Imagens das páginas

is to find English names to set against Greek and Roman ones. The form is as follows-" As so-and-so among the Greeks and so-and-so among the Latines: so so-and-so among the English" (in the several kinds of poetry). Piers Plowman does duty in one paragraph as against Homer, and all the English writers are indiscriminately eulogised. It will thus be seen that the section is not criticism, and a perusal of the rest of the book (and of another small tract by Meres which survives1) shows him to have been a man of uncritical mind whose information was not likely to be exact. The evidence of Meres, therefore, such as it is, cannot be held to countervail the higher test of the internal evidence, and this is the view taken by several eminent critics. Moreover, as early as 1678, an editor of this play (Ravenscroft) wrote of it "I have been told by some anciently conversant with the stage that it was not originally his (Shakespeare's) but brought by a private author to be acted and he only gave some master touches to one or two of the principal parts or characters." I very much doubt whether he even did this.

A surprise lies in store for the reader of Pericles, a poor, tedious play up to the fourth act, where, at the second scene, it suddenly reveals the hand of Shakespeare. In an astonishingly bold situation, innocence and virtue are shown beset by infamy and triumphing by their irresistible influence. The writing is altogether in the manner of Shakespeare, and so, of course, is that of the charming recognition scene between Marina and Pericles which follows. The manner suggests that the period is probably that of Cymbeline. I consider that Shakespeare supplied the whole matter, including the explanatory lines put into the mouth of Gower, for this closing Act, from Scene ii. inclusive to the end.

The Two Noble Kinsmen.

This play, which is not included in the first Folio, was

1 God's Arithmeticke, 1597, a treatise on marriage, which shows the writer to have been a good and good-hearted man, with considerable facility of expression.

first published in 1634 as by Fletcher and Shakespeare. Criticism is disposed to assign to Shakespeare the first and the last Acts, except the trashy second scene of the latter, and, more doubtfully, a small amount of matter in other parts. I am myself in agreement with this view, but the poor work of the second hand, stated to be Fletcher's, seems to me to make it impossible that there can have been any "collaboration" between the two writers. Rather I think that a MS. of Shakespeare, being a discarded fragment (the subject being unpromising) of a play on the subject of Palamon and Arcite taken from Chaucer, had fallen into the hands of Fletcher and that he expanded it into the published production. The manner of Act I. is that of the most condensed and obscure style of Shakespeare; of the last Act more current and free, but rather in the style of epic than drama.

The Sonnets.

There are many things about the Sonnets which seem quite irreconcilable with their authorship by an actor of humble origin. Among them may be mentioned the complaint in xxix. of being "in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes," when Shakespeare is supposed to have been so successful that he was able to retire on his means to Stratford after ten years' work in London. Similarly, in xxv., the writer complains of being barred of public honours; in cxi. that his name had received “a brand " because he had to get a living by "public means"; in cxxv. he mentions that he had on one occasion borne the canopy "-which must mean the Queen's, in a procession-and thought nothing of it; and in lxxiv. he alludes to a threat of assassination, which I have dealt with above, p. 78. It would take too much space however in this book-already over-long-to deal with the Sonnets and I must leave them with this brief note.


Of the two poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece a great deal, no doubt, might be written, but it would lie beyond the scope of this book. They are amazing productions, each, in its kind, unique. But who, in these days, is

going to believe the supposed author's statement that the "Venus" is" the first heir of my invention," being, I suppose, one of the most polished works of art in the world? Who but an absolute master could have handled such a subject without offence? And similarly of the other. In spite, however, of their extraordinary beauty and depth and range of thought (especially, as regards this, the second), they are not wholly pleasing in tone. In this I do not refer to any suggestion of indecency, but to the outlook of the author on life. The second especially seems to produce a depressing effect on the mind. The tone is formidable, perhaps even almost terrible. And in both, while there is a matchless sense of beauty and power of expressing it, there seems to me an almost cynical distrust of life and a total negation, by implication, of a spiritual element underlying it.

I am not a student of "cyphers," but there is supposed by some to be a cryptic reference of this kind in the " Lucrece", which may be new to some people, and, though, of course, there may be nothing in it, it is rather amusing. It has been suggested that Francis Bacon has put his name on the poem, in the first stanza in the letters F.R. and A. in the" FROM the beseiged Ardea," and in the last stanza in the "ba" and "con " at the beginning of the words in the last two lines and last line but one " banishment " and "consent." On this point I can express no opinion-indeed it is one on which one man's opinion is as good as another's, that is to say, worth nothing at all-but it is certainly noticeable that the last lines of an otherwise consummate work of art descends almost to doggrel. It is recorded also by two contemporaries as a feature of Bacon's character that he could never abstain from a joke.1

Tributes, especially posthumous ones, are to be found among the writers of the age to Bacon as a poet, but as these have been frequently quoted I need not refer to them. I will only mention the evidence in Bacon's own correspond

1 Chamberlain and Ben Jonson.

Generally by writers on the " Baconian" side. Writers on the other side appear to be very shy of them.

ence. Thus, on the King's coming to England, he wrote a letter to Davis (presumably John Davis, the poet), who had gone with others to meet the King, praying for his good offices, and concluding with the words "So desiring you to be good to concealed poets, I continue your very assured "—obviously meaning himself. The explanation of this appears in a sentence in the Palladis Tamia of Meres, to which I have already alluded: " and as James the 6, nowe King of Scotland, is not only a favorer of Poets, but a Poet." Bacon's literary friend and adviser, Toby Matthew, refers to his "choice and ravishing way of words, of metaphors, of allusions," and in an undated letter to Bacon written from France sometime after 1621 he says: "I have received your great and noble token and favour of the 9th of April, and can but return the humblest of my thanks," with a postscript added: "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." There is also a letter from Bacon to a friend, probably Toby Matthew, asking for his assistance in drawing up a Parliamentary Report, in which he says: "and my head being then wholly employed about invention I may the worse put things upon the account of mine own memory." In Elizabethan English "invention " meant poetry, especially poetry of action and character.


The great connecting link between Bacon and Shakespeare's plays is to be found, in my opinion, in the anonymous Latin play Pedantius, which was performed in the hall of Trinity College, Cambridge, probably about 1583. In some correspondence in the Literary Supplement of the Times,* I drew attention to a concealed design to be seen in the ornamental border of the title page, which, in my opinion, points to the authorship of Bacon. But I attach much more importance to the internal evidence pointing to the same conclusion, which I hope to find an opportunity of dealing with on some

1 Spedding, Letters and Life, iii. 65.

2 Ibid. iii. 285.

• Ibid. iii. 217.

• 27 March, 17 April, 1 May, 1919.

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future occasion. So far as I have observed, most of our experts in Elizabethan literature are orthodox Shakespearians." When editing or noticing obscure works of this character they often display great erudition in citing parallels from other books, however worthless they may be in themselves. For some curious reason, however,-perhaps because they fear the contamination of "Baconianism "-they seem always to avoid the works of Bacon. In the case of Pedantius all the most striking parallels are to be found in his works.1

A word may be said about between Bacon and Shakespeare.

few points in common

They express the same views about kingship and the claims of the prerogative, and their leanings are equally on the aristocratic side and opposed to the political claims of the people. In religion they take the same middle course, favouring neither extreme. There is the same lack of appreciation of the spiritual aspirations of mankind, and the same tendency to attribute men's actions to policy. The hatred which Tolstoi showed for Shakespeare was probably due to his lack of the spiritual sense. This is his one limitation and it goes to the root of his work; but it was probably the condition of his phenomenal grasp of the facts and appearances of human life, and of his power to reproduce them in terms of art. There is the same "inaccuracy" in both writers and the same indifference to historical detail. There was also the same indifference to contemporary literary fame. Thus, writing to Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester, in 1623, Bacon says:

"As for my Essays, and some other particulars of that nature, I count them but as the recreations of my other studies, and in some sort purpose to continue them; though I am not ignorant that those kind of writings would, with less pains and embracement (perhaps), yield more lustre and reputation to my name than those other which I have in hand. But I account the use that a man should seek of the

1 Since this was written I have taken the opportunity to notice this play in my book on Harvey and Nashe.

Mr. S. H. Reynolds, in his edition of Bacon's Essays, comments on this: "For accuracy of detail Bacon had no care whatever."

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