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Xendless endless band of Bacon-Shakespeare controversy. For, although a few detached instances of similarity or coincidence may be held of no value as evidence, yet an almost innumerable multitude of small instances, accumulative evidence, although of the most minute particles, does in the end amount to proof. Proof from internal evidence can rarely be obtained by other means than by the heaping up of small pieces of evidence. These presently suggest an idea or theory ; further additions convert the theory into a doctrine supported by a strong probability ; the probability grows into certainty, and the mind becomes assured that such repeated similarities, such varied points of contact, such startling coincidences of thought and expression, cannot possibly be due to chance, or indeed to anything less than to identity of authorship. Was it ever known in the history of the world that any two men conceived the same “ original" ideas, thought the same things on the same subjects (old or new), and expressed their opinions, tastes, and antipathies, their theories, doctrines, and experience in similar language?
And here a few words should be said upon a point which seems to be persistently ignored-uamely, the exceedingly low-level of knowledge in the time of Bacon. It has been the fashion of writers and teachers to lead their readers and pupils to regard the Elizabethan era as a period of advanced learning, and of brilliant illumination. Good—and who made it so ? Francis Bacon speaks of it as an age of ignorance, all the worse because it thought itself wise. The fabric of learning, if it were to be made useful to man, and truly “advanced," must, he said, be completely razed to the foundations, and rebuilt. That was what he himself proposed to attempt. How much did he accomplish ? That is the question. In his youth there were no dictionaries or books of reference—“ collections," he calls them. There were no elementary boks of instruction in geography, history, arithmetic, grammar. Who wrote the first books of this kind ?
Bacon sums up the deficiencies which he found in knowledge; they were at least sixty, including vocabulary, or the actual words in which thoughts and knowledge were to be expressed. As to poetry, the drama, the arts in general, they are hardly to our purpose here, but Bacon's opinion was that they were utterly defunct, the Muses barren, and all knowledge hidden under the dust of ages, or in the hands of a limited circle of pedants and schoolmen who studied words rather than matter, and whose knowledge had to be drawn from the fountains of antiquity, " deep pits," whence nothing could be drawn up excepting by such as had at their command the dead languages in which all learning was then shroudeil.
It will be a part of our future duty to show Francis Bacon, as a young man, busy in rendering into his mother tongue, and giving to his countrymen the wisdom of the ancients which was to form the solid foundation for his new Solomon's house. For the present, it is more to our purpose to say that one " deficient," which he noted with a view to supplying it, was the study of man, his nature, character, and faculties. This study, whose importance he ranks very high, is perceptibly illustrated in nearly every portion of his writings, and the doctrines which are there laid down are enforced in nearly every particular by the actions, speeches, and reflections or lucubrations
of the characters who figure in the Shakespeare Plays. Those who have in these later days had the privilege of seeing Hamlet, Julius Cæsar, Macbeth, and many minor pieces put on the stage, may be truly said to have seen Francis Bacon's thoughts and feelings made incarnate.
From the following pages it must be seen that the opinions expressed in the books of philosophy and science coincid, with, even if they are not absolutely reflected by, passages in the Plays. Such opinions are never incompatible with each other. They are never in opposition, unless (often in the same work) antithetical opinions or sentiments be expressed. Sometimes a quotation, even from the Bible itself, may be thus turned or “made contrary,” and put into the mouth of a wicked or wrong-thinking person. This tendency to consider both sides of every question is equally common to both groups of works.
Presented side by side, the extracts are seen to be views of the same subject, taken-like the two pictures in a stereoscopic slide—from slightly different points of view, or, as it were, seen separately by the two eyes of the same spectator. We perceive that, in many cases, not only the opinions or sentiments are similar, but that even the turns of speech, the words, metaphors, &c., by which these opinions are expressed are singularly alike in the prose and in the poetry. The examples here given may not form one tithe of those collected, but it is hoped, if these booklets find favour with the public, so to continue and to add to their scope, as, in the end, to furnish a perfect dictionary of Baconian ethics.
It is no easy matter to illustrate briefly, and at the same time adequately, the ingrained similarities of
thought and feeling betrayed by a collation of the “two authors.” But it is probably not overstating the case to say, that there is no opinion or “aphorism ” in “ Shakespeare' but finds a parallel in Bacon, and it wonld not be difficult to fill a large volume with such collations.
Will anyone say that these coincidences in thought prove nothing? that any two men might think the same on points of morals or manners, however widely apart their points of view might be set by education and circumstances ? Will it be maintained that natural quickness of observation suffices as “ a key to unlock the minds of others," and that, to a genius like Shakespeare, perception of character was doubtless intuitive ?
Such arguments begin by begging the whole question as to the authorship. Baconians do not believe in William Shaksper as “a genius," and they know that, both in the scientific works, and in the Plays, our author is far from admitting that a knowledge of character is easy or intuitive. On the contrary, the following extracts show, that to obtain a true knowledge of character, either in ourselves or in others, is a thing by no means easy or intuitive, but “as full of study as a wise man's art.” Moreover, Bacon, when recommending this as a proper study for mankind, specifies that it is a new and unwonted study.
When Dr. Johnson penned his ealogy of the accurate delineations of Human Nature in “ Shakespeare,'' he was judging the poet by the internal evidence afforded by his works, and it can be no presumption in humbler readers to follow his example in this respect. But since many of the younger generation are unaware of Dr. Johnson's
reflections, it may be well to abridge a long dissertation which occurs in his Introduction to the Plays.
“ The power of Nature is only the power of using to any certain purpose the materials which diligence procnres, or opportunity supplies.
Nature gives no man knowledge. Shakespeare, however favoured by Nature, could impart what he had learned. There is a vigilance of observation and accuracy of distinction which books and precepts cannot confer ; from this almost all original and native excellence proceeds. Shakespeare must have looked on mankind with perspicacity in the highest degree, curious and attentive.
With so many difficulties to encounter, he has been able to obtain an exact knowledge of many modes of life and many casts of native dispositions—to vary them with great multiplicity, to mark them with nice distinctions, and to show them in full view by proper combinations. He had none to imitate, but has himself been imitated by succeeding writers, and it may be doubted whether, from all his successors, more maxims of theoretical knowledge or more rales of practical prudence can be collected than he alone has given to his country.
Shakespeare, whether Life or Nature be his subject, shows plainly that he had seen with his own eyes ; he gives the image which he receives, not weakened or distorted by the intervention of any other mind. The ignorant feel his representations to be just, the learned see they are correct."
This passage, if applied to Bacon, is absolutely true and satisfactory. Applied to the player, William Shaksper, it is not only unsatisfactory, but in several