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Mr. Hawthorne's Reply.
Liverpool, June 5th, 1857. In response to your note of 2nd instant, I beg leave to say that I entirely accept your statement as to the originality and early date of your own convictions regarding the authorship of the Shakespeare Plays, and likewise as to your ignorance of Miss Bacon's prior publication on the subject. Of course, my imputation of unfairness or discourtesy on your part falls at once to the ground, and I regret that it was ever made.
My mistake was perhaps a natural one, although unquestionably the treatment of the subject in your Letter to the Earl of Ellesmere differs widely from that adopted by Miss Bacon. But as I knew that a rumour of her theory had been widely, though vaguely circulated, for some years past, on both sides of the Atlantic, and also that she had preceded you in publication, it really never occurred to me to doubt that, at least, some wandering seed had alighted in your mind, and germinated into your pamphlet. Under urgent circumstances, I had taken upon myself to write a few prefatory and explanatory words for my countrywoman's book. It was impossible to avoid some allusion to your
pamphlet; and I made such reference as seemed due to an attempt to take an easy advantage of a discovery (allowing it to be such) on which Miss Bacon had staked the labour and happiness of her life, and to develop which she had elaborated a very remarkable work.
I now see that my remarks did you great injustice, and I trust that you will receive this acknowledgment as the only reparation in my power.
Your obedient Servant,
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE. CHAPTER 1.
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.