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The seventeen months of suspense, while Bacon and his devoted friend Essex were engaged in the effort to obtain the solicitorship, were full of unhappiness, suspicion, and alarm. At first, as he says in the Sonnets, he found no pleasure even in contemplating the occupation he had abandoned. Soon, however, jealous of what he deemed the failure of other poets, he re-wrote the poem of “Lucrece," which he had composed three years before. This was his only literary work during that period. It was published in 1594, and dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, and as intended, probably, filled the promise of that “graver labor” made in the dedication of "Venus and Adonis."
During this anxious period he spared no efforts to win the solicitorship. He besought his uncle to use his influence with the queen. Not meeting with the encouragement he had a right to expect from him, he attached himself to the young Earl of Essex, who espoused his cause with unremitting energy. In the various electioneering devices resorted to, while the choice was undecided, he, as he says, “made a motley” of himself before the world, "gor'd his own thoughts,” and became a beggar for oflice. The elegant letter, accompanied by a valuable jewel, which he wrote to the queen, attests as well to his eager desire for the appointment as to the measure he had fixed for his own abilities, and the moral dignity and grandeur of his nature. Perhaps his most unfortunate stroke of poliey was the one upon which he chiefly relied, that of attaching himself to the Earl of Essex. That young nobleman, though in great favor withi Elizabeth, was valued more for his personal accomplishments than his political sagacity. He was also, by reason of the queen's preference, especially obnoxious to Lord Burleigh, and his son, Robert Cecil. Macaulay believes that they connived at Bacon's defeat, and influenced Lord Keeper Puckering to express a preference for some other applicant. It is this opposition of his own kinsmen that Bacon alludes to in the line, “made old offences of affections new." He offended Burleigh and Cecil by his reliance upon Essex.
His confession leaves no room for doubt as to the means he used while in pursuit of the office. Ilis moral delinquences stood as accusing spirits before lim. “Most true it is," he writes, “I have look'd on truth askance and strangely.” How does this materially differ from the office-seekers of our day? Is there not always in the shifts, turns, and devices, which hope and fear deem necessary to success, a constant warfare upon truth? The ordeal through which he passed during this period is more graphically described in the one hundred and nineteenth Sonnet:
"What potions have I drunk of Siren tears,
What wretched errors hath my heart committed,
How many of the great men since Bacon's time, whose experience, like his, was filled with all the sacrifices of principle, honor, and truth, would, as he did, make a full and frank confession of their errors! Yet the name of this great benefactor of our race is almost a synonyme for all that is mean, unscrupulous, and vile in human character. Perhaps the world is not entirely wrong in its denunciations; but if Bacon had concealed his offences as skilfully as he concealed his merits, his memory would stand much fairer in the eyes of posterity. His confessions ruined him. If, as lord chancellor, instead of confessing to a formidable array of acts, all of which had been of customary obseryance before his time, he had opposed a bold front and insisted upon a trial, there is little doubt that with the king and Buckingham (both of whom it is hinted by Tenison were as blamable as he was) to aid him, he would have escaped that terrible downfall, and that more terrible distich, which in a succeeding age branded him as "the meanest of mankind."
In the fall of 1595 the hopes of Bacon were unexpectedly blasted by the appointment of Sergeant Fleming solicitor-general. The announcement fell upon his ear like a thunderbolt. The disap
pointment was not so severe as the humiliation. Ilis faith in the influence of Essex with the queen had been from the first an assurance of success. IIe immediately withdrew from public view, and determined to seek relief for his wounded feelings in travel. The natural buoyancy of his spirits, and the encouragement of Essex, accompanied by a munificent gift, soon dispelled his gloom and sorrow, and he returned to his habits of contemplation and composition. He wrote and published ten essays under his own name, which were greatly admired, and reinstated him in the public favor. Ile regards them as no substitute in his love for dramatic composition. Alluding to them in the one hundred and tenth Sonnet, he writes to Thee (Thought):
“And worse Essays prov'd Thee my best of love." The great sorrow he had experienced proved to him his predominant love for closet studies, and especially for dramatic labor. “As easy,” he says in the one hundred and ninth Sonnet, "might I from myself depart, as from my soul which in thy breast doth lie."
“For nothing this wide universe I call.
Save Thou, My rose; in it Thou art My all."
In the one hundred and seventh stanza, the death of Queen Elizabeth and the accession of James I. are announced in a single line:
“The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur'd.”
No occurrence at that time could have been more welcome to Bacon. Elizabeth's care for him had always taken the form of a guardian for a ward. She had been no friend to his ambition or his abilities. He follows the announcement of her death with these words:
“Incertanties now crown themselves assur'd.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
What were the “incertainties" in Bacon's life which now “ crown'd themselves assured"? There is an inner history here alluded to which has never been published, - a history that at the time was not fully revealed, in which Bacon was an actor. Elizabeth always feared that her title to the throne would be disputed, and possibly violently contested by the adherents of Mary Queen of Scots. It was this fear, more than any overt act proved on the trial of the Duke of Norfolk, that caused the death of that unfortunate nobleman. Influenced by this fear, Elizabeth treated Mary as a rival, and when she sought her protection, imprisoned her for eighteen years, tried her for conspiracy, and decapitated her. This same fear, with better cause, led to the death of Essex.
Bacon, by attaching his fortunes to Essex, was defeated by the jealous hostility of Burleigh and Cecil. When, by his unauthorized return from