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brief and admitted history of the man, to whom the genius of Pope and the intellect of Coleridge offer this homage.
There is reason to suppose that Shakespeare was born in the year 1564.
His father was a humble tradesman at Stratford-upon-Avon, who at one time had so much improved his position as to attain to the office of bailiff of the borough. He afterwards, however, became very much reduced in circumstances. Any education that William Shakespeare received, he most probably obtained at the free school at Stratford ; that it was very superficial, is now generally admitted. At about the age of eighteen, he contracted or was inveigled into a marriage with a woman eight years older than himself; and about the year 1586, when he was twenty-two years old, he left his wife and family at Stratford, and came to London; and very shortly afterwards was actively engaged in the management of a theatre, and continued to be so until about the year 1611, when, having made a considerable fortune, he retired to Stratfordupon-Avon, to enjoy the fruits of his active industry, and died there in 1616.
Francis Bacon was born in 1561. His father was the famous Sir Nicholas, so many years Lord
Keeper. His mother was a very learned woman. Francis Bacon was carefully brought up at home until he was twelve years old. He then went to Cambridge, and had completed his studies by the time he was sixteen
old. In 1576 he went abroad; and upon the death of his father in 1579, returned to England; and, finding himself in straitened circumstances, unwillingly took to the study of the law, and became a member of Gray's Inn.
He seems to have had but little practice as a barrister, and to have vainly solicited for Government employment, and been in embarrassed circumstances during the whole of Queen Elizabeth's reign. With the accession of James in 1603, his prospects improved; he was appointed SolicitorGeneral in 1607, and rapidly rose, until eventually he became Lord Chancellor, from which office he was removed, with disgrace, in 1621, and died in 1626.
The object in stating these biographies is, to show how identical were the periods in which these two men flourished. If Shakespeare wrote these plays, he most probably did so between the years 1586 and 1611; if Bacon wrote them, he most probably did so between the years 1580 and 1607.
Having stated what Pope and Coleridge predicate of the qualifications of the author of these plays, we should hardly expect to recognise in a person, born and brought up as we have represented Shakespeare to have been, the probable possessor of such vast and varied acquirements.
WIT AND POETIC FACULTY OF BACON
In the following extracts from that able essayist Mr. Macaulay, anatomising and describing the genius and character of Bacon, the reader will recognise peculiarities bearing a strong affinity to those which characterise these plays. The extent and variety of Bacon's knowledge are so well known and universally admitted, that it is unnecessary to dwell upon that point, though the beautiful language and imagery with which Mr. Macaulay has illustrated it, might well excuse a quotation.
Of his wit he says :—"In wit, if by wit be meant the power of perceiving analogies between things which appear to have nothing in common, he never had an equal; not even Cowley-not even the author of Hudibras. Indeed he possessed this faculty, or rather it possessed him, to a morbid degree.
When he abandoned himself to it without reserve, the feats which he performed were not only admirable, but portentous and almost shocking. On those occasions we marvel at him as clowns on a fair-day marvel at a juggler, and can hardly help thinking the devil must be in him. These, however, were feats in which his ingenuity now and then wandered, with scarcely any other object than to astonish and amuse. But it occasionally happened, that when he was engaged in grave and profound investigations, his wit obtained the mastery over all his other faculties, and led him into absurdities, into which no dull man could possibly have fallen.” After giving several instances, Mr. Macaulay proceeds thus :-“ The truth is, his mind was wonderfully quick in perceiving analogies of all sorts. But, like several eminent men whom we could name, both living and dead, he sometimes appeared strangely deficient in the power of distinguishing rational from fanciful analogies—analogies which are arguments, from analogies which are mere illustrations."
After showing how this want of discrimination has led to many strange political speculations, Mr. Macaulay proceeds :
“It is curious that Bacon has mentioned this