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FRANCIS BACON, whose name stands next after Shakespeare's in the brilliant period of Elizabeth and the first James, was the younger of two sons born in second marriage to Sir Nicholas Bacon, a famous lawyer and statesman, who was keeper of the Great Seal from the accession of Queen Elizabeth till his own death in 1579. The date of his birth was the 22d January, 1561, and he was therefore some three years Shakespeare's senior. Educated during his boyhood under the immediate direction of his mother, a member of a family prominent in the Protestant cause, and herself a

woman of stern and uncompromising piety, young Bacon early saw something of life in the world's high places, and even by his wit and sagacity attracted the special attention of the Queen, who was wont jestingly to salute him as her “young Lord Keeper.” At the age of twelve, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he remained till 1575. It was during this period, we are told by his first biographer, that boy as he still was, he already became dissatisfied with the current Aristotelian philosophy, as “ strong for disputations and contentions,” but “ barren of the productions of works for the benefit of the life of man.” Sir Nicholas destined the


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wonderful youth for statesmanship, and, as a fitting
preparation, sent him to Paris with Sir Amyas Paulet,
ambassador to France. Recalled in 1579, on his
father's death, which was a serious blow to his for-
tunes, and left him with only a younger son's “
portion,” he turned to the study of law, and was called
to the bar in 1582. His appointment as Bencher of
Gray's Inn, in 1586, and as Queen's Counsel in 1589,
mark stages in a steady professional progress.

Meanwhile, absorbing as his legal pursuits must
have been, Bacon had entered the field of politics,
and in the House of Commons his remarkable ora-
torical powers presently obtained their first general
recognition. The description of his public speaking
left us by a very shrewd observer, though evidently
referring in the main to the manner of his court-
advocacy, clearly enough indicates the general force
of his address, and his extraordinary influence over
his auditors. “No man," wrote Ben Jonson, “ever
spake more neatly, more pressly, more weightily, or
suffered less emptiness, less idleness, in what he
uttered. ... His hearers could not cough, or look
aside from him without loss. He commanded when
he spoke, and had his judges angry and pleased at his
devotion. The fear of every man that heard
him was lest he should make an end."

For a time, notwithstanding the miscarriage of various ambitions, things prospered with him; though unfortunately his worldly success was from the outset bound up with the persistent practice of the arts of the place-seeker and the time-server. He began by

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seeking political promotion through the influence of his maternal uncle, the powerful Lord Burghley; and

when convinced that nothing was to be gained in this i direction, he went over to the party of Burghley's

rival, the Earl of Essex. That nobleman did what he could for his protégé, and failing to obtain any one of several desirable offices for him, gave him a grant of land at Twickenham, which he afterwards sold for £1800 — or, roughly speaking, $60,000, at the present value of money. Then presently came the earl's fall from power, and subsequent open rebellion against the Queen. Over what followed, were it possible to do so, the biographer of Bacon would willingly draw the veil. He took an active part in the proceedings against his former friend and benefactor; did his utmost to get him condemned; and after his execution, undertook the official drafting of the charges against him. After Elizabeth's death, Bacon found it desirable to publish an explanation of his conduct, in which he contended that duty to the State must have preference over the demands of private friendship; but the best that can be said of this document, it is to be feared, is that it shows that Bacon's conscience was ill at ease. Apologists have not been wanting; and it may be conceded to them that a full survey of the facts tends to mitigate the first severity of our judgment. Yet the incident has left a stain on Bacon's memory which no amount of special pleading will succeed in wiping away.

Two years after the execution of Essex, Elizabeth died, and under James I. Bacon's prosperity increased.



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He sought and won the new king's favor by profuse
professions of loyalty and by practical services; was
knighted in 1603; obtained a lucrative clerkship in
the Star Chamber (the reversion of which had been
granted him many years before) in 1608; was made
Attorney-General in 1613, Privy Councillor in 1616,
Lord Keeper in 1617, and Lord Chancellor in 1618;
in this last year was raised to the peerage as Lord
Verulam, and in 1621 was created Viscount St. Albans.
The record is surely one of magnificent achievement.
It is painful to have to add that it has its dark under-
side. Bacon undoubtedly had high ideals and noble
aspirations; in practice, unfortunately, he stooped
constantly to sordidness and venality. As Attorney-
General he was guilty more than once of abusing the
prerogatives of his great position; as Lord Chan-
cellor his conduct fell short of strict judicial honor.
The crash in his life came in 1621, when he was
impeached before the House of Lords, on various
charges of bribery and official malpractice. He
attempted no defence, and was sentenced to a fine of
£40,000, imprisonment during the King's pleasure,
and banishment from Parliament and Court.
however, released from the Tower almost immediately,
and pardoned, though still denied access to the royal
presence. He thereupon retired to his own estate, and
devoted himself, during the few years that remained
to him, to scholarly pursuits. He died, deep in debt,
on the 9th April, 1626, from complications arising
from a cold caught while he was making a scientific

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