Imágenes de páginas

this case had kept both the Commissioners and the King very busy during the whole summer ; but as Bacon had no part in them, either direct or indirect, I am happily relieved from the duty of saying more about them. Such a case could not be known to be going on without giving rise at the time to much discussion, many rumours, and strong feelings; and the curiosity of posterity has been gratified by abundant details. But what the outside world knew about it at the time, was only that after long investigation and argument before judges whose character and competency were not disputed, the majority had pronounced the previous marriage null and void. Not having heard the case, the public had not the means of criticising the judgment; and therefore even if it would have been otherwise their duty to judge the judges, it could not be their duty in this case at this time. “The marriage twixt the Earl of Essex and the Lady Frances Howard is dissolved," (writes Chamberlain on the 14th of October) “and pronounced a nullity, by the Bishop of Winchester, who with the Bishop of Rochester were only supernumerary to the first commissioners, and so cast the balance by weight of numbers, being seven to five. The morning that the matter was to be decided, the King sent express commandment that in opening they should not argue nor use any reasons, but only give their assent or dissent; and in the sentence there is no cause expressed but in these terms; propter latens et incurabile impedimentum.l

It is but fair to the world of rank, wealth, fashion, and business, which hastened soon after to congratulate the bride and bridegroom with gifts unprecedented in number and value, to remember that this was the result of the enquiry as far as it was made known to them. It does not follow that they would have done the same if they had known what we know.

The marriage took place on the 26th of December, and the festivities continued until Twelfth Night, when they were wound up with a complimentary offering from Bacon: an offering so costly, considering how little he owed to Rochester and how superficial their intercourse had been, and at the same time so peculiar, that it requires explanation.

The sort of terms upon which Bacon stood with Rochester may be inferred from the single letter which is known to have passed between them, and which has been already printed. It is not possible to suppose that there had ever been any intimacy between them—any confidential correspondence or any interchange of services. Such a relation could not have subsisted between so considerable a man as Bacon and so great a person as Rochester, whom everybody was talking of and looking at, without being observed and remembered. If Bacon had had any influence with the man who for the last five or six years had kept the gate of the King's affections, he must have had very frequent occasions to use it—and to use it in a way which was sure to leave traces. The one letter about the Mastership of the Wards would have been one of many such. But there is no trace of anything of the kind. On the contrary, when he wants the King's favourable ear, he writes to the King himself, and begs that it may be in private. It seems, however, that in his recent promotion to the Attorney-Generalship Rochester had put himself forward as his patron. “I must never forget,” says Bacon, writing to the King about two years after, “when I moved your Majesty for the Attorney's place, it was your own sole act; more than that Somerset, when he knew your Majesty had resolved it, thrust himself into the business for a fee.” Now if, as I suppose, he stood on terms of courtesy with Somerset, though not of affection respect or confidence, it must have been unpleasant to owe even a seeming and pretended obligation to him. The approaching marriage gave him an opportunity to pay it off. While all the world were making presents,-one of plate, another of furniture, a third of horses, a fourth of gold,-he chose to present a masque : for which (if I have succeeded in filling up the blanks in the story correctly) an accident supplied him with a handsome opportunity. The year before, on occasion of the marriage of the Lady Elizabeth, two joint-masques had been presented by the Inns of Court,--one by the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn, the other by Gray's Inn and the Inner Temple. On the present occasion it had been proposed that all the four Inns of Court should join in getting up a masque. But it could not be managed: whereupon Bacon offered on the part of Gray's Inn to supply the place of it by a masque of their own

1 S. P. Dom. James I., vol. lxxiv, no. 86. • See above, p. 342.

All this, except the date (which must be matter of conjecture), appears from a letter in Bacon's own hand, which I printed in a former volume, supposing it to have been addressed to Burghley, but wbich, upon closer examination of the case before me, I now believe to have been addressed to Somerset. As a letter written to such a person on such an occasion, it acquires a new value and significance, giving fresh evidence both as to the tone of Bacon's intercourse with the favourite and as to the style in which he did this kind of thing. And therefore I reprint it here, being but a few lines, in what I suppose to be its true connexion. The fly-leaf being gone, the address is lost, and the docket does not supply it. There is


no date; and though the catalogue assumes that it was addressed to Lord Burghley, there is nothing remaining on the paper itself to justify the assumption. It is a single leaf,' and contains only. the following words written in Bacon's hand.

may please your good L.

I am sorry the joint masque from the four Inns of Court faileth ; wherein I conceive there is no other ground of that event but impossibility. Nevertheless, because it falleth out that at this time Gray's Inn is well furnished of gallant young gentlemen, your L. may be pleased to know that rather than this occasion shall pass without some demonstration of affection from the Inns of Court, there are a dozen gentlemen of Gray's Inn that out of the honour which they bear to your Lordship and my Lord Chamberlain, to whom at their last masque they were so much bounden, will be ready to furnish a masque; wishing it were in their powers to perform it according to their minds. And so for the present I humbly take my leave, resting

Your Ls very humbly
and much bounden

FR. Bacon.



The Lord Chamberlain was the Earl of Suffolk, who was the bride's father: so that everything seems to fit. But though Bacon speaks of it as a compliment from Gray's Inn, Gray's Inn was in reality to furnish only the performers and the composers. The care and the charges were to be undertaken by himself; as we learn from a news-letter of Chamberlain's, whose information is almost always to be relied upon. Writing on the 23rd of December, 1613,

says :“Sir Francis Bacon prepares a masque to honour this marriage, which will stand him in above 20001. And though he have been offered some help by the House, and specially by Mr. Solicitor, Sir Henry Yelverton, who would have sent him 5001., yet he would not accept it, but offers them the whole charge with the honour. Marry his obligations are such, as well to his Majesty as to the great Lord and to the whole house of Howards, as he can admit no partner."

The nature of the obligation considered, it will be seen that there was judgment as well as magnificence in the choice of the retribution. The obligation (whether real or not) being for assistance in obtaining an office, to repay it by any present which could be turned into money would have been objectionable, as tending to countenance the great abuse of the times (from which Bacon so far stands quite clear) - the sale of offices for money. There was no such objection to a masque. As a compliment, it was splendid, according to the taste and magnificence of the time; costly to the giver, not negotiable by the receiver; valuable as a compliment, but as nothing else. Nor was its value in that kind limited to the parties in whose honour it was given. It conferred great distinction upon Gray's Inn, in a field in which Gray's Inn was ambitious and accustomed to shine.

1 Lansd. MSS. crii. f. 13.

The piece performed was published shortly after, with a dedication to Bacon, as“ the principal and in effect the only person that did

, both encourage and warrant the gentlemen to shew their good affection towards so noble a conjunction in a time of such magni. ficence; wherein " (they add) “we couceive, without giving you false attributes, which little need where so many are true, that you have graced in general the Societies of the Inns of Court, in continuing them still as third persons with the Nobility and Court in doing the King honour; and particularly Gray's Inn, which as you have formerly brought to flourish both in the ancienter and younger sort, by countenancing virtue in every quality, so now you have made a notable demonstration thereof in the lighter and less serious kind, by this, that oue Inn of Court by itself in time of a vacation, and in the space of three weeks, could perform that which hath been performed; which could not have been done but that every man's exceeding love and respect to you gave him wings to overtake Time, which is the swiftest of things." The dedicators (whom I suppose to be the authors) sign themselves J. G., W. D., and T. B. : and from an allusion to their“ graver studies" appear to have been members of the Society. It is entitled " The Masque of Flowers," and may be seen in Nichols's Progresses :---a very splendid trifle, and

: answering very well to the general description in Bacon's Essays of what a Masque should be,-with its loud and cheerful music, abundance of light and colour, graceful motions and forms, and such things as “ do naturally take the sense,”—but having no personal reference to the occasion, beyond being an entertainment given in honour of a marriage, and ending with an offering of flowers to the bride and bridegroom.



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


Of serious business, the first piece that Bacon found waiting for him in bis new office was an attempt to put a stop to the practice of

I Printed " later."

duelling, which had become alarmingly fashionable. “Though there be in shew a settled peace in these parts of the world," writes Chamberlain on the 9th of September, “yet the many private quarrels among great men prognosticate troubled humours, which may breed dangerous diseases, if they be not purged and prevented. I doubt not but you have heard the success of the combat ’twixt Edward Sackville and the Lord Bruce (or Kinlos), 'twixt Antwerp and Lille, wherein they were both hurt, the Lord Bruce to the death, so that Sackville was driven to take sanctuary, whence by corruption or connivance I hear he is escaped. Here is speech likewise that the Lord Norris and Sir Peregrine Willoughby are gone forth for the saine purpose, and that the Lord Chandos and the Lord Hay are upon the same terms. There was a quarrel kindling 'twixt the Earls of Rutland and Montgomery ; but it was quickly quenched by the King, being begun and ended in his presence. But there is more danger 'twixt the Earl of Rutland and the Lord Davers, though I heard yesterday it was already, or upon the point of compounding. But that which most men listen after, is what will fall out 'twixt the Earl of Essex and Mr. Henry Howard, who is challenged and called to account by the Earl for certain disgraceful speeches of him. They are both gotten over, the Earl from Milford Haven, the other from Harwich, with each of them two seconds .... The last news of them was that the Earl was at Calais and the other in Zealand. The King hath sent a post to Calais to the Governor, to stay them or either of them; and young Gib of the bedchamber is sent with commandment from the King to them both, if he come in time.”ı

On this last occasion the King published a Proclamation of his own composition, and then took advice with his lawyers as to the measures which should be taken to put a stop to this practice. An undated paper, printed in the first edition of Dalrymple's Memorials and Letters,'2 from an original in Bacon's handwriting, belongs I suppose to this time and occasion. Whether it was before or after the King's proclamation (which came out near the end of October) 3 I cannot determine, for I do not know where a copy of that proclamation is to be found. Nor does it much matter, for this paper evidently contains either Bacon's answer to the King's question, what should be done for the prevention of the practice generally, or a suggestion of his own to the same effect.


1 S. P. Dom. James I., vol. lxxiv. no. 56.

? P. 51, ed. 1762. 3 “I send you a Proclamation penned by the King's own hand about the late quarrel 'twixt the Earl of Essex and Mr. H. Howard." Chamberlain to Carleton 27 Oct. 1613.

« AnteriorContinuar »