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and to which he is in fact not listening, means no doubt to deceive the story-teller. A man who affects to be sorry that he cannot do a thing which he is at the very time delighted to find a plausible excuse for refusing to do, means no doubt to deceive the proposer. The intercourse of a civilized man with those whom he wishes to stand well with is rarely free from acts, deliberately intended and executed, which cannot be truly described without epithets which no man likes to hear applied to any acts of his own. The consequence is that they never, or very rarely, are truly described. When such things are done purely for the sake of others-to avoid giving others pain
- they are not called or thought wrong at all, but counted among the minor virtues. Even when done for a man's own benefit, if it be for an end which is itself fair and reputable and unattainable otherwise,—such as a seat in the House of Commons,—they are at least freely allowed : a man is not thought worse of for being known to have done such things, and probably would be thought worse of, at least by one party, if he lost his election through a conscientious determination to abstain from them,-a conscientious determination, for instance, to exhibit in his canvass or on the hustings no emotion which he did not feel. But in all these cases society makes a compromise between its interests and its principles by looking only at the outside of the transaction and ignoring its true name and real nature. If, therefore, we are to make a just comparison between Bacon's morality and other men's or our own, we must do one of two things. We must either look only at the outward face of his actions, without reference to the true names which he gave them in his notebook, or we must supply the true names of our own and not look at the outward face only. It does not much matter which we do; and upon a comparison made either way, I doubt whether it will appear from any evidence supplied by this book that in such matters be permitted himself a greater licence in practice than is still the fashion among respectable men of business, or than he was himself in theory prepared to avow and justify. His theory he has himself explained in a book which was meant to last and bear witness. Speaking in the 'Advancement of Learning' of certain courses imputed to some learned men which he admits to be “base and unworthy,” he makes a special reservation in favour of one class, and into that class the practices revealed in these notes which will probably be selected as most questionable will be found to fall.
“Not (he says) that I can tax or condemn the morigeration or application of learned men to men in fortune. For the answer was good that Diogenes made to one that asked him in mockery How it came to pass that philosophers were the followers of rich men, and not
rich men of philosophers ? He answered soberly and yet sharply, Because the one sort knew what they had need of and the other did not. And of the like nature was the answer which Aristippus made, when, having a petition to Dionysius and no ear given to him, he fell down at his feet, whereupon Dionysius staid and gave him the hearing and granted it; and afterward some person tender on the behalf of philosophy reproved Aristippus that he would offer the profession of philosophy such an indignity as for a private suit to fall at a tyrant's feet: but he answered That it was not his fault, but it was the fault of Dionysius, that had his ears in his feet. Neither was it accounted weakness, but discretion, in him that would not dispute his best with Adrianus Cæsar; excusing himself, That it was reason to yield to him that commanded thirty legions. These and the like applications and stooping to points of necessity and convenience cannot be disallowed; for though they may have some outward baseness, yet in a judgment truly made they are to be accounted submissions to the occasion, and not to the person."
The notes which implicate Bacon himself in this kind of “morigeration,” though if collected and set out by themselves they would make a considerable show, are so few in proportion to the whole that in seeking for illustrations it is not easy to light upon them. But here is one which will answer the purpose as well, perhaps, as any. I may assume, I suppose, that there is no immorality in a SolicitorGeneral wishing to become Lord Chancellor. The choice of bis Lord Chancellor lay in those days with the King, and the King's choice would naturally be influenced by the opinions and wishes of those about him. The Earl of Suffolk was Lord Chamberlain of the Household, and a man considerable enough to be selected a few years after for Lord Treasurer. There was no great harm in wishing to be the man whom the Earl of Suffolk would recommend, and if he shared the common infirmity of thinking highly of those who thought highly of him, a Solicitor-General would, under those circumstances, naturally wish to show him as much respect as he could. I have not met with any letter or speech or anecdote which represents the manner in which Bacon was in the habit of expressing his respect to this Earl, nor do I remember to have met with any which represents the manner in which he was addressed by Cuke or Doderidge or Hobart. But if anything of the kind should turn up, I should expect to find it conceived in a spirit of great respect and deference. Such would be the outward face of a transaction which would scarcely be censured as unbecoming, even by those who did not believe that the Earl deserved all the deference that was expressed. And yet if we were permitted to look behind and see the seamy side, we should
probably find that it proceeded rather from a desire to make him believe that he was an object of reverence than from any genuine overflow of that emotion,-a desire, in fact, as Bacon frankly expresses it in his private meditation, to "make him think how he should be reverenced by a Ld. Ch', if I were." Such ould be the same transaction seen from within ; a transaction which Bacon would have excused as “a submission to the occasion,” and which (whether escused or not) is one of a very numerous family, still flourishing in all departments of civilized society. I do not myself, however, recommend it for imitation; and if it be true that no man can be known to do such a thing in these days without forfeiting his reputation for veracity,-I am glad to hear it.
After this it is needless to say anything about devices for drawing the great councillors into private conversation in public places, and for making conspicuous his own care and diligence in his service and profession; these being merely arts of politic ostentation, involving no breach of any moral law. But there are one or two other passages that are likely to catch careless eyes, and to be alleged in support of a charge in the opposite direction,-a charge of saying, not what he did not think, but what he did think; and upon them I wish to say a few words.
In my account of the subjects of his meditation on Monday I mentioned the giving evidence of his superiority to competitors in diligence, zeal, and capacity. The note I was more particularly thinking of was one which begins, “ To have in mind and use the Attorney's weaknesses,” and proceeds to enumerate various cases which Bacon thought the Attorney-General had mismanaged, and certain qualities in which he found him deficient. To this subject he recurs on the 29th in a note headed “Hubbard's disadvantage,” in which the criticism is repeated with additions and improvements, and hints are set down for a very lively and I have no doubt a very true description of the man. Now, an unfavourable opinion of one artist delivered or conceived by another artist in the same line is, for some reason or other, always accounted an offence and a transgression. In that relation, to speak the truth seems to be considered wrong. Though an artist in the same line is, of all other
the best qualified to see, and the least capable of overlooking, the defects of an artist's work, he is the one man who is forbidden to take notice of any defect in it whatever; and criticisms upon an AttorneyGeneral, which in any other mouth would be thought just, sagacious, and discriminating, coming from the mouth of a Solicitor-General, must expect no better name than detraction. But though I am prepared to hear the censure, I am not prepared to admit the justice
of it. Bacon had served with Sir Henry Hobart in Council and in Parliament for more than two years. He had been familiar with the business of a law-officer of the Crown for nearly twenty. No man had had better opportunities of knowing what an Attorney-General ought to be and what Hobart was: and if he thought he did bis work badly, I cannot see what should have forbidden him to say so, —especially being ready at any moment not only to show how it might be done better, but to take it in hand and do it. Of the external action, however, in which these private meditations issued, of the use he actually made of the list of weaknesses which he had collected, -no record remains. All we know is that he succeeded six years after in getting Sir H. Hobart transferred to a place of higher dignity for which he thought him less unfit; which was so far well, and would have been better if it had been sooner.
Another note which, though very short in itself, and the interpretation very doubtful, is pretty sure to be seen and interpreted, will probably suggest an imputation of another kind : and as it is one from which Bacon's reputation bas not hitherto suffered, it is worth while to inquire concerning this also, how much it comes to. The old Lord Treasurer Dorset had died suddenly at the council-table about three months before ; and there are two memoranda in this note-book relating to his widow. The first is merely to send her“a message
of compliment;" and being entered in company with religious reflexions suited for consolation upon the death of the old and eminent, would not by itself be taken to indicate anything more than a proper attention to an old lady who had lost her husband, and with whom he was probably more or less acquainted. But when, two days after, we find another memorandum in these words, “ Applying myself to be inward with my Lady Dorset, per Champners; ad utilit. testam.,” we cannot avoid the inference that among his motives for desiring to improve his acquaintance with her, one was the hope of influencing in some way the disposal of her property after her death; and the question is how much we are to infer from that. In what way,with a view to “utility” in what sense,-he wished to use his influence, we are left to conjecture. That he was thinking of a legacy for himself,-unless we suppose, what is not probable, that he stood in some relation to ber which gave him a right to expect it, -though it is the interpretation of the words which will occur to everybody at first, will seem, I think, less likely the more it is considered. Had he been already “inward”—that is, intimate—with Lady Dorset, he might perhaps have been suspected upon this evidence of a design to improve the intimacy for his own benefit; though we have no other evidence that he ever either sought or received any legacy from
anybody, except his father. But to apply himself, through the mediation of another person, to become intimate with a lady who cannot have been less than seventy years old, in the hope of obtaining a legacy for which he could allege no ostensible claim on the ground of kindred, service, custom, or humanity, seems to me an enterprise too unpromising to be so much as thought of: it was so very late in the day to start. Nor is it at all necessary suppose
that the “ utility: intended was of this kind. Bequests for objects of general beneficence were the fashion of that time. Whenever money is to be left, there are better and worse ways of disposing of it; and Bacon may have wished to guide the beneficence into right channels. We have already seen how he proposed to utilize the union of riches and single life in the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Andrews: he hoped to engage it in the service of the Great Instauration. We shall see hereafter how much he busied himself (near about this time) to mend the conditions of the great Charter-house charity, commonly described as “Sutton's will,”-a public bequest in which he had no
”private interest whatever,--merely because he thought it unwise and a mistake. And he may have thought that the widow of a chancellor of a university, herself well left and her family abundantly provided, might be disposed or disposable to bestow part of her wealth upon some measure for the advancement of learning, -pensions, for instance, to compilers of natural history, or the foundation of a college for inventors, Not that I suppose if he had any reasonable prospect of a legacy for himself, he would have thought it either wise or virtuous to throw away the chance for want of a little civility and attention, but the other supposition seems to me more probable.
The foregoing survey will give a fair general idea of the contents of this book, and will be useful as a guide to those who wish to study it in detail. For the rest I must refer to the foot-notes, where I have offered such further elucidations as I had to offer. The particulars are so many, the indications so obscure, and the questions alluded to, some of them, so large, that an attempt to explain everything which requires and admits of explanation would involve, not only an endless labour, but an amount of discussion and exposition, exceeding the limits which can be allowed to such matter in a work like this. A diligent search through all the places now accessible to literary students might probably yield further information concerning the many persons, causes, services, warrants, etc., which are alluded to, and in
? It has been suggested to me, as a simpler explanation, that the utilitas referred to was merely some professional employment connected with Lord Dorset's will ; which would no doubt give work to lawyers. But I am not well enough acquainted with the practice of the time in such matters, to judge whether this was likely.