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Ireland, Essex fell under the displeasure of the queen, Bacon, finding it impossible to procure his reinstatement without a trial, prevailed with her majesty to make the inquiry into his conduct extrajudicial in form, and reformatory rather than punitive. The result was a judgment of temporary exile and partial confinement. It was remitted by slow degrees, but the friends of Essex meantime, among their public demonstrations in his favor, caused the play of Henry IV. to be performed for forty nights. One Hayward, a playwright, also read a pamphlet, giving an account of the dethronement of Richard II., which aroused the fears of the queen, who saw in it an attempt to excite the populace to treason. Hayward was arrested and sent to the Tower, and probably saved from a trial that would have cost him his head, by a quick-witted reply of Bacon to the queen’s inquiry, "if he could find any places in it that might be drawn in the case of treason.” “For treason, madam,” he replied, “I surely find none, but for felony, very many.” “Wherein?” asked Elizabeth, eagerly. “Madam," said Bacon, “the author hath committed very apparent theft, for le hath taken most of the sentences of Cornelius Tacitus, and translated them into English, and put them into his text."
Bacon always took counsel of his fears. He did not feel safe ever after, while Elizabeth reigned. He wrote nothing except his ten essays and a few
tracts until her death. This“ incertainty," caused by the performance of his play, — a play commemorative of a usurper, - was, like David's sin,“ever before him.” He knew not at what moment it might be revived, or at what moment he might be exposed as its author; but if such moment should come, he knew that his arrest would be certain, and how innocent soever he might have been in purpose, his guilt would be affirmed. Now that Elizabeth was dead, and the Scottish monarch on the throne, this “incertainty” was “assured,” his fears vanished, peace reigned, his love looked fresh, and “ death” to him “subscribed,” or in plainer phrase, surrendered. He was ready to resume work as a dramatist, and as we infer from the one hundred and eleventh and one hundred and twelfth Sonnets, his first drama was “ Timon of Athens."
The philosophy which he invoked for Timon was equally applicable to himself. Addressing You (Beauty), he says:
“O, for my sake do You with Fortune chide,
Than public means which public manners breeds." This in effect expressed his intention of writing a drama which should reflect the trial he had passed through. In his own view, it must have been bitter indeed. All his early memories were awakened, when, as the son of one of the first of
ficers of the realm, he was taught to look forward upon a life to be spent in pursuits of his own choice. For this had he been educated, and for this only was he fitted. Fortune decreed otherwise. He had no resource but "public means," and his first effort to improve them by attaining a position had failed. He had made a public exhibition of himself; had been party to many intrigues; had compromised his integrity. Why did not fortune better provide for him? Why was he forced to belie his own great nature and descend to all the tricks, manners, and expenses of an oflice-seeker? Yet in his case they were unavoidable. He had no other means of livelihood or renown.
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand.” The “brand” here alluded to was undoubtedly the aid he gave in the prosecution of Essex. He was charged with ingratitude of the basest kind. Essex had been his devoted friend; aided him in his struggle for position; presented him with a valuable estate; rendered him friendly service in his courtship of Lady Hatton. For these services · he had a claim upon Bacon for any assistance he might be able to give. One to read Macaulay's or Campbell's Life of Bacon would conclude that he requited these kindnesses with the blackest ingratitude and inhumanity. Nothing can be far
ther from the truth. Bacon was the constant friend and adviser of Essex, from the moment that he entered the queen's service until his treasonable attempt to dethrone her. We have already seen that Bacon saved him from a public trial on his ill-advised return from Ireland. It was only after his arrest for high treason that Bacon, unable to assist him further, was obliged, as a loyal subject and counsellor, to aid in his prosecution. Macaulay intimates that he should have refused to act. Campbell thinks that but for his assistance Essex might have escaped. With singular inconsistency both agree that Essex was guilty and deserved his fate. Had Bacon refused his assistance at the trial, he would have been arrested, tried, and punished. Had he failed in the proper discharge of his duties upon the trial, and been detected in attempting to save the earl by diverting the minds of the peers from the testimony, deatlı would have been his certain portion. Essex was arrested in the very act of treason. It was not possible for him to escape conviction. Bacon knew that, having been always an ardent friend and supporter of the earl, all eyes would be turned upon him. The slightest dereliction on his part would be deemed proof of his complicity in the treason. It was impossible for him to aid Essex and save himself. He plainly saw that no aid he could render would alter the result, and that any reluctance on his part to act would be fatal to him.
Who but one that has been placed in a similar situation, and acted differently, has any right to brand Bacon with ingratitude for the course he pursued?
This “brand” upon his name, he intimates, so subdued his nature that he was ready to sacrifice all ambition for advancement, and confine himself to his profession, which, like “the dyer's hand," would take its character from its miscellaneous occupations. It destroyed his confidence in humanity. He describes in the one hundred and twelfth Sonnet the resolution he made for the government of his future life. You (Beauty) have drawn the character of Flavius, the steward of Timon, as a representative of Bacon's disgust at the treatment he received from his professed friends. Among them
Among them all, Flavius alone was sincere. The entire stanza, as may be seen by comparing it with the play, is addressed to him. The love and pity which Flavius manifested for Timon in prosperity and adversity; his efforts to save him by warning him of his extravagance; his fruitless expedients to supply means for the payment of his debts; his search for him after he had fled to the woods; the pity he then expressed for him, and the unselfishness of all his acts,were the "love and pity" that filled the impression which “vulgar scandal" had fastened upon Bacon. That “ vulgar scandal” doubtless was his extravagance and impecuniosity, which, as in the case of