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In As you like it, the anxiety of Rosalind about Orlando, with whom she is in love, is expressed by a set of questions for which she does not wait for the answer :
“ What did he when thou sawest him? What said he ? How looked he? Wherein went he ? What makes he here ? Did he ask for me? Where remains he? How parted he with thee ? and when shalt thou see him again ?1
In Antony and Cleopatra, the Queen speaks in the same way about Antony:
In the Faerie Queene Britomart puts a similar string of questions to Talus about her lover, Arthegal :
And where is he thy Lord, and how far hence ?
And the same trick of speech is found in the Astrophel and Stella sonnets :
I would know whether she did sit or walk;
These three plays bring a period of the author's life to a close. The exuberance of youth and early manhood, which expressed itself in a continuous flow of mirthfulness and wit, receives a check, and a period of tragic compositions, accompanied, as time goes on, by an intense psychological analysis, supervenes. The break is so sudden and definite that it is reasonable to suppose there was some cause for it, unless indeed we belong to that school of critics who have persuaded themselves that Shakespeare's work had no relation to his experience and that he chose his themes at random without any personal interest in them. The reader will be aware by now, that that is not my view, and, if he has followed me so far, I hope he will be willing to accompany me in the historical inquiry which will form the subject of the next three chapters.
1 III. ii.
2 1. v.
3 V. vi. 9.
BACON AND ESSEX
The history of the true relations of Bacon with Essex, and of Bacon with Robert Cecil and Ralegh, has never really been written. This has been due to the fact that the value of the evidence from a mass of poetry has not been recognized, owing to failure, in my opinion, to perceive that this poetry, though it appeared under other names, was really the work of Francis Bacon. Also, though some of the prose which appeared as the work of Essex has now been generally recognised as Bacon's work, yet there is a whole set of letters, supposed hitherto to have been written by the Earl, which were—as I shall hope to show_largely composed by Bacon in his character and on his behalf. It is equally the case, in my opinion, that compositions, both in verse and prose, which have been unsuspectingly attributed to Ralegh, were written by Bacon either on his behalf or by "impersonation ” in his character.
As I said in my book on the Spenser poems, we may gather that Bacon began his life in England, after his return from the continent in 1579, by paying court to the Earl of Leicester at the same time that he was looking to his uncle, Lord Burghley, for state employment, and that he succeeded, by some injudicious conduct, in inspiring them both with distrust.1 Apart from this, however, Burghley did not favour“ speculative men " and took no interest in the arts. He was severely practical and looked forward to his son Robert, whom he was training in his own school, to succeed him. It is certain that at first Francis Bacon entertained the same hopes for himself, but later on he recognised that he could only hope to compete with his cousin through the
1 See my remarks on Spenser's Minor Poems, Edmund Spenser, etc., ch. vi.
opportunities which a legal appointment under the Crown would afford him. But Burghley, while professing friendliness to his nephew, would not stir a finger to help him. This is easily accounted for by the fact that he feared his ambitious and not very reliable nature, and was determined to do nothing which might prejudice the advancement of his son. Burghley was the Queen's man of business, and “the house of Cecil," just like any firm of family solicitors at the present day, was, if possible, to be continued in that position. In such a scheme it was natural that the head of the house should prefer the son to the nephew. This idea of proprietorship in the business of the State was characteristic of those times, when there was no “civil service," but the secretaries and clerks were dependents in the house of the principal. It accounts also for Bacon's remark in the Proeme to the fragment in Latin “Of the Interpretation of Nature," written, as Spedding supposes, about 1603 : "Believing that I was born for the service of mankind, and regarding the care of the commonwealth as a kind of common property which like the air and the water belongs to everybody. ." 1 a sentiment which has always appealed more to the “Outs" than to the “ Ins." For some years, however, Bacon continued to place his hopes on Burghley, till, at the age of thirty-one, we find him sending his uncle what looks like a last despairing appeal, in which he disclaims any rivalry with his cousin, and, finding it fruitless, turning definitely to Essex. From that time (1592) begins the contest between the Essexians and the Cecilians, which was really a fight for power between Francis Bacon and Robert Cecil, a fight which terminated with the execution of Essex in 1601 and the establishment of Cecil in the confidence of James, the future sovereign, with Bacon practically working in his service.
Bacon, who was a thoroughly bad judge of character, made the grand mistake in this contest of supposing that the Queen, on whom the issue entirely depended, could be won by compliment and flattery. The instrument through which he
1 Spedding's translation, Letters and Life, iii. 84.
worked was the Queen's love for Essex, but he failed to see that Elizabeth wanted the Earl as a play-fellow, not as a man of business, and that she was sufficiently clear-headed and possessed of sufficient self-control to keep work and play apart. It was on these lines that the earlier rivalry between Burghley and Leicester was based. It is true she made love to Ralegh and also employed him in her affairs, but only on one side, the adventurous and buccaneering, from which she hoped to derive profit. Ralegh however, was not only a man of splendid appearance but of immense ability, and not, in his more fortunate days at any rate, being a man of many scruples, he was eminently suited for the Queen's purposes in those directions. Her affection however for Essex was of a different order, and depended mainly on his great personal charm. What she thought of him as a man of affairs appears in her remark on his effort (which ultimately succeeded) to implicate the unfortunate Lopez, her Portuguese physician, in a charge of attempting to poison her, when she gave him great offence by calling him, in the presence of Burghley, a rash and temerarious youth.”1
Essex was introduced to Court at the age of seventeen, in 1584, by his step-father, the all-powerful Earl of Leicester, it is said as a means of counteracting the influence with the Queen of Ralegh. He joined Leicester in 1586 in the Low Countries, and, returning to England, became in 1587 the recognized Favourite. Leicester died soon after, in 1588, the year of the Armada. But Essex was a man of extremely valorous and romantic disposition and thirsted for distinction in arms. At first he had submitted to Court confinement : “When she is abroad, nobody near her but my Lord of Essex ; and at night my Lord is at cards at one game or another with her, and he cometh not to his own lodging till birds sing in the morning." (1587). But Essex would endure no rival in this affection, which I believe was quite genuine on both sides,
1 Lopez however was brought to trial and executed. See the account of the proceedings in Spedding, Letters and Life, i. 271 sq. Goodman, Court of King James, says, in effect, that the charge was false.
a Cited by Devereux, Lives of the Earls of Essex, i. 206.
though at that time the Queen was fifty-four, and Essex only twenty. He challenges Charles Blount (Mountjoy) to a duel for wearing a favour given him by the Queen, and, angered by the Queen on account of a slight put upon his sister Dorothy he tells her that it was “only done to please that knave Ralegh, for whose sake I saw she would both grieve me and my love, and disgrace me in the eye of the world "; and on the Queen defending Ralegh," then I did let her know whether I had cause to disdain his competition of love, or whether I could have comfort to give myself over to the service of a mistress that was in awe of such a man."1 Soon, however, Essex began to grow restive, and, making his escape from Court, joined the Lisbon Expedition under Norris and Drake in 1589. Whereupon the Queen wrote a violent despatch to the commanders ordering them to send him back on pain of her instant displeasure. Before leaving Lisbon, Essex is said to have thrust his pike into the gate of the town and challenged any Spaniard of equal quality to single combat in honour of their respective mistresses. The Queen at the same time wrote to Essex about his “ sudden and undutiful departure” from her presence and commanded him to return at his "uttermost peril.” He was soon reconciled and given the sweet wine monopoly, on which he largely depended to recoup himself for his large private expenditure on foreign expeditions. Even as early as 1589-90 he writes to his grandfather Sir F. Knollys, “My debts at the least two or three and twenty thousand pounds,” and he writes to Burghley in 1590 that he is “so far in debt, and so weary of owing" that he must sell one of his estates. In that year he again incurred the displeasure of the Queen by marrying Frances Walsingham, the widow of Sir Philip Sidney. She seems to have been as good as she was beautiful, and is, in my opinion, figured under “ Parthenia ” in the Arcadia. The Queen's
1 See letter to E. Dyer, probably 1587. Devereux, Lives, i. 186. * This, of course, will be open to great controversy, as it implies
Argalus” was Sidney, which carries the necessary inference that he did not write the Arcadia. I have discussed this in another book Countesse of Pembroke's · Arcadia.' Fuller, Worthies of England, speaks of her " extraordinary handsomeness.”