« AnteriorContinuar »
to dissuade the Earl from going to Ireland, as he " did plainly see his overthrow chained as it were by destiny to that journey," whereas the letter which survives, written by Bacon to Essex at the time, actually encourages him and predicts his But with Bacon such inaccuracies of statement were habitual, and in advocacy he cared nothing for the facts, being entirely carried away by the case, as it had formed itself in his imagination to suit the occasion. Also he was very sanguine, and, at the time, I fully believe that he was sincere in the encouragement he gave to the Earl, especially as it was probably then too late for Essex to draw back with honour. It will be remembered that Shakespeare was equally sanguine :
As, by a lower but loving likelihood,1
Were now the general of our gracious empress,
As in good time he may, from Ireland coming
Bringing rebellion broached on his sword,
How many would the peaceful city quit
To welcome him.
Henry V., V. (chorus).
Essex was too big a fish for Bacon to let go for his chances of advancement through Cecil, as, if Essex had succeeded in Ireland, he would have returned to England far the most powerful man in the country. But his success was doubtful, and his own temperament so uncertain, that I conclude Bacon deemed it best for himself to make interest with both sides. This was his nature, and to call it "base" and "mean," while it may gratify our sense of moral indignation, does not carry us much further towards an explanation of the case. The people of Anglo-Saxon race are much given to these judgments, the reason, I suppose, being that they have such a strong sense of conscience; but they are not criticism, and they have the fault, in this case, of applying normal standards to an entirely abnormal personality.
Though I do not consider Bacon's encouragement of Essex before he left England as in any way part of a plot, yet
1 An expression put in to soften the comparison with" the conquering Caesar" in the line before, evidently so as not to provoke the jealousy of Elizabeth.
evidence undoubtedly exists that Bacon had, by that time, begun to draw away from Essex and to court Cecil. There is this to be said in extenuation of this double dealing-apart from Bacon's natural disposition for such courses-that he was at this period at the lowest ebb of his fortunes, in plain English, "hard up." Under such circumstances few men are to be trusted. He had failed, after a suspense of three years, in getting a post through Essex, and had announced his intention of putting his hopes on his pen, but on the appointment of Egerton as Lord Keeper in 1596, his hopes of official employment revived. He regards Egerton as a second " father" to him, and is evidently on very good terms; but he makes him a dishonourable offerI should say without fully realising its enormity-wrapped up in a cloud of words, and there, apparently, is an end to the business. Anyhow he gets nothing, and, in the meantime, his financial embarrassments increase. In spite of this he will not practise at the Bar— "In practising the law I play not my best game "—his hopes being still set on State employment. He tells the Queen
he is ready to serve her in her causes in a private capacity. For a time he is very busy in Parliament where a mass of legislative reforms are in progress, and his services are in constant request on Committees. Here he was at his best, but nothing less than employment about the Queen will satisfy his restless ambition. Again he tries Essex and advises him to take up Irish matters, having himself, as I believe, previously written the View. And this was in the absence of Robert Cecil in France, and in the face of a compact between Cecil and Essex that nothing fresh should be stirred in the former's absence. Quite aware of this objection Bacon disposes of it by a sophistry; and he gives Essex to understand that he offers political advice to no one but him, except it be the Queen when she asks for it. At the very same time we find him writing to Ceci! abroad assuring him of his personal devotion to him! There are two of these letters and they indicate that there were more. Then, in September, 1598, he is arrested for debt and he appeals to Cecil to use his power
1 The affair of Mills and the Starchamber.
against his creditor on the ground that the arrest occurred when he was coming from the Tower on state business. In March 1599 he appeals to the Queen to make him a small grant of land" for the help of my estate" and speaks of the "overthrow of my fortune "1 and in January 1600 we find him making a great effort to meet his creditors. These then were Bacon's circumstances during the period of the Irish campaign, and first Cecil and the Queen (as I have shown), then Essex (as we shall see), then perhaps both sides together, exercise his abilities and his pen, which is placed at their disposal with equal mastery and equal indifference. It is a strange phenomenon.
1 Spedding, Letters and Life, ii. 165.
BACON AND ESSEX, continued
Before the Queen's despatch of 14th September, 1599, reached him, Essex had made up his mind to attack Tyrone, although the rebel Earl was now in considerably greater force. The army of Essex, which was originally of a nominal strength of 16,000, had been reduced to about 4,000 by casualties, sickness and desertions, and by the necessity of garrisoning the occupied places in Munster and elsewhere. Essex was stimulated to this action by the reproaches of the Queen and the defeat and slaughter, about the middle of August, of part of his force, under Sir Conyers Clifford which had been seized with panic. As an example, he decimated a company, and it speaks wonders for his position at home that his popularity survived a proceeding so repugnant to English feeling. Chamberlain writes, "His decimating Sir H. Harrington's company much descanted on and not greatly liked." A general council of war which he had summoned advised against the attack, but he was now determined on it. Evidently anticipating the worst, he wrote to the Queen before starting (30th August) the letter beginning:
"From a mind delighting in sorrow; from spirits wasted with travail, care and grief; from a heart torn in pieces with passion; from a man that hates himself and all things that keep him alive, what service can your Maj. reap ?
and he concludes by announcing his probable death. And yet this is the man who was supposed to be hatching a treasonable conspiracy with Tyrone. Having come up with Tyrone on 3rd September he repeatedly offered him battle, but it was declined. Tyrone asked for a parley on condition that
1 Devereux, Lives, ii. 68.
it should be with the General alone, and Essex imprudently acceded and made terms for a truce, Tyrone stipulating that they should not be in writing lest they should be communicated to Spain. Great controversy arose afterwards as to the nature of these terms, and Dr. Abbott has shown,1 I think conclusively, that the terms which saw the light after the execution of Essex as "Tyrone's Propositions were either a forgery, designed, like the official "Declaration," to justify the Government by blackening his character, or that they represented the "vaunting " of Tyrone at a subsequent date. So free apparently from serious objection were the terms provisionally agreed to by Essex, that they not only were not greatly misliked at the time by Cecil and the Queen, but the Court at York House, by which the charges against Essex were investigated on 5th June 1600, acquitted him of disloyalty, and Cecil himself, after hearing his defence, withdrew the charge against him of agreeing to a general toleration in religion. Furthermore, Essex had satisfied the Lords of the Council on these points at the private enquiry held in October 1599, just after his return from Ireland, to such an extent that they "were all desirous her Majesty should enlarge him, commending his reasons for his proceedings in Ireland." Notwithstanding this he was committed to a close custody which lasted from September 1599 to July 1600, eleven months, and only enlarged from all supervision at the end of August 1600, but still with the condition that he must "in no sort take himself to be freed from her Majesty's indignation," which made "very few to resort to him but those of his own blood." During the whole of the first period he was treated by the Queen with the utmost rigour, his wife even only being allowed to see him by permission and during certain hours. In comparison with the main charge of treason, of which he was exonerated, the other charges were so trivialthough, on the point of discipline, no doubt serious-that they are quite insufficient to account for this treatment, nor can it even be accounted for by the fact that Tyrone soon professed
1 Bacon and Essex, ch. xi.
2 Carew Papers, Aug. 29, cited by Dr. Abbott.