Imágenes de páginas

the first

story of

the ring.

He is fate accompanied her to the grave.' * She died the author who twenty-fourth of March, 1603, in the fulness of days mentions the and honour. Her reign had been long and triumphant: and she had through the whole course of it preserved, what she so justly merited, the love and veneration of her people; the truest glory, the rarest felicity of a sovereign! She was succeeded by James the Sixth of Scotland, under whom Bacon ascended, by several steps, to the highest dignity of the law.

This prince, the most unwarlike that ever lived, was born in the midst of civil commotions; at a time when his whole kingdom was torn into factions, betwixt the party who had espoused the interests of his mother, and those who had declared for him. After he had taken the administration into his own hands, he was hardly ever his own master; suffering himself to be led implicitly by the cabal in whose power he then happened to be. The moment he thought himself at liberty from either, like a boy escaped from under the eye of a rigid preceptor, he forgot all his uneasiness, and abandoned himself to his favourite amusements of hawking and hunting, as if his kingdom had been in the profoundest tranquillity. He grew up in an unaccountable fondness for favourites. The first, who took deep root with him, was likewise the worst ; not only encouraging him in a total inapplication to business, but tincturing his youth with Melvil's the poison of all debauchery. The name of this man was Stuart, afterward earl of Arran; one who had great and dangerous vices, without a single virtue, private or public, to atone for them an open scoffer at the obligations of morality, insolent, rapacious, sanguinary, hated by, and hating, all good men. The honester part of the nobility often remonstrated against the credit and pernicious influence of this minion: James acknowledged the justice of their remonstrances; banished him several times from court; Melvil, and several times received him into new favour. p. 200. was at length shot by a private hand, in revenge for the death of the earl of Morton, to which he had basely contributed.

Mem. p. 131.



James hated the church of Scotland; and con- Melvil, firmed its authority. He declared the attempt of P. 132. those lords, who had rescued him out of the hands of Arran and Lenox, to be just and serviceable: he afterwards banished them, and would have confis- p. 139. cated their estates, on that very account. When they had made themselves masters of his person a second time, he pronounced them all traitors; and pardoned p.169. them.

Elizabeth, who knew his genius perfectly, sent Mr. Wotton on an embassy to him in 1585. Her intention was to divert him from a marriage with the princess of Denmark, and to give his counsels what other turn her interests might require. The ambassador, a man of address and intrigue, had, by long habitude, learnt to personate all characters, and to assume, with an ease that seemed altogether unaffected, whatever shape might serve most effectually the purposes of his superiors. At the age of twenty-one p. 161. he had been employed to sound the intentions of the court of France: and had well nigh duped the famous constable de Montmorency, a minister grown grey in the observation of human falsehood and artifice. To his natural talent he had now added the experience of thirty years more. By accompanying king James in his sports; by falling in frankly, and as it were naturally, with all his passions; by making a jest of business; by entertaining him pleasantly with an account of foreign fashions and follies; this man gained an absolute ascendant not only over his understanding, but over his humour. His most faithful subjects, who had served him longest and best, who had even warned him against the subtleties of this stranger, he received with approbation or dislike, just as Wotton inspired him. He was even brought p. 164. by him to be seriously persuaded that the king of Denmark was descended from a race of merchants, and that an alliance with his daughter was therefore infinitely beneath a king of Scotland's dignity.

Such was the prince who now mounted that throne, An. 1603, which Elizabeth had filled with so great capacity and

reputation. The union of the two crowns in the person of one sovereign, was extremely dreaded by foreigners, and in particular by Henry the Fourth of France. The accession of a new kingdom to the native force of England, which even alone had been long formidable on the continent; the alliance of James with the most potent monarch of the North; his relation to the house of Lorrain, which had lately embroiled all France, rendered such fears very probable. But his conduct dissipated them for ever: and all Europe quickly saw, that no people but his own had any thing to apprehend from his power. At his arrival in England, he bestowed titles and honours with so wild a profusion, that there hardly remained any other mark of distinction but that of having esWilson, caped them. The public stood amazed; and pasquinades were openly affixed, undertaking to assist weaker memories to a complete knowledge of the nobility. Sir Francis Bacon, who had been early in his homage, and application for favour, to the new sovereign, was knighted by him in person and has left us the following picture of him, strongly touched Bacon, in its most obvious features. "His speech," says he, Vol. V. " is swift and cursory; and in the full dialect of his country: in matters of business, short; in general discourse, large. He affecteth popularity, by gracing such as he hath heard to be popular; not by any fashions of his own. He is thought somewhat "general in his favours; and his easiness of access "is rather because he is much abroad and in a "crowd, than that he giveth easy audience. He "hasteneth to a mixture of both kingdoms and occa"sions faster, perhaps, than policy will well bear."

p. 7.






In 1605, Sir Francis Bacon recommended himself to the king's particular notice, as well as to the ge. neral esteem of his cotemporaries, by publishing a work he had long meditated; The Progress and Advancement of Learning. The great aim of this treatise, no less original in the design than happy in the execution, was to survey accurately the whole state and extent of the intellectual world; what parts of it had

An. 1605.



p. 25.

been unsuccessfully cultivated; what lay still neglected, or unknown; and by what methods these might be discovered; and those improved to the farther advantage of society and human nature. By exposing the errors and imperfections of our knowledge, he led mankind into the only right way of supplying the one, and reforming the other: he taught them to know their wants. He even went farther, and himself pointed out to them the general methods of correction and improvement in the whole circle of arts and sciences. This work he first published in Tennison's English; but to render it of more extensive use, he recommended a translation of it into Latin to Dr. Playfer of Cambridge. Playfer, with the scrupulous accuracy of a grammarian, was more attentive to fashion his style to purity and roundness of periods, made out of the phraseology he had gleaned from classic writers, than to render his author's meaning in clear and masculine language. After the sight of a specimen or two, Sir Francis did not encourage him to proceed in it. He himself, after his retirement, very much enlarged and corrected the original, and with the assistance of some friends, turned the whole into Latin. This is the edition of 1623; and stands p. 27. as the first part to his great Instauration of the Sciences.

I have already observed that Cecil, now earl of Salisbury, opposed the progress of our author's fortune under Elizabeth: and he seems to have observed the same conduct towards him in the present reign, till he had fixed himself in the king's confidence so firmly as to be above all fear of a rival. Besides him, Sir Francis Bacon found a violent and lasting enemy in a man of his own profession, Sir Edward Coke; who, with great parts, had many and Stephens's signal failings. The quarrel betwixt them seems to have been personal and it lasted to the end of their lives. Coke was jealous of Bacon's reputation in many parts of knowledge: by whom, again, he was envied for the high reputation he had acquired in one; each aiming to be admired, particularly, for


p. ix.

that in which the other excelled. This affectation in two extraordinary men has something in it very mean, and is not uncommon. The former was the greatest lawyer of his time; but could be nothing more. If the latter was not so, we can ascribe it only to his aiming at a more exalted character. The universality of his genius could not be confined within one inferior province of learning. If learning thus divided is not so proper to raise a singular name in one way, it serves to enlarge the understanding on every side, and to enlighten it in all its views. As the name of Sir Edward Coke will occur oftener than once in this history, and as he stood in particular competition to Bacon, I beg leave to dwell a little longer on his character. In his pleadings he was apt to insult over misery. Of this we have a detestable instance in his behaviour to Sir Walter Raleigh. He inveighed against that brave man on his trial with all the bitterness of cruelty, and in a style of such abandoned railing as bordered almost on fury: I wish I could not add, that this bitterness, this intemperance of tongue, seem to be the genuine effusions of his heart.* He conversed, it seems, more with books than men; and among the latter, with those only to whom he could dictate and give the law. The consequence of which was, that his conversation had all the air of a lecture; and that he retailed for new, a hundred stories that were either stale or trivial. He affected raillery, which was by no means his talent. His wit was often ill aimed, as it was always indelicate and vulgar; the rough horse-play of a pedant. Though he had accumulated immense wealth, in

State Trials,
Vol. I. p.

207, &c.

The offices of attorney and solicitor-general have been rocks upon which many aspiring lawyers have made shipwreck of their virtue and human nature. Some of those gentlemen have acted at the bar as if they thought themselves, by the duty of their places, absolved from all the obligations of truth, honour, and decency. But their names are upon record; and will be transmitted to after ages with those characters of reproach and abhorrence that are due to the worst sort of murderers; those that murder under the sanction of justice.

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