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it the ambitious character of the poetry of his successor, or the pursuit and capture of Beauty, which was its object, that caused him to suppress the utterance of thoughts he had already formed ? Was it the spiritual nature of his poesy, which “above a mortal pitch” exceeded all ordinary powers of comprehension that silenced him? No, neither that, nor the assistance which he nightly received from others, depreciated his own verses. Nor did the amiable, good-natured interloper who cheated them with "intelligence" have any influence in silencing him. What, then, was it? It was that by giving him surreptitious assistance he saw his own poetry in another's work. That deprived him of material for his labors, and rendered him powerless to pursue them. It was the "countenance" (the real beauty of his own thoughts), not the beauty of words, which made him suspend work.
This poet, who for some unexplained reason he treats as his successor, may have been Daniel, Marlow, Peele, or Chapman. Next to Shakespeare, they were regarded as the best poets and playwrights of the period. Instigated by the cordial welcome with which the dramas purporting to be Shakespeare's were received by the public, they, as is intimated in a former stanza, attempted to imitate them. It is probably not saying too much for Bacon, to attribute to the influence of his dramas the great change which at this time occurred in dramatic composition. New subjects were chosen, and an entirely new face put upon the forms of representation. If Bacon had not written, the dramas of Marlow and Peele would have immortalized the age, so great and admirable were their powers of poetic delineation.
I think that one of the four above named was at the time referred to in the stanza engaged in writing a play in which he was assisted by the others, or some of them. Shakespeare, whom Robert Green the playwright called a Johannes Factotum, knew and informed Bacon of it. Ascertaining the subject and drift of the play through Shakespeare, Bacon may have from time to time, while the work was progressing, plied Shakespeare with facts and occasional descriptions which Shakespeare, as the “affable familiar ghost," and recognized by the others as the popular playwright of the time, communicated to them, and they incorporated them into the play. He thus "gull’d” them with the matter supplied by Bacon. And afterwards when the play appeared, and Bacon saw and heard his own lines repeated in it, he became disgusted, and concluded that he would cease writing at once, as he must do so very soon, at any rate, if he succeeded in obtaining the position of solicitor. This can hardly be called a forced conclusion, when we remember that for purposes of concealment, it was as necessary that Shakespeare should be farorably known and appreciated
among his associates as that Bacon should be by his friends. Shakespeare had been accused of plagiarism as early as 1592 by Green, in his “Groatesworth of Wit,” who in an address to Marlow, Lodge, and Peele, written on his death-bed, says, in allusion to Shakespeare:
“There is an upstart crow beautiful with our feathers, that with his tiger's heart, wrapt in a player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes Factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in the country. O, that I might entreat your rare wits to be employed in more profitable courses; and let those apes imitate your past excellence, and never more acquaint them with your admired inventions."
Bacon well knew that Shakespeare's authorship among these accomplished writers required constant watchfulness on his part to avoid exposure, as that would betray him. This fear, constantly before him, must have led to many strange devices, the one above conjeciured probably, among the rest.
The motive which he gives of “lacking matter” would have little weight with one so fruitful in resources, but seeing the "countenance" (his own tloughts) intermixed with those of his successor, as he dubs him, he might well take alarm, lest others, observing the difference in the style of the play, should stir up inquiry, which would
cause him to be suspected. When he was assigned by Queen Elizabeth as one of the counsel to conduct the inquiry concerning the conduct of the Earl of Essex in Ireland, and told, as he writes in an explanatory letter afterwards,“ that I should set forth some undutiful carriage of my lord in giving occasion and countenance to a seditious pamphlet, as it was termed, which was dedicated unto him, which was the book before mentioned of King Henry IV. Whereupon I replied to that allotment, and said to their lordships that it was an old matter, and had no manner of coherence with the rest of the charge, being matters of Ireland; and therefore that I, having been wronged by bruits before, this would expose me to them more, and it would be said that I gave in evidence mine own tales.” From this passage it is apparent that he had been suspected of writing the play of Henry IV. How else than from Shakespeare would he have been likely to know of the nightly meetings of these poets, and the work they were doing? He had no personal intercourse with them, was not in their secrets, and all his writings for the theatre were veiled by Shakespeare. Yet he is able in this history to give the whole story, and to mention as an “affable familiar ghost," one who "gulls them with intelligence” (who gives them as of himself what he has received from another). Does not this mean Shakespeare?
Thus have I had Thee, as a dream doth flatter,
In sleep a king, but waking no such matter. The farewell in this stanza means that his dramatic labors must cease. Thou (Truth) is now so much sought after by the playwrights that his exclusive use of him is gone. In the use which others make of him, it is very probable that the labors of Thy (Thought) will be found wanting. But Thy must be released also, for he has no longer use for him, and he can only hold him while he is willing. So long as he will not write dramas, Thy is unnecessary,-- the cause or object of his creation no longer remains with him,- and so the "patent” which he devised for weaving Thy into his labors has ceased to interest him. Thou (Truth) was the substance of Thy (Thought). Thought, when awakened in him, did not know his power, but this knowledge came to him afterwards, and with the help of Thou he grew by