerned, he had no wish to retract his former offer.
TO THE LORD KEEPER.
It may please your honourable good Lordship,
As I began by letter, so I have thought good to go on, signifying to your Lordship, with reference had to my former letter, that I am the same man and bear the same mind and am ready to perform and make good what I have written, desiring your Lordship not only to discern of this my intention, howsoever in other circumstances concerning the quick and not the impostume of the office I may seem to stand ; but also to think that I had considered and digested with myself how I mought put in execution my purpose of good will to be carried without all note, as first to a deputation in some apt person your Lordship mought choose, and so to a passing over to such depute, and then a name in the next degree is soon changed. All which I do now write, both lest your Lordship mought conceive any alteration or inconstancy in me, and also that you mought think that I had sufficient regard to all bye matters of discretion before I would expound anything to a person of such honour. I am assured the matter is bonum in se, and therefore accidents may be accommodate. So in most humble manner I take my leave, commending your Lordship to God's preservation. From Gray's Inn, this 12th of Nov., 1597. Humbly at your Lordship’s honourable commandments,
· Bridgwater House MSS. Vol. 11. No. 17** Original ; own hand.