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that draft it is distinguished from his other papers by the expression of a particular wish that it should be published, it is not improbable that he had proceeded to take special measures to secure that object, by putting it into the hands of that “singular person” to whom Dr. Rawley alludes. This would account for the omission of the clause relating to it in his last will of all, and also for the separation of the manuscript from his other papers, and afterwards (upon the death of the person entrusted with it) for its being locked up or mislaid. Considering moreover that it related to state affairs with which Bacon's official position had made him acquainted, he may have thought that it ought not to be published without the sanction of a Privy Councillor, — for we know that he had this scruple with regard to the publication of his own let-ters; 1 — and among all the Privy Councillors then living the man whom he would most naturally select for such a trust was his old and much revered friend Bishop Andrews, who survived him only by a few months. This is only a guess ; but if true, it explains why Bacon did not propose to include this piece among his Opera Horalia et Civilia (though that indeed might be sufficiently accounted for by the probability that it would have caused the volume to be prohibited in Italy), and how the publication of it came to be so long delayed.
But however this may be, the fact with which we are principally concerned is the value which Bacon himself set upon it: and of this the draft of the will affords conclusive evidence. The work is important, because it relates to a series of proceedings which Bacon had watched almost from the beginning with anxious interest and from a position very favourable for observation; and because it was written at a time when he could have had no other motive in writing it than a wish to bear witness to what he believed to be the truth. For though I do not myself believe that which has been commonly asserted, upon the evidence, I think, chiefly of strangers or slanderers, — that the depreciation of Elizabeth was popular at court, — there was certainly nothing to be gained by flattering her. And if Bacon was not a disinterested witness, as he confesses he was not, it was only because the impression which her character and conduct had made upon him was so favourable that he had grown partial; and this very partiality must be accepted as a historical fact,- not the least significant among the many testimonies which history bears in her favour.
1 “ Also whereas I have made up two register-books, the one of my orations or speeches, the other of my epistles or letters, whereof there may be use, and yet because they touch upon business of state they are not fit to be put into the hands but of some counsellor, I do devise and bequeathe them," &c. -- Last Will.
It cannot have been for its literary merit that Bacon especially valued this writing; for the style is more than usually hasty and careless, and there is some truth in Mr. Chamberlain's criticism that it falls off a little towards the end ; a defect which a very little trouble would have removed.
The passage in which he alludes to the death of Anne Boleyn is interesting; and the more so because his argument did not oblige him to make any allusion to it, and he appears to me to have gone purposely out of his way to bring it in. Had his argument required him to show that the felicity of Elizabeth began with her parents, the case would have been desperate. Her mother having been put to death by her father upon a charge of incest and adultery, there must have been either the most awful guilt in one of them or the most awful calamity to both. And therefore when I find Bacon, in an argument designed to prove the constant felicity of Elizabeth's fortune, deliberately and unnecessarily introducing such a topic, - I say unnecessarily, because it is brought in only with reference to the question as to the “dignity of her birth,” that is whether she was really a king's daughter, — I conclude that he was only making an occasion to place on record Anne's last message (which he afterwarıls inserted in his collection of Apophthegms) and his own opinion of her innocence.
What weight is due to that opinion, one cannot well say without knowing how much he knew of the circumstances. There was naturally a strong inclination on the part of the Protestants in Elizabeth's time to believe Anne Boleyn innocent. This inclination would naturally be exasperated into passion by the slanders and invectives of the Catholics. Of the evidence produced at the trial there was no accessible record, and the position of Elizabeth herself between her father's memory and her mother's forbade the question to be openly or freely discussed. It is probable therefore that his impression was formed upon rumours and charitable surmises of no very authentic or trustworthy character; and that of the nature of the direct evidence he did not know more than we do now. however with regard to the weight of the verdict. Of the value to be attached to the judgment of the Peers in a trial for treason and to an attainder by Parliament, Bacon must have been a much better judge than
any one can be now, standing as he did so much nearer the time, and so well versed as he was in the details of similar proceedings half a century later. We cannot suppose him to have been ignorant of the composition of the tribunal which found Anne Boleyn guilty, and yet
it is clear that he did not on that account find it impossible to believe her innocent. Most true it is no doubt, as Mr. Froude has well pointed out, that the assumption of Anne Boleyn's innocence involves an assumption that not Henry only, but also Peers and Parliament, were deeply guilty. But it is a grave fact that Bacon, writing within little more than seventy years of the time, and being himself a middle aged man with much experience of courts and Parliaments, did not regard it as an assumption which must be dismissed as incredible.
In so far as the balance of probabilities depends upon our estimate of Henry's personal character, his judgment is of less importance. Of that (although he may no doubt in his boyhood have heard something from his father, who had had opportunities of personal observation) he probably took his impression from the popular historians, who had little to guide them beyond the naked outline of Henry's public proceedings, and were not in a position to see below the surface. When the particular difficulties with which he had to deal were forgotten, and the rapid succession of violent changes had altered the relative position of all parties and the complexion of all interests, the chronicle of his reign exhibited a series of violent proceedings, — leagues of amity and marriage alliances with neighbour kings followed by quarrels and wars, divorces of wives followed suddenly by fresh marriages,
great ministers suddenly disgraced and executed, penalties of heresy enforced now against Catholics now against Protestants, — of which the popular interpretation was simple and obvious. To a superficial observer they could but appear as the actions of a man violent in love and anger, and imperious in will ; and such no doubt was the general impression of Henry's character in the beginning of the seventeenth century. Odious to his contemporaries he certainly was not ; nor was his memory odious in the eyes of the two next generations : our modern notion of him being, I think, of much later date, when his actions were seen refracted through an atmosphere of opinion entirely changed. But though of the Protestant historians who wrote before the Commonwealth those who censure his actions most freely speak with affection as well as respect of the man, I suppose none of them would have disputed Bacon's assertion that he was a man by nature extremely prone both to love and jealousy, and that his attachment to Jane Seymour preceded his anger against Anne Boleyn. Taking the simple sequence of events, this is the natural explanation of them. It is quite possible however that it is not the true one. In these times, when the proceedings of the government are called in question, the first thing is to ask for the “papers” relating to them: till these are produced it is felt that the case cannot be judged. Now the papers relating to the transactions of Henry the Eighth were not produced till long after the popular judgment had been formed; the most important part of them only within the last few years; and it seems that they suggest a new reading of his character in many points; showing among