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own store and partly from the ancients. Considering himself to blame, however, for not having preserved it, he held himself obliged, in some sort, and as he was able, to supply the defect; and accordingly made a collection on the same plan, and printed it in the Baconiana with the following title— Ornamenta Rationalia, a supply (by the publisher) of certain weighty and elegant sentences, some made, others collected, by the Lord Bacon, and by him put under the above said title, and at present not to be found.”
· Whatever,' resumes Mr. Spedding, may be the value of these collections, they have clearly no right to appear amongst the works of Bacon. ... But there is a MS. in the British Museum, written in Bacon's own hand, and entitled Promus of Formularies and Elegancies, which (though made in his early life for his own use, and not intended for preservation in that shape) contains many things which might have formed part of such a collection as Tenison describes ; and the place of the lost Ornamenta Rationalia will perhaps be most properly supplied by an account of it. A date at the top of the first page shows that it was begun on December 5, 1594, the commencement of the Christmas vacation. It consists of single sentences, set down one after the other without marks between, or any notes of reference and explanation. This collection (which fills more than forty quarto pages) is of the most miscellaneous character, and seems by various marks in the MS. to have been afterwards digested into other collections which are lost. The first few pages are filled chiefly, though not exclusively, with forms of expression applicable to such matters as a man might have occasion to touch in conversation ; neatly turned sentences describing personal characters or qualities; forms of compliment, application, excuse, repartee, &c. These are apparently of his own invention, and may have been suggested by his own experience and occasions. But interspersed among them are apophthegms,
proverbs, verses out of the Bible, and lines out of the Latin poets, all set down without any order or apparent connection of the subject, as if he had been trying to remember as many notable phrases as he could, out of his various reading and observation, and setting them down just as they happened to present themselves.
• As we advance, the collection becomes less miscellaneous, as if his memory had been ranging within a smaller circumference. In one place, for instance, we find a cluster of quotations from the Bible, following one another with a regularity which may be best explained by supposing that he had just been reading the Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and then the Gospels and Epistles (or perhaps some commentary on them), regularly through. The quotations are in Latin, and most of them agree exactly with the Vulgate, but not all. . . . Passing this Scripture series we again come into a collection of a very miscellaneous character: proverbs, French, Spanish, Italian, English; sentences out of Erasmus's Adagia ; verses from the Epistles, Gospels, Psalms, Proverbs of Solomon; lines from Seneca, Horace, Virgil, Ovid, succeed each other according to some law which, in the absence of all notes or other indications to mark the connection between the several entries, the particular application of each, or the change from one subject to another, there is no hope of discovering, though in some places several occur together, which may be perceived by those who remember the struggling fortune and uncertain prospects of the writer in those years, together with the great design he was meditating, to be connected by a common sentiment.'
Mr. Spedding says further: 'I have been thus particular in describing it (the Promus) because it is chiefly interesting as an illustration of Bacon's manner of working. There is not much in it of his own. The collection is from books which were then in every scholar's hands, and the selected passages, standing, as they do, without any comment to show what he found in them, or how he
meant to apply them, have no peculiar value. That they were set down, not as he read, but from memory afterwards, I infer from the fact that many of the quotations are slightly inaccurate; and because so many out of the same volume come together, and in order, I conclude that he was in the habit of sitting down, from time to time, reviewing in memory
the book he had last read, and jotting down those passages which, for some reason or other, he wished to fix in his mind. This would in all cases be a good exercise for the memory, and in some cases . . . it may have been practised for that alone. But there is something in his selection of sentences and verses out of the poets which seems to require another explanation, for it is difficult sometimes to understand why those particular lines should have been taken, and so many others, apparently of equal merit, passed by. My conjecture is, that most of these selected expressions were connected in his mind by some association, more or less fanciful, with certain trains of thought, and stood as mottoes (so to speak) to little chapters of meditation.'
Some specimens are then given of the forms of expression and quotations which Bacon noted : “the particular application of each, or the change from one subject to another, there is no hope of discovering ; ' but Mr. Spedding conjectures that they were connected with certain trains of thought,' to which there is at present
'In wise sentences, and axioms of all kinds, the collection, as might be expected, is rich; but very many of them are now hackneyed, and many others are to be seen to greater advantage in other parts of Bacon's works, where they are accompanied by his comments, or shown in his application. "The
proverbs may all, or nearly all, be found in our common collections, and the best are of course in everybody's mouth.'1
He therefore only thinks it worth while
See the conclusion of this chapter for evidence that the similies,
BACON AND SHAKESPEARE,
to give, as examples, a few which he considers to be amongst the least familiar to modern ears. Of the sheet which is filled with forms of morning and evening salutation, and of the sentences from the Bible and from the Adagia of Erasmus, he gives no specimens ; ‘for," he says, “I can throw no light on the principle which guided Bacon in selecting them.'
This is not the proper place for discussing the many arguments which have been held for and against the socalled 'Baconian theory' of Shakespeare's plays. Nevertheless, since the publication of these pages is the result of an investigation, the sole object of which was to confirm the growing belief in Bacon's authorship of those plays, and since the comments attached to the notes of the Promus would otherwise have no significance, it seems right to sum up in a few lines the convictions forced upon the mind with ever-increasing strength, as, quitting the broad field of generality, the inquirer pursues the narrow paths of detail and minute coincidence.
It must be held, then, that no sufficient explanation of the resemblances which have been noted between the writings of Bacon and Shakespeare is afforded by the supposition that these authors may have studied the same sciences, learned the same languages, read the same books, frequented the same sort of society. To satisfy the requirements of such a hypothesis it will be necessary further to admit that from their scientific studies the two men derived identically the same theories; from their knowledge of languages the same proverbs, turns of
, expression, and peculiar use of words; that they preferred and chiefly quoted the same books in the Bible and the same authors; and last, not least, that they derived from their education and surroundings the same tastes and the same antipathies, and from their learning, in whatever way it was acquired, the same opinions and the same subtle thoughts.
proverbs, quotations, turns of expression, &c., which are entered in the Promus and used in the plays, were not used in previous or contemporary literature, excepting in certain rare cases, and chiefly by authors who were amongst Bacon's personal acquaintance and admirers.
See Appendix G for lists of works read in order to ascertain the truth on this point.
With regard to the natural, and at first sight reasonable, supposition that Bacon and Shakespeare may have borrowed' from each other, it would follow that in such a case we should have to persuade ourselves, contrary to all evidence, that they held close intercourse, or that they made a specific and critical study of each other's writings, borrowing equally the same kinds of things from each other; so that not only opinions and ideas, but similes, turns of expression, and words which the one introduced (and which perhaps he only used once or twice and then dropped), appeared shortly afterwards in the writings of the other, causing their style to alter definitely, and in the same respects, at the same periods of their literary lives. We should almost have to bring ourselves to believe that Bacon took notes for the use of Shakespeare, since in the Promus may be found several hundred notes of which no trace has been discovered in the acknowledged writings of Bacon, or of any other contemporary writer but Shakespeare, but which are more or less clearly reproduced in the plays and sometimes in the sonnets.
Such things, it must be owned, pass all ordinary powers of belief, and the comparison of points such as those which have been hinted at impress the mind with a firm conviction that Francis Bacon, and he alone, wrote all the plays and the sonnets which are attributed to Shakespeare, and that William Shakespeare was merely the able and jovial manager who, being supported by some of Bacon's rich and gay friends (such as Lord Southampton and Lord Pembroke), furnished the theatre for the due representation of the plays, which were thus produced by Will Shakespeare, and thenceforward called by his name.
See The Authorship of Shakespeare, Holmes, p. 50, where the author