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SIR FRANCIS Bacon notes, amongst the impediments of knowledge, that
“He that delivereth knowledge, desireth to deliver it in such form as may be soonest believed, and not as may easiliest be examined.
“He that receiveth knowledge, desireth rather present satisfaction than expectant search, and so rather not to doubt, than not to err.
“Glory maketh the author not to lay open his weakness, and sloth maketh the disciple not to know his strength."
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SHAKESPEARE.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE's is indeed a negative history.
Of his life, all that we positively know is the period of his death.
We do not know when he was born, nor when, nor where, he was educated.
We do not know when, or where, he was married, nor when he came to London.
We do not know when, where, or in what order, his plays were written or performed; nor when he left London.
He died April 23rd, 1616.
BACON AND SHAKESPEARE.
TOWARDS the end of the sixteenth, and at the beginning of the seventeenth century, that is, prior to the year 1611, a number of plays, tragedies, comedies, and histories, of various degrees of merit, were produced, of which William Shakespeare was reported to be the author, and which undoubtedly were, in some way, the property of the company
of actors of which he was an active member.
No one single manuscript has ever been found to identify Shakespeare as the author of these productions; nor is there, among all the records and traditions handed down to us, any statement that he was ever seen writing or producing a manuscript; nor that he ever claimed as his own any of the excellent, or repudiated (as unworthy of him) any of the worthless, productions presented to the public in his name.
He seems, at no time, to have had any personal or peculiar interest in them; both during and after his life, they appear to have been the property of the stage, and "published by the players, doubtless according to their notions of acceptability with the visitants of the theatre.” No Plays bearing Shakespeare's name, were published between the years 1609 and 1622; but in the year 1623 (seven years )
after Shakespeare's death) a folio of thirtysix plays was brought out as “The Workes of Mr. William Shakespeare.”
Of the numerous plays which had appeared and been considered his during his life, thirteen only were admitted into this folio, the rest being entirely ignored; but twenty-three other plays were added, none of which had ever previously been published.
This volume contains what we now recognise as “ Shakespeare's Plays"--works of which it has been said by competent judges, that “they are, beyond comparison, the greatest productions which man's intellect, not divinely inspired, has yet achieved.”
That the works now admitted into our editions are all the productions of the same mind, no one at the present day, dreams of disputing; but if they had descended to us without any tradition as
to the name of the author, and our only information respecting them had been an exact knowledge of the period at which they were written, that we should in that case have attributed them to William Shakespeare, is in the highest degree doubtful.
To consider the probability of these plays having been written by William Shakespeare, and to attack the evidence by which the assertion that they were is supported, is our present object.
Proof that they were written by some other person, we do not yet hope to be able to adduce, but merely such evidence of the probability of this being the case, as may induce some active inquiry in the direction indicated.
To acquaint ourselves with the qualifications which Shakespeare must have possessed to have enabled him to write these plays, we propose to quote the observations of Pope and Coleridge; then to give a brief outline of the lives of Shakespeare and Bacon; and then to note some of the peculiarities of the genius of Bacon.
To begin then with Pope, he says :-“If ever an author deserved the name of an original it was Shakespeare. The poetry of Shakespeare was inspiration indeed; he is not so much an imitator