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revelation of a new world. They made him familiar with his own powers. As compared with the dramas of the time, this one was vastly superior. Ilow he would delight to see it performed! Previous to this time he had participated in masques and plays as an amateur, whenever any festival or public occasion offered at Gray's Inn. We may suppose that by this and similar appeals to his glowing fancy, the subject grew in importance, and gave him little rest until he had devised a plan for its presentation at Blackfriars. He had learned by frequent attendance at the theatre how to please an audience. Much circumspection and entire secrecy must be observed to make his plan successful, but some one must be trusted. Should he succeed, he would be able, not only to supply “this consumption of the purse,” but to delight in witnessing his own drama. Unquestionably many schemes were devised and abandoned before he concluded to trust William Shakespeare. And why was he selected? We look into the history of the times for an answer. The name of playwright in those days was but another name for a man of vicious and abandoned life. Green, one of the best, died a wretched drunkard and debauchee. Marlow, next to Shakespeare in rank as a writer, was slain in a drunken brawl. So of many others; and where all were bad, it was no easy task to find one who could be trusted. Shakespeare had not been contaminated
by the vices of his associates. He came to London in the pursuit of fortune, possibly to escape the consequences of some wild freak of his youth. His life at Stratford had not been free from stain. He had been charged with poaching. He was forced into an early and ill-assorted marriage, and had left his native town under a cloud. Despite these blots, he was the only man in theatrical life in whose simplicity, deportment, and general bearing Bacon saw that he could venture to confide. At great risk, he made choice of him, unbosomed his purpose to him, and found an ardent and trustworthy co-worker, who from that moment became, in effect, the author of the great works which ever since have borne his name.
Strong bonds of mutual confidence were entered into between them. It was understood by both that whenever Bacon, from prudential or other motives, should cease to write, Shakespeare should retain his assumed authorship of the plays, and enjoy the avails. Until that time, they were to share alike in the profits. Addressing Thy (Thought) in the thirty-seventh Sonnet, he says:
“So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis’d,
The merit of his own productions, apparent to him at first, made his work a labor of love; more to be preferred than “public honor or proud
titles.” He never tires in this poem of assuring it the immortality it has since enjoyed.
From a passage in Green's “Groatesworth of Wit," it is quite certain that Shakespeare posed as a playwright prior to 1592, and with Bacon's aid contributed somewhat to the composition of two historical dramas, - one called the “ True History of the Contention between the Houses of York and Lancaster," the other, “ The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York.” These plays were afterwards incorporated into the second and third parts of IIenry VI., which was first published in the folio of 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death. IIe was not publicly known as a dramatist until several of the plays, which afterwards bore his name, had been often performed at Blackfriars. “Venus and Adonis," a poem which in the dedication to the Earl of Southampton is called “the first heir of his invention," was the first work bearing his name. It was an elegant performance, and served the office, which Bacon doubtless intended it should, of gracefully introducing Shakespeare as a poet to the young wits and poets of London society. Poetry, apart from the drama, was rapidly growing in favor with the young nobility. The exquisite beauty of the poem, the aptness and modesty of the dedication, and the sudden appearance of the rude, untutored player as a poet, must have given an immediate prestige to his name, which was emphasized in a
more substantial manner when the first drama bearing it appeared upon the boards of Blackfriars. While by this means the arrangement was assured in its financial aspects, the favorable publicity given to Shakespeare acted as a complete foil to the revealment of Bacon, and Shakespeare was recognized by all as the only author.
It was understood between Bacon and Shakespeare that they “two must be twain,” for in their lives there was a "separable spite,” which would ever prohibit all social intercourse between them. "I may not,” he says in the thirty-sixth Sonnet, "evermore acknowledge thee." A time might come, and that very suddenly, when circumstances would require him to ignore all knowledge of Shakespeare; but whatever might happen to change their relations, they must remain true to cach other, and conceal the true origin of the dramas from the world. Shakespeare, as a matter of course, was bound by self-interest, for his fortune was at stake; and Bacon saw nothing but ruin for himself in disclosure. Men thus bound must be true to each other for the protection of their separate interests.
In 1591 Bacon was appointed counsel extraordinary to the queen, an office which obliged his daily attendance upon her majesty. He describes the tediousness of the hours spent in this service in the fifty-seventh and fifty-eighth Sonnets. He must have composed several comedies previous to
this time. White thinks that “Love's Labor 's Lost," "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," and the “Comedy of Errors,” were written before 1592. It may be fairly inferred, from the continuous history in the poem, that his work upon the dramas suffered no other interruption from this appointment than the hours of service at court. Before 1595, White thinks fourteen of the dramas had been written. IIow to preserve them, and escape public recognition, was an ever-present cause of fear and annoyance.
In 1594, when Bacon became a candidate for solicitor-general, he bade farewell to play-writing. So confident was he of this appointment, that he determined to abandon it altogether. The separation provided for in his arrangement with Shakespeare was announced in the eighty-seventh Sonnet. In the four or five stanzas succeeding, he declares that the only obstacle to his appointment vould be the exposure of his authorship of the dramas. It was a great terror to him, and he was willing to make any personal sacrifice to prevent it. Ilis fears are most vividly portrayed in the ninetieth Sonnet. The hate of Thou and Thy which he there invokes, seemingly to him, furnished his only means of concealment. In the ninety-second Sonnet he writes:
“I see a better state to me belongs