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FRANCIS BACON - Baron Verulam and Viscount St Albans, but not Lord Bacon, as he is sometimes erroneously styled-was born at York House, Strand, the London mansion of his father, January 22, 1561. He was the younger son, by his second wife, of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal from 1558 till his death in 1579-a man of profound legal learning, unswerving devotion to principle, and statesmanlike sagacity. Both Camden and George Buchanan designate him, in common with Sir W. Cecil (Lord Burghley) as "twin pillars of the State."

The second wife of the Lord Keeper and the mother of Francis was Anne, daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, who had been the tutor of Edward VI. To his instructions were largely due the culture and piety of the youthful sovereign. His daughters, Katherine, Mildred, and Anne, also trained by their parent, were celebrated as prodigies of learning even in an age when the glamour of Renaissance studies still tempted women to forsake the distaff for Demosthenes and their virginals for Virgil.

The eldest was classed among the leading Latinists of her day; Mildred, the second, who married Lord Burghley, and, accordingly, was Bacon's aunt, was described by Ascham as the best female Greek scholar in England-Lady Jane Grey excepted; while Anne became celebrated in Court circles for her linguistic accomplishments and her skill in theology. Not only did she correspond in Greek with Bishop Jewell and translate his Apologia from the Latin, but her rendering of the sermons of Bernard Ochino from the Italian has been praised by competent judges. These facts regarding Sir Nicholas and Lady Bacon are mentioned to show

that, if heredity hold for aught, he was descended both sides from parents of more than average ability.


Almost from birth Francis was a delicate child, and suffered from prolonged ill-health, a circumstance to which some biographers have attributed the gravity of manner, even in youth characteristic of him. Probably it were due rather to his intense absorption, even in early childhood, in studies commonly assigned to youths considerably his seniors. Were ill-health the cause, the premature readiness of wit he displayed even before he went to college would scarcely have preserved its perennial spontaneity in the face of prolonged sickness.

The boyhood of great men is generally an interesting epoch of their life to study. The boy often shows himself, by many premonitory turns and traits, the father of the man; while the faint foreshadowing of many of those qualities, later in life making for greatness, can often be traced in unlooked-for places. The case was even so as regards Bacon. Though his earlier boyhood is almost a blank to us, save that he spent it between the family residence in London, situated near the present Strand and the Thames, and the country seat at Gorhambury in Hertfordshire, yet we obtain interesting light upon the facts of his career, when he emerges from the doméstic seclusion of home to proceed in his thirteenth year with his brother Anthony, two years his senior, to Trinity College, Cambridge.


Young though he was, he appears to have been quite fitted to hold his own with his fellow-students. His tutor was Dean Whitgift, yet to attain to the Primacy, and to win, if not note, at least notoriety as the champion of Anglicanism against Cartwright and the Puritans.

At Cambridge Bacon remained three years. That he profited by the academic curriculum, as far as was possible under the inept and inefficient system then in vogue, may be taken for granted. As Macaulay says, "Bacon departed, carrying with him a profound contempt for the course of study pursued there, a fixed Spedding's Life of Bacon. Cf. Nichol and Montagu.


conviction that the system of academic education in England was radically vicious, a just scorn for the trifles on which the followers of Aristotle had wasted their powers, and no great reverence for Aristotle himself." I

About this time he was introduced to Court life. The high station occupied by his father and the influential family connections of the lad rendered this easy. Besides, the facts are matter of history that Elizabeth on more than one occasion visited her Lord Keeper in his stately home at Gorhambury, and amidst the immemorial oaks and elms of the beautiful Hertfordshire demesne the scene may have occurred in which the flatteryloving Queen, in response to a graceful compliment on the part of the youth, styled him, with reference to his grave demeanour, "her young Lord Keeper." That he was early familiar with the' etiquette and customs of Court is manifest from the first draft of the "Essays," "On Ceremonies and Respects," and "On Honour and Reputation."3 His advice regarding conduct in high station towards superiors, inferiors, and equals is characterised not only by sound reason but by a wise expediency, which looks upon the rendering of respect. to superiors not as an act of servility but of practical duty demanded from us by our relative stations in the social hierarchy. If we do not render respect to superiors, can we expect inferiors to tender respect to us?

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As both Anthony and Francis looked forward to a diplomatic career, to be prepared for it they were admitted "ancients" at Gray's Inn in June 1576, where they shortly afterwards erected the lodging which the latter continued at frequent intervals throughout his life to occupy. Three months later Francis crossed over to Paris in the suite of Sir Amyas Paulet, the English ambassador, to begin his practical training in diplomacy. The supreme talents of the youth must certainly have impressed the Parisian circles to which he had access. Of this proof is forthcoming in the miniature of him which a painter, no less distinguished Essay on Bacon. 2 p. 154. 3 p. 160.

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than Hilliard, executed and inscribed with the following words in token of his esteem, "Si tabula daretur digna, animum mallem." The studies he pursued in Continental politics and diplomacy supplied material for those "Notes on the State of Europe" which are printed in most editions of his works. They bear eloquent testimony to the accuracy of his observation and the acuteness of his criticisms on men and manners. France at that time was struggling in the throes of her religious convulsions. Catholic and Huguenot were arrayed against each other in a civil strife, all the more terrible because those engaged therein were often blood kinsmen. By the sights and scenes he witnessed there, some of the most pertinent reflections in his Essay on "Faction "" were suggested; "Kings had need beware how they side themselves, and make themselves as of a faction or party; for leagues within the State are ever pernicious to monarchies; for they raise an obligation paramount to obligation of sovereignty, and make the king tanquam unus ex nobis, as was to be seen in the League of France." I These statements reveal the depth of the impression produced upon him by the spectacle of the anarchy in France. They obviously refer to the loss of the confidence of his subjects sustained by Henry III. through favouring the Catholic League against the Huguenots.

But Bacon's stay in the French capital was not destined to be long, though doubtless long enough to enable him to acquire that ready facility in the use of the language he, in after life, displayed. He was suddenly recalled by a great family affliction. Sir Nicholas Bacon died in 1579, mourned by all the realm, from prince to peasant.

Francis hurried home to find his prospects decidedly overcast. To him the loss was to prove irreparable in more senses than a parental one. În vain he applied to the government, represented by his uncle, Lord Burghley, for employment in some official capacity-a claim not unreasonable in view of the late Lord Keeper's

* p. 153.

services. The jealousy of the Cecils barred the way. Old Burghley feared that the advancement of his own son, Robert Cecil (afterwards Earl of Salisbury) might suffer from the rivalry of his brilliant cousin. Diplomacy, therefore, had to be relinquished. To the study of law Bacon devoted himself anew, and with such industry, that he was called to the bar in 1582, and became a Bencher of Gray's Inn in 1586.

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For some years he drudged on in obscurity, aided by no one, and eating his heart out in unavailing regrets, as the years passed by, to others bringing promotion, to him only empty promises. That those years, however, could not have flitted by unimproved, from an intellectual point of view, is evident, inasmuch as this was the only season in his earlier life when leisure was allowed him for the prosecution of those learned studies which made him the "polymath" of his period. meantime, hoping to better his circumstances through other channels than the Cecils, he entered Parliament in 1584, as representative of Melcombe Regis, and sat successively for Taunton in 1586, Liverpool, 1588, and Middlesex in 1593. His political creed can be stated very briefly, consisting as it did in a persistent advocacy of a via media in all things, a middle course between popular privilege and royal prerogative, or, to express it more definitely, moderation in secular reform with toleration in religion alike to Puritan and Papist. This policy he supported in two pamphlets. The first, entitled "The Greatest Birth of Time," published in 1585, was chiefly devoted to advocating mildness of treatment towards the recusants; the second, in 1589, dealt with the divisions in the Anglican Church over the Marprelate and other controversies. In both he pleaded for greater elasticity in matters of doctrine and of discipline. Ere long he attained fame as a parliamentary orator. The same compactness of expression and richness of fancy characterised his speeches as appear in his writings. Ben Jonson' opinion, albeit often cited before, merits mention again—" There happened in my time one noble speaker, who was full of

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