Page images

of lust and fury, not caring to satiate their voracity by hunting after prey,) as at a Theatre in fawning and reconciled amity one towards another, staud all at the gaze about him, and attentively lend their ears to his music. Neither is this all, for so great was the power and alluding force of his harmony, that he drew the woods and moved the very stones to come and place themselves in an orderly and decent fashion about him. These things succeeding happily, and with great admiration for a time; at length certain Thracian women (possessed with the spirit of Bacchus) made such a horrid and strange noise with their cornets that the sound of Orpheus's harp could no more be heard; insomuch as that harmony, which was the bond of that order and society being dissolved, all disorder began again; and the beasts (returning to their wonted nature) pursued one another unto death as before; neither did the trees or stones remain any longer in their place; and Orpheus himself was by these female Furies torn in pieces, and scattered all over the desert. For whose cruel death the river Helicon (sacred to the Muses) in horrible indignation hid his head under ground and raised it again in another place.

The meaning of this fable seems to be thus. Orpheus's music is of two sorts, the one appeasing the infernal powers, the other attracting beasts and trees. The first may be fitly applied to natural philosophy, the second to moral or civil discipline.

The most noble work of natural philosophy is the restitution and renovation of things corruptible; the other (as a lesser degree of it) the preservation of bodies in their estate, detaining them from dissolution and putrefaction. And if this gift may be done in mortals, certainly it can be done by no other means than by the due and exquisite temper of nature, as by the melody and delicate touch of an instrument. But seeing it is of all things most difficult, it is seldom or never attained unto; and in all likelihood for no other reason, more than through curious diligence and untimely impatience. And therefore philosophy, hardly able to produce so excellent an effect in a pensive humour (and that without cause), busies herself about human objects, and by persuasion and eloquence, insinuating the love of virtue, equity and concord in the minds of men; draws multitudes of people to a society, makes them subject to laws, obedient to government, and forgetful of their unbridled affections whilst they give ear to precepts, and submit themselves to discipline; whence follows the building of houses, erecting of towns, planting of fields and orchards,

with trees and the like, insomuch that it would not be amiss to say, that even thereby stones and woods were called together and settled in order. And after serious trial made and frustrated about the restoring of a body mortal, this care of civil affairs follows in its due place; because by a plain demonstration of the unevitable necessity of death men's minds are moved to seek eternity by the fame and glory of their merits. It is also wisely said in the fable, that Orpheus was averse from the love of women and marriage, because the delights of wedlock and the love of children do for the most part hinder men from enterprising great and noble designs for the public good, holding posterity a sufficient step to immorality without


Besides even the very works of wisdom (although amongst all human things they do most excel) do nevertheless meet with their periods. For it happens that (after kingdoms and commonwealths have flourished for a time) even tumults and seditions, and wars arise; in the midst of which hurly-burlies, first laws are silent, men return to the pravity of their natures; fields and towns are wasted and depopulated; and then (if their fury continue) learning and philosophy must needs be dismembered; so that a few fragments only, and in some places will be found like the scattered boards of shipwreck, so as a barbarous age must follow; and the streams of Helicon being hid under the earth until the vicissitude of things passing, they break out again and appear in some other remote nation, though not perhaps in the same climate.

Very ingenious, too, are the explanations of the fables of Cupid, of Daedalus, of Nemesis, of Prometheus, of the Sphinx, of Proserpina, and of the Sirens.



THE next fact in Bacon's biography that Mr. Montagu records is, that he was made one of the judges of the New Court of the Verge. But the learned biographer, as is his custom, leaves us to infer, if that were possible, that this appointment did not take place in any year whatever. The account given by Dugdale, in his Baronage, is, that in the 9th of King James, which would be in 1611, "he was made joint judge with Sir Thomas Vavasor, then Knight Marshal, of the Knight Marshal's Court, then newly erected within the verge of the king's house." Meanwhile he still held his office of solicitor-general, till he exchanged it for that of attorneygeneral, on the 27th of October, 1613,-not 1612, as Mr. Montagu makes it-on the promotion of Sir Henry Hobart to be Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Coke having been removed to the King's Bench. Mr. Montagu makes him to have now composed "his work for compiling and amending the laws of England," meaning the short tract addressed to the king, entitled "A Proposition to his Majesty touching the Compiling and Amendment of the Laws of England." But this paper in the very heading is stated to be "By Sir Francis Bacon, Knight, his Majesty's Attorney-General, and one of his Privy Council;" and it begins "Your Majesty, of your favour, having made me privy councillor, and continuing me in the place of your attorney-general, which is more than was three hundred years before," &c. Now it is certain that Bacon was not sworn of the Privy Council till several years after this. On the meeting of. parliament in April, 1614, a question was started in the Commons as to the right of the attorney-general to sit

in that House, on the ground that he was officially an assistant to the House of Lords, on which, indeed, he was, and still is, summoned at the calling of every new parliament to give his attendance. Bacon's predecessor, Hobart, had sat: but it was argued that he had been made attorney-general while he was a member of the House, whereas Bacon had been returned a member after he was attorney-general. In point of fact Hobart's right to sit had also been questioned at first; but after much discussion it had been carried that the matter should be allowed to rest, and he is stated to have retained his seat "by connivance, without other order."* In Bacon's case, after a committee had been appointed to search for precedents, and had made their report, it was resolved that the attorney-general should remain for that parliament, but that no attorney-general should serve as a member in any future parliament. And, accordingly, no attorney-general appears to have sat in the House of Commons from that time till after the Restoration.

About the same time that Bacon was made attorneygeneral, there was introduced at court, and taken into the King's household, George Villiers, afterwards the famous Duke of Buckingham, the all-powerful royal favourite of two reigns. Almost from the first Villiers seems to have attached himself to Bacon, or Bacon to him, the understood if not expressed condition or purpose of their alliance being that Bacon should assist the young courtier by his advice, and that the latter should in return employ his influence with the King to promote the professional advancement of his "guide, philosopher, and friend." There is printed in Bacon's works a long letter, or treatise rather, entitled "Advice to Sir George Villiers, when he became favourite to King James, recommending many important instructions how to govern himself in the station of prime minister," and professing to have been written at the request of Villiers. It was to Villiers that Bacon applied to get himself made a privy councillor, which he was made on the 9th of

* Hatsell, vol.

June, 1616. It must have been after this, therefore, that he wrote his " Proposition touching the Amendment of the_Laws." On the resignation of the Lord Chancellor Egerton, Bacon was, on the 7th of March, 1617, made Lord Keeper of the Great Seal; on the 4th of January, 1618,* he was made Lord Chancellor; and on the 11th of July in the same year he was raised to the peerage as Baron Verulam of Verulam in the county of Herts. "About this time," says Mr. Montagu, "the King conferred upon him the valuable farm of the Alienation Office, and he succeeded in obtaining for his residence York House." The first part of this statement seems to be taken from Rawley's account, who, after enumerating his various offices and honours, makes mention of "other good gifts and bounties of the hand which his majesty gave him, both out of the Broad Seal and out of the Alienation Office, to the value in both of eighteen hundred pounds per annum." Upon taking the seals, however, he had quitted not only his attorneygeneralship, which it seems was worth 60007. a year, but also his office of Register of the Court of Starchamber, which brought him about 16007., and another office which he held of Chancellor to the Prince of Wales. On the other hand he had many years before this acquired his father's estate of Gorhambury by the decease of his brother Anthony (about 1602); and this manor, Rawley tells us, and other lands and possessions near thereunto adjoining, amounting to a third part more than his grants out of the Broad Seal and the Alienation Office, he retained with the income derived from those grants to his dying day. As for York House, he seems not to have established himself there till about the close of the year 1620. It must have been apparently on the 22nd of January, 1621, that the celebration of his birthday here took place which Ben Jonson has commemorated :


* Which was in the 15th of James I., not the 16th, as Dugdale here makes it.

« PreviousContinue »